Monday, August 31, 2015

Farewell To Summer... A Big Fat List of Good Things

Farewell to Summer
A Big Fat List of Good Things
There's a mustard stain on my white linen shirt,
a hole in the toe of my espadrilles.  
The jewel tones of the garden have been bleached to pastel 
and all of the robins have flown.  
 Yesterday I bought a candle that smells like autumn.   I’ve loosened my hair from its three month knot and I’ve opened up all of the windows.  Edward has that familiar autumnal spring in his step once more.  We are saying farewell to summer.

Here’s a list for the transition of summer to fall.
Such an invigorating time of year, don’t you agree?

1.  Arthur and George
While watching Poldark this summer I chanced to see a preview of the upcoming BBC production of Arthur and George.  An adaptation of the novel by Julian Barnes, Arthur and George was quite a sensation when it was published in 2006.  Trouble is, I missed it.  So I grabbed it up and took it to the beach with me earlier this month and could not put it down.  Do yourself a favour…. if you’ve not read Arthur and George, do it now!  Before it shows up on Masterpiece Theatre later this fall.  Martin Clunes is going to be pitch perfect as Arthur.
Find the book HERE.  
If you're lucky enough to find a hardback, it has a gorgeous cover.
Also, for an eerie, spooky, midnight read... try THIS BOOK.
And for a delightful love story... try THIS ONE.

2.  Brioche Knitting
Late in the spring I happened to come across this pattern and my heart did a back flip.  I had to learn to make this.  Little did I know at the time, I was looking at a two-colour brioche scarf, a knitting technique of which I knew nothing.  So I set about learning. I sat by the beach (see the photo at the top....the perfect place to learn)  and knitted and ripped, knitted and ripped.   Two Colour brioche is a complicated stitch, there’s no denying, and I probably invented some brand new bad words during my learning phase.  But when the penny drops, so to speak, it’s fairly simple and really a lot of fun to do.  I’ve completed four Brioche scarves this summer.  
Here’s Edward modeling the second one!
The best book on Brioche is THIS ONE.
Try it!
3.  Beans!
Everyone knows that beans are good. 
 High in protein, something that’s essential for energy and good health.
 And a tasty, welcome alternative to meat.
  I came across this recipe this summer and tried it. 
 And it smells so good while it’s cooking. 
 The perfect dish for fall.
Find the recipe HERE.
Note:  I only used fresh beans here.  Fresh garlic, instead of powdered, too. And not as much bacon as the recipe calls for. 

4.  The Picture of August.
I couldn’t resist posting this photograph.
  Taken during the Dog Days of August when it was so sweltering outside,
 afternoon walks were excruciating.  
Edward dozing on my foot.  
Lazy, contented, and daydreaming of snow.  
The very picture of August.
5.  London Scarf
For those of us who love London…
this scarf seems perfect for every single day of autumn.
Find it HERE
6.  Birthdays
So many of my friends have birthdays in summer.
This video is for them.
Words to remember because life is so short.
7.  Skirt
I’m kinda crazy for this skirt.
With a black sweater?
It satisfies by Bloomsbury longings a bit.
Find it HERE
8.  Back to School
Despite the fact that I believe that school should begin promptly on September 1st, just like it does at Hogwarts, the children in my neighbourhood have been back in school for a month now.  No matter, my longing for school supplies never kicks in till September, but when it does… pencils and pens, notebooks and journals… I’m a sucker for all of these.  
Love these little notebooks for a bit of whimsy on an ordinary day….
Find them HERE
and love these gorgeous pencils….
Find them HERE.
9.  The Poetry of Trees
Edward and I are so fortunate to live beneath these tall trees.  I fill the house with fresh flowers every week but I can never match the beauty they provide every day, just outside my windows.  The myriad of greens of springtime, the emeralds of summer.  The elegant minimalism of winter.  And soon, very soon, the dazzling colours of fall.  Alive, always changing, they are old friends who surround us with beauty.  Their branches hold songbirds and owls, the wind plays symphonies when it rushes through their leaves.  On a dark, windy night last week, when a full fat moon painted fingers of shadow on the floor of my screened porch, I read this poem.  And understood.

