Thursday, February 26

Bayou Bend

More often than not, it seems as though most of us become oblivious to our surroundings and that which is familiar. Certainly, I know that I am guilty of this habit. Distance is usually a good catalyst, and when I return home to Houston I see things with a fresh eye. I am once again inspired by the gardens at Bayou Bend. A peaceful fourteen-acre oasis in the midst of a modern metropolis.

Bayou Bend was designed as a private residence for the legendary Texas collector and philanthropist, with the most unfortunate name, Miss Ima Hogg.

Designed by prominent architect John F. Staub, the house is a combination of eighteenth-century Georgian architecture with elements that are distinctly Southern and Spanish Creole. Bayou Bend is one of the many elegant, but unpretentious, Houston homes built between the 1920s and the early 1960s.

A garden enthusiast, Miss Hogg studied architecture, landscape architecture and garden design. Reminiscent of large public gardens and parks, she adapted her personal gardens to a domestic scale and the Houston Gulf Coast climate.

The heavily wooded grounds along Buffalo Bayou include eight formal gardens.
The gardens are noted for rare Duchess De Caze Pink Camellias that are no longer available in nurseries, along with many varieties of Azalea, Gardenias and Antique Roses.

In 1957 Miss Hogg donated her home and her collection to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Bayou Bend opened to the public in 1966, while Miss Hogg continued to collect for her beloved Bayou Bend until her death in 1975 at the age of 93.

The collection at Bayou Bend consists of 4,700 objects that reflect historic and stylistic periods from 1620 to 1870. Miss Hogg's impressive collection is installed in 28 period rooms showcasing American decorative arts from 1620 through 1870.

St James's Hotel & Club - London

Sorry for the delay in posting the past few days. I have been traveling with my family, making posting each day a bit more difficult. I have spent the better part of the week catching up with my sisters, laughing and enjoying spa treatments.

My first review for Mr & Mrs Smith is now on their website. You can read all about our stay at the wonderful St James's Hotel & Club in London. The next Mr & Mrs Smith 'BlackSmith' card giveaway is on Monday. To enter send an email to [] subject line: 'giveaway'

Sunday, February 22

Soup on Sunday: Hot and Sour Soup

I love hot and sour soup! And yet, until just this weekend, I have never even considered making it at home. It's actually fairly simple and quite delicious. The 'carryout' Odd Balls invitation, hinged high gloss silver fortune cookies from Sea and Jae and a few good friends are all that you need for a perfect little party. Well...maybe a few glasses of wine too.

4 oz dried shitake mushrooms
12 small dried tree ear mushrooms
1/2 cup canned bamboo shoots, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 cups vegetable stock
4 oz firm tofu, drained, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
2 eggs
1 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
4 tablespoons scallions, thinly sliced

In a large bowl soak shitake and tree ear mushrooms in enough boiling water to cover mushrooms, turning occasionally, until softened, about 30 minutes (tree ears will expand). Remove from bowl, squeeze excess liquid (reserving the liquid), cut into bite-size pieces. Stir 1/4 cup mushroom liquid with cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside.

Stir together vinegars, soy sauces, sugar, and salt in small bowl.

Heat a wok over high heat, add sesame oil coating the sides of the wok. Stir-fry mushrooms and bamboo shoots for 1-2 minutes. Add broth, bring to a boil, add tofu. Keeping a gentle boil add vinegar mixture. Slowly stir in cornstarch mixture (broth will thicken) and reduce heat and simmer 1 minute.

Beat eggs in a separate bowl and add 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. In a slow, thin stream, add eggs stirring in one direction. Add in white pepper and scallions. Serve right away.

Serves 4 as a meal or 6 as a starter.

Thursday, February 19

Off to Texas via Amsterdam

I should be on my way to Texas. However, I am temporarily delayed in the Amsterdam airport watching the snow fall. I suppose it's better than watching paint dry. I would rather be out and about exploring Amsterdam, thank goodness for wine and my MacBook Pro. It should help pass the time. I have several great profiles coming up in a few days, and I hope to meet with fellow blogger while I am in Houston. Many thanks for all of the wonderful emails yesterday regarding the List! I am really excited about this labor of love.

