Wednesday, December 30, 2009

a frosty morning

I love watching frost creep across a window ~ piercing the glass and blooming into a winter garden.

Just back from Maine, where where we had a cold, snowy holiday, filled with happy laughter and warm meals. Santa was very, very good to me ~ leaving a big, bad camera under the tree! These are the last images I took with the old camera, and as soon as I get the new one set up to download, I'll have a few more wintery scenes coming your way.

I hope you too had a good holiday, and that your tummies are full of treats. In case you haven't had enough, you might want to check out this article on the secret of the sable.


Friday, December 25, 2009

trouvée: christmas 1921

Clipped from the page of a photo album...gosh, I wish I could have seen all of it, because I am a little curious about life on Cedar Street.

Some holiday lovelies:

* The Alba Madonna
* The Journey of the Magi
* Sassoferrato at the Hearst Castle
* and Cameron's Madonna with Children

Enjoy...with a glass of eggnog and a ginger cookie. From my street to yours, here's wishing you a Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

trouvée: the reader

No inscription or date, found recently on eBay. The only thing I know is that it came from Germany.

So, to round out book week, I think it is time to fill in one gaping hole: fiction (my favorite)! Joining me today is someone I feel very lucky to have spent a great deal of time with in the past year, trudging together over hill and under dale in search of beautiful places and fabulous spaces. And when you see his literary choices, I think you will understand why we get along so well.

1) Stefan of Architect Design:

* Rebecca (1938), by Daphne du Maurier
* Anna Karenina (1877), by Leo Tolstoy
* the Merry Hall series by Beverley Nichols (Merry Hall, 1951, Laughter on the Stairs, 1953, and Sunlight on the Lawn, 1956) ~ while not PURELY fiction, they read as fiction (and it's all made up anyway!)
* The Age of Innocence (1920), by Edith Wharton ~ who doesn't love this book?
* Sister Carrie (1900), by Theodore Dreiser ~ I think I read this book about 100 times through high school. It seemed so impossibly glamorous and melodramatic at the time!

2) and then there's JCB:

* Wuthering Heights (1847), by Emily Brontë, and Jane Eyre (1847), by Charlotte Brontë (it is a tie)
* The Scarlet Letter (1850), by Nathaniel Hawthorne
* Great Exprectations (1860-1861), by Charles Dickens
* A Passage to India (1924), by E.M. Forster
* Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), by Zora Neale Hurston

What a week! To everyone who participated and commented ~ thank you. I have learned one or two things! I am not sure about you all, but I am ready to curl up with a good book and maybe take a long winter's nap. I am off for a week, but before I go, I will steal a line from another favorite classic: "...but I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight, 'Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!' "

Be well. xo

Thursday, December 17, 2009

book week: a sense of place

Any Mainer will tell you that it is a strong sense of place that keeps us rooted. And even if we don't stay in our home state, it still permeates our being. So, today I am thrilled (and honored) to introduce you to a new blogger on the block: The Downeast Dillettante, my friend BWE. For a while now he has been delighting me with late-nite emails chronicling the history and architecture of Down East Maine, and I am happy to say that he now has a space of his own. So, go pour yourself a glass of wine, pull up a comfy chair and click over there because he has a lot of wonderful things to say!

But first, in honor of book week BWE has agreed to tell us about his favorite Maine classics:

* The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896), by Sarah Orne Jewett ~ This is the undisputed masterpiece of Maine fiction, and one of the minor masterpieces of American literature. Although I admit that the dialect can be annoying to the 21st-century sensibility, the beautifully written stories of the people of Dunnet's Landing are crisply portrayed, and the world Jewett creates is true...I can reach back fifty years into my childhood, squint my eyes a little, and see the last gentle remnants of that world. I defy one to not be moved reading this book.

* The Beans of Egypt, Maine (1986), by Carolyn Chute ~ One of the surprise bestsellers of a few years ago: Chute, a woman on welfare living without plumbing takes writing class, writes an entertaining book about what she knows, a Maine that the tourists don't see, gets picked up by major publisher, becomes overnight sensation. This book is as true about a certain way of life in Maine as Jewett's is hers. Think of the two as a swim in a sheltered cove, followed by a cold shower.

*A Goodly Heritage (1932), by Mary Ellen Chase ~ A highly regarded novelist and Smith College professor, Chase is often considered to be the heir to Sarah Orne Jewett's mantle, with several excellent genre pieces to her credit. This is a fine autobiography, the story of her childhood and her town, and how the two formed her. (Personal note: My great-grandmother was a friend of Chase's from childhood, and always referred to her as Minnie Ella. Her younger sister Mildred taught my father at Academy, and seventy years later will still suddenly spout lines learned during his classical education at her hand.)

