I’m a city girl at heart.

Last week I found myself thinking about my friend, also named Jenny, who is an Army wife and preparing to move to Germany in the next month or so.  Jenny and I were fast friends when we met in grad school in Hawaii.  She is a spunky, firey redhead with an Alabama accent, and we share a mutual disdain for stupidity.  She is perfectly snarky and sarcastic, and upon meeting her I knew she was my spirit animal.  We spent most weekends (and many night classes) together for the entirety of our grad school program, and our husbands ended up being good buddies too.  When I think of my time in Hawaii, she is one of the best memories I take away.

Of course, as a military wife, you quickly learn that even the best friendships are forced to separate in just a few short years.  We moved to Washington, and she moved to the desert of California with her husband, and had a baby boy a couple years before I had Claire.  Anyway, we always stayed in touch and talked about meeting up somewhere in the country ever since we moved apart from one another.  This last Christmas, we did end up meeting her and her family in Orlando for a quick but wonderful Harry Potter experience at Universal Studios.  The park was great and our inner Harry Potter nerds were sufficiently pleased by the trip, but the best part was reuniting with our friends, babies in tow, and picking up right where we left off, as if we hadn’t not seen each other in almost four years.  Those are the kind of friendships you know will last.

Flash forward to last week, as I was thinking about Jenny moving, and a wild and crazy idea popped into my head.  As they are currently stationed in upstate New York for another month or so, I texted her late at night asking if she’d be free for a girls’ weekend in New York City – one last hurrah – before her big move.  I have a TON of airline miles burning a hole in our bank account.  The more I thought about how amazing a weekend like that would be – no kids, plenty of time for girl talk, leisurely meals at fabulous restaurants, no toddlers trying to run free around the place or nap times to worry about – the more excited I became.  I waited almost a whole day in agony before she texted me back and accepted my proposal!

So in two weeks’ time, I will get to fly (in a plane….by myself) to the Big Apple, see a Broadway show, eat at delicious restaurants, and walk and shop the city with one of my best friends.  I am absolutely ecstatic.  Sean volunteered to take a day off of work, and will stay home with Claire so I can have an escape, and I am so grateful.  I know he would love a few days in New York too, but he knows what a hard time I’ve been having lately, all the sadness I’ve been working through, and I just feel so lucky to have a compassionate and supportive husband… who is going to let me go party in the big city without him!

This will be my first time away from both my husband and my daughter since… well, since my daughter was born.  I know I am SO ready for some time away, but I also know I will miss them both.  I’m just not good at being away from Claire.  Do you know any moms who seem to be so good at being away from their kids?  Who don’t ever seem to have a single worry when they are apart from their little ones, and can let loose and be themselves?  I envy those moms.  I don’t have that gene (yet).

Don’t get me wrong, I love nap time – it’s my favorite time of day – and I have a lot of interests and hobbies I try to indulge in when I have time to myself, but as for being able to be away for days on end, or even daycare situations, I haven’t gotten good at relinquishing her to the care of others.  I worry.  And I feel guilty.  And I count the hours until I can pick her up.  And I convince myself it’s good for her, even if she cries and I feel terrible.  Which, for the record, I know it is good for her, but I still feel terrible about leaving her in someone else’s care when she cries for me as I walk away.  Does that ever get easier??

I ran into a mom friend last week who has a daughter a month younger than Claire.  We were talking about the Mother’s Morning Out program that I’ve written about before, and she asked me if I had enrolled Claire in the pre-(pre?) school program for next school year.  I just looked at her blankly and said no, I had no idea what she was talking about.  It’s basically a preschool for two year-olds a few days per week.  I walked away from that conversation feeling kind of stupid for not knowing that Claire should be in preschool already, and confused as to why she should be in preschool already because she is only 20 months old!  For crying out loud.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was definitely not ready to put Claire in anything remotely resembling a “school.”  While the alone time would be nice, I can still use the Mother’s Morning Out program without having to enroll her in a school at two years old.  If I am going to stay home with my daughter while she is so little, I want her to be home with me for most of that time at least.  There is so much time ahead of her where she will have to be in school, probably even starting the following year, that I can’t bring myself to be ready for that stage yet.  She’s still my baby.

Motherhood is a constant inner struggle of feeling guilty for literally everything, wanting freedom and your old life back, and also wanting to keep your babies close to and dependent on you, forever.  I’m always tired and confused and wanting “me time,” and then when I have it, I miss my baby.  The old me would not recognize the new me, I am sure of that.  But I’m also cool with that, because despite the exhaustion and constant struggle, motherhood is simply the greatest gift.

