Friday, October 23, 2009

All Sweet Things Must Come To An End

Today’s blog posting is just a little bittersweet as it will be my last. We have had so much fun over the last year and a half but I have decided to take a small hiatus from writing “The Sweet Life”.

Life has been so good to me and I am always happy to share some of the great insights I have gained and hope that it has brought a little sweetness into your life, as well.

I realize that this is a little sudden and ending “The Sweet Life” was not really something I had ever considered as it HAS been so much fun for me. I appreciate all of your great comments and feedback, as well as all of your support. It has meant so much to me.

It has always been my goal to provide a little humor and optimism into everything that I experience and pass it along to all of you. This blog has also taught me a little bit about the value of sharing these experiences and interacting with an audience and I think that I have achieved that and so much more. I have learned so much but it is time to pursue other things.

As it can be time consuming to raise myself while also raising two rambunctious boys and wanting to succeed in a career that is truly satisfying to me, I want to make sure I am giving those efforts 110% so future posts of “The Sweet Life” will have to wait until I feel like I can give it the full attention it deserves, creatively.

And who knows….maybe in the meantime, I will be able to craft “The Great American Novel” in my head and you will see it topping the New York Times Best Seller list in the next handful of years.

Until then, I remain….1SweetMama

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Best Medicine

James Madison, our 4th U.S. President was a pretty smart guy.
An American politician, political philosopher, and recognized by many political and historical academics as the “father of the Constitution”, this man took his work seriously. However, apparently, he also made a commitment to his leisure time, as well. James Madison said, “Let me recommend the best medicine in the world: a long journey, at a mild season, through a pleasant country, in easy stages.”

And he is right.

Not realizing it at the time, I heeded the advice of President Madison and did just this. Laying my “guilty mother” and “career-gal” reservations aside, I took P.O.D. up on his invitation to spend a week with him and the G’s in Southern France and Monaco. A long journey. A mild season. A pleasant country. Easy stages. While my initial reactions to this trip focused mainly on all the things I would miss out on, I have more recently been reflecting upon all the things I have gained from this trip.

Here are a few “life souvenirs” that I picked up in my travels:

Global vision. I realize that I am not the only person living on this planet. I know that is an elementary way to express it but there are many people who never leave the boundaries of their home towns. They grow up in their own “walled cities” and live life not ever seeing that there is a whole world of cultures and languages and problems and triumphs that exist beyond their own front porch. Landscapes as rich and beautiful as the ones we call “home” abound in every hill and valley of our planet. Cultures. Colors. Foods. Music. While they are all so different, they have one thing in common…..they serve as home to someone. Those people are just like you and me but live elsewhere and it is our job to visit as many of our fellow humans in their “homes” as possible. I think this allows us to gain a better understanding that we live as one united people. One global community.

Self acceptance. This one was BIG for me. The cliché is true….French women are beautiful. And here is the thing….their beauty is much different than what Americans (especially American women) recognize as beautiful. French women are beautiful from within. Their beauty comes from a confidence that they exude like nothing I have ever seen. They are comfortable in their own skin. They are strong and independent. They eat until they are full; they drink until they are satisfied. Here is the difference…..they LIVE. I am working very hard to accept this as part of who I am. I am not a size. I am an essence. I want to LIVE like the French and, with any luck, my beauty will become a by-product of my loving life.

Deeper. Broader. Richer. On this trip, I made a conscious effort to take many “mental pictures”. I savored every taste, every sip, every sight, every sound. From the vision of a festival atmosphere in a town square in Nice, to the church bells ringing in the distance while sunning myself by the pool, to my seeing a blueness of the Cote d’ Azur waters that I have never, ever seen before in my life….these are the things that make my life richer. No t-shirt or postcard can ever capture those things. My soul has been made richer by experiencing these things and for that, I am forever changed.

