Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Halloween Approaches

Halloween is a big deal on my block here in Gotham on the Upper West Side. The whole street from Broadway to Central Park West is closed off. 

Cars are removed, Brownstone entrances are decorated, and then thousands of kids (I do not exaggerate) show up to Trick or Treat.

The tradition was started around 30 years ago, by the Gwen Verdon—a Broadway baby like no other—as a counterpoint to the Halloween Parade in the Village. I'd see her from time to time, red hair aflame, usually working towards her building on the corner of Central Park West where Celeste Holm also lived.

Since the tradition began, there are more single family houses, which have been re-converted back to their original design after being broken up into rooming houses during the Great Depression. One in particular goes all out every year with a professional set of ghouls and goblins. They even had Spiderman rappelling down the building one year, which caused quite a scene. 

Prizes are given by the Block Association for best decoration and costume, and I am proud to say that Mr. Husband's Dracula won a few years ago. He's so good at it (the little ones really are terrified) that the neighbors start asking about his appearance weeks in advance. 

With inordinate warmish weather this Fall, this Halloween promises to be a big one, if only because  Halloween was cancelled (for the first time ever) last year as a result of Hurricane Sandy. 

Time to get your Ghoul on! 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

saying goodbye to an old friend

We are told that life is change, which is certainly true when I consider the process set in motion when we reconfigured our closets—the subject of my last post. Now I am in the process of selling an Empire dresser and an Victorian writing desk which you see here. 

I bought the desk from a shop on West 79th that is still there. Overpriced, but very much beloved; the desk held court in the bedroom for more than a decade. After bringing home a gorgeous antique Spanish table from my father's estate, I knew it was time the desk found a new home. 

So today, after taking out the contents, I set up a tripod and took a few photographs: marveling at the burled maple and walnut that made my heart sing when I first saw it. Now it is gracing the pages of Craig's List. Goodbye old friend. I've loved every moment we're shared together. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Gentleman's Dressing Room

Apartment living in Gotham often means having very little or no closet space. We're lucky to have two that stand back to back, in what was once the hallway on the parlor floor of a single family Brownstone that now has 10 apartments. The smaller closet is at the bottom of a flight of stairs leading from the front door—which is an unusual feature of the apartment. The larger one—which is captured in the three photos in this post—is right behind it, and faces the bedroom. The latter has a beautiful antique Empire dresser that takes up far too much space in a narrow room. 

I'd long thought about how to reconfigure the larger closet to accommodate the contents of the dresser, but wasn't sure how to pull it off. When I saw a photo that was posted by ArchitectDesign, I knew what to do. A short subway ride later, I was standing in the Container Store on 6th Avenue, talking to a lovely lady who designed a solution. Thirty minutes and $800 later, I was the proud owner of a new closet system consisting of 5 shelves, 5 drawers, two hanging rods with shelves, valet rod, shoe rack, hamper, tie rack, and thirty-five cedar hangers. Did I want someone to put it in for me? Nope. I did that myself after the materials arrived. Installing the system wasn't hard at all, though one does have to have the right equipment: a drill, level, hammer and lots of patience. 

The small space contains a non-working heating standard (pipe) which is nestled to the immediate right. (which you can't see in the photos). Why it was put there is any one's guess, though I believe it existed before the building was converted to apartments in the 1930's. There is also evidence of the original baseboard molding along the wall, which was quite tall. I left things as they were, along with the original floor, only giving the walls a fresh coat of paint, the same "cameo white" that is used throughout the apartment, adding only a 19th century gilt frame with a bevelled mirror, and gentleman in two small gilt/walnut frames. 

I was really surprised—even shocked—at the result. I was able to put everything from the large Empire dresser into the closet, after reconfiguring what went where: shirts are now folded on shelves along with towels and linens, pants and suits hang on rods, underwear and shorts are in drawers, while belts hang on antique brass hooks next to the non-working standard. The closet door, which once held an ironing board which folded down, how contains nearly all of our shoes. 

Best investment I have ever made. The dresser is now looking for a good home, and I couldn't be happier, since precious space in the bedroom will now be opened up. 

Thank you, ArchitectDesign! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

my mother's house

My mother called today to tell me that her house in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (the one I grew up in as a teenager) was being sold: the closing would take place in a couple weeks. So strange to see it go after all these years—a little more than a year after my father's death. Not unexpected, the scattering of memory meant making quite a few trips and bringing back all manner of things to Manhattan—including an incredible deco crystal lamp on a gilded base, a beautiful 1880's carpet, an 18th century Spanish table my father used as a desk, slabs of marble and antique shutters and doors. But that's just stuff. 

So much memory in a house which is now passing to another family. Memories yet to be made: it is the cycle of life. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Days of Wine & Roses

Victorian opaline vase with brass trim, roses from the small garden in front of the Brownstone, and a glass of red wine. The vase came from an antique shop on Columbus Avenue that has since been turned into a hair salon. In fact, there is only one antique shop left on the upper west side—John Koch Antiques on west 84th street. The roses will bloom until late November, perhaps even into December: one vine has even reached Christmas.  More wine, more roses, if you please. More days of ineffable fragrance. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Autumn Evening Light

Dinner in hand, I came home to find the apartment aglow with yellow chrysanthemums courtesy of a student of Mr. Husband, so snapped a few photos while standing in the kitchen. 

On our agenda at home? Mr. Husband has a major birthday tomorrow, we are planning the renovation of our kitchen cabinets (they are to my back in these photos), the wonderful 1880's carpet under the sofa and chairs is moving to the bedroom soon, and I have a book coming out. I look at this second photo, and my mind fills the blank wall space above the piano with at least one modern black-and-white painting in an old gold frame. I love gallery style paintings: they draw the eye up and make the space feel larger. It also suits the building, which was constructed in 1895-6, the apartment itself originally being the dining room. What can I say? It's New York living! 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Umbria: regional recipes from the heartland of Italy

Having just spent two precious weeks in Umbria in July and the beginning of August singing with Umbrian Serenades (and missing my fellow Serenaders terribly), I was overjoyed to learn of a lovely cookbook featuring Umbrian fare. My copy arrived at my door this afternoon. Looking through the text, I found recipes using truffles (not inexpensive here in America) and a divine recipe for almond biscotti that I am going to essay before the Holidays commence—if only to practice before showtime. Having been to Umbria three times in succession, I can say the experience was memorable—and not just for the food which was incredible. 

The book is by Julia Della Croce. Find it at Abebooks and experience the beauty of Umbrian cuisine.