In Motion

Feb 16, 2013

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I am dreaming of a place that is my very own. A home that belongs to me, where I can paint walls and hang pictures and add windows and grow herbs, and nobody can tell me not to.

I will dangle silly chandeliers and mobiles and plant hangers from the ceiling, if I want to. I will splash chalkboard paint across the kitchen wall. I will build a pergola outside and invite wisteria and grape vines to wind their way overhead, creating shade with their own floral and fruity chandeliers. I will decorate a nursery as a special place for my baby Madeleine to play and learn and create and dream.

Truth be told, I am homesick for a place I have never been.

This week I discovered a company that goes by the rather quaint name of Mr Perswall that enables you to design your own wallpaper. Wouldn’t that be incredible? They also have a pretty extensive gallery of designs that you can choose from, and I’ve featured some of my favourites here. Just another trick I’m storing up for that day when I truly do have a place to call home.

Meanwhile dear friend, wherever you are, may you feel truly at home.

Yours truly,
Naomi Bulger (Messages in Bottles)

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If given the chance, I would paint every wall and floor in our house white.  Of course my spouse objects, saying white floors aren’t  practical.  But I disagree. I painted a bathroom floor once with several thick coats of white deck paint and it was easy to clean with bleach.  I found the photos of this house (below) on 1st Option recently. It’s the perfect example of  Modern Vintage

I love these colorful fabric hearts mixed with crystal strands and shell discs….

This little clothing rack (below) proves that you can fashion anything with pipes from the hardware store….
I love the mix of turquoise and yellow paint on this old cabinet…

Lovely mix of linens and blankets on this vintage bed!  I love to shop at Ikea for colorful sheets, then pair them with vintage coverlets….What do you think??

By the way, this is my first post here in, well, months…I hope you guys are still out there reading…–Tina

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Hello English Muse readers! Karen from A Simple Cup of Tea once again. I know that everyone is very busy with the holidays but I wanted to share this lovely Mark Twain quote with you all.

The holiday season is always jam-packed with events and parties and obligations. I find myself rushing from one place to another, and this year even more than usual with my impending move. It’s so worth it to take the time to look around and identify all the kindness that surrounds us.

And the thing is that kindness is present in the small things. It does not need grand gestures or heaps of money. It can be as simple as texting your best friend to let him or her know you’re thinking about them, making your partner or parents a cup of tea, giving your sibling an extra big hug when you see them.

Happy holidays everyone!


Image credit: here

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Twenty-six names

Dec 16, 2012

Hello English Muse readers! Karen from A Simple Cup of Tea once again. There is not much I can say about what happened in Connecticut right now. I tried at my blog but don’t feel like I was very succesful.

So instead of rambling on in my own words I wanted to share this beautifully moving tribute that Jason Robert Brown wrote for the 26 victims of the Newtown shooting. It made me tear up, mostly because he finally puts the attention where it should be: with those lovely children and adults who lost their lives on Friday.

I hope you all had a peaceful and loving weekend.


Picture credit: here

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Dec 13, 2012

December is many things for me.  For most of my twenty-four years of life, it has meant a break from school.  It means an excuse to buy those little things that remind me of the people I love and an excuse to visit the bookstore an extra time or two on the pretense of purchasing gifts for others.  And every year, when I finish classes, it means I take a little trip to my favorite bookstore and pick out something fun to read.

It’s a little out of my way, so I don’t get there too often and each visit is special.  I don’t care much for driving and especially don’t care for driving in traffic; thus, winding my way through the Highlands and up Frankfort Avenue is a little bit of an adventure in testing my nerves.  Thank goodness I don’t live in a bigger city.  When I arrive and park just down the street, I always breathe a little sigh of relief and feel a slightly childish grin creep across my face: I’m here, and I’m not leaving without a new (used) book!

As soon as I enter, I tend to forget exactly which book I am looking for and get distracted by the shelves of fiction and poetry and everything else.  On my visit last week, after I had gone to my very last class of the semester, I picked up at least ten or so books before I spotted The Tiger’s Wife on a shelf and remembered that I put it on my to-read list a year ago.  I had just enough cash on hand for one title, so with a sigh of resignation, I only bought that one book.  Thankfully, it’s been quite a good one.

