Wednesday, June 29, 2011

living with color

The last time I was in the store I was talking to a couple of customers about cafe curtains I created from from tea towels made by Oh Little Rabbit. My husband was there, and when the customers left I said "I feel like the shoemaker whose children have no shoes". I have no business giving decorating advice to anyone. My homes have always been a jumble of things I like with little or no planning involved. And lots of color. When we prepared to move to Massachusetts I swore the new house would be cool and calm with lots of white. I ended up painting every room a different, bold color. Kind of like these Bermuda houses.

attribution note: I have none for this picture. If it's yours please let me know so I can credit you. All other pictures were taken by me.

My dining room is hot pink, family room yellow, kitchen peach, den apple green, foyer cerulean blue, bedroom hydrangea blue ... (One day I will show you pictures--I have to figure out how to take pictures of a room.)

The colors in Bermuda were amazing. Tangerine, lime, turquoise, lemon chiffon, mango, watermelon, emerald ..... It was glorious. 

And my New England colonial is decorated in tropical beach house colors.

If color and design interest you, I highly recommend The Way We Live With Color and all the other books in the series. I will be writing more about this, as I am in the process of re-furnishing the great room in our Catskills house. A process in which I forced myself to consider context, setting, and to ask for help. More on that soon.

Do you surround yourself with a favorite color palette?


Monday, June 27, 2011

flowers in the house

I like to have flowers in places where we will see them often. 
It is the time of year when I can pick them from my garden.
Blue hydrangeas and yellow lilies for the kitchen table, 
in a vase that was my great-grandmothers.

 I always have flowers, or in the winter, greens, in this pitcher on this table in the foyer. The pitcher is from the West Virginia farmhouse that my father's family lived in for over a century. It was sold when I was a teenager, and the last of the great-aunts who lived there died. The pitcher is rough and rustic and everything looks good in black. Maybe it was originally used at the table for milk. We had huge breakfasts there-- lima beans with breakfast is a strong memory. The angel used to sit in the window of a restaurant in Brooklyn Heights. When the owner died and the effects of the restaurant were being disposed of, I asked about her and she was given to me. I find her strangely powerful.

This little bouquet is on the table where I work. 
My father gave me the cranberry glass vase when I was 20. 

To see a variety of lovely flowers in the house, visit Small But Charming.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I'm back in Massachusetts. 

As expected, having a private verandah (all 36 square feet of it--which was perfect for 2 chairs and a table) was the key to an enjoyable week on a ship with 2000 people. I spent a lot of time there, reading, writing, thinking, and staring at the water.

I learned that not all cruise lines are alike. This one had classical music, jazz, and a library, which nicely offset the casino and other bright and noisy places. It was good to get away and reflect. My life has changed in major ways in the last year, and I expect that to continue. One thing that became clear as I gazed at the ocean, at those constantly shifting patterns and shades of blue, is that I want to get back to doing something creative. Maybe need to.

Overall it was a good week. I will write more as I process the trip. A few pictures of Bermuda:

Saturday, June 25, 2011


We departed from Bayonne, New Jersey.
Across the river is Brooklyn.

I love these working boats. Such character.

I'll be home tomorrow. More soon.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

through the looking glass

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

                                                                      From The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll

I am going on a cruise to Bermuda. For a week.
With a large group of my in-laws.

We are gathering in honor of my mother-in-law's birthday, which is also my birthday, and Father's Day. I've been on two, shorter cruises before, also with my in-laws (for their 50th wedding anniversary and a milestone birthday) and I find them to be kind of a surrealistic experience, not unlike a Lewis Carroll novel.

Reasons I should not go on a cruise:

1. I don't like crowds.
2. I don't like group activities.
3. I don't drink alcohol.
4. I don't sing karaoke.
5. I don't like bright or loud or shiny.
6. I need a cup of good strong coffee between the time I wake up and the time I talk to anyone.

Reasons I will be okay and hopefully even enjoy this cruise:

1. I like my in-laws.
2. I like the ocean.
3. My room (cabin?) has a verandah, so I can sit outside and read and stare at the water and stay away from all those crowds and lights and noisy group activities.
4. I will have time to read several books.
5. I bought Starbucks instant coffee, which my husband says is not bad and can, in desperate times (which these will be) be made with hot tap water. I must remember to pack a mug.
6. Marvelous Harriet (with wonderful Jorge for backup) will be taking care of the store, so I won't have to think about it, even though I will miss 2 summer weekends.

