Friday, May 28, 2010

trouvée: the gemberling girls

Another gorgeous image from the Gemberling album. No date or inscription.

A few artists I have been looking at lately:

* Irving Harper
* Stratis Vogiatzis
* Donald Judd (especially his library)

Here's wishing you all a happy Memorial Day. Be safe.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

easing into summer

Washington summers arrive early, and stay late. Beginning in mid May the air becomes heavy with humidity, and the hot sun steams up the city. Late afternoon thunderstoms become routine. And I stop cooking. Well, not exactly. I make things, I just don't like to cook them per se. Fresh salads with vegetables from the market (and herbs from the garden!). Grilled bread smeared with cheese or drizzled with oilve oil, topped with sliced tomatoes.

Some culinary inspiration:

* Jewels of New York: the recipes
* some spinach!
* and a new cookbook (coming out just in time for the summer harvest!)


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

the beauty of simple things

Two photos: one looking up, the other down. From last night's sunset on the roof. A good mix of rain and sun has made for some very happy tomatoes.

Some other beautiful things:

* an award from Barbara
* being in good company
* and knowing that there is someone out there who eats spinach and green beans for breakfast (regularly)

Thank you.

Monday, May 24, 2010

daily duties and diversions

Like many of the grand old houses of Fairmount Park, Woodford Mansion has a long and varied history. It is one of Philadelphia's earliest country houses, built in 1756 for William Coleman (described by his friend Benjamin Franklin as having "the coolest, clearest head, the best heart, and the exactest moral of almost any man I ever met"). After Coleman's death in 1769 the house passed through a series of owners before it was purchased by the city in 1869 to be incorporated into Fairmount Park. It served briefly as the home of the Park's chief engineer, and later as the Park guard headquarters and even a traffic court, slowly spiraling into that usual vortex of municipal decay.

Enter Naomi Wood (1871-1926), the daughter of a moderately wealthy Philadelphia shop owner. She never married, and after inheriting her father's business turned her energies to collecting American decorative arts and antiques. Upon her death she directed that the collection be put on display in an appropriate historical venue. Beginning in 1927, Woodford was restored for just that purpose, and reopened in 1930 as gallery for her fine antiques. While there is plenty of Chippendale and Hepplewhite to tempt the furniture lover, it is the little accoutrements of life that distinguish her collection. Playing cards and chess sets, sewing birds and whist games, samplers and beaded needle cases ~ small things, well loved and used (and often overlooked by major collectors of American antiques). Together they give a picture of life in the 18th century: its daily duties and diversions.

(more on flickr)

Friday, May 21, 2010

trouvée: the cherry orchard

Inscribed, recto: "cherrie [sic] orchard"; verso: "Pa picking Cherries / Kansas City Mo." Orchards seem to be the theme for the week.

Some bits:

* cherry blossoms for supper
* with a glass of Savennières

Wishing you all a happy, sunny weekend!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

strawberry time

One of our stops this past weekend in Philadelphia was at Woodford Mansion. While we were treated to a tour of the house (more on that later), an army of volunteers (primarily children) were busy in the garden with shovels and spades. I was delighted to discover that they were part of the Philadelphia Orchard Project, which is dedicated to planting fruit trees in primarily low-income areas of the city. Upon closer investigation I was amazed to find the garden home to a bountiful patch of strawberries and a myriad of young fruit trees.

So why Woodford? Built 1756-1758 as the summer retreat of a wealthy Philadelphia merchant, William Coleman, the house was once surrounded by a substantial garden and orchard. In the late 19th century the house was incorporated into Fairmount Park, and its environs changed dramatically. Set on the fringe of the park, the house is now bordered by a pretty rough neighborhood. Working in conjunction with the Park Commission, which owns the house, the Orchard Project is bringing the gardens back to life ~ if not with strict historical accuracy, then at least in spirit.

I am so happy to see more and more green projects like this taking hold in the cities. Incidentally, some of these have been quietly growing for years!

UPDATE: And if you haven't already, you must read about this historic orchard reborn ~ congratulations Dilettante!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

historic house tour: bartram's garden

John Bartram (1699-1777), along with his sons William (1739-1823) and John, Jr. (1743-1812), are best known for their pioneering work as botanists, naturalists, and explorers. Over the course of their lifetimes, they traveled north to Lake Ontario, south to Florida, and west to the Mississippi River, collecting native plant specimens along the way. These they brought home to Pennsylvania and cultivated in their modest garden along the banks of the Schuylkill River. There they grew as many as 2000 types of plants, shipping specimens on request to clients throughout the colonies (men such as Washington, Jefferson and Franklin), and on to England. In 1765 he was named by George III as the King's Botanist for North America.

The house, often only a footnote in the Bartram story, is fascinating. It grew organically, much like the garden, expanding as needed to meet the needs of the family. Built almost entirely from Wissahickon schist (a local Pennsylvania stone), the two-story building began in 1728 as a simple four-room, single-story structure. As fashion and fortunes changed, the house was expanded. In keeping with the Bartrams' Quaker faith, it is intentionally modest, ornamented only by the odd, interesting stone carvings and columns, created by John Bartram himself.

