Featured

HOWDY!

I am so glad you are here and I can’t wait to get started on this culinary blogging trail; one woman’s journey of exploring her French roots in Northern Michigan blended with a lifetime of adventure in America’s wild, way out west–Wyoming. As a child, growing up in Michigan, somehow I just knew my life would always revolve around horses, music, Wyoming, food, faith and family.

My 4-H leaders, Kimmer and Marla,  enrolled in the equestrian program at a community college in Northwest Wyoming. After two years, they returned and filled my head with big, wonderful horse stories. I vowed then and there (age 13) that I would be heading out to Wyoming someday.

Forty-two years later, my dreams fulfilled, horse trainer, musician, wife, mother, cook and writer, I am ecstatic to share my wild, western windblown life and eats with you.  So, tighten up your cinch, buckle on your spurs, and brace yourself for family and French cuisine, cookbook reviews, photos, fireside tunes and tales–Wyo-cowgirl style. (Don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of motherly (and wifely) secrets and advice along the trail as well.) Saddle up, Missy,  we’ve got a trail to blaze!

Addy at Irma

Me and my girl Blue Dover Boon…aka: Addy– out in front of The Irma, Cody, Wyoming spring, 2016

Heritage

Recently, there was this lady so excited to hear that I have a blog!

“Do you keep up with it and blog regularly?” she inquired.

Sadly, my reply was honest admitting that alas, I do not. It’s not that I am lazy and avoiding my blog page. I find blogging enjoyable. Quite the contrary.

It’s just that I have not sat down since February! And the sweet girl in this picture is one of the main reasons why. My beautiful, first granddaughter. Isn’t she just a peach? We are all so taken with her. She is six months old now and fills our days and hearts with more love than should be allowed.

Lunch with Grace

Also, I have been baking. From croissants to breads, cakes to tarts and back again… boy, have I been baking. This next pict is a recent birthday cake (chocolate raspberry with chocolate ganache,) for a man in our community who turned 88 years old just last week. I’ve always said I am going to live till I’m 88. I’m sure I will! He was happy with his birthday cake.

Party Cake

This next photo is of… drum roll please… my new commercial bakery space!! Yay for me! Yay for Cody which now has an official European bakery to supply folks with wholesome, artisan breads, pastries, croissants and sweets. Construction Man built it for me this summer up at our ranch and it was inspected and approved by the health inspector just a few short weeks ago. Wholesale orders are coming in and the farmers markets are going strong. We are currently looking for a downtown store front to provide a place for people to shop for all their future baking needs. Fresh bread for every family–now doesn’t that sound just right?Bakery

And lastly, this purple petunia photo is the reason for the word ‘heritage’ a’top the page. My husband’s grandmother, Betty, is my grandmother too. She passed away several years ago and is terribly missed by us all. A delightful, talented woman, she always made me feel special and loved within our family. Needless to say her favorite color was purple. From shoes to clothing to decor, everything was purple. She was a fabulous quilter and many of her quilts were–you guessed it! Hues of PURPLE!

As I was rolling out more croissant dough early the other morning I felt as if I belonged to a much bigger picture. It was as if all of those older women who have gone before me, rolling dough for family and friends, were very close by as the same sun peaked over the horizon.  I reasoned that this rolling pin in my hands, (which was Gramma B’s,)  the sweat on my brow, and this huge, antique wooden table laden with flour, were drawing me into a warm and wonderful society of caregivers, a heritage of cooks, bakers, and keepers of the home that simply loved what they did. A complete circle of life and love that encompasses me too.

I can hear them gabbing in the kitchen:  Grandmother Lily, Grandma Claire, Grandma Betty, Grandma Nan, Grandma Jean, Grandma Marg sharing, solving the worlds problems over a table of floured dough. And now… Grammie Diane!  I’m so joyful to be included in such a prestigious group of talented, amazing, loving, giving women. I hope to run the race well and see them again, my cloud of witnesses. Of course and thankfully, Grandma Nan is still in her kitchen making cream puffs for my daddy. Love you Mama!

