Strawberry Shortcake Cake

My niece Rayah turned one yesterday and for her birthday party I made a Strawberry Shortcake cake. The bottom layer was eggless chocolate cake with buttercream icing and the top was strawberry layer cake with buttercream icing. It is covered with marshmallow fondant. The cupcakes were also strawberry.
I loved Strawberry Shortcake as a kid so this was a really fun cake for me to make.
The birthday girl is not a sweets fan, but she ate my cake! :0)

Paris Part III

This will be the final Paris post you have to suffer through. I am trying to hit only the highlights, but we did take over 400 pictures!

The Sacré-Coeur has to be another favorite attraction we saw. You can't take pictures inside but it is breath taking. The ceiling has a tile mosaic of Jesus that is beautiful. Similar to the Notre Dame it is equally majestic on the outside as it is on the inside.Mass was going on while we visited and we were able to sit and listen for a while.
The Sacré-Coeur was built in 1875 as a monument of Government Moral Order as a reflection of the national yearning for spiritual renewal after the Franco-Prussian War. The most humbling aspect was that someone is praying in the church 24 hours a day and has been for 125 years! It is a living church and glorious building.
Musée d'Orsay seemed small in comparison to the Lourve but was just as amazing. I learned I like sculpture and impressionist art the best. We saw some of Van Gogh's and Monet's most famous paintings to name a few.
After a hard morning of sight seeing we needed a little relaxation by the pond in the park. Love this about Paris! They provide reclining chairs.

Then we were off to the Place de la Concorde.
The 3200 year old obelisk was from the temple of Ramses II. It was given to Louis Philippe by the Viceroy of Egypt and installed in 1836.
At the North and South axis of the obelisk are two fountains. One represents the harvest of the river and the other the harvest of the sea.
I am thinking I need a fountain now too. :0)
We walked across Pairs' two most famous bridges.
Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris, and Pont Alexandre III, the most beautiful.
Pont Alexandre III was built for the Universal Exposition in 1900 to allow visitors to cross the Seine river easily between attractions. It is decorated with intricate lampposts, cherubs and nymphs. At each end stand two huge pillars with gold statues.

The French really have an eye for beauty and grandeur.

A view of the Grand Palis from Pont Alexandre III.
Pont Zero - the point from which all distances are measured in France. I would have loved to know how many miles we put down while we were there. We tried to see as many of the top Paris attractions as possible before going to work and our feet took the brunt of it.

This was such a wonderful opportunity for us. We haven't been alone on a vacation that long since our honeymoon. Before we left I wondered if we would run out of things to say since we can hardly get a complete sentence in at home and if we do, it is usually about the kids. We traveled well together and really enjoyed this special time even though we missed the kids so much.

Working with Max was a delight and made me miss my professional side. Hopefully once the kids are all in school full time we will be able to work together more. Paris is indeed a romantic and magical place that we will never forget.

Male Bonding

I interrupt the Paris series to bring you some important breaking news (at least in our house anyway)! Yesterday Apple released a Netflix app that allows you to stream videos on your iphone. While we were in Paris Max tried to see if we could do this. After seeing the Louvre in person, we thought it would be fun to watch the Da Vinci Code. Unfortunately this app wasn't available until yesterday. Max was as giddy as a kid in the candy store. While he showed it streaming to each of us, he didn't get quite the response he was hoping for until he showed Hank.Hank watching Thomas via web streaming.
Pretty nice picture and resolution. Just think airport layovers.
Finally someone who understands him. They watched Thomas together happy as two peas in a pod. Never mind a giant TV is available just feet in front of them. Nope, they would rather watch it on the iphone.

Paris Part II

Spending so much time at the Louvre meant we had to try to fit in as much as possible for the remainder of our free time. I felt like we walked, rode the bus, and the metro all over Paris. Their public transit is remarkable if two non French speaking people and one incredibly directionally challenged person could navigate the city so well.
The Arc de Carrousel is the central axis on the Triumphal Way. Behind it is the Louvre and in front is La Defense. The other two larger arches are the Arche de la Defense and the Arc de Triomphe. Napoleon commissioned it to honor his victory against Austria.
The Place Vendome has a column in the center of the square that commemorates Napoleon's huge victory in 1805. It was made from 1200 cannons taken from the Russian and Austrian armies he conquered. The reliefs are scenes from the Napoleonic Wars and Napoleon's statue is on the top.
Of course we couldn't visit Paris an not see the Eiffel Tower. Max got some really nice shots. I guess it is hard not to. It was amazing to us that this was originally planned to be a temporary building for the World Exhibition in 1889. Temporary? Are you kidding me? I see the French like to do things large, but this was unreal. We were also delighted to learn the engineer behind the Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel, was also responsible for the frame of the Statue of Liberty.
We thought we were so fit since we had just done the triathlon that we would take the stairs. From what I can find, it looks like we did about 1,600 stairs up to the second level. We were both sore the next day. Not so fit after all. :0)
Top of the world.
Public displays of affection are almost as prevalent as wine in Paris. We fit right in.

We walked nearly 10 miles seeing sights. Our next stop was down the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe.
Too bad I didn't have the time or money to spend.
The Arc de Triomphe was also commissioned by Napoleon to honor the generals who served in his victories.
The detail was exquisite.

