My Ghosts of Christmas Past

Well, I decorated the tree on Friday.  It wasn’t an easy feat because half the lights we had for the tree were no longer working so I ended up having to get out of my pajamas, getting dressed and driving to Walmart to purchase new lights.  I love the lights on the tree. It’s so weird but when the lights are turned on I love to squint my eyes and look at the tree out of focus—it looks dreamy that way.

The decorated tree.  It’s not themed. It isn’t fancy. It is simply a tree filled with memories in the form of ornaments!

Anyway, our decorated tree is not a fancy one.  There is no “theme” nor is there anything fancy or elegant about it.  Some years I wrap ribbon around the tree like garland.  Other years I adorn the tree with garland of little gold balls—that’s what’s I did this year.  There is really no rhyme or reason in the way the tree is decorated.

The tree is embellished with ornaments that I’ve had since my first Christmas in NYC at the apartment on Riverside Drive.  It was the first Christmas my ex-husband and I spent together. He wasn’t big on having a tree but I insisted.  I found our tree in the form of a beautiful fir that was sold down in the East Village.  The vendor was willing to sell a full, and very tall tree to me for $15.00.  But he was also quite cynical in the fact that I would have to drag the tree from the village up to the West Side.

Suffice it to say,  I looked pretty ridiculous dragging a huge Christmas tree on the NYC subway but it was well-worth it!

No problem—where there was a will, there was a way, and I dragged that tree down to the subway, and the huge tree rode the subway from 14th street up to 94th Street with me. The tree was ridiculously huge and heavy. But I didn’t care. I wanted the tree.  And I got it!

We had a “tree trimming party” that year and I still have a few of the ornaments.  One ornament, in particular, stands out to me and always brings fond memories when I hang it.  It’s a little golf ball with the image of Santa painted on the face.  Our friend, Steve Hartnack, gave it to us.  And the reason that I have fond memories with this ornament is that at the beginning of every Holiday Season, back when all of us were in our twenties, Steve hosted, right before Thanksgiving, a “Friendsgiving” dinner.  Hmmmm I think he may have actually invented Friendsgiving!  But it was a ton of fun.  I’ve lost touch with most of that group but the great thing is that I have wonderful memories. And those memories surface once a year as I go through the ritual of hanging the ornaments on the tree.

The infamous Santa Golf Ball Ornament from Steve.  This little nugget is almost 40 years old! Wow!  I can’t believe it!!

These ornamental memories are my ghosts of Christmas past—and they are happy ghosts that always bring a smile to my face, and also a sentimental tear or so.

Here are some of my ghosts!

I’ve always gotten ornaments that say something about my kids.  This guitar is for Roman. He’s my musician and has been playing guitar since he was in high school.  I think of him every year I hang this on the tree..

This ornament was  purchased at the 2007 Oireachtas, when Oona was 18. It was supposed to be her last Oireachtas.  She took a hiatus and went back as a Senior in College. But with each year when I hang his up, it brings back fun memories of her Irish Dance days!

Jake was our all-star baseball player!  He lived, breathed and ate baseball when he was younger.  I always think of him when this is hung up!

Oona was in 4th grade when she made this.  How pathetic am I that I still hang this torn, broken pretzel ornament?  Actually, I’m not pathetic.  I’ll hang this until the pretzels turn into crumbs!

It isn’t a tree ornament, but this was purchased way back in 1990 when Jake was 7 years old and Roman was 4.  I couldn’t resist because it looked like a cross between both boys.  It’s one of the ornaments I look forward to displaying each year!

Here’s another throwback to the ’90’s.  It’s an homage to my roots! 

This Polish Blessing I think was given to us from one of my ex-husband’s relatives.  I really should give it to him but I’m too selfish.  I think of Kielbasa, Pierogis and Texas Chocolate cake when I hang this up!

Barbie.  I HAD this Barbie doll back in 1959. I remember the day I got her. It was at Green Acres Shopping Center and I loved this first, of many Barbie’s so much and I think of the day I got this doll when I hang this ornament!

Statue of Liberty Claus!  You know what memories I have when I hang him!

And there are new ones too.

This was new last year, but it is already making memories of our trips to Paris and throughout France!!

This is a new one.  I love this little red truck. I have this red truck on a bowl too. But the memory this will give me is that it pays to discount shop.  I got this at Walmart for $1.97.  The same ornament is being sold at Ballard Designs for $12.95.  Yeah.  You read that right!

It’s funny how a simple action such as placing an ornament on a tree can evoke so many memories.  I think back of past Christmases and the history of family trees that we had.

All of these ornaments make for pause when decorating because of the memories I have–it takes me FOREVER to decorate the tree!

My mother, when she was in better days, always placed the “good” tree, the real one, in the living room upstairs.  That was the tree she would admire in the evening with a cup of tea. It was the one we were allowed to stand near as we had our photos taken.  Immediately upon unwrapping the gifts, and with five kids, there was a ton of paper floating around the house along with the toys Santa delivered, she would carry, in about ten trips, the presents we received and place them around the other tree. The one in the finished basement.

When we had a real tree….Can you spot the snowman ornament?  It was my all-time favorite as I was growing up!  

Is it any wonder that I love the color red and plaid?  This is how I grew up!  Check out the tinsel on the tree. My father was so particular about tinsel placement. I swear he spent at least three hours doing this–and none of us kids were allowed to assist!

This was the first fake UPSTAIRS tree that my parents got.  To me, it’s a sign that my parents not only were getting older, but that they weren’t well.  My mother was becoming ill and my dad suffered his first heart attack.  The tinsel placement isn’t good at all.  Funny how a tree can talk…

Now, this tree in the basement was a rather sad looking tree. It was spindly and thin and the branches were sparse—it was the saddest of all fake trees.  Next to the fake tree was a fake fireplace—in all its cardboard beauty.  I don’t remember any fake logs but I do remember a little multicolored foil spinner, so that when the spinner was plugged into an outlet, the foil reflected to appear as though a fake fire was burning in the cardboard fireplace.

Atop of the fake fireplace stood four felt and wire angels.  Each of the angels had a letter and when placed properly “NOEL” was spelled out.  I loved those angels and would play with them for hours.  The thing is, when I think back of that basement scene, it was kitschy and tacky—but as a child, I adored it.  And looked forward to every Christmas because it was like having my own little Christmas wonderland!

The Christmas Basement. So very 1960’s!!!  Note the drawing of the snowman ornament.  

With the kids all grown and living away from home–Roman in NYC, Jake in Los Angeles and Oona in Cincinnati, Christmas memories are different.  The memories are more about our time together and not about the gifts we receive.  Santa passes by without stopping these days.  Christmas morning isn’t an early wake up and a run downstairs to the tree.  It’s a sleep-in morning with a late breakfast and then the meal preparations.

But it’s all good.  Because when you get older you realize that Christmas is not about the presents but is about the present.  Our ghost of Christmas present makes sure we enjoy our time together.

What will the ghost of Christmas future bring?  Hopefully what the present brings—and will leave us with the gift of a strong memory of the great times we’ve had over the years!

For now, I’ll sit back and admire the tree–I’ll also have Bonaparte fix the crooked angel.  On second thought, I’ll keep her the way she is—it makes for a better memory!

I got this great pair of  fancy pants at Old Navy!  I’m wearing them on Christmas. Aren’t they great?  I’ve never worn anything this flashy in my life!!  But I couldn’t help it–and the price was great too!  What do you think?

From my Instagram feed!  These pants–I love them so much. They go so well with the Dulci suede shoes from J. Crew and a black Tippi Sweater!  The hair I’m wearing is Samala from Janet Collection!  Isn’t she pretty??

Remember the video I posted the other day?  John Roberts’ The Tree?  Here’s an even funnier one from him–and Debbie Harry is a riot! Last Year/Next Year/This Year

 

 

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The Christmas Tree Saga—2017 Edition

Be that as it may, as much as I try to plan ahead for a stress-free Holiday Season, stress always raises its ugly little head when we go to get the tree. Every year, something happens.  Trees fall down in the house.  Trees dry out too quickly.  The tree doesn’t fit through the door.  The tree is messing up the carpet.  It’s never an easy task.

One year, while doing a “chop your own tree”, I fell into a patch of thorny brambles, ripped my clothing and bled for two hours.

Trust me. I LOVE Christmas and everything the Holiday Season brings….with the exception of getting the tree.

This year was no different! With an unexpected break in his work day, Bonaparte arrived home and announced that it was a good time to get the tree before resuming with his clients.

Dressed or (S)dressed to get the tree. That smile didn’t last that long….

Dressed for tree success, we drove off to Home Depot—the point of sale for trees of Christmas past.  Naturally, I headed for the Fraser Firs.  Bonaparte knew better than to suggest anything else.  There is a reason that I’m so in love with this particular type of tree.  The branches are strong to carry the weight of the heavier ornaments and the needles aren’t as quick to fall.

I have to admit, going to get the tree in the middle of the week was actually better than on the weekend!  We were the only ones getting a tree!

