Friday, September 14, 2012

Sarah Lavoine, Parisian Designer

I love the personal, and design style of Parisian based interior designer Sarah Lavoine. She's beautiful and stylish, but at the same time, casual and real. Her spaces look like someone actually lives in them. So many photo layouts of interiors these days are too "done." Accessories and details are too styled. Sarah has the perfect balance of style and substance...of artistic and functional..

Monday, September 3, 2012

"We The People" are in this together...

Politics is a touchy subject…especially in the months leading up to a presidential election…and more than ever when the country is as explosively divided as ours seems to be right now.

I make it a point to avoid political debates with family and friends. Actually, I don’t care to discuss politics with casual acquaintances or strangers either. Edgy discourse makes me uncomfortable. Facebook is so inundated lately with political slogans, cartoons, and rhetoric that I find myself unable to look at posts for longer than a few minutes before the palpable tension causes me to turn off the computer and go do some deep breathing...

The news programs on TV and the radio are equally distressing because, depending on whose “talking points” we’re listening to, they're slanted either wildly to the left or wildly to the right. But we all know that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. We're just not always sure where.

They talk on and on about polls and surveys…their guy is winning…their platforms are the most popular…but how can one be winning on this channel, while the other is winning on another? Could it be WHO is being polled? Is there a valid defense for the time and money being spent by both sides on polling mostly like-minded people? Do they think we can't figure that one out?

I must admit I'm not really that well-versed in politics. But it seems to me that most of us see ourselves, our country, and the world from a very “black and white” perspective. And I’m NOT talking about race. I’m referring to the polarizing opinions and personal experiences that bleed into our vision of the world and blind us to the visions of others.

Things like:

ALL wealthy people are selfish, hoarding, "fat cats" out to crush the “little people.”

ALL poor people, or people on welfare, unemployment and food stamps are lazy, "milking the system," and just don’t want to work.

ALL Christians are hypocrites. Or ALL non-Christians are going to hell.

ALL women who have abortions are evil, baby-killing monsters. Or ALL pro-lifers think that a woman who is raped can only get pregnant if the rape is "legitimate."

ALL people who DON’T have health insurance DON’T have it because they don't WANT to pay for it.

ALL white people, people of color, immigrants, women, men, gays, liberals, conservatives, etc. are _______________. (fill in the blank)

My point? ALL is an erroneous word when we’re talking about a country as large and diverse as the United States of America. And ALL is a dangerous word when we're speaking of the we see it. Because "We The People" don't always see eye to eye when it comes to the truth.

So what is the answer? No clue. I wish I knew how to close the gash that divides our nation, but sadly, I do not. I know what I'm trying to do. And it’s not always easy.

First and foremost, I’m trying to avoid using the word ALL when referring to any person, group of people or segment of the population. And I’m making a real effort to understand where each and every individual is coming from…how their personal experiences have affected them…how their fears, needs, hopes, dreams, disappointments, successes, failures, etc. have shaped them. Not “how dare they feel this way,” but rather “what happened to them in their lives to cause them to feel that way.” Maybe their causes are noble and/or justified…maybe they’re not. But it’s not up to me to pass judgment on them.

I feel that it is important to “love your neighbor as yourself.“ People who have more than enough should help the ones in need, not because the government is forcing them to, but because it's the right thing to do. WWJD? Well, I know what He would NOT do. He would not say, "it's not my problem."

And everyone who is physically and mentally capable of working should make every effort to do so. No more taking advantage of a system intended to provide assistance to those who are truly in need. A healthy body and a good mind are gifts. They are not to be wasted.

I feel that it is important to acknowledge and respect the viewpoints of others. Everyone has their reasons, whether you understand them or not, and whether you agree with them or not. Naive and oversimplified? Perhaps. But what have you got to lose?

And, regarding politics, I feel that it is important to give substance to our voices by voting. It is our right…it is our privilege…and it is our responsibility.

All I ask, is for your voice to come from a place of respect and love. Because "We The People" are in this together.

Love, Love, Love


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Project Style ~ 2012 ~ Summer Update

Remember Project Style New Year’s resolution to bring more style into my life…my noble stand against blandness, apathy, negligence and sloppiness? Well, I haven’t forgotten. In fact, I‘ve become particularly interested in style…not just mine…but other people‘s style as well. When I say style, I’m not just referring to superficial appearances.

However, I have noticed that personal appearance is usually a reflection of how we feel about ourselves, how we care for ourselves, and how we express ourselves. Before I know anything about someone’s “inward” personality, I’m aware of their “outward” style.

