Monday, December 2, 2013

Not Another Tie...Not Another Pair of Earrings

It’s not that I have anything against ties and earrings…I’m a big fan of both.  I’ve been known to dip into my collection of vintage men’s ties and channel some Diane Keaton as Annie Hall style.  Geez, it’s only the first paragraph and I’m already wandering off track.  Back to my point, which is creative gift ideas:

The last of the leftover turkey is nearly gone and my thoughts have turned toward Christmas and gift giving.  My solemn vow this year?  I will not give another tie…nor another pair of earrings.  This year, I will stretch my imagination and vow to keep it fresh.  This year I’m dipping into my very own Etsy shop for a little inspiration. 

You know I’m a photographer, right?  With a shop on Etsy — here’s the link  Last week as I explained to a potential customer why photography makes lovely, unexpected gifts, it occurred to me that I should really be taking my own advice and I’ve added a handful of my images to the pile of gifts for several people on my list.

If you’re not familiar with Etsy, it’s a global marketplace with Sellers both large and small offering vintage, hand-crafted and unique items for sale.  Perfect for unique gift-giving and definitely my kind of place.  I’ve purchased fantastic items from Greece, Italy, Canada, Japan as well as from shops right here within the United States.   

So now for those gift ideas…

My mom is a writer of notes.  Birthday notes, how-are-you notes, thank you notes, condolence notes and here’s-something-that-made-me-think-of-you notes.  She doesn’t want anything, she’s at that stage of her life where she’s getting rid of all of her stuff.  So this year I’m giving her gift certificates for her favorite restaurant and notecards since she’s always running out.  I had a batch specially printed for her using images I took the last time I visited, which I know she’ll love.  I’ve just listed a series notecards in my shop that include images from Italy, Chicago, Philadelphia and some Urban Graffiti shots.  They’re packaged up really pretty too and ready to gift.
My brother and I are polar opposites and I never know what to get him.  Ever.  He’s got a big heart and is very sentimental and as his big sister I can say that I find his decor sadly lacking, so this year he’s getting - framed up and everything, mind you - a large photograph of a vintage Mobil Oil pegasus sign.  I found it in a coffee shop out in California, but they wouldn’t sell it to me, so this is the next best thing.  Our dad worked at Mobil Oil all of his life and we miss him every day.  Perfect.  Masculine, colorful, and a personal connection to the image.

Spoiler Alert for my husband:  Don’t read this if you want to be surprised when you open one of your presents this year.  I may be biased of course, but my husband has very good taste in art — we collect it together when we travel.  So, when he says he loves one of my images (wise man), I’m honored.  He’s asked me several times (a patient man as well) for one of my Abraham Lincoln images for his office and I’ve been something like the painter who never manages to get his own home painted…so this year, Mr. Lincoln it is.  

We really loved the movie with Daniel Day Lewis that came out earlier this year too.  So.  Perfect. 

Here’s my A. Lincoln and the companion American Eagle image — I like them together — maybe he’ll get both.

My friends and pals read my blog…so that’s all I’m saying for now.  Stop by my shop and wander around — think outside the box — be original, be creative.  It’s so much fun!  Easy too, since you can opt for gift wrapping for a nominal charge and make your Holidays that much easier.  Enjoy your December…it only comes once each year.  

All my very best wishes to you,
E. England

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Nature & Inspiration

Fall has just begun and already I’m seeing subtle shifts in the nature activity all around me.  In late August the waters of the Eastern Shore of Maryland were teeming with brilliant blue crabs which we greedily gobbled up one day for lunch along with frosty cold beer.  A little turtle made an appearance along with caterpillars and an emerald green frog.  

Traveling in the midwest in mid-September, I saw more hummingbirds in one small suburban garden than I’ve seen combined over my lifetime -- unfortunately, they were much too fast for me and my camera, so I’ve included a photo of a fantastical castle and garden instead.  They were made by two blond faeries I know and love.  

Several hours of driving through some of the most beautiful farm land you can imagine took me back to Minnesota where I was born and then into Wisconsin.  While I was there, catching up with some of my favorite people on the planet, I was lucky to see some pampered koi in a cool, shaded pond and happy chickens keeping a low profile to avoid the sharp eyes of ever present eagles.  


