Family · Holiday · Home · Travel

Happy New Year!

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I love the period between Christmas and New Years.  Christmas is festive and full of family and friends, food, gifts, visits, and parties.  It is ending the year on a high note of fun and festivities and yes, endings.  When I think of the New Year, I think of new beginnings, everything clean and white and sparkling with the potential for wonderful new adventures and excitement.

In addition to seeing family and friends, I enjoy the time between Christmas and the New Year as a time to clean.  This past week, I cleaned out closets, organized and visited with friends.  We reflected on the year and made plans for the new one extending that sense of anticipation of Christmas to the potential for new things in a new year.

I’m not much for resolutions but I love to dream and plan.  The new year is like an open promise with only potential.  So for the new year, I’m working on new dreams and making plans to see those dreams become a reality.

  • Travel – Where to visit this year?  I’m thinking of the Mediterranean and Scotland.  Beaches and mountains sound balanced.  I love visiting new places and experiencing new cultures. There is nothing better than being jolted out of your comfort zone by learning something new and what better way to expand your view than travel?
  • Career – I’m looking forward to wrapping up existing projects and unleashing my creative juices on new ones.
  • Romance – I’m ready for my lost knight in shinning armor to tap into his internal GPS and find his way to me.  I’d be happy to meet him half way.  Maybe my GPS needs a tune up?
  • Friends and family – I’m looking forward to spending time with those close to me.  Sharing and creating new memories.
  • Fun – I am dreaming of a new year filled with fun.  New people, new projects, lunches, dinners, decorating, shopping, museums – well you get the picture.
  • Creativity – I have a creataive gene that needs to be exercised.  Photographs, drawing, this blog, cooking, decorating and fashion are all things that I dabble in.  I’m not certain what my new outlet for creative expression will be this year.  I’d love to take a drawing or art history class.  Hum, something to consider.
  • Exercise – Walking, hiking, Pilates, yoga, barre – okay this one sounds more like a resolution so perhaps one resolution for the new year?IMG_0044

If I have one resolution for the new year, it is to embrace your dreams!

Happy New Year!

 

 

Fashion · Travel

Shopping in Paris

IMG_9440I’m not certain if I am an Anglophile or a Francophile but I am mesmerized by Paris and London.  There is nothing like the lights of Paris or exploring the City.  I can and have spent hours and lots of steps just walking and ducking in boutique after boutique at my leisure.  December and Christmas is a wonderful time to explore.  The red flocked Christmas trees, a glass of champagne at the Ritz, or sitting at a cafe for dinner it is a perfect way to spend a few days at this time of year.

There is something serendipitous about what you will find and where you find it.  On my most recent trip I stayed at this wonderful boutique hotel in the triangle d’or.  I arrived from Atlanta to Charles De Gaule at 6 in the morning and made my way to drop off my bags.  It was snowing which added something special to the morning.  I dropped off my bags and headed to the Museum of Decorative Arts for the Christian Dior exhibit.  The exhibit was mobbed but entirely worth it. After lusting over Dior collections I made my way to a lovely cafe for the quintessential lunch of onion soup and much needed caffeine and then returned to my hotel for a nap.  Once refreshed I headed out to explore the area around the hotel and an idea of dropping by the bar at the George the V.

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The area is full of wonderful boutiques in addition to the known designers.  On my previous trip I discovered Davidor, a wonderful jeweler originally from Florida and now in Paris and Hobbs, a store with the most beautiful cashmere and leather goods.  The sweater I’d purchased previously from Hobbs remains a favorite.  Snowing again, a wonderful shop with a display of scarves and sweaters caught my eye and in I went.

Crimson (8 Rue Marbeuf or https:// http://www.crimson-cashmere.com) is a wonderful store with the most beautiful items of cashmere and lambs wool made in Scotland. Scarves, gloves, ponchos and sweaters to die for available for both men and women.  After trying on and selecting a beautiful purple cashmere sweater with the perfect twist on the classic crewneck design, I encountered this wonderful voice that simply could not have been from Paris.  The owner, Linda, is a delightful lady originally from Texas exuding this amazing sense of style.  She is as fun as her designs which are amazing.  After a delightful interlude in the store, making new friends in Paris, purchasing the sweater and gloves, sharing a gold dustedchocolate covered marshmallow, and armed with her advice regarding pickpockets, I returned to my quest for a glass of champagne at George V.  Thwarted by a full house and no room at the bar by everyone else that had the same idea and wanted out of the snow, I retraced my steps to a lovely cafe I’d seen and enjoyed a dinner of steak frites in traditional Parisian cafe style.

