Archive for September, 2012

Hello English Muse readers! Karen from A Simple Cup of Tea once again. This week I have my preacher’s hat on. For my own sake as much as yours.


(Illustration by Ivana Cunja.)

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But to truly, honestly and deeply love yourself isn’t always that easy. We’re inundated with advertisements that play on our weaknesses just so we would buy that one product that will make us perfect.

You know what? You’re already perfect. You’re perfectly you.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend. Until the next, dearies!


PS: If you don’t know where to start I highly recommend taking a look at Gala Darling’s posts on Radical Self-Love.

Image via Flickr

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Jesse Kornbluth, of, wildly in love this week with a recently published novel.

I don’t lose books.

But we were at a hotel in Las Vegas with a wave pool, it was 101 degrees and umbrellas cost $100. Then there was the human factor: women with tattoos across their back, women with tattoos staining their legs, women with entire sentences on their arms. With all that ink, could you remember to take a mere book from under your chaise?

To my astonishment, no one in this crowd turned “Beautiful Ruins” in to Lost & Found.

So I bought it again.

I soon understood why anyone who found it would have held on to it — it’s a stunner. Or, as they’d say at the wave pool, awesome. Very unique. A real journey of a novel.

And it’s not just one literate Vegas vacationer who thinks so. Richard Russo, no slouch as a novelist, and I agree: “Why mince words? ‘Beautiful Ruins’ is an absolute masterpiece.”

Masterpiece. A work of high quality made by a master. In this case, Jess Walter. (I’d read not a word of his until this, but his books are consistently honored: Time Magazine’s #2 novel of the year, finalist for the National Book Award, winner of the LA Times Book Prize, winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel, New York Times notable book.) Born in Spokane, he lives in Spokane. And yet he’s written the wisest, worldliest novel I’ve read this year. [To buy the book from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]

What’s it about? Italy in the 1960s, Hollywood in the 1960s, Hollywood now, World War II, the set of “Cleopatra,” the Donner party, World War II, Seattle, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Idaho — but this long list is scaring you, yes?

If the locations aren’t daunting, the massive cast might make you nervous: the proprietor of “The Hotel Adequate View,” a six-room, three-table nothing of a resort in an Italian coastal town only accessible by boat, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, a Hollywood publicist turned producer, a novelist who can’t get beyond the first chapter, an unproduced screenwriter, a singer-comic, an assistant film executive whose boyfriend can be found at strip clubs, and — I almost forgot — the woman who seems to be at the center of all this, a young American actress named Dee Moray, who was briefly in “Cleopatra” and has come to this nowhere hotel because she’s been told she”s dying of cancer.

Too busy for you? And when I confess that the novel jumps around in time, do you feel you will be confused? In lesser hands, you would be. But this is a masterpiece, remember? Fifteen years in the making, many drafts. And in the end, not a foolish move.

“Beautiful Ruins” is, by turns, funny, tragic, satirical. Like life, it is always surprising. Like life, it has threads that connect unlikely people — but only in retrospect. Like life, victories are hard-won, defeats are learning experiences. And better than life, it all makes sense in the end.

I won’t quote it; it’s too hard to isolate what’s great about this novel. Because it all is. Every sentence. I know: That’s crazy talk. But “Beautiful Ruins” is one of those reading experiences that delights and challenges you along the way, thrills you often, and, at the end, makes you cry — well, makes me cry — for a world glorious enough for these characters and this writer.

Get it. Read it. If you hate it, I’ll refund your money.

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

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Sep 25, 2012

The water is a friend of mine.

I love floating in the waves or under the still water. It makes me feel graceful.

All the cares of the world can literally float off my shoulders as the water envelopes me.

These beautiful photos are so clear and at the same time a little fuzzy in the best way. They conjure up the slow, silky feeling of falling into cool, welcoming water.

This beautiful series is a collaboration between South African fashion designer Joel Jansen vanVuuren, art director and model Elsa Bleda, photographer Ilse Moore, and makeup artist Liezl Zene Oberholzer.

The photographs capture the experience of floating and the gracefulness the water imparts so well. I can almost feel my hair swirling around me.


have a lovely Tuesday,

Sarah from Design Flourishes

all photos from Joel Janse van Vuuren’s website

via My Modern Met

Categories: photographs | 1 Comment »

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It’s in the air

Sep 23, 2012

Hello English Muse readers! Karen from A Simple Cup of Tea once again. This week I want to talk about my absolute favourite season. Autumn.

