Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcome to "Project Style ~ 2012!"

It’s New Year’s Eve. I can’t believe 2011 is almost over. My, how time flies! This year has been a real lulu…generally good…mostly successful…occasionally even fabulous! I practiced yoga semi-regularly…excelled in pole-dancing…managed to adhere to a sometimes healthy/often dreadful diet…lost twenty pounds…and found ten of them again this month at the Christmas buffet table…

But for 2012, I’ve decided to forgo the usual New Year’s Resolutions…you know…lose weight…get in shape…stop eating coconut cream pie for breakfast, etc.

Instead, I’ve decided to do my part to bring back style….

Style? What does that mean? Well, there are endless varieties, and everyone has some type of style…no, really they do. But the kind of style I’m referring to heralds back to a time when life was kinder…gentler…more gracious…more graceful…more…well…stylish.

No, I’m not sinking into a sad, wistful…and futile… state of longing for days gone by. I have no intention of rejecting technology and modern conveniences. And I’m not trying to be pompous, pretentious, or snobbish. My quest for style has nothing to do with money, exclusivity, denial, or keeping up with the Jones’s. It has more to do with personal satisfaction and quality of life.

I want to watch TV less…and read more. I want intelligent, engaging conversation…a contemporary version of the salons of Paris. I want to go to museums…listen to jazz…enjoy afternoon tea…keep fresh flowers on the table. I want to pay more attention to the way I look when I leave my house. I want more organization and less chaos. I don’t want to live beyond my means, but I want the best that I can afford.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “If you want to change the world, start with yourself.“ So, my Resolution for the coming year is to combine the best of both worlds…to take advantage of the truly great things that technology and modern life have to offer, while giving a nod to the timeless style and glamour of the past. I will be documenting my quest for style in Food+Clothing+Shelter with a series of posts throughout the year. I’ll share my sources, inspirations, successes and failures. Who knows...maybe I'll start a revolution.:) It’s going to be an interesting year. Welcome to “Project Style ~ 2012!"

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year! C

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy, Happy Christmas...

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!

~ Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Retail Worker's Reflections On The Holiday Season...

I usually experience mixed feelings of joy and melancholy during the holidays, and alternately sing along with the relentlessly cheerful Christmas music and tear up over the lone string of twinkle lights and the two little sock snowmen on my mantle. For an artistic person such as myself, it’s a pitiful display of non-creativity, but after years in retail, it’s the best I can do. Because by the time I get home in the evening, I’m just over it.

To all of you non-retail people, I know that’s hard to understand. “But I LOVE Christmas!” you say. “I adore the crowds…the gaiety…the decorations…the glitter…the piped in Christmas music at the mall.“ Yeah…spoken like a true civilian.

But if you had to deal with the manic crowds, the people who walk in thirty seconds before closing with a long shopping list, the forced gaiety, the glitter in your hair, socks, and eventually even your underwear, and 900 truly dreadful versions of “The Twelve Days of Christmas“…ten hours a day…seven days a week…beginning the day after Halloween until the end of the year….

For every power shopper out there in a tacky “HO HO HO” sweater covered with bells and ribbons, there’s a guy working at a bookstore with a deadpan expression, being forced to wear felt reindeer antlers, looking like a deer in the headlights.

You know how Bing Crosby’s rendition of “White Christmas” makes you want to cry? Well that’s a great warm and fuzzy moment…three or four times in a Christmas season…but three or four times a day for two whole months can be really depressing.

After years of saying “Merry Christmas,“ retail workers are now expected to change to the more p.c. “Happy Holidays.” I am a liberal, open-minded person. I freely appreciate and acknowledge the holidays and customs of all cultures. But I grew up in the fifties and sixties when people said “Merry Christmas.” I don’t say it with any sense of exclusion or bias…it’s simply the way I grew up. I’m a Christian…I celebrate Christmas…sometimes I slip up and say “Merry Christmas.” So, sue me…

And then…a few questions…

Why do people just assume that if they saw something in a store last year, or two months ago…it’s still there? It’s a store…stores sell merchandise…other people actually buy things too…it’s not a museum…

Why do people with children think that retail workers are obligated to baby sit their kids while they shop? Are they REALLY unaware that their children are racing through the store, screaming at the top of their lungs and climbing shelves full of heavy, breakable objects? I don’t want to spank the kids. I want to make their parents stand in the corner with their noses in a bulls eye for a time out, to re-think their parenting skills…

