Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Trumpeter Under a Paris Bridge

I wanted an excuse to post this picture of a lone musician practicing his art along the Seine. My flimsy connection is that 'tis the season for brass here in the States, where brass ensembles warm our hearts and lift our spirits with holiday music. There's nothing like live music in a beautiful city to do just that.

I don't have a great photo of Christmas in Paris, but there's a lovely one here of the Place Vendôme. Have a look.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Tree Limo

Courtesy of MyLittleParis: this little item about a rickshaw delivery service for Paris Christmas trees. Read all about it here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pain d'Épices

This cute little store called "Pain d'Épice" is in my favorite passage couvert in Paris, the Passage Jouffroy.

Here in the States 'tis the season for the flavors of pain d'épices. David Lebovitz posts a recipe for it here.

I haven't tried making French pain d'épices, but I do sometimes make an American gingerbread loaf using
  • Wet ingredients: 2 eggs and 1/2 c each vegetable oil and milk (or water)
  • 1 c of sweetener (I use a combination of white sugar, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, and molasses in about equal proportions; I may try to replace some of the strong molasses with honey next time...)
  • 1 3/4 tsp spices: about 1 tsp each cinnamon and ginger, 1/2 tsp allspice, 1/8 tsp cloves, 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • Dry ingredients: 1 1/2 c flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp each salt and baking soda
baked at 375 for 40-50 min or till a knife piercing the bread comes out clean. This year I made a maple glaze for the top with some confectioners' sugar, maple flavoring, and milk. My kids enjoyed it. My husband, though, doesn't care for gingerbread and prefers my pumpkin bread. I can post that on another day.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Favorite Shop in Paris

We're trying to have a minimally commercial Christmas season and focus on the spiritual aspects of Advent. Still, we've done our share of Christmas shopping and card-sending - I do enjoy wrapping well-chosen presents for people I love.

If I could magically transport myself to Paris, though, I'd want to come here, to the little store run by the Sisters of the Jerusalem Community at St. Gervais, where books, cards, and beautiful icons are available - perfect for the Taizé prayer services we've been attending during Advent. It's just past the bright blue doors of the bistro l'ébouillanté if you're coming up from the river.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Not Your Ordinary Back Alley

One of my favorite tucked-away streets in Paris is the Cour du Commerce St.-André, which opened in 1735. Today it connects the rue Saint-André des Arts and the boulevard St.-Germain. There's a cute little toy shop there as well as the back doors to Le Procope (one of the oldest restaurants in Paris, opened in 1686) and the Relais Odeon.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Still Thinkin' About Books

It's hopeless. I am way behind in NaNoWriMo. I will likely not make it to 50,000 words this month. But I write every day anyway, because I'm learning a great deal.

I'm learning that quality time spent with my family is still more important to me than lonely silence spent trying to spin my thoughts into words.

I'm learning that writing every day can be really hard and quite preoccupying, but it can also contain unexpected surprises.

I'm learning that living with a story - really, a family of characters and the world they inhabit - can color the way I see the real world.

And I'm learning that although I probably don't have the talent to be a "real" novelist, the act of trying to write something - to put ideas down on paper - is a worthwhile process nevertheless.

Photo: book shop in the Galerie Vivienne

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Eiffel Tower in the Mirror

View from an apartment as reflected in one of its mirrors.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

November 8, 1793

On this day 216 years ago the French Revolutionary government opened the doors of the Louvre to the general public.

The Louvre can be overwhelming, but in small doses it's a pretty amazing place to visit.  My favorite Da Vinci painting, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, is there, as is one of my favorite Vermeers, the Lacemaker.  

I am, I must admit, more of a Musée d'Orsay and Musée Cluny type of person...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Man Who Changed the World... changing our thoughts about ourselves and each other.

Au revoir, Claude Lévi-Strauss.

photo:  Pascal Pavani/Agence France-Presse

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Time to Hit the Books

Happy Feast of All Saints and NaNoWriMo kick-off day!

