Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bichos

There are many bichos (pest) in the garden, ranging from the endless beggars an broughton street, the male hustlers thinly disguised as tour guides on Chippewa Square, the huge flying palmetto bugs (a prettier name for the common cockroach with wings no less!!!) that live in all the trees all over the beautiful squares, the elephant woman, the walking dead, that horrid stalker the magpie, the "Ersazt beings": those people who since having children all they can do is talk about the child no matter the topic of conversation, who are preoccupied only by the second chance to be all they were not through this new creation and worse when invited always inquire if they may bring the brilliant extension of themselves to a party!!!! (well, I neehhva!) or those boohring people: "The WHO'S", one meets at cocktail parties who can only talk about WHO they know, WHAT they own or HOW important they ought to be (remember dahhling real Power like true sophistication never needs to be explained, it just is!) however by far the worse of the worst of the bichos in the Garden are: The Moochers!


They all seem quiet inoffensive, at first. They are excellent at appearing to be interesting and ever so willing to please, but in truth underneath the veneer they are only interested in being invited to as many events as possible. They only concern in life is where will they come across their next meal & free cocktail. They are always of course, only too willing to accept as many invitations as you offer them, they always attend and arrive at the exact hour noted on the invitation (who does not know 15 minutes after is the acceptable time to arrive to any invitation?) they are the first to park themselves by the hors d’oeuvres and will eat and drink all night as much as possible. Their behavior can pass unnoticed for a few invitations since they develop enough social graces to make do. They are good at having a conversation with anyone (always measuring what/how you may be useful to them), can appear well versed in many a topic and are excellent at moving around a room to get to know everyone. On paper they sound ideal ¿no?

However the fact that they will never reciprocate or God forbid, ever host any type of event of their own is all too soon the reality. One such creature once had the audacity to invite me to a birthday party, via email no less (they would never waste money on an actual invitation that would require post after all!) the details of the invitation were to be expected of their kind: bring your own liquor and snacks to share!!! Could you just die? Essentially like all true moochers when not mooching off of you, they create the perception they are giving back by entertaining & having you bring the accoutrements for the event! Brilliant? Perhaps…most definitely the quickest way to get on The Royal Red List!





Dahhling, sadly our fair Garden is infested with these horrid creatures, the list is so very long. Certainly not as horrid but just as forgetful of their good manners and duties an Earl, a Baroness, a Viscount and many a Lord & Lady!


Having said this, you certainly know that it is after all, not hard to show sincere appreciation for the invitations received, even if your humble abode will not do. Invite the host(s) to a lunch or dinner at a restaurant of your choice (you can even create an invitation for the exact occasion), to an afternoon té, again at a commercial establishment or if a larger group needs to be thanked, organize yourself to pay for a round of (2) drinks for the party in question & several appetizers on your check by arriving early to the restaurant and organizing with the staff! How hard is that? Of course always send your thank you notes (timely, no more than 2 days after the event), but really, to show appreciation is the easiest thing to do dahhling, try entertaining at home once & you will see!
Until soonest…

HRH
The Duchess of State

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Washington Affair, a cocktail Party...


Last week the FAB Baron Kleinstschwule hosted his first annual “A Washington Affair…a cocktail party”.  What a treat it was… the food as usual was exquisite, never mind the chocolate truffles…the mix of people was superb.   What makes the event so remarkable is the age of the host: 22 years!
In this day in age in which we find ourselves, with so many people (The Boor's) of the same age, in their 30’s & 40’s, uninterested in anything refined, chic, organized or God-forbid elegant entertaining.  It is as though entire generations now in their 40’s/30’s were all raised with one goal in life: Practicality & the mundane.  Order everything from a catalogue to furnish their homes (forget slowly deliberately collecting objects, furniture, art to decorate the interiors of their homes to reflect their personality, their life) and of course only end up living in sad “track rooms”, dress to match the current trend (What ever happened to personal style???) and above all only concern themselves with a social life only when it involves purchasing a ticket, attending anything free for the masses or a grill!  They wouldn’t know the difference between a cereal bowl and a bouillon cup, and what is sadder, they couldn’t care less!






