Yule log / bûche de Noël

buche one.jpg

Yule logs, called bûches de Noël here, are big in France over the Christmas holidays. Light and creamy, they concorde beautifully with a glass or two of sparkling wine or champagne. Prepared in every pâtisserie around the country, they come in different sizes and flavors. I like chestnut flavor. I was watching my favorite New York Times cook and food writer, Melissa Clark, make her yule log (with the help of a pastry chef) and thought it would be fun to compare her log with the log of a French chef.

What Melissa didn’t do, but the French chef did, once the cake was rolled up, but also before it was rolled up, was to brush it generously with a syrup made of sugared water and Cointreau. This moistens the cake and gives it added flavor. If children are eating the log, substitute the Cointreau with a mixture of sugared water, orange zest and vanilla. The French chef rolled his cake a lot tighter than Melissa did hers (I thought her roll-up was too loose.) He also used a silicone cake pan. But what’s really interesting is the icing (or frosting, as Americans call it.) The French chef used a pastry piping bag and piped lines of icing onto the cake. This is niftier than using a spatula. He made the whole operation look, well, effortless. Either way, the end result of both logs is a decorative and delicious work of art.  

riding the river Seine

Participants take part in the 8th Edition of the Nautic SUP Paris Crossing stand up paddle competition on the river Seine in Paris

Stand-up paddlers on the river Seine. Are they brave? Or a little crazy? Nobody knows. But what’s certain is that these 700 participants, called “riders”, in the 8th edition of the Nautic Sup Paris Crossing didn’t hesitate to jump in the water despite the frigid temperatures. Together, they traveled about ten kilometers from the National Library of France to the Eiffel Tower.

This is such a striking photo (above.) Up top you see the metro train pass by and on the cold waters below the paddlers look like miniature figurines. What strikes me is the solitude of the riders, each alone on his/her little paddleboard; alone but in a marvellous group effort.   photos by Charles Platiau, Reuters.

Participants take part in the 8th Edition of the Nautic SUP Paris Crossing stand up paddle competition near the Notre Dame Cathedral on the river Seine in Paris


Esraa’s sins

But what, exactly, are Esraa’s sins?? Her intelligence? Her thirst for freedom? Her refusal to be obedient?

Listen to the mother, the one who had Esraa genitally mutilated: “If I die tomorrow, will I have to pay for Esraa’s sins?” The mother is more fearful of GOD than she is for her own daughter’s safety and well-being.

This is precisely the type of person Egypt wants. Unschooled, backward, indoctrinated and pious. Submissive and with the fear of GOD in their hearts.

As for Esraa’s boyfriend, if she marries him all her efforts for liberation will be in vain. He’ll put the veil back on her head and turn her into a baby-breeder. He is a major impediment to her advancement. As for the thuggish brother? Outside of the Middle East, he’d be thrown in jail for GBH (grievous bodily harm.) What is the reaction of the parents when the brother physically assaults his two sisters?

Come to Europe or Canada, Esraa. Come with your sisters and girlfriends. I will sponsor you.

I thank my lucky stars every single day for being born – free, and a girl – in Canada.

Thank you, New York Times, for featuring this video-reportage.

can Tony Blair redeem himself?

tony blair

Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Tony Blair, the most hated man in the UK because of Iraq, is trying hard to save the British people from what he considers a trainwreck: Brexit! The British economy is suffering a notable slowdown and there is growing scepticism over what Brexit may bring. Something that was unthinkable a few months ago is now being discussed openly: reversing Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

Many business leaders believe that Brexit will cause serious damage to the British economy. The business community is fast losing patience and has demanded a recognizable plan by the end of 2017. They say they cannot continue to delay decisions on whether to relocate some of their operations outside of the UK, though several banks have already made the decision and shifted many jobs away from London. (FRANKFURT will be the big winner from Brexit, as the German city lures banks and jobs out of London.)

Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc., Standard Chartered Plc and Nomura Holdings Inc have picked the German city for their EU headquarters to ensure continued access to the single market. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and UBS Group AG are weighing a similar decision, said people familiar with the matter, asking not to be named because the plans aren’t public. HSBC Holdings Plc is the biggest non-French bank so far to opt for Paris, while Barclays Bank Plc has plumped for Dublin.

London could lose 10,000 banking jobs and 20,000 roles in financial services as clients move 1.8 trillion euros ($2.1 trillion) of assets out of the U.K. on Brexit, according to think-tank Bruegel. The implications for the U.K. are substantial: finance and related professional services bring in some £190 billion ($248 billion) a year, representing 12 percent of the British economy.

A steady stream of politicians in the 27 EU member states have said that Britain could still change its mind. One of the most prominent is Donald Tusk of Poland, the president of the European Council, who said in late October that it was now “up to London how this will end, with a good deal, no deal or no Brexit.” 

A second referendum? Why not? It would be truly interesting to see, a year and a half on, if the numbers change considerably.

See Blair in this video clip talking about Brexit. There’s also an interview with him on today’s BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend.


a staggeringly huge book list for holiday gifts


I have never seen such a huge reading list as this one. Just reading the different categories and looking at the titles takes an hour! If you fail to find a single book of interest in this vast, varied and vibrant compilation, I’d be very surprised.

