Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring In Bloom

How gorgeous is this table setting by Carolyn Roehm in her garden at her home in Connecticut!  I love the combination of fine china, silver, and crystal with the freshness of the greens and pinks of nature.  I am itching to have a dinner party outside in the garden. As the weather starts to warm up, I have found all kinds of inspiring outdoor table settings to dream about.   Here are a few very dreamy images to get the ball rolling...

Interior designer Bunny Williams' Connecticut farmhouse 

Napa Valley dinner party

Dinner under a wisteria- covered arbor 

Table with a view

Very pretty and French

Cozy table for two

Under the shade of the pergola

Bringing the cottage garden inside

Interior designer Charlotte Moss evokes an indoor garden with this table

And, finally, isn't this all we really need?  A place to hang our hat and enjoy the garden!

Photos from Veranda, Food & Wine, Victoria, House Beautiful, Country Home and Traditional Home 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Jane Eyre: The Movie

Last week I saw the new movie "Jane Eyre" and I was totally enraptured by this new version of one of the  most beautiful and famous books in the English language.  Is there any other book that most of us know practically by heart and as we are watching the movie can predict exactly what will happen next?  I never get tired of anticipating the moment that Jane meets Mr. Rochester for the first time, or the moment that she saves his life after his bed has been set on fire, or the dramatic wedding scene in the church. And the heartbreaking scenes from Jane's childhood, when she is sent to Lowood school and is forced to stand on the chair all day, or goes to sleep clutching the hand of her only friend Helen Burns.  These are iconic images that stay in our minds.

 Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre

Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester

Jamie Bell as St. John Rivers

Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax

The film is beautifully directed and the acting is fabulous, with Mia Wasikowska as Jane, Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester,  Jamie Bell as St. John Rivers and Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax.  The setting of the book and the film, the wild Yorkshire moors in England, is almost as important as any other aspect of this film.  The filmmakers got it right, and rendered it beautifully, enhancing the passion and the loneliness of the story and that of the hero and heroine.  There is a fierceness and a passion in "Jane Eyre."  The wildness of the Yorkshire moors lives on every page of this book.  This new film version of Charlotte Bronte's masterpiece beautifully captures that fierceness and passion, of both the land and the characters.  

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Bill Cunningham New York"

Last night I saw a film that I loved and I hope you will go see as soon as it officially opens. It was a special preview screening of the award-winning documentary "Bill Cunningham New York" put on by The Costume Council of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.   For years I have been reading Cunningham's columns for the New York Times:  "On the Street" and "Evening Hours" that appear each Sunday in the Style section of the paper. Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and the New York Times would not be complete without reading these fabulous fashion features by photographer Cunningham.  I loved this film because it is about fashion, New York, and Bill who is very much a maverick and a legendary figure in the New York fashion world.

As Anna Wintour says in the film, "We all get dressed for Bill," most fashion figures in New York hope to be featured in his columns, as well as everyday people on the street. He has been chronicling fashion for decades for the Times, featuring fashion trends and high society charity events, and his images and vision have established him as a cultural anthropologist.  Wintour says  "He has been documenting me since I was a kid, one snap, two snaps, or he ignores you which is death."

Anna Wintour, being interviewed about Cunningham for the film

Cunningham on the street

But one of the things that is so engaging about Bill is his egalitarian attitude toward his subjects.  As one of the curators at the Metropolitan museum says,  " That doesn't mean he is unaware of cultural vision and hierarchy.  He just treats it all the same."  He is not interested in the celebrities who get free clothes.  He is more interested in the clothes, it's all about the clothes.  He says "The best fashion show is definitely on the street... fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.  I don't think you can do away with it, it would be like doing away with civilization."

When he is honored by an organization in France, he says in his acceptance speech, "He who seeks beauty is destined to find it."  You get the feeling that this has been the driving philosophy of his life and his career.  This is a man who has been seeking and finding beauty of all sorts his entire life.  And his life  is about his work. He is defined by it, lives and breathes it, and repeatedly tells his interviewer that he has no time left over for his personal life.  The image of him cycling all around Manhattan with his camera and his blue shirt is an iconic image, he is a maverick and loves the streets of New York, teeming as they are with the tapestry of life.  This is his subject.

