Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Fairytale Talloires on Lake Annecy~

For 1000 years, the romantic Castle of Menthon has reflected  
the noble history of Lake Annecy and the Savoy...

The village of Talloires, pop. 1,500, on Lake Annecy...
30 mins to Old Lake Annecy, 1 hr to Geneva, Switzerland...
Talloires is 30-minutes from Brison-Saint Innocent winery... 
Does it come in Chanel Black? Maybe with quilted seats?

Auberge du Père Bise

Love this home in the Talloires village...needs renovation...and
includes room for small orchards and French Intensive Gardens...  
Winter version of Roasted Tomato Brushchetta from GOOP~
If Talloires on Lake Annecy were a designer...it would be Ralph Lauren. Preppy, clean-cut, and head-turningly appealing. As I seek that ideal French village to relocate closer to my son...Tallories makes my heart go ring-a-ding-ding

With an excellent Farmer's Market...arts, books, music events...it's a smiling, wind-swept motor over to nearby resort and ski towns in France and with Switzerland just over the border. And who wouldn't love Sunday brunch at Auberge du Père Bise on the water...

In the meantime...in between dreamtime...to the winter version of the classic Italian appetizer from GOOP below...I'd add more garlic and basil and call it dinner. Mais bien sûr with a California glass of wine.  

Roasted Tomato Brushchetta~
Serves four to six as an appetizer

2 pints cherry tomatoes
4 teaspoons olive oil + 2 T for the bread
1 generous pinch salt
¼ teaspoon finely grated garlic 
4 leaves basil, finely chopped (about 1 packed tablespoon)
1 small baguette
12 shavings Parmesan (optional)
Use a vegetable peeler to make perfect Parmesan shavings.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Have you ever noticed how many good things start with "preheat the oven"?

Cut the tomatoes in half, toss with the 4 teaspoons olive oil and a generous pinch of salt, and spread on a baking sheet.

Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until they are beginning to blister and brown. Check halfway through to make sure they are not sticking.

Remove from the oven, transfer to a bowl, and add garlic. Once the mixture has cooled to room temperature, add chopped basil and taste for seasoning. Depending on your tomatoes, you may want to add a bit more salt...

Cut 12 ½ inch slices of baguette, and arrange on a baking sheet. Drizzle with remaining olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake in a 400°F oven for about 10 minutes.

Top each piece of toasted bread with a generous spoonful of roasted tomatoes, and garnish with a Parmesan shaving, if desired.

Henry Mancini's beautiful "Two For The Road" (HERE). Nana Mouskouri and Julio Iglesias - La Paloma: (HERE). Thanks so much for stopping by...! 

Friday, December 19, 2014

When The Story Context Catches Fire!

“Once upon a time, there was a boy. He lived in a village that no longer exists, in a house that no longer exists, on the edge of a field that no longer exists, where everything was discovered, and everything was possible. A stick could be a sword, a pebble could be a diamond, a tree, a castle. Once upon a time, there was a boy who lived in a house across the field, from a girl who no longer exists. They made up a thousand games. She was queen and he was king. In the autumn light her hair shone like a crown…"

Who can resist that simple, draw you in and relatable paragraph? I don't know how I missed reading, “The History of Love”...published nearly a decade ago. But this breathtaking story reminds me that books can be assets for their writers, every bit as much as real estate or precious metals. And that stories, like life, build upon, and are enriched and altered relative to context...

Gifted storytellers hook you with an arresting protagonist and story setting--and then reveal the true context like a tantalizing strip-tease. Think Rebecca before you finally "see" the entire context by the flaming end...that includes the demise of Mrs. Danvers...

Will This Context Go Up In Flames Too?

A real-life example of how this plays out: I was speaking with a highly educated man who'd had a successful career and retired here in Carmel-by-the-Sea. He unequivocally stated, "America is the strongest economy in the world." 

Let's look at a context within which to consider his fervent worldview: 

Just days before his declaration, Congress passed a bill that would allow banks to turn Wall Street into a Vegas casino once again by trading in the extremely risky derivatives that crashed our economy in 2008, reaping fortunes in an infinitely larger and shakier betting pool, while passing their losses onto taxpayers. 

The Great Depression resulted from this very practice, which was why the 1932 Glass-Steagall Banking Act was enacted to prevent bets by Wall Street being covered by taxpayers.

Around 2000, derivatives totaled $9T to our then $13T GDP when the Glass-Steagall Banking Act was rescinded. Following removal of constraints and protections offered by Glass Steagall derivatives exploded to $700+ trillion and blew-up the economy. US taxpayers lost homes, jobs and savings; and immense wealth was transferred to the 1%...

