Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Chicken Chronicles

SO...  are you sick of turkey yet ?

Thanksgiving has been an established tradition in the United States since President Lincoln proclaimed it a national holiday at the end of the Civil War .

It's a good time to think about how much we have to be grateful for.  Remember  heroes past and present who have made it possible for us to live in freedom in this glorious country.

Wild turkey feathers we have collected on our property
The Declaration of Independence was signed with  a turkey quill.

Antique Documents framed in simple black frames
 make a stunningly graphic display

A receipt for family silver signed - Paul Revere
 "I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country... the turkey is a much more respectable bird... a true original native of America."

 The national bird of the
United States of America

A protected bird used as a 
decorative symbol to perch on everything
from flagpoles to mirrors.
With the turkeys in Washington today a gobbler would
be so much more appropriate on that pole.

The Federalist Era - 1790 - 1820 
Patriotism was running high in the new republic .
Eagles were a  very popular decorative motif 
Antique Bull's Eye Mirror  @ 1810
45 million turkeys were consumed over this past Thanksgiving.
Would statistics have been the same if Mr. Franklin's vote had carried the day ?

Spare a turkey- eat chicken !

I fear this POULE is going au POT
We have had a flock of hens
 for the past 12 years.
They live at the  Motel Chix 
free to roam in their enclosed garden safe from predators.

The Motel Chix

None of our  'girls' will ever see a pot.    
They are farm pets   that happen to lay 
delicious fresh eggs in a gorgeous array of colors.
HOMESPUN LINEN from Summer Hill ltd.

All the girls were chosen based on looks and personality

The Auracanas lay blue eggs.
The color was the inspiration for the foils on our wine and olive oil bottles
"birds of a feather..."  Cabarnet Sauvignons from the Calistoga Appelation
The Auracana blue capsule stands out on the GLEASON

Feathers don't appear often as motifs in textile designs even though the  colorations, textures, and patterns are amazing-  actually reminds me of the always popular leopard motif.


A chicken will lay an average of one egg every 36 hours  for about 3 years but they can live to the ripe old age of 25 if kept safe and healthy.

When their egg laying days are over,  our girls continue to live out their lives on guaranteed social security. 

By the way-   you do not need a rooster for hens to lay eggs.
You only need a rooster if you want  fertilized  eggs - hence... to make more chics- but frankly the thought of eating a fertilized egg grosses me out.

The color of an eggshell does not effect the taste of the egg.  Egg flavor and yolk color are influenced only by what the chickens are fed.  Orange peels, corn and marigolds make for bright yellow yolks.

When I order a new batch of  chics I specify them sexed-all female.  It's not easy to determine gender at that young age so there is no guarantee you won't occasionally get a future rooster.

The dynamics in our  coop changed dramatically when a gorgeous young cockerel emerged strutting his stuff -- a relatively peaceful sorority became a competitive henpecking mayhem.
VIN-cent  (aka Vin-E) - had to go.  I gave Vin-E up for adoption and subscribed to a " DON'T ASK - DON'T TELL" policy.


Chickens and Roosters are popular icons

A cheerful way to wake up the morning
When you keep chickens you become the recipient of almost anything 'Chicken'

BECKY DOODLE TOILE from Summer Hill Ltd
Gift wrap a small space in a Toile and it 'expands' the space

The beloved Chanticleer is as much a national symbol of France as the Fleur de Lys.

Brave- Bold- Vigilant and Virile 

An antique French weathervane
Le Coq has graced steeples from churches to dovecotes for many centuries

The Gallo Nero on the neck of a chianti bottle certifies that it is a true Chianti Classico made of at least 80% Sangiovese grapes

Traditional  Chianti bottle with straw carrier

A Lamp made from an antique wine bottle is amazingly  modern
from  Drum & Company Antiques San Francisco

Our  one and only  rooster is a bronze one sculpted by Miri Margolin, the Israeli sculptress
In the studio

Perched on the entry wall crowing welcome

acclaimed  for her bust of Raoul Wollenberg,  installed in the capital building in Washington, D.C.

