Thursday, July 31, 2008

The chocolate chip cookie curse

I love chewy chocolate chip cookies. Don't get me wrong, the crispy and cakey varieties have their virtues. But when I dream of cookies, they have a dense, chewy interior. The curse is, no matter what recipe I use, my cookies turn out cakey. I've gotten recipes from friends who bake beautiful, chewy cookies, but when I bake them...cakey. Choose recipes that specifically call themselves chewy...mine, cakey.

My most recent attempt was on a grand scale, imitating New York's Levain Bakery's chocolate walnut cookies.
This is what I was aiming for. This is actually a copy-cat from a food blog, Cookie Madness, I found yesterday. You can see the crispy-gooey-chewy goodness.

So I try to bake these gargantuan cookies (4 oz each).
The blue tooth pick is 2 1/2 that makes these babies about 4 x 4 in. You're supposed to make them big for the texture...which is what I'm aiming for. Open it up, though, and...

CAKEY! That didn't stop me from eating it, of course...but the chewiness eludes me still. And it needs more chocolate chips.... :-)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

House Improvements

So, while I was gone, Casey did some work on the house. I take absolutely no credit, other than leaving my husband alone at home for three weeks with some direction. I asked him to paint the front door red and the kitchen cabinets red as well.
He also planted the front flower beds and lined the beds with Austin stone. Very nice. They're sweet potato vines.
He painted, in the kitchen and butler's pantry, the cabinets gray and the doors red, which matches the front of the house, gray brick with red shutters. It's not exactly the same red...but we used that same red inside with the guest that matches.

He also made a new dog door for the puppies and fixed a patch of tile in the kitchen.

It was really nice to come home with all these nice things done to my house...and I didn't do anything! I should go to Europe more often.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Microwave Chocolate Cake

In my surfing of food blogs today, which was delightful, I found this little recipe. I tried it, and yeah...warm chocolate cake in five minutes. I am all over that.

Microwave Chocolate Cake for One

4 tbsp cake flour
2 tbsp brown sugar (but when I made it I put 4 tbsp...I misread the recipe and it was perfect)
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
pinch salt
1 large egg
3 tbsp strong coffee (or milk)
2 tbsp vegetable oil (or melted butter)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Sift together flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder and salt into a large coffee mug (or small bowl). Stir in egg, coffee, vegetable oil and vanilla, mixing until smooth. If you are mixing inside a coffee mug, be sure to scrape the corners well.
Microwave on high for about 3 minutes. Cake will puff up like a soufflĂ© and should appear to be “set” after 3 minutes. Cake will fall once removed from the microwave.
Serve in the mug, or turned out into a bowl, with a bit of ice cream or whipped cream.

Just a little list

What was I doing ten years ago?

I was about to start my senior year in high school. I think I took summer school in economics that summer, so I could take more electives during the year.

What are five (non-work) things on my to-do list for today?

  1. Watch the Wizard of Oz.
  2. Read more food/baking blogs
  3. Cook, as inspiration strikes
  4. Organize closet
  5. Procrastinate on working on project for grad school class

Five foods I enjoy:

  1. All things baked...bread, muffins, cookies, brownies, etc.
  2. Nuts, especially cashews and pecans.
  3. All fruit, like strawberries, mangoes and kiwi
  4. Soup, my specialties being lentil, roasted veg. and tuscan tomato
  5. Strong coffee, black tea, chocolate milk, fresh squeezed orange juice

Things I would do if I were a millionaire:

  1. Pay off all debt
  2. Pay someone to fix up my house with hardwood floors, manicured lawn, new fence, etc...or go ahead and buy a nice one in the Park Cities...then pay someone to maintain those things. I'd still do the cooking, though.
  3. College funds for future children and godson Rudy
  4. Work part time, perhaps, and write young adult fantasy novels
  5. Travel much more often

Places I’ve lived:

  1. My parent’s house in University Park
  2. South Russell and Alexander dorm at Baylor, Baylor Landing and other small apts in Waco
  3. Paris, in the 16th and 1st arrondissment.
  4. A small apartment in Garland
  5. My house in Lake Highlands

Jobs I’ve had:

