The Millenium Bridge :: A very personal note of London, past, present and future

Jessica Gordon Ryan/ The Entertaining House

Have you ever seen something and just stopped dead in your tracks? This happened to me in London. I can remember the moment almost down to the minute hand on my watch. It was Friday, September 20th - which also happened to be my mother's Birthday - around 2:30 in the afternoon. We had just finished our amazing architectural tour and were headed to the Tate Modern for High Tea. We got off our tour bus at St. Paul's Cathedral and proceeded the 5 or so minute walk across the Thames to the museum. As I set foot onto the bridge, with the majestic city of London all around me on both sides of the water and the museum directly ahead, my eye caught wind of a small sign, which happened to be the name of the particular bridge we were on. At that very moment I was completely overcome with emotion. I was on the Millenium Bridge. THE Millenium Bridge. Suddenly I could feel all the hairs on my body stand on edge and chills run throughout. I stood there a moment... perhaps many... practically paralyzed. Of the 27 bridges in Central London that cross the Thames I certainly had no idea I would ever find myself on this bridge. In fact, when I first learned about it, it hadn't even been built. Our high tea at the Tate Modern was also a last minute change as we were supposed to have high tea elsewhere but plans changed to accommodate timing. So really, I should never have been where I was... when I was. 

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Why was I so taken by this bridge? Well, in 1997 my grandmother entered a competition to design the bridge. She was the only non architect to be entered into the competition. Somewhere in a letter to me she told me she won third place. My mother said she got an honourable mention. The latter, even, is even so much more than many accomplished architects had received. The bridge she designed was based upon the fabulous Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy. She thought it to be the most beautiful bridge in the world. Her version had an opened grand dome over the top and was lined with plenty of little shops. (Great for tourism, no?!) Her drawing was magnificent. And of course, I thought it should have won. I am not at all biased. Not at all. 

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

As you can see, the new bridge is as modern as can be - She's powerful, strong and beautiful in her own way. She stands as a perfect example of how Londoners embrace both new and old. My grandmother, didn't much care for new and shiny.  She had a love and appreciation for all things old - with a history and a story to tell. I'm not sure what she thought of this bridge. She did live to see this bridge completed. It was opened to the public on June 10th, 2000. Sadly, she passed away from Multiple Myeloma not long after.

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Below is my grandmother's vision of what she thought The Millenium Bridge should be. Isn't it marvelous? Wouldn't you love to cross over a bridge like that? Perhaps I should write to the Counsel of Bridges in the City of London and tell them that should they need a new bridge in the future, they ought to consider this one?

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan/ The Entertaining House

My grandmother, with whom I was extremely close, did it all. She was my idol, my mentor. In fact, I was named after her grandmother, Jessie Moseley who came over to the states from London - with whom she was incredibly close. She seemed to have no fears. She accepted and welcomed challenges. She shied away from nothing. She was and remains my inspiration. I am still learning from her. I still have a lot to learn. I take my inspiration from her strength and determination.

She was so much more than a glamourous, socialite. She happened to be a glamourous socialite who sat in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down from Polio which she contracted when she was in her late 20s. She spent 9 months in an iron lung clinging to life. She was a fighter. When she was in her mid 40s she lost her husband, to cancer, they think. Not one to feel sorry for herself she decided to pack up her bags and move on... to Paris, of course! There, she renovated a pied-a-terre, on Ile de la Cite. Her pied a terre was noticed by Maison et Jardin and featured in several of its issues. I have many of the original copies. While living a rich and full life in Paris she met and fell in love with a dashing and handsome American film producer. And while in Paris she built a house in Cannes, in the South of France, that she designed on her own. While commuting back and forth to Cannes from Paris she would stay at the Carlton where she met and befriended American author and playwright Thornton Wilder. (She kept all his letters. I have them all.) When her house was completed she moved in with her new husband, my grandfather. This house too caught the attention of those at Maison et Jardin. I have those copies as well. Together my grandparents lived and entertained royalty, actors, authors and beauty company mavens (Estee Lauder) in their magnificent home. After 13 years there they moved to London where they briefly had a flat in Hyde Park and then settled in and old Manor House that she renovated in Great Haseley, a suburb of Oxfordshire. I think they felt most at home and comfortable here. They had so many wonderful friends in England. This house too was photographed and appeared in ElleDecor, Interiors, Country Life and others. She was described as an interior designer by the press. She loathed the term. She just loved creating beautiful and yet comfortable homes. On her 70th Birthday she bought herself an old villa in a tiny town in the Umbrian hills called Citta della Pieve. (If only we could all treat ourselves so well on our 70th Birthdays!) She restored this home lovingly, taught herself Italian - which, despite her terrible American accent, she spoke fluently. She uncovered frescos, cleared away weeds to build a tennis court and swimming pool. There was a garden that fed us well. All this from a woman of barely 5 feet who sat in a wheelchair for most of her life.

There was so much more that she accomplished as well. She embraced life and she lived it fully and well. In this blog I write about her often and refer to her as La Jolie Grandmere, a name lovingly bestowed to her, among others, by Thornton Wilder. And so, when I feel like I'm at the end of my rope and can't go on, I look to her for inspiration.

If you search La Jolie Grandmere, here on the blog you will find much more about her.

And this is why being on that bridge was so special to me...




My mother reads my blog almost daily and makes corrections when I am wrong:
The following are her corrections:  

Tho B was rooted in the traditional, her ideas definitely were "youthful" & embraced the modern. That bridge she designed is modern in many senses.  (She got honorable mention -- no prize).
As for B's bio:  she was in the hospital for 9 months but, fortunately, not the whole time in an iron lung. She was a widow at age 40. She met Larry in the south of France -- AFTER she met TW.  (She was living in Cannes -- had sold Paris -- by the time she met Larry.)  She bought the Manor house as her 60th b-day present! Yes, my father died of cancer -- there was never any question about it..  He was only 47

Manhattan when I was young :: A Tribute to a city, the victims of 9 -11 and their families

Photo: Matt Weber

Our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, sons and daughters... Our best friends and loved ones perished much too soon. You remain forever young in our hearts... you remain in our thoughts and prayers... Angels among us...

As many of you know I grew up in Manhattan. The towers, along with the Chrysler and Empire State Building made up the skyline as I knew it. You can't get lost in New York, all you have to do is look up! The buildings will guide you and take you to where you want to go... and they will bring you back home safely. The skyline, the streets filled with cabs and busy pedestrians and extravagant shopping is part of my own personal landscape. Like the street vendor selling hot pretzels. Like the hansom cabs. Like the homeless man on the corner or the children running and skipping down the sidewalk... Or the young lovers strolling through the park holding hands. The artist, the photographer, the crazy haired hippie, the business man, the dog walker with 12 dogs of varying sizes... these people are all my Manhattan. As is Central Park in Spring. Central Park in the Fall. Central Park when it snows. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. St. Patrick's Cathedral. Rockefeller Center. The Plaza. Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue... Tiffany and Company. Wollman rink. The boat basin. The boathouse. The traffic! Tavern on the Green, which sadly no longer exists. They are all my Manhattan when I was young. And all I have to do is close my eyes and know they are there. I close my eyes and I can see the towers. Strong. Tall. Majestic. Radiant in the morning sun. Glorious at sunset. All I have to do is close my eyes...

I left Manhattan when I was in my early 20s. I did not go very far. I went all the way to Greenwich, Connecticut. Highbrow, austere, elegant, tony, wealthy (though I had not a penny!) Greenwich, Connecticut. I didn't care much about the exquisite shopping on Greenwich Avenue back then, I was all about Todd's Point. Park, beach, nature preserve. Sublimely beautiful. Serene. Tranquil. Paradise. Lined by beautiful sandy beaches and endless trails for biking, running and walking. This park is a health enthusiast's utopia... it's heaven even for the non exercise enthusiast. I used to love to go to Todd's to run, walk or rollerblade. I loved most, this one spot, just around the bend... You could see the tip of Manhattan. I paused there often. Just taking in the magnificence of the city. Taking in the magnificence of my hometown. On a clear day she shone with a brilliance rivalled by none. Then again, she was rivalled by none - she was, (is) after all, Manhattan. The towers stood together, proudly, at the tip like watchdogs guarding their home. The towers were infallible... You'd know this, of course, if you ever stood inside their grand lobbies. But the Titanic, I suppose, was infallible too...

On September 11th, 2001 I was in my early 30s and living in my new home in Fairfield, Connecticut, some 30 miles east of Greenwich. I had two babies, the younger one was a mere 9 months old. I was on the phone and watching the Today Show when the first plane struck. A moment in time like no other. A moment in time that will never be forgotten. My Manhattan had been attacked. My Manhattan was forever altered. I think I was too... I think we all were.

"I'm at Todd's" a friend called to tell me. "I can see them. I can see the towers." She said nothing else. I knew what she meant. I wondered how many people - men, women and children, stood there, at Todd's Point, that day watching history... watching history crumble. I couldn't do it. I'd never want to. I have them in my memory. I have them in my mind still. Perfect. Strong. Safe. In my mind, I can remember Manhattan when I was young.

I offer my heartfelt prayers to all those who lost loved ones on September 11th, 2001. They will never be forgotten.



turning a loss into a gift...

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House
Originally published in Maison et Jardin, 1962

Many of you know of the special bond I have with my grandmother, La Jolie Grandmere. While she passed away nearly 10 years ago at the tender age of 82 to a form of Leukemia, I still think of her often, almost daily. As a very young child she would start to mold and shape my life unbeknownst to me. She was grace and dignity and strength. She was classic beauty, a socialite, incredibly smart, well traveled and well read. She had a presence and people were drawn to her. As I grew into my teens, then 20s and 30s she became my role model. It was not until after her death that she would have the greatest impact on my life.

