Your Never Fully Dressed Without Your Pearls

I've been drawn to pearls for as long as I can remember. My Birthday is in June. My Birthstone is the pearl. Simple, stylish and elegant. They can be small and understated or big and bold. But they're never showy and never loud and never brash as diamonds can be. I'm a pearl girl through and through. I have a pair of diamond stud earrings that I wear from time to time. My engagement and wedding rings are diamond. Stunning and brilliant and classic in style. But had the Pearl been a bit heartier able to withstand what my hands do and go through I would have chosen a pearl ring for certain. As it is my hands are busy and clumsy and often I trade the brilliant diamonds for my two simple gold bands that cannot be bent and damaged. Back to the pearls...

I got my first pair of pearl earrings when I was 13. My paternal grandmother gave them to me for my Birthday. I lost one a few years later and was devastated and ashamed to tell anyone so I replaced it with a cheapie, reproduction set. During my college years I was never without my pearl earrings or necklace. Not real. My mother would not let me bring real ones to school. And she was wise!

After I graduated from college my love of the pearl remained. I wore my single strand necklace and earrings all over the place. Even to the gym!

I wanted more and on a meager, newly-grad, publishing income I could only afford costume jewelry. And this is where my collection of bigger, bolder and funner pearls grew. I could use these big and fun necklaces to dress up a pair of jeans or I could wear them with a Little Black Dress. For many years I lived in Greenwich, Connecticut right off the Avenue, THE place for shopping and dining. There was a Carolee Store right around the corner of my apartment. Me in that store was like a little child in a candy store. It was heaven. One bauble was more divine than the next. (Carolee also designed costume jewelry for Ralph Lauren.) And so my collection of costume pearls grew and flourished.

To this day I wear them all. Sometimes one piece on its own, and other-times I mix pieces, large and small, real and faux. Pearls are my passion!

When I met my husband, at the end of my 20s, I told him the story of my lost pearls. When I was 29, just before we married, he replaced my pearl earrings with a lovely pair of Mikimotos. I wear these the most to this day. A couple of years later he gave me a pair of black pearls, also Mikimoto.

I got married 2 weeks after I turned 30. My Carolee pearls took center stage. The necklace is double stranded. I was wearing them one day before the wedding and my Jolie Grandmere suggested I twist them. I did, and a whole new necklace was born!  La Grandmere kept complimenting this set of faux pearls. She truly adored them. Even though she could have afforded the real thing many times over, I handed them over to her after I was married. So was so touched and so thankful and so grateful!



Here I am in my bedroom in Newport (like the old Laura Ashley border around the windows? So very 80s! It has since been removed.) I'm modeling the dress that I designed with my Jolie Grandmere who was over from Europe for the Grande Fete! We hired a local and very talented dress-maker to bring our drawing to life. More pearls adorn the dress. Over-sized pearl buttons on the over-sized cuffs and collar. The dress was made of silk and a Dotted-Swiss. My white Dotted-Swiss sash was lined in a buttercup colored silk. The dress was designed to wear with pearls, naturally!  What do you think? Project Runway worthy?

 

Newly married, Bellini in hand ... naturally!


  


 

I just love this photo... Pearls and Girlfriends are the perfect combination!



Pearls (and sash) take Center Stage... 
We danced to the Lester Lanin Orchestra, the first dance was Someone To Watch Over Me


After the festivities were over -- they lasted several days -- my grandmother headed back to her home in Oxfordshire and my lovely husband and I headed off to honeymoon in Paris and then to reconnect with my grandparents and attend the Championships at Wimbledon where saw almost no tennis as most of the days were spent in the Members Enclosure drinking Pimms, sheltered from the pouring rain!

After 2 weeks of bliss I returned home to the States and our house in Greenwich. But something was missing. My grandmother had my necklace. Without it I was lost and naked despite all the other pearls I owned. I headed over to Carolee to find a replacement. I was not able to find the same one but found one that was even bigger and equally as fun and festive. (It's the one I wore my night out with Tamara.) As much as I loved my new Jawbreaker-sized baubles, I missed my other one...

