Sunday best: Love and summer

Yesterday, I found myself remembering summer romances in my distant past. I think the hot weather draws those boys into my dreams and it's uplifting to look back now with none of heartbreak but all of those beautiful snapshots intact.

Somehow, I can still smell 4711, which we all went through a phase of wearing when I was younger. One of my friends had a Spanish student who wore 4711 and that's how it got started. We thought those summer Spanish students so beautiful with their brown skin and dark eyes; our watery eyes and pallid skin insipid beside them.

Pippa and Jean and Clare and I tried our best, but we had none of their natural sensuality. Instead, Jean and I would go climbing over rock-pools and swimming in the cove to avoid all that. We would find little shrimp and baby crabs and collect them in buckets to show Jean's Dad who cared about these things. Then we would put them all back.

We still wanted to play with tomboy abandon, to splash and bury each other in sand, to toss seaweed at our older sisters while they sun-tanned and preened. We still begged our Dads to buy us 99er ice-cream cones. But then we saw one of those Mediterranean girls swan dive from a high rock into the water and noticed all the boys look. And we shared an unspoken envy.

Products: Jillian Hat from Steven Alan | Darling Dots Dress from Madewell | J.Lingnau Arielle Studs from Catbird | Love and Summer by William Trevor | Picnic Hamper from Fortnum & Mason | San Pellegrino | Miu Miu Small leather satchel from Net-a-Porter | Sandals by Swedish Hasbeens


I'm taking a little break from work right now, having taken yesterday and today off. I wanted to catch up on some shop business as well as work on some writing that I was having a hard time wrapping around my workdays. Sometimes juggling all these jobs gets too much and I just want to do one thing at a time.

I have to admit, I'm a little dialed out of the blog world right now, concentrating more on what I'm trying to create instead of what others are up to. I sometimes find that the less attention I pay to what others are doing, the more I just forge ahead in my own direction and the less insecure I feel about what I'm trying to create. There's a balance to be struck, though; exposure to what other people create is often inspiring and provoking too.

I'm excited for the next few days (Monday is a Civic Holiday here too). Hopefully it's a good measure of rest and productivity, physical and mental exertion. I've been doing a lot of yoga lately and find myself loving that deep stretch that seems to improve with every class. And I'm trying to do the same thing with my work as well, eking more out of less. It feels simultaneously more challenging and more calming and I like how that sits.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

Photo, my own. More here.

Living room

I'm in a redecorating mood, but as always have no budget. The big job I'd like to do is have some built in bookshelves wrapped around my sofa, creating an alcove for the sofa to sit in. I've had my sofa a long time now and I've also started to think about what I might replace it with. It's a purchase that's way down the list, so today's idea is likely to be the first of many.

What I may do sooner is replace my drapes. This is another purchase I've been hemming and hawing about. I really want custom, but balk at the prices. These velvet ones caught my eye and I surprised myself by liking a colour I would usually be wary of.

And, if I ever do get built-ins, I'll finally have space for a dining table. I think this is one area I'd favour economy and buy a modest table that I could cover with a suzani  (let's face it, it will be used for books when I'm not entertaining) or tablecloth when entertaining.

The rest is what I already own. I sortof hate my coffee table but it too is usually covered with books so it just fades into the background. And the fact that it's a nested set is pretty convenient. The colours here are surprising me a little and I wonder if I'll end up with a version of this scheme in my more trademark blues and greens...

Products: Drapes | sofa | candle sconce | art, my own | built-ins (from Domino) | dining chair | suzani | coffee table.

Rereading: Life of Pi

Life of Pi was the book I was rereading last week. I have to admit, since nine years had passed, I had forgotten much of the book. It surprised me that 100 pages, one third of the book, had passed before we even found ourselves on the lifeboat with Pi and Richard Parker.

My first reading was focused on plot; I wanted to know what happened next. It was Robinson Crusoe mixed with Aesop. This time, I found myself less focused on the logistics of survival and more interested in the story of faith. I thought a lot about The Old Man and the Sea while I was reading it, though this story is driven less by brutal determination and more by equal measures of assertion and humility.

