Monday, December 21, 2009

dannon lids?: contemporary art for skeptics

so, have you ever been to a gallery or museum and thought, why is that/that object (maybe one or a display of a grouping of commercially "ready-made" objects) art? who said that's art and why are they saying that? or, you may have felt that what's being presented as "art" lacks any demonstrable technical virtuosity or talent. the "i could have done that" phenomena (i got that in a forest of two by fours at the whitney biennial a couple of years ago). for many folks outside the contemporary scene, myself included, our most common idea or experience of visual art is of objects that stand alone, standing in for, or and representing the artist. we may expect to have our experience, or may enjoy the sensation of being, in the presence of the object (i also like to touch and hug sculpture, but that's another personal issue). we may also want the object to be beautiful, understand it to reflect an ideal or standard of beauty, recognize it as a symbol, react emotionally or intellectually to it, or it may just match the couch (in a good way). to start to get my head around conceptual and contemporary art (of the it's the idea not the object sort), i've just read seven days in the art world by sarah thorton and art's prospect: a challenge of tradition in an age of celebrity by roger kimball. ms. thorton's book is a fun insiderish tour of the clannish contemporary art world from cradle (art school) to grave (auction house). i got the most insight from the chapter on a graduate school seminar at calarts which shows you how artists are being taught how to think and think about the use of technique and object-making. she a wonderful writer who makes you feel like you're right there at an auction, art school, art fairs, etc. roger kimball is a "conservative" academic and social critic; his book looks at contemporary art institutions and some of what passes for art these days (much of which, in his view, is too infatuated with theory (over intellectualized?) at the expense of aesthetic appreciation and a more traditional view of the ennobling power of art. i loved this book too; it's pretty intellectually rigorous (as is his writing in general).

if you're not up for a book, there are plenty of book reviews and articles that highlight the debate and discussion addressed in the books, including: agony and ecstasy: the art world explained by barry schwabsky and the end of art by roger kimball. here's my takeaway (and pet peeve), artists are not just makers of art objects. visual artists, at best, are philosophers, documentarians, or social commentators and critics who use visual media to express their views, ideas, experiences, and criticism of the world in all its aspects. these things may may be visually expressed/represented by an object or not. my pet peeve (and perhaps it's because i love objects, especially paintings by ingres, david and vermeer), if you're going into the idea business, i expect you to be able to articulate and defend your work (take a page from mr. kimball, please). i may not agree, but if there is a concept or idea worth getting on the table (or wall), let me hear it. if you have a different view, let me know too; i love a good debate.

in the phoenix area for the holidays and hungry for soul food? check out mrs white's golden rule cafe or lo-lo's chicken and waffles. ok, i haven't been in phoenix for years and am a total late adopter of any technology, but with the piles and piles of snow in nyc this weekend, i poked around on itunes and discovered free podcasts--from blogs and public radio, etc. i'm now obsessed with the splendid table (where these restaurants were mentioned) and i'm trying out 3 wine guys and there's plenty more on politics, health, art, and another favorite--football. now i can watch football (sound off) while listening to public radio while looking at magazines and searching the world wide web and drinking tea (just discovered the delicious organic, japanese green tea with matcha and roasted brown rice, genmaicha matcha-iri . it has a mellow, round (really!) flavour that's less astringent and tannic than plain green tea or matcha so it's great without food. green tea is great with food, but too much for me on it's own.)

do the grey days of winter make you long for a little color? check out the top name in the color business, pantone, with a standardized color matching system so different folks (and in ny this is the way artists and design folks talk about color) refer to the pantone system to make sure colors match without direct contact with one another. fun stuff they do are color forecasts: color of the year 2010, turquoise and fashion forecasts from nyc's fashion week, like the fashion color report for spring 2010. looking for a gift for someone in or aspiring to be in fashion, design or arts, look at the fun pantone-inspired accessories: a pantoneapp for iphones for color on the go, iphone/ipod covers, cool color block mugs and espresso cups , cufflinks, typhoon peppermills and a fun "colorstrology" (about me: september, generally: color: baja blue 18-3946; divine, discerning, artistic; for the 24th, cornflower blue 16-4031: "love is very important to you as is the need to connect with others. you are highly romantic and function best when you are in a healthy relationship. although you can be emotional, you have a keen mind and a sharp wit. harmony and a happy home and family hold great comfort for you. your personal color resonates with clarity.")

