Friday, February 8, 2013

Gonna take a sentimental journey

"You can't go your childhood...back  to places...back home to things that once seemed everlasting..."    THOMAS WOLFE

............and yet some things defy time and  remain as they were in our memories 

This little guy- the iconic symbol of my childhood hometown of Brussels 
has been taking a leak in the Grand Place for  over 400 years

 15th century buildings burnished in gold leaf


Behind  old facades the polished wood in the 
grows more mellow with the passing of time
Tomates aux Crevettes 
remains on almost every menu

pommes frites are sold in paper cones served with mayonnaise

and chocolatiers are as popular then ever 

The apartment building where we lived  
The granite entry surround will hopefully 
be undistrubed for generations to come
The entry doors a testament 
to the lasting permanence of good design

The school I attended is located in an outlying part of town 
which looks very much as it did  years back

The old chateau still sits in a clearing in the wood 
but the meadow, once  sprinkled with toad stools

(YES-  these are very real and very poisonous) 

and roaming deer is 
 sadly paved over now
New classrom buildings have sprouted haphazardly of need ,
surrounding the Grande Dame
without thought  for design integrity

C'est dommage!

Les Grandes Escaliers
are not so grand as I remembered
and the Belgian bluestone floors in the "dungeon" 
where we ate lunch are now mostly
covered in mismatched linoleum

but the trumeau fireplace with marble surround in the salon 
that was my first grade classroom is still there

SO is Thomas Wolfe  right ... ???

The Belgian aesthetic has become very influential in interior design 
... a spare blending of old and new

Bluestone is used both as flooring and counter material

The Belgian influence is evident in my own kitchen design

My new Belgian friend 
Greet Lefevre with Ralph
We became friends the modern way- electronically-
via the internet and our blogs

My husband Don and I  recently met Greet and her husband Jan
the old fashioned way...
in person
over dinner 

L'Idiot de Village
We talked for hours like old friends 
forming bonds over commonalities 
...from love of our dogs, to the love of great food and wine,
 to love of design

Don't miss Greet's  blog

Her point of view is charming and refreshing

Greet's family has owned and operated a millwork facility for over 100 years. She and Jan
have just embarked on re-doing their own salon and lining it with Lefevre custom panelling

 You can
follow the process through her blog.

Greet- when we come back to Belgium we want to see the real thing please.

 Belgian antiquarian and designer 
Axel Vervoordt
 is a master of combining the old and the new

More on my visit with Axel and his wife May 
in an upcoming journal entry

When my family came to America 
another timeless icon greeted us 
as we sailed into New York Harbor
The Port of New York
oil on canvas
Artist unknown
If you know the artist  PLEASE let me know

I discovered this oversized oil painting recently at
The scene is as I remember it when we docked  on
The Cunard's Queen Mary

On a recent trip to NYC I drove out to New Rochelle
to see my other alma maters

Theodore Roosevelt School 
has been turned into apartments

Our youngest ever president
was sworn in at the age of 42 upon the assasination of
William McKinnley

so speaking of Roosevelts...

I have now seen the new movie..
interesting story but  slow to be told..

I love Laura Linney 
but she is way better as

 First Lady Abigail Adams
then as a mousey doudy  
"kissing cousin"

 Bill Murray does a great job portraying FDR, the  paralyzed president 
(and cousin of Theodore- quite a family )
the script makes Roosevelt little more then a charming philanderer at a time in history when he was obviously much much more


Palacek Imports
 President's State Chair
is a copy of the deck chairs on FDR'S
"Floating Whitehouse"

The Presidential Yacht

Only the exterior of New Rochelle High School remains- 
(originally named Woodrow Wilson-poor guy had no staying power)
the beautiful original interiors were totally gutted by fire
set by a deranged student, only to be replaced with cinderblock walls
The  lakes in the front have been filled in for new athletic fields.
How did we manage to survive with
athletic fields in the back
allowing the glorious French Gothic structure 
designed by Guilbert and Bettele
to proudly overlook  Lake Huegenot ???

