I LOVE these little wooden nautical flags.
I've been looking for art to hang in the cottage's laundry/room mudroom wall that can be seen from the kitchen and eating area, and these are perfect. They are vaguely vintage but not hokey, nautical but not "sea-themed" and incorporate all the colors we use in the house.
"Acquire Magazine" is the best name for a magazine I've ever heard. Why be subtle? I can't actually find the link to the flags, but take a look at the website because it is a masculine luxury line whose target audience is either The Most Interesting Man in the World a la Dos Equis or for the Wall Streeter who also owns a food co-op in Williamsburg and supplies it with rare funghi that it finds whilst mountain climbing in the Himalayas.
I found lots of beautiful goods.
Especially the bags.
(Mr. Pom is more of a I-need-a-grocery-bag-to-put-my-clothes-in kind of guy when we go away. After 32 years, he is the perfectly distilled Mr. Pom, so let him be.)
As a lawyer who has to drag files to and from,I am always looking for THE briefcase/tote bag. Leather is too damn heavy once it's loaded and too boringly '80's. Have you ever seen a leather briefcase that made your heart quicken? No matter how supple the leather or how heavy the brass fittings, it still is just a boring work briefcase.
(Confession: what is worse than a conservative leather briefcase? A horrid fabric rolling one with plastic wheels and an ugly, retractable aluminum handle as tall as myself. I recently got a new assignment requiring me to drag around a lot of files and laptop and after getting tendonitis in my elbow and shoulder, I caved and bought one of these hateful contraptions. The first one I bought was TOO SMALL, - can you imagine what I am lugging around? And yes, I did consider my niche could be to design beautiful, funky ones, but who are we kidding? I will deny owning it if asked, by the way.)
I,too, want everyone to think that being a lawyer is just my day job and that in my real life I crew for my alma mater,Oxford.
Mr Pom gave me a gorgeous red leather Coach tote for Christmas, but now that spring is here, I need to find something more lightweight. Also, we spend a lot of weekends on the Cape, and I am always looking out for the IT bag that I can cram everything into without looking like a shlub.
These are some interesting bags that Acquire spotlighted; they have that clean yet funky styling that I like in a bag:
From Stanley & Sons. In denim. Luscious and love the rivets. Probably too casual for work use, but it would be in heavy rotation on weekends for laptop, journal, beach towel.
Love the leather handles and tabs and especially the outside pocket. Not suitable for most court appearances, but I certainly would use it for the office and as an overnight bag.
Hickorees Tote Bag, another beauty from Stanley & Sons and my favorite with beautifully woven fabric and hand-hammered copper rivets. Neutral enough to be used anywhere.
The name of this bag is "Wantles" and I do wantle it.
A classic duffel that sets my heart aflutter. At several thousand dollars, however, I am very happy with the one I bought a few months ago from Amazon:
(FYI: I originally saw it on Kings Lane, but it was "in someone else's cart", and I was prompted to "check back later". Ah,ingeniously manipulative marketing ploys. After checking back a few times like a fool,I googled the name of the company and found the bag on Amazon for less than the supposed "deal" price. It comes in other colors for those of you that are not as enamored of the nautical look. Sturdy yet lightweight, and balances well on the shoulder and hip when loaded down with clogs, jeans, turtleneck, laptop, and too many books).
When in doubt, stick with a Spade, in this case Jack. This is my favorite, especially for the shoulder strap links.
Another darling Jack Spade at only $38.
Acquire has all sorts of stuff for the men in your life or for your masculine side. I only looked at accessories and the pages are full of wonderful small leather goods, Iphone and I-whatever cases, as well as fun stuff like rolling leather dopp bags and leather pocketknife cases.
This is ingenious: leather Iphone case with felted sleeve so it doesn't get scratched in your bag. I suspect it is rather heavy,though, and I am trying to get the dent out of my right shoulder blade from the usual weight of my bag.
I would plunk down cash for these vintage-inspired small wallets, particulary the blue zippered one with the sweet label. At a couple hundred each, I will have to be content with Yearning to Acquire. (By Jove, I think I just invented a new blog!)
When I saw this image, I literally gasped, much to the surprise of the table next to me at Sparrow's. Quamta's Sunburst Collection is elegant simplicty. I love the thin profile, the quiet attention to detail, and the tan, red, and blue colorways, a favorite combination. Very elegant and completely unpretentious. Despite my best googling, I cannot determine the price point, but considering their as "luxurious leather goods", I believe they will become yet another entry in the Yearning to Acquire inventory.
The Quamta company not only produces these elegant and charming pieces, but also employs highly over-educated copy writers who heavily-influenced by Isaak Dinesen and Ernest Hemingway:
And I certainly would like to Acquire them.
The Quamta website identifies two stockists in New York, one of which is Patron of the New on Franklin Street. I would like to be a Patron of the New. In fact, Yearning to Acquire is now facing competition from Patron of the New as a monikor for my new pretend blog. The shop itself looks like it needs its own blog post, but that would require an in-person visit as their website is quite discreet. Better to dream.
We are enjoying the cool sunshine on the Cape before we bug out. Lots of exciting new outdoor work being done up here. Can't wait to see it all put together!
Have a good Sunday!
This post is not sponsored but brought to you free by Patron of the New who is Yearning to Acquire.
The blessed month of May.
Navigating my days with my head pointed up.
Imagining myself a squirrel lost in a blizzard of petals pink and white.
Delirium of heaven.
Wind driven petal storms, a confetti of springtime.
Blue and white and pink.
Floating in heaven colors.
Turning weary eyes to the sun.
The colors of prayer, freshly squeezed.
Imagine God again.
Steeped in the bliss of moment.
Impossible to contain.
Infancy cannot stall and live.
Fully leaf out.
Spring is the time for wandering. For some, too, the time to stay home and dig out from the accumulated detritus of winter:
The Pomegranates have been whipping to and fro on the weekends. First, to the cottage to try to line up some people to do work on various things like the tree that came down in the last nor'easter, a fence for the dogs so we can bring them up there without walking them seventy million times a day, and the possiblity of turning the garage into a family room/art studio. Many, many people have come over with clipboards in hand. Many, many plans discussed. Excitement! Enthusiasm! And then....nothing. Either they never send an estimate, never return a call, or just disappear into the ether. I suppose they are all watching the herrings run. And who can blame them?
Last weekend it was time to visit Micalangela and in the true spirit of her parents, she knew where to get the bet seafood at the cutest seaside town. We toured the military academy at Annapolis and read the names of all the Captains lettered on the front steps of the officers' housing. We swooned over the Chesapeak at the foot of Main Street, the Victorian B &B's, and, of course, those sailors in their dress uniforms. Nothing beats a broad-shouldered man in a double-breasted military jacket with one of those flat white hats a la Top Gun.
Just to put the icing on the cake, all my love of the South came flooding back when we hiked up the hill to see the Maryland State House, which was the capital of the United States for two years in the late 1700's. Cobblestoned streets, ancient trees, cottagey houses next to pillared mansions, and tiny shops filled with old chairs, chinoiserie, and pink and green dear bibelots. I fear I would abandon the Cape if I could inherit the AMAZING little bookstore we stumbled into in the historic part of Annapolis.
But home is where the heart is. There's plenty to see around these parts. Had a wonderful trip into Manhattan a few weeks ago with the Traveling Painter Sisters. It was a cold, rainy gloomy morning and then this:
The Sisters of the Traveling Paint Caravan (we change the name with each writing), took off for Soho for the opening of a new store that the fearless and chic Betti Zucker knew all about: Gudrun Sjödén Concept Store, 50 Greene Street.
Never has there been a store as bright, fresh, creative, and whimsical and it was just the antidote for the long, lingering late winter miasma.
Here is the beautiful Gudrun hereself, posing with our own colorful, chic character, BZ, who is wearing one of the beautiful outfits created by Gudrun. Doesn't Gudrun just emanate joy and peace?
Get our your watercolors, pastels, and colored pencils and dream up some of your own textile designs. We can all be Swedish for the day!
If you are not one to wear hand-printed textiles and layers of color, there are gorgeous home furnishings to brighten your life.
Look at the darling entertainment! I am so sorry that I did not get the name of this duo, but I am sure they will be at Terminal 5 in a few years. Can you imagine walking into a store of shoppers on a busy afternoon and just....singing? They were wonderful and wanted to take them home.
We left loaded down with goodies in the fabulous cloth shopping bags that are a feature of the store. Gudrun believes in making all her products as green as possible. Her lovely bags make perfect journal bags, beach bags, or even with a quick seam, a beautiful pillow case.
A photographer was employed to take photos of the customers as we left the store. Some of us had to be dragged in front of the lens. Others? Well, let's just say that "presence" is their middle name.
My emotions in the past year have tilted as wildly as a thirteen year-old getting her period for the first time. I have slid from extreme happiness to the depths of grief and rollercoasted up and down this trail enough times to qualify for the black diamond ski runs. When I look in the mirror, I fully expect to see a face full of pimples, so much do I feel like a teen ager thrust into a grown up world.
A very, very old teen ager.
It is a little late for me to have middle aged crisis. Perhaps a late-middled aged crisis?
I've been cleaning out my old art room, which had turned into the box room, filled with all the odds and ends of my house and my mother's. I couldn't face unpacking her effects, so I had allowed it to pile up until the room resembled an episode of "Hoarders".
