Friday, December 28

Mission Inn

I'm sitting at a Starbucks in Southern California. It's the first time that I've had internet service since Christmas day. The weather is sunny, cool and crisp, a stark contrast to Scoltand during the winter months. It's been great to visit my husband's grandparents, despite the lack of technology.

Last night we went for drinks at the wonderful old historic Mission Inn in Riverside. The Christmas lights were beautiful and of course the children were mesmerized. It's been 6 years since our last visit and I have very fond memories of drinking a bottle of Opus One in their beautiful dining room.

For 125 years the Mission Inn has been the proverbial center of Riverside, host to a number of seasonal and holiday functions, as well as occasional political functions. Pat and Richard Nixon were married at one of the two wedding chapels and it's where the Reagans honeymooned. The hotel has played host to nearly ten American presidents. At Christmastime the Mission Inn boasts a Festival of Lights complete with 3 million Christmas lights and over 400 animated figures. It's quite a sight to behold. Enjoy the photos and I will post again when possible.

All best,

Sunday, December 23

My Favorite Things - Chloe Warner

I thought I would save one of the best for last. The wonderfully talented and adorable Chloe Warner really struck a cord with so many in her recent All the Best profile. I especially loved her answer to my question who would you most like to meet and how would you spend the day? Chloe's answer: The Wearstler. We would start off with a leisurely tour of her house, followed by her spending the entire day teaching me to be a baller. Then she would loan me an outfit and invite all my friends over for a dinner party.

Chloe's gregarious nature and witty personality certainly comes across in her designs and unquestionably sets her apart from the rest. Here's to wishing you all the best in 2008 Chloe.

Favorite city:
San Francisco
Favorite movie:
Wet Hot American Summer
Favorite season:
Summer! I love short sleeves.
Favorite fashion accessory:
A killer bag
Favorite food:
Guacamole with a side of margarita
Favorite flower:
Favorite memory:
Camping in Big Sur with my husband (then fiancee), test-driving wedding songs by the fire. V. romantic.

Photo Domino Magazine

Saturday, December 22

My Favorite Things - Suzanne Sharp

My profile on Chris and Suzanne Sharp, founders of The Rug Company, was one of the most popular of 2007, and rightly so.

Firmly established as dynamic and pioneering rug label with shops in London, New York and LA all offering handmade, contemporary and traditional rugs, Chris and Suzanne are trailblazers in their industry.

Aside from the professional accolades, Suzanne Sharp is indeed one of my favorite style icons. She possess that certain je ne sais quoi that I find to be quite refreshing these days and I adore her inimitable take on style in a way that is uniquely her own.

Favourite City
Venice, always an inspiration: I love crossing St Marks Square in the evening especially if it’s aqua alta!

Favourite Movie

The Leopard (Luchino Visconti), the pace, photography and atmosphere remind me of my childhood in the Mediterranean.

Favourite Book
Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy), the intensity of this book is awesome.

Favourite Season

Summer, I love to be outside…and I don’t have to wear so many clothes!

Favourite Wine


Favourite Food
Spaghetti alla vongole specially if eaten by the sea.

Favourite Flowers
Big cabbage roses, hydrangeas and any old fashioned flowers.

Favourite Memory

Camping in Africa by the Zambeze river with my husband and our children and being scared out of our wits by a lion.

Photo: Living etc

Friday, December 21

Profile: Jill Goldberg

A visit to Boston has been on my list of places to revisit for quite some time. XV Beacon is at the top of my list of places to stay and Hudson the place to shop. Owned by former actress Jill Goldberg, Hudson is the perfect mix of old and new, casual and stylish yet very sophisticated.

Jill has impeccable style, taste and one simple rule when hunting down items for the shop: “I buy only what I would put in my own home. I just throw everything into the mixing bowl to see what I’ll get,” she notes. “It usually works.” It seems to work very well indeed!

How would you describe your personal style?
My own personal style, I consider to be the same for living and for dressing…comfortable, but with as much style as possible. I want to live in my space, put my feet up and allow the dog up on the couch.

And the same for dressing, I want to be able to do everything that I need to do throughout the day, without worrying about ruining this new shirt, and roughing up these new shoes…etc.

What do you miss, if anything, about your former career as an actor?
The thing I miss most about acting is that feeling of excitement when getting a call back after an audition or actually getting the job! There is a feeling of such great victory and acceptance. Sometimes I feel that way when someone buys something expensive or when interior design clients decide to go with everything single thing I choose for their space.

What decorating trend you would like to see less of? What would you like to see more of?
I don’t know if it is considered a trend, but I can’t stand it when people paint obnoxious primary colors on one wall and call it the focus of the room! Buy some art or put up beautiful wallpaper, but please don’t blind me with bright color.
Wallpaper is what I would love to see more of! There is definitely a comeback coming on and there are so many stunning patterns and styles out there today. Plus it is not such a commitment like it used to be.

