Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I am Proud to be a Hispanic Woman Today

I was driving in my car today, listening to NPR (as usual), when the program was interrupted for live coverage of President Obama's first nomination to the Supreme Court. The first Hispanic ever, and a woman at that, Sonia Sotomayor is his nominee. I was truly elated and proud today. Yes, when Obama won the election, I like many was moved by the profoundness of our nation's election of a black president. But being Hispanic, today's event struck me to the core. I later heard a commentator say: "I cannot overstate what an important event this is for the Latino community." He was right, it is such a monumental moment that it cannot be overstated. This is our moment. Even more moving, was Sonia's story, because afterall, she could have been a Hispanic woman who had come from an already established family, in the way Susan Rice, US ambassador to the UN is a formidable black woman who has acheived greatness, but who had educated parents and lots of mentors along the way, i.e. Madeleine Albright is one of her mother's best friends.
Sonia, like president Obama himself, did not have an easy road. Her parents were immigrants, her illiterate father died when she was nine years old, and she grew up in "the projects." Her mother often worked two jobs, but made sure her children attended Catholic schools. Today her brother is a successful physician and she is soon to be a Supreme Court Justice. These are the American stories that give me inspiration. Inspiration to pursue my dreams and challenge myself to not rest so comfortably where I am right now. She is living proof that, in this country, anyone can acheive anything.
I was taken by her acceptance speech when she said that never in her wildest dreams had she dreamt of becoming a judge in the highest court of our land. Little girls from poor neighborhoods rarely dream these kinds of dreams. Yet, here she was, standing next to a black, orphaned boy, the President of the United States.

I am proud to be a Hispanic woman today, I am more proud to be an American.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

D. ~ The Photographer

I recently received the "extra" photos from our Cottage/Coastal Living photo shoot with photographer Ray Kachatorian. Around our house, D. is the photographer extraordinaire and as a result we never have any pictures of him. He took the picture of himself above with a remote. When I saw that Ray had taken some "behind the scenes" photos of D. with the kids the morning before the shoot, I was thrilled. They reflect what a wonderful father he is and what a close relationship he has with our children.

Our children are at a stage right now in which we are frequently pushed to our patience-limits with whining and crying and fighting (current ages 5, 2, and 6 months) but there are many magical moments when we can sit back and watch them do amazing things and ask profound questions. With all our efforts at being good parents, once in a while we do smile and are so proud of our little ones accomplishments. Other times we simply wonder "what are we doing wrong?" I hope and pray that our kids will grow up to be "successful" socially-conscious adults. I place quotation marks around successful because I feel that there is a broad spectrum in the definition of "success". I certainly do not mean just having some money in the bank. Spirituality, culture, social development and many more dimensions are just as important. So how do we define "success" for our children? And how do we expect them to achieve?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Antique Myth Buster

There are lots of myths out there about antiques and decorating with them. I find many people who are intimidated by the mere thought of going to an antiques store or buying an antique. They often feel that they are going to be cheatedinto paying too much or buying something that is not what they are being told it is. I find this is to be most unfortunate since I find antiques to be of a magical world that elicits history and beauty to all surroundings. Living with antiques is like listening to wonderful music. Eating breakfast on a great, rustic farm table just makes my whole day more interesting.

Here are a few myth bustersI've assembled regarding antiques:

Myths: “my children will ruin my priceless antiques” and
I don't want my house to look like grandma's attic

1. Antiques are not always priceless. In fact, antiques are often better or equally priced than their contemporary alternatives of equal quality. I’m not comparing the prices of antiques to new furniture at Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware. High quality antiques should be compared to high quality new furniture such as that available at Holly Hunt or Roche Bobois. Antiques tend to be an even greater value when you consider that their resale value will not drop the moment it leaves the store. Buying new furniture is like buying a new car; buying antiques is like investing in real estate. (This does mean that at moments like in the current economy prices DO drop. My house is not worth today what it was worth 3 years ago. Same goes for my French armoire. But in 5 years, my house will probably be worth more than it is today...same should go for my armoire!) Therefore, antiques are probably a lot more affordable than you think. And in the long run, they are a LOT more affordable if you consider you will have to change that “made in china” coffee table 3 times by the time your kids are grown since it is made of pressed wood.

