Tuesday, January 30, 2007

An Apple a Day...

...or so it seemed recently, when I was working on this latest series of apples of all sizes and shapes and colors. It occurred to me at one point -- while groaning over how hard it is, in fact, to paint a decent apple -- that it might have been a good idea to go to art school and learn all that stuff in a classroom instead of trying to learn it all on my own now (well, duh!!!).

But of course, if I'd gone to art school maybe my creative spirit would have been stifled...maybe I would have ended up crazy from all those turpentine fumes...maybe I would have fallen into bed with some ne'er-do-well narcissistic artist and ended up supporting HIS career....Gee, the more I think about it, learning how to paint apples on my own, in the safety of my own studio, seems really not so bad!

But don't worry, I won't keep all this "juicy" new work to myself. I am now officially updating my painting website (a task I put up there with cleaning the corner grout on bathroom tile - no, actually, I'd much prefer to clean grout) and soon there will be a whole bushel of apple paintings and other new work for you to look at, I PROMISE.

Meanwhile, well...I hope you are all finding your own challenges in life, whether they be painting apples or playing the banjo or anything else that you don't really know how to do but you're doing anyway, because, what the hell, we only live once. Right?

Paris Gym

These are the steps going down from Montmartre, not far from Sacre Coeur. Since I consider walking up the hill a few times a week to be my (admittedly slack) version of going to the gym, I guess that makes these people my fellow gym-goers.

Membership fees (other than the price of living in Paris itself): inhaling pollution, side-stepping dog crap, and appreciating whatever little bit of sun manages to peek out of an otherwise terminally gray sky.

Hey, it beats doing aerobics in a basement to bad 80s disco!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Carrot Soup!

Nothin' simpler. I threw about 6 or 7 thickly sliced carrots into a pot of water with some shallots, let it gently boil until the carrots broke apart with a fork, and then pureed the whole thing with a hand blender, adding salt, pepper, and flat parsley. Yum. There's something about bright orange food in winter that really cheers me up (and of course, it's essential that bright orange food is surrounded by the right colors; hence the pale green bowl, with multi-colored dishcloth serving as a backdrop).

So...carrot soup or baby food? You make the call.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Everything Must Go!

We are now in the third week of "les soldes": the biannual, month-long markdown that sweeps across France, turning Paris into a French-speaking version of Filene's Basement (or whatever version of chaotic discount store you're familiar with). When I first moved to Paris, I didn't understand why "les soldes" was such a big deal, why everyone went into such a frenzy in January and June, just to go shopping. It wasn't until after a couple of years of living here that I realized that there are very few sales during the rest of the year, and that any sales outside these two specified time periods actually require approval -- by the police!

Huh? Having grown up in a culture where everything is on sale, almost all the time, this seemed very strange to me. But it makes sense when you look at it in the context of tradition, as do Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, the authors of one of my favorite books about France, Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong. They explain that the rules behind "les soldes" go all the way back to merchants' guilds of the Middle Ages, when laws were made to protect tradesmen and their customers (you know, things like "bread can't contain more than 10 percent sand"). A medieval policeman called a Provost enforced these rules, which is why nowadays it is the police who oversee "les soldes", and in fact, decide the dates for them. Once again I'm awed by how even the most seemingly mundane things in France are steeped in tradition. I mean, who knew that my 25 percent marked-down underwear bought on the rue de Rivoli had such a rich history behind it?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Pink Coat Close-up

Here it is again - she looks like some kind of exotic bird with that stripe down the middle. I don't know if I could pull off such a bright color myself (I would look more like an exotic giraffe) but I certainly applaud her panache (isn't that the word?). Posted by Picasa

Pink Coat on a Gray Day

One of my favorite blogs right now (yes, I do read other blogs!) is The Sartorialist, a very popular fashion blog which is mainly photos of people on the street in New York and other fashion hotspots, with the blogger's comments about what they are wearing. It has really inspired me to notice other people's clothes (more than I usually do), and even to do some thinking about my own often rather uninspired wardrobe choices.

This morning as I climbed up Montmartre (my glamourous version of the Stairmaster), I noticed -- how could I not notice? - the fuschia coat that the woman in front of me was wearing. I love the way the coat and the grass are such vivid colors in the photo, as if they've been hand-tinted. I must say I felt pretty boring wearing all black. This coat reminded me that I have many other colors to choose from.

Paris Moment #9,087,450

This was taken last week in the Luxembourg Gardens, during the freakish (but welcome) warm spring weather. Paris really feels like Paris when the weather is good.

The man on the right had an air of mystery about him. Maybe he's a famous writer. Maybe he has a blog. Maybe he's reading this blog! Now that would be a small world, wouldn't it? Hopefully I won't get sued for using his photo without permission.

(p.s. Remember, you can click on any photo to see it bigger) Posted by Picasa

How Green Was My Cabbage

I just couldn't resist taking this photo of stuffed cabbage before it went into the oven. Look at all those shades of green! It seemed a shame to have to cook such loveliness, but then, even artists need to eat.

