trust the process

great black turtleneck is always a good look

Last week I put up five trees, moved in all my geraniums at the country house while moving out all the furniture to Boston MA, and hosted a small working lunch for nine women. Sure, I had anxiety, we’re coming up on holiday season where expectations run high.

overwintering the geraniums, moved all the furniture to Boston in two big pods
papasan is from youngest daughter’s bedroom, kinda need somewhere to sit

Oldest daughter, the one living in Boston and on the receiving end of all of the furniture, says the goal this year is for me not to end up sick and in the fetal position on Christmas eve or any other day leading up to January 1st, as has been my move. I’ve been pacing myself, doing things early. 

One of my dear friends tells me the Christmas season is a man’s holiday, women invariably do a lot of the hustle. I’m telling myself to trust the process, it will go, it always does. 

two in the dining room, one in the living room, forgot to take that photo and its the best one 🙂
one in the family room
one in the upstairs sitting room, it looks great from the street at night

The thing is I love doing this kind of stuff, decorating, cooking, making things nice for those around me, all the while creating good memories and bringing people together. 

So, one thing at a time: trees are up, no skirts and no ornaments. These five trees here are brilliant, we used to do the fresh thing where husband and the kids would go out and get the biggest fresh thing they could find and then I would spend DAYS and NIGHTS wrestling with the lights, solo, of course. No more, last year on advice from my sister, she who designs events for hundreds of thousands in San Francisco, ordered in from Balsam Hill: I bought three of their revolutionary flip trees, and the two slender ones in the dining room go up in minutes, all lit! It’s genius. 

greens are dressed, plated, ready
with the warm French cheese in pastry
it was delicious, maybe a little heavy on the dressing, I panicked at the last minute, and I probably could have kept the plate rim a little cleaner
it was a working lunch meeting, I set the table and herbal iced tea waiting for everyone
I used three small juice glasses filled with parsley and rosemary from the country house down the middle of the table for the centerpieces
the English chocolate crisps with dried cranberries were delicious
I sent small packages of two home with each guest, no one really likes to eat desert at a lunch
the thing that I was most proud of was that my kitchen counter was clean and not like a hurricane happening

And the lunch? Everything from one of my favorites, Ina. I simply sat down with her Make It Ahead book and planned out the whole thing, beginning to end. We had Herbal Iced Tea, Salted Caramel Nuts, French Green Bean Salad with Warm Goat Cheese, and Chocolate English Crisps. I truly felt like a Barefoot Contessa

here’s the pile of cut greens waiting to be put in nine urns for outside decorations, gotta trust the process

The carrot bread recipe comes from one of my other inspirations, Martha of course. She’s an entirely different story, last night I was reading her blog, The Official Martha Blog, about her most recent dinner party in her brown room, she brought in chef’s, (plural!), and they had individual tangines. Her gardening escapades involve an entire staff, and they dig up and propagate and store Dahlia tubers and things, wow, #gardendreams. We can all aspire to entertain with ease; I think the key is to slow down and trust the process. Bite off what we can chew, do things slow and with intention, and for me, do things early. At fifty-four I’m finally learning that flying by the seat of my pants is not a good look, wink wink.

trying desperately to do the work early and not always fly by the seat of my pants

keep it simple

now here is a look I can get behind: single stem, single color. This photo was taken by son Maxwell in a fancy restaurant. The vibe felt approachable, doable

Yesterday afternoon I sat on the couch and read the November issue of a high-end interior design magazine and got promptly overwhelmed. I should have been doing any number of other things besides sitting on the couch yet I was feeling overwhelmed in general and it was Monday so I thought I would take a little rest. Not a good idea.

I think some of the ‘overwhelmed’ feeling was coming from the impending end of October and then the impending beginning of November. Yes, that most wonderful time of the year. 

So, I took a very long walk with my two unmanageable dogs and had a good talk with myself. We’ve done this before, (now like 33 times at least), and we will do it again. Keep it simple I tell myself. 