My grandmother, whom I and everyone else called Bettina, was a bon vivant. She lived life and she lived it to the fullest. She was not one to ever feel sorry for herself or ever make excuses. She was a go-getter and a doer. Nothing was impossible. She was never a quitter. In most circumstances this is extraordinary as it is, but in hers it's even more so.

At 40 (or in her early 40s) she lost her husband to cancer. Not a dozen years earlier she became wheelchair bound and paralyzed after falling gravely ill - nearly escaping death - with Polio. Her children were grown and in college and she was determined to start a new life for herself. She would buy a ticket to Paris and renovate a historic brownstone on Ile de la Cite which would in turn be photographed numerous times by the celebrated Maison et Jardin. She had talent and style and determination and strength. She created an elegant pied-a-terre apartment on a tight budget in an era when this was not fashionable. She was a trend-setter.

She would eventually, over the course of her lifetime build and renovate homes in Cannes, Oxfordshire and Umbria (all would be showcased in various magazines including Country Life, ElleDecor and Interiors.) She would fall in love and marry a strapping, dashing Hollywood producer. She would meet Thornton Wilder one afternoon while sitting at a cafe and they would remain friends for life. She would party with Estee Lauder at her home overlooking the Cote D'Azur. In my eyes, as a child, she was my grandmother and this was all very normal. As I grew I soon learned that there was nothing ordinary about her. It wasn't until I got very much older, very much older, that I would learn just how talented and strong she really was. She could have given up. Most of us would have...

My grandmother and I designed my wedding dress together. She worked closely with my mother and myself to help plan the grand event. We spent part of our honeymoon with her and my grandfather, as their guests in the Members Enclosure tent at Wimbledon Tennis Championships... in the rain with plenty of Pimms to keep us entertained... She was an enormous part of my life. Her loss was and still is devastating to me.

And this loss is a gift. She is my inspiration. If she could accomplish all that she had done in her life then certainly I could take a small step towards happiness. I was terribly unhappy and I knew why I was but I was terribly afraid to do something about it. And I did. 

I stood up for myself and the journey was often long and difficult. But she was there with me every step of the way. And so it is because of her that I had the strength to file for divorce. And it is because of her I have found my rainbow and my pot of gold. I've found happiness and peace. I cannot wait to see where I will go. She will be with me every step of the way.

I am writing this because while I was on my journey toward divorce I kept a journal. It needs editing but I was surprised to see how well written it was. I hope to publish it soon. I hope to share my story and I hope to be able to be an inspiration to someone as my grandmother was to me. I was not alone in this journey and I want others to know they are not either. It is not a tale of anger and hate, but a story of growth... with lessons learned along the way.

I am coming clean because I hope you will check up on me from time to time to make sure I can keep focused and stay on course.

Have a Wonderful Wednesday!



And she goes running for the shelter of her mother's little helper...

I remember singing the lyrics to this song when I was young. My friend Zoe had introduced me to the Rolling Stones. She had much older brothers and sisters and her mother was a fashion designer. And her father was a professor with a very handsome British accent. They were an eccentric family. I say this having grown up in Manhattan in the art world. These people were eccentric. Like Andy Warhol eccentric. But they were cool. And I liked Zoe. She was a bad girl. A Risk taker. An adventurer. I was the good girl. Non adventurous. Non risk taker. Until I met her I had never really gotten into trouble. Zoe was fun. Sneaking in to the Church of the Heavenly Rest, on 90th and Fifth, just blocks away from where we lived was fun. Attempting to climb up the bell tower with hopes that we wouldn't get caught was fun. Skate boarding down a couple of streets (after being chased out!) to get an ice cream from the Good Humor Man parked outside the Guggenheim Museum was fun. Zoe was fun. Hanging out and, listening to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Lilly Tomlin on her mother's bed was fun. Sneaking one of her mother's cigarettes was fun. Singing along to the records while sneaking cigarettes was fun.

And we'd croon... and the lyrics meant nothing to me in my youth... "what a drag it is getting old..."

And as I wandered into the wonderful Jonathan Adler store on Greenwich Avenue today I was immediately taken by these wonderfully amusing canisters. I stood in front of them for a long time. I smiled at the canisters and thoughts of Zoe and our childhood on the 11th floor of 1136 Fifth Avenue came flooding back to me. I laughed at the thought of two pre-teens singing about mother's little helper!

image via The Entertaining House
taken with Instagram

image via Google

Oh which ones should I get, pray tell??!!


Let them be little forever

One of the things I struggle most with being a mother is watching my children grow up. Yes, some days they are maddening and you are wishing them off to college. Or perhaps you are at wit's end and you wish your eldest could just get her license already because, frankly, you've been the chauffeur (chef, maid, nurse, doctor, psychiatrist, repairman, personal shopper, etc) for nearly 13 years and you've had neither a raise nor a promotion and you're starting to get a bit bored. Sometimes you wish the years would just hurry up already. You're over your head and you're having a hard time staying afloat. You nearly missed your 5 year old's physical. You've been meaning to call the dentist. The eye doctor. The chiropractor. You've been meaning to mop the floors. You've been meaning to call your neighbor down the street to check in on her. To congratulate a friend who just learned at 40 that oops she's pregnant. To get that recipe to Eloise. To thank Amanda for dinner. To thank Celeste for the hand-me-downs. To drive the baby toys to Goodwill. To go to the dry cleaners. To shorten your pants. There's simply not enough time in the day. Sneakers are forgotten and you need to deliver them like 5 minutes ago, Mom! Nevermind you are in a meeting twenty minutes away. Dinners have to be home made and fresh. Every day. Kids have to get to soccer play dates parties school... Someone's coming to look at the house. In twenty minutes. You do what you can to tidy everything. The kids can't put the dishes in the dishwasher. The kids can't wipe the darned toothpaste from the sink. Can't hang up towels. Lift the toilet seat. Find the hamper. So you rush around as best you can and hope to God that no one dares to open the front hall closet and if they do it won't be good... call an ambulance... quick! And you have a conference to attend and you must pack and get your ducks in a row and as you're getting your car filled the school calls. Your youngest threw up. Come. Come now! And so now you must pass on the conference. And you're cleaning up your child and suddenly you remember what you forgot to send in with him on the first day of school. A spare change of clothes! So you wrap him in the blanket in the car and he throws up all over it and you have to figure out how you are going to get the other two in the car without having them throw up as well in 24 hours. Nevermind they have sports to get to. Damn, you missed your yearly gynecologist appointment that took 8 months to get. You really want a glass of wine. You really want a chauffeur, maid, nurse, doctor, psychiatrist, repairman, chiropractor, masseuse... but a glass of wine will do. But it's only 3:30.

By the time you get home your little one is passed out and looks so young. You place him on the couch and bundle him in blankets and keep watch. You never once let your eyes off of him. And yet somehow you know that it's 5:00 and you can get that glass of Pinot Noir. You only leave his side once. You return. You remember when he was a baby and how simple everything seemed back then. Suddenly you don't want to rush ahead. Suddenly you want to turn back the clocks. You want all your babies to be babies again. (Oh how we forget!) And you are sad and tearful and you miss their youth terribly. And as you sit on the couch stroking the forehead of your sick child the reels that are your memory start turning, bringing you to a better place and time. As you watch the movie that is your life you wish you could take one of those picture perfect moments and freeze them.

And do you know what? You can!

image courtesy Better Wallpaper Co

courtesy Better Wallpaper Co

Aren't these brilliant?! You can create your own personal wallpaper and capture those perfect moments and cherish them every day! This clever idea comes to us from Better Wallpaper Co in the UK. Visit their website for more information and wonderful ideas.

Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us -- Oscar Wilde

the write stuff

iPad touchscreen by Spinning Hat

I think this is the most fantastically brilliant cleverest creative thing I have seen in a long time!

The typewriter played a great role in my childhood. My grandfather, a writer and film producer, spent much of his day in his small book filled office, in the South of France. My memories of their home were created by the magnificent sights and smells that surrounded me. As well as the sounds. Even poolside I could hear the muffled click-clacking that came from his office below. This click-clacking was punctuated by a series of dings. It was a constant sound. It was a melodic and soothing sound to me. Now that I am a writer and grown I marvel at the constant click-clack ding... click-clack ding... did he never experience writer's block? Did he never make mistakes? Did he never have to stop for a moment to insert a new role of correction tape? It was always click-clack ding... click clack ding.

I had a toy typewriter as a child. It was a favorite toy of mine. I had the Barbies and dolls but they collected dust in the corner. The typewriter was where it was at. Click clack ding... click clack ding... otherwise I was busy with my piles of paper, markers and crayons.

My mother worked in public relations throughout her successful career. As a child I considered it a treat to visit her at work and meet and "play" with her friends. Jody took me "swimming" on her knees. There was Earl and Mark, and Susan who left long before my mother did but the two women remain very close all these years later. Michael came a bit later and left before she did. He is now at the helm of ElleDecor - You may have heard of it!

Mom, Earl, PR dept at MoMa 1977
Wasn't Mom smokin'? (Literally!) 

Earl, Mom, Dad, Mark at some MoMa, 1977

My mother's farewell party at MoMa 1977
Diana, Susan, Dad, Bill, Mom

My mother would bring me along on her "errands" through the museum's back offices...  to the mail room and beyond... I found the behind the scenes more fascinating than the wonder that was carefully curated on the walls beyond... I was incredibly privileged... I was incredibly spoiled.