A few of my favorite categories are:







cool Canada

nova scotia beach

I rarely mention the merits of my home country on this blog, but The Guardian did such a fine job doing so I felt compelled to post the links here. Eastern Canada, called the Maritime provinces, is the Canadian equivalent of the New England states of Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, but on a smaller scale. With the Canadian dollar trading lower than the American dollar and the Euro (as I write this 1 USD = 1.28904 CAD and 1 EUR = 1.52507 CAD), Canada is indisputably a great vacation destination.

Start with this fashion-lover’s guide of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver then continue on to 12 knockout Nova Scotia tips, 10 best restaurants of Canada’s newest dining destination and lots more.

Enjoy my big, beautiful, hospitable country!





house nova scotia



a tiger shot dead in central Paris, sexism, and other news

So much is happening in the world. When I read my last post about how I drink my coffee, I think how vain and self-absorbed we are on our blogs. I mean, who cares?

Actually, when it comes to the coffee industry, many people do care and that includes exploited women and children working as laborers in Guatemala. I’ve just read a fascinating article in the English version of Germany’s DER SPIEGEL entitled THE BOOMING COFFEE INDUSTRY AND THOSE IT HAS LEFT BEHIND. (link below)

For decades, coffee was about as exciting as washing powder and detergent. But today it has become a lifestyle statement. The bean boom, though, hides the brutal economic realities behind coffee production. By DER SPIEGEL staff

On this chilly Saturday morning, I’ve just read that a tiger on the loose was shot in central Paris yesterday. It was part of a travelling circus show and had escaped not only into the streets of Paris during rush hour, but onto the rails of a tramway. The message that riders on the stalled tram read was – Traffic is interrupted on the whole of the T3 line because of the presence of a tiger, property of a circus located nearby.

But why shoot the beast dead? Couldn’t they have just anesthetized it?

Major headlines dominating the media yesterday was the horrific terrorist attack in a village in the Egyptian Sinai. This is not a war of religion, but a war on humanity. Killing in the name of God? Terrorists have no religion, other than hate, fanatacism and barbarianism.

Harassment towards women: Today, President Emmanuel Macron will deliver a televised speech to the nation to detail measures his government has taken to combat violence against women. All this, of course, has come in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein affair. And from pressure from French women who marched in the streets of Paris this week decrying “the vertiginous silence of our society” and “an intolerable collective denial.”

I would have marched with them, but then decided it was time for French women to do their own protesting. For too long now, I’ve watched the strident feminist voices of opposition coming across the Atlantic from North America, mainly the USA. It’s time now for French women to take to the streets and demand change themselves. They’ve been far too passive. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, there was no sisterhood in this country (and little dissent.) This resulted in aiding and abeting the deeply entrenched sexism here. 

Here’s an anecdote: it was 1999 and I was sick and tired of the sexist advertising campaigns in this country. There was one ad – plastered on the metro station walls all over the city – that particularly irked me. It showed a young woman, buck naked and covered in oil that made her skin glisten, crouched down, her feet in starting blocks, her bum in the air. I can’t remember what the ad was for. Fed up, I contacted the only feminist group that existed at that time, they called themselves Les Chiennes de Garde which is a play on words. It means “watchdogs”, but “chienne” also means “bitch”, as in a female dog.


These are advertising campaigns displayed on huge posters in bus shelters and other places around the country. Up until a few years ago, nobody complained much. (This woman looks like a plastic mannequin.)


Notice how the head is cropped, dehumanizing and objectifying the female body.

I introduced myself, saying I was from Canada and I was shocked not only by the sexist advertising, but the seeming absence of any feminist or protest group in France. The women from the Chiennes de Garde were extremely hostile and unwelcoming towards me. In the end, they instructed me to do the following – to go down into the Parisian subway stations at night, around 10 pm when there was less traffic, and plaster the offending posters with stickers that read “NON à l’utilisation du corps de la femme à des fins mercantiles!” (NO to the use of women’s bodies for commercial purposes!)


“OK,” I said gamely, “How many will we be?”

“You’ll be alone,” was the answer. “Alone?” I replied, “I was hoping this would be a group action.” Apparently not. What happened to their slogan “mener une action collective“? (take collective action). I guess they had more important things to attend to. But I was not discouraged. Fine, I said to myself, I’ll tackle this thing single-handedly. And so I spent a few hours hand-writing with a magic marker ‘NON à l’utilisation du corps de la femme à des fins mercantiles’ onto a hundred stickers and out I went into the night, at around 10 pm.

And I did the action, alone and with no help from Les Chiennes de Garde or anyone else, riding the metro and getting out at the stations where I saw the offending poster and sticking my sticker onto it then waiting for the next train to get back on and continue riding the rails. Later I learned that it’s illegal to deface advertising posters (they hadn’t told me this.) I was also probably filmed by the subway station cameras, but no-one stopped me. The next morning I took the metro to work and in each station I saw my little stickers on the posters. I giggled inwardly and felt good.

Flash-forward to November 2017 and French women marching in the streets of Paris –

“President Macron!,” they exhorted, “You have the power to ensure that sexual violence stops.” They demanded a plan of action with concrete measures. And so the President, no doubt nudged by his dynamic wife, Brigitte, will deliver on those demands.

My next blog post will be on France’s reaction to the Weinstein affair and the exact nature of the new governmental measures. The key words are “protection” and “punishment.” To protect women at home, in the streets and in the workplace, and the disciplinary measures to be enforced against their harassers/tormenters.

Have a great weekend. Here’s that coffee article –