When I was in my mid-30s, La Jolie Grandmere was diagnosed with Leukemia, Multiple Myeloma. They departed, seemingly overnight, to seek treatment and the rest of their lives in the States. Leaving everything behind my grandparents left their home, their friends and all their belongings behind in the UK. My mother was given the arduous task of sorting through all the goods. Which ones to keep and ship to the States, which to donate. Which to toss. Appraisers were brought over to assess her belongings. My mother was in England for over a fortnight sorting and packing, sorting and packing.  As packages arrived from overseas, some large containing pieces of furniture, silver and assorted antiques, smaller packages arrived as well. Once back in Newport my mother sorted through all the treasures and created more boxes. Boxes for me.

One day, a large shipment of boxes came for me. We were living in Fairfield at the time. I sifted through piles and piles, unwrapping photographs and paintings and silver. In one box, in a smallish manila envelope, I felt something rather lumpy. I took out the tissue paper from within to reveal a very well taken care of double stranded pearl necklace. It was the necklace I had given her! A note inside in her handwriting read something like, on loan from Jessica. The necklace holds an even more special place in my heart now.

Croquembouche: The Ultimate Celebratory Dessert

Image courtesy Martha Stewart

As a child who summered with her Jolie Grandmere in France, well not just France, but Cannes, I was privileged to so many wonderful experiences that most would think would be wasted on a young child. But I was not a typical young child. I was an only child living in Manhattan attending the Lycee Francais de New York on 72nd street right off Fifth. By 5 I had mastered the French language and was completely bilingual. My parents both worked and were hugely successful. My father shone in the world of banking and my mother made quite a name for herself in the world of public relations where she headed the department for the Whitney Museum long before PR was fashionable and en vogue. My mother, much like my grandmother, was ahead of the times. So this only child lived in an adult world. This is not to say that I did not have friends my age. I did and plenty of them. But I was also immersed into a very grown up and sophisticated world. And even at a young age I adored it!

That world could not be any more different than the world my children live in. The craziness of three running amok in a large house in suburbia is quite the contrast! But I wouldn't have this life any other way.

My mother and I summered in France, in Cannes, with my grandparents Bettina and Larry. I lived in the lap of luxury quite unaware that there should be any other way to live. We spent our days on the private beach club, Bijou Plage and spent the afternoon at my grandparents house up in the mountains just a few miles away. We drank tea and ate wonderful pastries. These afternoons were relaxing and almost lazy. My grandmother would read my tea leaves and make up wonderful images from the leaves that had deposited creatively along the insides of my cup. I'd swim in the pool and play with my mother and my dolls. Life could not have been more perfect. And I am pretty sure, that even in my youth, I was aware of this. My summers in France are as crystal clear today as they were yesterday.

I was a well behaved child. My grandmother worked hard on my manners the summer I was 6. At 6 she thought that I was old enough to look a grownup in the eye when spoken to, shake hands with my elders and curtsy to royalty. We practiced these skills all summer long. Yes, I met quite a few dignitary and my curtseying skills were perfected. My grandmother would reward me (read: bribe!) every time I mastered one of these skills.

When she came to visit me in New York the following fall she had a suitcase of small trinkets that were my rewards. I believe there were 21 items in all. One item, a small navy silk scarf resembling a bandana, I still have today!

Image was everything to my grandmother. Image was more than what you wore. It was how you acted and how you spoke. A smile was equally as important as the neatly combed hair, as the well pressed smocked dress and shiny black patent leather Mary Janes.