Finally, appreciation of my own “good life”. Ahh. To be home again is something I cherish. Frantic schedules. The reality of bill-paying, my small, cluttered, dirty house, managing my personal dramas, feeling overwhelmed by life….kids pulling me in every direction. It is chaos. But it is my life and it is my reality. And I am glad to be back in it. I need all of that as much as all of “that” needs me. It feels good to be home.

Maybe James Madison knew all of this, already. One doesn’t rise to a position of his stature without embracing the whole “work-life” balance and knowing that one really needs to take some time out to climb off the hamster wheel and get outside of your box every now and then just to appreciate all the things you have. It truly is “The Best Medicine” to cure what “ails ya”.

One of my best gal pals, Phoebe, tells me that I am living the book, “Eat. Pray. Love.” (Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, Elizabeth Gilbert(2006)) I, embarrassingly, have never read this book but if what Phoebe tells me of the story is true, then I am feeling satisfyingly full.

Thank you, P.O.D., for giving me a gift greater than you will ever know….and thank you to my friends who shared our travels with us and thank you to the new friends I made along our journey. Thanks, too, to the people and places of Provence for giving me a wonderful new perspective on my life.

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dining Out: Le Moulins de Mougins

Thursday night in France was to be our “big night out”. As I mentioned last Friday, it was the precursory celebration of Mr. and Mrs. G’s 16th Anniversary. P.O.D. and I joined the "G's" and Mr. G's cousin, Sophy, at a restaurant of note in a town called Mougins, not far from Cannes.

From the moment you walked in the door, you knew this place was going to provide an extraordinary dining experience. We sat in a kind of “garden room”, enclosed on all sides by glass allowing a virtually unimpeded view of the courtyard garden outside (photo below, in the daylight).
Autographs of notable personalities were scrawled on the glass the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor….all who had dined at 'Le Moulins de Mougins' on a previous occasion.

Tonight was our night to dine there and, although we were not asked to sign the glass, we did enjoy an amazing meal. Our table opted for the “Chef’s Tasting Menu”, which is a practice of being served several (I believe we had 11) small-portioned courses hand selected and prepared by the Chef. We were tended to by a graceful and fun wait staff, led by our head waiter, Diedre.

Not far into our courses, we learned of the notoriety of our chef, Sébastien Chambru. The staff sung his praises and the plates they brought to us were probably the singular best-tasting culinary pairings that I have ever had. French and Japanese fusion. My favorite? Escalope de foie gras de canard poêlee, pain perdu á la banana (Pan friend duck foie gras, French toast banana flavor).

This being "The Sweet Life", I thought I would highlight our sweets (desserts....and there were THREE....can it get much sweeter than that??) Below are some photos and descriptions:

Ananas bounty (Coconut, vanilla, pineapple combination and pineapple sorbet)

Feuille á feuille craquante au praliné, caramel glacé (Contemporary “mille feuille” of chocolate and hazelnuts, salted caramel ice cream….and you may not be able to see it in the photo, but there was a small gold leaf draped over the wafer/ice cream presentation ….beautiful….and, for, the record….the leaf had no real taste!)

Finally….NOT on the menu, but presented to our table as a gift from the staff, was this lovely glass of custard with a chocolate topping decorated with the restaurant logo. A very nice end to the perfect meal.

We left full and happy. It was a beautiful night and the company was wonderful.

Then, just this morning, I received an email from Sophy, who excitedly explained that she happened to catch a feature on television LAST night about the restaurant and its artful Chef, Sébastien Chambru. Here is her report:

He is exactly 32 years old and has worked in Japan where he especially worked on
choosing the products and associating them. He said that 50% of the work is done
in having good products. He brought a [uniqueness to the menu of] 'Le Moulins de
Mougins' with his young Japanese experience and his brand-new French and
Japanese association of food.

