Ski weekend


I’m so looking forward to snow and friends this weekend, which we’ll spend in Wisp, in Western Maryland.  A “ski” weekend is a bit of tradition for D, his brother and some of their friends, so of course I’m excited to join the fun, especially since the first one I attended was marked by much rain rather than snow, preventing us from hitting the slopes. I have little to no experience skiing (one trip my freshman year of high school doesn’t count), but I’m so excited to try again in just a few days. I love winter-time activities and the forecast is looking great (cold and snowy.) 


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What do you think? Skiing? Or lodge/hot chocolate/red wine? I’m thinking a combination of the two will be just the ticket 🙂

Soupe à l’oignon


I told you about the start of my Le Creuset collection last fall. It’s a bit irrational to feel such love for a piece of red enamel cookware, but let me tell ya, I really do love that Dutch oven. It’s the way slow cooking was intended to be done, as evidence by my first successful experiment with coq au vin, and then again, when I made a delicious (and easy!) French onion soup. (Of course in French simply known as soupe à l’oignon – onion soup). I used the recipe in my Williams Sonoma Paris cookbook. As you can imagine, some of the recipes in this book chock full of French classics can be labor intensive and complicated, but this one was a snap.  

I started off by valiantly trying to cut two and a half pounds of onions on the mandolin. Two problems arose: 1) I am not good with mandolins. 2) My eyes are extremely sensitive to onions, to the point that after two onions I couldn’t even see what was in front of me (onions). I just couldn’t face the remaining ten. Per usual, D rushed in and saved the day. He sliced all these yellow and reds up in no time flat ~

OnionsA bit under thirty minutes later, they looked like this, almost caramelized and meltingly sweet ~
Sauteeing onionsWe were both skeptical the entire two and half pounds was necessary, but they definitely cooked down enough to necessitate such a large quantity.  I opted to make one huge portion in a Pirex bowl since we don’t have anything that’s both oven-safe and larger than individual ramekins. Here’s what the cheesy, bubbly creation looked like all finished ~
Onion soupThe finished product tasted as cozy as it looks, and we had delicious soup for a week. The perfect wintertime meal!

French Onion Soup, adapted from Williams Sonoma Paris:

Ingredients

-2 1/2 lb of yellow onions (I did a mixture of yellow and red)
-3 tbsp unsalted butter
-1 tbsp canola oil
-Pinch of sugar
-Salt & freshly ground black pepper (I opted for chunky salt)
-2 cups light red or dry white wine (I opted for white this time, but plan to use red next time – the soup wasn’t quite as rich as I’m accustomed to)
-8 cups beef stock
-1 bay leaf
-6 thick slices coarse bread (I used a crusty baguette)
-3 cups shredded cheese, comté or gruyère (I did a mix of the two)

Procedure

1. Thinly slice the onions with a mandolin or knife.

2. In a large, heavy pot melt the butter with the oil over medium-low heat. Add onions and cover, stirring occasionally, adding sugar and seasoning with salt and pepper to your personal taste, until the onions are meltingly soft, golden and just caramelized. This should take between 25 and 30 minutes.

3. Add the wine, raise heat to high and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the stock and bay leaf, reduce heat to medium-low and let the soup simmer uncovered until it’s dark and fully flavored. (About 45 minutes.) 

4. Right before you are ready to serve, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and toast the sliced bread, turning once, until it’s golden on both sides. (About 3 – 5 minutes on each side.) Remove from the oven and set aside.

5. Remove the bay leaf from the soup. Ladle the hot soup into your chosen (oven-safe!) serving bowls on a baking sheet. Place toasts on top of each serving and sprinkle the tops and bread with a generous amount of cheese. Bake until the cheese is melty and toasts are slightly browned. (About 10 to 15 minutes.) Remove from the oven and serve at once.

I recommend accompanying the soup with a hearty red wine and a light green salad. Bon appétit !

