Babylonstoren farm hotel, South Africa
Hi There! I’m back 🙂
How are YOU?!
I’ve been a travelin’ fool and after a 4 month hiatus from my blog, there’s so much to catch up on, honestly, I don’t know where to start! So make yourself a cup of tea, or coffee…or if it’s that time of day (lucky you) perhaps a glass of wine to sit down with.
I guess I’ll just begin where I left off.
Er, maybe not, as I’ve already forgotten where that was…
Well, there was Summer (remember that?!) which was wonderful but, as always, fleeting. We spent some time with friends in gorgeous Greece, followed by a short but sweet stop in Lake Muskoka, Ontario, before returning to Sun Valley, which amongst its many other charms, is the only place time seems to slow down a little for me.
Exploring caves in Greece and trying to hide ‘Feta Stomach’ with leg while appearing all casual.
Hiking in Sun Valley
Watercolouring with my friend in Sun Valley.
Speaking of hiatuses and ways to slow life down, I picked up a paintbrush again after a break of about, oh, 40 YEARS. Wow, I love it so much! With the encouragement of my artistic friends, I dabbled a bit in Antarctica at the beginning of the year, and again in Greece.
By the time I reached Idaho, I attempted my first portrait (well, 1/2 a portrait-I figured that would be easier) Watercolours present challenges that other mediums, like oils and the acrylics of my early youth did not, but it’s awesome to learn something new each time you put brush and water to paper. Plus watercolours are infinitely easier to travel with. I think what I’m enjoying most of all is looking at things now with an eye to how they might look painted-it’s a whole new way of appreciating beauty in the world.
My 1/2 Mads Mikkelson
We bookended the summer months with a couple of supremely chic and romantic weddings.
Love the embroidered evening slippers men are still wearing to formal gatherings. I bought my husband a pair of black velvet ones with finely woven silver and blue sharks (he loves “Shark Tank”!) but he hasn’t worn them once. WHAT was I thinking? 🙁
Even the sole canine present was elegant. “Zeus”, who’d recently undergone brain surgery and couldn’t be left alone, attended the wedding with his dad, who happens to be a heart surgeon. PS. can you imagine the size of his brain?! (Zeus’ not his dad!)
Judging by my Instagram feed (don’t you just love Instagram ?!) it appears everyone is happily nestling back into the bosom of Autumn. Except, of course, you lucky peeps on the other side of the globe just beginning Spring. Oh, and then there’s Southern California…Fall’s neglected child, if not the one the heartless hussy abandoned entirely. I’m not home at the moment (shock) but I heard the temperature in Santa Barbara reached 100 degrees this week. The 3rd week of October. 100 degrees People!
Meanwhile, it’s early Spring in South Africa, where we’ve just returned from a 2 week trip (more on that later too-I simply can’t wait to talk about termite hills! No joke, they’re fascinating)
A lone giraffe looks for lunch below our camp.
From our perch overlooking the endless vista of parched red earth, mud grey bush and a shallow river choked with algae due to no rain, in Kruger National Park, I saw disconcerting proof we’re not the only ones the Climatic Powers That Be have been neglecting.
But the South African attitude remains positive despite the crispy landscape. It’s sort of like, “YES, we’d love to get rain, but Nature is Nature, it’s bigger than all of us, and she is infinite in her wisdom.” And nowhere is there a better testament to the natural course of life and nature than Africa.
I promise I’ll revisit South Africa and our itinerary in a more positive light in the near future. I haven’t returned to posting after 4 months and no excuses to talk about the weather (though I do it constantly, much to the dismay of my husband and sons, who I feel the need to apprise of rains in Jaipur, rising temperatures in Cambodia, and wind in Patagonia on any given Thursday)
This is like seeing a good friend when you’ve been apart for too long and you’re all hyperventilating because there’s too much to catch up on. Your turn! No, your turn! Okay, now back to you! He didn’t! She dihn’t! Omg- wait, you can’t leave yet! We have to have one more Negroni! Stay overnight!!
For starters, what have you been reading?
I finally finished Hanya Yanagihara’s ” A Little Life”. For those not familiar with the novel (though it’s hard to miss in bookstores, with one of the most arresting covers I’ve seen in recent fiction) it’s about the friendship between 4 male friends living in NYC. From college through their 50’s, the focus is primarily on the character Jude St. Francis, who we quickly learn has an extremely disturbing dark history he’s physically and mentally struggling with. His past is picked at slowly throughout the entire 700+ pages, a bit like a nasty scab. As if this isn’t torturous enough (and trust me, it is) Jude is also ferociously determined to keep this past a secret, even from his very best friends. The abuse Jude suffers both at the hands of others and self-inflicted is so graphically depicted that I often found it very difficult to pick the book up and soldier on until the end. I feel a tad guilty admitting that, but now I have, I might as well dig the hole a bit deeper and add that, much like “The Goldfinch” (I know I’m in the minority here) I thought “A Little Life” would have been a much better (difficult to use “enjoyable”) read with some serious editing of repetitive content, particularly towards the end. There, I said it. Then again, I’ve never written a book, so easy for me to say, right?
