Saturday, May 23, 2015

On Boston, Mr. M, Mr. A, New Friends, and SNOW!


Yes, you heard that last part right - woke up this a.m. to snow. Seriously, there is no water in California and we have snow on May 23rd. Have decided to dedicate the rest of my life to fighting global warming.

However, in the meantime, I'll tell you about my trip.

Boston, was, as always, perfection.  I love Boston so much and I am reminded of that every time I return.  Many of my ancestors were American (have lots of distant cousins to prove it!) and my great-grandfather lived there all of his life and we used to go visit him regularly and then my great aunt Gladys after he passed. The city has changed a lot since the 1960s in many ways, but the people have not; they are as friendly as can be.

So we could walk easily to our reading by David McCullough, we stayed at the Harvard Square Hotel, a teeny little boutique hotel in the heart of Harvard.



The rooms were small, but well appointed and conveniently located across from the subway.  There is no restaurant in the hotel, but there are lots of little cafes nearby, as well as the Charles Hotel, which is the larger and nicer hotel, but with a larger and nicer rate to prove it! 

It was a bit of a flying trip.  We didn't arrive until Sunday afternoon.  The weather was glorious, so we changed quickly and had a great walk around Beacon Hill and the Boston Esplanade.

Our restaurant that evening was in the heart of Beacon Hill, 75 Chestnut, and I highly recommend it - it was charming and the food was delightful.



The next morning, these Canucks were first in line for the tour of the three John Adams' houses located in Quincy/Braintree, a quick 30 minute subway ride away.  We were the only ones for the 9:15 tour, which meant we basically had the whole tour to ourselves, and well, you can imagine what THAT was like for me....  I believe I may have been described as the most interested tourist they'd had in weeks.  Yes - I was that much of a geek!

The trolley you road from the birthplace houses out to Peacefield House was quite lovely:

I love a good trolley... Makes you feel all Judy Garland-ish...
 
For some reason, I was too excited to take any pictures of the birthplace houses, which, while wonderful, were disconcerting as they are in the middle of a city neighbourhood!  They take the pictures so they look as if they are isolated:




But the reality is that there is a bank across the street and the plot of land the two birthplaces sit on are half the size of my own acreage.

But Peacefield....  That was wonderful!  The last house where Adams lived (and where he and Abigail died) was a beauty:



Peacefield was home to four generations of Adam, including the two presidents, and was given to the Federal Government in the late 1920s.

The antiques and memorabilia were astounding and inspiring.

Below is the stone library built by John Quincy's son, housing over 10,000 books!  It was exquisite, though sadly, you can't take pictures in any of the buildings...




This is well worth the visit, considering that the two hours of the tour cost each of us five bucks!


Then we partook of lunch and some shopping and got ready for The Great Man.


Barry and his McCullough background....
He meant it as a joke for me and then fell quite in love himself...


We were early in line and sat 3 rows back, almost across from his wife and children. Mr. McCullough did not disappoint.  He spoke about the Wright Brothers for 30 minutes, took questions for 30 minutes (I asked none since all I could think to ask was "how can one man be so brilliant and charming?) and then signed books.  We waited in line for 30 minutes and it was worth it! The only issue was that Barry gave my camera to one of the staff and the pictures were all fuzzy.  Some were downright impossible to make out!




Sorry for the blur - cellphone pics don't enlarge well!
 

He was charming and friendly.  When we told him we had driven 7 hours to see him he was tickled pink and said he was very fond of Canadians. Since I am so fond of him, it was a happy meeting!

The next morning we headed home, stopping for a visit with our Lane en route. We had a great time with her and Mr. Lane, whom we both thought was extraordinarily smart and witty and felt like we were old friends meeting again, rather than new friends meeting for the first time.  I took no pictures out of respect for their privacy, but suffice to say, when I get to heaven, I kind of expect it to look like that...We were kindred spirits on all things and isn't that a wonderful thing?