2. Antiques are not always fragile. You wouldn’t let your child stand on a glass coffee table or play with a ceramic vase. Proper treatment of new furniture is not any different than treatment of antiques. In fact, if it’s lasted more than 100 years, it’s probably for a reason: it was a quality piece of furniture made to last. If you spill wine on your new couch it won’t cost you less to replace it than it would to reupholster an antique armchair. Antiques can be just as practical and livable as any other options on the market.

3. If you do choose to purchase some “priceless” i.e. expensive pieces, don’t be afraid to teach your children their value.
Children will behave as they are taught/ allowed to behave. Toys are toys, special pieces are just that, special.Your home establishes your quality of life, so set your standards high. If you want to surround yourself with beauty and art, you shouldn’t give that up because you’re in the reproductive stage of your life. Always strive for the best quality you can afford and be patient about finding the right pieces. Better to buy one great piece that you will have for years to come then fill a room with pieces that will have to be replaced.

4. Designing with antiques does not mean you will have a cluttered, dusty, or sad atmosphere. Antiques can be clean cut, bright, and airy…you just have to find the right pieces and interesting combinations. Designing with antiques doesn't have to be all or nothing, you can have a contemporary space with one or two token antiques to give the area depth and poignancy. Perhaps an unexpected chandelier or curvaceous chair.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Alhambra Antiques goes to the White House?

I don't know who was the source of the information...but check out this link to the Washington Post's ecofriendly site "Sprig"! It says that these chairs were in a proposal for the White House! My guess is that the Obama's preferred a pair of American club chairs, which is fine with me since these already found their new home. Still an honor to have our website cruised by Michael Smith himself. We also got a phone call from his office for this vanity (but for a California client.) It's still available here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lunch with Heels at Fairchild

The luncheon I was invited to by a dear client and friend was an annual fundraiser for the International Kid's Fund, a subsidiary of the Jackson Memorial Foundation. Since Jackson is a public hospital paid for with tax payers' money, only US residents can be treated. All foreigners must pay for treatment up front if they wish to be seen at this most prestigious of institutions. (I gave birth to all three of my babies there because I consider it to be the best hospital around.) This fund has been established to provide life-saving care for children from other countries who otherwise could not afford it. The theme of the luncheon was "Heros in Heels" and so the tables were decorated with sparkling shoes. Michelle Bernstein, of Michy's and Sen~ora Martinez restaurants, personally served all of the guests some of her exquisite dishes. There was a raffle in which the first place prize was a Cartier watch valued at $9000. The winner of the raffle, a very classy woman, refused to accept the prize and instead submitted it to be auctioned off to help the organization raise even more funds. The watch was purchased for a $6000. donation to IKF. Bravo! It is rare to see such a gesture.

I've come away with several questions after attending a series of charitable events. One is the conclusion that there are SO many causes and organizations that making decisions about who to give to is rather overwhelming. Another is that not all charities are created equal. Some favor addressing short-term problems while other look at the "big" picture. Some face tough ethical questions in their practices. For example, IKF receives many more children requesting needed surgeries than they can possibly support. How do they choose which children are worthy to fly all the way to Miami, house, treat, etc? What about the children who they cannot afford to help? Do they just send them a "rejection" letter as if they didn't get in to the college of their choice? Do they refer them to other organizations? Do they recommend other forms of treatment? For many of these cases, it is literally a matter of life and death. So who gets to play God? Who makes the decision? You can bet it is not a job I am interested in.

These questions remind me of the ease with which we Americans take forgranted the amazing health care system we have access to--granted however expensive and in many ways flawed it may be. We still have the opportunity to see the best doctors and benefit from the best technology in the world.

Another example of the charity dilemma is one that a classmate of mine once pointed out during college. Our college was hosting a drive for "Project Life", a group that ran blood tests free of charge in order to match possible bone marrow donors for leukemia patients. She pointed out to me that for the hundreds of dollars they spent testing students, there would be maybe 1 in 1000 matches (or more). Then, once a possible match was made, the person could still refuse to go through the extremely painful donation procedure. And even after a patient received the donation, his/her health was not guaranteed to improve. Her argument was that while she did not want to refuse any leukemia patient the hope for a cure, her question was, couldn't the thousands of dollars spent on testing for potential matches be spent actually saving the lives of other children who could be saved for certain? Food for thought....speaking of food, here is how the tables were decorated.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dancing Through the Gardens

For our article feature in Coastal Living magazine, I was asked to write a "top ten" spots where I like to go around Coral Gables/ Miami. Here's a cut out of the list:

