Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Having A Paris Day in California

Paris in all seasons is an amazing city. I have never seen Paris with snow before, but I imagine it’s breathtaking as the Parisians stroll the streets that are already so picturesque. For now, while I am still in Los Angeles, awaiting my flight to Paris in the spring, I listen to the rain and enjoy the cloudy days that whisk me away to the sights and sounds of Paris.

I love the sound of rain hitting metal railings. I adore the scent of fresh rain on the walkway. I welcome the little chill that you get when you adjust your scarf. All of these senses take me to a place that is only possible to experience in Europe. I generally visit Europe during the spring and so I benefit from the few last rainfalls of the year. What could be better that sitting in a Paris café sipping coffee while a great down pour occurs outside? Yes, when one visits Paris, one must have rain.

Suggestion: For a real Paris feel listen to the song called “Azure-Té” by Karrin Allyson. I am listening to the song as I write this article.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Preparing For France

In preparation for my upcoming trip to France, I am trying to incorporate aspects of French life into my already Frenchie Life. I started by setting the table with my table linens from Provence.

I wonder how the rest of the world prepares themselves for their trips to France. I'd love to hear how you personally prepare yourself for that flight across the ocean.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Totally Jackie O. Wool Coat for $44.99

I love this coat. It’s so cute and completely Jackie O. who was known to possess an innate sense of style and elegance. It's called a "coat" on the website, but it is more like a jacket or blazer in my opinion.

This ¾ sleeve Wool Coat by Mossimo at Target is very well tailored and the lining is adorable. Pair this with your favorite little black dress, black skirt or even jeans and voila! Sophistication. I adored the coat with jeans and a newsboy cap. The coat is so versatile you can find many ways to wear it. My first time wearing the coat out I wore it over a black dress and it resembled the look of a suit, yet more stylish and chic. Did I mention the adorable side pockets?

This coat comes in yellow, black, ivory, red, green and a mellow plaid with small traces of yellow. I purchased both the plaid and black coat. The plaid is timeless as is the cut of the jacket so it’s well worth your $44.99 as it will never go out of style. I am rather impressed with the last two pieces that I have purchased from Target (said with a French accent).

Sharing shopping secrets with friends is just another day in a European Style Life.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This easy and tasty Chicken Tortilla Soup will bring comfort and warmth to the stomach. A simple recipe and a slow cooker will be a winner for anybody with a busy schedule. Just put all the ingredients in your slow cooker and leave the work behind you. Coming home to a delicious aroma and a warm bowl of soup is just another day in a European Style Life.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 pound of uncooked chicken (breasts or thighs)
1 (15 ounces) can of whole peeled tomatoes (mash or chop)
1 (16 ounces) can of enchilada sauce (I prefer Las Palmas)
1 bunch of celery
2 (4 ounces) can of chopped green chile peppers
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 (49 ounces) can of chicken broth
3 teaspoons of chili powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
1 tablespoon of oregano
4 bay leafs
2 (10 ounces) packages of frozen corn
1 bunch of chopped cilantro
1 avocado (your choice to add)

1. Add all ingredients into the slow cooker.
2. Stir in the salt, chili powder and pepper.
3. Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours or on High for 3 to 4 hours.
4. Garnish with avocado, tortilla chips, cheddar cheese and lime if desired.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Little Black Travel Dress for $24.99

Every girl needs a "little black dress" in her wardrobe. And I was fortunate enough to come across a great dress at a great price. I feel it is my obligation as a female to pass on this great buy. So here it is, the secret to my success.

I have been searching for classic pieces to add to my armoire. In particular, I am searching for clothing that is warm and easily packable (little or no ironing required) in preparation for my trip to France in Spring 2009. I was more than delighted when I found this dress at Target that suited all my criteria.

The dress by Merona is called "Pleat Scoop Neck Ponte Ebony Dress". It retails for $24.99 and you certainly get a lot of bang for your buck. The dress is classic and has many possibilities of dressing it up for evening or pulling it out of your closet when you don't know what to wear to work. It is a knit dress made of Rayon, Spandex, and Polyester. No need to send this dress to the cleaners, it is hand-washable. Fit to flatter, this A-line dress can easily go from day to night with the proper accessories. For chic affordable accessories visit Branché Boutique.

