Sunday, December 28, 2014

Graffiato's Goes Creative

Dear Fellow Foodies,
If you watch Bravo TV's "Top Chef," you may have heard of Mike Isabella, a young creative chef who puts his own flavors on traditional Italian cuisine to bring it into the twenty-first century. 
Pizza has never seemed more creative than here, with far ranging options including cauliflower, squash, arugula, and even calamari pizzas. Side dishes excel, with a delicious roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta that I found to be extraordinarily tasty. 
Mike has restaurants in both Richmond and Washington DC, as well as his Greek place Kapnos, which I hope to visit sometime soon. 
Trendy and tastefully industrial inside, his restaurants are deliberately noisy, so this is not the place to have a quiet chat with your lawyer, your grandma, or your first date. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Diner, with Songs by Sheryl Crow

Dear Imaginary Friends,
We recently attended the play "Diner," at Signature Theater. The story was not the most compelling thing about it. The voices were -- so soaring and sweet in the many ballads, that I cannot imagine ever hearing . better anywhere.
The acting and dancing were also Broadway calibre. 
The story is based on Barry Levinson's youth in Baltimore, which was previously released as a feature film, also entitled Diner. 
The songs were written by Sheryl Crow, both music and lyrics. I fell in love with several, including "Please Be There," "Don't", and especially "Tear Down this House," and "Letting Go. " Wow. I also liked "It's Good."
The music really was original and added to the plot line.  Brava, Sheryl Crow! This play belongs on Broadway. 
The fifties were very mysogynistic, and the plot plays that up. It made me squirm. 
The set was terrific. To add to the magic, the lobby was made over into an ersatz Silver Diner. I loved it! 
The downside? Most of the male characters were very hard to like. If I were the writer, I would give them all a rosier future, especially Fenwick. And perhaps a better understanding of women's equality. And lastly, the writer should lose the stripper scene. Not appealing. 

Your imaginary theater lover,
The set, below. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Longwood Gardens in Brandywine Country

The DuPont family is well known for their immense wealth. To those of us who value gardens and horticulture, we also know the family for its love of nature and gardening. Longwood Gardens was founded by Pierre DuPont, head of DuPont and also General Motors, who wished to save the land from development. He summered in an old modest home on the property. 

He built tree houses that integrated existing old trees in their design. An Italian Water Garden is a major feature as is the splendid-in-any-season conservatory. 
 A wonder to behold in the holiday season, the lights are amazing after dark, as they festoon the evergreens and illuminate the dancing fountains. 

Alexandria Scottish Walk Homes Tour

Dear Imaginary Friends,

I had the privilege of touring five historic homes recently on a chilly rainy day. And it was well beyond worth it! I was inspired and impressed by the room decor and the accessories. 

The homes tour benefits the work of the Campagna Center, whose mission is helping disadvantaged women and children. All five homes were lovely and impressive. These pictures are a pastiche of various homes. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Taylor and Reilly

Dear Imaginary Friends,
I just delivered this portrait to my delightful client, who truly, deeply, loves it. The painting is 24" x 36", and it took me about five months to paint. After I posed them in Old Town in front of the Potomac River, I photographed these cute kids with maybe fifty snapshots. Then I combined the best pics of each child, with an imaginary background that I created from many references and sources. It was a mind game, combining all these different photos in my mind and making them a new ersatz reality. Phew! That was no easy task. 
Your favorite artist,

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Little Dancer, Broadway-Bound

Dear Imaginary Friends,
Theater lover to theater lover, you must get tickets to see Little Dancer now, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The play is about Degas' young ballerina model, her life circumstances, and her relationship with Degas. 
The costumes are a wonder to behold. I have taken many art history classes regarding Impressionism and have seen many images by Degas. The costumes are faithful replicas of those in Degas' paintings, with the charming satin ribbons, underlit theatrically. 
Marie, our young heroine, is the model for Degas' famous wax creation The Little Dancer. Hence the name of the play. 
She is played by Tiler Peck, a well-respected NY City Ballet performer. 
The play is original, but based on a book "The Painted Girls", by Cathy Buchanan. 
The excellent cast is highly pedigreed and all veterans of Broadway productions. 
After the run in Washington, DC, the play will no doubt be on Broadway in New York City. 
Your theater, Degas and ballet lover,

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Arlington House of Robert E. Lee

Situated on a high hill above the Arlington Memorial Bridge, the Arlington House enjoys a sweeping view of the Washington, DC envisioned by Pierre L'Enfant so many years ago. 
Sight lines extend from the Capital Building to the Lincoln Memorial and the Potomac River.

Inside the home are beautiful antiques from the Civil War era and family portraits of Robert E. Lee and his extended family. Robert E. Lee was offered the post of Commander of the Union troops as the Civil War began to brew. Because of his Southern family ties, he felt that he had no choice but to abandon his home in Arlington  and head South, where he led the Confederacy in battle. 
During the war, the Union occupied his home and then expropriated it. In an act of final revenge, the Union converted his acreage into a Union soldier cemetary.  It is today known as Arlington Cemetary. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fast Getaway for Feline Escape Artist

This mysterious staircase was built for a very lucky cat. It leads up to a kitchen counter providing cat food to the feline of the home. Sun porch just right for a cat with a quick getaway from the family dog? Check!

Chesterton, Maryland

Dear Imaginary Friends,
If you would like to buy a darling Victorian historic home for a mere $350,000, you may want to check out Chestertown, Maryland. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Marie Antoinette at Woolly Mammoth Theater

Those who are looking for adventurous, modern theater, can find that and more at Woolly Mammoth in Washington, DC. 
Woolly's current production of Marie Antoinette stretches one's expectations with non-traditional casting, modern garb, a sheep in wolf's clothing, and a loose interpretation of history.
 Audience participation includes posing in a guillotine, and  playing beanbag toss with decapitated Barbies and Kens. I would have enjoyed a slice of cake, instead!!

Your theater friend,

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Betty's in York, England

Tea Time at Betty's
 There is only one destination to remember when taking tea in York, England: Betty's. A bustling business, Betty's also serves up the finest Eton Mess that you will ever find.

An Iced Tea and an Eton Mess

York is the source of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde: An actual York doctor was suspected of murdering by night, and healing by day. I wonder if Dr. Jekyll ever ate at Betty's?

Yorkminster Cathedral, York, England

The Shambles in York, A Narrow Lane

A ceiling in Yorkminster
A Chapel in Yorkminster, the huge cathedral in York, England