Monday, September 26, 2011

The Grain Sack Craze

The Vintage French Grain Sack look continues to have legs;  great long legs.  Target is the latest store to jump on this trend, which has been so popular for the last few years~


Target’s Vintage Charm Stool; $49.99 and out of stock online; you can find it at some stores~


Simple, but cute, isn’t it? I guarantee, made in China.  I saw it recently in one of the décor magazines, prominently featured on a leading page; proof to me of the hunger for high-low design~


In the same line, Vintage Charm Lamp Shade $19.99; this is really cute!  Link HERE~image

Other stores have apparently done well with this look for several years, as they continue to show the merchandise~ Grain sack pillows ranging from 50-80 years old; $89.00 at Pottery Barn; link HERE.


Also at Pottery Barn, a more reasonable Circle Frame Pillow Cover at $35; the pillow is for the frame only, PB will monogram it for an extra fee; hand wash; link HERE.


Ballard seems to come up with endless new ways to use the grain sack look; here in their Moulin Burlap Cube “stenciled on one side to resemble a vintage French grain sack;” $269; link HERE.


And even their Monogrammed Linen Tissue Cover, $55 for set of three with free monogram; link HERE.


Restoration Hardware always has a selection; online, their Vintage French burlap pillow covers are $28-54; made of “natural jute” (read: Burlap); the website says artisans spend 24 hours creating each one.  Spot clean only~


And others printed on Belgian linen; now on sale HERE for $28-32~


Where am I going with this post?  Well, in the next week my latest magazine feature will be out; and I can tell you it has something to do with this look, only better.  I began planning for this feature many, many months ago, long before any of these products were on the market.  Love the look, not the price.  Thinking of some really great gifts to give for Christmas, but something a little more personal…..hmmm….

Do you like this look? Do you already have any Vintage Grain Sack pieces?

Stay tuned; the issue should be out shortly; I can’t wait to show you!


Images courtesy Target, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware and Ballard Designs.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Snap the Whip

Can it be?  My calendar says it is the end of September. Already? Really?  I feel like I am at the tail end of a string playing the children’s game Crack the Whip; immortalized for me in Winslow Homer’s wonderful 1872 painting Snap the Whip; LOVE Winslow Homer’s works~


If you have ever played this game on ice skates you know how fun and fast it can be!  Summer ended with a fluid flurry of activity, and now our late summer is giving way to fall.  It’s been one incredibly quick ride from June until now, and I feel the pace will be fast until after Christmas and New Year.  A magazine shoot will soon be published; a best friend visiting in two weeks’ time; my sister and kids will visit just before Halloween; I am planning my line sheet for 2012, as well as some major gardening projects for fall.  Of course I have also started to make some easy fall recipes, including pumpkin soup for two, with the pumpkin as the tureen~


And Acorn squash soup, using the same old French recipe with bread and garlic and cream; wait ‘til I show you this recipe, you will use it for fall I promise~


I was able to squeeze in a few rare hours in the garden today, mulching, feeding, and digging up the citrus.  I did manage to also box up a lot of canned goods for a local food bank, which I will drop off this week.  And I left two baskets on the gates of two neighbor friends; they are dear and will be thrilled; we talk of dogs and gardens and never business, but they finally discovered the baskets.  Pulling me back to summer, in the garden I have an amazing amount of roses in bloom, here Double Delight~


The light was poor as it was evening, so these are not great shots, but the fragrance of the large bouquet is lovely in the kitchen this eve, a nice reminder of summer.  And yet today I also noticed that the camellias have suddenly started to bud, and so for holiday we will have yet more lovely flowers; loving my Bagatelle rose at the moment, which has gone crazy with old world heavy-fragrance blooms, as well as the yellow and orange Sheila’s Perfume; one of my most prolific bloomers~


Enjoy your late summer in to fall; much more to come very soon~

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Virtual Malawi

Have you ever visited, or do you want to visit, the continent of Africa?  I know that’s a rather broad statement, like “do you want to go to Asia, or Europe?” 

