Sunday, September 26, 2010

Autumn Flowers in the Catskills


New York Asters have a wild yet innocent daintiness, unlike the fancy hybrid
Michaelmas daisy, or the uniform sheet of color on a cultivated hardy mum.

They grow unfettered in my sloping, wet meadow and tumble to the stream below.  
If deer nibble, they respond with denser sprays a little later, greeting the first golden-amber
leaves with their twinkling periwinkle eyes.

I am so lucky to have them by the thousands.  
Collecting fluffy seed heads in October and chucking them here and there ensures more.  
My kind of gardening!

A wild sister of wet area asters self-seeds becomingly, with her baby-tiny pink flowers,
so charming with the last of my foxgloves.   Her name remains a mystery,
as does that of the starry white wild flowers underplanting my ‘Ballerina’ rose.

Often, I wish had not learnt the true name of a plant,
for some of my asters are called ‘Swamp Asters’ and it pains me!

Do you have a favorite fall flower?

Until next time, stay shabby!

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Nate Show Shoot

Photo: Todd Foster

Cabin before

My segment on The Nate Show will air Tuesday, 21 September!
Please click here to check your local listings.

Pour hot tea in your favorite porcelain cup and have a comfy seat, this is a long post!

Monday, 28 June 2010

I am showered with reactions from around the world in the wake of the New York Times feature on my studio.   There’s a voice mail message (and a Facebook message, email to all my accounts, even an email to my sister) from a producer from the Nate Berkus Show asking me if I’d consider appearing on the show.

As a humble federal employee that never dreamt anyone would be interested in reading my blog, I’m so stunned hottie Nate was interested my hands shake.

The following weeks are filled with phone calls and emails with Nette, the producer, and her kind assistant Margaux, often after 9 p.m., as we formulate the content of the segment.

Photo: Todd Foster

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Bryan’s storyboard sketches.

Bryan the field producer, Dean the videographer, and Kurran the sound man arrive at our farm for a day of ‘relaxed shooting’.   Professional and polite, (they even took their shoes off before treading on my white floor) the crew was a true delight to work with.   And patient.   I normally don’t speak more than three sentences in any given conversation, so I’d look down when I couldn’t think of what to say and you can’t do that on camera.   I was a good girl and clasped my hands in my lap because my mom says I gesture too expansively.

They said my segment was the first to be shot, and a few days later breathlessly relayed it set the standard for the sort of inspirational story they wanted.   That was too sweet.

Photo: Todd Foster
Kurran outfitting me with one of those little black microphone boxes wedged in the back of my dress with the long cord I had to weave up and around and get taped to my sterum with the special tape.

Photo: Todd Foster
Readying the camera and microphone for my interview.  Kurran would ask us to stop when the cicidas got too loud.

Photo: Todd Foster
Filming the chandelier.

The last shot was of me crossing the creek, and my dear husband placed extra stones in for me to cross after I stumbled.   We watched the blooper reel in slo mo, it was hysterical.

Afterward, I brought the crew iced tea as they tested the Skype unit I’d use for the question and answer portion following the video in the segment.   My dear King strung an RJ45 line up in the trees over the creek from our cabin below so the wireless modem could get closer to my studio.   This suited me fine.   Imagine having to actually speak to Nate in person before a live audience!

‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas on my mantle.

Zuzu finally gets her spot on the sofa back.

Fresh hydrangeas and hosta donated by my friend at “Gramma’s” in Brookhaven, NY;
roses were on sale $10/dozen at the supermarket.

Stuff unceremoniously shoved in my pantry during the taping.
There’s always a mess kicked in a corner during a shoot.

All swept up again; time to relax and reflect on the porch with my family and a little soy ice cream.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

I was thinking I’d have waffles with wild blackberries for breakfast while rehearsing my talking points for the tomorrow’s 7 a.m.   Skype session when the urgent email came in: there were too many technical difficulties on another Skype.   I had to come to their studios in New York.   Now.