So, in two weeks when my inner Big City Girl is basking in the one true Big City, I will remind myself of the gift that this free time is, and force myself not to feel too guilty.  Life has been a bitch lately, and I deserve some rooftop cocktails and shopping in Soho.  Hell, I may not ever come back.  🙂

 

I am not Maison Ladurée, but I can sure try to be.

 

Ah, le macaron.  The iconic, airy, colorful sandwich cookie that evokes the tenants of all things French: chic, beautiful, delicious….and extremely temperamental.  The macaron arguably elicits the very stereotype of the Parisian people that they often deny (or proudly uphold, depending on which one you talk to): complicated, meticulous, difficult to replicate, and exacting to the last detail.

And yes, I’m talking about a cookie here.  The small kind of cookies my husband likes to pop into his mouth in one swift motion, chew three times without actually tasting, and then swallow down his throat without another thought.  I’ve worked eight long years on getting him to enjoy the finer things in life, but even still he has his moments.  But I digress.

You see, this cookie is a big part of my plans.  My dreams.  I’m being real here, at the expense of being laughed at.  Isn’t it so hard to share your hopes and dreams with strangers?  This is my way of keeping myself accountable, or tracking my progression into business ownership.  And I will succeed.  You see, macarons are going to be part of my empire.  Maybe (definitely) not Ladurée style, but part of it nonetheless.

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My friend Alma brought me these direct from Paris.  I took six days to eat them so as to enjoy them as long as possible.  And no, I did not share with my husband.

Do you recall my recent post in which I explained that I have several years until bringing said dreams into reality?  Well, my husband really kind of lit a fire under me to start experimenting and (eventually) perfecting in the kitchen, so that I’m ready to pounce when my opportunity strikes.  And so that very week I went out and bought a bulk-size bag of almond flour, a food scale, and some piping bags and tips (which turned out to be the totally wrong tips, but more on that later.  I made it work).  And that Friday, after doing lots of research online and understanding just how challenging macarons can be – particularly in humid climates – and feeling more determined than ever to do it anyway, I put that baby down for a nap, rolled up my sleeves, put on my apron and I got to work.

I should preface this by saying I scoured the internet looking for the Ladurée macaron recipe.  I figured, if these are going to be a part of my empire, then I may as well learn how to make the absolute best type of macaron.  So after comparing a few blogs who claimed to be using this recipe, and learning you can actually buy a Ladurée cookbook (which I promptly added to my Amazon wishlist and hinted to my husband it would be a perfect Mother’s Day gift), I settled on the recipe by A Bit of Bee’s Knees.

As The Pioneer Woman would say, here is the cast of characters:

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So here are the things you will need that you might not already have in your kitchen arsenal:

ALMOND FLOUR: the key and essential ingredient to macarons.  It makes them light and fluffy and gives them that nutty, airy taste.  Can be found in the baking section of any grocery store, with the specialty flours (or gluten free section).  I found this giant bag at Sam’s club.

A food scale: you can find several recipes that convert the measurements of dry ingredients in grams to cups, but from my research they are not extremely accurate, and said research also taught me that macarons are so temperamental that it really is worth investing in a scale and to just do it the right way.  So I bought this one at Bed Bath & Beyond for like $6.  You can spend a crap ton of money on scales it turns out, but since I’m just getting started I figured a cheapy will do for now.

Piping tips: Ok so I bought cake decorating tips which ARE NOT THE SAME as food piping tips, as the opening to the tips are so much smaller.  The recipe calls for about a .5″ tip opening, and I discovered mine was microscopic.  I made it work, but do yourself a favor and get the correct tools (your forearms will thank you).

A sifter.  I had recently bought myself one as I never had one before, but this is also an essential tool because you must sift the flour and confectioner’s sugar together.  This eliminates all lumps and turns the dry ingredients into a fine powder.  WARNING: sifting takes forever.  So put on some music and be patient.

Food processor.  I note this only because up until about a year ago, I never had one.  Just some crappy Oster blender that was a wedding gift, and couldn’t handle anything beyond a smoothie.  Now I have a fantastic Ninja and ever since we bought it, it has come in handy SO MANY TIMES.  You many not need one if your flour is fine enough- I didn’t actually need one (I realized after the fact), because I bought super fine almond flour, however the recipe technically calls for pulverized almonds, so if you must pulverize your own almonds, you will absolutely need a food processor.

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My baby!  Isn’t she a beauty??