Hand put to the fire this week due to the moving of her furniture to our various houses, I began sorting through the muddle. As difficult as it was to unpack her personal belongings, I had the pleasure of rediscovering some artwork I had long forgotten about. Stored behind an armoire was a large carboard portfiolio that contained many pieces I had made for Cloth, Paper, Scissors. The one that caught my attention the most was this oversized mixed media self portrait published in Mixed Media Self Portraits.
I struggled with this submission. My level of skill is never commensurate with my vision. More critically, the vision of my "self" was extremely difficult to render. Before I could even put pencil to sketch pad, I had to winnow down all the mirror views of self, crack the nutshell, and retrieve the nugget of "me" that was my essential, sacred core.
I don't really work from a finished project backwards, though. My creative process is never a straight line from here to there. I accumulate, ponder, take a nip and a stitch, glue a few things, staple another, fold, pleat, paint, and add and subtract to a stable (hopefully) substrate.
I cannot think of a time when I sat down with idea in mind and rendered it in one fell swoop into a finished piece. Sketchbook open, I will fill pages with words, doodles, quotes, cites, tear outs, postcards, color samples, and any fodder that sparks the imagination.
Gradually, quietly, loudly, with much fits and starts and ripping out and painting over, "I" began to appear. My young self, a grammar school portrait of that girl who suddenly discovered that reading could save her life. A tiara made of pages from Little Women topped my head, my homage to a book that gave me the first glimpse of who I could be.
A paper apron fashioned from a yellow, lined legal pad that bears the names of the most important books in my life is tied around my mid section, protecting and nurturing the womb that will nurture my most sacred creations, my children.
Behind me flows a lace mantilla, a Communion veil, a filmy, floating rendition of my faith, and on my hands, the white gloves a connection to ritual, ceremony, and family, a recognition of my conservative, Italian American, traditional family solid substrate.
The portrait is modeled after the classic First Communion pose, inspired by the many black and white and grainy color family photographs capturing five daughters stiffly standing in their communion finery in front of the azaleas and squinting into the sun. However, I hold neither a Missal nor a rosary but the book that became my bible as I weathered the 25 years of life, The Golden Notebook. The novel quieted the confusion I carried through the first quarter century by validating that I can contain all my different "selves" by merging them through writing and art: the good Italian daughter; the hippie writer; the conservative law student; the intellectual; the crafter; the wanderer; the bride.
Here I am now, a few years later than when I made this portrait, but I feel no need to redo my image. instead, I look at what I have painted to remind myself of what I chose to represent myself. In times of great stress and emotion, I remind myself to return to the core values that define my life: I love to read; I love to write; I love to paint. I love my husband and I love being married; I love my children and love being "in family" with all of us together; I love my sisters and I love living near them; I love my friends and love the treat of spending time with them. I have a job that allows me to do all these things.
And I need now to find add to the self that will grace this last chunk of life. Whatever years lay ahead, I need, now, right now, to carve out one more journal that holds the self that will gird me to weather this aging, this time of loss and grief, this time of family growth and excitement, this time of digging deeper into the roots of marriage and redefining being a couple beyond child-rearing. This is the most important journal, the one that is left, the one that will map out of me the ability to finally, finally, finally to accomplish those things that I have carried in my heart all my life, or continue to battle depression and anxiety at every turn.
I am very protective of my little girl. I can't hang her up. She damages a large room, a vista from which to take her in. I am too protective of her to allow her to be judged by detached eyes. Perhaps that is the next step in my portraiture, not a revision, but a reveal.
I sing today
of greening grass
and crocuses sharp
leaves cutting hard
earth for tender
purple heads defiant
on a hillside
yellow stamen powders
my hand but
I fail to gather
the beauty indoors.
Plastic wrapped grocery
package bundle of
pin and white and green
and a gray
blue pitcher made
from the clay of
mountains of Virginia
brought home as
our engagement gift
to our tender selves,
young and defiant
still holding water
no visible cracks
some thirty -two
years of Holy
soft and fresh
as hot cross buns
on our tongues.
All signs point to Spring. No matter that I have on a fleece and parka when we walk the dogs along the bay (nor that I beg off the next morning as I haven’t felt warm once since we got here). No, I knew it was spring when we tumbled out of the car at midnight and the stars were gaspingly bright and the next day there was an hour when we sat in the backyard and I sunned myself while Mr. Pom made a fire of the bazillions sticks that have fallen in the storms.
This push and pull between the Cape and New York is like the hum of piano strings long after the chord is played. The vibration is ever present, unheard but felt, a siren song of mermaids, sea chanties, and the wide open spaces of ocean and bay.
So, too, is the push and pull between the past and the present.
Spring increases the pull tenfold, making the competing concerns of wanderlust and home more polarized than ever. Which to follow, which to ignore? I want to catch that first Spring day when I can smell the ocean in the backyard and the sun Easter, though, is near at hand and it will take some work to prepare my soul and my larder.
Easter brings out the Sicilian in me. And the New Yorker. Where are the aunts, uncles, cousins, cannoli, cassatta, Easter baskets, little girls in bonnets, little boys in linen shorts, What to do now that all that is yellowed Polaroids in corrosive plastic sleeves?
Reinvent ourselves once again, of course, but within the paradigm.
When the youngest came home from school for a quick visit before her trip to the Deep South, she was longing for a New York spring. I know what was on her mind and after picking her up on the upper west side, we convinced Mr. Pom to take us to Arthur Avenue, the Little Italy of the Bronx. Photographs, just photographs, we told him, as we are all on diets but really needed a little Italian Easter preview. I know everyone thinks that Christmas is the Italian primo festa, but no, Easter is the holiday that brings out all things Italian, particularly all things Sicilian in our family.
So with firm resolve not to eat sugar, and with the proviso that the youngest gave up meat for Lent, we traveled to the world where pastry shops compete with pork stores for square footage. Ah, what fools we be.
Go to Arthur Avenue, listen to a few snatches of Italian amidst the Spanish, drool over the creamy mozarella, still warm to the touch, gag at the lamb's heads lined up like skulls in the catacombs in ancient Rome, inhale the unctuous smell of dried sausage hanging like stalactites from the pork store ceiling, and dreamily point out miniature pastries to the girl behind the bakery counter until she informs you that your one pound has turned to two.
Ah, Easter, Easter! Your transformation of powdery white shell into brilliantly dyed eggs! The scientific alchemy of rock hard rounds of color released into acidulated water. The smell of sulphur the sweet perfume of Easter Saturday and the fight over the little copper wire egg dipper, as iconic a symbol as the Paschal Lamb. And candy, candy, candy, chocolate candy! The BASKET OF CANDY with its leaning tower of a Lofts chocolate cross threatening to topple the whole thing over, crushing peeps and send foiled eggs and jelly beans skittering across the floors.
But before the cellophaned baskets are discovered behind the dusty drapes, Lent must be traveled.
The Lent of my childhood: Mite Boxes (pennies for pagan babies); deciding what to "give up", followed by six weeks of secretly transgressing (all TV, really? Who were you kidding?); statues shrouded in purple; Stations of the Cross (another eternity of journey round the church in a cloud of incense); the sickly smell of the Easter lily that lays heavy in the car on the way to my father's mother's house; Fridays' toaster oven fishsticks, a dollop of Heinz on the side and a neat serving of formerly frozen corn the only bright spot of the evening's meal. Finally, the Palm Sunday endless Mass followed by the cold, hungry trip to the cemetery while my parents try to remember where all the realtives are buried.
You must earn Easter. You must pass through the darkness. You must renew your baptismal promises. And you must, ever must, be prepared to suffer foodstuffs that you would never normally allow anywhere near your mouth. For on Easter, all Italians return to their ethnic roots and, in a household that pretty much existed on London broils and boxes of frozen vegetables lined up Rockettes on the freezer door, there suddenly exists a white enameled pan of cold water in which sits a smelly, hard, salt-encrusted piece of cod covered by an old dishtowel. For three days.
Easter's gustatory finer involve odd things like hardboiled eggs baked into braids of bread. Cubed cold cuts baked in an "Easter pie" called pizza rustica. My mother's attempt to serve a rare leg of lamb and the inevitable disappointment of slices of grey meat wtih a bloody center that we cover up with globs of treacy green mint jelly. Or heavens forbid, should my aunt be ill or too tired to make cassata - imagine a flat, plain cookie dough - just flour and oil - in the top of a fish tin, baked till browned, then spread with a thick layer of cannoli, studded with pastel amonds or half-cherry slices and dusted with sprinkles whose color begins to leach into the sugared cheese before we can cut it after dinner.
Ravioli made in Grandma's basement, tender dough rolled onto a tin form that made pockets to fill with ricotta, this time mixed with eggs, parmesan, salt, and the most delicate chiffonade of parsley. Boiled in a pot big enough to cook a small child, and stirred only, ONLY with a wooden spoon so as not to rent the tender dough.
The first course of homemade chicken soup, then ravioli covered in silken gravy, sausages from Bellantoni's - hot and sweet - baked ham, bread from the Bronx, then salad, and then artichokes as big as a baby's head, steamed and served with wedges of lemon, the hairy core shrieked at by children who make their aunt scrape it before they eat the heart, and the admonition to drink all their milk beforehand.
These are the impossible dreams I think of when I think of Easter dinner.
Is it any wonder we all over eat? What can ever live up to these eucharistic memories, family hand in hand with food?
