Friday Things: The Tonys Edition

Just a quick note before the Warrior’s game begins. Game 4 is tonight and I’m hoping the Warriors are back to form after the blow-out on Wednesday. We’ll be spending more time than usual this weekend watching televised events with the game tonight and the Tonys on Sunday.  Since I happened to see three (!) of the nominated plays this year–a perk of having a child living in Manhattan–I thought I’d give a quick run down of what I saw when I wasn’t seeing “Hamilton.”

We saw “The View from the Bridge” last fall and it was as chilling as advertised.  The spare stage and visceral acting kept us riveted and the shocking conclusion made for one of my most memorable evenings at the theater. Mark Strong was terrific as the controlling dockworker uncle and I’m hoping he’ll take home a Tony.

“View from the Bridge” was directed by Belgian director Ivo van Hove as was a revival of “The Crucible” featuring Saoirse Ronan.  We caught “The Crucible” a few weeks ago and though I wasn’t quite as taken with it as “Bridge,” it’s certainly stuck with me. Sophie Okonedo was powerful as the wrongly accused Elizabeth Proctor.  Rooting for her too.

On a lighter (sweeter?) note, I took in a matinee of “Waitress” and found it poignant and charming, though I quibbled with the girl power ending. Though it won’t get much love at this year’s Tonys given that it’s going up against “Hamilton,” I suspect it will tour and I’d recommend it.  (In the meantime you can watch the Keri Russell movie version of Waitress.)

Did you see any nominated shows on Broadway this year?  If so, who and what do you hope bring home a Tony Sunday night?

Here are a few other Broadway related things I recommend this week:

Theater and social media humor.

And if you haven’t seen the James Cordon Broadway Carpool Karaoke yet–here you go!

Happy Weekend All!

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Friday Things: The Rise and Shine Edition

Because two friends I walk with in the early morning have been out of town for the past few weeks—summer travel has begun!—I’ve switched up my morning exercise routine by taking more yoga classes at the swim club down the road. Not entirely awake I stumble over to the sound of bird-song and the rhythmic splash of swimmers doing their laps.   In the winter a fog-shrouded sun rises in the east behind the yoga instructor, but now we turn our mats south to avoid being blinded by the fully exposed orb.  Post-namaste I spend time in the garden dead-heading daisies and supplementing the irrigation with a little hand-watering now that the drought restrictions have been (temporarily) lifted.  The lizards scatter and the hummingbirds come in for a sip. Such a lovely way to start my day. Has your daily routine changed much now that summer is here?

 Here are some other things I’ve enjoyed of late.

 A wonderful Career Code profile of our daughter Claire over at WhoWhatWear.

Dress codes for travel (while you’re there, check out the travel uniforms videos at the bottom of the article).

The corrective lenses of travel. 

Maybe you have more time than you think.

To write software, read novels.

Despite all the naysayers, life has never been better.

Elizabeth Gilbert on letting our light shine.

A pretty bar cookie featuring rhubarb. 

Jumping Jetsons! A revolving planter that levitates! 

A new album from The Monkees – “Good Times.

“I was so full of music I had to play.”—Grandma Lo-Fi

Grandma Lo-fi: The Basement Tapes of Sigrídur Níelsdóttir from Republik Film Productions on Vimeo.

Happy Weekend All!

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A Bridal Shower Using (Mostly) Barefoot Contessa Recipes

My oh my, it’s June already.  As Chaucer would say, Summer is A-Comin In!  This is one of my favorite times to entertain since the weather is good and the longer days make for a more relaxed gathering.  Plus the produce this time of year is excellent so food prep can be fairly simple. This coming weekend I’m hosting a dinner for twelve visiting religion scholars (sounds like a riddle or a parable, doesn’t it?) and plan on eating out on the deck.  Because I want to be engaged with our company and not tied to the kitchen or grill I’m making most of the food ahead and just assembling and plating it right before my guests arrive.   I’ll likely do a combination of simple salads and a chicken dish that can be served room temperature followed by cupcakes that can be eaten here or on the run since all the guests are participating in a lecture series that night and the speakers especially may need to leave early. Basically, I’m throwing a picnic here at home.

