Friday, 29 April 2016

Lovely Spring Day

After so many cloudy and, sometimes, rainy days, that morning the weather was very nice and warm (18°C). It seemed that spring had arrived. That said, maybe not for long, because the forecast predicted a return to grey. So it was with a smiling face and full of energy that I wanted to enjoy my day off and went for a walk in the forest.

After a late breakfast at a friend's place who lives near to the forest, I went for a long walk through the Parc Aventure des Evaux, a tree adventure park, and the Onex Forest. In my bag, I had my trusty old Sony compact camera to capture the beauty of those green places.

After my stroll, I gently returned home and prepared a nice meal: sweetheart's preferred pie (chard, sausage and Parmesan) and his favourite fruit (strawberries). A good bottle of red wine was obviously called for…and some fresh flowers to go with the roses from last week. What a nice and simple programme, in short, a lovely day!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

An ordinary Sunday

My friend P. can't stand taking pictures, but for the long holiday he is about to take to meet his relatives living in Argentina, a nice camera was required.

So, for our lunch last Sunday (April 17th), I brought along my old compact Sony. I explained to him all the details of the manual and took some photos to show him the range of options that this very small and lightweight camera offers…

But, just before leaving, P. said: “You know, I won't borrow your camera...” Why? “It is too sophisticated, too many options and I also have to think about charging the battery daily. I'll take my camera, which uses film and normal batteries.” So funny, I totally adore his attitude, so cute...this sort of specimen is rare these days!!

Instead of deleting the pictures, I have selected a few taken by me on that ordinary, chilly and cloudy Sunday. As I publish them, P. is already in Buenos Aires. I'll have to wait two months to know how it all went…in case you’re wondering, NO, he can't stand writing emails either…I wish you a great Wednesday!

The new novel I just started reading…

Cornavin Railway Station, where P. arrived by train

Inside the station there are nice shops: Body Shop, a Payot bookstore, Fleuriot...

Germini and Hydrangea

We strolled by the lake before lunch

Beautiful buildings facing the lake

Monument to Empress Elisabeth “Sissi” of Austria

Beautiful sculpture, among many others

The Brunswick Monument

View to the other side of the Mont Blanc bridge

Classic lunch at Café de Paris: salad, steak, fries... all yummy...

Tea and coffee time with fruit tarts

Monday, 25 April 2016

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant (2014)

When Addie Baum’s 22-year-old granddaughter asks her about her childhood, Addie realises the moment has come to relive the full history that shaped her.
Addie Baum was a Boston girl, born in 1900 to immigrant Jewish parents who lived a very modest life. But Addie’s intelligence and curiosity propelled her towards a more modern path. Addie wanted to finish high school and to go to college. She wanted a career, to find true love. She wanted to escape the confines of her family - and she did.

Author: Anita Diamant is an American author who was born on 27 June 1951. She has so far published five novels. “The Boston Girl” is a New York Times bestseller. She has also published guides on contemporary Jewish themes.

My thoughts: I read “The Boston Girl” last month, but I first came across this book last summer in a book fair. Sadly, I didn't pay attention to it back then. Since then, I've heard good things about it and now I would recommend it to everyone! If I had to use one word to describe “The Boston Girl” it would be “captivating”. It is such a lovely book and very easy to read. Addie, now aged 85, tells her life story to her granddaughter, Ava: her education, friends, family, love affairs, happy marriage, jobs, hopes and struggles... Basically, she grew up in the early 1900s in the USA as a poor Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe. “The Boston Girl” is a work of fiction, but it feels so real. Addie’s story is quite simple and gentle, but extremely absorbing. Whilst reading it I was reminded of “Angela's Ashes” by Frank McCourt. If you allow me to use one of my bizarre expressions, this book “reads like a candy”.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Black Velvet

This is a simple two ingredient cocktail. It’s made with stout and sparkling wine (traditionally Guinness and Champagne).

According to Wikipedia, this cocktail was invented in 1861 at London’s Brook’s Club soon after the death of Prince Albert. It is supposed to symbolise the black or purple cloth armbands worn by mourners. It’s been a popular beer cocktail ever since.

1/2 glass Guinness
1/2 glass Champagne

Fill a tall champagne flute halfway with Champagne and gently top up with chilled Guinness. The different densities of the liquids should cause them to remain largely in separate layers, sadly the tinned draught Guinness I used refused to do so.

I tasted this with sweetheart and while I found it agreeable, it is not my all time favourite: it's a little too manly for my taste.  Needless to say, sweetheart loved it!

