Saturday, December 20, 2008
These cooking classes are actually for members of the Biltmore's Cellar Club. Luckily for us, or at least my husband, in this case we knew the right person and the chef had reserved a table for us and several other family members, including my grandmother and the chef's in-laws. This would seem to be a fairly pleasant mix of people, but as we were to find out, we had mostly "chefs" at our table and not so many cooks.
One way that members are put into the right frame of mind before firing up the old bunsen burners is copious amounts of champagne. Although I was pregnant at the time and not drinking, I never saw a nearby glass even half empty before it was refilled. I guess the thought is that if your version of the food comes out tasting less-than-celestial, you won't really notice because your taste buds will be numb.
I'll have to thank my husband (again) for capturing the profound moment below. Other unnamed family members will joke that this was my reaction to being told that I would in fact be cooking. However, not only did I cook, but I volunteered to cook the hardest of three courses - Cajun Jambalaya. This is where I found out that my previously docile cast members were really irascible French chefs in hiding. Everything from the burner flames to the spices and cooking time were scrutinized with no regard for the word-for-word instructions that I was getting from my uncle who stood 10 feet in front of me. Apparently the champagne was working.
But despite the well-intentioned commentary from our table, and the reduction of spices to about one-third of what we were supposed to have, the jambalaya, while smelling great, was inedible. If watering eyes and perspiration are any indication, this was about an 8 on the thermal Richter scale. I'm sure champagne consumption increased after this dish. Luckily we had all eaten the first course along with plenty of bread, so none of us were starving. What can I say, my uncle likes it hot.
And here above is my dear Paola, who now looks like this:
Friday, December 5, 2008
This is how it works: Post a link to the blog that challenged you and add these rules to your post.
Share 7 things about yourself. Challenge 7 other blogs at the end of your post through naming their blog, and post a link to it. Let them know they've been challenged by leaving a comment in their blog.
2. I have an older sister named Maria, actually my parents named her Graciella Maria, but when I began to talk, I shortened it to just Maria and that's the way it stayed. She was born in Caracas, Venezuela. Our father was a banker at the time and got moved around a lot. She now teaches children suffering from autism which I find extremely remarkable, and is the mother of two.
3. I have a younger sister named Victoria, 11 years my junior. The true "baby" of the family she is just getting ready to go off to college next year. She is a violinist and wants to major in musicology. She attends an all-girls Catholic high school and in an effort to differentiate herself from the status quo recently lopped off most of her hair.
4. I attended boarding school at The Harid Conservatory, in order to train full-time to be a professional dancer. Prior to that I trained at the Miami City Ballet School and the School of American Ballet in NYC. Over four years, I performed every children's role in Miami City Ballet's The Nutcracker, including the lead role of "Marie" in 1991. After high school, I spent a summer at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School in Canada, during which I decided to quit ballet altogether. Except for a handful of classes here and there, I've never danced since.
5. I speak French and Italian in addition to my native English and Spanish. I spent an entire year in Europe working on becoming a polyglot. I lived with a family in Chambery, France for 4 months and 7 months on Florence, Italy. I did quite a bit of traveling on my own during that year, going to Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Stockholm, Venice, and many more cities....all by myself! Who says women can't travel on their own?
6. Upon my return from Italy, I attended Davidson College in North Carolina. This was a major culture shock for me. I had never been to the South, and for once I understood what it meant to be a "minority." I enjoyed my two years there, majoring in Religion...a really useful degree :).
7. After a few futile attempts at finding a job in the non-profit sector, I succumbed to the charm and benefits of Alhambra Antiques, and the rest is history! I'm now married and have three wonderful children. I LOVE to travel and eat good food.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
For the past several years, ever since my sister and her husband moved to Atlanta, we have been traveling there (here) for the holiday. With the exception of last year when we went to Puerto Rico to visit our cousins instead. The Atlantans went as well and it was a trip worthy of quite a number of blog entries as the number of fiascos was quite numerous for such a short holiday.
Doug, Paola, and I drove up yesterday, a trip my husband had hoped would be shorter without the other two children (who flew up with their grandparents) but that actually turned out to be longer because of Paola's frequent and time consuming eating schedule. So the flat Floridian landscape ended up being flatter and longer than we both remembered it. We also purchased an audio book with the high hopes that we could enrich our minds while passing the time, but instead the monotonous voice coming from the speakers tended to induce sleep for whoever was driving. Still, listening to the memoir (Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer) made me long to write for myself and I remembered regretfully that I have neglected my writing.
