Silver Bells

Right now I am adrift in a sea of papers to grade and exams to score (thus the erratic postings).  So, as I wind down another semester, I am daydreaming of fancy, silvery, Christmasy things.  Just a few more days until I may rest and delight in the sparkle of the holidays.


The Color of the Year

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, I was happy to discover that honeysuckle pink was named by Pantone as the color for 2011, replacing 2010's turquoise. 
This particular hue of pink is a soft, cotton-candy shade with undertones of orange.  It is a universally flattering color for fashion and a undeniably cheerful color for home design. 


Words to Live by

I wanted to share a few favorite words on this winter morning. 
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
By Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.


Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

"The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, 
is singing loud for all to hear." 
-Buddy the Elf

Everyone has their favorite holiday tunes. Maybe it's the classic crooner you listen to while decorating the tree or sitting by the fire, or maybe it's a catchy modern song that sticks in your head all December.


Sugar Plum Dreams

When I hear even just a few notes of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker score, I cannot help but twirl.  Though my ballet skills have surely tarnished since my youth, the music reawakens my urge to arabesque and pas de bourrée across my kitchen floor.  Tom Cruise may play air guitar in his undie to Bob Seger, but I put on my imaginary tutu and stage a mini production of my favorite holiday ballet. 


Cheers: Festive Beverages

If you're throwing a holiday fête or just having a few friends over for drinks, you need not invent a new candy cane martini to offer a festive beverage to your guests.


Holiday Joy

"Joy is not in things; it is in us."
--Benjamin Franklin


The Little Village

Each November, as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes are cleared away, I excitedly bring out my small collection of Christmas treasures. Even though I have amassed special ornaments from my travels over the years, what I really relish at Christmas is setting up my little village.  

As I neatly place the houses and sprinkle the glittered "snow" all around, immediately I feel like a girl again, as if I'm rearranging my doll house or pretending to play in a winter wonderland. 


Joyeux Noël

One splendid Thanksgiving, my mom and I ditched the stateside turkey, and flew to Paris for a week.  While breaking with November traditions was unexpectedly delightful, what truly enchanted us was seeing Paris reveal her holiday finery.  

As we bundled up and tried to emulate the French woman's perfectly imperfect scarf tie, we explored the city which was then covered under a glistening sheet of ice.  At times treacherous to travel, the ice looked simply magical as it dangled on Christmas lights and danced on roof lines.  Fountains that I had seen gurgling in springtimes past now looked sculptural, suspended in time. 

Though Cole Porter taught us to love "Paris in the Springtime," there is nothing more dreamy that Paris in the midst of a deep winter chill.  

The tourists who remain in the city are huddled in cafés sipping chocolat chaud rather than clamoring to get to the top of La Tour.  The mêtro stations smell of roasting chestnuts instead of tightly packed commuters. One feels inherently more French wearing layers of coats and scarves than milling about in shorts.  


Thanksgiving Nibbling

Planning the Thanksgiving menu is a highly personal affair.  Everyone coming to the table has their special requests and nostalgic dishes.  

Must-haves at my own Thanksgiving are my dad's cranberry-orange relish, corn pudding courtesy of my mom's dear friend, butternut squash gratin with pesto, and mushy-gushy unctuous green bean casserole. If I am especially brave, I will attempt homemade yeast rolls and try to replicate that glorious scent that always emanated from grandma's kitchen on Thanksgiving.
While there's usually no altering the long-standing Thanksgiving favorites, one culinary aspect of Turkey Day can inspire some creativity: appetizers.  


Thanksgiving Tables

As we inch ever closer toward Turkey Day, you are no doubt planning your menu and making the final grocery list.  While you clean your cranberries and polish your pumpkins, don't forget about your table.

Here are a few inspirational tables to get you in the mood for Thursday's feast.  From the simply modern to the classically autumnal, these tables would enchant any turkey-tipsy guest.


I'm Dreaming of a....

pink Christmas, with every Christmas card I write.....

I haven't even had my first bite of Thanksgiving turkey yet, and I can't stop thinking about pulling out my favorite pink Christmas decor.

Here's some pink festiveness to get you in the mood for the official start of the Christmas season next week. 

Pink Frenchie's Favorite Things

Every Christmas season, Oprah produces a magazine and an entire show dedicated to her favorite things---the goodies, some grand, some ordinary, that she will be giving during the holidays.

