Friday, December 24, 2010

trouvée: o christmas tree

Another from the gentleman's collection. Found in Michigan (as the rather large "M" hanging on the tree might suggest). Trimmed with popcorn strings, paper hearts and tinsel bows. I always love Victorian Christmas trees! {click image to view larger}

Happy holiday things:

* a very snowy Amsterdam
* buying oneself a little present (!)
* comfort food
* the long road home
* and remembering what it is all about

Merry, merry to you and yours.

See you next week.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

glad tidings

The gentleman and I are off on our long drive north first thing tomorrow morning. These photographs are from our Boxing Day sleigh ride last year. Judging by the weather report, it's looking like we'll have another white Christmas.

There are shiny silver packages, bits of glitter, and brightly-colored ribbons littering the floor of our apartment ~ the sort of happy chaos that makes one smile in anticipation, and at the same time despair that things will ever be ready in time. I think Santa's elves are going to be hard at work tonight! But then it's time for good cheer and good friends, anxious parents and wriggly little dogs!

Glad tidings to you and yours.

Best wishes for the holidays. xo

Monday, December 20, 2010

the long night

Tonight, for the first time in 372 years, a lunar eclipse will occur on the winter solstice. It is the sort of event worth staying up for ~ and I have a feeling I won't get much sleep! However, last night I noticed the moon shining brightly on my pillow at about 2:00am, so I might not even have to get out of bed to see it.

Today I have been thinking about winter. As cruel a season as it is, I find it irresistibly beautiful. In fact, I think it is probably my favorite time of year to photograph. The images above are mine from last winter (two I never posted), and below some flickr favorites:

1. Éljúðnir, 2. Stopping by woods..., 3. snowpocalypse 8, 4. Snowflake

For those in the northern hemisphere. Snuggle up. It's going to be a long night. . .

Thursday, December 16, 2010

snow day

Not a good day for a lunch-time walk. But, I took one anyway.

Today is the 235th anniversary of Jane Austen's birth. Born in 1775, at the beginning of a bitter cold winter (so cold that it was one of the last times the River Thames froze over). But goodness, how much sunny pleasure has she given us all over the years!

I am also excited (and very honored) to tell you that our wedding is featured over on Style Court today. Throughout the planning process, Courtney was the loveliest of confidants, ever enthusiastic as I pestered her with each and every detail ~ and I am so grateful for her kindness. Thank you all for such nice words as well! I am glad we could share our day with you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

our wedding: part III

A few last photographs from the day! We took our formal portraits after lunch, walking around Old Town Alexandria. We were full of sparkling rosé, which in hindsight probably made us a little sleepy. But, it was the perfect way to wind down a bit before rejoining our friends and family for more drinks in the evening.

(all photographs: Kate Headley)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

our wedding: part II

To be honest, our reception was all about the food and wine. We were adamant about having a long, boozy lunch, rather than the usual dinner with dancing. In fact, the first thing we did after we were engaged was call our favorite restaurant to check availability in October. It was one of the best decisions we made. Looking around and seeing our loved ones sharing a good meal was one of my favorite parts of the day.

The restaurant completely outdid itself. We worked with the chef to put together a special menu for the occasion. First up, butternut squash soup (to warm everyone's tummy on a chilly autumn day). Followed by either salmon with wild mushroom purée, or veal meatballs with polenta. Each course paired with its own wine.

In lieu of traditional wedding cake for dessert, we decided on warm pear crisp with ginger ice cream. However, the pastry chef did make us a mini three-layer wedding cake, which we sliced with great ceremony! (I had only a few bites before my niece and nephew ran off with the rest.)

Decorations were kept to the bare minimum. Because I knew there would be so many wine glasses on the tables, I simply assembled small nosegays of flowers in glass rose bowls. The place cards were done by the same calligrapher who addressed our invitations, Kathryn Murray. And my 12-year-old niece made paper origami cranes (a symbol of honor and loyalty), which she placed at each setting.

I suspect this sort of reception is not for everyone, but it suited us just perfectly. And several people did tell us it was the "best. wedding. reception. ever." !!!

(all photographs: Kate Headley)

Monday, December 13, 2010

our wedding: part I

At last! Our wedding photos! Taken by the most amazing photographer, Kate Headley, who is as nice as she is talented. Using no less than six cameras, and shooting in a combination of film and digital, she perfectly captured the relaxed spirit of our day.

The morning of the wedding dawned clear and sunny, and very, very windy ~ a perfect autumn day, really. We held our ceremony at noon on the garden terrace of the Carlyle House in Alexandria, Virginia, promptly followed by a luncheon at a nearby restaurant. We kept it small (only 45 close friends and family), and very simple. Most everything, from flowers to programs, I did myself, or enlisted the help of friends. And it all turned out perfectly.

The ceremony lasted no more than a few minutes, but was so beautiful in its simplicity. My sister-in-law sang Giacomo Puccini's "O mio babbino caro" as I walked down the aisle, and my brother read Jorge Luis Borges' haunting poem "To the Nightingale" before we exchanged our vows. My father concluded with two traditional Irish blessings.

