Monday, 29 December 2008


I know I moan about being a manipulated consumer quite often. I know it, and I'm sorry.
But the post-Christmas healthy eating campaign really gets to me. It's so contrived. One day passes, and suddenly the endless chocolate, chips galore, cheese platters and other calorific goodies in the aisles are replaced with mountains of Special K and Ryvita as we are reminded to watch our waistline. Where were you when the damage was being done? Luring me in with two-for-the-price-of-one waist expanders of the sweet and oily variety? Every year the story is the same and it infuriates me.
I don't blame weight gain on them, and I don't expect them to help me find a solution. But I hate their assumption that I want to lose weight after Christmas.
Yesterday was the first day that the post was up and running again. What do I see on my doormat? Another invitation to rejoin Weight Watchers (if you are wondering about my latest attempt, let's not talk about it...). They are so clever. They couldn't even wait till after New Year, could they?

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Stopping and shopping

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas and is enjoying a nice long relax!

I'm slowly recovering from my flu, and it feels so good to be on the mend. Unfortunately there were several things that being ill prevented me from being able to do. There were some gifts I didn't manage to send in time, care packages I didn't get to, and that was disappointing. One thing that a high fever shows you though is how to stop. If our bodies didn't force us to stop once in a while we probably wouldn't - and I need to learn to stop more often, to go slower, to take time and not burn myself out.

I did get the chance to do some reading when I was in bed, and one of the books I enjoyed is called 'A Small Part of History' by Peggy Elliott, a novel about the female pioneers on the trail to Oregon. It was interesting, if not a great piece of literature. It was particularly moving to see the difficult journey through the eyes of women, and I enjoyed the 'journal' approach. This isn't the place to discuss how much I appreciate a female oriented approach, but it is something I hope to mention at some point. I went to a women's college at Oxford (St Hilda's has now started to accept men, though I cherished its single-sex status) and studied a lot of women's literature. I was fortunate to have been taught by some incredible female scholars. Lyndall Gordon, who has written beautiful biographies of Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte and others, once said in a tutorial something that I feel to be true: that there exists between women a special understanding that cannot easily be replicated in male-female relationships. So the female perspective pleased me. Since I have been enjoying learning more about the Mormon faith lately, inspired by my friend Ryan and by some fellow bloggers, I had been hoping for more glimpses of Mormon pioneers but references were sparse. Still, I often think it is a good sign if a book can inspire you to delve further into a topic, and this book definitely inspired me to read more American history.

It is sooo cold out, yet the streets are full of shoppers. England is having some of the best sales ever and people are intent on taking advantage.

I picked up quite a few bargains myself: two lovely coats, a shirt, a pair of trousers and some fabulous bakeware from Le Creuset! But the purchase about which I am most excited is the KitchenAid mixer. I have been droning on and on about how much I want one of these, but in France and England they are totally and completely unaffordable (650 and 500 dollars respectively). Luckily we have a family friend in New York who graciously agreed to accept delivery of the mixer, and I or my family will pick it up when we are next in the States. So I got my coveted mixer for $240! Yay! Yet again, I thought about how we are taken for granted as consumers in Europe. What reason is there for such a huge differential? Urghh!

I hesitated a lot on the colour, but finally settled on Metallic Chrome, so that it would go with everything. I hope I made the right choice - the colour looks different in every photo I see! Can't wait to cook up a storm!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008


No posts lately because I have been ill - I am hopefully ending my fight with the worst bout of flu I have ever had. Completely out of it, 39 degree fever, woke up drenched for days, slept all day, every limb seemed to hurt, stomach cramps.... horrible. Two days literally just went by in a fever induced haze. Luckily I managed to see a doctor right before coming home for Christmas. For two days I have eaten nothing - SO unlike me but I hope that soon it will all be behind me.

