Monday, February 25, 2008

Graylyn Estate and Reynolda House

to enlarge any photograph click on it

Originally posted 02/24

Any way, below are some pictures I took of these interesting places. As you can see, we did a bit of exploring on our way home after the Home and Garden show... To learn more about Graylyn (and to see more impressive photographs) go to:

There's a pool-house for you!
Tennis, anyone?

Reynolda House - The restored 1917 mansion of the RJ Reynolds family, it is now a museum of American Art. To learn more go to: We'll come back another day later in the Spring when the gardens are more alive. We've visited the gardens many times since moving here, but I think they are at their best in the spring, summer and fall - and winter too, but only when there is snow on the ground - Of course the man I love thinks gardens are lovely any time of year (not me, I need lots of blooms and leaves on my trees!)...
The Lake House - How I'd love to pick this up and place it on our property. It's the Perfect Folly!
To find out why Lake Katharine disappeared click to enlarge the picture...
The barn. Now part of the Reynolda Shopping Village - The shops here are exquisite!
That's what I call a greenhouse! Now it's an interesting garden and gift shop
Is there anything more fantastically Creepy than an empty indoor swimming pool?
Giant aviaries flank both sides of the back of the pool house - I can only imagine what beautiful birds might have fluttered about in them - The tile work in the pool and around the pool deck is gorgeous and the patina on the deck tiles is priceless!

Looking over this pool house this afternoon I could not help but wonder what splendid shenanigans might have gone on here... But nothing went through my mind like what I found in this snip-it of details contained in Libby Hollman's bio:

Libby Hollman was exceedingly complex; bisexual, she preferred the company of homosexuals - two of the three most significant intimate relationships of her life were with avowed lesbians, the equally fascinating unconventional DuPont heiress Louisa d'Andelot Carpenter Jenny (from 1929) and later, with writer Jane Bowles (from the mid-1940s) - but she periodically sought out men (often sexually conflicted, as in the case her third most important relationship, with actor Montgomery Clift) - invariably far younger than herself - only to summarily cast them aside on the basis of some seemingly insignificant slight. She was a fascinating confluence of allure, talent, and vanity, masked with a droll sarcastic wit capable of rivaling that of society columnist Lucius Beebe, Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker or Noel Coward, all of whom were within her social circle. Although she wasn't conventionally beautiful, audiences were drawn to her by her voice and stunning figure (Libby reputedly invented the strapless evening gown, it becoming one of her trademarks). She could have easily succeeded in Hollywood after the advent of talkies, but was decidedly east coast, sharing her clique's snobbish disdain for film (although many of them would eventually relent and go on to gain immortality in Hollywood) and harboring some inner insecurity over her looks. To a large degree however, Libby thrived on the immediate rewards of a live audience and this was a woman who could wrap them around her little finger with any one of her sexually charged smoky torch songs. One smitten fan was tobacco heir Zachary "Smith" Reynolds, who caught her act on a lark and spent a fortune following her around the world. As the youngest son of tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds, the 20-year old playboy was the real-life roaring 20s manifestation of a character drawn straight from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. He had a complete disinterest in the family business, an inexhaustible allowance and a volatile temper. Smith, whose one real accomplishment was he learned how to fly, also owned a plane, and he literally stalked Libby with it. He wore the 27-year old singer down, and encouraged by Louisa (herself briefly married) who saw him as a convenient veil of wealth and propriety, she married him in 1931. Their marriage was a clash of wills; Smith wanted her to leave Broadway and they agreed on a 1-year sabbatical at the family's vast North Carolina estate, Reynolda. While Libby, who was born into poverty had always aspired to be wealthy, she quickly grew tired of the kind of idle life expected of her. She invited a stream of her flamboyant theatrical friends to the estate and they clashed headlong with the conservative Reynolds family. There were accusations of lesbianism and hedonism that her in-laws could barely stomach. In 1932, over the family's annual alcohol-fueled July 4th holiday party held at the estate, she told her husband she was pregnant and there was reportedly a tense confrontation - stories differ, but there was a gunshot and Libby and Ab Walker (whispered to be her lover), a close friend of Smith's, were indicted for murder. Fearing scandal over their son's activities, the intensely private Reynolds family pressed the local authorities to drop the charges; the death was ruled a suicide. The scandal stuck to Libby and her career suffered. Her son Christopher (or 'Topper' as she called him) received a large inheritance and Libby received a sizable maintenance agreement that left her independently wealthy the rest of her life. After the Reynolds debacle was legally settled, Libby and her son went to live with Louisa (who herself had adopted a daughter) and the couple lived openly throughout the remainder of the 1930's in what was then called a "Boston Marriage" in local gossip. Their relationship eventually changed, but Louisa would remain a lifelong friend and confidant. Libby also continued to pursue a Broadway career, with ever-diminishing returns. Despite her undeniable talent, she was keenly aware that producers hired her in hopes that her scandalized personal life would increase the box office. One of her most ardent supporters during this period was the unabashedly gay Herald Times columnist Lucius who never missed an opportunity to document her moves within New York's cafe society, always portraying her in the best possible light. His support of her came as a welcome relief during this first dark period of her career, although she certainly didn't need the money.

