Monday, August 30, 2010

Art Needlepoint

As I've mentioned (again and again) my love of needlepoint, both the product and the process, a few readers have emailed occasionally to say, "Hey, where do you find your projects?" Because, honestly, some canvases are a smidge dated. I've had a lot of my canvases painted by our local needlepoint shop, the Studio, but I fear not every one is so lucky as to have such a nice resource.

Except you do. On-line. Art Needlepoint has hundreds of amazing canvases - truly something for everyone. Some may look familiar, like Harrison Howard's design, top, or Anne Harwell's, above.

But there are lot of fresh patterns whether you are enhancing living room, child's room or den. These butterflies would be unbelievable finished.

Barbara Mangini's Fern on Indian Print could freshen the sunroom,

could add a graphic dash of style and color

to tired sofas everywhere.

Some canvases are sold as kits, regardless, Art Needlepoint is happy to pull yarn of any variety for your project. Custom specifications available. If you stitch quick you still have time to get a project completed by Christmas. That's what I'm hoping anyway.

All images courtesy of Art Needlepoint.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Off the Rack

My flight home from New York was delayed (setting my mind on a skitterish path of worry and fret) the upside being that I was able to read the entire issue of the New Yorker cover to cover. Gluttonous feast for someone who is usually confined to grabbing an article here or snacking in the carpool line. There, on pages that seem like onion skin compared to the shelter magazines, was Agatha Christie. Yet when I first turned the page I thought for a moment that I was looking in an enchanted mirror. Needlepoint shoes, rings stacked knuckle-to-knuckle, watch on a thick black strap and, yes, beads. The swollen ankles will likely be mine as well as they surely resembled this during each pregnancy. The only unlikelihood being the hair; I fear I will always be putting off the gray for "next year."

Also, this. Jail cell? Secret al Qaeda operative headquarters? Nope. This is where Jonathan Franzen writes. And writes well. He's removed all distraction from the room (I'll say) and all hope of connection to the internet from his computer. I have ordered my copy of Freedom. And will wait, somewhat impatiently, for its release next week. You can read the Time profile here.

Image, top, the New Yorker, August 16th & 23rd, 2010; photography by Lord Snowdon. Image, last, Time, August 23, 2010; photography by Dan Winters.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Don't Look a Gift Show in the Mouth

I attended the gift show in New York last week and I'm going to give you a quick round up. I went to see what was fresh and new on the horizon. The big news is, well, not a lot. That's not exactly true, there was great, great stuff, but as far as trends (I know we don't use the "T" word here, but it is reality), it is pretty much the same. Vendors are still showing a lot of color, like these great pieces from Dransfield & Ross, above. (I circled around three times to see this vignette again and again.) Also, as far as soft goods, I hope you are enjoying suzanis and hand-blocked fabrics because you are going to be seeing them a while longer.

There was not much in the avenue of the current craze for all things Belgian (perhaps Restoration Hardware has cornered the market) and there was not nearly as much industrial thrift knock off as I had expected (though it was there.)

I was enchanted by Chelsea Textiles Mid-Century Modern Collection (previous two pictures) which had several pieces with punch in fab finishes including lacquer and, yes, there is still a lot of that, too.

Mr. Adler greeted me with "Pow." While I sometimes wonder if this happy chic will take on the edge of mania, Adler keeps producing product that delights. These brass tables, in particular, seemed a nice addition to the line and escewed the reserve of the antique finish with a bright and shiny gleam. A brass fretwork table base (implied, but not show; it is under the wood top) would be a great addition to homes both mod or trad.

Along with ethnic prints geometric graphics were still everywhere and Adler is the King of Pop in this catagory; new table linens showed a fresh face to these designs.

Ah, yes, don't forget the children. A local retailer told me once that there is a theory that when things are tight people will continue to spend on their children even if they are cutting back for themselves. Hmmm...another post for another day. Back on topic, I think Adler's children's line debuted in January and it is very, very cool.

little nest had terrific, iconic pieces for the pint-sized. I must say I would have delighted in having my little chicks reading The Pokey Little Puppy in an Egg Chair.