Why do people look at store hours posted on the door…see that the store has just closed…and then rattle the door and mouth…”are you closed?” YES! YES, if the sign says they close at six…and it’s two minutes after six…they are, in fact, closed. And here’s another surprise…they have a life. They make plans for after work…just like you do. So while you’re poking around after the store has closed…picking up every item on the shelf…asking if it’s on sale…they’re another minute late for dinner with their family and friends…

But at the end of the day…

It’s cold outside. I’m sitting by the fire…wrapped in a blanket, admiring my Christmas decorations on the mantle. I’m watching “White Christmas,” with a cup of hot tea, a bowl of homemade vegetable soup, and a box of Kleenex. I’m experiencing mixed feelings of joy and melancholy…singing along with Bing and Rosemary, and Danny and Vera…

I love Christmas…! C

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Top Ten Myths About Thanksgiving

I'm not sure if any of this information makes a difference to the way I perceive Thanksgiving, or the way I celebrate Thanksgiving, but I find it interesting...

MYTH #1: The Pilgrims held the first Thanksgiving.

To see what the first Thanksgiving was like you have to go to: Texas. Texans claim the first Thanksgiving in America actually took place in little San Elizario, a community near El Paso, in 1598 -- twenty-three years before the Pilgrims' festival. For several years they have staged a reenactment of the event that culminated in the Thanksgiving celebration: the arrival of Spanish explorer Juan de Onate on the banks of the Rio Grande. De Onate is said to have held a big Thanksgiving festival after leading hundreds of settlers on a grueling 350-mile long trek across the Mexican desert.

Then again, you may want to go to Virginia.. At the Berkeley Plantation on the James River they claim the first Thanksgiving in America was held there on December 4th, 1619....two years before the Pilgrims' festival....and every year since 1958 they have reenacted the event. In their view it's not the Mayflower we should remember, it's the Margaret, the little ship which brought 38 English settlers to the plantation in 1619. The story is that the settlers had been ordered by the London company that sponsored them to commemorate the ship's arrival with an annual day of Thanksgiving. Hardly anybody outside Virginia has ever heard of this Thanksgiving, but in 1963 President Kennedy officially recognized the plantation's claim.

MYTH #2: Thanksgiving was about family.

If by Thanksgiving, you have in mind the Pilgrim festival, forget about it being a family holiday. Put away your Norman Rockwell paintings. Turn off Bing Crosby. Thanksgiving was a multicultural community event. If it had been about family, the Pilgrims never would have invited the Indians to join them.

MYTH #3: Thanksgiving was about religion.

No it wasn't. Paraphrasing the answer provided above, if Thanksgiving had been about religion, the Pilgrims never would have invited the Indians to join them. Besides, the Pilgrims would never have tolerated festivities at a true religious event. Indeed, what we think of as Thanksgiving was really a harvest festival. Actual "Thanksgivings" were religious affairs; everybody spent the day praying. Incidentally, these Pilgrim Thanksgivings occurred at different times of the year, not just in November.

MYTH #4: The Pilgrims ate turkey.

What did the Pilgrims eat at their Thanksgiving festival? They didn't have corn on the cob, apples, pears, potatoes, or even cranberries. No one knows if they had turkey, although they were used to eating turkey. The only food we know they had for sure was deer. (And they didn't eat with a fork; they didn't have forks back then.)

So how did we get the idea that you have turkey and cranberry and such on Thanksgiving? It was because the Victorians prepared Thanksgiving that way. And they're the ones who made Thanksgiving a national holiday, beginning in 1863, when Abe Lincoln issued his presidential Thanksgiving proclamations, two of them: one to celebrate Thanksgiving in August, a second one in November. Before Lincoln, Americans outside New England did not usually celebrate the holiday. (The Pilgrims, incidentally, didn't become part of the holiday until late in the 19th century. Until then, Thanksgiving was simply a day of thanks, not a day to remember the Pilgrims.)

MYTH #5: The Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock.

According to historian George Willison, who devoted his life to the subject, the story about the rock is all malarkey, a public relations stunt pulled off by townsfolk to attract attention. What Willison found out is that the Plymouth Rock legend rests entirely on the dubious testimony of Thomas Faunce, a 95-year-old man, who told the story more than a century after the Mayflower landed. Unfortunately, not too many people ever heard how we came by the story of Plymouth Rock. Willison's book came out at the end of World War II and Americans had more on their minds than Pilgrims then. So we've all just gone merrily along repeating the same old story as if it's true when it's not. And anyway, the Pilgrims didn't land in Plymouth first. They first made landfall at Provincetown. Of course, the people of Plymouth stick by hoary tradition. Tour guides insist that Plymouth Rock is the rock.

MYTH #6: Pilgrims lived in log cabins.