The menu is a variation on a menu for a bridal shower I threw recently for a friend’s daughter.  The numbers were nearly the same and the weather, thankfully, was good enough that we could eat outside.  It was such a fun party that I thought I’d share the recipes here in case you too are planning a summer picnic at your place.

First, I wanted the food to be fool-proof so I turned to the Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa cookbooks for recipes that were simple and reliable.   I started with a mezze platter from “Make It Ahead” that I served alongside the drinks.   All of the components were made or purchased in advance except for the pita bread triangles which were toasted at the last minute.

Then I followed up with a luncheon buffet featuring her Roasted Shrimp and Orzo Salad and Zucchini & Goat Cheese Tart (recipe below.)

The shrimp orzo salad was better for having sat overnight so the flavors could meld.  I doubled the recipe and had plenty of leftovers so I think one batch could easily suffice for a buffet for twelve.  I also made two zucchini tarts which was the right amount for a dozen guests.  The tarts were beautiful and easy to put together but did take a bit of time.  The recipe says the tart can be assembled four hours ahead and then baked for the party.  That’s true but it did take a good hour or so to assemble the two tarts which added some stress to my party prep given that the party started at 11:00 a.m. Note, too, that when Garten says to overlap the zucchini you really need to overlap because the zucchini rounds will shrink significantly when you bake them (see the goat cheese peeking through on the baked tart above.) Despite a bit of fussiness,  they were a focal point for the spread and delicious warm or at room temperature.

Dessert was a lemon angel food cake from Joyce Goldstein’s  “From Our House to Yours: Comfort Food to Give and Share” accompanied by fresh berries and Garten’s recipe for Make-Ahead Whipped Cream (see below.)

The cake is easy to make and can look fancy without you needing to wield a pastry bag.  It does require lemon oil though which is different than lemon extract.  You can buy lemon oil at specialty food shops or it can also be ordered from Sur La Table.

Following Garten’s recommendations for Making a Schedule in advance (see Barefoot Contessa ”Family Style”),  I laid out the week working backwards from the moment guests arrived at my door in order to spread out the prep and enjoy the actual party.  The work was manageable because I didn’t try to shop, cook and serve the food all in one day.  As Garten says “When I have guests coming in five minutes, I don’t want to be cleaning the kitchen or getting some stray molasses out of my hair.”  Because after all, Summer is not only a-comin in, but when it’s Summertime, the livin’ should be Easy.

 

Zucchini & Goat Cheese Tart 

(from Ina Garten’s “Make It Ahead” )

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, 1/2-inch-diced

1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar

5 tablespoons ice water

1 1/2 pounds zucchini, unpeeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick

2 tablespoons good olive oil, divided

8 ounces plain creamy goat cheese, at room temperature

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves

1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Place the flour, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and the butter in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse 12 to 14 times, until the butter is the size of peas.  With the processor running, pour the vinegar and ice water through the feed tube and continue to process and pulse until the dough just comes together.  Dump out on a floured board, form into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the zucchini in a colander set over a plate.  Toss it with 2 teaspoons of salt and set aside for 30 minutes.  Spread the zucchini out on a clean dish towel, roll it up and squeeze gently to remove some of the liquid. Put the zucchini slices into a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. With a fork, mash together the goat cheese, thyme, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and l/4 teaspoon pepper and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  roll the dough out on a floured board to an 11-inch circle and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Spread the dough with the goat cheese mixture, leaving a 1/2 inch border.  Lay the zucchini slices in tightly overlapping circles, starting at the very edge of the pastry (the zucchini will shrink when it bakes).  Continue overlapping circles of zucchini until the whole tart is covered.  Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with pepper.  bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the dough is golden brown.  Cut in wedges and serve hot, war, or at room temperature.