Raoul Wallenberg is  the Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II by issuing them protective  passports and sheltering them in buildings in Budapest that were designated as Swedish territory.  He was detained by the Soviets in 1945 and mysteriously dissappeared, never to be seen again. There is much speculation about what happened to him,  and speculation that he may have had ties to US intelligence.

His bust stands as a continuous reminder that one man with the courage to care and the conviction to know right from wrong- can make a  difference.  Nothing "chicken" about that kind of hero.

This solitary and moving image from Lars Sjoberg's CLASSIC SWEDISH INTERIORS
photography by INGALILL SNITT  
'Inspiring images of rough-edged but strangely regal
18th-century farms, country houses and city mansions.
Poetic, accessible juxtapositions abound.'
New York Times

Speaking of heros and World War II, I  am reminded of  Leslie Howard, the British actor best known for his role as Ashley Wilkes in GONE WITH THE WIND, starring with Vivien Leigh (curiously also a Brit) and Clark Gable
The Pulitzer Prize winning epic novel about the
 Civil War and the Restoration

Clark Gable
Vivien Leigh
 The film classic was being filmed in the United States as Hitler was marching into Czechoslovakia.

This 16th century house outside London was the home of Leslie Howard.  It is now owned by our friends Alex and Terry.  They have restored the grounds and the house.  The screening room now quite derelict is a future project
During World War II Leslie was active in anti-Nazi propaganda, and it is widely believed he too was connected to British and US intelligence.  His death in a plane crash in 1943 is not mysterious but certainly suspicious in light of  his espionage activities.

My parents met and married when they were stationed in Italy at the end of World War II

During their Italian stint my dad learned to make eggs BURRO NERO ( black butter) now the  traditional way our family prepares eggs.  With the fresh eggs from our girls the recipe is perpetuated better then ever.

Scrambled Eggs Burro Nero
serves 2

4 large eggs 
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 TBLS butter
8" skillet

Beat the eggs and salt hard until fully blended.  ( I do  eggs in a Cuisinart)
Place skillet on a high heat and allow pan  to heat up for 30 seconds.
Add the butter; 
allow foam to subside and butter to turn a dark brown. This is the BURRO NERO

Pour the egg mixture into the skillet in a slow stream using a FORK to drag the egg and swirl it around incorporating the brown butter . DO NOT REDUCE HEAT
Keep dragging with the fork until eggs reach the dryness you prefer.

DON'T EVEN THINK OF USING A SPOON OR A SPATULA  and don't make more then 4 eggs at a time in this size pan.  They need to be able to cook FAST.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Out of Africa

“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Nagong Hills...”  
Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen). 
Can you almost hear Meryl Streep ?

Last April Don and I celebrated a milestone birthday with a trip to South Africa and Botswana.  In anticipation we watched OUT OF AFRICA and WHITE MISCHIEF again and read a few books to get into safari mode.  Though Kenya was not a part of our itinerary,  it was interesting to  immerse in the lives  ex-pats living in Happy Valley (Kenya) in the years before World War II.  

Isak Dinesen and her house

THE BOLTER is the biography of Idina Sackville, one of the bright young things who partied hard and often... usually without her clothes (she established the trend for women wearing safari pants in the bush)  Sex-alcohol-drugs and ultimately murder-- obviously they had way too much time on their hands.  

WEST WITH THE NIGHT, Beryl  Markham’s autobiography is a beautiful read even if you have no plans to go to Africa.

“She can write rings around all of us who consider
ourselves writers...I wish you would get it and read it 
because it is a bloody wonderful book."
Ernest Hemmingway

I agree!  It’s a beautifully written journal of a love affair with Africa.  Born in England in 1902, the exquisite Beryl  spent most of her life in East Africa where she became the first woman bush pilot.  She was also the first to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.  Beryl was having an affair with Denys Finch-Hatton (AKA Robert Redford - Out of Africa) at the same time he was “listening to Mozart“ with Meryl (AKA Karen Blixen).  What a guy!

