Friday, November 25, 2011


We've fallen in with a group of friends who try to meet for breakfast on Saturday mornings at the ungodly hour of 8:45. Our daughter's athletic practices, meets and scrimmages usually take precedence but on those Saturdays when there are no practices and she can sleep late we'll sneak off to join the crew of regulars downing pots of coffee and devouring plates of golden scrambled eggs and fluffy pancakes swimming in pools of artificial maple syrup. We haven't garnered tenure within the group yet, we're still too new. Frequently, when we arrive there's a table full of faces we still don't have names for. Last Saturday, as we joined the gossip gathering another new face was there finishing a plate of Greece inspired breakfast fare and talking about having to leave so she could get to her booth at the Holiday Art Fair at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. The fair had started the day before but his was the first we'd heard of it. We're still not sufficiently plugged in to the event scene in Madison. We're suckers for any of these fair events. We're on a constant treasure hunt for new people we can draw into our mix at the store and the more local, the better.
I sat down next to Joan and Rick sat across from her. The poor woman was locked into having to deal with us. As our introduction included her eminent departure for her booth at the fair, our obvious first question was, "What kind of art do you do?" That just opened the door and we were off and running. She designs jewelry out of buttons: new buttons, vintage buttons, precious buttons, all kinds of buttons. We have a bad habit when it comes to buttons. We covet them and that ain't pretty.
Joan's button jewelry runs from the obvious necklaces, earrings and bracelets to the not so obvious scarves. We decided we had to go to the fair to see Joan's work up close and personal. When we got there we found her booth right away. Her pieces were both beautiful and whimsical.
You could dress them down over a t-shirt and jeans or show them off at an elegant affair over a simple black dress. You can find her work at, and see for yourself how terrific her work really is.
After seeing Joan's booth any thing else we might find at the fair was going to be pure gravy to our adventure. For us, if we can find one vendor at one of these events we consider it a success. At this fair we found three. Joan was our first, and then there were the girls from Warm Heart Mittens. Jean Shaw and Debi Garner scourer the sweater bins at Goodwill and St. Vincent DePaul's looking for the perfect pullovers and cardigans to make into the most intriguing mittens we've ever seen, and of course, they decorate their mittens with great buttons. We're looking for a date when we can have Joan and the girls do a trunk show at the store so we can share their great designs with all of our customers
The last artist to sweep us away was Little John and his brooms. John has taken his sense of humor and wrapped it around the mundane art of domestic cleaning tools creating brooms even Harry Potter would be proud to use at the World Quidditch Championships.
John Holzwart repertoire of brooms includes the likes of  the two-headed broom, the guitar handled broom, the kegger broom, and brooms with forged iron handles. His work is truly amazing and useful at the same time.  

We were, as usual, late for the Monona Grove Girls Basketball potluck. I was under the assumption that a potluck was a "casual communal meal to which people bring food to share". You mingle, you eat, you brag a little about your kid and you go home. The event was to start at We arrived at 5:27, 12 minutes and 24 seconds into the coach's Powerpoint presentation on goals, sportsmanship and fund raising activities. When you're the same-sex parents of a fifteen year-old jv basketball player you don't need an additional reason to turn heads. We gave our nervous smiles as we snaked our way to the food tables and then tried to find seats so the coach could resume his telling the assembled parents and players about the importance of showing up on time. We'll be showing up early from now on. After the speech, or lecture for us, they opened the buffet up to the players first and then the parents and assembled guests. Rick had made a savory bread pudding with sausage and mozzarella at my request. Once again we stood out like a sore thumb but this time it was for a good reason. Several of the parents had huddled around at the end of the event watching our empty plate to see who was going to go and claim the our cleaned out pyrex pan. When Rick started collecting our serving utensils and cloth napkins he was surrounded by a bevy of Nordic mothers with linked arms demanding recipes and like a phalanx of defensive football players they weren't going to let him gain a yard unless he coughed up the goods. So ladies and gentlemen here's the recipe for Rick's Savory Sausage and Mozzarella Bread Pudding.

You'll get 10 to 12 good-sized servings or enough small ones to go around at a potluck

 1 Loaf crusty country-style white bread
 1 Cake day old cornbread
1/4 cup olive oil
 1 cup chopped fresh herbs(sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme &
 1 large garlic clove, minced
    1 stick sweet butter
 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced celery

 1pint heavy whipping cream
 8 large eggs
 2 teaspoons salt
 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
    1/2 lb chopped or grated Mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.  Cut bread with crust and cornbread into 1-inch cubes (about 10 cups loosely packed). Place cubes in very large roasting pan. Add oil, chopped herbs, and garlic; toss to coat. Spread cubes. Bake until golden and slightly crunchy, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Put toasted bread cubes in buttered baking dish dusted with grated parmesan cheese.
Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the sausage until fully cooked  and then add onion and celery. sauté until soft and juices have evaporated, about 15 minutes. Mix sausage, sautéed onions and celery and mozzarella cheese with the toasted bread cubes.
Whisk heavy cream, eggs, , salt, and ground pepper in large bowl. Mix custard into bread and vegetables. Transfer stuffing to prepared glass baking dish. Sprinkle cheese over.
Turn oven to 350°F. Bake pudding uncovered until set and top is golden, about 1 hour. Let stand 15 minutes.
Now we're willing to share this recipe for the savory pudding but we're going to hold back on the sweet version.