I was priviledged to go to school in beautiful buildings; 
buildings that demanded respect and inspired the imagination;
buildings that spoke of longevity and substance-
buildings that called me back

Maybe they inspired me to go into design.

Do today's students miss out because beauty 
is overlooked for function ?
I have my own theories  
There are communities that rebuild with architectural tradition

Sadly it's more then  lack of architectural vision that now has
gripped schools across the country where the safety of 
children and staff is certaily of primary important


New Rochelle has preserved the 
18th century home of Thomas Paine

author of 
the best selling pamphlet published annonymously in 1776
 by the British born author advocating America separate from England
Talk about vision and progress !!!

In San Francisco, thanks in no small part to earthquake damage 
of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake 
and the efforts of former mayor Willie Brown
the ugly overpass built in the name of progress  was torn down 

The beauty of the original San Francisco waterfront restored

It's difficult to believe that politicos in New Orleans were 
very recently  in favor of building a highway
between the Missisippi River Waterfront and Bourbon Street in the old French Quarter

Talk about "killing the goose that laid the golden egg"

Thanks to the push and vision of San Francisco activists 
the blight has been averted and the Vieux Carre  remains charming

Respecting the past doesn't mean abandoning the new and the modern

Maybe we can go home again...

                                                      ......         as decadent and divine as New Orleans

6- Day old croissant torn into pieces
4  Cups heavy cream
5  Eggs
1 1/2 cups and 2 TBLS sugar
Poppy seeds
1 stick melted butter
Kosher salt
2 big handfulls of pecan pieces

Toss the stale bread  pieces with the melted butter and 2 TBLS sugar

Beat eggs and remaining sugar in a large bowl until fluffy pale yellow
Add cream and 1 1/2 Tbls poppy seeds and pinch of salt - blend well
Add a decadent splash of Bourbon

Pour the egg mixture over the bread/croissant mixture-add pecans- toss to coat well
Spread into a buttered 13" long baking dish. 
It will look like too much liquid but no worries- use it all !!

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Allow to come to room temperature before baking

To bake preheat oven to 325.
Bake for about 11/2 hours until brown and bubbly
Cool slightly before serving with butterscotch sauce

Can be made in advance- also great on ice cream

1 Cup light brown sugar
1 Cup light Karo syrup
3 TBLS butter
2 pinches kosher salt
Decadent splash of Bourbon

Combine brown sugar- karo syrup-butter-salt and bring to a boil
Continue cooking until syrupy about 5 minutes
Remove from heat and add bourbon and cream
Stir till smooth and allow to cool-

                                      " Gotta take that sentimental journey home"


Shannon Kirby said...

I think you would enjoy a cruise on the President's yacht Rela, if you haven't already. It is docked in Oakland's Jack London Square!
I too have a fondness of your home city- especially the people.

Greet Lefèvre said...

Sweet Rela, what a wonderful post! Oh dear I enjoyed the pictures of the building you lived in and your school! What a beautiful little castle! A lot of wonderful memories I am sure!
And thank you so much for mentionning me and my company! I promise to show you the real thing! Haha! Within a few weeks I will also post after pictures of our living room.
Hugs to you and Don!!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Rela ~ This was a delightful post. I found out about you through Nanci. She had read your blog, loved the sound of the bread pudding recipe, and made one for herself and one for me for Valentine's day. It is absolutely wonderful, decadent for sure.

Reading this post of yours brought back memories for me of the backpacking trip my husband and I took in 1973 after he got out of the US Navy. We had been living in Spain for 3 years and took this trip by Eurail before heading back to the states, we visited 9 countries in a little under 60 days.

The cones of pommes frites with mayonnaise reminds me of a street where we got these in Copenhagen. These were truly delightful.

We were in Paris in the spring. We also went to Brussels. Europe is beautiful, ancient and we were glad we were able to visit when we did.

Your blog is lovely and I wish you well in all that you are doing.

Thanks for stirring up wonderful memories.

FlowerLady Lorraine