here a Grail, there a Grail

I seek perfection in all things, a sage once said.

This must be a tiring way to live, unless that sage had someone else doing his shopping for him. The individual selection of carrots and string beans comes to mind. Otherwise put, sages don't know everything.

But who among us can escape being bombarded with 10 Best lists?

And doesn't every 10 Best list, or 3 Best, or Absolute Best, have an equal and opposite list or statement? Wasn't that sage made to take high school physics?

Rather than filling the closet or the fridge with BESTS - which will be consumed by marauding husbands (fridge) or sisters (closet) or daughters (other closet) - or co-workers (long spiral-bound notebooks with narrow lines and wide margins, where have you gone?) - should one accept that there may be no best, or that a Best may be at best transitory?
I saw a scarf in a store window that was the (my) Platonic ideal of scarf-ness. The design was witty, the colors worked with colors I find myself wearing often...
rare and lovely but doesn't seem ever to have been reissued;
occasionally said to have turned up in vintage stores
The store was closed because it was late at night - Himself's favorite time to "browse" - and we were leaving the next morning. I couldn't find the scarf in the US, and then life intervened, and by the time I had a few minutes to think about scarves again, the children were in school and I was being asked to volunteer in classrooms. Granted, that didn't last long - I remember bringing an old fashioned ice cream churn and ingredients to the school, lining everything up, and then sending the children out to wash their hands before we actually got started. The teacher, horrified, bleated about not wanting to stifle spontaneous creativity. I countered with wanting to stifle spontaneous salmonella. End of digression.
another rarity, originally issued in 1947 and reissued in 1990(?)
So I looked for my scarf, chatted up salespeople, trolled eBay, trolled other sites, got some work done inbetween, and years later the scarf appeared on one of the secondary market sites. Turns out I wasn't the only one stalking it. Sigh.

I don't have Grail shoes. I admit to owning a lot of shoes, but...

For a long time, I had a particular kind of necklace (torque) in mind. I had no idea how such a thing would come to be mine, unless I went crazy and bought it at the jeweler's retail store. However, people I love were depending on me.... My patience and dare I say self-sacrifice were rewarded when someone listed the necklace on eBay. The pictures included close ups of the hallmarks and of a defective hinge. I pounced. I had the hinge repaired at the retail store. Very little "optional" spending for a while all the same.

Here's a Grail recipe - Best ever Chocolate Pot de Crème! Typically a pot de crème is a baked custard in a little pot, very fussy because the little pots have to bake in a water bath and have to be snatched from the simmering water in the hot oven without being dropped, and then cooled in a particular way. So what good is a famous recipe if noone is ever going to survive the making of it? Fortunately I came across this recipe, a lot of people have reprinted it in a lot of books, so you don't have to credit me with a discovery, but you should make this.

Organize some cute little cups, this is very rich and this is one time you don't want to put forth generous servings. For convenience, put the cups on a baking sheet or other flat pan.
Put into a blender: 
1 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips
1 ½ tablespoons of cognac, or rum and cognac mixed
2 egg yolks  
Bring one cup of light cream to not exactly a boil but you want it to have tiny bubbles around the edges of the pot. Be sure it's light cream, the recipe won't work otherwise. Note: half & half is NOT light cream.
Pour the hot scalded cream into the blender jar, put cover on tight, and blend until the chips stop rattling. Pour the mixture into the little cups, and refrigerate at least 4 hours. I usually cover each little cup with a piece of plastic wrap. You can do these a day ahead.
To serve, put a blob of whipped cream on top of each little cup. Smile.
I hope the shirt shows up as white on your screen,
my screen isn't having a good day

White shirts. It appears we will never be able to live at peace with our friends and neighbors without a white shirt. Frankly, whoever made a list of "musts" and "best things to have in a wardrobe" that instructs the reader to own "one white shirt" has never tried to live with only one white shirt. If - and this is a BIG IF - you are going to spend the rest of your days and nights in a white shirt - just not possible. We live in a world full of hostile condiments. Ketchup. Mustard. Hot sauce. So if you're going to do the white shirt thing, you don't need one, you need several, and to me this means that you're looking at a serious investment. However, close to the top on the list of things I don't want to spend eternity doing, is wearing a gray t-shirt everywhere. So, after due consideration and a lot of returning, I nominate the white shirts sold at Uniqlo stores and on the Uniqlo website under the heading "IDLF." Those initials stand for Inès de la Fressange, and the minute I tried on, one of these shirts, I recognized that she had given the white shirt situation even more thought than I had. Here are some of the good points: properly sized collar, 100% cotton, fabric, lapped seams (no serging!),  "pearl-y" buttons, manageable cuffs, enough room at the bottom without looking like a vintage minidress. I'm particularly happy with the cuffs, because they can be comfortably rolled up or turned up without having to create the Flying Nun's wimple at each wrist or elbow. Here is the best part -  the cost is quite reasonable,  as there's always a promo or a markdown, and for what you'd spend at the IDLF store in Paris, you could buy 3 or 4 of these babies on the web and spend your time in Paris - um - otherwise.


  1. When do the egg yols go in, please?
    Penny in Oz

    1. Hi. Penny! The first 4 ingredients are put in the blender jar in the order listed, before the very hot cream is added. The hot cream cooks them just enough not to be raw, if that makes sense.

    2. Oops, I mean the first 3 (blushes)

  2. I'm so sick of those stupid lists. Strangely I inadvertently wrote one myself last year for my blog (Top 6 I named it) and it was a very popular post. So it would seem I'm the only one sick of the numbered lists maybe.
    That scarf thing is very annoying though. Maybe the Scarf Gods will hear you and send you one via eBay that is mislabelled and therefore missed by all the other collectors.
    It also doesn't surprise me that Ines has overthought, and therefore created, the perfect white shirt. I have a 17 year old white shirt that is near perfect. Near, because it has French cuffs, which can be a pain. But I forgive it those sins because aside from that the fit, construction and detailing are just right.
    Love the necklace. How satisfying to find it at a good price too.

