Friday, December 31, 2010

A Toast to the New Year...

May you never forget what is worth remembering, or remember what is best forgotten. Wishing you all the best in 2011!

Cheers, C

Oklahoma, up close...




Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Denyse Schmidt...a modern take on the classic quilt




I am a huge fan of Denyse Schmidt. A former graphic designer and graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, Denyse has been sewing since she was a young girl. Her reinterpretions of traditional Amish designs produce modern functional quilts that are fresh and offbeat. With quirky names like "Drunk Love in a Log Cabin," "There Goes the Neighborhood," and "What a Bunch of Squares," they are characterized by simple graphics, rich color, and quality workmanship. Her couture and custom quilts, in production since 1996, are pieced to order in her studio and hand-quilted by Amish women in Minnesota.

Check out her website, and learn more about Denyse and her amazing quilts: www.dsquilts.com

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Parisian designer, Isabel Marant



Isabel Marant is every chic Parisian's favorite designer. She began designing accessories in 1989 and launched her full ready-to-wear collection five years later. Now she’s attracting a cult following worldwide for her breezy, eclectic pieces with a bohemian edge. Her creations are at once feminine, comfortably casual, and quintessentially French.

The label is an indie favorite among fashion mavens and magazines, and is known for minimalist, bohemian clothing: short, casual dresses, loose-fitting knits, slouchy trousers, tailored jackets, and lush scarves. Marant created a lower-priced diffusion line, Etoile (French for “star”) in 1999 and introduced a children’s range in 2004. She has three stand-alone boutiques in Paris, nine in Asia, one in New York, and wholesale locations throughout Europe and the U.S.

Marant's clothing is sophisticated without being stuffy. Young and fresh but not trendy. If the hot pants and mini skirts are too youthful or too revealing for your taste, you can pair the tops, jackets, accessories and boots with fitted, straight-legged pants or knee-length skirts instead. Or layer a floaty, flirty mini dress over leggings. The look is still modern and sexy, but toned down a little for us more mature types. And if you're still young and perky, go ahead and rock those hot pants!

Check out Isabel Marant’s website - www.isabelmarant.tm.fr/

C

Monday, December 27, 2010

This year, I will...

2011 will officially kick-off in a few days. The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to start afresh. I look forward to the exhilaration of a squeaky, clean slate. I feel hopeful. Renewed. Re-energized. I will shed my cocoon/baggage from the previous year and miraculously transform into a beautiful butterfly. Slim and trim, and light as air. Bring it on! I’m ready to become all that I can be, and all that I won’t be after I lose all that I don't want be….

I know what you’re thinking. “Does this mean she’s planning to lose the ten…er…fifteen pounds that she’s been trying to get rid of for the last ten years? That she’s going to stop eating McRibs? That she’s going to practice yoga, lift weights, and do cardio regularly? That she’s planning to go bike riding at White Rock Lake every weekend? That she’s going to take Ralph for long walks on the Katy Trail?”

In other words, am I going to make promises again that I may not be able to keep? Or, will 2011 be the year that I finally transition into a healthier lifestyle and ditch the poundage that clings so tenaciously to my backside? Absolutely?! Maybe? Snowball’s chance in hell? Why even try?

Well, I’ll tell you why. Because hope springs eternal. Because I want to feel attractive. Because my jeans don’t fit anymore, and I refuse to buy a larger size. Because I’m not getting any younger. Because if I don’t eat less, lose weight, and exercise, I will die...eventually...worst case. At best, I’ll just continue feeling like a troll, stuffing my expansive butt into too-tight pants, and huffing and puffing up the stairs like I’m climbing Mt. Everest.

Some people say that New Year’s resolutions are futile. And I’ll admit, the end results are usually disappointing. More often than not, your best intentions are doomed by the end of January. But what are you going to do? Give up? Lay down and die in front of the flat-screen? Buy a pair of stone-washed mom jeans with an elasticized waistband? I say, “HELL NO!”

So for the next few days, I will eat like a prisoner on death row, devouring my last meal before heading to the electric chair. I will make a grocery list of every healthy, low fat, organic vegetable, fruit, and whole grain product that I can think of. I will pull my yoga mat and five pound dumb-bells out of the closet, and buy a new leash for Ralph. I will purchase a notebook so that, beginning January 1st, I can document every bite of food that I ingest. I will weigh myself each day, before I eat anything and after I’ve pee’d and removed every article of clothing, and then I’ll log the numbers diligently in my journal. With renewed fervor, I will attempt again what I’ve failed to do every year for the past decade. Why? Please refer to paragraph four. And because I’m no quitter. This year, I will...

