This weekend it was my great good fortune (and such an honor!) to have the opportunity to visit the White House. My close friend Kate’s brother Michael, also a friend of mine, works for Obama and was able to arrange for my family and I to have a tour of both the East Wings and West Wings of this great American house. Sheepishly I admit that this was my second time visiting both wings, but it was such a thrill to get to share it with my brother, mother, and father as we are all great lovers of learning, history, art and adventure. Photography was not allowed but I would like to share some of my favorite things with you. I will start with this beautiful inscription on the mantel in the State Room of the East Wing:
“I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this House, and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof!”
Restored during the Kennedy restoration, this 1901 mantel was placed there by Franklin Roosevelt, with an inscription from a letter that John Adams wrote to his wife after he moved in as the first resident of the house following its construction in 1800. Lincoln’s portrait sits above the mantel. The inscription is a beautiful (if optimistic) wish for the White House!
Some favorite pieces from the East Wing:
Two incredible sculptures that sit in the Center Hall of the Ground Floor Residence. One is “Coming Through the Rye” by Frederic Sackrider Remington, modeled in 1902 and cast in 1918. It must have appealed to my inner cowgirl.
The other is “Meat for Wild Men” by Charles Marion Russell, modeled c.1920 and cast 1956. Gruesome but lovely none-the-less!
Also in the Center Hall of the Ground Floor Residence is this cabinet displaying Presidential china services spanning our Nation’s history. It was quite interesting. I spent a while inspecting the collection and narrowing down my favorites. The finalists were the Clinton service, the pieces showcased from Lincoln’s presidency, and the curious china pattern from the Rutherford B. Hayes administration. The full collection is housed in the China Room which is also on the Ground Floor of the Residence and features this striking portrait of Grace Coolidge and her dog. If I were to be First Lady, I should most definitely like to have a portrait with my dog!
The East Wing also houses many of the official portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies. Here are the ones that I was drawn to:
The only portrait that I didn’t see, was the portrait of this great American woman:
This ornate piano, by Steinway and Son, 1938, in the Entrance Hall
I will leave it at that for the East Wing, although there are so many rooms and things to talk about. I will fill you in on my trip to the West Wing in my next post, so stay tuned!
For more information and a detailed tour of the East Wing, check out this historic and fascinating video:
Jacqueline Kennedy was responsible for the restoration of the White House during the Kennedy administration. She said ”Everything in the White House must have a reason for being there. It would be sacrilege merely to redecorate it—a word I hate. It must be restored, and that has nothing to do with decoration. That is a question of scholarship.” She believed that the White House should be a place of pilgrimage for Americans, where one would be able to sense and touch the people who had been there. The quality and historical significance of the many of the artworks and objects in the White House today are in large part due to the efforts of Jacqueline Kennedy.
I would like to note that the White House remains the largest and most prominent public building housing a head of state still open to the public in the world. Although security has tightened greatly in the last 15 years, the rooms in the East Wing remain “by the people and for the people.” Visits can be arranged through one’s local Congressman.
Happy Birthday to my June 1st Dad! He couldn’t be more of a June 1st person. He, like the very first days of summer, is full of hope, excitement, warmth and the promise of blue skies and endless adventures. June is so lively I feel, and no one quite loves life like my dad. He is a true American Original, which might just be the highest compliment in my book. I love him so much!
I have always quite liked making cards for people. I think it’s fun and I like to make my cards personal and playful for the people I’m giving them to. Often, I incorporate or embellish photos by photo copying them and adding stickers, words, and other silliness where I can. Here is the card that I made for my dad this year. I enlarged an old photo of the two of us (yes, that’s me! Looking crabby, I might add) on the color copier, cut out it out, pasted it on polka dot paper, and then added in some collage elements.
It’s been so long since my last post. I apologize. April is my birthday month and between work and birthday fun, things were really busy. In the true spirit of an Aries, I like to bask in the warm light of my own birthday… the cards, emails, phone calls, hugs, dinners, drinks, parties, presents, endless fun… I love it all! I’m shamelessly Aries about it. And with the warm weather this year here in New York, it was all the more fun!
Here is an image from my birthday morning spent with some of my favorite things– painting books, coffee, and my grandma’s Easter bread.
Lilly, one of my best friends since my teenage years, sent me the painting books as a birthday gift from the library of her great aunt and uncle who have an amazing and well respected collection of contemporary art. Their old apartment in Washington, DC was filled with pieces by all the big names in the art world and was pretty much a survey of 20th century art. It was really an incredible place to be able to stay at when I’d visit with Lilly. The books she sent me were Joan Mitchell, Richard Diebenkorn, and Alice Neel– three painters whose work I really love. I was so excited to find this gift in my mailbox because there are few things that I love more than books, especially art books! The gift was also really special for me because the books will always make me think of Lilly’s great aunt and uncle and the times I spent with their family both at the beach in Delaware and in DC. I’m glad to have a memento from Florence and Marvin.
