Wednesday, December 31, 2008


The last day of the year is always such a strange day...and for some reason, it always makes me feel slightly unsettled. I much prefer new year's day, which always feels so fresh and full of possibilities. And generally I do not make resolutions...or at least not very realistic ones. But this year, I resolve to cook more at home (there's a big pot of spicy chili waiting at home for me tonight) ~ and to read more. In 2008, I read much less than I normally do and I am not sure why. But, I am off to a good start, armed with a pile of new books:

* The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent (which I just finished and thoroughly enjoyed)
* A Stopover in Venice by Kathryn Walker (who can resist a bit of gothic romance?)
* The Seamstress by Frances De Pontes Peebles (an epic winter read)
* Esther's Inheritance by Sandor Márai
* and a beat up old copy of The Scarlet Letter (unearthed while moving the apartment)

And you all...? I wish you all peace and joy in whatever you do!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

home sweet home

Home. Mmmmm. Doesn't my mom make a cozy bed!? I spent a lot of time in that warm sunny spot, curled up reading books and fighting a chest cold. There was lots of snow in Maine...making it look like a picture-perfect Christmas card! Because we were all sick, it was a quiet, peaceful holiday, filled with books and good food. The way it should be I think. Here are some of our simple joys:

* roast goose with Texas fruitcake stuffing (the latter a new invention on our part, and really quite delicious!)
* smoked Maine salmon
* a menagerie of sugar cookies sprinkled with colored sugar
* lots of tea
* sweet gifts exchanged with happy surprise
* and a few long winter naps!

I hope you too had a lovely holiday.

Friday, December 19, 2008

trouvée: noël

I found these recently on eBay and couldn't resist. I would love to know the back story ~ Christmas decorations somewhere on the Mediterranean coast (!?) ~ and the sassy woman in black (click to view larger). Mmmm...I leave it to your imaginations.

I am signing off today until after Christmas, so I wish you all a holiday full of joy and laughter. Be well and if you are traveling, do it safely. Cheers! xo.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

a few flakes

While much of the United States is being blanketed by snow and ice, this is as close as we've gotten to seeing any flakes! Is it wrong to love snow so much? Maybe it is because I am a winter baby. I will content myself with Abby's gorgeous photographs ~ these lovely "flakes" (via Camilla) ~ and few in wax (too sweet!).

Happy thursday!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

winter light

Two images of the interior of the Northeast Outhouse at Stratford. The light in there is so wonderful...even on a short December's like a Dutch still life. I would love to spend an afternoon there...potting bulbs and misting orchids.

Some things I am loving right now:
* and my friend Emily's new blog (congrats EEE!)

Cheers all!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas at Stratford

It was a glorious weekend in Virginia for saturday evening's holiday festivities at Stratford Hall (complete with music and dancing)! To see the house lit only by bonfire and candlelight, looking much as it would have in the eighteenth century, is an amazing sight. I did try to capture it by camera, but it was virtually impossible.

Sunday morning was bright and cold and perfect for a quiet walk around the estate (while others slept off the effects of the festive libations!). I didn't see another soul, and was able to snap away uninterrupted. So, while I don't have much from saturday evening, I can show you a little bit of winter morning calm on the estate ~ for more, see here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

trouvée: the skater

Found several years ago on eBay ~ a photograph by Lothar Rübelt of the Austrian figure skater, Willy Böckl, at the 1926 World Figure Skating Championships in Berlin. I really love the playful nature of this image.

Friday links ~ some great things going on in the photo world:

* Eggleston
* Sander's Children
* and Michael Eastman

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend. I am off for some holiday cheer at Stratford Hall!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

holiday giving

This year I am trying very hard to keep presents simple, but thoughtful. And so, here are some of the things I will be giving this year:

To keep them warm and happy:
* hand-knit Irish mittens
* a special tin of tea
* vintage tea towels and French soap
* hand-dipped candles wrapped up with a pretty box of matches

To tickle their palette:
* a bottle of Virginia dessert wine tied up with a little felt bird
* sea-salt caramels (my father's favorite)
* or a jar of spicy plum chutney

To support the arts:
* a special Christmas ornament
* my favorite notecards
* and little goodies from the Decatur House, Monticello, and more

I have tried very hard to buy from local businesses and crafts people, and to support cultural institutions such as museums, historic houses, gardens, and other non-profit organizations. I also would love to know some of your own gift ideas.

