Thursday doors #20

Two weeks ago I featured a handsome door on the oldest building in the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence. Last week I featured a further selection from Aix and this week I have a few more. The town is a veritable treasure trove of old doors.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

The Musette: spiced rice pudding

If I have a flat full of cyclists, or indeed guests, you’ll generally find a large bowl of home-made rice pudding in my fridge. It’s instant comfort food which can easily double as a quick and nourishing breakfast before a long ride. Pretty much everyone loves it because it evokes fond childhood memories. My husband claims it’s one of the few dishes his mother used to cook well. Frankly I doubt it as, like cigarettes, the outlaw’s cooking carries a government health warning!

I don’t like a skin on my rice pudding. I cook it on the top of the stove and I eat it cold, often with compote of spiced fruit. This particular recipe came about a few summers’ ago when I trained at altitude with some cycling friends who (like me) had sworn off milk, cream and white sugar.

Ingredients (serves eight hungry cyclists)

  • 1 litre (4 cups) rice or oat milk
  • 500ml (2 cups) coconut milk
  • 1 fat vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 1 medium-sized cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 150g (1 cup) short whole grain pudding rice
  • 3 tbsp of rice or date or maple syrup


1. Warm the milk, vanilla pod and seeds, star anise and cinnamon stick in a saucepan over a low heat until simmering. This helps infuse the flavours.

2. Add the rice which you’ve pre-rinsed under a hot-water tap and continue cooking, stirring from time to time until the rice is tender. I find this takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from the heat.

3. Warning: don’t be put off by the putty-coloured and thick wall-paper paste consistency of the pudding.

4. Gently stir in the coconut milk to restore the pudding to a creamy colour and runny consistency. Add the syrup and the pinch of salt, stir to dissolve and check the sweetness. I do not have an overly sweet tooth, so you may wish to add more syrup, but do so in teaspoons rather than tablespoons.

5. Pour the rice into a serving bowl. Cover the surface with cling film (plastic wrap) and leave to cool. Do not remove any of the flavourings as they will continue to infuse the rice with their heady perfumes. When cool, put in the fridge. The pudding will thicken to the right consistency.

6. To serve, remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Remove the flavourings and serve either on its own or with a fruit compote (see recipe below in Sheree’s Handy Hints).

Sheree’s Handy Hints

 1. A more traditional rice pudding can be made in exactly the same fashion by substituting the rice milk with full-fat milk, the coconut milk with single cream, the rice syrup with 6 tbsp of caster sugar and retaining just the fat vanilla pod and seeds for flavouring. I generally work using the proportion of 150g (1 cup) of rice per 1½ litres of liquid (6 cups). Of course, it can be served either hot or cold.

2. I have also made the dessert using almond milk and soya milk but was less keen on the overall taste, preferring to use unsweetened rice or oat milk for the lactose–free version.

3. For a more Spanish take on the dessert, rather than the vanilla pod, use two sticks of cinnamon and a single large piece of lemon zest for flavouring. Serve the pudding cold with a dusting of cinnamon powder.

4. For the spiced plum compote, take 2-3 ripe, juicy black plums, quarter and remove stones. Simmer gently in a saucepan with a star anise and one cinnamon stick in either a few tablespoons of water or some plum vodka – I have a store cupboard full of all manner of alcoholic beverages which only get used for cooking – just until the plums soften and give up their juices. Sweeten as necessary with your sweetener of choice. I will generally use 1 tbsp of runny honey. Serve cold on the side with the rice pudding.

4. I have also served the lactose-free rice pudding recipe above decorated with toasted shredded coconut and with chopped fresh mangoes on the side.

5. There are a few more iterations that I have successfully tried with the traditional milk rice pudding.

  • A sinful adult version with the addition of a handful of raisins soaked in warm rum before the pudding is left to cool.
  • A more child-friendly version with the addition of 200g of dark melted chocolate.  Though, to be honest, plenty of adults enjoyed this too.

History of a Parisian foundry

I’m always fascinated by the history of the buildings we visit, particularly those which have been repurposed. On our most recent trip to Paris, both of the exhibitions were in buildings originally built for diffferent purposes.

We visited the Atelier des Lumieres, in Paris set in the former Chemin-Vert foundry in 11th arrondissement, a relatively new area for us to explore. Said foundry was established in 1835 by the Plichon brothers to supply the French navy and railway companies with high-quality cast iron parts.

In all, four generations of the Plichon family successively ran the foundry until the Great Depression in 1929. The company was dissolved in 1935; the site and buildings were sold to the Martin family, who are still the current owners. The foundry was used by a tool manufacturing company until that ceased operations in 2000.

In 2013, Bruno Monnier, the President of Culturespaces, discovered the former disused foundry. After creating the Carrières de Lumières art centre in Les Baux-de-Provence, he wanted to set up a Digital Art Centre in Paris. The Martin family, which was interested in the project, agreed to rent out the great hall and its annexes to him in 2014.

