October 31, 2009

October 30, 2009


I often say how lucky I am to have the family that I do, the experiences I have and the friends who surround me. One of those is a woman whom I am fortunate enough to call a friend. Her name is Roopa Kalyanaraman Marcello.

She is charming, stunningly beautiful and extremely smart (Yale and JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health). In addition, she’s a great cook, having had one of her recipes mentioned by Mark Bittman in the New York Times.Roopa3Roopa is going to be one of the contestants on JEOPARDY! tonight and we wish her all the luck in the world!   


A Ghostly Tale

It was about this time of year, maybe a little later. I was driving with a friend from the horse races at Chepstow in the Welsh Borders, back to our house in Cardiff. We decided to take a detour to look at White Castle which dates to the13th century, although there is evidence of a fortification there before that time.WhiteCastle4It was just before sunset, so we were the only people there. We parked and walked through the outer ward, through a 13th century gate and headed toward the bridge over the wet moat. From there, we would enter the inner ring of the fortifications through the inner gatehouse.  WhiteCastle2As I broke the plane of the gatehouse, it felt like I was walking through a curtain. I felt a bite of chilly air and had a flash of the scene before me: lots of people milling around, cooking fires, activity and light and some noise. Then it was gone. WhiteCastle3We walked around the inner ward until it got too dark, and then we headed home. I didn’t say anything about what had happened to my friend, thinking that he’d say I was nuts.

A few weeks later, I was back in the States and sending my Christmas letter to friends around the world. I mentioned what had happened at White Castle in one sentence. white castleSeveral days later, I got a call from my friend back in Wales. He was shocked! He had had the exact same experience as I had but didn’t mention it to me for the same reason I gave.

Do you believe in ghosts and other-worldly experiences like this?

October 28, 2009

Why the Post Office is in Big Trouble

I went to the post office to mail a package, and got there about 20 minutes before closing. There were about three people in front of me, and after a few minutes, about six people behind me.

There was only one clerk.

It was slow going, and soon the post office was closing, but everyone in line could stay. Another clerk came out and asked for people picking up mail, and helped them. One person jumped the line to buy stamps, and everyone objected because we’d all been waiting longer. My package was a flat-rate package and I had exact change, but that didn’t hold any sway.

The women in front of me was probably homeless and was putting tiny bits of packing tape on to her package. She also needed numerous money orders in very random amounts.

At one point, the manager came out and I asked if he could take some of the people in line. He said no, because he couldn’t handle money. I thought that was the stupidest thing I’d heard, and said so… in a nice way. As a manager, I am expected to do whatever is needed of me, regardless of whether it’s my job or not!

I finally got to the counter and completed my transaction, after apologizing to the clerk, who was nothing but pleasant in a bad situation. As I turned to leave, she said I’d left something on the counter. What?? I was sure I hadn’t. But it was this:P O Note As I went to leave, the doors were locked, so the other clerk who had let the woman jump the line, had to open the doors for me.

I told her that I thought she was wrong to let the woman buy her stamps when there were so many people ahead of her, and I just had a flat-rate package. She told me that she couldn’t have served me because she had to weigh my package. When I asked why, she said she had to be sure that it wasn’t over the 70 lb. weight limit! This was an 8x8x8 package, that I was holding in one hand.

What is your Post Office horror story?

October 27, 2009

The Hallway: Part VII

Well, there’s one more colour in the mix. I think we’re coming close, but we’re not quite there. About a year ago, we changed our corporate colours from teal and green (soooo mid-1990’s) to a pumpkin and dark brown. TasselI thought a shade that was a little warmer than the Spice Bounty that I showed the other day, here, might be a good choice. Luckily, there’s a Duron store about a mile from the office and the guys are getting to know me pretty well. I looked for the exact shade I was thinking of, and came up with Tassel. tassel  003Next to the Spice Bounty, which looks very green, the Tassel looks very warm and rich. Sort of like a nice butterscotch pudding. Maybe just a shade lighter…tassel  004Right now, we’ve got seven different paints on the wall, but I feel like we’re coming down to the home stretch. I think that if we choose Tassel, we can cut it by 50% with white for the staircase.

I told the CEO that you had weighed in on the colours and had been a terrific help, so… Thoughts???

October 26, 2009

Royal Copenhagen Sale

You KNOW that I love my Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Half Lace china and my White Half Lace pieces that I was given last year. So I was thrilled to see that Royal Copenhagen is having a “friends and family” sale in New York next month. I may just have to Bolt up there and see what they have.white-half-laceIt’s a pretty amazing sale with up to 70% off of their samples, discontinued pieces and unboxed merchandise. If you’ve ever priced Royal Copenhagen, this brings it down to a somewhat reasonable cost. blue-fluted-half-laceHere’s something pretty amazing: The brushes used by the Royal Copenhagen porcelain painters are made from the hairs at the tip of a cow’s ears or alternatively the hairs from a reindeer’s stomach. flora-danicaThe sale is November 2nd to 6th, from 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at 41 Madison Avenue, Third Floor, New York City. 212.532.5051. Cash and cheques only. They ask that you be green and bring your own shopping bag.

