Noticing (updated 11/11/17)

DSC03876 (1)Funny sidewalk face, Place des Vosges, on a recent autumn day…

Blog has been in slomo for several days, busy busy with other writing projects and life…

As promised, thoughts about noticing:

Since the Paris attacks two years ago, I’ve been meditating every day to stay calm and raise my vibes, in various ways. Tibetan compassion mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum:

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Also the Oprah/Chopra (W&D) meditation series, which I highly recommend. It’s freeeee (and there are lots of free sample meditations to try out), and you can subscribe if you want to redo, which I do:

http://www.chopra.com/articles/guided-meditations

http://chopracentermeditation.com/

Then there’s the On Being site, with (not too shabby!) meditations by Sylvia Boorstein, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn and others:

http://onbeing.org/blog/sylvia-boorstein-a-lovingkindness-meditation/

And last but not least, Krista Tippet’s On Being interview with Ellen Langer, who says we don’t have to meditate to get the same and better results. To be mindful (instead of mindless) all we have to do is NOTICE. Notice 5 new things about our significant other, about our job, about our neighborhood on our daily walks (see above, that’s what photography does for me):

http://onbeing.org/programs/ellen-langer-science-of-mindlessness-and-mindfulness-nov2017/

…and question all our assumptions and received ideas… Her outlook reminds me of climate activist David Gershon’s minute-to-minute life question, “What’s possible?”

http://www.thetrumpantidote.com/interview-david-gershon.html

And Empowerment activist Gail Straub putting on “John Lennon’s glasses”

http://www.thetrumpantidote.com/interview-gail-straub

Noticing noticing noticing…

To be continued… xxxxx Aliss

Dreaming on the Sky

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Looking up, projecting inner visions on the sky, our infinite screen, opens imagination.  What do we want to take with us into the New Year?  What do we want to leave behind?  What bridges do we want to cross?  What do we love so much that we can’t not do it?  When we put our hearts fully into a dream, it changes us and our “reality.” Most people hate the word commitment, but here’s another way to look at it:

“As long as we are not committed, doubt reigns, the ability to withdraw remains and inefficiency always prevails. Concerning all acts of initiative and creativity, there is an elementary truth,the ignorance of which has countless consequences and aborts splendid projects. At the moment we fully commit, Providence also goes into motion. To help us, all sorts of things take shape, which wouldn’t have happened otherwise. An entire chain of events, of situations and decisions create in our favor all manner of unplanned incidents, meetings, and material support that we would never have dreamed of encountering on our path…Everything you can do or dream of doing, you can venture. Audacity contains genius, power, and magic.”  W.H. Murray, The Power of Commitment

Let’s throw our big dreams for ourselves and the world into the sky: health, happiness, creativity, abundance. No dream too big to come true.

Happy New Year! xxxx Aliss

 

Love Forever True

DSC02401I’m inspired by these two creatures living on the canal around the corner from my building. Year in year out I see them swimming together, cob and pen, raising their cygnets, feeding, flying over the water.

If there’s one thing I wish everyone for the New Year, it’s love.

xxxx Aliss

 

Yet In Thy Dark Street Shineth

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Joyeuses Fêtes=Merry Christmas and Happy New Year=Happy Holidays

The waters of life continue to flow in tears of sorrow and tears of joy. My friend Marilyn lost her young daughter this week and yet in darkness she was a source of light, giving thanks for the years they had together and allowing her child’s life to give life to others. Thank you to everyone in distant countries holding her in their thoughts. I believe the love we send out is never lost and maybe even saves the world. As we start another trip around our sun, our moon reflecting its light, I’m grateful for my family, friends, and home. Wishing you all radiance….

Christmas Countdown

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This is our advent calendar, one of my favorite Christmas rituals 🙂
Every night from December 1st to 24th, I put a china figurine
(collected from years of Epiphany king cakes) into one of the little drawers with a tiny chocolate. I start out with toys and animals and gradually
switch to the Nativity theme so that a tiny baby Jesus in the manger is in
the last drawer. It’s pretty intense, like being the Tooth Fairy every night for three and a half weeks, but my son loves it, of course. Sometimes I forget to do it before I fall asleep and have to run frantically to my secret figurine and chocolate hiding places, and sneak them into the calendar before he sees me! When my daughter was at home, I was doing double
duty with her calendar, a big felt hanging Christmas tree
with numbered pockets. Traditionally, the treat is just a piece of chocolate, but one year in a commercial calendar I bought, there were little plastic
gumball machine toys in the windows as well. I could never find one of
those again but saved the toys and put them in the next year’s
calendar compartments with a chocolate. It was always really fun seeing
how the kids reacted to a tiny plastic hotdog, a roulette wheel, or a pair of
dice. Then I got the idea to use the king cake “fèves” (“beans”) 🙂
Trying to keep journaling, something I’ve done since childhood. Unstructured-blowing-off-steam-not-meant-for-prime-time, it helps me stay focused and make sense of non-stop barrages of information we all get every day. When I look back over the last month’s notes, I see changes, more fear, but also more love. If you have thoughts, please let me know.
Thank you everyone for checking in and liking or following my blog! It’s really carried me these past few weeks since November 13th. I love doing it and love your feedback!

