Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Joy of Nothing

I don't even know how the heck I came across this...but if you got a few minutes to kill...(And guess what? You do.) ...take a look.

Makes me want to chill out with someone I love.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

High Horse

When I told Lee I was going to write this, he said, Be careful. You'll sound like you are on your high horse.

That was familiar. I grew up in a family and in a culture, really, where being on your high horse was frowned upon. I suppose I understand. Grandiosity and arrogance are not attractive traits. But, in Zearing, Iowa, I believe it was a passive and sinister way to keep people in their place, keep people from stretching and telling the truth about what they might want. God forbid they want something other than a nice little house on the back 40. Even an education. Who needs it?

Thank god my own parents didn't think that way and moved on themselves. But, the message lives on and to this day in my head. I feel like my grandfather is going to rise up from his grave wagging a finger and twitching his little moustache, with the words, "Who do you think you are?" whenever I feel compelled to point out that the emperor is wearing no clothes.

And, so, dear reader...that is the caveat. Proceed with caution, knowing that I may come off sounding like a brat.

Lee and I went to Burch (oops, that would be Burch) last night with two of our dearest friends. I point this fact out because our close friendship allowed us to be honest. I live nearby and had watched its reincarnation from neighborhood pharmacy to local dining hotspot. I heard it was doing well and drawing an interesting crowd from the South Minneapolis creative class, was slightly hipster in whatever way that is in Minneapolis. Expectations ran high.

#1. First, I called for reservations. I mentioned not being a big steak eater but I'd love to try their pizzas. They told me that I needed to call the "other restaurant' if I wanted pizza. They serve steak in the pizza restaurant but they don't serve pizza in the steak restaurant. Did I get that?  Oh, sure, I get that. (Like....NOT.) Okay. Well, I say I think we'd rather eat upstairs. It is a nice dinner with colleagues / friends and we'd prefer the "dressier" spot. She thought I'd find plenty to eat from the steak menu. Okay, fine.

But here's the deal. Should it be that complicated to know which restaurant to call when they are both named Burch? They have two different phone numbers. This was a bad sign.

Our reservations were set for Friday night at 7:00. I wore leather pants, boots and a nice top. Lee cleaned up after golf and put on a great Italian linen striped shirt, a jacket with a nice pocket square. Our friends looked fabulous, as always. Chic and beautiful, Jean wore boots and a great dress that reminded me of something from the 1970's. Mark work a great plaid shirt. We think we are going to a "nice" place, slightly elevated get-a-little-gussied-up kind of spot. A place where people would take a business client for a nice juicy steak.

2. Woooooo-eeee. Was I wrong about that! Let me see....I look around and it seems like we might have missed the restaurant in Minneapolis and landed instead at a boat-in restaurant on Gull Lake in Brainerd. Or we missed the email that it was a special weekend celebrating all things cabin. I swear to god, there was an overweight man in denim cutoffs. Okay, they were hemmed, but there was a man wearing cutoff jeans. It made me want to run right out and get Lee a pair! In fact, there were more shorts and t-shirts on the diners than you might find in a Ron Jon shop in Coco Beach, Florida.

The waitstaff seemed to wear whatever was on top of their clothing pile. You had no idea who the waitstaff was because they looked like they were going to that same boat-in restaurant in Brainerd. Jeans and whatever kind of top they wanted. I was hoping for a nice white French apron over black pants and shirt. It was confusing. I thought once that the waitress was a guest from some table next to us coming by to say hello.

But, no, just Minnesota casual on the march, now taking over EVEN at a white tablecloth restaurant.

Once Lee and I exchanged "that look" when we realized we were slightly over-dressed and had forgotten our tennis shoes, our eyes darting around to see if we might find even one comrade dressed for dinner, we gave up and focused on our beautiful friends.

#3. However, looking at our friends was just about all we could do. We certainly couldn't talk with them. The level of noise, with people literally shouting, was beyond civilized - even in this age of oh isn't it so cool to have a restaurant in a bombed out shell of a warehouse kind of place with nothing to absorb the sound. Lets make it feel like a groovy bar in Brooklyn. Bingo. You did. And, making anything Minneapolis like it is Brooklyn is sooooooo dumb! It's even dumb now in Brooklyn!

It was simply a pain in the ass to try to talk. Even our friends who are 15 years younger with good ears said they would never go back and hey, could we get out of there and go to La Belle Vie where it is quiet for a night cap. Even better, could we just go to your apartment at 510 and talk!

#4 The food. The food. My husband LOVES meat. He can eat a steak every night of the week. (He doesn't but he could.) When he doesn't finish the meat on his plate, it is a sign the world has turned on its axis. Lee did not finish his steak. I had tuna tartare, halibut on cauliflower puree and shared some pomme puree (love the Frenchy name in this Brooklyn dive with the guests dressed for the Brainered 4th of July parade.)

