Friday, December 30, 2011

My Beloved Brother, Carter

My brother, Carter Kane Mullen, took his final rest this morning at the age of 61.  He battled inoperable brain cancer for almost a year and a half and was a true champion to the end.
Carter was a fierce competitor in everything he did! He taught me many things in life.  I excelled at sports because of him.   He loved to dove and duck hunt.  He was an exceptional basketball and baseball player.  He loved to spend time up at Lake Powell on his boat.  He had a successful advertising and public relations business.  He was creative and hard working.  Carter loved life!  And it rubbed off on those around him.
Carter had a quick wit and a phenomenal sense of humor.  About a month ago, someone said to Carter, "Is your sister always this funny?"  He replied, "Well, she is a Mullen!"  This photo is a joke between Carter and me.  Taken in the market in our treasured town of San Miguel de Allende where our family has had a home for over 37 years.  Neither one of us are fond of clowns and I just had to have him pose with this parachuting paper mache  clown.
He was always protective of me, his little sister.  And of course I idealized him! And so did all my girlfriends.  I even had one friend name her son after Carter.  Such a handsome guy.
This was taken 7 years ago at my 50th birthday.  Nothing can take away that special bond that we had or the memories.  In the last year, Carter wrote in an email, "If there is anything I've learned from my sickness is that you cannot predict your life.  And you can't look over your shoulder.  Live life with happiness, gusto and positive thoughts."  I will big brother!  You will always be by my side.

Carter Kane Mullen
March 5, 1950 - Minneapolis, Minnesota
December 30, 2011 - Scottsdale, Arizona

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Spain's Best Modernista Architect

The best Modernista architect in Spain was Antonio Gaudi.  Modernista works were a 19th century Art Noveau movement that emphasized natural forms, bright colors and curveular lines that was carried over into architectural.  And Gaudi did it best! 
Casa Batllo in Barcelona on the Passeig de Gracia (No. 43), just south of Carrer D'Arago, is  really phenomenal!  It was an existing building that textile industrialist, Josep Batllo', commissioned Gaudi to remodel. Construction began in 1904 and was completed in 1906.  The facade refers to Catalonia's Middle Ages.  The scaly roof line represents the Dragon of Evil impaled on St. George's cross. 
Batllo's residence was the largest apartment in the building that had an impressive "noble floor."  It was a large gallery with balconies that extended beyond the facade of the building with stone columns in shapes of skulls and bones representing the dragon's victims.  This was an area to see and be seen!
This is how the gallery was decorated back in the early 1900's.
This mushroom shaped enclave with the mushroom shaped fireplace was perfect for "courting couples."  One side for the courting couples and the other side for the chaperon!
The center core of the building was like Captain Nemo's underwater caves with skylights, vaulted ceilings and a beautifully carved wood banister that twists up the stairwell like a spine of a serpent.  And of course the blue and white ceramic tiles were a big hit with me.  
Examples of Modernism can be found everywhere in Barcelona from a building's foyer, lighting fixtures, tile, fountains, a facade...   That is one of the many things I love about Barcelona.  Viva Modernism!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Vila Viniteca

In the Born district of Barcelona, you will find an amazing wine shop.  One large room with a two story high ceiling, packed with wine, cava and a few other spirits.  Vila Viniteca showcases some great Spanish wines, particularly those from Catalonia.  Besides being a fantastic shop, I was intrigued by many of the wine labels.
I like the "cubistic" art work for the faces and the font on the name below. 
"Ventas Las Vacas"- "Selling The Cows"!!  Love having the cow with the different cuts of beef on it.  And nothing is better than a good piece of beef and a great bottle of Spanish Red!  And not too shabby being 14%.
This bottle is way cool.  Amic (friend) with a peace sign!  How apropos to end this post for the holiday season. "Peace" be with you and everyone at Christmas and I hope the New Year finds everyone is good health!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Palau Reial de Pedrables

One of the first mornings in Barcelona, my husband and I grabbed a cab over to the Palau Reial de Pedrables (the Royal Palace in the Pedrables area).    
Away from the hustle and bustle of the center of Barcelona, the Palace is surrounded by expansive gardens and beautiful courtyards with a huge round fountain at the entrance of the Palace.   This palatial estate was built in 1920 for the Count Eusebi Guell, one of Gaudi's most important patrons.  The gardens were partially designed by Gaudi.  There is a huge array of giant Eucalyptus, Cypress and Magnolia trees besides statues of Hercules, Queen Isabel II and Alfonso XII.  The Palua is now home to two museums, Museum of Ceramics and Museum of the Decorative Arts.
As you enter the Palace, the first thing that catches your eye is the entrance hall with its impressive marble stairway, an elegant crystal chandelier and decorative ceiling.  This leads you up to the two museums, the ceramics being the main focus of the collection.   The ceramics range from Moorish storage vessels and tiles, pictorial scenes of Barcelona to works by Modernistas, Picasso and Miro!
Being a "blue" girl, this white and blue tile hit home!   Builders of the 15th century covered the interiors of Churches, monasteries and castles with tiled floors and wall.  It was a way to keep the interiors clean.  
Blue, a primary color, originally came from Mesopotamia and Egypt. It was introduced to China in the 8th century and eventually arrived to Andalus area via the maritime route in the 13th century.  Then through the Iberian Peninsula, blue spread throughout Europe.
Socarrants (Catalan for baked) were popular in the 15th and 16th centuries. This particular tile was made by commission for a noble family.  How the two faces were incorporated into the design was pure genius.   Many times it was the family's coat of arms, while others were decorated with kufic writing that indicated the people of the home were bi-lingual.
Many of the decorative tiles depicted plant and figurative motifs.  It reminds me of the "loteria" cards in Mexico.
This "Sirena"  (mermaid) is priceless!

