Friday, May 29, 2015

Inspirations for the Weekend ...

"As we get older, we lose our enthusiasm and joy. We become dry and unhappy. Why? Because we lose our faith and innocence. Somewhere inside each of us, a child’s joy, innocence and faith lie dormant. Rediscover them." - Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Leave Me Alone

Elizabeth Gilbert, is the author of six books of fiction and non-fiction—most famously her memoir "Eat, Pray, Love," recently wrote the following to her readers:
Dear Ones -
Long ago, a wise woman — much advanced in years — gave me a wonderful piece of advice. She said that every thoughtful woman, every ten years, should take some time to be alone with herself, in order to reexamine the direction of her own life, and to decide if any alterations need to be made.
"You change over time," my wise older friend told me. "The people around you change. The circumstances of your environment change. Therefore, you should take some time once a decade to go away and be by yourself, to check in on who you are NOW, and to figure out what you want your next chapter to look like. Don't stay trapped within a code of living that you have outgrown."
This quote by Carl Jung reminds me of that statement: Don't go into the afternoon of your life still trying to live by rules or behaviors that were better suited to the morning of your life. The afternoon of your life is not necessarily a better or worse period than the morning of your life, but without a doubt, it will be different.
Adjust accordingly.
Ask yourself if the moment has come to check in with yourself. Make sure that your values, dreams, goals, and companions are still appropriate — not for the person you once were, not even for the person you THOUGHT you would someday be...but for the woman you have actually become. Ask that woman what she really wants.
Onward, EG

The following spoke to me "... every thoughtful woman, every ten years, should take some time to be alone with herself, in order to reexamine the direction of her own life, and to decide if any alterations need to be made ..." 

It's true, about every ten years (actually less), or after a major life event, I go "hide." My last hideout involved a cabin near a lake, a few bottles of good French Rosé, Hostess powdered sugar mini-doughnuts, and many books. Don't ask about the powdered sugar doughnuts. First time, I had a powdered doughnut since high school, but for some reason I wanted them - - and they will be my last. To examine the three days alone, and to explain it with titles of books, it was like "The Shack meets Sleeping Beauty."

If you take some time to be alone, you will discover that you are pretty good company, and you'll visit with yourself, more often.. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Learn French: One Word A Day

My goal for this blog is to share ideas of how to have a fine lifestyle with all the "trimmings," and to be able to do it on a budget. How perfect to have discovered a blog, that not only features a French "word a day," but also features many beautiful photos, as well as sharing their daily stories living in France. 

Photo Credit: French Word-A-Day
French Word-A-Day began in 1999 when ex-pat, Kristin from Phoenix, Arizona decided to share a piece of Provence from her office in the various cafés along the French Riviera. Although she majored in French, Kristin still struggled daily with the language. What started out as handwritten café letters, eventually became blog posts, and the blog posts became books. She also shares many travel tips, as well. 

Photo Credit: French Word-A-Day
Since Kristin originally started, she has decreased her journal of French words now to "thrice weekly." To learn three French words in a week, instead of seven, sounds like "C'est du gâteau!"(piece of cake!) You may also subscribe for free to French Word-A-Day, so you'll find your new French words in your email - thrice weekly. 

If this lovely site, French-Word-A-Day doesn't get you in a French mood, then I don't know what will. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cry, Baby. Cry.

“What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul.” – Jewish Proverb
Go ahead and grab a tissue. Did you know there are many benefits to a good cry?  Tears can relieve stress, get you in touch with your emotions, it can lower blood pressure, removes toxins from the body, assists in creativity, and the most important benefit? A good cry is a reminder that you are human.  

Might I recommend to plan an evening for a good cry when it is quiet and you are alone. If you are a wine lover, a glass or two will assist in setting the mood. Lower the lights. Pull the shades. Ignore the phone. Reach for some good chocolate, and even a bag of your favorite chips. Now, pick out your sad movie. 

If you are a dog lover, stay away from sad dog stories. Just don't do it. They will scar you for life.  You'll start feeling guilty for times you may have ignored your dog, they will smell the guilt,  your eyes will become moist every time you look in your dog's eyes, and they will use this guilt against you. Don't do it. 

