Category Archives: Homes of Creative Friends

Iory visits friends in their homes

Visiting with Oz Mondejar and John Verlinden

 

 

 

Visiting with Oz Mondejar and John Verlinden

I consider a home to be where the heart of a family can be nourished and prosper. The home of Oz Mondejar and John Verlinden is filled with a welcoming abundance of art and artifacts. This invites one and all in for a party of sharing cultures from all around the world with a focus on Cuba, the ancestral homeland of Oz. Here they have created a fantastic place that offers comfort and delight for all who enter.I see this as a reflection of the deep love shared between two men who together form an expansive bond of abundant joy.      

IA: How long have you both been in a primary relationship of love and respect?

O&J: We met in Baltimore in 1985 and have been in a relationship since then. It has always been a whole lot of fun – humor is the glue that keeps us attached, respect & love are always present, we just care for each other.

IA: Did you always consider yourselves a married couple in an affectionate and spiritual manner?

O&J: Yes, we did and do.  We’re creative, kindred spirits, we share an appreciation for family, friends, animals, community, nature, the cosmos, a good meal with vino and the arts.  We have a few interests in common, and our own passions.  One commonality is that it’s hard for us to sit still. We’ve been told we have ants in our pants.   We’re just never done … there’s always a looming project or adventure under foot. 

IA: Are you married legally in the State of Massachusetts?

O&J: Yes

IA: If married in a legal sense do you consider that status to have contributed to the well-being of yourselves and your extended family?

O&J: Yes! By the time marriage became legal in Massachusetts, we’d already been together for 19 years, so we really questioned whether or not we should even bother, but we did consider it a historic event, so we decided to go ahead and do it. We were both surprised at how meaningful and important being able to officially marry would be for us. The process and the government’s endorsement of it affirmed us and has made us stronger as a couple. It was validating.

IA: Briefly, what are your individual professions?

O: Hospital Administration, Executive with Partners Healthcare, Spaulding Rehabilitation network.

J: — Chef, Food Writer “To Cook Is To Love,” published 2010 and Small Business Consultant

IA: What is a highlight of each of your professional careers that has been particularly fulfilling?

O&J: We are both community guys, and our professions have facilitated our efforts.  We have been able to do many things to support and enhance and advocate for our communities — People with Disabilities, Hispanic, LGBTQ, Woman’s Rights & Children’s issues.

IA: When and how did you find your house?

R to L, John and Oz greeting us at their front door                                  Photo by Iory Allison

O&J: It was 1987 — we were looking for a condo, and had just put an offer in on an apartment (650 square feet) in the South End, when Oz’s sister who was also looking for a condo, suggested we pool our money and look for a two-family home. We started looking in Brookline because our niece was in school and Brookline has great schools.

IA: What condition was the building when you found it?

O&J: In a word — it was ‘rough — a hot mess’. The headline of the classified ad for the house said “Developer or Would Be Developer?’ At the time, we purchased it (in reality it purchased us), the house was being utilized as a rooming house. We purchased it from the estate of a woman who’d lived in it for 60 years. After raising her family and losing her husband, she rented out rooms on a short-term basis.

IA: What were you attracted to about this house in particular?

O&J: It is a great old house with lots of character, the woodwork on the first floor was installed by skilled craftsmen and is intact.  It has survived the allure of paint for nearly a century. The house has a welcoming aura. Also, when we first moved in, the presence of Pauline, the previous owner was palpable.  She was loved by the neighbors…we felt welcomed by her. 

The house is a grand ol’ dame, she requires regular touch-ups and grooming. We truly are the caretakers much more than the owners.

First floor parlor with original paneling, diptych painting by Magda Campos – Pon, Cuba Artist, Professor at Mass College of Art.                          Photo by Iory Allison

IA: Did you have to do extensive renovation to create the third-floor guest suite?

O&J: Yes, we did a gut-renovation. We took everything back to the studs; we took out almost all of the walls and took the ceiling out to create a space that is open to the rafters.

 

Third floor guest suite with original roof beams exposed        Photo by Iory Allison

IA: Do each of you have specific and singular interests concerning your home?

