With apologies to Pierce and Rene…

12/08/2015 § Leave a comment

Because they’ll never be as cool as this.

The (REAL) Thomas Crown Affair (1968).

Ugh, so good.

Stream it here, buy it here.

The Art of the Home Bar (or, Low Grade Hoarding of the Spirited Kind)

01/07/2015 § Leave a comment

Quite Continental: The Art of the Home Bar

While I have yet to use the oven in the apartment I’ve lived in for over two years, one area of my kitchen that gets a fair amount of attention is my home bar.  What started out as a few bottles of my favorite spirits — no obscure liqueurs, no tools, no doo-dads — has gradually evolved into one of my favorite places in my apartment.  Its remarkable growth can be explained partially by the fact that I currently work in the spirits industry, but it’s also true that few things bring me more pleasure than collecting.

For spirits, my first look is Astor Wines.  They’re humongous.  But it’s definitely worth exploring your neighborhood to find a local shop you like.  They’ll be able to order you pretty much anything — as long as you ask them nicely.

For tools and glassware, check out Cocktail Kingdom.

For how to bring it all together, refer to the Death & Company Book.  Written by the folks behind one of New York’s preeminent cocktail bars, this tome is no joke.  Be prepared for indulgent discussions about the bar itself and the folks who work and drink there, and on how to make over 500 cocktails.  Mind you, “indulgent” in the best possible sort of way.

And if history is more your thing, David Wondrich just re-released his classic IMBIBE!, which traces the beginnings of the great American invention: the cocktail as we know it today.

Where to keep it all?  If you’re like me and have no space (hello teensy Soho apartment life), make due with the best surface available.  In my case, as shown above on Instagram, the bar is perched atop my midcentury modern dresser…which is technically in the kitchen.  I told you my apartment was small!  If you’ve got a little room to work with, I love bar carts like this one, this one and ESPECIALLY this one.

Lastly, I’m personally a big fan of straws and vintage swizzle sticks.  Add something personal or original to the mix to truly make it your bar.

Did I miss anything??

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Charming Spaces || Coastal Vibes

10/08/2014 § 3 Comments

Charming Spaces || Costal Vibes Charming Spaces || Costal Vibes Charming Spaces || Costal Vibes Charming Spaces || Costal Vibes Charming Spaces || Costal Vibes

Lovely bit of inspiration by way of Robert McKinley’s apartment in Chelsea, as captured by Nicole Franzen for T Magazine/NY Times.  Unfamiliar with McKinley?  He’s the interior designer and creative director behind places such as the Surf Lodge and Ruschmeyer’s in Montauk and the downtown outposts of Sant Ambroeus.  I’m feeling inspired by the relaxed, well-worn and faintly beachy style of his space, especially the palm frond curtains and that amazing rocking chair.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be stepping out shortly to track down one of those hurricane plants  Please hold my calls.

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In Memoriam, Inspired: November

01/12/2013 § Leave a comment

Nov17 Nov2 Nov3 Nov4 Nov21 Nov5 Nov25 Nov24 Nov6 Nov12 Nov16 Nov27 Nov7 Nov8 Nov1 Nov11 Nov13 Nov20 Nov18 Nov14 Nov19 Nov10 117237799.jpg Nov22 Nov26 Nov28Some of my favorite images from my Tumblr during the month of November.

In Memoriam, Inspired: October

31/10/2013 § 1 Comment

Oct15 Oct16 oct21 Oct2 Oct12 Oct4 Oct1 Oct13 Oct5 Oct19 Oct8 oct20 Oct9 Oct3 Oct11 Oct10 Oct18 Oct17 Oct7Inspiration from the month of October from my Tumblr.

In Memoriam, Inspired: August

02/09/2013 § Leave a comment

QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August

QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August QC In Memoriam: August Inspiration from the month of August from my Tumblr.  The grey weather today in New York definitely influenced the palette and assortment of images, but it also felt like an appropriate tone for bidding farewell to summer.

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 5 – The Bump

06/02/2013 § 12 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: The BumpMrs. Donn F. Eisele during her husband’s trip on the Apollo 7 mission, 1968.
Photo by Vernon Merritt, via Life.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
— Haruki Murakami

Day 5: The Bump
Most times my Charm School entries are plucked from the vintage-imbued ether that tends to swirl about my brain, but there are special times that I find inspiration in what is happening in my own life, or from conversations my friends and family.  Today’s lesson is of the latter category.  When I recently experienced a personal setback unrelated to the blog, it impacted my “production schedule” and, frankly, my motivation and pleasure for writing.  Aside from a general malaise about blogging, I also was sailing upon troubled waters.  I was upset, I was angry, I was hurt, I was worried, and the tumult of these feelings lead to a sort of paralysis — almost like a state of emotional shock.