Everybody I've ever met loved Pi. Almost everybody I know disliked the long-awaited follow-up Beatrice and Virgil (I didn't... see my post here). But, Pi is not a perfect book either. The allegory gets a bit heavy-handed at times. I had entirely forgotten the seaweed-meerkat island. But, yet again, I was seduced by the story, by Richard Parker, seduced enough to reject the tigerless version we're told at the end. And that surely is the genius of Pi.

Image credits: Life of Pi | Indian Spices - 8x10 Fine Art Print | Prayer mat | Yann Martel, photographed by Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images, via | Life boat plans | Extreme Survival Almanac | Whistle | Watercolor of a sea turtles

A poem for Tuesday

I sat at my desk yesterday and thought to myself, this is the best summer I've had in a decade. There's no big reason, no epic romance, no wondrous new meaningful thing. In fact, there are some things troubling me right now. I skyped with my parents on the weekend and they seemed suddenly older and that scared me. And I've been churning that old demon of geography again. But all this makes my happiness right now seem more real, not some deceptive mischief. This poem by Marianne Boruch seems to capture it; I guess it's in the wee moments.

Some dreamily smoke cigarettes, some track
Some dreamily smoke cigarettes, some track
toddlers who walk like drunks. Buzzy,
the picnic grounds, noisy, sun-crazed, how
forks and spoons don’t exactly lie flat.

A mountain’s here, a famous overlook
from which you’d see none of this. Like that
first daguerreotype, its moving carriages
and those who strolled never picked up

in the long exposure, a Paris street emptied
by the camera, only houses and lamp posts
gone eternal. Or the one who stopped
for a shoe shine, the one who knelt to the task.

At the picnic—a commotion. A large man
to a younger man. I don’t know you! he’s hugging
and laughing. I don’t know who you are,
he shouts over and over a stillness so immense.

via The Poetry Foundation.

Muddled strawberry fizz

One of my favourite summery things to eat is local strawberries, mixed with a mint simple syrup. It didn't ever occur to me until I read the June / July Jamie magazine to add vanilla to this concoction (somehow vanilla and mint don't intuitively go together in my brain). Let me tell you, it works.

On the weekend, I muddled up some mint, vanilla seeds and sugar and cut up some Ontario strawberries to macerate in this delicious syrupiness. Of course, you can eat just that. And, I have to admit only a crazy sort of person could resist a spoonful or five.

Jamie's use for the mix was a cocktail with prosecco. I would happily throw a bottle of champagne at this too. And I'm sure something could be done with vodka too (maybe left to truly marinate in vodka and with some rhubarb bitters thrown in. Crikey, I'm actually salivating). But, I stayed virgin on Sunday and poured a little S.Pelligrino over a few spoonfuls in a glass.

The fragrance of strawberry, mint and real vanilla seeds makes for a heady, heaven-making concoction.

Screen / canvas: Picnics

Yesterday, I took my old Avoca blanket to the park and sought a shady spot. Just me, some cold drinks and my book. I smiled at dogs and children and lost myself in chapters. Later, I thought about picnics, the scenes and images they've inspired, the timeless romance of these images...

Screen: Tess of the D'Urbervilles, dir. David Blair, BBC
Canvas: The Picnic by Henri Crockett, via

Screen: Picnic at Hanging Rock, dir. Peter Weir, Australian Film Commission
Canvas: Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (1862) by Édouard Manet, via

Screen: Sense and Sensibility, dir. Ang Lee, Columbia Pictures
Canvas: Le dejeuner sur l’herbe (1865-186) by Claude Monet, via

Screen: Emma, dir. Jim O'Hanlon, BBC
Canvas: The Picnic Ground (1907) by John Sloan, via

Screen: Stealing Beauty, dir. Bernardo Bertolucci, Fiction Cinematografica S.p.a.
Canvas: Picking Flowers (1912) by Pierre Andre Brouillet, via

Screen: A Room with a View, James Ivory, Goldcrest Films
Canvas: Lovers (1870) by Pál Szinyei Merse, via

Sunday best: Strawberry picnic

It's been a hot weekend. Much as I'd like to come to a full stop, I've been working on some writing projects and running my usual weekend errands. There has also been lots of lovely reading time too.

