November 23, 2014

Radio Silence

I am heading off to the UK on holiday, and I am not taking along my computer. The last time I went, I lugged my laptop along, and realized that it kept me chained to my real life. So I am only taking a tablet, and iPhone, neither of which is conducive to doing a lot of writing. So, over the next two weeks, you might check in for sporadic posts, which will mainly be images. You might also check my Instagram account, where I will be posting the majority of images.

For those of you who receive the blog via e-mail, I am going to try and set up an RSS feed, but I haven’t had much luck with that in the past, so I hope it works this time! I will know when you know, and there will be enough time before I leave to make some adjustments if necessary!

I will be back to the regular posting schedule of Monday, Wednesday and Friday beginning December 8th!

November 21, 2014

Pink Flamingos

Or Female Trouble, or Hairspray! That might give you an idea of the lecture I attended on Thursday night.IMG_5936

If you want to see John speak, he’s heading off on a 17 city tour next week for his annual Christmas show! In Baltimore you can find tickets at Sound Stage, here.IMG_5929 He is a great raconteur and weaves funny stories in and out of his lectures. His newest book, Carsick, tells about his adventures hitch-hiking across the USA last summer. IMG_5930

I was lucky enough have my picture taken with him and it will be framed and put in a place of pride!IMG_5933

Although I see John around town all of the time, it was a lot of fun to spend an evening listening to him reminisce!

November 18, 2014

What I Am Reading

I am a perpetual reader and I can hardly sit still without reading something, even the cereal box. So when I received the “Interiors” catalogues from the Sotheby’s Auction of Mrs. Paul Mellon for my birthday (thanks, STC!), that was reading material for hours and days.IMG_5913

I wrote about the collection here, but the catalogues just blow the Sotheby’s website out of the water, coming in at something over 1,000 pages – almost 400 in the smaller catalogue, and 600+ in the larger one. They must weigh about 15 lbs.!

One of my newish fun reads is the Town & Country’s on-line magazine. They’re always running fun, but short pieces and I just read a great one entitled How to Collect Things Without Going Overboard, wherein they reference Mrs. Mellon’s collections image

and the sheer size, scope and depth of them!image

Some of the other recent pieces have been 10 Things You Need To Buy When You're In France, What Black Tie Means in 2014 (some people should have read this before last Saturday’s party!), 8 Reasons We Love a Camelhair Coat and many more. They’re not earth-shaking or rocket science, but they are fun to read!

November 16, 2014

Night at the Museum

Over the weekend, we celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the opening of the Baltimore Museum of Art, with a gala party in the museum’s galleries. It was the most amazing party, and I am so lucky that I had an opportunity to attend the dinner and then the after-party. image

It’s highly unusual for a museum to allow food and drink in the galleries with so much valuable artwork, but the BMA made an exception for this “Party of the Century” and allowed a number of the galleries to become small dinner parties. Each gallery’s décor echoed something in the paintings – the cloths and the flowers were all coordinated.IMG_5821IMG_5823IMG_5824IMG_5830IMG_5832IMG_5839

The modern art galleries had more contemporary arrangements, featuring loads of orchids, tulips and peonies, while the classical galleries had arrangements which were more befitting of them. IMG_5843

The flowers were absolutely spectacular! We had a chance to walk around before the party really started, and get a good look at the tables and flowers. IMG_5835

I took a little bit of time to look at some of my favourite decorative art galleries, which continue to be one of the Museum’s highlights for me.IMG_5846IMG_5848IMG_5850

This is such an incredible example of a gallery wall done right! The Museum has pulled paintings out that haven’t been displayed for years, and it was fun to see what they’d chosen and how they were hung.IMG_5849

The dinner was terrific and I had two great dinner partners who kept me entertained through the evening. One of the fun pieces of dinner was the luscious dessert which was a raspberry chocolate bombe, decorated with a picture of the Museum.IMG_5862

The after-party started about two hours after the dinner and featured two things that fill me with dread – interpretive dancers and performance art. There’s a lot of that I don’t understand, and certainly don’t even pretend to understand, like this guy in toe shoes sprawled down the Museum’s front stairs, or any of the other characters. imageIMG_5865IMG_5866IMG_5886There seemed to be an inordinate amount of bubble and saran wrap used in their costumes.

My village came together to help me get ready for the party, especially after an early morning phone call from the hair stylist saying she was sick. A few frantic phone calls later scared up a local salon who could fit me in during the late afternoon. Dozens of hair pins and a half a gallon of hairspray later, my up-do finally held, complete with diamond brooch!IMG_5819

I lost an earring within five minutes of arriving, but it was a cheapie, so I just took the other one out and didn’t bother looking for the one I dropped. People weren’t as dressed up as I assumed they would be, given the occasion. If I had known that, I might not have expended the effort and energy to have pulled my outfit together. Oh well!IMG_5822IMG_5875

The party was lots of fun, I saw a lot of old and new friends, and best of all, the Museum’s got a fabulous new renovation! All in all, a great evening!IMG_5896

Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard to make this such a wonderful night!

November 13, 2014

Silvery Things

While I am in the UK, I plan on stocking up on one of my favourite things: bone-handled cutlery. I started collecting it years ago, when I’d find one piece here and another there, always knives. On the very rarest occasion, I’d find a fork, but not often. Martha Stewart started collecting this type of cutlery and sort of cornered the American market on it, and what pieces I did see, were way over priced.knives

Many of these are either butter knives or fruit knives, and if they’re highly decorated, they’re called fish knives. image

Sets like the one above are very rare in the US, but quite common in the UK. The handles are either French Ivory, which is a form of Bakelite, Ivorine, bone-effect or bone. The striations on the French Ivory are more regular than on bone or ivory. I have some of each. IMG_5628IMG_5634IMG_5640

You can find new pieces like these, but without the soul and character the old ones have. In fact, I found some similar-ish pieces at Target!

One one trip back to England, I thought I’d hunt for some spoons to go with the knives and forks, only to find they never made spoons. If you’ve been reading Pigtown*Design for a long time, you will know the story of one of my London friends having a set of spoons made for me.image You can read about the spoons here.

My friend Yonks and I are going to an auction in the Welsh countryside, and she assures me that there are a lot of old country-houses and farms in the area, so I am hoping that it means a lot of this silver! I would frequently find sets in cases, called caskets, which were in perfect condition and had rarely been used. image

What’s also interesting about these, is that while the blades and tines are EPNS (Electro-Plated Nickel Silver), the collars are actual silver, and therefore hallmarked, so you can tell the date of the pieces. image

I’ve sold nearly all of the pieces of this that I once had – seriously, I had more than 70 pieces of it when I moved back to the States – and thought I’d try and replenish my stocks in the UK. It will be easier to bring this back than a set of china! I still have a set of knives and forks that I use for my everyday silver and I love it.

Check my Etsy sidebar on the right to see when I am selling some of it!

November 11, 2014

It Takes a Village...

… to get me ready to go to the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Party of the Century!

In July, I wrote about the massive renovations and restorations happening at the Baltimore Museum of Art, here. I was asked to be on the party planning committee and jumped at the chance to celebrate that, and the Museum’s 100th Anniversary this year.

There are actually two parties, both on the same night. First is a gala dinner for all of the major donors to the Museum’s restoration funds, and then there’s a fun after-party with music and dancing. I was lucky enough to be invited to the dinner, and of course, I will also go for the dancing!

That left me with a quandary as to what to wear that would be glamorous, but comfortable enough to go from cocktails at 6:00 to dinner at 7:30 to dancing at 9:30! If you’re like me, I have to be comfortable or else I get all squirmy!


I decided to create a Pinterest Page where I could pin all of the ideas I had and finally came up with an outfit, with a little lot of help from my friends. 


To start with the top, I had a piece from last year that I like – a cashmere boat neck sweater with a vintage mink collar. It’s comfortable, and fits beautifully.


On to the skirt. Little Augury, aka blogger Patricia Gaye Tapp, had pinned a number of vintage Balenciaga designs, and I found one which I thought would work, with a little tweaking. I wasn’t wild about the jacket, especially with its peplum ruffle, but I loved the way the skirt was designed, with a demi-train.