My trips to Paris have included other such wonderful discoveries from Dehilleran, a cookware store on steroids, to Christmas markets, pharmacies, and paper stores. A treasured souvenir carted home from Paris is a sheet of hand made paper framed in glass that hangs on my wall.  The best part of Paris is simply finding something unexpected.

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Food · Travel

Project cheese soufflé

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My last trip to New York included visits to two of my favorite French restaurants.  I’ve long loved a butter lettuce salad with a smile vinaigrette.  On that trip I had the most delicious and simple butter lettuce salad with a sherry and shallot vinegarette.  This inspired me to attempt to make my own.  Salt, pepper, sherry vinegar, good olive oil and shallots thinly diced turned into a wonderful dressing for my salad.


Next up was the soufflé challenge.  I’ve made cheddar cheese soufflés for years to varying success.  The soufflé I had for lunch at Cognac sent me back to my kitchen determined to surpass the disappointing soufflé I’d made the last time.  It should be simple, right?  Separate your eggs, whip the whites, make a cheese sauce, fold the sauce into the stiff egg whites and bake.  Nothing to it?

Well, the last soufflé I’d made seemed to separate and left a ton of sauce at the bottom of the dish.  Not what I’d intended to serve.  So inspired by my visit, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving I tried again.  This time success was in the air.  I think I’d add a bit more pepper and salt but, overall, the soufflé was a hit and tasty too!

Maybe one more experiment?  Next time, I’m going for individual souffle’ dishes for each person rather than one large to share.

Food · Gift Giving · Holiday · Travel

Christmas Markets in Prague

 

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Christmas Markets, to me, are a distinctly European thing.  For the last few years, I’ve begun my Christmas festivities with a trip to a Christmas market.  Last year I was fortunate enough to visit Prague for their markets.  What an amazing city!

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I stayed in a hotel near the Astronomical clock.  The Prague clock dates to the early 1400’s and is one of the oldest in the world.  Every hour as it chimes there is a show of figures of the apostles and other figures including death move in rotation.  The clock is beautiful and sits on a square with a wonderful market.  The street food was excellent with kabobs of chicken and peppers, cinamon and sugar spirals of dough, and these wonderful sticks of spiral sliced potatoes like chips freshly fried for your delight.  It was easy to make a meal while wandering around.  The castle grounds also held their own market.  I discovered the most beautiful blown glass at one of the booths there along with fun toys and more excellent food.

I’d not see the live animals at a Christmas market before.  I loved the stables with sheep, donkey, and cows for petting.  What a wonderful nod to the Christmas Story plus the animals were fun to pet.

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On the dessert side of things, I must mention the gingerbread and hot chocolate.  The ginger cookies were to die for but the hot chocolate was simply out of this world.  Imagine walking around the city for a couple of hours in 30 degree weather and deciding you need to warm up with a cup of something hot.  I spied Amorino’s which presented as a coffee, dessert, chocolate shop.  My hot chocolate was delicious.  It was thick to the point that a spoon could stand up by itself.  I “cut” the dense chocolate with a side serving of vanilla macaroons, also fabulous.  My cup was on the small side which was perfect as the chocolate was rich, thick, and oh so chocolatey.  Whipped creme would have been an excellent addition.  By the time I left, I was warm and full.

I wondered the streets for hours checking out local crafts and artisans.  I discovered delightful bells in the shape of Santa and beautiful glass.  From the church of St. Nicholas, to the Castle, to the Charles Bridge, to the Old Town, the city is easily walkable with something different to see on every street.

If you are in to high fashion, all the designer shops are there as well from Cartier, to Hermes, to Dior.  My favorite souvenirs were the glass balls I purchased from a vendor at the Castle market made by using a medieval process and the wooden flying plane from the Old Town market.  A few Santa bells also came home with me for friends and family.

All in all it was the perfect start to the season.  Lights, trees, concerts, and crafts.  What’s not to like?  I had such fun that I’m off to Christmas markets again, this time not in Prague but what will I find in my new markets?

 

 

 

 

 

Fashion · Food · Travel

The comfort restaurant, BG on 7

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Continuing with the theme of comfort food, do you have restaurants you return to time and time again?  I must be a creature of habit as I have favorites that I love and return to again and again.  One of those favorites is the restaurant on the seventh floor of Bergdorf Goodman in New York.  The store is a regular stop for me on any visit to the City.  I love to visit Carmen at the Chanel make up counter for a refresh on my look, there is the amazing shoe salon, and the restaurant.  Note when you have a small and narrow foot, there is no better place to visit than the second floor of BG.  This is also a favorite place to meet a friend for lunch.  What better than a cozy restaurant where you can chat, laugh and generally catch up on everything happening.