C

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Memories...

Christmas for me has always been a time for meditation and reflection…refreshed hope swirled with bittersweet nostalgia…like marshmallows melting into warm chocolate. I have so many wonderful memories from Christmases past, and as my mind sifts through those memories, a common thread weaves them together. That thread is love.

When I was five years old, my mother took me downtown on the bus to do our Christmas shopping. In 1955, all of the shops and department stores were still downtown. I was fascinated by the city. I loved the crowds…the hustle and bustle…the stately old buildings. Yes…Christmas in Memphis was magical in those days. Mom held my hand as we walked up and down the busy streets, admiring the holiday window displays and marveling at the spectacular decorations and sparkling lights. We ate lunch at Britlings Cafeteria, (upstairs, of course!) then she took me to The Enchanted Forest at Goldsmiths, so I could visit with Santa Claus and give him my wish list. Afterwards, we relaxed at the drugstore soda fountain on the corner of Main Street and Madison Avenue, waiting for the bus, surrounded by shopping bags filled with goodies, and warming ourselves with steaming cups of hot cocoa.

And then, there was that Christmas in 1976. I was living in a ratty little apartment in Midtown. I didn’t have much money, but I had tons of friends. I managed to get a small Christmas tree, but couldn’t afford to buy decorations to put on it. One night, everybody came over with lots of construction paper, glitter, paint and markers. They brought bottles of cheap screw-top wine and bags of chips and candy. We drank wine, sang, danced, partied way into the night, and made ornaments for the tree. The more we drank, the wackier the ornaments became. Before they left, we all stumbled outdoors for an impromptu snowball fight. Later in the wee hours, I sat alone in the dark admiring my wonky, beautiful tree as I drifted off to sleep.

When my daughter was young, I had the opportunity to experience again the wonders of Christmas from a child‘s perspective. By then, most of the stores had moved out east to the malls. But I would take her downtown to The Enchanted Forest to see Santa Claus and we would drink hot cocoa at the drugstore, just like my mom and I had done so many years before.

When she was a teenager, we would stay up late on Christmas Eve to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life,” then go to Midnight Mass at Holy Rosary. We weren’t Catholic, but we loved that feeling of bundling up in our coats, gloves, and scarves, dashing out into the frosty winter night, and entering the warm, candlelit church to worship, sing carols, and acknowledge the true meaning of Christmas. Afterwards, we almost always ended up at CK’s diner, talking and laughing over plates of scrambled eggs and pancakes.

Tonight I’m at home, drinking hot tea next to a crackling fire. I don’t have a tree, but I have two sock snowmen on the mantle to remind me that Christmas is right around the corner. My boyfriend is snoring in his La-Z-Boy, Ralph is contently chewing on a skanky rawhide bone that I wish he would take to another room, and I am sitting here time traveling through Christmases past. Soon I’ll spend another Christmas with family and friends. There’ll be fun times, good food, and lots of love. They will get to meet Ralph for the first time. Hopefully he won’t pee on their carpet. I will see my adorable one year old grandson, Jameson, and once again I’ll get a chance to experience Christmas through the eyes of a child. I have so much to be thankful for….we all do…

Much Love and Merry Christmas!

C

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tom Shadyac's new documentary...the "shift" is about to hit the fan...

From the director of BRUCE ALMIGHTY, THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, and ACE VENTURA comes something completely different. Tom Shadyac's fascinating and life-changing new documentary, "I AM," asks thought-provoking questions like, "What's wrong with our world?" and "What can we do about it?" and features interviews with well-known cultural figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the late historian Howard Zinn as well as lesser-known scientists, poets and evolutionary biologists.

They all grapple with Shadyac’s central theme, puzzling over why man is often more competitive than cooperative, more aggressive than empathetic — in other words more like Donald Trump than like Gandhi. "I AM" will be in theaters early next year.

In the meantime, check out the website, iamthedoc.com/, and read the following interview with Tom Shadyac from The Los Angeles Times -

THE BIG PICTURE - Tom Shadyac: Life begins after you give away your Hollywood toys
November 15, 2010 | 5:27 pm

There’s a scene in Tom Shadyac’s new documentary, “I Am,” where the filmmaker visits the Institute of HeartMath, a research organization in Northern California that explores the scientific basis for understanding human connectedness. Shadyac sits in front of a bowl of yogurt, which is connected via electrodes to a meter that can somehow register your heart’s emotional reaction to various stimuli. When the needle on the meter doesn’t move, Rollin McCraty, a senior researcher at HeartMath, suggests to Shadyac that he should think of something that might trigger a reaction.

