Saturday, August 10, 2019

Lilac Girls - Book Review

Last month I hosted Paris in July, and I was also swamped with work and other important commitments, so I didn't get the chance to do any of my own posts for Paris in July. So this month I will get a few done, starting with this review.

I took the recommendation to read this from  a list of books for reading during Paris in July published by Mel U at the Reading Life, I'm glad I did, although it's not an easy book to read. A couple of reasons why it wasnt a easy book for me to read.

Firstly, the book tells the story of three different women, which means each chapter is told by each women in turns. I find that style of narration difficult to get engaged with. It took me more than half way through before I was interested enough to finish.

Secondly, the book is based on real life events occuring in Poland, Germany and New York in 1939 when Hitler was invading France & Poland. Thats not an easy subject to read about. Life in Ravenbruck, a women's re-education camp, the only one in Germany.

Thirdly, is was a story about a young female german doctor, who in a time of war, takes a job in the women's re-education camp believing she was doing the right thing for her country. However, she ends up being forced to do unimaginable things. Things that will haunt her for the rest of her days.

But despite being difficult to read, it was in the end, a story of resilience, women's strength and community. Through out, I was distracted by the New York Socialite, Caroline, storyline. But in the end, she was the angel of grace. What was even more inspirational, was that Caroline was one of the real women. After the war, she lead a beautiful movement to help the women who were harmed during the war. 

Thanks Mel U for the recommendation.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Paris in July 2018 - final wrap up - thank you

When July comes to an end theres a sense of disappointment in the air, a sense of loss, as Paris in July,  the blogging event, comes to a close. Yet, as it is well known in this community........ Paris is always a good idea! The event, with its Mr Linkys, with the buttons, the challenge to honour all things Parisian or French, may end, but we can still read, eat, drink, watch, enjoy & review these things... and i hope we will.

This year we had a collection of different buttons to help us mark our posts, as a reflection of the different members of our community this year. Its the diversity of the participants that I love about blogging events. We come from all walks of life & yet in blogging, in July,  we come together to share our appreciation for the old, current & emerging culture of Paris.

Thankyou all, for sharing your holiday memories, your experiences, the books you read, the movies you watched,  the french food & festivities you celebrated, the recipes, the history, the polotics.... childrens stories, book titles, book covers, things you collect, exhibitions you went to, and parks you spent Time in.  All of these posts, all of your contributions, they are Paris in July!  We did it together .

Merci! A la prochaine!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Paris in July - Week 5

Paris is always a good idea! Haven't we been having fun? I'm wrapping up week 4 and putting up week 5 because I know there's more to come... you've got more to share haven't you? For me, I'm 40% through the only book I was likely to read, I haven't had a chance to cook something, and I had another guest to interview, but time is running out... I'm sure my extra posts will pop up in the next couple of weeks...

This past week has been a week of fun, but also a week of learning...

Fun stuff for me - Mae found Paris inspired Art in Detroit, Jeanies B&W images of Paris, Kwarkito's personal stories of being in Paris, Deb Nance's favourite settings in Paris for books, junkboattravels walk through paris and restaurants and cafes, Mae's review of French style and Carola Bartz' memories of la vie douce a paris - images of pastries and icecreams... Erin @CrackerCrumbLife also posted about books read including the cat who walked across France!

Things to learn - Mae read a book mostly about death and loss, and Mel U read many books, one about G Steins Cook, the Lover by Dumas, short stories translated from Yiddish, and also shared with us some good info about Natalie Clifford Barney. In Fact Mel U proposed Natalie should host our Post Paris in July Party!. Lisbeth posted about Paris Salons of an era past. And there were books set in wartime eras.

I hope I didn't miss visiting anyone's post this week but there were many - thank you for sharing all of these insights into different elements of Paris.

This week, share your posts here. I'll do one further wrap up next weekend. And, here's to Paris and the Champs Elysees for the final of the Tour de France!

