Goodbye, Summer, Goodbye!

My writing nook...

My writing nook...

Goodbye, Summer! It was a shock to my inner-gardener when I stepped out onto to the terrace this morning to find the straw-hat season packing up, moving on. Without so much as a 'by your leave'. How did this happen?

It seems that only yesterday we were celebrating the Fourth of July, anticipating a bounty of Long Island corn, the sweetest corn in all the world. Looking forward to plucking a few juicy New Jersey beefsteak tomatoes off the vine. Cracking open a batch of Maryland crabs. Turning a humble breakfast into a feast with a Connecticut cantaloupe. And tossing a couple of Maine lobsters on the grill for an easy dinner. 

And now?

Now it's time to say goodbye to all that. Goodbye, as well, to the coach-lamps that cast a magical glow over the table in the evening. Lamps that are a perennial reminder of the adage: One man's trash is an other man's treasure.  When a neighbor, many years ago, tossed them out, we scooped them up and gave them a new life. An outdoors-y life! One surrounded by white lace hydrangea, variegated hosta and hot-pink mandevilla that have a habit of scampering to the top of the trellis.  But wait a second, are we rushing things?

Au contraire!  For on the north side of the terrace, the gnarled and woody kiwi vines, a bellwether in the world of gardening, are telling another story. Half the yellowed leaves lie scattered on the ground, with the hangars-on fading fast. I remind myself that these vines are the first to sally forth each spring, to leaf out in late March when all the world is half-frozen, as well as first to leave the party. Which is when I notice the moss growing alongside the roots of the kiwi. Moss that browns out in the summertime, is a bright green—as bright a green as any seen in the rock-strewn fields of County Clare. And as velvety as a caterpillar’s back.

Tell Me More...

The black-eyed Susans, so head-strong in July and August, have lost their buttery blondness, if not their dark eyes.  And two monumental coleuses—plants that spent the summer on the terrace after being quietly removed from the entrance to the building—are changing from a deep burgundy to a fiery crimson. Along the parapet overlooking the street, the Carefree roses are doing their very best to live up to their name.

Let Me See for Myself...

To take a walk in the garden, click play.

Did you see the astonishing wall of hydrangea? What had been a mass of creamy-white blooms has magically transformed itself to a dusty rose. What’s remarkable and endearing about the hydrangea is that they've managed to thrive for three years under conditions that have proved fatal to any number of plants.

Early morning...

Early morning...

It's that plants that live year-round on a New York City terrace need to be able to withstand the frigid Arctic winds that sneak down across the Canadian border; the heavy soakings from a Nor’easter; and the heat radiating off the terra cotta tiles on summer afternoons. In a word, the plant must be hardy in all seasons. Hardiness counts.

You've Gotta' Love It

What’s still going gangbusters is the lantana, a shrub that loves sunshine, can go dry without suffering damage, and blooms for months on end. Besides adding bright splashes of color to the garden, the vertical lantana that grow 4-5 feet high on supports are beloved by the butterflies and bees. It’s the color!

As for the scent, it’s love it or hate it. I love it, love its minty fragrance when I crush the leaves between my fingers. Others will tell you lantana smells like gasoline, but as someone who loves the promise of the open road, I rather like the smell of gasoline.

But this is all so sudden! I’m not quite prepared, not quite ready to say goodbye. Not quite willing to stash the throw pillows -- pillows that soften the wood benches and remind us of the important things in life -- in the storage bin.

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At which a few lines from “Reluctance,” a poem by the bard of rural life, Robert Frost, spring to mind:

Ah, when to the heart of man was it ever less than a treason, to go with the drift of things, to yield with a grace to reason, and to bow and accept the end of a love or a season ?

Le Petit Jardin dans le Ciel

By the way, I should tell you that le petit jardin dans le ciel, the little garden in the sky, is a wee bit French in that the landscape designer lined up the planters to form a mini-allée, a path.  And it's even more French when we bring up a basket of croissants and a carafe of coffee in the morning or une bouteille de vin rosé in the evening. It's then that we drink to your health: à votre santé. And to that of Missing Mother and our good friends at Harper Collins Canada!  A-men.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you next week when I'll have the coffee and croissants ready. Weather permitting, we'll catch up with one another in the garden.

