Mediterranean Nights

There was a large box awaiting me.

Covered in silver foil paper, and bound with a satin bow, it shone like starlight. Too large for a dress or shoes. And it weighed a ton. What on earth could it be? 

Beneath the petals of colored paper lay a most exciting surprise.

Not a tiger print coat.
Not a tiny sailboat.
Not a collection of rare books. 

(But a divine gift for one who cooks.)

An earthen clay cazuela. A beautiful, coveted kitchen accomplice from a faraway land.

As a lover of Spanish everything, 
I must admit that I have a mad little obsession with the traditional clay cookware of the region. And though I’ve dragged countless plates, bowls, lanterns, and cushions across the sea, I’d never once considered a cooking vessel amongst my swag. 

Probably because it would take up valuable shoe room in my valise.

I travel light. Sort of.

I travel light. Sort of.


These sultry Summer nights always make me dream of Spain.

I’ve been craving a classic: the ubiquitous and wildly tasty tortilla de patatas, a tapas staple found absolutely everywhere. Hearty, delicious, and somewhat resembling a potato fritatta, it's come-hither comfort food bar none. The trick? Doing it justice without using eggs. 

But you know how I love a challenge.

So, on a 90 degree day, what does a Lioness do? Fires up the oven, of course.

Tantalizing Tortilla

  • 6 small organic red potatoes, sliced thinly (skins on)
  • 1/2 organic green pepper, chopped
  • 1 C organic chickpea flour (besan)
  • 2-1/4 C pure water
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp smoked black salt
  • Olive oil 

Now, of course, you can make this without any imported pots and pans, but I do suggest a shallow baking dish once it's ready for the oven, in order to get the purrfect consistency. You could even use a pie dish. And it absolutely must be round. For the Sun. For the Moon. Just because.

Warm up a generous swish of olive oil on a low flame until you can feel the heat just above. Toss in the garlic, and allow it to dance just until it turns translucent and releases its heady aroma. Now place the potatoes in, separating the slices with your fingers. Next sprinkle in the green pepper. Give it a gentle tossing to mingle the flavors and coat the potatoes. Let it gently cook until the potatoes are tender.

In a small saucepan, pour the water, and gradually whisk in the chickpea flour on a low flame, until it becomes frothy. Add in the nutritional yeast and black salt, and keep whisking while the mixture gets hotter. It will thicken as it heats. Be careful not to make lumps! If you do, add a teeny bit more water and whisk like mad until it becomes smooth again. Pour it over the potatoes, and mix it well.

Now, pour it into your baking dish, and pop it into the oven for a good 45-50 minutes.

When you take it out, let it cool, Loves. It needs to rest after such a  passionate romp! If you dig in too soon, it won't have a firm texture, and will be jiggly. Take a nap for an hour, then come back to it. 

Oh, and when you do...

You're not going to believe how tasty this is! I was revved when I first took a bite.  So flavorful, and so close to my memory of it's non-vegan friend I'd known in my travels. For eggs, you see, were the last thing to go on my menu.

It even smelled eggy! Mmmmm! The secret? Black salt. 

Those of you who have followed my adventures for a while know that I consider smoked black salt quite the magical ingredient. (You can read about it here.) Somehow, combined with the nutritional yeast and the chickpea flour, the scent and flavor of a baked egg dish is right on...with MAJOR nutrients to boot! Loaded with quality protein, beauty-boosting minerals, B vitamins, fiber, and iron, its a most purrfectly satisfying dish that's easy to pack for lunch or a picnic, and just as easy on your wallet.

My fave way to enjoy tortilla? On a warm Summer evening beneath the stars.

Try it with a tossed dark green salad and my Amorous Ajo Blanco for a sublime supper on a balmy night. And share it with someone you love.

Estar bien mis amores!

xxx Alise

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In The Flesh

These harsh winds,

and their bone cold fingers,

can take us,

forcefully,

in their clutches,

and strip us bare 

of our juicy-ness.

Flesh

We can't let that happen.

We need our flesh ripe and soft,

our hair shining,

our glow undimmed.

My Loves, here are my five most potent, yet simple Winter rituals to restore your shimmer, and make sure the tides of sensuality rise ever-so-high, even when the mercury plummets. Even if you don't live in a harsh clime, you lucky little devil, these are purrfect tips for any dry environment.

