Friday, April 30, 2010

Good Book, part 2

In this past month I have been on a book frenzy, reading through four books in four weeks and generally neglecting some of my less important duties. Reading takes me away from the stress of whatever is going on in life, and often transports me into a different world. I have many friends in my books, some stronger bonds than others, and I thought it might be nice to share with you some of my most faithful friends, the ones I keep coming back to when I need a certain something, in this case, something soft and quiet. 

After four intense, high paced novels, I decided it was time for an old friend. My Antonia by Willa Cather is one of my favorite classics. It is a quiet yet anguishing story about a girl and a boy.  It's about love, unrealized. It's also about family and childhood in the country. You probably read it in high school (I used to assign it to my high school students) and may not have returned to it in your adult life, but may I encourage you to give it another read? Revisiting such classics as an adult will give you an entirely new experience.

Many years ago I started a handwritten journal in which I record passages from books that have touched me. Whenever I find myself backing up to read a paragraph or sentence again for the sheer beauty of the language, I will handwrite it in this journal. I thought it might be nice to share these from time to time. So here is a small passage taken from the pages of My Antonia that I have saved in my journal and now will share with you:

"As I looked about me, I felt that the grass was the country, as the water was the sea. The red of the grass made all the great prairie the color of wine-stains, or of certain seaweeds when they are washed up. And there was so much motion in it; the whole country seemed, somehow, to be running."

Happy Friday, my friends!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Musings on an apartment house in North Hollywood

My sister and her family have been house-hunting lately and it's always amusing to hear the daily report of homes they had seen that day. After tromping through a hundred or so homes she's starting to become desensitized to disco-mirrored walls, velvet paintings and some really disgusting cooking smells. Last week, during one of these brief wanderings through an elderly couple's private spaces, my four-year-old niece caught sight of a (gasp) pastel pink toilet and bathtub. As my sister tells it, my dear niece was still and silent for several seconds before grabbing onto her mother's hand in a dramatic gesture of overwhelming longing-ness.  With tears sparkling in her huge brown eyes and a voice quivering with desire-induced hysteria, she said firmly, "Mommy. . . this. . . is. . . MY bathroom."

 A few days after this, I found myself in North Hollywood and actually pulled over, crossed the street and made a general spectacle of myself to get a snapshot of this pink house, inspired by  my darling niece's passionate desire to reside in the presence of pink things. I realized later, at my computer screen, that it is actually a pink apartment house, which is disappointing. I had spent several days musing and imagining over what sort of person might live in the big pink house in North Hollywood. I imagined a middle-aged librarian/cat lady wearing Pucci robes and fur healed slippers to water her orchids and wisteria. Now that it's just a pink apartment house. . . well, I could actually picture myself living here myself --a single gal in my younger years, certainly. And of course, I may be visiting my niece here in twenty or so years. . . 
I adore my dear niece and hope she someday forgives me for recording this incident.

 Happily, this car was parked directly across the street. 

It made me happy to discover the pink house and the pink car together, and I hope with all sincerity that the driver of the pink VW lives in the pink apartment house. 

In North Hollywood. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Blog response to HamptonToes!

Hi Lisa, I love the ceilings you've been seeing lately and thought of you when I saw this one. I like pretty ceilings, too, and would like to throw a picture of this Jazz club in Budapest your way for consideration. It reminds me of the decadent ceilings of Paris Museums, and I just love that it's a jazz club, not a stuffy restaurant or something. Well done, Budapest.
Here's the link to Lisa's ceilings, if you want to see them.

Happy Weekend!

Photo: NY Times (no, I didn't go there--yet)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

For the butterflies. . .

I'm watching my little Meg dance to Nutcracker music (a nightly ritual--it is perpetually Christmas at our house) with one eye on my laptop. 

Did you catch this article in the NY Times arts section this week? A photographer by the name of Guillermo de Zamacona petitioned for 2 years to be allowed to travel into the mountains near Mexico City in order to photograph models in the midst of millions of monarch butterflies who migrate there for the winter. It was apparently quite a trip up the mountain toting equipment and clothing/shoes/make-up artists/etc on horseback! Here are some more images from de Zamacona's website if you'd like to see them. The full series is on display at Milk Gallery in New York City.  Please go there and tell me all about it! 