Libby's second husband, Ralph Holmes, committed suicide in 1945, and her third husband, Louis Schanker, an artist, died of a stroke in 1981, 10 years after Ms. Holman's death, which was ruled a suicide. The most devastating tragedy to befall her was the death of her 17-year-old son Christopher (Topper) Reynolds in August 1950 in a mountain climbing accident on Mt. Whitney in California.

Oh, my!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

NKB - Done!

Comes out of the pot Singing! No, really...

I wish you could smell the house now that the bread is out of the oven! And, it really does "sing" when it comes out of the pot... Just like Jaden said it would! Snap-Crackle and Pop have nothing on this beautiful loaf. The crust is popping and crackling out loud as it cools - Fantastic!
Amazing what happens when you follow a brilliant recipe, huh?

I got a little nervous about it so I cut a round of parchment paper to lay under the loaf just before I plopped her into the pot - now that the bread is out of the oven I know it'll be just fine to bake it without the parchment paper next time - See you after dinner!

NKB Continued...

Using a wet rubber scraper I dumped my wet, sticky NKB ball out onto my floured block and folded the edges up and into the center with my wet hands - Notice (enlarge photo to see) all the bubbles and holes in the dough - I imagine once baked these will turn into tender little buckets where butter will hide...  Yum!
Then I transferred my ball, seam side down onto a kitchen towel also dusted with flour
I then put the dough and the kitchen towel into my medium size mixing bowl
And now it is back to sleep for another two hours - Stay tuned!

What do we Have here?

Well, well, what do we have here? I've just come downstairs to find NKB looking like this after 14 hours of sleep - I managed to look the same way before my shower this morning! 

Amazing how things work, huh?  Any way... We're off to the home and garden show (to benefit Habitat for Humanity) this afternoon so I've covered NKB back up and will allow it to continue doing its thing until dinner. The recipe said it should sleep 12-20 hours so there's still time. I'm building dinner around this beautiful bread so I'll let you know later what I come up with. 

Unlike yesterday, which was a gorgeous Spring day, it's chilly here today and there are wintry clouds very thick overhead. Definitely a sweatshirt day. Oh, and definitely a rustic-bread occasion as well!  

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Goodnight shaggy, doughy Mess!

Stumbled on this recipe for No Knead Bread this week, or NKM as it's called by foodies, which sounds so totally too good to be true. However, if this works out the way the recipe promises, this may just be the bread I adopt as my own to bake for the rest of my Life. By the way, by stumbled I mean I found this great site: where this recipe is not only posted but also demonstrated by the chef's 4-year old son - So I thought, how hard can this really be?