In 2010, the Dodd-Frank law was passed to prevent traditional banks from betting on financial derivatives with FDIC deposits. They could still trade in derivatives, but NOT with the FDIC protected deposits belonging to citizens.

Now here at the end of 2014; 1,000 pages of the $1 Trillion Cromnibus spending bill Congress passed--and in it the 2010 law titled, “Prohibition Against Federal Government Bailouts of Swaps Entities” was repealed.

The bill written by Citigroup bypassed any public debate. It allows banks to speculate with FDIC funds up to $300+ Trillion when the U.S. "economy" is $18T...holding taxpayers responsible for Wall Street's riskiest practices. 

Now ask yourself, how does an educated, successful man claim the US is the world's strongest economy in view of the fact that we are the #1 debtor nation, that Wall Street blew-up the world economy in 2008, and has just been unrestrained from doing it again, and when it's so effective a practice to sweep vast wealth into the 1% coffers? 

That's context. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Dream Is Christmas In The French Alps With My Son~

At 14, I attended a Girl's Catholic Priory dedicated to Saint Lucy, patron of writers and of eyes and sight. There, my favorite teacher, Sister Cabrini, taught me calligraphy and about how Saint Lucy wore candles on her head to light the way...

Around this time I met my son's father whose birthday was Christmas Eve. He was 6'2" and slim, with thick dark hair, and arresting ice blue eyes that looked into your soul. The last time I saw him alive he was staring at me through a multi-paned window with those unforgettable eyes...

We married when I was 17, and lived in a white cottage with dark green shutters that framed sparkling casement windows. Pink roses twined their blossoms through the white picket fence and a Crepe Myrtle rained blossoms on the immaculate yard...

Our son was born via a highly dramatic emergency c-section, with doctors racing my gurney down the hallways, waving their arms and shouting for people to clear the way and pulling them out of the elevator. By Christmas Eve, our baby was a delightful, bright and adorable 10-month old...

When he was four we bought a home on a tree-lined cul-de-sac with children his age. I would stop making dinner to watch my son and his father together by the pool, against a background of foliage dotted with white azaleas. It created beautiful spiritual imprint of father and son that never left my heart...  

Often, my brother, also tall with dark hair light blue eyes like my husband, would arrive in the evening with an enormous bright smile and carrying a boxed pie. The fire would crackle, we'd play records, the room would sparkle with the laughter of my husband, brother, and me. With them there was a kind of magic that made even the doors seem to hang merrier on their hinges... 

When my son was 15 and in a Boy's Catholic College Prep his father died in a flying accident when a wing collapsed and he fell 1,200' to his death at age 36. The trauma was magnified and deeply embedded by the words and actions of two lifelong betraying bullies. So it was a gift to be reminded today of the spiritual aid that Saint Lucy provides...

Our son spent the following two summers in Europe...including studying in Aix-en-Provence. He then graduated from a top Jesuit University, completed Graduate school in Paris, became a citizen and remained living in France.

Every Christmas Eve since has mainly meant his father's birthday to me; and that for the last eight years I haven't seen my son. After a career-ending accident, I returned to UCLA for a writing program, penned a novel, and began remaking my life...

In the midst of that activity...I had a vivid dream that my brother was in bed next to me sitting-up against the headboard with a tear rolling down his cheek, and squeezing my hand repeatedly so hard...I awoke and wondered, what did that look mean? Why was he squeezing my hand so hard? Why the tear?

At 7AM the next morning I learned that he'd died, and later when I received the official report...he'd been seated in exact same position as in my dream, and at the exact same time.

He'd also donated his eyes and so now two can see...and I'd become a writer. Without any plan to do so, we'd unknowingly fulfilled together, two of the main works of Saint Lucy whose name signifies light. Her main message is to be zealous in good works, and to abhor the darkness. 

After my brother died, I moved to Carmel, and later realized I was within sight of the nearby Santa Lucia (St. Lucy) Mountains. And then our parents died, too. 

Saint Lucy coming so powerfully to me today, reminds me that her archetypal energetic field of grace, joy, courage, peace, and healing light is what the whole world needs today. And that by next Christmas, or sooner, she'll ensure I'm in the French Alps with my son...

What Sister Cabrini taught me at 14, which I was reminded of today, is to think in terms of universal archetypal powers that are embodied in the Saints. In times of great need, as the world is in today, it is a universally stronger way of being.

