Let’s catch up…

Bonjour, it’s been a while!  I’ve been making myself feel guilty for not writing lately, because I don’t want this to become yet another forgotten hobby.  In truth I think this blog has helped me a great deal during my transition to (gasp) Floridian.  No, I joke.  I’ll never be a Floridian.  But I do have to accept being here, for now.  Here’s a bit about what I’ve been up to…

The last I wrote, I was stoked about a trip to NYC.  A weekend getaway for some girl time with my good buddy, and boy did it deliver.  Despite some difficult, panicky moments about being away from my little (gimme a break, it was my first time away, ok?), I delivered on my goals to eat delicious food, walk around the city, and experience parts of the city that are less-frequented by tourists.  While my husband and I did the full tourist experience two years ago – including all the top museums, memorials, and even a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park (his surprise to me, which while super cheesy was adorably sweet and fun) – Jenny and I hiked on foot to the West Village, SoHo, the Financial district, and walked along the High Line.  We ate true New York brunch in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, ate amazing Italian food in an Italian indoor market, sipped cocktails on a rooftop bar, and I sampled macarons at Laduree and the Gansevoort Market.  I also bargain shopped at the fabulous Century 21 department store and scored some fabulous Tory Burch sunglasses.  It was divine.  But boy was I ready to get home to my little family!

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Before that, it was evident that I was having a difficult time.  I think my anxiety was coming to a head and I was finally, truly mourning the life we left behind in Washington.  Look, I’m never going to love it here.  It’s not my paradise.  I crave cities, culture, food, and the ability to be outside in the summer without melting into the humidity or getting eaten alive by bugs.  I just do.  But, I must accept my circumstances, and they don’t have to be all bad.

I’ve found some harmony with my choice f staying home with Claire.  We’ve discovered a plethora of activities to do on an almost-daily basis, and I’m even developing some mom friends that have nothing to do with being military wives (score!).  We’re not bff’s, but we have been getting together almost weekly despite Kindermusik classes being over for the summer, and I am developing some good friendships that I cultivated on my own, which is so important to me in this military lifestyle.

And most importantly, I made the leap to talk with a therapist about my anxiety.  And, I can’t articulate the ways in which it’s helped, but I know it’s helping.  I’ve been feeling lighter in my thoughts most days, and more accepting of my life right now.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all better or happily ever after, but it’s helping, and I can sense that.  So, I am grateful for that.

I even managed to dip into my professional pursuits lately.  A few months ago I volunteered to teach some French language classes at the county library, and they accepted.  But I had to wait several months to begin, so I kind of forgot about it for a while.  Of course that means the date snuck up on me, and before I knew it I had to plan a lesson for true novices.  Long story short, I found myself way more excited than nervous about doing this, and on Monday night when I showed up to a room full of sixty people, I was blown away by the enthusiasm and excitement of all of the “students.” It was so much fun, I barely slept that night from the adrenaline of it all.  The best part is that I had several inquiries about private lessons, and so far two of them have come to fruition.  I’m hopeful this is that little extra something I’ve been craving, to make me feel like an intelligent, educated woman again, as well as a devoted mom.  On verra, I guess.

So, onward!  I am looking forward to a four-day weekend with my family in which I want to experiment in the kitchen and make some yummy treats for us, as well as some day excursions to nearby towns (translation: shopping).  And in less than a month we will be going home for a two-week visit and I am getting more and more excited, mostly due to the free childcare that awaits us.

 

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.  🙂

 

Macaron Chronicles, vol. 2: Fourth attempt

Two batches in two days… I am determined to get this right!

I received TWO books on macarons for Mother’s Day, by the very best and most famous pâtissiers, and they are the most beautiful books.  Pierre Hermé’s “Macaron” is considered the macaron Bible, and even if the recipes are terrifyingly complicated for this macaron novice, the pictures are beautiful, the flavor combinations inspiring, and I know one day I will put these recipes to good use.

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The second book I received is the Ladurée Paris recipe book for macarons, which includes the recipe for the classic macaron shell, which allowed me to confirm that I had been using this exact recipe all along.  If I am going to perfect a recipe for macarons, it is going to be the best macaron recipe.

