Thursday, December 17, 2009

Happy. Holly. Daze.

(The Kenmore Arms, 2009)

I'd like to send a personal thank you to each and every one of my readers for an incredible year. It's been such a rewarding ride, this blogging business, and I feel so privileged to have met so many kindred souls. You are all witty, erudite, and fascinating and I look forward every day to reading your quips, comments and recommendations. Your unbounded generosity has helped "A Bloomsbury Life" sprout buds and tendrils that reach to every end of the globe; as of today, we're nearing 200,000 unique hits for 2009 and count readers in such farflung places as Jaipur, Lisbon, Ile-de-France, Rekyjavik, Istanbul and Hemel Hempstead.

"A Bloomsbury Life" is about many things, but if I had to distill it into a bouillon cube, I'd say it's about living surrounded by what you love. About creating a well-seasoned life for yourself. It's about passionate curiosity. The charms of disorder. Embracing eccentricity and imperfection. And finding enchantment in the everyday. We're here for the merest blink of an eye on this swiftly-moving planet; let's make the journey a fabulous one.

See you in 2010.


Why Pack When You Can Procrastinate?

Oh, the best-laid plans.

I deliberately set aside today to figure out what Luca and I were going to pack for London and Marrakech. (Piero's already in Europe waiting for us.) Two radically different destinations, two distinct climates, two completely unrelated wardrobes.
(London, March 2009)

(Marrakech, April 2007)

No biggie. It was 9am. I had all day to figure it out. How long could it take?

(Note to the Judge: Let me state for the record, Your Honor, that everything started out according to schedule.)

The first few items flew into the suitcase with the rapidity of a meteor shower.
Plug adaptors, check.
Toiletries, check.
Reading material, check.

But then the territory became murkier.

Pink kurta and felted Edelweiss jacket?

Tartan skirt and vintage kaftan?
Down jacket and gold gladiator stilettos?
Wellies and sunscreen?
My head was beginning to hurt.
Wintry London and sultry Morocco?
What were we thinking?

I decided to take a break and focus on something of equal import, like the fact that my desk was in the midst of a massive styling crisis. I slid the bronze Thai hand slightly to the right and moved my new One Kings Lane candle on top of the Paul Smith notebook. Much better.

After that important decision, I set about making sure everything on my inspiration board was securely attached. Whew.

I had just begun to arrange the pens in my desk drawer by color and size (so vital!) when my elbow knocked this book onto the floor.

Leafing through it, I came to a full stop at the painting Duncan Grant did of James Strachey in 1910. The patterned rug, the low reading chair, the Japanese screen in the background and of course James himself sitting there looking like a young Colin Firth -- it felt so immediate.

I looked over at my iPhone. It was only 11am. Plenty of time to pack later. What I obviously needed to do right this minute was to challenge myself to create a modern interpretation of the painting.

I moved the little French chair into the office, dragged the rug over and grabbed a stack of books to fan out on the floor. Yes, this is clearly what I should be doing.

I sat there for a bit, legs lazily crossed, imagining myself in a Marlene Dietrich-inspired suit and crisp white shirt. I picked up the book on the little stool that just arrived yesterday via Amazon. "Bright Young People" by D.J. Taylor.

A few moments may have passed.

Suddenly, I realized I was hungry and that it was almost 1pm. I could hardly pack my suitcase on an empty stomach, could I? Plainly, the sensible thing to do would be to make myself a quick lunch.

The teapot looked so pretty that I couldn't not photograph it.

And then I felt obliged to take a picture of the woodpecker teapot too so he wouldn't feel slighted.

I knew things were getting slightly out of hand, but I couldn't help myself. I just kept taking pictures.

After the kitchen, I moved into the dining room...

...and the hall...
...and made my way through the rest of the house, recording more and more vignettes for posterity. At one point, I realized it was nearly 4:30, time to pick up Luca from school and buy fresh flowers for the couple who is housesitting for us.

Suffice it to say, it's now 11:47pm (past that, actually) and I'm writing this post and I'm still not packed.
But as soon as I finish writing this, I will. (Although I could just set the alarm and get up really early.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Note To Self: Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

Have you ever had "one of those days" that turns into a week of those days? You know what I'm talking about; the kind where you're so crazy-crazed that you dash from one project/appointment/task to the next with barely a breath in between, losing valuable bits of brainpower at each stop and winding up at the end of the day so depleted that you can barely manage to prop your head upright? And then like a scene from "Groundhog Day", you keep waking up to the same thing over and over again?
(Pen ink and watercolor by Thomas Rowlandson, 1757-1827)

Please tell me I'm not alone...even if it's just to make me feel better.

Is it just me or does everything seem to accelerate come December? After Thanksgiving, the days seem to race full-tilt ahead toward their fin d'année conclusion, the minutes speeding by faster and faster, gathering relentless speed until December 31st, at which point one either drinks a glass of champagne from the comfort of one's bed at 10pm and calls it a year, or behaves like a party-loving Bright Young Thing and goes clickety-clacking off into the glittering night.
('The Bright Young Things' at Wilsford:
Cecil Beaton, Hon. Stephen Tennant, Rex Whistler and others, 1927.
Photo by Cecil Beaton, available HERE, for £1400.)

I suppose the lesson amidst all the mayhem is to slow down, embrace the chaos and greet unanticipated events with style and humor.
(Photo by Tim Walker)

After all, I did manage to get one thing done last week.