Because I was so well behaved I was allowed to accompany my parents to many wonderful restaurants. I had two favorites. One was called Vesuvius and the other was The Blue Bar. One could bring dogs into restaurants and it was not uncommon at all to see a dog lying down at the foot of his master. Bettina often brought Ballyhoo and Tipperary, her Kerry Blue Terriers.
At Vesuvius I would order Spaghetti Carbonara. The waiter would bring this great enormous bowl of pasta, and at the table would crack an egg (or was it two?) onto it and promptly mix it in. I thought this fascinating and fun. And it was delicious to boot!

But my most favorite childhood restaurant was The Blue Bar. On the famed Croisette this restaurant sat, well hustled really. I know we ate dinner before dessert but I remember nothing about the food, just the sweets. Perhaps that was because Bettina always insisted the food to be mediocre but the desserts outstanding. Perhaps we only went for dessert. I really cannot remember. What I remember were the most incredible desserts I have had in my life. I remember my first experience with Oeufs a la Neige (Eggs in Snow). This incredibly fluffy and light egg white meringue that floated so elegantly in a sea of creamy vanilla custard sauce. Incroyable!

Below is the definition per Epicurious:

floating islands
1. A light dessert of stiffly beaten, sweetened egg white mounds that have been poached in milk. These puffs are then floated in a thin CUSTARD sauce. The dessert is also known as oeufs à la neige , "snow eggs." 2. In France, île flottante ("floating island") is LIQUEUR-sprinkled sponge cake spread with jam, sprinkled with nuts, topped with whipped cream and surrounded by a pool of custard.

I had totally forgotten that it was also called Ile Flottante!

My other favorite childhood dessert is the subject of this post. I was first introduced to it at the Blue Bar, but my grandmother would create it for decades to come for festive occasion. I also served the croquembouche at my wedding in lieu of a wedding cake.

After dinner the waitstaff paraded out of the catering tent into our tent, each one carrying his own croquembouche. Each table would have their very own, and a larger, more delicate version dressed with a great big confectionary bow would make it's way to the Bride and Groom. It was a grand and dramatic entrance perfect for a grand and dramtic dessert!


Croquembouche, as defined by Epicurious:

[kroh-kuhm-BOOSH]
French for "crisp in mouth," this elaborate dessert is classically made with PROFITEROLES (tiny, custard-filled cream puffs), coated with CARAMEL and stacked into a tall pyramid shape. As the caramel hardens, it becomes crisp. For added glamour, the croquembouche can be wreathed or draped with SPUN SUGAR.

Martha Stewart has recreated the dessert to perfection. For more information and instructions, click here.

The Remains of the Day
La Jolie Grandmere with my mother with what remained
of the Croquembouche at their table!


Please note that a Croquembouche is not generally assembled on a cone as pictured above, but each Croquembouche would have been too massive for each table
and we needed some filler!



Why not serve up a Croquembouche for your new Year's Eve party? It's delightful with a lovely champagne or light and flippant prosecco!

Decorating for The Holidays with Mother Nature


If you've been reading my blog for a while now you know that I love to bring the outside inside. I love to use nature as a tool and an inspiration to my decorating. It's beautiful and it is free!

A couple of years ago I made this centerpiece. I gathered pine cones in assorted sizes, as well as acorns and painted them gold, silver and white using regular poster paint. I then took a few really cheap plastic apple ornaments that frankly were quite ugly. (My mother is famous for giving me everything she wants to, but cannot toss!) I painted them lightly with a coat of the gold poster paint as well. And finally added a few of the smallest ball ornaments I could find lying around the ornament boxes in the basement.


A few pine cones have broken over the past few years but there were still plenty enough to create a new centerpiece!

If you want to recreate this at home you will need:

* One or two foam paint brushes. These are disposable. I don't want to ruin a good brush on the pine cones.
* A bucket filled with pine cones and acorns of assorted shapes and sizes
* Newspaper to work on
* Gold, silver, white or whatever color paint you desire

Paint your objects and let dry several hours on newspaper.

Find a pretty bowl, platter or large plate and arrange your items to your liking.

And, for my fabulous southern and coastal friends, fear not! I have a delightfully wonderful ornament for you!

