Posted in Sunday mornings, Writing

Notes on a Sunday

I mentioned yesterday that I want to incorporate running as much as possible back into my life, partly as a stress-reliever (few other activities relax me nearly as well and as completely as running does, and it adds so much more energy to my day to boot!), and partly as a health and fitness activity I actually enjoy and need more of as I get older and my body needs more movement than it used to just to function properly.

Well, today, I took the opposite direction and went hiking instead, and it absolutely counts! Living out here in the high desert region of the American West, I literally am less than a 10-mile drive from thousands of acres of fantastic hiking and cycling trails. This morning we took our senior pup, D-Dog, to a one-mile loop in a park that’s renowned for its preserved fossils and breathtaking rock formations. We weren’t sure he was going to be able to handle the sometimes-rocky terrain, but he was a trouper and enjoyed himself immensely. The topography is only slightly undulating, with a mostly level dirt trail that sometimes crossed ancient riverbeds, but it was a decent effort for all of us under a dazzling blue sky and lots and lots of sunshine.

Afterwards we stopped at our favorite coffee shop and picked up some fresh-baked scones and coffees. (Café au lait with whole milk for me, café au lait with oat milk for P.) Their scones are so popular that they usually sell out by 9am, but having learned my lesson too many times, I’ve taken to calling first thing in the morning and asking them to reserve a couple for us. This morning they had lavender scones, something called “blue basil” which I think is blueberry + basil, and a vegan lemon rosemary scone. We picked up 2 of the lavender and one each of the blue basil and vegan scone. And then we couldn’t resist adding a pumpkin muffin because the barista said it was literally fresh out of the oven, and I would have been mad to pass that up.

We came home, dropped off D-Dog, and then almost immediately turned around and headed to town to attend a new dog training class for our big dog, M. It’s the first session, and the trainer said it’s an orientation for the pet parents only, so this time M. stayed home, but will be attending all future sessions.

Although we’d worked with this trainer for almost a year now, all of her sessions to date had been at our home, but this time M. had “graduated” to an in-class session. We hadn’t ever been to the training facility, so when we pulled into the parking lot of their building, we were distracted and in awe of the location: right next to a nondescript government building housing an outpost of the US Department of Energy. It turns out to have been the site of a uranium mining and processing facility that was built to support the Manhattan Project. There are signs along the river behind the building telling visitors not to swim in the water nor consume any fish caught in it. Wow.

As it’s a Sunday, there was no one around the property other than the trainer, so the quiet and somewhat remote location lent an almost otherworldly atmosphere to the desert surrounding the buildings. We left there a little over an hour later vowing to return once Covid had opened up the facility to public visitors.

I just finished writing 761 words in my novel, so now I’m going to spend the rest of the day reading a new mystery novel I picked up at the library and basically just relaxing. The part of me that is obsessed with productivity and ambition wants to get up and start preparing for work tomorrow, but I have to remind myself that, no matter what stories I tell myself, burnout is real, and if I’m not careful, I’ll end up as frazzled and depleted as I found myself last week. It’s interesting that I have to will myself to relax, but I guess that’s the “-aholic” part of “workaholic”. And why I titled this blog My Inner French Girl: she’s a constant reminder to myself to enjoy life and indulge in all its pleasures. Including the pleasure of doing nothing.

Posted in Work

Thoughts on the working week

I need to read Mireille Guiliano’s book, Women, Work & the Art of Savoir Faire, again, just to remind me of the importance of balance in all things. It’s been years since I read that book, and a part of me seems to recall that the advice in it didn’t seem to be especially practical for the average working woman. But at the time that I read the book I was an independent freelance writer about to work for (or maybe I’d just started?) a small marketing startup, and lived in a large metropolitan city where just going to the grocery store meant losing a half day because the closest store was a good half hour drive.

