jeudi 28 février 2013

Holy Experience


Use and abuse of the female kind
I am posting today from the blog A Holy Experience. Although some of her posts are heavy, I almost feel guilty deleting an email if I don't read it.

This is a second on the theme. I read her when I feel strong enough. Which has not been the case lately, precisely because of subjects like this one. We (maybe) all know this exists. What is worse is when children are involved and because I am a mother this has put me into a semi state of depression, sadness, rage, confusion following me everywhere. Yet lastly, bashfully, in gratitude for how lucky we - people not having to deal with this - really are.

I started to get myself out of it a few days ago when I received another one of those 'annoying' kind of emails that circle around and ends in 'share'. Well, this one was meant for me. 
The email was about the prayer Our Father. About a man who emplyed this prayer constanly until he got himself out of his black state of spirit. The message was about these thoughts, negative feelings that conquer us as a result of ...well, life. The email's message was - visit hell, but don't stay there.
Every time you feel the darkness surrounding you for whatever reason, say the prayer. Even if you will not be able to concentrate, words will flow out meaningless to you, just do it again and again, the man said.

God loves each of his children equally. And yet I was starting to ask myself questions on whether that is really true given all this pain is allowed. I am posting this today because thanks to that email, and thanks to this post below which I could read once I read the email, I am back on the right path.

Evil exists, we can overcome it only by doing more good. And being good. And sharing good.

Here goes Because His Daughters’ Hearts Beat with His
I’m still ringing with yesterday’s heart cry: Gratitude has never failed to radicalize the radically grateful and when you are radically grateful for what you have, you will go to radical lengths to share it and when you’re overwhelmed with the goodness of God to you — you overflow with the goodness of God to others. Fire in the belly can come from gratitude for the blessings. That’s where I’m at right now. And Christine Caine comes to this quiet corner of the web and we both ignite. A heart sister, Christine has impacted me in profound ways this last year, our conversations cutting me right to the quick. We all gathered as a family to watch Chris’ video message here — and there are no words. Only now living it. Now living it. if you do nothing else online today — watch this message.
Girl Thoughts
Thoughtful gaze
Lady in the night
Stranger #009
Side view in a sad street
Wild geek
The courtroom in Thessaloniki was eerily quiet.
We had just finished hearing the testimony of a young woman who had been trafficked from Serbia into Greece. None of us could believe the horrors to which she had been subjected. Brutal beatings. Starvation. Rape. Degradation. Every. single. day. For two years.
The judge asked the trafficker,“Why did you do this to her?”
Smiling he answered, “The punishment for selling her is much less than that for selling drugs, and I can just kick her into submission.”
There was an audible gasp.

This case is a glimpse of the depravity, pain, suffering and wickedness that surrounds us. Most of us are unaware that this is going on. Everywhere. Everyday.
It is into such darkness that Jesus sent us.

It’s hard to go into places we never knew existed. It’s hard to help people hidden in plain sight when we are not looking for them. It’s hard to be aware of them and their plight when we are distracted by other pressing concerns, namely ourselves. While we are busy trying to make our own lives easier, better and happier and securing our own prosperity, education, comfort and safety, we can so easily forget that these are the right of every son and daughter of the king.

It is easy to judge the trafficker, but what about judging our own heart? How can we who profess to be Christ followers remain disconnected from the suffering of those who bear His image? Do not all people have equal value and dignity in the sight of God?
Such injustice exists because our hearts do not compel us to get involved in alleviating their suffering or the injustice they are subjected to.

In that Greek courtroom, the trafficker revealed the true state of his heart. At least he was honest. Perhaps it is time for us all to take an honest look at our own hearts?
Jesus warned us that because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most would grow cold.

Who then are the few?
If our heart beats for what God’s heart beats, shouldn’t compassion for people and a passion for His mission on this earth be our Holy obsession.
Am I not supposed to love my neighbour as I love myself?
When good people do nothing, injustice thrives.

