List of Things

I have a lot on my mind all of the time. Not just the logistics of getting two full snow suits on five-year-old twins. Yes, that's still happening in April. I'm talking food, shopping, news; the things of the world that are catching my eye, informing my perspective, tempting my tastebuds, and inspiring me. The good things to have on one's mind.

So without further ado, here's my first List of Things. More Lists of Things will make appearances down the road.

 

Above, from left: Roskilde rug, $79, IKEA.com; Long sleeve one-piece in Peacock Tree Canopy, $24, kickeepants.com; Egon - RD80029 wallpaper, contact for pricing, anaglypta.co.uk; Hunter for Target striped beach towel, $25, target.com

I just learned about and promptly joined IKEA Family which qualifies us for a variety of discounts and (gasp!) free coffee at IKEA stores! This comes at a good time because a new IKEA store is set to open an hour from us in June. IKEA has been a great resource when furnishing a room for twins. Stylish, safe, and budget-friendly.

Friends of our welcomed a new baby two weeks ago, which sent me to my go-to brand for baby gifts, Kickee Pants. We love the durable, soft, eco-friendly children's clothing in darling patterns.

I'm incredibly jazzed by the number of women running for Congress this fall. This article from Mother Jones discusses the issue further. Nothing is more inspiring than getting charged up by a social or political movement and then turning that motivation into real action. Bravo!

Speaking of social change and political activism, the Parkland students are my new heroes. This fantastic article from the New York Times on the politics of hair starts with the story of the phenomenal Emma Gonzalez and the public's reaction to her shaved head. A must read.

Unexpected winter weather this spring has me (and apparently everyone in my social media feeds) in the baking spirit. The big hit in our house was Ina Garten's rugelach. I doubled the batch and then ate most of it myself so beware the addictive dangers of these sweet little dreams-come-true.  

For an affordable pop to our dining room, I'm considering covering just one feature wall with embossed wallpaper, like the beautiful options from British wallpaper giant Anaglypta. I especially love the patterns that look like the pressed tin ceiling tiles. Available in white but easy to paint any shade that fits your space. Yes, please!

I love when a designer creates special product lines for Target even though the best things typically go like hotcakes before I'm even out of bed. This time its Hunter's turn. I love my Hunter rainboots and was tickled with the handsome beach towels, raincoats, totes, and other gems.

I've been trying my best everyday to film a little bit of my kids doing their thing and splicing it together with the oh-so-easy One Second Everyday app on my iPhone. It's a great way to chronicle their lives with video without having to keep every lengthy, large file. 

My tv time lately has been dominated by The Sopranos, which I just finished last night (took me awhile to fall asleep after that for some reason). All seasons are currently streaming on Amazon. On Netflix, I love Phil Rosenthal's new series called Somebody Feed Phil. Phil, the creator behind Everybody Loves Raymond, travels to a different city in every episode mostly to eat things, but he meets people, explores the environs, and really gives the viewer a taste of life for those who live there. He is clearly not a chef himself and feels very relatable to me on my couch with my Jack's frozen pizza. Particularly enjoyable were the episodes on Lisbon (I have several friends traveling to or recently returned from there) and Vietnam, which has now been added to my travel wish list solely based on this episode. Phil also had a one-season series not long ago with the same premise called I'll Have What Phil's Having. If you like travel and food and the human connection, both are a great watch.

Happy spring (maybe?) to you and yours! What's on your brain this season?

Oscar Fashion Wishlist

It's the Oscars tonight. Since our kids were born I really haven't gotten to many movies. If we're paying for a sitter, we're going to go to a nice dinner or out with friends rather than sit in a dark room and not talk to each other. While it's thrilling to watch the envelopes open, the names read, and the emotional reactions from the nominees, the part that I look forward to is the red carpet before the ceremony. 

Red carpets in the 2017-2018 awards season are different, of course. Though the #MeToo movement started long before last year, it was the allegations against Harvey Weinstein that seem to have blown the entire issue wide open. Hollywood was talking. This year's Golden Globes were a highlight for me, both in fashion and in social commentary. Nearly everyone wore black in solidarity with victims or in silent protest of working conditions in their industry. There is an adage that creativity doesn't come from having no limits, it comes when you have very specific limits and have to figure out how to work within them. Black is really my favorite color in fashion and to see the variety of fabrics and silhouettes possible within that narrow color scope was a bit of a dream come true.

