Temple of Diana at Sonnenberg Gardens
You all have heard me wax on and on and on about Canandaigua, New York. Well, in early September just as those New York State apples were being plucked from the trees, I took a road trip with Dino and Rita Rose to stay with friends in Canandaigua. I must say I do adore this part of the world and owe it to myself to see the place in the dead of winter with barren trees, no farm stands, and a thin sheet of ice covering the roads. Maybe then I could give up a love affair for a place I would give gobs to live in. That is usually all it takes for me to fall out of love…a good thin sheet of ice does it every time!
My Favorite Room in the Sonnenberg Mansion!
I believe this must harken back to my rusty Nevada roots, but I do love a good laundry room. Now, mind you, the mansion had many grand and elegant rooms filled with all sorts of impressive swag, but I would take this laundry room anytime. If you haven’t been to the mansion and its gardens, you must go. Photos are allowed both inside and out…tell me, when was the last time you were in a museum and they allowed photos? The place is divine though it was used only two weeks a year as a summer residence. It was fully staffed (just like my own house!), hence the laundry room where me lady’s whites got a good press! I must have lived in another era for all of this to just feel so familiar.
Buddha Hands in the Japanese Garden
The estate has a number of gardens. My personal favorite was the Japanese Garden with its teahouse and miniature landscape and a Buddha beyond Buddhas…a grand and massive Buddha whose hands held this wilted little collection of posies.
Okay, I did shop for antiques when I wasn’t wandering the grounds of Sonnenberg or moving through the house pretending that this could and just might be my LITTLE two-week summer retreat. I found some treasures (not too surprising) in the antique collective that I love. Come by to see the small grouping of brooches that could be Mad Men material. Some are silver; one has a moonstone; a few are bad/good taste plastic from the 50′s. I found a painting on tin signed and in a lovely old worn frame. Such fun to add these items to 6 Birch Street.
John's Garden Bench
One week after upstate New York, I went with three fellow writers to John’s house in Provincetown, MA. You have heard endless bits about this place so I will try not to go into tedious detail here. I will tell you we wrote for two full days, and we drank wine and a few cocktails, and we made a dinner out of the garden that sits just in front of the above bench. John had swiss chard that one rarely sees in the farmers markets. We sauteed garlic and anchovies and carmalized onions and added the sturdy leaves (minus the stalk and vein) of the chard, which we cut in rather wide slices, then black olives cured in oil (minus their pits)…all of this in lovely olive oil. What a feast! Tomatoes from the garden with basil for a garni. We were beyond happy. A good bottle of Malbec to top it all off…tell me you had a better last Monday meal than I did…I doubt that is possible!
Monday Night's Dinner
Now the photo does not do this meal justice. In fact, it looks a bit like a dog’s lunch, but trust me, we ate every last bite without a single bark!
Chairs On a Wall at Flora Grubb
Two weeks ago, I ventured off to my old stomping grounds…sunny California. San Francisco to be more exact. There was the Gift Show to attend and several dear friends to check up on and the need to see what the other Coast is up to. Our first stop was Flora Grubb. This, my dears, is a jaw-dropping experience. We just don’t have places like this in New England! There were palm trees galore and succulents and vibrant pink-air plants and odd bits of sharp leaves growing on moss and chairs on a barn-board wall. My heart could barely take it all in…there was no question that, after Flora Grubb, I would need a salted carmel ice cream cone from Bi-Rite. I mean, really, what better way to revive oneself than with a hit of salt and sweet!
Copper Rocks...Load Those Up Please!
Whenever I return to California, I wonder about life on the Snow (or lack thereof) Coast, and then I remember my little store and all those dear friends and my own little corner house that could sure use a copper rock or two. That is when I know more visits are in order out West. I do love this four-season world of New England…we could just use a bit more whimsey and an air plant or two!