I am itching to get outside and have some fun!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Foodie Week

It has been a real foodie week. First, we had our department Christmas dinner out, then there was a fabulous Christmas lunch in-house, with champagne, foie gras, dover sole, a cheese platter and a famous Parisian patissier sur place to produce mouth watering desserts. A far cry from the dry turkey and old-looking sprouts I would have been given back home!
Yummy cheese platter:

By now rather empty dessert array, but you can imagine:

After that there were two goodbye drinks cocktails for two members of the team, and then there was all the cooking that I did on Thursday night.
My favourite colleague, Mathilde, left on Friday. Her internship has come to an end and she will be joining my firm in Paris. She is such a special person. She is so kind, so humble, so intelligent (doing law school, internships and her PhD thesis simultaneously) and I have had so much fun getting to know her. She was my food buddie in the office (were are both always hungry!). Normally, when interns leave the company, there is a lavish champagne and hors d'oeuves reception to say goodbye, but it was decided that this would not be done for Mathilde because we have been so deliciously stuffed and had had enough events for one week.

I thought differently though, and arranged something 'on the sly'. I had my secretary order up some champagne and I said I would deal with the food. I literally got about 3 hours sleep the night before because I was still making all those petits fours - 80 of them though I only had a 15 piece pan! I made gruyere and mushroom and spinach, smoken salmon and goat's cheese petits fours. I also made ginger cake with cranberries and a white chocolate and raspberry cake.

I do not often say this but I think that the last cake is one of the most delicious ones that I have eaten. It is so moist and the actual cake, not just the icing, is flavourful. I made the original recipe twice, stacked it and decided to put lots of raspberries in the middle to cut through the sweetness. I was very happy with the cake, so I thought I'd pass along the recipe below (written out for two cakes stacked, but you can halve it and make one cake).

White chocolate and raspberry cake


600g flour
4 tablespoons of baking powder
pinch of salt
400g brown sugar
500 ml milk
360g butter
180g honey
300g white chocolate
4 lightly beaten eggs
500g frozen raspberries, thawed
fresh raspberries to decorate

1. preheat oven to 160 degrees c. and butter your cake pans.
2. in a bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt
3. in a saucepan mix the chocolate, brown sugar, honey and heat on a genle flame. Mix until you have an even consistency
4. leave this to cool and then add the eggs and the flour mixture and mix
5. divide mixture into two pans and put in oven for about an hour or until a knife comes out clean.


100ml creme fraiche
300g milk chocolate

1. Put creme fraiche into saucepan and heat to a simmer. Add the chocolate and mix until mixture is smooth.

2. Place in fridge for 30 minutes and decorate cake.


1. Thinly coat uneven side of each cake with butter and leftover icing, then place 500g of raspberries on the bottom cake

2. Put second cake on raspeberry coloured cake and decorate to taste.

Here are some pictures of the day:

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Au Ciel de Paris and other (more serious) thoughts

Last tonight, to commemorate the departure of two people in the department and to celebrate Christmas, my department had a very smart dinner out in a restaurant called 'Au Ciel de Paris' on the top of the Tour Montparnasse, the highest (and ugliest) building in Paris. Can you believe that someone actually granted planning permission for this monstrosity?

I expected amazing food and even better views but, unfortunately, I got neither. There was so much fog out that we saw nothing from the 56th floor, and the food was decidedly mediocre. But I did have some lovely chats with my colleagues, and I realised how attached I had become to the company. I will really miss these people.

One of the people I spoke with is Austrian and, knowing that I am Jewish, he started talking about the Holocaust. He expressed a mixture of remorse, sadness and embarassment. I was so touched that he had visited Israel, that he mourned the loss of so many. It wasn't necessary to bring it up, particularly not on a festive event -and I appreciated his thoughfulness and gentle handling of the issue. He told me a lot about the politics surrounding the judgement of war criminals in Austria. Apparently for 10 years after the end of WWII many people involved were stripped of their right to vote. However once this restriction was lifted, suddenly this group represented a significant proportion of the population, a proportion to which the parties pandered in order to gain a majority, hence the difficulty of bringing people to trial. I didn't know that.

