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Summer Series: Paris Plages

Well, bless her heart: Paris has made an attempt to be friendly, albeit only briefly. Every summer for one month, the city of Paris brings the beaches of the south of France to the city. Along the banks of the Seine, a faux beach is created, complete with sand, beach chairs, palm trees, umbrellas, cafés, sand castles, beach activities… And a view. As corny as it may sound it’s actually rather remarkable. If your pocketbook isn’t deep enough to get yourself to St. Tropez or any other inflated beach resort for the summer and you are stuck in Paris during the depths of the July and August heat, Paris Plages is a charming refuge.

By the way, you can thank the Socialist party for this grand gesture, as Paris Plages was instigated by the newly elected Socialist party Mayor Bertrand Delanoe in 2002. Originally the plan was to just have one beach on the Right Bank but its popularity forced it to expand and another beach was created for the jealous Left Bank and further down in the 19th arrondissement another beach was created along the picturesque canal known as the “Bassin de la Villette.” They have even added a floating swimming pool… as well they should because it is forbidden to swim in the Seine (gross). Much to the chagrin of American teenage boy tourists though, topless sunbathing is forbidden as well.


Here’s the best part and most unusual part: It’s free! Yes, you heard me, something in Paris is free! Now you can take your €20 Uber to the banks of the Seine, take in some sun in your €120 Eres maillot, snack on your €14 ham and cheese baguette, sip your €22 rosé, and bask in the glory that you are sitting in a free beach chair at a free beach in Paris.

A toute!

*Something you don’t know about me? Yesterday morning I woke up and immediately thought I was going to die. I’m not even over exaggerating or even overreacting. Why? As you know, or maybe you don’t know, one of the perks of having ALS is that getting a respiratory illness can prove fatal. My muscles are not strong enough to cough so my lungs can become quickly filled with… You know what. We have had these emergencies a few times which result in 15 paramedics in my bedroom sticking tubes down my throat and up my nose trying to suction out the culprit. Not sexy. To say that it is terrifying is an understatement.

As soon as I opened my eyes yesterday morning, I felt it coming on. My nose was stuffy, my breathing was labored and my chest was heavy. My first thought? Fuuuuuuck. My second thought? Panic at the disco. My third thought? Ellie, you’re going to have to save yourself. So I decided to do as Hippocrates and “let food be thy medicine”… With a side of pharmaceuticals. First things first, I thought I would double down on my feeding tube formula which happens to be a concoction of the healthiest foods on earth. The formula is called Liquid Hope and it is a whole foods meal replacement which honestly, I think everyone should take. It is a blend of vegetables, whole grain brown rice, flaxseed oil, quinoa, almond butter, kale, garlic, tumeric, rosemary, ginger and wakama (Japanese seaweed). After that, I upped my dosage of Haelen 951 which is pure fermented soy juice. Next up, I made sure I had a continual cup of hot lemon water with local honey, tumeric and ginger and my usual cup of hot chai tea with vanilla soy milk was always on hand. Not to do anything in moderation, I continued to assault my symptoms with my famous green juice.

Let’s talk about juicing, shall we? How can anyone go through their day without juicing? It’s so easy and so beneficial (and you won’t feel so bad about smoking cigarettes… Just kidding!). Once a week, we go to the farmers market and stock up on all of the fresh organic vegetables, fruits and such… Spinach, celery, fennel, cucumber, apples, oranges, lemon, kale (not easy in Paris), beets, ginger, cilantro and whatever else is fresh and in season. We bring it home, chop it up, put it in plastic bags and freeze it so it is ready to go at a moment’s notice. Our secret weapon is a dash of tumeric. We also add coconut oil, flaxseed oil and love.

Last but not least, I took one of my emergency crazy pills to suppress the panic attack. To bore me to sleep, I watched an episode on HGTV’s Beach Flip, which did its job and I was asleep within 10 minutes. By the way, why would anyone want to watch a show about renovating a kitchen on a budget? Gross. I don’t want to watch people choosing quartz countertops from Home Depot or flooring from Lumber Liquidators. Don’t you think it’s more fun to watch rich people (with their decorators) choose marble countertops à la Kelly Wearstler, flooring from Exquisite Surfaces or faucetry from Compas. I do. But don’t get me wrong, I do love an IKEA kitchen in a pinch but watching HGTV’s Beach Flip was actually painful.