The best part about getting to visit my mother at work at The Museum of Modern Art was that I could sit in her office and use her office supplies... the paper, pens, pencils... I remember loving the oil pencils that were used to mark up photographs. In those days photo editing was done by hand. The pencils had a distinct smell and feel. They glided across the page and when the oily nub ran down, there was a small white string at the tip that one would pull and the wood that held the tip in place would slowly peel away in a curly Q revealing more red tip, and when that tip wore down you'd peel yet more away. I think I liked the act of peeling away at this magnificent pencil even more than I liked creating images with it!

My favorite part of our visit was indeed her typewriter... The electric typewriter with its whir, hum, click-clack ding. How I loved to visit my mother at work and sit behind her typewriter at her desk, on her chair. How grownup I felt. I couldn't very well type in those days. I didn't want to; it would have taken 5 minutes to write a simple word. What I wanted was to create the click-clack ding... click clack ding. How my heart sang when I sat at my mother's chair, at her desk, at her typewriter!

I love that something new and modern and fresh and smart can evoke such wonderful childhood feelings!

Happy Weekend All!

a note of a most personal nature...

I used to be impulsive.
I used to be the kind of girl who never walked but who ran full steam ahead.
Patience was not my virtue.
I used to be a free spirit.
Yet I sweated the small stuff every day.
I knew what I wanted but was too fearful or too intimidated to go after it.
Or perhaps was too afraid to fail.

And then I had children.
I had to slow down.
I had to learn to lead by example.
I had to learn to become more patient.
I had to learn to stop sweating the small stuff.
I had to learn to stop being intimidated or afraid.
I had to learn to accept failure from time to time.

As a mother I was still incredibly creative.
As a mother I was still incredibly passionate.
As a mother I was still incredibly appreciative
Of the beauty of life and all around me.
Perhaps even more so.
As a mother I saw things differently.
As a mother I started to see things from the eyes of a child.
As a mother I started to see things in a new light.

Even now I am still eternally optimistic.
(Some may call me a dreamer.
Some may say I have my head in the clouds.)
Even now I can still see the silver lining.
Even now I still see my glass as half full.

Motherhood has given me more confidence.
Motherhood has made me more determined.
Motherhood has made me stronger. Fiercer.
Motherhood has given me the courage to stand up for myself.
Motherhood has given me the strength to roll with the punches.
I have always had a powerful voice.
Motherhood has taught me how to use it.

I used to let life happen.
I have learned that in order to be really happy I must make life happen.

A year ago I started to realize that I was not really happy.
I started to realize that I was going through the motions of living but I wasn't really living. I was becoming a spectator and I wanted to be a player. I had all the wonderful "things" a person could want. But we all know that material possessions cannot buy happiness. I felt terribly for feeling and thinking the way I did. But these feelings started to grow and overwhelm. I could ignore them no longer. I was forced to take a good long look at everything around me and realized, although I had known (but not realized) for a long time, that my marriage was not working. We were failing. We were falling apart. A small crack had started in the foundation years earlier. Suddenly the entire home was crumbling. I felt sad and trapped and lonely.

I struggled for many months to figure out what to do. I couldn't possibly break up my family. I had three young children. This would devastate my husband. So I plugged along. But the more I knew that the marriage was broken the sadder and sadder I became. I could ignore the feelings I was having and just keep my unhappiness to myself and go through the motions for the rest of my life so that my family could stay together.

But deep down I knew this was not the right thing to do. I would be up nights crying. Many many nights. For months and months. The more I cried the more I knew I just couldn't go on. I sought help. I sought counseling. In some cases marriages can be fixed. In some cases they can't. They ought not to be. This is one of those cases.

I do not want my kids in a broken family, but more importantly I do not want them in a bad marriage. To stay together for the sake of the children is just wrong. I have been told this by numerous people and professionals. As much as I did not want to hurt my husband I knew, eventually, what had to be said. What had to be done.

I thought of my grandmother, La Jolie Grandmere, as I so often do when I need advice. She lived life. She lived it well. She lived it on her terms. Even from her wheelchair. She never would have settled. She never would have continued living in a manner that would have made her unhappy. She never would have settled. I really hate that word. I just can't think of another right now.

It's been almost a year now. It's no easier now than it was a year ago.
It takes two people to make a marriage. It takes two to cause it to fail. (For you all wondering, there was never an issue with betrayal or infidelity.) Our marriage simply stopped working. The love had been fading for years. My heart is still breaking over the pain this has caused. But in the end I know that my children will be happier and healthier. And in the end I think my husband will be too. He truly deserves someone who can love him madly, deeply. As do I.

I remember clearly in one therapy session. He said he had tried to give me everything. He wanted to give me the moon and the stars. I know he did. I know. I think about this daily. This still brings tears to my eyes.

I explained it well to the children, I think. You can have two people who are wonderful on their own. But together they are like water and oil. They do not mix. They do not compliment one another. We both love our children very, very much. Our children know this. We are sure to tell them as often as we can.

This was not an easy decision. This is certainly not the easiest path to take. There is pain daily. The tears are still there, almost daily.

I am not writing this to vent or air any dirty laundry. I am not writing this to hurt anyone. I do not want to be nasty. I am trying my best to handle my situation with grace and dignity. I am writing this for others to read partly to explain the reason behind some of my posts, and partly to give others some insight. And partly to inspire others by telling my story. The more I talk the more I know you are out there like me.

I do not advocate divorce. It is long and tough and grueling. But sometimes it truly is the answer. It is not something to be afraid nor is it something to be ashamed of. We all deserve the best and we all deserve happiness. My children do. My husband does. I do.

Seasons of love...

It's 7:03 as I sit down to write this, the last post of 2010. Alexander is sleeping peacefully next to me. In his small arms he has managed to fit 2 teddy bears, a bunny rabbit, and a dalmatian. The television is on and the Today Show is about to run a recap of all the moments, great and small, of this past year. I've done the same myself. I was inspired by the words in the song you hear playing in the background. It is currently Alexander's favorite. How do you measure a year? It has a been an introspective year for me. It has been a year of sadness that has, I know, affected my parenting. While I try as hard as I can to be the best parent I can be, I can't help but think that my children my children had less than stellar years as well. What do they see when they look back? How do they measure a year? This past year?

Outside the sky is a magnificent hue of violets and pinks. Stunning. Mesmerizing. The trees, snow and few remaining leaves have taken on various shades of these colors as well. A beautiful way to capture the final morning of 2010. I have a cappuccino on the bed stand to the left of me, along with my iPhone, glasses and the latest book I am reading -- Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The author describes the time when she uprooted her family to the Appalachia region where they would start a farm and learn how to live off of the earth. We have lost our roots to the earth and here she shows and teaches us how history, to some degree has caused us to be a sugar-consuming, fast food nation. She documents her year with her family as they set out to do something vastly unfamiliar to them. With intelligence, wit and humor a fabulous and informative memoir was born.

I've been reading mostly memoirs this past year. I think this started mostly because I was writing about La Jolie Grandmere and me and trying to find my own voice, I was studying how others wrote as well. I became a huge fan of Ruth Reichl and her food memoirs. Marjorie Hart's Summer at Tiffany's seem to hit a chord as she of the same generation as La Jolie Grandmere. I have just finished Katrina Kennison's The Gift of an Ordinary Day where the author at midlife with one son about to enter college, examines her life and discovers the very thing she has been waiting for has already happened. Another fabulous read.

I am happy to bid 2010 farewell. If I could I would sweep most of its pieces under the carpet but I cannot. If I could I would sleep away today but I cannot. I have much faith and hope for the new year. But, yet, I don't feel like celebrating. There will be celebrations and triumphs, like any other year, and like any other year there will be hurt, heartbreak and loss. That part I cannot bear...

As you know, if you are a regular reader, I am definitely a glass half full kind of girl. And with that I must look at the positives of this past year. I have taken back myself. What that means, is that over the years of parenting and looking out for everyone else, I lost a sense of myself and my dreams and goals. While they always loomed in the back of my head, I felt it was my duty to put my family first. This year I decided that I ought to come first as well. My New Year's Resolution last year was to get myself to the doctors (that never happened!) and to get back to being healthy. And that I did. I lost the 20 pounds that never came off after my youngest was born. I started working out daily and taking care of me. I started to re-think about my dreams and goals and desires for the future. I started to act upon them. I still work out several times a week. It's made me a better person all around. (And the 5 pounds that mysteriously have found their way back since summer will disappear after all this good holiday food does.. tomorrow!) I have a vision for my career and my success. For this I have to thank my grandmother, La Jolie Grandmere. As I sat and retyped her stories and added my own, I became overwhelmed by her strength and determination to make things happen in her life and knew that she would never have lived an unhappy life. I continue to strive for my goals and have made a vow to myself to never give up.

I bring these strengths and accomplishments and determinations with me in to the New Year. My goal this year is to continue the work I started last year and to create times and memories and moments that will make us all smile.My goal is also to create fabulous memories for my children. For I know that before I know it, I'll blink my eyes, and they will be out of my life and leading their own. I am at a perfect place. My children are old enough that I can live my own life and young enough that they are still fully a part of mine. My intent and goal is to savor every minute of this perfect place.

And if any of you happen to know of any publishers or agents send them this way! :)

I wish you all a wonderfully happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Baby you can drive my car...

