Monthly Archives: July 2012

Survival Friends

I took an noontime train to London yesterday to visit my dear friend Jeff who happens to be visiting the city for a few days (he’s blowin’ it up in NYC, mind you, so keep an eye out for his awesome work).  We had a gloriously gluttonous day in the city, starting with lunch at Dishoom and ending with drinks and dinner at Wahaca (aka Yumzville!).  As the clock was nearing midnight (okay, really it was 10:35), I raced to the train station to board my chariot home only to find that every single train was cancelled (insert panic-face here).  Supposedly, as I was busy wining and dining, there had been a torrential downpour that flooded railway lines to my Hobbit Town, Tunbridge Wells.  The loudspeaker (aka quietspeaker) cackled to life and someone mumbled something into it that left people groaning.  My sleepy heart sank.  What is a lady to do?!

The answer is this: Find someone who is going to the same destination and follow them.  In a moment of desperation, I put on my best American accent and asked if anyone was going in my direction and then latched onto two panicky old ladies who were pushy and panicked enough to get answers out of the one* National Rail employee on staff, who told us to jump on the next train to London Bridge where we’d be bussed, shipped, helicoptered and submarined home at some point**.  I looked at my old lady companions and said, “Girls, I’m with you.”

On the train to London Bridge we took inventory- whose phone still had enough battery power to last through the night, where each of us were going, etc.  When I announced my final destination, a girl who’d been quietly lurking behind me looked up from her phone and said, “I’m following you***.” 

And this, my friends, is how we will come to survive the zombie apocalypse.  I’ve always been skeptical of movies about the end of the world in which a group of strangers join together against all odds in the name of survival.  Together they run through abandoned subway tunnels, sleep in deserted homes (where one of them inevitably does something stupid like light a candle or put on a record which draws all the zombies to them within seconds, as if zombies are actually observant… whatever), and contemplate the v. important question of, if we were the only two people left to repopulate the entire world, could we find it in ourselves to procreate?  People in these movies are always attractive with straight, white teeth and the ability to run for miles to evade danger, and the answer is always yes.  Yes, they will fall in love in that gross urban hideout and they will build a better world together.  (Assuming they kill (rekill?) all the zombies, of course.)

Last night, I learned these same partnerships also happen in real life when a group of people are faced with imminent doom.  Whilst helplessly staring at the monitors at London Bridge, BECAUSE THERE WAS NOBODY THERE TO HELP US!, my new friend and I developed a tall, sandwich-eating shadow and before I knew it our small two-some had turned into three.  As we hopped from train to parking lot, to train, to bus, to home, the three of us had swapped stories, shared complaints, and talked a lot about the Olympics.  We had become survival friends!   At 1:30 the bus stopped across the street from my house and, in a moment of panic, I shot out of my seat, quickly waved goodbye, and RAN my ass home to take a shower and snuggle in bed with the Redcoat.  There’s nothing like a natural disaster to make you appreciate a clean towel, a soft mattress, and the arms of someone you love wrapped tightly around you.  Even if it is a super minor natural disaster that was actually more fun than cumbersome and made you feel like a navigation pro for making it home in the end. 

Zanna and Jaime, if you’re reading this, it was an absolute pleasure to share the worst commute ever with you!  Perhaps we’ll run into each other in town one day, or maybe we won’t.  I’m sorry I made you play the What are you thankful for? game (my optimism never dies!) and I’m sorry you both had to wake up earlier than I did this morning.  :(

*UNO, EIN, ICHI, people, ONE!  Where did this country learn their customer service?!
**He didn’t really say that, but, like, basically he did.  It was the most convoluted action plan I’ve ever heard of but it sure as hell beat the possibility of having to crash on someone’s couch with unbrushed teeth and feet that smell like water-logged leather.  Ewz!
***Uh, gooooooood luuuuuucccck! (Note, when you’re stranded somewhere, it’s generally not the best idea to find the sole foreigner in the group and decide to follow them.  Like, I can be really assertive in moments of crisis but I. do. not. know. where. I. am. going!  Even when there isn’t a crisis, this is true.)