peace out, flatsie


Sunday, December 13, 2009

christmas crazies

hey y'all! can you believe the holidays are upon us? as much as i love to shop, the forced march towards 17 presents presenting by a date certain even makes me allergic to shopping. so, this past weekend, i headed into the woods to hide with a lovely stack of books and beethoven's symphonies conducted by john eliot gardiner. in the woodstock, ny area (my town is shady, ny, the post office address is bearsvilles, ny, but we call it woodstock--don't you love small towns? :0), there's such dreaminess as country music radio stations on the radio, a lovely proper-sized grocery store (hurley ridge market in west hurley--santa was there offering a plate of cookies and bob's candy canes--who's bob, btw?) where you can push the cart through the aisle (not allowed in the city) and piles of powdery snow. as it turns out, cleaving by julie powell had a major plot line around fleisher's, a butcher shop in nearby kingston, ny. for me, the book was a little too much "technical" information about her extra-marital personal life disconnected from any information that that gave me any understanding of why she's doing this stuff, much less telling the world about it. the good news is that she seems to be finding her voice as a writer. in the first few chapters, there's a bit of awkward, and perhaps defensive, sprinkling of sat-preparatory vocabulary that i think may result from criticism she took for the writing in her first book (it was a blog of course, and who of us is tolstoy in that context?). once through that she settles into herself and moves forward with her tale which was interesting enough. it's hard to be compared to julia child and even though she made the comparison herself, i'm trying to get over it and judge her writing and storytelling on its own merits.
if you're in the city and can use a break, head to the shambhala center for the weekly $5 (meditation and lecture) dharma gathering on tuesday nights; even for me, a bit of a mexican jumping bean (remember those? we used to get them at the unbelievable south of the border on the way to nyc from gainesville) those two hours spent in contemplation and conversation gives a calm that can last into the next few days. there's no preaching a la "sign up here for inner peace" but a cool respite from the to-do list lives we live.
peace (inside and) out,



Thursday, December 10, 2009

random retail redux

so, I said our next stop was mexican silver and scoop about sterling markings and their meaning, but what's a journey without a little detour? (If you need to know now, go to the wonderful website for the full scoop. The marks can tell who, when, where and what. scandinavian and american companies product are particularly collectible, btw. I'm obsessed with danish silver jewelry (with enamel) from the 1970's (pricey usually, but very good quality) and tiffany's stuff (love that classic american brand when I find it for $20 at my favorite little nyc flea and farmer's market at 66/67 streets and 1st avenue every saturday!).

but I digress: here's what's happening. there's something good going on at club monaco. The staff can be uneven, but there's a ton of very wearable, well-fitting professional clothes and great accessories (gloves, hats and scarves) for women of all ages (the men's clothes have been more consistently good over the years). Nice little black dresses, skirts, thin v-neck sweaters and cutes tops (in all colors) you can mix and match. The things are nicely detailed and many things go on sale because they're bringing in a lot of product and turning it over pretty quickly. The jewelry is nice looking, but I feel expensive for the quality (super into rhinestones? pop over to or pop online to m and j trimming for a strand of rhinestones you can tie into bolero, choker or bracelet.) supposedly, cm has a new designer, whatever it is, it's nice to be able to go there again and count on being able to find something again.

for hosiery, I'd skip cm and other boutiques and go to h&m (italian stockings and tights often get marked down to $2 (!) in ny, but even full priced, they have nice, good quality options that don't approach the $75+ wolford levels). Or, my favorite staple is a very good quality, small gauge black fishnets and other fancy hosiery and tights from the canadian website shapings. the last for 10 wears fishnets are made by philippe matignon; i literally buy them in bulk for everyday wear.

bloomingdales is also going a little crazy--in a good way. by and large their staff is very professional and customer oriented and in ny (everywhere?), we're now in the minimum of 40 percent off mode. plus there are private sales and other coupons floating around for extra 10-20 percent off. even if you don't have the coupons, i just mentioned that i forgot my coupon and got an extra 10-20 percent off. this was extra good at the stuart weitzman boutique--fun, over the knee, soft nappa leather boots ended up being 60 percent off at the same time zappos and bloomingdales own website has them at full price $500+ depending on the style.

also, hit the shiseido counter for a simple winter skincare routine: ultimate cleansing oil is a great nondrying makeup removing wash and i'm liking the new future solution lx night cream (for day and night). to get out the door quickly use that moisturizer, a touch of advanced hydro liquid makeup (as light foundation and concealer) with the white lucent brightening eye treatment. add a touch of blush (the line has a color stick that's a bit glossy and in pretty colors) on cheeks and lips and i'm out the door (well, +/- another 10 minutes of putting on jewelry, which brings us back to mexican silver...).

query du blog: will mexican silver ever get its due in this blog or will it suffice that i wear 7 lbs of it almost every day?

