Sunday, January 30, 2011

Men In Hats

Men In Hats

Years ago, on the very first afternoon that I ever walked down a London street by myself, two elderly gentlemen tipped their hats at me and I was enchanted, happier than ever to be a girl, and longing, once again, for the age when such courtesies were the rule rather than the exception.
Days when people dressed for dinner and held garden parties in the pink glow of a setting sun.
When women wore white gloves, carried hankies and kept their original noses.
When houses had parlors instead of media rooms.
When the secrets concealed in hand-written letters were protected by red sealing wax.
I miss the days when men wore hats.
I suppose I should clarify by saying that I missed the days when men wore hats, for by the time I came along, hat wearing had pretty much been redefined by the baseball cap, a sadly pale imitation of the real thing.

Far be it from me to question the wisdom of Those who arrange such things, but it has crossed my mind from time to time that perhaps, just perhaps, I was born in an incorrect age. My pastimes and pleasures have never exactly been of the modern variety, even when I was a youngster. From an early age, my dreams were lit with candlelight and populated with cottages and peony gardens, fat books and tea times, windowseats and four posters, and chinese lanterns that swayed in the trees on a Springtime evening.

I find now that I am not the only person loathe to let go of the old ways, for I have come across a new book that proves there is at least one more like me in the world. Her name is Lesley M. M. Blume and she has penned a charming book entitled, Let’s Bring Back, which is a chronicle of delights from days gone by - delights that should never have been jettisoned on our way up the evolutionary ladder.
Who doesn’t think longingly of love letters and lighthouse keepers?
Of evening strolls and elbow gloves?
Tree swings and toy soldiers?
Hot toddies and syllabub?
Now I probably wouldn’t choose to go back in time, even if I could. I mean, to live without air-conditioning, The Beatles, or my Dyson vacuum cleaner might take some getting used to, after all. But this book is a winsome resource of those things we don’t want to lose, at least not completely.
And it’s nice to be reminded.
Elevenses, anyone?

I'll be humming this song all day.......

We are the Village Green Preservation Society
God save Donald Duck, Vaudeville and Variety
We are the Desperate Dan Appreciation Society
God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties

Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do

We are the Draught Beer Preservation Society
God save Mrs. Mopp and good Old Mother Riley
We are the Custard Pie Appreciation Consortium
God save the George Cross and all those who were awarded them

We are the Sherlock Holmes English Speaking Vernacular
Help save Fu Manchu, Moriarty and Dracula
We are the Office Block Persecution Affinity
God save little shops, china cups and virginity
We are the Skyscraper Condemnation Affiliate
God save Tudor houses, antique tables and billiards
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do
God save the Village Green.

lyrics by Ray Davies

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Happy Day

Happy Day

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
sonnet 116 - w. shakespeare

It's my wedding anniversary!
I'm off to celebrate!
Raise a glass to love!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Once Again Smiling

Once Again Smiling

When I was little, if ever I found myself in a pitiful mood, my father would pull funny faces to make me laugh, and it used to infuriate me. For no matter how defiantly I would attempt to hold fast to my sorrowful state, I knew that, eventually, he would win out and my lips would start to quiver, just a bit at first, but enough to relinquish my hold on blueness, and soon I would be laughing out loud.
I suppose, like Beatrice, I was born under a dancing star.
There are worse things.
After my disappointment, mentioned in the previous post, I did spend the weekend in a fine bout of wallowing, as one simply must from time to time. But now, I’m feeling better, as most of you knew I would be, and of course that means Edward is feeling better as well, as evidenced by the smile he is sporting, curled up in his favourite chair.
I thought you might like to see some of my weekend indulgences.
I highly recommend them if you find yourself in a pitiful mood.


1. Ice Cream
I told you this would be a part of my wallowing!
This is my new favourite ice cream.
I find it at Fresh Market, but it’s probably available everywhere.


2. Duck Soup
The best war movie ever made.
Hail Fredonia!


3. Bob and Ray
They are, perhaps, an acquired taste, but these two fellows never fail to make me laugh with their amazing ability to find grand humour in the pedestrian.


4. Downton Abbey
Like so many, I’m totally hooked on this new production, currently being shown on PBS here in the States.
Dame Maggie Smith guilelessly steals every single scene she is in.
Watching her character try to sit in a swivel chair for the first time was a brilliant experience.


