August 23, 2016

Instagram: Late August Edition(!)

How is it possible that it’s late August already? This summer has flown by, mainly because it’s been so busy. But it’s never too busy to snap some pictures for you and for Instagram!

Dill flowers from the garden at Halcyon House Antiques. I love this image.image

After a massive rainstorm, we had the most vibrant rainbow!image

Who knew pumpkins had thorns! This will be a tiny pumpkin, a volunteer from one a threw in the garden last fall.image

I think this is one of the most beautiful buildings in Baltimore. Another reminder to look up!image

Just in the last week, we’ve had several big storms, which come with great clouds.image

Getting very excited for the Portobello Pop Up in September. image

Late 1800’s flow blue cup and saucer. So modern looking!image

It drives me crazy for Figue to have her hair in her eyes, so I chopped it off. It didn’t work too well.image

Alice’s White Rabbit – one of the designs for a tea-towel for the pop-up sale.image

I am heading to the beach for a few days with one of my English cousins who’s visiting, so I will see you next week!

August 17, 2016

Summer Suppers

I love this time of year mainly for the fact that two of my favourite things are in ample supply: Tomatoes and Peaches. As children, we always had plenty of both and they evoke such great food memories of picking and eating tomatoes straight from the garden, and going to a farm and getting bushels of peaches. image

To me, there’s nothing better than a simple tomato sandwich. Just white bread, Dukes mayonaise, freshly picked and sliced tomatoes and some salt and pepper. You have to eat them immediately or the bread gets soggy. I could eat these for supper every night during August.

I also love Insalata Caprese, which is just tomatoes, good mozzarella and basil leaves, drizzled with some good balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled with salt and pepper. image

Additionally, if you’ve got a huge bounty of tomatoes, you can make sauces, or do like I do and dry them in the oven until they’re leathery, and then preserve them in olive oil. Simply slice them, put them on a cookie sheet in the oven at about 200*, and leave them for several hours. An added bonus is that your house will smell amazing!

On Saturday mornings, when I work at Halcyon House Antiques, I stop at a farm stand and pick up provisions for the week, including peaches. While they don’t always look picture perfect, they are delicious! image

Again, my favourite thing to do is wash them and cut them into quarters or eighths, sprinkle them with a tiny bit of vanilla sugar, and eat them, skin and all. I know that some people can’t stand the fuzzy skin, but if you wash them and rub them a bit, the fuzz comes off.

If I have a couple of pounds of peaches, I love making peach and bourbon jam.image I wrote about it here, and think that it tastes amazing on a good vanilla ice cream. It’s fun to make enough to share with friends as a host/hostess gift at a summer supper.

What’s your go-to summer meal?

August 8, 2016

Bizzy Bizzy Me!

Yikes! Last week was the first time since I started writing the blog that I didn’t post at all. I kept meaning to, but things kept getting in the way.

To start, I am busy preparing for my Portobello Pop-Up in just about a month. It’s being held at the fabulous Halcyon House Antiques, just north of Baltimore, beginning on September 16th, and running for about a week.image

In addition to vintage and antique china and silver, I am also designing a line of tea-towels that we will be selling at the Pop-Up.
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All of the towels are printed on a 50/50 blend of linen and cotton, and the details in the images are really amazing. It’s been such fun playing with a lot of different designs and finding fascinating old images. Of course, in addition to designing these, I am also sewing them into towels.

Another related project was finally, after five years, finalizing the Toile de Baltimore print. Literally, five years of playing with this pattern, trying to get the repeat to work out. I have added a trellis background, but want to play with it a bit more. However, for now, this will work for some small pieces, and pillows. imageThe images are the Patterson Park Pagoda, the Pride of Baltimore, Fort McHenry, the Washington Monument and Homewood House, all icons of Baltimore.

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Dear sweet Figue is also taking up my time. imageShe’s a scamp and finds a way to get into everything. After having two dogs who never got into anything, I really have to keep on my toes and make sure anything that ever had some food in it, is put away immediately. Between the time I walked into the house, let her out, went to the loo and walked back to the living room, she’d snatched a packet of prosciutto!imageAlso none too fun was giving this little wiggle-worm a bath and a wee hair trim! Her hair is very curly and I brush it every day, but a bath was in order after she rolled in something stinky!

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My new favourite summer drink is F’Rosè! You have to say it out loud to get it. It’s frozen rosè, sort of like a slushy. image

The Wall Street Journal’s Off Duty section had the simplest recipe the other week, which was the one we tried. It’s just 3 oz. of rosè, 2 oz. of simple syrup and ice. Blend and drink. We questioned the need for simple syrup and tried it without, which was fine. But the addition of maybe two tablespoons, not two ounces, of the simple syrup really made it sing. Of course, we couldn’t leave well enough alone, so we added some fresh peach puree! Magical!

Hope your summer’s been great. Hard to believe we’re in the second week of August!

July 27, 2016

Mapping it Out

Anyone who knows me knows that I L.O.V.E. maps! I think this comes from playing with the globe in my father’s study as a child. I’d spin it around and stick my finger on some foreign land and then try to learn about it. image

Later, I learned to read nautical charts, and even had an office papered with the charts of the Chesapeake Bay. And of course, there’s the famous Turgot Plan de Paris, which I adhered to my dining room wall at my old house.

