Monday, January 30, 2012

Grateful

Happy Monday, everyone. Thanks for all your kind words, comments and emails while I've been out of sorts!

My Illustration

I'm fluttering back in to send you all a virtual thank you note to express my appreciation! The gracious Bluebirds on my most recent note cards were inspired by these sweet vintage birds -- a gift from my dear friend Heidi. 



It seems that they were salt and pepper shakers before they landed in my kitchen. Such happy little things--they make me smile whenever I see them.

Again, many thanks for your kindness - I'll be fine. No broken bones, nothing torn, just some back problems that are getting better every day.  I'll be taking it easy again this week, but hope to be back chirping away on a regular basis in no time! XO

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Desire For Balance

The desire for symmetry, for balance, for rhythm is one of the most inveterate of human instincts.
--Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman, Jr, The Decoration of Houses 

The Hall at Edith Wharton's Home, The Mount 

Along with her tales of Gilded Age social mores and unrequited love,  Ms. Wharton also penned, with architect Ogden Codman, The Decoration of Houses, arguing against the overstuffed and flourished styles of the Victorian in favor of simple, classical elements...more symmetry and balance.

The Dining Room at the The Mount 

Apparently,  a sense of balance is not one of my own strong suits -- I lost mine and took a bit of a tumble down our stairs when things got slippery last week. Ouch!

I'll be taking a few days off while I mend my strains and bumps. In the meantime, can you tell me how you achieve balance in your life? 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I Heart Shortbread Cookies

Happy Monday, all! Can you believe how fast January is flying by? Elizabeth's lovely Pink and Gold post over at Pretty Pink Tulips got me thinking about Valentine's Day and how to let the loved ones in my life know how sweet they are to me.


My favorite Valentine's Day cookie? Shortbread, definitely. My friend Dana's recipe is the best I've tasted. She adapted it from Martha Stewart, and the key is the salt - it's the perfect chemistry between salt and sweet, especially when you had some cocoa to the mix. I made hundreds of sun-shaped ones to go into welcome gift bags for guests at our Sun Valley wedding (with help from my mom and bridesmaids) and they were a huge hit.


And the best part? They keep incredibly well, so you can get a head start on baking up a storm for your dear ones. Just a few simple ingredients bake up into the perfect way to share your love:

The Best Short Bread Cookie
(adapted from Martha by my friend Dana) 

8 ounces (2 sticks) of unsalted butter (room temperature) 
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon of course salt 
1/2 cup confectioners or granulated sugar 
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract 

Heat oven to 365 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet if rolling out to cut into shapes, or butter an 8 1/2-inch cake or springform pan, set aside. 

Sift together flour and salt into a small bowl, set aside. Place butter into bowl of an electric mixture fitted with paddle attachment. Cream until fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add sugar and continue to beat until very light in color and fluffy, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl (about two minutes more). Add vanilla. Add flour mixture and combine on low speed, scraping with spatula if necessary, until flower is just incorporated and dough sticks together when squeezed with fingers. 

If rolling dough to cut into shapes, form into a flat disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour. Or, pat dough into prepared 8 1/2-inch cake or springform pan.

Bake until firm and just starting to color - about 10 to 13 minutes if cut into cookie shapes, 50 minutes if in a cake or springform pan. 

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cookies will keep 3 to 4 weeks in an airtight container (longer if frozen) 

For chocolate shortbread, sift 1/2 cup of cocoa with flour and salt and proceed as noted above. 

****

What's your favorite way to someone's heart come Valentine's Day?








Friday, January 20, 2012

New American Story

The weather here is supposed to shift today from an unexpected ice storm (on top of record-setting snow fall) to warmer temperatures and rain. I have a feeling it's going to be a muddy mess by noon, and a good weekend to be indoors - although I have to say,  I'm getting a bit stir crazy. A museum visit seems to be the perfect way to mitigate cabin fever, and oh, how I wish I could visit the new American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

 Madam X, John Singer Sargent (1883-4)

Wouldn't I just love to visit Sargent's Madame X in her new digs? With both straps of her black column gown still painted firmly in place on her shoulders, I bet she still wouldn't condescend to say hello!

The New Galleries (The New York Times)

The New York Times calls the updated galleries "sensational" and from the photos alone, I would have to agree. I've always had a soft spot for the artwork of my countrymen, but the old space was a bit dark and clunky, with work stacked one on top of the other on the walls and flung about on separate floors, a bit like generations of family photos crowded together on display in a few narrow hallways at your great aunt's house.

 Woodwork and Wallpaper from the Great Hall of Van Rensselaer Manor House (1765-69)

 Two-handled Bowl, Cornelius Kierstede (1700-1710)

All of the galleries - all 47 of them - have plenty of room, not just for paintings but for sculpture, decorative objects, furniture and silver.

