Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thea Visits

Thea Visits

Several years ago, I gave almost everyone on my Christmas list an angel. Not just any angel either, a lovely handmade paper angel, with glittered wings and a tiny little ribbon sash on which was written “Sweet Dreams”. They were so beautiful and an absolute treat to give as presents. Fast forward to a night some months ago when I was wandering down unfamiliar blog streets and came across Thea Beasley. Don’t I know her, I thought? I thought some more. And then it came to me. The artist who had designed my lovely Christmas angels was named Thea Beasley. Could it possibly be the same person? Well, it was and Thea and I soon discovered that we lived quite close to one another, so close in fact, that Edward and I paid a Christmas visit to her amazing loft this past December. And just last week, she joined us for lunch here at The House of Edward. Both Edward and Apple were thrilled to discover that Thea is not only a fabulous artist and remarkably talented stylist, but she’s an expert ear scratcher and tummy rubber as well. Thea was so kind to write about her visit on her blog a few days ago.
You can read her sweet words HERE.
Do stop by and say hello!
And her gorgeous home was recently the cover feature of Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles magazine.
Take a look HERE.
Once again, blogger brings us together!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Clothes Communication

Clothes Communication

On this very last weekend of May, we enter into the time of year when, just like a schoolgirl, I tend to wear a uniform each and every day. Linen trousers, loose linen shirt, flat shoes, one lone strand of pearls, and my hair piled up on top of my head. It is soon to be too hot to even contemplate any ensemble more elaborate. However, dashing through a department store a couple of weeks ago, I found myself brought up short by a linen jacket. More of a frock coat really, it was the colour of sweet buttermilk, and made of a sumptuous wrinkled linen.  Adorned with a most unusual collar that could be worn up just like an Elizabethan ruff, it possessed the ideal amounts of both elegance and whimsy, two ingredients that I always find irresistible in any garment. I simply could not help myself - I was enchanted, and scooped it up before entertaining another thought. I haven’t worn it yet but I will, when I want to communicate a certain summer serenity, tinged with a hint of nostalgia. For though their language is delightfully subtle, clothes can communicate volumes. Even my summer uniform speaks, softly I hope, of crisp clean comfort - iced tea and ceiling fans, light dinners and peony gardens.

The way we as humans tend to reveal ourselves through our sartorial choices has always rather fascinated me. It starts early, when babies are identified by pinks or by blues, and it continues on through bridal white to mourning black. There are certain ensembles we reach for when we need to feel confident - when we want to stand out, or totally avoid notice. It is a lovely way to communicate that so often reveals more about us than we even realize. Think of Katharine Hepburn’s trouser-clad style. She once said, “ I wear my sort of clothes to save me the trouble of deciding which clothes to wear”. That wardrobe spoke volumes about who she was and what she deemed important.

We all know clothing can convey tribal affiliation. In Scotland, tartan patterns speak not only of personal identity, but of centuries of familial history and legend. I always pick up a piece of my own MacDonald or Sinclair whenever I am there. But I am talking more of individual communication here. Consider the red and white polka-dot dress that Princess Diana wore on her 1986 trip to Japan, its pattern a quiet hello to the Land of the Rising Sun. And of course, there was that spectacular black dress she wore on the very night her husband gave the rather squirm-worthy television interview confessing his oft suspected adultery. A frock that was later dubbed by the press as “the revenge dress”, it related her message eloquently.
As first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy charmed the French on her state visit to that country by, among other things, wearing only French designers. The French noticed. And of course, for all the historic symbolism that surrounded the Queen’s recent visit to Ireland, none was more charming than her many outfits of green... green feathered hats, an evening gown adorned with over 2000 hand-sewn shamrocks, an Irish harp brooch. Why, even her ladies-in-waiting were sporting over 40 shades of green. Again, a lovely articulation.

I suppose it was a little red dress that first taught me the language of clothing. I was about six years old, and I loved that dress enormously, soon realizing that I behaved differently when I wore it. I felt more ladylike somehow. I did not have to be told that this was not a garment for the playground. The dress itself told me that. Eventually, under the tutelage of that favourite dress, I began to listen to what other pieces of clothing had to say to me, soon learning to choose the ones that best reflected my mood or intent.

Of course, this is a holiday weekend here and as I write this piece I am comfortably ensconced by a breezy open window with a glass of cold berry lemonade at my elbow.
With my hair tied in a knot and my feet bare, I am clad in white cotton pajamas. This is an ensemble that should tell you absolutely everything about my plans for the weekend.
But what about you?
What is your outfit saying today?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bits And Bobs Of Fun

Bits and Bobs of Fun

Some books are too big.
Some books are too small.
But, some books are just right!
Photo above: Edward caught napping on the definitive biography of The Brontes.


