Friday, August 24, 2012

Designers I love - Ralph Lauren

I blame two people for my aspirational lifestyle desires:

1) Mrs. Miniver (yes, THE Mrs. Miniver of the movie - who deserves her own post), whose house is THE house I have coveted my entire life.

2) Ralph Lauren

Today, we will focus on Ralph.  We don't need to get in a lot of biographical information here - Mr. Lauren is known and beloved by many the world over.  He is my silver fox, who just keeps getting better looking as he ages!  Oh i know - he missed the boat with the Olympics, but everyone has a misstep now and then...

Ralph Lauren Ricky Lauren-JTM-058213.jpg

Even better, this is the same Ralph Lauren who is still married to the gorgeous Ricky, mother to his three gorgeous children.

What Ralph sells is LIFESTYLE.  And I want that lifestyle!!!

Look at his new fall arrivals:

Oh if I had a neck of any distinction:

Sleeveless Cashmere-Blend Top - Black Label  Cashmere -

Or a place to wear this delicious skirt:

Silk Charmeuse Octavia Skirt - Black Label  New Fall Arrivals -

Or perhaps Ralph and I will just go for a horseback ride this afternoon (wait!  I forgot that I don't ride...)

Magnolia Tweed Jacket - Blue Label Jackets -

This little Pima cotton shirt dress is only $198 and has made it on to my fall drool list:

Pima Cotton Shirtdress - Blue Label Short Dresses -

But it is the home collection where Ralph really shines for me...

I see this and I want to rush back up above and get on that little grey sweater and skirt, despite the short neck calamity!  I will need it for cocktail hour!
Sabrina Black Glass Tray - Ralph Lauren Home Barware -

Of course, we may be up at the chalet and I will need ivory wool instead..

But never mind, Ralph probably has a few things sitting in the closet at the ranch that I can slip into..


Of course, we might be at the beach house...Either way, surely he has a few size 6s hanging in the closet...

I have a few Ralph Lauren articles of clothing and they are generally well constructed.  I have used his paint and found the colours lovely.

Ralph has tapped into the psyche of the individual who wants to live a more glamorous, beautiful life.  And has ruined me forever!!!  But in the best sort of way...

Do you like Ralph Lauren?  Do you have an equivalent to Ralph that you admire and would love to emulate?

Have a wonderful day mes amis!  By now i am in Paris, wondering placidly and happily...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chefs I love - Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa

Hi all!
You know that I love fashion and clothing.  And books.  And travel.

But I also love to cook and I am pretty darn good at it!  You saw my little kitchen the other night and if you noticed, you would have seen that many of the cookbooks are by Ina - the lovely Barefoot Contessa!

tv this week

I have been cooking from Ina's cookbooks for at least a decade.  I love Ina - she is just like us!  She is lovely and fun and she probably thinks she could lose a couple of pounds to fit into her cafe capris as well...

I have all of her cookbooks.  One is my particular favourite - no surprise - The Barefoot Contessa in Paris.

I love everything about this book.  The pictures, the recipes (of course!), her little stories of Paris.

And you know that she is always cooking for her husband, Jeffrey, who appears as adorable as she is

About Ina

How wonderful is that picture?  It reminds me of the other night when I cooked a really great meal for my husband - I think he cuddled me like that as well!

One of things that I love about Ina is that she was a bureaucrat, just like i am.  It gives me hope for a more creative outlet when I retire in a few years.

There are two recipes by Ina, that when I make them, people are CRAZY for:

1) Her spicy turkey spaghetti and meatballs:

Picture of Spicy Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti Recipe
Source: Food Network,


  • 3 cups (1-inch diced) bread cubes from a round rustic bread, crusts removed
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 pounds ground turkey (85-percent to 92-percent lean)
  • 1/2 pound sweet Italian pork sausage, casings removed
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, finely chopped
  • 1 cup freshly grated aged Asiago cheese
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra for brushing the meatballs
  • 2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 (24-ounce) jars good marinara sauce, such as Rao's
  • 2 pounds dried spaghetti, such as De Cecco
  • Freshly grated Parmesan (or Asiago) cheese, for serving


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

  • Place the bread in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until the bread is in medium crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a small bowl and add the milk. Set aside for 5 minutes.

