31 October 2008
I'd already decided that i was going to start learning German by September 09. I actually wanted to start it next semester, Jan 09, but I decided to instead take another French class and continue with that. I want to have a stronger control of French before I deviate and forget everything, like I did with Spanish. Their website isn't done yet, but from what I've peeked at, I love it! This time, instead of a french animal love triangle, it uses characters from grimm's fairy tales in a modern setting. And I love love fairy tales. I really enjoyed using francais interactif, so I know for sure I'm going to love the heck out of Deustch im Blick! And once I master German, I'll return to Spanish! I love how happy languages make me.
26 October 2008
Project #1: Make Macarons. (again).
My ceramics professor once said, the absolute worst thing for a student who is firing their kiln for the very first time is for it to go perfectly fine. Because the student does not truly understand or learn how a kiln functions - the small tune ups, adding air, reducing air, coaxing the flames in certain areas - you only learn these subtle things by trial and error. Which is why although I was overjoyed when my first attempt at macarons were a success, I really didn't learn a thing. It definitely made me overconfident, and I only began learning after my 2nd, 3rd, and now 4th and 5th attempt. Hopefully by attempt #10 I'll get to know these finicky things more!
Project #2: Make Creme Brulee
I had a ton of leftover egg yolks. What to do with them? Oh... I also had no flour either. So I decided to try and make creme brulee. However, i also did not have: ramekins, giant roasting pan, torch. I did, however, have sugar, whipping cream, and vanilla extract. So I followed this recipe using some glasses meant for drinking and a round shallow cake plan. I didn't let it bake long enough and so my creme brulee didn't set completely. So the top tasted fine... just not the bottom. But i'll devote another day to creme brulee, this was just something to try to use up those yolks.
Project #3: Make Mayonnaise
Another attempt to use up all those egg yolks, I was going to make mayonnaise! Inspired partly by my French teacher last semester who seemed aghast when nobody in the class knew how to make mayonnaise ("it's very very easy! you just mix some eggs, some mustard, some oil" pssh, i say to that!) and by a lovely book I bought in France called Mon cours de cuisine : Les basiques 80 recettes illustrées pas à pas. It's a beautifully illustrated book with step by step photos, and I just love the layouts and design. The very first recipe was making mayonnaise, so i decided to start with that.
Conclusion: 3 things that did not got as plan! Perhaps due to lack of planning. Well, definitely due to lack of planning. Lots of things learned that won't be repeated next time, and now I'm determined to make a good batch of mayonnaise as well as return to my glorious first time perfect macarons!
25 October 2008
really uncomfortable when those scales scratched my throat.
Now, this I remember! These toasted bits of bread are served as bar snacks to keep you drinking - but I had them for lunch instead because they are cheap at about 1.50 euro a piece. They are bite sized, and are just sprawled out for you to pick. The one on the very left is radicchio and gamberetti, which according to google is some sort of leafy green and shrimp. They were all delicious!
Antica macelleria gastronomia Rosso di Rosso Alessandro. If you ever find yourself on Burano, have a wonderful sandwich here! They are located at Via S. Mauro 19, 30146 Burano (ve), TEL. 041730022. And aside from the food being delicious, the people there were so down to earth and happy to talk! I think being away form all the tourists of Venice also made me enjoy Burano so much.
Conclusion: Did you notice... no gelato!? Don't worry, I did eat it, but I wanted to show other yummy things from Venice! I wanted to try as many different things as I could, and that's not hard to do when all the windows have something delicious looking. What I miss most, however, is that little store on the island of Burano.
22 October 2008
I took French for the first time last semester. And then I studied it on my own throughout the summer and up until now. I knew for sure I had mastered and learned everything in 2nd semester French, but I needed to prove it so I could take the third semester. So, I took the French placement test, and 65 dollars later I neverously waited for my results. What if I didn't even place out of beginning French? What if this was a huge waste of time? Is it even possible to skip classes? I felt like out of place when I took the test with a bunch of freshman who had taken years of it at high school, after all, what was a senior doing taking a placement test? I got my results back... and I placed out of the first four semesters of French.
I didn't mean to do that.
