Friday, December 31, 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

Paris, France: Vin Chaud/Gluhwein/Hot Wine

Be it France, Germany or the UK and you're likely to experience the flavorful mulled hot wine cocktail during the holidays. Vin Chaud (pronounced vehn-show) was my choice this year and contribution to the family Christmas day gathering. I figured that I'd bring a bit of France to the party, having just returned from Paris days earlier. It has been my experience that local bars and open air Christmas markets, in particular, throughout countries in Europe, offer the spiced hot drink this time of year to help warm the soul. Its smell is festive with hints of sugar and spice, and it's sometimes garnished with a slice of fruit.
With New Years Eve less than a week away I thought I'd suggest the drink as a consideration when entertaining guests. It's literally and figuratively, an extention of warmth that tastes and smells good too. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

2 bottles of red table wine
4 ounces of brandy
2 cinnamon sticks
2 Tbl clove
2 Tbl nutmeg
orange zest (from 1 large orange)
granulated sugar to taste (honey and/or brown sugar instead of sugar, optional)

In a large pot mix all ingredients, stirring periodically. Simmer only. Don't boil. Enjoy the aroma and the taste.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pismo Beach, California: CHRISTMAS MORNING!!!

If I didn't believe in Santa Claus, I do now!!! After a whirlwind of events involving travel this week, Santa granted me the best gift ever.....the gift to be HOME with my family on Christmas day. Anyone who has been following my blog the past few months knows that I have had the great fortune of traveling the globe this year. I have been blessed with countless wonderful experiences in numerous countries and cities, which have been amazing, exhilarating, exhausting, thrilling and inspiring, but ultimately, I'm not HOME.
Santa came a couple of days early this year. I finally arrived to Los Angeles two days ago. The journey from Paris was tiring and long, and seemed as though it would never come. We are now on a scheduled time out from the tour for the Christmas holiday break. We flew from France to the U.S. the morning after our final show in Paris, reaching New York late on the night of the 22nd, but unfortunately, not in time to make our connecting flights onward. This being the case, we were all put in local airport hotels for the night, returning early the next morning for our scheduled flight to L.A. I was hesitant to get my hopes up, as they'd been shattered many times this week. In short, it all started when our show, scheduled for December 17th, was cancelled due to circumstances not worth mentioning, pushing our travel plans back a day. This started the domino effect. From that day on, it has been one thing after the next leaving our Monster Ball family feeling discouraged and in distress. Fast forward to New York City,.....I finally board my flight at 7am on the 23rd. I got situated in my seat, buckled up and as comfortable as a human being possibly can considering the tight space, when the aircraft captain briefly announced that there might be a slight delay due to faulty air conditioning. Noooooooo!!! I was now starting to feel as though I was in an imaginery episode of "Shattered Dreams", or was I to be startled by Ashton Kutcher any moment now. Truly, what else could possibly go wrong? Thankfully, within moments, the pilot re-announced that things were actual under control and to prepare for take off. I said a prayer, crossed my fingers and toes and seconds later we were air bound. I couldn't exhale just yet though, I wouldn't dare until my feet were safely and firmly planted on the ground in Los Angeles.
My anxiousness was inflated by the fact that I was scheduled to be in Pismo Beach, California that same day/evening of my arrival. Mui Alto and I had plans to drive three hours north, for a relaxing two-night stay at a hotel on the beach of the central California coast overlooking the Pacific. I figured it would be a great way to unwind and for us to get reacquainted.
Our plane landed in Los Angeles as scheduled and to my surprise, a few minutes early. I collected myself and my bags and eagerly waited curbside to be picked up. Mui Alto's thrill and excitement to see me, and me, him, goes without saying. At last, all was well with the world. We proceeded home and quickly ate before getting on the road. I was tired but still in travel mode. We arrived in Pismo Beach shortly after sundown, and found dinner at Giuseppe's Pizzeria Italiana before settling in for the night. It's only now that I can finally EXHALE!!!
Our stay in Pismo was brief and relaxing. We entertained ourselves with walks along the beach and visited Leatitia's Winery and Vineyard for a tasting yesterday afternoon. For me, this Christmas has been about enjoying the better things in life, treasured moments, stillness, sunsets and family. I awake today, December 25th, Christmas morning, knowing that Santa has been very good to me. He granted me the best gifts of all, gifts money can't buy--safe travels, time spent with family and friends and good health. That's priceless!!! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Paris, France: Portrait of a Lady

