Saturday, October 8, 2011


…..than Valerie Foster Hoffman!  Think Auntie Mame, Perle Mesta, Martha Stewart and throw in a dash of Cleveland Amory and you’re just beginning to get the picture.

Here she is in the library of the beautiful home she shares with husband Eugene, assorted dogs, cats, birds, fish, oh almost forgot the chickens….and staff galore who are really family for the Hoffman's!

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First came the invitation for a simple ‘Autumn Evening’ at the Hoffman's celebrating the fall harvest.  The dinner would consist of “the joy, bounty & gifts of autumn”.  O.K., so let me set the scene…cocktails and hor d’oeuvres by the pool……

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Valerie entranced by Chris Slatoff, a gifted sculptor who in recent years has focused on religious themes.  Along with major commissions, Chris teaches at Art Center and conducts a summer workshop in Italy.  Fluent in French he could be our renaissance man!

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Chris is in the background (right) talking to Paul Rusnak.  Hope he got a commission!!!314414_10150831195065183_634160182_20947654_1731516887_n

O.K., I guess you spotted me with Daphne Cates, my miracle friend I blogged about a couple of years ago.  Daphne survived a 18 wheeler that ploughed over her car while driving home on the Grapevine. A helicopter flew Daphne out and it was all over the news.


It was difficult for me to tell Yuki she wasn’t invited.


Moving on to the exquisite garden area for dinner.  Tables were set with fine china, crystal and such for at least 100 guests.  I lost count.314414_10150831195075183_634160182_20947656_2130091586_n

I sat next to Chris Slatoff with Lisa Cavelier and hubby Bruno  also at our table.  Lisa was Nancy Regan’s travel coordinator and has done an amazing job as the Managing Director of the California Art Club.  Her husband Bruno works for Elaine Adams, Peter Adams wife, in her art gallery, American Legacy Fine Arts.  Now to tell you what a small, small world it is, I met Peter in the ‘70’s when I studied briefly at the Lukits Academy of Fine Arts…Peter later became personal apprentice to the renowned artist.  I thought Peter was just an impeccably fine person at the time and I’m delighted to say my opinion hasn’t changed one bit!

This doesn’t begin to show how magical the garden was with all the twinkling lights and beautiful table settings with flowers galore on each.



Now all you foodies out there, I know you’re waiting…waiting…but suffice it to say there was everything and anything your heart could desire to eat and all delicious beyond description.  Special emphasis of course was on the fall harvest. Isn’t the main attraction always the desert?  Well, again, there was everything from chocolate cake, to pies, cookies, baklava,…I could go on and on but my fav was the delicious mind blowing Apple Crisp made by Helga Elsesser, Valerie’s amazing assistant. Helga was kind enough to share the recipe…It’s from the the Barefoot Contessa and don’t forget to serve it with gobs of vanilla ice cream! 

Remember when I said there were about a hundred guests?  Well, as the evening cooled, Helga handed each and every lady present an exquisite pashmina shawl to wear and then to take home!  Staggering isn’t it!

Woops, almost forgot…when the valet brought my car I looked inside and said, “This isn’t my car” as there was a beautiful long stemmed rose, a bag of candy and a magazine inside.  Hey lady look again..that’s right.more treats!!!

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There is no avoiding the pull of the internet, the blogs, the YouTube imaginings. It's as if we're all 'On the Road' with Jack Kerouac each in our own world of meanderings. When we tell someone to 'get a life' it might be a bit difficult when you're dragged into other people's 24/7.

I've come to realize two foundational principals, there are no accidents and everyone has a purpose. More and more I'm desiring everyone to come into a full realization of their purpose as we all find our way on this little jewel of a planet.

For me, as a professional 'Western style artist', I stumbled into Chinese Brush Painting after a trip in 1980 to Monet's home/garden. Seeing all of his collection of Japanese woodblock prints was an ahh haa moment for me and when I returned to the States I started painting in the Chinese manner and never looked back. The first year was extremely painful for me as I felt that I should be able to master the technique since I was a 'trained' artist. Not a chance ... that just gets in your way.

Now, after teaching close to 3,000 students and having my book 'The Ch'i of the Brush' published by Watson Guptill, I can say that every one of my students does better their first day than I did my first year! Why? Because I insist that they leave their critical parent outside and just enjoy the journey, respecting the work that they do. I never let anyone throw anything away because that just ingrains frustration and defeat.

We really only begin to learn when we stop and figure out how to 'save' a painting. It works every time.I am so proud of my students, their receptivity and eagerness to express themselves is a continuing blessing for me.So, back to finding your purpose. Perhaps it starts with realizing 'it's not about me'. It so easy to want our needs met and to filter everything thru this attitude. When we realize that we're here to be of benefit to every life that we touch the universe really provides the ways and means.

The best part is that it's really exciting to not have yourself on your mind all the time!I'm re-reading a wonderful book about authenticity and in my next meandering I'll tell you about it. In the meantime I'd love to hear about your journey and am here to answer any and all questions about Chinese Brush Painting.