And, my dear friends and loved ones, I hope I haven't given away too many surprises...!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

holiday outings

As promised, here are some of my favorite holiday destinations in Washington (and beyond!):

* skating in the Sculpture Garden
* Windows to Wonderland at the Botanic Garden
* dreaming of warmer climates at the Freer
* singing along at American History (December 13-14)
* Mount Vernon by Candlelight (weekends through December 14)
* and Christmas at Stratford Hall (December 12-13)

This list is just a small sampling of the wonderful ways to celebrate the season, so for a full list of Smithsonian museums, see here ~ and for a more complete list of events around town, see the City Paper.


Monday, December 8, 2008

holiday errands

It is beginning to lot a lot like Christmas around here. This past weekend was full of the lovely little things that make the holiday special ~ eggnog and homemade cookies, paperwhites and Christmas trees, warm fires and friends...and a dusting of snow. I am trying to keep things really simple this year ~ and it feels good! A couple people emailed to ask about my gift-giving ideas, so I am hoping to get a little list together this week. And also a post about some of my favorite museums in Washington (in response to a comment on friday's post). So, stay tuned...and stay warm.

Friday, December 5, 2008

trouvée: back of the house

Found in Maine this past weekend at one of my favorite haunts ~ the Big Chicken Barn. It is not inscribed, but there is a photographer's studio stamp on the back from Albany, New York. I love that this humble little scene has been mounted on such a formal cabinet card.

Lots of photo goodies today:

* Elegance
* Hong Kong Yesterday
* New York, N. Why?
* Anonymous Works (a bit more than just photographs!)
* and the Blackbird

The other day I heard a snippet on the news about alternative (and inexpensive) ways to enjoy the holiday season. One suggestion was to visit a museum. While I was a bit miffed at the notion that visiting a museum is an "alternative" activity, I do think that is a good idea ~ and a great way to support these institutions in troubling times. So, on a local note, there is a lot going on here (from caroling to ice skating...and more!).

Next week, I have some holiday-related things in store for you! In the mean time, enjoy the weekend.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

northern lights

It gets dark so early in Maine at this time of the year ~ this image was taken at Cleonice, where we stopped for lunch (mmmm...lamb burgers) on the way to the airport ~ so cozy and warm in there.

Thank you all for your comments on yesterday's post. It is a little hard to focus on much right now...but I'll get back into the swing of things. Lots of goodies for friday's post. xo.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

thanksgiving in maine

Backyard details from my parents house in Maine ~ things were looking very wintery. We had a lovely holiday full of warm fires and happy laughter. I hope all of you in the states did too. My heart is a bit heavy today as we lost our sweet dog this morning ~ I am thankful we all got to spend one last holiday with her, but am glad now that her valiant heart doesn't have to work so hard. She will be missed terribly.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

thankful 404

The other day I was walking by a large, rather non-descript parking lot, and noticed the soft crunch of pine needles under my feet. Not so unusual really, but living in the city one rarely encounters this phenomenon. Looking down I noticed the most gorgeous pinecones scattered about ~ dusted with white sap and smelling perfectly like pine. I gathered up an armful and headed home. What people thought of this woman walking down the street with an armful of pinecones, I have no idea. (Probably the same thing they think when they see me "pruning" the holly bushes by the bus stop outside of my apartment building.) I still have sap on my jacket, but the smell puts me in mind of where I am going for the holidays.

I am signing off for the week, wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving, and thanking you for all your support and inspiration this year. Eat well, be well, and travel safely. xo.

P.S. I just passed my 400th post (this is no. 404) and I didn't even notice!

Monday, November 24, 2008

sunday in the city

This weekend was a quiet one, comprised of little errands (getting ready for the holidays), tea sipping, and a walk through the farmers' market. The colors at the market were so lovely ~ greens, greys, soft pinks ~ such a change from the oranges, browns and yellows of earlier in the season. (And clearly, my obsession with root vegetables continues!) I picked up leeks and Brussels sprouts, which I drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted together in the same pan. An odd combination, but surprisingly delicious!

Happy monday.

Friday, November 21, 2008

trouvée: on steps of the capitol

Inscribed: "Capitol Va. / Mar. 1934." I love the little figure with her white scarf, dwarfed by the huge columns of the Capitol building in Richmond.