I was pleased to add this classic dress to my wardrobe and even happier when I realized it also came in gray. I fancy myself wearing this dress with either a black or other colored beret, a long necklace, black tights and black boots with a cardigan of choice. This dress will travel well and will be interchangeable for a day of shopping or an evening out to dinner.

Finding a classic dress and adding chic accessories is just another day in my European Style Life.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Audrey's Signature Salad

There is nothing more refreshing to the mind and the body than knowing that you are eating something that is good for you. Eating healthy need not be a bore. I truly enjoy eating salads, though salads can begin to feel a bit of the same-old-same. Try this salad and salad dressing for a new way to enjoy those necessary greens.

This salad recipe was given to me by my friend Audrey. She has been known to make salad dressings that are better than anything I could ever purchase. Eating healthy and sharing recipes with friends is just another day in a European Style Life.

Salad Dressing

1/4 cup of Olive Oil
1 tablespoon of Dijon Musturad (Honey Dijon works too)
1 tablespoon of White Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste.
Combine ingredients and stir.

Audrey's Signature Salad

Mixed Greens
1/2 Cucumber (sliced)
1 Bunch of radishes (chopped or sliced)
1/4 Red onion (chopped or sliced)
1 Avocado (cut into cubes or slices)
Add salad dressing amount according to taste and toss.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Autumn - A time for Berets and Boots

I am starting to feel like summer is winding down and I look forward to the subtle breezes of autumn. I had my first autumn moment yesterday evening. It was a brisk 69 degrees in the evening. My husband and I had just finished dinner in Pasadena and we were strolling down Lake Avenue. There was a quick silence from the busy avenue and a gentle breeze as the sun was setting. That was enough to send me into a longing for autumn.

My article may be a bit premature as we are at the end of August, but I am truly done with summer and in a hurry to get to fall. One of my favorite things about fall besides cooking and making the house warm and cozy is the clothes.

As I mentioned, we were walking on Lake Avenue where one of my favorite shops is located, Anthropologie. The autumn feel along with their signature scented candles that you can smell half way down the block lured me into the store.

Here is a look at my first autumn purchase. I am imagining that I will wear this skirt with black boots, a black or yellow sweater (already in my closet), a black beret (double check, already in my closet) and red lipstick! Voila. Wearing berets and boots in the fall is just another day in my European Style Life.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Summer Festin, Le Festin

I sit listening to the lyrics of "Le Festin" by Camille as I write this article. My favorite part is when she talks about setting the table.

La fete va enfin commencer
Sortez les bouteilles; finis les ennuis
Je dresse la table, de ma nouvelle vie
Je suis heureux a l'idee de ce nouveau destin
Une vie a me cacher et puis libre enfin
Le festin est sur mon chemin

Setting the table is how one sets the atmosphere for a "Summer Festin". I chose a simple yellow table cloth and a petite bouquet of wild flowers to set the mood of summer time in the South of France. If I was living in the South of France, this is what my party "festin" would look like.

I made the occasion simple, yet inviting. I had typical summer food such as, BBQ ribs and chicken, pasta salad, potato salad etc. I took advantage of the Yellow Watermelon since it matched my color scheme. I placed the yellow watermelon on the tables as a before dinner treat. A simple menu for a backyard "Summer Festin" set the tone for comfort and relaxation. 

Adding more to the atmosphere was a well thought out play list on my ipod. Summer time songs and upbeat music put my guests in the mood for a jovial summer time evening. To mention a few, my playlist included songs from the Beach Boys, Bob Marley, Feist, and Madeleine Peyroux. Petite twinkle lights gave a subtle touch of summer evening whimsy.

At the end of the evening I passed out petite "goodie" bags that had the Eiffel Tower on them. The bags were filled with a variety of candy. Friends talked and laughed and enjoyed the coolness of the summer's night air.

A simplistic evening, a well dressed table, great music, good food and friends is just another day in my European Style Life.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

McDonald's Ice Coffee - Sugar Free and 0 Calories

With gas prices continuously going up many of us are revaluating our everyday purchases. I wonder, do I really need that $4.00 Ice Coffee? Is it worth driving out of my way to get one? The simple answer is “yes”! Here is an economical way to get your java fix. After sampling two “fast food” options for Ice Coffee, here is what I found.

