Archive for the 'Posted by Chrissy' Category

Cutest Christmas Tree Skirts for 2011

I’m a bit slow getting Christmas together this year, but I was inspired a bit by helping my mom pick out her cards on Etsy. Every time I browse the site, I’m amazed at the things people are making and selling.

Which got me thinking about the Christmas tree skirt. Still haven’t found one. They are usually too formal or preppy for me. I like color, and I like a touch of modern or whimsy in my skirt.

Here are a few standouts I found this year:

For those of you who love color, this cutie from LoveElaine would be fun:

The Coral Christmas Tree Skirt from Crabby Chris (hey, who you callin’ crabby?) is perfect for the beach house I hope someday to have:

A mod skirt from Kay’s General Store is a little vintage and a lot fun:

You can’t go wrong with this simple, red felt tree skirt from West Elm, with the sweet monogram. The price is right at $65!

And like Magnolia, I prefer a little sparkle in my life. Especially at Christmas. So this glitter-y, silky tree skirt from Target (can you see the snowflakes?) could be just the thing. Did I read that right? Thirty dollars? In store only!

Still not sure I’ve found THE ONE. But this is a start!


Related — But use this as additional inspiration only, you know, to get in the mood; many of last year’s finds are no longer available.

Cutest Non-Traditional Christmas Tree Skirts




Weekly Menu, October 2-8: Ode to the End of Summer

Well, here we are again. Back to the menu. Hi! It’s been a while. I’ve been a bit distracted. And uninspired. Felt a little hiatus was in order.

First, it was coming down off sabbatical. I’ll admit I checked out in July. Turned daydreams from a hobby into a profession.

Mmmmm. Daydreams.

So August and September, with all their attendant, resuming responsibilities, the stress of work, the noise of the City, was a bit of a shock to the system. Like winning the lottery, and then being told, whoops! It’s not you after all.

There is also the issue of the weather. The thing is (and you know this about me if  you know me at all): I’m a summer person. There’s nothing I like better than a bright sky, warm weather, bare skin, bare feet.

Poolside in Italy. Isn't this the way it should be?

When I start waking up in the dark, when I see City women get out the tall boots, when I begin to carry around a cardigan, and think twice before putting on a summer dress, my inner bear wakes up and begins to contemplate the winter ahead. Explore the hibernation options.

Trees, knees, sheesh. No sub for sun and heat.

Question: What’s up with all you fall people? What is fall really but a prelude to winter? I love the first snow as much or more as the next person, but after that, do we really need more snow if we are not skiing, sledding, or making snow angels? I think not. At least not here. And all those holidays squashed together so you barely get to enjoy them before they’ve rushed past and there’s nothing but months without a break (think about it: January – May is holiday free). Sadly, my lobby to move Christmas to February has never gained any momentum.

Remember this? That's our car buried in front of the house.

Yes, winter drags on.

I just haven’t felt inspired. We’ve been eating as much of the late summer harvest as we can, in a completely ad hoc manner, and I’m still gamely trotting about in sandals and breezy dresses. But I know, in so many ways, my number is up.

This menu is about trying to get past personal disappointment in summer’s sweet brevity, and everything ending with it. It’s about comfort food. Unless we are moving to warmer climes, I’m stuck with the next two seasons. So I’m trying to make the best of it! And happy to hear from you with great fall recipes.

Weekly Menu

Sunday: Family dinner tonight: Grilled Skirt Steak, Homemade Mac and Cheese. We’re still enjoying My Father’s Daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook. Her mac & cheese- a reasonable, not-too-rich recipe with mascarpone, parm and breadcrumbs– is nice addition our repertoire. A gorgeous, late summer CSA Salad rounded out the meal.

Monday: Roast Chicken and Braised Leeks; is there anything better? Not when it’s only going to get up to 61 degrees.

Tuesday: Grilled Shrimp and Watercress Salad with Gigante Beans Something a bit lighter, and again, from My Father’s Daughter, but you could make this up, easy. In fact, we’ll probably skip the watercress (which to me always tastes a little bit like eating dirt) and sub in some other green.

