Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

I revisited my post from last New Years Eve, and enjoyed the idea of leaving you (and 2009) with a questionnaire.

What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?
Visited Fallingwater, the country home of the Kaufman family designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Words cannot do it justice, you must simply visit it.

Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?As I mentioned last year, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I make commitments. One year I committed to master the fine art of bread-making. After several flat, lumpy or doughy loaves, with the help of Julia Child, I made one glorious, crusty peasant loaf and checked it off the list. This year’s commitments include taking many pictures and making many paintings. And I have a special creative project in the works.

What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?Like most people, I wear many hats. I’d like to streamline my life a little and find ways to get more out of every day.

What was the best thing you bought?I didn’t buy much this year; a black silk evening gown.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?Spending time with old friends, and making new ones. And being fortunate enough to attend the Art Ball. And as one of my Christmas gifts was a museum membership and tickets to ProMusica, I plan on having a very art-filled 2010.
What do you wish you'd done more of?Paint. And entertain.

What was the best book you read?Mrs. Dalloway. Virginia Woolf had a wonderful way of getting at the conversations we have with ourselves as we make our way through a single day. As the drama of a single day unfolds, the tragedies and victories of our past flit through the mind even as we’re working on the most mundane tasks.

What did you want and not get?Not a thing.

What did you do on your birthday?My husband and I drove to Cleveland to visit the West Side Market and the Cleveland Art Museum. It was sublime!

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.You can only control your own life, and even that is often left to fate. Worrying about situations that you can’t help or change is fruitless. Let others worry about being small, mean and petty; you have a life to live. Control only what you can, be quick to forgive, manage your expectations, and enjoy the rest.

What sums up this year?
I quote Erica Jong’s poem Autumn Perspective …
And we have plans that will not tolerate
our fears--a year laid out like rooms
in a new house--the dusty wine glasses
rinsed off, the vases filled, and bookshelves
sagging with heavy winter books.

I wish you all a healthy, prosperous and inspired New Year, friends! Thank you for sharing another year with me!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wrapping Gifts with Pantone

I think that gift wrapping is more fun for me than the recipient. I've used many kinds of wrapping, but keep coming back to my favorite; brown paper. This year I thought I'd dress it up with Pantone's color of the year; turquoise (Pantone 15-5519). Perhaps you remember last year they chose Mimosa? Pantone has a huge influence on color trends and I've noticed that some companies (such as J. Crew) are already presenting their new products in turquoise.

Are you ready for the Year in Turquoise?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dreaming of a White Christmas

I've been on vacation and have been taking it easy. REALLY easy, actually. Our cat has been sick, and five years into kidney failure, we can expect these peaks and valleys in his health and have learned how to manage the valleys with a variety of medications. The reward is a resilient creature who still loves life.

We're also getting ready for Christmas, which includes driving to Vermont to see my family. My family is not exchanging Christmas gifts this year. With the economy the way it is, it seemed a nice opportunity for everyone to focus on more important things like spending time together. Instead of exchanging gifts, my sisters and I are having a stylish white elephant exchange, which includes anything we haven't worn in some time and that we deem worthy of a continued life. My offerings? A red embroidered satin dress, an ivory shantung silk mandarin jacket, to name a few. I'm really looking forward to this!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Young Artist

Three years ago, a colleague at work approached me about tutoring his daughter in PhotoShop. As an engineer, he didn’t know specifically what that entailed, but his daughter showed artistic promise and he wanted to support and encourage her efforts. She and I spent the summer going through assignments that I designed to develop her skills and establish a comfort level with design software. I was astonished at the pace in which this shy thirteen year old girl acquired and mastered the elements of the software. She soon transferred to a high school that puts prominent focus on the arts.

Just last week, with a mixture of excitement and wistful pride, I wrote a letter of recommendation for her to send to the three art schools she is applying to. She’s lucky to have parents that fully support her dreams. But I was also lucky to have a part in showing her what is possible, and sharing in her enthusiasm.

While part of me wishes she would attend the art school here in town so that I can continue to watch her artistic sensibilities evolve, I also think it would be really cool if she went to New York or Savannah, GA to immerse herself in a different environment. But I wouldn’t be surprised if she got accepted at all three.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Unexpected List

When you reflect on the year that is slipping away, it's easy to count the things you didn't accomplish. I didn't run a marathon or remodel the kitchen this year. Or master the art of French cooking. But I did do some things that I didn't expect to that made it rather sweet.

1. Had a yard sale where I sold a lot of stuff for not a lot of money. I’m glad I did it and I never want to do it again.

2. Visited Falling Water. I expected to enjoy it, but didn’t expect to be so moved by the simple country escape built with such a great vision.

