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What Does Sick Look like, Lisa?

As you know, I am obsessed with the entire Real Housewives franchise because I am shallow and have a lot of time on my hands. However, it must be pointed out that the sociology of the Real Housewives is très interesting. Whether you know it or not or even want to admit it, watching the Housewives is a study in social anthropology. It’s like watching wild animals in their natural habitat.

For whatever reason, the filming of the Housewives brings out the worst in its characters. The seven deadly sins are fully represented every week… Gluttony, pride, greed, lust, envy, wrath and sloth. However, last week a whole new sin was introduced… Stupidity. This 8th cardinal sin was brought to us by none other than Lady Lips herself, Lisa Rinna.

Let me set the stage and get you up to speed in case you missed last week’s episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. My friend, Yolanda Hadid, one of the housewives, has neurological Lyme disease. It is a mysterious disease, difficult to diagnose and so far, impossible to cure. But it’s got another little special side effect… With Lyme disease, you don’t actually LOOK sick. Nothing about Lyme disease screams, “Look at my Lyme disease!” So, our dear Lisa Rinna had the nerve/gall/balls/ignorance to accuse Yolanda of faking her illness and even went so far as to accuse her of having Munchhausen Syndrome which, by the way, Lisa had to Google.

Now, I know I should just let this go and not let it bother me… But it does and if you know me, I’m going to talk about it. Who am I to talk about it? I am two things: I am Yolanda’s friend and I also happen to be sick, very sick, actually the sickest so I know what I’m talking about.

June 2011. I called Yolanda exactly 20 minutes after I was diagnosed with ALS. Her response was, “Don’t worry, we will go through this together.” She didn’t question me, she didn’t question my diagnosis, she didn’t Google Munchhausen syndrome. She was just plain and simple… There for me.

2012 or so, Yolanda got sick but she didn’t tell me. She didn’t want anything, including her illness, to diminish or take away attention from my ALS if you can understand that. I would call her every other day and she would ask how I was and I would tell her what was going on with me that day… I fell, I can’t lift my arms up, I can’t breathe very well, I can barely swallow, I have anxiety… Blah blah blah. I would ask her how she was and she would answer, “I’m fine.” I didn’t know that she actually wasn’t fine. Her Lyme disease was tearing her apart but she never told me. She suffered in silence. She always put me first. Never complained to me once. Is that Munchhausen, Lisa?

By the second year of her illness, I realized that she was very, very sick and a whole new side of our friendship developed. We could commiserate, in private. We talked doctors, treatments, Eastern and Western medicine, stem cells, hyperbaric chambers, blood transfusions, supplements, oxygen therapy, surgeries, clinics, researchers, fundraisers… You name it, we discussed it, but only amongst ourselves. It wasn’t until later that we both became more vocal about our illnesses. I did because I have no boundaries or filters. Yolanda did to help others, to be their voice.

Sometimes neither of us would leave our houses for weeks and we understood that it was okay. We have taken a backseat to the world right now. We both talked about how we felt like flies on the wall watching life go by us. I physically was paralyzed and Yolanda was mentally paralyzed. We joke that we should morph our two bodies, mine mentally and Yolanda’s physically, and then we would be a whole person again.

We watched our children become more independent because they had to because on a certain level we couldn’t be the mothers that we once were. We physically and mentally couldn’t be. This is the most difficult challenge of being sick. I didn’t get to take Gracie to her first day of college. Yolanda didn’t get to go to Gigi and Bella’s Tom Ford fashion show or drive Anwar to school. We didn’t get to be there when our children needed us, when they needed our support. We didn’t get to bask in our children’s glory quite frankly, and trust me, we live for that shit. Is that sick enough for you, Lisa?                                                     

We haven’t been able to be the wives that we wanted to be to our husbands. My David hasn’t ever had a wife who could stand up. My David hasn’t seen me in high heels since 2010. My David hasn’t had a life outside of caring for me 24 hours a day since 2011. Yolanda’s David only saw her healthy one year of their marriage, if that. Yolanda used to go with her David to every event, concert or fundraiser that he was performing at. That all stopped and David lost his partner. My David lost his partner as well. Yolanda and I just physically and mentally couldn’t do it anymore. Do you think that we wanted this to happen? Is that sick enough for you, Lisa?

