Wanderlust: Italia Edition

"Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti." 
-Sophia Loren
I've written about wanderlust here before but now I've got it bad.  I feel like sitting in LAX and just choosing the first flight I spot on the departures screen (fingers crossed I score Shanghai or Milan and not Springfield or Midland).  
At the moment though, I continually dream of Italia--it happens every year at this time when I recall my last adventures there in 2008.  This yearning was made even more unquenchable after seeing the Wall Street Journal's entire "Off Duty" section was devoted to Italy.  (insert Italianate hand gestures of frustration here)


Brunching: Fig and Ricotta Pancakes

Growing up, the only fig I ever met came in the form of a Newton.  Now in the agricultural paradise known as California, I am lucky to have all varieties of fresh, seasonal produce available for culinary experimentation.  

Each autumn, my hubby consumes vast amounts of figs...usually with a wedge of brie as an evening snack.  So when I saw Tyler Florence's recipe for Spiced Fig and Ricotta Pancakes in the October 2011 issue of House Beautiful, I knew I had to sample the figgy goodness.  

Words to Live by


Flowers for Friday

"There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted."
-Henri Matisse


A Little More Pink for Frenchie

Hello there!  Remember me?  Your ole' pal, Pink Frenchie?  Well, I've been absent from blogland because I was busy making a little human and then birthing/feeding/burping/de-pooping said little human.  Now that my sweet baby Gigi has started to understand the difference between day and night, I will try to write again....sporadically.  


Parisian Poochies

Regular visitors to Paris know that dogs of all varieties seem to have carte blanche in many public spaces.  From restaurants to department stores, from parks to produce markets, les chiens are everywhere in Paris.  
Carrie Bradshaw with one of Paris' lovable dogs


Magic at Midnight

"Imagination creates reality." -Richard Wagner

Today I needed an escape.  I needed to abandon this world and spend a few hours in movie-land.  Even though I was drawn to Midnight in Paris for the promise of a Woody Allen film set in my dear Paris, ultimately, I found the perfect film about escapism and anachronism---precisely what my soul desired after a sad week.
From the outset, I always adore Woody Allen films.  I appreciate the way the crisp clean opening credits tell us the viewers that witty banter and relatable characters are on their way.  And this time, following those trademark simple black and white credits, Allen allowed the real star of the movie to be seen.  There she was, Paris, beautiful Paris, laid out before the screen in iconic shot after iconic shot.  Montmartre. La tour Eiffel. Le Louvre. Les bateaux mouches. Les cafés.  Sigh....cue, the accordion music, I knew from the first scenes, I would be in love with this movie.


From the heart, for the Heartland

Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.” -Charles Dickens
In recent days, I simply cannot bring myself to write about my usual little pleasures and happy thoughts.  My mind has been in a sad fog since Sunday evening around 7:30 when I learned that my hometown of Joplin, Missouri was decimated by one of the worst natural disasters in American history.  You've no doubt seen the tornado footage on CNN or NBC.  You've probably read newspapers describing the tragedy or heard the first-person accounts. 


Some Little Pleasures for Summertime

Oh, the summer night
Has a smile of light
And she sits on a sapphire throne.

~Barry Cornwall

Non-Californians envision a state of endless summer here in Orange County.  In reality, we have our seasons too (kind of).  They are just a little more subtle.  One of the notorious California "seasons" is the meteorological downer known as "May Gray" and its even more solemn sibling called "June Gloom."  These two months are marked by near constant drizzle and overcast skies.
Since today is quite cool and rainy, I am thinking summer. What can I surround myself with to get in the summer spirit?


Sunday Brunching

I cannot think of a meal I adore more than brunch.  (Well, in my pregnant state, pre-breakfast, second breakfast, big Euro-style lunch and midday snack are close to a tie with brunch).  Brunch means your guests will be fresh off a restful night of slumber.  Brunch means you can prepare much of your meal the evening before. And brunch means you can justify eating both sugary baked goods and eggy-cheesy goodness in the same glorious feast.