It’s in the air here in Belgium. Autumn has only just arrived with yesterday’s equinox but it’s already gotten a tad colder over the past week and a bit. The leaves are just slightly beginning to turn and I’m dreaming of boots and knee-high socks again instead of sundresses.

Children have gone back to school, Ostend is getting a bit quieter without all of the tourists and the beach is suddenly vast and beautiful again instead of filled with people. Do I sound like an old angry woman? Perhaps. But apart from those practical things the sunsets are nothing short of glorious at this time of year.

Autumn is for me a time to appreciate change.

What about you? What is it about autumn (or fall) that you love?


Images via nostalgic-wanderlust

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No Such Thing

Sep 20, 2012

Once this weekend has come and gone, I am sure my husband, brother-in-law, dad, and whoever else helps us move into our new apartment will beg to differ.  I don’t mean to accumulate books.  It just happens: one here, one there, and suddenly I have no room left on my shelves or the floor next to them.  I even did the unthinkable and sold some of my books, mostly texts from college that I never liked, which left me feeling rather crummy until I spent a little of the money on two new books that I actually wanted.  Then my husband took me to the used bookstore and said I could pick out any books I wanted for my birthday present and four more books needed a home on my bookshelves.  Oops?

So, in spite of getting some books out of the house, I have a lot of books to move: three smallish but not tiny boxes full, with a dozen or two more awaiting the suitcase and backpack set aside for their travels to our little one-bedroom with a patio.  So I’m going to enlist a little help and start giving some away later today.  If you plan to enter, you must promise to be very nice to them, read them, and love them.  They’re mostly be classics I’ve accumulated with the intent to read (remember this post?) but can find at my library anytime I actually do need them.  Pop over to my blog, Unwritten, Untitled, after 3:30 EST to see what I’m offering and find the more official rules there.

In the meantime, let’s chat: do you have a book accumulation problem, too?

Until next Thursday,


(Unwritten, Untitled)

[image source unknown–share if you know it!]

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Jesse Kornbluth, of, this week delighted to report that you can be 71 and still dazzle.

My wife has decreed that we will no longer attend Bob Dylan concerts. I was slow to agree, but I have come around. In live performance, you can hear every one of Dylan’s 71 years. It’s not just that Dylan loathes playing his songs the same way twice and that his updated versions seem more random than inspired. It’s equally that his voice is cracked, rough as a rancher’s hands. To compensate, he plays a lot of guitar, even a bit of piano. In essence, you’re watching a brilliant instrumental band playing songs you barely recognize, peppered with the occasional vocal.

The recordings are something else.

In the mid-1980s, Dylan asked Mark Knopfler to be his producer. “I’d like my records to sound more … professional,” he said. The collaboration didn’t last, and Dylan turned to producing himself, using the name “Jack Frost.”

He has become a brilliant producer.

“Tempest” — Dylan’s 35th CD, released half a century after he burst on the scene as a latter-day folk singer — is the proof. Critics are falling all over themselves to praise it; some say it’s in his top ten. Too soon to tell, I think. But “Jack Frost” has mixed these 10 songs so Dylan’s rasp is appealing and then some. As for the band, it’s just beyond. “Tempest” is very much worth your time and attention, and at $9.99 for the CD and $5 for the download, this 98-minute collection is the quality buy of the year. [To buy the CD from Amazon, click here. For the MP3 download, click here.]

What’s to love?

The range. Dylan has the entire history of modern music in his head, and he draws upon it to create the greatest variety of genres in recent memory. Not that he’s slavishly recreating long-forgotten classics. “Tempest,” like the best of Dylan, is a swirl — especially the lyrics, which range from highly focused to free association. But as smart as they are, and as dark as they can be, it’s wrong to listen to “Tempest” as if it were a literary document, the musical equivalent of, say, Shakespeare’s play. These are stories told by our greatest musical storyteller. The value is in the music as much as the words.

Like this:

What does it mean? Don’t go there. Dylan doesn’t particularly “mean” anything. If anything, this is the takeaway: Use what you’ve got to get what you need.

“I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes/ There’re secrets in them I can’t disguise.”

