Friday, December 31, 2010

Scenes and Sentiments from the Holidays

I'm happy that the holidays are almost done. I adore my family - especially loved having my youngins at home, sleeping on sofas, asking me if I can read over their applications for next year's job, laughing, laughing, laughing at how snippy we can sometimes be with each other. Then there was Christmas Eve at Tom and Kelly's new home - the inauguration of their dream - they were the most wonderful hosts and the house just rocks for a party! There will be more. But, my introverted Self began to throw a little tantrum on Saturday last - "I need to be alone," it said. I need my reflection, purging, quiet time at the end and beginning of years.

So, as I look back on 2010 - there is much I want to forget. And much that has changed me. And much gratitude for my clients and my work this year - which saved me on more than one occasion. And much to look forward to. For happy, healthy children. For love and work.

As Freud said, "Love and work. Work and love. That's all there is." That's what I'm thinking about as the year draws to a close. Both mean the world to me.

What are you thinking about???

Happy New Year, friends. Cheers.


Holly, Izzy and me - cookin' with gas! (Actually with a Wolf - at my brother's)


Christmas Eve Dinner - tenderloin with blue cheese, potatoes gratin with gruyere, curried orange-glazed carrots, broccoli with pine nuts and lemon. Yummmm....how lucky are we?


Decanter Lee gave me for Christmas - to improve my vino experience. Like I need that :-)

Grilled cheese Izzy spontaneously made for lunch today for a group of 7 friends, Lee, and me. That girl can cook!


The Greek salad that accompanied the grilled cheese.


Lee making my Christmas card (but I didn't know that at the time.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Appreciation


Zan with his 6th grade class in Houston, Texas

My son, Alexander (aka Zan,) is home for the holidays. I have not had a day, an evening, an hour alone with him for over 1 1/2 years. Maybe longer. So long, I have blocked it from memory. So, this is bliss.

Zan is now 24, living in Houston, Texas teaching 6th grade math to under-served Mexican immigrant children in a public school with Teach for America. He has a Business, Economics, and Public Policy degree from George Washington University in D.C. I thought the kid was headed for corporate law and he ends up caring about 13-year old Mexican immigrants and now is applying at schools in NYC and D.C. (He can't take owning a car, which is required in Houston) to teach more under-served kids. (I think "under-served" is the new way to say "under-privileged.")

It makes me want to weep. I appreciate him so much for his compassionate choice. But, then, he's always been the sweetest kid.

He comes home on Sunday night - hangs out here with me eating chili that isn't even that good- and he's not feeling great - fighting a bug - he gets up on Monday morning to work with me ALL DAY installing a client's home. He is schlepping boxes, putting together furniture, breaking down cardboard boxes, running errands, and generally doing whatever I ask. No complaints.

"I'm so happy I get to pay you instead of someone else," I say.

"You don't have to pay me, Mom."

"Yes, I do. You'll earn it." He did.

Later that night, bone tired from the day and still fighting the flu, we sat together on the sofa in the library / tv room of our apartment - just Zan and me. (Lee was in Boulder this week visiting his family.) He said, "Mom, this is a really comfortable apartment."

Could you have paid me a better compliment? Making a home for the people we love is the point of my work. If they love it, feel at home, feel easy, we've done our job.

And to be appreciated on top of that .... is "golden," as Zan would say. "Golden."

Zan and I have a mutual appreciation society. And nothing could make me happier.

Happy Holidays - and keep looking for those things to appreciate in the people around you.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Keeping it Simple by Accident




Really, it's not on purpose that it is simple. It's that I have way too much on my TO DO list this week. I got the last "Natural Balsam" at Bachman's - poor straggly thing, but it was 40% off and I could see it needed adopting. Then, I bought new strings of Christmas lights at Target because I couldn't bear to dig through my storage room knee deep in Izzy's boxes to find the torn grocery bag of lights, untangle them and then realize that I am missing that one link - the single light bulb - so none of them work. I am not putting decorations on this year.

I had planned to buy brown kraft paper to wrap my gifts, but they were out of it at Target and the next thing I saw was plain white in the wedding gift wrap section and that seemed okay, so I bought it. It took me about 2 seconds to make that decision.

