Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Despite It All .... A Little List for January

Despite It All, A Little List for January

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” 
Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl

There’s no denying these are difficult times here in the states.  To pretend otherwise seems both trivial and insensitive.  Having always found healing in nature, on inauguration day Edward and I were as far away from the news as it was possible to be without a plane ticket.  Lost in a winter forest, trees bare and silent save for the occasional chirp and scurry of the creatures around us, we wandered and roamed all day.  We sat for a while alone in a little forest chapel, offering up a prayer or two.

Certainly, one of the many benefits of sharing one’s life with a dog is their unique ability to bring goodness, joy and comfort into one’s life on a daily basis.  I am forever grateful to Edward for being a constant source of kindness and laughter, no matter what. 

 Just look at the face in that photo, taken on our long day out,
 and tell me you don’t feel just a bit better.

Here’s a little list for January, despite it all.
I hope you find a thing or two here that interests you.
Love and Courage,
1.  My Stylish French Box
One of the rewards of being a blogger is getting to occasionally meet one’s fellow bloggers.   I’ve been incredibly lucky for I’ve shared tea in Los Angeles with the captivating Lisa Bornes-Giramonti, of the sadly now quiet, A Bloomsbury Life. (Though one can still find Lisa on Instagram.)  I’ve met both the beautiful Jeanne Henriques (Collage of Life)  and Vicki Archer  for breakfast on separate occasions in London and spent an utterly charming afternoon with Brooke Giannetti (Velvet and Linen) at her home in Santa Monica.  And just this past summer both Edward and I had the chance to meet the lovely Sharon Santoni of My French Country Home.  You can easily see from the photo above how proud Edward was. 

In addition to her popular blog, Sharon is also the author of My Stylish French Girlfriends, a beautiful book that’s about, well, just what the title says.  It’s delightful.  And now she’s just launched a new venture that promises to bring a little bit of France right to one's front door.  My Stylish French Box is a gift box, specially curated by Santoni herself and shipped directly to you or anyone to whom you wish to send a fabulous gift.  
What a treat, no? 
 Find out more HERE.

 2.  A Few Books
Just click on photo for more.
Where’d You Go Bernadette
by Maria Semple
Goodness, I laughed.
Sweet.  Smart.  Snarky.  Fun.

Today Will Be Different
also by Maria Semple
Same wit, different story.

The Book of Joy
by The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
A good friend dropped this off in my mailbox 
as a thank you for his Christmas fudge.
Wonderful, wise, and needed.

Bitten By Witch Fever
by Lucinda Hawksley
Wallpaper and Arsenic in Victorian Homes
This is just too tempting.

3.  Pillows
Just restocked a few new, antique, pillows.
Lovely additions to brighten up a winter interior.
This one looks like a winter night.
Find them HERE.
4.  Magical Globes
I have always been fascinated by globes.
Particularly old ones.
This company makes new ones 
with all the mysterious charm of the antique.
Truly magnificent.
The celestial version knocks my socks off.
Find them HERE.

5.  Tea and Tattle
The blog, Miranda’s Notebook, has always been a favourite stop of mine on the internet highway.  It’s a wonderful window into London life, courtesy of the lovely, Miranda Mills. Well now, Miranda has joined her good friend, Sophie Perdita, to produce a entertaining podcast called Tea and Tattle.  It’s like sitting at lunch in a cafe eavesdropping on British friends discussing a wide variety of topics, all with that undeniable flair and charm of the Brits.  
I love to listen while I’m preparing dinner. 
Find it HERE.  

6.  Wood Stoves
When I traveled to Yorkshire last April, the weather was appropriately Brontë-ian: all bruised skies and blustery winds.  Each afternoon after my ramblings on the moors, I would return to our inn ( the utterly delicious Ponden Hall ) to find a fire roaring in the wood stove of our room.  All evening long, as wind gusts rattled the windows and whistled round the stone walls outside, we kept adding logs to this stove and stayed toasty warm.  I decided right then and there - wood stoves are the best. 
And this is my current favorite.
It comes in green! 

6B.  Ponden Hall
If you’re interested in more about the wonderful Ponden Hall in Haworth, I’m thrilled to tell you that they just won an award for Friendliest Hosts in Britain, which I can honestly say they wholeheartedly deserve.
See what I mean... HERE

7.  The March
I was too young to protest anything in the sixties.  If it didn’t involve Hayley Mills or dogs I wasn’t interested.  In this current world, I no longer have that luxury.  So on January 21st, along with tens of thousands of men and women in my city, I braved a raging thunderstorm and boarded the subway into town to march for the first time in my life.  I marched for compassion, empathy, decency and truth.  I marched for immigrants and for a free press.  I marched for Serge Kovaleski.   I marched as a woman, an American, a Christian, a friend, a wife, a daughter.  I marched for the America I grew up believing in.  I marched for the values expressed in the painting above.  
The rain was blowing sideways as we made our way to the start of the march but just as our Congressman, John Lewis, began to speak, the rain stopped and the clouds rolled off.   The march was a remarkable experience that was shared by millions around the globe.  If you were there, you know what I mean.
There were many clever, heartfelt signs on display during the marches, but I found this one most poignant.