I found a couple of goodies on the way during my travels, but mostly this was about seeing The Great Man (or perhaps I should say men, considering the Presidents Adams) and friends.

We are fortunate in life if we meet our heroes and they meet our expectation. In fact, David McCullough exceeded mine!

Come to think of it, so did Lane!  So, to quote the poet laureate Charlie Sheen: "winning!"

More stories this week, but now I must get out into the garden.  The sun has actually re-emerged and while it is still freezing, I have a garden to weed!

xoxo wendy






 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Packing for variable weather and my hero!


Well, I am all packed.  Tickets for Monday's event are printed out.  I am ready to go!

I went very simple with this 4 day trip:

The weather promises to be warm, cool and then warm again.  We plan to do some walking, some sightseeing, some visiting and having one meal at a nice restaurant.

Blues and white, with stripes and florals are the order of the day!




My chambray Theory dress, the Stuart Weitzman slingos and my old Lacoste scarf are for the dinner out and perhaps for Mr. McCullough if the weather cooperates.




I'm bringing 4 t-shirts: one long-sleeved striped, two whites (crew and V-neck) and one navy crew.  I always bring two whites.  I am the queen of spilling...




A pair of dark wash jeans and navy skinny pants




My beloved navy featherweight cashmere cardigan from J Crew, entering its third spring/summer, and a new white Clare Cardigan from J Crew factory, as my old white cardi had seen better days!  They are lying on top of a Joe Fresh navy striped midi skirt.  You never know if the weather folks have aimed low and you find yourself sweltering in the city!




Dark wash jean jacket and floral scarf.  I don't need a fancy coat for this trip.



My el cheapo clutch and the Rebecca Minkoff purse in white:




My new "wash and wear" bag that I came across at Gap Factory yesterday and is perfect for this kind of trip:


Just love the two zippers and that this is washable!

Finally, some jewelry options in the same colour story (I am blatantly stealing from you here Dani), loose and then all wrapped up in my little chocolate velvet jewelry pouch!





My shoes are basic - white vans sneakers, old Cole Haan loafers, old Michael Kors sandals and the blue shoes above.  Travel is NOT the time to break in new shoes!

I may Instagram along the way, so check in now and then and you can bet there will be a big story next Thursday about all my shenanigans!!!

Have a wonderful weekend!

xoxox wendy

 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

On neutral ground


I know, I still haven't written my post on the recent style consultation that has so simplified and clarified my clothing life, but I promise I will.

However, today is another example of happy simplicity.  When I got dressed this morning - which by the way was another cool, rainy, blustery Spring day - I decided I needed a little lightening. I actually have a pedicure booked for this afternoon and am looking forward to colourful toes, although I have painted my fingernails a lovely frosty lavender:

All those notes are little stickies that I write for myself
when an idea hits while I am drafting!


The colour is an older shade by Butter London called Lillibet's Jubilee.


 


I don't think it's available anymore, but I do find that Butter London does those metallic shades better than anyone!

Anyway, I am very creamy today, so creamy I remind myself of a crème brûlée with the reddish toffee topping...


God, that makes me hungry...

 
Anyway, here's Wendy as a crème brûlée:


Sorry for the blur of the smartphone...


 





 I'm wearing Joe Fresh trousers and the J Crew Factory Cotton Teddie sweater:





I paid all of $30 for it and it was just the ticket for these cool spring days.

I'm wearing my Stuart Weitzman wicket flats purchased last year.  That was a good purchase, as they are a lovely golden-y metallic shade and go with everything.


 
I also dug out an old string of pearls and a dainty pearl drop earring:
 
 


Simple, comfortable and flattering - it hits all the marks for me and is certainly brightening up my day.

And no - I haven't abandoned colour, but I am using it a little more judiciously these days.  I'll speak more to that when I write that darned post!

I also find the tonal dressing very pleasing for a shorty such as myself.

