12 March 2012

Monty Monday - Checking In

Hi all! It's been a tick since the last Monty Monday, so I just wanted to pop on to let you know that all is well and wonderful in our world. We've just been feeling a bit blogged out and were in need of a wee blogger break.

Here are a few recent snaps of Monty...

Monty with me after last Thursday's 'Winter Ball' for the Museum of the City of New York:The little man loves a ballgown:
And a more casual Monty with me during a hike in Wilton, CT:If you'd like to check in with Monty (and me) on a more regular basis, I tweet daily:


07 February 2012

Mission: Blonde to Brunette

About two years ago I decided to go back to my natural hair color. I've received many emails from readers asking about how I transitioned from light to dark hair, so I'm posting about my blonde to brunette journey...

Back in 2009 I joked to my hairstylist that I had one too many cliches going on simultaneously by 1.) living on the Upper East Side, 2.) marrying a wealthy, older guy, and 3.) highlighting my hair blonde. Heh. Basically I wanted a less artificial/more genuine appearance, so I started slowly returning to my natural brown hair.

Here's the last known photo of me with my uncolored, natural hair. Yours truly, age 15:You can click the pic to enlarge, but I've got brown/mahogany hair with some lighter almond pieces mixed in. (And please, no comments about those questionable jean shorts I'm wearing!)

I started adding some blonde streaks shortly after that photo was taken. I liked the subtle, sun-kissed look the blonde bits gave me, but as the years went by my hair color inched its way lighter and lighter.

Here I am at age 29, looking super bleached to golden blonde:A few months later I realized the whole California girl thing wasn't working for me any longer.

I started to get rid of the blonde slowly and carefully, without frying my hair or using any more extra bleach.

First, my colorist added a few lowlights:This softened the blonde brassiness and let my old highlights fade while my natural brown grew in at the roots.

A few months later I did a single process with a vegetable dye in a medium brown:The vegetable dye single processes rock because they're gentle and contain zero bleach, but unfortunately they don't 'hold' for that long. After about 6-8 weeks my old blonde highlights began to reappear and I'd have to re-color/re-single process. I repeated this about 3 or 4 times.

After the blonde streaks were about halfway down my head I went super dark:This goth-ish 'do also was a single process, and the midnight brown/almost black covered every trace of blonde I'd ever had. As the almost black washed out, more of my natural color began to show.

I kept getting the ends of my hair trimmed, but it remained much darker at the base than it was at my roots for a good 4-5 months:The hair looks kind of two-tone there with black-ish ends and brown-ish roots, but I got those ends trimmed every six weeks as I grew it longer.

Fast forward to last month.

Two salon-filled years after I began this saga, I ended up here:Natural chocolate brown hair with my own copper-ish highlights. Yay!!

And now at age 32 I'm finally back to that exact same color I had when I was 15.

Misson: Blonde to Brunette accomplished!

31 January 2012

Pretty Printing - Monogrammed iPhone Case

Oh happy day! I got a shiny, new, monogrammed iPhone case:Isn't it soooo pretty?

My old tortoise snap case was stylin', but it bit the dust after a tragic fall down the marble steps of Avery Fisher Hall (sad face).

That breakage was unfortunate, but the ladies at Pretty Printing had perfect timing and sent me this navy and red cane patterned number days after my old case broke. And now my iPhone is back to being safe *and* snazzy:For my front screen I use Ghost Armor, a thin but tough coating that prevents scratches and chips, but I like a case for the back/sides of my phone.Pretty Printing's case is slim and snug, but it's also flexible enough that you can take it on and off easily: It's designed thoughtfully with cut outs on the side, top, and back for access to the volume controls, headphone jack, and camera lens:I chose the 'Reverse Cane Pattern Navy' and did a 'Red Reef' accent color with a circle monogram.

I love that design, but there are scores of styles and combinations to choose from:I'm also particularly fond of the 'Clover Pink' case for phones and the 'Greek Key Gray' sleeve for iPads.

As a special for my blog readers, Pretty Printing is offering 20% off all orders through February 8th. Just enter the code 'MCM20' at checkout and voila - you'll get a sizable discount.

Pretty Printing.