October 25, 2009

I’ll Take This: The House on St. Mary’s Lane

About ten years ago, my parents took my siblings, their children and me to England for much of the summer. We rented two knitter’s cottages in the small Cotswold town of Tewkesbury. The houses were beautifully sited, just around the corner from the incredible Tewkesbury Abbey (which you can see in the background to the left of the house) and just a short three-minute walk to the Severn River.Tewkesbury Two of the three adjacent cottages were owned by the Landmark Trust, and the third (on the right) was privately owned, although it was also restored by the Landmark Trust.Tewkesbury5Imagine my surprise when I was looking through the Guardian’s real estate pictures today and I saw one of the knitter’s cottages for sale for the somewhat reasonable price of £275,000. Inside are three bedrooms,  Tewkesbury3a sitting room, a dining room, a study and a kitchen. Outside the garden is a mere courtyard. It also has a garage, which is both a rarity and a convenience. The view from the back of the house looks over the Severn River, the Ham and across to the Wye River and the hills beyond.Tewkesbury2Since I already know this house and the town, I will take it!

New York Times: Staging a Home

There’s a very interesting article in the New York Times’ magazine today about the business of home staging. It says that now more than ever, it’s very difficult to sell a home, especially one priced in the millions, so it’s well worth the time and effort to stage a home. Prospective buyers get a home with a story and a family, so it’s easier to imagine themselves living there. NYT Staging1There’s even a short video with Meridith Baer, one of the premier home-stagers, with a staff of 170 to help her get a home in perfect condition.NYT Staging2She charges between $10,000 and $150,000 to stage a house, but if you’re talking millions in selling price, who’s is going to quibble?NYT Staging3

October 23, 2009

A Lecture: When Buildings Try Too Hard

Icon (n) An important and enduring symbol.

I attended a lecture sponsored by the Baltimore Architecture Foundation, entitled “Buildings That Try Too Hard”. The speaker was Witold Rybczynski, the architecture critic for Slate magazine, author of more than fifty articles and papers on the subject of housing, architecture, and technology in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the New York Review of Books. So, he’s got some credentials!rybczynski_witoldThe main take-away point is that the public chooses what’s an icon, not the architect or the client. They are buildings which have a meaning beyond their original purpose, a symbolism. Today, so many clients are asking for an iconic building, but many fail miserably. Generally, a new apartment building is not an icon.

The lecture was divided into four parts: Icons, Instant Icons, Failed Icons and Anti-Icons.

Some of the icons were the Eiffel Tower which was built as a temporary structure, the Empire State Building, long the tallest building in the US, and the Washington Monument. Often these structures were not successful when first built, but gained a stature over the years. One question to ask about an icon is “Can you get the building in salt & pepper shaker form?”.Eiffel TourInstant icons are buildings that are purpose built to become an icon. Many times, there is a competition for the building and the most outrageous is selected. Think about the Sydney Opera House, the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the recent Beijing Olympic Stadium. For both Sydney and Bilbao, the buildings basically put these cities on the map. BilbaoFailed Icons are buildings that really illustrate the point of trying too hard. The client figures that the Bilbao Guggenheim attracts millions of visitors, so if we do a titanium-skinned building, with all sorts of swoops and angles, then the visitors will come flocking to the space. Some of the examples of failures are the Millennium Dome in London, the Denver Art Museum, with all of it’s angled walls which are bad for hanging art! Denver Art MuseumAnti-icons are buildings that are simple, classic and fully serving the purpose for which they were built. They function as they should, they are not full of jarring elements and pretensions and will continue to look timeless through the ages. Some of these include Seiji Ozawa Hall in Tanglewood, Massachusetts, The Sainsbury Center in Norwich, England and The Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, Texas.modern art museumWhat are your iconic buildings, and what are the ones that you consider failed icons?

Guest Posting @ The Blushing Hostess

The Blushing Hostess was kind enough to ask me to share some Christmas memories with her readers. I hope you will check out my story over at The Blushing Hostess, which is, by the way, a brilliant blog!blushing

October 22, 2009

The Hallway: Part VI

My office is now looking like an outpost of the local paint store and I am collecting paint samples from far and wide. PaintingI understand that everyone wants to give their input, but some of the comments I’ve heard have not been pleasant. And, as always, I am getting new suggestions all of the time, the latest of which was burgundy.

We’ve decided that since we’re painting, we will paint the stairway, all the way to the top of the house. There is some light on parts of the stairway, but not on others, so there will be very dark spots.

I would like what ever colour we use to continue all though the stairway and the hallway. I put two new colours up at the suggestion of our property director – New England Green and Signature Blue.

Painting 006 Painting 002
I think that we need clear colours to help warm the north-facing space, not muted colours.