The Country of the Trees 
by Mary Oliver
 from her book Blue Horses

There is no king in their country
and there is no queen
and there are no princes vying for power, 
inventing corruption.
Just as with us many children are born
and some will live and some will die and the country
will continue.

The weather will always be important.

And there will always be room for the weak, the violets
and the bloodroot.
When it is cold they will be given blankets of leaves.
When it is hot they will be given shade.
And not out of guilt, neither for a year-end deduction
but maybe for the cheer of their colors, their
small flower faces.

They are not like us.

Some will perish to become houses or barns, 
fences and bridges.
Others will endure past the counting of years.
And none will ever speak a single word of complaint, 
as though language, after all, 
did not work well enough, was only an early stage.
Neither do they ever have any questions to the gods -
which one is the real one, and what is the plan.
As though they have been told everything already, 
and are content.

10.  Another Journey
I’m heading back to my favorite place on the planet.
Follow the journey on Instagram, HERE
I’ll be in touch!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

One Good Term Here On Earth

 One Good Term Here On Earth

I have always felt a special connection to former US President Jimmy Carter, and for the dumbest reason possible.  Some years after his presidency - a presidency I was pretty much oblivious to due to a shallowness resulting from my young age and the sort of self-absorption that blooms with profusion when one is lacking in life experience - I found myself on an airplane from Los Angeles to Atlanta.  It’s a four hour plus flight, so to spend the time profitably I had brought along a piece of needlepoint that I was doing as a Christmas present for a family member.  Somewhere over the mid-west I was happily stitching away, cozy in my normal state of inattention, when I felt bit of electricity in the air around me.  Looking up from my aisle seat I saw my fellow passengers sitting a bit straighter, all eyes directed to the front of the plane.  The recirculated air was quiet, but electric, with expectation.  Suddenly, as though someone had opened up a jar of irritated flies, black-suited men began to pour down both sides of the plane, gravely serious faces turning this way and that, sharp eyes focusing everywhere and nowhere at once. This managed to capture my interest.  

As one particularly tall member of this line passed my seat I found myself looking up into the face of former president Jimmy Carter.  To my stunned amazement, he stopped.  Smiling, he bent forward to better see the needlepoint I had suddenly forgotten I had.  He asked me who it was for, and I think I told him.  Then he looked at me, directly into my eyes, and in a warm, grand-fatherly way he reached out and touched my cheek.  “You’re very pretty”, he said.  

Now, I don’t take compliments well, especially those about my appearance.  I have a tendency to argue with the those kind enough to bestow one upon me.  I’ll point out my flaws, make a flippant remark about the inadequate strength of their eyeglasses, and blush like a beet, all of which makes the person fervently rue their kindness.  However, faced with a compliment like this from a man like this, I did not launch into my usual list of rebuttals.  I’m sure I blushed brightly, and I hope, God how I hope, I managed to thank him.  I only told The Songwriter about it and, though I’m well aware that we’re all pretty when we’re that young, I have held that compliment in my heart like a secret ever since.

Through the years I have, thankfully, become more aware.  I now know my place in this big crowded world and each day I try to make a small difference in the way that it spins.  I have also watched this former president make his faith in a good God tangible and real.  Jimmy Carter has filled every day in happy effort to effect a positive change.   Rather than spending his evenings on the banquet circuit reeling in high-figure honorariums to flesh out his bank account, or his days painting by numbers in the sunshine, this former president as been working to eradicate a hideous disease in Africa.  He has been traveling far and wide in his effort to ensure countries in conflict have free and democratic elections.   His has been building houses for the homeless.  He has been a tireless champion of the rights for women.  He has written twenty-nine books.  His professed faith has been quickened by his tireless, hopeful, work.

