Friday, October 21, 2011

Talk is Cheap

Today I called my friend Lynn for some advice. In fact, I called a lot of people for advice and she was the first person I could actually reach. I don't often ask for advice (probably because I rarely take it when given) and I rarely get really worked up about things. But today I was in need of a shoulder and someone to help me work through a problem.

I explained my issue to her, how it was eating me up inside, what did she think I should do?

"... but what if..."


"... but why...."


"I don't want to do the wrong thing..."


"I think I really know the answer but I just need help working through it."

A sort of a whine fest where you know the answer but you want people to suffer with you...I guess.

Do you know what she said to me?




And I did. For a moment. I just stopped. And then I burst out laughing. Really laughing.

I laughed because her "advice" reminded me of a video clip I had recently seen...and I've decided you need to see it too.

And I didn't even need to pay 5 bucks for this wisdom. Now you don't either!

Have a great weekend. I promise, I won't call you too.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Take the Cake

Each day, Quasimodo is becoming a more and more distant cousin as our resemblance fades. But because of my self-imposed exile in my dark tower, I've been cooking up things to do. Actually, I've been working myself crazy on my new webstore but once in awhile I've got to get off my butt and do something else.

Thus, this week became Cupcake Week. I never make cupcakes. I never have. But I now have a cupcake castle with 2 floors and a handle and it needs to be used. Check this thing out. My friend Victoria brought it to me from the states when I was told here that these things don't exist in France. It's collapsible. For one layer or two. They should have named this contraption "This Takes the Cake".

I searched all over the internet to find a recipe and find one I did. As well as a rockin' recipe for chocolate frosting. So I proceeded to do my thing in the kitchen (man, I make a mess!). I produced 2 batches of the best cupcakes ever and then sat in front of them...looking at them. I hadn't been invited anywhere, I wasn't having a party (I'm in exile), and I was supposed to start a diet on Monday. The cupcakes and I needed to part ways...pronto! I took a couple down to the concierge and gave some away to friends, but yesterday the first floor of my two story cupcake palace was still almost fully occupied.

My friend Doreen stopped by on her way to her first-time visit to my neighborhood beauty shop and I decided to go along and catch up on some beauty shop chatter. And to find a home for my creations. I donned my dark glasses to hide my still swollen visage, put the lid on the chocolate beauties and off we went, my cupcake valise in hand.

I passed out cupcakes to the ladies in the shop and as more came in to chat (it's that kind of shop and I love it) I continued to give them away. I explained the concept of a simply peel off the paper and eat it with your fingers. This approach did not seem to work with The Ladies of the Salon. They tried as per my instructions...but it just wasn't going to fly. They all asked for a spoon.

The French seem to eat everything with utensils. Even pizza. When I was home last December, and my sister and her husband and I were grabbing a quick take-out pizza, I dug in....with a knife and fork. My sister looked at me quizzically as she took a bite out of the slice she was holding in her hand. I realized what I was doing...being all French about it....and I quickly picked up the slice and devoured it like a true American.

The ladies adored the "little cakes". Not too sweet, so moist, trés fondant... yada. yada, yada. And for some reason, watching  them delicately holding this little cake wrapped in bright paper in the palm of their hands and slowly eating it with a spoon made my cupcakes seem so...special.  More like a grand dessert than a picnic food.

By the time Doreen was shampooed, coiffed, and welcomed into the folds of The Ladies of the Salon, I still had a few left. Off we went to Hublot, the neighborhood bar/cafe that my friend Fehti owns. I passed the rest of them out to all the guys stopping by for their afternoon coffee/pastis/whiskey/beer. Once again, I gave them instructions. But, within seconds they too were asking Fehti for spoons. Come on guys, man up! This is a cupcake we're talking about! Still it was really sort of adorable. Several did, however, point out that they looked a little like les crottes des chiens (we're experts here in Aix on piles of dog doo because we're constantly stepping in it or working to avoid it). So in effect, they were a little more masculine about the whole thing!

So now, I'm going to share the recipe because people have been asking for it. The cupcakes are an old recipe from World War II, developed by some ingenius soul who couldn't easily get her hands on eggs, milk, butter or sugar. So, in fact, they're vegan and lactose free. And in spite of that... absolutely delicious. The best. I found the recipe on but it's an old recipe and can be found everywhere.

Wacky Cupcakes
1 1/2 C. flour
1 C. granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/3 C. cocoa powder
1/2 C. oil
1 C. water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 T. vinegar

Mix these ingredients until moist and well blended, fill the cupcake cups about 3/4 full and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

The frosting rocks as well. Light, creamy, not too sweet and it doesn't make you feel as if you're eating piles of sugary fat. It's made with flour and is cooked so it takes a little more time. But it's the best I've ever tried and I'm not a great fan of frosting.  I got the recipe on Kelsey's site but I'll rewrite it for you here.

