Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Whimsical, Bohemian Cottage Full of Color

Exciting news: We're shopping for a new house! Imagine me doing jazz hands, because that's how I feel. At this point we're just looking online to gather information about neighborhoods and prices, but it's a start. We're seeing freshly renovated cookie-cutter dream homes, charming vintage bungalows, derelict foreclosures, and everything in between. 

But 245 Cherokee Road is a one of a kind gem. It's a large Tudor, built in 1928. It boasts elaborate woodwork and trim, arched doorways, hardwood floors, a beautiful screened porch, and the most unique paint colors I've ever seen. It's certainly not for everyone, and I couldn't live with these colors every day, but it has a magical quality to it. These colors shouldn't work. But somehow, they do. It reminds me of a Venetian carnival, a Moroccan kasbah, fairy tales, and Mrs. Frizzle from The Magic Schoolbus.

This is the one room I'm certain I could happily live with every day. Isn't it beautiful?
If this house was a person, I'd want to be friends with her. Heck, I wish one of my friends would buy this place so I could visit often. What do you think of it?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Black Amethyst Glass: "Think of what starlight And lamplight would lack Diamonds and fireflies If they couldn’t lean against Black..." *

What's your favorite color for glassware? Little Green Notebook's post about blue French opaline glass was pretty, but bright pastel colors just aren't my thing. Jadeite glass is beautiful, and of course I like the creamy, opaque look of milk glass, but my new favorite is black amethyst glass. Have you ever seen it? It's a very, very dark purple that looks black unless light shines through it; you can see a great example of that here. It's moody and mysterious, and I like that.

Black Amethyst Lidded Candy Dish sold by 22BayRoad on etsy
Black Amethyst Compote sold by catiques on etsy
Black Fenton glass candle holders sold by KelleysKottage on etsy
My milk glass collection is looking a bit too sweet and tepid for my taste, and I'd like to punch it up with a few black amethyst pieces and perhaps something shiny, like a pair of silver candlesticks. Coco Chanel said, "“Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony,” and I'm making this my styling mantra. I love strong contrasts, so I like the way black amethyst glass stands our against these pale backgrounds. What do you think of it?

* These beautiful lines are from Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O'Neill.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pear and Blue Cheese Soup is Rich and Sweet (Just Like Your Ideal Boyfriend)*

Fun fact: I love gritty pears and pungent cheese. So I was practically salivating when I found a recipe for Pear and Gorgonzola Soup in the new cookbook Soup Night: Recipes for Creating Community Around a Pot of Soup by Maggie Stuckey. I'm happy to report that this recipe is easy to make and just as delicious as it sounds. Even Keith, who usually eats like a bird, had a second helping. And aside from the pears and cheese, you probably have all the ingredients at home:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 pears, cored and chopped
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth 
6 oz. blue cheese such as Gorgonzola or Roquefort
1/2 tsp paprika
1-1/2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
chopped nuts, for garnish

The copyright police might turn me into stone or steal my firstborn child if I post the entire recipe, so pick up a copy of Soup Night: Recipes for Creating Community Around a Pot of Soup (hint: Your library might have it!), and put some delicious fall pears to good use.

*  You know I'm kidding about the "rich" part. I'd rather have smart and sweet!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Black, White, and Botanical All Over: Wild About Vintage Natural History Prints

It's no secret that I like antique botanical illustrations. So when I was shopping for a new iPhone cover, I was excited to see quite a few printed with this "Humble-bee" image. It's from The Naturalist's Library, a forty-volume set Natural History set edited by William Jardine and illustrated and published by William Home Lizars.

I first became aware of Lizars' work because I occasionally see the original plates from the book for sale on One King's Lane. I love the distinctive look of these illustrations, with the subjects standing out in vivid color against detailed black and white backgrounds.When the images are gently edited and given pristine white backgrounds, they look surprisingly modern. And due to the age of these works, they're in the public domain and all over etsy. Unfortunately, the etsy sellers often don't label the items with easily searchable terms, like "Lizars" or" William Jardin." But a persistent shopper with a penchant for natural history prints can find them.

The sunbathing fish crack me up.
"I was drawn before Poe wrote 'The Raven.'"
"No swimming in the deep end, Junior."
"Jen can't think of a caption for me."
More sunbathing fish:"Look, I got some color!"
"Acutally, I say none of those things."
"Can you guess which one of us used to be ugly?"
"Want to see my Miley Cyrus face?"
"I'm prettier than you."
Do you like what you see? Do you want to read more?

