Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Joyeux Noel de Berlin!

A few pictures summarising our Berlin trip over Christmas.

We climbed up the dome of the Reichstag,
for a really enjoyable visit and view over the city.

Oberbaum Bridge links Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg boroughs,
previously divided by the Berlin Wall

The Holocaust Memorial, with pillars (stelae) reaching up to 4.8 metres high
(it does not look so as the ground is sloping down)

One of the exhibitions in the impressive Jewish Museum

A portion of the Berlin Wall
at the former Gestapo headquarters
A portion of the Wall at the East Side Gallery

Dead Chicken Alley

The Astronaut by Victor Ash

Gendarmenmarkt, with its nice Christmas market

At the Christmas Market near the town hall

Monday, 30 November 2015

Paper tree ornaments

I put our tree up this weekend and I am really excited about the new ornaments I made from paper! 
I used the instructions from here and found that they could be improved... so below is my step-by-step protocol. 
It is really easy, which is good when you plan to make twenty! The principle is to have plenty of discs and alternate glueing them at the top then bottom to create a ruffled looking ball (like those collars in the mid-sixteen to mid-seventeenth century). I personally like the ball-shape ornaments but note that you can change it starting from any shape you fancy and obtain a really elaborate ornament like that.

1: Cut circles in paper (mine have a diameter of 8cm).
I chose two plain colours and (white and brown/craft paper) and distressed the edges with a walnut-stain ink pad (rubbing the whole stack works well enough, no need to treat them one by one!). The original instructions suggest using patterned paper. You can also use three different papers.

2: Fold each circle in half.
3: Arrange them in an order so that you obtain two consecutive papers of the same colour. 
a> b> b> a> a> b> <b <a <a <b <b <a 
4: Connect them all together, either by sewing at the top and bottom of the fold, or alternatively using a stapler. If you use a staple, make sure you fold the discs as pictured so that they don't crease or create too much of a gap.

Glue at the top (if you imagine it as a clock, from 12:00 to 14:00) and press together. On the following page, glue to the bottom (from 16:00 to 18:00). 

I cut a slit to pass some ribbon and voilà!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Photo Album & ATG 700

Today's post is about the photo album I made about our previous three-days trip in Florence. There are plenty of ways you can proceed to make an album from scratch, the challenging aspect being the hinge. I like that it looks very much like a book and mine is rather small (size A5). The hinge is especially compact (which is not the case if you do the accordion style) and the pages are opening wide flat (I mean not folding, which happens if you sew them). 
I simply took coloured paper sheets and used gummed craft paper tape to keep them together. I love this tape, you can reposition it and still after several repositionings, it sticks very well. As it is flexible, it folds and unfolds happily. Here is a picture of the opening showing the junction of two different sheets.
This is another page where I folded a sheet and connected it to the rest from the outside. This allows me to have the whole space available as there is no tape in the middle. As mentioned earlier, you can see that the album opens fully and flat.
Here is an example of one of my pages, where I kept the brown tape apparent as I felt it was blending well with the colour scheme.
I also used inserts, in the style of Donna Downey. I hid the brown tape for this page, covering it with Washi tape.
More generally I used different widths of sheets, so one can have the neighboring page adding an interesting border.
I included tags as well to add some interest.
That's a photo of the hinge that I covered length-wise with a strip of tape, then at the top and bottom across to reinforce it, even if there is no obvious tension.
I decided to leave a couple of millimetres between the decorative paper and the edge on the cover so that the paper does not get its edges damaged.
All this would not have been possible without my new tool: the ATG 700 (Scotch). I do not like using glue stick as it sometimes gets thick, uneven and all my fingers gets sticky - which is not what I want when handling photos. I have been using "mouse" type glue dispensers but at 8.5 meters per roller I go through them really quickly. After some research, the ATG 700 - despite its hugeness - seemed the best option. I put a banana for scale.

