Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Winter wan

Where did the color go?

I too feel washed something other than clean, not rinsed and wrung either. Just a winter wan. 

If I kick about my ankles, time is not spooled like silk. Rather it is turning around me as a cotton batt tornado.

Silent and the birds have stopped singing as if I were in the eye.

Luckily there is touch. And texture. 

Running my fingers over a bit of bark or a gold-rimmed coffee cup heats the tips with sparks of blue, green, gold...

I lean towards the warmth and am pulled forward into the ticking minutes...

...and further down the wide if barren path...

...slow as breathing towards something resembling Spring. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Car wash

We took our old Saab for a ride today--yes, think "Sideways". 

Am I crazy? I found the bubbles beautiful...

Bon-weekend à toutes et à tous...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Orange Crush in a bowl

Hello there friends. Remi and I are back from a whirlwind trip to Grenoble for a photo shoot. Me, tagging along as the winsome assistant, which I do from time to time, most often when there is a large amount of studio lighting (hence equipment) involved. I really enjoyed the entire experience--being in laboratories where several thousand year old objects are being restored, looking up at the light skiing down the snow-covered mountaintops, taking in the jazz-riff reposts of the researchers plus zeroing in on the act of looking and learning from Remi while he worked. But we arrived late last night after picking up our tail-thumper and admittedly both of us (yes, the furry being is excluded) are headachy with fatigue. Time for a little something restorative. And for once, I don't mean yoga.

While I do believe that my theme par excellence dans la cuisine is making up something--poof!--out the jumble of ingredients lolling around, I do love to cook. And I have to say that no one person has inspired me more recently than Deb Perelman of the Smitten Kitchen blog and now, the cookbook. Not only is she extremely funny and down to earth, this is exactly how I like to cook and eat--with an interesting spin on fresh ingredients that are affordable and a process that is enjoyable. She has a mere closet of a kitchen, as do I and will rework a recipe to use as few pans as possible. The flavors and textures are layered without being fussy. So, without further ado, here is the dish that I will make over and over again for this rest of the winter and beyond: Carrot soup with tahini and roasted chickpeas!

The general gist is the following--sauté your carrots in a bit of olive oil along with a diced onion, at least five smashed heads of garlic (I upped the ante to microwave any flu germs), s&p plus your spices (I used cumin, chipolte powder, cayenne pepper, my new chouchou--Baharat Spice and Trader Joe's "Smoke" blend which I am addicted to) over medium heat until the carrots are soft, about 20 minutes. Add four cups of veggie broth and cook for another 30, let cool a bit. While that is going on, mix your chickpeas with some olive oil, sea salt and cumin (as I live for heat, I added a little ancho chile powder too) and roast them on high heat for about 20 minutes. My favorite element is the tahini dressing with 3 tablespoons of tahini and...well, I doubled the amount of fresh lemon juice to at least four tablespoons, add water and whisk to a smooth consistency. Blend the soup, transfer to pre-warmed bowls, drizzle the tahini dressing and top with the crunchy chickpeas and chopped parsley or fresh coriander. Oh! This being Yee Olde France, I haven't made the pita wedges yet as they are tough to find--yes, pita is exotic here!--but they sound like the perfect sopping up material. The end result of all of this is so easy (you can make most of it with a wine glass in hand, bonus!), so cheap and so utterly good that you will thank me then hopefully hop over to sign up for updates at Smitten Kitchen if you haven't already. I have never made anything of hers that I didn't love. The cookbook has suggestions from breakfast through dinner (including a nice vegetarian chapter) to drinks with the last third geared to those of you talented people that bake--sadly, I do not although I just might need to give the red wine velvet cake with marscapone goo a go... 

If you are being good, you can follow the soup up with more vitaminized liquid orangina...

...And if you are being naughty, well...is that my fault? I don't believe that it is. Just a little power of suggestion...

