Summertime sadness? Somewhat uncertain

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Talking about the weather is generally seen as a time-filler; that awkward smalltalk you’re forced to engage in with the granny at the busstop, waiting for your number to pick you up. But in their way, climatic conversations kinda make the world go round – we like to share what we got up to during our weekends in the sun, complain endlessly when we’re caught in the rain and leap for joy when school is cancelled because of the 2cm of snow on the ground (#onlyinEngland). And doesn’t the weather have a natural impact on our food choices? People try as much to eat seasonally, swapping their strawberries for pumpkin as soon as the first auburn leaves crackle underfoot. BBQ in November? I don’t think so.

Which brings me to something I’ve been pondering today – am I sad to see summer go? It came so late here in Paris, where normally even in late-May you’d see les femmes chics getting out their espadrilles. But we were weighed down with a seemingly endless cloud of humidity and tropical wetness that drove everyone insanely crazy. After a few weeks then stuck in a heatwave, we’re now in a kind of limbo of will-it-won’t-it. Today we went to Les Fermes de Gally to pick some fruit and vegetables, trapped under a grey sky yet dripping in the thick moisture. I need weather that is actually going to commit – autumn, I’m waiting for you with arms wide open.

*Apples, variety of squash, squash blossoms (so excited to cook with these!), green peppers, apples, carrots and salad all hand-picked this morning by us at Les Fermes de Gally.

Summer box of goodies

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About a week ago (or maybe two), my MIL received an unexpected package in the post. It was a box of assorted beauty products put together by the big chain supermarket in France Monoprix, and probably sent out to those with the loyaly card just in time for their summer vacation. She said that as she didn’t really have a need for the products she preferred to give them to someone who would use them – that’s where I come in!

I’m definitely not someone to spend a ton on beauty products – for example, the only make-up I own is mascara and about 2 lipsticks. That I never wear. And my last tube of mascara finished about 6 months ago and I still haven’t bought a new one. As far as hair goes, shampoo and conditioner are enough for me. Suncream? Sometimes. I have an extremely lax ‘routine’ so to speak, but I’ve just never accorded that much importance to all these expensive, designer products because it’s not something we grew up with.

However, I’m not one to turn down a gift *chuckle chuckle* and as I don’t buy such products on a regular basis I guess I can enjoy these. Here’s what was inside:

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From bottom left:

Pacifica Persian Rose Solid Perfume, a waxy substance that you rub on your skin as perfume (vegan, no animal ingredients, animal cruelty-free, zero parabens);
Bioderma SPF 50+ pocket-sized sun cream (paraben free);
Nuxe ‘Prodigieux’ golden shimmer shower gel (paraben and sulfate free);
Erborian Bamboo Waterlock hydro-pumping skin mask;
Compeed adhesive foot plasters x 5;
Mini bottle of white wine (!!);
Foot file;
Batista dry shampoo (vegan and not tested on animals!);
Caudalie Divine Oil for body, face and hair (zero parabens; sulfates or animal-derived ingredients)
Taaj Micellar Water, cleanser and make-up remover (zero parabens);
Nail file;
Phytoelixir cleansing care cream for hair (botanical and nautral origins).

I was ready to post this and then started reading up on some of the ingredients in the products and was interested to see that some were 100% vegan, others not tested on animals, others with no sulfates or parabens. I’m not a crusader on these types of issues, and nearly all of the time I’ll blindly choose products that just do the job without getting into the politics of it, but I do think that consumer-consciousness is important. It’s not always a wallet-friendly approach that everyone can take on but I guess wherever we can we should make an effort to buy animal and human-friendly products that are good for us and our environment.

OK rant over 🙂 I’m off to check on my brioche that has been (I hope) slowly rising in the kitchen. The result – check the next blog post!

Aman x

Weekend break in Normandy

This weekend we went to Normandy in the north of France for an impromptu weekend away. A friend of ours was staying there and invited us up, and as I’d taken the Friday off work (just because I wanted to), it was perfect timing. We were in a small village/town called St Maurice en Cotentin which took 3 1/2hrs to drive up to.

The idea of a stay-cation really appeals to me – firstly, there are so many interesting places to see in France apart from Paris. A few weeks ago we spent a week in Bordeaux and it was lush to be able to visist wine country at St. Emilion and be able to go to the beach in the space of an hour! Secondly when you don’t have oodles of cash to spare but want a break, why not see more of the country you’re in? There’s always going to be something to surprise you.

