Sunday, February 24, 2013

"I hear with my eyes."

I had a stomach ache-faker on Wednesday and Kansas City received a foot of snow on Thursday so I have had boys home for five days.  Based on the contents of my pantry and refrigerator you might think we had a swarm of locust as well, except locust would surely wipe their feet when coming in from sledding.

The up-side of my work, which the boys refer to as "Find the Difference" as they catch me studying images on the computer so often, is that I can read a magazine or a design book and, waving them off, pronounce, "I'm working," and it works.

Curled up with Veranda on Day Two I had a thought as clear and sharp as the icicles hanging from the eaves.  I love to read magazines. This is why:

"All houses have a soul.  They speak to you.  They say, Do this, do that.  It's a sensibility I feel when I walk into a new space.  I hear with my eyes.  The day I moved into the lodge I had an enveloping, welcoming feeling.  It's the sort of house that as you put something in, it says thank you.  Nothing seems to annoy it.  It's a combination of taste and memory and a capsule of everything I've ever done: my parents' house, things I've picked up on holiday.  It all flows together in my mind and becomes a blur."

Designer Nicky Haslam has captured the very essence of it here for me.  So, I thank him and encourage you to not just look at the pictures, but read the articles.

Image, above, swiped from Mr. Halsam's site.  His home in the March/April issue of Veranda is delightful, but I am much too lazy to scan.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Scents of a Woman

There are days that begin like any other - wake the boys, fix the breakfast, pack the lunches, drive the carpools - that then unfold with the most unexpected delight.  Not all surprises are good ones, I know, but sometimes the unanticipated delivers a burst of joy.  Last week a friend, a good friend who will not flinch at the mention of either silver polish or faltering faith, sent Meyer Lemons from California with no warning.  I sliced the top of the box with the kitchen scissor and unrolled the stiff paper bag releasing the citrus scent laced with sweetness.  I tipped them into the box and bent at the waist to breathe it in.

Careful not to waste the bounty, I plotted and planned, flipping pages of cookbooks to look for recipes appealing, yet unfamiliar.  I hadn't baked with lemon before, though I love it.  Lemon Marmalade? Well, I'd never, though now I have and will again.  The fact that no one else would like it made it better, bore the same satisfaction that ordering Milk Duds at the movie did as a kid.  (My sister didn't like them so I didn't have to share.)

And then, on to the 147-step Lemon Tart that gave me fits, the result of my insecurity.   No need.  The flavor was delicious, but the texture of both crust and curd were memorable.  Everyone liked it, but I ate most of it myself, standing at the counter on one foot, the other resting against the inside of my knee, a habit of unknown origin that I can only hope works the core.

A little left, enough for muffins, surely, though I saved it for cocktails and toasted the giver.

And then, as if the universe knew that winter had ground on a little too long, another gentleman pressed a bouquet of flowers into my hands as we parted.  I can't be sure that this is so, but I do not think that hyacinths and I had been previously introduced.  I'm pretty sure we never met (though perhaps our cousins went to camp together) and now, I cannot imagine life without them, so heavenly is their scent.

I carry them with me from room to room, nuzzling their rubbery blooms.  I am intoxicated by them.  The idea of hyacinths comforted me through the lines of a poem I kept tacked to my cubicle wall a lifetime ago:

If thou of fortune be bereft,
and in thy store there be but left
two loaves, sell one and with the
dole, buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

I thought it was the beauty of the blooms that inspired the poet, but now I realize they delight the soul not only at each sight, but with each breath.

Fruit and flowers and friends are carrying me through to Spring.

The poem, above, and the one secured with push pins to my wall, was attributed to John Greenleaf Whittier.  In searching for it today, I see a very similar version is attributed to Moslih Eddin.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hide and Seek

A friend, who was at our house picking up his son last week, watched in amusement as Dexter took a sloppy drink from his bowl.  "He's certainly enthusiastic," he noted, with that or a similar euphemism for "charming disaster."

A few days ago a man whose training and business it is to observe and diagnose personalities in a very casual way deemed mine "big," so my affinity for Dexter may be one of kindred spirit.  He springs to life every morning and bounds outside to greet the day.  When he is let back in he runs to the kitchen and stands by his bowl emitting short but persistant whines until I feed him.  One would assume he's starving, but he's not; he just likes the security of a full bowl.  Once it's filled, however, he's consumed by anxiety that someone else is going to take it, though no one else ever has.  (Rosie, always polite and well-mannered, wouldn't.  Besides her pleasant nature I'm sure she wouldn't see the point.  There's been food in her bowl everyday; there always will be.)

