January 31, 2011


I had the chance to meet David Patrick Columbia, the editor of New York Social Diary, a few months ago. I’ve been a fan of his for about six years and was delighted to meet him in person.  There’s always something interesting on NYSD, and if you’re not subscribing to it, you should!Snowtrees-smile-and-surprise-in-Central-Park_-NYCToday, as snow prepares to dump on this part of the country again, I was enchanted to see a photographic feature NYSD did about Snowtrees in New York’s Central Park. Snowtree-kitty-spots-a-canine-friend-or-foe_-Central-Park_-New-York-CityBrad Bateman, a real estate agent and artist, takes the snow and melts it in his hands, and then applies it to trees, specifically along a path in Central Park. Here he is on the left, with Lonesome Juan, and his friend, Gann Brewer.Lonesome-Juan I really love things like this that are so unexpected, so simple and yet so joyful. Snowtree-Alley-in-Central-Park_-NYC If it snows tonight, you might just see some snowtrees around my neighbourhood tomorrow.

January 30, 2011

Mirror, Mirror

I am so excited for my friend, David Wiesand, whose gorgeous Cherry Pegged Mirror was shown in this month’s Veranda magazine. Cherry Pegged in Veranda This mirror comes in several different finishes, so check out David’s blog to see them, as well as some other things he’s been working on.

January 27, 2011

Hot Water Bottle

The first house where I lived in Wales did not have central heat, or even automatic hot water. The UK in the winter can be incredibly damp and cold, and you get chilled to the bone. Aside from being almost fully clothed when I went to bed, I found that the best solution to keeping warm was a hot water bottle. hot water bottleI would stick it at the foot of the bed as I was getting ready for bed, and by the time I jumped in, the area where my feet were was all nice and toasty. As I fell asleep, I’d move the bottle around so it would warm my back and then my front. Hot_Water_Bottle_CoverI haven’t had a hot water bottle since then, but recently bought one because my back was hurting. I remembered what a wonderful simple little item this is, and have been using it for a few weeks. I find that I can turn the heat down lower when I go to bed and stick my bottle at the bottom of the bed like I did in Wales. katti-100-wool-black-white-hot-water-bottleI played around with making a cover for it using an old cashmere sweater. Now it will be doubly nice! You can find the old-fashioned red hot water bottles at any drugstore.

January 26, 2011


Sometimes when we get a fast-moving snowstorm, like we did today, we also get thunder and lightening along with it. A huge flash of light and then some incredible thunder! Can I just tell you how much Connor hates thunder? 02-06-10 010Today’s snow is very wet and heavy snow and when I was walking Connor earlier this evening, I could hear the thud of big wet clumps of snow falling from the trees. 02-02-10 003This is the kind of snow that takes the power lines down.  But not here… not yet!

Books on Tuesday

Hideously, I had jury duty yesterday, along with 900+ of my fellow Baltimoreans. Since my number was towards to the very bottom of the list, I had to do a lot of sitting around and waiting. I finished my first book before lunch, and so needed to find something to occupy the rest of the day.

I stopped in a little used bookstore and spotted the perfect book: Nancy Lancaster: Her Life, Her World, Her Art.  nancy lancaster1 I knew reading this book would transport me out of the jury waiting room and into a country house in Virginia and then over to England. Kelmarsh-Hall I am not yet finished with this book, but am finding it totally fascinating. nancy_lancaster I only wish they had a family tree to I could get everyone straight! Here’s a great piece from Southern Accents (RIP) about Nancy Lancaster’s houses.

Today, I found a copy of “The Englishman’s Garden” by Alvilde Lees-Milne, whom I wrote about here. the-englishmans-garden In this book, 33 Englishmen talk about the gardens that they’ve created, many times without help from a large staff or even a single gardener. The book is filled with images in black and white and in colour.

It’s nice to be transported through books!

January 24, 2011

Photographer’s Rights

As a blogger, I am constantly taking pictures of things that attract my attention. When I am in a shop, I always request permission to take photographs, informing the shop owner or manager that I write a blog and that I’d like to take some pictures and include them on my blog, along with a link to their shop. If the shop owner is smart, they will let me take pictures, because it’s free publicity for them.

halcyon house 029 It is very rare that my polite request is refused. If it is, then it’s not a place where I want to refer people. My feeling is that if the owner/manager is difficult about this request, then they might be problematic in other ways.

Many times, I walk or drive through neighbourhoods and take pictures of every house on the block. I can certainly understand someone being a little nervous about having a stranger take a picture of their house, but I am not out front with a tripod and a huge telephoto lens. I am always careful to be on public property as I am taking a picture of what I can see from that vantage point. Guilford 019 If I want to get a close up of some detail, I use my telephoto setting on my camera and use the highest resolution for the shot. That way, I can edit it later without losing detail.Guilford 020 The other day, I took a picture on a public street of something that was in full view of the public and I was assaulted because a person didn’t think I should have taken the picture. They tried to take my camera from me. I knew my rights as a photographer and objected strongly.