Some friday links:

* Katie Baum's photographs
* Anne Truitt's studio
* Alejandra Laviada's photo sculptures
* and Delta Dawn

Enjoy your weekend...I hope you do something nice.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


It really feels like fall is slipping into winter. Cold, clear skies here in Washington today, and the leaves are all but gone. I find myself nesting ~ running home after work to pour myself a glass of wine and curl up on the sofa with my needlework. It is a treat to savor these few peaceful days before the frenzy of the holidays. Simple things I am enjoying:

* fennel soup and Julie's notebook
* a house in Trinadad
* and anticipating Tess (does anyone know when the DVD will be released in the US?)

What are you enjoying these days? Stay warm. Be well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

book week: day 5

This summer I had the pleasure of attending the Attingham Summer School program with Emily Eerdmans, whose book Regency Redux was published this month by Rizzoli. A copy landed in my mailbox this weekend ~ and not only is it a luxuriously beautiful publication, but it is wonderfully well written and informative. When Emily agreed to send along an annotated list of her top five design books (all with a decidedly anglophile bent), I was thrilled. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:

* Authentic Décor: The Domestic Interior 1620-1920 (1984), by Peter Thornton: Bar none, this is the bible of interior decoration and design history: period watercolors, prints, and sketches of European and American interiors are accompanied by an in-depth and highly readable commentary on the evolution of style, decoration, architectural planning, and more.

* At Home with Books: How Book Lovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries (1995), by Estelle Ellis, Caroline Seebohm, and Christopher Simon Sykes: Besides offering advice on how best to clean, light, display, and reach books, this beautifully illustrated book takes you inside the libraries of the great and the good. My favorite photo is of the late 11th duke of Devonshire snoozing on a sofa in the library at Chatsworth with newspapers askew. Also included are Michael Graves, Bill Blass, Paul Getty, and Keith Richards!

* The Decorative Twenties and The Decorative Thirties, by Martin Battersby: Battersby began his career as an assistant to Cecil Beaton, and shared Beaton’s understanding of the confluence of fashion, décor and design. In these two books on the 1920s and 30s, Battersby examines everything from jewelry to interior decoration. Written in 1969 and 1971 respectively, they are among the first books to look at this period and unusually give equal weight to the revival of period styles at this time as to the development of modernism.

* Rooms (2006), with photographs by Derry Moore: The subjects of the Earl of Drogheda’s signature square format photographs are from another world ~ gilded, sumptuous and eccentric. It is what I call the World of Interiors’ decaying elegance with layers of patina and history. The rooms of Duff and Diana Cooper, Madeleine Castaing (with wig strap), and Pauline de Rothschild are some of my favorites. The text (very lively) and the unusual design are by the people behind the iconic (and sadly defunct) Nest. For more on Moore, see here.

* Colefax and Fowler (reprinted 2000), by Chester Jones: Inevitably whenever I’m looking for inspiration for paint colors, curtain ideas, or furniture placement, this is the book I come back to again and again. Honorary mention also goes to Interior Inspirations by Roger Banks-Pye, a C&F designer, and also to The Art of Decoration by Nina Campbell, another C&F alum.

Some of you may recall that Emily also did a wonderful post over on Style Court in September about Regency style in the movies. I am so grateful she was able to enlighten us again in this final installment of book week. Thank you to Emily, KDM (for his wonderful White House list), and the ever-inspirational Inkslinger (for her fiction suggestions). You have all helped make this past week so rich and fascinating. Stay warm this winter and happy reading!

Monday, November 17, 2008

signs of winter

Things were beginning to look very wintery at the farmer's market yesterday: root vegetables, and red berries. And for the first time this season ~ bulbs! I splurged and bought a white amaryllis. Hopefully it will bloom in time for the holidays. My new return address labels arrived on friday, and I pulled out my Christmas cards (in the vain hope that perhaps this year I will get them written in time). And there are lovely goodies over here. Oh, the anticipation!

And speaking of goodies, something wonderful showed up in my in box last night ~ the perfect culmination of book week. I can't wait to share, so stay tuned tomorrow. Happy monday!

Friday, November 14, 2008

trouvée: the races / book week: day 4

I have been saving these two photographs for a special post. The woman I bought them from said they were press images from the races at Longchamp, Paris. She had a whole lot of them, but I had to limit myself to just two. I adore them ~ so stylish and elegant. The long velvet coat...and the hat with the bird wings...wonderful (click to view larger)!

