Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Flipping through Departures yesterday I was enchanted by a design by Giampiero Bodino. If anything delights me more than chairs, it's bracelets. Filing this one neatly into the category "Bracelets I Cannot Afford." Yet, anyway.
Speaking of Departures, I'm off to Paris for a few days. Stories to follow.
I swiped the image from here, but cannot find sources. (I do try.) You can find Bodino's site here.
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Before the holidays, the boys had trouble coming up with things that they wanted for Christmas.
This generated equal parts relief and concern. I was relieved that they were not greedy, and concerned that this might be because they have too much already. Concerned, also, as I wanted to get them a few things - nothing extravagant - but something personal and festive.
Almost coincidentally, they each ended up with a piece of art and something silly for his room. It's what I want to buy, of course - things for their rooms - rather than electronics or soccer jerseys. But no one knows more than I how difficult it can be to give something personal. (It's a contradiction, in fact, isn't it?)
For this reason they are happier than their grandparents want them to be receiving cash and gift cards. They'd rather buy what they want themselves. If you have a little bit of that in you as well, you might want to spend your holiday stash on Heart and Home: Rooms that Tell Stories. The homes that are featured are highly personal and beautifully curated. Seeing these homes makes you think you know their inhabitants a little better; reading the text confirms this is so.
If you ended up with a little extra jingle - or feel you simply deserve a self-indulgent treat - you can find Heart and Home; Rooms that Tell Stories here.
Images, top, the home of Ray Azoulay, photography Laura Hull; following two, the home of Kate Hume, photography Frans van der Heyden; bottom, the Miami home of Gene Meyer and Frank de Biasi, photography Mark Roskams.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
I have given myself over to starting work at my computer with a visit to Pinterest. It is automatic now and I find that the images clear my mind of the chatter and enable me to focus. I don't get distracted there. I don't click around. I absorb what I see and when I get to the place where I left off on my previous visit, I close the tab and start working.
Each day there's a jumble of images and subject matter, though you won't be surprised that not very many people whom I follow post recipes. There's always a smattering of quotes and I like these as one never knows just what will strike one's heart. Timing, with both hearts and inspiration, can be everything.
This week I ran across a quote by writer Neil Gaiman. In his wish for the new year he says, "Don't forget to make some art - write or draw or build or sing as only you can." I had never considered before that there are people who would need this kind of encouragement. I had never considered before that there are people who never create.
I hope their numbers are few. Their hearts, I fear, are heavy. Very likely their footsteps, too. Nearly everyone must, even occasionally, make something from almost nothing; a sketch of the swing that needs repair, an omelette, a row of peas, a lullaby.
But if you don't, I wish that you would. In all fairness, those of us who push words or paint or chairs or musical notes around must do things that are outside our nature. We have no choice. I could put all these daunting tasks under the heading of "math." We must manage bank accounts and gather paperwork for taxes. We must measure walls and furniture and time, even though we believe we are pretty good at eyeballing. We might not do any of these things easily or beautifully, but we manage. And when we do, we have a little rush of secret pride that we have tackled something so foreign and at the very least, not fucked it up.
So it seems only fair that those of you who say, "Oh, I can't..." draw or write or sing (truly, I cannot sing - there are witnesses) should give it a go. Very few of us who would put ourselves in a creative category, do something just right the first time. Usually, after the first go, we stand with our heads cocked to the side and think, "No. Not quite." Or worse, "Disaster." Then we do it again. And again. Do not be discouraged if you don't capture your lover's smile in the first sketch, or the mood of the day in the first draft or a perfect "C" ever. If you have done it, as Gaiman says, "as only you can," there will be no finer creation.
I used to do a round up of my favorite rooms published in the shelter magazines over the year. I have not, as I said I would not, kept much track of this sort of thing. But the room, top, has been on my bedside table, dustier than I care to admit, since summer. This room captures something to which I aspire. Groundedness, lift, light. Books, art, stuff. Threadbare and modern, with a little bit of red.
