Need Some Zing for the Re-entry?

DSC04588I swore I would not let La Rentrée get to me this year, but here we are and here we go again. Almost none of the things I’m dealing with are life-threatening. I’m not in the path of a hurricane or a typhoon, not in a flood or a landslide. In a way it’s even more frustrating and demotivating being preoccupied by the unsolvable while trying to rev up for another long school year and hopefully, one’s own projects… Maybe that’s why I’m in a state of confused inertia, wanting to step on the gas with one foot on the brake? In no particular order: my sweet neighborhood that I couldn’t wait to get back to is all torn up for some mysterious underground repairs, to the point where it’s difficult to cross the street, scaffolding is being hammered noisily in place for the city’s building resurfacing program, there are activity schedules to set arrange and meetings to sit through, medical appointments, giant mosquito bites, re-adjusting to small shared urban spaces, drug dealers returning after many years when we all thought they were gone for good…apparently preying on the migrants (result: one death and several stabbings, danger late at night for us and our kids…)

Soooooo! I take joy where I find it:

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes!

With a drizzle of top grade olive oil and salt… or a fancier mandala version with buffala mozzarella, arugula and fresh basil:DSC04564

Ratatouille:

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Using the leftovers for a ratatouille savory tarte:DSC04581

My recipe:

Leftover ratatouille
I Chavrou (Chavrie in the US)
I fresh goat cheese log, Sainte-Maure de Touraine if you can
Parmesan, grated, can go in filling or on top as you prefer, adds tangy “umami” 🙂 also thickens
3 Eggs
Herbes de provence, salt, pepper
Tbs flour optional
I pie crust, unsweetened
Blend Chavrou and eggs, add to slightly strained ratatouille in salad bowl, stir well (shouldn’t be too soupy). Depending on how firm you want it, you can use just yolks, whole eggs or both. I use whole ones. Some people put in flour to firm it up, too. Season. Grease bottom of deep pie plate, position pie crust, pinch edges for decor 🙂
Pour in ratatouille mixture, decorate with slices of goat log, making sure pieces are moistened with filling mixture so they don’t burn. Sprinkle with parmesan and paprika if desired.
Bake at 350-ish F (180° C) until cheese is golden brown and filling is firm, usually 45-50 minutes? Have to keep an eye on it to be sure. If the cheese looks done but the filling isn’t firm enough, cover lightly with aluminum foil and return to oven.
PS some people use gruyère or mozzarella for the topping 🙂
Enjoy!
More zings to come…
xxxxx Love Aliss

Back in Quiet August Paris

DSC04556Trying this to ease jetlag… Flat on my back in the grass, soles and palms facing down. The Buttes Chaumont park is calm but not empty: couples laughing on blankets, old people chatting on benches, moms feeding babies, dads and grandmas walking toddlers, someone playing the flute, classical music piping from a puppet theater hidden in the bushes, outdoor cafés shaded with bright parasols, a film shoot, people taking pictures at the waterfall…

How ironic to spend more time outdoors here in the city than on vacation in the back country of upstate New York…But then, the weather is less extreme here… bees, butterflies, birds…You can walk right out your front door and find green spaces to keep walking for hours, no need to drive somewhere for a hike…

To be continued xxxxx Aliss

Saving Mount Greylock

DSC02872When I despair about news of the environment, I think of visiting Mount Greylock, in western Massachusetts, and seeing pictures of its transformation from industrial wasteland to green paradise, all the more amazing because this was launched by a group of businessmen:

“Mount Greylock is the highest natural point in Massachusetts at 3,489 feet (1,063 m). Its peak is located in the northwest corner of the state in the western part of the town of Adams (near its border with Williamstown) in Berkshire County. Although geologically part of the Taconic Mountains, Mount Greylock is commonly associated with the abutting Berkshire Hills to the east. The mountain is known for its expansive views encompassing five states and the only taigaboreal forest in the state….

