Tuesday, September 29, 2009

comfort food

Being on grand jury means that one has odd stretches of time with little or nothing to do. I generally spend it stitching ~ and day dreaming about all the food I would cook if I had time to cook it. Like Nikole's fig and chambord jam. And roasted fingerling potatoes with rosemary and sea salt (Andy, you inspired me!). Or using the last of the summer peaches to make cobbler. Mmmm...and mini provolone popovers (which I would serve with that pork tenderloin I have in mind).

Anyway, I stopped by the bookstore on the way home last night and picked up the current issue of Jamie (the "British Issue"!), and a beautiful new cookbook ~ Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm. More inspiration to put on hold.

Hope you are eating well these days....

Monday, September 28, 2009

an interview: ten chimneys, part I

One of the many highlights of last month's trip to Wisconsin was seeing my dear friend KDM and taking a private tour of Ten Chimneys, where he is now the director of historic preservation. Located on 60 acres in picturesque Genesee Depot, the estate was once the summer retreat of theater legends Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne. And while I could tell you all about this extraordinary place myself, I thought it would be a lot more fun for you to hear about it in KDM's own words. So imagine this: JCB with sauvignon blanc in hand, and KDM with a (large) martini, sitting down for a serious tête-à-tête...

JCB: So, why Ten Chimneys?

KDM: Ten Chimneys is completely unexpected. A mentor of mine, who had been involved with the restoration of Ten Chimneys, told me about this museum while I was living in Washington. I was uncertain if I wanted to move...until I walked through the front door of this rambling white house and just, responded, to this whimsical place.

JCB: There is something very unique and quite magical about it…why do you think that is?

KDM: The Lunts created an unedited expression of their own personality. Ten Chimneys is a rare survival of an alternative aesthetic ~ a confident dismissal of accepted notions of taste or modernism. Though few of our visitors are familiar with the Lunts, they walk away from a tour inspired by Lynn and Alfred’s talent for living.

JCB: The grounds are so extensive, filled with charming outbuildings…a Scandinavian-style guest cottage, pool house, greenhouse, creamery, barn, stable! How in the world do you manage it all?

KDM: We are so fortunate to have the commitment of an outstanding community of volunteers. We have volunteers who tend the gardens, dust the furniture, mow the lawn, mop the floors – their dedication is just incredible. And this summer I worked with a remarkable group of Preservation Interns from the University of Wisconsin documenting the agricultural outbuildings.

Perhaps because I first cut my house museum teeth with the Historic Savannah Foundation, I view our sixty acres and ten historic structures as a small historic district. Each building and garden is integral to the design for living the Lunts’ created here. And, as the Kettle Moraine landscape of southeastern Wisconsin is increasingly bulldozed for strip malls, wider highways and suburban development, our preservation of the grounds will become increasingly important.

Later this week I will take you inside the house with the second part of KDM's interview, so stay tuned! (meanwhile...there are more photos here).

Monday, September 21, 2009

a civic duty

Today is the last full day of summer. It is a hot, sunny afternoon here in Washington, but the shorter days and frenzied schedules mean that autumn is moving in.

This morning I began the first of five weeks on a grand jury. M - F / 9 - 5 ~ no phone, no camera, no glimpse of the sun (yes, yes, I know all about the importance of doing my civic duty...but seriously people, this is my 8th jury service!). Needless to say, things will be a bit topsy-turvy as I try to keep up with life and work. What exactly it means for this space over the next five weeks is unclear, but I do hope to stop by as much as I can with something nice (which may not be so easy after a day spent listening to some of the worst humanity has to offer). On a positive note, I have enlisted the help of several friends who have agreed to help scatter a bit of sunshine along the way!

Speaking of sunshine...have you seen Mr. Hampton's latest painting?

Friday, September 18, 2009

trouvée: très chic

Uninscribed, undated. I love the layers of fabrics and accessories: hats, gloves, purse, stole. All I can say is that wherever these ladies are going, I want to go too.