 

Mile High Lemon Angel Food Cake with Lemon Glaze

(from Joyce Goldstein’s “From Our House to Yours: Comfort Food to Give and Share”)

1 cup cake flour (not self-rising) sifted

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar

14 egg whites, at room temperature

1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon pure lemon oil (Williams Sonoma carries this if you can’t find elsewhere)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven.  Have ready an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.

2. Sift the flour and the confectioners’ sugar together into a medium bowl.

3. Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed in a large bowl until foamy.  Increase the speed to medium-high, add the cream of tartar and salt, and beat just until the egg whites form soft peaks.  Add the granulated sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition, and beat just until the whites form stiff, glossy peaks.  Add the vanilla and lemon oil and beat until well combined.

4. Sift one-fourth of the flour mixture over the egg whites and fold in with a whisk or a rubber spatula.  Continue gently folding, one quarter at a time, until all the flour mixture has been added, being careful not to over mix.

5. Transfer the batter to the pan. Run a table knife through the batter to remove any large air pockets, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the cake pulls away from the side of the pan.  Turn the pan upside down, and balance it on its elongated neck or pan legs or hang  the tube upside down from the neck of a tall bottle.  Let cool to room temperature.

6. Turn the pan right side up. Run a knife around the outside edge of the cake and between the cake and the tube. Release the cake.

Lemon Glaze

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon zest

Pinch of salt

Stir ingredients together in a small bowl.  Let stand for 10 minutes before using. Pour it over the cake and let stand for at least 10 minutes or until the glaze is set.

 

Make-Ahead Whipped Cream 

(from Ina Garten’s “Make It Ahead”)

1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons creme fraiche

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place the cream, confectioners’ sugar, granulated sugar, creme fraiche and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment .  Beat on high speed, until it forms soft peaks.  Serve cold.

Thanks to party guest and photographer Jean Jarvis  for snapping these shots of the bridal shower.

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San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2016

Every time I attend the San Francisco Decorator Showcase I come away inspired by big design concepts and small design details.  My travels have delayed my attendance so far this year, but these photographs by San Francisco photographer David Duncan Livingston make me eager to catch this stunning showcase before it closes on May 30.

I want to take in the spare white elegance of Antonio Martin’s living room design and the curvy details in Martin Kobus’s dining room.

I suspect the muted persimmon and slate blue of the traditional rug laid the foundation for this striking office design by Stephen Jones.

As did the dramatic kelly green and cobalt blue zigzags in Kyle Bunting’s rug for this glam retreat by Nancy Evars and Dimitra Anderson.

But when it comes to color inspiration, who could resist the delicious rainbow sherbet palette of this girls room by Ann Lowengart.  Isn’t that Sol LeWitt-inspired ceiling scrumptious?

On the second floor hallway Livingston is showcasing some of his own fine art photography–including this effervescent image of the Eiffel Tower. “It’s like a birthday sparkler celebrating France and summer,” says Livingston who uses motion blur to give the fine art print a painterly feeling. Because Livingston’s wife is French they often travel with their young son to Paris. “Before I got married I’d visited the City of Light many times as a solo tourist but now when I visit with my family we’ll have lunch with Grandma, see old friends and just hangout between other travels in France. Paris is THE hub for all things French.”

To see more of Livingston’s exceptional work be sure to follow him on instagram @daviddlivingston.  And for details about the SF Decorator Showcase—running through May 30—go to http://decoratorshowcase.org  Hope to see you there!

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Missing Mom

Life took me to the mall yesterday.  Lunch with an old friend and editor.  Birthdays and baby showers to shop for.  Trips on the horizon so a bit of travel shopping for myself.  When I was done with my errands I slipped into a movie theater and caught a late matinee of the Gary Marshall film “Mother’s Day.”  Though the film was irritatingly peripatetic, it did remind me that Julia Roberts is a wonderful actress and it made me wish I was spending this Mother’s Day with my mom.  Mission accomplished Mr. Marshall.