But now we're back and in living color. I don't know how the #MeToo movement will be addressed at Hollywood's most visible fashion moment tonight, but I have my hopes that it will continue to feature prominently in the discussion and conversation around the fashion and the ceremony itself. 

On a purely sartorial level, here's my dream wishlist for what I'd love to see some of the nominees wear.

I'd love to see Best Actor nominees wearing, ABOVE, from left to right: Saoirse Ronan in this ethereal gown from Valentino's Spring 2018 Couture show, probably with a bit more lining in the skirt; Meryl Streep honoring Carolina Herrera's last runway show before retirement in this vibrant Herrera classic look from her final Fall 2018 RTW collection; Margot Robbie knocking socks off in this red lace stunner from Zuhair Murad's 2018 spring couture show;  Sally Hawkins seems to like Dior but also something a bit more unusual, so I'd line her up with this absolutely gorgeous vintage Dior blue velvet and satin dress from 1946; and Frances McDormand in this rich nude sheath, also from Valentino's 2018 spring couture collection.

For Best Supporting Actor, here's hoping to see: Mary J. Blige in this black, red, blue, and purple dress from the 2018 spring couture collection (It's one of my favorites right now); Allison Janney in this impeccable patterned dress from Zuhair Murad's 2018 spring couture collection; Laurie Metcalf in this classic black Saint Laurent sheath with a WOW neckline, from Saint Laurent's Fall 2018 RTW collection; Octavia Spencer in a two-piece black Christian Siriano from his fall 2018 RTW (bonus points if she also does a flashy shoe like this model); and Lesley Manville, who seems to appreciate black like I do, would turn heads in this perfect white gown from Givenchy's 2018 spring couture show.

I should have included Greta Gerwig in my predictions; she may have a big night and there certainly are plenty of dresses left that I'd love to see. Alas! If I wait any longer, it won't be worth predictions at all! The countdown to the red carpet has already begun. What fashion trends do you think will be big tonight?

 

Florence on My Mind

For Christmas this year my dad bought me The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art by Ingrid Rowland and Noah Charney. I only had to open up to the first graphic, a very necessary chart titled Key Members of the Medici Family to be instantly transported back to my college days as an art history student in Florence.

Above, left to right: The Collector Of Lives; the original title page from Vasari's own The Lives of the Artists; and Vasari's Self Portrait, circa 1566-68

Among notable events such as meeting several lifelong friends, living in a 16th century villa, learning enough Italian to tell the cab driver that "I have two dogs", and discovering that I like red wine (and how), I got a first class education in early Florentine Renaissance art. I learned that context is everything; it was the moment in my life where all learning became interdisciplinary. To understand the art, one must understand the history, politics, science, geography, religion, and philosophy of the world in which that art was created. It profoundly changed my life. A special shout out to art history Professor Jo Mariotti who is most responsible for elevating my brain and heart to understand and appreciate art and its critical place in recording the history of humanity.

 Me, on the right, with two dear friends in front of a Bacchus fountain at our villa near Florence in 2002.

Me, on the right, with two dear friends in front of a Bacchus fountain at our villa near Florence in 2002.

It's impossible for a visitor to Florence to see every famous piece of art without getting masterpiece fatigue. Guidebooks, blogs, and my favorite travel guru, Rick Steves, all have their lists of what not to miss. They all have merit because, arguably, every piece of art in Florence is worthy of your time. Here's my own take on what to see between gelato stops and people watching in magnificent Florence.

The Accademia: Go for Michelangelo's David, Stay for His Slaves

Yes, you do have to go see David at the Accademia. Yes, there is one in the Piazza del Vecchio where the David initially stood, but it is not the original. David is worth of all of the praise and fame that he receives. Stand as close as you can. Look at the detail. After a few minutes I expected to see a heartbeat in the veins on the back of his dropped hand, expected him to exhale, to shift his weight. But be sure to examine Michelangelo's unfinished slaves at the Accademia on your way in to see David. They emerge from the marble writhing, working. Splendid faceless bodies in motion that stand in beautiful contrast to the poised, posed, motionless David. Here you see the chisel marks and have a sort of behind the scenes glimpse into the process of a genius at work.

San Marco: Go for Fra Angelico's Annunciation, Stay for It All

I had never heard of the convent and church of San Marco until I was in Florence. It is an absolute gem and I recommend it to anyone visiting Florence. On my first visit a noble Florentine pigeon pooped on my head as I waited with my classmates to enter this lovely place. That must be a sign of good luck somewhere somehow for someone.

In Art History 101 when we hit on the major themes of Western art we talk about the Annunciation, the biblical scene in which a virgin, Mary, is visited by an angel and gets the bombshell news that she's pregnant. I always expect a bit more shock in Mary's face in these paintings but they must be capturing her in that instant of denial, her face serene and unworried. For me, the most classic Annunciation is the fresco in San Marco by Fra Angelico. It is an iconic version of an iconic scene. I expected to find it in a chapel or a cordoned off room but when we went up the stairs, BOOM, there it was on the wall. It was stunning to see this masterpiece, this instantly recognizable work right there. What I didn't realize was that Fra Angelico did a whole slew of frescoes in the monks' cells depicting various scenes from the life of Jesus. The best and most memorable is in Cell 7 and it's called the Mocking of Christ. The palette with its muted turquoise is fresh and beautiful against the humble stone and clay of the convent. Christ is mocked by disembodied hands striking him and using a stick to put the crown of thorns on his head. There is the bodiless head of a soldier blowing on him. It was so different from the formulaic religious pieces (such as the Annunciation) that we found ourselves looking at over and over again during our semester in Florence. It wasn't meant to be whimsical, but its strange surrealism stood out. Yes, Fra Angelico's Annunciation is worth the trip, but go because the frescoes are all very interesting. Go because the grounds are simply beautiful. Go to learn about the infamous monk, Savanarola (another story for another time). Go to be blessed on the head by a Florentine pigeon. Just go!

The Museo dell'Opera del Duomo: Go For Hidden Masterpieces

The Museo Dell'Opera del Duomo is a museum that houses the works that were once part of the church of Santa Maria del Fiore, otherwise known as the Duomo. This crown jewel of the Florence skyline was full of masterpieces that are now housed in this amazing museum so that they are properly protected and on view. I am always stunned that most visitors go to the Uffizi, which they definitely should, but somehow miss the opportunity to see very moving art at the Museo dell'Opera. Two pieces in particular are in my top ten works in all of Florence; Donatello's Penitent Magdalene and Michelangelo's unfinished The Deposition.

Penitent Magdalene is a wooden sculpture of Mary Magdalene, frail and gaunt and wearing only her own hair. In a world of art dominated by ideal beauty and holiness, Donatello's Mary Magdalene is raw and honest and haunting. She is human and she is suffering and she is beautiful in her truth. The detail in this piece is mesmerizing. I was absolutely struck by her presence.

The Deposition, sometimes known as the Lamentation of Christ or the/ Florentine Pieta, features four figures; a dead Christ, a sorrowful Mary and Mary Magdalene, and Nicodemus, whose face is actually a self portrait of Michelangelo. Michelangelo started working on this piece when he was a spry 72 year old and worked on it for at least 8 years. In his frustration with the marble he intentionally broke parts of Christ's leg and arm. Those pieces were later put back together but the work remains unfinished. I loved this sculpture. I loved Michelangelo's face. I loved seeing the chisel work from his hand in the unfinished parts. I loved the story of the perfectionist rage behind it. I love the idea, as with the Slaves from the Accademia, that an actual masterpiece does not even have to be finished.

The Uffizi: Go For Everything

There is a reason why the Uffizi Gallery is one of the most visited art museums in the world. It is spectacular. Make sure to go online and order your tickets in advance and research the best times to visit or you may end up spending some of your prime Tuscan sightseeing hours waiting in line to see what's inside. 

I am limiting myself to just four works to feature; The Diptych of the Dukes of Urbino by Piero della Francesca, Madonna and Child with Two Angels by Fra Filippo Lippi, Primavera by Botticelli, and Judith Slaying Holofernes by Artemesia Gentileschi.

The Duke of Urbino and his wife are painted in profile, reminiscent of ancient Roman medals and coins. While this is a nice reference, they were probably depicted this way because the Duke lost his right eye during a tournament. He also broke his nose, which is also evident in his portrait. Battista Sforza, the Duke's wife, has the pale skin and high hairline that were in vogue at the time. I think her pallid complexion is a bit too convincing and can't help but agree with those who believe this portrait of her was painted posthumously. Walk around this diptych to see the paintings on the other side, and read more about the scene, the lives, and the work as a whole.