  1. Babysitter, Haagen Dazs ice-cream scooper
  2. Lotion sales person at Crabtree and Evelyn, Stage hand at Waco Hall theater
  3. Inner city summer school camp counselor, tutor at alternative school
  4. Waitress at Olive Garden
  5. French teacher at Waco High, Rowlett High

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chillin' on the couch with the puppies

So, I'm home, and other than the fact that I got up at 4:30 this morning, I'm back to normal. I've been on a run with Casey at White Rock, done a little cooking, somewhat unpacked. All my pictures are posted online (see the links below) and I'm really enjoying them. I have a major project and some other work to complete for my class, but I'll procrastinate on that. I've been going pretty hard for the last three weeks and have three weeks before school gears back I'll enjoy as much low-key time as possible.

And, I'm really happy to discover that I didn't kill my fancy running watch. Let me tell you, it was pretty dramatic the morning I woke up with it not responding. I thought I had burned it out by not converting the power properly...and let me tell you, there are some women who have grieved less over their dead on the battlefield than I mourned that watch. I knew it was ridiculous...but I loved that watch. It was my running buddy through the woods in Switzerland and a watch was just handy. Thankfully, I was just being a fool because it was just on zero battery and I wasn't charging correctly. Happy to be wrong.

Monday, July 21, 2008


So, I'm home, and very happy to be so. It was so good to see Casey and the puppies.

I've made a map to show where I went.

As for photos, I have quite a lot, so I've made smaller albums for each location, so as not to exhaust anyone. Each one is about 30 photos with a variety of pictures (people, places, food, etc.)

So, I started in Switzerland: mostly in Geneva,
with a short trip to Coppet
and Gruyeres.
Then to Belgium, mostly in the city of Liege,
with trips to Namur,
and Maastricht, Netherlands.
Then to France Paris for a normal day,
then Bastille Day in Paris,
then three days with family in Angouleme,
then back to Paris and finally home!

It doesn't look very far...but the differences between those small countries is crazy. It was a very educational trip.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tues-Wed-Thurs at my Grandmother's in the Country

I just spend three really nice days with my family at my grandmother's house in the countryside outside of Angouleme, France. It was great. I got to see almost lots of good food, hang out by the pool, walk by fields of sunflowers, play with my cousin's son, Rudy.

Below are a few pictures to give you an idea of the atmosphere.

J'aime Paris!

Ile St. Louis in the center of Paris. We walked all around Paris today. My tootsies are dirty and tired. I had just bought the t-shirt. :-)

This is the singing hobo and his weird anti-democracy posters and fountain-umbrellas. He was actually a pretty good singer. I gave him a little money and he sang "Merci, merci, merci." And then started playing his flute.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bastille Day in Paris

It is the National Holiday here in France. This is a shot from the military parade this morning of the French Foreign Legion.
It's hard to tell, but those are blue, white and red traces of the jets that had just flown by. And next to it, blue, white and red parachuters.

And the incredible mass of people...and the parade way far away! But we got to see plenty afterwards.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Odd photos from Switerland and Belgium

This is the view from my dorm room in Geneva, Switzerland. What a beautiful country.

The view from Gruyere, Switzerland...famous for its cheese.

But this small, rural town also has a bar inspired by the movie Alien. Very random.

This is a friterie (fry shop) in Liege, Belgium.

The Belgians are the true creators of the 'French' fry, and the sandwich has some fried meatball, sauce, double-fried fries and more sauce. If I never eat a french fry will be too soon.

This guy was in a park in Brussels, Belgium. Apparently, he's getting married in two weeks, and he and his friends decided to offer the public the honor of throwing a yogurt in his face, for the small price of 1 euro, for a good cause. I declined...I just wouldn't be able to toss yogurt in his face...he was too nice.

There are some good things in waffles!
Well...I mean, it rained almost the whole time, and Liege is very industrial...bad juju.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Feeling Manic In Liege, Belgium

So, there are moments of wonderful here...running through the woods in the morning, eating a fresh, sticky hot waffle on the street, the darling beauty of Maastrict, Holland...but other times...well, this place is the pits. Sometimes, I think, eating a lovely baguette sandwich, "I like Liege," but then the rain starts and its cold and windy, "I hate Liege."

