February 27, 2012

The Artist - Bravo Jean - Formidable Loulou

He did it. He really pulled it off!

Jean Dujardin jumped to fame thanks to a silent movie and has become the first Frenchman to win the coveted accolade and beat out Hollywood frontrunner George Clooney to the Oscar as best actor!

Now, if you grew up this side of the pond you have most probably come across Jean in a comedy television series called "Un gars, Une fille". I used to watch it along with other 5 million viewers each day, that is to say a third of the people watching television at that timeslot in France. It won a Sept d'or award for "best entertainment show" in 2001 and concluded in 2003. "Un gars, Une fille" contains 486 episodes with 4,500 sketches.

Jean Dujardin began his acting career performing a one-man show he wrote in various bars and cabarets in Paris. He first gained attention when he appeared on the French talent show "Graines de star" in 1996 as part of the comedy group "Nous C Nous".

But nothing could have prepared him for the success of "The Artist," for which he won the best actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

More honors followed, including the Golden Globe for best actor in a musical or comedy, the BAFTA prize for best actor, and the Screen Actors Guild award - all leading up to Dujardin's Oscar triumph.

Bravo, bravo, bravo Loulou! "Genial! Merci! Formidable! Merci beaucoup! I love you"

February 26, 2012

The Swiss Alps are calling me...

"Home, the spot of earth supremely blest, a dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest."
Robert Montgomery

Once a year we religiously return to Switzerland for a family ski holiday. It is a chance to cure our Swiss homesickness. None of us have a drop of Swiss blood in us but all four family members have a strong bond to this tiny country in the heart of Europe.

When I married my Italian beau many years ago, I insisted on one condition - yes, just one - that he would take me "home" to ski once a year no matter where we lived. Ever since he has kept his promise and what others call ski holidays, we call our "Swiss holidays".

The kids started skiing as soon as they could walk and even my Neapolitan husband has taken a penchant towards the sport. It is a holiday we all look forward to as soon as the cold weather begins not only because it means that we'll be going "home" soon but also that we'll be able to enjoy all the Swiss traditions and delicacies that we so much enjoy.

The feel of crunching snow beneath our skis is just the beginning of many thrills.

Approaching the Swiss Alps

Definately arrived in Switzerland

On top of the world and happy as punch

Tomorrow we will conquer the mountain

Home is where the heart is

With our hearts in the sky

Fairytale à la suisse

Just in case you were wondering....

February 17, 2012

A poem about Paris

I knew when first I looked into her eyes,
And she in mine, that what has been must be,
And so let others say she told them lies:
She told no lie to me!
She spoke me fair, of lees as well as wine,
Then, with that subtlest charm of all her charms,
Half-dropped her languid lids, and at the sign
I ran into her arms!

Now it is she who flings my window wide
At dawn, and lets the perfumed morning in,
And she who walks so softly at my side,
Through noonday's dust and din.
But, most of all, 't is she, where blue night falls,
Whose firm, imperious fingers tap the pane,
And she whose velvet voice it is that calls,
Nor calls her own in vain!

It is as if the siren understood
How that she is so strong at this still hour,
That I could not repulse her if I would,
Nor would, had I the power:
As if she knew that, should I try to check
The strength of that enrapt, responsive thrill,
Let her but slide her arm about my neck,
And I obey her will!

So, when she speaks, I answer; when she woos,
Her voice, like wine, the slow pulse goads and spurs:
I go to meet her through the dropping dews,
And lean my lips to hers.
All the long hours run laughing into one--
The strange, sweet moment when the evening falls--
And, like a mother summoning her son,
Resistless Paris calls!

Guy Wetmore Carryl - PARIS, 1901.

February 15, 2012

Le Cordon Bleu - I can do this!

For Valentine's Day, a friend and I decided to treat ourselves with a Julia Child moment in our lives and potentially end up with a homemade gift to present to our hubbies for dinner.

We launched into a Cordon Bleu class. Yes, I am talking about THE Cordon Bleu. The world renowned educational institution dedicated to providing the highest level of culinary and hospitality instruction through world class programs. WE choose THE class of all classes on February 14th:


The school does promise to apply its distinctive teaching methodology where students gain experience through hands-on learning, however, I must be believe that this involves the full time students.