Anyway, the moral to my story is that food works, food heals. After eight hours of pummeling my body with organic everything and a much needed nap, I woke up and was cured. I swear to God. Sinuses clear, no coughing, no trouble breathing… Fresh as a daisy, ready to tackle the world and insult as few people as I can throughout the day (it’s a challenge). I also have to admit that the crazy pill did its job alleviating my stress so that I could mentally get my mind around getting healthy. Voilà! Thank you kale and wakame.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s summer series: Hint: "La Balanguera misteriosa, com una aranya d’art subtil, buida que buida sa filosa de nostra vida treu lo fil. Com una parca bé cavil-la teixint la tela per demà.”-Joan Alcover I Maspons (1854-1924)

Summer Series: Alfresco, Baby!

Be careful what you wish for. After living in California most of my life, I was excited to move to France so that I could experience seasons again like I did when we lived in Missouri and Aspen… Winter, spring, summer and fall. Growing up in Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Malibu and Santa Barbara… I lived in perpetual summertime all year round. It was almost too much of a good thing. I felt like I needed a snowstorm for a reality check. Life isn’t supposed to be sunny all the time, right?


Now that I’ve lived in France for a solid two years, all I want is sunshine. Like John Denver says, “Sunshine on my shoulders, makes me happy.”

At first it used to annoy me that whenever there was a glimpse of sunshine, lily white vitamin D deficient Parisians would slither out of their apartments, eyes squinting, searching for their slice of sunshine in every garden, terrace and café… And then milk it… for hours… Hogging the light. And now, two years later, I am one of them. Sunshine is my holy Grail. I actually check weather reports which is something I’ve never done, praying for sunshine on the weekends when I go outside. Now I understand (and appreciate) why the French take their August “vacances” so seriously. Jeez, Frenchies, I hear ya.

While I love my apartment, appreciate my apartment, respect my apartment… I also hate it. My apartment offers me everything a girl would dream of in a Parisian apartment… Point de hongrie hardwood floors, high ceilings, detailed molding, skyscraper French windows, three fireplaces and in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. However, it’s lacking one thing… A terrace (and a view but I can’t get greedy.) Yes, I have six little Juliet balconies just big enough for a topiary and Frances (yes, it annoys me that my cat gets more sunshine than I do) but it’s not enough… It’s just not enough! I have spent the last year searching every real estate agency for the equivalent of my apartment but with a terrace.… For the same price. Apparently, I have learned, this is just asking too much… Unless I want to spend €8000 a month and even then it’s still difficult. I have found other apartments for the same price but they lack the high ceilings, the fireplaces and the 7 feet tall French windows because usually places that have terraces are on the last and top floors of the quintessential Haussmann Parisian apartment buildings which were generally reserved for the servants. Lucky maids. (I often wonder that if architect Monsieur Haussmann had just designed these apartments on the lower floors with balconies 3 feet wider if Parisians wouldn’t be so grumpy because they would have a usable balcony with some fresh air and sunshine.) Was I willing to trade my beautiful apartment for a tiny top floor (probably no elevator) unadorned apartment that had a terrace? I went back and forth, trust me. On our weekend walks through Paris my neck is usually craned upward admiring the few lucky souls that have a terrace. I actually take pictures of stranger’s terraces. At least 300 times per walk I ask my caregivers, “Can we please walk on the sunny side of the street?” I need light!

What to do? What to do? The last thing my husband wanted to do was move to a smaller apartment so we made an agreement that the weekends were spent outdoors in the summer and in the winter my husband promised to take me at least one weekend a month to the south of France so I can spread my wings and bask in the sunshine. It’s too early to tell if he will hold up his end of the bargain.

Who knew that sunshine would become such a valuable commodity? I remember spending more than one Thanksgiving outdoors while we lived in California. Thanksgiving outdoors? That’s unheard of! I remember wanting to spend Thanksgiving somewhere that “felt like Thanksgiving,” somewhere the leaves were changing, somewhere there was a crisp breeze and somewhere I could wear a cashmere turtleneck sweater. Now all I want is to wear a T-shirt 365 days a year and I’m thinking we should probably move to the Florida Panhandle. I just want to be outside in the sunshine eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. So, this brings us to today’s blog… Alfresco dining. Glorious, glorious alfresco dining.

