September 7, 2010
One morning recently, a good friend called saying she might come and visit with a common friend of ours during the afternoon. I decided to bake a cake I quite enjoy for its flavour first and then because it is so easy to prepare. Here is the recipe in case you want to try it :
For a round baking tray (middle size)
1 pack of puff pastry
200 gr (2 cups 1/4) of ground almonds
1 cup 1/2 of sugar
1 cup of milk
1 tsp of cinamon
1 pinch of salt
Mix all these ingredients
Then roll out the pastry on the baking tray (use a fork to make a few holes on the pastry)
Spread the ingredients you prepared onto the pastry
Pre-heat the oven at 200/230 °C (400-450°F)
Cook for 25 minutes
Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving
This pie tastes even better if you bake it one day in advance.
Some of you may think my almond pie looks a bit “burnt”… Well, almost but not really. I can assure you it tasted delicious ! And why should it look like this ?? That’s the question. You see, I was reading. A specially dangerous chapter that kept me totally concentrated on the story. At the same time I vaguely smelled something just as dangerous coming from the kitchen “Oh ! mon gâteau” (my cake) ! I rushed to the kitchen, book in hand of course (in case I would forget it somewhere on the way…) and I saved the almond pie from a very hot oven. Then I went on reading waiting for my friends.
“Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow” by Peter Hoeg is the book I was reading with great interest and more as “le gâteau de Babette” (Babette’s cake) was in the oven and requesting immediate attention ! I could not have been further from my kitchen. In fact Smilla, the fascinating main character in this book, was secretly - and dangerously - going aboard a ship in the darkest night you can imagine. She was persistent in doing her own investigation about a mystery death. The story takes place in Denmark (Copenhagen) and Greenland, two countries I don’t read about enough and I thought this book would be a good opportunity. It was, definitely so. And much more than that! This reading just cut me off from my surroundings for a few days, so exciting was the story. It is not a recent book, I had heard and read about it but somehow had missed it. Now it is done and I thorougly enjoyed its reading. I hope some of you did too or will do so soon !
August 9, 2010
This is the first book I read by Dan Hofstadter and it was a real pleasure from the first till the last page. He wrote three previous books. His most recent, The Love Affair as a Work of Art, is a collection of essays on French writers. For several years D. Hofstadter was also a regular contributor to The New Yorker.
This fascinating book is about his years in Naples and about Benedetta, the passionate and mysterious Neapolitan woman he met there. But not only. D. Hofstadter shares with so much talent his knowledge and love of this unique city and people. His words bring to life – and how brilliantly ! – some great Neapolitan characters whom he befriended during his stay.
D. Hofstadter makes me feel like going back to Naples and exploring some streets and areas I was a bit unsure of visiting as a tourist. It is not easy to describe Naples´atmosphere beside its hustle and bustle. There is so much more that remains unseen to a visitor on vacation. If Naples is a future destination for you, then read D. Hofstadter´s book about it. He has seen this city with his heart. Is there a better way to visit and feel a new place ?
“Falling Asleep in the City”, a few words of the Prologue that made me love D. Hofstadter´s book about Naples immediately :
“Whenever, after a long absence, I return to Naples, that beautiful and wounded city, I find myself looking forward to bedtime, to the first few moments of falling asleep. I always stay in one of the more populous quarters, in a room overlooking a steep, narrow street, and as I throw open my window a vast wave of sound floods over me. Settled in bed, I´m disconcerted at first by the sheer volume, by my feeling of floating helplessly in a tide of half-drowned voices, people calling or quarreling, snatches of jokes, television commercials, soccer games, ghosts of song twisted by the wind; footfalls mingle with rasping sc0oters, a baby´s crying with the honking of horns. Yet soon the noises soothe me, and suspended between wakefulness and sleep I enjoy a sensation of homecoming, of rejoining a crowd of kindred spirits, faces I have always known.“
April 14, 2010
I have been away from the computer for a while,
Enjoying a timid Spring awakening in the Alps,
Sunny walks along mountain tracks,
Exuberant birds’ songs at all hours.