Any way, I spent a fair part of my afternoon looking for the right pot to bake it in - I resisted the initial temptation I felt to dash over to William-Sonoma and dump $200, deciding instead to begin my search at Marshall's and Home Goods where I've seen Le Creuset seconds for as little as $90, but no such luck today. I did however find this chic little teal substitute at Marshall's, and since this bread must be baked in a pot safe to 450 degrees, this is definitely the pot because while Le Creuset is safe only to 400, this puppy goes to 650 without breaking a sweat! So I'm the only girl you know that needs a $60 pot to bake bread... Would you really love me any other way? Baking isn't baking if it doesn't lead to shopping. Right?

If you read the recipe (below) you'll see I was supposed to end up with something resembling a, "shaggy, doughy mess" after mixing all the ingredients together. And, as you can see (above) I did!

Covered and ready to sleep. Good night shaggy, doughy mess - See you in the morning!

to be continued...

No Knead Bread

adapted from Mark Bittman of NY Times who got it from Sullivan Street Bakery.

Yield: one 1½ lb loaf
3 cups bread flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 tablespoon kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)
1 1/2 cups warm water
Covered pot (five-quart or larger cast iron, Pyrex, ceramic, enamel...something that can go into a 450F oven.)

1. Mix dough: The night before, combine all ingredients in a big bowl with a wooden spoon until the dough just comes together. It will be a shaggy, doughy mess. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 12-20 hours on countertop.

2. Shape & preheat: The dough will now be wet, sticky and bubbly. With a wet spatula, dump the dough on a floured surface. Fold ends of dough over a few times with the spatula and nudge it into a ball shape. You can use your hands if you like, just keep your hands wet so that the dough does not stick. Generously dust a cotton towel (not terrycloth) with flour. Set dough seam side down on top of towel. Fold towel over the dough. Let it nap for 2 hours. When you've got about a half hour left, slip your covered pot into the oven and preheat to 450F.

3. Bake: Your dough should have doubled in size. Remove pot from oven. Holding towel, dump wobbly dough into pot. Doesn't matter which way it lands. Shake to even dough out. Cover. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover, bake another 15-20 minutes or until the crust is beautifully golden and middle of loaf is 210F. Remove and let cool on wired rack. If not eating right away, you can re-crisp crust in 350F oven for 10 minutes. Best way to eat it? Smear a warm slice with some good butter (Kerrygold and Lurpac are both found in your grocery stores, usually on top shelf)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Much Better than Chocolate!

Better than Chocolate on Valentine's Day is Snow!  And, it was a complete and unexpected surprise...  

Our poor Daffodils appeared less excited than I was about the snow but I think they'll be okay.  At least I really hope they'll be okay.  Spring isn't spring without Daffodils!


Some of the Wildly talented people I Work with...

Some of my most favorite guys to work with here are (from left): Hilton Graham, Mark Hartman and Jimmy Shafer. Jackie Robeaux, the woman you see second on the left and the other ladies (Arron, Ginny and Lynn) are all Fantastic woman!

Every day at Hanes is a party... How did I get so lucky?

Click photo for full view

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A little Scary!

Chelsea's looking more and more like her Dad every day!

Why won't they just go away and leave us alone?
Had to see Chelsea's Hubbell-mug on Drudge again this morning...
Vince Foster is dead and Webb Hubbell is still in jail
while the Clintons continue on...
Have they no shame?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The most Fun I've had all Week!


I wanted to surprise William with a car for his birthday tomorrow and when I saw this VW Bug posted on the employee classified boards at work yesterday I was so sure my search was over! A 1974 ragtop Super Beetle, I mean, what could be more fun? And, when William wasn't driving it, it could be mine - all mine!

Turns out that I wasn't the only one excited about it because by the time I called the seller at noon he told me he raised his ad price by $500 due to the demand his car was creating at our offices. Then he told me I could get in line to see/drive it on Wednesday because that's when his wife planned to bring it over to conduct a mass-showing to everyone that called him. I told him I'd give him his new price + $200 if he agreed to show it to me today, ahead of their mass-showing plan, and he jumped! Come on now.... doesn't he know who I am!?