24 January 2012

London - Leftovers

Last but not least, here are my London leftovers...

One of the best evenings I had in London was at the mysterious movie event, Secret Cinema:You buy a ticket for Secret Cinema and then you wait... You know which day you're scheduled to go, but you don't know anything else. What time the event starts, where you're supposed to meet the group, what costume you have to wear, and even which movie you're seeing is all kept secret.

I got an email the day before my movie telling me to turn up outside the Barbican tube stop at 18:30 wearing a 19940s-esque green or khaki colored military costume carrying a bouquet of flowers(!). I just went with it -- I felt odd riding the tube in full costume during rush hour, but whatever -- and what followed was an amazingly elaborate evening of immersive theatre and film.

Secret Cinema had taken over a massive 3 story warehouse and had completely decorated it like the set of 'our' movie. There were dozens of actors playing out scenes from the movie in each of the rooms, and Secret Cinema's on-site restaurants and bars served food that went with our movie's theme (all Austrian food & drink). Here's a peek inside the warehouse:After about 1.5 hours of seeing snippets of the film acted out and figuring out were were meant to be in Vienna, I finally worked out that the film was 'The Third Man'. Eventually we all sat down to watch the picture together. It was a blast. Tickets sell out weeks in advance, so if you're interested be sure to book early.

The South Bank is getting super spiffy these days, and wandering around after a visit to Borough Market is an entertaining way to spend an afternoon. I always go see the skateboarders and BMX riders under the Queen Elizabeth Hall:The graffiti and their tricks are way cool. There are also a tons of vintage booksellers to browse under Waterloo Bridge, and lots of cafes and restaurants to grab a bite at (I like noodle bar chain Wagamama).

There are a number of outdoor ice skating spots in London, but I think Somerset House's rink is the most glamorous:At night, the Somerset House rink has DJs spinning making it one giant party on ice. We went on disco night and skated to 70s classics. Here I am gliding around to 'Kung Fu Fighting':If the ice is too slippery for you, take a stroll in one of London's parks. I think they've got the best outdoor spaces of any major city in the world.

I particularly love the rose garden in Regent's Park, but alas, the roses weren't in bloom in January, so instead I visited Holland Park (wild woodland and manicured gardens all in one tiny plot) and The Green Park:Its wide, wooded meadows are gorgeous even in wintertime.

After my Librarian cocktail at The Lanesborough I got a chance to see the hotel's new 'Lanesborough Suite'. Being a blogger has its perks sometimes, and checking out the 4000 sq feet of Alberto Pinto decorated gorgeousness was very fun:The Lanesborough Suite has four bedrooms, five and a half bathrooms, two living rooms, and one dining room with this hand-painted wallpaper:It's huge. And beautiful. And it's got a view of Hyde Park. And a butler. And this bed:If I win lotto, I'm moving in.

And before heading off to Heathrow after my super fun week, I snapped this perfect sunset view from Hungerford Bridge:I think London is the bee's knees -- I hope you've enjoyed my past week of posts on this fab city!

20 January 2012

London - Shopping

So, shopping...

I'm lucky to have so many international stores/brands in NYC, so I wanted to steer clear of all of them when I was shopping in London. The list below has stores that are unique to/based in London.

Dover Street Market:This is a concept shop a la Colette. It's five floors of fashion, shoes, jewelry, and apparently, Indian Headdresses(?). If you're looking for what's hip, look no further.

Another fashion forward shop I liked was Darkroom. They've got a little of everything from plush throw blankets to hand-stitched leather iPhone cases.

For bags and small leather goods I love Ally Capellino's clean, crisp designs:I bought a rucksack by her that's actually cute and doesn't look like part of a military uniform.

The best (and perhaps the best-looking) bookshop in town is definitely Daunt Books. I spent a good two hours one afternoon perusing their sizable travel collection and admiring the building's Edwardian architecture (image via):
For a well-curated selection of mid-century contemporary furniture, lighting, and accessories, visit twentytwentyone. Interior design enthusiasts will be inspired and delighted by their stock.