The recipe, by the way, is from the Joy of Cooking, which is still my favorite all-around cookbook, after using it to learn how to cook "normal" food almost 25 years ago when I had a summer job as a private cook on Martha's Vineyard. Prior to that summer, my only cooking experience had been in the realm of macrobiotics, which didn't really translate to the WASP-y diet of my employers. Thanks to the Joy of Cooking, I was saved from the embaressment of having to ask what a "canape" is, or how to make such WASP mainstays as chicken divan and leg of lamb with mint jelly. Fortunately for me (and my best friend/coworker), our employers were quite old and didn't have much of an appetite, leaving us with heaps of leftovers every night, which I remember shoveling down greedily at the kitchen counter -- TABs and cigarettes in hand -- while getting up our courage to go out to the local bars and dance to reggae until the wee hours of the morning with totally inappropriate members of the opposite sex.

Yep, those were the days all right!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Sunny Day in the Luxembourg Gardens

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dangerous Liaisons in Real Estate

This is a little street I stumbled upon while going down the hill behind Sacre Coeur. Amazingly calm and quiet for being only a few feet away from one of the most tourist-y parts of Paris. I was so enchanted that I popped into a real estate office and looked at an apartment for rent nearby, not because I'm looking but just because I like to know I always have options. Does this mean I am cheating on my apartment? What are the moral implications of such behavior?

Resolution Number 4,036

Like so many other deluded souls out there, I am convinced that 2007 is going to be the year I finally get my proverbial act together, especially in the realm of exercise. And what better way to do that than to take morning walks up the hill to the Paris landmark of Montmartre? After all, I live only a quick 12 minutes' walk away from the "butte." (And let's face it, if I can't be inspired to exercise by Montmartre and its breathtaking view of Paris, then I may as well throw in the towel and accept being a lazy no-good slouch for the rest of my life. )

So that's my plan. For those of you who have been worried about my cardio health from all those years of inhaling second (and first) hand smoke in bars, fear no more -- the steps are here! And - pant pant, gasp, wheeze - there are a LOT of steps up to the top. No, I don't know how many there are. And no, I didn't count, because I'm not the kind of person who counts steps or cares how many there are (but I'm sure you can find dozens of bloggers who do). What I can tell you for certain is that it does me a whole world of good to be above the city, breathe different air, and see things from a different perspective. Why oh why did it take me nine months to appreciate the fact that such a wonderful place was right in my backyard?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

More Light and Shadow Play

We've been having the strange early spring weather that everyone is talking about. The days have been mostly dark and stormy, punctuated by moments of bright, glaring sun and intense shadows. This was one of those moments. Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 08, 2007

I'm Posting This Orchid Painting...

...because I can't think of anything else to blog about right now. The winter doldrums are setting in, and it's all I can do to stay awake after 7 pm.

Anyway, this is part of a new series I'm doing that includes fruits and vegetables and other objects against a colored background. I've been meaning to post these new paintings on my website and I will, I will. I just don't feel like it right now. I mean, did Matisse have to worry about websites and blogging? For that matter, do grizzly bears have to worry about such things? Because I feel like I have a lot more in common with a hibernating grizzly bear right now than a motivated, productive artist (as the pile of walnut shells on my desk can attest to).

For that matter, aren't you all hibernating too? Is anyone really reading this? If I fall asleep at my desk, will anyone hear the sound of walnut shells being scattered all over the floor?

Good night.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Cultural Outings for Dummies

We saw this ballet, "Coppelia," at the Opera Bastille last week. I can't really tell you what it was about because I didn't buy a program and the storyline was a bit difficult to follow. Besides the usual leading man and leading lady, the ballet involved a crazed inventor, some automatons, and people in Eastern-European peasant garb, all dancing around in a medieval-looking village. You would think that something interesting could come of such a mix but in fact I found the piece rather boring, lacking in tension. It was not clear if the inventor was a "bad guy" because nothing bad happened to anyone, and similarly, the leading man didn't really do anything so great to prove that he was the "good guy." The prima ballerina danced very well, but neither she nor any of the others had that special charisma which keeps you riveted in your seat. As it was, I found myself being distracted by the amount of people coughing in the audience and wondering why they hadn't thought to bring cough drops or water when they knew they'd be sitting in a crowded theater for an hour and a half.

On the plus side, the sets were quite beautiful, but I was disappointed that there was no heart-soaring climactic moment -- you know, with lots of leaps and bounds, Baryshnikov-style. Of course, this is only the third ballet I've seen in Paris, and maybe the fifth I've seen in my life, so I don't pretend to be any kind of critic. The good news is that the tickets were cheap, each about the price of two movies, hence I don't feel bitter about the experience. On the contrary, there is something very satisfying about going to a big, public theater with lots of other people all dressed up to see a show, even if the show itself is kind of forgettable. (And even if now I am stuck with a throbbing headcold because of all those coughing germs, thank you very much.)

Bastille at Night

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Day Walk

The weather in Paris today was superb, spring-like, a perfect way to start 2007. The whole city was out for a walk, and we joined in. Here are some things that caught my eye along the way....
(Just a reminder, you can click on any image to see it larger)

An unwanted vacuum cleaner

Tents for homeless people on the Canal St. Martin

Posters of this unknown guy whose face has been all over Paris for years

A tree and its shadow on a building

Remains of our lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Belleville

Writing on the wall ("distrust words" or "you can't trust words")

A sushi restaurant I will never go to

Blossoms - yes, blossoms! - in the park near our house