Sunday, July 15, 2018

Summer Reading 2018

This is what I am currently reading. A former student who is now one of my beloved colleagues gave it to me this spring. I think she found it at our annual book fair, one of my favorite school-related events. It is a great read- kind of like peeking in the window and watching Renoir, Monet, Degas, Cézanne, Pissarro, Sisley, Manet (although he did not want to identify as an Impressionist), Morisot and Cassatt in their studios. They were so unappreciated (that is an understatement) and many of them struggled to make ends meet and provide for their families. Roe decided to write this book and concentrate on the 26 years, 1860-1886, between their first encounters with each other and 1886 when Parisian art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel got on a boat with 300 of their paintings and set sail for New York City. I even discovered that Monet briefly set up residence at the Hôtel Londres et New York, across from the Gare St. Lazare, the hotel where I stay with my students every March. Quelle coïncidence.
I have finished my faculty summer reading book.
Each spring, we are asked to “nominate” books we think are valuable to read and then when the list is pared down, we choose our book. When school starts back in August, we will have book discussions. Another reason to love my school. I couldn’t put this book down although it was very disturbing. The hardships of a young mixed race boy, Jojo, and his family in Mississippi isn’t necessarily “pretty” reading. Throw in Parchman, the state penitentiary, white racist grandparents, a drug addict mother, a grandmother dying of cancer, and family members who can see and hear the unsettled dead and it is pretty intense reading.
Love and Ruin by Paula McLain is the story of Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn. She was a war correspondant and Hemingway’s third wife. A great read. I wasn’t sure that I would like it after falling in love with Hadley, Hemingway’s first wife, while reading The Paris Wife also by McLain. I now have an immense amount of respect for Gellhorn and her courage.
This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash is set in North Carolina and is the story of two little girls, living in an orphanage since the death of their drug-addicted mom. Their father comes to get them and they have quite an adventure. Dangerous and dark at times. Throw in some baseball and it is a great story. I have enjoyed all of Cash’s books. He is a good North Carolina boy and I especially love him for that.
I indulged in Nicholas Sparks’ Two by Two while at the beach with Sister Moo and Best Niece. Who doesn’t need a quick read like this once in a while? A man who learns how to be a single dad and take care of his Barbie doll-loving daughter while coping with a wife who no longer loves him and for whom he has never been a good enough husband.
The Chocolate War by Martin Walker is a short story starring Bruno, chief of police in a small village in southern France. I have a huge crush on Bruno and have loved all of the mysteries he has solved.
Charles Salzberg is a writer I have gotten to know a bit through Facebook and email. Second Story Man is his latest and I couldn’t put it down- which meant reading way past my bedtime a couple of nights. “Francis Hoyt, arrogant, athletic, brilliant, manipulative and ruthless, is a master burglar.” That line alone should hook you. I would love to attend Charles’ New York Writers Workshop someday…
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn tops the list of books I have recently read. It is the story of a woman recruited as a spy during WWI and an American who is searching for her lost cousin in 1947. The novel is set in France and takes the reader back and forth between the two wars and the story of amazing women doing what they could to help their country win the war. This is subject that I can’t seem to read enough about these days. Meeting Monique Saigal while in Paris in Marchlistening to her story, and then reading her book, French Heroines, 1940-1945, were life changing experiences for me. At the age of 3, Monique was put on a train by her Jewish grandmother to get her out of Paris and to a safer place in the southwest France during WWII. Monique was taken in by a young woman and her father and given a new identity, that of a Catholic child, for nine years. Her grandmother died at Auschwitz one month after putting Monique on that fateful train. Many thanks to Niece M for pointing me towards The Alice Network. She read it for a book club organized by someone at her workplace.
I have a couple of books waiting in the wings (in addition to a couple of books on designing curriculum…).
french food
I found this one at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill while waiting to have a delicious dinner next door at Kitchen with Mme M. Looks good, n’est-ce pas? I love Flyleaf. And books about eating.
And last, but not least, on my list at the moment is Ann Mah‘s latest book, released in June, The Lost Vintage. I am a big Ann fan. I learned quite a bit while reading Mastering the Art of French Eating. Ann even sent me a signed book plate for my book. Her newsletters are always full of great information and her website includes recipes. The sure way to my heart.
So there you have it. Not a complete list, but definitely the highlights. Reading is one of my greatest passions. Mlle Adorable, my 16-month-old granddaughter, is already showing signs of being an avid reader When she comes to visit, she heads straight for her stack of books. This is my favorite photo of her and Granddad, taken a couple of weeks ago at Sunset Beach.
K and gdad
Bon appétit! “Reading can seriously damage your ignorance.” Spread the word and keep reading. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

