Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thoughts of Thanks

Thanksgiving day is my favorite holiday for its very simplicity.

I am thankful for pumpkins available in a variety of wonderful shapes and colors.  Or the better to bake in a pie?

I am thankful for the water and wind that shapes fallen trees into fantastic shapes. As beautiful as they are to behold; better to bivouac your bottom?

I am thankful for a wreath made of coconut husks from far away, framing a bundle of Indian corn. How better to warmly welcome my friends to the holiday season? A happy thanksgiving to all!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Hallowe'en in New Orle'an

Where better to spend Halloween than New Orleans? The mansions along St. Charles rise to the occasion, as for any occasion, with impressive and spectacular decorations.

Beads are a basic to the city, and here we have the pearly gates.

This St. Charles manse must have had a hundred skeleton puns across the property. There is no skimping on the sacrifices that New Orleanians will make for a holiday, festival, parade or party. It's my kind of town!

On the hallowed night, many hundreds of well-costumed children and their equally well-costumed parents queued up for treats. The hosts couldn't possibly be more gracious to one and all, as they sipped their Sazaracs.  I was chastened not to begrudge the comparatively few goblins that crowd my front porch in St. Louis.

This is one of my favorite houses, having always been a fan of Neo-classical Beaux Arts style architecture.  Can you estimate how many yards of cobwebs had to be ordered for the wrought iron fence?  And let's see, I'll take a dozen 6' spiders...

The semi-circular driveway accommodated droves of little devils, sort of like a drive-in treatery.

Where do the New Orleans folk store all their holiday decorations?  This creepy gypsy caravan is no small thing to park in your garage!  And what with elaborate Christmas, Mardi-Gras, and St. Patrick's decorations, I don't know how they manage, being as they don't even have basements.

There are no qualms or hesitation about what might be too scary for the little tricksters.  The scarier the better!  Halloween is serious business here and no cutesiness about it! 

Just a sweet little old couple resides here. I saw them dancing the night away later in the eve on Frenchman Street, groovin' to the jazz.  Hope to see them next year, if they're still kickin'!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sweet and Simple Sample of Summer

Nothing puts you in the here and now as a dog walk. Whether with a young dog pulling you in front, or an old dog lagging behind, the human at the end of the leash is gifted with the canine experience of life. It is called living in the present for all that it is worth.

Walking the dog gets you out in all seasons.  You share in the changes in temperature and precipitation. You are able to focus on the sounds, smells, and physical sensations of your surrounding at a pace that has no time.  Well, why not just throw yourself on the carpet of lawn and get a good back scratching?  The grass and ground are cool, and you are one with the earth.

These lovely wildflowers sway in the gentle breeze. I am reminded of my youth, of summers long ago when the last day of school signaled a time that stretched into eternity.

I recall lying in the clover, inhaling its  perfume.  I would make daisy chain crowns and necklaces with my friends.  We would spend hours looking for 4 leaf clovers, believing that it would bring good luck.  Buttercups would be tasted, because the name sounded like they should be tasty. Slender blades would be placed just so in sideway thumbs and blown like a reed, so as to create the call of a bird.

The back yard of my childhood was surrounded by large mulberry trees in which I would climb and gorge myself on the berries.  Sometimes I would tie a blanket in a tree like a hammock, whiling away the hours reading a book, snacking as desired.  The sounds of the birds twittering, a passing car, children at play...all was a soundtrack of vibrant life in the present.

Do you share my delight in the taste of mulberries? It is a simple flavor, but rich in memories for me.  It hearkens the first days of summer and when the sun shines hot, the branches are heavy with berries bursting with juice.  Birds are in ecstasy.

It is free for the taking and I happily partake of this sweet pleasure as Chewy munches on lower level tender green leaves.

A beautiful red purple stain is a tell-tale of my indulgence. As we head home, I step in puddles to wash my shoes soles so as not to bring the mashed berries indoors.

