Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Small Gifts

The older I get, the less I like a lot of gifts flying around at Christmas time. I like to know that people I care about are using their money for things important to living a life - especially my children, and my aging mother, and even my siblings. I don't need much from them. I like their "presence."

But we are brought up believing Christmas is heavily laden with gift -giving and if you see a spot on TV about shopping on Black Friday, shoppers putting up tents in front of Best Buy three days early, Target opening its doors on Thanksgiving and maniacs trampling fellow shoppers at Walmart to get through the doors at 4 a.m. when they open, you would think we are a culture of vultures, inhumane and materialist pigs and that gift-giving is a competitive sport.

But there are ways around that. Think small!

I can mostly buy myself what I want. So something as fantastic as the perfect French pepper grinder from my mother for my birthday is just the bomb as my kiddos would say. I think of her every single time I grind pepper and appreciate the very best grind of pepper I've ever known!

The French Perfex pepper grinder.
Grinds perfect pepper!
And it makes for a tongue twister, too!

Another favorite gift is paper. Cards, journals, writing paper. Who can't use that!? Just tonight, Lee and I needed to write a thank you to someone who took us to dinner in New York last week. Well, I have my own beautiful letter press cards, but it wasn't quite right to use that if the note was from Lee, too. So it was wonderful to remember the very cool cards I bought in Paris, a set I found in a small paper shop near the river, designed and made by the owner. They are his ink drawings of bugs. I just fell in love with them.

And as it is crazy making to get OUT to shop these days, you can buy some of the most wonderfully edited selection of papers, cards and writing materials from my friends Nick and Wendy Brown at Brown Ink without ever leaving your home! And prices so very affordable for the quality of the product.

Here are some of their goodies that are on my wish list. Find more on their beautifully designed website, here. Go to STORE, but only after reading Wendy and Nick's thoughtful posts.


Place cards that could work with any table - natural linens with white plates
or damask and gold-rimmed place settings.

Thinking Lee's grandson, Miles, needs this!

Happy making holiday card for people on the go.

I'm partial to anything French after our trip to Paris and always have
a place for another journal.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Lee kneading his first ever bread dough.

Voila! Could be a little bit crunchier on the crust.

A rare "raw milk" cheese - we buy at the Wedge.
Very good.

On our baguette....

I've been sayin' I wanted to try to bake our own French baguette ever since I became addicted to them in France. I even said once that I wanted to try to make croissant, but then I came to my senses. If baguette takes time and patience, I can't even imagine what a croissant takes. Sainthood?

So, we had this lovely rainy day here in Minneapolis and Lee and I rolled up our sleeves and got to work making our first ever loaf of bread together.

So here's the deal as far as I can tell. The dough is easy! Yeast, water, flour and salt. That is, by law, all that can be in a French baguette and we wanted to do the "legal" baguette! So no sugar or oil for us!

It was fast and easy and I loved that my recipe didn't call for a large tool, as in mixer with a dough paddle because I don't have one. This recipe called for a fork. My kind of back to basics cooking.

So we did it. Let it rise three different times which Lee thought was pretty crazy. But I know that's just how bread is. In the end, they looked pretty good - not perfect. But pretty good. And the flavor was good, but the crust could have been more crisp and the inside could have been lighter, less dense. It was like a very good piece of fresh white bread.

Used a nice organic white flour and then water and yeast and salt...well...hard to go wrong there.

We have a hunch that we'll turn on the convection next time as the browning was a bit uneven. And we'll probably let it rise a bit more before we pop it into the oven, even though we were over the time already. Just a super dry day here in my apartment!

It was fun to do something new and quite yummy to eat it with butter running down your chin! And the whole thing was kind of sensual!

Bon apetit!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Enigma of a Chanel Jacket

No idea. No idea at all why Chanel is so mysterious and beautiful to me, but it has been so for years and years and years.