Rumor has it Beryl was pregnant with his child when he was killed in the airplane crash that broke Meryl’s heart.   Meryl - Beryl - easy to get confused .

Oh -- and by the way -- Isak Dinesen also wrote Babette's Feast.

We took off from San Francisco on the British Airways evening flight to London.  Arrival time is practically at O-dark-thirty the next morning, giving you an entire day of layover before the overnight flight to Johannesberg.  There is plenty of time to go into London on the Heathrow Express Train for a day of shopping or museum hopping.

On arrival in J-berg we boarded a prop 12-seater and flew to Sabi Sands, a game preserve adjacent to Krueger National Park in the northeast corner of South Africa. 

No security lines- no shake downs- just the old fashioned way to fly.

With good friends Gary and Maggie Lencioni
and guides Pete and Dave

We landed on a dirt air strip with the help of a windsock and a couple of guides chasing hyenas off the runway.   A Land Rover was  waiting to take us to  camp.

It seems that Suzanne Tucker has crossed this bridge.

The New  Caravan  Collection

Thatched roofing and bee hive chimney on the reception lodge at Singita Boulders

Everything is built by hand of indigenous materials.

 The walkways wind their way from tent to tent

The accomodations blend beautifully into the environment and there is no absence of comfort or services in the middle of the wilderness.

 Mosquito netting canopies are de rigueur on all beds

Cocktails in the Bush

I love the bold graphics of Zebra stripes


Black and white makes for a great design scheme  and a zebra rug packs a powerful punch.  The government of South Africa carefully controls the culling of the herds.  Laws are strictly enforced and hides for export are all certified.  Those species of Zebra that are endangered are off-limits.


Last Sunday I found a bound volume of original HOUSE AND GARDEN magazines from 1929.  The home of artist and illustrator Porter Woodruff  - he did many  VOGUE covers- is featured in the September issue. 

The rooms are dramatically modern- a zebra rug- black satin sofas - pale grey walls - Shining oilcloth curtains - and white accents.  It was daring and bold  as were the flappers and the bootleggers of the day.  As Cole Porter said "Anything Goes"

Love in the tree tops
No two giraffes have the same markings-- I'm crazy
for the glowing curry color of their coats

A touch of glowing amber adds a warm note when paired with cool colors like grey.  The mohair pillow even has the feel of fur.

I never pass up antique leather books at the flea market.  The worn and often tattered bindings speak of the love of human hands that held them as pages were turned by candlelight.

The burnished patina of waxed fruitwood on this 18th century French chest has that same mellow glow.

It's a color that often appears in nature.

My buddy Finley has velvet ears that same delicious color.

Leopard skins are a NO-NO
but the pattern and coloration 
are so great that even 

No doubt leopards are endangered because of the popularity of their skins from fashion to furniture.  Leopard is sophisticated - 
 Leopard is chic - 
Leopard is fun ! 
 With that kind of versatility it's no wonder you see it everywhere from shoes to chair seats.
Ballerina flats made of leopard printed cowhide

An artist's studio in Paris
  An Empire daybed in the Paris home of one of the Mitford Sisters,
Diana Mosely

 Suzanna Allen and Star sporting a new coat at the Alameda Flea Market

From the bush we headed for  Cape Town at the southern most point of South Africa.   Set by the sea near the Cape of Good Hope where the South Atlantic and the Indian Oceans come together, it is a beautiful city blending many cultures evident in it's architecture.  I was blown away by the vivid colors in the Muslim Quarter.

A riot of clear bright colors border the impeccably clean streets. No two houses are alike-- they stand proudly competing with each other for BEST PAINT JOB

A mosque  in bright blue against the blue of the sky in the southern hemisphere

You can tour the city by pedalling.   I love the repetition of pattern here-- a really strong design element 

Beach cabanas on the shore of St James- a suburb of Cape Town-- which has some pretty good antique shops.  The riot of color which I captured on my iPhone came home with me and inspired the bold brights of our Fall 2011 Summer Hill Fabric Collection