I think a lot of us are trying to rethink what vegetarian means to us, do you agree? While I am still working my way through Yotam Ottolenghi's "Plenty", I was just given "Simon Bryant's Vegies" by my dear friend Virginia and it looks amaaazing (although I am going to have to do some serious translating for the ingredients I can't get here--I love their exotic names, Shaosing, Bulacan, Silverbeet, the Rapini in the photo). Although I haven't yet had the chance to test run any of it, I still wanted to give a head's up to those of you Down Under. The photography inspired Remi for his photo shoot in Grenoble, which brings me back to the beginning of this post. In a circle. Like an orange. Or an orange crush. 

Please stay happy and healthy wherever you are! 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Orange crush on Les Baux

I try to keep the photoshop shenanigans in hand with all that I share with you here. No instagramy apps or lily-gilding. Call me old-school (by all means) but what motivates me, especially for this blog, is to share the abounding beauty of Provence. And honestly, that does not require any special effects. Just a simple point in any general direction and a click will do.

Hooowever. As we were whisking around our charming Australian visitor the other afternoon in the cold ("Olive groves to your left, vineyards to the right!"), some dial or other must have turned while I was pulling my camera in and out of my pocket. As we headed into the village of Les Baux, suddenly every little snap was tainted with a roguish glow and I didn't know what to do. I desperately pawed at various buttons with frozen fingertips to no avail. Could I have simply asked Remi what was wrong? Absolutely. But then I would have been met with "Did you read the book that I gave you about the camera?" and I would have pressed my lips together impishly, defeated. So I said nothing and clambered over the cobblestones, trying to keep up. 

I have written about Les Baux de Provence before, a few times actually and in various seasons. It is for most of the year one of the most frequented sites touristiques français in the region. Thousands upon thousands of visitors clamour for a hint of Les Baux's grand past replete with warriors and troubadours, all while being serenaded by the mechanical hiccups of ceramic cicadas Made in China. But not today. 

For we were completely and utterly alone. Surprisingly so. The shops were shuttered and only our footsteps echoed, bitten back metallic with the snap of the wind.

Stammeringly, I kept trying to explain how unique of a moment it was to our young Aussie friend but how could she understand? 

That doorway that so many seek had somehow opened for us. It seemed like a private joke between  Provence and I. So I kept the photos just as they are, me sweet on them, their little sepia lie and that indefinable something threading the in-between of time.

Friday, January 18, 2013

No cigar!

I was in international press Nirvana, also known as the Relay H shop of the Avignon TGV train station. Carefully, I approached the January edition of Architectural Digest and began to gingerly flip, flip, flip. "What if she had decided to go ahead with it and just had forgotten to tell me?" I barely let myself wonder, breath baited, scanning quickly, disappointment looming large...no. It was true...close... but no cigar!

What on earth am I talking about? Well, a few months back I received an email from Betsy Horan, the Photo Director of AD. She had interest in some of my photos of L'Isle sur la Sorgue that might be of use for her January issue. Wait, my photos? We are used to dealing with photo requests around here...but for Remi (and as there has been some confusion as of late, let me clarify that the photos on this blog are indeed taken by me, what he does is a whole other level of kitty and kaboodle altogether). How I had blinked in surprise at her email for several seconds in surprise and then split out into the biggest smile. Remi was so proud. And it is worth mentioning that in our small exchange, Ms. Horan could not have been nicer. Further proof as if we needed any that quality rises.

So today's little Hide and Go Seek was the final confirmation of what I already knew, that the photos were a no go...this time! But how incredibly excited I was to have been contacted. Really and truly. 

Well, I will keep moving forward in the right direction...

...but bundled up (our sweet visitor from Australia has been swathed in a puffer) because despite appearances this ain't L.A. and Baby, it's cold outside!

Have a great Weekend everyone!

Ooh! ps. I am experimenting a bit with putting comment approval and word verification back on as the spam is getting out of control. Hating it? Don't mind at all? Any thoughts are welcome...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Imploding fireworks

Eh, voila. A wee post of what could have been. For Sunday evening was the absolutely splendiferous celebration of the "closing of the opening weekend ceremony" (yep, I know awkward phrasing) to herald Arles' participation as part of Marseille-Provence 2013, where France's second largest city and surrounding region (hence us) are this years European Capital of Culture. Now, if you don't live in Europe that might not sound like much of a big deal but I can assure you, it is. Many millions of Euros float thither and there to build museums and create projects, enticing architects and des artistes de renom

I have already written about Groupe F, one of the world's greatest pyrotechnic companies, who just so happen to be based outside of our little town. Multiple Olympic ceremonies? The celebration of the anniversary for the Eiffel Tower? Turn the world's tallest building into a sparkling sprinkler?* No problem. These folks (meaning a team with as many experts as the special effects department on an action blockbuster) have it all covered. So, it is probably no surprise that everyone was all a twitter (small t and big) over what they might offer along the banks of the Rhone.

