Thursday, October 3, 2013

La Francophile: Growing Pains

WARNING: I am about to pour my heart out to you, leaving me very vulnerable.

Learning to become a French woman is no easy feat after living in America all your life. I'm convinced one of my ancestors somewhere was French, otherwise I'd be even more lost.

Alors, (I had to sneak a French word in here somewhere!) I suppose that I'm doing pretty well after only three weeks of being in love with France, but it's not fast enough for me. I want to be able to walk, talk, eat, live like a French woman.

Right this moment.

And sometimes, I get ahead of my own detriment.

This week, I have been reading Frederic Fekkai's Year of Style religiously, soaking up every bit of information about the way French women dress and act. One of his tips is to go through your makeup bag, taking everything that you could live without and putting it in a box. You don't need five shades of lipstick sitting on the bottom of your purse! If for a month you can go without using these products, toss 'em. I cleaned out my bag, throwing away a few old lip glosses, useless blush brushes, and a tube of dried foundation. It felt so wonderful to toss the old things out, so I emptied my whole purse! I found a few plastic darts (*yep*), pencils galore, three-year old lotions, and all kinds of little paper scraps. Tossing those out, and feeling like I  ruled the world (isn't it weird how you can feel that way over tiny things?), I decided to hit the closet.

Firstly, I went through and separated everything that I could live without from my essential pieces. Over half my closet was hanging on the 'Au revoir' side. I called my mother in to give me advice. (She is so amazing that way.) We went through the pile, and she gave me advice on whether things were Parisian or not. It must have been amusing for her:


Me: "Oooh! I love this pink plaid shirt! I couldn't give this away!"

Her: "Well, it's not very Parisian."

Me: *glances over shirt, tosses it into Au revoir pile* "Then it has to go." *picks up an argyle black sweater* "Hmm. I don't really like this. I don't think it looks good on me."

Her: "It's Parisian."

Me: *tiny squeal* "It is?!!?! I HAVE TO KEEP IT!"

Once the pile had been sorted out, I rearranged my drawer of pants and skirts, too. I had been clueless that I was the owner (or the borrower, in some cases :P) of so many linen pants, a staple to French women! I did a little happy dance.
Three quarters of my closet is empty right now, and it pleases me exceedingly to walk into it and view all those empty hangers! I felt so good giving away all those clothes I didn't need anymore!
And then...........the blow of all blows.
The next day, I pulled out my favorite Parisian staple, a pretty black and white print shirt---it looked so French!---and my white linen pants. I was so excited to hit the town in my new Parisian outfit. My mother took one look at the pants and declared: "It needs to be ironed." And she was very right. The pants were wrinkled as all get out. So I grabbed the ironing board and iron. I was just about to iron my pants when I had this idea: "I'm sure French women would iron their shirts too, right?" So I rushed to my room and pulled out the polyester shirt......and placed it on the ironing board. Without thinking to turn the heat down, I placed my iron on the shirt. You probably know what happened next when I pulled the iron up.
The back of my beautiful Parisian black-and-white-pattern staple was burnt and torn!!!! I am sure I must have been a sorry sight, gasping as I ran to my mother's room, gripping my ruined treasure, where she was cutting my little brother's hair.
"Mama, mama! Look, look!" I held the shirt up for her inspection.
I could tell she was upset too, and it took everything in me to keep my tears in. After a minute or two, she said: 'I'm sorry, but you have to throw it away." 
So it now lies on the bottom of our garbage can, a fallen star. For a few hours, I inwardly cursed myself. Why had I been so careless? Why? Why did I have the idea to iron my shirt? It didn't really need it, anyway!. I alternated between sadness and anger at myself for a while until I realized I was still in my pajamas. So I picked another shirt to wear with my linen pants and called it good.

My mother was so patient through it all. I don't really know what I would do without her. That afternoon, she took me to Goodwill to see if I could find another black and white shirt. Unfortunately, all the cute ones were too small. But she did find my new favorite: A crazily-Parisian beige wool sweater! IT WAS SOOOO CUTE, and just my size. When she pulled it from the rack, I didn't like it. She told me to try it on, and she (as usual), was soooo right. I LOVED IT!

