July 29, 2008

Fluid Movement

One of the things I like best about Baltimore is its lively and sometimes quirky art scene. Every summer, a band of friends gets together to present a swimming extravaganza at two local public swimming pools. This is a combination of synchronized swimming and performance art and it's called Fluid Movement.
The group usually starts with a well-known theme and then riffs on it until they get a quasi-political and always funny show. This year's presentation, Mother Goosed, is a take off on the American race for President with Humpty Dumpty representing the current head of state. Last year, the troupe did a spoof on War and Peace, about the local dog park, called War & Fleas.
One of our friends is participating this year and so we spent a threatening Sunday afternoon being spashed, laughing hysterically and appreciating the Olympic synchronized swimmers who do this as a sport. It didn't matter what size or shape you are, the only requirement is enthusiasm (and the ability to swim).
It's playing again next weekend at Patterson Park Pool in Baltimore. Don't miss it.

July 27, 2008

Book Thing Visit

I thought you might have some pre-conceived notions of what the Book Thing looks like, sort of a combination of the book store in Notting Hill and the local Borders... but it's the polar opposite of both. A few years ago, they relocated from the basement of an old townhouse in mid-town to an unheated and uncooled warehouse in a semi-sketchy section of Baltimore.
There's a drop-off point where the books are taken in and reviewed. They end up selling about .02% of the books they're given, usually first editions and rare books, and the income from the sales provides operating cash for the operation. To prevent other people from selling the free books, they're all stamped "This is a Free Book. Not for sale".
Bookshelves line all of the walls, and in the main section of the warehouse, there are long rows of shelves. The books are categorized according to very broad guidelines and the Dewey Decimal System is non-existent! Titles and authors are not alphabetized, so if you're looking for a specific biography or law book, you have to search through every title.
It is the randomness of it that makes it all the more fun. You can't go in looking for something specific, you just take what you find.

The Book Thing - it's a good thing!

July 24, 2008

Drip Dry

It looks like the post about clotheslines struck a chord with a lot of you. Well, you're in good company. In today's House & Garden section of the New York Times, they had a little piece about an indoor hanging clothes drier. It's made of kiln dried wood and comes from Italy. Funnily, it's called La Giostra, or merry-go-round. It's available at Conran's in NYC for about $25. With one of these, you won't have to hang your unmentionables outside on the line.

Image: NYTimes

July 22, 2008

Clothes Lines

On the way home from work today, I was listening to Marketplace on NPR and heard a story about line-drying clothes. I was rather horrified to hear someone from near Baltimore saying that she didn't like clothes lines because they look low class! I couldn't believe my ears. Doesn't she realize that about 90% of the world's population has never even seen a tumble drier?
Neither of the houses where I lived in the UK had clothes driers, and it was hard for me to get used to air dried clothes, but eventually I did. The boarding school where I worked had large airing rooms for the students to dry their clothes. The castle up the road from school, where friends lived, had an area near the kitchen garden for the clothes line.

Parisians send their heirloom linen table clothes and napkins to special fields to be air- and sun-dried. The chlorophyll imparts a special whiteness to the fabrics. When you air dry linens, they won't need to be starched, as the air drying will have done it.As a child, I remember playing in the sheets hanging in the fresh air to dry and making tents with my sisters. At my old house in Baltimore, I had a great clothesline, and some of the neighbouring houses even had old pulley and post systems, so the women could stand at the back door and pull the line in and out. I wish I had a clothes line here, but there's no place to anchor it.
What do you think of this debate? Should neighbourhood associations be allowed to dictate whether people can line dry their clothes? Do you use a tumble drier or hang your clothes outside?

