"Those who have experienced Paris have advantage over those who have not. We are the ones who have glimpsed a little bit of heaven, down here on earth." - Deirdre Kelly

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

gold coast...

"There's one secret place...
it is beautiful and peaceful,
where gentle water flows..." 
- Oksana Rus

Traditionally, during the entire month of August, Paris is a virtual ghost town. Restaurants, bakers, grocers, cafes, boutiques, etc, - their doors and windows are shuttered. Pourquoi? Because Paris is fermé pour les vacancies (closed for vacation). Sadly, Americans do not follow this most wonderful tradition but we do love our summer vacations. And, in any case, long ago I decided to create my own version of la tradition de vacancies Parisienne... 

Me and my sister - Rory 
Saint Paul de Vence, Nice (1983?)

Provence and Cote d'Azur (also known as The Gold Coast) Has long been a favorite Parisian August-vacation destination. In my early teens I spent a month in Cote d'Azur with my mother and sister: Forte di Marmi, Cannes, Nice, Monaco. Then another 2 weeks sailing the Mediterranean: Elba, Corsica, Capri.  Everything was so breathtakingly gorgeous - the colors, sights, sounds, and tastes. Those six weeks fundamentally changed me, have stayed with me, always will. A few years later, in my tiny slice of the world, I discovered another Gold Coast, along the northern shore of Lake Michigan. Six villages with vast acres of abundant farm land on one side and five miles of pristine mostly private beach on the other...

6 sleepy villages of antiquing; a handful of hotels, inns and Bed & Breakfasts; galleries of classical, modern and avant guard art, furniture and fashion; wineries and breweries; there are two grocery stores (one fancy, the other simple - 15 minutes in either direction); an excellent butcher, an excellent fish monger; and restaurants that run the gamut (mom and pop,  neighborhood beach dives, haute cuisine - sometimes a combination of the the three ;-}

Our 'Corniche,' connecting the 6 towns, is the Red Arrow Highway. Both sides of this 4 lane road are sparsely scattered with roadside farm stands that sell the wildflowers that grow on their properties and delicious fruits and vegetables with the dirt still clinging to them.

While my family and I love the sleepy villages, restaurants, galleries and art - we rarely indulge in them. We come to the Gold Coast to get away from it all, enjoy the beach, water and sun. But, most importantly, 
we come to enjoy each other - la perfection.

No shoes, no shirt, wet sandy feet - welcome and preferred.

There's a little fisherman's cottage, set on the beach. 
It's simple: white walls, hardwood floors, weathered rattan furniture with plush shabby chic linen cushions and windows everywhere - with views of the beach, water and sky on three sides. Because we're deep in the woods and at the edge of Lake Michigan, internet and cell phone reception  are spotty at best and there's one television - we almost never watch it, but there is a small transistor radio always playing in the main room.

Every morning (bright and early), 
I pack a bit of fruit and a bottle of water, 
pour two mugs of coffee, then Mr. G., Coco and I 
take a 4 mile walk on our private beach. 
As for the rest of our days...

Lunch on the beach, bien sur.

Nowhere we have to be. Nothing we have to do. 
Just us in our tiny slice of heaven.

"It is fate that I'm here." - E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

August is the month to leave the hustle and bustle of everyday life - shunt it a physical and emotional world away - and enjoy family, friends, rest and relaxation, good food and wine, all while enjoying the bright warm sun, cool water, sweet breezes and long lazy days of summer.

Every night, two hours before sunset, I prepare a feast - only using the local delicious fruits, veggies, meats, and seafoods.  Then we pack a cooler and basket, and head back to the beach to witness the glorious sunset...

a sun worshipers nirvana. 

Beach bonfire and S'Mores

"Sunsets are so beautiful that they almost seem 
as if we're looking through the gates of heaven." 
- John Lubbock

Back to life. Back to reality. We just finished the last of the fruits and veggies we brought home. Mr. G is back in the thick of work. I began teaching a class this week (my second class begins in 4 weeks). Rory has begun his first week of high school, Sage - the 8th grade, Never - the 5th --- and ma mere Dorothy overseeing it/us all. The sun sets much earlier, the night winds are cooler (the promise of fall soon to become a reality). But we're all still beach-water-wind-sun kissed; Mr. G, Coco and I are still taking our long walks (though, sadly not on our beach); and the top of my convertible is still down. Our long lazy days of summer are behind us but, deep into the winter, we will remember, reminisce, smile, talk and laugh about our funky State's side Gold Coast, our little slice of heaven. And it will be enough until we return. Jusqu'à l'été prochain, mon amour!