Consider yourself warned.

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Hello dear English Muse readers, Naomi Bulger here. I also like to blog little messages in bottles from Australia.

I recently had a little girl, Madeleine, and I have discovered that one of the most fun parts of having a baby is having a legitimate excuse to delve head-first into children’s books. Ok at 13 weeks, my little girl isn’t exactly advanced in the literary department, but that doesn’t stop me reading to her. And already she loves to look at the pictures, and makes little “Oooh” noises, trying to copy my speech, as I read aloud.

I bought Paris Y Es-Tu while I was in Paris last year. It is a stunningly illustrated ‘hide and seek’ book by Japanese artist Masumi, kind of like Where’s Waldo/Wally, except you are looking for different people and little lost things all over Paris. When Madeleine is older, we will trace our fingers together over all these places, and I’ll tell her what is there, and we will dream about going to Paris together.

Then on the weekend I found this little New York, Baby book, and I have already read it to her several times.

“Look, they’re shopping in SoHo, that’s where Mama lived,” I say. And, “This is Central Park. One day, we will go together and see the turtles.” And, “That’s ‘The Lion King,’ on Broadway. Mama took Daddy and Nanna and your two sisters to see ‘The Lion King’ when they came to New York for a visit.” And, “Just around the corner from there is where Mama and Daddy met.” So she will learn about her mother’s life in New York.

What would/do you read to your child?

Categories: Books, Paris | 8 Comments »

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Good Afternoon, English Muse Readers!

Today is a very special day! A little birdie told me that it is Tina’s birthday and so I thought we should use this post to celebrate in style. There are so many birthdays in the month of September, and my own (last week) got me thinking about what a dream grown-up birthday would look like.

What about you? Is there any particular way you’d like to celebrate?
I’d love to hear about it!

Until next week… xo* Hannah B. 

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Morning guys. Yes, it’s Monday again. But don’t worry, I have something wonderfully delicious to share with you, that is sure to brighten up your day. I have recently added a little wooden bench, with woven leather seats to my office. This is a very typical South-African look and we call it a riempie bankie. Riempie meaning leather strips woven for the seat and bankie as in bench. I was delighted to discover just such a bench, designed by two South-African designers, at West Elm!

This bench, called the Source bench, perfectly captures the essence and heritage of the riempie bankie.

This bench was designed by husband-and-wife duo Trevyn and Julian McGowan, from the South African design studio Source. Each seat is made from hand woven leather.

Source and West Elm have done an amazing job of retaining the integrity of this traditional South-African design, whilst bringing their designs to a global audience at a great value. The design is also available in single chairs. Why not use a bench and chair combination in your dining room?

Have a lovely Monday.

Ciao, Lelanie from of Beauty and Love

Categories: handmade | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

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I’ll confess, Romeo and Juliet is not my favorite Shakespeare play.  I’m much more fond of comedy and a wedding at the end of the day.  I do have a soft spot for the play, however, because I find it rather brilliant: the play is a comedy until the death of Mercutio.  “Tis but a scratch!” he cries, and the whole play shifts.  It’s a bold move, a sad move, and, I think, genius.  I remember the moment my professor revealed this bit of literary brilliance in my Shakespeare course, and I went from being moderately annoyed by Romeo and Juliet to loving it.  Though I do still want to smack the titular characters and make them snap out of their infatuation before they destroy themselves over it, I adore the sheer cleverness of the language and the magnificent plot shifts.

So when my mom asked if I’d like to go see it at Actors Theater of Louisville on my birthday, I quite gladly agreed.  The production was modernized, as you can see from the set above.  A few lines were omitted, a few added, and a monologue or two was rapped, to my great amusement, and it was a wholly unique production in my limited experience.  Though the source of tension between Capulets and Montagues in this particular case wasn’t revealed at all, which made the conflict in the play a little inscrutable, it was an entertaining production, witty, slightly bawdy, and genuinely emotional.

And I am ready for a little more Shakespeare at present.  Perhaps I’ll rent A Midsummer Night’s Dream (my favorite) and have a good laugh this evening.

So, your turn now–what’s your favorite Shakespeare play?  Do you have a favorite production?


Until next Thursday,


(Unwritten, Untitled)


[images mine–I’m liltoiloflove on instagram!]

