•9:41 PM
Birthdays are a big deal, as you know.  People love to get stuff on their birthdays, and they expect it.  It's kind of rude. Yeah, your mother pushed you out of her or some doctor cut her and got you out.  However happened, you looked like you've had a better day. But the same day, next year was much better day...

I love to cook so that's precisely what I want to do to celebrate my mother's enduring pain. So, here's what I'm thinking.

I want to accentuate one main ingredient in the dish and name it after it.  I would like it to be five courses and pared with beverages.  So here's the menu:

Foie Gras
Steamed Foie Gras and Chive Shumai
White Soy and Chive Sauce

Truffle Consomme
Topped with Truffle Puff Pastry

Shrimp Bisque Filled Vol au Vent
(Not yet decided)

Canadian Bacon Stuffed English Bacon
Wrapped with Italian Bacon
Topped with American Bacon and Bacon Foam

Butter poached Apple Tart with Butter Cookie Crust
Brown Butter Ice Cream
(Not yet decided)

I haven't really been thinking about the pairing at all, partly because I haven't finished the menu yet. Also because I have no idea what is going to be available to me.  More than likely what I will be able to buy at the Happy Harry's will be it.  That's sad but I also wouldn't want unlimited options on things that I don't know much about. So, maybe it will happen someday.
•9:02 PM

A few days ago I told my dad about our plan to move to Portland, OR and his immediate response was to ask 'WHY'. Normally, I would answer that question with a plain but effective 'WHY NOT'. I basically told him there are numerous reasons and by writing this, I wanted to lay out plainly and clearly of the reasons why we HAVE TO move.

First of all, Portland is not the ultimate, metaphorical destination of our goal. It's a physical, geographical destination of the relocation. Most important things for us, at least for me, is not being here. Portland just happens to be more attractive and accessible than other candidate cities. I am constantly reminded of where I am living now and I mean that in a bad way. I feel that there are so many wonderful things this world has to offer and I am not taking any of it.

There are many things I like to do. A lot of them are big city amenities like taking kids to a real zoo, going to the planetarium, the aquarium, and museums, and enjoying plays, musicals, and concerts. I don't mean concerts by crappy pop singers or We-Sound-Exactly-Like-Other-Bands' rock 'concerts'. I mean real concerts by real musicians. But more than that, there's food.

Food is a big part of my life as is for everybody else that's alive. Limited availability of food kills me. If I have to go to Wal-Mart to find the freshest produce and versatility of ingredients, that's just sad. I can't find any seafood without frost burn. There are only, usually, four basic choice I can make here for seafood : frozen cooked shrimp, frozen raw shrimp, breaded fish sticks, and battered fish sticks.

Restaurants here aren't any better. It seems to me, there are five types of restaurants here: fast food chains, 'Chinese' / 'Mexican', 'fine dining', bars, and Subways. 'Fine dining' is probably the number one misused term and the second is 'casual dining' or 'family restaurant'. In Midwest, more than likely 'fine dining' means over priced casual restaurant or family restaurant with cheap linens and 'casual dining' means full bar with seating area on the side where they serve the same food as the bar. By 'family restaurant', they really mean fast food restaurant with beer and wine license - the same dirty, hard plastic looking table with equally sticky booth or chairs. Service is quiet the same, non-existent. Only real difference is the price. If you pick up a Burger King's menu and add low grade steaks and walleye in there and voila! It's their menu... and their competitor's menu. It's sad.

Take a look at my birthday dinner, for example. I wanted to do this for two years now. I've been kind of thinking about it on and off. I wanted to accentuate one ingredient in each dish and name the whole dish just that. For example, for the first course, I am going grind lean pork, firm tofu, and foie gras together and make them into shumai and serve it with chive foam. I am going to give an accent to the flavor of the foie gras and name the whole dish 'Foie Gras' because I want everyone to taste that it's foie gras. The problem is foie gras just happens to be really hard to find in the middle of nowhere. I can get it through one of the vendors from the restaurant but I don't feel like getting five or ten pounds of stuff that costs $70 per pound. I can order it online and pay $60 for 6 ounce of it and pay another $30 for shipping. Truffles are hard to get, too. Oh, yeah. There's going to be a dish called truffle. But we'll talk more about that on next post. Not all things I'm trying to get are really not that expensive or rare. Half the stuff you see on magazines, you can't make it the way it's written. I had to substitute four ingredients and omit one when making kimchi and there are only nine ingredients in that, including salt.

The world is offering a more fun, enjoyable, and delicious life and I'm gonna take it.

