time to say goodbye

 

Dear Readers & Followers:

The time has come for me to say goodbye to you all. It has been seven years of sharing posts, travels and fun but the time has come for new ventures. I am working on something very special to me and hope to have it up and running soon — although in these uncertain times, timing remains to be seen.

In the meantime, please stay safe. May we soon be able to travel again and get back to some sense of normalcy.

Wishing you all the best. Thank you so much for visiting MrsRopersMusings.com

Bye Bye Bye!

more television to watch

With stay at home orders still in effect here in my home state as well as around the world, here are a few more television shows to keep you occupied when the cleaning, cooking, news watching and zoom meetings are done:

The Worlds Most Extraordiary Homes (Netflix & BBC)

Architect Piers Taylor and actress Caroline Quentin travel the world to find, really, the worlds most extraordinary homes!  Not only do they visit but they spend the night allowing for a truly intimate experience. With a balance of architectural know-how (Piers) and gut reaction to the spaces (Caroline) the show provides a wonderful point of view suited to anybody interested in good idea based architecture. You will see all types of homes from tiny, to luxury to absurd. But mostly it is intimate access to spaces one would never even know existed let alone get a peek inside of.

The AO (Netflix)

This strange yet intriguing tale of near death experience exploration is really good TV. If you are anything like me you’ll wonder whose mind can conjure up such an extraordinary and bizarre story line. And it’s brought to life by amazing actors that keep you enthralled from start to finish. It’s perfectly set up for a next season so here’s hoping . . .

Ozark (Netflix)

Season 1 was fantastic. Season 2 was OK. Season 3 just launched so here’s hoping it better. Word on the street is good. But at any rate, watching Jason Bateman play opposite Laura Linney is worth it regardless.

Salt Fat Acid Heat (Netflix)

Another cooking show . . . But following chef Samin Norsat around the world eating, cooking and celebrating the basic elements of food that make it taste so wonderful — is more like taking a glorious trip with your new best friend. Go for the journey. It’s well worth it!

The Morning Show (Apple TV)

I didn’t expect to like this so much. But it is an extremely topical program that strikes an amazing resemblance to recent events at NBC News amidst the Me Too movement. I hate to say that Jennifer Aniston and her Juvaderm face is a bit hard to take at times but acts as further unspoken comment on being a women in entertainment and what it takes to stay relevant into your 50s.

 

how to survive social distancing

Here are some great TV shows to watch during this time of uncertainty when we are mostly stuck in the house. I always find a little escapism helps. That and a nice cup of tea.

Money Heist (Netflix)
This Spanish import is addictive. Three seasons and a fourth on the way in April tell the story of a bank heist gone right, then wrong, then right, then again. You’ll fall in love with the cast of characters and the unexpected plot twists. Put it at the top of your list.

Mystery Road (Acorn)
Another Australian TV show well worth watching. Starring Judy Davis as a small town cop investigating a cattle station disappearance that leads to a host of other crimes, cover ups and Outback intrigue.

Delicious (Acorn)
An unexpectedly delightful story of a chef, his ex-wife, his mistress and their families all set around the theme of the moment — cooking at a high level.

800 Words (Amazon Prime & Acorn)
A syrupy yet poignant family drama about a father who relocates his two kids to a small town in New Zealand after his wife dies. Even through the story is predictable, the cast of characters zany and cliche, with a teenage daughter played by an actress that looks no less than 30, it somehow all works.

Patrick Melrose (Showtime)
Benedict Cumberbatch as you have never seen him before — a hilarious and harrowing character study that takes us through child abuse, drug abuse, family drama and recovery.

Episodes (Showtime)
The behind the scene antics of Matt LeBlanc playing Matt LeBlanc the one time star of Friends now starring (but quickly eclisped by a new generation of young hot kids) in a crappy tv show meant to reinvigorate his career. Akin to how Entourage showed the real Hollywood through completely implausible yet reality based characters.

