Mabel, Mabel, Strong and Able, Keep Your Cell Phones off the Table

Can we all agree here? In this week of Thanksgiving, as we gather together, let’s be there, with one another,  eye to eye. Much as I want to see the picture of your cat in her pilgrim costume, it can wait until after dinner. Much as you want to text your boyfriend for the seven-thousandth time, he can wait, too.

I’m not going to insult you by saying calls, pings, Facebook, and Twitter can also wait, because you know that. Tell me you know that.

 Sarah Aynesworth, etiquette consultant in Texas, says, “ENOUGH.”

I can listen and text at the same time. I can multi-task. Not. Screen Shot from The Britishes ”Stop Looking at Your Phones”

“Manners,” she says, “are about how you make others feel. More important than any rule is making the person you are with feel like she is important to you. Would you verbally say to your fellow diners, ‘You eat your salad while I answer this email…’ ? Never! And yet that is what happens.”

Oh sorry, I didn’t think you’d notice. Screen Shot from The Britishes ”Stop Looking at Your Phones”

“We’ve all seen a table of teenagers, sitting across from each other texting instead of talking. I only hope they can make eye contact and carry on a conversation in their first job interview,” she continues. Srsly! But Sarah believes adults are beginning to be just as bad. “Beginning” is generous if you ask me… “Rarely can you have a phone-free evening these days,” she says, woefully correct.

Phones on the table are not okay, either. A table prepared for a meal, be it humble or grand, is a place of sustenance and nurturing, of coming together and camaraderie, of story-telling and family squabbles. Whatever. These are connections. These are relationships. These are life and love. We should respect the table and hold a reverence for it, however light-hearted. Slapping a cell phone down beside your place is just that: a slap.

Right then, all phones in the middle of the table. Whoever answers first picks up the tab. Unless of course it is at your own house. But hey, that’s a thought…Screen Shot from The Britishes ”Stop Looking at Your Phones”

Stop Looking at Your Phones, a funny Downton Abbey-ish spoof is circulating on YouTube, btw, where they all heave their huge, circa-1914-ten-pound phones to the table… We are amused. And yet not. (Warning: video dialog includes f-bomb and c-word. :o )

They make the phones so small nowadays… Screen Shot from The Britishes ”Stop Looking at Your Phones”

And finally, advises Sarah, “With the holidays approaching and dinners with loved ones and business associates ahead, I challenge you at least to think about it. Put your phone away and focus on your fellow diners. Be present, appreciate the moment, give your full attention, make them feel like the most important people in the world.”

Talk about a gift that keeps giving. Thank you, Sarah.

If it’s really important, you’ll get word soon enough. Screen Shot from The Britishes ”Stop Looking at Your Phones”

To learn more about the lovely and superbly etiquette-d Sarah Aynesworth, or to contact her, visit her website here www.sarahaynesworth.com.