No Pilgrim ever lived in a log cabin. The log cabin did not appear in America until late in the 17th century, when it was introduced by Germans and Swedes. The very term "log cabin" cannot be found in print until the 1770s. Log cabins were virtually unknown in England at the time the Pilgrims arrived in America. So what kind of dwellings did the Pilgrims inhabit? As you can see if you visit Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, the Pilgrims lived in wood clapboard houses made from sawed lumber.

MYTH #7: Pilgrims dressed in black.

Not only did they not dress in black, they did not wear those funny buckles, weird shoes, or black steeple hats. So how did we get the idea of the buckles? Plimoth Plantation historian James W. Baker explains that in the 19th century, when the popular image of the Pilgrims was formed, buckles served as a kind of emblem of quaintness. That's the reason illustrators gave Santa buckles. Even the blunderbuss, with which Pilgrims are identified, was a symbol of quaintness. The blunderbuss was mainly used to control crowds. It wasn't a hunting rifle. But it looks out of date and fits the Pilgrim stereotype.

MYTH #8: Pilgrims, Puritans -- Same Thing

Though even presidents get this wrong -- Ronald Reagan once referred to Puritan John Winthrop as a Pilgrim -- Pilgrims and Puritans were two different groups. The Pilgrims came over on the Mayflower and lived in Plymouth. The Puritans, arriving a decade later, settled in Boston. The Pilgrims welcomed heterogeneousness. Some (so-called "strangers") came to America in search of riches, others (so-called "saints") came for religious reasons.

The Puritans, in contrast, came over to America strictly in search of religious freedom. Or, to be technically correct, they came over in order to be able to practice their religion freely. They did not welcome dissent. That we confuse Pilgrims and Puritans would have horrified both. Puritans considered the Pilgrims incurable utopians. While both shared the belief that the Church of England had become corrupt, only the Pilgrims believed it was beyond redemption. They therefore chose the path of Separatism. Puritans held out the hope the church would reform.

MYTH #9: Puritans hated sex.

Actually, they welcomed sex as a God-given responsibility. When one member of the First Church of Boston refused to have conjugal relations with his wife two years running, he was expelled. Cotton Mather, the celebrated Puritan minister, condemned a married couple that had abstained from sex in order to achieve a higher spirituality. They were the victims, he wrote, of a "blind zeal."

MYTH #10: Puritans hated fun.

H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy!" Actually, the Puritans welcomed laughter and dressed in bright colors (or, to be precise, the middle and upper classes dressed in bright colors; members of the lower classes were not permitted to indulge themselves -- they dressed in dark clothes). As Carl Degler long ago observed, "The Sabbatarian, antiliquor, and antisex attitudes usually attributed to the Puritans are a 19th-century addition to the much more moderate and wholesome view of life's evils held by the early settlers of New England."

This article, by Rick Shenkman, was first published by History News Network

Rick Shenkman is the editor of the History News Network.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Purple Craze...

Give your home the royal treatment with purple! Purple is dramatic, sophisticated, powerful, serene, seductive, and a little eccentric. It's great with gray and black, and contrasts beautifully with warm colors like yellow and orange. Check out these fabulous purple rooms and get inspired...






Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chalkboard Decor

Create a fun, functional and stylish chalkboard wall or door in any room of your home with paint that is erasable, washable, and durable...





Monday, November 14, 2011

Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew

Enjoy your own personal "Laurel Canyon Moment" with my version of Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew...a la Crock Pot, of course!

Peace and Love, C


Ingredients

5 - 6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup brown lentils
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh garlic clove, peeled & minced
1 Tbsp fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded & minced
2 - 3 cups peeled sweet potatoes or yams, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil leaf
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp gr coriander
1/2 tsp gr cumin
1/2 tsp gr fennel
3 Tbsp tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Rinse and drain the brown lentils.
Add vegetable stock and all ingredients to a cold crockpot, cover and cook on low for eight hours.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Laurel Canyon Moment...

I woke up this morning having a “Laurel Canyon” moment. For those of you who don’t know what that means, I’ll explain. Laurel Canyon is a canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles that became famous (and infamous) in the sixties for being a nexus of counterculture activities and attitudes.

I didn’t live in California in the sixties, but I knew all about Laurel Canyon. It was a eucalyptus-scented, mystical, magical, almost mythological geographical spot in the history of pop music. And it was home to many of L.A.’s folk and rock musicians, like Frank Zappa, Jim Morrison, Carol King, members of The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield, Glenn Frey and Don Henley of The Eagles, Cass Elliot of The Mama’s and the Papa’s, British blues legend John Mayall, and many more. Back in the day, I saw them all.

