Category Archives: cooking

La Cuisine!

We moved into our newly remodeled house several months ago, but many of the finishing pieces are still trickling in ever. so. slowly. The arrival of the banquette  marked the (almost) completion of the kitchen and breakfast area, which I am happy to finally share with you. The kitchen was my favorite part of the remodel, and the part I thought about and researched the most. I wanted to make absolutely sure it suited my cooking style as well as my aesthetic. Because mine truly is a “working kitchen,” it was imperative that the lay-out of appliances, sinks, and storage were well planned and made sense for me. I am thrilled to report that so far I am totally loving cooking and baking in this space, and have not yet discovered anything I wish we had done differently.

This “before” picture shows the kitchen, which was about half the size of the new one, and flanked by a tall pantry. We ripped everything out and added two more windows on the right wall. This left us with a big open space to play with!

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The two additional windows add light and fresh air on those rare days we can open them here in Austin. The window panel looks out onto a gravel courtyard surrounding a magnificent oak tree, and we plan to turn that area into a dining/entertaining space reminiscent of those we loved in Provence. Pass the wine and cheese, please.

Originally I thought I wanted a white marble countertop, but I was concerned about its durability. I am not a fastidious cook, and splashes of stuff have been known to sit on my counters longer than I care to admit. After much thought we opted for quartzite, a natural stone that can look much like marble but is more forgiving of cooks like me. We liked it so much that we put it on the backsplash as well. So far I have not had any problems with etching or staining, and  I love the veining and the shine.

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The wall of windows meant that we couldn’t have many upper cabs. I have gotten used to the drawers, though, and use them to store dishes, glasses, and pots and pans. The slightly restricted storage was a good exercise in culling my cooking implements to the ones I really use. All duplicates went into boxes for the kids, or went to the lake, or were given away. I love opening a drawer and seeing exactly what I need, with no unstacking required. Less truly can be more!

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This hand-me-down from my grandmother made the cut, though.

This freestanding open shelf unit was made from counter remnants and steel. The white stone shelves remind me of a display from a French patisserie (alas, without the pastries). I keep some of our every day dishes and glasses on it, and plan to rotate decorative pieces on it, as well.

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I  love these two “floating shelves” on either side of my range. They are also steel, and were attached to the sheet rock before the stone backsplash was threaded over them. Amazing, non? I am glad I wasn’t there to see it happen.

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Mark loves the look of clear counters, so we built a little storage area to keep our frequently used appliances hidden but still accessible. Not visible but also there are a toaster and a blender.

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I kinda like these sleek electrical outlets, which are covered and lie flat along the back of the counter top.

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Voila

My pantry space is to the left of the refrigerator. The pull-out unit takes some getting used to, but is an efficient use of space. I store a few extra items in an upper cabinet.

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All of my dry goods live in this shallow cabinet next to the pantry. I found the containers at a restaurant supply store, and they have kind of changed my life. No more partially- used flour bags zipped up in plastic bags. No more dry beans slipping out of open packages. No more wondering what lurks in the depths of deep dark shelves.

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This pantry is still evolving. I need some more containers (like one for that sad bag of powdered sugar) but haven’t made it back to the store for those yet. I really love that I can dip measuring cups into these wide containers without spilling contents onto the counter. It’s the little things, you know?

Another thing I planned out ahead of time was my spice drawer. I cannot stand pulling out bins of spices and lifting countless jars up in search of the cumin or the cream of tartar. I found these little cuties on-line, and they please me greatly. I like buying my spices in small quantities, so this small size works well for me.

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My island is the size of a sedan. I KNOW. But it is so nice being able to spread out several kitchen projects at the same time. It also makes it very comfortable for more than one cook to be in the space. Also if we ever want to turn out house into a disco for a night, it will make a great dancing stage. Just gotta watch out for the prep sink.

The island is home to the microwave and the wine refrigerator and the trash/recycling/dog food bins. IMG_9153

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To the left of the wine fridge is a handy lift for my mixer (which is heavy as hell). I can crank it up, slide it onto the island, and then say goodbye to it when the cookies are baked.  Sweeeeeet!

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Thank you for your service now go away.

The banquette was a subject of debate, as Mark was not crazy about the idea of blocking the windows. He relented (thanks honey!) and I think it looks fine in that space.IMG_9147

So that’s it- my shiny bright brand new kitchen! Thanks for stopping by and please come again. And if you enjoyed your tour, please don’t forget to tip your guide.

 

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Filed under Austin, cooking, decorating, design, kitchen, Uncategorized

Welcome To December

Whoa. December. How did that happen?

