3 Reasons Why “My Stylish French Box” is a Must-Have

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Bonjour 
from the dismal depths of winter, my friends!  I live smack-dab in the middle of the country, where the National Weather Service describes winters as “brisk and stimulating”. Clearly, that phrase hasn’t been revised in a while because this season has been exceptionally wet, cold and gray.

So it was with much surprise and pleasure on one of those dreary days that I received the February edition of My Stylish French Box, courtesy of creator Sharon Santoni and her team!

If you’re not familiar with Sharon, she’s a gorgeous British expat, living a gorgeous life in France, as documented by her gorgeous blog, My French Country Home, as well as in numerous books and a similarly titled magazine.

My Stylish French Box is one of Sharon’s latest ventures offering women an elevated subscription box experience.  These unique and carefully curated packages are full of beautiful and elegant delights from France.

This particular box’s theme is La Parisienne and it totally delivered – here are the top three reasons why you really, really need one in your life:

  1.  My Stylish French Box Takes You To France Without Leaving Your Home
  2. It’s been a lifelong goal of mine to travel to France.  While my work and family demands are many, and a trip isn’t quite in the cards yet, I truly felt I was experiencing a little bit of this glorious country as I inspected every item in the box.  I’m a big believer in engaging all the senses to truly experience life, and short of listening to Edith Piaf (I did enjoy a glass of wine while perusing my box), I was transported!

  3. Cards Logo PNGCharming note cards and watercolor print by famed French artist,
    Jean-Jacques Sempé.

  4. Candle LogoA heavenly-smelling La Note Parisienne candle with notes of orange flower, tuberose, jasmine, rose and fig. 

  5. 2.  My Stylish French Box Allows You To Spoil Yourself Without Feeling Guilty
    For a mere fraction of the combined retail price of each item that is included in the MSFB, you are able to enjoy all this delightful beauty for what is really a steal!
  6. Make Up PNGOdile Bailloeul velvet pochette featuring a beautiful view of Paris.  A perfect shade of red lipstick by Pierre Ricaud and Annick Goutal’s Nuit et Confidences perfume with gold carrying case. Excellent for handbags!

  7. 3.  My Stylish French Box Offers One-Of-A-Kind Treasures
    In a world dominated by run-of-the-mill big-box store buys, it’s nice to have the opportunity to have items that not everyone else has.  Sure, I can go to Target and get the latest and greatest, but so can the entire St. Louis population.  I mean, how adorable is this little antique pill box and boutique soap?  You’re not going to find this stuff on Amazon, people.

Pill Box PNGThe delicate paper pill-box is the perfect size in which to keep my pearl necklace. The La Savonnerie de la Chapelle soap will be lovely in the guest bath.  

For more information on how you can subscribe, go to mystylishfrenchbox.com, but you’ll need to hurry.  There are a limited number of boxes available every month and they sell out very quickly.

Until next time, I hope you embrace your inner La Parisienne!

(Le Béret Français – my most favorite item!)

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A Happy Place

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I have one.

My husband has one.

My neighbors and colleagues have one.

And you have one, too.

In fact, I would wager that everyone has one.

A Happy Place.

A place, physical or mental, where we retreat to when we want to feel inspired, joyful, comforted and still.

Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounding Lowcountry is my happy place.

I first visited about four years ago and had a kind of spiritual awakening. The way the sun sets over Shem Creek with soft, silky colors; the way a freshly fried crab cake melts on your tongue as it’s chased down with a Seersucker gin and tonic; the way the air, tinged with salt water ,feels on your skin as you explore the gorgeous historic homes lined with cobblestone streets…well, to me, is magical.

Beauty abounds everywhere you look.  Cheerful window boxes greet you as you stroll by downtown’s restaurants and shops.

 

And speaking of restaurants, the Charleston area has some of the best cuisine anywhere in the country.  Some of my favorites include the Brown Dog Deli, Hank’s, Magnolias and Acme Lowcountry.

It doesn’t matter how many times I visit, my jaw still drops at the incredible architecture all around.

Wonderful shopping abounds as well.  I make sure to always stop at the historic City Market, established in the 1790’s as a place of socialization and commmerce, where one can peruse four city blocks worth of local arts and crafts, clothing, foodstuffs and anything one could want with the Palmetto Moon motif.

Charleston loses none of its charm in the evening when the gas lanterns are lit and the city is becomes very romantic.  I dare you to walk in the city at night and not to feel tingly, like the first time you met your love.  I tell you, this place is saturated with enchantment.