What it the one thing in life you can't live without
My dog Love! I want her with me every minute of the day. She makes me laugh, and reminds me to relax.

Who would you most like to meet and how would you spend the day?
I would most like to meet Ralph Lauren and get all of his advice on everything! I would love to spend the day living a ‘Ralph Lauren ad’ at one of his many homes.

What is your favorite indulgence
Warm and luscious Chocolate Soufflé.

Who are you style icons?
Obviously, Ralph Lauren is at the top! Otherwise it’s not necessarily people, but the visual things around me, whether it’s a funky girl walking down the street or a great house in a magazine.

What books are on your bedside table
I love you Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle. It’s hilarious and so true!

Profile by Ronda Carman

Thursday, December 20

My Favorite Things - Anna Spiro

When I started All the Best it was purely for my personal enjoyment and a way to archive my growing collection of magazine articles and favorite travel destinations. I had no idea that anyone would come to visit my site or that I would find so many fantastic blogs.

One of the very first I stumbled across was Absolutely Beautiful Things. The name alone was enough to hook me and then I fell for the talented Anna Spiro. Not only is Anna a design genius and the owner of Black & Spiro in Brisbane, Australia, she is also one of my favorite bloggers! I never tire of her creative tablescapes and inventive use of color.

Merry Christmas Anna.

Favorite city:
Venice. It's just so romantic and whimsical and different from any other place in the world.

Favorite movie
There are so many movies I love! It’s hard to narrow it down to just one. I love all 'girly' movies and ones that make me cry. I know that may seem strange but sometimes it's just great to watch a movie that makes you cry and cry and cry. I feel so much better afterwards!!

Favorite season:
Definitely Christmas time and as Christmas falls in summer here in Australia, I have to say the Christmas summer holidays at the beach. It’s my absolute favourite time of year.

Favorite book
My French Life by Vicki Archer

Favorite food:
Jelly Babies

Favorite colors
Pink, blue, yellow, orange, aqua, green, white, black…I love them all!!

Favorite flower
Pink Peonies

Favorite memory
Christmas holidays as a child at my family's beach house at Stradbroke Island.

Wednesday, December 19

Off for the Holidays

We are heading to California and to Pennsylvania for some homemade pumpkin pie. There may be a day delay in my postings. Once I am online again I will post more of 'My Favorite Things' from Chloe Warner, Anna Spiro and Suzanne Sharp.

Tuesday, December 18

Profile: Rankin/Bass

Just like a kid at Christmas, I am particularly delighted by this profile. I can fully appreciate that this post may resonate more with American readers, but I hope you will indulge my Christmas whimsy.

The Rankin/Bass animagic Holiday specials are as much a part of my childhood memories as putting up the tree and hanging the stockings. Beginning in the early 1960s, the team of Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass and writer Romeo Muller created some of the most memorable stop-motion animation (or "animagic") Christmas specials of our time, the most popular being Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Other seasonal classics include Frosty the Snowman with the voice of Jimmy Durante; Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town narrated by Fred Astaire; The Year Without a Santa Claus, including the memorable characters Snow Miser and Heat Miser and The First Christmas featuring the voice of Angela Lansbury.

Their final stop-motion style Christmas story was The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus taken from the L. Frank Baum story of the same name and released in 1985.

Many of these specials are still shown seasonally on American TV and some have been released to video and DVD. Rankin/Bass stop-motion features are recognizable by their visual style of doll-like characters and ubiquitous powdery snow.

I am so grateful to author and Rankin/Bass historian Rick Goldschmidt for taking the time to contribute to this special holiday profile.

Cyril Ritchard with the cast from The First Christmas

Q&A with Rick Goldschmidt:

One of my very favorites is 'Twas The Night Before Christmas (1974). What are you personal favorite show(s) and/or character(s)?
I love 'Twas the Night before Christmas (1974) too! My favorite is sort of a tie between Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) and Mad Monster Party (1967). I love the character designs and look of both shows!

Tony Peters designed Rudolph with a very simplistic style and Mad Monster Party was designed by my favorite artist Jack Davis (Mad Magazine).

How did you become the Rankin/Bass historian?
I graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in illustration and became a humorous illustrator like Jack Davis and did editorial cartoons for the reporter newspapers. One day I spoke with Jack and asked what happened to Arthur and Jules. He put me in touch with Paul Coker, Jr. (another Mad Magazine artist that I love). He gave me Arthur’s Bermuda phone number and from there I had to prove to Arthur that I was serious about a book. I sent him sample chapters and the rest is history.

In terms of sales which Rankin/Bass is the best selling?
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is the longest running, highest rated tv special of all-time!

What is their least known
There are a few. I love their first feature film in animagic, Willy McBean & His Magic Machine (1965). It has the same look and voice actors as Rudolph and was shot at the same time. Another rare one is That Girl in Wonderland, which was cel animated and featured Marlo Thomas.