If we are going to have our meals outside, let’s do it right, shall we? We need the right ambience, the proper accoutrements, and the perfect menu. First let’s start with the look…

Now that we know what alfresco dining should look like… Let’s find out where we can buy everything! My favorite summer shopping is always through Mark D. Sikes, Serena & Lily, Williams-Sonoma and a few other boutiques. Take a look...

 Sundial Side Chair from Serena & Lily. Click HERE to purchase.
 Riviera Side Chair from Serena & Lily. Click HERE to purchase.
 Garden String Lights from Serena & Lily. Click HERE to purchase.
 Rablabs Lumino Azure Agate Coasters from Barneys. Click HERE to purchase.
 Oscar de la Renta's Portuguese hand-cut glasses with blue trim available through Mark D. Sikes. Click HERE to purchase.
 Oscar de la Renta's caned tray and stand available through Mark D. Sikes. Click HERE to purchase.
 Juliska's English Country Estate Dinnerware available through Mark D. Sikes. Click HERE to purchase.
 Woven Seagrass Tray from Williams-Sonoma. Click HERE to purchase. 
 Flamingo Tapestry Weave Provençal Tablecloth by La Cigale. Click HERE to purchase.
 Unbreakable Acrylic Tumblers by Williams-Sonoma. Click HERE to purchase.
 Melamine ( these are plastic, people! ) Bumblebee Dinner Plates by Mary Lake-Thompson. Click HERE to purchase.
Melamine (yep, plastic) Le Cadeaux Provence Dinner Plates. Click HERE to purchase.
Now, what are we going to eat? I have am some ideas…

 Grilled Shrimp and Lemon Skewers with Feta Dill Sauce. Click HERE for recipe.

 Soy Lemon Flank Steak with Arugula. Click HERE for recipe.
Oven Roasted Tomatoes by David Lebovitz. Click HERE for recipe.
 Endless Summer Cookbook by Katie Lee. Click HERE to purchase.

For more inspiration, follow my Pinterest Alfresco board HERE. It has everything you need to create a perfect alfresco environment from the overall look to the details… the furniture, the lighting, the tablecloths, the serving pieces, the plates, the glasses, the recipes… Alfresco heaven.

In the meantime, your little sun deprived friend Ellie will “do as the Parisians do” and milk the summer sunshine for all it’s worth.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s summer series. Hint: “faux plage.”
A toute!

Summer Series: La Piscine

Seeing as though it is smack dab in the middle of summer, I thought it would be fun to do a summer series. Everything about summer… Pools, beaches, swimsuits, alfresco dining, gardens, recipes, houses, travel and I’ll try to throw in a little culture as well.

Let’s kick off this summer series today with a look at some jaw-dropping pools, vintage pool paintings and stuff to buy!

 Follow my Pinterest board, La Piscine, HERE.
 Vintage painting...The Azure Sea Repineado
 Circa 1920 Painting...People at Old Cement Swimming Pool
 Painting by Samantha French...Purchase HERE.
 Turkish Foutas Pool Towels. Purchase HERE.
 Acrylic Stemless Pool Glasses from Mark & Graham. They have great monograms like the Didot font created in the early 1800s for the Didot family in Paris. Purchase HERE.

The Springboard in the Pond coffee table book.
Find this great coffee table pool book and all of my other favorites HERE.

The current "It Girls" of pool toys, The Giant Swan and The Giant Pink Flamingo.
Purchase HERE.
For other superchic pool toys visit

A toute!

*Something you don’t know about me? I’m sorry if I haven’t answered emails, comments or my phone this past week. Yesterday was the three-year anniversary of my sweet little brother’s suicide so it’s always a weird week for me. I thought about it yesterday and I don’t know really how I feel. I think it’s a combination of feelings… Anger, sadness, confusion, relief and absolute grief. The good news is that Gracie spent yesterday with all four of his darling children, Noah, Aiden, Olivia and Gabriel. If you would like to know about my brother, Matt, you can read my blog post that I wrote on his birthday HERE.



The Poulet Rôti Made Me Do It

My husband’s favorite thing to do is work all week long into the wee hours of the night and then wake up at the crack of dawn on the weekends to facilitate my adventures. Yes, I’m being facetious… Partly. He does hate waking up early but once he’s knee-deep into my adventures he actually likes it. Remember, there is no rest for the weary.

