Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mazel Tov

When the Jewish people say Mazel Tov they MAY mean congratulations,  or they may mean good for you , you survived a bad situation.   I am in the last category.

 Mazel Tov: It could have been a lot worse!

  Friday morning while we were eating our breakfast on the terrace, someone scaled the wall and climbed through  the window ( left finger prints too) and  stole my camera and my computer within a few meters from us.  They took nothing else and lots of "else" was in plain view so it could have been 100x worse.

This was a thump in the back of the head from the universe.  Stupid Ass... don't leave your windows open with stuff lying around!

Of course the first thing you do is pull your hair and lament.  The second thing is not to believe it and think that somehow you just put it in the refrigerator and it's safe but cold.  The third thing....and this goes on into the night with every little sound you hear.... is to dream of training  a 30 foot python who only eats creeping strangers.    Then fourth, you start thinking of how to build your home into a fortress with deadly spikes on the gate and broken class in a fourteen foot wall.

The only real solution is to accept it, make a few changes and move on... a little wiser.

  As I write, I am now navigating the alien and preposterous world of Monsieur's pc which if you are an "apple" fan , you know is really an outrage!  However, beggars can't choose so for a while I will stumble around and in a while there will be another machine and I will finally get to see if my hard drive worked in backing things up.

As for the camera,  it was 6 years old, a dinosaur.  To take a picture of the meals we had I had to stand on a chair to get enough distance.  I always had to crop my toes out afterwards.  And the mac was pretty old too.  The thief is going to be quite disappointed. Hee.

 Mazel Tov: I still have my health, some good pals,  and a house that did nothing wrong.  I can afford other gadgets, unlike most of the world..   I still have Monsieur who I am still figuring out after 30 years. I need more time for that.  I have tons of stuff to play with and a hoard of chocolate in the cupboard.

 Whoa, thank Christ they didn't  touch the chocolate or my Dad's ocarinas.  That would have been terrible, really  hard to take.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Strange and Wonderful 2

I haven't ever gotten over looking at these images that I took some years back in Oregon at a sort of "petting zoo" aquarium.   I have since lost the name of it and maybe someone can help me out with it.  We were allowed to touch the animals in pictures 2 and 3 under the supervision of a ranger and there was an elaborate wave machine that simulated the ocean environment.    The first and last pictures were taken from the outside of an aquarium tank.  It was an amazing set up to see incredible, wondrous sea fauna.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spaghettini al sugo di pomodoro freddo

Alright so I am spoiled.  My husband has been cooking me a delicious meal three days in a row now and one of those days I got the beautiful dessert you see above.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  

First the main course which is called Spaghettini with chilled tomato sugo which was found in the Valvona and Crolla cook-book called " A Year at an Italian Table" by Mary Contini.   

1.Use 750 g of very ripe fresh plum tomatoes and chop them roughly into eighths. 

2. Put in 3-4 T of extra virgin olive oil  and a new season garlic clove finely sliced. 

3. Then tear up a handful of fresh basil leaves and add that to the mix.  

4. Season with salt and store in the fridge to moulder a bit.  
   You can take it out later so it warms to room temperature. 

5.  Cook the spaghettini in salted boiling water, drain and toss in the sugo and serve.

 That's all.  

 Now when Monsieur did it for us he poached the skins off the tomatoes ( great idea) and didn't let it marinate in the fridge (not necessary) and he added some red pepper flakes which gave it another dimension.  The heat of the pasta releases the aromas of the sauce. You don't need to add Parmesan to get a zesty dish in which you can taste each flavor.  Its refreshing and intense.

As for the desert, that is fresh yellow and white nectarines,  French special late ripening cherries ( a different species from the trees in our garden which mature bright red), some mango sorbet and a hint of cafe ice cream. As I mentioned before, I am exceedingly spoiled.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Gadjo Dilo : the film

They say that in every soul there is a a gypsy.  Well after seeing Gadjo Dilo (Crazy Stranger) , I am not so sure about that.

