Friday, July 31, 2020

Paris in July: Cheese and Books

And so, we come to the end of this year's Paris in July event. I have had a lot of fun talking about food, books and just generally feeding my desire to visit Paris again some day soon. Of course, like everyone else I have no idea when that might be! We were supposed to go in April this year but COVID got in the way. Maybe we will be able to go next year, although I suspect that might be a bit soon. Maybe in 2022!

This is a quote from Aria's Travelling Book Shop by Rebecca Raisin. I enjoy Rebecca Raisin's writing, especially when she writes about France, food and books, and this quote ticks all those boxes.

We head into our new town, chattering about the beauty before us as we wander down narrow medieval streets. The brisk morning air is like a tincture and I feel refreshed after the long drive the day before and I soon forget Jean-Pierre.
"I didn't even consult my maps for a bookshop for you," Rosie says.
I raise a brow. "Progress."
"No, it's not that. I know you'll sniff it out, you're like a bloodhound when it comes to books. Is it something you learn, or does it just come naturally to bibliophiles like yourself?"
I knock her with my hip. "Very funny."
We zigzag our way through the streets full of colourful buildings before Rosie stops at un epicier to stock up on baking essentials for the fete. The figs are lush and ready to burst and will make the most delicious jam for her French twist Devonshire teas. The grocer promises to deliver her haul to the campsite in a few hours' time.
Onwards we go, stopping at the fromagerie which is ripe with the smell of exotic cheeses. Rosie gets to talking to the fromager about all the various types. She's a wealth of information about French cuisine from her fifteen years at Epoque, a French restaurant in London. He offers us a taste of an aged comte that is so delicious I'll die if I don't eat more. Next he cuts a wedge of gooey camembert that's so creamy and lush I vow to only eat French cheese for the rest of my natural born life. I spend far too much money but leave the fromagerie happier than when I came in.
And I put all thought of a budget to one side. The universe will provide, isn't that the Van Lifer catch phrase.
The hair on my arms stands on end and that can only mean one thing. I'm close to a bookshop. I can almost smell it, the heady scent adventure trapped between parchments. Eventually I spy it. The most beautiful bookshop I've ever seen; the curved old stone building that leans slightly to the left as if seeking tentative rays of sunlight that eke in from the open square. Pale-blue weather-beaten shutters are thrown open, ivy snakes through the wood.
Rosie sees the excitement on my face and with a sigh glances at her watch. "No more than one hour, Aria."
I scoff. "It depends on how many floors it has." I gaze up at the windows, sheer curtains flutter in the breeze as if welcoming me in: We've been waiting for you, Aria...
"One and a half, that's my final offer." I grin as I pull her inside. "OK, nope. I  take that back. I'm going to need two hours," I say breathlessly. Tiny fairy lights blink in the shadowy space, dark wooden shelves curve around the room in an arc, snaking from the floor all the way up to the ceiling.
It's my kind of bookshop, shelves full to bursting, novels spilling over, double and triple stacked. In the centre of the room sit two antique French chaises in pale pink and ruby red, chenille throws draped over the arms patiently waiting for a bookworm to plonk down and relax for a time.
Magazines sit atop a coffee table, all that's missing is a pot of tea and a tin of biscuits and then no way would one and a half hours suffice.
A staff member wanders over and asks in perfect English,"May I help you find something?"
"Where are the cookery books, s'il vous plait?" Rosie asks.
"Back there to the left." She points to another rabbit warren of rooms. "Let me know if you'd like any further assistance.
"Thank you." We watch her walk away on sky-high heels. Even booksellers are glamorous in France.  I dip my head to my own outfit which could be described more as bookworm chic. Jeans and a literary tee is about as fancy as I get these days. I don't think I can even walk in heels anymore.

I am all about the comfy shoes these days too! In fact, this week my lovely husband bought my new slippers because that is literally all I am wearing on my feet all day every day whilst we are back in lockdown!

Thank you to Tamara from Thyme for Tea for hosting, to everyone who shared posts and who visited during Paris in July this year. I hope we get to do it all again next year!

I am also sharing this post with Weekend Cooking.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Alphabet 2020: N and O

I have missed a couple of weeks of my Alphabet 2020 so this week I am combining N and O together.

Together it could be NO. NO going out, NO leaving the house without having a mask with us at all times, NO commute - so many NOs that I could do.

