"We are what we believe we are."
C.S. Lewis

Sunday, September 25, 2016

America's Gilded Age

The Driehaus Museum, Chicago
 One of the most interesting places we visited in Chicago was an unbelievable example of America's Gilded Age: the Driehaus Museum.
You can visit the website to read all about this extraordinary example of historical restoration and preservation (done with private money I might add, something that is rarely if ever seen in Canada). I thought I'd share a few of the highlights of our tour (and if you go please take a tour from one of the very knowledgeable guides, so informative and fun).
The Gilded Age embraced the  Aesthetics Movement, an appreciation for the fine arts and crafts available at the time to decorate a home, and basically "more is more" was the decorating motto of the day.
It was overwhelming to take in the many details and layers of fine arts and crafts presented in each room, and equally astounding to learn that over 90% of the interiors are original.

The Dining Room

Window treatments in the dining room.
Shutters layered with draperies.

Gorgeous lamp with flower vessels.

Mantel detail.
 I loved the tiled walls, I've never seen anything like it in my life.

Tile detail.

Statue shown to perfection with a tile backdrop.

Walls decorated right up to the decorated ceilings.

Fireplace tile detail.
 How's this for a staircase from which to make an entrance?
 The statuary all over the entire house is gorgeous.

 The fireplaces are all coal burning and perfectly preserved.  The original owner had lost two homes to fire and then built this mansion as fireproof as possible, basically each room is a box of iron and brick then encased in the entire house which is bricked up and covered in stone.  Quite amazing!
 This window, below, is actually in the servants quarters at the back of the mansion.  I wanted to remember the grille detail on the outside of the window as I'm thinking of installing something similar on our own house... I just have to find the right craftsman.  That wouldn't have been a problem during the Gilded Age.
 The fabrics on the walls and the draperies were so opulent and cozy, the colours feminine yet dark:
Learning about this time in history was just fascinating and even though a home like this is absolutely over-the-top I still found it inspiring.  
We'll be going back for another visit when we head to Chicago again, I'd love to see this house during the winter months.
*I apologize for the quality of the photos, my camera inconveniently broke while we were visiting Chicago and I had to use my iPhone.*

Have you been to the Driehaus Museum?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Another Summer

My Office, decorated by Ellie.
 Time marches on and this summer marched quickly, with endings and beginnings, sadness and happiness, and all of the simple moments in between.

Ellie has gone and it happened at the end of the summer, which seemed so right for a California Girl.
I'll think of her often.  She helped me decorate my house with her incredible taste...which was a unique mixture of American style (courage, appreciation, flair) and a French sense for life as it should be lived.  I bought only a few things from her but they are part of my daily life and I appreciate them so much.
 I appreciated her, I'll always miss her.
If you haven't read the wonderful post written by her daughter Grace please go here.

My family had an ending of its own this summer: we placed my grandparents' ashes in their final resting place and said goodbye.  It was a lovely day and it was a sad day, all at the same time.
Grandpa Norv and Grandma Jean with their boat on the Detroit River.
We were on the river for our goodbye and the day was gorgeous.

My oldest daughter to the left and two of my cousins, how good-looking are these people?
Light of our lives, my nephew, flew in from the far far north for the occasion.  Here he is having a talk with Uncle Tom:
 Our daughter went across the pond on her own for the first time, she left for Switzerland the day after I took the photo below.  This was at the cottage of two of our best friends, Laura and David.  They've just sold this cottage so... another ending, we've spent so many fun weekends there over the years.  When the kids were small we'd go for a week and run a camp for them.  (Well, not really, but it seemed that way with the meals we'd dish up and the lifeguard duties.)
 She spent a month in Germany with side trips to Austria, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.  Had a blast.

Then we dropped Lil' Rascal off at camp and hightailed it to the airport.

MrBP and The Bean 

Bean Selfie
 This is the Bean at 8am, it gets much busier later, but we were so fascinated by it, it's actually so cool to see and walk around and study the reflections and perspectives.

Chicago was amazing, we spent seven nights just the two of us, what a great spot for a romantic hols.

Oh gosh the Ralph Lauren Grill was gorgeous.
We sat on the terrace, I highly recommend.

Went to a Cubs game which was awesome.
Ate some terrible nachos and drank some beer.

Loved the guys parachuting in with the giant flags!
 I thought Chicago was pure American Style.  One of my favourite building facades:
 Of course we spent a whole day at the Art Institute:

 If you go you have to go to the restaurant, so lovely:

Looks spare but it suits the feeling of the Institute, and the food is great.
 We flew home and headed north to Algonquin Park.  A little country to offset the city.
 I wore my Elmer Fudd dress from the now defunct LLBean Signature line.  Also I went barefoot for four days, my feet were killing me after walking miles and miles everyday in Chicago in low heels.  (Don't ask me about sensible footwear because I have much to learn.)
Elmer Fudd Dress
Bare Feet
 We must have been missing our Rascals because we adopted a very cheeky and greedy chipmunk, who we named Ivan The Bold:
Ivan The Bold
Always rushed in at cocktail hour.
 We picked up Lil' Rascal, headed home to have a reunion with the European traveller and then spent a perfect Saturday en famille helping Ole Rascal move into his new apartment.
Ole Rascal, does he keep getting taller?
With his partner who we adore.
 We made it to a Blue Jays game:
They lost.  But it was still so fun.
I love baseball, it's such a simple pleasure.
 Finally we had a weekend to end the summer, another summer, with our best friends on their island cottage.  Don't you think we all look pretty well considering we had massive hangovers?
The Morning After.
Party on Baby.
I hope you've had a wonderful summer (or Fall if you're in Aus!) and that your September is off to a productive start.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Organized Calm

 What could be more calming than an organized pantry cupboard filled with food stored in gleaming glass jars?  At the end of July I was feeling overwhelmed with a general feeling of mess and disorder, something had to be done.  I started with the pantry and then just kept going through the house, one room at a time... success builds on itself is my working theory.
 You'll be pleased to know I found an excellent recipe for spiced walnuts.  I omit the sugar too so the only sweetener to them is a bit of honey.  The recipe is here... try it with double the honey and no sugar, it works very well.
Look, spicy walnuts.
 They are so delicious in a salad with green leaf lettuce and blue cheese.  I know, not everyone is a blue cheese fan, you could try it with goat cheese, or a sheep's milk feta would be nice too.
This is my favourite salad.
 Even though it's hot as Hades I've been cooking up a storm:
 How about this fetching little brass planter?
Bought it on Etsy last winter, threw some potpourri in it.
 With all of my crazy hungry Rascals I figure I've baked at least 9000 batches of chocolate chip cookies.  Taking them out of the oven though, smelling so wonderful, it just never gets old.
I'm trying Stephen Andrew Jones' recipe next.
 Anyone else have a pie dragon hanging around?  This one was my Grandma Jean's, it's a treasure:
 I bought this wonderful new edition of one of my favourite children's books when we were at Stratford with our friends Ade and Tony.  Look at the cover:
 We're on holiday this month but that's not stopping me from looking forward to September.  I'm going to embrace cooking, baking, organizing and polishing just as September deserves.
Ready for some cooking.
 It wouldn't be August without baskets full of zucchini everywhere, and that old standby Zucchini Crusted Pizza by Mollie Katzen continues to be an A+ recipe year after year.
 Here's the link to the zucchini fabulousness.  I omit the flour and use ground almonds to make it gluten-free.

Ready for some toppings.

I hope you're having a lovely August with many moments of feeling either organized or calm or ideally both at the same time.