Beauty in the Ordinary

This is not about being brilliant, or extraordinary, it's not about wanting to be famous, or making headlines, or trying to impress...this about sharing a 'gift' each day with the lift the spirit of people when they read this blog, to show them the beauty in the ordinary.
"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." Raold Dahl

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

J.  V... go to and look at the Baked Portobello Mushrooms with Walnut Pesto.  This would be a fabulous (and simple) side dish for your Easter lunch! Even the little ones might like it. Yum!

J.  This is for you Lili...these are the photos that Victoria found for me which inspired the look that we went for in the new townhouse.  The black and white tile was a challenge in Canada.  I did find a supplier in California, but I don't want to tell you what that would have cost!  Our floor people did manage to find one supplier here who had a reasonable facsimile.  Not brilliant white and sharp black that I would have liked, but by going with the iron grey doors (instead of deep black) it has offset the floor nicely.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Thanks for all the wonderful posts on the blog J.
What with settling into the new home and the new job...I'm sooooo tired...just give me one more sleep and I'll be back with all the news!
I promise!

Monday, March 29, 2010

ellen-honigstock-hall.jpg  J.  Go to and have a look at this artfully-crafted reno of a brownstone in Greenwich Village.ellen-honigstock-living-room-2.jpg

And look at this pretty kitchen!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

J.  Once again the New York Times brings mindfulness to my Sunday morning.  In the magazine there is a beautifully written piece entitled Lives:  Earning Her Food, by Betty Fussell...Granny gets her gun and goes hunting for the first time.
Simply put, this moving piece is about this 82 year-old woman hunting and killing a white-tailed deer. After days of fruitless stalking, hungry, wet, tired and cold she shoots this animal with "A double-lung shot".  Sam, her son hollers "She didn't know what hit her."
Mother and son then proceed to dress the animal in the field, "the first rule in hunting" so the birds and animals "whose territory we've invaded" can eat what they don't take.
They then take the animal to a processing company for it to be turned into steaks, sausage and jerky with the hide going to a tanner to become a blanket for Fussell's bed.
For me the most touching part is the conclusion, where she and her son sit down to dinner to eat the animal's heart:  "...Most recipes say to slice and fry with garlic and onion and add barbecue sauce.  I just use salt and pepper in order to taste the grilled flesh pure.  Men use fire; other animals don't.  But I have never felt the bonds of creaturehood so intensely.  I repeat the blessing my grandfather said before each meal, 'Bless this food to our use and us to thy service. With gratitude, we eat."
Would that we should all respect our food this sincerely.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

J.  Two things I believe in.
J.  I wanted to be the first to leave flowers at your door...this first day of actually LIVING in your new home V.  Blessings on your house.

Friday, March 26, 2010

J.  Now I have stove envy...

This photo came from Haute Design...Sarah Klassen's blog.  Visit and look at the other amazing photos she has posted of this beautiful house.

J.  Sometimes it pays to walk with your head down....but then, when you look up...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

So here is one of my favourite authors and the book that brought him to me.
'After Rain' by William Trevor.

What is it about the Irish? Is it just the gift of being Irish that enables Trevor to write the way he does?
This collection of short stories fell into my heart the way looking at an Irish landscape does...his words falling softy into me as gently as drops of Irish rain on a green pasture, yet the effects are heart wrenching. He knows how to write about the depths of a human heart.
There is beauty in suffering, suffering has meaning, and this is what I believe Trevor knows and writes about.

William Trevor on writing...
"To me writing is entirely mysterious. If I didn't believe it was a mystery, the whole thing wouldn't be worthwhile.
I don't know not just how something is going to end, but what the next couple of lines are going to be".

