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Joyeux Jour de la Bastille

In honor of my years spent working at Unesco in Paris, France, and my degree in French Literature from Hunter College, I decided to make this clafoutis aux framboises in honor of Bastille Day.

Clafoutis aux framboises ©

The raspberries are fresh picked from my “Italian” garden behind Blackstone Edge Studios here in Portland, Oregon. Philip kindly photographed my efforts prior to digging into the tarte, which proved to be a little too “tart” for my taste, since I cut back on the sugar, but not the freshly squeezed lemon in the unseen custard below. I recall the pâte sucrée tasting sweeter as well, more like a shortbread! Ah, well… I’m sure it will be eaten before I can rue the outcome much longer!!! (Recipe hails from a VERY OLD Benson & Hedges specialty booklet of recipes from famed US restaurants – this from Ma Maison, long before Wolfgang Puck ever appeared on the scene there. Restaurant now closed!)

July 14, 2011   No Comments

BSE launches

We are proud to announce the completion of the website for Hollywood film and TV composer, Steven Argila of 88Keys Music. You might remember the name from a couple of our film projects, for which he created the music, including Soccer Bob and our hit YouTube series, “Pack Your Kit,” which recently surpassed 60,000 hits worldwide in about a year’s time.

The site features clips from his feature films, including “ScoobyDoo! Pirates Ahoy” and “The Thing About My Folks,” starring Peter Falk & Paul Reiser. Take a tour of,  and enjoy the video and audio clips that display Argila’s many talents. Steven, a graduate of Juilliard School of Music, also produced an album “Putting On Ayers,” with Nathaniel Ayers, a fellow Juilliard student, and the subject of the film “The Soloist,” starring Jamie Foxx as Ayers, and Robert Downey, Jr. as Los Angeles Times reporter Steve Lopez, who met Ayers, as a homeless musician in Pershing Square. Argila recorded the album in his studio, 88Keys Music.

June 23, 2011   No Comments

Blackstone Edge Studios’ Italian Garden

Climate change is certainly a “hot” topic these days, and weather patterns have caused terrible havoc. Here in the Pacific Northwest the rains have been interminable this year, and sun only intermittent. There has been one clear evidence of the rain, and that is the greenery. Philip was taken by the evening light falling across the Italian Garden – giardino italiano – behind the offices of Blackstone Edge Studios, which I designed after the gardens of our friends in Mugnano, Italy – Roy & Evanne Diner.

Here’s a tribute to you, Roy & Evanne!

Mother Mary nestled beneath the apple tree, overlooking the lavender, iris and honeysuckle

The iris came out this week, despite dismal weather…

The clematis are huge in diameter and will appear again later in the summer.

The Cecil Bruner rose spreads across four yards!

The Cecil Bruner rose is filled with millions of blooms that cascade into four different yards.

If only we all had the energy of this rose!

Cecil Bruner Close Up

June 10, 2011   1 Comment


New Magazine: Fresh Cottage features 10-page spread by Blackstone Edge Studios

If you haven’t spotted it on the stands yet, it’s a brand new cottage magazine entitled “FRESH COTTAGE.” Check out the amazing 10-page spread that began from the kernel of an idea – a tip from Timi Weathers-Bottorff, co-owner of the new Snohomish, Washington, antique shop: “Ruffles & Rust Square.” Timi and her husband had spent some R&R time at friend Lisa Metke McElliott’s  Coastal Nest Cottage in Pacific Beach, and recommended it as a great place to photo.

Coastal Nest Cottage restored by Lisa & Steve McElliott - A Blackstone Edge Studios photo

Luckily, Lisa is a prodigious marketer and not only did she have a blog with photos of the adorable cottage that she and her husband Steve had taken from “frumpy and forlorn” to “Fresh and Fun” online, but she had also listed it on Vrbo with more photos. Editor Janet Mowat gave us the assignment tout de suite, along with the classy Gig Harbor home of Cindy & Dave Storrar that we had tested back in September for Cottage Style magazine, as well.

There was one caveat. We had to shoot them both PRONTO!!!

