Glenmere Mansion

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With the rush of family life and work, it’s easy to slide into a routine.  With our second daughter’s impending arrival this spring, we took time away for ourselves…and as lovers.   We needed a change of scenery and had a yearning to slow down and have it just be the two of us.  Being at risk for pre-term labor, my doctor advised me to cancel travel plans and stick close to home.  So, we found our little escape in a hilltop estate an hour and a half from the city, tucked away in the Hudson Valley, a literal home away from home.

Glenmere Mansion was inspired by Italian architecture, which brought back memories of the day after our Italian wedding, when it was just the two of us.  We had slow mornings with time to read a book, long walks under bright springtime skies, nights spent curled up by the fireplace drinking wine and listening to Ornella Vanoni.  It was just what we needed.

Abstract time.

A pause on a moment…

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Spring Baby Shower

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The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, spring was definitely in the air.  It was the perfect day for a celebration.  We were to celebrate the May arrival of our second daughter…

A couple of months ago, I had just finished having lunch with my friend Anna when she texted me and said, “I want to host your baby shower!” I was surprised and touched.  I had been thinking about planning some sort of party and needed this kind of motivation.  And it’s definitely more fun doing it with a friend, especially one full of wonderful ideas like Anna!  So, we got started by first choosing a location.  I wanted something that felt rustic and comfortable, so Anna immediately sent over options.  We took a look at places in Brooklyn and even upstate in Bedford, but when I came across Freemans on the Lower East Side, I thought, OF COURSE!

LOCATION

Freemans’ private rooms feel like walking into someone’s home.  It was casual with all of the little details that I love.  Walls of bookcases are filled with books, antiques are scattered all around the room, worn farmtables and sunken sofas make it feel like the country house one’s stylish and eclectic grandmother may have.  Although, when you look out the window onto the fire escape and charming little alleyway, there’s no denying that you’re in Manhattan.

INVITATIONS

After the location was chosen, I sent out Save the Dates and invitations from Paperless Post.  I’m a bit old fashioned when it comes to invitations and prefer them tangible.  Paperless Post was great for timely Save the Dates and keeping track of things digitally, but could still print and get the invitation to my door in three days!

I narrowed the design selections to a few and let my husband have the final say.  He chose little rubber ducks as it reminds him of the baths our daughter, Aderyn, loves so much.  I decided to go with a weightier card stock to make the invitation even more special.

GIFTS AND FAVORS

Being that we are having our second child not long after our first, I still have everything I need.  It also helps that we will have two daughters that can share a lot of things.

We have been sponsors to a little girl in Vietnam through Save the Children and thought our friends and family may want to contribute to this charity as well.  So, in lieu of presents to just our little girl, we asked everyone to give a gift to the children of the world instead.  How much nicer is that?

Being that it was a shower, Anna wouldn’t let me get away with ditching the party games!  For prizes, we gave out bags from the charity FEED that works with artisans all over the world whose designs fund meals for poverty stricken children.  Anna is in love with all things artisanal, especially when paired with a good cause, so as a little thank you, I gave her FEED’s hand beaded bag which uses traditional techniques in Kenya and will provide 370 meals in Kenyan schools.

DECOR

You rarely find my house without flowers, so that was one of the first things I thought about.  I emailed Liza over at Peartree Flowers, whose designs were just the aesthetic I was wanting for the occasion.  “I want it to be wild and ‘springy.'” And that’s just what she delivered.  I walked into the room and the flowers looked like they were plucked from that perfect spring meadow you picture in dreams (or am I the only one that pictures spring meadows in my dreams?)!   Each arrangement was soft and perfectly imperfect with a variety of textures and colors.  No two were alike.  It was exactly what I envisioned for such a special occasion.

To add to the table decor, I found adorable duck topiaries at Pottery Barn that gave a little nod to the invitation design.  They arrived much earlier than I expected, so I tried my best to keep the ivy alive until the day of the brunch!

Anna sourced beautiful nests that were made by hand from Etsy.  While I was on the Upper East Side, I stopped into La Maison du Chocolat.  Their chocolates are not only beautiful to eat, they’re beautiful to look at as well.  I chose praline eggs wrapped in pretty antiqued pink and gold foil to place inside the little nests.

