Monday, 19 March 2018

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (1999)

The book centres on Vermeer’s prosperous Delft household during the 1660s. When Griet, the novel’s quietly perceptive heroine, is hired as a servant, turmoil follows. First, the 16-year-old narrator (Griet) becomes increasingly intimate with her master. Then Vermeer employs her as his assistant and ultimately has Griet sit for him as a model. A complex domestic tension rises in the household, ruled by the painter’s jealous, eternally pregnant wife and his taciturn mother-in-law.

Author: Tracy Chevalier was born on October 19, 1962. She grew up in Washington, DC. She moved to England in 1984, and worked for several years as a reference book editor. In 1994 she graduated from the MA course in creative writing at the University of East Anglia. Her first novel, Virgin Blue, was chosen by WH Smith for its Fresh Talent promotion in 1997. She has written seven novels, mostly in the historical genre. Tracy lives in London with her husband and son.

My thoughts: I read this masterpiece twice. I loved this beautifully written historical fiction, all the more so as I am fond of Vermeer, a little known painter born in Delft in 1632. Johannes Vermeer painted mostly domestic interiors, often portraying a woman performing a task. He only painted about thirty-seven pictures and one of my favourite paintings is without a doubt the “Girl With a Pearl Earring”.

Although it is a fiction, the facts around the famous painter Johannes Vermeer are true. The author has respected the historical facts with respect to the dates and events that have taken place. I loved the character of the maid, Griet, a very intelligent and wise girl, who evolves in the course of the story. The other characters are intriguing, including the painter; most of the time the narrator (Griet) makes him seem very mysterious.

The style of the book is what I would call a “huis clos” in French (a claustrophobic drama behind closed doors). As the story develops the reader feels the tension growing and is gripped by an anxiety: how will Griet manage to survive among the vipers? It's an intense and sad story, but so beautiful. I urge you to read it.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes with Matcha Cream Cheese Frosting

At the end of year, I followed a Matcha green tea cure – it consisted of drinking three cups of this tea, known for its amazing health virtues, each day. After only a couple weeks I felt that I had more energy and I noticed that my digestion had improved considerably (I lost weight without dieting).

Matcha tea is a powdered Japanese tea - the tea plants are grown predominantly in Japan - it is becoming increasingly popular in Europe because of its benefits and exquisitely unique flavour and aroma. Having said that, this little miracle tea costs a fortune. I paid CHF 22.00 for 50 grams of this organic high-grade quality tea.

You can find high quality Matcha green tea at Betjeman and Barton on Rue Saint-Joseph 35, Carouge.

Here are a few of the many benefits this tea has to offer
*Boosts metabolism and helps weight loss
*Prevents cancers and slows ageing
*Good source of fibre and energy
*Improves your physical endurance

Matcha green tea can also be used in cake recipes, I used the basic recipe for all cupcakes and added Matcha green tea powder and made pretty, colourful and yummy cupcakes.

Here is the recipe to make 12 regular sized cupcakes.
115g superfine sugar
115g butter, room temperature
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
115g self-raising flour
10g Matcha green tea

1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper muffin cases.

2. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar until a light and whitish batter is obtained. You can use an electric whisk. Add the eggs, one at a time. Sift the flour and fold it into the batter. Add the Matcha green tea powder and the milk and beat to a creamy, thick  and smooth mixture.

3. Put a big spoonful of the mixture into each of the cases. Bake in the preheated oven for about 17 minutes until golden brown.

4. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

5. When the cupcakes are cold, pipe the Matcha cream cheese frosting on top.

Matcha Cream Cheese Frosting
115g icing sugar
40g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp Matcha powder
125g cream cheese, cold

1. Beat the icing sugar and butter with a handheld electric whisk on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.

2. Add the Matcha powder, then the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed. Beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 mins. Do not over-beat, as it can quickly become runny.

3. Decorate the top of each cupcake with the frosting.

Monday, 5 March 2018

February Monthly Round Up

LIFE LATELY: February is such a cute little month isn’t it? Always going by so quickly!! It’s been a fun month spent discovering new spots!!

Valentine’s Day Card – such a lovely way to start the day!

AUTOGRAPH BOOK: Recently, I started to keep an autograph book. They used to be popular among students during my youth. This notebook serves to record personal information and the well wishes of friends, colleagues and noteworthy acquaintances.

BOOK LOVER: The beautifully written “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel: I wasn't sure when I first started reading this if I would like it, but I’m so glad I persevered. After the 2nd chapter I was completely immersed in it. Stay tuned for this book review.

Very thrilling and “unputdownable”: “The Wife Between Us” by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. I adored this book! It’s the best psychological thriller I’ve read in a long time. Stay tuned for this book review.

WALKS: Postcards from Geneva on a sunny and chilly day in downtown, I love how my city shines...