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!

Friday, July 08, 2016

The Bee Keeper...

"The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams."
- Henry David Thoreau

I keep a red Moleskine notebook, my Paris notes. In it I write, cut and paste all of the intriguing places I want to go, things I want to experience and people I want to meet when I'm next in Paris. Always on the list, but not yet realized, is to visit the Beehives in the Luxembourg Gardens and atop the Opera Bastille - two of the 300+ bee apiaries housed within the city's limits - a grand adventure Parisian indeed. I never thought that I'd realize my goal of touring a bee apiary only a few miles from my state's side-Midwest home...

"Meet your local Bee Keeper. 
See Bees up close. Ask questions."

Such a tantalizing invitation - how could I resist?

Fifteen miles from my home, down a former Indian trail, is the most unusual little shop - The Outpost General Store. Train tracks run along one side, followed by acres and acres of cornfields interspersed with horse farms. You can come to The Outpost for gourmet groceries, a wine tasting, meet with the local book club, buy a vintage tea set, sample local cheeses, meet the local Bee Keeper, stay for lunch.

"Listen! O, listen! Here come the hum of golden bees." 
- James Russel Lowell

At the front of the store, surrounded by a dozen people hanging on his every word, stood a gentleman - Rik Alex. He wore a white apron and a toque blanche (the traditional headgear of professional chefs). At first I thought that I had come on the wrong day; that there was a cooking demonstration going on instead. But as I listened to Mr. Alex, I too became entranced and realized that he wore a toque blanche because he literally is a Master Bee Keeper.

Mr. Alex's depth and breadth of knowledge of bees, honey, and bee keeping are extraordinary. And equally so is his ability to share that knowledge and experience in a way that is totally engaging. After the crowd had dispersed a little, I introduced myself and asked if he'd allow me to photograph and interview him for Belle Inspiration. He said yes, but that was as far as we got because there were so many people waiting to speak to him. So I boldly asked if he'd allow me to conduct my interview at his apiary. Again he said yes. I guess the Latin proverb is true - fortune favours the bold.

"Life is the flower for which love is the honey." 
- Victor Hugo

"Oh, for a bee's experience of clovers and noon!" 
- Emily Dickenson

Rik's apiary is housed on his two-and-a-half acre property, surrounded by corn fields, on a country lane appropriately named Honey Hill. Flowers are bees' primary food/pollination source. So, other than mowing a walking lane, Rik leaves his land free to be a wildflower garden - just gorgeous! 

Rik, Coco and I spent a lovely afternoon walking his sun drenched, flower bedecked property while talking about bees, honey and life. Interestingly, Rik calls himself an accidental Bee Keeper. He inherited his apiary from his father. His hives and supplies are from the Sears Farm Catalogue and his expertise is born of four decades worth of good old fashioned research, trial, error and success. From his two hives, Rik harvest's an average of forty pounds annually! Which he freely and generously gives to his friends, his children and their friends.

Rik may call himself an accidental Bee Keeper  but he's is much more than that. He is a member of the Bee Keeping Industry Club and is one of a very select few, in our slice of the world, who is an expert in the field and is treated as such.

"Eat honey, my child, for it is good." - Proverbs 24:13

At the end of our apiary tour, Rik invited me into his cozy home to sample a few honey varietals. Each had a distinct history, provenance and flavor: black honey from Arizona - grown in hives housed in giant cacti (I could clearly taste its smokey mesquite flavor). Raspberry honey from Maine - it's deep dark red in color but tastes surprisingly light and floral, with a hint of cocoa butter. Rik's homegrown honey is golden, sweet, mellow and nutty - delicious.

My Bee-adventure has given me a newfound respect for, and appreciation of, the complexities of honey. Yes, Rik gave me a large jar for my very own. I put it in my tea, spread it over my morning toast, drizzle it over water crackers topped with goat cheese and almonds, and I'm learning to cook with it.

When I'm next in Paris, the first thing I'm going to do is visit a few of her apiaries. Oui, you know I'm going to share that adventure with you too - bien sur! I wonder, does Parisian honey taste like champagne?

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!


Post Script...
This article was originally published in Belle Inspiration. I have extensively revised it and added photos, not included in the original article..for you. Also, here's the original Bees Knees teaser. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Celebrate Life!