Naturally, like many others, I was saddened to hear of Jimmy Carter’s recent cancer diagnosis.  It brought me back to the day on that plane, which seems like only yesterday, and  it reinforced how fleeting our time really is.  But it also reminded me of the grandness, the sheer scope, of life and how shameful it is to waste a minute of it in incuriosity or cynicism.  He began treatment yesterday and there is every hope that President Carter has many, many days left to serve out his term here on Earth.  Oh, and he will be teaching Sunday School this coming Sunday in his home church in Georgia.  

 Signs lining the roadway to welcome President Carter's return home today.

Find Jimmy Carter’s latest book, 
A Full Life - Reflections at Ninety, HERE.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Burning Roses

Burning Roses

They are burning flowers in Russia.  In what is suspected as a retaliatory act against the Dutch for their investigation into the downing of a Malaysian airliner over rebel-held east Ukraine in July last year, Russia has ordered all flowers shipped from the Netherlands to be burned.  Television cameras captured workers burning boxes and boxes of freshly cut roses.    To me, this seems all too appropriate a metaphor for the world today.  Of course I always tend to veer into melancholy during an election season, something that seems a greater problem these days when election season lasts much longer than a mere season, stretching now from spring into winter, winter to fall.

Here in the states at present, politics has become comedy led by a megalomaniacal buffoon who draws the sort of television ratings comedians can only dream of achieving in a lifetime.  It is embarrassing in the extreme.  He is unencumbered by reality, a fact his emphatically stated opinions nakedly reveal, and qualities such as empathy and compassion are merely euphemisms for losers within his gilded world.  Such a blowhard is best ignored, just as our mothers instructed us to do with any schoolyard bully, but when he leads in the republican polls, as he sadly does at present, it is difficult to look away.  As I said, it’s embarrassing.

You can easily look up his pronouncements for yourself, but I’m taking issue with one in particular because it’s bothered me on many levels beyond it’s obvious stupidity.  This past weekend while, inexplicably, commenting on the former model, Heidi Klum, this “candidate” declared her to be, “Sadly, no longer a 10.”.  Now, let us leave aside the vacant validity of this declaration - Ms. Klum is a gorgeous human being, as anyone can easily see.  And I suppose for a man whose sideline is the ludicrous Miss Universe pageant, one should not expect a higher level of discourse.  But when, oh when, will we manage to stop allowing women - fascinating, intelligent women - to be evaluated by their appearance alone?  Will it ever stop?  And if you think this weekend’s comments were an anomaly, think for a moment on how much we’ve already heard regarding Hillary Clinton’s hairstyles and pantsuits.  

If this were just one comment from one knuckle-dragging glacier dweller, then fine.  But it isn’t.  Face it, this attitude has managed to weave an insidious thread throughout our culture so expertly that we women are often guilty of the sins of comparison and judgment ourselves.  Is there one of us who hasn’t felt just a wee bit “less than” when flipping through the pages of Vogue?  Or been tickled by the tentacles of schadenfreude when a famous beauty puts on a few pounds? Rather like burning roses, I think.

Just yesterday, I came across a new project by photographer Peter Freed.  Entitled, Prime, it is a book of essays and portraits of women.  A bouquet of glorious women, from ages 35 to 104.  Completely funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign, the book is now being printed and should be out soon.  Will it change society?  Probably not.  But it’s a start.  And I would send a copy to the aforementioned “candidate” if I only thought he could read.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Talking Design...

This little corner of my home, shown above, is a hint.
 I’m talking design today on the fabulous blog, Daily Plate of Crazy.
Come on over.
and don’t forget to follow Edward and Me on Instagram.
We are having fun there!

Friday, August 7, 2015



It was a very early morning in the forests of Bavaria and The Songwriter and I were in a bus packed full of locals on our way to the village of Hohenschwangau.  (Okay Americans, try to say that word three times before you’ve had your coffee.)  The bus was packed full - The Songwriter stood in the aisle by the door, I was seated next to a young woman at the rear - and the riders were obviously locals for they greeted each other by names and nods with nary a word of English spoken.

