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All content copyright 2009 by Holly Gleason. Web design by Lauren Carelli.

December 2006

December 2006: The Ghost of Xmas Yummy Lost… & Now Found
Alexis Red + Truffles, Crazy Chicks, “The D

“Wonder Why We Ever Go Home” Jimmy Buffett

   The truths we realize as we get older… how much harder it is to risk ourselves, how much what we have to do gets in the way of what we need to do… a pensively beautiful rumination on the things that come into softer focus, the price we pay and the gentle tug of yearning that can leave you adrift or hand you a compass of kindness to lead you into the years of wise and wiser.

   Buffett’s voice can sound like a sunset bleeding across the water, and here the reflective nature of the lyric brings out the most comforting tenor in his somewhat salt-worn tone. Pensive is as pensive does… and for one more won’t-quite-grown-up who knows how much more there is to seek, see, touch, taste, feel and believe, this is a beacon and a siren’s song to get on with living—even when what you’ve found has at times broken your heart, left you faded or questioned that which you were sure you believed. A prayer for anyone who comes to understand the more one learns, the less they know.


Two Cups of Coffee + A Rock in the Pocket


   One boy, three beverages, no waitress. When asked, “Would you be so chivalrous and bring me a Rolling Rock…,” my friend responded with a “I like it when girls ask…” and disappeared. Returning with the steaming cups of coffee and an even broader smile, he winked. “I’ve got the beer in my coat pocket…” Now that is chivalry amongst the folding chairs and stale cigarette smoke manifest, and beyond.

Baked French Cinnamon Toast Sweet Sixteen Bakery, Nashville, TM

   Dipped in egg custard and left to baked to a crispy exterior, baked French cinnamon toast requires no syrup—the flavor already imbued with cinnamon and maple. Every bit as good… but a whole lot easier to eat. Mmmmmmmm…

Americanitus—Will Kimbrough

   Bespectacled Will Kimbrough, with the low slung guitar and perma-cool demeanour, hardly seems like a finger pointed down the barrel of recrimination, and yet, here he is making one of the most compelling arguments about the priority shifts, shrinking prospects and hypocrisy inherent in everything this country has come to stand for. In a world of more-is-less, Kimbrough ravages the emptiness that consumes, the consumerism that defines, the ignorance that destroys - and he rocks with a stinging lash and a jangling pop while doing it.

   Perhaps the best political record of this year, and yet… It sells this record short. Thinking man’s pop for anyone who loves Elvis Costello at his fiercest, Neil Young at his most melodic, Eddie Vedder at his least overblown and Dylan in a lean forward lean. A quest to find, perhaps, yet one of the most important records you’ll hear this year.

Mark McCormack Inducted World Golf Hall of Fame

   There are stars—and then there are the dreamers you never see. Mark McCormack was such a man: passion, vision, the will to reach out and build the unthinkable. As a sports manager, he turned exemplary golfers Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player into empires, and then he just kept going. Tiger Woods. Annika Sorenstam. Greg Norman. Realizing the opportunity of creating opportunity, he used passion to expand and explore what was possible for his clients, always blazing a trail that others followed.

   In this Bonfire of the Vanities age, he defined and kept redefining what was possible in athletic representation, expanding into modeling, event promotion, films and more, without losing the notion of dignity, class and graciousness. If most “comers” are crass and grabby, International Management Group set a standard of execution that was old money, yet marketplace aggressive. It was reflective of everything about the gentleman’s game of golf - and it maintains gentility in a flash and sizzle world of public figurehood that is about the now, but never the long run. What They Don’t Teach You at The Harvard Business School, indeed.


Weathergirl Benefit

   Strangely shimmering neutrals, designed to bring out “the best” in a way that makes natural somehow sparkling. A one-stop kit with Benefit’s signature comedic touch, this little cardboard fold-over allows you to transform in moments with taupe, light beige shadows and a gloss that slicks up lips and makes one shine. Get rid of the clever name, you still have a streamlined look that accentuates the best of any women in less time that it takes to click the Weather Channel.


