Ideal Inspiration Award IV

Many thanks to my dear friend James A Best – Author, who once again has most kindly nominated me for an award. James claims that: “My blog is just meandering thoughts to grab your attention.” But he’s a published author of two books so please check out his blog, you won’t regret it.

My Nominees

You know what, it’s only 5 questions so please respond in the comments section below or in a post of your own, if you’d like to join in!

James’ Questions

1.What is your best thing about blogging?

I blog because I can. I like that I can blog about whatever I want, whenever I want.

2. What is your typical day with Covid-19 being here?

TBH it’s not that different to pre-Covid except for the masks, handwashing and keeping one’s distance though, of course, both watching sport live and travelling are off the agenda.

3. Do you like home made vegetable chicken soup?

As a vegan, you lost me at chicken! I do however love home-made vegetable soup and have a pot of it on the stove most weeks.

4. Which of my blog topics would like me to write in my next blog?

I wouldn’t want someone to tell me what to write about on my blog, so I wouldn’t do it to you. It rather flies in the face of what I love about blogging (see 1. aabove)!

5. What is the best mountainous country would you like to visit?

I’ve visited a number of mountanous countries so it would probably be a re-visit to somewhere in Europe where I can cross-country ski.

And, here’s my questions for You

1.Describe your Covid experience using 5 adjectives.

2. What’s the weather like where you live? Is it fall or spring?

3. What, if anything, are you most looking forward to in 2021?

4. What are your plans for the forthcoming Christmas holidays?

5. Who would you like to invite to a dinner party (assuming a maximum of 5 invitees) and why? They can be dead or alive or fictional.

Pesky Award Rules

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to her/his blog.
  2. Answer their questions.
  3. Nominate up to 9 other bloggers and ask them 5 new questions.
  4. Notify the nominee’s through their blog by visiting and comment on their blog.
  5. List the rules and display the ” Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award” logo.
  6. Provide the link of the award creator of Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award as Rising Star from Ideal Inspiration.

Song Lyric Sunday #15

I really like that Jim Adams of Song Lyric Sunday Challenge gives us plenty of notice about each Sunday’s prompts. Today it’s season appropriate Ghost/Pumpkin/Trick/Treat/Witch. I’m not someone who celebrates Halloween though I will leave out some home-made treats for the neighbourhood kids who’ll drop by.

I’m going with “Ghosts” a song by English band Japan which was released in March 1982 as the third single from their 1981 album Tin Drum. It reached number 5 in the UK charts.

Bereft of drums, the minimalist track would probably not be described as a commercially viable single in most circumstances. However, Japan’s popularity in the UK at the time, in addition to the early 1980s fashion for new wave music, allowed the single to become unexpectedly popular. Smash Hits magazine described the single as:

……….arguably the best thing Japan have ever done – slow, spare and mesmerising.

Record Mirror made it Single of the Week and described it as:

……..the most stunningly original single you’ve heard for a long time.

Japan were an English new wave band formed in 1974 in Catford, South London by David Sylvian (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Steve Jansen (drums) and Mick Karn (bass guitar), joined by Richard Barbieri (keyboards) and Rob Dean (lead guitar) the following year. Initially an alternative glam rock-inspired band, Japan developed their sound and androgynous look to incorporate electronic music and foreign influences, eventually becoming an influence on the UK’s early-1980s New Romantic scene, though the band themselves were not a part of it.

Japan achieved success in the late 1970s and early 1980s, releasing nine UK Top 40 hits and scoring a UK Top 5 with the live album Oil on Canvas (1983). The band split in December 1982, just as they were beginning to experience commercial success in the UK and abroad. Its members went on to pursue other musical projects, though they reformed briefly in the early 1990s under the name Rain Tree Crow, releasing an album in 1991.