Now that my little Charlie Brown tree is standing proudly in the corner of our room, scalloped with lights, and I see the plain white paper packages without even so much as raffia tying it up, which I thought I would need, but don't....this makes me happy. Very happy to be simple and without so much as trying.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

City of Minneapolis really sucks at snow removal

Okay - yesterday was bliss - today it is not so fun. We just discovered a ticket on our car - like I wanted to leave it parked on the wrong side of the street? Would they have preferred I leave it in the middle where it was originally stuck for an hour?

I am not talking about a minor amount of snow on Russell avenue south. My brother came by today to pick something up and GOT STUCK for 45 minutes in a 4-wheel drive SUV! Sadly, I have a Mazda hatchback. I am not match for a 17" snow.

The "F-bomb" is flyin'.

But, really, how is it that Edina can plow it's streets (as I said yesterday...like a bikini wax) and Minneapolis can not? How can NYC remove snow so heroically and Minneapolis can not? How, really? If it was the first time, I'd go easy. But I know how bad it was last year with the ruts - my friend plummeted into a parked car because of them. This is just embarrassing. So don't tell me mr mayor it was the quantity of snow. We suck at snow removal. Period.

Even the mayor said there was amnesty this first day or so. Guess the asshole who gave me a ticket hadn't heard that. So now, I have a ticket and cannot get out without hiring it done. Which is all fine - I had planned to do that tomorrow morning. Couldn't they just have given us one more day of vacation from reality? I'm not impressed and I'm a good Democrat.

BREAKING NEWS!

Lee just told me.....my transmission is gone and I have to replace it because of the fricking snow I got stuck in yesterday.

Now, I need to find a way to relax before I blow a gasket like I blew out my transmission. I said, "How can you and I have had such a great day and now I am so crabby about this?"

He responded, "Hey, I'd rather that you and I have a great day - and a car problem...than no car problems with you and I having a terrible day."

Okay. Feel better.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

From Bliss Out to Bliss-ard!


The nice people who helped us dig out.


A scene in Edina this morning after shopping at Lunds.

Wowser. Blizzard of the century - so far. And who is the party planner with such a feel for timing? It starts on a Friday night and lasts a full 24 hours through a Saturday. Who really has to do anything on a Saturday? I mean really? The only thing I could think of I said to Lee, "I"m glad I'm not going into labor today."

So it was another great Saturday - I couldn't get out of my new J.Crew pj's - shown here. Thank god the hubby likes them. They seem anything but sexy to me - but he thinks they are cute, I guess. Whew. (BTW - this is not me - :-)



So, the fire inside and the blizzard outside were mesmerizing. I did find the energy to whip up 3 pillows for my brother (Kelly) and his partner (Tom's) new place. So I got to cross one thing off my OCD list of things I have to do this weekend. They are really great, btw - of antique Indonesian fabrics from INDIGO in the Minneapolis warehouse district. Here's a shot from their website. Just yummy accessories. Tom and i went shopping there yesterday. You have to use your very best Sherlock Holmes eye or it all looks the same, but if you shift your focus to just what you might need, it pops out at you. In the end, we kept every single thing we found and we felt as if we had gone on a little archeological dig.


Indigo - downtown warehouse district in Minneapolis - great accessories!

After the morning cappucino by the fire, Lee had the idea we should go out and play in the snow. He actually used that word "play". (We are 57 and 59.) We thought we might walk to Lunds since driving looked moderately treacherous. Hey, we've spent our time in NY. We know that "hunting and gathering" scene. So, off we went - trudging through 18" deep snow. I insisted on a stop - 1/2 way - at Dunn Bros coffee to re-assess the sanity of this trek. We were only 1/4 of the way of the whole trip and not feeling particularly Will Stieger-ish at the time. Maybe if we had had our sled and dog with us. Maybe if we even had better boots. So we walked back, got into our car and headed out to Lunds. It was not a pretty site -swerving back and forth in the ruts, praying for green lights - all in Minneapolis - then...we had a startling experience!

Edina rocks at plowing streets. The difference once you crossed France Avenue was so staggering. It was like they had bikini-waxed their streets while Minneapolis's roads were piled with snow. What is that? And the plows in Edina - they were, like, major machismo. Get out of their way. But, you kind of did because you felt so grateful anyone was actually making your life easier. On our way home we crossed France back into the no-man's land of Minneapolis and, the minute we turned onto our street, became boldly stuck in the snow that had accumulated for the past 15 hours and not been touched. For 45 minutes, we pushed, we ground the gears, we burned rubber, we froze, we sweated, we swore, and we got a great workout. Eventually, a darling, vibrant, young couple came by and offered to help push as Lee backed the car into the nearest parking spot - 3/4 of a block from our home. There was no getting down the street and trudged home, fingers numb, hair frozen looking like Medusa's.