Posted in Blog, Humor, Insight & Inspiration, Social Graces | 9 comments

Holiday Centerpiece With Birch Bark, Foliage, Fruit, and Flowers

Holiday Centerpiece With Birch Bark, Foliage, Fruit, and Flowers

Here is an impressive but easy centerpiece for the holidays or any day. For mantel or table,  the size and height are easily varied. Use any combination of foliage, fruit, and flowers. Make a mess and it will still be beautiful. It's an anything-goes thing. Birch bark or any ol' hollowed out log will work. The former is available at crafts stores and floral supply shops online. The latter you sweet talk someone into the woods for. Don't take that the wrong way. This is the smaller version we did last year for the children's table.  Birch Bark Centerpiece with Persimmons, Roses, Oak, and Moss Moss for the base is also available at crafts stores and floral supply shops. The fruit and foliage you can be creative with and use what is available in your area. Autumn leaves and apples. Dried seed pods and hydrangeas. Persimmons, pomegranates, pears, apples, bunches of grapes, squash, eggplant, cabbages. Even kale--hell they put it in everything else. You may want to do the arrangement on a tray or piece of plastic, something to protect your table. Then insert any low-profile containers into the bark, and let the bark curl around it. The containers don't matter. Birch bark centerpiece DIY I found I needed oasis, so I put that into the containers, having soaked it in water for several hours before hand. Oasis, btw, is a dense foam that absorbs water so you can stick flowers and foliage into it. The plant material stays put and hydrated. Here you can see the oasis in the containers and the beginnings of the sticking-in. I used oak foliage from the trees on the ranch. You can use anything, really. Okay not "anything," like old tennis shoes or something, but stuff in your yard, along the roadside, in the woods,   in your neighbor's yard... I did not say that. That is trespassing is what that is. You would never do that... during the day... For the "grown-ups' table" we had a slightly larger rendition, this one with pomegranates, apples, berries, roses, oak and olive foliage. Birch bark centerpiece DIY Be sure to cover the ends. And you know my motto, do as much as you think you need, then do a little bit more. You want the look of abundance! Thanksgiving Decorating at Rancho La Zaca - Centerpiece Detail - Roses, Berries, Apples, Pomegranates, Oak and Olive branches Another good thing about these is that they are low, so everybody can see everybody. Birch bark centerpiece DIY with Oak, Roses, Pomegranates, Berries If you'd like to borrow my watercolor place cards of shotgun-toting turkeys, click here. And to see the previous post of Thanksgiving decorating at Rancho La Zaca, click here. Oh, and if you have any questions, lmk, I am happy to help you. Y'all have a great Thanksgiving and we'll be back soon. I am so grateful for you, my readers, and all you have given me. Wow, thank you.

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Posted in Decoration & Design, Entertaining, Flowers & Gardens | 12 comments

Thanksgiving Decorating at Rancho La Zaca, and a Printable Place Card

Thanksgiving Decorating at Rancho La Zaca, and a Printable Place Card

Is Thanksgiving your favorite? Mine too. What is that about? Is it what Christmas used to be about? You know, family, friends, congenial gatherings, gratitude? Just a thought.  It's also one of my favorite times at our home, Rancho La Zaca. Here are a few highlights from last year and perhaps some inspiration for you this year. Longtime readers have seen these turkeys before. I got them I know not where on the Internet, never to be heard from again. This is their fourth Thanksgiving, still standing praise be, in opposite corners of our entry hall. This is Horace. Thanksgiving Decorating at Rancho La Zaca  And this is Henry across the hall. Henry is His Grace's (my husband, for new readers) middle name. It's a strong name, Henry. You don't meet many Henrys these days, come to think of it. This post could change all that... Thanksgiving Decorating at Rancho La Zaca  Last year on the mantels I combined dark, glossy green camellia foliage with our California pepper tree, olive, seeded eucalyptus, and bay. Pumpkins and pomegranates add color. Thanksgiving