Classic blue

Pantone’s 2020 color of the year

Classic blue — the choice seemed underwhelming. At first. But then I thought about it in terms of my own painting. 
I realized, there’s always blue on my palette. Especially a shade like “Classic blue.” And with blue’s friends yellow, red, green, and white, I can mix the most glorious shades of turquoise. (Or aqua, if you prefer to call it.) Assorted shades of green and teal appear, as well as glorious purples and violets.
How could I paint without it? Using the basics — blue, red, and yellow — I can mix any color. With a little extra help from black and white of course.
Classic blueClassic blue


But aside from my personal art-making preferences using classic blue, here’s the thing.

Now, I can guarantee many of my friends outside of creative fields have no idea what Pantone even is. Why would they? But Pantone’s choice will be seen in housewares and fashion and pretty much anything that’s designed and trendy. So even though people may not be familiar with the company, they’ll see the color around for a while.

There’s no drama with “Classic blue.” It’s blue. That’s all. Blue. It’s a safe and reliable color. Who doesn’t like a plain old shade of blue? (Unlike 2019’s “Living Coral,” a sumptuous and exciting color, and one of my favorites. But one, I’m pretty sure, not suited to every taste.)

Which may be Pantone’s point

A new decade.

The world is in turmoil. Our climate is changing, the future unpredictable, and sorry, but sort of scary.
Plus, given recent world events, most of us are apprehensive. And not in a good way. In an uncertain future, we need stability and strength. Comfort.

Classic blue delivers.

Don’t we all love blue? It surrounds us — the color of the sea and the sky — one of nature’s basic colors. And blue plays nice with other colors in the world. A perfect companion. Always around. Dependable and loyal. Ever changing, yet consistent.

Like the sky.

(And also like my palette.)

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My 34-year old piece of watercolor paper

Here I am writing about my 34-year old piece of watercolor paper in a way I could never have imagined then. Not in a million years. 

Who could have envisioned the World Wide Web 34 years ago? (No one, except maybe Tim Berners-Lee.)


The future founders of Google were finishing up elementary school.

Madonna was “Crazy for You,” and Hall and Oats were “Out of Touch.” Sade was a “Smooth Operator,” and Stings advice? “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free.” And Katrina and the Waves were “Walking on Sunshine.”

(That concludes my nostalgic 80s musical interlude.)

So, back to business.

How did I find out that Twinrocker handmade paper even existed?
Was it recommended by one of my art teachers? Was there an ad somewhere? Did I have a catalog? (There must have been a catalog.) 

Wish I could remember, but I don’t.

Postal delivery

It arrived wrapped in thick brown kraft paper, with the edges folded and taped for extra security. Like a giant makeshift envelope. Inside was a sturdy piece of watercolor paper, a little bigger than a letter. It featured four deckled edges.

Four. Beautifully feathered. Deckled edges.

I’d never seen a sheet of paper as beautiful.
But, the paper scared me. So I put it away.

For 34 years

It moved with me twice. And stayed tucked away in its kraft paper protection.
I visited the paper a few times during those 34 years. And then wrapped it back up. Still scary.

“One of these days.” I promised myself.

The wait is over

For several years, I’ve been in an exclusive relationship with oil painting. Lately, I’ve discovered, or rather, re-discovered watercolors. And using nice papers for my rekindling, like Arches for instance.

I was on a watercolor roll.
So I figured it was time.

I unwrapped my 34-year old piece of watercolor paper, and got to work.
It didn’t seem so scary anymore.

And now, 34 years later, there’s a painting.
With four, beautifully feathered, deckled edges.


My 34-year old piece of watercolor paper is now a painting

Is the paper tinged with a little yellow from being surround by kraft paper for 34 years? Sure. So what. 
Still, it didn’t detract from the amazing painting experience.

Well worth waiting for.
Best paper. Ever.

Thanks, Twinrocker.


Click on the photo and shop the collection

“Veronique,” 11 x 14 inches







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I painted Harriet, but she looked confused, squinting at me, almost.

So I gave her a pair of cool glasses.

(She tried on several colors, but we both agreed these were the most flattering.)


Harriet wanted to go places with me, but how could I take her?

She was on a canvas and in my computer.

Stuck, if you will. Bored.

What to do?


So I put her on a tote bag!

Now she goes anywhere with me.

And she’s so happy because with her new glasses, Harriet can see everything!


Plus she’s always eager to help.

She can tote lots of things — books, groceries, an extra sweater, whatever you want her too.

And doesn’t even mind staying in the car. Waiting and ready, in case I need her for something.

Sure, she looks a little bewildered. She’s still adjusting to her new glasses! (Probably always will. Shh! Please don’t tell her.)

Harriet tote


Then, one day, she saw me wearing a t-shirt.

And was quite demanding. Wouldn’t stop pestering me until I put her on a t-shirt too.

Now, she has a great view when someone’s wearing her.

Not too thrilled with laundry though. But I suppose it’s like a birdbath in some ways. (Haha.)

Harriet t-shirt

Harriet t-shirt


Oh, and she demanded her own Instagram account, so you can say hello there.



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Once upon a dream

Once upon a dream, I was making abstract paintings. Huge canvases that might hang in a hotel lobby or a big, sparse, and modern living room. The stuff you see in Dwell Magazine, or Architectural Digest. (I’m thinking big, in more ways than one!)