Remember, we're looking for a good healthy cry, nothing to set you into a mood of depression. Stick with more of the heart-felt or romantic movies. The following contemporary movies come to mind: Terms of Endearment, Steel Magnolias, Bridge to Terabithia, The Family Stone, Titanic, City of Angels (with Meg Ryan), Dead Poet's Society, Meet Joe Black,  and Legends of the Fall.  Do a double feature of Meet Joe Black and Legends of the Fall for a Brad Pitt fest, or a triple-decker Brad sandwich if you add A River Runs Through It

There's also  Sleepless in Seattle, " ... with this blanket over her shriveled little legs ..." okay, if you also watch the 1957 movie, An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant, you'll get the quoteBridges of Madison County (dammit, open the truck door ...) - - and of course the usual Nicholas Sparks movies, such as The Notebook and Nights in Rodanthe

Sports enthusiast or in need of a "guy-cry?" Brian's Song or Rudy. 

Now if you are into some of the old classics, and they are available, the following have been tested, approved and highly recommended - -  by moi. These are major tear jerkers and make the contemporary movies look like amateurs: The Imitation of Life (1959 version with Lana Turner), Back Street (1961 with Susan Hayward), Madame X (1966 with Lana Turner), Now Voyager (1942 with Bette Davis) and Magnificent Obsession (1954 with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman).

Movies such as Atonement, Philadelphia, The Normal Heart, and Schindler's List are exceptional and beautifully made movies, and work well for a good cry, but watch with caution as they could also whip you into depression wanting to grab that second bottle of wine. We're only talking about a cleansing cry, here - not severe despondency.

(Many of the older classics are available on Amazon - please see My Favorites)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Inspirations for the Weekend ...

“If you wear a short enough skirt, the party will come to you.” ― Dorothy Parker

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Introduce Yourself to Peter Mayle

It is important for you to reach out to Peter Mayle, even though he lives in Provence, the historical province of southeastern France. However, you will find the trek to visit Mr. Mayle an affordable journey, and as close as your library, book store, and even your Kindle. Might I recommend when purchasing a book, I often seek out the used books. There is something wonderful about an old well worn book. 

The England born author, Peter Mayle first started his writing career penning educational books. He would eventually move to France with the plans to write his first novel, but instead the words came out about his new life in France. In 1989, the international bestseller A Year in Provence was introduced. 

Later, came a collection of over 10 books, and many with the same theme of his life in France, including Encore ProvenceFrench Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew; and The Good Year.  In fact the novel, The Good Year was the base of the 2006 film with the same name, starring Albert Finney, Russell Crowe, and Marion Cotillard. A must see movie if you enjoy wine, travel, romance, and just a good heart-felt story. 

Peter Mayle books will take you on adventures throughout Europe, especially France and you will be eating and drinking well, done with humor and detail, while meeting many charming characters on the way. 

(See "My Favorites" on my Amazon widget)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Butter Me Up

During the 1990s, the low-fat food craze changed the way many of us ate, but there were two things I would not compromise; and that was the "Best" mayonnaise, and most of all, I would not give up my real butter. I am not one to use butter every day, but it is a necessary ingredient when doing my holiday baking, or baking my annual Lebanese-style baklava or my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. Oh, forgot about my linguine and clams with butter, garlic and wine sauce. 

All in moderation, right? It's been discovered that real butter is healthier than using margarine and highly processed "butter-like" products that have a list of chemical ingredients that we cannot pronounce. 

Oh, and did I mention, butter is not only a natural food, but it tastes good, too. Other than used for baking, butter is a friend when cooking. Let's face it, if you are going to cook something special, especially when you are using fresh produce and the recipe is time intensive, why would you cut corners with chemical-laden "butter-like" products? 

A joy that I happened across was French butter, and especially that made with flecks of sea salt. This creamy rich butter with the sea salt is what I refer to as "krak-butter." It's wonderful whisked into the preparations of scrambled eggs or an omelette. Slather it over vegetables, baked potatoes, or even top a slice of it on steak or salmon.  Yes, and even on pancakes and waffles, and don't forget the maple syrup. It's like a bite of salted caramels. 

One of my favorite ways to enjoy this treat or to share it with friends, is to spread "krak-butter" on slices of baguettes, and top the butter with either thinly sliced cucumbers or radishes, or both. Even simpler is to place the room temperature butter on an attractive plate and let your guests make their own little bites of bread and butter.  Perfect to entertain with instead of labor intensive appetizers, and just as impressive as a cheese spread or dip.  

So, butter yourself up. After all, Julia Child lived to be 91 years old and there wasn't a day where she renounced butter. Enjoy. 

