In my mind I wasn't absent at all... I wrote about frost and beautiful silver landscapes.
I wrote about Christmas shopping and asked your help on presents for an 11yr old who wants 'surprises'.
I wrote about a gorgeous chilli recipe I found, a recipe that for once was enjoyed by all the family (if I ignore that No 1 patiently removed every single kidney bean in his plate)
I wrote it all down. In my head.
Cross my heart and hope to die.
But seriously. I've been busy. Busy doing stuff and in actual fact I have finished a quilt, and a pair of mittens, and have wrapped all the presents that are in the house bar the three that have been delivered this morning.
The Christmas cards writing marathon will begin soon but first I need to finish my fight with the laundry that threatens to kill me lately.
And we need food. Food shopping is one of those things that can't be postponed for too long I find. Most annoying.
We have a tree and it's gorgeous... and mahoosive... although it's shedding needles like mad and I'm really worried it won't reach the 25th. I love having the lights twinkling away in my peripheral vision. I can live without Christmas music... but not without the tree!
Mr M make me a gorgeous advent calendar: He's a keeper.
Mr M and I have been to party last Friday, rare occurrence, and had lovely food and nice chats and were entertained by Elvis. Quite scary actually. He took it waaaaay too seriously. And should have done his suit up a little higher. Just saying.
I put a few things in my Easy shop. (I'll throw in a free delivery if you're interested...)
We have decided to take turn choosing a 'family' activity each Sunday afternoon in order to consciously spend more time together rather than simply in the same house and passing each other like ships in the night or meeting only at the dinner table. (And moan about red kidney beans then).
When it was my turn I dragged everyone to see Magical Beasts and where to find them. Mr M fell asleep. No 2 and No 3, mad HP fan found it a little boring (it is a tad slow). No 3, who really didn't want to come, who has never seen/read HP books... loved it. Go figure.
Yesterday No 2 took us all bowling. I lost. Both games. I think I might have to secretly practice when they're at school!
Mr M is going to put everyone through a showing of Christmas Lampoon with Chevy Chase. A classic.
No 1 is still thinking about it.
No 3 wants to go Ice skating. Oh boy. That will be interesting.
I'll keep you posted.
I gotta go now. But I'll be back. And not only in my mind.
Last night I finished reading NW by Zadie Smith. Brilliantly written but I should have read it slower because I missed one vital clue and the end didn't make sense. Had to search for an explanation on 'goodreads'. Luckily somebody tied the loose ends for me (and I wasn't the only one!)
Next up: Here I am. I couldn't resist reading the first 4 or 5 pages... I love his writing style of writing.
Can't wait. Might have to sneak a few more pages before the day is over... (I normally tend to read in bed at the end of the day, anything else and it feels too indulgent.)
And just to bring things back to earth... this is what happens when you forget the garlic bread in the AGA oven overnight...
When we moved into our new home the boys got new beds. Big boys' beds.
Big boys' beds which are still too small when your first born passes the 6'1" mark... but that it's a story for another time.
Today let's talk about his new quilt.
When I asked No 1 if he'd like me to make him one for his new room his reply was: "if you want". Given his age (15) and the raging teenage hormones I took that as a "yes mum I'd love you too" and got to work. Delusional? Me?
It took a while.
Life got in the way.
Then I decided to do a lot of heavy quilting on it...
That took even longer.
And then when I finished it I didn't take pictures... and what you're getting today it's a bit of a mess. Basically old photos on my phones and me chasing the light around the house with nobody to hold the damn thing up for me.
So... the bottom half looks like this:
The top half (upside down... just turn your monitor please...)
And when it's on his bed (bad light, messy room... you really don't know what was out of view... sigh) is like this:
Or sometimes like this (as you can see he doesn't mind which way it goes... #whydoIbother...
Or you can hang it crookedly from the top of the wardrobe and it looks like this:
I used all the blue fabric/scraps I had and it was a lot of fun to make. I tried not to over think it and reign myself in a bit...
and for the quilting I tried to match the tread to the fabric... with a little of variegated fun thrown in the mix. I like doing my own quilting but by the end I would have gladly paid somebody to do it for me.