We have to be careful not too get too wide of a tree because we keep it in a corner of the living room.  And I don’t want Chippy to get any ideas that the tree is his private latrine.  We also didn’t want a tree that was too small; we have high ceilings and a too-small tree would look out of proportion.

A lovely tree, but too wide for the corner..

This one was nice, but was too short!  See how well-prepared Bonaparte is?  He has his tree gloves on!

It had to be just right.

Bonaparte, my Christmas angel, found a tree that looked great but I still wasn’t too sure.  So, we searched a bit more and ultimately ended up with that I wasn’t sure about!

Look!  My Christmas Angel found the best tree. I thought it might not have been wide enough but it did work out!

Into the car and off to your new home!

The corner where we place the tree was ready.  The plastic to protect the (ugh) carpeting, the tree stand in place, the sofa moved so that the tree could be transported into its resting place.  Everything was prepared.

We placed the plastic disposable bag-as-tree skirt under the tree stand and proceeded to move on with the tree.

And then it happened.

As Bonaparte was pumping the pedal on the tree stand, a piece of plastic went flying across the room faster than the Concorde on its maiden flight.  The tree stand broke.

Yes. After over ten years, the effing tree stand broke!

I WAS READY TO THROW THE TREE OUT AND GO BUY A FAKE ONE!!!

I was seething. The drama has begun!

Now. Before I go further with this story, let me explain about our tree stand.  This stand was purchased over ten years ago. It was the first Christmas Bonaparte and I were living together.  We purchased this incredible tree stand at the now defunct Waterloo Gardens in Wayne, PA.

Waterloo Gardens–now more akin to Grey Gardens (Remember my post about Edie Beale and Grey Gardens?)–this was the only place to purchase that damned tree stand!

This state-of-the-art tree stand was operated by a foot pedal. No need to get down on all fours or body crawl on the floor to adjust those long screws into the trunk of the tree.  All that was needed was a few quick pumps of the foot and voila—no mess, no stress, no cursing!

Obviously this tree GENIE was nowhere near the genie that Aladdin was buddies with. This genie can’t even muster up an appearance let alone any wishes!

Whether age, who knows how long these stands are meant to last, or whether from Bonaparte’s masculine strength, was the culprit that broke the stand, I could feel stressful drama rising from my feet up to my head.  This.  Was.  A. Disaster.

It was starting.  My stress-free Holiday Season was to be no more.

I couldn’t leave the house because I didn’t trust Chippy alone with this free-standing wonder of nature.  If I can recall, I started speaking, screaming, yelling like a crazy woman that we should have gotten a fake tree to match my fake hair and my fake nails. (speaking of which, I really need to get a fake tan).

 

No way was I going to allow Chippy alone with THIS!! God knows what waste I would have come home to!

 

Ever the pragmatic one, Bonaparte asked me to go online to see if any stores within a decent distance carried the Krinner Tree Genie.  Yes. This tree stand is so magnificent that it warranted an extensive search.

The only information I could gather was that we would have great luck to order online.  But even Amazon’s quickness wouldn’t be of any help—we needed that tree stand and needed it now! Eventually, I found the company’s website, Krinner USA.

Well, let me tell you something.  This company was founded by a gentleman from Lower Bavaria and if I were so wealthy that money was no object, I would have flown over to Germany to purchase one of those stands because there are none to be found in my neck of the woods.  When Waterloo Gardens left, so did those tree stands!

Klaus Krinner, creator of this tree stand and owner of Krinner company.  He’s no relation to Santa, Klaus if he was, I would have a brand-spanking new one of these and would have had it today!

I ended up calling the contact in the States.  Now—it is advertised that ACE Hardware and True-Value Hardware stores carry this Krinner tree stand.  OK? So, I get on the phone with the lovely Helen and explain my situation—because I needed to give her every last detail.  I asked if there were any stores in the Philadelphia area that carried the Krinner stand.

She asked me if I was near Pittsburgh.  This conversation was going nowhere. I had a sixth sense. What transpired was her telling me to call the Ace and True-Value hardware stores in my area.  WTF kind of company is this anyway?  Would Mr. Krinner be happy about this customer service?

Without writing a novel about this, we were unable to find this much-coveted tree stand.

We went back to Home Depot and took Chippy with us.

And we ended up going with a heavy-duty, old-school, get-down-on-the-floor-and-screw-the-sucker-in tree stand.

Santa’s Last Stand.  You got THAT right!  This is the last tree stand we should be buying. This one better last!  No pedal. Not plastic. Old school steel painted enamel

Our tree is now standing beautifully straight and I’m waiting for the branches to fall so that tomorrow I can start decorating.  We need more lights so I’ll head to Walmart as soon as it opens.  And then I’ll be able to sit back and admire our tree!

This tree stand is looking mighty sturdy..

The white plastic over-sized bag will be so helpful in dismantling and taking out to the trash!

I was able to hide it underneath the tree skirt I ironed yesterday!

It fits perfectly in that little corner!

….and as the branches fall downward overnight, I’ll be able to start decorating it tomorrow with lights and ornaments and maybe garland–I’m not sure yet…

Which ornaments will make it on the tree this year?  I’ll post pics when done!

For now, I’m baking a few batches of biscottis.  The kids, especially Oona, look forward to these little treats every Christmas.  Then I’m going to fake tan my legs!

Biscotti cooling off before going back into the oven for that second bake!

Another sweet and funny look at the Christmas Tree. I swear I never get tired of this video and every year I keep laughing!  John Roberts “The Tree”!

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Dressing Down the Holiday Table

What a day!  This morning I woke up early enough.  Enjoyed my morning cup of cawfee then got dressed and gathered.

No warm and fuzzy plaid today.  I’m dressed for  ironing! At lease my tee has a “red” theme!

I gathered all the cloth napkins, a few tablecloths and table runners that I plan to use for the Holiday meals.  The tree skirt and an apron were also thrown into the mix.

This is just a sampling of the wrinkled mess that confronted me!

And I went downstairs and ironed. And ironed. And ironed.

Doesn’t everyone iron cloth napkins?

In fact, I spent three hours ironing.

And while I ironed, Chippy watched morning TV as comfortable as ever.  There is something so wrong about this..

When he looked down at the remote, it meant I had to change the channel for him.  He’s a big fan of The View!

I managed to iron all of this…

…and this…

….and this.

And when the ironing was finished, Chippy allowed me  a bit of time to sit down and watch The Chew!

Despite the worst title you can give a TV show, The Chew is surprisingly great TV!!!

It’s all part of the Holiday preparations.  The house will be full.  The kids will be here and Oona’s boyfriend will be arriving the day after Christmas and stay through the week.

Christmas dinner’s table will be set with places for my kids, Bonaparte’s daughter, her husband and their daughter and my ex-husband and his girlfriend will be joining us.

I need to get as much done as possible.  I’ve got cookie dough, cream puffs, pound cake and gougères that I’ve prepared in the freezer.

Alain Ducasse’s Gougeres Recipe is the bomb!  These little nuggets of choux pastry and cheese are in the freezer!

Shortbread has been wrapped in plastic and in the cabinet as well as candied nuts.  The Buche de Noel and Nougatine can be made a few days before Christmas but the biscotti will be baked on Saturday or Sunday.

I made shortbread last night.  I’ll probably do another one tomorrow.  Baking this in a tart pan is so much easier!  When it thaws from being frozen, I’ll cut into wedges and serve with tea.

Candied nuts.  Thank God for Trader Joe’s–the price on nuts is the cheapest ever!!

And part of that preparation is making sure that the table linens are cleaned and pressed.  It isn’t a task that should be put off until the last minute.  By taking care of this now—it’ll mean no stress when the table is to be set.

Look how nice and unwrinkled.  I wish my face was that smooth!

I’m not a formal person by nature.  My vibe, even during the Holidays, is casual and welcoming.  It’s really important for anyone coming into my home to be comfortable and that comes through in the way I dress the table.

My casual table.  This is how it looks now.  We eat dinner here every night.

Luckily, I love the color red—and red being a Christmas color, means that I don’t need to go out and purchase anything more to dress the table.  I like that.  And it sets the tone.

Some of this year’s Poinsettias.  I gotta go get me some more!

See how pretty this little round table off the kitchen looks?  I’m glad I saw this pic. I need to steam the wrinkles out of the burlap tablecloth!  I’m ashamed!

The tone being familiarity and comfort.  I don’t spend a ton of money on my tableware.  Much of it comes from thrift and discount stores.  The good stuff to me, is the company and the food that’s made with love.  Trust me, I try to make everyone feel special and I love a wonderfully set table—it’s just that I keep it incredibly casual.

Plates break.  I come from that home where spilled milk is a major cause for drama so you can just imagine the drama that occurred over any broken china.

This is how I grew up when milk spilled.

And during the Holidays, my mother served food on the good china. And every year someone broke a plate or a bowl.  It wasn’t a good scene.