Let me just state for the record that I have the best husband in the whole wide world. Even though he’s totally annoying, I can say with certainty that this man is a saint. He does everything that I want and dedicates his weekends to my happiness. Raise your hand if you have a husband that takes you to museum after museum, exhibit after exhibit, restaurants that only you like, flea markets, Château tours, chick shops, flower markets and farmers markets… Every. Single. Weekend. Yes, I married well and yes, he married up. :-)

However, he does all of this not without complaining. He complains when I wake him up at 7 AM on a Sunday, he complains when we have to squeeze into a tiny French elevator with my wheelchair and breathing machine, he complains that I force him to take Uber X (the fancy Uber), he complains that it’s too hot, he complains that he hasn’t had coffee yet and he complains that he has to pay for everything. He does all of this complaining in a loud French voice. His only saving grace is that he’s super handsome and I let him get away with a lot because he’s easy on the eyes. I also cut him some slack because he is one of the rare husbands that doesn’t have to be told what to wear which saves me oodles of time. Luckily I have never had to utter the words, “Please don’t wear a tank top or socks with crocs.” My husband knows how to dress… And I thank him for that.

He usually continues his complaining all the way to our destination. Once he gets a café au lait and a pain au chocolat into his system (like a fucking two-year-old girl), he stops crying and enjoys the ride. In fact he more than enjoys the ride. He actually “gets into it.” At museums, he doesn’t rush and he reads all of the descriptions and loves the gift shop as much as I do. At restaurants, he always lets me order and we share everything. At flea markets, he looks over every booth and picks up items that he knows I will like and shows them to me (he actually has a great eye). At flower markets, he smells all the flowers for me and tells me if I would like them or not (I cannot smell anything through my breathing machine). At the makeup counter he always asks me, “Do you want anything else that would make you feel pretty.” At clothing shops, he goes through each rack with me and never gets bored and tells me that blue is my color. And at farmers markets… He is the best which brings us to today’s blog posting.

On Saturday evening, I announced to my husband that we were going to wake up early Sunday morning to go to the farmers market in the 12th arrondissement (Bastille neighborhood) of Paris. I thought that giving him less than 24 hour notice was polite, don’t you? And of course, he starts complaining and mumbling his French catchphrase which includes every French swearword on the face of the earth and something about a bordello. I had to explain to him that I had heard through the grapevine about a woman named The Chicken Lady at the farmers market that we had to go to visit. Apparently, this woman named Catherine makes the best roasted chicken, poulet rôti, in all of Paris. The Chicken Lady marinates her poulet crapaudine (spatchcocked birds) for several days in a variety of ingredients like ginger, honey, citrus and sesame. The chicken is then roasted to perfection resulting in a sticky crispy skin that is irresistible. My husband replied to me, “So we are waking up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday… For a chicken?” Yep!

Of course we were going to wake up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday for a chicken… Amongst other things… such as a tomatoes… Specifically Coeur de Boeuf tomatoes. So, off to the Marché Bastille we go. This farmers market is one of the largest in Paris and is perfect for a first-time tourist in the City of Light. This market has everything… fruits and veggies, sel de Provence, quintessential French striped T-shirts à  la Picasso, piping hot crêpes au fromage, fresh pastas with homemade spicy arrabiatta sauce, Parisians’ beloved stinky Roquefort cheese, fleurs bon marché (cheap flowers), herbs and of course that roasted chicken!

We arrived at the farmers market by 9 AM and that was almost too late for the chicken. By the time we got to The Chicken Lady, 90% of her chickens were already sold. Luckily, we managed to score one of the last remaining ginger and citrus chickens. Let me tell you, the scent of roasting chickens dripping with fat onto roasting herbed potatoes is enough to book a flight to Paris ASAP, regardless of the heat wave. I could hardly wait to get the chicken home so we could devour it. Yes, I reminded myself that I’m a part-time vegetarian only in theory. I dare you to pass up this chicken, my vegan friends.


All my wildest dreams came true with this chicken… Crispy, sweet skin, almost caramelized, almost candied. Tart with the ginger, mellowed out with the honey and a little crunch with the sesame. Moist and juicy meat, a perfect complement to my sage stuffing and juicy tomatoes.

