Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Joy of Mrs. Howard

Other than Brooke Shields and Phoebe Cates, I was never aware of models by name.  Not until I lived with three cheerleaders in college was I introduced to the concept of "super model."  I came into decorating the same way.  I read and I tore and I saved, but it took a while for me to begin to recognize designers.  That mirror, above, did it for me with Phoebe Howard.

From a long ago Southern Accents feature, that mirror introduced me to the world of Mrs. Howard, Phoebe's shop, and the amazing work that she and her husband, Jim, both do.

It's a world of casual elegance, of relaxed refinement.  Many people seem to be yearning for pretty rooms, uncomplicated beautiful spaces.

Phoebe's work combines a traditional foundation with an understanding that we have evolved; mid-century tables, fresh fabrics and contemporary art co-exist beautifully in her spaces.

And now we don't have to wait and hope for a magazine feature.  Phoebe has published a new book, The Joy of Decorating; Southern Style with Mrs. Howard and she is offering Mrs. Blandings's readers a discount.

If you buy the book from her site HERE and enter the code MBJOD you will receive the book, normally $50 at 20% off (that's $40 for the math-challenged.)

Another bonus for ordering from the site is that you will receive a prize.  Included with the book will be Mrs. Howard's Favorite Paint Colors, which is a handy little supplement organized by palette for wall, ceiling and trim.

All images courtesy of Mrs. Howard.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Happy to Assist

Sitting at my desk pondering the secrets of the universe (namely, am I too old to wear a bikini), I took a break from my musings ("Betty, it's so desperate.") and dipped my toe into bags instead.  I like a big bag as I have an untold number of talismen that need to travel with me.  Phone.  Calendar (I know some of you think this is the same thing, but in my case it is not.) Hairbrush (that I rarely use as I brush my hair once in the morning and never again unless I am going out.) Three lipsticks the same toasty color; one red.  Glasses.  Supporting cast includes an ipad, a book, lacrosse shorts and/or anything for a school project and garlic or tarragon or something that is missing for dinner.

Meet Edie.  She arrived this afternoon and understood immediately that I need a little structure.  She can accommodate all my needs and realized intuitively not to hang around too long (meaning that with her shoulder strap extended she hits right at the hip rather than being unpleasant behind my back.)  I hate to spend money on these kinds of things and was delighted to find that she would come work for me for a mere $230.

It's ridiculous how much I rely on J. Crew.  If only he would advise me what to don poolside.

The site reads the cost as $288; a handy email coupon provided a discount.  No compensation, real or imagined, was received for this post.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Role Reversal

Over the last couple of years, it has far more likely at our house that I will be out of town and Bill will be home.  But last week he went skiing with friends.

We are long past the days when his being out of town sent me into a tailspin.  Mostly, the boys are pretty easy.   (At the very least they can feed themselves, go the bathroom by themselves and sleep through the night.)  Even though I fix something most nights (fixing being an entirely different thing than cooking), when he goes out of town I am happy for us all to exist on cheese and crackers.  The boys, not so much.

They make a big play for going out and they usually win, but five days was just too much.  Friday night I told them they had to come to consensus on something they would all eat.  After a short meeting they came back and proclaimed, "Steak!  And French fries!"  I feel sure this was planned to make me give in to carry out.  I stood firm.

I peeled.  I sliced.  (I poured a remarkable amount of oil into a pot.)  Double frying, it seems, is the answer to frites and I figured any error I made on step one would likely be covered in step two.

A few years ago someone had told me that Roast Chicken had the best Steak au Poivre recipe, so I slid it from the shelf.  I ground peppercorns and sifted off the powder ("too hot") and pressed them into the fillets.  Handling raw meat is one of my major issues with cooking, but that night it didn't bother me a bit.

The boys were distracted and rather than cooking in a rush, as a chore, I cooked for pleasure, moving easily from sink to cutting board to counter.  A rhythm developed and I felt completely in the moment and released from it at the same time.  It was a revelation, and I wondered if cooking without Bill here held less pressure.  The boys pronounced the meal, "delicious."  A rarity, indeed.