Last evening I went to a board meeting for my high school, a Catholic girls school.  We had a brief presentation by one of a group of educators who has visited the African country of Malawi over the summer break.  Seeing the video and hearing the commentary tugged at my heart strings while I celebrated their joy. Of note, they have joy and hope, with few material luxuries; why is it that so many people in the US have so much yet no joy?   I guess we can thank Madonna for being an advocate and adopting her son from Malawi, but otherwise, does it make the news?  Extreme Poverty.  Tobacco is their cash crop, and how good is that today?  And how can they move into coffee of other crops?

I am torn, as there is now so much poverty in the United States.  Should we help our own first?  There is so much poverty and need around the globe….where does one start? Where can you make a difference? Where do you want to make a difference is perhaps the operative question.

But first, I thought of Madagascar, home of my basket suppliers and the 13th poorest country in the world…slightly better off than Malawi at the 8th poorest.  How can people live on $1 a day?

It’s been on my list for several years now to visit Madagascar, and Reunion Island and perhaps Malawi.  And perhaps South Africa.  Oh that would be a month, I suppose….

No labels attached to this, just watch the video and tell me what you think…..

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Coastal Cleanup

There are some great eco-focused groups in Laguna.  I try to support a variety of organizations, with time and donations, and today I took a few hours to help with the State-wide Coastal Cleanup effort.  In Laguna it was led by our local water quality expert and fellow Francophile, Roger Butow, second from right, in front of our landmark Hotel Laguna; Roger is our advocate for “fishable and swimmable water” through his coalition Clean Water Now!~


Coastal Cleanup Day is sponsored by the California Coastal Commission, and each year they mobilize teams of volunteers throughout the State to clean up beaches and inland waterways. 


I was an 8am earlybird as I had to drop off for the market in Corona del Mar by 9.  The beach was quiet at that time, under grey skies.  Sunny or grey, we love this, and we love this to be kept clean, please~


And then, along the Boardwalk, I ran into the ray of sunshine we know as Mai (far right), who is my neighbor and a local ball of energy…we love you Mai!  She had her team ready with buckets, and she held the leashes of Honey & Biscuit too while I snapped this pic~


Those of us who are fortunate to live by the beach know how the impact of plastic and other trash on the marine environment.  But really, it is all around us, on land, miles from the coast.  On the way back from Corona del Mar market, I saw lots of trash along Coast Highway at Crystal Cove north of Laguna.  Why don’t I notice this every day?  While I was part of the Laguna effort, I went back with a big bag and an extension picker and collected about 20 pounds of trash~


I picked up bottles, cups, pizza boxes; bags, packing materials, candy wrappers, gum wrappers.  A cell phone battery, a Ramada Inn plastic room key. A small Heineken keg, flattened.  Many items were related to our “fast food,” including cups and lids and straws; lots and lots of straws.  I will think before I accept another straw!  I picked up hundreds of other small pieces of plastic and styrofoam (peanuts, broken up coolers and other bits), Google maps, and several pages of someone’s bank statement(!)~


Hundreds of cigarette butts.  There used to be an ashtray in every car, but not any more.  The ashes and the butts go out the window.  My hand was tired of working the picker at the end of two hours~


The interesting thing was that most of the plastics I found were already heavily phyto-degraded.  That is, the sunlight had made them brittle, and unless I picked them up carefully, they broke apart into 20 other pieces.  The smaller the piece, in the ocean, the harder to reclaim, easier it is ingested by some creature.  PLEASE be mindful of your waste.  Maybe this stuff blows out the back of pickups.  Much of it gets discarded inland and washes to the beaches in the storm drain runoff.  In any case, it makes an impact.  Last year, on Coastal Cleanup Day, 82,000 volunteers State-wide collected over 1.2 million pounds of trash.   I am waiting to see how much was collected today, we had a small mountain at Main Beach by late morning. The dreaded soft drink lid, the king of phyto-degradation~


Today in Laguna we had four stations, and there were over 100 volunteers signed in at Main Beach.  There are others who collect but do not sign in.  I left about 200 of my cotton net bags to give to the volunteers at our station, and Roger said they went fast; next year I will get it together to donate in advance to all of the Laguna stations.  I love these beaches, the beaches I grew up with, and am so grateful to everyone around the State for your efforts today!! Special thanks to Roger & his team for their organization~


These UGS Elements bags are made of bamboo; also given away today, though it seems the net bags went first.

