Living in Paris

Paris is where I really want to live.

The City of Lights fascinates me beyond all  understanding.

It’s been that way for over 50 years

The first time I went, I was in my 30’s and I instantly felt I was home.

Since then,

There have been many trips to Paris- for work and pleasure.

I want to go back again-

one more time…

 not just for a visit.

 My desire is to nest there a while,

not just perch for a few glorious days.

I want to LIVE in Paris-

even if it’s only for a couple of weeks…..

immerse myself and be swept away in the stream of Parisian life,

as a part of Paris….not just as an observer.

There might not be any visits to the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower.

Been there done that.

I just want to BE .

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My dream rental would have a small balcony & french doors,

opening onto a vista of crooked little streets and gray slate rooftops that grace

it’s venerated old buildings.

 A spectacular view of some famous landmark is not necessary….

Just a view of the neighborhood will do.

It should be in the 6th arrondisement-

near the Blvd. Saint Germain or the Luxembourg Gardens.

I’ve always stayed in or around St Germain and it feels comfortable there.

Picture rising each morning, throwing open the window and

breathing Paris into your lungs.

Even the first time I went to Paris- I recognized it

in my heart and soul.

I’ve never gone anywhere in the city that has felt unfamiliar or inhospitable.

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When I was there with my husband,

he would nap a little in the afternoon and

I would wander the neighborhoods

searching the local markets to buy some cheese, bread and wine;

and practice my French.

My rule was :

I needed to ask for it in French or I would not buy it.

My French usually failed me at a Patisserie,

when I was desperate for something

decadent and delicieuse!

More than once, a vendor said to me:

“you are American, aren’t you?”

I said:” how can you tell; is my French that bad”?

 “No- your French is quite good,

but you speak French with an American accent.”

That was something I had never considered before!

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Strolling along the Seine watching the bookinistes-

opening their stalls, brimming with

wonderful books and prints and postcards,

from another time

you start to dream about what Paris might have

been like a century ago….

What you might have done there had you lived during that time.

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Perhaps I would have sat next to Hemingway at Les Deux Magots,

noticed him writing in a notebook;

or bumped into him while browsing through books

at Shakespeare & Company;

where most writers of the time received their mail.

I probably would not have had the vaguest idea who he was.

The echoes of all the great painters, poets, writers and artists who lived there

are still whispers in the air.

The inexplicable force that drew them to Paris is still there, as well.

It is a place of dreams and possibilities.

There are delights every where you look in Paris.

In the Tuileries Gardens,

one can spend an entire afternoon watching children play in a pond

with wooden sail boats-

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knowing that a few hundreds yards away

in L’Orangerie,

Monet’s “Water Lilles” are always in bloom,

displayed in an elliptical room that transports you to Giverny

& the lushness of his gardens.

Then, past L’Orangerie you can glimpse the tip of the Eiffel Tower,

rising from a tree -filled horizon.

Turn a little to the right and

there’s the Carousel near Place de la Concorde.

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Look behind you and there is the Louvre.

Every where you look, there is beauty.

Your soul comes alive in Paris.

Every thing is art,

Even the light.

You do not see Paris with your eyes.

you absorb it.

Finally, if you are lucky….

it enters your soul.

The innermost part of you somehow reacts

to all the beauty surrounding you.

When that happens…..

The light is different,

the air more fragrant.

Your senses are heightened.

It’s unlike any other place on earth;

and I’ve been to a lot of places.

You don’t go to Paris to observe.

You go to become one with Paris.

You go to be changed…

You go to Paris to be baptized in it’s beauty.

It’s a place where the present and past exist side by side.

Hemingway and Hadley,

Matisse and Modigliani,

Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and Scott Fitzgerald.

There are ghosts everywhere-

in a good way.

I can almost see Capucine posing for Vogue in 1954

at The Cafe des Flores.

That Paris still exists.

There are still so many things I haven’t seen in Paris.

One of them is Pere Lachaise Cemetery.

All the great artists are resting there –

each of them

entombed in great works of art;

the echoes of their genius captured in the quiet rustling of leaves,

behind high iron gates.

Where else could you find all this brilliance in one place?

Modigliani, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Edith Piaf

and Jim Morrison!

The 16 year old girl in me still wants to visit his grave.