Madonna and Child With Two Angels is one of my favorite paintings ever because it was the piece that I wrote my term paper on during my semester abroad. Lippi was the master of Botticelli and the strides from iconographic Christian imagery to the very human concept of ideal physical beauty are evident in this pale, fresh faced Mary.  Lippi was also quite a character with a compelling bio. I wrote a paper on this but will spare you in this post. Google it, though, then go see it. It's a stunner.

I can't help but think how unfair it is that Primavera gets second billing because it happens to share a room with the more recognizable work Birth of Venus, also by Botticelli. They are both great, but Primavera is so incredibly beautiful with its greenery and its flora. I also happen to be a sucker for iconography which this piece is bursting with. Here we see that ideal physical beauty, hints at science and classical mythology, and not much of a peep about Christianity. Botticelli's early work is so indicative of what the Italian Renaissance was all about. It was commissioned to be placed above an elaborate piece of sitting furniture in a some wealthy residence. I wouldn't mind having it above our shoe bench but I don't think our foyer is quite big enough.

Judith Slaying Holofernes is a popular subject for painters and I love it. Female empowerment FTW. This version is by a female Baroque painter influenced by Caravaggio, Artemesia Gentileschi. We didn't study this era during my semester but it didn't stop me from looking up the story of Judith and Holofernes and then Gentileschi's unusual and compelling own life story. Every time I visited the Uffizi for official classwork I made a point of visiting this piece on my way out. It's a beautiful study of light and dark, both literally and metaphorically, and is not to be missed. 

 

"You will begin to wonder that human daring ever achieved something so magnificent."  - John Ruskin, Mornings in Florence, 1875

Royal Wedding Fever: Guilty

Prince Harry will be marrying Meghan Markle in May at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Bravo! How exciting! Also, what will she WEAR?

I love the red carpet. I used to not give a lick about fashion but something changed in adulthood. Lines, color, textiles; I'm smitten. And once I started to pay attention, well, then I started to pay attention.

Meghan Markle has mentioned that her favorite wedding gown was the simple and elegant sheath from designer Narciso Rodriguez that Carolyn Bessette wore to marry John Kennedy, Jr. She has also mentioned that two of her own favorite designers are Elie Saab and J. Mendel. Will she choose one of those labels? Her soon-to-be-sister-in-law Princess Catherine wore a tame but impeccable Sarah Burton for McQueen gown when she wed Prince William.  Will Ms. Markle opt for a British designer as well?  I can guess that it won't be as figure hugging as Carolyn Bessette because there is a level of protocol for a royal wedding. Sorry, Narciso. Most of your slinky designs are fabulous but I think they may be frowned upon by the Queen. And I imagine it will have to have some sort of sleeve or similar coverage. What excites me most, though, is that it is Ms. Markle's second wedding and perhaps she will pass on white and  do a (relatively) non-traditional color like gold or blush.

Above left, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy in her wedding gown by Narciso Rodriguez, and at right, Princess Catherine in her gown by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. Still gushing.

 

Let's start with Elie Saab, the Lebanese designer who is a red carpet favorite, and for good reason. His designs are diverse and have looked spectacular on almost everyone who has worn them. Here are a few standouts that caught my eye as possibly wedding-worthy.

 

All of the above are from Saab's Spring 2018 bridal collection. Though I can assume Ms. Markle's dress will be custom made, we can see the heavy use of romantic florals, sheer overlays, and lace. Maybe she will keep the dress simple and unadorned and then opt for a Saab veil for dramatic feminine flair. Saab is also finding inspiration in medieval lines, draping, and styling. Kind of our fantasy for any princess bride.

Here's where things get exciting. Look past Elie Saab's current bridal gowns and at his Fall 2017 Couture Collection and consider the possibilities of how elements there could translate into a spectacular wedding gown. Blush tones, dreamy pleating, stunning gold embroidery, and even OHMYGOD feathers!

J. Mendel hasn't released a bridal collection since fall of 2016. Below are two gowns from that collection that feature elements that might be used in the creation of a high profile wedding gown. On the left is the blush tone that I mentioned before, and on the right we see some ethereal layering.

Let's check out what J. Mendel has been up to more recently for a better idea of current trends in that fashion line. 

Jackpot! Above are four images from both the spring/summer 2018 Ready to Wear Collection and the 2018 Resort Collection. From left, we see classic lines which we know Ms. Markle likes. The second look raises the idea of a high collar. I really like a high collar in a form fitting gown. The right amount of demure can add a lot of class. The third look shows us sheer floral and a blush color, similar to what we saw from Elie Saab. The last features bead or sequin work, fur, and a sort of butterfly/batwing/capelet sleeve.