But, what the heck - we got a nice tenderloin, gin, some chocolate and we are stocked with coffee and milk. All good here. Fires all day. And all I've done is veg out on the sofa. Lee, too. He didn't write a sentence today. We cuddled under the down comforter, walked to the window to exclaim something dim-witted about the storm and put on another log. The BLISS-ARD of 2010.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bliss Out

"I am reminded of Jung's words to the effect that if you feel yourself falling, then the only safety lies in deliberately jumping."

Helen Luke, Dark Wood to White Rose, speaking of Dante's entrance to Hell in Divine Comedy



This has really been one of those days that just shoots me right off my bliss-meter. It included sleeping until I woke up without an alarm, cappucino, a great shower with desperately needed hair removal, Santa Maria Novella body oils, a 30-minute conference call with a new client that resulted in great decision-making, a perfectly reconciled bank account, breakfast out with my husband at Edina Grill in the snowy landscape- jam-packed with cute stocking-capped men and plenty of blonde, down-wrapped women, a little nap, a little love, reading about Dante's Divine Comedy from a Jungian perspective around a blazing fire, dinner of salmon and spinach. I swear...I feel like I am at a spa.

We are reading a book by Helen Luke (1904- 1995) a marvelous Jungian analyst and mentor to Lee, she is an inspiration to me - a woman who found a new path in the middle of life and was a prolific writer and analyst into old age. (In fact, many of her writings are about aging.) The book is a Jungian interpretation of Dante's Divine Comedy. Well, I've never read Divine Comedy, but here's the kicker:

On Thursday, I was at H & B Gallery, a very nice antique store in South Minneapolis - it is always hit or miss, but I often find a few hits - just great accessories and smaller furnishings for my clients. On this particular trip, I had lots of "hits." One thing I did not buy, but rather wanted and took a photo of was a three-volume set of Dante's Commedia Divina. Here it is:



I passed because of the price. I thought it was very cool; both Lee and I love books and I was interested, but wanted to sleep on it. Then, the next day, I mentioned it to Lee. He said, "Wow. Well, I have to tell you about a book I bought for us to read together. I bought Helen Luke's book on Divine Comedy - Dark Wood to White Rose." It arrived that day.

"Well, that seems pretty synchronistic, don't you think? I almost bought Divine Comedy today and you bought a book about it yesterday for us? What is that about?" I'm going back tomorrow to buy it.

We don't have an answer to this but the whole thing has that lovely serendipity about it, a rolling around in rose petals kind of magic. The book is amazing, btw. Amazing in a "wow - turn down the corner of the page" kind of way. We're still digesting,but I start the post with one of the quotes.

Hope on this snowy wintry weekend you have some moments of bliss too - what are yours????

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Happy 100th Birthday, Grandma Fern - and quite an insight


My grandmother, Fern Johnson's high school graduation picture. 1928.


Grandma Fern today, on her 100th birthday, with her great-grandaughter, Molly (my neice.)


...with her best friend of 70 years. They used to go dancing together. Today, Maxine still does ballroom dancing once a week.


Grandma Fern's 8th grade graduation dress - hand made by her Aunt Olive of silk.


A dancing dress - circa 1940's. I'm going to squeeze into this thing for New Year's if I have to starve myself to do it! (Kidding!)


This morning we headed south for Des Moines, Iowa to celebrate my grandmother's 100th birthday. She's the true free spirit, single since she was 21 in 1931, when my mother's father essentially deserted them both (or some version of desertion, it seems.) She is happy - just a happy, happy person asking little from others and believing that as you sow, you reap - especially when it comes to your thoughts. Today I saw a book in her 350 square foot apartment called "Think Well, Live Well."

Well, something has worked for her.

Today, as I knelt beside the chair she sat in, her body shriveled to something like 90 pounds, but still spry as long as she has her walker, I showed her my iphone with a photo on it that I had just taken of her.

"I'm going to send this picture to Isabelle right now - she's in Wisconsin. Did you ever imagine anything like this a hundred years ago?"