Tuesday w/Moi

Tuesday, July 10th
This is my favorite mug ever.  I think it’s important to have a favorite mug.
It makes morning a little more bearable.
Literally running out the door.  David and I had to sign some papers at a boring government office.  It was very official and very depressing.
I cheated, it was really 11:09 when I took this picture, but I was detained in the aforementioned depressing government office at 11:00 and had to wait to bust outta there before taking this picture.
Fetal position on the couch in my Alexander Wang sweatpants writing yesterday’s post.  I’m still beating myself up about that post… I don’t know how to say the things I feel in the right way, but I’m afraid if I wait, I’ll never find the right way to say them and they’ll never actually be said.
And I want to say them.  Need to say them.  You know?
I read this by James Franco on Huffington Post yesterday about his take on the first season of HBO’s Girls as well as the London production of Gatz.  He wrote,  I think the show and Lena Dunham have done something right by writing about what they know and not worrying about it being perfect.  I think this is very true and good advice.  If we wait for things to be perfect, we will live in a constant state of ennui and idleness.  Sometimes it’s brave to say things that aren’t perfect as long as you’re telling the truth.  Also, things will never be perfect, so why wait?
I tried to draw Le Chat but accidentally drew my spirit animal, a fox, instead.
Hi Little Fox!
True story: Little Fox was the name of my first and only imaginary friend.  He was, as the name suggests, a little tiny fox who followed me everywhere and was my best friend.
Lunch.  Cheese sandwich with butter and tomato.  I kinda love but kinda hate how the Brits butter everything, but mostly I think I love it.  Yumz!
Our walls are painted, OUR WALLS ARE PAINTED!  I’m obsessed with the color (Skimming Stone by Farrow & Ball) and I’m so pleased the curtains actually match something now!
Yesterday was laundry day for our light colored clothes.
Took a walk (to buy some wine) and passed St. John’s as the clock struck 5:00.  I think I’ll go to a service on Sunday.  I think it’s time I go back to church.
My mom mailed me that pressed flower.  Isn’t she sweet?
Creating things…. Next week is BIRTHDAY WEEK and I have so many cards to make!
These watercolo(u)r postcards are my favorite thing right now. I need to remember to buy more when I’m by Cass tomorrow…
Okay, so this was supposed to be my mom’s birthday card for next week (don’t worry, Mom, you’ll get something else instead) but I ruined it! with this crappy color scheme and terrible glitter application!  I also got superglue all over my left hand and had a panic attack because I couldn’t get it off.  EEK! Anyway, happy early birthday, Mother!  Start celebrating RIGHT NOW!
Freshly polished shoes.  Mine can fit inside David’s.  His feet are soooo big!
Let’s skip 22:00 because I was on a Skype call with my BFF, Brent, and I think he’d kill me if I posted the photo I took of us talking.  SO, here I am at 11:00.  In bed, with a candle beside me, and talking to my wonderful older brother who always helps to put things in perspective for me.  Two great Skype calls in a row, what a lucky lady I am!
So that was my Tuesday.  Thanks for reading!

Evil Stepmother Chronicles, Part I

The E.S.M. Chronicles will occur once a week and will tell of my trials and tribulations as an Evil Stepmother.  Contrary to what you may believe, my life is not all ravens and poisoned apples, and I’d actually argue that I’m more of a Passive Aggressive Stepmother than an evil one, which is undoubtedly a result of my Minnesota-Nice upbringing.  Because being an E.S.M. is not as easy as one would believe (unless you are, of course, evil, in which case I imagine it being as simple as snapping your fingers), I’ve decided to share my experiences with you, dear reader, and I hope you gain something from my stories- whether it be entertainment, understanding, or simply comfort in knowing that we all have struggles that make us feel isolated and alone.  

Let’s start at the beginning. 

Once upon a time, I accidentally fell in love with an English gentleman named David.  I was not planning to fall in love with anyone for many years and barely even believed in the concept of true love or, rather, didn’t believe it would ever happen to me.  But it did happen, and I turned my life upside down because of it.

You see, David is 29 years older than me.  I know, I know, you totally just imagined Hugh Hefner drinking bourbon in bed with a handful of naked Playmates, but it’s not like that.  If I were a gold-digger, I’d have gone for the guy with the Bentley, but instead I fell for the warm-hearted Redcoat who, within a matter of months, became my best friend and biggest cheerleader (and I hope I’m doing a good job of returning the favor).  When I met David, I was preparing to move from Boston, where I’d lived for four years, back to my home in Minnesota, where I was planning to live with my BFFs (my family) and sensibly live happily ever after.  But things didn’t go as planned and I chose instead to stay in Boston with David.  The reaction from my family and friends was really painful at first; most of them thought I was making the biggest mistake of my life and strongly advocated for me to break things off with David, but instead I made the very difficult decision to stay with him and alienate people who I loved and who loved me, too.  It was a dark and difficult time, but it was also a beautiful time, full of laughter and love.

