Friday! Happy New Year!

I was back at work for a couple of days this week, but am happy for another long weekend.

No matter what, I always start out a new year with hope. It often ends up dashed or, more accurately, drained out of me by the reality of the daily grind. But these few days seem ripe with possibility and I'm open to it all.

There's so much I'm thinking about right now that's difficult to blog about. So much left unsaid. Blogs paint such a lovely, simple picture of our world; my goals for the year broken down into six simple bullet points. Even when hardships are blogged about they take on that veneer of the necessary obstacle in a plot that ultimately has a happy ending. But it's sometimes hard to hear "it will all work out" when you doubt it yourself.

So my optimism for the new year is tempered by doubt. It never really goes away and I suppose I'm okay with that. I don't think of it as my bad side, just my other side. The reality is I'm often fraught and confused and I'm just launching forward on a wing and a prayer. And I don't even believe in the prayer part.

But, this isn't to distract from the optimism of my last post, or even of this one. I mean, isn't it much more remarkable to feel optimism even while feeling fraught? Pure hope, untinged by doubt, seems like something a little too close to self-deception or naivety.

So, there you have it, at the end of 2011: Jane—still angsty, optimistic.

Happy New Year, friends!

2012 Resolutions

I've been thinking about my 2012 resolutions! I feel like what I've landed on are more tweaks than anything else. 2011 was a good year for me and I want to build on that rather than raze things and start over. Still, there are things that I want to put some effort around.

1. Save pennies. I completely hate thinking about money, but it is something that also stresses me. I dread my computer dying, a sudden necessity to fly home. These are not things I want to toss and turn about. Ever.

2. Try new recipes. I have so many cookbooks full of delicious recipes. And yet I mostly find myself cooking familiar favourites over and over. Even when I eat out, I hone in on the same thing. Of course, I'm allowed to have favourites, but I want to try new things too and not just read food blogs and think how good everything sounds.

3. New skincare regime. This is half inspired by Lisa Eldridge's videos (part 1 & 2) and half inspired by an excellent consultation at Gee Beauty. I'm trying a new regime that is much more gentle and protective. As part of this, I'm going to try to wear sun protection every single day.

4. Add strength to workouts. In 2011, I worked really hard to get good at working out (even when I have a bad attitude about it). I do cardio and yoga pretty much daily. Although there's strength in yoga, I'd also like to add a few resistance workouts to the mix in 2012.

5. Travel to exciting places. Literally and figuratively. I'm not sure yet if 2012 will include another trip to Ireland, but I definitely want to go west to the mountains this year. Travel always butts up against saving goals, but my recent trip to New York was a surprisingly inexpensive treat. And I very much hope to have visitors in 2012 too; secondhand travel also counts!

6. Have fun with friends. It probably tells a sad story that this needs to be a resolution. But when things get busy and I'm feeling reclusive, I turn down a lot of invitations. I need to balance all of this out. I love my alone time, but good company is a salve too. And my reflex reaction to invitations is not always the one I should go with.

Are you making resolutions this year?

Image credits: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

The quiddity of snowflakes

We had our first real snow last night and I sat here listening to 50 Words For Snow and letting my mind drift. I thought about Wilson Bentley's first photographs of snowflakes.

From Gopnik's Winter:
"Over his lifetime, Bentley took portraits of 5,31 snow crystals... and inserted into the world's imagination the image of the stellate flower as the typical, the "iconic" snowflake—and he inserted, as well, the idea of the snowflakes' quiddity, their uniqueness, their individuality...

But in truth most snowcrystals, it seems—as he knew and kept quiet about—are nothing like our hanging star-flower; they're asymmetrical, irregular, bluntly geometric: typed as solid columns and simple prisms and simple needles plain and blunt and misshapen as, well, people." (p. 46)

But beyond flawless symmetry, there's more yet that we are wrong to assume about snowflakes. Cloud scientists have found identical snow crystals high up in those clouds.

