Letting Go of Summer

 

 

As Summer falls away,

she leaves me with a myriad of vivd memories.

All the images are worth savoring and they are coming with me,

as

Autumn sends a note of small brown leaves,

floating on air,

announcing her arrival.

The seasons are all visitors.

I’m happy to see them come and

I’m sad when they leave;

but there is always another to follow and that is exciting.

Sometimes it’s good to remember just how wonderful every day life really is.

These are some of my Summer memories:

 Bright Starry Nights… Fawns playing in the vineyard…. Sounds of the Stream…… Great Finds at the Flea Market… Hot, Sunny Days….. Fresh Peaches…. Crazy Hail Storms… Hummingbirds and Honeysuckle….Beautiful Weddings ….. Tomato & American Cheese on White with Mayo……. Dozens of new, baby goldfish appearing in the pond…….wonderful visits with old friends…..Ice Cream….. The Majesty of Thunder & Lightening Storms…. Wind Chimes…. The Solar Eclipse… Peace & Quiet… A few wonderful days away.. Sadness at the passing of another season.. and joy that I was here to experience all of it.

 

I’ve stopped making too many plans

or thinking a lot about the future .

Because the truth is:

You just don’t know what’s coming.

So, swim in the present moment,

“until your fingers get all pruny”.

That’s the only sensible thing to do.

After you do that- gently let go of Summer.

 All you have to do is relax and wait for your old friend, Autumn

to appear in all her splendor.

Welcome her with open arms because

she is bringing

more wonderful things, new experiences,

 and another season of change and surprise.

And Rejoice!

Rejoice that you are here to see it.

This Tiny Life

 

 

A dear friend of mine, who passed away a few years ago, referred to our time here on earth as:

“This Tiny Life”.

At first I didn’t quite understand what he meant, but I believe I do now.

At the beginning of my life, the thought of living 80+ years seemed like an eternity.

Time passes so slowly when you are young.

There were days I couldn’t imagine I would ever be 21.

That was years away!

But once you get going- on your own, in the real world,

things speed up.

There is college, career, dating, marriage(s), children, divorce(s)

your children’s activities, camps, family vacations,

school, work travel, moving, creating a home, climbing the ladder at work ,

sick children, sick parents,

 disappointment, sadness and joy.

It leaves little time for reflection.

When we do find the opportunity to reflect on time, we’ve used up most of it.

I’m 68 and I honestly do not know where the last 50 years have gone!

I know I’ve lived them.

But so much is just a blur in my memory.

The less time we have left, the faster it goes.

I’m beginning to panic, because I feel like I am just starting “to get it” –

just starting to understand what I’m doing here,

how to do it and how to make the most of it.

I’ve struggled, as we all do ,

trying to figure things out and

I’ve come to the conclusion that trying to figure things out

is a waste of what little time we do have.

Just live. Jump in. Do it!

Do your very best and always try to do better.

 Embrace this tiny life, on this beautiful blue planet.

Be happy for each and every little thing along the way;

Celebrate being here and how much beauty  there is.

 Be grateful for each blessing you have

and believe me, there are many .

 

All the pain and misery we endure along the way

is something that cannot be helped.

 It cannot be avoided so all we can do is change our response to it.

 We can lessen the effects through our gratitude for life and

our determination to be happy with “what is”.

Don’t let anything rob you of your happiness.

In doing so, we may live out this “tiny lifetime” the way it was meant to be lived;

joyfully, loving and being loved;

 secure in the knowledge that we made the most of all of it.

When it’s time to leave, there will always be sadness, tears and pain.

But hopefully ,we will leave without a lot of regret

about how we lived this tiny life.

The choice is ours to make.

On Design: If you love it, it works!

 

 

Years ago, there seemed to be a lot more restrictions on

“what goes with what”.

Everyone had a choice of only several design styles.

In the 50’s there was ” Modern”,

now referred to as Mid- Century Modern.

We all know what that looks like.

 

Another style was “Colonial” or “Early American”

bringing memories of  oval braided rugs,, high backed sofas

and unattractive maple dining sets.

 Dark colors, plaids, Herculon fabrics and old floral patterns

paired with  the requisite standing ash tray.

There wasn’t much to choose from with regard to accessories.

I remember the whole “Colonial thing” being dark and depressing.

