Monday, December 24, 2012

Life on the farm: The first hard frost

I experienced my first English hard frost last week. I have rarely, if ever, seen this in America.

I was on my way to pick up my mom at the airport, and as this is her first visit to England since we've been living here, I was crossing my fingers for good weather. On the afternoon of her arrival, it was supposed to be very cold but sunny so I planned for us to go on a good long walk around the farm. I had woken up to thick fog that morning and figured it would clear by lunchtime. Instead of clearing, the fog only got soupier throughout the day. It was kind of amazing for our walk, but I was actually scared to drive to pick the kids up from school in the fading light. It was the slowest I have ever driven. Slightly bummed that the weather had not cooperated, I went to bed hoping for a better day that followed.

The next morning, the sky was clear, the sun was just rising and, at first it looked like it had snowed. Everything was white. I went outside in my pyjamas to take a picture of the garden, and couldn't stop myself there. I wandered down the bridle path to the horse field and then all the way back up the hill to the view from the pillars at the old entrance to the farm. The difference, as far as I could tell, between the frost and a snowfall is that snow just dumps down leaving a heavy blanket over the land, whereas the frost gently and delicately just lines everything in white. Every blade of grass and leaf on every tree is visible, yet frozen and shimmering. It turns out that the humidity in the air from the fog had settled into the landscape and then frozen over night. Mom and I agreed it was one of the most beautiful things we have ever seen.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I ♥ Your American Style: Nancy Reagan

I've been wanting to do a post on Nancy Reagan for some time, and as we are now in the season for wearing red, it seems like a good moment to do so. I LOVE Nancy Reagan's style. To me it's very Marc Jacobs - happy, American, not overtly sexy, decorative, sweet and chic. And don't let her dated hairstyle put you off - it's not about the hair. It's about a pussycat bow, a floral print, a covered chest, a ruffle, a Chanel-inspired Adolfo jacket, and of course, the color red.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Snapshot: Jean Shrimpton in Dr Scholl's

While I'm sitting here in fur-lined boots, clutching hot tea to keep my hands warm, I'm fantasizing about when the weather will be warm enough again to get some Dr. Scholl's and wear them like Jean Shrimpton (below). I prefer them with the natural wood sole, and I think I'll get two pairs - one with red leather (gives me happy memories of my childhood) and one in black leather (makes them look a bit more modern). I also love the bag around Jean's wrist. Who do you think designed it?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Life in England: My favorite houses

Often as I am driving along the country roads in England, I throw on the brakes, screech up onto the curb, and whip out my phone to take a picture of a house that has caught my eye. There are great houses everywhere here! My taste ranges from sheds to thatch huts to stately homes, and I seem to prefer Georgian architecture over gothic or Victorian - not that I would be able to tell you that without my husband's input. He can look at any house and tell you what century, decade, and style of architecture it belongs to. I envy this knowledge, but I do not possess it. Despite being a History of Art major in college, I focused the bulk of my architectural history classes on the 20th century. It also doesn't help that I am American, where there isn't the same exposure to historical architecture that you would have coming from Europe. I hope some of it will rub off on me while I'm here.

This is a private family home that allows public access to its surrounding zoo. Many of the zoos in England are on the estates of grand houses - usually implying that the family who owns the house needs the income from the zoo visitors. What's great is that the parents get to enjoy seeing the lovely house and its gardens while the kids are happy looking at the animals. Also, they have these clever things called ha-has, which are especially dug trenches to keep the animals contained, so there is no necessity for fencing. My kids happen to love this house too, because it looks like a castle.

Sudeley Castle belongs to my friend Molly Brocklehurst, who worked with me at Gagosian Gallery in the 90's. The house itself is stunning, but the most jawdropping part for me are the ruins and the chapel, dating back to the 15th century.

This is my kids' school. I feel happy every day when we drive up to be greeted by such a beautiful building surrounded by cows and sheep. 

This is my friend Adam Fuss' house in Dorset. It is from the 1500's and has very few modern conveniences. Sleeping there is like going back in time.

My daughter Coco and I were headed to a car boot sale, and we arrived at this incredible thing. It was originally a house, but now functions as a shooting lodge, and also as a venue for public events. 

This is a village house in a nearby town. I love the windows.

A local friend of ours is about to move into his parents massive house. In the meantime he's been slumming it in this cottage. Poor guy.

I drive by this thatch cottage everyday on my way to the kids' school. Thatching is a work of art - I wish you could see up close the structure of intricate and beautifully laid wires holding it all together.

 This house in Somerset belongs to our very close friends Lulu and Cosmo. I love the irony - on the outside it is a perfect example of classic Georgian architecture, while on the inside it is filled with eccentric and unconventional belongings.

I don't remember where this house was, just that I saw it on the way to my son's soccer match. The entrance took my breath away. 

This is our garden shed. I photograph it nearly every day. Its a great subject for recording beautiful light, seasonal changes, and the evolution of the garden.

Chastleton is now owned by the National Trust, a government-funded collection of beautiful houses and gardens around England. It's slightly out of my way on the school run, but every so often I drive that way to have the pleasure of seeing it. 

This is my friend Laura's house, right outside of Oxford. I love the symmetry and formality of the design, combined with the warmth of the red brick. It's one of my all-time faves.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I ♥ Your American Style: Michelle Phillips

No matter what fashion phase I am working my way through at any given moment, there is always an element of bohemian lurking in my style. Part of it is unavoidable - my long wavy, messy hair gives any look a touch of hippie. But another part of me identifies with the romantic and feminine appeal of a floral print, a peasant blouse, a dangly earring and a middle part. Much of this, for me, is inspired by Michelle Phillips in the 60's and 70's - that youthful, natural beauty that captures my attention regardless of what she was wearing. But it was her clothes too - simple things on the whole - but always flattering in a soft, girly way. Her bohemian look was streamlined and chic, and ultimately timeless.