Quiet reading and sewing,
Happy meals with family and friends,
A pause at Easter, a time to reflect
While wondering at Nature’s revival
And new inner paths.
Eggs, you find them everywhere around Easter time ! Mostly chocolate eggs over here ;) Not all though; those are carved in various semiprecious stones from Madagascar. I got them as I lived in this great island and visited market places, craftsmen’ workshops.
You may be interested in reading a few lines about eggs and their symbolism
Almost every day during Easter time, I walked along a narrow irrigation canal (the local name is “bisse”). Sometimes on wooden paths or bridges, but mostly on mountain tracks barely freed from snow. The very first flowers were blooming on the dry slopes. Delightful !
Sewing and reading, two of my favorite hobbies. The “grandmother flowers’ garden” is still growing and blooming… since it is sewed by hand, I like to bring it along wherever I travel and I added quite a few hexagonal flowers. Spring mood and also the wish to see this quilt finished at last. A low table has been waiting to be covered for… quite a while.
In my favourite second-hand bookstore I found a wonderful book by Alice Munro (Ontario, Canada): “Open Secrets”. Shorts stories about women that take place over several generations from 1850s to the present, from Canada to Australia, the Balkans and France. Unconventional women who never wanted to be contained. I so enjoyed each story! Alice Munr0′s writing is simply superb. Her characters never leave you. I already know that I will read more of her.
“In the mountains, in Maltsia e madhe, she must have tried to tell them her name, and “Lottar” was what they made of it. She had a wound in her leg, from a fall on sharp rocks when her guide was shot. She had a fever. How long did it took them to carry her through the mountains, bound up in a rug and strapped to a horse’s back, she had no idea”…
(First lines of “The Albanian Virgin”, a short story by A. Munro – just to make you feel like knowing more…)
How about you, what are you reading right now ?
March 17, 2010
A special ancient edition of James Joyce’s “Dubliners”, smooth cloth cover, as green as the island of the “Forty shades of green”. Joyce’s famous book is translated in French “Gens de Dublin” and contains some lovely lithographies by Charles Bardet. I thought it would be an opportunity to wish a ” Happy St Patrick’s Day to all Irish people and to those Irish at heart.
February 21, 2010
More snow fell yesterday, a Siberian North wind blows over the landscape today and although the sun is trying to shine, its rays are still too weak to warm up the atmosphere. So I thought why not going South ? in my memories at least. When I mean South, I mean one of the most Southern parts of the world if you live in Europe. That is Australia. About three years ago I went there for a while, I left Winter behind and found Summer in Victoria, beautifully warm and green in many places.
Walking in the bush was quite a discovery for me. Eucalypts and plants unheard of over here. Forests that seemed to have grown in a kind of disorder but once you walk through them, you notice a natural harmony in those twisted tree trunks and wild plants covering a rather dry soil. The woods were either silent or very noisy with the cockatoes’ calls.
An amazing entanglement of trees, bushes, high ferns. Sometimes a beautiful confusion, at other times a forest as imposing as a cathedral.
Here and there the Australian forests reminded me of a poem of Baudelaire :
La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles ;
L’homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l’observent avec des regards familiers.
Nature is a temple where live pillars
Sometimes whisper confused words
Man walks across it through forests of symbols
Which observe him with familiar looks.
Extract from the poem “Correspondances”
Here is a site about Australian nature that I love to visit :
Robert Burcul’s amazing and artistic pictures of Queensland are well worth seeing.
February 1, 2010
A book I am re-reading at the moment, “The Art of Simplicity”. Still fascinating and inspiring. Dominique Loreau writes about living more simply, reducing the number of objects that may surround us, having less, making choices about what is really essential in our life. Her wish in writing this book is to invite us to try getting rid of the superfluous to find more inner space. She reintroduces us to the pleasures of living without the excess. A wonderful perspective, one of my resolutions for this new year. The good news is… slowly but surely I have started the “désencombrement” (to clear) and it feels so good !
I chose this picture to participate in Scott Thomas’ “White” assignement for this month on his blog . You are all invited to visit his site and join in ! Don’t wait too long : your “white” pictures should be posted till Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010 ! Good luck and much pleasure.