"Oh, my...no. I couldn't have imagined all the new things I've seen," she said.

"What do you think has been the most important?" I asked her.

"Electricity," she said without skipping a beat.
Then, she leaned in toward me and said, "But, privately, I think it was Kotex. I remember what it was like before Kotex. It was a big step forward."

You could have knocked me over. What an incredible insight! Ladies, have you ever found yourself without your preferred essential personal care product when you need it? Can you imagine what it would be like to live without it? It may not quite be as limiting as bound feet, but it certainly would have restricted women's freedom.

I recall hearing once that the reason that, in the past, women could not be priests was because of the bleeding. We could not be in the the chancel, the sacred part of the church which represented heaven - where the priest stands to break the bread and pour the wine - because it would have been unclean and disrespectful. I have no idea if this is true, but I can imagine it to be after my eye-popping conversation with my grandmother.

It was a tender event. My father didn't join us because he is quite ill; my sister, Holly stayed home with him to care for him. It must be topsy-turvy for my grandmother, at 100, to know that the son-in-law she has known and, I think, loved for 60 years may pass from this life before she does.

As with most of our family events, we laughed. We ate. We drank. Lee gave a scintillating lecture to our travel mates (Tom, Kelly and my mom)on the ride down about Freud, Jung, and dreams. We discussed God and our personal relationship to and with religion. The whole day was a keeper of a memory.

And then...you start to think about 1910, the era before women had the right to vote, were considered property for all practical purposes...and didn't have Kotex. We've come a long way, baby.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Doc? Is that you?







I found this Doc Shop in SoHo last week. What do you think??? What is the cut off age for wearing these? Like, no way after you are ..... fill in the blank....

Sunday, October 31, 2010

No Plan B


Green sauce for the lamb.


Anna's salad.

Philosophy over dinner. I love this.

Lee and I had dinner at Anna's the other night. Now, Anna works a full time job in New York at Holly Hunt. She is my from-some-previous-life-soul-mate. And the girl can cook. She is also my go to for opinions on taste - when I have that little question in my head.

So, we go to her charming West Village apartment for - get this - after a full day of work - grilled lamb with green sauce (which was an amazing hand ground pesto), arugula, pear and proscuiutto salad and = double get this = homemade pumpkin bread pudding.

Well, it was divine. But the coolest part of the night was a conversation we had about a training she had attended at Holly Hunt. The message was...."There is no Plan B."

The sub-text: Make Plan A work.

This is just uber cool. This rocks as a way to live life. This means you become very very intuitive, sensitive, focused and agile.

This is it for me. Since we all make up our lives anyway - at least once we have left the home of our parents - why not make it up the way you want? If I am certain of anything at 57, I am certain that we make this all up.

Examples: I want a job in marketing. Okay...what do you do to get one? I want an apartment in NYC. Okay, what do we have to do to keep it? I want to go back to college. Okay, how does that happen?

Dreams can take time and work and paying your dues. But everything does, so we might as well just go with Plan A. (With this one minor caveat....as long as the plans are in our hands.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Year of the EQUIPMENT SHIRT


From Bergdorf Goodman - online: www.bergdorfgoodman.com


From Bergdorf's - see above.


This one is not one I purchased but found this yummy color on Net-a-Porter.
www.netaporter.com.




It's official. The Equipment Silk Shirt has finally replaced the DKNY black long sleeved t-shirt as my new uniform. (Before that it was the J.Crew long-sleeved basic T - in black, of course.)

Not only is this a new fabric - it is silk, instead of cotton - I am buying it in colors!
It is also a new shape.

Whew! Even my own mother got really sick of seeing me in those T-shirts every time she saw me.

Of course, now that I have five (yes, 5) of the Equipment shirts, she may get sick of that, too. But, the hubby likes them. Like, he just complimented me in my new ivory silk one. I think he forgot that he complimented me yesterday in the black one and the day before that in the green one. And he really liked the navy charmeuse one. Or he liked the way it felt. Wink. Wink.

It's a good thing. I needed a change. And I'm doing my best to emulate Diane Sawyer's fashion look when I need to look grown up. I don't love to shop. So, when I find something that works, I buy in multiples. Ask DKNY and J. Crew.

It hides a multitude of sins (like too much triple cream brie.)