He [received] the 'MOF' graduation in 2007: “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” (Best worker of France), issued from a competitive examination. There were only [seven] to be graduated in France in 2007, and only they are allowed to wear the French Flag around their neck when they are in the kitchen clothes. [You can see this red, white and blue French flag collar in the photo,below...from L to R: P.O.D., Mrs. G, Chef Sébastien Chambru, 1SweetMama, Mr. G, Diedre, Sophy]

'Le Moulin de Mougins' has two 'Macarons Michelin'
(or we can say also 'Etoiles Michelin'), Sébastien Chambru is trying to bring
the 3rd Macaron Michelin to the restaurant with his New French/Japanese Cuisine
[fusion-style menu selections].

We were the last to leave the restaurant…I think it was around midnight but everyone remaining at the restaurant was very gracious to us. If I am ever lucky enough to visit France again, I would love an encore at Le Moulins de Mougins, but….until then, you will find me on my treadmill.

If you would like to visit this restaurant, virtually, you can travel there via this website:

Next Friday will be my last posting on my French adventure. Please join me as I wrap up this chapter of “The Sweet Life”.

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nice is Nice!

(a view from our hotel room in Nice. This is the Cote D'Azur. Nice is very NICE!!!)

Bon Jour! Today is Friday and this is my last day in France. Yesterday, we m

ade the move from our hotel in Monte Carlo to our hotel in Nice. We fly out of Nice on Saturday morning….headed toward home.

Wednesday night was a truly lovely evening. We met up with more of Mr. G’s family, including a familiar face from Monday night, Coco*. There were also new faces: Jaques*, Coco’s brother, cousin Sophy*, and Elle* (Jaques’ wife). All of these people, especially the women, are truly exquisite and wildly interesting and they put out a certain je ne sais pas. They were all so welcoming and, although I could only converse about 85 percent of the time due to a bit of a language barrier of MY part, we all spoke the same languages of family, food, and the trials and tribulations of life: marriages, divorces, children, school, politics, work, and the like.

We dined in Antibes at a restaurant called Auberge Provancale d’ Antibes. This establishment specializes in Fruits de Mer (literally, Fruits of the Sea… or seafood). We ate in a romantic fauna-covered garden (jarden d’éte ombragé) outside and in back of the restaurant. If you are interested, feel free to visit the website at .

My dinner began with six (6) huitres Fines de Claires (raw oysters), followed by the main course of Pave d’espadonen croûte de tapenade (swordfish and mixed vegetables in a white wine and butter sauce), with a dessert course of Pore pocheé aux espices, caramel au noisettes et glace au rhumet raisins (pear cooked with spices, caramel sauce and nuts with rum raisin ice cream). Just for fun, the very personable waiter even set our desserts ablaze au flambé Grand Marnier.

After dinner, the group walked around the city walls of “old” Antibes and viewed the enormous yachts and ships docked in the marina. These vessels are owned by people who live lives of privelidge the likes we will never know. By this time, it was close to 1:30 a.m. and we all bid adieux and went our separate ways. We drove Sophy home and she showed us her beautifully remodeled apartment with a luxury kitchen…..very efficient by American standards but very “over-the-top” for someone living in Monte Carlo.

Thursday was a day for driving the 20-30 kilometers from Monte Carlo to Nice and for walking through the shopping districts. Our mission was to find a great pair of shoes, some souvenirs for my boys, and a great hat for me. I am a hat-wearer so finding a hat in France seemed the right thing to do. We also, of course, made some time to stop at Fennochio again for more great glace (ice cream).

While we found lots of shoe options that we did not purchase, I found myself stumbling in to a great hat shop called La Chapellerie. I must have tried on one hundred hats from the insane to the glamorous but ended up purchasing two: one very French and one very warm and French for when I return to Iowa. I also found a neck-scarf that will go well with both.

