Some Paris gift ideas

Paris gift ideas

I have a lot of friends who visit Paris. At the end of their respective trips, there is inevitably a mad rush to buy gifts for loved ones back home and I have been privy to not a few purchases of a flashing Eiffel tower key chain.

In an effort to get people out of the garish souvenir shops of Montmartre and the Rue de Rivoli, and in the hopes of giving you some ideas for gifts from Paris which are not a “Paris je t’aime” t-shirt that will immediately be relegated to the status of pyjama top and subsequently never worn, I have compiled a list of gifts that you could get that people might actually want.

Paris souvenir ideas:

  1. Sabé Masson is a Parisian soft perfume label which sells beautifully scented solid perfumes in great packaging.
  2. I have already talked about my love for Evian facial sprays in this post and a small Evian facial spray bottle is a nice mini-gift to go along with something else. I have it on good authority that many other countries don’t sell this product and have seen a few people come to Paris and stock up!
  3. The Musée d’Orsay is currently doing an exhibition on the Douanier Rousseau and his artwork. You can buy a coffee table book of the exhibition in the museum’s shop, which is accessible even if you don’t have tickets to the museum.
  4.  A box of calissons, a French sweet made with candied melon, ground almonds and topped with royal icing. What I love about the Roy René brand is that they sell baby calissons and offer a range of unconventional flavours and colours. They are also far less expensive than macarons.
  5. A Giverny gardens tea holder. If you happen to visit Monet’s gardens while you’re in Paris, they sell these super cute tea holders. I have one for builder’s tea and one for posh tea.
  6. Le Bon Marché offers a range of Paris tote bags and they often bring out new ones. I have a couple which I use all the time to carry books or yoga things around.
  7. Colour-in map of Paris. If this isn’t the coolest thing, I don’t know what is.
  8. A box of classic Pierre Hermé macarons. Standard but pricy. (My favourite macaron from the Pierre Hermé collection is definitely the Mogador (milk chocolate and passion fruit)

You can also find some great ideas for gifts and souvenirs on www.boutique.paris.fr

 

 

Dinner ideas: Spicy West African peanut soup (vegan, gluten-free)

West African peanut soup

Since I had to bring my puffa jacket and boots back out yesterday morning for the Paris Winter comeback of 2016, I thought I might as well go through the whole acceptance process and make soup for dinner when I got home. I put on the soundtrack to West Side Story and felt rather melancholy as I chopped away at the red pepper with the rain falling outside and Tony singing about how he and Maria would find a place somewhere.

I tried to translate the lyrics of ‘Somewhere’ into French for my housemate when he came into the kitchen so he would understand how tragic the song was and by consequence, why I was looking so sadly at the red pepper. I don’t feel like he fully grasped the gravity of Tony and Maria’s doomed relationship.

Anyway, it is basically June  and therefore, it should not be raining. And Tony should not have had to die. Sometimes life gets you down. Not so with this soup.

This soup brings together tomatoes with peanut butter which is what some cooking magazines would label “surprising”. At least that’s what French cooking magazines do. But it works, please believe me. The result is a full-bodied (I’m laughing at myself for using that word) spicy soup that fills you up which I find  unusual for a vegetable soup (I know, I know. The peanuts!).

We had ours with fresh bread from the bakery but if you’re gluten-free, I’ll bet you one euro this goes well with corn tortilla chips.

West African peanut soup

Ingredients: (Makes enough for four bowls)

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

an inch of minced ginger

2 cloves of minced garlic

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

1 vegetable stock cube mixed in two cups of water

1 teaspoon of chili purée/hot sauce/sriracha

3-4 tablespoons peanut butter

roasted peanuts and coriander for garnishing

Method:

  1. Pour olive oil into a large deep saucepan and fry the onion and red pepper  over a medium-low heat for about 10 mins until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and stir for a min before adding the two tins of chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock and chili purée. Let simmer for 20 minutes on a low heat.
  2. Ladle out a spoonful of the soup into a small bowl or mug and mix in the peanut butter. Pour the content of the small bowl back into the saucepan and stir. This way the peanut butter will mix in smoothly to the mixture.
  3.  Serve with peanuts and coriander. I like to throw a 1/2 cup of roasted peanuts into the soup at the very end if I’m going to serve the soup immediately. Alternatively, you could just place a bowl of peanuts on the table and let people do their own peanut placement.

