December 31, 2011

My First By-Line

I was so excited in the grocery store this morning when I caught a glimpse of the front page of the Baltimore Sun and the promo for my first article. sun2Of course, I grabbed a copy of the paper and flipped through to find the copy of the article. To my delight, I saw that it was the entire front page of the At Home section. sun1

By that time, I was in the parking lot, talking to my mother, and a lovely man overheard me chattering loudly with my mother about the piece. As the paper was spread over the hood of my car, he came over to look, and shared my joy!

To read the article, click on the first image, and to see a photo gallery, click on the second image.

December 30, 2011

Thank YOU!

When I started this blog in early 2007, I could never have anticipated where it would take me, the people I’d meet or the experiences I’d have. I am eternally grateful that I’ve had the opportunities that Pigtown*Design has opened up for me. I thought I’d share some of them with you.

1. New Friends. In a few week period, I was lucky enough to meet two of my favourite “guy” bloggers, Chris from Easy & Elegant Life, and Toad from To the Manner Born. Their visits were supposed to coincide, but a puking puppy (not mine!) put an end to that. So I got to have two special events, although the one with Chris did involve a spot of B&E at a posh hotel!E E B E 044Here we are doing an architectural tour of the women’s room… not so bad for me, but a bit suspect for him! We’re actually counting how many different types of marble are in the room.

Some other bloggers I’ve had the chance to spend some time with are new friends Mary from BarnBug Studios, Natalie from WifeLife Natalie, Suzy from Baltimore Fishbowl and Emily from Emily Evans Eerdmans. I’ve also met a lot of others who have kindly introduced themselves to me. Thank you so much for doing that. It really makes me feel special!

2. Experiences – Because of the blog, I’ve been invited to some great events, and behind the scenes tours. Most notable was a day spent at Scalamandré visiting their showrooms and having a private tour of their passementerie division with the charming Ed 062 He regaled me with the funniest stories and insiders tales. I also got to know PR whiz and Baltimore native, Janice Langrall, who has since become a dear friend!

Ladew Gardens has invited me to two amazing events – their Garden Fest and their Christmas House Tour. We’re so fortunate to have a resource like Ladew in our area,Ladew Gardens and I am very lucky to have the chance to get to know this spectacular house and garden.

3. Press – On January 1, 2012, I will have my first by-line in the Baltimore Sun. This is particularly poignant and exciting for me, as that is where my father had his first reporting job many years ago. Sun1The article’s already on-line, in the Sun’s Home section, and you can read it here.

I was asked by Elle Décor to make a list for their “Design Insiders’ Weekly Finds” and I wrote about my current obsession for chairs. Since I moved into the new house, I’ve collected quite a number of them, including a Ghost chair from my friend Suzy and a Chinoiserie Gothic chair from pal, David.chairAlong with two Billy Baldwin-style slipper chairs, four lyre-back folding chairs, two ottomans, and one down-filled wingback chair, I think this obsession’s got to stop!

4. Kindnesses – I am gratified by the kindness that bloggers and readers have shown me. When I mentioned that my poor Remembrance Day poppy was being held together with spit and scotch tape, two friends each sent me poppies. Now I can share them with some UK ex-pat friends next November. poppu02[3]I’ve also received lovely parcels in the mail, beautiful cards, wonderful greetings and warm letters and e-mails. Thank you so very much. It means the world to me!

5. YOU! I am eternally humbled that you take the time from your busy life to read Pigtown*Design. I love writing the blog and hope that it shows. I am always so pleased when a shop owner or gallery owner tells me that someone who came into their place did so because they read about it in Pigtown*Design. I am happy to introduce you to new resources, books, ideas, homes, gardens and food. I love opening a dialogue that’s only possible because you participate with your comments and e-mails.

I hope that you will come along with me in 2012 to see what happens, where I go, and who I meet. And I hope that I have the chance to meet you and thank you in person for reading Pigtown*Design.

Thank you so very much!

December 29, 2011

A Few of My Favourite Things

One of the things I like about blogging is the action of sitting down, looking at a blank page and then deciding what to write about. Sometimes, it comes so easily – I see something that sparks my interest and or I visit someplace that I think will interest you. Other times, I sit down, usually at about 11 at night, and fret over what I am going to write. I have a few go-to places that usually yield something. One King’s Lane and the Guardian (a UK newspaper) are two favourite resources.