"Life is a celebration. 
Lord I'm gonna celebrate.
Life is a celebration. 
So come on now and celebrate, celebrate.
Life is a celebration. Look it's a revelation.
So celebrate now. Celebrate life!"
- Rick Springfield

Our glorious friends - Matt & Neal - again hosted a weekend long celebration of Mr. G's birthday; in their stunning treehouse at the edge of Lake Michigan. The guest list: 3 married couples, 2 French Bulldogs, a Min-Pin and a Coco. We made our plans months ago. Little did we know then that our gathering would occur six days after Orlando. What to do, in the wake of unspeakable hate? It wasn't even a question; not really. 

We chose to celebrate love, celebrate life...

Pete's Posse

In Orlando's aftermath, we Six, along with most of the world, were shocked, sickened and saddened. We, along with most of the world, grieved for the beautiful precious lives of the brutally lost and horrifically injured. We, along with most of the world, felt enraged, afraid and...helpless. But, here's the thing:

Sometimes (maybe often times) this world can be a scary place, seemingly bursting at the seams with people who espouse and do hateful terrible things. But I (still) truly believe that the vast majority of us, who inhabit this beautiful Earth, are kind and good. And we are the lucky ones. In the midst of unspeakable pain and tragedy (we spit in its eye!) we gain strength and sustenance from those who love us and by giving in kind to those we love. And we, in times of tragedy, trouble and strife - willingly, freely and fully lend that strength, sustenance and love to complete strangers. We find joy in the simplest of things - an 8th grade volleyball game, birthday cake, a drive through the countryside, time with friends, a good meal, the bubbles in a glass of champagne, the grit of sand between our toes. And the accumulated positive karmic weight of these simple things, by their very existence, and our insistence that these things continue to exist, change our world for the better - and always will. In the meantime, and always, we will continue to choose to celebrate life.

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!

Sunday, June 12, 2016


"But I don't understand! I don't understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she's, there's just a body, and I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead anymore! It's stupid! It's mortal and stupid! And, and Xander's crying and not talking, and, and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well Joyce will never have any more fruit punch, ever, and she'll never have eggs, or yawn or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why." 
– Anya, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I've been following the media coverage of the horrific, brutal and devastatingly sad massacre in Orlando, the FaceBook comments (loving and hateful), and the outpouring of grief, support, grace and love from countless many. I needed time to process this overwhelming wave of murderous hate and debated for half a second if I would post about it. But, ya'll know me.
I have been an LGBT ally for my entire life (thanks to my now 87 year old mother, who led by love, word and example - thanks mommy): the best man at my parents' wedding, my babysitter [for most of my and my sister's childhood(s)], many of my parents' closest friends - who loved and helped raise my sister and I - were/are LGBT. I grew up in Boy's Town, Chicago (lived there for 20+ wonderful years). A community that fully, freely and with open arms welcomed my interracial family and (years later) a lanky pimply faced Black girl and the tall, skinny, equally pimply faced Mr. G white boy she fell head over heels in love with. I am proud to have LGBT people as students, colleagues, beloved friends and family members.
I send my heart and love; prayers of grace, peace and solidarity to the slain men and women of Orlando - and to their parents, siblings and families; their husbands, wives, partners, lovers and friends.
I've been listening/reading the need by some to obfuscate, ignore and/or totally lie about the fact that this was a hate crime - specifically leveled at the LBGT community; debates about gun-control, the Islamic-terrorist threat, etc. But all I can see/focus on is that nearly 50 lives, fellow human beings - were targeted, murdered; and another 50 survived by the hair of their chinny chin chins. The political and socio-cultural bullshit fades so far away in the face of the fact that these beautiful precious individual people will never again enjoy fruit punch, or eggs, or yawn or brush their hair - not ever, and no one will explain to me, why...

Friday, June 10, 2016


"I equate peonies with love because 
they're the first blooms of summer."
- Isaac Mizrahi

During all four seasons, every other Friday or so, I make a special trip to buy flowers for nearly every room in my home (a habit bestowed upon me by ma mère bien-aimée). I have found that, no matter how hard it rains, how heavy the snow falls or how dire one's mood, just a glance of bright colorful petals in one's periphery or even the scantiest soft scent of blooms' aroma lightens one's mood and eases one's soul.

a cozy, calm, relaxing place
For obvious reasons, I call my living room 'the White Room.' The amazing all day natural light, bleached whitewashed wood floors, white walls, furniture and piano make it the perfect backdrop to showcase my various art projects and is the ideal place to hold my photo-portrait sessions. The glass and stainless steel table (in the center of the room) is where I indulge my amateur love of flower arranging.  For a few years now, on my personal and Pour l'Amour Facebook pages,  I've posted my Friday Flowers.  I figure it was high time to share them here too. So let us begin with my favorite bloom - Peonies.

Lightening one's mood, easing one's soul

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!


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