{Consider muting the music by clicking the speaker icon in the left sidebar to listen to Chris’ unforgettable message? RSS readers can listen to Chris here worth every minute!}

dimanche 24 février 2013

'Weekend Graces'

I have just recently come across this really sweet blog called
I do want to share, and I do want to mark it so I won't forget some of the really nice advices she gives, like the ones below. Sometimes we are so caught up in the daily routine and little things that bother us at the person we live with, sometimes maybe we just had an argument or just don't really feel like caring. Yet it is so important to just get over ourselves and make an effort for the sake of our relationship, for our own sake. I read this before the weekend and I still did not do it. I did think of it the morning of, and felt guilty. I could have. I should have. No excuses for the next one though :)
I will be sharing an idea or tip or inspiration; a small act of love, service or hospitality to bless the people we live with this weekend.  Because it's the small gestures that convey our love more than our words ever could, isn't it?

"This week's Weekend Grace is to make breakfast slightly special on Saturday morning.
Here are some easy ways that you could do that:
  • Make a family favourite that you haven't had in a while.
  • Make familiar things in a fun new shape, such as smiley face blueberry pancakes or heart shaped french toast.
  • Leave a love note and coffee for your spouse if you have to rush out in the early morning.
  • Dress the table with fresh flowers, a favourite table runner, or your best dishes.
  • Serve what you normally would except with an extra special addition like fresh fruit, whipped cream, or bacon.

Keep it simple. You don't need to make a feast; just do one little thing to make breakfast a celebration."
And the other tip this wonderful lady posted (speaking about her husband; we use electrical brushes and it takes a while before they need exchanging...will have to find something else that works here :)
"This week's Weekend Grace is to surprise your loved ones with something ordinary that they need; new socks, a toothbrush, their favourite shampoo.

My husband,who is a very practical sort of romantic, always seems to notice when my toothbrush needs replacing and brings me a new one. A pink one, with medium bristles, just the way I like it. And that simple act speaks volumes of love. Because he knows me. And he loves me. And he sees my needs, often before I do.

Let's anticipate our loved ones needs this weekend and get them something they are going to need anyways before they even ask. It's a simple way to show our love. And that's what Weekend Graces is all about!"

Happy Weekend :)


Ten French Bistros in Paris

I am posting this as a note to self, to try them once I'll get the chance. They all sound great, places for lunch or early dinners, some kid friendly so if you come to visit and have eventually experienced any of them, do share your experience :)
From the blog  Paris Deja Vu

Most of our favorite Paris bistros have also been around for a while. (Or at least feel like they have.) These are frequented more by locals than Michelin star-seekers (of course we love those, too), and won't let you down next time you're seeking classic French food in Paris. So, in no particular order, here goes...

Le Taxi Jaune, 3ème: With its vintage bar and cracked tile floors, it still feels slightly under the radar despite its location in the ever popular 3ème. The food is authentic French with a twist that keeps it fresh; the vibe is Paris bourgeois-boheme. Reserve ahead.

La Laiterie Saint Clotilde, 7ème: Run by a mother and son duo, the menu is happily limited and everything is delicious. At a recent dinner with friends, I had a memorable curried veg soup and way-better-than-average magret de canard.   
Au Pied de Fouet, 7ème: The perfect neighborhood spot for lunch where the welcome is convivial (the owner treats everyone like his personal guest) and the food has a home-cooked appeal. It's not refined cuisine but a great, budget-friendly choice between visits to bigger name restos. The confit de canard is solid and there's usually a nice fresh fish option. Take your post-meal coffee (or digestif) at the bar and enjoy the bustle of this lively spot. Sitting cheek to jowl with neighboring diners keeps things toasty. Go for fun, not romance.

Le Casse Noix (15ème): When a foodie friend came to town for a night, he delivered strict instructions for our meal: "Think great food and he's paying."(I replied that this is always how I think... ;). After remembering it was fashion week and discovering all the "it" tables were impossible (Le Frenchie, Septime, Chateaubriand), we decided on Le Casse Noix for a meal that put food way ahead of fashion. Greg swears it's the best boudin noir he's ever had (On principle alone, I can't eat the stuff but my fresh cèpes in butter thing-y was to die). Fans of the creamy, whipped egg white dessert, ile flottante, will also be rewarded. A good choice for lunch if you're visiting the Eiffel Tower. Book ahead.