However, I think that all of my posts are like children. I love each one equally. But I do have some that I like a wee bit better than others. In no particular order, they are as follows:

1. Our House – I found some images of the house where my family lived for about 30 years. I hadn’t seen them before, so I “borrowed” them from my mum, and scanned them. 10415I loved this house so much. It was such a beautiful elegant place with gardens that my father worked hard to keep under control. I think that this might have been an early picture of the dining room because later on, we had a large rug on the floor, and a more oval table.

2. Puppy Love – When the New York Times wrote an article about sleeping with your pet(s), their commenting community came down almost evenly on both sides of the argument. I however, have been converted to the sleeping dogs in bed side, mainly because regardless of what I want, Connor gets on the bed. Connor-for-SunYou all pretty much agreed with me on this post.

3. The Tale of Two Paintings – I found two paintings done by one of my mother’s second cousins (we’re Southern, so we know the degree of kinship!) and bought them at a local auction.
Marie Tiffany 001[5] Marie Tiffany 003[2]

What makes these two paintings extra special, aside from the fact that they’re of two well-known Baltimore locales, is that the painter was the person who introduced my American mother to my English father.

4. The Joy of Having a Clothesline – Seriously, this makes me so happy! I must admit that in Wales, I HATED drying everything on the line, mainly because it was almost always cold and damp. laundry 003[2]Here, the sunshine and breezes make drying clothes, towels and sheets on the line such a pleasure. Affixing a clothesline to the two existing poles at my house was one of the first things that I did. And I am sure that the T-poles are at least 50 years old!

5. Cooking! Since I moved into the new house, I’ve cooked more than I have in the past five years. People who are newer friends are amazed that I can actually cook, because they’ve never known me to cook.buttah 015[2] When I actually made butter this fall, I am sure some of my friends were certain that I’d been taken over by alien beings. But I do like to cook and entertain, and now I have a place where I can do it!

6. The Craziest House – Beautiful from the outside, insane on the inside.gway4[2] Painted by a mad person who had a little too much time and a faux painting course! To a person, we all wondered why the estate agent didn’t suggest gallons of white paint!

7. CONNOR & HALAS! We love having Halas stay with us, and the two dogs just love each other! They’re so funny together – playing, sleeping or horsing around.Hal Con 13[3] It’s either perpetual motion, or totally zonked out.

That’s about it… as I said, it’s hard to pick the ones I love best!

December 28, 2011

It’s a Wrap (Up)

I can’t believe how quickly 2011 has flown by! It’s been quite a year, with ups – buying a house – and downs – Connor escaping, twice! I’ve gone back through the 310 posts I’ve done this year and have picked your favourites, or at least the ones that have had the most comments.

1. Connor the Houdini dog. Over Labour Day weekend, Connor managed to let himself out my back door and escape. I spent a frantic 24 hours trying to find him, worried sick that something bad had happened. connor3When I finally got the good news that someone had him, I realized that he was only a few blocks away. He was found by a lovely woman who kept him in her yard, hoping that I’d drive by and see him. But since I am new to the neighbourhood, I didn’t know about the section where she lived. Incredibly, two weeks later, he managed to nudge open a window and escape again. IMG_7496I am pretty sure that contributed to the grey hair count on my head!

2. My New House – After more than a year of looking for a new house, I finally found the perfect place - a 110-year old farm house with a small yard. xmas2The moment I saw it in the real estate listings, I knew it was the right house. But it was a foreclosure, so I knew it would not be a smooth path to settlement. It eventually stretched to more than 90 days, and settlement was postponed several times, but I finally signed the papers in mid-May. back yardThere was a bit of work to be done, including sanding the 110-year old heart pine floors, and painting almost every surface. But it’s been a lot of fun making this old house into a new home.  And stay tuned for more work on the house, including planning a garden for next summer.

3. Wooden Tennis Racquets and One King’s Lane – As I write, I am awaiting a shipment from OKL, but I still manage to find a lot to laugh about with their Tastemaker Tag Sales. One of the funniest was when they advertised four vintage wooden tennis racquets for $267. racquets 4When a commenter said that she didn’t think they could be found, I took her up on the challenge and managed to find one in seven hours… and for six of those hours, I was at the office!And then a few days later, I managed to scare up ten at one thrift shop. I think that the most expensive one was less than $5.00. For more OKL hilarity, click here.

4. Books – One post that struck a chord with many readers was one I did in January about using books solely as decorations. As in books-by-the-yard. Or books with the covers torn off and bundled into anonymous stacks for effect.  Or books covered in white paper. Ugh.book_bundlesI love books too much to relegate them to being a decoration. I have stacks of books that I refer to, that I browse, that I curl up with on a cold evening, that I go back to time and time again and that I just plain love. I get such pleasure out of seeing them stacked up like happy building blocks, reminding me of all that’s possible, and all that I can do.