Alas, I have a Golden Retriever. His name is Ben. Like many of his race he is extremely sensitive, most certainly when loud noises are concerned. Doggie Xanax and Bach's Rescue Remedy are to no avail. And so my poor sweetie is driven to extremes in such a situation. As in hiding under the toilet or the tails of my Ungaro leopard print bath robe, scratching at the tiles after jumping in the shower with whining distress. 

So, after *pif* with the first photo, I was in the bathroom with Ben for the next of the 35 minutes, holding him down when I could, consoling and trying to distract when possible. I don't complain. My dear Ben brings me more happiness than money can buy and of course we take care of our puppers because we love them like family.

As the grand finale faded into silence, I turned to him and whispered, "See? It is over. Over." He did a double take (I swear) then looked out, listening before finally succumbing to a giant sigh. After hanging out on the bathroom floor for an additional five minutes juuust to be suuure, he treaded carefully out into the dangerous lands of the "unknown" aka our apartment.

Not to worry--as I know you do--he is fine now. The photo is proof. If his expression looks rather, say, exasperated it is simply because I had the nerve to be typing at 7:02pm when Bone Delivery must occur by 7 at the very latest. And we all know that Ben always gets what he wants. He has even written written a helpful guide on that very subject.

Well, there will be other ceremonies. And as it seems that 15,000 spectators turned out to simultaneously ooh and ahh, I am content to have stayed home. There are many special events during 2013, more on which as they approach. Unfortunately, as Arles is on Provence Time (the land where it took five weeks to get the door of our washing machine repaired), some of the most impressive projects will not be ready until the end of the year or, ironically, 2014. But this remains a moment if ever there was one to visit Provence for those who have been considering it--and you know who you are!

Thank you so much to all of you that sent along "get well" wishes. They worked! All better now...hooray!

*Ok, I can't resist one Groupe F video (not to be watched while at work):

Friday, January 11, 2013

Into the trees

"Regarde la lumière," Remi and I will often call out to one another these days. We are talking about that last shot of good gold that bounces off the rooftop visible from both of our desks separated by a thin wall. We have the same view and more often than not, the same point of view too.

Last night after a moment of mutual silent admiring, I fed Ben quickly, grabbed my camera and wrapped myself up like a moving mummy to head out into the cold.

You see, I have been under the weather. Not to worry, I haven't succumbed yet to the terrible rounds of flu treason that have been roaming the earth but I am fighting off a what they call here a gastro or stomach bug. As a result of some of our more exotic travels to precarious places, I like to think that I have an iron skillet stomach but I still succumb to waves of grogginess, ones that leave me slightly separated, as if I were looking at the world behind the branches of a barren tree...

or on the other side of bars that are nothing like a prison...

...for it can be pleasant not to fight it, this sweet sleep-walking...

...following light's lure...

...and soft fade of winter.

I stop to regard a captured star...

Ben sits on top of my feet patient and looking out.

The longer we stay, the more my eyes calm...rough forms turn elegant...

...and I wonder at those monuments that I have looked upon a thousand times before.

At the lights last whisper, I listen and turn to look down the old cardo, this same Roman road.

The trees. 

They protect.

Give comfort.

And somehow are more beautiful to me on this winter's evening than ever a summer day.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend... 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hand in Hand

1) What is right with the world?
We are all linked, inextricably connected. And we want the same things: health, shelter, nourishment and well-being for ourselves, friends and family.

2) What is wrong with the world?
That we tend to forget this every day.

I have no lessons to give but after much thinking, this is the response that felt true to me based on my own experience in having travelled far and wide.

These two questions were the theme for this month's "By Invitation Only" post. To discover the other responses, please click here.