 Some of us just have had all the gypsy trained out of us at an early age ....but we are still fascinated by the tribe.   I myself have seen a band of gypsies in India, maybe the most beautiful faces I have ever seen and have watched at least four well known movies of these nomads but I will never understand completely.  Each set of them is so different from the others.

In this film , Tony Gatlif, a native Nicois explores still more of the people and their music by placing his story in a Romany camp in Romania.  Briefly, a man is looking for a singer that he heard on a cassette and he finds more.... much more.

The lead is Romaine Duris as Stephane, supposedly from Paris. Also he is teamed with Rona Hartner as the abandoned gypsy girl and Izidor Serban as the wiley old guy.    I am pretty certain that all of the others are non actor gypsies that Gatlif found on site and engaged whole-heartedly in this raunchy and ,I imagine, authentic depiction of gypsy life (at least in this particular camp).  In fact I would say that this is Izidor's first performance and he has done one other film so in my book he is untrained but a natural.

It is a lot of fun to watch the suspicion of the gypsies towards Stephane...of course all of the stereotypes are there that we hear about them....He will steal our children, he will take our chickens etc.

I love the total abandon with which Isidor and Rona go at their roles.  There is so much charm and mischief in Rona.  You think she is gypsy but I know that she is not and that she auditioned and won the part by getting up on the table and singing.  That is her other calling and I wish they had included more of her singing and dancing as she is enchanting at both.  She is an actress totally at ease with her body, with no pretense and no holding back.

The film has no satisfactory resolution ... it sort of peters out at the end,  but if you watch it from the aspect of documentation and sheer bravado of performance, it is charming in its gypsy way.  If you see it, tell me what you think.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Prosciutto and Melon Salad

  Between the two of us, it's my husband who is the foodie.  I am happy to go along and prepare anything as long as he buys and schleps the ingredients home which he is happy to do even though we don't have a car and it usually means several stops.

  And I am happy to eat it all especially with the great dishes he has been finding in his many good cookbooks and in the newspaper. 

 This summer we have been following a lot of the recipes in THE KITCHEN DIARIES, by Nigel Slater as they are a cinch to prepare and call for really fresh seasonal ingredients which we can easily get here.

  Yesterday we had the melon, prosciutto and mozzarella salad that you see above.  I prepared it with large chunks of everything so it didn't look too fussy.  The sauce is a simple lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette with a bit of salt and pepper and some parsley chopped in.  I served it on a bed of mescalin lettuce and roquette.  That's all. 

 We have tried it with melon and mango and that is wonderful also, even more exotic.  Of course, make sure your melon has sat on it's pantry shelf until it is bursting with ripeness.   And put about 1 T lemon juice to 4 T of olive oil so it isn't too sour with the roquette underneath.     Enjoy. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ron Carter solo -Willow Weep for Me

Ron Carter is an American jazz-double bassist who has appeared in over 2500 albums in his 70 plus years making him one of the most recorded bassists in jazz history.  He is equally at home on the cello and has a large body of classical work as well.  His renown goes way back to the second great Miles Davis Quintet in the early 60's with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams.   In short the man is a legend.

 So to be able to hear him and his Golden Striker Trio at the festival was an amazing privilege this week.  The guy's music is butter smooth and as my friend commented "Il a de la classe" as he and his musicians walked onstage in the sweltering July heat in dark suits and green ties looking cool as jazz can be.

Shame on the planners for scheduling a raucous oompa band to start up half way through the set in the over amped garden stage at the Nice festival.  Even Ron couldn't help commenting with a wry, "It's like having a neighbor who won't turn his radio down." But we were totally hypnotized by his music anyway so none of us budged from our seats or were lulled from our trance. What a great musician.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Flaveur: le restaurant

Caryn and owner Xavier Richard

Caryn points out the deserts

Note the injection device in my sorbet, hmmm.

