Friday, July 30, 2010

How to Pass the Time

…when this:

watercolor-beach-eszra-tanner

turns to this:

rainswept beach

On a recent getaway to the Florida Panhandle, we were stymied by day after day of rain. And not gentle, misty showers, but heavy, tropical downpours that soaked us poor ever-hopeful beachgoers at every turn. Usually, the deluge would begin when you were on a bike, several minutes from home, loaded down with beach paraphernalia and with no alternative but to keep slogging through the sheets of water only to arrive at your destination looking like a drowned rat.

Fancy a walk Fancy a walk?


Bike ride anyone Bike ride, anyone?


After consulting the local weather radar, we became resigned to the fact that our long-anticipated family beach vacation had morphed into hours and hours of family time together – inside. This included five adults and four teenagers. Hmmmm. Which got me thinking about passing the time when the beach trip becomes waterlogged:


- write a blog and amuse family members by taking dozens of photos of the rain


- sit on the porch with a good book and maybe even a little background jazz (we got lucky: our brother-in-law plays the guitar fabulously and there was nothing better than sitting on the porch listening to him quietly strum)


- plan meals (we ate magnificently!)


- make ice cream (under the porch – and more about that in a second)

- make up new card games – or play old favorites


Old Maid
uno-game-logo

- try on the homeowner’s extensive collection of straw beach hats


Straw hats & cards

- curl up on the sofa and revisit a couple favorite old movies (we got in Fiddler on the Roof and Gone with the Wind – and then mimicked the characters at every opportunity)


GWTW
Fiddler on the Roof

- do laundry (sounds weird, but I love doing laundry on vacation. It feels like playing house and it doesn’t really matter if it gets done or not)

- do some online shopping


- take an afternoon nap and fall asleep to the sound of rain on a tin roof


- read magazines (the lovely little house we rented had dozens of back issues of Coastal Living, a stylish publication I just love.)


Coastal Living(Who wouldn’t want a beach porch like this?)


- Write in a diary


- Crank the Ipod and dance (Mimi, our mother/mother-in-law/grandmother, had a rocking list that included Abba and the Bee Gees, and one night after dinner, we had a dance party.)


Back to the ice-cream maker…we have an electric White Mountain ice cream maker that has the wooden sides and a bulky motor that attaches on the top.

White Mountain ice cream maker

And, it makes amazing ice cream. We tried a different batch each night, but the hands-down favorite was the Oreo. Here’s how we made it:


Homemade Oreo ice cream


You start with the base, which is a basic vanilla. This recipe makes 4 quarts, which was just about enough for nine ice-cream connoisseurs:


~3 cups milk


~1 ¾ cups sugar


~½ tsp salt


~2 cups half and half


~1 Tbsp vanilla extract


~3 cups whipping cream


~1 cup crushed Oreos


1. Scald the milk until bubbles form around the edge. Remove from heat.


2. Add sugar and salt. Stir until dissolved. Stir in half and half, vanilla and whipping cream.


3. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.


4. Add the crushed Oreos during the last 5-10 minutes of churning.


Oreo ice cream

Usually our efforts yielded different results – one night the consistency was a little too soft, another night it was too icy. We finally got it right, but decided that each and every batch was spoon-lickingly delicious and ice-cream making was to be a new family vacation tradition.


To fill you in on the rest of the vacation: on the last day, the sun finally peeked out, but sadly half our group was already packed and ready to go. Happily, and despite the rain, it was voted as a Best Ever Family Vacation -- which goes to show it’s all about just being together.


Tata!


M.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Heart Strings

or

“How to Buy Art with Your Spouse without Ruining Your Marriage” – an important topic for all married art lovers!

Last week, the nicest couple came in to the gallery, looking for a large painting to go over a prized mantel in their family room. They both love art and they both seem to love the gallery. However, she wants something abstract and he wants something he can recognize, and so despite all the choices that we provided, they couldn’t agree on the same painting. So they left us, empty-handed and a little frustrated that they couldn’t see eye to eye on something so basic.

Standoff

Interestingly, these guys are by no means alone. In fact, we can’t tell you the number of times we’ve watched and listened as couples disagree on their art choices. That’s because art is so personal and our reasons for being attracted to it are so varied. And fundamentally, there is no formula for buying art, except to buy what you love.