Decorating at Rancho La Zaca  I do love how the sun comes into the room and highlights whatever's on the mantel. The concrete artwork is by Ruben Ochoa. Thanksgiving Decorating at Rancho La Zaca - Mantel  Across the room under Hunt Slonem's butterflies,  persimmons have worked their way into the scheme. The large twig cornucopias came from Pottery Barn four years ago and, like the feather turkeys, haven't been seen since in the ether of commerce. You see these things in catalogs and think they'll be there forever, but they aren't. So if you see something that works, go for it, because it may not be there next year. Thanksgiving Decorating at Rancho La Zaca - Mantel  Longtime family friend Julie "Junebug" Williamson, who is also a chef, gifted us with these gorgeous flatbreads. Ohhhhhhh my and they were as good as they looked. Also a nice  way to call attention to the seating plan. I like to put it front and center so you don't spend the entire cocktail hour unwittingly talking to your dinner partner, JIC you run out of chat. Which even yours truly does on occasion. Hard to believe, I know. Thanksgiving Decorating at Rancho La Zaca - Seating Plan and Junebug's Famous Flatbreads The dinner table with mis-matchy chairs but that's okay. The centerpieces are birch bark with oak and olive foliage, roses, berries, apples, and pomegranates on a bed of moss. You can order the moss online. There are many sources. The birch bark and flowers come from a wholesaler down the road in Carpenteria (California). Thanksgiving Decorating at Rancho La Zaca - Table Centerpiece  Here's a close-up. I made it up as I went along. It's all in there higgeldy-piggeldy, which pretty much sums up my philosophy of entertaining. Thanksgiving Decorating at Rancho La Zaca - Centerpiece Detail - Roses, Berries, Apples, Pomegranates, Oak and Olive Branches, and Moss We don't always have a children's table, preferring to jumble everyone together (see above: higgeldy-piggeldy), but last year it made sense. I had a larger top made for a small flea market round table, and it does the trick just fine. Now I leave it on all year and use it for a puzzle table. Thanksgiving Decorating at Rancho La Zaca - Children's Table  As in past years, I painted a watercolor menu/place card/souvenir. We are a shooting bunch, so last year I keyed off of that. This is ol' Henry holding a shotgun, with a shell bag around his waist. If turkeys have waists. I don't have much of a waist myself by the end of the day. Though I don't have much of one to start with, to tell you the truth. Thanksgiving Decorating at Rancho La Zaca - Place Card For your very own printable place- or menu card, click here. Drag image to your photos and print on watercolor texture paper. Boom. You can do the vertical version above or a larger, foldable horizontal below. It does dress up your table, and people feel special when they have a specially designated place, don't you think?  Chef Stephanie Valentine's beautiful grilled turkey, simply trimmed with rosemary. Sorry I don't have a download-able version of a grilled turkey. Turkey trimmed in rosemary. Thanksgiving at Rancho La Zaca. Friend and literary agent Tricia Davey's jewel-like cranberry tart. Julie Davey's Cranberry Tart - Thanksgiving at Rancho La Zaca As we are a family of mixed faiths, and as 2013 coincided with the beginning of Hannukah, we also lit a menorah. Thanksgiving Decorating at Rancho La Zaca - 2013 - Lighting the Menorah What we are especially thankful for this year is the life of Frances "Frannie" Dittmer, below at right. For new readers, Frannie was the mother of my husband's children and a fabulous gal. "F-1" to my "F-2," nicknames I believe we were both flattered by.  Thanksgiving 2013 was our last with Frannie, who died in a plane crash in February. She was something, and you can read about her here.  At left is darlin' Junebug of the famous flatbreads.  Julie ''Junebug'' Williamson and Frances ''Frannie'' Dittmer, Thanksgiving 2013, Rancho La Zaca  In August, Frannie and HG's daughter (mine too :) ) and her husband adopted a baby girl. And thus grace is born again in the inscrutable circle of life. Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude not just for what we have, but for whom we have--in our lives and in our hearts. Amen. Coming up: DIY for the Birch Bark Centerpiece. It's easy!