While I felt like all I wanted to do was to sit on my couch and wring my hands, I knew that the only way to improve my current state was to affirmatively affect the present — not wallow in the past, nor worry about the future — after I took time to honor and own the emotions I was experiencing.  While a lot of this was work I had to do on myself, personally, my lovely family, friends and colleagues also played an important part, offering me support, advice and assistance in many different forms.  They listened to me.  They checked in on me.  They spent time with me.  And as they showed that they cared for me in ways large and small, it helped me to feel stronger.  I felt more and more like I didn’t want to wring my hands.  I felt like I wanted to move forward, and that I had the ability to do so.

I was especially affected by the words of someone very special to me, when we were discussing the fact that I was upset that I didn’t even feel like blogging — something I’ve always taken a lot of pleasure in doing.  He assured me that what I was feeling was okay, and possibly even a good sign, because it showed how much I cared about producing something I was proud of.  He also pointed out that my blog was a reflection of my life, and that with a full life there were bound to be bumps, so the blog was bound to have bumps too.  That I had to deal with the bump, ride over it, and — truthfully — try to be ready for the next one, and that I should not take less joy out of blogging because of the bump, because I was learning about myself.  I was growing.

So for today’s lesson, I want us all to focus on making The Bump our friend.  Whatever troubles you might be facing, big or small, if you can find a way to look at them as opportunities for growth, I can guarantee that you will feel empowered to make the affirmative steps to take yourself up off that couch and to stop wringing your hands.  We are only a victim of our circumstances if we allow ourselves to be.  Rude as it may be, The Bump is there to remind us that it is time to change our perspective.  Let’s enjoy the ride as much as we can.

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 2 – Forms of Address

02/02/2013 § 3 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: Forms of AddressLittle girl mailing a letter, 1920. Via the Smithsonian.

It is not titles that honour men, but men that honour titles.
–Niccolò Machiavelli

Day 2: Forms of Address
In an age that is dominated by electronic communications and a very simplified @-addressing system, it can be a bit overwhelming to try to remember the etiquette that governs correctly addressing correspondence. However, when one has his or her forms of address well in hand, it is a small gesture that demonstrates the proper respect by acknowledging a person’s professional and personal statuses.  Moreover, it will add a certain amount of elan to the lovely and disappearing practice we now call “snail mail” — and when properly employed with electronic messages, notice how it imbues a thoroughly modern mode of communication with an air of nostalgia and refinery.

Sidenote: was your first thought that today’s tip endorses a outdated system that traditionally prioritizes men and their titles (e.g., “Mr. and Mrs. John Doe”)?  If so, you’ll be happy to know that as part of a shift in general convention that largely took place in the second half of the last century regarding the status of women within society, the accepted ways to address women has also changed over time, placing men and women on more equal footing…on the back of our envelopes.

  • Ms. is the default correct way to address a woman, unless she has already indicated that she prefers Mrs.  Miss is typically used for girls.
  • It is equally correct to refer to a married woman who uses her husband’s last name as both Mrs. Jane Doe and Mrs. John Doe — i.e., using her own first name.
  • When addressing a couple, you need not refer to the man first.  However, if one spouse “outranks” the other, the higher rank is listed first.  For example, all of the following are correct: Jane and John Doe, John and Jane Doe, Mr. and Mrs. John Doe, Ms. Jane Smith and Mr. John Doe (married, wife uses maiden name), Dr. Jane Doe and Mr. John Doe, Drs. Jane and John Doe/Drs. John and Jane Doe, The Doctors Doe
  • Do not use Mr. or Ms. when indicating a professional designation.  For example: Jane Doe, Esquire; John Doe, CPA.  However, designations are not used in conversation or socially.  In those cases, use Mr. or Ms.
  • The traditional way to address a widow is by using her husband’s first name, for example: Mrs. John Doe.  Of course you should use her own first name or Ms., if you are aware of her personal preference.
The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 1 – Be Better

01/02/2013 § 7 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: Be BetterUS Tennis champ Helen Wills Moody and one of her many trophies, 1945.

“And he writhed inside at what seemed the cruelty and unfairness of the demand. He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to do another and harder and better one.”
–C.S. Lewis

Day 1: Be Better
Our premiere Charm School entry is a bit late, and I must apologize.  Life has a way of getting in the way of the best laid plans, and today was no exception, but I think that thought segueways nicely into the lesson I planned to discuss with you today: the concept of being better.

One month ago on the first of the year, per usual I found myself contemplating various New Year’s resolutions, specific changes and goals to focus on for the next 12 months.  When I took a step back, I had an epiphany.  Over the years, making discrete goals about how many miles I was going to run, or books I was going to read, had tended to set me up for disappointment.  Usually November hits and I start to fret over the fact that I haven’t “done enough” on my list of aspirational to-dos, that then culminates in a rather pitiful giving up and a concurrent rotten feeling — not the best way to start a new year.