O&J: It’s warm, eclectic, with many quirks.   Although it’s a never-ending fixer upper, we both love everything about the place. And, we feel like it’s happy having us live here.

IA: Do these individual interests complement each other?

O&J: We collaborate on almost every project. Oz has a great eye for design, so he is the creative visionary, John is handy and crafty, so our skills are very compatible.

IA: Is there something that you do together concerning your home that you both love and adore?

O&J: We both enjoy hospitality and entertaining — opening doors for gatherings.  This stems from our upbringing. Both our families hosted, loved cooking, and breaking bread…it was rare not to have guests at the table.   Sharing the house keeps that tradition, it feels right and we’re also recovering restaurateurs.  We both grew up in the service biz, working our way through every food & beverage station. It’s in our DNA…we’re seasoned party planners.

A corner of John’s office – hanging paintings by Pat Peter from Gateway Arts. Abstract animal hanging plaque, ‘S/T’ by Roberto Baranda. The freestanding sculpture and the basket are created by South African Zulu Tribe Artists                                         Photo by Iory Allison

IA: Did you have an idea of the look or style of your completed home?

O&J: Curious and eclectic are good descriptors. We’re collectors, so we have filled the house with furniture, art and collectibles from many different eras, made of many different materials and from many different places around the world.   It’s always evolving, we like change — so we change it up.

IA: I see your home as a museum of whimsy and uninhibited delight. I see a relationship between the art and artifacts as you have chosen and arranged them that animates an audible conversation. That conversation seems to be to be expressing an appreciation of the beauty and richness of many cultural references and indeed speaks of a universal joyous aesthetic. Is there a theme to your collecting or a kind of story that you are telling with your incredibly rich world?

 

The Big Boy Hamburger kid in red checks, Jackie all boxed in, and Bart Simpson – just to mention a few of the denizens of the high shelves in John’s office              Photo by Iory Allison

O&J: (Iory this is a lovely description and spot on).  Although a specific theme is not always at the top of our minds at times. it’s a bit reminiscent of vintage 30’s, 40’s & 50’s.

we’re attracted to items that are playful and tell a story…most are vintage.  We see relationships between some items that we already have and a new item we see that we’d like to acquire, if they belong together, they have come home.

IA: Have you always collected art? What is art in your home and what is merely utilitarian? I ask this because there are vignettes composed of, for instance what looks like old garden tools, but arranged as a sculptural composition with purpose and I am amazed by the myriad of details that fill every corner with a twinkling smile.

 

Old garden tools as sculpture                   Photo by Iory Allison

O&J: We do see art and style in utilitarian things. And, we do have a rule about our collecting — No piece just gets to sit around and look pretty and collect dust; everybody has to work.

IA: John what items of your personal collections are most important to you? What items of your personal collections allows you a private giggle?

J: I do have favorites, of course, but I would never let the other pieces know.  We love all of our little collectible children equally.

IA:  what items of your personal collections are most important to you? What items of your personal collections allows you a private giggle?

O: A relic from Cuba of yesteryear… our patron saint – La Caridad del Cobre (Lady of Charity) from my family’s home in Cuba. The Giggle part is my Jane Mansfield hot water bottle

La Caridad del Cobre, the trials of life leave marks on the blessed Madonna and her companions

IA: John what of Oz’s collection strikes you as profound and enriching to your life?

Paramount Theatre on Washington Street, Boston by street artist, Sykel      Photo by Iory Allison

J: Ozzie has great taste, so I love just about everything he brings home. If not, I hide them.  And, anything that I’m not crazy about in the beginning seems to grow on me as time goes by. I would say that Ozzie has brought a level of sophistication and refinement to our collection that I would never have been able to achieve on my own.

IA: Oz what of John’s collection strikes you as profound and enriching to your life?

O: John has the best rubber toy collection  really (IA, see Email photo)

… and since he’s the Chef and creative ruler of the kitchen, I’ll say his Russell Wright dinnerware, they complement his every dish.  As a writer, the book he authored, “To Cook is to Love,” is the best example and collection of his passion, creativity and knowledge of food and all these ingredients come together to please the palate. Everything he makes has Mucho Gusto.

 (IA, Cook = Love, is first a conversation then an invitation to dinner with Sra. Mondejar where she relates her stories of growing up in pre-Castro Cuba – Oz is a first-generation USA citizen born in New Jersey.)   

John’s biographical cook book about Oz’s Mom, “Mami Aida” and her Cuban recipes.  

IA: Did you always want a garden component to your home? Did you look for a home with a garden?

O&J: Yes, gardens are really special places. There is something about being outside with nature that inspires and enriches us. When looking for a home, we definitely wanted some kind of outdoor space.   Our garden is urban, it’s on the smaller side and the perfect size for us.

IA: How have those gardens, decks, porches and outdoor spaces evolved?  

Garden pavilion off the back deck of the rear garden                       photo by Iory Allison

O&J: Our outdoor spaces have really evolved over the years, and they will continue to gain more character and create more interest in the future. Just like our indoor rooms, the look and feel of these outdoor rooms has grown and become more layered over time. They are extensions of the house, a bit country, vintage furniture and honky-tonk warmth. This was the first season that the garden felt pretty settled; it has been a work in progress since the beginning. 

IA: I see, inside and out, your home is created with numerous places for socializing. Do you entertain a lot? Do you like sharing your space with family and friends?

O&J: Yes, as indicated above, we do a lot of entertaining. Hardly a week goes by that we don’t have at least a friend or two over, and we also like to throw larger gatherings for benefits.

The gentlemen of the house

 

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Anita Baglaneas

 

Photo by Iory Allison

Anita Baglaneas is a jewel of rich colors sparkling on the edge of a rainbow! And if you think that’s a wee bit over the top wait ‘till you see her charming home high above Boston Harbor where she welcomes us with her infectious laugh and an elegant flute of champagne.

Anita is the inexhaustibly creative chef-owner of “Jules” her successful catering business that has been churning out culinary joy and delight for a discerning clientele of corporate, non-profit universities and private customers over the last 30 years. www.julescatering.com Still going strong, Anita’s hard won success is due to a recipe of talent, tempered by discipline and gumption, all whisked together with a soupçon of piquant pixie.

The pixie part is in evidence all over her charming home where the little darlings literally hang from the ceiling and dance on the shelves, ever reminding our serious business-woman to find joy in the moment.

Anita has nurtured and trained a competent and loyal team of 65 employees who all have an intricate role in the complex task of running a busy catering company. At any of “Jules’” diverse events Anita and her staff may be called upon to cook-up, not only the soup to the nuts, but also create the place, the space and the decorations – getting all the paraphernalia of hospitality in and out of the venue with dispatch and finesse! This is accomplished by the cooperation of her seasoned staff working together with Anita’s attention to every detail and her respect for every team member, from the working chefs to the dishwasher; all have a place of importance at “Jules.” Anita knows this because years ago she had to do it all herself before she could afford any help.

Iory: “When you are relaxing in bed, sipping tea and watching “Telly” what are you most appreciative of in your life?”
Anita: “Every night I am grateful that a Greek peasant girl was able to have the life I have!!!”

Comfort, art and color predominate Anita’s charming home. She has expanded the finite area beyond the confines of her “four walls” by choosing art and artifacts collected from her travels throughout life, all wrapped in peaceful colors that tie her diverse collections together with panache.

Anita told me she wants to go to Venice for Carnival but I looked around her home and thought I was already there.


Anita’s place is quite simply “Zany”- in the best of ways. For a famous Chef isn’t it surprising that you are now peeking into her kitchen. It looks more to me like a window into wonderland and as I think about it, I guess that’s exactly what Anita’s kitchen is, wonderland – the laboratory of a professional hostess.

Now will you believe me? Here we spy Anita with a cloud of whimsical lovelies who dance attendance on their Tatiana, Pixie Queen.

A close up of the characters in question, I love the little bear on the bike hanging from a rainbow parachute.

Hot – Cha – Cha! Here is the essence of Anita, skirt swirling in a mad dance, entertaining one and all who join her at the table. Although this is technically her kitchen counter, everywhere we look is a dance with this “Dame of the Realm of Hospitality.”

Did I mention the shoes, characters from all walks of life? Here is part of the parade circling  the crown molding of Chez Anita.