2003 Alexis Estate Red Wine Swanson Vineyards


It is a full-bodied proposition, long on the tongue, larger in the mouth. Slightly deeper than ruby, the Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Merlot and Syrah grapes sweeps you up in its overwhelming sensuality. A single vineyard harvest from the Napa Valley’s Mayacamas foothills, this is an engagement worthy of an entire evening.

   It arrived, by the way, in an elongated box with its perfect companion: a round hat-box laden with artisanal truffles. The cassis-toned red was brilliantly matched to the meltingly rich chocolates, suggesting an even more decadent dance for one’s palate… a reason to savor beyond the table, to wherever confection and vintage dare merge.


Bonus:

   Alexis Bonbons. The truffles that accompanied the gift from the postman… Rich and subtle, with a flavor that expands the more that you suck and you nibble. Conjured by Vosges Haut Chocolat’s Katrina Markhoff to be maximized by the heady table red, Belgian dark chocolate was infused with the “Alexis” blend, turned out in its creamiest configuration, then dusted with a custom curry powder of Chinese star anise, cumin, cloves and just a touch of pink peppercorn.
   Scarily delicious, utterly consuming. On its own, beyond delight. With the “Alexis,” they’re a reason to be thrilled you’re alive.

www.shopswansonsalon.com 



“Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” CBS 8 pm, Friday, Dec 8

  Classically innocent holiday programming - with animated models and a story about odd ducks whose value stems from the very thing that sets them apart for mocking. As an empowerment model for any kid who thinks they stand out in a way that lessens their place on the playground, for anyone who believes in the magic of Christmas, for grumpy, grouchy tired-of-the-marketers who can’t see past the cash grab at retail, this’ll put you back into the reason for the season. A smile is guaranteed.

Friday Night at the Mapco Express pretty much anywhere

   Beer and lottery tickets. Cigarettes, too, if they’re immersed in all vices. All kinds of humanity shuttling and out, buying bad gasoline, scratching numbers off their express ducket to easy street. Nothing is more America from the trenches than the sweaty workers trying to kill their emptiness with cheap beer that moves out in 12 packs and 40 ouncers, skate kids rolling around the lot when its empty, sighing counter workers just wanting to get to the end of their shift without getting killed.

   Here where the American Dream all falls apart, it’s a numbing respite. Within reach, there’s the momentary escape, the sense of something more. Ephemerai and back to clutching lottery tickets and off brand cigarettes, it’s a holy snapshot of how things are beyond the Vaseline gloss of what they broker to us as the hollow reality of modern living.


Decoupage Platters, Paper Weights John Dearian

   They come in various shapes - squares and oblongs, ovals and rectangles - and sizes - small enough for rings and jewelry, large enough to serve a meal on. But it’s in the artwork, classical floral illustrations, ships, hand-writing, all forms of fauna that a time almost forgotten is captured beneath glass in all its vintage Technicolor glory.

   Suitable for hanging on one’s walls, or using as an object d’art on a table or shelf, these speak volumes without ever uttering a word. And in their old curiosity shoppe flavor, you can match anyone you adore’s sense to something wonderfully reflective and give them a keepsake they’ll have forever.


“Art is war.”
  Steve Earle

   To serve one’s creativity, there is a knowing that comes into play, but also a fierce loyalty to the end result. Do what you must to realize your dream, but never the focus—or fight—to get the passion expressed full strength. Because anything less is pragmatism as product, not as honest expression of something deep within… and only one of the two can be considered art.
An even more direct, guerilla-eque take on “To thine own self be true,” but perhaps even more compelling.


Siam Dress Tibi


   Brilliant colors that work from the most intense shades. Two contrasting prints that shriek of the opulence and beauty of Thailand, these are cinnamon, cobalt, mahogany, canary and grass green whirls of a pattern, suggesting flourishes, vines, filigrees and the patterns endemic to nature itself - with the yellow trim around the yoke and neck contrasting the inky blue print of the rest of the dress. Lush silk, it begs to be touched, falls to the elbow, reveals the clavicle and suggests pulchritude of the most fertile and voluptuous. Maybe the most beautiful - and exotic - day chemise of the season.