By the late 19th century, clearcutting logging practices had stripped much of the mountain for local industries that produced wood products, paper and charcoal. Along with this came devastating forest fires and landslides. Following a fire on the summit,[29] a group of local businessmen concerned about the mountain incorporated the Greylock Park Association (GPA) on July 20, 1885,[30][31] and purchased 400 acres (1.6 km2) on the summit. The GPA also undertook long-needed repairs to the Notch Road so that carriages could access the top. Aside from shares to fund its operation, the GPA charged a 25-cent toll for the carriage road and a 10-cent fee to ascend the iron observation tower (built 1889).[23] These fees are equivalent to $9.53 in present-day dollars.[32] …..

Additional support came from the Massachusetts Forestry Association’s initiative to advocate for the establishment of a state park system, and to make the case point, fight inappropriate development of the state’s highest peak, Mount Greylock. The principal argument for making the mountain a public reservation was to protect the Hoosic and Housatonic River watersheds from erosion due to recent trends of deforestation (particularly noted on the Adams side). Another concern was to preserve it for the public rather than private and exclusive enjoyment. On June 20, 1898 Mount Greylock State Reservation was created, with the stipulation that the state add to the original land (to ultimately total 10,000 acres (40 km2)). With this acquisition the first public land in Massachusetts for the purpose of forest preservation was created, later to become the state park system….”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Greylock

Worth the pilgrimage, all the more because the location has now been immortalized in the writings of J.K. Rowling as the site of a North American wizardry school…

To be continued xxxxx Aliss

Pool of Thought

IMG_1125This oasis was unexpectedly entrusted to my sole care this week. Ice cold turquoise water, partially shaded morning and evening, full sun at midday.

My job: cover it at night, scoop out unfortunate bees, dragonflies, the occasional frog, ants, spiders, debris…and swim between T-storms.

First time ever to have a pool all to myself. 

No need to do laps…just play in the water, any stroke or combination of moves that feels good, watching clouds and flowers mirror in ripples across the surface along with endless random mental reflections.

This is when answers to lingering questions bubble up from my deep…how to dance within certain tricky social circumstances, a better way to phrase that sentence in my writing, a thank you note to send, wishes, intuitions about future stages of my life… Unscheduled, unstructured moments are when I receive what I can only describe as signals. As if my being needed an opening in the my chatter with the world to synthesize and report back, the way information sometimes comes in dreams…

To be continued

xxxxxx Aliss

Strut Your Stripes

DSC04420Even before Les Bleus won the World Cup soccer championship, sailor stripes were a thing here, but now they’re The Thing. This summer, if you want to feel French in every sense of the word, go with stripes. Sleek mini shift versions are taking the streets, blue and white  Place Saint Sulpice (above) or red and white waiting for the Bateau Mouche Square du Vert Galant:DSC04424 (1)

Long and short sleeved tees make a fresh statement on everyone— young or mature, female or male, slim or less so:DSC04400 (1)DSC04402 (1)DSC04426 (1)

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They’re available everywhere, but if you want the real deal, made in France with Fair Trade cotton by a company founded in the epicenter of the marinière, that sponsors music festivals and the beautiful replica of Lafayette’s ship, l’Hermione… go with Armor Lux.

Their Paris store 16, rue Vavin 75006 Paris (Phone 01 44 07 00 77) is slashing prices right now and until August 7th:DSC04421DSC04423DSC04422

Check out their website for prices on every possible item imaginable for the whole family and the home. You’ll also find info on the history of the brand and its commitment to sustainability.

http://www.armorlux.com/en/

For the backstory, pictures and folklore (originally worn by Breton “onion johnnies” peddling garlic and onions across the channel in England, it became part of the official French Navy uniform and then sexy androgyne high fashion thanks to Coco Chanel, Brigitte Bardot and Jean-Paul Gauthier, to name a few…) see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marinière

http://www.stylefrancais.com/2017/05/lhistoire-de-la-mariniere-chapitre-1/

Or if you’re not ready to take the plunge, Have a drink at a sidewalk café and people watch and count stripes 🙂

Happy Parisian Summer!

xxxxxx Aliss

Music…writing…lions, butterflies, healing and immortality…

Stock photo of a Monarch….Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 14.58.59

Music is my aeroplane, writing is my time machine…no, writing keeps me sane? Maybe all of the above…The story of my life, especially right now…

Those of you who check in from time to time have noticed I completely let this poor blog flatline over the last few weeks. Life is what happens when you’ve scheduled something else, and/or hell is paved with good intentions?