I was holding a brush in my hand and standing in front of a giant canvas. It was much bigger than me, and I’d need a ladder to paint it. I was observing this scene outside my body, like a still from a movie.


The dream didn’t leave me alone.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Still can’t. Even though it’s kind of fuzzy now.
It’s been a while since the dream. Five years maybe? I can’t remember.
Before that I’d painted a couple of big-ish abstracts, but for some reason, didn’t continue. 
It’s not so convenient to paint a humongous canvas in a home studio.
But I’ll figure it out.


Was my dream was trying to tell me something?

If you follow me on Instagram, you know a lot of my work is quite small. I paint birds, flowers, botanicals, and other small works inspired by nature.

So, I started painting abstracts here and there. I went bigger.


Atmospheric abstracts

I work in silence a lot of the time, but with these paintings, I play music and let the paint tell me where it wants to go.

It’s all about the mood.

If the music’s not working, I’ll change it. (Sorry Prince, it’s time for Vivaldi.)


Abstract art, according to the dictionary 

“Art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, forms, colors, and textures.”

once upon a dream

On the left is “Cosmic Passion,” in the middle, “Spring Aura,” and on the right is “Ocean Sunrise.”

These three aren’t quite the gigantic canvases in my dream, but I’ll get there.


What took so long?

I have no idea.

Am I ready to go bigger? I can feel it — any minute now.


Are you a fan of abstract art?

(Paintings pictured are available — acrylic on canvas, 18 x 18. Shoot me an e-mail from my contact form to buy one.)

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Love letter

On, May 6, 1919, at 11PM, my grandmother wrote a love letter in English to her fiancée — my grandfather. It seems from the letter they were apart for a short time due to a family obligation.

Armenian was their primary language, but my grandparents corresponded in English and French. This is the only letter in English, a couple more I have are in French.

Suppose she had thrown away it away — “decluttered” it. (Gasp.) She would have only been my grandmother to me. This is an extraordinary glimpse into her life as a young woman in love. The passion she feels for her soon-to-be husband is obvious.

Love letter


“I can never forget your sweet eyes full of red blood fibres when you are too excited or extremely sorry, isn’t it so sweetest? . . . . I thought of you . . . . of two day’s absence, things which made me think over, especially having your eyes before me, oh your eyes! eyes!!”

“ … when will the time come when we will shall never be separated from each other. I am alone tonight, alone. I will not feel your breathing and charming body …”


I found the letter among some photographs and other keepsakes in a box after her death at 92.

Part of the envelope is missing, and the paper yellowed, but it’s a treasure. A family heirloom. I’m sharing this post on May 6, 2019, exactly one hundred years later. My grandmother saved her love letter. Likely she read it from time to time, and remembered that sweet time in her life.

A little background

My grandmother graduated college and was a teacher when she met my grandfather. She spoke several languages by that time. My grandfather also spoke a few languages (self taught) and was in the export/import business. They married on October 13, 1919 and raised two daughters. Their marriage enjoyed periods of prosperity, endured financial hardship, and also political hostility. Until my grandfather’s death in 1959. (I never knew him.)

In closing

“Goodnight dearest, thousand kisses — wherever you want to place them.”


Love letter

What we save now, is all we will ever save.

And I’ll say it again, as I did in this post — keep sentimental items. Cherish them. Please don’t throw these types of things away! Love letters and yes, less glamorous items. Correspondence, mail, report cards, SAT scores, even. Some may be embarrassing and cringeworthy, but keep them anyway. Especially now that these items are becoming rare in the digital world. It’s not like you can save a text, random e-mails, or information on some website.

Hang on to what tangible treasures you can find. Pass them along. Let your children and grandchildren get to know you after you’re gone.

Don’t “Kon Mari” that s#*t!

And that concludes today’s public service announcement.



8 Responses to Love letter

  1. What a keepsake. And a lovely post. Old photos are wonderful but old letters feel much more intimate. She once held the paper you hold. And so did your grandfather. You never met him but your fingerprints are mixed together now. A miracle of you really stop to consider.

    • A miracle, indeed, in so many ways. I must try and read the french letters now! Thanks for visiting, Mithra!

    • Irreplaceable is right! It only takes a minute to make the wrong decision and throw something out. Thanks so much for visiting, Marcia.

  2. You are such a special person to happen upon by accident on the Internet. I had commented on your studio last year because I love all the same things you do and still do not want to part with anything. Learning that the schools will no longer teach children how to write in cursive upset me so much. Who wants a love letter printed or typed or an email?

    Your artwork is so pretty, and I think I bought the book last year and gave it to my daughter who takes care of me. She is a vegetarian so since she moved in with me 6 yrs ago I have become one.

    Stay safe and well, and do not change. You are lovely just as you are.

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Marian. I couldn’t agree more that many of the older pleasures and ways of life will be missed, particularly by future generations. Sad, really. It brings me so much joy that you enjoy my work!

      Best, Ani

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The art of decluttering

According to Marie Kondo, the art of decluttering means getting rid of things in your life that don’t “spark joy.”

A couple of years ago, I read her bestselling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” I enjoyed the book but wasn’t interested in “tidying.”

(It was like reading a cookbook with no intention of making the recipes. But I know you won’t merely read my cookbook, because the recipes are easy and yummy. You can make an epic dinner of all appetizers.)

See what I did there? Oops. (sorry not sorry)

Okay, back to the art of decluttering.

