Thursday, July 31, 2014

Everything in it's proper place

Old family recipe
My mother felt that one of
the things that separated us
from the beasts was setting
a proper table. Sadly very
few except I seem to share
Ethel's orientation. It's more
than surprising how few are
able to set a table correctly.
It may be a lost art but tell
me, what's the big deal? It's
all quite simple. And once
you know the rules, virtually
fool proof! What's wrong?
On your mark, get set, go
My compulsion with china and
crystal is fairly well known. For
the first time my collections are
under one roof. All I do is mix
and match the goodies that I've
assembled. Given their scope my
options are endless! Recently
"A" asked that I photograph my
tables and share them. Following
are a sampling from the past few
weeks. While busy, we always try
to find the time to dine in style.
So please, BE OUR GUEST!

This table was set for
"T's" birthday.
It was the last formal dinner
at our condo.
Soon everything
was packed and out!

Our first dinner at
The Passion Pit.
We dined in the Sun Room
given the dining room
was off limits until
"T's" mural was completed.

This is a very bad shot
of the first meal Frank's parents
enjoyed at our new home.
Note the construction barrier still in place.
Also, watch for a
repeat performance
of some of these elements
at a dinner to come...

While "T" was here for almost a month,
I treasured our morning coffee tawlk.
Little makes me happier
except maybe...
 my antique blue bird breakfast set.
The milk glass goblets
are in homage to Miss "T."

The first dinner
ever served in our new dining room.
We toasted "T's" talent,
and our new mural!

The next evening
we dined off placemats.
This is my favorite china,
Imperial D'or
by Copeland Spode.

One might think
I've got a bad case of the blues.
Actually I love antique blue transfer ware
and cobalt glass.
What better way to wake up
than to a kitchen breakfast?
Moooooove over!

Frank's cousin "CL" and family
visited from California.
While in town, we celebrated her birthday.
The first guests
to dine in our dining room!

Uncle "T"
also had a birthday.
So, we celebrated a la rouge.
I wonder if anybody
out there get's the connection?

Our first major feast
in honor of Uncle "E" and Cousin "K's"
visit from Oregon. 
I adore the dark green Wedgwood majolica plates!
Look familiar?

I shot this as a shepherd's pie
bubbled in the oven.
Then suddenly,
there was a knock on the back door.
There were our
our dear friends from San Francisco - 
"M" and "R"!
Soon this table
was set for four.

when are you coming
to dinner?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Can you smell that?
Many years ago I decided to give
up fragrance. After dousing myself
daily in Halston Z14 or  Guerlain
Extra Dry, suddenly I found scent
intrusive. It's not that I didn't like
the smell,  I just didn't like being
smelly all the time. So I went cold
turkey and honestly haven't worn
cologne or after shave since! My
sans scent credo transcends every
aspect of my life. From detergent
to deodorant, if the label says it's
"fragrance free" - I'm in!
Scent of a woman
One could assume I'd been abused by
some sort of a scent earlier in life. In
actuality, a whiff of certain perfumes
still conjures up pleasant memories.
As a boy, my Mother wore Shalimar
by Guerlain. Later on she shifted to
Montaigne by Caron. At that time it
was sold only in Europe so there was
little chance of anybody else wearing
it within her milieu. Just prior to her
death it was reformulated and then
introduced into the United States for
sale. Mother thought that STANK.
l'eau de Camelot
While I claim to abhor fragrance,
I actually prefer to strategically
integrate it into my life. Since a
tot I've adored Caswell Massey
soap. Specifically Jockey Club
which has been said to have been
JFK's favorite. Who wouldn't like
to smell like Jack? These creamy
slabs turn taking a shower into a
trip to paradise. Given my schnoz
has become quite sensitive, I smell
it's gentle fragrance all day. It's so
manly yet indulgent. Just like me!
Got milk?
Being of a gentleman of certain genetic
strain, my pale skin can be beyond dry.
Therefore I must daily douse with some
sort of body lotion. Most are sticky and
slimy. However there is one that leaves
me feeling moist yet unencumbered by
residue. Santa Maria de Novella Latte
per Il Corpo Uomo is a light and milky
concoction that literally disappears the
moment you put it on. Leaving behind
only it's spicy scent. Honestly if I could
take a bath in the stuff I would. However
at $85 a bottle, I must limit my dairy.
Light my fire
When it comes to my home, all bets
are off as relates to maintaining a
scent free environment. My problem
is that I adore Cire Trudon  candles -
specifically the Balmoral variety.
Anyone who has dined chez moi
knows I light a veritable bon fire
of these babies. Nothing brings a
smile to my face like catching a
faint hint of their scent as I scurry
by the morning after. While more
than decadent, they're absolutely
essential to my smelly survival.
In good taste
Many years ago I went through a
potpourri phase. My first love was
Claire Burke Original. While now
it only reminds me of country club
powder rooms, for a time it seemed
quite posh. Hence I filled my home
with bowls of dried rosebuds and
orange peel. I'll never forget a time
when I caught my friend nibbling on
the stuff. Apparently "N" thought it
was a botanical version of Chex mix
or an herbal breath refresher rather
than a chic home deodorant!

