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English Muse: June 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Two Kitchen Tables

"Tabletops are the daily canvases upon which we sketch," writer/illustrator Leanne Shapton mused recently in her T Magazine blog column, We Three Things. She says: "A glance at someone’s coffee table, kitchen island or even computer desktop offers a revealing self-portrait: bookworm, neat freak, train wreck, mom."

It made me stop and look at my own tables. We now have two kitchen tables in our oversized dining room. (One table didn't seem to fill the disproportionate middle space.) I have no idea what all this clutter says about me, other than I'm, well, a clutterer.

So here are some iPhone snapshots of this little hub of our flat:

dining room
Decor books, magazines, a Farrow & Ball paint brochure...
dining room
A collection of my daughter's scissors (a new one bought every year for school); an old Chinese bakelite box for holding rubber bands and paperclips...
Dining Room
And painted bug pins in a bowl...
dining room
After I read Shapton's post, it reminded me that I had saved an old Elle magazine profile of her in one of my inspiration files. The story prompted me to buy her book, Was She Pretty?
Dining Room
Shapton blogs that her own tabletops "tell short stories of collection and compulsion." She adds: "What gets randomly, or precisely, set down can be read like tea leaves; our surfaces are anything but shallow."

So, what's on your tabletop? If you'll email me a photo (send to englishmuse at yahoo dot com), I'll post it here next week!

Color and Dust

Hello everyone, the new Anthropologie catalogue arrived
in my mailbox today....
Screen shot 2010-06-29 at 5.35.38 PM
I love these colorful linens and black chalkboard walls
(especially the drawn chandelier)...
Screen shot 2010-06-29 at 5.36.43 PM
And these wild wingchairs...
Screen shot 2010-06-29 at 5.53.20 PM
So now I'm daydreaming again about reupholstering my chairs...

The Virtues of Daydreaming

There's a story in today's New York Times' science section that touts the creative benefits of daydreaming...

"At long last, the doodling daydreamer is getting some respect,"
writes John Tierney in the NYT.

Researchers have found that daydreaming is "remarkably common — and often quite useful. A wandering mind can protect you from immediate perils and keep you on course toward long-term goals. Sometimes daydreaming is counterproductive, but sometimes it fosters creativity and helps you solve problems."

Psychologists also found that people's minds seem to wander 30 percent of the time during waking hours.

As I was writing this post my mind was wandering too, wondering what new photos were up on Daydream Lily, a blog that turns the concept of daydreaming into a beautiful virtual reality.

Dare I ask: How much do you daydream and usually what about?

(Photos above by l(a jane)

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Chanel Inspiration Collage

Karl Lagerfeld shot these photos for Chanel's Spring/Summer 2010 catalogue and then used them to create a fantastic online collage.
Screen shot 2010-06-28 at 12.36.28 PM
The photos were taken in ARGENTINA...
Screen shot 2010-06-28 at 12.27.21 PM
With racks of frothy dresses...
Screen shot 2010-06-28 at 12.26.58 PM
On a checkerboard stage:
Screen shot 2010-06-28 at 12.34.11 PM
Tulle and sequins...
Screen shot 2010-06-28 at 12.33.30 PM
With touches of green...
Screen shot 2010-06-28 at 12.31.07 PM
And black boleros ...
Screen shot 2010-06-28 at 12.30.21 PM
I so love Chanel...

Friday, June 25, 2010


Have a lovely weekend everyone!

(Photo of Lola, our Pom puppy)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blue Clouds

Everywhere you turn these days in and around Los Angeles, there are Jacaranda trees covered with purple-blue flowers...


The plumes, balanced on poetically gnarled trunks, look like blue clouds in the late afternoon light....


Lovely blooms -- always as many on the tress as on the ground -- mark the city's colorful transition from spring to summer...


In honor of the Summer Solstice this week, I took these pictures of the two old Jacaranda trees shading the lawn in front of our flat.

Hope you're having a lovely week so far.

My friend Elaine is returning to LA from Paris tomorrow. I'm picking her up from LAX in the afternoon. Can't wait!

UPDATE: My orange shoes are on sale here!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hot Milk Cake

The cake was a hit at our dinner yesterday! I wanted to share the recipe with you. It belonged to my grandmother on my dad's side.


4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 stick butter
Pinch of salt
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat eggs well, then add sugar a little at a time. Heat milk and butter until butter is dissolved. Cool, then add to egg/sugar mixture alternately with flour. Mix well. Add salt and vanilla. Mix. Then add baking powder slowly until blended.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes in two 9-inch cake pans (greased & floured.)


1/2 cup butter
1 pound confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

add milk one tablespoon at a time to preferred consistency.

Then eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack...:)

(Props to Bella for taking the picture)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Happy Father's Day Weekend

Father's Day is on Sunday and it will be my first without my dad. I'm sort of dreading it, actually. I told my mom I would cook. I haven't decided on the menu yet, but I would like to honor my dad's memory by making his favorite dessert: hot milk cake. I think he'd like that!

I'm also, finally, starting a container garden on our balcony. I'm determined to grow roses in pots!

Every milestone holiday marks a chance for a new beginning, I think.

Wishing you a lovely, lovely weekend, my dears. Thank you.

PS: The photo above is of my dad and me on my wedding day.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Which Books Changed Your World?

I guess it's officially books week on the English Muse...