What’s been transmitted or acquired to/by you from your predecessors? What do you possess as a result of your natural birthright? What is your heritage? I hope you can look back fondly and feel the love of a good grandmother, mother or caregiver surrounding you. If not, my door’s open. My arms too! I’m a grandma now you know with plenty of love to share… and sweets galore.

Saddle up missy! We’ve got a trail to blaze!

Love yous.

Diane

Gramma B's purple petunia

Use Your Words

I have never had a problem using my words. I’ve always been quite the expressive girl. Two words come to mind:  Drama Queen. It’s not my fault really. I love words and was raised by a very colorful father who was quick with a joke (still is today!) or quip, or cuss word to sum up every situation. Being the third child I was squeaky and learned early on that class clown wasn’t a bad thing. Whether they were laughing at me or laughing with me didn’t really matter to me. Due to my sensitive nature, most times it felt like they were laughing at me… well hell, I was laughing at me. But so what? They were laughing and I have always enjoyed the laughter of folks and also watching people eat. I was born to please people. Yep. I am a people pleaser. There. I said it. Now I’ll get over it.

It would seem that the best way to deal with this hoarding of words buried so deep inside my soul is to expel them. You know, vomit. Puke them out… and in no certain order with no rhyme or reason according to my husband. My being a little ADHD, he sometimes has a hard time keeping my attention. I am so taken with flying things, shiny things, smells, leaves, feathers, bugs, clouds and sounds. I can scarce take it all in and so it creates these words that arrive with each emotion or senses overfilled.

Only recently have I found that you can attach ‘feeling words’ to such inner activities. Like hunger, anger, frustration, joy, sadness. I guess that’s called maturation– rather than just acting on these feelings being provoked by my surroundings. But I like acting. And it gets the laughs as well.

We went and saw Rocketman last night. It is a movie/biography of Elton John’s life. I never knew. I am flabbergasted. I found it to be quite raw and quite sad. There are many parallels into all of our lives if we choose to be honest. How can one person be so exploited right before our very eyes for so long and that we would not be privy to his pain. I have ever enjoyed Sir Elton John’s music and taken it into very deep places on my journey. I have the utmost respect for this man and I hope the rest of his life and that of his family can be lived in peace and great love.

The interesting part of yesterdays activities was that I took the day off from baking to go to a local songwriters festival in a nearby town. There were great songwriters there from Nashville and this was to be their masterclass for ten of us. I had signed up and paid my money to get schooled. And boy did I get schooled!  I thought it would be in the construction of lyrics and chord progressions, not in the ways of my unsteady heart. I honestly think I am too old to be learning such huge life lessons but apparently not. The questions were posed:  What are you goals? Why are you here? Where are you going with this? What will you do next? What can we help you with? Any questions? Why yes, I have questions now. But I do not think you are as equipped as my therapist to answer them.

YIKES!! I was only prepared to go and have some fun and soak in the presence of others within my craft. Scalded (perhaps too harsh a word) was more like it. I got soap splashed  in my eyes and wondered why I drove home crying. Really? I am too old for this shit! (Use your words, Diane. I thought that’s what I was doing!) Hopefully,  you also have these meaningful conversations with yourself.

I cannot put into words, even after a night’s sleep, what was all mixed up in a day of trying to sum up my life’s musical pursuits and exhaustedly watching Elton in his musical pursuits trying  to kill himself– twice in the course of two hours. (Don’t worry.  I’m not comparing myself to Elton John. I don’t hold a candle in the wind next to that guy!) Obviously he lives… not to spoil the end of the movie for you, but talk about emotions and shiny things, feelings and flying things, bows and flows and angel hair and ice cream castles in the air. My mind is still reeling trying to find my footing again. Songs, songwriters, fame, fortune, unfortune, Bernie Taupin, Hollywood, The Trubadour, Nashville, name dropping, striving, looking for love in all the wrong places, Blake, Justin, Miley, Honky Tonk, get back honky cat…

Then Construction Man, not to be confused with Rocketman, has three simple words to sum up my musical career.  Ready? Here it comes…

ENJOY THE GIFT

Let me reiterate:  ENJOY THE GIFT

What? He goes on to further explain that upon hearing me sing my songs and clumsily play my guitar (clumsy is my word–not his) he knew we were connected for life. That is what drew him to me. The magical peace in my talents that put his mind at ease and gave him rest inside.