12 things i did in melbourne

Here are 12 things I did in Melbourne this year, sadly without taking photos (with the exception of a few posted on Instagram — see right nav link)

  1. Ate many acai bowls at Green Cup each dripping with house made creamy peanut  butter and oh, so yummy!  539 Chapel Street, South Yarra
  2. Happened into a charming pottery studio on Chapel Street that is home to three ceramicists during the week and open to the public on weekends to buy wares or for scheduled classes. Pot Dispensary, 425 Chapel Street, South Yarra
  3. Had the most relaxing facial at Little Company. The perfect way to re-hydrate after a 15+ hour flight. 79 Stephenson Street, Cremorne
  4. Took in 2 exhibitions (Commes des Garcons and Keith Haring & Jean-Michel Basquiat) and a few galleries at the NGV — one of my favorite museums for its interesting roster of shows. And a wonderful way to escape the heat and humidity that was oddly Melbourne in February.
  5. Gifted myself a few pieces of Bromley & Robert Gordon pottery from their new collaboration exclusive to Myer stores.
  6. Attended a lunchtime sitting of Lune Lab — 3 heavenly courses of croissanterie and all the fancy coffee and/or Mork hot chocolate you can drink.  Lune, 119 Rose Street, Fitzroy
  7. Picked up heat and eat meals at Meatsmith because why cook if the Andrew McConnell team can do it for you. 273 Smith Street, Fitzroy
  8. Bought more pottery at Made in Japan, direct importers of beautiful wares at affordable prices. 1-7 Wynyard St, South Melbourne
  9. Ate Indian street food at Delhi Streets. All I can say is eat some Pani Puri. 22 Katherine Place, CBD
  10. Made my second visit in a second city to the Rain Room interactive exhibit. Held over through March 2020 in St. Kilda
  11. After the rain, ate beautifully crafted cakes at the Black Star Pasty Pop-Up right next door.
  12. Watched the ABC TV special on rescuing koala bears after the devastating fires. Koalas are precious. People are heroes. I cried.

Another great trip to my favorite city. You can now make your way there for as little as US$675 round trip from Los Angeles through November 2020 on nearly any airline. Do yourself a favor and go. Do Australia a favor and visit some fire ravaged areas where your dollars are needed.

past present, future perfect

Once upon a time, I owned a small little clothing shop in Los Angeles. And in that shop i carried a line of clothing created by two graphic designers from San Francisco, MM Sherman Wong Workwear. They made the most amazing unisex jeans — wide leg, light weight, slouchy — and other unisex white button down tops, jackets and sweaters. It was a staple line of my shop, my wardrobe and still influences my life today as one of their graphic mailers sits framed in my house as my favorite piece of art.

Not at all related but nearly the same in styling (uncannily so), Eileen Fisher has just launched a unisex capsule collection exclusive to Nordstrom that is the very essence of what MMSW Workwear was, only eco-conscious and updated just enough to make it relevant for today’s fashion. It’s fabulous. Selling out quickly. So don’t wait!  Only through Feb 9, 2020 in store and online.

hidden gem in london town

Step 1:  make your way around to the buzzer entrance of this private, walled school garden in Shorditch and ask to be let in.

Step 2:  make your way across the garden to the small glass building in the back left corner (in the summer, it’s fully open to the courtyard)

Step 3: enoy a wonderfully British meal brought to you by the wife of famed chef Fergus Henderson of St. John (his signature wines are also available here)

Step 4:  Roll on home . . . or better yet, walk off your meal by shopping the back streets in and around the neighborhood.

bon appetit!

Without hesitating, nearly a year in advance, I signed up for an ACE CAMPS learning vacation that promised a week in Provence, staying in Julia Child’s home, cooking recipes inspired by the famous cookbook author and potentially hitting up some of her well traveled haunts as we explored the region. As I’d never been to the South of France before and am a huge Julia Child fan, I was all in.

If you haven’t heard of ACE CAMPS travel, it is a company out of Canada that offers small group, mostly educational vacations to interesting spots all over the globe. Their offerings are highly fascinating, unusual, centered around one theme or activity and a great way to travel alone but not be alone, with a friend or even to book out the entire trip as a family affair  — as one family did for a second week at Julia’s house, and i thought what a great idea!

