Paris/COVID: What now my love?

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Take out survival strategies at local restaurants

Recently, this meme popped up on my FB feed:

“At this point I’m about 97.5% feral and won’t be able to be integrated back into society.”

Yep! Covidophobia or Covidophilia?

Many people I talk to are either refusing to deconfine or dreading the prospect. I admit, I have to force myself to go out even on a beautiful day and I hyperventilate when swarms start forming or people get too close, probably not a great idea right now even with a mask…

I’ve never been a crowd person. Arriving in Paris from US suburbs, with limited big city smarts, I avoided large groups from the get-go, especially on public transportation. Until the day a respectable-looking businessman wagged his limp member at me through his open trench coat when I was sitting at the deserted end of a Metro car, where no one else could see what he was doing. This was horrifying in itself but even worse because his organ resembled a bald, dead turkey neck and I was too young and scared to know what to do. Ever after I chose to surround myself with other humans whenever possible, betting on safety in numbers. I bit the bullet going to work at rush hour, squished between shoulder bags and backpacks. I baked in 2-hour lines 5 deep at Disneyland Paris without complaining  just to see the thrill on my kids’ faces once we got on the ride. Tried out the huge stadiums for concerts, but prefer more intimate venues. Jostled and prodded through countless grocery store check-out single files, I developed ingenious personal space strategies. You see, France is not traditionally a place with the same queuing etiquette as the US, not to mention hygiene (with excesses on both sides I grant you). So for me, social distancing is literally a breath of fresh air. Thank you COVID. Thus far I don’t miss mass transit, but I do miss air travel. How else will I return to the States to see my loved ones there? No way I’m getting on a boat.

Other things I don’t miss: the factory atmosphere of industrialized education, with kids in quadrants of 20-30 (and more), formatted by age, herded along as if on conveyor belts with productivity  quotas and evaluations administered by too few overwhelmed adults, and little one-to-one attention. As long as we’re starting over, how about getting rid of factory farms?

Things I’m glad to “get back” to: recycling and composting, street cleaning. Things I can’t wait to experience again: cafés and restaurants, museums, open parks and swimming facilities (but what will they be like?). For info, the Mayor of Paris is installing the fresh water swimming area on our canal (will it be mobbed?)

Will I miss the cheek-brushing French air smooch it took me so long to get used to? Will it come back?

Confinement has been a crucible for relationships, making them or breaking them.  Are some of us turning into plants?

Maybe not such a bad thing? Whatever the case may be, this video is gorgeous:

Can we learn symbiosis?

Forward into uncertainty!

xxxxxx Aliss

 

Paris Lockdown: Today I sponsored a goat

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Day 18 (I think?)

In my last post I mentioned that a neighbor was hospitalized with COVID-19, on a ventilator and recovering. He passed away suddenly on Friday and all of us in the building are grieving. To respect the family’s privacy I won’t give details, but he wasn’t elderly, was the breadwinner and pillar of his family, devoted father, always smiling.

Of course we must stay positive and focused, on our gratitude for every day blessings and on dreams for the future.

So today, I sponsored a goat. Her name is Larmes de Joie (Tears of Joy) and she lives in La Drome Provençale, a department (state) of southern France halfway between Lyon and the Riviera. It’s in the valley of the Rhone river, foothills of the Alps. (Geography buffs please chime in?)

We’ve been supporting our local essential shop owners and workers as best we can, but feel helpless in the face of hardships endured by farmers and fishermen in France and everywhere, losing their markets, their helpers and workers… so many tragedies.

When I saw a post by Larmes de Joie’s owner on Facebook and all the pictures of her and her herd sisters on their website, it was love at first sight. Sponsorship is not cheap, but you get 2k (5 lbs!) of cheeses delivered to your door, some fresh to eat right away and some that can keep for a long time. Raw milk goat cheese is so essential to France’s lifestyle, culture and endangered microbiome that I decided to go for it. The goat farmer, Claudia, has given me permission to share her website:

https://les-fromages-de-chevre.mywizi.com

Her story is very inspiring:

https://les-fromages-de-chevre.mywizi.com/notre-histoire.html

More coming, translated in English…

xxxxx Aliss

 

Paris Lockdown: Inner Fire then Fun

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Some are enjoying this (Photo by Lewis Primo)

Day 8 (I think):

France just announced 8 more weeks of confinement. When this is all over, it’ll be interesting to compare notes. Was it harder to be shut in with a 16-year-old as I am or with a two year old as are some of my family members?  For teens, isolation feels like punishment, add in peer pressure to dismiss and defy the restrictions and you get a perfect recipe for risk-taking and conflict with parents. A bad mix, for them and for us, adding to everyone’s frustration, uncertainty, and fear.