Some Little Pleasures

Today here are some things that make me giddily happy, in no particular order:
 swimming pool weather


Art Smart: Troglodyte Treasures

For those of you darlings who may not know, my "day job" is teaching art history to college students.  I adore my career and cannot believe I am among the lucky few who spends her days wandering through the history of Western art (for more on this topic, read my post "Do What You Love" from last year).  

In an attempt to share my passion and knowledge with you, I am going to start a series examining one artwork in detail each week.  My desire is to give you the opportunity to see something visually stunning and to learn a bit about art history in the process.  


The Farm Stand Dinner

"To eat is a necessity, 
but to eat intelligently is an art."
- La Rochefoucauld

Each Sunday evening, my husband and I strive to start the week with a healthy meal.  We find it gets us on the right foot for the week ahead and provides us the energy to greet another day.  
This time of year in Southern California, fresh, flavorful produce is available to us in abundance.  At our local farm stand, we can select organic strawberries straight from the field, sweet corn just plucked from the stock and tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes (imagine that!).


Nuptials Neverending: Cinematic Weddings

"I used to think a wedding was a simple affair. Boy and girl meet, they fall in love, he buys a ring, she buys a dress, they say I do. I was wrong. That's getting married. A wedding is an entirely different proposition." 
- George BanksFather of the Bride

As much as I enjoyed the fairy tale of Friday's wedding extravaganza, there is really nothing fresh or inspired I can add to any of the following topics: the dress, the dapper groom, the groom's wily brother, the bride's sleek sister, the fascinators, the less-than-fascinating fascinators, dress #2, or possible honeymoon destinations.  


Guest Post: Misadventures with Andi

Bonjour!  Check out my thoughts on "The Five Senses of Paris" over at Misadventures with Andi!  What an honor to be featured on one of my favorite travel blogs!


Words to Live by: On Contentment

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” -Epicurious
Well, hello, my long lost readers.  I apologize for my lack of posts in recent weeks.  A combination of pregnancy anxiety and work woes has left me with a wicked case of writer's block and ennui. But, I'm back for now, even if sporadically.  


Flowers for Friday

(Ahem, yes, I am aware it is indeed Sunday and not Friday. You must forgive my tardiness.  My brain is in baby-mode, not bloggy-mode.  But at least I got you flowers to apologize.)

I am in a serious ranuculus phase.  On my Friday trips to the market, generally, I can't leave without a bundle of tulips, but these days I am adoring the crinoline ruffles and watercolor hues of these pinkish flowers.


The Babymoon

Since I became pregnant, one of the top priorities on my pre-infant to-do list was taking a babymoon.  Of course, we have other more pragmatic tasks as we prepare for the wee little Frenchie, but somehow buying strollers and researching birthing options didn't seem nearly as delightful as planning one final getaway as a twosome.  


Home Is Where the Squirrel Is?

Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to. 
-John Ed Pearce

When I heard that Tony Bourdain had been traipsing around my hometown in Missouri, I'll admit I cringed a little.  Here was my journalistic hero in the town that had raised me.  I wondered where he'd go and what he'd see.  And most of all, I wondered if he'd be able to get a true sense of Southwest Missouri in a whirlwind shooting spree (both film shoots and hunting shoots as it were) over the course of a few brief days.


A Life on Film

Recently, one of my students brought the work of American photographer Vivian Maier (1926-2009) to my attention.  As I looked through her black and white prints of ordinary life around Chicago, her skill seemed on par with photographs by the greats like Robert Frank and Walker Evans and Dorthea Lange; yet, I had never heard her name.


To Eyre is Human

"I had not intended to love him. I have wrought hard to extirpate from my soul the germs of love there detected; and no, at the first renewed view of him, they spontaneously revived, green and strong! He made me love him without looking at me." 