Oprah I am not, but I have gathered a few of my own favorite things to share with you. (spoiler alert: if you are Pink Frenchie's mother or mother-in-law you may want to skip this post...it is kind of like peaking into Santa's bag)

MarieBelle Aztec Hot Chocolate
Decadent chocolate with a touch of chili spice, this hot cocoa mix is made of bits of actual chocolate.  Hardly your average Swiss Mix powder, this blend produces a deeply rich and flavorful beverage befitting a cold winter day by the fire.

Words to Live by


Morning Rituals: An Ode to Coffee

He was my cream, and I was his coffee -
And when you poured us together, 

it was something.
~Josephine Baker

I tend to have many rituals in my daily life.  Call it obsessive compulsive, or perhaps I'm just a creature of habit, but I cling to little routines as if they're liturgy. 
My favorite morning ritual requires coffee. I savor that moment, just after waking, when I add dark, aromatic French roast beans to the Cuisinart machine and listen to the burr grinder preparing my coffee. 
I sit in my p.j.s and catch up on all of the e-mails that have come in overnight as I sip the freshly-brewed elixir.  My students tend to be most active online between midnight and 4am, like studious little hamsters.  I respond to their many nocturnal requests when I first awake.  Having a creamy cup of joe by my side makes the daily grind of work enjoyable.
Though I didn't begin to enjoy coffee until my mid-twenties, now, it is one of the greatest pleasures of my day.  Opening my glass jar of beans and catching that first whiff of roasted goodness helps me transition from slumber with joy and anticipation. For the only thing better than the taste of coffee is its distinctively enticing scent.   
To complete the coffee ritual, I have a hierarchy of mugs.  For weeks at a time, I use only one mug: maybe the heavy diner-style mug from Yosemite or my gigantic mug from my alma mater.  These days I prefer a mug with capricious Eiffel towers all along the sides.  A good mug makes the coffee taste that much better.

Bottoms up, coffee-lovers!  May you have a highly caffeinated morning. 


Mapping it out

I have a map fetish.  For this reason (and my superb navigational skills---thanks for that gene, Dad), I will never ever ever own a G.P.S.  I am categorically opposed to those little Garmin goodies which tell you to turn here and exit there.  
I love getting my hands on a map, awkwardly unfolding its pages and figuring out where to go.  Plotting a route, veering off course, and seeing the grand design of a city is supremely pleasurable for me.


Autumn Weekend Getaway

There is a harmony 
In autumn, and a lustre in its sky, 
Which through the summer is not heard or seen, 
As if it could not be, as if it had not been! 

- Percy Bysshe Shelley

Having serious fall-withdrawal, I was happy to head to Tennessee for a long weekend with friends at our alma mater.

While Southern California offers faint whispers of autumn, in the hills of the South, fall sings like a soprano: crisply, profoundly, robustly.  Nearly every tree changes its colors.  Leaves crunch beneath foot with each and every step.  Cool mornings and sunny days prominently mark the transition to bleak winter.

A Royal Engagement

When I was a little girl, I knew one thing was certain about my future: I was to marry Prince William.  I was convinced it would work out just splendidly: our mothers were pregnant with us at the same time, we both have equine bone structure and flaxen hair, we both studied art history.  Clearly, so much in common.

Now, that Will has announced his engagement to the lovely Kate Middleton, I have visions of royal weddings on my brain.  Since I never witnessed the grandest weddings of the twentieth century, Charles and Diana for one, I am excited to see all of the pomp and circumstance surrounding these nuptials. 


In Vogue: A Weekday Fashion Snack

At this lackluster moment in the middle of the week, I am in need of a glamour infusion with an extra shot of Paris.

In this month's Vogue, photographer Mario Testino and his gorgeous subject Anne Hathaway (or Annie as Rachel Zoe casually refers to her) delight us with this uber-chic, old Hollywood-inspired shoot at landmarks in PARIS.

Now, all I need is a private jet and that polka-dot Oscar de la Renta gown and I'm all set for at long night at Maxim's. 


Baked Goods

"Did you make these... [long pause, followed by another bite of muffin] from scratch???"
Why yes, hubby, indeed, they are from scratch.  I love how non-bakers use this phrase "from scratch" with such incredulity and appreciation.  Anytime dear hungry husband actually mutters these words, I know I have stumbled upon a winning recipe (especially because this recipe was ridiculously easy and made with pantry staples).   

Words to Live by

While Einstein was most certainly not referring to design with this remark, as I read it, I immediately conjured up images of crisp, uncluttered modern homes.  As Einstein urges us improve our situation in life, to turn those proverbial lemons into lemonade, I begin to think about how our spaces shape our possibilities. 