How to remove fear (fun info follows)

Trying the following recommendations from a Russian friend, Svetlana Nikandrova, psychologist, yoga master and bio-energy healing specialist. The only person in medical history to have had a pacemaker removed and live to tell the tale, she wrote two books about her journey back to health and helping others. (links below)

From Svetlana’s Energy Notes
“Highly relevant. Prevention techniques for those who do not want to get sick.
To remove all fears: in the present, future and even in the past.
   Tool: conscious sensory breathing
– Set the mood for fire breathing (you can breathe with a candle).
Heartbeat rhythm. 4 inhale, 4 pause, 4 exhale, 4 pause.
-Warm up the heart, liver, spleen. Listen to the pulsation of these three organs and synchronize them. Saturate the whole triangle with fiery energy.
– Circulate heat from the heart in a small circle around the circulatory system first in the  head, neck, shoulders, chest, arms. Then, in a large circle from the heart to the stomach, buttocks, hips, and feet.
– Then  circulate the energy in a fiery figure eight, alternating the upper and lower circles.
-Continue to warm the entire circulatory system: heart, blood vessels, large, small, veins, capillaries.
-Observe how blood warms the entire body.
-Complete a few cycles until you feel a pleasant calm in the heart, or see a glow in and around the body.
-Continue to track the pulsation in a 4-4-4-4 rhythm.
-And then, listen to your renewed heart. Let it bloom with love, tenderness and gratitude.
Thank the universe.”
*****
Svetlana’s books Heart Breathing: Healing the Heart and Heart and Fateare currently available in Russian only:
English speakers can follow her on Facebook and Instagram, just hit the translation button.

Now, ready for fun?

Escape from confinement with Velvet & Toads, the gorgeous, delicious YouTube channel by my friend Letitia Ferris Toussaint, about wild edibles, gardening, shopping, sights and all things fabulous and French. Relax and fantasize:
Or pick up healing tips like her latest, “Two ingredient natural recipes for cough and sore throat”
We’ll get by with a little help from our (multi-talented) friends.
xxxxxx Aliss

 

How to make sunshine

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My Mama Ruth’s recipe for quiche lorraine to brighten up gray, chaotic Paris! (She just told me her mother, Roxie, brought this back from France!)

The crust

There are lots of great ready-made versions in French stores, haven’t found really good ones in the US (recommendations welcome). If you have time, make your own.

1⅓  cups + I Tbsp flour (about 250g)

Pinch of sea salt

I stick (125g) butter (best you can find, raw if possible)

1 Tbsp cream cheese (1 square Kiri à la crème)

Butter or oil to grease the baking dish

Stir flour and salt, cut butter and cream cheese into small pieces and blend with fork until mixture becomes crumbly. Work into a smooth ball. Set aside for 30 min to one hour (slight fermentation process will make it tastier and more digestible). Roll out and line a deep pie dish (I prefer glass).

Filling

8 thin slices of cooked ham, more if desired (can also use fried smoked bacon)

8 ounces Swiss cheese (medium slab gruyère or emmenthal, raw milk if possible) more if desired, cut into thin slices

½ cup (120 ml) milk or sour cream

4 eggs

½ Tsp salt

Dash of fresh nutmeg

Cover the bottom of the pastry crust in baking dish with slices of ham, follow with cheese, then alternate layers. Blend remaining ingredients with a fork, pour over ham and cheese. Bake at 375°F (190°C) for at least 40 minutes, if necessary add time until filling bubbles and browns, “sets”.

Delicious hot or room temperature, with green vegetable or salad and vinaigrette on the side. Pair with your favorite dry wine.

Ha ha! Who cares about the weather, demonstrations and stalled transportation!

xxxxx Aliss

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Year’s How To

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The media and my inbox are full of New Year’s How To’s.

Mine is just two questions and two pictures.

1) What did you love about 2019?

I loved completing and publishing Margaritas at Midnight, my first video as director, watching it get selected for a film festival and rack up views, loved flying to the NY to see family and friends, loved having them here in Paris, loved my birthday, best so far, loved publishing new pieces on Medium, polishing a draft of my book and starting to query it, loved starting new film and writing projects, loved my daughter’s success and beautiful partner, loved my son receiving his middle school diploma and getting accepted to a good culinary program, loved playing and singing around town again, loved taking photos and sharing them, loved laughing, cooking, learning, walking, swimming… Loved all the good news, creativity and commitment, people taking action to help other beings…

2) What did you not love?

I did not love bad news about the environment, war, violence, and intolerance, did not love often feeling helpless in the face of so many challenges, in my immediate surroundings and farther away…

3) Imagine saying goodbye to the old year like watching the Normandy sunset pictured above.

4) Imagine the new year inviting you, an open road, a new morning like the one below:

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Happy New Year 2020!

To be continued!