I decided to try the Ice Coffee at McDonalds after receiving a coupon in the mail for a free Ice Coffee. While I normally stay away from fast food restaurants, who can resist the opportunity to try a new product for free? So off I went to the nearest McDonalds on my way to work. I had four choices and two different sizes to choose from. Flavors are regular, hazelnut, vanilla, and sugar free vanilla. Sizes are medium (16oz) and large (20oz). I selected the medium sugar free vanilla Ice Coffee. McDonald's medium Ice Coffee goes for $1.89. Not a bad bargain.

Now comes the most important part, the taste test. Straw in and first taste...Yum! Delightful. Love at first sip. And since I chose the sugar free vanilla, my Ice Coffee has zero calories. Another win! Voila, finally an affordable cup of coffee with great taste.

I later decided to try the rival’s Ice Coffee at Jack-in-the-Box. They sell their small coffee for $1.79 (12oz) and $1.99 (16oz). I figured that if McDonalds could get it right then there is no reason why Jack-in-the-Box couldn’t get it right either. So again I tried another fast food Ice Coffee as I passed over the local Starbucks.

I received my Ice Coffee and took my first sip. Wow, this was far from good. I asked the employee for 5 creams and 1 equal. I arrived at work and attempted to “fix” my coffee. First, I added in the cream and then ½ a packet of Equal. Yikes! Still terrible. Determined not to waste my money I tried adding flavored creamer. No improvement. The Ice Coffee was still bitter. I reached the conclusion that my $1.79 was not worth the trouble and dumped it out. Another lesson learned.

All in all, I recommend the Ice Coffee from McDonalds. It is a lot of bang for your buck. Also, I enjoyed the drink so much that I decided to bring in a few extra for my co-workers, priced at $1.89, I can afford to do that. They too love the Ice Coffee. Enjoying “Ice Coffee” on a hot summer day is maybe one of the least common things that I could do in a European Style Life. But who am I fooling? I am American and I love ice!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How To Plan A Housewarming Party

When it comes to organizing a Housewarming Party the key to a job well done is personalizing the party. We decided to go with the theme of "All Things Audrey". The significance of an "All Things Audrey" theme is not easily defined. Yet, we managed to narrow it down to some fundamental characteristics of our friend, Audrey. 

First, we decided upon a menu. Knowing that it would be a hot day we kept the food light and simple. Roasted and BBQ chicken, a variety of croissant sandwiches, pasta salad, beet salad and Tivoli salad.

Several weeks in advance I ordered a handmade greeting card from my favorite vendor, Toya's Designs. I have been ordering cards from her for the past few years and have never been disappointed. In fact, she seems to come up with unique ideas that continue to amaze me.  I merely tell her what I would like the card to say ("Audrey in Alhambra") and Toya does the rest of the work. The above card was the end result. It was perfect!

There we were in 103 degree weather on a Sunday afternoon when our guests began to arrive. Our first order of business was to serve cold drinks. We purchased some clear plastic cups and decorative flower straws to create a similar atmosphere of  a smoothie bar. We guided our guests to refreshing appetizers such as chilled grapes, cheese & crackers, fresh watermelon and cool dips & chips.

We then started to pull the theme together by announcing our first treat. We handed a special little envelope to our guests. Each petite envelope contained an item directly related to Audrey. Inside was one of her favorite things, tea. Audrey is particularly fond of London and so we used "English Teatime" tea bags with a special printed message enclosed in the envelope. The envelope was closed with a seal with her initial of the letter "A". Our guests were taken by the idea of receiving a gift at party instead of only giving a gift.

Later we passed out decorative cards with Audrey's first initial in the corner. We asked our guests to write on the card a personal message to Audrey. It could be clever or funny. Long or short. The idea was to leave Audrey with a personal note that she could reflect upon afterward.

Next, we performed in "All Things Audrey" Theatre. Since Audrey is a great admirer of Jane Austin, we performed scenes from Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Emma. We also played on Audrey's Japanese culture and had a skit in Japanese.

After the "All Things Audrey" Theatre we passed out a second gift to our guests. We gave petite bottles of Japanese Cherry Blossom shower gel. This little gift is clearly directly related to our guest of honor and continues to carry the theme.

We moved along to the anticipated event of  opening the presents. While we "oohed and awed" at the gifts we served dessert. Beautiful and delicious little cupcakes from Audrey's favorite Cup-cakery, Dots Cupakes is located in Pasadena. We added in the extra touch of cute little butterfly cupcake toppers that we ordered online.