V. Just picked up 'The Mistress of Nothing' by Kate Pullinger.
This is our bookclub's choice for April.
Winner of the Governor General's Literary Award.
Anthony Sattin writes - 'The Mistress of Nothing serves up spicy passion and romance and biting social comment in one delicious dish. Kate Pullinger's fascinating novel brings
1860s Cairo and Luxor to life, not as an Orientalist fantasy, but as they might actually
have been'
Would I pick this book? Probably not. But that is the beauty of book clubs...they can bring you pleasant surprises!
We shall see!

J...So V.  What are you reading at the moment?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

J.  Because I have taken the conversation to books...let me introduce one of my favourite authors...Marlena di Blasi.  If you love a good (true) love story, read A Thousand Days in Venice.  The story of a lady 'of a certain age' who is a chef, food writer, bon vivant, working in Venice and is seen by a Venetian man who falls madly, utterly, completely in love with her.  The book is their love story, and the practical issues of an American setting up home in Venice.  After you eat this book up, literally, because of all the amazing food-writing (with recipies), follow the couple in A Thousand Days in Tuscany and then to The Lady in the Palazzo.  Her last book, That Summer in Sicily, does not disappoint and I hear a whisper that a new book...a novel...Amandine is due for release in May.  This genre is for serious foodie-romantics.
While I wait for Amandine, I am about to crack open Michael Pollen's The Botany of Desire.  I became an instant fan of this man after he opened my eyes WIDE with The Omnivore's Dilemma.  I'll let you know about this one.
J.  So Eric Weiner concludes at the end of his book The Geography of Bliss, that the happiest places in the world are so because of lots of different reasons.  People aren't happier when they have money, or stuff or sunshine, but they are always happier when they have good relationships.
I am really lucky...I have family, friends and one fantastic sister.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

V. Things I love about my sister...

...she always has shared whatever she has.

She always wants the best for me,
even the strawberry cremes.

She makes me laugh.
She makes me cry.
Sometimes at the same time.

She's the only person left
who was with me the day I was born.

I love her stories.

I love the way she can take an ordinary day
and make it special!

I love that she keeps us all together.
and that she remembers things I've forgotten.
the apples and pears,
and the old wooden hill.

That we can be so far apart and never closer.
And I know that everyday
she carries me in her heart wherever I go.

She is a sister who is as
delicious as strawberry cremes.

J.  On my last day in Toronto, a Sunday, I walked past Rosedale subway and an elderly gentleman was picking up the garbage thrown in the flower beds there.  I wished him good morning and we started chatting.  I commended him for his civic conscience and asked him "But, why you?".  He looked at me, only slightly askance, and replied "My dear girl (yes he called me girl)...if not me, then who?"  Now that's style.  Score another one for Seniors.

Monday, March 22, 2010

style is ageless

V. I love your 'lady in the elevator' story J. ...
...I worked hard over the weekend at my new place, cleaning the old wooden floors, painting, mowing the grass, sorting and reorganizing cupboards, so I'm taking the luxury of a lazy Monday with my morning tea and catching up on reading the weekend Globe and Mail...they had this wonderful article on the style of the elderly, (which reminds me of how synchronicity is always working in our lives, you're writing about the elderly while I'm reading about them)....anyway, the article reads....that - 'These ladies and gents can teach us a thing or two.....Cohen believes the renewed respect for the elderly style among his age cohort is a result of boredom with youth-oriented culture. Fashionable 20-year olds, he says, are a dime a dozen, while individuals whose style has persevered for half a century truly demands respect."

J. A special Toronto moment.  Friday, when Rudy and I arrived back at the flat after walking all morning, there was a very elegantly-dressed elderly lady waiting for the lift.  She asked us which floor we were going to and we said 5.  She said, please go ahead...I'm going to 8 and I just can't stop.  We said okay, we'll ride up to 8 with you and then back down to 5.  When we all piled into the lift, she leant against the wall, knocking her very chic hat slightly askew and as she pulled off her fine white gloves said she had been out to lunch. She added, she had been required to talk and listen non-stop to a very dear friend for over an hour!   I'm 88, she said, and I'm dead on my pins and all I can think about right now is going to bed!  Rudy and I could not stop laughing.
It's such a shame that old people get a bad rap...they can be utterly fabulous!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A small wildflower that has met the challenge of rocks and stones in its path emerges into the light of the day. Surrounded by an aura of bright golden light it exposes the majesty of its tiny self. Unashamed, it is equal to the brightest sun.