Note: If you decide to buy one - they run a bit small.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Textiles 101


Indian towels from Canvas Home - www.canvashomestore.com - part of the Ochre group!


Restoration Hardware Turkish Towels. Really. From Turkey. I get mine on Wednesday. I'll let you know what I think.


Striped alpaca throws from Canvas Home - www.canvashomestore.com


Restoration Hardware Belgian Linen Sheets - I send EVERY client to buy them. Amazingly old world and sensual.

I was a Textiles and Clothing major in college. I have loved fabrics since I was eight years old. I loved the scraps from the sewing my mother did. I made doll clothes out of it.

Lee and I have kept our New York apartment by the skin of our teeth. (But, then, it does seem the stars align when the two of us are simpatico.) We have kept it by renting it to people who want to visit New York and not stay in a hotel. We had a gregarious woman from Australia who stayed a month, a couple from France, a couple from London, soon a couple from Rome and upcoming, a couple from Santa Monica. And we are here for a couple of weeks - to RELAX! and find inspiration (for me) to RESEARCH and WRITE (Lee). While we are here, I have to tweak this little B&B we seem to be running. (well, there is a Bed, but no Breakfast unless they run to EAT for the croissants.)

What I have noticed since I returned is this:

The place is in perfectly fine shape except for the need for more....TEXTILES! I have purchased two sets of Restoration Hardware Belgian Linen sheets, a second down comforter, a cotton blanket, 4 new Turkish towels and a bath mat. Tomorrow I am going to purchase an Indian hand towel and an alpaca throw for the daybed. I am a nutty textiles maniac.

There is little more important to me than a perfectly made bed. We had this darling French couple here in the apartment a couple of weeks ago. After they had been there for a few days, Andre, the husband emailed me:

Alecia,

Evelyne would like to buy sheets and pillowslip same as the one
you have, they are really confortable. Do you know where we could find
similar and if there is any reference.

Best regards

Andre

Well, you could hardly have told me anything more complimentary! That my child was brilliant! Okay, fine. But, I am very excited if you like the way I make a bed!

So, I am driven, compulsive, obsessed with getting the textiles right in this apartment - both for me and for our guests. This makes me realize that TEXTILES make a home COMFORTABLE. The throw that is on the chair to wrap up in when it is slightly chilly, the linen sheets, the down pillow and carefully chosen down comforter on top of you, the rich towels and bath mat, the linen hand towel. It is luxury. It is such a little thing - (and, oh, so rather expensive) but worth it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Michelangelo Buonarroti di Simone - my new book!


The David's tush - in Piazza della Signoria (The REAL David's tush is in the Accademia. This is a copy - but the original used to be in this spot. I say, no matter where it is...it is a nice tush.)


Florence, Italy - home to Michelangelo Buonarotti di Simone


The inspired. Brunelleschi's Il Duomo and Giotto's Bell Tower


Piazza della Signoria, Florence. Lunch time.

I haven't had a good book for six months. This is not like me. I am a 4 book a month kind of gal, but I just lost my juice this past Spring - the Lee work stuff, the "are we really leaving New York" question (we didn't btw), the Izzy heart problems (which have resolved themselves), the living again with Lee stuff. Just stuff and I couldn't find a book in which to escape when I most needed it.

But, this past week I heard about Young Michelangelo by John T. Spikes on NPR and I was compelled to buy it immediately. I got it just in time for this trip and I am enthralled. It reminds me of sitting in an Art History class with a really great professor. It is a bit academic, but incredibly interesting. And because it is about Florence (so far) the places and people are familiar - something I have heard about before when Lee and I took the Renaissance Art History class in Florence in 2006. But, somehow, my brain is latching on to it this time - reading it. So, it is so much fun to noodle with Lee about it. IF you like biographies and history and art, it is really fantastic. The author is known for his book on Carravagio (which is next on my read list based on this one.) I'll fill you in on what I've learned that sticks in my next post. As Lee and I are planning a trip to Italy next Spring, I feel like it is getting me in shape for the trip. It is just yummy to have my brain working in the world of words.

Speaking of words, I am just carrying on and meandering...something like the streets of Florence. Ciao.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fall Fantasy - Warm Days in Minnesota and Sibling Rivalry


Lee lost on top of Eagle's Peak.


View from Eagle's Peak.


My Fiorentini and Baker boots worked well for hiking. :-) Love these boots!


