Archive for November, 2012

Onward, Ho!

Monday, November 26th, 2012

For my 600th blog post (whoa.) I would like to share with you an excerpt from a text that has hit close to home with me, as I continuously struggle with the questions of:

  • What the hell am I doing with my life?
  • Where am I going to live next year?
  • Why do I bother trying to be a writer/creator/sock creature maker/lino-printer etc when I am clearly lacking any real skill/talent/ability etc?

I found this excerpt in an article by Oliver Burkeman on the School of Life website and it just makes me feel so much better about EVERYTHING. I suspect it will ring true for a few other people as well.

The bookshelves heave with advice on how to feel confident in social settings, or motivated to take exercise, how to get inspired for creative projects, etcetera. But what if you just accepted that you felt afraid, or unmotivated, or uninspired, and went fearfully, unmotivatedly, uninspiredly onward?

‘Give up on yourself,’ wrote the late Japanese psychologist Shoma Morita, whose deadpan approach provides a refreshing respite from the legions of grinning positive thinkers. ‘Begin taking action now, while being neurotic or imperfect or a procrastinator or unhealthy or lazy or any other label by which you inaccurately describe yourself. Go ahead and be the best imperfect person you can be, and get started on those things you want to accomplish before you die.’

Sounds like a good plan to me.

My Latest Obsession

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

I have found something much healthier than cake and chocolate to become obsessed about lately – leaves. I can’t get over how magical Autumn leaves can be – the colours, textures, sounds, movements they make as they tumble through the air. I have spent a lot of the past few weeks staring out of my window as bursts of wind carry hundreds of flakes of yellow, orange, red and muted green, flashing through the air.

Autumn Leaves

My front yard is full of pretty leaves.

In the morning when I go for my run, I find sections of footpath that haven’t yet been cleaned up by the road sweepers and that are covered in a bed of leaves. My inner child squeals with delight (ok, it’s not my inner child, it’s just me) and I stomp and jump and skip through them. I love it when the breeze picks up as I pass beneath a group of trees and the leaves start fall around me. It’s a magical fairy land and I look around half expecting to see a prancing deer.

Autumn leaves

So many different colours.

It makes me feel sorry for us poor Australians and our lack of autumn and our fairly ordinary seasonal changes. I think we do summer quite well and Europe could learn a thing or two from us about sunshine and heat, but we really miss out in Autumn and Spring. It is becoming a bit too cold for my liking though, but they forecast potential “neige fondu” (wet snow or gross, awful sleet) for next week which is building up my excitement for a potential white christmas. Surely I can’t spend three Christmases in Europe without building a snowman once? This year I will be in Sheffield for Christmas so COME ON, ENGLAND! Show me how cold and gloomy you can get!

Leaves

My leaf collection from yesterday – sadly I had to put them in the bin as they wrinkled up and died (more)…

Sunday Afternoon Surprises

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

One of the things that I love most about Paris is that you can be walking aimlessly through the city and stumble across things that you never expected. Today I had Japanese Bento for lunch at Le Marché des Enfants Rouges and then walked home, criss-crossing through streets in the Marais. I saw a row of coloured balloons up Rue de Charlot and decided that could only mean good things, so headed towards the large bunch to see what was happening.

Balloons on Rue Charlot

Balloons!

Inside an amazing glass-walled atelier space was a design market, with local designers selling clothes, jewellery and other accessories. I had a wander and saw some bags hanging from a clothes rack. On first sight they looked like nice enough leather bags, but the designer came up and started speaking to me and then I discovered that these were not just your average bag.

Margherita Matticari, a petite and sweet Italian girl, has created the most practical, useful and beautiful bags that I have ever seen. Made from soft Italian leather, the bag can be reversed, zipped, unzipped, with handles, without handles, long, short, everywhich way up. There are pockets for everything and you can drape your jackets through the middle of it. As she showed it to me, my jaw fell to the floor with pure joy and amazement. These bags are hand made in her atelier (beunperfect) and are just BEAUTIFUL.

They come in different sizes and have different variances and different pockets and some can be turned into a ‘going out at night bag’ and others are more for the day time and fit your laptop etc etc. Just pure wow. This bag has amazed me because it fulfils my aesthetic AND my practical requirements. Beautiful bags are usually impractical to use, and practical bags are generally hideous. This ticked all boxes AND it is made by a lovely person!