Friday, July 26, 2019

We're heading into Paris this weekend! (Tour de France)

This has been this most read book in our house this month. Its the most loved magazine in many Australian TdF homes, because it has everything you ever want to know about the tour.
Articles with a strong focus on the teams all Aussies love...
And all the other teams. 

The magazine guide comes with a wall map of each stage outlined. We might be the only household that actually hangs it up, but we refer to this most nights. We liked to check if we've been there before, and where each stage is heading. Its also a conversation starter with guests... 

What can I say.... 
The editors know their audience!

 And when the race is quiet (rarely), theres many other articles of interest..
And rider profiles...
And here is Caleb... so far, hes won two stages this year. 

Who would like a copy of this? Im happy to send a copy to 2 Paris in July participants. If you're interested, comment below, naming either your favourite team or rider. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Paris in July - Week 4

Button Created by Mel U @ The Reading Life
Wow, Week 3 was a whirlwind of visiting Paris in July. I cant believe we're about to enter Week 4 - but the good news is, we will have a week 5 (even though only have a week)....

I am sorry I have been very busy this week, and didn't get a chance to visit many of your blogs until today, but today I've had a ball. I have been overwhelmed with the variety of posts this week, but I've also become a bit jealous. Some of you have amazing and beautiful photo's capturing your memories of Paris and France. My holiday snaps never turn out that great. Carola Bartz posted some gorgeous images of a fountain in Tricolour for her post on La Fete Nationale and also another post title 'Sur La Table' with enticing images of cafes and Bistro's of France. Kwarkito posted some gorgeous images also - in particular a B&W of the Seine - Reminded me of my parents photos from the early 70s. Jeanie's images of the old and new in Paris were also a strong reminder of the iconic images in Paris.

Reading through all the posts today awakened in me a desire to visit Paris sooner than I was planning. Jackie at Junkboattravels posted on the Atelier des lumieres, an interactive art musee which I certainly hope is still around if I get back to France soon. 

In the book reviews space, Mel U posted on some really interesting short stories, including Cheri by Colette and a song about reading Colette in Summer (so Paris in July!)... Deb @ Readerbuzz did another fun post, which I'm sure all of us can relate to, where she reveals she's a sucker for any book with a typically french image on the cover!.

So many great posts this week - you probably didn't even notice that I didn't get one done myself! I hope to post one or two this week.. But now it's time to launch Week 4.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Paris in July - Week 3

As I recover from an afternoon of food and wine at my friends Fete de Quatorze de Juillet, many of you may just be preparing for 14th July, or Bastille Day in another part of the world. I wish you as much joy in the celebrations and I have had today. We had so much cheese & pate, followed by savory tarts, vegitable quiche, then a bouillabaisse (seafood soup),  then we had chocolate tarts, and other amazing french pastry treats. Gosh I am so full right now. It was a beautiful afternoon, bubbles, rose, white and red wine flowing for all the guests. We finished with tea/coffee and Macarons! so frenchy, so chic!  To be honest, it wasn't really about celebrating Bastille Day, although we did have the airshow on the big screen, it was more about catching up with good friends and finding a good reason to do it.
Anyway, it's time to wind up week 2 and start week 3 of Paris in July 2019.
Can I just reflect on what happened during week 2....  there were many links and crossovers this week.

Photo's and memories - le Marche aux Fleurs, Du Jardin de Tuileries, Flaner metro, and the first time trying Macarons!
Art reviews - surrealist photography by Claude Cohen (Lucy), and collections of Mona Lisa around the house. Then there was a post about Parisy-things around the house - memories and souvenirs from past trips and the book about Degas.. Mae reflected on workers in Paris history using art to tell the story.
We had one film review by Arti on A Sunday in the Country. Interestingly, Arti reflected on this film as an expressionistic cinematic painting. Linking this film with other posts that focus on expressionism.
Many books were read and reviewed - about Paris worst neighbourhoods (Mel U), world war II novels, Degas (the artist), novels and classics from Zola.  We also had summary posts about collections relating to french history, famous characters from french books, and a review of the classic french novel Madeline.
While there was one book review about great chefs (The Gourmands Way), we only had one recipe posted (by me) this week.