The home of Benoist Drut of Maison Gerard, photography by William Waldron; produced by Robert Rufino; Elle Decor, July/August 2014.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
There is a house at 55th near State Line that used to be owned by a very charming couple, both with thick, dark hair, flashing dark eyes and generous smiles. They have three boys as I do, though theirs are now grown. I have always been inspired by her easy way in her role as fraternity house mother and by her abundant peonies.
The house is a large, brick Tudor that is squarish rather than long. Every year she put a Christmas tree in the front hall and the lights sparkled through the glass of the front door and I was enchanted, each time that I drove by, at the thought of a Christmas tree greeting visitors as they enter your home during the holidays. It is not something I ever imagined for myself. I never thought I would have the kind of space to set up a Christmas tree in the entry.
My house has a funny not-quite-entry, not-quite-part-of-the-living-room space to it. There is a perfect spot here for a table just under the stairs and I had just the right table and, of course, plenty of stuff to put upon it. What it needed was a lamp, but there was no outlet nearby. In my fret and worry of expense and my imagining that it would be difficult to add to an outlet there - for why wasn't there one already, as the spot so obviously wanted it - I tried to put the idea out of my mind.
But as we drew nearer to the holiday and I moved furniture in my imagination to make space for the tree, nothing made sense. I realized that this spot, where the table normally lives, was perfect. Moving the table was easy, but the issue of the outlet needed to be addressed.
I outlined all the difficulties to a friend; the expense, the likely inability for an outlet to be placed there at all, the not knowing someone who could do it. She said, "I have a guy." And she did. And he popped an outlet in the wall - and two others - for a very reasonable price, in a relatively short amount of time. All the difficulty, all the obstacles, all the stress was manufactured. None of it was real.
The charming couple has moved and their former home is undergoing renovations, hopefully being carefully modified to suit the family who now owns it. This year there are no decorations there. Instead, plywood covers the windows; changes take place out of the view of passers by. But I have a Christmas tree in my front hall and the lights sparkle through the glass of the front door and I am enchanted each time I drive up to see it greeting me and my guests during the holiday.
Thank you, as always, for dropping in. I am wishing you the best in the new year.
Sunday, December 21, 2014
I ran into a friend at the grocery store last week and we traded stories of a very trying year as we stood by the apples. We were aware that we were in the way of other people and were polite, as midwesterners are, but mildly indifferent to their inconvenience.
As we parted by the check-out line I said, "My new mantra is, 'Nothing bad is happening." Which doesn't always mean that something bad is not happening, but that it can always be managed. Or out-waited. I continued, "In fact, I just had that tattooed on the inside of my hip." He had no time to reply as I wheeled into 10 Items or Less and he was bound for bigger things.
I will neither confirm nor deny if I have, indeed, gotten a tattoo on the inside of my hip, but getting a tattoo is not really the point. Getting a tattoo is something that I have said that I would never, ever do. I don't mind tattoos. Sometimes I think they are incredibly cool. Remarkably sexy. And there is always a story of inspiration or triumph or regret. I do love people's stories. But I'd never wanted a tattoo for myself.
The areas covered by bikini, while not large, are largely tender and largely affected by gravity. I did not think putting it on my back was a good idea. A tattoo would be for me; I would want to see it. The spot just in the hollow of my left hip bone, smooth and tender and never tanned, seemed just right. And whether or not I let a very hirsute man shoot ink under my skin with a needle is not the point. The point is, that at an age when some people think I should retire my bikini, I can decide for myself to get a tattoo, or be a bother at the grocery store, or see myself in a way that may make people uncomfortable and know that all of it can be managed. Nothing bad is happening.