Formulas don't work

Luckily, we’ve also been able to help couples work through this dilemma by offering a couple of tips for buying art. Here’s what we tell them:

1. Start with the easy ones. Too often, the subject of the battle is “The Big” painting over the mantel or in the front hall. So why don’t you hold off on that? There’s probably several smaller pieces that you could agree on that won’t break the bank and that will ease you into starting your collection.

buckingham_courtney gallery wall Start collecting smaller works first that are less of an emotional & financial investment. This will help hone your taste for future purchases.

2. Try to understand your differences but don’t emphasize them. Often we hear, “He likes this and I like that” as if there were a “his” and “her”way of appreciating art and no way of bridging the two. Let’s find out what the commonalities are and then let’s try to find some paintings that incorporate both. When he picks something out, ask him, “What do you like about it? What speaks to you?” Then see if you can find something that you like that will speak to him in the same way.

3. Ask us – or any gallery owners – to help explain things: How often do we hear that one loves the abstract, edgier paintings and the other will say, “I think if you gave her a paintbrush, our four year old Susie could do the same thing!” Please ask us to help explain the abstract painting for you. What is the artist conveying? How did he/she paint it? Why is it compositionally interesting? What does it mean to you? Why is it art?

Circles #3 low res (Circles #3 by Elizabeth Barber – a lovely example of a versatile abstract piece. Liz loves to talk about her work & explain what drives her inspiration.)

4. Meet the artist: If at all possible, meeting the artist gives the art an added dimension that goes beyond the composition, color, subject or style of the piece. It really brings the art to life and is another common bond for you both. If you can’t meet the artist, ask the Gallery all about them. You are buying an original work of art and it’s good to know all about the hand that created it.

Lorraine Christie HH Artist Lorraine Christie at her solo show last year. This is an excellent opportunity to “meet-and-greet” the artist & learn more about their work.

5. Buy on trips: It somehow seems much easier to find art in common when you’re buying it away from home, especially if there are wonderful memories involved. Don’t worry if you don’t know where it will go; if you love it, buy it. It will be a great start from which to build a collection. And if you start with something that you both like, it will be easier to build on to.

6. Attend openings together and mix a little wine with art. Take the pressure off and make it fun.

Bastille Day show gallery scene The crush at our recent Bastille Day show – there’s no better evening than one that mixes art, friends, & wine!

7. Pick your battles: Does one of you feel more strongly about this? Then let that person drive the decision. But make sure the other person gets a room, or two. Basement doesn’t count.

8. Take turns: He picks this time; she picks the next. Or do birthdays: Let her choose for her birthday and tell her that you would like to choose for your birthday. You each have one birthday a year. What’s fair is fair.

Village in the Distance 48 x 60(North Georgia Village in the Distance by Jim Richards – Jim’s work has a history of appealing to both men & women. His landscapes represent something tangible (men: check) but they’re portrayed in a soft, hazy, somewhat abstracted manner (women: check) that makes them appealing to all.)

9. Or divide up your rooms. We actually don’t recommend this, because we advocate buying what you love instead of buying for a space. But if he spends most of the time in the family room, and she prefers the living room, it only makes sense to let him or her pick the art for each. Remember, you don’t need to do everything all at once.

10. Try them at home. We’re more than happy to have you take the art home and live with it for a day or two. This takes the pressure off making decisions in the gallery and allows you to see it in its environment.

V&L Dana Ruth Harvey Natural History This image is from a blog we did in January, showing how our artwork would look in a beautiful home designed by Brooke Giannetti of the blog, Velvet & Linen. Click here to read about it.

11. Don’t go for the 100%. We’re not saying you need to compromise completely. But we do firmly believe that art can grow on you over time, and we’ve seen it happen over and over. If you are intrigued by it, but you don’t love the colors, why don’t you give it a try? Often, as you get to appreciate other aspects of the painting, the one thing you didn’t like will fade away or sometimes even become your favorite thing. Give it the benefit of the doubt. Art is a funny thing. Before long, it just may tug on your heart strings.

