Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays...

Mr. Peacock wishes everyone a great Holiday. I'll be back on January 2nd. Until then, I hope you enjoy time with your family and friends. Have a safe and happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Overnight Egg Nog French Toast

Mr. Peacock usually eats a big bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, but on special occasions loves to indulge in a plate of warm French Toast with real butter and real maple syrup. I use Grade B maple syrup, because it has a “deeper” maple taste than the ultra filtered Grade A syrup. Around the holidays I usually buy some store bought eggnog just to make Overnight Eggnog French Toast. This “overnight” French Toast is perfect for the holidays—make it the night before (and clean up the mess) and pop it in the oven the next morning. It’s easy and yummy too!

Overnight Eggnog French Toast
Good quality bread like Brioche, Challah, French Bread, etc…sliced about ¾ inch thick (I used a Sweet Batard from Acme Bread)…
you’ll need about 6 to 8 slices depending on the shape and size of the bread, enough to fit flatly, without overlapping in 9” x 14” shallow dish.

3 eggs
1 cup of good quality egg nog
½ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon of vanilla
2 teaspoons of rum or whiskey (I used Cointreau cause I had some, but the liquor is optional)
Pinch of salt

1) Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a 12” x 18” jellyroll pan or cookie sheet. Lay out your slices of bread (7 slices of my bread choice fit into my 9” x 14” shallow dish) and let it dry out sitting in my oven (turned off) for a few hours (or all day.) You want the bread to be a bit dried out, my bread was super fresh, but if your bread is already a bit dried out skip this step, however, still prep your jellyroll pan with the cut parchment paper (so it’s ready in the morning for step #4).

2) In a mixing bowl (preferably with a spouted lip), beat the eggs, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend well.

This is what the bread slices look like after they've soaked in the eggnog mixture overnight.

3) Pour half of the liquid mixture into your 9” x 14” shallow dish. Arrange your bread slices on top of the liquid, without overlapping. Pour the remaining liquid over the bread, making sure to coat the surface of each slice. Don’t worry if there is extra liquid because it will be absorbed over night. Then cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate over night.

4) When you wake up, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

The soaked slices arranged on a parchment (lightly buttered) lined jellyroll pan, before baking.

5) Butter the surface of the parchment paper in the jelly roll pan (that you used to dry out your bread.) Take your soaking sliced bread out of the fridge. The liquid should all be absorbed, if it isn’t completely absorbed then dab the bread slices into the extra liquid. Lay each slice of bread on the buttered parchment paper. Leave a few inches between each slice.

6) Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how browned you like your French Toast. I like my French toast a little bit crispy around the edges and soft, yet firm in the middle, so I baked mine for about 12 minutes and then flipped them over for another 12 minutes—both sides were a deep golden brown. It'll depend on your oven too. If you like it less crispy on the edges, cook it a few minute less.

7) It’s now ready to enjoy and the clean-up is so simple—just throw the parchment paper in the recyling.

If you like bacon, you can lay out bacon slices on another jellyroll pan (lined with foil for easy clean-up) and bake on another rack—along side the French Toast. Bacon prepared this way is so easy too. I like it crispy and well-done—just visually check the bacon for your desired preference. As I said, serve the Overnight Eggnog French Toast with real butter and real maple syrup! Sliced fruit would also be yummy on top—either bananas or berries. You could also sift some powered sugar on top of each slice too. It's a perfect treat for a cozy holiday morning!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Waiting for Santa...

Mr. Peacock loved going to get his photo taken with Santa at the mall, not because of Santa, but because of the dreamy Winter Wonderland installation you had to walk through to get to Santa. The line for Santa meandered through this Winter Wonderland of little snow covered cottages, silvery trees with glittering birds, mechanical woodland creatures and tiny elves dressed in red velvet suits. A little white picket fence surrounded the entire display, to keep the children in line from touching this dreamy holiday diarama. My mom would scold me if she caught me trying to touch one of the glittery deers drinking water from the mirrored stream. When you finally got to the front of the line, Santa’s helper (usually a bored high school girl in a mini-skirted elf outfit) would escort you to Santa's throne. This was the part I hated, because “Santa” was usually some scary guy with really bad breath. No wonder so many kids start crying when they get on Santa's lap. Luckily, the photo session with Santa lasted less than 2 minutes. I think Santa was paid by the number of children he could get through the Winter Wonderland during his shift, because I noticed in my photograph that he has a counter in his left hand…hmmm.

