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: