Use the Good, Throw Out the Bad Stuff

A Dinner Table at Night. John Singer Sargent, 1884. People using their good stuff.

This morning I was listening to an interview with The Daily Connoisseur in which she encouraged us all to use our best things… every day. As I took in her words, I looked down at the t-shirt I was wearing (stain on the front, unraveling thread at the bottom) and came to the conclusion that I need a lot of work in this area. I have some nice things, most of which I don’t use, and even worse… I have a lot of awful things that I use constantly.

For example, I have a glass emblazoned with the logo of my former employer on it. I don’t especially feel good when I see that logo. But I not only keep the glass, my husband and I drink out of it all the time! So today I got up from my chair, took the glass down from the cupboard and chucked it in the garbage. I know, I should have given it away or recycled it somehow… but, you know, it felt good to chuck it. I then reached to the tippy top shelf in the cupboard and brought down a dusty Waterford crystal wine goblet (wedding gift, almost never used). I cleaned the glass, poured in some filtered water and used it to wash down my morning vitamins.

I have the crystal goblet on the desk next to me as I type this… sparkling like diamonds amidst a bunch of scrawled upon yellow sticky notes and cap-less ballpoint pens. Ahhh, the good life.

Reading for Pleasure – Part Two

Ivan Kramskoi. Whilst Reading: A Portrait of Sofia Kramskoya, the Painter’s Wife. 1866

Personal information alert! A couple of weeks ago I had my Mirena IUD removed because I started feeling depressed and not myself at all. The good news is I started feeling better, like, the day after having it removed and now I can see how it affected me in other ways too. ANYWAY… I’d been reading a bunch of books about people overcoming obstacles in their lives (MS, memory-loss, etc..) and even though those books were meant to inspire, I think they were a reflection of the sadness I was feeling at the time.

Now all I want to read is romance novels and chick lit (the frothy, fun, Sophie Kinsella kind). This is not new for me. You may remember my original Reading for Pleasure post.

So I’m wondering if my level of happiness directly affects my reading choices. Does a light mood cause me to choose a light novel? Or if I suddenly took up daytime drinking, would I be trolling through the works of Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams at the local library? And conversely, if I notice that my reading choices have moved away from the Regency-era mostly mute hero fantasy to something darker, like Iain Banks, should I take note of it as a sign that my mood is on a downward trajectory?

Some things to ponder on this lovely Bastille Day.

Start Where You Are…

Sac Historic House Profile: Castle Drogo

castle drogo

Recently I spent a lot of hours on, feverishly attacking the search function as I traced my family’s roots to England, Scotland and Ireland. I had heard great stories of our ancestors passed down through the generations “an Earl, or if not an Earl then definitely a peer…” or “he was a famous boxer, she was a well-known opera singer…” I guess we all want there to be some fabulous hero or heroine in our blood line. A forefather or mother we can call upon when days get a little bit hard. If great great grandmother could sail from Ireland to New York alone at 21 years-old, I can certainly get through waiting in line at the DMV.

So the timing was perfect when my friend at the UK National Trust told me about the last castle in England. Actually, it was the last castle built in England… by a man, who like me, was very interested in his ancestry.

When 19th-century import/export magnate Julius Drewe began researching his familial lines, he discovered a link to a Norman baron from the Crusades named Drogo – also known as Drewe – de Teine. So Julius had the fancy ancestor but was missing what every nobleman needs… an imposing castle.

Around 1910, Julius had amassed enough of a fortune to hire famed architect Edwin Lutyens. His instructions to Lutyens were to create a structure that would dominate its landscape and embody the key elements of a fortress that would have protected its original inhabitants from marauding invaders. Not a pastiche, he insisted, but an authentic and solid fortification. However, he wanted the inside to be the ultimate in modern living and convenience, a warm and welcoming home, with all the latest technology and comforts.

So Lutyens built an amazing castle, complete with a working portcullis, arrow slits and a flat, castellated roof. Very realistic, like something out of Robin Hood!

But Castle Drogo’s medieval-style flat roof quickly turned into a bit of a nightmare. Lutyens had attempted to seal the roof using asphalt, a relatively new and untested material for the time, but it was prone to cracks and before the building was even finished, it had begun to leak.

Drewe had also demanded that there were no modern windowsills or guttering. As a result the walls and windows also allowed water to penetrate the castle. Over the years, attempts to solve the leaking problems proved unsuccessful, but now, modern materials are available which can provide a permanent, impermeable solution.

If you are interested in helping the National Trust with their campaign to preserve the “last castle of England” or for more info, please visit

Now, on to the photos! (all ©NTPL)

Castle Drogo exterior

castle drogo

castle drogo

castle drogo

Making Soup In Lieu of Working

Let’s face it… I have a lot of stuff I could be doing (notice I didn’t say should) but I decided to take a few hours off to make soup and watch Jamie At Home episodes on the Cooking Channel. Some would say this was not a wise choice… especially as freelance work has been a bit slow… but I’m not so sure.

For me, it’s important to realize when my high energy and low energy times are hitting and adjust my work day accordingly. I try to take care of all paid work in the morning when I’m most alert and use the afternoon to do more administrative items, like billing clients or prospecting. Or blogging/tweeting/FBing. Or… like today (partly because it’s Friday and no one is doing much work) making a delish bean and spinach soup, eating it with brie topped toast and catching up on some DVR’d tv.

Later I plan to have a cup of tea and a couple squares of Guittard chocolate. It may defy the traditional work ethic but I feel loved and happy – and isn’t that what we’re all working for anyway?

L’Amour Fou

I’m very much looking forward to seeing this film – as you can see from the trailer, YSL lived in an amazing house!

Royal Tea

My High Tea Celebration of Royal Wedding

With an Englishman for a husband, I really couldn’t pass up a chance to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. I served tea with sandwiches and cupcakes. My favorite part of the wedding celebration (besides the two kisses) was when Wills and Kate drove off in that gorgeous blue Aston Martin. So stylish and romantic!

The Time of the Lilacs

The Time of the Lilacs. Sophie Anderson (1823 – 1903).

Okay so not really lilac season yet, but I just saw Dita von Teese’s tweet about loving lilacs and I just had to concur!

Spring Zing

I recently finished a house history for a lovely crafstman style bungalow in the Alhambra Triangle. Never heard of the Alhambra Triangle? Neither had I, truth be told. It’s a small area east of 30th Street around S and T streets. Think the Natural Foods Co-op area.

Otherwise, it’s been a lot of dodging raindrops and rescheduling outdoor photoshoots. We also managed to unleash our inner 16 year-olds at the OMD concert in Oakland which was supremely fantastic.

Since the weather was pretty darn warm yesterday and the day before, my husband and I are feeling the talons of summer heat stretching towards us. We like it around 70 degrees and we are definitely in the minority in Sacramento! So conversations about moving to another city have started up again… in order of distance: Monterey, Seattle, London… we’ll see if anything comes of it.

Hope you all are enjoying the start of spring and are taking advantage of “spring cleaning” time to throw out all the things in your life that are weighing you down.

Google Art Project

Adolph Menzel, The Balcony Room, 1845.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately on Google Art Project. The project uses Google street map technology to provide site visitors with a 360 degree view of 17 art museum interiors. So you can not only tour from room to room, but you can also zoom in on each painting or sculpture.

Or, like me, you can simply scroll through high res images of the artwork and find new pieces of beauty to help spur your creativity (and daydreams about European travel!).

Many of the paintings I’ve been admiring also have information provided by the museum in the form of audio commentary or provenance. Fascinating stuff!