When we are faced with a very difficult situation we we have a choice: we can either be resentful, and try to find somebody or something to blame for the hardships, or we can face the challenge and grow. The flower shows us the way, as its passion for life leads it out of the darkness and into the light.
There is no point fighting against the challenges of life, or trying to avoid or deny them.
They are there, and if the seed is to become the flower we must go through them.
Be courageous enough to grow into the flower you are meant to be."
- Osho -

V. I love the people who are the 'little flowers' in my life. They are family, my friends, my teachers, and on the days when I'm trying so hard to get through the 'cracks' I've learnt from them to stop pushing so just let go and trust that I am always surrounded by their 'light'... which allows me to feel safe to be who I am, to grow through adversity, to know that I am never truly alone and that I am always loved. I am not privileged...I am blessed.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.Marianne Williamson

J. This is at the heart of what we are discussing here. My favourite part of the quote is "...And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same..."
Through understanding how utterly precious 'I' am, we simultaneously acknowledge the preciousness of each other.  This, of course then leads to stepping up, and behaving accordingly.
But, I believe, this has to begin with treating ourselves well.  I'm not talking about indulgences (although the eggs bennie this morning were delicious), but a sincere belief in self worth.  
Again, as Williamson says "...Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you NOT to be?..."  And then, of course, the same must apply for everyone else.
Again, putting it in the real world, people do bad, rotten things...but when we separate the person from the action, then we can still respect the marvelous.

J..."I believe this 'choice' is the one thing we all have in common..."

V. Choice...this is always our starting point, how we choose to think, what we choose to do.
Living in North America is a gift. It is a place where we have the 'privilege' of choice.
You hear so many people complain about 'having no choice', when in fact the opposite is true. We make certain choices, and in order to keep what we have chosen we then can fall into a pattern of thinking we have no choices. Every day is a new day. You get to start again every day.The most precious part of every new day is the choice we have to change about how we think about ourselves. And then its flows to how J. so beautifully states "This is how I will (choose) feel about my life (myself) today".
We can be so very hard on ourselves, and when this happens patterns in our daily living begin to develop, we become critical of ourselves, then critical of our lives, then critical of our work, our families so on and so on.
We begin to compare and judge, which leads to making choices that are not congruent with who we truly are, our authentic self gets pushed deep down inside us where we cannot hear it.

So my sister has been thinking about 'choices' this weekend while I have been thinking about 'changes', there is a connection here.
I have been through so many changes in my life, some good, some not so good and what I have come to believe is this...through every change that we experience the gift that lies within each and every one of them is there for us to receive...and the only way to receive the gift is by feeling the depth of the experience.
This depth is the 'beauty' in the ordinary. So when, as J. says, we are on our knees scrubbing that floor, fill the bucket of water with slices of oranges, smell the uplifting sweet aroma of this fruit and hum the tune that sings..."As I clean this floor I wash away everything that is preventing me from living a life of beauty and abundance."
and know that you are not alone...I'm
right there with you!.

J.  When Eggs Benedict are added to the coffee and newspapers that form my usual perfect weekend morning, that morning elevates from perfect to sublime.  Not something I indulge in often (as it is such an indulgence), but this is my favourite meal.  As any chef will tell you, cooking an egg to perfection is measured in nano-seconds.  A hair underdone and the result is viscous and stomach-turning...a hair overdone and you might just as well play tennis with the thing, but a perfectly cooked egg will be silky and creamy at the same time. Then, when added to the thinnest slice of Canadian bacon and just a dash of the richest Hollandaise sauce, sitting atop a puffy cloud of  toasted english muffin, you have a breakfast to please the gods!  I am privileged to be able to enjoy this very meal with my family on the last morning of our stay in Toronto at our eldest daughter's home.  Back to our little berg tonight!