And this is why we wake up at the crack of dawn to go to a French farmers market, dear husband. He didn't complain once and he took all of these photos.
A toute!

*Something you don’t know about me? I’m quite critical. Surprise surprise. :-). While I recommend the Marché Bastille for The Chicken Lady, I don’t recommend it for the diehard farmers market goers. It’s a bit generic with the usual characters of vegetables and fruits. It’s a bit loud and there are too many Americans sporting golf shirts, fanny packs and comfortable shoes. My favorite farmers markets are the Marché Grenelle and the Marché Raspail.

The Marché Grenelle is located under the metro tracks in the 15th arrondissement and it is where the true Parisians shop. There is no fluff here, no tourists and is all about the produce. This is the real deal and no one bats an eye at the politically incorrect potatoes cooked in goose fat. They are delicious and that’s all anyone cares about. The mushrooms look like mushrooms and the cheese smells like cheese. Nothing is sugarcoated here. If this is a problem for you, remind yourself that you are in France and not Santa Monica.


If you need a little bit more ritz in your farmers market like I do sometimes, I head to the Marché Raspail in the 6th arrondissement. Everything here is très jolie and parfait and bio (organic). Lovely and subdued, there are no screaming vendors here like at the Marché Bastille. Prices are higher because they cater to easily impressed Americans but who cares, it’s all gorgeous and delicious. It’s like Gelson’s… But outdoors. I usually go to this market when I need my Barefoot Contessa fix as Ina Garten, herself, has been spotted at this market numerous times (her apartment is nearby.)

Do you want to hear a funny story? Sometimes I just can’t bear farmers markets… Because I have a very delicate constitution. My equilibrium is very sensitive and fragile. Stinky cheeses, fishy fish, meaty sausages quite literally put me over the edge. Case in point: About eight years ago, I was in Mallorca, Spain at my friend Diandra Douglas’ drop dead gorgeous villa. I will do a blog on it this week so you can see… You will die. Anyway, this is a vacation house which basically means that this is a party house (no kids on this trip) and this particular Saturday night we had been partying quite hard… Lots of Palo de Mallorca cocktails, lots of Spanish cigarettes, and lots of flamenco dancing with roadside gypsies until the sun came up… A wee bit of debauchery. Come Sunday morning, I was ready to check into a rehab, but Diandra had different plans for all of us. She was in tip top shape because she had been raised in Mallorca and her body was immune. The rest of us, her weary novice guests (me, my husband and my cousin) were toast. We were exhausted, filthy, hungover and quite possibly needing our stomachs pumped. However, our lovely host, Diandra, was up and ready to take us to her favorite farmers market. Jesus fucking Christ.

Because we have manners, we agreed to join her. Bad idea. This was the last place I should be. Driving like a Formula One champion, Diandra navigated the winding treacherous hillside roads with precision. Winding roads and hangovers do not mix… Neither does 100° heat and a hangover. I kept looking out of the car windows for a hospital. No such luck and we arrived at the farmers market. This is quite possibly the worst day of my life. Loud, sticky, sweaty, stinky Mallorccan farmers market with a hangover is hell on earth. At the first booth my senses were assaulted by tangy scented ripe sausages and dead pigs hanging by ropes buzzing with flies. Diandra chatted lyrically in her beautiful fluent Mallorquin indigenous dialect and ordered about 400 pounds of sausage and ham. I started to get dizzy. At the next booth, Diandra bought pound after pound of robust Manchengo cheese and then continued on to the next booth where she bought three birds and I think, a cat. That was it, I was ready to die. Sweaty ham, stinky cheese and dirty animals put me over the edge. I had to walk away. I had to walk away! My cousin cautiously steadied me and had no choice but to sit me down on the sidewalk… next to a bar. Yep, it got worse. Because she is halfway nice, my cousin found a hot Sprite for me and tried to get me to drink it. Hot Sprite just made it worse. Because she is halfway mean and hysterical she wickedly whispered one word to me… “Jambon” and then I just heaved all over the sidewalk. I was laughing, crying and puking at the same time and then my husband had to carry me to the car where I sat in silence thanking Dios that we were out of there. Gracias/no gracias Spanish farmers market.