Marie Kondo’s “KonMari Method” is a huge trend right now. Thanks to “Tidying up with Marie Kondo,” her new show on Netflix, there’s a sweeping frenzy of decluttering and organizing. And social media is all in (I’m looking at you, Instagram.)
When the series started, I was curious to see what the fuss was about.

So I tuned in.

And there she was — Marie Kondo, a tiny woman whose sweet demeanor was immediately obvious. After greeting her clients, she sat on the floor in silence, and thanked the house. A serene ritual in preparation for the madness ahead — “the calm before the storm.”

The art of decluttering with the KonMari Method has five categories (and subcategories.)

1. Clothing, which includes accessories — bags, belts and shoes, scarves, underwear and socks, and so on

2. Books and magazines

3. Papers (Why am I hanging on to my high school SAT scores? Answer below!)

4. Miscellaneous — including household and kitchen stuff, food, valuables, makeup, etc.

5. Finally, sentimental items (this one isn’t happening—same answer)

Here’s how the art of decluttering the Marie Kondo way, works— one must go through each item and keep them if they “spark joy.” If not, “bye-bye.” But not before you tell the item, “thank you for your service.”

Marie Condo wants you to start with clothing.

One woman piled a Mt. Everest-sized mound on her bed. How could anyone have so many clothes? As usual, I was suspicious. Because — reality? Really? There’s a camera. So, no.
Did the the producers add some clothes to the massive mountain for effect? (Forgive my cynicism.)
And, folding is a big deal with the KonMari method. Her way takes up less space and items are easier to access. Rather than stacked, everything stands upright in a drawer or in a box, or in a box within a drawer. Or in a box within another box.

Boxes are key.

Things remain neat and organized when placed in a box.

I already fold socks in a similar way and have always kept things in boxes. Yay, me.

the art of decluttering

My boxes “spark joy.”

I have huge wood wine boxes, wooden cheese boxes, all kinds of cigar boxes, small paper boxes, tea and cookie tins, fancy pastry boxes (Ladurée, Paris!) So many boxes. They keep me organized and most of all, “spark joy.”

I’m obsessed with boxes. Always have been. I can trace this obsession back to a box I had as a child. It was red and made out of cardboard, and written on it was something like, “My treasure box.” (It’s likely still in the basement somewhere. Sorry, Marie.)
Marie Kondo and I have this one thing in common. Yay for boxes!
Am I a tidy person? I like to think so. My house isn’t cluttered. (Okay, fine — maybe the basement.) After watching, I realize anyone can improve their household, to some extent. And if the KonMari Method works, why not?

But for me, not so much. Maybe a little bit.

Clothing? Sure. I don’t own a lot of clothes or shoes. I can get rid of a few things — no problem. But my pile would be a hill, not a mountain. Some kitchen stuff? A few things, sure.

the art of decluttering

Books, papers, and sentimental stuff? Not happening.

For instance, I have a tall tin of random buttons. Sure, I’ll probably never use them. And they’re a mess. But the mess is in a tin box. The tin “sparks joy,” and so do the buttons. Which is why I would never get rid of it.

My mother and daughter each have similar tins. (It’s a weird family thing.) Once in a while I like to dump the buttons out and visit them. Is it clutter? NO. Pure joy.

Now about those SAT scores.

Why on earth would I keep those, and my old report cards, and my AP French test scores, to mention a few things? Why?

Because it’s my history. I have two children and someday, they’ll get to know their mother by looking at all the paper trails. They’ll have a sense of who I was before they knew me.

I’ve saved letters and cards from childhood. Not only will they get to know me, but they’ll have a better understanding of the era I came from.

So that’s why I keep those things.

What’s going to happen?

In our new digital age, there will be no paper trails, barely any cards, or photos. Is someone going to find an old i-phone or lap-top and search back-ups? And photos? Who has photos? Is the Cloud going to be any help at all?

So, no. I’m not getting rid of random papers I’ve saved. Even though looking at my embarrassing high school report card may not “spark joy.”

the art of decluttering

And “KonMari” my studio?

No. Not happening. Ever.

  • Art supplies “spark joy.”
  • Using them “sparks joy.”
  • Heck, shopping for them “sparks joy.”
  • Every tube of paint “sparks joy.”
  • Every surface — canvas, canvas paper, and wood boards “spark joy.” Oil painting paper, watercolor paper, acrylic paper, and bristol paper “spark joy.” Tissue paper, mixed media paper, and illustration board “spark joy.” (I won’t go on — you get the idea.)
  • Brushes “spark joy.” (Well most of them — not the cheap ones I’ve ruined. Okay, Marie, you can have this one thing.)
  • A gazillion finished, half finished, and empty notebooks “spark joy.”
  • Pencils, pens, and colored pencils “spark joy.”
  • Erasers and many pencil sharpeners “spark joy.”
  • Even my ancient paint-splattered glass jar I use for water “sparks joy.”
  • And books? Absolute joy sparkers. The best!

And speaking of books, when we moved a few years ago to a smaller space, I gave away lots of books.

But I have regrets.

Do you think it’s because I forgot to “thank them for their service?”

6 Responses to The art of decluttering

  1. I loved this post and appreciate that you took the time to cover Marie Kondo. I’ve been turning a blind eye to her siren song because I don’t need her. (I kinda do.)