I couldnt help noticing there were books about art, art used to describe characters of the past, a movie that was more like art, and Zola featured in a few different posts. I wanted to call out Jackie, who recently visited France and tried Macarons for the first time! What a treat Jackie. What I love about Paris in July, is that we each remind the other of things we love, or wish to do and experience. So glad there's one more Macaron lover in the world.

Now, it's time for week 3 - remember to link your new posts in here..

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Paris in July - Learning to cook French Desserts - Guest Post

My friend Megan is an inspirational lady, with an amazing life story. One of her most admirable characteristics, despite being terribly generous, is her willingness to learn new things. She's designed and rebuilt her home, she's learnt chinese, studied law, she's an artist, as well as a senior executive in the public sector. She's been an outside observer of Paris in July for many years, (although she doesn't blog) but she's sat next to me on the train for years when I've been hosting.... Anyway, this year I've convinced her to share some thoughts as a guest blogger! 
Thank you Megan. 

This is not Megan or I, but someone who looks happy to be learning new skills...

Learning to cook French desserts
Over a quarter of a century ago I had the privilege of being taught to cook several desserts by a classically trained French chef.  Even now, I can see myself standing at the stove beside him as he helped me engage with food in a way I have never encountered. 

Like most cooks, I’d become accustomed to the different smells of food, but this was an altogether more sensual experience. I had to use my sense of hearing, sight and touch to actually produce desserts using his recipes.  This whole-of-body experience was epitomised in his recipe book – there was no method, only a list of ingredients.  Crème anglaise, as it cooks goes from a swishing sound to a whooshing one and the movement of the wooden spoon makes deep crevices rather than surface lines. It’s only then you need to start checking if it is thick enough by drawing a line across the wooden spoon.  A sabayon needs to be whisked until your pointer finger can no longer stand to be in the water bath that the mixture is sitting in. 

During that time a diner wrote to a food magazine requesting the recipe to a wonderful chocolate mousse cake we had on the menu.  As an untrained cook, I was pretty chuffed that someone had asked, but we could never provide the recipe as there was no way we could be certain that the diner could make it at home.  For this recipe my sight was the key measuring tool – Denis’ method required me to whisk the egg yolks and sugar until they came up to a dent on the side of a decades old mixing bowl.  On the off chance that one of the readers of this blog is that dis-satisfied diner, here is the recipe.  Oh, and its not a mousse cake any real sense of the word, it’s a flourless chocolate cake that is light (and gluten free) and has a moussey soft centre

This is not Megans image of her recipe, but one I've borrowed from
Chocolate Mousse Cake
360g bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small bits
½ tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp brandy
50g soft unsalted butter
12 x 65g eggs, separated
50g caster sugar

Grease a 26-28cm springform cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper.
Preheat the oven to 150 Degrees C.
Melt the chocolate, butter vanilla and brandy in a bowl over a bain-marie of hot water.  Let it cool
Beat the egg yolks with 30g of the sugar until pale and the mix “ribbons” – which means little rivers of pale yolkiness sit on top of the mix before slowing sinking
Mix the cooled chocolate and yolks together.  The chocolate needs to be cool enough not to cook the yolks but must not have begun to set
Beat the egg whites with the 20gm sugar until soft peaks form – which means that when you lift up the whisk the tips of the egg whites curl over like the top of Mister Curly’s hat (aka Michael Leunig character)
Beat ¼ of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mix – use a large metal spoon and lift the mix up and let it fall softly back into the chocolate. 
Now fold this lightened chocolate mix gently but thoroughly back into the remaining egg white mixture. A big balloon whisk is good for this
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes. It should remain slightly moist in the centre with a thin crustiness on the outside. Remove the ring and base. Leave it to cool completely. The cake will collapse a little.
It needs to be cut with a knife dipped in hot water, otherwise the moist centre will stick to your knife and pull the cake apart.
Serve with whipped cream and raspberries.