West African peanut soup

Interview with Niki-Jay Bougaard

Lifestyle interview

I don’t even remember when I met Niki-Jay which is remarkable since she is very unforgettable. It was at some party in Cape Town a few years back but that’s all I’ve got. I like to give her rapper names for fun because she’s just so bling. NJ Dizzle, Niki Jay-dawg all these things.

You want to be friends with this girl. Too bad she’s in Chicago.

Lifestyle interview

When I wake up I…

try to delay the process for as long as possible by hitting snooze every nine minutes, for about an hour. This way I can still be smug and say I woke up at 6am without it being true.

Favourite breakfast?

Week days : Bircher muesli made the night before with toasted coconut shavings, cinnamon, crimson raisins and greek yoghurt. If I’m feeling wanton I’ll include some flaked almonds too.

Weekends: Poached eggs on a potato rosti with any cured meat resting atop.

Lifestyle interview

What’s in your handbag?

Cellphone, wallet, metro card, tissues, gum, lip balm, a plaster, hair clips, eye drops, leather driving gloves (they make me look like a sports car-owner who’s thoughtfully chosen to take the bus instead)

What’s your greatest extravagance?

Shoes. I once went a year without medical insurance because I didn’t want to forego what, for a time, became a monthly Jeffrey Campbell purchasing cycle.

Something you’re struggling with?

Weight loss on American soil

What piece of advice would you give a large group of people?

That you shouldn’t care what people think of you. There will always be people who like what you do, and legions who, similarly, hate you/your work. If Dane Cook and Akon can be loved by so many, there is truly hope for everyone.

Beauty tip?

After applying foundation, I spritz on an oil mist. It just takes the edge off that fake matte-look that even the best foundations can have, and makes your skin look even and dewy.

Lifestyle/style inspiration?

Anna Dello Russo and MIA. Two sides of a Maximilist coin. One high fashion, one high street. One high maintenance, the other somewhat accessible. Both always dripping in gold, textures and flashy prints. I can never take my eyes off either of them. Whenever I get dressed, I’m usually a poor version of one.

Greatest hope for the future?

To be considered “overrated”

 

Lifestyle interview

Bran muffins are best

Bran muffin

When we were children, my brother and I were allowed to choose whatever take-out we wanted for dinner on our birthdays. There came an age, however, where my brother started doing this very infuriating thing. His birthday would come along and he would say,

“I don’t want to get take-out, I like mom’s cooking”.

I hated him for that. Our ONE CHANCE to get fast food and he would ask my mom to make roast chicken with a side of veggies.

Of course my mom’s cooking was way better than all the take-outs in the world but at the time I refused to believe it.

This is where I come to these bran muffins.

While I had to do a lot of soul-searching to realise that my mom’s cooking was better than take-out, (I, of course, realised this too late), I had to exercise even more self-acceptance to acknowledge my love of bran muffins above all other muffins.

It is still something of a struggle for me to reach for a bran muffin instead of a double chocolate caramel one at a coffee shop, even though I do prefer them. I still have to fight something inside me that says surely I must prefer the double chocolate caramel muffin because it is double chocolate caramel.

But all that glitters is not gold!

I use the classic recipe for All-bran muffins (see here) that my mom used to make muffins on Sundays. They’ll go perfectly for breakfast this Sunday because it’s Mother’s day in France.

I hope you like them too! Have a good weekend!

Bran muffin

Bran muffin

 

 

 

Claire Cowie

Claire Cowie 1
Kubota Garden No.1 2015 Sumi color, watercolor, acrylic ink on paper



Is it just me or do Claire Cowie’s watercolours look like maps? Maybe maps of strange imagined lands but maps nonetheless. All those negative ferns above look like the rivulets of fantastical water beds to me. And maybe, in the painting down below, you can make out parcelled out farm land on a range of hills. That’s what I’m seeing anyway.

You can see check out an interview with Cowie here or see more of her work on her website: www.clairecowie.com

Claire Cowie 2
South Lake Union No.2 2015 Sumi color, watercolor, acrylic ink on paper
Claire Cowie 6
Volunteer Park No.2 2015 Sumi color, watercolor, acrylic ink on paper

 

Some sculptural bugs
Some sculptural bugs

 

 

 

 

 

My modern talismans

Illustrations

When I was around twelve years old, a lot of objects that could be bought at the shop seemed to have magical powers. I knew that owning a blow-up bubble back pack, platform Spice Girl shoes and a lava lamp would improve my life dramatically. Putting on lipgloss 400 times a day from one of four fruit-flavoured tubes housed in my school pencil case seemed to add glamour to algebra and the study of dicotyledonous plants.

