Magical Maldives

There are many heavenly places on earth and the Maldives are definitely one of them…

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One resort of choice is the magnificent Six Senses resort in Laamu which is located in one of the most southern atolls in the Maldives.

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With a mix of luxurious over-the-water bungalows coupled amazing restaurants.

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Who has ever seen a sink in a suitcase?

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You have got to love your own private deck to swim with the fishes, turtles, sting rays and yes, little sharks…

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You can never get bored with such a scenery, just kayak, discover and enjoy…

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Oh yeah… and by the way I am going back…

 

The “real” Gangnam style

When one thinks about Asia, Seoul South Korea may not be the first place that comes to mind.
And that is a shame…

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Seoul is an amazing combination of contrast, with five royal palaces from the Joseon Dynasty mixed with modern architecture and a lot of public art.
Tradition, modernity and technology coexist in perfect osmosis:

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I stayed at a boutique hotel in Itaewon called IP Boutique hotel: Very modern, well located, great service… many restaurants nearby.

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In Namdaemun Market you can bargain anything, even food price!

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People glued to their smartphones ~ Samsung of course…

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Pancakes and traditional rice cake filled with cinnamon sugar from street vendors are a must!

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Small dim sum place in Jongno district.. Only the locals eat there… and me!

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Give Korea a try, it’s good for the soul…

A Taste of Morocco

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I always wanted to feel like Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca.” I wanted to sit at Rick’s Cafe and hear Humphrey Bogart on the piano. I always could see myself there listening to “As Time Goes By,” as the orange sun set into the tangerine desert. Morocco sounded exotic, foreign, dangerous, delicious.

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When I worked for The Travel Channel I got a chance to see the real Morocco and I fell in love. This was many moons ago but I still have the rug I carried back from the High Atlas Mountains and a couple of lanterns I somehow transported back on a TWA jetliner.

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“Those were the days my friend…”

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Moroccan design and Moroccan food is quite in vogue these days, so much so that my Mit-Schlag compadre Joan Dauria attended a class at the new San Francisco Cooking School.

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Of course she went home and tried out all her new recipes.

I have always wanted to have a Moroccan dinner party. I would convert my dining room into a my very own Casbah. Now thanks to Joan we can all have a taste of Morocco.

 

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This is Morocco mit-schlag, Joan Dauria style.

“Moroccan cuisine has been subject to Berber, Moorish and Arab influences. The cooks in the royal kitchens of Fes, Meknes, Marrakesh, Rabat and Tetouan refined it over the centuries and created the basis for what is known as Moroccan cuisine today.

Moroccan cuisine known for its bold flavors, shared plates, and the ideal mix of grains, vegetables, and protein.

A typical meal begins with a series of hot and cold salads, followed by a tagine. Bread is eaten with every meal. Often, for a formal meal, a lamb or chicken dish is next, followed by couscous topped with meat and vegetables. A cup of sweet mint tea usually ends the meal. Moroccans usually eat wit their hands and use bread as a utensil.

The Moroccans are quick to point out that the best meals are found not in the restaurants but in the homes. In this land of good and abundant food, the emphasis is clearly on preparing your own. It is worth mentioning that women do virtually all of the cooking in this very traditional country.

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Key Ingredients:

Moroccan cuisine is rich in spices, only natural when you consider the ages-old spice trade from Arabia to North Africa. Spices here are used to enhance, not mask, the flavor of food.

The following spices are among the most commonly used: Saffron, Cinnamon, Cumin, ground Ginger, Paprika, Black pepper and sesame seeds. Herbs also play an important role in Moroccan food, chief among them the following: Parsley, Green coriander, Cilantro

The Moroccan table also makes good use of the following ingredients: Onions, garlic, preserved lemons, couscous, filo dough, eggs, chick-peas, olives, orange flower waters and honey.

Moroccan Favorites:

Salads– A fresh, cool salad is often served at the start of a meal. Among the most commonly served are a tomato and green pepper salad, a mixed herb salad, eggplant salad.

Bastela–This traditional savory pastry is made in three layers: a layer of shredded chicken is topped with eggs which are curdled in a lemony onion sauce and further topped with a dusting of sweetened almonds. The whole is enclosed in filo dough and topped by a layer of cinnamon and sugar.

Za’looq- Braised eggplant with cilantro and cumin. Olives with orange zest and herbs

Za’looq- Braised eggplant with cilantro and cumin. Olives with orange zest and herbs

Couscous– These are fine semolina grains which are plumped by steaming them over a simmering stew. The grains are then piled on a large platter, with the stew heaped on top.  It is often served with either lamb or chicken and topped with an assortment of vegetables.

 

Preserved Lemons:

Many Moroccan recipes call for preserved lemons, lemons that have been pickled in salt and their own juices. It’s quite easy to do, though takes at least three weeks before the lemons are ready to use.