About twenty minutes into our trip the bus shuddered to a stop in a curve and a young man clambered on. As there were no more seats to be had, he stood beside The Songwriter and grinned a greeting at his fellow passengers.  A trickle of amusement began to run through the crowd as, one by one, people began to notice this hapless new rider had omitted a certain vital sartorial requirement.  His trousers were unzipped.  Titters and giggles turned to roars and peals.  The lady next to me poked me in the ribs and whispered something indecipherable to my ears, but I laughed heartily anyway.  Glancing up, I saw The Songwriter being clapped on the back by an elderly gentleman who was red in the face with laughter.  The young man, his own face scarlet as he found  himself the cynosure of so many eyes, joined in the merriment with everyone else.  I met The Songwriter’s gaze and we grinned.  Once again, we were grateful not to have taken a tour bus.  It was a delight to be mistaken for a local in a place so far from home.

For this, our very first foray into Europe, The Songwriter and I, youngsters both, had made no plans.  We booked a hotel in London for a week and we had a Eurorail pass for the month after that, but basically we were footloose and, for the most part, fancy free.  There were a few wrinkles in the smoothness of our journey, such as arriving in Paris just at the start of Fashion Week when hotel rooms were as scarce as our high-school French.  Or the morning in Amsterdam when I attempted to explain to our cab driver that, no, I wasn’t having a psychotic break,  I’d just been stung by a wasp.  Our days were spent mingling with the locals.  We at neighbourhood cafes, ordering what the regulars ordered because we couldn’t read the menus.  We employed mispronounced words and elaborate hand gestures when we “asked” for directions and were met with happy grins and buckets of help.  One old lady even watched us leave and clapped her hands loudly when we started to make a wrong turn.  Thanks to her, we made it to the Van Gogh museum safely. 

This is how we’ve traveled through the years, immersing ourselves in the local culture as much as we can.  (Our only experience with a “tour” was excruciating, you can read about it HERE.)   We tend to eschew hotel dinners for out of the way places.  We stay off tour buses, rent cars and strike out on our own.  When The Songwriter broke his ankle on the Isle of Mull we saw an entirely different face of Scotland than the one featured on the travel posters and were so grateful we did.  The kind attention gifted to us by the Scots will never be forgotten.  (You can read about that adventure, HERE.)

I have never considered our method of travel to be anything remotely like a political act, but after listening to travel writer Rick Steves this past weekend, I realized that it has been just that.  By staying off the tour buses and cruises, by mingling with the locals wherever we are, by remaining open to, and interested in, the people we meet along the way, the scope of my world has enlarged, my curiosity has deepened along with my understanding, and my fear has diminished.  By being a traveler instead of a tourist I’ve learned that people rarely resemble anything shown on the news.  They are generally kind, usually thoughtful, always interesting.  They love their children.  They are proud of their culture.  They long for peace and beauty.

Travel has not only changed the way I view other countries, it has changed the way I view my own.  It has underlined my natural reluctance to believe everything I’m told, made me search out answers for myself, and erased any intellectual laziness I might have.  It has influenced the way that I vote.   I’ve learned that as much as I love and appreciate America, it is imperative to remember that we here in the States do not have a monopoly on patriotism.  As Steves puts it, “ I think Americans need to realize that the world’s not a pyramid with us on top and everybody else trying figure out how to get there.  Until well into my adulthood that’s how I saw the world.  And then I traveled and I found smart people who had nowhere near the opportunity, or freedom, or affluence that I had who wouldn’t trade passports.  It blew me away.  I couldn’t understand it.  And then I realized they don’t have the American dream.  They’ve got the Sri Lankan dream, or the Bulgarian dream, or the Latvian dream, or the Norweigan dream.  That’s not anti-American, that’s celebrating the diversity  on this planet.  It’s just a beautiful thing when you travel to realize you don’t have to fear that diversity”.

As I prepare for another journey soon, I think I’ll read this book.

