Lightning Strikes Twice

 

What a difference a year makes.  Last year we were confronted with the decline of our beloved four-legged son Charlie.  After eleven wonderful years of love and devotion (he turned up in our driveway when he was about three), our boy was struggling.  When the doctor suggested that we put his affairs in order, we knew that he wasn’t ready to throw in the towel quite yet. We weighed the options and decided to celebrate his life and allow him to have the best summer imaginable.  We moved him to the country where he spent every possible moment outdoors surrounded by friends and neighbors of both the two and four-legged varieties. 

Charlie and his best friend Zippy

Charlie was a special boy, charming, gentle and funny.  He was a joy to be with and the glue that held our family together.  His arrival on our doorstep that cold 1st night in December 2001 was the greatest gift we had ever received. 

For months our boys had been pleading for a new dog, but we were still recovering from the loss of our last dog and weren’t ready to take the plunge. When we returned to our house in the country from an afternoon of bowling on that cold dark evening and our son’s friend exclaimed that there was a dog in our driveway, we thought he was joking.  But this was no joke.  There was a large black dog waiting by our side door.  Since our home is on an unlit dirt road, we had no choice but to invite him in. 

He immediately found a place under our kitchen table and soon after, in our hearts as well. We scrambled to find his owners, but repeatedly came up empty.  He had tags issued by a local veterinary practice, but when we finally reached them, they told us that the numbers on his tags did not match any of their issues.  By this time it was Sunday afternoon and we needed to head back to the city.  We knew that we could not leave him or deliver him to the local shelter so with us he came, tic larva and all, and by the time we reached the city, he had a home and a name; Charlie.

 

Our boy Charlie

The irony of Charlies arrival did not go unnoticed; he arrived on December first, the day after what would have been our first dog, Danny’s birthday. 

Irwin and I were not even married six months when we happened upon Danny in a pet store on our way to pick up some last minute things at Bloomingdales before embarking on our belated honeymoon.  When Danny was placed into Irwin’s arms it was truly Kismet, and before we know it, we were making arrangements to have the pet store hold him until we returned from Jamaica.  Unable to stop thinking about Danny (whom we originally were going to name Dondi), we returned thirty minutes later and took him home. 

With our vacation in less than a week, we did what any other young couple would do, we called Irwin’s parents and congratulated them on becoming grandparents, and left them with a new puppy and a large supply of wee-wee pads.  What were we thinking?

 

Puppy Danny

A week and an entire kitchen’s worth of grass cloth wallpaper later, we were full time puppy parents.  And so began an eighteen year love affair with Danny, his Shitza- Poo significant other Maxx, and there three puppies, Moo Moo, Lu Lu and DJ ( Danny Junior).  A graphic group of black and white bundles of joy that filled our lives with love and lots of repair costs.

Danny's significant other: Maxx

 

 

 
Danny & Maxx's Puppies: DJ (white) Moo Moo (B/W) Lu Lu (Black) 

Danny and Charlie were polar opposites.  Danny was a dazzlingly white Bichon with incredibly short legs, while Charlie was large, regal and black with long legs and a smidge of white on his chest and fluffy paws.  Danny was cerebral and was given the nickname "Einstein" (he could even talk) and Charlie, when asked where grandma was, often brought us a shoe or sneaker instead.

The one and only: Our Little einstein: Danny

 

Charlie Sr.

What the two did have in common, besides our boundless love, was a red collar.

Charlie left us as he had arrived on our doorstep with humor, grace and love on a beautiful evening in August under his favorite tree.

 

By the middle of September, we were surfing Petfinder.com looking for a new addition for our family.  We had agreed to wait until spring because with the exception of three years, we had had a dog (or dogs) for our entire married life  (thirty-two years).  And after Charlie’s rear leg issues and our increasing ages, we were thinking about a smaller dog (max 35 pounds) that could easily be picked up should it become infirmed.  There were lots of cuties, but we always seemed to be drawn back to Flat Coated Retriever mixes.

 Irwin came across Charlie on Petfinder, (yes, his name was Charlie) back in November, he said that something about Charlie spoke to him, but we had agreed that were not quite ready for another dog.  Besides, I thought that it was more than a little weird considering another black, Flat Coated mix dog with the name Charlie.

 

When Irwin saw that Charlie was still on Petfinder in February, he knew that he had to call and find out more.  When he called he was told that Charlie had just been placed in his forever home.  While he was disappointed, he was happy to hear that Charlie had found a good home.  Four days later, Irwin received an email from the woman at the rescue, telling him that Charlie’s adoption did not work out and that he had been returned.

Well, Irwin was beyond happy and made arrangements for us to see him the following Sunday.  He told EVERYBODY…..but me.  I was told that we were going to an auction for Mid Century lighting on the way home from the country. 

When we pulled into the driveway of the non-descript split level home, I told him that it couldn’t be right and to please get proper directions.  When a woman came out walking two dogs, I realized that I had been punked.

And so it was.  Charlie, a beautiful black mix of what we believe to be Lab, & Border Collie, with warm golden brown eyes, a tuxedo shirt of white on his chest and fluffy feet tipped in white, came home with us on that blustery February day with two days of food and…a red collar.  Some things are just meant to be.