They are expensive… but fair enough. The quality of the workmanship and the materials PLUS the PURE GENIUS that goes behind them. So if anyone is currently scratching their head trying to think of what to buy me for Christmas, your problem has just been solved. I WANT THIS. Except in red leather. Thank you.

Debbie Ding: Postdated Paris

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Last night I attended the opening of an exhibition featuring three of my fellow residents. Each of their pieces represented Paris in some form and all sat very nicely together within the small exhibition space.

Debbie Ding describes herself as a Singaporean artist, designer, programmer and cartographer and a lot of her work involves collecting of rocks, looking at maps and exploring how places have been constructed. She has been working on a project that particularly interests me because I spend a lot of time looking for the same thing – dates that have been imprinted into the footpaths of Paris. Each time a new piece of pavement is laid, they imprint the date on which it was laid. As you walk through Paris, you encounter thousands of dates as different parts of the footpath are pulled up and relaid. I am always trying to find my birth date.

Debbie photographed her feet next to hundreds of dates and then asked people to write stories about what they were doing on that day. She asked me to write something for a date in the year 2000 – I was in year 10 at Hollywood High School, I hated maths and I wasn’t particularly studious. She has then put together a book, placing the stories with the photographs and creating an amazing history of people’s lives.

Debbie Ding book

My words in Debbie’s book

Spookily, although probably not intentionally, I think Debbie may have accidentally put my story with the wrong date. When I wrote my story it was for sometime in October in the year 2000, but at the exhibition  I noticed the photographed date that correlated with my story was 1/9/2000. My birthday.

The exhibition is on until 1 December at the Immanence Gallery in the 15eme. I had never been to this area before and was delighted to discover a small alleyway with galleries and ateliers covered in ivy and fairy lights. It was gorgeous!!

Immanence gallery

I think fairies live here.

Bad Cake

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

I often write to describe the explosions of taste bud ecstasy that I experience almost daily while living in Paris. Today I bring you devastating news – bad cake does exist in Paris. It was my own fault though – I should have guessed from the name of the café that it was going to be bad. Twinkie. Not a good sign.

I walk past this café on Rue St Denis quite regularly and the decor and general ‘vibe’ of the place suggested it could be a good place to try. But the name kept stopping me from entering as it conjured up bad, sweet American lollies and it was clearly going to be a try-hard ‘American style’ café. However, yesterday I found myself going there with my primary school buddy and now York resident, Jane, who was visiting Paris for a few days. I had wanted to take her to a new place that I had spotted, Café Madame but for some reason it was closed. There was no signage to suggest when or if it would ever open again. A typical Parisian “Bofffffff!” attitude. So we walked across the road and went to Twinkie. Sigh.

The place is nicely decorated and the guy serving was very friendly. But the cake… oh the cake. The menu offered mostly Brunch options, with bagels, pancakes, and cooked breakfasts. As we were just there for coffee, I was hoping for a nice piece of cake. The only sweet options were pancakes or cheesecake, neither of which I wanted. However, I asked if there were any other cakes not mentioned and the waiter mentioned their Gâteau de Jour – an apple tea cake. Perfect.

When someone says “Apple tea cake” in my head I think of custardy-spongey-buttery-cake with soft chunks of cooked apple and maybe some flaked almonds. Perhaps a touch of cinnamon. What arrived was this:

Twinkie Apple Cake

ARG!

I wasn’t sure why a giant mountain of whipped cream with Smarties was required until I tasted the cake. It was dry, lacked flavour and the apple – I’m not entirely sure there was any. There was something that could have been apple at some point in its life but it had been turned into horrible glacé awfulness. And then there was lemon peel. WHY?! WHY LEMON PEEL?! Yes, I just generally hate lemon peel, but I have gotten over my childhood refusal to eat it in Hot Cross Buns and am willing to consume it. But there is absolutely no reason to put it on an apple tea cake.

I took one bite and almost cried. So disappointing. I had brought a visiting friend to a place called Twinkie that served really bad cake. And to add to the fun, Jane found the nozzle of the whipped cream container floating in her hot chocolate. Never again.

Luckily for me, I had an afternoon tea appointment at Helmut Newcake and could reset my fabulous-cake-consumption with an apricot and pistachio tart. DELICIOUS. Thank you, Helmut. Thank you.