Joni Mitchell lived in the Canyon then, in a home that was immortalized in the song “Our House,” written by her then-lover Graham Nash, of Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Laurel Canyon was the inspiration for Joni’s third album, “Ladies of the Canyon,” released in 1970.

In 1970, I had just graduated from high school and moved into my first apartment. It was decorated in the bohemian free spirit-meets yard sale-meets college freshman style, which is to say, a mattress on the floor draped with an exotic, batik bedspread, beaded curtains, and a gigantic poster of Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar, mixed with a herculon, early American sofa, an avocado green leatherette chair, and a cheap, fiber-board bookshelf that held a set of Encyclopedias. Patchouli candles burned everywhere.

I’d wake up on Saturday mornings, drink Chamomile tea, eat homemade granola, and turn on Joni Mitchell’s “Ladies of the Canyon.” I’d gaze out the kitchen window and daydream of California…the bohemian lifestyle, the perfect weather, the ocean, and the music. Then I would dress in a flowing skirt and clunky Earth Shoes, put on lots of colorful beads and a big straw hat, and meet friends at the Babylon Café for a vegetarian meal of lentil and sweet potato stew, sautéed kale, and couscous. After lunch, we’d walk to Overton Park, sit around on Indian blankets, discuss art, literature, politics, social issues, and of course, music. Someone always had a guitar, bongos, and a tambourine. We may have been in Memphis, TN, but the moment was so Laurel Canyon.

A few years ago, while visiting L.A., I drove down the precipitous hills and serpentine roads into Laurel Canyon. My mind drifted back to a time when rock legends were struggling musicians jamming on the steps of crumbling canyon bungalows instead of instantly famous but quickly forgotten American Idols. The Canyon was as mystical and magical as I expected it would be. It seemed so familiar, almost as if I’d been there before. And I had been, if only in spirit…

This morning the sun was bright and the air refreshing. I threw open the windows, lit a white peach and patchouli candle, practiced yoga for thirty minutes, and sipped a cup of Chamomile tea while listening to “Ladies of the Canyon.” Instead of the usual black top and pants, I put on a colorful sarong, an armful of silver bangles, and dangly turquoise earrings. Then I went to the farmer’s market and bought fresh vegetables for dinner, and a big bunch of daisies.

Now it’s late afternoon. The sun is melting into the horizon like a glob of golden butter and I’m relaxing in my backyard in Dallas TX. But when I close my eyes, I see the winding road dappled with sunlight through the trees, feel the breeze, smell the eucalyptus, and hear the echoes of music’s past drifting through the Canyon. The sensation is familiar and mystical and magical, almost like I’m there. And I am, if only in spirit….

C

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cindy Joseph ~ Is Gray The New Blond?

This is a reprint of an interview from the HUFF/POST 50 ~ The Internet Newspaper: News Blogs Video Community ~ posted today, October 25, 2011

CINDY JOSEPH: 60-YEAR-OLD SUPERMODEL, ON DEFYING AGE BARRIERS

With laugh lines and a full head of long silver hair, Cindy Joseph is defying all age barriers. She started modeling at the age of 49 when a casting agent "discovered" her on a New York City street and asked her to model for a Dolce and Gabbana ad. That ignited her modeling career with the prestigious Ford Models, and she was soon gracing the covers and pages of O, The Oprah Magazine, More, Glamour, Mademoiselle, and Real Simple, to name a few. She's modeled for fashion clients such as Anthropologie, Banana Republic, and J. Crew, and has been the face of Garnier, Olay, Aveda and Nivea beauty campaigns.

Joseph was a makeup artist for 25 years before she started her second act as a supermodel. The mother of two is now promoting ageless, natural beauty with her own cosmetics brand, BOOM! By Cindy Joseph, and is about to launch a new addition to her line of skin and makeup products, called BOOMSILK.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On Huff/Post50, we talk a lot about how you can reinvent yourself at midlife. Did you have any major "ah-ha!" moments that caused you to start your second act?

The way I look at it is that for as long as we've been alive, boomers have reinvented every decade we've lived through. What we're doing is unprecedented, and it has been at every decade. We have never followed the status quo, and now we're in our 50s and 60s and continuing to reinvent our lives.

So many men and women struggle with whether they want to go gray. How/when/why did you decide to go gray?

I started getting silver hairs very distinctively in my early 30s, and by my mid-30s I had a white stripe in my bangs. I was still young enough that it didn't occur to me that this change could be related to age. I thought it made me look cool and unique. But as it started creeping in around the sides, I'd look in the mirror and think, 'Oh my God!' I thought it made me look unhealthy and washed out, so I started dyeing my hair. And at first I would only dye the sides, keeping the streak in my bangs, which had become kind of a trademark.

