Friday, January 27, 2012

A Inspiration Before the Weekend

I used to be involved in a community chorus, and a number of years ago we sang this standard at one at one of our spring concerts. I love the sentiment. And I love that it was written by Charlie Chaplin (the music anyway) - a man who knew a lot about making other people smile.

Smile though your heart is aching  
Smile even though it's breaking.
When there are clouds in the sky you'll get by.
If you smile through your pain and sorrow  
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through 
For you.
Light up your face with gladness,
Hide every trace of sadness.  
Although a tear may be ever so near  
That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying.
You'll find that life is still worthwhile-
If you just smile.

You need to hear the immortal Nat King Cole sing it to get the full effect: 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy birthday, Mrs. Wharton!

The Mount
The Mount, Edith Wharton's home in Lenox, MA
On this day, 150 years ago, in New York City, Edith Newbold Jones was born. When she was 23 years old, she was married and traded the last name "Jones" for "Wharton". Edith Wharton would go on to become one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century (if not for all time) and was the first woman to win the Pulitzer prize for literature.

My first introduction to Edith Wharton was back in college. I read The Age of Innocence after seeing the film with Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day-Lewis and then went on to read The House of Mirth for a lit class my sophomore year. Edith Wharton is a great writer, but a teller of sad stories (although not as sad as Thomas Hardy). Let me rephrase that: she is the teller of stories where her characters have to settle for less, which is very real. Her words paint a very interesting picture of the upper classes during the Gilded Age, especially the tightrope that a woman would be forced to walk in "society".

I am currently reading Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country. I started it over the summer, but I put it down because the main character, one Undine Spragg, makes me want to revoke her card in the sisterhood of women (and smack her upside her vacuous head.) That being said, it is an exceptionally well written book, and when I do sit down to read it, I virtually inhale its lines. I read in an article in the New York Times today that The Custom of the Country was one of Julian Fellowes inspirations for "Downton Abbey"!

A couple of years ago, our book club read her novella Summer and held our meeting at The Mount, Edith Wharton's house in Lenox, MA. It is a beautiful house and has exquisite gardens. The historical society that carefully rescued the house after years of general use/abuse (first by a school, then by a theater company) has done a great job of restoring Edith Wharton's show place of balanced design and decorative taste (she wrote a books on design that is still in print.) If you are out in Lenox over the summer, say for Tanglewood, I recommend going to take a peek at the house and having some refreshment on the terrace!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Seven Things Making Me Smile

So it has been quite a bit of time since the last Seven Things Making Me Smile installment. I feel like this is a very good way to start off the new year!

1. Jean over at Delightful Repast has an out of this world recipe for fruit scones over at her blog; I highly recommend it. I make no bones about not being the most enthusiastic cook/baker on the planet, but I have made the recipe three times in the last month! (Here's a photo of the ones I made this morning.) These scones are easy and delicious! (The standout ingredient is the fresh orange zest.) "Mmm, delicious, thank you!"©

2. After waiting for what seemed like forever, the second series of "Downton Abbey" is back on Masterpiece Classic ! Hooray!! It's so exciting to catch up with the Crawleys after a whole year of missing them. After watching the first episodes, I am really hoping that things will work out for my favorite couple from downstairs, Anna and Mr. Bates, and the evil Mrs. Bates (who can give O'Brien and Thomas a run for the money in the being nasty department) ends up being divorced/defeated/sent back to the gates of hell. The Dowager Countess continues to have the most fabulous one liners. Of course, I am still "shipping" Mary/Matthew and Sybil/Branson, while pouty Lady Edith can go suck an egg. Not forgetting all the great people downstairs: Mr. Carson, Mrs. Hughes, William, Daisy, and Mrs. Patmore. Love this show; it is definitely "appointment television"!

3. I heard recently that over the last 18 months, 18 new restaurants have opened in Kendall Square. My new favorite after work spot is Area Four. I highly recommend their take on both the Sazerac and the Dark & Stormy cocktails, the bacon & sea salt pretzel nuggets, the mac & cheese, and the meatball pizza. The ambiance is very chil-laxed and the waitstaff is young and friendly. Since going the first time back at the end of November, I have been there at least a half dozen times and keep bringing new people with me.