You can now follow Edward and me on Twitter.
Who knows what we’ll get up to?!
Follow us HERE.

This book is just wonderful!
Like a fairy tale.

Daniel Radcliffe, singing and dancing... who knew?!
Watch it till the end, you’ll be cheering, and wishing you’d decided to be a Broadway performer.
I wonder if it’s too late for me to audition for the part of that woman in the red suit?
See it HERE.

I’m looking forward to this movie!
If I can’t make it to Paris this summer, this might just be the next best thing!
See the trailer HERE

I can’t help myself.
But no, I won’t be wearing it.

Also, I’ve had several letters about the little stone cottage that I put in my garden and wrote about HERE.
You can find it HERE.
No email ordering, just call the phone number on the website.

"Hey, who woke me up?"

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Neanderthal Man

Neanderthal Man

Travel has taught me many valuable lessons. Sleep when you’re sleepy, eat where the locals eat, and remember that the golden rule is golden for a reason. But most importantly, travel has consistently underscored my lifelong antipathy for generalities. For instance, most British food is delicious and not all Parisians are rude.
Come to think of it, I can’t call to mind a single generality that I’d hold with.
Not all blondes are dumb (hopefully not, since I happen to be one).
And not all men are pigs.
I have never been one of those women who sit around a table swimming in Cosmopolitans, raging over the piggishness of men. I happen to like most of the men of my acquaintance and find them to have no more or no less porcine qualities than most of the women I know. But I will say, this past week has been difficult to be a cheerleader for the male sex.

First comes news that the head of the International Monetary Fund assaulted a hotel chambermaid in New York City. Next, we learn that a certain former body builder-action star-governor fathered a child with one of his household staff thirteen years ago, and only told his wife of twenty-five years after he left office in January. Well, gee. Nice.
These two princes now join the ranks of the recently shamed that include the former governor of South Carolina who infamously disappeared one weekend and, upon resurfacing, claimed he’d been hiking on the Appalachian Trail when in actuality he’d skipped off to Argentina to visit his mistress. Then there’s the former senator and presidential candidate who fathered a child with a staffer whilst his apparently unsuspecting wife continued to support his campaign all the while undergoing treatment for stage 4 cancer. And of course, just this week the cuddly Newt Gingrich announced he was running for the highest office in the land. Now this is a man who not only led the charge for intense moral outrage over a president’s extramarital conduct in the 90‘s all the while hiding his own mistress in a Washington hotel room, but who also went to the hospital to serve one of his three wives with divorce papers while she was there recovering from cancer surgery. I mean, really? Where do these guys learn this stuff?

Governors, Senators, Congressmen. Leaving aside the thorny question of morality, fidelity, and in some cases, criminality, at the very least, don’t these chaps have more important work to attend to? I have heard the old chestnut about how power corrupts, but can they really hide behind that one? After all, there are many powerful women in the world, and one rarely hears of one of them jumping a bellboy in a hotel room. I am sure there are exceptions, but on the whole this seems to be a problem that those powerful members of the fairer sex manage to avoid.

Growing up, we girls were often told that we mature at a faster rate than boys, but I don’t ever remember the boys of my youth behaving in such cruel and despicable ways. Juvenile, yes. Neanderthal, no.
So, are these men megalomaniacal or just plain boorish?
I’ll let you decide.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Life Coach

The Life Coach

When Edward is serious about taking a nap, he rolls over onto his side. Next, from the depths of his soul, comes a deeply relaxing sigh. And then, with perfect comedic timing, his ear flips up. A pleasing puzzle piece of his individuality, signifying both nonchalance and utter contentment.
And I sit watching him, taking notes.

Here in the states there is now a rather perplexing occupation known as the “life coach”. As I understand it, the life coach is a fellow who follows you around whispering encouragement and validation in your ear - for a fee, of course. Never any further than a phone call away, he stands at the ready to fluff up your confidence, remind you of your brilliance, and convince you that the goals you have set for yourself are not only attainable, but your success in reaching them is well and truly deserved. A fairly recent invention, the life coach seems to have sprung fully formed from the same tide that spawned celebrity self-help books and television psychologists. It reminds me a bit of author David Sedaris’ humourous essay about his sister who, when feeling a bit inadequate, trained her parrot to yell uplifting phrases in her direction whenever she entered the room. “You Can DO It!” and “We Love You, LISA!!”.
To me, the whole concept of hiring someone to keep you motivated and in the proper state of mind seems to teeter a bit close to the slippery side of navel-gazing, but then again, perhaps I am being too harsh. Perhaps it is a needed assistance for some people. After all, not everyone is lucky enough to live with their very own life coach, for not everyone lives with a dog.

