Sunday, August 24, 2014

Meanwhile, Back in France

My friends and I stayed at a very charming apartment while we were in Paris.  Our boys stayed together with their beloved former French teacher and we were all content.  (Well, except, perhaps, for the French teacher, but she never let us know otherwise and let's just say that ignorance is bliss.)

My suite mates and I were a happy lot and we fell in easily together.  They took pictures of the boys in front of significant sights and were quite patient with me as I snapped pictures of things like the doors to our building that were very nearly Dix Blue, which I found to be a delight every time I crossed their high threshold.

Or when I took pictures of chairs. (Who wouldn't want that chair? I do.)

 Or details that I might want to recreate at Christmas.

Or how I might ventilate my country/beach house (that I will likely never have.)

They were patient with my snapping away at Versailles, but they were not always understanding of it.  One friend said, "I am glad I came, but I don't know why anyone would do this twice."  Because I was.  Doing it for the second time.  It was the crowds that she could not stand, while they were a necessary evil to me.  "This is sort of what I do,"I told her as I took a picture of another floor. She nodded pleasantly.

But she, an avid gardener, nodded her head again when I said the same to her about Giverny.  Good heavens. The crowds there, which I'm sure were not dissimilar to Versailles, were a moving, amorphous mass that enveloped me at every turn.  Nothing seemed worth subjecting oneself to it.  That it all ended in a Disneyesque gift shop made it worse.  My friends did not think it was nearly as bad.  A necessary evil.

The gardens at Rodin's home in Paris were much more my speed.  Then again, hornbeams, boxwood, hydrangea.  I wasn't exactly broadening my horizons.

This last image I took for my friend, Todd.  He knows that I feel more relaxed in France.  More myself.  It releases me from an inbred uptightness.  When I told Todd that I was taking Rosie to sit outside with me at Aixois here in town years ago, I said, "It's like France.  It's fine." Fine as in alright.  But also fine as in splendid.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

House Diary

I have a new piece up at Elle Decor on my rebellious use single chairs. You can find it here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Now We Are Seven

This dog ball sits under a lucite box in my office as a reminder that you never know what will change your life.  A little over seven years ago I walked into George Terbovich's shop in Crestwood to buy a lighted dog ball for Rosie.  I thought it was nothing more than an afternoon errand to fill the time after my youngest's nap and before his brothers' carpool.

But it started a journey from shopgirl to blog reader to (on-and-off-again) blog writer.  I could not have foreseen the changes that this blog would bring when I stood on that concrete floor and shook this ball and watched the light inside flicker like fireflies for the delight of my five-year-old.

Today marks the anniversary of my first post. Mrs. Blandings opened my world in a way I never expected. I know that there are readers who have been around from the beginning and I am so flattered that you find something here to enjoy. Many of the bloggers who started in 2007 became real friends and I am still amazed that people can create a connection on-line that holds up in real life.

I am grateful, too, to the editors who have featured me on their pages and sites.  Thank you to Zim Loy, Stacy Downs, Margaret Russell, Karen Carroll and Michael Boodro. Thank you, too, to every designer  - too many to mention - who picked up the phone or answered an email about some crazy thing that had piqued my curiosity.  I am constantly inspired by your instinct, your knowledge, your passion and the humor with which you share it.

I did not expect to be a blogger (which seemed silly to me then.) I certainly did not expect to blog (on-and-off-again) for seven years (talk about silly.) So I can't say if I'll be here for seven more.  Life changes.  But the last seven years writing Mrs. Blandings have been a ball.  Thanks for playing along.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tools of the Trade

Do I need a vintage wine carrier? One that is secured with a dusky brass latch, that opens to reveal a space just large enough to nestle two bottles? No.  I do not.  But did I buy it because it's infinitely more charming than toting wine to a friend's in a sack or grasped firmly around the neck? Yes, that, and because what would feel better than the smooth ridges of the rattan on the backs of my fingers as I swing it in rhythm with my stride? Nothing that I could think of at the time. As I waffled (not too long, don't worry) it did occur to me that I might give it as a hostess gift.  And I might.  But that is what I said when I succumbed to the vintage glass pitcher with the silver top that has the built-in cylinder for ice.  The same vintage glass pitcher that looks so lovely filled with lemonade garnished with fruit that lives in my cabinet still. Perhaps they will be friends, the wine carrier and the pitcher.  Long, long time friends.