So what have I discovered about style? Regarding others, I find that I’m drawn to creative, artistic, quirky people…friendly, outgoing, open-minded people…non-ethnocentric, animal loving, non-picky-food-eating, fully-engaged-in-life people, with a natural curiosity about life. I admire adventurers who take the road less traveled.

On the other hand, I’m turned off by the ones who try too hard. There has to be a relaxed confidence in their artistic-ness…their quirkiness…without that strident “in your face” “pay attention to me” quality. I’m attracted to people who are focused on the positive, enthusiastic about their interests, and dedicated to their causes…people who ARE what they appear to be, and not just playing a part. In other words, there has to be substance to back up the style.

And what about my own style? It’s a work in progress. I’ve been keeping a journal…writing down my thoughts, ideas, and things I want to read, see and do. I’ve discovered that my thought processes tend to be scattered. Ideas blast through my brain like rounds from a machine gun, and my abilities to focus and follow-up are not always the greatest…unless I write them down.

Here are some of the thoughts and ideas that I’ve written in my journal…in no particular order…but they are thoughts and ideas that influence me and my style…

Watch TV less ~ And yes, I’ve been doing this. I have stopped watching the news in the evening…too depressing. I have been watching old movies though…the good ones that make me laugh…like “Barefoot in the Park,” “Auntie Mame,” “The Thin Man series,” and “Harold and Maude.” I bought the dvd set of the seventies TV series, “MacMillan and Wife,” with Rock Hudson and Susan St. James…witty and quite stylish! I’ve been watching Andy Griffith’s “Mayberry” a lot lately…takes me back to my childhood, in a good way. And I do love HGTV and The Food Network.

Read more ~ I’ve read several of the books listed on my Project Style 2012 post, and I plan to read them all by the end of the year. And I’m reading Jim Donovan’s “Don’t Let An Old Person Move Into Your Body”…a fabulous “wakeup” book to read when you start to feel melancholia about getting older.

In honor of my Mom, who passed away earlier this year, and my maternal grandmother, who taught Mom how to cook, I started a blog of Southern desserts called Sweet+Sophisticated+Southern. I’ve been translating the recipes from Mom’s cookbook for the blog. I say translating, because these Southern ladies baked from scratch and memory, and didn’t write down too many instructions. It’s a bit of a crapshoot/experiment, but lots of tasty fun!

In the process, I’ve acquired a new fascination with the culture and history of the South. I daydream about sheets drying on a clothesline in the hot summer sun, screen doors, magnolia trees, crepe myrtle and honeysuckle, old pickup trucks, town squares, and sitting on the front porch watching the sunset with my grandfather, drinking big glasses of sweet iced tea. I guess you could say I’m getting back to my roots.

This summer, I’ve been re-reading some of my favorite Southern literature…”To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee, an anthology of stories by Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, William Faulkner, and Willie Morris. (“My Dog Skip” rips my heart out) I’ve also discovered “Garden and Gun” magazine. I know, it’s a strange name, but it is a really interesting magazine about all things “Southern.”

Since I live in Texas now, I want to explore the state more. I particularly want to go to San Antonio, Marfa, Austin, and Fredericksburg…when the weather gets a little cooler! Also, I want to find all of the best barbeque joints here. I grew up on BBQ pork in, and around, Memphis. BBQ here is beef brisket. It took some getting used to, but it’s really good…and “when in Rome…” Eventually, I’d like to write a book about BBQ…Tennessee vs. Texas..:-)

Which brings me to getting in shape…my standard New Year’s resolution for the past twenty years. I want to be trim and healthy, but I don’t want to analyze every bite of food that goes into my mouth. I just can’t. I can eat in moderation, but I simply do not want to maintain a rigid diet…even if it’s better for me, and even if I might live longer as the result. I love food too much, and life is just too short. Moderation is the key…

Exercise…ditto. It has to be fun. I enjoy yoga, playing with Ralph at the dog park, hiking, biking, and bowling, but I’m not interested in killing myself at the gym. I love to dance! I don’t mind thirty minutes on the treadmill and a round of weights occasionally, if the weather’s not cooperative.

I’ve been taking a little time to “stop and smell the roses.” I relax more, and enjoy things like fluffy, white towels, clean French bed linens, and fresh flowers on the table. I like to stroll through the Farmer’s Market downtown, go to art museums and galleries, and catch a matinee at The Angelika Film Center on my days off. And I love having a cappuccino in the afternoon at my favorite bakery/coffee shop.