 

There was also a  “Traditional” style of design

  consisting of Chippendale, Queen Anne or Georgian pieces

for those with some money but not much imagination.

This style was always accessorized with lenox china and silver pieces.

Predictability- 100%!

 

In the late 60’s- “Spanish” became the “rage”-

large, unsightly carved furniture-

paintings of matadors and bulls and

garish gold or red velvet chairs and sofas with fringe.

It was the design equivalent of a bordello.

Fortunately, it didn’t last long.

( unlike the bordello)

 

I didn’t like any of these styles-

they were either boring or horrifying .

I like a Chinese take- out menu when it comes to design-

I’ll take a couple things from Column A, a couple from Column B

and add some of my own pieces to it to make what I want.

Those “popular styles”were too boring, limiting and not personal

 

Everyone has to start somewhere to develop their own personal style.

I started by knowing what I didn’t like and went from there.

I shouldn’t cast stones because in 1970-

my first apartment featured a black/white check sofa,

a wicker peacock chair, a glass and steel coffee table,

a black leather swivel chair, a nylon filament hanging light,

bookcases painted white and shelves featuring black and white contact paper!

Yes, contact paper.

I am still ashamed!

My living room was Black, White and had Yellow accents!

I don’t even like Black, White or Yellow!

There was also a little den filled with large faux animal skin pillows thrown on a wall to wall shag rug.

Hanging beads filled the little doorway to the den.

I then purchased an outdoor wrought iron dining set for my dining room.

So, that’s how I started.

I thought it was divine!

It didn’t work- it was a hot mess.

But then again- what did I know then?

 

Now, almost 50 years later, I look back at that apartment in horror.

But I can see the beginning of my love for re-purposing items and putting unexpected pieces together..

In the early 70’s in my first home, which was a little more grown-up,I took an old oak pedestal table,

with carved lions’ head and feathers and paired it with Antique Queen Anne dining chairs,

I had stripped and painted .

I went to the Junk Store ( an early relative of the antique store),

found an old iron bed and a cupboard.

 I wallpapered the dining room with an old Schumacher design called Firebird Tree-

a really large, dramatic pattern which I also used in fabric on the living room chairs.

The dining room had very casual furniture, but a lovely, more formal wallpaper.

.My guest room was painted lime green, with white trim, a big old white iron bed and a blue and white patchwork quilt.

People who walked in the guest room were either completely horrified or entranced by it.

I believe a house speaks to you about what it wants and how it should look.

But after a while, I stopped listening to that voice and began to decorate for me- not the house.

I’ve been through A Romantic period, A Global period, A  Minimalist Primitive Antique and Linen Sofa period-  I’ve been through my French/European phase, my Mountain Cabin phase-

but ultimately you have to call my style:

Totally Me

It’s a melange of styles (as I am a melange of personalities!)

There are  some French antique tables, mixed with African Sculpture, stone walls, Buddhas, Asian touches,traditional Ralph Lauren pieces, lots of books, accessories from every where

Balinese masks

a collection of antique and homemade walking sticks

Pottery Barn- style sofas in brown and cream herringbone,

bottle green antique velvet chairs,

a large map of Paris, Old Parisian Engravings,  A large painting of The Buddha,

rugs hanging as wall art, lots of paisley,

great pillows, patterned throws, plants,

an antique cupboard from a Philadelphia Farm and

an old nail board table from the Ile de France.

It’s all about Comfort, Texture and Color.

It’s me, it’s what I love and and it’s my sanctuary.

It’s visual testimony to the veracity of the quote:

If You Love It- It Works!

 

Only buy what you LOVE.

Don’t “settle” for some piece just to fill a space.

Buy things that make you happy just looking at them.

Don’t worry about anything but making your home

a place of retreat,

reflective of your interests, your preferences, your loves, your hobbies.

Make it comfortable, welcoming and surround yourself

with colors and objects that make you happy.

It’s your Cocoon.

And if you only choose things you love,

IT WILL WORK!

House as a Mirror of Self

 

As a designer, the book “House as a Mirror of Self” has  always been a favorite.

I’ve read and referred to it many times and thought it might be interesting for you to put it to the test in your own life.

The book is not really about design. It’s about psychology and it’s effect on design. It’s about how and why we make choices on where to live, what house to buy and what we put in our homes.