I was out with an old friend the other night. We somehow ended up talking about cars, specifically our first cars. Having grown up in Manhattan with its wonderful transportation system I knew that I would never have to learn how to drive. I could walk everywhere and when I couldn't walk there were plenty of buses and taxis and trains to take you anywhere you needed to go.

The summer I turned 18 my mother was adamant that I take driving lessons. I tried to refuse but she wouldn't let me. I couldn't imagine why on earth I would need to drive. This was not an argument she would lose. I would learn how to drive in Newport, a much better option than the crazy, crowded streets of Manhattan. We needed a car. We had just one that sat in a garage on the Upper East Side during the week and would take us to Newport for weekends during the school year and over the summer. My father was not about to let me learn to drive in his car, a beloved Mercedes that would never part his side for about 20 years when it cost him more to maintain than the home they lived in!

Mom wanted something big and sturdy for me. She wanted something nice looking but her frugal ways would also mean that she was not about to dump a lot of money on a sturdy piece of metal. If she could have, I am sure she would have picked out an old Woody. But she found the next best thing. It was a large gray Mercedes with a huge front grill and little fins on the back. She was elegant and sturdy and would be our Newport car for many years to come.She was 18 years old -- the same age as I -- and she was all mine!

While, stunning as she was on the exterior, worthy of any party fit for F.Scott and Zelda, her interior was no frills. I had no CD player (did we even have CDs back then?) or tape deck. I can't remember air conditioning, but that is not something one would need in Newport when cruising along Ocean Drive with all the windows open while blaring Steve Winwood's Back in the High Life Again... or crooning along to Don Henley's Boys of Summer on Bellevue Avenue. My friends adored my car. They loved to hop in and if we were not walking to one of our many evening destinations, I would most often be the designated driver. But long before I was able to take my friends along I had to learn how to drive.

Since I was 18 I was no longer required -- in Rhode Island at least -- to take driver's ed. My mother took it upon herself to teach me. We were prepping for my very first ride. My mother was showing me where everything was and how to use everything. We prepared by adjusting our windows and took a few laps around our large circular driveway, learning how to carefully press on the gas and the accelerator. When Mom thought I was ready we prepared to take the vehicle on the road. As I was approaching the stone pillars I saw a small construction truck appear on my left. As it approached I froze. I had come to a rolling stop but my foot had become paralyzed, hovering mid-air, someplace between the brake and the accelerator. 

What happened next was not pretty. The sound of metal crunching is a sound one tends never to forget. The sound and sight of the crunching of a very large Mercedes grill is something else one tends never to forget. Especially when one attempts to drive for the very first time!

The car's grill had folded like an accordion. I could see the disappointment in my mother's face. But she was not angry... As I would have been. The repairs had cost more than the car had! But the car was loved by us all and was fixed up like new.

I would learn to drive with a certified driving instructor in his small red car and before I knew it I had my own driver's license in hand. My gray car had become one of the family and we had even given her a name. Leibshen. As though she was a family pet. It was really quite amusing. Every time I left the house I'd yell out to my mother that I was taking Leibshen. As though on a walk. Though instead of a leash, I would be taking the keys.

When I was going into my Sophomore year in college my parents explained that they thought that car might be better suited to keep locally. She was getting old, after all, and they worried about her breaking down on the highway or on the busy streets of Boston. So Leibshen would be the Newport car. Eventually she became my mother's car. And my mother loved and nurtured her as though she was indeed the family pet. Older cars require a good bit of upkeep and maintenance and every time Leibshen was in the shop, which was a good bit towards the end of her life with us, mom would call to tell me. And I would make get well cards that would be posted on the inside of the garage where Leibshen slept when she was not at work or play!

I was given another car much more suited to a young girl requiring a reliable car. My father had surprised me with a zippy, fun and peppy red Volkswaggen Jetta. I did love it so. She was perfect. But she was not Leibshen. A dozen or so years ago my mother had to get rid of Leibshen. She had started to rust pretty badly and the undercarriage was in bad shape. Rust, in cars, is like cancer in people. It must be completely removed or it will keep coming back. She found someone who restored old cars as a hobby and he was more than happy to take the car from my mother. My mother was so pleased to be able to give Leibshen a new home.

If you are ever in Newport and ever see my Leibshen wave and say hello!

The Little Black Dress...

I was inspired by this post... If you have never been over to Privilege you really ought to go there. I love L and her blog. LPC recently wrote about a memory stirred by her grown daughter's visit home. It stirred so many emotions within me that I just had to write this...

As mothers we want to create the perfect childhoods for our children. We want to fill them with awe and wonderment. We want to teach them. We want to create with them. We want to laugh with them and to experience new things with them.

I truly see the world so very differently from the days before I had children. Of course I worry about them, their well-being and their futures, but I have also managed to slow down, calm down, and enjoy life the way they do. I look at the flowers on the side of the road. If I'm driving them to sports or play dates and I happen to notice that the sky is full of big, beautiful cumulus clouds, I'll automatically start looking for the turtles, rabbits and baby elephants. If Alexander puts on an outfit that has both plaid and stripes I won't make him change. He is exerting his independence. He's put a great deal of thought into this great mismatched outfit. Who am I to squash his decision-making and creativity?

If Rebecca is so vehemently opposed to going out with tidy hair -- which happens a lot at the ripe old age of 11 and 3/4 -- then let it be. Most likely all the 11 and 3/4 year olds will have hair like hers. And whether or not her hair is picture-perfect (of, course there are times when she must be "presentable") will not make or break a moment. If something memorable happens, I'm certain not to remember how tidy she was or whether or not her hair was brushed properly.

I don't really recall my children's first steps. I vaguely recall first meals... Christmases... Easters... But there are plenty of photos for all those moments. And yes, all my children do look pretty and tidy in photographs. True memories, and the most memorable and heartfelt ones are not the ones we try to create or even the ones we think will bear the most importance...

Working mothers always worry about dividing their time between their careers and their children. They worry about missing a big event or milestone. They feel terribly guilty about this. I have had the honor and privilege to be home with my children for nearly 12 years. As I prepare to re-enter the work-force I worry not about what I will miss in their lives, because I cannot be with them all the time, and as they grow I will be with them less and less. And I'm OK with this. After 12 years of parenting I need a little time away from them as well. We'll always create and have new memories and they will be wonderful... whatever they shall be.

Courtesy, Beach Bungalow 8

Right now I feel a sense of nostalgia and loss... an era has passed. Even my youngest is now in school full time. For so many years I wished my children would be just a little bit older so that I could do just a little bit for myself. Children are hard work and exhausting. I know this first-hand and never want to go back... yet there are moments that will truly will be missed. I enjoyed nothing as much as watching my daughter when she was 3 and 4. She was at once a little child and a little person. She was as much about fairies, princesses and tutus as she was about the world around her. She hated to wear pants. And on the odd day I had to put her in a pair she'd slip a tutu right over them. And then we'd put her coat on and off she'd go. It was absolutely adorable. I can see the purple corduroys, pink tutu and red Primigi or Elephanten Mary Janes or T-straps. Her coat was hot pink with toggle buttons... from Talbot's Kids. I can see her running to the old Volvo. Christopher was not around yet. He must have been in my stomach still. Alexander was not even a thought at that point. I don't remember what we were doing or where we were going... but I remember that particular moment.

Last weekend my daughter started to clear out her room. She has entered an age where she no longer likes her room and is in the midst of "remodeling" it. She has taken many, many trips to the basement where she has deposited her old rocking chair, doll furniture, strollers, and dolls. As she carried the large plastic bins filled to the rim with thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of American Girl dolls and clothes she did tell me not to seal the boxes permanently. I took a little joy in that statement. Hundreds of dollars worth of stuffed animals were no longer wanted or needed. Alexander was happy about this. (See below post!)

Admittedly, I was not sad to see the passing of the Barbie, Polly Pocket, PetShop and other irritating toy phases. As we tossed these plastic nuisances I could not help but wonder just how much money has been spent on children's play things over the years... I was not sad to see the last Polly Pocket plastic purple cape get tossed into the garbage...

Halloween 2001

Halloween 2001

Halloween 2001

And then there is Madeline. This is the phase I miss the most. Rebecca fell in love with the youngest girl in two straight lines when she was about 2 years old. For 3 years she lived, ate and breathed Madeline. For years she even looked like the beloved little French girl. She had dolls, books, videos, games, jewelry... she had it all! She knew all the books from front to back. We watched Madeline when it was on The Disney Channel all those years ago... We sang the songs, bought the movies and CDs. Rebecca was Madeline for Halloween just before she was 3. It was the perfect costume. She was the perfect Madeline. She wore that costume as much as she could until she finally outgrew it. Her imaginary friends were named Chloe, Nicole and Danielle. Pepito (That Bad Bad Hat!) was her favorite small doll. We had to eventually get a second doll just so that we could swap out the doll clothes to give them a wash from time to time! When Rebecca was hospitalized for pneumonia when she was three, Pepito was right there by her side!

Just prior to her release

We've long since given away the dollhouse. We still have all the books, tapes and CD. The larger Madeline and her dog Genevieve are still with us. From time to time we listen to the CD in the car. Alexander loves the songs. I tear up sometimes when we sing along... I remember so well the days when nothing, and I mean nothing else could be played in the car. That CD eventually had to go into hiding. Rebecca was devastated and it crumbled my heart to make her so sad... but I just couldn't take anymore. The other day as I was organizing all the stuffed animals I came across two Genevieves in Alexander's room...

These are the things memories are made of. They are not well thought out, planned and executed activities. They are simply moments, snipets, of real time... every day living.

