Thursday, December 20, 2012

I Believe

Just over a year ago, still mourning the very recent loss of my feisty 18-year-old cat, Christmas did not hold the dancing enchantment that it usually does for me.  It’s now “next Christmas” and snow or no snow, I feel bits of magic gathering in the air.  This blog is about loss and a very special book and hope.  Here’s what I wrote last year...  
Even with its wonderful, twinkly-lit, pine-smelling reminder of hope, peace, love and magic, I did not embrace the beauty of Christmas this year.  Emotional numbness over the recent loss of our handful of a way-smart cat and a long weekend get-away in early December left me hollow and rushing to stage a Christmas just before the big day.  My heart wasn’t in it, the energy wasn’t there.  I could not find a way to imagine our mantle, decorated with greenery and stockings, missing one stocking for the first time in almost eighteen years.  At the last minute, we put up a lovely tree and strung it with lights, but left it free of ornaments.  The mantle had its blanket of greenery, but we didn’t hang any stockings.  We celebrated beautifully with longtime, dear friends, as is our tradition, but my heart did not expand with the joy I usually experience.  Well into the New Year I wondered if, after all these years, the wide-open place within my heart which had always allowed me to “Believe” had quietly but firmly closed one day without my even noticing.  

It was a disheartening thought in that, more often than not, I navigate happily through life on heartstrings.  Then my cousin Jane sent me a photo of her beautiful daughter Quin visiting Santa.  Quin turned ten on New Year’s Day and is beginning to wonder, which reminded me of an unusual book I read each year in those special, glittering days before Christmas.  The ritual, forgotten this year, is to wait until the fresh green tree has been maneuvered into the perfect place in the living room, each special ornament has been unwrapped and, sparkling with memory, hung on the tree…and that final trip to the Post Office has been made.  I then put on my favorite carols, light every candle in the room and with a large, wicked glass of spiked eggnog at hand, curl up with The Flight of the Reindeer by Robert Sullivan.  

Found many years ago in a sad little discount book store, this treasure of a book is about Santa Claus and Reindeer That Fly and giving with some bits about science, antlers and aerodynamic lift, a famous arctic explorer and the super-secret Presidential order that clears airspace over the United States each Christmas Eve.  They were asking $5.95 for it.  I bought them all.

Every year, when a friend tells me their son or daughter is beginning to wonder, I dust off one of my stash and send it off to them.  That little tradition began not long after I found the books when my friend Maud told me her son Billy had arrived home from school that week very upset over remarks his teacher had made about Santa.  The concerned parents had a huddle over what exactly to tell their trusting child and then wise dad explained that we all reach a point when we must decide whether or not to “believe”.  He went on to say that some choose to stop believing in what cannot be proven, while others, and in this he included himself, know within their hearts they will always believe.  

So, here I sit thinking about this magical book and loss, and the choices we make and I begin to cry -- in a good way – because I can feel that familiar ache of joy within my heart and I remember that…I believe.  Such a lovely gift…because the sun shines brighter, the flowers smell sweeter and the people around me seem so much kinder.  Happy New Year…I’m looking forward to next Christmas.


Wishing you peace, love and light this season and in the year to come.  E. England

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Finer Things In Life

In so many respects, I’m a down-to-earth, practical person - after all we mid-westerners are known for our no-frills common sense.  I shop selectively and will wear, use and drive my purchases until they can be worn, used and driven no more.  My current car is well over a dozen years old and has 147,000 miles on it -- I can’t bear to imagine life without it.  Sturdy boxes that come in the mail are re-used, along with pretty tissue paper and paper bags -- because it seems a little sad to throw away something so wonderfully useful.  I have been the queen of up-cycled, re-purposed and vintage since long before it was hip.

This is a very good thing - a balance to my “other” side.  As a little girl, my mother would take me back-to-school clothes shopping once a year.  With innocent and unerring precision, I would head straight to the dress, coat or shoes that carried the highest price tag in the children’s section.  It’s a “talent” that has stayed with me throughout my life.  When shopping for a special occasion dress, the one I select will be made of delicate fabric spun from the silken threads of hand-fed imperial silkworms and beaded with bits of starlight brought back to earth on the space shuttle to be hand stitched over many months by blind Tibetan monks.  You can imagine how much that costs. 

