Friday, June 24, 2011

Words, Worth : Weekly Roundup

"Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." - Henry James, 1934 
This was one of those weeks that I couldn't be happier to watch fade into the weekend. My big plans including comparing bedroom paint colors, attempting strawberry coulis and tucking into Gabrielle Hamilton's gorgeous memoir. Here's Words, worth's weekly roundup:
For particularly sentimental readers (like myself), finishing a great book is like losing a friend. Smart site What Should I Read Next? minimizes the panic.  
$65, Chance

Though we're still plagued by June gloom here in So Cal, this punchy statement towel sends the right message. 
$7, LetterBox Co.

These utilitarian cuties speak to my inner Harriet the Spy. And I could spend hours on LetterBox Co.'s par avion-inspired site!
$6.50, VintageGarden, Etsy

As an apartment dwelling gal, I sometimes fantasize about a space with gardens and greenery. A low-maintenance basil plant I.D.'d by one of these sweet plant markers  should work in the meantime! 
$38, Diptyque Baume Généreux, Barney's    

One of my favorite gifts from thoughtful girlfriends. In addition to having the sleekest packaging and a delightful Elizabethan-inspired monogram, Diptyque's luxe hand balm smoothes scaly hands and smells like heaven. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Road : Snapshots From

California Grapeskins by Ed Ruscha

There is something about taking an extended drive that clears mental cloudiness. This weekend we daytripped up the coast to central California wine country and in the span of hours, had one of those long, satisfying, warm-lolling afternoons. Something wonderful happens when you're whizzing by breathtaking country; it basks in a hazy, sunshiny glow, raked through by the pleasure of being a snapshot in your mind. With Mumford & Sons' clear-headed melodies scoring the journey, and essential stops here and here that were the antithesis of the M-F grind, we drank in the bigness of the ocean and the dusty beauty of yellow meadows dotted with aged olive trees and it was all a little bit magical, at 75 miles per hour. 
"The sun goes down long and red. All the magic names of the valley unrolled - Manteca, Madera, all the rest. Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries. I stuck my head out the window and took deep breaths of the fragrant air. It was the most beautiful of all moments."
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac

P.S. Pay Ed Ruscha's exhibit at the Hammer Museum a visit this summer!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Beauty Beat: Grand Entreé

image via Renophoto
The heroine's entree in a novel lends itself to spectacular descriptions of beauty and uniqueness. They are lush lipped with fluttering eyelashes with perfect posture while exiting the train or arriving at the ball or being caught sight of through the curling mist. As in all things, life imitates art and these glimmers of glam impressed upon me early what it means to be alluring; what it means to make an entrance. My recent discovery of Chanel's new Inimitable Intense mascara made me giddy with film noir lashes worthy of a second glance - a near-effortless swipe pulls your look together. Even if the days make you wary and the job can be a grind, I'd like to think these little things make us more ready for our close-up, should our own grand entrance be just around the corner. Just like Mme. Karenina stepping off the train.
Vronsky followed the conductor to the carriage and at the door to the compartment stopped to allow a lady to leave. With the habitual flair of a worldly man, Vronsky determined from one glance at this lady's appearance that she belonged to high society. He excused himself and was about to enter the carriage, but felt a need to glance at her once more - not because she was very beautiful, not because of the elegance and modest grace that could be seen in her whole figure, but because there was something especially gentle and tender in the expression of her sweet-looking face as she stepped past him. As he looked back, she also turned her head. Her shining grey eyes, which seemed dark because of their thick lashes, rested amiably and attentively on his face, as if she recognized him, and at once wandered over the approaching crowd as though looking for someone. In that brief glance Vronsky had time to notice the restrained animation that played over her face and fluttered between her shining eyes and the barely noticeable smile that curved her red lips. It was as if a surplus of something so overflowed her being that it expressed itself beyond her will, now in the brightness of her glance, now in her smile. She deliberately extinguished the light in her eyes, but it shone against her will in a barely noticeable smile.

- from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, 1877

Monday, April 5, 2010

On Words : On Weddings

For this admitted logophile, deciding what words to have read at one's wedding has proven a time consuming (and fun) trip down memory lane. You can go whimsical childhood throwback a la The Velveteen Rabbit or tried and true Bard lover a la Shakespeare's Sonnet #147. Pablo Neruda's passionate poems of oneness and consumption move while the unabashed abandon of Rumi's descriptors get you a little hot and bothered. And then there is the intimate bareness of an Ernest Hemingway passage. The summation of love in a simple, spare sentence - so true and so quiet, it makes your bones ache with recognition.

That night at the hotel, in our room with the long empty hall outside and our shoes outside the door, a thick carpet on the floor of the room, outside the windows the rain falling and in the room light and pleasant and cheerful, then the light out and it exciting with smooth sheets and the bed comfortable, feeling that we had come home, feeling no longer alone, waking in the night to find the other one there, and not gone away; all other things were unreal. We slept when we were tired and if we woke the other one woke too so one was not alone. Often a man wishes to be alone and a girl wishes to be alone too and if they love each other they are jealous of that in each other, but I can truly say we never felt that. We could feel alone when we were together, alone against the others. It has only happened to me like that once.