Do you have any favorite places to find books?  And do you also get lost in the shelves?


Until next Thursday, now that I have time to write again…


(Unwritten, Untitled)

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Well, it’s that time of year when our house starts to look more and more like the North Pole each day, and tonight, I plan on getting out my collection of Christmas books. So I thought I’d share a few with you…

Jingle Bells and Santa’s Toy Shop are definitely two of my favorite Christmas children’s books! In fact, this Fall I bought extra copies of each to use in some decor. (You can see the 1st of those projects, a wreath, by clicking here or over on DIYNetwork’s website.)

Christmas at the New Yorker is a fantastic collection of holiday essays that my mother-in-law got me years ago. It is one of my absolute favorite books to read on a December evening… glass of bourbon in hand, of course.

The Curious World of Christmas is a fascinating book full of little facts and stories. It’s the perfect thing to have sitting on your coffee table for guests who are waiting on dinner.

Do you remember reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever when you were in elementary school? I loved it!

This version of The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Douglas Gorsline may be my favorite. These are the pictures & details that are vivid in my mind every time I hear the poem recited.

Each year, around this time, I pick up Little Women. The first time I read it was in winter and that first chapter by the fire with all of the March sisters never ceases to give me the coziest of feelings.

The Berenstein Bears’ Christmas Tree was my absolute favorite when I was little. I don’t think I will ever get tired of reading it. In fact, I was reminded of it again today when I read about Rachel’s family trekking through the woods in search of a tree for Sebastian.

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So now, I must ask, what are your most-beloved Christmas books?

For a little more Christmas reading, click over to Secrets of a Belle.

Until next week, xo*,
Hannah B. 

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Hello, English Musers!

Today I just wanted to write a quick post to let you know that Grace Coddington’s new autobiography, Grace: A Memoir, is absolutely wonderful! We were so blessed to get to go to Nashville this weekend and to hear the creative director herself. (more on that here), and she was absolutely charming. So, if you can, be sure to pick it up. It will be a lovely distraction from all the Christmas chaos, I promise!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to my book!

Hannah B.

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Books by Bloggers

Nov 26, 2012

Hello, English Musers!

It’s Hannah B. from Secrets of a Belle back to share some fun things with you again. Since we so often share about what our latest literary finds, today I thought I would share about a set of emerging authors that I realized I’d been spending a lot of time with: bloggers turned authors.

blogger books from secrets of a belle's Hannah B

Here are a few of the books I’ve read in the past year that I highly recommend…

Blog, Inc. by Joy Cho of Oh Joy!

This is what I’ve been reading for the past week. Joy is a super artsy mama from LA. I’ve always adored her style and her work so when she released a book about blogging, I couldn’t resist. It’s full of practical tips, but I’m especially enjoying the Q&As with other well-known bloggers.

Edible Selby by Todd Selby of The Selby

I am a huge fan of The Selby. It’s like having a really great interior design magazine online. (If only all the actual interior design magazines would translate to the web so well.) I’ve got The Selby is in Your Place but, as a foodie, Todd’s new book, Edible Selby, is high on my wishlist. It’s chock-full of some serious eye candy.

Design*Sponge at Home by Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge (& the podcast “After the Jump”)

I think Grace Bonney is a role model to a lot of bloggers, and I’m no different. I was especially excited last Christmas to receive this book in my stocking. It’s full of a lot of the inspiring interiors that have been featured on Design*Sponge as well as a bunch of How-To’s.

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette

I’ve long been a fan of Molly’s blog so I was anxious to read this book when it came out a couple of years ago. There’s only one word for it: this book is beautiful. It’s a series of personal stories woven together with scrumptious recipes. It will make you laugh, make you cry, and then it will make you want to click over to Molly’s blog and catch up on all the things that have happened since the book’s release. She becomes like a close friend.

(Two Fun Facts: She’s writing another book, and she just had a baby!)