Mr. Peacock found this silver tinsel tree at West Elm a few years ago. Of course, after Christmas, they went on sale for next to nothing. I wish I would have bought a gold one too. Tiny red and white twinkle lights give our tree a cotton candy pink glow.

We decorated the tree with glass bird ornaments with feather tails (both new and vintage) and a large assortment of hand-me-down vintage ornaments from my mom and grandmothers collections—and supplemented with some extras found at the flea market. I can still remember carefully putting some of these ornaments on the tree as a little kid.

Some of the ornaments look a bit rough around the edges, with the metallic paint cracking and fading a bit, but I think it gives the tree a lovely vintage aura.

Mr. Peacock was allergic to real trees as a child, so our tree was made out of finely shredded green paper with a light flocking of fake snow. I think my mom found it at a hotel that was selling all of their old holiday displays. The tree actually looked somewhat real, and was very soft to the touch. My mom liked the Christmas tree and decorations to be taken down and put away promptly before New Year’s day, but one year I pleaded with her to leave it up longer. She relented and allowed us to leave it up until "we get tired of it." Come the beginning of February, the tree was still up. It sort of became a stand-off between us, as to when the tree should come down. Friends would visit our house and ask why our Christmas tree was still up? I don't remember the exact date we took it down, but it felt like spring. It definitely cured my desire of wanting to leave the tree up after Christmas and the following year we took the tree down immediately after Christmas day. Now I sit on our sofa zoning-out looking at our Christmas tree and longing for that dreamy Winter Wonderland with silvery trees and glittering birds. I hope everyone has their own sparkly winter wonderland this week!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hello Miss Pearl...

Mr. Peacock’s maternal great-grandmother, Pearl, was born and raised in the Chesapeake Bay area of Maryland, where she attended private schools and graduated from college. She lived with her very protective parents until she married in her late 20’s. Her parents highly disapproved of her marriage to my great-grandfather, Charles... and rightly so—he wasn’t the best husband, but was a good father according to my grandmother, LaViolette (Pearl’s daughter). When my grandmother was near the end of her pregnancy with my mother, Pearl came out West to help my grandmother with her soon-to-be newborn baby. Tragically, Pearl was killed in a car accident (by a drunk driver), just a few days after my mother's birth.

Decades later my grandmother, through serendipity, found a box of postcards sent to her mother Pearl when she was in her early 20’s, at a vintage shop on the East Coast. My grandmother paid fifteen to twenty-five cents to "repurchase" each of her mother's postcards. The price is handwritten with a blue ballpoint pen on the back of each card.

I love the calligraphic style of the sender’s penmanship. It reminds me of one of my favorite script fonts called Compendium. You can buy it here.

Being the sentimentalist that I am (read hoarder), I now have this fragile 100+ year-old collection of postcards in my possession. I like to think of these postcards as “text-messages” from the turn-of-the–century. They're from Pearl's best girl friends and male suitors—m
any of the cards aren’t even signed. I guess she knew who they were from. Here are some of my favorites:

The wonderful Halloween postcard on the left, postmarked 1907, is imprinted with, “All Hallowe’en…Oh maiden…Young, sweet and divine…If you have the dough…My pie is thine.” The postcard on the right, is a photograph of the Baltimore Post Office, postmarked 1906, with the message written on the bottom, “I hope you did not get wet on your way home from Pennsylvania.”

This lemon card, postmarked 1907, is inscribed on the back, “Hello Miss Pearl… How are you? Are you happy? I am a sick woman to marry a lemon… Sincerely, Addie.” I guess Pearl’s friend, Addie, didn’t pick a good husband either. The type on this postcard reminds me of a wonderful font designed by my design pal, Pablo Medina, called Vitrina. You can buy it here.

The "I Really Had No Idea" postcard is inscribed… "That you were so fine Pearl" with someone's initials on the bottom of this 1906 postmarked card.

“You know how much I love you… But I just cantaloupe (can't elope) with you” is postmarked 1909.

Mollycoddle… Male person who despises all athletic games, but Ping Pong, Tiddel-de-Winks and Casino” is a campy reference to a homosexual, is postmarked 1908.

One of Mr. Peacock's favorite books from 2008 is The Stamp of Fantasy—The Visual Inventiveness of Photographic Postcards, by Ute Eskildsen. This amazing book was published to accompany a traveling exhibition that opened at the Fotomuseum Winterthur in Zurich, Switzerland in October 2007. Mr. Peacock can only imagine how incredible it was to see this stellar collection of postcards in person. These cards are in better condition than my great-grandmother's postcards.