 The Gal herself, our adorable Anita doing a little jig in response to my asking about the swarm of pixies hovering in the kitchen window – a shrug and a smile was all I got for a reply, and that was perfect.

The soft violins by Lui Heitt, speak of the transformative power of music, melting hearts with beautiful melodies. To the left is, a glass creature whose audible squawk can be heard cracking ribald jokes.


Blue Skies is a vintage record of Irving Berlin’s famous song here performed by, “The Hour of Charm, All Girl Orchestra and Choir.” It was a much beloved memento of Anita’s grandmother who took it from the USA to Greece and back again.


Anita’s fabulous home looks out over Boston Harbor so it’s no wonder that our wonder woman wanders the world with frequent trips to Samos, Greece, the island of her birth.

I love the collection of sparkling jewels decorating the screen behind Anita. They reflect the twinkle in her pretty eyes.


These angels, ever mindful of their guardian duties are trying not to giggle at the marching shoes above them. Don’t you just luv the chartreuse Victorian boot with pink flowers?


Soft textures of draping fabric and cork-screw curls form colorful wings setting sail for ports of dreams.

The sun and moon plaque on the window wall smiles at the fragrant hyacinths, while the blue “flower fan” propped in the corner rolls her eyes jealously at the fragrant intruders stealing the limelight.


Anita wears the confidence of a successful business woman. She is acutely aware of the collaborative efforts of her staff and grateful for all her satisfied clients. Anita is a totally down to earth, hardworking Mamma with style and elegance, oh Yeah!


Lilly, the Tibetan terrier keeps a watchful eye, protecting Anita’s impressive bunch of friends.

Anita is a native of Samos Island, Greece where she maintains a second home that she visits often. Here is a vignette of souvenirs championing the working men of her village. They are flanking a neat little home with a purring kitty besides potted flowers, all waiting patiently by the lace-draped doorway for Anita to come home and cook them dinner.


Here we have a stylish Cuban couple strolling along the Boston Skyline.


Anita regards us with candor as she stands beside a sculpture of the sacred olive tree whose ancient trunk is firmly planted in the mystic soil of Greece, the source of western civilization.


A flourish of crystals and a peacock feather accent the view of Boston Harbor.

 


A Balinese dancer pauses to pray over an assemblage of Anita’s adopted “children” who hover about the stump of an old plant “gone by” which also supports the bleached jawbone of a deer, talisman of mystic significance.


A bevy of beauties gathered together for the pure joy of being delightful

 

A moment of release, leaning full into a saltmarsh at sunset, the lone tulip keeps his lady company

“Ribbit, ribbit” goes the frog hiding beneath calm waters of glass. He offers a goofy smile to the shout of tulips crowning the table above.

Family shrines from various generations help the bewildered parents a babe born in a manger to understand the sacred joy of living.

An international bunch gathers by the window wondering what on earth the bustle of the city is all about.

Anita is at home with her books and art, a picture of the complete person ever ready to embrace life’s next surprise.

A mini Anita with bobbing head in Chef’s whites wielding her rolling pin gives cooking lessons to a couple of old friends while a Dolphin leaps from the Greek Mediterranean to check on the action.

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where cowslips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.”
Wm Shakespeare, Midsummer’s Night Dream


Wrapped in sheared mink, the fur sculpted with a scattering of colorful butterflies and paisley swirls, Anita comes fully to life as the luxury of it all gives her a smile of enchantment.


On Samos, Anita’s “Auntie Pagonitsa” gives her girl a well-deserved kiss.


Now I ask you, who else would have dancing fruit but a happy chef?


The march goes on towards the far horizon


Anita takes us to visit with her friend from Samos.


Family snaps featuring, center stage, Anita with her doll next to her brother Peter in full Greek costume


Greek homes are never far from the surrounding Mediterranean waters.


Anita found this cigar smoking fortune teller in Cuba. Her companion with the elegant neck adds a tempering tone to the proceedings.