Speaking of eagles and sharp eyes...did you know that eagles can see something the size of a rabbit more than three miles away?  I didn’t, but I learned that and lots of other cool things when I visited the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota to get up close and personal with the five rescued eagles in residence there.  You know how sometimes, when you meet someone for the first time,  it feels like you’ve known one another forever?  That’s how I felt when I gazed into Angel’s golden eyes for a long moment.  There was a current of connection between us that I’ll remember for a very long time.

On our final morning, on the way to the of the eagles that rules the wide open sky near my cousin’s home saw us along our way as she (or he) sat at the tippy top of an old, bare Halloween sort of tree spying out over the cornfields and countryside -- maybe looking for breakfast.  

Now that I’m back home on the East Coast, I’m keeping an eye out for the monarch butterflies that will begin their southern migration soon, the little owl that sometimes hangs out in our pine tree and a fast red fox that travels in the sand dunes...wish me luck.  I hope you’re enjoying the Fall season.

E. England

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Rituals & Remembering

Sleepy Mornings

The town where I live for a large part of the year feels like a 1950‘s Mayberry time warp much of the time.  It’s a small shore town in New Jersey with a five mile wooden boardwalk featuring two amusement parks in addition to a main street (called Asbury Avenue here) in the heart of town.  The people at the post office know your name, as they do at the hardware store and in the restaurants and shops.  People are nice -- they take their time -- they’re not overly fond of change.  It's a dry town (no liquor served) due to early Methodist roots.  Every few years some of us hope for just enough change to allow a glass of wine with dinner, but it gets shot down every time which may or may not be a good thing.  It's very much a family sort of place.

Crime here consists mainly of “borrowed” bicycles which usually turn up at the other end of town within a day or so.  People leave their doors unlocked here.  I forgot and left the garage door open one time and was gone for two weeks.  When I returned home, everything was exactly as I’d left it - bicycles, tools, a spare fridge full of beer and wine, half a dozen beach chairs.  Amazing.

It gets a little crazy here in July and August when the vacationing hoards arrive and traffic is wacky with too many sun baked drivers and pedestrians zombified by long days at the beach and too much sugar.  Summertime rituals are savored -- the smell of sunscreen, the sound of the lifeguard’s whistle, the dolphin that swim by about 9:00 a.m. each morning when I remember to pay attention.  Gorilla Golf, the Ferris Wheel, the Log Ride at Wonderland Pier, the peanut-buster parfait at DQ and the daily screaming melt-down of a child on the boardwalk that always makes me smile and wonder what earth-shattering event has just occurred.

There is another daily ritual that takes place here during the high summer season.  This particular tradition began eleven years ago tomorrow and occurs each morning at 9:20 a.m., weather permitting.  It happens at the waterpark.  I don’t completely understand the need for a waterpark in a beach town, given that it’s located approximately 20 yards from a huge, mostly blue ocean with real waves to ride, but here it is and it’s very popular.  Out in front is Jimmy’s Hot Dog Stand and on top of Jimmy’s, two tall flag poles from which two, crisp American flags fly.

Each morning as a few dozen locals begin to gather and chat, a couple of young waterpark employees climb up a ladder to stand at the foot of each flag pole.  Many mornings, a third gentleman stands with them, at attention.  At 9:20 a.m. on the dot, a recording of Proud To Be An American by Lee Greenwood plays and walkers, runners, bicyclists and surrey riders gradually slow and then come to a stop, wondering what’s going on.  The crowd gets bigger and then the National Anthem plays.  It’s the version by LeAnn Rhimes.  The two flags are raised slowly, simultaneously.  Nearly all boardwalk traffic has now come to a halt...hats are removed, hands are held over hearts, war veterans in the crowd salute.  It gets really quiet except for the music and the crashing of waves.  The notes rise sharply near the end of the song at the word “free” and hold for a moment.  The song ends - a rousing cheer goes up and suddenly the boardwalk is all animation and movement.  Life goes on.

