Monday, April 29, 2013

A Rose-Covered House

Where does your mind wander when you see an image? If you are like me and enjoy a certain kind of novel or mystery set in the English countryside, then you probably swoon at the sight of rose-covered houses. Is there anything more romantic? It is a sight that evokes the enchantment of a fairy tale. Remember the Madeline stories? "In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines..." And it conjures up some of my favorite books and literary characters.   

I can picture a heroine from Henry James, Isabel Archer perhaps, peering through these windows. 

 And behind this window I can imagine characters from Jane Austen's novels -- maybe the Dashwood or the Bennet sisters. Having been forced out of their manor house, they are living in reduced circumstances and residing in a cottage, though a very charming one at that.

This could be the ramshackle castle where the young heroine of I Capture the Castle lived with her eccentric family, dreaming of romance and writing her diary while "sitting in the kitchen sink."

And it is easy to envision a witty Nancy Mitford heroine walking through this door at any moment
with the bucolic landscape of the Cotswolds as her backdrop.

Jane Eyre could easily have looked up and spied these scarlet climbing roses at Thornfield Hall.

 And virtuous May Welland, Newland Archer's fiance in The Age of Innocence, might have trembled as she imagined a not quite suitable female living behind these walls.

This could have been the window through which Miss Mapp first spied her rival Lucia in the Mapp and Lucia  books by E. F. Benson. 

Photo by Kimberly Wold

And Margaret Schlegel of E.M. Forster's Howards End could have gazed up at this rose-covered house and fallen in love with it.

We all have these Proustian moments when we see an image and are taken on a little journey into the past. Rose-covered houses remind me of my trip to the Cotswolds that I took a few years ago. The sight of them also takes me back to some of my favorite books set in the English countryside. Images from travel and books can stay with us forever. We file them away in our memory bank and don't even realize they are there until something sparks a remembrance. And then we are off...

Photos via Pinterest

Friday, April 26, 2013

Audrey in Rome

Audrey Hepburn on the terrace of the Hotel Hassler, in Rome, with the telegram announcing her New York Film Critics best-actress award for "The Nun's Story," 1960 

If you haven't already gotten a copy, you need to run out right now and pick up the May issue of Vanity Fair to see these exquisite photos of Audrey Hepburn in Rome and read the fascinating article about her years in The Eternal City. Her son Luca Dotti recalls his mother's love affair with Rome; she lived there for more than 20 years. He includes intimate photographs that have never been seen before from his new book Audrey in Rome.  He obtained many of them from the Reporters Association archives (much to his surprise, it was a rich repository of candid photos of his mother); they capture her day-to-day life on the streets of Rome and, as Luca says, they never caught her off guard. This was because she always exhibited impeccable composure that was developed from her training in classical ballet and (full disclosure) many of the photographers were her good friends.

Her always chic style, simple and classic, is evident in these photos. And yet, Dotti writes that his mother never thought she was beautiful. He also remembers an inner sadness that came from the war years when she was hungry and hiding from the Nazis in occupied Holland. But he adds that there was also "this fantastic will and enthusiasm. Because after all that sorrow everything was a discovery. When she talked about her career she always said that she was lucky and it was like winning the lottery." Luca Dotti tells a fascinating story of his mother's years living in the Italian capital and the photos capture the fashions and style of the 1950's through the 1970's with beautiful Rome as a backdrop.    

At a cafe in Piazza Navona, 1955
Love the basket purse!
On the Piazza Trinita dei Monti, 1960

With Gregory Peck in a scene from "Roman Holiday," 1953

With her first husband, Mel Ferrer, in the Piazza Guglielmo Marconi, circa 1960

In "Roman Holiday," 1953

 I cannot wait to get a copy of Audrey in Rome by Luca Dotti. It would make a perfect Mother's Day gift.

Photos via here

Monday, April 22, 2013

In the Garden

There is a lot happening in the garden right now.









"Earth, I thank you for the pleasure of your language." -- Anne Spencer

What a glorious time of the year!