Here are my scientific notes on Batch #4:

Batch #4 on 5/15/17 (in lieu of a workout. Typical.):

  • Still measured out a half batch; wondering if this is why yesterday’s batch failed so miserably… Maybe the ingredients just don’t work at smaller measurements??
  • Still used my cheapy food scale – was extremely tempted to grab one at Walmart but decided to find one on Amazon that had good reviews, and to buy when I felt comfortable investing in a good one that I will have for a while.
  • Food processed the almond flour/confectioner’s sugar a little longer this time, instead of pulsing.
  • Whipped the meringue until “stiff” but not absolutely stiff (the peaks still bent a little – yesterday I whipped them until super stiff and I believe this is what made a more crunchy, hard shell.  At first I was scared to over-whip again so I stopped, then just before mixing with the dry ingredients, I decided to whip them another minute.  They were still a teeny bit soft. (Update: I now realize the stiffer meringue was fine yesterday, as I did not have hollow shells but did again today.  The hard, crunchy shell I believe was because they were slightly over cooked).
  • The egg whites I used were aged almost two weeks.  Not necessarily by choice, mostly because I didn’t get around to trying another batch for a while.  Not sure if this made a difference.  I suspect not, because my shells were still slightly hollow.  From what I understand, aged, room temperature egg whites results in a better meringue, not necessarily a better cookie.  So again I think I just need to whip my meringue stiffer.
  • Tried oh so hard not to over fold the batter; Dana’s Bakery says to fold until “molten lava consistency,” or until the batter falls from the spatula in a ribbon without breaking, and flattens at the bottom of the bowl.  I did this yesterday in the failed batch, but I think it was over-folded nonetheless (my shells barely had a foot at all, whereas in previous attempts I believe the batter was slightly under-folded but still produced feet (albeit small ones)).  I was super careful to start the spatula at 12 o’clock, circle to 6 o’clock, fold over, then rotate the bowl 1/4 turn.  Repeat.  Tested batter consistency several times.  Praying it was the right amount this time!
  • Realized after getting the batter correct that I forgot to add in the 1/4 egg white as I was mixing, which is said to loosen the batter just a wee bit.  I decided this was fine- what difference could 1/4 of an egg white make, anyway??  Gulp.
  • Did not rush the piping process.  Made sure to secure the piping bag so the batter wouldn’t splooge (one of my favorite words, and yes I made it up) out the tip before I was ready.  Don’t you just hate it when that happens?  wink wink.
  • Piped onto silicone mats (not parchment paper, as in failed batch yesterday).  Will bake trays one at a time on a doubled-up cookie sheet, as this is supposed to help form those infamous “feet.”
  • Discovered that if I set the trays to “harden” on the left side of my kitchen island, they are directly in line with the air conditioner vent, which blows lightly onto the shells to speed up the hardening process.  I turned down (up?) the AC a notch before starting the batch to keep the kitchen cooler, as it is hotter than Hades outside.
  • Baking at 290F this time, lower and slower to help those cookies rise, rise, rise (I hope).  I baked for 17.5 minutes at this heat before I took them out, which seemed just right.  You want to be able to gently pull the shell up and it should come up without any damage; I tried to pull one out after 16 minutes and the cap of the shell ripped off.  Oops.
  • Also, I piped both trays out at the same time, so the second tray sat for an extra 17 minutes.  The shells were very dry by the time I put them in the oven- wondering if this will help the feet growing or not, we will see…

Excuse me while I go sit in front of my oven and pray for rising feet and no burst shells….

RESULTS:

Tray #1:  

  • The shells looks lumpy and bumpy.  A quick check on the “Troubleshooting Guide” at Food Nouveau tells me I did not process the dry ingredients enough.  Hmmm.  I do tend to force the dry stuff through the sieve instead of discarding the larger pebbles.
    • SOLUTION: Try processing longer, and discarding the thicker pebbles at the bottom of the sieve, rather than forcing them through.
  • The feet look a mile high!!!
  • Still slightly hollow at the top of the shell, although not as hollow, if that makes sense.  Last time they were paper thin at the top, and these shells feel much sturdier. So that’s progress!
    • SOLUTION: I should have whipped the meringue even more.  So I’m thinking my problem yesterday was more that I over-folded the batter and perhaps did not let the shells sit and harden long enough before I put them in the oven.  Because now that I think about it, the batch yesterday had all sorts of issues, but ironically the shells were not hollow (the one thing they had going for them).