If you've had your coffee and aren't too busy with your day, some of you may be doing the math and figuring out that we’re not too far from New York City here in my little town at the Jersey Shore.  You may have had a little "aha" moment and understand the significance of two tall flagpoles as part of this ceremony.  Eleven years is a long time, but remembering is important and they still know how to do things right in a small town when it comes to ritual and remembrance. 

Life Goes On

The daily flag raising ceremonies have ended for this season and the water park has closed - or will close soon I'm sure.  I'm already looking forward to next summer when they begin again.  Wishing you your own special rituals and remembrances.  All the best,

E. England

Here’s a link to the National Anthem sung by LeAnn Rimes -- I think it needs to come with a hanky warning:

Gillian's Island Salutes America's Freedom Ceremony:

Join us each morning this summer as our Team raises the American Flag for the day in tribute to America's freedom. This year will mark our 11th Season of performing the Flag Raising ceremony, and we are proud to continue on what has now become a tradition on the Ocean City Boardwalk. All of the details for the ceremony are listed below - if you find yourself up early and heading to the beach, stop by and pay respects to our great country with the Gillian's Water Park and Adventure Golf family!

WHEN: Daily from 9:20 am to 9:28 am.*
WHERE: Out front of Jimmy's Hot Dogs and Gillian's Island Water Park on the Ocean City Boardwalk.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Love Letter

This is a love letter of sorts.  As is the case with nearly all of my blogs, this one begins as one thing; a celebration marking two years in business and ends up as another thing altogether;  an acknowledgement of gratitude to the many who have helped me make it through these years of modest but steadily increasing success.

It’s important to celebrate milestones, not only because I love a good party, but also because a celebration helps me recognize what I’ve learned and experienced along the way.  Marking a specific stage of progress acknowledges, in a heightened way, the work I’ve put in and the personal or professioal growth I have or have not achieved.  

This month I celebrate my second year selling photography on Etsy.  It’s been a major adventure that has stretched my brain in ways I could never have imagined.  I finally fully mastered the computer - a beast I never thought to tame and made the leap from PC to Mac, which may have helped in the taming.  Moving from film to digital -- something I swore would never be -- happened almost without my noticing.  I’ve met and made amazing new friends -- many of whom I may never actually greet face to face, but who know a part of me better than some of my oldest, dearest friends.  Each of these new friends is on a similar journey and each has shown a generosity that astounds me.  They have helped me solve problems and maneuver hurdles.  They’ve listened to me whine in my worst moments while pushing me to set goals and grow.  They have each shared personal knowledge and expertise and best of all, they seem to want me to succeed almost as much as they want to succeed themselves. These new friends have been a very great gift.

My lifelong family and friends have shown their support as well, of course.  Offering advice and listening as I verbally think through various challenges, always offering emotional encouragement and support, waiting patiently by my side while I take ‘just one more’ photo.  Some of my friends have become my best customers, coming back time after time to purchase my work.  I don’t imagine they understand how much those purchases have meant to me as I strive to grow a small business and master the mysteries of search engine optimization -- also known as “getting found” in the massive shopping mall that is the internet.  During dark moments when I doubted success -- and those moments came more often than I’d like to admit -- one of them would magically appear to make a purchase for themselves, or for a family member or friend.  Each one of those sales provided enough encouragement to lift my spirits through what were sometimes months of scarcity as I continue my forward progress.

Do you wonder why I’ve chosen sailboats to brighten my love letter?  They were a wet, wild, exhilarating adventure to photograph and they represent a sample of my work, but they also visually represent my journey as I personally and professionally sail forward into bigger seas -- finding grander waves of adventure and discovery and occasional deep and scary troughs of rough water.  The lesson I’m learning over and over is this;  if I wait calmly and quietly for a little while - and try not to battle the current - the weather will clear and the sailing will be smooth once again.  Giant leaps forward may be what I crave, but thousands of teeny tiny baby steps are my natural pace; the one that takes me where I’m headed if I can remember to be patient.

Michelangelo said something like this about sculpture: “Every block of stone has a statue inside and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”  That’s how I feel about the images I choose to offer for sale.  If I can photograph the beauty I see around me in such a way that allows another to see it as well, then a lovely connection unites us;  we are joined in a way both impersonal and personal.  It’s like sharing a wonderful secret -- how better to delight in something treasured than to share that treasure with a friend?

