Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Last year's Christmas card by artist David Price

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Clapboard and Christmas

There are few things more authentic than the simplicity of fresh green Christmas decorations against beautiful old clapboard houses.

Monday, December 20, 2010

New York City In December

I was in New York two weeks ago on business, but took part of a day to check out stores and of course do some Holiday shopping.  I love NYC in December.  The holidays seem to come alive with the lights, stores and energy of the city.  Even the winter weather adds to the holiday spirit.  Well, actually it was way too cold, but there’s not much I could do about that.  I thought I’d post a few photos of the lights and some of my favorite stores I saw as I moved around the city. 

Jim Campbell's 'Scattered Light' installion in Madison Square Park will be up through February.

Marc Jacob's new book store in the west village

Simple and classics lights in a Coach store window.

The Union Square Market

A holiday window at my favorite AB Carpet and Home
Broadway @ 19th

Inside ABC
Fishes Eddy on Broadway

Multi color lights along Broadway

And of course the holiday windows at Bergdorf's

Streetscape along 57th street.

And my very favorite.  The trash bins in front of the beautifully decorated Plaza!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Anteater Who Stole Fancy Night: A Christmas Eve Story

Part Two:       

        The next few minutes seemed like they were plucked from some surreal You Tube video.  I’m not sure how much time transpired.  I saw it and participated in it, but in my memory it is only accessible in slow motion.

“My God,” he screamed.  “Oh, my God!”  He and the armadillo remained perfectly still and stared at each other.  It was almost as though they both were frozen in some sort of animated state.  I wanted to move, in fact run, but my feet didn’t know what to do.  I just stood there.
While still holding the vent grate with his right hand, C used his left hand to quickly slide the pocket doors shut, closing off the media room from the hallway
“Get something”, C screamed at me. “Shut the doors! All of them!  We can’t let this thing loose in the house!” 
I leaped forward and slammed the kitchen pocket doors locking C and the monster in the hallway alone with the Christmas tree and all the presents. 
“What’s going on,” yelled DAR?  She had been resting in one of my white leather dining room chairs still sipping on the last of her Chianti Classico, but the last few seconds of ensuing panic had brought her to her feet and she was headed towards the kitchen. 
“Stay in there.  Don’t come in here.  And close the door to the foyer. Quick, before it runs in there,” I screamed.
“Before what runs in here,” she asked?
“Just close the Goddamn door.  There’s a f$#%&@g armadillo in the house,” I replied with a most urgent tone of voice.

Let me stop now and apologize for my language.  I realize it’s already rather sordid, and may get worse. But trust me ‘There’s a f$#%&@g armadillo in the house’ is just not a sentence you want to utter.  Ever.  Especially on Christmas Eve after God knows how many bottles of red wine, but there’s just no way to describe this situation without using rather ‘blue’ words. 

“Hurry up, get something,” C yelled from the next room.
I had no idea what to do, much less what to get.  I own a double barrel shot gun, but it was upstairs in my bedroom and it would take far too long to get up there and get it.  Besides, what was I going to do with that? There’s no doubt it would take care of the armadillo.  In fact, it would take care of everything within fifty feet of the armadillo, including the Christmas tree, C and the back of the house!  Even if I managed to not shot my partner and just hit the armadillo the mess would be unimaginable!  Jeeze, to this day I can’t think about it!  So instead I bolted around that corner and grabbed the first thing I saw, a broom.  Passing the microwave, I noticed the time.  It was .  It was Christmas Day! 
I charged back through the kitchen passing DAR standing in the middle of the dining room screaming.  “What is going on?  Is everybody alright,” she screamed?  Randolph, please tell me what’s happening?”  She was standing on her tip toes, staring horrified at the floor, jerking her head and body around the way ones does when trying to avoid a mouse. 
As I reached the doors, I slid one open just enough to stick my arm through and toss the broom to C.  He was now jumping hysterically around the center of the room. 

I really can't stay, I've got to go away,” sang Vanessa.