Sunday I reverted to baking.  Noses were upturned at homemade muffins because the blueberries were "too squishy."  "That's because they are real, not freeze dried like the icky ones at the grocery store."  "When does Dad get back?" they queried of the buyer of the grocery store muffins.

He returned last night with tales of watching basketball and watching the Oscars and of the most amazing kitchen island in Dwell built of Legos.  And everything fell neatly back into place.

Image, last, from Dwell, photography Celine Clanet.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Le Lac X 3

The Director of Design for Bruschwig & Fils, David Toback, told me yesterday that they are making three new color ways of Le Lac for Fall 2012.  THEY ARE MAKING THREE NEW COLOR WAYS OF LE LAC for Fall 2012.  I think Le Lac is pretty perfect just as she is, but I can't wait to see her cousins.

(By the way, he didn't tell "me" as much as he told an entire room of designers.  But I pretended he was talking just to me.  Stay tuned.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Friend of a Friend

I don't have facials very often, in fact, I've probably had fewer than a dozen.

But last week I went to slough off some winter doldrums and laid myself flat for a Russian woman with whom I was not acquainted.

A recent astrological foray revealed that I don't care much for pampering and I agree that this is true; vanity, however, sometimes rules the day.

With fingers like sausages, Natasha* began her ministrations.  Dropped towels, later re-used in their chilly, limp economy and blaring pop music were the least of it.

I imagine that it was like being with a virgin when you're not one.  I could not begrudge her her lack of experience; neither did I care to be a partner to it.

Such experiences make me value all the more being in good hands.

Which is why I was delighted that Temo Callahan took the time to let me know that his charming lampshade was decorated by James Shearron of Bories and Shearron.

Strong, assured and lacking unnecessary flourishes, the firm's work is a delight.  This is the home of Doug Turshen, who applies his aesthetic prowess to some of the best design books around.  You can find the images, and the overwhelmingly romantic story of his marriage to Rochelle Udell, here.  Indulge yourself further at Bories and Shearron here.

All images William Waldron, Elle Decor, November 2010.  *Named changed to protect the, if not innocent, ineffective.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

To Mark It

My mother doodled when she talked on the phone.  When she talked on the phone, she sat either at the dining room table, the long curly cord swagged to the kitchen wall or on her bed, cross-legged with her Princess Streamline like a teenager.

Provided with an endless supply of scrap paper in the form of unopened bills, she would mark the backs of envelopes with pointy stars embellished with dots, pyramids of spirals that ended up looking like rose bouquets and an odd collection of dots and dashes, seemingly random, that always resulted in different, pleasing patterns.

Rather than covering the paper she would often trace her initial designs again and again until they were as dense and distinct as fresh tattoos.

I was reminded of all this when I spied Temo Callahan's kraft paper lamp shade in House Beautiful.  Decorated for Callahan by a friend with marker, it is infinitely charming, exponentially personal.  Seeing the shade makes me want to know both the owner and the artist.  Every life, every home should have just such a thing.

Image, House Beautiful, March 2012, photography Francesco Lagnese.  This particular issue had to be rescued from Dexter, who chews my books and magazines if I have neglected him too long.  We are both learning.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Escape Plan

For the last few days my brain has been spinning.  Do.  Don't.  Good idea, bad idea.  This.  That.  Finally, this afternoon, I said, "Enough," and rose from my desk.  I escaped to the Nelson.  I had not visited the Chinese Galleries since they reopened.  Honestly, I don't know them that well as I tend to circle my favorites again and again.  But, I started on the first floor.  I wanted to go back to see the miniatures, which reside at the end of this very severe hall.

To my delight a small collection of Josef Albers's pieces awaited me, cheerful with their surprise.

We promised to meet again soon.

I had been a few weeks ago with my middle son and we fortuitously skipped into sculpture.  Reviewing today's visit it seemed to be mostly about squares.