So cheers and thanks to you my loved ones, my friends old and new and my customers past, present and future for your support and recognition of this glorious adventure into beauty that I call my business.  Wondering where my sails will take me in the next two years...I hope you’ll be with me.  

With gratitude & love,

E. England

Monday, August 5, 2013

Farmers Market Freshness

When I spend my time in the City, most Sunday mornings will find me over at the Headhouse Square Farmers Market picking out fresh goodies for the week.  Nearly every Sunday, it’s crazy jammed with shoppers and baby strollers and too many friendly dogs for the tight space.  But it’s a mellow Sunday morning, right?  The perfect opportunity for a zen experience surrounded by goodness grown locally.

There is always some history to be shared when you’re in Philadelphia and the Headhouse Square market is no exception.  The sturdy, picturesque structure is an outdoor Georgian “shed” originally built in 1745 for the same thing it’s used for today - to shelter merchants selling their wares.  With arched open-sides made of brick, there is a “headhouse” at the north end which originally housed the master of the market (think quality control) and a firehouse which was added in the early 1800’s.  A cupola topped by a weathervane sits on top and cobblestone streets border each side.  The shed in this location, between Lombard and Pine streets, is known as the Shambles by locals and was restored in the 1960’s - it’s been in use off and on ever since.

During Summer and Fall weekends, tables are stacked high with local produce, cheeses, chocolates, fresh cut flowers, Alaskan-caught fish, fresh roasted coffee beans, breads and pastries, local honey and candles.  There’s even a garden plant man who gives great advice on what to plant and where best to plant it.  

Did I mention the happy goats?  They aren't actually at the market adding to the chaos, but their photos are.  They say happy goats make better cheese and I'm charmed enough to buy a round of this amazing cheese every time.  

This week the beets looked amazing -- red, golden, orange -- and I started thinking it was time to whip up a couple of goat cheese and beet towers for a light summer salad.

The Recipe:

Ingredients:  Four (4) medium size beets
                    One (1) small package of fresh goat cheese:  herbed, plain or pepper
                    Two (2) shallots, thinly sliced
                    One (1) bunch of red leaf lettuce, washed and patted dry
                    Pine nuts (a handful or so)
                    Olive Oil & local honey (enough to drizzle to taste)
                    One half lemon

Boil or roast four medium size beets until tender.  Any color you desire, or mix it up.  Toast pine nuts over a medium heat until golden brown in a non-stick skillet - set aside to cool.  After the beets have cooled, slip off the skins and slice into 1/2” slices.  Gently tear red leaf lettuce and divide onto four salad plates.  Lay the first beet slice on top of a lettuce bed, top with a very thin slice of goat cheese, add the next slice of beet (alternating colors makes a very pretty salad).  Top each layer of beet with goat cheese.  Keep going.  One beet per plate.  Add the shallots to the lettuce and drizzle each plate with olive oil and honey.  Squeeze lemon juice over the lettuce to taste.  Add fresh cracked pepper, salt and a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts.  Enjoy.  

What are you finding at your local farmers market?  Even better, what are you cooking?

Come visit my Etsy shop:  I hope to see you soon.  Until then, enjoy your August.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Mermaid & An Evening Walk

This is the time of evening when the mermaids come out....I’m certain of it.  

As yet, I haven’t seen one, but I’m hopeful.  Each evening, the beach empties and the sky turns a lovely milky-blue and so does the sea, tinged with gold or, on some evenings, deep shades of lavender and pink.  The wind usually picks up around 4:00-ish and blows for an hour or so whipping up whitecaps in the water and etching  mesmerizing patterns in the sand.

Then...a stillness settles over everything for as far as the eye can see.  As I walk along the water’s edge, I keep a casual look out for what I imagine will be the sudden flash and shimmer of a silvery blue-green forked tail as my conjured mermaid -- or merman -- slaps the surface of the water, showing off just a little for me.  