July 20, 2008

China, My China

When I was recently asked what my china pattern was, I had to admit that I really don't have a china pattern anymore. I love blue and white china, and have collected lots of pieces of the classic Blue Willow pattern since I've been back in the States. But a specific pattern? Not really.
Out of either incredible embarrassment for me, or incredible kindness (probably this), I was given a set of china recently. It ticks all the boxes: It's beautiful. It's classic. It's blue and white.
The maker is Royal Copenhagen and the pattern is Blue Fluted Half Lace. This pattern has at its origin the traditional patterns of China. The pattern as it is today was first produced by Royal Copenhagen in the 1770s and remains one of their most popular patterns. This china is fluted around the edges, and also has a lacy edging, and the hand-painted pattern is fairly simple in its brush strokes. I also received some pieces of the White Half Lace pattern, which fluted, but without the blue brush strokes.

One of my favourite pieces is the sweet little soup and cover. It's the most gorgeous design, and perfect for eating some fresh raspberries and cream.This is just a stunning gift, and one I will treasure for years. Each time I use this china, I will think about the giver.

The title of this post comes from an old Brian Eno song I've always remembered.

July 17, 2008


As I was driving home from work this afternoon, this is what my car thermometer said:So I took Connor swimming in the river near my house.

Polo at Ladew Gardens

I was talking to my mother and she reminded me that she's going to a polo match next week. The match, which will benefit the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, just blocks from my house, is in honour of an old family friend who died from a fall in a riding accident.
Ladew Gardens was the former home of Harvey Ladew, a wealthy socialite who settled in northern Baltimore County and created one of the most incredible topiary gardens in the US. Mr. Ladew was a fox-hunter, gardener and sporting art patron. His gardens, which are open to the public, are a testament to these three passions. He was friends with many notables from the 1920's and 30's, including Richard Rogers, Noel Coward and Cole Porter. Billy Baldwin, a Baltimorean, was also a very good friend.
The topiary gardens at Ladew are spectacular, but there are also Italianate gardens, a Great Bowl and others, which make up the garden rooms so popular in England in the years between the wars. The main house is open for tours and is especially great to visit at Christmas when it is decorated for the season. Throughout the year, there are concerts, courses, and polo matches on the property. It's about 30 miles north of Baltimore City and in the midst of Maryland's Hunt Country.
For more information about this interesting man and his gardens, read Perfectly Delightful: The Life and Gardens of Harvey Ladew, written by Christopher Weeks and published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 1999. I am still looking for a copy of this book after my sister gave the TWO copies my father had to Book Thing. (See M21, it's not all good!)

Images: Ladew Gardens

July 14, 2008

Reminders of You!

One of my house-guests and I stopped by Housewerks on our tour of interesting places (H.L. Mencken's House, Edgar Allan Poe's House, Mount Clare Mansion). Luckily, we caught Ben, one of the owners there on his day off. He welcomed us, and invited us in to look around while he was working on some other things. As your Ascot correspondent and I wandered around, I saw a few things that reminded me of some of my fellow bloggers.

Both London Calling and Aesthete's Lament have done posts on old stoves recently, and Housewerks had two beauties there. One was an old Chambers stove in very good condition, but there was too much in the way to get a good picture (I was also wearing a long skirt).The other was a wood stove which has mica windows. It's just an incredible piece and is in nearly perfect condition!
My dear Maison 21, who loves bright and shiny things, has an incredible Moscow Mafia-style chandelier on his blog right now. This one is a little more to my taste, but still bigger than what would fit into my house!
Months ago, House of Beauty & Culture showed a lovely mirror which I lusted after and today, I found something similar at Housewerks. It looks like a tin oriel window, and I am sure that with a little work, it would make a brilliant mirror! I would stand it on top of a chest of drawers, I think.
I am looking for a chest with lots of drawers, and when I saw this one, I just fell in love. Too bad the drawers are too small for what I need. Ben explained to us that this was a watch-repair desk. It's got a tray that is wood with a cloth inset to pull out and it sort of fits around your waist. It will catch the tiny springs and gears that are dropped and the cloth will make it simple to pick them up. It dates from the 1930's.
There was a group of four mirrors above a beautiful fireplace that I loved. The frames really looked great against the burnt umber walls. The fireplace surround is also pretty terrific.
Thank you very much for reading Pigtown Design. I appreciate that you take time out of your day to stop by. Give yourself a hand!