This brilliant idea came from my friend Maya at Completely Coastal. I adore her blog and have to see what great things she has on there daily! Maya, in turn, got the idea from The Stories of A to Z... a new discovery for me... I'll be back for more!



I just love this ornament! I have some small pieces of sea glass that my 8 year old collected in Maine last summer. This will be his project for certain!

In order to make this ornament you will need a plain glass ornament, some sand, some shells or beach glass and a funnel to use to pour the sand in to the ornament. It doesn't get easier or prettier than that! (I'm thinking a pretty pink or lavender bow to tie on to the tree!)

Now I am waiting for Maya to come back to me with a creative way to use my 30+ oversized clam shells the kids collected in Newport this past summer! No pressure Maya... I'll wait... and wait and wait and wait! ;)

Don't forget to enter my Holiday Giveaway in the post below!

That'll be 81 clams, please!


Last Tuesday PreppySue and Tickled Pink Talk and I, EntertainingMom, got together for a play date on the beach in Newport. The kids got along famously from the get-go and swam in the ocean, chased annoying sea gulls, made drip castles and collected clams shells! The strong surf from Hurricane Bill must have brought these clams closer to shore. The children delighted in collecting 81 of these super-sized shells. Just as fun as collecting them was cracking them open and feeding them to the gulls flying furiously around their loot! They also collected dozens upon dozens of non-stinging jelly fish. As they busily played, planned and plotted the mothers shared laughs and had an equally as nice, though much less messy time! I do hope we will be able to meet up again next year as I know my children are talking about it already.

Our brief yet fun final trip to Newport this summer marks the end (thankfully!) of our summer travels. While plenty of good times were had by everyone, it is nice to remain on the home turf, at least for a while!

All the sun, beach, pool and fresh air made for a much more enjoyable ride home with children sleeping (all three!) most of the way. In the back of the car next to Christopher was a plastic bag tightly shut with a dozen large clam shells. They've been washed thoroughly in the dishwasher and now I am wondering what I shall do with them.

While perusing Martha Stewart's Website I found some great crafty ideas for my shells! I now have a great collection of shells of varying types and sizes. Below are some of the ideas I like most!



These little candles would look wonderful indoors, outdoors, or around my tub!




I just adore this mood lighting!




What a fun way to dress up outdoor lights!



I love the use of the shells as salt and pepper holders!

This soap dish would look lovely in our downstairs bathroom... when it ever gets finished!



Love these little candles as well!



and a very clever way to dress up a boring planter!
So many shells and so little time! I will keep you all posted on my projects!

The longest two hours of my life!

For those of you who do not know where I am, I am in Newport for one final time this summer. I was kind of dreading the car ride to begin with because it seems, that as of late, we've been spending a lot of time in our car. But our reason for coming will have made the drive all worthwhile. (I can say this today, but not so sure I could have yesterday!) I'll be meeting PreppySue and Gabi (Tickled Pink & Green) and their Little Ones at the beach in a couple of hours. We are very excited!

But yesterday was a different story. The day started off badly to begin with. Then as soon as we got into the car Tantrum #1 started. Alexander was annoyed that I could not find the video game that he wanted to play because he didn't put it away. (We can plug video games in to the monitors in front of them.) And when he stopped screaming about that he moved on to a few other things. I had a few minutes of crying before he thought it would be fun to start shrieking at the top of his lungs. And of course I tell him not to which makes him want to shriek louder and longer. And then all three are bickering and asking how long we've been in the car and it hasn't been 5 minutes yet because we have not stopped off at the Mobil station. As soon as I pull in I load up on the junk to keep them all quiet for a few moments. When I come out with bags, of cheese filled pretzels, Combos and corn stick thingamagigs I am suddenly the best Momma in the world. I divvy up the loot into 3 Ziplock bags. And the sound of quiet is so blissful that I contemplate stopping at each and every Mobil station along the way!