Lyrics: Ghosts

When the room is quiet
The daylight almost gone
It seems there’s something I should know
Well I ought to leave but the rain it never stops
And I’ve no particular place to go

Just when I think I’m winning
When I’ve broken every door
The ghosts of my life blow wilder than before
Just when I thought I could not be stopped
When my chance came to be king
The ghosts of my life blew wilder than the wind

Well I’m feeling nervous
Now I find myself alone
The simple life’s no longer there
Once I was so sure
Now the doubt inside my mind
Comes and goes but leads nowhere

Just when I think I’m winning
When I’ve broken every door
The ghosts of my life blow wilder than before
Just when I thought I could not be stopped
When my chance came to be king
The ghosts of my life blew wilder than the wind

Just when I think I’m winning
When I’ve broken every door
The ghosts of my life blow wilder than before
Just when I thought I could not be stopped
When my chance came to be king
The ghosts of my life blew wilder than the wind

Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind
Writer/s: David Sylvian

Challenge Rules

  • Post the lyrics to the song of your choice, whether it fits the theme or not. If it does not fit, then please explain why you chose this song.
  • Please try to include the songwriter(s) – it’s a good idea to give credit where credit is due.
  • Make sure you also credit the singer/band and if you desire you can provide a link to where you found the lyrics.
  • Link to the YouTube video, or pull it into your post so others can listen to the song.
  • Ping back to Jim’s post or place your link in his comments section.
  • Read at least one other person’s blog, so we can all share new and fantastic music and create amazing new blogging friends in the process.
  • Feel free to suggest future prompts.
  • Most of all, have fun and enjoy the music.

One word Sunday: creepy

I don’t really do creepy. I assume Debbie was thinking about upcoming Halloween but it’s not a holiday I celebrate. How about something that creeps?

I’ve decided to join in with Debbie Smyth‘s One Word Sunday challenge, largely because she sets them well in advance – always an advantage in my book. In addition, she’s a fantastic and inspirational photographer.

The Musette: spinach and chickpea curry

Although I typically plan our menus at the weekend for the following week, sometimes the weather changes such that we find ourselves longing for something either more refreshing or more warming. The Friday storm Alex hit was one such exception and we both fancied the comfort of a spicy curry. I generally shop at lunchtime on Friday when the supermarkets are relatively tranquil but I’d not gone out on account of the driving rain and high winds. My Smart car Tom doesn’t like really windy conditions! This meant a quick forage in the cupboards, fridge and freezer for inspiration. I always have jars of organic chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and frozen spinach in the freezer which happily with the addition of a few aromatics and served with home made parathas was able to satisfy our desires.

Ingredients (enough for 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 400g (14 oz) jar chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 600g (20 oz) bag frozen spinach
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp red chilli paste
  • thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 2 fat cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp neutral flavoured coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground tumeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • sea salt to taste


1.Using a pestle and mortar, finely grind the chilli paste, garlic and ginger together using a spoonful of water to help make a paste.

2. Heat the coconut oil in a medium sized frying pan (skillet), add the onion and cook for about 10-15 minutes until it’s transluscent.

3. Add the spices, tomato paste, and chilli paste and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes.

4. Add chickpeas and spinach with a 1/2 tsp salt. Cook until the spinach defrosts, ensuring everything is well combined. Check seasoning and add lemon juice.

5. Serve with rice or any Indian bread, and some Indian pickles.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1.It’s so easy to make Indian breads, why wouldn’t you? This time I made Paratha but you could easily make naan or chapatti.

2. You make the Paratha by mixing 125g (4 oz) wholemeal flour with 2 tbsp vegetable oil and 100ml (10 tbsp) water to make a soft dough. Set aside, covered for approx. an hour.

3. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Roll each portion to a thin round. Lightly oil the top before rolling up like a cigar and then coil like a snail before rolling out to a thin round once more. When all four are rolled out, heat a flat cast-iron pan (I use my pancake pan), oil it lightly and cook each paratha for about 2-3 minutes on each side until golden and cooked.

Sculpture Saturday #31

Today’s twosome have been touring the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastal resorts, though not under their own steam. Here they’re adorning the Croisette in Cannes but I saw them earlier in the year in Monaco. Blue Eyes is a figurative sculpture by Richard Mas (1954-) who lives in nearby Villeneuve Loubet. After studying horticulture he sort of drifted into sculpture.

This challenge is kindly hosted by Susan Kelly over at Ruined for Life: Phoenix Edition.

Share a photo of a statue or sculpture – go on, give it a go, you know you want to!

