Plastic Auguries

by moods & appetites
June 30th, 2014 be first to respond »

Photography by Lost Meridiem Productions

At precisely 8:10 every morning the pigeons settle on a branch overlooking the corner of 92nd and Madison Avenue, where a flock of women wait in line outside a coffee shop. The pigeons are not particularly interested in conversations about children just dropped off for school, or yoga classes yet to be attended, or husbands too old to care.

No, the pidgeons study the complex system of ritualized postures and displays of affection — tousling blonde feathers, standing on one leg, squeezing clear containers of milky-brown liquid — within the group they’ve come to know as the plastic flamingoes.

Like the augurs of ancient Rome, this eminent group of pigeons selects a spot of high ground and uses their nuanced understanding of the flamingoes’ habits to determine the right course of action — usually regarding the correct time to defile a public monument.

With his eyes fixed on the exit door of the coffee shop, the senior auspex poses a straightforward — “do you approve?” — to the higher powers and finds the answer in the direction the flamingoes take once they disperse in clusters, drinks in hand.

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The Department of Lost Dreams

by moods & appetites
June 25th, 2014 be first to respond »

Photography by Lost Meridiem Productions

You would think that a department responsible for recovering readers from falling into the illusory realities of their books would merit an office in a less obvious state of disrepair. The exterior gives all the appearance of abandonment — letters disintegrating into nonsense, glass so hazy with grime that the more respectable brownstones across the street bear the smudged edges of a charcoal sketch.

If reading is a collective experience, there are some who pass through stories and others who get stuck in them, unable to distinguish between fact and fiction. It happens gradually, through no fault of their own except perhaps an unusually strong attachment to a word or phrase which steers them along a narrative thread too plausible not to explore.

Let them get lost, you might say, but the department would point out cases when the reader becomes a victim of his own curiosity. Just yesterday they had to clean up the mess of a man who got so absorbed in a murder mystery that he failed to anticipate, turning the last page, the knife in his back.

As you can imagine, these kinds of situations require discretion, so, in a way, it’s convenient that no one in the department wants to bother with window cleaners and sign painters. Like many non-profits, the hierarchy is tangled at best and remains stuck in a strange loop of its own; those that seek a higher position inevitably end up where they started.

So how does department avoid the fate of their clients? It’s the details — the peeling “R”, the clouds of mud encrusted on the glass — that lead them back, nine to five, until the weekend loosens their grip on reality in favor of more devious pursuits.

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Origami Greenhouse

by moods & appetites
May 31st, 2014 be first to respond »

Little Roses Kusudama by Maria Sinayskaya; Lizard by Jason Ku, folded by Matthieu Georger; Constrained Bowl by Linda Smith; Dragonfly by Shuki Kato; Flying Hercules Beetle by Shuki Kato; Snail by Nguyen Hung Cuong; Eupatorus Beetle by Shuki Kato
Handmade items to buy: Paper Bowl by Ruti’s Roots; Coastal Collection of Flat Origami Flowers by Paper Bird Co.; Bellflower Earrings by Sarigami; Origami Hair Pin by Dana Dellus

I once heard a story about a nobleman in Edo Japan with an unusual hobby. While idle warriors strolled through his gardens and floated on pleasure boats over his pond, the man himself spent most of his time in a greenhouse filled with plants made from folded paper. Sliding glass doors, framed by simple wood paneling, opened into a greenhouse independent of the seasons and forms illustrated in botanical encyclopedias.

The greenhouse bloomed by the hands of one man, the gardener, who entertained the nobleman with his skill at transforming pieces of paper into leaves, vines, and petals so complex, so life-like, that they began to emit a fragrance all their own. The nobleman’s sleeves would absorb traces of these scents, which, at formal events, would attract the attention of fellow members of court. The ladies forced their attendants to send him notes, asking in roundabout phrases to invite them to his greenhouse.

