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The Art of Chintz

­­­­­chintz

(noun)

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?

Chintz

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.

Epilogue

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
Plan your next gathering. With ease. $12

 

BONUS!

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

 


 

Footnotes

[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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A note to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Dear Museum of Fine Arts Boston,

Why is one of my favorite paintings hanging so high? And among a million other paintings in the same room. Why? And why is it crammed in a corner? Why, MFA?

I need the world’s most powerful binocular to see it.

The salon-style hang

I get it. You wanted to make the room look like a French salon, back in the day. Way back. A gazillion paintings hanging together in a big room with soaring ceilings. The salon-style hang.

The French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture started this in the 1600s to fit in all students’ work. (If you’re so inclined, everyone’s best friend, Google, can direct you to a more detailed history lesson.)

When London’s Royal Academy of Arts also did this in the 1700s, many artists were unhappy. They protested their work hanging so high that it was impossible to see. And worse, more prominent artists’ work hung at the bottom, while others were high up — “skied.”

Museum-of-Fine-Arts, Boston

Memories

I saw it close-up in 2006, at a special exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Breathtaking. Didn’t want to leave it and went back another day for a second viewing. I kept staring at the brush strokes, peering so close that the guards were on alert, hovering, watching me.

It’s a big 58 x 82 7/8 inch painting. (I do like to get lost in a huge painting, like this one.) In part because my work is small-ish and I have not yet painted on such a large scale.

Do I have a longing to make gigantic work of art? Yup. (Any day now.)

William Lamb Picknell

Who is this artist? He’s not well-known. I didn’t know who he was until my close encounter in 2006.

William Lamb Picknell was born in Vermont in 1853, and died in Massachusetts in 1897. A short life. The work I love so much is Morning on the Loing at Moret, painted in 1895, two years before his death.

Who knows why certain paintings leave lasting impressions on the viewer? It’s about the feeling. I remember staring at Picknell’s painting and imagining that I stood there on the banks of that river in France. Nothing else around me mattered for a few minutes. It was intoxicating. Enveloping. Not to mention, the brush strokes were outstanding.

Why is this magnificent masterpiece of his not in a room by itself for people to enjoy and admire. Why?

High and dry

It’s unlikely that I’ll have an intimate relationship ever again with the Picknell. But I’ll always remember our special time together.

The good news though is, MFA, that you hung this magnificent painting. It’s no longer hidden in your basement, or wherever you keep the art hidden away.

Which makes me ask, what else do you have stashed away? Do we need more rooms with salon-style hangs? Kidding.

Best,

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Love and the Art of a Light Fixture

After two years of searching for a house, we were either on the verge of giving up, or on the verge of lunacy. Whichever came first. Then we found our new place. It was move-in ready, so to speak. Not a hazmat-suit-requiring hell hole like some of the places we toured. The location was perfection. And the price was right (not counting the bidding war.)

The decor was contemporary, furnished mostly from a store I can’t mention. It screamed “young, affluent professional.” Everything was well coordinated, and most important of all, clean.

“It shows very well. They live like this all the time!” said the seller’s agent.

Some people like to see a place in it’s natural, lived-in state when house hunting, especially if it’s not gross. Not me. I like empty rooms and bare walls. But I can envision a place empty, regardless of the millions of personal snapshots on the walls. Which is what I did.

So we closed the deal and got the keys. The place was empty. Except for the elaborate light fixture in the open living/dining area, now dangling on top of nothing but a bare wood floor.

Light fixture included

The seller’s agent informed us that the departing couple left the fixture for us. A gesture. They could always get another for their new house! It was very nice of them, wasn’t it? Well, yes, quite nice, in fact.

The fixture was trendy and well-priced from the popular, previously, not-mentioned, store.

It had to go

My mom said, “You have to get rid of that. It’s nice. But it’s not you.”
Best friend said, “No. No. That’s not you.”
Daughter said, “Ugh.”
Husband said, “It’s so nice, though.” Sigh.

