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

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

 

 

Happiness Recipes: a musical massage! (25/3/18)

For guaranteed fun and uplift try Gamelan! If you’re in the Paris area, it’s easy, keep reading. If not, it’s easy, too, scroll down for link to online version  🙂  (Photo: Javanese gamelan at Cité de la Musique, Paris 19)DSC04180

This is really a cool thing to do, alone, with friends or family. If you’ve never heard of it before, gamelan is an ensemble of 30+ elements, native to Indonesia, mainly composed of percussion instruments such as gongs, metallophones or drums. Sometimes there are string insturments such as rebab, celempung (kind of cithare), and woodwinds like the selung, a sort of bamboo flute. Gamelan plays an important role in Indonesian society. Every village or wealthy family owns one. Each is blessed and respected. Playing is not reserved for an elite, all social categories can participate. Gamelan is played on many occasions, religious or official ceremonies and holidays, and is often accompanied with other art forms: dance, song, and shadow theater. (Photo: gamelan workshop, Cité de la Musique, Paris 19)DSC04185

Shadow theater shows (Wayang Kulit) take place all over Indonesia. They can last all night. A dalang (storyteller and puppeteer) uses hand decorated leather marionnettes behind a scrim to illustrate epic tales from the Ramayana that relate the good and evil deeds of mankind in relationship with the supernatural realm. DSC04186

Gamelan uses fewer notes than the western chromatic scales– one with 5 notes (selendro) and one with 7 notes (pelog). Virtuosity results not from individual solos but from coordination between all the players, who don’t learn alone at home, but always in a group. The 30+ piece ensemble is considered as a single instrument. There is no sheet music as such. The learning process is oral. Instead of naming the notes, numbers are used to indicate which gongs and which metal bars to strike with special mallets. Gamelan uses repetitive cycles that overlap to form sound mandalas! (The dragon below is part of a Balinese gamelan at La Villette, Paris 19)DSC04181

If you are in Paris, sign up for the next gamelan workshop:

http://philharmoniedeparis.fr/fr/activite/atelier-du-week-end/18745-gamelan-de-java?date=1528632000

If you are not in Paris, or just want to explore, click on this link to see 5 gamelans from different regions (Java, Bali, Sunda). You can play them using the buttons on the panel at left:

http://pad.philharmoniedeparis.fr/gamelan.aspx

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and see how the cycles form sound mandalas!Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 21.15.18

The workshop leader at the Cité de la Musique is very nice and well versed in gamelan culture. He demonstrates the techniques and gets everyone in the groove. Can’t recommend it highly enough! A musical voyage away from our western habits into a shared experience of soothing, almost transe-inducing, musical relaxation and massage.

Enjoy! xxxxx Aliss

Text about Gamelan adapted and translated from CNED, Éducation Musicale, 4/e, 2018

 

Happiness Recipes (food!)

Pumpkin fondu           (Photo Z Worthington)

Theoretically Spring is around the corner, but Winter is still with us, at least until next week’s Equinox, with more snow and freezing temperatures on the way this weekend, now called the “Helsinki-Paris”… So before I say goodbye to the cold, here are two recipes I discovered this year and want to celebrate because they really brightened our spirits and table.

Why do I think about cooking and restaurants so much? Because I really believe that preparing and serving good food consciously is a form of social and ecological activism that fosters genetic diversity and sustainable, human-scale farming! It’s also a way to honor cultural traditions and life in general. When I attended “Les secrets du chef” (Chef’s Secrets) evenings at the Cordon Bleu school, I learned that every dish is a hologram of history, geography, evolution, language, and sensuality.  We know how the taste for spices resulted in trade routes across the globe, but did you know that following schools of cod led the Vikings to the New World? The ways this fish was caught and preserved, with smoke, salt, and air drying, provided livelihoods, terms, and tools for many people over centuries…No wonder the Cordon Bleu chefs speak so passionately about their ingredients…

So, recipe number one: Pumpkin and Cheese Fondue, but not just any old pumpkin, please. It has to be potimarron, much sweeter than other varieties. The English call it Red Kuri Squash, other names incude: “Japanese squash”, “orange Hokkaido squash”, and “baby red hubbard squash.” Personally I had never seen or tasted it before coming to France. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_kuri_squash

And not just any old cheese, please. Reblochon is my pick (although some people swear by camembert). In Sainsbury’s Book of Food, Frances Bissell describes Reblochon as “One  of France’s great mountain cheeses… made in Haute-Savoie, semisoft, with a yellowish brown rind and a gentle fruity flavor… sold in flat rounds set on thin wooden slices.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reblochon

Here’s one of my favorites, made with raw milk, vive la France:DSC04179Ingredients:

1 medium potimarron

2 small (or 1 large) raw milk reblochon cheeses, depending on availability

Pecans or walnuts, sprigs of fresh thyme, salt, freshly ground pepper, honey

Cut a hole in the top of the potimarron, large enough to insert the cheeses, scoop out the seeds and some of the pulp (to be saved for soup). Cut off the pointed tip under the potimarron so it sits firmly on a baking sheet or in a glass pie dish. Salt and pepper the inside.

Slice excess rind off cheeses and insert each in the potimarron, making small cuts in each top for pecan or walnut halves. Sprinkle with fresh thyme, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with honey. Replace the potimarron “hat.”

Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 45 minutes then turn oven up to 410°F (210°C) for 10 minutes, or until the potimarron is tender when tested with a fork and the cheese has melted and blended together.

Remove from oven, take off “hat,” dip fresh baguette chunks (or other delicious bread) in cheese mixture, then use forks to carve out pieces of potimarron drenched in cheese 🙂

Enjoy! PS when I made this the first time, the small reblochons fit inside easily, the times and temperatures were perfect and the cheese was bubbly without further baking. The second time I used one larger reblochon cut into pieces to fit. I followed the instructions to the letter, but had to add cooking time. Third try, I used small cheeses again but had to add cooking time. In an emergency, you can use a microwave for the finishing touch. In other words, improvisation may be required… Leftover potimarron is fabulous mashed and reheated later as a side-dish. 🙂

Recipe 2: Mini Mushroom Crissants, made with Sylvia’s Wild Mushroom-Chestnut Fricassee (courtesy of Sylvia Sabes, my favorite travel and lifestyle guru)DSC04062

Sylvia’s Mushroom Chestnut Fricassee (great vegan dish to include in holiday menus!)

Go to Picard (France’s gourmet frozen food chain) and buy morilles (morels), baby cèpes (ceps, porcinis), girolles (not the same as chanterelles, but I guess you can substitute these in a pinch) and pre-cooked chestnuts. The quantity depends on how many people you have to feed. Sylvia uses 3 packages of each mushroom for one of chestnuts.

Sauté the mushrooms (in olive oil if going for vegan, otherwise in butter), one kind at a time, being careful to drain off the liquid as you go (and freeze it for soups). Morels 10 minutes, then cèpes for 3 minutes, add chestnuts and girolles and sauté for another 7 minutes (refer to package instructions).

I had this at Sylvia’s for Thanksgiving and it was amazing. All the mushrooms were nicely browned with the chestnuts, tender and chewy. When I made it, I must not have drained off the liquid the right way because it got a little soupy and I had to thicken it for a while, which changed the texture.  I added garlic, Adobo (salty lemon and herb mixture), sweet paprika, and lots of pepper. Then I shaped it into a round “patties” with a metal circle form and plated it with arugula dressed with virgin olive oil, balsamic, and fresh parsley. Huge success! I had a lot left over, and a party coming up, which gave me the idea for the mini croissants (pictured above). The day of the party, I bought puff pastry, cut it into triangles, stuffed it with the mushroom filling, and baked in a medium oven until brown. DSC04059Next time, I’ll baste with egg yolk to get the perfect golden finish. No one noticed I hadn’t done that, big success, and leftovers can be reheated… For more brilliant inspiration from Sylvia Sabes: http://www.facebook.com/LoveOnlyNParis/

To be continued xxxxx Aliss

 

Happiness Recipes (updated 14/3/18)

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Winter is still with us, how can we love it? Let me count the ways… Number one: new discoveries and passions like Madame, my favorite woman street artist, whose interactive mural collages I discovered on a recent cold evening at Art 42, a Parisian programming school and street art gallery in the 17th. In honor of International Women’s Day, I posted the one above, shown by the stairs in Art 42’s courtyard: “By calculating everything, we made our lives indecipherable equations…”

From Madame’s website Bio: “…I work with and rework vintage documents and photographs from the last century up to the 50’s and 60’s, to create new, more contemporary images. 

These original visuals are always articulated in the following characteristic way: an image and a punch line that dialog, but don’t illustrate one another. 

Once these small format collages are finished, they are scanned and then printed in very large formats and affixed in the street, to offer passersby a door to another more playful, offbeat reality.  

It’s about offering viewers an image that can be interpreted in many ways, an open door to elsewhere.” 

Photo of photo displayed in the basement of Art 42, “Building paper castles, we don’t cause the storm, we defy it.”

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And a detail from wall sculpture upstairs, “Day and night always end up in embrace” DSC04084DSC04083

Below: “To be sure I’d never find myself, I sowed my heart like a tiny bread crumb” has frames that swing open like windows:

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She keeps her own identity and image secret, posing beside “I sometimes embrace the past to stay standing”DSC04082.JPG

To see and find out more, see her website and Instagram:

http://www.madamemoustache.fr/

http://www.instagram.com/madamemoustachestreetart/

All the pieces above and examples of her earlier work can be seen at

Art42 Urban Art Collection and Coding Institute
96 Boulevard de Bessières
75017, M° Porte de Clichy
01 77 12 54 55
The name refers to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (42 being the ultimate answer to Life and the Universe)
The gallery/coding school concept is the brainchild of Nicolas Laugero-Laserre (collector, director of ICART art institute, former director of Espace Cardin) and Xavier Niel (CEO of Free, married to Delphine Arnault of LVMH) and it doesn’t disappoint: 150 works by 50 artists cover the walls of 3 floors, a courtyard, and the cafeteria, including Banksy, JR, Invader, Shepard Fairey, Philippe Baudeloque, Romain Froquet, Monkey Bird, Swoon, Bault, Evol, Jef, and Aerosol… Admission is free, Tuesday evenings 7-9 pm and the first Sunday of the month 3-6 pm, with tours in French, English, and Spanish. Reservation is required.
Highly recommended! xxxxx Aliss