Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lobster and Wicker

Summer to me means dances on the beach, salty sun kissed skin, seagulls circling to steal freshly cooked fries, mopeds and the sound and smell of a 2 stroke engine, old corked backgammon boards, fog horns, flowering privet, minty beachcombers, night swimming and LOBSTER.
So IF you have a friend with a willing house, take-your-breath-away view, enough curious turquoise wicker to transform the lawn into a worthy wicker-art exhibition,
Enough chairs and tables so that you only sit on someone's lap if you so choose...
A bar with the usual suspects,
Enough geraniums to make you swoon,
You should have a lobster dinner.
 (not JUST because these summery treats are so darn cheap right now!)
Insert our willing host, organizer and dapper dresser, Robert REDD
Add some friends for the turquoise wicker...
And some fabulous legs to distract the boys...
Enough women to make your host willing to entertain again, and again, and AGAIN...
AND Lobster for all.
And if you weren't so distracted by the view, the wicker and the lobster, you might even catch a glimpse of this beauty - wicker, tassels and all.

-Inspiration for my Next Dress,

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Scottish are Coming...

I've been wearing a kilt since Moon Boots were hot the first time around.
Dad is a Mackenzie, Mom was a Monteith and a Kerr. I never really gave this much thought until a good friend mentioned he'd polled our friends, and 85% of us were Scottish. So what would you do if you found that out? HAVE A PARTY of course! (thank you JOHN...) And have it sponsored by CK Bradley with tartan accessories.

 Ingredients for a Scottish Ceilidh:
(Ceilidh: a social gathering with Scottish folk music)
 First you'll need a lot of tartan, preferably your own, for decorations.
ck bradley custom bowties
 Then an afternoon of sewing 101 to make decorations for the guests...
 And another afternoon to make something to wrap yourself up in...
 A barn or a tent or a field... 
The CK Bradley Whomper to carry decorations for the empty barn, tent or field,
(flowers courtesy of the side of the road)

Tables to dress up to match your friends,

Enough silverware to wonder if you're seeing triple....


A yellow school bus,
Men in kilts,
camilla bradley
 The dress you made in your kitchen out of a table cloth 
 A quiver of boys that know how to look THIS good and are fine with your less than perfect bow ties, 
(Don't worry ladies..the man with the dangling bow tie does in fact know how to tie a bow tie)
 A surprise Kilt Inspector,
 And enough grass and stone wall to layer your guests for a group photo.

A Scottish band and dancers to show you some moves from the land of bagpipes.

Yes, Wall Street Journal, it is official, THE SCOTTISH HAVE COME
(John thank you for polling your friends...and organizing the party)

-I Like Men in Kilts,

Thursday, August 16, 2012

From the Dress Archives

Yves St. Laurent said that '...what is important about the dress is the woman who is wearing it.'  I agree, but sometimes it's the dress that takes on a life of it's own and transforms the woman.  In fact, the yellow dress below did just that to me.
I was a freshman at Columbia and at a Black Tie affair at St. Anthony Hall. Everything was intimidating from the older girls clinking their champagne glasses to the boys sitting lazily on the dark green leather club chairs smoking cigars. I was in this yellow dress.

I was a girl who'd just left the womb of all girls boarding school until I zipped it up... and then miraculously...amid the sophisticated boning and layers of yellow chiffon, I became a woman. It took a couple compliments for the confidence to take hold - I know, it's strange, but don't you remember the first outfit that made you all of the sudden grown up?
While I was in the Newport warehouse getting inspired by dresses that have been handed down to me and collected for most of my life, I came across this one. Color's a bit dull, and it nearly disintegrated in my hand, but I will forever remember this dress for its lessons it gave me 'in attention to detail.'
This dress will never be worn again unless I'm looking to streak at a moments notice, but it reminds me that a dress may have many incarnations - from transforming a girl to a woman, or reminding a designer that its what's inside that counts.

-Awaiting my Next Transformation,

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Way Back When - New Zealand

Dad always told me that mom was born in a hammock at the base of a beautiful waterfall somewhere outside of Auckland, New Zealand. I don’t know if that was true or not, nor can I imagine my grandmother, Mummy Lita, going through hours of labor pains in the late 1930’s prior to WWII, residing or resting in a hammock instead of a hospital bed, but Dad has a way of making things poetic…and everything about mom was poetic.

It was the depression of the 1930’s. Roosevelt was in office, Adolf Hitler was Chancellor in Germany, and my Grandfather, Grandpa Dick, was United Kingdom/Canada’s Commonwealth Commissioner of Trade stationed in New Zealand. He and Mummy Lita married in Winnipeg in the late ‘20’s and moved to the Netherlands for diplomatic duty following their union. Being an ambassador’s wife came with many perks…there were social engagements with the who’s who of the world, and diplomatic passports to whisk them through any airport, seaport or sticky scenario. (or so the stories go...)

 L-R: Mummy Lita, Grandpa Dick and a Friend
at a Polo Match Abroad

Anyway, being a diplomat’s wife was quite a special life. Only downside, or upside depending on how you look at it, was there were never too many years in the same place.

Back then a lot of things weren’t talked about, marriages lasted lifetimes and hand written letters were the most common form of communication. In fact, if it wasn’t for these things, what happened next never would or could have happened.

