In elementary school in Newark, New Jersey, I remember long chalk boards standing end to end in the hallway and tables and chairs in front of them for those who wanted to study in groups, practice their math, write their science paper, or develop and express their artistic side. I did them all, but I liked drawing the best.
I was as visual a child as any, maybe more. In school, I liked artist Cy Twombly, whose works looked elementary and primitive, but at the same time very original. One admirer and collector, on presenting his latest Twombly acquisition, felt obliged to say, "Sometimes people need a little bit of help in recognizing a great work of art that might be a bit unfamiliar."
At my school, many of my classmates would look at his paintings and totally identify with his style. His works looked like scribblings or urban graffiti. But critics and observers adored the fluency and imagery. Twombly's vivid colors and simply layered textures merge body, context and structure to create something new. I saw that.
As I came of age and practiced my own art, I came to realize that abstract art allows the creator to unveil hidden layers of simplicity. Twombly's paintings are today in the permanent collections of the New York Museum of Modern Art and the Musee du Louvre in Paris.
Twelve Things I Can't Live Without (right now)
- Edmond Fallot Dijon Mustard takes me back to the brasseries of Paris. (www.fallot.com)
- Mariage Frères Teas. Earl Grey French Blue, my favorite, has strong overtones of bergamot and floral essence. Wonderful on cold winter days. (www.mariagefreres.com)
- Roger and Gallet Soap. Morning showers are simply lush. www.roger-gallet.com
- Reflects de France Salt — My friend Robynn from Paris brought back a tin of this elegant French salt and my cooking has not been the same since. (www.amazon.com)
- Prada Luna Rossa Fragrance Collection. Great fragrances that can be worn year-round. (www.prada.com)
- Succulent plants — I never had a green thumb, but I can keep these living. Check with your local plant nursery.
- Nespresso Machine — Thank you Aunt Gail. I can't imagine not having it. I love Triple Americano, perfect for a morning wake-me-up. (www.nespresso-us.com)
- Seattle Art Museum — I volunteer at SAM and enjoy every minute. It's my continuing education in the world of art. (www.seattleartmuseum.org)
- The Watson-Kennedy Home Store in Seattle. This store reminds me of shops in Paris and London, where you can pick up fine home products like specialty books, stationery and soaps. (www.watsonkennedy.com)
- The Virginia Inn Restaurant on First Avenue, Seattle — The wait staff is excellent and do sit at the bar and ask for Joseph (www.virginiainnseattle.com)
- Tagine Pot — I love Moroccan cooking, thanks to my friend and neighbor Hannah, who introduced me to it. It's always festive when the tagine arrives on the dinner table for your guests to enjoy. Bon Appetite! (www.surlatable.com)
- And of course, my friends and family, who make it all worthwhile.
The Gem of British Columbia
If you're in Seattle, you might want to sail the Victoria Clipper from Pier 69 to Victoria, British Columbia. It's a little less than three hours on the water, sailing past Whidbey and the San Juan Islands, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and into the Inner Harbor at Victoria. You'll need your passport.
What you'll get is Canada, west coast island style. Victoria has the mildest weather in the country — it has palm trees but you never need air conditioning. It's romantic, it's a popular artist and retiree town, and it feels like England. It is, after all, the capital of British Columbia, and the Parliament Building is right there by the harbor. The Royal British Columbia Museum is also by the harbor, close to the Empress Hotel, where you can enjoy a quite memorable High Tea.
Victoria is at the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island. The island itself is immense (12,000 square miles), wildly beautiful, mountainous and mostly inaccessible. Victoria is the jewel that sparkles by the sea. From the harbor it's just a few blocks to the ocean, which is what Victorians call the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
There's a park along the water and a promenade that winds across a meadow and along the seaside cliffs. At the western end is an easily accessible, invitingly walkable pier that is actually the breakwater protecting the harbor from the open sea. The breakwater is almost a half mile long and terminates at the 1915 lighthouse, flashing red at three second intervals. From there you can look across the Strait to Washington state's Olympic Mountains and at night the sparkling lights of Port Angeles.
You might be alone out there or you might be among others who are walking, jogging, strolling, discovering, finding peace. Canada is peaceful, and Victoria is a peaceful place, just a few hours by fast boat from Seattle.
The Italian Cooking Course: More than 400 authentic recipes and techniques from every region of Italy I love cooking Italian fare, especially during these cold winter days. It's wonderfully cozy. Add a great bottle of wine and enjoy!
Luminous Interiors: The Houses of Brian McCarthy Brian McCarthy is a master of his craft. I love his attention to the old world charm of such modern interior designers as Albert Hadley, Sister Parrish and Bunny Williams.
Laduree: Entertaining: Recipes, Ideas & Inspiration Of course afternoon tea is very appropriate on a chilly day or most any day. When I was in Paris with some friends, we ventured into the Laduree Tea Rooms on the Champs Elysees. They are known for their stunning displays of wonderfully delicious macaroons in many flavors and colors. The book includes an assortment of scrumptious photographs.