How to Visit a French Bakery

Ahhh, France. The Louvre, the countryside…the pastries! It’s hard for me to think about France without thinking about the food. I’ve never been to France, but I definitely have this sort of idealized notion of french cuisine, especially french sweets! This video titled How to Visit a French Bakery perfectly captures all of my french bakery fantasies. Created as a collaboration between Ben and Gabrielle Blair (Olive Us) and filmmakers Tiger in a Jar, the video features three of Ben and Gabrielle’s six kids visiting a bakery in France, where they recently moved. Apparently, the Blair clan packed up and moved to France last year and are currently living in a farmhouse in the french countryside (sigh…).The video itself is beautifully shot and reminds me a bit of a Wes Anderson film. It’s fun and cute and the children are lovely and so well-behaved. If you’re like me and you daydream about visiting a charming little french bakery and eating croissants and macarons, you’re bound to like this video. For more Olive Us videos, click here. ~Erin

Sichuan Chili Salt and Happy Holidays!

It’s certainly been a while since I have been back in this space!  And how I’ve missed it so.  But December being December, there have just been too many things pulling me in all sorts of directions, that I have once again neglected the cozy little haven I’ve cobbled for myself over here.

Work is the main culprit…as I’ve mentioned before, December being one of, in not the most, busiest times of the year for me work-wise.  So that has left me on a hamster wheel of double shifts and late nights. 

December is also little C’s birthday…so we were busy with preparations for that too.  Neither I, nor my budget, have ever been one for big parties (plus I have, since childhood, a healthy fear of mascots and clowns).  Little C, from what I have seen of her in children’s parties, doesn’t seem to be too fond of clowns, magicians, games, or loud party hosts either.  She is more a physical child who enjoys running around and getting sweaty than sitting and (woe is me!) following directions.  So I put myself in her 3-year-old shoes and thought, “what would I want to do if I was her?”.  I went with my gut and booked her favorite play gym for her party and was so glad I did.  Little C, and the few other kids who attended, seemed to have had a grand time!

Between all this, I have had less time for Christmas present shopping and general Christmassy things.  I am, however, happy to report that I did manage to put together some homemade gifts again this year.  Yes, part of it is a repeat from this year(although I have added a few new blends to the lot).  But it’s the thought and effort that count right? 

Spice mixes make great presents in my opinion because they are not easily perishable, are a cinch to make, and encourage the recipient (hopefully) into the kitchen and affords them some freedom and creativity to do with them what they will.  I used this rub from Jen of Use Real Butter, which I’ve already gifted to friends three years ago, the Christmas that Little C came into our lives.  The other mix is what I have quite broadly dubbed as Mexican seasoning, which in fact is the Taco seasoning that I featured in my column in Yummy Magazine March this year.  The third is Sichuan chili salt which I have based on a recipe from Donna Hay Magazine (coincidentally enough from her holiday issue in 2007 – yes, I am a mad fan and have almost all her magazines).


Sichuan Chili Salt
(slightly adapted from Sichuan Chili Salt Prawns, but without the prawns, in Donna Hay Magazine issue #36)
  • 1/4 cup sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes, more or less to suit your taste 
- In a dry pan over high heat, toast the salt, Sichuan peppercorns, and chili flakes for a minute or two, tossing the whole time, until fragrant.
- Immediately transfer to a plate to cool.  Once cool, place in the bowl of a small food processor, or spice grinder, and process until just combined.  A couple of very short whizzes should do it.
- Transfer to a bottle and store in a cool dry place.  Just increase the recipe if you need more.

To get you started, here are some ideas for using the 3 spice mixes I’ve put together:

BBQ Seasoning – Rub generously on chicken leg quarters with a little olive oil and grill or roast.  Add to cooked white beans, along with sautéed onions and bacon, and pop in the oven until bubbling for quick barbecued baked beans.  Rub on fish fillets and sauté, serve with a tomato salad.

Mexican Seasoning – Add to sautéing ground beef for instant taco filling.  Rub on chicken thigh fillets and pan fry, slice into strips and pile onto soft tortillas with salsa and sour cream.  Sauté onions, garlic, and chorizo squeezed out of its casing, add cooked kidney beans and some water, add Mexican seasoning to taste…a cheat’s chili con carne!

Sichuan Chili Salt – Dust some peeled shrimp, chunks of fish fillet, or crab with rice flour and pan fry, when cooked toss with the Sichuan chili salt and serve immediately.  Grill or pan-fry slices of unseasoned pork belly (or firm tofu) and serve with the Sichuan chili salt on the side.  Add some to a vegetable stir-fry.

titleI doubt that anyone out there is as disorganized as I am, this far into December, but just in case you are still stumped for Christmas present ideas…the ingredients for the perfect present may already be in your own kitchen! 

