Wednesday, May 28, 2008

JBelle's Top Picks for Summer

Inspired by Lindsey Long Legs, over at... Lindsey Long Legs, I decided to compile JBelle's Top Picks for the summer, as I know you are all waiting and hoping for a little direction. And trying to make plans! Make plans! And I'm holding you up! eeek! The Chows had a hard time sorting everything out because there are sooo many top picks, not enough summer. This is how it is here in The Kan EWA. Anyway, with no further ado, here is where JBelle lives and breathes in the summertime, when the livin' is easy.

Coeur d'Alene
There is no where I would rather be than Coeur d'Alene, anytime of the year. But in the summer it is so special there, so special that it transcends any attempt at definition so I can only say for me Coeur d'Alene is a Valhalla, the Coeur d'Belle. Get on I-90 and get off at the Sherman Ave exit. Drag the strip all the way to the college and loop around the dyke road and park back at Memorial Field. Pick up some coffee from the stand across the street and walk through the park down to West Lakshore Drive and sit on the seawall. Sip your coffee and savor Tubb's Hill, Casco Bay, Kidd Island Bay, looking down the lake as far as you can. There is no place, no where, nothing that is closer to God than this moment of contemplation on the north shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene. This is a very pricey experience, a priceless moment that won't cost you a thing but it is best enjoyed with an open heart and a grateful spirit. Peace be with you.

Well, now that you've had your spiritual moment in the sun, having been to The Church of The Seawall, get your bike and head to the reservation. The Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation. Go to Plummer where the trailhead for The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes is located. You're starting to see a theme here, right? Get on the trail and ride your bike to Wallace. It's about 120 miles up and back. This ride has it all: relentless hills, beautiful flat stretches through wetlands, thrilling railroad bridges high across the lake, even an historic Jesuit Mission. You will see deer, moose, birds, fish, butterflies, dragonflies, cottonwoods, white pine, apple, peach and cherry trees. It is a compendium of life, this Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. Don't miss it. This is the kind of thing that they'd love to charge for because its so valuable but sadly, they just can't put a price on an experience as this. This is quintessential Idaho.

Do NOT be without your Oakleys. You can get them anywhere. I've worn mine on the Champs d'Elysee, the Ho Chi Minh Trail, at Red Square and the Vatican as well as the Canadian Continental Divide where they were equally chic yet durable and utilitarian. I can ditch the bike as I do sometimes and don the Hermes as I do sometimes wearing Oakleys either time and it's same/same. After eye surgery almost ten years ago, I became uber-light sensitive and Oakleys filter out all the glare and bad light that hurts my eyes and makes my head ache. Just don't be without Oakleys. Don't do it. Pricey at about $175 but they last. I've got five year old Oakleys.

Hot Green Our Lady of Guadalupe Bag
Got Our Lady in Puerto Vallarta. Thing is, white women, particularly the Protestants, think I'm outta my mind carrying this bag. Hispanics, both men and women, give me a quick solemn nod and breathe in "jes". I think Our Lady is fabulous and lights up hot times in the city. Back of my neck ain't gettin' dirty and gritty. Absolutely don't remember anything about a price.

Mother of Pearl and Silver Jewelry
Got both the earrings and the cross in Puerto Vallarta. Paid way too much but it all boiled down to this: I liked them. So I bought them. That's it, friends. There are no complicated arguments and scenarios in life; if you like it BUY IT. Forget the price. See above.

Aveda Inner Light Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15
Well, my heavens. Just how could you have summer without this marvelous little product? Moisturizer and sun screen with a hint of color to even out the freckles and dark circles. This stuff is divine. Go to your nearest Aveda store and get some now. What's the downside? Better state the obvious: there is none. Moderate, about $25.

Aveda Lip Gloss
It smells heavenly and moisturizes as well as protects from too bright sun. And you don't have to transfer money from your line of credit to your checking account when you buy one. I don't go anywhere without it. Cheeeeep. $15.

Nordstrom Capris
Okay, here's the deal. these things fit. They are cotton/spandex so they launder at home but hold their shape nicely. They come in at least black, white, navy, taupe, and olive, pack beautifully and wash out in the sink if need be. One of the few wise buying decisions Nordstrom has made lately. Not spendy. About $60.

Jump Shoes
Happened on Jump in Soho a couple a weeks ago after lunch at Balthazar and after Bloomingdale's but before Chanel. LOVE JUMP! They're Asian and the shoes are inspired, fun and really comfortable. I have worn them all day several times and they were perfect. Brand new, too. Amazing shoes. Cute. Not that spendy. About $80.