Sometimes things just stink. At one
point I went through a cigar phase.
Much like Michael Douglas in Wall
Street, aspiring gents of the late
eighties felt a stogie symbolized
success. Post dinner boys puffed
and pontificated. The morning
after, one awakened to the stench
of sour smoke. Then I discovered
vinegar. A soup coupe full of the
stuff left out overnight eliminated
any memories of whatever you had
blown the night before. Puff, puff.
No animals were harmed
In the end I guess I'm not a purist.
While I claim to abhor fabricated
fragrances, I adore them if used
strategically. There is a right time
and place for everything. Having
lived and worked in hi-rises, little
is worse than riding the elevator
with a lady doused in some cheap
perfume. What you love, others
may loathe. Life already stinks
enough without the addition of
somebody else's eau de cologne.
If you must spritz, please be gentle.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My summer "vacation"

Postcard from the edge
Is it me or has July flown by! This
summer of our discontent has been
anything but dull. I'm fully aware
that some of you have placed bets
on the length of my hiatus here in
rural Montana... So far the odds are
against you! That's because every
day in Lewistown with my beloved
provides ample opportunities to be
deliriously happy. For any still in
doubt, following are some random
ramblings about my summer thus
far. Sorry kids, all bets are OFF!
Open house
Much of my day is spent wandering in awe
around our new abode. In the quiet morning
hours when it's just "us", I commune with
my new space. I find myself falling deeply
in love with this place we now call home.
While I hesitate to use the word "perfect,"
it is in almost every way just that and more!
We recently hosted six descendants of the
original owner, G.W. Cook. As we toured
their ancestral home, all marveled at how
elegant, spacious, and modern this house
is for it's time and place. How fortunate
we are to be able to call it ours!
Spin class
At times I question when we'll truly ever
be fully moved in. Recently the basement
transformation was completed. We finally
installed our washer and dryer which has
been beyond a religious experience. Both
of us are loving our new fangled equipment
however I do miss the simplicity of limited
cycle selections. Now that we have access
to added storage, we're slowly redistributing
temporarily stored items that were taking up
valuable space on our first floor. Therefore
my only question is, will we be able to ever
find what we need once we put it away?
In vino veritas
Originally The Passion Pit had a
large basement cistern. Later on
it was converted into storage. At
two foot thick, it's concrete walls
make this the perfect wine cellar.
Slowly I've been ordering cases of
our favorite wine and booze. While
I miss Sherry Lehman on Park, we
have been able to purchase almost
anything we desire via our local
liquor store. Happily the owner is
a quick study and has enjoyed the
process of stocking our cellar.
Second hand smoke
This summer we've been in a
haze due to smoke from major
forest fires. Depending on how
the jet stream flows, the residue
from blazes from far off Canada
enshroud us. Some days it's hard
to see the mountains! The only
benefit is that said hinderance
limits keep he sun's rays from
heating us up. Fortunately as of
yet we've avoided local blazes.
Knock on wood, summer isn't
over yet! Watch for lightning!
Some like it hot
Beggars can't be choosers and as
long as anyone is willing to make
the trip out here we'll welcome
them with open arms.The warm
weather brings visitors to town.
This summer our social calendar
has been blocked out since June.
Whereas NOBODY ever seems
willing to brave our weather post
September! Wouldn't it be nice if
we could shift some of the crowd
to February? That way we could
give every guest our full attention.
Fat of the land
Since leaving the corporate world
for rural Montana, I've lost almost
thirty pounds. Most of that is due
to eliminating stress from my life.
While the physical task of moving
also helped, I've hit a plateau. With
another forty pounds to go, I've got
literally get a move on. A few steps
away is our rather elaborate trail
system. My challenge is to get my
act (and Frank's) together before the
midday sun starts to shine and give
me an excuse to sit on my fat ass!
Darwinian delight
Working in the fashion business one
needed a different ensemble for every
day of the month. Suddenly I find that
I no longer require thirty sport coats on
a seasonal basis. I wear one to church
each Sunday and whenever we dine
out on the town. Yet while I continue
to maintain my sartorial standards, the
fact is I don't need half of my clothing.
You know what they say, if you haven't
worn it for a year, you never will! Is it
time to clean out my closet or should
I wait until summer is over and out?