Since that time and over the course of 40+ years, I have played and sang to many folks. Namely my children in utero and onward, encouraging them to play guitar, piano and sing out loud! Nowadays I play to an audience of one. Well two. God and Grace. My baby granddaughter… another gift and not only in name. She loves to hear gramma sing and watches my hands carefully as I bang away on the ole, cracked, resonant Guild. It’s a privilege to introduce her to Carole King, John Foggerty, Hillsong, Matt Maher, Janis Joplin, Jesus Christ and Bob Seger, to mention a few. I include the King of kings in this list because He was numbered with the trangressors elsewhere, and because He is music… and He writes the songs! Sorry Mr. Manilow. (You should trying being inside of my mind…)

Anywho. Bless those around you because you can and you already do. Stand strong and tall. You are right where you are supposed to be. Live, dear friends. Live life. Laugh, love, cry, fail and get right back up to live another day. You are not alone. We are all in this together. One big traveling show…

Now, I have a huge bowl of Cranberry Walnut bread dough risen and ready for scaling. Then it’s off to the oven where it will fulfill it’s duty baking to a crusty, tender, flavorful loaf of yeasty goodness! Don’t forget the butter.

Saddle up, missy! We got a trail to blaze.

Love you.

Diane

 

Fresh

As I strolled the ranch this morning the strange scent of unfermented, tonic, well… fresh dew in the dry Wyoming air filled my nostrils with memories of another place and time.

I’m fourteen again. Riding my palomino mare trail-wise through our 40 wooded acres in Northern Michigan; my Aussie/Collie Pete follows behind keeping a watchful eye on me.  The mossy, thick, humid air is an everyday occurrence for this little girl– always, always, always being outside. Why I’d rather take out the trash and feed the dogs than do those dang dishes, dust, or any other household chore! Much to my mother’s dismay, I’m sure.

But today, today as a much older woman, (I’m a grandmother now you know!) the mountain air brings nostalgia and newness. (The sense of smell has such power over the memory.)  My mind goes to an emotionally overwrought place that’s seems too much to bear. Bitter sweet memories of all those places and people left behind and loved ones long gone on ahead of me. The aches, pains, laughs, wrinkles, hours, days, weeks, months…years take their toll and roll on by.  Troubled thoughts are comforted with sage wisdom of the best forthcoming as I tromp through the long wet grasses soaking my barn shoes and pants halfway up my shins. In reflection, the  boundaries have indeed fallen for me in good places. This nagging guilt of living the best of times will not encroach upon the freshness of a new day.  I am grateful. I am thankful. I am at peace.

“Today a new sun rises and we start again.”     French Proverb

The sun did rise again today… right on time. Today I refrain from my daily baking activities. Today I catch up with my ordinary life. Today I breathe deep, over and over, come what may:  old memories to reinforce my essence, or inhaling the new cookbook next to my chair. The new Mary Jane’s Farm magazine also awaits my attention.  And of course there will be laundry… always laundry!

My husband, Construction Man, has begun building on my commercial space for the bakery. Again we tried for a location in town, and again it fell through. Oh well. There is a plan and it will all come to fruition–just not in my way or time frame. But again wisdom says enjoy the journey and do not force such things.

So for now I bake for the farmers markets, private parties, individuals, weddings and family. This brings me great joy seeing you all eat and enjoy my art. Thank you for supporting me and causing me to take ahold of my purpose and passion. After all, it is in the shelter of one another that we truly live.

Now, saddle up missy! We got a trail to blaze. Hope to see you out there.

Love yous,

Diane  #culinaireclaire

Where French meets West!