Hence what makes our dear Baron, like the sighting of the rarest bird, the elephant woman or the  albino hunchback around the Garden, that much more precious….and really the bastion of future FAB events in our Garden for his generation & all the ones in between.








The invitation specified formal and his FAB cocktail party looked gorgeous with everyone dressed so beautifully and was attended by a wonderful interesting group, the Baron put together.  Members of La Sociedad, artists, writers, scholars & the Nobility of course!  Among many, First Lady Cook & the honorable Mr. Cook,  El Conde y La Condesa looking ever so gorgeous about to leave on holiday for Madrid & Rome for the next 3 weeks.  The much sought after Starland Boys, who are infamous for receiving more invitations than the actual events they ever attend.  To find them as guests at a party is the mark of great success of any hostess or host (well done dahhling Baron).  Lord Crabtree & Lady Hamilton, mon ja’bibi The Duke looking so handsome & princely in his white tuxedo jacket.   Sweet Aristocratic Viscount, Marquise du Chaussure, the Dominican Marqués and the Earl of Cavendish (full of stories to tell me, of course!).  The International's were there also, he from Venezuela, she from Germany; Together they make a FAB style & power duo.  She was wearing the most beautiful Balenciaga yellow coat with opera length gloves! of course they are bonafide members of La Sociedad and know everyone dahhling... I also met the most interesting & sophisticated Lebanese gentleman who was a real treat to speak to.  Never mind the fun & cute Chevalier Jibbles one of the Baron’s favorites and a very charming & interesting golf pro to boot!

Of course for all the great people at any party, no matter how FAB, there are always a few oddities.  I saw a cleaning lady complete with a maid’s cap & bag of laundry, a janitor, a Dom DeLuise impersonator, a lispy frizzy hair woman and the worse a member of the WHO’s crowd! (although truthfully he was more of a dunce!)  










Dahhhling, it is always easier to hide behind the pretext of ignorance, naiveté or stupidity as reasons why a younger person (or of any age really) does not takes an active role in developing an elegant life with a full social calendar of events both attending & hosting… after all dahhling, no one was born already knowing how to, not even this Duchess! We all had to learn at some point, and the earlier the better! Now should you come across any of those pretentious creatures who will tell you otherwise or worse, insist on the act that they never had to learn & never made a mistake along the way, even then they are more of a boor than you for not trying at all!
Until soonest…

HRH
The Duchess of State.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The NO THANK YOU crowd…

Photo by Eugenio Recuenco
With the upcoming holiday celebration of “Thanksgiving” it is only befitting that one takes the time for reflection, all the experiences, people, parties to be thankful of but also for all those guests one has had, throughout the year, for anything from sit down dinners, cocktails parties, afternoon té, luncheons, etc, etc.  Inevitably there are also some things not to be so thankful of, in particular those guests, that never really take the time to acknowledge the effort and time involved in entertaining them or more importantly the fact that a gracious invitation was extended to them and that they were included in the first place, by never daring to send you a Thank You Note!  To this crowd: The NO THANK YOU Crowd, it’s almost, as if it were a matter of principle to them, refuse to ever issue any type of action which may be perceived as grateful, Thank you Notes & gratitude be damned!

Photo by Eugenio Recuenco
But really dahhling, is their fault really or ours? Why do we continue to invite such a crowd ¿no? All members of this crowd have many traits that make them desirable and interesting: they are always incredibly well informed (if at times a bit manufactured in their information.  Perhaps out of necessity to stay on the guest list?), charming, affable, ever so willing to follow dress instructions to the letter and ever so punctual, arriving exactly at the hour noted on the invitation, if not at times, even early! Most if not all, will from time to time (if ever so occasionally to the point of almost rarely) will reciprocate with an invitation of their own (otherwise dahhling they would be no more than that horrid bicho: The Moochers!!!). But should this be enough?  What drives otherwise FAB and promising people to be so insolent? Am sure you have a list of your own and like many, have ignored their NO THANK YOU member status….(you know who you are dahhling!)