Then we approach New Haven and the Howlonghavewebeeninthecar? and the Arewethereyet? questions begin. Then Alexander starts pitching a fit because he dropped his toy computer and cannot reach it and neither can I and with the truck next to me unable to keep to his own lane I sure as hell am not going to try. And he shrieks louder. I know at this point Daddy would have blown a gasket and I feel that I could explode at any minute but cannot. Then there is a large black SUV on my butt but I am not getting out of his way because I am a good 5 cars distance from the car in front of me and I will be a good driver and not give in to this jerk's bullying. Then the truck who can't keep to his lane approaches again. Rebecca looks for the "How's my Driving?" sign and thinks we should call his boss. But there is none. I manage to pull ahead, way ahead and pass a guy resembling ZZTop with his long grey beard flowing out the window of his orange Hummer 2 or 3 or whatever it is. The sight makes me chuckle. The noises and bickering in the background are a constant. I turn up the music in attempt to drown them out. "Life is a highway, I want to drive it all night long" plays on the radio. Clearly whoever wrote this tune did not have children. Because no one in his or her right mind would ever want to drive all night long with children. The bickering ensues. The biting, poking and hair pulling continue and I continue to sing along. Until I can no longer the children. Until their pillow fight nearly knocks me in the head. I shout some more. My throat is raw and sore. We are just past New Haven with hours to go before I sleep. I clearly should have taken the road less travelled.

I threaten to step on the breaks and toss them out the window. They don't believe me.

Alexander asks for his water and then proceeds to have another tantrum when it accidentally drops it causing it to roll under my seat. Arewethereyet? No way. Not close. Not by a long shot. I start questioning the wisdom of this last trip. Eventually they manage to stop bickering and actually get along. I can hear laughter and giggling and ohmygod the shrieks! Only 2 more minutes have passed according to my car's navigation. I'm looking forward to a nice glass of wine when we get to Newport. I don't care what time it will be.

There are no good songs on the radio. I keep changing the station. At one point it actually gets quiet and I turn my head around in hopes that all three are napping. Nope. Not this trip. I shouldn't get so lucky. Then come a series of really stupid Why Did The Chicken Cross the road jokes? I mean really stupid, but the kids are laughing. Cracking up. Hysterically. Ohmygod the shrieking. The clock is moving much too slowly. It's like the car is on a treadmill going nowhere.

After the jokes stop the kids think they have not done enough whining. Then I convince Alexander to watch a movie. Sometimes I should not ever open my mouth. Christopher turns on his screen. Alexander turns on his. They each have different movies on. Whoops! Alexander is angry that Christopher gets to watch Home Alone and he has Madeline. "I hate Madeline! Madeline's stoopid!" he shouts. I remind him that he loves Pepito. But I am wrong. Because Pepito is stupid too. Somehow Christopher convinces him to watch and a few minutes of peace and quiet ensues. Until Alexander drops his headset. Over and over and over again. Oy!

I'm still not liking what the clock on the car is telling me. It seems as though the faster I drive the slower the clock ticks.

Finally a large green sign welcomes us to Rhode Island! Yay!!!! There's still an hour left of our journey.... ugh!

I try a new route this time. I usually cut through the bucolic country side and take the back roads by the University of Rhode Island which is lovely and lined with pristine country side, cows, corn fields and farm stands galore. This time I stay on the highway a little longer. I get off of I-95 and am supposed to turn onto some route but the kids are screaming once again and I miss the directions. I look at the map and see that I need to get into another lane. I manage to do so in the nick of time and make the necessary turn.

At this time it's not the kids asking Arewethereyet? but me. The journey can not get any longer and any more miserable. Eventually we find our way to the Jamestown and Newport bridges and know that the end of the trip is in sight. I breathe a huge sigh as I sail over the Newport Bridge only to see that our ramp is closed and we have a long detour behind many, many cars. And Alexander has to pee. Really badly. Right now. Ugh. And we are sitting in traffic and the ground next to us is being dug up for new plumbing. During the height of tourist season. Yep, that's Rhode Island for ya! Oy.