When the last bow had been untied and the last ribbon had been cut, we offered our guests one last treat. In the spirit of giving, we truly wanted to thank our guests for showing love and support to our friend. We handed out one last "thank you" gift. Wrapped with ribbon and containing a thank you card, each guest received a bag of homemade cookies. The enclosure read, "Thank you for helping us turn Audrey's house into a warm and cozy home". This extra little gesture added the final element of tenderness and gentility, much like Audrey.  

As if there had not been enough surprises for one evening, we surprised Audrey with one final surprise. Weeks before the event we asked each guest to contribute a recipe in order for us to create a personal recipe book. We all contributed a favorite recipe and compiled quite the collection for Audrey. Not only was this a useful gift but it is also a great keepsake.

For my gift to Audrey I decided to get personal again. I found an adorable apron and matching oven-mitts. I took the apron to a local embroidery shop and had her name embroidered on the apron. Voila! A personal gift. I also found a book (knowing that Audrey loves to read) that went with the theme of the party and had the perfect title. The title of the book was "What Would Audrey Do?" The book is based on the life of Audrey Hepburn. It matched the theme of the party so well, I couldn't resist. 

With a lovely evening coming to an end, we happily passed out our little bags of cookies and thanked everyone for coming. We were delighted with the outcome of over a month worth of planning. Audrey was elated. Our guests departed feeling appreciated and we, the organizers, were content and overjoyed by observing everyone enjoying themselves tremendously.

The party dwindled down to about 8 guests and we retreated to Audrey's deck. We were satisfied when we contemplated the events of the evening. We tailored the House Warming party with specific features of Audrey's personality and everybody went home with a sense of warmth and friendship. When planning an event using a few personalized elements goes a long way. Personalization shows how much you really know your friends. Hosting a successful party for a good friend is just another day in a European Style Life.

Go Green, Go Chic!

Everybody seems to be participating in the “Go Green” project these days. I decided to get a piece of the action and do my small part. Additionally, c’est tres Parisian to use tote bags for grocery shopping instead of plastic bags. In Paris the grocery store will charge you for taking your groceries home in their plastic bags. So the majority of Parisians are obliged to bring their own reusable sacs or totes. After seeing specialty stores selling their own reusable bags (many of which are not cute) I decided to try to find my own cutesy bag.

I am happy to say that I found an adorable shop on (where I sell my handcrafted jewelry This shop is called Paris Chic Boutique. They offer many French items for the home as well as greeting cards, gift tags and other handcrafted items. I ordered the “Visez Vert” tote. This chic tote flaunts the Eiffel Tower. I hope you find your special way to express yourself when choosing to “Go Green”. Using tote bags to carry your groceries home is just another day in a European Style Life.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Le week-end avec Nadine et les filles

Saying goodbye to a good friend is never easy. We decided to give Nadine a proper send off to her new home in Haiti. First we started by planning a weekend away with 5 of Nadine’s friends (though she has many). We selected Palm Springs as our destination because of it’s locality and imposed relaxation.

While searching for a hotel where we could feel pampered we also wanted a lot of bang for our buck. We chose the Embassy Suites Spa Hotel in La Quinta (15 minutes from Palm Springs). Our suite included full cooked to order breakfast each morning and a complimentary Happy Hour in the evening.
We had many events planned for Nadine and a weekend full of surprises.

First we ate lunch at Chez Philippe where we surprised each girl with personalized tote bags filled with lots of goodies. Each tote bag contained decadent treats such as Lavender Crabtree and Evelyn hand cream, Japanese silk fans, monogrammed Anthropologie tea cups, vintage luggage tags, comfy flip-flops, Branché handmade crystal necklaces and a relaxing eye mask. Quelle surprise! 

We rested up a bit in our suite and gave Nadine her second surprise. Each girl took one letter from Nadine’s name and wrote a personal message to her on the back of the letter. We posted these up in the suite. When Nadine took down each letter we read our personal note to her. But remember, I said that there were only 5 of us and there are 6 letters in Nadine’s name. Who was the last letter from? Encore, quelle surprise! 
The last letter in her name was a guest appearance by Alheli all the way from Switzerland! As you can imagine the laughter roared and the tears rolled. Nadine was completely touched by this gesture of sincere expressions.

Later that evening we enjoyed a lovely dinner at Piero’s. We spent time reminiscing and laughing at stories we recounted during our years of friendship.

