Apéro? Yes please…….

Since moving to France, we’ve embraced with alacrity the traditional French institution of aperitif, called an apéro for short. Typically enjoyed with friends and family before dinner, l’heure de l’apéro is typically an hour of ‘apéritif’ drinks  –  wine, champagne, cocktails –  with nibbles. But the most important thing is the company. It’s about friendship, sharing news, keeping in touch. Since we’re currently deprived of company, we’ve been holding them on line or with just the two of us. So what do we typically drink?

Great drinks and cocktails for apéro

Kir is a traditional French aperitif made from white wine and liqueur, usually cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) or Kir Royale served with champagne rather than white wine. We also make them with peach and raspberry liquers. Possibly because we’re close to Italy, Aperol Spritz is a favourite here though I feel you can’t go wrong with either champagne, or a cocktail or two. Though we’ve discovered that our neighbours enjoy spirits, typically enjoyed more as a digestif. Thanks to my late father, my beloved has a wide selection of whiskies which always find favour.

But what I love about an apéro is finding the perfect nibbles to serve. Of course, shops such as my local boulangerie and Picard serve a wide range, but I like to make my own.

The perfect snacks for apéro

The first apéro we ever held was to thank our neighbours for enduring the noise and dust from our renovation. It went down well with everyone asking me where I’d bought my nibbles. I hadn’t, I’d made them.I still do though I’m not adverse to buying one or two items. I generally like to serve a mixture of hot and cold, only one bite sized nibbles and nothing that’ll dirty fingers!

Firstly, nuts, olives and savoury crackers or crisps are popular snacks with apéritifs. I make my own marinade for the olives, toast the nuts  – generally in a savoury and sweet mixture – and serve socca chips rather than crisps, and maybe some fingers of savoury cake. Last weekend’s Musette recipe was Mumbai pastries, these are too hot and spicy for my French friends. However, using a similar method, I’ll make bite-sized pastry twists or elephant ears with parmesan cheese, red and green pesto, anchovies or black olive tapenade.

Smoked salmon blinis, foie gras on brioche toast, truffle butter popcorn, slices of really good salamis, shot glasses filled with a cold soup, savoury choux buns,, small squares of foccacia……to be honest much will depend on what I have in my store cupboards, fridge and freezer. When it comes to warm appetisers, I’ll do mini quiches or mini tortillas, mini pizzas or pissaladière, cocktail sausages glazed with honey and mustard plus small, juicy agen prunes wrapped in bacon.

Of course, how much I serve will depend on whether it’s pre-dinner drinks and nibbles or a full-blown apéro dinatoire party. The latter will require some sweet treats to finish. I’ll generally make brownies served in small cubes, calissons, fresh fruit and cheese board.

Online apéro

These have been our go to saviours during our various lockdowns, generally held on Zoom. We’ll typically try to have a theme say Italian, Spanish tapas or Mexican and pre-agree on what we’re going to drink and eat. We’ve found that it’s a great way to inspire new festive traditions with our favourite people – even when we’re far apart.

Top tips for hosting a virtual apéro

  • Create an atmosphere: You don’t want this to feel like an online work meeting so set the scene and make this an occasion.
  • Send out invites in plenty of time so guests are geared up for whatever you’ve planned.
  • If you’re making cocktails, let everyone know what the ingredients are so they can all join in.
  • Make suggestions for the nibbles, particularly if it’s themed, plus recipes or suggestions where you can buy them. After all, not everyone has time on their hands.
  • Designate a host to make sure someone takes the lead in controlling the chat, less people talking over each other is good.
  • Play a little music in the background for greater ambiance.
  • Steer clear of politics  – that includes Brexit and Covid – as a topic of conversation if you want to keep it fun!

What have you been doing to keep yourselves entertained? Let us know in the comments below.