The red rose is for you, giiid, http://my2008blog.wordpress.com/ . Thank you so much for your help ! I made it
December 24, 2009
May you all receive the Christmas light in your heart.
A time for a pause and for sharing,
A time for celebrating and thinking of others, not able to do so.
A time for giving one’s time to prepare traditional meals that will bring everyone around the Christmas table.
Joyful decorations, Nativity scene, scented candles, cinnamon cookies, spiced tea, Christmas songs in church, a snowman in a garden and so much more. There is this special mood at home that makes you feel like prolonging this happy time of togetherness. And why not ?
“The essential is invisible to the eyes, one only sees well with the heart”.
Those were the words the fox said to the little prince as they were going to part. It was the fox secret that he confided to him. And to many readers across the globe since the book was published. “The Little Prince” is a wonderful tale for all ages, a story to read to children, a story for all times. And the fox secret is good to remember well beyond Christmas.
November 6, 2009
This past Summer and Fall several books have followed me wherever I went. One that I never forgot to take with me was “The Shadow of the Wind” by Spanish (Catalan) writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
The novel, set in post-Spanish Civil War Barcelone, is about a young boy, Daniel. After the war, Daniel’s father takes him to the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a huge library of old, forgotten titles lovingly preserved by a select few initiates. As tradition goes, everyone entering this secret place is allowed to take one book from it, and asked to protect it for life. Daniel selects a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. On the night he takes the book home Daniel starts reading it, and becomes completely obsessed with it and his writer. He then attempts to look for other books by this unknown author, but can find none. From then on Daniel’s life takes a completely different turn !
I will not tell you more… in case you would decide to read this fascinating book (mystery, romance, thriller, period epic). One of the best books I read this year, one that is so difficult to put down !
October 14, 2009
A poem that came to mind this afternoon as I walked through the fields bordering the forest. Leaves were falling over my face, swept away by a soft but freezing breeze. They touched the soil gently, without hardly any sound to my human ears but not so to the blade of grass…
“Said a blade of grass to an autumn leaf, “You make such a noise falling! You scatter all my winter dreams.”
Said the leaf indignant, “Low-born and low-dwelling! Songless, peevish thing! You live not in the upper air and you cannot tell the sound of singing.”
Then the autumn leaf lay down upon the earth and slept. And when spring came she waked again — and she was a blade of grass.
And when it was autumn and her winter sleep was upon her, and above her through all the air the leaves were falling, she muttered to herself, “O these autumn leaves! They make such a noise! They scatter all my winter dreams.”
The Madman Chapter 30
September 21, 2009
Laura Diaz and Mari are two characters that could not be more further apart.
Carlos Fuentes (Mexico) and Haruki Murakami (Japan) are also two favourite writers of mine. Both readings were fascinating and yet, how different their main characters.
Laura Diaz is the passionate woman who fascinated me in Carlos Fuentes’ book : “The Years with Laura Diaz”.
Mari is a shy and rather reserved young person around whom Haruki Murakami wrote an eerie novel, “After Dark”, a book you cannot put down easily. In fact I read it in a few hours, almost in the story real time.
Laura Diaz lives mostly in Mexico whereas Mari’s story is set in Tokyo.
“After Dark” is a story of encounters in the hours between midnight and 7 am on a particular night. “The Years with Laura Diaz” lead you all along the 20th century and the main events that marked that period.
Tetsuya Takahashi is Mari’s encounter during that night. The men in Laura Diaz’ life bring her to various places in Mexico, North America and Europe.
The writing style of these two books is very different too. In Carlos Fuentes’ novel it is flamboyant and very descriptive, South American writers excel in it. In “After Dark”, Haruki Murakami writes about reality or dreams with a more concise style and shorter sentences, always making you want to read further and see beyond the story itself.
Laura and Mari are women you get attached to until the last page. I almost regretted closing these two books, wishing that the story would go on and on. Imagining another end. Laura, Mari will stay with you for a good while should you decide to read those novels.