This wonderfully documented collection of photographic postcards from the early 20th century includes postcard ephemera of everything from complex Surrealistic collages to straightforward objects shot against white backdrops. It breaks the subject down into three major categories: Publisher’s Postcards, Studio Postcards and Amateur Postcards.

Here are a few of Mr. Peacock’s favorite postcards from this gorgeous book:

Mr. Peacock loves the glued feather pieces on the right postcard—the feathers look like “hair” or “some chic hat.”

The switched heads of the man in lederhosen with his dog, on the right postcard, makes me giggle.

When I look at my great-grandmother's postcards I can't believe how old they are. Who knows if we’ll even use postcards in another hundred years—but right now, Mr. Peacock still enjoys sending and receiving postcards. "The Stamp of Fantasy" book would make a fantastic gift for anyone who has an interest in art, design or typography. You can buy it here. I hope everyone has a “picture-perfect” weekend and please mail a postcard to a friend today!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Music to clean by...


Here's a little mixtape for the holidays from Mr. Peacock. There's no carols, just an eclectic assortment (heavy on the shoegazing) perfect while cleaning the house...Click the arrow to play the tape. To play by song—roll your mouse below the tape to see the control bar and click the menu button.

1) Give Him a Great Big Kiss—The Shangri-Las
2) Love in a Trashcan—The Raveonettes
3) Penelope TreeFelt
4) Batyar (Big Mouth Strikes Again)—The Ukrainians
5) White Bird—It's a Beautiful Day
6) Pretty Ballerina—The Left Banke
7) Demain Berlin—Guerre Froide
8) The ModelSnakefinger
9) Some Velvet MorningSlowdive
10) Can't Find My Way HomeSwans
11) The Good Red Road—Devandra Banhart
12) My Favorite Letter is U—Uni & Her Ukelele
13) Indian Love Call—Slim Whitman
14) Hurdy Gurdy Man—Donovan
15) Mr. Orange—Dengue Fever
16) TeardropJosé Gonzales

You'll need to play this little mixed tape before December 27th, because MixWit, the website that allows you to make these fun "mixed-tapes" is sadly shutting down on December 27th. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ensalada de Noche Buena...

Mr. Peacock first tasted Ensalada de Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve Salad, at a holiday buffet hosted by his friends, Gordon and Roger. Whatever they create in the kitchen is delicious and this colorful Mexican holiday dish was no exception. It didn’t hurt that they both trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris either.

Variations of this beautiful salad are served in different regions in Mexico. The exact origin isn’t known, but the salad always has the same unusual combination of ingredients: beets, pineapple, bananas, oranges and pomegranate seeds. This salad will please everyone—even those people who refuse to eat beets because they think they taste like dirt. Beets happen to be a favorite vegetable of Mr. Peacock.

Christmas Eve Salad can be garnished with crushed hard candies, roasted peanuts, and anise seeds. Mr. Peacock is allergic to peanuts, so I serve them on the side. I haven’t tried it with crushed candies, but I love the subtle crunch and flavor the anise seeds add to this luscious salad. The dressing can be creamy based, but I prefer a light vinaigrette. You can also serve the salad on a bed of greens.


You’ll want about 1.5 or 2 cups of each fruit/vegetable. This recipe isn't difficult, but it does take some time to prep the ingredients—it's worth it though.
Serves 6

4 clementines (in abundance right now)
1 small can of pineapple slices (you can also use fresh pineapple)
1 small jicama root
1 pomegranate
8 oz. can of beets—not pickled! (Mr. Peacock used 2 fresh beets, see note below*)
2 medium apples
2 Bananas
1 tablespoon anise seed (plus extra for garnish)
¼ cup unsalted roasted peanuts (for garnish)
Lime Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

1) Peel and segment the clementines. You don’t have to remove the membrane, but I peel off any large pieces of white pith. Place them in a large mixing bowl.
2) Drain and cut the pineapple in chunks, add to the mixing bowl.

3) Peel the jicama and slice lengthwise into ¼ inch slices. My friend Gordon used a decorative cookie cutter to cut the jicama and beet slices into festive shapes. Mr.Peacock used a 2” flower shaped cutter, but it’s optional. You could just cut the jicama into small slices. Add to the mixing bowl.

4) Use a decorative cutter and cut the beets. If you want to save the “scraps” from the beets and jicama, you can toss them into a tossed salad for later. If you’re using fresh, steamed beets add them to the mixing bowl. If you’re using canned beets add them just before serving. If you don't use a cookie cutter, cut the beets in half.
5) Peel, core and quarter the apples. Cut into slices and add to the bowl.
6) Peel and slice the bananas into ½ inch slices. Add to the mixing bowl.