City Daily Photo- ME!

pont du gard- me
City Daily Photo‘s June theme is ME.  I found this out by looking at Virginia Jones’ Paris Through My Lens blogpost. This photo of ME was taken by a student during our 2017 school trip to France. We spent a week in Paris and then headed south on the TGV to Avignon. It was a gorgeous day so, on the way to Arles where we were going to spend a couple of days before returning home, we stopped at the Pont du Gard. We all put our toes in the water and spent a couple of hours lounging about like lizards, sunning ourselves in the March sunshine.
I first visited the Pont du Gard in 1987, the first time I took students to France. I have been back several times since then, with friends, with clients when I worked with Chef Érick in Arles, with students. It is an amazing place. One of my favorites places in the world.
How about a Tomato Tart today? Dreaming of Provence in the summer makes me think of it. This recipe is from Recipes from Provence, René Husson, Éditions Fleurines, 2006. The dedication says:
  For those who love Provence … C’est moi! Definitely ME!
Tomato Tart  Tarto à la poumo d’amour
Pie crust (make your own or buy one that you roll out)
500 grams (1 pound) tomatoes
200 grams (10 ounces) slices of swiss/gruyère cheese
100 grams (1 cup) grated cheese
1 sprig of thyme
bread crumbs
Dijon-style mustard
olive oil
salt, pepper
Peel, seed and slice the tomatoes in rounds. (I don’t do this… I just slice them!)
Put the pie crust in a pie pan and spread a nice layer of mustard on the bottom.
Lay the cheese slices on top, then cover with the tomato rounds, salt and pepper.
Sprinkle with the grated cheese and the crumbled thyme.
Drizzle all over with olive oil.
Place in a hot oven for 40 minutes. (Not much direction here… other recipes I have used call for 20-25 minutes at 400˚F- until crust is golden brown and tomatoes have started to shrivel.)
Here are three older posts on my Blogspot blog with recipes for tomato tart/pie–
#1  #2  #3
Bon appétit, mes amies et mes amis! Enjoy this beautiful Saturday! Bake something good for someone. Or just for yourself. Do you have a favorite photo of yourself? Does it bring back a happy memory? I hope so!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Procrasti-baking and The Power of Love