The pool house at the Lake of the Dalles. So vintage and sweet.

This never happens here. Languishing at table over lunch at Lucia's - outside in the sun - on October 10. But it happened this week - since the beginning of the month, we've had what I call "Santa Monica days" = 72 - 76 degrees and sunny. Perfection.

It inspired Lee and me to do a "color drive" yesterday. It seems a little Midwestern ma and pa to me, but hey, I guess that is what we are. I didn't have an Oldsmobile, though. I had my Mazda.

We don't, however, think ahead - like pack a blanket for napping in the sun, or take water or my camera. All I did was pack a couple of apples in my handbag in case Lee's glucose levels dropped (have I mentioned he's diabetic?) That's it. He's not a planner that way. He's more, "Let's just go and stop talking about it."

So we drove to Taylor's Falls, MN up Hwy 95 in Minnesota, then headed across the St. Croix to Hwy 35 in Wisconsin to Interstate Park and the Lake of the Dalles. It is so incredibly lovely and quiet and park-y. So un-Manhattan. Or un-Minneapolis. So nature-filled. Really calming and beautiful.

Well, here's the quick story. Lee reminded me of his oldest brother, Don, and his wife, Gail, who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for Gail's 65th birthday a couple of years ago. (And, Don is older than Gail, but we won't be specific.) This is impressive! They live in Colorado and have been climbers for years, talking about "14-ers" and things that make me go all woosy. A 14-er is a 14,000 foot mountain. That is almost 3 miles up. Well, please, I thought I was something special living on a 4th floor walk-up in NY!

So, anyway, we are duly impressed - or depressed - I'm not sure which - especially given that we are 10 (ten!) years younger. They talked about how they literally had to think about turning over in the tent at night - it took so much energy- they had to decide if it was worth it. And Don thought at some point, he had acute pneumonia at a certain altitude - and may be the end of his days.

Well, we knew we wanted to hike up to Eagle's Peak at Interstate Park. I can't even say "climb" up to Eagle's Peak. It is just a hike - and it is .8 mile. It is not a big deal. We did fine - got to Eagle's Peak - relived our romantic past there and decided to head back. Well, we went the wrong way and within moments, realized we couldn't find the path back down. We tried this way and that, with no luck. Then we decided to go back to the top - and start over. Obviously , we got ourselves there - surely we could find our way back.

As we stood on the top of the rock, another hiker auspiciously came up from the path. We felt like this was our lucky, lucky day - the gods had sent us just what we needed! We acted like we knew exactly what we were doing - headed toward the path from which the hiker arrived as we said "Hello." He said, "That's the way down, you know."

We said, "Yeah, that's what we want." Wink, wink.

Whew! We were totally lost at Interstate Park on Eagle Peak - only .8 mile from civilization. All I could think of was either...."I want my mommy" or "I want New York, where I know my way around."

It was made very clear. We should never ever attempt Mount Kilimanjaro. Don and Gail, you will always be way cooler than we are. Seriously. What you did is immensely impressive.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Speaking of Italian...


(from the Sartorialist website)

I've been watching the Milan fashion shows. ai yi yi. I feel like I'm reverting to my twenties-something self when I was all about fashion (like, it was my career.) This isn't supposed to be happening in mid-life. You are supposed to be developing the soul. (Okay I kind of was into that from 40 - 56.) Now, I'm back to developing my closet. Whatever...here is my favorite from Milan. Dolce and Gabbana. Sexy, strong - what age couldn't wear this? You could be 20 or 60.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dreaming Italian


A charming Milanese - love the sox! (from Sartorialist 9/24/10)


Miuccia Prada (from Sartorialist) after her recent show in Milan


Lee is viscerally sensing the change of seasons - this is not a pleasant thing for a melancholic. He noted tonight that Santa Monica has 3 extra minutes of sunlight in the evening than we do. THREE F...ing MINUTES! He's counting 3 minutes and making it a significant thing. It's a bummer and why he lived in LA for 3 years.

Don't get me wrong. Although I love Minnesota most of the year, you don't want to be around me in March - I despise it. I loathe it. I actually even loathe April. I lived in Charleston South Carolina for eight years and March and April in Charleston is something like heaven on this earth. it is jasmine and camelia and azalea, bursting like fireworks. It is soothingly moist and warm and something akin to new life, to birth. It is the opposite of Minnesota with its gray melting hills of ice, sloppy puddles and salt stained cars, coats and ruined shoes, soot-colored trees and chalky skies. And, did I mention the dampness that chills to the bone.