Oh, there is one more reason. ACS Sucks!

•12:51 PM

Ha! I keep writing my name at the top to let you know it's me writing every time... DH means to write - he has a lot to say - but he's been so awfully busy that he just hasn't been able to chime in. He will, though! So one of these days you'll see a big ol' DH at the beginning instead, I promise.

So yep. The answer is yes. The winds of change are strong and events have been set in motion. We won't be here much longer.

One thing that I used to do, and I still am tempted to do it, is to protect God while He works. I kept secrets. I only gave out information to people tentatively as I became more sure of His direction and answered prayers. So that, you know, if perhaps I interpreted something wrong, or if it seemed He let us down, it would be just between me and Him, and I wouldn't have made Him look bad.

As if He ever needed me to do that.

I'm growing in faith; I don't want to keep secrets anymore, because it might be these very nuances and developments He wants to touch others through. I can be transparent, and leave the rest to Him. Probably He can take care of Himself, hm?

So I will put plainly, in bullet points, the reasons I know our prayers about moving soon have been heard and answered with a 'Yes'. And I do still believe this will be a road that leads to Paris.

  • Two very good friends and co-workers of DH's are leaving the kitchen for different jobs within a 4-week period. This is something that does matter very much to DH in terms of making his workplace a positive and constructive place to be.
  • A friend I haven't seen in nearly 10 years 'popped up' in the Portland area about 2 weeks ago. 
  • This friend, ironically, has recently become a culinary student.
  • This friend, absurdly, knew of an open position for an instructor at her culinary institute.
  • The cover letter DH immediately set out to write to accompany his resume reflects him and his heart to teach perfectly. I put together all the right 'power terms' and 'action phrases' together for him to use, but what he wrote himself was inspired. I would underline that 7 times if I could.
  • Expectancy. There is a certainty and anticipation to these events. They build on each other. There is a purpose that is tangible. This is how I felt the night before we sold our house. I had been happy and excited for previous 'lookers', but it was completely different with the last couple. There was the same jitters and urge to get prepared as I feel today.

Whatever this culminates in, these are surges forward. The great part about knowing when it's a prayed-for event, is that hesitation and doubt goes out the window. If DH is invited out for an interview, he won't think twice.

We've already saved for the plane ticket.
•12:58 PM

As we've now been bringing our question to God of whether Paris should happen or not, it's kind of interesting to me that DH and I are both in a dramatically heightened state of unrest. We are not feeling more pacified with the idea of a long, drawn-out savings plan for school, but exactly the opposite. It feels like a fire has been lit under our bums. We're getting extremely antsy.

I came across this blog today by a Detroit Lakes man living abroad in China and I can't even read past the first page for how it twists me up inside with urgency. It reminds me of how much we're missing each and every day while there is so much outside of the Midwest we want to be a part of and learn, and it feels quite simply like we are wasting precious time. It reaffirmed to me that our need to leave (not just for DH's baking and pastry program, but permanently relocating to Seattle or Portland afterward) isn't a wishful dream; it's a sense of purpose that it's frustrating to delay longer than we already have.

I also met with a couple a few days ago who prospectively want to live in these townhomes. Through their eyes, it was a spacious, homey complex with sunlight and windows galore and a wide-open grassy yard, plus a swimming beach only a few blocks away. They said they want to start and grow their family here. This reminded me that there is really nothing wrong with where we live. For some people, living in this town, even at this address, is what they envision when they plan their future, and it makes them happy. I don't know why, but this is not us.

I realized it ultimately comes down to two things: DH has gone about as far as he can go with his profession and food education here and he still wants to be better and have access to more styles and ingredients. Similarly, we do not have a real home yet, and we want to get on finding it that, too. God is allowing these things to continue to chafe on us, prodding us to near desperation to make something happen soon.

It's not the most pleasing feeling to go about the day with, but desperation begets more prayer and more ideas, and these beget action, which likely results in change. Boy, I could use some change right now!

One note I can make is that DH and I admitted to each other that we have both started thinking about the idea of moving to the West Coast before going abroad, as there is likely more springboards and networking opportunities that could make Paris a feasible reality sooner.

It is a step.

It could very likely be an answer to prayer.
•8:07 PM

We are living in an in-between place.

On one hand, we're totally grateful for it. We prayed relentlessly for this job and situation, and are thrilled to be in our current dwelling, managing 24 town homes in return for free rent and pay for odd jobs. We are set up better than we ever have been before to save a significant amount of money every month for school in Paris. Plus, no lease! We can be up and out in two weeks flat.

