Très Ashley

Dance It Out

How much do I love Steller...? Oh, so much. It's my favorite new way to tell stories. Do you Steller? Here's my first Steller story on DANCE! Dance It Out!      

Three Happy Cows: Back And Better Than Ever!


Yogurt has always been a staple in our house. We favor Greek yogurt to have with breakfast, lunch and's the perfect food for any time of the day.  

Three Happy Cows has a huge Texas following and is back after a fire destroyed their plant, forcing them to stop production for several months. The company is named Three Happy Cows because cows produce the best tasting yogurt when they're happy and healthy.  

Their new flavor, vanilla bean, will have you hiding yogurt in secret pockets of the refrigerator because it's coveted by the whole family. I like to pack lunches for my children with Three Happy Cows drinkable yogurts (mango is my son's favorite). 

The vanilla bean is so rich and delicious and the caramel so naturally sweet that it's hard to pick a favorite. My fruit loving children often request strawberry and blueberry. I'll admit to being nearly hooked on mere anticipation of the soon to be introduced honey flavor but truly every flavor has a fork-worthy texture that will make you say, "This is the BEST yogurt I have EVER tasted!" 

I love the fact that Three Happy Cows is made in Dallas, Texas with fresh milk from happy cows. It's a wholesome super food that you can feel good about feeding to your family. 

These happy cows help keep us mooooving!
You can find Three Happy Cows at Central Market, Sprouts, Market Street and several others. Happy eating! 

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Graceful Grace of Monaco

Grace Kelly is loved for being a movie star icon and a princess. Born in 1929, she came from an upper class Irish family in Philadelphia and was extremely well educated along with her three siblings. 

She was the daughter of a self-made millionaire who was a socially enthusiastic brickworks owner and Olympian, Jack Kelly. Grace's Dad was a champion sculler who won three Olympic gold medals as part of the U.S. rowing team and Grace's Mom, Margaret, was the first coach of women's athletic teams at the University of Pennsylvania. Grace displayed talent for performing on the stage instead of the Olympics early on. 

Grace became famous in the 1950's starring in movies such as Dial M for Murder (1954), The Country Girl (1954), for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress, To Catch a Thief (1955), The Swan (1956) and High Society (1956). 

She had the right connections and was a muse to many...Hermes even renamed one of its most popular bags "the Kelly" after her. She wore powdery gowns designed by Edith Head and MGM's costume designer, Helen Rose. The pearls, ladylike clothes and hats (that she had to wear to all public functions) were all part of Grace's charm. 

She had a lot more independence than most women of her time and was hardly innocent. She supported herself early on, lived by herself and chose her movies, friends, social activities and men. She was comfortable with her sexuality and enjoyed the company of most of her costars off camera...and in her bed. 

In 1955, Grace was asked to attend the Cannes Film Festival where her film, The Country Girl, would be shown. During her visit in Cannes she was invited to participate in a photo session at the Palace of Monaco with Prince Rainier. There were several complications and delays on route to the Palace but the end results were memorable and the Prince and Grace began a long series of correspondence with letters. 

After getting to know each other through their letters, Rainier traveled to Philadelphia and met Grace and her family and friends. He proposed after three days and she accepted. Jack Kelly agreed to pay a two-million dollar dowry to Prince Rainier in preparation for their wedding..."The Wedding of the Century." 

As Rainier's princess, Grace was forced to give up her acting career. Her movies were banned in Monaco by the Prince. Besides being Catholic and the love for their three children, (Princess Caroline, Prince Albert, and Princess Stéphanie) they didn't have very much in common. Grace didn't speak French and usually remained silent so not to embarrass herself or Rainier. It was an adjustment for Grace to have her life centered around her husband. 

Grace was kept on close watch in the Palace by her lady-in-waiting, Madge Tivey-Faucon. Her role was to spy on Princess Grace and watch her every move for Rainier. 