I had such a good time at this restaurant with friend Caryn the other day that I decided to splash out and opt for the extra large photos.  Flaveur is about a year old and although it is close to my art supply stores  I had never noticed it until I saw it written up in a magazine. It has already been included in the prestigious Gault -Millau listing of best restaurants.  So much for knowing your own town.

 You will find Flaveur at 25 rue Gubernatis, Nice.  It is owned and run by three young men,  one who speaks English so well that I had to ask.  Turns out he is married to an American.  You absolutely must look up their story on their site which speaks of the team of three and their vision.

The dining room has fifties style decor, ( no chance of me hanging my pictures here) which is original  (as is the loo).  But the test is really the food..... which is stylishly served, exquisitely prepared and good value.

 For lunch you can opt for the 15 euro menu that comes with a choice of three main courses,  a glass of decent wine and a coffee .  For 23 euros you get an extra course with that.  We started with kir royal's in a celebratory mood and went on to the first menu which for us was a cabillaud (cod) in a red sauce.  The fish was delicate and flaky:   cooked to perfection and was enhanced by a delicate, slightly tangy tomato sauce probably made from fresh tomatoes.  It was a shame to leave a drop of it so we mopped it up with the( better than baguette) bread that is the staple on any french table.  

We ordered a desert ( 7 euros extra) just because I had forgotten to take out the camera and I wanted to report my findings.  My litchi concoction with the syringe was a bit too dreamy creamy for my taste and the syringe I didn't quite get... although I have seen this gimmick before. The artisanal sorbet would have done the trick for me if I had just had that.  It was a summer delight.

 The molleuse chocolate was good as they mostly are when made with good dark chocolate like this one.  (Of course we shared.) We were treated to a digestive on the house and had a home-made limoncello to finish.... all in all a memorable meal.

 The nights are booked at Flaveur until the end of the month.    The system is to reserve on :    which works really well.  They call back to confirm.

and definitely have a look at their site ( it will translate into english):


  Now if someone could just teach me how to make those sites come up live I would be forever grateful and if anyone wants to take me out for dinner at Flaveur or anytime, you're on.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Not your Maidenform

French women spend a lot more of their spendable income on fine lingerie and beauty care than their American counterparts.

In the under-thing category we are talking pricey exquisite "frillies" , the more provocative the better.   A  beautiful bra (soutien gorge) and three matching panties (slips) can run you well over 250 euros.

As far as beauty care, a well brought up french girl will, starting as a teenager, have regular manicures and pedicures, facials, waxing, and body scrubs and purchase all manner of creams.  Many french women are big believers in creams and scrubs. There are hundreds of brands on the market from those designed for eliminating cellulite to those for losing weight.

 I wish!

So in the name of journalistic research.... yesterday I went to a day spa called "Paradiso" to have the" full monty" on my eyebrows and lashes.  That meant having them tinted and even in the case of my lashes, CURLED!   Curling wands be damned, this was a permanent wave and smelled exactly like the one I had on my head in the early 60's.

I entered a dim room with pan-pipe music playing softly in the background and lay comfortably on a bed like a massage table.  After an hour of ripping and tearing, smearing and daubing,  I am pleased to say that I emerged with dark lashes coquettishly wavy and dark perfectly shaped brows like the actresses of old black and white's.

How much did it set me back?

Well there are some beans a girl just will not spill....but I will say that I could have bought a gorgeous "soutien gorge" for the same amount...

 and might have instead.....if my gorge was in immediate need of sustaining.

Luise Rainer in The Great Ziegfeld, Part 3-4

Bloomin' Blue

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Barbara - Dis, quand reviendras-tu ?

I wanted to post this song by the famous french crooner, Barbara, who made famous Dis, quand reviendras-tu ( translates as: Tell me when are you coming back again?)  My favorite rendition of it is by Marie-Paule Belle but that video was not like this one which shows Barbara's expressive and beautiful face.