L'Ourcine (13ème): You can read my full review of this terrific bistro on the HiP Paris blog. It's off the beaten path in the 13eme and well worth the trip for a fab meal and to wander the village-like streets of les Buttes aux Cailles neighborhood.

Cafe des Musees (3ème): Always well-reviewed and popular for its reliably good food and great Marais location. I love this one for an unhurried lunch when visiting the boutiques and museums in the neighborhood. It's open daily and filled with locals and a smattering of visitors. Fun and yummy, a good combination.

Le Chemise (11ème): I loved this bistro because it brings together two favorite things: updated classic French cooking in a sleekly designed but cozy space. The service was attentive and cool crowd was what you'd expect for the location between Oberkampf and Republique. Helmed by a young chef who trained at La Tour d'Argent, this is a fun find that's on my "must return" list. (And yes, it's Le Chemise, not "La...", my French grammarian friends.)

Josephine "Chez Dumonet" (6ème): A favorite haunt of French icon Gerard Depardieu, this classic Parisian bistro offers superb service and an excellent meal in a timelessly lovely, art-nouveau setting. I went recently to celebrate a friend's birthday and we were treated to complimentary glasses of wine and a gateau (to share) large enough for a group twice our size. We ate like queens (and were treated like them, too). All this loveliness comes at a price so plan to splurge. Located on one of my favorite Left Bank shopping streets, rue Cherche-Midi.

Le Bistro Paul Bert (11ème): Everyone knows that the Paris food scene is focused in the 11ème. Drawn by affordable rents, a central location and hip vibe, young chefs are opening new restos here seemingly daily. Bistro Paul Bert isn't new (the new Le 6 Paul Bert is just down the street) but it's truly a classic (and not in a stuffy, un-fun way). We had a late dinner there recently and were pleased to find it bustling with a cool clientele of all ages. The food was delicious and the service attentive but unhurried. Go, you'll be happy you did.

Le Comptoir du Relais (6ème): And last but not least, my still-reigning favorite. The beloved outpost of star chef Yves Camdeborde has never failed me. We go (early) for dinner with the kids, bring visiting friends, and enjoy lunches a deux. The key is to go right as they open (12 noon for lunch or before 7pm for dinner) to avoid the inevitable queue out front. The people watching and the food are both consistently superb.

jeudi 21 février 2013

Photo shoot competition

I so hope to win this competition I'll tell you about below like I have seldom dreamt of winning anything before. A professional photo shoot! (Enter to win too:)

And let me tell you that I dread all physical "improvements" aka: hairdos, makeup dos, manicure pedicure dos. Now I looooove to have great hair and make up and nails, but, somehow everytime I go to have any of these done it ends blah. In dissapointment. So I have always done it myself (that is not to say I always look good. ahem.)
I go to the hair saloon to come home and wash my hair. On the day before my wedding I went to get a pedicure and I repainted my nails once I got home. My friends convinced me to get a hair pro to come over and do my hair on my wedding day, well she did and because she did I almost cried. And was late because I had to undo everything she did and did not have time to redo so....terrible hair on my big day. Well, won't continue with that because a lot of other things were terrible on that day. Including me. This year I thought I would try a professional photoshoot (one I could afford) to immortalize me and my daughter. It went ok. But not how I'd hoped it would.

Somehow this lady has got to me; putting my hopes in Carla Coulson from
Carla Loves Photography
below.  Big hopes....just look at her "before and after' page and you'll understand.


jeudi 7 février 2013

Foods to bring to the French (when coming to visit)

I love this post from David Leibovitz, as well as many of his recipes found on his blog