Photo by Eugenio Recuenco
So during this time of “Thanksgiving” perhaps we should be also considering some guest list cleaning for all those who are not so thankful as well… I say 2012 should be the year without one “NO THANK YOU member” on the guest lists and instead be filled with those who are always celebrating our efforts with their actions and their thanksgiving thoughts expressed on paper for the invitations extended to them! What do you think dahhling?
Until soonest…

HRH
The Duchess of State

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Afternoon Té

Dahhling one of my favorite early afternoon form of entertaining a favorite or a group of them is Afternoon Té.   I love the scent of freshly brewed té, the trays of little sweets and artisan chocolat (only Chocolat by Adam Turoni ¡Obvio!) mixed with tea sandwiches. 

Photo by L. Lewin

First dahhling, a little history: for a thousand years leaves have been steeped and swirled. The various ceremonies accompanying the process of serving té as just as old and prized.  The Chinese are to be thanked for the creation (not to mention the pot itself).  Three thousand years before Christ, their legendary emperor, Shen Nung, is said to have chanced to drink a brew of fresh boiled water and leaves blown into his pot from a nearby bush, and to have told his people about the miraculous elixir that conquered sleep and cured thirst. By about A.D. 700, the first tea gardens bloomed in Japan seeded by plants the emperor ordered from China, but 500 more years would pass before the taste for tea took root there.  Voyaging Europeans brought tea to Holland from the East.
But it was the English of course, who made tea part of their life in ways that continue to present day. It was late in arriving, in the 17th century the English were still accompanying breakfast with ale and beer, and spending all afternoon at coffeehouses. In 1657, tea was introduced but some confused first customers seemed content to brew the leaves and spread them on bread to eat or add a bit of butter and salt to the cup! King Charles II returned home from exile in Holland with a taste for tea, and his Portuguese queen arrived with tea and teapots as part of her dowry…thank the heavens!
Tea came to this continent with the Dutch and English settlers and was popular from grand houses to backwoods cabins.  By the 19th century, the teapot had been depoliticized, and about 1840, tea gained a new ritual in England originated by Anna, The Duchess of Bedford, who originated the ritual of afternoon tea, as she waited for dinner at the fashionable late hour of 8pm! Sweet & savory tidbits joined the tea table, until the Victorians added substantial spreads that included groaning cake stands, plates of bright jellies and meringues, and potted meats,