Shakespeare & Co. is the English language book shop in Paris that's on the quai opposite Nôtre-Dame.  Location alone makes it a must!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Êtes-vous Nanoteur / Nanoteuse?

[Photo source.] 

This week's Sundays in Paris photo should have some kind of bookish theme. Why? 

Call me crazy, but I signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo this year (click here for an explanation in French; the NaNoWrimo site is also available in French).

Care to join me?

For links that might help those creative juices start flowing, visit my friend K.'s blog post about gearing up for the big kick-off this Sunday (we get an extra hour to write our little hearts out - daylight savings!).

For an inspiring article by Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Junot Diaz for all writers who have ever struggled with writing, see here or check out pp. 190-191 of the November edition of O magazine.

Folks in the states are having kick-off events and write-ins all over the place.  For Paris folks, info for "la kick-off party" can be found at, and "write-in officiels" will be happening on Tuesday Nov. 3 at Starbucks Capucine (Paris IIe) from 3-10 p.m., and at Starbucks Pépinières (Paris VIIIe) at various times on the 7th, 8th, 11th, 12th, 14th, and 15th. Check the NaNoWriMo site for details.  

À vos plumes, tout le monde!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"The Pumpkin Risotto of Mme. Farigoule"

"The secret is in the preparation of the pumpkin. After removing seeds and fiber, cut the flesh into chunks, leaving the skin still attached. With your hands, mix the chunks in a bowl with 2 or 3 tablespoons of the best olive oil, salt and pepper, a tablespoon of fresh marjoram and a teaspoon of dried oregano. Lay the chunks on a baking tray, skin side down, and put them in the oven, which you have preheated to 425°F. When the chunks of pumpkin are soft and the edges are tinged with brown, remove from the oven and allow to cool, scrape the flesh from the skin and shred with a fork. Prepare your risotto in the usual way and once the rice is ready, stir in the pumpkin, along with freshly grated Parmesan and butter. (Mme. Farigoule’s tip is to be extra-generous with both cheese and butter.) Add a sage leaf for decoration, and a sprinkling of Parmesan, et voilà."   -Peter Mayle.

Click here to read Mayle's full article, "Pumpkin Eaters," in the New York Times, on the celebration of Halloween - or "alowine" - in France.

Photo source here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Best Croissants in Paris

Adam who writes at was kind enough to post the results of his taste-test of Paris croissants yesterday. Just reading his post made wish I could hop on the métro and get some for myself. The ones at Au Levain du Marais sound like just my type.

I don't know about you, but I LUUUUUUUUUVVVVVVV croissants and am very excited that someone took the trouble to check them out in the croissant capital of the world.

My husband and daughter don't have a special approach for eating their croissants, but I recently realized my son and I both eat ours in layers (at least, in the privacy of our own home).  Genetic?! :)

[Photo source.]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What a Blah Day in Paris Looks Like

I'd take a "blah" day in Paris any day. 

I actually enjoy my "blah" days here too. Cozy couches, fire in the fireplace, warm soup or hot beverages to drink, baked goods, good books, family relaxed, work faraway, as much sleep as I want...Blah days are a gift. 

Friday, October 23, 2009

First School Dance

My daughter, who's in 7th grade, has her first school dance tonight.  I am at home consoling myself at my virtual Paris café, holding my little-one-who's-not-so-little-any-more close in the spiritual palm of my hand, not unlike Henri de Miller's sculpture in front of Église Saint-Eustache... :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunset on the Seine

"J'aime bien les couchers de soleil.  Allons voir un coucher de soleil."  
-Antoine de St.-Exupéry

There's nothing like Paris at dusk. Click here to see another rose-colored Parisian sky. Or if you're more of a morning person, click here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Paris really is for lovers...

This week check out Parisian Party: tales of an American wedding planner in Paris for a post and some photos of a couple's romantic Eiffel Tower elopement. 

