Friday, May 12, 2017

Kentucky Derby Party Recipe: Mint Julep Brownies

We were invited to a Kentucky Derby party at my aunt and uncle's house, which was a great excuse to get dressed to the nines (or the sevens or sixes as our case tends to be these days) and throw on some crazy big hats. And we brought some delicious Kentucky Derby-themed Mint Julep Brownies (recipe at the bottom).

But first, photos of the big day:

Say, "Always Dreaming!"

My little Derby goofballs

The closest thing to "date night" we'd seen in a while. I'll take it!

Grandma came too and won Best Hat with a Horse Theme and also won $34 for betting on the winning horse. Leo said, "I love you Grandma because you're a winner." Let's hope she never loses, or it will put my son's fickle love to the test!

On to the recipe. I love to bring themed treats to parties. I don't like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. This easy recipe ticked both of those checkboxes. I started with this recipe for Philly Cheesecake Brownies and jazzed it up for the Kentucky Derby party.

The perfect Kentucky Derby party recipe: Mint Julep Brownies

Mint Julep Brownies

1 package brownie mix
3 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 package light Philly cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
green food coloring (optional)
Andes mints, chopped (or you can buy a bag of pre-chopped ones)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Start the preheating way later if your kids are "helping" with the preparation (i.e. licking the bowls and making everything take longer). Grease 9x13 baking pan.

2. Mix brownie mix, 2 eggs, water, and oil by hand until well blended. Pour into pan.

3. Beat cream cheese, sugar, and 1 egg white with electric mixer until well blended. Add a bit of green food coloring. (It's optional, but it somehow makes the brownies seem mintier!)

4. Spoon cream cheese mixture over brownie batter, then swirl lightly with a knife to create marble effect.

5. Top with chopped Andes mints.

6. Bake 28-30 minutes. Cool before serving.

Enjoy with an actual mint julep for extra Kentucky Derby party fun!

Vicki Lesage, Author
Blogger Tricks

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The New Maison

We've been in the US for a few months now, and in our new house for a few weeks. The kids (and honestly, me too) still call it "the new house" even though now it's really just "the house." I guess we're all still so excited!

So here are some pictures of our new abode:

OK, I *might* have Photoshopped the grass a bit to make it just a smidge greener. But I swear this is what it's gonna look like by the time I'm done with it! I also might have Photoshopped our two fallen shingles back into place. If only the actual fix were that easy...

When we moved to the US I was so excited to have a bigger kitchen where I couldn't open the fridge from my seat at the table. Yet, somehow, even with a large kitchen like this, I can still open the fridge (you can see a smidgen of it in the lower left corner of the photo) from my seat (at the end of the breakfast bar).

Our highly sensitive ovens (that set off the smoke detector nearly every time we use them) and our American-sized fridge. And a whole counter for charging our phones and iPads.

View of the backyard from our kitchen. We will eventually move the kids' playhouse to the yard, but at least we can keep a close eye on those troublemakers from here.

Leo settled into the new living room immediately and taught me how to use the remote controls.

This is our "pub." It's for playing games, having a few drinks, and enjoying a nice fire in the fireplace (after we learn how to do that. Build a fire, that is. I definitely know how to drink and play games.)

We originally planned to use the dining room as a place we actually eat. Now it's where we hang our coats and set out our stuff for the next day. Because, yeah, you totally need a whole room for that.

Our master bedroom is, no kidding, the size of our old apartment (if you count the bathroom and walk-in closet, which of course I do). However, despite all the space, my 6'4" husband still didn't want a king-size bed. Which is good since this one barely fit up the stairs.

The kids like to run circles around all this space. Me too.

Look! The sink is in the same room as the toilet! And both are in the same room as the shower! And everything is white and fresh!

Another angle of the bedroom. If you'd like some of that artwork for your own house, I can ask the kids if they're currently accepting commissions.

Despite having three rooms to choose from, the kids both chose to share this one. "We want our beds RIGHTNEXTTOEACHOTHER, just like at Grandma's house and in Paris."

This room will eventually be Stella's bedroom but for right now it just holds all the kids' clothes.

Come visit us! The guest bedroom is all set up and waiting for you.

The kids now have their own bathroom, which might just be the best part about this whole thing.

At the top of the stairs is a loft, which we are using as a playroom. From this angle it looks sparse. But just you wait.