Full disclosure Charlotte Brontë fans: I have never read Jane Eyre.  Everything I'm about to state is merely from the point of view of a delighted movie-goer, not a well-versed Brit lit aficionado.

Flowers for Friday

I'm having a case of the blues today, so I'll just post my happy tulips and irises and think good thoughts. No wise words or witty banter pour moi this week, simply flowers will have to do.


Coveting: A Little Vanity

Vanities are the ultimate girly piece of furniture.  What could be more feminine than having a little place to sit as you stack on your bangles or powder your cheeks or spritz your Chanel no. 5? 


The Mythical Cookie

Chocolate chip cookie recipes are closely guarded by grandmas the world over.  Bakers like to keep their favorite close to their heart only to be prepared when needing extra-special culinary oooohhhhs and aaaahhhs from family and friends. 


Dinner Time: Taco Tuesday

I've been craving a margarita like mad. But since I will be abstaining until this summer when the wee one arrives, I will satiate my Tex-Mex hunger with tacos this Tuesday.


Words to Live by

"Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day - like writing a poem or saying a prayer."
-Anne Morrow Lindbergh


A Thing of Beauty

"There are always flowers for 
those who want to see them."
-Henri Matisse
The other day in class, I proposed a question to the students in my Survey of Western Art II course: "When was the last time you saw something so beautiful that it brought you to tears?"  For the first time, I actually witnessed my students in a deeply contemplative mood.


Dinner Time

"Never eat more than you can lift." -Miss Piggy
At nearly five months pregnant, food has become my passion.  There are no more cocktails.  Doctor has ordered that I stay off my feet and forgo exercise.  Shopping has even been tabled for the moment.  So, clearly, food is the thing.  Lately, Miss Piggy and I seem to be using the same parameters for consumption. 
Since it's been especially chilly in SoCal this week, I've been craving comfort food.  Generally, comfort food equals calories.  But, I've discovered a delish lasagna dinner that's perfect for a cool lazy winter's evening but easy on the (in my pregnant case, ever-expanding) waistline.


Designing Pour Le Bébé

I am resisting the urge to turn Les Petits Plaisirs into a full-fledged preggorama, maternity and baby blog.  But, from time to time, I do plan to offer a few little baby tidbits about our adventures. 


A Night with the Movies

"You know what your problem is, it's that you haven't seen enough movies - all of life's riddles are answered in the movies."
Steve Martin
I really love movies.  I love sitting in the dark theater, awaiting the previews and smelling buttered popcorn.  I love reclining on the couch streaming a new documentary on Netflix.  From loud blockbusters to poignant indies, spending a few hours suspended in movie time is one of the great privileges of modern life.


My Oscar Gown

Come with me on a trip to pretend land.  I don't act (though my hubby might disagree).  I don't work in the film industry (though I do support it daily). But, I do think about what I'd wear on the red carpet if I made the famous February trek to the Kodak Theater.

The Bath Ritual

Bathing is a daily necessity but with a little care, it can become a luscious ritual.  When was the last time you took a nice long soak?  Light a few candles, pour yourself a little glass of vino, play some Maria Callas on the iPod, and sit in the fragrant bubbles until your fingers shrivel.  Think about your day or don't think at all.  Relax and restore.
Stevens, The Bath, 1906


Muffin Tops

I've been baking lots of muffins lately.  Perhaps I just want to think of muffin tops other than the one forming around my waistline.  Perhaps my pregnancy cravings are in full carb mode.  Either way, our kitchen counter is starting to look like a bakery display case.  

These yummy blueberry banana muffins are the recent favorites around here. 


Feeling Presidential

"I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain." -John Adams


Nigella's Cozy Kitchen

Today the Wall Street Journal offers us a tasty little morsel of Nigella Lawson's kitchen.  In the essay, Nigella takes the reader through the attributes of her intimate kitchen.
With her gift for writing, Nigella begins the article, "kitchen is probably one of the most evocative words in the English language....it conjures up warmth and welcome, safety and security, in short, the very notion of home."  Nigella and I are in complete agreement here.  The kitchen most be cozy. 



