Sunday, February 14, 2016

My Romance


My romance doesn’t have to have a moon in the sky
My romance doesn’t need a blue lagoon standing by
No month of May, no twinkling stars
No hideaway, no soft guitars

My romance doesn’t need a castle rising in Spain
Nor a dance to a constantly surprising refrain
Wide awake I can make my most fantastic dreams come true

My romance doesn’t need a thing but you.

Music Richard Rodgers
Lyrics Lorenz Hart
Listen HERE

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Staying In For Valentine's Day... A List of Romantic Movies


Staying In For Valentine’s Day
Everywhere I look this week I see chocolate, flowers and hearts.  
Just look at this photograph of a house I frequently drive past....


Restaurants are offering special menus.  Florists are in hyperdrive.  Married couples can even renew their wedding vows in the Botanical Garden’s rose garden, which I admit is a bit confusing as it’s rare to see a blooming rose in February, but I appreciate the sentiment behind the ceremony.  
Here at the House of Edward, The Songwriter and I prefer to stay in, finding it difficult to imagine a cozier, more romantic, spot than our own fireside.  If you are a bit like us, I’d like to offer up a list of our favorite romantic movies to enhance your evening.   There's a quote from each movie, just to tempt you with how wonderful they all are. 
And please do share some of your own!
Kisses and Hearts to All!
xoxo

Holiday

“You’ve got no faith in Johnny, have you, Julia?  His little dream my fall flat, you think.  Well, so it  may, what if it should?  There’ll be another.  Oh, I’ve got all the faith in the world in Johnny.  Whatever he does is all right with me.  If he wants to dream for a while, he can dream for a while, and if he wants to come back and sell peanuts, oh, how I’ll believe in those peanuts!”

Find it HERE

The Philadelphia Story

“What are her leading characteristics?’

‘She has a horror of men who wear their hats in the house.”

Find it HERE

My Favorite Wife

“The moment I saw you downstairs, I knew.”

“Oh, go on.  I bet you say that to all your wives.”

Find it HERE

The Awful Truth

“The custody of the dog will depend upon his own desire.”

Find it HERE

Out of Africa

“He even took the gramophone on safari.  Three rifles, supplies for a month, and Mozart.”

Find it HERE

Sense and Sensibility

“The air is full of spices.”

Find it HERE

Wuthering Heights

“Heathcliff, make the world stop right here.  Make everything stop and stand still and never move again.  Make the moors never change and you and I never change.”

Find it HERE

Pride and Prejudice

“No, indeed, my mind was more agreeably engaged. I've been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.”

Find it HERE

 Persuasion

“ I won’t allow it to be any more man’s nature than women’s to be inconstant or to forget those they love or have loved.  I believe the reverse.  I believe…. Let me just observe that all histories are against you, all stories, prose, and verse.  I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which did not have something to say on women’s fickleness.”

“But they were all written by men.”

Find it HERE

Notorious

“Don’t you need a coat?”

“You’ll do.”

Find it HERE

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

“You’ll… you’ll forgive me if I … if I take a moment to get accustomed to you.”

Find it HERE

I Know Where I’m Going

“People around here are very poor, I suppose.”

“Not poor, they just haven’t got any money.”

“It’s the same thing.”

“Oh no, it’s something quite different.”

Find it HERE

Truly, Madly, Deeply

“You’re probably a figment of my imagination.”

Find it HERE

Camelot

“It’s the most ferocious, savage, terrifying forest I’ve ever seen.  I simply adore it.”

Find it HERE

Painting above by Susan Ryder

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Appropriateness


Appropriateness

 It is award season here in the states.  What that means is that this month we have so many award ceremonies shown on television and splashed about the morning papers that any gravitas those prizes may have enjoyed in years past has long since evaporated.  Between the first of the year and the end of this month we’ll have had the Golden Globes, the Critic’s Choice awards, the People’s Choice awards,  the SAG awards (which, as a woman, I’ve always found to be a dubious honor at best), the Producer’s Guild awards, the Director’s Guild awards ….well,  you get the idea. The Oscars used to be the only game in town for most of us lay people but these days, by the time that illustrious pageant takes place, not only do we already know who’s going to win the golden statue, we no longer really care.  Like too many of the actors themselves, all the mystery has been syphoned away by hype and over-exposure.   It’s no wonder, I suppose, that these spectacles have primarily devolved into fashion shows where every outfit elicits endless scrutiny, criticism, and comment. 