The Great Ziegfeld: the film

This week I saw, The Great Ziegfeld , a biographic film about the  Broadway impresario, Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., the man who glorified and started the "follies".

 The height of the depression, 1936, was an odd moment for MGM to spare no expense in splashing out this musical extravaganza but it is just what the public needed and wanted at the time.  And opulent it is with its all-out musical numbers, casts of hundreds, stars galore and ravishing sets.   It is a real joy to watch in fact.

 However, at three hours in length, its best to watch this film on the dvd in 2 or 3 nights, or you might get...  well...exhausted.    It is a picture that could never have been done today, a look at what Hollywood was and can never be again.

The cast is a roll-out of the best of the day, with bit parts of real entertainers like Ray Bolger; Will Rogers, Fanny Brice and more.  William Powell is exceptional in the lead, as is Myrna Loy as Billie Burke (Flo's second wife) and Frank Morgan is wonderful as Ziegfeld's friend and competitor.

The performance, however, that garnered the Oscar that year (and the next), was that of German actress Luise Rainer as Anna Held( Flo's first wife).  Rainer fully fleshes out a character with emotional believability even in her extreme theatricality. She completely inhabits the role of a nervous, fragile, insecure French singer/club performer.

  Since I studied and taught drama for 10 years, I am always impressed when an actress can "role over" into a part completely.   Either she WAS this kind of person, or she is a great actress.   I can't think of another of her day who could have done this part as well.

There has been a lot of argument over Rainer receiving the "best actress" award over Carole Lombard and Greta Garbo for 1936. I have not seen Camille by Garbo but what I have seen of her is that I find her unsympathetic as a character, devoid of real depth that we have come to expect in an actor today.  Of course, you must try not to inflict today's standards on old film but that said, Rainer has buckets of emotional depth and believability without crossing the line into mugging or over-acting.

As for "My Man Godfrey" 1936 with Carole Lombard,  Carole does not really do drama.  She is who she is:  a great quirky comedic actress who does pretty much the same character over and over.

 To seamlessly encompass a new different personality each time and leave some of yourself out of the way is an ability not found in many actors.  Meryl Streep comes to mind as such a one.  The difficulty for the actor is what proportion of oneself has to be in the new character for it to ring true and not have gone too far so that you are too much "you".

As Rainer quit acting after receiving a second Oscar in a row, for "the Good Earth", we do not really know how much breadth she really had.  And I cannot find "The Good Earth" out there so I may never know, but she is quite an enchanting old lady at 100 years old now.

However, you CAN find "the Great Ziegfeld" and if you do manage to find it... you are in for an old fashioned treat.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cosmos: the idea

I did this series of monotypes a while back on a material I found commercially that looks like transparent felt.    I liked the look of the material and wanted to create an ethereal look with the print work.  I put the photo series of creatures "strange and wonderful" just before this cosmos series of paintings.

To be honest, I am not always sure where my inspiration comes from, but it is interesting how similar the shapes and colors of the jellyfish are to this print work that came later.  One always starts with some sort of idea, but sometimes it's just a form or a "gamme" of colors.

In this case, I started with the circle.  The gesture of the circle is so natural as it is close to the scribble we all do as children.  In fact I remember waiting for my father at the University of Redlands where he was a professor when I was five.  He would give me the chalk and let me draw and scribble all over the blackboard while he finished up his day.   And I still like drawing with gestures halfway between a scribble and writing.

In this case, I used acrylic paint which dries really fast, so I had to do these pieces without time for reflection and that is an exciting thing to do .....for all of us who had to always think before writing , a training that starts in the western world,  the minute we are in school.

I notice that amazing things can happen, though, if you are able to work without running everything through the idea department.    I call the series "Cosmos" because I like the word and because the cosmos encompasses so much that is unknown.