For me, polka dots have always been in vogue.  Like classic leopard or a Glen plaid, polka dots are a welcome print in my wardrobe.  But, according to recent fashion news, these whimsical, cheerful dots are making a big come-back. 


The Best Chocolate Cake Ever

It is morning here in SoCal, so naturally, my thoughts have turned to cake (if you are not pregnant like moi, you must forgive my craving-dominated food posts until August). 


Love Letters

Remember the first Sex and the City movie (i.e., the good one)?  Remember when Carrie pulls out her old, smelly New York Public Library book called Love Letters of Great Men, Volume 1? I declare we need more old fashioned love letters.  


Pink Week: Painter's Palette

Sir Joshua Reynolds, Lady in Pink, 1781
Being able to spend hours immersed in color is one of the most wonderful aspects of my career as an art historian.  Though I appreciate the compositional qualities of black and white photography and the technical aspects of a marble sculpture, I've always been most attracted to the array of shades in an oil on canvas. 


Pink Week: Beauty Queen

One of the first things women purchase when having a bad day is a new tube of lipstick.  There is something about the transformative power of a little makeup to make me feel like a new woman.  I tend to get stuck in a beauty routine, using the same products and colors day after day; but, occasionally, I browse through Sephora or a department store to spice up my makeup palette.
Pink makeup may conjure up too many thoughts of Elle Woods in Legally Blond or Shelby in Steel Magnolias, but a touch of rose or petal or even fuchsia on your face can make you look fresh and gorgeous. Now there are such an array of pink hues that anyone can find the perfect shade.  


Pink Week: Edible Delights

I have a theory that I may have voiced in this very spot before: pink food inevitably tastes delicious.  For me, pink is one of the most attractive culinary shades. It invites nibbling and suggests sweetness and tartness and general scrumptiousness. When I indulge in a perfect pink cupcake or frosted cookie, the carefree four-year-old in me is released for a few brief moments.

Pink Week: Uber-Feminine Fashion

Pink is the color of romance and a friend tells me that the girl with the pink dress at the party is the one who is selected for each dance.” -Alfred Hottes, author and botanist

Sometimes a girl just needs a pink dress pick-me-up, courtesy of Audrey, Marilyn, Jackie, and Grace.  As these style icons show us, pink can be demure and refined or sassy and bold.  In my humble opinion, every woman can and should wear pink.  Pink in its myriad hues and values can compliment the palest porcelain or the darkest olive skin. 


Pink Week: Design Dreams

For our Wednesday touch of pink, let's move into one of the loveliest home's House Beautiful has ever featured, that of designer and artist Ruthie Sommers in L.A..

In this splendid and whimsical space, pink is used fearlessly, but with utmost elegance and refinement. I shall dream for a moment that I live here:


Pink Week: Flower Power

"I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles."
-Audrey Hepburn   

As a build-up to the pinkest of all holidays (ahem, Valentine's Day), this week I'm celebrating some of my favorite pinkalicious goodies.  

For today, a few pink posies to peak your passion for Valentine's Day. 


Saint Valentine

Valentine's Day is a very polarizing holiday.  Some of us adore the flowers, the hearts, the candy and the celebration of all of the lovey dovey stuff.  But, conversely, others just hate those little conversation hearts and forced date nights.


Flowers for Friday

When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.  ~Chinese Proverb
In recent Fridays, I've been forgoing my usual bunch of flowers at the market, buying loafs (of bread) instead of lilies.  But today, I indulged in this little bouquet of pink daisies, white hydrangea and little bright green berries.  These eclectic springy flowers bring a little sunshine to the apartment.  I never regret the pennies spent on fresh flowers for my home.
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