Sunday, 30 November 2008


It has been a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend here, but punctuated by the immense sorrow, the heart-wrenching sorrow of the news from Bombay. I am so angry at these attacks against innocent civilians, outraged by the hatred, by the lack of respect for life. I am sad at the loss of all those who died, but I wanted to share my acute pain at the loss of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holzberg, Chabad emissaries.

To give this some context, I am very very close to Chabad-Lubavitch, an orthodox branch of Judaism. I am not very observant but I do believe, and this - and my strong identity as a Jew - is all thanks to Chabad. Many have and will sum up Chabad-Lubavitch better than I: this is a most extraordinary organisation. It was led by the extraordinary Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who believed that just as Jews had been sought out with hatred in World War II, so he wanted his followers to reach out to every Jew, wherever in the world he may be, with love.

As such, his followers, young newly-married men and women, go all over the world - wherever there might be a Jew, and run outreach centres. These are ultra-orthodox people for whom it would be so much easier to be in Brooklyn, with all the necessary amenities: Jewish schools, Kosher shops, mikvaot... the list goes on. It is immensely difficult to strictly follow Kosher laws when in a land devoit of Kosher symbols and supervision, not to mention being far away from friends and family, and often sending your children to study abroad because where you are serving there is no Jewish school. Yet these couples do it and can be found all over the world, from Bombay to Bangkok serving others with joy and love. They are a walking example of what it means to be selfless, to love your fellow man. Incredible.

Let them not be confused with missionaries: the Jewish faith is deeply against proselytizing, against attempted conversion - even against trying to make people 'more religious'. That's not the point. The point is to help people to identify as Jews, to know about their heritage.

My contact with Chabad was primarily at Oxford University. I was dating a non-Jewish boy, I had little connection to my background, and through Chabad I learnt what it means to be Jewish. I was President of the society with my good friend Daniel. I heard amazing speakers, I debated, I learnt, I cooked and I ate some incredible Shabbat dinners. I learnt what it is to give, I had the best examples I could imagine. Several years later I studied Judaism in NY State with Chabad. I emerged a person who is knowlegdeable about her faith. I am sometimes critical and do not swallow everything, but then debate and learning is a pivotal part of Jewish culture. I love this organisation, and I owe it so so much.

That two of these extraordinary people were so brutally killed is a very personal loss to me. I take it as a call on me to be better, to live better. I don't understand it, and I don't know what to say.

My sincere condolences to anyone who lost a loved one or a friend. In fact, to all of us, because this attack is an attack on us all, on who we are and on what we believe in.

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton:

“My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families touched by these acts of terror in Mumbai. We still do not know the full measure of this tragedy, which has taken the lives of Indian citizens, Americans, and others who had traveled to Mumbai from around the world. Two New Yorkers, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and Rivka Holtzberg of Brooklyn are among those who have died, leaving behind their young son. The young couple had traveled from Brooklyn to manage a small Chabad house, welcoming Jews from India and elsewhere to learn, pray, and serve the community.

“There could be no sharper a reminder, nor a more poignant call to action, than the brutal and heinous violence visited upon the Nariman House and the Holtzberg family, living and working in Mumbai on a mission of peace, scholarship, and spiritual guidance.

“As those responsible are brought to justice, as we aid and support the victims and their families, as we work to defeat radical extremism and the terror it spawns, let us find strength in knowing that in the face of those who seek to take lives, there are those who seek to give hope and comfort. In the face of those who wish only to destroy, there are individuals like Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and Rivka Holtzberg who travel great distances far from their homes to build a better world.”


Every once in a while, a girl needs a change. I was bored bored bored of my makeup. I was all out of inspiration. I looked at myself in the mirror and just thought: drab.

In the past I think I wore too much makeup, and in a bid to look more subtle and muted I seemed to have taken all the colour out of my face.
So I dragged myself off to the makeup heaven that is Sephora on the Champs Elysees. Is there anything they don't have? I found a fabulous consultant who made me over with a fresh, natural look. I took these photos quite a few hours after, so the fabulous lipgloss is no longer there etc.
Honestly, the consultant gave me lashes I didn't know I had, and she showed me the subtlest way to apply eyeliner with a brush. All of the products (Nars) would have cost the earth, but I did treat myself to a few: an eyeliner brush and powder khol, mascara, eyeshadow and blush. It is so much fun being a girl! Here are two (not very good) pictures! They don't convey too much, and I forgot to take my glasses off, but they give an overall idea. Let's see if I'll be able to do it myself tomorrow....



We may be Europeans, but we still had a fabulous Thanksgiving!

Sarah and David cooked up a storm - it was fantastic. I don't know many corporate lawyers who come home late and cook for their husband and friends, who are as creative and kind and imaginative and giving as Sarah. I love this couple!