Wednesday:Slow-Roasted Tomato Soup (from you-guessed-it: Gwyn) with leftover Mac and Cheese

Thursday: Grilled CSA Veggie (red pepper, maybe eggplant- what does one do with eggplant?) Burritos

Friday: Melisa is out-of-town, so the kids and I will do something, don’t know what! Dinner with Katie, I hope.

Saturday: Road Trip! Dinner Chez Bush.

May L.A. days be your every day ALL OCTOBER!

Weekly Menu, August 28-September 3

So we made it. I admit the hype about the storm, which I paid no attention to until Friday, finally got to me; I was nervous last night. At about midnight, I was walking around the dark house, alone, watching the trees bend 45 degrees in the rain. Wondering: will our 101-year old house, which has withstood a tornado (a block away) and an earthquake already this year, fall apart in a hurricane?

My nerves manifested themselves in a three ways: time spent on our various electronic devices (reading Facebook and Twitter, watching the radar, checking news updates and answering texts from concerned friends and family), and cooking and eating.

All the sweets, here for the taking

Friday, I picked up slices of peach pie, chocolate pecan cookies and red velvet cupcakes in Manhattan, and on Saturday made a run to our local Trois Pommes for more peach pie, blueberry pie, a red velvet AND an almond twinkie (yes, twinkie), brownies, peanut butter cookies, and seriously I can’t remember what else. Melisa roasted a whole chicken, and made French onion soup; I made various fruit and vegetable salads. Come on over and help us eat the leftovers (we also have plenty of wine, vodka, fixings for margaritas, and distilled water to serve)!

Tomorrow in the sunshine, let’s just say a long run is planned. But for today, I’m kneading pizza dough and thinking of chasing my iced coffee and sweets with salted buttered popcorn and a movie with the kids (done & done).


All the excitement did provide distraction from the fact that this is the last true weekend of the season. This week’s menu is an homage to many of my favorite summer things. I’m not ready to let it go. So more fruit, more tomatoes, more corn.

Weekly Menu:

Sunday: White Pizza with Roasted Garlic, Fontina, and Goat Cheese with Crunchy, Lemony Kale Salad and Melon with Cured Black Olives

Kale Salad. It really is good.

Monday: Grilled Skirt Steak (trying a La Esquina marinade from their forthcoming cookbook) with Charred Corn Tacos with Radish Zucchini Slaw (via Smitten Kitchen)

Tuesday: Orecchiette tossed with Roast, Marinated Tomatoes, Grilled Corn and Fresh Basil

Wednesday: Salmon Grilled on Cedar Planks with Cool Potato Salad, Sautéed Summer Squash and Tomatoes

Thursday: Shrimp Fajitas with Cabbage Slaw

Friday: Dinner out with Melisa to celebrate my birthday on Saturday. Where to go? Might be the garden at Vinegar Hill House or the one at Hudson Clearwater. Hmmm.

Saturday: My birthday!! I am off the hook for cooking, but looking forward to dinner Chez Gillespie.

Speaking of birthdays: here were two we just celebrated:

This one is called: "Fancy French Cake for a Five Year Old"

Seven year old strong!

Here’s to a September full of sweet summer days.

Weekly Menu, August 21-27 (Paris Parens)

Well, we really are back. Almost three weeks now, and still everyday, I miss our carefree lives overseas. I’ve been reluctant to post again, not wanting to break the spell of our magical month away. Keep it sacred. And yet, here we are in the City, back to reality. More on that later.

Our last two days in Paris we didn’t write about. Probably because we were too conflicted about our departure.

Paris was beautiful. Just as it was when we arrived, but hotter at the change of July to August. We cabbed it to Appartement Blanc on a Sunday, dropped our things, and went out in search of fun. We found it in the Tuileries, at the trampolines. Ten individual trampolines. Two Euro for five minutes of jumping. I would have paid more. The kids loved it. Brilliant, brilliant idea. I may quit my job and bring it to New York.

Jumping, jumping, jumping

Next stop, the amusement park in the Tuileries, where the kids honed their bumper car skills, among other thing. And then home, for dinner out on the square.

The next day, we woke up early(ish) and headed to our local cafe for pain au chocolat, fresh squeezed o.j., cafe creme and espresso. Our last day! Melisa and I wanted to take the kids to the pyramid at the Louvre. And we wanted to walk.

This plan was met with some resistance from the train fetishist, but walk we did, through the Right Bank, and to the Louvre.

