Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book ideas for Christmas or the New Year

I have a few last minute book suggestions for gift giving or actually for gifting to yourself for Christmas or the new year. I’ve broken it down into categories – Fashion / Style, Food, and Decorating - my three main interests. Obviously I love food because of this blog. With regard to the fashion business, my first career centered around it, plus I’ve always been interested in learning more about how to look good and take better care of myself and I follow many fashion blogs. Remodeling and redecorating houses has been a big part of our lives. During our marriage, we’ve redone and redecorating more than a dozen homes. Here are my current favorite books in Fashion / Style, Food, and Decorating.

Forever Chic – A Frenchwoman’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance by Tish Jett

My friend Tish Jett has written a fabulous, must-have book – Forever Chic – A Frenchwoman’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance. I’ve been a long time reader of her blog A femme d’un Certain Age, which is dedicated to women 40ish to whateverish and supplies us with every detail about how to live a beautiful life with style, elegance, discipline, simplicity and generosity – but of course with a French twist.

Now with Tish’s book Forever Chic you will learn the secrets that Frenchwomen have known for so long, passed down from their mothers and grandmothers, about how to build their foundation and polish their image. Their beauty regimes are simple and you’ll learn them all. They spend serious money on their hair, which they consider an essential investment, thus no bad hair days and one fewer concern. Perhaps the fountain of youth is really a great haircut and the perfect little black dress. You’ll find that not only their physical aspects, their hair, their makeup, clothes, and posture keep them young, but also the intellectual endeavors they pursue. They are voracious readers, museum-goers, international film buffs and conversational masters.

As much as you might think that Frenchwomen are slaves to fashion, they are not. But they are not oblivious to it either. They like an invigorating shot of the new and the now, but never overdose on it. They’ve built their wardrobe on a foundation of neutrals and add spice with a few magical, highly personal finds. Color is usually in accessories and scarves and they collect them like a curator would fine objects.

Chapter by chapter, you’ll see exactly how the Frenchwomen do what they do so well. Instead of dreading birthdays, they celebrate a life well lead. From face to feet, detail by detail, secret by secret, everything is revealed about how Frenchwomen approach the care and maintenance of their skin, and once again, how they take pleasure in the process. You’’ learn how to start your wardrobe from scratch, how to get your house in order, and how to always look your best.

Forever Chic has been runaway success and is temporarily out of stock at Amazon. However they will ship it to you the moment it arrives or it is available in a Kindle edition for your pads or readers, which you can receive instantly. The good news is that Barnes & Noble currently has Forever Chic in stock and they also have a Nook version. You can keep up with Forever Chic on Facebook and also be sure to subscribe to Tish’s blog - A Femme d’un Certain Age.

Forever Chic is a must-have for all women 40 to whateverish. For those of you who haven’t reached those numbers and weren’t lucky enough to have a French mother or grandmother to pass down their secrets to you, but want to learn them for yourself so you can pass down to your own girls, you’ll definitely want a copy for yourself too.

My Beverly Hills Kitchen by Alex Hitz

When I buy a cookbook, I look for more than recipes. I want a good story to go with the recipes and you will definitely find them in Alex Hitz’s My Beverly Hills Kitchen. Alex Hitz was brought up in Atlanta into a genteel world of entertaining. His mother Caroline had been educated in Europe and grew up in a house where none of the women knew how to cook, or wanted to. She taught herself and in turn, became an exquisite teacher. “Miss Tastebuds,” as Alex says she was often called, “caused” lots of good things to happen in their kitchen. Caroline loved all things French and purchased an old eighteenth-century manor house in the Dordogue region of France. Family vacations were spent traveling in Europe. She gave their family cook Dorothy the benefit of her high standards and unerring taste, making the food in Alex’s home some of the very best in the South.

Alex’s idea of southern food is Charleston and New Orleans food, a new punched up version of plantation cuisine, overlaid with sophisticated sensibilities absorbed from Paris and his time in Europe. Alex enrolled in Le Cordon Blue in Paris after college and later was a partner in a successful Atlanta restaurant, which introduced him to the daily life in the food business. When he moved to California from New York, he introduced his world of sophisticated French inspired southern food to his Beverly Hills neighbors. An heir to a Coca-Cola fortune, Alex felt comfortable around the famous and many of their recipes are in his cookbook -  including designer Bill Blass’s Sour Cream Soufflé and socialite Nan Kempner’s Bacon Sticks.