For Wednesday night bible study, I wore my new sweater with some beige-striped linen pants, brown leather ankle boots, my new pearl bracelet my father brought me from Japan, and a pair of pearl earrings my mother let me borrow. I wore my hair in a side ponytail. I received more compliments on that outfit than almost any other outfit I've ever worn! :)

And that's only one story of me failing while trying to be French. Last week, I attempted to make macaroons. As I was adding the almond flour to the batter, it became very stiff. I added the exact amount that was called for, so I supposed it would get a little better once I piped it on the baking sheet. I couldn't pipe it, it was so stiff. It was the consistency of a roll-out cookie, not a pipeable macaroon! After stressing about it for a while, I made the best of it: I rolled the dough in my hands, placed them on the sheet, made a slight indentation with my thumb in the middle, and baked them. When they came out, I pushed the indendation further and filled it with strawberry jam.

Voila! An Almond-Strawberry Tumbprint cookie! I thought they tasted horrible, but my sister told me they were the best cookies she had ever tasted. Even with this encouragement, they were thrown away the next day. Oh well. :)

It was so painful writing this post....I was wincing as I typed the part about my ruined shirt. But, this will all be worth it when I move to France. I'll already be comfortable in the shoes of a French woman!

Have a wonderful day, mes amis!

Au revoir!!! <3

~Alyssa  <3


Thursday, September 26, 2013

La Francophile

I guess you can say I've always been partial toward everything French. The blog title kinda gives it away.

My mother loves the French Country style. She used to buy magazines and books all about French Country design and French Country living. As a girl, I was never very interested in them. But lately I've been gobbling up every book about France I can find! I can't get enough of this beautiful country, and Paris has a special place in my heart.

Recently, as we were browsing through our home library looking for school curriculum, I came across an old CD about learning French. It looked interesting, so I popped it into the computer, chin in hand, not sure what to expect. After all, I had tried Spanish a few times, and I had given it up because I was bored. But when I entered the world of the French language, I was entranced. The words were so beautiful, and the placement of them seemed heavenly.  I learned a few words, and knew our relationship would last forever. I had not believed in love at first sight until then. :)

I loved the word 'Bonjour', hence my blog name, but even more lovely words tumbling out after it!?!? Almost too good to be true.

And so for three weeks now my whole world has revolved around everything French. I have even chosen a French name for myself: Amélie Clothier. Amélie because it's beautiful, and Clothier for my great-grandparents. <3 Unfortunately, my family doesn't seem to catch on. I'm still Alyssa, no matter how hard I tell them to call me Amélie. :)

I know I'm crazy about French, because at night I can't sleep for all the French phrases swirling around in my head. 'Bon, il faut que je parte', 'On peut se tutoyer, non?' and 'Un pain, s'il vous plait' will not get out of my mind, no matter how many times I toss and turn. And this afternoon at the library, I nearly said 'Excusez-moi, Monsieur,' to an older man who was standing in front of the book drop-off! I caught myself and said 'Excuse me, sir.', but I laughed when I was safely in the car. :)

Be careful, or you might fall madly in love, too.

Je'taime, et á plus tard!

~Alyssa <3

Friday, April 12, 2013

My Latest Fascinations: Part 1

Hullo! Yes, it's me, the girl who fell off the blogging map. After a few months of nothingness for you and a few months of stress because there was nothingness for me, I finally came to my senses. Even if I'm terrible at recipe developing, and wary of posting other people's work, I can still rant and obsess (mildly) over my loves: Baking, writing and reading. And Cheekers. That's why blogging is super enjoyable, right?

And a new spring of fascinations has exploded. I can't wait to share them with you!!! So I begin the list of the ages.....