Waiting for the metro, in the Marais

On the way discovering some gorgeous streets, shops, passages, like this one:

Here’s the obligatory picture of the kids in front of another monument.

At the pyramid

There was down time.

Time for everyone to get in something they need.

Including our budding photographer Magnolia (or was this Jasper?).

Time for more monuments. Here’s one of my favorites: Notre Dame.

And the resolution of the gelato v. glace smackdown: we declare a tie.

It's all good.

We had a great day!

And then we were off the next morning, too early, too soon. We had just arrived; how could we be going home?

Back at Charles de Gaulle

I took some comfort last week in the words of someone new I met. Try to make a little of every day a vacation. Why wait for those precious weeks every year?

Weekly Menu:

Sunday: Great day on the beach! Chasing it with our version of Diana Kennedy’s Shrimp in Adobo sauce, with rice, avocado, and scallions.

Monday: Pasta with fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil and parmesan, side salad with CSA lettuce

Tuesday: Skirt Steak marinated and grilled with summer squash

Wednesday: Date night for Melisa and I! The kids will have burgers on the grill.

Thursday: Chicken Fajitas with grilled onions, mushrooms, fresh salsa and guacamole

Friday: Grilled whole fish stuffed with scallions and herbs and tomato/cucumber salad

Saturday: Might be time again for pizza on the grill! Melisa and I are partial to a white pizza and the kids like margaritas

May your week be filled with starry nights, sunny days, and melon and olives!

The Glorious South, Part Deux (And Off to Paris)

Well, we’re headed back to Paris. On the high-speed train. Vineyards, sunflower fields flying by.

We’ve spent the last week in the South of France. We had planned to make some field trips to neighboring towns and cities—Uzès, where we’ve stayed before, for the market and the Pont du Gard; St. Remy de Provence, a beautiful little town for walking and exploring; Marseille for some deeper discovery of the harbor and winding streets, plus we had hoped to visit some new spots: Anduze, Toulouse, Carcassone. In the end, we stayed Chez Mousseron, enjoying the company and the pool, the local markets, shopping, and the beach.

As Melisa noted, the beach was a highlight. This time around we rented beach chaises at a private club. At last, my own cabana boy! Bringing me salade Niçoise! Rosé! A mojito! San Pellegrino! The kids playing in the Med in front of us. An umbrella thoughtfully put up for Melisa. A lovely and convenient bathroom, shower, and parking.

Folks, this is the way to hang at the beach. And I could have done it EVERY DAY.

The kids loved the beach, too. Even more, though, they loved Pirates Paradise, a restaurant we tried for lunch. Located in a huge outdoor shopping complex in Montpellier, Pirates Paradise is a theme park and eatery in one. There’s an entire pirate fight on the hour. A kids play area. Waitresses dressed up like pirate wenches, and waiters like pirates. You can eat in a galleon. Eat over the water. Eat in a pirate jail. It was entertaining, and the food wasn’t bad either.

Meanwhile, Melisa would have rather been exploring all those new cities I listed at the top. She gets a little high off of the new (whereas I get my high from il dolce far niente). One of the great things about being gone a month is that there is time to get a healthy dose of everyone’s individual interests and find some common ground.

This month marks the longest continuous period I’ve spent with my kids (and my wife for that matter) since they were born. I admit I was a little worried about how it would go. Thirty-three days is extreme togetherness, and as mentioned in previous posts, there have been the typical bumps in the road you might imagine on any trip.

At the market in Sommières

We’ve had FUN. We love road trips. We love ice cream, swimming, a gorgeous view. Exploring. Finding secret places. The promise of great food.

I’ve learned new things about my kids. I’m proud of what good travelers they’ve been. Both of them weathered the overnight flight here like pros, and walked off their jet lag in Paris. They’ve made friends in France and Italy. They’ve tried sausages, cured tomatoes, new fruits, fish, local specialties like tielles (seafood pies from Sète) and mussels, paella, olives, cheeses, meats. They’ve tried to speak French and Italian for niceties (hello, goodbye, please, thank you, excuse me). Gamely carried their own backpacks and pulled their suitcases through airports and train stations, up to taxis, cars and apartments.

And they have tried blend in with the locals on occasion.