When I began to offer my photography for sale, I did it the only way I knew how - by photographing subjects I found interesting and a little different maybe and then selecting creamy-white archival watercolor paper on which to print the finest inks.  I’m drawn to 8-ply, rather than the standard 4-ply, mats.  When framing my photographs of China, the most complementary mats seem always to be those of raw silk.  In other words, I photograph, mat and often frame things I would happily purchase to hang in my own home.  This isn’t sounding very down-to-earth or practical is it?

An Etsy teammate, a generous man and “knower-of-all-things” has suggested to me that shoppers don’t care what a photograph or piece of art is printed on because we live in a “throw-away” society.  He’s right, of course, but those words were like a cold slap in the face.  Art feels so very personal to me and I assumed it was the same for everyone.  After all, museums don’t allow visitors to touch the art precisely because so many of us are compelled to get close to those pieces that attract us.  Just like love at first sight - the attraction is either there, or it isn’t.  You might appreciate all of those beautiful boys on the beach, but chances are, face to face, that delicious hum of frisson will only occur with one...or two of them.  Closer inspection will tell you if the connection is deeper - if the colors are true, if the subject is balanced, if you are, indeed, drawn to touch and take one home.

Hmmm. I’ve gotten a little muddled here - and you must wonder:  is she talking about art now or those handsome boys on the beach?  No matter.  Maybe I’m missing the point entirely -- holding on too tightly to my own concept of art when art is so very many things.  I could print my photographs on toilet paper and they would still be interesting and unique -- though not so easy to frame perhaps.  I could forgo the satin and lace this year and wrap myself in toilet paper to go dancing on New Year’s Eve and with my middle-of-the-country practicality, use what’s left at the end of the evening in the ultimate act of re-cycling.  I suspect though, that my connection to “the finer things” is imbedded too deeply in my little strands of DNA to find much comfort in either idea.

Stop into my Etsy shop.  Look around -- you may find something that speaks to your soul -- something that will make you smile every single time you gaze at it - something that your grandchildren might come to treasure.  If you buy it, I promise you, it’s been created with care and attention to detail and made to last 100 the very least.

E. England

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Arroz con Leche and Love

Arroz con Leche and Love

Dinner parties are very special to me.  Gathering interesting new friends or dear old pals around a beautifully set table and chatting into the wee hours over good wine and a thoughtfully prepared meal is one of my very favorite things.  Lingering over leisurely meals and a bite or two of dessert is when the best conversations take place and secrets are told.  Truly, the most interesting stories come out once stomachs are pleasantly full, candles are burning low and the music is mellow.  It’s a bit of a balancing act, making the evening special enough so that your guests know you care, but easy enough to take part in the stories as well.  

Not being the best planner-organizer, I usually manage to pull together the table and the meal before 9:00 pm when dinner guests are at my mercy -- but I often run out of steam when it comes to planning and preparing a calorie worthy uncomplicated dessert. Nine times out of ten, I concede defeat and run out to buy dessert which, in all honestly, works just fine.

Still, if I can pull off a little homemade dessert that elicits mmm’s, I feel I’ve given my guests a secret hug or the whisper of a kiss on their cheek -- a tiny secret gift -- in exchange for their friendship.  Silly, I know.  My friends will love me either way, but I feel like I’ve just gotten away with something when I’ve hand-made the dessert.

Some years ago, I read an article written by a woman who chose not to cook.  To the dismay of her mother, domestic arts were neglected and her energy went towards a career.  In the article, she tells of falling in love and discovering her lover (a talented cook - how perfect) being drawn to the ethnic food made by her mother.  

She knew they were destined to be together when she realized one day that she wanted to learn to prepare something special for him.  She loved him so much, she learned to make Arroz con Leche, a recipe which requires time and constant attention as the rice slowly absorbs the milk, sugar and flavor of the cinnamon sticks.  In discovering love, she opened herself to sharing the gift of her time -- a very great gift indeed - whether offered to our lovers, our children or our friends.  

Her lovely story touched me, and encouraged me to think about how easily distracted I can be and how much I sometimes take for granted.  Within days of reading the article, I had ventured out to purchase the ingredients in order to offer my own dessert-loving husband the gift of my time.  Such simple ingredients, such a sublime dessert!  

I realize, and certainly hope, that my dinner guests never know how much time goes into this simple, elegant I lay  small, warm ramekins at each place setting and smile inside.  The crisp bite of Fall is in the air, it’s the perfect time for Arroz con Leche, cozy dinner parties and love.