Cee’s Flower of the Day #43

This is such a lovely challenge from Cee, showcasing beautiful flora – flowers, shrubs, trees, bushes and leaves – to raise our spirits even though spring is just around the corner.

Cee’s challenge is all about bringing a little beauty and colour into our daily lives. Who wouldn’t be in favour of that?

Challenge rules, why not join in?

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

Sunshine’s Macro Monday #79

Someone kindly bought me a bunch of spring flowers!

Sunshine’s Macro Monday Challenge is hosted by Irene a formidable photographer who encourages us to scrutinise the smallest of details by getting up close and personal and bringing someone or something to life in a photograph. It’s a one day challenge without prompts. Feel free to join in and brighten everyone’s Monday.

Cee’s Flower of the Day #42

This is such a lovely challenge, showcasing beautiful flora – flowers, shrubs, trees, bushes and leaves – to raise our spirits on the dullest of days.

Cee’s challenge is all about bringing a little beauty and colour into our daily lives. Who wouldn’t be in favour of that?

Challenge rules, why not join in?

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

Last on the card: February 2021

Here’s my response to Bushboy’s monthly challenge, the last photo taken on my phone in February from my balcony while in weekend lockdown.

The challenge rules are simple:-

1. Post the last photo on your SD card or last photo on your phone at the end of each month.
2. No editing – who cares if it is out of focus, not framed as you would like or the subject matter didn’t cooperate.
3. You don’t have to have any explanations, just the photo will do
4. Create a Pingback to this post or link in the comments
5. Tag “The Last Photo”

French Fancies: Typology

This is where I tell you all about some of my and my beloved’s favourite French brands. This week I’m looking at a relative newcomer. Indeed, the company only recently celebrated its second birthday.

Established by Ning Li, co-founder of Made.com, Typology is a new Paris-based startup that designs and sells quality skincare and cosmetics products directly to consumers. According to Li:

Typology is a relatively ambitious project. We want to challenge FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods] brands with a digital pure player. I spent all my career working in e-commerce. I’ve seen a lot of industries move from offline to online. But some industries, such as cosmetics, food and do-it-yourself, have been migrating to online channels more slowly.

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Typology is now starting to make serious waves in the industry. Its turnover has massively increased during the pandemic. Aside from its cool packaging and branding, it has an incredible product offering. Not only are the formulas amazing, but the brand’s approach to skincare is what makes it stand out. Whereas products from many other French skincare brands risk overwhelming consumers with overly technical and scientific language, Typology seeks to totally demystify (and disrupt) the industry.

Typology Hydrating Serum 3% Hyaluronic Acid + 2% B5

Typology differentiates itself from cosmetics giants with simple lists of ingredients and no dangerous products for your skin or the environment. The company also promises that all its products are vegan, cruelty-free and made in France – all good, right?

So the company ticks all the right boxes but there are countless brands around the globe that make similar promises. The main difference is that Typology doesn’t want to become yet another small-batch beauty brand. The team wants to create an e-commerce giant with multiple sub-brands, hundreds of products and an aggressive e-commerce strategy. Li said:

Unilever, L’Oréal and P&G represent over 50% of the market. And on the other side, you have a ton of independent brands that are quite small and will probably never stand out.

Typology launches different product lines every month each of which has its own concept and its own sub-brand. Everything has been developed in-house.

On its start-up, the company launched three sub-brands. “Raw” is all about mixing products at home. You  order a kit and you get the raw ingredients  – oils, powders, spoons and a small box  – to create your own mask, hair oil, beard oil, etc. You can also order each product individually. Raw products are only made using one ingredient.

The “Lab” product line contains only cosmetic serums with its own set of properties depending on need.

Finally, “Ten” is the basic skincare product range, each of which has less than 10 ingredients. The company is started with face, hand and body moisturisers and moved onto shower gels, shampoos, micellar water and makeup remover etc etc

When it comes to branding and packaging, Typology uses minimalist design to represent transparency and simplicity. It’s also worth noting that Typology is a unisex brand. The company uses recyclable packaging as much as possible by relying on glass and aluminum.