After six years of this, I overheard myself in a conversation about age and beauty telling someone about how life, for me, was getting better and better. I was talking about how I was waiting for something bad to happen, because age gets such a bad rap in our society and I thought, 'where does that notion come from?' I realized then that age is so wrapped up in our concept of health. And a lot of people start losing their health as they age, not necessarily because they're old but because they didn't treat themselves well in the years preceding old age until it finally caught up with them. To change society's stereotypes about age we first have to change our personal definition and prejudice against age. Change the mind and you can change society.

How do you define beauty?

This is going to sound so repetitive and so old and so unsurprising. Life has proven to me what I heard before and didn't understand, and that is, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Absolutely, entirely, and 100 percent.

Tell me about your new beauty product line, and why you created it.

Well, first the inspiration came from a question from a friend, who said: "Why don't you combine your past career as a makeup artist with your current career as a model?" My first thought at the time was, the last thing we need is another tube of lipstick on this planet. But then I realized that a cosmetic company, a clothing line - any branding - is sort of like the name of a club. And people decide what club they want to belong to. And all the cosmetic clubs that have existed since the beginning of time have been 'anti-aging' clubs. So I decided to start a cosmetic line that was 'pro-aging,' that would say, 'you are the right age...no matter what age that may be.' This is pro-women, pro-beauty, pro-life. Whatever age you are, celebrate it!

What advice would you give to someone who was aspiring to be a model and yet was past the "sell-by" date?

Be your own judge, and don't take what the world believes personally. The modeling, fashion and beauty industries have opened up tremendously or I would never be modeling. And it still has a way to go. When all body types and demographics are represented in the fashion industry then we'll know things have truly changed. So give it a go, follow your dream and if the doors close don't take it personally. Society is slow moving - it takes time.

What's the one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you were growing up?

That I'm a pleasure-oriented creature, and if I honor that, which is innate to women, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble instead of trying to be success-oriented and goal-oriented in more male-oriented ways.

What are some of the biggest makeup mistakes you see on older women?

When they wear their makeup the same way they wore it in their 20s or 30s. When they're clearly using make up to try and look younger, they make themselves look older. Wear less. Keep moisturizing. Allow the character in your face to be your beauty. Adding texture to texture just makes more texture. So if you want to get rid of wrinkles, putting make up on them is just going to make them more so. A young face is more like a blank canvas so you can paint, you can paint colors and textures and all that stuff. But when you get older and you have character and wrinkles and age spots and all that stuff going on, just let it be there. You know, you're not going to trick anybody. You're not going to fool anybody!

Watch Video: Cindy Joseph: Is Gray The New Blond?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sweet Mystery Of Life...

I’m a people-watcher. I like to find a table in the corner or a bench tucked away, order a cappuccino, and just savor life happening. It’s fascinating to watch people in their element. I love trying to figure out from their style, demeanor, and body language what’s going on inside their heads.

Yesterday, I was enjoying my lunch at an outdoor café in downtown Dallas. It was a glorious, sunny day and the place was packed. There were the usual groups of business-men-and-women, wearing conservative suits and work attire. There were the ladies who lunch ~ fashionably dressed socialites who air-kiss each other when they meet, and chatter non-stop for hours about whatever it is they talk about. And then, there were the stylish young professionals, furiously texting their friends while they waited impatiently for their food.

I noticed an attractive lady sitting at a table near the sidewalk. She was probably in her early sixties ~ slim, fit, and well dressed in a non-ostentatious way. She was wearing a pair of gray capri pants and a silvery gray tunic top, flat sandals, and an interesting silver and crystal pendant. Her hairstyle was short, spiky, and the same silvery gray color as her tunic. Her makeup was minimal. She sat confidently and comfortably alone, pale blue tinted glasses perched on her nose, thumbing through a magazine while dining on a salad, and sipping occasionally from a bottle of sparkling Pellegrino water.

On a bench just a few feet away, another lady sat waiting for the bus, also probably in her early sixties. Her hair was gray as well, but dirty and unkempt. She was quite overweight, and appeared to be very tired and not particularly healthy. Her clothing was a hodge-podge mixture of nothing in particular, and she was slumped over a large bag that she held in her lap. She was smoking a cigarette and, between periodic coughing fits, eating a candy bar.

As I contrasted the two ladies, all I could think of was, how does this happen? What circumstances transported these two women to such different stations in life? Of course, I have no way of knowing what was going on in their lives or their heads, and it’s really none of my business. It’s not up to me to pass judgment on either of them. But I couldn’t help but be curious.