peace out, flatsie

Monday, December 7, 2009

vintage miami beach

everything old was new again in miami beach this year. locals dress circa 1981 whilst snacking on export sodas with guava paste and cream cheese (yum!), tried and true artworks predominated (like warhols) at art basel miami beach, nada set up shop at the deauville beach resort and the vintage stores were overflowing with good quality, well priced items. head over to 650 lincoln road to enjoy the calm and curated fly boutique ; i had gone first to the stuffed to the gills recycled blues around the corner at 1507 washington avenue and became a little overwhelmed by all the coats (abandoned shearlings and furs abound), tee shirts, jeans--a lot of everything really. if you're patient you can get some great stuff (everything was 50% off), my "ny state of mind" needed lunch first. grab a delicious and authentic buckwheat crepe at a la folie tucked away on the nearby and very charming 516 espanola way that's right off washington avenue. there are a lot of cute boutiques and restaurants on espanola and washington; a couple of blocks away is lincoln road that's a bit fancier (there's even the parisian patisserie paul on lincoln along with boutiques with selections that would play well in the "expensive" part of barneys).

i had a tooled leather bag on my to-do list so i was excited to find one in black (i live in ny for goodness sake!) at fly as well as an awesome 70's metal belt (both in the picture) that i'm sure will look great on a black dress... the owner and salesclerks at fly are very accommodating and are happy to pull jewelry, belts, rings, bags and other accessories for you to try. the clothes range from last season gucci to more vintage selections; there are also comfy chairs if you (or your shopping companion) need a break. they also were flexible on prices for items that had been in the shop for a bit.

next time, "what's mexican silver?" and a bit about the markings on silver jewelry.

peace out, flatsie

Saturday, December 5, 2009

wiseman's la danse

i love paris and ballet so i couldnt wait to see the new documentary by frederick wiseman, la danse: paris opera ballet. i was lucky enough to attend the almost 3 hour film with my client, also a documentary filmmaker, who just finishing a film project about a hungarian choreographer. (i'll see a sneak peek of her project next week--cant wait!) this film had its moments and glimpses, but was such a string of missed opportunities. why clip conversational sidebars between former dancers (i guess) comparing notes whist coaxing today's performers to more nuanced work; who are these folks? you also get peeks into the business side (and the fascinating woman at the helm) and backstage areas of the institution. you also hear the middle of a conversation (important to the arts especially these days) about american and other financial vip supporters; how does it start or end? even if he couldnt tell all the stories, i wish he had told one in full. why not connect a narrative via the artists, supporters, and/or business operations of the company? it felt like i was watching a trailer for at least 5 films that might be great. i felt sad that for folks who dont know or care yet, this film doesnt help and doesnt show why this company and these people/artists are even worth learning about. im not saying the film had a duty to promote ballet or this company, it's not a pr piece. i had expected a story about identifiable characters that we relate to or not, or possible to learn something specific about all the process of producing this technically grueling, exquisitely delicate and ephemeral art. when it didnt, i felt disappointed. in new york, the film forum showings of the film were sold out and filled with insiders and balletomanes who waxed on about how great the film was. maybe it was for them. but what about the rest of us? by failing to tell who's on the screen, giving context to the comments being made or finishing one of the many stories passing by the lens, i wasnt sure who the intended audience for the film is and what point of telling the story was in the first place. dont go to the film, go to (your local) ballet instead.

peace out, flatsie

Monday, September 7, 2009

le keyboard français

my last post found me a victim of a french keyboard. a world where a's are q's and there's no discernable delete. i just spent the past few days in paris, my fqvorite city. so many fun things, but if youve been it's really just the wandering qnd sitting that's the most enjoyable. the french, hip to my blague du blog, fill my head with questions: why is everything so delicious here? tiny lamb chops, strawberries, baguette (all 12 kinds: ecureille with hazel nuts and currents, raisin, whole wheat and traditionelle). why dont we have 50 different kinds of butter to choose from like the awesome display at the food market at galleries lafayette? go to the department store, bon marche, to pick up a picnic to enjoy in les jardins de luxembourg. why doesnt anyone think the french are rude? ive had end to end friendliness and good cheer (plus any pouting and frowning which leads me in US to be admonished to smile, here just results in being mistaken for sexy and parisian). last time i went to the porte de clingencourt for the antique market, this time i hit the porte de vanves which is much more my style--outdoors (year round) and pretty relaxed. it's not inexpensive, but you'll see some things you wont see stateside, like venders eating baguette and saucissons for breakfast, housewares that bespeak the culture: white table linens, duck presses and logoed ashtrays and barware. almost the only time i went inside was to see wonderful exhibitions at the musée des arts decoratives which includes fashion in a broad sense and la mode. the work of madeleine vionnet (beautiful, simple dresses from the 1920's and 30's; she was also a pioneer against trademark and copyright infringement so i relate to her in that way too) and an exhibition about the color red--its political, sexual, psychological and other connotations as played out in advertising, clothing, accessories and housewares. the fall/winter clothes and shoes are gorgeous, btw, and discovered a new designer paule ke. anyway, time to head home.