Yesterday I bought wadding for three finished quilt tops... watch this space.
The jet-lag was bad, or as the boys would say my jet lag game was strong.
But I made it through... kind of. The test will be the school meeting tonight... why oh why are all school halls so badly lit? Is it me? The lighting always puts me to sleep; kind of yellow/old neon/not strong enough. Do you know what I mean?
Oh well, my problem right?
So what's happened in the last week... well, it got bloody cold around here, that's what happened and I was not psychologically prepared for that. I had the boots and the gloves ready, not the winter brain. Still beautiful though... blue skies and red leaves everywhere, in fact it's been quite a visually spectacular Autumn (Fall... for you lot over there. Good luck for tomorrow by the way... geesh... let's hope good triumphs over evil, eh?)
This is Lilli the ferocious beast on our daily way to the park in front of our house. It's the only place she wants to go to. You try walking the other way and she plants her short little paws and looks at you like 'I ain't moving sista'. Kind of annoying. And boring. And the thing is if you sit on a bench and get a little distracted she does her thang and then walks home and you can hear her barking by the front door to be let in. She genuinely leaves you in the park by yourself. Stupid dog.
They boys went back to school after half term. (Hurray) (They're not thrilled) (the washing pile has tripled)
No 2 removed his cast and scored three goals on his hockey come back game (come back hockey game? game hockey back come?). (Would you care if I told you it rained the entire game and the back of my jeans was so wet that water trickled inside my boots???)
My parents went back to Italy. Miss them already. It's always interesting opening drawers after my mum has been for a visit... you never know what you find!
Anyway, I have a few things to show you which I'm trying to photograph but when the light is right the boys are at school and nobody can hold things up for me and when they're home it's dark. It's pants. So you'll have to bear with me.
Have another Autumn photo instead:
The maple by our front door is glowing red. I can't stop staring at it. (You could say that its red game is strong... but they you'd be overdoing it... your overdoing game would be strong... aaaarrrggghhhh.... see what kids do to you? they sneakily get in your head and take over.)
I must go and pick up Mr M and drag him, I mean, take him to the school meeting. That's what marriage is all about after all.... sharing... right?
... on the road early, in the rain (and they say it never rains in Southern California... right...)
We had an afternoon to kill before our evening flight so we headed towards the Art District of LA and more out of luck thank knowledge ended up on a really cool street full of really cool shops and graffitis..
In Guerilla Atelier we spied our first (and only) celebrity... Corbin Bernsen was buying a black cowboy hat.. (And this is where it's weird... I first 'met' him - in the loosest possible way - in 1988 when me and my American sister were in the crowd scenes of the first Major League movie filmed at the Milwaukee Brewers Stadium. I even got his autograph somewhere in a box).
He then followed us (of course) to lunch in Manuela, a fantastic restaurant we found ourselves in by chance. I had the most delicious BLT salad, and shared a squid dish and a brussels sprouts/fried potatoes/chilli thang with Mr M. Stuffed. Oh and drank my first kombucha pomegranate... very nice.
Poketo was another shop we visited, cute house wares/gifts/jewellery and a few clothes:
Mr M found a couple of really nice shirts in Apolis:
We had a fabulous ice-cream in Salt and Straw, because why not, right?
Bought coasters in Alchemy Works (you can see Mr M in action at the till) and finished the day drooling (oh my what a place... I might paint my whole house black....) in Hammer and Spears. Not even joking.
(as much as I need to see my boys - after a week there's a tugging inside me that wants to bring me back home - I know I haven't finished with this place... I have to come back)
Mr M went off for another run and I cycled to a midcentury church a few miles away.
love the simple altar
The church was designed by the architect William F Cody in 1968. From an article by Robert Imber in Palm Springs Life:
Viewed from the street, its soaring pyramidal spire is an uplifting experience, beautiful in any given daylight towering in front of the daily drama of the distant western mountains.