But Mom’s in Idaho with one of my sisters greeting a new great-grand-baby–and walking in a charity race!–so I’ll just have to wait until we begin celebrating her 80th year this summer.   I’m grateful she’s around to miss.   Other friends have lost wives, sisters and mothers this year.  Their moms have gone missing for good.

I don’t know what it’s like to lose your mother yet.  I imagine it’s one of the hardest things we do in this life—even if we don’t get along with our mothers all the time. But my father’s gone now and one thing I’ve learned since his passing is that time has smoothed out the rough edges of our relationship.  The things about him that once irritated me have faded and the best of him has come into focus.  For those of you missing a mother this weekend I’m wishing you the same. Happy Mother’s Day.

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Keeyla Meadows Garden Tour

One of my favorite Bay Area landscape designers is Keeyla Meadows.  I first met Keeyla when I was scouting gardens for a major garden tour that served as a fundraiser for our children’s grade school.  That was twenty-some years ago and over that time I’ve watched her garden evolve from a colorful but simple field of poppies to a complex art installation filled with original artwork and inspirational plantings.  It’s always a treat to visit Keeyla’s garden but especially in the spring.  Fortunately, her garden will be on tour as part of the Garden Conservancy tours twice this year—the first time during the East Bay Open Day on Saturday, April 23 from 10 until 4. Admission for each garden is $7.00. Keeyla’s garden is located at 1137 Stannage in Albany, CA.  I’ll be there enjoying the garden and greeting guests that morning.  Hope to see some of you there!

 

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Friday Things: The Met Home Edition

Long before I started writing for shelter magazines I read them.  And the one I read the most was Metropolitan Home.  When it folded in 2009 it really left a void in my design inspiration library.

Though I loved Dominique Browning’s editor’s note in House & Garden (another print publication casualty of the time),  the designs in Met Home had a more youthful vibe about them.  And they were usually more accessible.  For example, each issue included a “Hi-Lo” feature that showed how the style of a particular $10,000 sofa might be interpreted for $3000.  (The Lo examples were never THAT cheap, but they were at least available to the public.)

I was therefore delighted to read about Met Home’s impending resurrection. I hope I’m one of the “select Hearst subscribers” who receives a copy next week.  If not, I’ll be certain to track it down on the newsstand.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to page through Elle Decor, House Beautiful (formerly edited by Newell Turner who is at the helm of the new Metropolitan Home) and—my current favorite—World of Interiors.  How about you?  Do print publications still show up in your mailbox?  Or have you moved entirely to browsing digital images for design inspiration?

Here are some other things that caught my attention this week:

The Pope advocating for more mercy, less judgment.

Twitching through Meditation.

Some reasons for taking a weekly tech sabbath (podcast).

A light-filled studio for a fiber artist.

The “Now” Not-A-Watch.

A pretty cauliflower soup.

“Buttony” – a brilliant little short story featuring a childhood game I used to play.

Melissa McCarthy performing Colors of the Wind. (Fast forward to minute 6:00)

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On Wearing Religious Jewelry

For years now I’ve thought about buying a cross necklace.  But though I’m a Christian, wearing crosses is not part of my faith tradition.  In fact, growing up—back when Mormons were feuding with Catholics—I was told that Mormons did not wear crosses.  That we emphasized Christ’s resurrection not his crucifixion and that wearing one would be something pretty close to a sin.

What my people did wear were CTR rings.  CTR stands for Choose The Right and just before you were baptized at age eight you were given a little ring with an adjustable one-size-fits all band topped with a miniature shield emblazoned with the letters CTR.  The band was a little pinchy and the metal eventually turned your finger the same green as the enameled shield.  I’m not sure what happened to mine.  But I do know that by the time my kids were old enough to wear CTR rings you could buy nicer versions that were made of silver with a solid band in specific sizes.  One daughter wore hers up through high school.

