I (Don’t) Have a Dream.

To follow up with the last Agápē post, here we are with dreams. And, yes, this post is following the same conversation referenced in the last one, because this conversation was long. The car ride was two hours.

Santa Rosa Lavender Festival 2018

Anyways, on to dreams. Do you have one? I do. Actually, I have many, and if you know me, you probably know one of my big dreams—living in France! Forever. My friend, on the other hand, says she’s not a dreamer. And you know what? I think that is ok, too. To dream or not to dream; you have a choice.

There are merits to dreaming. You always want to see what’s next. But there are downsides, too. It’s hard to let dreams die. Same goes for not being a dreamer. I think one of the upsides is that you are more moldable. Dreamers can have tunnel vision and/or an iron grip on what they want. But being moldable gives God the ability to shape you into who he wants you to be. On the downside, it’s easier to be complacent, or maybe resistant to change from “going with the flow.”

Whether you’ve got a dream or not, I think both camps fall into the trap of not expecting God’s best. The dreamers are so white-knuckled on the steering wheel, they forget they shouldn’t be driving; the non-dreamers may have fallen asleep in the back seat. Either you remove God from the equation, or aren’t alert for the next thing he’s up to! I admit, I’m usually white-knuckled on the steering wheel (I also hate driving in real life), but I’ve fallen asleep in the backseat, too.

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Why should we expect God’s best? Because he wants it for us. Although, keep in mind that best doesn’t mean “OMG I’m going to love everything God does and it’s going to be a picnic!” Sometimes, what’s best is really hard. But the good news? God’s going to pull you out of that valley.

That segues into the next post: God will disrupt comfortable.

In the mean time, my goal with these posts is to foster a kind, healthy discussion about what you think about these topics. As long as you are polite and constructive, I would love for you to drop a comment. Do you agree? Disagree? Think I’m missing something? Let me know!

Brioche Pain aux Chocolat

If I were the expert on all things pastry (which I definitely and not), bread would be the ultimate MVP. You can do so much with it, sweet and savory. Pain aux chocolat is an excellent example. I made one batch of brioche, but two desserts- the brioche creams and these. You could also noodle cinnamon rolls, monkey bread, brioche nature, and a ton of other stuff out of one recipe.

Winner in my book!

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Traditionally, pain aux chocolat is made with chocolate batons—literally sticks of chocolate. Alas, I had none, but I did have some Guittard dark chocolate chips, which I’d say worked just as well, as my picky brother scarfed a bun down.

Again, this is Huck’s brioche recipe, but use whichever one you please. I’ve simply found that after testing out a few recipes, this one gives me the texture I’m looking for. It’s soft and airy; light and feathery; other brioche recipes I’ve tried have been a bit dry. France also had its share of dry brioche. I went to a market in Arles where they were selling pain aux chocolat, 3 euros for 10. And gosh golly, it was DRY. I did not finish it.

As for the chocolate, batons are tradition, but chocolate chips are fine if that’s what you have. Dark, milk, in-between; it’s up to you.

Notes

  • As you can tell, I didn’t egg wash these, either. I highly recommend that you do. Glossy buns are just more fun—and definitely prettier!

Happy baking!!

xxx

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Getting Uncomfortable.

This is an extension of an Instagram post. I’m not a super fan of dissertations in the caption box…but I am a fan of dissertations here. Ha.

A couple days ago, I was sitting in the car with a friend. The drive was long, but not tedious. California, as populated as it is, still possess stunning, unparalleled views. Especially in the Bay.

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No matter how nice the view, though, long rides can be at best, awkward, depending on the rapport between passengers. But chatter flowed freely. It was just two friends catching up about life.

We hopped from topic to topic, but mostly we talked about what we had been learning about ourselves. Long morning commutes offer time for deep introspection, if you’re willing to go there. Out of that conversation sprung several points that I mentioned on Instagram, and which I’ll be expanding upon.

