Saturday, August 30, 2008

The joy of human connection

Thursday night I met up with two girlfriends for our monthly "book club." I say that euphemistically: we have attempted (for a year now) to pick a book and read it together and discuss, but we never get any farther than "have you read this?", "what are you reading?", "I read that", "did you hear they are making a movie of such-and-such." And then before you know it we are on to some starlet's latest shenanigans, whether the waitress is ever coming back with more wine (because of course we hold these, ahem, "meetings" in a bar), Obama vs Hillary, Mad Men, and the state of our sex lives.

Despite of the lack of literary discourse, these get-togethers are food for my soul, as they are reminders of how precious is the need for human contact, how quickly time passes and how we need to savor each flesh-and-blood friendship. Work, family, chores, outside obligations -- the busy-ness of day-to-day living sometimes takes up so much of our lives that before you know it a week, a month, a year has passed and you and so-and-so never did get together. I try very hard to stay in touch with friends who are no longer part of my every day, but it astounds me how many friendships have faded away to just an annual Christmas card.

I appreciate all the blog friends I have made here, as all bloggers do (and even non-friends - the outpouring of love, prayers and contributions for blogger Stephanie Nielson by complete strangers warms the heart and reassures me as to the strength of human kindness more than I could have anticipated. I would be shocked if this story did not end up on Oprah). And I'm not sure who started it, but there's a reason the "Pay It Forward" posts are so popular these days. Sure, we all love reading and commenting on each other's blogs, and getting emails, and feeling that little connection with each other, but there is something so satisfying about receiving something (especially a non-bill something) in the real, live, postal mail. Some little treat, some sign that someone is thinking of us.

So, in the spirit of back-to-school, here is your homework. This week I want you to mail a little notecard to a friend you haven't spoken to in a while, just to let them know you're thinking about them. Not an email, a real live piece of mail. Yes, you may have to go to the post office and buy a stamp (I'm partial to the Charles & Ray Eames collection and the Albert Bierstadt painting). Include your phone number and email, in case they've lost it. Maybe it will inspire them to get back in touch. Maybe it will just brighten their day. Maybe it will brighten only your day. But wouldn't it be worth it?

So write your note and then post a comment here of who you sent it to. You don't have to get too specific, I understand the need for privacy. You can be vague, as in "sent a note to former co-worker I haven't talked to in 2 years". Let's see how many little seeds we can plant through the postal system.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Original Frenemies

People, get thee to the cinema.

{The Women, 1939, directed by George Cukor,
based on the play by Claire Booth Luce}

What was so great about this movie:

The Fashion-with-a-capital-F (including a technicolor fashion show of Gowns by Adrian inserted in the middle of the film. Slightly distracting, but still stunning.)
The cattiness
The betrayals
The comebacks
The paybacks
The all-female cast (130 roles, allplayed by women. Even the animals and artwork are female)
The remake has been in the works for 10+ years, with rumors back and forth of Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts in the role of Mary Haines (played by Norma Shearer in the 30s version).

{The Women, 2008, directed by Diane English (as in Murphy Brown)}

I'm guessing the fashion will be just as fah-bulous, and they have cast a great group of actresses. You have time to rent the original before the remake opens on Sept. 12. The popcorn is on me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Heart on sleeve, cupcake on neck

{Pink Cupcake necklace, from my friend Robin's Jewelry Box}

I have a self-admitted sweet-tooth, and have stated publicly that I find ice cream to be a suitable breakfast (really! how different is strawberry ice cream from yogurt and strawberries?). If you offer me cake vs pie, I will likely pick the slice of cake. And there is something about a cupcake . . . And no, I don't mean a "portion-control" something, except as in "all for me, none for you" portion. Wow, that sounds so mean. But really, they are 75 cents at your local bakery, get your own. Ah, sweet cupcake, come here and let me peel your paper off, and take a big bite of your sugar-frosted yumminess.

But I digress. See what sugar does to me? This is why I should stick to cupcakes (and cakes, and pies, and ice cream) like the one in the photo above. A) no calories! B) no crazy sugar rush! C) no post-binge guilt! D) my friend Robin sells them in her Etsy shop.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Getting my fix from down under

{Image courtesy of Armchair Trader via The House That A-M Built}

My self-admitted, much maligned purse addiction is about to be fed by the lovely A-M of The House That A-M Built. When she's not blogging about the day-to-day of designing/building/decorating a new house from the ground up down in Brisbane, Australia, she is running a wonderful little shop, Armchair Trader, loaded with all the kinds of delicious bits and bobs that make this girl's heart flutter. To celebrate her 100th post she did a little giveaway, and yours truly won the lovely purse above. I love the nautical trim and I hope those are pockets on the outside...

To be honest, its a good thing she selected a particular item from her shop as I would have had a hard time picking one thing.
I have no idea if this would be "my" scent, but I love the packaging.

I love notecards and these are bold, stylish and just the thing to write A-M a little thank you note for the purse.

I need another evening clutch like I need a hole in the head, but that soutache trim is so pretty...

And as if the lovely merchandise wasn't enough, the site is loaded with b&w photos of beautiful actresses: Grace, Audrey, Lana, Rita, Veronica, Marilyn. Tres glam! She does mail to the States, just drop her a line for the postal rates.