Janette's Little Garden at Stinson Beach
My old friend Janette has a fine life, a lovely get-away at Stinson Beach, a superbly elegant flat in the city, which she shares with two dogs and a dear husband. Janette and I go back more years than I care to recall. We have shared divorces, births, deaths, wine, a wee business adventure, and endless pots of tea. She is English, which naturally makes her a dog lover and an exceptional gardner. I know, I know…not all English folks garden nor do they own dogs, but bear with me here, she does both quite nicely.
What I must tell you, in between all the waxing on and on about friends and California, is this…the show in San Francisco was terrific! I bought many unusual things for the store, including a remarkable Teak Spirit House from the late 20th century…which will reside in the store for years to come. Arriving soon will be a few antique items from an importer I rarely get to visit. Watch for the antique carved carp that may have held up the roof of a business in China many years ago. Oh! I had such fun!
Wegmans Has Arrived!
A week ago, on a cold, wet, and windy Wednesday evening, I drove to hell and gone for a hit of Wegmans splendor! Last August, I discovered Wegmans on one of those capers to upstate New York. I was gob-smacked by the place and nearly fainted when I found they were coming to our neck of the woods. Well, Darlings…make your market list, fire up the auto, and head out for shopping the likes of which you have never experienced.
First, may I start with the service…something, by the way, our local rather large chain market (that will remain nameless) could use a wee bit of help with! I stopped into said nameless market a few weeks back for something called “Pickling Lime” to make my green tomato pickles, which were rapidly turning red while I waited at the “Service” desk for the young man to return with same…instead he brought back a packet of French Onion soup. The response at the “Service” counter was “No one pickles anymore.” That would NEVER happen at Wegmans!
The prices are terrific and the veggies are still-life inspirations suitable for an Italian master’s brush. There was a table of white cauliflower so sharply white that it reminded me of one of my wedding dresses! Head out the Mass Pike to 495 West, go a short distance to Rt. 9 West, and bingo you’re almost there!
Decoupage Dreams in il Buco's Wine Cellar
Have I told you about the evenings spent after days at the Javits? Of course I have! I must have mentioned a time or two about the dinners out, right? Well, this was a magical night hosted by John Derian at Il Buco. Sadly, the photograph is a tad dark but the food was divine, the company splendid…I had as my main course Pappardelle, which is a dish of fresh ribbon pasta, beef cheek sugo (when was the last time you had beef cheek?!), mint, and ricotta salata. It was truly worth the risk…beef cheek is not something I would tend to order. There were assorted plates to start the adventure and a light red wine to sip while surrounded by cellar walls of old brick holding endless bottles of wine…all of it lit by candlelight. HEAVEN!
The Magical Host...John Derian
It seems a fine time to chat about the goods ordered. First of all, if you have never been to the Javits Center, you have missed nothing! The place is beyond huge, the air is forced in through some odd filtering system, the booths are too many to count, and the choices make one dizzy with decision. I walk this show twice a year, and I am amazed by the wonder of it all and sometimes the why of it all. Along with all our old favorites, I have added several new artists and designers, a number of new book publishers, more wonderful paper products, a new baby line, some amazing teas, and two new jewelry designers…the list could go on and on. Good things are in store for us all!
Dog Does the Javits in Style!
This little pooch was all tarted up for the Javits, as was her owner!
Paletas Vendor on the High Line
The last day in New York City, I walked the new section of the High Line. What a way to view the city! I bought from this vendor a paletas which I have never eaten before. I nearly ordered the paletas book for the store, and now I am sorry I didn’t. The flavor I had was mango and jalapeno pepper…icy cold and delicious!
One last word on food in New York City before you all doze off! You must eat sometime in The Red Cat on tenth avenue near twenty-third. The last night I was in the city, I went unfashionably early to dinner and stayed unreasonably late! I loved my waiter (Brazilian and handsome). I loved my little table where I could watch the comings and goings of the room, but most of all I loved the food! I ordered three small plates…lime Cesar salad, gazpacho soup made with heirloom tomatoes, soft shelled crab on a bed of thinly sliced celery root with fried capers scattered about…if that wasn’t enough I ordered dessert! A coconut panacotta with carmelized pineapple and spiced macadamia nut crunch over the top! Add to this a glass of wine, coffee to finish, and I was a happy camper.
