MADEMOISELLE . . . COCO CHANEL AND THE PULSE OF HISTORY

 

 

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In 1955 I discovered Vogue Magazine.   An elegant, exotic, exciting and completely new world spilled from the pages.

The one shoe store in our small town sold shoes in two colours – black and brown.  White shoes for nurses.  Clothing came in three styles – practical, matronly and Eaton’s catalog. I was young.  I wanted more.    I devoured Vogue.  I discovered Coco Chanel.

 

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My clothing budget was meager.

I raided Woolworths Five and Dime  for strands of pearls.

I bought men’s tortoise shell frames for my eye glasses

 

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I sewed white collars and cuffs onto my dark suits and black dresses.

And insanely and extravagantly  I spent a weeks salary on a bottle of Chanel No 5 perfume.

All because of Coco Chanel!

 

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MADEMOISELLE    COCO CHANEL  and the pulse of history  by Rhonda K. Garelick is a riveting biography of one of the most fascinating woman of the 20th century.

If you admire Chanel.  Love fashion.  Adore Paris – then dive into this book for interesting new information about this woman who created a global icon – CHANEL NO 5.

 

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This book is an intriguing  glimpse into the life of Chanel – warts and all.  If you find the tales of  Chanel reinventing herself repetitious – ignore them!   If the amount of words overwhelm you – skip a few pages.  If you feel the photographs are too small – be clever and Goggle image of some of the men in her life.  You’ll be rewarded with dozens of photographs  of Boy Capel, Igo Stravinsky, Grand Duke Dmitri, Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster and poet Pierre Reverdy.

 

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Chanel transformed forever the way we dress.   The little black dresses, flat shoes, elaborate costume jewelry, cardigan sweaters, jersey knits.    She took women out of strait jacket corsets and put them into everything from evening dresses and her classic boucle suits to “boyfriend’s” clothes, fisherman’s sweaters and sailor pants. Today you see these fashions on  women of every age and every background.

 

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I continue my ongoing and long love affair with all things Chanel.   Because of Chanel I fell in love with Paris and all things French.  In my garden  Camellias are blooming.   White Camellias  – Coco Chanel’s favorite flower.

 

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A VALENTINE FOR YOU

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Friendship is a flower that never dies.

Happy Valentine day dear friends.

 

SOUP GLORIOUS SOUP . . . ROASTED CAULIFLOWER LEEK SOUP

 

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ROASTED CAULIFLOWER LEEK SOUP WITH CHEDDAR CROSTINI

I feel very strongly about soup.  Soup satisfies the body and the soul.   There is simply nothing more wonderful then enjoying a beautiful bowl of home-made soup.  For me the benchmark of good cooks and  good restaurants is the quality of their soup.  Soup should be treated with great respect.  It should be lovingly and carefully prepared.  The ingredients carefully chosen then prepared and cooked to absolute perfection.

The basis of most soups is the stock.  It should be home-made.  There are some exceptions. If you are able to buy house-made stock from a fresh food supplier this is  acceptable.   This soup recipe calls for chicken stock.  When you buy chicken stock in cans or vacuum packages you are buying flavoured water.  You should be able to reduce a good chicken stock down so that it becomes  thick and syrupy.  Try reducing the canned or packaged chicken down and you will be left with nothing but flavoured powder.

Roasting cauliflower changes this plain Jan white vegetable into something so deeply flavoured, so rich and wonderful you’ll find yourself stealing a few florets to nibble as you prepare the soup.

This soup takes just thirty minutes to prepare.  Add a tossed salad and your dinner is on the table before you can finish a glass of wine.

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER LEEK SOUP WITH CHEDDAR CROSTINI

 

SWEET POTATO RED PEPPER AFRICAN PORK STEW

 

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There is nothing more wonderful than the heavenly aroma of a one-dish meal simmering away in the oven while you curl up in a chair with a good book.  This dish has a deliciously exotic flavour created by the dynamic and unusual combination of  sweet potatoes, spices and a little peanut butter.  What I especially love about this recipe –  it is extraordinarily pantry friendly.   There’s no rushing around looking for hard to find ethnic ingredients.

This West African pork stew is easy to put together yet it is so impressive it would be perfect for a marvelous Friday Night We’re Having Friends Over For Dinner.  Unless you are very confident of your butcher don’t buy ready-cut-up stewing pork.    The important thing to remember is not to cook your stewing pork on a high heat. It will toughen it.  Pork likes to simmer slowly and quietly and will reward you with succulent, fork tender meat.  Serve this dish with lots of warm, crusty bread.

Put on some African drum music and make

SWEET POTATO RED PEPPER PORK STEW

 

 

FALL IN LOVE WITH PARIS ALL OVER AGAIN

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Theadora braided her hair into pigtails and tied them with tricolour ribbon.  Coloured her lips with the boldest of red lipstick.  Scented herself with a drift of perfume fragrant with memories.   Then set down to fiercely write about and fall in love with Paris all over again.  Read her words.  Follow her Voyages Extraordinaires PEOPLE PLACES AND BLING and seize the day.

 

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Across time and space another read her words.