Categories: Decor | 5 Comments »

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Jesse Kornbluth, of, this week swooning over a gifted doctor and a remarkable hospital.

It almost always annoys me when someone who isn’t a professional writer produces a great book, but Victoria Sweet has written the best non-fiction book I’ve read this year and all I wanted to do when I finished reading it was to meet her and congratulate her and ask her a lot of questions.

So I did.

Something happened at the start of that conversation that made me realize why her book dazzled me — the qualities that make her a great doctor are the same qualities that make her book so powerful, original and relevant.

She heard me. She paid attention. She made me her patient.

Before I asked my first question, I mentioned a health issue. When she returned to San Francisco, she wrote me: “Now that you’ve let me know you haven’t been feeling well, you need to make sure to let me know that/when you are feeling better and the meds are kicking in. Otherwise, I worry.”

You want a doctor who has infinite time for you? Who cares — as a person — how you fare? Who uses not just the tools of current medicine but learns Latin so she can scour texts a thousand years old to learn the wisdom of pre-modern medicine?

For 20 years, to get that kind of doctor, you went to Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco.

To an almshouse — a facility that provides medical and spiritual care to the poorest of the poor.

For free.

“God’s Hotel” — the term comes from the Hôtel-Dieu, the French charity hospitals of the Middle Ages — is four books in one. Because it reads as much like a memoir as a chronicle of daily life in an unusual hospital, it’s the story of Victoria Sweet, who came to Laguna Honda on a part-time basis for two months, stayed two decades and, along the way, staged a successful “twenty year escape from health care.” It’s the story of her patients, many of them “Bad Boys and Bad Girls,” and how treating them with dignity either sweetened their days or, on occasion, turned their lives around. It’s an intellectual adventure story; a doctor follows an insight and reconnects with a way of practicing medicine that’s almost totally forgotten. And it’s the story of clueless government bureaucrats and “efficiency experts” whose apparent goals are to transform an adequate facility into a dysfunctional one. [To buy the book from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]

It is, I suspect, this last thread that will resonate with most readers. We are not, most of us, poor. In the main, we are healthy. It’s not likely we’ll embark on a treasure hunt for obscure knowledge. But heartless bureaucrats — yeah, we’ve met a few.

Laguna Honda did not, as legally required, deliver mail on Saturdays. The daily menus were not translated into Chinese. There was peeling paint. Dust. And — horrors — drug and alcohol abuse among the patients.

How to fix all that? Thin out the medical staff, add administrators. Bring in consultants who earn 10 percent of any savings they produce. Decide to tear down the old hospital and build a new one. Make sure the architects never talk to patients or doctors, so when it’s finished there is no place to put the wheelchairs.

Infuriating stuff. And yet that’s not what you feel at the end. What you leave with is, oddly, a sense of celebration. For a very long time, a gang of renegades got away with practicing medicine the way it should be: sitting with patients, watching, listening, often doing nothing more than being present. And then Victoria Sweet, a candidate for sainthood, wrote a book that is a beacon in the darkness.

JK: Give me three adjectives you’d use to describe your patients — the poor.

VS: I don’t think of them as poor. I don’t know why I don’t. They just didn’t seem “poor” although they mostly didn’t have money. But they were the bottom one tenth of one percent of our society; they were the ones who fell through the holes in the safety net, and they were always two standard deviations from the mean. Any mean.

JK: You write: “The diagnosis is written on the body.” You write: “The secret in the care of the patient is the care of the patient.” What other home truths have you picked up that you weren’t taught in med school?

VS: One is from a book that many doctors have read, “The House of God”— “In an emergency, the first pulse to take is your own.” And then “the efficiency of inefficiency.” Which means: do the thing in front of you first. The secret in caring for the patient sometimes is doing the little things. In Latin, there is no distinction between caring and curing — “curare” means both. In that way, doctors can learn a lot from nurses; I know I did.

JK: You write enthusiastically about the “tincture of time”— not an idea most of us are familiar with.

VS: This was the secret ingredient of pre-modern medicine. The old doctors had observed that almost everything gets better over time if you are able to remove or fix the initial problem — the infection, the appendix, broken bone. The body wants to heal — let it, help it. It’s what I’ve come to call “Slow Medicine,” as opposed to the Fast Medicine that works so well to remove the appendix, open the blocked coronary artery or shrink the cancer, but which doesn’t work so well after the appendectomy, the operation, or the chemotherapy. That’s when patients need time, rest, and Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

JK: Many of us know Hildegard von Bingen as a composer and mystic. For you, her importance is as a healer with insight into a concept called “viriditas.” Explain, please.

