Posts tagged ‘Paris’

January 25, 2014

The Weekend Pages #2

Welcome to week two of The Weekend Pages, in which I share my online searches.

Recently, I’ve been gazing at perfect table settings and thinking about creating my own. Making time for friends is an important goal for me this year. I’d like to have small but regular gatherings of our closest family and friends in our home. So I need to think about how to make this happen. I’ve been using my renewed interest in Pinterest  to map out my plans for this year and beyond…

In January last year, we were busy making marmalade at home. This year, I’m planning to leave the marmalade making to other folk, but make some marmalade puddings! This Nigella recipe looks fabulous. Or perhaps, this one from The Three Chimneys. Failing that, there are lots of marmalade puddings here!

Regardless of anything else in our home,  one of the things you’ll always find is great coffee and we’re big fans of the AeroPress; here’s why…

The AeroPress, with Huw from Kinfolk (kinfolk.com) on Vimeo.

Further afield, I’ve been thinking about travel, inspired by the beautiful maps at Herb Lester. I bought this Paris one, not because I have any particular plans for a solo trip to Paris, but just because maps are awesome and I love to dream of travel…

Herb Lester Paris map

Map: Herb Lester

 

Have you found anything great online this week?

September 2, 2013

Take your holiday back home…

This post was originally titled ‘how to steal things from your holiday’ but I thought you might worry I had criminal tendencies…

Do you ever come back from holiday determined to bring something home with you? I don’t mean literally stealing the towels from your hotel room, although I do admit to taking those little bottles of toiletries if they’re nice enough. We all do that though, right?

What I mean by ‘stealing’ is taking ideas, behaviours, attitudes, styles, away from our ‘holiday’ selves and recreating them in our ‘real’ selves and real, everyday lives. I’ve often tried to do exactly that. Sadly, though the idea of breakfast on the terrace every day is perfection in sunny Europe, it doesn’t translate terribly well to a wintery Yorkshire.  However, this year, I have a very good chance of recreating some elements of my holidays in my everyday life, from my city break in Paris, camping trips to Scotland and The Lake District and, last week, in a yurt in the Yorkshire Dales.

So – first up are some lovely Duralex glasses that you see everywhere in Paris. Although they’re incredibly chic, they’re also cheap, and so I can buy these and pretend that I’m drinking in some little Left Bank bistro. Perhaps I’ll insist on a return trip to Paris to buy them from Merci though?

Secondly, I can recreate the  lanterns that are used everywhere at Bivouac, adding wire to old jars and glasses, with some lace or jute string to decorate and a tea light dropped inside. I found this tutorial video, which makes them look easy! Cheap enough to amass a huge collection, these will be a glittering backdrop to the Bonfire Night supper that I’m planning. And bunting! I need more bunting in my life. I think I shall make some. It’s not hard, is it?

Tea lights, bunting and mismatched furniture...

Tea lights, bunting and mismatched furniture…

I can also recreate the style of Bivouac in other ways, using mis-matched furniture (which, with my budget, is going to happen anyway!) to give my home a lived-in, unique feel. Removing the distractions of TV, and allowing the evenings to be focussed on people, conversations around dinner and a bottle of beer sounds good too. That lack of wifi, 3G or even a phone signal at Bivouac was good for making me slow down a bit and read more. I’d like to bring reading back into my normal life too, I’ve not found the time for that recently.

Often, when I’m on holiday, I find myself eating differently. This is more noticeable, I think, when abroad, as I adopt a Mediterranean style diet, or eat more unusual food. I often choose to potter around a local market to shop for food. This is something that I’d like to bring back home to my everyday life. More fresh food, more cooking, more greens! Fewer scones, sadly, which seemed to be a staple of my last holiday…

I also tend to exercise more – swimming in a pool or the sea perhaps. Walking, cycling, even wandering around a city can be physically demanding. I’ve started swimming every week, although it’s not terribly glamorous at my local pool, it is doing me good. I’ve added hill walking to my weekends whenever I can fit it in, so it’s not just something I do when I’m away camping.