My personal style? As in, appearance? Also a work in progress. It’s still a tad lazy. Not much makeup. Hair blown dry in the car on my way to work. Lot’s of black, no iron clothes. I’m attempting to put myself together with more flair for my job, but I still wear yoga pants and flip-flops to the grocery store. But that’s me! My style suits my lifestyle. I’m happy, healthy, and having a great time! Hopefully, that shows…

I suppose what I’m saying is, life is what you make it…style is how you live it…and if you are living life to the fullest, your life will be reflected in your style. And your style will be AWESOME!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Recipe ~ Spinach Artichoke Casserole

This is one of my favorite "go to" recipes. It's quick, easy, healthy, delicious, and I have leftovers for lunch the next day! It's also possible to buy the ingredients ahead of time and just have them in the pantry for those nights when you come home tired and realize that you should have stopped by the grocery store on the way home from work..:-)


2/3 package egg noodles

1 jar pasta sauce

1 10oz package of frozen spinach

1 can of artichoke hearts

1.5 cups shredded cheese (I use 2% finely shredded, four cheese blend)

salt and pepper

Italian seasoning


Cook the egg noodles according to package directions and drain well

Defrost spinach in the microwave and then squeeze out excess water

Drain the artichoke hearts and chop coarsely

Layer ingredients in a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish as follows ~

Half of the noodles, half of the spinach, half of the artichoke hearts, half of the cheese, and sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Repeat, finishing with the cheese, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Cover with foil.
  1. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes ~ or
  2. Can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator
Either way, eventually you will bake it at 375F for 30 minutes. Keep it covered in foil the whole time you cook to maintain the moisture so you don't dry it out.

Enjoy! C

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer Memories...

Remember the fifties and sixties? Those days when life was so innocent and uncomplicated, and summer seemed like it would last forever? These are some of my favorite images/remembrances from the summers of my youth...

Saturday afternoon... six o'clock. I knew where I would be. In the knotty pine paneled den, eating Frito's and onion dip on a tv tray, glued to the television, watching cheesy horror movies.

I miss screen doors...just plain old screen doors. How many times did I here, "Carol Ann! Use the're going to punch a hole in the screen...Carol Ann! Don't slam the door!"

Oilcloth tablecloths...apparently indestructible and child-proof.

I remember standing in the theater line one night in downtown Memphis with my parents and two of my girlfriends, waiting to see this movie. It was so exciting! I wanted to be Ann Margaret! Afterwards, Dad took us to Leonard's for BBQ.

Downtown with my girlfriends on Saturday morning. We rode the bus. First stop...the fountain in Court Square. We shopped on Main Street...Goldsmiths, Casual Corner...ate lunch at Britlings cafeteria (always sat upstairs)...and then went to one of the old, fabulous movie theaters for a matinee. Magical!

We cooked burgers on the grill most weekends. The dads would sit around and drink beer on the patio, the moms would sit around on the carport and gossip, and we kids would play softball until the burgers were ready.

Mimosa trees. My grandparents had two huge mimosa trees in their front yard. We would climb as high as we could and just hang out...

No summer day (or any day, for that matter) was complete without a fresh pitcher of sweet tea.

Remember walking through the sheets hanging on the line to dry?

Happy Summer! C

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Thanks, Mom...

I woke up yesterday feeling blue. It was my Mom’s eighty-sixth birthday. She passed away a few months ago, so this year I had to celebrate her birthday without her.

I just got back a few days ago from a visit with my Dad in Mississippi. While I was there I went by Mom’s gravesite for the first time since her funeral. It was so strange being at their house without her there. And it was even stranger to sit on a headstone and realize that my mother was under that mound of still-fresh earth. Yesterday, on her birthday, I just missed her.

I thought about her off and on all day. The weather was relentlessly hot and the air-conditioning at work wasn’t working properly. When I got home last night, I was hot, sweaty, and tired. All I could think of was a cool shower, and iced tea and pizza in bed, watching HGTV. I dug through my dresser drawer for a clean tee shirt and leggings. I haven’t slept in pajamas or a night gown since I was a kid.

Underneath the usual stack of black tee shirts, I found something odd…something pastel pink and blue and plaid. Strange…I never wear pastel anything…especially plaid. I pulled it out of the drawer.

It was pajamas. My Mom’s pajamas. My mind drifted back to a time, several years ago, when my parents came to visit me at my home in Nashville. Mom was always worried about the fact that I didn’t sleep in pajamas. She didn’t think yoga pants and a tee shirt were proper, comfortable sleeping attire. On this particular trip, she brought an extra pair of her pajamas for me to sleep in. She was adamant. I was exasperated. But I wore them that night to make her happy, then I put them in the drawer after they left and never wore them again, But I kept them…

So yesterday, after my shower, I put on Mom’s pink and blue plaid pj’s. They’re so “not me,” and yet…there was something so comforting about wearing them. They are light-weight, cool, and comfortable…and they look like my Mom. Somehow it felt like she was there, taking care of me. I slept in the elastic waisted pants and a camisole, and hugged the baggy top while I watched tv. I’m so glad I kept them…

Thanks, Mom. Hope you had a Happy Birthday! I love you…


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Way We Were...