And remember...sharing is caring. Merci beaucoup mes amies.

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Purple and white Angelonia

At the Guggenheim: The Book Fairy Strikes Again!

At the Guggenheim: The Book Fairy Strikes Again!

Hello and welcome back Guys and Gals!

I hope your summer was refreshing to body and soul, whether you were at-home or abroad, at the seashore or in the mountains. Mine was spent in front of the computer screen, happily researching and writing another memoir. Why leave home if you’re having such a good time?

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Missing Mother: International Bestseller HarperCollins Canada!

Missing Mother: International Bestseller HarperCollins Canada!

Hello Guys and Gals!

When I signed off for summer a week or so ago, I had not anticipated so much good news coming my way. First there was the selection of Veronica's Grave as a New York Public Library TOP PICK for Summer 2017, followed days later by the breath-catching news that Missing Mother, the Canadian version of Veronica's Grave, had made the Bestseller List in Canada during its first week in the stores. When I asked my editor at HarperCollins Canada if that entitled me to call myself a 'best-selling International author,' his response was: Absolutely! 

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New York Public Library: Top Picks!

New York Public Library: Top Picks!

I'm honored that Veronica's Grave: A Daughter's Memoir made the 2017 summertime reading list of none other than the New York Public Library! The list is comprised of the top picks of librarians throughout the library system. That my memoir was selected by the head librarian at the exciting new Bronx Library Center seems most fitting as I was born in the heart of the once Beautiful Bronx where "the best people live."

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La Maison du Chocolat: Choc is Chic!

La Maison du Chocolat: Choc is Chic!

My thanks to those who have inquired as to why there have been so few posts of late. In years gone by, I've taken a break between Memorial Day and Labor Day, as it’s not as much fun bopping around the city in ninety-degree weather, but I always pause to say goodbye, something I’ve not done until now for a number of reasons.

What's the story?

Mainly, it's that I’ve been hard at work on another book, which I hope to finish this summer, a preoccupation that has left me with little time for seeking out French style here in the city. And, more importantly, my favorite wining and dining companion has been under the weather of late. That said, the ‘Comeback Kid,' currently in rehab and not enjoying the cuisine at all, should be fit as a fiddle by the Fourth of July. All of which calls for a celebration, one that this year includes the publication of Missing Mother by Harper Collins Canada. Hooray! Hooray for the Comeback Kid!  Hooray for Harper Collins! Hooray for Canada celebrating 150 years of harmony on July 1st!  Hooray for Missing Mother! And, lastly, hooray for you and me!

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To Dress or Not to Dress...

To Dress or Not to Dress...

It was a brilliant summer day, the temperature climbing into the 80s. Entering the dining room of Café Boulud, I wondered if the air conditioning was working. It wasn’t cool enough for me, but then few New York City restaurants are.  Having lived off-and-on in Florida for fifteen years, I can vouch for southern expertise in turning an overheated dining room into a chilly igloo, at the flick of a thermostat. And doing so night after night.    

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Cezanne and Zola

"Cézanne and I” (Cézanne et moi) tells the story of the troubled friendship between the French Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne and the French writer Émile Zola.  

When we first meet the young Zola, he is a poor boy catching birds so he and his mother will have something to eat for dinner. Cézanne, on the other hand, comes from a privileged background and contends not with poverty, but with bullying by an austere and imposing father.

The boys bond during a schoolyard scuffle in which the hotheaded Cézanne comes to the aid of the more prudent and placid Zola, sparing him a wicked bruising. From this day forward, their lives will be entwined, notwithstanding the divergent paths each will follow to glory.

The biopic traces their friendship from early school days to nights of debauchery and eventually to a reversal in social standing. All of which takes its toll, turning them from friends and co-conspirators to rivals—each anxious for the approval of the art salons, the galleries, the dealers and the ‘leading lights’ of their day.

Tumultuous Times

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Cézanne, sickened by the success of the Impressionist painters, forges ahead trying to capture an elusive vision—to find a way forward from nineteenth century painting to what we know as modern art. His early efforts meet with disdain in a world still captivated by the works of the Impressionists.

Although Zola comes to his friend’s defense, his words do not suffice to heal Cézanne’s wounded pride. The arguments and jealousies increase, in part because Zola, after the publication of a few novels, has become a wealthy man.    