3. Went to a lecture by my favorite living author, A.S. Byatt. Her Still Life changed the way I saw contemporary fiction. She probes the inner landscape of the human condition with the gentle precision of a rare artist. Her work belongs in the canon of great literature.

4. Visited Cleveland’s West Side Market and the Cleveland Art Museum, where my husband and I had our first date. When a relationship starts with food and art, you know it’s going to be good.

5. Hosted a few parties. They were not flawless, but sharing food and wine with people I care for is a deeply satisfying experience.

What did you accomplish this year and didn’t expect to?

Gifts for the Tough Guys

The hardest people for me to shop for are, hands down, men. Particularly the men I’m buying for who already have absolutely everything. It’s tough coming up with something unique every year that isn’t insulting. Gift cards are great in a pinch, but they don’t say ‘you mean the world to me.’ Forget that I think men should be carrying man purses around so we don’t have to carry all their stuff when we go out. Face it ladies, that idea is just never going to take off in North America.

So here are a few things that might be a hit with men.

The small Mexican spice kit from purpose design … great if you’ve got a grillmaster on your list.

The Doc Holiday Hat from Moe Sew Co. Millenery. We love a man in a hat, don’t we?

A Spalted Maple Titanium Nitride Jr Gents pen from moon sky woodworks.

How about a fun vintage sign from Larry’s tin signs.

I’m sure I’m missing some gift ideas … and I welcome yours!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Vintage Gifts

In keeping my promise that my gifts this year will be coming from Etsy shops, I found a few vintage treasures to share.

This glove mold from blue bell bazaar would look great on a dresser keeping necklaces in order.

These vintage glasses from lucky little dot would also be a nice touch as votives – or to drink from.

And these locker baskets are great for the organizer on your list.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Awakening

Stop for a minute. Do you remember the first time you listened to a song and felt ... something, something was changing, and you got to be a part of it? You were eight or ten, even twelve and you suddenly felt like you had your finger on the pulse of what was really going on? Well, this song was that for me, and I'm pleasantly surprised at how well it has stood up to the test of time.

What's yours?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Coco: The Woman

Having just seen the film Coco Avant Chanel, I have this desire to purge my entire wardrobe and start over. I won’t, but I will tell you a bit about the icon who changed the way women dressed forever.

The life of Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel is not your typical rags-to-riches story. Accounts of her life vary because she herself told such extravagant lies about her past. It is true that she was born in a poor house and was later given to an orphanage by her father because the only work he could find was far away and too demanding for a single father. Coco learned to sew from the nuns at the Catholic orphanage, a skill that would sustain her in her particularly lean years. She met with failure more than once, and she met it with her characteristic unflinching manner.

The film collapses chapters of her life, and removes the complication of her going into and out of business repeatedly. It also only covers the early part of her designing years, which is to say, before she slept with the enemy, literally. Her storied affair with a Nazi officer during and after WWII enabled her to keep an apartment at the Hotel Paris Ritz, though it cost her dearly in popularity with her beloved France.

Coco was a true original. She began designing during the Belle Epoque, when women’s fashions were at their most complicated. Either because she herself could not afford the fashions of the day or because of her unerring vision of how women should dress, Coco created garments whose lines and textures were inspired by menswear. She discarded corsets and petticoats, but her designs were not lacking in femininity; they just rejected the current definition of it. I confess I'm not a huge fan of what came to be known as the Chanel look. I prefer her work from the early years, and her gowns were always breathtaking. Coco gave women casual elegance. She gave them trousers, interesting textures, perfume … and the little black dress.

How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something, but to be someone.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


This year has given me ample opportunity to reflect upon the things that are truly important, and for which I am endlessly grateful.

I am grateful for my sweet husband, my dear friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family for their tireless support, generosity, kindness and encouragement. And for my charming eighteen year old cat, who persists despite all the odds. Without all of them, I would be lost.

I am thankful for the bounty of food that not only sustains all of my efforts, but delights my taste buds as well.

I am grateful for the way nature constantly renews itself, giving our senses new pleasures every day.

I am grateful for the warm, loving, and safe home I return to every day. It has been, and will continue to be, the scene of tears over sad movies, my cooking experiments, and the laughter of friends.

I am thankful for books; an endless source of solace, delight and wonder, especially during long, cold winter months.

I am thankful for the energy and drive to repair and improve the things around me that need care. It is how we lovingly preserve and respect the past for what it has given us.

And I am thankful to you, dear readers. Some of you I know personally, others I do not. But you are all a source of inspiration and joy.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Love and Care of Clothes

I love clothes, but I confess I'm not always great at taking care of them. We live in a culture that emphasises acquiring things, but not necessarily treating them well. Often, when I get home I change into something more comfortable and whatever outfit I was wearing goes in a heap on my bedroom bureau. It's not a habit I'm particularly proud of, and perhaps contributes to my daily struggles in putting together an outfit that doesn't make me look like a bag lady.