Everyone knows that a forked tail makes for a swift swimmer.  In fact, the deeper the fork, the faster the swimmer, but my mer-creature has paused mid-swim with a curiosity to match my own.  Eying one another cautiously across the gently lapping waves, we'll nod hello - which is the polite thing to do after all and then continue, alone once more, on our terrestrial and aquatic locomotions.  Each a little shivery with the bit of magic that has occurred; one walking barefooted in the damp, cooling sand leaving a trail of happy footprints, the other slipping smoothly through the water leaving no trace at all.

Here are a few photographs of what I did find this evening as I roamed the quiet beach.  

Photos, from top to bottom:
1. Patterns in the Sand
2. Casting A Long Shadow
3. Seagull
4. Feather in the Sand
5. The Fence

Sign up to receive my none-to-regular blog posts -- I hope you'll share them as well.  Visit my shop at to see more of my photography.  Wishing you magic wherever life finds you.  E. England  

Friday, April 26, 2013

Lilacs. The Sense of Smell

For the sense of smell, almost more than any other, has the power to recall memories and it is a pity that we use it so little. – Rachel Carson

Lilacs.  I would fill my home with them if I could -- all year round.  There are none to be found at the market, but my neighbor has one that has burst into full bloom, filling the street with it’s heady scent.  I make up excuses to step outside and wander over -- just to put my nose deep into the flowers and inhale.  Mmm...better than any drug and so much finer than diamonds they are to me this morning.  Their peppery sweet scent tells me that Spring has settled in for good and another Winter hibernation has ended.  I want to dance with the joy that bubbles up inside. 

Yesterday, late afternoon sun on the blooming flowers made quite a feast for the honey and bumble bees.  I watched as they lazily buzzed, warm and looking a little drunk - drinking deeply from the floral cups, moving from one to the next, positively humming with giddy contentment.

This morning, I feel just like yesterday’s drunken bees as I sip my tea and attempt to form cohesive thoughts; engulfed in a scent that fairly numbs my brain -- from a few stolen lilac sprigs sitting in a small Ball jar filled with fresh water on my bedside table.  A mourning dove has taken up a place in my brick-walled garden and croons to me through the window as I type.  This is one of those magical moments to breathe in and savor, because in this moment, I feel an expansive stillness and am fully aware of my connection to all living things.

Before the sun started to rise this morning, I tip-toed out the front door in full bed-head mode, still wearing my yellow and white check cotton pajamas, stopping long enough to wrap a scarf around my neck and slip into an old jean jacket that I keep by the front door before slinging my camera around my neck.  Have you got the visual?  Not a moment was to be wasted, so strongly was the near primal urge that drove me to be back among the lilacs.  

I’ve read that smell is the oldest sense.  A single scent can, in the blink of an eye, magically time-travel us to our fondest memories, our most embarrassing moments, our saddest times.   This morning, the city was still quiet and when I closed my eyes I could almost feel green grass under my bare feet.  In an instant, I was whisked all the way back to my grandmother’s garden on a beautiful, sunny, Kansas morning with the scent of lilac everywhere.  My twinkling grandmother has been gone for many years and sadly, so is the sturdy, Craftsman-style cottage my grandfather built with his own hands.  But I was there again this morning...dancing among the dewdrops with the fairies.

Some photographs were stolen this morning from my neighbor’s garden as well -- I’ll slip one through his mail slot later, as payment for my thievery.  I hope you enjoy them, please let me know if I can list one for you in my Etsy shop or just feel free to stop in and browse.  Spring is such a lovely time to freshen up interior spaces and Mother’s Day is just around the corner.  Photography makes a perfect, rather unexpected gift.
Now, close your eyes, conjure up the scent of lilac...where does it take you? Wishing you the very best this Spring,

E. England

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Say Goodbye -- The Great Graffiti Controversy

Life is so very interesting.  Several weeks ago, I wrote about using architectural detail as a theme for my photography.  I’d planned this post as a sort of Part II -- to ramble a bit about the beauty and diversity of Street Art, Urban Art, Graffiti and Mural Art.  I’ll still do that, but I’ll be heading in a little different direction, because of something that occurred yesterday...  

For years and years, the controversy over graffiti was “those damn kids” with their spray paint; defacing property, contributing to Urban blight and the general “moral corruption” of society.  Writing that made me chuckle out loud, but I can recall my parents and their friends saying things exactly like that.

