Friday, August 30, 2013

Women About Town

As part of our first module, we have to complete a worksheet after speaking with pastry chefs at 2 different establishments, and we're given 6 hours to do these interviews. Because of scheduling and the way things worked out, we've been given half a day today and half a day Tuesday instead of one whole day.

So, today started off with dividing ourselves into 4 groups of 5, discussing extra questions we might like to ask, and deciding what establishments we'd like to visit. Then we had the chance to have our utensils engraved, if we wished, but otherwise, had the rest of the afternoon to do our fieldwork. Seeing as I am the only person in my group with a car, I was the designated chauffeur today. I wasn't too keen at first, but my teammates convinced me, and it was fine.

We first went to an industrial-style bakery, Duquette, which supplies just about everything imaginable (cakes, breads, doughnuts, pies, etc.) to most of the grocery stores in the area, as well as depanneurs and some restaurants. The pastry chef, Jean-Philippe, was super nice to us, answering all our questions and even offering some advice for our future careers.

Finding a second place to visit proved a bit more difficult. We called 3 or 4 places, but none had the time or interest in speaking with us, and we were very discouraged, but one said to check back in the afternoon. So we went back downtown and had lunch at Caffucino, which was absolutely delicious! Most of us ordered dessert afterwards... All in the name of research, of course! ;) One girl had to leave after lunch because she had some errands to run, and the rest of us hung around Wellington until 2:00. Then we went to Le Bouchon, a restaurant specializing in French cuisine. The pastry chef there, Gabrielle, is a former student of our school, so she was very sympathetic to our mission and gave us some good answers, as well as advice - to buy our uniforms a bit bigger in anticipation of the pounds that will be gained... *sigh*

After that we called it a day and went our separate ways! Bonne fin de semaine - woohoo!

I also wanted to share some photos of my "fancy" tool kit...!

Massive Mastercraft toolbox...


So, starting with things supplied by the school (box included)... pastry bag, tips, and nail...

scraper, rubber spatula, and various other types of spatulas...

bread knife, peigne triangle (something to do with icing cakes), zester, brush, and paring knife.

Things I had to buy on my own... kitchen timer, electronic thermometer, scissors, and utensils for taste testing!

And also dishcloths and an electronic kitchen scale.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

New Beginnings

*Phew* The first day is done!

It wasn't too bad. I got stuck in traffic on the highway on the way in, so I was a few minutes late - of course! But it wasn't a big deal. The rest of the drive was fine and I had no problem finding a parking space, and the class hadn't really started anything yet when I got there, so everything was good!

We are a class of 22 women, ranging in age from 17 to... I'm not sure what, but most likely under 35 [make that 45...]. Some married, some mothers, some bilingual, and some who have finished the Cooking course and are now taking Pastry. There's a lady from Morocco, and a lady from Korea (can't remember if it was North or South...), and one girl who is half Egyptian, so it's an interesting little blend of people!

Today basically consisted of verifying contact information, receiving supplies, paying fees, and just getting to know each other, the rules and layout of the school, and going over course material. The first module is called M├ętier et formation, which is basically just an introduction to the industry. We have to visit some bakeries/restaurants and ask questions in order to fill out a worksheet, and then present our findings to the class. We'll be going in groups of 4 or 5 over the next couple of afternoons.

And that's about it! It's too soon to tell if there's any really good friendship material there, but everyone seems nice. I spent most of lunch and afternoon break with a handful of girls who seem to be of the same mindset as myself, so there's potential!

All in all, it was a pretty good first day! The French wasn't too bad, but I definitely had a headache before the afternoon was over, and I'm glad to be home. Until next time!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New Adventure

Sometimes I will write a post and then get interrupted, or think of adding something, so I save it as a draft... but then I never go back to finish it, because I think, "No, I already wrote that post." Then I look at my list of posts and realize there are posts drafted that should have been published. Here's one of them. Doesn't matter much now, except that I wanted it to be out there. Originally written August 28, 2013 at 10:02 pm.

I've just been totally freaking out for the past couple days, about school starting this week, and felt like sharing a few thoughts...

I was thinking about it today, and it has been just about 3 years since I was in school. That maybe not seem like much time to some, but it's a while for me! Plus, this isn't just "going back to school" - this is a completely new adventure! I'll be studying something that, while I've enjoyed doing it for many years, I have never studied anything like it before. And I'll be immersed in a language that, while I get by on a day to day basis, I have never considered myself to be fluent with.

So, here it is! The night before I embark on my newest journey: Pastry school. :)

Here's hoping I will have the gumption to regularly blog this experience for all the wonderful people I know who have been so supportive about this new direction I'm taking! Earlier, I was freaking out. Tonight, I'm pretty calm and looking forward to it, but I'm sure that will be a different story in about 8 hours...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bumpy ride

So, here we are. I have been a first-time car owner for about 3 1/2 months now. I ended up buying the silver manual 2003 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0L for half my budget price. It scares me, so I haven't driven it much. The experience so far has been... exciting, humbling, humiliating, embarrassing, costly, and frustrating.