Eventually we are released from the traffic jam and cruise along America's Cup, Thames, Wellington and Ocean Avenues... we pull in to my parents home and I run out of the car and head straight for the wine. Well, not really. But I wanted to!

Newport news...

My apologies for not uploading any pictures... Blogger's not cooperating at the moment.

We had such a great time meeting Tickled Pink Talk and her kids. Her boys are lovely, truly lovely and everyone got along so fabulously that we are planning on getting together again in Newport in August. The kids became instant friends and after chatting a few moments I felt like I knew Gabi forever!

When we first met up at the beach the weather was not so lovely. There was a think blanket of clouds over head and it was quite windy. I had an old jacket of my father's that I had borrowed and was still chilly! A couple hours later the clouds made way for sunshine and the afternoon could not have been more delightful! We had to tear ourselves away at 5:30 only because I had to get back, get the kids cleaned up for dinner. Next time we'll tell Moo and Popsy not to count us in for dinner and we'll hang out longer!

So I was telling my mother about all the fun we had. "You'd never met?" My mother gasped, and asked in shock? "No," I responded. She then asked me a question. "What kind of message is that, you are sending your kids?" And I hadn't thought of it in that manner. Of course I had chosen a very public space in case ... well, in case. But I hadn't thought about the message it would be sending the kids. After all of the crazy and terrible stories you hear about children meeting people they meet on the internet, I shouldn't be encouraging this. So how do I explain that what I am doing is OK and yet they should never follow in these footsteps? I've now met two wonderful bloggers. I'd like to think I have a good head on my shoulders and have the sense to be safe and take care of myself and my children. But indeed, my mother raised a valid point.

What would you do and say in response?

Here we Come!



Tomorrow morning we'll be headed home to my parents' (not pictured above!) in Newport, Rhode Island. The weather is supposed to be pretty miserable tomorrow so we will lay low at the house and the kids can hang out and play and re-explore all their toys. Minor changes have been made for them. My old bedroom became Rebecca and Christopher's bedroom has gotten another makeover. It will be the boys' room and Rebecca will move in to her own room next to what has become my bedroom. If the weather is not too lousy we'll head out and do something.

On Thursday the weather is supposed to be delightful and we are going to meet up with Tickled Pink Talk and her boys. So excited! I think we'll be beach-bound... I have both cameras on my desk so there will be pictures aplenty!

Then Friday, before we head back to Connecticut, we will head over to the Annual Flower Show at Rosecliff, one of the beautiful mansions along Bellevue Avenue. Rebecca has no desire to go (I'm dragging her!) but I know the boys will actually love it and I am giving Christopher, my little horticulturist, my little camera for his photography. I think I will assign her a painting assignment upon our return home.

It's a short visit this time around as we have obligations back home later on Friday. We won't be at all in July as the kids have camp and then we head up to Maine for two weeks. Hopefully we'll be able to visit Moo and Popsy again in August. When the kids were little we spent so much time there and they even went to camp there, but these days their busy lives keep them home.

Now for the packing which I hate!

2 Cameras, back-up batteries/recharger
Sunglasses for all
Sneakers, flip flops for kiddos
Toothbrushes
Brushes
Hair accessories
Laptop!

Rebecca:
Asthma meds
2 bathing suits
Bathing suit cover up
Lilly dress (for flower show)
1 polo shirt
1 pair of shorts
1 play dress
1 sweater
Anorack

Christopher:
Meds
3 polo shirts
3 shorts
2 bathing suits
2 T-Shirts (for beach)
Sweater
Anorack

Alexander:
4 Polo shirts
4 shorts
2 bathing suits
2 T-Shirts for beach
Sweater
Anorack

Me:
I have no idea!!!

Kids will also be resonsible for their journals, Nintendo DS and summer reading...

Off to do some laundry locate my missing black bathing suit and start getting organized!