Thursday night was the premier dining event. Today (Friday) is Mr. and Mrs. G’s 16th anniversary and we pulled out the stops for dinner on Thursday night to kick it off right. We dressed to the Nine’s, met up with Sophy and travelled to a very nice restaurant called Le Moulin de Mougins (The Mougins Mill) in Mougins, France, not far from Cannes. I will devote next Tuesday’s blog entry entirely to that experience because I have never had a dining experience quite like that one…..11 courses, all small dishes recommended and prepared by the chef (The Chef’s Sampling Menu). It was the best food I have ever tasted and the entire experience with the great staff who catered to us all night was second to none. We even met the chef and had a picture taken with him. I can’t wait to tell you about that night.

Tune in next Tuesday for the full details on Le Moulin de Mougin… á bientôt!

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

* Names are changed…..sorry, I can’t give it ALL away!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Secret Is Out!!

It was a rocky start to my travels......Friday's flight out of Sioux City: CANCELLED. It was the last flight out. One hour and forty-five minutes and several highly emotional calls to Delta operators later, I had re-booked a flight that left Des Moines at 9 a.m., which meant that I had to be on the road by 3 a.m. in order to make it to the airport. I had to unpack my BIG suitcase and had to fit all my clothes, etc. into a carry-on suitcase. The flight left on-time......I arrived to meet P.O.D on time and we made it to JFK in time to catch our international flight.

On the plane with a "nice" in-flight meal, one bourbon, and a cushy neck pillow later, I was sound asleep waking four and a half hours later somewhere over France, P.O.D. at my side. Ahh.

This is the big surprise. We are spending a week in Monte Carlo, Monaco, and Nice, France. I couldn't say anything before because this adventure was a clandestine journey to surprise Mr. G (you have previously met The Fabulous Mrs. G….or “Fab”) in the land of his ancestry, Southern France.

The trip has been wonderful so far. Our room overlooks the marina, in which high-end yachts dock and gently rock back and forth in their “parking spaces”. We look out over the Mediterranean and the breezes are warm and calm.

Being 1SweetMama and sharing a friendship with Fab, who is also one to appreciate ice cream, or glace, as it is called en France, we have made it our mission to eat as much of it as possible. So far, we have had chocolate with chili pepper, tomato basil (yes….ice cream!), a yummy salty caramel (I wrote the name down but cannot find it at the moment….I will share it with you later), dulce de leche, pistachio, avocado, and even a few gelatos…apple and mixed berry.

Wanting to experience as many gastronomic opportunities as possible, I have eaten Mediterranean Sea Bass, calamari…which actually looked like mini squids swimming on my plate (they looked terrible but tasted delicious!!), sole meunière, oysters, rosé wine at every opportunity, and South Beach diet be darned…..lots and lots of good, crusty French breads.

Quickly…today included several hours driving to tour a winery, Chateau Beaucastel, eat lunch in Avignon, and on to Hyères to visit the Catania family and have dinner with them. Spaghetti and Caillette (a chestnut and ground meat mixture wrapped in a cabbage leaf with bacon).

I will give full descriptions in a future blog entry….photos, anecdotes…..etc…. á bientôt!

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bud's Big Day

It has been two weeks of travel and I have another big week next week (you will hear all about it in my blog post on Tuesday) so it comes as no surprise that Bud’s (my oldest son) 15th birthday kinda snuck up on me.

Not to be “snuck up” upon by any birthday, I was prepared. I whipped up another fabulous party last night, complete with birthday cake and Blue Bunny Peanut Butter Panic® ice cream, gifts, singing relatives, and lots of embarrassed eye-rolling from my “I’m-too-cool-for-all-this-attention” 15-year old.

The party needed to end early so that everyone could get homework done and get in bed at a decent time so that we could be up and making my first kid delivery to school by 7:15 a.m.

And since September seems to be about birthdays and cakes and ice cream, I must tell you one of my most favorite stories about Bud. One year, when he was 9 or 10, he asked for an Easy-Bake Oven® for Christmas. While this was the source of several conversations on whether or not a pink EZ Bake oven for a 9-year old boy was a good gift….come Christmas morning, that oven was under the tree and weeks of teeny-tiny cakes, baked by the heat of a light bulb, and quarter-sized cookies, baked 4 at a time, were enjoyed by all. We continue to tell stories about it to this day and Bud has even expressed interest in the possibility of pursuing a career in the culinary arts. Who knows………….maybe Chef Duff got his start with an Easy-Bake Oven and, possibly, a blow torch!

