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!
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