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Poultry:

Some of the tastiest dishes in Moroccan cookery involve chicken, which can be steamed, broiled or fried and is often accompanied with vegetables. Chicken with lemon and olives is the classic preparation, while a chicken tagine cooked with butter, onions, pepper, saffron, chick-peas, and lemon is also popular. Chickens are also prepared stuffed with raisins, almonds, and honey sauce.

Chicken and Olive tagine

Meat:

Lamb is king on the Moroccan table, especially roasted lamb, which is as tender and flavorful as you will find. It can also be braised, browned, steamed or served on skewers, the latter commonly known as shish kebab. Lamb or beef which has been generously spiced, placed on a skewer and broiled Also, lamb tagines are prepared with an assortment of vegetables and some even use fruits such as dried plums.

Orange Carpaccio

Orange Carpaccio

Desserts:

Pastries which are stuffed with almond paste and topped with sugar, while honey cakes

are pretzel-shaped pieces of dough which are deep-fried, dipped into a piping-hot pot of honey and then sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Mint tea:

Green tea is steeped and then laced with sugar and fresh spearmint. The resulting brew is a minty, sweet, and very tasty.”

SF Cooking School  – A new cooking school in San Francisco that offers a full-time certificate program as well as terrific hands on cooking classes.

S.F. Cooking School click here

Cookbooks:

MOROCCO: A Culinary Journey with Recipes from the Spice-scented Markets of Marrakech to the Date-Filled Oasis of Zagora by Jeff Koeler –

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The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert
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Articles:

Moroccan Cookbook Throwdown: Paula Wolfert’s The Food of Morocco vs. Mourad: New Moroccan Click here for Wolfert article

Williams Sonoma – Flavors of Morocco Click here to buy Flavors of Morocco

Travel

Abercrombie and Kent Morocco trip

Butterfield and Robinson Morocco trip

Travcoa

 

“Call Me Hitch. Hold the Cock.”

I went to a Vanity Fair screening of HITCHCOCK a few nights ago. I sat in the darkened theater and watched Sir Anthony Hopkins transform himself into Hitch.

“You can call me Hitch, hold the Cock!”

I looked around the theater and wondered if I was perhaps the only person there who had actually met the man.

I was young, and he was impressive. So was Hopkins in this film.

Dad and Hitch

The film is a love story between Hitchcock and his wife Alma set during the making of PSYCHO. I was surprised by this and by how much a part of Hitchcock’s genius was shared by his strong and capable Alma. I guess the tag line for the film should have given me a clue: “Behind every PSYCHO is a great woman!”

And Helen Mirren as Alma was brilliantly played. She took my breath away.

I loved the film, but probably for more personal reasons than the typical audience member. In some ways, I watched my young life play out.

So much of the film resonated with me and my life– with my mother and father mortgaging the houses to make films, my Dad feeling inadequate in the eyes of the entertainment industry, his burning desire to find the next project, his pranks, his fears the night before production begins, his nightmares, and the most of all, his need to find a way to sell a film when the studios refuse to put their money behind it!

And then there were the little things I loved about the film–the sardonic, mischievous quips, the house with the swimming pool, the driver, Chasen’s restaurant, Paramount Studios, the cigars, the coastline, the publicity stunt.

Let me digress and talk about the publicity stunt for a moment. I know my Dad respected Hitchcock for his brilliant direction. I also think my Dad emulated Hitchcock to some degree. And I am sure you are aware that Dad is considered the poor man’s Alfred Hitchcock. But Hitchcock stole a sheet from Dad’s playbook when he went out to sell PSYCHO and put together a marketing manual. Come on!  I cringed in my seat. At least give a nod to Dad. Hitchcock’s publicity stunt was all William Castle!

Hitchcock was a wonderful director, and I enjoyed the scenes where I got a glimpse into his directorial style. I just wish there had been more of these special moments. I thought the director, Sasha Gervasi, found a wonderful way into the story– the complicated, repressed, but remarkable relationship between Hitch and Alma.

I walked away from HITCHCOCK thinking my dad’s life would make a much more interesting film….but then I am biased.

Dad promoting one of his films.

Hitchcock promoting PSYCHO.

Fifty Shades of Orange

Patricia Blanc was out of her comfort zone. Now this is indeed a first. And it happened when she traveled to India–Agra and Rajashtan (Northwest India).

She captured her experiences in photographs. Fifty Shades of Orange indeed.

Patricia was struck by the contrasts. Vivid colors, abject poverty, misery and beauty in the faces of those around her and at the same time a stunning spirituality.

 

Of course, once again, here in India, Patricia ate the street food and did not get sick.

Eye Therapy at Ram’s Gate Winery

It always amazes me that if I hop in my car and drive thirty-five minutes from my home in Marin County I can be in the country. And it’s such lovely country. Wine Country. Indeed it is “Eye Therapy.”  A mini-vacation for all my senses but initially my eyes soak in most of the glory.

