March 31, 2011

The Third Annual APRIL FOOD DAY!

For the third year in a row, Easy and Elegant Life’s Editor, Chris Cox and I are pleased to host APRIL FOOD DAY, Bloggers Fighting Hunger. April Food Day 2011Here’s what you can do to help!

You can add the logo for Feeding America, the national food bank, to your blog. Feeding America has also set up a special URL for donations, here.Feeding America

You can tell the story of how many people in America:

  • In 2009, 50.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33 million adults and 17.2 million children
  • In 2009, households with children reported food insecurity at almost double the rate for those without children, 21.3 percent compared to 11.4 percent.
  • In 2009, households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (21.3 percent), especially households with children headed by single women (36.6 percent) or single men (27.8 percent), Black non-Hispanic households (24.9 percent) and Hispanic households (26.9 percent).
  • In 2009, 7.8 percent of seniors living alone (884,000 households) were food insecure.

You can tell your readers what a contribution to Feeding America, or a local food bank will do to help those who are hungry:

  • Feeding America provides emergency food assistance to approximately 5.7 million different people per week.
  • Among members of Feeding America, 74 percent of pantries, 65 percent of kitchens, and 54 percent of shelters reported that there had been an increase since 2006 in the number of clients who come to their emergency food program sites. 

Here’s what else you can do:

  • Add the Feeding America, or April Food Day link to your Facebook status
  • Tweet about April Food Day
  • Link your post here, so we can see how many participants we have.

On behalf of all of the people you will be helping, thank you so much!

March 30, 2011

Madeleine and Coco, Emily, Lisa and Me!

I just returned from attending a fabulous lecture by published author, and fellow blogger, Emily Evans Eerdmans at the equally fabulous Evergreen House in Baltimore.

Emily took the audience on a historic trip from the time of Napoléon and his consort, Joséphine, along through the 1800s and right up until Madeleine Castaing’s death in the early 1990’s. A fascinating journey in beautiful rooms and stunning interiors, all with a thread connecting them through time.Madeleine Castaing by EEEEmily is just a delight… smart, funny and very well-versed. And she’s gorgeous, too!  One of the most interesting things that Emily said in her lecture is that Madeleine Castaing is the Coco Chanel of interior decorators. Her innovations, though sometimes subtle, are all around us in so many ways. Les GalsAnd Lisa? Lisa is my friend Lisa Simeone, former host of NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered and all ‘round gal about town. She and I attend a lot of these great lectures together!  Here we three are in the Leon Bakst Theatre at Evergreen. You can just see the stenciled roosters in the upper left of the image.

March 29, 2011

This and That

I’ve just posted information about April Food Day 2011 on the April Food Day blog. There is a copy of the 2011 logo, and a link to the donations page at Feeding America. I will be posting a links list on the April Food Day site so that you can add your post about the event. April Food Day 2011 Connor’s favourite “baby” is a little stuffed pig with no arms, called Army. Connor has pulled all of the stuffing out of its head now, so I had to buy him a new one today. Of course, all this is a round-about way of saying I’ve finished the arms of the slipcover (and one of the three back pillows). Arny 004The newest version of Army has gone on both of our walks with us this evening, and I anticipate it will be sleeping close to Connor tonight. Here’s the other arm, sans Army.Arny 003 I think I am going to make a pleated skirt, but can’t figure if I just want a few box pleats or a lot of knife pleats. I’ve also figured out that I am going to have to put a zipper down the back of the sofa so I can get the slipcover on and off with some ease.

March 28, 2011

Emily Evans Eerdmans @ Evergreen on Wednesday!

The brilliant Emily Evans Eerdmans will be the premiere lecturer at this year’s House Beautiful Lecture Series at Evergreen House in Baltimore on Wednesday. RegencyRedux

Here’s what Evergreen has to say about Emily…

Napoléon's consort, Joséphine, was renowned for her flawless taste and the creation of the severely chic Empire style owes much to her influence. Nowhere did her personal style more crystallize than at her country house Malmaison. redux2 Join design and decorative arts historian Emily Evans Eerdmans as she discusses Malmaison’s interior decoration and its revival in the mid 20th century by such legendary designers as Madeleine Castaing, George Geffroy, Henri Samuel, and Emilio Terry.

I can’t wait, and hope to see you there! Tickets are here.