    What is Bristol paper? And do you like Far Niente wine? And I got either a 3 or a 4 on my AP French exam. Just saw a reference to it in my yearbook in my French tescher’s inscription. I’m just pointing out more Ani-Mithra Venn diagram overlaps.

    • Hi Mithra! I love our Venn diagram, with its growing intersection! Bristol is a smooth, layered paper with no tooth at all, good for certain drawings. I’m not much of a wine drinker, so there’s your answer. Why do you ask? I stashed my yearbook somewhere (likely in a box) and now can’t find it. Story of my life. Thanks for reading and I look forward to growing the intersection even more!

  2. Thank you for a great post. I too am a lover of buttons, boxes, baskets, tins,and all containers. I covet your containers and the wonderful sturdy shelving on which you keep them. I too save every notebook, greeting card and letter, and so many other items. I don’t mind parting with clothes I no longer wear or which no longer fit, but giving up my fabric and yarn stashes, my crafting supplies, my patterns, my books, my pill box collection, or many of my kitchen dishes and gadgets just is not going to happen. Ms. Kondo would write me off as a terrible student of her methodology.

    • Hi Marian. These wonderful things we love make life so much more fun! Glad you agree these are necessities in our lives, and certainly not to be easily discarded. Thank you for visiting!

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Pantone’s choice

Every year Pantone chooses a color of the year. How do they decide? Pantone studies recent trends and moods in design, fashion and home goods. After that, they select a color, which will influence those areas of production for some time. Pantone’s choice for 2019 is “living coral.” (Click here for Pantone’s announcement.)

Pantone’s choice is popping up everywhere.

Some years I’m excited about Pantone’s color of the year. This is one of those years (2016 was another.) I’m all in. Why? Because a color similar to “living coral,” has been the accent color on paperandlens.com since the beginning. Look at the top of this page. See? I’m already a fan. While not exact, the color is close enough to Pantone’s choice and makes me happy. (It doesn’t take much.)

(However, that’s not all. This luscious, dreamy, and sexy color reminds me of ultra-cool 1960s movies. (Why? Who knows. It just does.)

Coming up (Pantone) roses.

So, I was recently in a local supermarket, buying a few essentials. This particular market has an excellent floral department. It’s near the front, and as soon as you enter, you can’t help but notice the flowers. (And if you’ve been anywhere near me, or on my Instagram, you know I can’t resist flowers. Who can?) I immediately noticed a vase full of tall spray roses. They were selling by the stem, with several buds on each stem. Glorious.

Pantone’s choice for color of 2019. See how Pantone is coming up roses.

Once something is in your radar, it seems to be everywhere.

Any rose is beautiful. It’s true. A flower representing love and passion, among other things. Gorgeous layers unfolding until the rose wilts. How symbolic. (And with luck, they smell nice too.)

I spotted the roses. Which, as roses, of course, were lovely. But what made me buy a stem, was the color. Pantone’s color of the year — “living coral” — as a rose.

Would I have bought them if they were white, or yellow, or any other color? Probably not. I already had some pretty white spray roses in the house. And some tulips, so I certainly didn’t need to be buying more flowers. But who can resist a Pantone rose?

“Living coral” works for me.

What about you? Do you like Pantone’ choice?


2 Responses to Pantone’s choice

  1. Absolutely luscious color. I would buy the single stem just for the color as I too am reminded of the 60’s when this color seemed everywhere. Coats, suits, jumpsuits, A-line dresses, mini-skirts, and so much more. Stewardess uniforms were sometimes in this color or when Pucci created the multi-color beauties worn by Southwest Airline attendants.

    Coral is a great color any year.

    • Hi Marian. I love everything about the 60s and 70s. I often joke that if time travel were available, I’d go back shopping. Maybe pick up a Pucci dress or scarf! Thank you so much for visiting.

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A decade-long love affair

September, 2009

A love affair begins. It was a pleasant, sunny morning. A perfect day to enjoy a walk and admire colorful autumn foliage. I’d never driven somewhere in the country to go “leaf peeping” but I enjoyed watching the trees change color. Who wouldn’t? It’s gorgeous.

So that day, I walked and admired the colors of the many varieties of trees on my street. On the way home, I picked up a vibrant red leaf that was on the sidewalk in front of me.

And then, once home, without thinking, I painted it, as if possessed. (My oil paints were out, luckily.) The process seemed robotic and effortless. Like an out-of-body experience. It was weird.

It wasn’t a particularly exciting leaf. However, that painting became my “first dollar.” You know how people display the first dollar they made? Well, that was the first leaf I painted. And so began my decade-long love affair with leaf portraits. (Friends and family endured my obsession. Read about it here.)

The evolution of my leaf painting (“first dollar” is the red one.)

love affair

As a result, I became ambitious and painted a couple of collections. Here’s one.

love affair

And so on through the years. Sometimes painting on wood.

love affair

In 2016, I discovered a paper which renewed my love affair with passion.

(My beloved Arches oil painting paper.)

The leaves seemed to lay on the paper as if newly fallen. I was smitten. (Limited few prints still available in the shop.)

love affair

Here’s a favorite from 2017. You can see the lovely torn edges of the paper.
love affair

Is it weird that I sometimes remember the tree or street where I found a certain leaf?

Here’s a recent one. Could it be the last? Quite possibly.

love affair

Somehow, I’m not as excited as I once was. Has my love affair waned?

