{Barefoot in the Kitchen}

I can't cook. I have gotten by for a long time being okay with that fact. I'm the girl who asked her grandmother for a great recipe, because some friends had generously bought me a page in a community cookbook where I was supposed to share "the best recipe in my repertoire." I had no repertoire. I'm the girl who made muffins for a boy in college, only to have her roommates play helicopter with them--while still in the pan--because I'd neglected to spray Pam on the cooking tins prior to baking.

I have even.... this one really hurts to admit... gone to a local market, purchased some gorgeous couscous and caprese salad, and taken it out of the market's packaging and put it in MY Tupperware so it would look like it came straight from my kitchen. So very very sad.

That's not to say people didn't try to teach me. Mothers have given me cookbooks (many with titles including terms like "Simple!" "Basic!" and "A Kid's Guide to...." Friends have literally taken me step by step through making things in their kitchen (one of my favorite memories is of D's basil jelly making day, where she did everything but I proudly poured the sugar in the pot and-- ta da!-- I got to say, "I cooked basil jelly from scratch." Yep.

At the age of almost 30, however, a few facts dawned on me:

1. All my friends do it. I'm a sucker for peer pressure. And eating with friends is fun.
2. You can drink wine when you cook, and no one will judge you.
3. I will mess up. I will burn things. Drop stuff on the floor. Be tempted to throw it back into the mixing bowl. Cut my finger. Have the pizza place on speed dial because dinner is inedible. And that's okay... because I won't learn if I don't try.
3. One day I will have a family. I will have children and will make memories with them. I don't want a eulogy starting with "One night, over a bowl of Beenie Weenie, my mother said something to me I'll never forget..."
4. I don't want to be the designated stir-er anymore.

This is where the lady below comes into the picture.

My friend N is obsessed with the Barefoot Contessa, aka Ina Garten. N has always been a great cook, but now she is a phenomenal cook. Everything she made while I visited her for a week was delicious. Everything. And she says she owes it all to "the B.C."

After the first amazing dinner, we started chatting about the Barefoot Contessa. We watched one of her shows. She's really personable, explains things clearly, and kept saying, "How easy was that?" A welcome phrase in my cooking verbage. And N told me the Barefoot Contessa's story, which was fabulous:
Garten had started out in the corporate world, then decided she wanted to do something more creative with her life. She and her husband saw a little specialty food store in Long Island called "The Barefoot Contessa." Garten wasn't a cook, but wanted this store; she sent in a lowball offer... and the store was hers.

How awesome to have that sort of blind faith in yourself and your dreams? Love it.

The store evolved into a career, and even though she sold the store she kept up her life as a cook, writer, and "Barefoot Contessa." (You can read more about her here.)

I was inspired and didn't want to talk about learning to cook anymore. I wanted to try it... again.

So I went to the local library and checked out what seemed to be appropriate for a rookie like me.
The Barefoot Contessa: Back to the Basics. I loved the opening pages-- it outlined the "Barefoot Contessa" philosophy:
Food can be simple and fabulous; entertaining should be easy, elegant, and fun.

I found this great interview she did with the Huffington Post -- her words better explain why I think this lady may be the key to bringing me out of the Cooking Darkness.

LM: For the novice who wants to start cooking, what basic utensils would you suggest they start with?

IG: A set of good sharp Wusthof knife. A KitchenAid mixer. A Cuisinart food processor. All-clad and Le Creuset pots. And a whole stack of half sheet pans.

LM: What one cooking tool or appliance do you use most often in your cooking?

IG: My knives.

LM: What are the most versatile ingredients that you keep on hand?

IG: My go-to ingredients to add flavor to things are: salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, freshly squeezed lemon juice plus good vinegars and a drizzle of olive oil.

LM: What dish would you recommend to a greenhorn cook who is trying to master one dish, would you suggest any one dish to start with?

IG: Roast chicken. It's in my first book, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, with carrots, fennel and potatoes cooked in the roasting pan—it's an entire meal and it's absolutely delicious.

For me, it will be all about the baby steps. Yes, I've already gone to YouTube to find a demo on what exactly it means to "julienne" an onion. (It's here, and it's awesome). I have a few battle scars from Taco Salad night where I fought the iceberg lettuce and the lettuce won. But I am going to persevere and would like to thank N and "the B.C." for giving me the jumpstart I needed... it only took 29 and a half years.

I'll leave you with a few visuals to enjoy from the life of a Barefoot Contessa.

Her home as photographed for House Beautiful. Courtesy of Black Eiffel blog.

Mrs. Barefoot and Assistant (thanks N for the clarification)

Some samplings.

Ina's pal who I have incorrectly identified twice now. So-- I don't know his name, but he is mighty easy on the eyes and I like to stare at him when he's on the show.


{ Springtime, the Only Pretty Ring Time }

"Every man and every living creature has a sacred right to the gladness of springtime."
Leo Tolstoy
, Resurrection

The Monet French Country House at Giverny, France

I love the coziness of Christmas and guarantee of too much barbeque on the Fourth of July; but Easter tops my list of favorite holidays. The sunshine and flowers wake me up from a long winter's nap, and get me excited about all things new, fresh, and beautiful. I feel like it's God's way of rejuvenating the human spirit, in honor of the miracle of Easter.

This year, Springtime is particularly special because I'm getting to see the yard of my new home bloom for the first time. The previous owner was amazing and innovative in what she planted. Every day there seems to be a new surprise-- fresh mint and basil sprigs, a yellow bud peeking out of a shrub I thought was evergreen, or (my favorite suprise so far) a gorgeous blanket of pink, red, and white flowers on what I thought was a "dead" tree.

Time to celebrate the season! This is my ode to all that is new and gorgeous this time of year.

Salon.com's "Spring Fever Fiction" List, including:

*This list was published on Salon.com in 2001

In contrast, Joie de Vivre's "My Brain Needs a Spring Break Too" Spring Reading List:

Spring inspired decor.

I love the dainty pink window dressings, with a splash of sass on the animal print stool.

Those damask print pillows in juicy colors bring the beige couch to life.

Flowers everywhere! Bringing the outdoors in.

A Kelly Wearstler montage... lots of color in various textures and prints.
Kelly Wearstler Designs

House of Turquoise
Turquoise and white... sublime. With a pop of-- what else? Hot pink tulips, of course!

And last, but certainly not least... Spring Fashion.
Long live the Little White Dress

Hermes Snakeskin Bucket Bag; Fendi Tapestry Peekaboo bag;
Valentino Embroidered Bow Bag.

And some sassy jewels. Fabulous.

Lanvin Glass Pearl Necklace

Sonia Rykiel Studded resin bracelets.
Bijoux Heart 24-karat gold-plated Tropica necklace