And with the blink of an eye, the holidays--holy days--have arrived. A magical time in which everything is decorated and the family that we ignore and forget about during the busy grind of quotidian life comes together to live a little more. May the "saint"of giving grant us the gift of time this season.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Today is Paola Emmanuelle's fourth day of life. She was born on Thursday, November 6th at 1:25pm, weighing 6lbs 9oz, and measuring 19inches. She is a beautiful baby and has been very kind to her mommy so far, eating and sleeping well. While my third pregnancy definitely lacked the "magic" or eternal "happy expectation" that the previous ones did, these past few days of the miracle of life have not. The beauty and love that are experienced during the birth of a child are simply immeasurable. The dichotomy between the pain and joy make both those emotions multiply into a sort of ecstacy which is hard to describe let alone compare. There are parts of motherhood I find very challenging and difficult in that they are not in my nature. But not this stage. In this stage of feedings, nurturing, and instinctual behavior I find I am more "me" than at any other time. I feel I am my true self. So, I have fallen in love once again. For the fourth time. ( My husband being the first.) Cecilia Frances. Marcelo Tomas. Paola Emmanuelle. And I thank God. For so many Blessings and so much Love. Thank you.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Cecilia and Marcelo had no fear this past weekend climbing all over the pumpkins at the pumpkin patch. They both dove right in much to the dismay of the vendors. I managed to match their clothes again for the season. It isn't always easy to do this as Cecilia is venturing into the "big" girl category of clothes and most brands make little boys' (and girls') clothing look like miniature star clothes. I'm a traditionalist and I won't dress my kids like a small version of Hanna Montana and Justin Timberlake. The outfits in these photos are from Papo d'Anjo, which my friend Coco represents at her trunk shows. It's all made in Portugal and superb quality.
I also let them eat on the fine china they were given as birth gifts, so we've lost a couple of Tiffany bowls by now, but I don't mind. Last week Cecilia dropped a porcelain Royal Doulton "bunnykins" bowl she was taking to the sink and she was devastated. "Mommy, my bunny plate...I LOVE my glass plates, Mommy." Then she proceeded to make attempts at explaining to me how we could just put it back together, or take it to Omar, our store's in-house restorer, as "he can fix anything." I was so proud of her expressing a love for the differentiation between plastic and porcelain. Marcelo on the other hand is in an only plastic phase as he wants to only feed himself and likes to throw things on the floor once he's had enough. Though when I feed him his cereal in the morning I use a porcelain plate, as I keep it in my hand. He's become quite independant lately and is talking a lot which is so fun. His favorite toy is a set of Le Creuset silicone pinch bowls my mom has at her house. They are in four colors and he can now identify them all, in Spanish, of course. Tux, my sister's Boston Terrier chewed one up a little bit and he was really upset about it. I think I'm going to buy him his own set soon. Thanks for indulging me in my more personal blog today...counting down the days to Paola's due date, 3 weeks to go (if I make it)!
Friday, October 17, 2008
This fabulous line of necklaces and earrings was created by the Parisian firm of R. Woloch. He created jewelry for fashion houses such as Dior and Chanel in the 1950s. These designs were used primarily for runway models and fashion shoots. The necklaces are hand-fashioned from glass and Swarovski crystal. It's impressive how detailed and well-made these are. And they have attitude - which I love! It's amazing what I nice piece of jewelry can do for your frame of mind when going out. In the bottom picture, I'm wearing my favorite necklace of the group because of its asymmetrical design (and it conveniently matched the dress I was wearing that night - how lucky!). Alas, back to reality.
In addition to the items pictured below, more from this line can be seen here.
As some of you might have seen, I took these beautiful pieces to a segment on CBS4 as well as NBC6. I still haven't been able to upload the videos, but I'm working on it. The CBS4 segment can be seen here.
Friday, October 10, 2008
I've had so many things to write about that it's given me writer's block. Isn't that ironic? So I'm postponing the jewelry post for one of my "truly dancing through Paris" posts. These photos were taken on my trip last month (I can't believe it was just last month, it seems like it was ages ago) at the Sunday markets of Provence.