THE DRESS

Being 35 weeks pregnant can have its challenges in finding a dress that’s comfortable and stylish.  I looked to some of my favorite sites like Shrimpton Couture and Sielian’s for some of the best vintage and Net-a-Porter and Moda Operandi for current designer pieces.  In the end, I was deciding between two dresses, a romantic polka dot Zimmerman and a more architectural dress by another Australian designer, Toni Maticevski.  I ended up with the Maticevski.  It just felt unexpected and fresh.  I paired it with things I already had in my closet, a floral hat and embroidered Yves Saint Laurent heels.

THE GUESTS (MOST IMPORTANTLY!)

As we take on adding another dimension under our roof, a lot of thoughts and emotions have come over me.  There are a lot of moving parts to having children.  I thought about a lot of them before we had kids (mostly with trepidation!), but never really (let myself) dwell on details too much.  My husband and I kind of throw fate to the wind and try to do what feels right to us, not everyone else (as you should, right?).

I recently went to a baby shower in my hometown of Houston.  It was a beautiful gathering with friends and a lot of family.  Fathers made heartfelt speeches, sisters helped with the planning…it was definitely a special occasion for the entire family.  I loved it.

When the RSVPs started coming in for our little celebration, I realized there would be no father speeches or sisters getting excited about planning the details.  With my sister all the way in Australia and my mother’s (Texas) and husband’s family’s (England) aversion to travel, we just weren’t going to have that.  Maybe it’s part of the whole “nesting” process they say pregnant women go through, but I was feeling a bit down about the whole thing.  I told my mother about it and she pointed out (in a round about way) that I have all of my friends.

And she had a point, whether she meant to or not!  Family isn’t only defined by blood.  We’ve made our own rules on how we are going to raise our children and the type of lifestyle we would live with them.  If anything, our friends have become even more important to us as we navigate through raising children thousands of miles away from our families.

If you read my blog, you know that when I was pregnant with Aderyn, I lost one of my best friends to cancer.  It had been two months since she died and it was hard thinking about celebrating something, even if it was my first child.  My friends, Tina and Manisha, were so wonderful and hosted a little brunch with a small group of girlfriends, a couple of which flew in for the occasion.  Nothing too overwhelming, just some of my best gal pals.  I remember looking around the table at these wonderful women that I had in my life and feeling very lucky to be in their company and to have their unconditional love and support.  We laughed, we cried.  Needless to say, it was a very emotional afternoon for me!  These moments are what bring you closer together and create even stronger bonds.

My first baby shower was such a lovely experience that I thought why should Kayvaun miss out this time?  A lot of people don’t have baby showers for their second child, but I don’t see why the second should be left out.  They are just as important to celebrate!  And fathers should get to be a part of that too.  This time around, we broke the norm and invited everyone to come and celebrate this important milestone in our lives.  It was wonderful.  Our lives felt richer that afternoon.  Occasions like these are a nice way of telling people how much impact they have in your lives and to celebrate each other.  When a girlfriend asked me today how the party went, I responded, “I couldn’t have asked for more.”  And it was true.  To have our parents and siblings there would have just been icing on the cake.  Maybe next time!

Sometimes you can get bogged down by tradition and what is supposed to be by standard definitions, but in the end we are the only ones in control of the things that mean something to us.

With that being said, here’s a little glimpse into our celebration of a new little life and friendship…

(p.s. Thank you Azadeh for taking the wonderful photos that I couldn’t…love you.)

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(I lied.  We did have family at the shower.  The family representative was Ramin, Azadeh and Arran who we are so happy moved to New York and just live downtown!)

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Antico Setificio Fiorentino

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Originally destined to grace noble families and their palaces, Antico Setificio Fiorentino and its lustrously woven silks are tucked away behind an unassuming gate in the San Frediano area of Florence.  Antico Setificio opened its doors in 1786 when nine noble families decided to combine their personal workshops.  Popes and Kings would marvel at the craftsmanship coming off of its looms (one designed by da Vinci!).  Today, those same looms are still used.

Silk production in Italy goes back to the 13th century when 2000 weavers came over from Constantinople.  The desire for silk created the infamous Silk Road, which is where the exchange of culture happened.  Everything from art to technology spread from country to country.  When diseases like the bubonic plague spread by way of the Silk Road, this forced merchants to take to sea and commenced the Age of Discovery, creating the beginnings of a global society.  So in a quiet little courtyard with the sounds of looms and shuttles clacking, you’ll find a a little piece of history that is still surviving.