I have to be honest though: I didn't quite know how to respond. I tried my best to thank him and tell him that I was honoured by what he had said. I find that Germans and Austrians are always so knowledgeable about Israel and so sensitive to the issue - but he wouldn't hear of it.

It's not the first time that I have been in this situation and it is a hard one to handle. There is something to apologise for, of course, but it is not he who needs to apologise. Neither is it for me, really, to accept an apology. I don't have the right to do that on behalf of others. But I made sure I told him that I appreciate his thoughtfulness.

All we can do is appreciate moderation, appreciate the sentiment and try to do our part. Yet, if I am honest, with all the persecution in the world I'm not at all sure that I do my part. I think doing one's part starts with caring, with taking an interest. Following the news though it's not always comforting or fun. Knowledge is the start of empathy. Am I informed enough? How much do I really go out of my way to effect even the smallest change in the face of atrocities I hear about? These are questions that I ask myself frequently. I want to do more. Where to start? I don't have the answer, but perhaps with small acts of kindness day-by-day.

I once knew a man who was very active in the world of war crimes tribunals, government and academia. He had lofty ideals and the talent to effect change. He gave speeches, worked at the White House, had the best of contacts, set up charities, the list goes on. And yet, of all the people I have met, he disrespected and degraded me the most. A hero in one capacity, in every way visible to the outward world; a coward in the personal sphere, in which kindness does not advance one's career prospects.

My conclusion? I guess I don't have one. I learnt that overt activism does not trump small gestures from people who seek no recognition for their actions. George Eliot, perhaps my favourite author, expressed what I feel far better:

'Her full nature... had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive, for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts, and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs.' (Finale, Middlemarch).

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Help - deleted posts

Ok, I hate Blogger right now. I was trying to label some posts and ended up deleting some by mistake. It asked for no confirmation for this action. How did that happen? And is there any way to get them back?

Do you save your posts on your computer somewhere? I'm sad to have lost some 'family' posts and some of your comments. I am loving blogging, meeting new people and am so by what I have found and yet, right now, I lament the transience of the internet and yearn for the permanence of good old pen and paper.

Please give me your suggestions, tell me how you blog, help me prevent this from happening again!


Found entries on Google cached, missing a few comments but still - phew. Sorry for reposting something you've already seen, but I want to keep a record of it.

My Dad

For a myriad of reasons, I have the most wonderful Dad in the world. He is funny and kind and loving and generous, a man who goes out of his way for people all the time. Love him. He came to visit me in Paris this weekend. We walked around, went to see a movie, went to the gorgeous local market for yummy ingredients for lunch and generally had a lovely time together.This dark, cold, Monday morning I woke up early so that I could accompany him to the Eurostar terminal (to catch his train to London) before heading off to work. As soon as we got to the station he realised he had left all his keys and phone in the flat. We had to change his ticket, get a taxi back home, get his keys and then I went to work and he had to go back to the station on his own. Just one of the little signs that my precious Dad is getting older. You start to realise that you do more and more ‘parenting’. It made me a little sad, but I tried not to show it, not to show my stress at getting to work late, at forgetfulness. I didn’t want him to feel bad, to feel embarrassed. Life is too short not to be supportive, to worry about one day’s lateness more than his emotions. And how often did our parents run around for us, picking up after our mistakes? I have a strong feeling that if I don’t think this way one day I’ll look back and regret it. For now I’m glad he’s home safe and sound and am grateful for the lovely weekend I spent with him.
Posted by Vanessa at 16:33
Megan said...
Certainly don't let little things make you angry. In fact, don't let big things make you angry. My dad wasn't great, but I loved him, and I was refusing to speak to him for a couple of months because he had treated me with a lot of coldness and disrespect - calling me stupid, telling me I was ugly in front of my boyfriend. It hurt a lot, and I was mad, so I wouldn't speak to him.After about the sixth week of this, he passed away (almost a year ago now). Even though my dad could be unkind, dismissive, ignorant, argumentative, mean, drunk, and had a lot of really abusive qualities in him, it still really hurts to know that the last time I spoke to him, I hung up on him.Thankfully, your situation isn't as complicated nor drastic as mine, but just remember that a lot of times, we don't know what we have until it's gone.
08 December 2008 23:02
Vanessa said...
Hi Megan, I already left you a message on your blog but just wanted to say thank you. How wise and mature you are - thank you so much for this comment.