I love looking at old maps of Baltimore, and had a chance to carefully study the Warner & Hanna 1804 map of Baltimore, with one of my ancestors’ houses on it. image

I recently came across a historic map of Baltimore that I’d never seen before, and neither had some of my more scholarly Baltimore historian friends. I was looking for a map on which I could find a street which no longer exists, so did a search for vintage Baltimore maps. 1912 capture

This is not technically a map, more of a bird’s eye drawing of the downtown, which, seven scant years before, been totally gutted by a fire.  The downtown buildings, and significant landmarks further from the Inner Harbour are incrediblly clear and detailed. So, as this gets farther away from the “burnt district”, things get a lot sketchier.

You can easily see the Washington Monument, image

the Johns Hopkins medical campus, imagethe Camden Yards warehouses, image

Davidge Hall and the Bromo Tower, image

and so much more.

Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone, so I applied my mad Photoshop skills to it while listening to the convention speeches, and colourized the map, mostly with brick red, copper and forest green and some pale blue, although we all know perfectly well that the Harbour and the Jones Falls never looked like that. I think that the colour gives the piece a lot of depth. 1912 capture colour

Although it’s not quite to scale, it’s a pretty amazing piece of work, originally done in pencil by Mr. Edward Spofford in the fall of 1911. There’s not a lot of information about this piece, like who comissioned it, and how it was sketched.

You can download a huge file of the map from the Library of Congress, here. I think I am going to have it printed out on fabric and make some pillow covers.cushion-baltimore I am also going to print it out on a dozen or so 11x17 pieces of paper and stick in on a wall somewhere.

July 20, 2016


When I bought my house five years ago, I was thrilled to see that it had two T-bars to hold a clothesline. The bars are iron and there is one by the house and one at the end of the yard. When I lived in the UK, we didn’t have a clothes drier and because it was so cold and damp, I never felt like my things were completely dry.image

But here in Maryland, where it can get quite humid, we also have lots of sun. So I take advantage of this by drying as many things on the clothesline as I can. Even on a humid day, if there’s a little breeze and some sun, things dry pretty quickly – even bath towels! Of course, there are some items that don’t go on the line – mostly my unmentionables, and knits which need the heat and agitation to pull the knit back into shape.IMG_1912

As I have said before, I barely use paper towels. Instead, I take advantage of my large collection of linen or cotton tea towels. I use them a couple of times, depending on whether I am cleaning up spills, wiping my hands or drying a pot, and then I put them in the bin for washing.I frequently find brand-new linen tea towels at yard sales and thrift shops. They need to be washed several times (just throw them in with your regular laundry) so that the sizing that makes them stiff can wash out.

Recently, friends brought me back the most fun tea towels from Portobello Road in London to add to my collection.image

After some trial and error, I began using plastic clothes pins from Muji, the amazing Japanese store. I found that if I didn’t take the wooden ones in after I used them, they became stained, which in turn, stained my clothes. Ugh. Although this one looks a little grubby, there’s an incredible little Potter Wasp’s nest that I found built into the end of a pin. image

A friend recently told me that when we were kids, living just a few blocks from each other, both of our mothers hung clothes on the line. His mother got anonymouse notes from the neighbours telling her that it was trashy to hang laundry outside. Apparently, this is still the case in some suburban subdivisions. Really? It’s not trashy, it’s smart.


But when you think about the time and energy it takes to run a clothes drier, and how effortless it is to let the wind and sun do all of the work, why not hang your things on a line? And as an added benefit, they smell great!

July 12, 2016

Portobello: A Pigtown Pop-Up

One of my favourite things to do in the UK is to poke around small antique sales, places like Portobello Road and Spitalfields Market, and of course, car-boot sales. In the spirit of Portobello Road, I am having a pop-up sale in September, hosted by my great friends at Halcyon House Antiques.Portobello Logo

As you know if you’ve been reading Pigtown*Design for any length of time, I have a broad love for English antiques. My Etsy shop always features beautiful English silver, incuding teapots, pitchers, serving pieces,image and of course, mother-of-pearl handled silverware. imageIn addition, I’ve assembled a great collection of individual English transfer-ware both in blue and white and polychrome, perfect for expanding your collectionsimage

Everything in this sale is something that I’ve found in my travels, and have personally selected as something I’d like to have in my own house (and in many cases, I do have duplicates).

One of the things I like to do is use pieces in ways other than their original intention. For example, this salt shaker is now a wee bud vase, image

and this egg cup is now holding some fragrant honeysuckle blossoms. image

Please stay tuned for more details as we move closer to the date. And if there’s anything in particular that you’re looking for, do let me know.

July 5, 2016

Instagram: Early Summer Edition

After a very cool June, July and the summer heat have arrived with a vengeance: temperatures in the 90’s and more than 1.5 inches of rain over the past 24 hours. Here’s my past month or so in Instagram images.

I can’t tell you how much I adore this little gal! Figue has so much personality and she’s quite funny. I loved Connor and my other Lab, but Figue is totally different. Here she is in front of my small fig plant.image

Get this book! A combination of great recipes and funny stories, with great images.image

I was taking a different route someplace and spotted this on a building. It’s on a long-closed printing plant. image

I attended a party at Ladew Gardens on a perfect June afternoon. The roses were just finishing up, but still beautiful.image

Hydrangeas. Always a favourite.image

Summer supper at a friend’s farm. image

I’ve been admiring the broken pediment on this house for a while now. Finally remembered to take a picture.image

Potter wasps’ nest on my clothes pin. The nests are less than an inch long. Nature is an amazing thing.image

I saw this little guy taking a walk the other day. I stopped to take a picture and he turned in a circle for me, so I could see his rig!image

Figue has clearly made herself at home. She loves lying on the sofa surrounded by pillows…image

and sitting on her ottoman looking out the window, watching the world go by!image

Thanks for taking the time to read Pigtown*Design! Be sure to follow me on my Instagram account!