And so …. people have been abuzz this week over the appearance of the actress, Susan Sarandon, at the aforementioned SAG awards this past weekend.  Ms. Sarandon strode onstage in a beautiful white pantsuit but rather inexplicably she left her shirt at home, choosing instead to let her black bra do all the heavy lifting, so to speak, by itself.   This sartorial choice was made even more note-worthy by the fact that her onstage duty was to deliver the memoriam tribute to the actors who had died in the previous year. For myself, the resulting effect was a bit cringe-worthy.  

In the ensuing chatter over Ms. Sarandon’s outfit, a lot of opinion has centered around her age.  From “She’s way too old to parade herself around like that!” to “Hey, if you’ve still got it, flaunt it.”  For myself, that’s not even remotely the issue.  She’s undoubtedly a gorgeous, well-endowed woman who could easily turn heads in a potato sack.  For me, what was lacking in her ensemble, beside the shirt of course, was a sense of appropriateness.  I have to admit that I miss the days when women dressed with an eye to the occasion, and yes, I know I sound like an old crank saying this.  But it’s true.  It’s also why I don’t wear jeans to funerals or white to a wedding.  Like any art form, fashion is a form of communication and sometimes what we need to communicate is respect and even, dare I say,  a wee bit of dignity.  Forgive me, but this is difficult to do shirtless. 

Last September, The Songwriter and I were having breakfast in a tiny cafe on Kings Road in London.  Seated next to us was a young woman and her very elegantly dressed grandmother.  I was close enough to overhear their conversation and am afraid I frequently found it too delicious to ignore.   At one point the elderly lady was heard to say, “I’m sorry, my dear, but I just don’t understand most women today.  They all seem to dress as though they are in a French play.”
I suppose that’ll be me in a few years. 
Sigh.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Reading in February - A Dozen Snuggle-Worthy Books


Reading in February
 A Dozen Snuggle-Worthy Books
For someone who loves the pleasures of winter as much as I, the arrival of February kindles a feeling of melancholy in my soul.  It always seems to get here faster than any other month, almost as if the paucity of its days makes it anxious to get started.  Twenty-eight short days left for snuggling down beside the fire after long cheek-numbing walks under low grey skies.  While it’s certainly true some of our most memorable snowstorms have occurred in March, when that month rolls into view it seems I’m nearly always thinking of spring, with pictures of new plants for the garden swirling like dandelion floss in my head.  So I resolve every year to make the utmost of February’s few days of cold weather comfort and, as good books are some of the certain pleasures of winter, here are a dozen vying for my attention in this last full wintertime month.  Hopefully, you’ll find some that interest you as well.  
Stay warm and read, everybody!
***

1. My Name is Lucy Barton
by Elizabeth Strout
I was one of those people who loved Ms. Strout’s last novel, Olive Kitteridge, so I’m looking forward to diving into this new one.  It’s earning excellent reviews and Strout has such a preceptive ear for the inner workings of human beings.  Her characters are not always likable, but they are always real.
Find it HERE


2. Alice in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
This story always scared me a bit when I was small.  That sneezing pig/baby was the worst.  But Alice stretched my imagination wide, letting in all sorts of colour and light, and I loved it.  This is the 150th anniversary of the publication of this fabulous classic and this is a beautiful edition. 
Find it HERE

3. Threads, The Delicate Life of John Craske
by Julia Blackburn
The story of a Norfolk fisherman who first went to sea at the age of eleven and who became an astonishing embroidery artist.  That is an unusual enough description, I realize, and believe me, the book is so, so much more.  I discovered it in the window of John Sandoe Books in London this past September and it has become one of the treasures of my library.  It’s wonderful.
Find it HERE

4. H is for Hawk
by Helen MacDonald
I have really high hopes for this one.  I’ve heard so many raves about it.  The story of a woman who attempts to train one of the world’s most vicious predators, the goshawk, as a way to cope with the grief over her father’s sudden death.  The writer took her inspiration for this endeavor from the path followed by T.H. White in his memoir, The Goshawk, so yes, I want to read that one as well.
Find H is for Hawk, HERE
Find The Goshawk, HERE

5. The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd
by James Rebanks
One of my favorite reads last fall was A Shepherd’s Life, by Cumbrian farmer, James Rebanks.  I simply loved it and wanted more the minute I read the last sentence.  Fortunately, Mr. Rebanks has complied with this marvelous book that includes wonderful photography of the land he loves.  It’s a joy to read.
Find The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd HERE
Find A Shepherd’s Life HERE

6. When Breath Becomes Air
by Paul Kalanithi
The writings of a young doctor facing his own death.  This is, admittedly, not the expected recommendation for a book to snuggle up with on a cold night.  But I’ve heard so many good, good things.  Having read a couple of essays by Dr. Kalanithi in the past, I know he is an elegant, thoughtful writer.  To read his account of this inescapable journey seems important to me.
Find it HERE