In addition to consistently making me feel like the most important person on the planet, Edward is a teacher well-versed in the things of life that matter most.
I simply watch, and learn. For instance....
He never feels the slightest bit guilty when taking an afternoon nap.
He never turns away from a hug.
He savours each meal set before him and gazes at the chef in gratitude.
He bounds outside each morning as though that day is the best one he’s known.
I study him sometimes, lying in the grass of the back garden- eyes closed, head raised, just smelling the sweet-scented air, and it’s clear that no other moment but this one matters to him.
Edward always lets us know how much we mean to him, charging up to welcome us home with a fat, furry grin on his face, whether we’ve been away for a day or an hour.
He takes his turn. He loves to play.
He never holds the slightest grudge. Even when we leave him behind, all is forgiven the second he see us return.
He delights in a long walk, or two, in the fresh air each day.
He loves music, but is comfortable with quiet.
Though certainly no pushover, he tempers his strength with dignity and can stop Apple from advancing on his favourite toy with a nothing more than a look.
Though fiercely protective of those he loves, he never picks a fight.
He is loyal, the best listener, and he always runs towards laughter.
He loves to travel, but is always happiest coming back up his own front steps.
For all the importance we humans seem to place on giddiness, excitement and grand passion, Edward seems to concern himself more with contentment. And, as contentment is known to wither in the face of fear or regret, he reminds me to banish those things from my life.
With so many lessons, full and freely given, I can think of no better life coach than Edward.
I feel blessed to learn from him each and every day.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Tiger's Wife

“In my earliest memory, my grandfather is bald as a stone
and he takes me to see the tigers.”

The Tiger’s Wife

When I was twenty-five I knew that the world was round. I could make a pie crust from scratch, balance a checkbook and give a dog a pill without assistance. I was confident, self-assured, and oblivious. Rather than the more empathetic world of grey in which I live today, I ran around in a black and white land where my unseasoned ideas wrapped themselves comfortably round a framework enfeebled by lack of experience. When I was twenty-five, any wisdom afforded me by my childhood years was still simmering on the back burner of my life. It would not fully nourish my days till at least another ten years or so. Contrast my narrative with that of twenty-five year old Tea Obreht. She has just published her first novel to rave reviews, which is not in and of itself such an unusual thing for someone that age. What is, in my opinion, both unusual and unexpected, is that this novel is not only lyrical, but full of the sort of wisdom usually reserved for a writer much further along on the journey through life.

The Tiger’s Wife has been compared to the work of both Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Michael Ondaatje, and that is not bad company to keep. I can certainly see the resemblance, but in spite of her youth, or perhaps because of it, Ms. Obreht has harnessed an unique voice that is utterly her own. Set somewhere in the Balkans against a backdrop of war, The Tiger’s Wife gathers up the threads of fable and folklore, allegory and realism, and entwines them into a tapestry where their colours circle seamlessly from myth into truth, weaving the two together so tightly it is soon evident that the whole cloth of history cannot exist without both.

There are moments in this book so beautiful they practically beseech the reader to read them several times over before continuing on. Follow an old man and his grand-daughter through the vacant midnight streets of a city at war to witness an extraordinary sight. (I won’t divulge what they see here, to preserve the delight for those yet to read it.) When the grand-daughter exclaims that “none of her friends will ever believe this”, she hears this in response,

“You must be joking,” her grandfather replies, rebuking her: “The story of this war — dates, names, who started it, why — that belongs to everyone. Not just the people involved in it, but the people who write newspapers, politicians thousands of miles away, people who’ve never even been here or heard of it before. But something like this — this is yours. It belongs only to you. And me. . . . You have to think carefully about where you tell it, and to whom. Who deserves to hear it?”

I know exactly what he means. There are some sights so extraordinary that you feel the need to hold them close, to keep their magic tight in your heart till it becomes part of the very breath of your spirit, altering your perspective and enhancing your days. I thought about holding The Tiger’s Wife close just like this, turning its magical stories over and over like a piece of shiny sea glass brought home from an empty beach.
But I couldn’t resist sharing it with you.


Don't forget to enter the poetry giveaway below.
Drawing is Sunday 15th, at midnight.
Good Luck!

Friday, May 13, 2011

For The Most Luscious Month - A List and A Giveaway - Extended!

Due to blogger's unfortunate crash yesterday, this post lost quite a few comments. So I am extending the giveaway till Sunday night, the 15th, at midnight. If your comment disappeared, as many did, do re-enter here!

A List For The Most Luscious Month

“The fair maid who, the first of May
Goes to the fields at break of day
And washes the dew from the hawthorn tree
Will ever after handsome be.”
Mother Goose

The cold winds have blown away to other corners of the earth, and though he is searching, summer’s heat has not yet found us. The maple trees, once austere and so dreadfully bare, are now wearing fancy frocks of baby green, and the roses are simply a miracle. It is May, that most luscious month of the twelve.
A most fortunate girl, as you can see from that photo above, I spent the first week of May writing and dreaming the hours away in the Low Country, that mysterious part of South Carolina where the waters hold hands with the land.
I took long rides and filled the basket on my bike with oyster shells - God’s own jewelry - to line a new flower bed and remind me of the marshes when I’m far, far away.
I followed a sandy trail through a maritime forest where baby frogs dashed across my path like tiny commuters late for work on a Monday morning.
I slept with white gardenias beside my bed and ate fresh raspberries for lunch.
And I also came up with a few favourite things just for this most delicious of months.
I hope you enjoy this Maytime list!


1. The Wedding
What can I say? I’m a sucker for a wedding, royal or otherwise. Even though being away in Los Angeles on the big day meant I had to rise at two am to witness the festivities in real time, you can bet your boots I did precisely that.
I loved the trees in the Abbey, loved the Sarah Burton dress!
Loved the little frowning flower girl.
Loved the Queen in lemon yellow.
Loved the music.
And especially loved the adoring looks shared by the bride and groom.
Ah, true love.
May they have many, many years of happiness together.
The London Times captured my absolute favourite photo of the day, above.


2. Embroidered Book Covers
With the increasing, and sometimes worrying, popularity of ebooks, I am thrilled to see so many old classics being reintroduced these days, brand new editions with creative and imaginative covers to entice a new reader and delight an old one. In February, I picked up several of these redressed classics at Hatchard’s, that peerless old bookshop on Picadilly in London. I suppose I have prattled on here enough about the incomparable experience of holding a fat, gorgeous book in one’s hands - catching a whiff of that deliciously booky scent as you turn crisp pages on a porch by the sea, or maybe under the covers at midnight. Despite the undeniable convenience of the computerized copy, (an on a plane, they really are convenient) to me, there’s still nothing quite like a real book. And all these new editions, from White’s Books, The Folio Society or Penquin Classics, are a joy to behold.
Just take a look at these charming new covers embroidered by Jillian Tamaki.
Don’t they make you want to add to your library??
See more HERE.


3. Treehouses
When we first saw our cottage years ago, the back garden was a well manicured green. There were fairly large trees, but nothing like the forest we have around us now. Those trees grew! Poplars and maples, hemlocks and oaks - they stand all round our cottage now like protective sentinels, and we adore them. So what if a carpet of tidy grass is out of the question now. We much prefer dwelling beneath these magical creatures of green. The other day, as I was sitting in their shadows with my morning coffee and newspaper, I began to look up into their leafy arms and think..... wouldn’t it be the most wonderful treat to have my builder come right over and put a treehouse up there?
My mind was positively racing with ideas!!
What about the one pictured above?
I wonder what The Songwriter will think?
You can find it and more, HERE.
It must be an inspired idea, because I came across this splendid treehouse last week during a forest bike ride in South Carolina.
That's me at the tippy top.
I felt right at home up there.


4. Upstairs Downstairs
Okay, yes I know I’m a sucker for British television. I love Jean and Lionel in As Time Goes By - love their pink entry hall, the vase in the sitting room always filled with white lilies, and Lionel’s affinity for custard tarts. I still laugh at Fawlty Towers (the rat episode remains my favourite) and I’m wild for Doc Martin. Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Morse and Poirot. I love them all. So it was no surprise that I became smitten with the new Upstairs, Downstairs from the very first frame. But it was the divine Eileen Atkins as the deliciously eccentric Maud who really won my heart. As the mother of Lord Holland, she arrives from India with both her purple-turbaned secretary and her rather irascible pet monkey and immediately commandeers the study on the main floor for her own room. (The set decoration of this particular room is my idea of complete and utter heaven!) Miss Atkins is a supreme delight every single time she’s on screen.
I mean one has to love a character who says of her pet monkey,
”Every morning, as soon as he sees me open my eyes, he applauds me.
I can’t tell you how that boosts one’s confidence.”