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another French Book Store Lost

Spent the day in New York with my daughter and was bummed to see that instead of this

now there's only this

at Rockefeller Center where the lovely Librairie de France used to be. After 73 years. I guess that's what happens when the rent goes from $30,000 a month to $ 1 million a year.  :(

On the bright side, La Maison du Chocolat's just around the corner on  49th...but it's not the same.  As much as I love chocolate, I love a nice book store even more...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

If You Could Play Anywhere...

This wouldn't be a bad place to spend an afternoon with the kids...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

An Angel on the Streets of Paris

Saw this a couple of years ago at the end of a stroll down the rue Saint-André des Arts (one of my favorite streets in Paris), near the corner of the rue de Buci and rue de Seine.

L'Ange Heurtebise, peut-être?

I couldn't decide whether to commemorate Paris Fashion Week or the Feast of St. Francis today, but I figured with this photo we have a hint of both...

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Fine Art Friday" Guest Appearance

It's Friday! Check out an expanded version of my earlier post about Suzanne Valadon, for my friend K.'s blog series "Fine Art Friday."

Photo source:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The One Thing I Like Least About My Job

I strongly dislike being on-call.  I feel like a prisoner.  Away from my family.  Trapped in a place I can't leave.  Surrounded by stress. 

Can't wait till it's over.

[Photo:  Paris gate somewhere near the Quai St. Michel, if memory serves.]

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Heard at the Dinner Table Tonight

My husband, to our kids:  "Vous shakerez vos assiettes, s'il vous plaît."

Not exactly Académie française French, but a reference that's quite accessible to our kids, who've spent quite a bit of time at the Shaker Village in New Hampshire.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lovers in Paris - the Philippine Version

I was excited to learn that the Philippine re-make of the popular Korean soap opera Lovers in Paris started airing today. From the deliciously cheesy trailer, it looks like it's similar to my favorite Japanese animated soap opera from childhood, Candy Candy - Cinderella story, handsome guy, evil jealous rival, protective male friend to fight with Handsome Guy over the heroine, etc.

Mindless, cliché-riddled melodrama in Tagalog from the City of Lights - what could be more fun?  (Other than actually being in the City of Lights, that is...)

I think it's finally time to subscribe to The Filipino Channel.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I couldn't resist trying to capture this view of the Sacré-Coeur. I believe it's from the little road connecting the rue du Mont Cenis and the rue du Cardinal Guibert.

A couple of paintings I love by Utrillo - whose mother's birthday I commemorated in the last post - show a similar view. I remember these as being instrumental in getting me truly interested in the city of Paris when I was taking French in high school. Sigh and enjoy!

Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre, 1937

Sacré-Coeur in Winter

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chagall and Valadon

This ceiling painted by Marc Chagall was unveiled at the Opéra Garnier in Paris on this day 45 years ago. Happy Anniversary, Paris Opéra ceiling!


I just learned/read more about this mysterious and fascinating woman, born Marie-Clémentine Valadon, over the weekend. She was the mother of the great painter Utrillo. Born on September 23, 1865 to an unwed laundress, she was a circus acrobat until a fall from a trapeze in 1881 ended her career. After that she became a model and artist, living la vie bohème in Montmartre.

She modeled for (and in the case of at least the latter two, had affairs with) Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, and Puvis de Chavannes. She observed the techniques of painters with whom she worked and became a painter herself, with guidance and support from Degas.

In 1883 she gave birth to a boy, Maurice Valadon, who would become the painter Maurice Utrillo, taking the family name of Miguel Utrillo y Morlius, owner of the tavern Auberge du Clou. Suzanne Valadon never disclosed Maurice's true paternity, with Renoir and an amateur painter named Boissy, whom she had met at the Chat Noir café, among the possibilities, though Utrillo's widow, Lucie Valador Utrillo, claims Utrillo's real father was Puvis de Chavannes.