When you enter Sonoma Valley, on the right hand side of the highway you pass the Ram’s Gate Winery “Gate.”

The winery opened about a year ago and I have passed it many times and hadn’t really noticed the barn on the hill.

This time, with Juliette at my side, I decided to stop and discover.

Words usually come quite easy to me but I am having trouble finding the right words to describe this place.  I could say, “country charm meets urban chic,” or “contemporary interpretation of rustic charm permeates a sophisticated sense of time and place.”  But these phrases don’t really describe the experience we had at Ram’s Gate.

Yes, the architecture is lovely and really is a new interpretation of an old barn.  The furnishings are modern, bold, and comfortable.

The vistas in every direction are glorious and there is so much to look at, both inside and out, that we had trouble deciding in which direction to begin our little sojourn.

Tables were full with young, urbanites and the bar space was limited with crowds buzzing around this extraordinary place.

You see, at this winery they not only have wine tastings but also serve small plates all afternoon long.

It is really not lunch and it is not a wine tasting.  I am not sure what “it” is but “it” is lovely. We nibbled on cheeses and a charcuterie platter plus a lovely sea bass and risotto rounded into small balls.

I had a glass of  sparkling brut from the North Coast.

Juliette decided on a fleet of wines, a sampling of four of Ram’s Gates wines: a Chardonnay Carneros, a Chardonnay Ulises Valdez Diablo, a Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County, and a Pinot Noir Sngiacomo Roberts Road Vineyard.

It was difficult to take “it” all in. The charm, the wine, the food, the sunshine, the trendiness, the beauty, the choices.

It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon. Even with the buzz of trendy urbanites, the dazzling countryside eased us into peaceful bliss.  Or perhaps it was the wine.

We left happy. We left a little bit hungry. And we left knowing we would return to this little oasis so close to our homes.

Next time we might choose to try a picnic.  You see, Ram’s Gate will pack you a picnic and send you on your way to explore their estate, with wine, cheese, cured hams and salamis, and of course a blanket to sit on. It seems that the Ram’s Gate owners have thought of everything!

The mysterious “it” of Ram’s Gate Winery is of course sharing “it” with people you adore.

 

 

 

Living the Life Right Next Door to Clooney!

The last time I was in Lake Como was 49 years ago!!! Now that makes me sound ancient, which I am.  But in my defense, I was only five.

Dad was directing a couple of movies for Hammer Films in London and during a small break in filming, he took us on a little trip to the Villa D’Este in Lake Como.

Like I said, I was/am spoiled.

My only memories of the famous hotel were of the large swimming pool sitting on a raft in the lake and the ornate fountains that seemed to go on forever.

I was about to return to Lake Como for the first time in almost fifty years and really had no idea what to expect.

Well, I knew enough to know we couldn’t afford the Villa d’Este but I wanted Lake Como to remain the magical place of my youth.

Everyone said, “You gonna say hi to George?” Clooney, of course, who has a residence on the lake. Little did I know that I would find myself in the tiny town of Laglio, just seconds away from George’s, “Villa Oleander.”

I found a wonderful hotel on the Internet—Relais Regina Teodolinda that sits next door to its sister property Relais Villa Vittoria.

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The photos say it all. The place was exquisite.

We rented a small tug-boat from the owners of the Villa and we toured all around the lake.

Past Clooney’s house,

Past the Villa D’Este,

Past the most beautiful villas I have ever seen.

And we ate well!

I loved the town of Bellagio but was happy we decided not to stay there. From the small town of Laglio we could easily access most of the other charming towns around the lake.

 

And I did wander onto the grounds of the Villa D’Este. It is impressive. But if I had to pick, I would stay at the Relais Regina Teodolinda any day. It felt like I was living in my own villa, not too ornate, but luxurious enough to feel pampered.

Prosecco in an infinity pool is now crossed off my bucket list!

The Cynthia Collection: One Designer’s Keen Eye on Design

Designer Cynthia Bigony is one of the most creative individuals I know. Her simplicity, grace, and sophistication dictate her design choices.

Last year Cynthia launched The Cynthia Collection–one of a kind belts and jewelry.

Cynthia’s belts are all about the exquisite re-moveable buckles which are made from all natural,  one of a kind materials– sliced agates, geodes, druzy crystals, fossils and petrified woods.

 

I love the natural, organic feel of the belt buckles, the natural elegance of each carefully selected stone, and the practicality of having a couple buckles that I can interchange.

Cynthia lovingly picks out each stone and finds herself attracted to the white crystals that swirl around inside the sliced agates. And there is a thoughtful reason for Cynthia’s selections. “In summer time, I like my belts to be worn with white jeans and sandals and in the winter with blue jeans or black corduroys and a white tee shirt.”

