Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tiny Tales from Paris #5: 3 month retrospective

"It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world."--John Green.

It's hard to believe that it has almost been three months since I said goodbye to Paris, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. I remember being so sad to leave the beautiful city behind, not knowing when I would be back. Touching down on Australian soil, walking out of Perth airport and immediately being subject to unbearable heat made me want to jump right back onto the plane and return to wintry Paris! But of course, it was nice to come home and get back into a routine, catch up with friends, family and begin a new and exciting semester at University.

Despite this, I can't keep my mind off of the four weeks in Paris and the three weeks I spent in Vichy with my host parents while attending the Cavilam language school. In a way, it feels like the 7 weeks I spent away never really happened, and maybe that's why I am so desperate to travel once more, to feel a sense of adventure again. The most rewarding part of the trip was learning that I am totally capable of doing the things I want to do, the things that often seem the scariest. I remember anxiously waiting at the airport, about to board a flight all on my own to go to a foreign country with a language that I still don't have a full grasp of. I had so many doubts going through my mind, wondering why on earth I thought I could go 7 weeks without my family. Granted, I wasn't going for a year, not even 6 months like most exchange arrangements, I was going to meet a study group over there and mum was going to join me for the last three weeks in Paris. But, having always been an introvert, I couldn't help but fear that I wasn't up for the challenge.

Over the course of my travels, however, I soon discovered that leaving really is the easiest thing in the world. The things you learn about yourself while studying abroad, even if it's just for a short stint, are invaluable. While I was still the shy one of the group, I learnt that it's okay to be reserved and not want to socialise all the time. Some of the loveliest days I had were spent wandering Paris or Vichy alone. But I also had so much fun with a fantastic group of like minded people. The bond you create through travel is like no other. 

Above all, I fell even more in love with learning French and the idea of foreign languages in general. At the Cavilam, there were students attending from all over the world, a number of which couldn't speak English. But it was through our learning French, albeit being broken and clumsy, that we were able to form a means to communicate and learn things about one another that we couldn't have done otherwise. I found this to be a beautiful thing.

I'm already making plans regarding how and when I can return to France next, hopefully for a longer period of time. And while I'm at it, I hope to visit other places in Europe such as Austria, Sweden, Germany, England and Holland. But until then, I have a lot of saving and dreaming to do in order to make this a reality.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Inspiring Artist: Eeva Margita


Are these zines not the cutest little things ever? I wanted to write a quick post today dedicated to a gorgeous local artist from my city Perth. I had the pleasure of attending a zine market last week and I was smitten by Eeva's work the moment I saw her stall. 

I mean, how could you not be? 

Find out more about Eeva on here website here

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

DIY: Wooden Bead Necklaces


This week's post is a little different to what I usually do. I mentioned in my first post on Windswept Wishes that I have never been particularly interested in fashion. I went through a 'vintage' phase, but have never really had a distinct style. As I get older, I feel my tastes are erring towards 'plain and simple'. It may seem dull, but these days I just like wearing a plain t-shirt, jeans and an accessory like a scarf or a necklace. 

Having said that, I've never been much into jewelry either. It's only been recently that I've been sporting my version of a statement necklace on a casual, day to day basis. I had seen a few wooden bead necklaces floating around the web- in shops, on instagram, on tumblr. Despite wearing more muted clothing, the bright and colourful wooden necklaces really caught my eye and they seemed like a fun way to spruce up an otherwise ordinary outfit.

As I like to dabble in creative projects from time to time, I thought I'd give crafting my own necklaces a go, and I am so pleased with how they turned out! At one point I was making a new necklace every week. Not only are they fairly inexpensive to make, I find the process of painting the beads and getting imaginative with the colour scheme to be really therapeutic. 

DIY Wooden Bead Necklaces
You will need:
Medium round wooden beads
Small round wooden beads
An assortment of acrylic paints
Normal string
Necklace string (found in any craft shop)
Shoe box (or whatever you prefer)
Hair dryer

*Tip: When buying the beads, try to find some that aren't varnished, it will make painting them easier. I was unable to find any they weren't varnished, but this just meant that I had to apply more coats of paint.

