Warm Memories in Dishes

If it’s so beautifully arranged on the plate,

you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.

Julia Child


Today I’m thinking of a dear friend whom I have not seen in a long while.   We met almost two decades ago as wives of expats in Tokyo.  She was the dedicated mother of two young children with a Cordon Bleu degree tucked under her apron. I was a new bride who was a virgin in the kitchen. Motherhood has since led me to settle in suburbia, to give my children the roots I never had.  She continues to live the free life of a very stylish gypsy, moving to a new country every couple of years when she and her husband feel like it.

Like sunbeams in cupboards and closets, gifts and mementos around my home bring warm memories of our friendship.  When I cook, I’m grateful she tipped me off on All Clad stainless steel cookwarethey last forever and have spared me the clueless journey through aisles of the cheap and the non-stick.  Pretty dishes remind me of our foray into Kappabashi Dori, Tokyo’s restaurant supply district, where she helped me bring home heavy blue and white ceramics up and down the subway stairs.  When it came time for my family to move on from Japan, she hosted a sayonara lunch with the international group of ladies we had gotten to know in our brief time together.

In my closet is a bouquet of colorful pashmina shawls from her stint in Singapore. In my memory are recipes she taught me like the sweet sticky rice dessert when I visited her in Florida.  Her favorite classic A Well-Seasoned Appetite by New York Magazine‘s Molly O’Neill is the only photo-less cookbook allowed on my bookshelf. She would casually toss quick recipes into our conversation then I’d report with dismay that my results turned out far from hers.  She immediately knew to ask “Did you add salt and pepper?” because sure enough, the newbie needed every little ingredient specified.

Her invitation to visit them in Monaco was what opened my eyes to the joys of solo travel, a more life affirming version of gambling and living dangerously I say!  It gave me the “Aha!  I can do this every year…” revelation, and since then maybe twice a year and why not more?!

Countless more adventures to us, Powerful Goddess Ana!  And count me among those who have been very blessed by your loving kindness and generosity.  Anyone who can soothe her nerves by whipping up a multi-course gourmet meal for the person who annoys her is worthy of a custom pedestal at every city she lives in. Domo Aregato for the many happy and delicious memories, the wisdom of adding salt and pepper to my life no matter what–without having to be told.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share your appetite.












© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947



Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother



Best Movies Set in Venice

Is it worthwhile to observe that

there are no Venetian blinds in Venice? 

William Dean Howels


Bongiorno!  Today I transport myself to what may be the closest thing to time travel.  I’m headed for the Carnivale in Venice where they celebrate the centuries old festivity of wearing masks and elaborate costumes from the 18th century.  I promise I’ll take you along with me so my next few blog posts will feature everything Venetian.   We begin with a few movies I’ve enjoyed featuring eye candy from her iconic sights.

Dangerous Beauty

The glamour of 16th century Renaissance featuring the life of legendary courtesan, Veronica Franco, with Jacqueline Bisset playing the role of aging mother.



Flashbacks on the glamourous Hollywood life of Cole Porter with his wife, Linda Lee, whom he met in Paris in the 1920’s where Americans were inventing new lives of freedom.  Kevin Kline plays the elegant Cole, always witty on stage, charming in front of society, writing the pain into the soundtrack of his life.  My favorite Ashley Judd plays the nuanced role of Linda who nurtures his talent and indulges his preference for men.  Why, oh, why is the woman always the one who has to re-arrange her life to suit the man (even when he’s gay)?

Cole Porter De-Lovely Movie Kevin Kline Ashley Judd

Wings of the Dove

Two lovers plot to gain the inheritance of a sickly, rich American (“the richest orphan in the world”) by stealing her affections.  A film based on Henry James’ famous novel.


Casino Royale

James Bond’s world tour of casinos ends with the fantastic sinking of an abandoned palazzo on a Venetian canal.


The Tourist

Johnny Depp plays the unlikely mystery lover of Angelina Jolie.  Watch out for my dream necklace in the final scenes.

The Tourist movie set in Venice


Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

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Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Judging Books By Their Cover

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend.

Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.

Groucho Marx

I lost 20 lbs over the holidays!  No, not in body weight–in books that usually weigh down my suitcase like bricks.  Big thanks to my sister Santa who dropped a Kindle Fire HD into my stocking right before our family trip!  Here are the best of the bunch from the 11 books I read in 11 days, a virtual world tour highlighting the universal thread of joys and pain that binds all women through generations and cultures.  And as for that adage “Never judge a book by it’s cover?”  I never say never.  Enjoy!

The comfort of sisterhood in China through reversals of fortune,

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Snow_flower_and_the_secret_fan by Lisa See

To get me in the mood for Carnival next month,

The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

If Anne Boleyn could have written her story herself,

The Kiss of the Concubine by Judith Arnopp

Anne Boleyn the kiss of the concubine by Judith Arnopp

Because women are often misunderstood and conveniently dismissed as crazy, The Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen tells the tale of a Spanish (spare) princess who is packed off to marry a self-absorbed duke in cold Austria. Did she once dream of living happily ever after?

Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen

This one made me cry a few times as I followed the trail of Italian immigrants from a tiny hilltop town to their American dream and the glitz of NYC.  How true it is that an orphan finds many parents,  that love for work, friends and family can sustain you through the worst of times, that life is not only about what you make of it, but more so the strength to survive what is taken away from you.

