A San Francisco Treat

Sunday was the annual Gay Pride Parade, makes Mardi Gras look like the Republican Convention. Didn’t ask and won’t tell!


Postcards from Paris: { C'est Dommage! }

It's a nice little activity; supporting the countries you love in the World Cup.
France didn't advance, U.S.A did. And with my little American posse we met at the Trocadero, wearing discreet ensembles to encourage our team. I hadn't any idea that deep within, I really cared.
So much anxiety surfaced, along with moans and cheers whenever there was a promising shot for the U.S.. I wouldn't consider myself a sports-enthusiast, but I tell you I had my team, and I was rooting for them. I prepared for the day, listening to different versions of "Georgia on My Mind", craving cheeseburgers, drinking Coca-Cola, wearing red and stripes. After our defeat, I even had a bite of a hot dog.
Oh America.
For the family that I am an Au Pair for, I took every opportunity to chant, "U.S.A" whenever the father mentioned anything about the World Cup. I have to swallow my pride, and hope for a farther go-around next time.

A poor video that lacks any form of aesthetic, but an overall good example of the end result.
I think our faces of disappointment gave away that we were rooting for the other team.

They showed us, or simply took advantage of the fact that we were three American girls in skirts. Sheesh.

Life on the Ranch

The steam rises off the water from my early morning shower. There is something cathartic about showering nude outside under the shade of the redwoods. Now, although this hotel is called a ranch, there is no roughing it involved. The outdoor shower is a rainshower with enough pressure to totally envelope the body protecting one from the 50 degree surrounding morning mist. The shower, completely enclosed and private, is off a remarkably spacious his/her double bathroom, which in turn, opens to the master suite. Ingeniously designed, the suite connects via outdoor raised deck to the living quarters complete with an indoor/outdoor fireplace.

We became enamored with Auberge Resorts after the company built a vacation destination just 30 minutes from Savannah: Inn at Palmetto Bluff. This property has since become our home away from home when we need to get away but can’t go for long. Auberge Resorts started as a restaurant in Napa, metamorphosing into a hotel and finally a fully-fledged resort empire. Though not for the faint of wallet, these hotels are worth every penny.

This brings me back to Calistoga Ranch. Set back into the hills, just driving across the entry gate lightens the mind and spirit. The lakehouse at the top of the property overlooks a freshwater lake where even my 9 month old seemed lulled into a peaceful tranquility. In the adjoining bathhouse, two serene pools overlook the property while private treatment rooms house the key to soothing even the stiffest of muscles. A larger pool, fitness facility and vineyards round out the rest of the property. We tried all the various treatments, the only one I would recommend skipping is the mud treatments. Administered by a "mud-tender", a personal concoction is produced, with which you are covered, then rinsed off in a mineral bath, followed by a special “senses” experience, which is basically sitting in a vibrating chair with headphones. Didn’t get it.

Any way, there are three different Auberge Resorts to try in Napa – each with a different feel, each with a Michelin stared restaurant to complete the leisure extravaganza. More on the epicurean experience later.

Postcards from Paris: { A Uniformed Look }

With their off-white covers, simple black and red border, and the title always presented in block-red; there isn't any reason to warn, "don't judge a book by it's cover" I really find the uniform of Gallimard publishing to be a welcoming invite for anyone to start a book collection. I can't commit to say that I never judge a book by it's cover, because I do, but the idea of having a uniformed collection of books allows the content to be more significant than it's cover.
Last Spring, Paula and Taras brought back to the store an entire collection of covered books. Though they were all in a foreign language, the modesty of the blank covers encouraged people to open them and look inside.

It was such an inspiration I attempted to cover my own books in order for that uniformed look.


Mise en Place

Day one, lesson one in the culinary world is the concept of preparation and layout. Literally “putting in place”, this implies the organizing and arranging of the ingredients and other components that a cook will require for the proposed menu. Recipes are reviewed, equipment assembled and trialed, ovens preheated, all in a carefully orchestrated manner to avoid any problems, thereby assuring timely completion. Premeditated, intentional, deliberate and calculated. Who would have thought these lessons a valuable tool for any profession? Conscious, studied processes are the key to great business acumen. Preparation and shrewd judgment almost always beats luck.

The final preparation today was killer. I witnessed the creation of consommé! I know, sounds exciting, but this clarified broth is hallowed ground in gastronomic circles. Elegant in its simplicity, it can challenge even the most advanced chefs. Another real world application: don’t let apparent simple details derail the entire production.

Any way, enough learning for one day. Oh, by the way, if you have lately become somewhat confused with our blog, let me explain. Our dear Reba, newly minted fashion adventurer, continues as our reporter abroad, bringing a contemporary spin on Parisian life. My husband and I, currently in California, will bring you the occasional tidbit when time and travel allow (nothing like an almost 9 month old to while away any free time). Each of us, doing our thing, eveything in its proper place.



Housed in a beautifully imposing castle-like building, Greystone campus was built in 1888 and once served as a facility for sparkling wine production. This place exudes professionalism. Crisp starched glaringly white uniforms with, of course, the requisite kerchief and chef hat, are mandatory. "Yes chef!" echoes respectfully from the teaching venues. And venues there are. From the newly christened Viking commercial kitchen teaching arena (makes the Top Chef kitchen look like it was designed by the Easy Bake Oven guys), to the Wine Spectator Restaurant and Spice Islands Marketplace (cookbook and cookware heaven) this place can make Thomas Keller giddy with excitement.