Grace began to lose herself and became extremely unhappy. Rainier forbid her to act in what would have been her fourth Hitchcock movie, Marnie. Grace contemplated divorce but their Monaco priest, Father Frances Tucker said, "Your children will suffer most. They are heirs to a European throne. You'll be lucky to see them again. I suppose the world will also hang its head in disappointment." She also consulted an American divorce lawyer but after being advised that she would lose her children, she accepted her life in Monaco.

Princess Grace may have seemed to have a fairy-tale life but she missed the freedom she was used to before marrying the Grimaldi Prince. She missed the closeness of her New York friends. She became more of a loner in the Palace due to being surrounded by Rainier's disreputable friends

Rainier was very opinionated and insensitive. He thought Grace's appearance should remain unchanged. Grace wore low healed shoes so not to appear taller than him. Once she cut her long hair into a bob of the moment, the new artichoke style, and Rainier was so angry that he threw his drink to the floor and stormed off. 

Rainier Grimaldi said of his wife, "She had the Irish in her, a mixture of good-heartedness and kindness, combined with strong will." 

The spirit of freedom remained missing from such a beautiful heart, banished as a part of one of the world's highest profile trades of one life for another. Sadness and happiness often walk along the same road of difficult choices.

Five things Grace Kelly said: 

"Fairy tales tell imaginary stories. Me, I'm a living person. I exist. If the story of my life as a real woman were to be told one day, people would at last discover the real being that I am."

"It would be very sad if children had no memories before those of school. What they need most is the love and attention of their mother."

"I'm basically a feminist. I think that women can do anything they decide to do."

"My real difficulty was to become a normal person again, after having been a movie actress for so long. For me, at the time I was living in New York and Hollywood, a normal person was someone who made movies."

"I would like to be remembered as someone who accomplished useful deeds, and who was a kind and loving person. I would like to leave the memory of a human being with a correct attitude and who did her best to help others."

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Mary Cassatt: 5 things you might not know

My friend Leslee came into my classroom last week and told me, "Great news! The Traveling Art Exhibit has arrived!" I spent most of that week running around like a crazy person getting my classroom ready for Open House (which is always right before Spring Break). When Leslee said, "I've already put it up." I breathed a huge sigh of relief, told my friend thank you and made sure the children in my classroom enjoyed the exhibit every day. Our PTA was kind enough to purchase the Traveling Art Exhibit and introduce Mary Cassatt and Frederic Remington to our students. 

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) has always been one of my favorite artists and I was thrilled that I was not only a classroom teacher but also an art teacher for one week. 

Mary Cassatt was one of the leading American Impressionist artists. Born in Pittsburgh and influenced in France by Degas. She is famous for capturing women in everyday, honest and domestic settings...the emotion felt when looking at her paintings (specifically the mothers with their children) still resonates is timeless. She was strong and independent, yet with an amazing talent to capture both the strength and gentleness of mothers. 

You might not know...

In Pittsburgh, Mary Cassatt grew up with high social standing. Her father was a well-to-do real estate and investment broker. She was being schooled to be a proper wife and mother taking classes like homemaking, embroidery, music, sketching and painting. During the 1850's, the Cassatt family took their children abroad to live in Europe for several years. In regards to her making a living as an artist, her father had strong objections and said, "I would almost rather see you dead than living abroad as a bohemian."

1. Mary Cassatt referred to Edgar Degas as "my best, my only, friend." She also said of Degas, "I used to go and flatten my nose against that window and absorb all I could of his art." 

2. She was known for her large and elaborate hats. Degas said of Cassatt, "Most women paint as though they are trimming hats. Not you."

3. Mary Cassatt was the only American to exhibit with the French Impressionists. She said, "I hated conventional art. I began to live."

4. She was diagnosed with diabetes, rheumatism, neuralgia and cataracts in 1911. By 1914 she was almost blind when she took up the cause of women's suffrage, and showed eighteen works in an exhibition supporting the movement.

5. Cassatt's red brick house, Chateau de Beaufresne, was turned into a home for abandoned children after she died. 

Five more for children...

