Orange and almond cupcakes and first impressions.

I was in Paris the past week and unfortunately couldn’t get around to  “les cupcakes de Chloe“. So on arriving home, I couldn’t wait to bake a cupcake to satisfy that lust for a sweet, icing topped helping. Of course mine isn’t even close to Chloe’s, but it is still delicious. I am done now. For quite some time.

While taking the metro to and fro(urgh) I made use of the time, staring at people, thinking and wondering about them. Making up stories about them. Scribbling notes and drawings in my notebook. Who they are, what they do, where they come from, their life stories. How they look. First impressions. Based on what we see and hear and feel.

A recipe from Cupcakes, cookies and macarons by Marabout chef.


  • I prefer baking mini cupcakes, since the big ones are too much for one helping. And if you like a second, it still doesn’t make one full cupcake…leaving you with no guilt for this indulgement!
  • OR bake different sizes of cupcakes for an interest on the cake platter. In which case you will bake the different sizes at different times..the smaller the cupcake the quicker the baking time.
  • The cranberries can be left out.
  • Use lemon or lime juice and lemon zest instead of orange juice and zest.
  • Add a tablespoon of ricotta or mascarpone in the butter icing sugar
  • For lighter cupcakes, omit the butter icing sugar and simply sprinkle the cupcake with some sifted icing sugar.
  • Serve with fresh fruits like strawberries and a coulis, or caramelized orange slices and an orange coulis.

First impressions. That instinctive first thought or opinion about something or someone. How many times have you said just after meeting someone…”I like him, he seems nice”, or I don’t think I like her, there is just something about her…”  A house, a school, a country, new neighbours, a restaurant… That first impression is something a “con artist” relies on to entrap his victims. It is that “thing” that makes you stare at a person walking into a room with a certain presence…that makes you keep quiet when a deep voice  speaks on the other side of the room.

I have had an occasion where the vegetable man at the market asked me whether I’m a historian. On my surprised: “why?”,   he pointed at my handbag and the pencil holding my hair up. To him, I had the look and manner of an historian, with my Indiana Jones leather bag and pencil in my hair(which I used to keep my hair from falling into my painting back at home..).

Another time we lived in SC and I used to visit Books a million close by early some mornings to get some drawing and writing done in a corner with a coffee. One day a woman approached me, sat down next to me and started chatting. I’ve seen her often as well as many other regulars, but they never approached me, thinking I was working with all the books and paper around me. It turned out that they all had their impression too…wondering  who I was, where I was from, wondering about my foreign accent,  my keeping to myself in a corner, my soft-spokennnes, ( I have a voice that just doesn’t carry!) Along with my dark hair and dark complexion, not fogetting the hereditary dark circles under my eyes, they decided I had to be Arabic.

Once I was reading a book in a coffee shop  while waiting for Hartman to arrive at the station. At some stage I burst out laughing for some funniness in the book.  A while later, a man sitting opposite me started speaking to me, fascinated by my laughing out loud all by myself, and asked me if I was a teacher revising a novel… I read with a pencil in hand, my reading glasses low on my nose and a little notebook on the side.

Hartman, in his university years, somewhat resembled a young Mick Jagger – very tall, very slender, sinewy, with thick long disorderly hair, constantly wearing his favourite thick old army coat, his grandfather’s hat and his guitar slung around his shouders.  My mother trusted him nothing!! Today, much older and wearing black woolen coats and hats,  Mick Jagger made way for a  Francois Mitterrand strictness and formality, leaving some  people with a slight apprehension to approach him.

First impressions. Truth…or deception…or a little bit of both…?

Truc et astuces de nos grands-méres:

To make raw onions esier digestable, cut in slices and leave to marinate a week in olive oil.

Crystallized orange strips and mothers and daughters.

When thinking of mothers and daughters, I think of  oranges and coffee. Oranges recall childhood days with my mother and coffee recalls intimate talks with my daughters. SO. Let’s first pour ourselves a coffee with a snack while we ready ourselves for stepping into the relationships of mothers and their daughters.

As young girl, my mother regularly peeled an orange and then broke it in half, one half for me, the other for her…and another orange…peel…one half for me…one half for her…It continued this way even after I have become a mother myself. So I decided these sugared orange strips would be a fitting accompaniment to the endless cups of coffee and girl talk I have had(and still have) with my daughters over the years.


