Friday, March 30, 2012

The innocent dead

These past two weeks were spent doing nothing. I've felt like a crêpe, flat with no emotion, no motivation to write, study or do something creative. All thanks to this person. Meet Mohammed Merah, a 23 year old French kid who turned into a jihadist and went on a killing spree in the south of France. What shocked the world was the nature of the crimes. Basically he targetted the army, the jewish community and each crime was video taped and meant to be published online! How sick is that!
I can't help thinking about the little innocent children who were taken from us much too quickly. What did they know about the war of religion? What did they do to deserve the wrath of this twisted maniac? The entire world is shocked by the incident and France has decided to take a firm stand against islamic radicals in the country.  Peace was finally restored when this coward was shot dead, by the RAID (the special operations unit of the French Police), after nearly two days of negotiations and nearly 300 rounds of bullets. I would have liked to see him tried and hung but I feel the RAID did the best they could and admire them for such quick and effective actions! 

My heart goes out to all the families of the victims. That could have been my son or my daughter or my husband who was killed, simply because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time! What's happening to the world? How did life become so worthless? In memory of the children who left before they could see the glory of spring, I offer a few pictures I took that just happened to cheer me up. I hope they offer solace to those who are suffering from the shock of this tragedy. Nature can heal. Slowly.
R.I.P little angels.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring is springing

Hello Spring,
How nice you finally decided to come along! Good to see the sun has tagged along too. No more minus tens and minus fives on the temperature scales. I have never been more excited to see sunshine! Humans are strange. I had so much sunshine at home. But we travel to different places, just to appreciate the things we ignore at home. Oh it's time for Cherry blossoms! thousands are slowly peeping out to greet us. The ducks and seagulls are coming back to the lakes and shores. Glorious, me thinks.

Where I come from, Spring is unheard of. Hence you can understand the pure joy at seeing the world around me come to life. I just can't stop taking pictures, there's so many lovely things happening in nature and isn't photography the best way to document change? :)
Spring also makes me feel good about myself. Or maybe its this mantra I read everyday before I leave the house. My BFF gave this to me a while back and honestly, you have no idea how many 'fat day crises' have been avoided because I read this everyday :) So a shout out to our best friends and to feeling good about our body shapes! :)
Spring related objets are so cute. I love candles and I never pay big bucks for any relaxation therapies. Those are just rip-offs! I just light a few candles and take a nice long bath. Easy peasy! 
I do spend a lot of money on unique rings. I hate jewellery but a pretty ring cannot be ignored. However shabby your outfit can be, a big unique ring can save your day! This fiery red beauty goes so well with the mood of the moment, I couldn't resist. Money well spent? Who cares! 

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Camera friendly cat

I met this cat while I was waiting for my bus. He was just so adorable and coy. I love cats, they are so special. My grandma has a saying "Beware of people who dislike cats, they used to be rats in a previous life." :D It's easy to like dogs, but it takes a special someone to like cats! I know this is rude to say but people who hate cats tend to bore me. A lot. 
This cutie was adorable! He had such a beautiful orange white coat and never saying no for a cuddle. I was most disappointed to see the bus and I guess he was too. I leave you with this beautiful quote:
"A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not." - Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Paris Diary: Berenice Abbott, Sunset and Macarons

I had the honour of admiring Berenice Abbott's photos in person this week at Jeu de Paume. Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) is a world famous photographer and an inspiration to all women in the field. She is best known for her powerful black and white photos of New York and providing an incredible visual record of the changing city. She was 21 when she decided to move to Paris (same age as me when I made the same decision! :)  She studied sculpture but also worked as a darkroom assistant for Man Ray. Photography immediately became a strong passion and and soon opened her own studio. She photographed imminent writers like James Joyce and Jean Cocteau. On her return to New York, she decided to open her American studio and also took up teaching. She was also a pioneer in the field of science photography. She felt that science can in fact be an artist's muse. During this period, she photographed many scientific elements, laboratories and equipment. During her travels through the United States, she made sure to document the unique "American Scene". The photographs taken during this phase are my favorites. P.S. all Abbott related photos are courtesy Commerce Graphics Ltd.

Photos of soap bubbles and a portrait of James Joyce! 
I love seeing how the world looked in the past and Berenice Abbott's records are flawless! I love how the photos are so clear and crisp!
The American Scene. Love it! :)
After the museum, I was in for a treat. It's been ages since I saw a sunset. And what a beautiful sight to see the sun go down behind the Eiffel tower. 
Maybe I'm too enchanted by the city because I can't stop admiring the minute details that pop up everywhere I go! :) 
Gorgeous! don't you think? 
The Luxembourg gardens are just next to the museum, so you have to take a trip there and let time while away for a bit. Of course there are the ducks to keep you company.
Then it's off to your favourite store to buy one of your favourite things! Macarons! Your love affair with macarons is surely never going to stop. If you're ever in Paris, don't forget to go to Ladurée and try their desserts.
My favourite flavours are rose and blackcurrant. With all the money I spend buying these, it's about time I spent some time learning how to make them! 
What a great day and what a nice feeling to have free time to immerse oneself into lovely things. Work is getting more and more stressful but I've made a promise to myself to discover at least 5 new things a month (hence one each week) inorder to keep my brain active and peppy. I will open my mind to a new artist, a new recipe, a new hobby or even a new flavour of macaron! :)