"Snowflakes, it seems, are not only alike, they usually start out as more or less the same. But if this notion threatens to be depressing—it was only the happy eye of nineteenth-century optimism that saw radical individuality here—one can in the end put a brighter spin on things. It turns out that, while it's true snowflakes often start out alike, it is their descent from the clouds into the world that makes them alter... Their different shapes are all owed to their different paths downwards" (p.49-50)

More reading:
Photographing Snowflakes by Wilson A. Bentley
Snow Beauties by Wilson A. Bentley

Image sources: 1 | 2 | 3

Neverland week

Did you have a lovely Christmas? I hope so! Mine was quiet and cozy and perfect. I read and watched movies and went for strolls and now I'm relaxed and happy, completely rested.

The week between Christmas and New Year's is a Neverland kind of time. It's easy to waste time like this, to coast for seven days until the next big hooray and only then seek new beginnings. But I'm already making new plans. I don't want to use the word "resolutions" because it carries a weight of unfulfilled good intentions. And more than a checklist of things I want to accomplish, I'm just letting myself feel optimistic about 2012.

Yesterday, I went for a big walk and came home and did yoga. In my mind, I mixed up a heady cocktail of concrete goals and uninhibited fantasies. And I found myself thinking it all could really happen. But I'm a firm believer in the small things too. So, I also cleaned out my closet and drawers, organized my dressing table and medicine cabinet.

I've been listening to the new Kate Bush album, 50 Words for Snow. It's the perfect accompaniment to the book I'm reading, but it's also perfect for the mood of this week. These are the kinds of days we spend so much of the year daydreaming about; rested, unfettered, full of good food and company. How are you spending yours?

Products: Hope Ease Cardigan from La Garconne | Acne Wonder Tee from La Garconne | MiH Jeans Paris jeans from Net-a-Porter | MM6 by Maison Martin Margiela Large Clutch from La Garconne | Cathy Waterman black diamond ring from Ylang23 | 50 Words for Snow by Kate Bush | Lanvin shoes (my own, from a past collection)

Donkeyschön & Happy Holidays!

Many of you know that for the last five years I've used to proceeds from my blog to sponsor a donkey at the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada, on behalf of my blog readers. As I parted with advertisers in 2011, I dipped into the Coterie coffers for this year's donation.

It makes me happy to do this, not least because I love animals in general and donkeys in particular so very much. But, even more, because I'm grateful to the people who spend time on my blog, who read the words and appreciate the endeavour of not simply creating a blog with images to be pinned, but words and ideas to be considered. And so, every year, this is a moment and gesture to thank you for that.

Today is my last day of blogging until the other side of Christmas. Last night, I was reading, tucked into the corner of my couch. I loved being there, the smell of boxwood and the twinkle of fairy lights and I was cozy in my favourite sweater, sipping tea and experiencing that sense of falling through a page, catapulting word to word that you only feel when you're reading something really good. I hope you have similar moments of simple contentment over your holidays. And, if you're lucky enough to meet one, a donkey to hug.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

Image via The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada on Facebook.

A poem for Tuesday

A chorus of goodbyes and happy holidays in the office yesterday made me feel like it's nearly time to put down the tools. And while this means jetting off to family or a flurry of hosting obligations for most people, it spells utter relaxation for me. I admit, the imagery speaks of a lonely singleton far from home, but I'm feeling quite serene about this solitary time.

Last night I went for coffee with a friend in another neighbourhood. It was soft out; it must have rained while we were sipping and a mist still sat in the valley as I walked across the bridge. I kept thinking I'd get on at the next subway stop, but I ended up walking all the way. My banjaxed foot seemed to be working again and I was happy to put weight on it. And my hair got curly in that way I hate, but I didn't care because the next stop was home.

When I got inside, there were cards in my mailbox, some little gifts too. I brought them all up and looked at return addresses and stamps before I opened them up. And every gesture seemed slowly and gently folded, like cake batter, soft and glistening and delicious. I read this poem a few weeks ago and I keep thinking about that sparrow in the Christmas tree. By Billy Collins.

Christmas Sparrow
The first thing I heard this morning
was a rapid, flapping sound, soft, insistent—

wings against glass as it turned out
downstairs where I saw a small bird
rioting in the frame of a high window,
trying to hurl itself through
the enigma of glass into the spacious light.