We drove up on Friday early afternoon and arrived around dusk. For Normandy we were surprised it was so warm but clearly not complaining! Saturday morning we all went to the local market to buy some goodies for a home-made lunch that Louis made sous-vide. For starters we had chicken enrobed in a spicy coating with grilled peaches, salad and mozzarella; the main was salmon cooked with vanilla pods and mini leeks, and for dessert there were a selection of mini pastries from the boulangerie (I didn’t take photos of everything though, too busy eating!)

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As the sun was shining bright and we had Pokémons to hunt, we took a trip to the beach in the afternoon. The tide was low so there was a lot of bare, wet sand around. We sat for a few hours on the dunes though, shooting the breeze and all that jazz. Good times. You could actually the coast of Jersey from where we were! Or maybe it was Guernsey.. Anyway, in the evening we went to see a firework show in one of the local towns. I have never been that close to fireworks in my life – the lights were blinding, the bangs definitely deafening and we all had bits of cardboard from the explosions scattered in our hair 🙂 it was a beautiful sight though!!

Sunday was very chilly and drizzly, so I guess we got the best of both worlds. We spent the morning at the Maison des Biscuits, literally the ‘house of biscuits’, which is a speciality shop selling cakes, biscuits, chocolates, jams, preserves, local beers, honey etc. I bought a small box of chocolates to share with my colleagues at work, whereas Louis bought €50 worth of meringues and biscuits!!! The thought of all that sugar literally makes me cringe, I have no idea how we will ever get rid of them! All in all though it was a pretty sweet weekend, (no pun intended :P), and the intense change of landscape was so relaxing. I didn’t grow up around the water so it’s never been something I miss but I guess that makes it all the more lovely when I get to spend a few days in its presence. (Plus I got to top up my tan which I wasn’t expecting, bonus!)

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Aman x

Quarter-life Crisis: Birthday Appreciation Post

My 25th birthday was a little over a week ago. It’s official – I’m part of the Big Kids Club.

I never really know what to say when people ask if it feels different being one year older or reaching a milestone age – no new wisdom has suddenly been imparted on me and I am no more adult at 12.05 than I was at 11.59. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a whole day dedicated to me, myself and I. And I am happy to have reached a more rounded age (because anything between 22 and 24 just doesn’t really count does it?)

It’s taken me a while to sift through the hundreds of photos of my amazing birthday night surrounded by mes proches. It was honestly the best birthday ever and I was basically floating on a cloud the entire day. I was expecting a little birthday parade on my walk to work, you know, the Joseph Gorden-Levitt style in 500 Days of Summer, but I guess they must have just missed me!

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One thing I have been sooo excited about and so so grateful for, is my brand spankin’ new camera!! This was my present from Louis which we received two weeks early, so I have been enjoying it for a while before my actual birthday. I’ve been wanting a semi-professional camera for about two years now and even more so when I started this blog because sometimes iPhone just doesn’t cut it!

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The camera itself is a Nikon D-5200 18-55 and we bought a Sigma F4-5.6 DG Macro lens attachment. The Sigma is just incredible. It is especially useful for taking portraits and macro images (basically like intense close-ups, correct me if I’m wrong!) and the quality of the photos are impeccable. I need to buy a little manual on how to make the most of my camera and start learning about different photography techniques. If anyone has a recommendation I’m all ears 🙂

I’m so glad we took it out with us in the evening too because we captured great photos of everybody having a hilarious time at Cafe Jules. For a milestone occasion I wish I had my family from the UK with me too but fingers crossed I’ll be spending Xmas with them this year!

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My lovely ladies bought me a bouquet of lilies, and I also received a gorgeous bouquet from my work colleagues – see what I mean, best day ever!! I am a very lucky girl. Here are a few photos of when they were starting to open up and filled the whole apartment with a beautiful, fresh scent.

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In terms of birthday cake, I had started preparing it the night before my birthday, but it still wasn’t ready for the actual 19th so at the restaurant, my loves ordered me a little cake and ice cream with a huge sparkler in the middle!! (See my Instagram pic.)

On Saturday I got round to finishing the cake off and of course took some snaps. For no particular reason I was craving a mocha cake, so that’s exactly what I made. I made one big chocolate cake, split it in two lengthways and added creams accordingly!

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For the middle layer of the cake I spread a Greek yoghurt/cream cheese mix and for the top of the cake I used a chocolate/coffee mixture. The cake was dense but kept moist due to the creams, and the strong coffee taste was a good kick for my heavy head the next day!

