I’d like to think that if all good things must end, even better and more beautiful things start right up again! 2013 brought changes at home and at work, with family and friends and, most of all, in our selves and the course ahead. After three and a half years of life in the country chronicling our adventures, shopping flea markets with new friends and producing stories for magazines, Jaithan and I took one last look at our Butler’s Pantry…
…and packed it all up.
Back to New York we went, settling into a modest one-bedroom apartment in Yorkville perched high in the sky where every toast rack, teapot, samovar, soup tureen, compote and cake stand crammed the shelves of the pharmaceutical cabinet my Pop-pop and I once stripped of its peeling paint years ago.
Guest room accommodations went from marvelous…
In the country, we used to love lighting fires in our living room that crackled and hissed…
…now we crackled and hissed at the “fires” in our living room.
The transition was tough, especially through the winter, but spring in New York always brings with it fresh, new life. It seeps into the bones and invigorates the spirit.
Soon we felt the familiar tug of our city selves, scouring flea markets in Chelsea and tag sales on Long Island.
Hello, old friend. I missed you.
In March I began a new position as East Coast Editor at Better Homes & Gardens. It’s a Meredith publication headquartered in Des Moines…
…with only a handful of us holidng down the fort in Midtown.
I consider myself lucky to work with such a fun, talented group of people, but sometimes they do crack the whip! (Clockwise from the left: Better Homes & Gardens Executive Editor Oma Blaise Ford, Senior Deputy Editor Kelly Kegans, Editor in Chief Gayle Bulter and, cracking the whip Des Moines-style, my good friend and colleague, Style Director Jessica Thomas.)
Jaithan started a new gig too, doing PR, marketing and merchandising for French furniture maker Grange, where he’s lucky enough to travel to Paris and work with talented decorators like Kathryn Ireland. (From the left: Grange’s Managing Director Heather Ryan, Liz Raymond Montgomery and Kathryn Ireland.)
Life in New York was good again, but after spreading out in the country for years with room enough to garden, to decorate and to entertain as often as we liked, “home” in our apartment on Manhattan’s Upper (way Up) East (way East) side never really felt like home. Every time I’d go to the kitchen to cook, I hoped I might have dreamt the whole thing up, and I was still back in our place in Connecticut reunited with my copper.
Reality, however, looked more like this, only there was nothing dreamy about it.
What we needed was a weekend house, a retreat from the city, something small-ish with charm we could make our own again. We found it in a 1930s Cape in Connecticut nestled in the southern foothills of the Berkshires just 90 minutes from New York.
The house is small, the land has a lot to offer. Years ago, this had been a working farm with pear and peach trees, scores of blueberry bushes and an apple orchard with just about every variety I know. Pine Hill Farm, we call it, named for the 200 year old pine trees dotting the property. Nothing about Pine Hill Farm is particuarly manicured and, for now at least, we’re keeping it that way.
The snow kept coming well into March, but finally, when the ground began to thaw and we saw for the first time the possibilities in everything, in reviving a life we loved, we…
…well…we screamed! (Here’s us on the Santa Monica Pier, holding on for dear life.)
But in that strange, blindsiding way dear life can be, one roller coaster ride led to another, and when we returned from California, my grandmother Dottie, whose passion for cooking and collecting plotted a course for my own life, soon passed, joining her husband, my grandfather Eddie, once again.
When I look at these pictures of Mom-mom and Jaithan, Pop-pop and me, sitting on our porch upstate, eating buttercream cake and smiling, my heart fills with gratitude. I love you, Mom-mom. I love you, Pop-pop. I miss you both very much.
Immediately, I threw myself into work, traveling to High Point where I (or a slightly more svelte version of me) gave my first presentation representing Better Homes & Gardens.
(Another would come in the fall at the Lauritzen Antique & Garden show in Omaha, together with two friends and mentors, Carolyne Roehm and Kathryn Ireland.)
Up at the house, with every passing weekend, the air, the trees, the birds beckoned more and more of summer.
When the irises burst into lush hues of lavendar and purple, I couldn’t wait to start creating again, making arrangements, setting tables, throwing parties for everyone or no one. Constance Spry, the English floral decorator, inspired this arrangement in a cast iron urn; the lavendar glass bowls I found covered in grime at the Antiques Garage in Chelsea, 20 dollars in all.
June brought a slew of guests to the house (here, my friend Elyse), where we’d spend mornings planting window boxes, afternoons picking blueberries…
…and evenings in the apple orchard eating dinner in the glow of the property’s old stone grill.
The peaches I’d often turn into jams; this was a savory one with fragrant lemon thyme, the perfect accompaniment to grilled pork.
In July, we cleaned house with a tag sale…
…leaving both of us in dire need of down time.
When September arrived and the nights turned brisk, the leaves fell blanketlike on the farm.
Saturdays in October we’d often spend picking apples and baking.
Some of the pears I poached for a dinner party in sweet red wine, served in antique Italian pottery from an estate sale shop in San Diego.
Weekends in the country, cooking, baking, doing flowers, I always felt so free, so energized to create. Instagram became my new visual diary and the place I tried to inspire others in my absence here. But during the week in New York, in that pint-sized kitchen in the sky, I felt trapped, dreading our return every Sunday, wishing it were Friday. And so, in a punishing turn of events last year, Jaithan and I decided to move apartments yet again!
The upside is that new homes create new decorating opportunities, like these lamps I picked up at a Goodwill or side tables I found dumpster-diving in New York.
Here they are in the September issue of Better Homes & Gardens! Check out this video!
The drapery fabric is Robert Allen’s Hidden Temple, and it’s a showstopper!
And what’s dinner without drinks? Actually, make that breakfast. Here I am mixing up martinis for a reunion with Kathie Lee and Hoda on the Today Show.
After a Chritmas soirée in the city with an eggnog bar propped with pretty cranberry and opaline glasses…
we headed back to the country just in time for our first winter’s snow.
The house we decorated simply this year with a blue spruce tree from a local farm in Litchfield County.
After opening presents on Christmas morning, our friend Tori came up for a very Royal Tannenbaums holiday.
The champagne flowed freely, I assure you.
Jaithan and I spent New Year’ve Eve by the fire.
I made clams casino to start, followed by a stuffed pork loin, cauliflower au gratin and hericot vert. A friend on Instagram said the plates I’d found at a nearby thrift shop have a Polish coat-of-arms dating back to the 1800s!
Out with 2013, toasting with antique Bavarian coupes and celebrating…
OUR NEW BOOK!
Look for it some time next year, but in the meantime, I hope you visit us here where we’ll be posting once a week from Pine Hill Farm.
Of course, if weekly posts leave you wanting more, follow me on Instagram (#pinehillfarm) for all of the action as it unfolds. Happy 2014, everyone! We’re happy to be back!