The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell of Beekman 1802

You may have seen Brent and Josh competing in CBS’s Amazing Race recently or over on Cooking Channel. Well, this book tells the beginning of their story. It will make you laugh out loud! I will admit, I picked up for cover, bought it for the Martha references, and now will forever be a fan of the fabulous Beekman Boys!

The Black Apple Paper Doll Primer by Emily Winfield Martin of The Black Apple

This is just super fun. Did you ever wish for paper dolls for Christmas? Well, I did, so I was excited to run across this last year when we were in Chicago. I’ve been a fan of Emily’s since I was in college, and I just adore her art. This book is full of lovely characters you’ll want to get to know.

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Are there any bloggers you want to write a book?

Until next week,
Hannah B. 

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Hello English Muse readers! Karen from A Simple Cup of Tea once again. It has been a while since I posted here. Life has become incredibly busy and I’ve let it bog me down a bit.

But then I came across these pictures of Steve Martin completely and utterly going for it, shaking like there’s no tomorrow.

It made me think of this song from the Tangled soundtrack. It is one of the few songs that make me happy every. single. time. I just cannot sit still and I have to shake it and truly dance like nobody’s watching.

Have you ever tried that? Just going for it without worrying or thinking about what people think about your dance moves? It is the best feeling ever.

I hope you lovely people had a great weekend. Here’s to a fab start of the week!


Photo credit: here

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Thanksgiving Week

Nov 19, 2012

Hello, English Muse Readers!

It is the most *wonderful* time of the year, don’t you think? From November 1st to January One, I am in heaven! I love the scents of the season, the colors, the twinkle-lights, the style. I love giving gifts, I love seeing family, mailing copious amounts of cards, and I love to make ridiculous paper crafts to hang all around our house. And this year, I am also particularly thankful for all the interweb friends I’ve been meeting here on English Muse (Thanks, Tina!), on Secrets of a Belle, and in Twitterland.

Thanks to each and every one of you for being so nice and friendly! I wish you & yours the very best! I’d love to hear what Thanksgiving festivities are happening in your ‘neck of the woods.’ If you’re interested in what I’m doing (or if you need help preparing to baste your first turkey or stock your first bar), pop on over and say *hello!* 

As always & very sincerely yours,
Hannah B.

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Nov 08, 2012

In the sixth grade, I wrote a story.  A long story, by my standards: fifty handwritten pages, tucked in a binder.  It was a horrible mishmash of genres, but would be most accurately labeled as science fiction.  The protagonist was a twelve-year-old girl who was, ultimately, a projection of my twelve-year-old self.  That story has disappeared into a box somewhere, probably for the best.  I called it my novel.  I entertained dreams of writing a whole series.  In fact, I created titles and covers for the entire series, and a logo.

My novel-writing dreams disappeared into homework and life as I grew older, but I’ve always felt like I still had a story to write down, to get on paper.  I don’t think it’s a great story, really, but I want to write it anyway.  This month, I actually started.  Someone reminded me that it’s NaNoWriMo, and I realized this year is the best chance I’ll get to participate.  So I started my story. I’m 11,085 words in, and little of a plot has taken shape, but I am still having fun–and not writing something quite as ridiculous as my sixth-grade compositions.

In case you don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, and it runs from November 1-30 every year.  Participants are challenged to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days.  It’s nuts.  My story is a mess.  Most participants’ stories are, though, because the point is not to create a work of perfection–the point is to stop dreaming about being a writer and just do it.  It started last week, but you can still jump in and get started!

Are any of you Wrimos this year?  Have you been in the past?  Any advice on keeping at it?


Until next Thursday,


(Unwritten, Untitled)

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Nick & Nora

Nov 05, 2012

Most days I feel as if I’m living in a Thin Man movie… beautiful clothes, martinis, and a witty husband & loveable terrier that always keep things entertaining. Needless to say, I was thrilled to hear this little interview on NPR this weekend. Two never-before-released novellas have just been published under the title Return of the Thin Man and will, of course, be downloaded to my Kindle immediately.