5. My slipcover - In a fit of insanity, I decided to make a slip cover for my long sofa. Having only been sewing for a year at that point, this was quite a daunting challenge and it took me much longer than I anticipated. But with you cheering me on and encouraging me, I finally finished. finishedOf course, I see every flaw in it, but it looks fine. The best thing about it is that it’s washable. I couldn’t have made this without the help of some other bloggers who had posted tutorials.

Tomorrow, I will share my favourite posts, and then on Friday, I’ll share some of the great experiences that blogging has brought to me, especially the people I’ve met.

December 27, 2011

My Louis Vuitton…

Dog.Louis Vuitton Dog2It’s chucking down rain here, and so I put Connor in his coat for our afternoon walk. I think that he looks like a little Louis Vuitton bag in this coat. Either that, or a little medieval horse in his armour. And you can see my fabulous Scalamandré umbrella behind Connor.

December 26, 2011

Weekend Update

I hope that you have had a great past few days! I know that I have. I started out Friday at a small birthday party for my mother. It’s the first time in my life that we’ve celebrated it with a family party, believe it or not. Our family has attended a caroling party for decades, but the hostess decided that she just couldn’t do it anymore. It was always on Mum’s birthday, so that’s what the celebration was.

Saturday was filled with visiting friends, friends stopping by and cooking. I made the Danish Strudel again. I also made a batch of the infamous Baltimore Eggnog, which was delicious! I attended a lovely dinner party and gave the hostess, who is a great cook, something that I knew she’d love, and actually use! A copper bowl for whipping egg whites!copper bowl

She gave me the cookbook “A Cook’s Year in a Welsh Farmhouse”, which has the most gorgeous pictures, and lots of recipes for things I got to know and eat when I lived in Wales. welsh farmSpeaking of cooking, I made one of the recipes that my English father was famous for – jam tarts!IMG_7500 I filled the tarts with raspberry jam, mincemeat and lemon curd. I think that they brought back a lot of memories for my siblings and my mum.

One of the most popular Christmas presents, at least amongst my circle, was a folio page from Taschen’s Album Vilmorin, The Vegetable Garden.Album Vilmorin2 You can read the story of these 19th century garden vegetable prints here. In keeping with the P theme of our presents to each other, my brother gave me the print of the purple cabbage and parsnips!Album Vilmorin I gave him a periodical publication, plus a pack of pencils, post-it notes, personalized pads of paper, a pound of peanuts, pistachios, Pears soap and a pineapple.

I hope that your Christmas was filled with as much love and warmth from family and friends as mine was!

December 25, 2011

Twas the Night After Christmas

And all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, IMG_7490Not even Connor and Halas!

They’re so close and comfortable with each other that even their tails are entwined!IMG_7492We hope that you had a lovely and peaceful holiday, just like we did!

December 22, 2011

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas!

For the past three days, I’ve been wrapping presents for the children at Woodbourne. We’ve been very lucky this year in having someone “adopt” all of our children and provide them with presents.

A unit from the nearby military base, Fort Meade, called and asked to adopt one unit of ours, at a time when others are sending presents to soldiers.IMG_7450A local public school, with children the same ages as ours, made boxes (above) and filled them with personal hygiene items for each of our kids. The staff at a local senior living facility filled a truck with gifts from each of our kids’ lists. IMG_7445My colleagues, Kristen and Liz, along with lots of other staffers have been wrapping and marking off whose presents have arrived, and are making sure each child gets what’s on their list. IMG_7456Our CEO made sure that each child could choose and receive the book of their choice. It’s so important that these kids read, and having a book of their own, which they’ve chosen, is paramount.

If you’d like to make a donation to help Woodbourne’s children, please click here.

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I took advantage of the warmish weather here to walk through the neighbourhood with Connor. It’s so festive with all of the houses trying to outdo each other with their lights. And we live in the more low-key part of the neighbourhood!

Just a few lights strung through an old cherry tree. IMG_7461Santa arriving by both a helicopter and a train!IMG_7464Lots of sparking snowflakes.IMG_7475I will be venturing down to the Christmas Street later this week to show you that spectacle!

December 21, 2011

Winter Solstice

Ha! I’ll bet you thought solstice was on December 21st! But it’s actually today, December 22nd. Every couple of years, with the leap years and all, the solstice happens in the early hours of December 22nd. winter-solstice-2011The sun reaches its southern-most point and we have the longest night of the year. The-sun-risesThis is one of my favourite days on the calendar, because from this day forward, the days start getting longer, moving towards summer!