But don’t think for a minute this cookbook is all about celebrity recipes. Not in the least. There’s Alex’s recipe for Chicken Chausser, a very decidedly French dish which I love, a Red Pepper Tart, which is a gorgeous quiche that is cut into pieces and served as an easy hors d’oeuvre, and a classic Cordon Bleu style recipe for Pork Fillets with Prunes. Plus Alex shares his secrets to entertaining in style, and I do mean style, with gorgeous place settings for scads of bone china and his family’s elaborate silver service, all while guiding you through the recipes with his charming stories and easy to follow instructions.

For more about Alex, visit his website My Beverly Hills Cookbook, his column in House Beautiful, and Alex Hitz on Facebook. At Amazon there is an extensive “look inside” his cookbook. You’ll come away drawn to his style and personality and immediately want to throw your own big dinner party.

500 Kitchen Ideas - Style, Function & Charm from Country Living

This little book is my go-to for decorating kitchens. 500 Kitchen Ideas is where I get a great deal of inspiration by flipping through its more than 700 pages packed into this little book with 500 new and exciting ways to transform the heart of your home – the kitchen. It’s packed with tons of fabulous photos of warm and inviting rooms that give you great ideas that deal with color, pattern, floors, walls, storage, appliances, sinks and work surfaces, plus windows and lighting and charming accessories for your kitchen. While it doesn’t cover kitchen remodels, it will certainly guide you in the right direction on the various kitchen styles, their functions, and of course how to make them charming. Highly recommended.

 Cote de Texas – French Design on the Texas Coast

The last is not a book, but a blog. As much as I love to decorate, I have yet to find a book that covers everything I’m looking for. Then I stumbled upon decorator Joni Webb’s amazing blog Cote de Texas and it’s as close as I’ve ever gotten to a perfect decorating book and all it takes it a subscription to find the answers to all of your decorating needs.

Here’s an example of Joni’s style in a post where she remodeled a friend’s house in the West University section of Houston on Albans near her own home, link here. It’s all about slipcovers and sea grass rugs, a look I personally adore and have incorporated into our own home. Of course you might guess that her post on Kitchens 101 - Elements to Copy, would be one of my favorites too, link here.

I’m crazy about her series “Ask Miss Cote de Texas” where readers have an opportunity to pose questions to Joni. One of my favorites is a question I’ve asked myself many times through the years - “How do you find the perfect house?” link here. In another of the same series, Joni guided one of her readers through a kitchen remodel inspired by the reader’s visit to a chic French hotel, link here.

Joni Webb’s Cote de Texas is where I draw inspiration and get my very best ideas. Cote de Texas beats any decorating book I've ever found. Subscribe or follow here.

Disclosure: The opinions here are my own and I did not receive any of these books, nor was I solicited to give an endorsement in any form or fashion.

* * *

Meakin and I are avid readers and have been enjoying fiction novels lately. We’ve read almost all of David Baldacci’s books. Meakin is currently reading Vince Flynn’s books and I am devouring all of the Stone Barrington / Holly Barker series written by Stuart Woods. Do you enjoy reading and who are some of your favorite authors?

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, and Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper.

Have a great weekend everyone.


  1. Oh, Sam,

    You are so, so lovely to have written about my book. I am so touched by your exquisitely kind gesture.
    I feel as if I've known you for years. I only wish that were true in real time. Maybe one day. If I bring the wine and do whatever chopping you assign to me would you cook something for me?

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.


  2. Interesting sounding books.



  3. Thanks for the suggestions:)

    I'm reading Medium Raw..A Bourdain..Jacques is reading a Frederick Forsyth book....
    I can't say many books have pulled at my heartsrings this yr....

  4. Sam, I like your selection of books and will be checking them out. I'm an avid reader also, reading fiction now too. I'm a huge fan of Peter Robinson, have read all of his mysteries and the same for Elizabeth George's books. Baldacci's books are good too! And then there's cookbooks...

  5. It took me a cup of coffee to visit you this morning! Thanks so much! I want to be "chic" in a Stone Barrington novel!!!! I go back and forth--fiction/nonfiction. Right now I'm reading The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin and The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg. Now I'm off to check out your cookbook recommendation.


  6. Thanks for these reviews, Sam! I value your opinion so will check out both of these reads.



  7. Make that all three reads!

    And Cote de Texas is FABULOUS! I love Joni and her blog is my go-to place. Not only is she smart and talented, but she is so sweet. I have followed her since before I and I have followed her since before I even had a blog!

  8. Sam, I am having fits with this IPAD. Contrary to what it may appear, I have not been into the eggnog with "flavoring"! ;-)

  9. They all sound informational and entertaining Sam! I've seen many people say Forever Chic is a really good book! Have a great weekend:@)

  10. Gotta check out the Kindle version. Thanks for the recommendation, Sam.

  11. Wonderful book ideas. I am checking out Forever Chic right now.

  12. The first two are already on the way. Alex Hirst's column is the first thing I check when I get my copy of HB. Love his reipes. We will be redoing the kitchen soon so the Kitchen idea book is a great suggestion, especially for my daughter.