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the turkey, sausage, prosciutto, bread mixture, Asiago, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Lightly combine the ingredients with your hands. Add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the eggs, and stir lightly with a fork to combine.

  • With your hands, lightly roll the mixture into 2-inch-round meatballs and place them on the prepared sheet pans. Brush the meatballs with olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the tops are browned and the centers are completely cooked.

  • Pour the marinara sauce in a large, low pot, add the meatballs, and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the directions on the package. Drain and place the spaghetti in individual bowls, and top with 3 meatballs and lots of sauce. Serve with Parmesan cheese on the side.
I am telling you - BEST ever!


2) Chicken and Artichoke-Heart Potpies.

This was in the February 2001 issue of Martha Stewart Living Magazine.  Ina was hosting a valentine's day party and was making these for Jeffrey and their friends (don't laugh - you KNOW you loved the valentine's day dinner party scene in Julie and Julia!)

Photo: Luca Trovato
  • Yield Makes six 5 1/2-inch individual pies


  • 3 whole chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds each), bone in, skin on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 quart homemade or canned chicken stock
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped yellow onion (2 medium onions)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 nine-ounce packages frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and halved lengthwise
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 7 ounces) frozen peas
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) frozen small, whole onions
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pie Crust
  • 1 large egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet, and rub with olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Place in oven, and roast until cooked through, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven, and, when cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and skin, and cut into 1-inch dice. Set aside.
  2. Combine the chicken stock and bouillon cubes in a medium saucepan, and heat, making sure bouillon cubes have dissolved. Set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the onions, and saute until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the flour, and cook on low heat, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the reserved hot chicken stock, and let simmer, stirring often, until thickened, about 3 minutes more. Add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, heavy cream, artichoke hearts, peas, whole onions, parsley, Parmesan cheese, and reserved chicken; mix well.
  4. Divide chicken mixture among six 5 1/2-inch ovenproof bowls; set aside to cool. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out each piece of dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thick. Cut three circles from each, making a round slightly larger than the top of each bowl. Brush outside rim of bowl with egg wash, place a round of dough over each bowl, fold the dough over the top, and trim edges about 1 inch below the top. Repeat until all the bowls are covered in dough.
  5. 5. Brush the tops with egg wash; make two or three slits in the top of each with a sharp knife. Sprinkle tops with salt; bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
Pie Crust:


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 2/3 cup cold vegetable shortening


  1. Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and vegetable shortening, and pulse until the fat is the size of peas. Pulsing the processor, add 3/4 cup iced water; pulse just until the dough starts to form a ball.
  2. Transfer dough to a floured board; roll into a ball. Cut the ball in half; wrap each piece in plastic. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Folks - I am telling you: people weep over these!  I have removed the chicken to make them vegetarian - still a hit.  I have not had one or more of the vegetables - still a hit. 

For any of you who happen to be unmarried and are perhaps looking for that special someone - make either of these recipes - you will be glad you did!

Please - get Ina's cookbooks and enjoy!  You can visit her website here.

Love you Ina!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Put a bow on it!

I do love a bow.  Not in my hair anymore, but I confess that in my 18th year I wore a hair ribbon everyday.  Do not ask why - I cannot answer the question myself and you will simply pain us both.  However, if you have a good psychological theory - well THAT I AM interested in...

There are bows all over the Madewell site:

Bowbell Tee

Mini-Bow Pendant Necklace
Bow Cardigan

some slightly more refined than others.

J Crew cannot be left out of the fun:
Leather bow skinny belt

Collection sequin bow pant

And darling Kate Spade supports the trend as well:

double bow studs

skinny mini long bow necklace

I admit - I like a lovely bow.  It makes me think of the things in life which truly make my heart flutter: birthday and christmas gifts.

It also reminds me of something I do not do like anyone else - tie my shoes.  For some god-forsaken reason, I did not learn to tie my shoes like others - I actually make two bows and twist them around.  It appears to work for me but has made me the recipient of much derision and the odd unsolicited "lesson" in shoe-tying.  Fortunately for me, I do not take these things personally, nor do I particularly pay attention, and thus have continued on my merry way in life, oblivious of the right way to do most things..

What made me think of a bow?  Well the other day I popped into the local Winners (our equivalent of TJ Maxx and saw these little beauties on sale for $39:

They are by Anne Marino and despite being 3 1/4" high. are quite comfortable.  I actually bought them in the charcoal grey colourway, which I think will be lovely for the fall.  If you need a pair or want to see the grey version, go here.