Numerous examples of riotous florals pleasure my eyes and in some cases, offer a lovely scent. Meanwhile, Chewy is sniffing other kinds of aromas, lagging behind or pulling ahead. I thank him for letting me share his walk and reminding me that there is no past or future, only the present, so live it! 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Rocks in My Head

The word 'right' connotes all sorts of you lean right or left politically?  Are you right-brained or left-brained?  Do you have strong opinions? How do you feel about rocks?  Do you love 'em or leave 'em?   Sometimes an innocuous assignment as finding the right rocks becomes a time consuming labor of staggering proportions. I won't bore you with the heaps of rocks that I have examined and rejected for a current project.  This new delivery looked promising.  Was it an auspicious signal that my toil today was inaugurated by a loud crack of lightening?  The skies were threatening and monster storms and tornadoes were imminent.  Adrenalin kicks in!

Rockin' n Rollin'

The things I do for my clients!!!  I've been on the prowl for the 'right rocks' after proposing some rock pulls for an exciting project located on the bluffs of the Mississippi River. I needed 3 pairs for some closet doors.  A prior vendor had proved disappointing, so custom (RCF) was the way to go.  Little did I anticipate that these would become million dollar pulls for all the time I put into finding just the right rocks.  

Fruits of my labor

Line-up for the final selection.  Gotta be just the right color, size and shape!  Sorry to discriminate, but everyone will get a turn, depending on future project requirements.  Let's just say it's the school of hard rocks.

Bring on the barrow

I told the cashier:  This is a big order.  Priced by the pound, the grand total was some $3.58.  In my opinion, priceless for something billions of years old!  What stories could they tell? This is the stuff that I like to have around me!

Dramatic backdrop of a day in the life of an interior designer

I finished my rock transaction as the first drop of rain began to fall.  Now I will send these rocks off to Skipping Stones Studio in Idaho to be drilled, finished, and epoxied to the mounting posts. Though commonplace and inexpensive, they are as integral to the design solution as the most valuable work of art.  Definitely puts a smile on my face!  Tell me, are you in love with rocks and like to live with them, too?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Not Time To Say Goodbye

On this past New Year's Day, Chewy and I went out for our usual morning walk.  It was a beautiful winter day; the sky was cerulean blue and the temperature crisp but not too cold.  We enjoyed the twittering of the birds and the surreal quiet that only occurs on New Year's Day due to most people having the day off and staying at home. I optimistically made lists galore of all the resolutions that I might inaugurate.  My day was off to a good start! 

My mascot, Chewbacca
I left for a brunch and then returned home to find that Chewy could not use his back legs.  My happiness dissolved into despair and depression at what I imagined would be a dreadful decision to be made. It was tortuous to wait out the long day and night to see his doctor in the morning.  At our neighborhood Kingsbury Animal Hospital, Dr. Shaw advised that Chewy was suffering from geriatric disc displacement. He suggested a special harness, patience, and even acupuncture. I made an appointment at St. Louis Hills Veterinary for their earliest acupuncture opening.To my utter surprise and relief, Chewy began to get a little bit better day by day.

After a few days of rest, Chewy needed exercise to prevent muscle atrophy, but he was still dragging his feet a little and they needed to be protected.  I bought him some leather boots from Petsmart and with the fancy harness from Help 'Em Up (which enabled him to picked up like a suitcase), he was soon handsomely outfitted like a French mountain climber. 

At Chewy's first treatment, needles were inserted in his head, back, and hind legs.  Some of these were connected to a gizmo that looked like something you might tinker with in your basements back in the 50's to run a toy train. In addition to the acupuncture treatments, he was administered the ancient herbs of myrrh (for improving his circulation) and aconite (for pain relief).

There were also concerns about his right eye, which required a visit to a dog eye specialist. Turns out it was another 'old age' issue of corneal degeneration that happily was quickly arrested. A broken molar was discovered as well, that would have to be dealt with at a later time. Fortunately, he had no current skin allergy problems. This is a million dollar dog, if there ever was one!

Still a puppy at heart, Chewy took these traumas in stride and was soon back to treating himself to a good back scratch on a zosia lawn. Never mind the boots and harness; what was important was doing the things that dogs love most:  walking, sniffing, and scent marking at every opportunity.

