Wish I was there . .
My passport is ready and I can be packed in minutes.

30 August 2008

Daring Baker Takes On Eclairs!

From this month's Daring Baker challenge, I learned that my photography needs work as the photos I took did not do justice to these rich chocolate-lemon eclairs. This month's challenge came from Tony Tahhan and Meeta K. If looking for this Pierre Hermé recipe, just take the link over to Meeta K for the recipe including chocolate pastry cream and chocolate glaze. The chocolate glaze was especially successful and I will use the recipe the next time I need a mirror-smooth glaze on a dessert.

I actually doubled the choux recipe and had to make it twice. The first batch did not rise much, and sank a bit upon cooling. They ended up looking like mini eclairs. As I had promised my husband's office regular eclairs, I made a second batch of the choux, piped it out in long lines on a baking tray and then froze them. After they were frozen solid, I cut them into longer lengths the second time to produce a longer, more traditional eclair. (***Thanks to Tartelette for this bit of advice!) The other trick I learned the second time around was to let the choux cook until crisp. I kept worrying about the pastry being crunchy, but the longer baking time meant the eclairs kept their shape and didn't fall.

The challenge required the use of chocolate either as the pastry cream or as the glaze. I made a batch that followed the recipe exactly and used just a bit of lemon glaze as decoration. The lemon glaze consisted of powdered sugar and fresh squeezed lemon juice, with a drop of food coloring. I then switched up the recipe and made both a raspberry pastry cream and a lemon pastry cream. As these were a pastry cream recipe, they were more gelatinous. The recipe for the raspberry cream was from Joy of Baking.com. Just click on the link for the recipe. To make the lemon cream, I just substituted fresh squeezed lemon juice in place of the raspberry puree. Despite the consistency, Hubby, a true chocoholic, like the raspberry filling the best. Those were actually all consumed before pictures were taken.

Overall, these were a big success. Husband's office loved them, with one attorney consuming four eclairs before lunch. I fed the "minis" to the crew who was putting on the new roof. The roofers returned an empty container within a couple of hours and the roof was completed in two and half days. Everyone was happy!

Chocolate pastry cream and glaze with just a bit of lemon icing

See, photography skills need help!

Here is lemon pastry cream and the chocolate glaze. I did have some with the lemon icing but those were eaten before pictures could be taken.

No, that's not scrambled egg in the middle - it's the lemon pastry cream!

My personal observation was the chocolate/chocolate combination was a bit much. The tart of the lemon was a perfect contradiction. Also, I used a dark semi sweet worked especially well in the glaze. Bring on Challenge 3!

29 August 2008

27 August 2008

Final Preparations

The final plans for the trip with my mother are almost completed. We will be landing in Milan and heading to Merano for a few days of walking, a cable car ride, mountain gazing, and a spa bath. Then, it is on to Innsbruck, Austria for more walking, another cable car ride, more mountain gazing, and old city wandering. We end with a weekend in Milan. Suggestions of things to see or do, as well as information on hotels in Milan are welcome.

I am a bit worried about traveling with my Mom. We have divided the languages - she is suppose to have some basic Italian phrases down and I am to handle German. When I spoke with her today, her Italian vocabulary consisted of three words and not one of them was how to find a restroom (my obsession - you need to be able to ask to find a restroom in a foreign language as all other things can wait on a phrase book if needed). I can't criticize her however, as my basic German phrases are from four years ago when I went to Austria and all I seem to remember are phrases related to the weather. Es ist kalt. Es ist warm. Es ist windig. Es ist sunnig. Es regnet. Unless a weather forecast is needed, my German skills are pretty limited. I fear that at some point on this trip, we will become hopelessly lost on some mountainous road, need a restroom, and all I can do is tell someone that it is windy!

Other than the language skills and the whole getting lost, I am looking forward to this trip. Having become a mother makes me especially appreciate of my relationship with my mother. No parent is perfect, but I certainly recognize how much my parents did for me and my siblings. Sure, we all drive each other insane at times, but how often as an adult do you get to spend an entire week with anyone from your immediate family, without husbands, fathers, children, siblings, etc. Part of the reason for selecting the Alps is that my mother at age sixty is realizing that there may be a limit to the number of years that she is healthy and able to hike. There are no guarantees for a healthy, long retirement. Although we are different in many ways, we both love to travel and see new places. So, it just seems fitting that we have the opportunity to take a trip together. I can only hope that when I'm sixty, my daughter and son will have the time and desire to do this with me.

So for now, Addio! I need to go figure out how to find the potty in Italy!