I am still shaking the sand out of my eyes and ears, having buried my head in escape from much of what was going on around me for several weeks following a certain day in November. I am back in the game, though still avoiding as much news as possible, which I am fully aware is not a mature way to deal, but it seems to help manage my anxiety so I am going with it. And also this.

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Anne never lets me down.

We made our first trip to Napa last month and I was smitten. What a gorgeous part of this country.

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We also made a second trip to Washington DC to visit our daughter. It was a lot more fun than the moving weekend- no trips to Target required. The city was aflame with autumn and refreshed us with crisp air.

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Thanksgiving happened at our house this year. Having my whole family at my table made me very thankful.

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but it was kind of hard to pass the salt

My November Nature Escape took me to Pedernales Falls State Park with my dog and a good friend. Still not many colorful trees to be found, but the day was glorious.

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Meanwhile back in the kitchen- did you know you can freeze pomegranate seeds? Well YOU CAN!

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I usually remove the seeds in a big bowl of water, but this time I tried a Martha Stewart technique which involved holding a half in one hand and spanking the peel side with a wooden spoon until all the ruby beauties fell out. I’m not sure it was any easier, but it did relieve some frustration.

Then I put spread the seeds out on a tray and froze them before sealing them all up into a large zip bag, where they await my December salads and cocktails and any other uses for them I can dream up. They taste pretty good by their little frozen selves, too.

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I have sought refuge in many a good book these past few weeks. This one particularly pleased me, and didn’t seem to get a lot of press. The author is British and wrote the short story on which the film 45 Years was based. (I also loved that film, though Mark yawned all the way through it. Anyone else see it?) The prose in this novel took my breath away.

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And yes, I would be lying if I said I haven’t fantasized about flying back to Paris for a good long while. Remember December in Paris?

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even though I never cared for those “hula hoop” decorations on the Champs

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Le sigh. Let’s go back.

But no- it’s onward and upward. Bring it, December! I am looking forward to a driving trip back to Pagosa Springs, Colorado (where it was 9 degrees this morning!!), lots of time in my kitchen, some fires in my fireplace, all the books, and good thoughts for 2017. What about you?

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Filed under books, Christmas, cooking, Paris, Paris in winter, Uncategorized

Lawdy But It’s Hot

Bonjour from Austin, Texas, where the second full day of summer finds us wondering how many more days until fall, and will it rain again before then? The answers are “too many” and “sweet baby Jesus I hope so”. Until then, we spend most of our daylight hours inside, venturing out only mornings and evenings, which are cooler but still make our sports bras and Nike shorts stick to us like cling wrap. And by “we” and “us” I mean “I” and “me”- not sure why I am gravitating toward the third person today.

My house is currently redolent with the sweet smell of the double batch of granola I just removed from the oven. IMG_7168

This is my go-to granola, and I have gifted some of you with your very own portion, casting me forever in your good graces. I will be bringing this crunchy Nirvana In A Jar to friends who are hosting us on our Colorado road trip next month. If this moves you to invite us to stop by your mountain retreat, feel free to leave a comment below. Or you can make your own, but that’s not as much fun for me.

Can you guess what this lovely concoction is?

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This, mes amis, is the beginnings of lavender and honey ice cream! My good friend and I went to the Lavender Festival in Blanco, Texas the other weekend, and I bought a jar of cooking lavender specifically so I could attempt this ice cream. When we ate at Chicon recently, one lucky person at our table ordered lavender and honey ice cream, to which I sneered and opted for the coconut cake, because who wouldn’t? The ice cream turned out to be the clear winner over the cake, which was the only weak link in a delicious meal, and I have been thinking about that ice cream ever since. I used this recipe, but with one cup of cream and two cups of whole milk and a tad less honey. The loose lavender is strained out of the batter after steeping for ten minutes, so you do not end up with purple bits in your teeth after dessert. But it would be worth it, even if you did. We liked it with a sprinkle of that heretofore mentioned granola (did you know I was a lawyer in my previous life?) because the granola makes everything better. I think you can buy culinary lavender at Whole Foods, in case you happened to have missed the Blanco festival this year. I didn’t ride this to Blanco, but someone did. Lest you think Lavender Festivals are for sissies.
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It hasn’t all been lavender and unicorns around here. We moved all our stuff that had been in storage from Paris into the rooms not being renovated in our new house. Fortunately, everything appeared to be in as good shape as it was the day it flew out the window of our Paris apartment almost a year ago. Those Frenchies know how to pack.

We also moved out of our Houston home and have stuffed boxes and belongings into our lake house until it is groaning with the strain. But whew. Glad the heavy work is done and that our treasures weathered the sea passage and storage.

