Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mango Sorbet

My friend Ngan gave me this rose, so delicate and perfect, a new variety called 'Avalanche Suisse'. So lovely in this Leonardo glass it makes me happy looking at it.

We spent the afternoon cooking and eating, making sorbet, chatting and watching half of the four episode British drama Serial North and South (how I love these BBC period films!). Her husband Jozef joined us in the late afternoon and we had dinner on the balcony late into the night.

It was a good good day.

Mango Sorbet

Ingredients :
450 grams mango flesh
3/4 cups water
3/4 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon muscat
1.5 Tablespoon lime juice

1. Make the syrup ahead of time by boiling sugar and water. Let boil for one minute and chill thoroughly.
2. Blend mango with the syrup, muscat and lime juice. Put the mixture in the fridge until thoroughly chilled.
3. Freeze the mixture in the ice cream maker.

Bon appetit!

Monday, June 6, 2011


On our way home yesterday something happened that left me feeling strangely disturbed much of the evening but also reminded me that I was blessed to be with a man with a big heart and to have many generous souls as friends. Today I needed to think about the nature of my generosity, or rather, the lack of it.

I came across this book at my friend Moira's 15 years ago. The work had been translated and published in 1960 and was no longer in print. The poetry of the writing and the author's sensibilities touched my heart.

And she simply gave the book to me.

To a most special friend, Rung!
(read p.30-31 Dear Martha)
Lucky me to have met you!
Sincerely, Moira

And here is the letter Dear Martha that the author wrote to a twelve-year-old little girl:

Dear Martha:
If people ever tell you that they love you, it is best if you would first consider whether they would be ready to give you their favorite book-- their most beloved doll-- or their enchanting spring hat. I think that is as good a test as any.

You see, my darling, today I am sending you my beloved sea-shell collection, which I am even now packing into an exquisite little japanese basket which I have had for many years. I have, myself, gathered these shells on the shores of the Adriatic, and among many thousands that were strewn about on the sand, these were the choicest and most perfect in color. I collected these treasures to assist my memory, if ever I tried to recall the healing, care-free days I had spent on the Lido. These artistic masterpieces of the Adriatic are very dear to me, and only two of them, the Tiger-shells, I had to buy in a shop, because they can only be obtained at the very greatest depth of the sea.

So now I am sending you my little treasure trove, and if you want to know whether you really love someone, you must first consider whether you are prepared to give these shells up as willingly and gladly as I do now.

With all my heart,

I am holding this book in my hand again, re-reading Peter's letter and Moira's note. It is one of the very few things I know I will always have with me to treasure and talk to me about kindness and perhaps one day I will learn to have a big heart too.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A day in Dieppe

Today we took a day trip to Dieppe, a port city on the English channel in North Normandie, 45 minute train ride from Rouen the capital of Normandie where we have been the past few days. We walked and walked for hours, the streets of the old town where there was a large farmers’ market and the shopping festival, then along the pebbled beach where we had our impromptu picnic lunch, up to the castle, and then up to the viewpoint where there was an old church. The many gorgeous shades of blue green of the ocean were magical. It was very pleasant to walk all these hours and look at the tended flowers and little wild flowers and to explore and to see and to hear the ocean again. The air was similar to that of the West Coast in British Columbia and that reminded me that cool cloudy gloomy summer days could be rather dispiriting and also that I especially didn’t like being surrounded by so many seagulls.

We have been blessed with good weather since arriving here a few days ago. It’s our last day before heading back to Lyon tomorrow. As soon as we got back to our maison d’hôte late this afternoon the rain came down hard with lightening and thunders and all and feeling thoroughly exhausted from so much walking around today it’s so nice to be watching the rain from inside this lovely lovely place and hearing the thunders and the occasional bells of the village’s church and the birds chirping away…

Friday, June 3, 2011

At the Piano

A few self-portraits I did 5 years ago exactly today.

It seems like 5 years ago was longer than it really was. Work was busy and exciting, we were upgrading to a new version of PeopleSoft. I was making good progress at the piano with my teacher. In the evening I'd go out dancing salsa late into the night. The garden was exploding with purple and yellow flowers. The World Cup was going to happen soon. I have many happy memories of this summer. I was also speaking French again everyday as Yannick and I were getting re-acquainted... Hearing French and his gentle voice on the phone made me happy!