I’d be interested in reading it now, over a decade later, given my changed circumstances. I have what writer and productivity expert Laura Vanderkam refers to as a “Big Job”, and this year I’m in charge of piloting a new service that has a very high probability of turning into a tremendous revenue channel for us. It’s one I’d been wanting to experiment with for years, so I’m thrilled at the opportunity to finally jump in and actually lead the charge, but at the same time, it’s also an awesome, serious responsibility.

I love it.

But even the most even-keeled professional isn’t immune to the stresses of such high profile projects, and I’m not typically even-keeled on most of my best days. So to balance that out, I made the mistake the last couple of weeks of prioritizing this Big Job over almost everything else, including my diet, exercise, relationships, and rest. I did manage to get 7-8 hours of sleep quite a few nights, but I was so mentally depleted that I’d fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow and would wake up groggy and disoriented. Clearly just prioritizing sleep isn’t enough. As a Woman of a Certain Age, there is so much more that I need to make sure I incorporate daily in my life, and these last few weeks I’ve sorely neglected them. The fact that I stepped on the scale this morning and, to my horror, saw that I’d gained two pounds in one week and now weigh more than I have in a few years was more evidence of the poor job I’ve done of truly caring for myself.

This morning I went for a short, 30-minute run, my first in over a week. I’ve been a runner for 27 years, and I ran my first marathon (the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon) just back in February, but ever since the lockdowns began in mid-March I’ve struggled to get back to a regular running routine. Which is too bad because of all things that help maintain my equilibrium, running is among the top 3 (reading and sleep are the other 2!). This morning, running under a clear blue sky and perfect temperatures in the high 40s, I remembered for the millionth time just how much joy and peace I get from running, with that rich emotional high lasting for hours and hours after. I still feel that same steady energy as I sit here typing this.

I realized that I truly need all of those things — running but also reading, rest, proper nutrition, and most of all, my close relationships — in order to live a full and fulfilling life, and that they add to the meaning of work, not subtract from it. All of those provide me with the solidity I need to pursue my best work at my Big Job, and without them, that Big Job gets only the shell of my self, while the rest get nothing.

So next week, I’ve resolved to incorporate running back into my life more regularly. It’s hard not having a race to aspire towards — races have always been the greatest and most consistent way to motivate myself to continue running — but maybe this is a good time to train myself to see races as a bonus rather than the reward, that the focus should be on the small, daily, material rewards of boundless energy, that unmatched feeling of health and life.

May you have a peaceful and relaxing weekend, wherever you are. ☀️

Photo: Freshly baked lavender scone from my favorite local coffee shop.

Posted in Book reviews

Book Review: Touché, by Agnes Catherine Poirier

I love reading books about France and the French as told from the perspective of American expats. Harriet Welty Rochefort‘s books (French Toast, French Fried) are personal favorites, as well as Diane Johnson’s novels Le Divorce and Le Mariage.

It’s not often that I pick up a non-academic book about France by a non-American Francophile, so when I find out about one I immediately place that order from my favorite local bookstore. Touché: Why Britain and France are so different, and why they do things in opposite ways, by journalist Agnès Catherine Poirier, takes it a step further, adding to the thrill. She’s a French journalist who lives in London and works for both British and French publications and broadcast outlets, so she has a unique outlook about her own countrymen and women as she eyes them from across the Channel. And bonus: she trains her critical French eye on the people in her adopted country, too.

Touché is a collection of original essays touching on a melange of topics, from the differences between consumer culture in Britain and France, to the author’s passion for “café society” (she’s no fan of Starbucks, and her hatred of the chain knows no bounds: “Today, British high streets are proud to announce they’ve been Starbuck-fucked 489 times.”), to my least favorite chapter, “Pets”, where she is brutal in her criticism of “vegan terrorists” and fondly compares her love for her childhood goldfish to the love she had for “the pattern on my wallpaper.”

Okay, it’s not perfect, and as an animal rights supporter married to a vegan, I finished that particular chapter with a bad taste in my mouth. But that last paragraph should give you a clue as to the experience of reading Poirier: she has strong opinions and isn’t afraid to express them, and her extensive experience as a film critic and journalist adds layers of sophisticated wit and sharp intelligence that make for a lively, fun read.