 

Charlie Jr.

 

When Irwin decided to participate in IFDANY’s Take A Seat Event, where twenty-four metro NY designers would be creating up-cycled chairs to be auctioned off on Thursday May 16, 2013 with all proceeds to benefit relief efforts for Hurricane Sandy victims as well as for local IFDA chapter professional development, he could not help but be inspired by our Charlies, past and present and the never ending connectivity of life. 

Irwin purchased this a chic 40’s lounge chair with sinewy lines several years ago.  Despite its condition, he recognized that it had enormous potential.  He put it in the gallery storage room and forgot about it.  When Irwin signed up for “Take a Seat” he went into his storage room to see if he had any appropriate chairs and discovered this beauty.   While he knew it needed a total overhaul, he also knew that good bones are good bones no matter the condition and that this was “The Chair”.  Irwin had it lacquered in the bright red color of “The Charlies” collars and upholstered the chair in a graphic black and white pattern representing  “The Charlies” colors their many points of connectivity and lightning, that CAN strike twice.

Lightning Strikes twice: before

 

 

 

Lightning strikes twice: After 

The kick off event took place last night in the TOTO showroom where we had the privilege of viewing several of the IFDANY chairs ( ours included) and join the other 2 IFDA groups (S. Cal & Japan) live via Skype to celebrate this momentous occasion.

 

 

"Lightning Strikes Twice"

 

 

IFDA Japan live via skype

 

Sam Simon and Tamara Stephenson at the Kick off event

 

 

Lots of bubbly to celebrate at TOTO

 

The chairs will be on display in the Lillian August store windows and floor from May 8-21.  If you are going to be in NYC, please stop by and visit the Take a Seat exhibit and vote for your favorite chair for the People's Choice Award.

 

AND...Please be sure to join us for what promises to be an extraordinary evening on Thursday May 16th, when MC/Host, Designer Jamie Drake, and Karl Green, auctioneer and director of Furniture & Decorative Arts, Bonhams NY,  auction off these amazing one-of-a-kind up-cycled chairs.  Enjoy great company, live music, delicious  hors d'oeuvres and fashionable drinks.

The Gala Auction will be held on:

Thursday May 16, 2013

6-8:30 PM

Lillian August Furnishings + Designs

12 West 20th Street

New York, NY 10011

$20 per person

Click here to order tickets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We're Not Getting older, We're Getting Better

As purveyors of Mid-Century Modern design, we fully understand the importance of maintaining the underlying integrity of a piece while lovingly restoring and tweaking it so that it is the best it can be at any age.  So naturally, we strongly agree that Clairol hit it on the nose when they introduced their Loving Care ad campaign in 1971 with the tag line: You're not getting older; you're getting better.  Maturity and aging are not to be shunned, but rather appreciated and embraced and above all else…honored.  And while we must all surely work at being the best we can be at any age, we need to embrace the benefits of aging gracefully and the life experience it offers.

 

Clairol's 1971 Ad: Time tested and still true

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Mid century Bench: Lovingly restored with integrity maintained


This is not always so easy to do.  In this youth driven, disposable age, the pressure to compete with younger has motivated more than a few to take extreme measures in the hope of defying the aging process.   And when news, trends and even material goods become obsolete in mere nanoseconds as epitomized by AT&T’s plethora of commercials chanting “That’s so 30 seconds ago”, and almost nothing is built to endure, it is easy to lose sight of the truly timeless beauty and character that are some of the many benefits of “maturing”.

 

 

So 30 seconds ago

photo courtesy of AT&T

 

 

 

Just last week our Bosch dishwasher in the country stopped working.  It has been a reliable piece of machinery for twelve years necessitating only one other service call, yet when I called to have it repaired, the head of service discouraged me from making the repair and suggested purchasing a new unit instead.   With the cost of a new unit being about triple the cost of the repair, coupled with the fact that the life expectancy of that new unit is a mere six years, we opted to repair the old one, hoping for another five to six years of reliable washing.  

 

And that used to be the status quo, double-digit years of productivity for major appliances and electronics; furniture that was built to last fifty or more years and a society that respected honored and held in esteem those amongst us with life experience.

 

While baby boomers are redefining aging, it is a steep mountain to climb in these youth driven times.  So when, back in February, in honor of Valentine’s Day, Jennifer Mehditash a wonderful interior designer and author of Dec-a-Porter blog shared a captivating image on Facebook, I was immediately smitten.  The photo of a mature woman in red- lipped shaped sunglasses was so striking that I was compelled to see more.  I clicked the link and was transported to a parallel universe where maturity is queen and style is timeless: Advanced Style Blogspot. 

 

 

 

A Sweet heart of Style

photo courtesy of Advanced Style blogspot

 

Advanced Style is the brainchild of Ari Seth Cohen and offers a respite from the plethora of images touting youth.  An oasis where there is comfort in seeing style on someone other than a pre- pubescent child.  It is not only beautiful to look at but infinitely inspirational as well.  In fact, I pre-ordered the book Advanced Style on Amazon and gave it to my Mother-in-Law who just celebrated her 85th birthday last month.