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And… ta-da!

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Even writing this post doesn’t describe how insanely happy and thankful I was for such a thoughtful birthday and all the effort everyone put in into making it a great day. I love you all!! Xxxxxx

Weekend break in Brittany (part 2)

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As the sun was slowly starting to descend, we decided to take a walk right to the very edge of town where land stopped and water began. This was glorious. We walked for about two hours, taking in the last rays of a gorgeous day, salty wind rushing past us and sticking to our tongues and lots of hand holding. Once we reached the furthest tip, we saw the scatter of islands in the distance which, I didn’t believe at all at the time, are reachable when the tide is at its lowest and the beach is exposed, giving way to access.

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(On the left is high tide and the right is low tide – would you ever believe you could cross the sea?!?!)

Using the handy chart located at the steps that descend into the sea, we (i.e. Louis) calculated that the best time to go would be the following day at 12.30pm. As we walked back, we were awestruck by the immense houses and the fact that a little Breton man was playing his bagpipes in the open air just 50 metres away from us. The air was so serene and calm, life was pretty darn good in that moment.

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One of the idyllic islands we came across as we crossed low tide – and suddenly the sun came out at just the right moment!

 

Dinner that night was pizza from a local pizzeria, not a lot of great things to say about that but we didn’t mind. Saturday morning we rose early to check out the market at Dinard and it was insanely packed with market-goers. After the road-rage of trying to find a parking space, we bought a ton of seafood, fruits, vegetables, cheese and bread. French cuisine really does have it all sometimes. That afternoon was relaxed with no real agenda – as much as we wanted to sight-see, we also wanted to do absolutely nothing. Back at the house we chilled out on the beach with some beers and in the evening cooked up king prawns, langoustines, potatoes and a big salad. Divine.

Sunday was our final day. Last days almost don’t count as holiday time because you have 1000 things to clean and tidy up. Almost. After we swept, scrubbed and drove out of our petite maison, we made a little detour on the drive back – to Mont St Michel! How exciting, it was basically two holidays in one!! From Saint-Jact-de-la-Mer, it took us exactly one hour to drive up to the enoooormous car park at the Mont. From there, we hopped on a free shuttle bus that operates 24/7 for visitors and got to take a look around.

It's me!

It’s me!

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Arriving at 5.30pm, the tide was still out when we made our entrance into the Mont (literally ‘mount’.) The site is basically the tiniest village ever, not even village – hill! And people live there! Did you know the Mont has like 54 official residents? Crazy I know, but it’s obvious where the attraction comes from. The place was full of charm, as you make your way through the main ‘street’, you see restaurants and gift shops lining the way. We were just out of time to visit the Abbey because it closed at 6pm which we were pretty gutted about (also, if the Mont itself is open 24/7, surely the Abbey should be too!) but we saw some beautiful views from as top as we could get!

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We grabbed something to eat and made our way back to the car for another 4-hour drive back home. It’s times like these when I’m glad I don’t have a driving license 😉 So, verdict? One of the best weekend breaks! I’ve been craving for such a long time to explore more of France because there really is so much more to see than Paris, as fabulous as it is. I’m hoping I can take another long weekend again this summer, fingers crossed my boss says yes!

Weekend break in Brittany (part 1)

Monday was the fourth and final public holiday in France for the month of May. That’s right, FOURTH. Everyone goes crazy waiting for May to arrive (cue the Justine Timberlake meme…) because we just basically never go to work. Last weekend I made the most of our public holiday on the Thursday and booked the Friday off work to enjoy a long weekend somewhere out of Paris, and that ended up being Brittany!

I didn’t really know what to expect from the region, as all I’ve ever heard people say when they describe Brittany is ‘it rains.’ I was however looking forward to a real change of scenery, being outdoors and living the country life for a few days. I wasn’t disappointed.

We stayed in a small village called Saint-Jacut-de-la-Mer which is right on the coast and has some small islands surrounding it which you can reach by walking at low-tide (I’m sure there are some technical names for all of that but as if I have any idea). Our location turned out perfect, as we were only a 30m drive from the popular town St-Malo, and about a 15m drive away from the towns Dinan and Dinard.

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As we were four, we rented an adorable little house through AirBnb that had a maritime theme running through and was less than a 5 minute walk away to a little beach! Louis was adamant about going fishing, so the morning we arrived we stopped off at a specialist shop to buy some equipment and that evening we threw our lines into the sea. We came home so very empty-handed, as did all the other fishermen so I guess it’s not a great area for a catch, but it was still so much fun nevertheless. I’d always wanted to try fishing and as long as you have a beer in the other hand and the sun on your face, it’s not the worst way to spend an afternoon.