My impression is that many Catholics wear a cross necklace throughout their lives—that it’s the one piece of jewelry they wear consistently.  I wasn’t looking for that.  I can’t even commit to an Apple Watch (and my son now designs for Apple!) because I like to change things up regularly.  But I wouldn’t mind wearing a cross now and then.  And wearing one at Easter seems particularly appealing.

So today—Good Friday—I decided to buy my first cross necklace.  I went to Sagrada—a lovely little “sacred arts” bookstore in the hip Temescal neighborhood of Oakland—and considered a number of options.  There were ornate medieval crosses (too fussy), bedazzled crosses (too glitzy),  and crosses made out of Fimo clay beads (too funky).  I lingered at the First Communion crosses since they were the simplest but they also seemed too small and delicate for grown-up me.

Ultimately I ended up with this mosaic cross.  After seeing a photo of it my San Antonio sister said I’d fit right in in Texas.  I actually thought it looked less Tex-Mex and more Viennese Secessionist a la Klimt.  (Though his art was often collected by Jewish patrons, Klimt was Catholic so I guess that’s not that far-fetched.)

So why do I want to wear a cross? At least sometimes? Style-wise, I like the classic shape of the cross.  Symbolically, I feel more comfortable than I ever have about being an openly spiritual person who would like to applaud and emulate Christ–someone who always did Choose The Right.

Do you wear any jewelry that has spiritual significance to you? If so, I’d love to hear what you wear and why you wear it.

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Filling in the Blanks of Women’s History

Last week we traveled to Utah for a women’s history symposium where I saw this image of “Brigham Young and an Unknown Woman.”  The unknown woman’s beaded bracelets and marks of torture on her hands have led historians to speculate that she was Native American. If so, is her ethnicity the reason her face has been blurred or was this just an accident? Either way, this is a startling illustration of how women’s stories have disappeared throughout history.

Over the course of two days, scholars and history buffs presented nearly fifty papers that filled in the blanks of women’s history in the Mormon church. I learned that though women weren’t allowed to speak in church meetings until the twentieth century (the church was founded in 1830)  historians like Jennifer Reeder are documenting what they were thinking and feeling during those early years through minutes of their women’s auxiliary meetings,  diaries and the objects they produced.  For example, in talking about the clothing women made to bury their dead, historian Kris Wright said that  “sewing and other crafting were a form of knowledge making for those pioneer women” and that “embroidery is the text of textile.”

I sought out a presentation on why women were drawn to glossolalia—the speaking of tongues—a practice that feels so foreign to my own religious experience but was a source of comfort and enlightenment for 19th century seekers.   Christopher James Blythe posited that women were particularly drawn to this practice in the early Mormon church and shared first-hand reports that early practitioners “glowed” as though there was “electricity in the room.” Modern examples of this practice in Pentecostal churches as captured on You Tube mostly give me the heebeejeebees, but I’m willing to believe that my pioneer foremothers welcomed this “gift of the spirit.”

I chuckled with the rest of the crowd when art historian Josh Probert shared “domestic literature” from the turn of the last century that advised struggling homesteading women to inspire “Christian morality” by aspiring to the Victorian opulence of Salt Lake City’s famed McCune Mansion. Though officially titled ”Mormon Women’s Domestic Advice Literature 1880-1920,” Probert said he really should have called his remarks “Be Careful Which Couch You Buy Because You Will Become Like It.”  (Hey, haven’t I shared similar advice throughout my design writing career?)

The most shocking and widely reported session was titled “Women in Danger” and featured papers on sexual violence towards women in the early Mormon church.   BYU-Idaho professor Andrea Radke-Moss spoke about the mob violence in 1830s Missouri that prefigured the death of the church’s founder Joseph Smith.  She focused on the brutal gang-rapes by these same mobs that happened to several women in the period (numbers are sketchy given the Victorian reticence to report such atrocities) and that have been suppressed in the telling of Mormon history.  There was a collective gasp in the room when she revealed that one of the victims was likely Eliza R. Snow–one of the most prominent women of the early church. Snow was a renowned poet–the Emily Dickinson of Mormonism–and a trusted advisor to both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. You can read more about Radke-Moss’s findings here and her responses to questions about her source material here.