The history and beauty of the major landmarks in Paris has piqued my interest in visiting the east coast to see our famous historical landmarks. It is a pretty high bar to be compared to.

Food in France

Not having to plan or cook for a week was one of the best parts of this trip! Max and I rarely eat out and if we do, it is usually drive through fast food. Relaxing and enjoying meal after meal was a wonderful treat for us.
There were little stands near each of the tourist spots that had sandwiches and creps. We frequented these for lunch a few times. Some of the gardens had ponds with reclining chairs to take a little break and savor the moment.
I had to try the Louvre chocolate pyramid cake. We ate lunch at the Louvre and I had the fanciest ham and cheese sandwich with espresso and cake of course.
I am determined to make creps like these. They were unlike anything I have had. Delicious.
Fondue. The Melting Pot should visit Paris for some tips. Like serving you twice as much for the same price. :0)
Max enjoyed the maximator beer with it's 11.6% alcohol. Tasted pretty skunkie to me.
Crack an egg over it! Yep, that is a pizza with a fried egg in the middle. Max was in heaven.
In France cheese has a section of the food guide pyramid to itself, and it is the bottom tier. We had cheese for breakfast, cheese for lunch and cheese for dinner and often dessert. The doctor we were working with treated us to the most amazing cuisine every night. His expertise about the region the food was derived from and his advice was priceless. If Phillipe is a representation of the French, they are incredibly hospitable and kind.
A breakfast only the guys could stomach.
Thanks to Phillipe I tired raw oysters (again, a once in a lifetime experience) and nearly every part of the duck including its liver. Surprisingly was the many ways they use pork. One night there was a forearm and hoof deep fried, another was the entire cross section of a young pig's thigh and deep fried intestine. The sauteed epiploic fat was deemed "too special" for our first trip to France (not too bummed about that one). It is a wonder to me how the French stay so thin with the way they eat.

I will always remember eating in Paris. Phillipe and Stephan really expanded our pallet and showed us what food means to the French. Every evening was at least 3 hours of dining if not 5. By the end of the week I was having trouble keeping up with these two. We would finish eating near midnight and be up to go to work by 7. A little different than my normal 8:30 bedtime. What a wondrous time we had eating and drinking thanks to these two.

The Louvre

I have to apologize for the abundance of pictures but this was a ONCE in a lifetime trip and I hope to record some of what we saw and how we felt.
Our next day we dedicated mostly to the Louvre. The art within in the architecture was as amazing as the art on the walls. We walked at a steady pace all day, only to stop at pieces that really caught our eye and we still didn't manage to see everything. The sculpture was by far our favorite area. The ability of the sculptor to put so much emotion and softness into marble left us in awe.After seeing ceiling after ceiling with gorgeous murals, I am thinking I need one in my bedroom.

How about that rail Pops? Think you could install one of those in my house?
The only place I think this chandelier could look appropriate is in the Louvre.
It was mind boggling to be close enough to touch art works in the 100s of millions of dollar range. This was Napoleon's sword and crown.
The Mona Lisa. While she doesn't impress me the way other pieces do, I must admit it was pretty incredible to see her in person.
The Winged Victory of Samothrace was stunning. She represents the ideal woman: powerful, beautiful, free and strong.
Aphrodite of Melos was created around 100 BC. I really enjoyed reading about some of our favorite pieces. I learned she is constructed of two pieces of marble and they are joined where her skirt falls so it appears it is one seamless piece.
Michelangelo's Dying Slave. I saw Michelangelo's art close enough to touch! This was one of Max's favorite pieces.
The Satyre and Bacchante are rumored to be that of the sculptor Jean-Jaques Pradier and his mistress.
The tenderness in Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss makes you want to be in love. This was my favorite piece. The emotions that the sculptors are able to invoke were profound.
The Louvre is so large it even has giant sculptures from the Egyptian period!
We spent a lot of time in the sculpture gardens. These Captives were remarkable. Max appreciated the craftsmanship with metal.
I loved this sculpture of Pyrrha. I learned she was the equivalent in Greek mythology to Noah's wife. Deucalion and Pyrrha built an ark and were the only survivors of the flood Zeus sent to punish mankind for their wicked ways. They repopulated the earth by throwing stones over their backs. Here she is with four of her babies. :) Gee, can't imagine why I liked it so.
As the day wore on, I seemed to find something that connected me to the kids with each piece. This horse bust reminded me of Hailey.

Cupid reminded me of Karlie.
This one reminded me of Kaitlin.
This little guy, Engineering Afflicted, made my heart ache so badly for Hank, I had to restrain myself from cuddling the marble statue. I later learned he is crying because he represents a funeral, not because he misses his mama. By the end of the day, I was missing the kids deeply.
We spent 8 hours at the Louvre. I could have easily spent a week. At times I felt like a mouse in a maze. The Louvre is over 650,000 square feet and houses almost 35,000 pieces of art! It was so massive, I don't think it is possible to see every piece in one day. It was a lovely day together at the Louvre. Since we hadn't done enough walking, we were off to see The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and the Place Vendome next.