Sunday, December 30, 2012

With Ships the Sea Was Sprinkled

With Ships The Sea Was Sprinkled

There are those who expect to fly, soaring up over familiar landscapes to disappear, like Dorothy, behind a rainbow.  Others, including some who profess empirical knowledge, plan to make their way down a hallway of light where those long departed stand waiting.  For myself, I have always dreamed of a ship.  With full sails and towering masts, like a galleon of old - a sea worthy vessel to bear me away, far away, on a journey as mysterious as it is unavoidable.

I have thought a lot about ships this year.  They have sailed through my dreams in fowl weather and fair, tossing and turning in nightmare, drifting along on the glass-smooth sea of an afternoon reverie, but never far out of sight in my mind’s eye.  My mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer one year ago.  Difficult as ever, she decided against surgery and refused any type of home care for as long as possible.  We were fortunate that she drifted, rather than lurched, into the dying of the light, which was finally extinguished early this morning. 

No matter our age, do we all feel a bit orphaned when our last parent dies? Having known this day was coming all year, only today do I realize how much tension I have been swallowing, wrapping it up tightly inside me to appear efficient and solid to the rest of the world.  Only now do I feel the raindrops of exhaustion beginning to hit my shoulders.  I fear they shall become a torrent  in the coming days.  

After the rituals are over and the crowds have all gone,
 I shall slip off by myself to the seaside,
 till my feathers are smooth again, till my nights are untroubled.
I shall sit by the sea.
And think about ships.

William Wordsworth and I were born on the same day in April.
Perhaps that is why he can express my feelings so much better than I.

With ships the sea was sprinkled far and nigh,
Like stars in heaven, and joyously it showed;
Some lying fast at anchor in the road,
Some veering up and down, one knew not why.
A goodly vessel did I then espy
Come like a giant from a haven broad;
And lustily along the bay she strode,
Her tackling rich, and of apparel high.
The ship was nought to me, nor I to her,
Yet I pursued her with a lover's look;
This ship to all the rest did I prefer:
When will she turn, and whither? She will brook
No tarrying; where she comes the winds must stir:
On went she, and due north her journey took. 
William Wordsworth

I shall return before long.
Much love to you all, 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Happy Christmas!

"God Bless Us Everyone!"

Edward and Apple join me in wishing 
you all a most Happy Christmas!
May all your dreams come true!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Mulled Wine

The Mulled Wine

The old ticking clock in the bookcase tells me I have a few minutes.  One last check through the rooms of the cottage.  Yes, all the pillows plumped, all the candles lit.  Cakes and chocolates, cheese and grapes sit on crystal platters amongst lilies and roses, red berries and branches of fir.  Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols plays softly in the background.  Christmas in every corner of the house.  I curl up in a favourite chair to await the arrival of my guests and hear a raw December wind swirling round past the windows in sharp gusts that make the wind chimes sing carols of their own and just as I’m lost in a reverie of other Christmases, other songs, I hear them.  Car doors slamming, laughing voices coming up the walk.  I open the door to smiling, cold weather faces.

A funny thing happens at The House of Edward with every party I give.  I lose complete control of my guests.  I greet them warmly, I take their coats, and before I turn around, they’re off.  I find some in the library, some in the snug.  A few are staring at the night sky painted on the guest room ceiling whilst one has found the old porter’s chair in my bedroom and is now deep inside its tufted leather with his feet propped up on the star-shaped ottoman.  There is laughter coming from the living room where a few are gathered round the bird tree.  Oohs and ahhs emanate from the corner of the bedroom where the tree with the collection of glass grapes sparkles midst the fairy lights and tartan ribbons.   The large tree by the fireplace, overladen with trinkets of every shape and size is surrounded by young and old as they point out each bauble to one another.  I once found one old gentleman in a paisley chair looking at pop-up books.

And then, just as everyone has scattered to the four corners of the cottage, the back door flies open, letting in a rush of arctic air and two furry, cold-nosed sheepdogs.  Edward and Apple, who love parties more than life, burst through to vociferous greetings from all.  The stars of the evening, they make the rounds to every delighted guest, welcoming each one with their own unique brand of honest hospitality, and just like that, as happens every time, I have lost all control of my party.

Sometimes I think of galas thrown by the likes of Brooke Astor or Pamela Harriman.  Try as I might, I cannot imagine the same scene occurring at one of their fabled gatherings.  I see place cards and formality, muffled conversation and polite, practiced smiles.  Not the raucous laughter I now hear coming from somewhere in the vicinity of my office.  Not the happy bark I just heard bursting from my bedroom.  Ah well, I think, as I stand all alone in the kitchen, people seem to be having a whale of a time. 