Yesterday I was bringing a box of items to a children's boutique consignment store. It was packed. I walked over to the side to get out of the way. Coming out of the dressing room was a mother and her little girl. There was a pile in her arm and she was sorting through the items. My eyes scoped the store and the racks. I saw a few items that were ours... a pair of Boden corduroys that were pink with large brown circles, an old red E-land quilted jacket, and other assorted items that looked bizarre hanging there from the racks to be purchased and worn by some other unknown child. I scoped the store again and the mother who had just emerged from the dressing room with her young child was now gently running her fingers up and down our black Hannah Andersson dress.

I didn't like it. It was not so much the thought of someone else wearing our memories, though that was certainly part of it... it was more the fact that our children are growing and our lives are changing and I am not terribly fond about or comfortable with change.

I felt, suddenly, claustrophobic. I clutched my box and walked out of the store.

The Manor House: Where Sense and Sensibility Meet Whimsy!

Courtesy, ElleDecor

Courtesy, ElleDecor

I have no picture of the pink television but thanks to the blog Girl Meets Glamour, I was able to locate this picture La Jolie Grandmere's pink and orange bathroom. 
Now just imagine the bubble-gum pink television set!

Courtesy, ElleDecor

In the picture below, La Jolie Grandmere infuses her whimsical personality with a more formal place setting. Getting ready to entertain, many of her friends, especially esteemed Nancy Lancaster, would adorn the table with fresh flowers. Not Bettina! A head of cauliflower all dressed up in a black grosgrain ribbon is much more suited to her minimalist palette!

Courtesy, ElleDecor
I promise that one day soon I will learn how to use my scanner... a million apologies to Bettina for doing her grand rooms such a disservice.

The following is the translation from the article that featured her in the French ElleDecor Maisons.

It is both a complimentary and truly precise piece.

“All her life, Bettina Bachmann was the epitome of elegance and American high society; this gave her an unequalled poise, which then translated into good taste. Paralyzed by polio and put in a wheelchair, she had the will to overcome this handicap. Always dressed by the most fashionable designers, impeccably groomed, she moved in circles with such a natural ease, one would not know her incredible achievements.

She could have been a heroine in a book by F. Scott Fitzgerald, born in Rochester, New York, in to a well off family, (her father invented the concept of the supermarket) she designed her first house at 11 years old, and this came to fruition barely 7 years later when she married her first husband. She remarried a second time to Lawrence Bachmann, a Hollywood Producer. She lived between America and Europe in houses she decorated with such perfection and such personality that you had to ask how she did it. In Paris she lived in an extraordinary abode, which was just by Notre Dame and known as the House of Heloise and Abelard. She decorated the house in a minimalist style, choosing original colours. She loved fresh colors, orange, coral, purple, fushia and deep pinks. She thought that she was born a minimalist and that the house had to be perfect. While she was doing her renovations, she managed the workers who arrived at 7am and gave them their orders in her couture night clothes.

She gave orders, corrected errors and complimented their work, all before retiring to take breakfast. An article was published called The House of Heloise and appeared in all the design magazines of that period.
Apparently her mother had visited the house, had a tour and concluded that her daughter “absolutely could not live in such a place” even though the house was magnificent with light hardwood floors, black and white furniture and theatrical chandeliers.

When Bettina arrived in England, she chose Oxfordshire and a splendid Manor House to live and decorate. She was a neighbor of the well-known fellow American, Nancy Lancaster, who is well known for inventing the English Country look as we know today. However, contrary to that period, Bettina did not choose any flowery chintz, big pelmets and over the top curtains. Even though she was coquettish and feminine she did not approve of girly design.

Her house, The Manor House, was exactly what Bettina had been looking for in the English countryside. Severe lines, great proportions, huge windows which let in the light and a beautiful mature garden/park -- very stately and plain without superfluous ornamentation, decoration or sculptures. Absolutely plain.
She received her guests at the back of the entrance hall which she had designed so she could watch the visitors enter. To accentuate the well thought out interior design, the only piece of furniture was a table designed by Bettina, in fake marble and metal, which was in the shape of a Japanese bridge. The dining room, beige with black doors, a wrought iron table, chairs covered in thick white cotton material and also a centerpiece of flowers, gave the guest a sense of peace. In the living room, the elegance of the traditional décor and majestic fireplace, contrasted with the library and its cupboards which were painted in eye catching colors and furnished with cane furniture.

This was Bettina’s art, to create visual environments. She loved putting fresh ideas into her house, indifferent to critics by adorning her bedroom with a latticed coral and pink walls; smiling about the surprise which registered from the guests seeing an orange and pink bathroom with a metal bath. She liked telling her old acquaintance about these events with the words “Nothing they say matters. I am the one who has to live here.”

Bettina Bachmann was a young spirit. At an age when other women preferred to take it easy, play the grandmother/ grande dame role and pass their years growing orchids or roses Bettina Bachmann preferred to challenge and shock the world of design.”

Libraries that Trompe L'Oeil

There were three things my grandmother adored, libraries, castles, and trompe l'oeil. My grandmother bought herself a grand present when she turned 60. She bought herself a house. But this was not just any house. It was a splendid Manor House in the small town of Great Haseley in the suburbs of Oxford. The house was in great need of love and repair and La Jolie Grandmere was just the person to restore her to her former glory.

My grandfather had just been named head of MGM studios in London and the commute from Cannes was just a wee bit too long. A flat was purchased in London while my grandmother commenced her search for the perfect home in the British countryside. She was lucky as she did not look terribly long or hard for what would become her home for the next 30 or so years. She lovingly restored and renovated the old architecture. The master bedroom, just off of the kitchen, was the original kitchen. Her bed positioned squarely between two sunny windows, faced the front of the room where, on the large wall, she had painted the wonderful view of a castle as seen through her bedroom window. It was lovely and while it was sophisticated it had the whimsy and wonderment of childhood. Fifteen or so years later she would completely redo most of the rooms of her home and each would take on an enormously different feel.

The lovely scene with the castle was painted over. Forever gone. My grandmother would repaint her entire bedroom and bathroom in pink and orange sherbet. My grandfather was a saint as I am pretty certain that my husband would not ever allow me to paint my master bathroom pink and orange! My grandmother was a design perfectionist. The black television bothered her so much that she painted it the same pink as the walls! I did think it a bit much but the thought of it still makes me smile. I wish I had pictures of the wonderful wall with the castle and the pink painted television set!

Another room to get a total face-lift was the library, or the sitting room. It's where she entertained, where my grandparents took their tea and where we would just "hang out" when I came to visit. The shelves were all filled with books, and all the books were organized by color, of course... so when, let's say, you wanted to find The World According to Garp or War and Peace, you'd best know what color the book was you were looking for!

Courtesy, ElleDecor

Courtesy, ElleDecor

Courtesy, ElleDecor

Courtesy, ElleDecor

Now look to the wall behind the wicker settee. You will see more books. Look closely... very closely....

Courtesy, ElleDecor

It's good, isn't it? It's clever... isn't it? How perfect for a book lover!
Did we trick you?
Look closely, can you tell it's all Trompe L'Oueil?
Those books on that wall,
They are not real at all!

Courtesy, ElleDecor

But the cleverest thing, in my opinion about the room where they did most of their entertaining, was the "hidden bar" which was cleverly tucked away in a closet!
Courtesy, ElleDecor
 The closet was not terribly deep, as you can see and was made to look deeper by the use of a full mirror. Shelves were added for glasses, assorted barware, liquor and mix-ins.
This was indeed a well stocked liquor cabinet! 

May I get you something?

Pretty Shade-y...

In gathering material for the memoir and locating all the photographs and magazine articles and books written about my grandmother and her homes I realized that most of the windows had no window treatments on them at all... none whatsoever. The bedroom windows had black out shades and lovely but simple drapes -- ticking or duck. The look was simple and elegant - practical and not at all fussy. The rooms that were not used for sleeping wore nothing whatsoever. I never thought much of it. Her homes in Cannes, Oxfordshire and Umbria all had larger than life windows with the most amazing views. Why would anyone want to distract from such wonderful scenery? Furthermore, the windows themselves were simply stunning. In many cases they reached to the ceiling and went down practically to the floor. The woodwork was tremendous.

In New York City we needed something on our windows. The bedroom windows all had simple white shades with simple white cords in the middle used to pull the shades up or down. These shades were solely for blocking out the views of nosy neighbors. The windows in our Upper East Side pre-war building were large and lovely too. They all worse simple sheers that would allow the sun to flow in and give you a glimpse of what was outside. From half the apartment you could look out on to Central Park. It was magnificent. As a child I used to stay awake at night and watch my neighbors. One man was perpetually at his kitchen sink at 9:00 every night. We always referred to him as "Moustache." The window to the left of my bed was the best. From it I could watch the lavish parties being thrown on the penthouse (just one floor up from me) and I could see into the windows of the apartments many floors below. I loved (and still do) to watch people ...  Reading this I suppose I could say I was a kid voyeur too... Mrs. Kravitz's offspring perhaps?

So it was all news (and new) to me when my husband said that the windows in the house (former) needed curtains and shades. We had neighbors and were on a fairly busy street. But being a city girl I loved to be able to watch the world go by. Eventually I gave into his insistence and since we were broke we purchased a blinds from Home Depot. They were cheap and kept breaking. Didn't help that little children kept pulling on them. I used them only at night and when no one was around to see them. We did find lovely green velvet drapes that went well with our decor from The Christmas Tree Shoppe. They still couldn't mask the ugliness of the white poking through the top.