In which she celebrates her new life

Here is just a little picture I keep coming back to. Given my sorta sad post yesterday, I thought I'd post this picture which I took from a moving car a week or so ago. I took it in a moment of "wow, this is a cool place to live." They happen every so often.

I mean--look at that sky!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The difference of one year

One of the features of iPhoto is the "Last 12 Months" viewing option that loops your photos in a year. So when I look at pictures and finish the last "last roll," iPhoto automatically loops around to one year ago. It's a grim reminder of what one year ago felt like.

One year ago today, it was the first warm day of Spring in Briarcliff Manor, New York, and our moving truck arrived. Meg played on the front lawn, blissfully picking the first dandelions under the dogwood tree until our friends, Jeff and Holly, came to take her to their house (while the guys and I loaded trucks). I will never forget the feel of the first sun of spring on my shoulders and the first fuzzy hostas beginning to poke from under the cold earth. The Lilly of the Valley was blooming, I remember them clearly, and the dogwood tree mercifully waited until one week after we left to bloom, but on this day the buds were stretched to almost bursting--threatening me. I actually thanked God for holding it off so I didn't have to see.

This marked one of the most difficult months of my life--moving back to California but not even knowing where to tell the truck to meet us. I remember this day forcing myself to just focus on one year from now--you will have a home, Meg will have a school and friends and a life and no matter what our little family would be together and we would be okay.

And now I think about this day and still have a lump in my throat. I miss my 100-year-old house. I miss the Benjamin Moore Bunny Gray paint and the sun-room and my vegetable garden and that divine dogwood tree. I miss our neighborhood and our friends, the playground two blocks away, and the huge pine tree outside my bedroom window--I could lie in bed and watch the snow silently sprinkle the branches. I never really planned to leave, at least not so soon.

. . . and yet.

 One year later I am happy and thankful. I am thankful for our home with functioning air conditioning and heating and multiple bathrooms, for my husband's job and for Meg's school and for our health. I am thankful for the sun that warms my shoulders more often now and for the herbs, veggies and oranges that I can grow year round, and for camellias and gardenias. I'm thankful for our extended families who now live so close they sometimes drop by to say hello after their tennis games.

I never wish to forget the heartbreak of leaving. After all--"it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. "
And yet. 

I am okay. 

PS:  I am not, in any sense, happy about the earthquakes--let's just get that straight.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Can 100 million screaming fans be wrong?

I admit, I stood in line to watch the second Matrix. And, I think, one of the Star Wars movies because my husband and a bunch of his (grown) buddies thought it would be fun. I did not dress up, but some in our party did and I would have loved to dress up as Trinity but decided that I would need a few months of marathon training to pull off black leather/spandex/army boots, and it just wasn't worth it.

I've avoided the Twilight movies because it's a teenager series and I'm not so interested in vampires or participating in pop culture when it becomes so silly--lining up at midnight dressed as a vampire to watch a movie? no thanks. . . creepy, actually. But in the middle of all the hype, I picked up this Vanity Fair. Is it the eyes, the hair or the gorgeous fisherman's sweater that looks like he just stepped off a ship returning from world adventures and wants to tell me all his stories? Next to a crackling fire. Tucked in a blanket.

Or the fact that I poured over the photography, studying ever lighting detail and angle? (These were shot in Montauk) (some of the best lighting in the world) (I'm spending some time near there this summer and plan to take lots of pictures of three gorgeous children) (I digress).

I watched the movie this weekend, heavily persuaded by my youngest sister (she stood in the line!). I am not a teenager; I have no love illusions. But this boy is divine and he plays piano. The character of Edward is flawed (did I mention he's a vampire?) but is the everlasting hero, is hopelessly drawn to uber-perfect Bella (duh) and wins the heart of every viewer who can't help but sympathize with his inflicted plight and constant struggle.

The movie itself was pretty good. It was certainly compelling and appreciatively entertaining. It was not my favorite story (I'm told I need to read the book), but I find myself drawn into certain movies because of the scenery, music, effects and pretty boys playing piano. I enjoyed the development of these characters and I think I may need to view this film a second time before I return it to a little sister who is anxiously awaiting her Edward's safe return. Of course, given that I have been turning the plot over and over in my head for most of the day, maybe I do. . . er. . . like the story.