E. England

Warm 4 cups of whole milk.  Heat 1 cup Arborio rice with 2 cups of water, 1/8 teaspoon salt, one cinnamon stick.  Slowly add milk (about 1/2 cup at a time) to the simmering rice, stirring constantly.  Let most of it absorb before adding the next portion.  Finally add 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Stop heating when the pudding is still very soupy -- 20 minutes or so.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  

Note:  The inspiration for this blog and the recipe above was taken from an article titled Catching a Man With Arroz con Leche by Julia Alvarez

Please stop by and visit my Etsy shop to see my travel photography and Buddha jewelry

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Pool Next Door - Summertime Adventures at the Jersey Shore

Although summer is over and the Shore has returned to the quiet, peaceful place it will remain until next June, we had a birds-eye view through the kitchen window this summer of the vacation drama, excitement and celebration that takes place among the families who rent the beach house next door.  The house is one of very few with a pool and therefore wildly popular among families with small children.  Saturday is “change-over” day and it’s a real roll of the dice to see who’s moved in for the coming week.  It’s always entertaining….
“Daddy, he’s sinking”, we heard a little girl’s calm voice float through the kitchen window one Saturday afternoon.  She wasn’t alarmed, she was simply observing – as if maybe her little brother sank slowly to the bottom of the pool rather often.  Then, two short beats and she became a bit more insistent, “He’s sinking Daddy”. 

We heard a beer bottle thunk as it tumbled to the cement and then a sizeable splash as “Daddy” leapt into the water to pull his young son to the surface.  The family calmly gathered as the little boy coughed and sputtered.  Someone held his arms high over his head, while another family member instructed him to “breathe”.   Once it had been established that his son was, indeed, breathing as advised, dad set about removing the battery from his cell phone in an attempt to save its life as well…and pulled another beer from the cooler.  

We couldn’t help but notice the next day, the little boy was wearing “water wings” while in the pool.  Just another day at the Jersey Shore.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My Friend Seymour

Three years ago this summer I lost a friend.  I first encountered Seymour about sixteen years ago when I moved into his neighborhood.  I saw him often on the street during the late afternoons while I was out planting flowers, weeding, washing windows or polishing the old brass knocker on our front door.  He’d come trudging around the corner in all sorts of weather wearing what looked like old military pants and some type of well-worn shirt or untidy jacket – most often with a tattered rucksack on his back. 
Although his house was just three doors down from mine, I didn’t initially realize he was my neighbor with that three-day scruff of beard, his statement clothing and disinclination to make eye contact or smile.  I think having another house on the block fall to cheerful, industrious yuppies made him cranky.  Who were we to waltz in making our grand improvements and driving up the cost of houses and taxes in the neighborhood?  We hadn’t braved the prostitutes and drug dealers and robberies of decades past – we hadn’t earned our right to recognition…yet.

There is a tiny apartment building at the end of our street – next door to what was Seymour’s house – that has space on its first floor for a small business.  My husband and I finally began to earn our “cred” with Seymour when a series of unsuitable businesses tried to rent the space.  It wasn’t zoned for those businesses, but unless someone kicked up a fuss and organized the block, they probably would have come in.  Having the most on the line, Seymour went door to door gathering support to block the tenancy and we were happy to support him – and so finally move up a notch in his estimation.

A few more years passed and we continued to come together in support of, or opposition to, one neighborhood issue or another and I now had a vague idea that Seymour had done something in his career with art restoration or graphics or something.  I was aware that at one point he had worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, so whatever it was he did, or used to do, he must be, or have been, pretty good at it. 

Wandering around the city one weekend in June I came across the Rittenhouse Square Art show for the first time.  It’s quite an event.  The entire park is lined with talented artists from around the country - selling their work over the course of three days.  As I wandered from one slick, tented display to another, I was distracted by the most exquisite little paintings that were displayed clothespinned to a rope and strung between two trees.  The paintings were a combination of elegant still life works and gritty street scenes of disappearing neighborhoods.  They were rich and detailed with the sort of colors that bring to mind Modigliani or Vermeer.  Then a movement caught my eye and I noticed the artist.  It was Seymour.  I stood with my mouth open in complete and utter astonishment and then demanded to know whether this was, indeed, his work.  He ducked his head, jammed his hands into his pockets and kicked at the grass with one foot, looking exactly like a six year old accused of filching a piece of the cherry pie you were saving for dessert.  He blushed and muttered something to indicate a “yes” and the words “Seymour, who knew you were hiding the heart and soul of a true romantic behind that gruff exterior?” flew right out of my mouth.  He turned a deeper shade of blush-red and we bonded for life right there on the spot.