So, of course, I am more determined than ever to out-cook every Easter we've ever had; to prepare a feast worthy of my grandparents' houses, our childhood home, our babies' first baskets, our Californian drives through the Blossom Trail, and our tucking into our grits and deviled eggs amidst the ice sculptures on the Peabody Terrace while the jazz band played.
It will of course, be a colossal mess of eggs and flours and olive oil and cheese. I will burn things, forget things, serve undercooked waffles and runny eggs, run out to the deli to buy a pizza rustica at a ransom price, mutter to myself as I dye our only eggs, forget where the recipe is for the Easter bread and remember that no one ever eats it anyway, and end up biting the head off my husband a kid's chocolate rabbit before the day is done.
Ah, all that and some homemade cream puffs more is all you could ever want from a holiday.
Is the color of my beloved's eyes, of Mary's mantle, of hydrangeas, lupines, and morning glories, of the first time I was allowed to paint my own room, of the dress I danced in at the wedding of our daughter.
Blue is heaven and seas and swimming pools, but not ponds and lakes in general. Blue is striped beach bags and towels and Julia's little bedroom and the center hall that is periwinkle and not purple regardless of what they say.
Blue is the inlaid turquoise bracelet I bought for myself in high school and still wear; blue is the tiny tracery of veins under the translucent skin of my newborns' heads and the veins that appear in my breasts when I nurse them.
Blue is mattress ticking and sky and the metal spoon I use to scoop out the foam in my cappuccino each morning. Blue is the dishes we ate from in childhood and the sketching pencils and ceramic carpet balls and my grandmother's transferware teapot with the broken lid that I glued back together and use for tea on snowy afternoons midwinter.
Blue is serene and calm and baptismal fonts and the giant ceramic bowl my sisters gave us for our tenth wedding anniversary and my broken heart when my father died weeks before then.
Blue is the baby bunting covered in rubber duckies that Jessica wore as an infant after her bath.
Blue is the ceiling of every porch I have owned and the color of the side-by-side that made everyone gasp when they saw I painted over the quarter sawn oak.
Blue is turquoise and cerulean, royal and navy, French and cobalt and indigo and azure and lapis lazuli.
Blue washes into green and makes teal and bleeds from new jeans and is an eyeshadow that no one under 65 wears anymore.
Blue is the impossible color of the water in Montego Bay when it was so hot I am dizzy and float face down in a delirium of not knowing which was is up or which way down.
Blue is both sky and ocean, the bowl we swim in, the air we breathe and fly into; bluebells and blue jays and blue bonnets and bluebirds themselves.
Blue is the color I dive into and swim down down down until there is nothing to hear but the roar of my own blood in my ears and the vacuum of nothing but space and time and a raft floating across the water on a July afternoon after 4:00.
And such is blue to me.
I am working on Blue today, and here is a little tease until later.....
Blue is the most amazing gift I ever found at my front door:
Thank you dear, sweet Kathy, who not only gave me this gorgeous Pam Carriker painting, but gave it to me after she won at Art Is this October. Can you imagine, she won this, but knew I had put all my own raffle tickets in the bag for it, and saved it since October to give to me? I was literally quite "blue" after that weekend, as I left after a call from Mr. Pom took me out of Tracy Verdugo's class with the heartbreaking news about my mother. I haven't been able to look at anything I've done from that weekend and it is all packed away. Kathy not only packed my clothes up and drove me home as I cried and cried, she came back and closed up my paints and washed all my brushes, and packed up all my supplies. She still has my half-finished canvas at her studio and promises to gesso over it as I can't face working on it. And thank you to Pam Carriker, who I had just met for the first time the day before in her wonderful class. Two amazing women whose spirits are as bright and amazing as their talent.
I will spend a pleasurable morning finding just the right place to hang this beauty.
Oops, I want to write about seeing Mumford & Sons, so why am I quoting Avett Brothers?
Mr. Pom is nothing if not a good sport. Sometime before Christmas, I missed a few concerts that we had tickets to due to schedules, weather, illness (of others). After I was dragged to see we went to see Neil Young in December for his birthday, he felt badly that I had missed some of the concerts that I wanted to see. So when I told him that Mumford & Sons were playing at the new Barclay Center in Brooklyn, he told me to get tickets.
Of course, in this day and age, you can't just log onto Ticketmaster and buy tickets. Har har! No! All the tickets are sold in 30 minutes to robo buyers who quickly flip them onto Stub Hub where you get to pay 4 times the cost. (They can't stop this, but I can't post a comment on a friend's blog without ten minutes of trying to decipher the captcha.)
The ticket prices for their two shows were a tad steep, but Mr. P, being in that magnaminous pre-Christmas mood said, buy them! They'll be your birthday gift! Gulp. Okay. Of course, once the holidays were over and the bills starting pouring in, his mood started to darken ever so slightly over our budget and there were a few mutterings heard about those Mumford tickets.
The week before we were to go, we had tickets to see Citizen Cope at a local theater. These tix were pretty cheap and I was excited since I really like him and it is a small venue and would be a very relaxing, romantic show. Mr. Pom, however, had a little surgery and didn't recupe as fast as we thought and at the last minute, we had to cancel. But it was okay, cause in ten days it was Mumford time!
On Monday, Mr. P did me a favor and dropped the pups off at daycare cause I had to be in court all day in the Bronx. You can kill a wife with a heart attack if you call her at 7 a.m. in a voice barely audible and tell her that you fell on ice in the parking lot, couldn't get up from the pavement in the pouring rain and your knee is swelling up like a balloon and you hit your back (not to mention the minor surgery incision....).
So I had a rough Monday. Obviously, he had a rougher one. The next night was my birthday and THE CONCERT. In Brooklyn. Micalenangela would have gladly come but she would have to take the train up from Baltimore and miss two days of classes. The Bride would have gladly accompanied me, but she is on her honeymoon. In warm, sunny Mexico. In a room with a private pool. So: NO. Mystery Man was my last chance, but knowing he's not a Mumford fan and he has a long drive home and has to work the next day, I hesitated. When he heard about our troubles, he didn't hesitate a second and said he'd gladly go with me. Too bad, he said, I didn't have another ticket cause his girlfriend is crazy about Mumford.
Mr. Pom was suspiciously good-humored despite his aches and pains. He refused all talk of someone else taking me. But you don't even like them, I said. It's a bit of drive, your back acts up on a good day when sitting for that long, you know we'll probably have to stand the whole time....
The concert was amazing. The opening act was another artist I'd just discovered, Ben Howard, who is also British and has very soulful songs with amazing lyrics and has that Brit folk rock amazing guitar, drums, fiddle thing going. I didn't know he was going to be there so I kept punching Mr. Pom in the arm, which may have been the only place not hurting.
Our seats were expensive but fantastic. MM's girlfriend at the last minute got a free ticket through her job so we were texting each other all night, which was fun. All the boys and girls around us were in fact boys and girls of our children's age and boy oh boy do those boys and girls know how to drink at a concert. Wonder they heard anything with all the to and fro-ing for beer, wine, and bathroom. (Don't I sound real old and crotchety?)
We did stand the whole time and in order to fit in with the young'uns, I kept my cell phone at eye level, but I only pretended to watch it on the screen and was really watching it for real in person. I'm sneaky like that in order to fit in with the hipster crowd. (You can buy brats, artisanal cupcakes, sushi and vegan queso con something but don't cause it was terrible.)
And oh, the concert itself? Over Da Top, Brooklyn Style. They had a horn section, drums, fiddlers, bass, dramatic Marcus solos, rousing, clapping, yelling, sing-a-longs, and then almost at the end, they disappeared off the stage and popped up right in front of us for a 4-person harmony with acoustic guitar. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!
But wait - Yes, wait - They ended with - The Weight. Mr. Pom looked like he was going to cry. MM's girlfriend said she sobbed a little. I sang my heart out, and I wanted you to hear it, but the file will not upload to Typepad. Probably just as well since it would be painful to all but me since I am in fact tone deaf.
What a night. What a show. What a guy.
And this is why there is no Color Post. But it is coming soon to a theater near you!
Here is a lovely little vignette video as my Valentine to you all. The best of summer in the midst of winter!
May your day be filled with heartful life~
I know, I know today I should be posting my "Blue" post. But my scanner is being wonky and I am not going to subject you to photographs taken with a flash of my journal pages. So, promise to have that up later in the week.
I've been surfing a few blogs and noticing a nice trend of "joy" posts. Now, these are truly off the cuff "joy" posts; random little spots of surprise that bring me, well, just plain old joy.
No one really likes February.
Tell the truth: you don't, either.
It's cool, I understand. And just because it's my birthday month, you shouldn't feel guilty about it.
Hard to like February, I know. The cold is starting to wear. The snow is SO ovah. Boots are boring. Cancelled plans due to coughs and cold and flue and phlegm is really last year. Enough!
Look what's on the shelf of your local supermarket or nursery.
Green that isn't evergreen!
Courtesy of http://www.webexhibits.org/pigments/intro/greens.html
Luscious spring green, sap green, yellow green, the green of crocus stems and wheatgrass grown on your windowsill. The green of my daughter's eyes and the tender shoots of daffodils daring to poke through on these sunny, too warm days for February. Mother earth green, mineral green, the green of life, of water, and algae, The green of life returning.
So far, it's true, it's mainly in the stores, the hothouses, and under glass. But the fronds of the weeping willows have already yellowed up for their pre-spring fling.
