Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Well, our flight is leaving in oh, about 10 hours, and here I am sitting at my sister's computer (since my internet has been down the last 2 days) with a glass of wine. I have not packed yet, but I did weed through the boys' suitcases and remove a few items (like tatty tennis shoes with holes) and added a few things (like a real cotton long sleeved shirt). The boys got their hair cut, but you could've fooled me, it still looks kind of long. Anyway, we are getting ready to go off on our adventure!

Every other aspect of my life has been taken care of this week: all orders filled, all correspondence mailed; Napoleon went to the kennel today for at least a few days, until someone in my family decides to liberate him. R is already in France, and as of today is eating take-out jambon persile and making lists of what I will cook when I get there. I also started my own list, in my little journal book, of what I will cook in Burgundy. Are coquille St. Jacques in season, I asked him? I am bringing my JR recipe for Boeuf Bourgignon. R and I agreed first off on moules frites served in the soupiere.

I have added two Calvados tastings and tours to the list, yesterday, and also a stop at the Atelier du Cuivre in Villedieu les Poeles. I have been browsing the sites of two cookware and bakeware establishments in Paris and making some preliminary choices. It's going to take me weeks to post on all of this!

In the buzz of the last few days, I wasn't able to post on Sunday; I sold a Moroccan basket to an A-list actress; that's the gist of it. She was perfectly lovely; thereafter, I told anyone who picked up that basket that "so and so" bought the same one earlier today, and they snapped it up.

Signing off, with fingers crossed for a trip with the teen boys!!! We fly through Chicago. I get on the plane there, go to sleep and wake up in Paris....ahhhhhh

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Julie and Julia

Passport: check. Camera for the boys: check. Julie and Julia: check.
I don't know if it was intentional or not, but I got annoyed at Julie around the time she pronouced boeuf as boof for the 17th time. As the French say: Aiie!! I would have rather seen a full movie about Julia & Paul Child with little or no juxtaposition of Julie & Eric. I adored the scenes of post-war Paris; why did we have to go back to Queens? Instead I had to watch Julie having a series of meltdowns in the kitchen with a little drama at the office thrown in, after coming up with the blog idea as a way to keep up with her overachieving and monetizing girlfriends. And Eric could not taste the food with the elegance of Paul & Julia, he always seemed to be stuffing it in his face and instantly commenting on it while still chewing the first bite. This was a total contrast to the opening scene, with Julia and Paul savoring sole a la meuniere filet'd a table.
A group of us went to see the movie, and we all had different comments. My niece thought the scene about the living Julia Child commenting on Julie's blog was one of a few unresolved ideas. My Mom said now she understood why I use so many pots and why I make such a mess of the kitchen that she usually gets to clean up; I dare say she is happy I have not been motivated to slice up 100 onions at one time. Me, well, in addition to the comments above, I am going to make boeuf Bourguignon tomorrow night for dinner, and will make a point to find a few fresh sole in Burgundy on the trip. In the U.S. we get sole already filet'd and we cook it. In France you get whole sole, cooked in butter and filet'd by your waiter at the table (a table). But in many restaurants, if you want to show your prowess, you tell the waiter that you will filet it yourself. This is a skill I will pass along to the boys, if the fish is in season. If I can find it at la poissonerie in Burgundy I will cook it at home.
The chicken, potatoes and asperges in the photo were cooked in Burgundy two years ago and all according to Julia's recipes; it seemed better than posting a movie pic or cover shot of MtAoFC. I seem to remember R saying it looked so good we had to have a photo...Bon Appetit!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Breakfast in Beverly Hills

I was at the Federal Building in Los Angeles this morning before 7am to try to get my passport renewed. I have a firm appointment for Monday, but my sisters are highly concerned since I am traveling with their sons...so there I was.