There are many underlying reasons why we are attracted to particular homes or styles. Much of it has to do with our childhood memories and our longing to re-create those safe, happy places.

When we are able to create surroundings reminiscent of those childhood memories they become reflections of our deepest longings . In doing so, we are able to re-connect with our happiest times.

As adults, we fill our interior spaces with objects that reflect our sense of “self” . In the process, as we look back, we can see how and why we developed a particular style .

 

I began thinking about this concept and realized that I have done this myself, many times over the years- unaware of why I was doing it and oblivious to the fact that I was “doing” anything except buying things I liked. I never stopped to consider “why” I was drawn to specific pieces.

In my grandmother’s house- she had an attic,  which was bright, sunny, clean and wallpapered in a delicate floral pattern . It had lots of  little spaces filled with all sorts of treasures, neatly tucked under the eaves. There was a bed up there, and occasionally, I got to to sleep in that comforting little nook, surrounded by her old clothes, hat boxes and my Dad’s high chair from 1923.. I felt safe in the midst of all that family clutter, knowing  these things belonged to people I loved long before I was even on the planet. Old things that had a history always made me feel hopeful that somehow, because these items came from the past, there would also be a future.

I wish I were a minimalist but I am not. And no matter how much I try to clear my space of “things”, I can’t for any extended period of time. I am not a hoarder, by any means; but I find the presence of things I love to be essential to maintaining calm and peace inside. My home is my sanctuary, as it should be for everyone. So, it’s natural that we would create a visually pleasing and comforting space to help us survive the craziness of the world.

I think, in part, it’s because those days- long ago in my Nana’s attic shaped my perception of what a safe space looked and felt like. In that safe space I was surrounded by things that were cherished by her. It was a connection to her, to her past, to her life, to my family. Safety and happiness looked a bit like the clutter in her attic.

So, for almost all of my adult life, I have loved antiques, fabrics, trinkets gathered from around the world; pieces that bring me joy when I look at them; things of beauty, books, books and more books.  My grandfather had a library in his home and I remember sitting in that special quiet room with him, talking, reading and listening to the radio. That is one of my most cherished memories of time spent with him. So naturally, I am and always have been, drawn to  reading and books. Whenever I read, there is a fleeting glimpse of the comfy library and time spent with him.

I have no particular design style. I guess you could call it “Multiple Personality Design Disorder”.  It’s changed throughout my life, based on what type of house I’ve lived in and where I was in my journey.My problem is that I love beauty and it comes in so many forms.

I have a great love for wind chimes; always have. For many years, I never bothered to analyze it.  I have 13 of them hanging under my pergola on the patio. Where does this passion for wind chimes come from? After reading the book and putting it’s theories to the test, I trace it back to my mother’s parents’ house. My Nana had one wind chime on her front porch, which I never really noticed during the day. But, at night when I went to sleep in my mother’s old bedroom, my Nana would open the window and I would hear those chimes tinkling below me. It wasn’t just any old wind chime. It was from Japan and it was made of  long, thin, flat pieces of glass, so the tones were very high and delicate.

To this day, that is my favorite sound.( I even have wind chimes as the ring tone on my phone!) I only have one chime that sounds like the one my Nana had and every time I hear it- I am back in that little bedroom; with it’s crooked, old board floors. I  am seven, once again, there in that safe and special place where at night, I looked out  the window at the big, old buttery moon, heard leaves rustling in the trees and delighted in the tinkling of that one Japanese Glass wind chime.

Try going back in your memory, thinking about places that made you feel happy and safe, as a child .See if any of those things can be connected to your present day surroundings or your preference for certain things. It’s an interesting exercise and I promise, it will only bring you joy…and perhaps a new understanding of how and why your House is a Mirror of your self.

Greetings from New York

Picture Don Draper’s New York.

That’s  how it was the first time I went in 1955.

Awe-inspiring. That’s the term I would use.

For a little 6 year old girl, living in Pennsylvania, it was magic!

Having breakfast on the train ,

watching the skyline appear as we approached the city.

There was so much awe and excitement about making those special trips.

My grandfather was my tour guide.

He owned a Textile Mill in Pennsylvania ,but did a lot of business in the city.

He had an office in the Empire State Building on the 80th or 88th floor.

I can’t remember anymore.

