Archive for Aug 2012

Le Divorce took me right back to France.   But it made me feel that I was actually French.  Or, at least learning a lot about the French.  She does such an amazing job of demonstrating the cultural differences between Americans & the French.  Makes me want to pack up and move!

Well, until that happens, I can drink some tea and nosh on a few Madeleines.  They are so simple, so delicious, so light, so amazing.  I want to take a nap on a Madeleine.  It would be heaven!

Jess adapted the receipe from a Laduree book, Laduree: The Sweet Recipes. Just a note, if you’re looking for an amazing gift, this book is it!   It’s so beautiful you almost don’t want to ruin it by opening it too wide.  It comes in a beautiful box, wrapped in tissue paper.  It’s thick, fluffy and gilded.  Ridiculous.


cupcakes 0022 In The Kitchen: Madeleines

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Adapted from Laduree: The Sweet Recipes

Makes 24 individual madeleines or 60 mini madeleines.


2 lemons, unwaxed

3/4 cup + 1 tbsp granulated sugar

1 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp cake flour, plus extra flour for moulds

2 tsp baking powder

12 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus extra for moulds

4 eggs

1 2/3 honey


Prepare madeleine dough one day ahead.

1. Using a grater, remove zest from the lemons. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine sugar with lemon zest. In a separate bowl, sift together flour and baking powder. Gently melt the butter in a separate bowl.

2. Add eggs and honey to the lemon and sugar mixture and whip until pale and frothy. Gently fold in the flour mixture until just combined. Add the melted butter and combine. Refrigerate batter for a minimum of 12 hours in a closed container.

3. The following day, melt 1 1/2 tbsp of butter and using a pastry brush, butter the moulds. Refrigerate for 15 min to allow butter to harden. Lightly dust them with flour, turn upside down and tap out any excess flour. If you do not fill the moulds immediately, return them to the refrigerator.

4. Preheat oven to 390 degrees. Fill moulds 3/4 to the top with batter. Place in the oven and bake: mini madeleines for 5-6 minutes, regular madeleines for 8-10 minutes. When golden, remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before removing from moulds.

Serve madeleines luke warm. If you do not plan on serving them right after baking, allow to cool and store in an airtight container, so they will stay soft and moist. Even if you’re using nonstick moulds, it’s still necessary to butter and flour them.

I have a French problem.  I am obsessed with all things French.  The food, the language, the culture, the cafes.  All of it.  So, when Jessica recommended Le Divorce I was super excited.  But when her copy had Kate Hudson & Naomi Watts on the cover, I was concerned.  How good could this book be!?  Turns out, real good.  If your copy has Kate Hudson on the cover, push through it and flip through.  It’s delicious!

ledivorce Flipping Pages: Le Divorce

Le Divorce by Diane Johnson

Isn’t Paris delicious? Let’s go there right now. Zero airfare required. Actually, this novel is more than 10 years old, so you can get a paperback for about the cost of two coffees. Score! (Unfortunately, it might have Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts on the cover, from the film adaptation. I recently watched it again, and I have to say, it’s not as bad as I remember. Hudson is horribly mis-cast, but it’s a Merchant Ivory film…how bad can it really be?)

Le Divorce is about Isabel, an American girl who moves to Paris to help her sister, Roxy, during her pregnancy and through the birth of her second child. When Isabel arrives in the city, she finds that Roxy’s upper-crusty husband’s run out on her and is living with another woman (also married to someone else) . It’s all quite scandalous, as he’s left Roxy pregnant with a toddler in tow. His family knows the whole story and the way they handle things is very French. As in, they act like nothing has happened, more or less. Things start to get a bit prickly when the matter of a divorce is raised, along with the separation of their assets. They have practically nothing, except a painting Roxy took to Paris with her from her parent’s home in Santa Barbara. Questions are raised about the value and authenticity of the painting and both the American and French families become involved in the struggle over this piece of art that Roxy has loved since she was young. Toward the end, the book becomes very suspenseful, which I didn’t expect, but thoroughly enjoyed. Nestled in with all of this intrigue is Isabel’s coming of age. You know the story. American Girl in Paris. Sowing her wild oats…all those cliches. Cliches that are fun to read about, it turns out. She has several affairs (one most notably with a much older man), learns to form an opinion and live on her own, becomes a “citizen of the world”. We see everything through her eyes. Her American, impossibly young and incredibly self-centered eyes. And she’s hilarious. She reminds me of myself around the time I visited Paris for the first time, a 21-year-old who thought she had things figured out, but turned out to know nearly nothing at all. (Here’s a picture of me, chewing gum like a teenager. Sigh.)

Jess 1024x647 Flipping Pages: Le Divorce

August 24, 2012 Wanderlusting: Madrid


Two days in hot Barcelona, and we headed to even hotter Madrid.  The architecture is so absolutely incredible in Madrid.  It’s so beautiful and I wish I could wander the streets and just shoot.  Except that it was 105 degrees and I mostly just wanted to die.  So, we wandered, we siesta’d, we drank cava and we took many cold showers!

Chris has always wanted to take a high speed train.  It’s on his bucket list!  So, even though it’s a lot more expensive, and even though it was kind of a pain to get the tickets, we took the train from Barcelona to Madrid.  But, I will say it was so much easier than flying!   You just walk on, sit, and then walk off!  So much less painful than flying!

Hands down, my favorite thing about Madrid was the markets.  There are so many of them, each one more fabulous than the last.   We actually went to Mercado de San Anton twice.  I loved El Brillante for the Bocadillo de Calamares… they were heavenly!  And, taking our cue from Hemingway, Cerveceria Alemana for the coldest beer in town.

