Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Made in the U.S.A.: Dishes


It is getting harder and harder to find things that are made in the U.S.A.... I have been especially looking for a new set of everyday dishes for at least a couple of years now (notice the recurring theme of how I never buy anything quickly or impulsively!), and wanted them to be American made. 

Our last set of dishes were Mikasa (not American made), and although pretty, they have not lasted very well, in my opinion.  Although some people would think keeping the same set of dishes for 15+ years is doing well, our previous set of Pfaltzgraff Heritage dishes is still mostly around, with barely a chip (although they can break too, they are just very sturdy) .  Previously USA made, as our set was,  Pfaltzgraff dishes are no longer manufactured in America. Even Buffalo China -- the dishes you remember from eating at diners -- is not made in Buffalo anymore! You can probably still find some at antique stores or on ebay...but it is sad... 

Then with the ongoing insecurity of lead and other contaminates that may be in china, or in the glaze used on china (mostly made in China),  I was really determined to find American made dishes.  There are still a few manufacturers around -- you have to look (and you have to love Google for being able to research!) A good list of American made products can be found here, Americans working,  for starters. 

Anyway, it came down to two different ones for me: Niagara China Americana in Rekindled Ruby or Homer Laughlin Gothic, a pretty off-white/cream china with a raised gothic pattern, which I had come across at the restaurant of a historic hotel we stayed at -- the General Francis Marion Hotel in Marion, VA.  
Homer Laughlin Gothic mug -- nice, but do I need 36 of them?
 Homer Laughlin is the company that makes Fiestaware, but the Gothic pattern (and others) are sold at  restaurant supply stores, like Wasserstrom and The WEBstaurant Store. Items in a restaurant supply store are sold by the case, and although a case of 12 plates sounds fine (and maybe a good idea too -- if you have some that break you will still have a service for eight), some items are only available in a case of 24 (certain bowls) and a case of 36 (the mugs I liked).  I do not have the need for 36 mugs, or even have anywhere to store 36 mugs!  I guess I could have given some away, but the idea of buying more than you need still doesn't seem right to me -- maybe because my parents grew up during the Great Depression...

I checked with  Niagara Ceramics that the china I was buying was still made in America, and my contact person said -- "yes, it is!"  They have a lot of really nice patterns, but I liked the color and simplicity of this one best, which will be a Christmas present to my husband and myself this year:
Rekindled Ruby
Niagara China -- Americana -- Rekindled Ruby
I definitely think we should return to manufacturing more things in America, but I understand that it is cheaper to buy them made elsewhere (except maybe France!)  I would happily pay more for something of good quality that is proudly made in the U.S.A!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Lighting For Our Kitchen Table

Final decision on a new light for over our kitchen table:
Linear Strand Crystal Chandelier from Zgallerie
After shopping since last years kitchen renovation, we finally decided on this light, which I have admired since seeing a similar one in a kitchen shown in this post,  Willow Decor: Belgian Dream House .  The entire family liked it, which is important, and hadn't happened with any of the previous choices, so I ordered it yesterday.  Very excited to finally have a new light that we all like to replace the one that was here when we bought the house -- the gray flecks on the glass shades made it look dirty even after it was cleaned!  Will post pictures of the new light up after it is delivered and installed.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday Music: for Thanksgiving/Christmas

I love Christmas music, and actually start playing my Christmas cds before Thanksgiving. A few of them are good to listen to for both holidays -- my Celine Dion cd, These Are Special Times, is one of them. This beautiful song is from that cd: 

Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli -- The Prayer

I have also been listening to:

George Winston -- December,  peaceful and beautiful piano music
The Nutcracker Suite, by Tchaikovsky, and
A Charlie Brown Christmas, by Vince Guaraldi, which is joyful, jazzy and peaceful at the same time...
What holiday music do you like to listen to?
Let the music, joy and spirit of Christmas be upon us!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks to my friend, Addy, for this beautiful pot of Thanksgiving herbs that I used for my centerpiece this year:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Five For Fighting: World

I love this song ... Can you dig it, baby?

"What kind of world do you want?
Think anything
Let's start at the start
Build a masterpiece..."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

All My Pretty Crimson!

This is our Japanese Maple -- last night and then today -- notice the leaves down already...  It was so beautiful this year:

View from the front walkway:

And the pear trees that line the backyard -- they are now more toward vermillion:

Finally, some leaves I found on my walk yesterday: 

Think these are oak, pin oak and maple.

Music For a Rainy Day: Classical

I love music -- all kinds.  While at home I usually listen to a classical radio station -- we are fortunate to have an excellent one here in the Washington, DC area -- and my classical cd's.  Great to listen to anytime, but especially appreciated on a rainy day to help me get motivated.  Currently located on the sidebar from two of my favorite motivating cd's:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Recurring Themes: American Folk Art

I'm not sure I'll find a definition of "folk art" that I like, much less "American folk art".  But this is what I  mean when I think of American folk art, and what I like...

The two pictures below are both from our family room:

Edward Hicks: The Residence of David Twining

 The above Edward Hicks: The Residence of David Twining, is a giclee print that we bought and had framed after a trip to Cooperstown, NY and the Fenimore Art Museum, where we saw a couple of the artist's versions of Peaceable Kingdom on display. A link to the Fenimore Art Museum is here:   There are apparently four known versions of The Residence of David Twining, and an interesting history can be found in the Lot Notes of Christie's here: (mine is not the version in the Christie's picture).  I would love to go back to Cooperstown and visit the museum again, but until then I have this remembrance to view in my house to help recapture the feeling.

Racing at Broussard's Farm by George Rodrigue

George Rodrigue is a Cajun folklore painter, well known for his Blue Dog paintings.  We visited his gallery in New Orleans about 20 years ago when Cameron was a baby.  They allowed us to take a photo of Cameron, who was sound asleep in his stroller underneath one of the paintings.  I will have to find that photo and add it later.  Anyway, we bought this signed limited edition print, above, at the gallery and had it framed. I especially liked it because of the horses and because of the silhouette of the large tree in the background, as well as the bright colors, which were used in a very limited way -- mostly on the horses and  flags -- and also the way the railing comes in and out of the picture at an angle  (which is not unlike the opening gate in The Residence of David Twining).  You can see more of George Rodrigue's art here:

Picture book by George Rodrigue: Why is Blue Dog Blue?

My "Blue Dog", Olivia
Here I think have captured Olivia posing with that look in her eyes like Rodrigue's Blue Dog. As a note, I would love to try to paint this someday, although I understand it is difficult to paint black dogs... but maybe since I have not painted anything in years (other than the house) this small fact will not matter, as it would not be expected to look too professional anyway. Maybe it is like cooking, where the love you put into it makes all the difference!...
Here are three more images of American folk art that I have collected from my house:

Dinner bell picked up from an antiques store in Luray Virginia (not sure how "antique" it really is, but I like it)

One of two black Labrador dog bookends sitting on the fireplace mantel in our family room -- reminded me of Olivia, who is half Labrador and half Border Collie.
From a book I bought second hand on Rufus Porter, an American painter whose mural paintings I have admired.
Finally, I think that folk art extends to other arts, like literature, and in my definition, I would include some of my favorites: Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle,  Longfellow's "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere", and this poem by Robert Frost:

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Favorite Children's Book Illustrators

Although our children, now 21 and 13,  have gotten past the ages of reading these beautiful picture books, they still have a fond place in my heart. Especially at this time of year, I cannot help thinking of the heart-warming  illustrations from Ox-Cart Man, illustrated by Barbara Cooney, and Flannel Kisses, illustrated by Mari Takabayashi.  So every year at this time, I bring them out and look at them myself, and remember reading both of these, year after year, to the boys.  There was even a  Reading Rainbow episode where they visited Old Sturbridge Village, in Massachusetts (where I remember visiting as a young girl with my friend, Stacy, and our mothers).  In this episode, the book, Ox-Cart Man was read by Lorne Greene  -- you can watch the episode in its entirety here:

Here are my favorite books illustrated by Barbara Cooney:
      photo from
Ox-Cart Man

photo from
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story
Buy : Miss Rumphius
Miss Rumphius from

