July 31, 2009

Maira Kalman & Benjamin Franklin

The July installment of Maira Kalman's illustrations and words is up on the New York Times' website, here. It's all about Ben Franklin, who is nearly as interesting as Thomas Jefferson. Did you know that Franklin patented a type of peach? And the bobby pin (kirby grip)? And the odometer?
Now you do!

July 30, 2009

Happy 280th Birthday, Baltimore

Commenter Gail reminded me that today’s Baltimore’s 280th birthday. The city was founded in 1729 and is named after Lord Baltimore who was the first Governor of the State of Maryland. baltimore 5 copy

Soon after that, my family arrived and gave birth to the first white child born in Baltimore. I am the 12th generation of my family to live in this city.Poes Grave

As I’ve said before, Baltimore gets a bad rap, mostly as a result of The Wire, a HBO show filmed here, which explored the drug culture of the city. But I’ve also said that The Wire only represents a small portion of the city.Evergreen 003

I’ve worked hard to show you a lot of the good things about Baltimore including the beautiful architecture, the vibrant cultural life, the great restaurants (oh, that’s my food blog), the 300 years of history surrounding us, the great people and much more. Constellation 089

Like any city of its size and age, Baltimore has some problems, but there are so many good things about the city that I try to celebrate in my posts.Picture 230Baltimore is one of those places that just sucks you back. I am still friends with people whom I’ve known since I was a child, and there’s a short-hand here natives know by heart. There’s a family history here that assures me that I belong here. I will probably move back to England one day (the other half of my family is there and I am first generation on that side), but for now, Baltimore’s home.11-15 007Happy Birthday, Baltimore, and many many more!


My brother's dog is called Lulu and his two-year old son says abso-lulu, instead of absolutely. We think it's pretty funny. Here's what I think is just pretty: The Life is a Bed of Roses bed linens by Lulu Guinness. I love the bedroom, too!Abso-lulu!

July 29, 2009

July 29, 1981

What did you do on the morning of July 29, 1981? If you were like me and a lot of my friends, you got up before the crack of dawn and turned on the television to watch the wedding of the century. Charles and Diana. Prince and Princess.
It took Diana nearly three-and-a-half minutes to walk up the aisle of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. The train on her dress was 25 feet long.
Interestingly, 13-year old India Hicks was one of the bridesmaids at the wedding. You can see her in the back.
What is your memory of this day?

July 28, 2009

Jackie's 80th

I read on New York Social Diary that today's Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis' 80th birthday.
It's hard to believe she would have been that old. She and Jack remain, in many people's minds, forever young.

July 27, 2009

The Kilpeck Church

One of the places I like most of anywhere I’ve been is the tiny Kilpeck Church in Herefordshire, England. I was looking for a picture and came across some of my old photographs of this church.Kilpeck churchThe earliest reference to this church is from 650 AD, but the current church was built around 1140 AD. It is still used as a village church and is correctly called the Parish Church of St Mary and St David in Kilpeck. kilpeck It sits on the Welsh borders, close to the Severn and Wye Rivers. The church is tiny, not holding more than a few dozen people, but it is still used on a rotating basis with several of the other local churches.       kilpeck2

The most extraordinary thing about this church are the 89 carved corbels below the roofline. kilpeck12 Although some are missing, the ones that remain are just incredible. kilpeck8 They are carved from red sandstone, which is not a hard-wearing material, but over nearly 1000 years, they’ve acquired a shell that protects them from the elements.  He looks like something Picasso might have sketched, doesn’t he?kilpeck9 This is a ram’s head.kilpeck7The carvings are very detailed, especially considering how old they are and the tools which were used to carve them. kilpeck5Just the logistics of figuring this design makes my head spin!kilpeck6Of all of the carvings, this one is the one that stole my heart! It’s almost contemporary in its style, something out of a comic book!kilpeck10 Here’s another view:kilpeck11That I am getting such joy out of something that was carved so long ago, by some unknown craftsman, fills me with wonder. Time marches on.

July 26, 2009

Steel Windows

Two of the other bloggers, Architect Design and Things That Inspire have written recently about steel windows, so this morning at breakfast I noticed the building across the street had steel windows.7-26 001This is actually an old building on the 200+ year old campus of the University of Maryland’s professional schools. The have retained the original façade on the first two levels and then added a parking garage above it, which you can see in the upper right of the image above. This is sort of the opposite of what usually happens: the street level changes, but the upper floors stay the same.7-26 002

I love the Palladian-style arches with the pebbled glass, the basket-weave brickwork and the details on this building.

July 25, 2009

Julie & Julia

I am so excited to see the upcoming movie, Julie & Julia. I think that Meryl Streep will do a brilliant job as Julia Child and it will be fun to see how the movie imagines France in the late 1940’s. j&j3I read the book, Julie & Julia, which was based on the blog, the Julie/Julia Project. You probably know the story by now: Julie Powell takes on the task of making each of the recipes in Julia Childs’ book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in one year… in her small NYC apartment.j&j2The Julie/Julia Project book is interwoven with My Life in France, Julia Childs’ autobiography, written with her husband’s great-nephew, Alex Prud’homme. j&j

Julie & Julia is the first movie based on a blog. Click here for a preview of the film.