If you read my blog, you’ll know I was raised up nice and healthy in the Midwest --  Kansas to be exact -- with room to roam and the freedom to do it.  But I’ve been a city dweller now for a majority of my years and life in the city has shown me clearly that the definition of beauty is not the narrow, confined standard proscribed by society -- rather it is huge, unlimited -- sky high.  It’s whatever we want it to be and it is constantly evolving.

When I travel with my camera, I nearly always choose a city where I can unpack my bags and roam on foot finding “my” coffee shop, “my” bookstore and “my” local bar to hang in as I begin exploring.  Traveling on foot allows me to see who’s out on the streets with me, what they’re doing, what clothes they’re styling, how they maintain their homes, their trash, where they play, their music scene - it also lets me feel virtuously healthy burning a multitude of calories as I walk.  Wandering around on foot also allows me to see so many of the details that disappear in a blur breezing along in a taxicab.  Cherubs, lions, the face of a native american unexpectedly carved over a doorway and weird, wild, wonderful graffiti of all kinds.

Graffiti as an art form has evolved from the repeated signature scrawl of a name or “tag” and morphed into full fledged mural art by talented artists and biting political commentary like that of the now famous - or infamous - Banksy.  The determination of graffiti artists hasn’t changed over the years, but their work has matured, becoming much more detailed and complex - very possibly because they don’t have to paint it on the run any longer.  Graffiti - and street art have come to be appreciated as “real art” and its “ownership’ is being fought over on an international level including in auction houses. 

Because it can disappear or be completely defaced in a moment, I’m drawn to document graffiti and mural art with my camera.  While San Francisco, unlike the majority of U.S. cities, seems to embrace the work of its graffiti artists, here in Philly, it’s still painted over by city workers almost as soon as it’s matter how lovely. 

When you take an interest in photography, you are drawn toward what the photographer has seen in any given moment in time.  That moment - just like a snowflake - will never be recreated or captured identically again -- no matter what the subject.  The light will never be exactly the same, another photographer will “see” the same view very differently, a month of sunshine will fade the pigment, each camera will capture the moment just “this much” differently - making it unique.

This is the place where I was going to talk about using graffiti and mural photography as a unique way to bring contemporary art and the feel of the city into your home or office,  because I was feeling rather pleased with my little unofficial, one-woman Street Art - Graffiti Art - Mural Art Preservation Program.  Instead, today I am preparing to pull some of my favorite images from my shop.  

A San Francisco mural artist contacted me yesterday and asked me to remove my photographs of his work.  It’s disappointing for a number of reasons -- chief among them?  I was excited to share this art. The flip side though, whether legal, illegal or debatable is that I would be leaving a fellow artist feeling like his work had been stolen and that seems in poor the very least.

Conversation went back and forth a few times, I asked advice from several different sources to consolidate my thinking.  Closing in pretty quickly on the undeniable fact that I would obviously remove my photos featuring his work as requested.  Something had me unsettled and a little on edge though.  It took me awhile, but I finally worked it out in the wee hours.  The artist is convinced I willingly meant to do him harm.  There seems to be no way to convince him otherwise -- he is certain I am evil.  My offer to contribute proceeds to a Youth Mural Program or Mural Preservation Group of his choice were viewed as disingenuous, stated with harsh words.

I’m that person who happily holds doors open for young and old alike, shovels half the block when it snows because so many of my neighbors are older or in ill health and “blesses” total strangers when they sneeze in public.  Am I Mother Theresa?  Definitely not.  Can I be thoughtless?  Oh yeah.  Being seen as the devil incarnate definitely bugged me though and I spent far too much time trying to explain myself and my intentions to someone who will never hear me.  The poor man is just trying to protect his interests after all and that must be one tough job considering his work is outside in an alley -- in an area known for graffiti.  Good grief - head shaking - laughing fondly at self in a Christopher Robin sort of way.

Street art has come a long way from its public nuisance, in your face, spray paint scrawled roots.  It is now fine art -- exactly the point I was trying to make when I started writing this.  Protected, copyrighted, guarded carefully as if safe within museum walls.  Ironic, isn’t it?  This may be the last time you see several of these images...unless you plan a trip to San Francisco’s Mission District to see one of the most concentrated collections of amazing graffiti art person.  Just don’t take your camera!