We will be in the thick of holiday celebrations this weekend, and then we are off to spend the New Years in Macau (suggestions for things to see and places to eat are welcome!) with our whole family, so this is most likely my last post for 2012.  I did not want this year to close however without wishing you all a very happy holidays!  Hopefully with the people you love most in the world, and a lot of great food and fun times thrown in.  YOU are a big part of the inspiration that keeps this blog going…so thank you!!  I look forward to seeing more of you in 2013!


Thanks to Think in English blog and all its great resources.



My friends and I are learning the dance to Super Junior's Sexy, Free & Single, so naturally we were watching the music video when we happened, randomly, upon this screen shot.
Picture credit to and SM Entertainment
Isn't it entirely meme worthy?
I was thinking, "Why so serious?", or, "I kill you", would be fun as a meme for this particular picture. I think you folks can probably think of some of your own. Maybe they will be better than the ones I thought up.

MVOTD: Gold Miss vs Block B (Day 258)

And now for two completely different music videos. Gold Miss provides a fun and silly parody with their version of Gee, while Block B relaxes as pirates on the run from gangsters...kind Nillili Mambo. Both incidentally tell a story, but in such different ways.
Gold Miss's story starts off with a fat joke, which is not really the best introduction ever, and includes details like Boys Over Flowers references, a kleptomaniac(sic) creeper shop keeper, and marriage to a barely legal SHINee. They include what seem like lots of pop culture references from 2009 and throws money around lots. And while this doesn't sound entertaining, trust me, it can be.
Meanwhile, Block B start off in Vietnam, with Zico of the bad haircut mysteriously not being killed for monetary reward. Block B's storyline has great big gapping holes which are actually entertaining in their lack of logic and is nicely sequential. I especially like the chicken scene. The video adds to the song, and the song adds to the video. However detractors include the issue of Zico's hairdo, scenes which subtract from the video, and the token sexy woman of no dignity as required in gangsta' music.  
If you know the pop culture references in Gold Miss's Gee, then the music videos are about the same quality. If not though, Block B's Nallili Mambo wins with its slick camera work, nice colour saturation levels, entertaining plotline, good costuming, and catchy tune. The awkward dating/marriage/baby jokes of Gold Miss are still great, but as a parody aging decreases its enjoyability. Block B's Nallili Mambo moves onto the second round.


The Mixing Bowl: Crème brûlée by Marina Ekroos

This is the first ever “proud mama” style post that I ever written here on dessert girl. It concerns the hugely talented photographer Marina Ekroos and her new cookbook, Silmänruokaa (Visual Recipes). You may remember that a couple of years ago Marina contributed a Mixing Bowl recipe for chocolate macarons that was one of our most popular posts! Well, as it turns out, making those macarons really inspired and encouraged Marina to do more recipes and continue working on her concept of single shot recipes. For those of you who are not familiar with Marina’s work, her photographs capture the development of a recipe (ingredients, process, finished product) in a single frame, so that you get a complete recipe in one image. How cool is that? She now has an entire cookbook filled with gorgeous photos, including the macaron recipe that she created for dg, and I couldn’t be prouder! It was such a treat for me to see a dessert girl recipe in a real live book and I’m so happy to hear that Marina’s experience here was a good one. The finished product is really lovely and even though the recipes are in Finnish, I would still recommend checking it out. The photographs alone make it a great coffee table book.

To help celebrate this momentous occasion, Marina is back, sharing with us her delicious recipe for crème brûlée (see image at the top of this post), which is also featured in her book. I'm so excited that someone is finally tackling crème brûlée for this site! There is something so fun about a dessert that you have to crack open. Who doesn’t love the feeling of whacking the hard, caramelized top of a crème brûlée with a spoon? It’s such a satisfying feeling, almost as if you are excavating a cave wall, on a search for buried treasure. It’s also a great dessert for this time of year. Quite wintery and wonderful! And the perfect way to impress your friends this holiday season.