  • Let the peel  strips cool down in the syrup before dipping them in the sugar.
  • They can be dipped in melted chocolate instead(or as well)
  • Store them in a cool and dry place.
  • Use as decorations on cakes or desserts.
  • Use also lemon and grape fruit peel
  • Try and use biological fruit.
  • Always wash and dry the fruit before using.

I came across a lovely book which was the trigger for these pondering thoughts: Histoire des mères et filles, by Gabrielle Houbre. (The history of mothers and daughters) (Editions de la Martinière). It covers social paradoxes, intimate journals, choosing husbands, the role of the grandmother, motherhood judged by the law and the public, and beautiful images, paintings and drawings.  I enjoyed the history of this special relationship through the decades, comparing it with what we have today in our contemporary world, seeing how much it had changed, yet how much it is still the same..

Histoires des mères et filles.

…alice in wonderland, 1879, (george dunlop leslie)…

“…God, You who can do everything, give me the strength to make my family happy, You can do with me as You wish, I belong to You. You know how hard I work: keep me from evil, and save me from mine. Mother! Mother! Please come to me. Speak to me! I am suffering!…” Laure Frémont, 17 years old, Journal, Besancon.

  1. left: edith kingdon gould et sa fille marjorie, 1903(Théodore mace)…
  2. right: mme collas et sa fille gisélle, 1903 (théobald chartran)…


  1. left: c’est ma fille monsieur”(it is my daughter, sir)…
  2. right: chagrin d’amour, 1908 (ferdinand von reznicek) – “don’t be so unhappy from love, my child, it will ruin your complexion!!”


“Je t’embrasse ma chérie, de tout mon coeur. Mais ne perds pas ton temps! Les consignes, les punitions, les réprimandes, les bouderies, les rancunes, tout ca c’est du temps gâché. La vie est si courte…De tout mon coeur je suis Ta Maman et ton amie, Colette”. (I embrace you my darling, with all my heart. Don’t waste your time!  all the instructions, the punishments, the reprimands, moods and resentments are a waste of time. Life is so short…With all my heart I am your mother and your friend, Colette.) Letters from Colette to her daughter, 1916-1953)

  1. left: Mme Vigée-Lebrun et sa fille Jeanne Lucie Louise dite Julie, 1789(Elizabeht Vigée-Lebrun)…
  2. right: Soins tyranniques, 1840 (Frédéric Bouchot) ” – ” Chère enfant, tu es en âge de te marier, l’agitation de ton esprit, tes émotions inquètes et vagues; tout m’annonce que ton coeur s’éanouit…J’ai fait pour toi le choix d’un èpoux qui te rendras[sic] heureuse”(dear child, you are of age to be married, your agitation, your nervousness, your emotional spirit; all tells me that your heart is blooming…I made a choice of husband for you who will make [sic]you happy).


As for my own two daughters …each phase was wonderful. Sometimes hard and sometimes tiring, difficult and challenging. But still wonderful. I think I learnt more from them than I taught them in these past  22 and 24 years. I learnt acceptance, patience(a lot!). I learnt about honesty, humility, I learnt that hope is a neccessary part of each day. I learnt that you can’t have daughters without a sense of humour. I learnt to understand, or at least to make an affort to understand. I learnt to be strong when I wanted to be weak. I learnt to move on when I wanted to rest. I learnt about history and chemistry and architecture and tennis and biology and sex education. I learnt about broken hearts and tantrums and slammed doors and locked away journals.  I learnt that gentlesness goes a far way. I learn that too much kindness can lead to disappointment. I learnt that discipline gives security. I learnt that giving love is more rewarding than receiving. I learnt that no sadness or hurt or disappointment can break this love.

…mère et filles…

Now, as they have become young women, I look onto them with pride and love. I can’t do it any other way. Is it perfect…our mother/daughter relationship? Far from! I irritate them. They work on my nerves. They mess up my kitchen. Thjey find me”high maintenance”. They make pasta this way. I make mine that way. I ask too many questions, they tell me too little.  They don’t make their beds. I make mine too perfect. I yell at them.  They ignore me. They get angry with me.  I get upset with them… it perfect? This relationship of ours? Of course it is! It is as it should be! They have become individuals.  They have grown into human beings…funny, witty(sometimes too much!), intelligent(every now and then!) , caring, wise(sometimes?), cute, understanding, accepting…Time has forced us all to grow into human beings. We are friends. But first and foremost, we are mère et fille.