Black iPod
Well, how can you be properly stimulated, mooded and otherwise ready to go for any given summer situation without your iPod? I have several. Currently, I use my nano for specific tasks only and for the big jobs I go with my BonoNanno. It's not really a nanno, I just call it that. It plays videos and I load it with my photos. It also has some 5000 songs on it at the moment. One of these times, I am going to listen to them all. In order. Spendy. About $400?

So there it is. Live it up. Be happy. Call it all joy. We only pass this way once.

The 'Kan EWA

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Graduation Wrap-Up

I know it would be uncomfortable for everyone if I didn't issue a few opinions about a few things that are au courant in New York at the moment. Or at least, kept seeing on a regular basis when I was there a week ago . Graduation -wise, by and large, the drunkest, profanest, most inappropriate people of the hour were...the girls. Yup. The girls. Just who are their mamas?

I'd like to know. Because didn't their mamas go into a few things with them, like for instance, how trivial and silly they look, walking up the aisle to strains of 'Pomp and Circumstance', talking on their cell phone?

Surely, the girls' mother told them, watch what you drink, dear. Party your heart out, but drink 8 oz of water between every cocktail and whatever you do, no matter how happy or upset you may be, just don't issue any profanities. Just don't you do it. Don't do it! Because no matter in what instance you issue them, you will be perceived as loud-mouthed and vulgar. You will. And they were. Filthiest drunkest mouths of the entire week were, heaven help us, the girls. They just don't make a handbag that will cover for that sort of thing, either.

Also, I'd like to meet the mamas to ask what counsel and advice they gave to their daughters that resulted in them putting on cleavage-bearing, ass-grabbing dresses for mass and for commencement? Graduation is not dancing and prowling/trolling in Soho or Alphabet City. It's a professional, joyous event, where believe it or not, employment prospects and career green lights abound. I know what the prospects and green lights were thinking of the girls who showed up looking like The Paris Hilton Faithful, because I was thinking it myself. But I digress. Who are these girls' mamas? And have they been on vacation for the last 10 years?

And further, what would make anyone think an invitation from the Dean of the College of Business Administration to the annual Business School awards ceremony is really a cocktail party and that a cocktail dress is just the thing to strap on? Oh my. So, so, wrong on so many levels. But if we disagree, dear, consider this: what was the Dean wearing? Did she have on a cocktail dress? See? She was wearing a lovely, dressy evening suit, complete with high neck and jacket, with subtle but elegant jewelry. Gosh, maybe in part, that's how she got to be the Dean: she knows what to wear to reassure everyone that she knows exactly where she is at the moment. Apparently, no small task. Lord have mercy.

And what of the shoes? If you are going to be walking across a raised platform of any kind, with thousands of people watching you, why not wear shoes that are easy and graceful to walk in and that you can handle with ease? What's the good of putting an entire auditorium in suspense over whether you'll face plant or graduate first? Who ARE these girls' mothers?
Sadly, I have to give the girls of CBA even further discount because the leadership in CBA, by and large, is women! Classy, bright, tough women run the shop at CBA so if in doubt, all you'd have to do is look around and note what the Deans wear and then adjust up or down. And by the way, you think that when the lights go off Dean Donna Rapaccioli is not capable of expressing her full feminine self? Picture taken after the ceremonies, on the way to the parties. Enough said. Sigh. Having asked where the mothers are, I guess it's only fair to note that I saw them, too. Here and here

and here.

I guess that is quite enough said. oh wait! one more thing: what or who in the world would convince you to collect your diploma onstage and then go back to your seat, THEN exit the ceremony early? Are you thinking no one saw you? And more importantly, which faculty member will be willing to write a recommendation for you, if you can't even sit all the way through the ceremony and go out with your class?

Just asking. And please tell your mother I need to catch up with her to go over a few things.

The 'Kan EWA

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Many of you have written and called in saying, JBelle! JBelle! Just who are these spoiled, onery children you speak of so often?

Well, folks, I'll tell you. These are they. I am rich, rich, rich.

The 'Kan EWA
Words escape me as I try to capture the essence of our Commencement Celebration in New York last week. The week passed super fast, yet in slow motion much of the time as certain images forever imprinted themselves on the fleshy tablets of my brain. There were so many deliciously special moments but this morning I am remembering moments that will always haunt me; haunt me in a good way; alchemize me and take me to the place that is the holiest of the holies.

The Pup captured a picture of the Christ Child as he turned into the long aisle up to the steps of Keating Hall that stopped and restarted my heart instantly: it was that little boy smile of his, long lost in the acquired vocabulary of smiles we all construct as we learn to successfully pose for pictures. The little boy smile reflexively reappeared after a long, long absence.

The Christ Child said that as the stage cleared, he looked up and all that was there were the two deans, with diploma in hand, smiling broadly and waiting for him. His named was announced and he went up the steps, crossed the stage , went back down another set of steps into a new reality, leaving the deans who have been so good to him behind.