 

Claire’s French Bakery

bakery logo

As many of you know, I attended The International School of Baking last April. Since my return I have been on a dead run to try and establish a good, old fashioned French bakery including:  artisanal breads, croissants, pastries, tarts, cakes, pies and cookies. These things take time!

In May and June I baked at Cody Coffee Roasters, leaving there to sell my wares at the Big Horn Basin Farmers Market and providing cakes for birthdays and weddings. All my endeavors have been highly successful as people are truly beginning to enjoy my bakes. During this time we have been searching for the right location to open our doors and provide our area friends and family with the highest quality baked goods possible. Much to our dismay, the first building we decided to move forward on had too many complications with the electrical standards required. Ideally, if we are going to renovate at such a cost, we would like to own the building… not just lease. Keeping our eyes peeled and our ear to the rail we continue our search.

This last month has found me to be traveling and doing only birthdays and weddings, (which require a great deal of time and effort,)  along with some oven repairs, and most recently a bout with flu! (Are you kidding me? I really don’t have time to be sick!) Needless to say the farmers markets have been few and far between. My apologies to everyone. I thank you all for your business this summer. It was so great!!

I continue to bake my Wild Wyoming Sourdough and Russian Peasant Rye along with other popular goodies that private parties are ordering. Please feel free to call me with all of your cravings and baking needs! I will be traveling a bit, but will keep you up to date on my baking schedule. With the holidays approaching you may need some scrumptious breads, rolls, Buche de Noel (Yule Log Cake), croissants, French macarons, Christmas cookies, pies and tarts.

Again, thank you for your business and your hopes for Claire’s French Bakery to open real soon!

Saddle up, Missy. We got a trail to blaze!

Love you.

Laborious Chores and Such

As a mother and wife of 36 years, I have compulsory, built-in, labor intensive chores almost daily. I say almost daily as our house is empty nested and has been for a few years now.  Young mothers will not believe this, but if you are blessed and have done your job well, your children will fly the coop someday and you will only have yourself and hopefully your spouse to care for and clean up after.

There will always be four, no, five laborious chores that will need tending to for the rest of your days, guaranteed! These chores are “characterized by or requiring care and much attention to detail; exhibiting excessive effort, dullness and lack of spontaneity. (dictionary.com) I mean, how many ways are there to clean the toilet, sinks, countertops, and wipe up the floor? But, somebody’s got to do it, right?

  1.  Making that toilet bowl sparkle– I’ve always been a big fan of Comet cleanser. I suppose it’s because my mother used it when I was a kid and she still does today. However, I do like that Lysol spray w/ bleach, followed up by the antibacterial wipes for the rim, seat and floor beneath the throne. The joy truly comes the next time you use the commode. So fresh and clean!
  2. Dusting– We’re talking tv’s, bookshelves, knick knacks (defined as small worthless objects; especially a household ornament.) Not to neglect the tops of kitchen cabinetry, the refrigerator, your computer and window sills. The joy comes with the killing of spiders when you disrupt their nests in various hidden corners of your nest. (Fact:  you are never not within three feet of a spider.) Not to mention the tv and computer screen seem clearer… brighter, somehow.
  3. Taking out the trash– it’s magical really. (My hens certainly benefit from cleaning out the cupboards and refrigerator, but old condiments, mystery bowls of gunk, wrappings, cereal boxes, and general waste fill my trash bin.)  The garbage man comes right on schedule every Tuesday! I am grateful for those that collect my trash. I try not to have copious amounts of trash… but sh-t happens.
  4. Doing dishes– I do love me a sink full of hot, soapy water. I love soap and water. Did I mention I love soap and water. (I knit those old fashioned dish cloths, out of utter frustration and hyper activity, and I just love soaking them up and wiping down my  counters with hot soapy water!) But really! With two people in this empty house how do so many dishes pile up? None the less, the bonus is getting up in the morning to an empty, clean sink to start again.
  5. Folding laundry– I don’t mind washing clothes. It’s easy. The river is just out back and I keep the washboard by the door for a quicker get away when the temps drop below freezing. I don’t even mind hanging them out on the line to freeze dry in the winter, which is only eight months out of the year around here. But seriously, how many times, ways and tedious hours can be spent folding the same articles of clothing? The upside is you only have you and your hubby’s to do now–not three little girls who changed their clothes every hour all day long for eighteen years.