But it remained closed to curious visitors, fueling speculation that withered into envy among those who resented any pleasure that remained inaccessible to them. To preserve his reputation at court, the nobleman closed the greenhouse and sold its contents to Dutch traders at the port of Dejima. We can only speculate about the fate of the gardener’s work. Perhaps some of it crossed the seas and found its place alongside other ageless blooms in the homes decorated with vanitas still lifes.

Surface to Structure, an exhibition of origami works will be on view at the Cooper Union from June 19th until July 4th. 

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Minimal by Design

by moods & appetites
May 13th, 2014 be first to respond »

The cup in question; Sarpaneva Casserole by Iittala; Kuohu Dress by Marimekko; Kaivo Fabric by Maija Isola; Wave Kaisla Sandal; Shirt by Camilla Mikama; Arabia Vase from 1001 Vintage
Handmade items to buy: Ilona Necklace by Lina Simons; Necklace by Nouseva Myrsky; Fig Earrings by Anna’s Darling; Leather Necklace by Exleather

Though I’m partial to an espresso on the counter of a cafe in Rome, I reach for the Arabia cup when it’s just me and a French press. It’s got a web of cracks on the inside becoming more visible with each refill of coffee. Perhaps it was pristine in the ‘50s, but it’s lived through many kitchens since then.

If coffee cups could talk, this one would be softspoken. The slim, slightly concave form with a handle that hugs the body as closely as possible suggests restraint, a tendency to think before talking and only when necessary. The Italian espresso cup, on the other hand, curves outwards and seems capable of striking up a conversation with a stranger in the morning.

Not so with the Arabia cup. It’s Finnish, after all. But get to know it well enough and you’ll discover all sorts of interesting quirks. The cracks and cinnamon that settles along the outside rim only reveal themselves after you get past the sleek surface.

There’s something delicate, almost plant-like about this cup. It’s not solid and low to the ground but seems to extend upwards in perpetual movement.

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On the Table: Spartan Feast

by moods & appetites
April 29th, 2014 be first to respond »

why we love The Spartan Table — an Etsy shop that sells olive oil, herbs, and other essentials — and a recipe for the perfect salmon

A few snapshots of how we use our Greek goodies. Olive paste and oil dipped in bread; wild thyme and sea salt on tomato; wild sage added to strawberry rhubarb jam; a piece of chilled bergamot with tea; and the blue-green bottle we use to store the oil (in our dreams)

A selection of herbs on our vintage Swedish plate paired with a selection of glass jars we wish were in our cabinet and required reading for herb enthusiasts from the original herb enthusiast, Dioscorides, who mingled medicine, botany, and magic

Myth, they say, is all there is left of the Greek gods. But what about the olive trees and wild herbs that still grow on Spartan ground? Are they not traces of the ancient feasts laid out for hungry deities?

Every couple of weeks we receive a package covered in Greek stamps and an address that speaks of myth. Thyme, oregano, sage, savory, and mint mingle inside, and even before we open it, the scent of Sparta escapes from the cardboard crevices.

Our long-distance love affair with Sparta began with olive oil. Just a few drops infuses a crusty piece of bread or crisp salad with a lemony, light flavor. It’s a delicate one but always comes out as the top note.

The dried herbs — harvested by hand from the dry, mountainous valleys of Sparta — are not the dusty powders you buy at the supermarket. For us, not a day goes by without a pinch of savory, thyme, or oregano — cooked in stews, sprinkled on a juicy tomato, whisked into a salad dressing — and making most meals starts with the question: what herb would work well in this?

Even salt transforms in the harsh summer sun of the Peloponnese coast. Thick, irregular crystals hand-picked from the rocks of Mani taste like the sea that formed them.

Olive oil, sea salt, and dried herbs — a simple, but ambrosial combination. Which brings us back, in a way, to the Gods.

And now for how to cook the perfect fillet of salmon. Cut slits in the skin with a sharp knife and stuff them with a blend of sea salt, lemon zest, and thyme or savory. Hot pan, minimal amount of neutral oil. Skin down on medium heat until it’s crispy, then flip over, and turn off the heat. Let the fish sit in the pan and when you can’t hear it crackling you know it’s done.

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