You can find the complete crème brûlée recipe after the jump. For purchasing info on the cookbook, along with information on how to buy limited edition prints from the book, click here. Thanks, Marina! ~Erin

**If you need help converting the measurements, click here for a nifty conversion calculator.

Crème brûlée (adapted from Silmänruokaa, Visual Recipes, translation by Marina Ekroos)

2–4 portions (5-inch shallow heat-proof dish).
½  vanilla pod
4 dl cream
5 egg yolks
1 dl sugar
2 tbs cane sugar

1. Heat the cream together with a split vanilla pod. Let it cool and spice up, meanwhile…

2. Separate the egg yolks.

3. Whisk the egg yolks together with sugar so that it dissolves.

4. Add cream. Do not whisk too much, to avoid unnecessary air in the mixture.

5. Pour the mix into the dishes. Heat the oven to 300F.

6. Cook the crème brûlées in a water bath (bain-marie): spread a sheet on the bottom of a casserole, then put the brûlée dishes on the sheet. Pour boiling water into the casserole, so that it surrounds the dishes. When everything is in its place, put it in the oven.

7. Observe the consistency of the puddings and make sure there is enough water throughout the cooking. Take the brûlées out from the oven when they have reached a pudding like structure. This takes between 30 and 60 minutes.

8. Let the crème brûlées rest in fridge for a minimum of three hours, preferably overnight. Just before serving spread some cane sugar on the surface and caramelize the sugar in order to create a hard layer.





Here you've got lots of activities from this great webpage angles 365. Click on the plant and write its name: holly. Lots of fun! Enjoy yourself!

Razões porque estou tão feliz.

A café where everything is delicious. 


Lisbon Xmas decorationz.

o Gremio do Carmo

Brigadeiro (chocolatecaramel) Cake and a flat white.

Rua do Carmo

an old coin shop

a stairway leading to a

huddle of sofas, bikes and art magazines.

Jazz tooting, rocking horse swinging, brownie crunching. This is without doubt the best place to drink coffee in Lisbon.

I give it 5 estrelas (5 stars)

MVOTD: TVXQ vs David Bisbal (Day 257)

Today's competition, TVXQ's The Way U Are versus David Bisbal's Ave Maria, is yet another example of two superheros fighting each other. Or maybe just two videos of similar quality competing. Both are quite cheesy and include transitions that make the heart warm. Oh, completely random transforming scenes, how I do appreciate thee.
Both The Way U Are and Ave Maria include all the important music video items: catchy songs, great dancing, interesting costuming, and various absurdities. That's why they provide such a conundrum. Watching just the first 30 seconds, David Bisbal would have won by well, about a mile or 1.6 km because he starts off so well. However, watching the whole thing, the music videos are about the same. Definitely a 49.75% versus 50.25% situation. (This is where the begging begins) That's why I need your help. I don't want someone to win when they are so close in quality. Therefore, if you don't want David Bisbal to win by a chin hair, let me know. Or, if you want him to win by a reasonable margin of error, also let me know. I originally wanted input into who wins anyway, so...if commenting works and you feel so inclined, go for it.
If there are no comments by the time the second round begins, David Bisbal shall win by the chin hairs on his chinny chin chin, and I shall only feel mildly guilty because I gave the denizens of the interwebs a chance.

MVOTD: NSYNC vs David Bisbal (Day 256)

The tight races continue with NSYNC's It's Gonna Be Me competing against David Bisbal's Como Olvidar. Even though Mom numbered the competition randomly, it feels like similarly themed videos are going up against each other. First there were the two space themed videos and now there are two videos which feature, of all things, a pool party.
While I had forgotten how awkward early David Bisbal videos were, what with all the romantic rolling around, watching his video again reminded me of my great affection for his dancing. It's just so good. Almost as good as NSYNC's dancing even. Or maybe even better...
One thing that was for sure was that Como Olvidar and It's Gonna Be Me ran a tight race, as seen here. 

NSYNC - It’s Gonna Be Me
David Bisbal - Como Olvidar
Toy theme

Spy theme

Crashing a pool party
Creepy hair
Cheesy dancing
Lack of logical sequences
Super Check
However, since David Bisbal's song was more serious (well, not really, but it felt that way) the music video is more watchable, and therefore mildly superior. David Bisbal's Como Olvidar advances to the second round.

MVOTD: TVXQ vs Hangeng The Review (Day 255)

When I set my allstars against each other, I got Mom to randomly write out the numbers. That way it would be truly random. Therefore, imagine my shock and dismay when TVXQ's Balloons was set up against Hangeng's Kuang Cao, for surely there was no competition between the two. I didn't even have to watch the music videos. I knew Balloons would win, because Balloons is amazing. Even watching Kuang Cao to the sounds of Woodkid's Iron wouldn't make up for it.
Here's the breakdown.
That about explains it. Balloons is so embarassing and adorable that it makes its competitors explode. Not only that, but Jaejoong gives a kid a dirty look and looks uncomfortable the whole time. It's just too delicious. TVXQ's Balloons goes onto the second round.