You can hear the interview with Rick Steves that I listened to HERE

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Perils of the Medieval Age

Perils of the Medieval Age

When I was little I loved my pediatrician.  Dr. Sandy Matthews was a white haired fellow with penchant for speaking his mind.  The bonus of this character trait was that he would occasionally rate my opinions higher than those of my Mother.  This was a rare event, and from my vantage point on the examining table it was an event I thoroughly enjoyed observing.  “She is too young to shave her legs”, my Mother would state with conviction.  “Oh, don’t be silly.  No she’s not.”, came the astonishing professional reply.  Needless to say, I loved Dr. Matthews and rather hated eventually growing too old to visit him. 

My dentist, on the other hand, was not my favourite.  His office was in a rambling old house on Peachtree Street with cavernous rooms, dark wooden floors and ceilings as high as church and he possessed the rather unfortunate name of Dr. Funkhouser.  This moniker sounded entirely too much like a mad scientist to me particularly when combined with his small squinty stature, his crisp white coat and his tray of lethal-looking dental instruments.  Who can possibly look upon those needle-sharp tools and not be unnerved?

I would approach each appointment with Dr. Funkhouser with as much trepidation as a child can muster, certain that this visit would be the visit he would find the dreaded cavity and therefore have the opportunity to use those brier-sharp weapons on me.  I would sit in that strangely tilted chair with my little head held back, mouth open, eyes shut tight, with that bright interrogation light shining hot in my face and I would wait for the inevitable.  But no luck for Dr. Funkhouser; he never found a cavity in my mouth.  After the perilous experience was over he would instruct me to go to a large drawer in his desk and take a treat.  Inside that drawer were lollypops and suckers, jawbreakers and gum - a smorgasbord of sugar that told me just how badly he hoped to find a cavity next time out.  So I would avoid the candy entirely and choose a tiny puzzle instead.  Then I would throw him a knowing look of triumph and leave as fast as I could.  Terrified of that tray of dental instruments, so shiny and so sharp, I brushed and flossed religiously all through my cavity-free childhood.

Dentists will no doubt refute this assessment of their profession, but for someone as phobic about dentistry as myself, the whole thing does not seem to have progressed too far past the medieval age.   As far as I’m concerned there might as well still be pigs on straw in the waiting rooms.  Those instruments of torture are still on display, as polished and keenly honed as ever.  And I am still, frankly, terrified.  So when a diabolically dense peppercorn found the one weak spot in one of my upper back molars and cracked it decisively in two, I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty.  What I did not expect was to hear that the tooth was beyond hope, would, in fact, need to be pulled and I would have to have an implant installed.  I received this disturbing news after I had been given novocaine which, as you may know, involves injections in my mouth.  Needles.  In My Mouth. See what I mean?  Medieval. 
The removal of my tooth was a horrid experience, one I was not sufficiently prepared for, and one I shall not soon forget.  No, I did not feel pain as I was numb up past my eyeballs.  Instead I felt as though my head were collapsing in on itself, turning me inside out like a sock.  I left my dentist’s office that day determined never to darken his door again.  I would not get an implant.  No.  I would simply be minus one tooth.  That wasn’t so awfully bad, was it?  Who knows, I thought, maybe I can learn to squirt water out the side of my mouth like a clown and thus have a hilarious, albeit unexpected, party trick with which to entertain my friends and relations.  

Of course cooler heads (namely The Songwriter’s) prevailed and last week saw the black letter day roll round.  (The procedure was to involve, I was informed, even though I tried not to be, the placement of a steel post into my bone.  Immediately, a mental picture of medieval torture flashed into my head and I asked not to be told anything further.)    It was also the day when it was confirmed that one anxiety pill makes me relaxed but two knocks me clear into next week.  The dentist recommended this dosage and he probably knew what he was doing because the two hour ordeal seemed like fifteen minutes to me. Upon returning home, I fell into bed and slept till morning at which time I was told by The Songwriter that Edward had pushed him right out of bed during the night in his utter insistence on keeping watch over me.  The big white dog slept all night with his head on my tummy.  Edward, who once broke his own back molar and had to have it removed, knows about dentistry.