Perhaps one of my favorite excursions this year was our sunset sail aboard the lovely Charleston Pride schooner, a replica of an 18th century three-mast sailing ship.  We explored the Charleston harbor, watching dolphins leap out of the water to say hello and admire the city’s most famous homes by White Point Gardens.  The crew couldn’t have been nicer and I was stunned by the magnificent views from the water.

sunset cruise

It’s always hard for me to say goodbye to this lovely place and I’m currently counting down until I can return again.  Stay tuned for an upcoming post about the best home tour I’ve ever taken that was in this area!

Until next time, I hope you get to visit and stay awhile in your happy place!

For more information about  Charleston and surrounding Lowcountry areas mentioned in this post, visit charlestoncvb.com.  

You too can be a Bad-Ass!

God love my husband. Last Valentine’s Day he gave me what I considered to be at the time, the worst gift ever.

“A self-help book??” I shrieked.

“Well, it seemed like it was something that would be totally up your alley,” protested my husband.

“Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about hearts and candy and flowers and shit like that,” I huffed. “NOT introspection.”

“Well, I thought you’d like it,” replied my husband.

I rolled my eyes in disgust and shoved the book back in the bag. I stomped up to our room where I tossed the bag down and hoped my husband had something better up his sleeve. The book stayed there for months, gathering dust in the corner of my room, until I was preparing for a long cross-country flight.

I hadn’t time to get anything new so I begrudgingly stuffed it in my bag before my flight to read if I was hopelessly bored or anxious during the journey (side note: I am a very nervous flier. Like, I dig my nails and gasp audibly into my husband’s arms during take-off, any turbulence, direction changes, whether or not the seat-belt lights turns on or off, at the general facial expressions of the flight-attendants and so forth. Flying with me is not enjoyable and I own up to it.).

After we had safely made it to our cruising altitude, I unclenched my eyes, fists and legs, and looked out the window at the clouds below to ponder my current state of affairs.

While I could count my blessings with my fabulous husband and son, my beautiful house and terrific friends, I was caught in a swirling mess of self-doubt about my career and my life goals. I suppose you could call it my mid-life-crisis as I had turned 40 earlier that summer. Anyhow, I was tired of my anxiety about my future and tired of the status quo. Who was I? What was I meant to do? What about my dreams?

Hurtling through the sky at hundreds of miles an hour, faced with my own existential crisis, I took out my book to distract myself, as I was, quite literally and metaphorically, stuck.

As I read, I thought, “There is no way….how is she in my head?” The author eerily detailed my frustrations. As I read further, I started to get pumped. I felt as if she had written this book just for me and was giving me the best pep talk I’d ever had.

Post-landing, I turned to my husband (after I released him from a veritable headlock) and said, “Wow. I’m really glad you gave me this book.” He smiled quietly at me and grabbed my hand as we exited the plane.

Reading this book is probably one of the best things I have ever done. I won’t go into a whole lot of detail here, because I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but I will say that you should NOT read this book if you’re not willing to really to get a fire lit under your ass to work toward your dream, whatever that is. It’s going to take a lot of self-reflection and digging deep to figure out what it is that you really want. That can be scary. But once you’ve done it and claim your power, nothing can stop you!

Since reading the book, good things have happened. Not magical by any means, but things that tell me I’m on the right path. I’m on my way to being a total Bad-Ass, and you can too! (Thank you, hubby.)

Until next time, keep dreaming big!

You can find “How to Be A Bad-Ass” by Jen Sincero at most major book retailers.

Linzer Cookie recipe

Do you have a favorite recipe that once you smell or taste it it immediately transports you to another place and time? For me that’s my mom’s linzer cookie recipe. One whiff of these incredible treats baking in the oven and I’m nine-years-old again, feeling the magic of childhood course through my veins.

It’s been a pretty cold and drab winter thus far, so we baked these together on an icy night to put a little love in our hearts.

My mother’s hands are not as youthful looking as they once were, but it amazes me every time she works the dough or mixes the ingredients together how strong and deft they still are. She sails around my kitchen as if she knows it inside and out taking command of our baking project with her expertise. I am lucky to have her! (And these cookies!)

Linzer Cookie Recipe

1 cup butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp almond, vanilla or lemon extract

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups flour

Raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix butter, powdered sugar, flavoring and salt in a bowl; beat at medium speed until everything is well blended.

Cover and chill dough in a bowl in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.

Roll out dough on lightly floured pastry board or countertop to 1/4 thickness. Use cookie cutters to make designs, making sure to use a smaller cookie cutter for top cookie design.

Place in oven on lined cookie sheet for 8 minutes or until edges are slightly golden brown.

Allow to cool on wire cookie racks or cookie sheets.

Once cooled, spread raspberry jam on one cookie. Place another cookie with cut-out on top to make sandwich.

Enjoy!