I only wanted to skip one semester! Not three! It didn't seem plausible that I could possibly be ready for 5th semester upper division French, and I thought to myself that something must be wrong with this test, it was too easy and put me too far ahead! I decided to go talk to the French undergraduate advisor. He basically confirmed what I feared... that based on my test scores, i should enroll in 5th semester French. And if it was too hard, then to drop it and enroll in 4th semester. But that I definitely did not need to enroll in 3rd semester (which was my original plan.)
After that I went to speak to a professor who was teaching 4th semester, I trekked to his office and asked for his opinion. He said he couldn't really judge me yet, and that his only concern for me was writing since the placement test was entirely multiple choice. I mentioned I had penpals I wrote to, and he said if I sent him a writing sample he'd be able to judge better.
So, I sent off an email that contained as many grammar points as I could fit without interrupting the content of the message:
Je suis l'étudiante chinoise qui vous a rendu visite hier, lundi
après-midi. Je ne peux pas vous montre une lettre que j'ai écrite à ma
penpal parce que j'écris toutes mes lettres à la main. Donc, je vais
vous écrire une nouvelle lettre. Je sais qu'il y aura beaucoup
d'erreurs, mais j'espère qu'il est possible que vous puissiez
déterminer mon niveau plus précisément. La semestre dernière, j'ai
appris un peu de français et je l'ai aimé beaucoup parce que le
français a ouvert des portes et des fenêtres culturelles pour moi. Et
après la fin de cours, je continuais mes études français durant mes
vacances quand j'ai décidé que les langues étrangères étaient devenues
mon autre passion. Je pensais que mon passion était seulement les
arts, mais en ce moment j'ai deux passions dans la vie. (Peut-être
j'ai trois passions, parce que j'adore aussi les pâtisseries! Des
gâteaux, des macarons, des tartes - le style raffine du pâtissiers
français m'intéresse!) Je ne veux pas oublier tout ce que j'ai appris.
Je pourrais écrire plus, mais je ne pense pas vous voudriez lire un
Quel niveau est-ce que vous pensez que je devrais prendre?
Merci beaucoup d'avoir pris le temps de me parler.
A plus tard,
PS: Je dois admettre que je consulte le dictionnaire souvent quand j'ecris.
PPS: J'espère que vous passez une bonne journée!
And I received this reply:
J'ai lu avec intérêt votre lettre. Oui, il y a quelques petites erreurs, mais je pense qu'elle est suffisamment bonne pour vous permettre de vous inscrire dans le 320E pour le semestre prochain avec d'excellentes possibilités de réussite. N'ayez donc pas peur: vous êtes bien préparée pour votre entrée dans la "upper division!"
! I'm reassured more now that an actual professor believes I am ready for upper division. I still feel nervous over the fact that I'm skipping so much... but if a placement test and two people believe I am ready for 5th semester French, then ready I will be! And my favorite part about his letter is from the first sentence: avec intérêt. With interest. My letter was interesting to him! And that's just a reminder, as important as grammar and correctness is, content and idea is always more important. It gives your work heart and appeals to people to actually want to read what you want to say.
I've taken one accelerated Chinese course, which covers two semesters of Chinese in one semester. And I am currently in the second level accelerated Chinese course, which also covers 2 semesters. So when I take Chinese next semester... i'll be taking 5th semester Chinese. Isn't that a funny coincidence?
I never ever thought I'd be taking 5th semester French and Chinese at the same time, during my last semester of college! It's going to be challenging but I am so excited to pursue these two passions of mine.
20 October 2008
17 October 2008
I will probably never again see these envelopes and letters once I mail them, but that is the beauty - Once I send them off, they begin their own journey. Whether they end up in the trash or treasured forever, I don't mind not knowing.
I think personal touch is missing in our hectic modern lives, and I love the slowness of every step in writing and reading a letter.
The simple pleasures I love, in no particular order.
1. buying the stamps at the post office
2. having to calculate the postage and make it exact with various stamps
3. looking at stationary and deciding what to get
4. writing with a pen
5. peeling the stamp / licking the stamp
6. sealing the envelope
7. dropping them off into a mail box
8. sitting down and writing
9. receiving a letter!
