January 30, 2008

Andy's Part of the Project

Barry Island (Ynys Y Barri) from another angle.

One of the things that I miss most about living in the UK is my wonderful, amazing, incredibly talented ex-housemate, Andy. We got on like mad from the moment that we met and he and his two sons were such an important part of my life over there.

Andy's boys collecting the stones

When I got an e-mail from Andy with his link to the World Beach Project, I was thrilled to finish our Project Over 3,493 Miles and to have his part posted on the Victoria & Albert Muesum's website. His photographs are marked Ynys Y Barri (Barry Island).

They found a tree on the beach and made leaves and branches with stones

Andy is a very talented mosiac artist with projects all across Wales, and in North and South America. He's just launched his new website, which you can visit here. These are some examples of his work.

Kitchen sink backsplash at "our" house

Pontypridd's favourite son, Tom Jones

Aberthaw Power Plant... I drove by this every day going to and from work.

January 29, 2008

Fork You!

Apparently, even though I dined with Lords, Ladies and an odd Baroness or two when I lived in the UK, it escaped me that using fish knives and forks is just not done. The House of Beauty and Culture is trying to make me see the error of my ways, but I am not to be shifted and neither is Aesthete's Lament.
Apparently this is rather well-known, as evidenced by this give and take in the Telegraph earlier this month. I thought this comment was hysterical: I have gone so far as to accept subsequent invitations from a couple who actually provided me with an object called a "fish knife" with which to cut up some salmon. I hope I am not boasting too much when I report that I think I successfully concealed my shock and bewilderment from my hosts.
While poking around antique and junque stores, I would find the random French Ivory-handled knife and snap it up. I loved the way the old handles looked and the way they felt in my hand. French Ivory is a synthetic ivory, similar to Bakelite. Most of the pieces I found were marked EPSN, which is electro-plated silvered nickle.
Once I moved to the UK, I found sets of this lovely cutlery everywhere, sometimes for as little as 50p a piece. Some of the sets were in their original boxes and were quite elaborately chased, like the top picture, and others were quite plain, like the pieces on the plaid blanket. I generally bought what I could find and sold it at a handsome profit on ebay.
When I got ready to move back, I realized that I still had about 40 pieces and just shipped it home. I use it as my everyday silver (that noise you hear is House freaking out!). It's quite simple and elegant... but apparently, it's also quite Non-U, as my mother and House say. Oh well!

January 27, 2008

Maison 21 & Mona

Even though it was January, I still wanted to go swimming...

Have you discovered the blog, Maison 21? M21 is a decorator/designer/vintage & antiques seller out of Los Angeles with a great sense of humour. His tagline is "decorative, but not serious", which I would think sums him up perfectly.

He's got a corgi called Mona who is guest blogging today and asking her dog-blog buddies to pitch in with seven things. Connor-pup was asked to play along, and you can see his answers here. While you're there, take a look around. M21 has an ebay shop with some great mid-century modern pieces, which reflect his eclectic taste.

Maison 21 is a great mix of funny commentary and practical advice and education. Check it out!

January 23, 2008

I Coloniali

A number of years ago, I was sharing a lift with a gentleman in London. He smelled so good that I had to be that brash American and ask him what scent he was wearing. He graciously smiled at me and said that it was just a soap that he got at Heal's in London.

Now, Heal's has always been one of my stops when I am in London, so I made a point to get to their King's Road store. A South African friend and I started smelling all of the soaps until I could figure out what it was. Finally! I found what I was looking for... I Coloniali soap. Of course, I snapped up a couple of bars and brought them back to the States with me.
The soap has a woody, earthy, oriental scent, and washes beautifully. The bars almost look like wood with striations of pale and paler beige. I wash all of my cashmere sweaters with the soap and have had people stop me and ask about the scent.