The Stafford family clan. Don't you love family photos? Just when you think you really haven't changed that much through the years, you pull out the old family photos and realize, "wow, I used to weigh 105 lbs!"

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Moby's Los Angeles Architecture Blog...

Channel surfing the other day...came across a visit to the LA home of Richard Melville Hall. You know him as "Moby," electronic techno musician, DJ, and founder of Teany, the vegan, tea cafe on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Did you know that his middle name and the nickname "Moby" were given to him by his parents because of an ancestral relationship to Moby Dick author Herman Melville?

Anyway, he was born in Harlem, grew up in Darien Connecticut, and lived and worked in NYC until a few years ago when he purchased a 1920's "castle" in the Hollywood Hills. (pictured above) Since moving to LA, he has developed a real fascination with the architecture there, and has a blog called ~

Interesting guy...interesting blog. Check it out.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake

The cake was excellent! I finished it just in time to have a huge slice with coffee (decaf) while I watched Dallas! I think I'll have another slice for breakfast...


For the Loaf:

  • 1 1/2 cups + 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed
  • For the Lemon Syrup:
    • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • For the Lemon Glaze:
    • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
    • 2 to 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of one 9×5-inch loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out excess

    In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

    In a large bowl, whisk together together the yogurt, sugar + lemon zest, eggs, vanilla, and oil.

    Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter. (the flour coating prevents the blueberries from sinking to the bottom)

    Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing loaf to a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.

    While the loaf is cooling, make the lemon syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir together the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once dissolved, continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from the heat; set aside.

    Use a toothpick to poke holes in the tops and sides of the warm loaf. Brush the top and sides of the loaf with the lemon syrup. Let the syrup soak into the cake and brush again. Let the cake cool completely.

    To make the lemon glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and 2-3 Tablespoons of the lemon juice. The mixture should be thick but pourable. Pour the lemon glaze over the top of the loaf and let is drip down the sides. Let the glaze harden, about 15 minutes, before serving.

    bon appetit! c

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Another Day In The Life...Summer Mode

This morning, while drinking my coffee, I wrote a list of the things I wanted to accomplish today…

Look on eBay for a vintage surfboard
Go to Target for a black tee shirt
Bake a cake
Throw away another trash bag full of stuff that I don’t need
Go to used musical instrument store to look for a set of conga drums
Do the laundry that I was supposed to do last week
Buy a cake pan to bake the cake in
Watch the premiere episode of Dallas on TV tonight
Try to find a motorcycle helmet for Ralph. Do they make them for dogs?

You’re probably wondering, why a surfboard? Because it’s summer, and I’m in full-blown summer mode. No, I don’t surf. I don’t think anybody in Dallas surfs. There’s hardly enough water here to take a shower. I just want a surfboard to lean against the wall.

The first concert I ever saw in person was The Beach Boys. I went with a group of friends. At least one of them was old enough to drive, because we were not accompanied by adults. I still ride around in the summer singing "California Girls" and dreaming of the beach. We used to go to Maywood, “the beach within reach.“ It was really just a large, public swimming pool surrounded by sand in north Mississippi, but it was all we had. I always wanted to surf. However, I can barely swim, so surfing is out of the question. But having a vintage surfboard seems like an attainable goal…

I want conga drums. I love music, but I’m afraid it’s too late to play the violin. And I can’t sing. I have a reasonable sense of rhythm and a lot of nervous energy, so conga drums just seem like the way to go.

I went to Target and bought four black tee shirts. Black tee shirts are my addiction….like crack. I can’t stop buying them…can’t give them up…can’t buy any color other than black. If they’re on sale, I can’t buy just one. They were on sale…

I’m purging, for my future life in the Airstream. In the past few weeks, I’ve pitched twelve lawn and garden bags full of unnecessary crap. It’s amazing how much stuff we buy…things we don’t really need. The thought of downsizing is so freeing, but I’m going to have to figure out a place to keep the surfboard…and the drums.

Lunch. In-N-Out for burger and fries…

Ralph loves to ride on the scooter with my boyfriend. He has goggles, but I wish his head was better protected. So I’m shopping for a helmet…and yes…they do make helmets for dogs! I know what he’s getting for his birthday!