This is what it is like in action. It leaves a trail of glue, "dry" and clean (left part, the shiny bit) You can touch it with your fingertip and won't get glue on yourself. Yes it is huge but still manages to be confortable, not bulky nor heavy. The way it is designed makes it easy to see what you are doing (where you are putting glue on), which is a very important parameter. 
Yes it is huge. Like a machine-gun. 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

La purée de pommes de terre façon Joel Robuchon

I was lucky to try the potatoes puree from Joel Robuchon: I was enthralled and immediately wanted to try making some myself. His recipe is all over the web and I learnt that he won lots of prizes for this purée. In brief, the key point is to remove all water and put a jaw-dropping quantity of butter. Here it is.

La purée de pommes de terre, recette de Joël Robuchon

  • 1 kg de pommes de terre (rattes ou BF 15) (rattes potatoes: fingerling with a nutty flavor and smooth, buttery texture)
  • 250 g de beurre bien froid (cold diced butter)
  • 250 g de lait entier (whole milk)
  • gros sel (salt)
  • Lavez les pommes de terre, mais ne les pelez pas. Wash potatoes but do not peel.
  • Dans une casserole remplie de deux litres d’eau froide additionnée d’une cuillerée à soupe de gros sel, faites cuire les pommes de terre à couvert jusqu’à ce que la lame du couteau plantée dedans en ressorte aisément (25-30 minutes environ). Coupez le beurre en petits dés, mais maintenez-les au réfrigérateur. Put whole potatoes in 2L of cold salted water and cook for 25-30 minutes with lid on. Dice the butter and keep in the fridge.
  • Dès que les pommes de terre sont cuites, égouttez-les. Pelez-les encore tièdes. Passez-les au moulin à légumes équipé de la grille la plus fine, au-dessus d’une grande casserole. Portez la casserole sur feu moyen, faites légèrement dessécher la purée en la remuant vigoureusement avec une spatule en bois (5 minutes environ). Drain the potatoes, peel, mash them thinly while still warm and transfer in a big pan. Dry the mashed potatoes on medium heat, while vigorously mixing with a wooden spatula; it takes about 5 minutes.
  • Dans le même temps, passez une petite casserole sous l’eau, videz-la sans l’essuyer. Dans cette casserole, faites bouillir le lait. Rinse a small pan under water, and boil the milk in.
  • A feu doux, incorporez petit à petit aux pommes de terre le beurre très froid, bien dur, et coupé en morceaux, en remuant énergiquement la préparation afin de la rendre lisse et onctueuse. On a small heat, slowly add the butter to the mashed potatoes, mixing thoroughly so that the puree becomes sleek and smooth. 
  • Toujours à feu doux, ajoutez le lait très chaud, en petit filet, toujours en mélangeant énergiquement jusqu’à ce qu’il soit entièrement absorbé. Goûtez, salez et poivrez. Still on a low heat, slowly add the hot milk and whisk energetically until you are happy with the texture (more milk makes it more runny).
  • Pour rendre la purée encore plus fine et légère, vous pouvez la passer à travers un tamis à toile très fine. You may pass the puree through a thin strainer to make it even more thin and light.
Boiling potatoes with skin on for 30 minutes

Peel the potatoes while still warm

Thinly mash the potatoes (mine were roughly mashed)

Dry the mashed potatoes on a medium heat for 5 minutes

Incorporate 1/4 of the weight of potatoes of cold butter

The purée is becoming silky

Add the hot milk (1/4 again)

Whisking vigorously - I cheated and used the robot

Here it is; mine is not so smooth as I do not have a thin puree-ing tool
but the taste is amazing!!!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Weekend at Florence

Back from a few days in Florence, here are a selection of the pictures we took. 

It was quite hot, actually too much for me.

We found the main cathedral is imposing and has a stunning pattern all around.

The famous Ponte Vecchio bridge and its jewelry shops hanging out over the river.

The famous Michelangelo's David is a common sight over the city.

Inside the rustic-looking Palazzo Vecchio, we were surprised to discover a multitude of finely decorated rooms. 
I was especially amazed by the ceilings.

The panorama from the Duomo is worth the climb in narrow staircases built between
the outside walls and the inside wall of the cupola.
View of the cupola dominating the city, from the top of the bell tower.

Ice-cream was our daily treat.

I discovered that pasta in Italy are often really thick - I loved it!