Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

I was looking for an image of hope and I came across my picture from Sainte Chappelle which we visited in Paris in October. It was a very beautiful and serene place to sit.
The trip seems kind of a long time ago; when I got back I was laid off. This is a challenging moment for many people but I share with you encouraging words I heard on Sunday at Judson Memorial Church from assistant minister Michael Ellick:
"Have a light heart and a clear head filled with confidence."

All the best for 2009,

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Holiday Round-Up

Several years ago our niece Jane made birthday hats for TD and I, and I get them out every Christmas; you can see mine in the front and TD's toward the back in this plant stand in the living room. The old metal rusty plant stand was in our garden on Jane Street, and I love it. It was given to us by our friend Irene Connors and originally belonged to Jean Verral, who is now 103 and a half, and still lives on Jane Street.

On Saturday night Jane and Ben came to visit and we watched WALL-E on dvd. Before the movie, there was some drawing of a tortoise. TD's drawing is on the right, Ben's on the left.

For Christmas Bell got a scratching post. She is very grateful.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Beautiful Things Mind Meld

On Christmas night, we watched on the dvr some of Pride & Prejudice, the 2005 movie directed by Joe Wright. It is one of my very favorites; every frame is gorgeous. Then the next day we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw the exhibition of art works, including paintings, objects and furniture, acquired during the thirty-one year tenure of the outgoing museum director Philipe de Montebello. The images from the movie and the exhibition mixed all together like visions of sugar plums dancing in my head.

This painting by Ralph Earl of Elijiah Boardman from 1789 greets visitors at the Montebello show. The tall and elegant Boardman, a dry goods merchant in New Milford, Ct., is beautifully dressed. Bolts of floral fabrics and shelves filled with books, my favorite combination, speak to a life of style and culture.

Pride & Prejudice, based on the Jane Austen novel set nine years after the Boardman painting in 1797, stars the luminous Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett.

The show at the Met includes this watercolor by Paul Klee and it too is luminous. As an art history major at McGill University in Montreal, my first college paper was about the paintings Paul Klee produced in North Africa when he was discovering the power of color; this is one of those watercolors. It has a wonderful lightness and joy. I was struck by how much I liked something that I first chose to write about many years ago. Taste doesn't change that much.

In Pride & Prejudice, the great Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourg steals the show.

The art works in the Philipe de Montebello show are organized by the year they were acquired by the museum, so there is a Jasper Johns hung next to a Matisse, an antique French rifle pointing to Canaletto's vision of Saint Mark's Square in Venice. Here, a modern Rothko provides the background for antique silver and musical instruments.

Another paper I wrote in college was on the spare, linear paintings on ancient Greek lekythos vases, and how the paintings accentuated the tall, narrow shape of the vases. This one is from 440 B.C. So beautiful and so old.

In the movie a little house peaks out of the woods on the other side of the pond. Wouldn't you like to live there?

In another water view, this painting at the Met by Childe Hassam from 1890 captures the the old-fashioned garden of poet Celia Thaxter on Isle of Shoals, Maine. Peonies and hollyhocks sparkle in the sun. This reminds me of Martha's Vineyard, and Connecticut.

More flowers: I like the delicate floral embroidery on this brown shawl in Pride & Prejudice.

This English gown at the Met from the 1740's features flowers painted on silk.

Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett have an argument in the rain. The camera angle captures a lake far below.

Here is Paul Poiret at the Met. The dramatic velvet coat on the left from 1919 closes with a spectacularly ornate fringed placket; this coat comes with its own jewelry.

While visiting Pemberely, Darcy's estate, Elizabeth Bennet and visitors chance into a gallery of classical sculpture, much like the sculpture court at The Metropolitan Museum.

You can see on Keira Knightley's face the pleasure of looking at beautiful things.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Warmth

On Christmas Eve we hopped upon our trusty chariot, the Decamp Bus 66, for Upper Montclair, New Jersey. We had a glass of wine in front of the fireplace at the home of our friends Holly and Reathel Bean and then walked across the street for a delicious beef tenderloin dinner hosted by my brother Eric, his wife Tracy, and children Jane and Ben. My parents were there for a sleep-over.

