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Baking Tip: Cookie Placement!

Even baking and color depend on air and even heat distribution! This leads to this week’s tip!

Place cookies/macarons caddie corner to each other! You’ve put a lot of time into your dessert now let’s get this thing baked! When piping or placing treats on a baking sheet do one row, then on the next, place treats in between two on the first row. You may not fit as many, or! you might actually fit more! But by spreading them out as such you are allowing the air and heat to distribute more evenly.

Bonus tip! Use this method when storing things too to fit even more on your tray, or in a box!


15. September 2014 by Molly
Categories: baking tips | Leave a comment

Packing for the Expat Life in France

When I packed for France it was a nightmare! With the weight limits and bag limits I repacked a solid 8 times, took over the living room, kept standing on and off the scale, and just about pulled my hair out. I wasn’t sure what to take! After living there for a year I feel like I have a pretty solid understanding especially for an American traveling to France for an extended amount of time. Here is my ultimate packing list with what to bring, what not to bring, and what you might want to throw in a box and ship.

Tips for Packing for Paris

1. Food Products/Cooking Ingredients that are Hard to find in France. Take a good look at what you’re eating now. When you get to France your diet will change drastically and consist mostly of bread, pastries, cheese, butter and wine. Yes wine is a food group. Everything is fresh and the produce is top notch (just try the eggs..), but you might find yourself missing a couple of things. There are a couple expat stores (Thanksgiving, The Real McCoy) but be prepared to pay 10 euros for a small bag of chocolate chips ~crazy!! (do what I did and cut up bars of chocolate instead….) I’ve read a lot of posts that say- Bring Peanut Butter! – but you’ll be able to find it easily in the supermarkets. For me it was Almond Butter, Luna bars, and pumpkin puree that I asked my friends to bring when they visited. Here are a couple other things that are hard to find:


Chili Powder

Red Pepper Flakes

Cajun Seasoning

Almond Butter

Pumpkin Puree



Energy Bars (Luna Bars!)


Paris 6-3-13 055

2. Clothing Packing Tips. The Frenchman once told me “You will always look like an American” after I’d told him I was trying to wear more black. And it’s true- it’s not a bad thing but you will probably stand out from the French people around you because of your wardrobe and your facial features. You’ll probably easily trick the tourists though. Within a matter of weeks I was being asked for directions, first by tourists then by Parisians. Here’s a couple tips on what to pack:

– Pack neutrals with pops of color. In the summer/spring it’s common to see a lot of color. I once saw a lady rocking a mustard shirt and red pants~and it was awesome! In the fall/winter, a great black coat and scarves are your friend. The shades change too to more browns, grays, and blacks.

– Make sure all the items you bring can be mix and matched with other items in your wardrobe for all seasons. That cute summer dress could be worn with tights and a sweater in the fall. You’ve got limited suitcase space and it’s possible that you might move more than once while you’re there and moving with a lot of clothes is not fun.

– 2 to 3 good pairs of jeans. Dark colors and a pair of black. All I wore were skinny jeans.

– Shoes: Ballet flats, Boots, Booties, a pair or two of heels, and sturdy sandals for the summer. Don’t pack anything you couldn’t walk around the block in, and don’t spend a lot of time looking at the comfortable, yet really ugly pair of walking shoes (you know what I’m talking about).  You probably won’t wear them. Your feet will adjust to all the walking. It also helps to change the types of shoes you’re wearing regularly to give your feet a break. You’ll also notice shoe repair shops are prevalent.

– Raincoat! For the rainy days when you can’t stay inside and an umbrella combined with walking a couple miles will leave you drenched. I also had a small umbrella I’d throw in my purse as I left if there was the slightest hint of rain in the sky. And go for that cute umbrella! You’ll be playing the “rain game” with the other people in the street and might as well have a cute one! :-D

– Don’t bring anything you haven’t worn in awhile or anything that doesn’t fit just right. Laundry in a big city is a hassle and that’s even when you have a washing machine in your apartment. Just about everything is air dried unless you’re going to the laundromat so those skinny jeans won’t stretch back and it becomes necessary to have an iron. Also, laundry day turns into a three day please oh please dry everything is laid out everywhere kind of ordeal when it’s the least bit humid outside.