Tray #2:

  • The feet look even higher on this tray… So awesome.  This tells me that leaving the trays out to harden even longer will help grow those feet.
  • Shells are also slightly hollow due to the meringue I was too scared to whip enough.
  • Still taste delicious!

Things that worked:

  • Using my silicone mats instead of parchment paper.
  • Doubling up the cookie sheets.
  • Folding method – it appears I did not over fold!  No cracked tops this time.
  • Looooong drying out time – I will let those shells sit and sit and sit before baking them.

Things that didn’t:

  • Lumpy shells – never had this problem before so maybe I over processed, since that’s what I did differently.
  • Hollow shells – Must whip the heck out of that meringue and not feel guilty about it next time.

New things to try:

  • Beat the meringue to stiff peaks.
  • Discard larger pebbles of dry ingredients, and tap the tray harder to flatten out shells.
  • Will let the shells dry out for at least 30 minutes under the vent in my kitchen.
  • Bake at 290 and add a minute or so (18.5 minutes).

I am now waiting a day or two to age more egg whites, then I will be back at it.  The study continues….

On sadness, change, and grief…

I took a break from blogging last week, because my husband was home all week and because I’ve been going through a rough time.  Let’s just say an event brought up a lot of feelings to my surface, and my cup runneth over.  I’ve had some sleepless nights, some good cries, and some real talk with my husband.  The reality of this move is still settling with me, but yet it does not feel settled at all.  I’ve realized I’m mourning the life we left behind – the one I didn’t think I’d have to leave – and I’m not ready to let that go yet.  They say that the depression stage is the final one before acceptance, so maybe I can hope this is progress?

In all my wallowing, I’ve realized just how much I’ve taken my husband for granted.  And so today, I sat down and this letter to him just poured out of me.  I’ll post it here as a mode of self expression.  Perhaps I will say all of this to him in not so many words.  The military lifestyle is not for the faint of heart.

Dear husband,

I know I haven’t been the most pleasant thing to be around lately.  I have been quiet, and sad, and a little selfish by wallowing in my feelings.  I have been short with you, maybe a little too reliant on you for help with the baby, maybe even a little mean at times.  And at other times, I have required you to be up late with me because I can’t sleep, or hold me while I cry and pray that you can figure out what to say to me to snap me out of the funk I’m in.

I know you have feelings, too.  You work so, so hard.  Long hours, short nights.  You never stop when you get home, either: take the baby on a walk so I can cook dinner in peace, take her outside and push her in the swing, feed her the dinner I cooked.  Every other night it’s your turn to give her a bath, read her a story and then we both put her to bed.  And then you do the dishes from the meal I cooked (although usually we do this one thing together).  After the kitchen is cleaned, either you or I (lately it’s often you) have to make your lunch for the next day, set the coffee, wipe down the countertops.  Maybe we have an hour to veg on the couch, but then it’s time to get ready for bed.  Lock up the house, check on the baby, brush teeth, get all of your clothes out for work the next day.  Sometimes lately I don’t let you sleep as much as you need, because I am lost and need help.  And then it’s morning, and you are gone before I am awake, and everything starts all over again.

And then I am home all day with our daughter, with mostly my thoughts for company (toddlers aren’t very good at empathy).  And I feel sad.  Because I don’t have any friends really, in this new place.  Because I’m lonely all day, and I don’t like this new town we moved to, and I miss my home and my family so incredibly much that sometimes I feel a small hole in my heart.  And I’m sad because I don’t want to wish away this time, when our daughter is so small and snuggly and sweet.  When I feel the last years of being truly young playing out to true adulthood.

My mom says I am grieving for that life we had but chose to leave behind.  It was a risk, we said, and risks can have big payoffs.  A big promotion, a big bonus, new opportunities.  But the only opportunity I want open to us is the one we left behind.  I want to go back.  I would still go back.  I’m not sure my mind will change on that.

But I know we can’t go back.  We can only go forward, and I still don’t know how to do that yet.  This is not the town for me, the people, the lifestyle.  I am lonely and not confident anymore, like I was where we used to live, where everything made sense.  Where made sense.