In a few short days we here in America have seen government agencies from the EPA to our National Park Service ordered to be silent.  Any comment from these agencies on climate change has been forbidden and information on that issue has been removed from the White House website.   Our press continues to be attacked and discredited by the highest in government.  The very first statement by our new White House press secretary was a blatant lie, expressed forcefully and defiantly, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  Our health care laws are being stripped as I write and, as most of the world now knows, our new president placed travel ban on “certain” immigrants by executive order this past weekend.  On the same day he demoted the Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as well as the Director of National Intelligence from the National Security Council, paring that board from twenty-three members down to six, while giving his "personal advisor",  the head of a white nationalist website, a permanent seat.  These are scary times and looking away is not exactly an option for those of us with even a shallow knowledge of history.

"Dialogue, with all that it entails, reminds us that no one can remain a mere onlooker or bystander. Everyone, from the smallest to the greatest, has an active role to play in the creation of an integrated and reconciled society. This culture of dialogue can come about only if all of us take part in planning and building it. The present situation does not permit anyone to stand by and watch other people’s struggles. On the contrary, it is a forceful summons to personal and social responsibility.”
Pope Francis

8.  The Wonderful Photography of Kirsty Mitchell
See More HERE

9.  This Skirt
Crazy, crazy about this.
Find it HERE

10.  Beauty
Ah, what human beings can still manage to create together…..
Enlarge the picture and turn up the sound.

Friday, January 27, 2017



The road curves underneath the arching arms of oak trees, naked now, reaching up, rough, asymmetrical, lacing their long grey fingers above me as I race along - a bit worried, a bit frazzled - with a lengthy to-do list glaring up at me from the passenger seat of my car.  I have driven this road so many times in my life and recall now, with a smile, a visitor from the west coast who, never having traveled down a southern road on a summer’s day, once remarked how the trees here made him claustrophobic laying as they did like a pulled green curtain over everything.  So different from his California with its uncluttered vistas punctuated only occasionally by the dandelion heads of palm trees.  

It is one of those routes so attractive to visitors, so uniquely verdant, but to me, so usual, worn practically pedestrian with so many journeys down its twists and turns, beneath its  trees, a route so ordinary that today I scarcely glance at its gracious houses whose windows reflect a weak winter sun peeking through the grey in near embarrassment as it melts the scant traces of a delightfully forecast, but never materialized, snow storm.  I sigh distractedly and grip the steering wheel a bit tighter as my mind wanders, once again, to the worrisome state of things here on my side of the divide.  It is then that I see it.  Off to the left.  A house.  

As an unrepentant house spy, I know most of the houses along this stretch of road:  which window holds the largest Christmas tree, a child’s bedroom that, since the holidays, has revealed the tip top edge of a teepee.  I am familiar with the old houses lovingly cared for and the new ones whose architects should have perhaps taken a few more classes.  I recognize the dogs that are walked along this pavement - the large poodle that strolls, the tiny terrier that pulls.  But here on a hill made visible by the now naked trees sits a house I have never seen in my whole life.  A lovely house, almost fairy tale,  it smiles serenely behind its little copse of trees, trees which, having shed their green garments, no longer provide their usual concealment of its beauty.  How is it possible that until today I have never known it was there?
It was then that, as so often happens, my interior thoughts collided head on with my eye’s observations and, coalescing magically, they revealed a truth vital to my soul.  Perhaps, just perhaps, it is precisely when the world is greyest, when the colour has faded a bit and the wind whistles coldly round corners normally festooned with the lushness of spring, perhaps is it then that beauty, normally hidden, is uncovered and made clear.  It isn’t as if this exquisite house just suddenly sprang up from the mossy earth.  No, it was always there, just invisible to my untroubled eye.  But now, in the bleak air of winter, as though a magician had whipped a green damask off its facade, I could see it quite clearly.  So perhaps there are jewels waiting to be discovered now -  a gem of wisdom, a shard of knowledge - little bits of shy beauty that, now noticed, can thread their way into our souls to make us stronger, more resilient, less fearful, with expansive hearts that reach out to share what grace we might just find.   I resolve to look for them now.  

**Sorry there has been some confusion with the email subscriptions on this post.  It went all squirrelly this week and sent out old posts while ignoring the new one.  I apologize if you've received an old post, or if your comments on this one were lost.  Scheesh.**

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sometimes the Poets Say It Best, Again

January 20, 2017
Icebergs, Ilulissat

In blue-green air and water God
you have come back for us, 
to our fiberglass boat.

You have come back for us, and I’m afraid.
(But you never left.)

Great sadness at harms.
But nothing that comes now, after, 
can be like before.

