Monday, November 29, 2010

Vroom: Silver and Starbucks

Thanksgiving is now over...the lad is back to his grueling existence at VMI...and life continues as we hurtle headlong in a retail-fueled race of Olympian proportions to the year's-end.

As is my tradition, I ignored the Black Friday pressure, as well as the Saturday-and-Sunday shopping slog and devoted myself to luscious leftovers, loving friends and a long list of my favorite holiday movies. No doubt by now I have seen Love Actually, The Family Stone and Four Christmases at least ten times each. A delightful dropping-out and opting-out of the gifting Grand Prix which has already begun.

In the small breather before the next lap, I am pausing, hand on the gearshift, and appreciating another few things that have provided satisfaction over this weekend past.

The oversized sterling candelabra is a magnificent piece to have in one's dining or living areas. Ours is an antique attributed to Charles Stuart Harris of London in the late 1800s. We don't even use it as a candle stick...for us it is simply a focal point in whatever room we groaningly place it in. I must confess it is a dusting challenge.

Major turn signal here, as we move on to more pedestrian concerns: I probably consumed five of these over the beloved Venti Iced Chai Latte, light on the ice please, with soy. Thanks to all baristas who have expertly energized my gad-abouts.

Starting my engine,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving thanks is a sterling idea

The holiday season now upon us, it is a lovely time to reflect on all the things that enhance the beauty and elegance of these special occasions. Uppermost among these, for me, is the flatware with which we commune at the holiday table.

I am fortunate to have a "silver wardrobe" which allows me to creatively dress and accessorize the table as I do my own wardrobe. I have been the lucky recipient of many a deceased relative's largesse, providing me with an assortment of sterling boxes to open at whim. I enjoy using the different patterns with my various china patterns and stemware as well to create different moods for each occasion: for example, Christmas morning I typically use my grandmother's English flatware with my great-grandmother's Derby china and some circa 1942 American Fostoria stemware. Christmas dinner is a completely different assembly, usually Steuben or Waterford stemware and either Mottahedeh, Fitz & Floyd, Old Avesbury or even my Spode Christmas china.

I must say that my favorite amongst the flatware is my Jacobi & Company sterling flatware, circa 1890.

August Jacobi was an exceptional silversmith who worked in Baltimore during the late 1800's and early 1900's. His work was marked A. JACOBI from about 1879-1889. In 1890, the company name changed to A. JACOBI & CO., when his son, W. F. Jacobi, joined him in business. In 1894, the Jacobis partnered with W. Armour Jenkins, another prominent silversmith in Baltimore, to create Jacobi & Jenkins Co.

Mine is a complete set of 18, including such bygone relics of a grander way of life as fish forks, demitasse and creamed soup spoons, grapefruit spoons, berry spoons, et al. In addition, it also includes a set of mother-of-pearl-handled knives, which I treasure.

The engraving reflects my family's name--the southern branch of our family, of course. The set is in its original heavy wooden box, also engraved with the monogram of my ancestor.

There is something very special about holding in one's hand the sterling of the past. Not only is it heavier--and more "sterling" than today's sterling--but for those of us with a vivid connection to the past, it is redolent of all the meals and occasions that have come before. It is easy for me to envision never-known relations as they lifted the same knives, forks and spoons to their mouths, or gestured with same in hand during lively conversations at table. I can imagine Christmas and Thanksgiving of 1890, when the set was brand-new, in the new home of my ancestor bride, as she proudly entertained her in-laws and extended clan. How many hundreds, thousands, of dinners have these implements accompanied? If they could talk, what would they say of my family, what stories could they tell? This is the richness and endless mystery of the antique...the unfathomable history to which it was silent witness.

I wish you all a happy reunion with loved ones...and possibly even a communion with something old as well.


Friday, November 19, 2010

He's coming home

Our son, a "Rat" at VMI

Our boy is coming home from college Tuesday night, so preparations are afoot here to make everything special.
His college experience is more grueling and challenging than his peers' as VMI is a military institute. He is doing well and we are very proud.

Most of all, it will be so wonderful to have our family back together again. The balance is somehow off with the essential fourth person missing.

Anyone else with college and prep school children en route?

Looking ahead,

Monday, November 15, 2010

Full cry

Here in Chester County, the English traditions are alive and well. Among them is the spirited tradition of foxhunting. Here on our side of the pond, the fox is rarely killed--he is an important and respected participant who simply is chased. There are several hunts, but the most legendary is Mr. Stewart's, also known as the Cheshire Hunt. November is the high time of the season here, and this season it is a time to remember Nancy Hannum, a major figure in these parts who died earlier this year. Mrs. Hannum has been credited with single-handedly preserving more land here than anyone else.

