December 31, 2007

Happy 2008!

All of my very best wishes for a very safe, happy and prosperous 2008.
Thank you so much for reading Pigtown*Design. This blog came about as part of my 2007 resolution to write more and take more photographs. I can't wait to see what happens in 2008!

December 28, 2007


On these chilly nights and mornings, I am so glad to be able to snuggle under my eiderdown. If you don't know, eiders are actually a northern sea duck with especially fluffy light down feathers, and the origin of the word is from the Norse languages.
I have two heirloom eiderdowns which are still as light and warm as you can imagine. Eider down is very lofty and light and can last for decades if properly taken care of. You can wash them in a machine, but add tennis balls to re-fluff the down.
When I was in London on some trip, I remember going into Alfie's Antique Market and watching some posh couple trying to bargain with the dealer for a matching set of eiderdowns.

Many of the vintage eiderdowns have tightly woven cotten covers, often in a paisley or flower print or sometimes a shiny satin (which slides right off the bed). You will sometimes see quilts advertised as eiderdowns, but unless they're filled with eider down, they're not.
If you happen to find a real eiderdown in your travels, and you live in a cold climate, snap it up immediately. You will never go back to feather/down comforters.

December 26, 2007

The Dog Cooperated

Poor House... his dogs were not cooperating for his holiday photo of them. My dear Yellow Labrador Retriever, Connor, is the canine Greta Garbo and just wants to be left alone - especially when there's a camera nearby. I pull out the camera to download photos or shoot some still-life photo and he just heads out of the room.

Some magical Christmas spirit must have taken hold yesterday when he actually practically POSED for photos. Maybe it was because he knew how sweet he looked in his Christmas bow. He loves to prop his chin on things, regardless of whether it's a footstool or a toy.

My lovely mother gave me Bunny Williams' Point of View for Christmas. She and I had both seen the same article in the New York Times a couple of months ago and commented on some of the things Bunny had said. I can't wait to spend some time devouring this book and the gorgeous photographs.

December 21, 2007

Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols

One of the most important parts of my preparation for Christmas is listening to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve morning as I am preparing for the festivites later on in the day. This is a quite contemplation of what Christmas is all about, and comes from the spectacular King's College Chapel in Cambridge, England.

The BBC's weekly radio newsletter puts it beautifully:
As the winter evening shadows lengthen, a solo chorister sings the first verse of “Once in Royal David's City” in the expectant stillness of King's College Chapel, Cambridge. The experience we have here is shared with millions around the world...

The solo chorister is chosen minutes before the service begins so that he won't have time to get nervous. Every time I hear these opening notes, I just burst into tears. There's just something so moving about this, and it will be especially poignant this year.

The Festival was something that my father and I both loved deeply and I was lucky enough to spend a summer afternoon at King's College Chapel with him and my mother. I have an abiding image in my mind of my father and his sister as children in England listening to the service on their old radio while their father prepared their Christmas dinner.

There's also a lovely line in the service about remembering "all those who rejoice with us, but on another shore and in a greater light", which was a reference to those lost during the Second World War. The Nine Lessons tradition began in 1928 and has only not happened once, in 1930. The service continued during WWII even though the magnificent stained glass windows of the chapel had been removed for safekeeping.

You can listen to this service on BBC World Service or on public radio stations in the US.

December 20, 2007


There is an interesting article in today's New York Times about trends that have risen and fallen over the past year. Included are riffs on David Hicks' geometric look of overlapping squares, antler lamps and plastic, resin and wood "trophy" heads, cowhide rugs and (gasp)suzanis. The article includes a slide show of things that have been determined to be "over".

The feeling is that once design items go from the designer showroom or show house to the catalogues like Ballard Design or West Elm, then the trend becomes ubiquitous and is over.
Image: New York Times

December 17, 2007

A revision

As I said yesterday, I've not been totally in the Christmas spirit, but today, something happened to make me feel a lot better.

At Woodbourne, we've been working with Best Buy for a few months on some of their community service projects. The staff members of two stores came and painted all of the children's rooms in September. One of the managers told her mother about our place and the children there.

In September, the mother began making quilts for our children and just delivered them to us. There were more than 30 quilts, and she told me that she cut out more than 6,500 6x6 inch squares of fabric to make them. Not only that, she flew to Baltimore from Georgia to deliver them!I have also been overwhelmed with the generosity of some of my readers. Thank you so very much. These lovely acts of kindness are what the season is all about.