5. The Friendship of Bloggers
Having previously written about my love of Horlicks on a winter’s night, I have been so astonished at the remarkable kindness of my British blogging friends.
I have received packages of this chocolate nectar from no less than four British bloggers!
Thank you, thank you to Bee, Rowan, Cait and Linda!
You have made these cold nights delicious!
And thank you to both My French Country Home and Picture of Elegance for recently giving me a Stylish Blogger Award!
I’m honoured!


6. Laugh
In much the same fashion as my father, who tried to make me laugh, The Songwriter sent me this.
And yes, it worked.


7. Charm
And finally, Little Augury posted this on her blog this week.
Ah, it charmed my socks off.
Life is good.

Thank you for all your ideas and happy thoughts, by the way. You are the best!
And to those of you kind enough to wonder about Edward whilst I am away from time to time... not to worry. Edward and Apple have a devoted sitter who moves into our cottage and takes very good care of them.
But yes, they would much rather go with us than stay behind.

Sunday, January 23, 2011



Disappointment, in her gown of scissors and pins, strode into my room this week and placed her bony hands on my shoulders.
Though perhaps not as vicious as her ugly stepsister, regret, she is still quite capable of stealing both appetite and energy, and throwing a cloud right over the sun.
The writer’s retreat in Marrakesh that I was to attend during the month of February was cancelled, and I am crestfallen.
If I were a colour, I would be grey.
If I were a book, I would be dry as dust.
If I were a song, I would be sung in a minor key.
Now I am too much of a Pollyanna to stay in this state for long, but I intend to have a right wallow this weekend.
And fair warning, ice cream may be involved.
Times like these, it’s good to have a dog who commiserates.
So say something to make us laugh, okay?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011



Over this past holiday season, I was told, no less than three times, that I should lie about my age. “I mean, you could lop off ten years, my dear”, said one well-meaning friend. Now I realize this is meant to be a compliment, but when you think about it, is it really? Yes, one is being told that one looks rather well for one’s age and that is a much preferable reaction to one’s appearance than a head-shaking, pity-filled stare. But at the same time, one is, in an albeit subtle fashion, being informed that one’s age has advanced to such a degree that one should really disown it. I’m never quite sure the best way to respond.

Personally, I don’t give age much of a thought. I’ve been known to pause a moment when asked how old I might be, not because I’m caught in the moral quandary of deciding whether or not to lie about it, but because I honestly don’t remember what it is. I take no credit for looking younger than I’m supposed to. I have no secret potion or practice. I don’t hang by my feet at midnight, nor do I consume inordinate quantities of oddly flavoured elixirs, delivered to my doorstep in the dead of night. I do try to take good care of myself and that includes slathering myself in sunscreen, a daily practice that I highly recommend, but when it comes to aging... I think the less we worry about it the better we feel, and perhaps, look.

The obsession, and it really seems to be an obsession, with looking younger is a peculiar one to me. It seems to have originated in Hollywood, a place not exactly known for offering up qualities worthy of emulation. Indeed, many Hollywood actresses seem to have succumbed to the surgeon’s siren call of eternal youth, which is strange since one would think an actress would require an authentic face before any other thespian ability. Personally, when I see a face so altered by cosmetic surgery up on the screen, I find that I can only see the actor or actress, never the character they are supposed to portray, which renders the whole experience rather irritating. I sit there remembering what they used to look like, and wondering why they appear so altered, and totally become removed from the story playing out on the screen.

Why do we hide from looking our age?
Is it vanity? Or is it fear?
If we erase what life has inscribed on our faces, do we succeed in convincing ourselves that time is not really advancing? When we look in the mirror and see our reflection as the enemy, doesn’t that create an unhealthy schizophrenia that carries with it the very real danger of not feeling, somehow, whole? Why do we feel looking a bit older is something we have to apologize for? Maybe I’ll feel differently when my jowls fall into my soup, but I don’t think so. It genuinely troubles me when I see how much time we waste worrying about aging. Valuable, irreplaceable time.

I suppose any hint of aging that our faces may reveal should serve chiefly as a gentle reminder that our time here on Earth in not infinite. But don’t we sometimes need to be reminded of that? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, instead of trying so hard to obliterate these inklings, we could instead choose to let them spur us on to the things that we’ve heretofore put on the back burner?
"Hmmm, do I see a fine line between my eyes?"
"I’m going to learn to speak Italian."
"Are those laugh lines beginning to form?"
"High time I went on safari."