I recently read Mutiny on the Bounty, so I am up to speed on deep sea vessel protocols.

 I hope to see houses that look like this

and learn all about Bermuda shorts.

And so, my merry band of internet friends, I hope to report to you from the road, water, but if not, I'll be back soon.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

geometric wilderness

Geometric Wilderness.
New Etsy treasury. You can see the rest and get the sources for these pictures here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

little mystery

This little desk is about 20" wide and 36" tall.
Too small for a child's desk (unless the child is under 5 or so).
Maybe a salesman's sample?
Eastlake style and construction details date it to (probably) late 19th/early 20th century. 
The writing surface is leather on wood.
Wide boards on the back. Maybe hand built.
An old sticker--nothing legible.
Who made it? What was its purpose?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Catskills Guide on Design Sponge

My Catskills Guide, written for Design*Sponge just went live. I wish I could have made it more comprehensive, but I hope it will be a good introduction to the region for people who are not familiar with it. And maybe it will bring some travellers to an area that is always on the edge economically, and that is really hurting these days. It is so worth the trip! Design Sponge was and continues to be a major source of inspiration and education for me. It's at the top of my daily reading list and I highly recommend it. You can see all of their City Guides here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

wildflowers and walking

I know I've told you that most of our property in the Catskills is wooded ( here and here) and shady. But we do have a few sunny spots and the wildflowers were abundant last weekend.

I take a walk every morning before I go to the store, and every evening when I return. Nature is so restorative. Thoreau wrote a marvelous essay called Walking in 1862. I wrote a little bit about Thoreau here and quoted from Walking. Rather than repeat the same quote, here's a different passage (a bit lengthy, but worth it):

"I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least---and it is customarily more than that---sauntering through the woods ...When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, siting with crossed legs, so many of them---as if legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon,---I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago."

And how do you like this little pink chest? I put it in the store storage closet and filled the drawers with tacks, nails, picture hangers, etc. So much nicer than the plastic cups I was using.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I love to read

I love to read. That was the first sentence of my oldest son's college application essay, which made me very happy. We are a family of readers. I haven't written much about books here, but it occurs to me that I can because (besides the fact that it's my blog and I can write whatever I want) books are an important part of country weekends. Here in the Catskills, used books stores abound. Even the smallest towns have a used books store. Hobart, population 354, the book village of the Catskills has five, leading some to compare it to Hay-on-Wye.

Summer reading brings to mind tattered paperbacks smelling of sand and suntan lotion or lining the knotty pine shelf in a cabin on a lake. There's a special feeling that goes with reading while surrounded by nature--the rest of the world disappears. It evokes the sound of water, hammocks, porches, shade trees, rainy days ... And of course there's winter reading, by the fire. The same son who gave me the opening for this post, spent a winter weekend in our Catskills house with his girlfriend, and they read A Wrinkle In Time (a favorite of their youths, and mine too) aloud to each other.

I re-read it myself every few years. It's that good. As I wrote about in another post, many of my children's picture books that I saved got destroyed in a flood, but the ones on higher shelves survived. I've brought many of the old favorites to the Catskills house. All the Roald Dahl books. Beatrix Potter's. The Chronicles of Narnia. So many more. I'm planning to read Charlotte's Web again this summer. Do you have a favorite book from your childhood that you re-read now and then?


Thursday, June 9, 2011

a few things

This big old cheese box

16" in diameter. 8" deep.

Swizzle sticks:
Can you tell I went to an auction?

My obsession with Little Golden Nature Guides:

This peony from my garden:

This op-ed piece by Tom  Friedman articulates some things that have been on my mind. "What were we thinking? How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we’d crossed some growth/climate/natural resource/population redlines all at once?" And the fact that for the past six months I have spent a considerable amount of time selling or trying to sell things to people. Even if they are mostly used a/ka/ vintage & antiques. But not all.

This reaction (if I still lived in Brooklyn I would go to her flower store every day).

And now the fun part---links to tours of a couple of marvelous inspiring Catskill homes and their people:

The cabin belonging to musician and artist Kim Krans of The Wild Unknown and her husband Jonny Ollsin.

NY Times article on the gingerbread studio of Sandy Foster of My Shabby Streamside Studio. Click here to go straight to the slide show.

photo credit: Trevor Tondo, NY Times

And now I have a bookcase to paint.