Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pas Adieu, See You Soon.

Yesterday my best friend in Lyon left, Jess Mullen. I will say I did not cry when she left, although it did affect my entire day.

You see, when I was booking my flight home just a week ago, I decided that I would stop in Boston first, and that is where Jess lives. It just so worked out that I didn't have enough money to buy a flight to the west coast just yet, so Boston it was. Jess and I have been making wonderful plans (or more so, she is making wonderful plans) for when I come to visit 3 days in July. Thank goodness, because if this was not the case, my tears would have been all over Lyon yesterday.

After you part ways with someone from a place where you have made memories over certain period of time, in the case of Jess and I, 7 months, then you are bound to shuffle through all the good times just as the other is parting; this is why things got a tad bit emotional for me yesterday. I began to think, "Crap, everything that I have lived through my past 7 months is going to really change. I mean, Jess and I hung out everyday." If I start sharing memories with you, it is going to sound like she past away and I will never see her again, but thank God, that is not the case, so I am going to try to avoid that. haha. How about instead, I just share some pictures. Unfortunately, we didn't take as many pictures as we should have, =( but here is what I have. I added other pictures, a part from ones with us, that summarize our friendship or just things that made us laugh. You may not understand why I posted some of the pictures, but she will understand and hopefully will get some amusement out of them.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Croquants au chocolat - à l'écorce d'orange confite

This is a more expensive recipe to make, but that means that it has expensive taste as well! I was very satisfied with these croquants. They are a sweet sweet dessert, but it is not an overload! With the mixture of chocolate, orange and honey, there is not a focus on one flavor - you can really taste all the different flavors. The texture was a bit crunchy, hence the french name "croquant," but as they melt a little in your hand, they are a but chewy as well. This really is the most different dessert I have ever made, but I felt like such a fancy baker succeeding. =)

Croquants au chocolat - á l'écorce d'orange confit

Remember, these recipes are coming from a French dessert book entitled, "Biscuits et Petits Gateaux." All the ingredients are easily found in France, so it is possible that if you are somewhere else, you can have difficulty finding ingredients. Also, I am translating the directions from French to English, so I apologize for awkward statements

Preparation: 30 minutes // Refrigeration: 1 hour // Cook time: 8-10 minutes


200 grams of dark chocolate
100 grams of candied orange peel
50 grams (little bit more than 2 tablespoons) of honey
15 cl of creme fraiche épaisse (this is a french ingredient that may be hard to find in the states. I have heard that Trader Joes sells it. Otherwise try sour cream, it is the best match in flavor and texture.)
150 grams (2/3 cup) of sugar
60 grams (1/2 cup) of flour
oil for the baking sheet

Making the caramel:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F). Oil two baking sheets. Cut up 100 grams of candied orange peels. In a medium sized sauce pan, add 50 grams of honey, 150 grams of sugar and 15 cl of créme fraiche and bring to a boil. Continue to stir the mixture at a high heat for about 5 to 8 minutes. To verify that the caramel is ready, drop a small bit of the caramel into a cup of cold water : it should form into a molded ball. This part actually took me a long time to complete. I was stirring for almost 20 minutes!! I think this was because I didn't keep the heat high enough. Also, the ball of caramel won't necessarily form itself, touch it and if it is sticky enough to hold together, it should be ready. If you get a nicely formed ball of caramel, congratulations!

Forming the croquants:

Add the chopped orange peels to the caramel mix as well as 60 grams of flour. Mix rapidly and then remove the pan from the stove. With the help of 2 teaspoons (small spoons, not necessarily the measuring spoons) spoon out a nice bit of the mixture and drop it onto the oiled baking sheet. Leave enough space between each croquant. Slip the baking sheet into the oven and cook them for 8 to 10 minutes.

Melting the chocolate:

While the second batch is in the oven, and the others are cooling, melt the chocolate. The best way to melt the chocolate is in a small sauce pan placed in a larger sauce pan of boiling water. Break up the 200 grams of chocolate into the small pan and the water will melt the chocolate without burning it.

Topping the croquants:

After the chocolate is nicely melted, take a spatula or a knife and spread the chocolate onto the tops of the croquants. Place them on something flat that will fit in the refrigerator and let them cool for about an hour.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What has happened to manners, respect and civility?

France is a beautiful country, and I will always love this country - let's just get that straight - however, there are a few issues here that I have discovered from personal experience that really just limit the possibilities of me ever giving France another chance as a place to live in.

There is a lack of manners in this country. There is a lack of respect, and to some extent there is a lack of civility. The list of examples that I am about to share with you could be argued that they would also happen in America, although I believe that many would agree with me that these things that happen in France are occurrences and are actually a fact of living here, they are not just things that could happen by chance every once in a while.