American Francophiles will devour the chapters about how the British eat (because of its subtle comparisons to how the French eat), the differences between how the British and French approach sex and love, the love letter to French independent, non-chain retail shops, and the aforementioned lamentation of the coffee shop-chain invasion in Britain. If you’re also keen on politics, Poirier’s dissection of the British suspicion of Europe — Brexit was still years in the future at the time the book was published in 2006 — and her observations about the differences between the French Left and the British Left won’t disappoint.

Once upon a time, her recounting of her past life as a young, blasé Marxist might have seemed alien to even the most politically astute American reader, but in politically volatile 2020, with American right-wing groups throwing words like “Cultural Marxism” and “radical left” around promiscuously as if they actually understood what they mean, her political evolution can seem almost romantic, so very….French.

Posted in Writing

Writing letters with a fountain pen

This week has been one of those weeks that make one forget that there is a serious global pandemic of which there appears to be no end in sight; wildfires consuming the entire western half of the United States; widespread civil unrest; and, oh, the potential for further social and political upheaval in November.

In other words, work has been incredibly stressful, and every evening I’ve crawled into bed, my head throbbing, and I collapse into a deep coma for about 4 hours. If I’m lucky, I get 5. Don’t get me wrong, I feel very fortunate that I have a job, and a challenging and usually fulfilling one at that.

But this week I’ve spent so much time staring at the screen and clicking clicking clicking, pushing my creative and analytic abilities to their limits, that my brain feels like it’s just a soft pile of mush sloshing around my brain.

I know, lovely image.

Some people drink to excess. Some overeat. Some hit the malls for some retail therapy. And others insert quarter after quarter after quarter into a slot machine, an endless, mindless loop into mental lockdown.

I, on the other hand, look at pens. Specifically, fountain pens.

Look at this stunning beauty:

BENU Briolette Fountain Pen – Pacific Coast – Extra Fine Nib

Isn’t she beautiful? (For some reason I think of fountain pens as being either masculine or feminine, and this particular one seems very, well, womanly to me.) She’s a Limited Edition fountain pen available only at one of my favorite pen shops, JetPens.com, and while I was browsing the site last night, restocking my paper collection (yes, I also collect paper, bien sûr), my eyes fell on this item and I fell in love.

I hesitated for just a few minutes before adding it to my cart. It arrives in two weeks!

And just like that, I felt a hundred times better.

I bought my very first fountain pen about two years ago during a long trip in Minnesota. Maybe it was the three feet of snow outside, or the quiet charm of the tiny stationery store in which I found myself one afternoon, the feel of velvety carpet under my frozen feet. I was checking out the neat row of colorful fountain pens in the display cabinet when the saleswoman offered to show some of them to me.

There was no one else in the store at the time, so we spent more time than I realize one could spend talking only about pens. I met a fellow pen aficionado! I’ve always loved visiting stationery shops in Asia, where you can browse literally a dozen or so aisles (no mere single shelf for us Asian pen fanatics!) of pens, and at one time I think I had about two drawers full of various pens I’d picked up over the years: hotels, airlines, restaurants, medical clinics (pharma pens are some of the best and heftiest, although for some reason they won’t spring anything finer than a medium point).

I use them all. Even though I spend at least 10-12 hours per day on my computer, I still write pages and pages by hand: notes during meetings, notes during my “deep work” time, notes while I’m paying bills, and lots of letters. Real, handwritten letters that I send mostly to be best friend, but also birthday cards and thank-you cards. I’ve two shelves full of various cards in my home office closet, plus another shelf of just various letter kits and stationery boxes I’ve picked up over the years. During my trip to Singapore last February, I spent my last night buying armfuls of stationery kits from the Japanese variety store tucked in the basement of my hotel, and for good measure I also picked up a few more at Narita airport during my long layover in Tokyo.

So on that wintry afternoon in rural Minnesota, while the saleswoman and I talked about the joy of pens, I let myself be seduced into buying my very first fountain pen.