There I was early June, barreling along, getting stuff done, moving mountains and then Pow! A big disturbance in the force, that phone call you never want to get, one of my favorite people had passed away in her sleep, which is the best way to go that anyone could ask for, but a horrible shock for me, especially because I had just finalized plans to see her over the summer.Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 18.12.16

(My heart has been heavy since June 13th when this person left our lives, my sweet, funny, smart Aunt Barbie, my second Mom, inspiring mother, homemaker, health professional, business woman, story teller, hostess, fashion plate, decorator, traveler… No one can ever replace her and I can’t bear to say goodbye….)

This was two days before I was supposed to hop on a Eurostar for London to see some English music buddies and sign publishing contracts for a song we wrote and recorded together. While there I planned to take my son to see The Lion King, a required part of our family curriculum. When he suddenly came down with a flu bug and couldn’t travel, cancelling seemed like the best option… Yes, but MUSIC!

So went anyway. Put away sadness, put on a good face, and it was the perfect thing to do: move forward with a new song (more about that soon) that I can build a set around to get back on stage after a very long maternity leave, and brainstorm with my buds about sound, arrangements, the new Protools, gigs, etc.

… And the London cast of The Lion King gave new meaning to the word catharsis. (If you haven’t seen the stage version directed by Julie Taymor, you have no idea what you’re missing.) The Circle of Life and They Live in Me as interpreted by Brown Lindiwe Mkize as Rafiki were exactly what I needed.

DSC04365aIt felt like tears were coming up from my heart, through my eyes, and running down my face, in a loop of sadness and gratitude that the person I missed so much will always be in my life and our family. http://www.thelionking.co.uk/cast/

The next day, I sped back to Paris energized to sing and play a new song live at the Fête de la Musique as a guest of my favorite funk band, the Doodads.

At the top of my To Do list was journaling, going over my calendar where I scribble daily highlights and revelations, and then, when I have time, elaborate in my this-aint-no-bullet-journal-journal:IMG_1052

I had almost 3 weeks to catch up on while juggling other things, so it took many hours of pen to paper, off and on over several days until I was cross eyed and writers-cramped. Late at night when I was almost caught up I channel-flipped onto National  Geographic’s “One Strange Rock, Season 1, episode 10, Home.” http://onestrangerock.com/episodes/  Why now, why this episode?

It’s about Peggy Whitson, the distinguished, record-breaking female astronaut from Iowa. Her transformation from farm girl into Space Explorer is compared to the metamorphosis of Monarch caterpillars who liquefy in their chrysalises and emerge to migrate thousands of miles, all the way from our midwest and other far flung destinations, to Mexico, where they arrive every year on the Day of the Dead and are celebrated by local people as the souls of departed loved ones. Eye-popping Mexican make up and costumes included a full-body butterfly suit with enormous orange and black wings.

The next morning, when I journaled about this, it hit me: my aunt’s travel business was Monarch Travel and Cruises, and her logo was a monarch butterfly! OK, maybe just coincidence, but stunning, like a wink from the great beyond, a beautiful metaphor for a soul connections, to make me smile.

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says writing by hand connects us to our deepest selves. Right now I don’t have time to write every morning as she suggests, but my journaling marathons open up what’s under the surface, dip into my inner well, renew and inspire me, keep me sane, allow me to time travel forward and backward, connect the dots…

This one allowed me to resurrect this blog, no small thing…

xxxxxx Aliss