7.  Lolly Willowes
by Sylvia Townsend Warner
Cannot believe I’ve never read this.
I’m rectifying that this month.
Find it HERE

8.  Pack My Bag, A Self-Portrait
by Henry Green
The witty autobiography of a witty novelist.
Fun.
Find it HERE

9.  Alive, Alive Oh!: And Other Things That Matter
by Diana Athill
I, for one, need to hear what a brilliant ninety-eight year old woman thinks about the things that matter.
Find it HERE

10.  Knitlandia, A Knitter Sees the World
by Clara Parkes
I can empirically tell you that knitters knit all year long.  I have been observed knitting wool scarves at the beach in August, so I know.  But really, winter was made for knitting.  It’s hard to beat sitting by the fire with a big white dog asleep beside you (or with his head in your lap) while you knit yourself a sweater more beautiful than anything you could possibly find at Saks.  This month is also the perfect time to read about knitting when your hands get tired.  Perfect month to release this book. Perfect month to read it.
Find it HERE

11.  The Corfu Trilogy
by Gerald Durrell
I re-read My Family and Other Animals at least once a year.  It’s a joy to me.  Now there’s a new edition that includes all the Durrell books set on Corfu in one volume.  
Divine to be reading of sunny Corfu just now.
Find it HERE

12. Bright Wings
An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds
Edited by Billy Collins
They are the jewels in our garden this month.  The ruby red of the cardinal.The sapphire blue of the jay.  They gather at our feeders and roost in our trees.  We feel so fortunate to share our lives with these feathered creatures.  This beautiful book celebrates them and they so deserve that celebration.
Find it HERE 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Finding the Balance


Finding the Balance

Having lost all affection for the corporate world, she had left it without a backward glance and was now immersed in a career full of sunshine, animals, art, and a more basic, more personal, commerce.  She was fulfilled and happy.  Over dinner with this new-found acquaintance, I peppered her with questions and soon discovered that a life spent caring for lots of animals bears less resemblance to a Beatrix Potter story than to a constant all-weather slog through the sort of manual labor I’ve never known, nor wished to know.  No sleeping in.  No travel allowed.  After all, who can one call to “pet sit” fifty sheep and thirty goats while one goes to the beach?  Not happening.  In spite of these all too obvious, at least to me, drawbacks, the lady had no hesitation in declaring a total love of her lifestyle and her countenance underscored her words.

She told me she had long ago cancelled her newspapers.  She never watched, read, nor listened to the news and would stop anyone cold who attempted to relate to her the horrors of the day.  She wasn’t familiar with the presidential candidates; she had no knowledge of the 372 mass shootings in the US in 2015; she hadn’t seen the recent photograph of the starving polar bear making his way across the rapidly disappearing arctic ice.  As the conversation flowed away to other subjects this revelation bookmarked itself in my brain and I turned it over and over all the way home, this woman’s choice to be selectively ignorant becoming more beguiling with each mile.  After all, why do I need to know the latest glob of odious lava that spews from the mouth of Donald Trump?  What can I do, really DO, to change the bleak reality of the thousands of homeless, hopeless refugees bobbing like corks in treacherous seas?  There is no doubt I carry the stresses of this type of heavy knowledge;  no doubt it sits on my soul like a brick.  Why couldn’t I, like my friend, simply… blissfully…choose to ignore it?  

Over the next couple of days I mulled and I pondered.  For the life of me I couldn’t figure out how my awareness of the world’s pains, pains I could neither alter nor change by the mere fact of my knowledge, could benefit anyone, least of all me.   In fact, I thought, who knew what might happen if my dedicated nescience resulted in a whole new bank of newly freed brain cells, freshly washed and ready to march to the forefront of my creativity.  Finally I broached the subject with The Songwriter, ready to dissect these possible benefits and weigh them against my current reality.  He looked at me and said, “But awareness is how you develop empathy.  Isn’t it?”

And I suppose that’s the crux of the matter.  Regardless of what the newscasters and politicians would have us believe, the events of the day should not merely generate fear and xenophobia.  They should create awareness that can eventually bring about change.  Great art can certainly engender empathy and so, of course, can travel.   But is that enough?   Can we really afford to be selective about what we choose to know of the culture around us, however disturbing it may be?  There should be a balance, I think, between the sort of immersion in the woes of the day that leads to depression and the conscious, continual, avoidance of bad news that leads to selfishness.  I’m sure the lady I spoke with knew her own boundaries and had chosen accordingly.  But if we are unaware of the refugee, how can we identify with him?  And if we are unable to identify with him, unable to put ourselves into his shoes, why should we care what happens to him?  If we are not personally effected by the changing climate, why should we bother voting for those who wish to tackle it?   If we’ve never been a victim of gun violence, why should we see it as a problem?  If our soul does not regularly bruise with empathy, will it not harden?