Not the usual links today ~ but my top five favorite recent photo books (some of which I have mentioned before, but are worth mentioning again):

* Miroslav Tichy (2008)
* Disfarmer: The Vintage Prints (2005)
* Foto (2007)
* Now is Then (2007)
* The Art of the American Snapshot (2007)

As always, happy reading...and stay tuned for more bookish goodies next week. Meanwhile, I wish you all a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

book week: day 3

Oh, I am so excited about this post ~ fiction! This year has been so busy, I haven't had much time to read for pleasure (my short list of current reads pictured above), or even to pour through the book reviews. So, I asked Inkslinger at The Overdecorated Bookcase for her top five favorites from the last year or two. I am always in awe of her reading list ~ not only of the new books she discovers, but by how often she picks up old favorites and re-reads them. I think we have similar taste in fiction, including a shared love for A.S. Byatt and a good Mary Stewart mystery (who knew!?) ~ and her favs don't disappoint:

* Coventry (2008) by Helen Humphreys
* The Frozen Thames (2007) by Helen Humphreys
* Conceit (2007) by Mary Novik
* Cloud of Bone (2007) by Bernice Morgan
* The Uncommon Reader (2007) by Alan Bennett

...and a special mention: Silver Salts (2008) by Mark Blagrave (which she just finished!).

I don't know about you, but I am ready to make a cup of tea and curl up with a good book. Cheers, and happy reading.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

book week: day 2

I have spent the last week slowly unpacking the eight boxes of books littering my apartment, and am reveling in having them all accessible again! Hurrah (btw ~ this is a little peek at my new bookcases). It has meant a slow start to book week, but I have lots of goodies lined up for you all, so hang in there. This year, I thought that in addition to highlighting some of my favorites, I would ask a few friends to contribute titles in their respective areas of expertise. First up, my dear friend KDM, researcher for the White House Historical Association (and notorious blog commentor). In honor of the election and the prospect of a new administration, I asked him for his top five favorite White House books...he obliged, and even threw in a few extras (along with some annotations):

The Classics:
* The White House: Its Historic Furnishings and First Families (2000), by Betty Monkman
* Official White House China: 1789 to the Present (1999), by Margaret Klapthor
* Art in the White House: A Nation's Pride (revised edition 2008), by William Kloss
* White House Glassware: Two Centuries of Presidential Entertaining (1989), by Jane Shadel Spillman
* The President’s House (second edition 2008), by William Seale (the “White House bible”)

Fun and Esoteric:
* Designing Camelot: The Kennedy White House Restoration (1997), by James Archer Abbott and Elaine Rice (excellent!)
* Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies (1973), by J.B. West (full of great stories and behind-the-scenes tales…without airing the dirty laundry)
* White House Gardens: A History and Pictorial Record from time of John Adams to Present (1973), by Frederick Kramer and Rachel (Bunny) Mellon (illustrated with excellent botanical watercolors)
* The Story of the White House (1907), by Esther Singleton (two volumes of pioneering scholarship on American decorative arts ~ and delightfully dated!)
* The Letters of Archie Butt (1924), edited by Lawrence F. Abbott (Butt was a White House military aide, 1908-1912, and confirmed bachelor who died on the Titanic)

I have tried to find sources for all of these titles, but as some of them are out of print, you may need to do a little searching of your own. Please feel free to add your favorites in the comments section, and as always, happy reading!

Monday, November 10, 2008

book week: day 1

I know it is book week, but I couldn't resist showing you a couple scenes from my sunday in Virginia. Beautiful clouds racing across an autumnal sky, and lots of wine and merriment. And interestingly there is a tie in to book week, as one of the wineries we visited was hosting a book signing with Marc Leepson, whose book Saving Monticello, has been on my reading list for some time. And now I have a signed copy! Whether you are a history buff or not, Leepson's books really are fascinating reads.

Okay, happy reading...more tomorrow.

Friday, November 7, 2008

trouvée: in the grass

Undated. Uninscribed. And throughly idyllic.

It is going to be a warm, sunny weekend here in Washington, and I am hoping to get out of the city for a bit. Perhaps a picnic and some wine? We'll see. Hope you all have something lovely in store. And next week: book week. I have lots of goodies to share.

Until then, cheers and happy weekend!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

election night

View of the Capitol on election night. In Washington, people danced in the streets. I think that no matter what party you are, the energy is contagious. Some of my favorite images from the day: candy for voters, brooklyn, washington, and the front pages.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

election day

This is how I started my morning...with oatmeal and a line. There was an interesting story about patriotism a couple days ago on CBS Sunday Morning. While not all Americans define it the same way, the one thing we do seem to agree on (almost unanimously) is that voting is patriotic.