I’m certainly not rolling in money, so it wasn’t a Waterman. Instead it was a Kaweco, a German pen brand with both high-end and more practical, reasonably priced pens. At $35, my Kaweco Classic Sport was still the most I’d ever paid for a pen ever in my entire life, but I loved its lightness, the wide, ridged and short body that tucked nicely into my fingers. Replacing a fountain pen cartridge — I don’t feel confident enough to even think about trying a converter and bottled ink — is fairly straightforward, but I needed her to walk me through it at least twice just to make sure (even knowing that there were probably a thousand YouTube videos available that would show me the same thing).

I bought this one, plus a half dozen cartridge replacements in three different colors:

I bought a second one to give to my best friend for his birthday, too, even though it wouldn’t be for another 9 months. I knew I could probably buy it easily online anytime, but when does one ever get a chance to buy from a real pen expert in a real, old-fashioned stationery shop?

I’ve since bought another fountain pen, a popular Pilot with a silky dark purple barrel and which requires the lightest touch. I find myself writing even more letters, partly because I find the exercise of actually writing vs. typing to be elegant but also relaxing and grounding.

And now I’ll have one more to add to my collection. Again, it’s not that one ever needs more than one or two pens, and certainly not fussy, not-cheap fountain pens (I had to carefully rinse out and air-dry my Kaweco for three days a few months ago after I had let it sit too long without using it), but in a world where you can get just about anything in the world delivered to your door in mere weeks, if not days; where I can go for months without ever getting a single personal phone call (although I get plenty of text messages and work-related Slack pings); and where birthday greetings mostly come in digital form, the simple act of writing a letter, a journal entry, or even just a quick note in my paper planner, feels like an act of deep creativity, even love.

Posted in NaNoWriMo, Writing

Getting ready to NaNoWriMo

I’ve officially participated in NaNoWriMo nearly every year since, I think, 2006 or 2007, but I’ve only actually completed it once. Eek. And it only took me about, oh, 10 years to finish that original novel. (What started out as a rough 50,000-word manuscript clocked in at over 500 pages when I finally finished the first draft last February. What can I say, I’m wordy and really lean hard on the pantser part of me when I’m in a writing groove.)

Okay, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, a quick primer:

NaNoWriMo is shorthand for National Novel Writing Month. It began, like so many Internet-based popular endeavors, in San Francisco in 1999 as a fun project among a handful of creative friends, and has since blossomed into an annual global creative writing movement with hundreds of thousands participating around the world. The big “prize” is the satisfaction of having completed such a heady challenge, especially during what for many is the busiest time of the year, which seems to only add to the excitement and thrill. (Or maybe that’s just me.)

The rules are simple: write a 50,000-word novel in November. You can break that down to whatever schedule works for you, but for many the magic number is 1,667 — the average number of words you need to write per day for 30 days. To qualify as a NaNoWriMo winner, you must have typed or written the 50,000th word by midnight local/your time on November 30.

To “win” NaNoWriMo, you need only have completed the challenge. There’s no strict validation process; everything is run under the honor system. Since the “prize” is the sense of achievement for the participating writer, there’s no incentive to “cheat”. You’re a winner simply if you follow the rules and write those 50,000 words.

The fact that the majority of participants each year don’t “win” just goes to show you how special that accomplishment is.

Anyway, I’m trying again! If you’re reading this on my actual site (rather than from an RSS reader or the email) you might have noticed that I’ve already put up this year’s official banner in the sidebar. A little motivation for me, with the added bonus of public accountability to boot.

Traditionally, I’ve always been a dedicated pantser. In NaNo-speak, that’s someone who writes by the seat of their pants, i.e., without planning or outlining (much). You simply start typing until you hit 1,667 words, repeat 30 times, letting the story go where it needs to go.

The opposite, and probably more successful folks (I’m guessing here) are known as the plotters. They outline, develop full character sketches, use copious index cards, build entirely new worlds, and probably launch the month with a box full of newly sharpened pencils.

