Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Married to the Maestro – the Prelude

Having grown up surrounded by opera singers and musicians, I am most comfortable in that world. About 10 years ago I was invited to a dinner party hosted by opera singer friends. “Come and meet this wonderful young Conductor, Jacques Lacombe, from Montreal,” they said. “He’s really creating the most amazing international buzz.”

Equally at home with the ballet, the opera and the symphony, Jacques Lacombe was indeed in demand all over the world. We hit it off immediately, sharing our love of opera, ballet and, bien sûr, all things French.

He was in Philadelphia to conduct a series of operas for the Philadelphia Opera Company and, being single and very attractive, was causing quite a fluttering of hearts among the Ladies – those who sing and play, and those who lunch and support those who sing and play.

When he left, Jacques and I kept in touch by e-mail.

Not long after that, my husband and I attended a superb performance of a perennial French favorite, “Werther,” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York with Jacques in the orchestra pit and the fabulous French tenor, Roberto Alagna, in the title role. Trust me, Ladies, Roberto is even more handsome in person and quel charme !!

This was not the first time I had heard Jacques conduct, but there was something special about this performance -- an enveloping sensuality about his conducting that totally swept me away. Jacques is not a man to reveal himself easily, but it was there in the music. You could feel it. I soon found out that, like the title character, Werther, Jacques had fallen madly in love.

And the object of his affection was a young American beauty with an impish grin and a drop-dead body. How could a man resist?

In March of 2003, while Jacques was again in Philadelphia to conduct a run of operas (Verdi’s “Macbeth”), he found himself sipping a solitary drink at the Brasserie Perrier one evening and pretending to be engrossed in a book.

Suddenly, he noticed a stunning young woman nearby engaged in exactly the same activity – solitary drink, open book, you get the picture.

Their eyes met and she began to laugh. “You’ve got to be kidding,” she said, glancing at their books. “Excuse me?” he replied, pretending not to understand what she meant……………..although, clearly, he did understand.

They had dinner together and a year later, Janet and Jacques were married. The sound of feminine hearts breaking could be heard all over the world.

A few months later at a dinner party hosted by the same couple who had introduced me to the Maestro, I met the Maestro’s wife and history repeated itself. Janet and I hit it off immediately, sharing our love of shoes, shopping, shoe shopping and, did I mention shoes???, and anything that comes out of an orange box tied with brown ribbon.

The Lacombes are a much sought after international couple. To my delight, Jacques was named Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra two years ago, which means we get to see them a little more often than once or twice a year. The couple now divides their time between Montreal (where Jacques has been Music Director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Trois-Rivières since 2006), New Jersey and the rest of the world.

Over dinner a few months ago, Janet and I were chatting about just what it takes to be the perfect traveling companion to a globe-trotting Maestro.

“You know,” I said, “I think my readers would love to read about your experiences. How would you like to do an interview with me for my Blog?”

“I’d love it,” she replied. And so, over the next few months, we e-mailed back and forth. “Married to the Maestro – Part 1” will be up and running next week, in which Janet talks about what to pack and where to find the world’s best tomatoes.

Check out "Married to the Maestro -- Part 1"

Check out "Married to the Maestro -- Part 2"

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Fever – the Big Bang Theory

Mother Nature may still have a few wintry surprises up her sleeve before the month is out, but over the last week she has been serving up the sweet nectar of spring; and I, for one, have been savoring every sip.

As the earth starts to move and shift under our feet, ready to burst into new life, we feel its restlessness and begin to think about making changes in our lives.

This is the time of year when women young and old begin to ponder one of life’s great philosophical questions. “I wonder if I would look better with bangs?”

With visions of a sultry BB in black head scarf, cigarette dangling from pouty lips, dancing through our heads, we think, “God, what fabulous bangs. With those bangs, I could conquer the world!”

“Just think,” you say to yourself, “with great bangs I can pull my hair up, add an artfully-tied, decorative head scarf and sit at the terrasse of a café sipping espresso all afternoon looking so là là French, while I bask in the glow of admiring glances. And the best part is…..I’ll never have another bad hair day again….jamais de la vie!!

And so, still in the grip of our romantic fantasies, we run off to our hairdresser and utter the fateful words. “Antoine, give me bangs!”

The truth is bangs come in all different shapes, lengths and densities, and unless you are really specific about what you want, and you and Antoine are on the same page, the results could be a disaster….. a disaster you will have to live with for many months, which will feel like years, as your bad bang job grows out.

Salon Didact has a better idea. The next time you are in the 1er arrondissement of Paris, stop in at No. 2, Rue du Jour for your very own clippable bangs.

Stop by in the morning and choose from a variety of styles.

Then, while you are shopping or having lunch with a friend or significant other, your bangs will be dyed to match the color of your hair.

Come back in the afternoon and your clippable bangs will be ready for you.

Clip them on any time you feel the urge to be BB and take them off again when you grow weary of dodging the paparazzi.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a Big Bang Theory I can really wrap my head around.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Lady Is a Champ !

Last week, CBS 3 honored three-time Emmy award winning TV news anchor, journalist and co-host of the most popular daytime news and lifestyle show in Philadelphia, Talk Philly, on the occasion of her 30th Anniversary at the Station.

Oh, and did I mention that Pat Ciarrocchi has been my friend for more than a decade longer than that?