The unwanted beast was throwing himself wildly against the large wooden pocket doors opposite me.  Chuck grabbed the broom in mid air and started to pound the armadillo with the soft yellow plastic bristles.
Until that very moment in time, I have to omit that armadillos are not creatures I’ve spent a lot of time studying.  In fact, until recently I didn’t even realize we had armadillos in our area.  Thinking back on it I have seen them splattered on the road, but never actually rooming around. Much less next to my Christmas tree.  Trust me on this one, an armadillo is not something you ever want to see up close.  They are nasty animals.  Period, just nasty.  These things make a rat look sexy.  And they’re big too, they’re huge!  I heard someone once say that the only cute thing about an armadillo was its ears.  And you know, maybe that’s true, but the rest of the animal is so very disgusting, that the ears can never make up for all the other parts.  They are just nasty.  You have no idea how hard it was for me to write this.  It made my skin crawl.  I was constantly looking over my shoulder thinking one of them was watching me. 

But, back to the situation at hand.  Since C seemed to have no real plan except to swat at the beast, things were not progressing.  The situation appeared to be going down hill and fast! I’ve since learned that armadillo’s are nocturnal creatures and are all but blind.  Once they run into something they will generally follow it where ever it leads them.  And even though they have short legs, they can jump high and run very fast.  So the armadillo, which apparently had tired of being beaten senseless with the broom, was now running wildly along the baseboard circling the room with C hot on his heels.  Every few feet the animal would leap up and claw against the wall or windows, I assumed hoping something would give way and it would be free.  Instead all I could see was its huge sharp claws mauling my brand new floor to ceiling drapes and Farrow and Ball painted walls. 

”My mother will start to worry, my father will be pacing the floor, so really I'd better scurry,” continued Vanessa.

        More alarming than having an armadillo in my house or that it was trying to ruin my furnishings was the condition of C himself.  I swear he was about to have a heart attack.  The man was not able to walk across the room without gasping for breath, much less beat a twenty pound armor clad beast to death. 
        All three of us were shouting. I can’t remember any specific dialog.  It was mostly four letter words coming from me and C and DAR’s was screaming hysterical questions not sure what was actually happening.
All of a sudden it occurred to me that I needed to take control of this situation or that armadillo was going to make me a widower.  Sweat was pouring from every pore of C’s body.  His breathing was deep and hollow. 
“You stay in there and don’t come out,” I screamed to DAR as I stepped into the hallway and closed the doors to the kitchen behind me. 

I simply must go, the answer is no, this welcome has been, so nice and warm,” sang Vanessa.

The rear hall opens onto our courtyard and pool with a set of wide French doors.  Since we were rarely used those exterior doors in the winter, I had placed the Christmas tree there blocking access to the backyard.  Also, the house is old and has high ceilings and C doesn’t believe a tree does its job unless it touches those ceilings.  So the tree took up much of the hallway and the only way out was a side door in the media room, which meant a possible conflict with The Gold Sofa and a white rug or through the kitchen, meant we would have to past DAR; there was only one option, out the front door.    “Give me that broom and open the front doors.”
        I took the broom from C as he ran down the entrance hall towards the front of the house.  
        By the time I grabbed the broom, the armadillo was in the corner of the hall.  I assume he realized it was not a good idea to go back the way he came, so he made a left turn and headed along the wall of French doors and behind the Christmas tree. 
Although, in recent years I have not made a big deal of decorating I do take pride in the tree.  I guess it’s my years working in visual merchandising.  Years ago we once had a progressive Christmas party with a bunch of friends.  The primary event of the evening was a contest to decide who had the best tree.  Which in it’s self was odd, since half these people were Jewish.  Considering my profession, I was convinced I would win and spent an ungodly amount of time decorating a tree that year.  I lost!  The judges, and yes we had official judges, deemed my tree too ‘retail’.  Bitches. 
Because of that loss, I changed my approached to my own Christmas décor.  There would be no more glittery shiny retail Christmas trees in my house.  Oh, no.  From now on my tree would be authentic.  So for years, I’ve been collecting tree ornaments, each unique and different.
        The safety of my ornaments was now the primary concern as I watched the armadillo rooting around under my tree!  Our eyes locked. He was on the backside of the tree, I was in front. For one split second we knew what the other was thinking. 
        The thought going through his ugly little head was, “the only way out of these mess is through this tree!”  He looked as if he was poised to jump up in the tree at any moment.  All I could imagine was the tree tumbling over.  The sound of glass smashing as the holiday bobbles hit the floor and the many presents being ripped to shreds as the beast and I fought through the wreckage.