 But I do have a secret weapon of sorts that never falls to round them all up in short order.  Removing the lid of the fat, red pot simmering on the stove, I began to ladle out my holiday mulled wine into glass mugs.  The fragrance of star anise and clove, cinnamon, apple, and red, red wine begins to drift through the kitchen and down every hallway and, sure enough, here they all come... one by one, two by two, into the kitchen for a mug of their own.  I’m telling you, this mulled wine does it every time, though I cannot take credit for the recipe.... it’s from the always reliable Ina Garten and I highly recommend it for this weekend.  Keep a pot on the stove and for goodness sakes, make enough!  You’ll want some just for you when everyone has left.

Mulled Wine

8 Cups Apple Cider
2 (750-ml) bottles good red wine, preferably Cabernet Sauvignon
1/2 Cup Honey
4 Cinnamon Sticks
2 Oranges, zested and juiced
8 Whole Cloves
6 Star Anise
Oranges, peeled for garnish (I sometimes use Clementines for this)

Combine the cider, wine, honey, cinnamon sticks, zest, juice, cloves and star anise in large pot.  Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or so.  Pour into mugs and add an orange peel to each and serve.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

Without even closing my eyes, I can see him.  Coming up my walk on a bitterly cold night in late December - a tweed cap on his head, a huge grin on his face and an emerald green box in his hand.  My Father.  So excited to show me the new watch he’d bought my Mother for Christmas that he completely ignored the extravagant light display The Songwriter had just created on the giant fir tree by the front door.  He returns to me every year.  In his favourite red sweater he sits at my table once again.  I see him sneaking fudge, shaking his presents, just as clear as day.

  My father loved Christmas and, happily, he passed that love on to me, along with his optimistic spirit, his fear of snakes and his crooked nose.  Always close by my side most days of the year, his spirit looms large during the festive season.  I see him as he was when I was little, struggling to put up the tree I’d once again wheedled him into purchasing even though he knew full well it was too tall for our room.  There he is, trying to stifle a yawn as I tear through Santa’s generous array of gifts when I’ve awakened him before dawn on Christmas morning.  And I see him fighting to appear strong and business-as-usual the December he died, now five years past.  Yes, all these ghosts of my father are present in my life, especially during this most evocative of seasons, and I have learned to welcome them all.

Understandably, it is an English tradition to tell ghost stories at Christmas.  Perhaps it is the holiness of these days that causes the veil to occasionally blow back in the icy wind, revealing those from times past in a clearer, almost tangible, light.  As we carefully unwrap treasured ornaments and baubles from years long ago, we hear their voices on the stair.  We bring out a family recipe and glimpse them laughing in the corners, steaming mugs of mulled wine in their hands.  Even though she’s been gone for years, we still see the Aunt who used to call out, “Christmas Gift”, when she came through the door with her arms full of presents.  We see the taciturn Uncle who always sat through the festivities with nary a comment nor reaction save a slight, bemused smile.  We remember the year the Christmas tree fell.  The one when Mother dropped all the ornaments, shattering each and every trinket and geegaw to smithereens.  We recall the festive Christmas lunch with a friend who never looked handsomer than he did on that day and we still marvel that we lost him only one short year later.  But there he is once again, sitting at our fireside, the glow of the Christmas lights reflected in his laughing eyes.  

 One cannot live long without sorrow.  And though the ghosts at my table this Christmas mostly bring good cheer and happy memory along with them, their presence is frequently tinged with that harsh reality of life.   Forever now, there will be such visitations in Connecticut at Christmas.   Tiny, sweet spirits who shall remain continually innocent and smiling but whose presence will for years bring tears and unbearable grief to those who loved them so.  As I sit by my glowing tree tonight, surrounded by the spirits of my own past, my heart is heavy for those families destined for similar visitations through the rest of their days.  They shall never escape them, nor, I suppose, would they wish to.

  So much in our lives cannot be explained, no matter how hard we might try, and to even attempt to give reason or cause to the obscene tragedy of last Friday is to diminish it in a shameful way.  It is beyond any human comprehension.  Those who have said it is a punishment from God do not know the same God as I and should never, in my opinion, utter another word.  My prayers are all I have to offer tonight and I offer them up in a fervent wish for comfort and peace to the brokenhearted in this season of ultimate hope.