Questions and mini-lessons that teachers asked and told their classes:

1. Do you think Mary Cassatt was a mother? No, she wasn't. Her whole life prepared her for it...homemaking, embroidery, music and painting but she never married. She said, "I am independent! I can live alone and I love to work."

2. Do you think most women during the 1800's were like Mary Cassatt? Did most women have careers like she did? What do you think they did?

3. Mary Cassatt was a huge fan of hats. What does her hat remind you of?

4. Mary Cassatt's father was strongly against Mary becoming an artist. How do you think her father felt when he looked at her paintings? 

5. Mary Cassatt had poor eyesight. When she died at 82, she was blind. How do you think she felt about not being able to see her paintings?

My second grade class enjoying Mary Cassatt's work. 


Aim True with Kathryn Budig

Photo by Jasper Johal

My husband asked me the day before my workshop with Kathryn Budig, “Are you excited?” “Yes, super excited!” Everyone has a secret pleasure. Mine involves running off to my favorite yoga studio to recharge my batteries and find my happy place.

Kathryn Budig is well known yoga teacher and writer. She has a playful approach that makes the whole room smile. The yoga expert for Women's Health Magazine, she's also a philanthropist and a foodie. She co-founded Poses for Paws, an organization that raises money for animal shelters. She's also partnered with ToeSox, who donates 10% of proceeds to her Poses for Paws organization. It's fun for me to know that she works with one of my favorite chefs, Giada de Laurentiis.
Kathryn Budig and Giada de Laurentiis. Photo by Ture Lillegraven
I'm a big fan of Women's Health Magazine. I recently bought Kathryn Budig's The Women's Health Big Book of Yoga. I love how I can customize my practice to whatever I need for the day. I also have the Big Book of Pilates...I'm a Pilates instructor! Both books are loaded with pictures. If you follow Kathryn's writing, you'll read that she loves Pilates too! She's also enjoys rock climbing, hiking and sky diving. Yep, she's amazing! 

Kathryn studied musical theatre and English in college at the University of Virginia. She moved to LA to become an actress and teach yoga on the side. She realized that she didn't care for Hollywood but had a talent for teaching yoga.

I found it interesting that someone with a musical theatre background didn't play music in her classes. I actually really like that she didn't. My most memorable yoga and Pilates classes are those where you can just hear the music of the breath. I think without the music, you're able to go a little deeper within yourself and hearing others breath around you is like a sea of motivation. 

Kathryn's cues match her playful style. She helped me find my "Jackie Chan muscles." She says to get into your Jackie Chan kung-fu stance..."elbows bent, biceps tight to the body, and forearms out will help you feel strong and safe."

The second favorite thing that I took away from Kathryn's workshop (Jackie Chan being the first) was her standing splits series. I love, love this pose...I"m a ballet dancer and splits just feel good (especially against the wall). 
Instagram photo kathrynbudig

1.   "Ever wake up on the wrong side of the bed and allow a bad mood to spoil your day? If you’re nodding yes as you read this, you’re probably not doing enough yoga. Or maybe you’re not having enough sex…"

2. " The only way to experience happiness is by taking chances and following what makes my heart beat."

3. "I believe food is meant to be enjoyed, so if you find yourself out to dinner at a fantastic restaurant—enjoy it! You can go back to kale and quinoa tomorrow, but life is meant to be tasted and enjoyed."

4. "A big part of what I teach is the ability to move through and past fear. Fear is a huge issue in our society that keeps people locked in habits and inhibits the ability for growth."

5. "I have the best job in the world. I've been blessed with traveling the world in order to teach people yoga. I realize yoga still carries stereotypes such as granola-loving, uber flexible chant-till-you-drop fanatics, but I'm here to prove those people wrong. Yoga will change your life."

Thank you Kathryn Budig! You are an inspiration! xx

Romy Schneider: Greatest actress of all time

Romy Schneider was only introduced to me within the last couple of years by my Austrian friend. Romy is not as well known in America but she is unforgettable in Europe. She was known as the "German Shirley Temple" in her early age. Romy Schneider was an Austrian-born actress who starred in German, French and American films from 1950's through the early 1980's (making over fifty films). 