Now of course, whenever any of my friends begin to grumble about how they look, I always urge them to get a dog, advice that is sometimes less than gratefully received. But, I’m serious. A dog loves you no matter what you look like. He really does, and that can work wonders on your self-esteem. A dog gets you out in the fresh air and gets your mind off yourself, which is always a boon to both your appearance as well as your psyche. A dog makes you smile and you have to admit, everyone looks better when they smile. I could go on and on about the benefits of canine ownership on the human countenance, and frequently do, but I recently came across an article that basically said it all for me.
Edward and I couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

Painting above: Vanity, 1904
by Otto Friedrich
I don’t think the monkey is in there by accident, do you?


Don't forget to enter the giveaway below!
Drawing Wednesday night!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Simple Pleasures.... A List and A Giveaway

Simple Pleasures
A List and A Giveaway

Five inches of snow is not much, I know. But trust me, here in the southern US, five inches of snow, that turned to ice, is more than enough to stop the mail, close the schools, clear the supermarket shelves and totally strand even the most intrepid of travelers. Here at The House of Edward, we were well prepared for the storm and found it to be a completely pleasurable experience. True, Edward quickly decided that walking on the ice-packed snow was less than thrilling, but there was a fire in the fireplace most of the time, and as Edward is really a fireside sort of fellow, he was most satisfied. The clear light of the snow that flooded our rooms found us indulging in the quieter pleasures of life - knitting and reading, baking and writing, a bit of dreaming, a bit of planning, and the occasional flight of fancy. As we now watch the snow dissipate from our lanes and our gardens and begin to make our way back out in the real world, I thought you all might enjoy this list, crafted especially for snowbound days. Oh, and keep reading, for there’s a wonderful giveaway at the bottom to brighten these wintry hours.


1. Lamplight
Lamps are the jewelry of every room.
Little bits of beauty that provide the crucial difference between a cozy environment and a harsh one.
You need warm, inviting lighting to set the perfect mood on a snowy day and this fabulous lampshade will give you just that.
Find it HERE.


2. Candlelight
Of course, the very best lighting, as any woman will tell you, is candlelight.
These candles are wonderful.
So many colours.
I purchased some for myself.
Find them HERE.


3. Knitting
Yes, okay, here I go again.
But really, isn’t knitting is the best activity on a snowy day?
(Well, reading is up there, of course, but I’m coming to that.)
I’m currently knitting the sweater shown above, and here’s some good news, my favourite knit shop is now online, so you can order their fabulous yarns from anywhere in the world!
They even have the brand new line from that prolifically talented blogger and knit designer, Brooklyn Tweed.
Visit them HERE.


4. Miss Hargreaves
Oh, Miss Hargreaves. Where have you been all my life?
Imagine a young Englishman in the 1930’s, a rather cheeky inventor of tales. Whilst on a holiday in Ireland, this young man, Norman is his name, invents a fictional friend during a conversation with an elderly vicar - a fictional friend of most singular personality and pursuits. He embellishes and embroiders her till she seems almost real. Then imagine that one afternoon, she arrives in his village, complete with her parrot, Dr. Pepusch, her Beddlington Terrier, Sarah. and a hip bath. (Her harp arrives later.) The game, as they say, is afoot. And it’s a complete romp. The perfect book for a cold January day, I can tell you.
I had seen this book on the sidebar of my favourite book blog, Cornflower Books. If you haven’t visited there, you really should. So, so many intriguing titles listed there, I’ll never manage to get to them all. But what fun trying!
Find Miss Hargreaves HERE.
Find Cornflower Books HERE.


5. Socks
These lowly little garments - so ubiquitious, so ordinary - become very important when one is snowbound.
They need to be warm and wooly, and if they can also be a bit magical, more’s the better.
These socks fit the bill so nicely.
Find them HERE.