I have always contended that good design doesn't depend on money, at least not money alone.   I've spent a career matching "the proverbial Gap T-shirts with Armani suits "or the decorating equivalent to that fashion trick employed by many even the ever stylish Sharon Stone in order to create beautiful spaces while trying to stay on budget.  The trick here is to watch the quality quotient.  Finish is usually the first give-away of a poor quality item.  Wood should look like wood, stone should look like stone, and you get the idea.  These days construction doesn't have to be flimsy to make something for a lesser price and veneers are used throughout the industry whether high or low.  Just pay attention to how they are cut, glued up and used.  MDF is not a four-letter word but particleboard is.  Structure is important.  Chairs, sofas and benches should support people of substantial size and tables should never wobble. This week's daybeds are a perfect place for that after Thanksgiving nap when the only thing you want to do is repent for all the food you couldn't stop eating.

This week's finds:
More: The Fifth Avenue Daybed by Donghia $6,989.00 plus customer's own fabric

Less: The Simone Daybed at Crate & Barrel $999.00 in 23 different fabrics


Migrant Mother, 1936
By photographer, Dorothea Lange
Represented by Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
Least we forget all that we have to be thankful for

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Our Atlanta friend, Susan, found herself in Madison on a one-day pitch to a local company. We've known Susan, Randy and their son, Andrew for more years than any of us are willing to admit. For years our Thanksgiving ritual would include Susan's family. We even drove down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and vacationed together for several summers, but we hadn't seen each other for several years. When Susan found out she was going to be in Madison she called us up and told us to pick out a good restaurant. We'd meet for dinner and a drink or two. Well into our entrée and just before dessert and a trip through the bitters wall at Merchants Susan started to regale us about her favorite Southern magazine, Garden&Gun. Neither Rick nor I drink much anymore, but Susan can still put down a few. We thought possibly it was the wine talking and this was another attempt at Susan humor. No. She was dead serious. This was a real magazine with a real readership, why very few of us in the north haven't heard of this is a bit of a mystery. We acted as if we were from Missouri, the show-me-state, we'd wait to see it to believe it. Low and behold, one week later, there in our mailbox was a manila envelope with Susan's Atlanta return address and a copy of Garden&Gun enclosed.  It turns out it's a very slick magazine with a lot of Southern charm.
Where else can you find an article on culinary foam being compared to "that stuff you see on leaves in the woods, called cuckoo spit" or the reminiscences of an eleven year-old boy shooting his first dove, cutting its breast out and toasting it on a triscuit. I'm not sure if the writing is tongue-in-cheek but much of it is rib splitting hilarious. I've not seen Garden&Gun on my local Barnes&Noble shelves but even as a snobby northerner I'm sold on this southern rag.

Rick loves to lounge in bed with a huge stack of shelter and food magazines piled on the bed and a 16 oz. thin-rimmed glass filled with iced tea or Diet Pepsi sitting on the bedside table in easy reach. It helps if it's drizzly outside or if a nice blanket of falling snow can be seen through the window. Back in early spring of 2000 we were having just that sort of day. While thumbing through the April issue of Architectural Digest he yelled for me to come in from the next room because I had to look at Stephen Shadley's restoration of Director Wallace Neff's Spanish-style Beverly Hills residence for Diane Keaton. Anything interior or fashion design baring Diane Keaton's name is worth looking at. I was on the bed in a minute.
As I was devouring the article Rick began his favorite Diane Keaton story. "When I was twenty-one I moved to New York City and fell in love with it and the life it offered.  Theatre, music, art, dance, design, it was all there at my feet and I took advantage of as much as I could.  At the time there was a small supper club named "Reno Sweeney's" that featured edgy performers like Hollywood Lawn of Andy Warhol fame and up and comers like Peter Allen (one of Liza Minelli's husbands and the inspiration for "The Boy From Oz").  One night I went to see a not so well known actress who had put together a cabaret act. That was the night I fell in love with everything Diane Keaton.  I had a huge fight with the friend I went with because he thought she was "bland and talentless". Needless to say, I won that argument. Not only do I find her captivating and immensely talented, I think she is incredibly smart, terribly funny and smashingly stylish. Not normally one to fawn over celebrities, I made an exception that night. I stayed to watch her whole show and afterwards I found the courage to go up to her and tell her how great I thought she was."
The stylishness of Diane Keaton was all over this restoration. The image we fell in love with was an exterior space where Shadley had extended existing timbers out over a patio to create a pergola. He placed two wooden plank tables end-to-end to create one twelve foot long eating area and surrounded the table with a collection of ten vintage metal lawn chairs, the finishing touch - a 1937 western painting by Pete Martinez and a beautiful vintage arts & crafts sconce. The simplicity of effort creates the most seductive of eating environments we'd seen. It's amazing how 12 years later Ms. Keaton and that image still make us swoon.