The Gatekeeper was at a little stand in front of the door of the Federal Building. He wore a short-sleeved white uniform shirt (which showed off his multiple intricate tatoos), a crew cut and sunglasses so dark I could barely see his eyes. Before 7am. He was busy directing everyone which group to stand in; it was a real scene at that hour. Anyway, unless you are traveling in 48 hours or less, you can't just "show up" as I did.
Plan B was to go to an agency in Beverly Hills that will, for a small fee, process your passport same day. So this was my Procrastination Tax, I guess. I got to BH by 730am and had more than an hour to kill; luckily they have an international newstand on Beverly; unhappily they have no French papers (same as Brentwood) but they do have Paris Match, but not much else besides World of Interiors, which I adore. I skipped, as I'll get them there next week.
Down the street, I had breakfast at a coffee house, as shown, $13. Well, I guess I AM in Beverly Hills. Too bad the salad had a few yucky pieces in it. Ruined it. I am NOT in France. Anyway, I was struck by the smell of the entire street. You couldn't escape it; if I closed my eyes, I'd swear I was on 49th between 6th and 7th. The street had that indescribeable smell of dank, wet pavement, that probably had some kind of rotting food on it late last night. It's that early morning summer urban smell. Ahead of me, a building owner (I think) exited his Spently, with three uniformed engineers following on his heels, and ducked into a Class A building; I AM in Beverly Hills!
R is a film noir buff, and we've seen countless movies set in LA in the 40s and 50s. Must have been great when the density was low and could pickup the phone and say to the operator, "Crenshaw 2634 please". My mother arrived in LA in the late 50's and according to her it was always hats and white gloves.
The only glimpse I got of Old LA was this fantastic Cadillac de Ville (see the plate) going down Wilshire; I rode out of town through Blair Hills and the oil derricks, but I couldn't navigate the curves and take photos. Next time!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Sun and the Moon

On my way into town last evening, the sun was setting over the Pacific and the full moon had already risen in the east over Laguna. I pulled over at El Morro and took these photos. Such fabulous forces, the Sun and the Moon, and it's great to see them both in the sky at once. I got a little Canon camera for Dennis and Corino today, the same little Canon I use that serves me so well. Since I've been blogging I've become a bit of a shutter-bug, and I told the boys I expect them to take a lot of photos. For $17 I got a memory chip that holds 1150 photos- pretty good!

We had some odd and very humid weather yesterday, which contributed to the lovely clouds.

Also of note, this year we are having 6 series of eclpises, not the normal 4. Lisa from the Palisades farmers market sent me some information on the eclipses and their effect on our general consciousness; she says that people are releasing a lot of energy because of the eclipses. I would say it's true, I'll leave it at that....

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Julie and Julia

My list of things to do before the boys and I leave (one week from tomorrow!!) is growing short. 1) Get passport renewed. I just realized it has expired! An ironic downside to the basket business is that it has kept me from traveling... 2) get the boys a camera. When we were talking yesterday they said they didn't have a camera! I can tell they basically have no idea what they are going to see and do; they said it would be nice to have a camera to take pics of the architecture....well yes, but so much more. 3. Go see Julie and Julia, which opens on the 7th.

I don't have a lot of cookbooks, but yes, most of them are in French or about French cooking; I love the little Balthazar cookbook; also a few from Joel R and his foodie friend Patricia what's her name, whose pastry recipies I swear by. When I was in Paris, we spent a lot of time in the country, just outside of Paris. Sylvienne the housekeeper and cook prepared the most wonderful meals for us. I asked her what she would suggest for a good cookbook, and she did not hesitate with the one pictured here; it's very basic food, but with wonderful sauces and simple family dishes. I also use it for all of my canning and fruit preserves; not as much sugar, so you really taste the fruit.

But my bible among the cookbooks I have is definitely Julia Child's MtAoFC. That's the way it was abbreviated in some review I just read. I have a copy here and also a copy in France, one of the first editions. One of my friends likes to photocopy recipe pages for single use; her cookbooks are pristine! Me, well, I like to have that book out somewhere close by, and it might get a few splatters on it or a dusting of flour or cocoa. So my cookbooks are a little loved. The thing about MtAoFC though is that it's really tough to do some of the dishes here, souffles aside; the cuts of meat are different, it's very tough to find all the right ingredients, like Montmorency cherries. When I am in France, that book comes out and I REALLY appreciate it. Steaming moules frites (served in my big porcelaine blanche soupiere and coquilles St. Jacques (my niece Erin came back from France last month and said her favorite dish was seafood "cookies" something or other!) are two that I will make. I don't remember if I will be able to get scallops in August; they come in the shell of course, and I will take the shells back to Laguna for the garden and the scallops will be made according to Julia's recipe.