STYLE: I bought this sleeveless blue lace dress at Sandro Clothing to wear for my Valentine’s Day dinner at Le Patio. I paired it with accessories from Julie Gloor: long golden earrings and butterfly pearl rings.

BEAUTY PRODUCTS: In my basket of beauty products bought in February this was my favourite: The Hydra Zen - Anti-Stress Moisturising Cream by Lancôme. – It’s brilliant!!! My skin feels really moisturised and soft. The best moisturiser I have used for a long time.

BOOKSTORE: Payot Librairie (7, Rue de la Confédération)
This is the largest bookstore in Geneva; here we are spoiled by an incredible selection of books. On the 2nd floor there is a very nice coffee corner. For Valentine’s Day I bought Sweetheart “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles.

BOUTIQUE: Caroll | Sale with up to 70% off (8, Rue de la Confédération)
Before closing for renovations, this store is making incredible promotions.

CHOCOLATE SHOP: Teuscher (42, rue du Rhône)
Many chocolate connoisseurs consider Teuscher chocolates to be among the best in the world. So, for Valentine’s Day, I went to buy a box at their freshly opened shop next to the Globus department store Their main shop is at 16 rue de la Corraterie.

RESTAURANT: Le Patio (19, Boulevard Helvétique)
This is where we had a fantastic dinner for Valentine’s Day. Have a look at my upcoming post for the review of this restaurant.

El Catrín (7-9 Rue Richemont)
I am a huge fan of Mexican food and when a colleague recommended to me El Catrín, I was impatient to try it. If mole, chile relleno, tlayudas and other dishes from Oaxaca make your mouth water, you know where to go now. Their chef is specialised in the traditional cuisine of Oaxaca, one of Mexico's major gastronomic centres whose cuisine is known internationally.

CAKE LOVER: LaDurée (33, Quai des Berques)
I started celebrating Valentine’s Day with a delicious passion fruit, pineapple and coconut “Réligieuse” accompanied by a jasmine tea. This is one of Geneva’s prettiest tea-rooms, where the cakes are as beautiful as the decor. At LaDurée we think we are in Alice in Wonderland. Everything is cute; pastel and soft colours, ribboned boxes, large glazed windows and velvet sofas. The watchword for here is fairytale. Check my review in April.

Martel Chocolatier, established since 1818 (4, Rue de la Croix d’Or)
I highly recommend to you the Martel signature tartlet, the « Symphonie », an almond cake base with red fruit and blackcurrant compot, whipped cream and a layer of chestnut cream. I also love the “Choco Framboise”, a crispy cake base topped with layers of airy raspberry and chocolate mousse.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Child of Happy Valley: A Memoir by Juanita Carberry (1999)

If you enjoy a pleasant read that takes you to distant horizons, such as Kenya in the 1920s, this book is well worth reading.

This is the memoir of Juanita Carberry who was born and raised in Kenya, it tells us about her both extraordinary and unhappy childhood. She lost her mother at the age of three and since that time she lived with her unloving father, stepmother and a vicious nanny.

As we read this book, we also learn a little more about the lives of those who made up the Happy Valley set and the events surrounding the death of Lord Erroll. Juanita wrote that Delves Broughton admitted to her privately that he was in fact guilty of the murder, but was acquitted at the trial. Juanita knew all the members of the Happy Valley set. She disliked this group and when she grew older she avoided becoming part of it.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

A relaxed evening at Tiffany Hotel

Hello ladies and gents! 

I’ve always had a thing for boutique hotels, those small but characterful special places, hidden away in a secret corner. At the end of January, Sweetheart and I went for a drink at Tiffany Hotel. This boutique hotel is located in the trendy and arty district of Les Bains. I would say it has Art Nouveau style decor with a contemporary twist. 

As soon as we entered the hotel lobby, we felt welcome and relaxed. We had a look around the public area which is intimate, but also very chic.

I loved the library/lounge and enjoyed a cosy moment by the fire, the ideal place to relax after a long day at the office.

For the occasion I chose a special outfit and accessories. It’s not every day that I wear a green tulle skirt...

A visit to the restaurant, Brasserie, is an absolute must to try the exquisite menu.

After, we headed to the bar, hidden at the back of the Brasserie restaurant.

The bar itself is like a tiny secret den of tranquillity! Decorated with a few treasures and stained-glass lamps, with the walls partly covered with wood and adorned with paintings, it feels very homey. I loved it!

I ordered their signature cocktail, the Dragonfly, which contained white rum, pineapple juice, coconut puree, lime and Timur peppercorns. Sweetheart had a Hendrick’s gin and tonic. Both were deliciously drinkable!

For me the Tiffany Hotel, with its simple, classic style, is the hotel for fans of discreet chic and elegance. It’s the perfect place to take a break from shopping to enjoy tea in the lounge or to dine in the restaurant.

Tiffany Hotel
Rue de L’Arquebuse 20
1204 Genève 
Tél.: +41 22 708 16 16