Following the ceremony, the wedding party walked through town to the restaurant. I am not sure I have ever felt happier or more content, than strolling hand-in-hand with my new husband to our reception.

Lots more to come over the next couple days!

(all photographs: Kate Headley)

Friday, December 10, 2010

trouvée: the librarian

This one comes from the gentleman's collection ~ a young librarian with some heavy reading. Uninscribed, but likely dating to the 1880s.

Recently the gentleman and I received an extraordinary addition to our already burgeoning library ~ more than a hundred history, art, architecture, and garden books. Along with biographies, published journals and diaries. A carefully curated archive, a treasure trove of information, given to us by a true scholar. Oh, the gift of knowledge is a most glorious thing!

With visions of English pleasure gardens dancing in my head, it is hard to image that I have room for much fiction. But, oh I do! My winter reading list:

* Curiosity, by Joan Thomas (due out in the US in March)
* Walt Whitman's Secret, by George Fetherling (this and the above, via The Overdecorated Bookcase)
* The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell
* Parrot and Olivier in America, by Peter Carey
* The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester (one piece of non fiction!)
* and of course, finishing up those Stieg Larsson mysteries!

Happy weekend, happy reading. Cheers.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

the wild blue yonder

Two summers ago, when the gentleman and I were courting (long distance), most nights I would take a photo of the sky on my iPhone. And then send it to him so he would know I was thinking of him. I recently downloaded them all, and put them in a folder together. They seem really wistful to me now. Like old love notes.

Meanwhile, back on earth, one small thing for Barbara: National Trust gardens in frost and snow.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

winter flowers

It is cold in Washington this week, but no snow. The gentleman and I have been making soup and eating turkey sandwiches with left-over cranberry sauce. And I started my paperwhites on monday. A small nod to the season.

I love the holidays:

* humming along to the Messiah (hit repeat, start again)
* mini Bundt cakes!
* the annual poinsettias
* and A Christmas Carol at the Morgan

Am working on my winter reading list (after hopping over here for the usual literary inspiration). Hopefully I will have that for you on friday.

Friday, December 3, 2010

trouvée: the shoppers

This has to be my hands-down favorite find of the year. I picked it up in Texas this past April and I have been chuckling ever since. Inscribed: "This is Garnet & I as / we were shopping in / Decatur / Garnet was talking / so her mouth was / open Ha Ha as it / usually is." {click image to view larger}

Counting the days until the March 2011 release of the new Jane Eyre movie. I won't tell you how many times I have watched the trailer (it would be embarrassing to admit). Filmed on locations throughout Derbyshire, including Chatsworth, Haddon Hall, and North Lees Hall (the latter generally thought to be Brontë’s inspiration for Rochester's Thornfield Hall).

Happy weekend. The gentleman and I have some festive plans (which include shopping for a Christmas tree).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

winter garden, part II

A few more bits from our wintery garden chores.

I heard there was heavy snow over night in parts of England. And Chatsworth closed due to the inclement weather. Oh, to see that magnificent house dressed in wintery white!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

winter garden, part I

Lots of yard work over the holiday weekend (working off the pumpkin pie). There's something so beautiful about a garden in winter. So calm and monochromatic.

More tomorrow.

Monday, November 29, 2010

thanksgiving for three

Home from Michigan, where winter taunted us with grey skies and snow flurries.

Setting the Thanksgiving table was the gentleman's job. And I must say, it was warm and bright ~ decorated with red berries and Russian sage. A simple meal for three: turkey breast with sausage stuffing, gravy, roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash (from the garden), cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Yum.

And you?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

i am thankful

For. . . beautiful autumn days, my husband's soft kiss, our family's warm embrace, little boys in bowties, magnolia leaves and yummy white cake, and the cheers of good friends as two hearts joined as one. Our first holiday together will be full of much love. From our table to yours ~ happy, happy Thanksgiving.

A little peek at our wedding (more to follow after the holiday). We're off until next week. xo

(photograph by Kate Headley)

Friday, November 19, 2010

breakfast in bed

Lazy days and breakfast in bed (oatmeal and sliced pears). Reading mystery novels. Those are the best sorts of weekends.

But if you must surf the web:

* the new Art of the Americas wing at the MFA Boston
* wild mushrooms: read the article, see the photographs

Oh, and some big news!

Wishing you a happy one. . .

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

book week: the irish country house

When a copy of The Irish Country House landed in my mailbox several weeks ago, I knew it would be the perfect thing with which to wrap up book week. Being of Irish descent myself, I have to admit that I was thrilled to see such a beautiful publication about the Irish house, which has been somewhat neglected (at least by publishers). Following on the heels of last year's Romantic Irish Homes (see The Architecturalist for more), this is the first significant publication in almost 10 years to take a good look at the houses of that emerald isle. And it does not disappoint.

Written by Desmond FitzGerald, Knight of Glin, along with James Piell, the book is a compilation of photographs and stories about 10 houses, from FitzGerald's own Glin Castle to the classic Georgian manse, Burtown House (pictured above). All of the houses are still lived in by descendants of their original owners and builders ~ an extraordinary legacy. And needless to say, each has a tale to tell.