– Layers, layers, layers!

– The best brands I could say the style was similar to is J.Crew, Banana Republic, MadeWell, and Anthropologie. I usually dressed as if I was going into work in the US which for me is a marketing agency. You’ll also only see people wearing workout clothes when they are working out.

Tips for Packing for Paris|Toffee Bits & Chocolate Chips

3. Products/Toiletries/Medicine: In France, you’ll have everything you need at the pharmacies in terms of products and toiletries. The hard part comes when you know you need something and you don’t know the name in French! It’s frustrating and not really something you want to be worried about for the first couple of weeks when you’re adjusting. You will see a lot of familiar brands for some things- like lotion (Neutrogena) and contact solution (Opti-Free). Other things though are more difficult. For me it was finding a face wash and a shampoo I liked. Here’s what I would suggest bringing and buying there:

– If you have room in your suitcase, bring larger sizes of shampoo and conditioner. This will buy you a little time to find one at the store that works for you. I brought a full container of the face wash I liked and then replenished my stash when I went home halfway through because I was just not finding one that I liked! You’ll also find that bottle sizes are much smaller than what you find in the US. This mostly has to  do with portability- it’s pretty painful to lug a full sized shampoo plus other groceries home, even if it is just walking a couple blocks.

– Appliances- probably best to buy them in France because of the electrical connection. :-D Shop at HEMA for an inexpensive hair dryer and other great home items.

– Nail Polish – oh just because it’s fun and pretty expensive in France.

– General Note- you’ll find some products that you need in the supermarket (shampoo, conditioner, hand soap) but the place to go is the Pharmacy. They’re extremely helpful and it’s a ton of fun! Here’s just one of the many articles you’ll find on the internet about shopping at the pharmacies – City Pharma: A User’s Guide.

– Makeup- Here’s the golden ticket- there’s a Sephora just about everywhere (yay!). So no worries here! If you can get it at Sephora, you’re good! Otherwise, bring a full sized container until you find a good substitute.

– Medicine- Bring what you think you’ll need. It’s a lot easier to sift through some things you’ve brought when you’re not feeling well than try to explain what’s wrong to the pharmacist in a foreign language. For prescriptions, get your US doctor to write down the ingredients and amounts of each in the medicine. If the pharmacist in France can find the exact same medicine, then they will fulfill the prescription (no guarantees though).

– Vitamins are crazy expensive. I take Vitamin D and Magnesium and when refilling it was 28 euros for a bottle of 100… ouch!! As an upside though, prescribed medicines are wayyyy cheaper than what we’re used to in the US (5 euros for antibiotics…?!).


And that’s that! Well at least all I can think of for now. :-D Maybe I’ll be packing for a return visit soon… crisons les doigts.. :-D


What would you add to this list?

Happy packing!



10. September 2014 by Molly
Categories: France, general tips, paris | 4 comments

Baking Tips: Storing Bread!

I have told you a million times how clueless I am at baking bread- I’ve pleading with Ian from the Baking Chin to move down to Texas and make my bread, especially his Pain de Campagne… But since he’s in Indonesia helping open a Patisserie, I’m stuck with his videos and forced to pester him with questions at every opportunity. Including this week’s tip!

The right way to Store Bread! You’ve gone to all that work to make a homemade loaf of bread and now you want it to stay as amazing as possible, for as long as possible! Here’s what Ian told me- uncut bread can be kept just hanging out on the counter top. It will help keep the crust crunchy! You should have seen his apartment when we were in Paris- the shelves were lined with baked bread. Once you’ve cut into it, DO NOT store it in the refrigerator, this will dry it out, and quickly! If it’s a hard crust, turn the cut side down on a cutting board and keep at room temperature. The crust will help protect the chewy interior. A softer crust, throw it in a bag and keep it out- no refrigeration here!

How long will it keep? Not very long! Around four days is normal for a sandwich bread. So eat it quick (but will that really be a problem?)! Use the stale ends for bread crumbs, croutons, garlic/herb crostini…


I want your baking tips! Have one? Email me, or post it in the comments. I’d love to do a post on it!