Grandpa Dick couldn’t help but turn heads wherever he went. He was 6’5” with bright blue smiling eyes and something pertinent to say to anyone whether it be Crown Prince Akihito of Japan, (Hirohito’s son who Grandpa Dick taught how to play the net in tennis) or a waitress pouring coffee at a local diner. Surely his secretary Claire wasn’t blind to this – and Grandpa Dick charmed her to no end.

 Crown Prince Akihito
(net game was considered a tad aggressive by the Japanese at the time)

Claire was a native Kiwi, happily married to her childhood sweetheart with one exception: her childhood sweetheart was sterile. Claire’s doctor had given her a couple options – she could adopt a child or ‘go on holiday’. That didn’t mean go on a trip, drink Bloody Mary’s, relax and forget about it…it meant get pregnant by a man other than your husband.

Claire wanted a child more than anything, and telling her husband he was the reason for no children would have been devastating to him and their marriage. So Claire and Grandpa Dick ‘shared a holiday’ and Claire soon delivered a boy named Thomas.

Upon hearing Claire was finally pregnant, her husband was ecstatic. I can’t image how Claire felt…a combination of joy and relief coupled with guilt knowing the child was not from her husband, but from my grandfather. There was also the dilemma that Grandpa Dick and Claire truly loved each other in addition to loving their spouses.

Grandpa Dick and Mummy Lita moved to Australia following a reassignment shortly after Claire gave birth to Thomas. Life went on as normal in both families. But even through life's twists and turns, ups and downs, one thing remained constant: Claire and Grandpa Dick wrote letters to each other for almost half a century.

Fast forward forty-five years: Claire’s husband has passed and she doesn’t have long to live. Thomas is now 45, with children of his own, and after all these years, his mother finally shares her secret with him. 

Imagine finding out at 45 that dad is not your biological father!? Claire hands her son 45 years of love letters written by the name of a man whose name he’s never heard before…yet whose blood he shares.

Thomas boards a plane to Spain, which was where the most recent letter was postmarked, and sets out on a quest to meet his biological father.

When Thomas walked into Grandpa Dick’s room, there was no question as to who he was. They were spitting images of each other. Finally, after almost half a century, Grandpa Dick met the son he knew only by Claire’s decades of letters.  

As if by design, my Grandfather died soon after his first encounter with his son, perhaps feeling free to move onto another realm now that his life was complete. 

And now I have family in New Zealand.

-Life is Full of Surprises,

Friday, February 3, 2012

Chicken in the Dishwasher....

I never really thought much about the stove in our cabin's kitchen, but when the movie Julie & Julia came out a few years ago, I thought a lot about it. Why didn't they call us? Maybe Julia Child didn't tell them? She probably had so many stoves in her lifetime that nobody was interested that one of her first Garland stoves is in our kitchen at home in Gardiner, NY.

I can't say that I was that interested either. Afterall, it was just a stove. And a HUGE cast iron one at that.

I remember watching the movie Julie and Julia, and awaiting the moment when Julia Child mentions one of my favorite Julia cooking tricks that my Dad used all the time. But it was never the movie that is. In real life however, on a sunny day in 1967, on the day Julia offered her old Garland stove to my Dad, she confided to my Dad and the great James Beard, one of her secrets for a moist turkey or chicken: Put it in the dishwasher.

I know... the dishwasher is not for chicken. But Julia went on to explain over lunch at Le Pavillon in NYC, that Americans just don't know how to prepare a proper turkey. In order for the skin not to separate from the meat, you tie the chicken up and place it in the dishwasher upside down on the Rinse & Hold cycle. (Obviously NO SOAP) What this does, is bring the bird up to temperature before putting it in a hot oven, which makes the hot oven less of a shock, and the bird retains much more of its' juices. Voila.

So later on that week, Dad drove his WV Bus up to Cambridge to pick up Julia's old Garland which she was replacing with a newer Garland that wouldn't rust as fast.

It soon became family tradition to put chicken or turkey in the dishwasher before the oven. And our chickens were the juiciest around!

Word spread pretty fast, and before you knew it, friends would come back from weekends with us and tell their parents how incredible the Bradley's chicken was. So...naturally, Moms wanted to know HOW did Mr. Bradley do it?

After a fancy dinner one night at the Museum of the City of New York, a couple at my Dad's table asked about his secret with chicken...and Dad happily went on, in his Julia Child accent, about her dishwasher trick. The wives at the tables listened speculatively.

A week or two later, Dad got a call from one of the husbands. "How dare you tell my wife to do such a silly thing with the chicken! We are being sued by our building for clogging the entire building's drainage system and have ruined our washing machine! It's going to cost us several thousand dollars because of you. My attorney will be in touch!"

Confused, my Dad asked: "Did you say washing machine?" Well, oops. There it was. His wife put her chicken in her washing machine, not the dishwasher. Not very logical...but that's coming from a girl who thinks it perfectly normal to put a chicken in the dishwasher and turtles in the bathtub. Needless to say, the husbands attorney apologized for his client, and no suit was filed.

Julia...thank you for the laughs and stories your chicken in the dishwasher secret inspired. And thank you also for letting me learn to cook on your old stove. It gets a bit rusty, but don't we all.

-I Like it Juicy,