Photo by L. Lewin

Photo by L. Lewin

Photo by L. Lewin
This week, with the change of weather, I organized Afternoon Té with some of my favorite ladies in the Garden.  Obviously since afternoon té is always held well past the appointment lunch hour, usually no mayor food is required, but I like to have a good selection of various sweet & savory options. De rigueur of course are Susan Mason’s tomato sandwiches (from her FAB recipe book: Silver Service).  Every country has their own set of rules of what is acceptable & what is considered a faux pas. Cream? Scones? milk? Lemon? Sugar cubes? Loose sugar? Add the sugar & milk before pouring the tea? Believe me it is endless!...But being a Duchess myself dahhling, I believe in making my own rules, always!  Like many ceremonies that have been practiced for a few centuries, not everyone agrees on what constitutes the proper pot of tea and how to do so.  Even the English turned the question over to their Standards Institute and got directions that satisfied no one! Therefore, the perfect pot of tea, to me is as follows:
- Make sure to always use cold filtered tap water, so it’s fresh and full of oxygen (though in earliest days of New York, special pumps just for tea were set up for the populace!)
- Select a good quality tea.  Remember that different type of tea leaves require slightly different brewing times.
- If you are packing a tea ball or infuser, don’t fill it to the brim, tea leaves need space to expand as they steep
- Choose any FAB pot you have (personally I love mixing several tea pots like my hotel silver tea pots with my Minton china & Limoges pots) but always avoid aluminum or hard worn enamel on metal as either will taint the tea’s flavor.
- Swirl a bit of hot water in the pot and then pour out the water. A warm pot will keep the water at the boiling point, crucial for the proper brewing.
- Add one teaspoonful of tea for each person to be served and one for the pot! This is the accepted wisdom passed down to us, but based on your choice of tea and experience you may choose to dip out only half that amount.  Few people, as you know, like their tea very weak, it always easier to dilute a strong cup with fresh hot water ¿no?
- Bring the teapot to the kettle on the stove as the water reaches boiling – a true boil.  The less distance the kettle travels, the more likely the water is to stay boiling. Do not, allow the water to continue bubbling on the burner, those bubbles are carrying away all the oxygen, and over boiled water leads to tea with a very distinct muddy taste.. and dahhhling who wants that?
- Let the tea steep, or “mash” as they say in the north of England.  Normally, steeping time is about 5 minutes for taste, flavor,  and color to bloom, but small leaved teas, like a green tea, take a much shorter time, while a hearty Lapsang Souchong might need 7 to 8 minutes.
- Give the mixture a stir and then serve, after removing the infuser or if you’ve simply used the tea loose in the post, place a strainer between the spout and the cups and enjoy!

Photo by L. Lewin
Photo by L. Lewin
Foto by L. Lewin
Foto by L. Lewin
In attendance were la Condesa, Marquesa de Wolfe, the ever interesting Isabelle, the very lively & deliciously eccentric Baronesa de Alicante, First Lady Cook and our new addition Marquise du Chaussure.  Dearest Lady Cecile was unable to attend however she coordinated a delivery of fresh flowers, perfectly delivered 30 minutes before the appointed hour on the invitations to confirm her regret at missing the té.  How dehhvine, chic & thoughtful detalle ¿no?
These days dahhhling, lack of imagination is the only limitation to what you may serve at your own gathering. So get inspired & immediately create an invitation & host your very own afternoon té!
Until soonest…

HRH
The Duchess of State

Saturday, November 12, 2011

La Condesa, the birth of A Grand Dragona…

Dahhling, I have written before about La Condesa, however I have barely touched on the reasons I admire this most amazing adventurous bohemian royal woman. I find the path she has carved out of in this life with that indomitable spirit one of the many qualities I admire about her.  She has done so many things that I admit to you dahhling, I would never have the courage to do!  She is one of the most fashionable women I know, her unique über chic old world style is breathtakingly beautiful, like a postcard from the past in her burgundies, furs, cognacs, browns, tweeds, custom made palazzo pants or her 1950’s inspired dresses always finished with the most exquisite & rare vintage byzantine style jewels.

Foto by Eugenio Recuenco
Her story began in the beautiful genteel world of the old Virginia of the Ancien Régime, of course.
By the time she could tell her nurse, with that unique haughtiness of hers that she would not wear what she was told to wear but instead what she chose to, she was already riding horses.  She could not wait to join the others in the fox hunting parties.  Boarding school did nothing to damper her spirits but instead exposed her to the fact that there are others like her in this vast world & that discovery would only encourage her tireless thirst for adventure & discovery.  Her father, a diplomat, whom she is devoted to, always instilled in her the fundamental need to always learn, search for the truth of anything & everyone beyond from what lies on the mere surface.

Photo by Eugenio Recuenco
Life took her from one end to the other.  When she was 16 she was on safari in the middle of the wilderness in Africa with only her mother as a companion, traveling in the mist of, yet another civil revolution.  Her fair gold locks, porcelain skin & deep blue eyes, certainly got her noticed, but it was her powerful sense of self that got them through what could had ended with her sold off in some middle eastern harem when the local militia refused passage to them from the deep African savannah back to the more civilized portion of the county on their way back out.  There was already a Grand Dragona growing in her, even if she did not understand yet what that meant.