The light is clearer in the morning and gentler at the end of day. Dusk does not fall as much as a curtain but as a flare up of sunset and then a gentle charcoal rub.
I am planning a little party. One filled with an alphabet rainbow of color and fruit and cake and paints and silliness. I'll tell you about it later, though. It's still in the planning stages and secrets must be kept.
It will definitely involve something like this:
And it is absolutely mandatory that a big splash of yellow will be involved if not from the sun than from something completely charming and very lady of the manor:
I hope it will be as much fun as this, but I can't set my sights too high! These ladies know how to combine art, food, females, color, and total silliness in a big way. I bow at the feet of the masters:
Don't be a downer and point out that all this color, this verve of green is all in my head. And do NOT send me pictures with captions that say, "Where are you living? This is what it looks like out there":
Cause in my head, it looks like this:
After all, the best parties are the ones you throw yourself. In fact, the best parties are the ones you plan in your head, with stars on your tongue,a symphony in your ear, and the man of your dreams twirling you on the sands of eternal summer.
Lacking that at the moment, and since it is MY birthday month, and since I am tired of sleeping with the electric blanket on, and my skin can be used to sandpaper dry wall, and my friend just texted me a photo of the beach in Puerto Rico where she is staying, I declare February to be the month of pink and green, chocolate and flowers, hearts and heart strings, symphonies and ballets, macaroons and nosegays, balloons and layer cakes, party favors and high heels, glass glitter and craypas.
I see only clear skies in my crystal ball. I see pink and purple sunrises and flaming orange sunsets. I see salted caramels and beach taffy, candy apples and truffles, chocolate covered strawberries and big red plush hearts filled with nougat and creams.
At the very least, friends and M&M's.
Promising you color all month from pomegranatesandpaper.
With thanks to my sister Maria for most of these photos cause her house always looks like spring.
Regardless of whom you voted for, it was a sight to behold today as we marked the second term of the presidency. I am a pageantry and ritual geek: give me a trumpet's fanfare, a young, beautiful family, and choirs performing America The Beautiful, and I am all goosebumpy and teary-eyed.
Pageantry and ceremony have an important place in our lives. Ceremony signifies and marks the important thresholds of life: birth, coming of age, graduations, weddings, more births, and ultimately, death.
Rituals also are important in our creative lives. I know artists that always start a work by lighting incense, or ringing a bell, or playing a much-loved mix tape from college years. Do you have any ritual you perform when you begin to work?
When I am overwhelmed with work of any kind, my first ritual is to clean. (Cleanest drawers and closets in the dorm when I was trying to finish my thesis.)
Having just finished the final touches on the class samples for Art Is You (Nashville & Stamford, yo - sign up!), my studio looked like an episode of Hoarders. So I dug out from under the art paper, scraps, stamps, ribbon, images, scissors, washi tape, ink pads, wet brushes, glue brushes, empty glue sticks, and rolls of double-sided tape.
This house is bursting at the seams right now with "stuff". We are settling The Empress's estate and there is much to and froing of linens, glasses, vases, dishes, and all the accoutrements of 87 years of living. Her items are in transition, waiting for a permanent placement.
While our country is in transition as our president enters his second term, while the weather is in transition as we have broken winter and it is now perpetual early spring, and my family is in transition as we have our elders passing on and our children going off to college and jobs, my art and writing is also at the thin edge of the wedge.
The Thin Edge of The Wedge.
I do love this expression. It is so elegant, descriptive, symbolic, and apt. It has, dare I say, aplomb?
I admit that I initially misconstrued the meaning of this metaphor. I thought it meant that the thin edge of the wedge was the poorer end, the lesser end, the narrow -left-for-crumbs end. I hated being ascribed to the thin end. I want the rich, fecund, fertile, blooming end of it. Is nothing new to come to me? I am here just to tread water until "retirement", when I will just tread water until death?
I realize now that I was looking at the narrow end of the wedge from head on, seeing only the sliver of it, the narrowness, the meaness, the paucity of it. I recognized only the tapering off, the scaling back, the wasting away.
It's what I do sometimes, a lot of times, most of the time.
With aplomb, I suggest you view the narrow end of the wedge from the other side. See it as the flying buttress it actually is.
Think about it: where is the power in a wedge? Is it on the blunt, full back that we whack away at? Does a knife cut with the thick edge, or the narrow? Do you place a log splitter the narrow side down or the wide?
The power, movement, strength, and raw energy is in the narrow edge.
Cleave it in two and you have twice as much.
Shatter it and you have fragments that you can rearrange into a much more interesting whole.
It is exciting to be living at the thin edge of the wedge. It is not comforting or comfortable, nor does it have the harmony of the semblance of a whole. It does not make for sleepful nights. It causes you to question everything from the life choices you made and your insistence that women over 40 have no business wearing leggings to work.
Revolution is always the thin edge of the wedge. It is messy, powerful, and sometimes fatal (in this case, fatal to your old way of sticking to things).
Why be safe and try to hang onto the thin edge until my fingertips cramp? Why am I waiting for the "right time" to make the work that I think about on every drive to work on every morning of my life?
The thin edge of the wedge means you have to be prepared to plunge into the blank white wall in front of you with all the sharpness you can muster.
Be Ahab; take no prisoners.
Your beautiful and generous messages on the last post went straight to my heart. I can't help myself: writing is what I do. So I welcome the second decade (how strange does that sound?) of blogging. Bring it on interwebs, bring it on!
Sunday morning and the nine o'clock church bells are muffled in the fog that drips from every branch. They do not wake me, as we've been up since six, awakened by the sounds of a large vehicle outside the house, along with clanking, and loud voices. It was as black as midnight and I assumed it just was our fireman neighbor getting a lift home on a hook and ladder. When the noise didn't stop, I was loathe to get out of bed but just when I put my feet on the cold floor, the doorbell rang, turning the noise from an annoyance into an alarm.
Oh lordie, I thought, maybe someone hit our car - and then in a flash, I remembered. "Peapod! It's Peapod!" On Friday night, I had tried to place a grocery delivery for today but the only slot left was from 6 to 8 - in the morning. We are usually up by 7 with the dogs and the last time I ordered, they didn't show up until after 8:00 anyway, so I reserved the slot without
Now that I'm thinking of it, though, that last order was the Sunday before Christmas. This weekend, it appears, they are not only on time but early as the clock says 5:56 when the doorbell rings. Mr. Pom and I run around the room like cartoon figures, grabbing at pants and shoes in the dark while I mindlessly call out, "Peapod! Peapod!" to assure him we weren't being robbed.
He ran down the stairs without any discussion as to who would open the door. (Men can pull off just out of bed deshabille much better than women due to short hair, fleece pajama pants, and t-shirts. I on the other hand, have Einstein-style hair, no bra, and no intention of going downstairs. He is such a good man.)
After they left, accusations flew around to the likes of never do this again, how could you forget, and for god's sake can we ever sleep in? Sigh. It did not help the matter when I confessed that on Friday night I had ordered just the minimum amount to reserve the delivery slot, with full intention to go back online Saturday to round out the order. Saturday came and went with a quick coffee trip to the city, and intense artmarking all afternoon, capped off by a sudden onset of a stomach virus that had me in bed at seven. So not only were we dragged out of bed in the dark, we still had a trip to the grocery store ahead to round out the week's needs. (On the bright side, it took us only a few minutes to put the groceries away.)
And such is life. Even when blissfully asleep, life intrudes. Sometimes we handle these intrusions with aplomb, and sometimes we do it half-arsed. Sometimes we show up, like Mr. Pom, with 2 differently colored shoes on. But we still have to answer the door.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
What a wonderful word. My word for 2013.
The pomegranate is rich in myth, symbolism, and history. I fell in love with the story of Demeter and Persephone, especially after I became aware that Sicily is known as "Persephone's Island'. My mother's maternal grandparents were born in Sciacca, Sicily, and since my grandfather was adopted (perhaps by Sicilians, also, I don't remember), my mother's family considered themselves Sicilian more than Italian.
However, I didn't adopt the pomegrante as a symbol just from myth. At Christmas, my mother always bought odd, tropical fruits to serve after dinner. This was the part of the meal that I looked forward to as a kid. First off, it was the course that preceeded dessert, which was the course around which the holiday revolved, the course for which the holiday existed in my kid cookied-crazed mind. For Pete's sake, when we were going to get to EAT the 10 tins of cookies that we had made in the weeks preceeding Christmas? After all, once the gifts were given, the only thing left was the cookies.
It was not just my sugar-obsession that made my anticipate when my mother put out a centerpiece of tangerines, clementines, perhaps some berries, slices of melon bought at great cost in midwinter, and always, these odd, strangely shaped fruits that we only had at Christmas. My mother also bought figs and dates, almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts, dried fruit (which no kid would touch), and a pomegranate and a prickly pear. Then, just as the women and conscripted older children finished up the first dishwashing and drying, a great pan of chestnuts would come out of the oven and be placed on a silver tray and we would use our linen napkins to grab the nuts and squeeze off the husk and papery inner lining, and be rewarded with a mouthful of warm, sweet, creamy chestnut.
The first pot of coffee would be perked and the table would be set with cups and saucers and dessert plates. The men would loosen their ties, the littler kids would disappear to the living room to play with their toys, and the women would replace their wedding rings, bracelets, and watches, and sit down. My grandfather would peel an apple with a pen knife in one spiral swoop; the nuts would be passed and nutcrackers handed out; and my mother would make all the kids squeal in disgust when she sliced open that strange prickly pear and ate it.