Everything is custom here, from dyeing the fabrics to the patterns.  It is very satisfying to walk the streets of Florence and peek into small workshops that are still creating.  The appreciation of artisanship and fine workmanship are still kept alive in certain parts of the world and is not completely lost in today’s culture of fast fashion.

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|Above| These cards have holes punched into them that the machine works off of to create patterns.  The first computers!

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|Above and below| Everything is made by hand, like these beautifully knotted tassels.

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Taking Her to Italy

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The first city I ever visited in Italy was Rome.  I was nineteen.  I was traveling with my boyfriend at the time.  A couple of days into our trip, we ended up getting into a huge fight.  It was one of those fights that seemed so important at the time, but you can’t remember the details of later.  I told him I needed time to think.  I walked out onto the worn cobbled streets, disappointed that I came all the way to Rome, a place I had daydreamed about, just to walk around alone.  Funnily enough, now I look forward to quiet walks on my own.

At the time, Rome to me was Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.  It was the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, marble and granite, ball gowns and grand facades, cypress trees and staircases, afternoon gelato, the smell of fresh bread and olive oil, Vespas and the Spanish Steps, a hot summer’s day and romance.  It continues to be and so much more.

I remember crossing the Ponte Sant’Angelo or “Bridge of Angels” lost in my thoughts and questioning how I could be with someone that I couldn’t get along with in a place that was so beautiful.  I was a romantic. My friends will say I still am.

We made up before the flight back home and it took quite a few more arguments before I resolved to the idea that he wasn’t the right guy for me.  I was also a slow learner. Unlike Rome – I knew right away that Rome was the One.

That trip didn’t ruin the fantasy that I dreamed up this city to be.  And it is that, this beautiful fantasy that I get to live out with every trip I’ve made back since.  That love affair has expanded to many Italian cities over the years.  When my husband first took me to the Amalfi Coast, I fell madly in love.  So much so that we came back and got married on one of its hilltops.  Over the years, Florence has also started its way into my heart.

A city is what it does to you and the stories you tell about it.  Maybe Rome reminds me of New York in some ways.  It forces me to face humanity and see its continuity in the stream of time.  On the right day, in the right light, on the right street, you can feel a kind of magic.

Now that we have a daughter, we realize she will have her own experiences, her own heartbreaks, and she will marvel at someplace beautiful just as I had standing on that bridge.  Kayvaun said he wanted to be the first to show her Italy.  He wanted her to have memories and to look back at photos and know that she will always have the heart of the first man to take her to this special place.

It always feels like coming home…

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Florentine Dreams

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I have a deep affection for Italy.  All of my cinematic dreams come true when I’m there.  It holds the kind of seductive and romantic pleasures that somehow only Italy knows how to do.

Florence is a place in Italy, amongst many, I keep coming back to.  To me, the city is a daydream wrapped in the finest of silk.  Over the years, I’ve fallen more widely and deeply in love with it, with its warmth and mystery, with its fictions and its truths, with its beauty and decay, with its long magnificent history.

We had a few days, a suite at the St. Regis with views of the magical reflections in the Arno River and keys to a 1966 Alfa Romeo.  The purr of an Italian sports car, the stunning Italian scenery, (Italian shopping!), and all of Florence’s wonders lay before us.

We just had to live it…

i-sgxf6w5|Above| 1930s lounging gowni-pwqw6gqi-pf68ktri-kdscpqbi-mmxb3fni-5m78qjn|Above| 1960s wool kick pleat dress, Christian Louboutin kitten heelsi-spb7fggi-gkhdssdi-vsmbgmq

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|Above| Banana Republic sweater, Persol sunglasses (of course!), Alfa Romeo provided by Zephyrus

|Below| Prada bow top, Loro Piana cashmere skirt, Club Monaco Tierney booties

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|Below| Aubade Tickle Belle bra and briefs

|Above|  Nina Ricci sweater, Dolce & Gabanna skirt, Christian Louboutin bow kitten heels

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Saint Emilion, Bordeaux Wine Country

St. Emilion is the jewel of what is known as the Right Bank (in wine world terms).  On the Girond estuary is a magic kingdom that houses legendary names like Petrus of Pomerol and Cheval Blanc.  In early September, we stayed on the outskirts of the village of St. Emilion in a chateaux surrounded by postcard pretty hills and rows upon endless rows of vineyards bursting with grapes almost ready for the season’s harvest.