I joke, but you get the point. They’re not taking any chances and are planning for success.

At heart I’m still a pantser, but this year I’m trying something different. I’ve already started outlining the characters. I spent an hour just thinking through the male hero, everything from the exact shade of brown of his hair to his sister’s name. I also plan to create a chapter-by-chapter outline. The other day I’d pulled a figurative thread on the Internet and stumbled on the writer Jami Gold’s website. It’s full of incredibly useful resources and tools, like this article about plotting a romance novel that actually includes a free, downloadable romance novel beat sheet that marks page-by-page what should happen by which page. Sounds strict? Sure, but having that structure might help that diehard pantser part of me be a little bit less wordy and meandering, and more focused on the whole point of a romance novel: getting the two protagonists together in the end, sooner rather than later.

Even the brilliant Picasso had to become a master of basic techniques before he could play around with them and create something entirely new.

After the dumpster fire that is 2020, I’m looking forward to throwing myself into a new world, with characters I want to love and to whom I want to deliver a worthy happy ending. I’m basically creating my own escape hatch. And while so many NaNoWriMo enthusiasts grumble about the timing of the event — right before Christmas! Thanksgiving! Family visits! Final exams! — I love that it happens when it’s cold outside and of course I’ll have a cup of hot chocolate and some little cookies with my evening writing ritual.

Any other bloggers and writers out there who are thinking about joining the merry band?

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels.
Posted in Tea Time

My [Cobalt] Betty is here!

I have so many tea cups — lovely, delicate Mikasa china, thick ceramic cups handmade in Japan that I bought at a local art store when I lived there in the mid-1990s, singular antique cups picked up from vintage/thrift shops here and there — but I have exactly one ceramic Japanese teapot. I can’t remember when I bought it, maybe 10 years ago, but it’s absolutely perfect for green tea.

I just don’t drink as much green tea as I used to. What I do drink a lot of are various black teas, white teas, and Rooibos teas. The latter, I picked up when I found out my mentor and former division lead drank heaps of it, and I love her and adore everything about her so of course I had to try it out. Unlike C., I’m a big fan of caffeine, so I wouldn’t rely on Rooibos for real pick-me-ups, but I love the light, fruity taste.

I read about the Brown Betty from fellow Francophile Anne Barone’s blog, and after reading more about this classic, earthy teapot, I couldn’t wait to try it. Mme. Barone bought hers from the English Tea Store, and while the store’s aesthetics is a bit meh, and the navigation can be confusing — the product descriptions could be a bit more detailed, and I spent a bit of time trying to match the right size infuser for the teapot I selected — the purchase experience was straightforward. For less than $44, including shipping, my Cobalt Betty (I prefer the deep blue color over the traditional chocolate hue) would be on its way to me within a week or so.

Actually, it look more like 9 days, but it arrived today, carefully packed in hefty layers of green bubble wrap. Et voilà!

I washed it carefully in warm soap and water and let it air dry. I haven’t used it yet but I will definitely do so tomorrow. I’ve a lavender black tea that I’ve had a couple of times that I can’t wait to try in the new pot, to see if there really is a marked difference.

I’m sure there will be, if only due to my heightened expectations! Tomorrow’s tea time will be so special.

Posted in Beauty Reviews

Clarisonic going out of business sale

My mom gave me a Clarisonic Mia a few years ago, and I’ve only ever replaced the brush once. Call me lazy or just unwilling to spend a lot of money on beauty supplies — you will never see a review here for La Mer unless it was a free sample or gift! — but I would just rinse it as every time I used it as carefully and thoroughly as possible, then let it air dry. I only use it once a week or so, sometimes even less often, especially in the winter, so I figured it was fine.