If you missed Upstairs, Downstairs on television, you can pick up a copy HERE.


5. The Absolute Perfect Sun Hat
Sun hats, like sunscreen, are a necessary accoutrement for someone of my particular complexion. I can get sunburned walking to the mailbox. A few weeks ago I received a most intriguing letter from Andrea of The French Basketeer requesting my mailing address, and the day before I was to leave for my recent trip to California, a large, mysterious box arrived on my front porch. Edward and Apple, who are always the first in the household to greet the UPS man, sat patiently by my side as I opened it. I pulled back the wrapping and there, resting inside, was the most gorgeous sun hat I’d ever seen. Pure fantasy! That’s it in the photo above. I wore it during my stay in the South Carolina marshlands last week and I can empirically state, it is completely perfect! Andrea also sent me one of her marvelous market baskets and, as an extra treat, a couple of fabulous linen dish towels embroidered TS, for The Songwriter (!) which, I am thrilled to report, he is putting to good use! Of course Edward and Apple thought the best part of the entire treasure was the bag of, apparently delicious, dog treats! Andrea’s kindness and generosity were so appreciated here at The House of Edward and I shall be wearing this fabulous hat every single time I leave the house this summer!
Do pay a visit to The French Basketeer, HERE!
And visit the blog, HERE.


6. A Tiny Cottage of Stone
For the past several months our city has been installing sidewalks on our little street. They were especially considerate of our large stone mailbox and several old trees that we didn’t want disturbed, and they even created a new flower bed for me by taking the sidewalk around the mailbox. As I always love a new place to create, this flower bed has been so much fun to plan. I’d seen one of these charming stone houses at a garden show and knew it would be just the thing for this new bed. I’ve planted a miniature forest around it and added some little sheep for springtime. I plan to add a stream of blue stones and The Songwriter is working on a tiny bridge. I'll place polar bears here in January, leprechans in March, black cats at Halloween, and maybe even a wee Santa and his reindeer when December rolls around. Should be a treat for the walkers to enjoy, don’t you think?
You can order your own magical miniature cottage HERE.
There are many wonderful styles.
Mine is the Scottish Rose which, given my love of Scotland, I simply could not resist!


7. She Walks in Beauty
It is there in that stare. Uncompromising, enigmatic, it sears the camera lens with a rare authenticity. Even in her earliest photographs, it is clear that Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis owned an inner life of great depth. No doubt, it was that inner life that enabled her to keep hold of her soul during her most amazing time here on earth, a time filled both with remarkable joy and shattering loss. It is no surprise to learn she was a great lover of poetry. Poetry speaks the often inarticulate language of the human soul. On the universal journey that we all must travel, poetry provides us with a shiny key to help unlock our innermost selves. We commit favourite lines to memory as a secret gift to hold tight in our hearts. They become part of our narrative, rising to the surface when we need them most, giving us comfort, enhancing our joy, reminding us of beauty. They help us understand.

So great was Jacqueline’s love of poetry, she requested poems from her two children at all the important holidays. According to her daughter, Caroline, the children were to select poems that they liked and copy them down as presents to her. Birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day. Could there possibly be a better gift? Imagine the collection she had once those two children were grown. Now Caroline has returned the favour to us all, by compiling a perfectly lovely bouquet of poems from some of the world’s greatest poets in She Walks In Beauty, A Woman’s Journey Through Poems. It is a thoroughly beautiful book, filled to overflowing with exquisite words about women... their loves, their work - beauty and friendship, silence and death, motherhood, aging and marriage. I have had it by my bed now for almost a month, and cannot seem to stop myself from saying... “just one more before I turn out the light”.

I highly recommend this book to to all of you, so much so that I’m giving away a copy!
You know the drill, just leave a comment on this post and you are entered.
Followers of the blog are always entered twice, so become one if you’re not already! We’ll do the drawing at midnight on lucky Friday the Thirteenth, so be sure to get your name in the hat before then.

I’ll close this Maytime list with one of my favourite poems ever, which, I am happy to say, just happens to be included in this gorgeous collection.

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and be,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice -
through the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations -
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do -
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Congratulations to Linda!
She's the winner of the book!