As the oldest, Bud has always been a bit of the Guinea Pig…the science experiment. From the day he was born until this morning, and for every morning hereafter, I will always look upon him with wonderment as the one who started my motherhood journey and leads me into unchartered territory on a daily basis. Bud continues to fascinate me with his compassion, kind heart, talent, and his resolute.

He is easy going and knows how to “work a room”. He has a winning charm and plays a very mean piano…..and he will always hold a special place in his mom’s heart as the one who, on this day 15 years ago, both terrified me and melted my heart all at the same time.

Happy 15th birthday, Bud!

Beware! Today’s blog post ends in a Cliffhanger!!!

Before I leave you for the week, I IMPLORE you to check out my blog post on Tuesday. It will be pretty unexpected, i assure you. Not sure the time that I will post it so keep checking back on Tuesday until you see it.

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Time To Take A Stand

OK. Seriously. Someone has to say something and if no one else does, I sure am going to. I need to take a personal stand against "those" emails… know the ones….you get them two or three times a day. The “here-is-a-ridiculously-sappy-email-with-flowers-or-cute-puppies-or-angels-or-roses-that-says-you-need-to-forward-to-10-friends-and-your-wish-will-come-true-at-11:37-and-besides-you-must-hate-me-if-I-don’t-get-this-back” emails.

Just recently, I was sent an email from a good friend and the subject headline read:

“Let’s see if you reply….if ya don’t it says a lot!!”

Wow! That is harsh!

My immediate reaction is, “Why would so-and-so send me an e-mail with that as the header??” I guess I better read it! I open it up to find a series of roses for love and friendship, blah…blah…blah. I am supposed to send it on to 10 friends including her, the sender. If I don’t, I must be some kind of stone-hearted person with ice water running through my veins.

My email reply to her was:

“Dear friend,

“Know that I get all of your emails like this
one but I just don't reply or forward out of respect for my
fellow cyber-friends. If I sent and received all of these "Send to 10
friends and see who replies" emails with wishes being granted I would never get
anything done. In fact, my Inbox is generally where those kinds of emails
go to die. BUT I will reply to this one so you DO

“I appreciate your is a virtual

“Just because I don't reply doesn't mean I don't care.
Hope all is well with you and your family!


I absolutely adore the gal who sent this to me…..but I cannot stand receiving these emails. I don’t mean to be a cynic but these are the cyber equivalent to credit card offers that litter my mailbox or solicitations for donations for The Boys and Girls Home or the ASPCA with photos of starving dogs and cats on the envelopes. I can’t stand these things! I am riddled with guilt when I toss them into the shredder. I know I should respond but I never have enough money to spread around for these kinds of things. I want to give but I just can’t.

And because my money is like my time, I must carefully budget it and spending time to respond and forward thousands of “here-is-a-ridiculously-sappy-email-with-flowers-or-cute-puppies-or-angels-or-roses-that-says-you-need-to-forward-to-10-friends-and-your-wish-will-come-true-at-11:37-and-besides-you-must-hate-me-if-I-don’t-get-this-back” emails is not very prudent. Again: I want to give but I just can’t.

So….here is YOUR virtual rose, your angel, your kitty, puppy, dancing hippopotamus, shout out to the classy ladies for “Today Is Classy Lady Day” (which, according to the number of times I receive this in a year….it must occur 47 times annually). I love you all but I don’t need to forward or respond to emails threatening me to do so. My promise to YOU is that you will never get one of those emails from me, either. You might, however, get a personal email telling you how much I love you. I hope that is okay.

Send this on to 10 friends or not. I really don’t care.

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama