Bee Cottage Has a Book Deal!

Ladies and gentlemen, we pause from our erratically scheduled blog to announce yours truly has signed with Skyhorse Publishing for a book about Bee Cottage. I am tickled. And terrified.

Skyhorse contract

The original title was Just Bee, but they didn’t go for that. Recently my bff Alex Hitz suggested The Bee Cottage Story, which everyone liked. Part personal memoir and part decorating, with lots of photos, the book will be out in July 2015. Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise. 

We are wrangling over the subtitle now. Possibles are:

A.  Renovating, Decorating, Living, Learning
or
B.  How I Made a Muddle of Things and Decorated My Way Back to Happiness
or
C.  How I Decorated My Way Back to Happiness
or
D. Renovating and Decorating My Way Back to Happiness

What do you think? Which one makes you most want to read the book? Or maybe you have another suggestion?

His Grace says it should have “sex” in the title, because sex sells. But I told him it is The Bee Cottage Story, not The Bird and the Bee Cottage Cottage Story. Men, I swear.

Can you imagine I saved this comic strip all these years???

Jeff MacNelly’s Shoe

Another Shoe favorite was when Cosmo (the big fat one with glasses) was at smart-mouth, skinny Roz’s diner, which he frequented. He says to her,

“I know I’ve got a book in me, Roz.”
To which Roz deadpans, “And if you’re smart you’ll leave it there.”

I have not left it there several times now, whether as author, co-author, ghost-writer, ghost-editor, ghost-buster (kidding), or contributor in some way. There is something satisfying about working on a book.

Heaps of thanks to Skyhorse editor Julie Ganz; to Tricia and Beth Davey of Davey Literary & Media; and to John Tomko and Rain Management Group.

And thank you, too, dear readers. For three years now, your support of and enthusiasm for our blog–and I do feel it is “ours”–help make this book possible, and I heart you ALL.

One more thing. Before the blog or the book, there was the House Beautiful series here where it all began. Thank you Newell Turner* and House Beautiful. The response to that column both touched and encouraged me. One reader’s note has stayed with me ever since, as a kind of talisman. This reader and I have never met, but we’ve kept in touch through the blog, and I feel we are friends. On the back of her envelope, she wrote: P.S. You should write a book about Bee.

A House Beautiful reader’s letter to Frances.

 xox Frances

*LINK is to fab designer and blogger Mark Sikes, interviewing Newell. 

Posted in Blog, Humor, Insight & Inspiration | 76 comments

The Best Berry Cobbler Ever

The Best Berry Cobbler Ever

Here's the perfect, scrumptious, super-easy summer dessert. Seven ingredients, melt, mix, pour, bake, boom.  Recipe below. Berries, image via Driscoll's Organic Berries Recipe hails from friend Alex Hitz and his super-fab My Beverly Hills Kitchen cookbook.  Julia Child herself declared it the best strawberry dish she'd ever had. Yours truly served it just last weekend at Summer Supper in the Garden, and they ate it up. Here's a clip of  Alex making the cobbler on Access Hollywood.  Alex Hitz making cobbler on Access Hollywood. That's Alex in the apron. He is so cute. Alex Hitz making cobbler on Access Hollywood. The cobbler itself is not quite as handsome, but what it lacks in looks, it makes up in flavor, and howdy. Alex Hitz's Mixed Berry Cobbler By the way, you can order Alex's book via his My Beverly Hills Kitchen website. You definitely want this book. My Beverly Hills Kitchen, image via What Is James Wearing.com    

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Posted in Blog, Entertaining, Food & Recipes | 21 comments

Summer Supper in the Garden

Summer Supper in the Garden

At least once a summer I like to have dinner in the garden where we do it up. So we did it up last weekend. Bee Cottage - summer supper in the garden The occasion here is for Jane Scott Hodges and her book Linens for Every Room and Occasion, following her signing at Mecox Gardens in East Hampton hosted (where youmay call to order the book) by Chesie Breen, Charlotte Moss, and me. (You can click on the Mecox website and call to order the book :) The Garden at Bee Cottage Jane, you may know, is the founder of Leontine Linens which grace some of the most stylish beds and tables in the land. And then they grace a few of mine, including those at Bee. I wrote a bit on her book a while back, HERE. The book is fab. The tables and chairs (with rented linens, alas) go to this end. The Garden at Bee Cottage And the bar goes here, at the other end of the pool. The Garden at Bee Cottage - Armillary The porch gets a little spiffing. That plexiglass disc in the center of the pouf makes a level surface but leaves room for people to perch around it. That's what you do on a pouf: perch. Bee Cottage - on the porch Bee Cottage - Annabel Hydrangeas The dining chairs from around the porch table relocate to improvise seating areas in the garden. Bee Cottage - improvised garden seating area Bee Cottage - garden seating area Bee Cottage - Annabel Hydrangeas, dahlia, and cosmos Around to the side, the raised beds and grape arbor remain pretty much as is,... Bee Cottage - raised beds looking toward grape arbor ...with a bunch of oak leaf hydrangeas on the table I hope does not collapse by dinner's end. The flowers and the armillary brighten this darkish corner of the garden. Bee Cottage - Hydrangeas under the grape arbor. Summer is all about casual and laid back and can I bring my cousin visiting from Richmond. In other words, buffets work best, don't you think? Praying for good weather (and for no more awful injuries in the World Cup) is  burden enough without the penance of place cards and seating plans. With garden as backdrop, the tables don't need much. Lanterns, votives, and roses floating in glass containers. The napkins were embroidered with pink polka dots around the border. Simple and enough. Bee Cottage - summer supper in the garden East Hampton artist Richard Udice did the flowers for the porch and tables. So lovely and just right. I love doing them myself, but not enough time this time. As a friend of mine's grandfather used to tell him, "Son, you do what you can--and sometimes you can't even do that." Everything's almost ready... Flowers by East Hampton artist Richard Udice. Dinner is served on the round table under the awning, which is handy in case of sprinkles, in which case the lawn tables are abandoned, and it's every man for himself inside the house. It happens. Fortunately and hallelujah the only sprinkles were from the fountain, which I still cannot quite believe, because it is ridiculous, but funny. Photo by Kelli Delaney Kot via kdhamptons.com  on Instagram. Bee Cottage pool with fountains, photo by Kelli Delaney via her Instagram @kdhamptons  Fortunately the rain held off this night.  Thank you Hurricane Arthur. Having spent 4th of July as scullery maid on hands and knees in relentless deluge bailing out basement window-well which wasn't draining (any insight on that I'm happy to hear, btw), Frances bailing at Bee Cottage. Photo by Alex Hitz. ... said maid was all the more grateful for the beauteous weather the week following, including for last Friday's dinner. (If you'd like a signed, autographed copy of the above photo, let me know.) Not only was it clear and cool, we had the Super Moon. Like a theater prop, it was, rising over the trees just as we were sitting down. Photo via my Instagram. Bee Cottage - Summer Supper in the Garden - via Instagram Thank you again Brent Newsome Caterer for the sublime sea bass, sticky rice cake, spinach, and watermelon and tomato salad, and Alex Hitz for the Berry Cobbler (recipe to come! ) A perfect summer menu. The gardens at Bee are what they are thanks to Jane Lappin and Wainscott Farms, and Maureen and Lazaro. Thank you all, as always.  Goodnight, (Super) Moon.  

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Posted in Blog, Decoration & Design, Entertaining, Flowers & Gardens | 40 comments