They decorated their flat with pumpkins and squash and prepared a feast of roast parnsips, sweet potatoes, roast potatoes, turkey, ham, vegetables, stuffing, sausages, cranberry sauce, white sauce, homemade gravy, 3 cakes... and they aren't even American! I am so grateful to have friends who love America as much as I do!

My contribution was a rather paltry layer cake. I tried my best, honestly, it was just much flatter than I had hoped it would be. It didn't really have the impressive stacked effect that I was going for. But it was pink, and it did have chocolate in it, so there were a few endearing features I suppose.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Stupid film

I went to see a film with lovely Mathilde the other day.

It was by and with a man called Antoine de Maximy, who is known for travelling the world and making documentaries. He has a very specific style: he attaches cameras to himself and films his time abroad. He does not have an itinerary but merely goes from place to place trying to meet and talk to people, with the aim of understanding the country through its ordinary citizens. The result? A biased, anti-American mess.

In reality, very very few people would actually consider speaking to an eccentric and not very tidy Frenchman in the street, particularly one who asks whether he could have dinner at your house or sleep on your couch. Consequently the only people willing to speak to him meaningfully are hippies, homeless people or very very underprivileged people (eg. those who live without electricty). I don't take anything away from these people - on the contrary: their generosity, courage, strength make them the stars of the film and a real inspiration. Having been judged, they don't judge de Maximy, often going out of their way to help him.

But something that calls itself a documentary also has to at least try to show the other side. I'm not even talking mega wealth, but de Maximy could have tried to go to a college to speak to students, or to shopowners or, I don't know, tried to represent something a little more 'average', a little more heartening. Because the people featured were not representative, and de Maximy seems to have made no attempt to represent fairly. And that is unsurprising when you consider how socialist France is politically (the Democrat Party in the USA is so much more right wing than the French equivalent). The agenda seems to have been the following:

'Cinema goer, you think you know America. You came here to see beautiful views, Ivy League Schools and National Parks, perhaps a few famous sights, even. But you don't know America. This is America'.

And I resent that. It is patronising to the viewer, not to mention completely biased.
I know that there isn't one America. I know that not everyone is comfortable, middle class etc. But that's not what I wanted to see. I wanted intelligent treatment of religion; I wanted variety and balance. America is an inspiration to me, its spirit is unshakeable and, as the recent election has shown, is a place where anything is possible. It deserves more intelligent treatment in a documentary. Huge disappointment, but then what did I expect?

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey

I am normally a very level-headed person. I listen to other people's opinions and allow myself to be swayed. I welcome debate. I embrace differences. But on this subject there will be no divergence and I will stand tall and defend what I know to be an absolute truth (and, let's face it, there aren't many in life) : there is no better cookie - anywhere - than Ben's Cookies.

And why are they so marvellous, you might ask? It really is inexplicable. You will just have to try one. There are the gooeyest (and if that isn't a word, well, it should be!) most moist, chocolateyest dreamy confection in the world. Break one in two and you'll discover fondant chocolate generously oozing out, a soft centre to contrast with a slightly crisper outside. Sublime. Divine. Words evade me.

Last night, I got to thinking about these wondrous cookies. I became consumed with the desire to bake. So I found a chocolate chip recipe from one of my favourite websites and made some cookies for my nice colleagues. I stupidly left my camera in London, so I only have phone photos, and I am so inept that even after an hour of fiddling I can't seem to download those to my computer, but they look something like these:

And they are good (particularly in French terms - French patisseries are fabulous but they don't do unpretentious gooey cookies, so my colleagues are happy) but they are not a patch on Ben's Cookies. And there began my mission: I hereby declare that I will figure out what that recipe is. And you, my lovely friends, will help me eat through the cookies until I reach cookie Mecca.

In order to inspire me a little, and get me into a gooey mode, I have ordered this delightful book from Amazon. Can you think of a more enticing title for a book (or a nicer cover, for that matter)? Watch this cookie space.

PS: if you were wondering why on earth I'm baking cookies whilst doing Weight Watchers (I have no propensity towards sadism, no) I will tell you this: I have not eaten It takes me so long to get into the flow of a diet but when I'm in it I'm in it, and I will not stray until the pounds are off!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

What type of blogger are you?

One of the blogs I follow posted a link to a website that will analyse your personality through your blog. Go to to take a look. I was a 'Performer' and I thought it was more or less correct (except that part about living in the present - I do not live in the present, in fact, I should try to do that more).