 

The restaurant on the seventh floor is conveniently located with a wonderful view overlooking Central Park.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have lunch in the prized whisper chairs and been there when it was so busy I was just happy to eat at the bar.  The service and menu are excellent.  The croque monsieur is a perennial favorite.  Who doesn’t love a toasted ham sandwich covered in a cheese bechamel sauce?  The greens that accompany the sandwich are the perfect complement to the meal.  Other repeat favorites include the tomato bisque soup, the butternut squash soup, and the lobster mac-n-cheese.  I’m usually full before I get to desert  but have indulged in a serving of cookies.  The menu also has several figure friendly options if you prefer.  One thing that I love is that the portions are such that I don’t feel bad about opting for something like the lobster man-n-cheese.

The next time you are in the City, stop by and enjoy the restaurant on 7.

 

 

 

Travel

Ljubljana

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Photo caption:  Ljubljana dragon

 

This time last year I was enjoying a week-long vacation in Slovenia.  What an amazingly beautiful country with a rich history from Rome to independence.  The country has Alps, the sea-coast, hot springs and everything in between.  A former communist country that was once part of Yugoslavia under Tito, it is this splendid secret get away.  The people were gracious and spoke English! Another plus, the trip was relatively inexpensive.

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I took Delta to Paris with a hop to Ljubljana arriving on Halloween.  If you travel at this time of year remember that All Saints Day is a national holiday and most things are closed.  Slovenia was part of the Austro Hungarian empire for hundreds of years, then part of Yugoslavia and recently wound its independence.  Located in Central Europe it is an easy drive to Venice or you can enjoy Lake Bled, a glacier lake, Postjana Cave, multiple castles or the wine making industry in Piran.  One of my favorite stops was a church in an olive grove with amazing frescos known as “Dance of the Dead”.  Incredible!

One of my tricks when traveling is to find one spot and use it as my home.  I then use trip advisor and the internet to seek out small and eco friendly tour groups.  The eco friendly groups tend to be small so that works well.  From my home base I can explore the highlights of the area and given the selection of  smaller tour companies you get individual attention.  I spent a week in Slovenia, more than most as the general trend is a day or two stop on the way to another, larger, destination.  I got to see it all from Lake Bled, the glacier lake with hot springs and a medieval church on an island in the center and the Slovenian version of a gondola to take you there to the wine industry.

This was an incredible trip.  If you are looking for an adventure, think outside the box and consider the treasure of Slovenia.

Business · Fashion · Organization · Travel

Packing for a business trip

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I have to present at a conference next week and I’m trying to decide what to pack.  This is a professional engagement and that means either suit or sheath dress and jacket.  I tend to be cold natured so I always travel with a sweater or a jacket to cover my arms.

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Business trips tend to be quick  so I always try to minimize what I’m taking.  I usually opt for either navy (is that a Southern thing?) or black.  By electing a color scheme I minimize shoes.  I also opt for having an extra outfit that I can pull out in emergencies.  That is a lesson I learned after being caught unaware on two separate occasions.  I’m leaning towards a wool, navy shift dress from Tory Burch and a navy pant suit, also Tory. I will accessorize with a scarf and my everyday jewelry of watch, earrings, necklace, rings and bracelet  By electing two Tory pieces, I can use the jacket with the dress and have the pants as my “just in case” feature.  It also saves on shoes.  I’m short so I always opt for heels.  For me that is a professional thing even in today’s climate of casual dress.  I am projecting an image of confidence and authority when I present so I try to consider presenting the complete package, thus the suit and heels.   I’m going with CL’s for the day.

My travel outfit is inspired by a wonderful TSA agent at Laguardia.  She advised me to wear a warm up suit to make the TSA line easy.  Since I have far too much of my mother and grandmother in me to go with a warm up suit, I opt for pointe leggings and a long cashmere sweater. I’ll complete the outfit with flats and a scarf.

To round out my packing, I’ll take leggings and a long sleeve exercise top, a nightgown and unmentionables with an extra set thrown in for the just in case things that happen when you travel.  My toiletries, Bluetooth speaker, conference information, laptop, and notebook with my conference papers will go in my tote with room for my handbag.

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My goal is to avoid checking my bag and by opting for minimal packing and a uniform color scheme I may just make it.