If you’re out and about photographing houses, landscapes, fashion and style or even your dinner, you should read and know your rights as a photographer. woodberry You can find a PDF of them here. And here’s a good article, also in a PDF, that explains in some detail what you can and cannot do, both while shooting pictures, and after you’ve shot them.

The law in the United States of America is pretty simple. You are allowed to photograph anything with the following exceptions:

• Certain military installations or operations.

• People who have a reasonable expectation of privacy. That is, people who are some place that's not easily visible to the general public, e.g., if you shoot through someone's window with a telephoto lens.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read through the Photographer’s Rights. You never know when the information might come in handy.

January 23, 2011

The House of 100 Years

Several friends sent me the link to this amazing story, so I thought I’d share it with you.

The French house untouched for 100 years

By Hugh Schofield  BBC News, Moulins

A late 19th Century town-house in central France that was sealed up for more than 100 years has finally been opened to the public in accordance with its owner's last wishes.

Louis Mantin was an aesthete and gentleman of leisure who bequeathed his opulent home to the town of Moulins on condition that a century later it be a museum. After he died in 1905, the mansion was closed up and fell into dilapidation. Now thanks to a €3.5m ($4.7m; £2.9m) refit funded by local authorities, it has been returned to its original pristine state.

The result is a remarkable time-capsule, combining rich fin-de-siecle furnishings, archaeological curios, skulls and other Masonic paraphernalia, a collection of stuffed birds, as well as the latest domestic gadgets such as electricity and a flushing loo.

Born in Moulins in 1851, Mantin had an undistinguished career as a civil servant, but at the age of 42, he inherited a fortune from his father and thenceforth dedicated his life to pleasure, science and the arts. First of all he had his mansion constructed in the centre of Moulins on the site of a former palace of the dukes of Bourbon, the local rulers who were heirs to the French and Spanish royal houses. Then he decorated the house with imported tapestries, paintings and porcelain.

He commissioned sculptures and wood-carvings, and on the top floor installed his personal museum of Egyptian relics, Neolithic oil-lamps, prehistoric flints and medieval locks and keys.

Outside of Maison Mantin

The house was gradually forgotten by the world, but not by locals

Mantin only had a few years to indulge his aesthetic fantasies. Knowing that his death was approaching, he made a will in which he made sure his treasured house would be saved. "In the will, he says that he wants the people of Moulins in 100 years time to be able to see what was the life of a cultured gentleman of his day," said assistant curator Maud Leyoudec. "A bachelor with no children, he was obsessed with death and the passage of time. It was his way of becoming eternal."

Some confusion surrounds the exact terms of the will. According to local people, Mantin specifically said that the house should be locked up for a century and then opened up to the public. However the truth is less sensational, if only slightly. In fact, Mantin stipulated simply that in 100 years time the mansion should be a museum. He said nothing about what should happen in between.

The fact that the house was totally abandoned was thus not a predetermined condition - it was just what actually took place.  "The house was gradually forgotten by the world. But not by the people of Moulins," said Mantin's great-niece Isabelle de Chavagnac.

A bathroom inside Maison Mantin

As well as electricity, the house had modern bathrooms

"Here everybody was waiting for the day when a 100 years would have passed and the house would be opened once again. It is odd how the collective memory of a place never dies."  Curiously it was Isabelle de Chavagnac - as one of Mantin's last known descendants - who played a key role in getting the house re-opened.

Under the will, the house would have reverted to her had it not been turned into a museum once the century had passed. She had no desire to take the possession of the house. Quite the contrary, she wanted Mantin's wishes to be fulfilled. But by threatening to exercise her right in law to take back the mansion, she forced the local authorities to act. They found the money to renovate, and the house opened at the end of 2010.

Five years late, but no-one is counting.

For a short video of the house from the BBC, click here.

January 21, 2011

What Time Is It?

I generally wear a man’s watch, finding it’s easier to glance at and check the time. It’s usually a cheap model, since I figure I will drop it or break it and drown it. It always has a stripey grosgrain band from Brooks Brothers, in some combination of cheery colours. ticktockticktock

I saw that J. Crew is selling a Timex watch for $98. It’s about as plain as can be and doesn’t even have J. Crew’s name plastered all over it. But it’s $98! You can buy an identical watch at your local drugstore, or at Target for about $30. J. Crew does have grosgrain watch straps, and they’re $12, which is less than Brooks Bros.

Would you get your plain Timex from J. Crew or Target?

January 20, 2011

J. Peterman’s Back

But I am probably the last to know the news. J. Peterman expanded too quickly a few years ago, and then went into bankruptcy in the late days of the last century. peterman1Their wonderful catalogue is on-line again, with the funny, quirky stories about each of the items. One of the sections of their website is the One-of-a-Kind pieces, so naturally, that was where I went first.