(Can't find butter with sea salt at your local market? Check out "My Favorites" on my Amazon widget - Les Pres Sales Butter with Camargue Sea Salt.)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Inspirations for the Weekend ...

"Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” - Anthony Bourdain 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Importance of a Pretty Cup

However, the cup must also be durable as Joy Marie, proprietor of Hugs, Gifts & Collectibles, an antique shop in Waitsburg, WA,  proved.

Joy Marie drove nine blocks to her destination from one end of Main Street, Waitsburg, to the other end of Main Street - - and didn't spill a drop of coffee. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tea and Crumpets Will Change Your Life

Picture this. You are downtown Seattle, and you have been running your legs off with two twelve-year-old girls and one thirteen-year-old boy. You have hit just about every souvenir shop on the waterfront, fed them lunch; as well as the seagulls, visited the aquarium, shopped a few downtown record shops, listened to the three kidlets picking at each other, and even had to sooth a tear or two. You finally leave them with auntie, and slip quietly into a British tea shop.

The quaint, yet dark little shop was quiet as a library, as customers perused the many teas and British groceries. I found a bit of sunlight coming in through the old glass front door, as it was shimmering on a table. The lonely chair at the table beckoned to me.  I ordered a crumpet with a schmear of blackberry jam; and of course, a cup of tea. The warm crumpet soaked up the butter and the rich dark sweet jam.  The "spot" of Earl Grey tea, with its aromatic and licorice notes certainly hit my "spot." It was quiet. It was heaven. 

So what is a crumpet, you ask? It's very similar to an English muffin. They are both round, generally biscuit-sized, each with a spongy texture full of nooks and crannies for absorbing melted butter and sweet or savory toppings. In England, both crumpets and English muffins are eaten for breakfast, brunch, and as an afternoon teatime treat. Both breads are made with flour, milk, and yeast, but it is the preparation that makes them quite different. 

The crumpet is prepared into a batter, which is grilled on a griddle like a pancake, using metal rings to keep the round shape. The English muffin is mixed into a dough, and then rolled out like a biscuit. It is often baked in the oven, but can also prepared on a griddle or frying pan like a crumpet. However, the crumpet is not typically split like an English muffin. 

This experience, with the little slice of time and slice of crumpet, was what I needed to endure another day in Seattle. I left Seattle with a bag of crumpets and a jar of blackberry jam. Once I returned home, these tasty little treasures was a reminder for me to take time for myself with just these simple little pleasures, even after the crumpets and jar of jam were long gone. 

(Can't find crumpets at your favorite market? Check out "My Favorites" on my Amazon widget.)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

What are passementaries?

Passementerie/Passementarie/pæsˈmɛntrɪ; French pɑsmɑ̃tri
noun (plural) 1. Decorative trimmings for a garment, as braid, lace, or metallic beads.

The simple trimmings for an elegant life ... 

As I look back at my life, it has always been a busy one, and often with me juggling many projects and answering to many people. There is something to be said to that trite old saying of, 

“Stop and smell the roses” 
Frans Mortelmans - 1865-1936
In July of 2012, new research from Rutgers University suggested that this old cliche is sound advice for finding satisfaction in life. A forthcoming study in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences suggests that appreciating the meaningful things and people in our lives may play an even larger role in our overall happiness than what was previously thought. 

 Many moons ago, I purchased a book, "Living a Beautiful Life" by Alexandra Stoddard ( See it on my Amazon Widget Recommendations), and it gave me so many ideas, and many I still practice today. It starts you in the habit of "rituals" (chapter one), and encourages you to have special accents to add to your daily bathing rituals, to writing letters on pretty stationary, reading poetry, and even buying a set of colored pencils to accent and make your own ideas and pictures through the book, itself. 

Sure - the book is rather simple, and possibly I could be accused of reading a "corny" book, but there are just bits of wisdom tucked here and there that make a difference in a day. 

In the last 15 years of my life, it seems as if I have forgotten to make time for those little "trimmings" in life that I use to enjoy. It's time to go back and claim those things that I loved. The best part of this is sharing these things with you, and most of all, I will have to practice what I preach - - and you, my readers, will keep me honest.  

My life will never be 100% elegant, it never has been. However, if we can make five minutes a day to bring some pleasure and elegance to our lives, then our "stopping to smell the roses," has been accomplished. 

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