After a bit of pacing he begins to push his bowl with this nose to a safer spot.  He usually leaves it under a kitchen chair, which causes us all to furrow our brows - it's not hidden after all - but we don't say anything because he has made such a terrific effort.  He has, accidentally I think, though Bill does not agree, pushed it down the basement stairs which made an impressive noise.  Sometimes I am reduced to all fours looking under the low shelf of the kitchen island, which, as far as hiding places go, is the best.  Last week it was behind the basket where we keep shoes and a few times he's pushed it all the way across the kitchen and covered it with the rug by the back door.

Today I came home and could not find it in any of the usual, or unusual, spots.  The youngest helped for a while, but we finally gave up.  An hour or so later I found his bowl nestled in the corner of the powder room behind the door.  So, he had pushed it across the kitchen, down the hall, through the family room, into the powder room and around the door.  He followed me in as I went and looked at the bowl as I did and then back up into my face.  Then he sat, as he does, with enthusiasm and pride at his best (and only) trick.  I reached down and held his jaw in my hand, his jowls damp against the edges of my palm and said, "Someday you will be a noble beast."  Someday, but not today.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Be My Valentine

You can find my latest article in the Kansas City Star here.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Block by Block

I was in New York last week to visit friends and, well, be in New York which I think is always a good idea.  I made a point this trip to build in time to see the exhibits that I wanted to see as well as stroll through the Winter Antique Show and fly through the gift show.

I am relentlessly curious about creative process and the Inventing Abstraction exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art scratched my itch.  I've noticed that in the ever-burgeoning world of blogging (a world that has been incredibly good to me) that sometimes people imply that visiting with designers is some kind of rare and remarkable feat, but my experience has been that decorators don't see themselves as celebrities and are only too happy to talk with someone who is interested in their work.

Unfortunately, Picasso, Albers and Delaunay are not available for brain picking, but this exhibit explores their process and the evolution of the movement in a way that made me feel as if they were.

If you are in New York during the exhibit (through April 15th) I would recommend it.  Beyond that, you might want to take a moment to watch a few videos on the site, which, if you're anything like me, will make you want to start your own salon.  Like, tomorrow.

Images, above, via  The image top is a graphic of the artists' connections; the next is Theo Van Doesburg's evolving studies of a cow and one of the resulting paintings, Composition VIII, (The Cow), which made my head explode just a little bit right on the spot.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

All Your Questions Answered

I'm following up on a few reader's questions here so there is no need to hunt back through comments.  The color of that small hall is Benjamin Moore's Tyler Taupe.  The painted chest in that piece was at Mission Road Antique Mall, but the dealer is Barbara Farmer who also has a shop, Parrin & Co., at 45th and State Line.

I did "Gracie" my dining room walls; you can see the results here.

And, how long did the powder room take? Hmmm... Painting the top part was easy - two hours, say.  I spent long stretches over two days measuring the Greek key.  Two to three hours?  Likely.  Then, the painting went pretty fast.  Probably another two hours.  (Notice how two hours measuring was long and two hours painting was fast?  Life is like that.)

As far as effort in relation to results, I would say both the powder room and the dining room (and even painting the small hall twice) made more sense than the ridiculous amount of time I spent laying out these paint palettes for the rooms of my (still nameless) house.  But it's rainy and my eldest has been sick since Friday and I have loads of tiresome things to do, so it was a welcome diversion.

Image, top, my master bedroom paint colors, which all happen to be Benjamin Moore. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Story Time

I love magazines.  Magazines have played match-maker between me and product for years and if you think it's nothing more than an unhealthy pusher-addict relationship, well it's not.  (Though I did have a conversation with a friend recently as we both described the familiar rush of getting something good and we were flushed and animated describing the feeling as our breakfast companion looked on in dismay.)

Addictions aside, the February issue of House Beautiful sent me to the keyboard clicking last week to check out Sara Story's line of wallpaper.  It didn't take long to email an image to Bill for our eldest's bathroom (a nudge to a small, but stalled project.)  Hatch, above, strikes just the right note and allows me to use Hadley's Trixie for the basement bathroom alleviating my concern about wanting it for both.

Having checked a boy's need off the list (though, honestly, he has no care of wallpaper) I clicked a little more.  There is a nook in my kitchen by the backdoor.  A nook that holds the pantry with its dry goods and leashes. A nook that holds the chalkboard with its invitations and schedules.  A nook where there is usually a large puddle on the floor where someone has upset Rosie's bowl and left the water to dry in the sun that comes in through the window.  I often think that for a space I have to visit so regularly it could offer a little more joy.  That in the midst of all of its usefulness, it could provide a lift.    

What could be more charming when scrounging for cereal or clipping the lead or turning the lock than finding Story's Kimono or Dragon?  Right now I can think of nothing more delightful than these combinations of red and yellow and green.

All images used without permission, but with good intent, from Sara Story Design.  The papers are available through Holland & Sherry.