And this brings me to my beef with Lady Lips, Lisa Rinna. What is sick supposed to look like, Lisa? Just because you cannot see something, does that mean it is not there? If you accuse Yolanda of not looking sick, you might as well accuse me of not being sick as well. I went to Italy last week to a farmers market, does that mean I’m not sick? Yolanda went on a gondola ride in Aspen yesterday, does that mean she’s not sick? Look a little deeper, Lisa… While I was at the farmers market in Italy, I couldn’t taste the samples of Parmesan cheese because my throat won’t let me swallow from years of ALS. While Yolanda was in Aspen, she couldn’t go skiing because she was physically exhausted from years of Lyme disease. But you didn’t see this because you didn’t look deep enough. What is sick supposed to look like, Lisa? Lift up my shirt and you will see a feeding tube and a diaphragm pacer inserted under my skin. Lift up Yolanda’s shirt and you will see scars from having her implants removed and a scar from her antibiotic port. Is this sick enough for you, Lisa?

I can’t walk. Yolanda can’t drive. I cannot breathe on my own. Yolanda can’t stay awake more than two hours at a time. How many buckets of tears must we shed for you to deem us sick, Lisa? Yes, Yolanda is still gorgeous, and I am sorry if this is confusing you but guess what? She is sick. No, Lisa, she doesn’t want to be sick. She doesn’t want the attention. She wants to be well. She doesn’t want to struggle. She doesn’t want her life to be watched from the sidelines. She doesn’t want to miss out on her children and their lives. She never wanted to disappoint her husband. She never wanted to disappoint her friends. She never wanted you to judge her.

So next time you decide to form your little witch’s circle and cackle at the fact that you think someone is not sick just because you don’t see it, think again.

I hope I have clarified things for you. I will patiently await your apology towards Yolanda and on behalf of everyone who is sick but doesn’t look sick, according to you. I accept apologies in the form of gifts especially Cire Trudon candles.

Yolanda is much more polite than I am and she only mentioned that some people (you) do not understand long-term illnesses. I am not that polite and I will just say… See you next Tuesday.

The Gift of Travel… Pillow Style

I think that the best gift of life is travel. Near and far. I am afraid of a lot of things but travel is not one of them. I love the whole process… Airports, hotels, new environments, new cultures… New food! Before my 18th birthday, most of my travel was confined to the US but after 18… I was off!

My first overseas trip I ventured alone… To the Cannes Film Festival in France. I was going there to meet up with my boyfriend du jour and another friend who had a film in the festival. The rose of the trip was the best strawberries that I have ever tasted and the thorn was that my boyfriend cheated on me. Such is life but I still remember those strawberries! The boyfriend… Not so much.

After Cannes, I moseyed over to St. Tropez where I was bitten by the travel bug and 20 years later… My love of travel has never stopped. London, Rome, Venice, Paris, Florence, Barcelona, Majorca, Normandy… I got the basics out of the way early and I was ready to start my more adventurous travel… Morocco, Bali, India, China… But a little something called ALS got in the way. However, I still like to do what I can with ALS. Just this week we have traveled to over 10 villages in the south of France…Gordes, Lacoste, Menerbes, Bonnieux, Arles, St. Remi, Graveson, Avignon etc.

I have always encouraged my daughter, Gracie, to travel as I feel it is the best way for her to explore and appreciate a world outside of herself. She started traveling alone airport to airport when she was 11 years old and by the time she was in the ninth grade she had mastered the London tube, the Paris Metro, the New York subway and could navigate her way through any confusing airport with confidence. Even though Gracie is shy, she can work her way through any customs line like a seasoned pro with her cute little passport. Gracie has taken dozens of online school finals inside of an airport lounge. :-)

The most important part of our travels is what we have learned.  It is easy to stay in America and remain in the safety of your comfort zone but when you expand your horizons, you expand your mind and this is, as MasterCard says, “Priceless.” Gracie was homeschooled three out of four years of high school and this gave her the opportunity to learn outside of the textbook. Travel taught Gracie tolerance, open-mindedness, appreciation for other cultures, religions, customs and yes, food… From the basic crêpe to Vietnamese nem, Indian butter chicken, Moroccan couscous, Spanish tapas, North African merguez and falafel to French quennelle and Italian burratta. We have spent Sunday’s at an Indian Temple, Wednesdays at a Catholic Church and Tuesday’s at a Muslim mosque. It’s all about exposure, baby!

We have thousands of photographs of our travels in photo albums, boxes, picture frames and books to remind us of where we have been, what we have seen and what we have experienced. Memories… Which brings me to today’s exciting blog posting…

I have found a company that shares my love of travel in a very unique way. On pillows! The owners of the company have combined their love of travel, vintage style and interior decor and have produced pillows that have vintage scenes of their families travels to Europe in the 50s and 60s. Two words: très chic! Take a look…

 On The Champs Pillow
French Mediterranean Pillow 
London Map 1 Pillow

Spanish Mediterranean Pillow

Notre Dame Bookstand, 1962 Pillow
Simply Paris Pillow

San Francisco Map Pillow

Paris Artiste 1961 Pillow

Venice Touristas Pillow

And here is the best part… The pillows are available on my shop starting today! I have a huge selection of the pillows with scenes of Paris, Italy, Spain, New York, San Francisco… All with a vintage flare. The pillows are printed with European linen from the Netherlands, filled with a lush 10/90 down/feather blend and backed with natural linen.