  • To read about the science of natural history in the 19th century, Carl Linnaeus and his classification system, and to see plates from The Naturalist's Library, visit the University of Otago's beautiful page devoted to all these topics. It's even organized into neat, pretty "Cabinets." 
  • For a good biograpy of William Home Lizars and a bounty of butterfly prints, visit CTG Publishing
  • For beautiful, cleanly edited versions of natural history plates, visit Restored Prints.
  • To purchase an original bookplate from The Naturalist's Library, visit Cathy's Antique Prints on etsy. Right now Cathy is offering 50% off orders of $25.00 or more with the code SAVEBIG50, so you can buy one for yourself and one to give as a Christmas present!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Joy Merryman's Vintage Inspired Designs for Modern Gadgets (and Many Other Things)

Big news: Last week I finally joined the other denizens of the 21st century: I got my first smartphone! I went from a long-discontinued LG Cosmos to an iPhone 5S. I feel like I went from flying a kite to manning a rocketship, and I love it. For starters, I'm finally on Instagram! And secondly, I had the pleasure of shopping for a new phone case. Have you seen the JoyMerrymanStore on etsy? It's full of the most beautiful things, with vintage imagery re-imagined in modern colors. These are a few of my favorites. Can you guess which one I bought?

Bumblebee Botanical iPhone Case. I believe this image is an engraving from The Naturalist's Library by William Home Lizars.
Woodland Rabbit iPhone Case
Custom Vintage Monogram iPhone Case.  Ms. Merryman designs custom monograms in the colors of your choosing. Fancy!
Vintage Floral ihone Case
Apothecary iPhone Case
If you like her work, but you're not in the market for a new gadget case, take heart: You can also purchase her designs on water bottles, mugs, stationery, tote bags, and journals in her etsy shop. If you'd rather buy t-shirts, aprons, pillows, mouse pads, dry erase boards, mugs, magnets, coasters, candy jars, place mats, or even flip-flops with her designs, you can find them in her Zazzle shop. This dart board, inspired by a compass rose, is possibly the best item in the shop. I like it because it's pretty, and Keith likes it because, as he says, "I'd play the crap out of that dart board!" Hmm, that might be going on his Christmas list.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Special Bottle Openers For the Classiest Bar Carts. Or, Mundane Objects that Aren't.

Robert Louis Stevenson said, "Wine is bottled poetry." In that case, how would you open your book of verse? I'd choose one of these whimsical silver bottle openers!* Aren't they pretty? A few nights ago, I realized I don't have a properly functioning bottle opener. I have a thing pretending to be a bottle opener, but if you use it, you'll see that it's really a useless piece of junk taking up space in a drawer. So I'm not being frivolous. I really need a one of these, y'all!

Figural Bottle Openers

I go crazy over typical household objects made to look like much prettier things.** Bottle openers are fine, but bottle openers that look like skulls, mermaids and tortoises are clearly better. Which one is your favorite? I can't decide between the key, the feather, and the skull. 

And can you guess which of these is a très cher Oscar de la Renta piece that costs $95.00 at Bloomingdale's?

* Technically, wine requires a corkscrew, not a bottle opener. But the quotes about beer aren't nearly as classy!

** Let's not even talk about that one week when I went temporarily insane for figural soup tureens and spent hours ogling them online, okay? That was kind of weird.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book Review: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

stained glass photographed by davidhinchendesign on etsy
The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson took my library by storm last year. One of my colleagues read it and told another person about it, who told another person, who told a library patron, and soon everyone was rolling their eyes to the sky and gushing, "It's so amazing!"

It's not that I didn't believe them--really, my colleagues have excellent taste--but since everyone wanted it, the hold list was too darn long! So I waited until the fuss died down and began reading the series in August. I finished it last month while we were on our honeymoon, and agree: It's so amazing.

Aside: Yes, I'm a crazy woman who cannot stop reading. Reading must happen, even while honeymooning! I was all, "Honey, let's go to the beach. Pleeeeeeease?" (So I can lay in the sunshine sipping fancy cocktails and reading books for hours.) But if that's crazy, I don't want to be sane!

Mistborn is wonderful because it's completely unlike any other fantasy novel I've read: It's a fantasy novel for people who would rather be reading about a jewel heist. No, really! As much as I love fantasy, I've grown used to the convention that the hero must (imagine a majestic trumpet flourish) go on a quest and (imagine an ominously booming timpani) face his fears to rid the world of evil. But in Mistborn, the hero went on a quest a thousand years ago--and failed. Evil won, and this is the story of what happened later.

The world has been divided into nobles and peasants who live like slaves. Among those peasants, a band of thieves is brought together by the charismatic Kelsier. Their goal? To pull off the longest con of all: Rallying the peasants, creating a distraction, eliminating the despotic and immortal Lord Ruler, and stealing his wealth. 

Kelsier drafts Vin, a paranoid orphan who has spent her life on the fringes of organized crime, because he can see that she has powers she doesn't understand. Vin is Mistborn, and she can use metal to break the laws of physics, push on people's thoughts, and see a few moments into the future--among other things. If she can learn to trust the rest of the group, of course.

I don't want to say too much, but this series has it all: Believable, funny, vulnerable characters, an alchemy-based magic system unlike any other I've seen, and a complex world with fully-developed cultures, politics, slang, and a peculiar fixation on stained glass (Hence the image I chose for today's post). Just when you think you know what's happening, it will surprise you--I promise. And then you'll want to read it all over again.