If you remember the weather back in December 2010, it was punishing. The mid-winter storms make these spring rains look like mere sprinkles. Luckily we shot the Storrars first, which was mostly interiors. Thank heavens for digital cameras because the storm didn’t abate just because we had come to town on a deadline. What once was an out-and-out rain day, now just becomes a “difficult” shoot day. Just crank up the ASA,  warm up the Kelvin and keep moving forward (because the light in winter only lasts about 6 hours, not the 10 hours granted during summer shooting). When that story published earlier this spring, Cindy received calls from around the country about their gorgeously renovated farmhouse.

Cindy & Dave Storrar's dining room into newly remodeled kitchen - Photo by Blackstone Edge Studios

It was pitch black and storming worse than ever when we left the Storrars. As we headed over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge – you know the one that replaced “Galloping Gertie,” the newly engineered bridge that collapsed into Puget Sound during gale-force winds on November 7th, 1940 – just 4 months after its completion, I realized I had left my makeup at the Storrars, so back we went over the bridge a second time! In the eerie storm-filled light, I could see Philip’s knuckles go literally white as he clutched the steering wheel – trying not to think of Galloping Gertie’s plight.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse Nov 7, 1940

The return to Gig Harbor brought out the restaurant angels who directed us to Gateway to India (Philip’s favorite “British” food) which we spotted alongside the highway. The food was delicious and kept us going during the normal 2 hour drive that stretched into 4-5 as we plodded through the storm-lashed countryside toward Pacific Beach.  As signs for the small town began to appear, it seemed as if we had made it safe and sound.

Sort of… In fact, we were lost. We drove up and down the tiny town, peering at house numbers, unable to find the adorable cottage we’d only seen online. It seems the GPS didn’t recognize the address to the cottage and our cell had no service there! We found a deli, and one of those nearly extinct things – a phone booth. But it was occupied by a guy with a load of beers crowding the cabin and a sob story that looked like it might go on all night. I talked the deli owner into letting me use her phone. The angels flapped their wings and Lisa answered the phone, gave us directions, and where to find the key.

If you’ve read these pages previously, you’ve heard Philip’s tale of falling into a ditch outside the cottage – and if you haven’t, then scroll down a bit and you’ll find it! While he was nearly drowning, I was having a ball, playing with the fabulous items Lisa had brought along from her mother’s shop in Aberdeen “Grand Heron” to add further dash to the already picture perfect place. I guess I wasn’t particularly focused on his near-death experience when I saw him undressing on the wind-driven porch… exclaiming before he could explain the strip tease – “Look, isn’t the styling beautiful?”

Seashells on display at Coastal Nest Cottage - Photo by Blackstone Edge Studios

Don’t get me wrong, I was very sympathetic once I heard the whole story, and offered to throw his socks and jeans into the handy dryer, and prop his soaked shoes on the heater vent.

But the best part of this story is the inexplicable glory that the sunshine angels decided to bestow upon us the following morning… After scouting the town for some breakfast around 6:30 a.m., we quickly showered & ate, then set up for the kitchen shots. Yummieeee…

Breakfast at Coastal Nest Cottage by Blackstone Edge Studios

Then, just as Lisa drove up and we met for the first time, the sun glorious sun splashed down upon the incredible cottage that Lisa and Steve brought back from a place of no return into this fantastic, relaxing place that is the very essence of the title of this magazine: FRESH COTTAGE… No wonder Janet Mowat, Jodi Zucker & the art director chose to give it such a big 10 page spread.  The McElliotts are sooo very talented to have turned a Pepto Bismal painted cottage held up with duct tape into a place of refuge. But where or where did those angels find sunshine in the midst of the worst storm in the Pacific Northwest in decades? You tell me!