What do you love most about your association with Rankin Bass
The people, the art and the music. I love the music of Maury Laws and the lyrics of Jules bass. I have become great friends with Maury! I also have a recording career and record so I understand what it took to put these things together and have a great appreciation for it. I also want to give credit to two wonderful guys named Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass. Without them, there would be none of this and I can't think of two nicer guys!

When writing your book, could you ever have imagined that "The Enchanted World of Rankin Bass" would retail in second hand stores for $150.00+? Given this demand, will more copies be published?
I am amazed at the demand and the fact that the hardcover sells for over $250. I am talking to a few publishers for a Christmas 2008 release. I want it to be like the Hanna-Barbera Treasury by Jerry Beck. Of course I want to add update it. A few years back we found and restored the Rudolph & Santa Claus animagic figures.

In your opinion what makes Rankin Bass animation so enduring and special
I always say it's a combination of heart and warmth. Romeo, Arthur and Jules knew this was the key to what they did. They also worked on many levels: music, design, voice actors, etc.

This was the reason for my book The Making of the Rankin/Bass Holiday Classic: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Miser Bros Press). I wanted to break it down and show what went into making these and who was behind it.

What is the most common question you are asked about Rankin/Bass
What is wrong with the misfit doll? Arthur Rankin, Jr. says "she was clinically depressed, because she was cast off by her mistress and they didn't have Prozac in 1964." In his scripts Romeo never wrote what was wrong with the doll.

What happened to the materials and ‘puppets’ used in the making of the shows
Some have survived. I have a few from The First Christmas (1975). We take the completely re-stored Rudolph and Santa to appearances around the country.

I know of the whereabouts of 10 or so. Maury Laws has Donner. Arthur has a few from some specials that were never produced on Shirley Temple and Punch & Judy. David Scheve has Father Time (Red Skelton). Gene Muller has a reindeer and a tree person from Marco (1970).

People are fascinated with the animagic figures and they truly are one of a kind treasures. I have wood carved salad utensils from Mad Monster Party that Arthur Rankin gave me and told me never to sell. They were carved by the animagic puppet makers. Frankenstein (fang) is the spoon and Dracula is the fork.

Profile by Ronda Carman

Monday, December 17

A Lynn von Kersting Christmas

[Images removed at the request of Darra Baker]

I have posted before regarding my love for Lynn von Kersting's design talent. Mrs. Blanding's recently did a post with photos of von Kersting's home and it reminded me that I had these Christmas photos tucked away in one of my many binders. Enjoy.

A New Year's Resolution

Over the weekend I began to think about my aspirations and resolutions for 2008. One of my goals this year is to run the Loch Ness 10K in October. I have always held marathon runners in great esteem. Ironically, I’m not a runner! I love the treadmill, but I can't imagine it is the same as running a 10K. So, why do I want to torture myself and include this among my goals for 2008? I guess to prove that I can actually do it and it seems like a great way to shed a few pounds and tone up my body.

Luckily, I am not the first non-runner to have this harebrained idea. Dawn Dais, the former self-proclaimed “worst runner in the world” has written the book for me—The Nonrunner’s Marathon Guide for Women. A guide for other couch potatoes who decide that running a marathon sounds like a fantastic idea. The Non-Runner’s Marathon Guide for Women is a witty and inspiring chronicle of her trials and tribulations as she gives up her recliner for the road.

I would love to know if you have any advice, suggestions or recommendations.

All the best,

Sunday, December 16

Carol of the Bells

My current obsession is Carol of the Bells by The Bird and The Bee. It was a recent iTunes single of the week and I listen to it every day, over and over and over again.

The indie/pop/alternative duo from California (multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin and singer Inara George) offer an upbeat blend of electro-pop rhythms and playfully melodies. I would love to hear a full version Christmas album next year!

I will state for the record that I have not purchased any of their CDs, but I do plan to download Please Clap Your Hands featuring Polite Dance Song from the fourth season of Grey's Anatomy. I do know that their debut album Again and Again and Again and Again was released in two versions (explicit and non explicit) but I have not listened to either album in full. Without yet knowing a great deal about The Bird and The Bee I put their lyrical style in a similar category to Kirsty MacColl (risqué lyrics paired with the low-key lounge style rather than the vocal similarities). I would love to hear your thoughts or comments.

Listen to the full version of Carol of the Bells

Saturday, December 15

Shopping on Saturday

I am a self-confessed book junkie. My list is always growing and consequently never ending. I could easily and happily fill an entire house and blog with nothing but books (magazines too for that matter). One of my fondest memories as a child is going to the library and having free reign to lose myself among the old, dusty literature.

This year my Christmas list consists only of books. Here are just a few I hope to add to my personal library.