I have this memory of my mother placing a pomegranate on a large dinner dish so the red juice wouldn't stain her Christmas tablecloth, and slicing it open with a fruit knife. She scooped out a tumble of glistening seeds onto a white saucer and passed it around. The seeds were much prettier than the gross prickly pear, so we each took a few to try. As we picked at the pomegranate seeds, and the men crushed nuts, and grapes were nibbled, and the candles burned down to stumps, the stories began to be told about the great grandparents who were gone, and the days when they all lived together in one house like a 3-layer cake.
I'd listen to the stories and learn about Manana and Rocky Point and Boston and Uncle Baker and Dolly and these people whose names I knew but maybe had never met. Often the women would lower their voices and lapse into Italian and I knew they were discussing something they didn't want the kids to understand. It was a relaxing, informal time before the formal dessert course, before the next wave of relatives came and the table would have more places laid out and even a card table set up. It was the time when my mother would finally shrug off the stress of putting on Christmas and laugh, and not worry whether the silver was polished or the all our Christmas dresses were hemmed. I knew if I kept quiet and just listened, I'd learn much.
Eventually my father would light his pipe, make a risque joke, and my grandmother would laugh at it despite herself, her gold bracelets jiggling on her arm. Relatives would come and go, more coffee would be poured, the cookies would come out, along with cannoli and pastries and cakes and soon my stomach would hurt and I'd get sleepy and lean against my Aunt Anita and be ready to let Christmas go.
When I began pomegranatesandpaper (and for those still wondering, it is pomegranates and paper, not pomegranate sandpaper...) I wanted to have it be like that special hour after dinner, where you loosened your belt, sipped some coffee, and picked at the fruit and nuts. I wanted to give you the stories of family, of love, of the world. I wanted to give you the that moment in the day when the candles are burned down low and a pipe is lit and the smoke rises like incense as we bless each other with the words of our families and tell the stories of the generations.
I think I have done that pretty well. I try to stay true to the facts (I've certainly given you lots of nuts) ; I never sugar coat the truth as long as it won't hurt or embarass those that are written about; and I have become relied upon by my family, especially my children, to tell the story of our lives and those we love. It is a matter of pride to me that my children go to my blog to read about what happened when, and that some of the family are reading through old posts to pull together their memories of The Empress. My only regret is that I had not done it years before so I wouldn't have to squint as I try to decipher my hand-written journals from the pre-blog years.
My life has changed dramatically from when I started this. I spent the weekend dismantling my mother's dining room with its drawers full of tablecloths, serving dishes, candles, bobeches, monogrammed luncheon cloths, dessert plates, goblets, nutcrackers, salt cellars, and all the finery and bric a brac that her generation relied upon to entertain. I worry that I our family life is being dismantled, also, and that our stories will be lost as children grow and move and life becomes so much more frantic and work-filled and holidays become dinners ordered out and all these names are just words chiseled in stone.
I am wiser and less in love with my own words than I was ten years ago. I can't write much about The Empress without crying and I can't look at pictures too much from the past ten years without welling up at seeing her, so it is difficult to browse for photos to post. I censor myself so much more now as I so much more aware of how easy it is for others to find this blog, those people who may not hold my best interests above their own.
I have settled into a once a week posting, usually at the beginning of the week, which is working for me right now. My page views are pitifully low, but that is okay as I am no longer the woman who believed I could spin this blog into more than that it is and retire from my profession and monetize the crap out of this.
So much more relaxing just to share when I want, no? And how I treasure the friends I've made here. You are all friends, you know. I speak of you often. I preface it is always for my family with "a blog friend, so and so" and they've learned to understand that you are as important and special as those that I see in real life. And so many of you I have met or message off blog, and you've all become a special part of my world. .
I have nothing negative to say about blogging or the internet or social media except that I have to treat it like a dessert and make sure I live a balanced life so I actually read the books I promote and use the art supplies I talk about.
My goal for 2013 is less words (oh, I've fallen short already!) and more art and journal pages.
I hope you stick around for the Tenth Year. It sounds so significant, perhaps even a little ominous. I hope it will not be, I hope we'll just play together for a bit more as I find my way in a changing family world and find my face up against the window of the past, waving it goodbye, straining to catch a glimpse of the future.
These are the luxurious days: nothing-left-to-do-days; returns-can-wait-till-next-week-days; leftovers-instead-of-cooking-days; tired-out-enough-to-stay-at-home-days. The weather cooperates by being snowy and icy one hour, then raw and drizzling rain the next. Dogs asleep on the sofa like bookends, with the velvet pillow supporting two snouts. Time now to paint, to listen to an Alaskan wilderness mystery, to wonder at the creative soul that first brought a tree into a house and dared to put candles on it, or to just nod off in front of the fire while pretending to read a book.
I am happy to report that my coffee table is stacked high with books - Taschen's Guides to New York and to London, with their colorful, painted covers; The School Prints, A Romantic Project; Danny Gregory's A Kiss Before You Go (this one borrowed from Sister #5); Atlas of Remote Islands; (I forgot to tell you about this one - "A rare and beautifully illustrated journey to fifty faraway worlds.") Also, Birds by Jeffrey Fischer (even more witty and colorful in person), and the audio discs of British Writers.
I could not tell you about this book, because I was giving it to the retired science teacher sister for Christmas :The Where, the Why, and the How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science.
I bought it for the illustrations, many of which are done by artists whose work I know and blogs I follow. A delightful, fascinating look at many scientific mysteries, perfect for the amateur science sleuth, whether young or old. A copy for her and a copy for me; perhaps this is why my bookcases are overflowing?
Our darling cookie fairy sent us 3 boxes crammed full of treats of everything from gingerbread men to cheese straws. I hid the boxes on top of a bookcase in the dining room so I could serve them on Christmas Eve. A sharp-eyed child, one who doesn't even live here anymore, saw them as soon as she walked into the house on the day they arrived. Nevertheless, I held strong and wouldn't allow them to be touched (except for a quick sample by myself - had to check if they had survived transit, after all!) I can report that they were as rich and delicious as the day they were made. I don't know what I did to deserve my own cookie fairy godmother, but I thank God that Rachel is in the world, spreading her special and sweet brand of Christmas cheer. She is a star in the heavens!
Today, I am sleepy lazy; content to putter and paint; dogs asleep at my feet; gray light causing me to reach for silvery hues of blue and washed out shades of green; and now it is time for that long winter's nap.Wishing you rare, somnolent days filled with little bits of nothing and lots of staring at the tree.
Sun is shining on this December 23rd. It is appropriately cold but thankfully the winds have died down. Cucciolo does not like the sound of the wind on the copper chimney cap. It does sound like a bass drum is stuck in the chimney, so I do not blame him for being skittish and having his ears pinned back to his head.
As I type this, two dogs are on the bed with me. I rant and rave about having the dogs on the clean quilt, but really nothing beats having a yellow at my feet and a black at my side. Except when they compete to see who can sit closest to me on top of me until I actually have to grab at the headboard not to fall onto the floor (which I think is their evil plan ).
I am looking to the dogs today for guidance on just how to handle this Christmas. Like the lilies of the field, they don't worry about anything, except their next treat and a soft place to sleep in the sun. Christmas, Shmistas, it's all the same to them. They just want to be with us, to go for a run, to have the ball thrown at them in the yard while they decide whether they will or will not retrieve, and a bowl of food as soon as they wake up and as soon as it gets dark.
I got a little crazy this morning. Not really at the top ten countdown to Christmas insanity, but with my voice raised, my temper flaring, and that usual holiday feeling that I am the ONLY one who understands and does everything that MUST be done. Thankfully, my husband handled it with good humor. Yes, our kitchen is the pits. Yes, there's no room for all the groceries. Yes, the large pantry cabinet only has one shelf because the other broke and he still hasn't fixed it. Yes, the kids are scattered and the one that is here is still asleep. Yes, the girls quickly made plans to take off for the day once they both arose. Yes, there are boxes and boxes of gifts to be opened and wrapped. Yes, I am craving some watercolors and don't see it in the plans.
Yes, my mother is gone.
But look how she has infused herself into every fiber of our being. Look how she shines in every pictures. Look how much she enjoyed Christmas with us, how she ate those lobsters, exclaimed when she opened her gifts, and always sat at the dining room table to drink her coffee and have her dessert, even when the rest of us were sprawled on sofas and chairs, half asleep.
When I told Mr. Pom I just couldn't do it this year, that I could not serve lobsters, that we needed just to have a simple buffet of something else, he replied with compassion and firmness, "Life goes on."
So, after feeling myself sucking the joy out of the house, I turned to my Sunday meditation: cooking. I heated up olive oil and gently simmered some garlic, browned 6 pork chops in it; then added 3 large cans of imported tomato puree and one of diced tomato. I poured in a flew glugs of Zinfandel, a scattering of oregano, and a goodly pinch of salt. Then I covered the heavy pot and let it simmer until it filled the house with the smell of Sunday.
I was making just this gravy one Sunday when my Mom came in after church and said, "It smells just like my grandmother's house in here!" So at least one Sunday a month, I make gravy and think that although I can barely remember being in my great-grandmother's house, I know what it smelled like on the day she made her gravy.