What else? I finally finished Queen Of The Night, a delightful tome by Alexander Chee. I loved all six-hundred pages of this story about a star soprano of the Paris opera who discovers that someone has written a novel of her life, including secrets that few people know. As she tries to figure out who the author is, she tells us of her amazing life as a circus performer, a courtesan, an assistant to the Empress, and a starving orphan. This book was enchanting from beginning to end. And did I mention Paris?

We had Martha all to ourselves for Father’s Day, which we ended with a nice dinner with a view.

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Cheers to dads and sunsets everywhere.

Stay cool, y’all.

 

 

 

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Filed under Austin, Austin dining, books, cooking, moving, Texas, Uncategorized

Leaving So Soon, May?

Bonjour from my new “office”, and by “office”  I mean the porch of my lake house, now offering a view of a very full Lake Travis, which is a most beautiful thing. Hallelujah.

Lots going on in these parts. Spring has been sassy, bringing bounteous rain, flowers, and unexpected cool snaps. Although many folks around here are weary of the rain, we can’t help but be grateful for every drop, and hopeful that it doesn’t disappear again.

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Tomorrow we move all of our stuff from Paris into our new Austin house, even though a large part of that house looks like this.

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After ten months, we want to get our things out of storage, even if it means cramming  all the boxes and cartons into bedrooms and studies and moving it around again when we finish this project (which could be a glimpse into eternity). So that’s my day tomorrow. You?

Later in the week we make one last trip to our Houston townhouse, which we will pack up and vacate next Monday. It will be strange to no longer have a Houston landing spot after so many years. Fortunately we have friends and family there who will offer us beds occasionally. Right? Hello???

Mark and I have been exploring the Austin restaurant scene, which like many other parts of Austin is totally different from when we lived here in the early 2000’s. We are keeping lists of places we have gone and places we want to try, and both lists are getting longer each week. We have already learned that reservations and/or off-peak dining times are crucial at all of the trending eateries. Even with advance planning, the search for parking places at many cool spots can mean that you walk into the restaurant in dire need of a house cocktail STAT. But if you make your reservation well in advance and get lucky on a parking spot, you are likely to enjoy many a fine meal in Austin, Texas.

True Food  is one such place. Turns out there is one in Houston (and other places), but we never discovered it. The Austin location is in a corner of downtown that is being redeveloped and still feels a bit awkward, but no doubt will blossom into something lovely in no time.

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Def try the cocktails.

The interior was sleek and handsome, but all those shiny hard surfaces meant lots of noise bouncing around. We scored a table on the patio that suited us fine.

My favorite dish of the evening was the Mushroom Lettuce Cups. Bonkers good, and not something I would be tempted to make at home.

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Something I have been cooking lots of at home is this Roasted Broccoli. There are endless variations on this theme and all are quick and easy. I make a bit batch, and what we don’t eat that night gets gobbled up on salads or on rice or grains later in the week. Trust me- you will never let your broccoli near the microwave again.

Mark and I loved watching a six-episode show called The Night Manager on Apple TV. Lots of glamour, hard-bodies, and gorgeous European locations. And with only six episodes, you don’t have to commit to a long-term relationship. Yea.

That’s all for now, friends. Thanks for keeping me in your radar. I’ll be back. Just like the fruit flies I finally got rid of in my kitchen this weekend.

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Filed under Austin, Austin dining, cooking, flowers, Paris, Uncategorized

Attempting Re-entry

Bonjour Friends! We are back home after two weeks in Vancouver, Alaska, and Seattle. The trip was fabulous and, as always, it was fabulous to get back home. Except for the unpacking, laundry, and “where am I?” part, of course. I am powering through the chaos, and for some reason these cookies seemed vitally important to that effort.

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This recipe caught my eye because it calls for milk powder, which I happened to have from that time I made Barefoot Contessa’s Dog Treats. (I know- right? They were super cute and would have received a resounding “thumbs-up” if the lucky recipients had thumbs). Of course, the cookies also needed cream cheese, milk chocolate, and Oreos, which I did not have in my pantry,  but those things are easier to use up than the milk powder is. So that, my friends, is how I ended up making these cookies by the sparkly Joy The Baker when I should have been sleeping or paying bills or doing something useful. Sorry not sorry.

But let’s talk about Vancouver, shall we?

I made the most of my window seat and the clear day on the four-hour flight from Houston. I loved the way the topography changed along the way.

from lush mountains

from lush mountains

to dry swirls

to dry swirls

to fertile valleys

to fertile valleys

to crazy pie charts

to crazy pie charts

and finally some coastline!

and finally some coastline!

This was my first visit to Vancouver and I was totally bowled over by its beauty and how spanking clean it was!

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This tree wore a groovy crocheted accessory, making it almost as groovy as my niece Juju.