1. Start by finding an old shoe box and measure a piece of string along the length of the shoe box. Cut the string so it's the same length as the box. 
2. Thread 5 medium beads and 2 small beads onto the string, then tape both ends of the string to the sides of the shoe box. This will make painting the beads much easier and the bottom of the shoe box will catch any dripping paint
3. Apply all the beads with about 2 coats of white paint, drying with a hair dryer in between each application.
4. To your preference, paint the beads in different colours. I like to have one 'odd' and patterned bead (usually with dots) that is different to the rest. Make sure to coat each bead at least 2-3 times, drying in between each application.
5. Once completely dry, remove beads from string. 
6. Take your necklace string and form a loose hanger around your neck. Make sure to leave enough length for tying, as you want your necklace to fit over your head comfortably.
7. Cut the string to your desired length and thread on the beads, alternating the colours. 
8. Hang around your neck and tie a knot with the two ends of string. 
9. Where your necklace with pride!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cookbook Review: Community by Hetty McKinnon

"For me, the happiest expressions of food are the ones that stem from sharing – whether it be sharing a plate, sharing a story over a meal, or sharing a recipe"- Hetty McKinnon, via Arthur Street Kitchen Blog
Today, I am excited to get the ball rolling with the first Cookbook Review on Windswept Wishes. Other than my immediate family, not many people know that I am a massive cookbook fiend. It's so bad that one of my 'goals', so to speak, is to one day have a room where cookbooks line the walls! It's not just the recipes I adore, and enjoyment I get out of cooking delicious meals, but I'm also drawn to cookbooks that have stunning photography that make simply flipping through pages a joy in itself.

The problem with owning a fair amount of cookbooks though is that you can easily fall into the trap of just making one or two recipes and be done with it. So I thought that by creating a 'series' of cookbook reviews, it would help me get more value out of the books I own, as I will hopefully become more motivated to try a range of recipes from each book.

Cue Hetty McKinnon's Community. The story of Hetty herself is quite an inspiring one; born out of her love of vegetables, Hetty one day decided to establish a community kitchen, called Arthur Street Kitchen, in Surrey Hills, Sydney. Every Thursday and Friday, Hetty would ride her bike to deliver fresh and seasonally curated salads to residents. After gaining quite a following, her cookbook followed suite after she received a number of recipe requests. 

So, this cookbook is all about salads. Now, that may sound dull, especially if you're not a salad fan unlike myself. But I guarantee that even the most devote meat eaters will find these recipes delicious, because they're not just your standard salad. Hetty's recipes are inspired and prove that there are is so much you can do with vegetables to make them shine, and to make them stand as a complete and satisfying meal on their own. 

This cookbook ticks all the boxes in my 'cookbook' criteria. Its layout is extremely helpful, as all the recipes are sectioned into 'chapters' with each focusing on different ingredients ie. root vegetables, fungi, cereals (grains) and more. There is also a section at the beginning of the book titled 'The Larder' which is a helpful guide stating the necessary ingredients of a well stocked larder and 'Salad Fundamentals'. 

All the recipes in Community are tasty, wholesome and filling. I have really enjoyed whipping up something different once a week for my family, and the great thing is, there's always leftovers that have me sorted for a couple of University lunches during the week, making healthy food choices so much easier to maintain. I have discovered a lot of different ingredients; I never knew there were so many different types of grains, which is awesome as it means that I can switch it up every now and then, rotating between quinoa, couscous and lesser known grains such as farro. Beyond that though, there are also pasta salads, lentil salads, green salads, noodle salads; everything you could think of and more. Above all, I love that Hetty's belief in Community, the sharing of good food with loved ones, shines through in this cookbook; a belief further accentuated by the stunning accompanying photography by much loved photographer Luisa Brimble. 

Whether you are seeking exciting ways to reinvent the humble vegetable or simply want to get more into your diet, Community is the cookbook you need.

Sample Recipe: Slow-Roasted Balsamic Tomatoes with Spelt Pasta, Porcini and Ricotta by Hetty McKinnon
Serves 4-6
Ingredients:
10 roma tomatoes (1.4kg), each cut into 8 wedges
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbp extra virgin olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 garlic cloves, grated
Sea salt and black pepper
500g spelt pasta (or your favourite pasta shape)
10g butter
30g dried porcini mushrooms (or other dried mushrooms), soaked in hot water
250g ricotta
1/2 basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup oregano leaves
2 tbsp caramelised balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius

In a large mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp of the olive oil, thyme, 1 clove of grated garlic and season well with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 1-1.5 hours until the tomatoes are shrunken and juicy.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spelt pasta (or whatever pasta you're using) according to the packet instructions.

In a small frying pan, melt the butter, add the remaining grated garlic and cook for 10 seconds until fragrant. Remove the mushrooms from the water and add to the pan, along with a couple teaspoons of their soaking liquid (making sure not to exclude any of the grit) and a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Cook for 2 minutes until the water has evaporated.

Combine the tomatoes, pasta an mushrooms and season well with salt and black pepper. Break the ricotta into chunks and gently fold through the pasta. To serve, scatter over the basil and oregano leaves an finish with a drizzle of caramelized balsamic vinegar and the remaining olive oil. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Tiny Tales from Paris #4: Du Pain et des Idées

"I'm going to make you bread like you've never seen before, and in this bread there will be love and friendship"

Such are the words of Christophe Vasseur, the baker behind Paris' best bakery, Du Pain et des Idées. At thirty years of age, he decided to leave his job as a sales executive in the fashion industry behind in order to pursue a career as a baker. His ambitions were no minor feat; wishing to not just be an 'ordinary baker', he strove to be a 'one of the kind' by practicing time-honored and traditional techniques in order to ensure all his baked goods are a standard of quality to the highest degree. He has certainly excelled in his aim, and today, Du Pain et Des Idées continues to be one of the most loved boulangeries in Paris. 