Write What You Know! 

Eventfully they have a falling out over Zola's “L’Oeuvre,” a fictionalized depiction of Cézanne’s life that shows him as a loser, a failed painter.  Cézanne, a wild man, accuses him of plagiarizing their lives. In Zola’s defense, writers are told repeatedly: Write What You Know!  Zola did. When the book with its depictions of the bohemian lifestyle in Paris met with great acclaim, Cézanne accused Zola of 'selling out,' of siding with the bourgeoisie.

Madame Cezanne

Madame Cezanne

The Women Who Loved Them

The truth is that both men were anxious to succeed and insecure about their art.  Adding more misery to the tumultuous relationship is that Zola weds Camille, a woman who had previously been the lover of Cézanne. When she tells Cézanne, a misogynist boor, that the happiest day of her life was when she stopped loving him, I cheered. Of course, Zola, too, would later betray her by having an affair with a buxom young girl who enters his household as a seamstress and stays long enough to bear him two children.

Years later, Cézanne, against his family’s wishes, would live for many years with a woman made famous by his paintings of 'Madame Cezanne,' if a woman his family regarded as beneath them socially. He would only marry her after she bears him a son and he wants to protect his son’s patrimony. 

Spoiler Alert: The Ending

The most affecting scene comes toward the end of the film when Zola takes his mistress, Jeanne, and their children back to the village where he and Cézanne grew up and where Cézanne is still living. An approving crowd gathers to see and hear the renowned writer. Meanwhile, Cézanne, receiving word that Zola has come to town, lays down his brushes and races to the town square, where he hovers at the edge of the crowd—able to see Zola, but not saying a word. That left me dewy-eyed.

Two Paths to Glory

Of course, in both cases, history has the last word. Émile Zola courageously took on much of the French establishment, penning the newspaper article ‘J’Accuse,’ which led to the exoneration of the falsely-accused Alfred Dreyfus and to nominations for the Nobel Prize for Literature in both 1901 and 1902.  And Paul Cezanne, too, succeeded beyond all expectations. Art historians widely regard his seminal paintings as the foundation for what will be the transition from nineteenth century painting to twentieth century modern art.

In a Nutshell

Unlike some reviewers, I loved this period piece, a lush walk through French history and the French countryside.  But then I’m a pushover for studies of ‘genius’ and for films that transport me to exotic places—Aix-en-Provence—and former times. That these two geniuses, temperamentally 180 degrees apart, should have met and befriended one another seems improbable, and yet it happened. And the world is richer for it—if not the women who loved them and lived with them.

C'est tout pour cette semaine ...Until we meet again, remember…caring is sharing!  I’ll have the coffee waiting next Sunday…

PS: A week ago, in Portland, Oregon, Veronica's Grave took the Silver Medal at the prestigious IPBA Benjamin Franklin Award for Memoir 2017. Yay!

Another astonishing piece of news is that Harper-Collins Canada has bought the foreign rights for Veronica's Grave and is bringing out the memoir under a new title in June 2017. Woo!  

Step Right Up! Enjoy the Show!

 Step Right Up! Enjoy the Show!

Throughout the nineteenth century, the ‘fairground’ —loosely translated as the ‘sideshow’ of the traveling circuses of the day—was a popular theme with the press and artists alike.   

Anchoring an exhibition of 100 related works on this theme at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a masterpiece of the museum’s collection, the sublime Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque) painted in 1887-88 by Georges Seurat (1859-1891).

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Once in Every Lifetime

Once in Every Lifetime

There's great news this week, but let me start with a fantastic sale. It's hard to believe, but on May 9th Veronica's Grave: A Daughter's Memoir will be celebrating its First Birthday.

To honor all books published by She Writes Press in Spring 2016, the publisher is running a one week sale of those books. Starting now. There are 36 books to choose from, and each can be downloaded for pennies! To be exact for 99 cents each. 

If you're feeling reflective, there are a number of memoirs to check out.  If you're looking for historical fiction or a riveting mystery, you will find them on the list. All you need do is click here

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Le Coucou: Worth the Trip!

Le Coucou: Worth the Trip!

Hello, Guys and Gals!

Thank you so much for all the birthday wishes! It was an amazing day filled with greeting cards, email cards, flowers (even my local florist sent flowers!), phone calls, and emails from relatives and friends all over the country. Many of whom have been celebrating with me for a lifetime.