But instead, I am going to do a bit of a New and Old feature, talking about the work we have done around the house over the last couple of years.  I have mentioned a few things here on the blog but this will be the post where I put them all together.

When my now husband moved in, I am not sure if he bought his checklist of things to be renovated with him or if that has just evolved over time. I have made the joke that when he finishes renovating this house then we either need a new house to work on or he might need to find a new wife! He assures me that neither of these are true though. That's when he can turn his attention to his hobbies.

The very first thing on the the agenda was to tidy up the laundry, adding in a bench top that we can use for folding clothes and things, or at least that's the theory! And then we added solar panels.

The first major reno job that we did was the kitchen and it was completed just over two years ago, and I have to say I still love the way it looks, and the benchtops! I quite often stand at the stone benchtops and just caress it! I did a quite lengthy post about the reno process which you can read here, but here are just a couple of pictures.

One of the clever things that Bob the builder did was to take the kitchen cabinet you can see on the left and repurposed it for more storage in the laundry!

The next major job that we did was the deck. My intention was always to completely close the deck in. As you can see from the before photos it was kind of closed in and that was definitely what I thought would happen, until one day I had the brain wave to open it out. That was the time when I learnt that I need to have ensured that I had thought things through before I say anything because within a few days of suggesting it we were already ripping out shrubs and flower beds.

And what we ended up was this great outdoor space that gets used way more than the old deck ever did, and we even had it all decorated for our wedding celebration last year. And those plants on the edge of the deck. I hadn't realised just how much they have grown since we put those in.  We have subsequently removed the washing line and put in a fire pit which we love too.

Next job was the flooring. You can see in the before photos for kitchen the floor tiles were very 1970s so doing the flooring made all the difference!

Next stop was my son's bedroom. It's amazing what a difference moving a wardrobe makes because I would never have thought that we could have fitted a queen sized bed in that room the way it was configured before. Unfortunately,  it appears we didn't take before or after photos which is odd.

The next projects were the laundry/toilet

And then the bathroom which is a job that was very overdue. We are super pleased with how the bathroom has turned out. It feels so much bigger than it was, just by taking out a lot of the brown, and by moving the bath around.

So the parts of the house that are still old are the spare bedroom which we are currently using as an office, our bedroom and the ensuite. One of the biggest changes when we get to our ensuite will be the removal of a chocolate brown toilet suite - no I am not joking!

We also plan to change the heating/cooling in the whole house, the window coverings, replacing the front door which features lovely orange frosted glass, and now we need to clear the frontyard so that we can create another car parking space.  This is the before of that particular project. Who knows when we will finish the after!

The amazing thing about all of this is that my husband has done the vast majority of the work. He loves the research and planning, and then the ripping out and fixing up and the sense of satisfaction when the job is done.

So there we have the New and Old of our house. If I had to gauge I would suggest that we are more New than Old but there's still plenty to do. Guess that means the husband will be here a bit longer yet!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set in Paris

Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week is a freebie topic.

A couple of months ago, I did a TTT post all about books set in places I would like to visit. The surprising thing was that there were no books set in Paris on that list, but there as a reason for that. I already knew that for this freebie topic I was going to combine Top Ten Tuesday with Paris In July and feature books I've read set in Paris.

Die for Me and Until I Die by Amy Plum - These are the first two books in a YA paranormal series set in Paris. This is one of those cases where the cover gods smile on an author not once or twice. I did enjoy the books but haven't read any more.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - This is another YA book but no vampires or werewolves in sight. In this book a young girl moves to Paris to go to school. A while ago someone on a TTT post mentioned that there is going to be a special edition cover so I just had to buy it.

For the King by Catherine Delors - I read this book years ago and enjoyed it. It is set in Paris when a police inspector must investigate a failed assassination attempt against Napoleon.

Paris, My Sweet by Amy Thomas - A New York girl moves to Paris for a year and goes on the hunt for the perfect dessert! This is one book that made me yearn to go to Paris.

The Chocolate Kiss by  Laura Florand (or really any of her books)- I mentioned The Chocolate Thief last week, but all of her books are set in France and often feature lots of food. If you like a bit of romance featuring hot French guys with delicious food, this is an author for you!