Yes, it’s a thing. I saw it on Facebook and, frankly, I was relieved. The article, from the New York Times on-line, entitled Why Work When You Can Procrastibake? starts this way:
All procrastibakers do not bake alike.
Procrastibaking — the practice of baking something completely unnecessary, with the intention of avoiding “real” work — is a surprisingly common habit that has only recently acquired a name. Medical students, romance writers, freelance web designers: Almost anyone who works at home and has a cookie sheet in the cupboard can try it.
“I started procrastibaking in college as a way to feel productive while also avoiding my schoolwork,” said Wesley Straton, a graduate student in Brooklyn. “Baking feels like a low-stakes artistic outlet.”
 Hooked me pretty quick. There is a name for what I do to put off doing other stuff. As I said before, relief.
I have projects to grade, quizzes to mark, letters to write to 8th graders, lessons to plan and placement tests to score. So, how did I spend my afternoon? Making strawberry shortcakes. And just why not?  I have heard that some suffer from procrasti-cleaning. Thank God I don’t have that affliction.
I found the recipe on Two Peas and their Pod.  They are really just sweet biscuits. Some of mine turned out lop-sided, but that’s okay. I am not a perfectionist. Just don’t have it in me.
baked biscuits
Our final Supper Club “meeting” at Dear Friend’s house was a lot of fun. And crazy delicious. Beck’s Mom made her signature appetizers, Brie Bites. Phyllo dough “cups” with a piece of double creme Brie, some raspberry-jalapeño jam, and pecans baked in the oven, then a sprinkle of (French) sea salt added and baked a bit longer. (I ate two, showing great restraint, because I could have eaten every single one of them.)
brie bites
Miss Molly brought Caprese salad- another of my all-time favorites. I took two of these as well. Symmetry?
Dear Friend and Hubby provided roasted potatoes,
salmon cooked in his outdoor smoker and very tender roast beef.
salmon and beef
I had a very special helper when it came time for dessert. Dear Friend’s oldest granddaughter, who is the spitting image of her mom at this age, helped me make the whipped cream and was my taste-tester par excellence.  She also served everyone their dessert. Not that I want my Darling Granddaughter to grow up too fast, but I cannot wait to give her her first apron and a stepping stool for my kitchen!
Et voilà! Our strawberry shortcakes.
strawberry shortcake
Strawberry Shortcake and I go way back. Growing up, I always asked Mama Mildred to make this for my birthday. You can use Angel food cake, regular yellow or white cake or real shortbread. I opted for sweet biscuits. Strawberries are in season. Go for it!
I need to get this post done or I will start suffering from procrasti-blogging… The stack of work is staring me in the face right this moment.
Strawberry Shortcakes
makes 8

for the strawberries:

  • 1 1/2 pounds strawberries, stemmed and sliced or quartered
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
for the shortcakes:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 1/3 cups cold heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream, for brushing on shortcakes
  • Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on shortcakes
for the whipped cream:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  1.  Hull and slice the strawberries and place them into a large bowl. (I saved a few whole ones to use as garnish.) Cover with granulated sugar and stir. Cover and refrigerate the strawberries while you make the shortcakes so they can get juicy.
  2. Preheat oven to 425˚ F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Mix in the salt. Add the small pieces of cold butter and use a pastry blender, fork, or your clean hands to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Mix until you have pieces that are the size of peas.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together the cold heavy cream and vanilla extract. Pour the mixture over the flour mixture and stir until just combined. You may need to add a bit more cream, if the mixture is too dry. Turn out onto a floured surface and lightly knead the dough together to incorporate all of the crumbly dough pieces.  Do not over mix or your biscuits will not be as tender.
  5. Press the dough into a circle, about 1-inch thick and cut into rounds, using a biscuit cutter. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Place the pan in the refrigerator and chill the biscuits for 20 minutes before baking.
  6. Using a pastry brush, brush the chilled biscuit tops with heavy cream. Sprinkle tops generously with turbinado sugar.
  7. Bake the biscuits until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool completely.
  8. While the biscuits are cooling, make the whipped cream. Using an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, and pinch of salt together until the cream reaches stiff peaks.
  9. To assemble the shortcakes, cut the biscuits in half horizontally. Spoon the strawberries over the bottom of the biscuit and add a dollop of whipped cream. Top with the other biscuit half. Add more strawberries and whipped cream on top, if desired. You can also break up the biscuits and top them with strawberries and whipped cream or leave them whole and add strawberries and whipped cream on top.
Make Ahead-if you want to make the shortcake biscuits ahead of time, you can. Place unbaked biscuits on a lined baking sheet and freeze. When frozen, transfer the biscuits to a freezer bag and freeze for up to one month. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 425 degrees and bake for 23-26 minutes. You can also freeze baked shortcakes in a freezer bag for up to one month. Defrost before serving. You can warm them up in the oven, if desired.
Bon appétit to all strawberry lovers out there. I am deeply sorry for you if you are allergic to these heavenly delights. Substitute juicy ripe peaches or blackberries. If you didn’t watch The Wedding (I didn’t), at least listen to or read Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon. Amen, Reverend. Let’s spread the message of LOVE. There is power in love.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Getting along