Four years later, after major renovation works, the Atelier des Lumières opened its doors to the public with its three inaugural exhibitions: “Gustav Klimt” and “Hundertwasser”and “POETIC_AI.” It’s most definitely worth a visit.

After visiting the exhibition, I took time to wander around the quarter. Sadly many of us are familiar with the area solely because of the November 2015 terrorist attack which killed 132 people and injured many more. I do know it’s the most densely populated arrondissement in Paris and its bars and restaurants provide an unrivalled convivial atmosphere, a certain “joie de vivre.”

It was here that Parisians began the French Revolution with the storming of the Bastille on 14th July 1789. Today the Colonne de Juillet, the towering golden Corinthian statue commemorating the 1830 Revolution, rests on the site of the old prison at Place de la Bastille.

Place de la République, its sister square, can be found at the oppostite end of Boulevard Richard-Lenoir where crowds tend to gather for political demonstrations. After the afore-mentioned terrorist attacks, this was where Parisians came together to mourn the victims and celebrate French unity. The area is also home to a number of green squares and open places and is a pleasure to walk around despite the lack of obvious landmarks or, maybe, because of that lack!



Sunshine Blogger Award V

Awards are like buses, you wait for ages and then two come along at almost the same time. I know lots of bloggers pooh pooh awards but I believe it’s a great way to encourage new bloggers and they help us all get to know one another better. It’s all about spreading some sunshine and who doesn’t enjoy that? Exactly!

I was nominated by a relative newbie to the blogosphere Saba Niaz Siddique,  a native Urdu writer, who started her blog in early March to help improve her writing in English. That’s a laudable aim and I know a number of the bloggers I follow write in a language other than their monther-tongue and they’re all to be congratulated. It isn’t easy and I say that as someone who’s a bit of a polyglot and, while I do write in languages other than English, I’ve never attempted it on my blog. So a big shout out and grateful thanks to Saba for the nomination.

The aim of Saba’s blog is to “Get rid of ignorance. Share what we know and search what we don’t know.” I feel this is very pertinent for all of us. She’s written some very interesting and informative pieces, such as the one on Ramadam. On a less serious note, she often writes about her cat Sweetie who’s just given birth to a litter of kittens. So don’t forget to drop by, check out her blog say “hi” and give her a follow.

Here’s those all-important award rules

1. Show the logo on your blog

2. Thank the blogger who niminated you

3. Respond to the 11 questions you were asked

4. Bestow this honour on other bloggers

5. Pose said bloggers 11 questions

The questions Saba asked me

Unsurprisingly, Saba has posed some very thought-provoking questions.

1. What do you think of my personality?

It’s hard to be specific when you only know someone through their blog. But I would hazard a guess that Saba’s a very kind, caring and thoughtful person possessing a lively and inquisitive mind.

2. Do you take stand if someone is abusing someone regardless of any so called difference?

Absolutely! Differences are delightful, they’re what distinguishes us from one another. They should be embraced and celebrated, not abused.

3. Write a short humorous post?

I have written a number of humorous posts in the past. Most of these revolve around something either I or my beloved have done, or haven’t done. Here’s one from my archives.

4. How long does your habit support your nature? (nature is who you are, and habit you adopt from nurture).

The nature vs. nurture debate is an ongoing current topic centered around the effect genes have on human disposition as opposed to the influences that early environment and development might have. I would say that I’m a product of my parent’s upbringing but that’s been heavily shaped by my experiences.

5. What would be the level of your excitement for Christmas eve in your salad days? Have you had any gift back in your childhood?

My salad days were quite some time ago but fortunately, despite my advancing years, I’m blessed with a good memory. As a child, I was always fairly hyper on Christmas Eve and up early on Christmas Day (05:00am) to open my presents though I tended to derive more pleasure from the present’s wrapping material than the present itself. Quickly repurposing boxes, paper and tape. Or, I used the present for something other that its intended use. I recall, I turned a beautiful doll’s pram into a wheel barrow. One abiding memory, from the Christmas before I was five years old, was finding my first two-wheeled bike, albeit with stabilisers, propped up against a tree in the park on a pre-Xmas lunch walk. It was red and shiny and mine. I quickly lost the stabilisers and had hours of fun riding that bike. Fun that I’ve never lost as I still enjoy riding a bike.

6. Paper books or e-books? why or why not?

I love reading and use my iPad to keep up to date with the news but I prefer to buy books, particularly cookery books. There’s usually a pile next to my bed which I enjoy dipping into and re-reading, seeking inspiration.

7. Have you remember your experience in primary school ( grade 1 to 5)?

Now, Saba’s really trying to tax my memory! My first primary school was a girl’s only, private prep school where I was in the class one year ahead of my age group. I sat at the front of the class under the teacher’s watchful eye as I tended to be one of the more lively members of the small class.