Shadyac jokes, “Maybe I should call my agent.” The camera cuts to the meter, which gyrates wildly, like a Geiger counter near a uranium deposit. Shadyac’s mouth opens in amazement. “My agent. A source of stress in show business!”

I still can’t figure out how the yogurt so quickly identified high-level anxiety, but when it comes to Shadyac’s feelings about his Hollywood career, the meter was right on the money. Once the most celebrated comedy director in the business, having made a fortune with hits like “The Nutty Professor,” “Liar Liar” and “Bruce Almighty,” Shadyac is now a Hollywood dropout.

Now 51, he hasn’t made a feature film since “Evan Almighty” in 2007. He sold a 17,000-square-foot mansion in Pasadena and moved into a trailer park in north Malibu. He’s been giving away most of his money and was well on his way to shedding his possessions several years ago when he took a serious fall while bicycling in Virginia, breaking his hand and suffering a concussion.

The hand healed, but Shadyac ended up with a nasty case of post-concussion syndrome, an ailment common among professional athletes that can cause depression, disorientation and has even prompted some victims to commit suicide.

It took Shadyac months to recover. When I visited him Friday at his trailer park home, he pointed to a closet in his tiny bedroom. “That’s where I would sleep a lot of the time,” he says. “Everything felt too loud and too bright because my brain had lost the ability to filter things out.”

When Shadyac finally returned to health, he decided that he needed to make a film that could explore why today’s culture is so obsessed with competition and separation instead of community and cooperation. Due in theaters early next year, “I Am” features interviews with all sorts of wise men and women, including well-known cultural figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the late historian Howard Zinn as well as lesser-known scientists, poets and evolutionary biologists.

They all grapple with Shadyac’s central theme, puzzling over why man is often more competitive than cooperative, more aggressive than empathetic — in other words more like Donald Trump than like Gandhi. The film is crammed with intriguing ideas, but Shadyac earns his keep as a filmmaker. He illustrates the serious talk with provocative images, emphasizing our sense of connectedness, for example, with a great scene of dozens of skydivers, holding hands as they plunge earthward.

But the film is clearly an act of penance as well. Five years ago, Shadyac was flying everywhere by private jet and staying in lavish hotel suites. He was giving away money, but he instinctively knew something was amiss — after “Liar Liar” opened, he slipped away to Thomas Merton’s monastery in Kentucky for a 10-day silent retreat.

“I had a woman at my production company whose job was to find people in need that we could help — people whose houses had burned down, kids in a blind children’s center,” he told me last week, sitting in his cozy trailer overlooking the gorgeous California coastline. “But I didn’t realize that even though I was giving my money away, my own life was a very poor reflection of who I thought I was. I thought I was taking care of others, but I was really only taking care of me.”

He laughs. “I couldn’t decry the gap between the rich and the poor and actually be the gap between the rich and the poor. As Mr. Gandhi says, you have to be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Childless and divorced for more than a decade, Shadyac now realizes he was searching for meaning, something he wasn’t destined to find in the shallow slipstream of Hollywood.

These days, Shadyac has one trailer that he lives in, another that functions as a production office. He admits he was afraid at first to make such a downscale move but says that “after one night of fear, I’ve found a great community here — I’m much happier in this little place than I’ve ever been in all my fancy houses.”

He’s still teasing out the complexities of how much he can practice what he preaches. He doesn’t have a cellphone. He has a small car, but he travels most places by bicycle, always wearing a helmet. He has taken planes to show his movie at film festivals, but he flies coach, not private.

“Look, this is an experiment,” he says. “I still have a lot of money that I don’t feel is mine because it came from a competitive system that is helping, in its own way, to destroy the world. So the way I run the economy of my life is to take only what I need to live and funnel the rest to other people.”

As for his career, that’s a work in progress too. Shadyac hasn’t taken a studio meeting in more than two years. When his agent and business manager come to see him, he encourages them to paddle-board in the ocean with him before anyone can start talking business. If he does take a job, it would have to be on his terms.

Shadyac is on the short list to direct the remake of “The Incredible Mr. Limpet,” a Warner Bros. comedy that has Zach Galifianakis attached as its star. However, Shadyac envisions the film as an environmentally conscious comedy, so much so that he first ran his ideas by the filmmakers who did the eco-documentary “The Cove” to make sure they were environmentally sound.

You get the feeling he isn’t counting on getting the job. “I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he says. “The studio may have someone else whose take they like more.”