A new Dream House? Perhaps, and this one comes with fewer clipped heartstrings attached. This is brinca dada's Emerson House composed of glass corners, minimalist cut stone and hardwood floors.

I didn't play dolls and Barbies always creeped me out with their permanently pointed feet, but this is a doll house that would make a girl leave Little Women behind.

The house and the furniture are sold separately but don't be surprised to find mommy banging her fist and crying, "I want it all!" especially when she discovers that the fully functional solar panels charge the LED recessed lighting.

And, perhaps I was just missing toddlerhood (unlikely), but this tray with puzzle piece utensils is delightful and seems to solve the problem of Junior waiting for his peas and carrots. Plus, those little red knobs? Grasping those helps with fine motor skills. The puzzle concept? Addresses spacial relationships and eye-hand coordination. All important work for baby. And it just might give Mama time to fix herself a drink.

Favorite Mistake

My first piece for the Chicago Tribune, Their Favorite Mistakes, appeared in the paper on Monday; you can find it on-line here.

Image courtesy of Suzanne Kasler.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I Say "City," You Say...

Here are the results of yesterday's Eat Pray Love word association:

Aspen - Crisp
Atlanta - Reinvention
Austin - Hippie
Boston - History
Charlotte - Hot
Chicago - Neighborhood, Corrupt
Cleveland - Proud
Dallas - Manicured*
Ft. Scott - History
Geneva - Anomaly
Houston - Diversity
Indianapolis - Bland
Jacksonville - Comfort
Kansas City - Melange, Moribund, Home, Authenticity, Solid
Kentucky - Fried Chicken
Lawrence - Basketball, Hotmess
Little Rock - Natural
London - Eccentric
Maine - Lobster
New Orleans - Pleasure
New York - Go, Assertive
North Carolina
Marceline - Home
Minneapolis - Do
Minnesota - 6 mo. Vibrant/6 mo. Glacial
Paris - Grumpy
Philadelphia - Strive, Home
Pittsburgh - Ritual
Portland - Progressive
Queens - Hope
Rome - Passionate
Sacramento - Endearing
Salt Lake City - Industrious
San Francisco - Cool, Progressive, Weird, Self Righteous
Savanna - Yummy
Toronto - Self Conscious
Venice - Shimmer
Washington D.C. - Childish, Unimaginative, Ambition

* I've spent a good little bit of time in Dallas and this was a favorite.

Image from the movie Eat Pray Love; Production Design by Bill Groom with Set Decoration by Andrew Baseman, Raffaella Giovannetti and Letizia Santucci.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Word Association

Back in 2007 when I read Eat Pray Love I did a post about one word associations with cities we know. At the time I wrote, "... one of the things that intrigued me (about the book) was a concept the author introduced in the "eat" section, while she was in Rome. Her friend tells her you cannot live in a city if you are not in sync with it's "word." He tells her that each city has one word that describes it. He claims Rome's is the big s-e-x; she defines New York by 'achieve.'"

With the release of the movie, and now that I have more than twelve readers, I thought it might be fun to play again. In 2007 I chose "tradition" for Kansas City; you can see other folks feedback here. I'll post your words tomorrow.

Image from the movie Eat Pray Love; Production Design by Bill Groom with Set Decoration by Andrew Baseman, Raffaella Giovannetti and Letizia Santucci.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sunny Outlook

If you have driven through western Kansas in the late summer you are familiar with the vibrant fields (and fields and fields) of sunflowers. Like me, they turn to hold their faces to the sun, though for the flower the results are prettier. Most things en masse give pause, and these tall and alert yellow blooms delight and overwhelm the senses at the same time. They are so yellow. There are so many.