Cynthia’s jewelry became a natural extension of her one of a kind approach. Again, each stone of every earring is hand picked by Cynthia, and like her, is simply radiant.

The bottom stone is a druzy crystal and the top stone is a semi-precious faceted gem–the intent is contrast, shiny and rough–the look is playful.

The Cynthia Collection offers inexpensive accent jewelry that can be worn day or night.

When the sun hits the stones, they glitter and light up…

 

…just like Cynthia.

The Cynthia Collection is available at The Store  in Mill Valley, California.

 

 

 

 

Christmas in Paris

Sometime in the beginning of last November, my husband phoned me and told me we had a bunch of miles that would expire if we did not use them by January 1!

Well, that wouldn’t do. I knew we had to use the miles for Christmas vacation–but Christmas was only 5 weeks away.

The airline we had miles on (American Airlines) was booked for the only days we could use the free miles.

I hate miles.

But I persevered. We had miles to use!

I found an Air Tahiti flight (a partner of AA) out of LAX direct to Paris and I grabbed four seats.  We were going to Paris for Christmas.

Then I panicked. Finding the four of us a hotel room during Christmas was going to be challenging and expensive. I decided to try something I had never tried before and began to look for an apartment to rent. My experience with Paris hotels has never been great. Tiny rooms, bad attitudes, or stuffy old hotels.

I started my search on VRBO and HOMEAWAY but stumbled on a website called www.chezvous.com. I was attracted to it for two reasons, they only had a limited number to choose from thus less overwhelming and they were located in Sausalito, right near my house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I picked a small apartment on Rue Suger in the 6th Arrondissement and one block away from Rue de Buci, the street with all the small food shops in the left bank.

 

Before we left, Paris had been hit by major a snowstorm which made it even more magical.

And there were absolutely no crowds at any of the tourist attractions. Of course I ran out to the Christmas markets and bought trinkets for the family so there would be presents under the tree which also meant I needed a tree. So I stopped at a flower shop on Rue de Buci and bought branches of pine trees and laurel to decorate our apartment.

I really felt like I was living in Paris!

What a great experience to share with the family. Even midnight Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral was remarkable and not the hassle I had heard it would be.

And the evening of Christmas Day comes alive in Paris. I didn’t expect that– all the bars and restaurants re-open and young people fill the streets for yet another meal to be enjoyed with friends and family. And we were happy to comply!

Hipster or Oldster?

I am so sick of hearing the term ‘ hipster.’ I cant imagine how hipsters feel, but I suspect hipsters hate being called hip. Coming from a generation that remembers beatniks, hipsters sounds so, yes I will say it, yesterday.

If you want to see hip just look at Mick Jagger on the Ed Sullivan show in 1966 singing Paint It Black:

Jaw dropping. When he sings, he is so, well, sexy.

Look at what he is wearing!

The jacket with the epaulettes that tie ‘thingy’ around his neck, the turquoise ring on his finger, his shoes, and those skinny trousers. OH Mick, we appreciate you even more now than in 1966.

If you are not the very definition of a hipster, I don’t know who is.

If you look back on the style of dress during this period of the British Invasion, anything and everything was free game as long as you wore it with conviction!

No one styles with conviction better than Mick!

Being hip is like being popular. You can’t try to be either. You must be who you are, embrace it, even at 50, and wear it, shake it, for G-d’s sake scream it…like the Rolling Stones.

A secret hipster lies in each of us. Take chances. TODAY! Fail. Smile. Laugh. And get back up and try again.

I never thought of Janis Joplin as a fashion icon–but she was.  Her music rocked us, moved us, her death jolted us, saddened us.

But look at these amazing photos of Janis. The smile, the big round glasses. Check out her choice of pants, of coats, of bracelets and rings.

You will always be the real deal Janis. And I would never, ever call you a hipster. Just JANIS.

Remember Mary Quant, the Welsh fashion designer and British fashion icon? They called her the very heart of the “mod” fashion movement. She is one of the designers who took credit for the miniskirt and hot pants.

I love that Ms. Quant knew that by promoting these and other fun fashions she encouraged young people to dress to please themselves and to treat fashion as a game.

So what would Mary Quant say to the generation she encouraged to wear miniskirts as we turn 50?

I like to believe she would say to continue to have fun with fashion and wear your clothes with conviction!

 

 

Shoes:  Doc Martin’s (from way back)

Paints: Eileen Fisher (Petite) never been petite in my life

Blouse and Bustier Bra: American Apparel

Bracelets: H&M

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Street Sketch Artist, Reynald Aubert – The Energy of Sketching

I met Mary Soeldner on a beach in Nantucket. We both had two sons just hitting puberty. I watched Mary as she laughed with her sons as they soaked up the sun and the sea breeze. We quickly struck up a conversation and I had made a new friend. Time passed and we stayed friends. Our sons have grown and Mary now lives in Geneva, Switzerland.

She is an artist and an inspiration.