Suzanne Valadon is the model for Puvis de Chavannes' The Sacred Wood Dear to the Arts and Muses, Toulouse-Lautrec's Equestrienne (At the Cirque Fernando), and Renoir's famous paintings Dance at Bougival, Dance in the City, Umbrellas, and Girl Braiding Her Hair. Her portrait was painted by himby Toulouse-Lautrec, and by her son Utrillo; she did self-portraits as well. One anecdote claims it was Toulouse-Lautrec who suggested, alluding to the biblical tale of Susanna, she take the name Suzanne because she spent her time posing nude for older men.

From January to June of 1893 she had an affair with Erik Satie, whom she met when he played piano at the Auberge du Clou. In 1894 she became the first woman painter to be admitted to the Societé Nationale des Beaux Arts. She was married twice after the Satie affair, the second time to an artist twenty-one years her junior.

She fed caviar to her cats on Fridays and her "bad drawings" to a goat she kept in her studio. She tried to help her son with his alcoholism by encouraging him to paint; she was, in fact, his only art teacher. She died on April 7, 1938 and is buried at the Cimetière de Saint-Ouen. Her funeral was attended by Picasso, Braque, and Derain.

Female nude by Suzanne Valadon. I admire her nudes' lack of passivity, their realistic/unidealized body sizes and shapes, and the unapologetic attitudes they tend to exude. Her work is a refreshing departure from the artistic tradition established by the men who preceded her.

Addendum 10/2/09:  Check out an expanded version of this post on my friend K.'s blog, for her terrific series "Fine Art Friday."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I Want To Be Here...

...but instead I'm here.

That's ok.  If I didn't put in some time over here, I wouldn't be able to go back there.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mireille's Magic Leek Soup

How I wish all the leeks at my local grocery store had as much "white part" as these, which I found at Whole Foods. I've never seen so much white part on a leek! The ones at Shaw's this past week were just the opposite - mostly green, with a tiny bit of white at the ends.

The minute I saw the prescription for nutritional detox via "Magic Leek Soup" in Mireille Guiliano's best-selling book
French Women Don't Get Fat, I knew I wouldn't be able to stick with it. It's comforting to know I'm not alone.

I can see how detoxifying the program would feel, and goodness knows I felt like doing a little detox after the carbs and treats I'd been having earlier this month, but a) diuretics and my job aren't a practical combination and b) it's excruciating for food-lovers to go on what is essentially a liquid diet for 48 hours. I cheated in the first few hours and snacked on grape tomatoes and hummus. More diuretic.

It did work SOME magic into my culinary week, though. Although I abandoned Mireille's detox weekend, I did try to cook and eat more mindfully than I've been doing this month. I used the leek broth as a base for reduced-fat mushroom soup, a simmering medium for whole wheat orzo, a moisturizing and flavoring agent (instead of butter) for cooked lobster ravioli, and a warm beverage (I actually like the taste). It's been like a friend in my fridge, a companion I can use to remind me to put as much thought into the meals I prepare as I can. Even small changes can make one feel a little detoxified!

[Above photo: from the pastry counter at the Monoprix near La Motte-Picquet métro]

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thinking of Dance at Summer's End

Dance lessons on the quais by the Seine.  We were on someone's barge when we took these.  There's a nicer photo from shore by someone who takes better pictures, here.

I'm thinking wistfully of dance.  I'm thinking wistfully of summer, too, because fall is almost here.  Fall's my favorite season, but winter follows, unfortunately.  Pretty soon it'll be time for heavy coats...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Somewhere My Love..."

[Photo: Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris by Ikaros.]

Today would have been composer Maurice Jarre's 85th birthday (he passed away last March).

Though best known for his scores for films such as Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Witness, and Ghost, he will always have a special place in my mind for his score for the 1977 Zeffirelli miniseries Jesus of Nazareth. My childhood and adolescence definitely wouldn't have been the same without Jarre's music. I think it helped me keep in touch with the world of the New Testament in a special way. Merci!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Trying Out Berets in Montmartre

This month's a special month for my daughter and me, and today a special day.  So I wanted to commemorate it here in my personal Paris Café.  Suffice it to say...she's growing up way too fast!