        ”I've got to go home, you've really been grand, I really can't stay. Baby, its cold outside,” sang Vanessa.

        “Think again, Motherf$#%er. Get away from my Christmas tree” was the thought racing through my head.  Before I realized it I twirled the broom around and found an opening in the tree branches between two oversized Neiman Marcus ornaments.  I had clear shot at the monster.  I stabbed at him with the handle end of the broom, hitting him straight between his beady little eyes.  He jumped back away from the base of the tree and ran back along the wall.  He made a right turn at the corner and headed away from the tree.  He came sliding into the center of the room, not three feet from my Gucci clad feet.  I twirled the broom around again and smashed him square on the head.  His nasty claws sounded like an army of miniature stilettos on my new hardwood floors.  As he tried to figure out what to do next, he turned in circles trying to get some traction.  I smashed him again and then started sweeping him towards the doorway of the entrance hall.  After about the third or fourth whack, I had him headed in the right direction.  He clawed down; got the traction he needed and took off like a rocket.  C had both the double doors open and was plastered against the wall.  The armadillo flew past him, through the foyer and out the front door, clearing the five steps leading up to the house, all but taking flight.  He landed in the grass on the other side of the front porch, and without looking back made tracks across the yard. 
        We slammed the doors and locked them as quickly as we could.  My heart was about to pound out of my chest.  C was breathing so hard I though he would fall over at any moment. 
The next morning I woke to the smell of biscuits baking.  C was already out of bed and downstairs.  I had not slept well.  It had taken about an hour and a couple shots of bourbon to calm the three of us down before we could go upstairs for the night. I don’t even like brown liquor, so you can imagine how shot my nerves were!  All night long I had dreams of sharp claw animals attacking me. 
        As I entered the kitchen C was taking a baking tray from the oven.  We looked at each other but either of us said a word.  I poured a cup of coffee and walked back through the kitchen and stood in the doorway glazing into the rear hall.  My first thought was, ‘did it really happen?’  The lights on the Christmas tree were on.  Its ornaments hung undisturbed.  The presents were still nestled under it branches.  There were no torn hems in my drapes.  The room was exactly as it had been.  It didn’t look like a scene from Gladiator.  The only thing out of place was a large black leather basket.  It holds stacks of magazines and must weight 75 pounds.  Before going to bed I had pulled it on top of the vent grate.  It would have taken an armadillo of super human strength to move it.  No, nothing looked disturbed.  Maybe I had dreamed it.  I took a sip of coffee and relaxed for a moment until my eyes wondered to the center of the room and I noticed the several two inch long gashes in the hardwood floors.  My stomach knotted up.  It was real alright. 
        A few minutes later DAR ascended from her room.  “Good morning!  It’s time to open presents,” she announced!  “Something smells great.  Are those Martha’s or Ina’s biscuits?”
        After a couple of morning niceties and Merry Christmases, she looked at me and asked, “About last night…”
        “No,” I interrupted.  “We are not going to talk about it.”
        “But, I don’t…”
        “No, I’m serious.  Don’t even bring up the subject.  I mean it.” I said forcefully.  “I really can’t talk about it.  It really freaked me out. 
        Through out the day she continued to ask questions, but every time we did our best to either ignore her, change the subject or just be rude and tell her to stop.

About a week later the phone rang.  It was DAR.  After sharing our New Year’s Eve plans, or lack of them, she can’t help herself and brought up the forbidden subject.  We had told her she couldn’t tell anyone.  I felt violated, embarrassed, frightened and I didn’t want this tale shared!  Of course DAR had told everyone she knew. 
“John say’s it was impossible,” she said as she started off the conversation.  John is a mutual friend who just happens to be a high school science teacher. 
        “What do you mean he says it’s impossible,” I asked.  “You were here.  You saw it.”
        “Well to his point, actually I didn’t see it,” she explained.  “I heard it, but never saw it.  He thinks you two were just making the whole thing up to play with me.” 
        “Are you kidding,” I was shocked.  “Of course it happened.  I wish it hadn’t.”
        “But he says there are no anteaters in Georgia.”
        “I think he’d be right about that,” I added.  “I don’t believe there are any anteaters in Georgia.  It was an armadillo.