 The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Shoemakers Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to add your book recommendation here.

I wish you the Happiest of New Possibilities in 2014!


Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Email me


Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

No Miles? Still Travel

There is something unexplored about woman

that only a woman can explore. 

Georgia O’Keefe


“Where are you going with that?” critics ask, eager to snuff out a woman’s enthusiasms in her journey of self-discovery.  As if anyone can see where every road leads at all times?  Thanks to her thirst for adventure and possibility, a woman eventually finds the courage to follow her disparate joys and passions, shrugging off naysayers along the way who can’t make sense of her choices.  This Powerful Goddess has been true inspiration in persisting to lay down tracks for a variety of learning experiences until they finally came together like puzzle pieces.

And what about the rest of us?  What can we do until we get our own eureka moment?  How about keeping one foot moving in front of the other, pursuing what thrills us even when it does not make sense to anyone?  Excitement generated by our desire to learn, experience and create feeds our souls, pulls us forward to new revelations and insights.  Even when we are not particularly good at what we choose, doing what makes us happy has intrinsic value in feeding our health with a sense of purpose and wild doses of inspiration, the fuel that sees us through the bumps of life.  For what price won’t you pay to discover what gives you personal fulfillment?

Heeding our instincts for variety and change are as vital as eating or sleeping.  It could begin with making new friends by learning new skills and hobbies, exploring a new city or vacation destination, camping in the backyard at first, peering through a microscope, trying an exotic cuisine, taking a new route to/from work or school.

To heed your nomadic instincts literally, you can begin by making peace with the unknown or the “irresponsibility” of leaving the husband and kids to fend for themselves.  There are women travel groups that assuage the fear of solo travel, providing a ready made bunch of friends who share your predilection for adventure, shopping and taking the time to smell the roses:





In our life journey after all, every road leads us back home to ourselves.  Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to tell us what new path you’re excited to explore.






© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Email me


Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother


Inside The Harem

If the sun had not been female,

even she would never have been allowed

to enter the harem.

Dursun Bey


Grand Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

on the cover of The Harem: The World Behind the Veil by Alev Lytle Croutier

“For your blog… Happy Saturday!” wrote a beloved blog fan who shares my enthusiasm for reading, travel, art and the language of gifts.  When a thoughtful note comes with a surprise like this book of gorgeous illustrations, how can any day be less than happy?!

It transported me to my week in Istanbul, breathing in the musk of the Turkish Straits on a rooftop with a 360 degree view,  speculating on the lives of the local women in traditional dress below.  I toured the Topkapi Palace’s Grand Seraglio and imagined those cloistered in the Sultan’s harem from 1500s to 1900s. Walking through the empty boudoirs, marble baths, and latticed hallways, I wondered–despite my love of fancy costume and interior decor–how did it feel to live in a cocoon of physical and spiritual isolation?  What secrets, what drama, what boredom had these stairways and alleys witnessed?

Renditions of European women in various states of elaborate undress was a major theme in Western art and may not have anything to do with the reality of the sultan’s harem, but why forbid imagination and creativity?  I adore women relaxed in the sensuality of their bodies,  some with a frank stare, others heedlessly enjoying an unselfconscious moment.  And, oh, the beauty of intricate mosaics, rich silks and velvets, and the pleasing curves of skin like ivory!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to tell us what you wish were not forbidden.


Odalisque With a Slave by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres


The Bath by Jean-Leon Gerome


The White Slave by Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte de Nouy


The Daughters of a Sheik by Conrad Kiesel


Leila by Sir Frank Dicksee


© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Email me


Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother


Paris: What to See and Do?

If Chanel gave liberty to women,

Yves Saint Laurent gave them power.

Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves St. Laurent


Sunset at Le Pont Alexandre III, my favorite bridge in town

On my return trip to the City of Light., I may not change my mind about the Eiffel Tower being an eyesore, but I am open to being converted into a Francophile. Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to tell me what else to add to my list:

Le Barrio Latino  in the Bastille (Metro Ledru Rollin) for four floors of dancing and dining.

Piano serenade at the Four Season George V Dine or chill with a drink at their cozy lobby bar and restaurant, admire the history of the opulent carpet and tapestries.

002870-11-gallery Crazy Horse (12 Avenue George V  75008) for burlesque in an intimate, old world setting.

Privacy with high tea at the Mariage Freres (13, Rue des Grands Augustins) on a charming, exceedingly quiet Parisian street. When you enter the door, you’re transported to another time with dark wood furniture and tea tinted yellow walls lined with their iconic black and red lacquer tea packaging–beautifully detail oriented and deserving of being voted #1 luxury tea brand by Newsweek.

Musee de Artes Decoratifs (107 rue de Rivoli  75001) because I love objects that are both functional and pretty.  This museum is at the end of one arm of  the Louvre, offering exceptional temporary shows and a fabulous permanent exhibit.  I hear museums are free on the first Sunday of every month, at least for their permanent collections.  I’m thinking of Sunday brunch at their great new outdoor cafe facing the Tuillerie gardens. too.

Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent  (5 avenue Marceau 75116) houses the workshop studio of the great designer and their current exhibit “Kabuki” is dedicated to Japanese costume theatre.   I’m very curious to see emblematic haute couture prototypes and YSL’s design sketches where he used masculine codes to give women security and audacity whilst accentuating their feminity.


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