These mirrors from Van Gregory & Norton gave me the same sort of happy thrill. Constructed of bamboo, wood and papier mache they are layered and layered and layered with gesso. (I've always been intrigued by gesso. I hate to get my hands messy, but that stuff seems like some good goop.) But wait, there's more. Finishes galore. And all of this goes on at a studio in Brooklyn. Makes me want to send these guys a bouquet of sunflowers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

On Blogging

I've been painting. Not painting like Rembrandt, painting like Jerry the painter. But I'm not as good as Jerry. I started painting before we left for vacation and I picked up the brush again when we returned. We are thinking of selling our house and the walk through with our agent revealed, well, neglect. Not the crashing, horrible neglect of, say, Gray Gardens, but neglect nonetheless. A few missing spindles. Chipped radiators. The sort of stuff you notice when it happens and two years later it is still there.
So, I've been painting. I like to paint because, as is true of most of the other things I like to do, it allows me to do something while I'm over-thinking so I don't have to believe that I am indulging my neuroses. I've thought about selling the house and moving and where my oldest is going to go to high school and when the economy is going to turn around and the oil spill and, "how am I going to tell my blog readers that I am thinking of selling a house that is so much a part of our family?"
And the last bit led to thinking about blogging. It's a strange line of thinking, isn't it, to wonder what people whom you've never met will think of your selling your house? Or why they'd care. Very soon our family will mark several milestones. I will turn 45, we will celebrate our tenth anniversary in this house, the boys will put on party hats and have a dog party for Rosie's 4th birthday and I will note that I have been blogging for three years. All of these things have brought mostly good. And a little not so good. My sisal rug can attest.
Blogging is funny business. I have connected with many wonderful people through Mrs. Blandings. When I christened the blog one of my friends called and said, “It’s perfect; I can’t believe it wasn’t already taken.” I've also been called "bland" both here and on other people's blogs which is a derivative that I wouldn't have anticipated. Once, I had the giddy pleasure of having a well-known designer say, "Oh! I read your blog," when we met in New York. I've also had someone crucify my home, my Thanksgiving table and my pumpkin pie on the internet. Mostly good. A little not so good.
Recently, I wrote a post about our trip and I had Mr. Blandings read it before I posted. Generally, if something pertains to him I give him a look-see before I publish it. He censored me. He was worried what people would think. And I held it back, but I resented it. I like to think the blog is all mine. But it isn’t really. It’s out there in the open.
I can tell when someone reads it as our conversations tend to start mid-subject, "Oh my goodness, isn't Utah amazing? We went for my brother's wedding a few years ago," while other people are standing by with puzzled looks wondering who mentioned Utah. At the same time, people often feel the need to tell me they don't read it. "How's your website thing going?" "Uh, fine." "I mean, I don't read it. You know. Well, I'm just not interested in that kind of thing." Which is dandy, I don't care if someone reads it, but I think the need to mention it is amusing. I don't say, "How are things at work? I'm so sorry, but we don't use your law firm," or, "I heard you took up bridge. I haven't; I fear it would be a crushing bore." (Plus, with bridge I think there is some math and who would want to do that for fun?)
It takes a certain hubris to go on-line. As my friend asked when I announced that I was starting a blog, "Do you really think you have something to say?" I realized that yes, I must think that I do. That is boastful. Not quite as boastful as thinking you can lead the free world, but something. This is one of the reasons I continue to allow the anonymous commenters. I am not quite comfortable in the situation in which I’ve placed myself. And I’m certainly not going to eliminate the avenue that allows someone to tell me my feet are made of clay. Indeed they are. I know; I crafted them myself. (The other reason is because sometimes they correct my spelling, and heaven knows I need that.)
Some people receive the blog through email and that leads to its own surprises. Readers occasionally think they are forwarding and accidentally hit “reply.” One day I received an automated reply to a morning’s post that a magazine editor, whom I very much respect, was out of the office. I can’t tell you that doesn’t change things. It changes things. I also received a reply from the post I wrote about going to California to sit on the Elle Decor panel that was so cruel it made me gasp. That changed things, too. Mostly good. A little not so good.
It is a public forum. I’ve taken heat for being bland, and nice, which has been translated as not being honest or real. I post what I like. There are several publicists and authors and designers who will tell you that I don’t post what I don’t like. But I don’t usually feel the need to announce that I don’t like something. I'm editing. It’s not dishonesty or that I’m trying to get something, I’d just rather not bash someone in public. It’s a public forum. I might think the woman standing next to me in the check-out line has a tragic haircut. And maybe bad pants. And I might say something to one of my friends about it later. But I do not turn to the woman in the check-out line and say, “Sister, your hair is disaster and your pants are a train wreck.” And I certainly don’t post it on the internet. Would it be honest? Perhaps. But it wouldn’t make me more clever or honest or real. It would just make me rude.
Along those lines, another blogger recently raised the issue of voice. Generally, I’m more interested in a blogger’s point of view than his or her voice. I write like I talk. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I do and you may not believe it, but I don’t give a darn. Which is the only dishonesty, by the way. In person, my language is salty; on-line it is not. It’s a public forum.
Mrs. Blandings has brought me incredible opportunities. I mentioned to a friend recently that I am going to do some freelancing for the Chicago Tribune and his mouth fell open. “That’s amazing. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but there are people who have been writing their whole careers who wouldn’t even dream of writing for the Tribune.” I know. I can’t believe it myself. It’s because of the blog. The flip side is a meeting I had with an executive of an organization that I have worked with for twelve years; I have gone in with concerns twice. At one point she said, “Perhaps you have to consider this isn’t the right place for you,” and shortly after that she mentioned a post I had written that had rubbed her the wrong way. That is because of the blog, too. Mostly good. A little not so good.
I started Mrs. Blandings on a lark. Things worked out. I wasn’t “building a brand” or “leveraging social media” and frankly that whole concept makes me mentally gag a little. I’m aware of my numbers. I check them less than I used to. (Which isn't hard as I used to check them about every two hours.) They are pretty steady. Really, it's irrelevant. Honestly, when I’m writing, I aware of the dozen or so people with whom I communicate regularly.
And, so, today, I’m just letting you know that we’re thinking about putting our house on the market. Which could be good. Or a little not so good.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