All photos from Armchair Trader.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hooked On House Tours Blog Party

I'm participating in Julia's Hooked on House Tours Blog Party today. She has over 50 bloggers participating, its like her own little Home-A-Rama so be sure to pop on over later and tell her Robin sent you. But first, please step inside...

This is my building. When it was originally built in 1875, it was the largest apartment building in Connecticut. In the late '70s it was slated for the wrecking ball, but an enterprising developer bought it and the yellow brick building to the left of it and turned them into condos. He kept much of the period details like moldings, trims, carved copper hinges, doorknobs, and light fixtures, but installed modern amenities like new sheetrock, modern plumbing, heating and electric. I'm up on the 4th floor, but don't worry, there is an elevator.

When you walk in this is what you see. My place is about 970 sq ft. I was going to "stage" it for this photo shoot, but I figured it is perfect in its imperfection. Oh, and also I did not have time.

To the right when you walk in and up two steps is my office, which is kind of messy today due to a bunch of book orders from, plus a craft I'm in the middle of, so this is all you'll see today.

I like my books organized by topic vs color, so that is why they are not neat and tidy at all (and interior designers everywhere are cringing). Top left is cookbooks, top right is historical non-fiction, poetry and vintage. The whole middle is fiction and the bottom is non-fiction, reference and books I loved as a child (Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, etc.). Tchochkes and photos everywhere, and there are more books and magazines all over the rest of the place.

Through the office is the half bath. My camera doesn't scale back enough and the room is small so this is as good as it gets. I love this wall color - Chocolate Sparkle by Behr. There is no "sparkle" per se, but there is plenty of chocolate and after I did this room I wanted to paint every room this color. It is delicious. On the left is a framed page from Godey's Ladies Book, circa 1860s, that I got for a song at an antiques market in Vermont.

Back down the steps to the living/dining room. On your right is the buffet/bar, I just realized the lampshade is slightly crooked. But you don't see it because you are too busy looking at my favorite painting, "Plunging Neckline" by local artist Sandy Welch. I bought this as a (very expensive) birthday present for myself a couple of years ago. Coincidentally I bought it the same night Mr. Marie-Louise (married to my BFF Marie-Louise of Cottage Industries) showed me the engagement ring he had picked out for her. It was an expensive night for both of us. And there was a lot of wine.

Here is the dining area and living room. The dining room set is reproduction Duncan Phyfe lyre-back chairs and pedestal table that were given to me by my ex's grandmother. I recently had them refinished and recovered the seat cushions myself in two different toiles.

A closer look at the living room area; the wall color is Carribean Coral by Behr. The black lump on the sofa is Zoe, one of my two black cats. The sofa is her personal throne (or so she thinks). Her brother Simon is around here somewhere.

I couldn't not show you the kitchen, although I detest it and it is slated for a makeover. Dig that 70s linoleum and light fixture! And don't you love the obnoxious placement of the thermostat on the left? I can't hang anything there and I can't move it. Aaargh!

My bedroom. The wall color looks white-ish in this photo but it is Coffee with Milk. I love my bed. If I could drive it, I would.

Master bath. A new vanity is on the to-do list here as well.

As you leave the bedroom you pass this view of the Farmington River. It was painted by Mr. Marie-Louise and he tells me it was his first oil painting. I don't believe him.

Speaking of views, here is the eastward-view from my little balcony. The beige monstrosity is the federal courthouse, completely devoid of any architectural interest.

And here is the north view, the Hartford skyline, or at least what I can see of it, as the sun sets. We also have a lovely garden that we just redid, but I don't have any photos. It is perfect for a quiet evening with a book and a glass of wine, or a festive barbeque (we are a very social building).

Thanks for stopping by, I promise next time there'll be wine and cheese. Now scoot on over to Julia's and be prepared to not get anything done today because there are lots of houses for you to look at and comment on!

Monday, August 4, 2008

New bird on the block No. 23 and a visit to the farmers market

{Wonderful hand-made soap from Susan Parks at Rich Valley Farm in Stafford Springs, CT. It has a fresh, spicy scent and rich, creamy feel thanks to all the goat milk from Scooter and Olive (pictured below) and their friends.}

On Sunday, Marie-Louise from Cottage Industries and I went to the Coventry Farmers Market, a festive and busy weekly organic extravaganza on the bucolic grounds of the historic Nathan Hale Homestead (as in "I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country"). We tried not to gorge ourselves on the best kettle corn in the world (it even says "Caution! Highly addictive substance!" on the package), bought veggies, fresh blue-ribbon pickles, big bunches of dahlias and homemade fudge. We also visited with Heather of Beauty That Moves and Paula of The Beading Tree; Marie-Louise will be blogging about them and their gorgeous handmade wares sometime this week. I did buy one of Heather's stylish dog collars for my neighbor's golden doodle Boddington, and admired all her pretty bags and pouches made from modern and vintage fabrics -- you can see some in her Etsy shop.

I love handmade soap and spent a good deal of time sniffing and savoring the delicious products at Susan Parks' booth. All her soaps are made with a goats milk or the hard-to-find egg yolk base, and use plenty of shea butter, soy and beeswax for silky rich lather.

{I'm a sucker for pretty packaging too, and all Susan's soaps are wrapped in white parchment with charming labels featuring unique and whimsical woodcuts.}

{Olive and Scooter were not at the farmers market but back at Rich Valley Farms enjoying the sunny day.}

{Top photo by me, all others from Susan's website}