Tuesday, August 28, 2012

For the love of letters in the mail, cooking and sharing...

 One of the things that excites me the most (I am talking kids-before-Christmas kind of excitement) is sending and receiving letters in the post. So I was super happy to see Fiona's old-fashioned recipe swap invitation in her blog. You shouldn't miss her post from yesterday, on how a box of handwritten recipes from her grandma brought back memories and happiness. So I am inviting anyone who wants to participate to head over there and register so we can all share letters and recipes and handwritten envelopes delivered by the postman. I am so happy! Now deciding which recipe to share is gonna be quite the dilemma, but I have a few ideas.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday morning...

I am home right now, taking a sip of my coffee with milk and enjoying the sun coming in from the window. Last Wednesday was my last day at work. The boy, who's got a sense of humour,  got me flowers with a card that reads: "Proficiat, gestopt met werken", something along the lines of "Congratulations, you stopped working". These cards are obviously meant for people on their retirement. Anyway, I am kind of happy because this situation gives me lots of time to think, to put things back in place. I needed a break from the constant rushing out of the house, from the commute at rush hours (2 hrs. 30 min in all), from being tired all-of-the-time, from feeling I wasn't really doing anything with my life by doing a job a robot could do (in fact, one of the reasons my contract was not renewed is that we are being replaced by computers). So here I am, figuring out what to do with my time. So far I've baked peanut butter cookies and I am quite proud of myself for finding a frying pan at half-price, since the one we had was umm.. not non-stick anymore (how domestic). I plan on reading, on letting all the stress go, on baking lots of new things, taking my time to cook and well, let's see what else I can come up with. Of course the obvious thing to do would be to volunteer at the local animal clinic, but I am not sure I want to work "for free", I always end up feeling undervalued, and like it leads to nothing, so if I do it, I am going to have to convince myself that it's worth it, so that I don't lose the motivation.  We'll also be going to Istanbul soon, so I am looking forward to that. I just feel so drained...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A weekend in Lille

 One of the greatest perks of living in Europe is that you can visit lots of places without even having to travel very far. Last weekend we decided it was time for a short trip and we headed to Lille. It is crazy to think that we could be there in 2 hours and a half time, and that we were already 2 countries south.
 We did what we always do when exploring a new city: walk the heck out of it. And because we were in France, we had to try all the local delicatessen, in this case, the merveilleux, a meringue filled with whipped cream and bathed in chocolate. We also had to have macarons in all kinds of exotic flavours at Patrick Hermand and an eclaire too (how could we not?)
 We went to the zoo, and spotted a red panda; we found the Pasteur Institute and old dispensary, and we visited an exposition on the myth of Babel through Art at the Palais des Beaux Arts (which will be there until January 2013). The tower of books was my favorite.
 I loved how Lille's architecture is both very clearly Flemish in some buildings, but remarkably French in others. It was a funny feeling, like we were in France, but not quite, as this whole North-European culture is quite similar if you compare it to Belgium and The Netherlands. We are back home now, but this left me hoping for our next city trip.

Friday, August 10, 2012

My latest baking adventures

 I think I've said it before. Baking is like therapy for me, it is the one thing that makes me completely put the stress-and-worry switch off and just enjoy the moment. My latest attempt was a dutch-style apple cake. For this, I used Deb's "Mom's apple cake" which is said to be a Jewish apple cake recipe. This makes sense, since "...jews seem to have lived in the province of Holland before 1593". 
 The recipe turned out perfect, the cake is moist  and juicy. I did add ginger and nutmeg instead of only cinammon. But, but... I did not have a ring pan, so the first time I made it I used my 22 cm. springform. The cake rose quite high, except, horror, in the middle. I was wondering what could have happened, what I did wrong, what had caused another sunken cake, but on closer inspection, after cutting it, I realized all the apple squares had gone to the center of the cake, making it heavier, so it was not really one of those dense disasters that sometimes mysteriously happen.
 I was determined to try it again, and succeed at this one. In order to do so,we finally decided to get a bundt pan. And this time the apples stayed evenly distributed and the cake went up up and super high. So close to perfection.
 Yet... the boy became so impatient that he kind of made me unmould it before time. And that is when the cake broke. I wanted to cry and throw the pieces around, it was just an ugly mountain of crumbs and pieces. Luckily it still tasted quite good and it was gone within 2 days. I was not quite ready to accept defeat with our brand new pan, so I tried another recipe that eluded me last time, pandan cake. And this time,  the cake came out perfectly of the pan, oh lovely green perfection.
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