GT on ED

Elle Decor is putting a lot of great original content on their site, not the least of which is the "What We Love" feature. Editors and contributors from all of the country are weighing in on intriguing places and product nationwide. Today they did a nice piece on my buddy George.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Making Memories

Not so long ago a friend mentioned that she had a house in Carmel and would be interested in renting it now and then to people she knew. As this is our off year from Mr. Blandings's family spot in Colorado, I thought this would be a wonderful adventure. The boys had never been to the West Coast, had never seen the Pacific, and I am currently having a mad love affair with California. Perfect. Mr. Blandings was slightly less enthusiastic. In fact, at one point I asked if we had ever been on a vacation that we were both looking forward to. "Our honeymoon. And Napa." Napa was thirteen years ago.

Flying the five of us to California made the trip a no-go, so I suggested we drive. I had had a very memorable driving vacation with my family up the east coast from Atlanta to Canada when I was eight; I'm sure that it had nothing to do with the fact that my parents were separated before the following Christmas.

Besides, any discussion with Mr. Blandings about going to Europe elicits the comment, "Why would I want to go to Europe when I haven't even seen the Grand Canyon?" Driving would enable us to vacation in California and check the Grand Canyon off the list.

He bowed to my will. We set off after work one evening as I thought the first five hours would somehow not "count" as a day of driving; not everyone managed their accounting the same way. The following day took us into Albuquerque putting us into the Grand Canyon mid-day the second day (or third depending on your math.) The Grand Canyon is remarkable. Its mass is astounding (negative mass?). And if you have been saying your whole life, "I'd like to see the Grand Canyon," you're right, you would. And you should go. Even I, who do not like to be outside, would like to go again to hike and camp there. Really.

Though I did hold the collar of the youngest's shirt in terror nearly the entire time.