But, although it's hot, there's been lots of cloud cover and I've been able to spend time outdoors without fear of burning up in the sun. So, I've been taking my work outside with me as much as possible and I even brought a punnet of Ontario strawberries with me and feasted under the sun.

Did your teacher ever take class outside in the summertime? It didn't happen often in Ireland, but I remember a few times sitting in the convent gardens or on the green by the tennis courts. And back then, a sunburn was worn with pride and we would pull our kilts above our knees and roll our socks down to make the most of it. The brightest sun spelled opportunity then.

Now, I'm scared of the sun and cross to shade wherever I can. And I wear long sleeves, even when it's too hot.  Only a sheltered spot will coax me to loiter under high summer rays. But when I do, when I sit on the radiating ground and smell the grass, when I tilt my head back and close my eyes and feel the sun on my face... then, for a moment, I'm that sun-worshiping schoolgirl again.

Products: Rag & bone Wide-brimmed straw hat from Net-a-Porter | Scallop Dress & Slip Combination from Loup Charmant | Salt Air by Demeter from Coterie | R1804 ring from Satomi Kawakita | Strawberry Growing Kit from Oliver Bonas | Herringbone Throw from Brahms Mount | K. Jacques Homere Sandal from La Garconne


The dog days are setting in a bit at work and I've been enviously covering for people as they go on holidays. In an earlier flash of genius, I booked my own holiday at the end of September, so I've got a couple of months to wait out yet. Still, it's on my mind and I'm daydreaming about saltwater.

But in another way I love these days too. I'm rereading a book I haven't read in nine years. Then, I worked at Earlsfort Terrace and would sneak into the Iveagh Gardens on every break to cram in a chapter (sitting on the very steps at the back of the picture above, in fact). And so I'm thinking about words and colliding memories and geography and these are all thoughts that make me quite happy.

I uncovered a new-to-me blog this week - Le Projet d'Amour and am greatly enjoying going through its archives. I've also enjoyed reading Kinfolk and am kicking myself I missed out on a hard copy. Speaking of small group gatherings, doesn't Jill's deck dinner look amazing?

I hope you're finding ways to stay cool these days and nights. Happy weekend!

Image, my own. More here.

Inspiring women: Dod Proctor

I have to confess: Until last week, I thought Dod Proctor was a "he" and he was Irish. I've been familiar with Proctor's work for many years as one of her striking painting hangs in the National Gallery at home. And I got a bee in my bonnet last week, trying to track down more information about that painting. During that process, I learned more about Doris Proctor. I'll learn even more once the book I ordered about her arrives. Hooray!

Although I'm disappointed with myself for jumping to the wrong gender conclusion, I think the mistake is telling.  The truth is inspiring women are all around right under our noses but we're so used to the opposite that we, or I at least,  often assume it without reflection. Much fuss is made about the against-all-odds female writers and artists and scientists. But there's something I love about the idea of an unperturbed artist. (In the same way I love the idea of a peacefully happy spinster.) And I wonder if it could be really true.

Dod Proctor specialized in figure painting, usually single female figures. One of these paintings, ‘Morning’, was bought by the Daily Mail for the Tate Gallery collections, which made Dod Procter a household name of the day. After her husband died, Proctor lived in west Cornwall for thirty-seven years, until her death at the age of 80.