So I went shopping

And bought a simple George Nelson Bubble lamp.

The electrician installed my new lamp. I was in love.

But we still had the rejected light fixture. What to do? Craigslist!

I dusted the fixture and placed it in the still-empty living room. It was better off with someone who would appreciate its charms.

Light fixture

It’s a deal

The doorbell rang and a mid 40-something couple came up the stairs.

Woman, seeing the fixture waiting for her in the living room, “I’ve been looking for this for 3 months!”
Man, counting money and handing it to me, “We drove two hours to get here.”
Me, taking the cash, “So glad you like it.”

Then the woman spotted my new George Nelson Bubble lamp. She glanced at what was now her fixture still sitting on the floor. She looked at me, and said, “Is THAT what you’re using?

And with that, the husband picked up their long-sought-after fixture and they left.

I’m talking about a couple of lamps, but am I really?

Taste is personal and unexplainable. (Which explains my obsession at one point with chintz.)

And with that being said, I give you this.

White Chocolate Walnut Truffles

No matter what type of light fixture you like, this recipe will no doubt please you. (Unless of course you don’t love white chocolate or walnuts or a little booze in your dessert.)

These little bites of deliciousness take no time at all to make, 15-20 minutes, tops. Easy and yummy.

White Chocolate Walnut Truffles

Ingredients

2 tablespoons heavy cream
3 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon butter
2 teaspoons bourbon or whiskey
3/4 cup walnuts (or pecans, if you prefer) finely chopped

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and add chocolate, stirring until it’s completely melted. Add the butter and stir mixture until smooth. Stir in bourbon and 1/4 cup of the nuts. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and chill, covered, for 4 hours or until firm.

Form small teaspoonfuls of the mixture into little balls. Roll bowls in the remaining nuts.

Chill until firm and store in refrigerator. Makes 18 to 20 small truffles.

Leave me a comment

Let me know if you made them.
Did you love them? Were they as easy as I claimed?
But most importantly, did you use walnuts or pecans?
Bourbon or whiskey?

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The Art of Storytelling

Tuck me in

When a child, hoping to prolong bedtime says, “Tell me a story!” a parent has to come up with something. The art of storytelling has to kick in. On the spot.

The-art-of-storytelling

Your child wants a bedtime story, but it’s hard to think of anything night after night. So you make up some outrageous tale. Nothing is too wacky. Anything goes. The weirder the better.

I know the scenario well. For my daughter, I invented people and got into character. Accents and all. They would visit and tell her stories. One of our favorites was an English couple, Hildegarde and Harold. It was entertaining for both of us. And gave me material for days, even months or years!

Inspiration

How did Hildegarde enter my head? Old British sitcoms we watched back then on PBS likely had something to do with it. Shows like “Keeping up Appearances” and “Waiting for God.” Thanks BBC!

The best part

Alas, my characters and their stories did not translate into bestsellers. But ending our days with cuddling and giggling? That was the best reward.

Imagination

“The act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.” — definition from Merriam-Webster

Many famous books, and series of books are a result of parents’ storytelling antics. They’re not always told at bedtime, and all aren’t sweet, charming stories for children. Some are quite disturbing. Dark, even. But they have something in common — crazy amounts of imagination. Crazy.

Sweeter than honey

“Winnie-the-Pooh,” by A.A. Milne

“It’s easier to lose a thing, than to find it.” — Pooh

Is there anyone who doesn’t adore the story of a honey-loving, innocent, cuddly, sweet bear named Pooh, and his buddies? Milne based Winnie-the-Pooh on his son, Christopher Robin’s teddy bear, around 1925. The other characters, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Kanga, and Roo were Christopher’s stuffed toys. These sweet, charming characters live on and have adventures in the Hundred Acre wood.

Mad as a hatter

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll (neé Charles Dodgson)

“How do you know I’m mad,” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the [Cheshire] Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Is anything nuttier than Alice in Wonderland? (That’s a compliment.) I’m in wonderment (ha!) of such imagination. It started in 1862 as a story told to the three daughters of friends (one named Alice) while on a rowing trip. Yes. A rowing trip.

A name that promises imagination

“Pippi Longstocking,” by Astrid Lindgren

“But I’m the strongest girl in the world, don’t forget.” — Pippi

The story was a request in the 1940s by Lindgren’s daughter who named the character herself. Pippi has red hair and freckles, an unusual personality, and superhuman strength. She is playful and capricious, and she doesn’t want to grow up. And, Pippi lives alone with her pet horse and monkey. Alone. Would this story publish today? Who knows.

A gentle giant

“The BFG (Big Friendly Giant),” by Roald Dahl.

The BFG settled himself comfortably in his chair and crossed his legs. “Dreams,” he said, “is very mysterious things. They is floating around in the air like little wispy-misty bubbles. And all the time they is searching for sleeping people.”

Roald Dahl wrote many extraordinary stories and this one from 1982 is no exception. The BFG is the story of a giant who captured dreams and kept them in bottles for children to enjoy while they slept. Dahl entertained his young daughters with the story. He even climbed on a ladder outside their window acting as the BFG to blow dreams through their window. Now that’s what I call an elaborate bedtime routine!

Going down the rabbit hole

“Watership Down,” by Richard Adams

“Animals don’t behave like men,’  he said. ‘If they have to fight, they fight; and if they have to kill they kill. But they don’t sit down and set their wits to work to devise ways of spoiling other creatures’ lives and hurting them. They have dignity and animality.”

This is an epic, serious tale of a bunch of rabbits searching for a new home. Adams improvised the story during long car rides with his two young daughters. They later encouraged their father to write it all down. Completed in 18 months, and published in 1972, he dedicated the book to his two girls. But I wouldn’t call this a children’s story. Not at all. Watership Down, the rabbits’ destination, is a hill in England, near where the author grew up.

An elephant in the room

“Babar,” by Jean de Brunhoff

In 1931 Brunhoff’s wife, Cecile invented a story of an elephant in the jungle. After a hunter kills his mother, he goes to a big city. (Ugh. Horrible. Can you say, Bambi?) He meets An Old Lady (her official name) who gives him clothes, a place to live, and an education. A talking, sophisticated, upright (uptight?) elephant. Can you tell I’m not a fan of this story? Many aren’t. But I have to credit the Brunhoffs for their eccentric imagination.

Imagination and artistry

These two go together like pen and ink, pencil and paper, arts and letters, rise and shine, like … well, you get the gist.

As long as there’s imagination, there’s storytelling. Here are a few others. And I’m sure there are many more. And more to come. Always.

  • “Mrs. Piggle Wiggle,” by Betty MacDonald
  • “The Hobbit,” by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief,” by Rick Riordan
  • “Thomas the Tank Engine,” by Wilbert Awdry
  • “Just So Stories,” by Rudyard Kipling

Have you made up any crazy stories? Or have you listened to any? Do you have a favorite outrageous tale?

 

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Pantone Greenery

(Thank you note to Pantone)

Pantone-Greenery

Fall 2016 Collection is now in the shop. Prints and originals available.

 

Dear Pantone,

Did you pick this year’s color, Greenery, just for me? I know you didn’t, but it sure feels like it.

Pantone, you’ve been a part of my life since art school, eons ago. So now, I’m always interested in the color you choose every year. Loved the orange a few years back! And that orchid in 2015. Gorgeous.

But this year is noteworthy.

Greenery. This glorious yellow-green shade appears in so many of my paintings. Especially in my Fall Collections. Where would I be without this color? How would my leaves come to life on paper?

My palettes are covered with variations of Greenery.

Don’t get me wrong, though, I LOVE all colors. ALL OF THEM. (Except maybe not when a dark brown appears instead of the gorgeous purple I was going for. Sh*t happens.)

Greenery. No color has made me happier or feel more productive.