Here he is on his baronial bed for Briards having an afternoon nap. He sleeps on an orthopedic foam mattress surrounded by damask pillows and fur throws. The white sheets are washed weekly because he has been prone to skin allergies. It's been a tough 2 months, but he is well on the road to recovery and his old self.  I've had Chewy for a long 15 years, and treasure each and every day. What a relief to have this reprieve and not have to say goodbye just yet!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Popcorn at the Opera

It's Rigoletto on the menu again; you know that tubular pasta with a red sauce?  After a hearty plateful this afternoon, I am on an opera high.  It goes like this:  for months now I have been anticipating the Metropolitan Opera live broadcast of Rigoletto at a neighborhood movie theatre.  A cultural pinnacle as this is a mere 6 minute car drive away; 2.45 miles and costs only $22.  I can wear sweat clothes, no makeup, and slouch in the seats.  I can binge on a big bag of buttery popcorn while taking in a world class production.  Definitely puts the pop in the opera!

The Duke (Piotr Beczala) doing his opening lounge act
Set Designer - Christine Jones
Choreographer - Steven Hoggett

I settle in to watch a Rigoletto first shown in 1851 Venice, time-warped to 60's Las Vegas and I am swept away and on for the ride. Director Michael Mayer believably brings the past to present with the Duke presiding over a casino and living in a palatial penthouse. He is the head of a rat pack and surrounded by show girls and an entourage.  Rigoletto is his funnyman. Yikes!

Rigoletto (Zeljko Lucic) crooning in a fashionable sweater of the times
Costume Designer - Susan Hilferty

As is often the case at these operas, I see absolutely no one that I know and although no spring chicken myself, everyone seems REALLY old.  Where are the young singers?  At the first intermission, Styrofoam containers of hot dogs and such disgusting foodstuffs appear, along with big gulps, providing vivid contrast to the televised Met intermission of well-dressed attendees sipping from stemware. However, the Esquire has a nice and informal ambiance and it is lunchtime, after all!

Intermission at the Metropolitan Opera House

I take the opportunity to move to a better seat and make a new friend with a seat-mate who is ingesting a double decker portabella sandwich with onions and pickles...His bravas, bravos, and bellissimas make the experience all the more fun and he applauds the screen.  Although not a singer, he offers me a recitation of Shakespeare's Sonnet #116. I'm overdosing with high culture! There are all sorts of opportunities and good things that can happen if you go to events alone and strike up conversations with strangers.
Act III - Gilda (Diana Damrau) and Rigoletto in the neon rain
Lighting design by Kevin Adams

One of my favorite parts in this Sin City rendition is Act III.  Neon lights arc above the stage, simulating the lightening and impending storm, and are synchronized with the music.  Alas, it's over too soon, at 3 hours and 31 minutes, two intermissions.

Esquire Theatre - seating for an intimate 221 - not a bad seat in the house

The music is changed to some pop pap as ushers pick up the trash...As always, I was the last to arrive and the last to leave.

The Met seats 3,800

Meanwhile, at the Met, the crew waxes the slanted stage floor...Farewell, till when I return in 2 weeks for Parsifal; find me in orchestra seating, row 10 center.  I'll share my popcorn with you!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Dog of Flanders Wins in Westminster

The Westminster Kennel Club has proclaimed that Chewbacca, a briard, is the best dog in the world.

Every public outing of his life has never failed to elicit comments such as, "What a face!", or questions such as, "What kind of dog is that?", or even, "What kind of animal is that?"

Chewbacca is a devoted and faithful companion.  He is an excellent tail-wagger, knows when it is time for his walks, and can vocalize to the point of nearly talking.  He is a classical music lover, particularly of piano and voice. He works part-time as both a dishwasher and a dust mop.  At 15 years of age, he still manages to be irresistibly cute and as playful as a puppy. Judges were unanimous in designating him as top dog of Westminster Kennel Club, as I am sure you would agree!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Rescue Me!

If you are down in the doldrums and want to be rescued, my suggestion is to medicate yourself with a good dose of art and music.  I recently had the perfect sort of day...a morning visit to see an art exhibit of Federico Barocci bookended with an evening musical tribute to Fontella Bass...who could want for anything more?

Entombment of Christ, 1579-82
Federico Barocci
Oil on canvas 116 1/8" x 78 5/8"
Chiesa della Croce, Senigallia

And who is Federico Barocci and Fontella Bass, you may ask? Federico was a Renaissance artist famous in his own time, but rather forgotten otherwise. Fontella was a soul and gospel singer who had one big hit with the song "Rescue Me",  in 1965.  