So on 1 January, I tried something different — I decided to make only one resolution, but apply it universally.  Instead of fixating on quotas or things left undone, I embraced a theme: to do better in all things.  Elegant in its simplicity but difficult to achieve, it takes constant effort to be better — and it’s a bar that is continuously raised.  Holding myself accountable on everything from making my best effort at work to remembering to take my contacts out before I go to bed, has required me to focus a little closer on my actions, realize where I take short cuts and make small corrections.  The attendant sense of accomplishment has been very rewarding, indeed.

This month, as we work on creating our most charming life, let us agree to try to be better — with the understanding that there will be days when we don’t quite get there (case in point: the tardiness of today’s post).  As long as we remember to pick ourselves up and try again tomorrow, we are more than halfway to our best ever.

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Hold Fast. Let Go.

14/11/2012 § 10 Comments

As I mentioned last week, I still have yet to return home due to damages my apartment building suffered during Hurricane Sandy.  I have been removed from my normal routine and neighborhood, but I recognize that compared to some, I have lost very little.  I am very sorry to have been an absentee parent these past few days, and I wanted to let you know that your emails checking in on me have been a particularly bright spot for me in this stretch of time.  Thank you! xo

That said, I have found these past few weeks difficult.  Personally, when I feel like I have a sense of control over things, I feel the most secure.  Having to leave my home has forced me to cede a certain amount of that control, and that has been disconcerting.  But I believe that this also speaks to a larger concept that I have struggled with throughout my life: the concept of letting go – the process of detaching myself from an outcome, a routine, a person, or a relationship that I have invested my time, my money or my heart (or even all three) into.

In the early post-Sandy days, I realized that I was hanging on to a lot of frustration at being displaced and also at not being able to do anything about it.  It bled over into other areas of my life, causing me to feel sullen and wanting to retreat – all because I felt like I had lost my sense of control over my living conditions.  That’s it!  I hadn’t really lost anything at all!  Well, maybe aside from a few trips to my local — yet overpriced — bodega.  And maybe my perspective.

So, this past week I have tried my best to keep in mind that this change is only temporary, to trust that I will be home soon, to embrace a new neighborhood and to be very thankful that I have the help of some truly lovely friends.  It isn’t every day that I get the opportunity to step outside my usual box and since I haven’t lived on the Upper East Side since 2008, I’ve spent a lot of time simply walking around the neighborhood.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed visiting a few of my old favorite places like the Ralph Lauren mansion, Sant Ambroeus and The Frick, discovering new (to me, at least) gems like the Lexington Bar and Books and Creel & Gow, and I actually forced myself to get out and run in Central Park over the beautiful fall weekend we had.  Changing my perspective was hard work, but I’ve been feeling much, much better.

Taking a step back to look at the bigger picture, there is something very, very easy – and very dangerous – in the refusal to let go of negativity.  It’s what a good friend described to me as being “comfortably sad.”  You get comfortable with being sad or frustrated, because you aren’t quite sure what it would feel like to try to let that go and move forward.  If you’re at all like me, that can seem a bit like jumping out of a plane without being completely sure that you’ve got your parachute – and your two backup parachutes, too.  But the thing is, if we hold on to anger or sadness or regret or pain, we prevent ourselves from moving forward.  We prevent growth.

This can obviously apply to personal relationships as well, and I know I’ve definitely been guilty of this myself.  Holding on to a relationship that isn’t really working or miring yourself in the pain of a relationship that has ended, can sometimes seem like the easier path – better the devil you know.  True, it is a way to avoid dealing with any new feelings or facing the fear of the unknown, but you’re also completely foreclosing your opportunity to be truly happy.  It isn’t easy, don’t get me wrong.  It is a painful process, but it’s nothing compared to the pain of a life spent unfulfilled.  I want you to know that you are worth that risk.  I want you to try to let go.

The first step, is knowing when to say when.  I oddly found inspiration in an old nautical term, illustrated in the picture above, from a 1940 issue of Life Magazine (which you can view here).  The traditional sailor tattoo “hold fast” written across the knuckles, is a good luck charm – one of many such symbolic tattoos worn by seamen throughout the years – to ensure the bearer’s steady grip as he worked onboard.  A “fast” refers to a line (or rope) that has been secured.  However, “hold fast” – or rather, it’s Dutch origins hou’vast or houd vast – also gave rise to the nautical term “avast,” meaning to cease, or to stop.  One term, two very different meanings.

What I chose to take away from this nautical history moment, is that the same hands that can hold fast to something – or someone – are just as capable of letting go.  And while there definitely are things in life that are worth fighting for, not everything is.  What I hope you’ll realize, is that there is just as much strength in the surrender.

Hold fast.  Let go.

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