To all those who now think I am a shallow woman who spends her time swooning over teenager movies, please stay tuned, I will make it up to you.

Photos by Bruce Weber for Vanity Fair, Dec. 2009.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Happy 101

Several weeks ago, I was happy to receive the Happy 101 Award from my fellow blogger and friend, Lisa at So, according to the tradition, I will list below 10 things that make me happy and then 10 blogs that I admire and enjoy. This was harder than I thought so I decided to add a few more than 10. . . just because this is my blog and I can do whatever I want! (Have I been stuck in the house with a sick 4-year old for a week or what?)

Ten things that make me happy:
1. Coffee. . . I'm sorry but it simply must top the list. I can't face the day without it and when I smell it brewing, I smile. If you ask Meg what makes mommy happy, she will say, "coffee and kisses and hugs." She knows me so well.
2. Kisses and hugs from Meg, especially accompanied with words of love like this: "Mommy, you're the best big fat mommy in the world!" I melt.
3. Dogwood trees in bloom make me oh-so-happy. The kind of happy where you take a deep, deep breath and sigh and then just sit still for a little bit.
4. New York City, which is my soul home. I was raised in California and have returned here to live now, but when I moved to NY, I felt that a key puzzle piece had been finally discovered after years of being lost under the sofa, and that the pieces of me that had never quite fit were beginning to come together.
5. The Central Park Zoo with Meg in the Fall makes me happy. There is a white goat named Norman. I even love to eat Zoo Pizza for lunch. Early summer visits are also wonderful, when the wisteria is blooming in the courtyard.
6.  Capturing photos makes me happy and fulfilled. With a camera in my hand, I am a more confident woman who will lay flat on the sidewalk or chase children or climb a brick wall to get the perfect shot.
7. A great meal, al fresco, with good wine and great friends and children playing happily on the grass. Ahhhh, happy!
8. Vacation! Specifically, a warm beach vacation like Hawaii, Cancun. . .
9. Books. . . I read almost anything I can get my hands on (besides politics). I always have a good fiction on my bed-side table and a stack of inspiring literature (poetry, histories, art books) on the coffee table.
10. Finally, gardening makes me happy. I love to grow flowers and herbs and vegetables. And of course, dogwood trees.

Honorable mention things that make me happy (because 10 just isn't enough):
11. Parmesan Reggiano cheese. on anything. by itself. with a glass of wine. . . I used to sneak it until I heard Matt Lauer also admit to eating hunks of it. I buy it at Costco.
12. Paris. It's not New York, but it's a close runner-up. If only I could master the language. . .
13.  Chocolate Molten cake. Bread Pudding. Raspberry oat bars.
14. Neil Diamond.
15. Marc Jacobs

10 Blogs I love:
1. Hamptontoes  (I love Lisa, and I love her blog!)
2. Modish
3. Bloom-grow-love
4.Comfort and Luxury
5. Lola is Beauty
6.A Cup of Joe
7. Eddie Ross (of course)
8. Lisis go to China   (I hope Pam starts blogging again soon, but with 3 small children in China, who can blame her? Start at the beginning, it's a great read! The Lisi's were our neighbors in NY, we saw them off to China and miss them dearly.)
9. Simply Photo
10. The Sartorialist  I've been loving this one for years!

Thanks for reading, and thank you to Lisa for this fun award!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Next Fireplace

Confession: I have no idea how to load, edit or post video. So I am hoping you will all bear with me and just click the link to this page to watch this short video on 24Savvy. I am pointing you toward the bit about the fireplace, at the beginning. What a clever and gorgeous idea. I have a feeling a few of my home design buddies will appreciate this: watch it here!!

And when I finally own a home again and finally get to assemble all of my ideas and paint colors and fabrics and wallpapers and floors and rugs and lighting and "other stuff", I will remember this fireplace treatment. It's truly beautiful.

My rental fireplace is getting ready to become the staging area for a full family of ferns!