  13. Great suggestions, Sam. I am a long time Joni fan, too.♥

  14. Hi, Sam! Since you seem to be into the murder/mystery/who-done-it genre, I would highly recommend the new book which J. K. Rowling wrote under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith called "The Cuckoo's Calling." This book has received excellent reviews and introduces a new and very likable detective by the name of Cormoran Strike. My immediate thought after finishing this book was that it would certainly make a good detective series. Well, guess what! Rowling already has the second in the series ready to come out in 2014. I must mention that there is a delightful young woman in this book that seems destined to become Strike's number one assistant. Don't make the mistake of thinking this book might be a piece of fluff; it's very well written, the characters well developed, and you won't know who-done-it until the very end. For a book which in a roundabout way very much relates to food (thus, the title), I highly recommend "Blue Plate Special," an autobiography by the author Kate Christensen. Note that it is not a book of recipes, actual cooking, and such. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Sam, and here's to lots of good reading in 2014, regardless of the genre.

  15. Great suggestions, Sam! I am an avid reader, but this blogging has cut into my reading time. I'm hoping to get through a few novels over the holidays, though! Merry Christmas!!!

  16. Super ideas, Sam. Will download a couple for the trip. The cookbook looks fabulous. Love Baldacci! Have put off reading his latest..saving it to savor. :) Do you do that?
    My two book group books are not vacation reading (although I must read two while away) but are books I wouldn't normally purchase so they make me think. That's a good thing! My daughter also challenges me with her book suggestions. I am an inveterate reader. Vacation reading: Clive Cussler. Don't know why I love his books, but I do. Also love regency here and there...Heyer is the greatest and I reread her books. Mysteries galore too. All the old British writers plus a few of the new ones.
    Have a fabulous Christmas, Sam. We're going to St. Lucia! Wish all my family could go with us as they often have in the past, but life becomes complicated when they're older.....everyone's scattered and unable to be in Florida, so my daughter and I are going together. It's one of our favorite islands.

  17. Hi Sam, I have read your post carefully. I am French and have found that many women in France are different – just like here. I have seen beautiful women, well attired and elegant in New York and San Francisco and very frumpy women in France. Just like New York City is not the whole USA, many of the books I have read about “French” women usually are about a certain type of women in and around Paris. Go to the Auvergne, or somewhere in Savoie and tell me if they dress that well … Actually the last time I was in Paris, the best dressed women I saw were foreigners. The Galeries Lafayette and le Printemps Dept. stores are full of beautiful foreign women. I just read in a French newspaper that the Parisians are giving up the center of Paris to tourists and are going to the outskirts – so usually foreign tourists in Paris, see other foreign tourists or French ones from the provinces – it’s just like in Venice, Italy. Of course you won’t see as many shorts and flip-flops in France as in the US, but you won’t see them in Rome or Madrid either. But don’t forget that French women come in all colors – there are many black women in France, and many with darker complexion originally from North Africa – just like here not all women are white – I hope this is mentioned in the book.

    I usually don’t read self-help books – I guess by now I am beyond help! As for cook-books – it is the same. I rarely read French cookbooks as I have several, in French, that my mum gave me when I was a young bride, but they are gathering dust. I rather like to get foreign cuisine cook-books – which for me is anything that is not French, because I usually cook according to la cuisine familiale française. I wish you a Merry Christmas if you celebrate it and a Happy New Year.

  18. I might put that Beverly Hills book on my list! I love the Sue Grafton Kinsey Millhone detective series, but admittedly, Kinsey is no cook, and survives mostly on peanut butter and pickle sandwiches! Just gearing up to make your Foleys Blue Cheese spread for my holiday gathering this week! Merry Christmas, Sam!

  19. Hi Sam,
    What an exciting list of new material for the winter "blah" days. I see a couple of must haves for me, I will be ordering today!

    Thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and have a very Merry Christmas!
    Miz Helen

  20. As Vagabonde says, 'I guess by now I am beyond help..'.no matter, I'm comfortable in my old clothes and un-chic clogs. At the moment I'm enjoying John Dunning's Bookman series.

  21. Thank for for the suggestions on good reads, Sam! I did buy a few cookbook gifts and youth books for my grandsons this year.

    Wishing you and your hubby a very Merry Christmas!

  22. What a fun post! I read about a book a week and am always on the prowl for new authors. I also will be checking out blog you recommended (already follow "Un Femme....") Loving this new info!


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