I am off to Paris tomorrow.  I have a few blogs lined up and may do a couple along the way once we reach our little spot in southern France on the weekend.  Have a wonderful day!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ready to Go to Paris!

Many of you have been so kind to send me good wishes in advance of our big trip to Paris and Provence tomorrow!  I want to thank you all!  One only gets to go to Paris for the first time once, and at 49 years young, my time is now!

DO not abandon me if i come back looking like this:

I will eventually come back to the real world!

Merci et au revoir!  Paris - lock up your sons and your scarves!!!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Chez WMM, The Kitchen

Welcome back to Chez WMM.

There is a tray of mojitos awaiting you on the deck - do grab one before coming in to the kitchen - the kitchen is so much lovelier seen through an alcoholic haze...

Folks - this is no kitchen from architectural digest.

If money was no object, my kitchen would likely look like this:


or this:

But when we bought our little ranch house (circa 1978 - what vintage!) money WAS an object!

I wish I has "before" pictures of this room as well, as it was frankly a disaster.  Old laminate flooring, old ountertop, knotty pine cupboards, canary yellow wallpaper.

We lived with it like this for 2 or 3 years, as frankly, the blood red shag wall to wall carpeting in the family room in the basement was begging for more attention...

But where to begin?  Well we needed new appliances, so that was logical and we replaced them all with good quality stainless steel.  The one perk here was the double maytag oven.  I adore this oven and have never regretted buying it!

The countertop and cupboards.  Replaced and to be painted.  Flooring - all birch, all over the main and upper floors.  More storage space - cupboards, bought along the way...

If I was to truly tally every expense of the room that you are about to see, it would probably come in at around $8000, mostly because of the appliances.  Not bad for a kitchen reno.  Although, again, all done by us.  This room will eventually be redone in the future when everyone is done university, but it is certainly fine for now...

How did we choose the colour scheme?

Well, I don't do things like normal people, so two things guided me:

1) the old 1960s canisters that were in my house growing up:

Flour got lost somewhere along the way...


2) a vintage tin kitchen, also from the 1960s, that I picked up at a local antique store.  I actually had this exact kitchen when I was 3 years old, although mine was white..

You can't see, but there is a red plastic turkey in the oven.  Perhaps after the mojitos you are able to stay for supper?

So, I knew that I wanted this shade of green in the kitchen and so that is where we begin:

Taking the long view of the kitchen from the sitting room that is off it.  As you can see, we put the green on the bottom and put a lovely cream colour on top...It is not a large kitchen at all and space is always at a premium and we are always bumping into one another..

The view into the kitchen from the wee small hallway when you enter the house.  Yes, that is a TV - I have ADHD and like to watch some TV while I cook, especially old movies on TCM!  That is a new window with a little IKEA light over the sink.  I have a "thing" for curtain under a sink and picked these up at Walmart awhile back, while i wait for enough money to have proper blinds and curtains made for this room!

The wall opposite the sink:

This is an old shelf and cupboard I picked up along the way at my local antique store.  It holds cookbooks, my microwave, all of my baking supplies, extra bowls, spices, etc.  When we originally bought it we thought of re-painting it since it is certainly NOT a collector piece.  But then we got used to the worn paint and kind of preferred it that way!

To the left of this cupboard is my large pantry:

This was a steal!  It looks old, but was bought several years ago at the after-christmas sale at Wicker Emporium, a canadian chain you can visit here.  I paid all of $400 CDN for this and it holds everything: pots, baking tins, all of my pastas and flour and belnder, etc.  I just love it!

The small inexpensive island, replete with two ikea stools.  At the end of the island is a tall wicker basket where I store cookie sheets and cutting boards.  I take no credit for this good idea - Ina Garten, the barefoot contessa and one of my goddesses, has a similar in her kitchen and I feel that if it is good enough for her it is good enough for me!  Under the island are two wicker containers that store potatoes, garlic and onions and two cast iron posts.  Above hang all of our pots:

We do not love our potrack or light, but are keeping our eye out for the right one.  We will know it when we see it! 

Beloved double oven!  All of the upper cupboards have bottlegreen glass knobs that I picked up for an amazing price at Lee Valley.  Visit their website here - you will thank me later!