You know, there's just something about a VW Bug - that emotional attachment we all feel for them for one reason or another; and, I am always feeling it, big time. I won't lie; I openly admit to the reason I swoon over the red VW Bugs I see. It's actually rather simple. The only Junction City boy I ever loved drove one. He was beautiful... Tall, blond and his Bug was red.

But this really is about buying my 17-year old a car... (repeat five times until it feels true, Janet)

Fact is, I had one of my very own for a while. It was a 1968 VW Bug we bought shortly after moving back to California from Virginia in 1986. The body and interior was perfect. I only paid $600 but had to put a new engine in it about six months later. About a year after that my dad took an interest in it and had one of the soldiers that worked for him paint it cherry red for me at the auto body shop at Ft. Ord.

It was so pretty! We put brand new bumpers and chrome on it and we even replaced all the rubber around the windows and windshield. I was so excited when I saw it roll out of the paint booth that Saturday afternoon and I couldn't wait to drive it to school Monday morning. In fact, I left early that morning to allow myself extra time to get to class because I planned to park my pretty little Bug far away from everyone else.

Sadly, my Bug and I never made it to school that morning because I was the first car hit in what ended up being a 12-car pile up caused by, are you ready for this? An uninsured, 17-year old driver! I'd just come off HWY 1 and was stopped behind traffic backed up on the Fremont exit. And, while I was able to stop in plenty of time, this kid didn't. The impact of that great big truck he was driving against my bumper popped my Bug out from behind the car in front of me and sent me flying down the right side of all ten cars lined up at the light at the bottom of the hill. As my Bug scraped down the side of all those cars all I could do was hold on and pray it would be over soon. I remember vividly the grinding noise against the door and seeing lots of red paint and finally the fender as it tore away and flew up and over the roof.

Even worse than what I saw outside was what was going on inside my Bug because as they sometimes do when older Bugs are rear-ended, the driver seat released off the floor track sending me into the windshield head first. And, when the seat belt buckle hit the steering wheel and pushed into my belly my water broke because I was six months pregnant with Brandon at the time.

When they finally got me out of the car and to the emergency room for an ultrasound I was told there was no heartbeat. But a little while later when my OB arrived to do his own ultrasound, he found Brandon - He told me Brandon was just turned around, facing my back and that he was sleeping. I was never so happy to hear anything in my life! I was put on bed rest to give Brandon more time but time ran out for us at about 32 weeks and he was born prematurely.

After that whole ordeal I had no desire for another Bug. In fact, I was determined to put a whole bunch of Swedish steel around me and Brandon so I bought the biggest Volvo sedan I could find. I'll never forget the size of the trunk - it was huge!

Any way, I took this Super Beetle for a test drive early this morning and it was as much fun as I remembered! As soon as I popped into the springy little seat I was young again! It's been 22 years since some worthless piece of sh*t stole my MGB, and it's been twenty since my Bug was crashed so it's been at least that long since I've driven a stick-shift. Still, I took to it this morning just like it was yesterday! To the left and down for reverse and 1, 2, 3, 4 in the H-pattern; I was perfect! That familiar ringing sound of the air-cooled engine and the warm air flowing over my feet from the floorboard. Ah, memories!

Overall, the car is in fantastic shape for its age; unfortunately though, this Bug would frustrate the crap out of my dear, sweet William so I had to pass on it.

It was really hard... I mean, I was first so it was mine if I wanted it and I'd already been to the bank so all that cash was burning a hole. But I know it's impossible for William to see this car through my lens and neither of my sons possess the appreciation I feel for these cars... Additionally, with William's size 13 shoe and the flip-flops he likes to wear like dinnerplate-sized coasters on the bottom of his feet, there is no way he'd be able to negotiate those tiny clutch and brake peddles down there, let alone maintain the coordination and patience required to get used to driving a stick shift. I know this boy well, and there is No way!

Nevertheless, for a moment this morning I was back in my youth so this test drive goes down as the most fun I've had all week!

One thing is clear though - While this wasn't the car for William and it's true it would be impractical for me to buy it today just for me, I will one day own another vintage VW Bug. Hopefully it will be the white convertible I've always wanted.

Oh, and by the way - I just checked the employee classified site again, and he's raised the price another $500 - Wow!

Friday, February 8, 2008

This made me Pee a little...

Click on photo to view full size

I laughed so hard at this picture!! Maybe it's just the giggly mood I'm in today but this picture (snapped by Martha Stewart) is fantastic! Just take a look at the woman standing across from Tom Cruise and you tell me, what is she thinking?

I have a list of things going on in my head, that's for sure.

In case you haven't heard, Madonna and Gucci held a fundraiser last night, "Raising Malawi and UNICEF", where Mr. Cruise and his Scientolobot wife, (along with many other celebrities) attended.

I have my own feelings about celebrities adopting Country-causes and their orphans while they ignore the considerable need staring at them from around the corner at any one of their estates right here. Perhaps if their windows weren't so heavily tinted or the wall were not so high they might see... Any way, I say, Pick an American city, why don't you?

Nevertheless, if it helps Madge feel better about herself to think she's somehow putting Malawi on the map with this event, sobeit. Far be it from me to rain on anyone's $2,500-10,000.00-a-plate (depending on whom you're seated next to) night.

I do find it interesting however, that Raising Malawi still isn't a registered charity and I've heard many say it's nothing more than a front for the Kabbalah Center in LA and Madonna's patron guru's, namely the (Philip) Berg Family. All of its forms, filings and press releases direct back to the Kabbalah Center, which is also odd (telling?)

Berg’s son Michael started Raising Malawi under the pretext of helping orphans in that impoverished country. But after Madonna helped herself to one, (David Banda) Berg and the rest of the Kabbalah/Raising Malawi group got to work on their real cause: indoctrinating unsuspecting Malawi orphans into their brand of mysticism. FOXNews reporter David Friedman asks: Are we really ready for little Malawian children wearing $26 red strings on their wrists and drinking bottled Kabbalah water, being read bedtime stories written by Madonna and practicing the Zohar? And wearing Gucci loafers as they trick or treat for UNICEF? Or Kabbalah? I suppose we should be.

All this aside, Gucci hopes you won't forget that this reception was planned to coincide with the opening this week of their, self described, massive flagship 5th Avenue store... They don't call her the Material Mom for nothing! Awareness for Malawi and Gucci - it's gotta be a good thing!

Now tell me... What is this woman thinking as she gazes over Tom Cruise? I just checked and this picture does not appear in the dictionary under "unimpressed", so keep guessing!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

That was Easy!

I'll never forget the first time I used a CPA to file our taxes - It was both the scariest and best decision I ever made. Best, because the refund we got that year was the largest since we began filing, and the scariest because it cost a fortune!

No, really. This is how it went... I met this wonderful woman through the nursing registry I worked for in Carmel Valley - she was the business owner's friend and CPA. So when tax time rolled around it seemed like a no-brainer to ask if she would do our taxes. Especially since our butts were still a bit raw from the nasty, nasty audit-reaming we took the year before and the fact that we'd just bought a house. Plus, I worked from home most of the year after the boss died and this CPA and his lawyer moved all the office staff into home offices. Oh, in case you didn't know... The IRS only sounds like its this far-away entity that and can't hurt you; the truth is they can show up in your backyard quicker than you can say, Indiana Jones. Any way, the last thing I wanted to do was go another round with a soul-less IRS auditor and as new homeowners I decided it was time to grow up and hire a CPA.

So this wonderful dynamo of a woman, all of 4-feet tall, agreed to do our taxes. A few weeks after I dropped everything off at her darling little office in Carmel she called to say our returns were ready to be picked up. I was eager to see what she was able to do for us, but because I was at work and couldn't get to her office before she closed I called my dad. Dad was in Carmel so I thought it would be great if he would pick up our return and pay her for me and then I could see him later to settle up.

