Saturday, November 29, 2014

Nothing Better

There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.
Linda Grayson, author of children's books

My girlfriend indulged me during our weekend in Paris as I sought to find the best hot chocolate the city has to offer. The research required visits to three cafes famous for this sublime libation, each having its own atmosphere and different taste, but all presenting a deliciously thick and rich cup.

The experience left me doubting that I will ever be able to palate this winter favourite again as normally made from powdered cocoa, so this afternoon I tried my hand making a Le Chocolate Chaud using a recipe found on the Paris-based chef, David Lebovitz's blog. I didn't have the best-quality bittersweet chocolate on hand, but the result was quite passable. ;-)

Angelina serves its thick brew from a pitcher and with pots on cream on the side.

Its storefront is a sweet dream. We wished that we had tried the pastries rather than the rather bland Mont Blanc for which it is supposed to be famous. But the chocolate chaud lived up to its reputation.

Appropriately, on our Sunday in Paris we visited Un Dimanche à Paris, an elegant tea room serving heavenly morsels. The pitcher with a wooden handle and stir stick was pretty cool.

For coziness and pure comfort without any chic-chic-ness, I would return again (and again) to Mamie Gâteaux. I loved the lace curtains, the iron radiators and holding a bowl of hot chocolate in my hands. And its chestnut cake introduced me to a new taste sensation that requires further research. ;-)

Hot chocolate and Paris are a very fine pairing, as is chocolate and friends!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Afterglow

Divine fires do not blaze each day, but an artist functions in their afterglow hoping for their recurrence.
Ned Rorem, American composer and author

I continue to glow with Paris in my soul and selected my lunch from my workplace cafe to recall some of the weekend's good memories. While the repast rested on my desk and not at a tree-side table, it made me happy nonetheless.

After many attempts over the years, I finally enjoyed a tremendous steak and frites meal at Cafe des Musees. The cafe hummed -- and sometimes crashed -- with the flurry of meals coming from the kitchen and the conversations from tables upon tables of happy diners. Now that I have been once, I will be sure to return!

On the other end of the spectrum are my memories of the elegantly quiet Mon Vieil Ami with only a few tables, many of which were graced with bowls of pumpkin soup laced with chestnuts.

Perhaps I am most warmed by the memories of sitting under the trees on a glorious Fall day, wrapped in a red blanket, and watching the promenade of friends, lovers, visitors and locals all radiant in the day in Paris.

And then the waiter delivered lunch. Ah, mai oui! My memories of Paris remain very much aglow (and I hope for their recurrence).

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Good Idea

Paris is always a good idea.
Audrey Hepburn

I have just returned to my little abode after a business meeting took me to Geneva and passion took me to Paris. I love wandering her streets, indulging in her baguettes and feasting on her joie de vivre. I'll hold her in my dreams tonight . . . and present my kind readers with more photos tomorrow. ;-)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Frosty Morn

Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.
Franz Kafka, Czech author (1883-1924)

The cold morning's frost on the window delighted me. Somewhere my mind was sending messages that I should be concerned about heat-loss or window sealings; but I pushed those cares aside and just enjoyed the beauty of the new day.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Catching Up

Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy (wo)man has no time to form.
Andre Maurois, French biographer, novelist and essayist (1885-1967)

It surprises me how fast the days pass. On the one hand, I know that it is a sign of growing old; but on the other hand, I know that it is a sign of a very full and rich life for which I am thankful. Although the thought of curling up in bed for a day of doing nothing is very appealing, I count my blessings that I am healthy and have nurturing friends, family and community that keep me busy with all sorts of activities that enrich body and soul.

This post attempts to catch up on all the wonderful activities that have kept me hopping over the past week. First, last weekend the three winos shared their pleasure of the Twenty Valley "Wrapped Up in the Valley" winery tour with a friend visiting from distant parts, regaling her with our stories of past pleasures. One of the new pleasures was imbibing the vista from Mike Weir's winery while quaffing Pinot Noir accompanied by herbed forest mushroom and creamed chevrai flatbreads. Life is good.

A couple of days later, my friend and I marveled at the detail of the Christmas windows of the Hudson's Bay Company in downtown Toronto.

And then yesterday, the church hosted our annual Mistletoe Bazaar with a cookie spread that looked a lot like Santa's dinner table. A heavenly scent of sugar, butter, chocolate and spice escaped from each carton that we opened. The last week or two have been busy but, oh, so sweet!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Rejoicing in Creation

Friday, November 7, 2014

There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.
John Calvin, French theologian and pastor (1509-1564)

The visit of a friend presented the opportunity for doing the out-of-the-ordinary routine. With the help of a step stool (necessary for some on us), we launched ourselves onto beautifully elegant beasts and pranced through the woods of Niagara in awe of the colours, the hawks and the sure-footed friend carrying us.

All the fresh air left us with an appetite and the lunch served by the student chefs and servers at Niagara College's Benchmark restaurant deserves at A+. We wish them well as their team represents Canada at the world culinary competition. Aside: Do try mashed potatoes with arugula. Delicious!

Satiated and glowing from the ginger pudding, we entered into a world fluttering with amazing beauty at the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory. Truly awestruck by the array of incredible colours and designs of creation. The "Gallery of Emergence" had me spellbound at the mystery of life unfolding.

After a walk along the quiet main street of Canada's prettiest little town, we drove along the darkened parkway to one of the world's natural wonders, Niagara Falls. Spectacular; and very difficult to capture on our cameras.