By Villafranca del Panades, 1874, this modernista sculpture of the ladies head is magnificent! 

The last part of the exhibition housed a room with works by Picasso, Miro and other contemporary artists.  This exhibition showcases the use of blue!  This vessel by Picasso, 1973, was inspired by Etruscan ceramics.  I have seen this form in some ceramics in countryside around San Miguel de Allende, Mexico where I have a home  and down south of Oaxaca on market day. 
The Palau Reial is one of my favorite museums to visit and I look forward to going back.  Not only is the collection really interesting, the setting and the palace is remarkable!

Palau Reial de Pedrables
Avinguada Diagonal 686
Barcelona, Spain
(open Tuesday - Sunday)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Color Makes a Big Difference!

It's been a while since I have written.  My husband and I were on a three week trip to Europe which I will soon be writing about some of the special places and sights that we encountered; restaurants, museums, markets, cool shops....  I came home to some great interior design projects which has kept me very busy.  I have also been traveling back and forth to Scottsdale to see my brother, Carter, who is seriously ill.  Spending time with him has been my number one priority.  So please excuse my absence from writing on my blog. 
When I was in Barcelona, I went into a great store, Vincon.  It is located on the Passeig de Gracia and only a few blocks from our hotel, The Claris.  Vincon has a collection of contemporary dishes and cooking pieces, linens, some furniture, kinda a Crate and Barrel with an edge to it.  As you know from my previous posts, I love color.  That is one of the many reasons I love  spending time at my casa in San Miguel de Allende.
I was intrigued by the very cool coffee cups and saucers that were on display that featured some of the Pantone colors. Being that my Dad and brother were in the advertising and public relations business, I am very familiar with "Pantone."  Pantone prints an extensive fan deck that has an unbelievable range of colors that is used in the advertising industry, the design field and many other areas.
The bright lime green wall really accents the little espresso cups and the neat votive candles.
There was a whole display of Pantone notebooks which I could have bought one in each color but my 50 lb. limit on my suitcase would not allow me too.  (Believe me, new shoes and purses took priority!)
And how fun are these chairs?  Adult and children sizes.  Color sure makes a big difference!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Circus hit town

When I am in San Miguel de Allende, you never know what is around the next corner and  when the circus is in town, watch out!  The sign says, "Danger, do not get close, savage animal."

On my way back from the market, there was a man selling tickets to the circus with a rather sleepy (or sedated) cat in the cage!  The next day a pick up truck was driving around town with a pony is the back and a load speaker advertising the circus.  When I was at the Pemex station filling the car up with gas, there was a big, unattended cage with a leopard in it pacing back in forth advertising the circus.

For only ten pesos per person, less than a US dollar, I could go to the circus.  Only in Mexico and the kids just love it!

Friday, November 4, 2011

At the end of the day....

Late afternoon in San Miguel de Allende is probably my favorite time of day.  The lighting is spectacular.
The sunsets around the church and convent of La Concepcion are always a site to be seen.  The church is known as Las Monjas (the nuns) by the locals.
The sky just lite up with the setting sun.
The stone mason responsible for the design of the Monjas church modeled the dome after the dome of Les Invalides in Paris.  As the sun was setting, the lights around the dome went on illuminating the saints.  A statue of the Immaculate Conception graces the top. It is one of my favorite sights in the evening and one I can view from my mirador (roof top patio).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Balloons & Bubbles

Any plaza or jardin in Mexico, and especially San Miguel de Allende, is not complete without a man, woman, young boy or girl selling balloons.  This lady above was sitting on a bench in the plaza in front of the San Francisco Church getting ready for the crowds to exit mass.   The children just can not resist one of these bouncing balloons.
A group of balloon vendors heading over to the jardin, the main square.
Good thing these balloons are filled with air.  His load is more cumbersome than heavy!
Such a variety of balloons... Scooby Doo, super heroes and many that I have no idea what they are...  I guess I am not up on my cartoon and comic book figures.
Talk about color!  Hanging from one of the vendor's cart in the jardin are little necklaces with a decorative container full of "bubbles."
And talk about having fun.

 Chasing bubbles.
And more bubbles. 
San Miguel would not be complete with out this gentleman selling his balloons, squirming foam lizards, tiny flying balls and who knows what other treasures he has hanging from his long wood pole.  He has been a fixture in the jardin for as long as I can remember.
Viva the balloons and the vendors, they really bring the jardin to life.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Yellow is such a happy color

The beautiful blue sky against the bright yellow facade of the Monjas church in San Miguel was breathtaking.  Yellow is such a happy color.
These Mums in the market were so brilliant.
Talk about a wild color combination.  Don't worry, this is not my house.
During one of the many parades in San Miguel, this man had on such a beautiful head dress.  I like how the sunlight just illuminated them the yellow feathers.
Such an elegant window with the wrought iron and the reflection of the yellow wall on the glass.
You can not beat the eggs in San Miguel.  The yolks are such a deep golden yellow and the flavor in unbeatable.   I was in the process of making Kahlua Creme Brulees for one of my groups that were coming over for dinner. 
My favorite wall in San Miguel.  This is the courtyard in front of the Monjas church.  In the afternoon, the shadows are great.