Click HERE to shop the pillows!
Happy happy holidays!

Christmas in Provence: La Mirande Hotel

Christmas in Provence. Miraculously, so far so good.

Last weekend, my husband and I decided to take Gracie to the beautiful hotel, La Mirande, in Avignon for a hot chocolate after Christmas shopping and boy, it did not disappoint!

This little hotel is definitely in my top 10 favorite hotels in France. Situated on a narrow little cobblestone street with a view of the Palais de Pape, La Mirande left me gobsmacked.

Formerly a private mansion, as I sat in the sitting room of the hotel with its hand painted wallpaper, all I could think was, “How/who/what do I have to do to get a place like this?” Just kidding, no I’m not.

The hotel was having a Christmas luncheon that was f.a.b.u.l.o.u.s.! Absolutely fabulous. Each room had a buffet with specialty Provençal fare… And plenty of hot spiced wine.

I honestly don’t think I could justly describe the perfection of this hotel so I’m going to let the pictures do the talking…

 Happy, joyful and perky little Grace.


Voila! La Mirande Hotel!

La Mirande Hotel
4 Place de L'Amirande
84000 Avignon, France


Don’t mind if I do, Gramercy Park...


In Manhattan, New York there is a very special park called Gramercy Park. This park is so special that it's private and can be only accessed by those #LuckyDucks who live on Gramercy Park. And they get a key. The golden key to Gramercy Park. Be jealous, be very jealous.

But, guess what? As part of an old New York charitable holiday tradition, the gates to Gramercy Park are open to us losers on Christmas Eve! The Gramercy Park church, Parish of Calvary St.George, will also be having carolers starting at 6 PM in the park. This is absolutely not to be missed!

You may be wondering why I am so excited about this. Well, it’s hard to even write this without crying, but Gramercy Park happens to be the last place I was before, minutes before, I was diagnosed with ALS. I thought that I would let you guys in on a chapter of my book about it. I should have my book finished by March but I thought you guys would like a preview of the Gramercy Park chapter.

 Here it is…

Gramercy Park

Gramercy Park on the lower East side of Manhattan has always held a special place in my heart. The name alone just sounds cool. Then there is the Gramercy Park Hotel designed in part by one of my favorite artists, Julian Schnabel, with its amazing color scheme of rosy reds, Fire King green and sapphire blues. Then there is the architecture of the brownstones around the park. A little village within a big city. And then there is the garden. The secret private garden to which only a lucky few hold the keys.

I always feel like a little part of me is still in Gramercy Park. Like a little bit of me is still wandering around the park… The part of me that doesn’t have ALS.

As I walked out of the offices of 1stdibs on my lunch break casually walking to the neurologist office for what I thought would be a quick appointment, I never imagined that this would be my last carefree walk. Physically it was not a carefree walk because I had a strange limp and I was worried that every crack in the sidewalk would cause me to fall flat on my face. Mentally, all I was thinking about was the beautiful park.

I walked past the church at the corner of the park and I remember saying to myself, “On my way back from the neurologist appointment, I need to stop at the church and check out their little thrift shop.” I was thinking that I needed to come back to the Gramercy Park Hotel for cocktails later that week with my girlfriends. I was thinking, “God, I wish I could afford one of these brownstones around the park.” My mind floated around thinking how beautiful and lush the little garden was and if the residents who held the coveted key to the garden could grow tomatoes in there.

What I was thinking about was just… Nothing. Now all I think about is… Everything. That five-minute walk in Gramercy Park was the last trace of who I used to be. That girl was like you… She had worries but they were just regular worries. Can I pay my rent this month? Is Gracie getting good grades in school? Does David love me more than his ex-wife? Why are my friends such bitches? Will I ever forgive my father? You know, regular worries. My days were normal...wake up, deal, go to bed. I walked around Gramercy Park that day with my head in the clouds and what I would give to go back to that day.

Sometimes I close my eyes and try to remember that moment in Gramercy Park before I walked into the doctor’s office. I can see it, feel it, smell it and almost taste it. I want to remind myself of who I was before and what it felt like to be carefree. I haven’t been carefree since that day. I want to cherish those few moments and have them emblazoned in my soul so I don’t ever forget what it was like… Before.