Let me explain. We started off with a rather serious introduction in French by a typical complaining French individual. Do you blame him? He's wondering why a bunch of foreign housewives will spend Euro 100.- on a chocolate course? After the intial shock, we warmed to LE CHEF and I actually enjoyed his dry sense of humour. His assistant was a charming British lad who had to translate all the French mumblings into a form that the Americans (North &South), the Asians and the Swiss could understand! A great deal of smiling and puns at this point. OK, we were set to go!

Lots of bowls infront of us and 3 helpers who constantly provided us with all the ingredients ready measured in little glasses. They also cleaned up after us, continually! (Can I take one of those home with me please?)

We heated chocolate, we mixed ingredients, we blended chocolate until it was tempered, OOPS, too tempered, start again! We poured chocolate into and we squeezed chocolate out of the pastry bag. We were on a roll...when LE CHEF decided to take over and show us how to mould chocolate hearts. We stood there watching him for 45 minutes wandering when WE would get to do the hands-on work? The British lad kept on translating bravely while we were watching the same gesture being repeated over and over again.

Finally it was our turn! Admitteldy pouring chocolate into a mould is not quite as easy as it looks, but then again, it's not rocket science either! Another 30 minutes of moulding chocolate! Where is this leading us to?

Back into our starting blocks and charged to go the CHEF's helpers set us up with liquid chocolate tempered to perfection (easy). We had to make little blobs of choc which in French have the fancy name of MENDIANT if you sprinkle some dry fruit and nuts on top. Got it!

The snakes we had squeezed onto the baking sheet and had cooled in the fridge at the beginning of the course, were dipped in liquid chocolate and rolled in icing sugar. Pretty straight forward stuff but because of the great stirring effort we had produced earlier on (and the Cointreau I might add) the final product of MUSCADINES tasted sublime.... and I know my chocolate, trust me!

At last, we demoulded the chocolate hearts. Worked to perfection. Out of 28 hearts not one of them broke in the process. I guess this is where the secret of a great chef lies?

We assembled our chocolate hearts with more liquid chocolate and arranged them on a base of chocolate. A sprinkle of gold dust, three Mendiant to decorate it .... et voilà! LE COEUR CHOCOLAT MOULE was ready.

Although the course was fun, it was not as hands-on as I expected. I did however, learn a few trick of the trade and .... THE END RESULT IS SPECTACULAR!

Comme quoi, the French really know how to show off their stuff! When they put their heads to something, they do it with a certain "Je ne sais quoi" that nobody beats! C'est simplement magnifique!

My personal Certificate of Attendance signed by the Chef upon completion of the course.

A cold morning walk through the Tuileries Garden

“The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event”

The Tuileries Garden was created by Catherine de Medicis as the garden of the Tuileries Palace in 1564, it was first opened to the public in 1667, and became a public park after the French Revolution.
In the 19th century, the Tuileries Garden was the place where ordinary Parisians went to relax, meet, promenade, enjoy the fresh air and greenery, and be entertained just like I did today!

Église Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption

A detail that piqued my curiosity

February 14, 2012

February 13, 2012

A luxury tour from Chanel to Hermès

“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.”
Coco Chanel

Admittedly, nobody in their right mind, living in Paris all year round, would venture outside on a guided tour at -9°C this week. But I can assure you the motive was justifiable.

When the spirit of Coco Chanel calls, it is difficult to resist temptation. So, off I went on a sunny freezing winter morning. Our group met infront of WHSmith which I have wanted to visit since I arrived in September but somehow coming down to the first arrondissement is just asking for trouble. All this Parisian designer temptation. The French call it "chic, cheque et choque". (Tempted by the elegance, writing out a check and then in a state of shock in realizing what you have just done!).

Walking into WHSmith - full of English books - was like walking into a candy store. I spent nearly an hour browsing through the huge two story bookstore and ended up not only buying two books but also my PG Tips teabags, Jelly and tea biscuits.

