Sunday, October 15, 2017

Therapy

runners
The BFF and I call our morning walks therapy sessions. And believe me, they are. We talk about just about anything and everything. This summer, we walked 3 miles every day that we could, usually beginning around 6:00 am. It gets hot and humid here in the North Carolina Piedmont and schvitzing (Yiddish for sweating- it sounds better to me) is not our favorite thing. The BFF is genetically predisposed to schvitz a lot. Now that the school year is well underway, unfortunately our sessions are limited to Saturday and Sunday mornings and the occasional day off. I go to school early, usually around 7:30 am, and she works late, usually until after 7:30 pm or later. I wish that I could say that I walk in the evenings every day by myself, but I do not. I cannot tell a lie. I walk around campus as much as I can during breaks and lunch usually to chase after a kiddo or track down a colleague, but once I get home, I get lazy and find a lot of other things I’d rather (or have to) do.
Today, I woke up to a cool, foggy, beautiful fall morning. My favorite. We walked on the American Tobacco Trail. According to Wikipedia–
The American Tobacco Trail (ATT) is a 22.6-mile (36.4 km) long Rails-to-Trails project located in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, running along an abandoned railroad bed originally built for the American Tobacco Company in the 1970s. The route crosses through the City of DurhamDurham CountyChatham County, and Wake County. The ATT is part of the East Coast Greenway and is open to pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians (in non-urban sections) and other non-motorized users.
bridge
We walk on a section that crosses over I-40 and this bridge takes us from one side to the other.  Pretty cool, huh?
Following in the tradition of the Parisian Locks of Love, a few folks have attached one here.
Probably not a great tradition to start. But there are only 4-5 of them now.
Squirrels are the most common critter we see on this trail. (Copperheads prevail on the Duke Trail…) Today there was a cardinal, our state bird, waiting for us. I have loved cardinals for as long as I can remember. I am not sure why, but that doesn’t even matter. I just know that it makes me very happy to see one.
cardinal
According to the BFF, seeing a cardinal means that someone who has passed on has come to bring you a message. I had never heard that before so I paid a visit to my friend Google for some info about bird superstitions.
small Red Birds – When you see a red bird in winter, you will prosper in spring. When you hear a Cardinal sing, your sadness will soon be lifted. When a red bird shows up, help is on the way.
According to California Psychics
Messages from Spirit can come in many forms, but the red cardinal has long been held as the most notable spiritual messenger. The male cardinals are certainly hard to ignore with their striking red feathers and melodic yet almost “pay-attention-to-me” chirps. And when they come to you almost insistently trying to gain your attention, it’s likely you’re receiving a message from Spirit.
When deceased loved ones want you to know that they’re around, one way they might do that is to send messengers from the animal kingdom: small, brightly-colored bugs, birds and butterflies are not an uncommon choice. Things with wings tend to get our attention, and if you allow yourself to get tuned in, you might even feel who has sent them to you in hopes you’ll receive their message—even if that message is a simple acknowledgement that your loved ones are always around. And if you’re pondering something and asking the Universe for guidance, seeing a cardinal or the like is telling you that you’re being heard and guidance is being offered.
I am not a particularly superstitious person. Spiritual, yes. I think that the Native Americans were way more in tune with nature than we are these days and times. I am fascinated by their beliefs. I really like the thought that this beautiful bird might be someone from my past who has come to visit me.
I’ve seen some photographs of cardinals in the snow that take my breath away. I found this one on Fan Pop, but couldn’t find out who took it.
Cardinals-image-cardinals-36122736-900-675
Or how about this pair from Dreams Time?
cardinals-snow-20034195
Maybe this winter I will even find some of my own to photograph. Who knows?
Thank you for the therapy sessions, BFF. You are indeed the best.
I am still on a pumpkin spice kick. While driving back from the grocery store yesterday, I thought “What about pumpkin spice sugar cookies?” I googled, settled on a recipe, took the butter out of the refrigerator to soften, the egg to get to room temperature and pulled Mildred the Mixer out of her hiding place.
pumpkin
unbaked
stack
cookies2
I got help from Wine and Glue. I read her heartfelt post about the loss of her son. Maybe Elliot will come back to visit her in the form of a cardinal?
I decided to name mine Snickerdoodles after a friend said they reminded him of his mom’s cookies.
Pumpkin Spice Snickerdoodles
makes 4 dozen (I used a small scoop to measure them out)
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (plus more for rolling- about 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (plus another 1/2 tsp for rolling)
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar (plus about 1/2 cup more for rolling)
14 Tbsp softened unsalted butter
 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
3/4 cup 100% pure pumpkin puree
  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg yolk, then the vanilla, and finally the pumpkin until well combined.
  4. In two batches, add in the flour mixture. Mix on low speed, just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle/beaters.
  5. Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 20 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  7. Roll the dough into one-inch sized balls (or whatever size you want your cookies to be). Roll in sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets and press down slightly with the bottom of a glass. If the dough gets sticky, dip the bottom of the glass in the sugar mixture. Space the cookies about two inches apart.
  8. Bake for 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking.
  9. Let cool on the pan for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack. (Sample a warm one!)
Bon appétit! Happy Delicious Fall! Bake something yummy for those you love. Get outside for some nature therapy, with or without your BFF.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A really good day