I'm getting hungry just thinking about it! In other news, Robert et Louise restaurant is closed for their summer holiday, from the 3rd to the 27th of August. So scratch that one off the list. There are dozens of other fab places to go, and I will be posting about all of it along the way!

Monday, August 3, 2009

RIP Carl

R left end of last week for Wisconsin, because his father was in the hospital with a pneumonia, "the old person's friend" the doctors say, because it often is the cause of death in older folks. Carl passed away early on Saturday morning at the age of 89.

I have been turning the house upside-down since Saturday looking for the photos I have from our trips to Madison; we made an annual trip for Thanksgiving which was always poignant: the two old folks looking out the window waiting for our car; tears on arrival, tears on departure. We (R & I together) always cooked a big Thanksgiving dinner- turkey, pies and all the fixings; all in the oven early so we could eat dinner early afternoon per their schedule. We always brought See's Candy and a big pot of amaryllis bulbs starting to sprout, that they could enjoy during the winter and give us a regular phone update on the progress of the blooms. Carl was increasing frail physically but not mentally. He took three puffs on his cigarette then put it out, and answered my crossword questions perfectly, such as "Q: Alaskan dog sled" A: "Iditerod". He had little formal education, a child of Norweigan immigrants, but he was sharp and mathematically very talented, and built two of his houses himself.

I made nice album for Carl and Gladys of my photos from the woods and one of the Thanksgivings; there is a shot I have of R and Carl walking in the woods, all of us with our orange vests on as it was deer season; I took it from behind and they did not see me take it; that is the one I wanted for this post. Not that anyone would mistake a man in his 80's for a deer, but it's prudence, and possibly the law; mostly it's just what you do and even when you are in your 80's you like to follow the tradition. Men are at ease like that, in the wild; R had his arm on his Dad's shoulder in a very casual but supportive way. It made R a little mad that his Dad was so sweet and nice with me but tough on his boys when they were growing up; though he was tough on his boys, he also spoke to R religiously every Saturday over dozens of years; if he did not get a call, Carl would call in a Missing Person's report. I loved Carl for being a real, self-made man, and completely a "Character". I loved shopping for a nice sweater or a pair of really good socks for him for Christmas, and mostly I loved calling him from time to time; never a long conversation (the cost!), but always thrilled to get the call.

Miss you, Carl.....

I cried on Saturday when R called to give me the news. I suppose Carl was where he wanted to be; they carried him out from the home he built to the hospital. He has moved back home with Gladys after a time in a nursing home. Maybe when you get to 89 you don't fear death. Services pending. I will post the photo when I find it....
Carl was an excellent carpenter, and so as a placeholder here are some massive wooden church doors in Nuit St. George.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cash for My Clunker

I try to show the brighter side of my life, not the warts, but let me tell you, there is a lot that goes into having a business, and it's not all fun and it usually involves an expenditure; one issue is how to cart your merchandise around. When I did my initial business plan, I skipped this aspect. I budgeted for the purchase of merchandise, but not the transport once it arrived. In retrospect, I think I had the idea that I should wait and see how it goes, sort of like buying a full tennis wardrobe without setting foot on the court. I used my Prius and rental trucks for a while, but I like to have lots of merch, so last fall I traded use of my Corolla for my brother in law's van. The van has definitely seen better days, and every tme I use it I pray it makes it home. It did help us out a lot getting the Christmas tree home, I remember. Anyway, two weeks ago I took it in to get the door fixed, since the driver's side door, rear doors and sliding doors all have gone out in succession. They got fixed, and that lasted a week. Then the driver's side door refused to open, and today in Palisades the sliding door broke again.

Kailea and I went to the hardware store there and I directed her to suture the sliding door closed with the duct tape we just bought. so baskets would not spill out on the 405 Freeway. The problem was, in doing so, she also taped shut the only door that worked, the passenger side door. Arggh. She climbed in through the window. I dropped her off in Manhattan Beach on the way home (she went again through the window), and when I finally got home I also climbed out the window. Arggh.