And speaking of crème brûlée, how about Ina Garten's recipe for it?  This is one I have used many times, always to excellent results!  You can go see it here.  I love Ina

crème brûlée
Ingredients
Directions
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the egg, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup of the sugar together on low speed until just combined. Meanwhile, scald the cream in a small saucepan until it's very hot to the touch but not boiled. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the cream to the eggs. Add the vanilla and orange liqueur and pour into 6 to 8-ounce ramekins until almost full.
Place the ramekins in a baking pan and carefully pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the custards are set when gently shaken. Remove the custards from the water bath, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until firm.
To serve, spread 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly on the top of each ramekin and heat with a kitchen blowtorch until the sugar carmelizes evenly. Allow to sit at room temperature for a minute until the caramelized sugar hardens.

Propane Gas Torch Safety: Propane gas torches are highly flammable and should be kept away from heat, open flame, and prolonged exposure to sunlight. They should only be used in well-ventilated areas. When lighting a propane gas torch, place the torch on a flat, steady surface, facing away from you. Light the match or lighter and then open the gas valve. Light the gas jet, and blow out the match. Always turn off the burner valve to "finger tight" when finished using the torch. Children should never use a propane gas torch without adult supervision.

Anything big going on in your world today?

xoxo wendy





 
 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Purses


I have never really been a purse person; I was always content to have one decent bag per season and it needn't be pricey at all.  However, for some reason, this is slowly changing as I age.

I blame this on two people: GetFresh and my daughter, both of whom like a good purse (and a good pair of Chucks).

I am slowly acquiring some nice modest bags (if you want to talk about higher priced bags, especially ones for a great price, you need to scamper right over to see Dani, who had just scored a lovely LV tote - she'll set you up!  Otherwise, mingle here while I go grab a tray of champagne).

What I mostly look for now are bags that fit certain needs. 

One such need was the desire to have a smallish leather cross-body bag in navy that I could use as my purse when I travel this summer and fall.  I don't mind schlepping a larger bag around town, but when I travel I like free arms and a lightweight.  But I also want it to be elegant.

So when I saw this little Rebecca Minkoff, I knew it fit the bill!




 



I especially love it because it zips closed at the top and there is another small compartment in the front.  Simple and lovely.

I liked it so much I nabbed it in white as well, since it was on sale.

But there must be some frivolity in life and everything need not be expensive.  So when I saw this little foldover canvas clutch at Chapters on sale for $20, I snapped it up:



 




 
Barry and I went out for cocktails on Saturday evening and I took it with me.  I kind of think of it as my "Signature of All Things Purse" - it reminds me of Elizabeth Gilbert's book, and you may recall that I bought the matching scarf several weeks ago and smile whenever I wear it!

As a little extra for Mother's Day, Barry bought me this beach bag:

Really, it is the perfect beach bag...

 
I didn't want him to buy me anything, since he is magnanimously driving me to Boston to take me to see my octogenarian/historian crush, but he knew I'd been admiring this bag and so there it was!

I continue to be seriously loving navy and white.  There will be a longer style post forthcoming this week (I think) but I am finding navy everywhere these days and snapping it up where I can.





As I've been dressing more simply I've been digging out the jewelry.  I love the sterling silver earrings above; they are the perfect length.  And yay, my hair is growing out!  I can even put it in a small ponytail again!

Oh and extra excitement - am being fitted for contacts this Friday.  I have missed - since my eyes got so bloody bad @51 - not having to wear eyeglasses.  Prior to 51 I only needed them for reading.  It will be lovely to have the option of going glass-less now and then and I know GSL will approve!

How about you - any new purse purchases this year?   Anything exciting in your lives this week?

Stay safe out there, xoxo wendy







 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day



I am reminded on this day that my mother gave me life and a good start, but what I have chosen to do, say, and think since then, and especially since I have been an adult, has been all my own doing...



Wendy McLeod MacKnight's photo.
Swaddled to within an inch of my life...
I still have the angora sweater my mum was wearing!
 