Friday Photo Challenge – smoke and mirrors

This week Amanda‘s Friendly Friday Photo Challenge is to share pictures and stories inspired by SMOKE and MIRRORS.

It might be a magic illusion, a symmetrical reflection, an accidental or deliberate set-up shot, or an image within an image. It is really up to us how to interpret the prompt.

I don’t usually use mirrors though occassionally find myself captured on film when I photograph something with a mirrored surface such as a door. However, I particularly like photos where either the scenery or buildings are mirrored in water. These are usually happy accidents!

I’m much enjoying these weekly challenges hosted on alternate weeks by either Amanda or Sandy because they force me to think about what’s in my photo archives and how I might re-purpose them.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, why not join in the fun?

Friendly Friday

One from the vaults: Reality, really?

I wrote this back in November 2012 and frankly it still holds true.

I’m a sucker for reality tv shows. By that I don’t mean any of the cringe-inducing competitive “celebrity” shows full of people I’ve never heard of who are trying to revive flagging careers. No, I love cookery shows, one of the earliest forms of the genre.

I was weaned at my mother’s knee on Fanny Craddock and her long suffering husband Johnnie. Yes, I really am that old! I loved the way Fanny used to boss Johnny around, although I was less impressed with her cookery skills, I thought my mother was much better. The next show I recall was the Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr, who seemed to add cream, butter and wine to everything he cooked. No wonder his guests from the audience thought it tasted great. Why wouldn’t it? Naughtily, I often longed for someone to pull a face and say it tasted dreadful.

I should add that none of this prompted me to cook until I went to University and had to fend for myself. I was fortunate to share a flat with a number of girls who enjoyed cooking and this was where my interest germinated and flourished. Indeed I now like nothing better than spending hours pouring over my extensive  – seriously extensive – collection of cookery books before whipping up something new. Sometimes I’ll follow a recipe to the letter other times I’ll use it as inspiration.

Over the years I’ve become more discerning in my television viewing though with the advent of cable you can watch cookery programmes 24/7. I prefer those featuring great chefs such as Raymond Blanc or Michel Roux where inevitably I find myself learning some new technique or picking up a helpful hint or two. Their recipes I follow religiously. If they say whip something for 30 seconds over a bowl of iced water, that’s what I’ll do. Gratifyingly my attempts then more often resemble the photographs in their cookery tomes.

That said I also enjoy cookery shows where they demonstrate how easy it is to throw together a meal quickly and easily, providing you’ve done the planning and preparation beforehand. I tend generally to eschew any American cookery programmes  where calorific caution appears to be thrown to the wind and supersize is the order of the day. Also there seems to be a large number of programmes where the  – I hesitate to use the word chef – host doesn’t appear to be able to cook too well at all. Best avoided, I feel!

Equally, I really enjoy those programmes with a competitive element such as Master Chef or Professional Master Chef. While I’m often very impressed with the skills exhibited in the former, I find myself woefully underwhelmed by many in the latter. It’s no wonder they never say exactly where they work!

As a recent convert to baking I have also enjoyed the Great British Bake Off which I again watch in the interests of gleaning helpful titbits to improve my repertoire. I’m was fortunate that my English class of teenage boys were happy to act as guinea pigs for my baked goodies and, while they were not the most discerning group, it was easy to tell which were their favourites. That was when, despite however much I baked, I was left with just crumbs. I note with interest that the number of shows connected with baking also seem to be proliferating.

Of course, there’s versions of  MasterChef, and it’s professional equivalent, on French television. The shows are much longer, more intense and the contestants display a much greater knowledge and level of skills. It’s still pretty compelling viewing. No sign yet of a Great French Bake Off but I bet there’s one in the works.

Thursday doors #90

Today, and for the next few weeks, my selection of doors comes from Menton’s Old Town.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite 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).

My A-Z of Paris: Part II

You’ll find A-M in Part I of my selection of Parisian landmarks. I’ve been visiting Paris regularly since I was 15 years old and over the years, having stayed in many of Paris’ different quartiers, there’s not much I haven’t seen. However, when i was writing this I was very conscious that I couldn’t include all the places I love. So, maybe I’ll do some more posts. This time by arrondissement.

