Friday, December 19, 2014

Bringing in the Green

I told myself that I wasn't going to do very much decorating this year, but found myself with a tabletop tree (see previous post) and garland on the mantel. The later was sourced from a Christmas tree stand a few blocks away: so really, all I had to do was tie it up via exists screws, and bring some gilded pine cones and faux cranberry branches out of storage. All in all, that took me about 15 minutes to execute from start to finish. 

The leftover branches found their way to frames, which makes for a very Victorian-styled Christmas; fitting perhaps, since the building was erected in 1895—the whole street of interconnected houses popping up in one fell swoop as I understand it. 

The gilt mirror dates from around 1850, and has been in the apartment since the 1950's, while the framed "green man" is 18th century—or so I was told. And yes, that's a green velvet curtain which separates the alcove kitchen from the main living area. You can see an antique china cabinet in the reflection, which is topped by a few old serving trays which I plan to restore, their current finish being beyond repair, but handy when a serving tray is needed. 

My mother's Seth Thomas is on the mantel, along with silver candlesticks which will receive a shining over the weekend, and a framed letter by Manuel García—a legendary voice teacher, who wrote this particular one on his 100th birthday in 1905. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

O Christmas Tree

This Christmas tree business is very early for me, since I usually decorate for the Holidays only during the week before Christmas. But it was snowing in Gotham today as I passed a tree stand a few blocks away, and wouldn't you know it? The pine fragrance hit me in the face, my heart burst open.

Honey! Look what I brought home! And that's really unusual too, since Mr. Husband and I have not put up a tree in more than a decade, since there is no room for one that sits on the floor. But the idea of having a tabletop tree has been brewing in my brain. 

The antique cloisonné pot is in its usual place and is quite handy for champagne. All I had to do was put in antique glass fireplace "coals" that my father gave me as ballast, then wedge in floral foam to keep the tree from falling over, which I covered with moss. Then I trimmed away some of the branches and created a terraced structure—using brown shoe polish to touch up. Up came an old sample suitcase from the basement that I store ornaments in—some antique, some newer, all a riff on the colors in the apartment. 

Garland will go on the mantel in a week or so—no hurry on that just yet, with gilt pines cones (we're talking gold paint, ok?), gold ribbon and not much else.

Only one thing is missing, which is a tree top ornament. I'm thinking purple, pink, silver or gold. But then, I won't know until I see it. Isn't that how it goes?

Saturday, December 6, 2014


A very good friend sent an amaryllis in a pot about 10 days ago, which I promptly watered according to instructions, then watched shoot up like you can't believe. A day or so ago, it started blooming, and, as you can see, has the most amazing red flowers. It's probably not going to last another week, so when it gives up the ghost, the enamel pot next to it on the table behind the couch is going to house its first trimmed Christmas tree: you know, the Martha Stewart number where you trim away some of the branches in order to create a layered effect? I've always wanted to do it, and decided that this was the year. Pictures to follow when I have something to show. Just in time for Christmas. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Scene From a Feast

I asked Mr. Husband to bring back either orange or purple candles; or both—which is what he did, so used them in mismatched pairs, echoing the maple-glazed carrots and purple-red beets. Why be so damn predictable, I thought, while putting out old paperweights next to a small ice bucket with purple tulips, then cutting a pomegranate in half and stuffing it into the golden bird's cavity? Why indeed. The collision of color, crystal and spheres made me smile as did the chutney—a first for this year from the November issue of bon appétit. Savory and utterly scrumptious. 

The Menu

Mincemeat Pie with Maple-Whipped Cream


Hermann J. Wiener Dry Riesling from Finger Lakes, New York and Ermitage du Pic Saint Loup Cuvée Saint Agnés from Southern France

Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you a belated Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, from Mr. Husband and I here in Gotham, where I brought out my large Victorian Chinoiserie Copland platter and cooked up a feast. I found it at the 26th Street Flea Market about a decade ago, and as a result, started looking for other brown & white transferware (that's how it starts you know) and now have a modest collection of compote serving pieces and dishes, along with an assortment of bone and ivory handled serving utensils, some of them snapped up for nothing since moderns seem to have an aversion to anything that isn't stainless steel. (That's what 400 grade sandpaper is for, don't you know, which I keep on hand after I wash them by hand.)

What I love about this serving platter is the blue thumb print which is clearly visible on the front border and accompanied blue finger fingerprints on the back, both suggesting that the craftsman had his hands full and probably worked rather quickly. I suppose I could hang it on my kitchen wall, but it's great to pull it out of storage and see it anew. 

Wishing you a wonderful Holiday Weekend! I'll be making turkey soup

Monday, November 24, 2014

Carnegie Hall: a view not usually seen

Carnegie Hall as seen from the stage during a rehearsal—a view not usually seen. As it is, I've sung there many times over the years as a professional singer and choral artist, and it never gets old. Really. It's a thrill from beginning to end to stand on that stage which was not that long ago in danger of being demolished. This last concert was with the San Francisco Symphony which performed Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé and was broadcast live on New York City's classical radio station WQXR. Click on the link here, and you can listen to the archived performance. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Autumn in New York

Sheep Meadow

Autumn has been beautiful this year, with a lot more color than I remember for a long while with rust, umber, burnt orange, and deep gold throughout Central Park. The night before I snapped this photo (having come back from Carnegie Hall for a rehearsal—then later a performance), five feet of snow had dropped on Buffalo. Here in Gotham? We only had our first frost, which zapped the perennials out front (roses mostly) and snuffed the annuals, and made me take the air conditioner out of the window, which was creating a draft. Then the humidifier was brought out of storage, to keep the piano from being destroyed, the voice from being parched, and viruses at bay—which, my doc tells me, are more easily communicated in arid environments.

Why more people don't think about humidity in the winter is beyond me, especially those who have a feel for aesthetics, since there is nothing worse than being in a beautiful home and feeling like you are in the desert. Of course, too much humidity isn't good either. It's all about balance, which, for me, means filling the humidifier twice a day until spring.