Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cannes, Chopard, and Cartier

In January 2011, I was in Paris courtesy of ACIS, without the kiddies, and I found myself wandering around Place Vendôme.  This is high dollar jewelry store territory.  Looking back at my photos, I actually found pictures that were not of food or the Eiffel Tower.  As you can see, the sky was a beautiful blue and I found the Christmas decorations very interesting.

For those of you who remember Princess Diana, here's the Ritz where she ate her last meal before heading into that fatal tunnel.  (Kids know who she is again due to the handsome son and beautiful daughter-in-law.)

I thought of these photos because yesterday I saw a CNN headline about the recent jewel heist in Cannes during the film festival.  I lived in Cannes in 1978-79.  Well, I actually lived in Le Cannet, but I went to an international school in Cannes and the dad of the family I lived with worked at the Hôtel Martinez on the Croisette.  You will just have to believe me on this one.  That was in the pre-digital dark days of life and I have a box of photos somewhere, but I have no idea where.  I wasn't there during the annual May film festival and since my departure they've built a new Palais de Congrès where they hold the red carpet event.  My best friend and I had some adventures.  She dated a guy who worked for Cartier in Cannes.  And I tagged along.  
But I digress.  I do not long for fancy jewelry.  I don't spend much time looking in the windows of jewelry stores either. (Although should I ever come into money- didn't win last night's 600 million Powerball or even a share of it-- the Cartier trinity ring is on my list.  So okay, I have given it a little bit of thought...)
Anyway, back to my story.  I was intrigued by the fact that a whole safe of Chopard jewels was stolen from a hotel in Cannes.  And not just the jewels, the whole safe.  Contents worth 1 million euros (1.4 million dollars).  Chopard furnishes the trophy, the Palme d'Or, for the festival's winner.  The trophy wasn't taken.  Well, count me relieved.  Coincidentally, the history of the trophy goes back to 1955 and Alfred Hitchcock's famous movie To Catch A Thief, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.

(photo from

I did snap a photo of Chopard in Paris in 2011.  No jewels in the window, just a lovely pink sac à main  et lunettes de soleil.

The point of my story is that I am actually relieved to find some old-fashioned crime in the news for once.  I don't watch the news very often because of the murder and mayhem that reporters thrive on.  Shoving a microphone into the face of a mama who has just lost her baby is cruel, in my humble opinion.  And this jewel heist has all the right drama.  Security guard (American female employee) goes out to get some dinner and returns to discover that the safe she is supposed to be guarding has been ripped from the wall.  (No room service at the Novotel?  Vraiment?)  The Chopard shop is across the street from the Palais and even has its own red carpet.  Nice touch, n'est-ce pas?  Wouldn't want anyone to muss up their espadrilles when heading in to pick out baubles, would we?

No one was hurt.  Sounds suspicious though, doesn't it?  Ready for another coincidence, readers?  The theft occurred soon after the film festival premiere of an American movie about a group of teenage jewels thieves in Hollywood, The Bling Ring directed by Sofia Coppola.  A little movie hype?  You be the judge.

And my real-life jewel theft story?  Back to 1979 in Le Cannet.  The couple I lived with were on vacation in the Camargue (the first I'd ever heard of this place that I now love) and I was in charge of keeping the apartment safe.  A thief had visited the year before when they were on vacation.  College BFF was spending the night with me and away from boyfriend-son of the apartment owners.  Middle of the night pounding on the door.  Owner of the Cartier jewelry shop barges in and searches the apartment.  She has already been to boyfriend's apartment.  Turns out the champagne we had been sipping was financed by a Middle Eastern man who had paid a deposit for a Cartier watch.  Boyfriend had been "borrowing" the money.  Boyfriend's parents were brought back from the Camargue.  Two American girls found themselves packing up, sitting on the curb, waiting for a taxi and moving into a little hotel not located on the Croisette amidst the family scandal.  The jewelry store owner wasn't looking to press charges or for the story to make the headlines if the francs (pre-euro days, dark ages, remember) were returned.  Wealthy granddad was being called in to help clean up the mess, I recall.  College BFF returned the lovely little sapphire Cartier ring that boyfriend had given her.  (I still think that I would've kept it... he swears he paid for that with his own money.  I prefer to remember him as a thief but not a liar...)  Turns out he had an Austrian fiancée that we didn't know about.  (Okay, so maybe he was a liar.)

For scenes of Cannes and the Cartier shop on the Croisette, watch Meg Ryan, Kevin Kline, and Jean Reno in French Kiss, one of my favorite movies. 

How I wish College BFF was still around.  She died in the early '90's.  I still miss her.  We would have had a great laugh over the jewel heist and would've retold the story of our great adventure back in the day.

As maid of honor at my wedding in 1982, Spruce Pine, North Carolina... a picture of a picture.