I have returned from Boston and I had SUCH a wonderful time! Most wonderful was being able to spend so much time with Ima. We had a glitch upon departure – her passport, though current, was not biometric, and at the airport they told us we could not fly. We were so sad and dejected, having planned this trip for so long. We had to change our ticket prior to departure to avoid forfeiting it, so we changed it to the following day without even knowing that the British Consulate could get Ima a passport in less than 24 hours. It was quite a leap of faith. We schlepped our bags to the consulate and filled out a passport form, took photos and returned to the flat, which smelled of paint because the painters had been there that day. All the furniture was covered in dust sheets and we slept in a dusty stinky mess, all the while worrying that the following morning the passport would not be ready. To our delight it was, and of we went to Charles de Gaulle again. We made it!Boston was gorgeous! The first day I visited HBS and sat in on a class. The students were open and excited and the dynamics of the class were quite incredible to witness. There was so much energy and excitement. I thought the case method was really impressive. My class was about an employee at a large bank who is a great performer but who doesn’t get along with co-workers and does not adhere to the company’s culture or guiding principles. The question at hand was whether he should be promoted. The students (from all over the world) had varying opinions. The professor really challenged the students to ensure that they were judicious in their approach. He took a vote on the issue and after the discussion asked people whether they had changed their mind. Another vote was taken and a decision was made. Only then was the class told what really happened. It was fascinating to see, because having worked through the problem the answer meant more - more could be learned from it and from its impact. I think everyone learnt something, and left the class upbeat.I then attended a student lunch and met some more students, who took the time to answer applicants’ questions and give their input. They were terrific. I felt motivated and excited. I had taken the GMAT prior to leaving and the score was disappointing. The maths score, of course, let me down. The verbal was strong. If anything could have given me the impetus to resume studying it was visiting campus.Ima and I spent much of our time just walking around Boston. We had coffees and drinks, ate lovely food and savoured the lovely atmosphere of the town. It is such a walkeable city. Ima attended her cardiac valve symposium, which she enjoyed, and together we shopped and talked and had fun! I came home with some great boots, some amazing bargains at Marshalls (I loved it!) and a year’s supply of Clinique! One of the fun things that happened was bumping into Vicky, a school friend who I had not seen since the first week of Oxford. She is working in Boston and radiated excitement and happiness at working there. I was so pleased for her and it made my day to see her. We had gorgeous weather for the most part. I loved every minute, literally, and can’t wait to go back! I only wished that Marc could see it all with me.
Posted by Vanessa at 11:24

audrey said...
what a beautiful landscape!I just want to go there too!!!!(V.your Mulberry is just fantastic)
05 December 2008 12:52

Sunday, 14 December 2008


It was a lovely weekend, but one thing was scary: I thought that I had lost one earring of a pair that I adore. They have a special story and I wanted to share. Dad used to be a jeweller, and still has an office in the jewellery center. One of his closest friends makes gold jewellery, and when Dad was visiting this friend, someone came in with some gold for sale, in the form of these earrings. The gold was going to be melted down and made into something else. Dad saw these earrings and bought them immediately, thinking it so sad that something so pretty would just be melted and destroyed. They are antique and I treasure them because of how lovely they are and because they are a gift from my dear father, who 'saved' them for me. I was traumatised at the thought of having lost one earring. I found it in the end, thank goodness! I am taking extra special care and bought rubber butterflies to attach to the back to lessen the risk of them falling off again.