March 27, 2011

Slipcover: A Setback

It is interesting making this slipcover for several reasons: First, my sofa is huge, more than 70 inches long, so the amount of fabric I am hefting around is massive. Second, who knew that there were so many bends and curves in such a seemingly straight-lined sofa? Third, I love figuring out how to do this without a pattern and am delighted when it works.

Connor’s already making himself at home on the new cushion covers. 3-27 003 The interesting thing about this sofa, is that the covers on the cushions were removable, but the three pillow covers were not. So when I removed the three covers, luckily, I found that the pillows were encased in a light muslin cover. Unfortunately, when I tried to remove a little of the original fabric from the sofa, all I found was padding. No muslin.3-27 001Even more unfortunately, you could see the pattern of the sofa through the fabric I am using. I had to go buy a bunch of muslin to line the sofa. Since my sewing skills aren’t too good, I decided to bond the muslin to the sofa with a heat n’bond type material. It worked really well, although it took hours. I did the back and front and the arms. In the image above, the slipcover fabric is just draped over the back.

The stupidest thing is that I know I could go out and buy a new sofa with a new cover, but I am already in for a penny on this one! It’s a good exercise in learning a new skill.

March 26, 2011

Nicky Haslam in WSJ. Magazine

I always look forward to the last Saturday of the month when the WSJ. Magazine appears for just two short days. If you don’t pick it up on Saturday or Sunday, then it disappears into the mists of time.

Rita Konig has penned an excellent piece on English decorator and blogger, Nicky Haslam.  The story is about Nicky’s country house, once the home of John Fowler, late of Colefax & Fowler, and leased from the National Trust. Nicky HaslamThere are some marvelous images of the house in the magazine, and a totally different set of images in a slide show on the WSJ. Magazine’s website, here. The entire article is here.

Time’s ticking. You’d better get your print edition ASAP!

March 24, 2011

April Food Day - 2011

Three years ago, Chris Cox, the editor of Easy & Elegant Life, and a former copy-writer, and I, a fund-raiser, put our virtual heads together and came up with a day and a way to raise money to help fight hunger. At that time, the financial crisis was just a few months old, and none of us knew how long it would last or how its effects would reverberate around the country… and the world.

On Friday, April 1, we will be hosting April Food Day – Bloggers Fighting Hunger.  We are working with Feeding America, as well as several food banks around the country to raise much needed funds to fight hunger. grey headerChris and I hope that you will join us in this effort by posting about hunger and food aid on your blog on April 1, 2011, and adding a link to either Feeding America, or your local food bank so that your readers may make a donation.

I will have additional information next week, including April Food Day logos for your blogs and a specific link to the donations page at Feeding America.

Thank you for helping us help others.

March 23, 2011

Will + Kate by Cath

I love the fun retro designs by Englishwoman, Cath Kidston. Her cheery designs make many a mundane chore more fun. I have a couple of her recycled shopping bags that I love!  She’s also got a new on-line magazine, here.

Cath has designed a commemorative painting for the upcoming wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. will kate

It’s great, don’t you think?

March 22, 2011


My sofa needs to be slipcovered or re-upholstered. Much to my dismay, Connor loves to sleep on it, and while I am gone during the day, it’s his haven. Classic Connor 004Additionally, the pattern is dated and I wanted something I could take off and chuck in the laundry with a lot of bleach.780 Living ROomAfter checking around, and realizing how incredibly expensive it would be, and how long it would take, I decided that I would make the slipcover for my sofa. It was a moment of complete insanity, fuelled by watching some videos on-line and reading a local blogger’s EZ instructions for making one. I mean, if Pam can do it, so can I! bibbidi-bobbidi-beautifulThe first thing I did was head over to see my friends at DeBois Textiles, and check out what they had on hand. I already had an image in my mind, put there by Joni at Cote de Texas, who is the world’s leading proponent of white slipcovers, preferably in linen.  I have sewn with linen many times before, and find it to be difficult to work with, and at my amateur level, I need all of the simplicity I can possibly get.

As I poked around in the nether regions of DeBois, I happened upon the perfect fabric for the sofa. It’s a pale cream colour and is a nice weight cotton. To make it a little more interesting than just plain fabric, it’s got a diamond pattern woven into it.  The wonderful people at DeBois were kind enough to make a gift of the fabric and I appreciate it tremendously!3-22 001 The pattern’s small enough that I don’t have to worry about matching repeats and lining up edges.