My best to all of you!

Wednesday, February 18

All the Best List

Since founding All the Best over two years ago, I have had the good fortune of meeting some of the best and the brightest in the creative fields. Along the way many have become close friends and confidants. These are the people to whom I turn to for advice, insight and unbiased opinions. Above all, I admire their constant creativity and trust their opinions implicitly.

In an effort to keep All the Best truly the best, I have devised a list of the most talented tastemakers from around the globe. This highly selective group includes artists, designers, vintners, world travelers, editors, authors, chefs, gallery owners and more. Each week I will be adding to this list and spotlighting members of this collective. In my opinion, it’s the creative people in our society, the ones think outside the box, who deserves the attention and limelight. This has been, and will continue to be, the focus of All the Best.

My goal is to promote this growing collective as a valuable resource for consumers and media alike. Most importantly, this is not a stagnate list! I will work with each contributor to keep their dedicated page updated with current events and new projects. Each member of the collective will have a photo on the right hand side of the blog. You can click each photo to learn more.

Stay tuned to see who appears throughout the day and in the upcoming weeks…

Tuesday, February 17

Keep Calm and Carry On

There is an interesting article in the Telegraph today about the iconic reproduction Keep Calm and Carry On wartime poster. The discovery of a long-forgotten poster has proved a profitable find for Stuart Manley, a second-hand book dealer. As evidenced by its ubiquitous presence in the shelter magazines. Mr Manley found an original World War II propaganda poster folded in a box of books he bought at auction in 2000. He showed the poster to his wife, who also thought it to be quite wonderful.

A total of 2.5 million red and white posters were originally printed but never officially issued. The only other known copy is in the Imperial War Museum. The poster was produced by the Ministry of Information to influence public opinion during the war.

Mr Manley framed the poster and proudly displayed the rare find in his bookshop. Soon he was inundated with customers desperate to have a copy. “I love the Britishness of it and think it’s just lovely. It resonant with modern life.” You can get your own copy on the Barter Books website.

My husband and I have decided that everyone in our family needs a copy of this poster as a gentle reminder - on many levels.

On a different note, I am taking a blogging break for 2 days in order to finish up the new feature that I mentioned yesterday and to start packing! Check back on February 19th.

Monday, February 16


For the past two weeks I have been completely engrossed in a major project, hopefully to debut on All the Best this week. I for one, honestly think this will be the most exciting blog feature to date. In fact, I have been so focused and consumed, I went off to London without my facial wash, flat iron or CAMERA!

The only photos that I do have are mobile uploads from my husbands iPhone. Regardless, it was an amazing few days away. We were in London for my first hotel review with Mr & Mrs Smith. I can’t give away any details until I file my review and it is posted to the Mr & Mrs Smith website, but in a word—Wow!

On Friday, after an amazing breakfast, I headed over to the Mr & Mrs Smith offices to meet with the founders James and Tamara and their wonderful team. I was quite impressed with the company ethos. We headed next-door for coffee and talked at length about travel, the hotel selection process, travel pet peeves and their move into the American market. I am thrilled to be partnering with the fantastic company and look forward to introducing you to some of the world’s best hotels.

After lunch I hopped on the Underground and made my way to the new Rug Company studio. From the moment I walked in I was kicking myself for not having my camera (luckily I will be there again next month). Wait until you see some of the new rugs and pillows—FAB! It’s always a treat to catch up with Susanna Joicey-Cecil who oversees public relations, just one of her many hats, and learn more about one of my favorite companies. We were also joined the mastermind herself, Suzanne Sharp. This was the first time Suzanne and I have met in person. She has been one of my style icons for ages, so imagine my surprise when she declared herself one of my biggest "fans". I was most honored and humbled.

Before calling it a day and heading back to the hotel I had coffee/tea with Monika Biegler Eyers, who just happens to live a few streets over from The Rug Company—lucky girl.

Off to work...I would like to launch this new feature before I leave for the States on Thursday. Next month I promise not to forget my camera!