I have a friend who chastises me for giving money to beggars on the street.  He’s convinced it’s usually a scam, and maybe that’s true.  But what I’ve tried to explain is that I don’t just do it for the man with his hand out.  I also do it for me.  My sense of empathy allows me to see myself in that man, as painful as that often is.  My impulse is to help, and I fear that to squash that impulse would be tempting damage to my soul.  
 I cannot risk that.

Don't be tempted by the shiny apple
Don't you eat of a bitter fruit
Hunger only for a taste of justice
Hunger only for a world of truth
'Cause all that you have is your soul
Tracy Chapman

***
I confess I often skip the front page of the Times and head straight to the Arts section in an attempt to escape the idiocy that seems rampant in the world today, so I’m still working this all out.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Burns Night


My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands wherever I go.
Robert Burns

Happy Burns Night to All Scots Everywhere!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

In Winter


In Winter

Our summer walks are flower strewn, fragrant with nicotiana and rose.  The varied repertoire of the mockingbird floats on the breeze all around us and we walk slowly, woman and dog, pacing our steps to the heat of the day.  It is too easy to be dazzled by the sheer lavishness of this season, too easy to be distracted by the colour and the warmth, too easy to miss the magic. 

  But here in heart of grey winter, the familiar pathway crackles with skeletal leaves. Woodsmoke drifts from the chimneys like charcoal drawings that move and change with each gust of wind.  My hands are gloved, a knitted cowl nearly covers my face and Edward’s has fluffed out his fur like a late season dandelion, impervious to the cold.  Our steps as brisk as the air, we gaze upwards as a flock of geese stitches its way through a violet cloud.  We stop where we are,  listening to the holy sound, the flapping of their wings sweeter than harp song, a gift to those who stand still under the stained glass sky of winter. 

And we know we are not alone.  There are tracks next to ours where others have walked.  Paw pad and claw print unknown to my eye, normally hidden underneath green but revealed to us now in the bareness of winter.  Raccoon and Coyote.  Hawk and Owl.  Grey Rabbit.  Red Fox.  Black Crow.  All my fellow parishioners beneath the wild gothic spires of poplar and oak.  I feel their bright eyes follow me home.

Later, when Edward has taken up his place at the foot of my bed and a navy blue darkness envelops the house, the voices of these creatures will carry in the cold night air,  slipping beneath my window, granting me admission to a communion of souls at once mysterious and aeonian, reminding me, once again, that all the world is a cathedral.
I love winter.

Painting above by Carol Collette

Monday, January 18, 2016

Dr. King


“I have decided to stick with love.
Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Martin Luther King, Jr

Happy Holiday

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Simple Things - A Wintertime List


The Simple Things
A Wintertime List
December is a riot of kaleidoscopic color that I wrap around me like a favourite shawl.  The reds, the greens, the golds - I love them all.  I pull out the coat I bought at Jenner’s in Edinburgh, the one with the lavish red fur collar (faux, of course) and don it at every opportunity.  I wear green velvet whenever I can and paint my nails oxblood red. I fill the house with orange and red roses and The Songwriter drapes the cottage with colourful lights.  And then suddenly, abruptly,  January arrives and the vibrant hues of the previous month are squeezed out completely by the simple turning of one thin calendar page.  It’s necessary, I suppose, as too much everyday richness can make one a bit queasy.  

We need the month of January - to rest, to plan, to clear our palates for the new year we’ve been given - and for many years now I’ve come to look to this month with sweet anticipation.  It’s the time I pull back, close the door and turn down the phone.  I curl up by the fire to knit sweaters, write stories, and read books.  I plan trips and sketch out changes to the garden.  Edward dozes, The Songwriter writes, and Apple…. well Apple still sits by the window and watches for squirrels who are, as any experienced squirrel-watcher knows,  much easier to spot in a bare naked tree.  In the sterling light of the afternoons, I bundle up and take the dogs for a long ramble, Edward’s jaunty step and bouncing ears a testament to how much he adores this particular month of the year.   It is outdoors that one can truly appreciate the remarkable beauty of this icy span of days.  The violet skies, the silver light, the handprints of grey trees on the frosted air. 