VS: “Viriditas” means green. Hildegard used it to signify the greening power of plants. Her idea was that just as plants have a natural power of healing and growing, so too do patients; that the body is more like a plant, and the doctor, therefore, is more like a gardener, whose job is to remove what is in the way of the patient’s natural ability to heal; to nourish and fortify it.

Hildegard didn’t depend on numbers as we do. In that sense she was subjective, which is not to say that she didn’t have measures. She took pulse and evaluated blood and urine; but it was more subjective and perhaps less repeatable than our own. Although I sometimes think that our measurements too are more subjective than we realize.

JK: In an election year, health care is a significant issue. I suspect you could — with pleasure — design an ideal health care system for America.

VS: Yes. And it’s practical: Let people buy it.

JK: You mean single payer?

VS: No! Calling it single payer was a big mistake. If you sell it as single payer, most people won’t want it. So let’s just say that we’ll let people buy into Medicare. Because, amazingly, it seems that the government has been able to create a remarkably good system, all things considered.
Most patients are satisfied with it, according to studies. Most doctors are satisfied with it, too. By that I mean, many doctors prefer to accept Medicare patients over patients who have insurance; apparently Medicare has less bureaucracy (!) and is more straightforward about what and how much it will pay. Of course, at this point, Medicare is starting to pay so little that many doctors can’t afford to take it either.

The way it could work would to just let people buy into Medicare. I’m not an economist, but if you take Medicare’s budget and divide it by the number of patients it serves, I think it comes out to cost about $700 per month per person. So if someone wants to pay $700 per month for a Medicare card, why not let them? It would be a wash for the government. (If you don’t earn enough? The government kicks in $350.) That seems like a lot of money, but even Kaiser, our HMO in California, charges more than $600 for individual coverage.

A second piece of the plan would be to reinstate what we had in the old days, where every county had a free hospital and a free almshouse. They weren’t fancy and they weren’t equal but they were adequate, and they provided a place where anyone could go, no questions asked, to get care. Even if they were rich! If we had that, at least people without insurance wouldn’t have to worry that they would go bankrupt if they got sick.

JK: At Laguna Honda, were you often annoyed by patients who wasted your time?

VS: It wasn’t the patients. It was the administrators. But I don’t think it’s correct to say that the administrators were annoying — it really was the bureaucracy that they were required to institute that was annoying. As people, the administrators at the hospital were by and large thoughtful and caring people. By and large, of course. I don’t want to set up a personal ad hominem dichotomy.

JK: Would it have been better if the Department of Justice had not interfered with a patient-centered institution that didn’t satisfy every modern code?

VS: In the ‘70s, young, idealistic lawyers at the DOJ had a mission: close snakepits. By the ‘80s, they had closed most mental hospitals. The plan was to move patients to small halfway houses. But then there were budget cuts, and the halfway houses never happened — patients were put out on the street. Now the government has turned its attention to the last of the almshouses and state hospitals and are methodically trying to shut them down, too. I’m into adequate, not perfect.

JK: You write that, in 3 years, the government forced Laguna Honda to discharge 139 patients — at a cost of $46,000 per discharge.

VS: I had to pull that data myself. And when I asked, “Why are you spending so much time trying to discharge a patient who’s been comatose for 10 years?” I got a blank look.

JK: Where were you in the administrative battle for the survival of Laguna Honda as a traditional almshouse?

VS: A group of passionate people fought the changes. I’m not an adversarial person by temperament, so I didn’t. As a doctor in charge of patients, you have to choose between seeing a patient or going to a meeting. In the long term, it’s probably better to go to the meeting. But doctors are really co-patients — we don’t know what else to be.

JK: In the pre-modern period, you write, there was a concept called the Turn of the Wheel of Fortune. “Each of us is attached to that wheel, which is Time, and sooner or later we will go down, and sooner or later we will come up.” Right now, where are you on the Wheel?