Everybody’s Birthday

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In Montmartre today, Le Progrès caught my eye and matched my spirits.

7 rue des 3 Fréres, 75018 Paris, France (Montmartre) +33 1 42 64 07 37

In other news, we all got some pretty cool gifts over the weekend: COP21 agreement signed by almost 200 countries and a better consensus in the French regional elections.The Return of the Light feels like everybody’s birthday… Happy Birthday everybody!

Recipe for celebrations:

Deviled Quail Eggs with Red Caviar and Fresh Dill

Adapted from a pre-revolutionary Russian dish I tasted with Gleb Vladimirovich Tchijoff.

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You will need: a lot of time and patience, 18 quail eggs, dijon mustard, mayo,  a few drops of milk, red caviar (trout, salmon, lumpfish), and sprigs of fresh dill (plus water and vinegar for boiling, ice for cooling).

First off, quail eggs are the size of olives, so this is like making doll food. For best results, delicately place the quail eggs in a pan of warm water and bring to a boil, for 3-4 minutes depending on how you like your eggs, medium or very hard boiled. Lift them out of the pan into a dish of ice water. When cool, gently tap the eggs on a hard surface and then roll them in your palms to loosen the speckled shells. Try to slip your fingers under the membrane around the eggs to slide the shells off as smoothly as possible. If the eggs are too fresh the shells will stick and the whites will tear. This isn’t too serious because you’ll be able to shape them back together with the yolk mixture when it’s ready. Warning: this takes time!

When the shells are off, cut the eggs in half with a very sharp knife, scoop  the yolks into a bowl, and using a fork, mix with a tablespoon of dijon mustard, a teaspoon or so of mayo and just enough milk to get a creamy texture. With a tiny spoon, fill the whites with yolk mixture, sprinkle with grains of red caviar and tiny branches of dill. Chill and array on a pretty plate.

Your guests will be amazed 🙂

xxxx Love, Aliss

(PS In the original recipe, you just hard boil the eggs, cut in half and top with red caviar and dill. I like the deviled version even though it’s ridiculously work-intensive…)

 

All I Want for Christmas

Smiling reflections in La Géode, Parc de la Villette, Paris, a geodesic dome with Imax theater, inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s Biosphere design for Montreal’s Expo ’67 World’s FairProfesseur NimbusThis morning my son and I attended a private screening of Space Explorers a Franco-Chinese series of animated shorts about creative initiates to preserve our environment, directed by Hélène Guétary and released in sync with COP21. Very inspiring! Coral nurseries, urban gardens, renewable energies, protected species, reforestation…all over the globe. Two shorts will be shown before all the big features at the Geode, one of my favorite destinations. Don’t miss it! Now that I’ve met Laurent Dondé, artistic director, I understand why it’s such an enlightened place. If you’re notin Paris, check them out on Youtube:

imageSunday is round two of the regional elections in France. I’m imagining a big turn out to  elect good people for our regional councils and governors, who in turn elect senators…Thank you Paris and Île de France, for not voting Front National. I continue to believe there has to be a way to protect our citizens and our humanitarian values.

Making deviled quail eggs with red caviar and fresh dill for a winter brunch tomorrow. When they’re done, will try to photograph and write out the recipe. Very work-intensive, but worth it!

Please send good vibes for the elections.

Love, xxx Aliss

Do You See What I See

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Continuing quest for lighter spirits, had a blast helping Santa find surprises for my tribe yesterday in the very center of Paris at the Forum des Halles , admiring the big tree and giant ornaments in the Cour Carrée. Exited the mall to check out shops on rue Montmartre and rue Montorgueil, pouring rain, Nature called, very little cash in my wallet, limited options. Popped into a vintage tabacconist hoping to use the facilities. Basic French etiquette demands that one say bonjour and order an expresso at the bar before asking for the toilettes. As I was doing this, the owner saw me looking desperately around his establishment trying to figure out if it was upstairs, downstairs, in the courtyard, or non-existant. He motioned towards a miniscule stairway in the back, “It’s on floor one and a half, up the stairs to your right, but take off your coat and leave your packages here, it’s very tiny.” I thanked him and obeyed, feeling like I was in Being John Malkovich, Paris style.