Here is to a cleaner coast!

Pick Me Ups

With a little help from my friends, the reminders of that day ten years ago were quickly forgotten. On Monday I received a little bit of sunshine from Laura, who sent me two of her pom poms, which I think will soon be found in her Etsy shop HERE.  You can find all sorts of adorable things there in the meantime.  I immediately put them on an XL Moroccan tote that I’ve been using lately, and have gotten lots of compliments~


Tuesday I received a wonderful little package from Karena, with all sorts of goodies, including this Mission Fig candle, which I burn nightly and is very soothing, not to mention the scent is fantastic~


But it works both ways; on Tuesday I got an email from a blogger friend who had just received my little pick me up gift of a few Metis Linens; and was she ever jazzed to get those, and did that also make me so happy!

Of course nothing picks me up like some more vintage French silver; so I found a dozen late XIXC vermeil knives by Odiot.  Love these and will use them often, I’m thinking their feminine touches will be perfect for dinner with the girls.  Why are my dear friends so far away, I would love to have them over for dinner tonight after I clean these up a little~


And serve them coffee with a trio of new spoons; dated 1774, 1776 and 1765, pre-dating the French Revolution~


I am fascinated with dated French silver.  This spoon was made 100 years before the end of the Civil War, and 200 years before I was born!  Not to mention, the monogram is fantastic~


Thank you all for your kind wishes and 9/11 memories!  How lucky I am to have so many wonderful people in my life now~

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I Was There

As I write this post, the television is on in the next room, and a special report is playing about September 11, 2001.  I don’t need to see it again, it’s bad enough to hear it again.  I saw it with my own eyes, and watching such an event on tv is nothing like seeing it in person.  That day and the days after are burned into my mind, and I can see and feel it like it was yesterday, let alone ten years ago.

I lived in Jersey City, NJ, working for a firm which had offices on Broad Street, just a few doors from the New York Stock Exchange; up the street from Goldman Sachs and right around the corner from the World Trade Center.  I had lived in Manhattan for a dozen years, and our little community in Jersey City, right on the Hudson,with a marina and nautical feel, was an ideal break from the City and afforded me and my beloved dog Napoleon some space and peace.  Until that day.

On September 10, 2001, I went to my office on Broad Street, taking the PATH train a block from my apartment two stops to the sub-basement of the WTC.  I stepped off the PATH at 9:01 am and made my way up through the Concourse to the street level, and to the tree-lined plaza opposite, where there was a Brooks Brothers and other stores, food vendors with carts, and where the business people gathered for lunch, chess or to enjoy the sunshine on nice days.  Then I got one of those cosmic messages that one can not ignore, a very strong feeling, and it was clear and fully formed: This is the last time I will see this place.  Taking in the casual atmosphere of the plaza, I had an initial thought that I was going to die that day.  Seriously.  I went to the office, carefully picked through my day, and on the way home stopped at the Strawberry store in the Concourse of the WTC and bought the jaunty red mohair hat I had admired in the window for several weeks.  If this was the last time.  Why not. I still have that hat.

I decide to work from home the next day, and took Napoleon for our usual morning walk along the boardwalk and the long pier in front of our building just before 9am.  Something changed my mind, too many dogs or something.  Good thing, or I would have seen it happen.  We did not walk the length of the pier, but went home, and shortly after, heard the most tremendous, thundering sound (the second impact; the first one was while we were in the elevator).  Napoleon went nuts with the intensity of the reverberating sound.  Clearly, something had happened.  There was an apartment building being built down the street; had it collapsed?  Napoleon and I went outside, to see that the many dozens of construction workers had abandoned their work and were walking in the street en masse towards their cars; the construction project was intact.  Then I looked up and saw this~


My scans of the ten year old photos did not work out for this post, so maybe for the 20th.  These are my digital photographs of the original photographs, so sorry for the quality, but you will get the idea.  We had this cute faux lighthouse along the River, here juxtaposed with a burning tower. Life interrupted.