I have to say, Arizona, I don't think that, other than the canyon, I saw the best side of you. You seemed a little off to me when we were there and I am hoping I have another chance to see you in a more appealing light. One odd thing about Arizona, cities disappear. We would see them noted on highway signs then they would never materialize. Like Winslow. We watched the highway signs for Winslow for miles and Mr. Blandings said, "We are stopping in Winslow and you are going to take my picture standing on the corner." Amused, I agreed. There was a sign twelve or something miles to Winslow and then, say twenty miles later, it had just never happened. This led Mr. Blandings to believe that maybe this was a little inside joke of the Arizona government; it has not been my experience that government has that much humor.

New Mexico, on the other hand, was stunningly beautiful, and to you, my handsome friend, we will return.

The drive through California was a lovely surprise. It's hilly, which I hadn't expected, and nearer the dessert those hills are the most beautiful golden yellow color. It looks a little like someone has laid the most wonderful tawny mohair across the landscape.

And then there was Carmel and the dramatic west coast of Northern California. Carmel's temperature never reached 70 degrees. To say I did not get in the water doesn't really say anything because I rarely get in the water, but the boys did. They said it was great. Their lips weren't even blue. We were there for a week and ate and hiked and enjoyed everyone's dogs of which there were a million. Give or take.

And then it was time to go home. The drive out had been a delightful meander. Coming back was two hard days of driving to reach the not-supposed-to-be-this-year Colorado house.

I thought a stop at the Hoover Dam, engineering marvel, would help break things up. It did not. Mr. Blandings and I were engaged, but the boys seemed...unmoved.

Even by the Deco details like the terrazzo of the bathroom floor.

Or the design of the door handle.

We soldiered on. We saw ten states in twelve days. As we passed a car with a far-away license plate Mr. Blandings said, "Did you see that? That car had the state magnets, you know the kind you buy at the gas stations, from every state on their trip. We should do that." We should have, except we were three states from home at that point.

Of all of it, the biggest surprise was Utah. Utah was breathtaking. It was like someone had taken the Grand Canyon and stretched it out like silly putty as far as you could see. Each crest of a hill brought another, even more beautiful vista. And I am quite sure I would have never seen it had it not been for this trip.

It was a beautiful, beautiful trip. If you are ever feeling bunched up or hemmed in or over run, you should know that there are wide, wide open spaces. They still exist. They are not just the stuff of cowboy songs. We saw it with our own ten eyes.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Follow the Leader

I had a dear and very knowledgeable friend to dinner just before we left on our trip. As we savored strawberry shortcake he asked, "Have you seen the article on Bunny Mellon in Vanity Fair?" Hadn't. "You must read it." He speaks in design declaratives and when he tells me I must, I do. I am just beginning to garden so I thought that was why he had recommended the piece. Then, the second paragraph, "Nothing should be noticed." From a woman who bought Rothkos by the dozen (thirteen, actually.)

And I felt so lucky to be under his tutelage.

Image, Vanity Fair, August 2010, photograph by Jonathan Becker.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Southern Comfort Post Script

The truth is, I've been on vacation for the last two weeks. We drove from Kansas City to Carmel and back stopping at several spots in between; I'll fill you in soon. But in posting yesterday, I accidentally deleted this image from the Rheinstein story and as it is one of my favorite kitchens ever I am using it as a bookmark for today.

And, yes, I said we drove from Kansas City to Carmel. I'd do it again (though not soon.)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Southern Comfort

A logical follow-up to Lussier week is this beach house decorated by Suzanne Rheinstein.

Rheinstein had named Lussier's apartment as a space that would stand the test of time and these rooms hold up as well.
And, yes, white walls. (Though I've done a bit of editing; not all the rooms in this home are white. I can do that. It's my blog.)

This house is also making me toy with the idea of moving my chintz to upholstery and reminding me how much I like to see at least a little brown furniture.
Images, Suzanne Rheinstein for Courtnay Daniels, Southern Accents, November/December 2002; photography by Tria Giovan.