Maybe when I live there-

I’ll take a bottle of wine and

Jim & I will finally have our long-overdue talk..

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The secret of Paris is that you don’t have to do a thing

while you are there.

All you have to do is BE.

Paris does the rest.

 

 

 

The Best Things in Life Aren’t Things

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We  are not living in the world I wish existed.

But we are living in the world as it is.

We may not be able to change much,

but we can make our little corner of it better for those we love.

If we are lucky enough to have a family,

we have the ability to make

our children much happier and  their lives more meaningful.

  Start with

Appreciation for what is.

Look at the wonder of life around us.

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Every day of every season has it’s own beauty.

It is every where- just pay more attention to it:

Cloud formations, rainbows, flowers, the moon and stars, the smell of the earth after rain.

Share that with your children and grandchildren.

Help them experience joy in every day life.

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Spend time with them;

hiking, reading, talking, playing.

Show them the magic of a spider’s web-

share your binoculars…

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Peace for Christmas

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This year, let’s make sure we don’t let all the craziness in the world

distract us from the real message of Christmas.

Because we need it more than ever.

We need to make time to celebrate the birth of a man

who stood for so many things lacking in today’s world.

He  was a man who believed in

Love….

above all else.

Love for your fellow man, your family,

the poor, the sick, the oppressed, the elderly,

and especially,

those who had lost their way.

He believed

All men and all creatures are deserving of Love

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Even those who were responsible for his own death had his

Love and Forgiveness.

That’s a tough one to grasp, I’ll admit.

He believed we should help each other,

with no thought of what might come to us in return.

He preached Non-Violence even in the midst of violence toward him.

He believed it…

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Peace for Christmas

This year, let’s make sure we don’t let all the craziness in the world

distract us from the real message of Christmas.

Because we need it more than ever.

We need to make time to celebrate the birth of a man

who stood for so many things lacking in today’s world.

He  was a man who believed in

Love….

above all else.

Love for your fellow man, your family,

the poor, the sick, the oppressed, the elderly,

and especially,

those who had lost their way.

He believed

All men and all creatures are deserving of Love

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Even those who were responsible for his own death had his

Love and Forgiveness.

That’s a tough one to grasp, I’ll admit.

He believed we should help each other,

with no thought of what might come to us in return.

He preached Non-Violence even in the midst of violence toward him.

He believed it important to forgive those  who have hurt us;

especially those who have hurt us most..

You don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate the things that Jesus taught.

His teachings are universal.

Love

Forgiveness

Compassion

Kindness

Honesty

They apply to all of us- every one on the planet.

My wish this year, is that we all try to follow one of his most important teachings….

to live in Peace with others.

A first step toward that is to act respectfully

toward those with whom we have differences.

We don’t need to have the same beliefs

in order to have a basic level of respect for the rest of humanity.

We are all on this beautiful planet together.

Let’s  make this Christmas Season Peaceful:

in our hearts

in our homes

in our towns

in our country

&

in our world.

Let’s give Jesus a gift he would really want for his birthday.

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Memories/Recipes from The Russian Tea Room

The Russian Tea Room  originally opened it’s doors in 1926

in New York City.

Situated around the corner from Carnegie Hall on 57th St,

It  was a Chocolate Shop and Tea Room ,

opened by Expat Dancers from the Russian Royal Ballet,

who had fled Russia to avoid the Bolsheviks.

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They wanted to create a little piece of home for their fellow dancers in New York.

The first time I entered this magical realm was as a teenager in the mid 1960’s,

when it was still in it’s original incarnation.

It was so exotic and I felt sophisticated just being there.

( but of course, I wasn’t!)

Every year,when the Holidays come,

I always remember dining at the Russian Tea Room

with my parents.

Trips to New York City were special

and we each had our

favorites for those wonderful occasions.

My choice was always

The Russian Tea Room.

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Their Beef Stroganoff was the only thing I ever ordered.

I had no interest in anything else.

It saddens me because

The Original Russian Tea Room is no more.

But then again, nothing is forever.

In fact, since the original Tea Room,

there have been two more incarnations.

I choose to keep those amazing memories undisturbed by the present.

I haven’t been back since the 80’s.

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However, I have located the recipe for their

Original Beef Stroganoff.

I believe the original recipe was published in a 1996 issue of Gourmet Magazine.

It’s a luxurious melange of textures and flavors

and it remains one of my absolute favorites.

Consider it for a Holiday party,

Christmas Dinner,

or prepare it some cold, winter night

and dine by the fire.

Whenever you try it-the evening will turn into a special occasion.

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The Original Russian Tea Room Beef Stroganoff

1 1/2 lbs Beef Filet

( only use filet)

1 T vegetable oil

3T unsalted butter

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 lb portobello mushroom ( trimmed & sliced)

1/2 cup dry, white wine

1/2 cup beef broth

2 cups sour cream

2 T dijon mustard

Garnish: fresh dill

Directions:  Cut the filet crosswise into 1″ slices, then cut slices into 1/2″ thick strips.

Heat oil and 1 Tbsp butter & sear beef in batches-

30 seconds to 1 minute per side until brown but still rare.

Transfer Beef to platter. Let it rest.

Add remaining 2 tbsp. butter to the pan and cook onion and garlic until soft.

Add mushrooms, mustard, salt and pepper and cook over high.

When liquid from mushrooms evaporates add wine and boil.

Stir in beef broth, sour cream, mustard, beef and cook until heated through.

Serve over buttered noodles and garnish with fresh dill.

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Enjoy!

Crazy for the Holidays

  There is a special form of insanity that comes with the Holidays. It is highly contagious and we have all contracted it. Symptoms include: Excessive Shopping, Decorating, Baking, Wrapping, Cooking, Eating, Drinking, Partying , & The Ultimate Insanity……. Putting … Continue reading

Chasing Perfection

We should fear the concept of perfection, my friends;

we really should.

It has been responsible for destroying so much joy and satisfaction in the lives of those who pursue it.

I am one of those people.

We  perfectionists function within society ,

looking normal and smart and funny and accomplished.

People are always saying: “oh- you are so talented”.

You can do anything.

No, I can’t!

 Inside is this insidious voice that always says:” You are no good.”

You must be perfect.

Nothing less will do.

Last weekend, I did flowers for a lovely wedding.

The bouquets were amazing,

the tablescapes spectacular ,

the wedding arch was perfection.( haha)

I didn’t charge her for a bunch of things

because I was trying to make things perfect for her.

But I forgot 4 boutonnieres.

Oh my God!

I cannot tell you how awful ( and incredibly stupid I felt)

I don’t make mistakes like this…..

Aside from the weather, I am always in control!

&

I am working on the weather thing!

My weddings are always perfection.

( Except for the outdoor wedding a few weeks ago when an entire cake slid off the table

…. due to the excessive heat)

and hit the grass.

I stood there, frozen with horror.

This never happens to me!

This is a wedding planners’ worst nightmare.

I have heard all sorts of horror stories about things going wrong at weddings;

but until that moment,

I had never experienced any of them.

I mean, things go wrong all the time, but nothing I haven’t been able to fix.

That’s what people in my profession do.

We fix things before anyone notices there was even a problem.

So, today…. after two catastrophes in just a few weeks,

I am feeling demoralized, stupid and completely incompetent.

One of my designers said:” Don’t worry, Jan.

Things like this happen all the time.

Not to me, they don’t!

Until now.

Being good at what you do always brings expectation.

Being really good at what you do suggests you might not have any limitations.

People see what you do and have expectations that nothing will ever go wrong!

So, what do I do?

I suppose I shouldn’t promise perfect.

The thing is- we are all guilty of this!

We all want the PERFECT wedding,

the PERFECT marriage,

the PERFECT children,

the PERFECT House,

The PERFECT Pie Crust

The Perfect Body or whatever…

and it simply does not exist.

We are not capable of perfection.

But when people hire us to provide services to them,

They will settle for nothing less than perfection.

They paid for perfection and they want it.

If it isn’t Perfect-  It’s Crap!

Couldn’t there be something in-between perfection and crap?

Apparently not when money is exchanged.

Here is something I can do:

I will now stop promising perfection.

Perfection is only achieved by chance,

brought to us by the Gods of Fortune.

No amount of talent can produce it.

 I will continue to pursue perfection because I cannot seem to help myself.

The thing is- perhaps in  the process of chasing perfection

I will achieve excellence and

that should be enough for anyone………

even me.