A month or so ago, though, I realized that I really needed to just bite the bullet and replace the brush head. Now that I’m a Woman of a Certain Age (let’s just say that my early forties can only be viewed in the distance from my rearview mirror), I’ve become much more careful and conscientious about my skincare routine. I haven’t added that much more — it’s still the basics of toner, exfoliant, skincare serum, plus an added extra like Niacinamide or Vitamin C — and now that we’re still in mostly lockdown mode, it’s been months since I’ve worn any makeup, but good skincare is all about what you do on the daily, not the occasional mask or spa visit. Thankfully, I’ve been fairly disciplined about sticking to the basics day in and day out, but using my facial brush has been more hit and miss.

This year, with the pandemic, wildfires, ash fall (!!), and the general stress of just life in 2020, I decided that it was time to go ahead and invest in a new brush and give my stressed out skin the pampering it desperately needed.

Uh-oh. Did you know that Clarisonic is going out of business? I did not.

According to their website, Clarisonic will no longer be a going concern as of September 30, 2020. I was able to stock up on a bunch of different brushes — exfoliating, everyday cleansing, anti-aging, etc. — a few weeks ago when everything was 50% off, but now it looks like they’ve completely depleted their inventory and no longer have anything available. However, according to their site, you should still be able to grab whatever’s left at your local Ulta or Sephora stores, probably at incredibly low prices.

Is it worth the purchase? If you have a Clarisonic brush languishing in your closet that you haven’t used in awhile, maybe not, but if you’re like me and have been an off-and-on user, and you have a Sephora or Ulta nearby, I say go for it. I just checked Sephora’s website and found zero search results, but you might have some luck just browsing their aisles. Ulta appears to only have the eye massaging brush available, which to be honest is probably not worth it (try and get more sleep and use a cooling pad instead!), but again, maybe your local outlet has some in a bargain bin somewhere.

Is it worth diving into eBay for replacements? Maybe if you’re a devotee and have some money to burn. And even then. Reliable and reputable drugstore brands like Olay and Neutrogena offer their own skincare cleansing brushes, and upmarket brands like Clinique and Shiseido do as well, many of them for far less than what Clarisonic offered for their products (which likely explains their demise — capitalism at work!). Even Shiseido’s basic cleansing brush is just $25.

If you’ve tried other brushes and none of them quite worked as well as Clarisonic for you, chances are you’ve already taken advantage of the company’s going-out-of-business sale and have enough stock to bequeath to your grandchildren someday, but if you’re only an occasional user, save your time and gas money and just try the other brands. Cleansing brushes aren’t required for proper skincare, but they’re wonderfully pampering tools that feel so darn good immediately after use, and that’s a good enough reason to try them.

Posted in Sunday mornings

Sunday mornings

I went for a run this morning after ~3 weeks (? – I don’t dare check exactly how many, just that it was sometime in early August that I last hit the pavement), and oh, why do I ever stop doing this? Running gives me life and energy, and especially on sunny mornings, cool or hot, humid or not, running is a joy and a release. It wasn’t as challenging as I thought it would be, in fact, it was remarkable even and smooth, and I finished just a few seconds short of my usual pace at my peak. I’m 48 and I’ll forever be a back-of-the-packer, but that’s where I like to hang out, in the anonymity of the crowd.

We had breakfast on the back patio: a slice of this Triple Chocolate Zucchini Bread, which I made last week after an especially abundant haul from our garden, and my usual café au lait, with unsweetened soymilk. The dogs let us relax for almost an hour before they started growing restless and barking at the slightest noise from the street. I love Sunday mornings like this and am determined to keep this tradition for as long as the weather will let me.

Today I’ve no plans other than to read and write, mayyyyyybe attempt to set up this MyCloud external storage drive that I’ve had for over two years and remains unwrapped and neglected in its box. Oh! It’s not an activity I’ve relished diving into — clearly, given its tenure in my storage closet despite a cross-country move — but I’ve been wary about losing data ever since ~200 pages of my war novel was sucked into oblivion when my MacBook crashed irrevocably during a business trip to Glasgow 3 years ago. So I am determined to triple-back up everything.