Mostly I'm looking forward to seeing dad and getting outta here...and back to France!

Arriving in Liege, Belgium

I got to see dad yesterday, during the correspondence between Geneva-Paris-Liege. It was awesome. He came and got me at the train station and we walked to his apartment. It's super small, but quite nice. I got to dump off some of my stuff, mostly paper, books, some unnecessary clothes. So good. It was heavy just pulling it, let alone picking it up. It was so nice to see him, get some hugs...I'm really looking forward to spending next week with him.

By the way, I'm using a french keyboard which is completely I have to hunt and peck...I haven't typed with my head down since I was 10. Forgive the typos.

Anyway...traveling was no big deal...and even getting and checking into the dorm, which was a nightmare in Geneva was easy here. Anyway...the actual dorm, though, is...not well maintained. Dirty and old. There's a common kitchen for every four rooms, ours had dirty pots covered in flies; overflowing trashcans, dusty rooms. My room itself is perfectly fine...but surrounding it...not as nice. Oh, and we share a shower with our neighbor, and lucky me, my neighbor is an unknown male. But, once you step out of the dorm, it's really pretty. It's surrounded by a nature reserve, even larger and more woody than in I found my running path(s) already. It was funny, almost, how much the people in our program were freaking out about the rooms, though. One lady turned to another girl, grabbed her shoulders and said, "I make too much money to put up with this" then left and got a hotel.

So, almost immediately, Kathryn and I went for a get away from the yuckiness AND the complaining, which is equally yucky. Right close by was a nice cafe, and we sat outside, had a beer; Very pleasant. Others joined us and we ended up having a good pizza dinner there; the stopped at a convenience store, got some ice-cream, etc.

Well, just to explain another cause for complaint...the Univ of Liege people just didn't arrange this well, apart from not realizing that teachers won't appreciate the lodgings intended for poor students who have nothing to complain about. So, the dude came to welcome us, an hour late to his own meeting, and really didn't have any really info or even know the price of a bus ticket. Loser. Then he told us to meet this morning at a certain spot at 8:30 for someone to meet and guide us to the University. No one came. Ever. So, the 30+ of us just waited for 20 minutes in the cold before figuring it out for ourselves. And there was never any mention of the mistake. We, and I use this as the royal "we", were not pleased. It was a cold welcome, for sure.

Anyway, since then, things are just fine. We had two classes this morning, which were interesting; I had a waffle and coffee for a snack for 1 euro 90, we have all our info; plus recommendations or restaurants and bars. One local place has over 1000 kinds of beer! I love choices! So, even though all the meals aren't arranged and paid for like in Geneva, this will give me the chance to explore and make my own I won't be over-eating stuff just because it's there. We'll have a tour of the city this afternoon, tomorrow we'll go into Holland the city of Maastrict, then Thursday Namur, another town in Belgium, then Saturday, Bruxelles.

Yesterday afternoon, after lunch we had of tour of the churches, which was uninspiring...the guide was a little indifferent, it rained on and we skivved off a little early, and got some groceries and things, went back to the dorm, changed into better shoes...thank goodness! It took forever to get the bus back into town...they don't seem to follow their posted schedules at all...but whatever...and when we got into town it was raining we ducked into a bar and I had some famous "white" beer, excellent, and when it stopped raining, we found a cute cafe...I had a croque madame (toasted ham and cheese with a fried egg on top) and soup. Excellent. I even got to taste Kathryn's hot got cheese salad. Yum! We didn't get in until ten (and we found a bunch from our group at the bus stop...funny) but it was a pretty good day. We're going to Maastrict, which is in Holland, but really close.

The classes today were interesting. The first on the "countryside of Belgium" but it was more about the agricultural and urban development and different agricultural regions of Bel. which was interesting, then a session about the Belgium school system, and best of all, a short class on Belgian food, beer. She recommended places to sample beer, fries, mussels and chocolate...all the specialties. I want to try them all!

Yesterday was good. The visit to Maastrict interesting, but not very deep. I took pictures, enjoyed walking around with Beckie and Kathryn, then came back and had mussels and fries, traditional Belgian beer, etc. Very nice.

