In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

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.

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Friday, December 3, 2010


It wasn't easy.
But LOOK! LOOK! the white floors, the 9-foot table (from a convent in Johnstown , PA... can you see the flood marks???).
We ate pancakes on it this morning because what else would you eat on a 9-foot table?
A new table is so deeply exciting. The dinners you can serve! the sewing projects you can undertake! The newspapers you can spread out!
But first to build anticipation... a Before Picture

It's not technically a great before picture. It was taken after I got rid of a 10 X 10 70's sectional couch to prep for the arrival of my much talked about Chesterfield, now in front of the fireplace in the next room. But it shows the original floor...

and now the After!

The antlers are a particularly brilliant innovation on my part (not the use of antlers -- an old trope certainly -- but how I managed to hang them). They have their skulls still attached (sorry if you are eating breakfast. "Skulls" in the plural I realize is a bit too much to deal with with a mouth full of oatmeal). I got them for $70 each, a great price. But I couldn't figure out how to mount them or even hang them from the ceiling -- the balance was off, and my efforts to thread picture wire through various sockets and holes was both gruesome and fruitless. So I searched flea markets until I found the right size wooden boxes ($5 each!), attached the boxes to the wall with screws and anchors (and a level, and a boyfriend) and plunked in the antlers. Ta daa! You can see in the next picture that there is another set of antlers directly across the house in the living room. I like symmetry.

observe the $5 "pashminas" draped across the back. My house is old and drafty, and my friends have poor constitutions, so each chair gets it own and everyone has to stop complaining about the heat.

Let us briefly discuss antiques: It has been my experience that they are better looking and better built than new stuff. It has to do both with craftsmanship -- handmade by artisans versus mass produced in a factory, and with the quality of the wood. There's very little true hardwood available these days.

Most importantly, antiques -- not the fine stuff you bid on at Sotheby's, but the stuff you will find in a small shop near you, or a good flea market -- are cheap. Cheap cheap cheap, or at least comparatively.

My gorgeous beauty -- which weighs 200 lbs if it weighs an ounce (I helped carry it in and pulled a muscle in my left..err...chest) -- was just $650 from Housewerks in Baltimore (see the side bar for a link. It's an incredible place).

Compare it to this table from Pottery Barn, which is undeniably lovely and has those cool turned legs.

But it's $4,000. That's a whole trip to Paris for 2.

or even this one from Crate and Barrel. It's 104 inches long -- about the same as what I have -- but costs $250 more. Plus it didn't come from a convent in Johnstown, PA.

Now, like the Old Spice Man, I instruct you to look at my table again!
So excited.

I'm growing paperwhites in the old pickle jar which I found in an antiques store for $20. I had originally thought to make it a lantern for over the table... it may yet become that.

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