It is funny because when people think of France, at least this is what I was taught, they think of a sophisticated bourgeois group of people sitting around drinking wine, eating expensive cheese and talking about art and literature. Well, this is now the type of people that I think of. I think of people who push you over in a rush to get out of or onto the metro. I think of men who will not offer their seat to a pregnant woman or 80 year old woman. I think of people who will bump into you and not say a word, let alone an "excuse me." I think of lousy customer service. I think of people who don't stand up for another person who might've been treated less than human. I think of the fright that I have when I walk past a group of guys that very well could holler at me and not leave me alone. Or how about that fact that I can't even look at someone an smile without giving the invitation of 1) sex or 2) a fight. I know not every person who is French would be an example for each of these scenarios, I mean I have a french boyfriend who is wonderful, but in the past 7 months of being a French resident, I have witnessed or been the victim of each of these examples multiple times. It really is a shame that these things happen, but I think it is important to share these facts with people

Last night, something happened to me that scared me to death. I went to the cinema at the Institute Lumière for the opening night of a tribute to the American film director, Stanley Kubrick. They were showing the film, "The Shining," and it has been a plan for a while for me to go with my boyfriend and his friend. I, unfortunately, did not buy my ticket in time so I had to wait in a long line with the hopes that I could get a seat on the steps inside the theater. There were about 100 people in line and I was in the middle. After about 40 minutes of waiting, a guy and his friend walk up to where I am in line and place there bags on the outside of the retractable barrier. I thought to myself, "what the heck are these guys doing?" Anyway, about after 10-15 minutes, one of the guys comes back, moves the barrier outwards and then places himself in line right next to me. Nobody said a word! I wanted to immediately say something, but I was not comfortable enough in my French to say anything. It is so French of people to just ignore a situation like this and not stand up for themselves. I kept thinking over and over in my head, "what can I say, what can I say?" As I was mustering up my anger and courage to say something, the guy takes off his earphones and starts blasting his music in line. This is also something that people do here. It is extremely annoying and disrespectful to other's surroundings. This just got me even more irritated. Then the guy's friend decides to come back and the two of them, again, push out the barrier to make room for the second guy to cut it line. I was fed up and thought, you know what, I am going to stand up for myself and not let these guys take my place. I said to them, "Excuse me, you were not in front of me," and at that point, the guy next to me pushed me, with enough force that I fell back into the man behind me. This guy began yelling and cussing me out, saying words that I didn't understand, and I was so scared. Who knows what he could have done at that point!! I have seen guys this man's age with knives before on the metro. Once a man on the metro sliced another man's neck because the man was not comfortable with the fact that the other guy brought a ferret onto the metro! I mean, all I was thinking was this guy could stab me! The people around me really didn't do much. I was surrounded by a middle aged man, two young adult men and then two other young adults, a guy and a girl. They gasped when the man pushed me, but that was about it. The middle aged man let me pass in front of him, but even after that I could hear the man yelling and still cussing me out behind me. I texted my boyfriend who was in the theater during all this and let him know what happened and that I was really scared. I started crying, crying hard. The two guys in front of me comforted me, said "Don't cry, he won't touch you. Here, go in front of us," but still I was really scared. Romain, my boyfriend, came out and was livid, wanted to know who did that to me. But I didn't want to make a scene because I didn't want him to get hurt. Romain told the people who worked there what happened and asked for security, but the theater had no security!!! What public event doesn't have security!?

To wrap it up, the man who harassed me successfully got into the theater, but was a nuisance. He made such a disruption that when someone told him to "shhh," that set him off again. The theater had to pause the movie and turn the house lights on. Everyone in the theater was standing and yelling at this guy. The guy tried to attack another man about four rows down until a few spectators grabbed that man and dragged him out. Romain called the police, but they were already on there way. At the end of the movie, the theater told us that there was security now placed outside and that the police took the man away. After he was finally gone, I felt a little better.

But what is wrong with people!? I mean, sure, this could potentially happen in America, but you got to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, you know what I mean? If someone cuts in front of you in line back home, people will say something, not just one person, but people! Why was I the only one to stand up for myself? And then what is wrong with the man that would make such a fit about me addressing that he cut in line to actually push a 23 year old girl!! It was like he wanted to fight me!!! In that scenario, that man had no manners, no respect and did not know how to act civil. I am not saying that this will happen to everyone who comes to France, but you do need to be careful. You must be careful at who you look at here. You must look careful at what you say to people here and you must be cautious of the distance that you keep from people because the likelihood of them snapping or harassing you is a lot higher.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lyon Summer Nights

Okay, it isn't Summer yet, but the 80 degree weather and the long days sure makes it feel so.

I am falling in love with Lyon again.. this is not good. Maybe it is good because when I leave, I most likely will leave France on good terms, but otherwise, it is going to make it really hard! Last night I was walking across one of our awesome bridges that stretches across the Sôan River. The river was so still and all the lights from the surrounding buildings reflected off of it like a mirror - one of the heart dropping beautiful scenes in Lyon. Then I looked up and the sky was navy blue, still a bit of sunlight deep down in the horizon, and the very bottom sliver of the moon was shining, right between the Fouvrière and Lyon's fake Eiffel Tower (hehe). It was SO pretty!!!! And it was so warm! I just wanted to lay right there and stare at the sky like that for hours.