This is her Dad's car, and we agreed that it was time to trade it in, this vehicle held together with baling wire and bubble gum and duct tape. I told her there was a program called Cash for Clunkers, that you could trade in your old car for a new one and get up to $4500 break. She had not heard of it; reminded me of being in the grocery store 2 weeks ago with 2 homeless people behind me: "Oh my goodness, Michael Jackson died!" Where have they been- he's been dead for 3 weeks with memorial and all. Cash for Clunkers has been in the news every day now; they had a funding deadline of November, but they ran out of funds almost immediately but Congress voted to extend the program. I don't think cargo vans qualify for the new purchases under the plan since they essentially get terrible mileage, but I will keep investigating.

Meanwhile, one block down the street, a young man in an SUV managed to run over two street signs, a big mailbox and a crosswalk sign, before coming to rest against some bushes and a street sign. I think he was being cited for something, judging from the 5 police officers on scene with ticket books in hand. We were all in awe; it would be hard to do that much damage if you tried, we thought! No one was injured, including the driver, but he sure did flatten the mailbox, didn't he!!?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

That's Retail!

Wow I put a lot of photos on for this post ! After the CdM market today, my Mom wanted some time with me, and we went to Orange to shop for the grand-girls for their apartments at college, and generally a little retail therapy.

Old Towne Orange has lots of country-kind of stuff, and most of it was cute but not interesting. My taste has evolved past it. But I did find an interesting linen vendor with great euro shams; I am holding out for Matteo Tat so that was a pass. I did like her ruffled linen napkins tied with hemp ric-rac, but did not buy because I like my French 22" ones.

At the very back of the store, with a window-front, I found a gem of a dealer, who has a very French-styled booth with lots of exposed brick and a window front. He had romantic mix of archtectural, taxidermy, shades of cream and a natural bent with a chandelier thrown in; it's a lower-end version of what you find at one or two stores in Paris at the flea, but the best example I've seen in the U.S. besides Bliss Linens in Corona del Mar. When we left, I spied 3 industrial gear mirrors in the window; the booth owner happened to be on site and was tracked down; he had just put them in 2 days ago.

We got to chatting and I said he must know "So and So" dealer, and he said of course; and gave a little information. What's up with the paint brushes I asked, as I had also snapped a few photos of them earlier. He thought they were just interesting; old stuff, some little explanation. They came from Texas.
On the way home, I stopped at So-and-So's store. Oh goodness, there they were, the same paint brushes, and even two under glass. I asked the vendeuse: so what's up with the paint brushes? "Oh they are just an idea the owner had", she said. "You know, paint your life, paint your future. People are buying a lot of them for gifts and special events like birthdays." Price: $45-80. You can paint your own conclusion, but all I can say is either people are hard up for a new gimmick or else the economy is just not that bad! But I have to give the retailers credit, they obviously know how to work it at the upper levels.
I did buy the three mirrors he had in the window, and they were much less than a paintbrush sous verre. I will flip them before I leave for France; they are very nice and would also be great in a garden as you don't have to worry about rust; they are already there....

French Addresses

On the way home today I stopped off at Juxtaposition and bought a nice little journal for the trip. My journal starts with lists, such as what I want to find, or where, and for whom, so it gets started ahead of the trip. At Juxtaposition, in Crystal Cove, I also bought an Elle Decor book on Paris, which included lots of references to shopping and eating, and included a loose-leaf reference guide with all the names and coordinates. Scanning those lists of "where to go" in Paris or anywhere in France is like scanning through a missing persons list; I HOPE they have not included my favorites; PLEASE don't be there. One shop and one restaurant on "their" list are also on "my list". Thankfully the others are not there.
Paris reminds me a lot of New York in that I know how to get some place I want to go, but don't always remember the name. It's a classic French trick; ask someone where they found an item and they can tell you what arrondisement or some vague reference, but not the name or the address. The French are very protective in that way, as I am of where to go and who and what to see.
My journal is pretty cute, Paris map on the front and Tour Eiffel with measurements on the back....