Then a noise in the throat of the cat
who was hunkered on the rug
told me how the bird had gotten inside,
carried in on the cold night
through the flap of the basement door,
and later released from the soft grip of teeth.

On a chair, I trapped its pulsations
in a shirt and got it to the door,
so weightless it seemed
to have vanished into the nest of cloth

But outside, when I uncupped my hands
it burst into its element,
dipping over the dormant garden
in a spasm of wingbeats
then disappeared over a row of tall hemlocks.

For the rest of the day,
I could feel its wild thrumming
against my palms as I wondered about
the hours it must have spent
pent in the shadows of that room,
hidden in the spiky branches
of our decorated tree, breathing there
among the metallic angels, ceramic apples, stars of yarn,
its eyes wide open, like mine as I lie in bed tonight
picturing this rare, lucky sparrow
tucked in a holly bush now,
a light snow tumbling through the windless dark.

Cathy Waterman

As evidenced in yesterday's Sunday Best, I'm having a little fantasy love affair with Cathy Waterman's gorgeous jewels. My favourite jewelry is heirloom and, while I'm basic and neutral in nearly every other choice, I love jewelry that's unabashedly feminine. This black diamond leaf ring has stolen my heart.

Sunday best: Winter wandering

I did some fun gallivanting this weekend. A little spending, but mostly browsing and people-watching. I walked around the streets and felt in a little bit of a fantasy daze, made my way to coffee shops to sit and watch and relax.

I generally hate crowds and especially that panicked atmosphere of desperate shopping. But the streets this weekend have been more cheerful than that, I mostly saw people, like me, picking out a small thing or two, enjoying being out in it.

Afterwards, I came home and made wreaths, tidied and did laundry. I read for a while and watched a movie, iced my still-sore ankle and made a hot chocolate. The temperature has dropped right down and I was happy to be reading this:

"...a taste for winter, a love for winter vistas—a belief that they are as beautiful and seductive in their own way, and as essential o the human spirit and the human soul as any summer scene—is part of the modern condition. Wallace Stevens, in his poem "The Snow Man," called this new feeling "a mind of winter," and he identified it with our new acceptance of a world without illusions, our readiness to live in a world that might have meaning but that doesn't have God. A mind of winter, a mind for winter, not sensing the season as a loss of warmth and light, and with them hope of life and divinity, but ready to respond to it as a positive, and even purifying, presence of something else—the beautiful and peaceful, yes, but also the mysterious, the strange, the sublime—is a modern taste."
- Adam Gopnik, Winter, p.3

Products: Cable Eternity Scarf from Barneys | Organic by John Patrick Waffle Knit Pullover from La Garconne | J Brand 231 jeans from Net-a-Porter | Donna Karan Suede knee boots from Net-a-Porter | Cathy Waterman Rustic Diamond Acorn Pendant from Twist | Sel Marin from James Heeley | Lip Stain from Laura Mercier | Eyeliner Stylo from Nars


I seem to have fallen out of my rhythm this week.

I skipped yoga all week because I did something to my foot and had it on ice most evenings. I hate missing class and I felt all stroppy and out of sorts. I know that at this time of year routines get smashed to smithereens always, but I don't want to lose all structure (it's so hard to get back!) so I want to meet some minimum goals over the next week and actually feel good over the holidays instead of groggy and disoriented.

Here's something I've been thinking about: Usually when I travel, I plant myself in that place. While there, I live this little "if I lived here" fantasy. If I'm staying with friends, I imagine their place is mine, I carve out my hypothetical coffee shop and grocery store. I take on a bookshop as the one I would be loyal to. It's a little fantasy game I play, I suppose, but also a way of understanding how I relate to the city, of stretching beyond being a tourist and creating a more subjective, personalized experience.

I loved being in New York. It's a beautiful city. But I wasn't inclined to play my old game this time around. I felt the same way in Dublin (though could see it to a less extent because I already know all my familiar favourites there). And it's not that I was less engaged with those places. It still broke my heart to fly out of Dublin and I was acutely aware of what - and who - I left behind. But I take the fact I seem to have stopped playing my little hypothetical mind-game as a good sign.
And a surprise really. 