All joking aside, I am quite happily privileged to do such tasks in this lifetime. My life could have turned out so differently. I must declare, I have been blessed!  I am thankful to have a bathroom complete with running water–hot and cold. I love a toilet that flushes and works so magically and consistently. (I love soap!)

Dusting only emphasizes that I have extras. I have been given much. I love books, pictures of family, memorabilia of simpler times when the girls were little, and knick knacks that spur memories of beloved family and friends. To dust all of this keeps me hopeful and reminds me to watch out for spiders!

Taking out the trash keeps it real… really. I realize how blessed we are to eat food everyday, even if the packaging is ridiculous, and to pray for and help those who cannot afford to eat wholesome meals.

Again, doing dishes brings forth a grateful spirit. Dirty dishes means I ate and drank that day. Plus, I love dishes. I have a few sets and add to my collection regularly. I reassure Construction Man that I truly use everyone of those bowls in that cupboard!

The illustrious folding of the laundry is my weekly reminder that I am spoiled with such clean, warm, flattering habiliments with which to cover my nakedness. Plus, I get to pray for that person as I fold their shirt, that the Lord would bless their heart, make their shoulders and arms strong for the tasks at hand on the day they wear that piece.

There is good all around us. Especially in the mundane, laborious chores of each day. May you find joy today in your laboratory?!?! (That’s funny because laboratory, lavatory, laborious… oh well, forget it!)

Saddle up missy, we got a trail to blaze!

Love you.

A Dream Being Realized

I have to keep pinching myself and try to stop smiling so broadly as my cheeks are beginning to ache!

Because of my dear peeps of whom I derive my essence, my being, my determination to move forward each day (and you know who you are), I ventured out. All the way out to Bend, Oregon and the International School of Baking.

With the first four days of school under my belt and copious amounts of bread flour under my fingernails, in my hair and stuck to the bottoms and tops of my shoes, I am well on my way to that bakery I have always dreamed about.

Quote

Who knew what a little flour, water and salt could do for the insides of this girl? I have always known that horses, dogs, and wide open Wyoming spaces healed my soul everyday of my short life, thank you Jesus, and now this!

I have been planning for months with the thought of some sort of culinary program in my future. I had heard of the International School of Baking in an article I had read of a doctor in Torrington, WY that attended this school to fulfill a dream of a family bakery. I read this article a few years back and then could not remember the name of the school. I searched the internet numerous times and could never come up with it. Then last December it simply popped up on my computer screen. The very school ‘The Bread Doctor’ attended. I gobbled up the web site’s information and quickly dialed the number. The director, Marda Stoliar, answered immediately. She informed me she was on her way to Torrington, WY  that very moment! WHAT? I told her that Construction Man and myself would try to get there as soon as we could to meet with her, see Ezdan’s bakery and sample his wares.

We jumped in the car and headed to the east side of the state. The meeting went spectacularly and from that moment on most conversation between the hubby and me has mostly encompassed the logistics of a bakery in Cody, WY.

Fired up, I have been non-stop baking up a storm practicing my pastry and bread baking arts. My sourdough starter has had quite a work out and it looks like increased, grand fermentation is in it’s very near future!

I left home on the third of April and had a very good day of travel. All flight connections, the rental car and the weather cooperated well enough to land me in Bend, OR at a nice, quiet lodge just outside of town.

The very next morning I was off for my first 8-10 hour day of doing something I truly enjoy… baking!

We braided Challah, 1 over 3, 2 over 3, 5 over 2. Marda, my teacher, believes you must create large quantities of each item. Number one reason- for practice, and secondly to begin the mindset of a real bakery setting where many loaves, muffins, etc. are made and sold daily.  Not to mention the fact that in a real bakery setting you are always doing more than one project at a time. So in addition to this, we fashioned English muffins, an apricot glaze, and sponge for the next day’s bread. Before I knew it, the first day was under my apron strings! (Literally… 🙂 munch, munch, sample, sample) With aching feet, a tired back and a smile that couldn’t be squelched, I fell into bed quite early.