peace out, flqtsie

paris pour moi me <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<


Saturday, August 29, 2009

je me souviens

so excited! im going to paris this week and have a mile long list of flea markets to explore and some fashion exhibitions to see. but, of course just being in paris is the funnest. to prepare, i saw two movies in which paris is a major character: julie & julia and the new anna wintour documentary, the september issue . the reviews of the documentary which somewhat malign the filmmaker for the portrayal of anna w may not be entirely fair to him (would she have let him see anything else and who of us would?), but it did feel more like an ad/pr piece than showing anything you didnt know about ms w. you get a better 360 sense of Grace Coddington and the photo shoots are beautiful to watch in production. viewers note: snack-buy at your own risk. all the models and talk about "looking pregnant" and folks needing to go to the gym will scare off only the most body confident from enjoying their popcorn. for more of a film about fashion that's a very personal story, see lagerfeld confidential about karl l; you really get a sense of his philosophy and work. plus, the opening scene of the film completely justifies my recent silver ring and bracelet acquisitions--he must have 200 plus spread across his dresser. My latest ring (a giant silver signet), by the way, come from the atelier of the awesome gregg wolf. and when you go to his studio of east 9th street it's always chock full of other interesting artists. the julie and julia movie is a love letter to julia child with a side story about the blogger, julie powell, who cooked her way through jc's first cookbook, mastering the art of french cooking. jp doesnt seem very interesting (i felt her blog/book was dull too), but who is compared to jc? the oddest representation is of amanda hesser i thought, she seemed very priggish, yet her first book is charming. paris looks gorgeous in all three movies and nyc comes off very well in the september issue.

q de blog: why can you eat endless mounds butter and sugar in paris and come home thinner?

peace out, flatsie

Monday, August 3, 2009

dc escape

looking for a quick getaway? try the lorien hotel & spa in alexandria, virginia. it's a beautiful 4-5 star escape that you can often book for 150 a night (with breakfast); sometimes you can find it for 110. in the morning, you can read the paper in the living room with coffee and tea; i like to do that en route to the gorgeous gym with everything you could want, including a peaceful room for yoga (dvd's included). they also have a cheese, and wine shop (isnt that the point of going to the gym?) that's perfect to pick up picnic supplies to enjoy in the park on the alexandria waterfront. the hotel is also close to the metro for jaunts into dc (almost all the museums are free and you can catch a ride to amtrak or the airport), but my favorite way to enjoy it is to pop down for an overnight on a saturday morning with a mind to hit my favorite indoor enormous antique and flea market in chantilly, virginia that happens every third month or so. the flea market is run by d'amore promotions and is filled with friendly, vendors from the east coast who are happy to make a deal. fun finds include scandanavian silver jewelry from the 70's; a vendor with stacks of vintage louis vuitton trucks, bags and suitcases; and a booth filled with hundreds of metal chocolate molds--very martha stewart.

if you have time on saturday, enjoy strolling in old town alexandria. i loved (and got some vintage rosenthal china) at chinoiserie, random harvest is always fun (for vintage furniture), red barn mercantile (almost bought a huge homage a duchamp metal wine rack there, but couldn't figure out where in nyc apt to put it so even my object lust has limits, apparently!) and misha's is an awesome coffeehouse with giant slices of cake and delicious coffee. if you can, catch a movie at the old town theater, so un-multiplex . for a delicious dinner, try vermillion (roasted olives and the mixed tomatoes with burrata are especially delicious) or eve (try the very flavourful bouillabaisse and eat at the bar if it's full).

next stop, baltimore big flea, october 24-25 another d'amore promotions show that the vendors in dc swear by for shopping (bargains good enough for resale even); that one includes vendors from europe and take two days to go through, they say. i'm hoping to go to obrychi's or another crab shack (no such thing in nyc and i miss the hours of salty, spicy fun with flying crab shells, beer and conversation).

query de blog: did i invent the terms blogalicious and blogalarious (not as regards this blog, btw, but think i invented those reading another blog)?

peace out, flatsie

Saturday, June 13, 2009

time value of time

what's on your mind? what's really important to you? what makes you happy or feel sad? what's worth your time? i love a liet motif, a theme, an organizing principle so i'd been thinking about the frame (and if there were one) around my seemingly nonsequitur interests in food, art & architecture, traveling, work/business management, self-improvement and "success," shopping and fashion, and flea and antique markets.

to figure it all out, i'm reading a mix of books, journals and magazines. periodical-wise: the harvard business journal (for theory); inc. (for business management practice); the nonprofit quarterly (one of my trade's rags); vogue, elle and w (now as skinny as the models who appear therein--fewer ads!); martha stewart living and bon appetit (homage to cocktail serving, apron-wearing, housewives of another era); and best life and men's health (great for fitness and tips for the men in your life).