4. I suffer from dry, weak, and peeling finger nails; it's been a problem for me all my life. (The worst is when they rip right at the quick.) I have tried so many different kinds of strengtheners, polishes, and regimes to remedy this, but nothing has really worked all that well. I was at the beauty supply shop in Coolidge Corner, and the ladies there recommended Duri "Rejuvacote". I started using it about two weeks ago, and it is working brilliantly. I don't think that it is making my nails grow any faster, but they are certainly stronger than they have been.

5. The Banana Republic Cashmere Wrap. Best scarf ever!! If you don't have one already, you will have to wait until next fall to buy one because they are all sold out, but these puppies are SOOO worth the $98 investment (to be fair: I have purchased most of mine using BR Rewards and taking advantage of sales). I have them in a bunch of different colors (black, oatmeal, pink, gray, red) and wear one just about every day. They can both dress up and dress down an outfit and are great for work (especially for my office which gets freezing in the afternoon once the sun goes down).

6. I used to drink Oregon Chai all of the time, and I was recently reminded of how much I loved it. It actually is the perfect thing to have right before bedtime. I don't know if it is the warm milk or the ritual, but it has helped a bit with my insomnia issues, and anything that can do that is most welcome.

7. My local PBS station WGBH has a second channel (WGBX), and now on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights they are now exclusively running British programs. Mondays are "Ashes to Ashes", "Hustle", and "MI-5" ("Spooks"); Tuesdays are Masterpiece reruns ("Downton Abbey") while Wednesdays are "Larkrise to Candleford", "Doc Martin", and "Waking the Dead". I bet you are surprised I actually have any time to do anything OTHER than watch tv, right? (And it's great because they show the shows without edits and without commercials.)

So these are some of the things that are brightening my days of late. I am sure there will be more to add as the year progresses!

Please note: these are all my own opinions; I have not been compensated in any way for recommending any products, etc. etc. All images are from the sites referred to and linked.

Friday, January 20, 2012

You Have 10,000 Items in Your Shopping Cart

Image from
I mentioned last night on Twitter that it is both a good day and a bad day when the BBC America shop catalog arrives at my house. I catch myself holding my breath as I turn the pages, looking through all the BBC and Acorn videos that I don't own yet and end up debating whether or not I need to add them 1. to my Netflix queue, 2. my Amazon wish list, or 3. just order them flat out from the BBCA shop. (Or some combination of the three.)

I end up having to tell myself to "PUT DOWN THE CATALOG" and to walk myself (and it) into the kitchen where it can quickly be recycled before too much damage is done. This totally unsolicited piece of mail is like crack to an Anglophile like myself. (But please don't take me off your mailing list, BBCA. I love you!) It's not like I really NEED to own the whole series of "The Vicar of Dibley" (although if I received a copy in the mail, I would not complain in the slightest), but it is so tempting, especially when you see the marked down price. How am I supposed to say "no" to the delightful and hilarious Dawn French? Not to mention Garrow's Law, Larkrise to Candleford, Midsomer Murders, Doc Martin, Downtown Abbey, New Tricks, Doctor Who, Monarch of the Glen, and countless other movies and tv series that I love...


Trying to be on a moderate spending budget for 2012 sucks. (But it will be well worth the effort, or so I keep telling myself.)

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Last year, I received some miniature amaryllis bulbs as a gift, and, sadly, they were duds. Only two bloomed, and they were an orange color wasn't really anything fabulous. I was determined not to let that happen this year, and I actually succeeded! Woo hoo!!

I picked up this magnificent bulb at a Christmas plant sale at work. (Don't ask what happened with the miniature cypress I bought; it wasn't a pretty thing.) It was a very slow starter, but it definitely has made up for it. Not only does it have four deep red blossoms, but there is a second stalk with a bud starting to grow. There is something so nice about having something blooming so boldly in the house during these cold days of winter.

(Okay, I will tell you what happened with the miniature cypress. I didn't look at the roots when I bought it, and I realized too late that it was sooo pot bound that it wouldn't drink the water. It dried out faster than a chopped down spruce, poor wee thing.)


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