As an avid observer of the world around me, I’m constantly drawn into the human condition. I see people everyday who attract and inspire me, and others who break my heart. I see people who live with passion and purpose, and others who stumble tentatively through life but never really seem to live. And I see people who treat those around them with compassion, while others trample anyone who gets in their way.

One day, after seeing a man publicly berate and humiliate a homeless person, I asked a friend ~ "Why are people so cruel? Everyone thinks humans are so much more evolved than other animals, but I never see animals act so inhumanely." "Don’t you watch Animal Planet?" he replied. "Have you ever seen a lion go after a gazelle? There’s nothing humane about it. It’s brutal. It’s survival of the fittest."

Is that the answer, then? Are we really just slightly more civilized beasts? Do we achieve only as much in life as we’re willing to fight for? Do other factors figure into the equation? Like a stable childhood? A network of loving and supportive family and friends? Social connections? Education? Good physical, mental and emotional health? Karma? Kismet? Can we thrive without these things if we want to bad enough, or flounder, even if we’re blessed with them?

We all have hopes, dreams, ambitions, and visions for the future. Some are attainable, and others remain nebulous and out of reach. Some people rise to the top regardless of the odds, and others fall through the cracks. Some live with style and elan, while others simply exist. Our abilities to think and reason define us as human. Our capabilities for compassion and love make us humane. WHAT we do with what we have, or don’t have, is what makes us unique, complex individuals. But WHY we do what we do is a mystery. And THAT'S why we’re so fascinating!

C

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Complete Kitchen Garden ~ A Book By Ellen Ecker Ogden

The Complete Kitchen Garden is the definitive garden design and cookbook. Based on the seasonal cycles of the garden, each chapter offers an original themed garden design such as "The Salad Lover's Garden," "The Heirloom Maze Garden," and "The Children's Garden," with recipes to match and step-by-step instructions for growing the ultimate kitchen garden. Recipes play an integral role and encompass a full range of soups, salads, main-course savory dishes, and desserts, as well as condiments and garnish to dress up the plate. With a wide-ranging collection of fourteen garden designs and more than one hundred recipes, this book is sure to delight both novice and experienced gardeners.

~ Lemon Vinaigrette ~

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, mashed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a Mason jar with a lid. Shake to blend until emulsified. Set aside until the salad is prepared. Makes 1/2 cup.

Ellen Ecker Ogden is the co-founder of The Cook's Garden seed catalog. America's premier source for seeds and plants (now owned by W.A. Burpee Co.). She is the author of From The Cook's Garden and The Vermont Cheese Book. Her kitchen garden has been featured in national magazines including Martha Stewart's Living, Country Gardens, Organic Gardening, Horticulture, the Boston Globe and the New York Times, and she has been a guest on PBS's Victory Garden and on HGTV. She lives in Vermont.

Enjoy! C

Monday, October 17, 2011

Technology...Good Or Evil?

Technology today is amazing. But it’s a double-edged sword. I’m referring specifically to communications and information technology. C&I technology has made it easier and more convenient than ever to communicate in a far-reaching sense, but it’s my fear that it is destroying the art of conversation, and overwhelming us with more information than we can possibly process in a lifetime.

My love/hate relationship with technology began one day in the early 90’s. My boyfriend at the time was blathering on about the internet. The internet? I had no idea what he was talking about but somehow I knew he (an engineer and former math teacher) was going to tell me. “It’s a way of retrieving information,” he said, knowing that anything more in-depth would cause me to glaze over. “Why can’t I just go to the library?” I replied. End of conversation.

But eventually I got a computer, and with all the skill of a Neanderthal learning to make a weapon out of the jaw-bone of a woolly mammoth, I began to use the internet. At first I traveled the information highway only as a last resort, but then libraries computerized their records and I was forced to sputter into the 21st Century.

The internet makes it so easy to find the answers to burning questions, which is a good thing. However, the instant gratification makes it impossible for me to retain the answers longer than a nano-second. Back in the day, when I had to search through books, files, and piles of research for something, I remembered it forever. Yes I know, I can just look it up again, but I worry about the “what you don’t use you lose” theory. I want to rely on my brain to retain information, not my computer.

And then, there’s the cell phone, BlackBerry, iPhone, etc. Frankly, I used to object to talking on the phone instead of actual face-time. But nowadays, I rarely talk at all. I text. I refused to text for years, until I realized that everyone I knew screened their phone calls and the only way I could get a response was to send a text message.

