Grant K. Gibson

From Russia with Love

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I am just back from a trip to Russia.  Mostly St. Petersburg with a touch of Moscow.

I had so much on my mind when dreaming of the trip.  Visiting the Hermitage and seeing Red Square.  Trying borscht.  Vodka and caviar.  Doctor Zhivago. 18th and 19th century neoclassical buildings. Dostoevsky. Tolstoy. Tchaikovsky.  The list goes on and on.


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I have put together my TOP 10 LIST for Russia.  Naturally, there are so many more things that one could add to this list, but I am trying for an edited version!

10. Hire a great guide.  Olga Bycheck in St. Petersburg and Lana Maximova in Moscow. Both came highly recommended by several friends who had toured with them.  This will save you time standing in lines, worrying about details and you won’t end up getting lost!  Feel free to email me to for their contacts!

9. Take a boat trip around the canals and Niva river of St. Petersburg.  There are many tour type boats to choose from, or you can hire your own private boat.  Seeing the city from this vantage point is definite worth your while.

8. Eat and drink.  Check out the view from the rooftop bar at the W Hotel, Mansarda (also a great view), Tarkhun, Probka and also the sister restaurant Jerome, and – last but not to be forgotten – check out Duo.  Try caviar, vodka and borscht.  I learned that there were two types of borscht- hot and cold.  I tried the both. Both interesting in their own way.

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7. Allocate enough time to see all of the Hermitage…and wear some walking shoes.  By the end of the day, I had walked over 10 miles!   The buildings go on and on (as do the collections.)  They have a special opening one hour before general opening – opt for this and you will avoid the lines.  The museum is also open late on Wednesday nights.  Another great way to avoid the crowds. Wednesday nights the golden peacock clock is in operation (but make sure to check the schedule online as I think that it changes in winter).

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6. Go during the White Nights (from around June to July).  St. Petersburg is the northernmost city with a population over 1 million. St. Petersburg is located at 59 degrees 57′ North.  (roughly on the same latitude the southern tip of Greenland). Due to such a high latitude the sun does not descend below the horizon deep enough for the sky to darken.

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5. A day trip to Peterhof.  You can take the hydrofoil here.  Explore the gardens.  Make a point to book and see the grotto (this is an extra ticket)  from this area you get the best view of The Grand Cascade. Go to Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin) to see Catherine’s Palace and the Great Hall – I have never seen so much gold in my life!  Walk around the Chinese gardens and see The Cameron Gallery.

4. See a ballet.  I booked months ahead of time online.  Swan Lake.  Seemed apropos while in Russia.  It was absolute perfection.  Quite honestly the best I have ever seen.  A tip: there is a small cafe inside. You can enjoy a light snack before or during intermission and book a table to have a glass of champagne ready for you.

3. My trip to Moscow was very short – but be sure to see the Kremlin, Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral. Have lunch at Gum department store and walk around the shopping area.  The new Rem Koolhaas-designed Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Gorky Park is worth checking out as well as the Muzeon Park (where you will find a sculpture garden with Soviet era works).  I took the The Sapsan high-speed train between the two cities.

2. Seeing the subway stations in St. Petersburg and Moscow.  This is a must.  It might sound strange, but just jump on a subway and get off at the next stop to admire the interiors. Each is a unique museum in itself.  Note: try to avoid this subway tour during rush hour so you can really get a good view.

1. Make sure to spend some time walking through the Summer Gardens in St. Petersburg.  The garden is one of the oldest, dating back to the early 18th century. You can stroll with a cup of tea or ice cream cone.  Situated on the southern bank of the Neva at the head of the Fontanka, it is famous for its cast iron railings and marble sculptures.

 

PICKING A RUG

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If you are following along, the last post shared some fabrics that I was using in a current project.  I mentioned that I like to start with the area rug first.  Wesley decided to help me the other day with my selections for another project.  To him, it is a game of eeny-meeny-miny-moe – and then he fell asleep on the job!  This is what you get by paying someone in dog treats.   For this project, we were looking to make more of a graphic statement with the area rug.  Lots of fun options!

LIVING ROOM

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I am often asked where I start when designing a space.  For me, I start from the ground up.  For this living room project, I first selected this vintage blue and white area rug and then started to pull colors and textures for the furniture items.  I love a balance of colors and textures in a space.  For this room, we are using mohair, leather, linen, velvet and leather.  One of my favorite perhaps unexpected accents is the touch of lavender.   I can’t wait to see this space come together!

