Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Noel in Paris and Entertaining This Fall

Before I open this post, I want to explain our website.  Our website is actually just for our design business, and is open to view to everyone.  At one time, we had our boutique on it too, but we found that having our things on-line, so many of which were highly customized, just didn’t work.  People didn’t seem to understand how to choose what they wanted, since they first had to choose the base, say a set of linen sheets, then choose the colour—so far, still easy, then, if applicable, the monogram and then the colours of the threads.  Since these monograms were often part of an embroidered design, it was just too much.  The same went for having a custom waste basket made with its shape and colours and d├ęcor, etc., etc., etc.  And the same for china or glasswear and even children’s clothing and shoes or so many of the things we carry.  We found that it was best to give our store manager’s e-mail (betty@lafinpb.com) and let the people write her with a request.  Then she sends back photographs of what’s in basic stock and tells them how anything can be changed.  Because, that’s what we do.  Whether it’s for your yacht or your child, your house or your husband, if you can think it up, we can probably make it.  Do try us out.  These blog posts are to give you some of those ideas, but they can be changed as much as you can imagine.  Do let us try, and remember, custom goods take time.  Now, back to business……

Noel –the most beautiful linens from Paris.

Noel is its own thing—if you have been wandering around the 16th arrondisement, you have probably passed Noel—and gaped in delighted wonder into their windows.

Inside this Treasure Trove of beautiful things, you will find amazingly lovely table linens such as these cocktail napkins or tablecloth (or napkins or mats) with dragonflies.

Or butterflies

We have lots and lots of Noel in the boutique at 64 Via Mizner (or remember, betty@lafinpb.com), some in stock and some to be custom-ordered in your own colours.  And if you plan ahead, you can have beautiful place cards with dear little Lucite holders, in equally beautiful designs from Bernard Maisner, that beloved stationer of New York Society (we carry them too!), with designs to blend with your linens.  Why not, since they are hand painted?

If you wanted to be very, very almanac de gotha, you could have both the linens and the place cards done up specially for you in all white, or you could rival the king (are there many left?) and have the linens embroidered in gold on white which Noel does beautifully, and the places cards could be in gold too.

Then again, you could have place cards to embellish these from Bernard Meisner

The number of designs from Noel is amazing—and she makes up her designs in so many different forms, table linens...

Beautiful towels and bathroom accessories...

And beautiful bed linens such as these pillowshams called Passe Passe, which as you can see come in lots of lovely colours—and never forget all white!

And so many other accouterments for your home and person—even for your yacht and stable.  Ah, c’est la vie doux!  Don’t forget—E-mail Betty and have these for yourself.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Maine-Fog And Sunny Days

For a week now, we have had wonderful house guests here in Maine—and together we shared “mercurial Maine”—in other words, sunny days interspersed with incredible fog.  So we did what vacationers in Maine do—hike and swim on the sunny days and explore on the foggy—and eat on all of them!!!

On a foggy day, we went over to Southwest Harbor and went to Beal’s Lobster Pound—a true Maine lobster pound.

The boats come in and unload their great stacks of lobster traps—it is a dangerous career—and not paying very well, now—with the big crates pulled into the docks by cranes.

The lobsters will be sorted, some to go by truck to New York, Boston and other waiting restaurants

And some to stay right there at Beal’s and other local lobster pounds to be cooked up for shore dinners.

We ate our meal there, inside the giant screened porch—I usually like to eat outside at the pounds, but the fog was mixed with rain, so it was just too wet and cold. 

Afterwards, of course, we cleaned up as you always do at the pounds. 

On the next day, which was unbelievable sunny (mercurial Maine!), we went for a special tour of the Rockefeller Garden.  What a beautiful spot it is!  There are several amazing gardens on Mount Desert Island—private ones, and ones open to the public such as the Asticou Azalea Garden and Thuya Garden, but the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden is the most beautiful—in its own way—of them all.  Approached through the deep shade of spruces and firs and guarded by fantastic oriental antiques, some as old as 500 years B.C., it is suddenly “there,” after going from the shade of the forest, through a gate, and into a blaze of colour in the sunshine—pink gravel paths bordered by clematis and delphinium and hollyhocks and poppies and veronicas and dahlias and lilies and every flower you can imagine

So beautiful—such an amazing gift to the country on the part of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., as is so much of Acadia National Park.

Of course, afterwards, we went to the Jordon Pond House for tea and popovers—piping hot with butter and Jordon Pond House strawberry jam.

Now that I have shown you pictures of the things our houseguests and we did together, I will give you some helpful hints for being a houseguest—although my guests this last week are perfect and never need any hints!

Rules for being a good houseguest

Arrive when you are supposed to and leave the same—although your host may ask you to stay longer, this is probably hyperbole, and should not be seriously considered.

Always be on time for all planned activities and meals—and remember, you are a guest, and you should never ask for any changes in room assignments or food prepared.

Unless, and sometimes even if, the house in which you are staying is just crawling with “help,” keep your room neat, make your bed upon leaving it every morning (before you go to breakfast!) And help both before and after meals.  You will know very quickly if you are not supposed to do this; usually, today, you are.

When there is help, always leave (with your host or hostess) a sizeable tip for him/ her/ them.  Remember, you are adding to their load.  This tip is based on how long you are there and how much they do for you—for instance, are they doing your laundry while you are there?  Are they serving breakfasts at several times allowing you to sleep in? And so on.