This all started as a calming voice in the ever-stress-inducing days leading up to this often-hateful holiday marketed as joy and fa-la-la. Yes, the point of shipping has passed, but shipping should not be your point. These images are from Oracle, Fine Curiousities in Crossroads. All of their inventory is a product of natural death. (My middle did say, "What is it with you and dead things?") They articulate the skeletons in-house and they are remarkably beautiful. Part of the shop's mission is to be a resource for artists who use these elements in their work. Most of my gifts have come from local merchants; Stuff, The Nelson, Hammerpress, Dolphin Frames, The Dime Store, Local Pig, Rainy Day Books, The General Store and Urban Provisions. Shop local, wherever you are. Embrace the madness. Talk to people; they tell good stories.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
If you've stopped here very often, you're aware that I don't cook. That is to say I do cook, but I do it badly and inelegantly and only out of necessity and rarely with joy. Someone said to me once that she dusted her cooktop and I crossed my fingers behind my back that I would get there eventually.
But I love to bake. While I make the same ten recipes for dinner in a pretty regular rotation, I'm fearless when I bake. Cakes, cookies, pies, tarts. When I cook, I often realize I've skipped steps or left out ingredients. When I bake, I'll sift, grate, blanch, peel or candy with care.
I had not used a Kitchenaid mixer until about ten years ago. I grew up with a hand mixer (my mother was a terrible cook and baker, so we've evolved a little.) With it, I made cookies and brownies and cream puffs that looked like swans. As an adult I did the same and could not see the appeal of this behemoth of the kitchen counter. I thought it was another affectation of cooking like an egg separator or a mat with concentric circles that tells you how far you need to roll the dough for your piecrust.
I was wrong. Once I lived with a Kitchenaid, I understood that it was one of the few devices that make the process better. Whether whipping or mixing, it was well worth the exercise of lugging it from under the island onto the counter.
When I moved, the Kitchenaid did not come with me and I was without one for about nine months. I told myself it was a needless expense. I told myself I could live without it. I told myself that I had been happy with a hand mixer before and I could be happy with one again.
What I found was that I stopped baking. I tried a couple of times, but my rhythm was off. I can see now that it was a combination of a few things. Baking and cooking are physical acts. The way we move about the kitchen is a dance. If you watch a practiced cook or baker, you can see that it is like ballet. As with anything, routine helps us find our grace there. It takes a while in a new space for our fingers to find the spatula without looking. It takes a while to open only one drawer in search of the knife. It takes a while to know that the oven heats at a ridiculously slow pace and runs just a couple of degrees hot.
I realized, too, that once we know better, it is difficult to go back. So I decided to invest in a mixer. The previous Kitchenaid, which I did not choose, was white. If I had chosen it, it would have been white. Or maybe black. I read and hear funny things in my life that snap into my brain like Legos. Advice on style or living can come from any random place and become part of my canon. I was a child when I saw the movie Thoroughly Modern Millie. In it Mary Tyler Moore's character, while discussing cars, says that machines should only be black or white. For whatever reason, as I lay on my stomach on orange shag carpet with my chin in my hand, I thought that sounded right. Not just sensible, but chic, though I didn't know that word at the time.
When I went to buy my mixer, I planned on black or white. I do not get a thrill from cooking stores, as some people do, and my main objective is to get what I need and get out as quickly as I can. But the day I went to buy my mixer, I could not leave the spot at the back of the store where they were displayed. I had gone to determine which size I needed, but was enchanted by their shiny, candy colors. I knew already that he would live on the counter; I did not want to bother with the charade of hiding him. Suddenly, the question was not if there would be color, but what color it would be. I considered red, which is a color that I love, but there was simply too much jump. It was, unsurprisingly, the turquoisey-not-quite-robin's-egg blue that I could not shake. Even after learning that it was on back-order - I would have to wait a little longer - nothing else would do.
In this particular case, my instincts were good. The turquoisey-not-quite-robin's-egg blue makes me smile every morning as he greets me. And I am baking again. My middle son is a baker, too, and we made cinnamon rolls for the first time Thanksgiving morning. He told me yesterday that he wants to try lemon poppyseed muffins, though he's never had lemon poppyseed muffins, he likes the idea of them. It seems silly to say that a mixer changed my life for the better, but in a very small way, it did.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
A friend emailed me and another friend a couple of months ago and the subject line was "Glamping." We had traveled short distances together before: Columbia (Missouri), my house, her pool. You may remember that I don't particularly like to be outside, but I am making an effort to try new things. Being anywhere with these women is always a good idea. Sleeping in a tent (that someone else put up) with three queen-size beds seemed best case for camping. Glamping.