Sunday, February 15

Oyster and Brie Champagne Soup

In honor of Valentine's I thought I would share this amazing recipe from Paula Deen. It reminds me of a Champagne scallop soup my husband and I had many, many years ago at Market Fare Restaurant (now Carr's) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I have tried many times to find a similar recipe, but to no avail. This one however is pretty terrific. Bon Appétit!

1/2 stick butter
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups fish stock or clam juice
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 pounds ripe Brie cheese, rind removed and cut up
1 bunch chives, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Champagne
2 dozen fresh oysters

Melt butter over low heat. Add shallots and red pepper flakes and sauté until softened. Sprinkle in flour and cook until lightly colored, roughly 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the stock and cream. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil; reduce to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the Brie, chives, salt and pepper, to taste, and stir until melted. Add Champagne. Add the oysters and cook for 3 minutes.

6 servings

Wednesday, February 11

Off to London

I am off to London for a few days. Several exciting things are on the agenda...stay tuned for photos and updates!

Tuesday, February 10

Profile: Tobi Fairley

I have a new girl crush. I know that several bloggers have cued in on Little Rock designer Tobi Fairley lately, and it’s not without good reason. I am here to tell you, she is fabulous, charming and quite talented. From the moment we began speaking by phone, I had a feeling that we would be come fast friends. Of course, her Southern upbringing and accent endeared her to me right away.

I love her take on traditional decor. Tobi’s rooms are grounded in the classics, but mixed with bold patterns, modern art and unexpected pops of color. Tobi’s work has been praised by Traditional Home and she is the recipient of 7 Gold awards from the American Society of Interior Designers.

Not only is she a talented designer, she is hostess extraordinaire—just look at some of her blog posts. Tobi has invited me to Little Rock and I am working to plan a summer visit. I look forward to being the recipient of her gracious hospitality.

As an aside, I had no idea that Tobi was going to post on my friend Michael Devine yesterday, and mention All the Best, as I started writing this post. Serendipity is wonderful!

How would you describe your personal style?
Feminine Innovative. My style is certainly rooted in classic elements but new and fresh. And certainly, I am a girly girl!

What is your most prized possession?

Well since my darling husband and daughter aren't really possessions, I would have to say my home. A lot of love and energy has been poured into creating a backdrop for our life.

What is the one thing in life you cannot live without?

I would have to say books, though fresh flowers and Jimmy Choo's are a close second (and third I guess!)

Who are your style icons?
Grace Kelly, Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, Coco Channel, Barbara Barry.

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
Probably Carolyne Roehm, we could throw a grand soiree!!!

Which design books to you consider a must?
Jamie Drake, Kelly Werstler's Modern Glamour, Celerie Kemble, anything and everything by Carolyne Roehm, and Charles Faudre's Interiors…well really all his books!

What is your favorite luxury in life?

Private yoga sessions twice weekly with my teacher Holly, she is my yogi and my therapist all wrapped into one!

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
I am pretty close to it if not already there! I have my dream job and my dream family so all is right with the world!

How do you see the current economy shaping design trends in 2009?

I think the design business will never be the same after all that has happened with our country financially. I think that High-end design is certainly the place to be but even there I think the client is going to expect "extreme" service from this point forward.

I think everything will be value-driven and I don’t think clients will be willing to pay top dollar anymore without feeling they get more than their money's worth with both quality and service.

So the change for the interior designer is that it will take a lot more time and energy to take care of our clients than it ever has before!!

Past or present what designers have most influenced your style?
Jamie Drake, David Hicks, Tricia Guild, Dorothy Draper

Monday, February 9

Arriz Hassam and Suzanne Dimma

While (or whilst for my UK friends) surfing the web I came across the home of Arriz Hassam and Suzanne Dimma. Suzanne is the editor-in-chief of Canadian House & Home and Arriz is a partner in the design firm 3rd Uncle.

I absolutely adore theses two photos of their home. The mix, textures and balance are spot on. I must find out more about this obviously creative couple. If any Canadian readers have more info, please do share. I would love to see more of there work and home.