I have often questioned Toronto, me-in-Toronto, city versus country and all that jazz. But I seem to have stopped cold. Of course, there are still other places I want to go. And I can say many negative things about Toronto. But, for better or worse, it's become my unquestioned home. This is huge for me; I've never had this all my life. And it's something I've chased from place to place and I imagine all those fantasies were a way of trying on different places too. But while I wasn't even thinking about it, it sneaked right up on me: Home.

This weekend, I'm going to bring some greens into my apartment and plug in some fairy lights. I want to do a little gallivanting and, as friends begin to depart for their homes, I'll be kicking off those miniature celebrations that are really what my Christmas is like. I'm really so protective of my time, I'm glad I can't be sucked into family obligations. For the most part (much-missed Irish friends excepted) I'll be eating, drinking and spending time with precisely the people I want to be around. And that, I suppose, is a wonderful luxury.

Happy weekend!

Misterman / Krapp

It's a strange thing to cram two heavy-hitting plays at two different theatres into one day. It's even stranger when you walk away feeling those plays were fortuitously meant to be seen together.

On Sunday, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (my first time doing so) and made our way to St. Ann's Warehouse for the matinee of Misterman. I knew little about the play, only that it had been lauded in Galway and, like Krapp, was a one-act play, a one-man show.

Cillian Murphy went hell-for-leather in this role; leaping around the huge stage, catapulting himself into walls, flinging Jammie Dodgers and Fanta. The audio was cacophonous, the lighting berserk. The story hilarious and poignant, sympathetic and mad.

Later that evening we made our way to BAM for Krapp's Last Tape. Beckett, of course does not go in for that much racket. It feels like a full three minutes of silence before Krapp even moves or speaks at the beginning of the play. Beckett wants you to get comfortable in silence. And when he breaks it, he does so slowly, laboriously. Krapp draws out single words, replays and repeats them and then leaves you in silence again.

But while one is loud and frenetic and the other full of pregnant silence, while one stage is vast and the other confined, in Krapp there are perfect miniatures of Misterman's physical slapstick; a banana skin slip, a play at the edge of stage-light. And like Thomas in Misterman, Krapp interacts only with reel-to-reel tapes. Also, of course, both are Irish men with Irish mammies and broken Irish hearts.

Both Krapp and Thomas are caught reliving things, including parents' deaths, and trying to find a better way out; trying to find, or create, salvation. It seems Krapp does so of his own volition while it has perhaps been a punishment inflicted on Thomas, but that is in not fully clear. Still, in spite of all that trying, the well-studied voice parts and well-catalogued recordings, both are determined to fail, to descend into anger and despair and ruin.

By the end of the day I was spent and elated. And I've been reliving both plays since I got back, processing the parts and how they seem to bob and weave, how Beckett and Walsh differ as writers, in age and time and style, and how Krapp and Thomas differ too and yet can be seen as distorted mirror images of each other.

And I've been thinking about all the experiences we manufacture and plan for ourselves and how something unexpected can still happen. Sometimes these are the very things we're tempted to pass up; they can seem like a lot to take on and you can convince yourself you have enough. But my more-is-more whim created a day of theatre I'm not likely to ever forget. I have no idea how I'll follow these two acts..

Image sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4


I don't go in much for the gift guides and gift-giving isn't really a big thing with my friends and family. But I do permit myself a few reckless treats this time of year and even a few unrealistic daydreams.

Mostly I delight in little luxuries like treating myself to a scented candle (4) or some sweet lingerie (11). Of course there are books (2), (10) and the new edition of Brick magazine (5) is always a happy purchase for me. A decadent tea (6) and a few pieces to add to my Heath collection (7) also make for domestic bliss.

The only thing I bought in New York was some perfume. But I love fragrance and a Byredo scent (9) is also on my wishlist right now. And I've been obsessively watching make-up videos and am dying to play with few new products (3) and buy new brushes. For clothes, I'm always, always happy with a new scarf (1).