MVOTD: Armi Aavikko & Ilkka "Danny" Lipsanen vs NSYNC the review (Day 254)

I want to make these reviews short and sweet, mostly so that they actually get done, but also for you the reader. Here's the comparison of Armi Aavikko & Ilkka "Danny" Lipsanen I Wanna Love You Tender and NSYNC's I Want you Back.

I Want You Back
Armi Aavikko & Ilkka "Danny" Lipsanen
I Wanna Love You Tender
Space theme
Bad cheesy dancing
Slightly better cheesy dancing

Preppy college sweaters

Slightly awkward costumes
Superior use of technology
Super low v-neck with chops

Gratuitous use of extras

Awkward song to sing out loud

And thus, I Wanna Love You Tender wins. NSYNC may have better dancing and a more nolstalgic tune, but Armi Aavikko and Ilkka Lipsanen has a space car, amazing tunes, and cheesy slow completely random dancing. Armi Aaviko and Ilkka Lipsanen go on to round two of the all star competition.


Henteco Cookies

Do the Japanese have cute down to science or what? I can't get over how adorable these cookies are. It's crazy!! They would make great stocking stuffers or party favors for a child's birthday. Unfortunately, for me at least, they're only available in Japan, at a bakery called Henteco, which, as far as I can tell, means "quirky" in Japanese. Please let me know if that's not correct! If you live in Shinagawa in Tokyo, I would recommend heading right over there immediately to see these in person! For the rest of you, you can click here to check out the cookies in more detail. ~Erin

You can find more Henteco pics after the jump.

MVOTD: TVXQ vs Hangeng (Day 255)

The allstars really do compete in this one, although I think TVXQ has a trump card in Balloons. Hangeng's Kuang Cau versus TVXQ's Balloons.
Now remember to watch Kuang Cau while listening to Woodkid's Iron.
Review hopefully to come.


Marian worked with us a new topic: the body.
Primary 4 learned about the senses and they used two of them, the taste and the smell.
Primary 5 and 6 drew what Marian said to them. It was a special dictation, and very funny too.

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Everyday I'm sh(n)uffeling.

It is cold as a witches tit in Lisbon.

 One has to be resourceful to keep warm in this harsh environment.

Youtube + dancing with Neymar = better than an electric radiator 

He also does classics such as, 'Ai se te pego' and 'Gangnam style'. Guilty pleasures and survival tactics combined.
Magic. Obrigada Neymar. 

Apple tree

Like many other Portuguese explorers before me,  I have made it my goal to go about 'discovering'.


These trees in Graça looked like they were holding hands. Graça is almost touristless. I love it. It is Alfama's less  slutty sister, the Scarlett Jo to Alfama's Natalie Portman.

Whilst winding vines snare the creeping backstreets of Lisbon's oldtown,  Alto dos Moinhos, my suburban paradise, is home to a TROPICAL forrest.

Ahem, incorrect climatic descriptions aside, it is truly a forrest. Once inside, tree tops swallow the city and all you see are the dancing forms of tall white trees. Their layers of peeling silvery bark make them look as if they are taking part in a woodland striptease. 

Who better to sum things up? Erykah Badu: partial to public stripping and tree appreciation. 

MVOTD: Armi Aavikko & Ilkka "Danny" Lipsanen Vs NSYNC (Day255)

Welcome to December. For December I decided to make all the Month End Review winners compete against each other. Today's A-list competition? Armi Aavikko & Ilkka "Danny" Lipsanen I Wanna Love You Tender versus NSYNC's I Want You Back.
Review to come.

MVOTD: Month End Review (Day 253)

Movember finally ends. All you folks who were tortured by greasy mustaches can now be tortured by the winner of November's Music Video Of The Day, but you know, tortured in a good way.
 The candidates for November are;

Big BangBlue
DBSK/TVXQSurvivor (Japanese)
Miss AI Don't Need a Man
Psy, featuring MC HammerGangnam Style
Younique UnitMaxstep

People who will obviously not win: Big Bang because their video was boring, Younique Unit because they failed to include Max in Maxstep, and Boyfriend because they told me I'm not a Batgirl.
Now that we have taken out the people who will not win, it is time to consider who might win. TVXQ or Psy might win, that's who. Miss A put together a great song and good music video, but it's about as hard to defeat a bad TVXQ music video as it is to deny that Psy has world reknown. Therefore, TVXQ's The Way U Are head to head against Psy, featuring MC Hammer.
And the winner is...
they both win. Oh how this messes up December.