French Milk by Lucy Knisley - This is a graphic novel about a young woman's trip to Paris with her mother. It's not my favourite Lucy Knisley book but it did make me want to visit. Then again, you're possibly noticing that is a theme for all the books in this post!

The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin - A bookseller swaps her life in small town America for a busy bookshop in Paris. This was my first novel by Rebecca Raisin, but I have read another couple since, and will read more.

Almost Paris by Sarah Turnbull - An Australian woman makes an implulsive decision to move to Paris to live with the French man she has just met. This book explores the cultural differences that she encountered. (review here)

The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B by Sandra Gulland
- Sandra Gulland has written a number of historical fiction novels set in France. This is the first in the trilogy focussing on the life of Josephine Bonaparte.(review here)

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo - I am not sure what I need to say about this book other than it is a story of the French revolution.

Monday, July 27, 2020

This week...

I'm reading....

This week I have been listening to the The Switch by Beth O'Leary. Normally I listen to all my books via Audible but this book is one that I am listening to via Netgalley's new app. It actually has two narrators, the younger of which is Daisy Edgar-Jones who starred in Normal People, which I listened to and watched the adaptation a couple of months ago. So far, I am enjoying the performance and the story. I am about half way through so depending on how much listening time I find this week I might finish it, or maybe not.

I am also making progress with Miss Graham's Cold War Cookbook by Celia Rees. It is a little challenging though. I got this book as a PDF which means I could read it on my laptop (my least favourite way to read) or on my phone (my second least favourite way to read) and so I am reading it on my Kindle, which is a challenge, but I am getting used to the random interjections of publisher and author names! I am really enjoy this

One book that I am reading on my phone is The Spanish Promise by Karen Swan. It is one that I have borrowed from my library so I need to get on with that before the loan expires. It is interesting that I am reading this book so soon after listening to The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley, because they both are at least partially set during the Spanish Civil War. I don't think I have ever read a book in that setting before so it is curious that I am reading two so close together.

I'm watching...

After watching the Masterchef Australia finale this week, we had to go in search of something else to watch. Luckily, one of my friends alerted me to the fact that there was a new version of Bake Off available on Foxtel this week. We have previously watched Great British Bake Off, Bake Off: The Professionals, The Great Australian Bake Off, The Great Kiwi Bake Off, and now The Great Canadian Baking Show. Thank goodness. How would we survive without some kind of baking show to watch.
The show that we didn't know that we needed but really did is a show called The Repair Shop. This week we have watched 9 episodes. This definitely falls in the category of a feel good show. The idea is that people bring a loved family treasure to The Repair Shop where specialist artisans then do what they need in order to bring these beloved treasures back to life. Quite often these items have significant emotional value to the owners, and so there are lovely scenes. I particularly love the scenes where people have old toys restored to working order and you can see their joy and their desire to play with the items!

In Life

Two weeks into our period of lockdown, our COVID-19 numbers still seem to go up. As I mentioned last week, our numbers are still very low compared to other countries, but they are the highest numbers since the pandemic began. Thursday also marked the start of the mandatory wearing of masks whenever we leave the house. Today was the first time I had gone out in public. My sister made us some masks which was great. I did find it a bit tricky given that my glasses kept fogging up, and it was uncomfortable, but we do what we have to do in order to try to stay safe and well and keep those around us safe and well too.

In my Top Ten Tuesday post last week I mentioned a number of authors that I have seen over the years at Melbourne Writers Festival. On Wednesday, this year's online program was announced and I have booked a couple of sessions. I will have another look at the program and see if there are any other sessions that I might attend!

The big blog related news this week is that I started a Facebook page for my blog. If you are interested in following, then you can find my page here. My plan is to share blog post links, but also I will share baking and book related posts.

I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Bestsellers Around the World: France

Last month I decided to start a new feature where we have a look at various bestsellers list around the world and compare them to the Australian bestseller list to see what the differences and similarities are.

For this month's version I thought I would incorporate this new feature with Paris in July (hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea) and talk about the top books in France. In other words, what all the well read people in Paris would be reading this week! I am not going to do the comparison to the Australian bestseller list, mainly because there are no similarities this week at all.

So here's the top 10 bestselling books in France this week, according to Sens Critique. Please note that all translations are from Google Translate so they might not quite be exact.

1. L'enigme de la chambre 622 by Joël Dicker (The Enigma of Room 622) - A writer visits a palace in the Swiss Alps where years before there was an unsolved murder.