The first is that we concluded that we love being comfortable. This has nothing to do, however, with our fashion choices nor our abodes, nor anything else in a material sense. We’re talking about mental comfortability. The stability and safety net a routine offers. Comfortable offers us white-knuckled control over our lives. But you know what? Comfortable is dangerous, too. It never challenges us nor asks us to expect more. We’re on cruise control.

And let me just be upfront here and say I LOVE BEING COMFORTABLE. My grip is like iron and I hate being in any situation I can’t control. But since January of this year, God has been gently showing me how amazing things can be when I loosen my grip to accept what he has to offer.

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That’s not to say being content is a bad thing. In fact, I would rather be content than happy any day. There’s a difference between contentment (which I believe is confidence and joy in where you are at) with being placid. And, this can be detrimental to our walk with God, because we stop expecting him to do great things. What’s worse, we see ourselves as the drivers of good things. Comfortability squashes (healthy) vulnerability and makes God a spectator, as opposed to the director, of our lives. And when we become comfortable, anything that challenges that is immediately threatening—even if it’s good for us.

My friend told me about a podcast she’s been listening to about Exodus and the story of Moses. It’s presented by Reality SF and this series is revelatory. It’s called “Deliverance,” and it’s not just looking at the miracles. It’s a character study of Moses and the greatness and imperfections that came with him. You know what’s nuts? We could all probably see ourselves in him.

My friend recommends “The Call” and “Evil Never Goes Down Easily.” “The Call” specifically talks about comfortability…and why we need to let it go.

Wow, ok. This has been long. I’ll be following this post up with my next point: Dreams.

In the mean time, my goal with these posts is to foster a kind, healthy discussion about what you think about these topics. As long as you are polite and constructive, I would love for you to drop a comment. Do you agree? Disagree? Think I’m missing something? Let me know!

Review: A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

352921Words are perhaps the most powerful weapon humans can wield against each other. They give us the power to love, to hate, to profoundly alter someone’s reality.

In A Fatal Grace, Louise Penny explores the potency of words to craft our own realities, kill others’, and the the brutal consequences of love denied.

As part of the Armand Gamache series, Penny brings the reader back to the quiet village of Three Pines with the murder of CC de Poitiers. The woman has been found, electrocuted, on a frozen lake during a curling match. The culprit may seem surprising, but after reflection, there could be few other suspects.

CC de Poitiers is quite despicable from the first chapter. Vain, self-absorbed, and extremely cruel, she is one of the most nasty character’s I’ve encountered in Penny’s novels. CC has the unpleasant side affect of making those around her nasty, too, and at worse, making them feel like utter garbage.

She lives in her own world; anything she does not like or that does not fit is not a part of her reality. Words are key. The illegitimate daughter of a now homeless vagrant, CC crafts for herself a new identity as the daughter of Eleanor d’Aquitaine, also called Eleanor de Poitiers. In this new reality, she becomes somewhat of a princess in her mind, and words are so important she marries a man for his name: Richard Lyon, a play on Richard the Lionhearted, son of Eleanor d’Aquitaine.

The most central element in the chaos and subplots that ensue is CC’s verbal abuse of her daughter, Crie. Crie– desperately overweight, beaten down by her mother, withdrawn to her self– has a brilliant mind, gifted in science. But no matter how smart, how graceful she tries to be, it is not enough to earn her mother’s regard. Love is out of the question. Crie is a blemish on the world CC has constructed for herself.

When we are so alienating, so cruel, so senseless, it is foolish to expect that there will be no retaliation. Each person has constructed their own reality, banishing those who threaten their security. And sometimes, this fatal grace is the most merciful action.

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Brioche Cream Buns

If you’ve known me for any length of time, there’s a good chance you know that I love Flour Bakery + Cafe, a Boston staple.

In high school, I was introduced to Flour via Joanne Chang’s (the owner) first book: Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe. It was monumental. This book taught me how to make bread; provided one of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes; offers the best muffin recipe of all-time (better than Huckleberry?!); and is downright comforting with un intimidating recipes.

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One of my favorite pastries at Flour is a brioche cream bun. Brioche, pastry cream, baked in the oven? It’s a soft, feathery bread with a custardy center.