I found an email I wrote 5 years ago today (3 June 2006) to my aunt Sai and uncle George who live in Switzerland. "...I have to find a way to record the piano because I want to share with you. Last week I played a Rachmaninoff prelude for my teacher and she's quite pleased. I am learning a new one. I love Rachmaninoff music. It goes straight to my heart..."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Québec City: Memory II

Québec City : Memory II

You happened the way
certain Chopin's, certain ballade phrases,
wearing all their conviction,
enter my bone to claim
a place of immortality. The rose of
all things you are, inevitable, deathless
music of ancient stones. Silently you wait to
grow memories.

How is it that I arrived ?
Here music rises unheard, melodies in our flesh
and bone intensely felt, intensely lived.
Only in resignation
can we exist. Here I feel you
also taking shape, making a decided entrance
against all power.

How well I know I can never leave.
How I know you will not leave.

- Rung Potisart -
February 1999

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Sunday Afternoon at the Opera

There was an instant where I felt the universe stopped, so intense the excitement and the energy, so magical the colors and lights, so heavenly the music I wish it would go on forever...

An elating and yet exhausting experience.

I am meditating on this poem by Rilke.

To Music

Music. The breathing of statues. Perhaps:
The silence of pictures.You, language where all
languages end. You, time
standing straight up out of the direction
of hearts passing on.

Feeling, for whom? O the transformation
of feeling into what?— into audible landscape.
Music: you stranger. Passion which
has outgrown us. Our inner most being,
transcending, driven out of us,—
holiest of departures:
inner worlds now
the most practiced of distances, as
the other side of thin air:
no longer habitable.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Direction Zurich

Picnic at Lake Geneva in Montreaux on the way to Zurich.

It's day 1 of our vacation in Switzerland. 25 degrees celcius on September 11. We were lucky with the weather indeed.

We are visiting with my dear aunt Sai and uncle George in Zurich. How wonderful to have family on the same continent!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Le Cheesecake

When I was living in Grenoble 10 years ago, the only place to find chocolate chip cookies North American style was this one particular bakery that wasn't doing the usual French patisserie type baked goods. Muffins and donuts were non-existent then. These days you can find these items easily in many chained patisseries.

The French call shortbread type cookies 'les biscuits', and good old American chocolate chip cookies 'ah, les cookies !' (yes, though they love their French pastries, everybody seems to have a soft spot for les cookies). And besides les cookies that are popular everywhere I take them to, 'ah, le cheesecake !' seems to also be another marvelous anglophone invention among the French.

My Francophone friend Mylène from Québec confirmed that in Québec, they call the cheesecake 'gâteau au fromage' (as well as in my French cookbooks), and chocolate chip cookies 'biscuits aux brisures de chocolat'. But each time I introduce my cheesecake as 'gâteau au fromage', the French would invariably say, 'ah, le cheesecake !', and no less with 'ah, les cookies !'

Personally I think cheesecake should have another name altogether. Not so much because creamcheese is not really cheese to me. But with its name with the inconvenient word 'cheese', I can't get Yannick to have a bite, eventhough tiramisù with its Italian creamcheese type cheese in the name of mascarpone, he doesn't seem to mind at all!

The cheesecake I make in France doesn't taste the same as back in Canada because the creamcheese here is different from the usual Philadelphia. But it's delicious nonetheless, in a different way.

I always want to try new recipes, acquire new techniques, learn new things, etc. and today did I ever learn a few things. First I had decided to make my popular French onion tart on a large scale because I needed a lot of it. Instead of making it in a tart pan as usual, I had the bright idea of tripling the recipe and making it in a large cookie sheet. After slicing 4.5 pounds of onions (I bet most people haven't done that!) and tears streaming and eyes and nose burning, and then trying to squeeze all the onions (and that was only twice the amount the recipe) into my largest frying pan and picking up bits and pieces off the floor every time I flipped the spatula (really got a good workout for my biceps by the way), I scaled the tripling to doubling the recipe.

Rolling the pie crust large enough for the cookie sheet wasn't an easy task either. In fact it became an impossible task for me. Now the floor wasn't only littered with onion bits but also flour and pie dough. In the end I abandonned the idea and went back to make the tarts in two regular tart pans. The bright idea wasn't a bright idea after all. Many lessons learned here, but most importantly, I will never make more than one batch of this recipe at a time ever ever again!

