Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fave Escapes

Well, it's getting to be THAT time. As we batten down up here on the Eastern Seaboard for yet another round of snow, thoughts turn to sneaking off to favorite places of yore, where memories are sweet and sunshine is plentiful.

St. Martin's La Samanna, on the French side (tres importante)

The beautiful pool there and main house

Our favorite villa's pool in Bermuda, on Knapton Hill overlooking the water

Hobe Sound, my grandparents' winter place

Bermuda is on the docket for June. Thinking about escaping now, though...

Passport in hand,

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Swans

With all the hype about the film Black Swan, thoughts turn to the other swans of yore: Truman Capote's famous "Swans," the bevy of beautiful socials who constituted Capote's circle of international hostesses and confidantes of the 1950's and 60's. Known for their long, graceful necks--hence the "swan" metaphor--these icons of femininity represented the ultimate in looks, style, elegance and the tenor of the times.

Mexican-born Gloria Guinness...

The beautiful CZ Guest, whose hair Capote once described as "champagne," shown here with Woolworth heir Jimmy Donahue...

Babe Paley...

Here with husband, CBS titan Bill Paley...

Marella Agnelli, wife of Fiat founder Gianni...

Slim Keith, once married to Howard Hawks and Leland Hayward, the inspiration for Lauren Bacall's style in her classic film roles with Bogie

All were invited to Capote's famous Black and White Ball. These were the days when men of power reigned, having chosen decorative and immensely capable consorts whose role was to advance and enhance the personal, professional and private social lives of their men. Today it seems almost quaint for a woman with as much skill and personal eclat as a Babe Paley, for example, to obsess over perfection to such a degree as to cut the then-serrated edges off postage stamps to give mailed correspondence a more elegant touch. Their existences, while seemingly spectacular, had the predictable sadnesses, tragedies and stresses that life lived at such a Zeussian altitude often produces.

These Swans live on in the vast trove of photographic archives chronicling their global comings-and-goings. A book about all of them would seem a nice idea.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Having a Ball

Academy Ball-bound

The Academy Ball is just around the corner here in Philadelphia. And what a tradition it is...one of the few remaining white tie events in the country. It is also one of the all-time best parties here.

The Anniversary Concert and Ball, as it is more formally known, is held every year at the end of January as a fundraiser for the Academy of Music, on the short list of the great concert halls.

This year--the 154th--it will be held on Saturday, January 29. While proceeds from the Concert and Ball are shared between the Academy of Music and The Philadelphia Orchestra, all of the monies donated to the Restoration Fund go directly to the restoration and preservation of the Academy.

Founded in 1957 at the Academy's centennial by Stuart F. Louchheim and a group of civic-minded businessmen, the Restoration and Preservation Fund has been instrumental in restoring the Academy to its current splendor. Combined proceeds from the Concert and Ball and the Annual Giving Campaign have gone towards numerous restoration projects, including a new main house curtain, designed and woven by Scalamandré, conservation of the ceiling murals and wood sculptures, the restoration of the main lobby and grand staircase to their former splendor, and the renovation, soundproofing, and carpeting of the ballroom. Two new elevators were installed, thanks to the generosity of Ambassador and Mrs. Walter H. Annenberg, making all levels of the auditorium accessible to the physically challenged. The Academy was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963.

The 146-year-old Academy of Music is the oldest known continuously operating opera house in the United States. The building, constructed in 1857, was built using solid brick bearing walls and timber framed floors and roof. It has served for the last 147 years as Philadelphia's premier opera house and served for over a century as home to The Philadelphia Orchestra.

The Philadelphia Orchestra returns once again for a performance, including RenĂ©e Fleming and Paul Simon as special guests. Lester Holt, weekend anchor for NBC’s Today and Nightly News, serves as host for the evening.

Immediately following the concert, gala guests will make their way north on Philadelphia’s iconic Broad Street to the Hyatt at the Bellevue, formerly known as the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. This magnificent hotel is as much a part of Philadelphia as the William Penn statue atop City Hall. An exquisite gala champagne supper and ball follow the concert, with as many as 15 different bands playing in as many different rooms of the hotel. In recent years, the Ball has hosted such distinguished guests as HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Best of Britain at the Academy Ball

The theme for this year’s Concert and Ball is “Protecting Philadelphia’s Cultural Treasures,” which highlights the remarkable non-profit organizations in our region that make a difference every day in the lives of our citizens.

Typically, one stays over at the hotel, or the Union League so one doesn't have to drive.

To the grand old lady of Broad Street,

Friday, January 7, 2011

Capital Clubs

Our nation's capital is one of my favorite destinations. In many ways I actually prefer it to the other big-time cities (New York, Chicago, et al) due to the formality of life that stills exists there. It's one of the few places left in our culture today where suits and ties and dresses are still de rigeur.

Another plus to Washington is the number and quality of beautiful private clubs (like New York). Unlike New York, entry into them continues to be exclusive, not as business-focused or dependent on the size of one's wallet.

My two favorites are the Cosmos and the Historic Georgetown Club. Each has a lovely history entwined with that of Washington itself. The Cosmos was founded in 1878 by men distinguished in science, literature and the arts. In June, 1988 the Club began accepting women. The Cosmos is all about personal distinction: scholarship, creative genius or intellect. Among its members have been three Presidents, two Vice Presidents, a dozen Supreme Court justices, 32 Nobel Prize winners, 56 Pulitzer Prize winners and 45 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

There is even a lovely poetry collection published in 2000 featuring 25 Cosmos member contributors:, including Maya Angelou, Roy Basler, Thomas Peter Bennett, Carl Bode, John C. Broderick, and many others.

From the Introduction, by Robert E. Barnett: "In the remarkable history of the Cosmos Club, now spanning three centuries...the art of poetry has been...part of a tradition of humanistic principles that have been at the core of our identity...The current anthology of original work produced by our own members is an outgrowth of the [Library] Committee's desire to share the wealth of talent that is part of our noble history." One is in august company at the Cosmos, and its ambience reflects that. Its rooms are among the most elegant in Washinton, most notably the magnificent Warne Lounge Ballroom, where a wedding recption is a lifetime hallmark indeed. One can stay there in one of the beautiful guest rooms as a member or reciprocal club member.

The Historic Georgetown Club is in the former Suter’s Tavern, where President George Washington, surveyor Andrew Ellicott and Capital architect Major Pierre L’Enfant met to plan the District of Columbia. Today it is an understated enclave for social gatherings and fabulous meals, a bastion of how things used to be. Our son introduced himself to Kobe beef there at age 13 and has been spoiled now for life.

Can't wait to visit again soon.

Gtown Jonesing,

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Christmas on the Bay

The season was also in full swing down Annapolis way.

Members of Stand Up Paddle Annapolis

Parade of Lights...

Had a Merry Yar Holiday and a Shipshape New Year,

Christmas Beauty

We spent our holiday here in Chester County, bundled against the cold. A beautiful Boxing Day snowfall added to the ambience, as did the holly, evergreen and berries everywhere.

A window draped for the season...

The dining room being set up for a New Year's Day buffet...

The dining room mantel decor...

A golden deer in the drawing room...

The front door beckons...

Dog toys awaiting their owners...


A small tree...

The library tree...

The library in festive attire...

The drawing room tree...

A hunt board aglow...

The kitchen alight with boughs...

Hope your Christmas was blessed with joy for the eye and the spirit.

Watching those needles fall,

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 richness...as 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