Large, graceful sculptural forms are made of gunite, a sprayed concrete such as found in swimming pools and boats. The dramatic curved beams are Glulam – boards glued and laminated into a strong structural beam.
Inside, the encounter richly unfolds under a pagoda like structure embellished with Italian travertine forms, walnut pews, distinctive terrazzo, bronze fittings, remarkable lighting and an enriching sense of space that transcends the desert.
High, narrow clerestory windows draw the eye out to the mountain peaks, while along the floor below mirror-image windows “bring us back” to terra-firma placing the desert floor at our feet from within the building. I call them grounding windows, and am moved by the experience on every visit.
We then popped in the Palm Spring Art Museum, housed in a gorgeous building designed by E. Stewart Williams.
We saw a very interesting exhibition called 'Go West', a great look at the Weiner family collection of sculptures (how many 'Henry Moores' is too many 'Henry Moores'?) and had a fun mooch on the top floor amongst contemporary artists.
Brian Wills (Untitled, 2013)
Stanley Whitney (Blue meets yellow, 2011)
In the afternoon we visited Sunnyland, the house of Walter and Leonor Annenberg... incredible midcentury residence designed by E. Quincy Jones (surrounded by its own 9 hole golf course and the most amazing view I've ever seen). The Annenberg were philanthropist and art collectors and hosted many presidents and ministers and Royals ... their list of guests was quite incredible!
You're not allowed to take photos inside the house... but let me tell you... it's rather spectacular... not many of us have a fountain in the middle of our home with a Rodin statue in it... just saying.
We took an architectural tour ran by a really nice chap called Robert Imber, so totally passionate about architecture and so in love with this city that it was a joy to listen to him. We spent the morning in his company and he was very knowledgeable, if you're ever in the neighbourhood I would highly recommend taking his tour.
(Palevski house, 1968, designed by Craig Ellwood)
(Edris house, 1954, designed by E Stewart Williams)
(Kaufmann house, 1954, designed by Richard Neutra)
(432 Hermosa - the Dinah Shore house, now owned by Leonardo di Caprio, 1964, designed by Donald Wexler)
These are just a few of the many many many houses we were told about and drove by. Truly amazing.
This morning while Mr M was on his daily run I borrowed a bike from the hotel and drove around the neighbourhoods of Indian Canyon and Twin Palms.
I might never leave this place. It's just too beautiful.
(That was after working out how to ride a bike with no breaks, just some weird back-pedalling action... interesting few early manoeuvres... just saying)
Everywhere I looked there was something to photograph... I kept saying to myself... 'That one, that is the one'... and then I turned the corner and there was something else that caught my eyes...
... a detail.. or a whole house...
I can't wait to go out tomorrow morning and make sure I don't miss a thing.
Today we left the Parker hotel to try out some other place with a different atmosphere, but I can't just leave you with that... this place needs to be seen.
It could be in fact be called Instagram hotel... everywhere you look there's a photo that demands to be taken.
... gold finger... (did I tell you we bumped into Dame Shirley Bassey at the airport... not physically bumped into her, but you know what I mean... and we totally kick ourselves we didn't ask for a photo!)
(we're totalling stealing the glass coloured idea. Totally)
I love that head/vase thing.
And all that is just the lobby!
Our room was cool but I forgot to take a picture when it was all tidy so let's stick to the bathroom...
(Bonkers wallpaper and Richard Burton on the wall)
(those tiles.. oh those tiles..)
I'll show you the new place another time for now let me take you instead to the amazing house that Elvis the Pelvis used to rent and where him and Priscilla spent their honeymoon in... a.m.a.z.i.n.g.... and totally frozen in time.
... the King's actual bed... how mad is that?
Mike, the guide/Elvis man knew everything there was to know and we sat for ages in that room chatting.
Yes I sat on Elvis' bed.
No Mike was not dressed like Elvis Presley.
It's so sad the dude died at only 42yrs old. I mean he's was born the same year as my father in law.
Elvis could be my father in law. Now that would be cool.