On the other hand, we're uncomfortable. Our living space is, unfortunately, ugly (it doesn't seem to bother DH, but it does chafe on me quite a bit). We don't have a yard of our own, can't let the boys play unattended for more than a few minutes, and we can't form real friendships with the neighbors. We are always unofficially 'on duty', taking calls about apartments and being caught by tenants who need repairs while going out to the mailbox. All the while, DH is itching to expand his career and experiences, and it grates on him. It doesn't help that he recently saw one fellow CIA alumnus win a chef de cuisine position aboard a Caribbean ocean liner, and another classmate pop up in a Food Network program. Time and opportunity is tangibly passing us by.

The truth of the matter, though, is that our income is not spectacular enough for this to be a speedy process. While we can save a decent chunk of change every month, it will still take several years to accumulate enough by traditional saving alone. We are not prepared to be here for 3-4 more years. It's nearly unthinkable.

It is unthinkable.

It's tempting to consider school loans. Impatient people like me in imminently unthinkable situations are predisposed to find this notion pretty darn appealing. But God just spent two years teaching us how NOT to be in debt. I can't convince myself it's His will that we throw all that to the wind and fall back into borrowing.

We have to fall back into Him instead. We have to pray for something extraordinary.

I hit this same roadblock so many times during the past few years while we were clawing our way to debt-freedom. We were always at God's feet, asking for another job, for a break, for help with a bill, for help selling this or that and finally our house. I continually felt guilt about the righteousness of praying for such things. It felt so selfish. What good does selling our house quickly do for the Kingdom of God? What ministry is there in having a healthy financial situation and two reliable cars? Yet He granted it all. He explicitly answered prayer after prayer after prayer, and we got out and beyond.

I will be open about this. While I knew that God had said 'yes' to our request for help in becoming debt free, and also to selling our house in a timely manner, I do not know what He has to say about Paris yet. It's not exactly written in the Bible whether one should or should not strive to study cooking abroad. But it does say we should bring all things to God in prayer.

So I'm a little embarrassed to say I haven't really started praying about it yet. It's scary, because we've wanted this so badly for so long, and soon after we begin seriously praying about it, we will know His answer. It will become very obvious.

It is a fact that we will not make it to Paris without God's explicit blessing. The mountain of time and money is too large for us to move alone. I'll begin to bring this huge request to Him now, knowing that He is the one who created DH with this passion for food and learning. Also for our will to match His, to make sure we go (or *gulp* stay) where and when He wants us. And of course, for obedient hearts to accept whatever answer He gives.
•2:19 PM

    “Dreams are renewable. No matter what our age or condition, there are still untapped possibilities within us and new beauty waiting to be born.” - Dale E. Turner





 Our dream has been simmering for more than a decade. Today we are renewing it, taking it out of 'dream' status and upgrading it to a 'plan'. DH is going back to culinary school. In Paris. And he's taking us all with him.


Truth is, this would have been easier 10 years ago. Before we had two kids, three jobs and believed in not borrowing money for anything. Maybe even while we were young enough to still expect our parents to pay for it all.  


DH is 29, and I am 28. We may have married too young, and we may not have thought it through just how long kids tend to stick around when we started throwing caution and birth control to the wind. We might also not have realized that moving home to Minnesota 'to be near Mom and Dad just while the baby is young' is a surefire way to slip into a comfortable half-life that hazily passes until that baby is 6 years old, while also adding a second baby to the roster. 


Through the hometown haze, though, we've kept one eye on that plan we didn't fulfill after he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 2004, that stint abroad to work in Michelin-starred restaurants that was postponed until... when? 


If not now, when? 


Will someone knock on our door and tell us it's now the absolute perfect time for DH to spend a year continuing his culinary education in Paris? Will we get a gift check from Great Uncle Olaf for $75,000 with a note that says, 'Take a year off on me, guys'? Well. We hope so. Fingers crossed.


But while we wait, we are going to pretend like that check isn't coming. (Besides, I don't think we have a Great Uncle Olaf.) We have to save a sizable amount of money before we leave - enough for our family of 4 to live for 11 months in Paris. We will apply for scholarships and grants and financial aid. We will enter contests. We will sell things. We will save. We will go without. We might beg when the police aren't looking. 


We do have some things going for us, though. We have God to give us wisdom on this journey. We work and plan together like pros. We have passion for our goal and for DH's craft as a chef. We're relatively young, our health is good, we have no debt, and the kids still do what we tell them to. 



Knock. Knock.