spider donut
My morning started this way a couple of days ago. A spider donut left on my desk by an advisee.  Thank you, Girlie and Dunkin Donuts. One of my French friends commented–“Not Halloween yet.” The whole month of October is Halloween here in the good old U.S. of A, mon amie. C’est normal.
Then The Most Adorable Baby in the World got to make her Durham Academy debut and pay a visit to my classroom. Her mom needed to take a catering order to Duke, just down the road, and I volunteered to watch our little Nugget for an hour.
K and Gramma
She was a huge hit with my students, needless to say. A few colleagues stopped in to say hi as well. She is almost 8 months old. Wow. Le temps passe vite.
In my 6th grade class, one of the boys, M. New York, was caught with bulging pockets. Actually, I caught him after one of the items slipped from his pocket onto the floor. I asked him to empty those pockets and here is his stash.
williams pockets
We had adorable Kindergarteners here during our morning break, selling backed goods and treats to raise money for hurricane relief funds. I don’t know if he bought all this at the sale or if he came to school that way. The staples were a real curiosity. We all had a good laugh and he is a great kid- and he even laughed at himself. That is one of the most important personality traits to have as you navigate the often treacherous waters of middle school.
I supervise our after school study hall and during study hall the 3-D printer was whirring. I am always curious about that machine so I often watch the progress of what it is creating. Lo and behold, this is what I found behind the glass door.
3D ET
Oui, Mme La Tour Eiffel. I actually watched it from the bottom up. I had no idea who was printing it, but I was hoping it was one of my students and that I would be able to add it to my collection. (It was and I have!)
la tour 2
As I was walking to my car, I noticed this beautiful tree and had to stop long enough to take a photo. Fall is my favorite season. How can you not love this view?
fall leaves
Later, as I was finishing up with my date with Tom, the best manicurist in the entire world, at Posh Nails, his new salon, we noticed that the rain had stopped and the sky was an interesting color. It was pink!
sky1sky2
Then the Ex-Ex and I met at The Boot, our favorite watering hole, and shared this.
mozz
Made me think of Son #2. That boy loves mozzarella sticks. These were magnifico. (Grazie, Google) I tried making them a few times when he was growing up, but I never quite mastered it.
So, instead I will leave you with a tried and true recipe for mozzarella grilled cheese sandwiches.
Mozzarella Grilled Cheese
Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence of The Food Network
Serves: 2 sandwiches
Ingredients:
4 slices thick-cut sourdough bread
1 ball (1 pound) fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 plum tomatoes, cut into thick slices
1 cup fresh basil pesto, recipe follows
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
Basil pesto:
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano
2 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
To make pesto:
Toast pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Combine pesto ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined but still rough-textured.
To make sandwiches:
If you have a panini press, turn it on to warm up; otherwise, set a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Assemble sandwich by smearing insides of bread slices with pesto. Arrange a layer of sliced tomato and season with a few turns of fresh pepper. Layer the mozzarella slices over the top and then place another piece of bread on top to make the sandwich. Drizzle olive oil over skillet’s surface and place sandwiches on the hot skillet or panini press. If using a skillet, place another heavy skillet over the top to form a “press”. Turn after 2 to 3 minutes and replace weight. The sandwich is ready when golden brown and mozzarella has melted around the edges.
Copyright 2009 Television Food Network G.P., All Rights Reserved
Buon appetito!  Have a lovely weekend! Eat something delicious. Hug your loved ones. I sincerely hope you have a good day filled with simple pleasures.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Dear Google Paris