December 16, 2007

Christmas Ennui

I can't believe it's less than 10 days until Christmas and I still have not done some of the major things, like finishing shopping, sending cards and feeling the spirit...
We're heading up to NYC for a day of shopping this week, so hopefully that will put me in the mood. The Blonde, the Redhead and I (the Brunette) have been taking this trip in December for many years, with varying degrees of success. One year, some of the group wanted to go to a bar in the Village where one of the bartenders was a character on a soap opera. I declined that and found my way to Soho for some power-shopping.

We always spend a little time in Chinatown, mostly because of my affection for Pearl River Mart, which I remember from the old days on top of the stalls on Canal Street. It took several tries to find it, but when I did, it was worth it for its amazing silk-brocade covered books, beautiful china and "ivory" and "tortoise shell" toothbrushes.
This year, the Redhead wants to go to the new CB2, the younger sibling of Crate & Barrel in Soho, I want to go to Muji, the Japanese minimalist store, which I loved in London. They are very close to each other, but I am sure we'll all go in both.The Blonde wants to get shoes. She's also going to go see The Color Purple on Broadway and got a great deal on tickets.
We will end the day, as we always do, with a photo in front of the tree at Rockefeller Center.

December 13, 2007

Oh Christmas Tree!!!

Yep, Christmas is in 11 days. I have not finished shopping. I have not sent any cards, and am especially late for the overseas ones. I did put up my wreath. I did buy a tiny little silver tinsel Christmas tree from Target for $1.00 because I don't have space for a real one. It's semi-tasteful and when I am finished, I can put it back together and store it in a paper-towel roll.

I am fairly traditional and have always had a live tree. We used to tromp around the country-side when we were children and chop our own trees down. Of course, there are housing developments there now.

I do like some artificial trees and fully understand the need for them. My blog-buddy, Le Coterie has a terrific pink one called "Oh, Shift" decorated with tiny little Lily Pulitzer print ornaments.* Cute, clever,funny and tasteful!
Honestly, I don't think there's any way I would ever have a black feathers Christmas tree like the one I saw at Target! Or a 14-foot tall red shimmering tree that cost $1600, unless I was in some new circle of hell, possibly a designer one. The red one comes in a new slim size, too!
If I ever contemplated buying a Musical Lights Christmas tree, I would trust that one of my family or friends would see fit to lock me up until the contemplation passed. I can't imagine anything worse than walking up a pathway and having the fake tree light up and start singing. I think that would be a certain cue to leave... or drink a lot to recover from the shock of it all.
As my mother says "there is no accounting for some people's taste" and this time of year, there's no accounting at all!
*Oh Shift image reprinted with permission

December 10, 2007

What Is This?

I was poking around my favourite junk store the other day when I came across an interesting piece. It looked like it would be a perfect thing to hold frequently-used files in my new-but-not-yet-finished office space.
It seems a bit big to be a toast holder. I have one of those that I use to sort mail. It's made of some sort of silver-plated metal, and as you can see, it didn't polish up too well. One of the little round metal feet was missing, so I found a glass marble the same size and put it on, as you can see on the right foot. Any hints and suggestions? I'd love to know what it was. In the mean time, I will be using it to hold files.

Update: Some people have suggested magazine holder. It's pretty small, as you can see in relation to the letter-sized files. Since it's fairly decorative, I am thinking it might have been used on a table. Also, with the center handle decoration, it may have been used for something small, so it could be seen and carried. Mail, maybe?

PS... I found the files at a local stationery store, and also get nice-looking ones at Tuesday Morning. I figure if I am going to file things, the files should be pretty. I have also gotten some pretty files at the dollar store.

December 9, 2007

Cecil Beaton

Cecil Beaton has always been a fascinating character to me, ever since I saw his beautiful costumes for My Fair Lady's horse racing scene. He was also one of the British Royal Family's photographers in the 40's and 50's. I don't know a lot about him, but I am going to find out by reading his diaries from 1965 until 1980.

I found two copies of his diaries which were published in 2002 at Book Thing this afternoon, along with a couple of copies of House & Garden from the Louis Gropp years. The diaries are about 800 pages total, with lots of illustrations, so I better get reading.

December 8, 2007

If You've Never Heard...

...the southern anthems "Rocky Top" and "Dixie" played on bagpipes, then you're really missing something. Thanks, Ian!

December 5, 2007

First Thursday

The first Thursday in December is one of my favourite days of the year. It is a day full of warm memories, good friends and the launch of the holiday season. It is the day that Baltimore has the Annual Monument Lighting.

Baltimore's Washington Monument is actually older than the one just 40 miles down the road in Washington, DC. It's in the center of downtown and at the intersection of four parks that look like they could be in a city in Europe.