This is what the site says, translated from the Italian This soap’s Oriental fragrance, combined with Illipe Butter, becomes the core ingredient in the daily rite of deep cleansing, which begins with the body and ends with the soul. Illipe, found in Borneo, is most-renown for its softening quality. The first inhabitants of the island, the Dayaks, have been using butter made from Illipe Nuts for many centuries for therapeutic, cosmetic and nutritional purposes. To me, this soap is the equivalent of the book "I Married Adventure".

Althought I Coloniali is Italian-sounding and their website is entirely in Italian (and all in Flash), the parent company is J&E Atkinsons of London, Since 1799. There is absoloutely NO information about either of these companies that I can find. If you google I Coloniali, someone else has their site now. The link above is a truncated one that used to have English translations.

I Coloniali is next to impossible to find in the US, and when I can find it's outrageously expensive ($25 for a small bar of soap). While searching on-line for this article, I found a special: five pieces of I Coloniali for $200!

If anyone ever sees it, let me know! Incredibly, I did find an I Coloniali candle at Tuesday Morning during Christmas. There were two of them and I was all ready to snatch them up, when the manager, who was checking me out, noticed that one of the boxes rattled. He checked, and the terra cotta bowl the candle was in was broken, so he wouldn't sell it to me for fear of a lawsuit! I swore I wouldn't, and when he wouldn't sell the second candle to me, I almost cried.

I am almost out of my last bar and am bordering on panic. Should I really spend $700 to fly back to England to get another couple of bars? Of course, I would see friends and family, but it would really be to get the soap.

January 21, 2008

What to do With Jackie Blue?

The charming Ms. Jackie Blue Home is heading to the East Coast and Baltimore this weekend for the 4th Annual Exciting Windows Conference. She's worried that she's going to freeze... the thermometer didn't even break 30F today and they're calling for snow, freezing rain and more snow tomorrow... But the weekend looks lots better. Jackie and I are meeting up late on Sunday afternoon for some shopping, sightseeing and then dinner.
The place where the conference is being held is unremarkable, but they have an events building that I hope she gets to see. The Tremont Grand is a former Masonic Temple from the 1800's. About 10 years ago, the Masons sold it to an investor for use as a meeting and event space. Unfortunately, they stripped the place of its stained glass, lights and lamps and all of the other decorations before the settlement. Fortunately, the new owner is an attorney who'd made his millions with asbestos litigation and he made the Masons go buy everything back.
Baltimore is where the US National Anthem was written, specifically during the War of 1812 at Fort McHenry. Defenders Day, when the Battle of Baltimore took place, is celebrated every September 12th. The year of 9/11, we had just celebrated Defenders Day the weekend before and it was mentioned that since that war, the continental US had never been attacked by foreigners. It's quite amazing to stand on the ramparts at the old star-shaped Fort, and even help with the lowering of the 32 x 40 foot flag. The original "broad stripes and bright stars" are at the Smithsonian, just 40 miles down the road.
After that, I thought we could head uptown to the Hampden neighbourhood. When I was a child, Hampden was full of hillbillies and the only appeal was the good bakery there. It was next to one of the very poshest neighbourhoods in Baltimore and when my friends couldn't afford to buy there, they bought in Hampden and it became hip. There are some fun shops there and it's got a great Main Street feeling. The billboard above incorporates two Baltimore slogans, "Believe" and "Hon".
Just down the hill and into the Jones Falls Valley, lies Clipper Mill, a compound of old mills that has been converted into artists' studios, apartments and green-built houses. The swimming pool at Clipper Mill is incredible, even in winter.

Clipper Mill also home to a new restaurant I've been meaning to try for my foodie blog. I am participating in The Great Tastes Food Expo next month as food blogger, so I've got to get cracking reviewing some new places. Woodberry Kitchen has been carved out of one of the old mill spaces and uses locally-sourced foods in its menu.

Bundle up, Jackie Blue and let's have some fun!

OMG!!! How could I ever have forgotten
THE BOOK THING!!!! Of course, it will be the weekend that they get cartons of dusty medical tomes from the local medical school, which in our case is top-ranked Johns Hopkins! Or they will only have bad 1980's novels by Jackie Collins by the truckload.