I’m sure there are other things I can add to that list, given enough time! But for now, those are the things I’m stealing from my holidays. I’m hoping that they will add a bit of healthiness and happiness, as well as making me feel a tiny bit more like I’m on holiday everyday…

What would you steal from your holiday? 

June 6, 2013

It’s my birthday!

It’s my birthday today! By the time you read this, I shall hopefully be on my way for a day of glorious sunshine at one of my favourite places, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Usually, my birthday is a time of reflection for me, and this year proves no different. June feels like a good time to take stock of year so far, and to make plans for the rest of it. Having made a few resolutions in January, it’s now time to see how I’m getting on with them.

1 – Run as often and as far as possible

Hmm. Not a good resolution to start off with, this one. I’ve not been running at all in the past few months. On the upside, I’ve been cycling a lot more, which I’ve decided that I prefer at the moment. In fact, I have no plans to run at all in the near future, but lots of cycling plans. So, perhaps I shall change this to ‘cycle as often and as far as possible’ and see how I get on with that.

2 – Blog as I choose – in terms of subject and frequency

It’s not long since I wrote a post about my blogging frequency, and since I wrote it, I’ve felt a continued sense of relief and of being in a lot more control over my blog. I’m going to carry on with the Slow Blogging for the foreseeable future.

3 – Do my Walk Leader training.

This is something that I’d still like to do, but my priorities have changes a bit since I wrote this list of resolutions, so it might go by the wayside without regret.

4 – Say ‘yes’ to opportunities to learn

Learning is still my absolute favourite thing to do. Recently I’ve been enjoying listening to lots of podcasts and watching TED talks on loads of different, but always interesting, subjects. I’ve just taken up analogue photography again with a Canon EOS 30, and I’m learning so much already. What I’ve realised is that I’m getting better at learning through practice,  as opposed to my usual style of learning through reading theory. Photography seems to be a particularly good example of this, alongside the many craft, cookery and gardening activities that I have planned for the rest of the year. Very soon, I’m also going to put an Impossible Project film through my vintage Polaroid SX-70 and see what happens! I bought a book called ‘Instant Love’ the other day, and it’s inspired me to get playing with it and see what images I might end up with.

5 – Cook 52 new vegetarian dishes – one for every week of the year

I’m currently at 11 recipes. So, I’ve got a long way to go with this one, but I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t get there. This resolution was partly about learning to be more creative and confident with cooking vegetarian food, and making the most of locally grown vegetables, including those I’m growing myself, rather than any hard-and-fast ‘goal’. One of the things I’m learning is how to adapt and create new recipes too, rather than following every rule, which is a pleasant feeling and something that I shall be trying to do more of and share through Sage and Thrift too.

I’m recording my recipes on Springpad, which has been a great visual tool in  aiding my resolutions this year. I absolutely love using this App, both on my Macbook and on my iPhone; it’s an invaluable way of keeping track, using lists, photos and uploads from websites.

6 – Go on mini-adventures

My first mini-adventure this year was a few days in Paris in the Spring, which was wonderful. I’ve got a short visit to Edinburgh (all food recommendations welcome!) soon, followed by a week in Bivouac, which I’m very giddy about and a few days in Oxford planned for the summer. Oh, and I’m possibly going to swim outdoors on the dawn of Summer Solstice too … good grief.

Further adventures will arise later in the year, no doubt. I’m not going to plan everything, but just say yes to things as the opportunity arises. I love the idea of packing a bag and setting off to destinations unknown, so hopefully that might happen too.