I remember walking through the glow of the dimly lit Metropolitan Museum, the statuary all smiling and happy, after the after-hours party in honor of the Christ Child.

I remember Mike The Bike Stud's stirring and beautiful toasts.

I remember Brian's dad kissing him soundly on the forehead, in unspeakable love and devotion, after Brian gave the welcome at Baccalaureate Mass.

I remember the rain, dear God, how did they get the Oregon rain in New York for Baccalaureate Mass?

I remember the sun; swear to God, it was like Santa Monica in the Bronx as 'Pomp and Circumstance' played and the seniors marched up the aisle and marched back down as graduates.

I remember the hot dog in the gym at Fordham and the beer at Yankee Stadium; the roast chicken at Balthazar and the brunello and prosciutto on Arthur Avenue.

I remember the city streets each early morning and the tops of the newly leafed trees of Central Park, both silent in preparation of another day.

I remember looking around and seeing the faces, all the faces, of every one of the people I love the most.

I remember thinking, many times, I am rich, rich, rich.

The Kan 'EWA

Monday, May 12, 2008

So I wake up in the city that never sleeps early; early enough that everyone around me and everyone out the window is still sleeping. We are perched on the 20th floor of a beautiful post-Deco building that overlooks Central Park and the streets that fan out from the Park south. We are on Central Park South. This morning I remember and am grateful for all those times that I worked late, late, late early into the morning, meeting deadlines and commitments. I would work until 3 or 4 am in my office at home and then stumble leadenly down the hall to slip in bed for a few hours. We would all get up then and I would struggle through the morning routine and meet another set of deadlines, as the kids got into those Catholic School uniforms, thank God for Catholic School uniforms, and collected their gear and headed out to school. I remember it all clearly, but remember so few details. I remember it was really hard. But I don't remember much else; that tells me that I wasn't feeling a fair amount of what I was going through in order to get through. But I made it. Raised my children, buried my parents and collected stories, adventures and people along the way. I think of them all this morning and say a silent prayer of thank you. For helping me, for kindness to me, for love and encouragement to me and for the gentle pats and hugs. For the smiles, for the flowers, for the coffee, for the ribbons of surprise and delight . I'll be thinking of you this week. I would not be who I am nor where I am if it were not for the collective efforts of all you and your thoughts and prayers. I am humble, indeed. Today I sing of you.

On Location
New York, New York

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nest Update

Can you see how deep brown the speckles are getting?!

The 'Kan EWA

Saturday, May 10, 2008

It's completely clear to me. If I am going to gain the maximum benefit from the 'Sex and The City Movie' coming out May 28, I must rewatch all 7 sets of the original HBO DVDs. Wisdom from disk #1, Season #1: three ways are not about sex but about running away from intimacy. See? And you thought it was all about the clothes.

The 'Kan EWA

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Well, life goes on and on and on. Booked the caves at Lascaux yesterday. I have wanted to go for so long I can't believe it's finally happening. Can' I have read accounts of people who go and cry. I wonder how it will touch me? I wonder if it will be enough? Maybe it's just better to read about them . Maybe not. Maybe seeing is worth it. I'm gonna find out. Finally!

The 'Kan EWA

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Sometimes the most amazing grace sneaks up and wraps sweet, soothing arms around you in such a fashion as to catch you unaware. Completely unaware!

As a child, I made May baskets for everyone I knew. My teachers, my grandmother, my neighbors, my friends' mothers. I remember mastering the art of the Victorian conical May basket, with candy in the bottom and a rick rack handle. I would stalk through the grass with the stealth of a cat on on a bird and obsessively position my May Basket on the door handle, then poke the doorbell with a fierce stab , jump off the porch and run. Run the like wind, blind to anything but being completely out of sight as the door opened. Sometimes, the door never opened and my basket would hang, bright yellow stalks of forsythia crookedly askew, waiting for my May Victims to come home and find their bounty. I loved May Baskets for sooooo long.
This past Wednesday was another chaotic whirlwind at the office and a last of the day meeting left me both disturbed and heartened. As I drove across town towards home, I was too numb to be aware of much of anything except a headache. Once I hit the sanctity of my own driveway, I barely even remembered being at work. I put the car away and made my routine walk across the porch to the front door to pick up the mail and check for packages and froze as I spied a pink gift bag hanging on my front door. Although May 1 was a tiny detail of the day, instinctively I knew what waiting for me at the end of a very long day and what already was a very long week: a May Basket. A pink and white and green lacy, feathery May Basket. For me! The first of my life.