God forbid someone break a plate…

The drama that ensued was incredible.  Someone always ended up in tears!  This is my childhood Christmas memory.

Perhaps that’s why I keep it underdressed and casual.

My plates, for the most part are solid. Either white, cream or red.  I do have good china—sort of, that I purchased many, many years ago at my favorite thrift store in New Jersey, The Red, White, and Blue Store.  And the money spent was so minimal that it doesn’t matter if a few plates break.

My “good”  American Limoges from the Red White and Blue store. I must have 100 pieces of assorted plates, bowls, serving dishes, cups, saucers, cream and sugar bowls and gravy boats in this pattern.  I paid like twenty five bucks for it all–and nothing has ever broken.                 Yet.

Besides, it’s fun to mix and match—so here’s a few ideas!

My favorite tablecloth is the Moroccan-inspired trellis print.  A white plate with a red soup bowl and a red-dotted napkin look cheerful!

All white against the same cloth.  Those soup bowls are so old that the inside looks a bit wonky but it doesn’t matter.  It’ll be filled with soup! And I have a huge white soup terrine!

A Rooster bowl atop white plates.  This bowl will be great for gumbo!

Looks fancy–the thrifted china against a cream tablecloth.  This may be good for Christmas Eve.  I dunno yet.

Lunch time!  Soup, a sandwich and a cuppa tea–Holiday Style!

I love the red, white red on the bare table.  This wooden table is great because I really don’t need a tablecloth.  I LOVE these paisley napkins!  They are so versatile. Holiday and non-holiday dinners and these napkins always look festive! The napkins are Ralph Lauren and I know that I picked them up at Home Goods for next to nothing!

Same napkin, cream and white plates.

An every-day placemat, white and cream plates and a plaid (weren’t you expecting that from me?) napkin look very Christmasy!

Red napkin, a small rooster plate and another meal has a  different look…

…and the same look can be changed with a different color napkin!

Other touches include this great Lazy Susan I picked up at Home Goods a while ago.  It’ll make things move easier on the table!

And not only does this work well on the table, but…

This will work so well in the Living Room as we have out aperitifs and appetizers.  

This’ll make my hostess duties a lot easier!

Little wine glass markers are also a necessity for holiday entertaining!

They may be slightly kitchy, but these Christmas tree salt and pepper shakers serve a purpose. With 10 people at the table, multiple shakers come in handy!

These rooster shakers are so cute..and if anyone has too much to drink..

They can see what shaker holds salt and which one holds pepper.  It’s on the back!

And now the napkins and tablecloths are stored in the antique dresser in the living room.  Everything is close at hand!

Waiting to make an appearance on Christmas Eve!

Well, that’s about it.  What do you think?  What’s your Holiday style?  Relaxed?  Formal? Casual?  Do tell!!  It’ll be fun to hear what everyone likes!  Do you have a prep-ahead thing that you do? I’m listening?

Yes.  A gentle reminder of what happens AFTER Christmas dinner!!!

And while I’m polishing my silverware, have a listen to Dino singing about Sliver Bells!

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A Lunch Date in Manhattan!

That Bonaparte!  What a man!  He knows that this time of year I get a bit “homesick” of sorts for New York City. It’s true.  I need my fix of going back into Manhattan.

My video plan didn’t go as expected. I was having too much fun to take videos–but I took lots of pics for you!

When I lived in New Jersey, I loved my home.  The house had room that the apartment in The City lacked.  Each of the children had their own bedroom and we had three bathrooms.  The yard was spacious and…. I had a driveway!   Having a driveway meant no more dealing with alternate side parking! I also made great friends and the kids have great memories of living a suburban life.

I’m still in the suburbs—and don’t get me wrong, I love my home.  The home that my husband and I own is even more special to me because I lost my New Jersey home during my divorce.

The thing is—I’m just a city person.  And not just any city. Living twenty minutes away from Philadelphia would seem like a dream—but it isn’t.  In all honesty, I’m not fond of Philadelphia. I’ve never warmed up to it. It just doesn’t have the personality of New York.

This. This kind of living makes me just feel happy! I love being in a building surrounded by neighbors. It’s like being in a cocoon. Or a warm blanket.  I know the buildings are old but I love that. I love the fire escapes I love the character. I love the dirty windows because that means I don’t have to clean! I don’t love the parking situation though!

Perhaps it’s because I was born in New York and was raised less than an hour away out on Long Island. I’m biased toward cities that don’t sleep.  NYC, New Orleans and Paris are my three faves—but let’s focus on New York.

Bonaparte decided that we should have a lunch date.  We asked Roman to join us, but he had to work on SNL—the show was being taped that night.  With U2 as the musical guests, I would have stayed in the studio to watch rehearsals too! And since Roman was working, it would be a fun trip for the two of us.  Since Christmas is in three weeks and we’ll have a full house and a ton of activity, this lunch date would offer a quite respite for the two of us. I also had to stop at Momofuku Milk Bar to pick up more Corn Powder for baking!

Chippy was glad to spend the day at doggie day camp with his buddies as we dropped him off and went on our way.  Our plan was to also spend a couple of hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art after lunch.

This guy. This party animal was more than happy to spend the day with his canine buddies!

Here’s how it rolled.  This is photo-heavy so come along on my little journey. OK?

First things first!  I wore my Carrie Wig from Uniwigs LaVivid Collection.  Since the weather was on the mild side, I didn’t need a coat. I opted for my J. Crew Regency blazer, black Pixie Pants and a toasty scarf.  The five-year old Tory Burch boots went well with my Kooba bag that I bought over 13 years ago! See how happy I am?

The drive on the Turnpike was good and timing was perfect. There wasn’t a ton of traffic–which is always welcomed.  And when the City skyline comes into view, I always get excited!

Doesn’t matter how many times I see this view–I get excited every single time. Hey. I thought all birds flew South for the winter?

We were also very fortunate that tunnel traffic was at a minimum.  I love when this happens!

C

Clear day. Sunny skies.  Warm weather. Tunnel traffic at a minimum. It’s a great day!

Out of the tunnel and onto my old stomping grounds!

My artistic endeavor of a bowling sign on the West Side. I’m no Jacques-Henri Lartigue–that’s for sure!

One great thing about Bonaparte is that he loves driving in the City. He doesn’t mind the traffic at all. I think that comes from driving in Paris for so many years!

On the way to my first stop. Momofuku Milk Bar!

The infamous Patsy’s Italian Restaurant. Sinatra’s old hangout!  

Drive-by (Photo) shootings are so difficult at times–I can never get the photo I want!

As usual, parking on 56th Street was non-existent.  Bonaparte parked the car in front of a hotel across from Milk Bar and when I got out, the doorman came running over to me to ask if I was checking in.  I explained to him I needed to run into Milk Bar for a moment. I must’ve looked nice to him because he said not to worry and the car could stay there as long as needed.

I scooped up a few bottles of corn powder and went to pay!

That doorman couldn’t have been more helpful.  I went to pay in CASH for my Corn Powder then found out that they only took cards.  Back to the car for a card and back to Momofuku Milk Bar.  Nothing is easy for me!

Card in hand, I was able to stock up…

Some people can’t live without their bottles of wine.  I can’t live without my bottles of Corn Powder!  Off we go!

City road work.  This is a vision of beauty for me.  The steam rising from the striped tubes–that’s a chimney to me.  Will Santa make it down?  Damn, I miss this!

And as we headed over to the East Side,  we noticed policemen and women of New York’ s Finest blocking the many side streets.  I was to find out this was due to Trump’s visit to New York City. Why did that pig decide to visit Manhattan on the day that I was there?  I swear sometimes if it weren’t for bad luck–I would have no luck at all! I wasn’t going to allow that filthy liar to ruin MY day!  I took it in stride.

NY’s Finest.  None of them look too happy and I know why!!!!

As our route was diverted, I wanted so badly to stop at Sephora–but my driver wouldn’t stop!

IMG_8212

An Orthodox Church.  Odd thing is that I must have passed this church a gazillion times when living in NY and never noticed it.  Funny how you notice things from a car that you don’t when walking!

Finally arriving to lunch, we found a parking space right up the street from the restaurant.  My luck was changing!

My chauffeur!!  Is he in a pensive mood?  Non!  He’s just hungry!

We had lunch at Le Ralais de Venise L’Entrecote.  This restaurant has the smallest menu ever.  Salad.  Steak. Fries.  Wine and dessert.  Since Bonaparte was driving, we opted for no wine–just good ol’ NYC tap water. And might I add, NYC tap water is the best water on the planet. I should have taken an empty milk jug and requested they fill it with water!

The mid-town location offers a great weekend luncheon because it doesn’t get as crowded as the weekdays with business lunches.  Locations in NYC, London and Paris, this small chain offers great food at such an affordable price!

We were one of the first parties to arrive at opening.  How can you tell this isn’t the Paris location?  By the “No Smoking” sign!!!

Our table offered a good view for nosy patrons such as myself!

My eau-de-vie. NYC Tap Water!  