In the mid 19th century, at a time when the banks of the Schuylkill were rapidly becoming the industrial cesspool of Philadelphia, many old houses were abandoned and torn down to make way for factories. Miraculously, Bartram's house and garden were saved through the efforts of a series of fore-thinking men. Today, the house stands as it did almost three centuries ago, along with a stone barn built in 1775 (thought to be the oldest in Philadelphia), and a flowering Yellowwood tree sent to William Bartram by the explorer André Michaux.

(a photo set on flickr)

UPDATE: Click over to the American Garden History blog for a bit more Bartram.

Monday, May 17, 2010

sunday at bartram's

A sneak peek at an outing to Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia. Indeed a city of brotherly love ~ I have much to share from this weekend.

Oh, and there was sun, glorious sun!

Friday, May 14, 2010

trouvée: aunt flora

Inscribed, top: "Puzzle ~ find Aunt Flora" / center: "May 30" / bottom: "I held my camera down for these little old fashioned pinks. See how clear the lower right ones are. You can almost see the stamens." This group is by the same photographer as this wonderful winter scene. {click to view larger}

I am curious to know what you all think of the Kiki Smith installation at the Brooklyn Museum. Has anyone seen it? Taking a look at women's work (reviews here and here).

Happy weekend! An a happy birthday to this special lady! xo

Thursday, May 13, 2010

the early girl

This morning I ventured up to the roof garden, and much to my delight discovered that the "Early Girl" had delivered! Two perfect yellow buds. And then LOOK what I found on the "Cherokee"! I practically cried. For those of you seasoned gardeners out there, I am sure this is all routine, but for me it is miraculous. The challenge of bringing this garden to life has been immense, from getting approval from the condo board and overcoming the nay sayers to battling a rather unforgiving roof-top climate. So, yes this is a minor miracle. Of course, we are not hanging up the victory banner until we sit down to our first home-grown Caprese salad and a cool bottle of rosé. There is still a way to go.

A couple of you have chided me about not sharing some wedding details here. Well, honestly I didn't want this to become a bridal blog! However, there are some fun things you might enjoy hearing about (from historic houses to grand old gardens), so stay tuned over the next few months. {wink, wink}

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

germander and lavender

I had hoped to get a house tour up this week! Oh...where do these May days go?

In between wedding planning, I have been avidly reading Alys Fowler's book, Garden Anywhere, which has been hugely helpful (along with Gayla Trail's fabulous gardening blog). Over the weekend we had some very cold, windy weather, which took a little bit of a toll on the garden ~ the basil specifically. So we transplanted it on monday to a more protected container. We also added six more tomato plants (things with names like "Early Girl" and "Lemon Boy").

Some yummy spring dishes I am dying to try: asparagus pesto and roasted radish!

(photos from our trip to Williamsburg last month!)

Monday, May 10, 2010


At Housewerks in Baltimore several weeks ago. On an outing with the marvelous Meg.

I am inexplicably drawn to rusty old bits, and things with patina. I think it might in part be the color. Three nights ago I found myself complimenting a neighbor on his gorgeous orange-silk tie, saying "rust is the new black." (Honestly, I have no idea where I came up with that.)

More from Baltimore tomorrow...and an update on the herb garden.

Friday, May 7, 2010

trouvée: an outing

Inscribed: "May 8, 1911." Obviously, a good day to be outside!

Friends, it has been a deliriously busy week, so forgive me for leaving you with no links. Instead, just heart-felt wishes for a wonderful weekend.

Cheers and Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

spring cooking

Fresh greens! Such a wonderful spring indulgence. At monday night's garden fête I made a huge bowl of pasta salad to feed the worker bees ~ an old favorite (low fat and flavorful). Little did I know that it would be such a hit! It's a twist on a recipe I found several years ago in the omni-present Martha Stewart Living. My version below. Serve with a glass of Provençal rosé...and enjoy!

Pasta with Vegetables and Lemon

1 cup frozen shelled edamame
10 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 pound shaped pasta (I use farfalle)
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot finely chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine
finely grated zest of lemon, plus 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 lemon total)
2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 cups baby arugula (about 1 ounce)
6 ounces yellow grape tomatoes (or other baby tomatoes), halved (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino romano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
freshly ground pepper

1) Cook edamame and asparagus in boiling water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain, and set aside.

2) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta; cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid; set aside.

3) Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add wine; bring mixture to a boil. Cook until liquid is reduced by half. Add lemon juice, edamame, asparagus, pasta, and 1 cup reserved liquid; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Toss well. Add arugula and tomatoes; toss. Top with pecorino romano and chives. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil; sprinkle with lemon zest and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and season with pepper.

p.s. I tossed in a little lemon thyme from our garden. Delish!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

parsley, sage

Rosemary and thyme. All happily planted, ten stories up. We filled five 3-foot containers with herbs, and two large terra cotta pots with tomatoes. And there is space for more! Many of the building residents are a bit dubious that we can pull this off, but I am happy to report that our little garden seems to be flourishing after only a couple days. The tomatoes have settled in nicely and are already showing a few flowers.

I found two of my neighbors on the roof this morning, sipping coffee by the tomato plants. They said they have been coming up every morning to check on the progress. No matter where you live it seems, it is the simplest things that bring the most joy!

I intend to document the garden throughout the summer ~ you may keep up with our progress here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

may flowers

...for a marvelous lady. A bit deconstructed, but I do suspect she will like that.

We are planting our container garden on the roof this evening (weather permitting, ahem). Tomatoes (three varieties) and herbs. I think think they will have an awfully good view of the city!