(Warning: Here's where I definitely get that little ladder to climb up onto the very very high horse.)

I had the audacity to imaginine that the tuna and potatoes and halibut would even begin to resemble the tuna and potatoes and halibut that I had eaten at ABC Kitchen in NYC last week. This was a major faux pas.

Now, waiting for my Grandpa....and some of you are saying...."Jeesh, that's New York. How can you compare to New York?"

Here's my response: Why can't you? Why can't you expect a meal to be as good here? Why not? Don't people who own these restaurants to to places like New York or San Francisco or LA or Charleston or Madison! to taste food? 

The prices were the same. The ingredients were similar. Why can't it be good??? Why are our standards so low but our praises so high????

The tuna was bland (compared to the tender sashimi bathed in ginger lime and tamari I had at ABC and ate twice in the week because it was so satisfying.) The idea of a cauliflower puree is probably just a bad one. When was the last time you had mouth-watering, taste-blasting cauliflower? Again the halibut was well-cooked but bland. And the potatoes. Well, my horse just got taller, because what Burch passed off for "pomme puree " honestly tasted like frozen. I can't relive the potatoes puree at ABC without wanting to weep. They were so divine.

#5.  And, as one of our friends pointed out (and I had noticed this too!) - what's with the font used for the logo? Burch 

I wish for Minneapolis that we raise the bar - on how we dress, on what we expect at a $100 meal and probably on a few other things. Not everything deserves a standing ovation - as we seem to give it here in the heartland. It's okay to say it wasn't really that good.

There you go. My horse is getting antsy. I need to get him out to pasture.

Friday, May 24, 2013

In the Flow

Working on a new project and everything falling in place! In the flow!

NYC  - Dining Room.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bon Jour.

I'm going to Paris. I've never been. I'm 59 years old and I love clothes and I love design and I've never been to Paris for so many reasons I can't name them here.

But we are going this fall and I am now officially studying French. Well, officially with my Pimsleur cd every day. I am so excited, I feel like a six year old on Christmas Eve.

Bonjour. Je ne comprendes pas l'Francais.

Au revoir.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

New York, New York

The newly graffiti painted entry to the apartment where I stayed near Union Square.

Matta at ABC

2nd Floor displays under construction at ABC

The always divine 3rd floor bedding department.

New department on the mezzanine - alternative clothing - fantastic!

Includes a rack of vintage. 

(Note: I wrote this last Monday, but didn't have wifi connection in NY on my computer, which I've decided is a computer problem and which, I have decided I really don't want to deal with! In the end, I had an amazing week - shopping for clients is the most deliciously rich antique shops, dining with friends and Alexander and his darling roomies and walking, walking and walking!)

I’m almost always happy traveling – especially to those few places that mean so much to me. New York is one of those places. I come for work and to put some gas in the idea machine. I don’t think a day goes by here that I am not inspired.

This trip is especially interesting because I am staying with a friend / colleague of Lee’s from his NY teaching days. Lucy was Lee’s mentor and they had an amazing, respectful relationship. He was so lucky to have her. Now, she has opened her incredible loft to me for the week. A loft she and her husband bought in the 1970’s. There is a photo on the wall of the people who must have first bought the building or co-opted it. They are a bunch of very good-looking hippies. And, clearly brilliant to have held on to it for 30+ years.

On 18th Street, near Union Square, I am one block from ABC Carpet and Home – which, by default, means I am one block from ABC Kitchen. Now, both of these establishments are trouble. The restaurant happens to be my favorite in the city. The shop is, well….ABC. I mean what else can you say. It is the icon. There would be no Anthropologie or Restoration Hardware without ABC. So, when I’m here, I go to look at whatever they show me.

I have to say there wasn’t much new today – the best new thing was a new clothing studio on the mezzanine above the restaurant. But the best of all is the food. For lunch I had a tuna sashimi and I will go every single day I am here and repeat it, I think. I also had pea soup with giant crusty homemade croutons. Finished with a perfect cappuccino. Together, it was memorable – and this was just lunch!

The rest of the afternoon, I shopped ABC for clients – snapping photos like paparazzi shooting another sad young thing in a bad situation. It was a success!

Now, I’m chilling = alone in this grand place with wine, bread and olive oil and couldn’t be happier.
One of the vendors at the Union Square Greenmarket - open several days a week. The whole thing felt like a European piazza. Happy!!!!!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Travel Alone

There is an article in the NY Times today about the pleasure of solo travel. Well, tomorrow I am going to NYC alone for the first time in years! Don't get me wrong. I ADORE traveling with Lee. NEW YORK AND LEE are kind of one to me. 

But, alas, Lee has lots to do here in MSP and I have lots to do in NYC, so off I go. Even my son, who lives in NY is away at a conference until Wed night. What I most love about NY is the way you can disappear in the city, be whomever you want (i.e. dress like a fool or not) and be voyeur at the same time. 