I was absolutely thrilled and completely mystified. And smitten! There were daisies and carnations so it looked and smelled wonderful. Such attention to detail, this beautiful, wonderful May Basket. I had no idea who sent it. Was it one of the people who were at my house last weekend? Was it my Tuesday night dinner guest? Was it someone from my book club?
No. No. And No. It was my friends from the house next to us. These adorable enchanting creatures who are my new neighbors made me a May Basket and hung it on my door. Didn't find out until today when they came over after soccer to confess. They came in to go out and pay a call on The Chow Nation and have cookies and after a point, told me they had to run really, really, really FAST to get out of sight so quick. It took me back a million years to when I tried and tried to figure out how to get violets to stay nice for my grandma's basket. To rolling that pretty paper in a cone and gluing lace around the top edge. To tucking in a paper doily to cradle the flowers. To dropping the lemon drops in , one by one. I could remember it as if it were last week and our kitchen at 10th and Penn and the thick lawns of the neighborhood and the bright colors of Foster Avenue on May Day all came swirling back to me in a second. How I loved those May Baskets and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in spring.

That's grace and joy and so as Igantius says, God is all around us. Today I saw His face in my friends who are so kind and treat me and the world with such sweetness and generosity. Amazing, amazing grace.

The 'Kan EWA

Friday, May 02, 2008

We always have a dairy course when we entertain at Bellemaison; because...we do. In one of my many other lives, surely I was the proprietor of a large small diary farm, like the old Finucane farm in Hayden Lake. I had a huge vegetable garden, grew every flower that was cut and vased in my house and had vats and vats of sour cream, cream cheese, eggs and butter, in big walk-in coolers, on the back porch of the house and in another one in the barn. I had a nation of those fabulous black and white cows; silent eaters, connoisseurs of fine grasses. That was my life where I'd was up very, very,very early and had plenty of time to watch the morning light unfold over the pasture and watched the stars appear, one by one, in the navy blue summer sky. I remember it so well!

And so that's why you'll find plenty of diary in our menus here. We disdain preservatives and chemicals but embrace fat and sugar. Hey. It's our kitchen.

The Palace Cheesecake

Junior League of Memphis Heart and Soul

People lose all control over this recipe. I say that matter of factly, with respect and with gratitude. Those of you who have been to Bellemaison probably wondered what I was thinking when you were giggling and scratching yourself all over after a bite of The Palace Cheesecake. I was thinking this: who's yer daddy?
6 stone-ground wheat crackers, crushed

1 egg

dash salt

10 sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained

1 cup prepared pesto

3/4 cup sour cream

1 t all purpose flour

Preheat over to 325 degrees. Butter 7- inch springform pan. Sprinkle crushed crackers in bottom of pan. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until softened. Add egg and salt, beating on low speed until combined; set aside. In food processor bowl, process sun-dried tomatoes. Add pesto and process to mix.

Spread half of the cream cheese mixture into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Top with tomato mixture, spreading evenly to the edge. Spread remaining cheese mixture over tomato mixture. Bake about 35 minutes.

Stir together sour cream and flour; carefully spread over cheesecake. Bake 4 minutes more. Cool; cover and chill 4 to 24 hours. Remove side of pan. Serve on a bed of baby greens. Makes 24 servings.

Sour Cream Banana Bread

Junior League of Monroe Celebrations on The Bayou

We just wouldn't dream of making banana bread without sour cream here at Bellemaison. Just wouldn't do it. Joe Montana gets delirious over this banana bread. I say, Joe Montana, look: it's just banana bread. And then I say, and this is Bellemaison. But not in my out loud voice.
1 stick butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs beaten

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 bananas)

1/2 cup sour cream

1 t vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one 9-inch loaf pan or several smaller pans.

In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs and mix well.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; combine with the butter mixture.

Add the bananas, sour cream and vanilla, stir well.

Fold in the nuts.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted near the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Cool in the plan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack.

Cucumber Dill Salad Dressing


I have used this recipe in one form or another for many, many years. I have the original recipe card in my handwriting but I do not know where it came from. I throw change ups with the dairy to use it different ways. Sometimes, I use cream cheese and it becomes a dip. In the salad dressing form, I blanch asparagus and serve the asparagus over a finely chopped bed of lettuce with a few strips of sweet pepper on the plates, doused in this dressing. It's a little disruptive because people stand , clutch their napkins, throw back their heads and howl, right there at the table. Irritates me, but what are you going to do? They are my friends, so I allow it.
1/2 c grated unpeeled cucumber

1 T diced pimiento

1 t lemon juice

1/2 t dill weed

1 t grated onion

1/8 t pepper

4 drops tabasco

1/2 c sour cream

1/2 t salt

Drain cucumber thoroughly until dry as possible. Combine with all other ingredients. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

The 'Kan EWA