In My Next Life!
This could well be me! Give me an open field, assorted boxes of goods to sell, a warm afternoon, and I swear to you this could be it. Perhaps without the cigarette…and maybe the mix of “treasures” would be slightly different, but I admired this woman’s complete love of the moment. I swatted away no-see-ums that dove up my nose when I breathed in or down my throat or took passage in my ears or circled my head and shoulders…not so for Donna! We talked some and she seemed to not be bothered with the little critters. I think it was the cigarette smoke that kept her at peace with all the best that Todds Field had to offer last Sunday!
A Favorite Table at Rowley
Why did I not buy this dog? I loved it enough to take more than one photo. I pondered how this dog reminded me of my childhood boston terrier (known in our Locust Street house as the Boston Terror.) His name was Bows and he arrived tucked into my Dad’s work-coat pocket. I can’t remember ever seeing a more adorable living thing! He peed on the carpet, tore apart the cover for my mother’s treasured mangle iron and pooped in hidden places like closets and on the tops of black patent leather Mary-Janes. And he did other things that divided the house into war zones. We loved him even on his most out-of-control days. Back then, no one ever heard of dog trainers or dog training unless, of course, you had a big ole black lab who could fetch fallen ducks filled with buckshot from the pond while the brave hunter stayed cozy and tucked into his duck blind. So Bows ruled the roost at 1065 Locust Street. I can’t believe I didn’t buy this little chalk dog!
Sunday's Gift of Veggies
After Rowley, the open field and the dog I didn’t buy…I worked at the store. A lovely young man came in…we chatted about veggies and pigs (which he raises), and then he laid on my desk this divine little stash of fresh veggies from the gardens out in Dover! Thank you to the handsome young man whose name I don’t remember.
Well...It Is Time To Vote Again!
How can I even suggest you go online (to the city voter Boston A list) and once again vote for the store? We won last year, and I feel a tad ashamed to suggest you vote for me again. I guess I have no shame!
Sure Sign of Spring!
Well, look at that! Sheets out on the line and today at Forest Hill Cemetery I spotted my first Snowdrops. Can the real honest-to-God season of Spring be far behind? In my fantasy life, every March, I would get out my hot pants and the little strappy tank tops, and the open-toed 6″ weggies so I could strut my stuff when the temperature even looks like it might get to forty degrees! My fantasy life says these are the days when I think of lounging at the beach. (I don’t swim but I do know the art of lying about on a sand-free towel.) I think about long bike rides down tree-lined country roads in the south of France. (I own a black bike that has seen fewer miles than I care to admit, but it does have a chic little Nantucket basket attached to its handlebars.) It is good to have a fantasy life during the month of March!
Ana Sortun's Magic!
Last night I sat at Sofra watching Ana Sortun, chef and owner of Oleana in Cambridge and Sofra Bakery and Cafe also in Cambridge, give a cooking class on “One Pot Meals.” If you haven’t taken a class from Ana, you haven’t lived! I adore Oleana and Sofra; I adore cooking and eating…these classes have it all. Good wine, great food, and I leave the place well fed, clutching copies of four new recipes. Who could ask for more!
Earlier this month, I popped into my all-time favorite designer’s booth at the New York Gift Show. We sell Pip-Squeak Chapeau at the store…I adore Sveta, the designer and owner of this small, exquisite line of clothes. She has many fans at 6 Birch Street who also adore her! While in the booth, I noticed this truly amazing model’s photograph, which Sveta had on the wall. I asked a few questions. Was she some one famous, say an older model who could have been a version of a younger model….you know, kind of like buying a car in the current year! Whoever she was, I thought she was truly special and clearly older. When Sveta told me the story of Lottie, I nearly swooned. She is someone Sveta met at the laundrymat in Brooklyn waiting for her clothes to dry! Sveta asked her if she would consider doing some modeling, and Lottie was delighted with the opportunity. When I found out that Lottie is 81 years-old, I wanted to weep! It is about time a wise designer selects a senior woman with style to show her work. As far as I am concerned that dear Sveta is up for sainthood…Lottie at 81 is already an angel!
