For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.
These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.
*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.
Friday, October 29, 2010
The current living room, the largest room in the house at 13 X 14, will become my dining room. It's next to the kitchen, so it makes sense, because in the current configuration with my dining room in a 9 X 12 addition on the back of my house, I'm forever darting down a long hall cum pantry to get people their dinner.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
3. Bring cargo pants or one of those ridiculous safari vest that Dan Rather always used to wear. Useful to have pockets when you are juggling pens, tape recorder, camera, batteries, notebooks...Hands free is frequently necessary.. when you are exiting a burning vehicle or pressed up against a wall to avoid gunfire around the corner. Also, wear long sleeves. Prevents religious riots (see above) and protects you from the sun and bugs. And don't forget some flip flops suitable for the shower.
(above: cargo pants and Iraqi soldiers, and one Marine. I had terrible menstrual cramps in this picture. Always have Ibuprofen ON YOUR BODY. It was remarkable I was upright. Notice the sweat. 120 degrees!)
4. Get all the shots you need. Google travelers medical clinic; they will fix you up with everything you need (including a course of Cipro, in case you get a bacterial infection). With God As Your Witness You Will Never Get Yellow Fever Again!
(this is disgusting but made me laugh.)
6. Make multiple copies of all your documents: travel docs, credentials, passports, visas etc -- leave them with responsible parties at home and at work, and scan them and email them to yourself AND to your thumb drive.
10. Leave your fear behind. Fear serves a great purpose: to warn you off stupid things. Going where you are going is probably stupid. It's dangerous, it's unknown, it could get you killed or sick or maimed. But if you're going anyway, fear is no longer your friend. You're ignoring it. So don't give in to it (before you go. Just go. Then, keep an eye on your fear as your personal alarm system. Respect it. Your brain picks up on cues you may not consciously notice). Most people are good.
Here's a partial checklist:
- Meds -- including Cipro, Ibuprofen or aspirin (Ibu is better in case you twist something -- an anti-inflammatory), anti-diarrhea meds.
- Feminine needs (trust me.. .they can be hard to come by in rougher parts of the world)
- Medical kit: band aids, syringe, Moleskin for blisters
- antimicrobial wipes (like Purell) in individual packages (can take them on the plane, and can toss them in your bag without fear of a Purell container opening on everything
- Baby wipes -- it's wonderful to have a clean butt when you're otherwise disgusting. Also good for feet and face and body
- Toothpaste, brush, dental floss etc.
- Bug spray, sunscreen (they have it in stick form -- which is good especially when your hands are dirty)
- bandanna (good for all manner of things)
- Extra batteries for everything
- Moleskine notebooks (expensive but they can take a real beating without losing pages. Plus you look cool. Somewhat douchey, but cool.)
- computer, digital recorder, camera, a phone that works where you are going
- pens, notebooks (if not Moleskines)
- thumb drive on a lariat
- UPDATE: a roll of duct tape: good for taping up broken luggage, as sutures in a pinch
- UPDATE: a couple of mini0bungee cords -- you can strap things together to further free your hands.
- Cargo pants or a vest, shower-worthy flip flops. The rest is up to you.
Hit me in comments if there is anything I'm forgetting!
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Watching dreamy Nate Berkus's new show (hot men in tan, bare feet, as above: Yes Please). He featured a guest who has a hard time making decisions to the point that she still hasn't furnished her dining room. SUPRISE! (must be pronounced with a French accent. Rhymes with "two PEAS!" ) he ended up giving her a table and chairs (that she selected from another set of table and chairs.)
Such indecisiveness makes me crazy (as you can imagine from a woman who tells strangers How to Run Their Lives). Herewith, 4 easy steps to decorating any room. (sort of. I mean you still have to find the stuff you want and decorate, but this is how to get to that point without collapsing into a puddle of indecision).
It's the airiness and the space in the place and between the pieces, and yes, the contrast between dark and light.
That doesn't mean I don't love the green wall and Chinoiserie credenza:
Cuz I do. But always when flipping through magazines -- it's the white rooms, with black and brown touches, that get me.
3. Embrace Editing. You know how design magazines are always interviewing designers and they are always saying "edit edit edit"? Well, this is what that means: you can't have everything. Don't try to make a room both airy and cozy, crisp and warm, bright and neutral. Edit your IDEAS, before you begin to edit your stuff. Let a room's design be one thing, maybe two. Don't try to make it be everything. You can decorate another room, or redecorate this one next year (or next week.) But if you are going to be happy with the end product, you're going to have to rein yourself in or you're going to be Crazy Old Matilda in Chez Hodgepodge, and all the cool nice stuff you've been collecting on craigslist, like the Fabulous Lucite and Cherub Lamp of a previous post, is going to be lost in the space.
4. Now that you have a vision, sift through those images again and see which of the rooms within your edited vision you really love. You're not going to copy it, per se, but you are going to use it as a starting point.
Let's do me as an example! I'm making my current living room into my dining room -- it's right next to kitchen, it's the biggest room in the house (and my dinner parties are almost never fewer than 12, and cramming them into my existing 9X 12 dining room is a non-starter).
