Monday, March 14, 2011

Easter Cookie Fun

It seems that Easter should be here soon. The fact is, however, that we have to wait an entire month! It does not seem quite right, especially living in Las Vegas where I know it will be 90+ degrees when we do an Easter egg hunt.

Thinking of Spring today reminded me of the cute cookies I made last year for our Easter celebration. I was told I could bring whatever dessert I would like to make for the family. I racked my brain over cake, trifle, or maybe a pudding. Then I remembered how fun it was to make my Christmas cookies. I was up for the challenge!

I used my Martha Stewart sugar cookie recipe (the only one to use in my opinion), and plain butter cream frosting. I used Wilton's Spring color gels for the coloring. It gives the right shade to your light pinks and blues.

On this bunny I used a Wilton tip made for making grass to produce a fluffy fur. The bow was a Wilton tip designed to make leaves. The cookies were not perfect, but a little sanding sugar and jimmies here and there made them look special. They were a big hit. Who says desserts have to be fancy at a big holiday?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Scent of Paris

Last night while discussing which pair of pants would go with what shirt with the other moms at my boys school, I smelled something intoxicating. Usually I smell a scent and think, "YUCK!", and I remove myself as soon as possible. I started looking around to see where this beautiful smell came from. It was a cute young lady who had just entered the room. I asked her if she would not mind me asking what perfume she was wearing. What she said surprised me and made me laugh. It was Chanel's "Coco Mademoiselle".
I knew I liked it, because that was what I wear on my special occasions!

It made me think of a time when my sister and I were walking in the Marais of Paris one early Sunday morning when two lovely girls came jogging by. My sister said, "Ohhh, they even smell good when they sweat!". It was true. These girls smelled like a sweet perfume as they jogged by. Finding a perfumery in Paris is not hard to do. There are artisan master perfumers in tiny shops who can match a scent just for you. As hard as I tried, I sniffed and smelled my way in and out of shops in Paris and never found the right scent for me. When I got home my husband gave me a bottle of Coco Mademoiselle for our wedding anniversary. It smelled just like Paris to me. Just like those girls jogging by. Just like the snooty store clerks. Just like everything I thought Paris should smell like. Just like me! (and that lady at school)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cupcakes Again?

Cupcakes Again? Yes, I know that I have written several times about cupcakes, but I just can't wrap my mind around why we (and I) are so obsessed about these little cakes. They aren't just exclusive to the United States, but they are sweeping Europe as well! Even Paris has cupcakes. It is getting so ridiculous that there seems to be a cupcake establishment on every corner. Because there are shops everywhere one has to be careful about the quality and consumption of cake. These cupcake bakeries are not the Magnolia Bakery or Sprinkles that made this phenomenon happen. No. There are impostors, and a true connoisseur must be very careful where to shop!

A couple of weeks ago while in Pasadena, CA, I had an epiphany about cupcakes. I was eating one from a cupcake bakery called "Dots". Not to be confused with "Polkatots", another bakery in Pasadena. While eating my cupcake I realized that I have never had a cupcake where I liked the frosting AND the cake. Never! That got me to thinking if I could produce such a thing. These are my little cupcakes that I made. Cute little boxes from Fancy Flours. I found that even on my own I liked only the cake. So, I am still on the search for the perfect cupcake where frosting and cake are joined together in a happy union.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Laduree, A Paris Icon

Paris is graced with many mammoth iconic monuments. The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre stand as symbols of the grand history of Paris. They echo the past and at the same time breath new life into the city of lights. These grand structures, however, are not the only gifts of culture to Paris. There is an even more splendid example of this city's bygone era. It is non other than the salon du the (tea salon). A salon du the to Paris was the acceptable place for fine women to go alone in the mid 19th century.
Laduree is one such place. The shop is named after Louis-Earnest Laduree, who in 1862 opened a pastry shop on the rue Royale. It was Louis-Earnest's wife, Jeanne who thought of combining the pastry shop with a cafe, thus making Laduree one of the first tea rooms in Paris. In the 1930's a second cousin of Louis-Earnest, Pierre Desfontaines invented the double sided macaroon that Laduree is so famous for. These little fluffy almond flour cookies filled with a cream middle is a delight that all should experience. Laduree has many shops in and out of Paris today. They still make their macaroons, but you can buy Jordan almonds, jam and tea as well.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Woman's Best Friend -- A Finer Thing

The 21st century has brought a new perspective to the finer things in our lives. Having stated in the title of my blog that I write about the "finer things" in life, I could not pass up the opportunity to tell about one of the finest things in mine. Many women in our century cherish designer shoes and purses. As a contrast, women of the 20th century found china, quilts, and lace as their items of vanity. I, myself, have a special finer thing. It is neither made of leather nor porcelain, but it is a breathing, living thing of my own vanity. It is none other than my French poodle, Mario.

We got him two years ago when my two boys went off to full-day school. Mario became my baby, following me around and needed love whenever he could get it. He is constantly spoiled by me. He has the finest food, crystal collars, and trips to the Paw Spa for blueberry facials. Many laugh at the vanity item in my life, but Mario is a spoiled bright spot. He is a true fine thing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Secret Garden

Los Angeles is a sprawling city full of contradictions. It overflows into suburb after suburb, making it the giant that it is. From the glitz and glamor of the Hollywood and Beverly Hills elite to the harsh and thought provoking neighborhoods of Watts and East L.A., the city shows its diversity of cultures. With its massive circumference, it seems that there are few real refuges to en light and stimulate the mind. But, as I found out this weekend, there is a star of hope hidden away in the little suburban town of San Marino called the Huntington Library, Museum, and Gardens.

This magnificent place was founded in 1919 by Henry Huntington, a railroad and utilities mogul of the early 2oth century. He was a Renaissance man of sorts who had a passion for rare books, art, and gardens. On my visit I was able to see books written by Copernicus, Sir Isac Newton, Shakespeare, and Chaucer. The Art included Gainsborough's "Blue Boy"and Lawrence's "Pinkie", both famous portraits that are shown in art history classes around the world.

The gardens were my favorite. When Huntington bought the property it spanned over 600 acres, but today it is around 207. The herb garden was broken up into segments of medicinal and cooking herbs. From lambs ear and fox glove, to nasturtiums and chamomile. All were fun to look at.

The Japanese gardens were tranquil and alluring. After descending down a steep hill, we were greeted by the soft flow of water, flowering trees, and beautiful garden architecture.

There were more varieties of magnolias than I ever knew existed. Many types of flowering cherry blossoms, and a flower that I had only heard of and not seen. The Camilla. There were pink, red, blush, and white flowers along the pathways.

Spending three hours at the Huntington Estate was not nearly enough time to explore everything. We only saw a quarter of the garden. We missed the bonsai gardens, the children's garden, the jungle, the desert garden, and much, much more. I will plan more time to go back the next time I am in Los Angeles.