Yes, there are many pleasures to be found in January 
and most of them are simple ones. 
That extra quilt you throw on the bed when the mercury takes a vertical dive.  
That little nip of Glenmorangie you add to your afternoon tea when you come in from the cold. 
The crackle of the fire. 
The feel of the wool as it flies through your fingers. 
The weight of a big furry dog’s head as he sleeps on your feet.  
Yes,  January is simply a wonderful time so here is a list of simple comforts to make it even better.  
Enjoy.
*******


1. Staying Hale and Hardy
There’s nothing good about a cold and I do whatever I can to keep them as far away from my door as possible.  I wash my hands frequently and often use my sleeve to open doors, not caring one whit if I look funny doing so.  One of my secret weapons against this dreaded obnoxious malady is this particular brand of Vitamin C.  I take it before every flight, during every journey, and whenever I know I’m going to be in crowds. 
Laugh if you will, but I swear that it works.
Find it HERE
*****

2. Skin Care
Those long afternoon winter walks mean I often return home with bright pink cheeks which can mean dry chapped skin if I’m not careful.  So I do take good care to see that doesn’t happen.  I’ve just recently found these new creams by Belif and I love them.  I use the aqua bomb in the daytime, and the cream before bed.  They both feel SO delicious, and my skin has been glowing all winter.
Find the Aqua Bomb HERE
And the Cream HERE
****

3. Bath
Every time I’m lucky enough to be on the Isle of Skye I make certain to visit the Isle of Skye Soap Company.  A tiny, charming shop tucked into a corner of Portree, it is full of the most lusciously scented soaps imaginable.  I brought home a sack full in September and believe me, I’m completely devoted to my nightly soaks in my big claw foot tub with these wonderful soaps.  Lemongrass and Lime is my favorite, but you’re sure to find one you can’t live without out.
Find them HERE

And of course, I’m a bubble bath girl.
And this one is the best.....
Close your eyes and be spirited straight to a beautiful warm beach.
Find it HERE.
*****

4. Television
The Doctor is back!  Though I’m aware season seven was shown in the UK last autumn, we here in the states are just now enjoying the return of the marvelous Martin Clunes as Doc Martin.  I love this show.  And I love Martin Clunes.  I particularly love the way light shines through his slightly protuberant ears turning them as pink as Edward’s tummy.
As they say, check your local listings.
Unfamiliar with Doc Martin?
Find past seasons HERE.
Here's a preview of the new season.

*********
5. Book and Movie
Rarely is a movie as good as the book.
This one is.
Find the book HERE.
and preview the movie.....

********

6.  Books
My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante, has worked its way to the top of my teetering stack and I’m looking forward to diving into the entire series.
Has anyone else read these?
Find it HERE
Also, speaking of a fun series of books, 
you have read THESE, haven’t you?
Love them.
Be sure to start with the first one.
******

7.  Comfort
I got the word on these from the fabulous blog, A Cup Of Jo.   They looked comfy and the price was certainly right, so I ordered them.  Oh my goodness.  Seriously, these are the closest one can get to wearing one’s pajamas all day long.  They can be dressed up with a blazer, tucked into boots, or worn with your favourite big sweater.   I wear them to walk the dogs, to the market, and out to dinner.  And yes, they’re perfect for a nap.    No joke, I’m ordering another pair so I can have something to wear while these are in the washer.
Find them HERE.
*****

8.  Planning for Spring
As I begin to think about the spring additions and changes to my garden, I’m drawn to this new book by shade gardening expert, Ken Druse.  Our cottage sits beneath many tall, old trees, so shade is something omnipresent here.  But I’ve found that gardening in shade can be just as luscious as sun. 
This book also addresses the effects of our changing climate on our gardens, something that is becoming increasing vital to understand and adjust to.  
This book will be well-used this year.
Find it HERE
*******

9.  The World’s Best Eyelash Curler
Stupid expensive, 
but lives up to the hype and then some.
I'll never use another.
Find it HERE
*****

10.  Toast and Jam
Nothing much better on a cold morning than really good bread 
and really good jam.
A good friend introduced me to this fig jam a while back 
and now I’m hopelessly in love with it.  
Good enough to eat by the spoonfuls, 
but I highly recommend slathering it on a perfect slice of homemade bread.
Find it HERE
*****

11.  Wuthering Heights
There’s a special reason I’m revisiting this unique book just now.
I’ll clue you all in, in a month or so. 
 Till then, this annotated edition is the best I’ve seen
 and it’s hard to beat a Bronte when the January winds rattle the windows.
Find it HERE
*****
Painting at top by Susan Ryder

A Special Thank You
to everyone who commented and wrote me letters 
about my last post.  I'm happy to say all is very well here!
You all are the best.
xo