If you were to ask me, bring PECANS! I have yet to see pecans around here...Especially those wonderful sugared pecans from Trader Joe's, the best store in the world ever :)
And then the French are really big on sugared and chocolaty cereal, which drives me nuts sometimes because I am trying not to feed my little one sugar as soon as she opens her eyes in the morning. For the afternoon snack the customa is chocolate or cake or something really sweet again!
We can find Cornflakes and Ricecrispies. Would love some Cheerios, and was I happy when I discovered them at a little American food store in Paris! Check this out, conversation in French:
I ask how much, the lady goes 'deuz euros'. And for every non native French, the difference between deux and douze, meaning 2 and 12 when followed by another word as in 'euro' (because the connection with a vowel starting word is made in this case by pronouncing the 'z' ) is rarely perceived. So happy me I thought 'that is cheap!' because I know stores like these usually overcharge. I was like, I'll take the 2! (apparently since I left the States there is another Cheerios- whole wheat or smth. and I had 2 boxes in my hand).  Handed the lady out 4 euros. She looked at me pittifully, said nothing, I, surprised in turn said "it is 4 euros, right?" "No madame, I said 12, so 24 for the two" and she shows me 10+2. With like 100km/hr I take out the 2 boxes of cereal and hand them back to her. With a smile that I think expressed everything I was thinking, I said "I missunderstood, sorry." Just could not resist telling her "however, 12 euros for a box of cereal!"
And she started explaining how much it costs to import, charges etc.
Well, I'll just mix the honey nut Cheerios with the Rice crispies to reduce the sugar....
And bring some Mint chapsticks! The French don't really like the mint...very hard to find them.
If it was 'transportable', I would also so love some Strawberry Hagen Dasz icecream....the pint kind...nope the French don't like anything else but chocolate, vanilla, some rum raisin and nuts.....not even pistachio can I find in the frozen section.
Here is David Leibovitz' selection.

Food Gifts to Bring French People from  America

Dandelion chocolate
 I often get asked by folks in the states what kind of things people from America they should bring to their French friends or hosts. And while it’s tempting to bring them something amusing like chocolate cake mix or boxed macaroni and cheese, they don’t see the same humor mixed with nostalgia in them that we do. (And yup, they have boxed cake mixes here too, so they’re not novel.) Peanut butter is also dicey; while we in America devour it, many French folks have an aversion to the flavor of it. Space is also at a premium so while it’s fun to think how delighted they would be to get a 2-gallon drum of “French” salad dressing or red licorice whips from the warehouse store, you’re probably better off devoting that luggage space to something that they’ll actually use and eat.