There's a major trending topic sweeping Twitter at the moment: #booksthatchangedmyworld.
It made me stop and think. The book that most changed my world was Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast", because I finally understood that it didn't take a lot of money to live well.

What about you?

PS: Check out the twitter stream on the subject. The answers range from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to the Great Gatsby!

Also, the above photo is from here.

Have a lovely Wednesday and HAPPY BLOOMSDAY!

UPDATE WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON: Susan Orlean, one of my favorite New Yorker writers, is the one who started the Twitter hashtag! More about it on the New Yorker's website.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More peonies...

...from the grocery store...
Screen shot 2010-06-14 at 10.53.28 AM
I love the white ones with the yellow fringe, like ribbon...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.

We've swooned over clips of Ms. Hepburn singing Moon River, combed through the Internet for pictures of actress with her pet fawn and donned black dresses with four-strand pearls.

Now there's something new to add to the Audrey lure. Author Sam Wasson is out this week with a new book that presents the woman behind the little black dress. His book, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M., gives a behind-the-scenes account of the making of Breakfast at Tiffany's.

For example:
Truman Capote desperately wanted Marilyn Monroe, but Marilyn's people thought the role was too saucy for the actress. (Afterall, Holly Golightly was a "lady of the evening.")
Director Blake Edwards filmed multiple endings;
And Hepburn felt very conflicted about balancing her role as mother and movie star.

"Mr. Wasson approaches his subject from many angles," Janet Maslin writes in today's New York Times. "His book winds up as well-tailored as the kind of little black dress that 'Breakfast at Tiffany’s' made famous. And, yes, there’s lots to say here about that dress’s widespread influence. Audiences used to brightly costumed homebodies and Doris Day-type career girls were in for a big, chic, liberating surprise when Holly and her elegant simplicity came along."

I can't wait to read this book. I already know I'll love it. It never ceases to amaze me that -- five decades after the making of Breakfast at Tiffany's -- we all still adore Audrey,
perhaps now more than ever.

Anyone want to go with me to the bookstore?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What are you reading this summer?

Summer books are the best kind, I think. They're meant to be read simply for the some decadent pleasure. Recently when I was reading the liner notes on my dad's Fountains of Rome album, I noticed several quotes from a Bloomsbury Group writer, Elizabeth Bowen. In 1960 she published a book called "A Time in Rome." She makes the city sound magic.

A sampling:

It was April. The idle yet intense air smelled of honey; Rome shimmered below with hardly a stir, and bluer than the sky were the Alban hills....

and this:

It is impossible, in spring, to walk too often on the Appian Way,
under the cumulus piling into the blue...

I found a used copy of "A Time in Rome" on It arrived yesterday, and I'm so excited to get started on it. I'm also reading another delicious book, "Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes," by Elizabeth Bard. It's very clever and funny.

Speaking of Paris, I wanted to tell you some exciting news: A high school student from Paris will be spending most of the summer with us! I'm busily fixing up our extra room for her now. She's coming to perfect her English, and we're looking forward to learning French. Her name is Emma. We can't wait to meet her in person! I will keep you posted on her arrival.

Meanwhile, back to my original question:

What are you reading this summer?


PS: Above photos from here.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Lovely Liss of Daydream Lily has been nominated for the Cosmopolitan Fun Fearless Female of the Year awards in the blogger category. I'm so excited for her. She's not only a talented blogger and artist, she's a kind and caring person, always willing to lend a hand to a friend in need. During my dad's illness, she helped keep my blog going and I love her so much for that...

If you get a chance, please vote for her here!

Thank you!


The Summer Wind

I've been listening to selections from my father's record collection and can't stop playing one of his favorites, Frank Sinatra's "Summer Wind." Aside from the fact that it is a small masterpiece of classic American songbook phrasing -- and no one could do that quite like Sinatra -- it's a wonderful memory of my father. It also reminds me of one of the lovely things that makes life in Los Angeles so comfortable: Even on the hottest days of summer, there are morning mists and afternoon breezes that come in from the Pacific.

Our summer winds are always cooling ones here. (In winter, of course, we get the dry wind off the desert which is named for the devil, but that's another story.)

It's the cooling wind that once made this place the citrus capitol of the world and filled our valleys with orange and lemon trees. I live in one of LA's hottest valleys, and on this morning I can smell citrus and jasmine blossoms in the cool breeze. Bliss.

Sometimes there is nothing better than sitting in front of an open window,
with Sinatra on a record player.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

PS: Photo above from Toast.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"The Yardstick of Celluloid Cool"

Jean-Luc Godard's iconic film Breathless is newly restored and back in theaters this month for a limited engagement!

Jean Seberg is the picture of 1960s Paris cool...

I love the glasses and the hat...

And, of course, the t-shirt...

It's so hot here today in Los Angeles. Two hours in a cool theatre watching a fantastic French movie is my idea of weekend bliss!

IndieWIRE poses this question: Can a multi-decades old film be successful in theatrical release? What do you think?

PS: Rodarte is supposed to release a reproduction of the NY Herald Tribune t-shirt this month, but I'm still searching for it online...sigh.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The peony or the rose?

Every spring in lovely Southern California, the Trader Joes markets sell bunches of peonies for $6.99. It's a monumental occasion for us because, otherwise, the billowy flowers are almost impossible to find here. This year, they seemed larger and more vibrant than usual.

I've always thought of myself as a rose girl, but maybe peonies are more beautiful?

A rose will always be a rose, but a peony is like the full moon in flower form,
even if they do smell like cabbage.