Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The trials and tribulations of blog templates

I'm still sitting on color schemes, working on the banner, selecting fonts and trying to figure out how to get rid of these annoying borders, so the blog is still a mess for the moment. It has, however, been quite fun to learn how to tweak the template. Not to mention quite engaging, read: time consuming. The important thing, I have realized, is to always save a copy of the template in Word in case I really mess it up. I hope to have a lovely and satisfying blog up by the end of the week or the beginning of next week...

La Page Hollandaise

More canals and bikes
Originally uploaded by Frenchpage.
One of the things I like most about living in Europe is the relatively close proximity to other countries, allowing for weekend visits to places that are not that far distance-wise, but are completely different as far as scenery, language, food, art, architecture and people are concerned. In California you can go a few hundred miles to the north and you are in...California. Last weekend we hopped on the Thalys heading north for a few hundred miles and visited friends in Amsterdam.
Highlights included cycling by the canals despite the damp cold, visiting friends, and seeing the Rembrandts in the Rijksmuseum and the Van Goghs in the Van Gogh museum, two things I have wanted to do since I was a teenager. And since everyone keeps asking, the answer is no, nothing green was inhaled...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Curb your dog, please

Curb your dog, please
Originally uploaded by Frenchpage.

If only more Parisians would listen...

Saturday, February 25, 2006


I'm in the middle of experimenting with CSS codes and color schemes, so please forgive me if the blog looks like someone threw up on it....

Friday, February 10, 2006

Writer's Paris

Writer's Paris
Originally uploaded by Frenchpage.
New Page 1

I just love this cozy little writer's nook on the first floor of Shakespeare, with its quaint old typewriter

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Prickly fruits of winter

Although apparently they grow in California, I had never had a fresh litchi nut before the winter of 2004, my first winter in France. I had eaten them canned quite often in my childhood, served for dessert in a bowl at the Dragon Palace Chinese Restaurant in the mini-mall on Santa Monica Boulevard just up the street from where I grew up. During my first winter in France, I was quite surprised to see them at practically every greengrocer I passed starting from mid-January. They looked quite scary and dangerous to me, and I couldn't imagine the sweet white fruit that lurked beneath their leathery spiked armor.

It was the eight year old girl I tutored who convinced me to try them. As we would walk home across the bridge to the sixteenth from the Ecole Bilingue in the fifteenth, she would often spontaneously exclaim how litchis, along with cherries and green grapes, were her FAVORITE fruit in the whole wide world. Well, if an eight year old wasn't afraid of them, I figured I shouldn't be either. She showed me how to bite off the top part of the skin, just below where the stem would be and just enough to make a little dent, then peel off the skin as though it were a little hat, and then pinch the bottom part of the skin so as to cleanly pop the fruit into your mouth. I've looked forward to them every February since then.

In my two years of fresh litchi eating, I have learned through trial and error which litchis are probably the best by looking at them. In my experience, I have found the best litchis will be quite plump and fat, almost heart-shaped, proud-looking, not wimpy-looking. They should not be too hard, but not too soft either. They should give a little when you squeeze them, but then defiantly puff themselves back out when you release them. I look for ones that are light brown in color, but have pleasing pink blush swept across them. However, they should not be too pretty and pink, as I have found this can mean they are overly ripe. If you are lucky and have picked a perfect litchi, the skin will break with a clean "pop!" when you bite into it, and then a little explosion of sweet juice will trickle out, not a whole lot, but just enough. The fruit inside should be pure white, not brown at all. If you are really lucky, the brown nut-like seed inside will be fat, smooth and glossy (don't eat it, it is slightly poisonous) and the white meat will literally slide off of it in a very pleasing manner. However, some seeds end up being a bit bent or gnarled, but I have found this normally doesn't affect the taste of the fruit itself, it is just that is quite pleasant to slide the fruit off a glossy smooth seed instead.

I was so surprised to learn how sweet they are fresh, that it surprises me now that they would sell them canned in syrup...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Nouvelle Cuisine

We saw a crazy Hong Kong film Saturday night, called Dumplings
in English and somberly titled Nouvelle Cuisine in French. It's about a former doctor who smuggles aborted fetuses from China and chops them up in order to prepare them as dumplings to serve wealthy women in her run-down apartment for a pretty penny. The fetus dumplings are supposed to make one young again. It's not so much a horror movie or even all that gory (except for one teenage abortion scene, ugh), but it was sort of horrifyingly dark in its portrayal of people's quest for youth and beauty at any cost. The film centers around a wealthy former television actress in her mid thirties whose husband is obsessed with twenty year old girls. It was sort of interesting because you didn't know if it was the dumplings that actually worked or if they had a placebo effect. In any case, there might have been all sorts of cultural references going on that, having no knowledge of Chinese mythology, I wouldn't have caught on to. It was explained at one point that a boy fetus is more "nourishing" than a girl and much harder to come by, due to the One Child policy in China, where boy children are more prized than girls and therefore girls are more likely to be aborted.

Oddly enough my French is still such crap that I can't follow a full-length film easily and I find that when watching a foreign film it's easier to watch it in the original language with French subtitles, rather than dubbed in French. I hope this changes someday.

After the film we went to our favorite Japanese place on the rue Ste Anne, but as we arrived just before closing time many things weren't available. The place is packed when we've come at eight pm, at 7pm there is no wait and it's filled with mainly japanese, and at 10:30pm it's filled with mainly French people. So we have decided that dining slightly earlier at around 7:30pm is the perfect time to go.

They have lovely udon soup, and no dumplings were consumed during this particular meal...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

What's so african about it?

After a few rounds on the ice rink in front of Hotel de Ville on on a beautiful, sunny yet crisp Wednesday:

...trying mostly unsuccessfully not to knock down or be knocked down by randy French youth, followed by a leisurely stroll through the Tuileries...


...in order to bypass the soldes, we stopped into Angelina's for their infamous chocolat africain:


Say what you will about Angelina's, it may be tourist destination central, but hot damn, that is some good stuff. I only went for the first time two weeks ago with my friend Debbie from Florida, and we were already back yesterday, despite our vows that we were all hot chocolated-out from the last visit. We figured we could afford the calories after our battle on the ice. I know a couple who went two times in a four day trip to Paris, and this was my second time in four years. Oh well.

That whipped cream by the way, that is real cream that has been whipped, and no sugar added. Ummm...Take that, Cool Whip..

Debbie and her husband got a new car on Tuesday, an automatic, so I foresee some day trips to the forest with the dog in our future...