So Pantone, thank you for this choice. For making 2017 the year that honors one of my favorite colors. A color I can’t be without. A color that helps bring my leaves to life.

Greenery is my forever color.

With thanks,
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Jungle Fever

It was December, 2010, in New York City — a kind of jungle.

It was a bitter cold Friday morning, and the last day of a 3-day trip. I had a couple of hours to kill before my bus home to Boston.

So I went to MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art.

I waited in line forever to check my bag and coat, then took the elevator to start at the top. Because now there wasn’t much time.

The museum was packed. I wondered about, stopping here and there. And then I saw it. Henri Rousseau’s, “The Dream.”

It was like a movie scene when a person stands still and people move around in blurred fast motion. The person feels alone in the crowd. That was me. I don’t know how long I stood staring at the Rousseau. It’s a HUGE painting (almost 7 x 10 feet!) and I was lost in it.

Jungle fever

Flashback

Flashback to the painting studio in art school. I pictured myself in clothes I used to wear. A classmate (Barbara?) was painting a jungle scene, à la Rousseau. My own painting was a portrait of a paper maché bird on a square canvas. (My preference of drawing and painting within squares must have started around then and I still paint birds.)

After art school, life happened — husband, jobs, children, house, housework, social life — did I mention children? All good and happy but I didn’t paint much. (My fault really because there are no excuses. If I wanted to, I would have. Sorry. I digress.) Paint dried up in unused tubes and my brushes collected dust. Sigh.

Right before that trip in 2010, I started painting again. Not much, but whenever I could squeeze it into the rest of my life.

Now it IS my life. (but that’s another blog post.)

Jungle Fever

Jungle sounds were playing in my head.

I identified with Rousseau painting “The Dream” a hundred years ago in 1910. (Wait. What? That sounds ridiculous. It’s Rousseau!)

Bit, here’s the thing. I know what it’s like to have a blank canvas or a piece of paper and some paint, and an idea. And after a while, magic! There’s a painting or a drawing. That’s how I identified with Rousseau.

Had “The Dream” influenced me back then? Maybe. Probably. Definitely.

The charms of nature inspire me. I always seem to paint vegetation — leaves, flowers, and vegetables. Sometimes realistic and sometimes, not so much. Always nature in some form.

Earth to Ani

How long was I was standing there? Who knows, but human voices became clear around me as jungle sounds faded. It was almost time for my bus. I awakened from my “Dream.”

When you’re looking for art, there’s only one thing to know.

Recently, a friend of mine told me she wanted to buy some art while on vacation. “How can I tell if the art is good?” she asked me.

At first I didn’t know how to answer her.  But then I remembered the Rousseau.

“Ask yourself,” I told her, “How does it make me feel?” And you’ll know.

And that friends, is all there is to it. It’s a matter of the heart. Or art.

 

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It takes over 30 hours to make my bed.

A few days ago I had to leave the house by 8:00 AM for an appointment. For me this means I have to get up at the crack of dawn. (Okay, well, 6:00 AM. I need 2 hours of waking up time.) I was rushing around, running late (I hate you, SNOOZE button.) Since I always like to make the bed in the morning, I looked at the clock — 7:53 AM. Plenty of time. So I made the bed and glanced at the clock again — 7:57 AM. Done in 3-4 minutes. Not bad, with 3 minutes to spare.

This got me thinking.

Say I spend 4 minutes every day making the bed. That’s 28 minutes a week and 1,460 minutes a year. So how many hours is that? 24.3 hours.

And what about changing the bed? I want to sleep on clean sheets. So I added 10 minutes a week, calculating an extra 8.6 hours, bringing the yearly total to 32.9 -ish hours!

Yes. It takes over 30 hours to make my bed. What?

It’s a pretty simple queen bed setup. But still. Over 30 hours.

bed

I started thinking of other personal daily essentials that amount to big chunks of time.