Now, onto the E.S.M. part of the story:  David has two sons.  They are 21 and 24 years-old.  I am 24 years-old.  It’s weird, right?  They see me as a peer, and I see them as children.  Back in Boston, David’s sons would visit three or four times a year.  Upon their arrival, our small apartment would explode in piles of dirty clothes, misplaced wet towels and abandoned pizza boxes.  Suddenly the fridge was always empty, the television was always on and I’d be forced to work from the bedroom where I’d reenact that scene from The Grinch when he looks down on Whoville and complains, “All the noise, noise, Noise!!!” Those weeks were difficult.  I didn’t need them to like me (though I wanted them to), but I needed them to respect me and I wanted David to fight for me- for us- in the same way I fought for him with my family.

I’ve mended relationships with many of the people I initially hurt by choosing to stay with David, and I’ve been incredibly blessed to have so many amazing and supportive people in my life.  When we decided to move to the UK, I knew the dynamics of our relationship would change, but I didn’t realize how I’d react to certain behaviors, and how often I’d be guilty of comparing David’s family to my own.

David and I only live with his youngest son, but we see the older one on a pretty regular basis, too.  In fact, he was here this weekend- came home at 5:47 AM on Sunday with two friends and then passed out in the bathroom for an hour before hauling himself into the bedroom to sleep on a naked mattress with the other two gents.  I know because I was woken by all the commotion and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I have friends who behave like this, too, and when they tell me stories of passing out in bathrooms or sleeping in weird places I roll my eyes and laugh.  I’m a hypocrite because when David’s sons behave like this, I have a panic attack that feels like cardiac arrest, lose my appetite for hours, and cry.  Cry all the time.  Mostly out of anger, but sometimes out of sadness.  I didn’t sign up for this, I tell myself, I don’t know what to do!  But I did sign up for it when I got married and now I need to work through it and find a solution. 

In high school I had a teacher who said something that has always stuck with me- it was a simple question but one that I ask myself often, especially in these days of introspection and turmoil: Can you manage for what you value?  Right now, I feel as if I cannot manage.  It is not my place to manage our household, it is David’s, and it is my job to support him.  If I were to step in and say what I feel, I would immediately become The Evilest Stepmother Of Them All, and though I sometimes fantasize about that moment, I can’t bring myself to wedge between David and his sons and make him choose between us.  This means I must compromise some things that I value- my privacy, my voice, and my ideals of how certain situations should be dealt with.  And then I must deal with the results of these compromises, which is feeling weak, angry, and isolated (and some bitchy behavior… which I need to rectify immediately).  I feel like I’ve been trying really hard but haven’t really gotten anywhere.  I guess I need to try harder.  Try better.

One day, I hope the four of us can sit together over a meal and truly enjoy spending time together.  Maybe they’ll have girlfriends or wives and children of their own, and together we can drink wine and laugh about these times.  I want that to happen so badly, I really really do.  The boys are good guys, I just don’t know how to communicate with them and right now being an Evil Stepmother really super sucks.

I’ll try not to be such a Debbie-Downer in this feature every week.   And I’ll also try not to be so scattered.  I’m working through a lot of emotions right now and I don’t know how to say things without sounding like a raging psycho, but I’ll work on that.  Promise!  xxx

Okay, one more thing: Don’t I look totally super ESM in that picture?  I actually dressed as an Evil Stepmother for Halloween last year, and this outfit (which I wore to work on a regular work day, collar and all… true story) inspired that costume.  Okay, donzo now.  For realz. 