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, 
Love leaves a memory no one can steal”.
From a Headstone in Ireland

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Come Join Us

If you are in the Atlanta area this afternoon, 
Edward and I will be doing a book signing at
“Purveyors of Imaginative 
and Beautiful Things”
December 16th
From 2pm till 4pm
It’s even rumoured that Apple will be there as well!
Come Join Us!
3226 Roswell Road

And today is the last day we can guarantee shipping before Christmas!
Find From the House of Edward HERE.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Book Shopping List... Final Chapter

Books for Your Friend Who Loves to Entertain
Sometimes her dinner invitations arrive engraved and gilded. 
Sometimes they come via text, impromptu and spontaneous.
 Occasionally you’re asked to come in costume, occasionally in heels. 
Once, for a holiday breakfast, everyone came in pajamas. 
She is a spunky, adventurous cook and every meal at her table is a festive one.  
She will adore these books.

British Cooking 
by Jamie Oliver
Why is it that I can never make a cup of tea as delicious as the ones I get in the UK?
I’ll never make fish and chips like the Rock and Sole Place in London or Cullen Skink like the incredible bowl I had at Loch Bay Seafood.  And although I make a delectable shortbread every holiday season, I know without doubt that it will never equal the plateful served to me on a raw, windy afternoon at The Torridon in Scotland. 
 But maybe, just maybe, this book can provide some hints!

Entertaining is Fun
by Dorothy Draper
Such a fabulous book by a legendary designer!
A must have.

Elizabeth David’s Christmas
from The Folio Society
Simply a gorgeous book.
A beautiful gift.

The Vintage Tea Party Book
by Angel Adoree
I'm crazy about this lovely, happy book!


Your Best Friends Who Love Books of All Kinds
You meet them for coffee on Saturday mornings and they’re always easy to spot from the doorway. Surrounded by sacks of new books, eyes bright, you know they’ve already been to the bookshops.  Dinner conversation at their house revolves around what they’ve just read.  Fiction and non, fantasy and crime.  They ask strangers what they’re reading and have been known to turn House Beautiful sideways to better read the titles in photographed bookshelves.  They are charismatic and curious and you revel in their company. Knowing how they love books of all types, they will adore these three selections!
My Ideal Bookshelf
by Jane Mount
Artist Jane Mount paints the ideal bookshelves of readers
 as varied as Alice Waters and David Sedaris.  
A wonderful idea, wonderfully executed.

My Bookstore
Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop
Edited by Ronald Rice and the Booksellers Across America
I recently spent some time in Seaside Florida’s marvelous Sundog Books.
Creaky wooden floors, open windows, stacks and stacks of artfully arranged books.
It was a delight. 
 I cannot wait to read the writers in this new book
 talk about their own favourite bookshops!  

American Writers at Home
by J.D. McClatchy
One of my personal favourites.
And a wonderful gift for anyone who loves books and writers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Fun List of Gifts Galore

Before it’s too late....a List of Gifts Galore!
For everyone, including ourselves.
Some are even free to enjoy right now
1. A Special Calendar
I’ve always loved the artwork of blogger, and fellow dog lover, Susan Black,
and I’m thrilled to see she has incorporated her talents 
into a gorgeous new calendar for 2013!
Find it HERE.
and go say hello at her blog, HERE.

2. Cashmere Sweaters
Can a girl ever have too many? 
I love these. 
Find them HERE

3. Thermos 
What fellow wouldn’t love this? 
There's also a great kit bag in this same print. 
Find them HERE

4. Bear Rug 
Now, I’ve never seen the charm of having dead animals as part of my decor, 
but I do find this bear shaped oriental rug whimsical and charming. 
It would be delightful in a library, don’t you think? 
Find it HERE

5. Owl
Large and so, so soft, this stuffed owl captured my heart when I saw it last week.
Wouldn't this be the perfect guardian for some lucky child's bedroom?
Find it HERE 

6. All Creatures Great and Small
When we first married, The Songwriter and I had a Sunday evening ritual we never dared to break. We would order up a pizza from a favourite spot and eat it in front of the television as we watched reruns of All Creatures Great and Small on Public Television. Such simple, beautiful stories that never lose their charm. 
 We still watch the Christmas episode every Christmas Eve.
 Anyone would love a boxed set.
Find it HERE

7. Bo
Edward, Apple and I are besotted with this handsome fellow.
Our "First Dog", Bo, is featured on the White House Christmas Card this year.
That's it above.
Just charming. 

8. Christmas Stories
This book should be bedside in every guest room this festive season.
Lovely book, lovely stories.
Makes a lovely gift.
Find it HERE.

9. Edward?
I don't know about you, but I did a double take passing by this shop window last week. 
This big white furry fellow looked very familiar to me.
How about you?