For some reason, people tend to go to bed earlier in the country.  Follow the example if your host and hostess and toddle off when they do.  If you are used to staying up later, you can always read. 

Arrive with a house present—again, in size in relation to the length of your stay.  If you feel you should have done more, you can always add to it in a “sent” present after you leave.  Good house presents are things that can be enjoyed by everyone while you are there, such as wine or cheese; fruit or snacks; really, any kind of food so long as you don’t expect the foods to be served while you are there.  The meals will have already been planned, and unless you have sent your offering ahead, they may not be able to include it right then.  Flowers are nice, or after you leave and know what their house is like, something special for that house.  Fun—but not too serious—writing paper or really nice telephone pads—especially with matching pens—are always appreciated.  Things for the bar such as a really nice set of glasses, cocktail napkins (if they have the help to iron them!) Or an ice bucket are always liked, as is something for the table once you know what their table is like.  Remember, when you gasp at the price of really nice things, a hotel would have been a lot more.

If you are invited to go with them on their plane, remember, never, never, unless asked, sit in the forward seats facing the front of the plane.  Those are reserved for the owners of the plane.  Obviously, this rule pertains to larger planes with seats facing each other.  The same goes for the seats around the open deck of a large boat.  They may give you these seats, but do not assume them.  Just as important, never be late for a ride on a plane or in a boat—never.

The moment you get home, write that bread-and-butter letter.  Right away!!!!!

I hope you had fun.  Xoxoxoxoxo Leta

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Beach Towels--A Summer Staple

Beach towels are part of summer

And because they are always hanging out drying, they might as well be great looking.  The two blue towels above are from Nouez-Moi in Paris, and they are already eight years old, but they still look fabulous.  They are thick and thirsty and seem to be almost impervious to sun and mildew—of course, we are good about hanging them out to dry and air.  I love these towels—I have lots of them and I basically use them at my pool.

I also love towels that are trimmed—such as these which were trimmed with washable ribbons in blue and green and then personalized with our house name to match.

Our store, Leta Austin Foster Boutique, is always making up special beach towels for people to use around their pool.  They are often made up, as are the Nouez-Moi ones which I showed in the first picture, in beautiful colours and edged around the outsides with broad bands of white.  These can be plain or with scallop shell seashore embroidery.

Or they are piped on the outside with either white or coloured piping and have a beach-y motif such as our double seahorse or perhaps big branches of coral or a line of starfish.  We usually do this in colours and pipe them in white, and they go flying away from us to places like Southampton or Nantucket or even Lake Forest or Santa Barbara—people love beautiful beach towels.

But all of these are frankly expensive and thus, perhaps better for one’s pool or one’s own private beach.  Maybe for the beach, just the regular old beach, you might be better with beach towels which are quite so…..so….well, which are cheaper.

Look at this great looking beach towel from L. L. Bean—nice, preppy colour combinations. And at $29.50, you can’t go wrong.

The Orvis store in Hot Springs has a whimsical beach towel which would be fun

And, of course, Ralph Lauren/Polo, the ultimate preppy source, would have such a good looking towel as this “Cable Beach” towel, available at Bloomingdale’s for $86.00.

Or go directly to Ralph Lauren and buy the “Ticking Stripe Beach Towel.”  Great looking, and the thing about Ralph Lauren is….it will be on sale somewhere.

I love striped beach towels—they seem so “Lido-in-the-20’s” somehow.  We are getting aqua and white striped beach towels for our redo of the Hillsboro Club in Hillsboro Beach, Florida, and we found great ones, made in Turkey—well, why not?  After all, they are called Turkish toweling.  They are from Cobra Trading and look at all the colours they come in—but the awnings at the Hillsboro Club are aqua, so that’s the combination they want for their beach chaises and the towels around the pool.

Some tips about beach towels:

Thick towels keep you warmer when you dry off, but they take longer to dry.

All towels last longer if you don’t wash them all the time, so after using one, hang it up and let it dry out.  That goes for all towels.

Don’t use a fabric softener when you wash or dry your towels because it makes them less absorbent.  That also goes for all towels.

Beach and pool towels look great folded on the feet of chaises.  If you plan to do this and want to have a decorative motif or house name embroidered on your towels, make sure you go it at one end so that this embroidery will show.

Sun block stains, so it is better if you put a towel out before lying down on a chaise—this goes doubly so for chaises with plastic strapping or mesh which discolour badly from the combination of sun-block and sun.  Your towels will get washed more than your upholstery, so they are less likely to stain, but even so, it is cheaper to replace a towel than it is to reupholster.

As with any towels and bedding, the less detergent you use—and the milder—the longer your towels will last.  Try “improving” your detergent—hopefully, an eco-friendly one which is kinder to your linens while it is being kind to the environment—with an addition of Borax (remember “Death Valley Days” and 20 Muleteam Borax—I guess I am dating myself again—only an eighth of a cup of each and your laundry will be clean as a whistle and will last much longer.  If you can, keep the washing water as cool as possible.

Never let your towels stay in the dryer longer than they need—the very long high heat shortens their lives immensely.

Now, if you still want beautiful towels and have the budget, try the wonderful beach towels from D. Porthault, available, of course, at my store.  Remember—e-mail : betty@lafinpb.com, and find out all and get pictures.  You can have the famous Elephant design

Or the Caravelle

Or the Tiger in several colours

Or any of their designs.  Beach towels are for the pool and the beach and for fun.  Go have some.