 

Coping through winter bugs


Our little household is decidedly under the weather. My self not really, just nervous about catching this mean noro virus D picked up somewhere on our Syracuse weekend. If you don’t already know about it, steer clear. If you need some tips, here’s what I learned today:

-wipe down all surfaces with a disinfectant cleaner
-wash all laundry
-drink small amounts of clear liquids and ice chips frequently

Also, it’s really common to have to visit the ER to re-hydrate and get some serious anti-nausea medication. Once you’re feeling somewhat better, you should follow the BRAT diet :

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(bananas, rice, apple sauce, toast) and rest. rest. rest. Not exactly the beginning-of-the-week I had envisioned but who anticipates getting sick with a random virus? And in the meantime,

Homemade chicken soup

a chicken-noodle-soup and ginger-ale Valentines Day will be just what the doctor ordered.

Amazing snowflakes


Incredible snow shot

All I can say about this week is that I am glad it is over. Overly antsy students looking forward to winter break make for unhappy and exasperated teachers. Here’s to our four day week next week going smoothly and off without a hitch. I did nothing this week except sleep some restless winks, huff about my day to poor DPE (whilst he was sick thanks to me) and complete my work duties. I have never been so happy to come home, admire the Christmas tree and (out of the ordinary for me) watch Dr Phil. Not overly interested in Dr. Phil, I found myself perusing Pinterest and then moved on to my fave blogs. Let me tell you, I could not believe these incredible images I found on the Anthology Magazine blogThey are truly amazing – real-life snow flakes that, when magnified who knows how many thousands (millions?) of times look just like those we used to make in grade school. Hope you enjoy as much as I did. TGIF, friends. And, as Ellen reminds me daily: Be kind to each other!

Time goes on.


Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the passage of time.  A not-so-wise person once told me that I am a “future thinker.”  For someone that I esteem to be not-so-wise, this was a rather shrewd observation of my character.  Said person made this observation in contrast to living in the moment, which is never easy to do.

BUT.

But …

The last couple of weeks have felt very present-minded.  Not thinking so much about Monday on Sunday, Tuesday on Monday, lunch at breakfast.  Trying to appreciate each moment for what it is.  Whether it’s a good or a not-so-good moment.  And funnily enough, this new-found kinda sorta nirvana has produced the sanest three weeks of my school year.  And best grades (overall) from my students.  And most calmly composed and well-thought-out lesson plans.

The irony of finding this (maybe temporary) peace during January is not lost on me.  Generally, each year’s kick-off month is marked by bleak skies, fleeting hours of sunshine and long evenings of pining for summer.  Amazingly enough, 3/4 of this usually dreary time has flown past and I am even looking forward to tomorrow morning.  (Maybe it’s because I’m on duty this weekend, so feel like I didn’t have much of one.  A weekend, I mean.  But I’d prefer to spin it and think it’s because I’m looking forward to the week.)

Even more shocking than a quick January is that I am actually looking forward to February. (No weekends on duty and one long weekend of course sweeten the deal more than a typical month #2 of the year, but I’m also looking forward to it in terms of my classes.)  I’m ready to get kids excited about direct objects, reading comprehension tips and si clauses….

Right.  Well.  Let’s not over-stretch it.

Here’s from whence I think my newly acquired peace came:

1. feeling more relaxed in my role, and

2. embracing the idea that I can only do so much. My new year’s resolution this year was …. wait for it ….

To not place expectations on myself.  That might sound odd, but I tend to get crazily intimidated by details and to-do lists and illusory perfection.  When I let that happen, I always feel like I’ve failed, no matter how great things might have turned out.  As 2009 came to a close, a very wise person (yep, my mother) advised me that I could not continue in that same vein.  She helped me remember me I cannot force my students to learn.  I cannot sit with them and force a pencil to their hand.  And gently reminded me that I cannot do everything right, and that I will only become crazy(ier) should I continue with these ridiculous expectations.