The next morning we awoke to a delicious breakfast where we all gathered in the hotel restaurant for more feminine bonding. 
We really did need that cup of coffee since we stayed up all night talking. 
Next, we headed over to the city for some leisurely shopping. We found an adorable Chocolate Café where we further surprised Nadine with gifts from Tea Forte. All of these surprises were adding to the excitement of the weekend and Nadine was overjoyed. She is the type of person that is a pure joy to do things for because she truly appreciates even the smallest gesture.

Our weekend was truly relaxing. We stayed in one night and took advantage of the swimming pool. We ordered Chinese food and enjoyed each other’s company. All in all we had an amazing weekend filled with memories to help us with our separation of Nadine. It is times like these that we will reflect on for all things to come in the future.

One of my favorite moments of the weekend was when we were driving and listening to our Hotter Than Haiti soundtrack (combined songs from each of us). We all sang along and serenaded Nadine with the song Kind and Generous by Natalie Merchant. This song depicts the very essence of how we all feel towards Nadine. Spending time with friends and saying goodbye as one moves to another country is just another day in a European Style Life.

Kind and Generous Lyrics

You've been so kind and generous,I don't know how you keep on giving 
For your kindness I'm in debt to you For your selflessness, my admiration For everything you've done, you know I'm bound, I'm bound to thank you for it....
Na Na na na na na na na na nana na na 

You've been so kind and generous, I don't know how you keep on giving. For your kindness I'm in debt to you

And I never could have come this far without you
For everything you've done, you know I'm bound, I'm bound to thank you for it....
Na Na na na na na na na na nana na na na na

Oh, I want to thank you for so many gifts you gave with love and tenderness, I wanna thank you I want to thank you for your generosity, the love and the honesty that you gave me

I want to thank you, show my gratitude, my love and my respect for you,I wanna thank you
Oh I want to thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Helpful Housewarming Hints

In about 3 weeks Deanna and I will be hosting a Housewarming party for a dear friend Audrey. With as much event planning as I have done in the past, this is actually my first time hosting a Housewarming party.

While most of the elements of the party remain a surprise for our friend, I’d like to open a forum of ideas that others have used. After the party I will post a write-up on how I conducted my first Housewarming party.

Additionally, Audrey, needs a little help to get ready for her party. With the party only being three weeks away she still does not know what she’s going to wear. Notice the poll on the right side bar and vote to help Audrey to look her best for her party. Audrey has great sense of style so she can pull any one of these looks right out of her closet. Please feel free to submit any comments below. Hosting parties and planning the perfect outfit is just another day in a European Style Life.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hotter Than Haiti Hilarious Highlights

Our “Hotter Than Haiti” weekend in honor of Nadine was a complete success. We had a blast in Palm Springs! We planned many surprises for the girls and for Nadine.We will miss our Nadine dearly, but boy do we know how to send her off!

Here are a few highlights until I can compose a better summary of our weekend in Palm Springs.

Attendees: Nadine, Vicki, Evy, and Deanna
Organizers: Audrey and Parlene

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Delicious and Nutritious

Spring is here and so is the season for fresh fruit. Take a closer look at what some of your favorite fruits can do for you besides offer a delicious treat. Eating a fresh bowl of fruit is just another day in a European style life.

Blueberries – Blueberries not only have a lot of flavor but are also loaded with antioxidants and nutrients and are low in calories. Blueberries are in season May through October but can usually be purchased throughout the year depending on where you live. They are high in Vitamin C, Manganese and Dietary Fiber.

HINT: Blueberries are the sweetest after being left out in room temperature.

Raspberries – A mixture of sweet and tart are these magenta little gems of flavor. Raspberries are high in Manganese, Vitamin C, Vitamin B2 and Dietary Fiber. They are in season June through October. Raspberries possess almost 50% higher antioxidant activity than strawberries, three times that of kiwis, and ten times the antioxidant activity of tomatoes.

HINT: Raspberries taste great in Greek Style Honey Yogurt (I like the Trader Joe's brand) with a little drizzle of honey.

Strawberries – Deep in color and flavor, strawberries are one of the most popular fruits in the world. They are high in Vitamin C, Manganese, Dietary Fiber, and Potassium and are low in calories. Strawberries are in season April through July, though likely available year round. In addition to strawberries that are cultivated, there are also varieties that grow wild. Wild strawberries are much smaller in size, but supply a more intense flavor.

Pineapple – Exceptionally juicy and a little tangy is the tropical pineapple. They are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, and Vitamin B6. The season for pineapples is March through June. The fruit closer to the base of the pineapple has more sugar content and has a sweeter taste and softer texture.