Initially, Typology was only available in France, but the company quickly expanded to other countries following a significant seed round of funding: US $10 million from Alven Capital, Marc Simoncini, Xavier Niel and Firstminute Capital.

Some sub-brands will likely be instant hits while others might not attract that many customers. Typology is taking advantage of its funding to try many different things and experiment when it comes to positioning. It’s going to be interesting to see how the product lineup evolves over the years.

Images courtesy of Typology

Silent Sunday #56

Last year all my photographs were from Australia, this year they are from France. Obviously this photo was taken pre-Covid!

 

Song Lyric Sunday #30

What do I have in my archives in response to Jim Adams’ prompt for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday Challenge which is Breeze/Cloud/Sky/Wind. I’m going to choose something more recent this week: Rainfall by grime artist ¹ Stormzy.

Michael Ebenezer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr.  – a bit of a mouthful – known professionally as Stormzy, is a British rapper, singer and songwriter. In 2014, he gained attention on the UK underground music scene through his Wicked Skengman series of freestyles over classic grime beats.

Stormzy won Best Grime Act at the 2014 and 2015 MOBO Awards and was named as an artist to look out for in the BBC’s Sound of 2015 list. His debut album, Gang Signs & Prayer (2017), was the first grime album to reach number one on the UK Albums Chart and won British Album of the Year at the 2018 Brit Awards.

Rainfall’s the fourth track on his second studio album Heavy Is the Head (abbreviated to h.i.t.h on the album cover) released in 13 December 2019 which features a number of collaborations with other artists such as Burna Boy and Ed Sheeran. The album received widespread critical acclaim and by January 2020, it was certified Gold by the British Phonographic Industry.

In 2019, from the same album, Stormzy achieved his first UK number-one single with “Vossi Bop” and his headline appearance at the 2019 Glastonbury Festival was widely praised; he wore a Union Jack stab vest designed by Banksy, to highlight the rise in knife crime in London.

¹ Grime is a genre of electronic music that emerged in London in the early 2000s out of garage and which draws influences from jungle, dancehall and hip hop.The style is typified by rapid, syncopated breakbeats, generally around 140 beats per minute, and often features an aggressive or jagged electronic sound. Emceeing is a significant element of the style, and lyrics revolve around gritty depictions of urban life. It has been described as the “most significant musical development within the UK for decades.”