Continuing with the jewellery theme, this afternoon I went to Galeries Lafayette to do a spot of Chanukah shopping. It is really incredible that the shops here are open on Sundays as Christmas approaches - this has never been the case before and is causing union fury (France and its unions, don't get me started).

There were so many people it was exhausting, but I had so much fun looking at brands I had never heard of before, and was particularly enamoured with a new designer, Marine (click on 'Marine' to visit her website), who was selling her jewellery herself (isn't it always fun to meet the designer?). She makes really fun, vintage inspired, whimsical jewellery, and it is affordable. I found a darling pair of earrings for my mum. I'm so pleased with my choice! One day my mum and her friend went to the market and all she came home with were some Russian dolls (babooshkas- sp?). I thought it so cute at the time, and I know she'll love these earrings:

And I was cheeky and bought myself this ring:

Here are some pictures of the beautifully decorated store:

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Baking extravaganza

I came home from work and just wanted to bake the week away. It is such a good feeling to finally be free to do that sort of stuff. And since Marc is visiting I wanted to make extra food.

Tarte aux Pommes

6 apples; 2 of each type
8 tablespoons of butter
8 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1/2 jar of apricot/peach jam
roll out pastry/ingredients for pastry.

This is a lovely dessert, much thinner than American/British apple pies, without the pastry on the top. I think tartes aux pommes are elegant and light, and a nice antidote to a heavy meal.

I'm afraid that I was too lazy/equipmentless to make my own pastry. It's not that hard, but without a blender or a rolling pin I wasn't going to make much headway with it! Luckily in France you can buy wonderful roll-out pastry and that is just what I did. But there are plenty of pastry recipes on the web, so no problems there.

You just roll it out and bake it blind at 220 for 10 minutes.

Then take 6 apples of choice. I like to vary mine, so I get three types and two of each. I think that this adds a lot of flavour to the tart. Melt about 8 tablespoons of butter in a pan, stir in a similar amount of sugar, add the apples cut and cored (but I don't peel them) and stir until apples have gone soft and peel is falling away. You shouldn't leave the apples for so long that they no longer have shape and texture - a mix of texture is best.

Add 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and you're set to pout the mixture into the now baked mould.

It should look something like this:

Then cut about 2 apples into very thin quarter slices and layer one on top of the other as shown below. Allow a bit of overlap because apples will shrink in oven.

Then get half a jar of jam, add a bit of boiling water, until it is thick but pourable and pour on top of the layered apples, to give a glaze and slight flavour.

Pop in the oven for 20 mins at 180 and you have a French tarte aux pommes!

Goat's cheese, spinach and smoked salmon quiche

100g of smoked salmon, thinly sliced
2 onions, diced
5 cloves of garlic, diced
can of spinach
3 eggs
3 tablespoons of olive oil
150 - 200g goat's cheese
roll out pastry
salt to taste

This is such an easy yummy dish you have to make it now!

Cut 2 onions and as much garlic as you can handle and fry in olive oil until golden.

Take a can of spinach and drain, so that you are left with less water (otherwise the quiche won't bind as well).

Add spinach, garlic and onion and 3 eggs to the bowl. Chop goats cheese roughly and add to mix. Add smiked salmon and stir!

Season to taste, and pop in oven for 20 minutes at 180 degrees. Et voila!

Fragrant comfort biscuits

Let me let you into a secret here. I know it's trendy and looks fabulous, but I don't really like fondant or icing or frosting. Too much sugar for me. So they may look dull, but these biscuits are just what I want with my tea: fragrant, light and comforting. They are thin but cakey, not too crispy. Give them a try on a day when you want something sweet but not sickly.