” It’s time to return.” she thought. “Time to return to the city of lights. Time to linger over café au lait and watch the world go by.  Time to wander familiar streets.  Visit ancient book stores.  Treasure hunt in the flea markets.   Time to simply glory in all that is Paris.”

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Theadora’s shopping list promised irresistible bargains for unnecessary but oh so exquisite objects of desire. The Galeries Lafayete, an Aladdin’s cave,  called her name floor after floor after glittering floor.  The perfect red soled shoe.  The silky softness of an elegant sweater. A clutch of rainbow coloured scarves.  For this is Paris and elegance on sale is hard to ignore.

 

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She reached deep into the immense armoire cupboard and began to pull our her Longchamp bags. Elegant brown leather trimmed cases. Each bag a little larger than the one before. Like babushka dolls they fitted one into the other. The smallest held the necessities – a silver compact, Chanel lipstick, eye make-up and Theadora’ shopping itinerary. The rest would travel to her destination empty.

 

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She was returning to Paris. To walk proudly, fearlessly the silver streets. Fill her eyes with the golden light of Paris. Fill her soul with the courage and strength that is Paris. And lastly she would fill her Longchamp bags with the plunders of Paris. Slipping into her ruby red travel slippers she tucked the key to her “little house in Paris” into her purse. CARPE DIEM – Et Bonne Annee! And she was gone.

PARIS EST CHARLIE

 

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JE SUIS CHARLIE

Published in: on January 10, 2015 at 1:47 pm  Comments (11)  
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ULTIMATE BLUE RIBBON BANANA BREAD

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I made my first banana bread  just after the second world war.  Bananas disappeared from the produce shelves during the war.   Rationing, torpedoed cargo ships and ships used for troop transport meant that many food items were simply not available.

My first banana loaf contained no walnuts.  They were still rationed.  The recipe was rather frugal with a limited amount of sugar and butter. However to me the flavour was wonderfully exotic and I pretended those brown specks were nuts.

Through the years I baked many variations of banana bread;  coconut banana, banana prune, banana chocolate chip and so on.  They were all good but not great.  Hundreds of banana breads later I declare this is the Blue Ribbon Winner.  It is rich with butter and eggs.  Deeply flavoured with brown sugar and a smidge of cinnamon.  It is extravagantly studded with walnuts, and has a delicate crumb.  It is the ULTIMATE BLUE RIBBON BANANA BREAD.

SUPER EASY SALAD DRESSING

 

When I shop for groceries I read the labels on the back of products.    When you read the label on the back of salad dressing invariably the first ingredient is water.   This means it is the main ingredient.  Then there is the list of unpronounceable words that translate into additives you really don’t want to be consuming.   If you keep your pantry stocked with a Dijon mustard, a really good red wine vinegar, virgin olive oil and honey you have the makings of a delicious salad dressing.  You can use SUPER EASY SALAD DRESSING on any tossed or chopped salad.  It is also delicious on warm potato salad.

 

 

BUMBLEBEES AND BLACKBERRY COBBLER

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Blackberries grow wild and unruly steps from my kitchen door. Fat bumblebees hum happily as they flit from delicate white blackberry flower to flower. Wearing  a heavy shirt to protect my arms from attacking thorns I can cheerfully  spend a glorious afternoon plundering the blackberry vines.

I return to the kitchen my lips and fingers stained black from the ripe, warm fruit  and sprinkle blackberries over homemade vanilla ice cream.  Pure heaven!!

Blackberries freeze well and I fill my freezer for baking during the winter months.     Tonight  for dessert I am making a luscious Blackberry Cobbler.  The aroma of baking blackberries will fill my kitchen with the smells of summer.

Just be sure you put your baking dish in a pan or on a cookie sheet when you make BLACKBERRY COBBLER.

 

A BRAVE NEW YEAR. A NEW BEGINNING.

 

 

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I opened the tall windows that looked out on the street.     In the distance I heard excited voices counting down.

“Six, Sept, nuit.”

I opened the windows overlooking the tiny courtyard,

and  hurried  into the pantry to grab  pots and a pans.

“Neuf, dix, minuit.”

I opened the heavy wooden door letting out the old year.  Ushering in the new.

“Happy New Year.  HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE,” I cried as I banged the pans together.  “Happy New Year,” I shouted walking up and down outside my little house in Paris.

The last several hours had been spent sweeping away the cobwebs of old memories.

Dusting out the corners of past thoughts.  Cleaning away the detritus of the old year.   Tabula Ras – a clean slate  for this brave new year.

And this brave new year will be filled with more.    More of simple pleasures.    More evenings  lingering with friends and family over Sunday night dinner.  More watching the dying embers of the outdoor fire and listening to night sounds.    More rainy days spent rereading favorite books.    More of just being.  More taking joy in the simple pleasures of this precious, ordinary life.

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The sound of the revelers fade away.  Reluctantly I close all the windows.  Shut the big door with a resounding thump.  I have lined up twelve church candles. The beginning of a ritual.  On the first night of each month I will light a candle   Today is a fresh new day and anything is possible.   Tonight I will light the first candle.

 

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And now let us welcome the New Year, 

Full of things that have never been.”

(Rainer Maria Rilke)

 

 

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