So anyway...I'm well and mostly enjoying Liege, other than the weather. It's really fun to get to experience the authentic culture independently but it's challenging learning the way of life here.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Saturday in the Countryside

I had a great day today. Awesome. We went to the country town of Gruyeres, famous for producing cheese.

The train ride was a little longer than I expected, but the view was spectacular. I I took probably 200 pictures today. Green, mountains, hills, vineyards, etc. Just beautiful. It's a post card. The whole country. So we arrived, the first thing we did was go to the cheese museum/factory. We didn't get to see much of the live demonstration, they just washed and flipped the cheeses, but we saw where they make it, saw a video of the process, where the store and salt-wash the cheeses, etc. and there was cheese to eat afterwards! They even had a thing were we could smell some of the flowers and plants that the cows eat, which effects the flavor, of course. It was cool. Then we trekked, and I mean trekked, up to the town. It was really picturesque. They were having a book fair, and I bought the first three Harry Potters in French, for 6 bucks. Awesome. So, then we went to the castle, and started the visit with a movie, which was more like a sound and light show (some of it was projected onto the roof and rafters, lights would flash like bombs going off in the distance) telling about the history, and then we got to go through the castle. We had to go quickly, but it was really pretty, especially the view, and Kathryn and I had fun...some of the stuff was really funny.

Oh, and lunch was awesome. Delicious. We started with charcuterie...sliced meats, salami, ham, etc. Then traditional cheese fondue...with bread and boiled potatoes. And apparently, if you drink cold drinks, other than wine with fondue, it can mess up your I just drank some wine. Anyway, the fondue was good. And for dessert, it was an meringue cookie (can't remember how to spell name in English!), topped with cream that came from the cow this morning. (Oh, I took some pictures of the cows...they're really cute with their bells.) Plus, the coffee came with cream that was in a chocolate cup! It was fun, and we had some really nice conversation. That put us all in a really good mood for the visit of the castle. It probably influenced why Kathryn and I found so many things funny...I don't know. I'll post pictures as soon as I can and let you decide.

And, weird of weird, in leaving, we passed a bar inspired by the movie Alien. The interieur was like the inside of the alien's lair...chairs like the Alien's spine. Creepy, cool.

The train ride back was still beautiful, and again, I really enjoyed the conversation with my fellow students. That has been an unexpected treat. I talked with a lady from Cape Cod about her brother's farm in Vermont, then a younger woman who's married to an older German man and about their life...and how she's not sure she wants to have kids, which is really interesting. Those are just examples. was awesome. We're all sad to leave, and were sad to say goodbye to our program directors, Mr. Patane (Mr. Bean) and Christopher...they were great, even if we did have a few (or a lot) of jokes at Mr. Patane's expense. They really did arrange a splendid program for us.

Tomorrow, we leave early, at 6 am. We'll get to Paris about 11, and then leave around 2 to Belgium. It will be an adventure with everyone and their stuff. I hope I'll get to see Dad in Paris, as he just got there and is staying nearby.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Monday-Friday in Switzerland


After dinner, we had a meeting with Dr. Koop, we discussed one of the lectures today and some of the questions I did over the books for the class. Anyway...the view was spectacular. We sat out on the roof, because the weather is nice, and I could see the mountains. I took a little video. So pretty. Geneva is definitely cleaner than France and the people more polite (but it's a smaller town than Paris too.)

Not much else, unless you want to hear about the history or schools in Switzerland, I don't think it will be very exciting.


I really feel privileged with the speakers the have for us. Diverse topics, but everyone has been an expert in their field, people who write books or do important studies. We expected this morning to be on political or diplomatic agencies in Geneva, but this guy was more of an environmental scientist...talked about C02 and global warming...very interesting.

I had chicken, potatoes and an eclair for lunch. Yum! This afternoon, we tour the cathedral, then go to the country and taste swiss wine. Fun...except Mr. Bean is our guide for the cathedral...boring!

I've struggled with my french the last two day...I feel kinda inept. Most everyone (students) is really good.


I don't know if it's homesickness or loneliness...but I'm blue.