Each year found one or two more of Seymour’s lovely paintings added to our collection.  He made me promise I would never pay more to frame one of his pieces than I’d paid for the art.  Something of a challenge considering the cost of framing and the fact that he always insisted on charging a “friends and neighbors” price he seemed to make up on the spot depending on how well he knew you or whether or not you were a starving student.

Seymour stopped entering Art in the Park several years before his death.  Maybe the rigors of setting up for the show got to be too much, but I suspect the exacting hoops he was required to jump through to re-enter each year (though he’d been a participant for many, many years) demoralized him.  What had begun in 1932 with a small group of Philadelphia art students as “The Clothesline Show” had now morphed into the chic Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show, something alien to Seymour’s egalitarian soul I'd guess.

His son has been in touch recently…with a request that I photograph several of our Seymour Rotman paintings for a project he’s working on.  I’m happy to help -- it’s given me the opportunity to remember my friend and look closely at our paintings once again.  One of my very favorites is a small self portrait I nearly had to fight him to buy.  Seymour couldn’t understand what I might possibly want with such a thing – but it perfectly captures the qualities I saw in him – depth and intelligence, some unknown pain or sadness and a crankiness tempered by kindness and generosity.  

As I return home each day from these sometimes gritty Philadelphia streets, I am met by the steady gaze of Seymour’s self portrait.  I am grateful for its artistry as well as its reminder not to judge a book by its cover – but instead, to take some time to read more deeply into one another's story and find something within to treasure.

SEYMOUR ROTMAN 1929 - 2009
"Every year when I exhibited at the annual Rittenhouse Art exhibition, a lovely petite lady would arrive at my booth and painstakingly look through each and every one of my paintings. After a very long time during which not a word passed between us, she would look at me and smile broadly with approval. I later learned that she was Violette deMazia, the longtime curator of the Barnes Foundation."
Seymour Rotman, a North Philadelphia native, fought in the Korean War as a young man.  Upon his return home, he was awarded a full scholarship to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in recognition of his artistic talent.  As a student at PAFA, he won a series of traveling fellowships that allowed him to refine his artistic skills in Mexico and Europe.  His talent has been recognized and honored throughout his career by colleagues, mentors and teachers.

For an history of what I call Art in the Park, click here

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Chocolate Croissant

Several years ago a dear friend sent us the gift of three months of croissant.  Sounds a bit odd, I know – that’s what I thought too -- but I figured they were worth a try.  After all, since the charming French owner of Au Fin Palais disappeared without a trace some years ago, the only suitable place to get my favorite pastry has been Paris.  The “thing” we call a croissant here in the States is bland, boring, tough, nearly tasteless and with greasy dough that refuses to flake as it should – it is a travesty to compare them to the heavenly French version. 

The gift croissant turned out to be very special.  You order them (gasp!) frozen through Williams Sonoma and they cost nearly an arm and a leg with shipping.  I’ve had to work out how reasonable they are compared to a plane ticket to Paris in order to justify stocking my freezer with them.  A little advance planning is required to enjoy them.  They must be left out overnight to rise, loosely covered with a piece of parchment paper before baking them in a hot oven. 

Just the smell of them baking is worth the cost – bringing to mind romance, little corner patisseries, bowls of fresh, strong coffee and leisurely walks along tree-lined boulevards.  It gets even better.  When you bite into one of the crisply browned confections you literally have to shake your head to clear the illusion that you are, indeed, in Paris.  They are that perfect combination of light on the outside, but chewy inside and they flake all over your plate and your now buttery fingers and lips.  Oh, and the chocolate (you were wise enough to order the chocolate, certainly) is dark and smooth and decadent!

All of that is marvelous and I’m always happy to share my favorite foods, but I’m not sure this story would have qualified as blog worthy until this weekend.  I had a houseguest, so I took two croissant from the freezer on Sunday night, covered them with parchment paper and left them to rise in the cool oven overnight in preparation for our breakfast the following morning.  I then promptly proceeded to forgot all about them through the next day and the day after that too, because we’d gotten busy and talked a lot and eaten out.  I didn’t remember the poor sad deflated little things until Tuesday night when I started dinner.  Surely, they were ruined!   I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away however…it was just too sad to contemplate…such a waste.  Since the oven was on anyway, after dinner I thought, what the hell?  Pop them in and see what happens.