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Posted in Blog, Decoration & Design, Entertaining, Flowers & Gardens, Sketches, Paintings & Projects | 17 comments

Printable Thanksgiving Place Card or Menu

Printable Thanksgiving Place Card or Menu

Here you go, a a shotgun-toting turkey as printable place card or menu hand painted by moi. Drag the image to your photos, and print on watercolor-textured (or other) paper. It will look like you did it yourself. Wink-wink! This one is probably best as a 4x8 or 5x7. Thanksgiving Place Card via FrancesSchultz.com Here is the full version, printable as an 8x10, which you can fold. Use the inside for a menu, prayer, or blessing. Or it may be a keepsake for your guests in which to write what they are thankful for this year. Thanksgiving Place Card via FrancesSchultz.com Full Thanksgiving decorating post to come... My pleasure. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Posted in Blog, Entertaining, Sketches, Paintings & Projects | 5 comments

Jewelry and Joie de Vivre – Verdura’s Sparkling Exhibit

Jewelry and Joie de Vivre – Verdura’s Sparkling Exhibit

Oh, there are bigger, flashier exhibits, but "The Power of Style: Verdura at 75" is transporting. No where else will you see such gorgeous jewels alongside such rare period photos of the film stars, royals  and swells who wore them. The pair of cuffs Fulco di Verdura designed for Coco Chanel. He said she was the chicest woman he ever knew. Photo via Jewels du Jour. I fainted when I saw this emerald "scarf necklace." It was weeks before the exhibit and they let me try on the copy they'd made. I swooned again. They didn't let me try anything else because they did not want to keep holding me up.  This image via Town & Country, here Fresh from Russia with a cache of emeralds, Bill Paley's first wife, Dorothy Paley (later HIrschon), asked Verdura to make her a necklace she could wear during the day, meaning without diamonds. So he made her an emerald ''scarf'' with a gold clasp. Photo Town & Country. But wait! There's more! There's Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo, the Duchess of Windsor and Diana Vreeland, Cole Porter and Coco Chanel--and the actual jewelry they wore, not reproductions. Greta Garbo loved her Curb-Link watch and bracelet. From Verdura exhibition catalog. Tyrone and Annabella Power at left, Marlene Dietrich at right, from the catalog. There are Fulco di Verdura's own design sketches ... Fulco di Verdura's designs in gouache, as exhibited in The Power of Style: Verdura at 75. Photo courtesy Verdura. ...as well as a collection of exquisite miniature paintings he did as gifts to friends. I went nuts over these, more so than the jewelry, possibly, but don't tell my husband. Miniature paintings by Fulco di Verdura, as seen in The Power of Style: Verdura at 75. Photo courtesy Verdura. Miniature paintings by Fulco di Verdura. Photo courtesy Verdura. There is such a richness of creativity and joie de vivre here that you cannot help but be inspired by it. I felt ten carats happier just for seeing it--not only the jewelry but the care and cleverness in the exhibition itself. One  of many exhibit cases in The Power of Style: Verdura at 75. Sketches for some of these pieces can be seen in the photo above. Photo courtesy Verdura.  Curated by the late Duke Verdura's friends Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera, and their daughter Patricia Lansing, the show includes 150 pieces loaned by collectors from all over the world. Kudos also to the dashing Nico Landrigan, now president of the venerable firm purchased 30 years ago by his equally dashing father Ward, for the sheer effort and ingenuity in renovating and designing the intimate display space.  The Power of Style: Verdura at 75. Photo Verdura. Verdura and Chanel in background photo. This dare I say jewel of an exhibit is on through December 23, Monday-Friday from 11 to 5, and Saturdays starting November 29, also 11 to 5, at 745 Fifth Avenue, 12th floor, adjacent to Verdura’s showroom. Verdura-Snail-Brooches. Photo via Jewels du Jour  Addenda: Tis the Season to Be Jewelry Since I mentioned other jewelry exhibits, and if you are a magpie like me and attracted to shiny objects, you probably know about Sotheby's November 20-21 sale of  Bunny Mellon's "Jewelry and Objects of Vertu," but you may not know that the website has a lovely video wherein Ward Landrigan talks  about Mrs. Mellon's confident taste and her husband's patronage of Verdura. And... see Jewels du Jour's favorites here. I discovered the blog Jewels du Jour in the writing of this post. Where has she been all my life? Author Natalie Bos did a beautiful job introducing the Verdura exhibit here, and she revisited the exhibition again last week, including more photos and history. Also not to overlook is Treasures from India--Jewels From the Al-Thani Collection now on at the Met. If you like, you can see the whole thing from your sofa, as each object is on the Met's site. Not quite the same, but all this jewelry is exhausting and you may need a rest. Oh and just for fun, you may have seen the crown jewels at the Tower of London, but you can re-visit Crown Jewels via The Daily Telegraph here . (Warning: eye-popping, even if you've seen them before.) Queen Mary's crown. Photo via The Daily Telegraph. And finally, speaking of London's Tower and seeing as it is the week of Veteran's Day, if you haven't seen those World War I commemorative poppies surrounding the Tower, see them via CNN here. They honor those who fought and died so that others might survive and prosper. For some that means celebrating the power of creativity and finding beauty in everyday living--jewelry or no. Amen, and thank you. LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16: Queen Elizabeth II visits the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red evolving art installation at the Tower of London on October 16, 2014 in London, England. 888,246 poppies will be planted in the moat by volunteers with the last poppy being planted on the 11th November 2014. Each poppy represents a British or Colonial fatality in the First World War. The poppies are for sale with 10% plus all net proceeds going to six service charities. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images. Caption, CNN) Verdura bejeweled shell brooch. Photo via Jewels du Jour.

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Posted in Blog, Decoration & Design, Fashion & Style, Sketches, Paintings & Projects | 14 comments