Book: A Singular Vision: Dod Procter 1890-1972

Photo: Ernest Procter; Doris Margaret ('Dod') Procter (née Shaw) by by Felix H. Man (Hans Baumann) © estate of Felix H. Man / National Portrait Gallery, London

Imaginary picnic

Either people are exaggerating about the heat, or after eight years I've finally acclimatized to Toronto summers... because the truth is I'm not completely dying in the weather right now. Yes, it's very very hot. And the subway, muggily oppressive. But it's a long way from my permanently heatstroked state, which usually lasts from late June to the end of August. I'm enjoying this switch by fantasizing about picnics...

Muddling refreshment

I found this recipe for a muddled (non-alcoholic) refreshing drink in the latest Whole Living magazine and I've been making some variation of it every evening when I get in from the sticky subway ride home.

The magazine suggested an ounce of bourbon if you want an alcoholic drink, but I haven't tried that yet. Instead, I've been following the recipe pretty loosely:
- In a glass, muddle 1 inch sliced ginger | Lots of fresh mint sprigs | Lemon or limes, or a combination, cut into wedges | A dollop of organic blue agave (honey would do).
- Pour: S.Pellegrino over the muddled ingredients and sip!

Of course, you can buy a muddler from Coterie. I have just two left in stock. Shop here!

Three of a kind

Inspired by Great Expectations

I always liked the movie Great Expectations, although I'm pretty sure the critics slammed it. The book itself was on my school curriculum and I still carry that intimate knowledge you have of a text read and reread for exams at an age when literature was a tentative love with more eagerness than intuition. It remains one of my favourite rereads.

The movie made its mark on me for different reasons; the palette. And because I've been loving green so much, I found myself thinking of it over the weekend and also thinking of artworks with the same lush verdancy. It's funny how our brains can correlate things with tangential connections, how we grasp something expressed ineffably and weave threads through our own little microcosm of knowledge.

I have more fun making connections that strike a similar emotional chord rather than hitting an ostensive connection between two objects, though I always wonder if it looks like a strange mishmash to others or if those ineffable threads come visible to all. I prefer to think the latter.

Movie stills: Great Expectations (1998), dir. Alfonso Cuarón, Twentieth Century Fox
Paintings: View in the Tiergarten, Berlin (1825) by Carl Blechen | Window (1856) by Anton Dieffenbach | The Parc Monceau (1878) by Claude Monet - all at The MET
Products 1: Fountain | Girl's Dress | Wallpaper | Dress | Chaise | Ring | Box
Products 2: Chandelier | Sunglasses | Blouse | Dress | Statue | Wallpaper | Cuff | Pencils | Metal box

Sunday best: Cool and green

Today, I'm going to mostly work on paper. I'll take myself to the coffee shop with a notebook and shed words onto its pages. I like how writing with a pen changes my pace. Sometimes, I consider words for a long time before committing them to paper. (There's still that schoolgirl desire to keep my copy-book clean.) Other times they rush and tumble and throw themselves onto the page.

I'm really drawn to green right now. I love looking up from under trees. In high summer, green feels so cool and lush, promising relief from a beating sun. I don't have a lot of green in my closet, but I like the idea of adding some.

And I got a haircut yesterday so I'm feeling fresh and clean too. A bare neck is the blessing of short hair. I've been spritzing myself with an inordinate amount of Caudalie Beauty Elixir and crave the smell when it dissipates. And I'm rereading old favourites, languishing in passages both familiar and forgotten, feeling out new corners in prose I already love.

I think this summer is the most beautiful one we've had in Toronto since I moved here. I'm feeling really at home in it. Hope you have a lovely Sunday!

Products: RB3016-W0366 Clubmaster from Ray-Ban / Caudalie Beauty Elixir from Sephora / KAIN Pocket t-shirt from FarFetch / Hester necklace from Stone & Honey / Notebook from Coterie / Pen, my own / Current/Elliott jeans from Net-a-Porter / Iris suede sandals from J.Crew / Picnic clutch from Marie Turnor, found via Joanna


I'm in a quiet kind of mood this week. I've been working hard and mapping out all kinds of plans, keeping my head down. When I'm trying to change routines, it takes concentration at every turn, even on the banal things. Transformation is hard work, even if is is invisible transformation not worth writing home about.

