Monday, May 30, 2011

Ready For Summer!

The first hydrangeas picked from the garden

   Pasta and Fried Zucchini Salad 

White Beans and Tomatoes 

Patio table ready for alfresco dinners

Inspiration table from Beverly Hills Hotel, decorated by my friends for my birthday
I would love to recreate this!

Close-up of the table, how gorgeous are these peonies!

New summer cocktails, Blood Orange Prosecco

Fresh Peach Fuzz

Stack of summer books to read

A weekend get-away to the San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito


"Summer afternoon -- summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." -- Henry James

Just a few thoughts about summer, with many more to come.  Here's to many beautiful summer afternoons!

Salads and cocktails from "Plenty" by Yotam Ottolenghi and "Fabulous Parties" by Peggy Dark

Friday, May 27, 2011

Revisiting "The Lost Generation"

Ernest and Hadley Hemingway at a cafe with Lady Duff Twysden and others 

In Woody Allen's new movie "Midnight in Paris," the main character played by Owen Wilson wistfully  yearns for a distant past, specifically the Paris of the 1920's when Hemingway, Picasso and the Fitzgeralds were there.  He craves the intellectual and artistic excitement that was going in Paris at the time.  As a screenwriter, he wants to stretch himself and write a novel.  And his impending marriage to a shallow and materialistic American girl has filled him with wanderlust and the desire for a French romance.  Obviously all this nostalgia is fueled by his dissatisfaction with his life.  But in my opinion nostalgia is not such a bad thing and I decided recently to take a little journey of my own.

After watching Allen's funny and nostalgic film "Midnight in Paris," which has some wonderful scenes that occur in the Paris of the 1920's and feature Hemingway, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and others,  I was inspired to pull out a few books on the Lost Generation and revisit this fascinating group of artists.

Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" film

The first book I spotted on my  bookshelves was "Everybody Was So Young," the book about Gerald and Sara Murphy written in 1998 by Amanda Vail.  Fitzgerald said that the Murphys were the inspiration for Dick and Nicole Diver in "Tender is the Night."  Many other writers  in Fitzgerald's social circle were also inspired to write about  the Murphys. The epigram of "Everybody Was So Young" stopped me in my tracks because I realize that this nostalgic sentiment and description of this time in Paris is exactly what Woody Allen was trying to capture and what has always intrigued me about this group of people and our feelings about this period of time in Paris,  something ephemeral and evanescent, impossible to recapture as one gets older and maybe did not really even exist.  But the important thing is this is how it is remembered.

"It wasn't the parties that made it such a gay time.
There was such affection between everybody.  You loved
your friends and wanted to see them every day, and usually
you did see them everyday.  It was like a great fair, 
and everybody was so young."

Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston as the Fitzgeralds in "Midnight in Paris"
Photo from the New York Times

These writers and artists were American expats and European artists living in Paris during the 1920's.  There were the chic and glamorous Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, the legendary Ernest Hemingway, the struggling and groundbreaking artists Picasso and Braque, and the patroness of the arts Gertrude Stein, just to name a few.  (By the way, a similar community of artists and writers existed in England with the Bloomsbury Group which included their own patroness of the arts Ottoline Morell)  The Paris that they write about is a glowing, incandescent place that evokes all kinds of feelings of nostalgia and affection.

Gertrude Stein and her companion Alice B. Toklas

Gertrude Stein painted by Picasso

My goal of pulling out several books on The Lost Generation never materialized, as I became obsessed with "We Were All So Young" and could not put it down.  Gerald and Sara Murphy were a young, glamorous couple who brought together many of these writers and artists at their home in the South of France.  They provided hospitality, glamour, incredible parties, and images and memories that inspired many books, including "Tender is the Night."

Gerald and Sara Murphy in the South of France

In the prologue to "Everybody Was So Young," Amanda Vail writes about the Murphys:

Late in his life their friend Archibald MacLeish tried to put it into words for an interviewer who had asked him what "the special pull of the Murphys" was.  "No one has ever been able quite to define it,' MacLeish said -- but he came as close as anyone:  "Scott tried in 'Tender is the Night.'  Dos tried in more direct terms.  Ernest tried by not trying.  I wrote a 'Sketch for a Portrait of Madame G.M.,' a longish poem.  They escaped us all.  There was a shine to life wherever they were: not a decorative added value but a kind of revelation of inherent loveliness as though custom and habit had been wiped away and the thing itself was, for an instant, seen.  Don't ask me how."

In so many of the memoirs I have read of writers and artists living in London or Paris at this time, there  always seems to be a golden couple like Gerald and Sara Murphy that everyone wants to be with, who have a special talent for bringing people together and have an excitement about life that is contagious.  According to Vail's book many of the guests at the Murphy's house in the South of France remember their generosity and supportiveness, a mixture of inspiration and nurturing that gave a magical glow to their famous parties that lived on in the memories of people like the Fitzgeralds and Hemingway.

