18 Sept 2023

Paris, what can I say about you that hasn't been said before? It's equal parts sublime and frustrating.

I stayed in Goncourt, an area I'd not stayed in before, and visited some new to me places as well as old favourites. One thing for sure, 3 full days in Paris was never going to be long enough. I hared around as quickly as my feet and the Metro would allow, not helped by my complete inability to follow phone directions. Guaranteed, I ended up walking in the wrong direction every single time. Call me a fossil, but I need an old fashioned paper map that I can turn upside down.

I vowed I would consume a pastry a day and that I did. They were of varying quality and price and the best of the lot was this pain aux raisin from The French Bastards.

No place is at its best when it rains and on my first day in Paris it absolutely bucketed down. Unfortunately that was the day I spent in the Marais, one of my favourite places in Paris, and with such limited time, I wasn't able to return.

After my pastry run, I made my way to Merci, a store I photographed many years ago. Since then it's popularity has grown and the place was packed. It was then a toss up between Museums, either the Musee Carnavalet or the Musee Picasso.

I chose the recently renovated Musee Carnavalet but in retrospect I wish I'd chosen the Musee Picasso. The history of Paris was less engaging to me than the works of Picasso.
Air conditioning isn't much of a thing in Paris so the museum was pretty hot and stuffy. I was quite happy to be outside in the rain photographing the pretty gardens.
I then walked down Rue des Roisiers but by this time the rain was so heavy and my jeans and shoes were wet, so I gave up and went home for the day.
The next day although there wasn't too much sun, at least it didn't rain. I started my day with a market, the new to me Marche Monge, which was charming.

As you can see despite the heat, autumn had come to Paris.
I wish you could had smelt these strawberries. The perfume was so intense and best of all, they tasted like strawberries.

I visited the Arab World Institute for the rooftop view over Notre Dame.

As I was on the left bank I walked to the Odette, a pastry shop housed in an extremely old building. As you can imagine Odette is an instagram magnet and I had to wait a very long time for the crowds to part.

I visited the Jeu de Paume, to see a black and white photographic exhibition then walked through the Tuileries.

I kept walking until I reached the Galeries Vivienne, one of the many covered passages of Paris, where I photographed this pooch.

I then crossed the street to the recently reopened Bibliothèque Nationale de France - Richelieu to see the fabulous Oval reading room.

The next day, my final day in Paris was meant to be low-key but in the end I spent the whole day running around. I started the day with a visit to 
Musée de la Vie Romantique a small museum near Pigalle.

It has a pretty little garden and I sat writing postcards under these heavily scented blooms.

I planned a bit of light shopping around the Rue Montorgueil area where all the kitchen shops are located. I somehow managed to turn a 2 minute walk between shops into a 45 minute escapade.

Eventually I found the shop and left with my goodies but walked past many an eatery en route.

Do you think these customers knew I was taking their photo?

I stopped by the Galeries Lafayette for a final view of Paris. Nowhere near as good as the view from Printemps but their terrace is now reserved for restaurant customers only.

Such a pity the sun only came out on my final day but then again, I'll always have Paris!

See you all again soonish with some photos from my time in Slovenia. 

Bye for now, 



13 Sept 2023

Have you ever been to Glasgow? I've been there so often, it feels like a home away from home for me. I stay with my good friend Kay; I play with her dog Boris and together we catch up over copious cups of tea. 

When I'm not drinking tea, I catch the bus into town and roam around.

I missed my stop and accidentally ended up at Glasgow University, which was no hardship because I love the quandrangle there. I also dropped into the Hunterian Museum and learned a lot about Lord Kelvin.

I made my way into the city and found Buchanan Street abuzz and the crowd bopping to a rockabilly group called The Best Bad Influence.

Kay stables her horse at a farm so on Saturday we went for a walk around the back roads, where I spied brambles, thistles and cows.

On Sunday we went for a walk around the Pollok Country Park, then visited the Burrell Collection.

Pollok House is surrounded by beautiful gardens and the dahlias were in bloom.
My favourite vista
The urn that I first photographed about 20 years ago on black and white film.

I still have more images to share with you, but as this blog post has taken me more hours than I care to share, I'll be back next week with some highlights of my time in Paris. 

Bye for now,



7 Sept 2023

Greetings from London, where I've just spent the past few days struggling equally with jetlag and from the unexpected heat. 

I've had a few camera issues since my arrival - a few days ago I had a flat battery at a key moment coupled with the filthiest sensor I've ever seen and then the focus on my camera stopped working. Most likely issues one and two are connected to issue 3. Somehow, I managed to get the auto focus working again, but some of the images I took on the day are a little 'soft'. Unfortunately, I'm not in one place long enough to get the sensor cleaned or the focus issue looked into.

So how have I spent my time? I visited Somerset House, where I found children gambolling in the fountain in an effort to combat the heat. 

I visited the Chelsea Physic Gardens, a little beacon of calm in the city.
I arrived in time to take in the golden glow of the afternoon.
As I was staying in Fulham Broadway, I walked past the Stamford Bridge Stadium, home to the Chelsea FC, to the Brompton Cemetery, a place I'd not been before. I loved it so much; I visited it twice so expect an avalanche of photographs sometime in the future.

No visit to London is complete without a visit to Borough Market, where I photographed these beautiful artichokes and white asparagus.
My last day ended with a stroll along Marylebone High Street and a droolworthy visit to the Conran Shop.

Camera issues and unstable internet do not allow for long blog posts so I hope you'll understand that my posting will be irregular. I plan to do some proper blog posts once I'm back home with my familiar laptop and software and of course get my film developed.                                                                                 

Next stop Glasgow. 