It’s the time of year when our favorite fruits are in season. Enjoy fresh fruit on warm sunny days and a happier, healthier way of life. And for a bit of decadence, why not add fresh fruit to your favorite ice cream? If you have recipes that include fruit, please share them in the comments section of this article.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Did I leave my heart in San Francisco?

I sit listening to the song by Tony Bennett entitled"I Left My Heart In San Francisco" searching for inspiration to describe my sentiments on the "city by the bay". I found San Francisco to be another busy city with people’s aim to get here and there. While not completely smitten by the city, I found pleasure in the surrounding areas. I solicited advice from friends before leaving on my trip so that I could be “in the know” about Frisco's hotspots. That was one of the wisest things that I could have done. Along with my Insight Guide book on San Francisco I sought out to enjoy what some have called a romantic city.

I enjoyed the obvious tourist sights such as Union Square, Golden Gate Bridge, North Beach and the like. I also challenged myself to find my own special interests apart from what I’ve been told. Here is a look at what I enjoyed.

Sausalito – I enjoyed the beach town of Sausalito and found it to be tranquil and charming. It is just far enough away from the city to be in another world. A slower pace and less crowded, Sausalito has mom-and-pop-owned restaurants (although disturbingly there is a Starbucks) and shops. We took advice from friends and hit the restaurant simply named “Hamburgers”. We ordered a cheeseburger, which is served with cheese from Finland. This hamburger was one of the best I’ve ever eaten. No trip to Sausalito can be complete without a stop at this burger joint. The line was out the door but orders came fast. This burger alone made the town of Sausalito a winner with us.

Golden Gate Park – Seeking more refuge from the busy city we sought out quiet spots in the Golden Gate Park. We walked around small ponds and took advantage of the photo opportunities in the Japanese Gardens. Since we thrive on beautiful parks and botanical gardens our day in the park was a Frisco highlight.

Cable Cars – Our first experience on a cable car came near the end of our trip. I am glad that we saved something that we had been in anticipation of for the end of our vacation. Jumping onto a crowded cable car and holding onto the side railing was one of the moments where we were able to appreciate and enjoy the character and history of this crowded city. Going up and down the steep hills of Frisco on this unique form of transit is one of the most exhilarating of ways to view the city.

Dining Out – One can spend years trying to visit all the restaurants and cafes in Frisco. There are a few restaurants that stand out in our mind as being the type of dining experience that you would expect in San Francisco.

400 Dewey Boulevard
San Francisco, CA 94116

You will feel like you just walked into a Paris café when you enter Chouchou, with a twist of San Francisco sophistication that is. You will be greeted by a former Parisian in the typical French fashion, with a kiss on both cheeks. The menu has your appetite holding its breath until the food arrives at your table. All the senses are touched at Chouchou. We started with a spinach asparagus soup puree and a cheese plate. Holding on for the main course I had the Grilled Angus Flank Steak. Other guests in our party had the Baked Vegetarian Manicotti “Provencale” and the Duck Leg Confit. Each dinner was delicious-as we all tasted each others dinner. I would definitely return to this petite trendy restaurant, it satisfies both your craving for gourmet food and for France.

Panta Rei
431 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133

This ultra chic Italian restaurant in North Beach is the place to be seen at night. We however opted for a quiet lunch. We loved our dish, penne pasta filled with gorgonzola in a tomato sauce and fresh basil. Mama Mia! The service was quick and friendly with a little bit of Italian warmth.
The Crepe House
429 Gough Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

With three locations in Frisco it’s hard to miss the Crepe House. It is warm and cozy with a relaxing atmosphere and great prices. The Crepe House offers plenty of choices besides crepes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were directed here by frequent visitors to the bay area and were pleased to enjoy yet another quaint café. The portions were generous and tasty.

Understanding San Francisco
After contemplating my first experience in San Francisco I’ve reached the conclusion that it is a truly unique city among those in California. It differs greatly from Los Angeles, Monterey, San Diego and other beach cities in California.I enjoyed the diversity of Frisco and the endless dining options. I took in with ease my bay view from my hotel room. While I wasn’t inspired to poetry I am happy to have seen a part of California I have never seen before.

