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Le Chignon

The chignon hairstyle is a classic, timeless “up-do”, yet it still manages to be modern. Any age can wear a chignon and feel instantly classy and coquettish; just add some red lipstick, perfume and you’re elegant and ready for any occasion.
Sometimes known as a French twist, the Chignon is a classic bun with a bit of a twist.
This hairdo is extremely popular because it can be worn numerous ways: to the side, slightly messy, and sometimes decorated with flowers or even chopsticks. 
The word “chignon” comes from the French phrase “chignon du cou,” which means nape of the neck.  It is still synonymous with French sophistication. Chignon (pronounced: "shin-yawn ") resembles a beautiful, smooth, low knot or bun. The most elegant women don the chignon. Perhaps this is so because, as it was said to me as a young girl, the nape of a female neck may be simultaneously both the clearest and most subtle pronouncement of femininity in a woman’s appearance.
The hair is first brushed straight and gathered at the back in the hands.  The ponytail is then twisted to tighten the hair, and the twisted ponytail piled on the back of the head and secured with pins to give a very attractive bun. A messy bun can add some character to the look.
The chignon can be traced back to Ancient Greece, where Athenian women commonly wore the style with gold or ivory handcrafted hairpins.  They fastened their chignons with a hair pin clasp of "golden grasshoppers," according to "The History of the Peloponnesian War". The chignon’s popularity peaked again in the 1940’s when many women wore the bun with a headscarf while working in factories to support the war effort during World War II.
This hairstyle is also identified with ballerinas. Ballet dancers often use hairnets and bobby pins to make their bun as tight and neat as possible. Most ballerinas have long hair because it adds femininity to the stereotype of a ballet dancer. There are more ballerinas today breaking that mold. Nonconformists like City Ballet dancers Ashley Bouder and Jenifer Ringer cut their hair to feel a bit more like a regular person. They wear hair pieces when performing.
For feminine women who have long hair a chignon is perfect for rainy weather or when you’re running late; instead of spending time blow-drying and straightening your hair, just pull it back into a bun and you’ve got an instant chic do.
With the flexibility of styles from elegance on one end to casual comfortability on the other, the chignon may inspire a healthy and attractive approach to daily living.  Many say that a new or different hat may change not only a woman’s appearance, but also her attitude and feelings about herself. The same may be true of this simple, nape clearing “up do.”  From Classic to Modern - with a twist - a Chignon can work for everyone! 

I Don't Know How She Does It...She Juggles!

After a long week of juggling, I could not wait to see the new movie that I knew (after reading the book) I could relate to.   
Allison Pearson’s 2002 novel, I Don’t Know How She Does It, was described by Oprah Winfrey as “the national anthem of working mothers.”
Kate Reddy, a sophisticated investment firm whiz in a competitive field played by Sarah Jessica Parker, is going through three especially chaotic months in her life that will exhaust you to watch as we “see Kate run!” She has a tightly packed work schedule but more importantly she has two kids, a nanny and a husband who just wants five minutes of her time.
Kate is a woman who loves her job and family and is trying to juggle the two while flying back and forth to New York from Boston where she works closely with the ultra debonair Pierce Brosnan.  This adds to Kate’s stress as she carefully keeps her emails professional and vanilla. She is deeply fulfilled by her job and needs it more than just for financial reasons.
This frantic lifestyle wills Kate, who is a frazzled mom juggling family life and a demanding job, to try to have it all. I can relate to the desire to manage the chaos with two young children, I think a lot of mothers will resonate with Kate. We are the little engines that could (and can).
My friend Jen (who is also a working mom of two) and I went to see the movie together and we laughed so hard we cried several times, especially when Kate’s best friend Allison (Christina Hendricks) brings unset Jell-O to the bake sale. We found ourselves rooting for these working women and laughing with them.
Kate has the freeze frame commentary that we are familiar with from Sex and the City but also the likeability of Bridget Jones that can be seen in the way she can’t quite get it right while trying to balance life and love.
Sarah Jessica Parker says this about managing to do it all with her own family, “I’m proud that with lives that are somewhat complicated, we keep figuring it out.” That’s what you have to do, just jump in and swim!
It is true that there is a juggling act required of working moms. I know I feel extremely happy and proud when I see that I CAN successfully juggle both work and family. Women who make it work usually thrive on a full plate. Yes, tired we may be but as SJP says, “we keep figuring it out.”
As an elementary school teacher, I maintain high admiration for the stay-at-home moms who drop their kids off at school in their cute workout clothes and head straight to the gym for Pilates, yoga, the elliptical trainer... Allison Pearson refers to these women as “the Momsters.” Their nails are polished, hair highlighted, pies homemade and their children never get head lice unlike Kate who gets it from her daughter and frantically scratches her head during an important business meeting. These women have high expectations to meet, if for no other reason than that most people, including their husbands, sometimes think they have plenty of time for everything. Of course, that’s usually far from the truth.
Kate’s assistant, Momo (Olivia Munn), is more like a robot than a human. She states at the beginning she does not want to have children. Naturally, Momo gets pregnant at the end. Momo is in tears when she’s holding her newborn baby and says this about her feelings, “this does not compute.”
There have been many movies about working women. Some of my favorite include: Woman of the Year ’42 with Katherine Hepburn who plays a political columnist, The Apartment ’60 with Shirley MacLaine who is an elevator operator, 9 to 5 with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton were all secretaries and Working Girl ’88 with Melanie Griffith who plays a receptionist. Sarah Jessica Parker fits right it in I Don’t Know How She Does It because it’s relevant to today’s working mom.
Don’t we all have “the list” that mothers go to bed thinking of? Kate sinks back in her bath to let her thoughts flow freely when she says about her non-stop list and thoughts, “they feel stuck to my brain like barnacles.” I think most women have “the list” running through their heads at all times and there’s nothing we love better than to check something off of it.
Many working moms feel that pressure, worry, and guilt, guilt, guilt to be perfect. Kate has that working mom shame of buying a store bought pie for the bake sale, missing her son’s first haircut, singing her children to sleep by cell phone…I think most moms would jump at the chance to work part-time if they could, because then you’d have the best of both worlds.
Kate’s husband, Richard (Greg Kinnear), a struggling architect says the magic words, “Sometimes okay has to be good enough.” Richard refers to Kate as a juggler when asked what she does for a living. Kate says, “The secret is not how you catch but how you throw.”
My two favorite Allison Pearson quotes from I Don’t Know How She Does It:
Even the moon gets to put its feet up once a month. Man in the Moon, of course. If it was a Woman in the Moon, she’d never sit down.”
Trying to be a man is a waste of a good woman