So run, don’t walk to your nearest newstand to buy this exciting new magazine…

Here’s one more shot you won’t find in the magazine… Summer in December. Bravi tutti… Congratulations to the McElliotts, Fresh Cottage editors & art directors, BSE, and the sunshine angels… and just a smidgen of fate…

Summer in December at the Coastal Nest Cottage. Photo by Blackstone Edge Studios

May 24, 2011   2 Comments

Margaret Mary Fitzgerald On High

"The Lost Gateways" by Margaret Fitzgerald

It was with great sadness and an enormous sense of loss that we learned of our friend Margaret Mary Fitzgerald’s passing on January 7, 2011 from bone marrow lymphoma. Some may know her work through Path of the Heart, or as an astrologer, psychic, and channel. I had the honor of working with Margaret on many literary projects, including her novel, “The Lost Gateways,” which I edited from its inception. We also collaborated on a screenplay based on the novel, as well as an unpublished work. There are few words that can describe the impact Margaret’s life had on so many, many people. Whenever I would read through one of her manuscripts, I would find new insight and  information that would awaken my spirit. Now that she has returned home, her beautiful spirit will undoubtedly continue to shine down upon us all, guiding the way to the discovery of the Self. Shine on Margaret! We love you!

January 13, 2011   4 Comments


Photo of Glyn Kernan by Philip Clayton-Thompson, taken at Cardiff Castle mid 1970s, click to enlarge.


On the Isle of Jersey,
sitting amongst the loaves of bread,
surrounded by the aroma of flour,
sat Welsh Guardsman Glyn,
reading Thomas with a Welsh lilt.

“I’m going home to Wales,” he said,
“And you should come too.
I’ll make you a Welshman.
There are no finer souls nor,
better voices than a Welsh choir.”

“I’ll take you to Tiger Bay,
where you’ll touch the ghosts
of Ivor Novello and Shirley Bassey.
We’ll pray at the holy end
of Llandaff Cathedral while
Jesus floats above us,
and get drunk in the Horse & Groom.”

“I’ll send you up the Rhonda Valley,
to see miners’ faces with coal dust makeup.
I’ll sit in the Kardomah Café,
And gab about sand in my pockets from Egypt,
where I guarded the Suez Canal.”

“Al will teach you photography and
John will show you landscapes of Mumbles.
I’ll take you to Barry Island,
where we’ll sip fancy French wine,
And eat Caerfilly cheese from the Cardiff Market.”

“When all this is done,
you’ll leave Wales,
but your heart will quicken when you hear
a choir of Welsh voices,
and you’ll dream of a Welsh Guardsman
who brought you to Wales and opened you to
the Valleys of Life you never knew.”

©Philip Clayton-Thompson, Portland, Oregon USA
January 3, 2011

January 3, 2011   2 Comments

The Alchemist & Creativity

"The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho

No doubt you’ve heard of Paulo Coelho’s 1988 book, “The Alchemist,” which has been translated from the original Brazilian (Portuguese) into 67 languages, with 65 million copies sold. I was one of the laggards who didn’t pick it up until a month or so ago. It was a particularly rainy day that had followed a month-long siege of rain-soddened Portland days. I barely moved from my chair near the fire (Yes, a fire in May!) as I read the tale of Santiago, the Andalusian shepherd, who goes in search of treasure only to find the secret of his “Personal Legend,” which, in turn, he must purify by joining it with the Soul of the World, like the Alchemist, who turns metal into gold. Each of us, Coelho says, has been given a “Personal Legend,” and often, just as we are about to achieve that legend, we falter… as fear is what trips us up, often sidetracking us from our chosen journey. “The darkest hour is before the dawn” kind of thinking…  From my own experience, I’d say those darkest hours usually produce the greatest spiritual gold.

After reading “The Alchemist,” I rifled through my old short stories, and pulled out one of my moth-eaten, never completed novels. Like Santiago, I had stopped listening to my heart. I listened that day and felt a surge of creativity so powerful that I sat up until 3:00 a.m., preparing to enter the Oregon Literary Fellowship Awards. More importantly, I encouraged Philip to do the same, for my belief lies more strongly in my ability to edit his work. It was another book, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” that inspired a vision of such a book being written by Philip and his brother David about life growing up in England.

"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - more inspirational reading

So, in these dog day afternoons, I wish all of you creative readers out there to pull up a chair, throw down a towel, or, if it’s chilly, sit by the fire, and open up a good book, one that will “light your creative fire.”

Here’s a short excerpt from “The Alchemist,” which you can hear read aloud in its entirety on the You Tube link.

“But my heart is afraid it will have to suffer, ” said the boy to the Alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky.