I'm not overly fond of ironing, so I try to avoid buying anything that requires it. But I also can't stand synthetic fibers, so the option of buying viscose, rayon and lycra garments is something I wrinkle my nose at too. The drawback is that much of my fall/winter wardrobe seems to exist for the sole purpose of feeding fragile little moths throughout the winter.

But I continue to buy woolen things, and they get dirty and wrinkled (mostly wrinkled) when they're not being eaten up. So they go to the dry cleaners where they come home looking all fresh and new. At a cost. For the sake of taking better care of my clothes and saving a chunk of change, I'm considering buying a professional garment steamer.

Am I the only one with these problems?

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Personal Touch

I’ve decided to attempt to do all of my Christmas shopping on Etsy this year. The idea of supporting talented and creative individuals selling handmade and vintage goods lends a personal touch to the season. The problem I run into is the ‘one for you, and one for me’ issue (as my stylish friend Courtney puts it). My husband says that my gifting habits tend towards the aspirational, but when you’re smitten with something, don’t you want to give it to someone you adore?

This sweater wrap would keep your dearest friends pretty and warm on cold winter mornings.

I like the way these Rosaline Czech glass earrings glimmer in the sun. And seriously; eight dollars?

This mother of pearl inlay bowl would look stunning in any home.

And for the shutterbug in your life, how about a classic Polaroid land camera? (hint, hint)

The romantic gal in your life needs one of these. Truly, she does.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My Other Life

You know when you have those brief fantasies that you're living this completely different life, doing something entirely different in a place far away? It's not one of those, "My life is miserable and I wish it was different" fantasies. It's just a fanciful play with what might have been. For me, it's living on the West Bank in Paris in an apartment painted varying shades of blue. I ride my red bike to work every day to a jazz radio station. This song is one of those fantasies, which is a celebration of the imagination.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I've been pouring all of my productivity into my day job these days, and I'm actually quite lucky with the project I've been working on. Me and my partner have been taking pictures of every. single. employee. This is no small task, since it involves actual thousands of people. But what has fascinated me about it is how, when people submit themselves for a brief head shot, you get so much information from their faces; what they're wearing, whether they smile, if they look straight into the camera. It's a fleeting moment, but I've noticed how varied and beautiful the human race is. As many of these people are relative strangers, you begin to wonder how well they slept last night, if they listen to jazz, classical, or indie music, whether they have some serious chocolate addiction. It's endlessly fascinating. I can't share them with you, of course, because they are not my pictures. But I recommend you take pictures of strangers and learn something for yourself.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Putting the Garden to Bed

Getting the back yard ready for winter is a bittersweet moment for me. I like it looking neat and tidy, but I have difficulty letting go of a whole, wonderful season.

When the cold winds come in, it's sort of like driving through Kansas. When you can only see flat plains for miles and miles, you can't imagine there existing mountains or cityscapes anywhere in the world. It's the same with the approach of Winter. Covered in layers, as you rake the red, gold and burgundy leaves, if you stop for a moment and close your eyes, you'll recall the feel of the sun on your face and bare arms. And it's glorious. I think I can even hear the voices and laughter of friends.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Few Days in Chicago

I was in Chicago on business the past few days and thought I'd share just a few things I spotted. Enjoy!

Don't you just love the hand-shaped candle holder at Jonathan Adler?

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Polaroid is Back!

I've been scanning the thrift shops lately in hopes of finding a Polaroid camera. You may know that they've been in and out of business, and I've hoped to scoop up all the Polaroid film I could get my hands on before they're gone for good. You may have noticed in Blogland that Polaroid has a fierce and devoted following. The effects achieved with their instant film is magical; the colors are saturated and the absence of perfect focus gives the picture a dreamy quality.

But today, Polaroid announced that they are here to stay - for the time being at least.
*Thank you Sharon for the news!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wilma at the Chef-O-Nette

Next week, I’m going to get my teeth cleaned. I go to the same office where my husband has been getting his teeth cleaned since he was three. Once in a while, if I’m lucky, my dentist has brought in his black lab for the day and I get a big hello from him.

When my husband was little, after getting his teeth cleaned, his mother would take him to a place on the corner called Chef-O-Nette. Built in the 1950’s, it has always been standard diner fare, but one didn’t go there for extraordinary cuisine. You wanted to have Wilma as your waitress. If you were little, Wilma would come to your table with a handful of crayons. She would flip your paper place mat over and slap the crayons down, asking you to draw a picture for her. When you were done, she would look it over, nod, and take it behind the counter to tape it up on the wall.

Wilma had her hair done just as it was in the 1940’s, when she was young. She lost her son in the Vietnam War, and she lost her husband to cancer. But you never heard about any of these things. She just brought hot coffee and asked children to draw for her.