Soups on!

Soup is like a softly glowing and occasionally crackling fire in the fire place; it’s soothing, therapeutic, and nourishing all the way to the bones. Soup warms the belly, gently bathes the soul and simply does the body good.
Louis XV silver soup tureen
King Louis XV made soup an upper-class dish. He turned soup from “fuel” for the poor to pure pleasure to satisfy the court at Versailles.
We‘re still having heat waves here in Texas but we’ll be welcoming autumn before long. The weather has finally shown signs of fall; we’ve had a good amount of wind, the nights have cooled quite a bit and a few times a hint of that “something in the air” that we all recognize as a welcome signal of change.
The biggest sign that fall is here is that college football has begun. Fall, Football, Food…such a perfect combination that makes your senses come alive. I love to hear the noise of the game combined with good smells coming from the kitchen. A soup can simmer for hours and make the house smell cozy and just where you want to be.
One of my favorite scenes from the movie Julie and Julia is when Julie says, “You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure and when I say nothing, I mean nothing. You can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. That's such a comfort.” I love that about soup. I can start chopping vegetables and hear the broth simmering and instantly feel better. After a long week, I needed to cook lots and LOTS of soup!
Perhaps due to growing up in Rhode Island where my husband Derek says he had soup so often as a child, (resulting in a few common scorched tongue memories), I have had a job to do in persuading him of the pleasure of a delicious bowl of soup.  After making the best chicken noodle soup he said he’s ever had, I think I’m winning him over to the soup side!
Here’s to letting your good evening turn into a “super” one. Remember, if fall, football and food are an appreciated combo at your house too, do your best to make each new serving a “super bowl.” It goes well with the season. And, if the soups too hot, do what Lauren Bacall said in To Have and Have Not,You just put your lips together and...blow.”
French Onion Soup:
2 T olive oil
4 red onions, thinly sliced
¼ t sugar
4 leeks (white part and a little of the light green) thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 C beef or chicken stock
½ C white wine
1 bay leaf
¼ t thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ C Gruyere cheese, grated
In a large saucepan over medium heat sauté onions about 15 minutes. Add sugar and leeks and continue to cook, stirring frequently until caramelized. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add stock, wine, bay leaf, and thyme. Cover partially and simmer until flavors are blended, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into oven proof bowls and place sliced bread on top and sprinkle with cheese. Place under broiler until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.

Tomato Soup:
12 Roma tomatoes
2 shallots, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 potato, diced
1 T tomato paste
1 T ketchup
½ C white wines
Dash of cumin
Place tomatoes under broiler for a few minutes then peel and remove skins. Sauté shallot in olive oil and add carrots. Pour in wine, add the whole tomatoes and diced potato. Cover with chicken broth and simmer until the vegetables start to fall apart. Process the whole mixture and strain the soup through a chinois. Stir in the tomato ketchup, paste, and cumin, then season. Optional: fry tomato skins in olive oil for garnish
Chicken Noodle Soup:
1 stewing chicken (about 4 pounds), cut up
5 celery ribs, coarsely chopped, divided
4 medium carrots, coarsely chopped, divided
2 medium onions, quartered, divided
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
8 ounces uncooked medium egg noodles
In a large stockpot, combine the chicken, water, half of the celery, carrots, onions, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 2-1/2 hours or until chicken is tender. Chop the remaining vegetables; set aside.
Remove chicken from broth. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones and cut into bite-size pieces. Discard bones and skin; set aside.
Strain broth; return to stockpot. Add the salt, chopped onion and remaining celery, carrots, red bell pepper and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add noodles and chicken. Cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until noodles are tender.
Leek and Potato Soup:
1 bunch of leeks (white part and a little of the light green) sliced
4 C diced potatoes
6-7 C water or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring leeks and potatoes to boil in the water, simmer 20-30 minutes. Puree soup and serve warm.