I knew that I couldn't possibly miss a trip to this stunning bakery while in Paris, and had I been able to stay longer, I just know I would have soon become a regular visitor. Stepping into the tiny bakery filled with patrons, my senses were treated to the deliciously warm and heady aroma of freshly baked bread, yeast and sugar. Words really cant accurately describe just how heavenly this sensation is! You really must experience it for yourself.

I was also amazed by the stunning majestic interior. The bakery building itself dates back to 1889, and as Christophe states on the bakery website, has the ability to transport you a century back in time. The whole experience had me feeling nostalgic for a past that didn't even exist in my lifetime; for when 'simple' things such as bread were made properly.

I wholeheartedly admire Christophe's vision and his 'aim to show that [his] profession is amongst the most beautiful in the wold'. The sheer, unadulterated happiness that I experienced from walking away with a loaf of Pain des Amis and other added goodies, nibbling on pieces while strolling the streets, should not be underrated. It is one of the simplest kinds of magic that exists in this world.

P.S: If you haven't already, take a peak over at Sunny Sweet Pea to read my guest post 'Hidden Paris' for more tiny tales.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Books I Read in March

My reading didn't kick off on a great start at the beginning of this year, and it has only been the past month that I have been able to get back into a routine again. It was nice in a way to take a break from reading, but I certainly missed it! 
March was a great month as I read a modest amount of amazing books which I would highly recommend. I now feel motivated to seek out some excellent material for April, so if you have any recommendations, I would love to know.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt 
But how,” said Charles, who was close to tears, “how can you possibly justify cold-blooded murder?’Henry lit a cigarette. “I prefer to think of it,” he had said, “as redistribution of matter.” 
I don't think this book needs any introduction, being so highly revered, and it was for this reason that I had been wanting to read it for so long. Funnily enough though, I much prefer Tartt's latest novel titled The Goldfinch. The Secret History had me gripped for a while, there's no doubt about that. But about halfway through, I began to tire of the characters and the pace in which events were progressing. In saying that though, I can understand why this book is so popular; Tartt's writing style is indescribable and it hooked me from the very first line. I also really admire how she was able to construct characters who you both despise but at the same time feel oddly enthralled by. The writer's ability to screw with your emotions and prompt you to take a step back and reevaluate how you feel is what I find to be really clever writing, and Tartt does just that. 3.5/5

Monsieur Ibrahim et les Fleurs du Coran by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt 
"Le coeur de l'homme est comme un oiseau enfermé dans la cage du corps. Quand tu danses, le coeur, il chante comme un oiseau qui aspire à se fondre en Dieu." (The human heart is like a bird trapped in the cage of the body. When you dance, the heart, he sings like a bird that longs to merge with God)
This is such a charming little novel. In under 100 pages, it tells the story of a thirteen year old Jewish French boy called Moïse who has a difficult relationship with his Father, but forms a touching friendship with an old Turkish shopkeeper, by the name Monsieur Ibrahim, who practices Sufism, a concept of Islam. Despite Moïse's initial misconceptions of Monsieur Ibrahim, he comes to love him as Monsieur Ibrahim guides him through trying times, often with reference to the teachings of his beloved Coran.
If not just for the lovely story, I would highly recommend reading this in French for those studying the language at an intermediate level, as it is fairly simple and easy to understand. Overall, a pleasure to read! 3.5/5

The Dinner by Herman Koch 
“Happiness needs nothing but itself; it doesn't have to be validated. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in it's own way.”
Oh.My.God. Those are the three words that instantly spring to mind when I think about this book. I'm still so shocked by it and am still coming to terms with the ending. The Dinner is about two couples who meet at a restaurant and the chapters are divided into sections dedicated to each course. I instantly disliked the main protagonist, who is such a grump and likes to nit pick at everything. The novel then introduces the other characters, being Paul's wife Claire, his brother Serge (who initially seems even more unbearable than Paul) and Serge's wife Babette. From the Aperitif chapter onward, things go from kinda-already-bad to even worse as the couples must come to terms with a crime committed by their teenage sons. I ended up hating all the characters in the novel, asides from Serge who seemed to have the most common sense out of them all in the end. This novel has prompted divided opinions for the reason that it is so hard to read at some moments because you become so disgusted by the actions of Paul and Claire. But I personally loved it, due to my penchant for novels with unreliable narrators and their ability to mess you around (much like The Secret History in a way). It's delicious but also incredibly frightening. One things for sure, The Dinner ensures a reading experience like none other. 4/5

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