But back to my main reason for venturing towards the world-renowned heart of fashion. From traditional French chic to modern pizzazz in the rue Cambon, rue St Honoré and the beautiful place Vendôme, the traditional centre of the luxury trade, we trod the trails where the biggest names in luxury have set foot many decades ago.

The fashion specialist guide gave us the background on the fashion houses and elegant shops of today, talked about the life and influence of Coco Chanel. Did you know that in 1945, she moved to Switzerland, eventually returning to Paris in 1954, the same year she returned to the fashion world.

Frank Horvat
Paris, 1958 - Coco Chanel, hiding in her staircase to watch her own fashion show through a mirror, unaware of the photographer who watches her through another one.

We stopped to visit the Hermes and Chanel boutiques (we only glimpsed, I promise) and fantasized about Mademoiselle sitting on the staircase leading from the boutique to the ateliers on the top floors.

The Hotel Ritz, where Chanel resided for over 30 years until her death in 1971 at age 87, was tremendously inviting sparking in the cold sunshine.

But I think I'll wait until my Mum visits me in Paris when we can treat ourselves by going to have tea at the Ritz.

February 10, 2012

Joke of the day!

I do love my life in Paris and the French have proven to be suprisingly pleasant. However, I couldn't resist sharing this bit of sense of humor for the weekend:

"The Artist" le film muet rafle 10 nominations aux Oscars, une première pour un film Français !

Comme quoi, quand les Français ferment leurs gueules, tout le monde les apprécie !

February 8, 2012

Tartiflette Savoyarde recipe

What is a tartiflette? My French is goes a long way but when we visited the Festival des fromages de Meulan back in September I came across this delicous dish for the first time. Tartiflette is a French dish from the Haute Savoie region of France. It is made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, cream, and lardons. The word tartiflette is likely derived from the Arpitan word for potato, tartifla.

Check out this simple and easy recipe which will transport you towards to the French Alps just in time for ski holidays.

Ingredients: (serves 6)
1.5 kg of potatoes, cut into slices
1 creamy Reblochon
2 onions, diced
200g smoked bacon
1 small jar of crème fraiche

1.) Cook the potatoes in boiling water for 15 min.
2.) Slice the onions thinly and put them in a frying pan with a bit of oil.
3.) When they're half-cooked, add the bacon. Fry the diced onion with the bacon until golden then add the potatoes until lighty brown.
(Optional: When the mixture is ready, add a small glass of wine and continue cooking until it has evaporated)
3.) Transer mixture into a baking dish. Pour a thin layer of crème fraiche on top.
4.) Slice a reblochon cheese in half so you have two large round pieces. Place cheese down, rind up, on the mixture.
5.) Bake for 20 minutes, Reblochon should be barely brown and runny.


February 7, 2012

Charming Everyday Things

Last week our little group of Swedish-Amercian, Jewish-American, a Japanese-American and Swiss-American explorers took off to uncover some Japanese customs and savours.

We started out at the Bastille Design Center in the 11th arrondissment. Our curiosity had been peaked by an exhibition called: Made in Japan - 365 days of Charming Everyday Things

This concept on the move had set up temporarily in a former hardware warehouse which in itself was worth visiting.

On three levels, 365 objects were presented and offered thanks to an exceptional scenography. We discovered the charms of Japan. Learned about objects, that convey the practical sense, the know-how and good Japanese taste. From the book mark to the bike, from a cup to a stool, from a sock to a plaid, from toothpicks to a cast iron pot… these objects are practical, simple, charming and unusual.

365 objects like 365 days in the year, so 365 possibilities of finding exactly what you want! From 2,5 € to 2000 €.

Where to start?

Fascinating set-up

2012 - The Year of the Dragon

July 1st stationary - The official climbing season of Mount Fuji is from July 1 to the end of August. 

A cloth to enrobe a Kimono and carry it to the event where helpers will assist you getting dressed

Sewing kit - adorable

Bowls made of colourful ribbon 

Paper gift cases

Wait - this in as Italian as it gets - a mosquito burner!
You never know what two cultures might have in common...

Our enchanted morning was concluded by a delicious Japanese meal.

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