Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Passing Of A Moment

Ever since I came back from the funeral of Lilly Pulitzer,  I have been thinking of “moments”—moments in time.

Lilly, and her daughters, Liza and Minnie,
 in front of their wonderful old wooden house on
 the Lake Trail in Palm Beach

I think that I have lived in the best possible “moment” in history—moment because actually that’s what our lives are, mere moments in the great length of time as we know it.  We are such small dots on the eternal time line.  

But now, a week after I started this post and got called away after only one and a half paragraphs, I come back, filled with heartache after the horrible bombings in Boston, and wondering: what makes terrible things be appealing to anyone?  So I am going to still do photographs of the moments in time, believing now, more than ever, in their importance.

I was born in 1940, before we had even entered the enormous war in Europe (and later in the Far East), to wonderful parents and grandparents—it was an extremely patriotic time, of which I remember nothing, except my mother running into my grandfather’s study, crying out, “Papa!  Papa! The war is over—Ned can come home.”  My Uncle Ned was stationed in the Pacific, on a destroyer, and on the day which I remember, V-J Day, my mother was filled with the excitement of the War finally really being over.  (Full disclosure: I have to add that this moment is so strong in my memory bank, because I was standing as quiet as the proverbial mouse right inside the Study door, a place off-limits to me and my cousins, plotting a theft of peppermint Chiclets which sat in a glass candy jar on a table near my Grandfather.  ((Remember the little yellow boxes of them, two to each box—you are dating yourselves if you do.))  He suffered from dyspepsia, and peppermint gum was thought to calm acid stomachs.  Whether this was true or not, I don’t know, but all we children were forbidden to chew gum, and I was there with nefarious ideas in my mind.  In the excitement I was totally overlooked, but the memory is still strong today.) But aside from me, the little thief, totally self-centered, everyone in America was very excited.

I was the child of the Rock and Roll Era—my parents let me have wonderful parties whenever I wanted where we drank punch (but oh! How I yearned for a big bowl of crushed ice with Coca Cola bottles artfully stuck out at all angles, rather like some strange bacterium, which yearning my mother, with her incredible tastewisely ignored) and wore velvet dresses and played our 45 records on our funny little record players.  I was thirteen, just in time for Bill Haley and the Comets and “Rock around the Clock”,

and later, I fell in love over Johnny Mathis and “The Twelfth of Never” and “Chances Are”. 

I danced in the gym at Sock Hops and went to the movies every weekend, dropped off by my father and walking home after a double feature, having watched all that colour and light for so long that my eyes ached all the way home.  Musicals and dramas and comedies from the fifties through to the seventies—you will notice a dearth of controversial subjects, but those were the times.  And that’s okay too.

Gentlemen Prefer Blonds

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

Ben Hur

The Apartment

I worked on the 1960 Mock Convention at Washington and Lee University (I was at Hollins—both the schools were single sex then—neither are today) when John F Kennedy was nominated and went on later that year to win the Presidency.  1960 was an idealistic time—Viet Nam had not yet occurred, and we truly believed in asking what we could do for our country.  I still do; I hope I always will.

We wore short skirts and Madras shorts and MacMullen blouses and little flat shoes and kilts and Shetland sweaters with Scottie dogs sewn on for the buttons.  We got married young; sadly, we often got divorced.  We had beautiful children.  Who now have beautiful children, which brings me to my point.  In spite of all the sadness and tragedies which have followed: Viet Nam

And the horrible assassinations of the times:

John Kennedy, and his brother, Robert, and Martin Luther King, all through those times up until the end of the 1970’s when Lord Mountbatten and his two grandsons were blown up in their sailboat by the IRA (my hatred of violence is why my last child is named India, after him), the senseless violence of acts both abroad and at home; in spite of all of these, the wars, the Twin Towers, and now Boston, in spite of all of these, we still have to remember the wonderful world in which we live, the families we love, the friends, and the times, even when they are passing, because they, and we, are a moment in time.