Now that I’m all grown, I no longer have a lava lamp (thankfully) but there are still a few things that I buy that act like modern day talismans and bring that feeling when I wear them that I’m ready to conquer the world.

Here they are:

Nars lipgloss
Nars Dolce Vita Lipgloss

Nars Dolce Vita lipgloss is the one up (or maybe the ten up) from my rollerball pineapple gloss of yester year. The colour is subtle but really brightens up the face and the gloss is long-wearing so 400 applications a day is no longer necessary.

 

 

 

pants
Reebok Gingham yoga pants

When I go running or do yoga, I tend to wear black leggings because most of the other options for sports tights feature overt neon designs. These Reebok gingham yoga pants, designed by Tara Stiles, are more playful than the all-black version and somehow motivate me to run, even in the rain.

 

 

Calvin Klein underwear
Calvin Klein underwear

When I was in New York back in September last year, my friend Karin, went to Macy’s and bought us a pair of these Calvin Klein underwear each. They are, really, I hate to admit it, the best. It’s not because I want to be like Justin Bieber, I promise.

 

 

 

Dolce&Gabbana perfume
“Dolce” by Dolce&Gabbana

Around Christmas last year, I was wondering around the airport waiting for a flight when a very beautiful elf beckoned me into a Sephora and told me the man behind the counter would be able to guess the right perfume for me. The man was not particularly impressed with being given this task but he begrudgingly walked me to the D&G stand and sprayed me with Dolce. and it was perfect. So that’s what I got for Christmas.

 

 

Penny loafers
Penny loafers

Up until recently, I never knew why a penny loafer was called a penny loafer. One day, at my mom’s house, I put my loafers on to leave and found that my mom had tucked away five cent coins into the tops of the shoes. That was when the penny dropped (hahahahaha). I have no idea why but I love having coins stuck in my shoes and when I travel, I change my coins to the local currency. You can find similar loafers to mine here.

 

Illustrations by Arabella June Designs

 

Flammekueche – Dinner ideas

Flammekueche

Finding inspiration for what to make for dinner is a daily struggle for me. I’m not quite sure why since there are so many great cooking blogs and websites out there. I imagine part of the problem is my undying love of instant mashed potatoes (why cook when you can rehydrate dehydrated potatoes every night?).

A great week-night dinner recipe which is easy and quick to prepare (20 minutes including oven time!) is Flammekueche, a specialty of the Alsace region in France. It’s basically a thin-crust pizza with a crème fraiche base instead of a tomato one as well as non-negotiable onion and bacon for toppings. I first discovered Flammekueche when we visited Strasbourg for a few days back in December to see the Christmas markets. It was basically all we ate while we were there and that was just fine by me .

Flammekueche

Flammekueche

 Flammekueche:

For the base:

250g flour

150 ml warm water

2 tablespoons of oil

1 tsp salt

(let’s be real, if you don’t have time to make the base, a store bought roll-out pizza base will be just fine)

For the toppings:

2 tablespoons of crème fraiche (or sour cream)

2 medium-sized onions

150g of bacon bits (lardons)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 250C (HOT)

Mix flour, water, oil and salt to form a dough and knead it for a couple of minutes. You’re supposed to do more but I can never be bothered because it’s not all that important, there being no yeast in a flammekueche base..

Roll out the dough with a rolling pin (or a tall glass) to form a thin rectangular base and place on a greased baking tray.

Spread a thin layer of crème fraiche onto the pizza base. Top with the onions finely diced (around 0.5cm) as well as the bacon bits. You don’t have to fry the onions or the bacon beforehand. I was scared too but it turns out fine!

Bake the flammekueche for 8-10 minutes in the oven (it seems little but remember the oven is so hot) and serve with a green salad.