images-1
Dear Google Paris,
First, allow me to tell you how much I love you. Well, not necessarily your Paris office since I have not yet visited, but Google. As I say often, I must have been dumber than dirt before you came into my life 19 short years ago. I even made googler into a regular  -er verb in my French classes. I am pretty sure many other French teachers have followed my lead, but I was first.
googler:  to google
je google         nous googlons
tu googles       vous googlez
il google         ils googlent
elle google     elles googlent
Impératif:  Google ce mot pour trouver la définition, Avery.
Page et Isabelle, googlez les dates de Paris Fashion Week 2018, s’il vous plaît.
Googlons et trouvons une vidéo des Jeux Olympiques 2024.
Passé composé:  Hier soir, j’ai googlé des photos du bureau parisien de Google.
Futur: Et je googlerai tous les jours de ma vie.
Conditionnel: Je googlerais Justin Timberlake si mon ordinateur marchait.
And on and on and on.
Second, I have applied for a job with you in the past. I even had some of my 8th grade students write letters of recommendations for me. Oui. I have at least two former students who work for Google here in the U.S. They could put in a good word for me, as could their siblings and parents.
I really want to live in Paris. That’s on my bucket list. Hmmmm. Wonder how you say that in French?  Oui, j’ai googlé, bien sûr–
ma liste de choses à faire avant de mourir
I have visited your beautiful city many times since my first trip in 1978. I take 8th graders every March during our school spring break. If I am lucky, I go one other time  for a few days during the course of a year. That’s not the same as living there, n’est-ce pas? I lived in Arles for a total of eight months in 2007-2008. That’s been almost 10 years.  Far too long.
You are probably wondering just what job I would like to have. I have a proposal for you:  Snack Coordinator. Just hear me out, d’accord? I know that France is the pastry capital of the world. Éclairs, macarons, tartes au citron, pain au chocolat, croissants, etc. I would not even attempt those. Why on Earth would I when they can be found on every street corner? I would stock your snack room with American delicacies (dare I say Southern American?). Chocolate chip and sugar cookies. Red Velvet, vanilla, and chocolate cupcakes. Cheesecake. Brownies (I have an amazing Nutella recipe). Pumpkin spice muffins. Lavender, cherry vanilla, and blueberry scones. Banana bread. Vanilla Wafer Cake. Pound cake (easily my favorite). Apple, coconut cream, pumpkin, and pecan bourbon pie. Rice Krispie Treats. I am confident that this would make the Google Paris snack room unique in the City of Light and make your employees happy. And you know what happens when your employees are happy. They work harder and are more productive. Right? I have seen some very sad attempts at brownies and chocolate chip cookies in Paris and Arles.
And last but certainly not least… my qualifications. I have been baking for as long as I can remember. My earliest childhood memories involve sitting in my Grandma Bell’s kitchen as she made her famous coconut cake and banana fritters. My Granny Gillespie, who lived on the farm made an amazing 7-layer cake– thin layers of vanilla cake with homemade applesauce in between each layer. She and I also went blackberry picking so that she could make cobbler for us (kind of what my French friends call “crumble”). Warm from the oven, served with vanilla ice cream. Oh là là. Quelle joie. While living in France in 2007-08, on sabbatical from my teaching job, I worked with a chef in Arles, in his 5-room B&B, chambres d’hôte. He and his wife offered cooking stages, with visits to beekeepers, goat cheese makers, bakers, winemakers, chocolatiers, markets, olive oil producers, and lavender fields as well as local historical sites. We made picnics for the guests to enjoy under the shade of a tree or on the grounds of a winery. The guests, Chef Érick and I gathered in the kitchen every evening to prepare our evening meal using ingredients purchased at the market and accompanied with local wines. I also took care of reservations, cleaned rooms (I love to brag that I can clean toilets in French), washed clothes, hanging them out the upstairs window to dry (including all of those sheets and towels), and washed dishes without the benefit of a dishwasher. I was l’Assistante américaine, the translator in the kitchen. Let’s just say that I will never forget what une louche is… Chef Érick asked me for one my first night in the kitchen and I didn’t have a clue.  Oh, and I can already speak French and can even tutor in either French or English, if needed.
This blog is the result of my sabbatical. Just before the end of the school year after I was awarded my sabbatical, one of my 8th grade students help me set up the blog as a way to let my friends at home know what I was up to and to chronicle my time living in France. This young man now works for Google in San Francisco. Reference available upon request!
So, in closing, dear Google Paris, I hope that you will consider my offer to work for you. I do need to finish out the school year, making me available in mid-June 2018. I will be in Paris for 10 days in March with a group of students. I will gladly stop by for a face-to-face meeting/interview and can even bring some 8th graders along as references. They have all sampled my baking. I could, of course, even bake something up for you, if you wish. Perhaps you need some visual evidence of my prowess in the kitchen? Voici des photos:
Cakes:
Cookies:
Muffins:
Pies:
Cupcakes:
Scones:
I hope you enjoyed the random sampling of goodies. Mildred the Mixer and I stay busy. And covered in flour and sugar.
I even have my own chef’s coat… a gift after a Sabbatical Chef dinner at a friend’s house.
me
Today’s recipe is an old Southern favorite–
VWCake
I am sharing it with my colleagues tomorrow. It could be you, googleurs français
Mama Mildred’s Vanilla Wafer Cake
with help from Spicy Southern Kitchen
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1-1/2 cups  granulated sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
1 (11-ounce) box vanilla wafers, crushed
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum or rum flavoring
1 (7-ounce) package (about 2-2/3 cups) sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Butter and flour a bundt or tube pan.
Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time.
Mix in vanilla wafer crumbs and milk, alternating but beginning and ending with the crushed cookies. Add rum and vanilla and mix.
Stir in coconut and pecans.
Place in oven and bake for 60-70 minutes or until cake tests done with a toothpick.
Allow to cool in pan for 15-20 minutes. Turn onto a plate. If necessary, run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake before inverting it.
Thank you for your time, Google Paris.
Trois bisous,
The Sabbatical Chef

Bon appétit to all! Happy Monday and have a lovely week. Be the change you want to see in the world. Wake up grateful for what you have and make a list. Tell your family and friends that you love them.