French cheese, anyone? I love cheese. I can eat a LOT of cheese. I almost look pregnant in that last picture. I'm almost 35 weeks now and counting down! My belly is a lot bigger than that in the photo. Next Tuesday I have an ultrasound and will get an idea of how big (or small) this baby is going to be. Cecilia was 8 lbs and Marcelo was 5 1/2 lbs so I'm hoping for something in between.
When in France I must have my daily "pain au chocolat". My favorite is in Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue, at this little "boulangerie". I was the total tourist and took pictures there too, luckily the "boulanger" obliged.
This boulangerie is very close to the central cathedral in Isle, so we usually go to the Sunday morning mass and then pick up our fresh breakfast to eat at a sidewalk cafe with a cafe au lait. Our purchases from this last trip are already crossing the Atlantic, so if everything goes well, it will arrive before the baby. I purchased the most exceptional collection of antique crowns I have honestly ever seen. Stunning jewels, original gilding, etc. I also purchased a collection of antique embroidered napkins that I look forward to offering in the shop. Enjoy my pictures...I took lots more to follow in future posts, including of some of the great dishes I ate!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
My first segment for South Florida Today was with Roxanne Vargas. She was wonderful. She has such great television presence - she's beautiful, charismatic and elegant. We asked her to wear a piece of our jewelry for the segment and she not only obliged, but even wore the piece to do another promo and to do general news. I have to say she looked wonderful.
The segment was pretty fast, not enough time to go into much detail, but it was fun to do. I'm fairly certain I was tongue-tied through the entire process. Being 8 months pregnant, I've eliminated all of my morning caffeine intake, and I think it showed. And I had to get up early that morning to get my makeup done before driving to the studio in Broward.
The second segment was for Telemundo's Buenos Dias. Telemundo is a Spanish-language station here in South Florida. Being Cuban-American with a professor for a mother, I consider my Spanish very good, but I was amazed at how much more eloquent I felt in the second segment. Maybe I was starting to wake up here. In reality, my mother will let me know whether or not I was actually eloquent, but I felt more comfortable articulating my thoughts. My husband reminded me in between takes that I hadn't eaten breakfast, so the granola bar I ate might have helped also. As soon as we figure out how to load the videos, they'll be up for viewing. And next I'll write about this fabulous jewelry I brought back from Paris.
Monday, September 29, 2008
On this particular night we were also unveiling a collection of works from a wonderful artist named Marguerite Ghy-Lemm. Most of her works that we obtained are from the 1920s and 1930s. The scenes are mostly of Paris and the surrounding areas. You can see more here. I do love her work and find it very whimsical and romantic. She and her husband were both accomplished painters in Paris in the early 20th century. It is hard to find a collection of this size, so it was a good day of shopping for me.
A portion of the proceeds from the event is going to Amigos For Kids, which helps disadvantaged youth here in South Florida. They do great work and we're happy to support them and their endeavors.
Overall it was a wonderful night. It's a guilty pleasure to throw such a great party. We had the event catered by a wonderful local French catering company, Thierry's. I highly recommend them if you're local to South Florida. They were very professional and the food was great. We were a little nervous because far more people RSVPd than we expected, but it went off without a hitch and no one went hungry (and nothing was broken).
I was also excited to be interviewed by three local tv stations for the event. Once I figure out how to post video here, I will load one or two. In the meantime, I will post a few pics from the party below including these two beautiful ladies directly below. To the left is Karla Ferguson, who is in the process of opening up the Yeleen Art Gallery in Wynwood area of Miami. I know that a website is in the works. And to the right is Coco Palenque Torre who supplies many of the beautiful clothes my kids wear (another guilty pleasure). Cheers to my local girls!
Friday, August 29, 2008
Cecilia has been overwhelming the two of us lately with all her "wants", she is constantly asking for something, a new toy, new shoes, new movies. Wherever we go whether it be the supermarket or Target, she believes she deserves to get something. She is truly in a "me" centered world. And I don't think we have ever been excessive parents with her. Yes, she has a room full of toys and dolls but I know plenty of people whose kids have a lot more toys than Cecilia. When I told her I was leaving to France, her first question was: "are you going to bring me something?" No questions about why or how long. The only other question was "why can't I go too, you took me when I was a baby?" I was almost comforted by this question. At least she had some other interest than acquiring more "stuff."
