Friday, 28 June 2013

The Rosie Project

I'd been keen to read this for some time. The Rosie Project seems to have been the book of 2012 in the way that The Slap was the book of 2009. It seems everyone else has read it already. Whispering Gums read it. ANZ Lit Lovers read it. I was keen to read it, and had bought it and set it aside for my plane reading to get me to Europe. And it was a perfect choice for that.

The Rosie Project is the story of Don Tillman, a great character, and wonderfully eccentric first person narrator. Don is a tenured genetics professor at a university in Melbourne. He decides to create The Wife Project to select the perfect wife. He attacks the project in typical Don style.

A questionnaire! Such an obvious solution. A purpose built, scientifically valid instrument incorporating current best practice to filter out the time wasters, the visual-harassment complainers, the crystal gazers, the horoscope readers, the fashion obsessives, the religious fanatics, the vegans, the sports watchers, the creationists, the smokers, the scientifically illiterate, the homeopaths, leaving, ideally, the perfect partner, or, realistically, a manageable shortlist of candidates. 
Don creates a slim-line 16 page document to aid in his quest.

This gentle, funny book is a delightful read. It does have the occasional deeper thought though, it's not just airport book fluff.

Why do we focus on certain things at the expense of others? We will risk our lives to save a person from drowning, yet not make a donation that could save dozens of children from starvation. We install solar panels when their impact on CO2 emissions is minimal- and indeed may have a net negative effect if manufacturing and installation are taken into account- rather than contributing to more efficient infrastructure projects. 

The Rosie Project has an interesting heritage, starting life as a screenplay before winning the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2012. You can author Graeme Simsion talk at considerable length in this RN interview.

Update Jan 2014- Graeme Simsion is working on a sequel to The Rosie Project, it is to be published in Australia in 2014.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Le Jules Verne

Somethings in life should never be repeated. Other things are so good they deserve to be repeated, but you can only hope to be so lucky. 

In 2010 I was a very lucky girl and got to have my birthday in Paris. This year that's going to happen again. Back then I visited a bakery for a tour, then went out for lunch. But not just any lunch, we had lunch on the Eiffel Tower at Le Jules Verne. It was amazing. 

Happily my birthday lunch experience at Le Jules Verne is going to be repeated this week too, although it'll be even more extraordinary as this time I will have lunch with 10 of my family and friends. Le Jules Verne is of course the iconic restaurant on the second stage of the Eiffel Tower

Upside down plates as art 
The start of much deliciousness

Liquid deliciousness
Louis Roederer Cristal Rose if I remember correctly

Buttery deliciousness
Sculpted as the second stage of the Eiffel Tower

Our amuse bouche
tomato gazpacho

My entree
Veloute de crustaces au fumet de champignons et cerfeuil
Shellfish velvety soup with mushrooms and chervil
About which I have gushed previously

My main
Queue de Lotte cuite en cocotte, pommes fondantes et jus de coquillages
Pan-sauteed monkfish tail, potatoes and shellfish sauce

The extraordinary selection of free minidesserts served before our actual desserts
I hope they still do this!
Those marshmallows were the best things we ate the entire trip!!

Master Wicker's dessert
He was well chuffed with this strawberry and meringue confection

Mr Wicker's indulgent Tartelette Chocolate Amer/Framboise
Bitter Chocolate Raspberry Tarlet

My dessert Fraise/Rhubarbe, biscuit moelleux et creme legere a la pistache
Strawberry/rhubarb, soft biscuit and light pistachio cream
The French achieve a magnificence with pistachio
that is not found elsewhere

I can't wait to see what is in store for us this week. 

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Flower Market Amsterdam

I've just spent most of the last week in Holland! It was fabulous. One of the many wonderful places we visited was the Flower Market in Amsterdam, the Bloemenmarkt.

A whole block of floating stalls.

I'd expected it to be a sea of fresh flowers. And there were some. 

But it was mainly bulbs on our visit. Of every type, and in every form. 

I'd never seen cyclamen bulbs before

Buddha Palm bulbs
There were a few reminders that it was Amsterdam after all. 

Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly meme now hosted by West Metro Mommy

Saturday, 15 June 2013

I'm a bit excited

I'm going to Europe.

Amsterdam. London. Paris. My holiday is like a t-shirt!

I've been to Paris before, twice, and am giddy with excitement about returning once again. I love Paris. The first visit we were there for a week. We spent a glorious two weeks last time. This visit we'll have about four weeks in Paris. I just can't get enough.

Why wouldn't I be excited? When churches look like this?

Sainte Chapelle
When a hospital courtyard looks like this?

Hotel Dieu
Where department stores look like this?

Galleries Lafayette
And the Opera looks like this?

Opera Garnier
Where fun can be had in so many ways 

Air Swing at Fete des Tuileries

Metro Palais Royale 

Where cliches abound

but are wonderful

 And that beautiful Parisian light suffuses every vista

I'm looking forward to Amsterdam and London too of course. But I've never been to those cities before, so it's a different sort of excitement and anticipation as I don't quite know what to expect.

Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly meme now hosted by Melinda at West Metro Mommy

Monday, 10 June 2013

Joan of Arc

I really thought that I'd love this book. It should have been a no brainer for me. Michael Morpuro is fabulous, his Private Peaceful remains one of the most moving books that I've ever read. And I've been quite fascinated by Joan of Arc since 2011. Sadly though, it wasn't meant to be.

While I'm still fascinated by Joan's story I found this book hard going. Michael Morpurgo uses a story within a story technique to tell Joan's rather famous story. Sixteen year old modern girl Eloise Hardy grows up in Montpellier under the shadow of a portrait of Joan of Arc.

Eloise is quite fascinated with Joan, and after her family moves to Orleans she enters an essay competition to win the chance to be Joan for a day, leading a procession to mark the anniversary of the relief of Orleans on May 8. Which is ok, but then Joan's story is told with Joan being kept company by a white sparrow called Belami. For some reason this annoyed me from the get go, and my interest in the book never recovered.

Of course there are interesting facts along the way (and I do believe that this is rather a faithful retelling of Joan's life).

15th century France was quite different
Joan hates the Burgundians even more than the English who have occupied Northern France for many decades.

They're of our blood, they're French, and they ally themselves with the English, parcelling up the country, my country, as they see fit. English, Burgundians, they raid and rob wherever they want, and we have no power, nor any will, it seems, to stop them.

Joan jumped from the tower at Beaurevoir

Joan was betrayed by the very king that she spent her life fighting for, the king she saw crowned in Reims. 

King Charles himself, it seemed, the king she had restored to his throne, had personally ordered the bridge to be destroyed, and the attack on Paris to be halted. Behind her back he had come to terms again with the Burgundians and the English. Paris and the north of the country would be left to the Duke of Burgundy and the English, if he could keep all the conquests to the south. The king was going to disband his army, her army, leaving the English still in France. 

Throughout Joan refers to the English as Godoms, a term unfamiliar to me, and one that I've had no success Googling. There is no glossary, and it isn't in my Shorter Oxford Dictionary either. These English Godoms were to pay 10,000 pounds for Joan. 

After her trial, Joan was sentenced to death in the cemetery at Rouen, she then recanted her story about her voices, her apparitions. The next day she was to retract her recanting, and was of course burnt at the stake in the market place of Rouen.

There were no cheers now. Many cried openly at what they had just witnessed. 'We are lost,' said one of the English soldiers. 'We have just burnt a saint.'

Also published as Sparrow
Books on France, a great 2013 challenge from Emma at  Words and Peace

Dreaming of France, a great Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Meeting The French- Boulangerie Esnault

Three years ago we had an amazing family holiday in Paris. Next week we leave for Paris again. I'm a bit excited. So of course my thoughts are turning towards Paris once again. 

One of the many highlights of our last trip was a visit to a working bakery which we booked through a company called Meeting the French. At the time we visited what was the oldest working bakery in Paris, Boulangerie Esnault, 51 rue de Richelieu, 75001. It was celebrating 200 years of business. Sadly it has now closed it's doors due to rising rents. 

It was a great experience. Meeting the French sent along a translator so that we tourists all understood what was being said. It was great to see the bakery cat wander through looking nonplussed in the way of all cats, wonderful that a bakery cat is even allowed, I'm sure it wouldn't be here. 

It was a fascinating glimpse into the world of two French staples. Baguettes and croissants. We learnt that boulangeries are quite regulated in France. Their days off are mandated so that all the bakeries in a certain area are not closed on the same day. Their holiday periods are assigned to ensure that the people have access to bread. The ingredients of a baguette are controlled. The French take their bread very seriously, and rightly so. 

We watched the process of making baguettes, and got some hands on action too. 

We learnt how to roll croissants, and that the shape is also an indicator of ingredients. Butter croissants traditionally are straight, while the crescent shaped croissants are generally made from margarine. 

Meeting the French still run a boulangerie tour at another bakery, and a range of great other tours. Perhaps we'll do another tour this trip? I hope so. It was a fascinating insight into French culture and food. 

Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly meme now hosted by Melinda at West Metro Mommy

Monday, 3 June 2013

Pearlie in Paris

I'll read pretty much anything set in or about Paris. I do particularly like kids books set in Paris though. I've read a few now. Mr Chicken Goes to Paris. Oops. I get a thrill seeing Paris even in picture book format, and get that familiar buzz, of "ooh, I've been there." So, Pearlie in Paris leapt into my hands recently. 

Wendy Harmer, started off as a journalist, to become one of Australia's most popular comedians back in the late 80s. She then had a career in radio. After her children were born she turned her very clever mind to writing. She has written for adults, young adults and children. The popular Pearlie series of books kicked off with Pearlie in the Park.  I read Pearlie in the Park a few years ago to quell my curiosity. There are now quite a few titles, all very pink and sparkly and designed to appeal to young girls. Pearlie in Paris doesn't disappoint.

Pearlie travels to Paris in spring to visit her friend Fifi, the most famous fairy in Paris, who lives in the Jardin du Palais Royal.

Fifi has been hard at work on her Spring Collection for Fairy Fashion Week. But sequin eating snails cause havoc. Pearlie comes to the rescue with some particularly Aussie solutions. 

Colonnes de Buren

Everyone loves them

Any kids book that uses Zut Alors and Hurly-Burly must get a thumbs up from me.