Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Independence Day

Today feels like my birthday, July 4th and New Year's Eve, all rolled into one.

Because at exactly 9am this morning, 4th grade began.
(Between you and me, the kid is still in shock. "But it's August," he kept saying in the car.)

And how do I feel?
Oh, you know.
There were a couple moments of "Wow, wasn't he just in kindergarten...?" and "They grow up so fast..." Sniffly-sniff.
(First edition, Mercantile Library Collection, Cincinnati. May 2011.)

But that quickly gave way to exhilaration.
(Backstage at the Go Go's. 8/17/11, Hollywood.)

And the desire to throw one of these.
(My bookshelf, 2011.)

I have so many plans for Fall 2011, you see.
(I had them for Summer 2011 too, but I'm not quite sure what happened. Oh yeah. I forgot.)

Strange arcane esoteric things, like:

1. Exercising.
(Visualizing your way to a better body does not work. I have tried.)

2. Eating right.
(This will involve moving my favorite new cookbooks (HERE, HERE and HERE) from the night table by my bed down to the know, so I can actually cook from them.)

3. Regaining control of the closets in my house.
(They're starting to look like a horror scene from a Guillermo del Toro movie.)
(Did you ever see the original? It still haunts me.)

4. Turning -- even just a few -- of the theoretical projects in my head into reality.
(See below.)

My scarf idea for Winter 2010...

...sadly, still theoretical.

Also still theoretical.

5. And a million other mundane things that I couldn't possibly bore you with here.
Blah-bitty blah blah.)

In an effort to harness the power within and jumpstart my way to a more empowered 4G version of myself, I'm attending the premiere of this movie tomorrow night (because when I practice yoga, I really do become my best self).
(Information HERE.)

Quick now.
What are your top goals for fall?
Should we pledge to accomplishing them together?
I'm in if you are.
(Me in India, 2007.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why Vacations Are Important, Part Two

Mill Valley, California

We hiked down to the ocean. The fog clung to the ground like it was icing on a cake.
(Steep Ravine trail, California)

I wanted to see the famous cabins at Steep Ravine...and there they were, clustered on the edge of a rocky bluff overlooking the ocean. Built in the 1930's by a rich industrialist and originally leased to privileged families craving an escape from the clamor of San Francisco, these days they rent for an egalitarian $100/night (and are booked seven months in advance).
(Steep Ravine Camp, Rocky Point, California)

Primitive they were and primitive they remain: even today, there is no electricity or running water (although an outdoor faucet with spring water is steps away). Vacationing here is an interlude in Emersonian simplicity. Bring beeswax candles, firewood, a journal/book/art project and a nice bottle of vintage Port.

Dorothea Lange slept here. In fact, she and her family rented the above cottage for almost a decade. So inspired was she by the sense of liberation she felt at Steep Ravine that she published a book of photographs about it (available HERE).

"I began to wonder what it was that made us all feel,
the minute we went over the brow of that hill,
a sense of -- not peace, particularly, or enjoyment -- freedom."

~Dorothea Lange (1895-1965), about Steep Ravine

* * * * *

To become warm after I've been cold is, to me, one of life's greatest joys.
(Pelican Inn, Muir Beach, California)

And to undergo this transformation in a tavern that's the spitting image of one from a Charles Dickens novel makes me pretty much delirious.
(Pelican Inn, Muir Beach, California)

Of course we ordered pints of Guinness all 'round. Hello. For strength, obviously.

I pinky swear that was Mr. Pickwick sitting next to me -- he just dashed off to pee with a degree of speed and urgency highly inconsistent with the gravity of his demeanor.
(Pelican Inn, Muir Beach, California)

Awash in the convivial charms of the Pelican Inn, I bought this book later that afternoon.
Why "Humphrey Clinker", you ask?
Well, my friend, I'll tell you why...

Because Dickens always cited Tobias Smollett as one of his biggest childhood influences.
Because Thackaray's blurb on the back cover hails it as "the most laughable story that has ever been written since the goodly art of novel-writing began."
And three.
Because who with even a token interest in human nature could pass up a gossipy romp around England and Scotland with characters like "a gouty country squire", "a husband hunter" and "an illiterate but racy lady's maid"? Not me.

Editor's Note: "Clinker" is going straight to Pole Position Four on my 32-book reading stack, outranked only by Amor Towles "Rules of Civility", "Ignore Everybody" by Hugh McLeod and Patti Smith's "Just Kids".

* * * * *

There is a mental "gathering" that happens the last day of a vacation. You know what I mean by this.
(Stinson Beach, California)

Oh sure, you carry down your navy-and-canvas LL Bean tote heaving with books, old magazine articles, and a day planner stuffed with obligations.
(Stinson Beach, California)

But the books don't get cracked, the magazine articles don't get read and the planner stays unorganized. No. You just lie there, body immobile in the sand, eyes closed, preparing your mind for "re-entry."
(Stinson Beach, California)

"Be calm" is what the approaching tide whispers. "As it is now, so can it be again."
(Stinson Beach, California)

Really? Do you promise? Because I want to bottle this feeling and take it back home with me to Hollywood. I'm at peace here, on this strange beach, just watching the waves roll slowly in, one after the other, with endless consistency. They just keep going, don't they, those waves. They stick to the plan. They're patient. They persevere. They have conviction. And isn't conviction just another word for "hopefulness"? Kinda makes you think, right?
(Stinson Beach, California)

And that is why vacations are important.