 

 

 

Advance Style: The Book

 

As a candid photographer I love to zoom in and capture the face. An expressive face, especially one that is not focused on the lens or the necessity to smile, is imperfect and utterly magnificent at any age.  But to see a multitude of images of so many gloriously proud and strong seniors is truly breathtaking and moving.  AND... gives all of us pause to broaden our definition of true beauty and style.

 

  

 

Imperfect and utterly magnificent

 

photo courtesy of Marcy Feld Photography

 

 

Ruth: Breathtaking at  100

photo courtesy of Advanced Style Blogspot

 

So, while we are all clamoring to find that ever-elusive key to the proverbial “Fountain of Youth”, let’s take a moment to appreciate our maturity and the beauty and Advanced Style we all possess, because: We’re not getting older, we’re getting better!

 

A toast with a little bubbly, or bubbles, as it were:

Here is to ageless Beauty- Let's all embrace it!

photo courtesy of Marcy Feld Photography

 Autumn has arrived with all of its spectacular colors and aromas and the excitement is palpable.  The once brilliantly green trees are almost bare, their leaves now blanketing the ground and snow seems to be in the forecast for some as early as…today.  After over five months of bringing the indoors out and utilizing our outdoor living spaces during those long and lazy days of spring and summer, we are preparing to do an about face.

 

bare but beautiful

 

Despite the fact that is still only October, seasonal commercials have begun to permeate the airwaves thrusting us into into:

t h e  H o l I d a y    Z o n e 

                                                                                                           

And while we would prefer the old school holiday season that begins on Black Friday, we also believe that to be “forewarned is to be forearmed” and that the extra month (if you can stand the plethora of commercials) is a gift; the gift of time.

With Halloween around the corner, we are getting ready to embark on that frenetic, exciting and unpredictable marathon of indoor entertaining that begins at the end of the month and goes on and on and on…and on.

So take a deep breath, pour yourself a cocktail and use the gift of time, not to become overwhelmed, but rather to plan, prepare and revel in the long season. 

Festival of Lights

  

This is a joyous time in the Gallery.  The anticipation of so many celebrations and the lifetime of memories that will be made are not lost on us.  We know all too well the importance of holiday celebrations in our lives and are delighted when our Mid Century masterpieces play an integral part.  After all, these pieces represent the talent and design ingenuity of our greatest generation.  They have been lovingly restored and re-invented, offering clients a unique opportunity to own a one of a kind piece that has stood the test of time and is available for immediate delivery.  And let’s be honest, who can resist that kind of opportunity?

 

One of a kind couture: Priceless

 

Whether you are hosting your first or one hundred and first celebration this season, there is a lot to think about. So let’s get started.

Today we will lay the foundation for holiday entertaining and focus on four key elements that need to be considered when preparing your home for the season.

 1.  Lighting                                                                                              

 2.  An amazing dining table                                                                           

 3.  Extra, multifunctional seating

 4.  Mirrors 

Regardless of your design aesthetic or your budget, there are a multitude of options available, and we always recommend that you purchase the best quality that you can afford. 

By the end of October summer’s endless days are little more than a memory.  When we turn the clocks back at 2 am on November 6th, evening will turn into an afternoon affair and supplementing the rapidly diminishing natural light becomes crucial.  This is the time to let your imagination shine and select appropriate additional lighting for your home, especially the areas you plan to use for entertaining.

 

Shedding some light on the holidays

 

Sconces & Chandeliers add light & sparkle; Mirrors help too

 

 

An absolute Standout: Massive sputnik with brass,copper & nickel

 

crystal sconces and sputniks, oh my!

 

 

 

Capiz Shell pendants; White as snow

 

brass & lucite chandelier all aglow

 

 

Lucite & Brass Table lamps: All wrapped up

 

The centerpiece for holiday entertaining is most often the dining room. If you have large celebrations and have adequate space, a large table or a table with an extra leaf or two may be best.  If your celebrations or space are on the smaller side, a smaller table will probably be more appropriate.  Whatever the size, chose a table that you LOVE and everyday entertaining will become a special event.

 

A dining table & chairs worthy of any celebration

 

 

 

Lucite, Aluminum & Glass Dining Table: Clearly a winner

 

 

 

An intimate celebration

 

 

 

 

With 2 leaves & Casters:Versatile and adaptable

 

 

No holiday season would be complete without adequate multifunctional seating.  This most often comes in the form of benches and ottomans that can be stored under other pieces if necessary and then moved to wherever they are needed, whether as extra seating at the dining table or as additional conversational seating.  The options are endless.

seating to spare

 

This bench is really on the ball

 

Pull up a seat...or three

 

This Mid Mod diamond bench: a gem

 

 

 

A pair:  Perfect...anywhere

 

 

A proper Probber

 

And there is no better way to enhance the sparkle & dimension of any space than the addition of a beautiful mirror.

Mirror Mirror on the wall

 

 

Right on target

 

 

a beautiful reflection 

So put your thinking caps and prepare to enter...

 t h e  H o l I d a y    Z o n e     

Begin the planning process early because while some of us (Irwin included)  are often inspired and creatively motivated by the adrenaline rush of last minute preparations, most of us benefit from early planning and organization.  And while there are sure to be a few bumps in the road, the season will be infinitely more enjoyable and      N O T  scary at all!