7 – Record all my spending

I’ve created a spreadsheet to track my budget every month and, rather than feeling restricted by it, I feel so much more in control, which is rather lovely. Overall, it seems that the amount I spend on frivolous fripperies and fancy stuff – trying saying that after a pint – is very little. Possibly something to rectify? We’ll see …

8 – Host one Sage & Thrift event every month

This project is something that I’m really proud of starting. We’re growing, generating plenty of interest and have lots of wonderful plans. Our next event is a cookbook swap on 23rd June in Leeds, so if you’re around, do come and say hello!

9 – Reduce my possessions

This resolution has definitely happened, for a variety of reasons, to the extent that I could now fit all my possessions –  with the exception of my bike –  into my small car.  I’m still working on my wardrobe and book collections. Although minimalism and I are slightly uncomfortable with each other (due to my messy nature!) I’m aiming to simplify my belongings, to make any new purchases really thoughtfully and to choose the best available options for me each time.

10 – Read one decent book a month

I’ve read eight novels this year so far,  as well as a number of non-fiction titles so it really does feel as though I’ve read very little this year. I love to lose myself in a good book, and have a reading list as long as my arm. The longer days of summer might be just the time to spend more time reading – the ultimate Slow activity. Again, I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t meet this goal. If there’s one thing I learned from my enormous GoodReads Challenge of 2012 it’s that quality definitely beats quantity when it comes to fiction. I’ve been recording my books on Springpad too – and creating a reading wish-list, so I remember all the great books that are recommended to me!

11 – Attend one cultural event each month

I’ve included everything from cinema to art gallery exhibitions for this goal, and I’ve actually surprised myself with what I’ve managed to do in the first half of the year. I’ve seen live music from David Ford, visited the National Gallery in London and the Musee du Luxumbourg in Paris, seen a stunning production of The Great Gatsby from Northern Ballet, attended Bettakulture, watched a wonderful new Sherlock Holmes play at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and visited several art exhibitions around the country. Recording this (again, on Springpad) has been a great eye-opener, and is a good reminder to myself that actually, I do lots of things and am really very lucky.

12 – Be kind to myself. 

This one rather underpins everything else. So often, I’m so keen to improve myself and to meet goals, that I get cross if things don’t go as planned, or if I don’t manage to be quite as brilliant as I think I should be. My beloved friend and Sage & Thrift partner, Jo, always says that we must ensure that we don’t use our plans as  ‘a stick to beat ourselves with’, which I love. It’s something that I’ve been trying to keep at the forefront of my mind this year. Life is challenging, and often doesn’t quite go as you thought it might. Plans don’t always work out, and it’s important to be adaptable, shrug your shoulders once in a while, and not get so caught up in the desire to achieve that you forget to have fun along the way.

With that in mind, I’m spending today having fun and with no aims other than to eat cake, sit in the sunshine and enjoy turning 37. Wishing you all a lovely day today. Even if it’s not your birthday …

September 26, 2012

Bill Cunningham New York

I finally managed to watch the ‘Bill Cunningham New York’ documentary this weekend. I’d been meaning to buy the DVD for a while, and then, joy of joys, I found it on Sky Anytime. I do sometimes think that on-demand TV has changed my life.

Anyway, onto Bill. What an incredible story and what an incredible man. I already knew of his legendary status as pretty much the world’s first street-style photographer but what I hadn’t appreciated was the utter single-minded way he approaches that life. Living in a tiny, bathroom-and-kitchen-free studio in the legendary Carnegie Hall (at the time of the documentary; all the artists have since been sadly evicted) his main furniture is rows of filing cabinets filled with the negative of every photo he has ever taken. And he’s taken a lot.

Working for decades on the streets of New York, photographing everyone from young hipsters to Lady Astor, Bill Cunningham has developed relationships with some of his subjects over many years. Even Anna Wintour says that people dress with Bill in mind. Although I firmly believe that every aspiring fashion blogger should be made to watch this documentary, we can all learn something from him, not just the people aiming to be the next Scott Schuman, aka The Sartorialist. Who is really emulating Bill Cunningham, it seems, anyway.