Link

At home with Ed LeMay, 158 West Brookline Street, Boston

Ed Le May (3)

Ed on his front steps, always the welcoming host

I met the ever delightful and charming Ed Le May when I gave him a ride to an outreach concert for the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus a little while back. At that time we were both members of the chorus going to Waltham to sing at the Unitarian Church and we fell into easy conversation along the way. Apropos of what I’m not sure now but he told me of his experiences studying and performing dance skating on roller skates proudly adding that he had won bronze and silver medals. Now, considering we both are gentlemen of a certain age, I was intrigued by this revelation and, as is my want, I shamelessly dug into his past and this is part of what Ed told me.

“In 1966 I went to Boston University School of Management for the MBA Program. After receiving my graduate degree in 1968 I began teaching Management and Accounting at Massassoit Community College in Brockton and Canton for the first graduate class of that new college.” “Over my 36 year career as a college professor I taught business courses including: Accounting, Human Resources, Organizational Behavior, Management and many others.”

“During my tenure I also served for seven years as the Divisional Chair or Dean for the departments of Business, Engineering, Computer Science, Cooperative Education, etc. These represent about thirty percent of all the college departments and about half the student body.”

“At one point I took a leave of absence and taught at the College of Alameda in California for a year.  I also traveled on sabbatical study programs to Japan, all over US and Hawaii studying presentation methods of corporate presenters / consultants in a classroom style in order to incorporate those teaching techniques into my own lectures at College.”

“I took and early retirement in 2003 and traveled to France staying for nine months in Montpelier and Chambréy learning French. I was looking for places where people didn’t speak English and  I ended up at  Chambréy in the Alps because the rest of France is generally cloudy at that time of year but not in the Alps.”

“I was a dance skater for years. I started at the Bal-A-Roué Rollerway in Medford winning all the dance levels, bronze and silver. In the eighties or there-abouts, skating was the thing to do. Tuesday night at Bal-A-Roué and Saturday night at Lansdowne Street, the club in Boston, were Gay nights and I loved it.   When you do one-foot turns sometimes you are on one wheel of the eight so it takes a lot of practice but it’s  a lot of fun!”

“Music and theatre have been of interest of mine all my life. I was always in church choir and high school chorus and also in the class plays. I really wanted to be an actor or singer but I couldn’t see how I could make a living doing that. My eldest brother had a jazz band and I took piano lessons until the ninth grade but then I quit, probably because he was so good – it was hard living in his shadow. Although that didn’t really stop me because I’ve been taking voice lessons on and off for twenty years. For the last five years I’ve been studying voice with Dan Moore. Back in 1968 I took theatre courses at Bridgewater State College and I was in their production of Fiddler on the Roof. I also performed in Community Theatre of Brockton where I was in Company and several other shows. I’ve been singing with the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus since 2011 and I am probably going to take up my piano studies again now that my guest house is all set up.”

Ed Le May (36)

A view of Ed’s spectacular open stair case with Fredrick Remington’s sculpture of a Cow-Boy on his bucking bronco

“I always wanted to do a guest house and I experimented with long term and short term apartment  rentals here at my building in the South End. But it was too complicated when I was teaching full time. In retirement I began the long process of renovating all five floors of my home. At one point during the process I took a break and went to study performance art with Tim Miller in Santa Monica. I stayed with a couple on Venice Beach through an outfit called   Air B-N-B. The people who founded Air B-N-B said even if you have an air mattress in your living room you can be a Bed and Breakfast and that’s the origin of their name. But the company now runs the gambit from simple to full service accommodations globally.  I am what they term a “Super Host” with 80% of my guests rating me with a five stars top rating  based on quickness of response, comfort, amenities, decor etc. It just seems a perfect fit for me, I like traveling and I can relate to people’s different needs.  Some of my guests have busy commitments while they are in Boston and need their privacy and others like to sit and talk over coffee or a glass of wine.”

☼☼☼☼☼

So, let’s join Ed in his luxurious guest house which is a compilation of his  lifetime  study of the art of fine living. Please click the link below this picture to see an interview with Ed. Then click the other link to see a slide show of his home / guest house. You can expand the You tube window to full screen by clicking the appropriate icon at the bottom right of the video window.  Ed Le May (58)

Click here for: Chatting with Ed about his guest house

Click here for: Photo essay of Ed’s guest house and home