The Easter bread is a bread my grandma makes every year. I think she must make about 2 dozen because everyone goes home with their own loaf after Easter dinner. The bread is dense, it has raisins in it and there’s nothing better than a piece toasted and buttered in the morning with coffee. When I taste it, I know that spring is here… and my birthday is too!
Happy 90th birthday to my grandmother Annunciata “Nancy ” Phyllis DiPreta Spezzano- or “Mama” as she is known to her 7 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. She is one special lady. She taught me how to cook (and eat) real, good, old school Italian food (lots of it) along with some important Italian phrases, and life essentials like sewing a button, tricks for removing stubborn stains– “Shout it out!”–, making pizza dough, growing tomatoes, canning from the garden, making strawberry jam, the importance of eating fresh, healthy, homemade meals, and the love of family (and food).
She has always been ahead of her time, living her life as a strong, independent, “modern woman” before that was the norm. Mama was the third born of eight children. She worked at a local factory during the war and spent her weekends with her girlfriends taking the train in to “the city” (New York City), while her brothers were enlisted. She married at 28, which was late for the time, never settling on a frog and waiting for her true love to come around. When most women stayed home and held down the fort, my grandmother worked while raising 4 kids, sometimes trading her bookkeeping skills for lessons for my mom and her siblings, other times working nights in a ribbon factory, and eventually becoming a supervisor at GE. Somehow, she still found the time to cook every meal (much of it from her garden) and can for the winter, instilling in all of us a love of food and shared meals with family and friends.
She always managed to look stylish back then, and she still looks stylish now! Her Friday morning hair appointment hasn’t changed in years, she loves to go “gallivanting” with the girls, and is the best at finding a good deal– her calendar is so full of dates with friends and family that it’s hard to nail her down! Life has thrown her some curve balls, but she’s resilient and has always found a way to adapt. She keeps her mind active by staying on top of current events and reading, and no one can beat her at a board or card game– she takes no prisoners! Mama always speaks her mind, but we never question her love. More than anything she’s done and above all that she’s inspired us to live up to, she’s provided each of us with a soft place to land and has given us the most valuable thing of all in this big, wild world we live in- real, unconditional, unwaivering love.
Mama, you haven’t just been our rock, you’ve been our continent! We love you!
Yesterday was an unbelievably beautiful day for the end of February here in New York. A day like yesterday promises that spring is just around the corner! I have lived here in the Northeast for all of my years except one. I always say that one of the things I love most about living here is the change of season; just when you’re sick of one season, the next one starts to reveal itself. Unexpected days like this, when the next season makes a brief surprise appearance, get you excited for the change that is just barely on the horizon. It’s an opportunity to plan for all the things you’ll do when it is finally here for good, and cast out the old so you can make room for what’s ahead. For me that meant spring cleaning.
“Spring cleaning”, for anyone who knows me, is out of character. Very out of character. “Messy” is a badge I wear without minding much. Yesterday however, I cleaned– tossed what I won’t need anymore and reorganized what I will need for the season ahead. I live in a small space, as most spaces are here in New York, and so keeping it neat and tidy is important…but impossible. Especially when your job requires you to be an “amasser of stuff” like mine does. I thought I’d share some vignettes of my space at its tidiest. There’s no doubt that life will take over and the space will take on a life of its own again. But for the moment, with Spring just on the horizon, my space and I are starting out fresh.
Sometimes the best things happen by accident! I recently dyed eggs for a magazine shoot. In the process of making perfectly dyed solid colored eggs for the shoot, there were a number of messed up eggs that ended up in the outcast pile. In the end, there were practically as many odd ball eggs as there were “perfect specimens” for the shoot.
Working with dyes is always tricky and not something that I am an expert at. I can do it with confidence, but I don’t know the ins and out regarding the chemistry of the dyes… and that’s probably why strange things were happening with some of my eggs. BUT, I loved the interesting patterns and color variations created by the strange chemistry of my dyes. In the end, the outcast eggs were the ones I loved most. What’s interesting about perfection? Not much. There is so much more to love about the beautiful bad eggs!
Welcome to Like a Spark! My name is Elizabeth and I am a prop & craft stylist in New York City. I’m a maker by nature. I get excited about and inspired by so many things in this big, wild world. I spend most of my days making something… making pictures, making things for making pictures, dreaming about making things for pictures or making things just because. My hands, my head and my heart are always in motion!
My hope for Like a Spark is to create a place for compiling and sharing– compiling inspirations, thoughts, and ideas; sharing things that make my heart skip a beat with excitement, projects I’m working on, and all sorts of other curiosities that I encounter on this big adventure of mine. I would also like to share my creative process when I can, and provide how-tos for recreating things that I’m making.
I hope you enjoy my blog, it’s very nice to meet you!