I know that this simple here might be different simple for others, and that’s okay. For me it’s about doing things myself and being hands on. Hands on the food, hands on the flowers, hands in the garden. It’s never quite like the magazine yet I give it a good go. 

my weekend activities with husband and dog

This past weekend while out in the country I wrestled with the annuals, I’m actually overwintering all of our geraniums, and I think I’m getting better at it, and it’s actually very satisfying. Those overwintered geraniums come back even better the next season out. 

this is what my kitchen really looks like…
grocery store roses, all kind of one color
this is what I do, all white

I’ve yet to branch out with multiple color schemes, it’s always red geraniums or a whole little vessel of lavender or big bunch of white roses, or a whole lot of one thing all in one color or texture, I can’t seem to manage a mix. 

cut the lavender from the garden and stuck it in water glasses
we had fun at that table and then I packed up that lavender and we moved houses
you can’t really see it yet it’s the same weeks old lavender down the center of the table in the second rental house

While in France during the month of June I cut fresh lavender from the garden, placed it in five water glasses here and there down the table, and then took all of that lavender with me when we moved to a new spot. Husband thought I was crazy, all of that lavender wrapped in paper towels while moving from one rental house to another. It wasn’t fancy yet it really looked quite amazing, and it was honestly very simple. 

here I cut white garden roses and stuck them in wine empty wine bottles, of which we had plenty 🙂
I could only find these tiny lights, no glass holder, simply wax on the linen
husband checking me out, oops, didn’t iron the linen, don’t really care

If you too might be feeling a sense of unease, of all that’s expected, I say take a big armful of whatever is in season and fresh around you and lay it all down. Lay it on the table, fill an odd number of water glasses, simply make it simple. High-end interior design magazines, oh you’re good, yet you make me feel like I might not ever get there, (The 101 best gifts list with items starting in the upper thousands really didn’t feel right). It’s just me here, and the humans I hold close. November and December, we’re looking at you, and yes, time to move off that couch. Let’s try and keep it simple. 

gotta love a wall of red hanging geraniums

Ethel’s 80th

gathered at the barn for ‘stingers’, our featured cocktail
Ethel, peanut, me looking at old family photos
Queen City Strings
absolutely love these two, Ethan and husband
the gang’s all here

Birthdays in our world are most often celebrated with a scratch baked cake and dinner at home with family and maybe a few close friends. Mom turns eighty late August, and we gathered for a barn dinner last week to celebrate as my dear sister and her family were visiting from San Francisco, CA. 

seating for sixteen
birthday girl place card and menu

It’s not often we’re all together, she’s got a full life with her huge west coast event design company, Radeff Design Studios, managing fetes for thousands. The two of us together pulled off a home cooked five course seated dinner, country-side, and it was brilliant. 

Tracy ordered rentals, booked the string quartet, arranged flowers, designed graphics, and basically planned the menu. I came in at the eleventh hour and baked a cake and cooked off the entrée, a little well done. 

Mom really started the two of us on this party-planning journey, even while holding down a full-time job back when that was really not the thing she would set the table, make fancy food, and have us put on our best clothes to come together and break bread. That’s a gift that continually gives, the desire to feed and care for others, making meals memorable and soul stirring, whether it be scrambled eggs with toast and homemade jam or a wedding celebration for 200+.

happy birthday dear mom

There were sixteen of us that night, my sister and I with our men, her eight grandchildren, and two life-long young friends. Most of us took turns raising a glass and offering a toast, telling stories with love and affection of fun and crazy times. An 80thbirthday is reason to celebrate. Mom, you are beautiful, independent, curious, elegant, and ever-evolving. Happy Birthday and wishing you many returns of the day. 

Maxwell toasting Ethel
birthday bouquet from Lexi
the table is set
menu details
seated dinner for sixteen, how we celebrate birthdays

day 10, a clean palate

grey velvet and white, and yeah those lamps at the doorway need some shades

In an effort to minimize, so far to go with that concept, for new house down south furnished in a flash I stuck with a color palate of white, grey, and dark brown, or one of my favorite words chocolate. Mostly white and grey, and we moved fast.

every day dress office Saint Petersburg FL, office chair from Office Depot Office Max

At Rooms to Go we picked up two white leather pieces, a sofa and a loveseat. The rest of the haul came from Restoration Hardware, and not embarrassed to say Restoration Hardware Outlet. Husband likes to move fast, no time to wait for special orders.