Per the (not-so) usual, I played the part of obedient daughter and actually listened to my mother.   I examined her insights, turning them every which way in my head and finally concluded that she was right.  I tend to be disappointed in myself because I spend so much time thinking about what I should do rather than what I could do.  In my life at this exact moment, the should would be 5 in-depth lesson plans plus additional options for outrageously differently paced students.  Possible? Nope.  But the coulds (taking a deep breath when I feel myself teetering on the edge, re-arranging my desk to have my many folders and books more accessible, giving cultural enrichment on Fridays as a reward for a long, hard week of grammar), have become clearer to me in recent weeks. And somehow this mountainous workload seems a teeny bit less like Everest and a teeny bit more, like, say, the Rockies.

Obviously I wanted to share this with my approximately 10 readers because turning shoulds into coulds can apply to anyone’s life, in whatever context speaks to you at the moment.  Career.  School.  Relationship.  Friendship.  Family.  Outfit choosing.  (Sorry I had to put that one in.  Sometimes it’s agonizing.)

The point is, at a certain point, you just have to close your eyes, hope for the best, and trust that, with some hard work and optimism, things will work out.  It’s nice to not think so much about what the next step is or where next month will lead, and just give 100% to the day’s project … whether it’s direct objects, reading comprehension, si clauses … or deciding between Vans, Chucks or Paul Smith tennis shoes.

Good things come in (snowy) packages


Brrr!  I am happy to report that temps here in C.T. have taken quite the nose dive in recent days.  Although many lament the cold temperatures of winter months, I love love love them.  Do you know why?  Because I adore nothing more than being warm.  A contradiction in terms, you say?  Please allow me to elaborate:

While I wholeheartedly recognize the carefree bliss of summer months (sun dresses, flip flops, ice cream trips and freezing-cold rosé wine … ), I much prefer adding layers to peeling them.  My sneaking suspicion is that this inclination goes back to my adopted French roots.  Ever since I wrapped my first scarf à la française during a semester abroad in college, I haven’t been able to resist adding that extra layer of warmth any time the temperatures drops below 60 degrees.  During my two-year Richmond Hiccup, I would get so frustrated with central-Virginia’s attempts at chilly temperatures.  They obstinately hover between 40 and 60 degrees with a handful of half-hearted attempts at dips below freezing.  Combined with a smattering of unproductive mornings of wintery mixes that invariably give up and turn to rain, it leaves much to be desired.  Two long weekends in Chicago (December and February) during the Hiccup convinced me that cold was the way to go.  I loved rushing from the metro to the restaurant to the store to the wherever.  It reminded me of my cozy and gray Paris of winter months…

I didn’t think that weather between Richmond and C.T. could be all that different (what difference can four hours north really make?), but I was very pleasantly surprised this past weekend.  When I unlocked the girls’ dorm Saturday morning (a duty weekend), I could not believe my eyes.  In just a half hour’s time a yucky, wintery mix had miraculously morphed into a beautiful, silent, intense snowfall.  Enormous flakes careened from the sky in a headlong rush to make contact with the cold and crunchy grass.

Before I knew it, the entire campus was covered with a several inch thick blanket of perfectly pure whiteness. Now, rushing from the metro to the restaurant to the store to the wherever proved to be a far cry from rushing from the dorm to the cafeteria to the short bus to the classroom, but it held its own allure, too.  The snow was of course much prettier to observe in my current unspoiled landscape as compared to a noisy, loud and crowded city.  And I didn’t feel the pressure to actually rush.  In fact, I actually stopped and admired it a bit.

While inside my cozy little apartment, I swear my coffee tasted just a little warmer and Christmas music sounded  just a little Christmas-ier.  Although the snow was pretty much gone by the next day, it was a nice kick-off to the winter months and gave me hope that we’ll get a real one before it’s all over.  And by the way, I checked.  Richmond did, indeed, have a yucky, wintery mix on Saturday.  C.T. wins.