Sometimes I beg God to just let me have those few moments of liberty back. Let me just walk around the park again without knowing my fate. Let me be ignorant, let me be blissful, let me be unafraid. If I could just have back a few moments… I would run around that park smelling every flower letting myself get pricked by a rose thorn. I would pop into the hotel and grab a cappuccino. I would peer into the bottom windows of the brownstones. I would skip over the cracks of the sidewalk. I would walk down the tiny broken steps of the church thrift store and pick things up and put them down at my leisure. Hell, I might even stretch out my arms, lift my head to the clouds, start spinning around in circles and sing a little song. At the end of my allotted time, I imagine I would try to renege on my deal with God and I would ask for more time. Don’t make me go forward to my life with ALS. Let me just stay in this park without ALS. Just give me another few minutes… This time I will cherish it, I promise.

So I encourage all of you to get over to Gramercy Park on Christmas Eve...




New York city

Holiday Traditions: Christmas Wontons

It is so nice to hear about all of your holiday traditions… traditional (Prime Rib) and nontraditional (Kentucky Fried Chicken)! So let’s keep this holiday train going…

Every year, my parents have a holiday cocktail party. Otherwise known as, “The day my mother shows off her Christmas decorations to nonfamily members.” The holiday cocktail party is the culmination of everything that embodies my mother… Decorating, Christmas and food… And a bit of screaming. Traditionally, there is always at least one person in my family either screaming, pouting, firing off a rude email, having a pity party or crying. Without fail. Does this happen in your family? There’s plenty of laughing, hugging, and loving but there’s always a side platter of hysteria. You would think were Italian with all of the drama, but we’re not, we are just overly emotional Irish folk.

However, we set all of this aside when “company” arrives like any other dysfunctional family. My parent’s holiday parties are a blast. Plenty of interesting guests, cocktails, music, appetizers and holiday cheer. It wouldn’t be a holiday party at our house if there wasn’t one thing… My mother’s appetizers! In my Christmas book, A Very Chic Christmas, there is a compilation of her best party appetizers but there is one particular appetizer that is everyone’s favorite… Her Christmas wontons!

Continuing our holiday tradition sharing, I thought I would share the Christmas Wonton Recipe with all of you here on the blog! (For the rest of her recipes, you can purchase, A Very Chic Christmas, HERE.)

Anne's Famous Wontons with Apricot Dipping Sauce

My mother, Anne, says, “This is my original recipe.  I have made it so many times and it is a little different each time...which is just fine.

You can change this if you want because I do most of the time.  But it always turns out great.  Here it goes...

I just make as many as I have sausages.”


Wonton skins in package
Italian Sausage in package as links.  2 packages. I use the hot and they are great!
Large package of cream cheese
Green onions  2 to 3 bunches
Sesame Seed Oil
Chili Garlic Sauce  this is in the Asian section and it is red with a green lid. 
Peanut Oil

Remove the thin skin/casing from the sausage and put the sausage in a skillet on a med high heat.  You do not need any oil because the sausage has enough.  I like to take a spoon and cut up the sausages into small pieces.

While this is cooking cut up the green onions.  Put in a large bowl.

The cream cheese is for binding this all together.  Use as much as you like but remember that you want the sausage to be the main flavor you taste and not the cream cheese.

Add the cooked sausage to the green onions in the bowl.  Now while the sausage is hot add the cream cheese.  Start out with half of the package and see how it goes. Then add more if needed. Then add some sesame seed oil.  Just a little bit goes a long way. Like a 1/2 teaspoon. Now add the chili garlic sauce.  I just like a 1 teaspoon and go from there.  Remember that the Italian Hot sausage has a lot of go easy with the Chili Garlic Sauce.

Taste this and see how you like needs to taste good at this point.

Now get the wonton skins and get a little bowl of water.

Place one wonton skin on some parchment paper.  Put a spoonful of the mixture in the middle of the wonton skin.  Now take a little pastry brush or I just use my finger and put some water around all of the edges of the wonton skin.  This will seal it.  Now pull the 4 edges up and press them together. You want this to look like a little pouch.  You can twist the top if you like...Make it look nice. Repeat.

Now in a deep sauce pan or a skillet....Heat the oil.  I like to use peanut oil because it can get the hottest. Have enough to cover all of the wonton.   Turn it up to high and when it is hot...drop the little wontons into the hot oil.  I like to do just a few at a time because they go pretty fast.  Take out and put on paper towel as soon as they become light brown...

Dipping Sauce:

4 tablespoons peach preserves
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic chili sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

 Mix together and serve with Wontons.

