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Al Young Studios Newsroom
Beauty and home Articles

St. Lucia Day, sweet and bright

By Al R. Young
My husband Al's two years in Scandinavia when a young man provided him, among other things, with three imperishable predilections: a love of  light, of warmth and of cardamom.  So St. Lucia's Day, when light wins out over darkness and the warmth of flame re-emerges--and almost as important, when there's cardamom-spiked bread for breakfast--we like to take advantage of the concept.

When Elspeth was young (pictured right), we dressed her in full Lucia regalia and made the more traditional saffron-scented "Lucia Cats," sometimes even taking them about the neighborhood; but now we observe the tradition by making loaf-sized Lucias, use the slightly less traditional cardamom flavoring, and gobble them up all day long... Read more »

Tags: Vol. 14 No. 1, 2013, Beauty and home, Bread making, Christmas, Holidays

Catching up

By Nancy Young
 Though it's a month since the most recent issue of The Storybook Home Journal, Our Mutual Friend, wended its way through the US Posts, it's been way too long since we caught up posting sans that venerable institution, so here's what we hope will present a reasonably creditable reparation. We didn't have space to include Elspeth's water-colored label that we used in our own version of clearing Old John Harmon's mounds, so we send it in its easy-to-download form here for anyone's personal use--whether gardening is involved or not... Read more »

Tags: Vol. 12 No. 4, 2012, Beauty and home, Floral arrangements, Flowers and garden, Recipes by Nancy Young

Great design

By Al R. Young This quote we love is a summation of common man interior design, which comes from Marco Pasanella in his savvy and easy-to-absorb book astutely published by Simon & Shuster way back in the pre-market-meltdown days of 2000—Living in Style without Losing Your Mind:
"A closetful of cash, a boatload of workers, and a couple of years will get you an expensive, labor-intensive home that takes forever to complete.  It might be good.  More often, however, great design comes from having imperfect circumstances, from having too little money, labor, and time... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Beauty and home, Home quotes

Summer on the way and The Tales of Beatrix Potter

By Nancy Young
Summering in Sawrey is at last on its way, regrettably slowed by Al's chemotherapy and hospital time, as well as some surgery on my part (with a second surgery to come soon.)  Thanks to all our subscribers for their patience, as well as their concern and prayers!  

The "Good Bunny Supper Cake" featured on pages 16 and 17 of The Kitchen—though more authentic to Peter Rabbit's tale when fixed with blackberries—may be even better with this summer's blueberries substituted for an equal amount of the seedless blackberries called for in the recipe... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Beauty and home, Recipes by Nancy Young

To get the whole world out Of bed

By Al R. Young  I was first introduced to John Masefield's poetry by my fourth grade teacher, who had us copy out poetry for penmanship exercises.  Since my penmanship was never a strong point—like Charles Bingley in Pride and Prejudice, I "prized" the "power of doing anything with quickness," since that was the only calligraphic skill of which I was a "possessor"—I was usually done early and could roam over the poetry, catching my tongue on the rhythms and memorizing the bits and pieces that lingered there... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Beauty and home, Holidays, Home quotes, Mothers Day

A beautiful beginning to May

By Al R. Young May was my favorite childhood month of the year—summer vacation would begin before the month was over, teachers were reading aloud more and testing less, and all the fragrant world was blossoming in pinks and whites.  There were shy, wobbly-legged colts in the pastures, alongside elegant weeping willows that were the exact shade of my "spring green" Crayola crayon.  All that seemed summed up in the lovely, lively-hued Mayday bouquet that showed up on our door yesterday—enticingly anonymous... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Beauty and home, Holidays

The domesticated thistle

By Al R. Young If like most gardeners you prefer that the beauty of the Scottish thistle contain itself to the house, rather than inflict its thorny presence on the perennial border--you might wish to reopen the pages of the Little Lord Fauntleroy issue of The Storybook Home Journal (Vol.6 No.3) where Ashton, Elspeth and Al remade a forlorn thrift store Grandfather clock over into the fabulous treasure pictured here.

Or if you prefer to ply a needle rather than a paintbrush, try the handsome thistle design, below, by Paula Kate Marmor from her treat-of-a-website, Elizabethan Blackwork: The Blackwork Embroidery Archives... Read more »

Tags: Vol. 6 No. 3, 2011, Beauty and home, Hand crafts

Sharing delight

By Al R. Young  While swatting away at the Greyfriars Bobby issue of The Storybook Home Journal, we came across this delightful rendering of Rudyard Kipling's poem, "I Keep Six Honest Serving-Men," from The Just So Stories, that had been used in the opening of a nearly century-old textbook.  We'd like to dedicate it to all those parents worn out with answering the endless questions that a day in the presence of a preschooler can afford.  We also wanted to call to the attention of those unfamiliar with his work, as we were until recently, illustrator W... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Beauty and home

The delights of small imperfections

By Al R. Young Britain's bit-of-everything-aesthete, Sir Terence Conran, provided this wonderful observation in his 1985 book, Terence Conran's New House Book: The Complete Guide To Home Design, which we've benefited from around our house, so we share it with any like-minded individuals, here:

"People often become so obsessed with practicality, that things must be invulnerable to finger-marks. In the process, they make their rooms look like airport lounges that could be hosed down after a nasty incident... Read more »

Tags: 2011, Beauty and home, Home quotes

Work on Captains Courageous

By Al R. Young
We are in the throes of our work on the next issue of the Journal featuring Kipling's Captains Courageous. Among our endeavors to "step inside the story," we're making an end table into an intricate checker board in honor of Uncle Salters and Penn, researching the antique art of scrimshaw, savoring new fish dinners, studying about nasturtiums, enjoying the life of Kipling, and decorating with summer memories. Here's a little peek at the cover for the issue, right.

And, below is another inspiring quote about making a home:

"A house is what we design and decorate to suit an image of ourselves, and a home is what we establish by actually living there... Read more »

Tags: 2010, Beauty and home, Home quotes

Paging Dr. Huey

By Al R. Young We've all seen it--and it may have been in our own gardens--that long row of perfect, apricot-hued shrub roses lining a fence, except one of them is a very discordant red. Or maybe it's a pampered group of tea roses in the midst of a cutting garden, except instead of harboring future long-stemmed bouquets, one of the group is actually a fountaining, red social climber grabbing for space.
The interloper didn't crash the party, and he wasn't mislabeled at the nursery--he worked his way up from the very bottom, and now he's definitely on top... Read more »

Tags: 2010, Beauty and home, Flowers and garden

Watch the post for Deephaven

By Al R. Young
The Deephaven issue of The Storybook Home Journal shipped yesterday. Nineteenth century poet and inveterate gardener, Celia Thaxter, is part of The Garden article; unfortunately, we couldn't include more than a smattering of her wisdom as regards growing beautiful blooms, banishing nasty pests, and dealing with dodder and other beastly weeds. Anyone can find it all, however, in her delightful classic, An Island Garden.

Weeds are definitely in abundance here after our long, cold, sodden spring; so I adopt my Nana's long standing tradition of never returning from the out-of-doors, without stopping to do some weeding along the way... Read more »

Tags: 2010, Beauty and home, Flowers and garden

A touch of spring

By Al R. Young Krista, a dear friend and Storybook Home reader, brought us this glorious touch of Spring from her carefully tended garden. They added the perfect touch to the kitchen mantle and, in turn, we wanted to share their beauty with our readers. These "Pink Impression" tulips put us into the same frame of mind expressed by Monet: "I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers."
(Painting, right, by Claude Monet.)... Read more »

Tags: 2010, Beauty and home, Floral arrangements, Flowers and garden

Dreaming a house

By Al R. Young "The art of living, the art of dreaming one's house, is a right that still has to be fought for. To build one's house is to build a dream, an environment made to one's measure, and to express one's deep personality, a part of us that is normally invisible."

Quote from Jean-Claude Delorme's Architect's Dream Houses
Painting, above, by Claude Holsøe (Danish painter 1863-1935).... Read more »

Tags: 2010, Beauty and home, Home quotes

A little bit of brightness

By Al R. Young A bit of brightness from Sophia Hawthorne that we didn't have a chance to include in The House of the Seven Gables issue of The Storybook Home Journal (just sent out,) was a portion of a letter Sophia wrote while husband, Nathaniel,was at commencement exercises at Bowdoin College in Maine.
At the time children Una, Julian, and Rose were ages 9,6, and 15 months, respectively. The children were attempting to come up with ideas to cheer home upon his return:

Concord, Mass. 1852
August 30th, Monday... Read more »

Tags: 2010, Beauty and home, Hand crafts, Home quotes

The joy of making home

By Al R. Young From time-to-time we'll share some of our favorite quotes about the joy of making home. Here's the first and one of our very favorites from art and architectural sage, John Ruskin. We found it in a nineteenth century housekeeping book several years ago:
This is the true nature of home—it is a place of peace; the shelter, not only from all injury, but from all terror, doubt and division. Insofar as it is not this, it is not home. So far as the anxieties of the outer life penetrate into it, and the inconsistently-minded, unknown, unloved, or hostile society of the outer world is allowed by either husband or wife to cross the threshold, it ceases to be home; it is then only a part of that outer world which you have roofed over, and lighted fire in... Read more »

Tags: 2010, Beauty and home, Home quotes

Remembered rooms

By Al R. Young
We've been reordering the pantry over the last few days--always some work, but always a joy. Over the years, we've featured some aspects of the pantry in several issues of The Storybook Home Journal. First, in Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer, next in Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs, and, most recently, in Charles Dickens' Bleak House. Each time it's been an exhilarating experience to rediscover that organizing with beauty in mind is just as efficient--and a thousand times more satisfying than placing everything in a series of plastic bins and closing the closet door... Read more »

Tags: 2010, Beauty and home, Home quotes