GET STEAMY. If you don't have a humidifier in your Lair, go out and get one. Immediately. They range in prices and functionality, but you can pick up a little portable one that gets it done for about $60US. It's worth it. (Look for the kind that gives off a cool air mist - you'll sleep like a baby.)

Why? Because dry, stagnant indoor air drains precious moisture from you, inside and out. Not only does it leave your hair brittle, your skin parched, and your lips cracked, but it also dries out your sinuses, leading to a full-on bout of sniffling, congested grossness. Sinuses, you see, are fickle things. When enough moisture isn't naturally produced, they take the reins and begin to produce it themselves, putting you on the fast train to a never-ending cycle of stuffy-head misery. To hell with that. Use your new best friend the humidifier (I've dubbed mine "Froggy" for the little bullfrog sounds it occasionally makes) as an essential oil diffuser, and you've got what you need to add aromatherapeutic divinity to the air. Try a few drops of eucalyptus to clear nasal passages, chamomile and lavender to help you sleep, peppermint or citrus to get you moving, or something extra sexy like frankencense to spice things up in any room.

Your animal familiars will love it too. My felines  like to lie at the end of the bed with the mist rising behind them. In a dim light, it looks like they're in front of a dry ice machine. Hilarious little rockstars.

BLESSED NAKEDNESS. Now, more than ever, we have to take special care to keep our skin soft, touchable, gorgeous. Even under many pounds of clothing, isn't it our delicious secret weapon? 

The tendency is, of course, to shower or bathe in scalding water just to get the chill off, then rush madly into a strange dance with a towel so we can get back into our swaddling layers before the cold air hits us. This will never do for our Goddess (and God) selves. We need to connect with our bodies, especially during these frigid months of covering up like mad.

Here are a few little ticks I employ: Let a space heater work its magic in the bathroom 10-15 minutes before you enter. (And, yes, shut it off before you start running your bath water.) The warm steam will rise and fill the air, taking over where the heater left off. I like to warm my towels and my robe on the radiators while I'm in, reminiscent of those fantastic towel heaters in UK hotel bathrooms. (Why are these not standard features in every bathroom?)  Soak for a while in very warm water, but compensate by adding lush oils to your bath, then further up the moisturizing magic by coating your skin twice daily (do the space heater thing in the morning also, to get the chill out of the room) in a lush body butter you can make in no time at all...

Naked Body Butter

Naked Body Butter

At room temperature, this should keep at least a month. If it gets melty, just refrigerate. You can find the butters online, just shop around for the best deal, as it changes. 

  • 1/2 C coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 C shea butter, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 C cocoa butter, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tsp vitamin E oil (optional)
  • 13-30 drops essential oils

Combine the coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter in a small saucepan on a gentle flame. Allow it all to melt slowly as you stir it, sending beautiful energy into your potion. When everything is melted and combined, remove it from heat. Mix in your vitamin E and essential oils. Pour it into a bowl, and chill in the fridge for two hours.

Now the fun part: Take a hand mixer and WHIP IT! Once you get a fluffy consistency, you'll know it's ready. Spoon it into pretty jars...your skin is waiting...

WHAT YOU PUT INSIDE.  Hydration begins and sustains by what you choose to eat and drink. It's so easy to forget to drink enough water in the cold weather, but, Beauties, you absolutely MUST. Make sure you are getting at least a few good glasses of pure water in every day. Add some high quality, food-grade essential oils (see end of post) to your glass to keep it interesting. My faves? Lemon, wild orange, and grapefruit. Instead of going for that second (or sixth) cup of coffee, consider that caffeine is dehydrating, and dehydration causes fatigue, creating a vicious cycle. Oh, and it's hell on your complexion. Drink water instead. 

You can also hydrate from within by adding chia, fresh aloe, and coconut water to your shake elixirs, which you drink every day...right?

Hot, brothy soups and herbal teas also have a dual function: not only are they warming and nourishing food medicine, but they also open up and moisturize the sinus/nasal/bronchial passages and clear the way, fighting colds and other horrid nonsense. We have no time for that.

FACE IT. Your sweet faced is exposed to the elements, all the time. This is particularly ravaging during Winter months, when most of us forget to wear sunscreen, or skimp on the moisturizers. My fave products for giving good face are:

Shikai Borage Oil Hand Cream (Travel Size)- This is precious. It's inexpensive and potent as hell. Borage oil penetrates, feeding your cells directly with a major Omega-6 fatty oil called gamma linolenic acid, which lets skin retain its moisture. I use it not only on my hands, but on my face before heading out into the elements. These tiny tubes are so affordable, you can stash one pretty much anywhere. Bonus: It can repair chapped lips gloriously. Magic Bonus: Borage brings courage those who carry or wear it.