For now, Shadyac is more preoccupied with getting the word out about “I Am.” “I’m doing my career in reverse. Usually you start with a little movie and work your way up to the big ones, but I started with the high-profile films and I’ve managed to work my way down. But what good is our art if it doesn’t change us, if our lives don’t reflect the values that we put into our films? Too many things are handed to us — the private jets and the big hotel suites. But what it does to you is insidious.”

He falls silent, staring out his window at the ocean.

“It’s already enough of a privilege to be an artist. We don’t need anymore privileges. I’m not saying that movie stars shouldn’t have trailers [on movie sets]. That’s not the line for me to draw. But if I make another film, all I need is a room, not a trailer,” he laughs as he points out the obvious. “I’ve already got one.”

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mahatma Gandhi's life was his message...

Just finished watching Gandhi, the 1982 biographical film based on the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who led the nonviolent resistance movement against British Colonial rule in India during the first half of the 20th century.

It’s a wonderful movie about the extraordinary man who aspired to be an ordinary man. Gandhi praised the simple life and set a personal example himself by his vegetarian life style, and practices of natural healing and hygiene. He dressed minimally in clothing made from homespun fabric, and chose the spinning wheel to be a symbol of this way of life. He beseeched the Indians to create a cottage industry by spinning and weaving their own cloth thereby taking on the struggle against the textile industry of England. He insisted on sharing in manual labor, walked instead of riding in automobiles, and at his death had only a very few possessions.

Gandhi pioneered satyagraha, the resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, a philosophy firmly founded upon ahimsa, or total nonviolence. This concept helped India to gain independence, and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.

And if you didn't know, "Mahatma" is Sanskrit for "Great Soul." It is similar in usage to the modern Christian term saint.

Check out these famous quotes attributed to Gandhi throughout his remarkable life...

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

Be the change that you want to see in the world.

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.

Whenever I despair, I remember that the way of truth and love has always won. There may be tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they may seem invincible, but in the end, they always fail. Think of it...always.

Hate the sin, love the sinner.

I am a Muslim and a Hindu and a Christian and a Jew...and so are all of you.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.

My life is my message.


- Mahatma Gandhi, October 2, 1869 - January 20, 1948 -

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Gift of YOU...

Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year.” Just ask Andy Williams. But why then are we so stressed out? I’ll tell you why. Because money’s tight, the malls are packed with other stressed out people trying to figure out what to buy for Aunt Mildred, and Christmas gifts are expensive. What to do?

First, ask yourself this question. What do your friends and loved ones really need? Another pair of cheap earrings? An ugly tie? Some useless little knick-knacks? An itchy, mohair sweater that doesn’t fit? I didn’t think so. And do you really have the extra cash to spend on hundreds of dollars worth of presents that no one wants? I know I don’t.

So this Christmas, why don’t you give the gift of YOU. Volunteer to drive your elderly neighbor across the street to her monthly doctor’s appointments. If you’re a decorator, help out your design challenged sister with a free consultation. If you’re a massage therapist, give an hour of spa heaven to your friend with back problems. Make plans to cook dinner for your parents once a month and sit down with them and really talk. Arrange to do your uncle’s income taxes for him if you’re an accountant. Do you have friends with pets? Take their dog for a walk or feed their cat the next time they go out of town. Offer to baby-sit for the single mom next door so she can go to yoga classes on Saturday mornings. You get the idea...

Genuine kindness and consideration are so much more appreciated than a hastily chosen gift that you can’t really afford, and that will probably end up taking up space in the back of a drawer. Be creative! Be thoughtful. And carry the spirit of Christmas with you all year long.

C

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Planet Carol's Top Ten "Warm and Fuzzy" Christmas Movies

You simply CANNOT be a Scrooge after watching one of these holiday favorites, best viewed while in bed, wearing flannel pj’s, snuggled under a down comforter, with a steaming pot of Earl Grey, a plate of warm sugar cookies, and a box of Kleenex...

Note: Auntie Mame and When Harry Met Sally are not Christmas movies per se, but both have Christmas scenes in them, and I somehow always feel inspired to watch them at this time of the year.

1. It's a Wonderful Life

2. White Christmas

3. Holiday Inn

4. Miracle on 34th Street

5. Christmas in Connecticut

6. A Charlie Brown Christmas

7. Love Actually

8. The Family Stone

9. Auntie Mame

10. When Harry Met Sally

Did you hear the bell ring? Another angel got his wings! Get in the spirit!

C

Monday, December 13, 2010

No culinary skills? That's a crock...

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m no Martha Stewart. My expertise simply does not extend to the domestic arena. It’s always been that way. As a child, I often spent summers visiting my grandparents at their farm in Mississippi. My grandmother was an awesome cook, however, I avoided the kitchen like the plague. I was interested only in sitting down at the table just as the food was laid out, and woofing down the results of her hours of slaving over a hot stove. The rest of the time, I was outside riding horses and pretending to be a cowboy.