Tomorrow night we will gather at my house for Christmas Eve. Mystery Man and the Son In Law have taken over the job of steaming the lobsters. They requested a new turkey fryer because the burner on ours is cracked and although they could make the lobsters on the stove, they want to be in the dark in the backyard, smell the neighbor's woodsmoke, shiver a little, and place glossy deep green/black spiny lobsters into the boiling pot and take out bright red creatures to place on my huge white ironstone platters.
We will greet each other with kisses and hugs, hang up the coats that bring the smell of winter into the house, direct everyone where the gifts go so the dogs don't get at them, and clear a space on the sideboard for the pastries from Arthur Avenue. Mr. Pom will toast, our eyes will well up, we will eat, clear the table, more family will come, the desserts will be set out, the gifts will be exchanged, and everything wil be fine, except none of it is. We will think of Mom and Daddy and of the many, many packed-to-the-brim with gifts and cookies and relatives Christmases with them.
To all I wish a holiday that is just the kind that you picture in your heart. I wish a holiday where the most important thing is the stories told around the table when belts are loosened, nut shells litter the table, and the red jewels of pomegranate seeds spill onto a white, creamy saucer, each containing a story of the past, a story of the future, too many to count, too many to ignore, too many to lose , too many to find.
Peace to you and your families.
What, I ask, is more lovely under the Christmas tree than stack of books wrapped individually in bright paper sporting perky satin ribbons? They make my heart beat faster than any tiny jewelry box, even those blue ones. Christmas just isn't Christmas for me until that moment when all the gift-giving is done, the floor trashed with torn wrappings, the sound of computer games being played by children, and my time to have a cup of coffee, a gingerbread cookie, and a snuggle on the couch with a brand new book.
This year, my eye was caught not just by the stacks of novels and memoirs I'd like to be receiving, but by a gloriously diverse selection of art and design books.
This thick, heavy paperbound book is just pages and pages of artists' sketchbooks that combine text and imagery. I have a serious crush on typography and have a folder full of posters and prints I am waiting to buy as soon as I find the wall space to hang them all. The only problem with the book is that as soon as I start looking at it, I run for my journal and a selection of pens and pencils and start creating my own alphabets, which is not such a bad thing after all.
Elegant, fantastical, and sigh-inducing. This one is on my Christmas wish list (yoo hoo family, hope you are reading).
I know the aphorism is, "Don't judge a book by its cover" - but I do all the time and so do you. I may end up hating the book or being bored by it, but I will remember the cover art long after I forget the plot. However, what I've noticed is that I am rarely led astray into buying a book that I won't enjoy if the cover art has the same sensibility as the book. Connolly, a famous author himself, has published a retrospective of and homage to the publishing house of Faber and Faber. The author says it better than I could,
'a lavish celebration of the art and beauty of these magnificent covers, from just the first eighty years'. Even gazing at these so slim spines, I was taken. And at the foot of each one, the word Faber. The vitality of the design, even on these very narrow spines, compelled me to slide out the books. And the covers! Oh my goodness, the covers ...the colour, strength and typography were not at all brash, but merely dynamic: here, I thought, was splendour. And it was the covers that encouraged me to open the books. And to read. And then to discover.
You have to order it used on Amazon and it's a bit pricey, but I think it is a must for anyone obsessed as I am with cover design.
An interesting spin on this subject, is this marvelous book:
A couple of years ago, I was thinking about how to combine my love of art and my love of books and then it hit me: make mixed media collages of book shelves that held collections of books in theme that I love, like Italy, Jane Austen, fairy tales, etc. Artist Jane Mount, has published a book of her paintings of the spines of people's favorite, most important books of their lives. The book is filled with illustrations of favorite books of celebrities including Alice Waters, Michael Chabon, and Jennifer Egan. A few weeks ago, I happened upon a show of the illustrations at The powerHouse Arena bookstore in Brooklyn, and they are fabulous!
Have you read The Time Traveler's Wife? It was on all the best seller lists a few years ago and made into a movie. The author, who also wrote the weirdly spooky Her Fearful Symmetry, is also the author of several graphic novels. I found it on a link from someone's book blog, but had I run across it in a bookstore I would have snatched it up without a thought just based on the cover. Nifenegger is a talented visual artist and describes the process of creating this book over ten years time as her greatest accomplishment. It is about a young woman who is out wandering one night and finds a bookmobile waiting for her - a bookmobile that has every single book she's ever read in her life. The author has several other graphic novels, each more odd than the next, and I mean odd in a wonderfully offbeat and startling way.
I have never done any printmaking, but I've always been drawn to its graphic, bold quality. Lewin's book is just gorgeous and will make you consider printmaking in a new light. Her works are filled with plants and places, as the title says, but the plants seem to move in the breeze and prints are fragile and crisp at the same time. She is represented by St. Jude's and you can even buy wallpaper and fabric printed with her natural elements.
I haven't been this excited about a new artist in quite some time. Mark Hearld is an English artist who combines drawing, painting, collage, stamp carving, and printmaking to create his vibrant, joyous, artwork celebrating the natural world. The book above is an oversized children's book that he illustrated and has lovely text by Nicola Davies. Trust me, this is not a book just for children. The illustrations are stunning and the writing is lyrical and poetic. I keep it on my bedstand and read a few pages each night.
I am not afraid of being labeled as a Mark Hearld groupie. He is having a banner year, what with the publication of his book showcasing his work, but also winning a British Design Award for his wallpaper, "Hare". The book will not be released in the US until after the new year, but if you just cannot wait to see this splendid book, you can order it from The Book Depository, like I did.
Hearld was greatly influenced by British artists of the middle of the last century, and one of them was Eric Ravilious. Most of Ravilious's books are out of print, but severl facsimiles have been published. His work combines folk art and mid century illustration and depicts the people and places of Britain during those times. If you are an Anglophile like me, and regularly pop into blogs such as Spitafields Life, then you will enjoy Ravilous's work.
This is not a design book, but a book by the author of the blog that features contemporary lives in the historic East End of London. The illustrations, including those by Mark Hearld are charming and reading the book is finding those bits of London that echo with 19th century ghosts and the sights of sounds of midcentury.
The above are several other exquisite collections of Ravilious works. Prices vary as they are all used books and I'm not giving any links as you can search them for the best price yourselves if you are interested.
The book is out of print but you can find copies of it at used book dealers on line and sometimes on Amazon. It is a small, simple book written by a gardener of her personal journey to create a garden. The woodcut illustrations are exquisite.
This is Sibella Court's 4th book. The native Australian is a stylist and perhaps best known for her work for Anthropology. Her books are absolutely gorgeous, filled with heavy papers, art photography, diverse collections, and global locations. The rich matte colors that she uses have are a particular love of mind. Her latest book focuses on how to organize and display collections. I am sure everyone who reads this book will wonder at her ability to collect and style everything from rope to taxidermy specimens. Her style is very striking, relying on rich, matte colors of indigo, Kraft brown, turquoise, creams, and metal hues.
On a completely different plane, is Charlotte Moss: A Visual Life: Scrapbooks, Collages, and Inspirations I haven't actually seen it in person yet, but I intrigued by the description:
Moss brings together her own scrapbooks along with those of notable women, both contemporary and historical, whose flair for style inspires us, including interior designer Elsie de Wolfe and society doyenne Gloria Vanderbilt—all never before published. Organized by theme—home, garden, travel, entertaining, and fashion—each chapter includes examples of Moss’s signature style mingled with excerpts from the scrapbooks of these great women. From the ambassador’s wife and bon vivant Evangeline Bruce, we learn that she preferred accessorizing tabletops with simple florets of broccoli in biscuit tins. And from the iconic Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis...
I probably will wait until I can get over to Barnes and Noble to check it out in person because it is pricey.
I hope you have enjoyed my eclectic round up of my favorite design books of 2012. I am sure I've missed a couple and I have completely left out all the mixed media books because I know that most of us have seen these books on other blogs and in magazines.
I am anxious to hear your own recommendations and finds because regardless of what is under the tree this year, books are meant to be bought, err, read!
30 years ago I gave Mr. Pom a surprise party. We'd been married 2 years and lived in a one bedroom 3-floor walk up. I crammed in friends, family, grandmother, in laws, mother, sisters, aunts, and more friends. His best friend, Rick, who passed away 14 years ago this year, and was our Best Man, somehow got him out of the apartment. He showed up with Stan and opened the door and we all yelled surprise.
Sigh. We were so young. And we felt so old: HE WAS 30 (THIRTY)! We didn't have any kids yet. We hadn't bought our first hours yet. But we were so old. He was 30 (THIRTY!)
Fast forward friends to 2 X 30 (SIXTY !) We have raised 3 kids; bought 4 houses and sold 3; lived on both coasts and in the middle of the mid-South; had 3 dogs and 2 cats; swam in the Atlantic, Pacific, and the Gulf of Mexico; we have buried 3 parents;we've had 7 surgeries between us not counting c-sections; he's worked for 3 corporations; and has remained a loyal Jets fan despite all the ridicule. And every single day, he is dedicated to marriage, family, and his dogs.
Tomorrow night, we are NOT having a surprise party. He requested that we NOT. We ARE eating seafood and pasta and having TWO cakes (shh - don't tell him). I already gave him his gift: tickets to Neil Young last Monday. It was great. Even I was able to enjoy the half hour electronic guitar wars and rocked on.