The last design house that I'm submitting for consideration is Temperley of London. Consistently spectacular bridal gowns and a British label. Can't go wrong.

Above, from left to right: Temperley's Elodie, Zaida, Angeli, and Chrys dresses.

In the meantime, if you want to grab Meghan's everyday looks, stop over to Line the Label for the white wrap coat that she wore to her engagement photo call, designer Misha Nonoo's website for her favorite Husband Shirt, or head to the blog Meghan's Mirror which chronicles what Meghan is wearing and where you can find it for yourself!

Artist Spotlight: Wayne Thiebaud

If you know me, you know that I'm inspired by food; I love cooking it, reading about it, eating it, drawing it, painting it. So it's no surprise that my favorite painter is Wayne Thiebaud.

I am drawn to Thiebaud's work for more than just the compelling subject matter (namely, food). The painterly quality of his work is expressive and rich but somehow remains clean and minimal. His shadows are strong, critical elements of each composition. But his absolute genius, in my opinion, is his exquisite use of color. A white frosted cake, upon further inspection, is not at all white but a complex creation of creams, browns, pinks, golden yellows, violets, and turquoise. Since I saw my first Thiebaud painting I have not been able to get this technique and the artist's brilliant eye and thoughtful hand out of my mind.

Thiebaud's claim to fame are his cake paintings, in particular his very well-known 1963 oil painting, Cakes, which hangs in all its beauty in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. 

 I recently visited D.C. and had the chance to visit with Thiebaud's marvelous  Cakes  in person. That would be me on the left. 

I recently visited D.C. and had the chance to visit with Thiebaud's marvelous Cakes in person. That would be me on the left. 

Thiebaud's work in baked goods is fantastic.

From left to right: Meringue Mix, 1999; Around The Cake, 1962; Pie Counter, 1963; Chocolate Meringue, 1961 (disclaimer: this Chocolate Meringue is not confirmed; I'm relying on an unknown internet site but couldn't find anything more official!)

But his other food pieces are worth a look, too.

From left to right: Tulip Sundaes, 2010; Five Hot Dogs, 1961; Salt, Sugar and Pepper, 1970; Drink Syrups, 1961

I'm a Wisconsin gal, so his cheese paintings have always been some of my very favorites. I have searched for a print of his cheese wheel painting, but it's my understanding that it is part of his son's private collection and there is not a print available for sale. If anyone learns otherwise, let me know! It will make my next holiday wish list.

Left to Right: Cheese Slices, 1986; Two Cheese Cubes, 2011; Delicatessen Counter (Bologna and Cheese), 1961; Cheese Wedges, 2011

Thiebaud just turned 97 years old and was producing work as recently as 2010 (Google's 12th birthday cake was his). His catalogue is large and diverse and I love it all. I'm jumping past his figure paintings and still lifes of non-edible subjects to show a few landscapes and a few city scapes. Thiebaud has spent most of his adult life in San Francisco. His steep streets and hills are lovely. As always, his use of color remains mesmerizing. It doesn't hurt that some of his city buildings could pass as layer cakes and the clouds look dreamily like the white frosting on his cakes.

Top:  San Francisco West Side Ridge, 2001; Apartment Hill, 1980  

Bottom: Napa Valley Ridge, 1987; Cloud and Bluffs, 1972

For more on Wayne Thiebaud, start here with this lovely little piece from the New York Times written just this past March. 

 

'Tis the Season

Despite my husband's insistence that we not utter a peep about the holidays until after Thanksgiving, the time to think about the logistics of cooking, hosting, traveling, shopping, and celebrating start now for those of us who don't want to be too overwhelmed by the season to enjoy it.

I love gift guides. It's helpful for those difficult-to-shop-for friends and leads to wonderful dreaming. There are a lot of Somedays involved. "Someday," I tell myself, "We'll reface the fireplace." "Someday I'll have enough disposable income to buy those sunglasses." "Someday we'll have to replace that pendant light in the dining room so it why not look now?" Selfishly, my gift guide may not help you shop for your friends and family, but it will help you shop for me. I understand that we just met, which is why I'll do another one next year.

Here's my holiday wish list, driven greatly by my Somedays.