So it’s with a heavy heart that we leave the South, knowing our days here are numbered. Yesterday, I cleared out the Mireva and drove it back to the rental company. We said our goodbyes to our generous hosts, who have fed us and entertained us (no small feat) for a week. Kim drove us to the train station and walked us to our couch to bid us bon voyage.

I’m not usually the one who is upset on departure; that’s Melisa’s department. But as soon as Kim was out of sight, I surprised myself by bursting into tears and crying on Melisa’s shoulder.

It’s all gone by so fast. Didn’t we just step off the plane, a whole month of friends and travel ahead of us?

A day and a half more in Paris, and then back on a plane to New York.

What a whirlwind.

Our plan is to make the most of the City of Light in the next 36 hours. After all, there is the gelato v. glace smackdown that needs to be solved, the Tuileries and the great pyramid at the Louvre still to see. There’s still some time to squeeze more of la belle vie out of this trip!

Honey, We Forgot to Bathe the Kids (and Other Ways to Tell You’re Happy)

You Were Here

Arrivederci, Italy!

Friday was our last full day in Chianti. We pulled out of the driveway on Saturday morning, Melisa and I teary, Magnolia looking glum. Jasper, true to form, turned bright eyes to the next stop on the Italian Riviera, and the promise of that “Cars 2” ice cream he was (still) hoping for at the hotel.

Big field trips marked the second week of our stay. While New York was suffering through a close to 100-degree heat wave, temperatures in Tuscany dipped from the 90’s to the mid-70’s. We missed the hot, dry days, (and tried to remember how much we’d long for cool weather the second we got home), and took the opportunity to do a bit more exploring.

Cortona charmed us. It’s a bit larger than the other hill towns we visited, but generally, everything seemed more local (less tourist-y), and more lively. This was a bit surprising as we were there, in part, to fulfill a wish of Melisa’s to see Bramasole.

Bramasole, Cortona

You might remember that Bramasole is writer Frances Mayes’s home, made famous in Under the Tuscan Sun. It’s pretty gorgeous. And we were far from the only tourists seeking it out. Still, somehow Cortona got to us, and we’d go back in a flash.

We traveled to Pisa, our longest journey from Chianti (about 1 1/2 hours), to see the leaning tower. Folks, it’s really leaning.

We were in luck; the tower has just been reinforced and cleaned, so it looks like a skinny lopsided wedding cake. Unfortunately, kids under 8 cannot climb to the top, so we did our viewing from below.


Florence, despite being only 1/2 an hour away from us, was a late addition to the agenda. We had planned on visiting Rome, but it was too complicated (and far, and expensive) from our outpost in Castellina. So we “settled” for Firenze, which in the end charmed us into spending two days exploring the red-roofed streets. We succumbed to an impulse we always resist in New York: the pull of the horse-drawn carriage. It was completely fun (if expensive); a lovely way to see the city.

The Meriva zipped in and out of the busy Florentine streets, batting off the velos and motorcycles that buzz like flies on the road. We stopped at the overlook on the way out of town and took pictures of the Duomo, the Campanile, everything. And of course, there was gelato.

Petale di Rosa at Festival de Gelato in Firenze

Our last day in Italy was also our best day. Melisa chose Siena, a city we had already visited and loved, for our destination. The day was bright and clear, and warm, and we wandered in and out of shops and up and down winding streets, into the Campo. The find was Antica Pizzicheria, where we stopped to order sandwiches, and were seduced by Antonio De Miccoli, the butcher and proprietor of the shop.


By seduced I mean with cheese, and wine (and Antonio’s big personality); first a bold Tuscan white, then a light, dry Vernaccia, and finally, a delicious Brunello. The wine kept coming, along with a board teeming with cheeses, bread, then cured tomatoes, delicious olive oil to taste, pastes (parsley, pestos, hot pepper, eggplant). More and more. Plus conversation. We were in heaven.

What were the kids doing, you may ask? Running in and out of the little shop and taking bits of cheese and bread. Playing hide and seek among the velos outside. Happy.

We left sated, poorer, and very very glad to have pushed aside the soft red strings that passed as a doorway and asked if they could make us a panini.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the best way: sleepy and poolside, under the bright sun.

Last pic of the pool, promise.