Photos by Tyler Anderson/National Post

Congratulations - Mr & Mrs Smith Global Shortlist

The beautiful Barnsley House hotel is a stylish country-house in the Cotswolds. It is one of the hotels featured in The Global Shortlist.

Congratulations to Molly Brose, the first winner of Mr & Mrs Smith The Global Shortlist book! Our next giveaway will be a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Blacksmith' card on March 2, 2009.

To enter send an email to [] subject line: 'giveaway'

Sunday, February 8

Soup on Sunday: Salmon Chowder

I have salmon that I need to use today and have been struggling to find a stew or chowder recipe that strikes my fancy. I’ve cobbled a few together and came up with this version. I will be making it later today and will let you know my thoughts. I would love for you all to share your favorite soup recipes with me. You can send them to If I use your recipe on All the Best, I will of course give you full credit. Likewise, feel free to share any stories or personal insights.

1/2 pound potatoes, baked, peeled and cut into thick cubes
3 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 cup yellow corn (fresh or frozen)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
3 cups whole milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
4 large salmon fillets, skin discarded and fish cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Garnish: chopped fresh chives

Bake potatoes, cool and peel. Cut baked potatoes into cubes and set aside. Melt butter in a stockpot over moderate heat and sauté onions, garlic and shallots until translucent. Add corn, thyme, bay leaf, stirring 1 -2 minutes. Add milk and cream and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to moderately low. Add potatoes, salmon, salt, and pepper and cook, gently stirring occasionally, until salmon is just cooked through and begins to break up as you stir, 5 to 8 minutes. Discard bay leaf before serving and garnish with chives.
Serves 4

flckr photo

Thursday, February 5

Kate Ryan Inc.

Without question, Kate Ryan Inc. represents some of the most talented photographers around. I am simply mad for Greg Sorensen, Christopher Micaud, Kate Powers and Amanda Pratt. Here are just a few examples of their brilliant work.

Amanda Pratt

Amanda Pratt

Kate Powers

Greg Sorensen

Greg Sorensen

Christopher Micaud

Photos: Copyright, Kate Ryan Inc.; Greg Sorensen; Christopher Micaud; Kate Powers; Amanda Pratt

Tuesday, February 3

Artist Zoë Pawlak

I am smitten with the work of artist Zoë Pawlak. Zoë has shown in Korea, the USA, Mexico and all over Canada. Her most recent work has included landscape and abstraction. Currently Zoë is working on commissioned pieces for several interior designers, including the wonderful Chloe Warner. She is represented by Canvas Gallery in Toronto.

Monday, February 2

Mr & Mrs Smith Revealed : James Lohan and Tamara Heber Percy

In 2001, the now husband-and-wife team, James Lohan and Tamara Heber Percy booked a romantic weekend away in the Lake District of England. Unfortunately, the experience turned out to be anything but romantic. Upon arrival the nameless hotel looked nothing like the photos from the guidebook. The mattress was sagging, the hotel refused to open the kitchen when the couple turned up late and the rooms were quite dismal.

After a heated debated over who had booked the hotel in the first place, James and Tamara resolved to put an end to their anguish. The duo decided to come up with their own hotel guidebook. A book for discriminating couples who want to sneak away for the weekend. “We were tired of people’s expectations not being met in British hotels and being met by a grey-faced hotel manager with no shirt or tie,” James remembers.

The hotel guide was turned down by every publisher in the business. Refusing to be thwarted, the pair decided to publish the book themselves. Tamara and James raised £180,000 from family and friends to get a run of 5,000 books printed and in the shops. Finally one distributor decided to take a chance on Mr & Mrs Smith. “He liked us,” says Tamara. “He thought we were ballsy.”

The couple traveled around Ireland and Britain by car for six weeks, researching over 150 hotels, choosing 41 for the guide. The Mr & Mrs Smith: Hotel Collection UK and Ireland hit the shelves in October 2003 and by Christmas Eve 2003, it had sold 20,000 copies.