 


A Midsummer Lights Dream

Ah, the beauty of summer, with its never ending warm, sunshine filled days that entice us to take the long way home and drink in the cocktail of colors.  Where annuals and perennials conspire with wildflowers to present us with a symphony of sights that are in a constant state of transformation is where I have chosen to reside. In fact, I have become so enraptured with this season, I have all but forgotten to share it with you.

Bijou Blanket brimming with color

 

Fuchsia Zinnia

 

 

 Rudbekia, a staple in our garden

 

Queen Anne's Lace

 

 Periwinkle Wildflowers

 

‘Tis the season to bring the indoors out, and enjoy every moment from dawn till dusk and beyond.  So, as the sun disappears and gives way to the cool breezes that usher in starry nights, Irwin and I like to add our own brand of illumination: candlelight.

 

 

Breathtaking Sunsets

  

What can be more enchanting on a tranquil summer evening than the warm glow of candlelight?

 

 

Simply Enchanting

 

 

We know only too well how instrumental candles are in setting the proper mood either indoors or out during any season, but candlelight outdoors during summer is absolutely sublime.                                                                                                                                                          

            

A real Connection  

                                                                                                    

A star is born

It is the season of infinite possibilities so use your imagination.  Many found objects in your home can be the perfect vessel for a candle or tea light.  An old lantern that we purchased our first summer in the house sits along side an inverted vintage capiz shell lampshade that houses a candle.

Our 1st lantern, previously owned by Betsey Johnson

 

While we employ a variety of candles, we particularly love using tea lights because they are small and can be placed in a wide array of vessels.  Additionally, these short burning beauties are readily available and extremely inexpensive.  

Shades of light

 

We have a collection of glasses that we taped and frosted ten years ago for a family event.  We continue to enjoy them especially during the summer.

 

Ten years....and still going strong

 

And a vintage silverplate bowl we picked up at a tag sale many years ago has served a multitude of uses, most recently as a candle holder.

Vintage Silverplate shedding new light 

 

And until a better solution comes along,  it is absolutely necessary to integrate citronella candles into the mix.

 

 

Citronella helps take the bite out of a summer evening

 

The possibilities are endless and only limited by your imagination.  So make the most of every evening,

 

 Divine illumination

 

 

All Aglow

 

   

Moonlight

 

and this weekend, as the fireflies make their special brand of magic in the moonlit sky, make a little magic of your own and create a Midsummer Lights Dream.

 

Pure Magic

 

 

What better way to usher in the holiday season, than to visit a designer show house centered on the celebration of holidays, and more importantly, life. Holiday House NYC is celebrating its 3rd year, bringing talented designers together for fifteen days during the heart of the holiday season to raise much needed funds for the Greater New York City Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

With the importance of raising Breast Cancer awareness as well as finding a cure, we were delighted to be able to participate in this amazing event again this year and present a holiday that is near and dear to our hearts: Snow Day. 

While not on the list of traditional holidays, Everyone Loves a Snow Day!  And when a really good one happens to come along, there is no better place to spend it than in our cozy, warm Snow Day room at Holiday House.

When Irwin first decided to do Snow Day and saw his room, he knew that the centerpiece of the room had to be the magnificent Tommi Parzinger chandelier.

With a peculiarly shaped room containing four doors, two windows an oddly placed mantel, walls in horrific condition, carpeting cemented to the floor AND no partridge in a pear tree, he knew this was going to be a challenge. But Irwin is always up for a challenge and despite becoming sick with Pneumonia just days before Thanksgiving, did more than deliver an exceptionally designed room; he presented the essence of a perfect Snow Day.

Paint played an instrumental role in transforming the odd room into a Snow Day Cinderella story and the expertise of Fabricio Fabri of F&F Faux Finish Painting was key.  Not only are he and his staff immensely talented, they are equally as nice and were, as always a pleasure to work with.

And no Snow Day would be complete without…SNOW, so we brought the outdoors in by collaborating with Tracy Hiner of Black Crow Studios and had her take my image of snow, taken in Central Park during last year’s blizzard, and creating wallpaper that we then layered with several bird photos taken during the same day.  The result is staggering and the layered wall has so much depth and dimension that the beauty of the great outdoors truly enraptures you. 

Our fourth son also makes an appearance in the room because no one loves a Snow Day more than Charlie!  With his nose buried in the snow, he is the epitome of a Snow Day enthusiast. He is joined by a skiing foursome replete with cigarettes in hand, enjoying “Fresh Air and Good Company” along with our “deer” friend who found his way into our fireplace. 

Numerous other “snow” references abound in the room, filling glasses, bowls, jars and our imaginations with sparkling, glistening flakes.

Everyone loves a Snow Day....Even the mouse!

With mugs and plates from our favorite Stamford CT neighbor Juliska, we are ready to weather any storm.

And the furnishings, a sensory delight to both eyes as well as touch, all available in our gallery, covered in an array of plush fabrics including mohair, corduroy, faux fur, lace and a splash of orange velvet. Cerused wood along side dreamy French polished as well as lacquered pieces and a supremely phenomenal Norman Mercer Lucite sculpture entitled Stelladron I.

