Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Providence, so close

Providence, Rhode Island is only an hour from Boston and I recently made a one night jaunt there with my son Matt. Home of Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and Johnson and Wales Cooking School Providence has beautiful old houses, great restaurants and a colorful history.

We stayed in the pleasantly quirky, tastefully minimal Dean Hotel,
which I am only mentioning here because I found it interesting--
there was fresh creativity and thoughtfulness in the design, such as
bunk beds in some of the rooms, nice not only for children, but young adults (or old adults) can share a room dubbed "the classmates" with two sets of bunk beds for $120 a night.

As the mother of three young adults, that kind of thinking impresses me, 
and as someone on the costly Boston---New York axis, the prices delight me.

John White Alexander, The Blue Bowl 1898

We had lunch at the charming Duck and Bunny,
across the street from a restaurant that advertised 
Ethiopean and Eritrean Comfort Food,
and I couldn't stop thinking about the phrase
Eritrean Comfort Food,
wondering who are the souls in need of it.

We spent a lot of time in the RISD Museum,
 a large, rambling place
with an encyclopedic collection. 
It was a little haphazard and a lot of fun.

Mary Elizabeth Furber (11 yrs) and Matha Nelson Furber (3yrs)
painted by self-taught traveling artist Joseph H. Davis, 1830's.

A room of classical art bumped up 
against one of contemporary minimalism,
and then suddenly you were in Egypt!
Or Provence! Or surrounded by 1950's design icons!

Striding Lion, Babylon 604-562 BCE

Foreground: Joan Mitchell Mooring 1971
Background: Grace Hartigan Homage to Matsse 1955

Andy Warhol,  Race Riot Birmingham, 1963

Buddha, Japan circa 1150-1200

It was a pleasant evening for wandering. Galleries were open,
we found a good dinner and a river walk.

Breakfast was at a cafe where little two-seater tables
had charming flower arrangements .

I love it when people care so much about flowers.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

flowers everywhere

You were right. Spring arrived.
Ten days ago I only had a few scilla and andromeda flowers.
Now there are cherry blossoms, viburnum,
and lilacs (not pictured).

(and a day of unexplainable blurry photos)

 lilies of the valley



and rabbits.

 Inside, an elegant orchid from my sons,

and a new season of painting.

I'm savoring the long light-filled days, bird songs and blossoms,
and dreaming of touring English gardens. This book, 

I hope that you are enjoying spring,
or fall, if you are on the other side of the world,
that there is light and beauty in your days.

xo, Jennifer

(Because that's who I really am--Jen was a phase brought about by the desire 
for a shorter email address. I can't live up to the perkiness it implies.)

Thursday, May 7, 2015


 There are forests, rolling hills, small craggy mountains, barns and farmhouses galore,
but for me the centerpiece of our place in the country is the water. 
The waterfall and stream that are part of the watershed

From the top of those hills and mountains snowmelt runs into streams and,
 supplemented by rainfall travels on downhill, 
making its way into the Pepacton Reservoir. 

From there it funnels via aqueduct to New York City,
 in a surprisingly low-tech way. Gravity.

The Catskill/Delaware County Watershed provides 90% of New York City's water.

 This means there are lots of restriction on land use, 
and that the waters and surrounding lands will remain pristine and undeveloped. 

This very morning the water that streamed past as I hunted for wildflowers last weekend
could be pouring, unfiltered from the faucets of my sons who live in New York City.

Monday, May 4, 2015

tiny flowers and brilliant Brits

 The only flowers in my garden are these petite blue scilla. 
Several years ago I planted lots of bulbs, but every year fewer appear. 
I assume squirrels have taken them. Or garden gnomes.
 No daffodils bloomed this year, or even crocus. But lilies of the valley are on their way 
and before you know there will be so many pictures of peonies here
that the internets will break and we'll have to start sending each other letters
and photographs. On paper.

Doesn't Aji look like a giant?

My andromeda shrubs are laden with delicate bells.
After the winter we had I'm especially grateful for these sweet small blossoms.

(The wedding was almost a year ago, and I've finally framed some pictures.)

After reading this piece in the New Yorker, I've been on a Barbara Pym
kick. Her novels of domestic life in post World War II England are witty and delightful, with enough astringency to keep them from being too cozy, but they also fall into the category of comfort reading. I thoroughly enjoyed Jane and Prudence ,  Excellent Women and Some Tame Gazelle.

Also, Wolf Hall on PBS via BBC is brilliant (as are the books it's based on).