• Walking an hour a day, 4-6 days a week, depending on weather: 208–312 hours a year
• Brushing and flossing, twice daily, total 6 minutes: 36.5 hours a year
• Showering, 5-7 minutes per day:  30–42 hours a year, and that doesn’t include blow drying.

(And there’s so much more. Well you know what I mean. All the things we do as humans. Wink.)

And that doesn’t include work. Which is a whole other discussion. (Can you say, Facebook?)

So now I’m scheming ways to steal time from myself.

Here’s a big one.

One of my arch enemies, winning battles against me, almost every day, is the SNOOZE button. Set for 10 minutes, I confess it defeats me at least 5 times a week. That’s over 43 hours a year. 43 hours! That’s a whole work week. With overtime.

I’ve tried. Really I have. No, really. But SNOOZE is tempting, powerful, and relentless. It’s addictive.

But now that I know nasty SNOOZE is robbing me of 43 hours, it’s time for me to win the battle.

From now on, SNOOZE, you lose.
I refuse to give you 43 hours.

 

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Fannie Farmer

A remarkable entrepreneur

For years, I’ve baked the same marble cake recipe from an old Fannie Farmer paperback. Never thought much about it.

Until today.

Fannie Farmer

On January 7th, 1896, a revised, modern edition of The Boston Cooking School Cookbook published.

Fanny Farmer listed each ingredient separately, and instructed how to correctly measure everything. She used a scientific, precise method of measuring, never before used in recipes.

Imagine the amount of time required for recipe testing during this undertaking!

Her publisher, Little, Brown, and Company wasn’t convinced that the book would sell. So they asked Fannie Farmer to pay for the printing of 3000 copies. Self-publishing! This granted her copy rights, which was lucky, since the book was a huge success and made her quite wealthy.

The latest (13th) anniversary edition is still in bookstores.)

About Fannie Farmer.

  • As a result of a stroke while still in high school, she wasn’t able to seek higher education
  • After recovering, she learned to cook and took over domestic duties of the household.
  • Later, she enrolled at The Boston Cooking School. Upon graduation in 1889, at age 32, she became Assistant Director.
  • At 37, she became Director of the Boston Cooking School
  • In 1896, at age 39, she tweaked and republished the Boston Cooking School Cookbook. Later she published several other cookbooks.
  • In 1902, she left to open her own school, Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery in Boston. The school trained housewives and nurses in cooking and was in business until 1944.
  • In 1905, she wrote articles for Woman’s Home Companion magazine, until her death in 1915.

Fannie Farmer didn’t let anything stop her.

She found something she loved and pursued it with passion. She wrote books, ran a school, opened another school, taught, and gave lectures. (TED talks of her day?) She was a cook, a baker, a writer, a businesswoman, and a publisher. Fannie Farmer was an entrepreneur. And all before 1915.

Despite another stroke near the end of her life, she continued to teach and lecture. Nothing stopped her.

And so I bake marble Cake. But from now on, it will be a little more special. I’ll think of the remarkable Fanny Farmer, and her many accomplishments.

 

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Art in the Kitchen

2 easy-to-make and delicious appetizers

Appetizers are my favorite! I love to make, serve and enjoy them. Sometimes I make an entire meal of appetizers, which is a lot of fun. Perfect for any occasion.

These recipes are easy to make and suitable in any season. Great served with bread or crackers or to accompany meats or seafood.

white-bean-spread

white bean spread

1 15-ounce can cannellini, or great northern beans
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon dried thyme (even better if you have fresh thyme)
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Drain and rinse beans. Mash beans (a pastry blender works great!) in a bowl until slightly chunky. Add lemon juice, yogurt, olive oil, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue mashing until creamy and well incorporated. Garnish with more thyme if desired.

red-pepper-spread

red pepper walnut spread

1 cup roasted red peppers
1/2 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste

Place the walnuts, red peppers and lemon in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse 5 to 6 times until mixed but still a bit chunky. Add salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. Garnish with more chopped walnuts if desired.

 

 

Find more easy to make and delicious recipes in my cookbook.