 

 

Sitting on a beautiful rug, hand knotted in Tibet courtesy of Kooches, Snow Day reigns supreme!

If you are in the NYC area, please stop by and become inspired while helping to raise funds for Komen for the Cure.  Housed in a magnificent limestone mansion located a 2 E. 63rd Street, Holiday House offers the perfect respite for a busy holiday shopping or work day. Now through December 15th.www.holidayhousenyc.com

And, please remember our Pretty in Pink 4 Life Mid Century Bench is still available with ALL proceeds of its sale going to Komen CT.  It can be seen in the Rizzoli shop at Holiday House.

New Beginning: A Slowhome Lifestyle Inside and Out

As I emerge from the beauty, self-evaluation and repentance of the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, I am struck by the difficulty of the task that lies ahead of me and the enormity of work I have to do…on myself.  But like with many other aspects of life, this transformation is not simply a one-shot deal or quick fix, but rather a slow, deliberate attempt to make the necessary changes.

As we all learned in Psych 101, the first step in making any real change is the acknowledgment of the changes we need to make.  Although I am acutely aware of some of my shortcomings, self-reflection can be somewhat overwhelming; like looking at our reflection in a magnifying mirror under the harsh florescent lighting of a hotel bathroom.   Seeing things in this glaring light makes it more difficult to strike the appropriate balance and focus on our whole being.  The little blemishes in our persona seem exaggerated and we become so transfixed on looking at our shortcomings we neglect to acknowledge our accomplishments.

So how do we go about an inner redesign?  How do we untangle the intricate web we’ve spun? 

Tangled web

Well, I’ve decided to take a slow- home approach to my inner being, much the same as Irwin and I have adopted in our country lifestyle.  Rather than embarking on an extreme make-over, which would be much like throwing out the baby with the bathwater, or doing a home tear-down when only one room needs attention.  I am approaching my inner décor redesign slowly, with forethought and a definite plan. Segmenting that image I see in the mirror and tackling one section, “one room” at a time. 

\

Segmenting the mirror

this particular one is our 20th century wagon wheel Mirror

 

I will make small changes, re-purposing where possible, then stepping back and evaluating before moving forward. While I know that any change can be difficult, I also know that less is often more and in order to create a sustainable inner core, I must let go of much of the clutter that I’ve accumulated over the past year. 

 

Much like the serenity prayer, my goal is to “accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference."  While I know there may be setbacks along the way, my direction will remain constant-moving forward slowly and deliberately learning and growing along the way.

Serenity

Wishing all of you a wonderful year filled with health, happiness & prosperity!

 

 

As the moon set I set the alarm for two am, yet by midnight I was still awake.  I could not shake the events of the past few days and I could not get this phrase out of my head: “More being, less doing.”

 

The moon setting over "our" mountain

 

It is no secret that we love our life in the country. We have managed to rebuild a slow home that we have furnished with vintage and mid century pieces and live an intentionally slower life that we fully embrace.  We even held off bringing internet into our home for over ten years, fearing that it might inhibit the quality of life we enjoy here.  I write about it all the time, the slower pace, the thoughtful lifestyle, paying attention to the little things, making memories, taking the time to smell thethe rebirth of spring, but never had the importance of this lifestyle become clearer to me than this past week.

I attended the memorial service of a friend’s sibling, an extraordinary individual who passed away too soon. Although the situation was tragic, the celebration of his being was stunning and I walked away wishing I had known him in life. His wife’s words resonated in my head as she reflected upon their life together, wishing that there were “more being and less doing”.

More Bee-ing

 

So simply stated, it was profound: More being, less doing. Which brings me back to Friday night.  Setting the alarm and getting up at 2am would probably have not been a priority two or three years ago.  I would have probably set the alarm with good intentions and then shut if off and gone back to sleep.  I now know better.  Given the finite amount of time we are privileged to be here and how quickly it flutters by, every day & every experience is a gift to be savored. The time spent “being” is why we do all the ”doing” in the first place.

Life Flutters by

 

Although I know that inherently, and write as well as talk about it, I often forget to do it.  My children remind me of this all the time and to be honest, I am not always the best at practicing what I preach, but I am going to try each and every day as I chant my new mantra: More being, less doing.

So, Irwin and I took a blanket outdoors after 2am and lay under several more as we faced the Northern sky awaiting a five thousand year old event that did not disappoint.  We spent over three hours gazing at the meteor shower and the enormity of the heavens; just being, not doing.

Perseid Meteor Shower

 

Batter Up: Just Another Wednesday Night in the Country

Last week I read a post by my good friend, interior designer Jonathan Legate and it reminded me of an experience I had written about two years ago.  In keeping with sharing the good bad & hysterical experiences of country living, I decided to go back and edit this never before published piece and share it with all of you. Enjoy!

 

Talk about confronting phobias head on.  Tonight I came face to face with the granddaddy of all of my phobias, BATS. And I’m not talking about the kind that A- Rod swings.  I am talking about the Titans of Transylvania.  Those webbed- winged, blood-sucking vampire vermin of the night.