The simplest menu on earth!

This salad. Nothing more than lettuce and walnuts but the best salad dressing I’ve ever had.  I could have had seconds on this…

The L’entrocote, sauce and fries.  Articles have been written on attempts to dupe this sauce. I’VE tried to dupe this sauce. Nobody has been successful.  The sauce is bomb!!!  I think I did detect a bit of clove–just a hint, and nutmeg. It’s back to the drawing board for me!

Sorry peeps.  But any restaurant that serves me steak the way I want it–blue, is A OK in my book.  This is red meat at it’s best!  And that sauce…

We enjoyed our lunch with conversation and laughs and planning a trip to Paris.  And by the time we left, the restaurant was mobbed and we didn’t have time to visit the museum.  Perhaps next time…

As we did make our way up the East Side, traffic and lack of street parking would hinder our visit to the museum, but it was no big deal.  Next time!

A spectacular view of the 59th Street Bridge brought memories of the day I went into labor with Jake.  My dad and I drove out to Long Island to see my grandmother who was in the hospital.  We drove back to Manhattan via the 59th St. Bridge.  The ride was so bumpy that my dad told me I would go into labor. He was correct. I did!!

Park Avenue. Notice the cops on each corner.  Tax money already wasted on Trump! 

Marymount School. Had we stayed in NYC, this is where Oona would have gone to school.  The uniforms were so cute!

We passed by St. Ignatius School.  I spent a great deal of time here bring the boys to school, picking them up and volunteering. I loved this place!!!

At one time, the school had a separate entrance for girls…

And one for boys.  I can still smell the inside of that school. Old wooden desks, wood floors. It was great!

Here’s a site for a Saturday afternoon….

 

Another fun site was this group of groomsmen on the way into St. Ignatius Church for an afternoon wedding.  Too bad we couldn’t crash the party!

Back over to the West Side to my old neighborhood on Riverside Drive then off to home!

A man and his two beautiful yellow labs. the one on the ground reminded me so much of my Ruby.  I can’t count the times I’ve walked along this stretch of Riverside Drive!

And that concludes my day in NYC.  I hope you enjoyed it.  And if the question of why didn’t I take a photo of the Rock Center Christmas tree?  In my heaviest NY accent “Hey. Ya seen one tree–ya seen ’em all”.  I’m jaded.  I’ve seen the tree too many times.  I would rather look at the buildings and their beauty!

This is for you.  One of my favorite songs that reminds me of The City!  I always feel groovy when I return!

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Lipstick and A Stuck Bowl–This Can Only Happen to Me!

Happy December!!!Before I go on with this post, I must share something.   I’m so emotional right now because it is one of those moments where you realize you taught your daughter well on the subject of high/low shopping.

Happy December!  Can you find me?

Oona and her boyfriend are planning a few dinner parties. Among them, she will be entertaining his family and wants everything to run smoothly.  Now—they recently moved into a new home and with that comes shopping for all things grown up (it’s the first house).  This runs the gamut of furniture to anything else “home” related.  She’s been spending a ton of time at Home Goods lately.

And so, we were having a conversation about dishes and china, table settings and she mentioned that she was looking for white dishes because white goes with everything (I have white dishes—she’s such a good girl!).  She was looking around at various sets when I mentioned to her that she should head to her local dollar store.  The Dollar store is a mecca for plates and bowls and the cost is so minimal that if you break an item, it’s not a stress nor is it a big deal.

Some of my white dollar store bowls…

…and a couple of the many plates. I’m mixing red and white this year–but I haven’t finalized that thought yet!

Then I mentioned that I have bowls from the dollar store that have lasted for almost 20 years. I have soup bowls, cereal bowls and a ton of plates.  They always look good on the table and the simplicity of them makes a great canvas for the food.  Proof that you do NOT need a ton of money when it comes to home-related goods.

My blue dollar store bowls that are almost 20 years old!  I love these!

This morning she called me and thanked me.  She was at the dollar store and wanted my opinion on plates. Textured or plain?  I can’t tell you how tickled I was.  I taught her well.  And that is a bit of advice to everyone.

Oona sent these pics to me for my opinion.  I’m so proud of my baby for listening to mommy! I need a moment here to wipe the tears from my eyes!

Plates break. And rather than get all flustered in attempting to spend a fortune replacing a “good” and expensive item of China, I go with the budget-minded.  They are dishwasher safe and it’s the food and company that are more important!

OK—back to the post!

My efforts for a truly pretty “nude” pink/rose/mauve are a constant challenge.  My coloring is cool and I have pink undertones.  A bright pink looks horrible on me.  Many pink/nudes just look downright weird.  Due to my aging lips, darker colors that once did look good, no longer do.

A sampling of my lip colors.  In all honesty, I should trash some of these but I can’t bring myself to do so…

They just kind of “hang out”!

I do have my favorites, and my usuals—but still, it is difficult to find the right lip color.

Among my usuals–NYX Butter Gloss–especialy the Tiramisu color. It’s a great neutral!

A few days back I was in Walmart. And to tell you the truth, I was getting pissed off about the rising price of these drug-store lipsticks.  I searched and perused and felt like Goldilocks with her porridge.  Either the colors were too intense or too “off”. Nothing was quite right.

Then I happened to pass the Rimmel display and noticed these Lasting Finish by Kate (Moss) lipsticks.  One tube caught my eye. The Number 08.  I opened the tube and the color did appear slightly dark but I took my chances. After all, what’s one more lip color that doesn’t work?

Well. At under five bucks, this lipstick is an absolute winner.  The color is everything I’ve been looking for. It’s a subtle mauve/rose.  Almost a caramel but not quite. It’s beautiful! Although it doesn’t last the eight hours that Rimmel says it does, it lasts a long enough time for me to be happy with it. That’s all that matters!

I’m so pleased with this winner of a lippie!  It just looks so wonderful and very mature woman flattering!!

This is a great lipstick that will be sticking around in my collection for a while. I’ll have to get back to Walmart later to grab a couple more tubes because with my luck, Rimmel with discontinue it!

I’m wearing Number 08 today!  Oh. And before I head out to buy a couple of backups, I will be sure to wear a heavy scarf to hide my turkey neck!  So happy I did my roots this morning!

And speaking of “stick” and “sticking” (what a segue), I had quite the interesting occurrence on Friday with my KitchenAid stand mixer.

I was mixing bread dough.  Now—the recipe I have calls for mixing the dough about ten minutes. Fine.

And while the dough was mixing, I decided to be pro-active and prepare all the ingredients for the pound cake that I would also be baking that afternoon for Bonaparte.  The counter was full of the proper ingredients and I was feeling rather good about myself for being so prepared.

Ingredients for the next batch…like ladies in waiting I have cake makings in waiting!

When the dough was finished, I released the lock, lifted the dough hook, and proceeded to take the dough out and place in another bowl to proof.

Dough mixed and ready to proof.  This happens on a regular basis!

But something happened.  The bowl of the KitchenAid mixer was stuck to the base and wouldn’t release.  I tried for ten minutes to rotate the bowl with no success.

Why did I feel as though I was reliving this scene from A Christmas Story?

At this point I was starting to panic because panic is what I do best! Nothing worked.

Too bad I didn’t have any paper bags in the house or I could have done this to get rid of my panic.

I went online and discovered that this, although not common, does happen.  KitchenAid’s suggestions are to apply hot compresses to the base of the mixer where bowl meets mixer.  After ten minutes, apply another hot compress.  A half-hour later the bowl didn’t move at all.

Next suggestion was to apply Mineral Oil.  Thank God, my innards sometimes need a “push” and I get that push by swallowing this stuff.  I applied the Mineral Oil to my constipated bowel…er…bowl.  Nothing. Nada. That bowl wasn’t going anywhere.  I could not move my bowl.

Mineral oil was next. It may move your bowels but didn’t move my bowl!

I knelt down on the floor, blessed myself and prayed to St. Jude.  Either ol’ Saint Jude was too busy dealing with other prayers from impossible cases to hear me or he just wasn’t feeling the love for me! My prayers went unanswered.

This guy and I are old friends.  My entire LIFE is one hopeless case.  I got him on prayer speed dial!

I decided to call the KitchenAid hotline. By this time, I was seething.  All I could think of was my first KitchenAid. The one I had for over 30 years and literally used until the motor blew.  I wanted it back. My current mixer is two years old and the quality doesn’t even come near my first one.

The suggestion from Becky at KitchenAid was to take the mixer, place it on the floor and straddle it with my feet.

Might I add that this freaking thing weighs a ton!

By doing this I could provide the strength to release the bowl.  I complied. Now understand, I’m no weakling. I’m a pretty strong broad.  I could not release the bowl.

I was unable to take a photo of what I did next. Better though–it looked X-rated! Use your imagination.  Your DIRTY imagination.  That’s right!

What happened next is a true account.  Bonaparte arrived home from work.  He saw me in this compromising position with my KitchenAid and the look on his shocked face shocked me.  It was as though I was caught cheating. Cheating with a piece of equipment that was certainly not an “adult” toy!