I'm proud of my brother Eric, my kid brother, but of course a kid no more. When we were young he liked to watch tv, and guess what, it worked for him because now he writes about the media, and how the media covers, or doesn't cover, politics. His first book, Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush, came out in 2006, and this year he has been writing his second book, The Bloggers on the Bus about the recent Presidential election, which is due to the publisher in mid-January and will be out in May. Eric also writes for; this is his blog:

Tracy and Eric.

On Christmas Day we walked over to the Healy's for dinner. Here is Seventh Avenue at 5:00 on Christmas Day, completely deserted.

We traveled to Amsterdam in October with our friends Don and Joyce Healy and their adult children Brian and Mary who are like family to me. They are part of the Jane Street crowd and I have been fortunate to know them, through Ted, since 1985. On Christmas Day they invite some family and friends for dinner. It was warm and wonderful.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays

Fifth Avenue at Christmastime.

At the end of our church service on Sunday our great minister Donna Schaper said, "Find a way to be more tender with each other on a regular basis."

At the end of the service on the previous Sunday we sang "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" with the lyric "O tidings of comfort and joy."
Donna Schaper said, "Now the service begins. Leave here and be yourself a tiding of comfort and joy."

I hope this blog is a tiding of comfort and joy.
Cheers, and enjoy the holidays.

Yet More Christmas Decor

I can't help myself.

One large silvery ornament in the bathroom.

My mother made this card for me. She is very talented. The photograph, dated 1930, is of my grandmother Florence O'Donnell in the snow at 611, the family homestead in Herkimer, New York. The photo is dusted at the edges with a little glitter and there is a bronze ribbon underneath it. Love this. Thanks mum.

In the library, next to the day bed for guests, two Christmas books. The Penhaligon Christmas book is filled with holiday stories and paintings that take me back, back, back in time. The beautiful, poetic Christmas Memory by Truman Capote reminds me of 611; it was given to me years ago by a beloved boss, Linda Reville at CBS Magazines.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Holiday to Remember

What a holiday weekend we had, it was really one for the books. My brother Thom, his wife Karen and their sons Aaron and Brian arrived from Toronto and beat the snow on Friday. That night we popped over to Zampa Winebar and Restaurant on West 13th Street, a new place from the people at Bottino, for some red wine and savory antipasti. Very yummy. Chic crowd.

On Saturday my parents arrived from Connecticut. We boarded the iron chariot, the trusty F train, for Park Slope, Brooklyn, for the family dinner which my cousin and godchild Erin organized at Sette on 7th Avenue. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and my cousins' young children who grow dramatically year to year. Really fun. (Shout out: we missed Monica, Cynthia and Linda and their families.)

As with many families, there is a lot of history here. Faithful blog readers will know that my mother's grandparents came from Ireland and raised eleven children, including my grandmother, in a big house in Herkimer, New York, now a bed and breakfast, the Bellinger Rose. I was very close to my grandmother and great aunts, and we were all close, spending many holidays, vacations, and important events together. Since my grandparents died, we don't get together as much but there still is something there that is very strong and deep. It's a great pleasure to get together and Erin did an excellent job.

Pictures came out fuzzy; not sure if that was the camera, or the photographer... But the evening was a joy.

Afterwards we walked up the snowy hill to Erin's studio apartment for mulled cider. Cute apartment with a curtain separating the bed (I had one of those apartments!) and an apple green kitchen with cherry red accessories. And a wall of colorful scarves.

Hats off to Erin.

On Sunday morning TD and I bolted off to our church, Judson Memorial, on Washington Square South. Very progressive church, creative and artistic. Come visit, Sundays at 11am and ask for me.

TD and I did some flowers for the Christmas service. We lined up twelve vases on the stage behind the altar table, and into each vase went evergreens, holly berries and red carnations.

The big altar table was covered with an ample white cloth I bought, and on it was the advent wreath and creche scenes for the children. On each side of the altar table were four big plain unadorned Christmas trees and a big white poinsettia, and on a ledge that runs around the back of the stage I had put a garland of evergreens and little white lights. The pale blue wall in the back rises up to a circular stained glass window. So, the whole scene was white, green, light blue, a little red. Clean and simple, which can be a lot of work as I said below! But it makes such a big difference. It set the stage for a poignant service. It creates a clarity, it creates a lightness. The children sang. Our minister the great Donna Schaper preached. The choir soared. It was a beautiful thing.

We rushed back to our apartment where my parents and brothers and their families were gathered. We had some champagne and some ham. We opened presents and hung out. Sometimes with the holidays I think expectations are so high. But the fun part is just hanging out, just talking, and being together with people you don't see all year. It fills the well.