Cosmos Series





Thursday, July 8, 2010

Minou and the Lumpfish

  I think this name would be a really great name for a band especially one with a female lead singer.

  It is really hot here now, hard to think to write anything and this is high season for my holiday apartments so we can't really down tools.  Best to get up at the crack of dawn and take a rest after lunch like they do in all the southern countries.

  The neighbors are down for their holiday from Paris.  There is a grand-mother raising her only grand-son while her daughter and son in law raise the only girl child.  I don't think this is at all typical, don't get me wrong, I am not writing about French customs here.

  Since he was born, the little boy and his grandmother have been at odds, a battle of wills.  Forty minute tantrums and full out screaming used to be a daily occurence as the boy expressed his frustration with his little world. Now that he is five and in school, she says things have calmed down.  But since he could speak, this little guy has called his grand-mother by the nick name, MINOU, which as far as I can make out means "kitten" in french.

 Can you imagine calling your adversary , Kitten?    Hmm.   I suppose the world would be a better place if we did.   But then in America we have people named "Baby".  Think about being stuck with that moniker all your life.

A simple lunch today of lumpfish caviar, creme fraiche, new potatoes and green salad.

 Buy the potatoes from the organic farmer in the old town with the ginger beard..  They still have the dirt right on them they are so new.

Boil them up and find a jar of the best kept secret:  lumpfish caviar for 5.95 euros for 200g. (Galerie Lafayette)  That's enough for two people.  Eat and enjoy with a glass of chilled chablis. No clean up really.

 Now I am going down for my "sieste" and leave Minou and the Lumpfish to your imagination.

Monday, July 5, 2010

July 4th, French style

In 1776 John Adams wanted the day of independence to be "solemnized with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations."  And I suppose he forgot himself and left off the all American hot dogs, potato salad, cole slaw, hamburgers and watermelon.

Yesterday, July 4th, we made a few alterations in the menu, but still had a working man's lunch of fresh grilled mackerel served on a bed of the ripest tomatoes to be found.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Young Savages: the film

This is one of those black and white crime dramas from the 1060's (1961) when movies embraced moral questions.

This is "West Side Story" but as a courtroom drama.  The subject again is gang violence in NYC and a look at the social ills that caused it : race, poverty, slum life... and especially the consequent peer pressure related to gang life.

Briefly, a district lawyer played by Burt Lancaster investigates two Italian teenagers accused of the murder of a Puerto Rican boy.

There are no graphic depictions of entry or exit wounds, no blood splattered walls.... but rather we delve into the personalities of well drawn characters who inhabit a world we easily grasp as violent without these trappings.

The beauty of this kind of film is that we alternately side with the "good guys" and the "bad guys"and we aren't allowed to make up our minds till the final scenes of the movie.

The acting is great across the board.  Vivian Nathan, for example, is excellent in a cameo as the mother of the slain boy.

This film ranks right up there with "Twelve Angry Men" , "Inherit the Wind" and others of the 50's and 60's but unfortunately never got the play of those famous movies.

 But like those movies it stands the time test.  If you like Burt Lancaster and well written and well acted dramas of this genre, then have a look around for this one.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Maud and Rebecca

In the garden yesterday looking for the loveliest blossoms, I found them: Maud and Rebecca on a visit from Lyon.  Maud (left) has just passed her license to become a "sage femme" or midwife.  Can you imagine a scrunched enfant coming into the world and the first sight is of this "beau visage".   What a welcome that would be into this slippery slope called life. Rebecca (right) is getting her second master's degree...  first psychology and now business.  Her specific goal at this moment is to be able to recruit staff for medical establishments.

The school system in France encourages kids to choose a profession early and many young people that I meet are well focused on that goal from high school.  Of course, the cream of any society rises to the top.  Across the world, intelligence, determination and charm still are the "sesames" that open doors.  I cannot imagine these two who are offering all that ....and then some , will not glide through those doors.  Bonne continuation mes filles!