LOTS OF EGGS.  You need 6 egg whites + 1/2 extra (I told you they were meticulous, didn’t I?), AND they need to be room temperature, otherwise your meringue will not be, well, meringue.  I was impatient and nuked mine for 10 seconds on half power, but I recommend planning ahead and just pulling them out well in advance.  I saved the yolks in the fridge hoping to figure out something to do with them, as it felt wasteful to throw away 7 egg yolks.  Sadly I never got around to making custard.  Next time.

Also, I read another blog about using aged egg whites.  According to Food Nouveau (my new Bible for all things macarons), this means separating the egg whites into a plastic sealed container and letting them sit in the fridge for 1-2 days before using them.  Now, I didn’t know this beforehand, but I am going to try it next time and hope that my macarons raise a little bit more in the oven.

And my last bit of advice before you launch into this adventure, is to remember to let your piped beauties sit on their cookie sheets for a LONG TIME before putting them in the oven.  The recipe I used says 10 minutes, or until they develop a bit of a dry shell so that if you very lightly brush them with your finger, you don’t get any batter on yourself.  Well, this took WAY more than 10 minutes for me.  More like 25 minutes until they achieved this consistency (I’m thinking living in humid Florida is the culprit, lucky me).  However, it is an essential step, otherwise your cookies will not pop up in the oven and have a delicate “foot” on the bottom as they are supposed to.

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Waiting…and waiting…and waiting for that delicate shell to harden.  I recommend wine while you wait.
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See the base of the cookie?  That’s the “foot.”  Mine should be bigger, but hey, first time.

And there you have it, things to consider before you attempt your first batch.  You’ll notice I didn’t actually include the recipe here, or show you my step-by-step process.  I had so many thoughts swirling around on this snarky little cookie, that I decided to write about my experiment in a few posts (otherwise this would be entirely too long and you would stop reading halfway through… If you haven’t already). So stay tuned, my next post will be the recipe and my experience trying these for the first time.  If you just can’t wait for that, scroll up to access the recipe via the provided link.

Happy baking!

Don’t fear your dreams; they’re worth waiting for

You guys… I’m sitting in a salon with my hair painted various colors, all of which I’m hoping are the opposite of the end result. And I’m waiting and staring at the walls. So I thought I’d do some writing instead.

I’ve been thinking… I’ve never shared why my blog is called Café Geneviève, or why I am the Francophile I claim myself to be.


Well, it all started in high school. I was accidentally assigned to a French class as a freshman and decided to give it a whirl. Long story short, I fell in love with language, and discovered I had quite a talent for learning language. Fast forward to the summer of my junior year when my class took a 10 day trip to France, and I fell deeper in love with this glamorous, sophisticated culture that praised beauty, art and delicious food. Who can’t get on board with that??

In college I continued on with French, testing into senior-level advanced courses as a freshman. After a bad breakup, I decided I needed to “see the world” and applied for my university’s study abroad program. By the next fall I found myself having a panic attack in a hotel room in Paris with my best friend. We were all alone, jet lagged, and I had five months of living with a French host family looming ahead of me. What had I done to myself?! Though I yearn for adventure and travel, I am also a creature of comfort and resistant to change. I’m quite a conundrum, aren’t I?

The next five months were filled with frustration, frequent episodes of being lost in translation, adventure, so much travel, self-learning, overcoming fears, growing in confidence and a mastery of a language I was deeply in love with. As I sat in my host mother’s kitchen on my last day in Nantes, having a full conversation with her entirely in French, she pointed out just how far I had come. Wonderfully, miraculously, full circle.

To this day, though my life has been full of many other hurdles, arguably as challenging as this, it is the greatest personal accomplishment of my life. My own fears and lack of confidence almost got in my way of achieving an experience I wanted even more than how heavily my self doubt weighed on me. I overcame a great fear and I believe it made me into the woman I am today.

So, two years of graduate school later, I am armed with a teaching certificate I haven’t been able to use as intended. Being a military spouse hasn’t exactly landed me in areas of high demand for French language teachers. A variety of experiences in teaching has taught me, however, that my desire to indulge my passions will be better accomplished in other ways.

When my family is settled in one place, I have big plans. Until then, my dreams are under construction. I am learning and developing my goals so that I will be ready to hit the ground running with my business. It is often that I feel frustrated by my limitations of our nomadic lifestyle lately, but my husband recently pointed out that I have the gift of time to hone my plan and to learn as much as I can so that I will be successful when my time does come.

And I think the first step was reminding myself through this medium of who I am, what I’ve already accomplished and where I want it to take me.

Do you have dreams you may have had to put on hold at first? How do you keep the passion burning?

One things for sure, I’ll have a fabulous hairstyle when my time does come.