My friend Jack, who was the manager at the Brass Elephant, one of Baltimore's best restaurants, and I used to serve hot chocolate to the crowds at the Lighting for several years. Now, all of the businesses around the Squares have parties that evening, so you can go from one to another for drinks.

Another year, I had just gotten back from NYC and had a great new pair of diamond earrings. I entertained friends Peter & Michael with a slightly boozy rendition of "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend". They were shocked that I knew all of the words. As we walked back home, the snow began to fall and it was the perfect end to another fun evening and the beginning of a season of endless parties!
One very cold and snowy year I took a friend from Cape Town, who'd never seen as much snow as we had... Some years, it's been quite warm though! Tomorrow should be cold and we just had a couple of inches of snow today.

Everyone counts down and then all of the lights are lit. But then the fun comes: They shoot fireworks from the top of the monument and the huge iron urns around the bottom of it! It only lasts about 10 minutes, but it's the prefect launch of the season. The Monument Lighting is one of those events that reminds me that this is really a big small town.

This year's Lighting should be just as fun and memorable. I am meeting up with Kitchenography for a glass or two of wine, and then we're going to hang some pictures!

December 4, 2007

The Notebook

I've been having a dialogue with Rita Konig, over on Domino Daily Dose. She was lamenting that she only had one page left in her favourite notebook. I chimed in that I loved notebooks too, and explained my system for being organized. Now, I know several of you out there who know me are laughing unattractively at that comment, but I am organized in some aspects. I love making lists, which became a huge help both when I moved to the UK and when I moved back.

Years ago, I was a caterer. We did a wide range of events, from crab feasts to wedding receptions, all in the same weekends. I had to learn to be very organized so I didn't show up with crab mallets at the wedding, or monogrammed napkins at the crab feast. I couldn't carry all of my client files with me, so I devised a notebook system involving coloured pens. Here's the system:

    • I start a conversation with you about a project we're working on. I grab a pen and make notes. If you're the first conversation of the day, the date goes on the top line.
    • Then my boss comes in and we talk about a proposal I am writing. Again, I grab a pen and make some notes, but on the next page.
    • The phone rings and someone wants to make a gift of stock. I grab a pen, and make notes about what his intentions are.
    • I look through the to-do list that I made on Monday and begin adding notes in a different colour than the original one.
    • The notebook must be lined and be able to lay flat. If it has a ribbon book-mark, all the better. I get these great-looking brocade-covered notebooks from Pearl River in NYC. They're about $4.00 each and make nice hostess gifts.
    When I need to go back and look up something in my notebook, I can just refer to the date at the top of the first page of that day, and then see where each conversation stops and a new one begins by seeing where the colours change. In the image below, you can see where I added something new to the list later on in blue.

    I am the type of person who retains information by writing it down, so this system works really well for me. I also like having a list so I can cross things off it and have a sense of accomplishment. In fund-raising, which I've been doing for ages, I have to juggle many projects so this is another way of being organized. I don't have specific colours for specific people, I just grab a pen from my little urn of pens and start writing.

    December 2, 2007

    Weekend Update

    It's been a busy weekend, as I am sure it is for you! There's so much going on in every part of town that it's hard to decide what to do.

    More or less last minute, we decided to create and send a holiday card from Woodbourne, so after some mis-adventures without a tripod, I got a good shot of the building in all its finery and sent it off to the printers. We have wreaths on the windows and candles on the sills.
    Yesterday was the Army/Navy game, and since the stadiums are just a few blocks from where I live, I took the dog and wandered over to watch the pre-game festivities, which included two parachute drops, flyovers by some jets and Blackhawk helicopters and a rousing version of the National Anthem. Here are the Blackhawks buzzing my neighbourhood!
    Both the Army and the Navy parachutists jumped, the Navy specializing in coming down with speed and the Army, with aerial gymnastics. The amazing thing was one of the men setting down right on the 50-yard line!
    After traffic cleared, I headed up to the local Craft Mafia's winter show, the Holiday Heap. There were some fun vendors there, including Rebound Designs who makes handbags out of books. Since I am such a book nut, I thought it would be fun to make a bag out of my "I Married Adventure" copy! Just kidding... but if you're looking for a copy, check ebay.
    Since I was just a few blocks away, I heeded the siren call of the Book Thing. Unluckily, I had missed Kitchenography by thismuch. Luckily, she didn't take the "vintage" copies of Martha Stewart Living, issues 6-10 and then some early Christmas issues. When I went back today to drop things off, they were ALL gone!

    Next weekend, I am showing some of my digital designs at my neighbour's jewelry show. She's got an etsy shop, so take a look there. She's an art-teacher in the public schools and is very creative and talented.
    If you want to read about one of the dinners, click here!