The beautiful Santa Lucia ceremony in Sweden: (HERE). Thank you so much for stopping by... 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas In The Loire Valley And Elegant Pear Tart Recipe~

Holiday Topiary at Romantic Chenonceau~

Chenonceau at the Holidays~about romantic 
Diane de Poitier whose spirit can be felt throughout: (HERE).
Happy Monday! It's dark and stormy with rolling thunder here on the Monterey Coast, making Le Moulin Brégeon in the historic Loire Valley look even more magically inviting. The highly rated 19th century boutique offers luxury suites appointed with fine art, freshly hand pressed antique linens, luxury toiletries, and French antiques...in a peaceful, stunning, and restorative setting.

Tour the magnificent Loire Valley chateaux like romantic Chenonceau, explore local vineyards, visit charming nearby villages, or take one of the inn's popular cooking classes, or antique shopping tours. In the evening, you'll be served finest French cuisine prepared from the freshest organic ingredients by a roaring fire.

Elegant Pear Tart~

Individual puff pastry tartlets are filled with pistachio frangipane and sliced pears, topped with a sweet-wine glaze.


3 small pears, peeled, halved, cored
1 cup Essencia or other sweet dessert wine
1/2 vanilla bean
2/3 cup shelled unsalted pistachios (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
2 frozen puff pastry sheets (one 17 1/4-ounce package), thawed
1 egg, beaten to blend (glaze)
Finely chopped pistachios
Fresh mint leaves


Combine pear halves and 1 cup dessert wine in heavy medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring wine to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until pears are just tender, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pear halves to paper towels and drain well. Boil pear poaching liquid in saucepan until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 7 minutes. Set glaze aside.

Finely grind 2/3 cup unsalted pistachios and sugar in processor. Add unsalted butter and egg; blend just until filling is combined. 

Unfold pastry sheets on work surface; press out folds. Using 4 1/4-inch scalloped round cookie cutter, cut out four rounds from each sheet. Using 3 1/2-inch round from cookie cutter, cut out one 3 1/2-inch round from each of four rounds (reserve 3 1/2-inch rounds for another use); set pastry rings aside. Brush egg glaze over outer edges of four 4 1/4-inch solid rounds. Pierce rounds all over with fork. Top each with one pastry ring. Transfer pastries to baking sheet. Freeze 15 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead; cover and keep frozen).

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake pastries 10 minutes, piercing centers with fork if centers rise. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

Spoon 1/4 of nut filling into center of each pastry. Slice pear halves and arrange atop filling, covering completely. Bake until pastries are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool pastries at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. Brush pears with glaze. Sprinkle chopped pistachios around pears. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and serve.

Also nearby, is the castle where the legend of Sleeping Beauty originated: (HERE). Thank you so much for stopping by...!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Two Paris Christmas Gifts For Your Favorite Francophile~

A perfect gift for anyone who loves Paris...is
a year's subscription to a monthly sketch letter 
from artist, Carol Gillot.
Carol also pens the popular Paris Breakfast blog that's been
featured in the New York Times. Letter options:
 (HERE). Receiving a delightful monthly
missive from the City of Lights would make any Francophile's heart sing!
Before getting to Paris Gift #2...Marie Forleo's interview with Chris Guillebeau on his best-selling $100. Startup...another low-cost, high value gift idea for the entrepreneur on your list...

And for another fabulous Paris related gift...a box of Pierre Hermé's Slice-and-Bake Double-Chocolate Chip Cookie homemade by vous from Hermé's own recipe. Wrap 6 cookies in clear cellophane with a pretty holiday bow... et voilà! A gift with Paris origins that anyone would love. The recipe makes 48 cookies.

Pierre Hermé Chocolate Chip Cookies~

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 sticks plus 6 tablespoons (11 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (2 cups)

In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the cocoa and baking soda. In a large bowl, cream the butter. Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, fleur de sel and vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in the sifted dry ingredients just until blended; the dough will be fairly crumbly but will hold together. Knead in the chocolate until evenly distributed. Divide the dough in half and transfer to 2 large sheets of plastic wrap. Shape each piece of dough into a 1 1/2-inch-wide log and wrap in the plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 4 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using a sharp, thin knife, cut the logs into 3/8-inch slices and arrange about 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets. If the slices crumble, re-form the cookies, pressing the dough together. Bake the cookies on the middle and lower racks of the oven for about 17 minutes, or until puffed and cracked on top; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 2 months...

We had a super storm yesterday, massive trees down, power off all day...and I can now hear high waves pounding the shore a few blocks away. Which reminds me of this sweet song: (HERE). Wishing you a Happy Weekend...and thanks so much for stopping by...