London does arcades - small, covered shopping streets - better than anyone else in the world. Check out that mahogany trim on the windows and the red carpet on the floor: Burlington Arcade houses Berk's super-soft cashmere collection and The Armoury of St James in Piccadilly Arcade sells hand-painted antique toy soldiers. There's truly something for everyone in these attractive arcades.

For department stores, Selfridges is my high-end chain of choice. They sell a number of brands that are available in the US, but they've also got unique features inside their stores like a food hall and champagne bar.

Speaking of food, Borough Market is the place to be Thursday-Saturday:It's a bustling outdoor market selling cheese, fruit, veggies, gourmet specialties, and tons of takeaways. Go early in the day - the market gets super crowded. And if you're into Spanish cuisine, get the spicy chorizo bun from Brindisa as a snack.

Paul A Young makes handmade gourmet chocolates that rival anything the French are cooking up across the Channel. I had a dark sea-salted rocher (made with 64% Madagascan dark chocolate) that was heavenly.

And for an effervescent B vitamin kick, stock up on Berocca from Boots Pharmacy:Since I've last been to London they've added two new flavors - Mixed Berries & Boost with Guarana. My mornings are brighter already.

Happy shopping in Londontown!

19 January 2012

London - Art and Music

I went on an art and music binge during my eight days in London. I could have stayed there for a month going to concert after concert and gallery after gallery (...but I would have missed my dog too much). Here are my music and art highlights.

For museums -- if you've done the major/popular ones like The British Museum and The V&A, I'd recommend these two...

Banqueting House:This architectural masterpiece was designed by Inigo Jones and built in 1621. I'm way into Palladianism, and if you like classical architecture his double-cube room is a must see.

Peter Paul Rubens' exquisite paintings are installed in the hall's ceiling. They're *huge* and jaw-droppingly beautiful:And there's a handy mirror available for viewing the canvases so that you don't have to crane your neck (very handy for those of us who recently had spinal surgery!).

Sir John Soane's Museum is housed in the former residence of the late, great Neoclassical architect. He combined three townhouses to make this huge, complicated home that visitors are now welcome to wander through.

Soane was known for experimenting with light. He built atriums in his townhouse, put in skylights on various floors, used colored glass, and even placed concave mirrors in his ceilings. It all sounds strange, but it creates some glorious interiors.

His breakfast room (image via):
If you're not so into the old stuff, The Tate Modern always has something intriguing rotating through its special exhibitions. The museum's galleries are set in the old Bankside Power Station, a soaring, massive industrial space that's perfect for viewing contemporary art.

I caught the tail end of their Gerhard Richter show. Here's one of his squeegee paintings:In 2012 the Tate Modern has got special exhibitions by Damien Hirst and Edvard Munch planned, so check it out if you're going to London in 2012.

For galleries, I highly recommend popping into the futuristic looking White Cube:They represent contemporary artists like Sam Taylor-Wood and Gary Hume; there's always something different and cool to gawk at/ponder at White Cube.

London has a vibrant street art scene, so you don't even have to go to a museum or gallery to get your art fix. I spotted this fabulous Banksy piece in Mayfair:Shop Till You Drop!

If you're into sculpture, The Royal Academy has this painted steel piece designed by Vladimir Tatlin. It's a model of Tatlin's Tower and it looks especially cool in Burlington House's old school courtyard:I loved the corresponding exhibition, Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture, so much that I bought the book -- in Russian(!).

For music lovers the Royal Opera House can't be beat. The hall is all majestic with its heavy velvet and shaded sconces:I almost got thrown out for snapping that iPhone pic, so I don't recommend taking photos inside the hall - just go to hear/see the opera.

During the intervals you can grab a glass of champagne in this marvelous converted flower market, now a bar/restaurant:
Even if you're not wild about classical music, I'd strongly urge you to see a concert at my all-time favorite chamber music venue, Wigmore Hall:The acoustics are nearly perfect, it's an intimate/cozy size, and it attracts world-famous soloists for recitals. I saw the excellent Razumovsky Ensemble, but there's always an excellent concert to choose from.

So, that's my art and music report for London. Shopping is up next...

17 January 2012

London - Drinks

Here are my favorite drinks - both with and without alcohol - in London...