As someone who flits shamelessly from one interest to another, the completely blinkered approach he has to life is completely alien to me, and yet amazingly compelling. Even living in Manhattan, he has an ascetic, almost monastic life. Shunning other things such as fine food or music, or even interest in clothing for himself, (preferring to wear the same kind of blue jacket as the street cleaners) Cunningham rides his bike from one New York society event to another, photographing all evening. Then he’s up in the early hours of the next day, on the streets. In his own words, there are no short-cuts. Just many, many hours of graft.

Bill Cunningham. Photo from The New Yorker

That is something I can learn from. Putting in the hours, instead of expecting instant gratification, will be important as I think about what career moves I might want to make,

I was completely struck throughout the documentary by his decency. Parting company with  Women’s Wear Daily because he didn’t like the way they used his images to criticise people, he seems to be such a genuinely good person, believing that if you don’t take money from people, they cannot dictate to you – even if that means you have to walk away from work. He doesn’t use his images to mock or ridicule, but only to celebrate the joy that is fashion. In an industry that can be horribly bitchy, this is a wonderful truth.

I suppose he can be summed up by the words of the French Minister for Culture at the time he was presented with the Legion D’honneur in Paris. I’m paraphrasing, but the essence of his speech was that Bill really didn’t believe he deserved such awards, and that really summed up why he did deserve them. He credits his success to his subjects, rather than his own eye for style. Although on their own, his images are not considered iconic shots, as a chronicle of style, they cannot be bettered.

He is a very special character ( can you tell I’m half in love with him!) and I really do think, regardless of whether you’re interested in fashion or photography, you’d find something worth watching in this documentary.  It is heart-warming, funny, uplifting and poignant. I’d better get that DVD bought after all, I will be watching it again and again…

March 23, 2012

Dumouchel: A French Bakery in Leeds

I love Paris and I love French bakeries. On our regular pilgrimage to Paris, I spend an extraordinary amount of time thinking about food. One of the absolute pleasures to be had in the city is to buy yourself a basic picnic; bread from the baker, cheese from a fromagerie, tomatoes from one of the many street markets, and then spend some leisurely time in a park, watching the city go by as you munch your way through it all.

Luckily for me, I don’t have to go all the way to France to enjoy the pleasure that is great French bread, because I live near Dumouchel. Based in Garforth, east Leeds, Dumouchel supply some of the independent cafes and lunch places that are dotted around the city so you may have eaten their lovely bread without even realising it. I’m lucky enough to visit quite regularly. When my brother and sister in law moved house, I bought her a platter of tiny, perfect patisserie for their house warming party. At a birthday gathering this year we had a Dumouchel chocolate torte. Impossibly shiny and perfect on top, decorated with chocolate curls, it was a deliciously grown up alternative to a cake. I’m planning to ask for a citrus one for my own birthday (a note to my lovely husband!)

On my last visit, I couldn’t resist treating myself to a handful of macaron, in rose, violet and lavender. A delicate, sophisticated series of flavours, I loved them all. I was also given a free baguette by the lovely people in the shop, which we all shared. It was the perfect French baguette and evoked lots of lovely memories of wandering around my favourite city. Thankfully, I can return to Dumouchel rather more easily than Paris, so I’ll be going again very soon…

August 17, 2011

Stylish and sweet.

Fashions come and go with food as much as they do with skirt lengths or trouser widths.

The American muffin has never quite recovered from its unfortunate associations with the bit of untrained stomach hanging over the top of a waistband, now fetchingly referred to as a ‘muffin top’. We have moved on, through the cupcake, to the whoopie pie. I’m still a cupcake fan myself, although do prefer the name ‘fairy-cake’ or plain old ‘bun’, which must of course, be said with a Yorkshire accent for the correct effect.