I was moved by his story.  He is beloved by the fashion world and I got the feeling that his family is the New York Times.  He walks into a society event and everyone welcomes him, his sunny disposition and lack of pretension endears him to all.  He won't eat or drink at these events, he is only there to work.  As one of the magazine editors says, "Bill has never, never sold out, his fingerprints are all over everything he does."  Bill himself say, "If you don't take money, they can't tell you what to do."

Go see this film.  If you are like me, you will be moved by this story of a man who turned his passion into a successful career and became a legendary fashion photographer, with a style that is all his own.  What an impact he has had on the fashion world! 

Photos from 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dreaming About Gardens

My Garden

Now that March is here, I have been dreaming about how my garden will look in the spring and summer seasons.  And it's time to order new plants.  I have been looking at all kinds of inspiring gardens for ideas.  But perhaps the most exquisite and inspiring gardens I have ever seen were those I saw on my Garden Conservancy trip to England last summer.  We toured the Cotswolds and recently I looked at my pictures from the trip. Nothing beats the English countryside in the month of June for sheer gorgeousness!

First we went to Kent to visit Sissinghurst Castle Garden

Is there any more iconic garden image from England than roses climbing on a brick wall?
This is from Sissinghurst Garden where Vita Sackville-West lived

The white garden at Sissinghurst

Tower at Sissinghurst where Vita Sackville-West wrote

Garden in the Cotswolds


Hidcote Manor Garden


Pastoral scene from the Cotswolds

Another incredible garden on our tour

How serene and inviting does this look!

Gorgeous garden ornaments were in abundance

These garden supports were all over the English countryside

Garden support as the focus of a small hedged garden area

Stately wall plaque and fountain

Fort Belvedere, the home of King Edward VIII, where he abdicated the throne in 1936

Fort Belvedere

After I returned from this amazing garden tour of England last summer, I was inspired by so many of these English garden images.  I planted David Austin roses in my garden in the front of the house,  filled the parterres in the back garden with more flowers, and added special garden ornaments everywhere.  And  I was so happy that the climbing roses and vines were getting mature.  Can't wait to plant for the next glorious summer season.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Beginnings -- Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf, 1902

It is so interesting to learn about the beginning of a writing career such as that of the brilliant English novelist Virginia Woolf.  On Tuesday of last week, The Writers Almanac told us that on March 9, 1913, almost one hundred years ago, Virginia Woolf delivered the manuscript for her first novel "The Voyage Out" to the Duckworth Publishing House in London.  She had been working on it for almost 7 years.  By 1912 she had written five drafts.  Between 1912 and 1913 she rewrote the entire novel one more time, almost from scratch, typing six hundred pages in two months.  Anyone who writes can only imagine the stress this experience must have been for her.  The book was finally accepted, but the extensive revision process took its toll on Woolf and may have contributed to a mental breakdown that delayed the novel's publication.  It was eventually published in 1915.

"The Voyage Out," 1915

This first novel by Woolf shows aspects of what would become her distinctive Modernist style.  Another interesting first in this novel is the appearance of Clarissa Dalloway, a character who would remain in Woolf's mind for another ten years and become the subject of of her masterpiece "Mrs. Dalloway" (1925).  Although "The Voyage Out" may be her least read novel, many critics feel it is important because it displayed many of the principal themes that were to appear in  in her later works.


But even earlier than that day on March 9, 1913 when she handed in the manuscript of "The Voyage Out," there were other stirrings of her literary career that are fascinating to read about.  Born into a Victorian family, she did not have the formal education that was provided for men at the time.  But her father was the esteemed scholar Leslie Stephen who had an admirable library filled with literary masterpieces which  Woolf devoured.  She also had tutors in various subjects, including Greek.

Short story by Woolf published by The Hogarth Press

As early as 1905 she began writing book reviews for literary journals.  Her letters and her diaries reveal a love for pen and paper and handmade books that augur her later career as a publisher and printer of beautiful small press books, some hand printed by her on her dining room table.  This was the book  publishing company The Hogarth Press, founded by Virginia and her husband Leonard Woolf.

Another early publication by the Hogarth Press


Virginia Woolf, 1920's

"Mrs. Dalloway,"1925

From "The Voyage Out" to "Mrs. Dalloway" and her other masterpieces, Woolf's literary journey is one that is fascinating to read about and can truly enhance our reading of her books.