Could I be more clear? I HATE March and April in Minneapolis.

But....I don't anticipate my hatred. I can remember it, but I don't feel it before it comes. Lee feels it COMING. Before it arrives, he feels it. I don't.

So, as a woman who loves her man, I am workin' it to find a way out this winter and spring. Thinking LA in January and Rome in March. I've never been to Rome. And isn't that where all roads lead? How could I have missed it? I'm 57. Thinking we'll leave on his 60th birthday on March 14.

Keep you posted. For now...here's a little Italian inspiration. How good is this?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Change is in the Air


Ilse Crawford Project in Stockholm. Look at this wall!


Ilse Crawford project, above.


I have that back to school thing going - that sense that I need a change of wardrobe, of looks (thankfully NOT of husbands!)of the food I eat. A cleaning of the closets and shelves bulging with catalogs I no longer use for my business

I had our apartment in Minneapolis painted this week and it is so glorious - so fresh and calm; it was a long time coming. that change feels really good. I'm into this painting style right now that I really first saw in Ilse Crawford's projects (www.studioilse.com) - painting the trim / casings / baseboards the same color as the walls. I love how calm it is and sort of old world. So that is what I did in our apartment. Painted the trim and walls the same Ben Moore color (Ben Moore 1555 - Winter Orchard.) Now, Lee loves it, but I can't possibly fess up to the name of the color. He gets very blue in this winter climate (thus a 3 year stint in Santa Monica!) and if I told him he was living in a color called Winter Orchard....well, I don't want to imagine it. I guess I could tell him it is called Spring Lilacs - his favorite thing in the whole world next to his grandson and possibly moi.

I'm doing the same thing for two design projects right now....I think it is really great. Now...on to the next change.....


Carine - can we pull that off here in America in our mid- late 50's??? She is 56.





More about changes....I want to change my look - so here is my inspiration -Carine Roitfeld - French - editor of French Vogue and only one year younger than me! Thinking I like her simple, even slightly stringy hair. I have this fine hair, too. What do you think of her look? How do French women look so chic? She is clearly channeling the '70s with the kohl eyes and this hair (or she just stayed out too late last night) but it so works on her. Anna Wintour, the American Vogue editor known for her incredible style and bitchy ways, seems a little stiff by comparison. What do you think?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I am not French


Clancey's Meats and Fish in Linden Hills


The BB during preparation.


On the plate....please pass the parmagianno reggiano.



Feeling inspired by the cooler autumnal weather and guilty about not cooking one meal in the last week AND missing the experience of cooking, honestly (it relaxes me if it is not mandated by a family, but rather motivated by my own interest) I decided to cook my very first Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon. What could be better, I wondered, for a husband who is basically a cave man eater - meat, meat, meat. (Okay, he likes my fish, too, but he's a protein machine.) And, how romantic! Lingering in the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon with wine - some of which makes it into the casserole - some in my mouth? I love learning new things, so this must be a good idea. Besides, I've been so nutty busy at work that something which requires a whole other side of me seems healthy!

So, on Saturday, Lee and I go to Clancey's in Linden Hills for the cubed chuck from the Thousand Hills Farms (grass fed beed and local.) I waiver between chuck and round because I barely know beans about meat. I haven't eaten much of it for 30 years. I'm not a veggie, but just don't need it so when I was alone, I just never ate it - only when I was with Lee. Then...I can love a piece of lamb or a great tenderloin, perfectly cooked. I buy the cheap red wine it recommends. I buy the veggies.

Today, I go back to Clancey's Meats and Fish for the beef broth - which was just being made yesterday when I was there. Trip two for the perfect broth.

At 3:00 p.m. I started making the BB. I was enjoying myself - I hadn't made anything new for over a year, I swear - just my old standbys. I enjoyed being engaged and not thinking of the emails I needed to return, just being away from my desk! By 4:00 or so, it was in the oven. By 7:00 it was out and I was thickening the sauce and Lee was off to Broder's to pick up the freshest of the baguettes. I dressed a simple mixed greens salad, heated the bread and served the plates.

I took a few bites.