The second day went just as well creating a Black Peasant Bread, Olive Focaccia dusted with Fennel Pollen, bagel make-up for next day cooking/baking, and almond tart dough to place in the freezer until further use. And of course sponge for more bread. Thinking ahead, preparation and planning is the name of the game. Just like in training horses one step builds on another. No wasted motion. Moving forward, sometimes teeny, tiny baby steps… but still moving forward.

And so it went for two more days. Creating, baking, cleaning, eating. Eating. Eating. Did I mention eating? A friend texted me and asked if I was going to gain weight at baking school.  I asked if she would still love me if I did. She replied, “only if you share!”

Today I rest and go have a look around this magnificent town of Bend. Many coffee shops and breweries. The landscape is wooded. Quite a contrast to the dry, rocky region I call my Wyoming home. There is much rain thus far and early spring flowers are coming on. The Deschutes River is beautiful and it smells green and alive here.  I certainly miss my family and walks in the early morning around the ranch. Ahhh… springtime in Cody, WY… meadowlarks and red wing black birds singing away. Green grass poking through the sleepy, brown pastures.  NOT!! It’s snowing and in the teens right now.

Ranch in Snow

My homesickness won’t last for long as fast as these first days have passed. I will be home in no time baking, planning, ordering, renovating, and praying for these plans of whipping up my French roots in cowgirl boots! Operation, french bakery. Oh me, oh my, what an adventure!

But as for now, I need coffee.  I’ll keep you in the loop here in Oregon.

Saddle up, Missy! We got a trail to blaze.

Love you!

Butter Tarts From the Motherland

Wheat Honey Pecan Bread and TartsRustic Pecan Butter Tarts

Today we celebrate the humble pecan. Although when paired with brown sugar and butter, these Three Musketeers comprise one of the tastiest, delectable, gooey, caramel-y treats to ever grace the palate! Eaten warm with a dollop of whipped cream, melting and pillowy, my life has been changed forever. This is not even to mention the crispy, buttery crust that simply adds that golden brown crunch to every bite.

And then the bread! What does one say about a Whole Wheat Honey Pecan Loaf? Doesn’t the name speak for itself? Tender crumb, doused with butter and a chewy crust baked brown to perfection. The honey comes through with just a hint of sweetness and a pinch of salt enhances the ensemble. Oh, and have I mentioned butter? (just kidding!)

My grandmother on my dad’s side was French Canadian, my grandfather on my mom’s side was French Canadian. I have tasted butter tarts in my dreams. I am made of brown sugar and butter. After all, they say we are what we eat… and today, this was the breakfast of champions.

This same savory crust that encapsulates these tarts is the same dough I use to make my Michigan Pasty.  However, with the German influence from Construction Man’s grandmother, I also incorporate fried cabbage and onions into mine. So good! So good! (in the famous words of Neil Diamond)

All is well here at the ranch. Well almost. Hank the Cowdog has developed some very mysterious allergies in the last few weeks. He is on some high powered steroids at the moment to help him stop scratching holes in his sides and his ears. 😦  We did some blood work to see just what was causing such an upset in his little system. You wouldn’t believe it if I told you. He is allergic to everything except black walnuts, oats and dairy. WHAT? Yep. Everything including various grasses, mites, corn, beef, chicken, lamb… the list goes on and on.  I am trying to take care of him the best I can. I still squeeze him, and call him handsome and smart, but I had to cut down on the food and treats. He was a bit overweight as well. (We’ll see if his new diet and meds will work. I hope so.)

What can I say? My love language is feeding people and things. I’m much like the mother and aunts on My Big Fat Greek Wedding!

“What? You eats no meats? That’s ok, I make you lamb!”

Rose Collage

By the way, Happy Valentines Day!

Saddle up missy! We got a trail to blaze.

Love ya!