So if you bring something along, realize that bigger isn’t always considered better here. And although you might be tempted to super-size your purchases, it’s okay to bring modest sized boxes or bags of things. Note that there are a few sweeping cultural references based on generalizations. France, like American, is a diverse nation of people with various tastes. So while there are people in France that do like peanut butter, it just isn’t a popular item here for reasons you should ask your French friends about.
Here are some things I recommend toting along. Of course, if you’re coming from somewhere else, perhaps there are similar things in your country that might be of interest.
maple syrup
Maple Syrup, Honey, and Jam
Although this can be found in natural food stores and supermarkets in France, a bottle is really a true “American” (and Canadian) treat. However French people don’t usually douse their morning croissant or brioche with maple syrup, so a small bottle is sufficient. Suggest they drizzle it over plain yogurt. French people do love honey so if there is a locally produced honey in your area, that’s a neat gift since few of them have tasted honey made in America, such as tupelo or mesquite honey.
There is also a great love of jam in France, however there is a lot of that here already, and most of it is quite good. However if there is something rather special, especially something made with good raspberries or other bushberries like boysenberries or olallieberries, or things made with varietal citrus like Rangpur limes or Meyer lemons – which you don’t come across in France – those would make fine gifts.
marmalade and maple butter
Dried Sour Cherries
These are just starting to appear in specialty markets and cost around €7 for ten cherries. However they’re still novel and most people haven’t heard of them, but do like them when I give them a bag. The ones at Trader Joe’s or American Spoon Foods are always a hit.
Small Offset Spatula
You can now find measuring cups and spoons in kitchenware stores in France, even though they mostly use a scale (un balance) for measuring ingredients. But for some reason, the small offset spatula still eludes them, in spite of the fact that larger ones are available. They only cost about $2.99 and I reach for mine just about every time I bake something. A friend worked at a Michelin 3-star restaurant and noted one of the cooks did brisk business bringing them back from the United States and reselling them to the other cooks.
Rasp Zester
These have come to France, but like dried sour cherries, not that many people have one yet. And they’re also quite pricey, so one of these makes a good gift. You can get them from Microplane and I’m a fan of this one from Oxo.
Heavy-Duty Aluminum Foil
A friend of mine who is a cook, every time I go back to the states, pleads with me, “Please, Daveed. Bring me back that heavy-duty foil. As much as you can carry!” French foil is really thin – you could read Le Monde through it – and rips easily, causing a lot of frustration to cooks. It drives me nuts as well because you can’t reuse it. So make your favorite French cook happy and stock them with the good stuff.
askinosietheo Patric Chocolate
Bean-to-Bar Chocolate
The bean-to-bar chocolate movement not a widely known concept in France. Yes, there are some great chocolate companies, but if ask most people if they know of any of the small producers of chocolate, you’ll likely get a blank stare. There is also a view that American chocolate is all commercial and bad (and some is, and some isn’t), but in the past decade or so, there are nearly two dozen chocolate-makers in America that have been making some interesting bas. So a few choice tables would be of interest if your hosts or friends have open minds about trying some new, handcrafted chocolate.
dried fruit
California Dried Apricots
I used to tell people to bring California dried apricots (well, at least to me) because I love how tart and tangy they are in comparison to their sweet Mediterranean counterparts. Then I realized after giving them to some French friends, they were often too-tangy for their tastes.
But the spectrum of dried fruits in America is pretty amazing, and things like dried black figs, blueberries, sour cherries (mentioned above), cranberries, and curiosities like dried pluots are virtually non-existent in France. (Yes, I snuck in “virtually” because although you sometimes can find them, they’re still quite uncommon.) Your local farmer’s market will likely have some, Trader Joe’s, or natural food stores.
American Cheese
It might seem folly to bring American cheese (not the stuff individually wrapped in the supermarket) to France, but a lot of French people will never have the chance to try one because they’re not imported. English cheeses are starting to make inroads in France, but an interesting chèvre from California or a blue cheese would make a nice gift for someone who was open-minded about cheese from outside of France.
macadamia nuts
Macadamia Nuts
These are one of those curiosities that have sort of taken off in Paris. They’re rare, and pricey in France, and have a certain cachet. The chocolate-covered ones I would stay away from, or the candied ones, as French people don’t seem to be as fond of overly sweetened candied things as some folks in America are. (Which is why if you’re bringing candy corn to Paris, it’d better be for me.)
Rancho Gordo beans
Heirloom Beans
I’ve gifted a bag of these heirloom beans to more French friends than anything else. Dried beans are pretty commonly used and available in France, but most are just the standard varieties. Interesting varieties are the Good Mother Stallard, Christmas limas, Scarlet runner from Rancho Gordo, which are variegated and are unusual. Go to a natural food store for a good selection.
California Wine
When I moved to France from California, I was always surprised when French people would say to me, “Oh, California. The wine there is very, very good.” I like California wine myself, but I didn’t understand why anyone from France would be praising California wine so highly. Most aren’t easily available here and although a number of people do visit the states, it wasn’t until I asked a French caviste why French people think so highly of California wine. “Most of them have never tasted it. They’re just saying that because they’re heard it’s good” he told me. Am not sure how true that is or not, but varieties that are somewhat unique to America, like Zinfandel (not the white stuff) are interesting. Most other states make wine, too. So perhaps check out some local labels from places closer to home to bring over, instead. French people also like whiskey (whisky), so if you know someone who will appreciate it, that makes a good gift as well.
The French have taken to noix de pecan rather feverishly. However most of the times I’ve bought them, they’re unpleasantly over-the-hill. My guess is that they don’t turn over as quickly as they do in the states, where we bake heavily with them. So a bag of whole pecans is a welcome gesture.
chocolate chips
Chocolate Chips
A growing number of desserts in Paris have chocolate chips tumbling out of them, not to mention the classic, les cookies. Yet if you want some to bake them at home, a tiny bag of pépites chocolat containing what looks to be a dozen or so chocolate chips inside, will set you back more euros than one could imagine. Since “Le cookies” have caught on in France, a bag or two or semisweet morsels makes a nice gift and will save someone some major euros.