See you all again soonish. Bye for now, 


claire ptak marble cake

28 Aug 2023

Hi all, I've have been travelling all over the place the past 10 days or so. I've just been to Dungog and back to see my brother and his new puppies, hence the delay in posting today's recipe.

I whipped this cake up just before I drove to Dungog and photographed it whilst up there. The icing was a little damaged en route which you might be able to notice in one of the photos.

The recipe comes from Claire's Ptaks new book, Love is a Pink Cake. It's a simple buttery vanilla and chocolate marble cake topped with a delicious white chocolate glaze, which in my opinion makes the cake. 

Here's the recipe for you which is adapted from Claire Ptak's cookbook, Love is a Pink Cake, which makes an 8 x 4 inch loaf cake. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.

Claire Ptak Marble Cake 
175g unsalted butter, very soft, plus extra for greasing 
175g caster sugar
2 eggs
1½ tsp vanilla extract
175g plain flour 
1 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
⅓ cup buttermilk 
50g cocoa powder 
80g boiling water 

120g icing sugar 
1½ tbs hot water
60g white chocolate, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 190°C conventional and grease and line a small loaf tin, about 8 x4 in, with baking paper. Make sure the paper comes up the sides of the tin.

Put the butter and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and cream together well, but not as fluffy as you would for a layer cake. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt  together in a large bowl. Mix in half of this flour mixture, scraping down the sides as you go, until barely combined. Keep the mixer going while you add the buttermilk. Add the remaining flour and mix until just combined, then scrape down the bowl and give it one last mix.
Spoon one third of the mixture into a bowl and set aside. Whisk together the cocoa powder and boiled water until smooth. Allow the mixture to cool a little then stir it into the reserved cake mixture until it's incorporated.

Spoon a third of the plain mixture into the base of the prepared tin, then alternate dollops of chocolate mixture and plain mixture to look like a checkerboard. Run a knife through the batters in a swirling motion to create a marble effect. Less is more here, so resist the temptation to over-swirl.

Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until springy and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin completely before icing.

To make the icing, place the sifted icing sugar, hot water and cooled melted white chocolate in a small bowl and whisk together until smooth. Remove the loaf from the tin by running a small knife around the sides of the tin, then tilting the tin on its side and coaxing the loaf out, using the baking paper as a handle. Remove the paper and turn the loaf upright on your wire rack. Drizzle over the icing and let it drip down the sides, then carefully transfer to a serving dish.

My cake barely rose and I'm not sure if that's the way the cake should be but I suspect my baking powder might have passed it's use by date. I'm going to whip up another one for my neighbours with fresh baking powder and see what happens. It was delicious anyway, barely risen or not.

See you all again some time next week with, fingers crossed, some travel photos. I have a new laptop and all new editing software, which I'm hoping I'll learn to use in the next few days. Wish me luck.

Bye for now,



pistachio and lime syrup cake

16 Aug 2023

I love cookbooks but I ran out of shelf space long ago. Last year I realised I could borrow cookbooks from the library and scan the recipes that appealled to me, before returning the book for someone else to enjoy.

That's how I came upon this recipe from Belinda Jeffery which I found in her latest book, 'In Belinda’s Kitchen – Essential Recipes'. As I'm going away soon, I wanted to use pantry staples and items already in my fridge, like the 4 limes I found lurking in the vegetable drawer, so this pistachio and lime syrup cake fitted the brief. 

Belinda writes foolproof recipes, so I knew this cake would turn out perfectly as long as I followed her instructions although I did deviate from the recipe a little. As I had to pull out the food processor to grind the pistachios, I decided to make the cake batter in there as well and it turned out just fine. Instead of using pomegranate seeds, I used dried rose petals which were already in the cupboard and of course I halved the recipe to suit my small tin.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 17cm cake. If you'd like to make a larger cake, the original recipe can be found hereFor all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.

Pistachio and lime syrup cake - makes a 17cm cake
30g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
50g pistachios, finely ground
1½ tbs finely grated zest, approximately 2 large limes 
60g almond meal 
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
110g caster sugar
2 × 60g eggs, at room temperature
1 tbs dried rose petals to decorate, optional
rich cream or thick Greek-style yoghurt, to serve

Syrup and topping
45g caster sugar
¼ cup (60ml) fresh lime juice (from about 2 large limes), strained 
45g pistachios, roughly chopped

Preheat your oven to 170°C, conventional. Butter a 17cm round cake tin, line the base with buttered baking paper then dust the tin with flour. 

Tip the flour, baking powder, ground pistachios, lime zest and almond meal into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk them together with a balloon whisk for a minute or so, then set the bowl aside. 

Put the butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer (or use a hand-held electric beater) and beat them on medium speed for about 4 minutes, stopping and scraping down the sides occasionally, until the mixture looks creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, allowing each egg to be absorbed before adding the next. (Don’t worry if the mixture looks a little curdled after adding the last egg – it will come together again when you add the dry ingredients.) Tip in the flour mixture and mix everything together on low speed until it is just combined – be careful not to over-mix it, or the cake may be a bit tough. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top. 

Bake the cake for 45–50 minutes, or until it springs back when lightly pressed in the centre and a fine skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer it to a wire rack and leave it to cool a little in the tin.

When the cake is lukewarm, make the syrup. To do this, put the sugar and lime juice into a small saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the chopped pistachios, increase the heat and bring the mixture to the boil. Turn the cake out onto a serving plate and peel away the baking paper. Slowly spoon the hot pistachio and lime syrup evenly over the top, then leave the cake to cool completely. 

Just before serving, scatter the cake with dried rose petals, if using. Serve with softly whipped cream or yoghurt. 

I love pistachios, so I knew I would love this cake, and the addition of the lime syrup makes for one zesty cake.

I shared the cake with my neighbours and they loved it as well.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,

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