I hope that we are both here to give him a 3X 30 party. I will puree the lobsters and lemon cake in case we don't have teeth. I will charge up our Sassy motorized chairs so we can make it to Neil Young's Final Final Final tour. The great grandchildren will serenade him with J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets! And he will drive us all in his latest SUV to the Cape in under 3.5 hours.
Love you, Mr Pom. I don't know how you've put up with me all these years, but I thank you for being the guy is Aisle 2 with the long hair that hung over your eyes and made you shake your head in that sexy way and made me track you down and get you to ask me out. It's been a fun ride.
Yes, I am working long hours, coming home after work to spend a few hours working on my next art proposal, and Christmas shopping.
But that doesn't mean I don't have time to create a little magic:
Created with cinemagr.am
Going to Brooklyn tomorrow for this with The Bride and Mr. Pom and without Micalangela (who is home to work on a big final project - don't feel badly for her - we bought her a good dinner and gave her a large cappuccino to finish it off) :
This is an event organized by the local NY Etsy peeps!
In the evening, I am going to a concert that was postponed from the end of October due to Hurricane Sandy:
A MUSIC HALL/MUSIC WITHOUT BORDERS CO-PRESENTATION, SUPPORTED BY 107.1 THE PEAK
Special Guest: Greg Laswell
With her piano-fueled songwriting, witty wordplay, and ethereal voice, Ingrid Michaelson carries the tradition of the female singer/songwriter into the 21st century. Befitting a musician of the digital age, Michaelson first gained wide exposure through spots on TV soundtracks, including Grey's Anatomy and One Tree Hill. In 2012, Michaelson returned with her fifth studio album, Human Again, featuring the single, "Ghost."
I can't wait to see this concert and adding to my excitement, I am going with one of my oldest friends from college, who before a few months ago, I hadn't seen in probably 30 years. So wonderful to "find" her - living 10 minutes from me - and to have her want to see the same artists that I do. Love you, Carolyn!
And then on Sunday, a special day to spend with a friend who is moving far, far away..... bittersweet, but so happy for her to be going home.
I am also working on a longer blog post about some great ART and DESIGN books that you MUST have for Christmas. Check back soon.
We saw our first snow today. I was upstairs in my art room when I heard Micalangela yell up, "Look out the window!" A band of flurries was passing through, light enough that I had to look for a few seconds to spot a flake, but heavy enough to confirm that it was indeed the change of season. If the snow was not enough notice, the fading light at 4:30 p.m. sends us scurrying to switch on lamps and the dogs begin to pace reproachfully because they do not understand why the food bowls are not being filled if it is getting dark.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving and I've barely left the house since I came home from work midday Wednesday, laden with last minute groceries and pumpkin-colored tapers. Micalangela was right behind, fresh off the train, and Sister #2 appeared to be the sous chef. Sister #4's family was coming for Thanksgiving and since she was preparing most of the pies, the mashed potatoes and the sweet, the most labor intensive dish I had to prepare is the cornbread chestnut stuffing. I usually finish my grocery shopping the weekend before and make the cornbread and slice the baguettes two days in advance to have them sufficiently dried out for the stuffing. This year, since we went to Cape Cod last weekend, everything was being done the night before.
The most important part of the stuffing is the chestnuts. Let's just say that in my family, the reason for the cornbread, the fresh herbs, and the sauteed carrots is just to provide a bed for the chestnuts. In years past, Mr, Pom and I have have spent Thanksgiving Eve in a chestnut roasting and peeling assembly line. He scores them; I throw a batch in the oven and some in the microwaves; we both peel while they are still warm so they don't stick to the papery lining; and repeat for several hours. One year, my hands were so numb that Mr. Pom had to take over the chopping for fear I'd slice my hands off.
A few years ago, Micalangela was working at a gourmet cafe and her boss introduced me to vacuum-packed, roasted, peeled chestnuts. It was like the gift of the Magi in its convenience, but I was wary of the flavor. I used them with trepidation the first year, and no one had a clue. A quick dicing on the cutting board, a fast glazing with butter, and I can throw them into the stuffing mixture without working up a sweat. Horribly behind in my prep this year, I ran through the grocery store on a mission: get vacuum packed chestnuts, but they were nowhere to be found. The store manager sadly informed me that they hadn't gotten them in this year and with a cart full of groceries, feet hurting in office high heels, stomach grumbling for dinner, I ran back to the produce counter, threw about 4 pounds of enormous chestnuts that cost a king's ransom into a bag and checked out.
What can I do? Without the chestnuts, I might as well make a loaf of cornbread with herbs with a dish of sauteed carrots on the side. So even though the chestnuts cost almost as much as the turkey, tradition, especially this year, is tradition.
By the time I got home, Sister #5 had stopped by. She was making a chestnut stuffing, too. And oh yes, Stop & Shop had racks and racks of vacuum packed chestnuts - and they were on sale for $1.50 a bag! I went into the kitchen, threw half of the chestnuts into a ziplock bag and gave them to her for her fruit and nut course, and headed to Stop & Shop for 6 bags of prepared chestnuts. Those big glossy ones that I put in a decorative, glass pedestal dish to save for eating? They molded over by Thursday morning and I threw them all in the garbage.
It was that kind of holiday: we rolled with the punches. There was the usual pressure of getting the shrimp cleaned, the artichokes trimmed, the silver polished, but there was no franticness, no raised voices, no exhaustion that resulted in a holiday migraine. I think those days finally are past me. I needed my mom to be gone to realize that the worst thing that could happen to a holiday had already happened and there was absolutely nothing I could do to reverse it. I couldn't rush out and get a vacuum packed anything that would save the day. We had to not just make do, but do it right. Despite everything that argued against having Thanksgiving occur for the first time in my 57 years without my mother seated at the table, it was going to happen and the family was looking at the sisters to pull it together and do it right.
Tonight, the last of the leftovers were had for lunch by the kids and the dishwasher that has run twice a day is taking care of the last of the dirty Tupperware. I've only left the house for a haircut and to buy a roast beef to suppplement the leftovers for dinner last night when we celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary at home with the family. We've totally ignored Black Friday in real time or cyber. We've eaten every meal together, sometimes on paper plates in front of the TV watching old sitcoms on Hulu. The table is ready to have the dirty cloth stripped off, Micalangela is working on a paper, and Mystery Man is getting antsy to go home.
It looks like a normal post-holiday weekend.
We did it right, Mom.
And you haven't left our minds for a minute.
After 12 days of darkness and cold, we spent the weekend in our warm, bright house, vacuuming two weeks of dog hair, scrubbing the kitchen, running the washing machine, and lying for more than a few hours on the sofa with a quilt and the remote control. As harrowing as it was to be without light and heat for that long, we were so lucky that there was no physical damage to any person or house on our street and that we had family to go to when we couldn’t take one more night with our breath visible in the house.
The unintended side effect is that I am more than ready to begin making my Thanksgiving menu, to refill my freezer and refrigerator, to make a grocery list that includes walnuts, chestnuts, pomegranates, and cranberries, and to buy paper plates that say “Gobble” and silly little placecards to bring a festive, frivolous air to a day that may hang heavy in our hearts.
I potted up my first Amaryllis of the season on Friday. It is only a little nub,with not more than a 1/8 of an inch of sprout peeking out from the bulb, but with the forcing of blooms, the anticipation is half again as much fun as the reality. These ugly bulbs produce such extravagant blooms and they have become my harbinger of the season. By the time it is in full bloom, we should have reached the Winter Solstice and I will need to move the pot a quarter turn each day to keep it straight and true. The stalk is thick but hollow and I usually stake it up when it begins to bloom so that the heavy head of trumpet-like blossoms do not cause it to fall over, or worse, break in half.
The variety of Amaryllis that are bred to be forced at Christmas belongs to the genus Hippeastrum, and originated in South America. They require little care other than moist but not wet soil and a good orientation to light and cool air. The bulbs are inexpensive and give quite a big bang for the $7.99 that the supermarket sells them for, along with the potting medium and a small plastic pot. Recently, a big supermarket opened next to the office and I am hopeful that they may have some simple clay pots that I can use as jardinières.
I like marking the beginning of the season of darkness with this simple ritual. I try to pot up one a week for three weeks, starting around mid-November. They will bloom in succession, so for at least one week after the first of the year, arguably the most depressing time, I should have 3 in bloom at once. This year I was able to find a white, a scarlet, and a peppermint, which satisfies my need for logical order (that which I have a hard time shaking when creating artwork). I keep them on the windowsill in front of the large windows in my office.
After first potting, the bulbs sit dormant for a week or so, then suddenly there is an inch or more of slender green that pops out of the top of the bulb. The real magic begins the first time I walk into the office in the morning and find the stem has shot up a good six inches overnight and the flower buds have begun to form. Once the huge, brightly colored flowers begin to open, they attract everyone into the office with an exclamation of awe and I feel like quite the Gertrude Jekyll while all if did was add warm water to a potting mixture and plop a large, ugly bulb down into it and remember to water sparingly.
I can’t help but smile when I walk in and see them in all their extravagance lushness, so bold, so bright, so showy, so full of themselves. As much as I enjoy looking in magazines at homes decorated in restrained, sophisticated shades of silver and white or the palest turquoise and muted gold, I can never bring myself to be so subdued because a pop of Cadmium red, Chromium Oxide green, and a Titanium white just fills me with joy.