Mr. Peacock forgot to include the pineapple in this photo, but you get the idea on how to cut the fruits and veggies.

7) Cut and seed the pomegranate, removing all traces of membrane. Place the seeds in a dish and set aside.
8) Pour the dressing over the fruit/vegetable mixture. Mr. Peacock likes a salad dressed lightly and only used about ½ cup of dressing—use the amount of dressing you prefer. Carefully mix everything together. Sprinkle in the pomegranate seeds and 1 tablespoon of anise seeds.
9) Chill in the refrigerator until you serve it. It is best eaten the same day.
10) Mr. Peacock serves the salad in large clear glass dish to show off the beautiful colors of this holiday treat. You could use a trifle bowl or any clear glass bowl. Allow everyone to garnish their own salad with extra anise seeds and the peanuts.

If you use canned red beets (not pickled), rinse them with cool water and pat them dry with paper towels. Add them just before serving, because the color can “bleed” a bit.

If you use fresh beets, you will need 2 medium sized beets. Peel and slice them about ¼ inch thick. Steam them until tender and let cool. They shouldn’t bleed either, like the canned beets.

Mr. Peacock used Chioggia beets, because he likes the red and white "candy" stripes of this Italian heirloom variety. After they were steamed, the color became more pink in tone, but still looked festive in the salad.

Lime Vinaigrette Dressing
Makes about 1 cup of dressing.

½ cup canola oil (or any light vegetable oil)
3 limes juiced (almost ½ cup)
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt

Pour all ingredients into a lidded jar. Shake until blended well. Store in the refrigerator.

Christmas Eve Salad is a refreshing explosion of color, textures and flavors. I like serving it as a side dish with a rich or salty main course, like a ham. It’s a welcoming healthy treat after nibbling on holiday cookies and sweets. It would also be a great addition to a New Year's buffet.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Crazy for Patchwork!

You already know that Mr. Peacock loves plaid. But what could be better than plaid? Patchwork plaid!

My favorite plaid item in my wardrobe is this pair of vintage Brooks Brothers wool, patchwork plaid pants (above). I look forward to the holiday season each year, when the weather cools and I can wear my plaid patchwork pants...or as someone once remarked, “my clown pants.” I like to wear them with a black cashmere turtleneck sweater and black leather combat boots. The fabric is made up of different wool plaids that are sewn together to create the patchwork. I’m assuming the different plaid fabrics of these pants were excess fabrics from other Brooks Brothers products at the time—probably from the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. I found them at a thrift store on the Upper East Side (Manhattan), when I lived on 72nd and Lexington in the early 1990’s. The waist size was huge when I found them, but I purchased them anyway, because I was so enamored by the patchwork and craftsmanship of the pants. My tailor looked at me in horror when I brought him the pants, but he worked his magic on them and I’ve cherished these "clown pants" ever since.

If you would like to add a cherished patchwork piece into your wardrobe, here’s some ideas:

These slim fitting, narrow pants are made with different wool tweeds and cotton corduroys in muted browns and grays. They’re on sale here.

My dad would have loathed this jacket! But Mr. Peacock thinks this festive patchwork tartan tuxedo jacket would be perfect for a holiday soirée! It's also on sale here.

Maybe you want something less daring than a patchwork jacket or pants? These patchwork driving caps are both functional and handsome looking. Buy the brown hat here, and the gray hat here.

This scarf, in a patchwork of holiday looking plaids, could become your favorite winter accessory. Buy it here.

Here’s a shirt from the playful British menswear designer, Satyenkumar, that's more "pieced" plaid, than patchwork.

Mr. Peacock loves the two different plaids together. It looks elegant and modern with the blue velvet jacket. You can buy it here.

Still not sure about patchwork? Well, here’s a decadent Italian patchwork silk blanket, with velvet lining, you can curl up in while you decide. Stay warm!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Photog Supreme—Norman Parkinson

Mr. Peacock took this photo of the late British photographer, Norman Parkinson, in the late 1980’s at the International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado. The theme of the conference was entitled, Outlook: Views of British Design. Norman Parkinson was a key note speaker, while Mr. Peacock was attending the conference as a student. My chum, Allison, and I stalked him for the entire week of the conference—cornering him any moment he was alone to talk with him and ask him questions. This gentleman peacock was tall, lanky and very tan with a prominent mustache. I was quiet star struck and mesmerized by his dapper and eccentric style. Mr. Parkinson was always so gracious and witty. I took 2 different photographs of him, and of course I asked his permission each time. The other photo I shot, is a portrait of him sitting down, unfortunately I can’t find it, but if I do, I will post it later.