‘Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself, and that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”

“Every second of the search is an encounter with God,” the boy told his heart. “When I have been truly searching for my treasure, every day has been luminous, because I’ve known that every hour was a part of the dream that I should find it. When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible for a shepherd to achieve. So his heart was quiet for an entire afternoon.

That night, the boy slept deeply and when he awoke, his heart began to tell him things that came from the Soul of the World. It said that all people who are happy have God within them, and that happiness could be found in a grain of sand from the desert, because the grain of sand is a moment of creation and the universe has taken millions of years to create it.

“Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him,” his heart said. “We, the people” hearts seldom say much about these treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them. We speak of them only to children. Later we simply let life proceed in its own direction towards its own fate. But unfortunately, very few follow the path laid out for them, the path to their destinies and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place and because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place. So we, their hearts, speak more and more softly. We never stop speaking out, but we begin to hope that our words won’t be heard. We don’t want people to suffer because they don’t follow their hearts.

“Why don’t people’s heart tell them to continue to follow their dreams?” the boy asked the Alchemist.

“Because that’s what makes a heart suffer most, and hearts don’t like to suffer.”

“From then on the boy understood his heart. He asked it, please never to stop speaking to him. He asked that when he wandered far from his dreams that his heart press him and sound the alarm. The boy swore that every time he heard the alarm he would heed its message. That night he told all of this to the Alchemist and the Alchemist understood that the boy’s heart had returned to the Soul of the World.”

“So what should I do now?” the boy asked.

“Continue in the direction of the pyramids,” said the Alchemist,”and continue to pay heed to the omens. Your heart is still capable of showing you where the treasure is.”

“Is that the one thing I still needed to know?”

“No,” the Alchemist answered. “What you still need to know is this. Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we move toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon. Every search begins with beginner’s luck and every search ends with the victor being severely tested.

The boy remembered an old proverb from his country. It said, “The darkest hour of the night came just before the dawn.”

July 8, 2010   3 Comments


We at Blackstone Edge Studios wish all of you a very Happy 4th of July – and a Happy 234th Birthday as a new nation,  free from the tyranny of foreign rule – and as Philip says, free also from warm beer, dreadful, oily, newspaper-packed fish & chips , driving on the wrong side of the road and cold, damp shiver-me-timbers houses without central heating!

Happy Birthday America! (c Philip Clayton-Thompson 2010)

From Sea to Shining Sea (c Philip Clayton-Thompson 2010)

July 2, 2010   No Comments


If you haven’t seen “Letters to Juliet,” and you’ve got a soft spot for Italy, I suggest you take a deep breath, a bunch of handkerchiefs and rush off to see it. I must confess, after watching this tear jerker, I was filled with a cascade of memories of visiting my brother, Ret. Capt. Tony Pittsey in Napoli, where the seafood was as plenteous as caffes wafting odors of rich espresso. No cappuccinos after 11:00 a.m. in Italia, Tony used to say.

Here’s a shot of Philip preparing the Holga for an early morning shot of Venezia!

And another one of Philip’s Holga shots of Venezia. Amazing what a $12 plastic lens can create, along with a little boost from Photoshop.

Philip Clayton-Thompson with Holga camera in Venice: Photo by Doug Drown

Holga print by Philip Clayton-Thompson "Aqua Verde"

May 25, 2010   3 Comments


I’ve driven past this building many times without really noticing it. Just one of those nondescript 1950s offices for termite control, alarm systems or some sort of engineering outfit. There were rarely any lights on and it always looked dark. On this occasion, the lights were on, and the curtains were drawn. WOW!!!! The Rite of Spring, Balanchine, Nijinsky and Sir Frederic Ashton all being portrayed in this little ballet studio, where dreams of the Bolshoi and the Royal Ballet are vivid in these young girls’ minds.

I quickly drove around the block. There was a fire hydrant perfectly placed to steady the camera. I got off 3 brackets, and in that moment, the curtains closed and I saw an image of Margot Fonteyn being lifted by Rudolf Nureyev at Covent Garden – a whisp of a memory from my own childhood abroad.

Double click to enlarge image.

Edward Hopper Meets Margot Fonteyn

April 28, 2010   1 Comment