Monthly Archives: January 2013

Tuesday With Moi

Tuesday, January 29th
Collector’s Edition
 Yesterday morning was cold- so cold- so I sat in bed, shivering and reading, until the heater kicked in and the room warmed around me.  Did I tell you, dear reader, that I joined a book club?  Cloud Atlas is our next book. Have you read it?
As I was walking through the flat, I found a £1 coin and realized I’d never seen this design on the back before.  Did you know that there are 19 different reverse sides of the £1 coin? The designs represent the United Kingdom and its four constituencies: Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, England.  This design, which was issued in 1985 and 1990 and depicts a leek and royal diadem, is representative of Wales.
I imagine some people collect all the different designs.  Me?  I don’t really collect things…
Except Blanton’s Bourbon corks, which I keep in my collection of Arabic cups on the window ledge.
Right next to my collection of old books.
Oh, and I suppose I collect ribbons that strike my fancy, too.


Slowly, I’m also trying to build a collection of useful and decorative houseplants, but sometimes they die, or Le Chat eats them.  Other than all that, I don’t collect too much.

Around 3:30, I went to my bedroom to work on a hand-sketched post card for this project.
The wind was blowing mightily outside and, as I was working, I accidentally fell asleep.
When I awoke, the lamplight came in through the window and shone on the rain-splattered glass like fire.
For dinner, I made a rice stir-fry with tofu, miso, yellow peppers and green beans.  So easy, so cozy.
My basil plant is looking a little lonely on the windowsill since the mint plant’s passing.  
Over the summer, I’m going to really focus on growing my herb collection.  I want this flat to be a greenhouse! 
Shoes, you guys, shoes.  I also collect shoes.
Because the rain was falling sideways and the wind was straight from Oz, David said he’d drive me to my Tunbridge Wells Writers meeting.  Since I didn’t have to schlep through town, I changed out of my winter boots and skinny jeans and opted instead for something snappier- namely my pony hair leopard print booties.  It’s so exciting when I get to dip into my shoe collection!  I’m afraid I haven’t done so with any kind of frequency since our move… 
Every other Tuesday, our writer group meets at the Black Pig.  I arrived a little early- just before eight- and settled in with a glass of wine as the room filled with people.

We had a great turnout last night.  Over wine and lager, we shared stories and inspiration, complaints about the weather and our dreams for the future.

It was lovely.

I guess you could say that we collectively collect empty glasses, too… I do not envy the dishwasher!

 A little after 11:00, my chauffeur took me home and, eventually, to bed to collect some ZZZs.

Thanks for reading! xox

p.s.  Mrs. Anke visited our writers group last night so she could snap pictures and write about what it is we do (umm, what is it that we do, again?)… you can find her post here.  Enjoy! 

@ Blessings


My friend Lauren is one of those women with a signature scent.  In her case, it’s Chanel No. 5, but I’ve never known another woman to wear it with the same finesse.  The perfume joins with her own personal fragrance to create a scent that’s distinctly her own— Tenacious, luxe, Lauren.  You can sense when she enters the room, know when she’s just walked past, and track her movements through a crowd.  I hadn’t seen Lauren since May, when we were back in Boston and saying sloppy goodbyes after a long night at the F; but we saw her yesterday and picked up right where we left off nine months ago- continued with laughter and stories, photos and dreams.  And Lauren, she smelled exactly the same.  Some things, like friendship, just don’t change. 

>  Photos taken at Lauren’s friend’s new bar in East London, Blessings <

Monmouth Coffee

David and I are coffee drinkers.  Drip coffee, filter coffee, french pressed* coffee, we guzzle it like gasoline as our gears warm in the mornings.   We like our coffee hot out of the pot and, when it’s good, we drink it black and let the blend of unique flavors wash over our tongues and warm our bellies.  ‘Round here, we love coffee. 

As you can imagine, we’re quite particular about our coffee, and good coffee in these parts is mighty hard to find.  A couple times, my mom has sent my favorite roast all that way from Minneapolis, but too often we’ve had to pinch our noses and buy something off the grocery shelf.  But not anymore!  Thanks to the good people at our favorite local coffee stop, The Black Dog Café, we can now buy responsibly-sourced and sustainably-harvested coffee by Monmouth Coffee Company.  It may seem a little pricey at £12 per 500 g, but I can assure you that it’s worth every pence.  The coffee, it is good, and using our spending power to help support a UK-based roaster, a local café, and two fantastic businesses feels pretty darn fine, too.  Quality, it can’t be beat, and I’m looking forward to enjoying more of Monmouth‘s roasts as well as many more of Black Dog‘s exquisite flat whites.