        A couple of days later she called again.  “John still thinks you are lying to me,” she announced as I answered the phone.  “He says there are no aardvarks in Georgia either.” 
        “It was an armadillo.’

I still don’t know if John or anyone DAR told the story to believed it or not.  I’ve never really discussed it with anyone.  In fact, C and I don’t even talk about it.  We did only what we had to do.  We found out how the thing got in the duct work in the first place, had the problem fixed and tried to move on with our lives. 
And this year, the Christmas tree is back in one of the front rooms making sure nothing blocks the back doors in the rear hall.  Just in case a quick escape is required. 

Merry Christmas, or at least I hope so!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Anteater Who Stole Fancy Night: A Christmas Eve Story

This is a holiday gift to our readers.  It’s a true story, I promise!  The story will be published in two parts.  Part two will be posted on Friday, December 17th.  Enjoy and Merry Christmas.

       It’s Christmas here on the farm and we’re getting ready for this year’s ‘fancy night’ festivities.  Again this year, our holiday will consist of three usual participates - me, my partner C and one of our best friends DAR, and we’re hoping it will work out better than last year!  Unfortunately, little did we know at last year’s ‘fancy night’ one new and uninvited quest would be in attendance?  Yes, last Christmas holiday included a vial evil four legged beast. 

Many years ago we all started spending Christmas together so we could avoid children, in-laws of family members and the general annoyances that accompany the holidays.  Over the years, it’s simply become our tradition.  But, our holiday has several mandatory components.  First, there’s the food.  Quite a bit of time goes into the development of a menu for what is usually a four day event.  Scores of food magazines from the past year are pored over for new ideas.  Phone calls are made, emails sent and recipes torn from stolen doctor office periodicals are mailed in personalized embossed stationary.  Secondly, there are the movies.  We have a sofa in our media room that has become legendary with our friends.  It’s fantastic for lounging in front of the TV for hours of movie pleasure over the holiday.  The sofa is as much part of our holiday experience as a Christmas tree or my sequin stocking that hangs from the mantel.  It’s has a high back and sides with an extra deep seat and is covered in a plush gold cotton chenille.  It’s been dubbed The Gold Sofa and when most people curl up in it; they are not interested in moving anytime soon.  Many of our friends become generally alarmed whenever I mention that I may have thoughts of a new sofa. “Not The Gold Sofa.  No, I won’t know what to do without it.  It’s like family.  I love The Gold Sofa,” are just some of the reactions I get if I bring up the fact every sofa has a life expectancy and eventually has to be replaced.  I think some of our guests would prefer to actually sleep on the sofa instead of making their way up to the guest room – and many have. 
And the final component of our holiday is that it must be stress free!  There can be no drama.  There are no kids, no fighting, and no complicated rules which generally govern advanced societies. – Like washing your hair.  We cocoon.  Once DAR arrives, the driveway gate is closed and the three of us bunker down behind the fences and hedges.  We don’t venture out.  We curl up, watch movies, discuss the next meal, talk politics, gossip, and cook and drink wine.