Monday, March 05, 2012

Incredible India: The Spice Trail

I recently worked on spices with my students. I hate classes that deal only with grammar, vocabulary, composition etc. I feel cultural exchange is very important in modern classrooms. French students have a zest for discovering new cultures. The thing I love most about living in France is that you will have an audience for anything you want to share. India is of course a victim of many stereotypes but at the same time she invokes curiosity, dreams and mystery. I'm constantly trying new methods to introduce new vocabulary through interesting cultural sessions. In this lesson, I brought about 15 of my spice jars to class and I wanted the students to learn names of spices and their various uses. The goal

  1. To understand the history of spices within India, identify the spice routes, etc
  2. The benefits of these spices 
  3. How to introduce spices in your diet 

In the beginning of the lesson, each one had to take a jar of spices. They had to identify the spice that was presented on the slide through the sense of smell. They enjoyed the lesson especially since they each received a piece of halwa for correct answers :) They were amazed not only by the number of spices India has but also by the amounts we use in our food! I hope this post can help others understand the rich history of India and try to understand the importance of spices for our health!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Dear Valentine, see you in Paris!

I know my post is a bit late and many people have put Valentine's day behind them. Well, I just received my gifts (prompt much eb*y?) and I thought I should dedicate a post to my adorable 'Valentin'. In France you either have a Valentin or a Valentine (pronounced va-lan-taem/ va-lan-teen). I woke up on V-day to an intimate note, a huge bouquet of red roses and these adorable chocolate heart biscuits left on the counter :) I loved the gesture. I love cheesy, mush, clichés and just feeling two feet off the ground. At 24, it's a bit odd to say but this was my first real Valentine's day. Yes, you read that right. I hated Valentine's day previously, mainly because I had to always spend it alone :D I have either broken up before V day or started a relationship afterwards and last year Monsieur S. and me were in two different cities. So this really was my first exquisite experience. I don't give a damn if it's overly-hyped and commercialized. Any occasion to receive roses and chocolates is most welcome! :)
The French usually go all out during Valentine's season but I was quite disappointed to find that this year, there wasn't much festivity in the ville de l'amour. The only people really keen on the day were the chefs in Paris' fab restaurants. No matter how big the economic crisis, no matter how low the ressources, French people will never neglect their taste buds!

Monsieur S. invited me to a fine dining experience in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a neighbourhood in the center of Paris, infamous with the culinary elite. You can find some reasonable pubs for some quick grub. But my Valentin decided to treat me to the finest. So we went to Le Procope! The restaurant was founded in 1686 and is the world's oldest restaurant/café! I had seen the restaurant a few days ago and hadn't stopped yapping (Freudian slip I guess) about the history of the area, the great food they must serve, the number of literary figures who went there, etc. In fact almost all of France's 18th century literature was created here by Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, (to name a few).. I was literally in the clouds when we entered the place. It was like we had stepped back in time.
Le Procope
We were surprised to find the prices reasonable enough (to be precise you can have a delicious meal for 40 euros each). We opted for the Philosopher's menu and since we were sitting exactly were Voltaire did, I say it was most fitting. I decided I would finally try the escargots snails for entrées. I have avoided them all along my stay in France because I thought they were eaten raw and that was just creepy!
But don't let first impressions fool you (both with people and food) because the escargots were divine! They are not eaten raw, in fact they are boiled and marinated with something awesome. I must have come off as a ridiculous tourist to the other diners with my non-stop clicking, but I didn't care. I wanted to remember the experience forever. When I felt like a real princess :) ha! There I go again, playing movies in my head!
By the end of 
  • trout with almonds (for me)
  • supreme farm turkey cooked in wine (for him)
  • Sabayon (dessert of egg yolk, sugar and wine beaten together..) for him
  • Dessert du moment for me which just happened to be made of one of my favourite flavours, cassis! blackcurrant,

we were stuffed! I don't think I even finished all of my pastry. There wasn't too much on our plates but we were filled to the brim. That's what French food does to you. You eat little, but you savour it and thus your stomach is fooled into thinking you're eating a lot. Hence why French women never get fat!
We took our time in admiring the tiny details of the decor. I loved the framed manuscripts of Marie Antoinette. However, the restaurant's most prized possession is on the right of the picture, that's Napoleon's very own hat. Apparently he offered it to the restaurant because of the excellence in their cuisine. Hat's off literally! 

Our date finished with cocktails at a pub in the quartier. Everything was romantically perfect, including the weather (which believe me is rare for Paris). The thing I cherished most that night was la lune.
The moon! It was so big and bright. I think on purpose, maybe it wanted to add to the romance on Valentine's day. Well it worked :)
My gifts are as extraordinary as my chéri. I think only he can understand my craze for vintage, especially vintage cameras! So voilà! Four beauties to add to my collection.
 Left: Fed 3b, 1964, ex-USSR.
Right: rare Welta Penti, 1959, Germany.
 Kodak Retina 1B, 1957, Germany.
Voïgtlander Brilliant, box camera, 1932!, Germany.
My favourite! I mean I'm literally obsessed with everything Voïgtlander (the world's oldest camera brand) has ever made and to receive the rare Voïgtlander Brilliant is just incredible!

Love is just so lovely isn't it? :D