Are you a coffee drinker, dear reader?  What are your favorite roasts and how do you drink your coffee?  I’d love to know and I wish you a lovely (snowy?) weekend full of hot coffee, wool socks, and cozy duvets.  xox! 

*Or Cafetère, as they say here.

> Open Hearts, Open Doors <

Let me preface this post by saying that today, I wanted to get personal.  It’s been too long since I cracked my heart open like a chestnut and shared some feelings with you.  Truth is, I haven’t needed to.  Things have been going well– so well!– and I’d almost forgotten to acknowledge my blessings and show thanks for them.  But these past few days, I’ve remembered; this post is an offering of thanks and a small representation of my psyche.  I wish I could say it better, but for now this will have to do.

You know that part in Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth realizes that she’s the one who’s been too proud, too prejudiced, and too blinded by her own stubborn judgements and vanity to see the goodness that stood directly before her?  Well, you guys, I am Elizabeth, and it turns out that Tunbridge Wells is my Mr. Darcy.

Since hanging up my freelance saddle at the beginning of the year and promising myself that I’d live in the present and experience all this town has to offer, I’ve been overwhelmed by the diversity, creativity, and kindness of the people I’ve met.  I’ve been touched by their helpfulness, flattered by their curiosity, and so encouraged by their spirited discussions and visions for the future.  Already, I have friends I cherish and places in which I know I’ll feel welcome.  More than once, I’ve been moved to tears by the richness of this town and the goodness of its people.  Slowly, I’m finding my tribe, and my only regret is that that I let my spirit be clouded by hasty judgements and fear for all those months before.

As I look back on these first eight months (nine, almost nine), I wanted to implore you to remember that an open heart opens doors and an open mind is keen to grow.  This world is a beautiful place, dear reader, but sometimes we need to stop squinting to see this to be true.  I don’t know where these coming months will lead me, but for once I don’t feel troubled by uncertainty.  I’m happy here.  Happy to learn, happy to grow, happy to meet new friends and have adventures.  And oh, what a wonderful adventure this is!

Thank you for being here (there), dear reader, thank you for putting up with me, and thank you for reading.  xx 

>   A Captive Audience? by David Reekie, 2000.  Photo taken at the Victoria & Albert museum.  <

Tuesday With Moi

Tuesday, January 22
 Wordless, Mostly
There’s a lot I want to say.  Ideas have been churning in my mind and feelings have been gripping my heart and giving movement to my hands.  There’s much I want to tell you, but today isn’t the day to say these things.  Tomorrow might be, though. 
Until those words spill forth from my heart to this screen, I’m at a loss.  I don’t have the ability to tell you about my Tuesday because the words, they are stuck.  Rest assured, however, that yesterday was a marvelous day.  A marvelous day full of snowfall and new friends, exciting ideas and growth.  I hope you enjoy the pictures and, as always, thank you for checking in.  
Over and out, for now. 
>  photos taken at home, La Roche, The Royal Wells Hotel, Kitsu, & Sankey’s  <

BagelMania

When we moved in May, we sold all of our fancy kitchen gadgets- most of which we never used, anyhow- and have yet to regret life without them.  A KitchenAid blender?  I’d rather buy shoes.  A food processor?  That’s what knives are for, silly.  Measuring spoons?  REAL SPOONS!  Rolling pin?  Wine bottle.  A can opener?  Who needs one when I can use a screwdriver and hammer*… Are you sensing a theme here?  Do you understand that I’m a bona-fide kitchen rebel?

With that in mind, you can understand why I’ve been reluctant to tackle something as seemingly difficult as bread baking.  Every recipe I read calls for a bread hook, a bread-maker, or some such device that I do not have and have no desire in procuring, but last week, an intense craving for a proper, American-style bagel stirred me to action and I perused Stephanie’s blog for inspiration.  BAM, there it was, a recipe for New York Deli-Style Bagels that didn’t call for anything more technologically advanced than a stove and oven.  I rolled up my sleeves, greased my elbows, and rattled around the kitchen until I found things** that would work well enough to get the job done.  Then, I started bagel-making.

Due to laziness and my own taste, I made a few minor adjustments to Stephanie’s recipe:

  1. Instead of using active dry yeast, I just used a packet of easy bake yeast.  It worked like a charm.
  2. I substituted white baking flour with wholemeal baking flour and used only a tiny sprinkling of sugar because I hate sugar and don’t enjoy it in anything other than the occasional Old Fashioned.  (Next time, I’d cut out the sugar completely.  I’m all about savory ’round these parts.)
  3. Before putting the boiled bagels in the oven, I painted (literally, with a paintbrush) a liberal coating of rosemary, Maldon sea salt flakes, and olive oil on top.

