Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It’s What’s for Dinner

To answer my own question from my previous post….

Stir fry…it’s what’s for dinner!


Sunday, August 28, 2011

What’s Cooking?

As I’ve mentioned once or twice, Miss Chef is on a mission to get more fit.  This week, that means making sure there is good, nutritious food at home, ready to eat after a long day at work.

So what do you get when you have….


…a red pepper roasting…



…a pan of spinach starting to steam…



…two fresh, local eggs…



…some of our favorite local goat’s milk cheese…


(wait, check out that pepper again…


…erm, yummy??)



…oh look, more cheese!  And some milk, too.


So, what does that get us?



Quiche!  Spinach and roasted red pepper quiche with goat cheese!


Can’t wait to see what’s for dinner…Winking smile

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Up a Creek

For those of you more interested in our new custom-built closet, you can scroll on past this entry.  For the rest of us, how about another visit to the US National Whitewater Center?

Last week and this week, Miss Chef signed herself up for classes in whitewater kayaking.  I opted out, feeling that I really don’t have the strength to do a roll underwater and (more importantly) back up.  Last week’s class was a “sampler,” where they learned the basics of entering and exiting the water, paddling, and how it feels to find yourself upside-down.

Today’s class was a roll clinic.  Sounds nice and dry, doesn’t it?  It was, for me.  I stayed onshore and snapped a few pics.

Like a clinic, it was also a little boring for me.  It started out like this:

usnwc 08 03

That would be the instructor towing Miss Chef and a colleague from the school out into the water.  He stood in waist-deep water the whole time, giving them detailed information about paddling, rolling and who knows what else.

Since there were only two students, he took turns showing them how to use their balance and paddles.  Miss Chef practiced her paddling while the instructor worked with Chef Mark.  These kayaks are smaller and lighter than the ones we're used to, and are so maneuverable that every stroke tends to swing you right or left.

usnwc 08 09

See that “waterfall” behind her?  Those are the enormous turbines bringing water back to the top of the channels.  I don’t remember how many gallons a minute they can pull, but it’s a lot.  Lots of a lot.

Since there was a lot of standing around and talking, I decided to wander around and take some pictures to show you a little more of the Whitewater Center.

Here's the kayak barn:

The umbrella stand to the right is where we pick up our paddles and PFDs (personal flotation devices = lifejackets) when we head down to the river for flatwater kayaking.

Here are some staff members launching a raft from the raft barn.

This shot shows the area where rafters meet their guides and get on board the rafts.  In the background you can see part of the rock-climbing walls.  Beyond that is the main building with the shop and restaurant, and even further is the zip line that carries you across both channels of the whitewater runs.  (If you squint really really hard, you can see the lines going out of frame to the left.)

Have I mentioned there's a lot to do at the Whitewater Center other than Whitewater stuff?

Back in Miss Chef's clinic, they had moved on to this…whatever this is...

usnwc 08 11

And then there was some actual rolling…sort of.

There were to be no trips down the whitewater channel, so at this point I took off, to do some flatwater kayaking by myself.  It was pretty quiet out on the river.  I saw a lot of fish, including a couple good-sized sunfish-looking ones that came to the surface to inspect a fallen cicada.

I went downstream far enough to find an osprey.  (I zoomed way in and cropped the photo, so it looks like I'm closer than I really was.)

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Then I went back up the creek.  I soon came upon what looked like a confluence of two currents, though there was no other water coming in.

usnwc 08 20

Turned out to be a shoal of hundreds of tiny baby fish--you can make out a few of them just above my paddle.  I saw several of these shoals and realized this creek must serve as a kind of nursery for the river.  No wonder there are so many birds hanging around in here!

I also stopped to snap the flowers.

usnwc 08 21

And that was about all the excitement on my hour-long relaxing trip.  After I paddled back to the dock, I went up to find the chefs enjoying a beer at the restaurant.  Dunking, then drinking…sounds about right.  Since I had stayed upright, I settled for a pink lemonade.

Either way, we were all better off than our hippie friend from Paris.