To the right of the sink are more cupboards:

Mr. WMM built the special drawers, which hold pot tops, bowl and what nots.  On the counter above is my beloved red kitchenaid mixmaster, which has been put to much good use over the years!

Above are glasses, vases and our day-to-day dishes and more cookbooks!  We took the cupboard doors off - I love open cupboards, athought it all requires a good cleaning now and then!

I like to make little vignettes:

To the left are my espresso cups, used every morning, and my anthropologie measuring cups.  so cute!

And the counter below ALWAYS has a jar of Lindt chocolate pieces - milk chocolate, 85% and 70% dark chocolates.  we each have one every night as our dessert!

Finally, near the backdoor is my bulletin board and calendar:

The calendar is of France and along the wall to the right is an antique picture post card set, titled "Scenes of Interesting Hollywood, California."  My favourite is Mary Pickford's home:

DO you think her kitchen was fancier than mine?

You are likely done your Mojito.  Another, perchance?

Nope.  Not an architectural digest kitchen at all.  In fact, pretty quirky and a little charming.  Just like us!  Hope you enjoyed the visit!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

WInston Churchill and Gumps Department Store

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.
Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill is everywhere these days.

Perhaps it is the times - when times are tough, there is a natural tendency to turn our nostalgic gaze to leaders from other times who faced equally, if not far worse, challenges.

There he was, at the closing ceremonies of the Olympics last Sunday:

Still an icon today: An artist imitating Winston Churchill performs during the Olympics Closing Ceremony

And recently in the fine HBO Biopic, Into the Storm, played by the amazing Brendan Gleeson:

Brendan Gleeson stars as Winston Churcill in BBC Two's Into the Storm

Biographies about him are everywhere, as everyone wants to revisit and reimagine what made Churchill tick and his role in the history of his day.

There was even the recent tempest in the teapot as to whether or not President Obama had "gotten rid of" the Churchill bust that has graced the White House since the 1960s.

But there he is (that is Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron having a good look at Winnie):

President Barack Obama shows Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom a bust of Sir Winston Churchill (July 20, 2010)

I have always enjoyed Winston Churchill; His wit and wisdom is almost unparalleled and the filter which is on almost all current politicians (except perhaps Joe Biden in the US) to be politically and otherwise correct was blessedly missing in him.  I have a close colleague who looks remarkably like FDR at work and we call ourselves Winnie and Franklin and frankly, it has gotten us through a few dull meetings...

So what made me think of Winston today?

Every once in a while I like to visit the Gumps Department Store website.  For those of you who don't know, and I would have been one of you until last Christmas season, Gumps is a famous San Francisco Department Store.

I have never been to San Francisco, but when I eventually go I will make a pilgrimage to this fine place as it appears that this store has everything you didn't know you needed!  Even better, at Christmastime they have an amazing Christmas Collection that makes me drool with delight!

The store describes itself as "The legendary San Francisco destination for luxury gifts, jewellry, artful objects and home decor".

Where else could you find these lovelies:


I NEED versailles flannel pajamas.  Really, I do...  You can get yours here.

How about fragrant shoe sachets?  I did not know such things existed but now that I know they do I need them and so do you!

You know you want them

And I would place them inside my silk mules:


I would feel like I was Myrna Loy in the Thin Man wearing these.

And really, you would need to bring this silk scarf home with you:


Isn't it lovely?  Get yours here.

But I digress with all these lovelies!  What got me to thinking about Winston this morning was this delight:


The Winston Bulldog statue and he can be yours here for only $79 US.

One thing you need to know about me:  I am a sucker for dog decor though I have almost none of it.  And dogs smoking are even better.  Which is odd, as I abhor smoking.  I also love dogs playing cards or shooting pool, but that is another post and sort of embarassing at times (no - I don't have these in my house, but would in a heart beat!)

This little iron beauty would have a place of distinction in my library.  I could see him wearing a hat at Christmas time and high holidays and I would probably place a glass of scotch beside him every January 24th for Winston's birthday.

He seems downright dignified compared to this cheeky, and more expensive, fellow:


For only $385, this little fellow can be the talk of your cocktail parties!

So... Do you like Winston, too?  Have you ever been to Gumps?  What purely frivolous thing are you coveting these days??

Have an awesome Saturday!