10. A Free Smile 
Finally, this is just the best thing I've seen all day long!
It pretty much sums up my entire life philosophy.
Be sure to watch it full screen.
Happy Holidays!! 

Stay Tuned!
The last chapter of the book list coming at the end of the week! 

And only a few more days to order 
From The House of Edward before Christmas! 
Find it HERE

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Book Shopping List ... Part 3

Books for Your Adventurous Baby Brother
As a little boy, he ran away from home at the drop of a hat, disappearing into the woods with his Irish Setter for hours and hours at a stretch and driving your parents to distraction.  He chose Dartmouth College for the simple reason that the Appalachian Trail runs right through the center of town.  Since graduation, he’s traveled to almost every country on the globe.  Your heart skips a beat every time you get one of his oddly stamped letters and you’re secretly hoping he’ll become a travel writer before too long.
He’s coming home for Christmas this year.
These are books he’ll love.

The Old Ways, A Journey on Foot
by Robert MacFarlane

The Appalachian Trail
A gorgeous volume from Rizzoli,
 with a foreward by Bill Bryson

by John O’Donohue
Because any time spent in nature calls forth the bigger questions.
This is a book with the wise answers.


Books for Your Beautiful Best Friend
There are always Casablanca lilies in the crystal vase on her piano.
  She’s been known to spend weekend mornings polishing silver
 and has never missed a  performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.
  She wears her father’s old watch, her great aunt’s strand of pearls and Fracas perfume.
  A solo trip to Italy is on her calendar every May
 and her all-white rose garden is stunning in June. 
  She appreciates beauty and beautiful things. 
She’ll love these books.

The Creative Collection of American Short Stories
I spied this book last year on a table under the trees of USC at the Los Angeles Book Fair,
sitting serenely apart from all the others. 
 Such a lovely volume, with gorgeous illustrations, I knew I had to take it home with me.  
An heirloom collection to treasure and share.

Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
There are several new annotated editions of Jane Austen’s work that are just splendid.  
This one is most definitely on my list.

Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy
Because no matter how gorgeous the movie, 
the book is always better.
I am currently reading this translation and, while I’m no Russian scholar, 
I can say it’s lyrical, powerful and clear.
A gorgeous gift.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas Book List... Part 2

Books to Delight Your Niece 
  She inherited your blue eyes, your direct stare and, unfortunately, your stubbornness. 
And she’s always followed your lead.   If you eat the green beans, then she’ll go ahead and eat them, too.  She’s learned to tie a scarf round her neck just like you and refuses to wear the colour red because you never do.  You’ve read to her since she was born and she loves to talk about books - her eyes light up when she tells you what she’s reading.
You can’t wait till she opens these on Christmas morning.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
by William Joyce

This Moose Belongs to Me
by Oliver Jeffers

The Illustrated Treasury of Fairy Tales
One can never have too many editions of fairy tales, 
and this one is simply exquisite.


Books for Your Studious Nephew
You took him with you to see Spielberg’s Lincoln, and you’ve never seen a boy so enthralled. 
He’s read the New York Times editorial page before anyone else is up and he argues with you
 over the sartorial accuracy of Downton Abbey. 
He is a boy who likes to be challenged and you cannot believe how quickly he’s grown up,
 even though he still occasionally behaves like a bit of a brat.  
Now which one of these for him?

Team of Rivals
by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Just brilliant.

A Train in Winter
by Caroline Moorehead
Stories of the brave women in the French Resistance of WWII.
Because history was not written only by men.

David Sedaris 
Live at Carnegie Hall
Because one cannot be serious all the time or one will get a headache.
And because The Songwriter and I actually ran off a beach highway laughing
 the first time we heard this.

More to Come.....

Last shipping date before Christmas for this one?
December 15th!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Thrill of Hope

A Thrill of Hope
Sometimes it arrives early.  A momentary frisson that startles our senses on an otherwise insignificant November morning.  We close our eyes to take it in just as it evaporates, leaving behind a faded palette of ice grey and green.   Perhaps we feel it  passing by like a memory, nonchalantly drifting along on the notes of an old familiar song. Instinctively, our soul reaches out, but it’s suddenly gone, disappeared like a vapor of snow mist.  A distant trill of sleigh bells, a certain shade of red.  We never know when a hint of it will come rushing back, only to quickly ebb before we can claim all the magic it offers.  But still, we recognize.  Still we remember the spirit of Christmas.