 He liked showing me his New York,

which also became my New York.

He was a self -made man, a self- educated man and

an entrepreneur.

 Experiences  were valued, above all else.

He lived in an unassuming home in a very modest neighborhood,

but had a room devoted just to his books that would have rivaled the local library-

Edmund Burke, Samuel Johnson, Socrates,

all the great philosophers & classic writers.

He didn’t want to just buy me things.

He wanted me to see things and learn .

We had inexplicable bond.

 He loved spending time with me as I did with him.

 These were our special trips- every month- just the two of us.

I remember going to a movie called ” Windjammer”, around 42nd St in some big theater.

There was new technology called “cinemiracle”- which simulated a large Windjammer  cutting through the rough sea..

It was so realistic- I actually got sea sick. He felt really badly about that!

I was fascinated by the silliest things.

One of my favorite places was a Horn & Hardart Cafeteria.

Where else could you put coins in a slot and have a piece of pie magically appear.

It was thrilling.

Of course, I was only 8!

There were trips to The Rodeo and the Circus,  boating in Central Park, exploring the museums, skating at Rockefeller Center,

Window shopping on Fifth Avenue at Christmas.

Poppop was a die- hard Phillies fan- but I was absolutely devoted to Mickey Mantle and the Yankees, so

every season, we would go to a Yankees game, if I agreed to go to a Phillies game too.

He taught me so much, and showed me such wonderful things.

On the train ride home he would ask me questions

and we would talk about all we had seen during the day and what I had learned

And then he always asked me the same question….

“What is the most important lesson of all, Janice?”

“That life is a great adventure, Poppop.”

That’s right.

He died very suddenly at 65 years old.

 I was 10 and it shattered me in ways no one ever understood.

To this day- he is the person I miss the most .

That wonderful, exciting part of my life with him was over.

But, time passed and I grew and

I went on to create my own relationship with New York in my teens.

This New York included my parents and it was fun.

I started going to Broadway Plays and Restaurants

Everything seemed possible in New York in the 50’s and 60’s.

It was so glamorous!

I felt different just being in the city.

When I was  about 12 years old-

I remember eating at Danny’s Hideaway with my Mom & Dad.

Danny Stradella, the owner,was my Dad’s friend.

Apparently, it was a very “hot spot” for Celebrities- which I knew nothing about.

One night,  Danny brought a gentlemen over to our table and introduced him to my Dad and Mom.

It was Frank Sinatra..

There was a short conversation: polite chit- chat.

Frank’s parting words to my father were were :

” Love the wife”

My Dad responded : ” Me too”.

That was it.

I didn’t even really know who he was and didn’t care much.

But my mother was all atwitter.

Frank Sinatra thought she was a “babe”!

She was….

I’ve had a long and very satisfying love affair with New York.

From going there so many years, I know the city like the back of my hand.

Except for Soho. I always get confused in Soho!

Of course, when I was growing up,

  Greenwich Village was where civilization ended!

It’s changed so much.

I was there this past weekend and it’s clear to me

the New York of my childhood is long gone.

The only thing that remains

is the magic I feel every time I’m there.

                                                      That will never leave me.

 

Now, I seem to wander down memory lane quite a bit.

 I like it there.

It’s comforting, quiet and golden- hued.

All those events and experiences are etched into my memory

and I can travel there any time I want.

                                                           Frequently, I do.

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Living in Paris

Paris is where I really want to live.

The City of Lights fascinates me beyond all  understanding.

It’s been that way for over 50 years

The first time I went, I was in my 30’s and I instantly felt I was home.

Since then,

There have been many trips to Paris- for work and pleasure.

I want to go back again-

one more time…

 not just for a visit.

 My desire is to nest there a while,

not just perch for a few glorious days.

I want to LIVE in Paris-

even if it’s only for a couple of weeks…..

immerse myself and be swept away in the stream of Parisian life,

as a part of Paris….not just as an observer.

There might not be any visits to the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower.

Been there done that.

I just want to BE .

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My dream rental would have a small balcony & french doors,

opening onto a vista of crooked little streets and gray slate rooftops that grace

it’s venerated old buildings.

 A spectacular view of some famous landmark is not necessary….

Just a view of the neighborhood will do.