Make as many as you have time for.  It is best to do them just before your company comes. (Editor’s note: mother still refers to guests as “company.”)  The wontons are not really good cold nor are they very good reheated.  You can assemble them ahead and cover with a slightly slightly slightly damp tea towel so that they do not dry out and then fry them as the guests are arriving.

Voilà! Christmas wontons!

What is my Christmas book, A Very Chic Christmas, all about? It’s about how to have a beautiful Christmas. Simple as that.… By following a few rules. My sister likes to refer to it as, “A judgmental Christmas book with humor.” It’s all about how to decorate for Christmas, Christmas guidelines, my Christmas stories and of course, our family holiday recipes. There are over 50 recipes including menus for a Christmas Cocktail Party (Lemon spiced shrimp with horsey dipping sauce), Christmas Morning Breakfast (Biscuits with Sorghum), Casual Christmas Eve Dinner (chicken pot pie), Fancy Christmas Eve Dinner (Beef Wellington), Christmas Dinner (Crown roast with crispy roasted potatoes with goose fat and herbs), and New Year’s Eve Cocktail Party (Crispy crab stuffed mushrooms and mini roast beef sandwiches with onion confit and horseradish sauce). And desserts and cocktails!


To have a softback book delivered to your door, purchase HERE.

To have an e-book delivered to your device instantly, purchase HERE. 

*Christmas in Provence is starting off nicely. We found a giant Christmas tree and will start decorating today… Stay tuned for details in the next blog.

Holiday Traditions: Fondue, Baby!

Bonjour! Welcome to the holiday season!

I thought it would be fun to spend the next few weeks blogging about holiday traditions. Yours and mine.

Today it’s all about fondue. My family never made fondue because my mother hates cheese, therefore fondue was obsolete at our house. However, when I met my French husband nine years ago, fondue became a big part of my holiday tradition. My husband, David, also known as Bunny, is the master of fondue and we always have fondue during the cold holiday months. I thought it would be fun to share his recipe with all of you! And then, I thought I would share a few other fondue variations… The Barefoot Contessa’s take on fondue, a smoky cheese fondue with garlicky croissants and a twist on the classic chocolate fondue.

Let me tell you something…Bunny can cook. He learned everything from his mother who is a marvelous cook. I have been trying to convince David’s mother for years to let me help her write a cookbook. She has refused unfortunately (probably because she hates me) and will take her recipes to the grave. However, David’s fondue recipe is at least based on his mother’s original recipe… but David took it to a whole new level. Check it out:
This is David and his little boy, David.
Bunny and Bunny Jr.

Bunny’s Fondue
Let’s start with the cheese. I think that the secret to David’s fondue is the three types of cheeses he uses. Equal parts Beaufort, Comte and Gruyere cheese. Next up, David uses a dry sparkling white wine, a Brut Sec. David gets his dry sparkling white wine, Vin d’Ayse, from a little village in the French Alps, his mother’s hometown of Bonneville, but you can use any good dry sparkling white wine. His next little secret is to throw in two girolles clou mushrooms. Cube a delicious loaf of crusty French baguette and put into a couple of different baskets to pass.



Okay, those are the ingredients, now let’s talk about how to make it. Cut up all the cheeses into equal rectangular shaped thin slices and put in a nonstick pot, add enough sparkling white wine to cover the cheese, and start cooking… Medium to high heat for 10 minutes. Do not boil the cheese! A big non, non! Just get the cheese to a liquid consistency. Lower heat to medium and continue cooking for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, throw in the two mushrooms for a pop of earthy flavor. Add salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Pour all of this into your fondue pot and enjoy!

Now, here’s the special part. At the end of the fondue when you are thoroughly stuffed like a French pig and when you have about half an inch left of cheese left in your fondue pot, take an egg and crack it into the fondue pot. Use your fondue fork with a piece of the crusty baguette on it and start stirring the egg and cheese mixture, cooking the egg. At our house, this is everyone’s favorite part because it makes a little cheesy egg omelette on your piece of baguette. Divine!

Okay, now let’s take a look at some other fondue variations:

 The Barefoot Contessa's Baked Fontina Fondue-ish
Click HERE for recipe.
 Smoked 3 Cheese Fondue with Toasted Garlic Buttered Croissants
Click HERE for recipe.

Caramel Fondue
Click HERE for recipe.
What? You don’t have a fondue pot? Have no fear, I’m here to help. David’s favorite fondue pot is from a company called Emile Henry. Click HERE. My favorite fondue pot is from a company called Mauviel, it’s copper and it’s gorgeous. Click HERE.


What are some of your cooking holiday traditions? Leave your thoughts in the comment section! Stephen, we are waiting…

 A toute!