It is entirely accurate except for the edited Alhambra Antiques. I guess the editors found it to be too "self-promotional." I've already posted about Vizcaya and the fabulous luncheon I went to there. Last week, I attended a charity luncheon at another one of my top ten sites, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Fairchild is an expansive property whose mission is to save tropical plant diversity by exploring, explaining and conserving the world of tropical plants; fundamental to this task is inspiring a greater knowledge and love for plants and gardening so that all can enjoy the beauty and bounty of the tropical world. One of the ways they have been working to excite the community and tourists to visit is by hosting art installations by well-known artists. This photo is from a remnant the previous Dale Chihuly installation, in which the gardens were adorned with magnificent glass blown sculptures resembling the nature itself.

Currently, they have an installation featuring massive bronze sculptures by Fernando Botero.
Here is one of a horse:

Here is a piece with a man and woman dancing:

The most beautiful view at Fairchild:

The guest house with shop and restaurant:

We locals enjoy going there with the kids when it isn't too hot and when they have fun activities, such as for Halloween. While not as glamorous as a place like Vizcaya, it's worth a visit if you are in the area and enjoy nature. I'll write about my "Heros in Heels" luncheon in a few days...thanks for visiting and stay tuned.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Here is a lavender bouquet for all my "mommies"! Wishing you all a beautiful day!

Friday, May 8, 2009

It's Official ~ A Parisian Escapade

Yes, it's official, D. and I are taking a much needed vacation to Paris. I mustered up enough miles for two direct flights (thank you American Airlines) and a special friend is letting us stay at her apartment in the 17th arrondissement (thank you K.F. and J.S.) We leave on June 3rd and I can't wait.

I say this is a much needed vacation because due to the down-turn in the economy, we've been doing a lot of "soul searching" concerning what direction
Alhambra Antiques needs to go. We have come to acknowledge that the store has become rather dated, due to the fact that a lot of the sitting inventory has been, well, sitting for more than a few years. We have never devised a "clearance" or liquidation policy as our thought has always been: "what's a few more years for furniture that is more than 100 years old?" Except that even with antiques, the truth is that there are trends and antiques that at times are worth more than others. It is time to reinvent ourselves. The question of course is where do we go from here? How do we create a new antiques store? Without losing the positive effects (or asset) of a 20 year reputation and maintaining our faithful clientele? This is getting to be as complicated as the bailout...surely, over some excellent, wine, cheese, and fois gras, we will be able to think clearly.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Vintage Vanity of All Things French

With gifts for Mother's Day as my inspiration, I assembled this little assortment of antiques to decorate a ladies' vanity. If I didn't have little children who like to take my things, this is what my dream vanity would look like. Doesn't the styling and D.'s effects create an interesting look?

Here's break down of the items from left to right: 1. An iridescent glass flower holder used to drape some special pieces from my Rose Idee vintage jewelry collection. 2. A set of 12 hand-embroidered 19th century French jacquard napkins--great to use as guest towels in a bathroom. 3. A gilt brass laurel and oak leaf wreath, used as a trophy/ prize in the tradition of the classical laurel wreaths. 4. An ivory rose bouquet centerpiece from our Beautiful Blooms preserved flower collection. 5. Three handwritten manuscripts, gathered and tied with a dried flower. 6. A delicate tortoise shell and brass inlay jewelry box. 7. A giltwood curtain finial. 8. A sterling silver tumbler (with some of my well-loved fountain pens). 9. A bronze bird paperweight signed by the well-known animal sculptor Paul Comolera. 10. Three old leatherbound books. 11. A bronze mounted porcelain bird "lamp". What's on your dream vanity?

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day ~ La Fete du Muguet

Happy May Day to all my readers! A light note for today: In France, May Day is also known as La Fete du Muguet, or the feast of the Lily of the Valley. The French give each other bouquets of these sweet lilies as a wish of health and happiness to the recipient. It is impossible to find real lilies of the valley in hot South Florida, so I have photographed some beautiful plates decorated with the lilies for you to enjoy. These plates are from the turn-of-the-century, by Villeroy & Boch, which today still exists and is based out of Luxembourg. I have a series of five with a mauve background and a set of six with a mustard color. I currently have them displayed with an assortment of other majolica plates of asparagus and artichokes in a traditional country French vaisselier which looks like this:

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