Christmas yule logs


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As a kid, I waited all year long for Christmas.

Throughout December my blog posts will be devoted to Christmas, my favorite celebration of all. Why do I love Christmas and December so? Don’t all Capricorns?

There’ll be Christmas lights and decorations around Paris (including department store windows), the Christmas market in Lille’s town square, and then, later in the month, Christmas in London.

Yule logs, called bûches de Noël, 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. My favorite flavor is chestnut. I was watching 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, once the sponge cake was rolled up, but what the French chef did before it was rolled up, was to brush it generously with syrup made from sugared water and Cointreau. This moistens the cake and gives it added flavor. If children are eating the log, then 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.  

President Macron, riots, Brexit, a Saturday night rant

The video below of Larry the cat went viral because it provided us with a moment of levity in this mad, mad world. Because we’re sick to death with the world right now: with Trump especially, but also with injustice in general. With stupid violence and stupid killings; with that barbaric and backward Saudi Arabia and their senseless war with Yemen in which thousands and thousands of children and innocent civilians are dead or maimed, and no-one cares.

It appears that a Saturday night rant is in order. Excuse me while I rage.

Sick to death of Western arms being sold to repressive regimes in the East: in 2017 the UK made £12.bn from arms sales to the Middle East and Africa. And no-one cares. Sick to death (literally) of air pollution and environmental disasters. Sick of misogyny and fragile male egos needing to belittle women in order to feel important. Sick of greed, fraud and corruption. Have you read about Carlos Ghosn, the French head of Renault-Nisson-Mitsubishi? With stock options, he earned 15 million euros in 2017. But he allegedly under-reported his earnings and used company funds for personal expenses. Today he’s sitting in solitary confinement in a Tokyo prison cell measuring 5 square meters.

Sick of President Macron’s condescending, elitist attitude – why do all French presidents morph into monarchs once they get into office? – while he hikes the price of gasoline and taxes in a country which already imposes one of the highest tax rates in the world … in a country where the rich just get richer and the poor poorer.

Why do we pay a ton of taxes (taxes were even increased on retiree pensions) when behemoth companies like TOTAL, GOOGLE, DANONE, SUEZ, MICROSOFT, etc. pay no income tax whatsoever?

No, this isn’t a war zone in Syria, this is the Champs-Elysées, today –

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See astonishing photos below of violent riots that took place today, mere miles from my apartment on the Champs-Elysées.

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Today on the Champs-Elysées.

 

Sick of 10 Downing Street and having BREXIT shoved down our throats even though the majority of Britons now wish to cancel it (the million or so British nationals living in Europe didn’t even have the chance to vote!) As for me personally, I was thrown out of the French Prefecture de Police in September while presenting my dossier to the authorities. (I’m trying to apply for French citizenship, not on a whim but because one of the consequences of Brexit will be the rescindment of my European citizenship.) Why was I thrown out of the Prefecture de Police? Because my birth certificate wasn’t legalized. It took me three months to get another appointment. I’ll be going back in December, lugging a dossier the size of a small suitcase.

“I could write a book on this,” I complained to a friend before pausing and adding, “Wait a minute … I am writing a book.” But my book is not a starry-eyed account of a clichéd “glamorous, romantic” Paris. Paris today is a decidedly unglamorous and irritable place (and the air pollution is really bad.)

Astonishing photos here:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2018/nov/24/gilets-jaunes-protest-against-macron-policies-in-paris-and-across-france-in-pictures

 

 

 

Drouot auction house

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Decades ago, I had a Parisian boyfriend named Raoul. Raoul was a snob and a sophisticate (which is not the same thing as a sophisticated snob). On Saturday afternoons he liked to meet up with his equally snobbish friends at Drouot. I was invited to tag along. Like him, his friends were journalists at either Reuters or AFP (Agence France Presse.) 

Back then, I was far from being a sophisticate. Before Drouot, the only auctions I had ever attended were in country barns in rural Ontario (my family had a weekend farm east of Toronto.)

Raoul had a penchant for Persian and Oriental rugs and would bid on them at Drouot. These rugs below remind me of him. Incidentally, Drouot is pronounced “Drew-oh”, the “r” in the back of the throat.

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Look at these beautiful pressed flowers over a hundred years old.

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Drouot is fun because anyone can just walk on in and attend the sales. Entrance is free. There are several rooms upstairs and sales occur simultaneously. There’s a lot of activity and people milling around. If you like beautiful, eclectic things and objects of historical value, I suggest that you go. Sales usually start at 2 p.m. Here below is the sale of postcards. A few years ago, a postcard dated October 1899 and signed Guillaume Apollinaire sold for 8,000 euros.