Every Christmas was a fantasy when we were children.  We never gave a thought to Christmas Spirit, never wondered when, or if, it would come upon us.  Santa Claus. Father Christmas.  The Baby in the manger.  Sugar cookies with scarlet sprinkles - carols, presents, velvet dresses.  Each individual element of the holiday season was tangible enchantment and stirred all together, they created a magical spell of goodness and hope that we we never questioned.  It was ever trustworthy, never mercurial; we knew it would come as surely as we knew the calendar pages would turn, filling our hearts and flooding our minds with a warmth unmatched throughout the rest of the year.

But adulthood brings, and occasionally steals, many things.  We have more responsibility and less innocence.  We know where the presents are hidden for we are the ones who hid them.  Sometimes in the flurry of Christmas cards and cookie dough, we suddenly stop and remember that old feeling of childhood.  Will it come to us again this year?  What if the whole of the season slips past without it?  What if Christmas becomes just another series of December tasks to complete, mere items on an albeit festive list of chores?  We might despair at the thought, if only we had the time.

But then one night we find ourselves sitting in a candlelit, choir-filled chapel and just as a little girl struggles to hit the highest note in O Holy Night, we feel it.  Almost casually, like a whisper, it returns as ever before.  The old wonderment, the familiar good will.  The thrill of hope that is the gift of Christmas.  We close our eyes and remember its sweetness.  We reach for the hand of our loved one sitting beside us as we recall anew the reason for all the colour and the light, the presents and the love.   

The fantasy of a child’s Christmas is not lost to us as adults.  Calmer perhaps, and more serene, it floats toward us on the breezes of memory.  We never take it for granted now. Through the long lenses of our lives, we see it as the time of ultimate good that brings beauty to a weary world. 
And so we tie lavish bows.  We hang beribboned wreaths.  
We sing along with the carolers when they knock upon our door.
We wish for no other Christmas than the one at our table
 and we feel its presence like a candle flame in the darkest depths of our soul.

If it were in my power, I would give one gift to each of you.  
That sweet thrill of hope that is Christmas.
May you feel it again this year.

Last shipping date before Christmas for "From The House of Edward"
 is December 15th!
Get yours HERE now!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Books For Christmas... The Shopping List Begins

Books For Christmas   
If your name happens to be on my Christmas List then you usually know to expect books under your tree.
 There is not much I love better than spending a cold winter’s day in the perfect bookshop, selecting presents for my family and friends.  So to get your imagination bubbling, here at The House of Edward this holiday season, I shall be featuring some delectable books for those certain people in our lives. 
We’ll begin with books for our aunts and uncles. 
 Just click on the photos and find out more about each one.

Books for your Favourite Uncle.
You so looked forward to his visits when you were little.  There was always butterscotch in the pockets of his tweed jackets and always a dog by his side.  He talked to you about history  - about Catherine the Great and Anne Boleyn,  about Hannibal and his elephants - telling the tales with such tantalizing drama that for the longest time you thought he made them all up.  He taught you to ride bareback and sent you velvet dresses every single Christmas Eve.  You adored him.  He let you name his latest dog, a devoted little dachshund now called Hannibal.  He’ll love any one of these books.

A Letter to My Dog
by Robin Layton
Charming letters written by the famous and non-famous to their own beloved dogs.
A must have book for anybody who loves their dog.
And who doesn’t love their dog?

Underwater Dogs
by Seth Casteel
Dogs swimming.
Funny and completely irresistible pictures of unabashed canine joy.

The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs
by the New Yorker Magazine, Foreward by Malcolm Gladwell
I mean this is an absolute must.
  If only for the cartoons.
Edward is particularly fond of this one....


Books for Your Favourite Aunt.
She read you Balzac when you were seven and sent you a plane ticket to Morocco when you graduated high school.
  You’ve never seen her in a dress, but her hats are things of legend.  She keeps chickens and names them all Louise. 
She’s been arrested at peace rallies, holds once a month poetry readings in her garden, and (you found this out when you arrived unannounced one early Saturday morning) she sleeps in the buff. 
She is the aunt who encourages you to think and take risks, to travel and dream.
These books are for her.

Cabinets of Wonder
by Christine Davenne
Thoroughly, wonderfully eccentric collections.
A literary tour you’ll savour.

Tim Walker, Storyteller
by Robin Muir
Like many others, I seek out the photographs of Tim Walker,
 for their imaginative surrealism and beauty.
  It’s difficult these days to come across unique images,
 but Mr. Walker never disappoints.

England’s Hideaways
by Meg Nolan van Reesema
A collection of enchanting rooms, stately manor houses and country cottages.
For planning that next dreamy adventure!

And .... they both just might like this one!

More to come.... stay tuned.