By 1 p.m., producer Sushupti would call with my hotel information, for taping would be first thing tomorrow morning at CBS studios and I had to have hair and makeup beforehand.   I suppose I looked so thunderstruck Todd said he would travel along, and I dashed around with my cell phone on my ear as I snapped my damp laundry off the clothesline and got the little dogs prepared for travel.   It was ridiculous to return to the farm afterward as I was going over half way back to Long Island where I was expected at work Tuesday morning, so I had to bag the garbage, pack the car, and drape my damp clothes along the back seat.   Todd ran up to my studio to get the Skype kit, got the hens set up, and made arrangements for our big dogs Ruffy and Mully while downloading directions.

The big problem was clothing.   Instructed to avoid anything summery, white, black, or neutrals (which all my clothes are), I intended to wear my old pink car coat over sweats and flip flops since you only see from the waist up on Skype.   Now, I had to sport an ensemble chic enough to make a good first impression with a national audience, recalling some viewers can be terribly snobbish about what others wear.   I’d normally shop at a Macy’s clearance rack in low-tax New Jersey on the way down, but stores in Jersey are closed Sundays.   I grew insecure as a college student on her first big job interview, and frantically called my fashionista sister Sue who lived in Manahattan for over 10 years to tell me what to do.   I had no idea the poor thing was vacationing with her husband in Colorado and it was 6 a.m. there, but she graciously told me what to wear and where to buy.

Looking south toward NYC while crossing the George Washington Bridge.

The next big problem was getting to the city before the stores closed.  We had to hit the road before receiving the informational call, knowing our three-hour drive in weekend Thruway traffic doomed us to lose time.

Eventually we got a cell signal, got the information, parked in the designated garage, checked in to the Flathotel (one of those chic boutique hotels with moody lighting and where the bar seems closer than the front desk when you enter), and jogged two blocks to Anthropologie.  The guard declared they just closed.

I pleaded my case:  I was going to be on TV tomorrow morning, I raced here from 3 hours away, please help!  It worked.  In fact, every sales rep there and at Baker’s shoes proved enormously helpful with my situation.  The biggest help was my very dear husband, who toted Zuzu and Belle’s carrier and buoyed me with his cheerful spirit and patience.  He hates shopping, especially in crowded stores where the music is as loud as a club, but he never complained.  I treated him to a huge burrito at a take-out joint and he ate it back in the comfy hotel room.  We went over my talking points as I crashed into sleep.

 Exhausted, but a Duane Reade visit still needs to happen so I can get pantyhose and the toiletries I forgot.

Monday, 9 August 2010

The line for the live studio audience stretched down the street.

Our own little room on 'the green floor', with a TV showing the beehive of the set.

Zuzu greets staff member Rebecca.

Belle and Zuzu waiting for Mommy to appear on TV.

The hospitality of Nate’s producers and staff (all looked 30 and under and wore headphones) was as warm and fuzzy as my dogs, and it’s a great thing because I was anxious over hitting all the points they wanted.
My clothes were pressed while I got my hair (thanks Brigitte & Shelly!) and makeup done, and then I was informed Nate may not do it in the order we rehearsed.  I do not think well on my feet, and I started stammering and looking away in an effort to remember what to say, not showing ‘high energy’ like they needed me to do.  It unbalanced me when they’d talk (or listen) then press a button on their radios and seamlessly speak to someone else, apologize, then finish their sentence to me.

My King hugged me when it was time, and I scooped up Zuzu and carried her past the fascinating entry area hung with larger-than-life black and white photos of the early days at CBS, then tip-toed in my ultra high heels down a puzzle of hallways so narrow people had to flatten themselves against the wall to let us pass.
All the guests wait in a dark area behind the brightly lit studio with a single TV of the taping.  We can see the raw carpentry behind the high ‘walls’ of the set, a peek of the guests in the highest tiers, but nothing else. Robbie carries Zuzie back to Todd. Busted!  A sound tech fastens a microphone to my top, and asks me to count, laughing when I reply, “Eyns, Tsvey, Dray, Dupa!”   Someone goes out and involves the audience in trivia games while the sets are changed.   The backstage walls are draped in long black cables and electric lines, and perhaps a dozen producers and assistants in headphones stand or sit where they can, reviewing their clipboards and speaking in whispers.   They offer tiny bottles of water for guests’ dry mouths.

Nate’s taping a segment on yard sale finds, and I tell you the truth when I say this he is as sweet and funny off-camera as he is on.   The story before mine involves the tragedy of a young pregnant woman that lost her husband in the BP well explosion and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.   Now I know why they kept telling me to have more energy.