Top Secret Inspiration

I’m working on a new project that has me thumbing through the illustrations and photos I loved as a child and some of the imagery that has really impacted me over the years.  I don’t do Pinterest boards (I see the point, but loath the photo “sharing” policy and attitudes of most pinners) but I do make my own inspiration boards for big projects.  I often gravitate toward things I can physically interact with, especially in the early stages, and I’ll often touch, feel, and smell things before photographing them and adding them to my personal inspiration board/thing.  Here are just of the few things that are currently lighting my fire, in order of appearance:

  1. My typewriter, which holds such a special place in my heart! It’s an Olympia from the 1960s with a script font and color scheme that makes me weak in the knees.
  2. Stamped letters (hand stamped with watercolor paint by moi).
  3. Chris Ware‘s witty cover illustrations for the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Voltaire’s Candide.
  4. A random photo I cut out of a magazine (or something?) while in college. I have a major soft spot for rose prints.  THEY’RE JUST SO PRETTY!
  5. A couple notecards from Henry Horenstein‘s stunning Animalia collection that I bought at the Harvard Museum of Natural History once upon a time.  I’ve been obsessed with that jellyfish print for years!
  6. Quentin Blake‘s images for Roald Dahl.  His style is simple yet masterfully expressive. 
  7. As a girl, Mary Poppins was everything I wanted to be when I grew up and still to this day I try my best to be practically perfect in every way. These simple line drawings by Mary Shepard take me right back to the ginormous plaid armchair I spent so many days nestled in reading as a child.  I love Mary Poppin’s gangly figure and always-rosy cheeks.  Perfection, indeed!

As this project moves forward, I’ll be sure to share more inspiration and snippets with you. Until that day comes, I will be laboring away like a madwoman!

July 4th w/Moi

Wednesday, July 4, 2012
 I slept in because it was a holiday.  Obviously I put together a patriotic outfit.
Blue denim shirt, white denim pants, red shoes.
In my head, painting the apartment is super fast and easy.  In real life, it is tedious and exhausting.
But worth it.  Totally worth it.
Taping is my least favorite part, though.
When we painted the kitchen on Saturday, we forgot to paint the bit of wall above the cupboards.  Guess who got to stand on the counter, stooped below the ceiling and paint that part.  (ME!) And guess how grimy the top of the cupboards were.  (VERY!)  And guess how long it took just to clean the grim off. (I DON’T KNOW BUT IT WAS REALLY GROSS AND TOOK A LONG LONG TIME AND I BROKE A NAIL!)
Good riddance!
When I was cleaning/painting, I had this on repeat.  I haven’t bought her new album yet but I need to because I love her.  My single favorite Fiona Apple fact is that she dated Jonathan Ames for, like, three years.  That must have been the most fabulous/complicated/bizarre relationship ever.  Like, I cannot even begin to imagine!
Did some art stuff.
Like this, for instance.
My paint brushes kept my mint plant company while they dried.  Please note that I haven’t killed my mint plant yet!  I am so proud of myself!
I realized I was dangerously dehydrated (staying hydrated is a constant struggle for me, all my favorite beverages dehydrate me.  It’s v. sad.) so I made myself drink many glasses of lemon water so I could justify drinking alcohol later in the evening.
Painting.  Again.  My little fingers are so tired, you guys!
I made myself some scrambled eggs with cheese and tomatoes for dinner. I cannot wait for someone to invent Willy Wonka meal pills for nights when I am too tired to feed myself delicious things.  I mean, sometimes I just want some calories to keep me alive, not an actual meal.
I’m being 100% serious, yo.
I was finally able to change out of my ugly paint clothes and into my AMERICA outfit!
Please note the Redcoat just chillin’ on the couch, being all annoyed that our living room in total disarray due to our home renovation.  But isn’t my stone-colored wall gorgeous?! I’m in love with it!
The two things I collect: Blanton’s tops and beverages.  No, seriously, you should see my bedside!  I have four empty glasses there at any given moment.  Usually a wine glass, a tumbler, and two or three water glasses.  It drives Coxy crazy, but I can’t help it.  They just magically appear beside me, all the time!  Anyway, I added mint to my lemon water last night to make it more exotic and interesting.  I gotta trick my taste buds into hydration.
Like I said, it’s a constant struggle.
I realized last night that the tree across the street looks like a person with their arms in splints [and who is also a tree...].  Also, I am crazy.
David made me watch Spooks with him again.  All the spies keep dying/disappearing and it’s really upsetting.
After that I went to bed.  I’m sure your Fourth of July was far more interesting than mine.  I mean, I certainly hope it was!

Inspired By: Nora Ephron

I want to talk about Nora Ephron.  The men in my life don’t really understand how much her death affected me, and last Thursday was a sad day, indeed. 