After a little bit of kneading and an almost tropical afternoon in my very warm kitchen, you’ll be happy to know that my American-style bagel craving has been cured.  The bagels, they’re delicious (just ask David, he’ll tell you!).  They’re wonderfully springy, toast well, and are perfect for bacon and egg breakfast sandwiches.  Now, I just need to find a recipe for homemade cream cheese and I’ll be well on my way to paradise… suggestions are welcome!

* On second thought, maybe a can opener would be a sound investment?
** In lieu of a mixing bowl, I used a Le Creuset casserole thingy and instead of a slotted spoon, I used a slotted spaghetti spoon because I’m fancy.  (Please note: the spaghetti spoon will put holes in your bagels unless you’re careful.  Halfway through, I swapped it for a spatula and the results were very successful.  Don’t be afraid to get creative in your kitchen, you guys!)

Stuck in the Web

Do you love Jack White?  Do you love Conan O’Brien?  Great!  Watch this. (WARNING: it’s 75 minutes long, so, like, make sure you’re sitting somewhere comfortable and have a snack and/or beverage on hand before you settle in and enjoy.)

Beginners is one of my favorite films.  I watched it again this past week, this time with David, and it was so lovely to sit beside him and experience the subtlety of the storytelling, the melancholy and beauty of the love story, and the stunning set styling again (check out Brian Ferry’s screen captures, here).  Plus, Christopher Plummer has my heart- now and for always- and the entire cast is really terrific.
Fun Fact:  The film’s director, Mike Mills, is married to fountain-of-creativity, Miranda July, and if that doesn’t make you more inclined to watch it, I don’t know what will.

I’m making New York Deli-Style Bagels later today using a recipe by Baker Extraordinaire, Stephanie Wise.  She’s always baking the most delicious sounding breads and I’m excited to finally try one for myself.  Obviously, I’ll update you on how it goes…

This peek inside the International Space Station is an absolute delight!  No, really.  A DELIGHT.  If you’ve ever- even for a fleeting second- wondered what it would be like to live in space, you need to check it out.

And finally, prepare to be amazed: How Sewing WorksSo entrancing!

Now, get outta here and have a happy weekend! xox

* SNOW *

My Minnesotan heart is rejoicing, for there is snow in Tunbridge Wells!  And not just flurries, but real, honest to God, stick-to-the-ground snow.  As I walked through town, giant snowflakes blew into my face, settled on my hair, melted in the bottom of my shopping bag.  It was glorious.  It is glorious!

> Photo & Scene <

He said that if he hadn’t come here, he would have gone to San Francisco.  “Really? They’re such different kinds of places.”  I was sipping a cup of freshly brewed coffee, blowing on it before taking small sips and trying not to burn my tongue.

“They’re not so different to a kid in Iowa who only wants three things: a city, an ocean, a way out.”  He counted these three things on his fingers, long and slender, capable.  Piano hands, my mother would’ve called them.

“I can understand that,” I said, flipping over the menu and trying to decide if I wanted breakfast or lunch.  ”I’m not from here myself.  Most people aren’t, not in this part of the city, anyway.  We’re all transplants, we come expecting to leave after our graduation or promotion or whatever, but most of us wind up staying.  We get sucked in.  Heck, I’ve been here eight years already, but I only intended for it to be three.”  I skimmed through the specials.  Nothing sounded good but my stomach was hallow and the coffee was making me shake.  The boy from Iowa was folding a paper napkin into triangles with his shoulders hunched and his body resting heavily on the bar top. So do you think you’ll stay?”
 
“Too early to tell, I guess.  I got a kid sister back home.  She’s not a kid anymore, not really anyway, but I’m all she has and I feel responsible for her, you know?  Like I should go back and take care of her or something.”

“But you don’t want to do that.”
“No.” He looked away, scratched his chin with the back of his hand.  “I can’t go back. It just- I can’t.”
“How old is she, your sister?”
“Almost nineteen.”
“That’s not too young.”

“No.  She’s going to be alright.  I mean, she’s studying to become a nurse and is living in some old house with a couple other girls.  They seem nice, a kind of makeshift family, I guess, but I’m trying to get her to move away, if not here than somewhere else.  Somewhere with opportunities, you know?  Chicago isn’t far for her and she’s bright.  She could get a job I think, she could be happy.”  He trailed off, his eyes staring at something only he could see.  The waitress brought out a club sandwich and put it in front of him.  Without moving his gaze he raised a french fry to his mouth and took his time chewing it.