July 23, 2009

Kennedy Weddings

I was looking for a book on my shelves the other day, and came across a book I had picked up at Book Thing, called Kennedy Weddings. It’s by Jay Mulvaney, with a foreword by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  The book is mainly photographs and catalogues three generations of the weddings in this famous family, including Jack’s wedding to Jackie. I’ve written a couple of stories about Jackie Kennedy’s wardrobe, here and here.

I had recently found a biography of Kick Kennedy and learned a lot about her marriage to Billy Hartington, the heir to the Devonshire family estate, Chatsworth. They spent their honeymoon at one of the “cottages” on the property.scan0126 They were not married long, as he was killed in WWII and she died in a plane crash a few years later.scan0125The wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier and John Fitzgerald Kennedy took place at the bride’s step-family’s farm in Newport, Rhode Island. scan0128 One of the quotes in the book comes from Caroline Kennedy who said her mother felt like she looked like a lampshade in her wedding dress. The dress was, and may still be, on display at the Kennedy Library in Boston.kw 002It’s hard to think of how the world would be different if JFK had lived. kw 001She looks a little scared here, doesn’t she… Does she know what she’s in for?

Caroline Kennedy married Edwin Schlossberg in 1986 in Massachusetts. Her white silk organza dress was dotted with shamrocks as a tribute to her father. It was designed by Carolina Herrara.scan0130Last, but not least, the wedding of John F. Kennedy, Jr. to Carolyn Bessette in 1996 on Cumberland Island Georgia. Who can forget how beautiful the bride looked as she was leaving the church. It’s been ten years since this couple died in a plane crash… scan0131Such a beautiful but tragic family.

July 22, 2009

My Beautiful Spoons

I’ve been carrying around one of the beautiful spoons I received last week and have been showing it to friends and family. It’s just such a special gift and I am so proud to own them! It is like a talisman of good things, which I’ve needed this week.spoons 004

This evening, when I returned from a little dinner, I pulled the spoon out of my handbag and put it together with a knife and fork from my collection. As you can see, none of the pieces are identical. The hasp, or where the “working part” meets the handle is joined in a different way in each piece. As I look at the 40 or so pieces I have, they all have some variation. spoons 006 My chef friend said that the bowl of the spoon was the perfect size to make a quenelle. I think she’s right!

July 21, 2009

Process or Product?

I love learning new things, whether it is figuring out how to create something special or reading an interesting book. A number of years ago, I read an article on different types of people, and came to a clear realization about myself.7-19 009 Some people are product people and others are process people. Product people love having the finished item to show off. This could be a piece of needlework or an incredible dish that they have cooked. They love getting to the end point and having something to show for their work.7-19 014

Other people are process people. They love figuring out how to do something. They revel in the creative steps involved in making things, but could care less about the finished product. They just know that they learned how to do something new and now they can move on to learning something else.7-19 012

I am a process person. I adore figuring out how to do myriad things like knitting, sailing and cooking. But once I finish with what I've done, I don't care about it anymore. It's the challenge of acquiring a new skill that's the draw to me. Right now, I am making jewelry with the amazing pieces of glass that I've gotten from Housewerks, and which illustrate this post. I am working with a diamond-tipped drill bit to smooth and shape these gorgeous pieces and then am making necklaces from them.7-19 019 Do you know which you are? Are you a process person or a product person? 

PS… Here’s Connor with one of his babies. He’s all tuckered out.7-19

July 20, 2009

The Georgian Group Awards

As I was browsing the Guardian, I found a small Georgian House for sale in Bath, England, one of the most beautiful cities in the UK. From there, I stumbled upon the Georgian Group Awards, which I’d never heard about.Georgian Group

The Georgian Group was founded in 1937 as a sub-group of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings, which was founded by William Morris. The group exists to preserve and protect the Georgian buildings in England, Wales and Scotland which were disappearing at an alarming rate. After many years of struggling, by law, any Georgian building (1700s or later) that is being significantly altered or demolished must be reviewed by the Georgian Group. This also includes residences, commercial buildings, monuments and parks.six

The Awards, recognize exemplary conservation and restoration projects and reward those who have shown the vision and commitment to restore Georgian buildings and landscapes. The award categories are Restoration of a Georgian Country House, Restoration of a Georgian building in an urban setting, Reuse of a Georgian building, Restoration of a Georgian Church, Restoration of a Georgian garden or landscape, New building in the Classical tradition and New building in a Georgian context. I used to have meetings at the Georgian Group’s HQ at Six Fitzroy Square (above and below), so it was fun to come across these pictures.six2

Let’s look at some of the past winners, shall we? Belmont House on the Shetland Island of Unst, before (above) and after (below)belmont_after

Blackburn House in Lothian, Scotland, before

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA           and after.blackburn_house_1 Moggerhanger House in Bedfordshire, beforemoggerhanger_b4 and after.moggerhanger_aft

Christ Church in Spitalfields, beforechristchurch-0

and after.christchurch_aft-0Danson House, Bexley, Kent, before danson_beforeand after.danson_afterLast but not least, a house I knew well… Clifton Hill House in Bristol.  clifton_hill_afterFor more information on the Georgian Group’s 2009 Awards, to be held later this year at Christie’s in London, click here. Nicky Haslam will be one of the judges.