As a seamstress, fashion designer, and buyer for a couple of very good women's clothing shops when I was in my twenties, just out of college with a degree in Textiles and Clothing Design, I KNOW sewing and design and nothing makes my heart sing quite like seeing talented, passionate drapers (the ones who make the patterns out of muslin) and seamstresses at work.

Here's a short little video of the making of a black Chanel jacket. Artists at work.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Over wine conversation...

Lee and I were just discussing the French. It is our first time in France. He was admittedly biased against them. Why? He's old! Who knows? He thought he was mostly doing the trip for me.

But, we both fervently agree, after almost two weeks here, the French are fantastic! They are friendly, accommodating, patient, and really do know how to live, eat, dress and design beautiful buildings.

Besides, most of them know how to speak English (and I can't even imagine the other languages many of them speak) which is more than we can begin to say in the US.

So, we are fans of the French! And forget any concern you have of going to France and thinking they are rude. They are not rude! They are magnificent!

You will need to know about 10 phrases and you will be perfect! So look them up and learn them, but more important, use them!

Hello, Good Day, Good Morning, Good Afternoon.
Good Evening.
Thank you
I would like....
The numbers one through ten is good to know, so you can say...

"I would like two croissants." :-)

Check, please.
How much, please?
I would like to make a reservation for two at eight.
Wonderful! Delicious! Incredible!

That's about it.

Thank you, France, for being so liquid, romantic, and mesmerizing.

Maison de Granit - Treguier, France - Brittany Coast

As if a week in Paris isn't good enough, we took a gamble (but not much of one) on spending a week in Treguier, France - straight west of Paris on a river just off the English Channel - a 3.5 hour bullet train ride from Paris, then about 50 minutes by car. The area is known for its agriculture, buckwheat crepes, oysters (biggest oyster beds in the world), mussels, scallops, butter and sea salt. How good a combination is that?

The reason it wasn't much of a gamble is that Lucia Watson (of Lucia's Restaurant, Minneapolis) owns the place with a friend (who apparently lives in Santa Fe most of the year.) I thought it was a good bet that the place would be cool and have a good kitchen. We were right on both counts. I had read about Lucia's place in the Star Tribune a year or so ago and remembered it when it was time to book our trip.

So for two days I've been so overcome by a kind of inertia, that I haven't even been able to write. It is good inertia. After run, run, run in life, then run, run, run in Paris. Time to slow it down.

Here are some images - with a sample of our daily schedule below the images. :-)

A home up the hill from us.

One of those cute doorways.
Our street. Lucia's home is the home with periwinkle trim.
Look at the farmland beyond!
Another happy window.

The marina down the hill.

The country side where we run.

Local creperie.

View out the back kitehen window at Lucia's - sitting at breakfast table.

So, here is a sample of our day in Brittany:

              Get up at 9:00
              Make coffee and drink it in the Living Room on big overstuffed sofas.
              Walk up the hill to the boulangerie and buy croissants - eat them.
              Yesterday we went for a run along the river out to the farmland. Heaven for an Iowa
                           farm girl.
              Bathe in a short funny tub with a kind of bench built in and hand sprayer.    
              Figure out what will and won't be open so that we can manage food. (It was a holiday the
                          second day we were here and you couldn't begin to see any sense in what was and
                          wasn't open. Like the big market was closed, but a little local fish market was open.
                          While the one next to it was closed. Then they were all closed by two. Then a few
                          opened again later.)
               Make a fire and read. (Though I spent too much time doing emails the last two days. So now                             I've shut it off.)
               Maybe go out for a walk.
               Read more. Stoke the fire.
               Walk to the antique shop where I found a nice old linen bed cover.
               Open the wine. Light the candles. Start dinner.
               Eat. Talk. Sit by fire. NO TV IN HOME!  YIPPEEEEEEEEEEE!
               Bed at 9:00. I read for 2 hours. Lee falls asleep.

Seriously. Major chill.