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.

 

 

 

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

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!