 

A transylvanian Titan

 

Anyone who knows me knows that despite being an avid nature lover, I loathe having anything fly over my head.  As far back as I can remember, I had been petrified of low flying birds.  When my grandmother let my budgie, Billy Boy, out of his cage for his daily exercise, I ran out of the room screaming.  Over the years, I have attempted to analyze the reason for this phobia but have not been able to come up with anything concrete.  I often wonder if, as an infant, I was traumatized by a bird mobile hanging over my crib, or could it possibly be the flying spoons of soft-boiled eggs that my grandmother piloted from the bowl to my mouth each morning that set this irrational fear in motion.   Perhaps it is simply because I spent the first twenty years of my life living directly under the Kennedy Airport flight patterns; whatever the reason, I am petrified of all low flying creatures especially ghoulish, rabid mosquito slurpers.  

 

just like my billy boy

 

My Fright Night began quite normally enough.  With Irwin in the city and my chores complete, I settled down in front of my laptop, icy cold cocktail in hand and prepared to begin my first attempt at serious writing.  Before I was able to type my first word, I saw something from the corner of my eye that sent a chill down my spine.  I shook my head, trying to clear the cobwebs of the cocktail when it appeared again.  It was big and black with the wingspan of a stealth bomber and it was traveling through the den at what seemed like Mach 1 speed.  Shockingly, just as I was about to begin writing a bat-tale, a new one was unfolding right before my somewhat bloodshot eyes.  Being known to occasionally overreact, it should come as no surprise that I immediately began to freak out.  I catapulted myself off the couch and barely missed the low farmhouse ceiling as a high-pitched shrill escaped my lips.  I frightened myself and can only imagine what it did to the not-so little fella, who was blinded by all the lights on around the house. Thankful that my screams were not confused with a bat mating call, I did what any bat-o-phobic person would do; I began to rant and cry, calling for help from Charlie, our laid-back, Flat Coated Retriever mix.  Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, he offered no support, so I immediately pulled up the hood of my sweatshirt and ran to higher ground. 

A lovely summer evening....at bat-o'clock

 

 


 Icy Cocktail


Our master suite is located on the newer side of the house directly above the great room.  It is separated from the staircase vestibule by a pair of French doors, installed in classic “local country” manner: upside down and accordingly, they do not close properly.   Being a quick witted adaptive Manhattan native, I grabbed a small towel and tied it around the handles to attempt to secure them.  Actually, I am sure there were about a gazillion other choices that would have been more effective, but it was the best I could come up with in my semi- catatonic state. 


secured french doors


All the lights were on and my not so adorable, winged friend was charging the French doors like a “ bat out of hell” as I began to hyperventilate and mumble to myself.  He seemed to be trying to leave through the porch screen door located at the bottom of the stairs and being the naturist I am, I knew that bats can fit through openings as small as an eighth of an inch so I began to pray that this winged creature of the night would exit stage left through a gap on the side of the screen door.  But, that wish was not realized and my nemesis continued to swoop and fly aimlessly, crashing into walls, doors and windows. 

 

 

 

escape route below

As I stood, peering out from my temporary safe haven I realized that, in my haste to escape, I had taken nothing with me; not my cocktail, not my computer, and most importantly, not even a phone. I was now sobbing uncontrollably and screaming “ I don’t even have a phone with me, I don’t even have a phone”, as the enormity of my dilemma set in.  Irwin, who had always come to my aid during  “bat-ventures”, was miles away in NYC and I was left with Charlie to deal with the situation.  And what a situation it was.  While I was sobbing, Count Batula was storming the palace.

 

The Count and I had one thing in common; his exit was paramount to both of us. As he repeatedly attempted to escape, I became his biggest fan, cheering him on and offering words of encouragement.  Unfortunately his sonar must have been on the blink because he was just not able to find an escape route and resumed his erratic flight pattern.

 

As I stood trembling behind the French doors, my flying nemesis took off in search of an alternate egress, leaving me a window of opportunity.  Understanding that I had little choice, I wrapped my hooded self in a towel for extra protection and opened the French doors (not a difficult task considering the fact that they don’t actually close).  With the speed of a jaguar- okay, so maybe it was more like a highly caffeinated tortoise, I ran back to the den and retrieved a phone, my drink and my laptop and retreated once again to my tower.  I took a couple of swigs of my lukewarm cocktail and waited for the pseudo-courage of the vodka to set in.

 

 

That's me...the speedy tortoise

 

After what seemed to be a millennium, the bat no longer appeared in the vestibule and I hoped that, like that infamous season of Dallas, it had all been a terrible dream.  Armed with my trusty phone, I called my husband and sobbing uncontrollably, filled him in on my predicament.  In truth, I knew that he could not help me, but I had to talk to someone and Charlie was just not interested.  In fact, despite my insane behavior, he was sprawled across my bed, dozing.   

 

 

Sound asleep

 

Irwin confirmed what I already knew.  I was on my own with no safety net.  I was forced to confront one of my greatest fears head on and despite my somewhat unstable emotional state, I was enveloped by a sense of inner calmness.  I closed the vestibule light, took another sip of my cocktail and began to write this tale.  In truth, I knew that after turning off the light, it was only a matter of time before the bat resumed his pursuit of freedom and although I was still shrouded in panic… and a bathroom towel, I also knew that I could not sleep until I set my airborne enemy free. 