* Charlotte's Web (1952) by E.B. White ~ Need I say more? I like it as much at 56 as I did at 6. And it was just an extra layer of cool to realize that the Fair in the book was the very same one that we tan little children all saved our pennies to go to every fall before school started.

* The Little Locksmith (1943), by Katherine Butler Hathaway ~ An odd and charming little book, a cult classic up this way. The autobiography of a little girl in Salem, Massachusetts, dwarfed and hunchbacked by childhood illness, telling the story of how she grew up, went to Paris, led an artistic life, and finally, moved to Castine, Maine, where she fell in deeply in love with an 18th-century house, bought it against the wishes of her family, and restored it. Much less prosaic than I've made it sound.

...and if I could make it 10 books, I would add Robert McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal (or at least tie it with Charlotte's Web), Samuel Eliot Morison's concise and perfectly researched, The Story of Mount Desert Island (1960), Eliot Porter's Summer Island (1977), with his stunning photographs and essay of Great Spruce Head (the same island his brother Fairfield so evocatively painted), Louise Dickinson Rich's The Peninsula (1958), and lastly, Candlemas Bay (1950) by Ruth Moore.

(top: Photographer unknown, Moore Homestead on Gott's Island, Maine, c. 1910; center: Miss Jewett's home, South Berwick, Maine, New York Public Library; bottom: 1896 cover of The Country of the Pointed Firs, designed by Sarah Wyman Whitman, Boston Public Library)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

book week: the style mavens

When I sent out emails asking a few friends to participate in book week, today's contributors were the first to respond. Both are endlessly stylish with a distinct flair for the original.

1) Courtney of Style Court ~ a classic in her own right! Hers was one of the first blogs I ever read, and she continues to amaze me daily with her keen eye:

* Horst Interiors (1993), by Barbara Plumb
* Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People (2007), by Hamish Bowles
* Goodbye Picasso (1974), by David Douglas Duncan
* Matisse, his Art and his Textiles: The Fabric of Dreams (2005), by Ann Dumas, Jack Flam and Remi Labrusse
* Chinoiserie (1999), by Dawn Jacobson

2) and The Blue Remembered Hills ~ who never fails to impress even the most jaded of us with his witty, bold posts:

interior decorating:
* Mlinaric on Decorating (2008), by Mirable Cecil and David Mlinaric
* Mark Hampton on Decorating (1989), by Mark Hampton
* Defining Luxury (2008), by Geoffrey Bilhuber
* Thad Hayes: The Tailored Interior (2009), by Thad Hayes
* Jamie Drake: New American Glamour (2005), by Jamie Drake

interior design history:
* Search for a Style: Country Life and Architecture, 1897-1935 (1989), by John Cornforth
* Upholsterers and Interior Furnishings in England, 1530-1840 (1997), by Geoffrey Beard
* Early Georgian Interiors (2005), by John Cornforth
* James 'Athenian' Stuart: The Rediscovery of Antiquity (2007), by Susan Weber Soros
* The Genius of Robert Adam: His Interiors (2001), by Eileen Harris
* and World of Interiors (collected since 1983)

(top: Horst P. Horst, Yves Saint Laurent in a Garden, 1986; bottom: James Stuart, Kedleston Hall, design for the decoration of the end wall in a state room, 1757-1758, Courtesy of Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, The Scarsdale Collection, The National Trust)

Monday, December 14, 2009

book week: a green thumb

Between today's two contributors, there is more than one green thumb ~ and lucky for us, these ladies have agreed to share a few secrets. How do their gardens grow...?

1) Ms. Wis. ~ she enchants us throughout the year with tales from her Wisconsin garden. Here's what you can find her reading on a rainy day:

* A Gentle Plea for Chaos (1989), by Mirabel Osler
* Earth on Her Hands (1998), by Starr Ockenga
* The Jewel Garden: A Story of Despair and Redemption (2004), by Monty and Sarah Don
* The Painter’s Garden: Design, Inspiration, Delight (2006), edited by Sabine Schulz
* The Secret Garden (1909), by Frances Hodgson Burnett, particularly the 2007 edition from Candlewick Press, with illustrations by Inga Moore

2) home before dark ~ she delights us every day with her witty comments and generous spirit, but she's not an easy woman to find. However when I finally did, she was in the garden:

* Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (1977), and Manual of Woody Landscape Plants (1990), by Michael A. Dirr
* Plants That Merit Attention, Volume I: Trees, and Plants That Merit Attention, Volume II: Shrubs (Garden Club of America, 1984), by Nancy Peterson Brewster and Janet Meakin Poor
* The American Mixed Border (1993), and Further Along the Garden Path: A Beyond-the-Basics Guide to the Gardening Year (1995), by Ann Lovejoy
* The Garden Primer (2003), by Barbara Damrosch
* The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques (1998), by Tracy DiSabato-Aust
* Gertrude Jekyll on Gardening (1964), by Gertrude Jekyll
* Color in my Garden: An American Gardener’s Palette (1990), by Louise Beebe Wilder and Anna Winegar
* Gardening in the Heartland (1992), by Rachel Snyder and Bob Holloway
* And for the winter when you can’t get outside, but you need a garden fix: The Essential Earthman: Henry Mitchell on Gardening (1994), and One Man’s Garden (1999), by Henry Mitchell

postscript from hbd: "I garden in Lawrence, Kansas, Zone 5b-6a. The weather is daunting. I have reverence for anything that grows well here. I grew up in Southern Oklahoma close enough to Texas that Big is almost always better. That, my husband says, explains my addiction to trees. My garden is a work in progress. It is mostly trees and shrubs. I have one border of roses and peonies to make me feel the glory of late spring. But I have come to appreciate the beauty and texture of woody plants. I reduced my list to books I have returned to over and over again. In someway they show my evolution as a gardener. I used to say if my house were on fire, one of the first things I would grab would be Volume I: Trees. I never loan this book out. You want to read my copy? Sit yourself down in my living room, make yourself comfortable, take all the time you need and know that I'll shake you down before you leave! Michael Dirr is the woody plant god. The manual is actually a textbook. He writes with incredible passion and knowledge and a sense of awe and humor. And Henry Mitchell, the late and great, will always have a place in my heart and in my garden."

(top: the cover of the 1911 edition The Secret Garden, and the 2007 edition illustrated by Inge Moore; bottom: Gertrude Jekyll at Deanery Garden, Sonning, Berkshire, after 1901, courtesy of English Heritage)

Friday, December 11, 2009

book week: cult of personality

"People who need people...are the luckiest people..." And I think that is especially true about today's two contributors, who are just as interesting and wonderful as the individuals whose biographies they devour!

1) Little Augury:

* Nancy Mitford ~ all her biographies, they pull you right in, cerebral and chatty at the same time: Madame de Pompadour, The Sun King, Voltaire in Love, Frederick the Great, and also The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters, by Charlotte Mosley
* The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Sisters, by Mary Lovell
* Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna Saint Vincent Millay, by Nancy Milford
* Lady Mary Wortley Montague: Comet of the Enlightenment, by Isobel Grundy
* Edith Wharton: A Biography, by R.W.B. Lewis

Biography has always been a passion for Little A. In grammar school it was Helen Keller and Josephine Bonaparte, and in junior high, Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln. The above titles are just part of a long exploration of the subjects and their own works of fiction, poetry, history, design, memoir.

2) Then there's KDM (whose library is the stuff of dreams):

* Nicholas and Alexandra, by Robert K, Massie (I have read this annually since I was in fifth grade, usually in the winter when I am feeling particularly Russian.)
* Madame de Pompadour, by Nancy Mitford
* Mary, Queen of Scots, by Antonia Frasier
* America’s Queen, by Sarah Bradford
* DV, by Diana Vreeland

(top: Jessica, Nancy, Diana, Unity and Pamela Mitford, 1935; bottom: Jacqueline Kennedy, photographed by Mark Shaw, 1961)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

book week: of fairies and old friends

Over the course of the next week, I have asked some fellow bloggers (and others!) to stop by with a few of their favorite classics, in whatever genre tickles their fancy. First up, two fabulous ladies and the books that first inspired them...

1) My good friend Anne (of the brand new Stichette):

* The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, by DuBose Heyward, illustrated by Marjorie Flack
* The Little House, written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton, 1942
* Madeleine, by Ludwig Bemelmans, 1939
* Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban
* How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss, 1957

...and as she grew older:

* Little Women, written by Louisa May Alcott, 1868-1869
* Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, 1908
* Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Garth Williams, 1935
* The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew Mysteries), by Carolyn Keene, 1930
* Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams, 1952

2) And the divine Miss EEE:

* The Practical Princess and other Liberating Fairy Tales, by Jay Williams, 1975 ~ in which princesses rescue themselves
* The Lonely Doll by Dare Wright, 1957
* D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths by Ingrid and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire, 1967
* the books of Frances Hodgson Burnett, with the gorgeous illustrations of Tasha Tudor ~ who can forget the transformation of the Little Princess' garret into an Aladdin's cave by her next door neighbor?
* "In two straight lines they break their bread, brush their teeth and went to bed..." ~ Ludwig Bemelman's Madeline series
* Andrew Lang's Fairy Books, in every color of the rainbow (from Blue, Yellow, Red to Violet, Grey, and Olive), 1889-1910, republished by Dover, 1965 ~ stories from the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and others (many of which are rather terrifying!)