We hope these simple rules and guidelines will make your future art shopping experiences more pleasant and enjoyable! If all else fails, we Huffingtons have some referee experience and we're more than happy to help call the shots fairly. (And by fairly we mean, we accept bribes in the form of yummy candles and French chocolates! Game on.)


Tata!


HH

Friday, July 23, 2010

Heaven on the Ile St. Louis

Postcards from Paris

ParisStamp

I’ll say it right upfront. This is one of those situations where thank goodness I didn’t buy the apartment; not because it wasn’t great but because I could never have done as good a job with it as the people who ended up buying and renovating it. My guess is that the buyers were not American, because if they had been, their renovation costs, already quite significant, would have been astronomical, given where the dollar was at the time of this purchase. But whoever they are, I am happy for them and congratulate them on their exquisite taste and spectacular renovation of what was once a very ugly duckling apartment.

Ile St. Louis 1

The Quai Bourbon, on the Ile St. Louis

After scouring my favorite arrondissement (the 7th) for several months, and coming up with little or nothing, I decide to branch out into unfamiliar territory. I knew that I couldn’t go wrong with the Ile St. Louis, that little island of paradise that sits next to the Ile de la Cite (home of Notre Dame and lots of other marvels), smack in the oldest part of Paris. So when an apartment came up that overlooked one of the most stunning private courtyards of Paris, where the famous and somewhat maligned Camille Claudel had lived, I figured this could be my entrée into a different part of town. And of course the real estate listing didn’t need much to lure me, since the Ile St. Louis location and 4th floor with elevator were trophies in themselves.

Stunning Courtyard The stunning courtyard, where Camille Claudel once lived.

What I actually found was a handsome set of heavy doors on the Quai de Bourbon, leading to one of the most gorgeous courtyards I’d ever seen, with a very average stairwell, and an acceptable elevator to a cramped apartment under the eaves of a 17th century “hotel particulier” in a terrible state of disrepair, with no view and a fairly high price.

But then again, this was the Ile St. Louis. And although there was no view, which is usually the prize on the Ile St. Louis, the small windows did get good light, with Southwestern exposure. The ceilings were low, but I was told that we could have access to “les combles,” which is the much prized attic space that allows for the top floor resident, if voted and approved by the co-proprietors of a building, to break through the ceiling and have access to the attic or rafters. Of course, getting the permission is just half the battle. The other half is financing such an expansion, which can be significant.

View from the apt View from the apartment, overlooking other stunning apartments and the courtyard.

The apartment was a great size – around 800 square feet – and would have worked well as a small two bedroom. But with the dollar still in freefall, and the state of the economy in major upheaval, it didn’t seem like the right time to take on a project of such magnitude and risk. It would have been fun to live in this building and to share a “cave” with some of the leading and oldest champagne families of France, as well as other distinguished co-proprietors . But I wasn’t sure that I could just love the Ile St. Louis. Nice place to visit, but where do you do your grocery shopping? And pharmacy? And public transportation? And where can you have a cup of coffee without being surrounded by tourists? Could you really have a life there or is it a transient community of wealthy absentee landlords mixed with short term renters? And how would my Scurry deal with four flights of stairs if the elevator ever went out?

The study The study – windowless, dark and foreboding

Living Room The living room, with its old fashioned wall paper

Master bedroom The master bedroom: Wait till you see the after on this one!

It was easy to justify all the reasons why I didn’t want this apartment, since it would have been a very hard sell with my better half (“Big Guy”) if I really did want it. So I let it go, without too much further thought, knowing that in the connubial arena of picking one's battles, this one would be tough to win. Luckily for the apartment, and the building, someone with exquisite taste, and a very adequate budget, won their battle and got the prize, and what a wonderful marvel they turned it in to! Enjoy the photos. And know that my little search for the perfect pied-a terre is far from over. So if you're enjoying the ride, come along with me as I consider, next week, “How to make an offer.”

