Christmas Countdown


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


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.


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 GĂ©ode, 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 HĂ©lène GuĂ©tary 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 DondĂ©, 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 ĂŽle 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


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 CarrĂ©e. 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 “Ă  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…