Friday, June 29, 2012

June Reads

My book karma has been excellent lately! I've been into lighter non-fiction, and somehow they just keep turning up in my library queue. 
 First up: The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken by Laura Schenone. What do you do when you find your great-grandmother's ravioli recipe and it includes Philidelphia cream cheese? Go back to the source, in this case, the lemony, herby hills of Liguria.

My favourite part of this book was her sheer determination to learn to make authentic ravioli. I love my job, and I quite like yoga and reading, but I'm just not that passionate about anything. I borrowed her passion for an afternoon and make ravioli myself. It was delicious, and I felt like I'd really accomplished something other than stacks of marking.

I also really liked the way that she was honest about her own struggles with her family and the ambiguity of looking for "authentic" family traditions. In the end, her father prefers ravioli with cream cheese. Who cares.

Next up: Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman.

Dogs are, of course, not human. You can leave your annoying dog in the house and go to yoga. You can't do this with your child, your spouse or your coworker. But some of Druckerman's advice jells with my favourite pieces of dog-related advice which I am convinced also work on the humans in your life.

1. Decide what your limits are (the French cadre) and stick to them. Mozart is allowed to sleep in the bed and climb on the couch, but he wears a cat collar from Walmart and he isn't allowed to pee on the landscaped shrubs or grass in front of the apartment building. I was on the strata. Those shrubs cost more than he did.

2. Observe before acting. On walks, Mozart prefers maniacal sniffing to covering actual ground. Treats weren't working. Pulling wasn't working. Finally, I read somewhere (Caesar?) to observe how dogs behave together. When we picked him up from the breeder, his aunties herded him around the kitchen like a herd of boarder collies with one small sheep. Now, I just walk right up behind him and cajole him on his furry little way.

3. You have to mean no.

Final book: The Churchills in Love and War by Mary S. Lovell.

Someone once told Winston Churchill that his infant child looked like him. He replied that all babies look like him. It's funny because it's true!

His family is full of American dollar princesses, Dukes, expensive cases of champagne, crumbling country houses, ambition, dysfunctional children and, of course, hilarity. This was a great read.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Rue Montorgeuil

 We stayed on beautiful, pedestrian Rue Montorgueil on our recent trip to Paris. After I read this recommendation, I knew that's where I wanted to stay. We rented an apartment that cheap (70 Euros a night!) and full of character.
We ate most meals here due to both the fantastic food and people watching. There weren't a lot of tourists and the servers were all very gracious with our limited French.
We collapsed at an outdoor table one day after the Louvre and ordered a couple of beers. Sometimes, when you go out on a limb, you can pink beer. Although, another night at the same cafe, I ate one of my favourite meals of our trip - a delicious bowl of herbed white beans with a giant "leg" of lamb.
Overall, I loved this neighbourhood and will definitely stay there again.

Friday, June 8, 2012


One of the benefits of teaching in the college system is the healthy chunk of time off you get at the end of April... perfect for travelling! Three years ago, we went to Italy, and this time we went to Italy and France.

For me, highlights included the Eiffel tower in the evening. I daringly hopped the fence (only to see the actual gate later) and we settled in between Korean students enjoying  a picnic and two South American couples. Everyone graciously took pictures of everyone else.

I also loved the Musee d'Orsay; it was a bit surreal to see the originals of the prints that I saw in art history textbooks and on dorm walls throughout university. (Those poster companies that set up in the Student Union Building in the first week sure love their impressionists).

I also loved the cafe culture: we ate almost every meal outside - in April (with heat lamps)! You might be eating dinner, but the two girls catching up next to you might be drinking wine and the couple on the other side with the small dachshund might be enjoying drinks with a plate of meat and cheese. Everyone was free to come and do their thing, and everyone seemed to be having the most interesting and deep conversations.

My football loving-boyfriend always finds a way to work a soccer game into our travels, which is tons of fun and fantastic for people watching. One of my proudest moments was explaining the precise location of my black umbrella to the lovely umbrella-check girl... in French!

Overall, the people were fantastic, the sun came out for at least half of every day and the city itself was lovely. We only saw half of what we wanted - missing Montmarte and Versailles, among others - so we will definitely be back.