Note: This recipe was emailed to me last year by a faithful reader. Thank you, sir!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Strawberry Buttermilk Cake

At the end of March I saw this great fruit cake recipe in Monica's blog “Playing with flour”. I loved it and wanted to try it straightaway, which I did the following day. This is a simple little cake: easy to make and scandalously good.  It is the perfect combination of all the ingredients, with its softened strawberries and a hint of lemon.   I have slightly adapted Monica's recipe.

Bake this cake in a 20 cm diameter pan, since it's a thin cake (I actually used a 23 cm tin).

130g all-purpose flour
2g baking powder
2g baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
56g salted butter, softened
130g sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 vanilla pod
1 large egg
118ml buttermilk
10 medium-sized fresh strawberries, sliced in half (I used 5 because my strawberries were big and sweet, but regret doing so because they shrank when cooked, so I advise you to use 10)

Preheat oven to 190 °C. Lightly butter and flour the cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of greaseproof paper for easier removal later.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

In another bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar. Add the lemon zest.  Beat the mixture at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then the egg. Beat well.

At low speed, mix the dry ingredients with the buttermilk in several batches. Mix until just combined and smooth. Scrape the batter into the cake pan, spreading it out and smoothing the top.  Place the fresh strawberry halves, cut-side down, evenly around the top.

Bake until the cake is golden (about 20-25 minutes).  Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack and let the cake cool for about 15 minutes in the pan. Carefully remove the cake from the pan and let it cool further on the wire rack.  For me, this cake is best served at room temperature.

Serves 8

A massive thanks to Monica!

Monday, 18 April 2016

Remembering Edinburgh… city of mysteries, legends and medieval architecture

Scotland, is seen in the thoughts of many as the country of mysteries, witches burnt at the stake, legends, dark corners and medieval architecture. We love the Scottish, their accent, landscape, history, heritage, famous Scotch whisky and tartans...

So, to close these “remembering” posts, I have chosen to honour Edinburgh, a UNESCO World Heritage Ste since 1995. It is the second most visited UK city after London. In my view, it is an excellent destination for a cultural holiday and five days should be ample time to see everything.

A couple of years back I stayed in Edinburgh in March.  The weather was cool and sunny, with occasional cloud. I visited some stunning places, walked through the city and parks and enjoyed the soul of this charming city.

I have put together a selection of photos, taken with my old compact camera, and will tell you a little bit about the places I visited. I hope you really enjoy the tour!

To start with, Edinburgh is divided into the Old Town and the New Town. The Royal Mile is the most famous and busiest street of the city. It runs for about 2 km and entertains us with curious narrow alleys, souvenir shops, hotels and pubs, with Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace standing at each end. The main streets forming the Royal Mile are Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street and Canongate.

View looking at the Royal Mile

The inside of St Giles’s Cathedral offers beautiful stained glass windows and the famous Thistle chapel. The funerals of important Scottish personalities are held there.

The statue of one of the world’s greatest philosophers, David Hume (1711-1776)

Fun attraction, isn’t he sexy in his kilt?

Gorgeous pubs where you can drink a good pint of beer or a “wee dram” of Scotch whisky, in a very warm and eclectic ambiance…

Edinburgh Streets

Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress located at the top of the Royal Mile on an extinct volcano at the summit of Castle Rock.

Edinburgh Castle Gatehouse

The views from the Mons Meg siege gun....and Foog’s Gate

Holyrood Palace is located at the bottom of the Royal Mile. The Palace is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. It is also setting for state occasions and official entertaining.

Holyrood Palace

Forecourt fountain of Holyrood Palace

I loved the ruined nave of Holyrood Abbey, a romantic and mysterious place

In the gardens of Holyrood Palace

The Royal Yacht Britannia is where we discover what life was like on board the Queen's floating royal residence. This beautiful boat tour is very interesting and well documented with audio guides. It takes two hours to see everything.

Mary King’s Close is located on one of the Royal Mile’s alleys. Mary King’s Close offers a tour of the underground world of the 15th and 16th centuries. It is not a frightening place, but sometimes we feel uncomfortable because of the sinister true stories about people who died there. (I took no pictures there).

Scotch Whisky Experience, we visited this virtual whisky distillery where they explained the manufacturing process. It also offers the possibility of tasting before the end of the visit.

Nice bottles of whisky

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a scientific centre for the study of plants and one of the world’s largest plant collections.

North Bridge

The Scott Monument and Gardens