Bon appétit, lovers of adventure and movies.
Info gleaned from The Bangkok Post.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Joe Moylan, A Good Man

This week, the world lost a genuinely good man.  This man had a huge impact on the world around me. We go way back, to my first years teaching at DA, when his children were students at Durham Academy.  Most recently, he and I spent many sunny afternoons watching high school baseball, cheering for the team, my son, and his grandson.  He lived close to our upper school and he and his wife, Ann Carole, were often in the stands, cheering on our teams even when kids and grandkids weren't out there.  And, fittingly it seems, that's where he spent his final afternoon.  He had a "heart episode" while watching our lacrosse team play in the state play-offs.  The Ex-Ex helped his wife get him in the golf cart and up to the training room so that a parent who happens to be a cardiologist could take a look at him until the ambulance arrived to take him to Duke Hospital.  Everyone seemed to think that he would be fine and be able to attend many more games.  However, it seems that God needed him more than we do.  And that is hard to believe.
Dr. Moylan and his wife raised six children.  He was a Duke professor of surgery, chief of trauma services, and instrumental in the development of Duke's Life Flight program.  He and his wife left Durham for three years, but returned and had an even greater impact on our community.  He founded the Durham Nativity School, a tuition-free middle school for 33 inner city boys, grades 6-8.  As a matter of fact, according to the Durham Herald-Sun newspaper, Dr. Moylan visited "his boys" on the day he died.  Several of them were in attendance at our middle school end-of-the-year dance last night.  We always invite them and they show up dressed to impress.  These young men must wear a shirt, tie, and khakis every day.
I have volunteered at the Nativity School a couple of times in the past.  One time, the BFF and I went there to cook with the boys.  We made crêpes and tarte tatin.   At the last minute, I decided to bring along some whipping cream.  At their age, I didn't know about anything except Cool Whip.  I had no idea you could take liquid and make yummy fluffy stuff out of it.  I thought they would get a kick of that.  And they did, much to my delight.

According to one of his sons, Dr. Moylan carried a handwritten note in his wallet.  The note is a quote from Edmund Beck, a 20th century German Roman Catholic theologian.

5 Theological Truths

  • Life is hard.
  • You will die.
  • In the big picture, you are not important.
  • You are not in control.
  • Life is not about you, it's about everyone else. 
That's today's recipe, friends.   The world would be a better place if we all carried these wise words around in our wallets and read them everyday, attempting to live our lives and help others the way Dr. Moylan did, without any fanfare and because we genuinely care about everyone else. 

We will all miss you, Joe.  May you rest in peace.

Bon appétit to all.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day 2013


So, is it just another Hallmark Holiday, as the Ex-Ex calls some of them?  I think not.  I've been thinking about Mama Mildred all day.  I found some photos...


Mama gave me a bag full of pictures a few years back and I am so glad that I have them.  Look how young she is!  Barely 18 here.  I am 6 months old.


This one was taken right before I left for my first trip to France.  Mama is 38 years old in this one, I am 20.  Mere babies, both of us!


This was on Mama's 70th birthday.  How could her firstborn be 52 years old?

I love you, Mama!

Here are your four babies, 1968-ish?

And since I am a Mom, too, here are my babies when they were babies-

They were cute then, they are handsome now.

They make me very proud.

To Mama Mildred and my boys--

Happy Mother's Day 2013!

I've made these brownies for Mama and for the boys.  Mildred likes the addition of coffee to the batter.  She is also a huge buttermilk fan.  She used to crumble cornbread into a glass of it and then eat it.  I admit that I have never tried it, so I will not comment out of respect for her.

Texas Brownies

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
1/2 c. shortening
1 c. strong brewed coffee
1/4 c. dark, unsweetened cocoa
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 c. butter
2 Tbsp. dark cocoa
1/4 c. milk
3 1/2 c. unsifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and the sugar.
In a heavy saucepan, combine butter, shortening, coffee and cocoa.  Stir and heat to boiling.
Pour boiling mixture over the flour and sugar in the bowl.  Add the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda and vanilla.
Mix well, using a wooden spoon or high speed on electric mixer.
Pour into a well-buttered 17 1/2-by-11-inch pan.
Bake at 400˚F for 20 minutes or until brownies test done in the center.
While brownies bake, prepare the frosting.  In a saucepan, combine butter, cocoa and milk.  Heat to boiling, stirring.
Mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla until frosting is smooth.
Pour warm frosting over brownies as soon as you take them out of the oven.  Cool.  Cut.

Bon appétit to all moms!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Roses and Risotto

Life is not a bed of roses.  How many times have you heard that saying?  Roses are beautiful and they certainly smell nice.  I caught this one with my iPhone last Friday while standing around on carpool duty after school (I was watching the kiddies, too, I promise).  There are several lovely rosebushes on campus and they seem to bloom almost year round.  Here's another--