But, more than anything else, I'm daydreaming about friends coming to visit and having the freedom to travel to them too. And about trips up north or to the mountains in good company. Lots and lots of flights (8) would really make 2012 a grand year.

A Moveable Feast

"I remember the smell of the pines and the sleeping on the mattresses of beech leaves in the woodcutters' huts and the skiing through the forest following the tracks of hares and of foxes. In the high mountains above the tree line I remember following the track of a fox until I came in sight of him and watching him stand with his forefront raised and then go on carefully to stop and then pounce, and the whiteness and the clutter of a ptarmigan bursting out of the snow and flying away over the ridge.

I remember all the kinds of snow that the wind could make and their different treacheries when you were on skis. Then there were the blizzards when you were in the high Alpine hut and the strange world that they would make where we had to make our route carefully as though we had never seen the country. You had not, either, as it all was new. Finally there was the great glacier run, smooth and straight, forever straight if your legs could hold it, your ankles locked, you running so low, leaning into the speed, dropping forever and forever in the silent hiss if the crisp powder. It was better than any flying or anything else, and you built the ability to do it and to have it with the long climbs carrying the heavy rucksacks. You could not buy it nor take a ticket to the top. It was the end we worked all winter for, and all the winter built to make it possible.

The last year in the mountains new people came deep into our lives and nothing was ever the same again. The winter of the avalanches was like a happy and innocent winter in childhood compared to that winter and the murderous summer that was to follow. Hadley and I had become too confident in each other and careless in our confidence and pride."

Ernest Hemingway p.122-123, A Moveable Feast (restored edition)

Sunday best: Theatrical

Back in early autumn, I found out that the Gate Theatre's production of Krapp's Last Tape was New York-bound and I jumped on tickets and a flight on a whim.

I have a habit of making spontaneous trips to New York for Beckett productions (last time I went down was for Baryshnikov in the Beckett shorts). But this production is more than a whim. I saw the original at The Gate over a decade ago and it has remained in my memory as the most amazing theatre I've experienced. I could be hyperbolic about it, it was that sublime. And the opportunity to see it a second time, even to risk that original experience, was beyond resistance.

But, as if that isn't enough, on the same day I'm taking in a performance of Misterman starring Cillian Murphy. I read the reviews of this when it was playing in Galway and rued not being there. I only learned it has also traveled to New York on Thursday last week. But I still jumped on it and got some of the last matinee tickets. It's going to be an intense day of amazing theatre!

My trip is otherwise brief and I'm not going to try to cram in much more. I'll do a quick whizz around some shops, eat some tasty things and maybe wave at the MoMA deKooning exhibit. I hop back to Toronto on Monday afternoon and will have a quiet evening to process all I've seen and wish I could live more permanently in that sublime aesthetic state. Alas, I'll be back in my cubicle on Tuesday.

P.S. If you're a Beckett fan and can't get to see this production, it was also filmed by Atom Egoyan for the Beckett on Film series.

Products: Picture of BAM, via | Fine pleat dress from Margaret Howell | Creme lip colour from Laura Mercier | L'Amandiere from James Heeley | Bottega Veneta Knot satin clutch from Net-a-Porter | Narrow Diamond Verve Band from Anne Sportun | The suede sidewalk skimmer from Madewell


I didn’t much like this week. So, as an antidote, I did silly things. Like drink coffee really late and stay up most of the night writing and reading Hemingway. Or, mixing a hot toddy and drinking it the tub. And I went to yoga and instead of doing the easy, plinky-plonky class I took classes with oxymoronic names like “extreme bootcamp yoga”. I take comfort in the fact my ways of dealing with stress are all pretty benign.

But I don’t want to go on about all that was wrong with this week. It’s Friday and I’m happy for that. I have an exciting weekend ahead of me and Monday off work. I did also manage to mail off Christmas cards to Ireland and I think some of that late-night caffeinated writing I did might actual turn out to be decent when I read over it. So there’s always that.

I’ve been ordering a lot of books lately. Liane led me to this post and a purchase of two books by Bill Doyle, “Ireland’s Cartier Bresson”. That kind of description usually makes me wince, but I also like those epic Aran photos, so I worked through it. And I bought a Frank O’Hara bio and a Joan Mitchell one too.