E. England

The fabulous top mural was obviously created by the very cool Zio Zeigler, the stunning middle mural is by the wildly talented team of Alynn-Mag. More information may be found on these artists in my Etsy Shop.  Come visit.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Philadelphia Flower Show - 2013

Here's a fast, but fun post!

Flowers - by the first week of March I'm craving them.

The theme of the 184th Philadelphia Flower Show is Brilliant Britain with inspiration coming from -- where else?  Our talented and stylish gardening friends in England.  After a few hit-or-miss years, the Flower Show is “back” with lush, sweet-smelling displays that are big, creative, whimsical and luscious.  Piped in music highlights all-British bands and provides great energy -- "Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away..."  

If you Google the show, you’ll see lots of spectacular floral displays I’m sure, but I came away with some favorite pics that are, perhaps, a little different.  Here’s what caught my eye this year...

Hats.  I adore hats and these fascinators are so stylish!  A certain amount of savoir faire would be required to pull them off and these beauties would require regular watering as well...

This gorgeous evening gown made of...l had to look very closely...nearly toppling into the display - rice.  Oh, and there's another hat involved as
A classic display of architecture and statuary, surrounded by a verdant lawn, richly colorful, heavenly scented flowers and a fountain.  Hold on...did that statue just move?  She did.  Ever so slowly and not very often.  I loved watching the faces on the folks in the crowd as they slowly -- or suddenly -- realized the statue in the center arch was gracefully ALIVE.  Double fun.

If you haven’t been yet, this is a great year to go.  The giant reproduction of Big Ben that tolls the hour...almost allows you to believe you’re in London...not Philly.

E. England

Monday, March 4, 2013

Saturday Surprise -- Goals Unmet

This is not the blog I’d planned to write today.  I was going to write about Graffiti Art and my recent obsession photographing it, but instead, I’m going to tell a little story on myself...because I find I must brag about my pals.

My plan for Saturday was to be up, out of the house and walking by 9 a.m.  I spent the week sitting - ugh - in front of the computer working in my Etsy shop being massively productive.  As a result, my sad little bottom feels flat and flabby and I was more than ready for a brisk walk across town to the Museum of Art to run sets of the “Rocky Steps”, stop for oatmeal and coffee and then continue the walk back home.  A good six+ miles roundtrip -- and those brutal steps working up a good sweat along the way - I knew I would feel wildly virtuous afterwards.  I envisioned a halo on my head and a sleeve of Girl Scout Cookies in my future..

Here’s what actually happened on Saturday.  I got up, put on my comfy old robe and slippers, made a cup of jasmine tea...and sat down in front of the computer.  Vowing to get up and go “right after I finish this” at least a dozen times -- this led to that when three cups of tea and six hours later the doorbell rang.  Still in my P.J.’s mind you, I sheepishly answered the door to find dear friends - Ms. X and Mr. Y - in town for the day visiting Mr. Y’s lovely daughter Z who’s studying at Penn.   Pleased to meet daughter Z for the first time, we laughed, we chatted, we had a whorl-wind catch up and out the door they went.  Great fun -- they didn’t seem to mind a bit that I looked like I’d just crawled out of bed with my teeth unbrushed, my hair a fright and the house strewn with newspapers, tea cups and toast crumbs.

I was so happy to have seen them -- even briefly -- because, as I’ve known for many years, I have remarkably special friends.  Honestly, I don’t know why I’m so lucky, but I have world class, creme de la creme, hands-down the best people on earth for friends.  Here’s an example of why:  several hours after Ms. X, Mr. Y and daughter Z departed, laughing their merry way down the sidewalk, I got an email from Ms. X.  Here, in part, is what she said to me:   

You wear those silk pajamas well....It's rare that our friends are so "uptown" that they appear at 4 p.m. on a Saturday in silk pajamas and cashmere robes.  Do you know Myrna Loy???”