husband thinks lampshades are way too big, mail order, whatever

First night in the new house we slept on a mattress on the floor, and second daughter Booie slept on a yoga mat on the floor. In a land of plenty it was fun in a weird strange way. Booie and I also spent a night with no power, and that was fun too. Candlelight and early to bed.

new art on the white walls and table for six that can go to eight
I’m furnishing the place in a few simple colors…
my new closet and there’s that pop of orange in an orange suede shirt with all other things black and tones of white
picked out all this stuff in a hot minute, speed dial with local delivery guys, love the pop of orange

Kind of like building a wardrobe based on a cohesive color story, furnishing this place with limited choice made it so much easier to make decisions. Of course, you always need to mix things up or throw in a curve ball, hence the Hermes orange cushions for outdoor seating area. Really like that little pop in what is otherwise Zen-like and serene.

keeping it clean in the new kitchen. pre-ordered bar stools at Perigold
do I kind of match the kitchen? haha

Today’s work outfit was tone on tone too. Black cashmere V-neck, black leather skirt, soft white scarf, taupe suede boots, keeping it all in the same family made it so much easier to get out the door.

Every day dress, clothes: neutrals, interiors: mostly grey and white, food: Prosecco in the office and take-out for dinner.

Day 10, check.

day one

double denim and vintage ski

I have a bad habit of making things harder than they need be. Here we go with day one and I’m supposed to post twice a day and maybe to Instagram stories and I still haven’t totally figured that out yet and supposedly it’s super easy so I’m going all old school with photos from the camera.

just the beginning, needed to just start…

It was Sunday, and the day before husband and I drove to buy pansies by the dozens as I just can’t wait for spring. Planted most of those pansies in pots on the terrace and cooked up this month’s Food & Wine Italian Spring inspired Stewed Chicken Legs and Thighs with Fresh Herbs and Olives, Sautéed Chicories with Chile Oil, and Pear Crostata.

every spring it’s pansies in the pots
simple symmetry
mixed chicories before the heat
stewed chicken never really takes a good photo
plated up with the salad it looks a little bit better, it was really delicious
pear crostata, burned the first go-round, had to dump it

Really didn’t know what Chicories were, and now I do: Chicories are closely related to lettuces, but heartier and with a bitter edge. Cool weather crops that come into season in late fall (and last in temperate climates through early spring), chicories provide a lot of flavor to seasonal fall and winter meals. Thank you to The Spruce Eats. I guess I sort of did because Food & Wine didn’t specify radicchio and I picked that up at market anyways.

peonies and ranunculus, $3.50 a bloom from the grocery

Planting and cooking took most of the day, also got in a long walk and some yard clean-up. Outfit of the day was denim on denim and vintage Bogner ski jacket.

Day one, check.

déjà vu

chicken, olives, prunes, capers, olive oil, red wine vinegar, a splash of chardonnay

made two pans and set eight plates, miss you Lizzie and Mimi
simple table, linen napkins, pretty much always un-ironed
had a little trouble with the couscous, made a double match and it kind of stuck together, single batch twice is better

Another snowy February day, another chicken dinner. Really didn’t know what I was thinking, set the table for eight yet we only had six, must really be missing those college co-eds.

We’ve been reading; a book about a couple living in France and trying to speak the language exclusively, Gwyneth’s new book The Clean Plate, and a book gifted by second daughter, Ann Hood’s Kitchen Yarns. Ann’s writing about The Silver Palate’s legendary Chicken Marbella made my mouth water so much that I had to go to market to gather chickens and prunes. It was delicious.

steamed the broccoli yet it precooked a little by simply sitting out on the hot range

Decided to do some Parker House rolls as well, because, well, it’s snowy and it’s February. Anything with melted butter and flaky sea salt is a win win. The broccoli was because of Gwyneth.

If you’re wondering what to do for an at home Valentine’s dinner, Chicken Marbella could be a consideration. We added couscous simmered in homemade vegetable stock, and caramelized crème brûlée. Chocolates would be welcome, of course.

flowers, books, and candles = necessities

Paperwhites are from dear friend, thank you, and give hope for spring.

Déjà vu everyone, xoxo.