 

 


Copper Bar Stools

I've already written of my fondness for copper. We currently have a kitchen counter with no barstools and these are perfect. If barstools aren't on your list, note that they come in three heights (and multiple finishes). Spenser Stool, $228-$238, anthropologie.com


New Sunnies

I'll take one of everything that Kate Spade has ever made, please and thank you. I love the cat eye frame and am a tortoise shell kind of girl. These are the Pink Havana and Black Havana Sherylyn Sunglasses and I'm smitten with both. I promise not to sit on them in the car. Sherylyn Sunglasses, $180 each, katespade.com


Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook

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Over a decade ago I spent the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college working in Manhattan. A lovely relative of mine who put me up for the last few weeks of my stay walked to the Sullivan Street Bakery regularly and shared with me some of their pine nut cookies. They were the best cookies that I have ever eaten. Fast forward to this year when I am getting loaf after loaf after loaf of underbaked bread whenever I try making my own from scratch. A friend who had already been there and done that shared with me the recipe he uses and it was Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery's recipe. This recipe has never failed me. The bread is better than what I can buy at our usual grocery store bakery. Considering that this man is responsible for two of the better baked good experiences of my life I cannot imagine not loving and using this cookbook. The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook, $24.66, amazon.com


Food Photography Book

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The New York Times always has a stellar collection of gift ideas. This year two books really caught my eye. This one is right up my alley. Feast For The Eyes: The Story of Food In Photography by Susan Bright.  About $50, aperture.org


Vogue Living Book

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If you're like me (and I think you might be if you're reading my blog) you love looking at beautiful spaces. This book, also recommended by the New York Times, looks like excellent inspirational eye candy. Vogue Living: Country, City, Coast, $59.95, amazon.com


Pizza Night

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Sometimes a pantry item can make a great gift. Such is the case with Italian Tipo 00 (doppio zero) flour.  After success in the crusty bread department, our household has moved on to pizza dough. While we can find recipes using all-purpose or bread flour, they have turned out dense and doughy and led to disappointment. Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery fame has a "superb" crust that took her a long time to perfect that uses bread flour, but I don't want to mess around with rye flour, wheat germ, and clover honey which are also part of her ingredient list. Maybe someday. The best recipes, from Batali to Saveur Magazine to Paul Hollywood of the Great British Baking Show, use 00 flour for their crusts. And here it is! And Prime eligible! Right to your door from amazon.com. $13 for 2 bags of 2.2 lb each.


Dining Room Lighting

I love organic shapes in design so it's no surprise that I'm coveting these gorgeous acorn inspired pendant lights from Finnish designer Maija Puoskari. I am also drawn to Scandinavian design, though I'm well aware that Finland isn't technically considered part of Scandinavia. I have Finnish roots and live in the upper Midwest so it all feels like home. Mater Terho Pendant Lights, $322 - $532, finnishdesignshop.com


Hygge

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By now, most of us have heard of the term hygge, a Danish word with no direct translation (those words are the best!) but defined in English as a feeling of coziness, comfort. It is a sentiment of happiness and conviviality, relaxation and contentment, well-being and gratitude, For me, the coziness is the key. I love cozy. I've been a blanket nester all my life. I stumbled upon my mom's Minus 33 100% merino wool leggings a few years ago. She gifted them to me and I have worn them so much that they are finally starting to show wear. For a stay at home mom of twins who loves anything black and anything cozy, these are perhaps my favorite item of clothing. I would live in them. Minus 33 Women's Wool Bottoms, in varying weights, from $59.99 - $99.99, minus33.com


The Best Notebooks

Speaking of hygge, sitting down to write with an excellent notebook is definitely a satisfying and comforting feeling for me. Leuchtturm is my go-to for record keeping, note taking, journaling, coursework, you name it. Lots of colors, beautifully bound, different sizing options, and many choices between gridded, lined, and dotted pages. All the versions that I've had have included numbered pages and an index at the front for reference. I will never go back to Mead. Take a gander at leuchtturm1917.com and check out all they have to offer, including planners, address books, and storage options. (Insert heart emoji here)


Deck Your Walls

Anthropologie is really coming through on the home decor ideas lately. Just when wallpaper is too expensive, too meh, or too much of a commitment, I find these stunning wall murals. Each is about 9 feet x 12 feet and applied like wallpaper. There is the incredibly beautiful Etched Arcadia mural for grown-ups such as myself, the the whimsical Enchanted Forest mural for the children in our lives, and everything in between. Wall murals,  $228 - $558, anthropologie.com