It should be in the 6th arrondisement-

near the Blvd. Saint Germain or the Luxembourg Gardens.

I’ve always stayed in or around St Germain and it feels comfortable there.

Picture rising each morning, throwing open the window and

breathing Paris into your lungs.

Even the first time I went to Paris- I recognized it

in my heart and soul.

I’ve never gone anywhere in the city that has felt unfamiliar or inhospitable.

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When I was there with my husband,

he would nap a little in the afternoon and

I would wander the neighborhoods

searching the local markets to buy some cheese, bread and wine;

and practice my French.

My rule was :

I needed to ask for it in French or I would not buy it.

My French usually failed me at a Patisserie,

when I was desperate for something

decadent and delicieuse!

More than once, a vendor said to me:

“you are American, aren’t you?”

I said:” how can you tell; is my French that bad”?

 “No- your French is quite good,

but you speak French with an American accent.”

That was something I had never considered before!

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Strolling along the Seine watching the bookinistes-

opening their stalls, brimming with

wonderful books and prints and postcards,

from another time

you start to dream about what Paris might have

been like a century ago….

What you might have done there had you lived during that time.

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Perhaps I would have sat next to Hemingway at Les Deux Magots,

noticed him writing in a notebook;

or bumped into him while browsing through books

at Shakespeare & Company;

where most writers of the time received their mail.

I probably would not have had the vaguest idea who he was.

The echoes of all the great painters, poets, writers and artists who lived there

are still whispers in the air.

The inexplicable force that drew them to Paris is still there, as well.

It is a place of dreams and possibilities.

There are delights every where you look in Paris.

In the Tuileries Gardens,

one can spend an entire afternoon watching children play in a pond

with wooden sail boats-

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knowing that a few hundreds yards away

in L’Orangerie,

Monet’s “Water Lilles” are always in bloom,

displayed in an elliptical room that transports you to Giverny

& the lushness of his gardens.

Then, past L’Orangerie you can glimpse the tip of the Eiffel Tower,

rising from a tree -filled horizon.

Turn a little to the right and

there’s the Carousel near Place de la Concorde.

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Look behind you and there is the Louvre.

Every where you look, there is beauty.

Your soul comes alive in Paris.

Every thing is art,

Even the light.

You do not see Paris with your eyes.

you absorb it.

Finally, if you are lucky….

it enters your soul.

The innermost part of you somehow reacts

to all the beauty surrounding you.

When that happens…..

The light is different,

the air more fragrant.

Your senses are heightened.

It’s unlike any other place on earth;

and I’ve been to a lot of places.

You don’t go to Paris to observe.

You go to become one with Paris.

You go to be changed…

You go to Paris to be baptized in it’s beauty.

It’s a place where the present and past exist side by side.

Hemingway and Hadley,

Matisse and Modigliani,

Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and Scott Fitzgerald.

There are ghosts everywhere-

in a good way.

I can almost see Capucine posing for Vogue in 1954

at The Cafe des Flores.

That Paris still exists.

There are still so many things I haven’t seen in Paris.

One of them is Pere Lachaise Cemetery.

All the great artists are resting there –

each of them

entombed in great works of art;

the echoes of their genius captured in the quiet rustling of leaves,

behind high iron gates.

Where else could you find all this brilliance in one place?

Modigliani, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Edith Piaf

and Jim Morrison!

The 16 year old girl in me still wants to visit his grave.

Maybe when I live there-

I’ll take a bottle of wine and

Jim & I will finally have our long-overdue talk..

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The secret of Paris is that you don’t have to do a thing

while you are there.

All you have to do is BE.

Paris does the rest.

 

 

 

The Best Things in Life Aren’t Things

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We  are not living in the world I wish existed.

But we are living in the world as it is.

We may not be able to change much,

but we can make our little corner of it better for those we love.

If we are lucky enough to have a family,

we have the ability to make

our children much happier and  their lives more meaningful.

  Start with

Appreciation for what is.

Look at the wonder of life around us.

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Every day of every season has it’s own beauty.

It is every where- just pay more attention to it:

Cloud formations, rainbows, flowers, the moon and stars, the smell of the earth after rain.

Share that with your children and grandchildren.

Help them experience joy in every day life.

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Spend time with them;

hiking, reading, talking, playing.

Show them the magic of a spider’s web-

share your binoculars…

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