A self -portrait with a model from the 1970’s.

He gave a lecture entitled, Just Take the Picture, in which he shared anecdote’s about his five decade career as a leading photographer. He told many witty stories, and I remember one in particular, in which he was comparing current female models to models from previous decades. He explained that he arrived at a photo shoot to photograph some swimsuits on a very popular model of the day. He noticed the “cleaning woman” come in and go straight to the hair and make-up room. He kept wondering when the model was going to show up, not realizing that the “cleaning woman” was the model. After hours of hair and make up, the model was ready to be photographed. He said models from previous decades didn’t need hours of hair and make-up or retouching to make them beautiful—they were natural beauties and you could photograph them without any make-up. And just who was that “cleaning woman” model? ...It was the Australian model, Elle Macpherson.

Mr. Parkinson had his first one-man exhibition at age 22, in 1935, that included portraits of Vivien Leigh and Noel Coward. He was recruited by Harper’s Bazaar to take photographs after the exhibit. In 1947, he meets, photographs and marries the promising young actress, Wenda Rogerson. Wenda produced many of his most famous images. In 1949, he began working for American Vogue. Over the years he shot many famous images of Dovima, Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy, and Jerry Hall—just to name a few. He had such a great sense of humor and that really comes through much of his work.

In this self portrait, he’s wearing the same belt that he was wearing in the photograph I took of him. I love it when peacocks wear their favorite wardrobe items over and over again, but in different ways.

This portrait of Mr. Parkinson was taken in 1960, by Terence Donovan.

In this shot from 1962, Mr. Parkinson wraps model, Celia Hammond in a sheet, and joins her in the shot.

This photo from 1949, for American Vogue, is one of my favorite Norman Parkinson photographs. I love the blur of the New York City taxi in the background.

Mr. Peacock also likes this graphic image from the late 1960’s.

You can buy a high quality Norman Parkinson art print of this iconic photo of Jerry Hall,taken in 1975 for Vogue Magazine, here. It would look chic in a chrome frame hanging in a bathroom. You can also purchase limited edition, hand processed color prints here, from the Norman Parkinson Archive.

I feel fortunate that I was able to meet and hear Norman Parkinson talk about his life and ideas, because in 1990, while on an assignment, he passed away at age 77. His own peacock style was as iconic as his photography. There are numerous books on Norman Parkinson’s work that you can buy here, and add to your library. I’m sure you’ll recognize many of his iconic images. Thank you Mr. Parkinson for both your photographic and sartorial inspiration!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Are you a grower and a show-er?

This Wednesday evening, December 17th, is the annual Mustache for Kids: San Francisco ‘Stache Bash 08. Hundreds of participants across the country and in Canada have raised over $150,000 for children’s charities by growing a mustache for Donors Choose. Mr. Peacock has been known to grow a nice bushy ‘stache now and then, but has never grown his mustache for charity—and unfortunately missed the starting date for this fun event. Mustaches for Kids SF was able to raise about $23,000 last year for the Breakthrough Collaborative, a non-profit organization that helps low-income children to succeed in school.

This isn’t a free for all stache-a-thon, there are some rules to the madness. On "Clean Shaven Day," November 11, the growers all shaved bare as a baby’s bottom to ensure they all started off with a clean slate. Over the next month, only hair above the lip is allowed. All other hair must be sheared weekly to maintain the integrity of the ‘stache. No sideburns, no soul patches and absolutely no beards are allowed.

The mustache extravaganza will have rounds such as: the Guinness Beer Foam Retention Test, the Mustache Haiku, and other challenges devised to determine the "Sweetest Stache" at the Bash. Each ’Stache Bash participant is expected to raise a minimum of $50 by soliciting friends, family, and strangers for donations.

All of the photos shown, are from last year’s ‘Stache Bash (both contestants and attendees) and are courtesy of photographer, Grover Sanschagrin. You can see all of last year’s photos and purchase prints here, with all proceeds going to the Breakthrough Collaborative. Check out Grover's other amazing photography here.

This 'Stache Bash begins at 8:00pm at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco, click here for more details or directions to the club. Stop by and see the ‘staches and have a cocktail—it’s for a great cause. If you missed the “Clean Shaven Day” you can still make donations here, but if want to participate and show off your mustache prowess you’ll have to wait until next year's 'Stache Bash.