Only 2019 will tell.



2 Responses to A decade-long love affair

  1. Your autumn leaf paintings are beautiful and you have a wonderful talent … I truly hope the passion isn’t over … maybe next autumn will inspire you all over again??? I hope so, your leaves somehow make the world a more bright happy place where nature rules!! Your little birds are the same!!

    • I’ll think back on your sweet comment when autumn comes. Nature presents leaves to me differently each year, so I must keep an open mind and carry on! Thank you for visiting, Lesley. (The birds are equally grateful!)

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Fork it over

Can I have the recipe?

One bite, and you’re addicted.
This recipe is a must.
You need these cookies in your life!

Little bites of chocolate happiness

Chocolate fork cookie recipe

Make these cookies when you’re having people over and have nothing in the house.
They’ll only take you about 15-20 minutes, not counting the washing up.

Simple and elegant at the same time.
Suitable for picnics or on an fancy tea table.

Quick. Easy. And scrumptious.

Are you convinced?

Here’s the recipe. (Be sure to read my notes at the bottom.)

Chocolate fork cookie recipe

Chocolate Fork Cookies

(makes about 2 dozen)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar (scant)
1 cup (ish) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt (generous)
2 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
pinch of cinnamon (optional)

extra sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 375°.
Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa, and cinnamon, if using. Mix well.
Form mixture into balls and place on parchement-lined baking sheets.
Squash each ball slightly with times of a fork.
Sprinkle with extra sugar.
Bake 15-22 minutes until firm. Cool on wire rack.


• I like to make them tiny, and usually get about 3 dozen. Makes them fancy!

• The original recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups flour, but I find that this makes the dough dry. If you need more, just flour your hands a bit. I start out with a mixer, but then get in there with my hands.

• Also, the original baking time is 8 minutes. Not with my oven! No way. (You know your oven.)


There you have it.

Enjoy! And remember, a recipe is different in everyone’s hands.
Oh, and be prepared for the question, “Can I have the recipe?”

(Speaking of easy, addictive recipes, you might also like this one.)


And what about dinner?
Dinner can be easy too.

Appetizers and small dishes

Over 30 easy to make vegetarian recipes
Plan your next gathering. With ease. $9




Get a checklist of everything you need for ALL the recipes, including pantry staples and fresh ingredients. Convenient to take along to the market.




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A Day on the Sidewalk

Here’s a story inspired by this photo I snapped while walking in the neighborhood, some years ago.

Rise and shine

One summer morning, Sofie woke up and discovered she was being moved. Sofie was a plump, heavy little armchair and moving her was not easy. “Oh where could they be taking me,” she thought. “I was so comfortable here.” Sofie had been around a long time and had sat in several different spots inside the house.

Next thing she knew, Sofie was outside the house, sitting on the sidewalk, like a common park bench. This. Was a first.

“Oh, what’s happening! Why have they brought me here,” she thought. Sofie immediately began to worry.

A little later, Louise joined Sofie on the sidewalk. Louise was a Louis XIV-style armchair. She was at one time elegant and beautiful, sitting in the living room, admired by visitors. What was happening to her?

Misery loves company

Sofie and Louise sat side-by-side on the sidewalk and suspected the worst. Louise cried and Sofie was silent. Misery.

“My lace is gone,” said Sofie.

“Oh, you poor dear,” Louise cried. “And you sat there all those years for them, making them comfy.”

“And you were lovely Louise, sitting by the window at the desk.”

“Ingrates,” declared Louise.

A visitor

A cat came and jumped up on Sofie, curling up and making himself comfortable.

“Get off me, you beast!” Sofie wouldn’t tolerate cat hairs on her slipcover. “Louise, DO SOMETHING.”

“Oh what are we to do.” Louise quivered, her faded upholstery looking even more pale under the hot sun.

Sofie and Louise sat for some time. Helpless. Every now and then, one of them cried a little. And then, silence.

“I’m hot,” announced Sophie.

“Me too,” sobbed Louise.

The cat was still on top of Sophie. “I can’t think with this awful creature on top of me. “Shoo. Shoo. Go away. Get OFF.”

The cat still sat, “Beast.”


They plight seemed hopeless. Endless.

“I remember when they bought you, Louise. They were so excited! You were a beauty. They wanted to put you in the perfect spot.”

“Yes, right by the window, where I faded,” Louise sighed. “And no new slipcover. Instead, they DUMP me.”

“But you looked out the window all those years. You weren’t bored to death, and spilled hot tea on, like I was, sitting next to the bookshelves in the dark.” Sofie’s raised her voice. “Only when they felt like reading or spilling tea, did I see any light!”

Just then, the cat, sensing tension, jumped off Sophie.

“Beast.” Sophie sighed.

The sun was right above them, and hot.

Hope and despair

“Oh, Sophie, could they be letting us ‘air out,’ you know, the way they do to the rugs?”

“Louise, face facts. We are no longer wanted. As you put it, we’re DUMPED!” Sophie was blunt. “Only why did they had to do it in this heat? We never did a thing to them!”

“Ingrates,” said Louise.

The afternoon came, and with it, more heat.

“I can’t stand it anymore,” said Sophie. “If we are to be collected, I wish they’d GET ON WITH IT! What if it rains or something?”

There was not even a whisper of a cloud in the sky. In another situation, it would be a perfect day.