100g butter
3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons ginger
2 tablespoons cinammon
1 sachet of baking powder
2 eggs

It's as simple as this: mix the ingredients, roll out, cut shapes and put in the oven at 180 degrees for 10 minutes. Your fragrant treat is now ready, and your house will smell divine!

The recipe made about 40 cookies!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008


Ok, so I don't like to get too self-righteous/ grumpy on you but how much do you think a cake tin costs in France? A madeleine tin? A set of cookie cutters? Well, they are 30 euros, 20 euros and 26 euros respectively! That is about $100! That is the craziest thing I have ever heard!

Needless to say, I didn' t buy any of them, which has put paid to my baking ideas in the very near future. I mean, 3 gingerbread cookie cutters were $34. That isn't for real.

I was grumpy, so I treated myself to a mug some might deem ugly, but which I think is cute, and to some inspiring books on crafting. I am obsessed with red/white home decorations. Check out this brand, which I discovered tonight. I think it is divine. I dream of having a really rustic looking house. One whose mess is homely. One of my crafting books has ways to replicate these designs and I can't wait to get stuck in.

Whilst I'm at it, I thought I'd share with you some more photos of my way to work. Isn't it cool that I can see the Eiffel Tower from the metro? Apologies for the poor quality of these photos, but please remember that they are taken from a dirty moving carriage.

And, as promised, a picture of the snow. I know most of you are seeing more spectacular snow; still, to us, it is pretty special.

Wishing you all a lovely evening!

Happy Wednesday

Just a regular work day, post-lunch slump, and I thought I’d write a little update message !

It is sooo cold in Paris right now that yesterday it actually snowed. This is quite rare but it was spectacular and it put everyone in a great mood. It motivated me to learn how to use the slow mode in my camera as the automatic mode doesn’t catch snowflakes, rain etc.

I was so tired yesterday that I had no energy to cook when I got home. I stopped off at a fancy deli on my way home and spent too much money on not very much food. But it was delicious: poached egg with salmon on artichoke and beetroot and apple salad with Poilâne bread (for those who don't know it, some of the most delicious sour dough bread in the world). Gotta love the French take on a takeaway! Why no photos ? You guessed it: I was too hungry to wait to take them! After a long chat with Marc I started thinking about a few things. If I am always so tired why do I waste so much time in the evenings? Why do I take harried morning showers when I could treat myself to long leisurely soaks in the evening? Why do I spend hours on the internet and start my cleaning at 11? I have decided from now on that by 11pm I will be in bed. I have to do it to get the most out of myself and out of my day. Last night I took a silly girlie novel and sat in my grape smelling bubble bath and just enjoyed reading! It was so lovely and I mean to continue the trend.

I love Wednesdays and I think they are under-appreciated! Half way through the week, they are also BHV days. Audrey and I are going back to the BHV, to buy curtains for her and cake pans for me. I have a dearth of cake pans and cookie cutters and am excited to finally get some new ones. I want to buy some little organza bags to put homemade cookies and truffles in to give to my colleagues for Christmas. But the best thing of all? Dinner! Right behind the BHV is my favourite Japanese in Paris. I am obsessed with it (ie: have eaten there 3 times this week obsessed). You get Miso soup, salad, shashimi and tiny grilled skewers and rice all for 15 Euros, which I think is a steal. It’s fabulous quality and tastes amazing. I can’t wait!

Here is my shopping list, since last time I managed to forget the very thing I came for:

And as I googled for images, I found this. Click on it to see the funniest cake mould I have ever seen. What could it be used for? I didn't really want the picture on my blog, and you'll see why! ha ha! You really can find everything on the internet!

Check back for photos of the snow and of the day in a few hours !

Monday, 8 December 2008

Walk to work

I can't believe it - I'm well over half way through my Paris secondment and today I was informed that for my last seat I have been given my department of choice: derivatives regulatory back in the London office. I don't know much about the work yet but I know that it will be very interesting, particularly as so many people blame the current crisis on the lack of regulation in the financial markets. I'm excited! Sometimes I wish I could spend my days cooking and crafting and writing, but there are others on which I'm happy to know about finance, to be exposed to such interesting work and clients. It really is a privilege.

