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Celebrate with Champagne in a Coupe

After the holiday time for drinking egg nogs, hot toddies, and wassails, much of the world ends the year on a zippy and festive note with champagne. I love to drink champagne from the glamorous coupe glass.
Champagne drinkers may tell you that the broad surface of the coupe allows champagne to lose its bubbles more quickly, making it less suitable for very dry champagnes. However, the coupe is very good for allowing you to fully smell the champagne. I find I can solve the bubble problem just by drinking my champagne a little bit faster!
Julia Child tried to save her bubbles from a bottle of Dom Pérignon with a stopper. She proved that the champagne was still bubbly three days later.
Dom Pérignon is credited with inventing champagne. He understood the art of blending and used grapes from different parcels of the local farmers.
Champagne was the drink of nobility. Think about the French court at Versailles. They publicized their status by the vessel from which they treated themselves with champagne.
The coupe glass is often claimed to have been modeled from Marie Antoinette’s breast down to the enunciated nipple grooved on the base of the stand. The coupe actually has its origins rooted in England but I find Marie Antoinette’s story to be more memorable (and a bit more of an ice breaking conversation starter on New Year’s Eve).
I think the coupe is so glamorous especially after watching one of my favorite movies from 1942, Casablanca. I like to imagine myself as Ingrid Bergman toasting with hunky Humphrey Bogart. Casablanca has many toasts that work well for a New Year’s Eve celebration. Some of my favorites:  Here’s looking at you kid, To America, and We’ll always have Paris.
Coupes were all the rage through the 1930s-1960s. Places like the New York’s Stork Club popularized the coupe in the 1930s when celebrities drank champagne from the coupe. We may see the romantic coupe today at weddings near the ever so popular champagne fountain.
If you’re not drinking champagne in your coupe you could always use it for a sorbet or daiquiri.

Champagne was and still is linked to celebration. Here’s to drinking many glamorous glasses of champagne in a coupe in 2012! As Marie Antoinette would have said to her court, Bonne année et bonne santé! Happy New Year to all!

Christmas Time is Here

One of the greatest Christmas albums of all time is A Charlie Brown Christmas. It is so pleasant that you can really listen to it any time of year.  My husband gives me a hard time for doing this, but he knows he married someone who wanted to name her son Charlie after Charlie Brown.

Sixty years ago, Vince Guaraldi took inspiration from Charles Schultz and created something that is unmistakably a “Guaraldi sound.” There is a comfort that comes with hearing A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Years later, the music and movie are still beloved by all ages. It doesn’t matter how many times you have seen or heard it, it’s simply a classic! Guaraldi and Schulz were a dream team complimenting each other; they were magicians.

Guaraldi said, "I want to write standards, not just hits." He did just that, his sound naturally energizes and transports you to a jazzy elegant place in time. His music is a blend of many cultures: Latin, European, and even African…it all comes together as Guaraldi.

My favorite kind of party is the kind with a piano player in the middle of the mix. A piano player is like a magician is for children; they make you smile and leave you wanting more. If the piano player plays Guaraldi, then they make you feel like a kid again. Children of all ages respond to Guaraldi’s music. I think it’s because his jaunty sound instantly puts you in a good mood.

Just like Lucy leans over Schroeder’s piano, party goers naturally want to do the same when there’s a piano player present. Holiday jazz classics spread cheer like no other style of music. Jazz is music of individualism but when you hear old standards done in a jazzy style, it is more expressive than any other kind of music. The piano has an expressive voice right through their fingertips of the musician and the music and mood of the party is created.

Harry Connick Jr, Diana Krall, and David Ian are all jazz musicians of today who have followed suit...each playing piano and creating their own voice through jazz.

Sometimes what sounds fresh are the tried and true classics just updated. That's the way I feel about David Ian's new CD, A Vintage Christmas. There is a cozy warmth felt with his mellow arrangements. Listening to I'll Be Home for Christmas, an intimate mood is created no matter where you listen. Ian's soft piano should be heard at every home this season. Whether you’re at a party or snuggled up in front of the fireplace with some eggnog at home, you will enjoy his vintage sound just as you still enjoy Guaraldi.

David Ian, an Armenian Canadian, is also a rock guitarist. His background in classical piano helped to breathe new life into jazzy Christmas standards. You can hear that Ian was definitely inspired by Guaraldi. He seems to produce that festive vintage sound of the 1950s that never gets old.

Like the song goes…Christmas Time is Here! May you ears and heart be filled with happy sounds and may you have yourself a swingin’ little Christmas!

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

Christmas time is here
We'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year...