I am concentrating only on these simple rituals this year: forcing blooms, making traditional dishes, decorating the tree with our 30-years’ worth of ornaments, and leaving the rest of the decorating for next year. In a way, it is a relief to have no expectations or ambitions for this holiday season other than for my sisters and our families to be together as much as possible and talk and share the dishes that we remember from our childhood. I would be foolhardy to think we will continue in our traditions as we did before or that we can escape experiencing the season through anything but a scrim of sadness. However, while we acknowledge our mourning, we must also acknowledge the beauty and joy of our family, that small knot of precious people who walked behind my mother down the aisle for her last journey into the church. Whenever I find myself raging inside, I make myself think of the long line of family that both my parents came from and the losses that they endured as they continued to make our holidays festive and memorable.
For Thanksgiving, the Bride has volunteered to take over the role of The Empress’s corn pudding and she is going to make Aunt Anita’s apple pie. I will make the lemon/lime/sour cream gelatin mold and my sister A and I will eat most of it ourselves. I will make sure that the Thanksgiving meal ends with a course of chestnuts and fruit, including a pomegranate and a prickly pear, just like the old days, but the shrimp course will still be served in the living room and not as a first course in the glass compotes that The Empress used, because we just are too lazy to hand wash them all, not to mention the lack of space to store them in.
I know that there will be moments when we each will be crying inside our heads, and moments when we will have to shore each otherup, but my hope is that if we keep our heads down, stay very quiet, and don’t draw attention to ourselves, that we will arrive in January unscathed, saddened but intact, and more grateful for the family that is left to sit at table and share the years as we turn ourselves to face the light.
A hurricane hardly arrives at a convenient time, whatever the season or circumstances. This one, though, had timing that seemed to add insult to injury. October was one of the hardest months our family has experienced and we thought we were almost clear...
There's not much I can add to the story that you haven't read, seen, or listened to. Hundreds of thousands are affected; families lost; babies swept away; fires turn whole neighborhoods into ashes; and lower Manhattan is being reclaimed by the rivers that carved it out in the first place. So we can manage no power for a week or more since we know we have a roof over our head and the worst physical effect on us is gooseflesh.
We are still without power. The tree that fell across the street was the sister to several others of the same vintage, one of which that fell about 5 years ago and left us without power for a week. When that one fell, other neighbors hurried to take down their remaining ones but the neighbor is 89 years old and I am sure she thought she would be gone before this tree was. She is from sturdy stock and even now, 7 days into no power, she refuses to leave her house. Thankfully, her children are in and out and staying with her while her sons and friends and neighbors have rallied to dispose of as much as the tree as they safely can.
We hear about power restoration in areas when we venture out. Sounds like the areas with minimal damage are getting it back first. What I don't miss: TV. What I do miss: light. What I don't mind: sitting in the living room with sheets over the doorways, dogs in front of the fire, and Mr. Pom reading by candlelight. What I do mind: Feeling stupid when I reach for a light switch so I can find the flashlight....
My sister, Maria, has had us for dinner every night, and spent almost all of Saturday there. It was a lovely day; I even painted and we had tea out of my mother's big ironstone teapot. An unexpected consequence of the hurricane is that our family has had time to be together more as work and school are suspended for some. It is clear to me that the next 7 weeks until the end of the year (how can it only be seven weeks???) will be rough for us and the only way to get through it is together. Lots of sitting around doing nothing and just being, talking, reminiscing.
Hope to post more this week and even get some pics up. Takes too long to upload over the Starbucks internet. Oh - just thought of another unintended hurricane side effect: I am taking the TV out of my bedroom when the lights go back on. I haven't missed TV ONE MINUTE. I'm finally reading some of those books I have piled up. Now I just have to work on the internet crack addiction......
For our family, it is definitely my mother's corn pudding. We all know how to make it, so I have this feeling that more than half the calories this year will be from Mom's Corn Pudding. I expect we will be making tons of it along with her lemon/lime/sour cream/ walnuts/mandarin oranges gelatin mold.
Is there any more beautiful and lustrous a month as October in its waning days?
The mornings are dark when we awake and even the dogs hesitate before we walk out the door in the morning. There is a strange alienation to a morning that brings you into darkness instead of light, yet it feels like a rhythm that we understand, and the leaves turning yellow can pretend to be dawn's light touching the earth.
In the hair salon tonight, getting the monthly roots touch up and hair cut, a customer opens the door and a draft of thick, rich woodsmoke sneaks in around her legs and suddenly the white and chrome shop salon with the clean as a table top glass tiled floor is sanctified with memories of winter, incense, woods, pine, campfires, apples, maple syrup, bonfires, and Halloween.
I teeter a little as my hair dresser empathizes with my loss, asking no real questions, just volunteering her own experience, understanding to well, loosening my tongue though I feel wrong speaking about it while the lady next to me listens, her hair painted up with a rich brown paste. My voice breaks at one point, and I change the conversation, inquire about her kids. She hugs me for a long time when I leave.
We opened the dining room table for Saturday night dinner. I am happy in the kitchen, feel grounded and comfortable mixing up a bechamel for mac and cheese, but the end result is a mish mash of food, too much, too little, and we are all a bit flummoxed by what is missing, as much as what is present.
The table remains open all week. I spread out watercolor paper, paints, brushes, washi tape, stencils, art paper, ephemera, rules, pens, crayons. I make some layouts, attempt a few sketches. It sits there all week, reproachful, scattered, messy as the mail mixes in with the project and the chairs get piled with bags and jackets and dog collars and CVS bags. I do not even try to straighten it up and find a place deep within that enables me to ignore it, detached, uncaring, and sad.
But then - I find the colors to use, the paper I need, the images I want to paint. I realize it's about the space within, not the ingredients; about the setting, not the flavor; about memory, not recipe. From a chore to epiphant, it transforms into just exactly what I need to be doing today, tonight, and all the moments in between.
Because, after all, that's all we really have: the moments in between. Sunny afternoons, rainy mornings, long fingers of fog wrapping round the wine red and golden coins of leaves on the mountain, the red teapot whistling, the dogs hesitating before crossing the threshold into a morning dark as night, the lavender leaving a trace of summer on their legs as they rub their snouts into the leaves, the first apple pie and cider donuts, the hollow sickening sound of the pumpkin I drop while trying to shut the car door, the bright bits of construction paper leaves I tape to the window like a first grade classroom, the scented candles, the branch of brussel sprouts that just fits into the vegetable drawer, the drapes pulled against the evening, the Shabbat candles shining on my mother's pictures, the sisters sitting around the table after dessert, my nephew sitting in my mother's usual chair, the hole around the table filling in with the next generation, the first morning I put on black suede ankle boots, the new calendars filling the shop windows, the joy of Kraft paper and gouache brushstrokes, beef stew, and most of all, greeting cards that gather like winnowed leaves in the corners of my mother's apartment, pretty storage boxes tucked under the bed, in the closet, the cedar chest, her dresser, fileld with bright colored bits of paper and sentimental verse from 50 years of relatives, friends, children, mother, aunt, sisters, brothers, cousins, father, and two notes from beyond the grave, "Enjoy these cards, love you all, Mommy."
I am watching a Scottishy mystery series on PBS. Or I am trying to because I am not really paying close attention and after an hour in, I'm not even certain who the characters are. To make it more complicated, Mr. Pom came in and started messing around wth his electronic clock. You need a manual just to change the alarm and somehow it came unplugged and needed to be reset. The he went into The Man Cave to read a magazine and discovered that I'd swiped the lightbulb from the lamp on the bookcase. I had a defense: my bulb was out and he told me he would get me one and never did. You know the kitchen cabinet is quite a walk downstairs. One flight at least. So much yelling for late in the evening. Consequently: don't have a clue what's going on but someone killed someone and the innocent was charged as the perpetrator and then committed suicide twenty years later. That's all I know.
When it first came on, and I heard a British accent and saw that the frumpy female Inspector was played by Brenda Blethyn, I immediately thought, I should call mom and tell her to put it on. And then I burst into tears. After I calmed down, I started sewing a little beading on something and in a few minutes, I was calm. Beading and a Scottish mystery series. Thoughts of my mom watching all the different BBC and PBS mystery series and the challenge at Christmas to get her a DVD of one she hasn't seen. After more beading (due to Cucciolo pulling the beads off when I went to the bathroom) I decided that instead of being upset, I should watch PBS mystery series every night and it would be a solace to the loneliness. A connection between my mother and myself. I could even start watching westerns, which she loved, however, I find them excruciatingly boring, so probably not.
And then this thought:would watching Rosemary and Thyme be a comforting connection, or am I actually turning into my mother? Will I start going to church regularly again? Will I bug my own kids to go? Will I slowly morph into her and begin playing mah jong? Would that be comforting to me and totally weird out everyone else?
Perhaps I'll just stick to a little sewing and beading and the occasional PBS series. Would y'all mind sending my email on Sunday nights to remind me to watch The Midwife? And tell me for pete's sake when the heck the new British Sherlock Holmes with that guy with the weird eyes is playing?
For now, good night. Check back tomorrow to see if I made lentil soup and froze it in little one serving containers. And if you come over and find post it notes on the kitchen cabinets that say, "Call cousin Marie" and "change oil in Toyota" and find the countertops littered with to do lists and notes to myself written on the back of junk mail (instead of on all the stationery and or in all the pretty notesbooks 5 daughters gave her for 50 years) call the doctor. Not that I'll go to the doctor. And that will be the last clue that the morphing has taken place.