Derma E BB Cream - This goes on top: light and dewy, with a subtle foundation effect and a 25 SPF. It's so good, I use it all year long!

Acure Organics Seriously Firming Facial Serum - Ohhh, this is a most delightful potion! Day or night, alone or under a moisturizer, this baby is about to become your intimate friend. You two will have sensual rituals together every day.  Its velvet texture and your flesh were meant to be together, to revel in a dew-like glow of complexion purrfection...

 Acure Organics Eye CreamAnother gem from the alchemists at Acure. Stimulating new cell growth (!) while delicately drenching your eye area with feather-light moisture. You'll look so refreshed, people will think you actually slept last night. You're welcome.

HAIR TODAY... Tresses get hit hardest of all it seems. The constant in and out of dry indoor heat and cold outdoor moisture forces the hair shaft to expand and contract at a maddening pace. It's exhausting. And it weakens hair. You can condition to your heart's content, but you still need reinforcements.

My secrets? Always, always, always cover your hair when you are going in and out of doors. It helps. A hood, a scarf, even a hat if you pile the bulk of your hair into it. It will protect the outer layer from damage, and keep you warm.

Second, you cannot have enough moisture on the ends. I'm in lust right now with Holistix Light Argan Oil Treatment. You know I've been obsessed with argan oil forever, but oils in general can weigh hair down. I've got a massive mane, but the strands themselves are quite fine, especially around the face, and can get lank and gooey all-too-easily. If your hair is coarse, go for the straight oil. But if you have a medium-to-fine texture, this is it. 

Lastly, whenever I can get away with it, I coat my ends with conditioner, and make multiple braids. My weapon of choice is Acure Organics Moroccan Argan Oil + Stem Cell Conditioner, assuring my mane of not only intense conditioning, but protecting it with a layer of heavenly-scented armor. Bonus: when you take them out at night you look like a Norse goddess. *wink*

And on that note,

I will leave you to beautify and hydrate yourselves,

while I consult the runes...

All my love, always.

xxx Alise

P.S. All the essential oils I've mentioned can be found here, in their absolute highest quality. ENJOY!

The Sorceress And The Survival Job

It had been one of those days. Nights, really.

I have a confession.

Your sweet little Vixen has... a Survival Job.

I dislike it intensely, although, it must be noted, that I am, in fact, quite good at it. You see, I have somehow fallen into work as a theatrical wardrobe supervisor, which means I am responsible for running a show from the costume standpoint. It is my lot to ensure that actors, dancers, opera divas, performers of every ilk look and feel amazing when they get onstage. In the process trying to keep myself from not feeling like week old recycling.

And I will admit, my eyes well up when I watch them from the sides of the stage. Not just because I know how it feels, that rush of euphoria, that unabashed love hitting you like a freight train, but also because I know the blood and sweat that goes into it. That perfect moment of being exactly there, giving to your audience, and receiving their energy back, that most beautiful exchange of pure energy, is bliss. And addictive.

So when I'm backstage instead of onstage, I vascillate between morose and supportive, with a hefty dash of jealousy thrown in for good (?) measure. I am alternately proud of them, happy for them, and angry with myself for standing there, in the wings, collecting someone's sweaty shirt from the floor, in the dark.

Since I've been on both sides of the curtain, I know what it's like. And the good part is that I have NEVER been an ass to a crew member. Not even close. I'm gracious, and beyond appreciative.

On a film set last year (Goddess, has it been that long??) I was overwhelmed by the PA's who wrapped a coat around my shoulders between every take, and brought me hot teas during never a ending outdoor scene in the wee hours of an oddly frigid L.A. night. Endless moments for about ten on screen minutes as the lighting needed adjusting. A truck grumbled past the lot. Someone dropped a line. Sure, it was their job, I know...but still...human kindness is beautiful, no matter what the motivation. It always manages to transcend.

I stayed energetic and focused, take after take, as other actors fumbled, because, you know what? One day it will be me fumbling, and that compassion will be received back with open arms.