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Night To Honor Julia

It seems that we can't get enough of Julia Child. Maybe it is because Julia's life story is filled with so many lessons for all of us. As Bob Spitz told the group gathered on Tuesday night to hear him speak about his book Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, she taught us that in mid-life we can reinvent ourselves. At age 40, when she studied French cooking at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and began the journey that would lead to the writing of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking,"she did not even know how to cook. She was 50 years old when her first cookbook was published. And she was 52 when her show "The French Chef" debuted on WGBH in Boston. She had never been on television before and did not even own a television set. It really is amazing to think about.

Julie Robinson and Bob Spitz

On Tuesday night I went to a wonderful event hosted by Julie Robinson of Literary Affairs.  We met at Surfas, a restaurant supply and gourmet food purveyor in Culver City, for an evening called "Dearie and Mastering the Art of French Cooking." The title said it all.  We would be cooking several dishes from Julia Child's "Mastering The Art of French Cooking" under the supervision of Maite Gomez-Rejon of Art Bites.  Afterwards we would sit down to eat the dinner we had prepared, drink some beautiful French wines, and listen to Bob Spitz's warm and affectionate talk about Julia Child. As he happily admitted, he has had a crush on her for a long time.

He told us that he got the opportunity to spend some quality time with her in 1992.  He was in Italy  working on magazine articles when he got a call from the Italian travel commission. They asked if he would like to escort Julia Child on a trip to Sicily. At that point she was eighty years old. He jumped at the chance and spent three weeks with Julia in Sicily, eating and talking nonstop. It was a life changing experience. If his book reads anything like his warm and humorous talk on Tuesday night --he does a spot-on impersonation of Julia Child -- it will be delightful. I cannot wait to get a copy.

Maite Gomez-Rejon created an exciting menu for us to cook from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"

Simple Green Salad with French Vinaigrette
Celery Root in Mustard Sauce
Chicken Sauteed with Herbs and Garlic
Tomatoes Stuffed with Bread Crumbs, Herbs and Garlic
Potatoes Sauteed in Butter
Fresh Strawberry Tart

And so we chopped, stirred, whisked, sauteed and appreciated the beauty of butter. After all, these recipes were from Julia Child and butter was in almost everything. It made the food taste delicious! 

I cheated on the last photo (via here). Our strawberry tart needed more time to set up before having its photo taken. But the strawberry tart (above) from Ina Garten is what ours would have looked like with a bit more time.

By the way, for those of you who live in Los Angeles, Julie Robinson and Maite Gomez-Rejon are local treasures. Julie runs Literary Affairs which puts on stimulating book events with writers and  facilitates book groups all around town. Her Beverly Hills Literary Escape is coming up in October, 2013. Maite created Art Bites in order to combine her two passions: art history and cooking. In her cooking classes, she weaves culinary history with hands-on cooking at museums across the country. I have taken a few of her classes and they are always instructive, educational and fun. Like Julia Child, both these women have followed their passions and turned them into a business. I left the event on Tuesday night feeling very inspired!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Spring in Bloom

"Spring" by Vanessa Bell

Spring is in bloom and there are flowers everywhere. It seems as if everyone is inspired by flowers right now. Here are some beautiful creations by florists, writers, artists, designers, and chefs.

Flowers by Hollyflora

The Flower Recipe Book by Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo
Photo via here

Flowers at Stephanie Grace

Peonies at Stephanie Grace

Camellias at Robinson Gardens

Orchids at Westerlay Orchids in Carpinteria

A salad of spring greens and flowers at El Encanto Hotel in Santa Barbara

Floral china at El Encanto Hotel
Photo by Donanne Kasikci

Perennial favorite Colefax and Fowler chintz fabric "Bowood" 
Photo via here

De Gournay wallpaper
Photo via here

New book Flowers by Carolyn Roehm
Photo via here

Art work by Simone Shuback at Taylor de Cordoba
Photo via here

Dress by Valentino
Photo via here

Flowers have always been a source of inspiration. Claude Monet wrote, " I perhaps owe becoming an artist to flowers." There will always be creative spirits who bring flowers into their work for all of us to enjoy. The first days of spring make the heart sing. Gardens are blooming and talented and creative people everywhere are finding inspiration in flowers. Their creations brighten up our days.

Photos by Sunday Taylor unless otherwise noted