I think it could take the entire weekend to take in all 30,000 feet! Here are a few favorites I would love to see in their new Beaux-Arts style surroundings:

Mrs. Mayer and Daughter, Ammi Phillips, (1835-40)

Repose, John White Alexander (1895)

The Wyndham Sisters, John Singer Sargent (1899)

At The Sea Side, William Merritt Chase (1892)

Celia Thaxter's Garden, Childe Hassam (1890)

The Cup of Tea, Mary Cassatt (1880-81)

Central Park, Winter, William Glackens (1905)

Whether you're making the most of the winter weather outdoors or hiding from it inside, visiting the new American Wing in person or exploring it online, I hope you enjoy an artful weekend! XO

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Inspired By: A Well-Lived Life

There's something about sitting indoors in snow storm, watching the flakes drift, that sets the mind to wandering -- my thoughts as I spent most of yesterday cozied up in my PJs? Who do I want to be when I'm in my 90s?

 Rosamond Bernier with husband John Russell at the Tate in 2007

Last Monday morning, I caught just the end of a NPR interview with Rosamond Bernier, adventurer, Vogue editor, Metropolitan Museum of Art lecturer, who at 95 wrote her memoirs Some of My Lives. It's been on my list since it was published last fall, just before we took off for Spain. Hearing this charming woman speak about her years in Paris, I couldn't wait another moment to start reading about the life she's lived so far.

 Photographed by Horst in 1968 in her Paris Apartment, wearing Madame Gres

After just a short aquiantence through the pages of her book, interviews she's given and videos of her Met lectures, it's impossible not to be dazzled by her life. 

 With Matisse 

 With Max Ernst 

 With Joan Miro 

The artists she met and befriended -- Matisse, Picasso, Miro, Aaron Copeland, Leonard Bernstein.

 In Chanel

 Rosamond looks on as Gertrude Stein is photographed for Vogue in Pierre Balmain's Paris studio

 A green Balenciaga gown she wore throughout her life, a gift to the Met Costume Institute

 Lecturing in Zandra Rhodes

The Couture she wrote about and wore equally well.

 In Barcelona at Guadi's Park Guell with Miro

 In Acapulco 

With her menagerie in Mexico

The places she traveled. The ocelot she smuggled onto a flight to Mexico!

Interviewing Henry Moore about Rodin

It's an amazing life she's living. One that doesn't seem possible to be emulated by mere mortals.  But, when you think about it, she worked hard, brought art into her life, looked at the world optimistically, practiced kindness, pursued places, topics and people that fascinated her and who she loved... Things that any of us can do.

"I don't consider myself exceptional in any way. I think I've had exceptional good luck," she told Vogue's Leslie Camhi.

In her New York Apartment - Photos from Rosamond Bernier, Vogue, and Elle Decor 

I hope that when I turn 95, I can look at my life, think about the places I've been, the things I've seen and the people I've loved and believe I've been exceptionally lucky. I'd like to think I'm off to a very good start.

Looking for a little inspiration for a well lived- life? Her book is lovely and fascinating, you can find an excerpt here. And her last lecture for The Met. Wow.

What's your definition of a well-lived life?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snowgenda

Tell me, when a snow day comes along, what's on your agenda?

 Martha Stewart

 Are you the first one out to play?

 Martha Stewart

Do you peek out just a little to take in the wondrous white world around you?

Martha Stewart
 
Can you hardly wait to get out to build a snowman?

 Garance Dore
 
Or go for a long walk in the snow?

 This is Glamorous

Maybe staying snuggled in bed is more your style? 

 Country Living

Do you want nothing more than to relax by the fire?

Elegant Living

Would you rather stay warm under cozy throw?

Traditional Home

Or in a hot bath?


Seattle gets so few "we're not getting anywhere" snow days, but today's is supposed to be a record breaker. I'm not quite sure what to do with myself. I'd love to hear your recipe for a perfect day in the snow!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sunshine In A Glass

"The fourth week they discovered French Seventy-fives, a seasonal favorite concocted of brandy and champagne, which made them laugh long and loud at their newfound wit..." -- Dawn Powell, The Wicked Pavilion

Apparently one of my New Year's resolutions is to undertake a definitive study of the French 75 cocktail to determine which Seattle establishment mixes the very best.

My Illustration

I'm not sure if it's the sunny yellow color, or the fact that I'm a bit overdue for a trip to Paris, but suddenly I'm ordering this long-time favorite every time I find myself out and about.

 Paris.com

 Esquire

Like most of our quintessential favorite drinks, the French 75 was created at Harry's Bar in Paris.  

 Luxist 

Cocktail lore has it that bartender Harry MacElhone mixed the first one in 1915, and it got it's name because it delivers a kick that makes one feel as if a French 75mm shotgun discharged it's shells on one's head.



Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn at the Stork Club

The famed Stork Club popularized the drink in The Sates, and the recipe was first recorded in the Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930.


As it happens, that authority of libations says that gin is the key ingredient in the French 75, although some still claim its cognac -- for the record, I prefer gin. 


But no matter if you order yours with gin or cognac, how could you help but be happy with one of these at cocktail hour? Part sunshine? Part Paris? Perfect. 


Which is why when a snowy evening squashed plans for "Girls' Night Out" in pursuit of the best French food and French 75s, I had to mix my own sunshine in a glass. It's pretty simple: 

Shake 2oz of gin 
With 1 oz fresh lemon juice
And 1/2 oz simple syrup
Pop some Champagne to top up
Add lemon zest to garnish 

Cheers! Here's to Tuesday!



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