A few days before, on Sunday evening, Romain and I took a bike ride at dusk along the Rhone river. The weather was so warm and you could already see the stars in the sky. After about 15 minutes of riding, we actually were chased away by lightening and pouring rain, but it just felt so magical! There is just something about warm, late evenings, the stars and rain that gives me comfort and happiness.

It is a bummer because Lyon and I are rekindling our love for each other and now I have to search for flights home. And let me tell you, it is a vicious search because flights are just insanely expensive in July, and I WILL FIND A REASONABLE PRICE!!!! Furthermore, today I was informed that there will be a month of concerts played outside below the beautiful Fouvrière and two of my favorite bands, Beirut and Cocoon, will be playing, but a week after I need to leave!!! Bahhh! Why?? This makes it so difficult to choose a flight day. However, I think that I will sacrifice and just skip the concerts because I need to get back home and get a job versus spend more money.

You see, Lyon seems to have so much promise for these upcoming months/summer nights! I'm really pleased that I will be staying until the beginning of July. I'm looking forward to picnics, relaxing in the park, riding bikes along the quai du Rhone and stargazing!

Shortbread au chocolat

I don't know about you, but when I see the word "shortbread" I think of a buttery, hard and crunchy type of cookie. If you have the same idea as I do, then I will tell you now, this recipe is not what you think it will be. But don't be alarmed, this "shortbread" is delicious! I actually think that it is more of what the British believe to be shortbread. The texture resembles more to a cake, but not as compact and moist, and it's a bit crumbly. The chocolate in this shortbread was actually pretty subtle, well at least to the richness of the chocolate in my last recipe. I have made 4 recipes from this book so far, and my boyfriend says that this is his favorite so far. Again, the picture that I have might not be the most attractive, but mmmm they were good.

Recipe: Shortbread au chocolat

Remember, these recipes are coming from a French dessert book entitled, "Biscuits et Petits Gateaux." All the ingredients are easily found in France, so it is possible that if you are somewhere else, you can have difficulty finding ingredients. Also, I am translating the directions from French to English, so I apologize for awkward statements

Preparation: 20 minutes // Baking: 30 minutes


1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg
100 grams (7 tablespoons) of unsalted butter
70 grams (5 tablespoons) of salted butter
170 grams (3/4 cup + 1/8 cup) brown sugar (this is NOT molasses brown sugar like we are used to in the states, it is like raw sugar)
340 grams (3 cups + a little bit more) of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

Preparation of ingredients:

Preheat the oven to 355 degrees F (180 degrees C). Sift 340 grams of flour into a mixing bowl to eliminate all the clumps. Add 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 170 grams of brown sugar and mix. Cut 100 grams of unsalted butter and 70 grams of salted butter into little cubes and place them on a plate to the side.

Making the dough:

Add the pre-cut butter cubes and 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder to the flour mix. With your fingers mix all the ingredients together so that it the dough is nicely blended and becomes crumbly. Now, butter a cookie sheet.

Molding the shortbread:

Remove and save 1/4 of the dough and put it to the side. Add 1 egg to the remaining dough and mix together until it is well compacted. Move the dough onto the cookie sheet and pat it out, forcing it to form into the shape of a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Take the crumbly dough that was saved and cover the top, pressing down the dry dough into the wet dough.

Cooking the shortbread:

With a knife, cut the raw dough into rectangles or squares of your choice of size and dimensions. Put it in the oven and allow it to bake for 30 minutes. After it is finished, let it cool down a bit and then they are ready!

** petit warning **

The flour in France is different than the flour in America. I know this from experience with attempting American treats in France with their ingredients. Flour in France tends to make things a lot fluffier. Please, however, don't hesitate to use the flour that you know best - I am still interested if those across the seas can make these French recipes. This is just to warn you in case your shortbread comes out differently than you expected, in that case, it is probably not you.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Irony of a Bright Gloomy Day

Yesterday was such a gloomy day. A thick gray blanket of clouds covered the sky and it poured rain for most of the day, however, I have not seen so many beautiful colors as illuminate as they were yesterday. It was as if the gray backdrop was exactly what was extracting their vibrancy. I wish so badly that I had a camera, but unfortunately I don't, so the only pictures I took are from a blackberry. Also, you might not be so impressed with these photos, but take more word, the colors really were beautiful and really stood out. Plus, I saw these plants just on one street on my walk to pay my rent, there were so many more plants and represented colors all over Lyon - pinks, purples, more shades of yellow, more shades of green and reds!

I LOVE the yellow tree in the back. There are many of these pretty yellow flowered trees all over Lyon right now.