So this picture is a reasonable approximation of what I want (truth be told I've already bought an awesome 9-foot library table from Housewerks in Baltimore (see my Yes to These list on the right), and am busily spray painting white 7 chairs like the above off craigslist, and I will paint the walls and floors white. I already have a wonderfully distressed armoire which will serve as bar, linen closet, and oversized platters, and a huge old mason jar that I am going to turn into a lantern for over the table. And I have some cool African antlers that I picked up last summer from an antiques store. So we're not actually doing this in real time. We're kind of reverse engineering what I've already got. I also have 12 stackable white pleather and chrome dining chairs for big parties that will hide in some corner.) But! Here are some table choices.
In Purcellville, Va, this one practically does the work for you. Clean lines, good colors. Not quite as rustic as I'd want but still. Only $200
Or this one:
Now you need some beat-up shelving. This isn't exactly on point but is wonderful -- aged and metal, and if you don't have a lot of room might be exactly what you need. $195
You could also go the Ikea route: these are already painted black and might be perfect. There are two of them and they are like $30, and once loaded with cookbooks and white ceramic platters, you'll never notice they are from Ikea. You could hit them with a little bronze paint, too, if you must approximate metal.
But really, what could be better than this which I think I need need need.
$299 from Madison and Mabel OMG. need. perfection.
Now a deer head. You can do the real thing -- they sell them at antiques stores willy nilly -- or do a couple of these ... more appetizing, unless perhaps you like venison:
A couple of large glass cylindrical jars, a spray of green and a great old pub sign from Great Stuff by Paul -- (trust me he has them) and you're done.
How you stock the shelves, set the table... that's up to you. But you will definitely be happy with the outcome if you use a room that you love as a broad visual guide. I promise it will morph into something that isuniquely you -- but having a good image in hand will keep you on track and editing. Edit edit edit.
As for me, I'm going home to start painting the new dining room floor white.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
It all begins with this fantastic high boy. $225
So then you need a bed -- something kind of Mad Menny to pick up the mid-cent vibe above without being like a theme park. The bed below does it -- the brown is right, as is the neo-traditional shape -- sorta wingbacky -- and the tufted detail. Masculine. $695
Paint them a lighter shade of mushroom so they kind of blend in with the bed - very montoney Martha Stewart's kitchen --
or paint them a deep, earthy eggplant -- it's there but it's not asserting itself. Here are my choices:
And on each of the bedside tables, one of these lamps. They are absolutely fantastic -- shiny, clean lined, vaguely retro, pure perfection -- and I need them and they are only $35 each. Please, someone, go liberate them.
I'm imagining a fairly large bedroom, and wanted some chairs -- to drape the suit across, or sit and have a much needed Manhattan at the end of the day. They are wicked cheap too. Best of all, they totally pick up that wonderful blue, and relate to the bed because of the buttons. Also I like that they are a little battered and weird. I mean, who buys these things new? Maybe Kelly Wearstler or Jonathan Adler but probably not even them. I love them. They require Commitment. But not that much because they are only $10 each (check for bed bugs).
And to put your feet up: check it -- a puzzle piece marble coffee table for $125. Just the weird shape the room needs. (Although as I look at all this stuff together, this table and those chairs might be too weird together. You could do something more simple and traditional. In any case, feast thine eyes!)
Finally, every bedroom needs a mirror. I'd like this one to be hanging on the wall opposite the bed, maybe behind the blue chairs. The gold of the mirror works with the pulls on the bedside table. The classic details are timeless and it's only $160.
Here are all the links. You're welcome!
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Or Thunderdome. Mano a Mano!
First, pick a couch from one of these beauties. I like the white one -- its curved and tufted and ladylike.
Now you need a side chair or two. Obviously the pink should go with the white couch, but otherwise, mix and match! I like the metal chair just to mix things up. Great texture, and probably only a little botulism if you cut yourself on it. (PEOPLE PAY GOOD MONEY FOR BOTULINUM TOXIN!)
You don't get to pick: you must buy all three side tables because lookit: !
There is one pair of lamps that meet my exacting standards (cheap, nice) (not to scale):
Here are the links. You're welcome!
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Imagine my envy/delight at this incredible project: father and son send an I-Phone up to space in a weather balloon, and get a recording of the whole adventure (plus their I-Phone back). Brilliant, clever, inspiring, well-executed, and it opens the mind to all sorts of possibilities. I coulda done that had I only paid attention in physics. Dammit. check it out - perhaps the most wonderful thing you'll see all day:
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
How's the above for brilliant? A little chicken sausage meat ball skewered on a tooth pick and balanced atop peach/tomato gazpacho. The possibilities are endless. What CAN'T you skewer and balance across a little thimbleful of delicious whatever?
Check out this gorgeous food blog, Canape, which exercises one of my obsessions for miniature food, here: http://cynthiagroseclose.com/
Monday, October 11, 2010
4. When the duvet is covered -- it will be a little disheveled -- spin the duvet around and grab the bottom (short end.) Holding both the duvet and the edges of the now right-side-out duvet cover, give it a shake. It should be perfect. The only way this can go wrong is if your duvet cover wasn't inside out when you started, or you grabbed the long rather than short end of the duvet.
I found that picture here: http://chezlarsson.typepad.com/myblog/2009/01/how-to-put-on-a-duvet-cover.html which has a far more detailed explanation of the process and some strong indications of a couple with an obsessive compulsive disorder about ironing polo shirts (do people iron them?). I learned this tip not here, but from Robert Verdi, the designer who used to have a decorating show with a short blonde gardener. Wouldn't you do anything this guy told you? Look: