bubble play

April 8, 2015

bubble phantom

bubble play captured in the late afternoon light

bubbles on the stairs

catching bubbles

bubbles for two

big bubble

bubbles on the stairs 2

popping bubbles


Home Tour, Jeffrey and Cheryl Katz, stove detail, by Justine Hand for Remodelista

Excerpts from my tour of Boston designers Jeffrey and Cheryl Katz’s Beacon Hill home. See more at Remodelista.

Jeffrey and Cheryl Katz Beacon Hill Home, kitchen, by Justine Hand for Remodelista_edited-1

Beacon Hill Home of Jeffrey and Cheryl Katz, white ceramics, by Justine Hand for Remodelista_edited-2

Jeffrey and Cheryl Katz Beacon Hill Home, kitchen table 2, by Justine Hand for Remodelista_edited-1

Jeffrey and Cheryl Katz Beacon Hill Home, kitchen dining, by Justine Hand for Remodelista

home tour Jeffrey and Cheryl Katz, bedroom detail, by Justine Hand for Remodelista_edited-1

home tour Jeffrey and Cheryl Katz, bedroom, by Justine Hand for Remodelista_edited-1

Jeffrey and Cheryl Katz Beacon Hill Home, closet, by Justine Hand for Remodelista_edited-2

Jeffrey and Cheryl Katz Beacon Hill Home detail by Justine Hand for Remodelista


hoppy easter

April 5, 2015

Easter Bunnies_edited-1Bunnies, hiding out, in my house, this morning.


Liliana Folta 2

I came across these small, sculptural gems at the recent holiday market at my house, and asked Laura from Templton General if I could photograph them. They are new works by local Boston artist, Liliana Folta. A departure from her previous, more iconic, work these intimate, abstract pieces nonetheless possess Liliana’s signature exploration of the boundaries between the beautiful and the bizarre.

Flora and fauna intertwined, these undulating lifeforms take us on a cyclical ride that is both nurturing and disquieting. At first our inherent optimism leads us to experience those pods as buds, unfolding with life. Or are they fungi initiating their recycling process?  Are those tendril forms reaching forth to take root? Or are they choking tentacles? Are we witness to nascent garden or Little Shop of Horrors? An exciting dance, small enough to be cupped in the palm of your hand, these works feel like a privilege. For though they are fluid and fecund, they are also brittle as bone. Take care of these emerging seeds, lest their fragile bodies turn to barrenness and dust.

Liliana Folta 3

 New works by Liliana Folta are available at Templeton General.

Liliana Folta 1

Liliana Folta 4


sunday morning mug

March 29, 2015

Sunday morning mug 1 new mug. from local shop. good morning.

Sunday morning mug 2_edited-1

Sunday Morning Mug 3_edited-2

Sunday Monring Mug 4

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indigo and stitch

March 25, 2015


Recently I have become obsessed with Japanese sashiko – those long mending stitches often seen on boro and other vintage cloths. In my search for everything sashiko, I came across a new favorite Etsy shop, Sasaki Yohinten, which sells vintage Japanese goods and European clothing, many of which have been revived with sashiko.

Sashiko is a mending technique born in the 18 and 19th century working class Japan. Too poor to buy new clothes these rural communities would lovingly patch and darn worn textiles with sashiko-style stitching. (Boro refers to textiles themselves that have been mended and patched many times. Sashiko is the actual embroidered stitch.) Today, along with boro, sashiko is back in vogue as a rustic art.

To me Sasaki Yohinten’s application of sashiko is particularly effecting. Small and spare, these understated adornments lend a quiet dignity to these repurposed clothes, not only paying homage to their working class origins, but also raising them to a level of art. To wear them, I think, is to recognize the creative force behind the work we do every day.

I also like the fact that here sashiko is applied to western-style work clothes. It’s as if Sasaki Yohinten seeks to bring sashiko out of feudal Japan and into the modern, multicultural age.




DIY Peacock and Quail Easter Egg Ornaments, finished eggs, by Justine Hand and Angela Liguori_edited-1

I’m excited to announce that, after years of helping each other with various DIY, photography, and writing efforts, Angela Liguori and I have finally formalized our collaborative relationship. As of today, we are launching a monthly series of creative projects featuring Studio Carta ribbons. The concepts, styling, and photography are all part of a joint effort.

Last week with camera and supplies in hand, I traveled “down the road a piece” to Angela’s studio for the first of these creative endeavors. Three hours later, after hammering out the original concept over espresso and a lot of laughs, we completed our initial project: a simple DIY with quail eggs and Studio Carta’s tight weave ribbon in peacock.

Each month we will feature a new project both here and on Angela’s blog. On doc for next month is a May Day posy and then a wedding/baby book for June. So stay tuned.


DIY Peacock and Quail Easter Egg Ornaments, supplies, by Justine Hand and Angela Liguori

Supplies: For this project, Angela and I wanted something distinctly Easter, but a little outside the box. Marbled, brown quail eggs (available at many gourmet and ethnic food stores) paired with Studio Carta’s 2/8 width tight-weave cotton ribbon in vibrant peacock, seemed just the thing. Besides these, all you need is a long sharp needle. (We used a Japanese sashiko needle, available at Purl Soho.)

DIY Peacock and Quail Easter Egg Ornaments, peircing the egg shell, by Justine Hand and Angela Liguori_edited-1

Step 1: With your needle poke a hole in the top and bottom of your egg. Then carefully work the opening until it is about 2-3 mm around.

DIY Peacock and Quail Easter Egg Ornaments, eggs with holes, by Justine Hand and Angela Liguori

Step 2: Placing your mouth over one of the holes, blow out the inside of the egg into the sink or a bowl. It helps if you eviscerate the inside a bit with your needle. Then run your egg under warm water to clean it, and blow again to dry the inside. Wipe the outside dry as well. (Note: if you have tried blowing eggs before and found it to be hard, know that it is much easier to blow a small quail egg.) Above, our eggs are blown and dried.

DIY Peacock and Quail Easter Egg Ornaments, stringing the egg, by Justine Hand and Angela Liguori

Step 3: To thread the egg, double the ribbon lengthwise over the eye of your needle. Holding it taught towards the tip of the needle, push the needle and ribbon through the bottom of the egg until it peaks out of the top. Then pull the ribbon out to form a loop in the top of the egg. There is no need to tie the ends off. The thickness of the ribbon will hole it in place. That’s it!

DIY Peacock and Quail Easter Egg Ornaments, finished eggs 2, by Justine Hand and Angela Liguori_edited-2

It’s up to you to mount your eggs as you wish. We chose a spare branch.

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love notes

March 13, 2015

paper flowers

paper flowers made from vintage books, a gift from Solvi

A small catalogue of memories around my house, in words and numbers…

measuring tape

a vintage tape measure by my desk, because I always find I need one

paper leaves

paper leaves from a “Christmas” wreath that really looks good all year

Solvis notes

post-it love notes and pictures which Solvi tacks up on our poster bed. When their adhesive powers give way, they fall like prayer leaves on our bed. I save them all.

Olies book

Oliver’s first book, made in the first grade. He hated narrative writing back then, so he embellished the tale of a family walk with a little danger.


Angela’s calendar – though several years out of date, it’s too beautiful to throw away


the tag from a gift with a long backstory.

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mas puerto rico

March 10, 2015

We heart Vieques

But a few of the many picts I took of our Puerto Rican holiday.

Vieques beaches were sublime. From calm lagoon to crashing surf, each had its own character. Yet all were surrounded by nature, not a building in sight.

Rich in historic buildings and sites, Old San Juan was both charming and fascinating. Great food. And the people? Both the locals and the many other Northerners so grateful for having escaped the relentless winter, were ever so friendly and relaxed. We can’t wait to go back.

Las Chivas, Vieques

La Chiva, Vieques

petting the Candado Beach Parrot

pet parrot in Candado, San Juan

happy Boston boy in Vieques

Boston boy happy to be in the sun

Vieques wild horses

Wild horse, Vieques

star fish

snorkeling, Vieques

back in the water! Plata Prieta, Vieques

Jumping in, Plata Prieta, Vieques

Vieques swing

Hangin’ on the Altantic side of Vieques

feathery tree vieques

feathery tree by the road, Vieques

kids fishing, vieques

locals fishing off the pier, Vieques

locals fishing off the pier, vieques

shell collecting vieques

shell collecting, Vieques

Vieques church

church, Vieques

Chad Vieques_edited-1

Chad, Vieques

375 yr old ceiba tree_edited-2

300 year old ceiba tree, Vieques

Solvi snorkleing Vieques

Solvi snorkeling


coconut and coral_edited-1

Coconut and coral

fountain play 4_edited-1

fountain fun, Old San Juan

colorful bldgs old San Juan

colonial pastels in Old San Juan

conquering kids, castillo san cristobal, old san juan

conquering kids, San Cristobal, Old San Juan

san juan cemetary

cemetery, Old San Juan

feeding pigeons Old San Juan

feeding the pigeons, Old San Juan

fountain play 3

fountain play, Old San Juan

San Cristobal, San Juan_edited-1

San Cristobal, Old San Juan

light house el morro, san juan

light house at El Morro, Old San Juan

Solvi Gallery Inn

Solvi at the Gallery Inn, Old San Juan

Calle San Justo, San Juan

Calle San Justo, Old San Juan

reading Olie Gallery Inn

Olie reading, Gallery Inn, Old San Juan

sleeping beauty gallery Inn

Sleeping Beauty, Gallery Inn

Even more! [click to continue…]


Gallery Inn Old San Juan, former stable door by Justine HandA modern-day caballero, Jan’s husband and fellow artist Manuco Gandia, was also a famous horseman. Here a doorway off the main courtyard pays homage the to family’s close equestrian ties.

“It’s Hogwarts!” Oliver exclaimed as we entered the arched vestibule of The Gallery Inn in Old San Juan. Indeed the sculptural stone interior, chock-a-block full of eclectic art and ephemera, did resemble the wizarding world’s most famous castle. The only thing missing were the owls. Instead there were parrots.

The singular atmosphere of The Gallery Inn is the vision of one woman, Jan D’Esopo, a native of Connecticut and New York who came to Puerto Rico after completing her degree in painting and sculpture. In 1961, the young artist crawled through a crack in the wall of abandoned structure into what she describes as an “ancient secret garden.” Where others saw a hopeless case, Jan recognized in the sculptural remains a kindred spirit. Amongst the whispering stones she heard not only the echoes of the past, but also the call of the future.

In his book, The Big House – an homage to the family home, which fittingly I began to read while a guest at The Gallery Inn – author George Howe Colt describes a home as “the one place that will be in your bones forever.” That is what The Gallery Inn is to Jan. And yet she is the one who added flesh to those bones. By living her life here, raising a family, creating her art, and then finally sharing her space with the world, Jan, together her husband Manuco, nurtured the Inn’s character, gave it life.

Today Jan’s home and hostelry encompasses 6 historic town houses dating from the Spanish Colonial era. Like some hybrid of Pan’s Labrinth and Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum, the grand interior moves in a warren-like fashion from grottoed recesses to sunlit courtyards and gardens. Right at the blue macaw, under the ancient arch, left at the Spanish steps, along the palmed atrium, through the grand salon, into the rooftop garden, down the orchid-lined stair, along Roman bath, past the formal dining room, into the artist studio, and so on. There are even some stairs that seem to lead to nowhere. And everywhere momentos of Jan’s rich life follow your progress. Gilded portraits, many by her sister, Teresa D’Esopo Spinner, and family photos gaze down in curious fashion. Bronze and clay statuary by Manuco and Jan – the visages of former guests and local dignitaries (there’s even the Obamas) – peak shying out of nooks and cranies. Even the vines hanging from the balconies seem to reach out in welcome embrace. And don’t be startled if you enter an empty room and are greeted by a spectral “hello!” It’s most likely Campeche, the cockatoo, or one of his parrot friends.

The result off all this romantic eclecticism is a building of such story and character that it seems alive. Indeed it feels not like a hotel at all, but an experience. For some, who may not appreciate the rustic nature of this 300-year-old structure, it may not be the right experience. But for those who are respective to its tale, being a guest at The Gallery Inn is to become part of its story. The effect is nothing short of enchanting.

Gallery Inn San Juan, dining roomRather than modernizing the space, Jan elected to pay homage to the 300-year-old interior’s historic past by maintaining much of the original detail. Here, like starlight, elegant chandeliers pierce the dark of the Spanish colonial dining room.

Gallery Inn pool 2Reminiscent of a ruined Roman bath, the pool is literally a work of art. It is also the best place for water tag. I admit, at first, I was worried that I would not be able to curb my children from this raucous activity. Until I spied two huge plastic water guns furnished by Jan for just this purpose. Guests of all ages are not only welcomed, but celebrated, at The Gallery Inn.

Gallery Inn Old San Juan, poolside sitting area by Justine HandWhile the children played water sports with Dad, I relaxed with a glass of wine under the equally Romanesque canopy adjacent to the pool.

Gallery Inn Old San Juan, Oliver reading by Justine HandThe chiaroscuro effect of the Gallery’s interiors was a photographer’s dream. Here Oliver winds up a day of traipsing around San Juan’s impressive and massive fortifications by relaxing with a good book.

Gallery Inn Old San Juan, sitting area, by Justine HandDespite the elegant nature of the furnishings, all the spaces in The Gallery Inn possess an intimate quality, that is more welcoming than intimidating. Here a more informal lounge space under the main stairs takes in a view of the palm and orchid studded atrium. 

Gallery Inn Old San Juan, Olie and Solvi by Justine HandMore reading with Oliver, while Solvi takes in the Atlantic view.

Gallery Inn Old San Juan, Solvi drawing by Justine HandInspired by the gallery around her, Solvi begins a portrait of her own.

Gallery Inn Old San Juan, orchid wall by Justine HandOrchids climb the entire wall of the outdoor garden deck, where guests enjoy breakfast and cocktails.

Jan at Gallery with cockatoo_edited-1Jan herself, is an active feature of The Gallery Inn. Here she is with the hotel’s director of hospitality, Campeche, perched on her shoulder. 

Gallery Inn Old San Juan, atrium 2 by Justine HandVines cascade from the balcony above this open air atrium, which is still moist from the previous evening’s rain. 

Jan and Cockatoo 2Most evenings at cocktail hour Jan and Campeche emerge to socialize and inquire after the comfort of their guests. In addition, Campeche often performs some of his many tricks, including playing the piano. Here he takes a bow.

Gallery Inn Old San Juan, sitting area and stairs by Justine HandTile enthusiasts will find no shortage at The Gallery Inn.

Gallery Inn Old San Juan, Pepe sandals by Justine HandAfter a long New England winter, my Pepe sandals were glad to get out and about in the sun.

Gallery Inn Old San Juan, music room by Justine Hand_edited-1Off a tiny Colonial kitchen, which now serves as a library, the Venetian style music room plays host to many a concert musician. Here a lucky guest gets a rare chance to play Jan’s Steinway Grand.

Gallery Inn Old San Juan, parrot by Justine HandCampeche shares his home with several other talented parrots, who welcome visitors with a “hello” or “hola.”

Gallery Inn San Juan, Solvi and blue Macaw, by Justine HandSolvi’s rendering of the Inn’s blue macaw.

Gallery Inn Old San Juan kids on balcony by Justine HandSet right over the walls of Old San Juan, The Gallery Inn enjoys a breathtaking view of the ocean (or, from the rooftop wine deck, the whole city). Our room, the Balcon, sported twin balconies that took in not only the “secret garden” courtyard, but also the Atlantic.

Gallery Inn Old San Juan, Chad by Justine HandContinually inspired by her home, Jan created many portraits of The Gallery Inn. Here, my husband, Chad, sits surrounded by these works.

Gallery Inn Old San Juan, formal sitting area by Justine HandOne of the many sitting areas available for guests to enjoy, this one opens onto the pastel streets of Old San Juan.

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