July 13, 2008

Bastille Day

When I lived in the UK, I was lucky enough to work on a project that took me to Paris about once a month. I had to work for about 12 hours on Sundays, but with the flights from Cardiff what they were, I had to leave Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. Tough, I know...
But I was able to get to know the city and since I stayed in the same hotel most of the time, I learned the area of the Left Bank where I was, quite well. I have been collecting little books on Paris and France since I found a sweet little one on my first trip to Paris many years ago.

Today, at the Book Thing, I found the perfect book to celebrate FĂȘte Nationale, Bastille Day or Quatorze Juillet. It's called "France - Paris and the Provinces". It was published in 1948, and has a note saying that only 70 copies were printed on pure linen paper and that they were not for sale. It was printed by Societe Ode, which, as far as I can tell is a textile manufacturer.
In the Introduction, the last paragraph says: Here is both a picture book and a picturesque book. Here you can wander at leisure amidst old prints and local costumes, and examine the coloured film of modern life, as well as maps as finicky and engaging as the fanciful planispheres of the first seafarers.
This book is filled with engaging watercolour paintings as well as 18th century etchings and maps. While more than half of the 450+ pages are about Paris, each of the provinces is also represented. The chapters discuss both the geography and gastronomy of the regions and that should make this book lots of fun to browse through.

Vive la France!

July 11, 2008

Le Petit Cochon

You know that we're quite fond of pigs around Pigtown, so as we were doing an evening shopping stroll in Federal Hill, the next neighbourhood over from us, we stopped in the wonderful shop, Le Petit Cochon. It's a well-curated shop filled with great gift items, as well as special treats for you and the ones you love.

Liz, who runs the shop with her husband Sebastian, was a buyer for museum shops, so she has the inside track on great resources for unique items. There's beautiful glassware and china serving pieces, hilarious greeting cards and stationery, beautiful notebooks and journals, and lush European grooming and beauty products. Le Petit Cochon also has a selection of fabric flowers that look like they've just been picked, including some spectacular gardenias, which I adore!
One fun item combined two things I love: the tin plates and designs of the Gees Bend Quilts. Another thing was the fun selection of roosters in straw, pottery and china.
There was a selection of fun spotted ovenware that could go from oven to table with no problem at all. I love the green!
The shopping evening was sponsored by Baltimore Magazine and the absolutely frightening "sparkling liqueur" Nuvo, which was bright pink and tasted like cough medicine. The three of us who tasted it had the exact same reaction - YUCK!!!
Le Petit Cochon is located at 1030 S. Charles Street in Federal Hill/Baltimore.

July 9, 2008


Sadly, I had to write a letter of condolence to an old family friend whose daughter suddenly died over the weekend. Very interesting people whose grand- and great-grandfather was a president of the US.

I realized that most of the stationery that I have is fun and cheery and that none of it would do for a letter of this type. I feel like I know the family too well to just go purchase a sympathy card, so I went to the stationery store to see what they had.

The store, which is close to my office, has a good selection of Crane papers, including the fun Kate Spade papers. I have the KS agenda inserts, and in fact, got my boss to get their week on two pages calendar inserts a few weeks ago!

I've been thinking about having stationery made with my family's crest on it, and I recently found the die that we used for one of my sisters' wedding. But since I couldn't wait, I picked out a black and white pattern with envelopes lined in black. Not overwhelmingly sad, but somewhat serious.
When I read Crane's sympathy sentiments, I found that what I'd written was exactly what they suggested.Last year when my father died, the handwritten notes from friends meant so much to me. Even though it's hard, do the right thing and send a handwritten note. It's the least you can do.