Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Belles of St. Mary's

It’s that time of year when, amidst the general good will and good cheer, the usual suspects are busy filing lawsuits against nativity scenes in public places.

But at St. Mary’s Catholic Home, where my Mother has lived for the last four years, the crèche is proudly displayed, there are decorations everywhere, and high school students in period Dickens costumes come every year to serenade the residents with a hearty “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and a reverent “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Christmas at St. Mary’s is a very special time, not only for the residents, but for the families who come to share the holidays with them.

St. Mary’s was founded in 1941 by three Polish nuns, who devoted themselves to the care of the aging.

Today, St. Mary’s has grown and flourished under the watchful eyes of The Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.

They still wear white habits and veils and are among the happiest women I know. 

They are doing God’s good work, and it shows in their smiles.

When my Mother arrived at St. Mary’s four years ago, very much against her will (a story for another day – you’ll laugh, you’ll cry….), she stubbornly refused to participate in any of the activities.

But, the good ladies of the Activities Department stubbornly refused to take “no” for an answer.

Finally, my Mother said, “Tell them to stop bugging me. I’m not going to go to any of their stupid events ----- HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL THEM………I HATE BINGO!!”

And that was Madame Mère’s last word on the subject.

Or…………maybe not…………

One day I arrived for a visit and she casually mentioned that she had met some nice ladies at a High Tea the day before.

“Wait….what? A High Tea? What High Tea?” I asked.

“Oh, they have a High Tea every month. It’s just a small, elite group -- by invitation only,” she replied.

BINGO!! I thought (sorry, Mom); they’ve finally found something she’s willing to do. And that was the turning point for Mme Mère

For the last two years, she has looked forward to these teas the way a child looks forward to Christmas. This special little group of ladies, all over 90 years of age, “the Belles of St. Mary’s,” as I call them, gets together every month over a beautifully laid on tea in a cozy lounge behind the Nurses’ Station.

They laugh, they sing, they tell jokes, they share stories from their lives, all over a nice “cuppa.”

When the good Sisters leave, Vera, one of the younger Belles and a former nurse, can always be counted on for a risqué story or two that sends the rest of the Belles into paroxysms of laughter. (There’s always a Blood Pressure cuff handy for a quick check should things get too raucous.)

Here the ladies are having a sing-along at a luau Tea in August.

I’m on the left (with the flower in my hair) keeping an eye on things. 

I started attending the teas about a year ago to help out, and I wouldn’t miss them for the world. 

These ladies are soooo much fun, and the egg salad tea sandwiches are just delicious!!

My Mother is in the foreground in the yellow lei, and to her left is everyone’s favorite Belle, Rose, the violinist.

Rose was a professional musician all her life, starting as a member of an All-Girl Band during WW II.

Their Group toured the country playing on the same circuit as Nat “King” Cole and his Group, the King Cole Trio.

Sadly, we lost Rose just a few months before Christmas.

She died peacefully in her sleep. She was 95 years young.

Rose left her violin to her favorite nephew.

She is greatly missed by the Belles. 

They set a place for her at High Tea every month and put this picture next to her teacup.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the Belles of St. Mary’s and to all those who love and care for them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Well-Dressed Coffee Table and 75 Parisiennes

Do you remember the well-dressed coffee table? I do.

The well-dressed coffee table was always adorned with a stack of big, beautiful books that, once opened, spilled over your lap as you turned from page to page delighting in one gorgeous, glossy image after another.

Coffee table books are a silent testament to the interests and aspirations of the owner of the coffee table.

Today, you have an entire library available to you at the touch of a button and displayed on a screen that fits in the palm of your hand. How long will it be before the feel, the smell and the weight of beautiful, leather-bound books become part of les plaisirs démodés (old-fashioned pleasures)?

If, like me, you are a dévotée of the well-dressed coffee table, here’s a little something that might add just the right French Touch to your coffee table this Christmas.


The work of renowned portrait photographer Baudoin has graced the pages of many a glossy fashion magazine.

But in his new book, 75 Parisiennes, he pays homage to the women of Paris in a series of offbeat and inspired photographs.

The photographer as silent observer allows each woman to speak for herself without saying a word.

From an array of over 300 photos shot in 6x6 square format with his Hasselblad camera, he chose 75 to represent each of the 75 départements of the City of Lights.

Identified by first name only, each photograph is a snapshot of the Parisienne in her natural habitat surrounded by the things she loves.

And speaking of things to love…..wouldn’t you just kill to have that view?

Not all of the 75 parisiennes are actually parisiennes d’origine. Some are transplanted from other regions and other countries.

But, all are parisiennes de cœur, which means that they are Parisian by choice and conviction.

And like so much of what makes life worth living at any age, it’s all in the attitude

Time to sit back, put your feet up and enjoy a big, beautiful book. 
For great DIY ideas on creating your very own, inexpensive coffee tables, click HERE for some inspiration.