I do regret the loss of my newly acquired party trick.
I suppose it’s back to interpretive dance. 


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Werewolves and Candy Bars

Werewolves and Candy Bars

My parents told me not to be afraid of thunder.  They told me it was merely the sound of the angels moving their furniture around.  So I lay in bed on stormy nights imagining the houses of the holy being redecorated.  Angels with their halos slightly askew as they shoved painted wardrobes into corners and four-posters nearer to diamond-paned windows to take better advantage of the heavenly views.  The thunder would roll and I would see a large red ottoman being dragged across a golden floor.  My head still fills with damask and toile in every storm that blows.

They told me Santa would not stop at my house if I stayed awake.  So I lay in bed with my eyes scrunched up tight in concentrated effort, certain I would never fall asleep.  But of course, I did and, of course, he stopped.  I still feel the need to go to bed early on Christmas Eve.

The tooth fairy flew into my window every night I lost a tooth, slipping her dainty green arm beneath my pillow as I slept to leave me a shiny new quarter.   The Easter bunny, white as snow with out-sized ears, hopped unseen down my street every night before Easter.  I know because he left a basket on our dining room table for me and me alone.  

Magic was a part of my life and I never questioned its reality.  No one ever told me my life was populated with creatures who, in fact, did not exist;  I was supposed to figure that out for myself and indeed, that is what happened to most of my friends.  But I was, I suppose, an anomaly, for those doors in my soul through which I wandered and discovered the unseen to be as true as the seen, never closed.  They remain open even now, years later.  I know it is possible, if you know what to look for, to actually marry a prince.  Animals can speak volumes if you remember how to listen and you are never alone in an empty room.  I know there are extravagant worlds just beyond the realm of my own understanding and after years of practice I know how to spin straw into gold.

On the eve of my first ever journey to the Scottish Hebrides, my father took me aside and with a slight mischievous grin told me to keep an eye out for werewolves and to always have a candy bar in my pocket.  We laughed and hugged but as I walked away I noticed something half-serious in the glint of his eye.   
Things things are inherited, you know. 

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you 
because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. 
Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.” 
Roald Dahl

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A List For Summer

A List for Summer

Where I live, the months of Spring are enchanted.  After the bleak greys of February, March bursts on the scene with more green than the liveliest imagination could conjure.  And it seems to happen so suddenly - one night we close the door on a black and white world and awaken the next morning to all the magic of Spring, much like Dorothy opening the door of her fallen farmhouse to Oz.  

In these iridescent months I am to be found in the garden, or the nursery, or driving between the two.  I’m planting window boxes, moving old plants around, gently welcoming new ones.  I hurry outside in the morning to water.  I wander around in the evening and admire.  I consider myself a gardener.  But then comes the middle of June.

Where I live, the months of Summer are trying.  Heat seems to fall down from the skies and rise up from the earth in equal measure.  The air is irriguous; you feel as if you could gather a chunk of it up in your hands, form it into a ball and throw it against a pine tree where it would burst open in rainbows of water.   When the white sun finally sinks into the ground it leaves behind a night so heat-exhausted it barely moves.  We fall asleep to the macabre music of the cicadas, thankful for air-conditioning and iced tea.

In these sweltering months, I pray for rain to water my garden, or sweetly ask The Songwriter to do so.  (Don’t you love that photograph of Eudora Welty attempting to water her Jackson, Mississippi garden in summer?  Believe me, there’s no place hotter than Mississippi.) I sit by the window and nibble strawberries.  I read fat books and watch old movies set in cold climates.  I plan autumnal journeys.  Occasionally, I peek out at my garden to make sure it isn’t bleaching in the heat.  A gardener?  Ummm, hardly.