1. Sherlock Holmes

Yes, I surprised myself with this one. For my freshman year, I flipped through 'The Book Tree' to find suitable books to read for my literature course. My eye caught the title 'The Hound of the Baskervilles,' and my interest was immediately and completely piqued. A devil hound? A brilliant detective? Usually not my type, but I was intrigued. I remembered a few years back when my family listened to the audio book 'His Last Bow'. I loved the humor and lovableness of Watson, and the dry but witty sarcasm and charm of Holmes. I was about 11 or 12 at that time, and didn't really appreciate Conan Doyle's genius.

I decided to take the risk and borrow the book from the library, not quite sure what to expect.

Picking up 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' was a totally new experience for me. I had never cared for mystery books. But a few pages in and I couldn't put it down. I read late into the night. The end was so brilliant, genius, and unexpected I was shocked, surprised, and pleased. (Rule of three, anyone?)

And so I launched into Sherlock Holmes fandom.

As of yet I have read The Sign of The Four, The Valley of Fear, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and A Study in Scarlet. Currently I'm reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Return of Sherlock Holmes. I go back and forth, eagerly drinking in Holmes' deduction habits and attempting to apply them. (Notice how I said 'attempting'...)

{I recommend the books, but be wary of The Valley of Fear, which was sprinkled with language. I was very disappointed with this discovery.}

NOW..... go immerse yourself in the world of Sherlock Holmes.

You know my methods, Watson.

2. One Year Adventure Novel

Sometime in the summer, while I prepared for high school, we received a box of curriculum cards in the mail. Each card had a picture and description of a curriculum for homeschoolers. My mother flipped through them and picked out the ones she was interested in. One of those cards had written across it: One Year Adventure Novel.

I read the card and I knew I wouldn't want any other English course. I would be taught how to write an adventure novel in one school year!

Three times a week, I would watch a video lesson, read my section in the Textbook, and take out the workbook to write my Adventure novel. I would learn character development, chapter structures, writing compelling material, creating a plot line, and so on.

I begged my mother to buy the course for me, and to my surprise, she did. I received the package in the mail late January (we forgot to buy it until then) and I began in February. Within a few days, I had finished 10 lessons. I was hooked.

Ever since I could remember, I had been writing my own 'books'. When I was 8, my mother taught me how to clean a bathroom. I thought (and still think) that it was tedious work. To pass the time, I made up my own little world in which the hero (me), learned how to be a maidservant in the castle of Castleblanca. (I had learned this name from a Cyberspace game I had played online). The hero and her friend Abigail received training on how to clean bathrooms. After an elaborate story line which included a contest to marry the prince, factions in the castle, and the evil witch who tried to kill the hero, I decided to put my story on paper. It never turned out.

For years now I have created story upon story upon story, but never getting past the second chapter. I wrote them in my mind and talked to myself while I cleaned bathrooms, folded towels, and washed dishes, but they never sounded right on paper. After starting the OYAN curriculum, I have never been the same. I can write with confidence and say....."Wow! I wrote this?!"

PLUS, there is an amazing community of teenage writers just like me on the online Forum. They are one of the funnest bunch I have ever some in contact with. Most of them are obsessed with Doctor Who, BBC Sherlock, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, superheros, writing, and reading. And while I have never seen Dr. Who or Sherlock in my life, the others are my fandoms. Everyone is so nice and they give amazing advice. We are all a big family; we even adopt each other. I have both a 'sister' and a 'brother'. As a newbie, you are assigned a 'Mentor' who will guide you through your beginning stages of the Forum. I love OYAN. It is very addicting.

(To Be Continued)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lemon Tarts. And An Apology.

Well, here is the lemon yumminess. I am sorry about the wait: I am assured Blogger is angry at me for something. For every post, I can only have control of one picture, and can't post any others. I have tried for so long, and it dosen't work. :( So, until Blogger forgives me and moves on, I can only do one pic at a time.

Anyhoo, here it is. :D

Looking at this picture gives me the chills.

I'll tell you how to make them!

I took the 'Extra Buttery Sweet Pastry Dough' recipe from the book "Baking" by James Patterson (a very wonderful book for both beginners and masters.)I used my new "Tart Baking Set" from Williams Sonoma, and used Dickonson's Lemon Curd to fill them. And that's it.

Soon, I will try to get my Vanilla Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache on here. :)

Loves to you!