in books: the nine by jeffrey toobin about the supreme court gives you a sense the justices are and how they change intellectually during their tenures. the section on the bush/gore post-election issues sets out that game and the legal issues related to gitmo are clearly set forth. i was a little disappointed that it seemed thin on scalia (maybe his clerks wouldn't talk?). i didn't get a real sense of the man, but maybe i just wanted more on him because he's so smart and, like many lawyers, find his confidence in, and principled application of, his worldview refreshing and a relief from much of the pc equivocating that passes for reasoned thinking among jurists and politicians even if you don't agree with him. o'conner's role gets a lot of play (fitting under toobin's theory that she controlled the outcome of important cases during many years of her tenure) and thomas gets the most generous write-up i've ever seen. incidentally, if you live in dc or are in the area when supreme Court is in session, you really should go down to see an oral argument, it's surprisingly intimate, awesome and free!

another book really resonated with me, shop class as soulcraft: an inquiry into the value of work by michael crawford. to dip into the subject, check out the 2006 essay that grew into the book. the more philosophical and historical aspects of the book, talking about changes in the labour market, the intrinsic satisfactions in certain types of work (here work that relates to material objects) and what do and can we expect from our work were more interesting to me than where many reviewers put their focus. i didn't read it as a paean to manual labor and i certainly didn't see, as one reviewer proposed, that it was sexist and that it left women out for some bad reason. ideas that make you think include an exploration of the connections (mystic and sentimental) we feel with material objects (hey, who hasn't fallen in love with a cartier, a bmw, a super-sharp #2 pencil or a frosty coke bottle?) and the need to feel our work is connected to something real--whether it's a material object or an idea or ideal that has meaning for us at some deeper level. another cool thought by alexandre kojève: "the man who works recognizes his own product in the world that has actually been transformed by his work: he recognizes himself in it, he sees in it his own human reality, in it he discovers and reveals to others the objective reality of his humanity, of the originally abstract and purely subjective idea he has of himself. the satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. they seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. he can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on. boasting is what a boy does, who has no real effect in the world." (sounds like howard roark, no?)

my next read is by the philosopher, alain de botton. options are a novel about love or his new book, the pleasures and sorrows of work. i've decided i love him because he writes about what i think is the only stuff that counts: travel, love, architecture, shopping, and work. he also founded a school in london that has weekend courses on the areas identified as the five big issues in life: love, politics, work, family and play.

odds and ends. for a laugh, make a jello fish bowl with vodka. ok, the vodka was my twist, a la jello shots. this is a really easy, fun and funny project. in red (swedish fish are the best), white (tic tacs for bottom of the bowl gravel) and blue ("berry" flavoured jello), it's july 4 picnic fun (not for kids of course!).

query de blog: anyone up for an october weekend in london for a class about work at the school of life?

peace out, flatsie


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

trend or treat

are nonagenarians the new trend? or is the trend to spend your life working on something that means something, has value, to you? this weekend i went to two dance performances featuring the work of two choreographers in their 90's: merce cunningham at dia:beacon and the spring 2009 performances at the studio of mary anthony in the west village. why do i love to see dance? it's a great way to really hear music, and at dia:beacon (and all the dia art foundation venues) , to see the best in contemporary art. drive or take the hour long ride on the train from grand central to beacon, ny, to the restored nabisco factory site; the work is so strong that you need not be an expert in anything to enjoy the experience. i love the "string" art. the cafe and bookstore are also great; you can also walk into town to grab a bite at one of the little cafes.

the cunningham performance (with the music of john cage) was inspired by, and set inside, the cavernous exhibition of imi knoebel’s 24 Colors—for blinky. this stunning (and delicious--go see, the paintings look like giant sugar cookies with bright-colored, flooded icing) work and exhibition was supported by gucci. once you're in the neighborhood and if you love gucci, bottega veneta, ferregamo, thomas pink, tods, elli tahari, calvin klein and the like, stop by the woodbury commons premium outlets. unlike most outlets, the merchandise is current, not made for outlets and shockingly well-priced (50% off of half-price). the saks outlet has all the top jeans--seven, rock and republic and the elli tahari store offers the same things bloomingdales is showing now. if you're more into housewares, visit le creuset, crate and barrel, and william-sonoma. other gems are puma, adidas, and american apparel.