Despite years of searching for the right thing we never dressed our living room or dining room windows. I was never bothered by this matter. I'm the type of person who loves to look into the windows of other people's homes at night. I like to see how other people occupy their time. I most especially like to see the silhouettes when a party is being given. Since we only used the living and dining rooms when we entertained, dressing the windows was not a priority in his book. Thank goodness!

We sold that home and the new owners have all sorts of hideous (in my humble opinion!) chintzy, tacky treatments on their windows. And ours are, once again, mostly bare. And these windows definitely need something... So I have been looking around for ideas. I'll do drapes in the dining and family rooms again. Simple and elegant... understated... ticking or duck. But my views on shades have changed slightly. They seem better suited in the children's rooms. I won't be using them in the more formal rooms, but take a look below with me... shades have come a long way, haven't they?

Bamboo blinds can be a simple and inexpensive way to cover your windows. I always thought of them as a casual option, but this picture shows us that they can certainly be dressed up.

This simple and yet bold shade adds the personality, as well as some warmth to this room.

These add a relaxed elegance to a casual dining area.

Courtesy Decorpad
 I just love the entire look of this window seat -- sophisticated and casual. The coffee and white striped shades want me to grab a warm cup and curl up with a good book.

 A simple and practical way to add some color to your kitchen

Courtesy Decorpad
Relaxed. Elegant. Simple and sophisticated.

Courtesy House Beautiful  

Courtesy House Beautiful

Courtesy Design Dazzle
 Here a simple bamboo blind neutralizes a very dramatic space.

House Beautiful
 This fun, striped shade is a perfect nursery window dressing. The shade gives the room character and is a safer option than a heavy drape that can be pulled on.
(Just remember to keep all cords out of reach in any room children will frequent.)

Courtesy Design Crisis
 These shades are fun bold and daring!

 Here the green shades complete the room

 So, what are your thoughts on this shade-y subject?

Leonard Bernstein Danced on my Piano

I finally had a moment to pick up my copy of True Prep yesterday. I read it while I was in the bathtub, with a glass of wine to the right of me. The rain was pelting down upon my skylight. There was a chill in the house that I just couldn't shake. Not ready to admit we might the heat on for a few minutes I decided that barricading myself in seclusion in a warm and peaceful setting away from the noise (ie children) was just what I needed. I filled the oversized tub with water and bubbles (leaving the jets off!), climbed in and began to read.

I was perusing through the True Prep Pantheon section of the book when my eyes stopped short on Leonard Bernstein. Yes, the famous Maestro who led the New York Philharmonic and composed such wonderful scores including, those to my all-time favorite, West Side Story.  There is mention of his wife, Felicia, whom he divorced in the mid 1970s so that he could live with his male lover. Birnbach continues on to describe Bernstein as "a Jew, a genius, a bisexual, a provocateur, and a preppy."

My grandmother, La Jolie Grandmere, was a socialite of privilege, a fashionista, a fabulous hostess and attended The Rochester Philharmonic with such regularity when she was in her 20s that she would often throw lavish parties with fabulous food, drink and fun at home after an evening performance. A young strapping composer named Leonard Bernstein was conducting there. He befriended my grandmother and her entourage and was welcomed into her home. One night, after a couple of cocktails, the larger than life composer of petite stature climbed on top of her Steinway Grand Piano and started to do a little dance!

Soon Bernstein would leave the Rochester area behind to head the New York Philharmonic. But something must have happened. Something scandalous. To this day no one knows quite sure. As a result of whatever scandalous event that took place, Leonard Bernstein decided to wash Rochester, New York from his memory. He would never mention the town ever again. In fact, he would go so far as to say he had never been there. This is what he told me.

My grandmother became terribly ill after the Maestro left Rochester. She became a victim to the terrible Polio epidemic. My grandmother spent nine months enclosed in an iron lung fighting for her life. Her fierce determination and unwavering spirit got her through. She survived, weak and a paraplegic, but resolved to fight her way back to health. And she did.

As she grew stronger and healthier she would travel to New York a good bit. West Side Story had just opened on Broadway and she went to support her friend. After what she thought to be a magnificent performance she headed backstage to greet her friend, the great composer. She greeted him warmly only to be met with a pair of blank eyes. Leonard Bernstein claimed to have no idea who my grandmother was. Even though he had been to her home on several occasions. Even though her had danced on her Steinway Grand Piano! Perhaps the wheelchair threw him for a loop. But my grandmother was unmistakable in her charm and glamor. She was not a forgettable woman, nor did she have a forgettable face.

Years later Leonard Bernstein would leave his own wife to be with his partner. His sexuality was no longer kept a secret. My grandmother was certain that something happened in Rochester during the time he headed the Philharmonic Orchestra... something quite bad. It had to have been that.

I had the honor of meeting the late great Leonard Bernstein shortly before I graduated college, shortly before his death. He came to receive an award. I walked right up to him, shook his head, looked him straight in the eye, and said "Maestro, my name is Jessica Gordon, I am Bettina Goldsmith's grand-daughter. I believe you danced on her piano during your Rochester days." He looked me cooly in the eye. (I am pretty sure I jarred some memories.) He said. "Young lady, you must be mistaken I have never been to Rochester." I left heartbroken.

My grandmother felt badly for me, but she was not surprised.

It still didn't stop her from requesting The Lester Lanin Orchestra to play "I Feel So Pretty" at my wedding...

Gifts from the Sea...

I am drawn to the sea. She is majestic and magnificent and mysterious. She is glorious and beautiful and powerful. She is a force to be reckoned with. She is awesome and amazing, spectacular and vast and huge and deep. I love the bright cerulean waters of the islands and the deep greens of the cool New England coastline. She is always the same and yet ever changing. She is predictable and yet not. She is calm and furious. And within her presence I am in my glory. I am at peace and ease. I respect her and admire her. I am drawn to her beauty and power. It is the ocean I seek when I need an escape. I could never live anywhere too far from it. And when I cannot readily stand on her shores I find peace and solace in the bath.

I hear many mothers who complain that they never take time for themselves... there is never enough time in the day. While my days are packed I do carve out time to myself. I need it. My children need it. My children need me to take this time. While I cannot readily set off for a good, soul-cleansing run on the beach (What would I possibly do with the children?) I can draw a bath. I can fill my big, deep tub with water and scents from the sea, from Provence or from Tuscany. I can climb in to the hot water and let my body feel weightless and close my eyes and let the worries and the stresses temporarily melt away. I need this. My body needs this. My soul needs this. Alongside my tub are various shells that I have collected from the Bahamas, from Bermuda and Newport and Maine. I have clam shells that serve as a soap dish and luminaries filled with sand and shells. And now I have the sea glass I collected from the beautiful, rocky shores north of Boston. Beautiful sea glass in browns and greens and blues and whites in all different sizes and shapes. Magnificent glass that has been magically transformed from someone's discarded bottles. Glass that has been tossed into the sea and been broken up by waves and rocks from, perhaps, violent storms and glass that has been transformed from something jagged and sharp and dangerous into something smooth and soothing and magnificent. I look at my sea glass and I see beauty. I love the feel and the smell and the look of it. Like the shells and the life deep below, sea glass is a gift from the sea.

How privileged I am to have grown up with the sea -- to have spent my summers with her, with little fish nibbling at my toes... to have been able to have watched as octopi wrapped their arms around the docks of the marinas... to have played on her shores and dug holes in her sands... to have learned to fear and revere and respect her... to have swum out for miles and miles and miles.

It was to the sea I ran when I was just 16 and our summer home caught fire. It was to her I could share my innermost thoughts and bare my soul and shed my tears... It was to the the quiet, private beach I rode my bicycle when I needed to run away. I would take off my shoes and walk in the sand and feel the softness beneath my feet. I would sit and watch the tides roll in or out and watch her lap upon the shores. And she seemed always to listen to me, which to a teenager, is of great importance.

The sea is forever changing, like the seasons. She changes with the day and throughout the year. She can be calm and she can be tempestuous. She's as mesmerizing as a crackling fire in the middle of January. Have you ever really taken the time to watch the sea? I highly suggest you do. Her message is powerful. Her message is soothing.

I live just miles away from the beach and I wish I could get to her more often. My relationship with her is different these days. I can no longer just sit and watch her motions and emotions. I now have children I must watch. I cannot take my eyes off of them for a minute. I watch as they dig her sandy shores and delight in her waters. But I cannot trust her. I cannot trust her to take care of my children for I know her secrets. I know her strength.

It was not until I was in my 20s that she earned my respect. Twice. The first time I was in Nantucket. I was pretty far out and got caught in an undertow. I am a strong swimmer and by the grace of God I did not panic. I let the sea take me to where she wanted. I curled up in a ball and let her take me here and there. I held my breath and was happy to bounce around on the sand... was happy to feel the sting of the salt on my forehead from where I had been tossed. In the end I ended up along the shore a good bit away from where I had entered. I was afraid. Until then I had never really known fear. I certainly had never feared the ocean.

At the end of that decade I was in the Bahamas with my husband. The crystal blue waters were magnificent and appealing and spectacular. A storm was approaching and the surf was rough. But the sun was out in her glory and it was a perfect day to be at the beach. I made my way out. The surf was rough but not overly so. Still I entered with caution -- the kind of caution one has after one has had a close encounter. The waves started to come faster and closer together. I stood there, about waist deep, trying to decide whether to jump over her watery peak or dive below. I decided to dive but my timing was off. And as I went down she grabbed a hold of me with such passion and force. As I had in the past I remained calm and rolled into a ball ready to be tossed and bounced. I was not ready to be slammed onto my left shoulder with that kind of fury. Fury enough to knock my shoulder from the comfort of her home. I knew instantly what had happened even though I had never experienced an injury (or pain) like that ever before. Thirteen years later I am still paying the price from that ill-timed, ill-fated decision. Thirteen years later and my respect for her remains strong. My fear of her remains strong. And my love for her is unwavering.

