Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Child's New Year's Eve in Upstate New York

New Year’s Eve in our family meant just one thing – the Annual Costume Party. For it was then, that my parents and their fun-loving friends would play dress-up for one night.

Sometime around Christmas the invitation to the annual party would arrive in the mail. “Please join us for a Cruise to the Caribbean”, or for a "Hawaiian Luau”, or “Come dressed as a Beatnik” it would read. Thus, added to the flurry of the holiday activities, would be the pressure of what my parents would wear on the evening of December 31st.

Each couple was on their own when it came to ideas for costume attire. Since I was the artsy member of the family, I was tapped to be our in-house stylist. I remember well the year when the invitees were asked to come as a designated famous person. My father was to be Picasso; my mother Joan of Arc. Now Dad, who was completely bald, had the Picasso look down pat. All he really needed to complete his look was a beret (brought back from our family tour of Europe), a torn white tee shirt, khakis and sneakers. Taking a red magic marker in hand, I adorned his tee-shirt with my variation on one of the artist's “Demoiselles d’Avignon”. My poor mother’s costume was less inspired. I only recall that part of her costume was a lamb’s wool hat, which doubled as Joan’s helmet.

The merrymakers would gather in the basement “rec” room of the Glass family on White Springs Road. Their son Teddy was a talented artist, and the genius behind the annual invitations, decorations, and party favors. (He would later become a Hollywood set designer; so in a sense his first gig was at those costume parties).

Sometimes, the party would take place at our house on Washington Street. On the evening, I would perch at the top of the front hall stairs, and try to identify the disguised arrivals by the scent of their perfume or men’s cologne.

Later, laying on the floor of my bedroom, I would listen to the sounds of the adults having fun as they danced and played various party games. Games included the ever popular “Walk the Plank”; "Fashion Designer" (where patterns for clothing were cut from newspapers and pinned on a live model); and the crowd pleaser “Who’s Legs and Feet are these?” (A bed sheet would be tacked across a doorframe two feet up from the floor. One team of guests would take turns standing behind the barrier, and showing a little bit of leg. Then the team out front had to guess who belonged to which legs).

The morning after, I would eagerly rush downstairs. Then I would raid the refrigerator for exotic left-overs, and stale bottles of ginger ale; while awaiting my parents’ review of the festivities.

How wonderful and innocent it was for these hard-working adults to have this once-a-year night to laugh and play like children!

I toast them, (almost all now gone to the big party in the sky); and I toast all of you: “May your hearts be filled with the joy, wonder and laughter of children this coming year!”


Sunday, December 20, 2009

What's On The Menu This Christmas?

Here is a special Christmas menu. Each course comes with a wish from me to you.

Last year I was living in Flinders, Australia. However, this year I couldn't attend the Girls' Annual Christmas Lunch. My good mate Sue sent me some happy snaps from the party. I thought you might enjoy seeing what a jolly group they are.

The festivities were held out-of-outdoors on Linley's deck overlooking Westernport Bay. Note the beautiful arrangement of blue Agapanthus, which grow wild on the Mornington Peninsula.

The table-setting was graced with all of Linley's special touches.

Here are "Les Girls".

They sent me a message.

I was there in spirit!

Robert Louis Stevenson once said:

The best that we find in our travels is an honest friend
He is a fortunate voyager who finds many.

Happy Holidays to dear family and friends, far and near.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Winter Season ~ Paris 1939/Carmel 2009

Now, that the entire US seems headed for a coat-ing of snow, I figured it was time to take cover. I come from the land down under. During my six years in Australia, (also known to some as the homeland of Ugg boots), I hardly wore a jacket, much less a coat. I love vintage couture, and while dreaming of a White Christmas, I found these winter coats gracing the pages of a Parisian fashion magazine from 1939.

How perfectly they illustrate the adage that “everything old is new again”. Wrapped up in one of these, I would be quite comfortable promenading the boulevards of Paris, the streets of San Francisco, or even Carmel.

The jury, however, is still out on the turban and the cone hats.

But I do like the fur touches. They remind me of Willow’s famous fur hat.

I still have fond memories of a rock-star of a Canadian sheepskin coat, that I once owned. It cost the earth, but wearing it, I made quite a statement, and it was so warm to boot. Once, when we lived in Europe, an overzealous salesperson talked me into buying a lined Burberry coat, in a size too small for me. I never felt comfortable wearing it, feeling more a Viennese sausage, than a Sloane Ranger.

Living in Beijing, I became a devotee of China prêt-à-porter. I went all out for jackets with mandarin collars and knotted buttons.

During the day, my uniform was a simple Red Army green cotton jacket (from the touristy Silk Market),

or a Shanghai Tang green wool felt jacket.

Evenings, I went dramatic, with a glamorous black silk padded jacket in the Ming-style. I remember the pride I felt as I walked around the Chinese capitol city, as locals would give me a thumbs up of costume approval.