Dallas, the TV series! Flashback to the 80's. Warm and fuzzy memories of watching the night-time soap with my Mom. J.R. bashing. It was the highlight of our week. We'd take our dinner into the den and eat on TV trays. It won’t be the same without her, but if there’s a television in heaven, I’m sure she’ll be tuned in…

This afternoon, I want to make a lemon-blueberry pound cake with lemon syrup and lemon glaze. I got the recipe out of bon appetit. It requires the only size cake pan that I didn’t have. But I have it now, so I’m going to bake a cake for dinner tonight.

If the cake is successful, I’ll post the recipe!

Later, C

Planet Carol Recommends...The Intouchables

Last week on my day off, I went to a movie instead of doing the laundry. Nothing unusual there. I often find creative ways to avoid housework, and there are always movies showing at The Angelika Film Center that I want to see. They don’t usually show for more than a week or two. Laundry? I can do that anytime…

I love The Angelika, because I enjoy the kind of obscure art house and foreign films that never play at the mall multi-plex. So I eagerly purchased my ticket, stopped at the concession stand for a seriously overpriced box of milk duds and a diet coke (to off-set the 9000 calories in the milk duds) and settled into the dark, mostly empty theater for an afternoon matinee.

It was a French film called The Intouchables, a true story about a wealthy French quadriplegic who hires a young, black Muslim ex-con as his caretaker. He needs someone with physical strength, who can lift him from his bed or into a car, and who can respond to his panicked breathing in the middle of the night when phantom pain strikes. What he doesn’t need, or want, is pity…which is why the wealthy Parisian picks the most unlikely candidate to be his aide…a streetwise native of Senagal, who only expects a quick rejection at the job interview to help him qualify for public benefits. Instead, he gets the job. Their bond proves the power and omniscience that love and friendship can hold over all social and economic differences. Fabulous movie…and the actors, Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy, are fantastic!

I left the theater crying and laughing. Sad for those persons with physical disabilities that take away their mobility, autonomy, and independence, and sad for the suffering that exists in the world caused by loneliness, alienation, and poverty. But the movie is quite funny too, and poignant without being overly sentimental or sappy. I was inspired and uplifted by the strength and perseverance of the human spirit over adversity. And I wanted to fall to my knees, and thank God for my family and friends…my livelihood…and my ability to walk…to run…to dance!

Sometimes I focus so intently on the things I want, that I forget about all of the many things I have to be grateful for. This movie was a wonderful reminder…totally worth coming home to a pile of dirty laundry!


Friday, June 8, 2012

A Few Of My Favorite Things...

Sometimes it's the simple things in life that push our "happy" button. Here are a few of my favorite no particular order....

Waking up in the morning with a creamy, frothy sugar, sweetener, fancy syrups, or skim milk, please...just good, strong, piping hot coffee and full fat milk. Yummy!

Watching Andy Griffith reruns. Reminds me of my childhood, when life was sweet and uncomplicated...

The Airstream day I will be enjoying my morning latte in one of these chairs...

Auntie Mame never fails to lift my spirits...

I could eat eggs everyday...and I do! Scrambled, fried, poached, boiled...egg salad...eggs make me happy. The only thing better than eggs for breakfast is eggs with bacon for breakfast...

Another old movie that makes me laugh every time I watch it. Mildred Natwick is hysterical. I love dinner at "The Four Winds"...

My new grand daughter you even have to ask?

Daisies against a bright, blue sky. Remember the daisy scene in Harold and Maude?

Smiley Face wants you to be happy too!

This photo of my grandson Jameson ALWAYS makes me smile!

My Dad makes the best lemon pie EVER! And he always makes for me, and one for everyone else. I don't think they know that...

Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Amazing!

Ralph. My role model, style icon, and great friend. He 's cheerful, wears basic frills...and he is the best listener...

My Dad tells a story about leaving for World War II on a ship. As they pulled out of New York Harbor, he stood at the back of the ship, watching the Statue of Liberty until she was out of sight, and wondering if he would ever see her again. Every time I see the Statue of Liberty, it makes me cry. It also makes me proud...proud of my Dad for being a brave, young soldier who risked his life for his country. And it makes me happy, because he came back safely, married my Mom, and became the best father in the world...

The table wine of the South...nectar of the gods...

Have a happy day! C

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Perfect California Cottage...

I absolutely love this California cottage! It's fresh, colorful, eclectic, and just a little whimsical, without being over the top. It's a look that combines timeless elegance with casual comfort. It just looks happy!