Her fabulous sons are in the states at University and Mary pursues her passion, art. After she read the first posts of Mit-Schlag, she sent me this reflection. We began Mit-Schlag to encourage those our age to continue to pursue their passion, be it style, decor, books, movies, travel, art…

“I am amazed at the energy one feels when Summer turns to Autumn. There is a bit of a
nip in the air and overnight the colours seem to bounce from viridian, rose, purples,
cadmium reds, ultramarines and lemon yellows to rich burnt sienna, mustard, yellow
ochre, olive green, maroon, pumpkin orange and French Blue. The tranquil growing
season turns to harvest and vacations end and we have renewed our souls enough to
get back to school and or work.
The same goes for artistry. In the Winter we think of all the serious paintings we are
going to attack when the weather becomes warm again, in the Spring we think great
thoughts of where we can go paint that would be warm, colourful, and magical. And in
the Summer we execute the plan, and realize all the research was worth the effort —
and we paint, and sculpt, garden or photograph to capture these all too short glimpses
of time. We visit with friends and explore new foods to store up great memories to get
us through the cold months of Winter.
However, Autumn is different. The air smells different. The hint of coolness hits our
faces as we rug up and spend as much time outdoors as possible. This is a great time
for artists to get out and sketch the surrounds to capture the energy of Autumn life in a
city, almost like the squirrels gather up nuts for renewed sustenance during the Winter
months.

Geneve by Reynald Aubert

I recently had the fortune of meeting an amazing Street Sketch Artist here in Geneva,
Switzerland and spend the day with him, sketching! His name is Reynald Aubert. He
not only captures the mixed architecture of old and new in his sketches, but he
somehow captures the energy of the pedestrians as they quickly go about their daily
routine. The viewer can feel the movement of his sketched lines and remember the day
spent in Europe via Reynaldʼs “Art with a Passion! “

by Mary Soeldner

“INITIATION TO SKETCHING — All-day Workshop in English with Reynald Aubert, a
Geneva Artist renowned for his street sketching…” the advertisement in the American
International Womanʼs Club Hot Line read. I signed up immediately and could not wait
for the day! We met at the appointed time at Cafe des Bastions in the Parc des
Bastions, Geneva on a foggy, chilly Friday morning. After a warm cup of coffee in the
Cafe, Reynald explained his techniques about sketching successfully Perspective and
People. Then off we went to sketch the city.

by Mary Soeldner

We started on the Pont de la Machine overlooking the Rhone River watching the morning rush to either get to work, school, or coffee break, as the fog slowly lifted and the city of Geneve awoke before my eyes.

by Mary Soeldner

After a wonderful fresh, artfully prepared lunch from a small outdoor Cafe on the Square
des Alpes, we walked over to the lovely Bains des Paquis to begin our second, third and
fourth sketches, overlooking Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) and the Jetee des Paquis. As
we sat in the direct sunlight on the boardwalk of the Bains des Paquis the layers of
clothing peeled off as we sketched the Saint Pierre Cathedral on the far bank. There
were just the three students soaking up all Reynald could impart to us about sketching
and enjoying each otherʼs company and the warm sunshine! Then standing again for
the third sketch in the cool Autumn Shade the Jetty des Paquis and our bonus sketch
and final sketch for the day, the Information Booth for the Bain des Paquis.
The energy of sketching my surrounds, the energy gained from watching my new
friends produce similar yet totally different sketches made me realize that you can take
all the drawing classes in the world and learn to draw, but to capture what you are
seeing and translate this into a visual diary of all the sights, the sounds and the colours
of Autumn all whilst in Black and White Ink — that is the real magic of Street Sketching.

by Mary Soeldner

I can say I actually felt some circuit breakers turn on through the tutelage of Artist
Reynald Aubert. Just like the energy of Autumn colours, I feel I can now, with lots more
practice, produce sketches that capture the Energy of living in a European City.
For more about the artist, Reynald Aubert, please visit his website at:
www.reynaldaubert.com and you can watch him create several sketches on Youtube –
Ground Zero, NYC and San Francisco are just some of the available short videos.”

Mary Soeldner

Hit Your Re-Set Button and Discover Cambodia

Cambodia has always intrigued me.  As I child, during the Vietnam War I remember hearing about the US bombing Cambodia (even though we were not supposed to) after the Tet Offensive. The whole region always intrigued me.  If you were a child in the Sixties, Vietnam and Cambodia were part of your vernacular. The People’s Army of Vietnam had utilized a portion of eastern Cambodia as sanctuaries into which they could retreat from the fighting in Vietnam.  I have not yet ventured to this region, but Patricia has. I am not sure there is a region she has not explored.  She is off to Korea at the end of the month.