We spent our mornings waking up early to visit the boulangerie on the edge of the village for straight-from-the-oven croissants and baguettes.  A few of the croissants never made the journey back to the chateaux as it was a test of will getting the light as air, buttery, pillows of happiness back without devouring them all.  My sister and I easily gave into temptation without a drop of guilt, crumbs still on our lips as we walked through the front door.

There’s a very pretty farmer’s market in Libourne where we visited the handsome cheesemonger and again overindulged, bringing back beautiful camembert and brie.  With fresh poulet from the butcher’s, a colorful collection of fruits and vegetables from the market, we got started in our French country kitchen with songs from old French records wafting about the chateaux and out into the garden where we set our table for the feast.

Eating beautiful food, drinking to celebrate being together, wandering around and discovering a fairytale town with the ones we love…it was truly a memory that we won’t soon forget.

Pour Me a Drink in Paris

Having been lucky enough to visit Paris many times, I’ve realized that Paris (like most places) must be done slowly. Waiting in long lines and shuffling in crowds is rarely ever worth it, no matter how many books that painting has been printed in over the years.  There is a luxury in long afternoon walks with nowhere in particular to go.  Paris is one of those places that never gets crossed off the list, a place I want to return to over and over again. To leave my beautiful Left Bank apartment, wander her architectural streets, and marvel at the light that dances on rooftops and through windowpanes…it is pure pleasure.

I love photographing Paris in black and white.  The city has a classical feel to it that it seems natural to see her in the simplest of forms and experience what she brings your way organically.  It’s just my camera, a few rolls of film…and her (and a glass of wine in a few cafes along the way).

Sous le Ciel de Paris (Under Paris Skies)

It’s supposed to rain in New York today, so I’ve got a pot of tea and my cozy chair to curl up in by the window while I watch for grey skies.  Looking through my photographs of Paris, I remember a lot of grey days, but then there were days where the sky was perfectly blue and the clouds were perfectly fluffy and changed colors as the sun moved.  With Paris’ glamourous architecture backed up against full expanses of sky, manmade beauty and nature come together and create something terribly inspiring.

Thinking about those late summer skies in Paris…  

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La Perouse, Paris

The storied Parisienne restaurant that has hosted a most discreet clientele since 1766 is a place for one to enchant and be enchanted.  There is a narrow staircase that takes you up to the private ‘petite salons’ where amongst the velvet furnishings and gilded walls, many a seductions have taken place.  With a special bell, the waiters will only enter when summoned.  It’s the ideal place for romantic interludes and a truly private dining experience.

|Above| “…Hardly naïve “cocottes” had the habit of carving their names with the diamonds that their gentlemen had just given them, in order to verify that their ‘attentions’ were not being rewarded by a vulgar piece of glass.”

|Below|  It was a beautiful summer evening, so before dinner, we strolled along the storied Seine, where many romantic rendezvous through the ages have taken place.  Paris is synonymous with glamour and classic beauty, so it seemed fitting to dress in Christian Dior, a designer so legendarily linked to this city.  Slinky in a bias cut powder blue, this was the perfect dress for a special night in Paris.

Pied-à-Terre, 6th Arrondissement

If you’ve been following my Instagram, you’ll know that we just arrived back in New York after traveling in Europe for the past month.  As I go through photographs, memories of our first stop in Paris fill my head, including our time in a beautiful mansion built in 1690 on the Left Bank in Saint Germain.

With our jetlag, we quite often found ourselves up until 1 a.m., glasses filled with Burgundy, reading selections from a book of Proust taken from the library. When the second bottle of wine was opened, we played old recordings of Frances Montrand and danced around on the cabochon floors (on occasion a bit too loudly for the tastes of our downstairs neighbor).

I loved taking early morning walks through the neighborhood, seeing how locals live, watching tuxedo-clad waiters set up cafe tables and shop owners open their shutters.  I’d sometimes pass by the church of Saint Sulpice and walk until I found myself on the banks of my beloved Seine.  On other mornings, we’d go across the street to the Jardin du Luxembourg and take a coffee (my driver proclaimed it the most beautiful garden in Paris).  The afternoon marionette show was a wonderful little gem to experience with the children.

Filled with crystal chandeliers, gorgeous antiques, a claw foot tub, French doors, oil paintings, and history (the building was photographed by pioneer photographers Atget and Doisneau), this beautiful little piece of Paris let us live out our dreams of our own pied-à-terre, even if just for a week.

It can be yours too if you click here.

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