Our Christmases have always been fun, but they became picturesque when we moved down to the farm.  I was on a mission during the first few years after we moved here. Not only would I put up a tree, but wreaths would be placed on the double front doors and single white candles added to both the first and second floor windows.  Garland would be wrapped around the staircase banister, and all the mantels would be adorned with fresh greenery and ribbon.  I would spend as much energy as it took to make sure our Christmas was the creative quintessential holiday.  I could go head to head with Martha Stewart.  In fact, for two years in a row as instructed by Martha, I sugar frosted boxes of fresh fruit and formed them into enormous table center pieces and tiered compotes.  I’ve gathered mistletoe from the oak trees and hung from the chandeliers.  I’ve even put wreaths on the garden gates, filled the concrete planters on the porch with magnolia branches and juniper, and wrapped gifts in chic expense paper to coordinate with the Christmas trim.
At some point the decorating madness stopped.  Two big events lead to its dismissing. First society condemned Martha Stewart and tossed her ass in jail for being a capitalist.  I, like many people became disillusioned.  It seemed like the end of the Crafty Era. Then I started commuting between Atlanta and NYC for work and my days of crafting and holiday decorating were officially over! 
We simplified.  C who has many great talents, one of which is picking out the perfect Christmas tree, would secure the tree and I would begrudgingly manage to decorate it.  But that was about as far as it went!  The gifts were no longer wrapped with their previous splendor. Instead rolls of wrapping paper from the dollar store were mashed around a box, when a box was even bothered to be used.  In fact, often old tissue paper stuffed in the top of a shopping bag would do just nicely! 
Our Christmas became about surrounding ourselves in a stress free environment and stress free meant only the holiday décor essentials - a tree and some presents, even if they were poorly wrapped.

Spending the energy to dress appropriately was also deemed too stressful.  C and I would spend the holiday in Gap sweat pants and some type of long sleeve tee shirt or a pair of flannel PJs.  My favorite was my yellow pair with the Cowboys and Indians on them! My low point included a tattered green plaid set I wore with a pair of five year old red hospital socks.  The kind with the rubber treads on the bottom.  Of course most of the treads had disintegrated in the washing machine.  DAR’s lounge wear was a little more orchestrated consisting of a floral cotton night shirt worn over a black knit skirt; strand of pearls, an arm full of bracelets, some dangly earrings, a pair of striped Christmas socks and a full painted face.  She looked like Cindy Lou from Whoville.  She knows make up is not required at our house.  But, it’s as essential to her outfit as underwear is to most people’s wardrobe.  In fact, I don’t think anyone has seen her without her makeup since she was in the seventh grade! After a couple of years, we realized that all three of us had gotten far too comfortable with each other and our holiday routine. What happened?  Were we no longer cute?  Or were we just lazy? 
We needed to interject something in our holiday routine requiring us to get out of our pajamas and force ourselves to shower and get into something a little more formal!  We needed to start making more of an effort so we enacted a new tradition appropriately named ‘fancy night’.  And to make it even more fancy, ‘fancy night’ usually takes placed on Christmas Eve. 

‘Fancy night’ requires one to remove themselves from the grip of The Gold Sofa, venture upstairs, shower, shave and dress.  Suits and gowns are not required.  It’s not that fancy of a night, however no fleece, felt, or flannel is allowed.  And one must wear shoes.  C and I will manage to pull on a pair of slacks and maybe a cashmere sweater.  DAR will break out her newest black skirt and possibility a black sweater set.  The pearls remain, since they are a staple.  Both arms receive a stack of gold and jeweled bracelets, the dangly hoops are replaced with sparkly rhinestone bobs and somewhere on her person she adds a bit of holiday cheer, usually in the form of a bejeweled brooch or a tartan plaid bow clipped to her black suede pumps.  She even places one curler in the front of her hair to give it that extra special evening lift. 
The ‘bigger than it needs to be’ flat screen in the media room is turned off, the movies are paused and the holiday CD’s are turned on, candles are lit, a roaring fire is nurtured in the fireplace, and the dining room table is set.  

Like many people we live in only one section of our home.  Our house is of a typical 19th century southern vernacular. The front of the house has a center entrance hall with a staircase and on each side of the entrance hall there’s a large parlor room, one side of which serves as our dining room. In the rear of our house is the kitchen.  Opposite the kitchen is the media room.  These two spaces are joined by a room that extends the front entrance hall and becomes the center of the house.  Double pocket doors connect the kitchen, rear hallway and media room.  These doors usually stay open, creating one large living space in the rear of the house and that’s where we generally live.
I guess it’s out of tradition that I usually put our Christmas tree in one of the front two rooms.  But, since we don’t use those rooms, except on ‘fancy night’ of course, last year we decided to put the tree in the rear hallway so we could enjoy it from the kitchen or as we are lounged on The Gold Sofa. 