Book Review: Prairie Fires – The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

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There seems to be a wealth of new publications being released about my favorite author and her life. From the re-release of “Pioneer Girl”, Laura’s autobiography, to “Caroline”, a historical fictional account of Laura’s sainted mother, to “Laura Ingalls is Ruining my Life”, a humorous book for the angst-y tween set, Laura is coming again to the forefront of popular culture.

When I heard that a new historical analysis of Laura’s life was recently released, I just knew I was going to have to read it, despite having reservations about what I was going to discover inside. I’m sure many of you out there have a hero that you’ve put on a pedestal, either from childhood or adulthood, who is your ideal human being, somebody who can really do no wrong. Laura is kind of that for me, although having already read her autobiography (which is excellent) I had an idea of what to expect.

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Laura at the start of her writing career, age 50.

In “Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder” by Caroline Fraser,  Laura’s “truth” about the tales she spun in her Little House books is minutely and thoughtfully examined. What is wonderful about this particular book is that it gives a detailed historical look into what was going on in the United States at the time of Laura’s life. It wasn’t just that the Ingalls family decided to up and move every few years based on Charles Ingalls’ wandering spirit fueled by fresh American optimism. The Industrial Revolution, Washington politics, economic policies, racism, sexism and environmental disasters all played a huge part in the migration of the Ingalls and Wilder families from East to West.

Together with her journalist daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, the two writers forged a new reality for young readers, carefully sifting through the most unpleasant aspects of Laura’s childhood to create a book series that would focus almost exclusively on the family’s successes while leaving the most devastating failures out.

“All I have told is the truth, but not the whole truth,” Laura later said.  The real truth, as it happened, was too painful to record.  The Ingalls family hit some pretty low points between Charles Ingalls’ inability to successfully provide for his family, to the untimely death of a baby brother and a rather bleak period when the family had to work at a hotel to pay off their debts.   These episodes, Laura felt, were too difficult for young readers to understand and destroyed the idealized family picture she was trying to create.

The biggest bombshell of the entire book for me was the exploration of the dispositions and relationships of Rose, co-author/editor of the Little House series.

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Rose testifying in 1939 before a Congressional subcommittee
as a self-identified “revolutionist”.  

PSYCHO HOSE BEAST.  Every page I read that included Rose I found myself shaking my head in disbelief.

Deeply ashamed and angry about her parents’ poverty, the resentment she felt in childhood spilled over into her adulthood, forcing her to make some very, very bad and unethical decisions in her career and personal life.   As she grew older, Rose blamed those same bad decisions on her parents, especially her mother.  In fact, Rose thought nothing of plagiarizing her mother’s stories for her own benefit and was said one day to  have looked on while her mother fell on the ground and refused help, according to a long time Mansfield resident. Suffering from life-long depression and relationship failures, it seems hard to believe that Rose could have helped her mother shape such tender family vignettes in the Little House books.  Perhaps Rose was better at her chosen vocation, shaping make-believe characters and story lines rather than dealing with the emotions and trials of real life.

The life that inspired the Little House series was “filled with light and shadow,” as Laura called it and “Prairie Fires” is a reflection of that.  Rarely are people and their circumstances solely black and white.  Human beings are complicated, multifaceted beings and “Prairie Fires” manages to shed light on the fact that Laura was no exception.  Laura believed in self-reliance and publicly disavowed Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, but never acknowledged the fact that she and her family were recipients of government aid when resources hit rock bottom.  She was a strong and independent individual but she actively campaigned against women’s right to vote in the early part of the 20th century.  Laura endorsed a simple, quiet life but was known to have a quick temper and would nag her husband mercilessly in order to get what she wanted.

“Prairie Fires” is a must-read for anyone interested in a grittier, complicated, and deeply emotional look into the life and times of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Until next time, read on!

Combating the Christmas Cranks

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So, I’m just going to lay this out there – up until pretty recently I really, really hated Christmastime.

I know, I know.  I can hear the audible gasps out there.  I’ve got friends and family who literally cartwheel into Christmas, decking the halls, posting daily shenanigans of their “Elf on the Shelf” on social media and create gingerbread houses worthy of display at the Smithsonian Museum.  But, up until now, I have not been one of them.

I think my contempt for Christmas started when I was much younger, witnessing my poor mother labor endlessly over food, presents and decorating in an effort to make everything magical for us at home.  There was more than one holiday when my mom was exhausted, sick and upset as December 25th approached and my elementary-school- age id ego could never understand what all the fuss was about.

Jeez, why is mom so crabby?,” I’d ask my little sister.
“I dunno,” she’d answer as  we’d cram another Oreo in our mouths while watching “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” for the twelfth time in a row.