If you’ve never seen the Thin Man movies, they are must see! Myrna Loy and William Powell as Nick & Nora Charles are one of my favorite on-screen couples of all time. Here are a few of my favorite clips as well as a little something to whet your palette…


Until next week, I hope you’ll stop by Secrets of a Belle and say ‘hello!’
xo* for now ~ Hannah B. 


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Nov 01, 2012

It’s tempting to fast-forward through this month.  For me, as a student, it’s full of projects, to-do lists, and a search for the box in which I stored my mittens and hats.  The weather is crisp, the leaves have mostly fallen, and life moves startlingly fast.

This time last year, I began a daily gratitude journal, but it disappeared somewhere in my list of priorities within a few weeks.  This November, I am going to try again.  Instead of fast-forwarding through the month, I want to pause a few minutes each day and remember what makes it lovely.

Today, it’s the steaming mug of coffee on my desk, the autumn light through my window, and the book I’m about to pick up.

What joys are you thankful for today?


until next Thursday,


(Unwritten, Untitled)


p.s. Is anyone participating in NaNoWriMo?  I am thinking about it…

[image by Jessica Kesterson]

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I asked some local mothers last week if the kids in our community celebrated Halloween and was over the moon when they said yes. This is not all that common in Australia. “We need to decorate the house!” I told Mr B, clasping my hands together with glee. “And stock up on chocolates and lollies!”

And then I thought about it some more. And figured most kids would all be out and about around six o’clock at night, which was RIGHT when I would be feeding my baby Madeleine, so I couldn’t come to the door if they knocked. Feeding Madeleine and then coaxing her to sleep normally takes me until just after seven o’clock. And after that, any ringing of the door bell FREAKS me out (and not in a fun, spooky, Halloween-esque way) because it might wake her up and then we’re all in for a rough night.

So I think I will hold off on the “I’m inviting you to knock” decorations until next year and, instead, get my freak on in the online world instead. Here are some of my favourite Halloween-related links:

* I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. These homemade costumes! Sigh.

* What’s Halloween without a suitably spooky soundtrack?

* Or a stylishly decorated front door?

* Bake this: tricks or treats… hidden inside these cookies

* And how about this utterly adorable monster cake!

* What do you think of this case for keeping it handmade?

* Mood lighting is important. Oh hello, black kitty

* There are no excuses now with these FREE printables

* The Etsy treasury to die for (see what I did there? Oooh, scary!)


* A Halloween-inspired dinner party. For the classy ghosts.

Happy Halloween, friends!

Yours truly,
Naomi Bulger (messages in bottles)

(ps. cute vintage Halloween photo from here)

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Hello, Musers!

This weekend on Secrets of a Belle, I’ve been doing Last Minute Costume Ideas, and I just couldn’t help myself; I had to do Martha. While the post is quite tongue in cheek, Martha really is one of my heroes. In her book “The Martha Rules,” she talks about mentors in a broad sense. (For example, Martha considers Julia Child a mentor despite the fact that the two did not meet until well into Stewart’s career.) Well, I often find myself looking to Martha for wisdom so today I thought I’d share a few of my other “mentors,” and I hope in the comments section, you’ll share a few of yours!

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“Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting. And you don’t do that by sitting around.”

Kate had the right idea. She was fiercely independent.  She was incredibly talented and a hard worker. She had impeccable style that not only went against the grain of the day’s popular fashions, it changed the day’s popular fashions. (Also, who doesn’t love watching her carefree attitude in Bringing Up Baby? It’s impossible not to love Susan.)

Recommended Visit: Dressed for Stage and Screen – an exhibition up now at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

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“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

What do you see in your dreams that should be a reality? Are past failures stopping you in your tracks? What are you allowing to be a roadblock? Don’t talk about your dreams, try them on for size.

Recommended Reading: Walt Disney: Conversations

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“Choose your corner, pick away at it carefully, intensely and to the best of your ability and that way you might change the world.”
-Charles Eames 

What are you best at? What is your gift? How are you going to change the world?

Recommended Viewing: American Masters: The Architect & the Painter

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Until Next Week,

Hannah B.