And by the way, if I wasn't sure before, cutting onions is now undoubtdedly at the top of my list of least favourite tasks in the kitchen.

I also made a cheesecake, and this too I needed a lot of, and this too, I had some adventure with and learned a lesson or two. I increased the recipe and made it in a regtangular 9*13 inch pan to be cut into squares. I ignored to bake it in bath water which I normally would do. And of course it had too big (really really big) crack to ignore. To repair this, I decided to cover it with mascarpone cream. But I was out of eggs and I remembered seeing eggless tiramisù recipes where whipped cream was used instead of whipped egg whites.

Now I really shouldn't be telling people that I don't know how to make whipped cream, but for once I have a story to tell so here we go. It took a real long while of beating the cream with the electric hand beater before anything started to happen. Slowly the volume started to increase. Now, if I were to keep beating at it, it would eventually turn itself into whipped cream, right? Right! It eventually got a little bigger in volume. And right before my eyes, it escalated into a weirder and weirder state (which I found out later this phenomenon is called curdling). So instead of whipped cream, it looked like I had butter (I was told it was butter) in a puddle of milk. Well, butter is a really really lovely thing. But not when what you need is whipped cream!

I'll skip telling you this next part because it was even more embarassing that what had just happened. Fast forward to the happy ending (after all this babbling, I should have fast forwarded sooner, shouldn't I?), I covered it with some delicious homemade apricot spread that our friend Fabrice and Ania had made and given us. So after all these adventures, I congratulated myself for having made a cracked cheesecake that needed mending that I am sure in the end turned out better than a perfect cheesecake without the topping otherwise.

Here's the original recipe for a 6.5 inch springform pan.

PS. If you know why what was supposed to be whipped cream went weird, please tell me in the comment section.

Le Cheesecake

Ingredients :
Crust :
130 grams speculoos
2 tablespoons butter

Filling :
2 eggs
2 pots yogurt (250 ml)
300 grams St. Moret cheese
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Grind speculoos and mix with melted butter. Press into greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.
2. Blend the filling ingredients and pour it over the baked crust.
3. Bake in bath water for about 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Bon appetit!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Weekend at La Roque sur Cèze

Late Friday afternoon we headed south to a small medieval village called La Roque sur Cèze to catch the last bit of summer.

We stayed at the cottage of our friend Marie-Claude. Each morning we were greeted by these two goats wandering about.

Some snapshots from around the village from our evening walk.

Some snapshots of other towns we visited not far from La Roque.

And of the historic monastery Chartreuse de Valbonne and Chateau (castle) Grignan.

And of a vineyard.

And of Yannick and Rung.

Friday, September 3, 2010

4 years

Is Paris the most romantic city in the world? Let me confirm. Yes yes yes!

Four years ago today I arrived in Paris to meet Yannick for the first time after some months of internet flirting (I was living in Victoria and he was living in Lyon). The last time I saw him it was four years prior.

This was taken in Lyon in October 2002, our first picture of us together. We were young and innocent (ha!)

2006. Four years later, we decided that we were in love...

2007 during our vacation together in Provence in an otherwise long distance relationship.

2008. Engaged and living together in Victoria. This picture was taken during our vacation in Thailand.

2009 during our trip to my sister Saifone and Mikey's wedding in Bangkok. We had planned to have a double wedding with them but we postponed because of our relocation project. We had decided to move back to France to make it our permanent home. Yannick moved 7 months before me and at this time we conducted our romance long distance again.

2010. Our new life together in Lyon.

Four years have gone by quickly and we have packed in a lot of things. My longest relationship, and his too. A celebration is in order! Later on this month we are returning to Paris for the first time after our romantic rendez-vous there 4 years ago, but today we are heading south for a few days to enjoy the last days of the summer.

Happy anniversary!

Femme Amoureuse

And in French...

Un de mes poèmes préférés d'un de mes poètes préférés.

Femme Amoureuse
un poème de Rainer Maria Rilke
traduit par Rung

Voici ma fenêtre. Si doucement je viens
de me réveiller.
J'ai pensé que je floterrais.
A quelle distance attient-elle ma vie,
et où commence-t-elle la nuit ?

J'ai pu penser que tout était
calme autour de moi;
transparent comme l'intensité
d'un cristal, assombrie, muette.