Anyway, the flight was great (annoying kid aside. not ours, we left ours behind with my parents), we exited passport control in record time, faffed about with the luggage a little and then lost an hour at the car rental place... there were 24 people in front of us.
And then rain.
We're staying for the first three nights at the Parker Hotel.
Very funky. Designed by Jonathan Adler and full of amazing vintage stuff.
This corridor is a little creepy though, don't you think?
Our room is lovely, and not creepy at all and full of things that I want to take home with me... including a gorgeous tapestry on the wall and this cute pillows
(do you think they'll notice if it disappears?)
Very comfortable bed.
And very cool bathroom covered in tiny round, white tiles and with a large photograph of Richard Burton above the toilette. (Sightly weird that).
Yup, rain again.
What is going on?
Not a day to lazy around the pool, so we jumped in the car and explored.
After lots of shops full of midcentury furniture and 'stuff' that made Mr M very very happy we stumbled on this area full of really cool houses...
I finished Bruce's autobiography. Brilliant Book. Fair enough I might be a teensy weensy bit biased but I really enjoyed it. I made me re-listened to a lot of music I hadn't listened to for years and years.... It was quite... grounding for want of a better word. Like it tightened the connection between my younger, free/dreaming self and my middle aged (let's not kid ourselves here), mother/wife/housewife self.
I am but one an only.
I don't like biography but weirdly and the only three I've ever read have been of musicians: Keith Richards, book club choice. I'm not a Rolling Stone fan, and the one of the crazy singer dude of the Red Hot Chilly Pepper, and I don't like their music either, maybe the book was a present? They were both vaguely interesting in a 'they're-life-could;t-be-more-different-from-mine kind of way.
Mr M and I have finally and very belatedly joined the "homeland" fandom. I think it's safe to say we're obsessed. We watched two or three episode a night... We're only half way series 3 so DON'T say anything. Please.
I've finished No 3's quilt and I'll try photographing it later... I need his 6'2" height to hold it up... and as you know teenagers are not always collaborators, not when 'he's playing a competitive and he'll get banned if he stops'. Whatever. Bloody computer games.
I've started de-constructing the indigo dyed vintage quilt:
The hideous background who didn't take the colour as it's obviously synthetic needs to go and be replaced. It's quite a slow process but I like the fact I'm in no rush and can unpick a little bit now, a little bit later... It's meditative in an otherwise frantic day to day.
I almost don't want to do it quickly.
First day of half-term for us today. It's 9.40 and the boys are all still in bed.
They also brought home their school reports. Some take things less seriously than others:
It's Autumn... and people have started losing stuff:
This week my brain has been working out, and you know what? It feels wonderful. I feel wonderful. Everything is wonderful!
(And I have un umpire for Sunday hockey match which, I totally understand, doesn't mean anything to you but it's been keeping me awake at night and totally stressing me out. But no more.)
I've been to a few events at the Cheltenham Literary Festival and I swear to you it's like my mind has been on holiday... I've been more productive at home, my ironing basket is empty and the laundry pile is at a year low level. There's food in the fridge, I know exactly what I'm going to feed my tribe tonight and the beds are made. It's pizza. It's Friday so it's pizza right, it's what they want and sometimes I give them what they want... I'm nice like that.
The only thing that is 'slightly' out of control is my 'to read' pile
I find it really hard when an author I like talks enthusiastically about his/her book not to buy it afterword. And i'm s sucker for a signed book. By the author that is. Not by 'auntie Mary on your 13th birthday' kind signature, the one that you find in second hand books, although they can be funny too.
First event I attended was Maggie O' Farrell. Brilliant. She seemed very unaffected, approachable, smart, funny. The type of woman you can imagine sitting at your table and have a good chat with. Pleasantly surprised as I had NO idea of what she could be like. Incidentally The disappearing act of Esme Lennox is a fabulous book.