- A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, 1929

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lyrical Loveliness : Regina Spektor

It's certainly no revelation that Regina Spektor rocks. Sometimes this time of year is tinged with a bit of sadness - holiday hangover meets deflation of anticipation. This young virtuoso's sprightly wordplay on her new album "Far" goes a long way toward being an antidote to January doldrums. Nothing like giving your love a half an hour or realizing we're laughing with God to brighten a dreary day.

Favorite excerpts below.

You went into the kitchen cupboard
Got yourself another hour
And you gave half of it to me
We sat there looking at the faces
Of these strangers in the pages
'Til we knew them mathematically

They were in our minds
Until forever
But we didn't mind
We didn't know better

So we made our own computer
Out of macaroni pieces
And it did our thinking while we lived our lives
It counted up our feelings
And divided them up even
And it called that calculation perfect love

Didn't even know
That love was bigger
Didn't even know
That love was so, so
Hey hey hey

Hey this fire it's burnin'
Burnin' us up

Hey this fire it's burnin'
Burnin' us up

So we made the hard decision
And we each made an incision
Past our muscles and our bones
Saw our hearts were little stones

Pulled them out they weren't beating
And we weren't even bleeding
And we lay them on the granite counter top

We beat 'em up
Against each other
We struck 'em hard
Against each other

We struck 'em so hard
Until they sparked
- The Calculation from Far
No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one's laughing at God when they're starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God when the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one's laughing at God when it's gotten real late and their kid's not back from that party yet

No one laughs at God when their airplane starts to uncontrollably shake
No one's laughing at God when they see the one they love hand in hand with someone else and they hope that they're mistaken
No one laughs at God when the cops knock on their door and they say "we've got some bad news, sir,"
No one's laughing at God when there's a famine, fire or flood

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party while listening to a good God-themed joke
Or when the crazies say he hates us and they get so red in the head you think that they're about to choke

God can be funny
When told he'll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie
Who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket or Santa Claus

God can be so hilarious
Ha ha...

No one's laughing at God
No one's laughing at God
No one's laughing at God
We're all laughing with God
- Laughing With from Far

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It Takes A Village : It Takes The Spirit

Scrooge's third visitor by John Leech

We all have our rituals, our rites of passage by which we acknowledge the transfer of day into month, month into year. The holiday season is packed with gestures and filled with traditions waiting to be celebrated. In my case, it is a well-known fact that Christmastime has not begun until the Dickens Village has been lovingly unpacked and placed - house by house, merchant by merchant, tree by tree and villager by villager - on the home hearth. This is an involved process. Perfected over the years and commemorated by a "map" lest we forget that The Green Grocer shares storefront real estate with East Indies Trading Co. while E. Tipler, Agent for Wine & Spirits must set-up shop alongside Turner's Spice & Mustard. It is also imperative that the Flat of Ebenezer Scrooge be placed at the lonely end of the mantle - far from the impressionable students of Wackford Squeers Boarding School. The "streets" bustle with parcel-picking, lamp lighting, roasted chestnut sales and carol singing. It captures every thing Christmas is meant to be, in all its Dickensian glory. And of course, A Christmas Carol is similarly time-honored. A story that encompasses the morality and lessons of a lifetime, much less a season, it always seems quite fitting to revisit at the end of a year when one is in a state of evaluation. And so as the spirits visit Scrooge, may The Spirit also visit you... however you should choose to celebrate!
Again the Ghost sped on, above the black and heaving sea - on, on - until, being far away, as he told Scrooge, from any shore, they lighted on a ship. They stood beside the helmsman at the wheel, the lookout in the bow, the officers who had the watch; dark, ghostly figures in their several stations; but every man among them hummed a Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought, or spoke below his breath to his companion of some bygone Christmas Day, with homeward hopes belonging to it. And every man on board, waking or sleeping, good or bad, had had a kinder word for one another on that day than on any day in the year; and had shared to some extent in its festivities; and had remembered those he cared for at a distance, and had known that they delighted to remember him.

It was a great surprise to Scrooge, while thus engaged, to hear a hearty laugh. It was a much greater surprise to Scrooge to recognize it as his own nephew's, and to find himself in a bright, dry, gleaming room with the Spirit standing smiling by his side and looking at that same nephew.
It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humor. When Scrooge's nephew laugh in this way, Scrooge's niece, by marriage, laughed as heartily as he. And their assembled friends being not a bit behind, roared out lustily...

After tea, they had some music. For they were a musical family, and knew what they were about, when they sung a glee or catch, I can assure you; especially Topper, who could growl away in the bass like a good one, and never swell the large veins in his forehead, or get red in the face over it. But they didn't devote the whole evening to music. After a while they played at forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.

- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, 1843

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pumpkin Patches : Patience

Dear Great Pumpkin:

I am looking forward to your arrival on Halloween Night. I hope you will bring me lots of presents.

You must get discouraged because more people believe in Santa Claus than in you. Well, let's face it; Santa Claus has had more publicity, but being #2, perhaps you try harder. Everyone tells me you are a fake but I believe in you.

P.S. If you really are a fake, don't tell me. I don't want to know.

- Linus van Pelt, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)