The first thing I'd go after are the chairs. Ebay, Etsy and all the rest have gobs of vintage lawn chairs available, most in the $25 to $60 range. For me, a little rust is a good thing. If the chairs are too pristine they don't bring the necessary character and charm to the table. After the chairs it's time to go after the table.
There are plenty wooden dining tables both contemporary and vintage out there. You can spend a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand dollars for them like this one from Scout Chicago. If these prices are too steep I'd consider making one myself. Go to Craig's List and look for barn wood. If you're anywhere near a rural area there always seems to be a farmer out there with a dilapidated barn willing to sell a few good planks for the top of your table. Make an apron for support and attach the planks to the top. For legs, go to your local hardware or Home Depot store and buy flanges, threaded pipe and metal caps, four sets for a short table six for a longer one. Screw the flange to underside of the table; it's best to have reinforced the underside with a heavier wooden cross brace. Then screw in your pipe legs and add the caps as feet. You can finish the barn wood by sanding it, staining it, or polyurethaning it, or you can leave it in its natural state. The choice is up to you. If you can't afford a Pete Martinez painting go with planted shrubs or hanging baskets of flowers for color. Now bring out the fiestaware, some candles and you're ready for dining al fresco with the fabulous Diane Keaton.

Here's the deal:
1. Register your American Express card online at:
2.Shop and spend $25 or more using your registered card at Pleasant Living on Saturday, November 26, 20011
3. Get  a $25 statement credit on your cards account.

It's like getting a free gift for Grandma. Check one person off your gift list - for free. Well, you've got to go through the registration process and time is money but it's pretty simple and only takes about 45 seconds to complete the registration. We'd really like to see you and we'd even do the gift-wrapping on any gift that will fit in one of our gift boxes.


Diane Keaton, 1986
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz
Represented by Danziger Gallery, New York City

Saturday, November 12, 2011

NEW YORK 11/11/11

It was one of those half dozen days in the city when the sky was that pure blue, the kind of blue that stays blue for as far as you can see. Most days the New York sky has that element of gray that clouds the view in the city. Everything gets dulled down as it moves farther and farther away until it disappears into the invisible. It was a Tuesday. It was four days before my birthday. That Monday Emmy had her first day of kindergarten. They had broken the class up into two groups, one went to school for a half-day on Monday the other half was to go on Tuesday and then the whole class was to show up on Wednesday. Emmy had been in the Monday group. She was home on Tuesday. Rick had left early for the office. I was still at home waiting for our nanny to show up. Our apartment was on the thirtieth floor on East 29st Street. The apartment faced north. It had this amazing view of Manhattan. The Empire State Building was in touching distance. We told Emmy it was her nightlight. Around eight that morning Angelina, Emmy's nanny, got to the apartment. Some time around nine my sister called from Wisconsin. She asked if we had the TV on. One of the first things I do in the morning is turn on the Today Show. That day I hadn't. That day our view north from 29th Street was nothing but blue sky, the black smoke from the World Trade Center only blew south and west that day.
Ever since that day I've had no desire to go back down to the World Trade Center site. I've avoided it. Even when we moved down to John Street. We were only a block and a half away but I still cast my eyes in another direction each time I passed near enough to have seen it. It was my way of preserving those towers and all those who weren't with us anymore. If I didn't look, I wouldn't see that it was gone.
We were back in New York last week, working on a new set of projects. I still think of Manhattan as my home. In my mind I refer to Madison as our new country home. With the Memorial now in place I thought it was time to face the loss. On Monday I went down to lower Manhattan. There were new spires and glass facades reaching out and starting to form a new skyline for the city. It was time to embrace a look forward and to give up the past.
When the call went out for designs for the Memorial we had made a submission along with over 5000 others. When I went downtown I didn't have a ticket, you need one now to be able to get into the Memorial area, so I walked the perimeter to get a look at what finally came to be. It was decided that a void was more appropriate than a monument. This was not a part of the request for entries but a subsequent piece of criteria added by the architect so no new building would compete with his designs.
Our design fed off the iconic images of the city and was more interactive for those family and friends left behind. It was a different approach that wouldn't have worked as well with the new structures that are being erected now. The simplicity and peacefulness of what is there is what is appropriate. It is a new beginning in an old place and I no longer feel the need to close my eyes as I walk by.