A flight and a half up, I found a sink, an automatic hand dryer, and a door, which I opened. There waiting for me was a vestige of the old Paris I discovered when I first got here:  a ceramic rectangle with two raised platforms for your feet and a forbidding hole designed to squat over. Most Americans I have known would rather explode than go inside one of these (right Vicky?). Thank heavens I’m pretty limber, could fit inside, and knew what to do. Also the light switch was duct-taped into a permanent “on” position so I didn’t have to lock myself in before the light came on, the way these things usually  work. How many times did I crouch and pee, terrified, in semi-darkness, clutching the door at the same time so I wouldn’t fall into the hole or be interrupted by someone else trying to get in,  back in my student days before I figured things out? You didn’t always find toilet paper then and the other shocking thing was how you would pull the flush chain with the clammy white ceramic handle hanging at the back under the water tank perched near the ceiling and a cold mini tsunami would burst out from a pipe over the hole and soak your feet and ankles. This time I remembered to jump out of the way in time. After emerging and washing my hands, I took a nostalgic photo for posterity. The “other side” of Paris: DSC02381

I couldn’t resist congratulating the owner on preserving this historical “à la Turque” monument  and we discussed how experts now say this model is healthier than throne versions. For the record, one of my friends credits her two easy childbirth experiences with having one of these in her first apartment, before renovations. My first apartment on the rue du faubourg Saint-Denis had a shower in the kitchen and shared one of these not only with my 3 roommates, but with the entire floor of the building… I survived! Very happy to now have my own throne and bath.

Counting blessings…

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

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Looking for light in darkness, anywhere I can find it…everyday routines, wit, kindness, imagination, running into a friend, silly animal pictures… Trying to stay up to date without OD’ing on headlines…Every time I think I’m coming to terms with events, they go to another level…never thought I’d see the day when I’d be talking to my son about how to survive grenades (run, get down, close eyes, put fingers in ears, open mouth) and kalashnikovs (run, crouch behind a car at the wheel hub) and more…Grateful for the holiday season, music, decorated streets, ancient traditions about death and rebirth of light… winter food!

DSC02367A new discovery: what to do with leftover roast turkey, dressing, and gravy, inspired by watching Chef Gilles Épié… (Works especially well with free range birds and home-made stuffing) It’s great to keep the carcass for soup stock, so a few days after the big meal, remove the last meat from the bones and scoop the drippings from the roasting dish into a sauce pan to start a “roux” over a low flame. Turkey fat replaces butter and instead of sprinkling in flour to thicken it, put in a few tablespoons of stuffing (full of turkey juices, and depending on your recipe, bread, chestnut bits, onion, celery, apricots, walnuts, a little parsley?) flattening them with a fork to blend with the drippings as they melt. Pour in broth from stewed giblets and as much milk as needed depending on the number of hungry mouths (last minute cream is also an option). Add in leftover turkey or sliced free range filets to round out the quantity. Secret ingredients: sweet paprika for color and a little curry powder to bring out the meat flavors, plus sea salt from Guérande, and freshly ground black pepper. If you have a slab of parmesan, you can grate some in for texture and pizzazz. Meanwhile, sauté broccoli in olive oil and garlic. You can use frozen or fresh. The main idea is to let the water (already in the frozen, add to fresh) steam the stalks until tender, then cook over low heat, keeping an eye on them so the water evaporates, to “concentrate the savors” as they say at the Cordon Bleu “Chef’s Secrets” evenings (worth every euro)… When the broccoli is almost ready and the sauce is thickened, seasoned to your taste, and liquid enough to keep warm on a low flame without burning, heat several quarts of water in an electric kettle, pour into a pan with a little salt, bring to a boil, and add a pack of linguine (500g or 1lb will make enough for the next day). Cook pasta about 8 minutes, then drain, leaving a little hot water in the bottom of the pot. Serve pasta on plates, with a ladle of sauce and a few fleurettes of broccoli. When I was little my grandmother and mother used to make “Turkey Tetrazzini” casserole with similar ingredients, baked in the oven. Every time I tried, it turned out dry, so this is my new version. It was a big success. Thanks Gilles Épié for the stuffing as thickener concept (in his turkey gravy recipe). I recommend his restaurant Citrus Étoile, near the Champs Élysées. Joy to the World!

PS Just found my mom’s Turkey Tetrazzini recipe and the reason it’s so mouth-watering is that it has sherry and lemon juice in it, plus cream!!! Something to look forward to next year! Putting the recipe with the holiday ones :-))))