ACE trips are small group tours — we were five women and a chef/guide, the maximum that could fit in Julia’s house with shared accommodations. The itinerary was a good balance between far reaching tourist activities and cooking. After the first day of traveling around by car, it became clear that this trip had been planned by somebody back in Canada who wasn’t terribly familiar with the logistics of the local surroundings. The good news was, we discussed it over dinner that evening and after one phone call back to the main office, the group quickly agreed to change things up a bit picking out items from the original itinerary that seemed do-able, mixed with suggestions from our own research on the area. Everything we added to the itinerary was cost covered by the things we removed, the wine & food flowed throughout and all ‘n all, we had a great time — I think made easier by the fact these trips attract like-minded creative types. The head office just wanted us to be happy (this was a first time itinerary so learnings to be had) and our guide was endlessly amenable. She cooked amazing breakfasts each morning, cleaned up afterwards, planned and taught hands-on cooking classes every other day resulting in fabulous dinners, drove us around everywhere (not an easy feat if you’ve ever driven in the South of France) and handled all the details. Although on the costly side, I wouldn’t hesitate to take another of these vacations — indigo dying in Japan anyone?

So let’s talk Provence  — Round-abouts abound and people drive like maniacs. I don’t know how people found their way around before GPS (even with it, we got lost more often than I care to admit), not to mention everything is hidden and if you don’t know about something, you’re unlikely to just stumble across it. Made me glad, I was traveling in a group, actually, and that we had the internet and GPS to help us find some good stuff.

Julia Child’s Home — Known as La Pitchoune, Julia vacationed here with her husband Paul and amazing a-list of guests rolling in and out on a regular basis. The 1500 square foot, 3 bedroom, quintessentially French cottage was built on the property of their friend and fellow cookbook author, Simone Beck. The Child’s visited often over a 20 year period up until the time of Paul’s convalescence in the 80’s. A few years ago, the property was purchased by a Smith College alum (where Julia attended) who turned it into a vacation rental and even runs her own cooking school out of the house — not associated with ACE CAMP.

Julia’s kitchen remains exactly as it was with all the original cooking instruments lining the pegboard walls, while the rest of the place was lovingly updated at some point along the way. On the coffee table is a little black binder with Paul’s sketched house plans that show the slight differences from then ’til now, detailed instructions on how to work everything in the house, and lists of where to go in the area to purchase just about anything complete with Julia’s opinions and notes on each, circa 1970. Adorning the mantle is a photo of her and Paul who have to be the cutest couple in the history of love.

Best Home Decor Shop — With designers amongst us, we were constantly on the hunt for great shopping. And I think we found what may be my favorite shop of all time in the little town of Mougins. Called Envers Du Decor, it’s a mother daughter affair with the most beautiful country French style furnishings & accessories you have ever seen. We all purchased something and one interior designer even arranged to ship a host of objects back to her studio in Chicago. I would go back just to shop here, if nothing else.

Eat the Socca — a local street food found at markets throughout the region made from chickpea flour and water, cooked on a flat griddle and dusted with sea salt. It is supremely simple and delicious!  We found the best at the market in Valbonne (located just at the base of the stairs on the way up to the parking lot). It’s surprising that something as good as this hasn’t taken off in other parts of the world as a healthy treat — which just goes to show, you’ve got to travel to find the good stuff.

One Michelin Star — there are probably many Michelin starred restaurants in the area but one great original itinerary item I was thankful for, was dinner at Restaurant Lou Cigalon (an old-time restaurant recently taken over by a new chef). Just one year in and already star-adorned at the time we dined, the restaurant has just a handful of tables in a charming stone building along the main road in Valbonne. We dined in private and had a tour of the kitchen afterwards — up a narrow and winding staircase, clean as clean can be, no freezer, only a tiny refrigerator and a single chef for the evening. The food was amazing as were the local wines.

Art & Architecture — located just outside the fortified and uber-touristy village of Saint Paul de Vance is Foundation du Maeght. A visit here was our addition to the itinerary and the highlight of the trip from a culture perspective. A mid-century, architecture dream come true with a sculpture garden by Miro, modern artworks and views to die for stretching all the way to the sea. This is a true treasure not to be missed!

