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Talismans. Do you have them? I do. Maybe not as my driving force but they do exist in my world. Sometimes they are for me those ‘angels’ that I think maybe watch out for me and guide me. For me, they are often the reminders I have of ‘those’ that are special to me.

I’ve recently had a lot of my ‘angels’ on my mind. I recognized that having something of theirs with me, during especially busy or stressful times, gave me an extra reason to smile and relax while being a bit in the eye of a hurricane. I only realized my gravitation toward these seemingly magical objects while speaking with a friend over dinner. It must have sounded incredibly peculiar when I blurted out that my new favorite dress is one of my Grandmother’s. I mean, is it normal to say you are rocking your grandparent’s clothes? Maclamore and Ryan Lewis sing it about it in their hit song Thrift Shop Feat so I suppose if the friend knew about this, I could save myself from being categorized as ‘odd’ to suddenly being understood as a version of retro cool. In retrospect it made me laugh, it sounded absurd once the words hit the air. Then I thought about it, she was far from that old decrepit grey-haired grandmother, she was for me iconic and fashionable. She was so hip that I didn’t really even refer to her as Grandmother, but rather by her nickname – Ginny! In my mind, wearing a dress from Ginny, from I. Magnum, made in Italy, well it was San Francisco courtier. Sporting my mother’s engagement ring, or other special accessories were all part of my bigger talisman push throughout the busy week.

I looked deeper and discovered that I’ve developed a small practice around surrounding myself with those things (and when possible those people) that make working in the trenches more enjoyable. Maybe not all of the items around me are talismans but these items provide me with reverence and help me stay true to myself. For example, when I am on work trips and far away from all that grounds me, I have some extra special sleepwear that is so incredibly posh and cozy, I can’t wait to get into at the end of a long day. Or those not too conservative outfits that push the limits just a little, and show a side of my personality that I don’t always reveal. I almost always have something with me from my mother and at least one of my grandmothers – these incredibly loving, important and powerful female figures in my life. When I come across the object, it gives me an extra smile. Who doesn’t like an extra reason to smile and to happily remember those that we just can’t see from afar?

I recently lost a good friend of mine, Christine. She was someone I deeply admired as a mentor and a friend. Our conversations and meetings were always filled with champagne toasts, smiles, and her sage advice.

This past summer we had the chance to spend a few days together in her beautiful home in Nice. Little did I know that it would be the last time I would be able to gaze into her smiling eyes, hug and kiss her. We reminisced about the days of yore and spoke about our careers until our cheeks hurt from smiling incessantly; reflecting on all of the times we had spent together and the treasure trove of beautiful memories we had created. I’d like to believe we were special to each other. Our work relationship back in the day was symbiotic. And I always felt comfortable with her and I knew that when she spoke, I would hear the truth; she was a true friend. Over the years, I had the pleasure of spending holidays with her, she would join me at my home and she always made sure to include me on her short list when she was in town. I was often a guest at her events and the special thing about that was that despite the fact that she was the hostess with hundreds of people to attend to we would always sneak away to celebrate our friendship and confide in one another. She was special to a lot of people and her unexpected loss has left a hole in my heart. I have my talismans from her which I keep very close and I think often about our memories. One of the last things she said to me was, “Gina, we’ve got a lot of incredible memories together and I am so glad we could be together to remember these special times.”

One of my favorite Christine stories is when upon seeing my newborn son, a mere two days after he was born, (because I insisted that I attend and finish the event we were working on together), she immediately kissed and hugged me, then snatched him from my arms. Once safely in her arms, she scolded me for being so stubborn and showing up at the event having just delivered a precious baby, and then stopped everything that was going on to open a few bottles of Moet to host a champagne toast with the entire group of her VIPs in attendance. She then took her finger and dipped it in the champagne and created a small cross on his lips with her champagne drenched finger. She proudly claimed that this is how the French properly christens their children. I kid you not, his lips smacked, his lips curled up into a smile, and she beamed. It was a moment of sheer happiness for all of us. Secondo now claims this is why he loves champagne- and I don’t doubt it!

This recipe is my small way to celebrate my beloved Christine. She opened my eyes and palate to the world of champagne (and I have my other French influences to thank for keeping this alive). This recipe is about love, her love of life, people, a good party, and well; it is just in time for the day of hearts on the horizon (Feb 14th).

Let’s just agree that champagne is synonymous with the language of LOVE. Whether it is love exemplified in the virtues of a good friendship or a code to seduction. As we quickly approach Valentine’s Day it would be unjust not to speak of champagne’s flirty and joyous bubbles that arouse the senses, creating an air of hope and invincibility. It perfectly accompanies every passionate moment from the first date to declarations of love, yearning and forever. It is undoubtedly a declaration that is assumed through words, a message of love and desire.

The flavor of this champagne dessert is fruit forward, light and it is as crisp as the champagne that you use. I tend to like my desserts a bit less sweet so dry champagne is my preference. It’s a lovely way to close out a meal in both presentation and taste.

Champagne Jellied Treats


2 TBS gelatin

2 cups white grape juice, chilled

2 TBS sugar

1 cup water, chilled

2 cups champagne

8 small strawberries, washed (optional)


In a small saucepan, add 1 cup chilled grape juice and sprinkle gelatin over the juice. Allow to stand for 1 minute. Over low heat, stir until gelatin is dissolved. Add in sugar and remove from heat. Add in 1 cup chilled grape juice, cool mixture. Slowly stir in champagne. Pour half of the mixture into the champagne glasses. If desired, add one strawberry into each glass. Chill glasses and remaining gelatin mixture until almost set, approximately 1 hour. Place reserved gelatin mixture into a blender; process until foamy. Pour into glasses, and chill until set. This should make 6-8 servings depending on the size of the glasses used.