Owen Wilson who travels back in time to the Paris of the 1920's with Marion Cotillard who plays Adriana, a fictional mistress of Picasso's in "Midnight in Paris"
Photo from the New York Times

What I love about all of this -- the Murphys in their heyday, the writers who were inspired to create characters based on them, the parties and the atmosphere they created, and the memoirs and letters which delineate all of this and try to capture this time period and these personalities -- is the passion and interest in life which characterizes it all.  It's not so much about being young, though there is a different passion that comes with youth.  I think it is just a passion about life and the people that make life sparkle.  There is no age limit to this, and I am so grateful to have the memoirs of writers such as Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf and others to give us a glimpse into these times and to inspire us to live life fully.

Some of the writers and artist associated with the Bloomsbury Group in England including Virginia and Leonard Woolf and Vanessa and Clive Bell

Some of the younger generation of artists and writers associated with The Bloomsbury Group

As Woody Allen's alter ego played by Owen Wilson in the movie says, nostalgia is an interesting phenomenon.  He realizes that the yearning for a time past is often a consequence of ennui and dissatisfaction.  But I think reading about this romantic time and place is good for us and revisiting it in a movie such as "Midnight in Paris" makes us wonder about and strive to add a dose of glamour and romance to our own lives.  Often just the effort alone makes it happen as we undergo a subtle attitude change and new way of looking at our world.  I for one am always being inspired.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Robinson Gardens in Bloom

Morning Room:  Anna Clark Designs and Lily Pad Floral Design 

The gardens at Virginia Robinson Gardens in Beverly Hills are known by many people.  A visitor can make an appointment to tour them. The house however is not open to the public for tours.  A guest is typically taken to the center hall of the house and can peer into the dining room, library, and living room.  But there is one day that the entire house is open to the public and that is the day of the "into the Garden..." Tour that happens once a year during the month of May.  Each room of the house is decorated by florists and interior designers and the guests can see the entire house in all its splendor before exiting out onto the Great Lawn for a garden party and lavish lunch.
This year's event was on May 13 and here are some images of the rooms embellished and adorned by some of Los Angeles' most talented florists and designers.

Morning Room

Dining Room:  Christofle Paris and Marc Byrd Eventful Flower Design

Library:  Suzanne Rheinstein

Suzanne Rheinstein with some of the beautiful botanicals from Hollyhock

Suzanne signing her new book "At Home"

Here I am with two of the wonderful friends I worked with on this event

Master Bedroom:  Yves Delorme and Sticks & Stones Florist

Master Bedroom

Master Bathroom:  Bel-Air Garden Club and Friends of Robinson Gardens

Galleria Bar:  B & L Rootenberg Rare Books and Beverly Hills Garden Club

The Kitchen:  Anthropologie and Teryl Designs

The newly refurbished stove, decorated by Anthropologie

Rear Patio Concierge Guest Seating:  Wildflower Events

Close-up of Table

Rear Patio:  Kristen Buckingham and Sally Paul

Entrance Hall:  Mindy Weiss

This year's theme was "Under the Tuscan Sun" and you can see from the above photo how one of the designers brought it to life in the Entrance Hall.   The 2011 "into the garden..." Tour turned out beautifully and I think the guests truly enjoyed seeing the Virginia Robinson House transformed by the talented florists and designers who participated.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fashion, Art, and Dinner

My charming friend Regina invited me to a soiree in West Hollywood recently.  Because she sent the original invitation to my old email address, I never got it and her answers to my follow-up queries about the event were mysterious and intriguing.  All I knew was that I was going to a dinner party in a shop on elegant Melrose Place to honor an artist.   The address led me to the very chic clothing store Zero + Maria Cornejo and the artist we were honoring was Paula Hayes, who makes exquisite glassware, ceramics, and terrariums!  How chic is this table above with its fur covered chairs. This is where we would be dining.  There were three long tables like this in the store.

This is what the tables looked like and you can see my place card at the head of this table.

A close-up of Paula Hayes' amazing terrariums and glass ware

More of Paula's creations

Amazing, all by Paula

 Zero + Maria Cornejo clothing designer Maria, on the left with a friend, both wearing Zero + Maria Cornejo.  I love their shoes as well as their gorgeous dresses.

And speaking of the clothes, the designs were beautiful and dramatic.

The fashionable crowd at this event

I really love the ease of these designs, as well as the beauty and the drama.

These dresses are backed by a beautiful wall creation by the artist Paula Hayes

In addition to all the eye candy -- fashion, art, and people --  we had an amazing dinner with great food and fascinating conversation.  I sat next to a style writer from the Wall Street Journal and we talked fashion all evening.  At the end of the night I drove home thinking how exciting Los Angeles is and what treasures there are if you just take the time to look, to listen, and to say "yes." Thank you, Regina, for inviting me to an unexpected night of fashion, art, conversation, and fine dining.  You never know what is out there unless you are willing to say "yes."