The Well- Lived Life by Dominique Browning

Robert Indiana by Nathan Kernan

Let Me In by Mario Testino

Palm Springs Style by Aline Coquelle

The Carlyle Assouline Books

Friday, December 14

My Favorite Things - Patricia van Essche

One of my favorite memories from this past year is having drinks at the Four Seasons in New York with Patricia van Essche and both of our sisters. As most of you know, I adore Patricia's illustrations and I love to see my blog masthead each morning. I especially love my Christmas hat and I'll miss it once the holidays are over. Thank you Patricia! You can see more illustrations on Absolutely Beautiful Things.

Favorite holiday movie:
The Grinch
Favorite holiday song:
The Nutcracker
Favorite season:
Christmas—I love the holidays!
Favorite City
Christmas in New York!
Favorite food:
Christmas cookies
Favorite actor:
Burl Ives' voice makes me think of Rudolph.
Favorite memory:
Christmas morning! Waking up early to see what Santa brought and St. Nicolas filling our stockings with mandarin oranges.

Thursday, December 13

Five Golden Rings

Gold Jeweled Crown Ring by Most Wanted Design by Carlos de Souza
18K gold coronet glitters in a band of rubies. Cross-shaped crests glow with embedded diamonds from Vivre.

Cathy Waterman Oval Bamboo Ring set in 22 karat gold with diamond bamboo overlay with diamond edging from Barneys New York.

Annette Ferdinandsen 18kt gold ring with pink tourmaline from Ylang|23.

Amanda Jaron Westfield Ring in18kt green gold is an architectural statement that will not go unnoticed from A. Jaron Fine Jewelry.

Alexis Bittar sculpted 24K gold vermeil ring with wood from Alexis Bittar online.

Wednesday, December 12

Bing Crosby and David Bowie

This evening my husband bought the CD Now That's What I Call Xmas. It's a compilation of Christmas songs that are popular in Britain. It includes one of our long time favorites Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.

One of the more unusual moments in pop music history took place Sept. 11, 1977, when the leading American singer of the first half of the Twentieth Century met and performed with one of the more innovative musicians of the last half of the Century. Bing Crosby was in London on a concert tour and to tape his yearly TV Christmas special. It was Bing's idea that he should have a young star as a guest on his TV show. Someone suggested David Bowie.

The idea was that he and Bowie would perform "The Little Drummer Boy" as a duet. Bowie felt the song did not showcase his voice very well, so the writers added "Peace on Earth," which suited Bowie's voice quite well. The two met for the first time on the morning of the taping, rehearsed for an hour and finished their duet in only three takes.

Bing died a month later. The public did not see their performance until after his death.

Edinburgh Photo Tour

Last evening my husband and I went over to Edinburgh for an event at the Parliament. We took the early train to get in a bit of shopping. Princess Street Gardens, a public park at the foot of Edinburgh Castle, was decorated for the holidays and playing host to the German Christmas market. The krapfen (a doughnut made from sweet yeast and dusted with powdered sugar) were particularly good on a cold damp night.

After a jaunt up to the castle gift shop for gifts, we did a mini pub-crawl down the Royal Mile, before making our evening engagement at Holyrood. It was a fun, festive outing and just what I needed during the holiday season.

Tuesday, December 11

My Favorite Things - Schuyler Samperton

One of my favorite people that I profiled this past year was Los Angeles-based designer Schuyler Samperton. Just like the interiors she designs, Schuyler is a warm, friendly and lovely person. My favorite recommendation from Schuyler is Jergens self tanner - great for stocking stuffers!

Here are a few of Schuyler's favorite things:

Favorite movie:
Favorite song:
Jumpin' Jack Flash by the Rolling Stones
Favorite season:
Favorite city:
Favorite food:
Baskin & Robbins' chocolate chip ice cream
Favorite actor:
Cate Blanchett
Favorite memory:
Everything about being at Heron Cove in Jamaica

Beautiful Heron Cove Jamaica

Monday, December 10

Interior Inspiration

I'm running short on time today (Christmas shopping to be done) and I am still obsessing about our master bedroom. So, to keep myself inspired I thought I would post a few of my favorite interiors that I always find inspirational. Have a great day!

Katie Ridder
Peter Dunham
Miles Redd
Steven Sclaroff

Robin Bell

Sunday, December 9

Master Bedrooms

We have a lovely master bedroom in our 100+ year old flat in Scotland. The best features of the room are high ceilings, ornate molding and large windows. That said, it's lacking pizazz. I'm just not sure where I want to go with the overall look. Solid walls, Chinoiserie paper, bold colors, muted tones, stripes, florals...

Below are some of my favorite bedrooms. Hopefully I can draw inspirational elements from these rooms and come up with a game plan. As always, ideas and suggestions are most welcome.

Southern Accents
Domino Magazine
Southern Accents
The World of Interiors