After a lot of pondering and thinking, I realized that the first thing I needed to do was to make about a mile of cording or piping for the pillows and the edges of the sofa. I bought 20 yards of cord, but soon realized that that wouldn’t be nearly enough. I am sure I need at least double that amount. 3-22 002 Actually, the first thing I did was have the fabric laundered in a commercial washer. It had to be cut in half to fit into the machine, and having it washed and dried before I start cutting and sewing ensures that it won’t shrink the first time I wash it. 3-22 003 Next up, measuring the two T-cushions and the three pillows along the back! Stay tuned.

March 21, 2011

What Are These?

I was opening a package from Scotland today with my friend David, and one of the items had us both baffled. 3-21 003 They are some sort of Victorian-era kitchen implement, but we’ve no idea what. When I mentioned that they looked vaguely gynecological, David turned a rather unbecoming shade of green.

They’re scissor-like, with one end having a closed loop and the other having a fork-sort of end. They’re about seven inches long.3-21 007 The pivot point is marked, but I think it just says the manufacturer’s name. 3-21 004I can’t even begin to describe this to look on the internet to see what they are. 3-21 001 Any ideas?

March 20, 2011

Starter Castles!

The New York Times Magazine had a piece today about starter castles in Europe. Due to the current economic conditions, you can pick someone’s left-over castle for a song… This are just cheap little things, beginning at about $1 million! 

Killahara Castle, County Tipperary, Ireland 
Original asking price: $1.53 million. Current asking price: $1.25 million.Killahara Castle, County Tipperary, IrelandThe Irish writer Tom O’Neill and his restoration-specialist friend Noel Ryan bought this 16th-century Irish castle in 2006 and undertook a thorough conservation effort — renovating the building to a comfortable standard while doing the minimum amount of structural change. Including the restoration, O’Neill and Ryan spent more than $1.25 million on the castle; at its current asking price, they would not quite break even.

Medieval chateau, Lot-et-Garonne, France
Original asking price: $4 million. Current asking price: $2.8 million.
Lot-et-Garonne FranceThe medieval chateau was bought as a second home in 2002 by a financier and his interior-decorator wife. It has seven bedrooms and is an hour and a half from Bordeaux and Toulouse. Lot-et-Garonne France2 It has been fully renovated and contains old and new touches: exposed-beam ceilings, chunky oak doors, high-end bathrooms with heated towel rails, even secret staircases.

Castle Altdöbern, Brandenburg, Germany
Asking price:
Castle Altdöbern, Brandenburg, GermanyOnce the home of a Jewish cigarette manufacturer who fled the Nazis, this ornate castle with more than 50 rooms dates to the early 1700s and sits in a wooded area about 80 miles south of Berlin.

Castle Altdöbern, Brandenburg, Germany2After the end of the Second World War, it served as a retirement home and kindergarten before falling into disuse. The efforts of a number of investors to transform the castle into an upscale hotel or a tourist attraction have failed over several decades.

Castle Altdöbern, Brandenburg, Germany3The building is now owned by a castles’ association, which is extensively renovating the interior with the hope of readying it for a potential occupant.

To see several of the other ‘starter castles’, please click here.

March 17, 2011

The World’s Most Expensive Dog???

I love Connor dearly, and he’s worth every penny I paid for him. But here’s the world’s most expensive dog, from the Guardian, which provided the hilarious commentary. This is a Tibetan Mastiff.Red-Tibetan-mastiff-Age: As a breed, ancient; in dog years, incalculable.

Appearance: Oversized plush toy, fresh from being washed and dried with a Manchester United jersey.

Funny looking lion. That's because it's a dog.

Cute, though. How much for one of them? One million pounds.

A million! What's it made of? It's a dog. It's made of dog.

You mean that thing is real? Yes. He's Hong Dong (meaning "big splash"), an 11-month-old red Tibetan mastiff who was recently bought by a Chinese coal baron for 10m yuan (£945,000), making him the world's most expensive dog.

What's the world's second most expensive dog? Another Tibetan mastiff called Red Lion was valued at £915,000 last year.

Inflation, that's what it is. Perhaps, but Hong Dong has been described as a perfect specimen, and should be able to command stud fees of up to £10,000 a go.

Sounds like a business I should get into. Can I borrow a million quid? I'll get it straight back to you. In Britain, alas, Tibetan mastiff puppies sell for less than £1,000.

Why do people want these giant red dogs in the first place? They're considered holy and rather auspicious. Tibetans believed them to be the reincarnated souls of monks and nuns.