Back to the bed of roses thing, though.  They have thorns so I am not sure why a bed of roses would be seen as comfy in the first place.  But I didn't make up the saying.  Would you want your life to be a bed of roses?  No troubles?  No conflicts?  No sadness?  No weaknesses?  If life was were (Was or were?  Who the heck knows?) always easy, would we know how to appreciate the goodness and the simple pleasures that come our way?  Or how would we find success after a long struggle or even a not-so-long one?  How would we truly find out what we are made of?  Today's post on French Word-A-Day got me to thinking this morning.  I've read both of Kristin's books, most of her blogposts, and her writing has become more personal in the last few months.  She has shared her struggles as well as her joys in the life that most of her readers envy to the nth degree (I do not think that I am only speaking for moi here).  And I like her way more for sharing her struggles.  She is now a human to me.  Her life isn't a bed of roses.  The un-named book that I am reading now is just a little too perfect for me.  I don't relate to the author, even though she is in France, eating, drinking, and speaking French.  All the chapters wrap up a little too perfectly for my taste.  Even the fictional characters I love the most have their imperfections.  For example, Cara Black's Aimée Leduc occasionally breaks down and has a cigarette or she falls for the wrong "bad boy."  We all have imperfections and weaknesses.  Does that make us less than desirable?  Or bad, even?  Certainement pas.  Those roses aren't perfect either, but that doesn't stop me from photographing or smelling them!

I've been craving risotto for the past few days.  Am I in need of a comfort-food fix?  Probably.  I finally gave in and made it, using a recipe I found at  I do not understand why making it is called "painful."  Sure, you have to stand there and stir and add liquid, but what a glorious mix of smell and mindless work.  No multi-tasking allowed.  Well... I sipped a glass of rosé while making it.

 And I listened to Buena Vista Social Club.  (The Ex-Ex wasn't home yet so I could listen to whatever I wanted without explanation.  Guilty pleasure, I confess, oui.)  Chef Érick introduced me to this group back in 2008.  We also watched a documentary film about the members of the group, made by Wim Wenders and released in 1999.  If their music doesn't move you, chances are you have lost your soul...  Give them a listen.  Find your soul. Then download one a CD onto your music device of choice.  And turn it up.  Dance around the living room.  Or the kitchen as you stir the risotto.  Sing along.  As loudly as you want.

Gourmet Mushroom Risotto
6 servings

6 c. chicken broth
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 lb. portobello mushrooms, sliced and chopped
1 lb. white mushrooms, sliced and chopped
1 med. onion, diced or 2 shallots, diced
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
1/2 c. dry white wine
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. finely chopped chives, optional
1/3 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Warm the broth to simmer; reduce heat to low.
2.  Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir in the mushrooms and cook until soft, about 3-5 minutes.  Remove mushrooms and their liquid and set aside.
3.  Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter to the pan and stir in the onions.  Cook about 3 minutes, until soft.  Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes.  When the rice is pale gold, pour in the wine and stir until it is fully absorbed.  Add 1/2 c. of broth to the rice and stir until the broth is absorbed.  Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15-20 minutes.
4.  Remove from heat and stir in mushrooms with their liquid.  Add chives, if using, and Parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Bon appétit à tous!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

La Fête du Travail 2013

(photo from I Prefer Paris)

May 1 is La Fête du Travail, Labor Day, in France.  They enjoy a lovely day off.  Some of them even make the bridge, faire le pont, as they call it and take the rest of the week off.  Pourquoi pas, hein?  The give little bouquets of muguet des bois, lily of the valley, to their sweethearts, on May 1.  It was my grandmother's favorite flower.  She wore perfume by the same name, launched by Coty in 1941.  Behind her house, she had a little garden and grew them, too.

May 1 is just another day closer to summer vacation for us.  More than one middle schooler has checked out of the hotel, as I call it.  Here's a hotel I would like to check into--

The Negresco in Nice on La Promenade des Anglais.  I love the pink roof.  And the palm trees.  And the blue chairs.  And the white chairs.  And the bar with the umbrellas.  And the drinks served in the outdoor bar at sunset.

And the Mediterranean Sea.

And the beach that is covered in stones.
I tried to capture the most beautiful shade of pale pink I've ever seen in 2006 during the Arles 6 trip to Nice.  I wasn't very successful.  But my mind can still see it.  That's what matters.

I have spent more time in the kitchen this week making dinner for the Ex-Ex and moi.  He gets more excited about the meat, but I found a keeper rice dish.  I am a bit addicted to First for Women magazine.  Good recipes.  Health and exercise tips galore (lots of stuff as of late about thyroid and gluten-free diets).  Affordable home decor and clothing ideas.  Not that I am either a decorator or shopper.  But the magazine is full of pretty, colorful pictures.  Just general feel-good stuff.  We all need that.  (24 more school days, but who's counting?)

Ginger-Lime Brown Rice
serves 8

1 small onion, chopped
1 red pepper, diced
1 tsp. olive oil or flaxseed oil
1 1/2 c. converted brown rice
3 c. low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley and/or cilantro

1.  In medium pot over medium heat, cook chopped onions and diced red peppers in oil 2 minutes, or until tender, stirring frequently.
2.  Add brown rice, broth, grated ginger, 2 Tbsp. lime juice and 1 tsp. lime zest to pot.  Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer.
3.  Cook rice mixture 35 minutes or until rice is done and broth is absorbed, covering if desired.  Stir in chopped fresh parsley and/or cilantro.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spoon into serving dish and garnish as desired.

Bon appétit, May/Mai!