Let’s just say my Frenchman was even more shocked than this mime guy!

Qu’est-ce que tu fais!!!!!!???” CASSIE!!!  QU’EST-CE QUE TU FAIS!!!!???”   He was so upset at the sight that he forgot he spoke English! I had never heard my reserved and refined Frenchman scream so loud!

He almost became ill at the sight of me with my KitchenAid!

After he finally regained his composure from both the sight of me looking like I was giving inappropriate lust to my KitchenAid and seeing the mess on the counter, I explained what happened.

He took the mixer from in between my legs, lifted it, placed it on the counter and with two swift moves, the bowl released.

I think I heard my little KitchenAid ask for a cigarette after that physical encounter with me! It is now at rest.

I was at a loss for words.  However, I would rather believe that my request to St. Jude was delayed and  He answered my prayer at that exact moment when Bonaparte twisted the bowl.

By the time we sat down to our Friday evening aperitifs, we were able to laugh about this most “sticky” situation.  And the bread was baked and his pound cake was baked and all was well!

Later on, I found out that someone filmed a YouTube video on how to release the stuck bowl to your KitchenAid.  And here it is. As a public for you and as proof that this does, in fact happen!! This video is great!!

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A Month Later and She’s Still Looking Fine—Carrie Update!

Hi all!

Last month, I received a wig to review.  The wig, Carrie, from Uniwigs LaVivid Collection, was a pleasure to both review and wear.

I think Carrie spent more time OUT of the box than IN the box over the past month!

But—just how did Carrie wear over the course of a month?

A month ago. Brand spanking new!

Seriously.  Those who are not familiar with wigs may thing I’m a bit odd to broach this subject.  Those who do wear wigs will know what I’m talking about.

Wigs—just like anything else, will show signs of wear.  A low to mediocre quality wig will show signs, such as extreme tangling and shedding; and will show those very quickly.  A higher-quality wig will wear very well.

Um.. I would NOT use a wig as a blotting device.  Rice paper is a better option!

Since the majority of wigs that I wear are synthetic, the maintenance is lower. That just means I don’t have to wash them as often as I would my bio hair. However, there’s more than just washing a wig that makes it low-maintenance.

Does the wig shed?  When the lace is cut off the front of a wig, there’s bound to be shedding—especially when you cut very close to the hairline.  When a dense part is tweezed to widen the parting space, shedding will also occur.  But this shedding is minimal.

Sign of a quality wig. Minimal tweezing at the part and NO SHEDDING!!!

It’s the constant shedding  and tangling that occurs that turns an otherwise nice-looking wig into a wig that you could be sorry you purchased.

I’ve learned over time that not all wigs are created equal.  I’ve had both high-end and low-end wigs that looked a bit like these after a few wearings.  

Tangles are another issue.  Granted—any wig with a length longer than your collarbone will tangle with wear—especially when you are wearing a sweater or any textured fabric such as wool or a blend. And with the cold weather, add a scarf to the mix and tangles are inevitable.

But a good quality wig won’t tangle as much. And when it does tangle, brushing the tangles out will be a breeze.  A lesser quality wig will take forever to untangle.  It will.  And the tangles will be so matted that you’ll have to pull and tug causing wig hair loss.

Trust me on this.  I’ve had to toss wigs in the trash that have started to look ragged and worn after two or three wears.  I’ve had wigs that shed more than my bio hair has and I’ve had wigs that looked like a rat’s nest in less than a week’s time.

Yes. It is gross.  I’ve tried to manipulate tangled wigs  and it doesn’t work.  That wig is a mess–but not surprising!

Not so with Carrie!  She has been wearing incredibly well!   Brushing her minimal tangles is just like brushing bio hair.  Easy Peasy.  No tugging or pulling.

Carrie. A month later.  She accompanied me to a job interview and gave me the confidence that I needed!!  I’m in love with this wig!

No shedding.  At. All!!

Check out the hairline!  It’s so natural and the lace has not lifted or rolled back. And there are no combs!!!  This IS a spectacular unit!

It’s amazing.  And as I continue to wear wigs, I’m getting an education.  I’m realizing that a better-quality wig will cost more.  That’s not to say that all wigs that are costlier are better quality because they aren’t.  I’ve purchased some doozeys that cost and the quality was sub-par.

And those were wigs that I hadn’t researched.

Another view.  I’m also loving this Brown Spice color!!

What I’m telling you is this—if you wear a wig and you want to spend more money on a unit that will wear very well without shedding or excessive tangling, please head on over to LaVivid Collection.  Although Carrie is the only wig from the collection that I’ve had the extreme pleasure of wearing, I would vouch that the quality of the collection’s other wigs are just as wonderful.

I swear this wig looks better a month later!  The luster is still there, I’m just so happy. So is Bonaparte!

So that’s wraps this update!    We’ll see what happens with the interview!

Hope you enjoy my video update on Carrie as well!!

 

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Hats Entertainment!

Something triggered me to write this post.  Actually, it was two things.  The first was a blog post that Michelle of Shelbee On the Edge wrote.  It was about her love of cloche hats and plaid. 

Shelbee on The Edge!  What a Hat!  I keep thinking about the book “Go, Dog, Go” by P.D. Eastman and “Do You Like My Hat?”

Remember this?  Remember?  I swear this was one of my faves and my childrens’ faves. In fact, we have a family joke of sorts. When we show up with a new or different hat, we’ll say to each other “Do you like my hat?”….and we all know the reference point!!

The second was a “like” on my Instagram feed.  The like was from a hat designer, Marie Mercié.   After I checked her IG account, I loved the photos of various hats and began to follow her.

This is a fun feed and I highly recommend checking it out!!

And all this got me to thinking.

About hats.

My mother, I’m talking about the late 1950’s into the late 1960’s, always wore a hat when she was dressed for an “occasion”.  Whether it was a party, or out to dinner or to Mass or to a luncheon—she always wore a hat.

And she wore those hats quite well.  My favorite of all her hats was a cute little number that resembled a bouquet of lilacs sitting upon her head.  There are no photos of this particular chapeau, but I remember it so well.  The color of the lilacs, with little spots of yellow to resemble pollen and small green leaves scattered about were a delight to look at.  With her olive-toned skin and pitch-black hair, and red lipstick, this hat looked beautiful on her. And it has been a lasting memory of how pretty she was.

Here’s a sketch I did. This lilac hat fit close to her head and it was so beautiful. My mother had black, black hair and just looked wonderful whenever she wore this hat. I honestly wish I had a photograph of her in it.  She wore it with a gray coat. Very nice pairing!

Even as a young girl, my mother always made sure that I had a hat to match my coats.  I had hats like the ones the infamous Madeline wore.

I took this photo from MY Madeline book.  Yes. I still have it.  And those hats. Oh Dear God.  I loved my navy one….

And I wore this with a Black Watch Plaid coat.  The plaid seed was planted when I was a young girl!

I wore wool berets.  And to this day, I can’t find a decent one to fit my head. Oops!  Gotta get back to France to buy one!

My mother’s other obsession with hats was that they kept body heat in during the winter.  I do have to agree with her there.  I may walk around sockless during the winter—and I may substitute a blazer for a winter coat—because as long as my head is warm, my body is warm!

And might I add–there was a time when my bio hair was so thick that I really didn’t need a hat. I’m not kidding!  Do you like Roman’s Giant’s hat?

Let’s take a look of some of my present headwear.

This Nordic number is one of my deep winter faves. It really keeps me warm…

Another little knit number..

A knit beret.  I’m still on the search for the perfect wool beret!

I would love to add that I like hats much better when I’m wearing longer hair.

I love this inexpensive Primark hat. It’s really cute!

I only know that this hat was in the downstairs closet. I think it belongs to one of my kids!

I call this my George Costanza hat. If you watch Seinfeld, then you know what I mean!

That gray beret again!  Much better with longer hair!

And my favorite hat–this cap that was my dad’s favorite. He bought it many years ago on a visit to Ireland.  I feel like he’s with me when I have it on!

And that brings me to the entertainment aspect.

I was entertained by Shelbee’s blog post.  In fact, I’m constantly entertained by her blog posts.  She always manages to tell a story!

And that’s what I want to talk about—blogs that tell a story.  I don’t know what others are looking for when reading a blog.  But, when I read one, I want to be entertained.  I want to read a story.  I’m not looking for a novel—just a simple story about the blog’s subject.

What I’ve found daunting in my quest to peruse the blogosphere in search of blogs geared to the “mature” woman, is that many of the “mature” women blogs are, or have gone the way of those blogs that have morphed into, one large advertisement.  I’ve stopped reading quite a few blogs that I previously loved because of this.

I want a story. I want details. I want to see a bit of humor.  I want the human touch and mostly, I want engagement.

One of the most engaging, visually delightful, funny, charming and just plain fun is The Vintage Contessa. 

Elizabeth always makes me laugh with her stories of her adventures and life in her house with a pet pig and her Italian husband.  She’s quite the fun character and I love her blog!

La Contessa.  Honest to God, this is one great blog and always puts a smile on my face!

One blogger that I’ve really come to admire and respect is Catherine Summers of “Not Dressed As Lamb” She’s an incredibly successful blogger who manages to tell a story even when she is publishing a sponsored post.  She’s honest and transparent and she’ll call you out.  I’ve been called out on an anti-aging issue and she made me stop and think.  I gotta respect that. She’s a good egg!

Catherine Summers of “Not Dressed As Lamb”.  I’m digging that cape. Big time!

But my point is that she isn’t posting a photo of her and only adding a link on where to purchase.  She’s got substance. She will write something engaging in addition to adding a link!

I adore Penny, the  “FrugalFashionShopper”.  Her posts are always entertaining. She’s chatty and her writing is just so conversational. She tells a story.  AND she slays hats!  She’s a glad hatter!

Want to know more about thrifting?  Then follow Penny!!!! She’s also a great story writer!

Naturally, there are more blogs that I enjoy.  Head over to my Blogger and Vloggers page and you’ll see my regulars.  I also started to add Instagrammers that I follow but the list is so long. If you would like to see all of those I follow in IG, head over to my feed @atypical60 and check out who I follow.

I have to admit, I’m still on the fence with IG’ers who have like 50,000 followers and only follow around 200 people. It leads me to believe that someone purchased their followers—so I tend to not follow those feeds.  But that’s just me.  The majority of those on Instagram that I follow have smaller numbers and I like it that way.

So that’s about it for today.  I’ve got to clean out the kitchen to make way for the Christmas baking and to store ingredients. That’s be a chore—I’m just wondering how many containers with moldy contents I’ll find.  I’m scared!! It’s been crazy/busy around here with the preparations.  So please forgive me for not posting more during this Holiday time!

Off to clean!!

Torn jeans and barefoot. The perfect ensemble for cleaning out the fridge!

If you have any suggestions for blogs that you think would be a great read, please—add them down in the comments!!!!  It would be great to share!!

Have a great day.  And for your added entertainment, I’ve added a video of my favorite cookbooks!  Hope you enjoy.  If you do, please subscribe to my YouTube channel—you’re helping me tons if you do.  Thanks so much.

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Shhhhh! Don’t Tell Anyone—But I’m Glad Thanksgiving is Over!

Seriously.  Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday.  As much as I would love to have been the perfect hostess on this favored family day, it’s always been quite dysfunctional for me.

As much as I would love to imagine me as the perfect Thanksgiving Hostess.  It’s just not meant to be!

Growing up, Thanksgiving is a fleeting memory.  My dad was a New York City police officer and there were many Thanksgivings when he worked and on those Thanksgivings, the meal was eaten so fast that it was akin to a food eating contest at Coney Island.  On other more “normal” Thanksgiving, we would share the meal with my grandparents.

THIS was more of a Normal Rockwell illustration of Thanksgiving with my family when we were growing up.  30 seconds to finish the meal.  I’m not kidding.

And eventually by meal’s end, one of us would end up fighting with each other. Usually me and my sisters over an article of clothing or the phone!

As my own children were growing up, Thanksgiving was spent at home. My favorite Thanksgivings were the ones where we were living in Manhattan.  My girlfriend Jeannie and I would get the kids up at seven in the morning then head down to Central Park West to hoard space for the parade!  I miss the City during the holidays.  I miss the City period!

I can’t even remember what year I snapped this pic of Spiderman–I’ve got plenty and these were the best Thanksgivings ever!

Thanksgiving returned to become another rush job during the years that Oona and I had to travel to Philadelphia for the Irish Dance Oireachtas.  Don’t even ask.  All I’ll say is from the time Oona was 8 up to 21, Thanksgiving was more in tune with dance than food.  As soon as the last dish was cleared, it was Girls weekend for us and football weekend for my ex-husband and the boys!

From the early days through...

High School and onto…

her final awards during her senior year in college.  Thanksgiving didn’t mean turkey. It meant soft shoes, hard shoes, recalls and awards–those were the main courses!

And even on those Thanksgivings when we did travel to my sister’s home in Long Island, traffic on the Belt Parkway and the NJ Turnpike was an unfortunate reason to leave early.

Yeah.  Thanksgiving just isn’t my cuppa tea.  Christmas is my Holiday!

And I’ve already started!

Jake is out in L.A. now and had dinner with my sister Theresa, and other relatives who live out in Los Angeles.  I was thankful that Jake was able to enjoy the holiday with family.  Roman spent Thanksgiving with his dad—and I was thankful that they had each other to enjoy the holiday.  Oona spent Thanksgiving with her boyfriend, Sam’s family.  I was thankful that my daughter was able to spend the holiday with her boyfriend and his family.

Bonaparte and I had a fun Thanksgiving too.  We had dinner with my sister Germaine’s family at her in-laws!  The travel was twenty minutes away, and I brought three desserts that I made.  I’m thankful that we were able to enjoy our Thanksgiving with my sister, her family and more of her family!

 Pecan Pie Tart ready for baking.  Desserts were  from THE Pioneer Woman’s Pecan Pie Tart –recipe from fellow WP blogger ….

Out of the oven. Note the platter.  I picked it up at the Dollar Tree.  It’s plastic and rather than bring it on a plate from home, it’s an extra little something for the hostess…

Another tip from me–line the bottom of a tart or springform pan with parchment paper.  Trace the bottom and cut a round big enough to fit inside. This makes for sliding the dessert onto a plate. This is a must for when you are bringing your desserts elsewhere!

Ina Garten’s Perfect Poundcake. Made my way.  Her recipe calls for a cup of heavy cream.  I used half a cup and substituted the other half cup with Grand Marnier.  A Grand Marnier pound cake.  It doesn’t look like much but this is the best pound cake recipe ever:  Ina’s Perfect Pound Cake Recipe

Look at that crumb!!!!  I made two of these. One for Bonaparte!

While I realize our Ina has a thing about “good” vanilla.  As long as it’s real–it’ll work! It’s good!

The last dessert I made was my recipe from the days of St. Ignatius Loyola School. I’ve made this for years. HOWEVER, I now bake this in a Bain-Marie. Ad the food processor is actually better to make the filling because it provides for absolutely no lumps at all!

Another tip.  Use a measuring cup to press down the crust.  It makes for a more even crust and  makes it easier for filling in those edges!

Placing a towel at the bottom of the pan for the Bain-Marie (water bath) will keep the Springform pan from moving around.

Springform pans are notorious for leaking. Now matter HOW secure they seem!  Wrap aluminum foil around the bottom and up the sides. Think of it as a Depends for the older pan!

Make sure ALL ingredients are room temp!  Especially the cream cheese. I beat the cream cheese or a bit in the Kitchen Aid before adding to the food processor.

Out of the oven. No cracks just a beautiful cheesecake…

Plain and no toppings is how I like my cheesecake. How about you?

My apologies for not having any photos of the day, but my husband kindly suggested that I not take photos, not use my iPhone and just concentrate on the company of others.  He was thankful when I complied!  Sometimes, it’s just good to take a step back.

Hmmmm. Can I actually go one day without my iPhone’s camera?  Yeah. I can!

And since it was a long weekend for him—i.e. he didn’t have to work on Friday, we spent the weekend seeing two movies.

I’ll tell you—the pickings for film has been pretty miserable as of late but things seem to be taking a turn for the better.

On Friday we saw “Three Billboards”.  This movie by Martin McDonagh is just as great as his “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths” I’m certainly not going to ruin the story with spoilers; it’s a film about a woman, played to perfection by Frances McDormand, who questions the inability of the local police department’s failure to solve the mystery of who killed her daughter.

I can’t recommend this movie enough. GO SEE IT!!!!!  It was incredible!

The movie is a dark comedy/serious drama/thriller all rolled into one.

The acting from McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell and Peter Dinklage is superb.  My only criticism of the movie is the casting of Abbie Cornish as Harrelson’s wife.  Her Australian accent pops up after she speaks with an American accent in parts.  That was weird.

Anyway, if McDormand is not up on that podium to grab her Oscar for this movie, then something is very crooked!

Yesterday’s movie choice was “Murder on the Orient Express”.  Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation was two hours’ worth of pure entertainment.  Visually, the movie was spectacular.  The story, loosely based on the Lindbergh baby’s kidnapping, has always intrigued me.  Branagh was the best Poirot (I’m biased because I’m a huge Branagh fan!) ever and the man can direct!

Pure escapist entertainment–the perfect whodunit!!!!

It almost hurt me to make a big meal last night.  I’m so “fooded out” from Thanksgiving that my body needs to heal.  I’m not kidding.  I’ve eaten far too much bread and rich foods the past week that I’m aching for a simple omelet or a bowl of my beloved Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup.

I’m just so fooded out right now (I used to use that term when the kids were little and they ate too much). I just want soup!

