We spent most of last weekend indoors while the snow came drifting down and covered the streets with a pristine, white powder. We only emerged from our warm and toasty cocoon to spend Sunday afternoon with our parents in the city. The chilly, wintry weather and snowy paradise outdoors put me in a baking mood.
Snow, snow, snow everywhere!! Well, at least this past weekend it was everywhere. Now that it has started to melt, the only reminder of the recent wintry wonderland is a slushy, mess. Over the weekend, nearly the entire country was under alert for severe winter weather conditions. Most of the regions throughout France saw heavy snowfall, and I was rather surprised to see so much snow in the Parisian area.
Winter has definitely arrived. We woke up to a couple centimeters of snow this morning. I know, that’s not much, but it’s not very characteristic of the weather that we normally experience here during this time of year. Usually, the real cold doesn’t come until January or February. This weather is actually very reminiscent of what it was like when I arrived in France exactly two years ago this week. It was a bit of a shock to my system, since we only have two seasons in Austin, extremely hot and mildly hot. So you can imagine, I was less than thrilled to be greeted by wintry weather that year. Despite my affinity for warmer temperatures and sunshine, I think the cold is actually starting to grow on me now. It doesn’t seem to bother me as much anymore, or perhaps, I’ve just learned how to bundle up more appropriately these days. Nonetheless, I was rather surprised to find myself feeling happy to see the snow this morning.
YES – I made it back for another weekly addition of vendredi vietnamien! This is quite a feat for me, given my less than frequent posting habits. Lately, I’ve been seeking ways to get my creative juices flowing again to help develop my non-existent photography skills. I’ve been reading quite a bit on techniques for capturing food, leafing through our stacks of cookbooks and browsing gorgeous sites that I have recently discovered, such as B comme Bon and Christopher Cina. Though I don’t own a DSLR and am rather limited in what I can produce with my compact camera, particularly during this time of year when the sun sets shortly after 5:00pm, I feel newly inspired by the talented work of the many others who share my love affair with food.
I must admit that I’m not that great at this blogging thing. My enthusiasm for cooking and baking hasn’t translated quite so successfully into good blogging habits. I’m always eager to share my culinary concoctions, yet my commitment to the blog has waxed and waned since restarting it. Clearly, creating my weekly Vietnamese Friday series has not done much to sustain my motivation to post. I also haven’t been so inclined to post recently because I haven’t quite honed my picture taking skills yet. What I cook up in the kitchen is usually pretty tasty, or so says the husband, but any attempts to photograph my food have only resulted in atrocious and unappetizing images, thus, making me reluctant to share.
A couple of weeks ago, we returned from the south of France, tan, refreshed and a little bit more knowledgeable about this country’s incredibly rich and long history. During our trip, I was always on the lookout for something delectable to bring back and share with my office mates. While passing through Ollioules, which is a small town in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France, we stumbled upon the annual Olive Tree festival there. Vendors were selling local and regional specialties, including an endless array of tapenades, charcuterie and sweets. It was there that I discovered le macaron de Provence.
My nearly 80-year old father in-law continues to take full advantage of the free educational system offered here in France, despite having already earned several graduate degrees during his younger days! Just two years ago, he finished an undergraduate program in astronomy, complete with a thesis on parallel universes. Following that, he completed an intensive 2-year Chinese language and literature program this past spring. And this fall, he just started an intensive Russian language and literature program to brush up on the language again. The man speaks FIVE languages fluently – I know, impressive, huh?!? I’ve been here nearly two years now, and I still can barely speak French coherently!
A couple of weekends ago was les Journées Européennes du Patrimoine, during which many famous buidlings and monuments, such as the Palais de l’Elysée (equivalent of our White House) and the Banque de France, open their doors to visitors to give folks the opportunity to learn about the country’s cultural heritage. This is a great chance to visit places that normally don’t open their doors to the public during the year. Although there is no shortage of opportunities to culturally enrich one’s self free of charge in France through events such as this, I rarely take full advantages of these perks. The few times that I have, the crowds and ridiculously long lines have deterred me from returning. I would rather pay the entrance fees on a regular day and enjoy the exhibits, unencumbered by hoards of people.
Finally, vendredi vietnamien returns! I’ve actually been cooking quite a bit lately despite the heat in August, but I’ve neglected my blog again recently because I haven’t been able to successfully take any decent pictures of the food I’ve made. Temperatures have already started to drop (8˚C this morning!!) and the sun is setting earlier these days, so there isn’t adequate natural lighting after 7ish for picture taking. And, since I do most of my cooking in the evenings, that makes it next to impossible to take any photos without artificial lighting.
Last week marked the official la rentrée, the start of the academic school year and when all of the Frenchies return to work from their long summer vacations. Everyone is tanner, refreshed and ready to work again. Although the office was pretty calm and pleasant during the month of August and all projects were put on hold until September, I was more than thrilled to see all of my coworkers again. Being essentially the only person at the office became too monotonous and quiet after just a couple of days. Without anyone at work, I was like a mute for a couple of weeks. And, if I’m not speaking French at work, the only other language I’m speaking these days is Vietnamese. So, I was starting to fear that what little French I had acquired was beginning to escape me, since I had gone for weeks without any sort of meaningful exchanges in French. I think I can breathe easily for now though, as my French words seem to still be intact!