Lyrics: Rainfall

Ah, embody it, yeah
Let your man speak
I never put no colors on my timepiece
I told you niggas cut me out the grime beef
And now you got me fuckin’ up some Grime neeks
So ‘low runnin’ up your gums
Man’ll double back and then I’ll go and double up my funds
And when you’re finished suckin’ on your mums
I do another quarter mil, and get another number one, it’s like
I’m gettin’ bored of you boys
Flex on ’em, lookin’ like the Audemars boys
Big Mike, I was makin’ all of the noise
In a big fur jacket, that’s the thoughts of your boy
They rate me, that’s so blatant
When I saw the future, that’s so Raven
Whenever they say my name, I take a payment
Even when I make it rain I make a statement
Let the rain fall on my enemies
Fall on my enemies
Let the rain fall on my enemies
All of my enemies
Yeah, let the rain fall on my enemies
On all of my enemies
Lord, let the rain fall on my enemies
Let it fall on my enemies
Yo, goose in the winter keep my back warm
Told my little brudda keep my stack warm
Kill me with some rap corn
I’m a bigger hitter on a bigger platform
Now we do the Jigga walk
Reminiscin’ ’bout the spinners that my hitta brought
(So) So ‘low me with that Twitter talk
I can’t even hear you through these Brit awards (Ayy, ayy)
I put my shades on
Hoodie up and send a prayer up to Trayvon
They tryna figure how a nigga put his name on
And how a nigga did it with no chains on
I give you the keys to no stress
First you give God the praise then see him work
I can’t ever be on my knees, I’m too blessed
‘Cause any time I make it rain I’m reimbursed, then I-
Let the rain fall on my enemies
Fall on my enemies
Let the rain fall on my enemies
All of my enemies
Yeah, let the rain fall on my enemies
On all of my enemies
Lord, let the rain fall on my enemies
Let it fall on my enemies
Yo
Fall on my enemies
Fall on my enemies
Let the rain fall on my enemies
Fall on my enemies
Yeah, let the rain fall on my enemies
On all of my enemies
Lord, let the rain fall on my enemies
Let it fall on my enemies
Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance (I can dance)
I just wanna praise yah (Ooh), I just wanna praise yah (Praise you ooh)
You broke the chains, now I can lift my head (I can lift my head)
And I’m gonna praise yah (Praise you), I’m gonna praise yah (Oh, praise yah)
Take the shackles off my face so I can dance (So I can dance, I can dance)
I just wanna praise yah, I just wanna praise yah (Yeah)
You broke the chains, now I can lift my head (I can lift my head)
And I’m gonna praise yah (I’m gonna praise yah)
I’m gonna praise you (I’m gonna praise yah)
Fall on my enemies (Ooh)
Fall on my enemies
Let the rain fall on my enemies (Ooh)
All of my enemies (Ooh)
Yeah, let the rain fall on my enemies (All of my enemies)
On all of my enemies
Lord, let the rain fall on my enemies
Let it fall on my enemies

Source: Musicmatch
Songwriters: Jonathan Lee / Trecina Evette Atkins / Erica Monique Atkins / Warryn S. Campbell / Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Junior / Alastair O’donnell
Rainfall lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Ltd., Emi April Music Inc., It’s Tea Tyme, That’s Plum Songs, Campbell Kids Publishing

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: Ugly

Ugly? What do I have that has an unpleasant or repulsive appearance?

Ooh, I know, what about these sculptures from MoMa?

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: Mumbai Pastries

When I make a curry for Friday dinner, I’ll frequently make some chutney too. But what do you do with left over coriander chutney? You make these Mumbai pastries!

Ingredients (makes 8)

    • 10 tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
    • 3 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
    • 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
    • 2 medium green finger (or serrano) chiles, roughly chopped
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • 1 tbsp neutral coconut oil or vegetable oil
    • 400g (14oz.) vegan puff pastry sheet, defrosted
    • 235g (1 cup) vegan cheddar cheese, grated
    • small red onion, very finely sliced

Method

1.Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas mark 7/ (425°F)and line a baking sheet with greaseproof (parchment) paper.

2. Put the coriander, mint, lemon (or lime) juice, chillies, cumin, salt and oil into blender, and pulse until you have a smooth chutney that is both thick and spreadable. Taste: it should be hot, herby, salty, and sour all at once. If it isn’t, adjust for taste.

3. Sprinkle a little flour over your work surface and lay out the pastry. Spread the surface of the pastry with the chutney, leaving a 2cm (1 inch) strip free along the top edge (the side farthest from you). Add the cheese in a similarly even layer and scatter the onion over the top, then brush the exposed strip with a bit of water to help seal it.

4. Roll the pastry in a tight spiral away from you until you have a big jelly roll. Cut the roll into eight similarly sized pieces and lay each piece on the baking sheet with a gap between them. Brush each cut side with some plant-based milk, then place in the hot oven and cook for 20–25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and caramelized. Allow to cool slightly before separating and eating. We enjoyed these as part of a lounge picnic.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1.If you’re not vegan, feel free to use any sharp flavoured cheese, butter puff pastry and replace the water and milk washes with a beaten egg.

2. If you don’t like coriander, replace with flat-leafed parsley.

3. I sometimes add chopped toasted cashew nuts if I don’t have any vegan cheese to hand.