I’m thankful that my clothes still fit.  Speaking of which, here’s what I wore to the movies.

Friday’s outfit was a pair o torn jeans from AG jeans.  I’m thankful they still fit.  The movie theater as a tendency to be on the cooler side so I wore a J. Crew merino wool turtleneck and a J. Crew Factory plaid schoolboy blazer.  No socks please–no matter HOW cold it may be!!!

I dressed up a bit more for yesterday’s film.  Camel pants–oh, I love these. 40% off at J. Crew.  A wool blend, these pants are lined and comfortable.  I paired with a black merino wool turtleneck from J. Crew and my newly-repaired Repetto ballet flats. No socks!

Hey. Am I the only one out there who is happy that Thanksgiving is over?  I can resume my Christmas prep. Do you feel the same way?  How was your Thanksgiving?  No matter how we look at it, I hope you all enjoyed this Thanksgiving and embraced family and friends.

And I’m always thankful for all my wonderful friends who continue to enjoy this blog. Thank you!

And now—the trailer for Three Billboards! (Warning—there is saucy language in the trailer!)

 

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In Defense of Fast Fashion

Fast Fashion.  We are all familiar with the term. We are all familiar with many stores that sell fast fashion. H & MForever 21ZaraPrimark. Old Navy.  Target’s collaborations with many designers fall into the fast fashion genre as well.

Forever 21.  THE place where Oona purchased many clothes during her high school, college and just-out-of-college days.  I’ve got quite a few items from here as well.  Something fun, trendy and very inexpensive can always be found here!

And here’s the thing. A lot of people despise “Fast” fashion.  Quite a few high-end designers aren’t fans of fast fashion because it mars their roll-out timeline.

Scour the internet and you will find tons of articles and opinions about how awful this sort of clothing manufacturing is for the environment and for the people who work in the factories–especially in third-world countries.

However, I’m not going there with this post—simply because the working conditions for many employees in America is just as bad.  Millions of Americans are underpaid and underinsured and many are at the poverty level because minimum wages haven’t been raised in years—and looks like they will remain stagnant for at least three more years.

But I digress.  This is about the clothing. Let’s get that straight.

Fast Fashion does have its place.  For younger people starting out in their careers, it offers affordability. And with high rents and student loan debt to pay, it is a welcome change from higher-end items that won’t be within their reach until they climb that corporate ladder.

For women like me–those in the middle, fast fashion comes in to help us put a wardrobe together. We can’t afford the truly higher-end designer items. We’re the ones who shop at J. Crew, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and the mid-range departments at Nordstroms.

I’m the consumer in the middle–I can’t afford luxury brands but the fast fashion “inspired” looks work for me.  My middle-range J. Crew is the brand I’m loyal to!

If we need to change up the look of an outfit, we can get an inexpensive quick fix at Primark or a similar store.

For me, it’s about mixing mid-range and low end.  I can’t afford  a Louis Vuitton Neverfull bag, but I am fortunate enough to have a few leather Longchamp bags in my possession.

Those beautiful Badgley Mischka shoes I picked up at Nordstrom Rack?  I found the perfect sweater to wear with them for Holiday socializing.  At $8.00 it was the greatest fast fashion buy.  The sweater is on trend, very well-made and if I have it for more than two seasons, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Those beautiful Badgley Mischka’s now have a friend. From Primark. Chippy approves!

This eight-dollar sweater is very well-made for such an inexpensive item…

…and the fit is perfect.  Worn with jeans, this’ll be a hit during the Holidays!

This knit beret was two bucks at Primark. It’ll keep my head and wigs warm during the winter. AND Primark was THE only store that had green tights!

For example, I covet the Chanel Lady Jacket.  But—it is way out of my price point.   Shein, a fast fashion website, has a varied assortment of this type of jacket—and all within the $25 to $30 price range.  This one for $29, spoke to me.  It may not have the quality and workmanship of Mr. Karl’s workshop, but it fits and looks fine.

This jacket from Shein is adorable.  It’s very “Chanel” inspired and at a fraction of the cost. Mr. Karl would approve!  Maybe.

The lighting is bad here but this is the cutest long-sleeved tee. With scalloped edges at the hem, neckline and sleeves. At ten dollars, it was a fast fashion winner from Shein!

And how could I resist this Walmart Special?  I ran in for butter yesterday and walked out with butter and a white ski jacket for ten bucks!  The bubble gum is a diet aid!  (Thank you for the gum idea Michelle Tyler)

My defense of fast fashion got me to thinking.  Are there any fashion experts who don’t shun this type of quickly manufactured clothing?  Then I thought about one of my favorite Instagramers—Old Fashion Guru.  Sunny Leigh Sherman.  She ran her own clothing line and has the most incredible style.  Her ability to mix high and low is swoon-worthy.  And she does it so effortlessly.  I mean it.  You have to go to her IG feed @oldfashionguru and see for yourself.  You must subscribe to her feed.  It’s freakin’ amazeballs!

The fashion sense of  @oldfashionguru

Anyway, I reached out to her about her thoughts on defending fast fashion.  Here’s her response.  Read it.  Everything she writes is so spot on—and check out the photos from her IG feed—it’ll prove that fast fashion can certainly blend in with the high luxury brands!

Sunny’s Thoughts on Fast Fashion!

I’ve been a fashion designer for most of my working life……. that’s over 45 years! My affordable brand could be found in most department stores from coast to coast. In my career, I’ve dressed MILLIONS of women from a size 2 to size 32 and consider myself an expert in fit and how to flatter all shapes and sizes.

One of the things I prided myself about my product was the quality of the make……it looked as good on the inside as it did on the outside. We didn’t skimp on quality because of our lower prices. We just had to sell more! I learned from an early age how garments are made and the tricks to make them look and wear better and longer. Since I owned the company and it was MY name on the label, I could do what I wanted and that was to give our gal the best value at any price!

As an industry leader, I was exposed to fashion at all levels and had the opportunity to buy whatever I wanted for myself from any designer or brand. I came to appreciate that high price and high quality did not go hand in hand. I paired tees and tanks from discount or chain stores under Chanel jackets long before there was such a thing as “high/low” dressing. My criteria was and is: well styled, well made and well fitted garments that feel and look good on.

With the advent of weekly magazines like People and US and then the internet and the democratization of style across the world, trends started spinning faster and faster and new companies sprang up to meet the demands of a consumer who wanted to wear what she saw her favorite celebrity or public figure wearing. Before that, it was the monthly print magazines that mostly showed women what they didn’t know they wanted! It became silly in many minds to spend a fortune for an item that would be out of style before you got it home and for others impossible to afford so many new things. Enter stores that catered to these ever-changing trends with prices that wouldn’t break the bank of the consumer each time she bought something. Voila… Fast Fashion!

I have always been “trendy” in my manner of dress but years ago fashion trends lasted longer than five minutes! The biggest difference in price points in those days was the quality of fabric. You could be pretty much assured of a luxurious “hand” or feel of the garment if you paid a lot of money for it. That’s not true today. There are many “luxury” brands that have cheapened their make and fabrications and there are many chains that give you high quality and high value along with being right on trend. Zara is the first brand that comes to my mind in that latter category.

Zara is a bit pricier than fast fashion giants like Forever 21 or H & M but the quality to price ratio deserves recognition. I’ve purchased real leather boots, sneakers and jackets that fit better than brands costing more than ten times the price! In fact, my ubiquitous black leather moto that appears all over my Instagram is from Zara. It perfectly fits my criteria of being well styled, well made with a great fit that feels and looks good on. I was willing to spend anything on a perfect LBM (little black moto). I was obsessed with finding it!! And Zara won out over all designer brands.

FAST FASHION LETS ME HAVE FUN AND STAY CURRENT WITHOUT COMPROMISING MY VALUES.

I’m still a sucker for a well-made garment but I’m also not above buying a trendy piece that I know will fall apart after a couple of wears ‘cause I also know I probably won’t want to wear it much more than that. I’ve never been a brand snob but I’ve always purchased what I consider the best out there- at any price. My closet is filled with gorgeous designer pieces that I’ve had for years and fast fashion pieces to accompany them. Because my taste has stayed pretty constant over the years and I’ve always been able to spot a trend (if not originate one!), I can re-imagine looks from what I already own by just adding a piece here and there.

I love fast fashion for exactly what it represents: the ability to change a look on a dime (almost literally) and be current with any new fashion trend that catches my eye at a price I don’t have to think about. There’s still a place for designer duds but as I said, if you hold fast fashion to my criteria of style, fit, feel and look you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what’s out there.

And there you have it!  Thoughts from a professional and leader in fashion and thoughts from a non-profession and dedicated follower of fashion!

Let’s have a better look at her style. Shall we?

Jacket:  Zara.  Tee:  H & M. Skirt:  Chanel.  Boots: Prada.  Bag:  Chanel  (I’m so in love with that skirt–but the way the high end is mixed with the fast fashion is life!