I’m the girl who, at eighteen, stood in front of a washing machine at the laundromat with my new husband and asked, “how do you turn it on?” And our kitchen was like a foreign country…one of those cold, barren, eastern European countries where a pair of stiff ill-fitting blue jeans costs $200, and everything has beets in it. In other words…uncomfortable and unfamiliar. I’d never cooked with gas, and our crappy little apartment stove had two settings…high…and off. So, everything I cooked was burned on the outside and raw in the middle. My only attempt at making homemade biscuits turned out twelve perfect hockey pucks. Once, I torched the kitchen curtains over the sink, trying to put out a skillet fire. As I pitched the flaming pan into the parking lot, the guy who lived next door drove up and asked , “trying to cook again, huh?” Unfortunately, it was downhill from there.

And you know what? I’m ok with that. I’ve made peace with the absence of a domestic gene and my lack of culinary skills. Eating out is great. Good food…no cleanup. Take-out? Good food…minimal cleanup. The thing is, unless you have enough money to eat out every night, or you’re lucky enough to have your own personal chef, you really do HAVE to cook occasionally. Hence, my love affair with the crock pot. Crock pot dinner? Good food…almost impossible to screw up!

I have a recipe for crock pot Moroccan chicken that’s so easy it’s embarrassing, yet it looks and tastes wonderfully complex. You get your meat…you get your veggies, dried fruit, spices and chicken broth…and you throw them in a pot and walk away. When you return with a baguette from Eatzi’s that you picked up on the way home from work, your dinner is hot and bubbly and ready to eat. Leftovers for two or three more meals later in the week…one big pot to wash…it’s a no-brainer….and here it is!

MOROCCAN CHICKEN

Ingredients

4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 lbs skinless chicken pieces
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apricot, coarsely chopped
1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
ground black pepper
hot cooked couscous (whole wheat preferred)
pine nuts, toasted
fresh cilantro (optional)

Directions

1 In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker place carrots and onions.

2 Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt.

3 Add to cooker; top chicken with raisins and apricots.

4 In bowl whisk broth, tomato paste, flour, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, ginger, cinnamon and the ground black pepper.

5 Add to cooker. 6 Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 6-1/2 to 7 hours (or on high-heat setting for 3-1/2 to 4 hours). 7 Serve in bowls with couscous. 8 Sprinkle with nuts. 9 Garnish with cilantro.

Enjoy!

C

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Greetings from Texas and Happy Holidays!

Well...it's been a while...but I'm back! I've settled into my new life in Texas. I came to Dallas with very few preconceived notions or expectations. I'd been here a few times in the past for the Home and Gift Market, which means I was familiar with the Market, and the chain restaurants and hotels within a one mile radius of the Market. So I pretty much started with a blank slate. We arrived in July, in the middle of a heatwave, so my first impression was that it was hot as hell!

Our first weekend here, my boyfriend took me to eat barbeque at a place called Sonny Bryan's. Being originally from Memphis, my idea of barbeque is pork. He's lived in Texas before, so he is all about beef brisket. We've had a running feud for years about which is better. But, I ordered the brisket...for the same reason that you don't order a burger at the best pizza joint in Naples. Thick, juicy, slices of crunchy, crusted beef...with spicy sauce served on the side in individual sized bottles, lined up on a hotplate near the napkins and silverware. We sat indoors on what looked like old school desks...because it was a thousand degrees outside on the picnic tables. All of the desks were for right-handed people...just like when I was in school. Why is that? (I'm left-handed.) Anyway, I must say, the brisket was wonderful!

But not to worry, my Tennessee porker friends...barbeque for me will always be Interstate BBQ in Memphis TN. I'm just expanding my horizons!

We had dinner last night at a place called Off The Bone, a vintage gas station converted into a barbeque cafe. We shared a full order of delicious, meaty pork ribs. Very tasty! I put the bones in a bag for our new dog, Ralph, who is apparently a huge fan of pork ribs. He must have relatives in Tennessee.

One interesting thing I've noticed here. Even though this is the South, most of the restaurants don't serve sweet tea. Curious...

I love an adventure, and exploring Dallas so far has been very enjoyable! And I've got the extra five...ok, eight...pounds to prove it. I've got a lot to write about...more and more discoveries everyday. This place is brimming with world-class art, interesting shops and boutiques, stylish people, lovely homes, and of course, some really great food!

Hope you all are having a fabulous holiday season so far...I know I am! Talk to you again soon!

C