Privilege...I've been thinking a lot about a conversation I had with a friend recently who, at first, believed this blog was about privilege.  That my ability to 'choose' every day what my life is about, is something only few people get to do.  Respectfully, I beg to differ.  I believe this 'choice' is the one thing we all have in common.  I am in no way, belittling those who exist in dire circumstances, whose very life hangs in the balance each day, but even that person when they open their eyes each morning has the exact same moment as everyone else when they can say to themselves "This is how I will feel about my life today". This, in it's most pure form, is what my sister and I are writing about.
All the fluff of dresses and dishes etc, is simply an interpretation of looking at the best there is in everything and everyone.
Trust me, I go through the dirty and ugly as well...but why focus on it?  Brutally put, clean up the vomit, throw the soaked bed sheets in the wash, get down on your hands and knees and scrub that floor, but while you are doing all of that, give yourself permission to hum that pretty tune.  
So am I privileged? bet, in lots of different ways, but mostly I believe, because I have been given this opportunity called life.

Friday, March 19, 2010

For those of you who might not know...Toronto is an incredible, amazing City!  Rudy and I are up to town for an extended weekend, staying in a flat owned and loaned by a dear friend.  In just one day, we have toured downtown, dined in a wonderful restaurant called Watusi and partied with the in-crowd at the restaurant, Nyood, where our most talented son-in-law is Chef de Cuisine.  An action-packed, fun-filled day 1 of our stay here!  New York is, without question, a fabulous place...but please, check out TO!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

J.  This one's for you Mum...Happy St. Patrick's Day, hope you are enjoying a Guinness...where ever you are...

Good morning J.

...and Happy St. Patrick's Day to you I'm thinking about our beloved Johnny O'Donahue this morning and the of the time I spent with him at one of his three day workshops.
In his gentle and soft spoken voice he looked at us and said....

"Just stop all this spiritual talk all the time, just lighten up, go out and dance, and laugh and have some fun for goodness sake, and have a pint for me while you're at it!"

"There's a great spring in you
all bud and blossom
and March laughter
I've always loved...

...I look around and see
the last days of winter
broken away
for all those
listening or watching,
all come to life now
with the first pale sun on their face
for many a month,
remembering how to laugh"

- from 'Looking out from Clare'
J. O'Donahue

J.  Morning Sis...Happy St. Patrick's about something beautiful from John O'Donahue today?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

J.  I'm looking for something to wear to my neice's wedding this Spring.  I adore this beautiful dress by Donna Karan, and there's a definitely possibility I could find it.  Does anyone know where I can buy these arms, legs and chest to wear with it?!

V. First week of moving is over and still there is lots to do. Hang paintings, rearrange everything that I tossed into cupboards just to speed up the unpacking. All of the mundane tasks will be completed, it's what we do when we move. Yet, if this place this new home is to support all my hopes and dreams and love for the future then the two of us need to really connect. You would think this is something that is automatically done, especially since I told you my heart was already there waiting for me. But that's not enough to hold my heart there.

We all need support from our loved ones and friends but we also need our homes to support us. We need to feel safe in them so that we can expand and take risks and stretch ourselves out into the world.
So when the last box is emptied and the last towel folded and put away, I will walk from room to room, adding those personal touches that make a home sparkle.
Then I will go to my front door with flowers in hand and introduce myself.