We've decided to put her in a soccer mini-league to help her learn some athletic skills as well as (hopefully) some concentration. In typical fashion her main concerns were 1. "winning the soccer trophy" and 2. wearing the "right" clothes. I succumbed to buying her the right clothes, though hesitated, because she did look rather ridiculous in her plaid bermuda shorts. I've never bought her sportswear because I'm such a sucker for nice clothes. Alas, in this situation it was only appropriate. Soccer is not the most feminine sport but I figure she can always take ballet later. I need something that will wear her out! And she's going to take violin as well. Keeping my fingers crossed on the concentration there.
I'm off to pack--my least favorite thing in the world. It just makes me anxious. I hope to take lots of pictures and come back with lots of stories about the French. Stay tuned.
Friday, August 1, 2008
I am writing in reference to the Nancy Keates’ article published by the WSJ on Friday, July 25, 2008 on the cover of the Weekend Journal titled “New Bargains on Old Furniture; As 18th- and 19th-Century Antiques Fall Out of Favor, Prices Are Plummeting.”
I should start by letting you know that our business was interviewed and misquoted for this article, which is of direct consequence to me and my business. Aside from the misquote, we were most disconcerted by the fact that the article painted a grim picture of an industry that in our firsthand experience is doing remarkably well and experiencing growth, for those who have known how to adapt to the changing market. Suggesting that all antiques are unfavorable and unfashionable can only hurt us. I cannot understand with what motive Nancy Keates or the WSJ would publish such detrimental “news”. I will begin with the reference to our store.
The article states: “
We never stated that we were cutting our prices by 30%. At the time of the interview, we were having a limited-time seasonal summer sale on garden furniture only and those items were discounted 30%. We have already received phone calls and a visit from your readers expecting such discounts. When I pointed out to one of those callers, that my marbletop tables are in the $4,000-$7,000 range, he seemed flabbergasted. “Those aren’t bargains!” he rightfully exclaimed. I am requesting that this significant material misrepresentation be corrected by your newspaper.
We are posting our inventory on our website, but only to increase our sales. Any retail business in the
Ms. Keates made untrue blanket statements about the antiques market by lumping Victorian bric-a-brac sold on Ebay with the quality, trendy antiques sold by us or our peers. The article states, “Younger consumers want more casual, cleaner lines, just as they do with clothing.” This is absolutely true, and the reason why as heavily carved antiques have fallen out of favor, the prices of Swedish, Biedemeier, or Art Deco antiques have sky rocketed. Painted Scandinavian furniture and Italian crystal chandeliers have become so hot that dealers cannot replace them fast enough in their showrooms. Certain antiques have lost their value but the industry as a whole is doing well. Look at the success of 1stdibs.com, a website that features the top antique and vintage design dealers in the country. Interestingly, the Journal recommended shopping on 1stDibs for antiques back in 2006 (“Interior Decorators on Where to Shop the Web for Home Décor” by Elizabeth Blackwell, March 6, 2006). 1stDibs posts approximately 4,000 new items monthly and boasts a turn over rate of over 60% on a monthly basis. Doesn’t exactly sound like merchandise or an industry “falling out of favor.” Successful dealers have adapted to the changing styles by altering their offerings within the antiques realm and not escaping it.
Another quote from the story was the most surprising – “Flip through any home magazine and it's tough to spot an antique among all the chrome, clean lines and modernist decor.” Any home magazine? I don’t know what home magazines Ms. Keates reviewed. Pick up Architectural Digest, Veranda, House Beautiful, Elle Décor, Domino, Vogue Living, Traditional Home, Southern Accents, Martha Stewart Living, or
I’d also like to comment on this quote – “The trend is reinforced by the products promoted by retailers such as Target and Ikea and the set designers for TV shows.” Again, how Target and Ikea ended up as the style setters of the entire home design world is beyond me. Someone looking to buy a $50 coffee table is doing so because of the price point not as a design statement. We are not competing with Ikea for consumers. Even so, many popular retailers such as Pottery Barn or William Sonoma take their inspiration from classic antiques and use antique accessories to enhance their catalogs.
