January 30, 2009

Maira Kalman on the Inauguration

In the New York Times today, there was a great series of cartoons by Maira Kalman about her trip to the inauguration last week. Click here to see all of the images, but here are a few to whet your appetite. Maira Kalman has also done an illustrated version of the writing classic, Elements of Style, here. Do take a look, she's very clever.
Don't you think?

January 29, 2009

Orla Kiely Wottle

I love Orla Kiely and think that she's got a great design sense, all retro and mid-century modern. In February, Target will launch a line of her signature-print kitchen items.
But I did see something that stopped me in my tracks. The Orla Kiely Wottle Reusable Water Bottle from Brita. It is being marketed as the the world´s first designer reusable water bottle, which is probably the stupidest thing I've seen in a long while. I think that reusing water bottles is a great idea, but a designer water bottle? It features Kiely's signature leaf print in shades of green.
The website goes on to say Fill the Wottle up with water before you leave the house, and avoid buying environmentally unfriendly (and expensive!) bottled water whilst out and about, and do it all with a stylish Orla Kiely branded Wottle. If the designer water bottle isn't the stupidest thing, then the name is!
At £7.99, or $11.37 at today's exchange rate, I would probably just find an old Evian bottle to use. What do you think?

January 28, 2009

Magnificence of the Tsars

I am so sorry that I missed the Magnificence of the Tsars exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The clothes, the jewelry and the history are all fascinating to me. The exhibition is being presented with the Moscow Kremlin Museums. Here are some of my favourite pieces from the V&A's on-line site about the exhibit, which ends in late March.

Hat worn by Nicholas II at the Russian Ball of 1903
Fabrique de Chapeaux Bruno Frères
Silk brocade and fur

Coronation herald’s boots
Leather by E. Shtumpf, embroidery designed by E.P. Pomarev
Worked by M. Zaleman
Moscow 1896
Russian Leather
Nightgown with silver thread buttons worn by Peter II
Coat and waistcoat
Silk velvet and silk taffeta with silver embroidery

Red wool suit worn by Peter II

January 27, 2009

Liberty Shopping Bag

I soooo wish I'd seen this when I was in London in October. I love shopper-style bags and this would have been a unique one to add to my collection. Not a bad price, either... £14.95.

Still Life with Snow Boots

It's snowing here, but not too much. We consider ourselves southerners and do not know how to drive in snow, which is really pretty infrequent here in Baltimore.
There's a big pine tree outside of my office and I took a couple of pictures of the snow on it and then another of Tivoli House.
Because I have to walk Connor several times a day, rain or shine, hot or cold, I bought a great pair of winter boots at Target. They look very nice and are fleece-lined, which makes them great for long dog-walks. I had some of those fun Tamara Henriques ones, but they are crap in the snow and cold because they're not lined. Here's my still life with snow boots. Too bad I can't have a roaring fire going in my fireplace on a day like this!

January 26, 2009

House & Garden 1991

One of the things I picked up at the Book Thing this weekend was the April 1991 issue of House & Garden, entitled "England Today"... or yesterday! It is fun to look through magazines of this era and see what's dated and what's stood the test of time. Because so many of the houses they featured are historic, they haven't changed too much.
Among the finds in this issue are an articles about Gertrude Jekyll's gardening style by Adrien Higgins, currently the garden writer at the Washington Post; a garden folly once leased successively by David Hicks, Charles Beresford-Clark and Veere Grenney; the country estate Oare House, redone by John Stefanidis; the architect Zaha Hadid and an essay by Nick Ashley on life after Laura (Ashley).
I can't wait to take some time and really read through all of the articles.

January 25, 2009

David's Table

I've mentioned that my drive home from work takes me by McLain Wiesand and I am always fascinated by the spectacular windows that a friend of mine designs for David. At Christmas, the windows had Moorish arches created to fit the three panes, a foreshadowing of things to come.
Today, when I drove by, there were three panels of an engraving depicting eighteenth century rooms, fronted by a gorgeous table of David's own design. I love how the three panels make the perfect backdrop for this table. I am sure that the local printshop could print something like this and you can get old engravings from Dover books, which include CDs of high quality (600 dpi) copyright-free illustrations.
The table was brilliant, using several techniques. David has a series of small architectural elements which he makes casts of, and this table has used some classical elements. They are painted a flat white and placed on a background of Wedgwood blue. Other details of the table are outlined in a steel gray and the top has been faux marbled. The proportions of this table are simple and elegant and would work beautifully in a number of settings. When I was taking these pictures, I also noticed two gorgeous lamps outside David's storefront. The details on these lamps, including classical acanthus leaves, makes them perfect for a building of this era. I've been invited to a party at David's in a couple of weeks, and I am sure that it, like everything David does, will be brilliant.

January 22, 2009

Omnivore's 100 - My List

I usually don't post lists on my blog, but when I saw this on Annechovie, and realized that it kept popping up, I thought I would try and see how many foods I'd eaten. So, here's the VGT Omnivore's Hundred with things I've tried in bold italics. 75 out of 100... not too shabby!
*** I've updated this to reflect some further input from family and friends, and more consideration by me.
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile/Alligator

6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich

14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart

16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters 29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat ***
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more

46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear ***
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone ***
54. Paneer
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S'mores

62. Sweetbreads ***
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs' legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis

69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse

90. Criollo chocolate ***
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee

100. Snake

What's your score?