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Welcome to Monday morning. I don’t know about you, but I normally start to feel a bit lethargic this time of year. It has come to the time where inspiration is running on empty, drive is low and progress is slow. I am starting to think of the holidays and our Christmas plans. The last thing I want to be doping is work. How about you? I do however, like to kick the new year of with a spark of inspiration.

I believe that a year started right, will be a rewarding and fulfilling year. That is why I host the Artist’s way every January. Are you familiar with this amazing book by Julia Cameron? The book is a creative recovery process that runs twelve consecutive weeks. And let me tell you, by the end of it, you feel like you can conquer the world. It is great to start the year on such a high.

It is actually thanks to this course, that I find myself working as a creative professional. Before, I was a bored language educator  desperate for more to life. I did the course with the most amazing facilitator and the most incredible group of women. Through the  weeks my eyes opened to all the possibilities that lay ahead of me and it gave me the courage to pursue what I so desperately wanted.

Now, a mere two years later, I am in the fortunate position to be hosting this course for a new group of people. The course is still a few months away, but I am so excited to be involved in such a positive and inspirational journey. I have started my prep and the energy generated from this alone, has reignited my creative spark- even at this late stage in the year.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to add a new dimension to their life. I am lucky enough to be hosting three classes a week, helping new friends start their adventure; a morning, evening and online class. For the first time, I will have students from all over South-Africa and the world participate in the course. It has grown so much since AW2012- I cannot believe it.

How do you stay inspired and motivated at this late stage in the year? And what do you do to get a new year of to a good start?

Have an inspired Monday,


Artist’s way online

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Hello English Muse readers! Karen from A Simple Cup of Tea once again. This week I want to talk about tea. Just because that’s how I roll. Kinda.

It’s true.

Okay, maybe it’s not that simple but for me very often just taking my mind off of the problem at hand for a couple of minutes gives me a bit more perspective.

Have a lovely new week!

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In fourth grade, I was in love with animals.  My family had a darling but incomparably lazy cocker spaniel at home.  My parents had let me take a few riding lessons and attend a horse camp when we’d moved to Kentucky the year before.  I wanted, rather badly, to spend every day with animals.  Unfortunately, I’m allergic to many of them.

So I read books about animals–mostly horses and dogs, in retrospect.  When I had read my way through most of the fourth and fifth grade selection in the school library, my mom suggested that I read James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small.  I loved it.  Herriot’s tales of the many four-legged creatures–and their caretakers–he cared for in the English countryside made me fall that much more in love with my dear little dog.  All Creatures Great and Small was a library book, and I don’t have my own copy, but I do still page through this smaller collection of dog stories on occasion.

I’m writing today with a puppy on my lap.  Since he arrived in our home seven days ago, this little guy has made me laugh and cry in equal measure.  He’s stressed me out and warmed my heart, sometimes in the span of a few minutes.  I wish I knew where my copy of Dog Stories has disappeared to.  The delights, frustrations, and sorrows of having a pet sound like just the reading I’d enjoy right now.

Have you ever read any of James Herriot’s stories?  Do you have any favorite animal stories?


Until next Thursday,


(Unwritten, Untitled)


[image of James Herriot by Fay Godwin via the National Portrait Gallery]


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“This is the story of the barn. I wrote it for children and to amuse myself.”
~E.B. White in his reading of Charlotte’s Web, which turns 60 today

This morning started as most mornings do… with coffee & NPR… when I heard this little snippet about the 60th anniversary of this beloved children’s classic. Which got me to thinking, I really should pull out my own copy this evening and give it another read. Mine is an old copy, well-loved and given to me by my old high school librarian who, every once in a while, would let my friend and I take some of the most ‘loved’ books off the shelves to make room for shiny, new copies. Given the popularity of Charlotte’s Web, I have to wonder how many copies our library has gone through over the past 60 years. All that to say, if you haven’t read any E.B White in a while, perhaps this is the week.

Also, does anyone out there use goodreads? It’s a social site for readers I came across recently. I would love to find you!

Here’s the link to my goodreads profile page.

I hope you have an absolutely *lovely* week, English Musers! Until next Monday, you can find me at Secrets of a Belle.

xo* ~Hannah B.

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