Appetizers and small dishes

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

 

 

BONUS!

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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Flowers in the attic.

Flowersintheattic

Utopia.

Bells on the front door welcomed customers into the tiny space. Cozy, with carpets layered on top of each other, covering and cushioning the floor. Inviting. Every inch of the small space devoted to showcasing jewelry and artifacts.

Not one empty spot.

Shallow glass cases displayed silver, gold, and enamel jewelry. There were bracelets, rings, necklaces, and pendants, some adorned with colorful semi-precious stones. Endless varieties from all over the world exploding with beauty and art and history.

A magical store like no other I’ve ever seen.

One look, or even two or three, was never enough to spot all the amazing and affordable treasures. Everything positioned close to each other with the surface of a shelf hardly showing. It was the perfect place to buy gifts, and I could never resist adding to my own collection. Most of the inventory was vintage, from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and so on.

And now it’s gone. Closed. Just like that.

It was like a museum and store in one. Besides jewelry, there were vintage housewares. So many beautiful things to choose from! Among them, little silver spoons, antique etched glasses, vases, teacups, and linens.

Like Mary Poppins’ bottomless bag.

Except that it was a store. There was a mysterious back room hidden by a thick curtain, or maybe a rug, used as a curtain. Who knows what was back there. Maybe Iris Apfel was hiding out?

I once wanted to buy a pin. I looked in the cases. And looked again.

Then a little cardboard box appeared in front of me from somewhere behind the counter.

It was old and covered in a gold floral patterned paper. There was an assortment of pins inside, each in its own tiny plastic bag with it’s own tiny price tag attached. Nothing fancy and all under $10. I was in costume jewelry heaven.

There were velvet-lined trays upon trays of pins and rings and bracelets all sorted by type or era. I can close my eyes and picture their contents. Sigh.

Memories.

I visited the store many times with one of my closest friends. As old friends we have a comfortable banter. Think Lucy and Ethel. Laverne and Shirley. Tina and Amy. Thelma and Louise (well, maybe not them.)

We often amused the owner.

I’m sure he was especially happy since we always bought something. ALWAYS.

“Look at this bracelet. Try it on.”
“I LOVE that! You should get it.”
“Maybe. What else is there?” Oh look at this one!”
“Yeah. I don’t know. I like the other one better.”
“Look at this necklace. That would look great on you.”
“Yeah. But enough with those necklaces. I always wear that type. I should get something longer.”
“Did you see this one? Try it on.”
“What do you think? Um. Maybe. Not sure. Can I try it?”
“Remember that bracelet you got last time? This would look great with that.”
“Yeah, maybe. But I like this one …”
“I’m sorry. Could I just see that ring? NO. That one. Third one from the left.”
“That’s nice.”
“I LOVE that! Don’t you?”

And so on.

Sigh.

I’m going to miss that.

Premonition.

Just this week, my friend was visiting. I said to her, “You know that store will close some day. The guy is older and there doesn’t seem to be anyone to take over.” That was Monday. The store was never open on Mondays.

Tuesday, I went there to buy a gift and the store was gone.

Empty. Deserted. Sad.

All that beauty gone. Disappeared. No notice. No sign in the window. Nothing.

I was on the phone almost immediately.

“Hi. I have some terrible news.” [First I made sure she knew it wasn’t HORRIBLE. I didn’t want to scare her.]

“What? What’s the matter?”
“The store closed.”

She knew right away what I was talking about.

“You predicted it!”

Imagine the conversation, if you will. I’ll spare you the details of the cursing and carrying on. Oh. The drama.

“What are we going to do?”

There’s nothing similar.

Because it was not just a store. It was a place to make memories with a dear friend. A place to buy gifts for others. A place that inspired me for my own art. A place to learn about different types of jewelry. Even a museum could not have the variety of jewelry and artifacts crammed into such a small space.

Inquiries.

My friend called the store number. A recording something like this:

“We still have all our inventory. If you have an inquiry, please leave a message. We will have more information at the beginning of the year.”

