Chic Treat

Style : Of all the wonderful things blogging has brought me, the introduction to creative and talented people is the most thrilling.  What a treat Saturday night to be included in a dinner in honor of Heather Clawson, blogland's own Habitually Chic.

It was a lively crowd, and HC has done a much better job than I would have capturing the evening.  I'm thrilled that Kansas City made such a nice impression; now you will know I'm not on the take from the Chamber of Commerce.  (I'm not.  Really.)

My editor, Zim Loy was a gracious and lovely hostess and we were all treated to the magic of her culinary cohort, Merrily Jackson, who is aptly named.  The highlight of the evening, besides the sparkling conversation, was Merrily's dreamy coconut cake.  Even if you don't think you like coconut, you'll be begging for a second piece.

Miss Merrily's Heavenly Coconut Cake

1 18.5 oz box yellow cake mix, the kind with pudding
3 eggs
1 c. whole milk
1/3 c. vegetable oil


2.5 c. heavy whipping cream
1.5 c. sour cream
1.75 c powdered sugar
1 7 oz. can Baker's sweetened coconut

Prepare cake according to package directions, substituting milk for water.  Bake, as directed in two round cake pans.  Cool and split each layer, making four thin layers.  Prepare frosting by whipping cream and sour cream together until soft peaks form.  Whip in sugar, then stir in most of the coconut, reserving about a quarter cup.  Frost top of each layer, stack and frost sides.  Sprinkle reserved coconut over top.  Serves 12.

Can be make a day ahead.

Mrs. Blandings, left, Habitually Chic, obviously, right.  Recipe originally printed in Spaces Magazine Oct./Nov. '06.

KC Welcomes HC

Style : In honor of Habitually Chic's impending visit to Kansas City I am linking to a hometown design quiz put together by the staff at the Kansas City Star.    I'm posting the answers in the comments section.  For those of you who are not familiar with this feature of blogger, tick the word "comments" at the bottom of the post and a pop up screen will appear.  (I subscribed to World of Interiors this week and as I was filling out the on-line form it instructed me to "tick the box."  Furthering my Anglophilia.)

Branksome (not Break-some) China

Style : There is a wonderful article in the June issue of World of Interiors that chronicles the history of Branksome China.  The company was founded in 1945 but was facing closure last year.
Husband and wife, Philip and Charlie Johnson, bought the company in October with a passion to rescue and revive it.  It's hard to believe that it was struggling as the shape is so clean and modern, the glazes so clear and appealing.

The prices are not outlandish, even with the exchange rate, and custom color combinations and personalization are available for a modest up-charge.

I love the graphic nature of the black with the colored glazes.

Art pieces are available as well.

Oddly, as I was clicking around the site I came across a story on their news page.  Seems when they reintroduced the dog line, the boxer's head was missing and they were unable to reproduce this breed, which was a frustration for collectors.  A bit of luck uncovered the mold and now this dashing breed is back in production. 

He even has floppy ears like Rosie.  Could be the birth of a new collection.

Friend of a Friend

Style : Back in December folks were ohhing and ahhing over Aerin Lauder's home in the December issue of (the much missed) House and Garden.  I seem to remember a bit of discussion about the choice of blue candles in the dining room.  I'm usually an all white girl when it comes to candles, but could see that, for the image at least, white would not be right.  

Then, one of the features I always look forward to in Elle Decor, "shortlist" featured Steven Gambrel's list of things that he cannot live without.

And look.  Number 8 is slate-grey tapers by Creative Candles.  I adore Creative Candles; they are on my list as well.  Unfamiliar with the slate grey I emailed my friend at the company and asked if she could provide an image.  I was expecting a snap of her holding a handful of said shade when she provided a link to the image below.

Courtesy of Grace Ormande Wedding Style, the slate grey tapers preferred by Gambrel.  I have to say, I can see the appeal.  I am drawn to the crispness of the white, but the grey is more subtle.  It does not become the focal point.  Graceful and lovely, it does the job without screaming for attention.  I need to listen to Jennifer; this color deserves a second look.

Lauder image, and style inspiration, courtesy of The Peak of Chic.

The Morning After

Style : Mr. Blandings and I had the pleasure of attending one of Kansas City's most lovely fundraisers Saturday night.  A benefit for the Kansas City Symphony and the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, the Ball is held in the Gallery and it is nothing short of spectacular.  The space itself is majestic and the artful arrangement of boatloads of flowers by Bob Trapp and Kenneth Sherman make it a fantasy land.   

You might remember that a while back I was mulling over what to wear.  I had ordered a dress and kept trying it on, fussing with this and that.  It just didn't seem to be the thing.  But then again, no one is particularly looking at me except Mr. Blandings.  When I tried it on for him, he diverted his eyes from the T.V. briefly and said, "Honey, really, I think it's fine."  As you might expect, "fine" was not exactly what I was after.  "Fine" was, in fact, the kiss of death.

The only problem was finding a better than "fine" replacement in time.  I circled back around to the Brooks Brother's skirt.  The women here were lovely and had it sent for me to try.  While the color and shape were not buzz-worthy, I loved it.  A new white blouse (oh, how this is a weakness; I have a dozen, but adore them on the initial wearing) and a few alterations and I was out the door.  The manager who helped me when the skirt came in totally got me.  The blouse needed a slimmer fit.  Tie instead of tuck.  Yes, she agreed, collar and sleeves up.  A woman in the fitting room blinked and said, "For that party I prefer to stick with black."  Yes. Fine.  Another observer noted, "It's cute!  Don't some people really dress up?"  Needless to say, these women were not getting me.

