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.

Ingredients:

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

Preparation:

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...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

God Is In The Details In Carmel-by-the-Sea~


Pastries and Petals was truly special but closed...
the two women who owned it worked 24/7 for at least four years...
The California beach version of the manse in "Sabrina"...  


Beauty and utility...
Poet Robinson Jeffers home in Carmel...well worth a visit...
Scenic Drive...
This home with this landscaping sold, the new owners put in a
raised stone slab with fire pit, stone built-in barbeque, and seating...
that fully integrates the view of Carmel River Beach
to Point Lobos... 
A sense of occasion...and transition from the ordinary world to
the magic sea...that this curvilinear structure brings....
Whimsy's natural habitat is in Carmel-by-the-Sea...
Alchemy is concerned with transformation and finding a universal elixir. Certainly Carmel-by-the-Sea fits both. Having lived here nearly seven years total, I know that Carmel works magic that will remain with you wherever you go for life...

Tonight, I walked downtown to see the Christmas lights that have created a true fairyland. Unfortunately I did not have a camera. I'll have to take photos to share...

Paulo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist: “We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.” 

“I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be happy. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living now.” 

“Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life. When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” 

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure. When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” 

“The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.” 

“Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” 

“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.” 

"When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.” 

“But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here.” 

“People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don't deserve them, or that they'll be unable to achieve them.” 

“To realize one's destiny is a person's only (true) obligation”...

Thank you so much for stopping by....sweet: (HERE).

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Gloria's Fairytale House~

The mansion around the corner from Gloria's Fairytale House
and across from the neighborhood bench....
The bench one house from Gloria's on the Pacific's edge,
where she'd sit even in highest winds...
A favorite lunch place where we'd watch the dolphins glide by and
she would speak of a magic dream house on the sea....
 
The Old Mission steps from Gloria's Santa Barbara house.
I asked, "If you could choose just one place to live in for eternity
what would it be?" She said, "A beautiful church..."
 
The Mission at Christmas~ 
The Rose Garden across from the Mission and steps from Gloria's
Santa Barbara house...
 
The Santa Barbara Harbor where we'd go to Brophy Brother's
with friends...
A Gloria kind of place for its nooks, books,
family photos on the walls...
A Gloria kind of place for its inviting coziness and flowers....
A Gloria kitchen... though she couldn't cook and appreciated
the "gourmet" meals she claimed I produced on visits...
Some friends are eternal...
Once Upon A Time in Santa Barbara I turned around at an art event and there stood a small woman with a charming French face. Her dark hair was smoothed back into a low bun and her brown eyes sparkled. “Hello, I’m Gloria,” she raised her champagne flute. “Cheers!” 

I couldn’t know that I’d just met the best friend of my life. Born in Boston, her first language was French. She was a Harvard MBA and the widowed mother of four Stanford and Cal graduated children after her husband died young. 

Timeless--her name would come to stand for all things joyful, affirmative, and fearless to me. Though older than my mother her irrepressible joie de vivre made her ageless. 

She’d had a radio show, presided over WDC showcases houses whipped together by world-class designers, and adored her rock star son-in-law who was friends with folks from Chagall to Baryshnikov.

She expressed a deep soul need for a seaside home where she could play her baby grand piano, display the colorful folk-art from her world travels, and make a haven for her children. 

Her imagined patio would be adjacent the sea where she'd sip wine at sunset; listen to music, read, chat with neighbors, and be free. It sounded like Ithaca to me. That mythical objective in Homer’s Odyssey. A story so near the collective human heart it became the archetype of arduous journey to a paradise end. 

She particularly described her bedroom that would be a suite with French doors to a ‘Juliet’ balcony where she would stand admiring the moon and stars above the windy sea, and with a sitting area around a fireplace flanked by tall bookcases. 

Years later, while visiting her daughter up the coast they stopped in a tiny  community and came upon a home for sale that had been custom-built by Europeans, just one door from where the Golden State halted on a wave-sloshed shore.

On my first visit after her move-in, it was as if a director had materialized her script and I was standing in the realized dream. Pink roses and jasmine flourished outside sparkling clear windows. The calls and white flashes of seagulls filled the blue sky. 

Gloria had poured so much spiritual energy into her heart's most fervent wish that it coalesced into what neighbors called, “The Fairytale House.” 

How I wish that everyone’s heart desires would come true like this, and that all could be blessed with their own, 'Gloria Hallelujah.' What else to call her magical being? 

Thank you so much for stopping by. "Once Upon A Dream" (HERE).