I think it’s remarkable to think about Cambodia as a region all about serenity and well-being.  I love that!  Patricia said, “I had never felt as peaceful and happy in my life. You are surrounded by Monks with gorgeous orange saris and people with big smiles on their faces no matter what…”

If you think about our culture, it is rare we find big smiles “No matter what.”

“Kids , everywhere,” Pat told me. “Kids who want to touch you, feel the fabric of your clothes. Kids curious to know where you are from.”

Angkor Wat is the main attraction in Cambodia, and I’m not surprised to hear from Patricia that she found it very touristy.  Despite the buzz of people, Patricia felt unbelievably serene.

“There is definitely a mystical and magical atmosphere that is very tangible. Whether or not you are a religious person, spirituality envelops you with every step you take.”

As always, Patricia does her homework before she travels.  And it pays off. “One of the highlights of this unforgettable adventure was the splendid little gem of a hotel I stayed at in Siem Reap, La Residence d’ Angkor  http://www.residencedangkor.com. Impeccable service, close to the city if you wish to visit the markets and galleries and a few minutes from all the temples.”

Although Patricia is very thin, food is always on her mind. “Cambodia may not be on the radar for foodies, but I had the best chicken curry of my life in a small village in the middle of nowhere.”

“In the same village I was talked into trying various bugs and cured lizard meats and I complied…

The cockroaches were crispy on the outside, yet tender and juicy on the inside.

It was tough but I lived and now I’m ready to take on anyone on Survivor!”

“The french cuisine influence was a nice surprise,” Patricia who hails from France delighted. “Especially with respect to their desserts. I came across the most amazing street vendor run by a mother-daughter team who were making the best beignets I have ever had.”

I believe Patricia when she says, “If you need to hit a reset button in your life to get a different perspective, take the first plane to Cambodia.”

Sounds like sage advise from a woman with a bit of age and tons of wisdom!

WELCOME TO MIT-SCHLAG

We are four women from our mid-forties to our mid-fifties who want to keep styling, keep traveling, keep eating, keep exploring new things. And we want you to come with us on this journey.  We believe that life is better with a little whipped cream or as the Viennese say “Mit Schlag.” Doesn’t it sound great to add just a tad of whipped cream to spice up your life? Wouldn’t that make all the difference? Travel would seem a little more exotic and dangerous.  Style would be edgier, like when you were younger.  And instead of trends passing you by, you’d be setting them.  Well, that’s just what we are trying to do with this web site. We are not sure where we are headed, but we hope you will follow us…

If you are like us, your children are growing up too quickly, and it’s time that we let them.  We can and still do crave glamor, excitement, danger. Don’t you? We are determined to help our generation of mid-lifers redefine aging not by trying to look or act younger but by embracing our passions with grace (and if we happen to look great doing it, so be it!)

As soon as we stop being curious about the world around us, you might as well just throw the dirt over our dead bones.  We are going out in a blaze, even if we crash and burn.

In the posts ahead we will bear all as we explore our passions–fashion, make-up, travel, decor, food, movies, books–adventures of all kinds.  In Auntie Mame’s immortal words, “Life is a banquet and some poor souls are starving to death.”

We invite you to our banquet.  Mit Schlag, of course!

French Blue

I love french blue.

I love it for men’s shirts,

women’s dresses,

yarn,

glass goblets,

tin ceiling tiles,

window shutters,

ticking,

and pillows.

I love french blue, but I guess I have already said that. The only thing better than french blue is french blue mit schlag.

When I heard that a new restaurant opened in Napa Valley, California with the name
French Blue, well, I had to try it.

And it didn’t disappoint.

Situated on Main Street in St. Helena, California French Blue runs straight through town. It is both charming and delicious.

Its interior makes you want to remodel your home. Open shelving, comfy chairs, and the blue and white worn pillows that adorn the outside patio make for a perfectly elegant yet casual setting. You feel like you are sitting in someone’s perfect home in Napa.

The food really surprised me. At first glance it seemed over priced, but the portions are large and some of them are meant to be split. Well at least we thought so.

I wanted to snap a photo of the sumptuous country cheese, tomato and strawberry salad. But I had already dug into this shared first course and remembered half way through the starter. It just looked so good I couldn’t wait.

We enjoyed hamburgers adorned with avocado and heirloom tomatoes, pulled pork sliders and lemon chicken with the most glorious beans. Next time, I hope to try wood cooked lamb meatballs with spicy puttanesca and feta. Chef Philip Wang serves home cooking from this incredibly homey restaurant. The french-inspired interiors invite diners to enter through their rustic doors all day long.

And how can you resist french fries with béarnaise sauce?

Of course, the wines are well-edited Northern California specialities, but the cocktail list looked really fun too. When was the last time you had a Sidecar?

So if you’re feeling blue, French Blue that is, head for a bit of country charm…

The Côte d’Azur on a Budget???

I hadn’t been to the Cote d’Azur for years. I had decided years back that I loved Provence and I avoided the French Riviera like the plague.