Although she played the Empress of Austria in Sissi, her life was far from a fairy-tale. Her father left Romy's mother (actress, Magda Schneider) when she and her brother were young. Magda's new husband (Romy's stepfather) embezzled her acting money. On romance...her heart was broken several times (first by Alain Delon who left her for another woman and then the suicide of her first husband). The worst was when she lost her son when he was only fourteen in a tragic accident. 

Romy Schneider was voted "Greatest actress of all time" by the readers of French newspaper "Le Parisien" and voted the premiere star of the 20th century in 2006. 

Romy didn't want to play princess roles or be known as a movie star. She said this about her role as a princess..."Sissi sticks to me just like oatmeal." She refused to make a fourth Sissi movie. She wanted to be taken seriously as an actress. She moved to France and escaped her stepfather and was also challenged more as an actress.

She was stunning and a true talent. She died of natural causes when she was only forty-three. Her friends and family have complete conviction that she died of a broken heart. 

 1. "The moment I put on that first Chanel suit I knew I'd never wear anything else. Fashion is unimportant - elegance is all important."

2. "If you get a great opportunity you have to grab it and don't let go, then extend it with a lot of effort...talent is nothing more than love for the cause."

3. "To get everything, one has to give everything. Which is quite a discovery for me. I know I am not easy to live with. I am hot tempered. I ask too much of friends. One should ask the maximum of oneself. But not of others."

4. "Work, work and more work is my only true life. Life must go on. My work gives me strength."

5. "The most important thing about me is that I am an actress. It would be a lie to say that acting was just my job or something I did for fun. It is my life. I have my home, my husband, my son. I have to be a little schizophrenic to cope with it all. But I am basically an actress who has a family; not a wife and mother who also acts. I prefer to work in films but if I was unable to then I would work on the stage. I couldn't just stop and not be an actress any more."

*This post is dedicated to my Austrian friend, Margot. Alles Gute zum Geburtstag und danke for introducing me to Romy Schneider. xx

Anne Burrell: Valentine's Day recipe and upcoming premier

“Reprinted from Own Your Kitchen. Copyright (c) 2013 by Anne Burrell. Photographs copyright (c) 2013 by Quentin Bacon. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House LLC.”
I've been a fan of Anne Burrell ever sense I watched her as Mario Batali's sous chef cracking eggs one-handed at lightening speed on Iron Chef. I can relate to her love of Italian food (especially pasta)! I love her simple approach to pure and rustic food. 

Just in time for Valentine's Day! Enjoy this Cappuccino Panna Cotta recipe, courtesy of Anne Burrell on behalf of Food Network’s series, Worst Cooks in America.

Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay are back to transform kitchen disasters into skilled cooks in the fifth season of Worst Cooks in America.  Premiering on Monday, February 17th at 9pm ET/PT, the seven-episode season pits formerly undefeated series champ Anne against last season’s winner Bobby, each leading a team of disastrous cooks in an intense culinary boot camp designed to turn them into confident kitchen heroes.

Happy Valentine's Day! Happy Cooking! Happy Premier for two of my favorite chefs, Anne and Bobby! xx 

cappuccino panna cotta with chocolate sauce

Serves 4
Time: About 30 minutes active and at least 2 hours to chill

Mise en Place
For the panna cotta
4 sheets of gelatin
3 cups heavy cream
3⁄4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1⁄2 vanilla bean
1⁄2 cup chocolate-covered espresso beans, for garnish
For the chocolate sauce
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1⁄4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

For the panna cotta:
1 In a small bowl of cool water, submerge the gelatin sheets to soften. They will go from stiff to soft, kind of like the texture of a giant contact lens. Feel one—it’s SO cool!

2 In a small saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, and espresso powder. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise down one side, open it up, and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife. Add the seeds and the hull to the pan. Whisk to combine everything.