Some more fabulous for your friday:

* Rita Maas (her recent work)
* reconstructing an 1858 exhibition
* Small Trades
* and a collection of doors

Un bon weekend à vous!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

historic house tour: house of the seven gables

As a child with a voracious literary appetite and a penchant for the gothic, I was naturally drawn to books with a strong sense of place and vivid drama. Nathaniel Hawthorne was a favorite. In fact, I will never forget the first time I read The Scarlet Letter ~ its tragically poignant characters burned into my mind. However, when I read The House of the Seven Gables, it was the place, rather than the characters that struck me. Needless to say, the prospect of visiting the house that inspired Hawthorne filled me both with excitement and trepidation ~ I mean, what if it was just a big let down?

Well, the moment I stepped through the gates of the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, built 1668, the critic in me was seduced and I was transported into another world. At its core, it is the oldest surviving 17th-century wooden mansion in New England. However, much of its original structure was modified in the early 19th century to make it a more fashionable Federal-style residence, reducing its gables from seven to three. The house was then owned by Hawthorne’s cousin, Susanna Ingersoll, who entertained him there often and through whom he heard stories of its original appearance.

In 1908 the mansion was purchased by Caroline Emmerton, who was determined to preserve the deteriorating structure, and to create a foundation dedicated to assisting immigrant families (inspired by the example of Jane Addam’s Hull House). Working with an architect, and using Hawthorne’s novel as a guide, she restored its seven gables and reworked the interior. So while not entirely historically accurate, it is charmingly true to its literary character. It is the house I imagined as a child, right down to the secret staircase and penny shop.

More photos here!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

more from salem

Nestled in the garden behind the Gardner-Pingree House at 128 Essex Street in Salem is a hidden treasure ~ the Derby-Beebe Summer House. Designed by Samuel McIntire and built in 1799, it is one of the finest examples of Adams-esque Federal architecture in Massachusetts. The one-room building, originally located on the grounds of the Beebe Farm in Wakefield, was acquired by the Peabody Essex Museum and moved to its present location where it now keeps company with the afore-mentioned quince tree. It should also be noted that it is one of only two surviving summer houses designed by McIntire ~ the other, the Derby Summer House, was built in 1793 and is presently located in Danvers.

And tomorrow ~ a literary house tour (of sorts)! Hmmm...I wonder if you can guess.

Monday, September 14, 2009

a stopover in salem

When I stopped in Salem last June for a quick cup of tea with a friend at the Peabody Essex Museum, I knew I would have to come back with a little more time. So, on my way up to Maine the other week, I decided to spend a day there, seeing some Dutch seascapes, the amazing Yin Yu Tang (no words can describe), two historic houses, and one fabulous 18th-century quince tree. Even so, I barely scratched the surface.

Anyway, lots more from Salem over the course of this week (no witchcraft, I promise), and then back to the midwest next week, perhaps with a guest blogger or two.

Ummm...and speaking of quince: yum! It is not just for paste any more.

Friday, September 11, 2009

trouvée: the waves

Uninscribed. Undated. Printed on postal card some time between 1904-1918. To me this image so perfectly captures the change of seasons. It just feels autumnal ~ and a little wistful, don't you think?

A few things today:

* Tanya Marcuse: Undergarments & Armor
* Brassaï: Paris in the 30s
* an update on Lacey Tyrell (from Style Court)
* and remembering The Towers (every day, but especially today)

Here's wishing you all a good weekend. I don't know about you, but I am ready to pull out my pea coat!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


From Florida to Maine in a matter of days!

I am back...which means (I suppose) an official end to my summer. Back to work and back to blogging. There is so much to catch up on, and catch you up on ~ house tours from Michigan to Massachusetts, and other bits gathered in between. Hope this finds you all well and basking in the afterglow of the Labor Day weekend. Cheers.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

on the beach

Just stopping by with a couple bits from a quick trip down to Florida (more here). I flew down for a meeting yesterday morning, but was able to spend sunday evening on the beach. Bare feet in the sand, with a burger and a glass of wine. Sort of a nice way to end the summer.

If you can believe it, I am off again tomorrow morning ~ the annual Labor Day pilgrimage to Maine. I will be back next week, refreshed and ready for a new season...cheers!