It is my dream, to one day have a home at the sea with windows tall and wide. I will sit and watch her ebb and tide and lap the shores and wave hello. I will forever feel soothed and comforted and calmed by her motions and movements. I will forever seek her thoughts and advice and solace. I will turn to her for advice and answers and comforts.

I will always relish the many gifts I have received from the sea.

Fait Accompli!

I did it! Finally, and a couple of months behind schedule but I did it! All of La Jolie Grandmere's stories have been retyped and that part of the book is now finished! Of course, now comes the hard part... I must locate various recipes, letters from Thornton Wilder and write my own stories. But I have finished a (small) portion of the project and it feels so wonderful!

In the final chapter my grandmother talks about her friendship with Thornton Wilder and the designing and building of her home in Cannes. I was transported back in time to the most wonderful place on earth that provided the most wonderful memories for me. The loss of my grandmother is truly profound, yet I truly appreciate all that she has left me. As I look around at all my wonderful possessions I can feel her presence as though she is actually here with me. I returned the large scrapbook of stories to its home in the large brown shopping bag and came across the sales brochure for her magnificent home, Jardins des Arbres. Upon opening it up and reading it, I was immediately transported back in time to a most wonderful and happy place.

I have copied it here for you... won't you please join me on the tour?
Keep in mind, when reading the brochure that the house was built in 1967!

Montpelier International Properties

This outstanding property, situated on a wooded hillside just behind Cannes, is set in 2,150m of totally secluded gardens. This must be one of the most sought-after properties along the Cote d’Azur and offers a rare opportunity to live so close to Cannes and yet sufficiently far from the town centre. Jardins des Arbres was built in 1967, and has been featured in many well-known magazines throughout the world as being one of the most superbly designed houses on the Cote d’Azur.

Situated on the Avenue de Vallauris, one enters the large front gates, which are operated trough an intercom system linked directly to the house and the Master Bedroom. The entrance hall contains an exquisite water dining room and glass ceiling, affording views of the sky and trees. Here, one can see the outstanding Roman Tented swimming pool which commands the most spectacular views across the whole Bay of Cannes and the Esteral Mountains beyond. This tented pavilion seats over 30 people and is ideal for large receptions.

The entrance hall leads to a large drawing room and one of the main features of the room is the library area and open fireplace; this room leads on to the terrace/swimming pool area. The terraces cover some 175 m and consist of a summer dining area. They also contain the pool and Tented Pavilion and are constructed in Etruscan Travertine. There is also a built-in Hi Fi system, which features throughout the property.

On the ground level is the Master Bedroom with a ceiling that pyramids to a height of 12 m. There is a balcony and terrace on either side and a superb bathroom en suite. There are obviously extensive fitted cupboards throughout the bedrooms. The No. 1 Guest Room (same size as Master Bedroom) has a tented ceiling, some 12 m high with a bathroom en suite.

On the garden level there is a further Guest Suite which is combined to feature a bamboo grove with a four poster bamboo bed. The room opens out onto the gardens on two sides and has a bathroom en suite and a small adjoining study. There are ample staff quarters on this level and also an enormous “cave areal which contains wine cellars, a further bathroom, laundry and washing machines.

The kitchens, situated on the main level with a pyramid ceiling of 13.5 m contain the obvious fixtures of extremely high standard, imported from America, though all appliances can be served in Cannes.

There is a Radiant Underfloor Heating System which gives uniform heat throughout the property and is one of the most advanced systems in its field.

The swimming pool is heated and cleaned electronically. The filtered system needs no chemicals, therefore absolutely pure water can be used.

Security can be one of the most vital features for many people wishing to live in such superb surroundings and the entire house has heavy iron grills built into the walls, which automatically fold back and are unseen when not in use. The intercom and telephone system have their own switchboard and are linked to all the rooms in the house.

Throughout Cannes and its surroundings, building permission is now virtually unobtainable, however, the Jardins des Arbres has an added feature of being entirely protected on all sides and planning for other properties would be virtually impossible to ever aquire.

This must be one of the most sought after properties in the world and needs to be seen to be totally appreciated.

For more stories about La Jolie Grandmere click here!

Road Blocks: Memoirs, Writing or the lack thereof…

I haven’t done much writing since my surgery. It was hard to write those first couple of weeks, and these past couple of weeks had me preoccupied with the required therapy that’s kicking my derriere, in addition to all the other mundane and not so mundane tasks that need my attention. I used to have a section of time carefully carved out that I dedicated to writing. This time no longer exists. There’s very little time for anything it seems. I am so disappointed. I crave my quiet down time and crave the creative process required to write. I had given myself a September deadline to have my manuscript ready. But September is really just around the corner and the likelihood of my achieving that goal is getting smaller and smaller. And, with school ending in just 3 short weeks, this little time I do have will be completely non-existent. Writing is not something you can sit down and force yourself to do. Thoughts and ideas come and go and if you can’t catch them you can find yourself in a troublesome situation. Sometimes an idea will come to me at 3:00 am and other times it will come to me while I sip my morning coffee. Now obviously the latter is ideal. I have learned, as much as it pains me, to ignore those 3:00 am callings. I have such sleep issues as it is, that I do my best to keep nighttime for sleeping.

It’s hard when you start to write and it’s after dinner and one child is reading and another is doing homework and the youngest comes in to you in need of attention. You want to tend to your child but you can’t bear to lose focus yet again. So you shush your child and he grabs his electronic toy and “does his work” on it, but the sounds of Remy and Patton coming from your right distract you once again. And then there is the comment, for the umpteenth time that day, from the husband, “Oh, Mommy’s on the computer again.” This is frustrating to no end. Then he tells you that your children will never remember any of the good things you’ve done for them. They’ll just remember you being on the computer all the time. All day long. Great. Well, I guess that’s too bad, because as much as I enjoy being a parent, I am not going to sacrifice my dreams and my desires. I don’t think that would serve anyone any good. It would not only be terrible for me, but would be a terrible example to set for my children too. I would hate for them to think that I did nothing for myself and gave all my time to them. I think it is important for them to see their mother, their role model, striving to do and be the best… striving to do what makes her happy. I would much rather hear them say “Mommy’s writing a book” instead of “Mommy’s doing the laundry.”

Yesterday I had the greatest idea but I wasn’t anywhere where I could go to, to write down my idea. (I was in the car, driving.) Now, I still remember what that idea was, but after sitting in front of the screen for hours and tap-tapping away at the keys I came up with nothing. Well, at least nothing that was of interest or coherent. I’m sure the fact that I keep pressuring myself to get the writing done in the daytime isn’t helping any at all either. My husband complains that I’m inaccessible or running away from him. Truth of the matter is that I just need a quiet place to think and write. After 3:30 on weekdays, unless we are out at sports practices, there is nothing about this house that is remotely quiet. My thoughts get jumbled up with the arguments and the whining down the hall. My sentences get tangled up with the arguments and the whining down the hall. And then there are all the interruptions. Some of these interruptions stem from the arguments and the whining. Others are those requiring my immediate attention: kids are hungry and need breakfast, lunch, snack dinner, water, iced tea, a Band-Aid, an ice pack, and so on and so on. The littlest one needs to be bathed and needs help with brushing his teeth and getting his pajamas on. The oldest one might need help with math or need me to listen as she practices her oral report on Ronald Reagan.

Then there are sporting events that require my chauffeur’s hat. And the house cannot be totally neglected. Nor can the laundry which seems to pile up in just hours. Despite my begging and pleading, the kids are still unable to locate the dishwasher which sits next to the sink and has not once moved from its current location in the two years we have been here. I face similar issues with our socks and laundry basket. Why my children’s socks cannot make it into the basket is a mystery to me. I go sock shopping practically as often as I go grocery shopping. I have more single socks than I can keep track of. All of these distractions get in a writer’s way. I wonder how mothers who write, write at all? And then there is that rare and wonderful moment when the entire house is quiet and an idea comes to you and you can get to the computer and just compose. It’s a wonderful, blissful, rare thing. It’s as delicious as a piece of smooth, dark Belgian chocolate… or as fresh as the first tiny bubbles sipped from a freshly corked bottle of champagne. It’s pure delight.

I’ll sit on my bed with my laptop and let my fingers walk all over the key board and listen to the click-clack, click clack that is not at all unlike the sound of my grandfather typing away on his old electric Smith-Corona, except my laptop doesn’t ring a little bell every time I come to the end of a line.

There is nothing more fulfilling to a writer than to be able to let the words flow freely from her head to the paper, or in my case, to the screen. I used to never be able to compose anything on the laptop. I needed some good lined paper – the yellow legal pads were my favorite, and a Flair marker. I would listen to the ink scrape across and delight when the black, cursive letters filled the yellow pages. From there I would copy what I had just written onto the computer and save it to a floppy disk. What a long ordeal that was! At some point over the course of the years I started to type everything out. And now I cannot write a story on paper to save my life. Is that ironic? I have all sorts of notepads and note books. I love them, covet and hoard them. I have at least two in my bag at any given time. I love to write down lists and keep notes. Often these lists and notes turn into stories. And often they remain in my notebook waiting for a better day.