Oponomax Candle Diptyque

   Mystery and comfort. Exotic and familiar. Diptyque, the impossibly scent-infused candle line, offers Oponomax to give people the best of both extremes. Light it - and you transform any room into a Moroccan lair that is accessible and reassuring in its marriage of myrrh and vanilla for a sensual olfactory experience that grounds you in something you know too well and lifting you up on the intriguing notes of what is beyond your desire. Piquing in the extreme… Engaging in a quietly lulling way… Consuming while being consumed by senses you didn’t even know you had.


Balsamic reduction

   So simple. Pour good balsamic vinegar into a nonreactive sauce pan. Set on simmer, and let it. This is a slow process that will reduce the liquid by half, thicken by two or three times… and leave you with the most decadent drizzle of the season. Deliciously sweet, yet pungent to the tongue, it can be used on meat or strawberries, a creamy cheese or steamed vegetable. In each situation, the syrup will express itself as a perfect counterpoint to what it’s being served with - and in that, both flavors expand.


Crazy Chicks - Simon Doonan

Leave it to the man who made Barney’s windows the talk of Manhattan to have an unhinged, full-bore take on women beyond convention. It is that full-frontal, total immersion appreciation that makes Doonan’s Crazy Chicks a breathless celebration of the odd (Isabel Garrett, the Spandex Evangelist, comedienne Amy Sedaris), the extreme (gossip diva Janet Charlton, rock siren Pearl Harbour) and the soignée (party-promoter Suzanne Bartsch, Warhol Superstar Brigid Berlin). To recognize the divinity of women committed to living out loud and a way of life that is utterly singular is to encourage women trying to find their own courage to unfurl by sheer enthusiasm. How could you not want to be at least as committed - if not committed—as the women who are living these breathlessly eccentric extreme lives?

   After Confessions of a Window Dresser, where Doonan demonstrated imagination and creativity as the wind in the sails of all who wish to transcend the mundane wherever the might be, this is it’s-just-not-me case study chronicles that prove all you gotta do is do it. And in his dish-it-up thrilliciousness, you can’t help but get caught up in the vernacular - and women who do it their way without apology, looking back or considering there could be another option.


“The Departed”

Scorcese takes on the bleakest kind of organized crime: demi-modern era Irish gangsters, working the brutal fringes of small time crime. With a mole—in the form of street kid embraced as a youngster and encouraged played by Mark Wahlenberg—inside the force, DeNiro - as the boss - should be immune to bringing down. But Leonardo DiCaprio as the raging kid from a good family landing in the force as an ultimate betrayal then planted undercover with the kingpin’s pride, is the potential for undoing. And yes, there is a girl between the two young lion’s, a force of tension and desire—as much mental as carnal, really.

   A long film, in some ways taxing the viewer, and yet… It is a tale that’s true to the violence and unflinching wasting of human life as these kinds of life seem to demand. More than likely, it will win Scorcese the Oscar that’s eluded him; but also as a study in the wages of life beyond the law, it’s a riveting case study.

Watercress Soup Taillevent, Paris (The NY Times Sunday Magazine)

   A delicate soup, simmered with leaks and watercress. Subtle, yet creamy enough to whet the appetite, sooth the tummy and come off as impossibly refined. Not nearly as difficult as one would imagine a recipe from one of Paris’ definitive and enduring restaurants of classic haute French cuisine, and yet…

   One spoonful, and it is as if you’re sitting in the well-lit room of polished wood, thick carpet beneath your feet, crisp white linen table cloth and tasteful flowers before you. Close your eyes, inhale the gently pungent scent and immerse yourself in the beginnings of spring, swallow and know the hardy goodness of a digestif as a first course.


warm towels


  Fresh from the dryer. Smelling of heat and cleanliness. Soft and fluffy, absorbing the moisture, but also offering a comforting cloud of warmth and hominess. Wrap yourself up and just sniff and feel it - it’s one of those too simple things that we never stop long enough to notice. But, oh, if you do.