You know you are lucky in your friends when they surprise you at your worst...but manage to see you in fine, rare light...and of course Ms. X would know that Myrna Loy is one of my role models!  I’m afraid husband T did not receive William Powell comparisons in his sweats and baseball cap...I’ll be hunting up a vintage “smoking jacket” for him...on Etsy of course.

E. England

Friday, March 1, 2013

Home Decorating Ideas: Architectural Detail

My name is Elizabeth and I’m an addict.  Not an addict in the traditional sense, happily, but I am addicted to the beauty I find in old, romantic, classical architecture.  Specifically, the architectural detail that divinely decorates the grand old buildings constructed during the time of Kings and Queens, Czars and Czarinas and more recently in the United States, by myriad railroad, oil and steel tycoons who reigned here during the late 1800‘s well through the turn of the century.

Considering my addiction, which developed gradually while traveling in Russia, Turkey, France, Italy and England, I’m a lucky girl to live in Philadelphia -- an eminently walkable city with plenty of old money.  Close proximity to New York City and not that far from the famous Cliff Walk mansions of Newport, RI certainly helped as well.  In fact, when big name architects of the time weren’t busy with grand office buildings and palatial homes, they were commissioned to build magnificent mausoleums to celebrate the dead as well.  So, even our cemeteries offer amazing works of art.

One sweltering summer, not long after moving to Philadelphia, I offered to help a friend shut down her antiques store across town.  Every morning for much of the season, I’d set out on foot early to beat the heat, taking a different route every day to make it interesting.  With nobody yet out on the sidewalks racing to work, I could pay attention to the world around me rather than dodging cars and other pedestrians.  In this way, I discovered the extraordinary architectural detail and design of my new home and was almost giddy with excitement.

The architecture of Philadelphia has been well maintained and is wonderfully weathered, adding to the charm.  The newness has long since worn off and moss-green, rust and the patina of time enhances the beauty of each unique detail.  Harking back to an era when labor was cheap and ornamentation a sign of wealth and success, intricate ironwork, tile-work, mosaic and architectural detail embellish nearly every structure.  Thousands of masterpieces -- large and small -- can be found within the larger body of each building.  I marvel at the skill of the craftsmen who labored on these projects.  Where did they come from?  Why did they come?  How did they get here?  What has happened to their magnificent skills?

Beautifully carved cherubs, angels, and the expressive face of a native american settled over a doorway.  Horses, lions, bears -- all manner of mythological creature: the gryphon, winged dragons and gargoyles.  Oh and the Gods and Goddesses...they are lovely.  Once you begin to notice them, you see they are everywhere.  Museum-worthy works of art  -- outdoors, in plain sight, for all the world to see and yet, they are so common, they have vanished from our sight.  We walk past them every day and do not notice.

Actually, I notice them.  I stalk them with my camera...waiting for the light to mellow or shift, for the rain to come and deepen the hues, or the season to change.  I stalk them and capture them and print them out on museum quality paper made for watercolor artists because it enhances the texture of the stone, saturates the shadows and heightens the richness of streaking minerals and rust. 

Subject to the vagaries of time and weather, the architectural details are ever-changing and I know that what is captured today, may look very different a year from now and I am touched in a way that surprises me - a little window of awareness has opened.  So forgiving of the changes in the structures I am - finding them graceful, lovely and natural -- I am inspired to practice that same generosity on myself as I observe in my mirror the changes each year brings. 

Photography is remarkably versatile.  Float it in modern plexiglass.  Frame it in reclaimed wood for a rustic look, vintage frames for shabby chic style or classic black to blend with any decor.  So, indulge me if you would.  You’ve heard that walking is good for you -- take a walk in an old city -- or even in a small town that’s been around for awhile and was prosperous for a number of years.  Look at the office buildings, old banks, schools, libraries and government buildings.   Notice the doorways and windows and along the rooftops.  What do you see?  Snap your own photographs and pop them into frames, or stop into my shop and take a look at more of my images, which include a variety of travel photography, urban art and artisan jewelry featuring my photography as well.  I hope you find something new and interesting and beautiful on your walk -- or in my shop.

This collection of images has been pulled from Washington, DC, Charleston, SC, Philadelphia, PA, New York City and St. Augustine, FL.

E. England