If you haven't been to Underdog Wine in Crestwood, do stop in.  It's terrific.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I'm White Again

Before we circle back to Paris (it seems to be a slow and circuitous route) I wanted to add one more entry from my current chalky white fixation.  I took the two youngest boys and a friend down to the Crossroads for First Fridays this month.

When there is something that I want the boys to see to which I know they might not immediately be attracted, I plan and promise in small doses.  We stay as long as it's fun.  Junky food is likely a reward.

The weather here has been gorgeous and that night was no exception.  Live music, lots of dogs, one interesting gentleman in a black speedo and a cowboy hat all provided plenty of entertainment for them and for me.

They enjoyed the galleries more than I expected and spent some time looking at the art and speculating at the intent of the artist.  I was captivated by these sculptures by Judy Onofrio at Sherry Leedy. Onofrio has used bone in her work over the last few years.  A serious illness and the healing and survival that followed provided Onofrio the perspective that with endings there are new beginnings.  Even my middle son, who is still disturbed by the swan and often says, "Why do you always like things that have to do with death?" admired the grace and strength of these.  Though what he said was, "Yeah, they're cool." Indeed.

Friday, August 8, 2014

House Diary

I am going to be contributing to Elle Decor on-line on the decoration - or my mental gymnastics on decoration - of my new house.  You can find the first piece on what to do yourself and when to hire a professional at here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Chalk it Up

I was in Paris for eight days earlier this summer with my, as it turns out, not-maladjusted middle child.  (I had worried about the warnings of "middle children"when I became pregnant with the third.  They were all unfounded.  The middle may be the best adjusted of the three. Perhaps of all of us.)

I took the same trip with my oldest three years ago when he was the same age his brother is now, and guess what?  It was not the same.  Because the boys are not the same (and, perhaps, I am not the same.) It always makes me wonder when someone notes how different my boys are if that person is similar to his siblings.  We're none of us clones, so far anyway, and isn't that what keeps family life so, well, lively?

It might have been the light, but after being in Paris for less than a day I was convinced that my living room walls are the wrong white all the way around, and cannot imagine that I made such a tragic mistake.  Still, I have not picked up a paintbrush since I painted over the yellow swatches in the dining room. It's difficult to paint while writing or herding children or reading books on the porch, so the walls must wait.

As I sorted pictures on my return, I could see that they could be grouped into categories.  This had not been my intent. "Take pictures of chalky white things, anything having to do with being a Leo and architectural elements for a house you will very likely never build," was not on the list of "what to do" on this trip.  Though I knew myself well enough to know that I would take pictures of floors.  And I did.

I learned a lot about myself on this trip. I thought a great deal about how I want to live and where and why.

But if my plans are clearer, and bigger, I came home knowing first things first.  This mirror will have a chalky finish just as soon as I can get these boys back to school.

Images from top, Carlo Bugatti, Rembrandt Bugatti, both at Musee d'Orsay, the remaining from the Rodin Museum. Oh, except the last, which is obviously my dining room.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Old and Nu Together

Last week the youngest boys were away with their father and the oldest stayed here with me.  He is a senior in high school this year and our relationship is shifting.  He has been a breeze to raise.  Everyone should be so lucky to get such a gentle introduction to parenthood.  Even as we butt heads he disarms me with an easy humor that is somewhat irresistible.

The other morning as I was working upstairs, I heard the slam of the screen door and thought he had left the house.  I skipped down the stairs, brow furrowed, with sharp words forming.  Before I reached the door he was coming back in.

"I thought you left without saying goodbye," I said.

He laughed and shook his head.  "Would you relax? You're usually on the porch in the morning.  I wouldn't leave without saying 'good-bye.' I'm going to work."

He gave me a sideways hug, as he usually does, and was out the door.

Would I relax? No one is more bothered by my uptightness than I, and I was reminded again how I felt it drop away when I was in France.

If living there is something I must wait for, then I will find as many pieces of that life as I can here.  So lucky, then, to be friends with Trish Headley.  She's just received her shipment from a three-week buying trip in Europe and let me run by her shop, Nufangle, and take a peek and live vicariously on the stories of her travels.