Art Tiles

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My parents had a hallway in our home decorated with tiles from their travels. It was an eclectic and beautiful collection. This reminds me of my favorite season up north. I could find a use for it anywhere. 6 x 8 Autumn Woodland tile, $98, Motawi.com


Fancy Footwear

This is when my "Someday" premise comes into play. Gucci has some hot animal motifs this year that translate beautifully to fashion. The king snake is everywhere from backpacks to trays in their new home decor collection. These kingsnake flats are beyond fantastic. Also available in gold. Yes, GOLD. Gucci Kingsnake Ballet Flat, $695 - $730, nordstrom.com


McQueen Jacket

You know, I'm really not picky about this one. Alexander McQueen is one of my favorite designers/fashion houses. And I need a spring jacket, so close your eyes and take your pick from the current ready to wear collection. Two favorites are the embroidered leather biker jacket (left) and the knitted bomber jacket. Exquisite. Every year I look forward to red carpets and I particularly enjoy seeing who wears McQueen. Expect more fashion predictions and highlights here at The West View once awards season has begun. McQueen Embroidered Leather Biker Jacket and Knitted Bomber Jacket, $7,845 and $1,925 respectively, alexandermcqueen.com


Favorite Fragrance

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Years ago I was given Creed's Love In White body wash by someone who somehow didn't want it anymore. It is my all time favorite fragrance. It is heavenly. I request it almost every holiday and use it only on special occasions so that it lasts as long as possible. I have since looked into Creed's other scents and learned that there are some that receive higher ratings and stronger reviews from People Who Know More Than I Do. Because there aren't any stores anywhere near me, I will have to hit the Creed boutique when I am next in NYC so that I can smell the other options. But I really can't imagine anything topping this. Creed Love In White Bath and Shower Gel, $95, creedboutique.com

Holiday Mobile

I'll end on a holiday note.

I discovered Flensted mobiles when I was expecting my twins. We didn't want a cutesy nursery but rather one they could grow into and a space that felt like it was still part of our house. These mobiles make excellent gifts for expectant mothers and, if you hang them high enough, can be left as decor as your child gets older. They are lightweight and beautifully made. I would love to have one of their Christmas mobiles (above left) for seasonal use! prices vary, flensted-mobiles.com

My boys each had separate cribs but enjoyed being together. The Flensted mobiles I chose for them, sailboats and fish, were to compliment their nautical themed bedroom. They loved them so much they destroyed them.

Bright Copper Kettles

I spent a year as an exchange student in Brazil in high school and the people I talked to there swore up and down that doce de leite (dulce de leche for those of you familiar with the Spanish language version) had to be cooked in a copper pot because that's how it got its color. Now, I was only 16 and perhaps they were trying to pull one over on the naive American, but even then I didn't buy it. I may not have fallen for it but I certainly did eat it. 

Since then, even before I did any cooking myself or cared a lick about what my kitchen would look like someday, I noticed copper pots when I was around them. I loved the hammered kettles, the silky brushed pots, the glossy pans hanging charmingly from a pot rack above that perfect butcher board kitchen island. 

Fast forward to my own home and my own kitchen and my own realistic budget. Copper pots and pans seem an extravagance when we have perfectly good pots and pans already and that money would be better spent on, say, wine. And our kitchen is a great little kitchen, but it is not large enough for an island and hanging pots and pans from the ceiling where people walk seems a little foolish and, for taller guests, mean.

Take heart, copper lovers! There are variety of affordable ways to incorporate this timeless metal into your kitchen (other than those Moscow Mule mugs that are getting a lot of use these days). Unless you are going to be making batches of doce de leite, these substitutes should do the trick.

 

 

 Our current paper towel holding situation involves some sort of black ugly upright thing that no one really wants on their countertop. Enter this copper paper towel holder from West Elm for only $24. Class up the kitchen and declutter the counter in an instant. Sign me up.  westelm.com

Our current paper towel holding situation involves some sort of black ugly upright thing that no one really wants on their countertop. Enter this copper paper towel holder from West Elm for only $24. Class up the kitchen and declutter the counter in an instant. Sign me up. westelm.com

 And for some of those helpful kitchen items that really have to be out on the counter in order to serve their purpose, check out this gorgeous little thing. Copper spoon rest, $14.95,  CB2.com

And for some of those helpful kitchen items that really have to be out on the counter in order to serve their purpose, check out this gorgeous little thing. Copper spoon rest, $14.95, CB2.com