Friday, March 12, 2010

J.  Here is my idea of Saturday Morning Heaven

and if it's raining......even better!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

J.  One of my daughters, yesterday, told me she thought this blog was a 'little all over the place' and lacked a constant theme.  So perhaps it's time to re-state the case.  
The objective here is to try to point out the obvious without being redundant.  As my very wise sister tells me "'s only when we slow down and take time to see the moments in life that are so precious...these can be so easily missed in all the chaos."
We are attempting here, in our very small way, to show that an ordinary life is one brimming with beauty.  By practicing the discipline of going through each day with focus...of training ourselves to look at everything with an eye for it's beauty, humour, pleasure, permitting the mundane to touch our hearts...we enable joy throughout each day.  As human beings, I believe, that we were meant to be happy, but happiness is not something that happens to you. We each are responsible for our own happiness.  
So much of what we see and hear is about attempting to be the 'most special, most glamorous, most successful'.  What does it all really mean?  The only person we need in our day to measure our successes is ourselves.  We need, therefore, to be kind to ourselves, and to develop the habit of seeing things in a positive light.  This is not a naive view...I am more than aware of the pain and sorrow and hardship in life...but there is beauty in all that too...if we choose to see it.  
As I explained to a friend recently...cup half empty or cup half full?  Mine's half full...but wait, there's's not a cup but a beautiful, hand-cut crystal glass, and it's half-full of the most perfect, delicious champagne....Why? because that's what I choose.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"The Beautiful stirs passion and urgency in us and
calls us forth from aloneness into the
warmth and wonder of an eternal embrace"
- John O'Donahue

This beautiful dress is from Alexander McQueen's final collection...we will miss him, but his beauty will remain forever in our hearts.

J.  Back in NOTL and the robins came out to greet me this morning.  What a nice welcome home.  Can spring be very far away?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

J.  New York was talking to me yesterday...I'm listening.

Monday, March 8, 2010

V. Day 2 of moving.'s been a day of boxes and packing paper and saying hello to all my things that have been packed for over a year. Reuniting with little treasures and books that I have loved, then finding the perfect spot for them. Being surprised when my son turns up to tend to the garden, watching him work away, pruning and raking...he's become quite the gardener...and it's so good to see his hands touch the earth and connect with nature...and more wonderful as we stand together looking at the transformation...nothing is said...we just stand there nodding our heads and smiling, inhaling the freshly cut grass and deep rich scent of the newly turned soil. Today was a very good day...for both of us.
Check out my new entrance -a zebra painted floor runner!
and, no - I didn't do this!
But I am thinking about painting all the hardwood floors white!

So yesterday was 'Moving Day' for me, all of my belongings picked up and relocated once again. My sister and I seem to be the wandering gypsies of the family, and both of us could write many books about our separate moving experiences.
We wouldn't bore you with the parts about the 'where and how' of moving, it would be more about how our moves are felt by our hearts.
I believe my heart is always in future beckoning me to join it, so when I make choices from my heart centre there is nothing to fear.
Yesterday as I stepped into my new home I knew my heart was already there waiting for me to join it.
What a welcome!

J.  And...there are always New York moments.   Rockefeller Centre...Monday lunchtime...this girl on the ice.  Why?  Who knows...who cares!  It's New York!
J.  A very different New York!  For me anyway.  We are staying on the upper West Side and today Rudy and I walked from about 57th to 74th along the edge of the Hudson River.  This area has been reclaimed and restored into a walking/cycling/dog-playing boardwalk.  With areas to sit, sunbathe (I'm not kidding), play, name it.  The weather was outstanding, by the way.  I love the way you can discover and discover and discover this City.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

An Exciting Weekend

An exciting weekend for us both...J. is off to NY city.....'s moving day!!!
See you Monday!

J.  Off to NY City in the morning for a couple of days.  Over to you V.

...hello J...

A little bird has told me you've been busy...I need to catch up!...V.

J.  My younger daughter, Jessica, is in the wedding party for her cousin this Spring.  The bridesmaids are wearing the same cocktail-length dresses, but can wear which ever silver shoe they choose.  I found these! for Jess...real Cinderella shoes!  Having daughters can be such fun.  Pity her shoe size is a wee-5, or these would definitely be up for grabs by both me and Linds!
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