Eventually I find myself writing about my inability to write in a quiet house and a head filled with thoughts. The problem is then, trying to sort through, sort out and organize the thoughts so that they translate coherently to the reader. I’m not having any luck whatsoever. I want to write about Bettina’s jewelry and Bijoux Plage, my beach club in Cannes, and going to Monaco to watch my grandfather play tennis and my fabulous swim and tennis club called Montfleury that had a retractable, glass roof over its Olympic sized swimming pool. It was absolutely incroyable!  I want to write about my wedding and how La Jolie Grandmère helped me design my wedding dress, and the croquembouche  that we served au lieu of a wedding cake because I’m not really a fancy cake kind of person at all. I want to include some recipes of some memorable foods. I want to recall and recapture and retell more stories. But I can do none of this. Instead I write and I delete. I write and I delete and this nasty pattern continues on and I have to get up and leave and meet my surgeon for a post-op check-up and then get tortured by my physical therapist. (I say the latter in a fond way. He’s a really great guy!)

Suddenly, as I’m driving to therapy an idea comes and I can do nothing about it. Next thing I realize that I’ve been in therapy for nearly two hours and my shoulder and arm are wrapped in ice and an ace bandage and I have less than two hours before I have to pick the children up from school and therefore no time to get any writing done.

I glance at the clock on my cell phone and notice a message waiting for me. I call into my voice mail and listen to Rebecca who is telling me that she got in a fight with some paint in art class and needs me to bring her a new pair of khakis or a skirt in time for her Ronald Reagan presentation at 2:45. I look back at the clock and think to myself “It’s never going to happen.” I call the school to let them know. I feel pangs of disappointment, and sadness rides over me like that massive wave that knocked me down 12 years ago, causing my first of several shoulder dislocations. I hang up the phone and feel guilty for putting my needs first. I feel like a terrible mother who has just let down her child. If I push it I could make it. There would be no time to write but I could make it. And then I worry about the ridiculous amounts of gas that the Lexus gobbles up and think I just can’t drive the extra miles. I’m still not happy with my decision.

I finally make it out of therapy, my shoulder frozen solid and headed home. The house felt as cold as the ice pack I finally shed and I cranked up the heat. Hungry, I opened the refrigerator and picked at a few pieces of the pasta I had made the night before. I am trying to deny myself of this, my favorite food, as I have noticed that it bloats me and packs on the pounds. I went back into the fridge, saw nothing that appealed to me and ate the last two pieces of chocolate from my Valentine’s Day box. (Luckily, I seem not to have any issues with this lovely confection!) Finally, I went over to the computer where I sat and stared and sat and stared some more. Eventually I forced myself to write a bit. And the first few sentences you read at the top of the page came out. I managed to write about a paragraph when my husband came home… more road blocks and more distractions.

Gasp! I've been outed!

I have been busily working with my co-chairs on our Annual Spring Auction. There is a lot that, unfortunately, I cannot do this year, and with an event such as this, many hands are needed. Luckily, there were places and projects to keep me busy. Friends chauffeured me hither and thither and ran errands for me and have been sublimely wonderful. It was such a lovely thing to be able to get out of the house this week and not be forced to look at the same four walls. I like to be with people and I like to keep busy. So collaborating on this big event was perfect for me and my psyche.

I haven't told too many people here about my blog. Even fewer know about my privileged youth. It certainly is not something I walk around talking about. Seems gauche and tacky, unless of course, you can write about it in a memoir-like way... This way you are telling a story, not boasting, bragging, being proud. Just entertaining really.

Most people know me as a busy stay at home mother of three who is very involved with her children and their school. Most people know me as a fairly ordinary girl (with a smile on her face who likes to laugh a lot) just trying to get by day by day, making great sacrifices so that she can have three kids in a wonderful private school. My current life as a suburban mom is indeed a far cry from my childhood life. Those rich and colorful experiences that I have started to share with you (thanks to your gentle encouragement and kind enthusiasm) have gotten me to realize that my childhood was indeed spectacular, special and unique. I love to write and I love to tell stories so how perfect that I would have this blog.

I was in the gym yesterday about to tackle another monster project. I was asked to organize and design a cookbook that the 7th grade had created to be auctioned off. Of course I said yes. And I had no idea what the heck I had gotten myself into. But that's another story completely! I sat with my friend pouring over the recipes on her computer and she said to me "Jessica I had no idea you had a blog!" This came out of left field and almost knocked me off my seat! A few of my friends know about it. So it wasn't hard to figure out where she learned this. And those few friends had all been working closely together over the past couple of weeks. I talked about it and a little about my youth and my grandmother and the South of France. I feel as though my anonymity is being stripped away. I know that this will happen when the memoir is published, but I certainly am not ready for this yet! I kind of like that feeling I was hiding a little something... like with my pregnancies when only my husband and I knew... so I guess I no longer have a secret. Hi, I'm Jessica and I have a blog.
 Ok, that's just weird!

stay tuned!

I'll be out most of the morning working on things for our big school auction. Since I am still relying on others to be my drivers and my left hand I am not sure when this afternoon I will be back... but I have another piece in the works...

Anyone care to take any guesses??

Une Maison des Vacances Sans Fin... La Jolie Grandmere a Cannes

Here's an aerial view of the pool at Jardin des Arbres. Directly behind the banquettes were rows and rows of very fragrant olive trees. She had orange and lemon trees on her property as well. From this vantage you can see how high in the mountains she was. And now you can understand how steep that driveway was and why the need for the turntable! To the bottom right-hand corner of the photograph you will see a set of stamps built into the landscape. Those stairs took one to the "Garden Level" down below where my grandfather kept his office and where I shared a bedroom with my Nanny.

I really wish these photos were not in black and white, but alas they hail from various Maison & Jardin magazines from the late 1960s and early 1970s. This was my bedroom. It was green and white. It was called the "Bamboo Room." (La Jolie Grandmere named all her rooms.) There was an elegant bamboo colored wall paper on all of the walls and into the bathroom. The beds were four poster bamboo beds. (Look closely and you will see.) Next to the Nanny's bed (mine was on the inner wall) were French doors that slid open to a small terrace and a garden of bamboo trees all around. I simply adore bamboo! The bamboo theme was carried into the light and airy bathroom behind. I loved to sit in that tub at the end of the day and soak up all the various wonderful smells that surrounded me in the South of France. There were the wonderful aromas from the outdoors, the smell of my red gelee Bain de Soleil (SPF4!) as well as the lavender or lemon verbena baths I would soak in, followed by the scent of Nivea (then only found in France and we had to ship suitcases of it back to the States!) that was rubbed into my tan little body at the end of the day.

My grandfather's tiny office (and I do mean tiny!) was located directly next to my bedroom. Here he would work on his novels and movie deals. One could hear the clack clack ring of his typewriter throughout the day, even up by the pool. I always found it a soothing sound. Clack clack ring. Clack clack ring!

The pool at night. As spectacular as I remember! One evening my parents my parents were headed out to a black tie gala with my grandparents. I was about a year old and I was running or tripped and ended up in the pool, at the bottom! My father, minutes away from getting into the car, jumped into the pool to my rescue, tux and all! I believe the story is that he was able to borrow and extra one from my grandfather. After that day my grandparents decided that there ought to be a safety covering over the pool. But my grandmother being, well, my grandmother, would stand for nothing offensive or obtrusive. She was not going to ruin her beautiful scenery with an ugly and cumbersome sort of covering. She created her own that resembled a heavy fishing net. It was white and tucked into the outer rim of the pool. It was elegant and completely secure. Typical to the Style of La Jolie Grandmere, even the pool could get dressed up! I have been unable to locate a picture of the pool covered up, but will post one when I do!

This view is from the living room area (see how open it is!) out to the terraced dining area, We ate en plein air toujours! Unless it was positively pouring sideways, we could eat outdoors. My grandmother used the outdoor dining area for entertaining all the time. I always marveled at the elegance of it all... the rows and rows of silver... the elegant glasses all lined up as if ready to dance around the table... And dining outdoors at night was even more spectacular, as you can imagine from the above photo.

Another view of the outdoor dining area...

The indoor dining table was not a table at all, but a creation of her own. My grandmother often used architectural artifacts in her decor. Here two lion pillars (taken from an old building of sorts) are used to form the table's legs. A finished stone slab serves as the table top.

My grandmother's kitchen was custom built for her. It was tiny. All her kitchens were tiny, in fact. I suppose this was because it was easier for her to navigate around in a wheel chair. The counter tops were built to accommodate her level, and were a good bit lower than standard counters. Even though she had Help in the kitchen, my grandmother was a fabulous cook. Her appliances were all imported from the US. You will notice that the dishwasher is the same green as the cabinetry. She painted it that way, of course! (Many years later in England, she would paint her television set pink to match her bedroom!)

The Living Room area. Books would always play a huge roll in my grandmother's decorating. I love the elegance and simplicity of the black and white. I love the black walls. In a room as large as this, with as much natural daylight as this one had, the black worked beautifully. Indeed, much of my sense of style comes from my grandmother. Again, if you look at her coffee table you will see it is not a table at all. Two more architectural pieces, perhaps Greek in influence, gracefully carry a sturdy piece of glass which is used as the table top.

My grandmother's house, that she built all by herself (well, she hired the actual builders to do the building!) is Mediterranean with Greek inspiration. (I need to find a better picture of the exterior as well.) How I would love to go back and bring my children and share with them all my wonderful memories. I am so grateful to have all the wonderful magazines and books that featured my grandmother's beautiful homes. They all evoke such wonderful memories, but none so lovely and magical as the house in Cannes.