Barn Wall of Shutters
What a journey! If you haven’t been to the Finger Lakes Region of New York State, it is time to plan a trip! Miles of hills and barns and fields of corn with the scattering of sunflowers in between. Folks committed to their land along Rt. 20 with farm stands…. most holding veggies fresh that day…and many stands with the tin Folgers coffee can, a bit dented, with a slit cut in the lid where you can deposit monies for goods taken. An honor system that only the rural merchant farmer believes in! I bought jam made from the flowers of Queen Anne’s Lace, which grows wild in the fields, and I bought Bread and Butter pickles, which reminded me of my own mother’s B&B pickles. (What I would give for a canning session with her once again!) Besides the buying, it was the experience of it all…chatting it up with the farmer and his wife, the pickle maker, and meeting the wife’s 84 year-old mother who sat roadside under a shade umbrella with nary a line on her wonderful face. For the truth of who we are as a country, you must go to the rural world, sit under the shade umbrella, eat a local peach whose juice drips down your elbow, and talk canning with an 84 year-old!
Inn on the Main
Times past, I have avoided a bed and breakfast stay like one might avoid the plague! This amazing place (photo does it no justice), owned by the innkeepers Jaynee and Guy Straw, opened a whole new world to me! Give me this bed and breakfast anytime! For starters the innkeepers were beyond delightful. The interior was lovely…my room (with a fire place), well…I could have moved right in-just me and two little pugs! Jaynee and Guy gave us directions for an evening meal at, of all places, a Mexican restaurant! This in the heart of Canandaigua, New York! I took them up on the challenge…after all, I am from the West. I know my Mexican food…last best Mexican meal was in Nevada, and I truly doubted it could have topped that! Before I go into overdrive on the evening meal at said restaurant, let me just say the breakfast served the morning of our departure was jaw dropping! Try homemade French toast with toasted macadamia nuts and New York maple syrup, perfect cups of coffee (my friend Diane tells me I like “party coffee”…I add heaps of half and half and sugar…bring on the party!) and on the plate lovely slices of fruit. Is it no wonder I could have moved in!
The Wall of Rio Tomatlan...About the Best Ever Mexican Restaurant!
This is it! I would happily drive there, right now, for dinner! I adore Mexican food and was over-the-moon with this place…in fact, I had lunch there the next day before heading East…yep, a Mexican lunch shortly after the French toast breakfast! Somehow I managed to find a little space for Queso Fundido (grilled mini tacos with melted Oaxaca cheese, fresh pico de gallo and a tomatillo chile de arbol sauce)!
Bounty from Roadtrip
Victorian Feather Basket in Shadowbox and Old Canvas
This whole adventure was taken to find more antiques for the store…I did find some real treasures though fewer items than I expected. They will all be in the store, yes! for sale, when we reopen on September 7th. I can’t wait to see you all again! Next adventure will be the Gift Show…more dining, big decisions on what to bring into the store next, late nights in New York City with fellow shop owners. Though I will love every minute of it, I can’t say I would rather be there than sitting under a shade umbrella with an 84 year-old jelly maker in upstate New York!
Lulu the Shop Sleeper
Was this ever a lucky break! I have found the perfect shopkeeper. When you’re in the neighborhood, you must pop in to meet her! I nabbed her off an Air France flight to Paris! Lulu was longing for a silver platter of oysters on the half shell served, as only the French can do, on a delicate bed of shaved ice. She was headed to Le Petit Zinc on Rue de Buci where once I asked a man to marry me…that was years ago and, for the record, he declined. (Which was a lucky break for both of us!) But enough about me and more on Lulu. As you know, Lulu was the constant companion of Wally, whose death last month has made this dear pug deeply sad. Now, I haven’t a clue why the trip to Paris…she claims it was for the oysters and who am I to argue. I would head there this minute for those very oysters and the light of the place, and I would wander down the side streets I so love. Lulu and I are avoiding travel, just now, and continuing with the management of 6 Birch Street…a little oasis of its own…minus the oysters and the wonders of Paris!