 

As I continued to write, I heard a gentle knock on the wall and knew that “Darth Vader” had returned.  I attempted to quell my rising panic with another swig of vodka as I pondered my next step. Feeling as fearless as a marine, I formulated plan of action.   I would brave the elements, run down the stairs and attempt to release him by holding open the screen door on the porch.  At the time, it seemed like a simple solution.  If ‘Bat-zilla” saw the open screen door, he would simply leave- end of problem.

 

I barricaded Charlie in my bedroom and flew down the stairs.  I flung open the screen door and held it from behind as any courteous doorman would.  I waited and waited as my worthy opponent continued to fly around the great room and vestibule performing feats any Blue Angel would be proud of.  Unfortunately, he came nowhere near the door.  As I stood, paralyzed in the cloak of darkness, a frightening thought occurred to me: I might actually be inviting more bats to enter rather than assisting the departure of this single bat.  Despite this, I continued my bat-watch.  When I realized that there were no bat sightings for over forty-five minutes, I closed the screen door and did something I would not have believed possible an hour before.  I relinquished the role of victim and in its place, assumed the role of hunter in pursuit of prey.  Allowing myself no time to reconsider, I grabbed a flashlight from the porch and mounted an expedition both in and around the house, shining the light into the darkest recesses, looking for my unwelcome guest. Although life altering, the unsuccessful mission brought me back, once again, to my screen door post, prey-less.  Hunter or not, I was really tired and just wanted this adventure to come to an end.   As if hearing my prayer, Sir “Bat-a-lot” reappeared and resumed his air show.  Then, as suddenly as he reappeared- he was gone again and all was quiet on the screen door front.  I was baffled because he had been at the top of the stairs near those shoddily installed French doors just a moment before.  Where could he have possibly gone?  A quick walk up the stairs answered my question.  My very own flying “Fear Factor” was now on the other side of the French doors swooping over Charlie as he napped on the bed.  

 
Blue Angels could learn a thing or two from my little winged angel

My sense of calm immediately dissipated as I envisioned Charlie being attacked by the bat. I threw open the French doors and shrieked at Charlie who followed me down the stairs and out the screen door.  Now we were both on the porch holding the door open waiting for our uninvited guest to leave.  It was like “déjà vu all over again” and although I can’t speak for Charlie, my patience was running thin and I was rapidly running out of steam.  It was now after one a.m. and I had been dealing with this situation for over four hours.  I knew I could not leave the perpetrator in the house but had no idea how to evict him.   I am not a quitter by nature but enough was enough.  I was ready to give up, take Charlie and sleep in the car. It was a small convertible car – but it was also a bat- free car.  Anything had to have been better than this “Cat and Bat” chase.

 

 It was just at that moment, a moment of complete and utter desperation, when it dawned on me.  If The Count was not going to come to me, I was going to go to him. I went back up the stairs to watch the latest flight exhibition when I noticed “Bat Masterson” trying to escape from my room by climbing on the open window screens.  I considered closing the window, trapping him between the screen and the window but could not bring myself to get that close.  What if he was startled and flew right at me?  Who would be there to call 911 when I started foaming at the mouth?  Although like the Cowardly Lion, I too had found courage, I was not totally bonkers: I was not about to go “Rambo”.   Instead, I immediately knocked out the screen from the window closest to the door, closed the door and waited.  Finally, miracle of miracles,  “Bat-dini” made his escape and flew out the open window.  I instantly ran in and closed it and was immediately flooded with relief and awash with sheer joy. 

 

I was absolutely giddy.  I wanted to call everyone and anyone I knew and tell them that I had indeed completed my “Mission Impossible”.  I yearned to shout it from the rooftop, to write it across the sky.  I had beaten my foe.  I conquered what I thought was an insurmountable fear.  I outwitted my blind friend and won the battle.   Unfortunately, it was just before two in the morning and most of the world was sound asleep so….I climbed into bed with Charlie, who had resumed his snoring, and recounted my tale to….my laptop. Just another Wednesday night in the country.

 

The Sweet Smell of...Roses

I can’t help myself.  When springtime explodes in the country and we are on the cusp of summer my heart literally skips a beat.  When hummingbirds visit while I have my morning coffee on the porch and fireflies light up the night time sky like fireworks, I am in heaven because I know that this is the season when we become more than transient guests in our own home.  This season, however fleeting, is the one that literally forces us to stop whatever we are doing and smell the roses.

While Irwin and I try to get away for at least one night a week during the year and spend part of the winter holidays in the country with the family, it is not quite the same as the late spring and summer when we afford ourselves the luxury of spending considerable blocks of time in our rural retreat.

And…what better way to welcome us for the season than to be greeted upon arrival on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend by a sweet little bird finally building the nest I had been pining for since the start of spring; the nest that has been there every spring/summer since we bought the house, the nest I was so disappointed not to see on Mother’s Day.