The hair and makeup team touches me up, a senior producer blazes a trail along the back of the set and its minefield of wires to a back corner, smiles like a mommy putting her child onstage, and instructs me to stand in a blind decorated like a fine hotel until Nate introduces me.   ‘Walk forward, there will be a pair of stools, can’t miss them, good luck!’ and she disappeared.

I can't see Nate, but his voice is strong and carries beautifully.  He’s telling the audience about me and my story.  My life flashes before my eyes.  He introduces me and I go out into the bright room while the audience claps enthusiastically.  Nate is what seems like a long ways away, holding his hands out.  I felt better.  He clasped my hands in his and told me how the Times story moved him with such candor it embarrassed me.  Even though he’s a handsome celebrity, I felt as safe and loved as I do with my family because he’s sincere.

The rest of the experience was the sort of blur that occurs during your wedding vows.  Nate made it easy.  I saw the “VT” (the producers’ abbreviation for “video tape”) for the first and only time before the air date.   I’m stunned with what Bryan and the whole team concocted.  My favorite part is when I cuddle Zuzu.

The weeks passed and I’m humbled and touched and giggly and in disbelief of the whole thing still.

Do support Nate and his new show!  He’s anointed as the next Oprah.  He celebrates enlightened content, and is always looking for hot tips from the blogging community!

Until next time, stay shabby!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Country Victorian Shoot

Photos: Gross & Daley for Country Victorian, September 2010
All scans courtesy of Bella of Bella's Rose Cottage

I’d like to extend my warmest thanks to Steve Gross and Sue Daley, editor Janet Mowak for agreeing to feature me, and to writer Mara Bragg for such informative, concise text and to the art department for the harmonious layout and font choice.   All the phone calls and emails manifested in something to cherish!   Well, at least I will.   And Mom.

Freelance photographers Sue and Steve (if they sound familiar it’s because their work has appeared in Victoria) contacted me after seeing my Times feature to do a shoot for a magazine interested in showcasing colorful Victorian interiors.

The challenge for me was to break away from serene whites and use a lot of turquoise and bright pink.   What fun!

They arrived at our farm the 3rd of July with a darling old dog named Mabel and a basket full of props…in reds!   Sue Daley gave me a lecture on the merits of red and how it makes magazine pages ‘pop’.   A nice color to be sure, but in my realm of reticent pastels it’s objectionable.   I don’t live in a magazine, after all.

Photo: Gross & Daley for Country Victorian, September 2010
Zuzu patiently watches Gross & Daley before her nap.

The dark green quilt in the loft isn’t what I feel to be in harmony with the ‘vibe’ of my feminine studio, but it’s interesting in print and will make those that find all-white décor boring notice.

Photos: Gross & Daley for Country Victorian, September 2010

I took my Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic ‘Amanda’ sheer curtain panels from my office, loving how summery they look!

The sun faded sections of them over the last five years since I bought them on Ebay for about $20 each.   But this, too, is shabby, non?

Photo: Sandy Palmer

One of my favorite bloggers, Sandy over at Paint Me White in Australia, hangs these in a summa cum laude example of shabby chic.

Do pick up a copy of Country Victorian—it’s published only annually and bursts at the binding with romantic décor and tips!

Update: The magazine is slowly making itself available across the nation.  In fact, it's not in any stores I've been in either Upstate or Long Island!  Fear not - it'll be displayed until January.

I'd love to include links to the incredible bricks & mortar shops listed in the feature:

New York Salvage, Oneonta, NY

Vintage Chic, Schenectady, NY

Andes Antiques & Art, Andes, NY

Silver Fox Salvage, Albany, NY
Until next time, stay shabby!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Paper Slipper a la Marie Antoinette if for dancing at a royal fete at Versailles in the last days of summer!

The form of a Tattered Vintage #199 template is cut with fancy scissors,
glued on cardboard, and white crepe paper from the dollar store is
fashioned in a bow and garnished with a vintage rhinestone pin.

Have you seen the special Victoria issue "Rooms of Bliss"?
It's relaxing and inspirational at the same time,
and mostly Toshi Otsuki's photographs. 


Until next time, stay shabby!