But the week was busy, and as the day neared the demons began to whisper, "You don't have time. This needs attention. You haven't even gotten to that." And I wavered. Each woman responded with a calm voice. "It's vacation. Don't suffer. We know you don't like to suffer." "We're not in a hurry. Take your time."
And we did. We stopped first at Louisville Cider Mill, the sort of place I would have taken the boys when they were little. I had not quite shaken the buzz of fret in my head and I thought, "What the heck are we doing here?" But it was a beautiful day and we stood in line with dozens (hundreds?) of happy strangers for warm apple cinnamon doughnuts, which apparently are medicinal, because after the first bite everything was better. I was all in. And suddenly Louisville Cider Mill was the best and smartest thing going.
We ate at El Potro Mexican Cafe in Paola (we were the only customers, but from the size of the bar I have a feeling they do a killer business after dark) where the margarita was delicious. (I ordered the premium tequila. It was vacation after all.) There are a few antique shops in Paola which were filled with lots of vintage goodies. And while I am infamously good at spending other people's money - "Don't you think you need that?"- they both refrained, while I indulged. (Not a total surprise.)
And then we headed to Hoot Owl Hill. Brenda and Steve Wrischnick opened a new chapter in their lives when they built their house on this hill and decided to share it with strangers who want to enjoy the view and some good home cooking and a little time away from the city. We enjoyed the butterfly garden and the guinea hens and hanging out in the sun talking for hours. (When I'm really relaxed I sit sideways in chairs like this. I hadn't realized I was doing here and am so glad to have this picture.)
When the sun set we sat around a huge camp fire and talked and laughed some more, until even the fear of the chill could not make us keep our eyes open.
The next morning we settled at a big farm table while Brenda fixed breakfast and Steve served and cleared. As we chatted I thought, "They really enjoy this. They like having people here and sharing their stories." It reminded me that we often end up just where we need to be. If we listen to the right women.
I'd highly recommend Hoot Owl Hill. There are six large tents. We had a wonderful time, the three of us, but we couldn't help thinking what a total blast it would be to have a group of couples or a large group of women. You can find out more here.
The images are mine, except for the middle - photo credit to Sloane Simmons. I received no compensation for this post.
Sunday, October 12, 2014
I have been...distracted. Distracted by a handsome, charming, creative man who came to town at my request. My copy of Miles Redd's The Big Book of Chic is always nearby, but for the last six months or so it has lived on my desk and in my bag and on the front seat of my car as we planned a fundraising luncheon at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for which he was the guest speaker.
We had fun. You will not be surprised that Mr. Redd was a delight and adored by everyone who crossed his path. "He's so nice." "He's so unpretentious." Which I knew already. Miles's presentation was a visual delight and he was, no surprise, entertaining and engaging. If there is a run on taxi cab yellow paint this week - and a brightening of living rooms across the city - we will know why.
I have loads of people to thank and will be doing that this week, but a special shout-out here to designer Michele Boeckholt and artist Lee Ernst, both of the Nelson staff, who worked to create a remarkable design for this event starting with the invitation pictured above. You might have seen it on Miles's Instagram already, but if not you can see it here.
Monday, September 22, 2014
It may not be true that I cannot afford these bracelets as I cannot find them other than in this ad for Armani. Can you see that they connect by that chain around her neck? I'm completely captivated by the idea of this and the theatrics one could create reaching for a drink, enthusiastically telling a story or laying a hand on a man's forearm to get his attention.
What's that? Coat? Gloves? Entanglements? Bother. If you cannot see that the romance of this would outweigh any chill upon your shoulders, then you are in the wrong place.