I've been trying to spend a little more time on things, drawing myself out into them a bit more. I like that feeling of exerted concentration. There isn't always time for this, assignments usually come with short deadlines and I've been programmed to ably deal with that. But, it's sometimes more fun for me to do less and do it better than maintain that established fast pace across all I do.

This weekend, I'll be seeking shade (under a tree perhaps?) and quiet, there will be chores and company too. I think there might be a haircut and a trip to the farmer's market as well. It's high summer and everything seems slower, a little laboured but I'm glad of it too, glad to have to slow down.

Have a good weekend!

Image, my own. More here.

Three of a kind

Sam's spoon

"Sam's Spoon" was painted by Avigdor Arikha on the first anniversary of Beckett's death. The christening spoon was Beckett's own (you can make out "Sam" on the handle). He had given it to Arikha's daughter on her birth. Arikha is best known for his intimate still life paintings of everyday objects and he also illustrated some of Beckett's texts. I happened upon this painting and its story quite by chance last night.

Image via

Inspiring women: Jane Bown

It never occurred to me, even at the height of photography exploits, to make pictures of people. I suppose my awkwardness ruled it out without reflection. I always preferred landscapes, the more devoid of people the better. But that only makes the art of portraiture seem even more magical and impossible to me. Karsh and Cartier-Bresson still amaze me. So does Jane Bown.

Jane Bown from Marcio Machado on Vimeo.

Bown's first professional assignment was to shoot Bertrand Russell for The Observer in 1949. But she has photographed basically everybody, from The Beatles to Beckett. She works primarily in black-and-white, using available light, with a forty year Olympus old camera.

And there's as much reportage as portraiture in her work; there's opportunism rather than set-up in most of her photographs. The famous Beckett shot was captured in a theatre passageway after he tried to blow her off and she only got five shots. Love that!

The Guardian: The complete Jane Bown: a lifetime in photographs
Jane Bown collection at the National Portrait Gallery
Books: Exposures & Faces: The Creative Process Behind Great Portraits

Linda Monfort

I haven't been to the flower markets in a few weeks. My apartment is so hot in high summer, it seems like flowers wilt as soon as I get them in water and I don't have the heart for it. That might partially explain why my blog seems full of painterly alternatives this week. Linda Monfort's acrylics are also hitting the right spot. I especially love the blues in the first image, but then again, I always do, don't I?! Visit her Etsy shop here.

Mango tart

Every time I turn to this tart in the May / June Jamie magazine, my mouth waters. I always think it's peach at first. It is mango. I think peach would work too though!

Photograph by Con Poulos for Jamie Magazine

Three of a kind

Klimt style

When I saw the new Minerva collection from Odette (which I love, by the way), I immediately thought of Klimt. And then, of course, I started seeing Klimt in everything and I dug out the Klimt book I've had for so long and that's moved everywhere with me and had fun revisiting his work. It's such a strange, luxe kind of darkness that inhabits his paintings.

Paintings: 1. Music I (1895) by Gustav Klimt 2. Adele Bloch Bauer (1907) by Gustav Klimt
Products 1: Oly Syrenka chandelier / Matthew Williamson Patchwork jacquard shift dress / Judith Leiber clutch / Chanel Le Vernis blue satin / Kravet Tassel Tieback / Guerlain Terre Indigo 4-Shade Eyeshadow / Vanessa Kandiyoti Evil eye pendant / Temple St Clair Evil eye ring
Products 2: Roksanda Ilincic Washed silk-satin gown / Kravet gimp rosette / Odette Amuletum necklace / Anya Hindmarch Neeson woven leather tote / Philippe Audibert Queens gold-plated beaded cuff / Oly meri drum chandelier / Mansour Modern rug

Klimt / Katya de Grunwald

Katya de Grunwald's portfolio is a thing of magnificant beauty. I very often look at this Klimt photo shoot she did for The Saturday Independent Magazine. As you'll see from the next post too, Klimt was on my mind over the weekend...