Here is my favorite model, my niece Jane, in a new hat and t-shirt.

Thom left to fly back to Toronto. TD and I went off to the holiday party of our close friends the Healys who we traveled to Amsterdam with this year. There, we saw our Christmas tree salesman Billy Romp from Vermont who reported that he and his band performed at a party the previous night on West 12th Street attended by Mike Meyers and Sarah Jessica Parker; he got home at 7am. At the Healy's we caught up with dear old friends and neighbors from Jane Street.

A lot of love around me. I am grateful. And I hope you have a lot of love around you, too.

More Christmas Decor

I love Christmas time. Did I say that already? It's colorful and sparkly and you get to see a lot of your favorite people.

This angel book is something I unfold every Christmas. I bought it years ago at the Bailey House Hundred Hearts Auction. An artist decorated metal pages with paint and bound them with a flourish of metallic ribbons.

The Tiffanys radicchio vase gets dressed for the holidays with evergreens and white carnations.

We got holly branches at the Farmers Market.

The tree is decorated with all sorts of sentimental favorites. Years ago I took photographs at an exhibition uptown of Geoffrey Beene designs. I turned this picture of red and green clothes into an ornament.

I have a couple of these pomegranate ornaments which I love. TD made the paper angel cut-out.

This little party invitation drawn by TD became a tree decoration.

Two antique ornaments and a cut-out by TD.

I like transparent ornaments like this one in the middle because colored light shines through them.

I made this star. My ornaments, like my cupcakes, are not too precise.

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's Snowing

heavily in New York now. I went out this morning on my bike to do errands, and was coming back home on the bike in a snow storm. I was careful though. I didn't want to be like that character on a bike on Christmas Eve on Thirty Something. Remember that? It's brutal outside but the woman who rents an office downstairs, a theatrical agent, is having a noisy party for her actors so there is a cheerful feeling in the house.

We're having a big family hoo-ha tomorrow on my mother's side -- aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. My cool cousin Erin who lives in Brooklyn and is a school teacher in Manhattan organized a dinner in a Park Slope Italian restaurant. My parents are staying overnight with us, and on Sunday my brothers and their families are coming over for some holiday cheer. TD and I have been working in the apartment to clean, get organized, get everything ready. I'm often surprised by how much effort is involved in making things simple and clean. Whether you are planning a garden, organizing a wardrobe or putting together a party, it takes a lot of work to make something look natural and effortless.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas at Our House

I love our Christmas decorations. I buy maybe one thing a year, like the silver seashell from Bergdorfs (below). Nothing really matches, and it all goes together. We keep everything in two big storage boxes under the bed.

This handpainted reindeer with a wreath around his neck I got last year at ABC Carpet. The ornaments with the silk flowers on top I picked up on year at Bergdorfs.

Ah, the tree. Love our tree. It has a lot of little colored lights, and is covered with ornaments that are mostly antique, or we made. The ornaments are on the smaller side since big ones are too heavy on the branches. Nothing too shiny. I like glimmering, frosted, faded. Many of the ornaments have stories behind them. It is a very personal tree, colorful and warm.

In the (non-working) fireplace, a pot of dried hydrangea, a candle on top of a metal flower candle holder from an antique store, and a little white poinsettia from the corner deli.

Evergreens and bits on top of a book shelf.

And Miss Bell.

Monday, December 15, 2008

These winter cabbages are the gift that keep on giving.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Spin Around the Block

Saturday morning, when me mum was visiting, we went out for a walk. We stopped into Anthropology on Fifth Avenue -- I love Anthropology. I head to the back to the home department. They have wonderful books and antiquey type things, all very charming. Their windows and displays are always great -- kind of humble and homespun, a lot of cut paper. I love these holiday paper chains which remind me of grade school, but the all white is nice.

These living hyacinths smelled wonderful. They were in a white crystal fake snow -- hyacinths blooming in snow.

Red berries stuck in a pot. Just a touch of red.

Here's TD; ain't he cute?

Then we walked over to the Union Square Farmers Market, now selling Christmas trees and poinsettias. These beautiful orchids were housed in a tent warmed by heaters.

At the south end of Union Square, Christmas shops are now set up. I bought presents for my nephews and niece. The holidays will soon be here.