One food that has never been unfashionable is the macaron. French, light and beautiful, they come in the colours of the rainbow and sophisticated flavours such as rose and pistachio. Parisian favourite Pierre Hermé is as much part of my annual Parisian pilgrimage as Chanel. The grande dame of the macaron, though, is of course, Ladurée. The company has several locations across Paris and now the you can order online from Harrods in the UK, making them a treat accessible for me on a more regular basis, hurrah! Although I’ve indulged in these beauties on many an occasion, I’ve never attempted to make one.

Until today.

It has taken two days (although a considerable part of that was leaving things to rest in the fridge) but I have finally finished my attempt to make the beautiful macaron. I used a recipe from Ladurée, which was published in the Paris edition of Stylist magazine. Ladurée Macaroons Citron / In This Week’s Issue / Stylist Magazine.

Although mine don’t quite look like the ones in the magazine, I’m still pretty pleased with them!

Macaron a la Margot and Barbara...

July 26, 2011

Fragrant memories.

My darling daughter taught me a valuable lesson recently. Not on purpose, you understand. Like many things that happen to me, it started with an accident.

To begin the tale, I need to backtrack a bit to this Spring. In Paris, on Rue Cambon stands the original Chanel boutique. I’ve spoken before of my love for Chanel, but this year was only the second time I’ve stepped inside the hallowed store and this time, I was shopping.

To shop in the Chanel boutique here is a wonderful experience. For those of us not fortunate enough for it to be a regular occurance, it truly is a thing of excitement. Above the store is the famous appartment of Mademoiselle Chanel herself, not to mention where the white-coated staff of Chanel work their magic each collection. For a very special glimpse into this world, take a look at the documentary series: Signe Chanel – Haute Couture Collection [DVD]: Amazon.co.uk: Signe Chanel: Film & TV. This Spring, I particularly coveted a black dress with deep pink camellias on it, which I subsequently saw Anna Wintour wearing, so I am pretty confident that I made a great (although imaginary) choice!

Anyway, one of the many things I am passionate about is fragrance, and I was fortunate enough on this occasion to purchase two wonderful new ones, from Les Exclusifs de Chanel, which are only available in a handful of places across Europe.

I’d spent a considerable amount of time, in a state of what can only be described as giddiness (so sophisticated) making my choices, ably assisted by the staff at Chanel, who clearly understood that this was not an everyday shopping trip for me (my outfit alone gave the game away) and were patient, kind and liberal with the free samples. Once I’d made my choice, I was then taken to a separate room to make my payment. There is nothing as crass as a cash desk in the Chanel store!

The wonderful fragrances (Bois des Iles and Cuir de Russie, for those fragrance fans out there) were safely taken home and worn on special occasions, or quite frankly whenever I needed a lift. Both heady, warm and very grown up, they offer the emotional reassurances you need to take on the world. If Bois des Iles were a person, she’d be a glamourous great aunt, who still smoked, wore cashmere and called everyone ‘darling’. I love it. Cuir de Russie feels like a more dangerous character, leathery, smoky and somehow dirty, but in a great way. If you are interested in fragrance, you need to seek these out, they’re incredible.

That is, they were incredible. Until my darling daughter smashed one of the bottles all over the wooden floor boards in my bedroom. After the initial upset, which I have to admit was very tearful, my husband was able to help me come to terms with it. Ok, I’m being melodramatic, I admit, but I have precious few luxury items these days, and loads of lesser perfumes all over the bathroom but it just had to be this one that was lost. Isn’t life just like that?

He reminded me that, although the fragrance was so very special, part of what had made it so was the memory of its purchase. A memory which I remember every detail of. A memory which still makes me smile, brings back that giddiness and which I will have forever. It helps of course, that the bedroom now has the scent of that memory soaked into it, so I get a reminder each time I walk in. It helps that I still have a teeny, tiny amount of the perfume left for when I really need that grown up help. And it helps that I am going to make a new memory by saving for a replacement bottle to buy next year in Rome. But what is really important is that I was given a little reminder that memories are more important than material goods, however beautiful they may be.