Well, today marks the beginning of the end of my time on the road in 2010.... We arrived in Paris this afternoon from London due to wrap up the year by performing the last two, of over one hundred shows, of the Monster Ball Tour, on Sunday and Monday evening at the Bercy Arena. Excited to be in Paris, with only one day off to spare, I wasted no time getting myself together to go out, preparing to endure the cold, wet and snowy weather. I was determined to see whatever I could in the brief time that I had. Tony and I met in the lobby and strategized a shopping plan by starting out in search of the Frederic Malle parfum boutique. Since our visit to Antwerp we've been intrigued with the parfum and knew that we'd get the chance to visit the actual boutique once in Paris. The fragrance is offered in a variety of scents, with a range and selection to please most. We have been taken with their premiere scent called Portrait of a Lady. It's considered our choice pick because of the name and it's amazing aromatic mixture of spice, wood and patchouli. Even more than the fragrance, I love the product presentation and packaging-- a modern art experience of simplicity, class and clean line. While visiting the store, being a bit overwhelmed by the choices, having sampled all, I finally settled on, Iris Poudre and Lipstick Rose. The two scents are very different, Iris Poudre is spicey and strong, the other, soft and subtle. Depending on my mood of the day I think I'd be covered either way.
We left Frederic Malle and headed down Rue de Rivoli to the Champs Elysee, taking in the Christmas Market, a crepe and vin chaud along the way. The dense snowfall and ambient festive lighting made for a picturesque backdrop to our evening. We carried on to Avenue Montaigne, window shopping at the high end designer boutiques. We ducked in and out of a few stores, seeking a photo op of the original Chanel boutique at 31, Rue Cambon, where Coco Chanel herself once lived in an apartment upstairs. The store was stunning as one would expect and renovated in more recent years from its original state.
We made it back to the hotel for 8pm to join the rest of wardrobe for our final group dinner of the year in my honor. Nearby was the Bercy Village where we found a satifying and charming restaurant with a rustic setting. We laughed and ate, reflecting on this past year and our newly established friendships. It was a great time. Uncertain of my status within the group going forward, my friends chose to surprise me with a gift, it was none other than Portrait of a Lady, now deemed by us, the tour fragrance. I will enjoy and treasure it for its significance and the memories it conjures up. What a better place to be given parfum than Paris,...I LOVE IT!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Detroit to Amsterdam: Journey across the Pond