IMG_3269We took the water taxi to Granville Island, where we enjoyed perusing the market.

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fruit or

fruit or

fruit flavor

fruit flavor?

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how come my cupcakes never look this good?

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I loved the copper at Liberty Distillery.

I loved the copper at Liberty Distillery.

I would rent an apartment in this building just for this floor at its entrance!

I would rent an apartment in this building just for this floor at its entrance!

One night we were treated to a gorgeous fireworks display, which was much appreciated since we missed both Fourth of July and Bastille Day fireworks this year.

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We had the joy of traveling with my sister’s family and my mom on this trip. They loved smiling for the camera.

Lookin' good, Sistah! You too, Meredith!

Lookin’ good, Sistah! You too, Meredith!

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maman et moi

Selfies with Eloise!

Selfies with Eloise!

Oh yeah- we had a couple of dudes with us, too.

Oh yeah- we had a couple of dudes with us, too.

Our next stop was aboard the Celebrity Millennium.

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More about that later! I have still got some unpacking to do.

Enjoy your weekend, homies!

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Filed under cooking, family, food markets, travel

Monday Monday

Yo my peeps! I hope you are all having an enjoyable week, whether you be working, vacationing, or just hanging out. I have been wearing out the soles of my shoes, crossing Paris this way and that while the sun shines. We are almost getting used to this California weather here- I can’t recall the last time I carried an umbrella with me.

Yesterday’s post of sunsets were from Monday night, but before I headed out into the sunset I walked all over the third arrondissement. I don’t remember a whole lot about it, but here are the pictures I took. Enjoy.

I started here- at the ever so glamorous Opera Garnier.

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From there it’s all a blur.

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No, not because I stopped here for champagne.

Street art that reminds me of paper mache

Street art that reminds me of paper mache

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walking behind the mothers/nannies and their precious children after school let out

walking behind the mothers/nannies and their precious children after school let out

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orchids!

orchids!

Thats all the visual aids I got. I do recall that I bought an amazing Vietnamese sandwich close to the Arts et Metiers metro station and then ate it at a little park on Rue Saint- Martin. If you ever are here and tire of French fare, try some of the wonderful Vietnamese restaurants.

I went home that afternoon and whipped up some Asparagus and Mushroom and Lemon Risotto, which was really good with a salad. I used this recipe from Martha Stewart and added mushrooms.

not too pretty but with a great personality

not too pretty but with a great personality

So clearly I was well fortified for my sunset walk.

By the time I dragged myself back into the apartment that night my Fit Bit was cheering me for having walked almost 10 miles that day. It’s kind of nice to get a pat on the back (or a buzz on the wrist) for a good day of exercise. Funny how you hardly even notice you are walking when everything is so Paris.

Thanks for stopping by and y’all come back now, ya hear?

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Filed under cooking, Paris

A Day At The Park

The sun came out to stay Thursday morning, and I jumped on the 43 bus and headed west, across the peripherique, and into the leafy and luxurious neighborhood called Neuilly Sur Seine. My destination was the Bois de Boulogne, a 2000 acre public park on the western edge of the 16th arrondissement. More specifically, I wanted to explore the botanical garden called the Parc de Bagatelle, which is located in the Bois de Boulogne.

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IMG_2226The Parc de Bagatelle and its château is the happy result of a wager between Queen Marie-Antoinette and her brother-in-law, the Count of Artois. The spunky queen bet the Count that he could not build the château in three months, and he won the wager. Today’s park is a melange of shady, forested trails, romantic water features, hidden staircases cut into stone, a Chinese pagoda, a château, noisy peacocks, and a world-renowned rose garden. I was fortunate to have timed my visit perfectly for the roses, which were amazingly beautiful.

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The shady park was the perfect antidote to the warming day.

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Bonjour, La Defense!

Bonjour, La Defense!

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I was also happy to find a garden of peonies, which I love.

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When my stomach told me it was time to go in search of lunch, I took the bus back into the center of Neuilly and strolled its shady sidewalks.

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Hotel de Ville

Hotel de Ville

It was a very fun outing and I highly recommend a visit to the park. Even if the roses are not blooming, the grounds are a welcome respite from the busy-ness that is Paris.

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And I know you all have been wondering how the Frizzled and Crispy Artichokes came out! I am happy to say they were a hit. The only mistake I made was not peeling enough of the outer leaves off before cooking them, leaving us with a few tough pieces we had to extricate from our mouths. Luckily it was just us, so there was no need for party manners.

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Et voila! Frizzled and crispy!

Thanks for stopping by, mes amis! Things are heating up out there, so don’t forget your sunscreen. You don’t want to end up frizzled and crispy, do you?

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Filed under cooking, Neuilly, Paris