I see people everyday walking around like zombies, texting, never acknowledging any human being they come in contact with. They drive mindlessly, changing lanes and running people off the road without ever realizing what they’ve done because they’re so engrossed in their BlackBerry. The other day, I watched a group of girls having lunch. They weren’t talking to each other. They were sitting silently at their table text messaging people who weren’t there. And last week, my daughter and I text’d each other until our messages became so long and convoluted that she finally broke down and called me. WTF?

The techno-trend is growing rapidly. When Apple launched the newest version of their iPhone, the line of eager customers wrapped around the block. The Apple folks were serving coffee and bottled water from a rolling cart to people who’d been waiting outside the store for two days! And they were all standing in line texting…

Facebook is a phenomenon that’s opening up a whole new world of communication, but it’s twisting our social lives in the process, especially the technology driven, younger generation. Watch this Toyota commercial. It’s funny, kind of sad, and illustrates my point.

Toyota Venza "Social Network"

I’ll admit, I do enjoy Facebook. I moved to Dallas last year, and FB allows me to keep up with friends and loved ones back home, as well as lots of really cool friends from all over the world, many of whom I would never have met without FB. We exchange information about our comings and goings, read each other’s comments, quotes, and funny anecdotes, share thoughts and ideas, and view recent (and occasionally, ancient) photos of each other.

But last night, while chatting online, it occurred to me that, except for my daughter, my sister, and a couple of close friends, I haven’t spoken to most of these people in months. Some for years. And a few I’ve never even met!

It’s getting to the point where we are constantly communicating, but we’re not SAYING anything. We aren’t seeing facial expressions. We aren’t privy to nuances like tone of voice, a smile, or body language. We shop online, get information online, and read online. Most customer service numbers are automated…we almost never talk to a real person. We’re living virtual lives, staring at a screen, typing on a keyboard, or manipulating a digital device. I find that problematic, and more than a little distressing.

So I’ve vowed to make an effort to use technology to enhance, rather than rule my life. How? Talk in-person whenever possible. Talk on the phone if in-person is impossible. And for God’s sake, when I’m eating lunch with someone, turn off my phone and talk to them! Text only when necessary. Don’t text when I drive…no text message is worth driving into a wall for.

Limit my time on Facebook, and don’t post every little thought that pops into my head. If I do post something, at least try to make it interesting and/or significant. And just for kicks, go to the library occasionally and research something instead of Googling.

A final note. Even though I‘m lamenting the demise of the art of conversation, there will always be a place in my heart for the written word. I love to read. And blogging online provides me the opportunity to reflect on, articulate and share my thoughts in a (hopefully) positive way with more people than I could ever reach otherwise.

Technology can be used for good or evil. It can encourage widespread communication, keep us connected to friends and family, introduce us to new friends, and provide worlds of information with the touch of a finger. Or, it could be the downfall of civilization. We get to decide.:)

C

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Beauty of White ~ One More Time :)

Randy Read ~ Nashville celebrity and man about town...

The Beauty Of White ~ White Hair

They're attractive, accomplished, confident and inspirational ~ and they all have gorgeous white hair!

Yasmina Rossi ~ Model/Artist/Photographer

Cindy Joseph ~ Model, and founder of BOOM, a pro-age cosmetics line

Anderson Cooper ~ Journalist, author and television personality

Emmylou Harris ~ Singer/Songwriter/Musician

Iris Krasnow ~ Best selling author of The Secret Lives of Wives

Helen Mirren ~ Academy Award winning actor

Diana Athill ~ British literary editor and novelist

As you must know by now, I'm a huge fan of white. I hope you enjoyed my Beauty Of White series! C

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Beauty Of White...Soft, White Cheeses




I’m sure there are entire blogs dedicated to everything cheese. However, I’m concentrating here on soft, white cheeses. Creamy or crumbly, simple or complex, mild or tart, sweet or savory…soft white cheeses are a joy to behold and to consume. These are some of my favorites~

Brie

Brie is the best known French cheese and has the nickname "The Queen of Cheeses". Several hundred years ago, Brie was one of the tributes which had to be paid to the French kings. In France, Brie is very different from the cheese exported to the United States. "Real" French Brie is unstabilized and the flavor is complex when the surface turns slightly brown. When it is still pure-white, it’s not matured. If it’s cut before the maturing process is finished, it will never develop properly. Exported Brie, however, is stabilized and never matures. Stabilized Brie has a much longer shelf life and is not susceptible to bacteriological infections.

Classic Brie is made in a wide, flat round wheel with a center that softens to almost a runny, custard-like consistency when very ripe. It has an aroma reminiscent of fresh mushrooms, a rich buttery body and intense, savory taste. In order to enjoy the taste fully, Brie must be served at room temperature.