Maybe there will be a new store. There’s hope.

In the meantime, where’s the inventory? Is all that glorious stock in a storage facility, or maybe in the basement, or in a spare bedroom? Is it in the attic?

Are the flowers in the attic?

The flower picture was taken a couple of months before closing. I’m so happy now to have it!

 

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8 Responses to Flowers in the attic.

  1. Oh, how I hope someone is planning to reopen your treasure trove! I live near a town in Ohio that was always known for its antiques and collectibles shops. I used to love spending a day just roaming through them. Now many have closed and it is not the same and I seldom go back.

    • I know how you feel, Charmaine. It’s fun to search treasures from the past. There’s a great antique store in a neighboring town, and now I’m worried about its demise! I used to collect Fiesta and heard that Ohio was the place for it, but I’m guessing that’s changed now too.

  2. I love how your story pulled me in. You captured my attention and heart! Love that you started bkogging! It fed my heart today. Thank you.

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I’ve been dead wrong about Halloween.

halloween-birds

Halloween was fun when I was a kid. When my kids were little, Halloween was an adventure! Zany creativity took over the house. (But that’s not what I’m wrong about.)

Having an artist for a mother (me!) meant we made costumes.

A red monster with horns (a little red devil?), a wizard, and a cowboy. Several pirate versions, and a mad scientist with colorful bugs sewn on a lab coat, for my son. As for my daughter, witches, a cowgirl, a “fancy” lady, a hippie, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. All cute stuff.

Many involved sewing and in the case of the wizard, painting. First I made a robe with blue satin fabric. Then stayed up half the night painting moons and stars all over it. Let me tell you, blue satin fabric is NOT like canvas. Paint doesn’t want to stay on it.

To complicate things, I added glitter before the paint dried. There was a conical hat to top it off. Phew. I’m exhausted just writing about it. Did I mention that I was eight months pregnant?

Eight years later, Laura Ingalls Wilder wore a long skirt with a ruffled hem. And layers of petticoats. Enough said.

We set a special Halloween table and made Halloween desserts. We painted a face on a pumpkin or two. Carving isn’t my thing.

There was even a party or two. A haunted house in the hallway with black crepe paper hanging from the ceiling. The sounds of screaming and giggling girls. Skull-shaped pizza and ghost sugar cookies.

It was great fun!

 

Confession.

I stopped enjoying Halloween when my kids got older. Now I buy candy at the last minute. I never decorate. Maybe a tiny naked pumpkin on the porch. If I think of it. My dog barks every time the doorbell rings. Some children don’t even bother saying, “trick or treat.” Sure, many are adorable, with good manners. And that’s sweet. I love to see them in their costumes. It’s all about the kids and making them happy.

Isn’t it?

Halloween is now a “holiday.” But it’s not an official holiday. It’s business. People spend over seven billion dollars per year on costumes, candy, and decorations. Seven billion! Even dogs are dressing up now. (Not mine.)

All this time, I thought adults had taken over Halloween and made it into a “holiday.”

I was wrong. So wrong.

It’s the children who took over.

I googled to research this post. And learned that Halloween originates in Celtic paganism. The Celts believed that ghosts of the dead mingled with the living once a year. They offered treats and sacrifices so the dead would be happy and leave them alone. Creepy.

Fast forward a few hundred years.

More googling. Images this time. Vintage Halloween costumes. Adults (and children) dressed in the oddest and creepiest costumes I have ever seen. Strange scenes enough to give you nightmares. Copyright laws scare me too much (boo!) so that I’m not posting any of the images here. If you’re curious, google images of vintage Halloween costumes. But don’t do it right before bedtime.

I’m warning you.

 

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2 Responses to I’ve been dead wrong about Halloween.

  1. Enjoyed your post……….I too loved Halloween when my children were young…..now I live in a retirement community so there are never any children ringing the doorbell….have to admit I do miss seeing the little ones. They can be so adorable. Your prints are lovely!

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