i got started thinking about trends and trend spotting because i have a friend who has a preternatural ability to see the next hot thing before it hits any scene. the nyt is always at least a month late in reporting on news i already know. it happens at least once a week--it's our running joke. he rode the l train before it was hip and identified detroit as a go to spot before artists headed there for $100 houses. another example: this week i read an elle magazine article about weightlifting for women about 3 months after he predicted the death of pilates and yoga. months ago, he was all about old keys--and there they are in music videos (keith urban), kate spade ads and tiffany's just launched an awesome collection of keys (yes, i do look at their website and, sometimes, don't just look at the huge diamonds). he also predicted the return of the cassette tape (now popping up all over the place as cuff links, silkcreened onto t-shirts, and faux cassette tape cards concealing memory sticks to fill with digital music for gifting like the traditional mixtape. the nyt style section proposed this item for valentine's day). what will he come up with next?

other new things i need to know: what's going to be my hot flea find at the upcoming big flea in chantilly, va on june 6-7? will this year's peaches be mealy or succulent? will the plums be sweet, tart and juicy?

peace out, flatsie

Monday, May 4, 2009

away at home: chapter one: manhattan

i'm dying go to london for memorial day. this is to remind myself of all the excellent nyc fun to be had. (if you go to london, stay in covent garden for the excellent thrift stores, door to door tube service from the airport; neon cupcakes and amazing croissants from candy cakes; moroccan & lebanese food at maison touaregue at 23-24 greek street in the theater district, and visit the tate modern (don't miss the chance to contemplate what you've seen in the enchanting restaurant with an amazing bird's eye, city-view that serves many excellent dishes, including ayummy side of sauted brussel sprout leaves--the outer leaves, less astringent and more delicate than the sprouts themselves).

everyone has morning rituals. i love great coffee, but haven't been able to pull off the delicious, crema-capped cups casually served at every cafe in paris or the syrupy, smooth goodness of the tiny cups of sugary, pitch-black espresso my zia caterina made (zia was my great-aunt who came to nyc with my grandmother, her sister, in the 1930's from a farm in the cinqua terra region of italy). now i start the day with english breakfast tea, but a chance encounter with a nespresso machine at bloomingdales and friend's success in greatly improving his morning brew by hard-packing the coffee makes me hope that coffee greatness is within my reach. knowing my weakness for high-tech, shiny objects (cars, kindles, blackberries, ipods, flat screens, even if i can't work the features) and kitchen equipment, i decided to look into who says what about great coffee before becoming a (nespresso) pod person. vogue columist, jeffrey steingarten, who has a scientific, but highly personal, approach to food and food writing offers three espresso essentials: the amount of the coffee (7 grams); hard-packing the coffee and water pressure. major advantages of the pod-based machines are that the packing, the coffee volume and water pressure are controlled (although according to him, nespresso's pods fall short of the 7 gram ideal). if it applies to your device, try hard packing the coffee; i'm hearing rave reviews about that tip alone eliminating any bitterness. if this is all too much (before coffee), pop over to the nespresso boutique and cafe on madison and have a coffee in the cafe (pricey) or free it you're looking at how the machines work in the boutique.

once you're awake, take a gondola ride to roosevelt island, see some art or have some thrifting fun. grab the roosevelt island tramway at east 59th and 1st avenue. it's the bright red, sky-gondola (i ride these boxes on a string every chance i get--try the one in barcelona or vail, co, if you get the chance) that links roosevelt island and manhattan ($4 roundtrip or use your monthly subway pass); the ride includes a breathtaking view of manhattan and takes 4.5 minutes. many folks take their bikes to ride on this island, or you can sit in the grass with the paper or a great book. bring a drink and a snack--maybe a giant, homemade $3 dollar slice of excellent and not too sweet, coconut cake or a piece of the fresh peach cobbler from wimps southern bakery at 29 west 125th street; t212.410.2296. snacks from wimps may require some planning (it's further uptown), but you won't regret the trip.

back in manhattan, if you're looking for very high quality supplies to make jewelry, hair accessories or to customize your clothes, head over to m and j trimming across from macy's in herald square. it's chock full of buttons, trimmings, ribbons, beads and handmade silk flowers formed from ribbon that's a favorite with stylists. they'll pick up things like yards of single strands of rhinestones that can be tossed around the neck as a necklace. i first went there in the 1980's to pick up a boatload of tiny, irridescent beads to slip onto large safety pins which i strung together with silver elastic thread into stretchy bracelets; my defense, it was the 80's.