It's jam-packed (but well-organized) with loads of toys. We sold, donated, recycled, or trashed most of our stuff in Paris, but paid big money to ship all the kids' stuff. We wanted them to feel at home right away. They do.

I probably don't need all these photos of the same room, I just really like it!

OK, last one. Hope you enjoyed!

Vicki Lesage, Author

Monday, November 7, 2016

Je T'aime... Maybe?

A while back, I met up with fellow expat-author-living-in-Paris Lily Heise, who penned Je T'Aime, Me Neither. We had a fab afternoon filled with quite a few drinks and lots of laughs, and wrote about it on our blogs (along with some tips for going out in the Marais).

Now, two years later (how has it been THAT long?!?) she and I are back: Lily with her new book and me to tell you how much I loved it!

First, the book:

My editorial review:

"Romantic misadventures in the City of Love? Count me in! Hilarious and entertaining, one of the best parts of this romantic tale is that it's based on true events. If you've ever dreamed of finding love in the City of Light, grab this book and follow Lily la Tigresse on her lively journey!"

- Vicki Lesage, author of Confessions of a Paris Party Girl

And an excerpt from the chapter titled "La Convocation":

Hi Lily,
My ex-husband might be stopping by,
if he does, could you give him this key?
Merci - Nicki

Hmmm could it be?

Might I have a chance to meet Nicki’s mysterious ex? Little did I know what her key was going to unlock!

I never really understood what exactly our glamorous American landlady Nicki currently did for a living. A former model turned fashion designer, the only thing I knew for certain was she no longer had her own fashion line since our office occupied what had once been her workshop.

At the beginning of the year, I’d been tasked with finding a newer, bigger office for the tour company I worked for. I truly hadn’t been expecting to find anything exceptional, but it was love at first click when I stumbled across the Craigslist ad for a bright, spacious room, a stone’s throw from rue Montorgueil, the trendy, centrally-located market street where I’d met Lionel for our first date. Though geographically and spatially perfect, it came with its share of intrigues … and surprises.

The whole space had once been a single apartment, Nicki had the front section and we had the quieter back section facing the courtyard. We each had our own entrance doors, so we only saw each other occasionally when crossing paths in the shared kitchen and bathroom. Despite the fact that signs with the respective company names hung on our doors, since ours was first, we often had deliver boys knocking at it bearing mysterious packages from Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci for Madame Nicki. Letters were also slipped under our door addressed to one of her various businesses … or to a certain mysterious Mr. O’Brian. This was not her last name, or at least what she’d told us her last name was. At first, she referred to him as her ‘business partner,’ however, later on she let it slip, he was indeed her ex-husband. It was strange to me she was already divorced, as she barely looked thirty. Had she married a gay French fashionista so she could get residence papers? Unlikely. O’Brian didn’t sound in the slightest French. Yet another slip of the tongue, revealed he was as Irish as his name suggested. Even better than my previous hunches, I imagined that she’d married him to get a European passport and at the same time cleverly evade France’s astronomical business taxes. All my theories resurfaced while reading her note. Today I might just get a chance to meet ‘Monsieur Ex Hubby’… and piece together the obscure puzzle of Nicki that preoccupied my overactive imagination.

I put the key on the corner of my desk and got down to work. That was about as much thought I gave to it until her doorbell startled me out of my digital depths in the mid-afternoon.

My eyes first shot in the direction of her door, then to the key. Ah ha! That must be the Mr. O’Brian! Had it not been for Nicki’s note, I would have merely ignored her ringing doorbell. Mr O’Brian might not have realized which doorbell he should be ringing to acquire the key.

I hopped out of my chair, smoothed down my dress and went to my door. Flinging it open expecting to find a stylish, red-headed Irishman, a very tall, dark-haired rather ordinary looking man swung around instead.

“Bonjour Madame, Inspecteur Cluzot, Préfecture de Police.”

A policeman? The plain-clothed officer confidently strode across the landing towards me, flashing an official looking badge.

“Is Madame Swanson here?”

“Ahhh ummm non …” I stammered. Wow, how many secrets was Nicki actually hiding?

“Can I leave you this convocation for her?” He politely requested.

I was ‘allowed’ to pick up and leave on the kitchen table all the letters erroneously delivered to our office. However, Nicki got terribly annoyed when I’d signed for certified letters or packages on her behalf unless she’d specifically told me in advance something would be coming. There was no mention of the police in her note! What could she possibly have to hide?