3 Bring the cream mixture to a boil and then immediately turn off the heat. Remove the softened gelatin sheets from the water and squeeze out the excess water. Add the gelatin sheets to the pan and whisk to combine.

4 Immediately ladle the cream mixture into four 6-ounce ramekins and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.

For the chocolate sauce:
1 Fill a small saucepan with 1 inch of water and bring it to a boil (BTB).

2 In a medium heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate chips, heavy cream, butter, and corn syrup. Place the bowl on top of the pan of water (this is a double-boiler setup). Reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir until the chocolate has melted and all the ingredients are combined. Remove and use immediately or store in a warm place until ready to use.

To unmold the panna cotta:
1 Fill a small saucepan with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Run a paring knife around the outside edge of the panna cotta to loosen it. Set each ramekin in the saucepan for 10 seconds. Place a small serving plate on top of each ramekin and flip it over to unmold the panna cotta. If it doesn’t release, put the ramekin in the water for a few seconds more and try again.

2 To serve, ladle a couple tablespoons of the chocolate sauce around the panna cotta and sprinkle with a few chocolate-covered espresso beans.

Note: If you can’t find gelatin sheets, you can substitute powdered gelatin, but first you need to “bloom” it in water—which just means dissolving it in a little bit of water until it looks sort of like jelly. It takes only a few minutes. Then you need to dissolve it with your hot liquid—it’s easy, but sheets are a lot more fun. To use powdered gelatin in this recipe, first bloom one 1⁄4- ounce envelope in 2 tablespoons water, then add it to the mix, and you’re back to business as usual.


For Valentine's Day dinner, we almost always eat pasta. Usually, we make our Italian favorite, spaghetti and clams. This year we're experimenting with beet ravioli. It's a Valentine's color, delicious and the ultimate interactive fun to have with your kids. Food tastes better when you've made it together. 

Pasta is a food that makes everybody happy. It's perfect for kids because kids love to make a mess and they can get really creative in the kitchen. 

For Valentine's Day Beet Ravioli:
basic pasta dough:
3 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup semolina flour
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons water, if needed
2-3 small beets
for the filling:
11 oz of goat cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 T chopped chives
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Roast beets at 400 for about an hour. Let them cool then quarter the beets and place in a food processor.  Add the eggs and flours.  Pulse until a ball of dough forms.  Add a little more flour, a tablespoon at a time, until a dough forms that is not dry, but still a little bit sticky. Take the dough out, knead a little on the counter and place on a sheet of floured plastic wrap and wrap. Let rest on the counter for at least 20 minutes.  Cut the dough in quarters and roll out for ravioli. Follow pasta machine instructions for rolling out the dough. We started on a number one and gradually went to a number five which was perfect for our ravioli. 
Flour the ravioli mold. Lay a sheet of pasta over the mold and scoop a small spoonful in each little groove. Cover the ravioli with the remaining overlapping sheet. Run a little rolling pin over the top and gently press down. This allows for the ravioli to come out clean. Repeat with the other three quarters. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook half the raviolis (we froze the other half) and cook for about four minutes. Scoop raviolis out of the boiling water and place into a pan of butter and olive oil. Toss gently and serve with a Parmesan (you can also top with hazelnuts, pinenuts, chives, raisins...)  

   We also made some fettuccine (same recipe without the beets).

This Valentine's Day, stay home and make pasta. 
Also see this pasta inspired post:

Love, Love Me Do (deux)

Valentine’s Day will be here soon! Have you shopped for your loved ones yet? Here are a few ideas and inspirational poems that I think would add extra happiness to your Valentine's Day. 

The Eskimo has fifty-two names for snow because it is important to them; there ought to be as many for love. ~Margaret Atwood
Valentine's for Her: 

Golden sparkler heart wand I plan to add mine to a chocolate cake...and maybe let my kids have some fun outside. 
PARIS : An Inspiring Tour of the City's Creative Heart  Take a dip into the most romantic city in the world.
Valentine Heart bra and panty set Inspired by Josephine Baker who worked her magic on Parisian high society.
Alice + Olivia Heart d'Orsay flats comfortable and sweet.
Bando hearts You can never have too many sparkly hearts!