I think I felt that the beaches were not all that pretty, and it was just too crowded in the summer months. Living in California, I must admit that I am quite spoiled by beautiful beaches. So this summer when I decided finally to take my teenage kids to the Riviera I did my research. I knew of the grand hotels like the Grand Hotel du Cap-Ferrat and Hotel du Cap Eden Rock.  I spent two nights in the ‘Grand Lady’ in Cap-Ferrat on my honeymoon. My lovely mother gave my husband and I two nights there as a wedding gift. Earlier in my life, I spent days at the pool at the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc, doling out twenty Euros to sit on a beach mat by the pool.

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Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat

Hotel du Cap Eden Roc

Hotel du Cap Eden Roc

Today these grand hotels are way out of my budget. So are most things in the Riviera. I had to figure out a way to enjoy the area without spending a fortune. The problem is I’m spoiled. I have traveled a lot. As a kid my father took me all over the world, and the motion picture studios he worked for would put us up in the most amazing places. Then I worked for The Travel Channel and I flew for free and stayed in some equally spectacular places. I wasn’t going to let my pocketbook get in the way I liked to travel. This meant doing my homework. I spent months figuring out this trip. It became an obsession.  And it paid off!

I finally settled on Antibes for the first part of our vacation. I have stayed in Cannes and Nice and knew that these weren’t right. Antibes, which is situated between Cannes and Nice, seemed to have the right feel of charm and sophistication that I was looking for.

 

And then I stumbled upon a little hotel called La Place that was right on the edge of Vieil Antibes–the old town of Antibes. And it is close to the sea.

La Place Hotel and Restaurant

The reviews seemed too good to be true. I was skeptical. We booked two rooms. Our room was 120 Euros a night and the boys’ room was 130 Euros. For 250 Euros we had two rooms with lovely linens on the beds, air conditioning that was the perfect temperature, double pane windows, and a very modern bathroom.  It was lovely.  There is no lobby but there is a small restaurant that fronts the hotel. It could not have been a better choice.

Literally around the corner you stumble on the most lovely old town with amazing restaurants, boulangeries, bars, and even a covered market every day in the summer months. The fresh spices and olives looked amazing.

And it was a short stroll to the beach.

Because the rooms were affordable we could spend the days renting lounge chairs and umbrellas at some of the sleekest beach clubs on the Riviera. Remember you can have lunch and reserve lounge chairs and umbrellas.  In the summer months be sure to book ahead.

Plage Keller is well known for its yellow umbrellas and wonderful setting. We loved it.

La Belle Rives is another hotel on the opposite side of Antibes in a small seaside town called Juan les Pins, but this hotel was too expensive for us–instead we spent the day at their resort.  Perfect!

The ramparts that surround old Antibes are really beautiful.  The stunning antiquity is complimented by a modern sculpture created by Catalan artist Juame Plensa– Nomade. This man of made up of letters looking over the Mediterranean Sea was a nice place to stop and enjoy the surroundings–I mean each other!

Three restaurants are worth mentioning in this post and again I did my research.  Les Vieux Murs sits right on the ramparts of old Antibes overlooking the glorious sea.  It is a picture perfect location and the food is wonderful though not inexpensive. We sat outside on the patio but the interior of this restaurant is pretty special as well. But how can you pass up an opportunity to sit in an ancient ruin overlooking the Mediterranean eating glorious French food?

To off set the price of this lovely jewell of a restaurant we ate a baguette with ham and cheese and a perfectly ripe tomato for lunch.

Anjuna Bay in Eze Bord de Mer was one of the most unique dining experiences of my life.  And I have had many.  I think its location on the sea, I mean literally on the pebbled beach below the lovely hill town of Eze, makes it unforgettable. The atmosphere is totally cool, music playing and incredible design surrounding you, and the hippest people I have ever seen in one place.  To say it’s a bitch to get to is an understatement. But go anyway.  Get lost like we did.  And enjoy Anjuna Bay! It is also a beach club by day.

 

The third restaurant, La Taverne du Safranier, sits in a charming square in the heart of old Antibes. I don’t know if it was because it was our first evening in Southern France or because the food was so good, but I was happier sitting in this tiny square than I have been in a long time. The shrimps were the biggest I had ever seen. The fish was delicious and the portions huge. If on a budget, share!

Now not only can’t I wait to get back to Antibes, I am considering moving there!

A Woman Alone in Jordan

I am not sure I have the guts to do what Patricia does. Patricia is an amazing traveler.  She approaches travel like she approaches life: fearlessly. I am so far from fearless. So I wasn’t surprised when she set off by herself to visit Jordan.  As she says, “Jordan is not the first place it come to mind when you want to travel as a woman alone, but you should!”

It’s exotic yes. And I’ll take Patricia’s word for it being safe.