Then I went to see Graham Swift. I'm not sure why. I'd seen him before, talking about his book 'Last orders'. I'm not sure I liked it. This time he talked about 'Mothering Sunday', which I've just finished and enjoyed very much. He's very English, very certain of his intellectual capacity and I'm not sure he enjoys the public talks as much as tries to portrays. Probably not good for a dinner party (although I'm sure there's more to him that meets he eye, occasionally some good dry English humour escaped his well tight persona), but very good for a train journey. Does that make sense?
This was followed by an extremely enjoyable hour with Jonathan Safran Foer. Intense young man. (I say young... a couple of years younger than me!). I'd only read one boo of his, 'Extremely loud and incredible close' which I though was absolutely great. I look forward to his other two books. Plus his autographs are really cool.
Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things but to use my wise grandma's wise phrase... 'it all adds flavour to the soup'.
Yesterday I attended two more events. The first one was about Turner, the great English landscape painter; it could appear as a random choice but I knew nothing about Turner and now I do, a little more, so that's a win win for me. No I didn't buy one of his painting... can you imagine that?
And last night I sat in on a talk about 'The great American novel' and it was fascinating.
My 'reading in English career' (career? you know what I mean) started when I was 18 and was spending the summer in Milwaukee (which I only knew it existed because of Laverne and Shirley) at my American sister's house. My first ever book in English? 'Misery' by Stephen King.
Whatever. (It's a very good book though).
Since then I've always been fond and enjoyed more the 'American' voices in all it's various tones, and I left after last night with a long list of books I apparently must ready.
Last week I decided to tidy up my desktop of all the bookmarks clutter accumulated during the last few years and stumbled upon this video:
... I think it was around the time I bought a serger and fancied myself as being able to use it!
Anyway, the starts must have been aligned in the right way because I decided to watch the video there and then and then even act on it. I cleared my table, grabbed this really cute striped jersey fabric and followed the instructions.
Which are great. The instructions are simple and I learned a lot (how to use the zigzag on jersey and how to attach the elastic straight onto the waistband). I didn't even use the serger but my trusty Bernina and the result was this:
... which looks ok, feels great (so very soft) BUT it's so badly made is hilarious. The fabric was very very thin so I had to double it.. and as a consequence even cutting it was a nightmare. Not to mention sewing through 4 layers of slippery jersey material. I'll wear it, don't you worry.... let's just hope nobody looks to closely.
I loved the whole pattern and I decided that what I needed was the right fabric and because the project only needs one yard I took myself to the fabric shop without feeling guilty.
And I made this:
(yeah, Lilli was a great help...)
£6.00, it cost me. How fab is that???
This time I used a much thicker jersey (not sweatshirt weight though) and I'm so very pleased. They might look the same, but trust me, they're not. Straight seams and hems do make a big difference.
I was amazed at how quickly these can be made. And they're so comfortable. And they're highly addictive... And I already have a red/white strip piece of fabric ready to replace the dodgy one... And I'm on the look out for 'winter' colours.
When I was young my mum used to tell me off because I read 'too much' and I had to go off to do... 'something else'. That was her suggestion: stop reading and go do something else.
Helpful, right?... And totally hilarious now that she says the same thing to my kids replacing books with phone. You're on the phone too much, go and do something else.
History always repeats itself.
(Also my mother has a smart phone, an Instagram account and must have been the 4th person in the world to join Facebook. Just saying...
The last book I finished was this one:
It was a birthday present and I wasn't sure about it at first. The writer 'Sasa Stanisic', was born in Visegrad (Bosnia) just like the narrator, and just like the narrator moved to Germany as a teenager refugee during the war. I don't know how much of the book is autobiographical... I haven't been able to find out.
The story is not linear at all and it took me awhile to piece together the characters and who was who and when the action was happening etc. I struggled at first, but I was compelled to carry on by the quirky language and in the end I loved it. Maybe things clicked in my head and I 'got it'... I don't know but I'm so glad I persevered.
The story is loosely based around the time of the Bosnian war, the narrator is a boy who talks about his family scattered by the war and his town destroyed by it. Atrocities are mentioned almost in passing so much so that at times I had to go back and make sure that I'd read it correctly.