Things I have learned (and therefore advice for other beginners):

  1. Practice makes perfect! In the beginning it seems like you'll never figure it out, and it's frustrating because you know what you're supposed to be doing, but don't understand how you're actually doing it which is failing... But it really is a matter of feeling and eventually, it will get easier.
  2. If you're going to take your feet off the pedals (sitting in the driveway), you must first ensure that the handbrake is fully engaged, and that the car is in neutral...
  3. The stalling and bucking and skipped gears and general embarrassing mess-ups? They're only funny the first few times. After that, meltdowns may occur, and they won't be pretty.
  4. It's very easy to slip into the wrong gear - I don't know how many times I've thought I was in 1st but was actually in 3rd (very hard to get started this way *sigh*), or jumped from 2nd to 5th.
  5. Taking a deep breath before starting/moving the vehicle helps a lot to calm nerves.
  6. Down-shifting is not necessary, so if you can't get the hang of it, don't bother. But, as with the rest, if you keep trying, it will get easier to figure out.
  7. Even after you get the hang of it, you will still stall it on occasion. The key to getting thru is to remain calm, take your time, breathe, and go.
    Bonus things learnt...
  8. Car parts/repairs cost a lot of money :(
  9. Decaying mouse bodies and nests in cabin air filters apparently don't smell bad enough to notice that there's a problem... (discovered this lovely surprise when I had my windshield replaced last week - gross!)
Yep. It's been an experience. I definitely am not in love with my car. I'm kind of disappointed about that. (How do I know I'm not in love with it? I haven't even felt attached enough to give it a name! That's totally not like me.) Maybe I'll learn to love it, as driving it becomes easier. For the first few weeks (who am I kidding? months...), every time I went by the garage where the original one I fell in love with was... I cried on the inside, and a little bit on the outside... I still wish I had that car instead. But who knows what kind of repairs it would have needed, plus it was 3 years older... And, as frustrating as this has all been, it's probably a better life experience for me to be learning the manual transmission, than it would be to have a peppy little 1.8 Turbo automatic...with 6-CD changer, and sunroof... with leather interior... *sigh*

My only real regrets are that a) I hadn't bought a car sooner (except I wouldn't have had the money), and b) I didn't first learn how to drive with a manual in the first place. I feel that it would have made the whole process a lot easier if I'd have come into this not knowing how to drive at all. Being that I already have 8 years of experience, it was totally humbling to feel like I was starting all over. I felt (still sometimes do?) completely out of my element every time I sat in the car. The concept of down-shifting? Completely lost on me. I've started getting the hang of it now, and I think I do ok, but...

So, as I've said, I'm starting to be more comfortable with driving the car, which is good. But school starts in 3 weeks, and I have yet to try driving in the city with it. The thought of all the lights and stop signs, traffic, hills, parking lots... it's all very stress-inducing and I've been terrified. But I know I'm going to have to bite the bullet sooner or later, and just do it. What's the worst that could happen? Well, I'd stall it. But I've done that plenty of times already. Rolling backwards? I think I have that pretty well figured out, but then again, I haven't tried stopping and going halfway up King Hill yet, either... For sure the first couple times I'll need my dad or brother with me, for moral support, and to take over if I get really freaked out and melt down. It has, unfortunately, happened a few times. Will keep you updated.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Found this in my drafts folder - again with the drafting things and then not posting them until months later! I had written this May 2nd. I will write an updated post to follow.

I bought a car a couple weeks ago, my first. Yes, I'm 25 years old - my 26th birthday is only a few months away - and I have just bought my first car. My sister was probably 18 when she bought her first car, and it was my parents' hand-off. My brother, who is younger than me, bought his first car (actually a pickup) when he was 16. He actually has had 5 vehicles in his possession before I had one... Somewhat annoying, but not important.

So, my car. The search took a lot longer than I (and everyone else) thought it should. I wasn't really sure what I wanted, but I had a few requirements: 4 doors, not red, air conditioning, and I set my budget at $5000 (which was the absolute highest I could go). My dad was helping me in my search, because I really know nothing about buying a car. I like Civics and Accents (I would settle for a 2-door Accent). My dad has a Toyota Corolla which has survived much longer than expected and been good to us, so everyone thought I should get a Toyota. I, on the other hand, have had a crush on Volkswagen for years. If you were to ask me what my dream car was, I'd have 3 answers for you: #1 never-gonna-happen dream car would definitely be the '60s era VW bus (any colour), #2 dream sports car would be '70s era Corvette Stingray (blue or red), #3 plausible dream car - VW Jetta, black, all the way. Everybody tried to discourage me from buying a Jetta, but at that point, we had already test driven one, and I was in love. Not only that, those other cars are pretty popular, so it wasn't easy to find any in decent condition in my price range, meeting my requirements. I eventually found one, less than half of my budget, in really good condition. So I bought it.

The catch? It's a manual transmission. I don't know how to drive a manual transmission. One of my brother's many vehicles was manual, so I had played around with it before and knew the general concept. But in practice? Not so much. I've driven the car on the road probably a total of 1.5 hours, and have stalled it dozens of times. It's proving to be much more difficult than I thought it should be? Maybe not. I guess I just keep thinking, "I know how to do this, why isn't it working already?!"