Could it get any better? It could. Date night! Mimma & Franco, our hosts, agreed to watch the kids so Melisa and I could have one night out for dinner. We chose Osteria Le Panzanelle in nearby Lucarelli. What a place. The meal started with prosecco and ended with panna cotta, the highlight being (besides the company) an amazing Spaghetti di Pesticcia (house-made spaghetti with mushrooms and pork sausage). What was in it? I wish I knew. I think I tasted a bit of cinnamon. It was heaven.

This wine was another highlight of the meal.

In short, we loved our trip here. Specifically:

Waking up and looking out over the Italian countryside.

Morning from our bedroom window.

Our incredible view from the terrace. Our hosts. The drive from San Donato to Castellina, all rolling hills and mountaintops.

A view from my favorite drive

The food. Walking through the sleepy villages.

Climbing the ramparts in Monteriggioni

Radda in Chianti

Visiting Radda in Chianti

Stepping up to a counter and saying Buon Giorno.

The kids had a slightly different take. They loved: gelato everyday, pool everyday. They loved having two children about their age at the house to play with for two weeks, hide and seek in the yard and in the cities we visited, the tree swing on the terrace below, making flags with new friends, and running amok.

They loved (as did we) the Australian family who was at the big house up the hill our first week, also on a month-long holiday, hanging out at the pool with us. The three older kids raced in the pool, and fetched coins from the bottom, and were universally kind and sweet to our two little ones.

Jas & Nola loved castles, and ramparts of the small hill towns. They loved the carriage ride we took through Florence.

Secret tunnel in Castellina

Il Campo in Siena. They loved the campaniles, the tunnel in Castellina. The playground in Radda. Carousels. They loved having the mommies around all day. Pasta almost every meal. Mud baths.

Jasper loved the lizards scurrying around our house, helping shop at the Coop (the local grocery store) and the iPad. Magnolia the swing, the butterflies (that flit in one window and out a door all day) and her power-bikini.

Here’s one barometer of happiness: the kids probably got bathed 3 times. Remember they were in the pool everyday. We  just shined it on, and they certainly weren’t going to argue.

Italy, we loved ya. And we’ll be back!

A parting gift of lavender

Gelato, Everyday


There are many things I love about Italy. Gelato, however, deserves a special place.

How many different flavors have we tried? Let’s see:

  • Cioccolato (chocolate)
  • Cioccolato Fondente (Dark Chocolate)
  • Cioccolato al Peperoncino (Chocolate and hot pepper)
  • Pistachio
  • Torrincino (chocolate, cream & honey)
  • Fior di Latte (Milk Flower- kind of like sweet cream)
  • Stracciatella (Vanilla Chocolate Chip)
  • Bacio (Chocolate hazelnut)
  • Cremino (Nutella with hard chocolate topping)
  • Nutella
  • Tirimisu
  • Menthe
  • Sex on the Beach (better than the drink: Nutella, Caffe, and Tirimisu combined)
  • Caffe
  • Antica Deliza (the home flavor of our local gelataria-vanilla, caffe, with some sort of vanilla wafer crushed in it)
  • Amaretto
  • Pinolata (Pine Nut)
  • Smarties (Vanilla with m&m’s)
  • Salted Carmel

Not to mention the fruit flavors:

  • Melone (Cantaloupe)
  • Limone
  • Fragola (Strawberry)
  • Peche
  • Pompelmo Rosa (Pink Grapefruit)

And finally: the flavor I was afraid would get away! Petale di Rosa. Did it live up to the hype? Not exactly, but the thrill of the hunt made it great. The kids were so caught up in the mystique of the rosa that they chose it too: Jasper paired it with Menthe (does everything go with Menthe? Jasper thinks so) and Magnolia with Chocolate (and she’s right; everything goes with chocolate).

Star-Crossed Gelato Picks:

  • Chrissy: Bacio & Pistachio (Pistachio! Who knew?)
  • Melisa: Bacio & Caffe (tho Melisa notes that the Cioccolato Fondente sorbetto she had would be her favorite single flavor selection)
  • Jasper: Menthe & Stracciatella (Menthe paired with all sorts of flavors for Jas)
  • Magnolia: Cioccolato & Melone (picked over and over)

Tomorrow, our last day in Italy, may be time for GELATO FOR BREAKFAST.

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