Aliss

 

 

How to make Christmas last forever (or at least until the end of January…)

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This is a post from a previous Christmas, just as relevant now 🙂 ” This year’s darkness hasn’t been due to the weather but many other things… “As a native of more southerly latitudes, I had to learn to ignore Parisian weather to survive. If I had known before I moved here that my birthplace near Washington, DC, is comparable to Madrid and Rome in terms of sunlight, whereas Paris is comparable to Montreal, that lack of sunshine depresses the immune system and dampens the spirits… I may not have come. Then one day I was ranting about the gray skies to a French friend who said, “Il y a d’autres soleils à Paris” (There are other suns in Paris) and that was a turning point. I learned to love rain even when it falls every day for months as it has this winter, one of the darkest in 30 years.

Living in Paris has made me think that Christmas and Hanukkah lights are Northern Hemisphere responses to winter sun deprivation, and this year they are more vital than ever. So here are my strategies to make Christmas last forever, or at least until the end of January and the gradual approach of Spring…

  • Virtual fireplace on flat screen TV (DVD’s available and now streaming on Netflix!)
  • Epiphany galettes (King cakes) still on sale in the bakeries (collect prizes, wear crowns!)
  • New Year’s cards can be sent until at least the end of the month (and received!)
  • New Year’s resolutions boost energy and project us into the future, especially if updated and tracked
  • Skype faraway friends and family to open presents they sent by mail
  • Sort pictures, print some to send with New Year’s greetings
  • Play with presents: make a list of who gave you what and what you will do with each one in the new year, include thank you’s in New Year’s cards
  • Keep a log of good times over the holidays, in your appointment calendar, and relive them by journaling: funny things people said, conversations, realisations, issues to clear up?
  • Food memories: recipes new and heirloom, to share in New Year’s messages
  • Food continued: bake cookies and send to older and younger loved ones
  • Keep the tree and decorations up even as the tree folds inward like a shriveled umbrella and begins to look like a biological equivalent of Miss Havisham’s wedding cake (in Great Expectations)
  • Make un-decorating part of the holiday, set aside lots of time, enjoy treasured ornaments, as mementos and promises of future holiday celebrations
  • Keep the music playing: all the oldies you didn’t listen to when it was really Christmas, laugh at Bob Dylan and Elvis holiday albums, discover Yuletide gems by Lynerd Skynerd, Louis Armstrong and the never-obsolete Frank Sinatra. If that’s too much, fall back on instrumental “Winter Solstice” and “Celtic Christmas” collections from Windham Hill and others…
  • Recycle your tree in any of Paris’s parks until January 28th (and beyond), knowing it will become fragrant mulch for gorgeous spring landscaping…
  • Hibernate without guilt, perhaps with the help of a carefully selected winter virus, just severe enough to keep you on the couch in front of the “fire” with herb teas and soups,  but not requiring antibiotics or ER trips…
  • Continue your creative and professional work when the fog clears
  • Start thinking about Valentine’s day…”

Merry Christmas!

To be continued, love xxxxx Aliss

 

 

When in existential doubt, look at pastry

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It was a toxic afternoon: a lunch date gone terribly wrong, a miscommunication with a friend, a big tech glitch, all this after a hectic end of spring, beginning of summer, heat waves coming and going, bad news, end of world atmosphere…

Didn’t even have the heart to photograph street scenes, no eye-popping beauty jumped out and grabbed me.  Came across this recent pic on my phone and got an immediate physical lift. Never even tasted these works of art, merely immortalized their colors and shapes as I passed the shop window. Now fantasizing about shrinking like my namesake and strolling around inside this display like an edible city, breathing in the flavors, taking an occasional mind-boggling bite.

Haven’t solved any of the world’s problems yet, but approach the subject with a fresh attitude.

Can something so ephemeral save us?

“Hope is always accompanied by the imagination, the will to see what our physical environment seems to deem impossible. Only the creative mind can make use of hope. Only a creative people can wield it.” Poet Jericho Brown, interviewed in the Kenyon Review:

https://www.kenyonreview.org/conversation/jericho-brown/

https://onbeing.org/programs/jericho-brown-small-truths-and-other-surprises/

And for another way to feel good, plant some trees, please:

https://www.americanforests.org

Rainforest Action Network to protect an acre of the Amazonian rainforest.

Rainforest Trust to help buy land in the rainforest. Since 1988, the organization has saved over 23 million acres.

Reduce your paper and wood consumption. Double-check with Rainforest Alliance that what you’re buying is considered rainforest-safe. You can also purchase rainforest-safe products from the alliance’s site.

Tree planting in France:

http://www.yves-rocher-fondation.org/plantons-pour-la-planete/?fbclid=IwAR1MVdct9Aoq-uHUEhEEz_aZCNM01YpE2SRYuqmio9WEzROdIUpjVmKJSSE

http://afac-agroforesteries.fr/le-programme-plantons-avec-la-fondation-yves-rocher/?fbclid=IwAR1kkthW6soYWFbUZVeRcEhV1bgKry45lsz-rc-LHWJyvkxQrJpu7sIgMQg

http://ecotree.fr/en/

I may not have solved any of the world’s major problems yet, but approach the subject with a fresh attitude.

xxxxxxx Aliss