Flammekueche

 

Interview with Mireille Porter

image2 (1)
I have never not known Mireille. Our older brothers were friends in pre-school, so our families became friends. We saw the Malengrets (her maiden name) absolutely every weekend when I was small and their big pink family home with the treehouse out front has always been a part of my memories.
Mireille and her husband, James, recently decided to up and move with their two baby boys, Joel and Josh, from Cape Town to the wild coast in the Eastern Cape (a very rural part of South Africa) where they practice as doctors at Madwaleni hospital.
Their sense of adventure is hugely inspiring to me. Whatever you do, don’t Google “Wild coast, Eastern Cape”. You will feel the need to leave your present circumstance immediately and head to those rolling hills.
Ok fine, do.
pink hut
Interview with Mireille Porter
When I wake up I…
Press snooze and wait for my husband to bring me coffee and my two toddlers to jump on me
Favourite breakfast ?
Smoothie hands down

image2 sunset Eastern Cape

What’s in your handbag ?
Haven’t looked in there in a while but last I checked some loose change and a chocolate dubloon (pirate money-for emergency toddler chocolate bribery)

Greatest extravagance ?
Biltong (South African dried meat) and Children’s books- I can’t take reading the same ones over and over and over and over again!!

Something you’re struggling with
Waking up – always have and always will! NOT a morning person-hence the husband with coffee and toddler antics.

What piece of advice would you like to give a large group of people ?
Put on your big girl pants-do what thrills you, chase your fears and find your peace-not the boring quiet sleepy peace but the exhilarating, fire to your bones kind that brings your life to light!

Quick healthy (or not) recipe
Yoghurt pizza
1 cup plain yoghurt
1 cup plain flour
Mix together, squash into a baking tray and cover which whatever you want and bake it-it works!

Beauty tip
Never cut your own fringe (I know this from at least a dozen personal experiences!)

Your lifestyle?
Rural living lends itself to a break away from the 9-5 urban chaos and towards an appreciation of time and calm. No traffic, no malls, time spent fetching rain water or growing your garden, many hours with your family and those in your close community. A chance to do what you desire, not what the city dictates.

Your lifestyle/style inspiration ?
The population of the rural eastern cape who wake up before dawn to collect water from rivers, who carry their firewood in bundles the size of a man on their heads and who grind their own maize on rocks from a river makes me stop and think about time and what it is and what we do with our portions.

story time
beach at sunset

What’s on my dresser

My dresser

I’ve always loved to see what sorts of things people keep in their houses, on their coffee tables, on their bedside tables, on any table really. I tend to inexplicably pick up each object presented on a given surface, feel the weight of it and then put it down again. No real reason.

Here’s a look at what I keep on my dresser.

  1. A little metal box that my housemate bought for me in Morocco. I empty my coins out into it every couple of days and then grab the change on the weekends to buy croissants and pains au chocolat from the bakery. It also holds some bobby pins and a couple of hair ties.
  2. This Habitat ‘cotton and neroli’ candle has a fresh and light fragrance, perfect for spring. I hate anything that’s too overpowering so I think this one is perfect.
  3. A crumpled ‘paper’ vase (which can be found here) filled with dried hydrangeas. You cannot beat a dried hydrangea.
  4. Bio oil is one of those things, like vaseline or coconut oil (or pawpaw ointment for Australians), which act as some people’s cure all. I use Bio oil as a massage oil, skin moisturiser, make up remover, general illuminator… It arrived on the French market last year and is marketed as Bi-oil which I find hilarious.
  5. Essie’s ‘Help me grow‘ base coat, ‘Good to go‘ top coat and Allure nail polish. Keeping nails on point.
  6. Evian facial spray. My French grandma always used to have this in her bathroom. It delivers a soft spray of water onto the skin which creates that elusive glowy look, wakes me up a bit and for some reason, makes me feel that little bit more sparkly. I keep a big can of it on my dresser and a baby can in my handbag.
  7. Le petit marseillais hand cream. In the warmer months, my hands start to get really dry so I have hand cream on hand (ha).

I’d love to know, what do you keep on your dresser?

Have a great weekend and I’ll see you on Monday!

My dresser

My dresser

Jonas Wood

Jonas Wood - Studio bathroom, 2009

I first discovered the artworks of Jonas Wood while watching Vogue’s 73 questions with Emily Ratajkowski on YouTube. Do you know that YouTube series? They go into the apartments of famous people and interview them and you get to see what nice furniture everyone has. My favourite spaces so far have been Emily Ratajkowski’s loft and Taylor Swift’s house. Ratajkowski, it turns out, has a whole lot of art on her walls, including a a giant Jonas Wood painting of a potted plant.

Jonas Wood, born 1977, currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He doesn’t even know it but I’m all the way in Paris, grateful that he is alive.

I find myself watching so many random things on YouTube. What do you watch? I’d love to know. (You can reply in the comment section below)

Jonas Wood 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jonas Wood

 

 

Jonas-ood-untitled-pink

Jonas Wood 1