10. reading the letter - i savor each moment, never rush it
11. signing my name once i finish writing a letter
12. folding the paper in half to make it fit into the envelope
13. deciding what color pen to write with
14. writing the date on my letters
15. seeing the stamps that the postal services add to the envelope
16. writing in a different language
16 things that make me happy from one simple task!
A good penpal website I use is Interpals. Just make you use common sense when deciding who to be penpals with. It's just like any other online community, but I've found some gems through it!
12 October 2008
Everything pictured below (warning, lots of them!) happened in December 2007. I've posted some of these photos on flickr, and wrote a shorter entry on my (now defunct) vox blog, but I figured they deserved a proper rewrite.
Attempt #1. Confetti Cakes by Elisa Strauss, p.53
I actually tried to make the sugar cookie dough for my first attempt, but it was a complete failure because the recipe was misprinted. The recipe called for 4 cups of flour, which I thought was odd, but I followed it blindly... only to not have a dough at all. I did some googling and the publisher has a note online about it being 2 cups of flour. Relieved that it wasn't me, but frustrated because of wasted time, I decided I wasn't going to attempt to make any more cookies until I got the icing down. However, don't let that misprint make you avoid the book! It is beautiful, especially the stacked cookies, which were extremely influential to me later on.
Attempt #2. Pillsbury Sugar Cookie Dough
Slice and bake! After attempt number 1, I needed a break from making dough.
If you decide to do this, do it when it's still warm before the cookie hardens.
At this point, I'm still learning how to pipe the icing so my lines are pretty uneven and shaky.
I then decide that I want to skip the whole baking process and continue my focus on icing, so I bought the cheapest pack of cookies I could find at the grocery store. The cookies themselves tasted nasty, but it's okay, it was all for practice.
I had another roll in the fridge, so I thought I might as well use it up. This time, I rolled out my dough, then refrigerated it, then cut it out, hoping it might reduce the poof. It didn't. Only later did I realize that no matter what I did, it would always spread because the dough contained baking soda, a leavener that helps the cookie rise. Or, unwanted help in my case.
You can't really tell any of this stuff immediately as it looks fine, it's when it dries that you realize what's wrong. The white icing had too much water, so when it dried, all the water left with barely any icing.
In this cookie, once you fill the cookie with one icing, grab another runny icing and make some stripes. Then use a toothpick and run it the opposite direction to manipulate the direction of your lines.
Attempt #6: Beautiful Cakes & Cookie Craft
For my final attempt, I used two different sugar cookie recipes just to play around with.
Attempt #6a. Beautiful Cakes by Peggy Porschen, p.118
After being kind of discouraged by my previous efforts, I saw this book at Barnes & Noble and was inspired again. Beautiful cookies, cupcakes, mini cakes - tons of inspiration! I loved how in one recipe, she decorated the cupcake holder, not just the cupcake itself. Visually gorgeous.
The cookies were okay, seemed to have little taste. However, they kept their shape beautifully.
Sugar cookie ingredients:
Unsalted Butter - 1.75 sticks
Sugar - 1 cup
Large Egg - 1
All-Purpose Flour - 3 cups
Vanilla Extract - 2 tsp
Attempt #6b. Cookie Craft by Valerie Peterson & Janice Fryer
I also love this book! It is a visual delight to flip through. I first saw it at BookPeople, my favorite bookstore, and bought it a few days later. It is full of ideas to inspire you, and tons of random cookie tips as well. I love how they use simple shapes and simple lines to create really striking designs (that's too many s's right there..) And the illustrations are too cute. It's a great book to get you thinking about the different ways you can decorate a cookie.
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Unsalted Butter - 2 cups
Sugar - 1 cup
Large Egg - 1
All-purpose flour - 3 cups
Vanilla Extract - 2 tsp
The only difference between this recipe and the one above was the extra 1/4 stick of butter + 1/2 teaspoon of salt... and what a difference! These cookies had a richer and more delicious taste. But to be nit picky, they had more shrinkage than the Beautiful Cakes (#7) recipe. Not enough to make me care though, just something a noticed. But these definitely tasted the best. I', not sure if it was the extra butter or the salt, but the tastebuds definitely knew something was different!