I can't believe that so soon I will be fully qualified. It has been a long long road, and yet so short in the context of a lifetime's career!

I resolve to savour my last few months here in Paris because I haven't enjoyed it as much as I should have. And yet I still have so many photos to share with you! The first of the bunch are of the view I see on my way to work. It's a lovely walk from the metro, and it starts with a flower shop (and we all know how much I love those!).

The last photo is of my new shoes! They are totally silly, but I think they're fabulous. And a fabulous pair of shoes always make the walk to work that much nicer!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Perfect flowers

Today something wonderful happened at work: Marc had flowers, the most resplendent beautiful flowers, delivered to my office. They made me grin from ear to ear with happiness. I knew that morning that they were coming because Interflora had called, and I was so excited! The delivery man didn't come til 5pm - it was a long wait!

Flowers are really some of my favourite things. They are just so beautiful and they make me so happy. I dream of a house filled with flowers! I have turned the heating down so they'll last longer. A habit of mine in to take photos of flowers I am given, so that I always have a memory of them. These photos don't capture my flowers' beauty, but I hope they brighten your screen and make you smile. They definitely lifted my spirits in a big way.

Big shout out to Marc: thanks honey! xxx

On my way home tonight I went to a gourmet shop to fill my little painted box. It was so much fun and I am so pleased with what I found: marzipan fruit, chocolate discs with nuts and marrons glaces, sugared chestnuts. They are a French delicacy and I adore them. Here's the finished product, which will make its way to London tomorrow morning in the post!

Pen and paper

There has been a lot of talk of cake these past few months. Indeed, there is one baking in the oven for Sophie's birthday tomorrow.

But what about the pen and paper? I'll be honest: I didn't give all that much thought to the title of this blog. An image of me sitting down with a journal - pen and paper - eating cake wafted into my mind like the smell of cake itself, and there was my title. And I love writing. I love stationery, pens, exquisite paper. I love sending packages, people's handwriting, even the sound of pen on paper. I am a primitive girl: I still use a Filofax and probably always will. There is something so special about mail, about journals. Some of my favourite literature is epistolary: I love letter novels.

And where better to find exquisite paper than the BHV in Paris? This is a DIY shop with a difference: it has a whole floor devoted to crafts and arts. I get lost roaming the aisles. Today there were live demonstrations of embossing and heating stamps, and I was riveted. I have never grown out of it - I hope I never will. I go here many Wednesday nights when the shop is open till 9, allowing me to shop after work.

Since I have come to France I have had more time - and reason - to write to my friends. I have sat down on weekends and written letters for the first time in a long time, and gone to the BHV to carefully select paper.

Today I was there on a special mission, however: Chanukah presents. I do not bemoan Christmas's material aspects: I love it unreservedly. Chanukah, however, is different in nature. No big presents, less ceremony. But this year I want to give personal gifts to those I love. I feel an imminent need to celebrate. Marc's parents are off to Australia soon and I wanted to get their present completed first, before they left. So tonight I bought a box to decorate and fill with special cookies and homemade truffles. Can't wait to get started on those!

Being the impatient person that I am, I had to start and finish immediately - a terrible quality. I decorated this box in about 1-2 hours. The only thing I would say is that these can be expensive gifts: the wood is real and that costs money, and in all I spent 45 euros, though I'll be able to use many of the materials again. I loved every second of decorating. I really want to improve my Hebrew calligraphy, but I'm still reasonably pleased with the outcome. The paint dries so quickly - it's marvellous. It's also very forgiving because you can cover mistakes. I so hope they like their gift!

Here are some pictures of the BHV and of the box.

Starting to paint:

Inside message:

End result (just need to add one more coat of varnish):