Many of the above garments returned with me. There have, however, been a few recent additions, such as a $25. Ralph Lauren trench coat (from a Carmel re-sale shop), and a classic Pendleton green wool tweed coat, with a B. Forman label (from my mother’s closet). I guess you know by now I am partial to the color green!

These chilly Carmel morns, I slip into my old friend, the black padded Chinese jacket, and walk to town. Just the other day, I got a fashion thumbs up from the owner of an Ocean Avenue boutique.

Now that’s a wrap,

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Next Stop ~ The Ferry Building, San Francisco

They say that "if you go to San Franciso, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair". I say, "be sure to stop at the Ferry Building Marketplace". Not only is it a busy ferry terminal, but it houses an amazing array of specialty shops and restaurants.

Just one of the many whimsical mosaics decorating the Terminal walls.

One of Alice Waters' favorite shops is there.

You can find one-of-a-kind food and wine antiques at Culinaire.

Elsewhere you can find a shop specializing in mushrooms ...

or tea...

or cheese...

or caviar...

or, if you're in the mood for oysters ...

Grab a stool at Hog Island Oysters, and watch the theater of the chef chucking fresh oysters.

Try Boulettes Larder for breakfast.

This is the famous "Boulette", the Chef's Hungarian Puli dog - is he coming or going?

A view of the action in the kitchen...

from the Chef's table.

Sit outside the restaurant and take in a view of the Bay Bridge. Watch the ships coming and going, and the fog rolling in.

You will leave the San Francisco Ferry Terminal with many tasty treats for your Chrismas hamper.

A Merry Ferry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Are you going to the Christmas Tea Party?

“Yippee!” We all shouted.
“Today we’re going to Mr. Toast’s in Aspen for tea.”
“I’ve never been to Aspen before,” I said.
“I have never been on skis before,” said Lulu-belle.
“I’m not afraid.” said Teddy. “Let’s go!”

This being our first real, grown-up, blog tea party, so we are very excited and very nervous. What is the proper tea party etiquette and attire? Can we find our way there?

Teddy is being very generous. He is insisting on bringing the strawberry rose-petal jam that he had been saving for his long winter nap.

Lulu-belle and I have been busy all week making holiday cookies from a secret family recipe (which, because we are sharing it with you, is no longer a secret.)

I’ll be wearing my mittens, which were made by our friend Audrey. They are copied after a pair that kept the hands of Norway’s King Haakon VII, warm during WWII, while he was in exile in Britain.

Lulubelle’s Christmas mittens were hand-knit in Estonia.
Teddy, of course, is going bare-pawed.

So we’re off then. Fingers and paws crossed we make it. No worries mate - it’s all downhill from here.


Marjorie, Lulu-belle and Teddy

P.S. Love and bear hugs this birthday to E.G.T., the real doll in the family.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Giving Thanks

Little Pilgrims ~ Elizabeth Grace, Carrie and John Mark

Giving Thanks

by Mattie M. Renwick

For flowers so beautiful and sweet,
For friends and clothes and food to eat,
For precious hours, for work and play,
We thank Thee this Thanksgiving Day.

For father’s care and mother’s love,
For the blue sky and clouds above,
For springtime and autumn gay,
We thank Thee this Thanksgiving Day!

For all Thy gifts so good and fair,
Bestowed so freely everywhere,
Give us grateful hearts we pray,
To thank Thee this Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Holiday and thank you for your friendship!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Whether in the world of museums, antiques or rare books, patina is a word often used to describe an artefact or object. It can mean fading, darkening or other signs of age, which are natural and/or unavoidable, and often enhances the value and appearance of the item. With the arrival of yet another birthday, I feel patina could describe me as well!

So when I wandered into a shop in La Selva Beach, CA, near Santa Cruz, called PATINE, I knew it was my kind of place.

The shop is filled with imaginative displays, and objects of charm, with just the right amount of wear around the edges.

We met Lauren, a very elegant woman who watches the shop on weekends, so the owners can go off to work various markets and shows.

Pillows and Bolsters in French ticking and linen

Vintage and Antique Nightwear from the 1800s in cotton, linen and hemp. See how lovely Lauren looks in hers.

Antique French children’s cloth "rag books"

Cushions made from some of these cloth book covers

Looking like two Parisian rag-pickers, we had a ball rummaging through an industrial-size laundry bin full of vintage designer scarves priced at $5-each. We discovered and liberated several brightly colored and patterned vintage treasures from YSL, Vera and Schiaparelli.

A rustic, French produce sack made of hemp, with great lettering and a red star, was hanging on the wall behind the counter! I fell in love with its patina, particularly the primitive repair stitching.

Here it is, proudly hanging over our red Chinese settee.

Patinated and proud,