Lastly, I would like to add that I am a regular subscriber to the Wall Street Journal, I did not just read this article because it pertained to me. After reading it, I was shocked that such a renown and reputable newspaper would publish an article that truly missed the mark about our business.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I am going to begin to explore some creative non-fiction, and will try it out here on my blog. It will be slower writing but hopefully better quality. It will require more thought, editing, etc. The goal is an exercise in finding "my voice on the page" so-to-speak. Wish me luck and let me know what you think!
Thursday, July 10, 2008
On a different note, today is the last day of my "Non-fiction Writing" class. I look forward to putting into action some of the things we talked about. I have really enjoyed being a student again, even if for just a few weeks. I have some new ideas about writing non-fiction in a fictional style that I want to put into practice soon. A book deal would be nice...
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Let's begin on the top shelf. We have two small cages which were used to buy live foul at the market. In the middle of the shelf we have two glass globes covering sea shell topiaries, circa 1870. Then more cages. Lastly, a doll that happen to come in a wicker doll carriage that I brought home for Cecilia. I had the interior relined and then Santa delivered it. Did I mention my daughter's room is entirely decorated with antiques? And yes, she does play with them. In fact, she especially loves old books.
Shelf two: a wax doll made by the Carmelite nuns in Avignon, this was under a glass dome that my father broke. They were religious mementos usually taking for instance part of a bride's dress to make the dress for the baby and then given to her as a gift upon the birth or baptism of her child. The baby rests on grape vines which symbolize the blood of Christ at the altar. So it is in essence a dedication of the child to Jesus Christ. A prayer for God to protect this child. Next up a hand forged iron candlestick, a carved sea shell, old locks, and a nice worn bell (something really useful for your home.) Then I have a real bird cage, meaning this one is for a pet bird, as opposed to the others which were for birds anxiously awaiting their fate. A marble mortar (another practical thing for someone like me who doesn't cook), with an iron pig coming out of it which has a scraper for your shoes on his back.
Shelf three: the second of two blackforest planters, an iron cigale or cicada which is the official "bird" of southern France, a wooden basket filled with collected pieces of Italian giltwood ornaments, a pair of apothecary jars, a mercury candlestick, and last but not least a terracotta gnome that came from a rooftop. Don't you just love his furly beard and pointy hat?
Sunday, June 29, 2008
This week, Doug and I have been mulling over our budget/finances and deciding what to do with the rest of our summer. He dreads the thought of a three day weekend at home with the kids so he's been thinking about driving up to Atlanta to spend the 4th of July at my sister's place. It would be nice to go meet Sofia for the first time, she's now 6 weeks. My Puerto-Rican cousins are there for the week as well. We are also going to go to Indiana to visit Doug's family for a few days in August. This will be especially nice for Cecilia, who will get to go to the lake and see her 5 cousins, and grandparents.
We conceded to the fact that we need to buy a mini-van for the three carseats. Now I'm trying to convince Doug that we only need one car. We only use the second car maybe once a week. I think this is a waste of money. I want to trade in both of our cars for a nice new Honda Odyssey with all the bells and whistles. He argued he didn't know anyone who had one car and I questioned if any of those people also work together. We have a five mile travel radius between work-home-my parents house-schools, etc. Who needs two cars? Sure it might me a little inconvenient once in a while but I'm convinced that it is all about an attitude adjustment. Once you only have one car, then you plan your life that way. Plus, we'll save on gas, insurance, and help the environment.
My last home project for the week was to get a bed put in Marcelo's room so that we can take apart the crib. Doug doesn't want to take apart the crib now because he figures just as soon as he's done lugging it to the store for storage, since we have NO storage space whatsoever in this house, then he'll have to bring it right back for the next baby. I reminded him that 1) the baby won't sleep in the crib right away since we have a bassinet 2) this means it will collect dust for 6-8 months 3) it is better for Marcelo's transition in to a "big boy bed" for the crib to disappear as opposed to him suddenly seeing it be taken over by his new baby sister. When my mom came over today she came to the same conclusion on her own and my husband looked over at me and asked if I had set him up! No, it's just the logical solution. Plus, I will be very happy to have more space in Marcelo's little room, even if just for my piece of mind. Now if we could just get Marcelo to stay in his bed all night...