    1. Hi, Heidi, I agree about French cuffs. I have some of my dad's gorgeous cufflinks - Pop was fussy about his clothes - and I'd love to wear them, but between the time he acquired the links and the present, it seems that the standard holes in cuffs have become larger. I'd feel terrible if I lost any.

      Himself lost one gold cufflink a long time ago, so I took the other one and had a loop attached and it became a pendant.

  3. Thanks for the recipe, Fred! My top ten list likes are limited to David Letterman, alas. I like those scarves, and like Heidi, trust that the universe will deliver!

  4. Great blog today, really enjoyed it. It's true that there's nothing quite like a well-fitted white shirt.

  5. loved the post! Those lists make me feel paranoid and inadequate, or bored and rebellious, by turn.

    Thank you for giving a name to my own "grail" issues...I do have them, I'll admit.

    Going to go and check out the white shirt. Agree with you 100% that simply owning one is impossible. I have many... but the tragicomedy of it is that I'm still extremely choosy about when to wear a white shirt (in anticipation of ruining it). So they mostly just hang out in my closet, looking pale...

    love, maqsad/sartorial choices.
    (Shouldn't have done a name change...)

    1. Maqsad, I'd love to know the grails you're seeking!

  6. Thank you Fred. I have quite a few grails but I've not been much of a questing knight lately.

    My holy grail scarf is "Jungle Love" in brique. So thrilled last month when one showed up BIN on eBay for less than half of what I was willing to pay for it. I snapped it up and paid, then a few days later got a message from the seller saying that someone had bought it in their B&M store. Then (as if they thought I wouldn't notice) the seller lists the scarf the following week at 2.5X the price I paid. Because the seller had refunded my purchase at the lower price, eBay considered the matter closed and would not compel the seller to honor the original sale. Sigh.

    P.S. My French is vraiment abominable, but I am brushing in in preparation for a trip this summer. My neighborhood café insists on calling your dessert "pots DU crème" and even I know that's wrong.

    1. Hexicon, that's terrible! I've had a few eBay purchases that left me feeling ill done by sellers, but never anything v. expensive, and frankly I've had so many fortunate experiences that I've let the others go.

      I just read about a store in Paris where the Hermes sales ladies dispose of almost new scarves that they bought with their discounts. Will try to find out more.

  7. Ooh, yes, would love any tips on Paris.

    1. Here's a link to a helpful discussion read all the way to the bottom.

  8. HI WFF,
    I just wrote a comment and it disappeared, so this may be a repeat...
    Glad you are back!
    My annual holy grail is the deceptively simple (summer) quest for stylish, comfortable pair of pair leather sandals. I would like leather straps and a leather foot bed. The dream would be stitched and not cut/ hacked straps, but I am reasonable. A sole that is up to the task of a longish walk, would be delightful. Non geriatric, and non Scandinavian unisex athletic wear in style. Impossible.
    I just made my first 2 Uniqlo purchases this year- a Liberty print dress ( with sewn in bra) and Liberty print pajama shorts- with pockets ! Both were on promo and very reasonably priced, so I am turning a blind eye to the rayon...
    I went to a trunk show from Stitch South Hampton a few years back, and the clothes were lovely. They make custom women's shirts, and I was told that the prices were reasonable...
    Have you been to see "Manus ex Machina?" I am crossing my fingers that I can go this week...

    1. Hi, KnitYarns! Re sandals - had a pair of huaraches with lovely wedge heels and wore them for years till they fell into a sad bundle of leather strings and rubber crumbs. Replacing them is an ongoing quest.

      I just got back from our local outlet mall, the kindest thing I can say about the Saks store is that it's like a goodwill store with price tags. I don't object to finding out-of-season or last year's merch at an outlet, but I do object to finding shopworn seconds and irregulars that aren't even marked as such. The RL store were selling logos with rayon shirts attached, I could have cried. The JC Factory hasn't been a happy place in quite some time. I'm being very careful with my existing black silk pants because i think they're irreplaceable. And I just received a pair of cotton knit pajamas that had clear plastic strips reinforcing the serged seams. Ouch. The PJs are going back, and if I can figure out how to make the plastic show up on an iPhone photo, I'll share those seams.

      So although the Met show is something I'd usually rush to, in my current state of weepy grouchiness over the absence of decent dressmaking, I'm holding back. I might say something that could get me escorted out. I do plan to check out Stitch Southhampton, I didn't know they did anything beyond alterations!

    2. LOL re- logos with rayon attached. My "favorite"/ bete noire are this year's unlined handbags- unlined so that they weigh less?!!? Do people really accept that? And, the pillowcase with a drawstring dresses, and the un- stitched sandals, and the pancake flat soles. I don't think, short of garbage bags with ties, that the clothing could be any less labor intensive. So, I feel your "weepy grouchiness", but, still naively cling to the distant ray of hope that the exhibit will be uplifting.
      Plastic seam reinforcement indeed. Now, that is depressing...

  9. Lists are satisfying and even though we think we are rebels we like to be told. Masochists we are. I love looking at other people's lists to tear them down and destroy them or agree with them - like the news - moderate and balanced is rather boring no? I am actually thinking of getting a tailored shirt but I fluctuate in weight so much - that I can't commit. I have been there where I am looking for an out of print vintage scarf and it is fashion archealogy at its best.

    1. I've just been trying to isolate a group of clothes that fit now, for the summer months. Smaller sizes and larger sizes are in storage boxes awaiting in one case the hoped-for and in anothe, alas, the inevitable.


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