Treasure all these moments, pledge yourselves to the Earth and everything within it, and to the creator of it all, whatever you may believe in, and love every little bit of it, even that which you do not understand.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Night To Remember: The Lenox Hill Neighborhood House Gala 2013

A few posts ago I showed you a sneak preview of our wonderful table at this year's Lenox Hill Spring Gala, which took place on April 3 at Cipriani 42nd Street in Manhattan. On that same post I also promised I would be back with some professional photographs of our finished table,  designed by my talented daughter Sallie Giordano and our New York associates. Here are the good shots of our table. 

This year's theme was "High Society," so of course this is a table set up for people to enjoy an elegant evening out. Don't you love all the purple and the flowers? It is so chic. I just love the wonderful peacock centerpiece and the little purple goodie bags. And what about the purple candlesticks? The whole thing is simply fabulous.

Although I am a bit partial to our table, there were 44 other designers with their own unique tables participating that night too. Here are some of my favorites....

Loved the simplicity of the fabulous Jon Call's picnic inspired table above. The brightly colored florals and fabrics look great against the striped tablecloth. The flowers are gorgeous. 

Next is the tribute to Diana Vreeland by Andrea Stark and Lewis Miller, which had a life-size die cut image of the editor and fashion icon watching over it. This table's design was inspired by Vreeland's iconic red apartment, and was covered in fabric by Stark and flowers by Lewis Miller Designs. 

Another fabulous table is the one by ceramicist Christopher Spitzmiller who went all out and created these spectacular marbleized plates and faux bois cachcepots that Spitzmiller especially made for the event. Named the Bunny Mellon Garden Table, this chic and elegant table was finished off by an extra tall topiary in the center, which is reminiscent of the society icon who was known for her beautiful gardens and the privacy they provided.

Las but definitely not least is this fabulous table by Scalamandre, which you may or may not know, are some of my most favorite fabrics. The red color of the plated and roses really brought to life the black and white theme, which would have been boring on its own. 

Since 1894, the Neighborhood House has served those in need who live, work or attend school on the East Side of Manhattan. It provides an extensive array of effective and integrated human services—social, educational, legal, health, housing, mental health, nutritional and fitness. This year the Lenox Hill Gala was a big success and raised over 1.3 million dollars. You can still also donate to this great cause through their website. 

Hope you enjoyed these wonderful tables. Wondering what the theme will be for next year. 


Monday, April 8, 2013

A New Approach

My daughter, Elizabeth Dinkel,  her husband, Aaron Meyerson, and their two children all care tremendously about animal rights.  They live in California where it is not considered strange, but rather is like wearing a badge of honor, to belong to PETA. 

Obviously, this has influenced my thinking, along with different presents from my children—Sallie’s buying me the book by Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Or the book which Aaron got for me, Fast Food Nation.

Or my grandchildren’s Christmas present to me of the DVD, The Cove, which is an absolutely riveting (and heartbreaking) documentary on the slaughter of dolphins by the Japanese (and the complicity in the scuttling of the whale and dolphin-killing ban by the Norwegians, (oh, my beloved Norway!)).  Even the terrifying cartoon, Run, Chicken Run, comes into play.  Suddenly, one day you wake up with the realization that you just can’t be part of animal cruelty any longer.  But the joyful thing is that you needn’t.  You can take part in one of the fastest growing movements in America—the move to cruelty-free food. And the good thing is---even if you don’t care about animal rights or the condition of the earth—which I truly hope and pray that you do—it’s healthier for you.  Pesticides and herbicides are known carcinogens, and no one knows the end results of eating genetically modified foods, but it’s probably a good bet that they are not being used for their health benefits.

For those of you who have them near you, you can shop at Whole Foods.  And you needn’t spend your Whole Paycheck either.  Preparing your own foods from scratch (not always time consuming; I’m not trying to brag or sound holier-than-thou, but I work a more than full day six days a week, write this blog (although, at times, sporadically, I admit!), exercise every day and still cook from scratch), and eating less meat, and not buying more than you need gets your food budget down to a very workable level.  So go on into Whole Foods (or FairFields or whatever is nearest you)

Their butchers are not only willing and helpful, but they have a wonderful chart posted on all their meat windows with a rating system for humanely-raised and killed animals.