We quickly popped into Saint Malo for lunch, trying out a traditional restaurant creperie Louis had looked up called Le Tournesol (The Sunflower). If you know even one thing about Brittany, it’s that this is where crepes were invented and rule supreme. Lunch was so rich and filling, and technically it was a galette not a crepe, both of which I could eat all day!

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The following day we spent the afternoon in Dinan, an adorable medieval town brimming with oak-beams and cobbled streets. We had anexceptional lunch here at a rustic restaurant called Le Lycorn (The Unicorn). The interor was so warming, filled with deep colours and dark woods. We all said we want to come back in winter and have a hearty raclette by the fireside! The girls got mussels in different broths, whilst the guys shared a …. which is basically meat on a hook, covered in an alcohol of your choosing and set on fire. It was incredible. Safe to say everyone was bursting by the end of it.

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We walked around the town a little, trying to burn some calories but ended up building up a thirst. We walked past a cafe called, appropriately so judging by the fact it was about 4pm, Tea Time. As you can understand, we really had no other option than to go inside and grab a table. The owners, I assume husband and wife, were so helpful in recommending different teas and flavours to suit our tastes and I was so delighted by the level of interest and genuine desire to hep us. After filling our cup, we slowly made our way back to the house and got out the fishing rods once more. However we were no luckier than the last time!

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Season Greetings: Thanksgiving in Paris and getting ready for Christmas!

Happy 1st December! I love when the first of the month starts on a Monday, everything feels logical and in the right place (just a glimpse of the OCD-person living inside of me haha.)

Last week really felt the like the holiday season was beginning, as I celebrated my first home-made Thanksgiving at my friend Caitlin’s apartment in Paris and I can safely say I’m officially a convert! She made an amazingggg glazed ham and everyone brought a homemade dish with them (my contribution was a warm salad made of roasted sweet potato and aubergine mixed with rocket, diced apple, beetroot and sliced almonds with a lemon and olive oil dressing, so yummy!) The Boy and I also raided his parent’s attic for Christmas decorations and fixed their house up in style. All I need now are a few more mugfuls of vin chaud and my Christmas playlist on the iPod to keep the festive spirit going!

I’d always heard and read a lot about the Thanksgiving shop in Paris, just around the corner from St Paul metro stop in the heart of the Marais district. Given I’ve never had reason to celebrate this coma-inducing holiday I’d never frequented the shop and hadn’t really understood what the big deal was beyond Monica shoving a turkey over her head to regain Chandler’s affection. This year was different because a real Thanksgiving dinner was being planned by real Americans who know the deal. Plus, who doesn’t love food?!

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My friend Hannah and I spent a Saturday around the Marais, obligatory red Starbucks cup in hand of course, and popped over to the shop. It was amazing! Tiny as hell and packed to the hilt, we squeezed between other patrons looking for goodies. I was surprised to hear French more than English as I couldn’t see the attraction of American goods to the people of Paris – all that sugar, c’est pas vrai!

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It was of course quite pricey and many items were foreign even to me as an English person more familiar with American cooking than maybe the average Frenchie, so I would only really go again for a special occasion!

Now I do admit, putting up Christmas decorations at the end of November was abit early but there’s nothing better than being surrounded with all that festive cheer. It’s the first time I’ve helped decorate a house that wasn’t my family’s so it was lovely seeing all the little items they have and their own traditions.

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Obsessed with these super slim candles and the packaging

Busy Santa!

Busy Santa!

Having lived in Denmark for a few years when The Boy was a very little boy, his family still has various decorations from during their time. These ‘scary Santas’ below are similar to the German Krampus, the evil/demonic/generally-not-very-nice character that punishes bad children over Christmas. (I can’t find the name for them in Danish, anybody out there have an idea?)

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These gold-plated ornaments are so beautiful! They come from the Danish craftshop Georg Jensen where each year they create a special edition Christmas ornament with the year stamped on a ribbon used for hanging it up. I think these date back to about 15-20 years ago and are still in great condition!

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This one on the left is a traditional julehjerte or pleated heart, a very typical Danish decoration. Apparently their creation goes back to Hans Christian Andersen’s time!

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There’ll be lots more festive posts coming up, I hope everyone is having a great start to the month!

Bisous!