Camembert

Camembert was traditionally made in a small round, and because of this, matures differently than Brie. Made from pasteurized cow's milk. At the beginning of its ripening, Camembert is crumbly and soft and gets creamier over time. The centre remains a little firmer, bulging when very ripe, and the flavor is sweeter with nutty characteristics.

Camembert is one of the most famous cheeses in France, although it dates back only to the 18th century. It’s named after a Norman village where there is a statue of its creator (Marie Harel). In 1855 the cheese was presented to Napoleon, introduced as from the village of Camembert. He enjoyed it very much and from that moment Camembert became known everywhere by this name.

Feta

Feta is a classic and famous Greek curd cheese whose tradition dates back thousands of years and is still made by shepherds in the Greek mountains with unpasteurized milk. Feta is a soft, wet cheese with a rough surface and a bright white color. It is often stored in brine, contributing to its moistness and imparting a salty flavor to the cheese. Feta is made by curdling milk by adding either rennet or microbial rennet, and allowing the mixture to separate and drain. The curds are then cut, salted and pressed and the larger mass is placed in a brine solution to cure.

Feta is used as a table cheese, as well as in salads (e.g. the Greek salad), pastries and in baking, notably in the popular phyllo-based dishes spanakopita ("spinach pie") and tyropita (cheese pie) and combined with olive oil and vegetables.


Chevre

Chevre is a generic term which denotes a cheese made from the milk of goats, with the word chevre meaning goat in French. Most cheeses incorporating goat's milk use chevre in their labeling so that consumers seeking goat cheeses will be able to readily identify them. Chevre can come in a wide range of forms, from soft farmer's cheeses to fully cured firm varieties. Chevre also runs the flavor gamut, with some retaining a characteristic goaty flavor while other chevres are much more mild and buttery.

One of the most common forms of chevre is a fresh cheese which resembles cream cheese. This type of chevre tends to be slightly crumbly, creamy, and may have a strong goat flavor. Often soft chevre is herbed or spiced, and may be decorated with flowers or rosemary by more high-end dairies. Creamy chevre is delicious in salads, bread, and pizzas. While most of the creamy chevres available in the United States are made from pasteurized milk because the cheese is young, unpasteurized creamy chevres tend to have more complex flavors and an almost buttery feel.

Ricotta

Ricotta is a white, moist cheese that is usually made from the whey drained off during the making of mozzarella or provolone cheeses and is, technically speaking, a cheese by-product. Italian ricotta is typically made from the whey of sheep, cow, goat, or water buffalo milk, while the American product is almost always made of cow's milk whey. While both types are low in fat and sodium, the Italian version is naturally sweet, while the American is blander, slightly salty, and moister.

The word "ricotta" is derived from the Latin "recocta," which means "cooked twice." Good ricotta cheese is firm, but not solid and is commonly used in savory Italian dishes, including pasta, calzone, pizza, manicotti, lasagna, and ravioli. Ricotta can also be beaten smooth and mixed with condiments, such as sugar, cinnamon, orange flower water and occasionally chocolate shavings, and served as a dessert, such as Sicilian cannoli.

Mascarpone

Mascarpone is a triple-creme cheese, made from a generally low-fat (25%) content fresh cream. It's made from the milk of cows that have been fed special grasses filled with fresh herbs and flowers – a special diet that creates a unique taste often described as "fresh and delicious."

Mascarpone is milky-white in color and is easily spread. It's used in various dishes of the Lombardy region of Italy, where it is a specialty. It is a main ingredient of modern tiramisu, and is sometimes used instead of butter or Parmesan cheese to thicken and enrich risotto.

Mascarpone originated in the area between Lodi and Abbiategrasso, Italy, southwest of Milan, probably in the late 16th or early 17th century. The name is said to come from mascarpa, a milk product made from the whey of stracchino (shortly-aged cheese), or from mascarpia, the word in the local dialect for ricotta (although mascarpone is not made from whey, as ricotta is).

I’ll leave you with this quote from Clifton Fadiman (American writer and editor; New Yorker book reviewer, 1904-1999)

“A cheese may disappoint. It may be dull, it may be naive, it may be over sophisticated. Yet it remains, cheese, milk’s leap toward immortality.”

C

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Beauty Of White...Kitchens





Clean, crisp, and fresh, a white kitchen is an ideal setting for the home cook, whether your taste is classic or contemporary, urbane or rustic. The use of white not only makes a kitchen look bigger and airier, it also provides a blank canvas for showcasing other elements to create an inviting and functional kitchen. Wood finishes look richer against white, colored fabrics pop, and lighting fixtures and accessories stand out against the neutral backdrop.

C