If you know me, you know I love silverware of all types, so was fascinated to see that they had some interesting sets.   These fruit knives from France for about $300.Peterman2 Or this set of 91 pieces for just $4740!Peterman7 In addition to collecting silver, I also collect gloves… I love long gloves that don’t leave my wrists bare and I have gloves in a rainbow of colours, figuring that I will lose a few each winter. But I’d try hard not to lose one of this set.Peterman6 In the one-of-a-kind section, I found this great old cloche. I have a couple of these, which will be making an appearance on my Etsy site shortly.Peterman4 Love this set of French buckets. I’d plant them full of geraniums for the summertime!Peterman3 I am glad to see Peterman back. Take a look at their catalogue, here.

January 18, 2011

Do You Like Downton Abbey?

If watching Downton Abbey wetted your appetite for living on a grand scale, this is the estate for you. pusey02 copy Current owner, Cadbury heiress Felicity Loudon and her husband John, are selling the Pusey estate in Faringdon at an asking price of £27m to fund the launch of a chocolate company to rival Cadbury’s. The estate includes a grade II-listed Georgian house with 14 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, pusey04 copy a stable block, pusey10 two cottages and three staff flats sitting in 75 acres of parkland.pusey03 copyI am sure there are more rooms than you can ever use, and here are some of them.

Someone must have had a thing for the colour blue…pusey09 copyOr red…  And I am kind of wondering what those two huge champagne flutes with flowers are all about!pusey08 copyThe gardens are lovely.pusey14 copy   I do like these images.pusey05 copyThis combines two of my favourite things – a dog and one of those amazing Bourbon roses!pusey15 copy For more details, look here.

January 17, 2011

Turgot Plan de Paris

A year or so ago, I uploaded copies of the Turgot Plan de Paris that I had re-sized into manageable files for downloading and printing. I have recently found out that the file-sharing service that I used for these files has been discontinued. Turgot Plan DeParisI am in the process of uploading all three versions of the Plan de Paris, but have only gotten the master files up so far. My friend Harry sent me this link, which is a very high res version of the map.
I have three versions of the map: an original version,map 1a sepia-tone version, sepia map 1and a sepia-grey tone version. grey sepia map1The original version is here in a master PDF and then 20 jpg files, which you can download and print. It’s a big help if you have some photo-editing software for this. Otherwise, your local print-shop can help with printing.

Here is another link to the pages that are in eight by ten inch format for easier printing. They are in the original map colour, and I haven't had time to re-colour them yet.

M or W

My friend David Wiesand and I are having a very serious continuing discussion about monograms on silverware. We can’t figure out how to tell if something is an M or a W. Monogram-wSpecifically, should the monogram on silver be the right way when it’s set on the table? Or the right way when you’re holding it on your hand?Monogram-w We would love to hear your thoughts on this!

January 13, 2011


I am not a huge football fan, but I do support Baltimore’s sports teams, the Orioles and the Ravens. I live about a five minute walk from both of our sports stadiums (stadii?). On warm days, I can hear the cheering from the games, which is always lots of fun. There is a buzz to the neighbourhood before and after the games, with everyone arriving hours before the game to tail-gate, and hunt for parking spaces. Luckily, we have residential permit parking, so it’s not much of a problem.BaltimoreRavens

The Fridays before games are designated as Purple Friday, and as such, I am participating. Raven’s purple is a really difficult colour to match. Sometimes, it looks very dark blue like in the logo above, and other times it’s a deep purple like this hoodie.  thumb

It’s also a very hard colour to light, because purple is so close to the end of the spectrum. But in Baltimore, we try and light signature buildings with purple.

Here’s Baltimore’s City Hall

City Hall Johns Hopkins Hospital’s famous domeHopkins The Washington Monument in BaltimoreMonument I am so predictable… I wrote about the same topic almost exactly a year ago when I went out on a bitter cold night and took some pictures of the purple.  We lost that game, but hopefully, we will win this one! Purple Friday 040

I’ll be wearing a pale purple black cashmere sweater and a deep purple pashmina tomorrow in solidarity.




January 12, 2011

I’ll Take This… North Wing of a Castle in England

I am still house-hunting, but I think that this property is a bit bigger than I need. It’s the north wing of Callaly Castle in the English Borders. Callaly1 Castles stretch the budget a bit in these austere times, but if you can limit yourself to a wing you can sample stately living for £595,000. Callaly Castle in Alnwick began life as a medieval tower house and was aggrandized during subsequent centuries into grade I-listed status. Callaly2 The north wing is the modern bit, built in 1727. It has one of the original staircases and a huge venetian window on the landing, callaly4 plus a 33ft drawing room, callaly5 a morning room and three huge bedrooms. Residents share 35 acres including three lakes, a croquet lawn and a kitchen garden.

One of the things I like about UK real estate adverts is that they show the dimensions of all the rooms, as well as a schematic plan. callaly8 That way, you can find out tidbits like the fact that the kitchen is 33 feet long and FOUR feet wide! Shocking!

I think that if you’re going to bother getting your house all ready for a nice photoshoot, you might want to hide the cat’s scratching post somewhere other than under a table!callaly7 Nevertheless, it looks like an amazing space, and the price isn’t too awfully huge!