January 18, 2008

The Poe Toaster

Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 199 years ago. He died in Baltimore under mysterious circumstances, which is only fitting for this poet and father of the modern mystery story. He is buried at the Westminster Burying Ground in downtown Baltimore, in the same graveyard as one of my ancestors. When I stopped by there in early November, there were flowers on Poe's grave, and for some reason, lots of pennies.
Once upon a midnight dreary, in 1949, a cloaked figure began slipping into the graveyard in the dead of night on Poe's birthday and leaving three roses and an open bottle of cognac. The roses are thought to signify Poe, his wife and his mother, all of whom are buried in this grave. The significance of the cognac is unknown, as it does not figure into any of his stories, although he was a drunk.
Over the years, the cloaked figure has changed... as the original Toaster got too old, he was replaced with another, in 1993 leaving a note stating that "the torch will be passed". No one knows who the Toaster is, and no one is allowed to interfere with him as he comes to pay his respects to Poe.

This touching tradition will continue this weekend for the 59th consecutive year. The Edgar Allan Poe House will be having celebrations this weekend at the Westminster Hall.

UPDATE: Here's a link to this year's Poe Toaster from the Associated Press.

January 15, 2008

C'est Paris

When I was at the Book Thing this weekend, I picked up the classic children's book, This is Paris, by Miraslav Sasek. Between 1959 and 1974, Sasek wrote 18 "This Is..." books. The places range from Paris to Texas, and from Rome to Cape Canaveral. The books are being re-issued one or two at a time, but the copy I found was from 1960 and is written in French.Sasek was born in pre-WWII Prague, trained as an architect and ended up living in Munich. On a trip to Paris, he thought that children should have guidebooks, too. He originally intended to only write books about London, Paris and Rome. However, with the popularity of the books, he wrote 15 more. The illustrations in these books are composed of line drawings, water colours and collages. The people in the bus below are actually stamps!
When he was writing This is Washington, DC, the riots broke out after Martin Luther King's death. He stayed in the city and was still there when Robert Kennedy was killed. He was actually sketching JFK's grave at Arlington when the guards asked him to leave so they could dig RFK's grave. Talk about being a part of history!
This is Paris has scenes from every-day life, as well as the typical tourist attractions like the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe. The famous Marche aux Puces is well-illustrated here, with so many details of the brocante you can find there! C'est une bonne chose!

January 12, 2008

My Part of the Project

Today was sunny and cool, and the low tide was at about 3-ish, so I threw Connor in the back of the car and headed down to the "secret beach", Ferry Bar Point, the old ferry landing. I go there to find beach glass...which there is a lot of, and to let Connor swim in the summer. I had to keep him on the leash today so he wouldn't go swimming. I didn't want to deal with a wet dog.

I'd been thinking about what to do with my stones, and had a couple of ideas: arrows pointing towards Andy and the boys at Ynys y Barri; a school of pebble fish along the water's edge, or waves... but then I started thinking about the tide charts and what time I needed to be there, and came up with Time & Tide, thinking of all of the times we had to wait for tides to set sail, or make it home, racing for the mid-day ferry out to the island and how both march on without regard for man.
I started collecting stones, and went to lay them out along the water. It was a bit squishy, so I moved back a bit and decided to let the tide come on my TIME. Naturally, Connor thought that right on top of my stones was the ideal location, but I managed to move him along and wait for the tide to start covering the letters.
As the tide came in, it brought some leaves and a feather. I think I will go back tomorrow and see if the pebbles stayed, or if the tide moved them around and they're gone.

Update: The pictures are now on the V&A World Beach Project's website. You can see the map here. Look for the pictures above.

January 11, 2008

The Project Across 3,493 Miles

I was reading Le Coterie the other day and she had an interesting piece about the World Beach Project in cooperation with the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. This project is about the need for humans to leave their mark and make patterns. It's a two part project, the first of which is making the pattern from the stones on the beach and the second of which is uploading photos of your project and marking your beach on a world map.