Sunday best: Hot and cool

It's definitely summer now. And although it's still a mild one by Toronto standards, it doesn't take many degrees above 25-Celsius for me to start feeling hot. Still, I'm embracing hot colours while staying cool. My wardrobe will always be mostly neutral. But a dash of hot pink here and there is really tickling my fancy these days.

I've become officially obsessed with bright nail colours in particular. Deborah Lippmann nail polishes are my current favourite, not just for the shades but for their staying power. Also, the names make me smile. I also love these bright flats. Even this Plain Jane can get behind fun shoes (note: I'm the only one allowed to call myself Plain Jane).

My weekend has been pretty chill. I've been doing more thinking than doing. I spent so much time in the last year thinking about what I wanted to accomplish by my birthday (I know it sounds silly, but it really was that significant a birthday for me). And now that it's over with, I'm at a "what now?" point.

And while I've been also focused for the past 6 months on staying even-keeled, I think I want to push a little harder in some areas. The danger (and fear) of that is that I let myself become obsessed and too single-minded to the detriment of all else. This is always my tendency. But I'm hoping that with that awareness I can work a little harder towards my goals.

I'm also - and this may effect what I do here - thinking of making a concerted effort to shut up sometimes. I know many of you identify with me the most during those honest moments, but sometimes I feel like the outcome is negative for me. It often feels like the one mood or idea I describe becomes a concrete thing by being expressed, becomes an even bigger part of me, when it's something I actually want to diminish, to exorcise even.

After years of talking and feeling that saying things out loud was somehow empowering, I've started to wonder if I'm empowered really. Because it's the last word I would use to describe myself. Maybe I should be choosing to say different things out loud. And I'm not talking about repression or denial; instead simply choosing to quietly reason and feel through some things instead of giving them a manifest life that can then become conflated and concrete and permanent.

And that's where I'm at this Sunday. I hope it's a lovely day for you.

Products: Aviator RB3025-003/3F from Ray-Ban / Aubin & Wills Bethwin cotton-voile dress from Net-a-Porter / Aesa Mosey Pendant Necklace from La Garconne / Pop Life from Deborah Lippmann / Ring (my own) from Andrea Bonelli / Ice lollies via / Tote bag from L.L.Bean / Jil Sander Leather ballerina flats from Net-a-Porter


I've had a pretty busy week, with nothing much to report. During quiet moments, I've just been laying low, reading and trying to take in a yoga class or two. So, no tales of adventure or reflections to round up the week.

I was so sad to learn of Cy Twombly's passing this week. He is a favourite artist and just a week ago I was mentally wishlisting some older exhibition catalogues I found on Abebooks (I'm scared to check the prices now).

But there were happy things this week too. The haute couture collections were, as always, a visual treat. I loved Givenchy and Valentino the best. And in more accessible style, Whitney is launching a really exciting new project. I had a wonderful treat this week from Elena who made me this tote for my birthday. I love it! Thanks Elena.

All week, I had dreams of the sea and I was speaking Irish in some of them too, which is sadly rare these days. Today's picture is across the Irish sea from Howth Head, taken last time I was home. More on my Flickr.

Have a good weekend!

New at Coterie!

With the postal strike thankfully behind us, I've updated the shop with some new things, and some old favourites restocked. Summer-weight scarves are back in stock, with a new style, evocatively called "Vermont sky" added. And, because it's the season for mojitos, I have more muddlers too.

In ceramics, there's a special addition from local makers Kosoy + Bouchard. I fell for this elegant Arabesque vase immediately when I saw it. It looks like hammered metal, but is in fact porcelain. Each facet is painstakingly hand-carved from the vase. It's a labour-intensive process, but the end result is a very special piece. And, because it's also the season for berries, there are more berry bowls too.

And, as always, there are staples including marbled paper notebooks and home accessories too! Visit Coterie here to see more and like Coterie on Facebook for more updates alerts!

Three of a kind