All I could think of was my mom's Sunday roast beef dinners. Her dinners were fine, but I am not such a fan of meat that I want that "woodsy" meat taste (mushrooms, red wine, onions, long roasting.) I didn't like the cut of the meat. I didn't like the "dirty" taste. I wanted to top it off with parmeggiano reggiano! I wanted some tomato. I don't like bay. i don't like thyme, even. What was there to like about this dish????

I realized i don't like those saucy dishes - especially saucy meat dishes. Just give me a good leg of lamb on a grill with a little oil, rosemary and pepper. I don't need it to stew with 30 other things. I told Lee, "I'm Italian. I'm not French. This doesn't do it for me. I ate three bites and set it aside while I inhaled the bread and butter.

"Good," he said. "Better for me. It was a little heavy. Reminded me of my mom's pot roasts."

For the cost of this stupid meal,it should not remind someone of a Sunday potroast from 1958, but in the age of Mad Men, we thought maybe it was just the right thing - just about the time Julia made it famous. However, I'm much more interested in all things Italian, in pasta, in a Bistecca Fiorentina (just a delicious organic slab of beef on a grill with a little olive oil, salt and pepper) - all with more time for other things and less clean up.

Sorry, Julia. You rock, but I'm not into Beouf Bourguignon.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Spinich Lasagne




On Friday night, I had my three designing women and one man friends for dinner. I hadn't had a dinner party for more than 2 for so long (and then the two are our closest friends.) My dining chairs were shredded from years of use - the horsehair stuffing poking your legs. My bedroom was a joke since we moved furniture to new york - just a mattress on the floor on an old Chinese rug like a hippie flophouse. So, nothing like a party to make you pull it together. I had some orange velvet fabric sitting around and got the chairs recovered. Got a frame for the bed so it looks like grown ups sleep there and got 2 side tables from Room & Board ($179 each! http://www.roomandboard.com/rnb/product/detail.do?productGroup=3194&catalog=filter&menuCatalog=room&menuSubcategory=201154)





I added some nicer bedding from Restoration Hardware (their linen collection is just great!) So, I finally felt good about having guests and sat at the table for dinner (instead of around the coffee table) for the first time in about 3 years. It was a lovely evening with oodles of laughter - provided primarily by dear friend Andrew Flesher. (His comment when he walked into my kitchen....and saw the "Ivy" wallpaper..."Oh, wow...is that vintage Waverly?" Yes, it is. :-)

Here is my lasagne recipe which they asked for. Cin cin to my dear friends.


These first ingredients from Broder's Deli in Minneapolis:

3 sheets of fresh egg lasagne pasta

3 containers (pints) sugo betti (their house made red sauce)

3 containers (pints) shredded mozzarella

2 pints ricotta fresca

1 of the Broder's packages of parmaggiano reggiano

1 of the pesto if you like it added.

Then, I get from the coop

1 very large bunch of spinich or two smaller ones

Italian parsley

eggs

How to put it together:

Use a deep 9 x 13 pan.

Drain the ricotta. I used about 1.5 - 2 containers. Mash it up.
Add 3 eggs and whip it together with a wooden spoon.
Add the bag of parmesan. (about 1/2 cup)
Add some chopped parsley.
Add pepper - a bit more than usual.

Put a bit of olive oil in bottom of baking dish.
Put the first piece of pasta down - you will have to cut it to fit. But make it a little big because it will shrink slightly.
Cover it with a really thin layer of pesto if you want (a little goes a long way) or you can skip this entirely.
With a big metal spoon put the ricotta mixture in a thin layer - use about 1/3 of it.
Now layer spinch - (washed, de-stemmed and only slightly chopped - not too much)
Add one container of the sugo betti.
Add about one container of mozzarella.

Repeat 2 more times.

I add a drizzle of olive oil to the top. you can add a little pepper or parsley if you like.

COVER WITH FOIL - but make it like a tent so it does not stick to the cheese.

Put in 350 for about 1 hour 15 minutes.
Then raise the temp to 375.
Take the foil off and cook another 15 min until it looks perfectly browned.
Take it out. Turn the oven off and let the temp start to go down.

I put it back in the oven to just sit for an hour as the oven is cooling. (JUst don't leave it in when it is super hot = you don't want to burn the cheese.)

When you warm it up again, cover it with foil. Warm in 350 oven for about 20 = 30 min.

Ciao!