Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Cat's Life

The face of a killer.

There are no screens on any of the windows here, which means that all sorts of winged insects fly into our flat whenever we so much as crack our windows during th summer. Ew. Fear no more, killer cat is here! Casper loves nothing more than chasing a fly around our flat, and he's getting disgustingly good at actually catching them. I've had to pry flies out of his mouth (gross,gross,gross!), and I found a fly the other day with its legs pried off and resting a few inches away. So it turns out Casper's a sadistic killer. Seems about right.

I'm actually pretty happy about the fly chasing since that's about all the exercise he gets.

Don't be fooled. He just sits there. And he obviously looks extremely bewildered by this whole exercise notion. Cause most of the time, he's doing this...

That's right, he's managed to gnaw a hole through his bag of food to make himself a little snack hole. The diet is not going well. Sigh.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ten Days of Bread

Intermediate term may be over, but I'm still going to school every day as I volunteered to assist with the ten day course on Boulangerie.

The days are pretty long, around 8 hours or so, and my body is getting used to just spending all that time on my feet. I'm pretty wiped by the end of the day, and J's been taking care of dinner by bringing home Chipotle every night. Thank goodness, as I don't think I can look at another loaf of bread! The students make so much bread each day, there's usually a mountain of leftovers at the end of the day. I was gleefully stuffing my face with croissants in the first few days, but now I can't bear to eat another crumb of the stuff. I'm so glad the course is over, I don't think my waistline could've taken much more bread!

Today is my last official day at Le Cordon Bleu, and then I'm taking some time off to travel and attend some family weddings before returning to finish my degree. It'll be nice to be able to wear nail varnish and jewelry again, and staying out of the hot kitchen during summer is pretty much a no brainer. I am definitely not going to miss the uniforms and the awful hat that seems to shrink with every wash. Either that, or my head is growing bigger.

However, I'm going to miss my classmates. I think there's a special bond that forms when you all start on the same journey together, and I'm kind of sad that we won't be finishing it together. But I still live nearby, and I'm already planning on lots of informal visits to see what they're up to throughout the term. I guess it's just as well, as our original group finally got split up into two separate groups, so I guess it wouldn't have been the same anyway. But it's still a bit saddening to watch them continue on their journey without me, but I've been promised invites to their big afternoon tea that they throw as part of their class and to the graduation ceremony.

I'm also going to miss the chefs a ton. I can complain that the administration of the school isn't great, but the chefs are absolutely amazing. Not only are they extremely talented at what they do, but their love of teaching also shines through. They all have their own distinct personality, and each of them are hilarious in their own way and make learning pastry much more fun and less stressful than it could be.

I'm hoping they invite me back to assist for them, even if I'm not a student at the moment, and it'll also give me a chance to hang with my favourite porters. The porters work incredibly hard for ridiculously long hours, and I don't think the students understand how hard these guys work for us to make our kitchen a more comfortable place for us to work in. So a big, heartfelt thank you to them, and to everyone else at school who made it so much more fun than I ever thought it could be!

I'm not feeling too sorry for myself, since we're adding a new member to our family! She's joining us in July when I get back from LA, and I can't wait!

Many more cat adventures to come!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Intermediate Term Is Over!

It's been a crazy week, but I've managed to make it through somehow. It's been busy what with exams, selling our condo, and getting tested for my laser eye surgery.

The practical part of my exam went pretty okay. I thanked my lucky stars that we got the opera, woohoo! It's supposed to be the fastest cake, but also the most technically difficult. I've done better operas at home, but I think the one I did for the exam was enough for me to pass. I didn't start studying for the theory exam until the day before, and it turned out that none of the things I studied were actually on the exam. Doh! But I filled more blanks than left empty, so I'm not kicking myself too hard over it.

After the exams were finished, we got a taste of what to expect from the superior term. One of the chefs demonstrated the making of a chocolate box with tempered chocolate, and the end result was beautiful.

I'm almost tempted to give it a go, but maybe after I've recovered from exams.

We had the last few classes to decorate the fruit cakes that we had made earlier in the term. The chefs have been feeding them rum on a regular basis, and I tasted a bit of it. It tasted better than I thought it would and reminded me a lot of Christmas spices with the dried fruit and rum. It is, however, hard as a rock and quite dense.