January 21, 2009


I just got back from our "blonde, brunette & redhead" dinner with my two besties, but wanted to post a little photograph I took the other day in our snowfall. I always carry my little camera with me, even when I am walking the dog. There are three trees just covered with red berries and I thought they were so beautiful in the grey sky and new snow. My motto is "...finding extraordinary things in an ordinary life", and finding the beauty in a simple city scene typifies that philosophy.

January 20, 2009

Counting Down the Minutes

There's just such a happy buzz in the air... even 40 miles north of Washington, DC. A new day, a new era, a new President. Just counting down the minutes now.

January 19, 2009

Ringing in the Changes

On Tuesday, January 20, 2009, as Barack Obama takes the oath of office, bells will ring out all across the country in celebration and joy. One of the churches that will be ringing their bells is Trinity Church at the foot of Wall Street in New York. But they will be doing a bit more than just ringing their bells, they will be ringing a full change.
Change-ringing bells differ from most church bells in that they swing a full 360 degrees, instead of ringing back and forth, ringing only once per revolution. Trinity has the only set of twelve change-ringing bells in the United States, the gift of a British businessman.
Each of the twelve bells has its own ringer and it takes about three hours to ring the entire change. Twelve bells have a possible 479,001,600 permutations that can be rung, and all of it is governed by a mathematical algorithm. If you You Tube "ringing of the bells", you will see and hear some samples.My family got used to hearing the changes in the small Cotswold town of Tewkesbury, home of the incredible medieval Tewkesbury Abbey. They practiced on Thursday evenings and rang a three-hour change on Sundays.A lot of people think that ringing the changes is a cacophony of sound, but it's music to my ears.

January 17, 2009

Private Moments at Public Events

One thing that I am awed by is the small private moments people have in reaction to large public events. Just after September 11th, I was up at the farm where we stored things for our architectural salvage business, when I saw that the tenants had hung a flag over the barn doors. No one would see it but them and us, but they had made the effort in honour of those who had died.
Today, I had a similar experience. The historic train taking the President-Elect to Washington would be coming through Baltimore, and the President-Elect would be stopping here to make a speech at the War Memorial Plaza downtown. I am not one for huge crowds, but wanted to be a part of this event. When I knew the President-Elect and his entourage had left the Plaza and were going back to board the train, I headed out to find a quiet place to watch the train pass.
Everywhere I tried to stop and watch was crawling with police, so I turned down a small road and found a place to stop. If you've ever seen The Wire, you have an idea of what kind of neighbourhood this was... There were a few other people there and I had the dog with me, so I figured I'd be safe.
I ended up standing next to an older African-American women who told me that she grew up in at the end of the street where we were standing. She remembered standing in the exact same spot, waiting and watching for the train carrying Robert F. Kennedy to Washington after his funeral in New York. She said that she never thought she'd see the day that our country elected a black president.

We waited about 45 minutes in the bitter cold for the train to come by. It moved very slowly, much more so than the usual Amtrak rate of speed. As it went by, the small group cheered and waved and honked their car horns. The train blew its horn at us. It was all over in less than a minute.

After the train moved out of sight, I turned to look at the woman I'd been speaking with and she had tears streaming down her face. I am glad I made this little effort to witness this moment in history.
Photos: The Baltimore Sun, except for the one of Connor.

Poe's Raven: A Weekend Conjunction

This is one of those strange weekends when things are aligning in a funny way.
First, it's Edgar Allan Poe's 200th birthday on Monday. I wrote a little bit about this last year, and the tradition of the Poe Toaster who comes to the Westminster Burying Ground in the middle of the night and leaves a single rose and a bottle of cognac. This has been happening for 50+ years and it is the custom not to interfere with the Toaster.
Poe's tiny house on Amity Street is just a few blocks from where I live and will be open to the public on a more regular schedule this year. The city is planning a year of celebrations to celebrate Poe's birth and death (1809-1849) and a schedule can be found here.
My favourite poem by Poe is "The Raven" with its cadence and rhythms flowing from verse to verse. Baltimore native, John Astin, who is most well-known for playing Gomez Addams, has made a second career of playing Poe in a one-man stage show. The best readings of this poem are not read in verse, but prose-style, as a story. Baltimore's football team, the Ravens, with mascots Edgar, Allan and Poe, are playing for the AFC championship this weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is the third meeting of these two teams this season, and Baltimore's lost both, once in overtime and the other by a bad referee call. The city is spashed in purple, with purple lightbulbs in street lights, purple light washing buildings and purple clothes on everyone. One of the very first posts I did when I started Pigtown*Design was about lighting the city in purple.In addition to all of this excitement, President-Elect Obama is making a stop in Baltimore this afternoon as he and VP-Elect Biden and their families make the historic train trip from Philadelphia to Washington, DC. With Baltimore being just 40 miles from DC, there's plenty of excitement and overflow from the Inaguration Day events on Tuesday.

This promises to be a historic next few days for so many reasons... What are you doing this weekend?

January 16, 2009

RIP Andrew Wyeth

The artist Andrew Wyeth died this morning at age 91. He was an originator of the Brandywine school of painting, named after the Brandywine valley in Delaware/Pennsylvania. The Wyeths a multi-generational family of artists and painters, beginning with N.C. Wyeth and continuing with Jamie Wyeth and others.If you've never been, go to the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA. You won't be disappointed. Interestingly, Leonard E.B. Andrews, who bought the cache of paints which included the infamous Helga painting, also just died.

Can you guess why I like this painting (Master Bedroom)?