We are smack in the middle of summer at present, and the weather is behaving accordingly.  Edward’s walks are late in the day, and shorter.  Some mornings he flatly refuses to go outside and no amount of coaxing will persuade him.  But the days are not void of their pleasures.  There’s cold watermelon, for instance.  And espadrilles.  Straw hats with wide brims.  Flowers, so many flowers.  Honeydew melons and peaches. Fresh corn.  Good music.  A whole batch of new programs on Masterpiece Theatre.  Late afternoon naps on cool linen sheets.  Life is good here in summer.

Here’s a summer list of good things!
I hope you enjoy it.

1. Wolf Hall Soundtrack
I have this CD on constant play this summer.
So atmospheric, it sounds like cool stone castle walls.
Find it HERE

2. Seasalt Jute Bags
I have several of these kinds of bags.
For flowers and groceries, yarn and books.
These are especially charming, don’t you think?
Find them HERE

3. George and Charlotte
I cannot help it.
I adore these two.

4. Mario Badescu Facial Spray
The best thing for my skin in the summer.
Rosewater, Herbs and Aloe. 
So refreshing.
Find it HERE

5. Arcadia Britannica
Well, this made me grin.
It also made me want to don a green gown, place an extravagant crown on my head 
and go dance around in the forest, but that’s another story.
Find it HERE

6. Summer Pajamas
White cotton pajamas are simply a must for summer.
These are the ones I bought this year.
Love, love them.
Find them HERE

  7. Morris Wallpaper
William Morris is a favourite of mine and I am so in love with this new wallpaper.
I keep wandering through my house trying to find a place for it.
Find it HERE

8. Little Pitchers
Being lucky enough to have neighbours who keep miniature goats, 
I fell hard for these whimsical little pitchers.
Milk for tea or cream for strawberries.
Maple syrup for pancakes on Saturday morning.
Raspberry coulis for homemade ice cream.
These are perfect.
Find them HERE

9. Instagram
I am having so much fun on Instagram.  
So many inspiring people to follow.
Check out Ros Byam Shaw.
And do come visit Edward and me!  You’ll find oodles of photos of our travels, our garden, our cottage and the ever illustrious, ever mysterious, Apple.  She detests having her photograph taken, but I catch her out occasionally.  Like this photo above, when she was entirely focused on chipmunk watch.
Don't you love her extravagant ears?   
Find us all on Instagram HERE

10. Holidays
If you haven’t already booked your summer holiday, 
may I suggest this one?
Yes, that's the sea outside your door.
Find it HERE

And finally, 
This has been a momentous month here in the States.
Issues have been decided and for as many of us happy about things, there are those who are decidedly not.  As I write this, South Carolina is debating whether or not to remove the Confederate flag from its State House, the arguments rising and falling with the emotions.
I read these words recently and think them most apropos for our country this summer.
They were written on the wall in Mother Teresa’s Home for Children in Calcutta.
It pays, I think, to hold them close. 

"People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.  In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway."


Sunday, July 5, 2015


“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”

Erma Bombeck

And from my Father’s favourite tv show….


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

No matter what movie she saw, my Mother generally expressed the same frustrating, yet humorous, review.  If the guy got the girl, she liked it.  If he did not, then she did not.  This cinematic peccadillo of hers was rigid and it applied to any and every movie she saw, including those in which it was difficult to conceive of any characters paired up in a satisfactory way. ( I’m thinking of E.T. and Driving Miss Daisy here.)  I blamed this rather skewed way of viewing film on Gone With the Wind.  That moment when Rhett finally walks out on Scarlett has greatly affected Southern women for ages.  The film ends with Scarlett determined to “get him back” and no Southern woman ever doubted that she would.

To be honest, I’ve never revered the fabled Gone With the Wind as much as other born and bred Southerners.  The movie never made me nostalgic.  I could never manage to work up a wistfulness for what the opening credits declared to be “this pretty world” where “gallantry took its last bow”.  Instead of seeing Scarlett as resourceful and tenacious, I always found her manipulative and mean.  Melanie’s legendary “goodness” was too saccharine for my taste and, to the bewilderment of some of my girlfriends, I never could fathom the knee-buckling attractiveness of Rhett Butler. But more importantly, no matter how many red petticoats Cap’n Butler gave Mammy, I always saw her for what she was.  A slave.  