What will become of me now?

I am sorry for my selfish sadness right now.  I hope it won’t last long, but the truth is I just need to be selfish at the moment.  I need you to be there for me, even if I can’t be there for you in the same way.  I need you to tell me over and over and over again that it will be okay, that this time is a blip on the radar of our life together, that life will go on and I will find happiness.  That you will lose sleep with me sometimes, and let me cry, and help me through this.

Life isn’t always supposed to be easy, and I get that.  This is a difficult time in my life, in our lives, but I don’t want it to be wasted.  Maybe I can embrace the difficulty, pray about it, and let it build me up even stronger.  Maybe.  But I don’t feel my strongest these days.  I feel sensitive and sad.  And I need you to see me through to happiness again.  And I promise that if you can do that for me, I will one day do it for you, too.

Tuesday really is my least favorite day of the week.

Happy Tuesday!  I have had so much going on, I don’t even know where to start.  So I guess I’ll make this a catch-up post and maybe that will get all the things swirling around in my brain to stop, well, swirling.  I’ve heard exercise can really help with that, but seeing as how I’ve worked out EVERY DAMN DAY for the last nine days, I’m not sure it’s true.  Or maybe it would be so much worse if I hadn’t?!

Sometimes I don’t know how I have so much going on, when I don’t even have a job.  Maybe that’s why.  I know, I know… never say a stay at home mom doesn’t have a lot going on.  You’d think I would know that by now, being that I have a near 20-month old.  If I was bored to tears everyday, I’d have gotten a job by now.  But I digress.

Back to the marathon workout routine: my friend in Japan (Hi, Amber [she sneakily got ahold of my blog website even though I haven’t shared it with anyone, so I know she’s now reading this]) got me into following this fitness expert on Instagram, who is hosting a free 14-day challenge to follow her 20 minute workouts everyday for 14 days.  Then she will draw a winner and give them $1000 for completing the challenge.  Now, I’ve never won anything in my life, and I’m not about to starting believing I could win this one, but the challenge was FREE, which is my favorite thing in the world… Plus, I’ve been needing a different approach to working out, just to shake things up… Plus, it’s 20 minutes a day, which means I can workout, shower, and still lay around OR be productive during nap time.  Basically, it works perfectly with my schedule.  So Amber and I keep each other accountable everyday via Facebook messenger, and I’ve made it through day 9 so far!  If you want to look into it, go to http://www.loriharder.com.  She hosts these freebies every so often.

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What I think I look like while working out…..

I have combined this with focusing on what I’m eating the last two weeks.  My jeans were starting to feel a bit tight, and I went to the doctor two weeks ago and was a little surprised to see the number on the scale when they weighed me, so I decided I need to reign in my eating… Namely, my sweet tooth.  I can eat sugar like a champ, and I LOVE candy.  Always have, and I’m sure I always will.  So I have been eating pretty clean, and the only “sweet” things I’ve allowed myself are Kashi cookies, yogurt, and the occasional small handful of dark cacao chips.  I gave myself a break over the weekend because I firmly believe one can not deprive themselves of all the good things in life, so on Saturday I shared a bowl of popcorn with my husband while we watched a movie, and Sunday night I was too tired from experimenting with more macarons to then cook dinner, so we ordered pizza.  But on Monday I was back on track (although I did sample one of my new macarons, you know… for science).  Wednesday I will have to take a break from the clean eating because it is my husband’s birthday, and he has requested my grandma’s baked zitti for dinner…and chocolate cake.  There’s basically no hope for me tomorrow.

Claire is teething yet again, and the last few months have led me to believe that the “Terrible Two’s,” which I’ve been told can come at any time during the second year of life, not necessarily when they are actually two, are just a result of never ending teething.  Wouldn’t you be grumpy if you constantly had these huge mounds of pointy teeth poking their way through your flesh?  The poor dear seems to be grumpy every other day, constantly chewing on her fingers, and fussing for no discernible reason.  I’m trying my hardest to be patient but sometimes the fussing just makes you want to lock yourself in a padded room.  What’s worse is that we seem to have lost the amber necklace we have her wear when we have no more tricks up our sleeves.  I’m not entirely sure they work, but it’s my last resort, and now I don’t have a last resort.  So if you need me, I’ll be scaling the walls of my house by my fingernails.