2. La vie secrete des ecrivains by Guillaume Musso (The Secret Life of Writers) - A famous writer withdraws to Meditteranean island. Twenty years later a young writer goes to interview him, but when a body washes up on the shore secrets begin to unravel.

3.. Quand nos souvenirs viendront danser by Virginie Grimaldi  (When Our Memories Will Dance) - A group of people move into a neighbourhood when they are young, sharing their lives. 60 years later they barely talk to each other until the mayor announces he wants to knock down their homes.

4. La vie est un roman by Guillaume Musso  (Life is a Novel) - One day a three year old girl disappears from an apartment in Brooklyn. Across the ocean, a heartbroken author is hiding away. How can he hold the keys to solving the disappearance.

5.  La vie mensongere des adultes by Elena Ferrante (The Lying Life of Adults). From the author of the Neopolitan novel comes a new novel.

6. Et Que Ne Durent Que les Moments Doux by Virginie Grimaldi (And That Only the Sweet Moments Last) - a book about those moments in life that matter.

7. Le Flambeur de la Caspienne by Jean-Christophe Rufin (The Caspian Flambeur) - This book appears to be part of a series featuring a character called Aurel who is assigned to various locations around this world. This time the destination is Azerbaijan, and an embassy where there is a recent mysterious death amongst other things.

8. Luca by Franck Thilliez - According to Goodreads this author writes mysteries/thrillers and horror. The translation of the blurb for this book includes the phrase Everywhere there is terror, so I am thinking this one sits more towards the horror side of his writing!

9. Cupidon a des ailes en carton  by Raphaëlle Giordano (Cupid has cardboard wings) - Firstly, I love the title of this one,  and the description sounds good. A young actress, Meredith, is in love with Antoine, but she feels that she is not ready to settle down. She thinks they need to work on themselves first, and he thinks they need to a tour, a tour of self, of us, of love. They give each other 6 months and 1 day but perhaps Cupid has other ideas.

10. M, le bord de l'abîme by Bernard Minier    (M, the Edge of the Abyss) - A young woman takes a job in Hong Kong, and then finds herself caught up in a nightmare.

A couple of things that stood out for me from this list is that there are multiple entries for Guillaume Musso, who I think writes crime novels, and also for Virginie Grimaldi. I must say that I do like the look of her books. I did check my library to see if there happen to be any translated into English and available at the library but unfortunately there was not. There was a book available from Guillaume Musso! And the other author that I looked for was Raphaelle Giordano. This book wasn't available, but an earlier book called Your Second Life Begins When You Realise You Only Have One is so I will be requesting that one I think.

The other name that pops out from the list is Elena Ferrante. This Italian author has been topping the bestsellers lists for years. Interestingly, the English translation of this novel is not due to be released until September.

Just outside the top 10 there was another book by Franck Thilliez  and a book called La Cerise sur le Gâteau by Aurélie Valognes which translates as The Cherry on the Cake which sounds like something I would like to read. Even further down the list is a book called La Ballade du Serpent et de L'oiseau Chanteur which you might be able to guess the translation for, especially if I tell you the author is Suzanne Collins.

Would any of these books catch your attention in a bookshop if you were in Paris this weekend?

I am sharing this post with Sunday Salon, which is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Weeking Cooking: July Bakes

It's the last Saturday of the month and that means it is time to share my baking for this month. I started doing this earlier this year because otherwise every Weekend Cooking post would be about something sweet, which might be a bit much.

It feels like I haven't really baked very much this month. I do have a couple of things that I want to make but I haven't done so yet. So here's what I did bake:

Last month I made a raspberry and chocolate self saucing pudding. This month, I tried a different version of self saucing pudding. This time it was a ginger and apple self saucing pudding and it was oh so good!

I posted about making the Glamington Cake last week!

This carrot, ginger and walnut cake is one of our favourites. It's a Nigella Lawson recipe that I have shared before. It's always a hit when we make it, especialy the cream cheese icing which has a squeeze of fresh ginger juice in it!

The other thing that we cooked this month was some pastries that we had delivered from a local bakery. They were all premade and we just had to bake them but the danishes we had were so delicious that we ended up ordering some freshly made croissants which we are going to have for brunch today!

Have you cooked anything delicious this month?

    Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.


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