Unfortunately, a week or so before DAR arrived; C came down with a very severe respiratory infection.  He was so sick he had to sleep seated upright in a chair for several nights just to breath.  At one point I thought we were going to have to cancel Christmas, but somehow he managed to rally just enough to get through the holiday.  Although he could barely walk three feet without having to rest and his breathing was like a Chrysler missing its muffler.  By the time DAR arrived he was able to sleep horizontally and do much of the cooking for ‘fancy night’. 
        If fact we all rallied on Christmas Eve.  DAR removed her single curler and wearing all our finery we repositioned ourselves to the dining room.  I pressed out the wrinkles of the linen Greek key napkins.  DAR set the table using the Wedgwood china and crystal which seems to rarely see the light of day anymore.  And C managed to serve up a Christmas Eve menu worthy of any previous ‘fancy night’.
I do not know if it was because we had spent to much time getting coiffed up for the evening’s event, the complicated menu, or that C was moving slower than normal, but either way ‘fancy night’ dinner ran late – even later than usual.  Just before , C pulled himself up from the dining room table and meandered towards the media room to switch the Vanessa Williams holiday CD that had now repeated for the third time.  I gathered up the gold trimmed dessert plates which held the remains of DAR’s famous buttermilk pie and followed into the kitchen.  As C padded through the rear hall towards the media room, I rested the plates on the end of the kitchen island.  It was then that I noticed him mumbling something to himself and tapping on the edge of the return vent floor grate in one corner of the rear hall. 
“What did you say”, I asked.
“There’s that sound again.”  He answered.  “I heard it earlier.  Remember I told you it sounded like something was under the house.”
“I bet it’s the cat,” I replied.  “He’s probably chased a mouse under there and is knocking around all that duct work.”
“That cat couldn’t make that much noise.  Besides, it sounds like it’s coming from inside the duct work, almost like something is under this grate,” he said as he bent over grabbing the top of the grate and snatching it off of the floor vent. 
Before either of us could say another word and as Vanessa started to crooned ‘Baby, it’s cold outside’ for the forth time a huge armadillo leaped from the heating duct and landed squarely on the floor in front of him.  From my vantage point in the next room the meeting of C and the armadillo reminded me of two revile cartoon characters that have a surprise encounter.  Both he and the armadillo’s eyes bugged about three inches out of their sockets and a cartoon word bubble with the same caption appeared over each of their heads.  It said ‘ARRUGGAAAAG! What the @#$*!’.

…to be continued…

Monday, December 13, 2010

Have a Foodie Holiday

At this point you all know that we are ‘foodies’, so last week while I was in New York I made Barneys one of my first stops.  This years window theme was 'Have a Foodie Holiday'.  

I know Simon Doonan is the God of Display, has a BBC TV show 'Beauty People'  inspired by his life, (which actually is quite funny) and his boyfriend is now famous for turning the Jewish mother’s decorating schemes he grew up with into a decorating empire.  But let's talk about this for a second.  The windows were funny and certainly the level of detail was there as I expected. At first look they were not as satirical as I was hoping; then after careful study, I got just enough ‘twisted’ out of them to appreciate all the work that obviously goes into their creation. 

What   pleased me the most was that someone was clever enough to put Mario Batali's head on a plate and stick an apple in it like a stuffed pig.  That was funny.  Also, you have to look closely but Anne Burrell’s head was in the oven with her hair flaming out the top.  That was great because there’s no one on Food Network that gets on my nerves like that women.  And the clock of Rachel Ray's face was kind of funny. 

They could have done more with Martha Stewart, but I guess Simon is as afraid of her as everyone else, so why push your luck.  Besides she could snap him like a twig.  Also, Paula Deen’s head was dead on.  But, let’s face it both she and Ina are big as a house so why did they put their big heads on those little bodies.  I appreciate that Paula was wrapped in one of those awful snuggy blankets, but come on she’s a big girl!  I would have played that one up just a bit. 


Friday, December 10, 2010

Orange You Glad It's Almost Xmas!

So the title of this post is cheesy, but who says the holiday season has to be red and green.  I like orange, especially if it's done well.  Here are some great examples. 

Photo Credit:
Thibault Jeanson 1-7
Andrew Garn
William Waldron
Wendall T Webber
Tria Gidvan

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