Mr & Mrs Smith is now set to move into the American market. As most Brits know, a "Mr & Mrs Smith weekend" is about romance and the allure of sexiness and mischief. Hence the name.

In a recent issue of the Daily Telegraph, Tamara and James noted, "In the US Mr & Mrs Smith has different connotations - it means an average suburban couple. We won't be changing the brand name, we are hoping they will like the quintessentially British idea of a dirty weekend. After all, why do people go away for the weekend? It's not to knit and write letters."

What is your favorite luxury in life?

James - Ren shower gel.

Tamara - A full-body massage by someone who really knows what they are doing, followed by at least 30 minutes where I don't have to rush off.

What is your most prized possession

James - My Bulgari watch.

Tamara - My wedding and engagement rings - I recently thought I’d lost them and it made me so sad!

What is your greatest accomplishment?

James - Cycling from London to Paris for charity, last year.

Tamara - Learning to fly a plane.

Ca’s Xorc Balearic Islands, Spain

What items are a must for air travel

James - Laptop, iPod and a cashmere jumper.

Tamara - If I’m flying overnight I can't go without my cashmere wrap, earplugs, eye cream and a good book.

What is the one thing in life you can’t live without?

James - My wife Tamara, then my BlackBerry.

Tamara - My husband (I read his answers and wouldn't dare to put anything different!)

What has been your favorite travel discovery?

James - Ca’s Xorc – a hotel we stumbled across on our travels in Mallorca and immediately decided to get married there.

Tamara - La Tagliata, a tiny, family-run restaurant up in the hills above Positano on the Amalfi Coast, which we happened upon looking for somewhere for lunch.

It’s small, intimate and buzzing with locals packed into every corner. The food was quite simply, amazing. The choice of wine was either Red or White. The antipasti just kept on arriving, the main courses - meat, meat and more meat. We must have sat there for hours and left in a haze of wine and food.

A view from La Tagliata in the hills above Positano on the Amalfi Coast

What is your idea of earthly happiness

James - Taking a boat trip down the Thames on a warm summer evening and mooring up at a fabulous pub for a pint or two.

Tamara - A balmy early evening, looking out at an amazing view from a hotel room, with a glass of rosé wine.

Who would you most like to meet and how would you spend the day

James - Apart from the inspiring Mr Obama (as I’m guessing I’d be in quite a queue), let’s go for a Boys Day Out with World Champion F1 driver, Lewis Hamilton. In a dream world, he’d teach me to drive a Formula 1 car during the morning, we’d then jet off to Monaco for lunch, followed by an evening with the Pussy Cat Dolls. 

Tamara - Gabriel Garcia Marquez. We'd take a short plane ride along the north coast of Colombia where he would point out where he spent his childhood. Then we’d land in Cartagena and have lunch in the old town whilst discussing his One hundred years of Solitude.

To which fault do you feel most indulgent? 

James - Dark Chocolate is my secret vice.

Tamara - My impatience - I like to get things done, and it helps!

Congratulations - Mr & Mrs Smith 'BlackSmith' Card Winner

The beautiful Ca Maria Adele hotel in Venice, Italy

Congratulations to Tonya Hatfield, the first winner of the Mr & Mrs Smith 'BlackSmith' card! Our next giveaway will be a copy of Mr & Mrs Smith The Global Shortlist on February 16, 2009. Their latest title is a carefully curated collection of hotels. The Global Shortlist features 30 hotels, including atmospheric chateaux and chic retreats.

To enter send an email to [] subject line: 'giveaway'

Sunday, February 1

Soup on Sunday: Baked Potato Soup

Hands down this is the best potato soup recipe ever! It's not low cal, but it is delicious on a cold winter's day.

1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
5 cups vegetable broth
4-5 large potatoes, baked, peeled and cubed
1 cup half-and-half cream
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (Tabasco)
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Minced fresh parsley

In a stockpot sauté onion and garlic until tender. Stir in flour, salt, basil and pepper; mix well. Gradually add broth. Bring to boil; boil and stir for 2 minutes. Add baked potatoes, cream and hot pepper sauce; heat through but do not boil. Garnish with cheese and parsley.