Je pouvais garder même les étoiles en moi;
si immense mon coeur me semble, si volontairement
il le laisse repartir.

Celui que je commençais peut-être à aimer, peut-être à tenir.
Comme quelque chose d'étrange, d'inimaginable,
mon destin me regarde dans les yeux.

Pour quoi, alors, est-ce que je me suis étirée
sous cet infini,
exsudant le parfum comme un pré,
balancée de-ci de-là,

appellant. Et apeurée
que quelqu'un entendra l'appel
et sera destiné à disparaître
dans une autre vie.

Woman in Love

This is one of my favourite poems by one of my favourite poets.

Woman In Love
by Rainer Maria Rilke

That is my window. Just now
I have so softly wakened.
I thought that I would float.
How far does my life reach,
and where does the night begin

I could think that everything
was still me all around;
transparent like a crystal's
depths, darkened, mute.

I could keep even the stars
within me; so immense
my heart seems to me; so willingly
it let him go again.

whom I began perhaps to love, perhaps to hold.
Like something strange, undreamt-of,
my fate now gazes at me.

For what, then, am I stretched out
beneath this endlessness,
exuding fragrance like a meadow,
swayed this way and that,

calling out and frightened
that someone will hear the call,
and destined to disappear
inside some other life.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Turtle Oat Squares

I baked these turtle oat squares yesterday for a kick-off pot-luck/BBQ evening organized by the International Christian Community of Lyon. It was our first time there.

There must have been around 40 people. A lot of them were Americans, but there were also other nationals as well. They were very friendly in a very North American way with lots of personal questions and exchanges of stories. I love watching the children playing, running around, being excited about desserts, and switching back and forth so naturally betweeen French and English.

This recipe comes from the cookbook Company's Coming for Christmas. The squares taste similar to an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie with caramel.

PS. Shouldn't there be some peanuts in something turtly?

Turtle Oat Squares Recipe

Ingredients :
1 cup butter or hard margarine
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups quick cooking rolled oats
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups caramel sundae topping
1/4 cup all purpose flour

1. Melt butter with vanilla in large saucepan.
2. Add rolled oats, 2 cups flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir well. Press 2/3 in ungreased 9 x 13 inch pan.
3. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.
4. Stir butterscotch sauce and 1/4 cup flour together. Drizzle over chocolate chips. Sprinkle with remaining 1/3 rolled oat mixture.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

At Jean-Luc and Gisèle's

Yesterday Jean-Luc and Gisèle invited us to have lunch with their family in their home in the countryside about 20 minutes by car from Lyon. But as usual, we ended up staying the whole afternoon, and having a late dinner with them too.

Aside Jean-Luc and Gisèle and their four children, Jean Luc's mother and sister were also there, as well as Gisèle's parents and Pauline's boyfriend.

In the photos, in blue that's Gisèle, then Yannick and the youngest son Valentin, Jean-Luc's mother, Pauline and her boyfriend, and Annick, Jean-Luc's sister.

Marion, Camille, and Pauline. One thing I notice about the many French girls that I have met, they are natural, very at ease with themselves and full of confidence and charm.

We started with the apéro (drinks and pre-meal nibblies). Here we have bouchon au thon (tuna cork), pesto and cheese pinwheels, cheddar biscuits, and salmon rolls.

Gisèle's mother is originally from Liban. Gisèle is a wonderful cook and she loves cooking very much too. Here she prepared some Libanese dishes for the entrée (first course), roasted sweet peppers, rice in grapevine leaves, hummus, and cucumber in yogurt and herbs.

For the main course we had a seafood casserole with rice. Then this was followed by goat cheese.

And three desserts! A mirabelle (a kind of plums) tart, lemon tart, and raspberry tiramisù. I had a piece of each. So delicious!

Jean-Luc and Marion.

Jean-Luc seemed to really enjoy catching flies. He spent a lot of time amusing himself with this. Gisèle's parents smoking away while listening to musical performances.

This is one musical family. Jean-Luc plays the cello, Gisèle plays the piano, Marion plays the violin, Camille plays the accordion and flute. Gisèle's mother is an accomplished violinist. At their place, there is always music playing and singing. And I bring my music and spend some time at the piano.

Their hospitality touches me deeply. And after a day with such wonderful company and great food, and playing and listening to live music, I always come home with a heart full of joy and happiness.