I was eleven when You’ve Got Mail came out and I saw it in theaters with my best friend (hi, Sarah!) and her mother (hi, Trudi!).  I didn’t fully understand the nuances of Ephron’s comedy at that age, but I walked out of that theater feeling touched, forever changed.  I wanted to grow up and be just like Kathleen Kelly.  I wanted to have a sunny apartment on a tree-lined city street, I wanted to have a shop that was mine that I would fight for, and I wanted to one day fall in love with a man who would challenge me and love me and together we would be happy for as long as we both shall live

As I matured and grew older, the movie changed with me.  I became more acutely aware of Kathleen’s dilemma and saw that small business owners across America were going through similar hardships as chain stores turned old fields into superstores and put their tiny competitors out of business.  This outraged me and inspired me to shop at locally-owned businesses whenever possible.  Eventually, I ended up working for a small business in Boston and I helped to make it stronger and more competitive in the marketplace.  When I left the company two months ago, we were on the brink of a total brand overhaul that I so badly wanted to be a part of.  Next month they are moving to a luxurious new location and I’m angry that I won’t be there to welcome our clients through our shiny new door and into the chic new space.  Yet I’m proud of their success and proud of the role I played in helping them move forward.  It’s because of Ephron’s sweet interpretation of The Shop Around the Corner that I work to preserve and support the shops (and artists) around our corners that help to define and differentiate our communities and I’m excited to find new businesses to work with here in the UK. 

The day after her passing, I made David watch You’ve Got Mail with me [again].  This time, what came through was Kathleen Kelly’s optimism in light of losing everything.  Despite having lost her mother, her store, and her identity, she bravely moved forward, explored her opportunities and made a new life for herself.  That, my friends, is brave. That is inspiring.

“And then the dreams break into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice: you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.” –Nora Ephron.

Right now, I too feel as if I’ve lost my identity. Making new friends, which has always come easily to me, has completely evaded me in this country and I feel claustrophobic in my small town.  I’ve been wearing spandex leggings and t-shirts for weeks (people, to better help you understand what a monstrous tragedy this is, I only have, like, two t-shirts and one pair of leggings) and right now I’m selfishly enjoying wallowing in my own misery.  Luckily, I married a man who challenges me.  He knows when he needs to let me cry alone, but also knows when he needs to come and sit on the side of the bed and tell me to take control and move forward

Much to my dismay, the UK isn’t all Colin Firth, ginger biscuits and tea with the Queen.  I’m learning how to be an Evil-Stepmother, how to connect with a country of people who are simultaneously much more reserved and far more crass (in my opinion) that Americans, and how to dream another dream and then make that dream my reality.  One day, if I can do something one tenth as special as what Nora Ephron has done, I will be a very happy woman and right now, it’s my turn to be brave.

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” –Nora Ephron.

 One more thing: I will not be doing a Tuesday with Moi this week because all I did today is wallow in bed, make lists, work, and write in my journal.  Instead, I will be doing a 4th of July with Moi and will post pictures on Thursday.  Xox

Cox Quarters DIY: Paint It Black

Ever since I was sixteen and living in Brussels, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of a black kitchen.  The idea sparked when I first visited L’Atelier en Herbe in the Sablon, which is a beautiful flower shop that is completely painted matte black.  The flowers dramatically pop against the dark background and I remember thinking how beautiful an eggplant, leek or strawberry would look in a kitchen with black walls. 

Fastforward eight hears and I finally have it- my very own black kitchen!  And though we have a few spots to touch up and some finishing tweaks to make, I can say with much certainty that I am obsessed with my black kitchen.  It is so sleek and warm, so dramatic and clean.  I am in l.o.v.e.

See how the colors just pop!  So cool.  
This is the first major overhaul I’ve made to Cox Quarters so far, but it will certainly not be the last.  I still have major plans for the living room (which will be finished this week), hallways, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.  Basically it’s all getting an overhaul.  And then, knowing us, David will get a job in Bristol or something and we’ll end up moving.  Whatever.  This is just the beginning of a number of changes to our environment that I’ve set it motion to help us take control of our space and our lives.  I got tired of saying, When you get a job, let’s…. so instead of waiting around for the world to meet my needs, I am going to meet them myself.  And boy does it feel good!