(top: cover of the 1908 edition of Anne of Green Gables, and Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1900; center: the Violet, Grey and Olive Fairy Books; bottom: Frances Hodgson Burnett, courtesy of New York Public Library, and Tasha Tudor, original watercolor for The Little Princess, 1963)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

book week: affection's gift

It is not often that an entire post (complete with images!) pops up in one's mailbox unsolicited ~ a rare and wonderful gift. The author wishes to remain anonymous (for now), but promises to stop by again in the future with occasional notes on the esoteric. Today, in honor of book week:

Famous and Forgotten Literature: Early 19th Century “Gift Books”

Literary annuals (or “gift books”) were a phenomenon in early 19th-century America, usually published in the fall of the year, just in time for Christmas and New Year’s gift giving. Following European and British precedents, the small volumes were bound elegantly in green or scarlet cloth or morocco leather, with gilt embossing and page edges. Inside, embellishments such as fine engravings or tinted illustrations, accompanied a potpourri of essays, prose, and poetry.

Some gift books were social or political reform propaganda in disguise, such as the Sons of Temperance Offering for 1850 (shown below left), edited by Timothy Shay Arthur, who in 1854 wrote the prohibition novel, Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There.

Others included stories which would ultimately stand the test of time and become classics of modern literature. Nathaniel Hawthorne, for example, published over twenty-five short stories in various periodicals and gift books. In 1837 he compiled these works into his famous volume called Twice-Told Tales ~ the stories, after all, had already been told.

Published in 1838, The Token, or Affection’s Gift, A Christmas and New-Year’s Present (shown above right), included four additional stories by Hawthorne (although he was not yet famous enough to be named as their author):

These were eventually incorporated into Hawthorne’s 1842 reprint of the Tales...and all subsequent editions (to be told again...and again).

For a comprehensive history of gift books read: American Literary Annuals & Gift Books, 1825-1865, by Ralph Thompson, 1936.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

book week: the classics

classic n 1: a literary work of ancient Greece or Rome; 2 a: a work of enduring excellence; also: its author b: an authoritative source; 3: a typical or perfect example (from Webster's)

I am getting a bit of a late start on book week...but better late than never, right? There has been so much talk lately about the classics ~ from Penguin's fresh approach with Coralie Bickford-Smith's hardbound editions and Ruben Toledo's trio of covers, to John Carrera's re-appreciation of the Pictorial Webster's (learn more about the project here). So, I though it would be fun this year to focus on those enduring works that take up residence on our book shelves and worm their ways into our hearts.

Last year's book week included EEE's online debut, KDM's magnificent list of White House books, and Inkslinger's top fiction picks. And there's even more in store for stay tuned!

Monday, December 7, 2009

first snowfall

A blanket of white...making for a perfect sunday drive out to Virginia...with holly and boxwood covered in snow. Just beautiful!

Happy monday!

Friday, December 4, 2009

trouvée: up!

No you will have to write your own story. Just thought you might need a little "joie de vivre" this afternoon!!

Three things today:

* Hide & Seek
* Mike Slack's polaroids (and his grandmother's photos)
* and the last days of Gourmet (thanks MIR!)

Happy, happy weekend! xo

Thursday, December 3, 2009

december distractions

More stylish things to distract you from your holiday errands:

* Apostles of Beauty (in Chicago)
* Bauhaus (in New York)
* Cartier (in San Francisco)
* Maharaja (in London)
* Louis XIV (at Versailles)

And there is new controversy surrounding the death of Miss Austen (thanks to Ms. Wis, who alerted me to this bit of news).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

a woman's wit

If you are in New York this winter, and need a respite from all of the holiday madness, go spend a few minutes with Miss Austen at the Morgan Library: A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy, through 14 March 2010 (the NYT review here). On view are handwritten manuscripts, letters, bits of ephemera, prints and drawings ~ which collected together begin to give us a portrait of the author herself. My personal favorite is a letter (pictured above) written by Austen to her 8-year-old niece, in which the words were written backwards, thus presenting the poor girl with quite a puzzle. See how you do:


I hsiw uoy a yppah wen raey. Ruoy xis snisuoc emac ereh yadretsey, dna dah hcae a eceip of ekac. Siht si elttil Yssac's yadhtrib, dna ehs si eerht sraey dlo. Knarf sah nugeb gninrael Nital. Ew deef eht Nibor yreve gninrom. Yllas netfo seriuqne retfa uoy. Yllas Mahneb sah tog a wen neerg nwog. Teirrah Thgink semoc yreve yad ot daer ot Tnua Ardnassac. Doog eyb, ym raed Yssac.

Tnua Ardnassac sdnes reh tseb evol, dna os ew od lla.

Ruoy etanoitceffa Tnua, ENAJ NETSUA

And while you are at the Morgan, you can also see Dickens’ original manuscript for A Christmas Carol!

(images: Jane Austen, letter to Cassandra Austen; and William Blake, Portrait of Mrs. Q [Mrs. Harriet Quentin], 1820, both courtesy of the Morgan Library)