And I sent a thoughtful email to every single person who joined me in creating something magical in that film. From the angel who brought me tea, to the makeup woman, who, frankly, gave me some seriously overwhelming fuschia lips, not to mention generic "modern Hollywood" hair: the dreaded, ubiquitous flat iron banana curls. (I fought for my brows, hard, but the hair...well...)

But I thanked her anyway. genuinely. Because she did what she knew how to do, on that day.

Only two wrote me back. and that's fine. It's the industry, after all. 

Flash forward to tonight.

It wasn't even one of those notoriously long and banefully stressful nights where you are expected to pull a rabbit out of your hat. it was more the mind numbingly average kind.

I dislike average, intensely.

Nothing really happened, and that was the point.

I was trying not to spiral downward into a black hole of self pity. My book, so alive and revved of late, was now officially on hold until this run was over, and it was tearing me apart. Additionally, a film I was supposed to begin shooting was delayed until Spring, my video work was in need of equipment to move forward, my cat was sick, my man neglected, and my apartment a mess.

I came in, ran a bath.

Poured a splash of gin, 'cause you know, sometimes I'm just a Dame. Sometimes the Lady is a Tramp.

I didn't have one molecule of energy left for concocting, so I filled my bathtub with Aura Cacia's delightful Chamomile Relaxing Bath. It's so much more seductive than it sounds. It's a blend of chamomile, lavender, and patchouli, which sounds like a hippie grandma jumble, but is actually amazing. 

Slathered on Acure's Cell Stimulating Facial Mask. It's green and full of incredible things, and was sure to transform my cranky face.

I set Contessa's Balance Blend out for dabbing post-soak, and submerged.

Breathing it all in, and forcefully exhaling all the yuck, I began to feel intoxicated on so many levels. With every breath, more of the herbs absorbed in, and more negativity left me.

There is always a way, my Loves, to shift the energy.

Sometimes it is Herculean, yes, but it can be done.

But slipping into euphoria, still hanging on to my anxiety, I asked myself why my world wasn't awesome ALL the time. I racked my brain to understand why it has be so awful in between the moments of sheer bliss. I work hard. I set my intentions. And often, it is rock wife backstage champagne and travel, my own turn onstage and in front of the camera, and the exalted Days At Home To Make Things.  As I tried to reason in an increasingly fuzzy state, it suddenly made sense. I began to see how the pendulum actually swings. I saw that much of it really is great, incredible even...but only because I'VE MADE IT SO.

I've created my world. All of it. From the ridiculous to the sublime. We all do.

And here's the thing, my Darlings: the time in between the good stuff is exactly where the actual work occurs. The deep, dark matter. The karmic moving of boulders, or even small rocks. You can't see it, but you're doing it. The hard yards are a necessity. They allow the dharma to happen.

But there is still that funny timing thing.

Patience. Seasons. You gotta respect it, and also see it coming.

This is where I struggle. 

I forget, almost instantly, the highs of working on my own creations, or being invited lovingly into someone else's. The crash into the drudge of "normal" hits so hard that I can't see with any perspective how the balance works. Like most people, I get seasonal affective disorder all year round in the building where I work: cravings for light, fresh air, carbs, sweets, caffeine. I start feeling like shit, my confidence starts to plummet, and I just want to disappear. I don't want to connect with anyone, rather, I want to stay under the radar completely. And I'm not exactly an inconspicuous gal. The point is: how can any of us let a situation which we created, which is meant to serve a purpose, either divine or practical or both, turn us into a complete mess?

I can sing the blues day and night about my job, but I also have to seriously honor what it does give me: the cash to keep going on all my beloved creations, my dreams. Some might say folly, I say gorgeous, honest, joyous NECESSITY.

And never forget that like attracts like. Words, thoughts are extremely powerful. Think of every unkind blurb that goes through your head as a full-on spell. What you intend happens. The negativity you're slinging all over the place is bouncing right back in your face, every time. Turn it around, Kittens.

So when you're ringing up drones at a retail counter, or foaming your finest to serve an aloof coffee fiend, or rotting away in a cubicle, find how to integrate it with your dreams, because it isn't separate. It's all connected. Make the job work FOR you, not against. You will be done with it at some point, but only when you've figured out how to absorb what it has taught.

Align with the stars. make it happen.

 It DOES NOT happen over night.

But it does happen.

Trust.

Create.

Love.

We're all in this crazy life together. 

And I adore you so.

xxx Alise