We had paddles.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Before and After

Friday was our big day!  Anyone remember this?

This would be Miss Chef’s side of the closet after what one might term a catastrophic failure.  All the shelving on her side collapsed about two days after we got back from our Big Trip.  Long story short, we contracted with Closets by Design to rescue us.

We met twice with a really lovely saleswoman / designer named Joyce.  The first time, she took measurements and talked about what we wanted—how many shoes did we have, did we want shelving, long hang, double hang, etc.  The second time she returned with a plan which we made minor adjustments to, and for which we picked out colors and drawer pulls.

There were a few weeks in between that meeting and the actual installation—weeks during which Ma and Pa Flartus were due for a quick visit.  So all of Miss Chef’s clothes had to be moved from the guest bed back into the closet somehow.  I graciously made room—‘cause that’s the kind of swell gal I am.

So here’s what the closet looked like at that point:


Well, it didn’t actually look that fuzzy, but you get the idea.  Here’s the rest of the wall to the right:


You can see I already had some shelving, but Miss Chef’s side had been all hanging.  Those are her sweaters on top, piled sky-high.

Once Ma and Pa had left, we eventually had to move absolutely everything back out, onto the guest bed again.  Which left us with the bare bones of a closet.


It kind of gives you an idea of how much underutilized space there was.  And, now for your enjoyment, I present the Most Boring Picture I Have Ever Taken:


That would be the Wall of Catastrophic Failure.

Miss Chef was home that morning to “supervise” the installation, but I had to wait until that evening to see the new space.  Not only did I have to work ‘til 5, but then I went to the gym AND the grocery store on the way home.  What is the matter with me?

So here’s what it looked like BC (before clothing):

IMG_1203                              IMG_1204 Above, Miss Chef’s former Wall of Catastrophic Failure and part of the back wall. 
Below, my formerly Crammed Corner.  Notice the lower bar for the double-hang design. 

And here’s what it looks like AD (After Decision-making):

IMG_1208 IMG_1210  IMG_1213

If your screen’s wide enough, this forms kind of a panorama from Miss Chef’s corner on the left, across the back wall of all double-hang space and to my crammed corner.

We are still figuring out the space, but it’s pretty clear we’ve got a lot more usable storage now.  I finally have a place for my few purses, other than on top of Rosie’s box of brushes and treats in the tiny closet by the front door.  Miss Chef can finally stack her t-shirts and sweaters in manageable piles.


We’ve even pulled some things out of the guest room closet.  Oh, the coolest thing?  See that silver bar where the top left shelf meets the wall?  That’s a valet bar; it pulls out about 18 inches to provide a temporary hanging spot.  Miss Chef can use it to stage her uniform for school, and I can use mine to hold the ironing I’m always collecting and putting off ‘til later.

So, in conclusion: I must be in my 40s, if I’m this excited about a closet!

And never fear, we actually measured to be sure my new shiny blue friend would have a spot:


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Paris In-Between

I left work "early" tonight (i.e. 5:00) with the intention of getting lots of little nagging tasks done.  I've got a couple of loads of laundry in, but my mp3 player won't let me add more music to my workout playlist...and I don't feel like remembering what else I was going to do.

So I'm going to blog.  Now where was I…?

Oh, yes, Versailles and Giverny.  Well, actually there was a day between those, so let me backfill a bit.  The evening after our hot and sweaty visit to Versailles, we took it easy at home—that’s the evening we bought dinner supplies on the block and ate at home.

I neglected to show you the plain pasta Miss Chef had made, with just delicious creamy French butter on it.  Well, there it is.

As we finished dinner, the long-announced thunderstorm finally arrived, to help drop the temperature, as well as some rain.  I have rarely heard thunder in France, even though I’ve had four long stays there (two school years and two summers) in different parts of the country.  That night though, we got to enjoy flashes of lightening, loud thunder, and this gorgeous sunset.


I’ve lightened the photo a bit so you can see the clouds better.