I adore a good Flat White - an espresso drink that's similar to a latte, but tastes sweeter and has less milk/more microfoam - alas, they're all but impossible to find in NYC. Lucky for me they were all over London.

The best Flat White I had all trip was from Monmouth Coffee in Borough Market:It's a rustic space with fast service and strong, short coffees. I highly recommend you work this cafe into your visit.

Awww Monmouth Coffee Flat White, I heart you too:
The second best Flat White I had was from Salt in Covent Garden. This is a touristy area, but independent this shop is a welcome break from all the chains in the neighborhood.

I told the friendly barista I was on a mission to find the finest Flat White in town and he said he'd knock my socks off. Salt's Flat White - avec swan(!):Color me impressed by that serious latte art. I've seen a heart, and sometimes an ellipsis, but never a swan made out of milk. It tasted awesome too.

Honorable mention goes to The Espresso Room in Bloomsbury.

It was chilly and a bit damp in London, so when nighttime rolled around I was in the mood for a martini.

My favorite martinis were from Dukes Bar.

Dukes Hotel has a small, discreet cocktail bar off its lobby where Alessandro, their charming Italian bartender, makes some of the best martinis in the world. Alessandro has a small wooden trolley that he wheels out after you order, and as he prepares your martini tableside he tells you the story behind the drink, his inspiration for the recipe, or a fun tidbit about its ingredients. It's an old-school style of service I happen to love, and his drinks are KILLER.

I couldn't pick my favorite of Alessandro's martinis, so here are the two that tied for first place --

1. Ian Fleming's Classic Vesper:No.3 gin, Potocki vodka, Angostura bitters, and Dukes amber vermouth -- I felt like James Bond, just for a second when I drank it.

2. Dukes Gin Martini:Plymouth gin, Dukes extra dry vermouth, lemon oil -- classic and flawless.

My second favorite martini was at the Lanesborough's Library Bar. This bar is a *must-see*. I sunk into one of the Library Bar's plush velvet sofas set amongst the volumes of leather-bound classics in front of a roaring fireplace. It's a quintessentially English and perfectly cozy space.

I had their signature drink, The Librarian:Cognac, Visciolata Cherry Wine, Antica Formula Vermouth, and Drops of Peychaud Bitter.

Seriously strong stuff, but also seriously delicious... and served in a cut crystal glass with linen cocktail napkins. The ceremony, service, and ambiance made me feel like ordering a shelf full of Librarians. (Don't worry, I stopped at one.)

Honorable mention goes to Nightjar's English Mule cocktail.

So whether you're into coffees or martinis, I hope you'll find this list helpful on your next trip to London.


04 January 2012

The Mount

Last year I visited The Mount, Edith Wharton's glorious estate in Lenox, Massachusetts:This grand home and its gardens are a must see for classical architecture buffs and American literature buffs alike.

Here's a peek at my pics from my visit to this newly re-opened estate:
Edith Wharton was an uber talented writer, producing classics like Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence, but she also excelled at architecture and design. She came up with the majority of the plans and details for The Mount:
There are many Italian influences inside the home, especially in the main floor's Gallery:The floors are terrazzo and marble, and the sculptures were collected during Wharton's travels in Europe.

A shot of the peachy colored dining room:Those plaster garlands of fruits and birds are exquisite.

Edith Wharton's Tiffany Blue Boudoir:The floral still-life paintings came from Milan and were set into the paneling.

Classical ornament intricately carved into the house's doorknobs:
The Mount's grounds are *gorgeous*.

Edith Wharton was passionate about gardening, and even told her friends that she was a better landscape gardener than novelist(!).

A shot out over the house's terrace to the Lime Walk, a gravel path lined with Linden trees:Strolling down the Lime Walk:The French-style flower garden, complete with Wharton's original dolphin fountain in the center:If you visit The Mount, be sure it's on a nice day so you can wander around the 150 well-tended acres.

Edith Wharton Restoration, a non-profit group, is constantly working to renovate other out buildings on The Mount's property. Next up they'll be restoring the Stables:The Mount's grounds are open year-round, and its interiors are open from early May to late October. If you're in the Berkshires, I highly recommend a visit to this architectural gem.

The Mount - Edith Wharton's Estate and Gardens.