Honestly, I actually greatly prefer Huckleberry’s brioche. Some brioches are drier than others, and Flour’s is a bit more so than Huck’s. To make my brioche cream pots, I used Huck’s recipe for brioche and Edd Kimber’s (AKA The Boy Who Bakes) pastry cream recipe, but you can find recipes for both in the Flour book. The pastry cream recipe is easy and good.

Some notes:

  • Don’t forget to egg-wash the bread. It’ll make it glossy and beautiful. As you can see, I forgot.
  • You can make any flavor pastry cream. I did cookie butter! But vanilla, chocolate, fruit, matcha, floral…up to you!

Happy baking!

xxx

Review: Médicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot

23848325Love, duty, war. Princess Maurguerite de Valois finds herself in the middle of all three in this historical fiction novel by Sophie Perinot. As she grows up in her mother’s court, Margot (as she is often called), must navigate the treacherous, sinister world where nothing is as it appears. It is, in a way, a coming-of-age story about a young woman who learns to make her own choices—despite the consequences.

In efforts to win her mother’s (Catherine de Médicis) favor, Margot willingly becomes a political pawn by way of marriage. This is, however, before she falls in love with the charming Duc de Guise, and afterwards, it is a war of the heart. While Margot is eventually betrothed to her cousin, Huguenot Henri de Navarre, Perinot uses this tug-of-war to raise the question, “what would you do for love?”, and “what would you do out of duty?” It is never so simple, it seems, as Margot makes some surprising—and surprisingly daring—decisions.

Perinot also puts the fraught, teetering mother-daughter relationship on display. Often done away with for being a daughter, Margot flits from being accepted and, perhaps, warmly regarded (as much as Madame la Serpente could be warm) to being despised and distrusted. Catherine de Médicis’ favor acts as a central, unstable, ever cruel measurement of her daughter’s self-esteem, and the reader is asked to question how cruel love can and should be.

It is Margot’s courage in the throws of violence to defy everything she once held sacred that truly marks her coming-of-age as she claims her agency and her voice. We are often afraid to take what is rightfully ours, but are surprised when we are bold enough to own it. Love is a wildly powerful thing and not always benevolent. Love is manipulative and conditional, a tool to Catherine de Médici. To Margot, it her one chance to be valued for who she is, not for what she offers.

As the two women and others wrestle with love and war, it becomes clear that the most important thing is love of self. The dependence on others to provide love only hampers, but to see ourselves is to take ownership of who we are. This is what gives Margot the courage to take back her life and, ultimately, perhaps, alter the course of history.

Review: The Little French Bistro by Nina George

32283424***This is the start of a new section of the blog, where I keep my reviews for all francophile reads!!! The regular book blog is still here, too.***

Marianne, wife of a German military officer, has suffered for decades under an uncaring husband when she throws herself into the Seine. Later, after breaking out of her hospital room, she finds her way to Brittany, reputed to be “the end of the world,” and to a little restaurant called Ar Mor. There, Marianne learns to discover what she has for so long missed.

In The Little French Bistro, Nina George explores self-love, renewal, second chances, and adventure, showing that despite past choices, it is never too late to turn around.

Love is twofold in the world George creates. There is external love, given by others. However, there is also a love of self, a permission we grant ourselves to be who we are. Arguably, lack of self-confidence and self-love can be infinitely more limiting than lack of external love. Marianne must learn this as she learns to love, be loved, and give herself permission to take ownership of her life.

At 60 years old, it seems that she has let her life slip away. Her unexplained unwillingness to leave her husband shadows her throughout the novel, but her actions in Brittany attest to the belief that we can always have a fresh start—but that we choose it is key. In many parts of the novel, Marianne is on the verge of returning home, believing that it is impossible to stay and own her life in the small coastal village. But, as she slowly discovers what it means to be alive, she finds her will to commit suicide and her urge to run back to her husband waning.

Through all of the lessons, George still shows that Marianne is very human, and highlights the struggle to break free of our old selves. One of the greatest powers we have is that of choice, and oftentimes it is our unwillingness to make or commit to one that traps us.