Louise started crying. “Sophie. Oh, Sophie. I’m so scared.”

“Me too,” said Sophie.

Exhausted from worry and fright, Sophie and Louise dozed. As two old chairs might.

And then. Sophie screamed.

“What? Is it happening? OH!” Louise was in a panic.

“That horrible beast is back on top of me. Look at it. Why doesn’t it stay OFF. As if I don’t have enough troubles.”

“You scared me.” Louise looked even more faded than usual.

“I’m sorry, dear. How very thoughtless of me.”

“Well,” said Louise.

As time goes by

The cat sat.

Sophie cursed.

The afternoon passed.

And then

A little girl came walking down the street towards them.

“Sophie, look. She’s coming to, to, well, you know. Oh Sophie, she’s here. Goodbye Sophie. Goodbye.” Louise was hysterical.

“Louise. Don’t be ridiculous. It’s only a girl. Little girls don’t DO that sort of thing.”

“How silly of me,” said Louise.

“Ralph. Ralph!” She was closer now. “Where are you Ralphie?”

The cat ignored the girl and continued to sit on top of Sophie.

“Ralph. There you are.” The girl sat on Sophie’s arm. “What are you doing here?” She picked up the cat but he immediately escaped from her arms and jumped back on Sophie. “Ralph!”

“Go with her, Ralph,” pleaded Sophie.

“Yes. Go.” Louise liked the idea. She was weary of Sophie complaining.

“I’ll go get Daddy. He’ll make you come home.” She turned and ran down the street.

As the sun lowered in the sky, Sophie and Louise cast long shadows on the pavement.

Carried away

Soon the girl returned with her father.

“See, Daddy? He won’t come home. Daddy? Are these chairs garbage?”

“Who are you calling garbage?” Sophie was furious. “Indeed!”

“Looks like it, honey.” The father started looking at Sophie and Louise. He looked under their cushions, picking Louise up to look underneath her.

“Put me down!”

“Leave her alone! And take this horrid hairy beast off me!”

But he didn’t put Louise down. “Come on, honey. Let’s take this one home. We’ll come back for Ralph later.”

“Sophie! I’m scared. Where are they taking me?” But Sophie didn’t hear. She was crying.

Soon, they came back. The girl, her father, and a young man. They started to lift Sophie up. Ralph jumped off. And they carried Sophie away as the sun began setting.


A few months later, the longtime companions sat next to each other in the girl’s house. Louise now wore a lovely new light green damask and Sophie was in the most glorious floral chintz. Every day, Ralph had his morning and afternoon naps curled up on top of Sophie.

“Good, Ralphie,” Sophie said. “Nice Ralphie. What a good cat you are. We love you Ralphie.”

The End







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The Art of Chintz



printed multicolored cotton fabric with a glazed finish, used especially for curtains and upholstery, “a sofa upholstered in chintz”

I once fell in love with a chintz couch, ruffled skirt and all.

It was love at first sight. The couch seized my mid-century taste and lingered. Until my true nature fought back for the win.

It was a glorious, though brief, love affair.

The couch conquered the living room, accompanied by her chubby matching armchair. (And both sitting on the edge — of a floral oriental rug.)

But was it enough for me? Not quite.

I ordered extra fabric from the manufacturer to cover the seats of my dining chairs. My poor, subtle mid-century dining chairs. (Gasp.) So the modest living/dining of my 1950s ranch was a tribute to chintz. It was chintz nirvana.

And this wasn’t some meek little pattern.

It was CHINTZ.

I present to you — exhibit A. This is a photo, of a photo, of part of my couch. (When I see this now, I’m overcome with longing. More on that later.)

She was inviting. A comfortable place to read a book, often leading to a nap. She was beautiful.

But then, I had a party. It was a hot day in the middle of July. One of my guests wore a dress she sewed herself. Lovely dress. Can you guess the fabric?


The fabric of her garden-party dress was a bold pattern of multicolored flowers. Huge yellow-ish flowers. (Sorry, no Exhibit B. Dig, if you will, the picture.)

Then it happened. My friend sat on the couch.

And poof! My love affair was over. What was I thinking.


We had the chintz couch for several years before I betrayed her and her sweet little companion. After a while we insulted her with a do-it-yourself denim slipcover. (Really?) And rescued the dining chairs. We spared the armchair. For a while.

A few years later, we went shopping and picked out a neutral sectional. The chintz couch was gone forever. I lied to myself and pretended to be happy with our new decor.

But I miss my chintz couch and her chubby little companion. I imagine sitting on her, cross-legged, popcorn in hand, watching a favorite show. All cozy and settled in for an evening. Sigh. I’ve never been quite as satisfied sitting anywhere else. Will I ever?



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Fantasy Dinner Party

“If you could invite 3 people (living or dead) to dinner, who would you ask?”

I choose three of my favorite artists from the past to invite to my fantasy dinner party.

Okay, fine. They’re dead.

(Please indulge me, and pretend for the sake of this post, that time travel exists. Thanks.)

Okay. Are we good? Moving on.

First up. Vincent Van Gogh.

I appear one April day in 1889, in Arles, France, where Van Gogh lived at the time, and knock on the door. Van Gogh opens and I explain that I’ve traveled back from 2017. He seems cool with it. (I try not to look at what’s left of his ear. [1]) I tell him how much I love his work and invite him to dinner at my house. In 2017.