Our class was on Swiss French and very interesting, and lunch was good, I had salad...but it was a much nicer salad bar than you'd expect, salmon and asparagus, plus raspberry tart. After lunch I saw a flea market across the street and walked around. That was cool. Mostly books and clothes, beads, coins, odds and ends.


I ran 4 miles at an 8:58 pace, the fastest yet and I just barely beat the rain. That should cool things down a bit. Excellent.

Today we have just one class, then lunch at the museum of the Red Cross (a huge deal in started here) and then a tour of the museum. Then we have a free afternoon from 4pm. I think I'll go see the UN Palace of Nations and then to this huge department store place and walk around. Stores are open later on Thursday, so it should be fun to walk around. I may go with Kathryn or just by myself, I don't know.

We eat all the time here, and lunch and dinner are much bigger meals than I'm used to...full plates, but I tried on my size small pants and they felt fine....but seriously, we don't go hungry here. With the exception of the salad bar, we don't really get to serve ourselves...and it just seems unnatural to leave food on my plate, but I'm making the effort because I really don't need all that food.

Also...I was rather proud of myself, I did a small amount of laundry, in the sink last night, and it was dry by morning.

It was raining as we went to class, which was a nice change of pace. Class was about Switzerland in its relationship to Europe, which we already know a ton about. I listened, took notes, but don't think I really learned anything amazing. Then we went as a group at noon to the museum (well, first we had to wait around for the bus, then walk from there to the museum, stopping forever to take pictures outside the United Nations building). So, when we get to the museum, we know that we're eating there, so we wait around, hungry, then the guy comes and tells us that we have to wait until 1:30 for the director who's going to eat with us. I start to feel not so good. Then we eat. It's some local lake fish, rice, overcooked veg. None of which are great, and I only eat half of fish, as much bread as I can get hold of, two coffees and a cookie. Afterwards, we start the tour, and I feel not so great, worse. So, the Red Cross was founded by a Swiss guy that realized that no one really cared for the injured in battle or prisoners of war...people were left to die on the battlefield. So, the Red Cross. The museum was mostly these big fabric screens of photographs of people in depressing circumstances, and then on the wall, every year and all the wars, disasters and plagues that happened, videos of battles, old bandages, postcards, prisoner of war records. I found our name, Meyer, quite often in the German area. Oh, and an area talking about land mines and pictures of legless children and old prosthetics. we were all on the brink of suicide by the end...but I was feeling better, physically, emotionally.

Kathryn wanted in go into the UN and get some brochures for her students. That was interesting. HIGH security. Like to go the bookshop you had to, of course, go through airport like security, then present id, explain your purpose, and get a photo badge. The thing was the guards that were at once very serious and stern were also really joking around with us, asking if we were really teachers and to prove it (I recited some poetry) and then one kept asking everyone if they knew anyone from Texas and talking about Walker, Texas Ranger. Weird. Anyway, we got in and it wasn't very pretty...but got some brochures and it was raining hard by the time we left.

We went into town and walked around this big store that I wanted to go to. I bought myself a souvenir t-shirt and some chocolate bars. Yum! Then we went to a book store, and I asked about a comic book that I want to use for my project that I'll have to do for this class. It wasn't exactly what I wanted, and they didn't have it in stock, but I think it will work. I want to use comic books to compare the different stereotypes Francophone countries have of each other. I like comic books, and teenagers like stereotypes.

Then we walked around this neighborhood our guy suggested yesterday. He pointed it out as the "hot" district with lots of nice cheap restaurants. He did mention that there are prostitutes there. Let's just say there were a lot more hookers and restaurants. Middle aged, foreign, just standing there, bored, low-cut tops. We did find a place, a little farther away, had a beer and steak and fries. Pretty good.


Just got back from running. Did four miles. Fast 8:46 pace. That's 27 miles this week.

The lecture this morning was on Swiss banks, and my conclusion, is that the gangster-James Bond mystique is seriously diminished, especially for Americans, in the interest of avoiding terrorism (No comment!).

Then we had an "aperatif" little party...snacks, wine. Not used to drinking...and not before lunch! Went straight to head...quite weird. But for lunch we had crepes, and then yet another guided tour of the town, this time with highlighting interesting women figures...which is really considering that women didn't universally have the vote in Sw. until 1990!