“Amman, the capital of Jordan,” Patricia adds “is a clean version of Cairo with amazing food. Hummas, pita, olives, marinated tomatoes, pomegranates, dates, falafel, baklava are found everywhere and are a delicious part of any meal.  Patricia did say eating a falafel everyday takes on new meaning. We will have to ask her what she meant by this.

The history of Jordan and its people are what brought Patricia to Jordan. She found a fantastic hotel, two hours from Amman called Evason Ma’In Hot Springs–a Six Senses Resort and Spa.

“Lying 264 meters below sea level, this resort is an oasis of tranquility and luxury. I have never been so pampered in my life! Dead Sea salt wrap, olive mask, argan oil, you name it, they have it!! And the food was sublime.”

“But Petra is the place to visit,” Patricia insists, “and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Patricia had the unique opportunity to meet bedouins. “They are a beautiful and peaceful people. I was lucky enough to share their meal and tea under their tent at the end of the unforgettable day I spent in Petra”

“The patriarch wanted to exchange me for 4 goats and 2 camels. He thought my husband would be thrilled but I was kind of disappointed: I thought I was worth much more!”

Patricia is definitely worth more.

I wonder what falafels taste like mit-schlag?

 

 

A Quick Change for a Quick Drink

I had forgotten about the cocktail party I had to attend this evening.  So, like every other woman in the world, I went for my LBD (Little Black Dress).

Turn around time here was about ten minutes.  I barely have time for a picture, and I will do my makeup in the car.

My LBD is a Dolce and Gabbana I bought on sale at Neiman Marcus. The shoes are classic Gucci.  I have one pair I have worn for at least five years.

Sometimes I wear really baggy clothing to cover up my figure.  I’m not sure that is the right thing.  This dress shows my curves. Not sure that’s the right thing either.  But either way I’m going for it.

I dress this outfit down with my Tiffany Elsa Peretti silver mesh earrings and necklace. There is nothing worse than being over-dressed.

Okay, I am really sucking it in in this shot. Could use a pair of Spanx, but they are just too uncomfortable.

And in case I get self conscious about my arms, I am bringing along the silk scarf I bought in Como this summer.

I’m off.

Baring All

Just like kitchens, people come in all shapes and sizes. I am not petite. Never have been, never will be. And now I am finding I have so many things to cover-up as I try to adorn my body with the right clothing.

Shopping has stopped being fun for me. Now it is just work!

There are my arms–too flabby. My waist used to be small and now it has that middle-aged bulge. And I have never liked my wide shoulders or my thick calves. Come to think about it, I am not sure I like anything about my body…but I still want to try and look good.

So I am going into my closet for a bare all show and tell.

I approach my closet with fear.

Today feels like a fall day. I’ll slip on my Gap corduroy “sexy boyfriend” low rise jeans. They are relaxed in the hip and thigh but have a tapered leg. And they are stretch, thank G-d!
Love the color. I hope I can carry it off.

I guess this is my ” Up against the wall!” look!

The top has a nice neckline that deemphasizes my wide shoulders and the long sleeved arms cover my flabby biceps.

I love the brown short boots I bought at Macy’s. And the Jeff Gallea belt.

Belt: Jeff Gallea
Boots: Marc Fisher at Macy’s
Shirt: Stiletto at Lindisima (Greenbrae, California)

Easy, Bold and Clean

Kitchen design comes in all shapes and sizes.  As I have gotten older, I like things a bit more streamlined.  I used to love the country look, and I still do.  But for right now, I have been enjoying my simple kitchen.

The open shelving has been fantastic to use.  One step away from the dishwasher, I save time, really I do, taking the dishes out of the dishwasher and putting them up on the open shelves.  I hate taking out dishes. This helps.

I love the limestone backsplash and the thick shelves.  It gives the kitchen a certain weight and importance.  After all, it is the centerpiece of most homes. The island has a travertine countertop and the island is made of dark, fumed oak.  The rest of the kitchen cabinets are painted an off white.

I love my kitchen garage. I never knew a kitchen could have a garage, but this makes so much sense.

I stick my crap inside and close the stainless steel door to hide it all.

It’s simple, modern but doesn’t feel too cold.  I think it is the use of organic materials like the limestone, travertine and wood that warms it up.

The kitchen opens up to the family room and then to the outside.

Come over for some pie someday soon.  Mit schlag, of course.

Bright and so Patricia!

Patricia loves color. It goes back to her Provençal roots or maybe she just
likes to add color to the foggy days that we see in San Francisco.

Here she looks playful with her Anthropologie dress of many colors. It’s easy to
wear but because it is so colorful, Patricia keeps her accessories to a minimum.
She contrasts the sweetness of the dress with a modern twist–an orange rawhide
bracelet.

Check out her shoes. The designer, Castaner, is Spanish and she picked them up
in Barcelona for $170 Euros.

Dress from Anthropologie

Rawhide bracelet from Francesca’s: :$12.00