What else? For a million quid, there must be something else. Well, they're meant to be good with children.

Unless it can drive them to school, I'm not interested. Actually, even if it can I'm not interested. It seems that in China the breed has become something of a status symbol among the super-rich, a trend that has driven up prices.

I'm guessing they're also quite expensive to run. They do eat a lot. Tibetan Mastiffs have been known to reach 20 stone (280 lbs). And they live rather a long time, up to 14 years.tibetanmastiff

Do say: "Fetch boy! Fetch up to £10,000 per lady-visit, and quick!"

March 16, 2011

Now, That’s More Like It!

It wasn’t all hideous boots at Cheltenham today. It was ladies day and gorgeous hats were in evidence. Unlike Ascot, which is run in the summer, Cheltenham is in early spring, and let me tell you from experience, it can get pretty chilly standing at the rails at Cheltenham or Chepstow cheering on your sure-thing bet.

I love the detail on the sleeves of this coat, and the pink, of course!Cheltenham1 I’d love to see the bird that gave its feathers for this hat!Cheltenham2 However, I don’t think there’s any excuse for wearing a dead animal on your head. Cheltenham4 But bundling up like a character from Downton Abbey is a good idea. Classic and timeless.Cheltenham-3 Tally Ho!

Would You Ever…

Well, I never, ever would.HORSESHOES FOR HUMANSThese were specially commissioned for the Cheltenham Gold Cup Festival, a week of horse-racing in the Cotswolds in England happening this week. The commissioner was the betting company, Betfair, with whom I have placed a bet or two in my time.

The hair is real, the hoofs are not.HORSESHOES FOR HUMANS Lady Gaga, maybe. Not me!

March 15, 2011

Social Networking – Baltimore Style!

Baltimore is also known as Smalltimore. Stories abound about how the great guy you met turns out to be the complete and utter jerk who broke your cousin’s heart in prep school. Everyone knows everyone else, or knows someone they know. baldwin Everywhere else, it’s six degrees of separation. In Baltimore, it’s two. If you tell me almost anyone you know in Baltimore, we could triangulate and get a match in five minutes.

That’s why this ad campaign is particularly funny.

SmalltimoreIt’s part of a campaign by Live Baltimore, for whom I worked briefly.

Who do you know in Baltimore?

March 14, 2011

This or That?

As I mentioned the other day, I love my Barbour Stockman’s coat, and it’s not the only one I have. I managed to accumulate a few of them when I lived in the UK, where they are pretty much standard issue. Given the weather, it’s quite understandable.barbour stockman's coatI got an e-mail from Liberty and they were touting their slightly more feminine versions of the traditional Barbour jackets. Instead of the usual assortment of plaids as the interior fabric, the Liberty versions have some of their traditional prints. 

barbour1 barbour2

Here’s what I’d do with my old Stockman’s coat… add a contemporary Liberty paisley as the lining. barbour stockman's coat copyIf it’s going to rain, you may as well have fun with your rain gear!!

March 13, 2011

The Living Room Scale

I was reading a blog (sorry, I lost the link), and saw this very funny and no doubt, controversial scale of “class” in America, via our living room contents. It’s from the book “Class” by Paul Fussell. Class-Fussell-PaulIn Class, Fussell explodes the sacred American myth of social equality with eagle-eyed irreverence and iconoclastic wit. This bestselling, superbly researched, exquisitely observed guide to the signs, symbols, and customs of the American class system is always outrageously on the mark as Fussell shows us how our status is revealed by everything we do, say, and own. He describes the houses, objects, artifacts, speech, clothing styles, and intellectual proclivities of American classes from the top to the bottom and everybody -- you'll surely recognize yourself -- in between. In the book, Fussell boldly admits "You can outrage people today simply by mentioning social class." (Amazon)

The Living Room Scale. Begin with a base score of 100 and then add or subtract in accordance with what you have or don’t have.