The day after the conference was over we sought out Snow’s grave just a few blocks away from Salt Lake City’s Temple Square. She’s buried near Brigham Young along with two of his other plural wives. (Snow was a plural wife to both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.) Many referred to her as a “prophetess.”  Some said she was the most intelligent woman they’d ever known. That she is also a survivor of sexual violence is remarkable.

Someone had come before us and left flowers and chocolate on her grave.  As we walked away an older gentleman and his grown daughter came to take our place.  I assume there will be more visitors now that another chapter of Snow’s life has been revealed. Will her expanded story force us to look at other women of the period differently?  Since attending the symposium I have a clearer picture of those mysterious tongue-speaking, polygamous ancestors of mine.  I also have more questions. What undocumented trials did they face?  What horrors did they overcome? (On a lighter note, who was the first of my grandmothers who could even afford a couch?) I may never fill in all the blanks, but knowing that they pressed onward to find sanctuary—as a popular pioneer hymn calls it, “the place which God for us prepared”— gives me confidence that I can too.

Are there women’s stories from your family, religious or cultural history that have been fleshed out in modern times?  If so, how have they informed or inspired your life?

 

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Of Oscars and Owls

What a wonderful spring we’re having here in Northern California. I’ve been working on my garden removing the things that didn’t survive the deer or early frosts and then shopping for and planting more of what seems to thrive. The temperature is just warm enough to feel rejuvenating as I work outside and the light is so cinematic it deserves some kind of award.  Best Seasonal Glow–or something to that effect.

Last week, my landscape designer and friend Keeyla Meadows lended some expert help. Together we shopped at the wholesale nursery for more grevilleas and hellebores and added a white rhododendron and some daphne–fingers crossed that it survives since daphne can be so temperamental.  Then we spent a day placing and planting before the rains started up again.  At the end of that very full day of digging, watering, fertilizing and cleanup we sat down for a cup of tea in the twilight.  A large bird flew by and landed in a nearby eucalyptus tree directly across from where we were sitting. It immediately started to “whoo hooo” so we thought we knew what we were looking at but to confirm I fished out an old pair of binoculars.  Sure enough there was a great horned owl (“uncommon but widespread” says my Sibley Field Guide to Western Birds) challenging us to blink first.

According to “Birds–A Spiritual Field Guide “ (yes, I have ALL the bird books) the owl can be seen as either an omen of something terrible to come–think spooky Halloween creature–or a symbol of wisdom. Either way it seemed quite mystical to have it appear and communicate with us at that moment. We chose to think of “our” owl as a wise messenger blessing our clever efforts to outsmart the deer and anticipate the rain.

Usually this time of year is when I produce a post about my favorite set designs from the previous year’s movies.  Alas, I’ve been immersed in novel revisions or garden plans the past few weeks and didn’t take the time to put one together but if the Academy Awards show peaked your interest in seeing some of the nominated films here’s my 2 Cents on 2015 movie design.  Of the films nominated for Best Art Direction I was rooting for The Martian. I wasn’t up for seeing either The Revenant or Mad Max: Fury Road on the big screen but the rest of my family did and raved about Max’s visuals so I’m not surprised it won. Of the films I saw I absolutely loved the sinister modern house in Ex Machina (read about the mostly Norwegian locations here and here)

And the beautiful color palette of Brooklyn.

How fitting that the female leads of these two films also wore some of my favorite Oscar gowns.

To quote my backyard visitor–Whoo hooo!  What were your favorite movie sets from last year?  How about Oscar fashions?  I’d love to hear.

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Kathryn Pritchett

writes about Things Elemental — where we find shelter, why we connect, what sustains us and how we strut our stuff.

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