19 August 2008

Tropical Storm Fay

Dear Parents,
Due to the potential of inclement weather, school will be cancelled on Tuesday.

It's home we go to drag everything from the yard onto the porch, just in case Fay is anything like Katrina (2005), Charley (2004), and Andrew (1992).

And take down the swings and teeter totter so they don't end up in Oz.
No storm this morning, Time for a quick walk around the neighborhood to splash in the few puddles.
Then, it's numerous "projects" to pass the time.
Maybe a couple surprise projects, like Shrink Art, that Momma tucks away for days like these.
A bit of rain, a blow of wind, but thankfully, no storm!
Time to put everything back until the next warning.
I think we lost our helper!

14 August 2008


The kids gleefully headed back to school on Tuesday. KK dressed in her first grade uniform, pigtails in her hair and a giant backpack to hold the assignment book that was new this year. And Hew, with his curls askew, said "See ya'!" as he spotted his friends and galloped over to his preschool class. For the last few weeks, I had been anticipating the silence that comes when everyone leaves. I love being with my kids, but in summer as the stay-at-home parent, the job is 24/7 entertainment. Towards the end of the vacation, I am craving just two minutes of silence. In desperation, I have locked myself in the bathroom for quiet only to hear the the voices, games, music, or television. Tuesday arrived but silence did not.

PH, in a totally un-PH move, scheduled the roofers to begin on Monday. I understood that our roof was 25 years old and had leaks and we are in the middle of hurricane season, but damn it, Tuesday was to be my day of silence. Instead, there were various men stomping overhead, shingles flying off the roof into a clanging metal container, and the unending sound of the nail gun for nine hours a day. Not exactly silent.

So today, I finally have my day of silence. The house needs a good cleaning and I promised myself I would go to the gym daily, even though after two days I can barely walk without some part groaning in protest. But for a few hours this morning, I can have total silence. A cup of coffee, the paper, some Internet meandering. In a few days, I have to get back on a schedule as I begin a couple classes, but for now it's quiet and I'm happy.

12 August 2008

Look out Milan!

So yes, in October my mother and I are headed to Milan. Most of our trip will be spent north of the city in Merano, Italy and Innsbruck, Austria. We did reserve a weekend for Milan, but for the most part I want to gaze out over the Alps, drink some good wine, feel the cool air, and sigh with contentment. Sappy but true.

Milan was not our original destination, but tickets were found on Air One for $650 with a direct flight for my Mom. Without knowing where Milan was on a map, my mother's response was "BOOK IT!!!!!!" Nine days without kids and I'd go just about anywhere! It should be interesting as my mother's idea of travel is to kill yourself seeing every last church, museum, and statue listed in a tourist guide. I am more of interested in finding the nearest hiking path, good market, and delicious food. I'm sure I'll convert her!

Feel free to tell me where to go or stay as we have no plans in stone yet. Where's your favorite place in Italy or Austria?

08 August 2008

Summer Whining

Temperature today 90°F/32°C with heat index of 100°F/38°C.

Five days until school begins.

Nothing else.

07 August 2008

Time Flies

You would think five weeks in Maine with my family would give me blog material, but the time just flew and many of the family events are not blog material. Some of my favorite memories include a picnic with my 84 years young grandparents and my kids at my aunt's camp where I used to swim as a kid, my kids and their two cousins (ages four to nine) performing a "show" for me with a Barbie guitar, singing Taylor Swift's You Should Have Said No, two lobster boils, a July 4th golf cart parade at my parent's golf course where the kids dressed as clowns with my dad, a visit to a sugar shack outside of Quebec City, the border patrol on the Maine/Canada border who asked if I had any "fireharms", picking green beans from my parent's garden, and cooler weather. It went so fast.

Fearing that I would have travel withdrawal if I didn't have a trip to anticipate, PH agreed to watch the kids so I could take a trip with my Mom in October. My parents own and run golf course in Northern Maine during the summer and fall. My Dad will be moose hunting for two weeks in September, leaving Mom with the business. Mom decided turn about is fair play and told me to find tickets to anywhere in Europe. Care to guess where I picked? Here are your clues . . .

04 August 2008

Another First

Back in May, I decided to try my hand at knitting again. I had made hats, mittens, and scarfs in the past so I thought I'd take on a new challenge - a sweater. After pulling out yards of yarns and putting on the arm inside out and having to take the darn thing apart once again, my first sweater is in the mail on the way to my nephew. Here's proof that I actually accomplished something in Maine

I'm not thrilled with the roll neck, but I love the hoodie and the front pocket. I've already started one for my niece so I'll make some modifications to the neck. And hopefully I sew the arm on the right way the first time.