6. Bed Trays
Snuggled in bed on a snowy evening - a January wind howling outside, dogs sighing softly beside me - with a pot of hot tea, a good book and maybe a cupcake... not much better, is there? Especially when you have your own bed tray like this one, large with pockets on both sides for morning newspapers and magazines. I found this tray, rather worse for wear, at an antique show years ago. I snatched it up, cleaned it up, and told an artist who works with me to just “use your imagination and paint it like Camelot”. And he did, only with animals! To say I was thrilled is an understatement. It’s a treasure and a well-used one.
And by the way, if you decide you do want a cupcake, or two, try this recipe... it’s my favourite!


7. Cupcake Stand
And of course, once you make those Coconut Cupcakes of Ina’s, you simply must complete the experience by putting one in it’s very own cupcake stand.
I am in love with this!
Find it HERE.


8. Flights of Fancy
The mind tends to wander a bit when shut up inside and, during this snowbound week, mine was no exception.
I found myself wondering what life would be like to live in this magnificent setting in Iceland.
I don’t know.... I think I’d be afraid Edward might fall off!
See it HERE.


9. Thoughts of Spring
I love living in a place that has four distinct seasons, each with its own individual personality and feel. As magnificently wintry as this winter is shaping up to be, I know full well that the new greens of Spring will soon awaken from their sleep and begin to stretch leafy arms up from the frozen soil and over the hillsides.
So naturally, I am planning for Spring.
Seed catalogs, garden colour palettes, maybe a new checkerboard pattern for the back porch floor?
Wouldn’t this onion domed playhouse be the most sublime addition to any garden?
Find it HERE.


10. Keep Moving
Edward decided early in the week that icy snow wasn’t his favourite medium on which to travel, even with his natural four wheel drive. He slipped and slid, his paws crunching through the packed snow with every step. He marched through a couple of walks like a drum major, before coming to the conclusion that he found this a most unenjoyable experience. After that, he refused to participate and settled down by the fire.
But a dog, and a woman, need to move around a bit to keep lethargy at bay, so.... we danced. The Songwriter turned the music up to ten, usually The Stones, and we danced in the kitchen like crazy. Edward and Apple love to do this. Before long, they are both rolling and tumbling all over the kitchen floor, and soon are off chasing each other through the house - over ottomans, under tables, up and down on beds and sofas. Eventually, all four of us collapse in a heap, heart rates up, exercise done. And it’s so much fun!!


And as an Extra Treat....

11. Stealing Magnolias
A Very Special Giveaway to Warm the January Hours
A friend of ours escaped the snows of this past week in a land far away from his home in the icy hills of Tennessee. He hid out in New Orleans, and what a lucky fellow he was. I feel a bit like I’ve spent a few precious days in that most enchanting of cities myself, for I have had my nose in a marvelous new book called Stealing Magnolias.
Stealing Magnolias, by Debra Shriver, is a unique paean to the exotic world that is New Orleans. And truly, to enter New Orleans is to enter another world. From its lyrical language to its extraordinary cuisine, from its slightly decadent decor to the lush gardens that break their natural boundries and spill over the courtyards and sidewalks as if bewitched. New Orleans is like no other city in America, or in the world, I dare say. Americans love even the idea of New Orleans, for it proves we are fascinating. No matter how boring or pedestrian we may otherwise appear, we can always point to New Orleans as evidence to the contrary.

It is a place where the improvisational notes of a jazz riff mix and mingle with the heady fragrance of gardenias as both waft through the twists and turns of the French Quarter and out over the cool waters of the Mississippi River. Just think of the vocabulary of this city.... words such as “etouffee” and “jambalaya”, “muffuletta” and “”remoulade”... and of course, “voodoo”, “zydeco” and “mardi gras” - words that roll off the tongue like incantations.
This lovely book manages to capture the illusive quality of New Orleans right between its glossy covers as it leads the reader through all the wonders of this incredible city. There is luscious photography throughout and you’ll even find recipes for both a Banana Pudding Trifle and a love potion!
I’m tickled to offer this magnificent book as a giveaway. I know the lucky winner will treasure it.
You can read more about it HERE.

How to enter?
Just become a follower of this blog if you’re not already and leave a comment here on this post.
The drawing will be at midnight on the 19th, the night of the full moon.
Appropriate, for as Tennesee Williams once said...
New Orleans and the moon have always seemed to me to have an understanding between them”.

Good Luck! and Stay Warm!


Congratulations to Doris!
She's the winner of Stealing Magnolias!
Doris, please email me your address, okay?