You can do the same at her open house:

45th & State Line Antique District
Saturday, August 2nd
2pm - 8pm
816-931-0021 for questions

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dexter Takes the Lead

Unless I need to set the alarm very early, this is how I wake nearly every day.  He wants out.  He wants breakfast.  He wants a walk.  I don't have a rug in my room and he shifts his weight, the click of his nails on the floor both polite and insistent.  If I don't open my eyes he lets out long sighs, but stop shorts of a whine.

Dexter always wins.  His exuberance and good nature are difficult to deny.  In addition, Rosie has been at the vet for several days.  She has a hematoma in her ear that became infected.  (I am hoping she secretly has a trust fund that she has been too shy to tell me about as well.) We can tell that Dex is concerned, though he's not depressed. We are being gentle with him.  We understand.  We miss her, too.

The dogs and I usually take long, fast walks in the morning in order to keep my heart rate, and backside, up. Dexter doesn't mind fast, but is impatient with my unwillingness to let him stop and smell, well, everything. The weather this weekend has been beautiful.  Summer, still, but not too hot and little humidity.  So tonight, in order to enjoy the evening and please him, I took him on a slow walk and let him stop and smell as often and as long as he wanted. There were times, as he sniffed seemingly nothing for an inordinate amount of time, that I was reminded of my same resolve and resulting impatience fourteen years ago or so, on visits when I promised my oldest that we could stay at the train store as long as he wanted.

Dexter amuses me in his typically male behavior of marking all territory "mine," and I indulged him in this, too.  I think he is ridiculous, but he's quite focused on this task.  Rosie, when she's with us, looks back over her shoulder at me as he does this very nearly rolling her eyes.  Again, typically, he takes our inability to understand in stride.

He enjoyed the stroll and my patience and the smells.  Even with our slower gait he collapsed, seemingly exhausted, and lay snoring beside me as I was working.  The walk was satisfying for me as well.  As we walked slower, my thoughts came slower.  I noticed houses and gardens that I hadn't before, though I've walked by them dozens of times.  A different dog might be smug with this knowledge.  But not Dexter.  It's simply not in his nature.

I did not intent to be away so long.  I went to Paris in June and have been distracted since.  More regular posts should follow.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Giddy Delight

I am not sure I can describe the giddy delight of this combination.  Not sure I can express the indulgence of it, so extreme in my world that it is decadent.  In-house frozen summer treats are nothing new around here; popsicles and ice cream sandwiches and vanilla are never in short supply. Cones, too, are often present and sometimes mint chocolate chip, but never sugar cones.

Things evolve this way.  All the boys like vanilla, so it's easy.  All three, too, like cake cones. They are at ages where an ice cream cone a day has no effect on health or heft, not that any of them would stop to consider either.

I do not like cake cones, a scrunchy, airy styrofoam concoction I've never understood.  And while I like vanilla, I'm not tempted by it.  It is temptation itself that I resist.  I don't over-indulge in anything, except perhaps the worry of over-indulging. But last week, alone at the grocery store, I stood in front of a foggy glass door and wondered, "What bad thing will happen? Cavaties? Countless pounds?" I hesitated. "Unlikely." I nonchalantly tossed mint chocolate chip, my favorite flavor, into the cart.  Then, standing before the cone options, I noticed the mixed marriage of cake and sugar.  "Could they be as good as in a shop?" I wondered.  "Or will they be a crumbled mess?" (Not that I am judging crumbled messes at this point.  Every cone has her day.) I put my fears aside and brought them home.

As I popped open the cardboard box and spied true styrofoam, its smartly formed ridges holding each sugar cone whole and safe, I admired the design of their container. I opened it carefully and slid a cone from its home. The sharp edge of the scoop lifted the ice cream in a thick rippled curl and I pressed it inside the cone as gingerly as I would return a baby bird to the nest. Another scoop created a full round mound. I bit the ruffled excess from the edge, a first bite cliche, and pressed the soft, frozen cream to the roof of my mouth, feeling the cold and the sharp bite of the mint travel up my sinus, then the thick snap of the dark chocolate under my teeth.  A week later I wonder if it is the treat itself or the feeling of naughtiness that delivers the thrill.