Oh! And I just remembered that the Cobalt Betty teapot that I’d ordered last weekend is scheduled to arrive today! After reading Anne Barone’s glowing review of it sometime ago, I decided to take the plunge and buy it. The 4-cup version is relatively inexpensive at about $30, plus I added an strainer — I’ve had trouble in the past with truly stainless and rustproof infusers so I thought I’d try a strainer this time — which brought the total to about $44, including shipping and taxes. I’ve found myself drinking a lot more tea in the afternoon, using a hefty, thick mug that I love and which is part of my employer’s swag for our enterprise customers, but now I want to be more deliberate about the accessories that I use when engaging in my now-regular afternoon ritual.

When I lived in Japan many years ago, the “office lady” (that’s really what they were called, although in hindsight I should have asked what exactly was printed on their business cards or what they wrote under “occupation” on their tax forms, because surely “office lady” isn’t a real title?) would go around mid-morning with tall, slender glasses of cold mugi-cha in the summer, and hot cups of green tea mid-afternoon throughout the year. Sometimes there would be a small pastry to accompany the drink — always in the afternoon, never in the morning — but more often than not we would just have the tea.

During my first few weeks I found the tea bitter and just barely palatable, mostly because the only tea I’d ever drunk in my life before then was Lipton, and even then that was rare. Tea was something other people drank. I drank water and Coke. But as the weeks and months and years went on, the daily ritual of mid-morning and mid-afternoon tea breaks, plus the occasional tea ceremonies — formal and informal — I’d take part in turned me on to the whole idea of tea as an experience, not merely a hot beverage. By the end of my two-year tenure in Japan I had an entire shelf full of different teas — fruit teas, herbal teas, varieties of green and black, who knew there could be so many different teas? — and 8 years later I found myself visiting a tea plantation in Darjeeling, where I spent a week backpacking. I love reading about different tea — and often coffee — rituals around the world, from India to England, even the fika tradition in Sweden, which is about coffee but to which tea is most welcome as well.

So today my Cobalt Betty will come, and I will baptize it with a cup of loose leaf lavender tea and slice of homemade banana bread. The Sunday could not be more perfect.

Posted in Uncategorized

returning to the blog – thanks, AOC

It’s been awhile since I wrote here, and my things have changed.

I had little hope for 2020 when January rolled around, mostly because 2019 was so godawful, and you know what? After all that happened in 2019, it’s still godawful, and I would much rather have 2020 over and over again if I didn’t have to also live through 2019, but life only gives us so many choices, and one of them is not the opportunity to select certain bad things from happening.

But anyway. What a way to restart a blog!

It seemed so shallow to be thinking about things like fashion and style and beauty in the midst of a harrowing global crisis like what we’re living through, not to mention the godawful (I’m going to be using that word a lot on this site, I can already tell) political situation here in the US, but then I realized, why the hell not? If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that there’s beauty and joy in the shallows as much as they dwell in the depths, so why not hang on to them, lean into them, and squeeze all the hope that one can out of them?

I love that New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is scary brilliant — arguably the smartest person in Congress — and brave and compassionate and funny. I hate that, like a bad, selfish boyfriend, America is so blind to her gifts and the tremendous good she can and will do for the world waitandsee. But I also love that she was equally happy to generously share her beauty secrets to Vogue and thus to the rest of us mortal folks. Every step, every product, from her cleanser to the finishing touch, that famous red lipstick!

Because of the pandemic, I rarely leave the house, and since I’ve worked from home for years anyway, the lockdowns didn’t really change my workday all that significantly, but I do spend more time at home. Pre-pandemic, I spent a lot of time on the road, averaging about a week per month, both here in the US and abroad. But now that my world has shrunk to about a mile-wide radius around my home, I find myself looking for excuses to just look decent even though sometimes, there doesn’t seem to be any point. I swap out my every day sports watch with my vintage silver watch that an ex-boyfriend gave me years ago, and make sure I’m clean and neat and decently groomed. I still don’t wear any makeup — never really did much even before Covid — but it seems so much more important now to be presentable. It’s like wearing my hope on my cap sleeve.