 This elegant drawer pull is so affordable you could give your entire kitchen a mini facelift without breaking the bank. Richelieu Hardware 3 3/4 inch copper pull just $3.59 a pop.  homedepot.com

This elegant drawer pull is so affordable you could give your entire kitchen a mini facelift without breaking the bank. Richelieu Hardware 3 3/4 inch copper pull just $3.59 a pop. homedepot.com

 Despite the great variety of pots and vessels out there, somehow we ended up with a whole lot of plastic ones. Plant your herbs in this pot for a dazzling kitchen window showpiece. Mix and match with terra cotta for a monochromatic and multi-textured display. Metal Mini Plant Pot, $5/99,  hm.com

Despite the great variety of pots and vessels out there, somehow we ended up with a whole lot of plastic ones. Plant your herbs in this pot for a dazzling kitchen window showpiece. Mix and match with terra cotta for a monochromatic and multi-textured display. Metal Mini Plant Pot, $5/99, hm.com

There are so many more incredible options. I've been coveting that magnificent copper KitchenAid mixer. Ugh. So dreamy. To see my favorite copper kitchen accents, follow my Pinterest board here.

Trend I Love: Flatlay Photography

My own pedestrian attempts at flatlay photos of food. From left to right: a rare childless afternoon of delight captured in an image; a funnel cake, my county fair food of choice, and a cold beer are a Labor Day tradition; the spices for a pulled pork rub look like a cosmic landscape; a holiday cranberry glaze ready to be cooked down.

I like the flatlay photo of your new iPhone lying on the orange patterned beach towel next to the designer sunnies your scored from Nordstrom Rack next to the turquoise water of your neighbor's pool. It's great, really. But if you really want to get me going show me some food flatlays.

The flatlay photo, taken from directly above an object or collection of objects, is all the rage in the world of food and for good reason. Whether the subject is a cooking project in process or a complete meal steaming and ready to eat, it lends itself to the best kind of deception. 

When I'm looking for recipes online or in a magazine and see a flatlay of the mise en place laid out so beautifully it's natural to think, "Oh that? That looks easy. I could totally do that." Well, sure. Because you gloss over the part where someone already made a shopping list, scoured the grocery store for the ingredients only to have to go to a second location for dried guajillo chiles, loaded and unloaded the minivan, found space in the freezer for the ice cream you will eat by yourself after the kids go to bed, cleaned and trimmed the produce, measured the dry ingredients, zested a lemon, spatchcocked a chicken, laid the herbs out around your workspace like a della Robbia wreath, and got out your nicest cherrywood spoons for you. Those flatlays are fully equipped and no joke. Yes, you could cook that. Not pictured: the flatlay of the dishes in your sink. 

The flatlay also does a beautiful job in the depiction of a complete dish. Again, when photographed from above, it's easy to imagine the plate right in front of you and ready to eat. My favorite compositions usually feature some already squeezed lime wedges on the table near the plate and a generous margarita in the corner calling my name. 

It's easy to imagine yourself cooking a recipe when you see the beautiful flatlay of the work in progress, and it's even easier to mentally taste a dish when it is laid out in front of you as though you've just been served a meal. There are other more artistic versions of food flatlays; almost all of which inspire me visually and in the kitchen. Some of which are deconstructed, monochromatic, or arranged in patterns. Some have thrown in some pumpkins and fall leaves and even a wayward antler for the sake of the image. I kind of love them all. Here are some favorites. You can also see more on my Beautiful Flatlay Photography Pinterest board. Whose food photography do you love?

 From Charles Schiller's magnificent  Before and After  series that can be seen  here  on his website.

From Charles Schiller's magnificent Before and After series that can be seen here on his website.

 Weirdly, I could look at these pork products all day. Dan Goldberg has a fantastic portfolio and I encourage you to take a gander on  his website.

Weirdly, I could look at these pork products all day. Dan Goldberg has a fantastic portfolio and I encourage you to take a gander on his website.

 I recently discovered Alanna's Bojon Gourmet blog and will be returning. Her photography is beautiful and the recipes look fantastic.

I recently discovered Alanna's Bojon Gourmet blog and will be returning. Her photography is beautiful and the recipes look fantastic.

 A supremely compelling deconstructed flatlay from  Carl Kleiner  for IKEA's  Homemade is Best  cookbook.

A supremely compelling deconstructed flatlay from Carl Kleiner for IKEA's Homemade is Best cookbook.