I knew I’d never find anything like this, but then I remembered one of my neighbours is a professional seamstress. After a consultation with her, she said that she could make the skirt, and we began the process. Using the mink from the top, we picked out a heavy Armani silk taffeta, in a deep brown/black moiré. I had several fittings and we agreed on things like the length, which I didn’t want to trail after me, especially with the crowd for dinner and dancing. I had visions of a Marx Brothers type skit – someone steps on the train and I keep walking , the skirt rips and I end up in my knickers!


Next up was my friend Andrea, the owner of Bosom Buddy Bags. I picked out a gorgeous evening bag at her sale a few weeks ago. It’s the perfect size, just big enough to hold my phone, some lippie and a credit card.



She also helped with the shoe situation. Since I had the stress fracture in my knee two years ago, I’ve found it impossible to wear heels. And since the party’s going to be long, and the floors are marble, I knew I had to have comfortable shoes. So I found a pair of quilted Chanel-style ballet flats, with lots of cushioning, and Andrea augmented them with satin ribbon to match.

I am having my hair and make-up done, and also getting a manicure, so by
I might actually be ready to party!

Thanks to the village of friends who invited me to the party and helped me get ready! I couldn't have done it without you!


PS: SO sorry for the wonky formatting. I was having major issues uploading, so had to write the post in the blogger editor, which is ghastly!

November 9, 2014

A Country Garden: After the Frost

We had our first killing frost of the season over the weekend, and I took the opportunity to do a final chapter in my series on a country garden. You can see the previous posts at the end of August, at the height of summer, and at the beginning of June. The bones of the garden are now exposed and you can see the framework on which the beautiful gardens have been built.

As I walked down the garden path, I realized that the urn that had held a magnificent yucca plant, now held a small conifer, just waiting to be decorated with white lights at Christmas. IMG_5425

The hydrangeas which had been so gorgeous only months earlier, had dried and were rattling in the breeze. However, two steadfast and sturdy hold-outs remained. IMG_5434

The fountain still sparkles in the sun, but soon it will be turned off as the temperatures drop below freezing. IMG_5437

As I headed out towards the main gardens, I was reminded of how much I love this vista, garden (8)and then walking down the steps that are covered with years of lichen, to the gardens beyond.garden (9)

The cutting garden took a big hit with the first frost and all of the remaining dahlias dropped overnight. They will now be cut down and the tubers will be overwintered in the greenhouse, to be planted again next spring. You can just barely see my hand holding this dahlia. garden (18)

The hydrangea heads have all dried and the make a nice counterpoint to the leafless trees in the woods beyond. garden (10)

A lone spade remained in the garden as a reminder that there’s still lots of work to do to put the gardens to bed for the winter. garden (13)

The armillary, which is at the center of the garden now stand out.garden (16)

I left the cutting garden and began walking over to the vegetable garden. It’s immediately apparent how much thought, and work, has gone into making this such a special place, when you see vistas like this one. garden (20)

The huge datura plant has now gone to seed, and when I looked closely, I could just make out the words “Baltimore, MD” at the base of the iron urn which had held the banana plant. garden (24)

There were still a few hyacinth beans left on the arbour, their brilliant purple being a bright spot of colour. garden (27)

It was sad to see the dahlias drooping, after how pretty they were just a month or two ago. This one was making a valiant effort to stand against the elements. garden (29)

The espalliered apples have been pruned back to encourage new growth next year and prevent diseasegarden (31)

The low clear autumn light was perfect for catching the sun highlighting the rainbow chard stalks.



garden (32)
garden (34)

One of my favourite images is these last remaining fig leaves catching the morning sun. They almost appear to be floating in the air.garden (36)

As I rounded the corner to return to the driveway, I came across a part of the garden that I hadn’t seen before. There before me stood a magnificent buck, just basking in the sun.garden (42)

And beyond him, a classical allée of trees culminating in the focal point of an even more classical urn and a bench for resting, and contemplating  how fortunate I am to be able to spend time in a place like this.garden (43)

As I headed out the driveway, the sparkle of the sun glittering on the pond caught my eye. garden (47)

And I smiled to see the sweet little red barn, happily basking in the meadow.garden (49)

While I am anxious to take pictures of the garden in the snow, I’d be happy if it’s still a month or so before it arrives!