As luck would have it, my mother was smart.  She liked a good drink and a Matinee cigarette.  She read 4-5 books every week and hated housework, which she pretty much refused to do.  She cooked, but it was never a passion, although she had a few recipes that could knock your socks off.  She had a Masters Degree when most women her age were not attending university.  Her idea of slumming it was the Holiday Inn and it is a real pity we were never wealthy, as I think she might have done wealthy really well!  She liked Judy Garland, The Edge of Night, detective novels, good movies (the last movie she ever went to see in the theatre was Schindler's List when she was losing her eyesight), white rum, and wine.  She loved her family and friends.

As I get older, I become more and more sympathetic towards my mother, something I wasn't always capable of when she was alive.  More and more I feel like I am my mother's daughter; that the spark in me is the spark from her.  She was, as they say, a trouper.  And there are far worse things than to be the child of a smart trouper.

On this Mother's Day, I am reminded that, just as I have forgiven my mother all of her mistakes, so must I forgive myself for all of the mistakes I have made as a mother. 

And in spite of my mistakes, I have managed to raise two fine, kind people and one neurotic dog (he takes after his dad). 

We do well to remember that in the end, we are human.  Our mothers were the ones who brought us into this world and if we are fortunate, we are able to be with them to see them out of it.  And in between, we love them and they love us imperfectly.  The world is full of frail people, and I have come to the conclusion that the job description of mother demands it of us.

 
“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'

'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.

'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'

'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit    


So this Mother's Day, in the midst of being feted or feting, take a moment and thank god for the opportunities you have been given by your mother, wrapped as they are in all their perfect imperfection.

Me?  I'll be drinking some wine and listening to Judy Garland in honour of the woman who started it all for me.

xoxo Wendy


 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Miller Time Friday: The Little Things


I was reminded this week, as I often am, of how it is the small things in life that can bring us the most joy.  Our happiness does not depend on the material things we own (though they can be pretty swell), but from a contented recognition of the myriad of little things, simple blessings, that when taken together form a pattern of contentment and a quiet joy.

Those are the things in our lives we ought cling to; our financial, physical, professional lives are every changing.  We can no more hold on to them than we can catch the wind in our hands.

I saw an interview last year with Shawn Achor, the best-selling author of the happiness advantage.



I confess I have not read his book, though I have seen him interviewed several times and was always impressed.

One of the key things that Achor found in his research was that happy people are grateful.  And gratitude, like all of our muscles, can be worked on and improved.  A key exercise he has readers and patients do is that each day for 21 days, they must record 3 news things they are grateful for and why they are grateful.    Since they must be three new things daily, it is not possible to fall back upon the rote "I'm grateful for my health, family, etc".  It requires a specificity that challenges the person to think. 

I do this regularly now and it does build one's resilience, since to be human by definition means that one will always be subjected to stresses and bad luck and change. 

I was thinking of this today when my hummingbirds arrived home.  They arrived, as always, without fanfair; if I could the trumpets would have blared and they would have been announced like Cinderella at the ball, such is the esteem in which they are held here.  But this morning, standing there looking out the front window, still in my bathrobe, the male hummingbird flew up and for a good 30 seconds, hovered in front of me outside the window.  Neither of us spoke, since at that moment neither of us were capable of speaking, least of all me.  I had one of my three things at seven a.m. and I was all the better for it.


There are people far richer than I, but this morning I felt rich indeed, because I felt grateful.

And in honour of my returning friend, shall we have something sweet?


 The Hummingbird Cocktail

The Hummingbird Cocktail

 

Ingredients

2 ounces brut Champagne or dry sparkling wine
1 1/2 ounces St-Germain
2 ounces club soda
Lemon twist, for garnish

Directions

  1. Stir sparkling wine, St-Germain, and club soda together in a tall ice-filled Collins glass, mixing completely. Garnish with a lemon twist.