VS: We have no idea where we are on the Wheel of Fortune — that’s the point. We are at the top of the world: rich, handsome, healthy. And one day we wake up and there are lymph nodes growing out of our neck and we have cancer. We turn a corner and are smashed to bits. And vice versa: we are a cook’s helper at Laguna Honda, and we win the lottery. We go backpacking, and we eat a can of tuna, and we are dead. So I have no idea where I’m on the Wheel of Fortune. All I do know is that at the moment, this is a wonderful and satisfying time in my life. We’ll see how long it lasts.

Categories: Decor | Comments Off on A doctor who reached back 1,000 years for insight to treat society’s losers has written the non-fiction book of the year

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The Historian

Sep 11, 2012

Hello, dear readers. Let’s talk books.

I’m currently reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

It is an incredible read! It has everything I could ever want in a novel: intrigue, romance, history, travel, adventure and vampires.  I’ve only just started reading this novel, but the plot sucked me in immediately.  Have you read it?

What are you reading right now?


Categories: Books | Tags: | 20 Comments »

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Subtractive Art

Sep 11, 2012

Much if not most art is additive. We add paint to canvas, we add ink or pencil or marker or pastel to paper. Art installations are almost always about adding work to a space. Much sculpture is additive, but some is subtractive. I was struck by the delicate beauty of these leaf cut-outs, true subtractive art.

The artist, Lorenzo Durán, has made a beautiful, yet common, leaf into art with the strategic removal of bits and pieces. He makes this amazing work with only an exact-o knife and a plan, although he does admit to crumbling many leaves to dust in the process of learning how to do this thing he does.

My favorites are the geometric shapes.

Lorenzo Durán worked in construction for 20 years before deciding he needed a job he could love every day. He decided to be a painter and then transitioned into cut work.

It’s an inspiring story; finding your life’s work is not necessarily easy. Sometimes it takes trying several paths before one path turns out to be the right one.

Have a beautiful Tuesday,

Sarah from Design Flourishes


all images from Lorenzo Durán’s website

via This is Colossal

Categories: illustrations | 4 Comments »

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Hello, English Muse Readers!

Today, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tell you about my brand new website that launched this morning. Secrets of a Belle is all about the art of living a more beautiful life through fashion, food, entertaining, and simple lifestyle choices. Right now, I’m in New York for Fashion Week and one of the 1st posts gives a sneak peek of the premiere line from Southern designer Cooper Ray (aka Social Primer). Then, tomorrow, I’ll be posting about the Michael Bastian show… a collection that is personally dear to my heart. So sneak over, peruse a little bit, and leave some comments to let me know what you think!

Hope you’re having a fabulous week!

xo* ~ Hannah B.

Categories: Decor | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

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Neon bright.

Sep 10, 2012

Morning guys. It’s Lelanie here from of Beauty and Love, inspiring you to grab Monday by the horns and have a fabulously creative day. I have a slight case of the Neons, at the moment. I have seen the trend gradually creeping into the wedding and décor worlds. I was very unsure at first, but I have come to enjoy the fresh and fun element that it can bring to a space. There are many ways to bring a touch of neon to a space. How about using a sing?

I love the idea of a bright neon sign in a classical space like this lovely living room. The white neon goes beautifully with the neutral palette of the room.

What would you say if you knew it was going up in neon? This ‘get some’ sign above the bar cart is a cute and inviting way to get your guest over to the drinks area.

What do you think of neon in a bedroom? The floral bedroom features a major contrast between the soft, floral look and the industrial edge of the neon. It’s a risky move, but somehow it works. I prefer the pink ‘dream; sing in this kiddy room. It really suits the playful air of the space and makes a handy nigh light.

What do you think of these neon signs? Would you ever use it in your home? Maybe somewhere fun, like an outdoor area. Or for a themed party perhaps?

For more ideas and tips on how to decorate with neon, have a look at this Trend alert article.

Hope your Monday is a bright and happy one,


Neonsign1, neonsign2, neonsign3, neonsign4, neonsign5

Categories: Decor | 2 Comments »

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When I tell others that I majored in English or that I want to teach middle school language arts and literature, a certain question often arises.  I dread it every time, even though I’ve crafted a simple answer that is, for the most part, true.  Of course, it is not permanently true; the answer may change at any time and, in fact, has changed repeatedly throughout my life–throughout the last few years, in fact.

The question is this: what is your favorite book?