Don’t ask me how it’s possible, but fifteen minutes later they came out of the oven light, flaky, buttery and oozing with chocolate as always.  Maybe not quite as good as usual, but anything that can withstand that amount of neglect and still make an impressive showing deserves notice.  We polished off our unplanned dessert and dreamed of Paris that night.

It only seems fair to share the Williams Sonoma link for croissant

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sailboat Racing Photography -- Or, Say "Yes"


So…I love the water and I love boats – and I adore being out on the water in a boat.  But my work – my passion – my focus (pardon the pun) is photographing architectural details.  You know, those quietly unique objects that surround us, but that no one actually sees.  Things like ancient door knockers, or painted dragons on a ceiling or creatures carved into buildings -- those quirky, colorful, sometimes strange things that a highly skilled craftsman or woman took the time to mould or paint or sculpt.  They’re everywhere, we just don’t see them anymore because we’re very busy looking down at our cell phones. 

It’s not as easy as it may appear to get a really good, clean, interesting shot of those “details”, but I’m never happier than when I’ve gotten one to the point where I’d be proud to see it hanging in someone’s home or office.  I’ve had the occasional, brief flirtation with landscape photography and exchanged the sly glance with a cuddly creature.  For a while I was obsessed with nature…and tree bark, but they weren’t serious relationships.  I always go back to my first love -- the details.

Recently, I was invited to join a group of friends in Newport, RI to help celebrate a “major” birthday.  Coincidently, my very favorite neighbor here in Philadelphia was driving up a day earlier than I’d planned to leave, to photograph the start of the 2012 Newport to Bermuda sailboat race.  He invited me to join him for the long ride up and then spend the following day out on a boat with good friends.  I’d never met his friends, nor had I been to Newport, and I was itching to spend that gift-of-an-extra-day alone, roaming the town, photographing the thousands of charming details I knew must be there waiting to be discovered.  The mansions along the famous Cliff Walk could have kept me fascinated for weeks at the very least. 

Something kept tugging at me though.   A persistent little voice kept whispering:  “Oh, say yes.  How often are you invited to spend the day on a lovely boat?  Don’t be dull”.   In the end, the little voice won.  Rather grudgingly, I grabbed a camera with a decent zoom lens and figured I’d snap some fun shots of my pal as he photographed the race.

The day was glorious.  The sky was a stunning shade of turquoise with the occasional puffy white clouds billowing by and sparkling navy blue seas.  A refreshing breeze meant wind enough for a visually vivid downwind spinnaker start.  Sounds like I know my stuff, doesn’t it?  I don’t.  I just wanted to show off the only sailing terminology I know!  A downwind spinnaker start simply means that the great-big-pretty sails were up – and they were fantastic. 

The race began, I took my first photograph and couldn’t put the camera down.  Photographing out on the big wide water felt so…expansive!   I could almost feel my middle aged brain cells start to multiply as the sea air and the excitement of the race kicked in.  Photographing racing boats, from a boat, amidst hundreds of other boats and circling helicopters is a bit like trying to shoot while astride a horse – everything is in motion.  It was wild and very wonderful. 

My hosts for the day, and fellow boaters, were a delight – I felt like I’d known them for years – they made me a very warm welcome.  Sometimes the details can take care of themselves I’m learning…and always, always, say “yes”.

I hope you enjoy the resulting photos – I’ve attached a few here and you can see more at

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Heart of an Artist

The Heart of an Artist

Last week I experienced my first brutal art critic.  Certainly, in the few years since I’ve begun to call myself a photographer, I have been very lucky.   The urging of friends, following a summer trip to China, prompted me to cull, crop and agonize over a few dozen of the hundreds of photos I’d arrived home with.  Once I had a nice presentable portfolio assembled…I couldn’t imagine who might possibly want to buy them.

Thinking rejection might come more gently in the Midwest, I made my first sales attempt in Iowa during a visit to family.  I began with one of my favorite shops specializing in Asian antiques and one-of-a-kind metalwork furniture in the historic, funky, East Village of Des Moines.  Despite being kind of nervous and trying really hard not to show it, I sold five or six of my matted photographs that day which gave me the courage to continue going door-to-door with my portfolio whenever I happened to travel.  As a result, my photographs have been sold around the country in restaurants, shops, galleries and art shows. 