(All photographs taken August 2011 by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why Vacations Are Important

If you ask me, travelling has very little to do with the destination. It's much more about the transformation that happens inside: shedding the stress, recharging your soul and discovering who you are.
(Camden, Maine, August 2011)

We all want to live a simple life. Most of us do not (myself included). But if we're lucky, we can visit places that remind us to keep striving for one.

* * * * *

Stage One: Letting Go
(Camden, Maine)

The lake was called Megunticook, the hideaway was called Crane Island and there was just one cottage on it, accessible by boat during daylight hours. When our friends invited us to come stay with them, there was only one possible answer.
(Crane Island, Maine. August 2011)

It was a strong-minded house, built of wood and stone, nestled in a thicket of pointed firs and positioned on the bow of the island like a figurehead on a ship.

Inside, the sofas were plaid, the rugs were braided and the walls were knotty. So delightfully quaint did it feel that if Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney had suddenly tripped into the room mid-song, no one would have batted an eye.

Every day was a reminder of how little you needed to be happy.

Water + fake mustaches = "Mom, that was the best day ever."

There was a long dock that could be used as -- take your pick -- a departure point for adventure or a meditation platform for lazing and gazing.

On our last night, we ate dinner cross-legged on the dock and talked until the sky became thoughtful with clouds.

The sun sank behind the trees, there was time for one final swim...

...and then the stars blinked on, illuminating the night with possibility.

Up next...
Stage Two: Venturing Out (Mill Valley, California)

(All photos by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thursday Update

Adventure in progress.
Will share soon.
* * * * *

In the meantime, those of you who reside in LA (or are thinking of making a trip here) will enjoy my friend Elaine's new website, The List Collective, a compendium of what's going on around town.

With categories like "Nest", "Primp," "Eat/Drink", "Escape", "Kids" and more, it's kind of like a neighborhood Cookie meets Domino. (For my top ten list, click HERE.)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Can I Live Here Please?

One of the things I love most when I travel are the invitations I sometimes get to visit people's homes. On my recent lecture trip to Cincinnati, I was given that opportunity by the lovely and talented Deborah Ginocchio (I wrote about her HERE).

Deborah: I don't know what your schedule is like tomorrow, but if you have any free time, I'd love to have you over.
Me: What the heck YES!

And do you know what it means when I'm invited?
You're invited.
So top up your coffee and let's go.

(Editor's Note: A huge thanks to Deborah for allowing me photograph her rooms sans fluffing or styling. This is real life, gloriously and seductively imperfect.)

* * * * *

First impression: Don't you just love a house that instantly lets you know it welcomes all creatures great and small?

Here's a corner of the eat-in kitchen.
The colors and textures remind me of an Old Master painting. Note the rustic linen towel draped over the wooden school chair, the puddled curtains spilling onto the floor and the antique Jacobean style flame-stitched sofa in the background -- it all makes for a room crackling with warmth and character.

Next to the sink is a pottery bowl filled with time-honored cleaning instruments. The twig-like dishwashing brush is one I happen to own as well (both purchased from Ancient Industries HERE.)

I make a mental note to paint the wooden mullions in my bedroom black. There is an indefinable poetry that comes from gazing at the world through a dark-colored frame. Colors appear more kinetic. The mood intensifies.

My husband has big dreams of someday owning a house with a fireplace in the kitchen. This little hearth is big on style and adds a layer of wit to the gleaming appliances next to it.

Help me. I've wandered into the library and am trying to fight off the compulsion to sink down onto that sofa with a copy of "Moll Flanders." I especially love the rush matting on the floor, don't you? (Pottery Barn sells a similar one HERE.) The easy-going unaffected elegance of everything in this house just kills me. And does the profile on that dog look familiar?

Atop a vibrant chair I spot a Duncan Grant pillow made with fabric purchased from the Charleston House shop (available HERE), former home to the Bloomsbury Group. No wonder I feel so at home.

Every room is brimming with mementos and artifacts of a family life well-lived.

Wit abounds. In a corner, I accidentally interrupt three gentlemen deep in conversation.

An upstairs bedroom is home to a Directoire-inspired resting place, a much-loved collection of vintage textiles and a familiar furry sentinel. And just look at that light. It's ethereal. Vermeer would plotz.

Colorful linens piled on a table offer a glimpse into what dinner parties are like here.

When exploring a house, I always try to find one item that reflects, as nearly as possible, the personality of the home. It's the Miss Marple in me. With this little box, I think my search is over. It's Deborah's style distilled.

Last but not least, four feet times two.


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