Jacket:  H & M.  Tee:  Chaser.   Jeans:  Current/Elliot.  Boots: Gucci. Bag:  Hermes.

Jacket:  Zara.  Tank:  Flea Market.  Jeans: Frame.  Shoes: Dior!

Blouse:  L’Agence.  Jeans:  Zara. Mules:  Gucci

Jacket:  Zara.  Jeans Citizens of Humanity.  Boots (L) Zara, (R) Celine.  Bag:  Chanel

And…..Who does this?  Who can make a checked or plaid blazer and matching pants not look clownish?  Sunny can!  That’s who!!!!!

stJacket:  Zara.  Pants: Zara.  Shirt : L’Agence.  Belt:  Gucci

I’ll tell you–aren’t those combos of high-end/low-end great?  It proves that if you have style and panache, and the eye, you can be successful with fast fashion!

Thanks so much to Sunny Leigh Sherman for contributing her expertise on the subject!  And I think that today, I’ll pay homage to her with the Bobby Hebb song. Remember it?  “Sunny”!

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That Last Weekend of Calm Before The Holiday Storm—And a Few Easy Recipes For You!

It’s now 1:03 on Sunday afternoon.  I am enjoying what most likely, will be, the last relaxing weekend of 2017.  The calm before the Holiday Storm, if you will.  Thanksgiving is this coming Thursday and I’ll be baking all Wednesday.  We’ll be spending Thanksgiving at my sister’s brother-in-law’s home. They live only 20 minutes away from us and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone.

Among the desserts that was requested was a cheesecake recipe that I had made for years.  My recipe was published in the St. Ignatius Loyola school fundraiser cookbook that the parents compiled.  I can’t believe I still have this book–it was published in 1992 and this cheesecake recipe is a great one.  It dates itself in that I don’t use margarine anymore!  Here’s the recipe for you!

I miss the Racanelli ladies–they were a lot of fun.  It’s kind of sad when you lose touch with people…

The book is literally falling apart but it’s my prized possession from my days as a NYC mom!   This recipe makes THE best cheesecake ever.  You can top with fruit too!!

Today I woke up a bit—well, somewhat feeling anxiety creeping into my bones and felt like spending the day in my bespoke pj’s.

Nah!  I did NOT want to spend the day dressed like this–actually, I did want to.

But you know what?  I can’t get like that so I did my makeup, got dressed and plopped some bobbed hair upon my head.  I feel better already!

I dressed in a fun outfit–simple but with a mid-1960’s vibe!  Let’s do the Swim or the Mashed Potato!!

Bonaparte and I decided to spend yesterday saving on spending!

Not only did the outlets have some big sales–but they had rather big balls too!!

J. Crew Factory sent me a coupon for 60% off items that were normally on sale for 50% off—so an extra ten percent was a great deal! We did some Christmas shopping and I walked away with a gray Teddie Sweater, the Factory version of my beloved J. Crew Tippi Sweater.

How pathetic am I?  I sent a photo of this dress to Oona with the message  “I wish you were a little girl again so I could dress you up like this” .   Why isn’t that dress in MY size?

I have to say, Bonaparte is so nice to me.  He called me “Mon Ange” yesterday because he said I looked like an angel.

What a man!  Do angels wear fake hair piled atop their heads in a messy topknot?  Perhaps it’s my halo! (And yes. I went out with my hair like that!)

Even when I look like something the cat dragged in, he tells me I look nice.  That was just very sweet and unexpected!  Others call me much worse!!

Seriously—I’m in a good place having gotten a head start on the Christmas décor in the house.  I can concentrate on the food and what I can prepare and bake ahead of time.

Last night we started our dinner off with Escargot—the remainder from the order that was delivered last week.

Ohhhhh..these little snails were so delicious! I could have eaten two dozen!

We had steak with an anchovy cream sauce and I made Brussels Sprouts with cranberries and a balsamic reduction.

That anchovy sauce is life. L.I.F.E!!!

And this wine.  At under $25, it was really good!  It smelled like dirt and tasted very earthy–with a bit of a smokey taste.  Me likey!

Bonaparte was so excited because on Friday I surprised him with his favorite dessert—Crème Caramel.  But, I felt like having a bit of dessert myself.  Naturally, I’m really trying to watch what I’m eating and I don’t normally have dessert.  However, when I was at Produce Junction on Friday, I spotted Bosc Pears.  They were 6 for two dollars.  Now—I’m not a fan of pears unless they are cooked and I thought I might make a Pear Clafoutis for Bonaparte.

It’s amazing how he never tires of Creme Caramel!!  NEVER!!!

Instead, I got selfish and decided to poach some of the pears.  I love cooked pears!  But I wanted to try something different.  Since the cold weather is now in full-swing, I thought it would be a good idea to try some warm flavors in with the sweet.  I added sliced ginger and cardamom for starters.  The recipe is below.

I only used four of the six pears.  I might cook the others and add to salad with bleu cheese!

Poaching away.  Some turned right side up while cooking–see where I cored them?

Here’s the cardamom.  

I store it in a plastic bottle.  This is such a beautifully aromatic spice!

Can I just tell you that when the pears were poaching the scent of the ginger made the house smell so comfy—it was as though our home had turned into a giant bottle of ginger-ale!  But the end result was terrific.  BTW, I did not add cinnamon.  I’m not a fan of cinnamon. At all.  It’s way overused.  And if you would like to try this recipe, by all means, add cinnamon to your liking!

My pretty pears.  This was delicious…

The remainder is stored in this jar.  I’m almost tempted to make a caramel cream but I’m seriously cutting down before the Holidays!

Back to Friday. My mind is always spinning when it comes to the appetizers that I’ll serve—especially during Christmas week. Oona will be here a few days before Christmas.  I think Jake will too—he hasn’t let me know yet what day he will be arriving from L.A.  I’m hoping Roman comes a few days before Christmas —but I don’t know if Fallon will be shooting through the Friday before.  Or—he may come Christmas day with his dad.  (Yes.  I’ve invited my ex-husband and his girlfriend for Christmas dinner.  It makes things easier since two of the three kids will be traveling pretty far—and everyone gets along so why not?)

Anyway, back to appetizers.  I like to make things that are pretty-much non-fussy.  For instance,  Rillettes because they can be made in advance.  With the bread that I make or with crackers, it’s a win-win situation.  Plus, I can take a few moments to enjoy time with everyone before I go back into the kitchen to finish cooking.

Pâté is always a good choice and many of the pâtés I make can be time consuming.  I want something easier.  I spotted the last container of chicken liver at Wegmans and had an idea.  I could make a chicken liver pâté!  The recipe is below for you.  I call it a “Faux-tay” simply because my food snobby Frenchman said that I didn’t serve it formed as a true pâté, in loaf form.  Anyway……

Don’t forget to strain the chicken livers before cooking!  

It was great!  He loved it.  This will be made in a few—actually three more weeks and stored in the fridge for Christmas Eve or whenever the family want’s it!

I like placing sage atop the finished product for that something extra..

The clarified butter really helps to seal the pate and it tastes good too!

This time of year really brings out the cook in me.  I’m no pro but boy, cooking is just so calming for me.

As I write this, I have chili in the crockpot.  I literally threw everything together.  Here’s what I did.

Chili in the crockpot for tonight!

Atypical60 Chili!

1 pound ground beef; 1 can kidney beans; 2 cans Rotel Tomatoes with Habanero Peppers; 1 large onion; 2 cloves garlic; 3 jalapeno peppers; tomato paste; harissa; cumin; chili powder; salt; pepper

Chop the onion, jalapenos and garlic (I pulsed in the food processor—otherwise I would cry because of the onion).  Put a little oil in a sauté pan and sweat all three till the onions are transparent.  Then spoon them into the crock pot.   Add a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and the harissa into the onion mixture and stir (I used tubed tomato paste because it’s more economical).

HARISSA!  I LOAD up on this when I’m in France because it’s dirt cheap–I can get two tubes for about one euro!  Here is like four bucks a tube.  If you can’t find it, don’t worry–the chili will be fine! This is just my secret ingredient that is no longer a secret!  

Brown the meat in the same pan that the onions, etc. were cooked in.  When browned, drain the grease of the meat.  Then put the meat into the crock pot.

Open the cans of the Rotel tomatoes and pour contents into the crock pot.  Add the kidney beans—bean liquor and all.  Give it all a good stir.

Add the cumin (I add a lot!) and chili powder, salt and pepper.   Cook it all in the crock pot for a few hours on low.

Serve over rice topped with sour cream and fresh cilantro.

I can tell you this much—this chili has a ton of heat from the habanero’s and the jalapenos.  If you like a milder chili, get the regular Rotel tomatoes.

And that’s about it!  Hope you like the recipes and I hope you are enjoying this calm weekend before the Holiday Storm!

In homage to my outfit today, I give you…James Brown from the movie “Ski Party”!!! Part of the entertainment of this clip is watching the extreme lack of rhythm that white people have–watch the clapping!

 

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