Foto by Eugenio Recuenco
A few years later she was in the little French village of Montpellier, attending university, where she caught the eye of her first husband, a blue blood, member of La Sociedad of Barcelona, and sooner than you can set a table with Limoges dahhling, she was married in all the high drama & style befitting such a match in a
15th century monastery.  Anyone who was anyone was of course invited & thus began her years living there. A strange life that did not ever involve anything but her in-laws desire for blonde beautiful babies. She lived in a grand apartment, purchased by the family, in one of the most chic neighborhoods off Passeig de Gràcia, she had a full staff, that did not really report to her nor received a salary but from the family instead. Her husband never gave her money for anything, including the market, she was instructed by her formidable mother in law that she was to go to any shop in the city & simply give her last name. They would phone the family for approval & things would be magically delivered to her beautiful apartment, things that were approved only, of course.  It goes without saying, that before long, the poor dear Condesa found herself feeling watched by the Arian Gestapo and all their minions with their judgmental eyes, for every month that would go by without her bearing the fruit of the reason for the union: blonde, blue eyed babies, she felt more and more caged, less & less like herself.

Foto by Eugenio Recuenco


Foto by Eugenio Recuenco

Foto by Eugenio Recuenco
Of course her exit out of Barcelona & the cult of the Arian Gestapo came by just as dramatically as people trying to flee West Germany in the early 1900’s.  But, with the cover of the night, she left with nothing more than her passport & her spirit unperturbed and found her way back to Old Virginia from where she promptly filed for divorce. 

Foto by Eugenio Recuenco

Foto by Eugenio Recuenco

Foto by Eugenio Recuenco
It was during that year, at her family’s summer beach cottage, that she met her 2nd husband, the Pirate that would steal her away from the idyllic life in the cottage to a FAB life on a yacht, sometimes sailing from one end to another of the continent and other times docked permanently in New York west village harbor, enduring a whirl wind of cocktail parties & Sunday brunch yacht hopping.  However all was not what it seemed with the Pirate and the darker side of his personality & his smuggling ways soon were all to clear to La Condesa & when on a trip back from the Caribbean the yacht began to sink after being caught in a storm, she saw her chance & took it. Her S.O.S. was so enticing that the Venezuelan coast guard had no choice but to rush to the rescue. Once in custody (for she was looked at with suspicious spy eyes by the Venezuelan authorities, the nerve I know!) she promptly telephone her father & once again she was set free never to see the pirate again. 


Foto by Eugenio Recuenco
It was another year before she would meet her 3rd husband, the love of her life: El Conde (whose grandfather was the master of guard of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and whose mother, the Dowager Countess: Doña Teresa, grew up as a lady in waiting to Queen Victoria Eugenia, pre Franco displacement of course!).  It was because of him she came to the Garden, it was because of his calm & serene influence that the dear found happiness at last.  Beyond the fascinating journey that has gotten her to our fair Garden, she is by far one of the most genuine and original persons one will ever meet.  She is a very talented photographer with an artistic eye who has captured her own unique perspective of the world every time she travels, from the grand dilapidated houses in Columbia, the quiet baroque beauty of Lisbon, Rome, Paris and Madrid, the magical corners in an 18th century cemetery in our Garden to the simple discoveries of nature around her very own regal courtyard.  At her core, she is the definition of a Grand Dragona, ever so imperious, ever so unwilling to put up with any sort of insolence, always a true wit and loyal to a fault for those she considers her own, but did life make her into the Grand Dragona she is? Or was she born this way?

Foto by Eugenio Recuenco
Photo by L. Lewin

Photo by L.Lewin

Photo by L. Lewin
Foto by L. Lewin
Foto by L. Lewin
As I have said before, notwithstanding her upbringing, La Condesa, is one of the most Spanish ladies I know.  Her essence if of full Spanish blood. Noblesse blue, of course! and one of my dearest friends.
Until soonest…

HRH
The Duchess of State
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