Now, visit Small but Charming for more Flowers in the House
and to see our dear friend Jane.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

the truth is


When I glimpse my last post, with all those pretty pink houses, I feel a twinge of guilt. I do love the charming houses of Charleston and elegant squares of Savannah. I endorse them as great places to visit. But the truth is, I also have a real fondness for the scruffy cities, the neglected ones, and most of all New York City. And not just Manhattan, but Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx (where I lived, studied and worked). (Sorry, I've never been to Staten Island.) For years I worked in Paterson, New Jersey and now I have a studio in Lowell, Massachusetts--small industrial cities that never recovered after their factories shut down, cities that struggle, but also are havens for immigrants and artists.

Not to say that I don't appreciate the more polished cities, I do. I love them all. But I have a special feeling for the neglected ones, the battered edges, the rust and hard earned distress marks. I'm comfortable with underdogs. I'm not going to tell you to go to Hartford instead of Charleston for a long weekend, I'm just telling you something about myself here.

There's a lot less blogging and blog reading going on these days. I've been feeling inertia myself in that regard, but I love the connections I've made here, the friendships. You guys have sustained me through some difficult times. Maybe I just need to shake things up a bit to keep it going, be a little more real, a little less edited.

I'm going to the country this weekend. (my other love is landscapes--forests, mountains, deserts, rivers…) I think it's too early for wildflowers, but I can't wait for the sharp air, the scent of moving water.

*All pictures here taken in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

midnight in the garden (with pink houses)

Last week, with snow still in my yard, I took a quick trip 
to Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina.

I'm showing you cupcakes from Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah,
but actually, I ate the key lime tart, and it was perfect.
Sweet and tart and limey.

 These two fine ladies oversee your order. 
Before the tart I had grilled pimento cheese on ciabatta.
I instagrammed my love for pimento cheese and how hard it is to find in the north
and Susan of Southern Fascinations gave me her recipe (here).

So I'm going to make it, if I can find pimentos.
(I know you can get anything on the internet.)
And don't worry, it's fat-free.

 Savannah is filled with green, designed around 21 squares that have
massive shade trees dripping Spanish moss, and benches and fountains and statues.
Many of them are surrounded by elegant townhouses.


It's beautiful at night too, and a little spooky--
all that Spanish Moss
and there are ghosts everywhere.

 I kept seeing pink houses in Charleston.
I don't actually want to live in a pink house,
but I get excited when I see them.

This spectacular gingerbread house faces the river.

This one looks like pictures I've seen of Dutch houses.

Hard to get a good photo, but behind those verandahs
is a huge pink house.

It seemed that every block had a pink house

or church. 
The French Hugenot church.
Isn't it beautiful with the black trim?

The highlight of the trip was the Charleston garden tour.
They were mostly small and all charming. 
Lots of old brick paths, boxwood hedges, fountains and flowers. 
Comfortable places to sit in the shade and drink a mint julep 
or sweet tea (when you need a change from your verandah).
Small garden "rooms" and secret places, crumbling walls, and patina galore.

It's less than a two hour flight from Boston to Savannah and Charleston
and they are only a two hour drive apart, so to my northeast friends,
it's easy to make a short trip to either or both.
Spanish moss, pimento cheese and pink houses make a nice change.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

a florida weekend

When I got off the plane in Florida it was like walking outside after a matinee movie. Bright and startling, an altered universe from the cold and snow I left behind. One day I want to find what's left of the Florida wilderness, go to the Everglades, the Keys, some little islands that will show me what it was before it was paved over, something swampy and scary with wild orchids and alligators. Alligators are around--on golf courses for example, but I'd like to see one in its native habitat. I don't even know if those places still exist outside of books and movies.

You probably know by now how much I form my images of the world by reading. The last time I went to Florida, two years ago, I wrote a post about that, sort of. (here) In that post I also wrote about my brother in law's bit of Florida wilderness.

Since then, he's added goats and a donkey to his menagerie.

Anyway, this trip was about family. You know my father in law recently died, and we went to spend time with my mother in law. I grew up in a small, quiet family, and now I have almost no family, but the one I married into is big and noisy. And it turns out that big and noisy can be good for mourning.  There was more laughter than tears mixed in with the memories, the presence of the absent.

I saw herons and lizards and lots of pink flowers

 and ate some really good fried chicken,
outside, at a picnic table.

"It can look brand-new and man-made, but as soon as you see a place like the Everglades or the Big Cypress Swamp or the Loxahatchee you realize that Florida is also the last of the American frontier. The wild part of Florida is really wild, the tame part is really tame…fifty acres of Everglades dry up every day, new houses sprout on sand dunes, every year a welt of new highways rises. Nothing seems hard or permanent; everything is always changing or washing away. Transitions and mutation meld into  each other, a fusion of wetness and dryness, unruliness and orderliness, nature and artifice."

--Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief