Sunday, May 25, 2008

A pretty cool weekend!

Friday was a good lay low day. Andy helped me make a recording for my fifth graders. The quality was really good and it was all comprehensible input, but because the structures weren't EXACTLY what they know or what was on their worksheet, they got really really confused. We muscled through it.

Marie-Pierre asked me if my brothers would be interested in being her 16 year old son's summer penpal; if not them, did I know any American high school-aged boys? Um, sure...I sent a note off to FLTEACH and I'm going to ask Reilly and Audra if their French teachers would be interested in hooking up a student. I suspect that this penpal-ship could become more. It sounds like a personal ad: "Looking for English writing correspondant, possibly more."

On Saturday I did some major shopping to make desserts for Sunday. My goal: strawberry shortcake. I had a well-recommended recipe from, my best website. If not, I still had a box of brownie mix from Mom and Dad's Halloween care package. Here are the fruits of Saturday:
Shortcake: Absolute bust. I need to remember that baked goods are only as good as the butter you use, and I bought the cheap butter from Leader Price. Also, I am unconvinced of the effectiveness of French baking powder, and I was lacking cream of tartar.
Angel food cake, to replace the shortcake: Surprisingly perfect texture, but due to a lack of lemon and vanilla extract, tasted like an egg white omelette. Also my recipe said to let it bake for 45 minutes. Having completely forgotten that the angel food cake mixes are idiot-proof and super quick, I believed it and the tops burned.
Brownies: DELICIOUS. Every time! Ask Glass Tower; I would bake four sheets of brownies every Tuesday for Glass Tower to sell as a fundraiser. Everyone loved them and asked for them. 25 cents was a steal for one of Rose the AA's brownies!
Orange Jello Poke Cake: Using a prepared French yellow cake mix I had intended to make for either School One or School Three, I prepared the last of the Jello from the Halloween care package. It tasted like creamsicle and was delicious.

So that's what I did Saturday. Bake. Françoise needs a new hand mixer. Hers is pre-war, and possibly pre-Wars of Religion (which were in the 17th century).

Why on earth did I bake so much?? I was invited to Hélène's for Sunday lunch and had offered to bring dessert. It was a delightful afternoon! This was the menu:
Apéritif: cocktail weiners and Banyul, a prune-flavored sweet wine from southern France-almost-Spain.
Entrée: melon
Plat: Pommes de terres farcies (stuffed potatoes) which really meant a casserole of super super thin sliced potatoes, pork sausage, and tomatoes.
Salade: salade du marché (market salad) which means delicious green and purple lettuce with homemade Dijon mustard vinaigrette
Cheese: blue d'Auvergne and Cantal
Dessert: the aforementioned brownies (decorated with checkered confectioner's sugar and sliced strawberries) and orange poke cake, and of course coffee.

After lunch, Hélène and her husband Laurent left their son Pierre to study while we three went an hour east to Salers, an ADORABLE town in the département of Cantal (Ussel is in the département of Corrèze). The drive itself was beautiful. Picture all the stereotypical images of the French countryside: flowers on the side of the road (yellows, white Queen Anne's lace, blues and pinks), green trees, cows, ridiculously beautiful towns that don't seem to have acknowledged the arrival of the 18th century, was beautiful. We arrived in Salers which was surprisingly alive for a Sunday in the middle of nowhere. There were shops with regional products: tome which is the base cheese from which Cantal is made, ham, cookies, Gentiane which is the ultra-bitter liquor Ben bought back in like November, and all sorts of other stuff. Hélène and Laurent bought some liquor and cheese and cookies, a box of which they gave to me, and I bought a postcard. We had tea in a very nice café where a Belgian group was visiting in search of their ancestors. Their conversation was neat to see the dynamics between Europeans. Just really cool. The village of Salers is IN the Massif Central, the chain of mountains in the middle of France, and there is an INCREDIBLE lookout point. The town itself calls itself a Renaissance town and is so beautifully preserved. Absolutely gorgeous. We got home around 7:00pm.

The super awful terrible no good very bad part of this little excursion: IT WAS POURING. And because we're so high up in elevation, the wind was atrocious. We were completely soaked. As soon as I got home I took a hot bath and had tea.

In any case, it was a delightful Sunday. I need to send them flowers or something as a thank you, if only to assure future invitations. Did I mention that Hélène is a school doctor and Laurent is a dentist? Yes. Their house is very French but very very nice. In the guest bedroom there is a sink and a bidet. I have some serious ideas about thank you gifts for them: Syracuse China, a nice painting of Camillus or Syracuse, and anything involving American cuisine.

I also got Françoise a bouquet for Mother's Day, as it is celebrated today in France. It's a beautiful bouquet with yellow roses and yellow daisies. So pretty and she loved it. :)

Next week is going to be busy!!! I have to make some serious moves regarding going home: train ticket, lodging in Paris, closing my MAIF account (essentially life insurance), closing my bank account, applying to new teaching jobs, figuring out what the heck to do about health insurance (France wins on this), and other various wranglings. Oh and did I mention plan and present lessons?

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