Introduced to the saddle at age five, she grew up among barrel-chested ponies and with the sounds of hounds and the copper horn. Born in Long Island, N. Y., she was the daughter of Carol Harriman, whose stepfather was the renowned railroad entrepreneur E. H. Harriman, the founder of the Union Pacific. He ran a pack of American Fox Hounds near the town of Westbury, Long Island from the 1870s through the 1890s.

Her father, Richard Penn Smith, was a distinguished businessman, who along with her mother, were joint masters of the Middleburg Hunt in Virginia. Smith was a prominent member of the Bryn Mawr Hunt who managed prized racehorses for the wealthy Cassatt family.

Following her husband's death, Carol Penn Smith married W. Plunkett Stewart. The couple, Nancy and her sister Averell moved to Unionville. Stewart had moved there in 1912 from Greensprings, Md., purchasing Chesterland Farm where he stabled horses and built kennels across what is today Route 82. He chose to call his pack the Cheshire Foxhounds because of his love for the picturesque English town of Chester in the county of Cheshire. Gradually, English foxhounds—the first lot from Warwickshire— replaced the American hounds in Stewart's private pack. The foxhunting organization is still known as Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds.

Over the next few decades Stewart built his land holdings to nearly 5,000 acres. Always the visionary, the Master of the Hunt encouraged his well-heeled friends to buy property in the Unionville area.

After Stewart's death in 1948 Nancy Hannum took over as Master of the Hunt at the young age of 29. Mrs. Hannum ran the hunt with the planning and execution of a general at war from her home at Brooklawn. She hunted well into her 70's then led the charge from a battered jeep until she retired in 2003.

Her 55 years ranks her number two on the list of longest tenure as an active Master of the Hunt, according to the Master of Foxhunting Association (MFHA).

It's been said that in the Cheshire Hunt country there may be more post-and-rail fences per capita than anywhere in the country. Crossing signs shout: "Horse Crossing." Over the past five decades any new landowners found Mrs. Hannum knocking on their door. Introducing herself, she explained that land easements "are the way we do it in and around Unionville."

RIP, Mrs. Hannum,

Friday, November 12, 2010

Weekend wanderings

Short post for this glorious run-up to a beautiful fall weekend in Chester County and on the Bay.

Enjoy these lovely days...


Thursday, November 11, 2010

The little red box...with screwdriver

While we're on the subject of jewelry that inspires fanatic devotion and obssessive collecting...

I submit...

The red Cartier box is as coveted as the Tiffany blue one...and the history of the Love Bracelet is quite interesting.

The summer of 1969 was a momentous time. And what better way to penetrate the freewheeling hippie movement than with a bracelet inspired by a Chastity belt? Except the Love Bracelet was originally designed to be worn by couples, each person locking their beloved into the piece.

The Cartier Love Bracelet of 1969 was designed by a French jeweler named Aldo Cipullo, who created some amazing pieces for Cartier before his early death at the age of 48 from heart disease. The original gold version was in two pieces, joined together by bolts that could be unlocked with a matching screwdriver.

Cartier originally marketed the Love Bracelet to Hollywood couples only: Ali McGraw and Steve McQueen, and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Now it comes in various metals: gold, rose gold, white gold, platinum, and there's even one in a white enamel, I think. Each comes with a Cartier screwdriver.

I love to wear them in the full stack.

Locked in,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yurman ringtones

No, it's not a new cell phone option. It's the wide assortment of lovely stones from David Yurman, one of my many "problem" habits. I have long adored his jewelry, and enjoy all of it. But among my faves are his rings.

My current passion is my blue topaz 20 mm ring, although you gotta be careful around sweaters and hosiery. It's a real thread-catcher. But blue is one of my all-time preferred colors, and so his blue rings truly do it for me.

Thank you, Mr. Y!

Regretting having only ten fingers,

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Barbour weather

Late fall has finally arrived here in Chester County and with it comes the breakout of my Barbour outerwear.
One cannot say enough about the genius of these coats and jackets with their superb craftsmanship and last-forever quality.
I have two which see me through daily, depending on whether it's wet or dry.

For dry and chilly November days, my go-to is this classic Barbour-green quilted coat.