On the sunniest day the shadow of slavery still colours the South.   We have come so very far out into the light but that shadow still lurks.  It can still lie between the lines of a politician’s speech.  It can still crouch behind the eyes of a darkly closed mind.     This polluted shadow of our region’s past shows up all the darker when it is thrust into the light of the world as it was last week in Charleston, South Carolina.  In the horrific glare that bore down on that murderous scene we can easily see racism for what it is:  pure evil. And as the inevitable selfie images of the murderer surfaced, the eyes of the world saw the symmetry of symbols:  the same flag he celebrated was flying over the capitols of many Southern states, including South Carolina itself.

There are some white southerners who will tell you that the confederate flag is a symbol of loyalty and honour that speaks to the attributes of our heritage.  Some will tell you that our nation’s only civil war was fought solely to preserve state’s rights.  I have always found  both assertions to be delusional at best, disingenuous at worst.   While a lot of us have forefathers who indeed fought, and died, in that hideous war, I have never found it disloyal to say that they fought on the wrong side and that, thankfully, they lost.  I have also never found it difficult to imagine what my black brothers and sisters must feel when they see that flag flying today.

It is just as impossible to defend the South’s moral history as it is a mistake to let that history define it.  The South is full of graciousness and kindness.  It teems with a beauty and a mystery impossible to duplicate anywhere else on the planet.  But the Confederacy was not the lovely “Old South” of Gone With the Wind.  It was a ugly place of well-documented cruelty and horror.  We should not venerate its symbols.  Take that flag down.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Stopping To Think

Stopping To Think

Every frame of the recently aired television production of Hilary Mantel’s, Wolf Hall, was magnificent; I cannot recommend it highly enough.  But one scene in particular has stayed with me.  It occurs when Cromwell is wandering the netherworld of fever dreams.  His beautiful dead wife is suddenly sitting beside him on the bed in a shaft of morning light, her hands moving, fast and fluid, as she weaves.  “Stop”, Cromwell says.  “Show me how you do it.”  Never looking up, his wife replies, “If I stop to think how I’m doing it, I won’t be able to do it.”

So much meaning in that one statement, at least for me.  In turning it over in my head  I’ve begun to see the many feats I perform on autopilot.  Cooking.  Knitting.  Occasionally, driving… God help me.  So for the past few days I have decelerated and considered every single moment in an attempt to give each the attention a good life deserves.  

I’ve slowed my knitting to better enjoy how the pattern forms beneath my fingers and I’ve turned off the radio and television to knit in the quiet.   Before I even taste the sweetness of the strawberry, I’ve stopped to admire the brilliance of its redness.  I’ve put down the newspaper to watch a robin in the birdbath as she splashes about in exhilarating dance, noticing how she dips her head beneath the water before every splash.  I’ve watched as she cleans her orange beak on the side of the bath when she’s done.  One side, then the other.  Rapid fire.  I’ve delighted in the crisp coolness of  freshly laundered linen as I slip between the sheets at bedtime.  I’ve sniffed the fragrance of the pages when I’ve opened the book I’m reading, felt the texture of each as I’ve lifted and turned it onward.  I’ve marveled at the mink-softness of Edward’s fur as I’ve run my hand over the top of his head.  I’ve listened to the wind.  I’ve walked outside in the rain.  I’ve opened the casement window at midnight to sit and stare at the moon.  I’ve relished the smell of rising yeast bread; marveled at the green of the ferns as I water them in the evening. 
Not only have I stopped to think about what I’m doing, 
I feel I’m doing it all just a wee bit better.

**That scene in Wolf Hall was played out for real when a neighbour called and asked me to teach her two girls how to knit.  Our first lesson was last week, and both parents decided to learn as well.  The youngest was a promising student even if she did turn somersaults around the room after each row.  The father, oddly enough, was a natural.**