hand in love
So, I have not always been a Kenny Chesney fan. (Sorry, Kenny.) Just for the past few years. Welcome to the Fishbowl, released in 2012, was the first album by him that I bought. And I still listen to it all the way through. The BFF saw him in concert a few years back and started trying to convince me of his talent. It took me a while to come around. Thanks to Daddy, I grew up listening to country music. Then I went through a phase when I swore that I would never, ever listen to that stuff. What goes around comes around, right? I rediscovered country music in the ’80’s. It’s changed since the Johnny Cash days. I like songs that tell a story. Sad songs. Real songs. Songs with a message. Songs that just make me feel something. It was a good day on my way home from school yesterday when a new song came on 93.9. I immediately took to it. I loved the lyrics.
A man wearin’ a t-shirt, says “Virginia is for lovers”
Had a Bible in his left hand and a bottle in the other
He says “All you’re really given is the sunshine and your name”
We both started laughin’ when the sky started to rain
Get along, on down the road
We’ve got a long long way to go
Scared to live, scared to die
We ain’t perfect but we try
Get along while we can
Always give love the upper hand
Paint a wall, learn to dance
Call your mom, buy a boat
Drink a beer, sing a song
Make a friend, can’t we all get along
Saw a model on a billboard, 1-800 get to know me
Wondered was she photoshopped, or were her eyes really that lonely?
Did she leave her hometown thinkin’ she’d end up in L.A.?
Did she break down in the desert and get stuck beside the highway?
Get along, on down the road
We’ve got a long long way to go
Scared to live, scared to die
We ain’t perfect but we try
Get along while we can
Always give love the upper hand
Paint a wall, learn to dance
Call your mom, buy a boat
Drink a beer, sing a song
Make a friend, can’t we all get along
We find out when you die the keys to heaven can’t be bought
We still don’t know what love is but we sure know what it’s not
Sometimes you got to
Get along, on down the road
We’ve got a long long way to go
Scared to live, scared to die
We ain’t perfect but we try
Get along while we can
Always give love the upper hand
Paint a wall, learn to dance
Call your mom, buy a boat
Drink a beer, sing a song
Make a friend, can’t we all get along
(lyrics from
It sounds too simple. Can’t we all get along? Sometimes these days and times it doesn’t feel like it.
On Mother’s Day, I went to school and picked strawberries out of our garden.
I decided to make strawberry bread for my colleagues. It was a hit.
strawberry bread
Fresh Strawberry Quick Bread
  • 1/4 cup butter softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
Topping (optional)
  • 3 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Simple glaze (optional)
  • 1/2 cup powdered / icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon cream

Pre-heat oven to 350°F  (180°C Celisius).  Grease and flour a 9 – 9 1/2 inch (24 centimeter) loaf pan.
In a medium bowl cream butter and sugar add egg and combine.
n a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
With a wooden spoon add flour mixture alternately with the milk to the creamed mixture in three parts, then add vanilla, mix just until combined. Gently fold in the strawberries.
Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan, if desired sprinkle with topping, if desired. Bake for approximately 50 minutes.  Let cool completely before drizzling with simple glaze, if desired.


In a small bowl, mix together until smooth: icing sugar, vanilla, cream and milk. Mixture should be quite thick.

Bon appétit, Kenny Chesney. Sorry I missed you last weekend in Raleigh. Maybe next time? Let’s try to get along. We’ve got a long long way to go. Call your mom. We ain’t perfect but we try. Make a friend. Get along.