“I accept.” he says. “What time?”

Next, Gertrude Stein.

It’s April, 1936 in Paris. Paris! I’m at 27 rue de Fleurus, in the 6th arrondissement on the Left Bank. I knock on the door of the apartment and Ms. Stein’s partner, Alice B. Toklas escorts me to the salon. [2]

I can’t take my eyes off the Picassos hanging all over the place. I explain to Gertrude Stein that I’ve traveled back from 2017. She stares at me, waiting. I mention my appreciation for her unique style of writing (can you say, gigantic ego?) in her book, “Everybody’s Autobiography.” [3]  But then remember that she hasn’t written it yet. I invite her to dinner at my house. In 2017. “There is no there there.” she says. [4] “But I accept what time will be the time?”

And finally, Jean Cocteau.

It’s a dark and misty evening in April, 1948. I knock on the door of a gorgeous house in Milly-la-Forêt, France. [5] Magical. Cocteau greets me, holding a candelabra.[6] I explain that I’ve traveled back from 2017. He acts like this is normal. ­(Those creative types!)

I tell him that his film, “La Belle et la Bête” (Beauty and the Beast, 1946) [7], is my favorite movie of all time. (It really is.) I invite him to dinner at my house. In 2017. “Mon plaisir,” he says, “A quelle heure?” (My pleasure, at what time?)

fantasy dinner party

My esteemed guests — Van Gogh, circa 1889; Stein, circa 1936; and Cocteau, circa 1947.

Back home in my time, I plan a menu of all appetizers for my fantasy dinner party. Because that’s what I do best.

It will be a lovely table abundant with a variety of tasty and healthy appetizers. Guests tend to linger eating this type of meal. A bit of this, another morsel of that. Glasses replenished, absorbed in good conversation, and the evening stretches into early morning.

I plan this despite knowing that Gertrude Stein is not fond of a dinner of all appetizers.

Stein wrote in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas: [8]

“I don’t know quite what happened but Hélene [her housekeeper/cook] cooked a very bad dinner. Only twice in all her long service did Hélene fail us. This time and when about two weeks later . . . . That time too she did strange things, her dinner consisting of a series of hors d’oeuvres. . . . As I said Hélène did for the second time in her life make an extraordinarily bad dinner. For some reason best known to herself she gave us course after course of hors d’oeuvres finishing up with a sweet omelet.”

There’s no pleasing everyone.

Finally, it’s time and my guests arrive for my fantasy dinner.

Van Gogh brings me a giant sunflower.[9]

Stein hands me a red rose and says, “Good evening. A rose is a rose is a rose.” [10]

Cocteau hands me a red rose too. [11] “Enchanté,” he says.

And so, my fantasy dinner party begins. With cocktails of course.

Absinthe for all! [12]

A silvery tablecloth covers the table, set with white plates and black napkins. We’ll drink from art deco black-stemmed glasses from the 1930s.

Appetizers are ready.

There’s a white bean spread, and red pepper and walnut spreads. Fried sage leaves, chick pea fritters, zucchini fritters, and fried artichoke hearts. Bean, beet, bulgur, and Russian salads. Carrot and zucchini ribbons piled on a plate. Red lentil bites and little red roasted onions. And cauliflower purée, egg salad, and an assortment of cheeses. And olives. Never forget the olives.

The food is room temperature and pleases Stein.

From “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas:”
“Gertrude Stein never likes her food hot and I do like mine hot, we never agree about this. She admits that one can wait to cool it but one cannot heat it once it is on a plate so it is agreed that I have it served as hot as I like.”

We discuss art — landscapes, color, brushstrokes, and the crazy prices of art supplies. We talk of writing — sentences versus paragraphs, poetry, and filmmaking, and of living in Paris versus living in the countryside.

(By we, I mean they talk, while I listen, fascinated.)

Van Gogh pops a fried sage leaf in his mouth. “There are so many people, especially among our pals, who imagine that words are nothing. On the contrary, don’t you think, it’s as interesting and as difficult to say a thing well as to paint a thing. There’s the art of lines and colours, but there’s the art of words that will last just the same.” [13]

Oh, how I agree with this! Art comes to us in many forms. 

We pass around the food, and refill drinks.

My fantasy dinner party is epic!

“I have a piece of great and sad news to tell you: I am dead,” says Cocteau. [14] We stare at him and Cocteau bursts out laughing. “Je dois être mort, non?” he says. “Autrement, j’aurais 128 ans!”

Gertrude Stein adds some carrot and zucchini ribbons onto her already full plate, and calculates that she’s 143 years old.

But Van Gogh wins. He’s 164.

More absinthe, anyone?

Stein and Cocteau met in 1917 (exactly 100 years ago!) when Picasso brought him to the Rue de Fleuris and she declared Cocteau “a slim elegant youth.” They seldom saw each other after that day. Their friendship of polite correspondence tapered around 1934. Until now!

“You have not written in two years,” says Stein, considering whether to have some more Russian salad.
“Actually, more,” says Cocteau, not disclosing that Stein would die in 1946. And he doesn’t mention the second world war. Why ruin this pleasant time-traveling evening? Especially while eating red lentil bites with some cheese and olives.

“Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.” [15] Cocteau is drinking and more fond of Stein than he ever was back then.

Van Gogh is staring at the sunflower, a subject well known to him. No doubt planning yet another painting using massive amounts of yellow paint. Go for it, Vincent. We’ll thank you later.