December 20, 2011

Happy Hanukkah

Tonight’s the first night of Hanukkah, Chanukah and Hanakuh or חֲנֻכָּה‎. It is also the day when I get to listen to one of my favourite renditions of the classic song, Dreidel, Dreidel.  Of course, at this point, my mother, a staunch Roman Catholic, is thinking “huh? how does she know this?” For a few years, I worked in an office where all of the other women were Jewish. I picked up a lot of Yiddish and learned a lot of Jewish traditions and customs. And when I lived in Wales, there was nothing funnier that listening to “my” two little guys saying in their Welsh accents, “I’ve got to schlepp my books upstairs”.

So, in honour of the first night of Hanukkah, may I present Erran Baron-Cohen, brother of Sasha Baron-Cohen, singing The Dreidel Song.

Oy! Now go and do a mitzvah for someone!

December 19, 2011

Wedgwood Museum Sale?

I read today that the Wedgwood Museum might have to sell off parts of its collections to pay for pensions of Wedgwood employees as part of a bankruptcy ruling. I wrote about the bankruptcy here.Gallery-Wedgwood-Waterfor-001Although the Museum has not been part of the pottery for more than 50 years, the Museum’s employees were part of the Wedgwood Group’s pension plan. A judge in the UK has ruled that the Museum’s collection is part of Wedgwood’s assets and can be sold.

In addition to the priceless collection of early Wedgwood items, portland_vase2 the Museum also owns paintings by George Stubbs, George Romney and Joshua Reynolds, well-known English painters.

December 18, 2011

Shameless Self Promotion!

I have been collecting cashmere sweaters for ages. When I started “poking around” thrift shops, I’d always check the sweater section and see what they had. Often, I’d find three or four cashmere sweaters, some in perfect condition, some that had a few moth holes in them. I’d snap them up, since there were only a few dollars each thinking that if I didn’t wear them, I’d figure out something else to do with them.

I keep them in the old steel barristers’ book case that I picked up at a yard sale a few years ago (for $25.00!).  This is the guest room from my old house. But you can get an idea of how many sweaters I’d collected.guest room1[2]This summer, I had a moth attack, which I discovered when I went to wash my sweaters in the fall. When I buy sweaters, I always wash them and somehow, in the move, I must have picked up a visitor or two. Suffice to say the bloody moths nibbled their way through quite a few sweaters.

But since I am one to make lemonade out of lemons, I decided to make scarves out of sweaters! I re-washed all of the sweaters in some fabulous cashmere wash from The Laundress. Love this stuff, and I just chuck the sweaters into the washing machine. Cashmere’s so fine that it doesn’t felt like wool does. Then they go into the drier for a tumble and finally, I block them back into shape.laundressThen I strategically cut the sweaters into strips and re-fashioned them into cheerful patch scarves. I have to tell you that the first sweater I took a pair of scissors to, just about KILLED me! But after playing around with the strips and figuring out patterns, I started having a lot of fun. sweater1I started with some pastel sweaters, and combined them with some pink sweaters. Then I went on to a celadon sweater, which I combined with a pistachio one and a cream one with some pattern. sweater3Then I found a pink striped sweater, which I never really liked much. That made a fun piece, sort of like a bright rugby scarf.sweater2Recently, when I was out hunting, I found a red cashmere sweater with black roses printed on it. I thought it would look better as a scarf with some blocks of a deep black. sweater4Once they’re finished, I block the scarves again, to set the stitching and the shapes.

While I hate the term “up-cycled” that’s what I am doing with my old sweaters. But I prefer to think that I am giving my favourite sweaters a whole new life.

They are for sale on my Etsy site.

December 17, 2011

Walking in the Air

I was reading the Guardian this evening when I saw a small feature about the ten best Christmas songs. Clicking on the link, I recognized all of the songs, except one.

It’s called “Walking in the Air” and it didn’t sound like any Christmas song that I was familiar with. It’s from the 1982 short animated film, “The Snowman”, based on Raymond Briggs’s book, The Snowman.snowman It’s the story of a young boy who builds a snowman, and at the stroke of midnight, the snowman comes to life. They have adventures until the sun rises and the snowman melts. snowman2The film is silent except for the song, “Walking in the Air”, a haunting and lovely song. The film is shown every Christmas season in the UK, and it has been shown in the US, as well. But it’s not in our pantheon of classic Christmas songs or movies, like Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

It’s a lovely little piece, and I hope you take a few minutes to watch and listen. The song is just beautiful and a little melancholy.

I love finding new things.