Ta ta,

A.

~~~~

New front hall The new front hall; floor was added and ceiling beams were revealed.

Living & dining rooms View of the living room and dining room; the wall was taken down to the studs and the beams.

Living room from the master View of the living room from the master: fireplace was added.

New Master bedroom Master bedroom, with new beams and floors.

View of master from living room View of the master bedroom from the living room.

View of living room from dining room View of the living room from the dining room; again, that used to be a wall.

Former study, now second bedroom What was once the dark and foreboding, grass cloth cloaked study – now a spectacular second bedroom.

(All before photographs, with apologies for their quality, are by me! All after photos, courtesy of Haven in Paris.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Huffingtons Toast the Storming of the Bastille (and all things French…)

Bastille Day in Paris Bastille Day in Paris

By now, you know that one of our favorite shows to curate and hang is our little salute to the bleu, blanc and rouge. July 14 always rolls around quickly, and we all look forward to hanging the gallery with new works from our talented and lovely French artists (This year, we had invited some of our American artists to participate, too, so we had a gallery-full of truly extraordinary work.)

As with any show, and despite all our determined preparations, it always comes down to the last wire, and this one was no exception. In the nick of time, we received, catalogued, framed, and hung last minute arrivals by Ewa Rzeznik (see our blog from last week that tackles that little adventure: Hop to it, Huffingtons). With an hour to go, we were still frantically re-tagging a few pieces, re-hanging a couple of groupings, and answering the phone, which was merrily ringing off the hook. But, we all had the pre-party adrenaline going, so it was fun and excitingly hectic.

(On a serious note: we have to say we always feel like proud parents when the gallery is hung with a new exhibit. It takes all of us to make a show come together, and we usually have all hands on deck (in jeans and flats) in the frantic days leading up to the opening. We think long and hard about our hanging strategy and when we get that feeling that each painting is making another sing, we are all satisfied and feel as if the job has been done to the best of our ability. The French have a great term for this that Ann taught us and it’s perfect: l’un fait l’autre chanter – “one makes the other sing.” Isn’t that lovely? It’s our little credo here at the gallery. And yes, we all have the jitters right before the door opens.)

Just before the doors officially opened, we were still scurrying around taking care of last-minute details:

- Linda tidied and fluffed the gallery and gave us the perfect touch of summer style with her effortless addition of just-picked daisies from our little garden.

Daisies

- A last-minute catering snafu was also gracefully and graciously handled by Linda (who credits her years as a flight attendant for her cool-under-pressure attitude – she had us giggling at the last minute with stories from 32,000 feet)

- We welcomed Jacques the Accordionist (okay, he’s really Don, but Jacques is perfect for this blog and he does have a nice French air about him) and got him situated for a night of rousing French tunes.

Accordion Player

- our always calm, cool and collected bartender, Demaris, uncorked wine and got ready for the masses (if only she knew at that point how crazy the night would become…)

Ready to Pour Ready to pour…

- we slipped on our cute espadrilles that Ann brought us from Provence.

Copy of HH4 Meg, Ann, & Linda – fresh & festive in their summer whites.

HH37

Finally, at 5:45 (a few minutes ahead of schedule), we opened our little blue door and, voila, we had a party going.

And, sacre bleu, what a party it was! By 6:00, we already had a gallery-full of friends, art-lovers and Francophiles and it just kept getting busier and busier as the evening wore on. (If our guests seem to be “gently glowing,” it’s because our little air-conditioner has a hard time keeping up when temps outside are in the 90s and the gallery is chock-a-block with bodies.)

But no-one seemed to mind and the fete took on a fun life of its own. It was fun chatting about the art and we were so happy to welcome a few of our artists: Nancy Franke was there along with Doug Foltz and adorable Melissa Payne Baker. And, Lorraine Christie, whose alluring paintings of Parisian-inspired street scenes always have fans swooning, popped by too.

l'arrivee de l'amour 30 x 40 Lorraine Christie, L’rrivee de l’amour

Provencal Patterns 12 x 12 Nancy Franke, Provencal Patterns

Click here to see a glimpse of what all the fun was about!

At the end of the night – with every bottle of wine consumed; every crumb of food happily devoured; Edith Piaf love songs running through our heads; and some little jewels of paintings headed to their new maisons – we were exhausted but happy that our tribute to all things French had truly been un bon fete.