Editor's Note: To those of you who commiserated so kindly on My Computer Saga, Carlos, the data recovery genius at Melrose Mac, managed to save most of my photos. The only ones I'm still missing are a trip to India in 2007 and one year of Luca's childhood (he will now magically morph from one to three in his albums, skipping the terrible twos entirely. Perhaps not a bad thing). The files may well be lie somewhere in the murky depths of countless bits and bytes, but it will necessitate another lengthy and expensive search and I'm not up for it at the moment. As for all my bookmarks, alas, they have proven unlocatable, so your wondrous lists will be a source of inspiration for 2010.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Survival Secrets of The Kenmore Arms

How To Get Out Of Bed In The Morning:
Remind yourself that there are flowers that need tending to in the kitchen. They are depending on you and you alone. (Note: Straight men do not care about flowers.) They are behaving very politely about the situation (as flowers usually do), but save an immediate infusion of fresh water and some zealous clipping of stems, they will soon be limper than Stephen Tennant's wrist.

Once there, locate the tea accoutrements and brew oneself an exotic wake-up call.

How To Get One's Child Out Of Bed in the Morning:
Tell him that if he takes a quick shower, brushes his teeth, gets dressed and eats his breakfast, he might have time to watch one episode of "Phineas and Ferb" before we leave for school.

How to Excite A Cat:
Absentmindedly leave dining room doors ajar. Watch as feline instantly sneaks in on a blissful mission to mess up books, tamper with guitar and continue his unwavering quest to shred the back of sofa.

How to Motivate Oneself For Carpool Duty:
Hang out your beloved Dries Van Noten coat the evening before. Tell yourself that if you keep it buttoned up, no one will be able to see your pajamas underneath when you drive through the school dropoff line.

How to Prepare Oneself for Six Hours of Sewing:
Remind yourself of all the interesting words you get to sew.

How To Pay Bills In A Timely Fashion:
Keep an inspirational quote handy...

...and a stern face within your gaze at all times.
(Dominick Dunne, 1925-2009)

After A Quiet Day, How To Prepare Oneself For The Onslaught That Lies Ahead:
Remind yourself that though it is a truly marvel of science that so much noise can burst forth from one tiny body...
(Luca)'s nothing a couple of earplugs can't overcome.
(Written nine days before his birthday. Hmmm....)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Alhambra": The Prequel

Behind every great textile design lies an inspiration. Here is one such story, step by step...

1. Travel to the Alhambra in Spain.

2. Become seduced with the serene geometry of a Moorish citadel.

3. If your name is Philip Gorrivan, allow it to clamber inside your brain and tattoo itself upon your memory.
(Philip Gorrivan)

4. Use these Byzantine influences as a starting point for your own elegant, modern interpretation.

5. Evoke the lush palettes of far-off destinations when you fabricate your colorways. I don't know about you, but when I look at the tones below, I'm reminded of a walled garden in Morocco.
("Alhambra" by Philip Gorrivan for Highland Court)

(Marrakech, 2007)

With these next three, I have a flashback of Agra at dawn.
("Alhambra" by Philip Gorrivan for Highland Court)

(Taj Mahal, 2007)

6. Finally, have the ethereal Margaret Russell throw you a cocktail party in LA. Speak so charmingly and persuasively about the genesis of inspiration that a blogger with two-toned hair feels galvanized to rush home and explore Moorish/Byzantine/Islamic architecture for herself...

...but not before she gets a quick snap on the way out.
(Margaret Russell and yours truly)

To see the rest of Philip's lovely new textile line for Highland Court, click HERE.

To see the Alhambra with your own two eyes, click HERE.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Woke up freezing. For some reason, my usual penchant for cold temperatures had deserted me. I felt like a serf in a straw hut during an ice storm.

Needed hot liquids. Fast. Decided to make chai from scratch, but in my morning fog, couldn't remember how much masala powder I used the last time I made it.

Realized the Little Prince was upstairs fast asleep and that for all intents and purposes, Piero and I were alone.

Was immediately disabused of any notions of misbehavior by a thunderous footfall upon the stairs.

Fed the feline who exhibited his familiar ravenousness and appreciation.

Fed the offspring who exhibited his familiar disdain for anything nutritious.

Ended up greatly enriching our trash disposal with vitamins and minerals.

Contemplated going for a hike in the Hollywood Hills to keep the ol' physique in fighting trim and then decided against it.

With the prospect of exercise out of the way, noticed an immediate rise in spirits.

Buoyed myself with the thought that I was never going to be a contestant on "America's Next Top Model" anyway.

Was prevented from dwelling on this sad realization by a surprise knock on the door. Spent the next hour in high spirits.

Was interrupted by complaints of boredom from my son. Optimistically suggested he put together one of the countless puzzles in his room.

Was assaulted by the high-pitched whine, "Why can't I have a Wiiiiiiiiii?" Told him to go "Wii Wii Wii" all the way up to his room.

Was about to despair when in a sudden swoop of kindness, The Divine Italian provided salvation in the form of one tub of hot bubbling water and two bathing suits.

Was left free to rummage through my wardrobe in preparation for the party this evening.

Wondered what everyone else would be wearing.

Reminded myself that I was free to dress however I chose, whether it be kaftan, kurta or corset.

Heard Piero and Luca singing "Feliz Navidad" from the pool and realized I needed to start thinking about where I last saw our passports.


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