There are loads of submissions from the UK, but only three from the US. LeCoterie and I are going to increase those numbers, and you can help, too!
When I lived in Wales, we were close to a large beach at Barry Island. At low tide, the beach is about a quarter mile wide. The photo below is high tide. I thought this would be a perfect place for my ex-housemate, Andy and his boys to participate in the WBP at Barry Island, while I participate at Ferry Bar Point, a little beach near my house in Baltimore. It will be a shared project across 3,493 miles, and will help keep us close.
Andy is a mosiac artist, so I am sure that his piece will incredibly creative and interesting. My little beach is an urban beach, so I will have to do some raking and trash-picking to get a section clear enough to make a design or a cairn. I've checked the weather and the tide tables, and it looks like a go for tomorrow. So, from Ferry Bar Point to Ynys y Barri (Barry Island), we've got a Saturday art project for us and for the world.

January 7, 2008

Now, I am One!

January 8th is the first anniversary of my semi-illustrious blogging career. Style Court and Peak of Chic were the first blogs I really read, and then I found All The Best, another American abroad. Kitchenography was right up there, too and really got me hooked on the whole thing.

In honour of my first anniversary and to thank you wonderful readers, I have a copy of the last issue of House & Garden to give away. Amazingly, it was one of my recent Book Thing finds. Obviously, someone didn't think was a treasure! This is the issue that features the amazing house of Aerin Lauder Zinterhoffer.
I'd love it if you'd let me know what you would like me to write more about and I will endeavour to do so. This isn't a quiz, and the winner will be picked at random.

Thanks again for reading and commenting. I truly appreciate it!

January 6, 2008

Cashmere Sheets

When I was writing about the textures of grasscloth and crewel, it reminded me of something I've just read about - cashmere sheets. I adore cashmere and have a rather large collection of cashmere sweaters, as well as socks, gloves, and a wrap or four. In fact, I've pretty much gotten rid of my wool sweaters, except for an old Irish fisherman's sweater and a warm Norwegian one.

Personally, I am a plain high-thread count all-cotton sheet kind of gal. No flannel, none of those ghastly t-shirt sheets, no poly blends. Manrico, an Italian company makes cashmere sheets and a queen-size set costs $5,800. However, they can be machine-washed, so that will save you on the dry-cleaning bills. Because of the properties of cashmere and the light weight of the sheets, they can be used year-round.
The cashmere sheets are being sold in jewelry stores, because they're just that exclusive. I am really torn about the idea of cashmere sheets. I do love my crisp cotton sheets, and because the dog is usually somewhere in close proximity, they get washed frequently. It's also pretty hot and humid here in the summer, so thinking of cashmere in the summer doesn't fill me with joy. But they are cashmere... But they're $5,800... What do you think?

January 1, 2008

Carleton Varney, Part XI - Texture

As my first post for 2008, I thought I'd pull out the magic book - Carleton Varney's 1971 classic "Book of Decorating" and see what it has to say.

It's Time for Texture... texture is on the decorating scene in a big way. Consider brick, wood paneling, cane vinyl wallcoverings, burlap papers, tweeds, cut velvets, linens and crewels. Vinyl asbestos tiles are easily installed (!). Walls can be covered in an orange, white and beige grasscloth.
Except for the scary asbestos tiles, which should be removed anywhere they're found, this is still pretty sound advice. There's nothing more classic than beautiful wood paneling, and nothing worse than bad wood paneling. Grasscloth can be mindful of tropical bars or more sophisticated rooms, with beautiful detailing. Donghia has a wallcovering collection that includes some beautiful grasscloths as well as vinyl coverings in teapaper, raffia, bamboo and tapacloth look-alikes.Crewel is a classic texture and it can be found on everything from upholstery to pillows, from bedding to clothing. It was widely used in colonial times in the US, but most of it that you find these days is made in India. Crewel is different from needlepoint in that crewel-work doesn't cover the entire fabric. One of the most common patterns is the Tree of Life, a variation of which is shown below.Except for the asbestos tiles, I think that it's still Time for Texture!