I confess that San Francisco did not steal my heart (apologies to Tony Bennett). My heart still belongs to Europe and more specifically France.What can I say? Enjoying a view, eating great food and exploring an unknown city is just another day in a European style life.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Art of Hospitality

An art that has nearly been lost is the art of hospitality. People lead very hectic lives and hospitality often ends up at the bottom of our “to do” list. In a time past, there was a certain excitement that took over the mood of the house during the anticipation of a guest’s arrival. Preparation might start several days before the “lookout” began. And when the time came, all the household including the servants would line up outside for a formal welcoming.

The art of hospitality is one that I truly enjoy indulging in. We’ve had guests from various parts of the world stay in our humble home. Yet, we’ve learned how to make even the most foreign of guests feel right at home. Here are my suggestions on how to provide superior hospitality on the occasion of overnight guests.

Have a welcome message. – I like to do this by using a decorative chalkboard in our guest room/office. I write on the board the guest’s name and what I plan to serve for breakfast in the morning. If your guest speaks another language other than your own, write out the message in their native language. HINT: You can look it up on the internet.

Plan out the details. – Is your guest from a foreign country? Why not search out some food items that are from your guest’s country and make them readily available for snacks. If your computer is password protected be sure to leave them the password. Make sure your guest has their own key.

Subtle touches. – Little luxuries go a long way with overnight guests. Think of yourself as the owner of a Bed and Breakfast. Provide travel size bottles of lotion and fancy soap. Perhaps giving a small welcome basket upon their arrival with some of their personal favorite items. If you are not sure what that might be, gourmet food items always do the trick. Example: wine, crackers, cookies, olives or fresh fruit. Fresh flowers add warmth to the room.

Be the first to rise in the morning. – Even if it is a mere 15 minutes before your guests rise much can be done. You can start the coffee and throw in a fresh batch of muffins or cookies into the oven. What a lovely way to wake up in the morning! Now, immediately after your guests wake they can enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and something to nibble on while breakfast is cooking or as they prepare to leave for the day’s activities.

Accessible Delectable. – It’s likely that you will do some special grocery shopping prior to guest’s arrival. You may ask your guest in advance of any food allergies or special likes and dislikes. Since you’ve gone through all the trouble and expense of having special food items, leave them out in eyes view for your guests to enjoy. Communicate to your guests that they are welcome to help themselves to whatever they need.

Sweet Dreams. – While your guests are enjoying breakfast discreetly enter their room and make their bed for them. In the evening, turn down the covers and add a small piece of chocolate on their pillows. Sprinkle pure lavender oil on thier pillow cases and offer a cup of hot tea before bedtime. Be sure to have an ample tea selection.

Coat or Sweater? – Your guests will be grateful if you print out a 10 day forecast for them. Leave it in an obvious place for them to see. If you can, email the forecast to them prior to their departure from their home for practical packing purposes.

What to do? – Prior to your guest’s arrival think of and be ready to provide a list options of places to go and places to eat. For places to eat, keep in mind all your local favorites and a wide variety of cuisine. Knowing where to shop to get all the best deals is always welcomed information.

Home Cooked Meals. – It may be difficult to coordinate the guest’s schedule of sightseeing with your daily routine but it’s worth a try. It may be possible with good planning to prepare dinner for your guests. A special meal and a nice bottle of wine will be appreciated as you spare them from another restaurant meal. This may also provide the opportunity for your guests to meet your friends.

Warm and Cozy. – Look for ways to make your guest feel at home. Making sure the temperature is right, have extra pillows, a soft blanket and anything else you can think of that is personal. The more personalized the visit the quicker you will see them get comfortable enough to put their feet up.

All your efforts will be appreciated and memorable. Your guests will feel as if they had visited a 5 star resort. They will long to return for another visit and will brag about your hospitality to all their friends. In the end, both the guest and host benefit. Even if it is their first time staying in your home, they leave your home as old friends. Offering warm hospitality is just another day in a European style life.

What are your favorite ways to express hospitality? Post a comment for all to enjoy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Anniversary Dress-up

Each year I am completely enthusiastic about our anniversary. Saturday, March 22 is my 11th wedding anniversary. We are going to a special fondue lunch at a French restaurant and I am unsure what to wear. I happen to have two new dresses in my closet which I have been saving for the right moment. The weather will be 80 degrees and sunny. Which dress would you suggest?

Take the poll (right side bar or post a comment. I will post a picture of me wearing the winning dress. FYI, the dress that’s shown in white I actually bought in a seasonal yellow. Sharing fashion advise is just another day in a European style life.