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB CRISP

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This past weekend at my neighborhood farmer’s market, the strawberries were perfection.  Perfectly ripe.  Sweet as candy.  I could smell the fragrance from aisles away.  I think that I was so intoxicated by the smell and taste – I ended up purchasing an entire flat (12 baskets).  Strawberries for breakfast, strawberries for a snack, freezing some to make smoothies.  I still had more than I knew what to do with, so I decided to make a strawberry rhubarb crisp to bring along to Sunday brunch with friends.
I looked up a few recipes that had a lot of sugar, so I decided to tweak a few things, like cutting the sugar by adding in an orange instead. Here is my version.  You could serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream -or just enjoy by itself.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

6 stalks of fresh rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces

3 baskets of fresh strawberries, hulled and halved

1 cup of brown sugar

Zest of one orange

Juice of one orange

1 cup + 1 tablespoon of flour

pinch of salt

1 cup of oatmeal

1 stick of butter (at room temperature)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss the strawberries, 1/2 of the brown sugar, orange zest and orange juice with 1 tablespoon of flour.
Pour this mixture into a large buttered baking dish (I used a large, shallow Le Creuset).
In another bowl – or the can use the same one (which I did to save on the mess), add the rest of sugar, 1 cup of flour, salt, oatmeal, butter and vanilla.  Combine the mixture until it forms a crumble-like consistency. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit, and bake for 1 hour.  The fruit should be bubbling and the crumble a golden brown color.  I made this the night before, covered it and left it at room temperature.  I imagine it would be excellent right out of the oven – still warm and bubbling. This served 8 people by the way.  Enjoy!

GOAT CHEESE

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To really know me well, you have to know that I love goat cheese (or chèvre or whatever you want to call it.)

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I love the tart flavor and consistency.  When I found out that I could tour a goat cheese farm in the French countryside, I was beside myself.   As you can see from the photo, I really do take my goat cheese eating pretty seriously, as I came home from the farm with all of this loot!  Goat cheese that was soft, aged, coated in pepper, spices and shallots.  I had the best cheese tasting of my life!   The one thing that I noted in my tasting was that these cheeses tasted much less salty.  I later learned that goat cheesees are often heavily treated with salt to prevent decay.

WESLEY GOES TO PARIS

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Just returned from Paris and just had to share the photos of a lucky little guy that got to tag along with me.

Since France doesn’t have any quarantine laws (and the French love dogs), I thought, “Why the heck not?”

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Wesley actually enhanced the experience.  People approached on the street to say bonjour to Wesley (frequently exposing my lack of French-speaking ability).  As you can see from the photos, he was kind of over the photo shoot at the Louvre.  He has a “enough already with the photos, dad!” look on his face.  After his time in Paris, Wesley enjoyed a lovely time in the country with very dear friends.

He is working on his French for his next trip to France.  In my next life I want to come back as Wesley the Westie!

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P.S. Before you think that I am some cruel dog owner, I want you to know that Wesley was under my plane seat or in my lap the whole flight.  I wouldn’t put my baby under the plane with the baggage!

CERAMICS CLASS

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I have always had fascination with how things are made.  Seeing things on a shelf in a store always makes me wonder more about where it was made and by whom.  For years, I have driven by a ceramics studio near my house, always wondering about it.  I decided to sign up for a weekly evening class.  I am now in my second session.  Learning to throw the clay and form it on the wheel is no easy project. It takes concentration, patience and strength.  There are a lot of pieces that I turn on the wheel that don’t turn out, but I am learning from each experience.  This all started with my 2015 New Year’s resolutions:  I wanted to challenge myself to a different creative medium.  I have a few weeks left in my class.  Don’t worry – I am not quitting my day job!

SPRING

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According to the calendar, spring has officially arrived.  When looking at the weather reports across the country, it doesn’t quite appear that way with snow still falling.  Fresh flowers always seem to brighten up even the gloomy days.   I picked up this bouquet of anemones the other day for my kitchen.  When looking them up online, I found out they represent anticipation.  This just seemed appropriate for those out there still dreaming of spring.

BUNK BED

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I had a bunk bed in my bedroom growing up.  I always loved climbing the ladder and reading a book with my stuffed animal buddies.  I had the luxury of choosing to sleep in either the top or the bottom bunk since I am an only child.

We are currently working on a boy’s bedroom and he is also an only child.  One problem was storage because of the size of the room.   So we worked on designing this custom bunk bed that has plenty of storage for toys, games and clothes below.  I am not sure who is more excited to have this move in more – him or me!

MACROSTIE WINERY

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For the last few months, I have been working on an exciting project in Healdsburg (about 1.5 hours north of San Francisco).  This is the new tasting room for MacRostie Winery.  Here is a peek at one of the tables and stools for the space.   Excited to share more photos very soon.  We are excited for this launch and opening in the upcoming weeks!