He hasn’t sold any paintings and has no clue how famous he’ll be. Gertrude Stein never owned a Van Gogh, unfortunately, “. . . it was probably not for want of trying.” [16]

Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime. “The Red Vineyard at Arles,” sold to a friend for 400 french francs, right before he died in 1890. It’s now in Moscow’s Pushkin Museum of Fine Art. Fast forward a hundred years to 1990. His “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” sold for $82,500,000 at auction.[17]

Should I tell him? No. I can’t tamper with history. But wait. What? This is my fantasy and I can do whatever I want. No historical consequences.

Only hysterical ones.

So I tell him about the $82 million. What? He hasn’t even painted it yet. I suspect he thinks I’m nuts. (Funny he thinks I’m the nutty one.)

The unreal evening begins to fizzle, as all good fantasies must come to an end.

My gracious guests are fading. Actually fading. My fantasy dinner party is coming to its end.

Alas, it’s time to — well, time travel.

My guests thank me for the evening spent (“merci pour la soirée”), they say “farewell,” bid “adieu,” and return to their times. Poof!

And there’s good news!

Since this is a fantasy dinner party, I’m not staying up late to wash dishes.

Now I’m dying to know. Who would you invite to your own fantasy dinner party? And what would you make? Please tell me in the comments.



Recipes for this epic fantasy dinner party can be found in my cookbook.

Over 30 easy to make vegetarian recipes
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[1] The famous story is that in December of 1988, Van Gogh cut off part of his ear in response to his pal Gauguin leaving him. There are other theories though. One is that Gauguin sliced it in a sword fight and there was a cover-up. A pact between the two men kept the incident a secret. Another, that it had nothing to do with Gauguin, but rather was a response to his brother Theo’s marriage. No one will ever know the truth. Can you say, Soap Opera?

[2] Alice B. Toklas met Gertrude Stein in September, 1907 and they were together until Stein’s death in 1946. She was Stein’s confidante, lover, cook, secretary, muse, and editor, among other things. Wikipedia lists her occupation as “avant-garde.” Hilarious. Can that be my occupation?

[3] “Everybody’s Autobiography,” published in 1937 was Gertrude Stein’s memoir. It was a follow-up to The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.

[4] The phrase, “. . . there is no there there,” is from “Everybody’s Autobiography.” It refers to Stein’s home town of Oakland, Calfornia, meaning that the place had no substance. (So thanks a lot, Stein, for saying that about my fantasy dinner in 2017.)

[5] Cocteau bought a house here with the film actor Jean Marais (Beast in the movie) in 1947. He lived there until his death in 1963.

[6] Hands in the wall hold candelabras. They move in unison to illuminate the way, as Belle glides into the castle towards the beast. (Elegant and surreal predecessors to Disney’s Lumiere.)

[7] “La Belle et La Bête” released in 1946 after a year of production. It’s an adaptation of a story written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1757.

[8] Stein published “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas” in 1933, as if authored by Alice B. Toklas herself. It became Stein’s best-selling book, making Toklas somewhat famous. And “out” from under Stein’s overpowering shadow.

[9] Vincent Van Gogh made at least seven sunflower paintings, the first in the summer of 1886. But who knows? There could be more.

[10] From “Sacred Emily,” a poem written by Stein in 2013, likely meaning, “things are what they are.”

[11] A rose is a symbol of love and of running out of time, in “La Belle et La Bête.”

[12] Absinthe was the iconic drink of the bohemians in France. Nicknamed La Fée Verte, The Green Fairy, and said to have caused halluciantions. Van Gogh over-indulged in absinthe and some say it contributed to his death. It contained a harmful chemical compound, thujone, from the wormwood plant. (That sounds so lovely. Ugh.) By 1915, La Fée Verte was banned in the United States and in much of Europe, including France. It’s back now but with only a trace of that nasty thujone.

[13] Van Gogh wrote this to his friend, Émile Bernard, a fellow artist, on Thursday, April 19, 1888

[14] From Jean Cocteu’s poem, “Visite”

[15] A famous quote. Or should I say, infamous? It’s in the book, “Back to Lilac Land: A Theatrical Novel”, published in 1905 by Cyril Arthur Edward Ranger Gull. Though it’s unproven that’s where the saying originates.

[16] From “Avant-Garde Persuasions,” an article in The New Republic, April 19, 2012. Written by Jed Perl, art critic for the magazine.

[17] In 1990, Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” sold for $82.5 million to 74-year-old Japanese businessman Ryoei Saito. He said the painting would go with him to his cremation, causing outrage. Later saying that it was a “bad joke.” Today Mr. Saito would have been over a hundred. So where is the painting? “The Wall Street Journal” reported in 2007 that Wolfgang Flöttl, an Austrian fund manager, owned it. But then sold it for $100 million. So where is it? Where in the world is Dr. Gachet?



4 Responses to Fantasy Dinner Party

  1. I wish I could have attended your dinner party, but gratefully, I can enjoy the tastings thanks to your recipes.

    Famous (or infamous) for my lack of culinary skill, I would invite my mother, my sister and Julia Child to my fantasy party – and ask the latter to do all the cooking!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

    • An evening with loved ones. Nothing better. And what an honor to have Julie Child do the cooking — no doubt if would be delectable!

      I’m glad you enjoyed my fantasy!

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