After my appointment next week, I think I’ll stop in at Chef-O-Nette and have a cup of coffee. And maybe ask the waitress if anyone remembers Wilma.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Happy Weekend, Friends!

This weekend is brought to you by the shades of Autumn.

And a little ballad from Ingrid Michaelson.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Coco Before Chanel

Georgia O'Keefe had it; Frank Lloyd Wright had it; Earnest Hemingway had it. A vision, a way of distilling an idea down to its most sublime reality. And Coco Chanel had it too, which is why she is an icon, often copied but never with her unerring eye and panache. Born in the days of corsets and crinolines, she revolutionized the way women dressed. Then and forever. I can’t wait to see this movie.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dressing to Please

"Yes, Miss Kilman stood on the landing, and wore a mackintosh; but she had her reasons. First, it was cheap; second, she was over forty; and did not, after all, dress to please."

I was reading these lines from Mrs. Dalloway the other night and this sort of chill went up my spine. I had difficulty with it for a few reasons; are we to dress cheap and dowdy after the age of forty? And, while I don't follow the latest trends slavishly, and I'm not interested in 'dressing to please' in the way Virginia Woolf implies, I do try to dress to please myself. But above all, I should like to avoid becoming Miss Kilman.

I'll admit, I've been a little lazy lately, putting on whatever comes to hand, being a little too 'matchy', with the result of spending the entire day vaguely dissatisfied and uninspired. But those words haunted me, so I turned a blind eye to my spending hiatus, scanned the pages of the latest j. crew catalog, grabbed my bag and went to the store. Armed with fancy ideas about colors, and layers, and textures, I found a few things that give me a fresher outlook on the day. Luckily for me, the current fashions aren't particularly 'matchy' these days. And now, to go back to the closet to send away those things that bore me to distraction ...

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Tomato Bisque

I've been cooking a lot lately. Perhaps it's the change of seasons; I've been craving warm comfort foods. I also had a bit too much wine at last night's event, so a tomato-based soup really hit the spot.

1 large onion, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
6 large ripe tomatoes, chopped finely
1 handful fresh basil, chopped finely
1/2 pint cream or half & half
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in the pan. Add the garlic and onions and cook until they wilt. Add the tomatoes and basil and let them cook on medium heat until the excess liquid boils out, about 45 minutes. At this point I use an electric hand mixer to refine the texture; you can use a food processor too. Add the cream.

You should end up with a thickly textured bisque that can chase away gray clouds in your head. I freeze the left-overs to save for the week.

Do you have a favorite comfort food? What is it?

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Summer Peppers

We had a bumper crop of peppers this year - far more than we could actually eat as they ripened. To enjoy the flavor of fresh home grown peppers in the cooler months, we grill them. Once grilled you just peel off the skin, put them in a jar with olive oil and take a few pieces here and there as you would pickles.

*Warning: If you are grilling hot peppers such as scotch bonnet or habeneros, please, please, please use surgical gloves to handle them. Otherwise, you will stay awake all night having vivid fantasies of going to the emergency room to beg a surgeon to amputate your hands for relief. Seriously.
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A New Romance

Dear Autumn,

Perhaps you remember me from last year? We flirted with each other from across the room, but didn’t spend much time getting to know each other. Undoubtedly, you’ve heard stories about me and summer; I won’t lie to you. It was a deep and meaningful relationship. But now he’s gone and you can help me forget him.

Take me for a few strolls surrounded by red and orange leaves. Have a cup of tea with me at an outdoor café as we watch the sky turn cobalt together. Show me children dressed as pirates and bumble bees. Bring me a bowl of my sister’s butternut squash soup, and perhaps some hot cider. Remind me of my richly hued sweaters and shawls. Stay up late and talk with me about poetry and literature. And let me sleep in late just a little. Bring me a little gift, if you feel so inclined.

You see, I’m not so complicated. Welcome, Autumn. I think we will have a memorable romance.


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Monday, September 21, 2009

A Little Monday Music

Have you ever had one of those days where you're frustrated and nothing seems to go right? Here's my advise to you ...

Imogen's voice has the sweet, tangy quality of fresh lemonade, don't you think?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Art Ball

I count myself among ‘most people’ when I say that most people don’t have the occasion, outside of their wedding day perhaps, to go to a formal event. But my husband and I have been invited as guests to attend a ball at our art museum, which requires all the trimmings. And frankly, it’s all the more delicious that someone else is planning it.

I’ve found the dress, and the perfect clutch. I also found a sweet aquamarine cocktail ring (simpler than the one pictured, but similar) at a local antiques shop for a song.

I have a black velvet swing jacket that will do, but the shoes have me a bit stumped. Never mind for a moment that I’m not particularly good at waltzing barefoot, but can I waltz in these?

What would you wear?

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