Anyway, we had a wonderful time.  The next day was a dose of a reality.  Cinderella Kansas City style.  Sunday is laundry day at the dream house, so we started off with gathering and sorting.  I'd neglected quite a lot of things in the Spring and my housekeeping was one.  Once the first load was in I started editing the wardrobes of boys 1, 2 and 3.  T-shirts and jerseys multiply like rabbits in their dressers and they need to be thinned out about twice a year.  While I sorted and begged the boys to focus, Mr. Blandings went down (to the scary basement) to switch the laundry.  When he came back up he had a sheepish request.

"Honey?  I don't want this to be a thing.  I mean, don't take it personally, but I think you might need some new underwear.  Like today."  Cinderella looked up from the piles of nylon jerseys.  The blue birds momentarily ceased singing; the mice paused their merry dance.  "What?"  "Well, it's just...I mean they are basically threadbare."  

Shamefully, I knew this to be true.  When you hate shopping, you really hate shopping for things like undergarments.  In Mr. Blandings's defense, he was not fishing for fishnet.  He's long past hoping for something racy and raucous.  It was more like your mother and the accident thing.  So off I went.  To reconfirm that I hate shopping.

Brooks Brothers and Hall's is one thing.  The Gap and Victoria's Secret are quite another.  Loud.  (Oh my heavens I am so old and grouchy.  Why must it be so loud?) And messy.  These stores make me blanch when I walk through the door.  The indifferent, unmotivated teen-aged sales girls don't help and I mean that literally.

After very little success I headed back to the car.  My route took me past Barnes and Noble, and while I usually buy my books at Rainy Day, they are not open on Sunday and I thought it might be just the thing to calm my nerves.  

As it turns out, it's only clothes shopping that is so painful.  My arms heavy with design books and the new World of Interiors I headed home.  As I came through the door my darling husband inquired, "Any luck?"  Absolutely.  A complete success.

This image is a bonus.  I've had this open on my desk for a week.  House & Garden, 2000, from The Well-Lived Life.  Photography by  Dana Gallagher.  The rose is the "Sonia Rykiel."

A Dog Party

Style : Patricia sent some wonderful images from her "party" file as inspiration for the patio.  This is helping as thinking of it as a place to have a party certainly piques my interest.

Yes, black and white stripes do seem chic.

You have all been so generous with your advice.  We are just getting started, and you're right, it looks a little bare.  

In an effort to avoid more custom expenses, these striped pillows from Pottery Barn might provide a bit of pop.  The umbrella, too, adds to the Draper-esque feel, though the one from Z Gallerie, top, is irresitable with it's jaunty tassels.

But my biggest concern, the one that has me scouring the net, is darling Rosie.  She was welcome to sleep in the sun on the old cushions, but seems to know that that is a "no, no" now.  But, adorable pup, she certainly cannot be expected to lounge on the ground.  Heavens.

This charmer (the bed, not the Boxer) might be just for you if you admire the style of Mies van der Rohe or Marcel Breuer.

Butterfly chair in the family room?  Rover might enjoy one as well.

Blandings tend to be more traditional when it comes to canine accoutrements.  This will likely do the trick for the lollipup.

So I need to order Rosie's cushion first.  In black and white, of course.  Sometimes it's hard for me to think outside the Boxer.

Inside Out

Style : I don't really like outside.  Even as a kid I was much happier inside with a book than outside doing, well, anything.  

And Kansas City, as much as I love it, it's not so much about the weather.  Which makes not wanting to be outside easy because there's always an excuse.  Too hot.  Too humid.  Too cold. But for the fifteen days a year (there might be more) that it is truly gorgeous I'd like a place to sit outside and read my book.

Our outdoor situation has been somewhat pathetic.  In fact, I can't even show you the "before" pictures as it would have been too shocking and you would have lost all respect for me.  But recently I had new outdoor cushions made and things are looking up.  The furniture is mostly hand-me-downs from Mr. Blandings's parents and I have always been grateful to have them.  These chairs in particular are beloved.  The downside has been that retail cushions won't fit.  My life, it seems, leans toward custom.  When I called my upholsterer he said, "You realize that foam is a petroleum based product, right?"  Friend, it's the story of my life.

I still need to plant some annuals.  I know it's late.  I don't like outside, remember?  I'm getting around to it.  Anyway, while a wall around the patio would be nice, it's usually an extension of the playing field, so it seems like a hazard to put a two foot stone wall in the back field.  But I was thinking some planters might be nice.

Elle Decor, July 08 (which I just received and nearly everyone in the free world has already memorized.)  Home of Bob Weinstein and Eric Hensley in Sag Harbor.  Photographs by William Abranowicz.  As an aside, I think I went to the estate sale here before the current owners purchased it.  As the article mentions, "It needed a lot of work." 

Then, I noticed as I was going through my files, almost all the outdoor furniture I have pulled from magazines was selected for a potential indoor use.

Domino, May '08.

This table, available from Conran would be indestructible as the Blandings' breakfast table.

Or this one, from Sue Fisher King, which is available in these really amazing colors.  Fab, huh?
And finally, this table from Marston and Langinger, also available in about a million colors, would make a handy side table for the kitchen sofa. 

 Maybe I don't have to go outside after all.