And lastly, we are giving back our Volkswagen to the dealership today.  We bought our beloved Jetta wagon in 2015 when I was quite pregnant, thinking it would be a good family car…. Which it was, until the VW diesel emissions scandal broke and we learned we would have to give back our car eventually.  Well, today is that day, and I’m a little bummed about it.  Yes, they are going to give us a check for basically what we paid for it almost two years ago, and yes, we’ve already purchased a new vehicle, but it has been a stressful situation and we are a little bitter for having to go through this process.  It will feel good to finally give it back and move on, as it was just one other ball of stress from the last six months of moving and settling and hemorrhaging money.  So, goodbye, faithful car.  I hope wherever you end up (probably somewhere like Africa or Asia or India) is full adventure.

Well now that does feel a bit better.  Now say a little prayer that my sweetie takes a three hour nap.

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.
foot
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!

When you’re a mom, freedom never feels totally “free.”

So here I am… a fresh latte next to me… The sounds and smells of a bustling Starbucks infiltrating my senses.  Just me and my laptop.  I feel like I’m missing a limb.  Why?

I did a very difficult thing today.  I dropped my sweet baby girl off at “Mother’s Morning Out.”  They have her until noon if I want- the possibilities of what to do with my time are endless, so naturally I will probably just sit here at Starbucks and think about all the things I could do with my time, without actually getting up out of my chair.  I’m literally paralyzed with freedom and choices.

freedom

Is is normal to want to call the nursery every 5 minutes to see if she’s ok?  I’ve blogged a lot about how attached to me and shy Claire is.  That is part of the reason why I finally decided to give this program a try- not only does Claire need to learn to be taken care of by people other than myself, and not only does she need some independent socialization time, but also… mama needs a break.

I went back and forth all last night about whether I would go through with it.  She’s still my little baby, it’s okay if she’s attached to me!  Which for the record, it totally is ok.  I selfishly love that she wants and needs me above all else.  But lately it’s gotten intense and because my husband works such long damn hours, I don’t get a ton of help until dinner time, so I really need a little bit of time to myself.  I’ve been assured it’s a healthy thing to need for oneself.  Currently it just feels like mom guilt.

So, after getting a pep talk from my best friend (all the way from Japan, might I add), I decided to not think too much about it and got us out the door by 8:45 and drove to the church.  The facility is excellent and full of happy little kids, which put me more at ease.  The women running the baby room were extremely nice and not worried at all about dealing with separation anxiety (I warned them several times it might be rough).  They had an electronic check-in system where they print you a ticket and will not let anyone pick their child up unless they have the matching ticket (which also was very reassuring).  I had been explaining to Claire all morning that she was going to go “play with other babies” and that mommy was going to leave but then she’d “be right back,” to which she’d reply “be right back.”  She’s very smart for her age so I thought she would in some way understand what I was explaining.  So then I snuck out while she was being distracted by one of the caregivers.  I waited out of sight in the hall to hear if she would be okay, and when I didn’t hear any crying after a minute or so, I decided I should leave because if she did melt down, it would be even harder for me.

So I walked out, sat in my car… And called my mom for reassurance.  I’m such a cliché.

I’m also in no way the kind of mom I always told myself I would be – you know, the career mom who sacrifices nothing about herself to accommodate her children.  HA!  How stupid I was.  Now that I have a daughter, not only do I know that working moms sacrifice just as much as stay at home moms, but I also learned that I’m a total softie, an emotional blob when it comes to babies and children, and I would sacrifice everything if it were in the best interest of my child.

Which is why it was hard to drop Claire off this morning.  I knew it would be hard for her and she would probably cry (and I might too), but I also knew it would be good for both of us for different reasons.  And it would only be a couple of hours, one day a week or so, and if we both hated it I wouldn’t have to do it again… Although let’s be real, I hope she does great so that I feel like I have a resource at my disposal when I need a break, have appointments, etc.

So now that this if off my chest, I hope this caffeine fuels me enough to get me out of this Starbucks and do something with the next two hours.

If the coffee doesn’t get me out of here, the sound of the man next to me who keeps sniffing back a nose full of snot probably will.  So gross.