Perhaps that will help.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Flower Fields

First of all, I'd like to thank Grace at Grace Happens for knowing about this pretty place in Carlsbad and writing about it on her blog. I found her blog and this post on Saturday morning and after minimal googling and planning, we were out the door and on our way. My family and I were in need of some restoration after a week spent in worry by the bedside of my sister. She is very ill with pneumonia, which is so unknown and frightening to us, especially because she is so healthy but this week progressively became weaker and seriously ill! Mostly, I cared for her children this week, whom I adore--and out of all this sadness I know that I've struck a deeper bond with my niece and nephew. That said. . . I was exhausted! 

The Flower Fields at Carlsbad was just the perfect remedy! If you go, prepare to park far, far away and to walk that distance (it was at least a mile). But the scenery was certainly worth the trip, and the parking. But hey! We're New Yorkers--we're used to walking and parking in the boonies (so said we, trying to be cheerful on the uphill return trip!)

Enough said! Feast your eyes.

Every so often Brian snatches a picture of me taking pictures and it always makes me giggle. His explanation: "I just wanted to record what you were doing for most of the day!"

He tells the truth.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

If you're going to drive a Pinto. . .

. . . it had better be an orange Pinto. . . 
. . . or an orangish--uh--pick-up?
. . . or Chevy Van!
The Back-Story: 
. . . We took a little family jaunt today out to the sweet little beach community that is Carlsbad. I'll blog more about that tomorrow. The main point of today's post is this: I saw all of these cute old cars, and more, just on our trip today! How cute are they? We are in the market for my next new car right now and I am heavily leaning towards this little orange Chevy Van! Brian so doesn't agree. I'm no car buff. But these are super cute! Why, oh-why can we not respectably drive orange cars anymore? 

Sighing. . .  I guess I'll drive that darn BMW if you really do make me do it. But only if you make me, husband! Safety is a consideration, I suppose. 

Back Story #2: 
I am going to need a new car in the next year or two. I am driving a 6-year-old Honda Pilot that has been cross-country 2 or 3 times (it's negotiable) and is starting to creak and bellow with age. The subject has recently been tenderly approached with me. You see, I love my car and intend to drive her until she dies, quirks and all. Hubby has grand ideas of my next "family vehicle" which I appreciate--but lo! My car actually has a name and her name is Penny.  Penny the Pilot, to be exact. How do you rightly discard a car named Penny?  I say, give me an orange darling like one of these pictured above. And so this was the subject of our conversation today during the drive, while Meg took a nap in the back seat.

O dear. I hope he doesn't think I'm serious about the orange thing. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

White Lavender

I was showing my sister some of the photos from our San Diego trip tonight. I wanted her to see the lavender. I've always had a love affair with lavender; I've planted it en masse in every home I've ever lived in (and that includes potted on our balcony at our first apartment). I even insisted on a lavender garden at my sister's house in La Quinta (Palm Desert) many years ago which eventually gained me a partner in my passion when she fell in love with it too.  I'm no expert in botany, and don't know the proper names for the varieties available, but I usually tend towards the sort of lavender that is labelled "green lavender" at the nursery. It is the traditional sort, with long, uniform and slim flowers and bright green leaves. I especially love it planted among roses, along with rosemary.

This last weekend, however, I was enchanted by this white-tipped lavender on the grounds of our hotel, L'Aurberge in Del Mar. At first I thought it was the light making it appear white,  since we saw it first in the late afternoon, then in the early morning (there was a Starbucks across the street from our hotel, so yes, early morning!). But finally, the day I took these pictures, it was high noon and there was no mistaking it as true white. It was planted all around the entrance to this, the Spa. . . doesn't it just beckon you to go inside?

Sister likes it too, and we are now both very interested in this white lavender. It really is fascinating and would be so much fun to plant in the garden. I appreciate it when even one's choice in landscape plantings has a back-story and can personalize the home. Hmmm, I feel another post coming on! 

In case you missed that darling in the first shot, that would be. . . well, that's my muse: My Margaret. 

She loves the lavender as well.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

San Diego . . .

After a few weeks of non-stop action, this family has taken itself away from the everyday and is resting in San Diego for a few days.  For all the landscape and sunset snapshots taken today, this photo of the sand just seemed so much more interesting. So for today, my inspiration is sand. I bet I could paint it. I bet it would make a gorgeous wallpaper. I bet Eddie Ross could design a room around it in 30 seconds!

My thoughts are coming slowly tonight--I'm on vacation! Good night dear reader, I wish you dreams of sand and sunshine.