And, of course, there were messages from Facebook friend, who have entered my life more recently, bringing with them richness and warmth. I’m grateful for everyone who made the day special. Especially for my husband who wined me and dined me at the fabulous candlelit Le Coucou.

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A Snowy Day

On a snowy day in January, a writer-friend with a new book to sell, Romalyn Tlighman from California, was in New York for a conference at the Hilton. Romalyn's book, To The Stars Through Difficulties, is a fascinating look at the development of the public library system in Kansas in the early twentieth century under the influence of Andrew Carnegie.  Now available on pre-order on Amazon, it will likewise be available at book stores nationwide in April.

                                                              A Snowplow at Rest on Park Avenue

                                                              A Snowplow at Rest on Park Avenue

We met for lunch at what Zagat calls 'a perennial favorite,' the Trattoria Dell’Arte, on Seventh Avenue. Seated at a table with a view of the street, it was magical watching New Yorkers and visitors slipping and sliding on the slick pavements, while across the street, Carnegie Hall, named after the great American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie,  loomed as unperturbed as ever.  For Romalyn, there was a special connnection. 

                                                Nature's Handiwork on the Upper East Side

                                                Nature's Handiwork on the Upper East Side

By the way, you can tell the native New Yorkers when it snows by the umbrellas they carry!  Whereas hardy Nordic types, don their woolen skis caps with colorful patterns and tuck their chins deeper into their lambskin collars.  

Close by us that day was a table of five, enjoying themselves immensely, apologizing for the glee, explaining they were up from Texas where it never snows. Their enthusiasm was infectious. As it it, cloudy days, rainy days, grey days, and snowy days are my favorites; I never take them for granted.  Still, it was lovely listening to the gusto they brought to the lunch-hour white-out, which, if making the city less discernible, was likewise making it even more enjoyable. In short, it was an enchanted day.   

So, when it snowed this week, with great sheets of white whipping in from the north, I donned my knee-high Hunter boots and my plush soft Hunter socks, to walk in the snow and enjoy that snowy day magic all over again. Time was of the essence, I knew, as it doesn’t take long for a coverlet of white to turn into a slushy grey mound at a crosswalk.

And it didn't take long before I decided the wind was too nippy, that I needed a respite. A snowed-in blackboard on a sidewalk caught my eye: If the brussel sprout soup didn't do it for me, the quiche sounded about right. Ducking inside a neighborhood charmer, Demarchelier on East 86th Street, near Madison, I found all in readiness. Snow or no snow. Including the soft lighting, which I have always appreciated. You can see for yourself the results: a challenging book, a soft, full-boded pinot noir, and a quiche Lorraine. Take a look at that crusty bread, what's not to like! And there's madame, totaling up the bill...

Have you a snowy day favorite place where you like to linger long? Drop a line and tell me about it. Hope to see you next week when I'll have the coffee ready...

Seduced by Paris

Seduced by Paris

On my last three trips to Paris, I’ve chosen to stay in the Marais, not because of its international clientele, lovely art galleries, and trendy boutiques, but for the glimpses it offers of the history of Paris, dating to the 13th century.

Opening the Travel section of today’s New York Times (Sunday, February 5, 2017), I was delighted to find “My Paris: Seduced by the Past,” by Liz Alderman, the Paris-based chief European business correspondent for The New York Times. Liz has lived in the Marais for fifteen years, and, as you might expect, her choices are personal, well-informed, and dear to her heart. Read on!  

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Everything Old is New Again

Everything Old is New Again

When art critics released their best exhibitions for 2016, "Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio" rose to the top of the most discerning lists. As the show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be closing January 16, time is running short. So, drop everything, run right over. If that's not possible, then read on for a fresh look at an old master. And Valentin de Boulogne is an "old master," if one we may not have heard of until now.

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Au Revoir 2016, Bienvenue 2017

Au Revoir 2016, Bienvenue 2017

If you’ve been following this newsletter for a while, you may recall some of the marvelous French restaurants that have come our way this year. And it wasn't all that hard to find them, as French cooking is undergoing something of a renaissance in New York. And while the competition was strong, the standout was Le Coucouwhere our dining experiences have been memorable in every way.

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