I feel like I would really love Madrid had we been even the tiniest bit comfortable… maybe we go back soon? icon smile Wanderlusting: Madrid

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And thus ends our summer European adventure!  Next up, Fall in Paris to run my first half marathon!  I just started training and I’m pretty much dreading long-run-Thursdays!

I hate ordering a caipirinha at a bar because, well, I never remember quite how to say it.  It always falls out of my mouth, a pile of i’s.  Something about it always gets me tied up.  But it’s usually worth it.  Because it’s incredibly delicious!

Caipirinha’s are Brazilian, and just the thing to perk Dr. Marina Singh up after a long day in the Amazon.  Ha!  They’re made with cachaça, lime & sugar.  Something so simple that tastes so incredibly complex.  It’s light & refreshing, a perfect way to round out a hot summer day!

caiprinhia 001 Cocktail Hour: Caipirinha

… Caipirinha

2 oz cachaça

Juice of 1 lime

four lime wedges

2 tablespoons simple syrup

Squeeze the lime wedges into a glass with ice.  Add cachaça, lime juice & simple syrup.  Stir to combine.  Enjoy!

note – you can use sugar instead of simple syrup, but it never dissolves quite as nicely!

State of Wonder was one of the first books that Jess recommended for me.  It made me fall in love with reading again after a, ahem, seven year hiatus.  It’s fun and fascinating and the story unfolds so beautifully.  A must read!

stateofwonder Flipping Pages: State Of Wonder

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Oooooh…let’s go on an adventure! Into the heart of the Amazon (not my sadly beloved e-commerce site, which wouldn’t count for much of an adventure, unless we planned on making a purchase large enough to stop hearts)! Let’s venture deep into the heart of the jungle with one of my very favorite authors, Ann Patchett. I promise you I will not write the words “jungle” and “fever” together in this post. Crossing heart, hoping to whatever. Although, malaria is a huge issue raised in this lovely romp of a book. But in a more serious way. Seriously.

In State of Wonder, we meet Dr. Marina Singh, a pharmaceutical researcher whose colleague dies after he’s sent into the Amazon to check up on yet another researcher’s progress in developing a valuable mystery drug. The details of her colleague’s death are unclear, his progress unreported. The big guns at the company she works for are anxious to get the famously brilliant and notoriously secretive Dr. Swenson under their control, to begin making lots of money off of her discoveries. So, Marina follows in her dead co-worker’s footsteps, traveling to Brasil and tracking Dr. Swenson all the way to a tiny undiscovered and completely sheltered community deep in the Amazon. We all read Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in high school, right? There are echoes of that story here, but it’s far from an adaptation. There’s mystery and a good bit of suspense around Dr. Swenson’s work. What has she found in the jungle? Will it change the world and modern medicine forever? Was she involved in the death of Marina’s colleague?

I don’t want to say much more and spoil everything for you, but let me just say: this book is just so much fun. I like to travel as much as the next gal, but I don’t have the guts to get on a dingy and disappear into the jungle. Bad stuff happens there. Stuff no one will ever know about. No thanks! I’d rather read about it. Maybe that’s a tiny part of why I loved this book so much. And why you might, too.

I have been dying to go to Spain since I studying abroad in 2003.  Spain & Turkey were the two countries that I’d wanted to visit, but just never found the time.  And since Spain is literally on the way home from Italy, Chris & I decided to extend our trip a bit and experience something new!  I wanted to fall in love with Spain.  I wanted to soak in the little moments that make a new country so incredible.  But, with temps soaring near 105 degrees, and inadvertently landing our trip on a holiday weekend, Spain was tough.  It was like sightseeing in Palm Springs on the Fourth of July.  But, I’ve come home with a better understanding of siesta, a curiosity as to why anyone travels in the summer and continued hunger for the tiniest little plates of tapas.

We visited Barcelona & Madrid.  Barcelona is such an international city, a melting pot of so many cultures.  It’s relaxed and vivacious.  We probably stumbled upon five different street fairs, celebrations and parties where we were just invited in to be a part of the festivities.  I have no idea what we were celebrating, but I felt excited and invigorated!  It’s a gorgeous city!

So, a few snaps from our few days in Barcelona…

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This is the last of our Italy pictures!  We spent one day marketing and relaxing around Lake Trasimeno.  It was a glorious day!  The markets in Europe are one of my most favorite things.  Little stands with the freshest vegetables, cheeses and meats. We bought half the market and made the most incredible meals!

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Chris LOOOOOVES kayaks.  Like, adores on an entirely inappropriate level.  And I hate it.  But sometimes, you do what you have to do for the people that you love icon smile Wanderlusting: Tuscany, Part 2

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And on our final day, we went wine tasting.  I found it to be such a different experience than any wine tasting I’d ever done before. In Napa or Sonoma, each vineyard seems to have a tasting room.  They’re ready for you to arrive and prepared to pour whenever they are open.  There are teams of people making everything work.  The tasting rooms feel setup for tourists and you’re never permitted to walk through the vines.  In Italy, you kind of stumble upon a guy taking a nap in the backyard.  He wakes up, thrilled to see someone.  You find out he’s the owner, the farmer and he’ll be pouring for you.  This wine is his baby… he’s taken it through the entire process and knows every single thing about it.  The experience was, well, absolutely amazing.

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If you blink while driving, you’re going to miss the entire town of Valiano.  And unfortuantely for you, you’re going to miss Piccola Trattoria Guastini.  Amazing food, fantastic wine, incredible views.  A must.

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Next up, a quick stop in Spain!