Wally's Garden Shrine
Wally loved the garden! The head stone was mined from the Cortez Mine in Northern Nevada…it is filled with glittery bits of crystal on its cut edge…a fine tribute to a dog who loved nothing more than a little flash for any occasion!
Bae's Monkey After Five
A couple weeks ago, Bae’s (my granddaughter) monkey came to the “House of Couture” for a little fitting of a dress suitable for a monkey and a matching one for Ms. Bae. Monkey spent the night, and by the afternoon of the second day there was no pleasing her…I tried bananas, peanuts, to no avail….the wine was best suited for such an occasion…after all how often do I have a monkey house guest?
Monkey Fully Dressed!
New Store Merchandise!
Come by and see the new/old footstools and chairs covered in vintage Kantha cloth! I have been gathering stools and old chairs over the winter months…which have been given a whole new life! We adore them!
A Booth on Pier 94
A Tad of Paris at the Javits
John Derian at Work!
John's Wall of Blue Decoupage
John Derian’s booth is always one of my favorites (as is John). It is nearly impossible to resist his work, but then, why would any sane person want to! I bought several pieces out of this blue story for the store. How I would have loved buying the whole group! If only I had a bigger store! John created some truly remarkable pieces for Spring. They will be in soon and featured front and center once they arrive!
Denise Fiedler, the designer of Paste, is an old friend from early South End days in Boston. She has created Paste and lives now in San Francisco. I bought the chair series and some dogs and several wilder animals…though, we all know nothing could be wilder than Pugs and I bought a few of those too! I thought these would be good for kids’ rooms, and the chair series in one, two or threes would be terrific on a dining room wall. These pieces are created from torn and cut papers culled from antique books and embellished with vintage gold bits. Quite charming and very affordable!
Tatine was a favorite over the winter. They have several new scents, which I loved and ordered, along with Creeping Moss, which sold out early last November.
I want to mention here that the PatchNYC booth was jaw-dropping as it usually is…I bought several pieces of Don Carney’s drawings in antique frames and two new needlepoints in vintage frames…from these two genius men will also come new linen scarves. PatchNYC has also created a number of candle fragrances with the women at The Soap & Paper Factory. These women are brilliant at fragrance, and the Patch men designed the packaging. What a combination!
Coming to the store will be new and amazing books…odd titles, wonderous reads, nonsense and must haves! I adore books… I find them hard to resist, and I assure you that you will too! In the assortment of goods will be new soaps and lotions. 80 Acres has come up with a lavender scent for their hand cream and soap that will sooth the weary soul. Lavender is tricky…this one works! I found a new group of greeting cards and journals I loved. We will have more Lucky Fish for children…those little nippers deserve a chic cotton t-shirt in the best ever sludge colors! I could go on, but I won’t, I want you to have some surprises when you come into the store!
After Dinner at Freemans
One reason for trade shows, in my book, is the dining. Not that you will find fine dining at the Javits Center! Each evening it was a new feast with great friends…the youngest of which was just over two months old! Lucien’s mother and grandmother own Bon in Tucson so each night he joined a rather fine group of diners in rather fine places to dine! If you haven’t had a chance to eat or drink at Freemans, make that a must when you’re in New York. With Don and John from Patch, we ate at Bombay Talkie, which just might have the best ever cocktails in all of the Big Apple (that might be a bit of a stretch!), but for sure, it has the most delicious Indian food! We also had a splendid meal at Cook Shop on Tenth Avenue. So, now my passion for fine food, great friends and a wicked trade show is out in the world and public! Sometimes I think I own the store just to do the food, friends and New York thing!