I love love love the people watching, the fashion watching, the food tasting, the museum strolling. I can't wait. And I'm feeling especially lucky to be staying with a lovely woman who had the wits to buy a loft in the Union Square area in the 1970's. I can't wait to hear the hippie stories. You can only imagine Patti Smith and what's his name hanging nearby (because they actually did live about 2 blocks away at 1 Fifth Avenue.) 

Besides I will be only 4 blocks from ABC Carpet and Home. I'm all set. Here's where I'll be staying. 
Cheers, all. Have a great week!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hot Sandwich Filling

Hot Sandwich Filling

Not really sure what this is.

My mother is making “hot sandwich filling” for the birthday celebration, she reports in her email. Oh, and a cake. I know what a cake is. I don’t really know what “hot sandwich filling” is. If it were on a menu, I would want to ask the waiter, “What is “hot sandwich filling, exactly?”  I’m pretty sure my daughter, Isabelle, who has been a vegetarian since she was five, won’t eat it.
Knowing my parents, raised on farms in Iowa, it probably contains the meat of an animal that would have been familiar to them. Like cows, sheep, and pigs. I guess chickens were familiar, too. So maybe this filling is made of chicken. Then again, there were cans of Spam on the shelves in the pantry and you could heat that up – even easier today with a microwave. Maybe the “hot sandwich filling” is just hot Spam. I am hoping it is not made of something unfamiliar to a farmer from Iowa, like snake or monkey or things that a Chinese person might use for “hot sandwich filling.”
I think it is always nice, as a guest who is bringing something to a party, to compliment the cook’s menu. It’s hard, when you don’t know exactly what the main dish is and you don’t want to sound ignorant and have to say, “What exactly is hot sandwich filling? I’d like to bring something to compliment it.” 
So that I don’t seem rude, I won’t ask. I guess I’ll just bring a Snickers salad with apples and cool whip. Here in the upper Midwest, that seems to go with everything.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Queen of Pizza

My sister, Holly is, actually, the best cook I know. I have 2 other friends who are such close seconds that it is impossible to quantify the difference. But I'm sure Holly has an edge for me in the contest as we grew up with some familial advantage around taste and flavor - the amount of salt, fat, etc that makes for a divine dish.

So,I want to post a photo of the pizzas she made us for dinner last night at her home. The prize is the dough - which she has developed and is magnificent. She will be selling it and she's available for pizza parties! Let me know if you are interested. She's just launching the dough biz. I've run out of time to add more...but let me know if you want to know more about her dough. It is amazing! And great in any traditional oven.

Holly's pizzas from top left: 1. Chicken with onion, red pepper goat cheese and arugula.  2. Broder's homemade sausage, red sauce and purple onion with mozzarella.  3. White pizza with guanciale from Broders.
I ate, like, six pieces!


I need to get back to writing. And so I am working with a woman who is a mentor and coach and as she talked to me about the process of writing, she reminded me of this. If you didn't look at this the first time I posted this, please don't miss it if you have any interest in creating anything in your life.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

From a reader.

I LOVE it when I hear from a reader. My friend, John Forsman, an amazingly talented photographer - one with whom I have happily shot many projects, is nice enough to check in on my blog and he had a very personal response to my piece on the espresso cups. So I asked if I could share it and he said I could. Just fyi - John owns a home in Italy, which explains his fascination (like mine) with subjects Italiano. Enjoy! (And thanks, John!)


I've been using French Apilco for day to day use (durable enough for children) for decades.  It began when they made Cordon Blue porcelain.  When Cordon Blue switched to a Brasilian manufacturer I got a few pieces (my ex is Brasilian), however the switch to Chinese manufacture was the end.  I began buying buying Pillivuyt then.  Also I have a lot of white English ironstone for normal use that is from 1850-1920s.  I've had to tell my kids that perhaps all this old stuff that I use (I bake in antique ironstone) isn't garage sale material.  I suspect husbands might not see the difference between a fluted but stained Sydenham bowl and an unstained mixing bowl.

     I read Under the Tuscan Sun while I was in Italy years ago.  I got a great tip in it about care of cotto floor tiles, and I coat them with linseed now after cleaning.  Another gem I read in that book was about drinking espresso.  Ed would go down to the bar in the morning for espresso and began mixing a cube of sugar into his espresso as the Cortona natives did.  Then, the espresso is drunk as a shot.  It isn't sipped.  That probably accounts for why French espresso cups seem to be more capacious than Italian cups.

I would rather have less, but better,

To Keep this Going...

I have to admit, I may have hit my threshold. There is little that shocks me relative to prices for fine things. But I found (online) what appears to be a gorgeous knob on the Nanz website. I am looking for something for a project I am working on - for a set of built in chests. This is an elegant project and something a little grand seemed right.