“I’ll have one those those,” I said, making up my mind and gesturing to his plate. “A side of extra ketchup too, please.”

“You got it,” the waitress said, feeling her apron pocket for her pencil and looking at the boy.  “You okay?’ she asked, calling him back from the place his mind had journeyed.  “Everything alright?”

“Yeah,” he said absently.  “Everything’s fine.”  He picked up half of the sandwich and began to eat, still taking time with his chewing, still vacantly staring at the back of the bar.

“It will be,” I said.  “You know that, don’t you?”

He glanced over at me, skeptical, tired.  “I guess.”  He wiped his hands on a napkin and reached for his wallet.  He put twelve fifty on the counter and began to eat again, faster now.  When he’d finished the sandwich he flashed me a weak smile and gave his shoulders a little shrug.  “I mean, of course everything’s gonna be fine.  It has to be.  You know?”
                                                                          

Photo taken last year, somewhere in America.

Tuesday With Moi

Tuesday, January 15

Out & About

Sunshine, you guys!  There was sunshine yesterday morning!
I prepared my coffee with the sun streaming through the windows and a smile on my face.
I had big plans for my day.

Days with big plans call for a more thoughtful outfit than my usual sweater and leggings combination.  I dug through my accessories box and found this wonderful broach that a former colleague, and friend, gave to me.  I didn’t wear it yesterday, but seeing it reminded me of my dear friend John and it made me smile.

After some internet wandering and homemaker-type things, it was time to decide on an outfit.  I almost wore this dress with a black turtleneck and wooly tights (winter white, so chic) but decided on pants trousers last minute instead.

I also decided to be a curly girl for the day.  Something about cold weather and wavy hair just feels right- feels jolly and bouncy and sweet.

Part of what made yesterday a big day was that I was dropping off my resume and applying for a position that I’d quit like to secure.  I won’t tell you what it is unless I get it (fingers crossed, people!) but this was the envelope I delivered it in.

After the drop off, I did some shopping (accidentally, of course) and scored some beautiful pieces at Minimaya.  What’s that, dear reader?  You want to know what I bought?
Well, I’ll tell you.  I purchased two beautiful, locally made leather vests (Mother, you will be so jealous when you see them!) and a fabulously warm black scarf.  I won’t even tell you how much I paid because you’ll never believe me, the sale was that good.

I continued my wander through town, poking my head in shops and turning down streets I’d never noticed before. 
The sun was setting and the sky was beautiful!

And though it was cold- so cold!- my vintage rabbit fur muff kept me warm.

In the midst of my dinner, I had a terrible realization.
“OH MY GOSH MY RING, IT’S GONE!”
No, not that ring, thank goodness, but another one.  The simple wire ring that my parents bought on a trip to Australia and had given to me last Christmas had disappeared from my finger.  My ring was somewhere in Tunbridge Wells and I didn’t know where!  I immediately turned into Gollum and started searching for the ring.  I turned my bags inside out, I retraced my footsteps, I sent a desperate plea to the people of Twitter to help find my ring, but I knew in my heart that it was lost.  Probably

After a futile search, I returned home to prepare for my evening out.
I let my new suede vest comfort me in the midst of my loss.
The pockets of the vest reminded me of Bilbo Baggins which in turn made me think of Gollum, then the ring, my loss and my sadness.
Just kidding!  I was actually quite happy.

After walking back through town with my eyes glued to the ground, scanning for a bit of silver, I made it to my eight o’clock meeting with the Tunbridge Wells Writers.
We (because I’m a part of their group now) meet at The Black Pig every other Tuesday.

Over a few drinks we chatted about books and writing, politics and community, ourselves and others.

And it was really, really fun, you guys!

Eventually, our glasses were empty, our crisps were gone and it was time to say goodbye.

 I walked home feeling light and happy, my eyes haphazardly scanning the sidewalk for a shimmer of metal, but there was no ring to be found. 
When I arrived home, I kicked my feet up and told David about my night.  And he told me about his night.  And then we went to bed.

Now, I know you’re really concerned about my lost ring, so you’ll be delighted to know that I found it!  I remembered trying on a pair of gloves whilst shopping at Minimaya and thought that maybe, just maybe, my ring had fallen off in the finger of the glove.  Lo and behold, I was correct, and this afternoon I skipped down the High Street to retrieve it.  So la-di-da & happily ever after.

As always, you’re a gem for reading.  A BIG HUGE PRECIOUS GEM.  And I love you.
xox