C’est rien. It’s nothing serious,” he added, sensing my anxiety. “She was broken into a while ago and we just need her to stop by the station to clarify some details.”

Broken into? At her home? Or here? We rarely locked the door between our offices and the last thing I wanted to add to my list of worries was the threat of burglary. He gave me a reassuring smile and I felt I had no choice but to oblige.

“Come in,” I invited, still a little flustered. “Would you like some coffee? Water?”

“No, but thank you very much, it’ll just take a few minutes for me to fill in this form,” he replied, taking a seat at our meeting table. He reached into his jacket and produced a small, old fashioned pad, the kind with three different colored carbon sheets. Judging from its size, I figured that it shouldn’t take too long to complete, so I hovered a few steps away instead of returning to my desk.

“Your name, please?” Why did he need my name? “It’s merely a formality, since you’re taking the convocation for Mrs. Swanson.”

Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea after all. However, now it was too late, so I proceeded to reply to his question, spelling out my impossible foreign name, each letter printed with meticulous precision on the first dotted line. He was v.e.r.y. slow. They mustn’t teach note taking in the French Police Academy. What happens if they are at an urgent crime scene? I guess this is why Nicki had to go back to give them more details; something had obviously been missed by the original, equally turtle-paced policier.

“Address?” Geez, that form was more comprehensive than I’d gathered from my quick glance. Then again, the French do love their paperwork and bureaucracy. This should have come as no surprise to someone who’d spent hours at the préfecture over the years, delivering the mountains of paperwork required to renew my annual residence permit.

“So, what do you do?” he enquired next, pen matched up to a blank line. Why should he need my profession? This opened up a whole new can of inquisitive worms and a series of off-the-record questions from the Inspector.

Hmmm … today’s date is …?” This question allowed me to escape back to my desk to double check this on my computer calendar. I proceeded to park myself there, I resigned to the fact, at this rate, it would take the Inspector a minimum of five to ten minutes more. Would he have to take down my age, eye color, height and weight as well?

“Are you English?” Nationality couldn’t possibly be a category on his form! French people always think I’m British since I don’t have the typical Québécois accent the French expect from a Canadian, nor do I have a typical ‘American’ accent. Therefore, my sing-songy voice is usually assumed to be from across the English Channel, not the Atlantic Ocean.

This was another off-topic question, which forced more polite conversation. I was starting to get a little antsy, noticing the growing number of unread emails piling up in my inbox.

“Right,” he said getting back to his form. “I need your phone number … just in case we need to reach you …” Why would they need to reach me? Wasn’t this convocation for Nicki? Again, I didn’t really feel I could say no; therefore, another slow minute went by as I carefully enunciated the digits of my cell phone number, which he slowly repeated back. He then silently and painstakingly checked over his entire form.

“Oh I forgot, one last question, is it madame or … mademoiselle?” Oh brother, the French! No neutral ‘Ms.’ in this country. You’re either married or you’re not.

“Mademoiselle,” I had to honestly answer.

Finally his form seemed to meet his rigorous standards of completion. He fastidiously tore off one of the sheets while unhurriedly rising from his seat, cueing me to his imminent departure. I walked over expecting a courteous farewell and the pink slip from his form pad, but he was lingering.

“Well if you need anything, just let me …” I started.

Vous êtes ravissante,” he passionately proclaimed cutting me off mid sentence. Ravishing? The French and their ardent amorous compliments!  Wait a second … was he hitting on me? Oh mon Dieu! He now knew all my basic details, including that I was a mademoiselle, and thus proposition-able.


For more info, check out Lily's site. Hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!

Vicki Lesage, Author

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A birthday + Global Living Magazine

My daughter just celebrated her 2-year birthday, which means it's roughly the 2-year birthday of my second memoir, Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer, as well! I'd written most of the book while on bed rest and wrapped it up while I was in the hospital after delivering her.

And now, to celebrate (though I'm sure they didn't realize it at the time!), Global Living Magazine has released their Summer 2016 issue, which includes a review of Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer in their Expat Bookshelf section:

Vicki Lesage leaves you guessing about nothing. If you want to know what it's like to give birth to and raise young children in France as an expat, this book will give it to you straight.

Vicki, an Amazon best-selling author, lives in Paris with her French husband and two children, a boy and a girl, and hilariously recounts what life is like for a new mother navigating the cobblestone streets in the City of Light. Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer is an honest yet delightful memoir of a former party girl who reaches more for baby bottles than champagne flutes nowadays.