Late last summer I opened a shop on Etsy.  If you’re not familiar with Etsy, it’s an online international marketplace headquartered in Brooklyn, NY.  Sellers are from every corner of the world and their amazing, creative products are all handcrafted or vintage.  It’s fabulously fun and seriously addictive shopping.  You may find yourself wandering through the shops on Etsy for days if you’re not careful. 

In addition to buying and selling, another popular Etsy addiction is creating Treasuries.  Here’s how it works:  select sixteen items from sixteen different shops and arrange them artistically to create a piece of art -- a collage, or mosaic if you will, of the sixteen items.  A treasury may be random, or based on a theme, like the beach perhaps, or a color - pink is always popular - or an event, like Father’s Day.  Treasuries are very popular within the world of Etsy and creative-types may spend hours or days putting together the perfect Treasury.

This is how I learned I have the heart of an artist.  An Etsy member made a Treasury featuring one of my photographs alongside the work of fifteen other potentially tender-hearted photographers and titled it “Not Fine Art Photography”.  Through their comments, this person made it very clear that our work was not up to standard.  Several of my fellow photographers had already posted indignant, upset comments -- one declared their intent to “report” the treasury-maker for breaking the rules.

After my first moment of surprise, I experienced a little burst of fear and maybe just the tiniest hint of shame.  I had finally been found out – here was the confirmation of what I’d always feared: that I couldn’t possibly know what I’m doing.  Then, the moment passed and I chuckled as I discovered that I didn’t much care what my critic thought.  I love my photographs, which is probably the only reason I can offer them for sale.  I love the way they look and feel (I print them on very special paper) -- I love the rich, vibrant, textured color that I capture and painstakingly reproduce and I love the composition of the items in each photograph.

Vincent van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime.  Stephen King received thirty rejection letters before his book Carrie was accepted for publication.  Elvis Presley was fired by the manager of the Grand Ole Opry after just one performance.  Now I know why those artists persevered.  They were driven by a personal, unique vision to produce something wonderful and to share that creation with the world – appreciated or not. 

Ahhh, the heart of an artist.

Visit my shop on Etsy:

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Last week passed in beautiful bliss as I journeyed through all-day meditation classes book-ended by twice-a-day yoga classes which were taught by, possibly, the best yoga teacher on the planet.  Going deep inside is challenging, but since three of my seven days were in total silence, I gradually learned a lot about what is truly important and what isn’t. 

Five things that aren’t very important:
-the world-class fidgeter I probably wouldn’t have noticed if she hadn’t worn a ski jacket  (read: very noisy) to class every day
-people who talk to one another, in normal speaking voices, during lectures
-people who don’t turn their cellphones off (including the incoming message ping they think no one else can hear) during meditation
-the caterer running out of dessert before you’ve had yours
-standing in unending lines for the ladies restroom as you watch the men quickly zip in and out of theirs…all week

Normally, it is very likely that I would have efficiently set about solving all of those obvious, world-class problems in my “get things done right” fashion – but I was sworn to silence and so, instead (and this was very, very hard mind you), I learned to let it go.  Over and over and over again.  For many of you reading this, you might not think it possible, but such a beautiful, freeing, lung-expanding thing this…letting go is.

Five things that are very important:
-The things other people do that irritate me are, in every single case, simply a reflection of something within me that I am ashamed of or dislike
-I am truly, deeply beautiful exactly as I am – inside and out
-Inner peace is what will lead us to world peace
-The bright, blue California sky is breathtakingly, heart-stoppingly beautiful
-Blossoming orange trees require that you stop at every one, every day and put your face inside to smell their scent (look for bees before you sniff!)

Do you think it’s possible to capture, in a photograph, the sweet smell of the orange blossom?  That’s one of my goals now that so many previously important things are now…not.



Monday, March 19, 2012

Bring Back the Turban

Bring Back the Turban

Do you remember when women wore turbans?  I do.  I think it must have been the early 1960’s.  My aunt used to wear one occasionally and when she did, she looked like a movie star or a queen.  She was probably just having a bad hair day, but I swear she looked even more glamorous than usual when she would wear a turban – usually with a long, flowing caftan – which probably meant she’d gained a few pounds and her capris were too tight.  Nevertheless, she looked smashing, exotic, very not mid western – which is what we were – living in Kansas.