My cautiously crafted answer is always To Kill a Mockingbird, because of all the books I’ve read, that one holds the most memories.  The memories that formulate my attachment are personal and close to my heart.  Perhaps selecting TKAM (as I affectionately abbreviate the title) is a bit cliché.  It is a fairly common favorite.  But the truth is that it is my most frequent favorite book, and I think that is enough to answer the question.  Sure, TKAM’s reign as my favorite book is occasionally interrupted by fond memories of reading Les Misérables in the unabridged format during my senior year of high school, and childhood memories of plowing through Brian Jacques’ Redwall books as a kid.  Jane Eyre became a favorite for some time when I re-read it in college, too, and every time I re-read Sense and Sensibility, it becomes a favorite for awhile.  I’ve also begun collecting different editions of Pride and Prejudice because I can’t resist them and all the wit I know lies within those pages.

Do you have a favorite book, or do you, like me, feel as if choosing a favorite is a thoroughly ridiculous venture?  Do share!


Until next Thursday,


(Unwritten, Untitled)

Categories: Decor | 4 Comments »

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Jesse Kornbluth, of, this week stunned by a … cookbook.

I get a gorgeous cookbook. Spectacular photos. Flipping through it, I felt like a rube. Turns out May and Axel Vervoordt are Major.

Who are May and Axel Vervoordt? Do you know? I surely didn’t.

It turns out they are Major.

The Vervoordts live in a 50 room castle near Antwerp. (It’s open to the public twice each year.) Axel is an art and antiques dealer and a decorator whose clients include Sting, Pierre Bergé, Henry Kravis and Bill Gates. He has a staff of 85.

His wife, May, heads the textile and fabric division. But her greater skill may be in the domestic arts. “When May prepares a table,” Axel writes, “the result is like a still-life painting.” And the visuals are the least of it. “May believes food is energy and has the power to make people feel better, spiritually as well as physically,” Axel writes. “Cooking can be a great pleasure, and just as for the potter who sculpts clay, the skill is a craft and the creation is a work of art.” [To buy the book from Amazon, click here.]

Easy art, it turns out. Simple art. Quick art. Most of May’s recipes require just 20-30 minutes to prepare. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients — they’re mostly herbs. May has done her ayurvedic homework; you’ll often see turmeric, black pepper and cinnamon in her recipes. No surprise that, after dinner, she serves herbal tea, not coffee.

What you won’t find: dinners with meat in the starring role. There are a few chicken and fish recipes, one for a lamb casserole, one for veal. Mostly this is book that showcases vegetables in unusual combinations. Carrot, gingerroot and coriander salad. Green salad with mango and grilled sweet potato. Avocado salad with zucchini and red chili pepper. Butternut squash marinated in tarragon.

And the fruit recipes! Rhubarb compote with star anise and red berry juice, a refreshing dessert or breakfast treat. Pineapple with saffron and lemon.

May quotes Virginia Woolf: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” I long to be her dinner guest. So, I think, would you.


Serves 4
Preparation Time 20 minutes

1 butternut squash
sea salt, freshly ground pepper
leaves from one tarragon sprig
4-5 TBS extra virgin olive oil
3 TBS hazelnut oil
juice of one lemon
½ tsp wholegrain mustard
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped.
1 tsp sunflower seeds
1 tsp pumpkin seeds
1 tsp pine nuts
2 dried sage leaves

Peel the squash, cut it in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut the flesh into 1/8 inch thick slices.

Blanch squash for 2 minutes in boiling salted water, then drain. Pat dry. Place in a serving dish, season with salt and pepper.

Chop tarragon. In a bowl, mix olive and hazelnut oils, lemon juice, mustard, shallot, garlic and the chopped tarragon leaves. Pour over the squash.

In a small skillet, dry-fry the sunflower and pumpkin seeds and pine nuts. Chop them finely with the sage. Sprinkle this mixture over the squash. Serve cold.


Serves 4
Preparation Time 30 minutes

4 small pears
1 orange
I lemon
2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
1TBS chopped fresh gingerroot
1 pinch of saffron powder
½ cup agave syrup

Peel the pears and cut them in half lengthwise. Cut the orange and lemon into ¼ inch strips, retaining the skin.