It's different, the style, the language... all of it. Different. I'm glad I was given it. Worth a try if you fancy something different.
Next up (who am I kidding I'm already 50 pages into it is this...
... and love it... let's face it... Bruce is a legend, right?
The thing is I've just had a very stressful hour and I'm still a little frazzled.
Why? You may ask... let me tell you .... One thing that you might not know about me is that I get dates wrong.
And I don't mean I miss birthdays or important dates (I'm good at remembering those)... no I mean I book things on the wrong day, or I forget I booked something and don't show up, or I book it on the right date and write it down in my diary on the wrong night so I still miss it...
I mean... I don't do this 'all the time' (now that would be worrying)... just frequently enough that it's getting noticeable. (Drives Mr M slightly mad. Just a little bit...)
So this afternoon my mother called me and tells me the flights I booked for her and dad to come and look after the boys when Mr M and I go to Palm Spring at the end of the month... are the wrong way around... the outbound flight on the inbound date and vice versa.
It's all sorted now but Mr M's eyes are still in the back of his head he rolled them so much...
Anyway, back to food.
I love cookery books.
Recently I had a little tidy up and got rid of the ones I know I'll never use (and put the left over in some sort of colour coordinate order - which btw will change as soon as I'll finish writing this post, it's just not right) and leafed through the others.
I found this one I didn't even know I had?! A present? It's brilliant so why hasn't it ever been used?
I'm not very good nor very confident in cooking meat but the boys love it so I picked a recipe and got to work
Ribs. Who doesn't love ribs, right?
And the results?
It kind of proved my point about cooking meat. It's never as easy as it seems.
The recipe for the sauce was great and tasted delicious... The meat was... hard.
Was it the meat's fault? A bad piece? I followed the recipe but maybe I went wrong somewhere? The wrong sort of ribs?
I don't know, The boys ate them because they're feral and rather than eating the braised courgettes they'd have eaten the chairs but still, I was a little disappointed.
Tonight we'll try another new thing:
"Violetta" potatoes to be precise.
I'm going to mash them... they should make a lovely lilac mash which tastes the same as the normal one.
(Although it'll clash terribly with the green beans and the salmon... oh well)
Drove the kids to the school bus, drove back, cleared the kitchen, filled the dishwasher, made my bed, emptied the drier, emptied the washing machine, filled the drier, filled the washing machine.
Took my big car to be serviced and got a tiny car in return for the day which was soooooo hard to get in and out after the double exercise classes of yesterday it wasn't funny at all.
Not one bit. I must have looked like a right idiot taking 45 seconds each time
Then I went to the supermarket because apparently the universe might have imploded without Nutella for another day... obvs.
Then I drove to school (45 min of roadworks) to pick up No 3 and take him to the specialist for his back. He's fine. He'll live. He's most excited to have an MRI scan in a couple of days. Weird child.
Then I drove him back to school (45 min of roadworks) and did my 'Italian lesson' to the pupils and teachers who are going to Florence next month.
Then I grabbed (figuratively speaking of course) No 2 from the same school and took him (45 min of roadworks) to fracture clinic where they put him in a 'soft cast' which we'll be able to remove without supervision or doctor checking in 5 weeks.
What if it's not fixed? of badly fixed? or not fixed enough?
The doctor did NOT look like a doctor. I know, I know I shouldn't judge a book by its cover... but I've seen bin men dressed smarter. Call me old fashioned, but... sweaty forehead and creased t-shirts? Yuck.
Then I dropped him back home and I drove to the bus stop to pick up the other two.
Back home for home cooked Bolognese pasta (... she says smugly)... and THEN back to school for a meeting (45 min of roadworks).
I was dead.
The dog didn't get walked, but I did remove my make up before bed.
And I did finish the book... which is totally brilliant until the last two pages then... well I'd like to say it's genius and I just don't get it... but actually it's probably just wrong and nonsensical and the author had lost the plot...
Read it and let me know what you think. I'm seriously interested.