Turbans came to mind the other morning just after I’d washed my hair.  As most women do, I wrap my wet hair in a big, fluffy bath towel.  To make this happen, you bend over at the waist, shake your hair out a bit to untangle it and then beginning with the towel centered at the back of your head, wrap one end in towards your forehead and then the other, giving it a little twist while folding the ends back over the top as you stand up straight, so they hang down behind your head.  Sometimes you get your turban too loose and the whole thing falls apart sooner than you might like.  Sometimes you get it just right and it stays in place until your hair has dried somewhat, your makeup is done and you can remove your turban and turn on the blow dryer.  Sometimes however, you get them too tight and it feels like all your hair is being pulled out by the roots.  The morning I began to think about turbans,  I’d gotten mine rather too tight and when I stood upright and flipped the ends back over my head I winced a bit as I turned towards the mirror.  Some people would suggest that I am now “of a certain age”, whatever that means, but I do know that I am probably about the age my aunt was when she wore her glamorous turbans. 

Here is what I learned that morning in front of the mirror.  A too-snug turban pulls your hair back hard and as a result, pulls your skin back tightly too.  I looked great – even my jawline and neck were smooth and firm – and I didn’t even have any makeup on yet. 

So, I’m thinking…turbans as a fashion statement need to make a comeback.   What do you think?

Philadelphia, PA
March 19, 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chocolate Brown Rotary Dial 1970's Telephone

Chocolate Brown Rotary Dial 1970’s Telephone
It even works!  A chocolate brown desk phone, its brown cord is wired into the receiver and the phone…

I can’t stop thinking about this listing for a vintage item being sold on Etsy.  The phone is gorgeous – a deep, dark brown rotary-dial telephone from the 1970’s in perfect condition and still working.

Just looking at it brings to mind the sound and feel of dialing one of those classic phones.  Much slower than dialing these days, it had a smooth, heavy, velvety feel as your finger pulled the dial around and then released it to return home so that you could repeat the process for the remaining numbers.  It provided the leisure to think some about precisely what you might want to say to the person you were calling.  There was something almost sensual about dialing those telephones -- every friend I’ve mentioned it to, has gotten a dreamy, fond sort of look on their face as I watch them remember the way it used to feel to dial the telephone.
In the description for the phone, the seller explains that the cord is “wired into the receiver and the phone” and I realize that something, once so common, has been completely forgotten.  Several generations have grown up without seeing one of those boxy telephones hardwired into the wall.  When you bought a new phone back then, a service man (were there any service women then?) had to come out and wire it into the wall for you.  Of course, the receiver too was firmly connected by a long, elastic, twisty cord to its base.  I used to lie on the floor at night talking to my friends, playing with that cord like a girl might play with her long hair, wrapping it around and around my finger.  For a long time, most houses only had one phone, so it was usually in a central, easily accessible location like the kitchen.  That long cord enabled you to move out of the room for a little bit of privacy.  How did people manage to have illicit affairs back then? 

As a photographer and sometime jewelry maker, I have succumbed to convenience and purchased several digital cameras, but secretly, I’m still faithful to and in love with my old 35mm film camera.  Its solid weight helps anchor me to the earth and I like the soft, steady whir as I depress the shutter; I am confident in the perfectly smooth, sliding movement of manually adjusting the focus.  My first digital camera lost its micro capability after a few brief years and felt, like its replacement, light and plastic-y, rather like a child’s toy with annoying beeps and tinny sounds.  I suppose it’s something like the difference between slamming the car door of a Mercedes versus slamming one on a Toyota – the Mercedes assures me, every time, of its solidness, its dependability.  In comparison, I’m never really quite sure of the Toyota.

What I really wonder though – is when telephones (and actually, I mean everything else as well) stopped working perfectly and continually for years and years of dependable, unfailing service so that I wouldn’t have to think about them every few years?  It takes me two or three years to get fully used to something electronic or mechanical, whether it’s a car, or a camera, or a television, or…a telephone.  After I’ve done my research and made my purchase, honestly, I don’t want to have to think about doing it again for at least ten years, preferable twenty. 

Is that…unreasonable? 

Philadelphia, PA
February 28, 2012