Around this time of year, I always act like Christmas is going to offer this vast stretch of unfettered reading. It’s easy to forget it’s really only a two-day break. Odds of me really squeezing in a rereading of Middlemarch, 1Q84, Book Of Disquiet, Beckett's letters and these two bios are disappointingly slim. Odds of me watching The Muppet Christmas Carol and mulling wine are far more fair.

But that's weeks away yet and I'm really just happy for this weekend now... What are you up to? Have a great one!

Winter beauty essentials

Canadian winters do a real number on my skin. When I was in England in the autumn I stocked up on Eve Lom's cleanser. It's one of those products that makes me a little evangelical and, of course, is impossible to get here. I think it's effective mostly because it forces you to give yourself a little massage and that, as much as the product itself, is a wonderful regime.

I'm usually loathe to recommend beauty products; I find it's such a subjective thing and I'm never 100% happy with my own skin anyway. But these are ones I really enjoy using. L'Occitane's shea butter is permanently on my bedside table and goes on elbows and knees, feet and hands. The handcream from This Works lives on my desk; its fragrance is a little pick-me-up from computer fatigue.

Rodin's Olio Lusso smells like hyacinths and is incredible softening. And I'm now at an age where I need some serious eye cream and I'm trying this one from Dior. Nude's lip gloss is a new product that I'm loving, but I'm a jezebel about lip glosses so don't expect me to stay faithful. What are your winter beauty faves?

Inspiring women: Sylvia Beach

I've been rereading A Moveable Feast (the restored edition) and have fallen in love with it and Hemingway all over again. I especially love the sections about Sylvia Beach's lending library and bookshop.

With only $3000 in capital, Beach could not afford to own a bookshop in New York. But with the help of Adrienne Monnier she founded the English language bookshop and lending library, Shakespeare and Company, in Paris in 1919. It became a gathering place for writers such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Ford Madox Ford. And, of course, gained considerable fame after it published James Joyce's Ulysses in 1922. The original Shakespeare and Company was closed in 14 June 1940, during the German occupation of France during World War II.

In 1962, Sylvia Beach died, willing to George Whitman a good deal of her private books and the rights to the name Shakespeare and Company. In 1964, his bookshop Le Mistral was renamed Shakespeare and Company. Whitman named his daughter, born in 1981, after Sylvia Beach and Sylvia Beach Whitman took over the running of the shop in 2003 at age 22 and still runs it today.

Book: Shakespeare and Company by Sylvia Beach
Book: Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation
Shakespeare and Company virtual tour
Sylvia Beach Papers, 1887-1966 at Princeton Library

Image credits:
1. James Joyce photographed with Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris in 1920. Image courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University, via.
2. Souvenir photographs of authors/friends of Sylvia Beach, proprietor of bookstore Shakespeare & Company from Life.

Fair Isle

Uhm, what can I say? This started as a "Three of a kind", but I got carried away... Turns out I like Fair Isle. A lot.

Fair Isle is named after a tiny island in the north of Scotland, that forms part of the Shetland islands. Traditional Fair Isle patterns have a limited palette of five or so colours and use only two colours per row.

As such, I'm not sure that many of these two-colour items are strictly speaking "Fair Isle" knits (Laura advises me they're not). But I still love them so am gonna let that slide. Do you rock Fair Isle over the holidays? I'm dying over the Toast twisted wrap in both sets and all those Mr. Porter pieces too!

Products: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18

Coterie shipping deadlines

On the weekend, I found these postcards I bought when I was at the Melin Tregwynt Mill back in September. It feels like such a long time ago now!

You can read about it and see photos of the actual mill today here. There are just a few Melin Tregwynt blankets left in the shop and I won't be restocking them in the foreseeable future. And there's still a gift with all textile purchases while those supplies last.

Today is the LAST DAY for shipping to the US in time for the holidays (Canadians have until the 15th). You can find these kinds of updates more regularly posted on our Facebook page, so feel free to "like" us to stay in the loop. It would break my heart to have anybody disappointed!

Shop here!