This is not your bored, rich housewives of wherever kind of school. This is a budding chef ‘s pollution nocturne. Work? Yes - that kerchief becomes quickly soaked, but the endeavors yield fabulous results. Each step choreographed, measured, and repeated. Each task leading to the next, trial and error, perseverance and finally, satisfaction. And satisfaction never tasted this good.


Postcards from Paris: {Spring Fever, Staying Out}

Last time I spoke to my mother she demanded, with love, for more posts.
Where have you been?
What have you been doing?
What have you seen lately?

It's Springtime in Paris, I suppose is my excuse. It's a strong contrast compared to when I was here in the winter.
Staying out seems more appealing than staying in. I get the vibe from the school-children that they've about had it, and are ready to go on holiday.
For instance, I spent yesterday afternoon walking about, and listening to the Coupe du monde: France vs. South Africa. With such lovely weather, locals were out at every corner cafe, restaurant, tabac, any public location that had a television, cheering for France. There was hardly a break from it as I strolled the rue. There were some workers in their trucks and vans with the game blasting. The city seemed to be on one note, it felt welcoming; as if anyone in France was in this together.
And we all felt the pain of the loss.

I continue to stroll about, sometimes with map, sometimes without.
The weather is nice.
And Springtime in Paris in my excuse to stay out.

Top Chef

The problem with turning your hobby into a profession is that you no longer have a hobby. Everything previously frivolous and fun is now necessary and often tediously numbing. Don’t get me wrong, travel, shopping, and perusing magazines and blogs is still mostly exciting, but when you have to do it, “it” becomes work.

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with cooking. The raw materials, the chemistry – I love to create, and with this creation you can satisfy all the senses. I drive my husband crazy, as our DVR is completely loaded down with all flavor of cooking shows. If it wasn’t for Padma, I think he would have erased most of them by now. We even gutted our kitchen last year to usher in the latest and greatest (photo above).

Unfortunately, I am a perfectionist. It kills me that I am not Iron Chef Paula. I watch all the shows intently but still do not demonstrate culinary mastery. Thus, the topic of the next few weeks. We are currently in California – Napa Valley to be more specific, just outside of Calistoga if you must know. For my birthday my husband enrolled me in the CIA. No not the spy agency (although I might do that next year) the Culinary Institute of America. Nestled in the midst of a gorgeous valley, this magnificent institution is my new teacher. I have gone back to school – at least in the short term. Boot camp: basic training. And rigorous it is, thank God I’m still on east coast time or the 7 am start time would have proved prohibitive (even with a baby, I’m still not and never will be a morning person). Any way, stay tuned for a lot more the next few weeks, but that’s it for now, I’ve got to study for tomorrow's lesson – sautéing!


Postcards from Paris: {Keeping Cool}

Practicalities like working shutters makes sense.
The obvious point is for privacy, and another point that caused an "oh duh" from my American lips was to keep these lovely, unair-conditioned Parisian apartments on hot-weathered days, cool.
It's rather simple, the window opens for circulation, and the shutters close for shade. I've made remarks on French traditions before, and it's something that I am rather drawn to. The tradition of an entree, the main course, cheese, and then dessert. Or simple enough, eating seasonal. Dried fruits and nuts in the Winter, we ate strawberries in May, and now the fruit stands are filled with the loveliest, healthiest looking cherries.
It's been a few weeks now since I've taken on some au pair responsibilities, and these little practicalities have surfaced making me think, "oh duh"
Sometimes aloud.
As for the heated days in the city, I am happy to have learned that shutters make sense.


Postcards from Paris: {Marching to the Sound...}

of Beating Drums.
...Under a shady area right off the Metro Abbesses, but there were little sunspots shining through the openings of the leaves. I could not have made this discovery on my own. I was following a crowd.
Oh French children:
walking, talking, or drumming along.
They charm me.
This scene could have happened anywhere. But it was in Paris. Just after I had eaten a delicious fondant au chocolat with almonds, and just before a Spring thunderstorm; a well-appreciated sequence of events, on my behalf.



Postcards from Paris: Finding Fabrics, Testing Textiles

With a pitched idea involving a sewing machine, old watch trinkets, and fabric. My friend Xuan, who designs jewelry, suggested that we collaborate on a dress design. Because I wasn't able to tote along my sewing machine across the Atlantic sea, I hadn't scoped out the fabric outlets here in Paris. Alas, with access to a working sewing machine, and a free day to explore the tissu-filled rue, we found ourselves just below the Sacre Coeur, where fabric is found in abundance, and inspiration follows.
The fabric phase in a designing process can be the start of the entire design, and it was something I had forgotten. We were pretty set on the look, but after our day of new possibilities our design took on many new and interesting forms.
What a joy it was to be amongst so many possibilities.....



Postcards from Paris: Public Notices

Something less thought of, but perfectly Parisian, if you ask me. I have been noticing these public markings all about town. Some portrayed with words: French, English, some words uncomprehending, some markings of people, animals, some of simple lines or intricate doodling. Located really in the most enhancing of places; sides of buildings, long blank walls with a seemingly unending horizontal canvas, metro tunnels, and my favorite, on trucks. I really like the element it adds to the classic sophistication of typical Paris. I can recall more than one occasion where I have been strolling about, in a state of, "walking on clouds" and then I turn the corner, or look another direction to find myself entranced with an unexpected punch of bright colors.
Just some examples from one day of strolling.