Four Favorite Books for January ’14

This wasn’t exactly one of those months when I could just sit around enjoying my stacks of books and pots of tea, though I did manage to sneak in a couple of cosy moments thanks to Action Girl having a very strong streak of self-indulgent preservation.

When I did find time to read I found myself turning to, or maybe returning to would be more accurate, ladies who have withstood the test of time and are being rediscovered and appreciated all over again — perhaps more now than they were before.

I usually choose one work of fiction for my monthly favorite, and this book is actually described, by its author, as “Faction” so though it is truth, embroidered, I am going with it instead of a novel…

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DV. by Diana Vreeland, edited by George Plimpton and Christopher Hemphill, published by Da Capo Press in 1997.

Just read it. I have been sitting here with my fingers hovering over my keyboard…and… I. need. 1000. words. But I’ll try.

Diana Vreeland not only managed to be present at the heart of what made each decade from the 20’s through the 80’s special, but she managed to capture their essences and then visually transcribe those essences for the edification of the generations in the forms of Vogue and Harpers Bazaar — like Illuminated Manuscripts. And the way she understood color…. “Donkey!” Just read it.

For my Cookbook selection I chose Frida’s Fiesta’s — Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo, published by Clarkson Potter, 1994.

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The book is written by Guadalupe Rivera, Diego Rivera’s daughter with Marie-Pierre Colle, and is divided into 12 fiestas which were special to Frida and Diego.

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There are gorgeous photos of their home in Coyoacan, as well as of the prepared recipes which are all autentico, delicioso and made with ingredients you can find at your local grocery store — and if not there, then at the Mexican mercado next door. At least that’s what las chingonas tell me.

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My selection for Interior Design is really more of an Exterior Design book, though some interiors are featured, and the “lady” is in fact many “ladies”… America’s Painted Ladies, The Ultimate Celebration of Our Victorian’s. It’s written by Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen and published by Penguin Books, 1992. There are examples of spectacular Painted Ladies from all over the country and lots of inspiration if you find yourself with the opportunity to choose more than 2 colors for an exterior paint job.

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While in Woodstock, IL we lived in a Victorian and I had the great pleasure of selecting 5 colors with which to dress her up for the first time in her 100 year long life. I scandalized the neighborhood. People actually yelled things at me and my painters, Juan and Adrian (who had flown North for the winter from Puebla), as they covered her boring white and pale yellow with navy blue, cappuccino, persimmon, apple red, and gold.

When we were getting ready to move back to Boise I had a yard sale, and EVERY neighbor who dropped by told me how much they loved that we had brought out the true spirit of our house and our neighborhood with the new paint!

Finally, my Art book selection for January is Vera, The Art and Life of an Icon, by Susan Seid, published by Abrams in 2010.

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I’ve been kicking myself because I had a Vera linen dishtowel with beautiful red tomatoes on a deep orange background which belonged to my Gramma Dottie, who kept it in perfect condition. I inherited it, and beat the crap out of it drying dishes, and now I don’t have it any more. What would Vera say?

Actually, I think Vera would have been delighted because her whole intent was to bring color and art and a little bit of sunshine and playfulness into the mundane and often drab lives of the “ordinary housewife.” Why shouldn’t your dishtowel make you smile while you dry the bazillionth dish? Of course, as this book so beautifully shows you, Vera’s vision, and her business model, went miles beyond dishtowels!

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So those are my favorites for this month — mostly pictures, and just before the month runs out, but all worth a look, or a second look. Some things just get better with time.