Wine Tasting — We had two completely different wine tasting experiences complements of ACE CAMP planning. One, a tiny little family run vineyard producing a few thousand bottles a year complete with hand drawn labels by one of the brothers. High up in the St. Jeannet hills, Vignoble Rasse is a chance to taste wines made from the ancient technique of sun aging. The six of us sat around the matriarch of this family run operation, trying one wine after another with healthy pours, while listening to stories about each vintage all while overlooking the hills of vines as far as the eye could see.

Our second experience was a large scale winery that by contrast produces millions of bottles a year, Chateau de Berne in Lorgues — a commercial winery with a Chalet & Relais hotel & spa, a restaurant, a mammoth gift shop and regular tours & festivals on the property to keep the tourists coming throughout the year. But to our surprise, we received a great tutorial on how to taste wines, what notes were what and the signature rosé wines weren’t half bad. Their bottles, a patented square design, are beautiful and I may have one that I now use as a water bottle with a little glass stopper, since polishing off the original contents.

Vacherin Mont d’Or — cheese glorious cheese! This buttery and oh so velvety cheese is only in season a few months of the year starting in November. Actually Swiss by origin, our guide made sure we were well stocked in the house at all times. I think we went through at least 4 of the small rounds in their little spruce boxes (and I may have polished off another on my own in London the following week). If you’re lucky, Murray’s cheese shop in NYC may have some available if in season but it will cost you.

memory lane

Portrait of sisters by Mike Narciso photographed in his LA studio,1986.

still the place for me

Every time I visit Gaia Retreat & Spa, it’s slightly different. Dirt paths become paved walkways. Fabrics and lighting change style in the main lodge. New signage helps you find your way around the grounds. A new gym and yoga studio appear. Higher end accommodations dot around the property. WIFI gets added in the rooms (YAY!). A new signature line of products are introduced (and strongly marketed by co-owner Olivia Newton John’s image). From a business perspective, it’s smart and well-paced investment that keeps the PR machine growing and the awards rolling in.

Despite the growing guest numbers and changes all about, it’s still a very intimate experience. Check-in is a casual affair on the sofa accompanied by tea and fruit, the friendly wait/everything staff instantly learns your name and takes interest in your story while catering to your every need. The atmosphere is casual and you are welcome to walk around in your spa robe anywhere and everywhere. The grounds are still luscious and beautiful (even in a severe drought). And the food — the food is gorgeous, plentiful, healthy and simply the best part of your stay. Everyone says it — just look at scrambled eggs Gaia style as one example:

What was different to this veteran spa goer on a recent visit, are probably things most wouldn’t notice. The family dining table sat empty night after night and people instead, dined solo or with their travel companions. The spa was a-buzz with new and more therapists running about, even during the normally calm mid-week. The parking lot was full with cars from neighboring states. Every day there was a great stack of luggage on the front steps of people coming and going (one of the things I do appreciate about this spa is you can arrive and depart on any day of the week). And I was actually one of a handful of Americans this time around, much to my great surprise!

None of this was drastic change, just enough to make me take notice. Hmmmm, “If this were my first visit, would I have come back again?,” I wondered. I missed dining with others — all having comically different food restrictions the wait staff knowingly handles with ease; comparing notes on treatments and therapists; and winning the inevitable discussion about who traveled the farthest for their stay in paradise. The frenzy in the spa mid week caught me a bit off guard and I swear I heard the same wrap-up schpeel after treatments that somehow compromised my zen.

But in the long run, is that even possible?  Three days of beautiful surroundings, gentle exercise, being rubbed and scrubbed and eating healthy food while adjusting to a new time zone is three days well spent and zen enough, regardless.

So yes, it is still the place for me and will continue to be my first stop upon arrival down under whenever possible. It’s the perfect way to recuperate from the dreadful flight and with the exchange rate so positive, a great deal  — which explains the plethora of Americans about.

If you are going to go Down Under, now is the time (see all my tips and tricks here). And if you are so inclined, make Gaia Retreat and Spa part of the experience. Maybe I’ll see you there . . .