When I think of Flannel Kisses, I think of the year we moved from New Jersey to our house here in Virginia.  The house in New Jersey was a really great house, situated on an acre and a half, partially wooded lot.  It had a gigantic kitchen, light colored wood floors and a grand foyer with TWO large coat closets!  The nursery had 3 large windows that overlooked the valley below and hills beyond, and a Laura Ashley wallpaper border of the nursery rhyme Hickory, Dickory Dock and the Cow Jumping Over the Moon, which my husband, parents and I installed.  Brian and I also made one very large wooden cornice for the windows using the same wallpaper border to cover it.  It was a  bittersweet move to Virginia, because as much as I looked forward to moving to a new and exciting place -- I have always loved visiting DC -- I was going to very much miss our old house, friends and life in New Jersey.  So after looking at about a hundred houses, none of which seemed right, and pretty much overly tired of house hunting, I somehow knew this house would be the one for us.  I then had to leave to go back to NJ to sell the other house.  When I came back 3 months later after the closing, and not really remembering what the new house looked like anymore, I was pleasantly surprised -- there were nice dark wood floors on most of the main level, even in the kitchen -- I had forgotten about that!  Anyway, and this is where Flannel Kisses comes in, because our younger son was at the perfect age for reading that story, I read it a lot, and in it saw our new home -- wooden floors, staircase... and happy family in it.  Nine years later, I still love these dark wood floors -- they are so warm and forgiving to walk on in your bare feet, even in the coldest months...

 These are my two favorite books illustrated by Mari Takabayashi:

Flannel Kisses from

Marshmallow Kisses from

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Manassas Battlefield Fall Photos

Beautiful fall day -- wonderful that all this history and beauty is practically in our backyard.  I would love to do a horseback tour of the battlefield sometime...  From our Manassas Battlefield hike this morning:
Stone House

Along white trail south of Rt. 29

Blue trail north of Rt. 29
Cemetery outside Henry Hill house

Henry Hill house

With the all the headstones,  it seems right that Halloween is just around the corner...

Friday, October 14, 2011

PLC Pasino Multi-light Pendant

Still looking for that elusive light that will be just right for our eating area...

Considering this halogen multi-light pendant for over the kitchen table:

... seems like it would probably work with the rest of the kitchen as well:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Recurring Themes: Burnt-Orange

Burnt-orange is a recurrent favorite which I seem to have been drawn to over the years:

The rug in my family room has several areas with this color in the design:


The suede pillows in my family room, depending on the light, are a shade somewhere between coral and burnt-orange:

A bowl of potpourri  in my living room adds a nice pop of orange color:

Bowl of Potpourri and Ribbon

Some favorite William Morris prints:

William Morris Print: Kennet design

William Morris Print: Wallpaper design for St. James's Palace

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Color combination II: Wall and Rug:

I like the burnt orange color of Farrow and Ball's paint, Terre D'Egypte so much that it keeps coming into my thoughts, and I have been thinking of how I could use it in my house...Here is Farrow and Ball's paint, Terre D'Egypte, and Karastan's rug from the English Manor House collection, Cambridge, which although not my exact dining room rug (because Karastan does not make that anymore), is pretty close to it:

 Terre D'Egypte

Color Combination: Wall and Rug

Interesting idea for a color combination -- paint by Farrow and Ball, rug from Madeline Weinrib:

 Farrow & Ball No. 247 Terre D'Egypte

Madeline Weinrib: Champagne Wool and   Silk Charm

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ambassadors of Style

 After noticing the "Louis Ghost" chair yesterday on the website for Cooper-Hewitt People's Design Award, and then posting it here, I saw it again today in the Washington Post magazine (photo and information below from WP Magazine 9-25-2011).  There are many thoughtful designs shared on both the People's Design Award site and in the WP magazine's Ambassadors of Style article. I was thinking it would make an interesting bar seat, if it is made in such a size, but would be interesting in any variety of settings -- maybe in a room with a lot of mirrors, like the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles (okay, well maybe not exactly THAT  Hall of Mirrors, see photo below).  I wonder how comfortable it is, which made me think it would be ok for a bar seat:

photo 4/6

From France, “Louis Ghost” chair: The land of fancy “Louis” furniture (Louis XV, Louis XVI, Directoire, etc.) gives us a see-through update, designed by Philippe Starck for Kartell and much copied. $410 for the original from Design Within Reach at area locations and of Design Within Reach

 The Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles: 
Hall of Mirrors 

Friday, September 23, 2011