Students of architecture and decorative arts will be delighted with the large, elegant views of landscapes and interior rooms, such as the library at Glin (above) with its indigo-hued walls and piles of Asian porcelain. However, I found myself charmed by the stories of each house, poignantly illustrated through details of family mementos such as hunting journals and old photographs at Lisnavaugh (below) ~ and my personal favorite, a glimpse of a darkroom at Birr Castle, still containing the Countess of Rosse's photographic developing chemicals from the 1850s.

Each room is a treasure trove, with layers of history and extraordinary objects to be discovered. When I first saw the entrance hall at Kiladoon (below) I was struck by the pale green walls, scarlet curtains, and unusual early 19th-century hall chairs. Then I noticed those magnificent Irish elk antlers, so gloriously incongruent. And the libraries. . . well, for more on those, read Courtney's post on Style Court. She has a few of her own interesting observations!

Finally, as a photographer, I would be remiss not to highlight James Fennell's glorious images. His work has previously appeared in, Irish Furniture (also authored by the Knight of Glin and James Piell), Vanishing Ireland and The Irish Pub.

(all photographs by James Fennell, from The Irish Country House, courtesy Vendome Press, 2010)

Friday, November 12, 2010

book week: reader favorites

Before I wrap up book week with one last post of my own, I thought it would be fun to hear from some of you. I asked on monday what your own favorites are, and you did not disappoint ~ delighting me with everything from luscious photographic essays of brick and mortar houses to the fictional homes of childhood tales. Some I know well, while others are revelations:

Frau S (bad hausfrau): At Home: The American Family 1750-1870, by Elizabeth D. Garrett

Patricia (pve): Terence Conran's New House Book

Meg (Pigtown*Design) ~ any book by Mary Randolph Carter!

Gaye (little augury): Bowens Court & Seven Winters, by Elizabeth Bowen, and China Court: The Hours of a Country House, by Rumer Godden

the gentleman: Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away, by Elizabeth Enright (a niece of Frank Lloyd Wright), and Het Hollandse Pronkpoppenhuis (The Magnificent Dutch Dollhouse), by Jet Pijzel-Dommisse

Stefan (Architect Design): Carolands, by Michael Middleton Dwyer, with photographs by Mick Hales

Jenny E: Castles in the Air, by Judy Corbett

home before dark: English Country Style, by Mary Gilliatt, and Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton

Chris Storb (In Proportion to the Trouble): Philip Wallace's Colonial Houses, Philadelphia, Pre-Revolutionary Period (published in 1931, and reprinted 1960 by Bonana)

I think (*ahem*) my Amazon wish list has grown a bit this week.

Thank you all for contributing. And if I could, I would give you all a copy of Old Houses. But, alas, there is only one. And I am delighted to say that Chris Storb's bookshelf has expanded a bit!

(photograph of Hyde Hall, by Steve Gross and Susan Daley, from Old Houses)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

book week: at home

Little did I know when I enlisted the help of three fellow bloggers for book week that they would so brilliantly out do themselves. Writing for one's own blog is challenge enough, so I am grateful that they took the time to stop by and share a few words here. Today I am delighted to have Courtney Barnes, whose seminal blog, Style Court, stands in a class of its own. She has graciously agreed to tell us about a beautiful publication so fresh off the presses, the ink has barely dried:

Because choosing just one outstanding book related to house and home is no mean feat, I decided to focus on the latest 2010 releases. But even within the narrower category, there are several beautifully written—yet wildly different—new titles. That said, many who appreciate refined antiques and classic interior decoration (not to mention soft luminous color, comfort, and gracious old houses) have been eagerly anticipating Suzanne Rheinstein’s debut book, At Home: A Style for Today with Things from the Past.

In her introduction, Rheinstein vividly describes the sights and sweet olive scent of her New Orleans childhood along with myriad influences she still carries with her today, living and working on both the East and West coasts. In an era when interior designers tend to flip houses or sell off possessions almost annually, Rheinstein and her husband, Fred, have for more than 30 years made their home base a 1914 Georgian Revival in the Windsor Square section of Los Angeles’ Hancock Park.

Fans of Mrs. Rheinstein’s work know this house well. Its slow evolution has been documented by so many shelter magazines over the years. The treat of the book is the expanded coverage—detailed views of the tailored dressmaker details for which the designer is known, the patina of painted 18th-century Italian chairs, nooks and crannies, fresh angles of her “object-driven” rooms.

And the same holds true for the other houses featured. Special attention is paid to butler’s pantries, laundry rooms and outbuildings.

I hope this peek into the Hancock Park house whets your appetite to see more. The dining room (chock-a-block with light-reflecting surfaces including glaze-painted striped walls, old glass, Sheffield plate silver, and a Russian chandelier) is set for a Southern-style breakfast that is calling my name!

Civic-minded Rheinstein is a good teacher. She sums up her book by paraphrasing her friend William Yeoward: “All design is an opinion, and this happens to be mine.”

(all photographs: © AT HOME: A Style for Today with Things from the Past by Suzanne Rheinstein, Rizzoli New York, 2010. Images © Pieter Estersohn)