Shell Day

Yesterday, we visited the Mus√©e de Coquillages √† Corossol, St. Barths. ¬†It’s owned and run by and elderly man named Ingenu and is home to over 9000 specimens that he has personally collected since childhood (above). ¬†At 3 euros for admittance, it is quite possibly the most inexpensive thing to do in St. Barths! ¬†Below, the large shell is one that I purchased from him, and the rest are specimens that I’ve collected so far here. ¬†In the small box are tiny branches of bleached white coral, the bag contains little pieces of pink and red coral (I believe) that Tom and I picked out of the sand and which I will attempt to drill into beads, and the rest are just some of the many interesting species to be found here!

 

StyleWeek Providence and the little camera that could

My D-SLR camera is in the shop; the shutter wiring (i think) broke just in time for StyleWeek, where I am working with Kettlebottom Productions to film a documentary about StyleWeek Providence and its creator, Rosanna Ortiz Sinel. ¬†For most of the shows, I am too busy panning about with the video camera at the end of the runway to think about taking my own pictures or even appreciate the clothes! ¬†I did, however, get a chance during Jess Abernethy‘s show and felt a touch silly standing in the press pit, where large and lovely cameras were clicking away, with my little electric blue Cannon Elph and the happy digital pinging sounds of its autofocus and shutter button echoing about in time to bumping runway remixes. ¬†I’m not altogether displeased with the results, however it’s a bit grainy, mister Elph insisted on shooting at a high ISO given that I refused to allow the flash to run. ¬†Here is a favorite look:

I’m very intrigued by this classy shirt dress silhouette with the surprise of an open back. ¬†It’s just the right amount of sexy, and finds that subtle balance between showing enough skin that the dress would fit in on a night out, but not so much skin that it would be inappropriate at a more formal function. ¬†Something to think about the next time you invest in a dress…how well will this piece be able to slide between the different arenas of my life? ¬†I’m all about multi-taskers, which is why I purchased this dress on SUPER sale at LaGar√ßonne.com right after christmas (see below, image source: LaGarconne.com). ¬†Its a lovely Vena Cava number with a similar cut-out back and a flattering neckline that has the potential to do well under a cardigan (for those REALLY conservative events). ¬†Plus it’s stretch jersey, so it passes my comfort test.

Now all I need is some warm weather so I can wear it! ¬†For complete coverage of the shows and all their looks, check out Michael Cress’s blog, the NY Sartorialist. ¬†I met Mike in ‘the pit’ and have had a great time chatting with him about all things fashion and photography, and he also has an interesting take on the fashion industry’s perpetuation of the rail thin model.

The Traveler

“A dominent impulse on encountering beauty is to wish to hold on to it, to possess it and give it weight in one’s life. ¬†There is an urge to say, ‘I was here, I saw this and it mattered to me.’ ¬†But beauty is fugitive, being frequently found in places to which we may never return or else resulting from rare conjunctions of season, light and weather. ¬†How then to possess it…?…There [is] only one way to possess beauty properly, and that [is] by understanding it, by making oneself conscious of the factors (psychological and visual) responsible for it…the most effective means of pursuing this conscious understanding [is] by attempting to describe beautiful places through art, by writing about or drawing them, irrespective of whether one happen[s] to have any talent for doing so.”

Mumma painting on her honeymoon, a garden somewhere in Europe, 1937

The quoted passage is an excerpt from Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel. ¬† Aaaaaahhhh, Alain, you always know just what to say. ¬†I’m looking forward to delving into his other well known book, The Architecture of Happiness, while traveling next week. ¬†It’s the-book-is-done-and-its-my-birthday vacation time and my art supplies are already packed! ¬†More on that later…

The Breakfast

 

I live for pancake breakfasts. ¬†They are a time honored tradition in my home. ¬†Birthday breakfasts, send-off breakfasts, house guest breakfasts, eat-the-whole-batch-alone breakfasts… the list goes on.

Needless to say, I’m pretty picky about my pancakes. ¬†I need REAL maple syrup, lots of butter, a cool glass of pulpy OJ, and pan cooked bacon to complement those little guys right, and on top of that, I need booze.

Yep, you heard me.  My grandfather was the one who taught me to add a little oj and a dash of spiced rum to the mix to give it flavor and thin the batter (NOT a fan of doughiness).

Here is my recipe, which is a variation of my grandfather’s (he used Aunt Jemima’s dry mix, I prefer to make mine from scratch) and is based off of the Fannie Farmer cookbook recipe. ¬†I’ve been making this since I was about 9 years old:

 

‚ÄĘ3/4 cup of milk

‚ÄĘ2 tablespoons butter, melted

‚ÄĘ1 egg

‚ÄĘ1 cup white flour

‚ÄĘ2 teaspoons baking powder

‚ÄĘ2 tablespoons sugar

‚ÄĘ1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Fannie suggests mixing the dry and wet ingredients independently, and then adding them together all at once.