Hardwood floor, add 4

Parquet floor, add 8

Stone floor, add 4

Vinyl floor, subtract 6

Wall-to-wall-carpet, add 2

Working fireplace, add 4

New oriental rug or carpet, subtract 2 (each)

Worn oriental rug or carpet, add 5 (each)

Threadbare rug or carpet, add 8 (each)

Ceiling ten feet high, or higher, add 6

Original paintings by internationally recognized practitioners, add 8 (each)

Original drawings, prints, or lithographs by internationally recognized practitioners, add 5 (each)

Reproductions of any Picasso painting, print or anything, subtract 2 (each)

Original paintings, drawings, or prints by family members, subtract 4 (each)

Windows curtained, rods, and draw cords, add 5

Windows curtained, no rods or draw cord, add 2

Genuine Tiffany lamp, add 3

Reproduction Tiffany lamp, subtract 4

Any work of art depicting cowboys, subtract 3

Transparent plastic covers on furniture, subtract 6

Furniture upholstered with any metallic threads, subtract 3

Cellophane on any lampshade, subtract 4

No ashtrays, subtract 2

Refrigerator, washing machine, or clothes dryer in living room, subtract 6

Motorcycle kept in living room, subtract 10

Periodicals visible, laid out flat:

National Enquirer, subtract 6

Popular Mechanics, subtract 5

Reader’s Digest, subtract 3

National geographic, subtract 2

Smithsonian, subtract 1

Scientific American, subtract 1

New Yorker, add 1

Town and Country, add 2

New York Review of Books add 5

Times Literary Supplement (London), add 5

Paris Match, add 6

Hudson Review, add 8

Each family photograph (black-and-white), subtract 2

Each family photograph (color), subtract 3

Each family photograph (black-and-white or color) in sterling-silver frame, add 3

Potted citrus tree with midget fruit growing, add 8

Potted palm tree, add 5

Bowling-ball-carrier, subtract 6

Fishbowl or aquarium, subtract 4

Fringe on any upholstered furniture, subtract 4

Identifiable Naugahyde aping anything customarily made of leather, subtract 3

Any item exhibiting words in an ancient or modern foreign language, add 7

Wooden venetian blinds, subtract 2

Tabletop obelisk of marble, glass, etc., add 9

No periodicals visible, subtract 5

Fewer than five pictures on walls, subtract 5

Each piece of furniture over 50 years old, add 2

Bookcase(s) full of books, add 7

Any leather bindings more than 75 years old, add 6

Bookcases(s) partially full of books, add 5

Overflow books stacked on floor, chairs, etc., add 6

Hutch bookcase ("wall system") displaying plates, pots, porcelain figurines, etc., but no books, subtract 4

Wall unit with built-in TV, stereo, etc., subtract 4

On coffee table, container of matchbooks from funny or anomalous places, add 1

Works of sculpture (original, and not made by householder or any family member), add 4 (each)

Works of sculpture made by householder or any family member, subtract 5 (each)

Each framed certificate, diploma, or testimonial, subtract 2

Each "laminated" ditto, subtract 3

Each item with a ‘tortoiseshell’ finish, if only made of Formica, add 1

Each “Eames chair”, subtract 2

Anything displaying the name or initials of anyone in the household, subtract 4

Curved moldings visible anywhere in the room, add 5


245 and above: upper class

185 to 245: upper middle class

100 to 185: middle class

50 to 100: higher proletariat

Below 50: lower proletariat

Damn… it was the motorcycle in my living room that killed my score!


March 10, 2011

Rain, Rain Go Away!

We’ve had inches of rain here today, and all of my pots with the wee-est peeks of herbs poking out of them are submerged.

It was a day for this:barbour stockman's coat My long Barbour Stockman’s coat with all sorts of snaps, straps and flaps. It does keep me dry, even though it weighs a good five lbs.

My Blunnie boots, which keep my feet really dry.blunnie boots I do love my tall black boots, but not in this weather.

A great umbrella. This one is from J. Peterman, and I just saw it in their catalogue. umbrella 1I have a gorgeous red umbrella with the most interesting architecture, but surely it wasn’t meant for a day like today!

The entire outfit was topped off with an old Mt. Gay Rum hat from some long ago regatta. mt. gay hat Uh… not this one.

I hope the sun is shining where you are!

March 9, 2011


Yep, it’s that time again. I am de-accessioning. I love that word… dee-ak-sesh-uhn - to sell from a collection, especially with a view to acquiring funds for the purchase of other works. Hmmm. Sounds exactly like what I am doing.780bookshelfEven though I’ve only lived in my house for a few short years, it’s filled with things I’ve collected, but no longer want or need. 3-9 027So, over the next four or five weeks, I am going to be adding a lot of things to my Etsy shop. There will be great bargains on books, china, silver, french ivory cutlery, fabrics, pillows and a lot more! Let me know if there’s anything you’ve seen in my posts that you’re interested in.Connor-for-Sun copy Let’s make a deal!