Our in-between day started out with food.  First we went to L’Epicerie at Le Bon Marché, one of the oldest department stores in Paris (if not the world).  The épicerie is a separate food store, kind of like the Fortnum & Mason’s of Paris (or maybe F&M is like the BM of London…).  Anyway, we had reservations in the area, and I figured this would be a good place to stock up on all the tasty food products were somehow going to fit into our suitcases for the trip back!

Just a couple of pictures, as I then saw a lady being chastised by a staff member for taking photos!

IMG_0827 pasta
party hat pasta!

IMG_0830 dessert
the requisite hunger-inducing photo: dessert, anyone?

We spent quite some time here, browsing for ourselves and for gifts…and killing time until our 2:00 (sorry…14h) lunch reservations.  Why so late?  ‘Cause we were lunching at a one-star Michelin restaurant!

IMG_0838 Atelier
If you don’t have your glasses on, that’s Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier.  (Miss Chef looks confused because someone was about to walk in front of me, and she didn’t think I’d take the photo so fast!)

As at the Artichoke, we did the tasting menu, though this time we only had a couple of glasses of wine each instead of the full set of pairings.  Here’s a shot of the menu posted outside.

IMG_0852 Menu

For those who don’t read French, a very brief run-through: lobster carpaccio, lentil & pea soup, seared foie gras, a “poached” egg in a mushroom cream sauce (the egg was essentially raw and neither one of us liked it), small turbot filet, then a choice of lamb, quail or veal (I had quail, Miss Chef veal), a strawberry dessert and a weird coffee dessert thingy.  Phew!

The set-up of the place was pretty cool.  It was essentially one big bar around “the line,” where the final cooking takes place (the rest of the kitchen was behind doors.  It was very modern, all black and chrome, with colorful points of (fake) fruits and vegetables as decoration.  It looks better than it sounds!


Service was done right over the top of the bar.  It was pretty cool listening to the servers and cooks doing the kitchen patter in French!  I learned that the French version of “order!” is “service!”  (That’s what the servers say when they’re ready for the chef to fire the next course.)

Notice there’s nobody in the kitchen?  Ours was the last seating, and they were cleaning up and cooking family meal as Miss Chef finished her coffee.  You can see the clock on the wall says it's almost 4:00! (oh, right...16h)

I did take one picture of the meal…the most fabulous foie gras!

IMG_0846 Atelier

After lunch, we went back to the apartment to rest a bit and go through our booty from Le Bon Marché.

IMG_0853 goodies

Check out Miss Chef’s fancy-pants fruit roll-ups in the front.  What we’ve got is pasta, tea, chocolate, a bit of liqueur, soaps, mints, a fig vinaigrette...oh, yes and my little jar of pâté de campagne (not the foie gras kind).  Still haven’t opened that yet…

Are you ready for more?  Because we still had an evening ahead of us, and it wasn’t getting dark until 11:00 at night (sorry, 23h).  I wanted to visit the “village” side of Montmartre.  I had taught there, and I hoped I could change Miss Chef’s mind about the area, as all she’d seen was the touristy, scam-artist-ridden side of it.

The part of the school where I taught used to be a chapel.

Down a sloping street, one of the few remaining windmills which used to pepper the area when it truly was a village, separate from Paris.

a closer view

Montmartre is quite hilly!

Miss Chef could not fathom why this restaurant would be closed, when just steps away the Place du Tertre was seething with tourists and their money.  So we considered perhaps we should just take it over…

Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Sacré Cœur)

Same cathedral, different side, about an hour later.  This changing light is a photographer’s dream.

IMG_0883        IMG_0884
Details of the exterior of a pretty touristy café.  I would like to think they’re originals from a 19th-century butcher’s shop specializing in game…but I don’t know for sure.  They are preserved behind glass, though, so I’m probably right. Winking smile

Looking out across the city, we saw a familiar, if distant sight…
Once we were done sight-seeing, we finally did something I’ve being describing to Miss Chef for years.  We stopped at a crêperie and got a butter-and-sugar crêpe to go.  And it was warm and delicious and rich and sweet, and we bickered over the last few bites all the way down the hill to the metro home.

The End

Not really; there are still partial days in Paris and London…so stay tuned!