I met Pat in the Library, the Gertrude Kistler Memorial Library to be precise, at Rosemont College, a small Catholic women’s college in Pennsylvania. We were fellow Freshmen of the class of 1974. A small group of eager, determined young women, our Class motto was: “The only girls who ask for more are in the Class of ’74!!” Indeed, there were some extraordinary women in that Class, but we all knew there was one among us who would make us all proud. It was just a matter of time.

We didn’t have long to wait. Soon, Pat was popping up on the local news. “There’s our Pat,” we’d say.

And in 1982, she joined the prestigious CBS 3 (then KYW-TV) Eyewitness news team as an anchor.

The rest, as they say is broadcast history.

When she’s not co-hosting her show or chasing down stories for her segments on the afternoon and evening news, she donates her time to charitable and worthy causes for women and children. And she doesn’t just show up at these events……………she usually runs them. Pat is totally hands on from making speeches to calling out the numbers for the raffles and door prizes. She will do whatever it takes to make these events a success.

Frankly, I have watched her do all this for years and I still have no idea how she manages to juggle it all – career, marriage, family, friendships – and keep her balance. But she does.

When I call her, I often hear this:

“Hi, M, I’m on a story. Call you later. Love ‘ya.”

And she does call me later.

We share a love of many things -- opera, food and wine, girl talk, laughter.

She is passionate about fashion and classic style, as am I.

Here we are with our favorite fashion accessory – a bottle of wine.

And then there’s that big, warm Ciarrocchi smile. It’s her trademark.

I have seen her fans absolutely glow in the reflected light of that megawatt smile.

But it isn’t just about making friends for Pat; it’s about nurturing and sustaining friendships over the years that truly matters to her.

She makes it all look so easy, that even those of us who know better sometimes forget what it takes to be that consistently good, day in and day out.

We have just come to expect it from our Pat, because she always delivers.

That’s why the Lady is a Champ.

"Love ‘ya, P. Call you later."

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dealing with Weighty Matters

Whether short (me) or tall (my brother), no one in my family has ever had a problem with his or her weight. Other than sweets, which I don’t eat because I don’t like them, I have always eaten whatever I wanted. Basically, my weight has pretty much remained the same within a pound or two either way throughout my adult life. I take no credit for this, because it’s probably genetic.

I mention this not to pat myself on the back but to make the point that I have no personal experience with diets and dieting. The only thing I know about diets is that they work when you’re on them and stop working when you’re not. Other than that, I’m pretty clueless about them. At least, I was…………..

About two years ago, a beautiful black and white kitten with the most amazing copper-colored eyes joined our feline family. I named her Allegra. When I picked her up after her spaying (equivalent to a hysterectomy for a woman) the Vet told me that during the surgery, he removed quite a bit of fat around her stomach.

“Really!” I said in mild surprise. “Do you mean you did a kitty liposuction?”

“Yes,” he laughed, “I guess I did.

Although she gets the same amount of food as her brother, Victor, and sister, Cecilia, Allegra has continued to gain weight.

Even my husband, who insisted she was just big boned, has finally admitted that she is somewhere north of chubby. The truth is, when Allegra walks she looks like Tugboat Annie pulling the QE II to shore behind her.

At her last checkup, the Vet said, “Mrs. Norris, your cat is obese and headed for severe health problems if we don’t do something about her weight right now, before it’s too late.” The voice of doom!

Feeling a bit defensive, like an overindulgent Mother, I told him that she got the same food in the same amount as her slimmer brother and sister, which was absolutely true. “It’s not your fault,” he replied. “It’s probably genetic.”

The decision was made to put Allegra on the Purina Weight Loss Program. A pretty and perky young thing named Krista introduced herself to me as Allegra’s Weight Loss Coach. My husband and I left with a big bag of OM (overweight management) food and a file folder full of useful information on feline obesity, nutrition, coupons and charts to track her progress. Wow! Who knew?

Tuesday night was Allegra’s first weigh-in. I am happy to report that she has lost 8 oz. (1/2 a pound) to everyone’s delight. I got a “Good job, Mom!!” from an enthusiastic Krista and Allegra got a big hug from her Weight Loss Coach and a gold star on her chart with a little kitty smiley face next to it. My husband and I were all smiles, too. Allegra was less enthusiastic and headed straight for the safety of the cat carrier in anticipation of the trip home. Her next weigh-in is in April. We’re all keeping our fingers and paws crossed that things continue in the right direction and Allegra gets another gold star on her chart. I’ll keep you posted.

The following day I visited Madame Mère at St. Mary’s Catholic Home where she has been a resident for the last three years. When I walked in, she was clearly in a state of high anxiety.

“What’s the matter, Mom?” I asked concerned.

“I have a big problem,” she replied. “My clothes don’t fit anymore. I think I’m gaining weight. That’s never happened to me before,” she moaned.

“Well, it’s normal to gain some weight as you get older,” I said. “After all, you’ll be 96 this year. I guess it’s about time you gained a pound or two; however, if you’re concerned about it, you can go on a diet, or exercise a little bit or, maybe, one glass of wine at dinner instead of two? I’ve been reading a lot about nutrition and diets lately, maybe I could………………”

She cut me off with a wave of her hand and then gave me that look that used to freeze my six-year-old soul dead in its tracks……………

“JUST GET ME SOME NEW CLOTHES!” she said. Problem solved.