What a day!!!! Today's journey brought me from Detroit to Rotterdam via Amsterdam, Netherlands. I was in Detroit (Michigan) this past week for the "home-going" services of my cousin Georgette. After learning of her death from cancer, while in Antwerp over a week ago, I knew immediately that I had to be present to say goodbye. Last Sunday, November 21st, I set out by car from Antwerp to Brussels Airport to board a flight traveling seven and a half hours from Belgium to NY, prior to my connecting two hour flight to Detroit. It was one, very long and exhausting day, but, one that I'd gladly do again for Georgette. The week has been somber, emotional, reflective, meaningful and full with family. The funeral service for Georgette was held on Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving holiday. I, and much of the family, came together in remebrance and celebration of her life, before saying goodbye at her final resting place. I miss her. She would tell me that I had lived the lives of many, for my numerous experinces and travels abroad. In her spirit, I'll carry that sentiment with me and try hard to live life with optimism and positivity as she did. I will try to remind myself to not take my oportunities for granted and to continue to live my life to the fullest. Her passing is a sure example of how tomorrow is not guaranteed and to treasure every moment. I'll hold on to this thought even more as I prepare to travel back to Europe to resume life as I've known it, rejoining my wardrobe "buddies" on the Lady Gaga crew.
Today is my first day back at work. Once on the ground, after my lengthy flight from Detroit to Amsterdam, I quickly found a train departing to Rotterdam, a 25 minute ride, then made my way to the Manhattan Hotel directly across the street from the train station, checked in, and was downstairs for the 9:30am bus call to the venue to start the days work. With all my excursions, I felt like a contestant on the reality TV show, Amazing Race (CBS), one of my favorites.
Once at the Ahoy venue, I found my wardrobe "buddies", caught up on all that was missed, and fell into the work routine as if I had never left. It felt good to be back. I am fortunate to be apart of something so wonderful! Myself, and the friends that I work with, are lucky, in that we truly enjoy and respect one another. The life we lead, often envied by many, and not suited for most, can be a difficult one. It takes a certain type to walk in our shoes. Touring brings many challenges, emotionally and physically. It is, at times, an unpredictable and unstructured lifestyle not always suited for the faint of heart. I think it's fair to say that it takes a freespirited individual to do this job, someone good with people, yet fine in solitude, an adventurous soul, someone unsheltered, assertive and compromising. It's a life you tend to fall into, not seek. My first tour was on the Micheal Jackson HIStory tour in 1996. Like my approach to most things in life, when asked to join the crew, I said "YES" first, reacted later, and knew that failure is not an option. I had no idea of what I was getting into, but had faith that it would all work out. That was four tours ago.
It's been great seeing the world. I feel that there is nothing more valuable or educational than first hand exposure to life. I've been to places I never dreamed that I'd go, and to some that I never knew existed. It's been special and amazing.
Since the MJ tour and certainly before the internet, I would ponder on ways to make my travels have real purpose and meaning. I can only hope that through blogging, by bringing exposure and awareness, that I might inspire and insight interest in others to live their life outside of THEIR "box", be that what it may. The world is a huge place with so much to see. You don't have to travel far to explore new adventures, start by exiting your front door. See the world with open eyes, be open to the possibilities. Good things will come, just enjoy the ride!!!
In Georgette's honor, I dedicate this blog to her girls, Beth and Katherine, and to all my young nieces, nephews and cousins. I hope you find strength and inspiration in my stories and experiences. In the words of my cousin Georgette, regarding my "having lived the lives of many", I share my life experiences with you, Beth and Kat, to inspire you for better tomorrows and brighter days. My hope is that you grow to be strong independent women and to always see the world with eyes wide open. xx.

Antwerp, Belgium: Dries Van Noten - Fall Winter 2010/2011 Full Fashion Show

This visit to Antwerp was stunted due to my plans to fly home to the US for unfortunate family circumstances. Having only one day to take in the city before my departure, I made my way to the Dries Van Noten boutique, meeting up with Tony. At one time, years ago, I was an avid fan of the Belgian designer, but more recently have fallen out of touch with his current collections. I figured now was as good a time as any to get reacqauinted.
The collection was beautiful as I expected. Highlighted in the store were the signature well tailored womens wear of classic silhouettes, patterned silk and satin dresses watercolor stained in jewel toned hues and jackets and blouses ornamented with beautiful pewter sequins, beads and embroidery, suggestive hints of ethnic flare. The store was charming and a bit sparse with a winding narrow staircase leading to the second level where the menswear collection was on diplay.

Most noteble was the fragrant scent throughout the store. Tony's inquiry lead us to find that we were succomb by "Portrait of a Lady", the French parfume Frederic Malle. We are now on a quest for the aromatic scent seeing as how it is not offered in stores yet. Our scheduled Paris trip is nearly three weeks away, that said, you know where we'll be. Before closing, Tony made his puchase, a fashionable white polo style tee with navy blue sweater knit sleeves. In all, It was good to have gotten reacquaintanced, Dries Van Noten is here to stay.