Filled with pregnancy humor, insights into French healthcare and childcare (yes, the kids eat amazing food in daycare in Paris…), dealing with relatives who live far away, French maternity leave, managing "baby brain" in a non-English-speaking country, obtaining dual citizenship for a newborn, and apartment hunting for an expanding family, anyone raising a family abroad (or thinking about it) can get something from this book.

- Global Living Magazine,

Thanks for the review!

Vicki Lesage, Author

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Parisian Waiting Rooms: Classier Than My Apartment

Parisian doctor's offices are usually in the same building as residential apartments. In fact, the offices themselves often are converted apartments. The first few times I encountered this I found it bizarre (I go into this in more detail in my book, Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer) but once you get used to it, you can appreciate their charm.

Crown molding, hardwood floors, floor-to-ceiling windows - these are features most of us wish we had in our own houses!

Here are a few snaps of some Parisian waiting rooms:

Parisian Waiting Rooms: My Dentist's Office
My dentist's office is more posh than my apartment
Parisian Waiting Rooms: My Dentist's Office
Check out the (edge of the) marble fireplace!
Parisian Waiting Rooms: The Ultrasound Office
The magazine selection at the ultrasound office is très chic.
Parisian Waiting Rooms: The Blood Lab
Finally, a normal waiting room. This is at the blood lab. I can say with confidence that at least my apartment is nicer than this waiting room, though this is still a nice, clean place to wait before being stabbed with a million needles (seriously, how many tests do they need to run during pregnancy?)

Not a bad place to kill some time before the appointment, eh? Despite all my complaining, Paris really does have its charms.

Vicki Lesage, Author

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Dust Bowl, and The Promise of Forgiveness

Today I've got author Marin Thomas on the blog, sharing a delicious drink recipe that goes perfectly with her latest book!

The Dust Bowl is the perfect cocktail to sip while you read The Promise of Forgiveness, which takes place in the Oklahoma Panhandle famous for its blowing dust and wicked thunderstorms. Be sure to use Old Overholt rye whiskey. The Overholt brand dates back to around 1810 in the Old West and is still sold today. It's rumored that Old Overholt was a favorite whiskey of gambler and gunman Doc Holiday.

The Dust Bowl (from
created by mixologist Ian Winget

1.5 oz Rye Whiskey
.5 oz (Peaty) Scotch
.5 oz Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz Benedictine Liqueur
1 tsp each fresh squeezed orange, lime and lemon juices
1 dropper full of Napa Valley Bitters - Wild West Whiskey Bitters

orange wedge (1/4 orange wheel)


Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker full of ice. Shake hard and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Garnish with wheel.

About Marin Thomas:
Marin Thomas writes series romance for Harlequin Books and is an award-nominated author of more than twenty-five novels, including the Cash Brothers series. She grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin, and attended college at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She and her husband are recent empty nesters living in Houston, Texas. The Promise of Forgiveness is her first women’s fiction novel.

Follow Marin on social media:

And check out her latest book:

A novel of love, forgiveness, and the unbreakable bonds of family from award-nominated author Marin Thomas . . .

When it comes to family, Ruby Baxter hasn’t had much luck. The important men in her early life abandoned her, and any time a decent boyfriend came along, she ran away. But now Ruby is thirty and convinced she is failing her teenage daughter. Mia is the one good thing in her life, and Ruby hopes a move to Kansas will fix what’s broken between them.

But the road to redemption takes a detour. Hank McArthur, the biological father Ruby never knew existed, would like her to claim her inheritance: a dusty oil ranch just outside of Unforgiven, Oklahoma.

As far as first impressions go, the gruff, emotionally distant rancher isn’t what Ruby has hoped for in a father. Yet Hank seems to have a gift for rehabilitating abused horses—and for reaching Mia. And if Ruby wants to entertain the possibility of a relationship with Joe Dawson, the ranch foreman, she must find a way to open her heart to the very first man who left her behind.

Vicki Lesage, Author

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A story about stories

Remember back when I used to write stories instead of just doing giveaways all the time? Me neither!

Photo credit: Mamalode

But this month I'm back on one of my favorite sites, Mamalode, with a story about stories. How meta.

It's called "One Walk, Two Interpretations" and is about how I feel rushed in the morning taking Leo to school, with all the horns honking and bustling construction sites, while to him it's an amazing world full of wonder. I like his version better.

Check out the full story here: One Walk, Two Interpretations

Vicki Lesage, Author