N: Notre Dame

This is the medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement, France’s most visited monument and considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Its pioneering use of the rib vault and flying buttress, its enormous and colourful rose windows, as well as the naturalism and abundance of its sculptural decoration set it apart from the earlier Romanesque style.

While undergoing renovation and restoration, the roof of Notre Dame caught fire in April 2019, sustaining serious structural damage. Stabilizing the structure against possible collapse is expected to continue until the end of 2020, with restoration beginning in 2021. The government hopes the relatvely faithful reconstruction can be completed by Spring 2024, in time for the opening of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

O: Musée d’Orsay

Easily one of my favourite museums and one of the largest art museums in Europe. It’s in 7th arrondissement on the Left Bank of the Seine and housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture and photography. It houses the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.

P: Panthéon

Located in 5th arrondissement, it was originally built as a church dedicated to Ste. Genevieve, but now functions primarily as a mausoleum for famous French heroes. It is an early example of Neoclassicism realised by the architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot, with its facade modeled after the Pantheon in Rome. Its large crypt, covering the whole surface of the building accommodates the vaults of some of Frances most famous: Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Jean Moulin, Madame Curie, Louis Braille, Jean Jaurès, Soufflot, and most recently, Simone Veil.

Q: Les Quais de la Seine

The river Seine tells the story of Paris, from its birthplace on the Île de la Cité to the transformation of the quays at Bercy upstream and the triumphant Eiffel Tower downstream. When wandering around Paris, I rarely bother with the Metro, preferring to wander along the riverbanks (UNESCO World Heritage Site) to my chosen destination. That way I can more easily enjoy the river, its bridges and islands. Daytime or night time, Left Bank or Right Bank, there’s always a buzz of activity along the quaysides with people enjoying themselves whatever the weather. It’s the life blood of the city.

R: Place de la République

The square, which borders 3rd, 10th and 11th arrondissements, was originally called the Place du Château d’Eau, took its current shape as part of Baron Hausmann’s vast renovation of Paris. In the centre of the Place de la République is a 9.4m (31 feet) bronze statue of Marianne, the personification of the French Republic, “holding aloft an olive branch in her right hand and resting her left on a tablet engraved with Droits de l’homme (the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen).” The statue sits atop a 23 m (75 feet) pedestal. Marianne is surrounded by three statues personifying liberty, equality, and fraternity, the values of the French Republic.

The monument was created by the brothers Charles and Léopold Morice from an art competition announced in early 1879 by the Paris City Council, which sought to create a “Monument to the French Republic” in honour of the 90th anniversary of the French Revolution, to be erected on the Place de la République. In 2013 the square was transformed into a pedestrian zone. The square is frequently used as a location for crowds to gather whether they’re mourning the terrorist attacks in 2015 or wearing gilets jaunes and protesting against President Macron.

S: Sacré-Cœur Basilica

This is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, though a popular landmark and the second most visited monument in Paris. The basilica stands at the summit of Montmartre, the highest point in the city. It was designed by Paul Abadie. Its construction was completed in 1914 but it wasn’t consecrated until after the end of WWI in 1919.

The overall style of the building is Romano-Byzantine, a conscious reaction against the neo-Baroque excesses of buildings such as the Palais Garnier. It’s built of travertine stone quarried in the Seine-et-Marne and the basilica complex includes a garden for meditation, with a fountain. The top of the dome is open to tourists and affords a spectacular panoramic view of the city of Paris, which is mostly to the south of the basilica.

T: Le Train Bleu

Regular readers of my blog know that most of our trips to Paris are punctuated by lunch at this iconic restaurant in the Gare de Lyon. Le Train Bleu is a majestic setting where one steps back in time to a more genteel era and the show takes place in the kitchen as well as the restaurant. Steeped in history, this establishment showcases France’s finest cuisine but with a lighter touch.

U: Officine Universelle Buly 1803

This is a Paris-based beauty emporium, reflecting a certain French art-de-vivre and elegance with shops in 3rd and 6th arrondissements which are heavenly to wander around. Buly offers products that draw on the most innovative cosmetic techniques and the virtues of natural ingredients. The brand takes inspiration in forgotten or unsung beauty secrets, sometimes from the most remote geographies.