If you haven't thought of three things today, happy hour is the perfect time to do so! 

My list is easy:

1) my hummingbird encounter
2) a lovely conversation with a dear friend
3) knowing that there is a lovely Cote du Rhone awaiting me for dinner....

How about yours?

Have a lovely Friday!

xoxo wendy

Monday, May 4, 2015

May is a lovely month to....



Have a baby.....

Welcome Charlotte Elizabeth Diana!

I do love a baby!



I see that Jamie Oliver had made a special cake for the Princess of Cambridge

The Royal Charlotte Lemon Drizzle Cake!

How scrumptious does that look?

You can find the recipe here.

Since I just got my order of edible violets and roses and flowers from Amazon.com, you KNOW this cake is going to be made here and likely this week!

Welcome Charlotte - we wish you a long and healthy life!


Clean the Garden...

The weather has finally turned and I have been raking and cleaning beds.  I am nowhere near done and I'm not going to lie - cleaning an acre + of lawn and gardens was not so bad at 42, but at 52, oy vey!

The first flower of the season - a Christmas Rose (Hellebore)
All of my gardening friends in Southern England - can't you weep for me?

This was outer banks of the garden on Sunday.  Yes - that is still snow.  It is nearly
gone today, thanks to 25+ C temperatures

We had so much snow and the winter was so hard that we had a lot of damage to our property. 

Our swimming pool must be replaced - the walls caved due to the weight of the snow.

Our grape arbour also died and we cut the grapes back drastically so Barry could build a new one.





Still, the joy of being outdoors in short sleeves can never be overstated.  It is magical.  My hummingbird feeders are back up and awaiting customers and the golden hawks arrived this past week.


Discover new (old) shows....

I finally discovered Call the Midwife!  I am crazy about this show!  It is always such a treat to find something new that you just adore and this is a goody!  I see a lot of binge-watching on Netflix in the coming weeks!

The plucky heroine reminds me of Dani in face and style:

Perhaps not as pretty as our Dani!


If you are like me and have been dithering whether to watch or not, cease the dither and do it!


Let other people cook for you.....

I have been invited out to dinner for the last three Saturdays and I highly recommend it!  All three meals were fantastic and what a treat to have a Saturday where you are cleaning or - ahem - reading and just not thinking about cooking at all!

At the last one, Barry was so well fed and comfortable he actually napped in the middle of it.  In this case, it was a sign of a very comfortable dinner!




Read something new....

Mostly these days I am reading middle grade and young adult, as per my writing genre (one must know one's market, particularly what is selling and what is winning awards!) but I like to intersperse with some classics and new books.

I am currently reading The Professor's House by Willa Cather.  I do not think I have read Cather before, so it was high time and I am really enjoying the book!  Any Cather lovers out there?






Make a plan for the summer....

Summer goes so fast, especially in a climate like mine, where it won't get warm and stay warm for at least another two or three weeks.  This year I have decided to make a list of things I would like to do/go/see/eat and actually do them. 

First thing on my list?  Make sure I go see one of the movies they show outdoors here in the summer time.  Called Movies Under the Stars, it is popular, and yet I have never been.  I will make it to one for sure!



Other things?  I wine tour of the Motts Landing winery, a trip to my favourite garden, Kingsbrae, a weekly drink downtown with Barry and any of our friends we can line up.  We don't do that enough, so I think it's time we did it!

Do you have any fun plans for the summer?


Blog more...

I have been so busy writing and rewriting that I haven't been here are much.  I promise 3 posts a week, and I think I will start with my latest adventure in style, which I am calling How Jennifer got Wendy's Groove back.  Stay tuned....


Other than that... T-14 days till Wendy and David McCullough finally meet and T-15 days till Wendy and Lane meet.  But who's counting...

Have a wonderful day!

xoxo wendy

Oh and I am posting more outfits these days over in Instagram @wendymacknight.  See you there!