Its three-quarter length makes it versatile for wear with pants or skirts, and the hood protects one's neck and head from raw winds. Pockets galore, and snaps plus a zipper closure make it sensible and easy to wear. It's fleece-lined, so it's quite toasty. Not to mention, it can be popped into the washer (cold water, handwash settings) and into the dryer as well.

When rain is in the mix, I don my trusty waxy jacket with its warm heavy lining. Rain simply melts off this jacket. Perfect for riding, too.

Pair these with cords and wellies and you're set for anything sporty.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Happy Birthday and update on a broken bone

Montague Myles in his "best" coat at the vet today

As some of you know, my dear baby IG broke his right front leg several weeks back. He and Lilly, our rambunctious year-old black lab, were rough-housing near the pond when we heard the scream to end all screams. It was a harrowing event for all concerned. Lilly was freaked-out and guiltily bolted off, feeling badly, no doubt. Our little Iggy had a steel plate and screws inserted to repair the break and hopefully restore him to "good as new" status.

Recovery mode three weeks ago

He has been walking around with no limp, looking exactly the same, except for a tiny, still-healing scar on his leg. (I am applying A&D ointment and Creme de la Mer in alternating doses.)

I am happy to say that today was a real hallmark for him: the all-clear from the orthopedic surgeon, and...


Happy Birthday, my darling!

We are celebrating later with a small bacon-wrapped filet mignon for him, along with doggy ice cream for all three pooches.

Spoiled? Nah...

Barking happy,

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Bell Tolls

Time marches on for us all. But it is best appreciated with a stylish tick-tock whether it is being marked on one's wrist or in the home.

I am quite fond of antique clocks and am fortunate to have several.

Here are three of my favorites...

A lovely French mantel clock in brass and enamel from Japy Freres...

An English grandfather clock circa 1800...

And a Connecticut mantel clock from the early 1800s...

An interesting note: we have a time bandit or clock ghost living in our 1741 home. I have come to this conclusion because every clock we have, no matter how many times my clock repairman comes and does his thing, soon ceases to function properly. The chimes don't match the little hand, et al. It is as if, literally, time is standing still. And that's okay. I rather enjoy the illusion that time alone is abstract concept in and of itself...that bears little importance in comparison with its enjoyment. In our minute-managed society and world, where the time-stamp is proof that we exist, it is a comfortingly indulgent whim, this ignoring of the stuff that life is made of.

Time to fly,

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Aerin

She is my girl...but I am so proud of her. Last night's Cotillion at Radnor Hunt she was the belle of the ball, in large part due to her lovely and winning ways and her social IQ.

This is the first year (after 5 years in Cotillion) with no white gloves and no curtsying. I am bereft...the years of the little bob as she met elders are over.

She is now the tallest in the class (with heels 5' 8 1/2") at age 13, and not finished yet. Most importantly, she has lovely character and is developing into a strong, good young woman.

To my Aerin...

Born in my heart and always,
ABL (Mommy)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Where ya been, Anne?"

Yes, I know. We're now strangers once again. It's been THAT long since my last post back in June.

I apologize to all, and can only offer an excuse that sounds suspiciously like a plea for sympathy and unlike my usual more refined use of the King's English: my summer--as my kids would say--sucked.

My husband had three knee surgeries. (The third was two weeks ago.)
He has been on crutches, needing all the wifely support (including trays and chauffeuring) one can imagine.
My dog broke his leg and had surgery. (That was three weeks ago.)
He has been in a splint, needing all the momly support (including bowls and carrying) one can imagine.
Another dog died.
We miss him.
My convertible got flooded out.
We had to get a new one. (Not a convertible.)
Our son went off to college.
We miss him.

This is the complaint department, right?


In the meantime, you have probably moved on to bloggers whose lives are as lovely and decorous and devoid of drama as mine once was.

Before you defect, know that I am coming back.
In fact, I AM back.

Amidst the fall of leaves and its reveal of trees' natural bone structures, the silly fun of Halloween and the onrush of holidays, I am taking a contemplative pause. (But not a blogging one. That one is over.)

The pool is closed down.

Fall wreaths itself at every door.

The porch is cleared of its welcoming white wicker and potted blue hydrangea; only the nascent floor shade remains as a tease of warmer days way ahead now.

So much to catch up on...
please come back again...

Missing you too,

About Me

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Living well is the best revenge...and a choice we make every day. Join me as I celebrate the bounty of beauty in all its forms: fashion, homestyle, accessories and everyday I juggle the roles of Mommy, wife, daughter, dog mommy, creative director, Zumba instructor, volunteer...all with more than a passing glance backward to an old-school, classic time when style was a way of life