 

The perfect building project began on Friday-moved in on Sunday

 

It is part of my ritual.  When I arrive at the house, I walk around and examine the changes in our plantings and check on our seasonal guests including the Robin’s nest in the gutter and the other in our beloved Dogwood.  Imagine my utter surprise and sheer glee when I saw the first specks of mud on the porch roof. At that moment I exhaled, knowing that all was right in our little piece of the universe.

We all know that is so easy to get caught up in the complexity of daily living and lose sight of the time we need to spend enjoying the beauty we are surrounded by.  But acknowledging it and doing something about it are two incredibly different things.  Just the other day, I had that very discussion on Twitter with two good Twitter friends, @tandemantiques and @jonathanlegate.  We all acknowledged the fact that because summer is fleeting, we must take time to “smell the roses”, a priority that we often overlook.  I said that I needed to enjoy EVERY moment of this precious season and take it one day at a time.  Hilary (@andemantiques) agreed adding “It's true - I know that I sometimes squander my now because I'm focused/worried about down the road”, something we are all guilty of and Jonathan added: I’m “always thinking of the future but taking time to enjoy the present while respecting the past.”   A truly beautiful statement that says it all and is something we should all allow ourselves to do.

So, here is to summer and the beauty it reveals to us everyday.  Let’s all make a commitment now to stop and enjoy "the sweet smell of... roses” this season before it is just a memory.

Some of "the roses" we have stopped to smell this season so far: Enjoy!

Superb Spirea

 

 

colossal Catnip

 

Color-fusion

 

 

relaxing Goldfinches

 

A statuesque Iris

 

 Breathtaking Day Lilies

 

A humble bumble bee

 

The beauty of another sunset

 

The Golden glow of evening's approach

 

 

The warmth of a tea light

 

Only nature's song can be heard

 

the dance of the flames

 

Waxed beauty

 

 

Our mentor Charlie, who inspires us everyday & reminds us of how sweet the roses can be!

 

 

 

Last Wednesday night we had the pleasure of premiering Irwin’s interpretation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s at Spring Awakening, a Broadway inspired Tabletop Show to benefit the Summer Theatre of New Canaan.  Charles Pavarini III and Randall Tarasuk assembled an amazing collection of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey designers who displayed settings that rivaled any Broadway opening night.  We were humbled and honored to be included in such an auspicious group.

Immediately upon entering the spacious room at Le Beau Chateau, Irwin knew exactly what he wanted to do.  The space and the show (a musical that never made it past previews in 1966) buoyed his imagination and the magnificent Stroheim fabric became the inspiration and the foundation of the scene he began to build.   Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a very NYC story; elegant and sophisticated, with a sense of humor that Irwin made sure to reflect in his interpretation.

So please, make yourselves comfortable and turn off all cell phones as we raise the curtain on Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The scene begins with George Ratkai’s oil on canvas entitled Man & Woman symbolizing Holly & “Fred” the main characters of the show, who in reality, need no names.  Below them is an Edward Wormely for Dunbar Bench and a Lucite and chrome cigarette table

They find themselves on Fifty Seventh Street, just around the corner from Fifth Avenue where they are greeted by a Frederick Weinberg horse cart offering up bubbly along with the sweet smell of spring’s flowers in Central Park.

The MCM floor lamp graces a custom handmade shade reminiscent of a Hepburn chapeau.

The beauty of NYC surrounds them and Norman Mercer’s incredible Lucite sculptures atop the mirrored pedestals represent New York’s majestic skyline reflected magnificently by our scrolled mirrors.

 

 

The massive Tiffany doors stand erect, beautifully built and faux finished by our wonderfully talented friend Fabrizio, of F & F Faux Finish Painting and are accented by our brilliant glass rod sconces placed strategically as handles.

The Baughman Love Chair is covered in hot pink and is …well, it just is and does not require any further commentary; you can just let your imagination go wild.  It is marvelously comfortable covered with splendid pillows, a copy of the work and a vintage piece of Marcy Feld Jewelry.  It is paired with a white Sculptura floor lamp and the "Atomic Scientist" lithograph by John Brunsdon, along with a Pace end table.

The inspiration for the setting, the striking Stroheim fabric covers the unique barstools which Irwin has re-sculpted to mimic the shape of a woman’s body and appear as incarnations of Holly sans the sunglasses: The peaked corners are our homage to Cat.

The “Tiffany” table is our custom designed MCM inspired piece that Tiffany’s purchased several of for the fifth Avenue store and is flanked by our sexy Grosfeld House chairs covered in dazzling Donghia fabric.  The entire scene is set upon the exquisite Yardo Silk Rug courtesy of Kooches.

And the tabletop?

It is brimming with painstaking details from the layered Juliska “fountain” topped with our little MCM rooster to the coffee bean filled cups.  Breakfast treats, including Tiffany box inspired petit fours adorn this magnificent mercury mirrored table with baguette edges and iron base.

 The table, trimmed with Tiffany blue ribbon, is set with glorious Juliska crystal and our personal Bernardaud Limoges china designed by Josef Hoffmann.  The cereal bowls are filled with pewter coco puffs and Juliska napkin encircled by our “Engaging” napkin rings designed by Irwin. 

 The details are unending and may require several viewings so please feel free to enjoy the visual feast and remember no flash photography is allowed during the performance.

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