~Alyssa <3


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Waiting for Lemon Tart PICS!!!

So I told you all a few days ago on Facebook that I was hungry for a lemon tart.... SO I WENT AND MADE ONE! :D Actually, I made tartlets with my tartlet baking pan I recieved for Christmas (HAPPY DAY!) with a really good recipe I will share with you (and this time I will hurry up on it; I just want to make sure everything is perfect before telling you so you dont make any critical mistakes like blowing your kitchen up!). I filled them with a store-bought lemon curd.

Okay, okay, I know I should have made that, but I didn't have any lemons!

They turned out fantastic! They were like little sweet shortbread cups with tart, lemony sweetness inside. Oh boy, I must have ate fifteen of them when they were in my house. My family ate the rest.

I am working on uploading the photos from my mother's new camera (she is sweet enough to let me use it). I will hurry up with that. I promise.

Have a happy, tartalicious Sunday, and beyond. :D

~Alyssa <3

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Gingerbread House

So, my mother broke down and bought a gingerbread house kit. It was so beautiful on the package!

Once when I was little, she bought a gingerbread house and built it with my little brother. Again, so beautiful on the package! But it totally failed... the candy was awful and very cheap, the house itself was just as bad, and I couldn't pipe the icing, so it was very sloppy. (of course, I was only six). Since then, I have hated even the mention of gingerbread. When we went to a friend's house, she made these huge gingerbread men and bought all kinds of candy and icing. I was skeptical, but I tried. How amazing it was!!!

Then when my mother bought this kit and it turned out to be a WILTON  gingerbread house kit, I was really excited. After all, I was fourteen now, could pipe fairly decently, and I would follow ALL the directions.

And then I tried.

I got out the directions, stared at the box for a little bit, and pictured the finished house in my head. It would be the perfect post for my blog! Everyone would just laud my skills! I picked up the piping bag that came with the kit (I was thrilled over that) and turned to the house, my head overflowing with confidence, and began to decorate.

Or, would you call that.... throw together?

And this is what came out.

 So, my piping skills weren't as extensive as I had foolishly imagined.

 These are painful.

 Don't let them fool you; they look fruity, sugary, and amazingly delicious. They aren't.

Don't say 'Yum', say 'Um'! 

Now these were pretty amazing.

I had a few helpers. :D

Little brother #3.
 Little sister #1.
Little brother #2.

Me and Babycakes, the inspiration for the blog name!

Isn't it he just too adorable???!!! You just want to kiss those little rosy cheeks!

That gingerbread house is so..... sloppy. I guess, my skills are the same as when I as six. :D So there it is.

We never ate it. After a few days of looking at it, it got thrown away.

Well, Babycakes, I hope you all had a merry Christmas filled with exciting presents, treats, and fun times with family. I know I did! :D (More about that later!)

~Alyssa <3

Friday, December 21, 2012

Berry Pie Pops!

So... I just want to say thank you to everybody who is supporting me.... It means sooooooo much! :D I am so glad I can share the baked goods I make with you all!

A few days ago, I had the itch to make something. Whatever I had baked the past few days was very mediocre. Very mediocre. So, I decided I would try again. I had just received a beautiful pie pop maker from a wonderful friend and decided to try it out for the second time. The first time I tried it, the little injector that came with it had no directions, and I was beside myself with frustration trying to squirt out filling when nothing was coming out. Finally, after resortng to a spoon, the raspberry filling exploded all over the inside of the machine and all over the counter. The crusts burnt because my cousin and I were fast enough to only do one pie pop at a time. Oh, yes, we forgot to use a timer. So, I was a little hesitant to try again.

But this time, they turned out so beautiful! I found out how to use the injector, cut all the crusts ahead of time, and kept a close watch on the pie pops. This was the finished product:

And of course, I had to eat one.

What have we here?


Oooh, yummy!

Alyssa-tested, Alyssa-approved. :D

Have a cakealicious day! (yes, I just made that one up)

~Alyssa <3

P.S I am developing some recipes for you all! Hopefully, I can get those done soon.