Monday, November 3, 2008

sunday color

Has anyone ever cooked with Romanesco cauliflower? A woman at the market who saw me eyeing it quizzically said she tosses in pasta with garlic, chili flakes and olive oil. I decided to forgo the experience (for now), and came home instead with: apple cider, fresh smoked mozzarella, Asian pears, rosemary and butternut squash (the latter two ingredients for this).

Also, watched this great piece on Lyndon Johnson while I painted and cleaned the apartment. So fascinating, and a nice break from current politics.

Hope you all had a happy weekend.

Friday, October 31, 2008

trouvée: two girls

An old tintype found ~ I love the fierce look and the plaid dress (click to view larger). And a couple friday photo links (I must have France on the brain):

* Fermeture de proximité
* and Versailles in transition

Well, just stopping by to say: Boo! Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

inspired: vines

Today I was reading Nicole's post about John Burroughs and studying nature near home. I sighed a little thinking: how true, if only I didn't live in the city. Then at lunch I went for a walk and spied the wisteria vines clinging to the walls of the museum and realized how much joy I take in observing them through the seasons ~ the little buds in the spring and heady purple flowers that follow, the rich green leaves in the summer, and the curling vines that cast dramatic shadows in the fall and winter. Indeed, there is something wonderful to be found near home.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

of wine and houses

I have said it before, but I love Flickr! It is wonderful being able to share more images with you there than I can here on the blog ~ especially of the house tours. So over the next month or two, I will try to go through old files and upload images from past tours. A trip down memory lane!

This weekend (in addition to Monticello) we took advantage of the many wineries around Charlottesville, visiting Oakencroft (which, unfortunately closes at the end of the year), Kluge Estate (one of first wineries in Virginia to produce a sparkling wine), and Jefferson (located on the site of Thomas Jefferson's original 1774 vineyards). We were particularly intrigued by Kluge's Cru, a Chardonnay fortified with brandy, and aged in Jack Daniel's barrels. I think it will help get me through the winter!

Monday, October 27, 2008

historic house tour: monticello

There are some houses that just leave you a little breathless. Monitcello is one of those. And yesterday was a glorious day to visit ~ clear, crisp, and autumnal! After a refreshing hike up to the house (we skipped the shuttle bus), we wandered in the gardens and marveled over Jefferson's magnificent "sea view." The house itself is extraordinary ~ full of delightful details that invite one to linger, and send one running afterwards to consult Susan Stein's The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. I was thrilled to be treated to a private tour of the Dome Room, which is generally not open to the public (for a bit more history on it, see here) ~ perfect in its proportions, white trim, green floor, and yellow walls. While photography is not allowed in the house, there is an excellent room-by-room tour available online (thanks to Mr. R for the link!).

I will be back tomorrow with a bit more from the weekend ~ in the mean time, the rest of the Monticello visit is up on flickr. Cheers and happy monday!

Friday, October 24, 2008

trouvée: la mode

This is one of a group of photographs I found recently, from The New York Times fashion department (Paris bureau). The caption on the back reads: "Scarf collar used by J. Suzanne Talbot on popular length jacket in beige broadcloth lined in mixed tweed of the skirt."

Well, I will be wearing my scarf collar this weekend ~ it is cold! More wine is in store, along with a house tour. So, stay tuned! Bon weekend à vous!

P.S. I *heart* $5 snapshots!

october bounty

I love opening my mailbox and finding goodies! Last night ~ the newest issue of the National Trust magazine and my October card society package. Both gorgeous! Plus, there is a great article on the rise of the farm stand in the UK. The bottom photograph was meant for yesterday's post (which never happened), but it pairs perfectly with last night's bounty. Also enjoying:

* Rei Sato's Sun
* and Pompeii

I will check back a little later with a found photograph and some weekend wishes. Cheers for now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

loving fall

And the little bits of color in the city ~ rare, but there.

Another cool fall day in Washington. I slept with the quilt on my bed last night for the first time this season. And had apple cider with breakfast.

I think these are eerily beautiful. Broken trees and crossroads.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

long shadows

Good morning all! A couple of you emailed yesterday about the Virginia Winery Guide. We picked ours up at one of the vineyards, but you can use the online version, or order one here. It really is a super resource.

Oooooh, and last night was deliciously cold here in Washington. I have been nesting ~ making late night cups of tea, and curling up with all the new books I have been ordering. This and this arrived yesterday, both delightful and wonderfully inspiring. I am a little obsessed with food lately, and these two cookbooks by Diana Henry are on my list:

* Roast Figs, Sugar Snow
* Crazy Water Pickled Lemons

Oh, and Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries. Yummy!