Even when the icebergs are gone, and the millions of suns

have burnt themselves out of your arms, 

your arms of burnt air,
you are with us
whoever we are then.

by Jean Valentine
painting above by Caspar David Friedrich

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Getting Off the Escalator

Getting Off the Escalator

We weren’t quite sure what to expect last September when we rolled our rental car onto the ferry at Uig, bound for the Isle of Harris.  Due to an incoming gale we were the “last ferry out”, something I seem to have a knack for experiencing.  (Don’t believe me?  See this post.) The skies were merely overcast and drizzly when we left but about thirty minutes into our journey the wind made an appearance, sweeping down from the mountains like a winged battalion and by the time we swayed and tossed into Tarbert we were in the center of a full-throated, theatrical storm.  Our car climbed the hill above the harbor and we rolled our way through the lunar landscape of Harris, waves crashing on our right, winds howling outside our tightly closed windows, till we came to the glorious sight of Scarista Beach with its Caribbean green waters roiling and churning in the gale.  Looking up to the hillside on our left, we could just make out the serene presence of Scarista House, our home for the next few days.  

The wind grabbed the car door, throwing it open with such force it nearly popped off its metal hinges and we were literally bent double against its power as we inched our way to the front door. The Songwriter tugged and pulled it open only to have it immediately slammed shut behind us the moment we entered.  Inside all was quiet, save for the sound of rattling windows, whistling wind and crackling fire.  Tea, shortbread and Victoria Sponge were laid out in the book-strewn study just to the left of the entry.  A handsome Scot appeared and offered to take our coats and carry our luggage up to our seaview room.  Honestly, if my heavenly welcome is half as wonderful, I shall be utterly thrilled.  

Scarista House is small and elegant, the sort of place one reads about in Agatha Christie novels but never quite believes exists in reality.  There are only a few perfectly appointed rooms, and whilst we were there it seemed as though the assembled guests had been curated for their intelligence, curiosity and wit.  Following highly individual adventures each day we would all meet before dinner for drinks, appetizers and conversation.  Strangely, and rather happily, I found myself the youngest woman there so I spent most of my time listening, observing, and filing away little tidbits of wisdom for later use.   The topics discussed before the fire were riveting, wildly varied, and I was entranced to see women leading in the discussions by an overwhelming degree.  Hands down, the most beautiful woman in the room had just turned eighty, an impeccable beauty with nary a trace of make-up and an ever-present smile.   I took note that she was the most curious person among us.  One particularly insightful note came from a women of seventy who said, of turning fifty, “My dears, that was the year I got off the escalator.”  We all laughed.  Her meaning was clear without all the details.  Her fiftieth year was the one in which she stopped competing, stopped comparing, stopped striving for perfection. 

To be perfectly candid, I’ve always preferred the stairs over the escalator.  I’ve never been tempted into any sort of competition with my fellow females.   But there have been times, sad to say, when I’ve fallen victim to the sin of comparison.  For instance, looking around in my teen years I noticed I was of a decidedly lighter complexion than any of my friends.  This prompted an ill-advised spate of sun bathing, an activity that proved not only ineffective but wholly unpleasant.  I quickly gave that up and fully embraced high SPFs and large hats. Then there was the time when, upon reading that a model I admired used this regimen for shiny hair, I slathered my long hair in mayonnaise.  Seriously.  This resulted in nothing more than an strong olfactory resemblance to egg salad that made me queasy, not shiny.   And I’m sorry to report that recently, after spying a photograph of Cate Blanchett in Vogue UK, I  thought my eyebrows should be darker.   This ill-advised comparison to the great Cate caused me to purchase a highly recommended eyebrow product, albeit in the very lightest colour.  The result?  Well, have you seen those internet photos of babies whose wee faces have had eyebrows penciled in by mothers obviously desperate for a laugh?  Well, that was me and The Songwriter did laugh, oh indeed he did.   So yes, I’m sticking with the light eyebrows God gave me. They go with my face.

These are humorous examples, notable for their triviality.  But comparison and competition are toxic indulgences and ones to which we women seem unduly susceptible. I have observed this it in young women (from the ubiquitous kissy face photo poses to the alteration of voices into the Kardashian squawk) and in elderly ones (in the dwindling down of personal style and the conformity to more “acceptable” forms of hairstyle and dress), and it is always a poison to the one quality that really makes us all so special: Individualty.  And of course, insidious in its subtleness is the danger that, slowly, almost unnoticed, we slide from the trivial to the vital, altering our beliefs and opinions to conform with others until we are nothing more than a shadow, an echo, of who we might have been.

Listening to those beautiful, interesting women on the Isle of Harris while the sea crashed outside and the fire blazed inside, I was encouraged about my future, strengthened in my own individuality and very grateful to have been granted an audience to listen to women much older than me.  I wish the same for all of you this year.  May we all “get off the escalator” and march into this new year confident in who we are, young, old or in-between.  

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Here We Go!

“Instructions for living a life. 
Pay attention. 
Be astonished. 
Tell about it.”

Mary Oliver 

Happy New Year to all my Kind Followers.
Here we go!
photo above: Haworth moors, April 2016