The friend who holds your hand and says the wrong thing is made of dearer stuff than the one who stays away.
~Barbara Kingsolver
Valentine's for friends:

LOVE necklace "L" is for the way you look at me...
Heart Pasta I can't wait to see my children's faces when I serve them heart pasta for Valentine's Day. 
Send your love with these beautiful assorted Valentine's Day cards
Heart apron Lucille Ball would approve.
Raspberry Basil Lemoncello Cocktail Three of my favorite bar ingredients: raspberries, lemoncello and rose sparkling wine...the perfect Valentine's Day cocktail to share with your best friend.

Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.
~Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
Valentine's for Children:

Rock Monkey...that funky monkey might become my son's favorite animal to sleep with!
Thames & Kosmos Perfume Science Kit I would have loved it if someone gave this to me when I was a teenager. This is my kind of science.
Apple Cake: A Recipe for Love A beautiful children's Valentine story about the world that can be hidden in the simpliest of things. Also, it has a recipe for apple cake.
Heart Pajamas A little baby would be wrapped in your love.
Girls' Striped heart sweater Perfect for Valentine's Day and also very French!

Westley: "I told you I would always come for you. Why didn't you wait for me?"
Buttercup: " were dead."
Westley: "Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while."
~William Goldman, The Princess Bride

Valentine's for Him:

Leather card wallet rustic...just like him!
Manicure set with everything your man needs.
Fifty Places to Bike Before You Die stunning photographs for your adventurous cyclist.
Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties fascinating facts about the Beatles’ music, their lives and the sixties.

More love inspired posts:

Mastering the Art of French Eating: love, food and France

You know those books that grab hold of you from the moment you start reading the first few pages? Mastering the Art of French Eating is one of those treasures.

Ann Mah’s book will make you hungry for a crusty baguette and thirsty for a good rosé. Her book is about love, food and France. The life-lessons she learns in France truly give her food for thought and make memories you can taste.

Mah’s diplomat husband was assigned to Paris for a three-year posting. They were living the “American in Paris” dream together until her husband was transferred to Iraq for a year.

Mah’s situation was similar to Julia Child’s…both diplomatic spouses spending their days in Paris learning about French cooking. She even bought a house on the same rue de l’Universite that Julia lived on.

At first, the Skype chats she schedules with her husband are all she’s looking forward to until she gets a part-time job working at the American library and starts exploring France.

Reading her book, we can travel with Ann as she meets fellow food enthusiasts...a farmer’s wife who offered to give Ann the details and secrets of her cultured butter, a fellow food writer that she invites over for dinner to make soup dumplings and a wine adviser who leads Ann through her wine cave in Pommard. 

Using Thomas Jefferson and Julia Child as tour guides she journeys through France, searching for the country’s most famous provincial and iconic dishes. Traveling to Alsace for choucroute, Brittany for butter and crepes, Lyon to experience a Salade Lyonnaise, Languedoc to taste cassoulet and Provence for soup au pistou. As she travels, Mah includes recipes for these regional recipes from her journeys.

Ann writes, “There is no croissant as crisp and flaky or as sweetly buttery as the one you eat, still warm from the oven, on your first morning in Paris after a long absence.”

Ann Mah is easy for me to relate to…she’s shy, has had a love for France since she was a child, is a tea drinker and loves Julia Child. I want to be her friend and make a pumpkin pie with her…a fellow Francophile.

Reading Mastering the Art of French Eating will make you want to be in Paris…preferably with your husband because as she writes,“If you want to go fast, eat alone. If you want to go far, eat together.” And “Somehow everything tastes better eaten with your favorite dining companion.”

Merci Ann! I so look forward to reading your next book. 

Other books you might enjoy that take you on a journey through France: Eight Days in Provence, Paris to the Moon, Almost French, Chasing Matisse, A Year in the Merde, and My Life in France.

Other French inspired posts you might enjoy: