Archive for December, 2010

Awakening to a French style Christmas

Posted in Decoration & Design, Food and Recipes, French Affair, French Travel, Paris Shopping with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2010 by Therese Waddell

 

Joyeux Noel mon amis,

My french awakening to Christmas with its beautiful blend of old traditions with new, brought on one conclusive discovery- that a French style Christmas may be just what you need!

Imagine a white Christmas…

Sure you may have to scrap away a little snow…

But you can leave all those mundane chores behind…

and allow time to stand still like those in central France.

Some Christmas traditions have been around for a long time. Now the idea of using a Christmas tree (sapin de Noel) was bought to France around the middle of the fourteenth century.Today, some french in country areas opt for using yule logs instead…

which they douse in red wine to keep the logs alight, but this seems a perfectly good waste of french red, don’t you think?

Old French Christmas traditions are fabulous. Hanging candy, fruits, nuts and small toys from snow covered branches is precious for the young at heart…

and arranging a nativity scene (or creche) in a prominent space gives the essential religious dimension to most French homes.

Often village characters (called santons) are used in these manger scenes. Does this say we can all be kings? The figurines, made of clay in the south of France, have been often passed down from generation to generation, so then it becomes familiar and enriching. I like that.

Newer traditions may involve sending an email to the French Santa (who can handle emails unlike the German santa!) and hanging your favourite french decorations of glass- like this chook from Paris for  your tree…

And cooking frozen ones like these in the Loire Valley, for the table…

Or making new pomanders from an aged old recipe of oranges, cloves and exotic spices- a wonderful Christmas treat for the kids. The word ‘pomander’ comes from the French “pomme de’ambre” meaning apple of ambergris -a perfume ingredient. However, times have changed and I for one am not going to attach any pomander to my girdle (as I don’t wear one)  but this was common practice of some women during the Middle Ages!

The little tradition of sticking cloves in oranges and rolling them in spices will fill your Christmas air with a rich earthy yet sublimely sweet perfume and has been known to last for many months into the New Year and even up to the next Christmas! You can wrap them with ribbons to hang or simply give them away as gifts!

Another French tradition is that everyone in France indulges in the main, extended evening meal which usually takes place after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. This is known as Reveillon (an ‘awakening’) and where often the traditional french dessert called Buche de Noel is served. (Buche means log by the way.)

If you are looking for the perfect Christmas dessert when you are sitting at a sumptuous french table…

you can’t go past a french yule cake, made in the shape of a tree log. It’s a very light sponge cake rolled and wrapped in chocolate, strawberry or rum flavoured cream, adorned with woodland creatures such as reindeers, perhaps a meringue mushroom or two, then dusted with icing sugar. Have you tasted a piece? It’s heavenly!

I have a recipe right here if you’d like to try…

Buche de Noel (French Yule Log)

You will need:

6 egg yolks

6 egg whites

2 cups cream

1/2 cup icing sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa and 1/2 cup white sugar

1/3 cup icing sugar (extra)

1/3 cup cocoa (extra)

1/4 cup white sugar (extra)

pinch of salt

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp extra vanilla

Method:

1. Preheat oven 190degrees. Line a lamington tray with greaseproof paper.

2. Whip the cream, 1/2 cup icing sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa and 1tsp vanilla in bowl until stiff, then cool in fridge.

3.Beat egg yolks and 1/2 cup white sugar. Add 1/3 cocoa, rest of vanilla and pinch salt.

4. In another bowl, beat egg whites until they have formed soft peaks. Graually add in the extra sugar then fold yolk mixture in and spread onto tray.

5. Bake 12 to 15 min until it springs back when touched.When cooled a little, take out and roll cake up.Allow to cool completely.

6. Unroll the cake, spread the fill generously (after all it is Christmas!) then roll up again and refrigerate.

Decorate with ornaments or candles or nativity figures (its up to you!)

Bon appetite!

So my friends, where ever you may be right now, I hope you have an absolutely beautiful Christmas and celebrate over a meal with those who appreciate who you are- whether it be family or friends or both. Surround yourself with those you love and as for 2011- may each of you keep your dreams alive for an inspirational and successful New Year.

Perhaps next Christmas will be in France!

All the very best and thankyou to all of you – it’s been fabulous!

With love, Therese Waddell

 

 

Awaken To French Toy Shops

Posted in Decoration & Design, French Travel with tags , , , , , on December 4, 2010 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

The festive season is creeping fast upon us isn’t it? Christmas shopping may have already begun in your house or perhaps you’ve been really organised and finished already?

If you are after toys to give your petite cherub this Noel and you are lucky enough to be in Lyon right now, (if not, perhaps on your next trip) you would find no greater inspiration than the toy shop, ‘Les Jouets des Anges’  at 68 Rue Saint Jean in the Old Quarter. Its title is literally translated as, ‘The toys of angels.’  My french awakening to its angelic name is not the only thing that I adore about this shop.

Pinocchio greets you at the door in full enamelled colour.

Inside, the choice is wild. On offer is a menagerie of traditional and contemporary toys which float, bounce, and jiggle across counter tops, floors, ceiling and every conceivable space in between.There are musical what nots and laughing puppets and whistling trains and gadgets and puzzling gizmos and animals and thingamijigs which will educate or just make you smile.

It’s the French version of  ‘Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium’. Watch this and discover…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5_rR5wBU3g&feature=related

As Mr Magorium puts it,

“Remember with faith and love and maybe a big block of wood, you may find yourself somewhere you have never imagined”

Maybe it’s in Lyon. Add ‘Les Jouets des Anges’ to your long list of things to do and see when you’re there. You don’t have to tell them your age!

Even angels need to be entertained at times.

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

P.S For more French stuff, fill in your email address in the box above.

copyright@2010 Therese Waddell

Awaken to Le Puy, France

Posted in French Affair, French Travel, South Central France with tags , , , , , , , on December 2, 2010 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

My apologies for being away a little too long. How I have missed you! I’ve been stuck in a cataclysmic episode of The Unexpected- hence ‘my french awakening’ absence has stung my heart and I’ve had to wait for that poignant moment of bliss when someone or something rips the stinger out as quickly as it came. The time has arrived and I sit happier than ever to be writing to you again. So, how are you?

My mind wonders as to when I have experienced The Unexpected before in such earth shattering doses and I instantly recall Le Puy.

Let me fill you in …

Le Puy en Velay is a wonderful French village smack bang in the very heart of the Auvergne region of central France and full of surprises. Firstly, it’s nestled amongst dramatic landform-hilly with high volcanic protrusions reaching to the skies. South of Lyon, (about a hundred and twenty km in fact) Le Puy is a pilgrimage site on the way to Santiago de Compostela, under the protection of Unesco World Heritage and The Virgin Mary (Notre Dame de France). It is she in all her bronzed regalia, made entirely from the melting of Russian canons of the Crimean War, which is the first sight you see when you encroach upon the village. She reigns in gigantic proportions from one of the highest pinnacles of volcanic rock.

There she is in the background…

On another, you will notice the unexpectedly small yet thoughtful tenth century chapel of St Michel’s perched on top.

The walk directly up the steep volcanic plug is not for the faint hearted nor anyone suffering acrophobia but the view at the summit is worth it…

Come inside St Michel’s for some quiet contemplation and steady those wobbly legs…

On your descent…

Mingle amongst the finest lace makers of France…

and the very friendly shop keepers…

Get lost in a maze of historic streets…

and relish in surprising sights of delightfully delicious Le Puy…

amongst hidden treasures like fabulous vintage book shops and card makers who have stood the test of time.

But the most unexpected thing of all is what happens inside the Cathedral of Notre Dame on Mount Corneille where the ancient statue of the Black Madonna is housed. Many pilgrims and ordinary folk have been cured throughout history here. Fascinating don’t you think?

Le Puy is old and experienced and miracles are worth believing in.

We can choose how to react when The Unexpected rears its ugly head in our lives from time to time. It can bring upset and change or you can choose to see something else entirely.

I choose joy. Visit Le Puy. It will prove me right.

Au revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

copyright@2010 Therese Waddell