If there is not a store near you, you can order from one of the best humane animal farmers of all, the White Oak Pastures, (  who not only sell on-line, but use virtually every single part of the animals.  (I’m not sure about the beaks of the chickens, but they do sell the feet, so if you want to be tres francais and make truly wonderful chicken broth for gelee, here’s where you get the feet for thickening).

You can buy absolutely wonderful beef, not just steaks, but ground beef, and short ribs, and liver, and braising meats, and even suet for marking lardons and wrapping less tender cuts

And lamb, all cuts, so that you can make wonderful Moroccan meatballs from their ground lamb, and delicious Irish stew with potatoes and onions and carrots

And of course, chicken and turkey—the thighs which every recipe seems to call for today, and the wings, in addition to the whole birds (and those feet above!)

Mr Harris, the owner (and great grandson of the farm’s founder) had a Saint Paul on the road to Damascus moment, when he used to be a regular livestock farmer, and decided, to the ridicule of many others in his field, to take his farm back to his grandfather’s ways.  He uses the Serengeti method of grazing in which large ruminants are followed by smaller ones and then birds, each doing their own part in the re-establishment of the natural building back of the land.  His beautiful farms (and slaughterhouses) in the Southern United States have won him all sorts of honours and recognition, and, more importantly, loyal followers, including me!  But more profitably to him, the account for the meat at Whole Foods.  Buy on-line, or go there and ask for his meat by name.

There are lots of companies you can ask for by name, and be part of a more caring use of the earth.  Patagonia, the company who started the use of recycled soda bottles in clothing—their catalogue is like reading an ode to the earth

 Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, originally from Vermont and still with that Vermont “flavor” of the-little-guy-makes-good—and why not with flavours such as New York Super Fudge Chunk? 

King Arthur flour and  Red Mills oatmeal

And on and on and on.

We have even changed totally our buying of certain products here in our Leta Austin Foster Boutique.  Once we found that our down supplier could supply humane-raised and slaughter down, we switched all of our down pillows to this.  And we never, knowingly at least, sell goods from China—never, never, never in our sheets—any country that allowed melamine to be put into the baby food has no place in our store.  Not that we are a big store who can make a difference, but we certainly do try.

I have been preaching this stuff for quite some time now—it was exciting to see that this morning’s Sunday New York Times magazine had big articles on the new humane and healthy fast foods and the move towards using the whole animal in butchery.  It may be happening slowly, but it is happening. 

Go out there, and do your part.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sneak Preview: Our Lenox Hill Table

The Lenox Hill Neighborhood House is one of the most well regarded and popular nonprofit organizations in New York City, and their spring gala is definitely one of the most fun.  This event, where decorators take on a tabletop under a specific theme, is one of the City's highly anticipated evenings. Benefiting over 20,000 New Yorkers through various charities, including "Meals on Wheels," education and other programs helping the homeless, the Lenox Hill Spring Gala is an event not to be missed.

Held again at Cipriani 42nd St, this year's gala honored long time board members Caroline and Thompson Dean who were, and deservedly so, lauded for their leadership and support. The media sponsor was Veranda, one of my favorite magazines, and theme was High Society. 

We have, with my daughter Sallie spearheading the whole thing, loved participating in this wonderful event for several years; this time was no different.  As promised here is a sneak peak of our table at Lenox Hill, but first here is Sallie hard at work setting up for the party. Genius at work...

And here is the amazing centerpiece, which is a beautiful floral arrangement in the shape of a peacock. 

And here is the finished table. High Society indeed!

Hope you enjoyed this sneak peak of our table at Lenox Hill. I will be back with some professional pictures and more details on our fabulous table.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Spring!

Well Easter has come and gone and it is already the height spring here in Palm Beach, a time of the year that I truly, truly love. The mild weather is perfect for an afternoon swim or walk, and all of the beautiful orchids outside my store are blooming. There are friendly faces walking up and down the Via, and so many new and old friends in town for a visit.  In short, spring makes me happy.

But not everyone in America is as lucky as us Palm Beachers, as it is still snowing in many places in this wonderful country of ours.  If you don't believe me here is proof by way of my daughter Lizzie and her family on their "spring" break ski trip...

Just looking at  these pictures makes me want to get up, run and grab a sweater. Brrr. So happy to be in sunny Palm Beach just now.