Postcard From Italy No. 2–High Speed Chase Through Vasari Corridor

Postcard From Italy No. 2–High Speed Chase Through Vasari Corridor

 Notes from travels earlier this summer… In our last episode, our hero, aka His Grace my husband, was foiled by his devout but conniving wife in his valiant attempt to visit Italy without darkening the door of a single church. T'was a tale of betrayal and deceit, with beautiful scenery and a great lunch: (Postcard No. 1, here)  The Vasari Corridor, image via The Florence Art Guide This week, we follow the footsteps of the Medici in Florence via the forbidden Vasari Corridor, the passage of which our hero strives to complete in record time. Back when Medici roamed the earth, the corridor was their private walkway from the Uffizi (Italian for offices) across the Arno, to the Pitti Palace. The Medici, alas, no longer roam the earth on account of the last one was gay and loathed  his wife--less-than-promising circumstances for producing heirs. No, ol' Gian Gastone de'Medici turned instead to a life of "alcohol, gambling, witticisms and orgies," whereupon soon enough, "his smelly bed became the center of his existence," according to Joan's MadMonarchs.nl, which may be my new favorite website. Another new favorite site is Uffizi.org, the next best thing to being there, and where we begin this week's installment. The Birth of Venus, painted in 1486 by Sandro Botticelli, commissioned by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco Medici. Standing in line at the Uffizi, I am struck by the fact that there are no Japanese left in Japan, because they are all in Italy. This would actually be an excellent time to visit Japan, because you'd have the place to yourself. Is it my imagination, or does the Duke of Urbino vaguely resemble my husband? Is there some ancestral cosmic consciousness that led me to call him His Grace? Even though he's from Iowa? Does anybody know any Urbinos in Sioux City? The Duke and Duchess of Urbino, by Piero della Francesca, via Uffizi.org See the Uffizi's greatest hits here. There are so many! If you go, buy tickets in advance and hire a guide. We used One Step Closer, whose principals are native Florentines, and they were wonderful. They also arranged the Vasari Corridor visit, which must be done by special permit and separate fee, as it is not open to the public. Well la-dee-da. But in fact you do get  quite special treatment when your guide mentions to the guard, "Vasariani..." Like Moses at the Red Sea it was. Going from the jostle and shove of the magnificent Uffizi galleries to the hushed stillness of the private Corridor is dramatic and affecting, as are the 700+ paintings including the largest collection of self-portraits in Europe, dating from the 16th century to today. Astounding. The Vasari Corridor, image via Uffizi.org It is about here, ladies and gentlemen, that His Grace breaks into a trot...  View of the Ponte Vecchio from the Vasari Corridor, where the Medici could look down on the little people. Image via Uffizi.org ...gaining momentum for the final sprint toward the Boboli Gardens at the Pitti Palace where the corridor exits. At this rate he could be the first human to break the sound barrier. Too many paintings can do that to a fellow, not to mention too many churches... The Medicis' private balcony overlooking the nave of Santa Felicita. Image via Uffizi.org. Allora, HG's effort to break the world speed record for the Corridor Kilometer is thus cruelly thwarted by his lingering and lethargic wife, who pauses at the Medicis' private balcony overlooking, you guessed it, a church. Is there no justice for HG? Find out next time, as we visit Siena..., home of the world's wildest horse race, though no match for HG hurtling through Vasari... Note: Though admittedly difficult to top G. G. de'Medici's smelly bed--here are a few more interesting sites and posts about Florence... The aforementionedUffizi.org. Florence Art Guide  is also good, and here is a very nice overall post on Florence in Culture Vixen HERE. The Florentine is an English language, and Visit Florence is a good overall site albeit with advertising and commercial links. For more from my "Postcard From..." series, enter keyword "postcard" in the search box. Enjoy, ciao, xox Frances  

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Posted in Adventure & Travel, Art & Culture, Blog | 13 comments

Reading This Book Will Make You Happier–and Less Cluttered

Reading This Book Will Make You Happier–and Less Cluttered

You cannot read Everything That Remains without changing how you think about your life--and your stuff--and without doing something about it, which will make room for more joy in your life. I promise, or you can return this post for a full refund. But first, if you are eating or drinking, be careful lest you choke when you read that I'm talking about the virtues of minimalism. You okay? I can hardly spell minimalism, let alone practice it, but stay with me. There is valuable insight here even for someone who has way more than any five people need. Not to name names. Okay one: moi. By Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus and published six months ago, the book is a memoir and beautifully written, primarily by Josh, with Ryan chiming in on footnotes, which is funny. (For this reason the paper copy may be preferable to the e-book.)  Everything That Remains, Image via www.TheMinimalists.com The authors call it a "why-to" as opposed to a "how-to." It isn't just about possessions; it is about anything you do that takes time, energy, or money--relationships, career, committees, TV, Facebook. Does it add value to your life? Answering that simple but profound question brings profound clarity, enabling us to pare down, focus on what is important, and do what we are passionate about. We all know this, and yet... As they say on their superb website, "There are many flavors of minimalism: a 20-year-old single guy’s minimalist lifestyle looks different from a 45-year-old mother’s minimalist life. Even though everyone embraces minimalism differently, each path leads to the same place: a life with more time, more money, and more freedom to live a more meaningful life." Pause here and click on their minimalism definition if you didn't already. It's not about throw-out-all-you-own-and-eat-tree-bark, which never has appealed to me. (Shocking, I know.) What I need to find is the flavor for a 50-something-writer-wife-aunt-step-monster  who lives in three places on two coasts and has (too) many interests. It's going to take soul-searching and work. I'm not saying (yet) that I'm giving up 10 pairs of Jack Rogers sandals, but there is clutter to clear, and I may need help. Is there a flavor called Minimalism for Materialistic Spoiled Brats? Since I started this post I've bought two flower vases, a small painting, and a bracelet. They say when the student is ready, the teacher appears. This book hit me at the right time. Maybe it will you, too. Let us know. Meanwhile have a look at TheMinimalists.com--a good place to start on their website is here. Order the book via IndieBound, or here at Amazon.

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Posted in Blog, Humor, Insight & Inspiration, Little Life Enhancers | 23 comments