Beaujolais Nouveau

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

It’s that time of the year again where the French grab their wine glasses and gather around bottles of Beaujolais to drink and celebrate the release of this year’s harvest. The Beaujolais Nouveau is set free at 12.01am on the third Thursday of November each year and is a particularly young wine – it is only fermented for six to eight weeks. It is therefore fairly awful. It is quite sweet, lacks tannins and looks like weak cordial. But that has somehow become the reason why you drink the wine – because it is Beaujolais!

The concept of Beaujolais Nouveau is one of the best marketing strategies in existence. Not many other companies can produce a below average product, set a release date each year and then have millions of litres sold both within the country of production and overseas. It is pure genius. The festival of Beaujolais Nouveau moved from the Beaujolais region to throughout France in the 1970s and has since spread further afield – I know there was a Beaujolais night at Alliance Française in Perth.

This year I met up with three friends from Paris and my primary school friend, Jane, and we had a girls night in the 12eme. We has one glass at a very cool looking bar, Le Siffleur de Ballons but it was too busy to get a table. So we headed around the corner to a local brasserie where we ate food and consumed two bottles between us. As I said, it isn’t my favourite drop, but I love the idea of celebrating the wine harvest. While everyone in Australia stops for a horse race in November, the people of France stop to drink wine. I think I’d choose wine over horses any day.

Beaujolais Nouveau

A glass of Beaujolais from Le Siffleur de Ballons

Ich Bin Published

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

The old “It’s not what you know but who you know” saying has struck true once again with a fellow resident being kind enough to publish some of my writing. Georg Holländer, a german writer who has been in and out of the Récollets over many years, took me under his wing and asked to publish some of my work in his literary journal, Hochroth. On the first night that I met Georg, he showed me his publication and I thought it was quite beautiful – a simple, clean design with a nice typeface. This was the sort of thing that I wanted to be published in. And then he offered me a space in his latest edition!

Hochroth

My words in print

What is particularly wonderful is that my piece, an personal essay about finding the aspect of ‘community’ in a city as big as Paris, is the only English text in a German-language publication. A copy arrived in my mail box when I returned home from England – yet another incentive for me to get on with some work and start sending out my writing.

Baking Up a Forge

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

I appear to have fallen into a deep, dark hole when it comes to my blog updates. Very bad. I have an excellent excuse though. Trust me.

Yesterday evening I returned home from Sheffield where I had spent the last five days helping my brother Ben and his business partner, Martha, set up, open and run their bakery. These two have been working hard building shelves, installing ovens, painting walls and buying flour and the opening day had finally arrived. Forge Bakehouse opened with a Friday night shindig where local passers-by and Twitter followers came for free tastings of the bread and baked goods. I was the proudest sister in the history of proud sisters – so many people came and everyone left with huge smiles and very extended bellies. The bread was amazing, the pastries were amazing, and the support from the local community proved that what Ben and Martha are trying to achieve is exactly what the folk of Sheffield want.

Forge Bakehouse

Inside Forge Bakehouse

Over the next few days I helped as checkout chick, customer service provider, chocolate brownie baker (I was officially titled Master of the Universe Brownie Baker), and general kitchen hand. I burnt myself on the oven, I sliced my finger open and my hands cracked and dried from washing my hands so much. I was part of the team!

Forge brownies

I made these!

Watching Ben and Martha work in the bakery was astonishing. Their ability to coordinate when to prep, prove and bake bread, make custards for tarts and whip egg-whites for meringues was just incredible. Considering they are still relative newbies in the bakery world, the fact that they could produce so much bread so successfully is huge credit to them. I kept wanting to give them both hugs for being baking-geniuses.

Working in the bakery was possibly the most fun I have had in yonks. YONKS, I say. It brought back memories of being eight years old and running a café (appropriately named Café Olay (which I didn’t realise until quite a bit later was, in fact, Café Au Lait. Clearly I had French in me from birth) in our computer/office/play room, serving invisible customers, cooking playdough food and thoroughly enjoying the moment when I got to use the till. I now have an intense desire to set up a real café, but I have lots of desires to do many things so I should probably sit on this one for a bit longer. But it was certainly inspiring to watch these two work so hard to get what they want.

I am looking forward to going back at Christmas to help out with the festive season rush. In the mean time I shall rest my cheek bones from excess smiling each time a customer walked in the door. It hurt.