i have a "one art-thing" a week rule. albeit, this rule is not as good as a friend's "one new major international city a year" mandatory travel rule, but i can pull mine off for $1. visit the metropolitan museum of art and take advantage of your tax-dollars by virtue of the "suggested contribution" admission policy; hand over $1 and you're in. check out the rooftop sculpture garden and cafe (last year, it had the work of jeff koons) for the great view and an off-beat place to have a drink. if you're lucky the costume institute will have an exhibition which they do on occasion (a show just opened) and, of course, there's are always plenty of other wonderful things to see, including the temple of dendur and the 1950's cyclorama painting that puts you in the grounds at versailles (which had a phenomenal koons show last year, btw). after the met and depending on the exhibitions, i love to visit one of the auction houses, doyle's auction house, sotheby's or christie's. even if youre not buying, it's interesting to see pieces similar to those you've just seen at the met with a price tag next to them. those houses also have a fun dimension of allowing you to try on "important" jewels and sometimes to see someone's complete collection. spring and summer brings contemporary art to the bigger houses; doyle's has a fun show with vintage louis vuitton trunks and luggage as well as other handbags now.

last stop: thrift stores and flea markets. i love roundabout consignment at 31 east 72nd for mostly new clothes and bags, including marc jacobs and valentino. it's organized and can be well-priced. the sales-staff is friendly and helpful (i had the best conversation about the ins and outs of dulce de leche cake with a cia-trained chef and artist who works there). another good choice is michael's consignment for chanel, burburry, red-soled (a la louis xiv) laboutin and other high-end classics (which can be surprisingly well-priced). i also love the little antiques, flea, & farmer's markets at 1st avenue and east 67th street in p.s. 183. the farmer's market has great produce and some wonderful vendors whose booths are fun to brouse because they are so beautifully organized. there's also a super-nice vendor with piles of mostly silver (and some gold) jewlery that ranges from inexpensive to very well priced (cash-only). he has gorgeous, excellent quality mexican silver that he weighs to begin to set the price. he also considers how many pieces you're taking and gives extra special deals for regulars of which there are many. i got a very heavy, flat 16-inch chain, an inch-wide, intricately woven bracelet and he tossed in a cool bevel-edged, deco-looking sterling collar pin because i asked. there's also another dealer i love who has wonderful monogrammed, silver cigarette cases from the 1930's and 40's. (it's my idea to use these as a business card holder, but you have to make sure to check that your cards fit, mine are a little big).

new need to know: why's the texture and mouth-feel of farmed-raised salmon so odd?

peace out, flatsie

Sunday, April 19, 2009

always having paris

on arrival in paris at cdg as you wait for the official, if ceremonial, "what's the reason for your trip" (destination is response), the tension leaves your neck and i become my funnest, best self. my french self. here life is milling and sitting, buttered baguettes and enjoying quintessential frenchisms such as the insistence on precision in enunciation and specificity before answering any question. to wit, q: where to catch un café. a: "avant de vous dire, je dois savoir si vous voulez du bon cafe ou du cafe pour "anglo-saxons"? that is, i can't possibly provide the correct response before i know whether you'd like good, italian coffee or coffee the english find acceptable. :o)

this trip was one of firsts and classics. i've been dying to check out paris' vintage/thrift scene, especially after recent, amazing finds in london (there, target covent garden for unusual and inexpensive finds) and austin (see earlier post). top of the list: thrift stores in le marais and the fleamarket in porte de clignancourt. in le marais, don't rush, have lunch. maybe an eggy omlette with a leafy green salad in a creamy dressing, a salad provencal of lightly steamed shredded red cabbage and carrots, almost charred whole-wheat baguette croutons topped with hunks of goat cheese and broiled thyme-dusted tomato halves, or an open faced, or a croque-madame broiled sandwich (jambon, fromage with bechamel topped with and an orange-yolked, crisp-edged sunny-side up egg on bread from poilane, an amazing artisinal bakery).

the stock at vintage stores in le marais is mostly 1980's, us centric, which isn't my beauty style, but it's a fun scene and the people watching is top notch. There are other wonderful clothing, footware and accessory boutiques in the 3rd and 4th arrondisement that are well-priced and importantly, unique. try maison robert for coffee, tea and related accessories, prune for boots (and they will discount if you ask), and go to the grocery store to stock up on sea salt in picturesque, cork-topped boxes of (sel du camargue, here $2, $12 in nyc). pop in and out of shops, but don't forget to stop for coffee, a beer, to grab a chocolate broiche at pain de sucre (, or a delectable, flower petal-scooped gelato (dark chocolate, cream and lampone/raspberry flavors all rock) from amorino (

for the flea/antique market at clingnancourt, take the metro. it's direct and don’t be disheartened by the outdoor "market" of horrible (and overpriced) things you can get at a cvs. forge ahead and slip through a gate off the rue de rosiers into a corridor leading to semi-private, narrow streets lined with stores and stalls. it's not really about the bargains, although there are some. it's more about it being a lovely, relaxing way to experience french culture. cool things: old keys, vintage promotional key rings, and a ready-made duchamp (pardon the pun)-- a metal bottle rack from a restaurant--sadly, too big for the plane. the vendors, by and large, are solicitous if not overly concerned about manning their stalls or selling. if you need a break, there's a lovely café with live music inside the walls or duck back out to 136, rue de rosiers, for delicious pizza at napoli (don’t be put off by the 60's kitschy décor, the food is fast, fresh and yummy).