08. September 2014 by Molly
Categories: baking tips | Leave a comment

Portland~ Wineries, Wine, Food:: A Celebration :: A Fling

I’ve pretty much decided that the best trips involve lots of wine, good food, and great people. :-)

Group Shot

My friend Jen is getting married in December!! Since all of us are so spread out around the US, and because what is better than a fun trip, we all met in Portland for her Bachelorette party.

The weather was gorgeous! We missed out on the Texas heat and the rainy days of Oregon and were hit with sun and digits lingering around the low to mid 80s. Perfection!

Portland has a cool weird vibe- just watch an episode of Portlandia and you’ll get the idea. Amazing restaurants. Here’s just two that stood out: an Indian street food place called Bollywood Theater with hung lights and an open kitchen in the center. Unbelievable ice cream flavors at Salt and Straw – I would have tried all of them but settled on one scoop of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Yes!) and Strawberry Balasmic. So different!

The highlight of the trip was the winery visits on Saturday- three- each with rolling hills and vines for miles. We headed out from downtown in a stretch limo with the cutest 80 year old driver named Jake or Jack. I think I called him the wrong name toward the end of the day. hahaha At one stop Jessie had the idea of rolling down the window and taking paparazzi pics- this one was totally taken when the driver was heading back from a visit to the port-a-potty. tehe

paparazzi portland

The first winery- Elk Cove Vineyards

Ashley - Elk Cove

I want to say we tried 5-6 wines. There was a fundraiser for the local animal shelter going on so dogs were all over the place. Peanut would have fit right in!

dogs-Elk Cove


Up next was my favorite- David Hill Winery. The tasting/selling room was inside a beautiful house surrounded by flowers and rolling hills.

David Hill Winery

Or maybe it was because we stopped for lunch and made by Jen’s cousin Lauren– which was cheeeeeeese!! and the best tuna salad I’ve ever had! and I don’t even really like tuna salad! I actually asked for the recipe the day after I got home and made it um about 3 hours after she emailed it. We also had tomato salad and whoopie pies- could it get any better?!

Lunch at David Hill Winery

I pretty much ended up with a massive plate of food- and promptly decided the tasting wine was not going to be enough. I mean with this view, a full glass of wine is absolutely necessary. Can I move in? I’ll bring my own squirrel chasing dog.

David Hill Winery View

The Andiri Winery & Vineyard was pretty gorgeous too with a patio area surrounded by vines.

Andiri Vineyard

Jen & Jessie

I brought out some hand models to take pictures with some cookies I’d brought along. They say “Last Fling before the Ring!” and there might be some gold bling on the bling bling. :-D

Last Fling Cookies

We tasted 4 different types of Pinot Noir and they were Fabulous!

Glamour Shot- Andiri Molly-Andiri

We could see the mountains over the vines!

Andiri Vines 2 Andiri Vineyard2

I loved Portland and being able to spend time with such close friends! So much fun! Congratulations Jen & Russell! You can invite me to drink wine any time!

Group Shot- Andiri





03. September 2014 by Molly
Categories: Travel | Leave a comment

Baking Tips: When Bread is Done!

Ian is here! With more bread baking tips!

I ask Ian a billion questions whenever I’m thinking about making bread or just randomly. One important question came up when I was making a loaf of bread, while giving updates via Facebook at each stage to Ian. I was taking a peak in the oven with 10 minutes to go and it was looking pretty brown. Having not thought ahead, I rushed to my laptop and asked Ian- How do I know when my bread is done!!!!!

There are three signs to a baked bread! The first (and my favorite), it will sound hollow when knocked on. The next, and one that I’m very familiar with, stick a toothpick in and it should come out clean! Then, if all else fails, take it’s temperature! Baked bread will be at 200ºF or about 93ºC.

How to Know when Bread is Done!

My bread was hollow sounding, and at right about 170 when I tested it (but it had been out of the oven for about a minute so the temperature had dropped quite a bit), and the toothpick was clean! Can’t wait to cut into it tomorrow!!

Be sure to check out Ian’s baking vlogs over on YouTube on The Baking Chin!


Have a tip? Let me know! I’d love to feature you on the next edition of “Baking Tips!”

01. September 2014 by Molly
Categories: baking tips | Leave a comment

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