Head Over Heels for the Go-Go's

The Go-Go’s make me feel nostalgic for the ‘80s. Their songs are happy, feel good music and always made me hungry for fun! You can tell The Go-Go’s clicked together as friends; you can just feel their sisterly energy. My friend Jen and I used to make mixed tapes for each other and I remember Belinda’s voice blaring from my boom box. Oh, the power of good music and friends…life can always feel like a vacation!
The Go-Go’s are a very special band! No one sounds like The Go-Go’s but The Go-Go’s. These ladies wrote their own music, played their own instruments, and played by instincts which translate to a fiery, zippy sound. They are considered the most commercially successful all female rock band in history and are still loved by all ages. Just hearing their music makes you want to sing Let’s Have a Party!
My five year old daughter will scream AGAIN to hear “Our Lips Are Sealed” and I happily obey. My sister jokes that most little kids know who Justin Bieber is; my daughter doesn’t know him but she knows Cyndi Lauper, The Go-Go’s, and The Pretenders. She’s a product of an ‘80s music lover.
Belinda Carlisle’s voice has the sound of experience, cigarettes and that sexy trembling vibrato similar to the one Edith Piaf had.
Opening for The Go-Go’s Ladies Gone Wild tour was an all-female band Girl In A Coma. I’m sure many people thought this young edgy and energetic Texas band reminded them of when the Go Go’s first started. The Go-Go’s have a poppy reputation but they began as a punk band in ‘78. I will always think of them as California girls singing “This Town” about their hometown LA.
This town is our town
It is so glamorous
Bet you'd live here if you could
And be one of us
Last month The Go-Go’s received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  August was a busy month for them as they finished up their summer tour. My friends and I watched, listened, and danced like crazy as the Go-Go’s took the stage at the House of Blues in Dallas for a set that packed 18 songs into an hour and a half.
Five fabulous women make up The Go-Go’s: lead singer Belinda Carlisle, singer-guitarist Jane Weidlin, guitarist-keyboardist Charlotte Caffey, drummer Gina Schock and bass guitarist Kathy Valentine (from Austin).

The Go-Go’s gave the audience what it wanted at the House of Blues: “We Got the Beat,” “Vacation,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “Get Up and Go,” “Cool Jerk” and the grande finale “Head Over Heels.” They sounded exactly as they did in the ‘80s…totally awesome!!

The Go-Go’s sound is timeless, not dated; it’s rock! They are fun, energetic, sassy, and when they play, you never want them to stop! They “Go Go” from start to finish.

After the concert, I picked up Belinda Carlisle's autobiography Lips Unsealed; I couldn’t put it down! It is one of the most fascinating books I have read in quite some time. Her life is almost unimaginable!
She writes about being the first of seven children, her father leaving, stepfather beating her, the kids at school nicknaming her “Belimpa” and teasing her for her one outfit. Being unhappy at home, she signed up for all kinds of activities at school. She was a cheerleader and the first female on the all male basketball team. She left home at eighteen living on oatmeal, shoplifting, and trying to meet Freddie Mercury.
I appreciated her honesty and feel confident that she will help a lot of people with drug addictions. Belinda on Cocaine: “It sent me into happyland, far away from whatever else was on my mind. It always made me feel better no matter what else was bothering me.” She’s been drug free since 2005 and gives thanks to her family and friends who kept encouraging her.
I loved seeing Belinda on Dancing with the Stars. I thought she had a beautiful presence and that her exit was premature. I read that she wished she could have stayed longer too but that she didn’t enjoy being judged in such a mathematical manner.
While living in the South of France, she was inspired to make an all French album called Voila that is absolutely magnifique!
Belinda is like the Zelda Fitzgerald of California; always looking for a good time, moving from place to place to keep from being bored. Just as F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife Zelda didn’t really belong to Montgomery, Alabama-- Belinda didn’t belong to California; she was a product of her environment and the world…a gypsy. I bet Zelda would have partied like a rock star too!
Belinda's tweets tell it all, she is still restless and always on the Go Go! She has been running away since she was a teenager. Nomads make perfect rock stars. It sounds very glamorous to be a jet setter and not have to be responsible for making your bed or putting away the dishes.
You can see a change in Belinda’s eyes compared to her earlier years; she’s much more mellow now. I read that she likes the discipline of yoga. I’m happy for her that she found something to give her balance.
Their debut album, Beauty and the Beat from 1981 was just the beginning of something magical. The thirty year anniversary album is a masterpiece, and even the album cover is classic! The face masks and towels show a look that all women can relate too. Five decades later The Go-Go’s still ROCK! I read Charlotte Caffey and Kathy Valentine just wrote a new song for the band…fingers crossed we’ll be seeing them sing again soon. Long live The Go-Go’s, and long live the ability to recognize and respond to inspiration in all of us!

My Let's Have a Party friends who danced the night away with the fabulous Go-Go's!