That was the plan... However, about an hour after I got the call from the CPA, my dad called to say he really wished I'd let him know he had to go to the bank to pay my bill before he made the trip over to see her... Dad was all fired up about having to find parking spaces in Carmel three times that afternoon. He said he had to find a spot at her office, then find another spot in front of Wells Fargo and then find another spot when he went back to her office. If you've never been to Carmel on a busy week-day afternoon you can't understand this, but just trust me, Dad was none too happy about this! But while he's on about the parking I'm still on the fact that he had to go to the bank, so I took a breath and asked the question... "Don't you usually have a couple hundred dollars on you, dad?" And dad says, "Well, yeah, Janet, I've got about $220 on me, but your bill was $1,200 and I didn't have my checkbook in the truck."

WHAT? Twelve hundred dollars?

Without skipping a beat Dad says, "you do know this woman does taxes for Clint Eastwood and Doris Day, right?, and I'm sure they have no problem with her bill but what are you doing there?" At that moment I wasn't quite sure either, and I will never forget the sting I felt as my blood ran cold on the thought about how I was going to materialize $1,200.00 by the time I got to my parents' house to pick up my taxes that evening. Oh, I heard him right but I asked again just for fun, and the bill was still a little over $1,200.00 and the CPA had told dad it was due immediately.

Of course my dad said it wasn't a problem - aside from his parking adventures, Dad was happy to run down to Wells Fargo to get her money, but WAIT! I was having a big problem with it... As nice as my dad was about paying it, I was just stunned at the bill and couldn't help but wonder why it wasn't more reasonable - but what is reasonable, really? I'd never hired a CPA before and I already knew rent in Carmel wasn't cheap! But couldn't I get an employee discount since she knew I worked for her good, albeit dead friend and client?

The bill aside, I didn't want to borrow this money from my dad! So I called my wonderful CPA - First, to apologize to her for not asking about her fees upfront (last time I made that mistake) and second, to ask that she tear up my dad's counter check.

Sensing how distraught I was over her bill, my CPA softly asked me if it would help me to know that in total I would be receiving a little over $7,800 between our State and Federal return refunds. I told her that was fantastic, of course, but I still couldn't take $1,200 from my dad. Dad yes, but I'd never hear the end of this from my mother. So she ripped up dad's check and I paid her the same day our refund arrived. And then we went to Disneyland!

After that memorable first time in 1995, this same CPA continued to process returns for us for seven years and each year her bill nudged the $1,200 mark. But in 2001 I discovered Turbo Tax and with it, I retired my Carmel CPA and her invoices.

Things have gone just great since then too... Each year I buy Turbo Tax with the half-price coupon Costco sends me in the mail after the first of January, and this year was no different - But instead of tearing into the box and doing my taxes right away, this year I began to panic a little because I knew our return would be more involved for 07. Mainly because the hub's company closed their offices in our area so he's working from home now and he has to use his personal truck for work. Plus there's investment shuffling I did last year and we have the Brandon at University so there's all the money we paid that goes along with having him at ASU.

So I didn't open the box at all and I almost looked up CPA in the phone book, but before I could get to it I heard a commercial on the radio Monday about Turbo Tax Pro - A service Turbo Tax offers on-line whereby you can hand everything over to a professional tax preparer for only $129.99. Sounds too good to be true, right? I know, I thought so too... But it worked way better than I expected, so well in fact... you might just find me at Disneyland this year!

I faxed all of my documents Monday evening. On Tuesday morning my personal tax preparer called me at work to go over everything, and this afternoon she called to say our returns are available on-line for review! Also included in the $129.99 fee is audit defense (score!) and electronic filing. Wow!
My preparer was able to maximize the home office deduction, hub's unreimbursed employee expenses, and she got us a credit on the ASU expenses for Brandon. And, she was nice to me too!

I recommend you check out Turbo Tax - on line you'll find them at, No darling little Carmel office but I know they have a program to fit you too and it won't cost you $1,200.00 - I promise!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

NFC Gets it Done!

If it couldn't be Dallas it could NOT be the Patriots!
Remember kids, cheaters Never win...