Aesop’s Fables

   The simplest of stories—the tortoise and the hare, the city mouse and the country mouse, the dog and his reflection, the cat and the bell—the entertain children through their well-spun whimsy, but they can also enlighten adults with the penetrating truth attached to each. It is when we’re seeing to see how basic the tenets we should live be really are, that one comes into the fullness of how easy living could be. And they stories themselves are bite-sized enough to fill a small window of time with the sheer joy of tales that enchant and remind us about the happiness that comes from being young.

“Here’s a rule I recommend: Never practice two vices at once.”
Tallulah Bankhead


  During this happy, hectic season, there is much wisdom in the bon mots of the larger than life Hollywood grand dame. Pick your vice, and stick with it. So much simpler, so much less to keep straight. Enjoy that which you do indulge in completely - and don’t mix your toxiphores… which will only diminish your enjoyment of whichever vices your embracing in that moment.

100% Cotton Ribbed Tank Hanes

  Three to a pack. Clean, crisp cotton that you throw on and forget. Scoop neck with enough room for jewelry—and cut lean enough that one’s arms and shoulders are properly displayed. Dress it up, dress it down, sleep in it… under blazers, sweaters, shirts… over t’s—or nothing.


Meditating… Badly

  Relax. Empty your mind. Follow your breath. Don’t think… Except thoughts have a way of appearing without being called for. And that is the beauty of meditating badly: thoughts can come, it is part of it. But instead of castigating oneself, you label the recognotion “thinking” and move on.

“What arises is fresh. The essence of now,” say the Buddhist teachers. Meditating badly is just one more form - and if you remove judgment, every bit as valid as long as you can move beyond attachment. With the pressure off, you’ll find you meditate and get to the zone a lot easier - and stay there without nearly as much trauma, worry or effort.

Pigs at the Trough - Arianna Huffington

   Greed is the mustard seed of today’s Marie Antoinette power-grab that ever-widens the gulf between the very rich and the middle class teetering on the brink, let alone the working regular folks barely getting by. No one wants to address this disparity because the culpability is staggering - and of all people, former conservative pundit Huffington seems the least likely choice of all.

   Yet who better to write about privileged creating steeper planes of riches for the wealthiest, intense profiteering by big business and media manipulation in the name of the bottomline than someone who knows the playing field from the side of the haves who has become disillusioned enough to blow the whistle on what is endangering the American Dream in irretrievable ways.

www.icecreamsource.com

   For those blessed to grow up with a local dairy that made its own ice cream, this click in, dry-ice-over-night site could be habit forming. Yes, they do the haute ice cream thing - Vosges Haut-Chocolat with the mysterious spices for contrast to their myriad chocolate flavors, Ciao Bella’s Black Cabernet and Zembeedo’s Crème de Menthe and Crème de Rose exoticisms - and also provide an impressive array of the classics - Haagen Daaz, Edies, Starbucks, Dove, Godiva—entire menu of flavors, but what sets this cyber-ice-cream-parlour apart is its variety of locals only fix-ups.

   Drawing largely from the diary zone of Wisconsin, there’s Blue Bunny and Cedar Crest, Door County and Hansen’s, Gilles Frozen Custard and Lee’s, Oberweiss Dairy and Schoep’s, not to mention Michael’s Frozen Custard and Sequist’s - which is actually cherry pie. For the homesick, the forlorn looking for new butterfat and sugar-induced highs, this is an abudanza of opportunity. And all you have to do is point and click.


Gettng Carded (Seriously) & Remaining Graceful

   They weren’t kidding. Nor were they buying into my actual age… And they were not going to serve me. Given that I am double the legal limit, it was beyond ludicrous, that I had been crying most of the day and was heavily swollen, tear-stained and puffy, it was thwarting and mocking.

   Rather than have a tantrum out of frustration, it was about holding my ground and creating enough doubt that the manager eventually came to the table. Talking to us a bit, my dinner companion wasn’t quite 30, though obviously younger, he decided to let me have my glass of Syrah after all. Sometimes the measure of wisdom or one’s years is the ability to clear a higher bar of graciousness. It certainly is more effective.


Wearing The Good Stuff

   It’s there in your drawers, your closet. Those things you smile when you see, linger a little longer savoring the luxuriousness of the fabric, the depth of the color, the whimsy, delicateness or beauty of the detail, the cleanliness of the line… and you almost shudder to know its your’s. So special that you’re saving it for a reason… rather than putting that wonder on your body and experiencing the best of it, sharing your tasteful bounty with the people you come in contact with.