Once mixed, I add:

 

‚ÄĘabout 1/4 cup OJ

‚ÄĘabout 1/8 cup Mount Gay spiced rum

‚ÄĘa dash of vanilla extract

‚ÄĘa dash of ground cloves

 

The thinner the batter, the less your pancakes will rise. ¬†I suggest cutting the batter slowly, maybe even cooking a few pancakes as you go so that you get the consistency you want! ¬†It is possible to water it down too much- you don’t want it to feel like cr√™pe batter.

The Art of the Dressing Table

Just what purpose does a dressing table serve these days?  If you are like me, you throw your jewelry in a dish by your sink, put on eyeliner wherever there is light, apply lipstick on your way out the door, and wait to do your hair until it has dried while driving to work (at a stoplight, of course).

Yet for me, the old-fashioned idea of a woman’s dressing table being this central place of beauty and adornment, an explosion of all things feminine, a small corner of the world belonging solely to a house’s mistress, seems so romantic.

My maternal grandmother has always been a constant source of inspiration to me. ¬†She has a truly unique eye, though she will self-effacingly shy away from being called ‘artistic’ (despite the fact that 3 of her 4 children and many grandchildren have professions in the arts, and we all know where we got it from). ¬†She has always curated her living spaces with a balance of elegance, simplicity, maternal pride and ancestral appreciation. ¬†Re-reading that description, I realize it makes little sense. ¬†Luckily, just before my grandparents moved out of their family home in Middletown, it was photographed by Mick Hales for Bettie Pardee’s book Private Newport: At Home and in the Garden, and the following photos are hasty reproductions from that book (Bullfinch Press, available on amazon.com and at most local booksellers).

This was Mimi’s dressing table at her house, Hopelands. ¬†On the wall are pictures of my mom, my two aunts and my grandmother herself wearing the same wedding dress, which has been in the family since the 1700’s! ¬†She’s also scattered family photos under the glass top of the table and in frames. ¬†I love the warm and luminous quality of the mirror, which is real mercury glass. ¬†All of this serves as a highly personal backdrop for her objets: ivory combs, brushes, button hooks, a hand mirror and…I don’t know what the rest of those tools are for, plus perfumes, a cute little pin cushion, one of her porcelain bunnies (which she collects) and roses from the garden. ¬†Below, you can see the table set in the rest of the master bedroom, which is just a step away from the garden that my great grandmother planted. ¬†(It’s also where I learned and fell in love with gardening).

This picture illustrates what I was trying to describe, that mimi’s dressing table was a little corner of elegance and femininity in an otherwise simple and relatively sparing room. ¬†I imagine that for women in the 18th, 19th and maybe even early 20th centuries, when everything belonged to the man of the house, dressing tables were one small haven of ownership where a woman could display the only trinkets that really belonged to her. ¬†There is a great, though sad, scene in the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility, in which the Dashwood women are packing up to leave their home following the death of Mr. Dashwood, and the mother is tucking her small china figurines in with her clothes as she prepares to leave all other objects to the house’s new owners. ¬†Maybe now, dressing tables are a nod to the only part of the material world that, historically, women were able to carve out for themselves.

When they moved, my grandmother gave us one of the smaller dressing tables from another bedroom, and it is now in my room. ¬†Below is an assemblage of some of the objects I keep on it. ¬†My dressing table is mostly a place of display, but I also keep my jewelry and perfume on it, and it is constantly changing as I add and rotate special objects. ¬†It’s far from essential, but I like to think of it as a reminder, telling me to slow down, take my time getting ready, take care of myself, and appreciate beauty in all its varying forms.

I use this balsam fir sachet as a pincushion to keep earrings and rings in order. ¬†The little tortoise shell scottie clip is a new favorite, made by France Luxe, the same company that supplies all the hair accessories at J.Crew. ¬†I made the necklace using a strand of coral beads that belonged to my mother and a little wooden animal that was on an indian necklace I had as a child (and promptly broke). ¬†The cosmetic compact was my great grandmother’s and is too pretty to keep in a drawer, and the sea glass, rock and silver shell are some of the little trinkets that I’ve assembled for display.

Chlo√© perfume is my new obsession. ¬†The first time I encountered it was at a bar when a friend walked in wearing it. ¬†I made her stand next to me the whole night so I could keep smelling it! ¬†This size is a Sephora exclusive, it’s a .2 oz roller ball bottle, and at $25, it makes a great gift (to yourself or a friend).

Here is another dressing table from Private Newport. ¬†It’s a completely different personality that, of course, must be a reflection of its mistress!

Happy dressing!