I’m now a 1/3rd of the way into “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay”, Book 3 of The Neapolitan Novels.
Elena Ferrante’s first book.
Despite the Harlequin-esque titles and romance novel covers of these books, they’re anything but.
Most of the time I’m finding this saga of a lifelong friendship between two Neapolitan girls utterly gripping and the writing quite beautiful. That being said, half way into the second novel I realized what was missing, for me, was any sense of lightness-there is literally no humour at all in the first two novels, or the 3rd so far. And the girls aren’t even out of their 20’s yet. I can’t imagine that as they continue to age and life gets more complicated, the tone is going to lighten up any. Without spoilers, if you’ve read the quartet, I’d love to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, I’m certainly enjoying this tome enough to see it through to the end so I’ll check back with you then.
And while we’re still on the subject of traveling and books and packing… I’m in serious need of an intervention. Despite a request from a certain someone to please ‘pack lightly’ on this trip, I still felt the need to bring 2 heavy paperbacks, my kindle, an iPad, a laptop, and an arm crippling stack of magazines. In addition to my heavy Canon camera which I take as carry on. What is that about? Why do I find the prospect of relying on a Kindle so…unappealing? My husband is quite happy with his (this might have something to do with him having to carry said magazines) For me, I think it’s the sense of security I derive from words on paper, as well as a classic case of old habits dying hard. Are you the same? Please tell me yes!
Well, I could go on and on (as well you know) I read a few more books, moved into our new home, developed a bad knee, went to London, learned how to make gin, failed epically to exercise and practice yoga, started all sorts of posts I never finished, battled insomnia and lost, saw no movies and ate too much. Same old, same old.
Wait, don’t go just yet. I’ll be wrapping this up very shortly. There’s just one more thing I’d like to share.
During the summer, the blogging world lost a most singular and hilarious voice and individual by the name of Ellie O’Connel. For those of you not familiar with Ellie’s blog Have Some Decorum, Ellie was a beautiful young wife and mother who was diagnosed with ALS several years ago.
In her own words:
“I used to be a perfectly healthy functioning woman with not a care in the world. Then, life changed. I don’t like to just throw it out there that I have ALS, a terminal disease. ALS does not define me but it has changed the way I look at things. Nothing and everything matters to me now. I know what is important and I know what is not important. My daughter, my husband, my friends, my cat and my dog matter. Me keeping my sanity through all of this matters and in doing so I like to do this blog. I don’t have anything to prove, I don’t have anyone to impress and I have nothing to lose. Therefore this blog focuses on everything that I like… Art, architecture, culture, fashion, flowers, food, Paris, travel, interior design, houses, gardens, faith etc. Just for the fun of it I like to focus on everything that I don’t like as well. I feel like I can be totally honest with my opinions because I have no agenda. I imagine readers will appreciate that. So, I invite you to come along on this little journey with me. It will be fun. XO XO”
And what a journey it was. Ellie’s posts were irreverent, bold, completely honest and most of all, hilarious. Somehow she managed to sell antiques, remain interested in fashion, food, interior design and other people’s business, write a memoir, insult all her relatives, share recipes and tales out of school, be a good mom and a not so typical wife, and generally offend, defend and make amends as she saw fit. She even kept up a not so covert but hysterical flirtation with the good looking stranger who used to talk on his phone below her window in Paris and take us along for the ride (until the sad day she filmed him, rather than just a still photo, and we all realized he was gay. waaa waaa…) I marveled at her fearless writing and deeply admired her ability to stay SO damn funny while not so slowly losing her ability to move.
Though Ellie penned her blog from Paris, she returned to her beloved Montecito to pass her few final days. Strangely enough, and we wondered at this because we lived in the same small town for so many years and had mutual friends, our paths never crossed. I’m sorry for that. I hope that her daughter and husband will decide to leave “Have Some Decorum” up for others to still discover Ellie. She seemed like she would have been cool with that.
Ok, that’s it for now.
Did you finish your drink already??!
Have a wonderful week and please let me know you’re still out there.
Go Cubs!! (I’m in Chicago right now 🙂 )