Sunday best: Purpose and languor

Yesterday, I did some Christmas decorating, hauling boxes of ornaments out of my storage locker, unwrapping each one, years of memories. Some from Ireland, some from other places I've lived, untold stories all of them. Stories sweetly unremarkable, common enough, not worth the telling.

Later on, a friend came over and we drank barley wine and stout, seasonal beers and ate wintry food. She brought me Adam Gopnik's Winter; the most perfect thing to receive right now. Apart from that lovely interlude of company my weekend underscored by the joy of being alone.

But at the same time not being alone. I was out in the world. It's funny how we count ourselves as alone when we're interacting with people, just because we don't know their names. But sometimes I find that in those exchanges we're completely frank and unguarded. And it's astounding what we'll betray to strangers that we'll hold back from loved ones.

I found people everywhere wanting to tell me things, some plain, about this jar of preserve being particularly good or that the scarf I picked up in the store was beautiful. That old man who lives in the other wing and never says hello saw me on the street and decided yesterday to smile and utter that simple greeting. Maybe I just needed to put in all this time.

Today will be quieter still as there are many chores to be done and I'll be chasing even simpler joys of clean sheets and wiped-down countertops. I like the set-up for the week ahead, both the purpose and the languor of a Sunday afternoon. I want to draw it all out before I have to go back. There's a moment every Sunday when I dread its end. And then I get over it and move into the week ahead.

Products: Homestead waffle leggings from J.Crew | Donna Karan Oversized cashmere cardigan from Net-a-Porter | James Perse Loose-fit cotton-jersey T-shirt from Net-a-Porter | "Spray" pillow from Judy Ross Textiles | Lanvin Leather ballet flats from Net-a-Porter | Winter: Five Windows on the Season by Adam Gopnik


I’m so happy for Friday and for December!

There’s something in me that gets really excited about endings. When people leave, when relationships are over, when the year winds down. I find it strangely invigorating, uplifting even. The prospect of a fresh start, even in sometimes sad and frustrating circumstances, picks me up. So, the end of the year is something I look forward to. I feel it’s a time when I can more easily let go of things that aren’t working, when I can formulate new plans and feel optimistic about them.

And of course, December is such a beautiful month... The lights, the first snow, the smells; I’m susceptible to it all. And although I’m into neither the religion nor the extreme consumerism of Christmas, I love the sensual delights of the season, the time we take to adorn our streets and homes, to share food and hang boughs. In winter’s bleakness, it’s a defiant move, to make the world richly warm and bright, to add layers of spice and citrus, evergreen and beeswax.

In the last week, I’ve developed some new rituals. I’ve been going for a coffee or tea after work, sitting and reading before going to my home and facing all the things I need to do. I pull out a book and watch the street. Rush hour is in progress and people hustle by with grocery bags and their subway face on, their sole focus getting home to whoever they're sharing that meal with, or maybe just to be alone.

I’m usually one of those people, but that twenty minutes or so pulls me out of it and I relax in the hoi polloi. And then I want to look up and around, to see whatever small thing catches my notice, instead of hastening home with my head down. The people I notice the most are the quiet ones, the ones who move about the world as if they're in their own space. I understand them more than the players and the grandstanders. Those who can be quiet and alone out in public sometimes share so much more than all those talkers...

Happy weekend!

Festive start

Tartans and plaids always feel festive! I tend to stay away from the bolder tartans and instead gravitate towards more muted blues and greys, softer shades of red mixed with brown. And, of course, it's the time of year for shortbread and hot toddies, for tweedy and woolly things, blankets and scarves.

A touch of tartan here and there cozies up the place and kicks off Christmas decorating, which is a gradually unfolding process in my house. Slowly, greenery will be added; garlands, wreaths and bulbs of paperwhites. And finally, fairy lights and shiny things.

I'm looking forward to the building gently to it Christmas, spacing it all out over the next four weeks, taking on a little project in the evening or over the weekend and registering the fun of it all. I'm not one to work myself into a tizzy over these things, to turn it all into hard labour. I'll share a lot of it with friends and we'll make merry as it all progresses.

Happy December!

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