There were hundreds of us gathering along the Hudson, watching.  Some with radios, shouting updates, “a plane has hit the Pentagon!” “two bombs have gone off at the Supreme Court!” “A plane is missing in Pennsylvania and may be heading for the White House!”  We had no idea what had happened or what was going on.  There was chaos; phone lines were overloaded and so I could not reach my family by phone or cell to tell them I was not in lower Manhattan as usual, and around noon I managed to get someone in our HR department in D.C. to call my parents.  Helicopters were landing along the River (below); most of us stood in silence, watching.


The North tower; oh the smoke~


I could see, with my naked eye, the flames, people trapped in their offices, hanging out the windows, waving makeshift flags, jumping and falling.  Bodies tumbling and turning in a free-fall on the way down, sometimes in pairs, holding on to each other; these are the most horrific images in my mind; it is a long way down and they seemed to take forever to travel the height of the Towers. Horrific.  At first we wondered if they couldn’t get to the roof, but the heat would have been intense, and the smoke was so thick~


The smoke, oh my goodness.  You have never smelled anything like it….a combination of burnt flesh and burnt plastic for several weeks.  We were advised to close our windows to keep the smoke out, while the Ferry boats came back to NJ filled to capacity.  Neighbors in our building never came home that day. It was crazy.  Life shut down.  We stood around watching and then suddenly, the South Tower fell.  Could not believe it!  Never!  We never thought the Tower would fall!  Impossible!


We expected that the fire would burn up and out, and hoped that those in the Towers were able to make it down the multiple elevators and stairs in the building.  I thought about the times I went to Windows on The World on the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower for dinner or business events.  You can’t imagine the view from the 107th floor.  I can’t imagine having to walk down from that floor.IMG_8860

But the North Tower was still standing….until it too fell.  Another incredulous moment.  To this day, I still don’t believe it is possible.  Have you seen the online film Loose Change?  Yes, it was exactly like that, it was like a controlled demolition.


Could the Towers have fallen that fast on their own?  I am skeptical.  But the fact that it happened, and that it happened so fast was not be be believed for those of us who lived there, and looked at the Towers many times a day for years and years.  They were a symbol of New York City, a symbol of commerce and success and permanence.  In the fiercest storms, they stood, solidly at the southern tip of Manhattan.  Making your way to the top with the series of elevator banks, being on an upper floor and feeling the building sway a little in strong wind was an experience.   And suddenly, they were gone~IMG_8855

And in their place, there was even more smoke, coming across the River.


I think I stayed home for three or four days, mostly on the computer.  Lower Manhattan was closed so we could not go to work. I could hear the F-16s making loops in the sky.  Our neighborhood was advised not to go out and to stay away from the smoke.  When I was finally able to cross the River, I couldn’t believe the sight.  Here is the Winter Garden, and you see the steel girders sticking out of the side of the  building on the left, like toothpicks. I took this pic from the Ferry; I crossed the River by Ferry for months looking at these steel girders before they were finally removed.


Within a few days, I was able to go right up to the site of the Towers; which had been reduced to a smoldering pile of very compact rubble a few stories high.  I don’t know why I didn’t have a camera that day; a few days later I think the site was blocked off because I tried to get back and was not allowed.  But I still see it all clearly in my mind.  I see that last wall that was standing, with the signature curves of the World Trade Center.  You would have thought the debris would have gone all over, but in fact it was all very neatly piled up, again, looking like a demolition more than a collapse.  I walked the streets of lower Manhattan on the way to my office, and everything was still coated in layers of fine white dust.  It was like a nuclear winter; stores I had been in a few days earlier had big picture windows with everything inside covered in dust. Meanwhile, the rubble continued to smolder; this is from the little Ferry that went across down by Paulus Hook~


The Missing Person flyers were posted everywhere.  And I mean everywhere; with photos and stories and pleas to find loved ones.  More sadness every time you saw one.  It was hard to take it all in; we walked around a little bit in a daze, in amazement of how things had changed in the course of a morning.  There were memorials all along the River on the New Jersey side~


This event, this disruption, this uncertainty, left us all feeling very down.  I have dealt with post-traumatic stress, like a depression, from these events.  I remember standing on Broad Street in front of the building about 10 days later, talking in hushed tones with my colleagues.  Suddenly someone yelled at us, and a charred computer keyboard came from the sky (or the top of another building) and landed with tremendous force two feet from me. There were constant reminders that our lives had changed.