   Wear it now. Your bounty, your treasure. You will feel amazing in it, and the people you encounter will be charmed by the same things you were. Waiting around for an occasion is silly, you ARE your own occasion. Try it, and be amazed.

Warre’s Warrior Port

   There’s an earthiness to that sticky sweetness that makes port such a challenge. Musky, too, with a hint of ponderance that is more philosophical that plaintive. Warre’s Warrior Port also suggests fire - and that warmth, which opens up on the way to your stomache with the same inside out spreadage as brandy - lets you feel more alive even as you relax, heightened somehow and more aware of the sensations around you. Oh, and it supplements your iron.

   Sophisticated in all the right ways. Sip it and see…

Eid Stamp US Postal Service

   In the spirit of the season, the US Postal Services Holiday Stamp series promotes a universal unity with the Eid stamp - designed with the Islamic calligraphy that expresses “Eid Mubarak,” which translated to “blessed festival.” In that how much the same are we in regards to our enemies, in the real spirit of Christmas, the overlap - “May your religious holiday be blessed” - is staggering. A dark blue field with pale blue letters and golden native writing, this reminds us at a time of great joy, wonder and compassion that we’re all seeking the same Higher Good.

Grand Diva

   My friend Barbara is about as fresh and freewheeling as anyone I know - and the fact that she has a grandbaby or two almost seems to defy logical. In all her eternal youth, that disconnect isn’t lost on her, and in her exuberance, she has deemed herself “Grand Diva.” Utterly, absolutely shot through with perfection - both in terms of how grand grandparenting can be and how great her spirit rises.


Monogrammed Soap

Little decadent luxuries. Simple things that tug the budget, last long enough to almost seem economical as a splurge and create a gentility that speaks of another time. In various scents, shapes, colors… a matter of days, and they’re there. Three bars - the oval being the most palm-fulfilling, the curly cursive the most floridly formal monogram - arrive ready to declare your powder room, bathroom or boudoir a deeply personal place.

www.corrico.com

Gingerbread Biscotti Mamma Says


   A surprising briskness that almost pops on the tongue, ginger kicks up the hame of the baked Italian loaf cookie in a way that awakens the sweet-blogged tooth. It startles, tickles and perks things up - and in that, what could be one more cardboardy treat to dip in latte becomes a whole new option.


Motor City Serenade - Stewart Francke

   Soul’n'roll, as Stewart Francke finds a way to push up his sleeves and unfurl his heart over muscular melodies that are long on romanticism. A true product of Detroit, he understands the cultural intersection of the rock of Seger, the soul of Motown and the jagged pulse that makes the MC5 kin to Eminem. Working with members of the Funk Brothers, this is a supple invocation of the hybrid - waxing combustive on “Deep Soul Kiss,” ruminative on “Better Get To Know Your Broken Heart” and the medley of “From Where Shall the Comfort Come” and “Surviving The Good Times” or the sleekness from the chome dream sheen of the title track - that seduces with the satiny shimmer of how good roots-driven pop music can feel.

   “American Twilight” is of course the clear-eyed view of the receding tide of the promise, while “God I Need An Answer” seeks larger truths than most of us rush to find. But it is in the intellectual component that Francke’s t-shirt and jeans rock transcends. He is a voice without falter, a searcher who’s not afraid of what lies beyond the veneer - and let off the leash, it’s a passion that distills the fury that fires this music to hit harder than the beats which propel it.

Walking The Talk


Anyone can say anything. It’s why words have come to mean to little in our culture. Backing what comes out of one’s mouth up with action, with compassion, with commitment to what one espouses is the true merit of the statement. In a world of “that was then…,” “I didn’t mean it…” and lofty self-definition, the walk is the truest humility in action.

   Measure what you say with how you think, respond, realize your life. If the disparity shocks you, it is the open door to creating a more consistent, more truthful way of living. All you have to do is let your life’s path reflect the things you say… and let your talk reflect the way you truly live.