Monday, June 28, 2010

Secret Confession

I'm in love.... with Mr. Darcy. And to me, Colin Firth is the only Mr. Darcy, ever.

mmmmmmmmmmm...... I'll take 2 please.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Our nursery


Next week it will have been 6 months since my little Netty girl died. I still miss her so much. It's amazing how big a void such a small creature can create when they are gone.

There is something so special about disabled animals, I have found. Anything they lack in physical ability is more than made up for with the capacity to love. At least that was the case with Netty and
I definitely hold a special place in my heart anytime I hear about a "lesser abled" animal because of her. I just am so glad that I was able to take care of her while she was here.

One of my favorite things about her was that you could never tell HER that she was disabled. According to her, anything Mayzie did, she could do too. She used to throw a fit if Mayzie got to go on a walk without her. We tried to keep her inside in the winter because she would get so cold with her bad circulation and also, if she walked on anything other than grass, her back feet would get torn up when she walked due to them dragging. But if we were anywhere near the door with a leash for Mayzie, Netty would start whining and throwing a fit to come too. Sometimes I couldn't open the door to go outside without her squeezing out and running as fast as she could down the side walk.

This is how I almost always saw her. If she could have just slept on my lap all day long she would be in heaven. When I would get up, she would give me a look of what looked to me like annoyance that I would dare disturb her when she was comfortable.

For some reason she loved to use my slipper as a chew toy. It was just about the same size as her, but she would whip it back and forth, showing that little slipper who was boss. Then when she got bored of fighting it, she would use it as a pillow.

I came across this picture just a couple weeks ago. You probably have to look close, but Netty is there, cuddled under Mayzie. Ever since Netty died, Mayzie has been much more cuddly with Tom and I, and much more clingy. She hates being left alone now, when she used to seem to not mind it so much because she had Netty to keep her company.

It was so funny to watch Mayzie and Netty play. You would think that Mayzie would be the bully because she was so much stronger and bigger than Netty, but that was not the case at all. Netty would chase her around the house until finally Mayzie would get sick of it, jump on the couch and just stare at Netty because she knew she couldn't get her up there. Netty would keep on trying to jump up to get her though. "Determined" in an understatement when talking about Netty. I have even seen Netty pull Mayzie off the couch if Mayzie let her guard down enough to allow any part of her body (ears, mainly) within Netty's reach.

This is one of the last pictures we ever took of her. Tom got her that little sweater for Christmas. It was too big on her, but she sure looked cute in that little hoodie. Because of her poor circulation, she was cold all the time. We kept a little sweater on her pretty much from September to April to keep her from shivering.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I was just reading an article on Complimenting your way to a happier marriage. I absolutely loved this article! I thought it was so true! Sometimes we just take our husbands for granted. I know I do. I wish I didn't, but it definitely happens. So I just wanted to take this time to talk about how amazing my husband is and how glad I am that he is my husband!
The first thing that needs to be said about Tom is how funny he is! He makes me laugh every single day. I love his sense of humor, he is a complete goof ball and he is so much fun to be around. He is a completely unique individual who lives by his own rules. He doesn't let things get to him. Both those things can be frustrating for me sometimes, but I need to learn from his example and start taking life as it comes instead of worrying about what could be.
Tommy is a very smart man. He seems to always interject into conversations with random facts that no one should ever really know. I love being able to talk to him and to hear him get on a
subject that he is really passionate about.
I could go on about the things I love about Tom forever, but I probably ought to get on to something more productive. I just want to finish with how excited I am to see him be a dad! I know he is going to be amazing. Any doubts I have about my own parenting skills are made up for because I know he will be by my side. He is sooo good with kids and has only ever wanted a family. I couldn't ask for a better partner in parenthood and can't wait to get started!

All in all, I am an extremely lucky woman to have found such a perfect partner for me. I couldn't be happier with spending forever with such a great man.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


May's challenge for the Daring Bakers was a Piece Montée or Croquembouche. I have always heard them called Croqembouche, so that is what I am going to call it. A classic Croquembouche is a pyramid or cone of basically custard filled puff pastries glued together with caramel, decorated with spun sugar, flowers, or chocolate. It is what is used as the traditional wedding cake in France. I have always thought they looked so beautiful and have always wanted to try my hand at it so I was excited to do it!

Making the Pate a Choux (puff pastry) from scratch turned out to be a struggle for me. My first batch was waaaayyyy too runny and turned into egg flavored disks. My second batch turned out perfectly though. I forgot to brush the egg wash over them before they cooked but they still browned nicely, so that is good.

I ran out of the custard before all the cream puffs were filled, but I did have some chocolate whipped cream in the fridge. I ended up using that to fill the rest and they were just as good if not better than the custard filled ones.

Here is what a traditional Croquembouche is supposed to look like:

And here is what mine looked like:

Soooooo.... not quite the same. But it was still delicious! And was more than enough for 7 people for dessert with leftovers.

Here is the recipe as given to us by Little Miss Cupcake:


For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

For Chocolate Pastry Cream (Half Batch Recipe):
Bring ¼ cup (about 50 cl.) milk to a boil in a small pan; remove from heat and add in 3 ounces (about 80 g.) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, and mix until smooth. Whisk into pastry cream when you add the butter and vanilla.

For Coffee Pastry Cream (Half Batch recipe)
Dissolve 1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder in 1 ½ teaspoons boiling water. Whisk into pastry cream with butter and vanilla.

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.

As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.

It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.

Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.

Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces/200 g. finely chopped chocolate (use the finest quality you can afford as the taste will be quite pronounced; I recommend semi-sweet)

Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.

Hard Caramel Glaze:
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place – see video #4 below).

When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate. Have fun and enjoy! Bon appétit!