I applied a swatch of original favourite, Silver Sage, and really like the way it looks. Painting 003I also put a coat of the Cowslip #4 on next to the Pale Cowslip.Painting 004I am leaning towards either the Silver Sage or the taupey Spice Bounty, which you can see on the wall and also at the end of the hallway.Painting 010But in the end, the decision is not up to me, it’s up to the CEO. However, your input is more than welcome and has been a huge help in looking at colours.

October 20, 2009

The Hallway: Part V

You know that part of the job description that says “and other duties as specified”?  Well, today, my other duties included painting some swatches of paint on the walls of our center hallway.

We had narrowed the colours to the Laura Ashley Pale Cowslip and a new entry, Duron’s Spice Island. The CEO had suggested I look at a taupe, and I whipped out my PMS colour book to see if there was a shade he had in mind. Once we settled on a PMS colour, I showed him some paints that matched and got a quart of the one he liked best.

He liked it on the sample board but was not at all wild about it on the wall. After I painted the Pale Cowslip, hall 003 it was deemed too bright, and the Spice Island was too boring. hall 002So, tomorrow, I will be getting a dark blue and a hunter green. The issues with those colours are that we are painting the stairway all the way to the third floor and if we do it all in the same shade, it will be very dark.

October 19, 2009

What Fresh Hell Is This???

Just when you think that things are going along swimmingly, a shark arises from the water and begins nibbling at your feet.  sharkPrior to moving to Wales, I lived in my house for ten years. And now, I’ve lived in my wee house since I moved back from Wales. Between these two houses, I moved five times, so was glad to settle down.10-4 033I just got word that the house where I am living is being sold. This is pretty much bad news, but as ever, I am determined to see the good side of things. Quite possibly, it will take a long time to sell. I can stay until it’s sold, but I haven’t decided yet. Regardless of what happens, the earliest I will have to move is the first of the year. Picture 004I am going to launch my Etsy shop and start selling things to begin clearing out items that I’ve accumulated since I came back from Wales. Overall, this will be a good thing for a number of reasons. I will keep you posted.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who nominated me for a Kreativ Blogger award. I really appreciate it, Corinthian Column, Soodie Beasley and Victoria Art!

October 18, 2009


Last week, I had an image of a ship that makes port in Baltimore once a week. 10-10 085 This afternoon, as I was leaving the “Wal*Mart-on-the-Water” (don’t hate me!), I saw the cruise ship leaving its dock on the way to another week long cruise.  Ship 001 It’s really hard to believe that it’s less than one mile as the crow flies into downtown Baltimore.Ship 003 When I first saw this ship, it was docked at the foot of my street. My first thought was where did that apartment house come from???Ship 005 Making the turn to head out to the Chesapeake Bay and out to the Atlantic Ocean and points south.Ship 010 They’ll be back in port next week.

October 17, 2009

Tour de Baltimore: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The good was the people who were on the tour. The bad was some of the furniture we saw at one of the places we visited. The ugly was the weather – pouring rain all day and temperatures never getting above 45F.

We started out at Housewerks where there are always fascinating things to be seen and good stories to be told about the goods there. The good story today was about the couple who had their wedding at Housewerks. What a great place for a party! 10-10 003 We then headed up to Gore Dean Antiques, where we found loads of amazing lamps, chandeliers, china, glassware and much more. Here are some treasures we saw at Gore Dean.

Beautiful hallmarked silver from Tiffany and Cartier

Tour de Baltimore 002 Tour de Baltimore 003

Brilliantly-coloured two-foot long candles.Tour de Baltimore 008Sometimes, I think it would be easier to have a dog like this, instead of Connor. Especially this week with the vet bills he’s racking up. And he won’t eat his pills, even coated in peanut butter!Tour de Baltimore 028  This lamp was made from a pattern roller. I am sure that this just represented one colour of many.Tour de Baltimore 029I loved this Chinoiserie chic etched goblet.Tour de Baltimore 031 Virginia Creeper covering the outside of Gore Dean’s shop.Tour de Baltimore 044We drove through the streets of my old neighbourhood on the way to lunch. This is the same neighbourhood where decorator Billy Baldwin grew up, and I’ve written about it here and here. Isn’t this house gorgeous?Tour de Baltimore 045 After lunch, we headed to Book Thing, where we scored a magazine with pictures of porches from the neighbourhood where we’d just driven through. How lucky!

We ended the day at Second Chance, where we saw some truly bad furniture and fixtures, including this monstrous chandelier with “passionate purple” drops. It measures 53” x 53”! Hideous and huge!Tour de Baltimore 048 I tried to count the number of different layers of paint on this foot from a claw-foot tub. Tour de Baltimore 057 Saw one of the tackiest chairs ever. Apparently, they deconstructed a garish mansion in Washington, DC full of things like this. All amazing woods and fabrics, but utterly taste-free.Tour de Baltimore 061This is from the same house…Tour de Baltimore 064  As was this satinwood bed, with attached side tables, and the olivewood book cases behind them.Tour de Baltimore 065 All in all, a fun day with new friends! I hope that you will be able to join me on the next Tour de Baltimore, sometime in the spring of 2010!