THE 99%
It was impossible to walk down to the WTC site without being drawn into the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. The constant beating of the drums and blowing whistles was a big cause for rubbernecking. There was a magnetic draw from the music and an equally strong repulsion from the stench once you got up close to the tent city. Temporary structures had been linked together. Little alleyways snaked through the maze of tents. It was Mumbai, India in miniature with the unwashed living in squalor and joy at the same time.

The weather in New York was perfect for the week we spent there. We ended up doing more walking than we would have if the temperature had been the normal briskness of November rather than the pleasantly mild surprise we were given.  We were staying on the upper Westside but frequently had to get over to the upper Eastside to catch the jitney out to the Hamptons, or check up on a client, or roam the halls of the D&D Building in search of missing fabrics. On Friday we decided to cut through the park, Central Park. There in a field were planted two sets of three different sized hoops held up on poles at varying heights. The two sets of hoops were separated by a field about three quarters the size of a traditional football field where about twenty people where running with brooms stuck between their legs, throwing balls at each other and chasing another person dressed in gold. We had stumbled on a very intense game of Quidditch and the gold dude was the snitch.
We had encountered a practice workout for the up coming Qudditch World Cup. One hundred teams from all over the world were preparing for the title of 2011 Quidditch Champs. I'd like to say only in New York but I guess craziness knows no bounds.


View Looking North, Bridge No. 24, Southwest Reservoir, 1984
Photographed by Jet Lowe
For the National Park Service
Available from the Library of Congress, digital ID hhh.ny1583

Friday, November 4, 2011


When Rick gets frustrated with life here in the Midwest he's apt to refer to Madison as a provincial backwater, but not this past Thursday evening. Friends he'd met through the Boston Store had invited us to a private party sponsored by the local rotary club at the new addition to the Chazen Museum of Art. Madison's International Rotary Club, as it turns out, is no ordinary rotary club. Of the 34,000 clubs worldwide Madison ranks fifth in membership. On top of their amazing philanthropic work, their motto is Service above Self, they hold regular meetings with world-renowned guest speakers. We were excited to just be going out. It was a balmy October night. Most of the leaves had fallen off the trees making a brown scratchy blanket on the sidewalks. The Chazen stands on the east end of campus at the University of Wisconsin.
The original part of the museum, designed by Harry Weese, opened as the Elvehjem Museum of Art in 1970. Most non-Scandinavians had a tough time wrapping their lips around that one so the museum's new name, The Chazen Museum of Art, may help spread the buzz and get this museum some of the praise it really deserves. That's right. This museum is definitely not provincial backwater.
Even before you walk inside the exterior puts forth a perfect blending of Mr. Weese's prominent horizontal lines and use of limestone and copper surfaces. As an added design feature, the logo for the museum is an iconic reduction of the capitalized letters to a circle, square and triangle. It's simplicity works perfectly with the primary forms and classical proportions of the buildings exterior designed by architects Machado + Silvetti.
A pedestrian walkway hugs one side of the building protecting a spectacular view from University Avenue to the lapping waves of Lake Mendota. From inside a wall of glass lights the arriving evening sky. The glass wall is clothed in a curtain that is more art than drapery, designed by Petra Blaisse of Inside Outside. During the day the textile artwork is wound around a track like the inside of a conch shell. At night it's unfurled showing its thrilling but complicated fractal inspired design. It's an absolutely mesmerizing element to the three-story lobby. The other side of the lobby is dominated by a stone staircase reminiscent of the staircase at the National Gallery of Art East Building in Washington DC designed by I.M. Pei.. It's the power of light and shadow and the way they define shape and space.
The interior galleries back off from emphasizing the architecture and provide a world-class backdrop for an impressive 2D and 3D art collection.
A golden glass bridge leads like a drawbridge over a moat into the main gallery. It almost works as a dare.

You need to commit to enter the castle of art, all 90,000 square feet of new display space for a collection of 20,000 items including Motherwells, Hockneys, Lichtensteins, Calders and Nevelsons. Once inside the second floor galleries there are these little alcoves where architecture takes over with lavender walls and a view of the Madison street scene outside that made us feel as if maybe we were back in New York.
The connecting bridge to the original section of the museum crosses over the pedestrian walkway connecting University Avenue to lake Mendota. We crossed the bridge at that moment of the night when the sky turns to Maxfield Parrish blue. The lighting on the sculpture pedestals on the connecting bridge matched the magic of the view.
The result of the evening - we bought memberships.


Place Saint-Sulpice, Paris, 1947
Photograph by Edouard Boubat
In the permanent collection at The Chazen Museum of Art