Best Chocolate Frosting
2/3 C. granulated sugar
1/3 C. flour
3 T. cocoa powder
1 C. milk
1 C. butter
1 C. chopped semi sweet chocolate or chocolate chips.

Cook the flour, sugar, cocoa and and milk over low heat, whisking as you go and as it thickens. When it gets to the consistency of a thin pudding (dunk the back of a spoon in it. If your finger leaves a path as you sweep it across the spoon, it's done). Let this cool or put it in the fridge. It cannot be warm for the next step.

Some time later....after the chocolate mixture has cooled... melt the chocolate in the microwave. Don't overheat, it will get grainy. In a separate bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer and then add the cooled cooked chocolate mixture. Whip that up and add the melted chocolate. Whip again. "Whip it good". If you'd like, add a teaspoon of instant espresso powder to the mix. Num!

Now, my advice is to eat les petit gateaux with a spoon (after all, this is a blog from France and it IS the French way). They will taste even better!

Bon Appétit!


Monday, October 10, 2011

Triple X

It’s Monday. Yes, it’s MONDAY. I don’t really mind Mondays. They’re days to begin anew…with new resolve….with a plan. And this is my Monday. All my visitors are finished for the season. All those dinners and lunches out, no gym, little writing, almost no reading…those days are finished and with a little weekend bridge in there for good measure, that brings me to MONDAY.

I’ve had all kinds of visitors this year. Great old friends, people I’ve never met until they were sleeping on my couch, friends of friends, people I haven’t seen in 15 years, and my business partner. But probably the most interesting was the visit of …ta…da…the first ex-wife of my only ex-expectorant. Yep, the ex of an ex in Aix!

Doesn’t that beat all?

It all started with a comment on one of my early blogs. She left her name and I responded by saying I knew someone in another life with that name. Was she, in fact, that person? Indeed she was…and this began a facebook friendship and many long nights of chatting and comparing notes, so to speak. Oh my, oh my! I shan’t go into all we’ve talked about (I’ll save that for a book) and all we’ve learned but let’s just say our mutual past has cemented our friendship. Who’d have ever thought?

During those chats she talked about how much she’d like to pack up her family (she has 2 young girls ages 12 and 13) and take off for a time to see the world. I, of course, being one who understands pipe dreams but also someone who believes they can become reality, encouraged her.

As it turns out, she didn’t need much encouragement. Within 6 months, she and her husband had made the decision to rent out their house for a year, take the girls out of school, and make their dream a reality. And they took off this summer for parts unknown. Now doesn’t that make her all the more interesting?

And so the entourage arrived chez moi last week. So far the girls have seen England, Germany, Spain, Holland and France. After Italy and a few other countries they will make their way to South American where they hope to stay for a length of time so as to soak up a bit of the culture and possibly the language. They will learn more in this year then they ever would in school.  And I got to be a little part of their journey. I’m honored and so happy to have met (or re-met) them all. And who'd have thought...I really like my ex's ex!

Back to my Monday. During the time of “all the visitors” I developed some sort of allergy to insects. What insect, I don’t know…a french one...but whatever it is, when I get stung my reaction is over the top. At first it was just large swelling and itchiness that lasted weeks. Then it became blisters (now if a giant yellow blister on your arm or you’re your forehead isn’t gross, I don’t know what is). Yesterday at the movies, I was bitten by something on my eyebrow. I could feel the swelling almost immediately. And today, my Grand Monday…the Monday to return to the gym and get some writing and reading done…this Monday I woke up to greet Quasimodo in the mirror. 

 Oh wait...that's not me...this is me.

But I'm sure you can see the resemblance. 

I have been taking all the medicine the pharmacy recommended and today when I returned there and removed my sunglasses, the pharmacist took in a breath and said, "Madame, we've given you all we have. You NEED to go to a doctor". Which I promptly did. I don't want to scare anyone on the street. 

I announced to the doctor that apparently, “ j’ai une allergie aux insects”.

He exclaimed, “Oh no, you’re not allergic to sex!”

But he said it with a twinkle in his eye, probably remembering my last visit, which involved a minor language problem. I told him, I don’t think so….unless it’s some sort of REALLY DELAYED reaction.

He loaded me up with pills and potions, from which I am reeling right now. (It’s probably this drug induced state that made me think it was okay to publish that photo of myself!)

Tomorrow is... Tuesday. Time to start fresh and new. Go to the gym...get some work done on my web site, go on a diet. And it's my Tuesday. I swear it will be. The pharmacist sold me heavy duty bug spray and told me to keep myself smothered in it. Well, actually she told me wear it like perfume..on my wrists and my ankles....all the time. Which will pretty much insure that I'm never going to have the chance to find out if I have an allergy to sex.

Have a great week!