The smoke was eventually gone, but oh my how the skyline had changed. 


At night was when you really looked for the Towers.  In their place, we had the two blue beams.  They were very pretty, but again they were reminders, and it just made us feel sad to look at them~


Here from the Ferry, crossing the River at night. 


I was offered a transfer to California a few years later, which I jumped on as I was ready to move on and ready to get away from the constant memories and reminders of 9/11. 

Sorry, I’m stopping there.  There is more that could be said, but even ten years out, seeing these images again is enough; well, maybe it’s too much, for me. 

I hope you will each pass the ten year anniversary of 9/11 in your own personal way. 


Post Script:  If you don’t already follow, please be sure to visit Pamela at The House of Edward blog.  Did she write THIS POST today just for me, I would swear she did.  As the French say, au fil des ans…over the string of years, how many happy memories do I have?  Tons.  How many sad? Few or at least fewer.  I make a point to fill my life with joy, with people I treasure, with positive energy, and there are oh so many wonderful memories.  Why should I let this single event of 9/11/01 impact me so?  The magnitude, yes.  There is a reason I left NYC, and there is a reason I have not looked at these photos above in five years.  I choose to focus on the positive and the good.  Except that on that day, the bad was not avoidable.  Thank you, Pamela, for correcting my focus, and bringing me back to the joy and goodness that life has to offer~let’s make some more happy memories, and move on, shall we?

Monday, September 5, 2011

What We Ate: Labor Day

It was an unseasonably grey Labor Day here in Laguna, with a surprise shower in the morning as I threaded my way across town to deliver my sun dried tomatoes in their jars; the sea was cool and an uninviting shade of jade-green with yellow flag surf, but the overcast weather was perfect for me and the dogs to take an early stroll along the boardwalk, and then to cook & prep for the evening meal.  I shopped for our meal today over the last two days, leaving my menu choices to chance, discovery and whim.  The day may have been grey, but the food was anything but… shone of the heat & the delights of summer…here tomato and mango chutney~


I hit three farmers markets for this food, Corona del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe and Hillcrest (San Diego).  The rich yet oh so delicious appetizer, dates from Hillcrest stuffed with a tiny piece of Trader Joe’s bleu cheese and wrapped in DaLe bacon; don’t cook them too hard or you will melt the bleu; devoured~



I made this meal at my sister’s house, which means she sets the table and my cooking show goes on the road; I unloaded several baskets and got to work~


As my family was ~ as usual ~ an hour and a half late, including the hosts, I got busy with a few pics in the late afternoon sun; I made my Mom’s traditional cheesecake at 6am, even Mom said it was better than her own!


And lemon tarte, with the last of the citrus from our trees; what is summer without lemony desserts?


I somehow forgot the berries yesterday, so we made do with blackberry-raspberry compote and cherries in red wine from the winter stash; the white specs are some reflection on the lens..??..the fruits were all pristine~


The new white corn arrived from Kawano Farms San Diego, and the husks left in French style~


I loved the the tiniest potatoes from our newest vendor at Rancho Santa Fe, whose name I forget; these were picked Friday and they were fantastic, creamy, super-tasty mashed country-style with peels on and with a little butter and salt~


Purple shallots from Sage married with Escondido mushrooms on top of DaLa grass-fed rib-eye steaks~


Two pieces of swordfish from Corona del Mar market were topped with a mango and tomato chutney from Sage and Hillcrest~


The fruits went on top of the lemon tart and cheesecake, and both were devoured in entirety.  It was a long weekend and it will be a busy week; I hate to say that got in the way of my enjoyment of the meal, but this time I was the one to want to eat and run! 


The only item I did not buy at the markets was the bleu cheese.  I felt a sense of accomplishment at having a truly local meal, and knowing where each and every ingredient came from.  I am mentally moving on to fall, and looking for ways to profit from the late summer while preparing for fall.

Recipes will be on line later this week and I will post them in printable form so stay tuned!