The Taste of Memory Soup

Sunday morning (my favorite time to cook) I begin to bang pots and pans getting organized before I chop my vegetables. I had gone to bed thinking about what I would make the next day. Cold weather has me craving comfort foods. Craving warm meals means I am thinking of my Polish babysitter Zofia who put cabbage in just about everything. Her soup was deliciously flavorful and made us all happy to eat it.
Zofia was someone who had survived the war and endured much more; she had a lot of good secrets and cabbage was one of them. Eating cabbage is a childhood memory that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
When we are children, the people we have in our little worlds form and shape us. As our memories grow and we age, those special times are triggered by the little things in life…a meal, a song, a figurine. We are so lucky when we find people who love our children just as a relative does. Having Zofia in my life added to my happy childhood.
It’s December and I’m shivering from the inside out, this is probably why I started craving cabbage this week. I want to feel that warm comforting feeling that I so well remember with Zofia. Well-loved memories of my babysitter have me longing for my childhood.
She made the world safe with her Polish food and songs. I wish she was still here to sing Kosi Kosi Lapci  and cook for my children as she did for me and my siblings, but life comes full circle and our children will have their own Zofia who makes the world happy and safe with mashed potatoes, tractor toys, and Backe Backe Kuchen. The paddy cake song may be in a different language but it carries that same warm feeling.
Making my shopping list for soup I write cabbage and smile. Holding the cabbage at the store I feel as though I’m holding something much more valuable like a truffle. Sometimes the special ingredient isn’t anything expensive or out of the ordinary.
When you feel chilled to the bone, begin to worry about your well-being, and your memories sneak up on you…cabbage never fails to sooth you and those you love. As I made cabbage soup I was surrounded by happy memories and I’m thankful Zofia is in my heart to help me make them for my children.
Na zdrowie

Photos of Wroclaw, Poland where Zofia was from.

Pen Pals: Writing Letters That Capture Innocent Whispers

Did you ever have a pen pal when you were younger? I had several and I’m sad to say that I’ve lost touch with most of them. I remember skipping back to the house after checking the mailbox when I was younger and I couldn’t wait to open my letter from my pen pal Susanna from Finland, Eritnatish from Iceland! Robin from Georgia, Melissa from Paris (Texas)! Holding the letter as if it were an acceptance to my favorite college; I would take in the stationary, the stamp, and especially the handwriting.
Do you ever notice how our true thoughts come out when writing a letter to a friend? It's easy to get a feel of someone’s personality by seeing their handwriting that you can’t see from the computer. I adore technology! There is instant gratification and it’s always getting better but technology is cold. Letters are warm.  Emails, tweets and texts are like short stories but a letter is more like a novel…it’s a bigger piece of the puzzle and a small clue to discovery of a mosaic of a person.

Since I was a child, I’ve loved going to the post office. I love the smell of it…musty, old, mildew, and magical! I have always loved the giddy feeling I get of dropping a letter down the blue shoot to go on an adventure. Then after impatiently waiting for the day I receive a letter back, opening up my mailbox to see if I recognize my friend’s handwriting.
I have shoeboxes full of old letters from my pen pals. I was an excellent pen pal up until college. I tried to keep up but that’s about the time “real” life starts happening and I’m sad to say, writing letters became less of a priority. Of course I still send Christmas cards and thank you notes, but those don’t tell about the random parts of your day that really let you inside to someone’s heart and help widen the world.
Last year when I read As Always, Julia I was inspired to write more letters again. I find that my thoughts flow more freely when I’m not trying to puzzle my words together on the computer…they just flow naturally like a list. There are windows throughout my day that I can find to jot down a note to a friend…whatever is happening in that moment, it’s a piece of the day that I want to share. Unlike a text or an email, a letter shows the spice of life.
Whenever I have sent a letter, I crossed my fingers that the recipient will write me back. At thirty-five, I still skip back from the mailbox, I even squeal with delight when I hold a little treasure we call a letter.
Last week I did my skip and squeal as I held a handful of precious treasures! Twenty-six beautiful letters (written in French) from seven and eight year olds and personally addressed to each of my second grade students. Oui, we have pen pals!!
Another reason I love technology is that you can meet and learn about interesting people all around the world. Aidan is a fellow Texan, she is my friend, but we have never met. I feel as though I know her from her writing on her blog conjucatingirregularverbs and I hope that one day our families really will meet. Aidan’s oldest son is a second grader in France and it is with her son’s classroom that we have found our pen pals.
My class was really happy and fascinated to learn more about a child their age that speaks a different language and lives a whole big blue ocean away. In my thirteen years teaching, this was one of my most happy teaching moments EVER!
I was hearing my class gasp with excitement and question everything. “Oh, Mrs. Cooley, my pen pal writes in cursive so well! Can you teach us how to write like this? Mrs. Cooley, my pen pal wants me to teach him American football but I’m not going to France anytime soon! What do I say? Mrs. Cooley, my pen pal does flamenco dancing…what is that?”  This is a perfect example of how children can teach each other. It was a lesson in handwriting, language, social studies, and reading all in one setting!
When I compare my class’ letters to the letters of their French pen pals, I see all kinds of possibilities…They will improve their writing skills and be motivated to improve their handwriting. They could continue to write to each other and one day possibly meet. But most importantly, it opens the door for culture. Pen pals can enjoy seeing postcards, stamps, practice learning a foreign language, and have a friend in a different part of the world.  
I saw firsthand the light turn on in my second graders eyes, they want to know more about life in France from a personal view of children their age. My thrill is in the pride I see in their eyes as they realize they are breathing life into an envelope and likewise as they anticipate inhaling the mysteries of replies.
The letters they wrote back to their French pen pals were sweet and charming. “Have you seen the Eiffel Tower? One day could you teach me how to play rugby? Do you have pizza in France? Do you have any pets? When I explained to one of my students what flamenco dancing was, she said, “Ooh…we have a lot in common, I cheer!”
Mark Twain said, “Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man- the biography of the man himself cannot be written.” I think it can be written through a letter; the clothes and buttons are but the paper and pencil.