In any case, we got to work on decorating. We had two technicals demonstrating how to decorate using flowers, but I just could not get the hang of it. I squeezed and rolled the same piece of paste for two hours before producing a few pitiful looking petals and giving up. I think it's become a mental block dealing with those fiddly little things, and I'll get to practicing again when I no longer feel like putting my head through a wall.

It was just as well that my cake didn't call for flowers, and I chose to do a stained glass inspired cake instead. I ended up taking the cake home to do a bit more work on it, and Casper decided to help by tasting my food colouring dust. I think I laughed for twenty minutes straight before I finally got back to decorating my cake.

I finished my cake just in the nick of time at the last practical, although there were some finishing touches that I would've liked to added. I was piping like a madman for the last thirty minutes or so, but I was actually pretty pleased with how it turned out! The chefs were also really complimentary, and it made my stone cold heart all fuzzy and warm inside.

It's hard to believe that intermediate term is officially over. Especially since the current plan is to take a break during summer and return for the autumn term. I'm maybe reconsidering that plan since the chefs told me autumn is going to be manic busy and super crowded. Ugh. I can't imagine the locker room fuller than it already is. That's one thing I'm definitely not going to miss. But I will miss my group and hanging out with the chefs. But it's not goodbye, just see you later, especially since I live so close to school, and I'm planning on volunteering regularly for the short courses. In fact, I'm volunteering for the boulangerie course that's scheduled to begin on Wednesday! 

Some of the other girls are leaving as well, but are actually leaving the country, and everyone got together for a dinner at the Savoy to say farewell. It's the sad part of being one of the few that actually lives in London. Pretty much everyone else is from far away, and it feels odd to feel like you're being left behind when school comes to an end.

Some of the girls got me flowers since I won't be returning for Summer term, and I'm going to miss going to classes with them. I really can't imagine being part of a funner group.

But I've promised to visit them lots over summer, with the cats and champagne in tow!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Funny Hair and Serious Studying

The best thing about being blonde is not being blonde. I've been cycling through the rainbow, and I think the purple could be my favourite. The girls at school have been making requests, and it looks like turquoise is next! People at work haven't batted an eye at the uncorporate colour, which I see as tacit permission to sally forth.

Don't worry Mom, it'll be a human colour by the time I'm back home. I'll try, anyway.

I have a day off today, which means chores, chores, and cakes! Laundry is nearly finished, which means it's back in the kitchen for me. I feel fairly confident about the Fraisier (minus the royal icing piping), but I get a bit wobbly about the Alhambra and Opera. I don't really like practicing the Alhambra just because I don't think it tastes very good. I don't want to eat it, and I don't feel right about giving someone a cake that I don't think is that good. But I've decided to just do the damn thing.

Let's just say I'm no longer a fan of roses.

It's getting to the end of term so I thought I'd get the chefs a little token of gratitude for everything they've taught me thus far. J and I ended up going to Harrods food hall, and I'm never going back. The service is great but the place is an absolute zoo and heaving with tourists. We couldn't get out of there fast enough! I didn't feel so guilty about taking J there since we also stopped by Bar Boulud for their amazing burgers.

Exams are only a week away, and I feel like I haven't prepared as much as I did for the Basic exam so that means buckling down for the next week and studying and practicing. I guess I couldn't deny my slacker nature, but fingers crossed that I'm still good at cramming!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Desk Jockey and Care Packages

Going back to the office for a short while turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It opened my eyes to the realisation that I can actually never return to sitting at a desk and working on a computer. I'm so much happier running around a loud and hectic kitchen, and I was never that good at sitting still anyway. 

And office clothes suck. It's impossible to walk fast in a pencil skirt and heels, and I'm usually in a hurry to get to where I'm going. It's not like it's pleasant walking around in underground tunnels, and people in the City won't hesitate to trample you if you don't speed it up. I remember thinking Londoners walked so damn fast when I first moved here, but four years later, I get upset at people for walking so damn slow! I honestly get the pedestrian version of road rage.

We only have one demo this week and work is currently on hold until Wednesday morning, which means that I should be spending the time off practicing the exam cakes. I've already made the Fraisier and Opera at home, so it'll be the Alhambra next. The timing works out pretty well since J promised his boss that I'll make something nice for his birthday this weekend and I like to think I'm helping J's career prospects with my cakes. 

In other news, I received a care package from my oldest BFF, whom I've known since we were seven! She's just travelling the world and fighting to end sex trafficking, no biggie. And she still makes time to remember to send me all my crazy little obsessions from Korea. In case you couldn't tell by now, she's amazing, and I'm so lucky to count her as my friend!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

All for Show

It was good while it lasted, but the recent heat wave has given way to some schizophrenic weather which included thunderstorms and hail! 

I think both Casper and I are glad of the cooler weather since he has a fur coat he can't take off, and I'm usually in a hot and busy kitchen with no air conditioning! The air pollution also seems worse on the hot and humid days, and allergies I never had before I moved to London start to act up like mad.

We had to temper chocolate on one of those hot days, and it made it near impossible for our chocolate to set. I felt like I was working much slower than usual, but my chocolate centrepiece finally turned out just in the nick of time! Luckily, I got it graded before I broke the ears off, and a friend held up the lopped off body part while I took a snap.

Now that we're back to the regular gloom and rain, I'm pretty happy since it was much cooler in the kitchen while we scrambled to make our first plated dessert in a while. We made a chocolate fondant with orange and caramel sauce with a sugar cage. The last time we plated anything was back in Basic, and it was encouraging to see how far we've come in such a short time.


And now...

The technicals are still quite fun with lots of tasting going on...

The soufflé technical...

And chocolate tasting!

We tasted 17 different kinds of chocolate to try to figure out the bean, country of origin, chocolate solids content, and roasting method. The bad part was that the class began at 8am, and I don't feel like eating anything at that hour, let alone gobs of expensive chocolate. And white chocolate tends to make me gag. 

As if I wasn't busy enough, I agreed to a lawyer job for the next two weeks since there is a lull in scheduled classes for school. And I'm a teaching assistant at school on Saturday. Basically when I'm not at school, I'll be at work. And if I'm not at work, I'll be doing laundry at home so I have clothes to wear to school and work. Oh, and I have to remember how to walk in heels again so I don't fall on my face at the office. But I did say yes to all of the above, so it's time to buck up, shut up, and walk the walk (in heels that I finally took out of storage).

Monday, May 19, 2014

Casper on a Diet

Casper just had his first birthday! He wasn't so keen since it meant it was time to go to the vet for his booster shots! He was remarkably calm during the whole thing, even though he was surrounded by dogs!

It's been quite eventful lately, but we had time to squeeze in brunch with my cousins and get an update on their upcoming wedding in Colombia! I'm so excited! And we got to eat Js favourite, the Welsh rarebit, at the Wolesley.

And as always, I've been baking up a storm!

I've been sharing the goodies with Js office mates, and one of them was kind enough to buy us a bottle of Constantia wine. I was super excited as I'm a huge Jane Austen nerd, and she mentions this wine in Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen knows what's up, the wine was delicious!

J had to go to Chicago for a quick work trip, and I was supposed to tag along, but I was dreading the thought of a long flight so I ended up cancelling. Oops. Besides, I was busy in the kitchen the entire time he was away. I ended up making birthday cakes for Js colleague, which gave me a chance to practice two of our exam dishes. The third was a Black Forest cake that I just had to make since the birthday boy is German.

I was in school for the majority of the day on Saturday as one of the chefs asked me to assist during one of the short courses for breakfast breads. We basically had to make sure the students had the right equipment and ingredients for each of the dishes they had to make, and I was insanely jealous since we have to do that for ourselves during our practicals. They also didn't have to wear our super stylish uniforms.

It was the first time in a long time that I spent so much time on my feet, and my legs were dead by the end of the day. Despite all that, it was a lot of fun, and I was really flattered that the chef asked me to assist. In fact, I'm assisting for another chef this Saturday for a different short course. I feel like I'm getting a complimentary appetiser plate of Le Cordon Bleu classes!