The next step

October 6th, 2008, by Francesca

A week of been busy doing nothing: trying to catch up with admin chores I have no hope of getting caught up with any time soon… spending my birthday worrying and cleaning up after Pipie who was sick for a few days (he's all better now after getting fluids, shots, pills, antibiotics and a special diet)… baking focaccia with a new recipe that must have had a typo in one of the ingredient amounts, and a bunch of other uneventful non-stuff. Oh yes, and some sudoku and solitaire playing… something I hadn't done in ages. I guess I needed some time off from anything real.

But I'm back now. Yesterday, Ben and I had a pow-wow to discuss our short- to mid-range plans. Nothing set in stone, just some general guidelines for our immediate future which will include me getting back to web development while I try to learn more about bread baking. Talking of which, there may be an internship at a local bakery sometime soon, if things work out.

cheese rolls

With my feet up

July 3rd, 2008, by Francesca

Finals are over and school is on summer break, a whole week off before my next classes: Baking and Pastries 1 and Math 202.

I really needed a few days without deadlines after the previous two weeks, what with the dental work, massive doses of antibiotics (ten days of unpleasant side effects aggravated by the ban of alcohol), and finals. And if that wasn't enough stress, my liquid/soft diet has to go on for a month. How come they didn't tell me that *before* the surgery? But all's well that ends well; I am back to my glass of red wine with dinner and enjoying being lazy. I had had unrealistic expectations of myself in terms of all that I would achieve this week, but it's okay to shift to a slower gear every now and then.

I'm learning from the master.

So, what's going on chez tantarobina? You mean, beside eating gelato and crème brûlée?

For starters, last week I received a care package from my mother – the first food package ever since I've been in California – containing a bottle of excellent olive oil and one of aceto balsamico tradizionale, the real thing. The combination has prompted a renewed interest in mixed salads and we've been having quick summer lunches with just mixed lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, various cheeses, bread and red wine. And really, if I don't touch the stove for another few days, I won't miss hot food. If you've never had good balsamic vinegar, you should add it to the list of things to do before you kick the bucket, along with eating white truffles, visiting Portugal, buy a winery, and all that.

Other than catching up on some non-school stuff and getting back to a web development project of our own (as opposed to work for hire) that's been neglected for too long, things have been pretty quiet around here. Fortunately, tomorrow we'll have a couple of guests and that'll liven things up.

Oh wait… we've had some interesting visitors already!

A mama raccoon and her two babies spent almost twenty minutes outside our French windows downstairs feeding on loquats fallen from a tree, playing with each other and having a grooming session.

Raccoons are my favorite animals around here and it's always a treat to see them, especially at such an uncharacteristic time.

On the culinary front, I've been researching the perfect croissant recipe. Croissants are one of my weaknesses and I have to learn how to make them. Baking & Pastries 1 will include a croissant making day, and I sure hope they taste better than those in the school café. The recipe on the school's handouts includes lemon juice, an ingredient not mentioned in other recipes I've come across, including two versions of the famous Pierre Hermé croissants. Anyone has insider information or opinions on that?

Given that Pierre Hermé's croissants have been decreed the best in Paris, I am inclined to go with his recommendations… as soon as it's less hot and I can face the intense process involved in making those little love handle builders, that is.

Only in LA

May 19th, 2008, by Francesca

Friday night we celebrated the end of my first term by going out to dinner and, in true LA style, we ate Cuban in Little Tokyo. Gotta love LA… where else could we do that?

Before dinner, we stopped at Kinokuniya to indulge my love of all things Japanese. A girl's gotta have just the right school supplies, don't you agree?

I always need refills for my favorite quaderno (notebook). I love the way this spine opens.

I also got a new, smaller notebook. Even though all our school handouts are in US 8.5" x 11" format, I like to take my notes on smaller paper.

After an uneventful dinner at Cuban Central (tiny, anemic and overpriced drinks and okay food), we noticed the signs of another restaurant from the parking lot. Three languages in one sign: English, Spanish and faux Japanese.

The writing in katakana is a clumsy phonetic transcription of English words that reads roughly: Mekishikan shiifuudo & baa. I'm guessing it means Mexican Seafood and Bar. Maybe we'll decide to live dangerously and try it out next time.

Caught in the act

April 13th, 2008, by Francesca

Do you recognize this blur?

kitty blur

I had barely heard the lickety-lick sounds and headed towards the kitchen that he had already jumped on the floor and dashed out of sight. Pipie can be very quick when life is at stake.

He ate half the skimmings from my chicken stock and has been licking himself for the past 20 minutes. I guess the stock scum is sticky.

still tasting the chicken

In case you wonder… I keep the digital camera handy at all times in the kitchen now.


March 31st, 2008, by Francesca

Well kids, I do have our next mini Italian lesson almost ready for you, but I got this nasty cold that's taken away my voice and I can't record the audio files. But, I've been stuffing myself with cough syrup, a sickeningly sweet Chinese herbal concoction, various kinds of cough lozenges, honey and you name it, it's in my system, so I have good hopes that I will get enough of my voice back to record a few words before the week is over.

Tomorrow morning I am scheduled for an Accu Placement test at school and I have no clue about it. All I know is that it's a 90-minute test on math (insert colourful Italian expletives here), plus reading and writing quizzes. Oh well, no sense stressing out about it, right? Besides, between being groggy with the cold and medicines, I've also being in the zone listening to Portishead's Third, which is as close as I'll ever get to being stoned. I am sure this is the best way to prepare for tomorrow's test.