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You can also bid via telephone and internet.  Closest metro stop is Richelieu-Drouot on lines 8 and 9.  There are some good restaurants and bistros in this bustling area: Au Petit Riche on the rue le Peletier, Chartier at number 7 rue du Fauboug Montmartre, 75009 Paris. And there are the passages to explore as well. Make a day of it! 

http://www.drouot.com/

my French heaven

Stéphane is a bon vivant from the Bordeaux region. He’s also an exceptional, and I mean truly superb, photographer. He offers personalized food and wine tours and photography workshops in the Bordeaux region of France. You can also hire him as a wedding or portrait photographer.

cherry clafoutis

photograph courtesy of My French Heaven

His recipes, many borrowed from his grandmother, are tempting indeed. I know that I’m going to be making his cherry clafoutis recipe this weekend. Miam! (that’s ‘Yummy’ in French.)

Here’s his URL below. Enjoy!

https://myfrenchheaven.com/

new Elton John Christmas ad

Who doesn’t like Elton John? I grew up with him. I have a vivid memory of me and my gal pals cruising around our Toronto suburb on Friday and Saturday nights. Sandy had her mother’s car, a gigantic boat-like Pontiac, a Grand Prix I think it was. Massive. It was the 1970s and I was a teenager. We’d drive around all night, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes mixed with pot and singing at the top of our lungs. The 8-track cassette in the tape deck was Elton John Greatest Hits, the song of the moment Bennie and the Jets.

Be-Be-Be-Bennie and the Jets. Remember?

Of course, there was also Rocket Man, Your Song, Daniel, Tiny Dancer, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, and oh, so many many more. Around midnight we’d meet up with the local boys at Ice Queen and gorge on double cheeseburgers, fries and chocolate shakes. We thought we were the coolest ever. In the moment.

Anyway, fast-forward four decades and John Lewis department store in Britain has crafted a heart-warming Christmas ad this year.

From The Guardian newspaper –

The John Lewis advert is bookended by the singer performing Your Song at his first piano in what is supposed to be the sitting room of his London home. The middle charts his path from school and pub gigs in the London suburb of Pinner to pop mega-stardom, complete with technicolour outfit changes that include a stars and stripes sequinned suit and pink mohican.

With a little poetic licence the ad traces the singer’s musicianship back to the Christmas gift of a piano in the early 1950s, when the then Reginald Dwight was growing up under the watchful eye of his mother and grandmother. One scene, which re-enacts him nervously playing at a school recital, is expected to bring tears to the eyes of thousands of parents of would-be musicians.

“I hope audiences will watch this and really enjoy the national treasure that is Elton John,” said Craig Inglis, customer director at John Lewis & Partners.

 

 

making baking breaking bread

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I don’t know about you, but I’m going to put all the troubles of the world aside and bake some bread, some dense, delicious, high-fibre rye bread. I saw the above photo, and decided it was something I kneaded (pardon the pun) to do. Not just to eat, but to make. There’s something very satisfying about making bread: mixing, kneading, letting it rise then punching it down and letting it rise a second time.

Yesterday I ate a bowl of sweet potato-butternut squash soup (homemade), and it cried out for a slice or two of rye. Making your own bread isn’t that difficult. Thanks to Paul Hollywood’s recipes below, he’s made it user friendly. It’s important to buy good quality organic flour, not the industrial stuff. This recipe calls for rye flour and white flour.

It also calls for treacle. Treacle! I’m not sure where I’m going to find that in France … I don’t even know how to say it. (Just looked it up, it’s mélasse, as in molasses.) Although I’m not sure they’re quite the same thing.

Anyway, sometimes it’s time to turn off the toxic news, listen to some music or a good podcast, and bake some bread.

Qui sème bon grain récolte bon pain. (He who sows good grain, harvests good bread.)

Enjoy!

https://www.bbc.com/food/rye_flour

https://www.bbc.com/food/chefs/paul_hollywood

Trump in France, rain, war cemeteries …

65th anniversary of the Normandy invasion of the allied forces

What an immense embarrassment … to himself, to the USA, but mostly to the fallen dead. Trump the Dump has crossed so many lines we’ve all lost count, but this … this takes the cake. He is a national, no, an international disgrace.

Today is Armistice Day. But instead of honoring those who fought and died for America, Trump has cancelled his visit to Belleau, the American war cemetery in Normandy. Why? Because it’s raining!

Trump has not only dishonored all veterans and active duty, he has dishonored our flag. The same flag he accuses others of dishonoring by kneeling during the National Anthem. No one who has ever kneeled during the National Anthem disgraced our country, our flag and most importantly our military personnel like Trump has done today. Not even close.

This is the same man who mocked Hillary Clinton for fainting after she stood through a long memorial service when she had flu?

It’s incredible that a president would travel to France for this significant anniversary — and then remain in his hotel room watching TV rather than pay in person his respects to the Americans who gave their lives in France for the victory gained 100 years ago.

Make America Great Again. Indeed! And this from an individual who has never served in the military, thanks to a string of deferments that enabled him to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War.

The cemetery has 2,288 grave­sites honoring those who died. The names of 1,060 more Americans who went missing and whose bodies were not recovered are engraved on the walls of the site.

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Here’s the link to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Normandy, France –
https://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries-memorials/europe/aisne-marne-american-cemetery#.W-f2F_ZFyas

And here’s a résumé of the day’s events in Monday’s The Guardian –

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/11/thumbs-up-from-putin-as-trump-rains-on-armistice-parade