Monday, July 28, 2014


Under cover
Oddly enough, when you purchase
a residence, many often don't factor
in the cost of selecting and installing
proper window treatments. Living
in a hi-rise, concerns about giving
one's neighbors a show are often not
an issue. However moving down to
a lower plane suddenly makes life
a bit too intimate. Most of us prefer
to keep ours privates... private.  So
we embarked on the heady task of
covering up the scene of the crime.
And trust me... it almost killed us!!
Open a new window
This isn't my first time. I've lived in many
homes and therefore have learned to enjoy
the benefits of multiple window solutions.
In my first abode, we hung the requisite
Williamsburg swags and jabots. Later on
during my Mario Buatta phase, I puddled
my glazed pink chintz curtains. Over the
years since things have evolved to a more
tailored approach. Meaning we've had it
all from fitted shutters to roman shades to
venetian blinds to solar roller shades! Each
served their purpose and thankfully they
were already hung prior to our moving in.
Over the top
It's all about fashion. Dressing one's
windows is almost the same process
as building a wardrobe. Depending
on the venue, one may don a quite
different ensemble. It must be both
practical and appropriate. Layering
adds an element of luxury however
too much of a good thing is exactly
that... too much! There are a plethora
of options out there and as with most
decorative indulgences, simply sifting
through the mound can be more than
overwhelming. Too many choices!
Behind the scenes
When you have to drape or cover over eighty
windows, the task of simply chronicling one's
selections alone is daunting. That's why we're
keeping things easy with a window repertoire
for The Passion Pit. Many rooms will sport
wooden blinds fitted into the window frames.
Historically accurate, they'll control light,
air flow, and maintain privacy. In hot spots
such as our Sun Room, solar roller shades
will let the sun in while insuring we won't
get sun stroke. For a final flourish, we plan
to hang roman shades on the stair landing
and in our dining room. LESS IS MORE!
Do it yourself?
We're hanging curtains in only two key
rooms. Grey french pleated heavy linen
in the Master Bedroom and chocolate
brown raw silk in the Living Room. In
times past we've always hired experts
to measure and install our curtains. Not
here in the wild west! Instead I decided
to do it myself and then order it all from
Restoration Hardware. After spending
the equivalent of the purchase price of
a small vehicle, I was seriously nervous.
Hopefully I didn't miss measure or this
time it might be curtains for me!
Better safe than...
As we prepared to hang the hardware,
I worried that the curtains as ordered
might too short. Early that morning
Frank and I pulled out a panel and
climbed up the step ladder. Balancing
a curtain rod, various rings, plus heavy
Thai silk is not easy. Fortunately we
were able to successfully navigate the
positioning of said accoutrements. Even
more fortunate, I'd measured correctly!
Casement closed
As the sun sets, we will pull our new
curtains close on the final chapter of
the Passion Pit interior. While it took
a year and a half, our home is now a
home. And all of our careful planning
and preparation has finally paid off.
With few exceptions, everything has
turned out to be more than we ever
dreamed. We've learned a lot during
this process. Specifically that your
contractor and crew are the difference
between happiness and despair. We
couldn't have done it without them!


Sunday, July 27, 2014

7th Day Surprise - Hats Off!

Fashion comes and goes.

Just like the dinosaurs, some wardrobe staples become extinct.
For centuries hats topped off every ensemble.
One didn't leave the house without the perfect chapeau.
Blame it on Jackie Kennedy or hairspray but suddenly it simply stopped.
Let's take our hats off to hats.