Empty bottles via

A bientot! We're already looking forward to Bastille Day 2011!

Tata!

HH

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hop to it, Huffingtons!

Like every business that we’ve ever been involved with, this one comes with its share of glam and the not-so-glam. Of course, we mostly dwell on the glam parts, which are so plentiful and fun that they far outweigh the other. But there are times when the not-so-glam takes over, when some of us adopt nicknames like “Linderalla” and “Schleperella,” and others among us come nail bitingly close to throwing in the towel and calling it a day. And then usually something good happens.

Yesterday was one of those days.

We’ve been merrily preparing for one of our most fun and popular shows, our annual “Bastille Day” bash, which features new works from some of our wonderful French artists, as well as some French inspired work by other artists. The problem was that we were missing seven important paintings for the show from one of our key players, Ewa Rzeznik.


Scratching head
We knew they’d been shipped in a big box from France three weeks ago, and when they didn’t arrive as expected, we exchanged several frantic phone calls with Ewa to try to find them. The final tracking information from the shipper’s website was none too reassuring: “Delivered to destination,” it stated, with no further explanation. Imagine trying to track down a package with the French national post office! And to make matters worse, imagine doing this on Bastille Day!

Here’s how our not-so-glam day evolved:

11:45 – Frantic phone call to Ewa: Still no package, no phone numbers to call, no paintings, and our phone is ringing off the hook with festive followers asking us about tonight’s show.

phone-illustration-ringing-off-the-hook1

12:00 – More frantic phone calls, to local post offices.

12:15 – A live person answers the phone at the Sandy Springs post office!! After being on hold for a surprisingly short time, she says, “yes, we’ve got your package – it’s been here since July 3rd. We were just about to send it back to France.”

USPS

12:16 – No time to question how this could have happened, to tell her we never got a notice or to wonder why it was there. No time to ask any questions or point any fingers. Meg jumps in her car and dashes off to the post office, ID in hand.

1:15 – Meg returns with the package and we tear it apart, spilling Styrofoam peanuts all over the floor, while oohing and aahing with relief and excitement that all seven paintings have arrived safely and are as beautiful as expected.

packing-peanut-box-md

1:30 – We quickly sweep up the front rooms before spreading peanuts all over the gallery.

2:00 – We photograph, measure, and inventory all the paintings.

3:00 – The paintings are all odd French sizes so we don’t have any frames for them. But we do manage to squeeze one painting into a gorgeous existing frame.

3:30 – We print labels and completely rehang the show to accommodate the new work. In our frantic hurry, we forget to tell Ewa that her paintings have arrived!

4:00We add a page to the website for Ewa’s new work, so thankful that after all these months, we can actually have something on her page that is not sold!

Ann & Meg unpacking the new Ewas! Ann & Meg unpacking Ewa Rzeznik’s new work. 1 down, 7 to go!

4:30 – We publish the website and send out an email to some of Ewa’s fan club, announcing the new paintings and telling them to come to our show which starts in … yeeks … 90 minutes!

4:45 – Phone rings. It’s Ewa. “You got the paintings!” she exclaims, as we overhear fireworks popping in the distance from her local Bastille Day celebration.


bastille-day-fireworks

We assure her that they finally arrived, just in the nick of time, and she thanks us for getting them up on the website so fast. She marvels at the irony of international air travel and tells us that when she left for her Bastille Day celebration, her paintings were lost. When she returned, they were found and up on our website!

5:00 – Run home. Change clothes. Powder nose. Feed kids. Run back to Gallery.

Running late

6:00 – As the first of many festive followers arrive at our party, Meg and I turn to each other, clink our glasses and say, Happy Bastille Day! We’re back in the glam.

clinking-glasses


~~~~

Here’s a peek at Ewa’s new work:



Fishing together Fishing Together



Hand in hand with our best friend Hand in Hand with Our Best Friend

My best helper My Best Helper

They're here somewhere They’re Here Somewhere


Wait up! Wait Up!



We're flying! We’re Flying!

On a Mission w On a Mission With Our Best Friend

~~~~

We hope you all enjoyed our Bastille Day celebration last night! It was so wonderful to see so many of you out and about, supporting us and commemorating the storming of the Bastille.

Tata!



HH