So intent had I been on the exhibits in the past, that I had never before noticed the beauty of this gallery.  One of the few rooms without a bench, I wanted to sit on the floor to enjoy it.  I did not.  I am too conventional.

But I did walk away reassured that sometimes the best things come without planning.

I did not have my camera and took these with my phone.  I was pretty darned pleased.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Hey, remember this piece on The General Store here in Kansas City?  I thought that felted skull pillow was pretty terrif.

Then, last Sunday, I was lounging around reading the paper and a piece in the House and Home section by Stacy Downs caught my eye.

Seems that bony guy was the brain child of local Lauren Zabaneh, owner of Alice's Pocket.  She is whipping up these graphic accents from fabric made of recycled plastic bottles, so you can feel good all the way around.

You can find these pillows and more at

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sentimental Fool

If you are down to the wire do remember,

in romance it is the thought and effort that matter, not the expense.

Images of the always-delightful window at George, 315 E. 55th, KCMO.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

To Twee or Not to Twee

I posted this on the same day three years ago.  I am pretty level-headed, not one for sap, but I do love Valentine's Day.  It allows us to gush, encourages us to romance and ensures we need not make excuses for sentiment.

I just read a friend's blog post describing her back and forth with Valentine's Day.  Commercial, jaded and grown-up v. romantic, inspired and whimsical.  Most of us experience a little of both.  I love having fresh flowers in the house but flinch when presented with a florist's bouquet on Valentine's Day as I know the cost, while equal to the sentiment, was inflated.  Especially with roses.  So, while my male readers may be small in number, I offer some advice.

Choose another flower, one that can be purchased reasonably, sometimes at the market, and make your words your gift.  It is often tricky to say something sappy aloud, especially if your relationship has progressed pass the first bloom.  It is much easier to write.  

Tell her she is as feminine and complex as French anemones. (Let me stress complex. Don't get muddled and say complicated as this will surely start a row.)

Tell her your heart bursts with the joy of lilies each time she enters a room.

Tell her she is as elegant and fresh as the day you married her with an all-white bouquet as a reminder of her bridal gown whether you saw it sixteen years ago or sixteen months ago. 

Tell her the bend in the stem of the tulip reminds you of the curve of her neck as she leans over the crib.

Or take her a fistful of color wrapped in ribbon and tell her how happy you are that you are bound together.  The flowers will enchant her in the short term; the note, which surely if she is a woman worth having, she will keep forever.  And every time she finds it tucked in a drawer she will feel the blush of this Valentine's Day all over again.  

You might even get lucky.

Images from top: roses, unknown, but I think House Beautiful, French anemones - which are not inexpensive, I don't think, but beyond beyond- Vogue, lilies and Todd Romano Elle Decor June-July 2001. Photo by Pieter Estersohn, white bouquet, idea, tulips, unidentified H&G, tulips, again, Southern Accents some time ago.  Clearly, my entertaining file could use some due diligence.  This last arrangement I have used again and again in a tea caddy with both colorful flowers and all white.  Pretty, and pretty easy.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dr. Drip is a Dream Date

Coffee is very important to me.  I can and do start the day without it, but if I don't have some by 10:00 things can get a little ugly.

My coffee maker has been a faithful and trusty servant and has served me well for years.  (How many we can't quite remember.)

A couple of weeks ago her burner stopped heating before the pot was empty; a little jiggling set everything right.

Then yesterday I came in to the kitchen and she was gone, passed quietly in the night.

Fortunately, my friend had given me a box of Dr. Drip.  Not instant, nope, brewed coffee instantly.  Sort of like a disposable Chemex.

The coffee is very good (I know these things.)  Perfect for power outages (of which we have many) or any natural disasters (like your coffee pot dying.)  They mention something about fishing and camping as well; to that, I cannot attest.  Dr. Drip Coffee here.

Dr. Drip has done nothing for me other than give me a little pep; while valuable, I would not consider it compensation.