A GORGEOUS knob from Nanz.
About 2" diameter. Such a great size!

I love these knobs! So Edwardian! Aren't they amazing? 

So I called Nanz to find out the price. Well, after assigning me a salesperson and getting more information on the project (Name, location, etc, really meaning they are checking things out to see if I'm really a designer or just  an end user asking for wholesale pricing) someone emailed me - with a lovely tone in her note about the knob. It is $510 per knob. Should I want the monogram, which of course I do! it is additional.

Now, I love this knob. But even I couldn't tell a client, even a wealthy client, that I even imagine they might want to spend $510 + probably another $100 on monogramming PER KNOB. The two chests for which I need the knobs....20 of them!  20 x $600 = $12,000 for knobs for two sets of drawers. I'm really not saying it is wrong to buy it, of course! But I probably don't have a client who would see the value. I'm going to NY next week and stop in Nanz and see what they look like in person. Maybe I'll change my tune!

Threshold. That's all I have to say. But, they aren't made in China, I know that for sure!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Happiness and Morality in a Cup

So excited to see!

Lee has recently taken to drinking espresso, especially after a meal. That's easy enough when you are out to dinner, but we only had regular sized cups that we used for our daily cappuccini. It's perfectly wonderful...but sometimes you just want a straight shot of espresso. Like at 3:00 in the afternoon or after dinner.

So I did a little research and found some cups that seemed right. Got them today and couldn't be happier with them!

First, they are made in France - in a family-owned factory that has been making restaurant porcelain since the 19th Century. Why am I sooooo very happy about this? That they don't say "Made in China" on the bottom. I know I paid at least 4 x more for these cups, but I sooooo don't care. They are soooo much nicer than anything "Made in China". Super thick, stackable - just awesome. 

I am really trying to avoid cheap things. I spend my days convincing a client that the $400 per yard Fortuny or Loro Piana silk velvet is worth the expense - that it will create an experience in their lives that justifies the cost. Or the custom sofa with down cushions and horsehair stuffing instead of a FOAM  fortress?

If I schelp to you know where when it is time to buy my espresso cups, what does that say about how I value craft and quality? 

It's not an easy thing. At the point of sale, it is painful to part with the cash. We've come to want more, not less. But, I just don't want to support cheap labor, poor quality and disposable product.

Think about the next time you have $100 to spend. How will you do it?||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-Feature_Recipe_Rule-_-

Better than I thought. From Williams Sonoma - French espresso cups
Apilco - made in France by the same family since 1826

With a small kitchen and limited storage, I love how they stack!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Lying in the Grass

When was the last time I laid down on the ground, on the grass and looked up at the sky?

Sunday...I did it on Sunday. It was warm, sunny and after our chilling and brutal winter, it felt like being in your mama's arms.

This is what I saw. Give it a try. 

Kenwood Park

Saturday, May 4, 2013

That time of life?

This has been an eery week. I have heard about no less than four deaths that are only one or two degrees of separation from me. My dear daughter Isabelle's boss, Miss Jean, passed away this week after hearing only 2 weeks ago she had terminal cancer. It's been a hard two weeks for all the people that loved and worked with her. And although I never had the privilege to meet Miss Jean, she was, I think, a surrogate mother to Izzy in Charleston. She so saw Izzy's talent and celebrated it - I can't thank her enough for how she took to my daughter and helped her soar in a new place. And she did it with such style and humor, apparently. Isabelle, a Cancer who presents the hard outer shell of the crab to the world, has a very soft core and is understandably deeply saddened. That was the first of the list.

I heard yesterday that a friend of mine lost her lovely 90-something step dad - I only met Bob once, but recall that on that day, he told Lee and me of playing a round of golf - and he was in his 90's then. He was charming and genteel and someone from a different time. It made me wish times hadn't changed so much. I am thinking of Lucy and her family today.

I heard last night at the La Belle Vie bar from neighbors that the mother of one of another neighbor at 510 had passed away this week. I don't know either of them really - other than to say hello when picking up mail - but heard that the deceased woman had quite an extraordinary life, having been the first woman counsel for 3M and never having lost a case. She put herself through law school and got her degree at 50 after being widowed. Can you imagine how courageous she was to take that on in those times? She died at 86, so must have been born in the late 1920s. And I think that life is daunting sometimes?!

On the same day that Izzy got word that Miss Jean had passed, a colleague at her work got word of her mother's sudden death that same day! A nurse from the hospital came to their workplace to find her and tell her and she naturally collapse in grief. This, just after hearing about her dear friend Jean.

It seems not to stop - and, as a friend pointed out, we are at that time of life...when loved ones, especially parents begin to pass. It really does feel like death it is creeping closer.

Between the deaths and the weather, its really been quite a week.On that upbeat note.....I'll go shovel the sidewalk.