To make the syrup, boil 2 cups water. Add the cinnamon stick, ginger, saffron, lemon and orange strips, and let infuse for 10 minutes. Poach the pears in this liquid, heated to 175-195 degrees, for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave the pears to cool in the pan.

Remove the pears from the pan. Strain the juice. Pour the juice over the pears and serve.

These pears are good complements with a chocolate dessert, or with muesli for breakfast.

Categories: Books | 1 Comment »

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Piercing Eyes

Sep 04, 2012

I don’t spend a lot of time looking at (or for) portrait painters, but these watercolors seem like something special.

I love how the edges of the figures seem to drift away. Not all the lines need to be filled in to see the  strength and beauty in the figure.

In fact, leaving a little white space gives the figure room to change, room to grow. A picture is just a snippet of a lifetime, but these portraits leave possibilities open.

This is the work of Australian artist Ray Domnic. You can buy prints of his paintings on Saatchi.

There is not a lot of information about him online, but in looking through his portfolio I was very drawn to his images of women. Their eyes draw me in.

Have a lovely Tuesday,

Sarah from Design Flourishes


all images from here

Categories: illustrations | Comments Off on Piercing Eyes

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The weatherman is calling for rain all week. There’s something about rainy days like this that makes me want to curl up under a blanket, drink something hot, and read Jeeves & Wooster–or, better yet, watch it! What about you? Are you a PG Wodehouse fan?

Until next week, here’s wishing you an afternoon on the couch with a good book!
xo~ Hannah B.

Categories: authors, Books, Vintage | Tags: , | 4 Comments »

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DIY: Cabinet redo

Sep 03, 2012

Good morning guys. Welcome to a new week. How was everyone’s weekend? Am I correct in saying that the States had a long weekend? Those are always the best. We celebrated Spring day and the start of sunny days and outdoor living this weekend. Here in South-Africa 1 September is Spring day. I am still nowhere near complete with the house redesign, but this weekend I decided to do a fun project that is sure to ad a brigh spark to everyday.

Last week I spent some time pulling together inspiration and made a moodboard to give me a bit of guidance on my home studio design. I work from home and as a designer, I feel it is important that I have a fun, inspiring workspace. It needs to be super organised so that I don’t miss any deadlines or loose any important items, but it should also have a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. This is what I came up with.

I found this lovely Westelm bedroom (in the centre of the moodboard) online a while back and I have kept it in the back of my mind. On Friday something just clicked and I realised that this is a look I would love for my studio. I decided to spend some time this weekend to implement one of my creative ideas for this space. The room is in our house but has no built in cupboards. In our previous place I was lucky enough to have tons of storage, which means that I have managed to amass loads of things, necessary and otherwise. I have been trying to clear out the rubbish, but most of it has to stay, so I needed storage space. I inherited a few, shabby old pine cupboards and I decided to convert the one small hanging closet into a gorgeous storage cabinet. I am in love with coral, so I decided to go all out with a bright shade.


This is what I came up with. What do you think? It was great to spend Spring day doing such a fun project, but it could be equally nice for you guys going into Autumn to ad a bright, fun piece to an area. It might just be what you need to keep the winter blues at bay and an eternal spring in your heart.

For more on the cabinet redo, visit the this post on of Beauty and Love.

Have a lovely, bright and happy Monday.


Categories: handmade | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

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Simple and true

Sep 02, 2012

Hello English Muse readers! Karen from A Simple Cup of Tea once again. This week I’ll be talking about something simple that can make a big difference.

You know how your parents/grandparents/extended family talk about choosing a profession that you love? They probably also mean a profession they can agree with. Something stable. Something dependable. In certain cases that’s exactly what you want to do, in other cases not exactly. Of course you want a job that’ll make you happy.

What I want to talk about today is not as big as that. It helps – immensely – if you’re doing something you love. But work is not the only way to go and do something you love.


At the moment work is for me just that. Work. But even though I might not love my job – let’s be clear though, I really like my job – it doesn’t mean I’m never doing anything I love.

I try to do something I love every single day.

From reading a couple of chapters in a book I enjoy to listening to my latest musical obsession (Sigur Ròs – absolutely brilliant and highly recommended) I try to find small ways to fill my days with things I thoroughly enjoy. And who knows, those small things you do might just lead to the bigger things.

Have a wonderful new week!

Categories: Decor | Tags: | 5 Comments »

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