A Weekend Trip to Morocco

Though no passport stamps were acquired (boo)...we did dine on a divine chicken tagine for dinner. 

For the non-Moroccan foodies out there, a tagine is in fact both a braised Moroccan dish and a stoneware container (see exhibit A above). Even if you don't have one of these magic looking baking dishes, with the right ingredients and your slow cooker, you can make the warm, stew-like dish taste like it's straight out of Marrakesh. 


Cocktail du Jour

Okay, I'll fess up, this is not a drink of my own invention.  In fact, quite the contrary, this is Miss Oprah's favorite cocktail du jour.  She loves this drink so much that she served it on one of her recent shows as she camped in Yosemite (yes, you read that right, Oprah camped...well, kind of).

So in addition to telling us what to read and what to buy, now I'm am letting Lady O tell me what to drink.  But, once you taste this delicious gingery and tart beverage, you'll be toasting her too!

A Weekend Wish

I don't know about you, but after the week I've had, I could use a sizable dose of cuteness.

Here's a little cute overload to kick the weekend off right:


Craving Couture

The greatest thing about fashion is its inherent combination of fantasy AND reality.  Clothing is a daily necessity and yet an opportunity to be limitlessly creative.  What other art form touches your life on a daily basis and can transform others' perception of you? 


Fabulous Collecting: Displaying Treasures

Admit it, we all collect something: rock records or vintage photos, jadeite or jewelry.  What you collect doesn't really matter, that's your prerogative; but it's the art of collecting and cataloging that seems inherently human and completely universal.  That urge to cultivate your distinctive, eccentric "thing" and to look for that "thing" at flea markets and to proudly display those "things" in your home.
But, mention your collection to a designer and she might just cringe.  The mere word "collection" conjures up images of grandma's rows and rows of kewpie dolls or Aunt Verna's penchant for porcelain cats. However, integrating a collection into a room can be done stylishly.   Collections show your personality and tell a fabulous story about you and your many adventures. 


1) a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about
2) an affliction affecting Pink Frenchie 
Have you ever dreamed of uprooting your life and moving away to a foreign land?  Have you ever considered what it might be like to quit your job and buy a Tuscan villa (Frances Mayes style) or spend a year wandering the cobbled villages of Provence (Peter Mayle style) or seeking enlightenment in an ashram in India (Elizabeth Gilbert style)?


Let them eat cake

For my hubby's birthdays past, I have baked his favorite German chocolate cake: ooey, gooey & coconuty.  But, this year, he requested something new, something even MORE decadent.  The birthday cake inspiration this year was a classic Reese's peanut butter cup.  The goal was a chocolate cake with peanut butter filling and a chocolate ganache exterior.  Two days post peanut butter cake, it is but a memory and a dimple of cellulite on my thighs.  But, oh, oh, oh, was it mighty tasty!


Cooking with Miss Dahl

Confession: at night, when the rest of you flip through magazines or novels on your night stand, I read cookbooks.  There is something so hypnotic about letting my eyes wander through lists of ingredients before I doze off for the night.  

As I turn a cookbook's pages, I get intoxicated by the perfectly delicious color photographs.  I imagine dinner parties I might host or recipes I might try. And, as I shut my eyes for the evening, I dream of fluffy meringues or caramely apple tarts or cozy chicken pot pies...and, of course, I wake up ravenous.
This all leads me to my recent great cookbook discovery. Months ago, I started seeing Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights appear everywhere in blogland.  I must admit, what immediately attracted me to the book was the pink and turquoise color palette on the cover.   Just recently, after drooling over the book on Amazon, I treated myself to my very own copy. 


Dinner Time

Saturday evening, along with some dear friends, I dined at a wine bar in Orange County called Wine Works for Everyone.   But more than just pouring glasses of Pinot Noir and Viognier, the restaurant specialized in dishes that paired well with their favorite wines.   The experience (food, wine, and ambiance included) was perfectly lovely, one that I will repeat as soon as possible.
At Wine Works, we ordered a Malbec from Argentina, a wine that seems to have become wildly popular (due to low price and consistently deep flavors) in recent years.  To compliment the spicy notes of the Malbec, I selected short ribs from the menu.  The meat was so perfectly autumnal and satisfying that I set out to recreate the dish at home tonight. At first I was mildly phobic about this seemingly tricky cut of beef, but I discovered a slow cooker recipe that closely mimicked the ribs I tasted over the weekend and was extraordinarily easy as well! 
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