  • The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves. They enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

What interested me the most was checking its analysis of me and comparing that to its analysis of the authors of the blogs I most enjoy. We were all, without exception, the same type. I know you don't need a machine telling you who you are, but I still thought it was pretty cool! Try it out and tell me what you think!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Left vs Right Bank and other thoughts

After a lovely weekend strolling around the 1st arrondissement in Paris, in the place de la Madeleine and rue St Honore, through the Tuileries, and after a lovely lunch there today with some lawyers at my firm, I thought to myself how gorgeous the right bank of Paris is. This is somewhat of a revelation because I always thought I was more of a Left Bank kind of gal. More studenty, more arty, more inclined to love winding streets and secret squares than long wide boulevards with their smart shops. I realised how much I have changed since I last lived in Paris, that I know the left bank so well now,and its tiny pavements can frustrate me, and those secret squares aren't so secret anymore. I realised that I have grown up and prefer the orderly, chic, right bank. I realised that there is a Paris that I have yet to discover, that I am older, that my tastes have evolved. I also realised (begrudgingly) that my enchantment with Paris has waned since those old days when I dreamed of living in this great city. I know, I'm probably taking everything for granted, aren't I? I have grown up though. Flashing lights, the allure of chic cities... it's all well and good but any place, no matter how magical, can become dry when the people that you love aren't there. I realised that there is nowhere in the world that I could love more than my home.

The famous Deux Magots cafe in Saint Germain, a chic area in the Left Bank where I was very fortunate to rent a tiny studio four to five years ago:

Palais de l'Elysee on the right bank:

Friday, 14 November 2008


So Friday is finally upon us! I'm not entirely sure why I say 'finally', when in actual fact this is officially the shortest working week I have ever had (thanks to a two-day bank holiday)! No matter how short the week is, Friday is always very welcome, I'm sure you'll all agree!

It's a little sad in the office today as two stagiares (interns) are leaving. One is Arianna, a lovely Italian girl and the other is Marie-Alice, a lovely French girl. An ex-stagiare called Patricia, from Germany, came back to have lunch with us today (thanks for coming Patricia!) and yesterday we had lunch with another ex-secondee who has returned to the Paris office of my firm. It's so important to work with people you like, and it is wonderful meeting people from all over the world here. One of the things that most struck me about Harvard was how international it was. In the class they had put up flags representing the home countries of the students in that class - very cool.

What does this weekend have in store? A visit from Marc, hopefully some lovely dinners and a trip to a Parisian Sunday market to buy fresh produce. In Paris every Sunday farmers from all over France come to sell their produce. They are so proud of what they sell and love to talk to you about it and have you taste things - it is a treat to smell the smells and see the colours and feel the food - real food, not food that has travelled a million miles and sat on a supermarket shelf for who knows how long. A real treat! Most of all though, I look forward to a good 'ol relax. I've been back to London for two weekends in a row and before that I came back from Boston, so I am feeling very wearyfrom travel and just want some time to relax, sleep in, and walk around Paris. Nothing very blog-worthy, I know, but sometimes that's just the way things go. I hope everyone has a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

White House Pooch

Anyone who knows me knows that I go gooey-eyed soppy over dogs. I stop owners in the street to enquire about names and a pooch sighting can visibly lift my mood. I love 'em and, one day when I am home more, I dream of having a dog of my own. I love so many breeds that I don't know how I'd ever choose! Most people in my family have Beagles (big shout out to naughty Ziv, my aunt's dog). I chose the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston so that we could meet Catie Copley, its 'canine ambassador'. I frequently send Marc photos of my latest doggie encounter! We sponsor a Dog's Trust dog called Chad. I bawled my eyes out at 'Marley and Me'.

So you'll appreciate my delight when Obama publicly declared that he would be fulfilling his promise to his daughters. I think that dogs are such wonderful wonderful creatures and I can't understand how people could mistreat them - it makes me mad with rage. My old supervisor said that getting a dog was 'the best thing that ever happened to his family' and I can believe it. I'll never forget working at the British Embassy in Paris - the Ambassador's beautiful golden retriever would walk in on the morning meeting and dispel all the tension, bringing smiles to even the sourest face!

I think it would be great if the Obamas rescued a dog and gave it a new, loving home. The amazing thing about dogs is that they don't care whether they live in the White House or in a more humble abode. As long as they are loved they will love back unconditionally. Humans have a lot to learn. Whatever the Obamas decide, we should respect their decision - a dog is a member of the family, not just a symbol to the outside world. But it would be great if they could inspire people to rehome a dog, particularly as Christmas approaches, a time when people recklessly buy dogs as presents only to abandon them soon after.

Here's another picture of Buddy, the chocolate lab Clinton had when he was in office. So gorgeous!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

New photos

I've finally posted new photos of recent cooking, the trip to Boston and Ima and Kate's visit. Scroll down and take a look! Hope everyone is having a great day!

Weekend and thoughts on home life and career

It's so good to be home! I came home on Saturday, thanks to a French bank holiday. I'm such a home girl. I love just mooching around, cooking, tidying, being in my space, being surrounded by my things. It will be so wonderful to have a home of my own one day.

I didn't do anything out of the ordinary, but I loved it. Just went to the supermarket, saw lovely Lizzie, spent time with Dad and Marc, caught up with correspondence, and did a lot of cooking. In Paris I have a strange electricity problem in my flat. The oven uses a disproportionate amount of electricity and can cut off electricity in the entire flat if too many lights are on. This means that I don't do much cooking, unfortunately. That and the fact that we get such enormous portions of delectable cuisine at work that it's impossible to eat a full dinner anyway. But when I return to London and my lovely kitchen, I can't wait to get my hands stuck in.

I made a chicken soup (Jewish pencillin!), the veg bake I wrote about earlier and an apple pie! If anyone wants the recipe just let me know. There are few more comforting smells (and sights!) than that of a piping hot apple pie with cinnamon. Mmmmmm! Through my Weight Watchers time I have learnt handy ways of cutting out fat in cakes, so this was even a virtuous one (well, relatively speaking!).

I did some crafts - I am making a rag doll. Her current state is that of nudity, so I'll spare you the photos, but I hope she'll be cute when she's ready. I do love my sewing machine.

All this cooking and crafting got me thinking of that age old question: home vs work. Of course, stopping to work is not an option for me, nor is it something I would like to do. I firmly believe that it is positive for a woman to have her own life, apart from that of being a wife and mother - something that is hers alone. I know that this is unorthodox to some, and I appreciate and am inspired by other people's choices (see post below about mothers) but for me having independence and a life outside the home is important. I've been inspired by my mother, who is passionate about her career (she's a doctor).

And yet I would love to be at home too, sewing, cooking, homemaking. As I said, not working is not an option, not now and probably not ever. But some jobs are more compatible with home life than others, and I need to think about what I want. I'm coming up to the point at which I have to decide which department to qualify into at my firm. This raises questions about the sort of professional life I want. I know that I don't want to spend my nights at the firm negotiating aircraft sales. I know I want a semblance of a life. A rich home life and a rewarding professional life. How to marry the two? I need to research further what sort of balance a post business school job would give me. I suspect that the balance in a corporate would be better than in a professional services firm. Big decisions are coming up, but it is exciting, forming your life, making choices, sculpting your very own path. Some of the readers of this blog have done an amazing job of taking risks and following their dreams and it is so inspiring. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Weight Watchers

So what happens when the author of a blog with the word cake in the title goes on a diet?

I did Weight Watchers really successfully over a period of about 6 months and kept that weight off for another year. I felt great, I was at my target of 55kg - even quite a bit below it. Slowly slowly I trusted myself without the points and the counting and even then I was slim. But suddenly I started gaining, eating food for comfort for the very first time. At first I convinced myself I would lose that weight, but that hasn't happened. And so, back to Weight Watchers I go. I'm going to get a grip on things once again. I'm going to regain control and fit into my tight jeans! I loved Weight Watchers the first time round so I know I can do it again. I will post my progress week by week. Audrey, a lovely colleague, and I are going to meetings. What will French meetings be like, I wonder? For one they are more expensive than English meetings. I will definitely learn new vocab! Audrey is lovely and I think we both have the same very sane attitude to weight loss. I am so so glad she has joined our office! Can't wait to go on the weight loss journey with her - I honestly can't think of anyone better or nicer to go to meetings with. Wish us luck!

And now, to kick start the weight loss, a favourite super scrummy low-fat recipe I made up: Flourless vegetable bake.

1: Boil 1 sweet potato, 1 regular potato, 1 broccoli and any other vegeables you like, then mash.

2: Add a can of spinch and a can of sweetcorn to the mix

3: Fry 3 onions in olive oil until golden and add to the mix

4: Beat 4 eggs and add to the mix

5: Season (I like a lot of salt and pepper)

6: Pour into an oven dish and cook in the oven at 280 until cooked through (about 30 mins).

You will get an incredibly healthy and totally moreish sweet salty scrummy dish and you'll go back for more, I promise!


I'm sorry that I haven't written in a while. I guess I've been settling back in after Boston, slowly devouring the Hershey's kisses I brought back to the office (everyone loved them).

It's hard being back - America always fills me with excitement, the power of possibilities. There is a lot to appreciate in McCain, for whom I have a lot of respect, but I am glad Obama won. I am glad that once again we see that America is the place where change can take place, where dreams are made, where, as McCain put it, history is made. I am so proud of America and still hope to make it my home some day.

So being back is hard. I miss my family and Marc. I miss my friends. Most fiercely right now, I miss my mum. I wonder whether we grow out of missing our parents - I think that as time goes by I miss mine more and more, I need them more and more. I love them so so much.

So I haven't written because there hasn't been that much to write I guess and because I haven't been feeling my best. But I am blessed and I had better act like I know it, because it is 100% true.