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As I grew older and had a child of my own, it really hit home how much work it is for a woman to put on a show during the season.  Consider the following lists of to-dos I have tried to accomplish over the years:

  • Buying seasonal flair and lights for outside of house
  • Putting up seasonal flair and lights for outside of house
  • Buying seasonal flair for inside of house
  • Putting up seasonal flair inside of house
  • Securing photo for Christmas cards
  • Ordering Christmas cards
  • Addressing and sending Christmas cards
  • Buying presents
  • Wrapping presents
  • Buying food for meals
  • Preparing meals
  • Serving meals
  • Cleaning up the flippin’ meals
  • Researching recipes and baking cookies
  • Buying a tree
  • Decorating the tree
  • Making sure pets don’t kill the tree
  • Volunteering for children’s holiday school and church activities
  • Finding perfect holiday activities for family and paying for them
  • Buying, washing , ironing clothes for holiday travel, special events and photos
    And on, and on, and on………………………..

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I was spending so much time stressing on the things that don’t matter, that I fell head first into a mental and spiritual crisis every time I heard, “The Christmas Song” on the radio the day after Thanksgiving.  I began to panic, feeling the pressure of what I thought was expected of me from family and friends every December.  I would find myself in tears wrapping presents or shouting at my husband during shopping excursions because I was wound up so tightly.

So what happened to help me turn around and actually enjoy the countdown to Christmas?

I got some mother-effin’ perspective.

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With the help of a fantastic book, called “The Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking, I reigned in the red and green beast and reclaimed the jolly holiday as my own.

Here’s how:

  1. Joy is found in simple things.  
    I was spending waaaay too much on gifts for my family every year, thereby accruing a pretty signficant credit card bill because I thought I had to show my love through giving lots of  expensive, over-the-top gifts.  One or two simple gifts per person is just fine! Hey, Jesus got just three!
  2. Embrace nature.
    This year I got rid of all the fake greenery, trees and other shit in my house so I could bring in live greenery from the free clippings pile at Home Depot. I am also forcing paperwhite, tulip and daffodil bulbs in beautiful crystal dishes that I had stocked away in my cabinets gathering dust.  Not only does it smell incredible in my house right now, but I am really enjoying the beauty that is added from using natural materials.  In addition, bundle up and go for a walk outside – it does wonders for your mood!
  3. Get cozy.
    Find your softest clothes, blankets and cuddle like you’ve never cuddled before with those you love.  Studies show those who spend time cuddling experience less anxiety, depression and loneliness during the holidays than those who don’t.
  4. Say NO.
    This year I am saying no to doing a huge Christmas card mailing,  over extending myself with volunteer opportunities, buying in to Christmas television advertising hype, spending time anybody in my life who drains my energy and morale, and anything else that isn’t making me feel all the Christmas feels.  Saying no is truly liberating!
  5. Focus on experiences.
    Christmas isn’t about stuff, it’s about doing things you enjoy with those you love, creating memories that will be around long after the toys break, the iphones are outdated and the clothes go out of style.
  6. Schedule self-care moments
    Stop making excuses as to why you can’t do something nice for yourself this season.  Take a bath, read a book, book a massage, buy the outfit, get a babysitter for a night out — just do something that makes you feel good.  Nobody will ever care as much about yourself as you!

Cheers to you all and until next time, be good to yourselves this Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

Oktoberfest || Maeystown, Illinois

Little Prairie Girl visits a charming fall celebration in historic Maeystown, Illinois.

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Autumn is hands-down my favorite time of year. The changing leaves, the color palette of burgundy, gold, persimmon and chocolate, bonfires, hayrides, warm sweaters, flannel blankets, mulled wine…just listing this stuff of dreams is making me tingly!

I try to take advantage of as many fall festivals as possible, so I can really soak in the beauty of the season, but it gets hard because there is so much to choose from every week in our area beginning in September right through the winter holidays.

One of the best events, in my opinion, is the most excellent Oktoberfest hosted by the uber-charming of Maeystown, Illinois.

The tiny village (population 157 in 2010) is nestled on a hillside next to a beautiful creek and definitely feels as though time stopped sometime in the late 1800’s. Only street signs and a few parked cars here and there give it away that the village really does exist in modern times.

Oktoberfest is usually held on the second Sunday of October every year, and yes, I do mark it on my calendar a year in advance! Some of my best antiques have come from this show and you can bet your sweet bippy I’ll be at their spring show too!

Here are just some of the many treasures I saw that day…

turkey platebrass cottonrussian plaquesweet annie

chestcandlesFor more information on the history of Maeystown and other events, visit maeystown.com.

Until next time, get out there and enjoy fall!