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Office Holiday Party

It’s that time of year when Uber prices surge because of snow and sludge, the L train can’t be trusted, and cold hearts melt or grow 3 sizes too big. My studio, Brooklyn United, a web development and digital marketing agency, takes the idea of being “culture-led” very seriously. This year, we rapidly expanded, and chose a restaurant to match our motley retinue. We wound up in Bed-Stuy at Bedford Hall, a remarkably preserved slice of the prohibition era.

This combination of a cozy eatery, lounge, shuffleboard space, and pool hall is modeled after your uncle’s warm library, or like a scene out of Clue. Comfy leather chairs, minus the pretentious vibe.  We came for the drink specials, and stayed for the surprise burlesque show!

My favorite part of the night, perhaps, was the fact that my husband donned a velvet smoking blazer replete with a satin color. He looked sharp! (I’m also in velvet, sporting a vintage LBD) Or, maybe it was when I won the award for “Deepest Reservoir of Obscure Facts (literature and fantasy edition) along with the beautiful, hardcover book Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition. Regardless of best moment, I am thankful for a such a fun way to kickoff the holiday season.

Whenever and wherever your holidays, have a merry time! Thank you so much to the super talented, Brooklyn-based photographer, Yoonography, for the photographs in this post.

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Ossining, New York

William Joseph Reynolds, author of Ossining a Brief History, explains, “Early 17th century Dutch maps of the Hudson River Valley show an Indian village, whose inhabitants were part of the Mohegan Tribe, named “Sint Sinck.” That phrase, when translated, means “stone upon stone” and refers to the extensive beds of limestone found in the southern part of the village.” Frederick Philipse, in 1685 fell so in love with the land, which is bounded to the west by the Hudson River and to the north by the Croton River, that he  bought the area from the Sint Sinck American Indians. The last lord of the manor, also named Frederick Philipse, was a Loyalist in the American Revolutionary War, so the State of New York confiscated the manor in 1779. As of 1901, the vast acreage has been incorporated as Westchester County, New York.

A local Indian authority suggested the town be named Ossinsing, a different form of the name Sing Sing. One year later the last “s” was removed for ease in pronunciation. However, today the district might be most famous as the fictional hometown of Don Draper and family – the main protagonist of Mad Men on AMC.

My friend and colleague, Max. The city mouse prepares to meet the country mouse. 

The gang waits at the train station. 

After the not-so-arduous journey we arrived at Sue’s humble abode! 

Ossining, although seemingly light years away from the hubbub of NYC, is actually only a short jaunt of 45 minutes via the Hudson Line on Metro North. Yet, in those 45 minutes the concrete and alumnim dissipate into expansive canopies of foliage, unfiltered crisp air and a carpet of green grass. When we walked into Sue’s house, circa the 19th century, we were greeted with a spread that would put Martha Stewart to shame! Sue’s warm welcoming and hospitality instantly linked the several strangers in the group as “family-for-the-day”.

While everyone was enjoying the autumnal bounty of artichoke spreads on crostini, caramelized onion flat breads, crudités and other hors d’oeuvres, I took the small opportunity to sneak away before anyone noticed! I apologize to my magical hostess Sue, but her home was just so inviting and perfectly manicured. Beyond the dining room and kitchen, lay a world of antique accessories, pattern play and a gorgeous living room.

And I tiptoed down the hallway (on a Persian runner), to the backyard, to where everyone was eating outside on this unseasonably warm October afternoon. Nary 10 minutes later, no one seemed to notice I had disappeared into the world of Sue’s gorgeous home! Every detail is in it’s rightful place, every window letting in the light just so.

And so a beautiful day of book suggestions, conversation, food and friendship drew to a close. It certainlty did not hurt that Sue is practically a Michelin starred chef whose pièce de résistance of the night was a warm Spicy Tomato, Sriracha & Blue Cheese SoupThis is what the harvest season is brings. 

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Tea for Two & Two for Tea

A tea garden, also know as a “pleasure’ garden” (not to be confused with ‘the garden of earthy delights’ or ‘midnight in the garden of good and evil’) was a particular type of lawn and horticulture that flourished in the 18th century. Tea gardens were actually designed specifically for the drinking of tea, strolling, and conversation. The two most famous tea gardens left in the UK (this practice lost its luster after World War II) are The Orchard in Grantchester near Cambridge, and Yorkshire Stingo in Marylebone, London. Tea gardens were public recreational parks that became extremely popular during the Victorian era, these are not to be confused with Roman or Japanese tea gardens which have their own unique traditions and chosen shrubs. Personally, I like my tea with some ornate topiaries ala the gardens of Versailles.

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In America all students are taught of the revolt of the Boston Tea Party, however taxation on teas seems to have been causing problems since time immemorial (or at least since the advent of government). The herb plants that are found in most tea gardens have a connection to the past. When the British government taxed tea for export to the New World, the colonists turned to herbs to make tea. To this day, tea is the post popular drink in the world! Common plants for one’s tea garden include mint, bergamot, lemon balm, rosemary, sage, hyssop, agrimony, alfalfa, and geraniums (really a tea garden’s plants should be ANY shrub, bush, weed, or herb that can be used in the creation of herbal teas and remedies).

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A tea garden’s colors are the perfect palette for a spring themed room – verdant greens, gentle pinks, ecru flower petals, and soft lavenders delight a viewer by transporting one to the bygone days of prudish and proper etiquette. Oh to live in a faded and rustic pastoral afternoon!

Bring the English country garden into your home with rose-patterned fabric and wallpaper in pastel shades. Everything should be dainty, dusty, and just a bit distressed! From the May 2010 issue of Homes and Antiques.

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