The brand harks back to late 18th century and the famed Jean-Vincent Bully, established in 1803 on rue Saint-Honoré in Paris,  who made a name for himself (which he then wore with a double consonant) with his perfumes and scented vinegars. It was (re-)founded and is operated by Victoire de Taillac and Ramdane Touhami, within the LVMH stable, and has stores across the globe.

V: Place des Vosges

Easily one of my favourite spots in Paris which is surrounded by some beautiful and eye wateringly expensive Parisian property porn. The Place des Vosges, originally Place Royale, is the oldest planned square in Paris and it’s located in my beloved Le Marais district, straddling the dividing-line between 3rd and 4th arrondissements. It was built by Henri IV on the site of the Hôtel des Tournelles and its gardens.

It is surrounded by 36 houses of considerable historical significance built between 1605 and 1612. This was the first urban planning project, designed in perfect symmetry, with a continuous ground floor arcade and opposing gateways, probably by Jean Baptiste Androuet du Cerceau and was a prototype of the residential squares of European cities that were to come.

In the late 18th century, while most of the nobility moved to the Faubourg Saint-Germain district, the square managed to keep some of its aristocratic owners until the Revolution. It was renamed in 1799 when the département of the Vosges became the first to pay taxes supporting a campaign of the Revolutionary army. The Restoration returned the old royal name, but the short-lived Second Republic restored the revolutionary one in 1870. Today the square is planted with a bosquet of mature lindens set in grass and gravel, surrounded by clipped lindens, and is  much visited.

W: World Heritage Centre (UNESCO)

The Unesco HQ in 7th arrondissement was inaugurated in 1958. The building combined the work of three architects: Bernard Zehrfuss (France), Marcel Breuer (Hungary) and Pier Luigi Nervi (Italy). The main building, which houses the secretariat, consists of seven floors forming a three-pointed star. There are two other buildings designated for permanent delegations and non-governmental organisations. These buildings occupy a trapezoidal area of land measuring 30,350 square metres (326,700 sq ft), cut into the northeast corner of the Place de Fontenoy.

X: Saint-François-Xavier-des-Missions-Etrangères

The Church is located in 7th arrondissement, a stone’s throw from the Hôtel des Invalides. It is dedicated to Francis Xavier of Basque origin, one of the founders of the Jesuit Order. The church was completed in 1873 and over the years has gathered a wealth of religious art objects, including The Last Supper by Tintoretto. But what makes Saint-François-Xavier Church so special is that it houses the shrine containing the preserved body of Sainte Madeleine-Sophie Barat, the holy woman who from 1806 to her death in 1865, worked tirelessly to help educate young girls. As a result, several girls’ schools were founded during the reign of Napoleon III. She is considered one of the earliest feminists in French history.

Y: Musée Yves Saint Laurent

The Musée  exhibits the late couturier’s body of work on the legendary premises of his former haute couture house, in 16th arrondissement. Over fifteen years after the haute couture house closed, the Musée opened in 2017 in the legendary hôtel particulier where Yves Saint Laurent spent nearly thirty years designing his collections from 1974 to 2002. The same building serves as the headquarters of the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent.

The Musée focuses on both the couturier’s creative genius and the process of designing a haute couture collection. Beyond its monographic ambitions, the museum seeks to address the history of the twentieth century and the haute couture traditions that accompanied a way of life that no longer exists. The museum is the first of this scale dedicated to the work of one of the twentieth century’s greatest couturiers to open in the capital of fashion.

Z: Musée Zadkine

Close to the Jardin du Luxembourg  – another of my favourite spots – in 6th arrondissement, the Musée Zadkine, tucked away in the greenery of a sculpture-filled garden, is the home and workshop of Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967). He was a Russian sculptor and a major figure at the Ecole de Paris who lived and worked in Paris from 1928 to 1967.  I particularly like small museums dedicated to the work of one artist or a tightly curated theme. Here the museum offers a tour of his evolution of a sculptor from the ‘primitivism’ of his first sculptures carefully carved in wood or stone to the strict geometry of Cubism works. Above all, Zadkine’s work has an endless freedom and vitality.