tired of the overly-precious and commodified contemporary art-scene in nyc? refresh your belief in the power and value in letting artists do their thing at palais de tokyo and a phenomenal new venue in the 19th arrodisement, centquatre (104). you'll come away heartened by the diversity of the work. also striking is the diversity of the folks of all ages exploring, hanging out and enjoying. both venues have wonderful bookstores too and terrific areas for children. you can't but be inspired by the obvious glee of the kids digging into the area invitingly left open at centquatre. the space for kids is a bit more formal at palais de tokyo-- gazing into that cozy room will leave you longing for the carefree days of fun when artmaking and being creative was the to-do list. there's also a comparable, exhibition-related (now calder) space for children at the pompidou center.

head back to le marais after a day of contemporary art (and more sitting) at 104 or the palais de toyko for a comfort-food dinner of homemade-ish moroccan food at odeon. the service is very french (by day two you'll know what i mean), but the roasted chicken that comes with a platter of couscous and a large, steaming bowl of mildly spiced (use the side of hot pepper spice paste to turn up the volume) carrots, turnips in a tomato-y broth to ladel over the pasta.

new things i need to know: where are all the locks for the amazing antique keys at the flea markets? ok, this is not paris related, but why don't bananas have black specks or seeds in the them anymore? i miss them and if you recall, the curious george books make reference to such sticky seeds--cg liked to put them down the collar of the man in yellow hat.

paris makes me nostalgic. grab someone whose hand you can't imagine not holding and be french for a day. in paris or at home. sit a little more--makes you think, remember your blessings and feel the joy of a simple conversation or a moment of solace.

peace out, flatsie

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

cheeseburger t-shirts in paradise

just back from super fun sxsw in austin, tx. amazing thrift finds (a vintage tab glass--the one with a waist!), wonderful live music and delicious food. part of the hilarity was the l train hipsters cruising the giant pile of $3 dollar vintage t's at the citywide garage sale ( held last weekend in the palmer events center. and i quote "i wish i could find a t-shirt with a cheeseburger on it." they'd be in luck if they wanted to eat yummy cheeseburgers (with "beach" volleyball and hand cut fries at aussie's grill and beach bar, open until 2am or with a milkshake or malt at the 24 hr whataburger, ). if it's steaks you're up for, skip the chains and head to texas land & cattle steak house ( for perfectly cooked steaks with a crispy crust.

no worries if you missed the "garage sale" (vintage show)--congress avenue is lined with well-priced, vintage stores filled with cowboy boots (snake, ostrich and other exotic skins are a really good value if you can find your size), silver and other handmade and vintage jewelry. stop into allen's boots to get a worldview expressed in boots, belts and western ware, including gorgeous (if pricey) handmade silver jewelry ( congress has other charms you'll want to enjoy--sidewalk benches for enjoying the 80 degree weather with an ice cream or shave ice from big top candy shop. as the day rolls to an end, pop into the continental club for a beer and an old school live music experience.

circling back to the object of this blog, latest additions to my need to know list: who pays for the $500 haircuts the l-trainers sport? what's the difference between a malt and a milkshake? how to get a serious crust on a steak? can you do that in a cast iron pan? is new cast iron better than vintage? any creative excuses for apt dwellers to collect rc cola and coca cola memorabilia--the big stuff, coolers and outdoor signage? last, anyone know anything about silver and goldtone, very decorative, so-called knights templar sword chains (saw them for the first time in austin remade into jewelry and also sold in short pieces)?

peace out,


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

first things first

is it possible to be un-selfconscious (unconscious?) about "blogging?" well, better to focus on the objective--resolving important questions and pointing out the things that matter (for example, the handwritten note, monogrammed stationary, vintage etiquette books from 1923 and listening to the classics of literature on cd (the cheater's path to renaissance status).

why blog? to answer: is it possible to use a waffle iron to make panini or grilled chicken? i own (didn't say use) every other kitchen appliance and wondered if i could skip yet another purchase in case i wanted to take a stab at imitating the perfect panini at Ino in the west village (elements of greatness: top quality ingredients judiciously applied and grilled more like being toasted and not fried, another approach i've seen but think successful only in the context of working your way into a hangover or enacting its cure). i had a baking issue with an ina garten recipe for puff pastry cinnamon rolls (which were pretty gross, came out raw and oily then got burnt and oily) because i baked in a pan not a muffin tin and it turns out i found other folks online whose blogs confirmed it was the pan choice that set the mess in motion. so this blog's initial intention is to avoid harm to an innocent waffle iron and maybe make panini or two.

peace out!