April 29, 2011

Uncommonly Charming Book

I meant to discuss this charming little novella at the Klatch and it seemed especially appropriate on the day of the Royal Wedding.

When Her Majesty (yes, the very one that donned primrose hat at her grandson’s wedding) wonders into a mobile library van, she feels compelled to check out a book. One ought not to offend. The Queen finds herself enjoying the common activity of reading, devouring volume after volume. This naturally concerns the palace handlers while Her Majesty grows increasingly impatient with duties. One would rather be reading. It’s the drawing room scandal.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

So do scamper to the nearest mobile library to check out this mildly subversive little book.

April 27, 2011

Klatch Guest: Chef Matt

A friend of the Klatch, Chef Matt (formerly worked with Todd English, now can be seen at Ballston’s Rustico) makes seriously tasty food. His tuna tartare is one of my fondest culinary memories and he singlehandedly rehabilitated beets for me.

With reformed beets in mind, I asked Chef Matt about key ingredients that home cooks overlook but every kitchen should have. Here are his picks.

Spanish Smoked Paprika. “A very versatile ingredient. I use it in dressings, marinades, soups, stews. It adds a subtle smokey flavor. I even add it to popcorn.”

Spanish Smoked Paprika is also very nice with eggs too!
Photo: Williams Sonoma

So far so good. I have some Smoked Paprika in my spice drawer though it never occurred to me to put it on popcorn.

he next ingredient in on Matt’s list gave me a pause. Capers. You got me there. “I never see capers in anyone’s kitchen, but they are great with salads, sandwiches, sauces, fish.” Seems like a trip to the market is in order.

Caper really is a beauty, when not pickled in a jar.
This plate is from Otto Wilhelm Thome Capparis Spinosa
Final pick: Good Mustard. “If I see yellow mustard it someone’s fridge, I get nauseous.”

(Thankfully I only keep Dijon around) Photo: Whole Foods.

Cook books picks and even a recipe from Chef Matt to come, but that’s for another Klatch.

April 24, 2011

Thoroughly Modern Women: Maria Sibylla Merian

Maria Sibylla Merian isn’t a household name and that’s a shame. She was a talented artist whose keen eye and skilled hand revolutionized botany and zoology. Maria got married at just eighteen but a few years later ditched her husband and supported her aging mother and two daughters with her art. She published an illustrated book. When she was in her fifties, she packed her bags and went for a lengthy expedition in Suriman jungle, to observe tropical insects in their habitat. She published more books. Oh yes, she was also born in 1647, time we hardly associate with spunky and accomplished women of the science and arts.

Here a few of her lovely, genteel plates

Pretty little pomegranates (1665)

Plantain plants documenting metamorphosis of a moth (1679)

Creepy-crawlies (1719) 
Photos: The J. Paul Getty Museum

Caiman goes after a snake. Photo: The British Museum

A thoroughly fiction girl myself, I was completely engrossed with Maria Sibylla Merian’s biography, Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis by Kim Todd

Here is more information about Maria Sibylla Merian from the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the J. Paul Getty Museum.

April 18, 2011

Windows in Need of TLC (or HGTV)

In real life decorating rarely happens overnight. For most of us it is full of agonizing decisions, second guessing, occasional tragicomic mishaps, and ultimately sweet triumph (or back to redecorating board). After living in our house for a year (60s ranch but gutted and renovated), we’ve been chipping away at a long list of beautification projects. The time has come to give some much needed TLC to master bedroom windows…

Classic 'before'

Fabric selection is much like training for a race. It requires diligence and discipline. After hours of perusing swatches online, I have the Dwell Studio fabrics line committed to memory by pattern name and color. I pick out my favorites, choose one, and then change my mind. Eventually I settle on a beautiful swirly but geometric pattern with charcoal background…

Photo: DwellStudio.com

Hitting “submit” button is a relief! Waiting for fabric to arrive is like watching paint dry. A few hours later and I am already checking the website to see if the order has shipped (it hasn’t). Until then.

April 15, 2011

Uniform 2.0

Sure, clothes are fun but sometimes, usually between 6:57 a.m. and 7:10 a.m. departure time, I wistfully think of the simplicity that comes with a uniform. I do not miss scratchy drab brown dress of my school days (Yes, really. And white knee high socks too).

No, tha'ts not me (sash? please).  But the dress, yes, the dress looks right.

…but a uniform would sure make my mornings smoother. How about a pair of dark jeans that are just the right length and have a tiny bit of a stretch?

…a t-shirt that’s just a step away from basic.

…a jacket that will take me from slouchy to chic in I-refuse-to-try-too-hard sort of way.
(also not me)

…and a pair of sensible shoes. Yes, Tories are very sensible. For one, they are flat. And a floaty scarf, if I am feeling fancy. This is my personal uniform 2.0.

Photos: http://sokrovishe.livejournal.com/, LastCall.com, ToryBurch.com 

April 12, 2011

Garden Pipe Dream

If you are seeking serious gardening advice, it really would be better to move right along to more credible publications. Gardening always appealed to my sensibilities in a romanticized sort of way. It is gentile and lovely, full of cabbage roses and swaying lavender, morning dew, elegant glass cloches, rustic but ever-so-graceful watering can, neatly organized seeds packets in a garden shed...

Though cabbage roses may not be in my gardening future, a modest herb garden seems to be just the thing. Undeterred by my actual spotty record of tending to plants, I boldly step into action. I am armed with seed staring soil and tiny cardboard pots. To up the ante I am starting my own seedlings.

As every venture, this herb garden began with Google. I industriously reviewed smart herb garden plans and learned about companion planting. One practical tip picked up along the way: cover seedlings with plastic wrap. Done.

Basil and Thyme: Clearly I have a neck for this!

Long and behold, mere days later my basil and thyme is starting to sprout. Lavender takes a few days longer but at last it is sprouting too. Already, I have visions of clipping bits of tarragon for my vinaigrettes and wonder if it’s wiser to freeze or dry excess supply of supple oregano. It doesn’t take long for my kitchen table to start resembling a mini-nursery.

Emboldened by my early success, I pick up more seed packets.

Seeds are "Guaranteed to grow" so it's a sure thing!
 I engage assistance of husband in surveying the expansive property for just the right spot to cultivate my herb garden. To be continued…

April 11, 2011

Hello and welcome!

After hatching many ideas for years, I am taking the plunge into the blogosphere. Because so many things are interesting and fascinating this blog isn’t focused on any one area. It is about style and domesticity, books and creativity, and really any other non sequiturs that merit digital space.

My time is generally spent balancing a career (very fulfilling) and family (definitely above average) but this blog is about neither of those. I am embarking on this project in hope of making more time for other endeavors.

Why [Thoroughly] Modern Klatch? Klatch is a gathering, often with coffee (love!), for informal conversation. Because klatch is social by nature, I hope to recruit a friend or two along the way to contribute their ideas, projects, and worldviews. The modern part comes in from the thoroughly modern lives we lead, balancing priorities, embracing technology, and sensibility to defy expectations.


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