Fontella Bass
July 3, 1940 -  December 26, 2012
R.I.P., Divine Diva

The St. Louis Art Museum is essentially in my own back yard and less than 5 minutes away.  But to get to the church where Fontella's memorial was to take place required Mapquest.  And interestingly enough, Mapquest chose a 30 minute route through the most gangster-ridden, dangerous neighborhoods you can imagine. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea", I thought, as I barreled past boarded up buildings in the bleak, battle-zone blocks of North St. Louis.  Funny how Mapquest doesn't take the particular property of personal peril into account. Well, perhaps the route was all part of a pilgrimage experience, so as to get a deeper understanding of the roots of black music.  You gotta show some respect to the dearly departed, so I took my chances. 

Amazing grace! The adventurous ramble ended up at a large Christian church in an outlying suburban locale.  I quickly observed that I was definitely one of a minority complexion, but was received with sincere warmth and welcome by the assembled family and friends. What then commenced were prayers, poems and musical selections of gospel, blues, and soul that righteously rocked the roof off. An after-set followed in The Duck Room at Blueberry Hill, which is practically in my own front yard. It was indeed a fitting send-off to Fontella.

Studies for the Virgin's hands
Federico Barocci
Charcoal with red and pink pastel heightened with white on blue paper
10 13/16" x 15 1/2"
Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

My message today is to get off the couch and go see some good art and listen to some good music - it is out there and likely in your own front or back yard! And if you haven't yet seen the current exhibit of Barocci at the St. Louis Art Museum, you'd better run, because it runs only through January 20th. You will be awed by the intimacy of sketches and drawings that build up to the finished paintings.  You will be able to observe the creative process of a great artist. The show is composed of 134 pieces, assembled from all corners of the world, so this will save you a lot of money and time in travel expenses. Better get going and you'll feel like you're in heaven!

If you still need rescuing, listen to Fontella:

  1. Fontella Bass - Rescue Me (1965) - YouTube
    Mar 6, 2009 - Uploaded by John1948Five
    The 1965 classic "Rescue Me" is widely regarded as the greatest record Aretha Franklin never made. The song ...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Toilet Story

The week before Christmas, I was called to advise on an emergency toilet specification...not a good thing to rush into at any time of the year!  This resulted in a long conversation about the pluses and minuses of what is available in the market.  On Christmas Day I watched, and very much enjoyed the movie Toy Story 2.  Then, at a New Year's Day brunch, I found myself being privy to a toilet story and I swear I didn't bring up the subject!  This guest recounted the exciting experience of selecting and buying a dual-flush, low-flow fixture. And so, Toy Story 2  was buttressed by a toilet story on each side, pun intended!   
Basic bathroom

I grew up in a family of seven children and two parents, and we shared a single bathroom in our century old farm house. There was a toilet, a wall mounted sink, and a free standing tub. Believe it or not, one bathroom per household was commonplace. Frankly, I don't recall it being a big deal. The problem that I perceived had to do with its appearance.

Another old bathroom with a tub like the one I had as a child.

It may have been my first home decorating project, and I'm guessing I was 10.  The room was about 6 x 8 feet, with an 8 foot ceiling height. There was a dado running around the room.  My idea was to paint the wall and ceiling above the dado a glossy fire engine red. The trim would be white,  and below the dado, I would apply a realistic black and white brick pattern vinyl wallcovering. Washable red carpeting anchored the floor. My parents willingly paid for materials, and I provided the labor. The red, white, and black scheme looked quite fashionable, and my parents were always proud to show it off to friends. Hey!  It was the fifties! 

Basic bathroom with dado

I wish that I had a photograph of the before and after - perhaps the catalyst to launching my career in interior design many years later!  The toilet in my childhood home was as basic as you can get, and amazingly, it seemed to hold up to all the use that it received.  Today, however, if I had my druthers, I'd have a Toto toilet, for the ultimate toilet story of luxury.  If you have never had the experience of trying one, I recommend it highly; you will be baptized, so to speak, and born again!

Toto Neorest