8. What do you do for energy saving?

Cycle! Eat local and seasonal.

9. Your occupation is your passion or profession?

Prior to my early retirement, I spent many years working in the financial services industry as a CFO in a largely administrative role, managing teams of people in some of the following functions IT, HR, Finance, Company Secretarial, Facilities which I much enjoyed, but I wouldn’t say it was my passion. I save that for my beloved and sport.

10. Would you like to share your bitter experience in life? (If any).

I gave this a great deal of thought because I’ve had lots of different experiences but I couldn’t remember anything that I would describe as bitter, or even bitter-sweet. Maybe, I’ve just been very fortunate.

11. What is the level of satisfaction for you?

I’m not sure I understand exactly what Saba meant by this. I’m a very positive person. On the odd occasions where there are clouds, I can always find silver linings. However, I always strive to do my best and am never satisfied unless I feel I’ve done that.

12. Don’t you think I don’t deserve this award…..

Hmmm, a double negative – I think we both deserve this award Saba. And you’ve asked 12 rather than 11 questions. Did you think I wouldn’t notice? By the way, I’m pulling your leg.

My nominees

This is my second Sunshine Blogger Award in as many days, although I have spaced out my responses. If you’ve taken the time to read my entire post and have found yourself here – Congratulations, you’ve been nominated.

Here’s my 11 Questions

1. Describe your perfect day and explain what makes it so.

2. If you could invite anyone (dead or alive) to dinner, which 5 people would you invite and why?

3. What would you serve at the dinner in 2 above?

4. What’s your favourite sport and why?

5. If you could solve one of the many problems facing today’s world, what would it be and why?

6. Are you a cat or a dog person?

7. Use 5 adjectives to describe yourself

8. How do you enjoy spending your vacation time?

9. What brings joy into your life?

10. At this stage in your life what’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt?

11. Who are you going to nominate for this award?



Friday Photo Challenge – bloomin’

What a fabulous burst of colour! Please don’t ask me the names of any of these flowers because I will not be able to tell you. This is when I could do with bringing my mother back. She’d be able to tell us everything we wanted to know and more……

This Sunday is Mother’s Day in France. My mother adored flowers and I would often buy her an extravagant  bunch to celebrate Mothering Sunday. I think these would make a fine bunch of blooms. Don’t you?

Thursday doors #19

Last week I featured a magnificent doorway in Aix-en-Provence from the oldest building in its main thoroughfare, Cours Mirabeau. This week I have a selection of handsome wooden doors from the Cours and its surrounding streets.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Postcard from Palma de Mallorca II

Having “done” Palma, on Sunday we decided to drive around part of the SW coastline, swerving past the tourist meccas of Magaluf, Cala Major and Palma Nove. It might not be as bad as I feared though it did look pretty built up from the air and loads of coaches had been waiting at Palma’s airport to transport the tourist hordes.

My beloved has business contacts who live in Port Andratx and have declared it the best spot on the island. We put their assertions to the test and found a lively, sheltered bay, populated with plenty of charming shops and restaurants plus some serious property and boat porn. German appeared once again to be the most used language rather than Catalan or Spanish.

We dallied at Cappucino, a multi-branch local restaurant, which serves excellent coffee before heading to Soller for lunch. We took the coastal road where cyclists easily outnumbered motorists 1,000 to 1. All of the groups we saw were self-guided and were largely English or German-speaking, wearing mostly Rapha and Assos kit. Mallorca really caters for cyclists with its temperate climate, wonderful undulating terrain, great road surfaces and plenty of cycle lanes in urban areas.

Port Soller proved to be another idyllic sandy inlet much populated, for a change, by local Spaniards enjoying the sunshine and a lunchtime seafood paella. We ate at a local restaurant with the obligatory white linen tablecloths and plenty of locals. We were not disappointed.

After a stroll along the bay we drove into the hills to check out one of the hotels we’d spied from the beach. Opened in 2012, the hotel is part of the Jumeirah Group and a warm welcome, plus panoramic views, awaited us in the bar. I think we’ve resolved where to stay on our next visit.

Having much enjoyed our panoramic trip to Soller we opted for the much shorter return on the main road and motorway. We returned to base in time for my beloved’s private pampering session in the Spa. On our final evening we were content to nibble once more on tapas in a lively bar nearby before sinking again into oblivion.

I’d intended the weekend to be an opportunity for my beloved to relax. His laptop had been banned though I did allow him to respond to urgent emails on his iPad. It’s good to decompress from time to time to avoid burn out.

We flew back home on Monday morning and both agreed it had been a relaxing weekend and somewhere we’d be happy to visit again. We’d also solved the thorny question of where to spend Christmas. We’ll be off to southern Portugal. My beloved has never visited while I last visited Lisbon and Estoril some 55 years ago!