Yearly Archives: 2010

A YEAR OF GRATEFULNESS

One day a small and unassuming envelope arrived at the office addressed to me. Inside was a card with the words “a year of gratefulness” beautifully embossed into white card stock.

On the back, a small typewritten note was affixed:

“this is my year of gratefulness. I am writing two letters a month, one to someone I have met & the other to someone I have not met, telling them I am grateful for their talent, friendship and most simply for being who they are. And you are one of those people. thank you.”

Inside was a hand-written note outlining the reasons I was receiving this card of gratitude.

I have been carrying the note around now for awhile in my journal and have re-read it often. What a lovely idea: Spend a little time in the next year of my life letting people I know and love (and don’t know and love) understand that I am deeply grateful.

Thank you to Wendy (who I don’t know) for reaching out and to all of you who have come here to share our lives and work at Alabama Chanin this last year (and decade).

I am grateful.

(And looking forward to 2011 – Happy New Year!)

*Photo above of my journal for next year with laser-cut Thank You card from ThoughtBarn glued to the cover.  Photo below of Wendy’s note.

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ERICA JONG – MOTHER MADNESS

I ran across this article by Erica Jong on the madness of modern motherhood through another favorite author: Elizabeth Wurtzel.

The article made me sit back in my chair and I have been thinking of it randomly for weeks.  Perhaps because I am raising two children across two very different decades, or perhaps because I am a working, single mother who is responsible (most of the time) for daily life or perhaps just because there is a small feminist (Charlotte Perkins Gilman are you listening?) ember somewhere inside of me,  I find relief in Jong’s words.

(Admittedly, I have read every book that Jong ever wrote and have always adored her humor.  Fanny, one of my favorite Jong books, was written in response to John Cleland’s Fanny Hill.)

Although I made the conscious decision this last year to take more time for family life, I am still the breadwinner AND the bread baker.  And I stand by my decision and will tell anyone who asks that it was the best decision I ever made.

When my son was young, 29 years ago, I didn’t have that option (which is a luxury).  Yet, I have shed many a tear and endured many moments of guilt and self-loathing in thinking about decisions I made. The last line of Jong’s article feels like an absolution to me:  “Do the best you can. There are no rules.”

Read the Wall Street Journal article and tell me what you think:  Mother Madness

And don’t miss the additional piece by Molly Jong-Fast:  Growing Up With Ma Jong

*Raphael. The Niccolini-Cowper Madonna. 1500. Oil on wood. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

I AM LOVE

Last night, I finally saw Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love.  The cinematography of Yorick Le Sau  is extraordinary. And Tilda Swinton is stunning…

Manohla Dargis wrote an interesting review for the New York Times.  I love this last paragraph:

“The chase ends in a sylvan perch, where Antonio and Emma make love amid a cacophony of bird calls and a flurry of close-ups of luscious flowers being ravaged by insects. It’s a sublimely beautiful interlude and a touch ridiculous, bringing to mind the blooms of a portentous rose bush in D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers that “expanded in an ecstasy,” a prelude to later forest rutting. Here, the flora and fauna constitute an alternative reality far from the villa that has become Emma’s sarcophagus and which will at last inspire at least one bird to take flight. As the working-class seducer, Antonio serves a Lawrentian stud function, though truth be told, he’s the kind of sensitive beefcake (he cooks and fulfills her sexually) familiar to readers of women’s romantic fiction, who, like Emma, enjoy their afternoons wet and wasted.”

But then, I have never been afraid of Lawrence.

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A WHOLE NEW MIND

I am a few years late since the book was published in 2006.  In my defense, there are a pile of books that move from bedside to coffee table to the office and back again on a regular basis.  Do you know that feeling?

While I am an avid reader, there is a little problem of purchasing more books than can be read at any given moment, a four year old, and a business to run.  Stories for another day…

Over the (cold and snowy) holidays, I explored Daniel Pink’s book –  A Whole New Mind – and found it fascinating.  The core of the book provides really good – and clearly organized – concepts that culminate in exercises for stretching the mind – right and left-brain alike.   (Take the EQ SQ test to understand how your mind processes information.)  And while some of the information presented may seem familiar from observing the changing world this last decade, the way the information is organized feels fresh and inspiring.

In Pink’s opinion, design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning are the basis for life and work in what he calls our transformation from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age.  What comes across most clearly is that we approach a time of balance between two (seemingly disparate) sides of the brain that have been divided in our recent history.

If Pink’s vision proves true, a symphony will be heard and shared:

“It is an age animated by a different form of thinking and a new approach to life – one that prizes aptitudes that I call “high concept” and “high touch.” High concept involves the capacity to detect patterns and opportunities, to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new.  High touch involves the ability to empathize with others, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one’s self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning.”

My horoscope recently:  “What is your gift to the world?” Perhaps I will spend the next decade trying to figure that one out…

How do you “stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning” in your life?

TO DO

Outline and (most) first drafts for book number three submitted and approved – check.

(Thank you Melanie – celebrate tonight!)

Plan workshops for 2011 – check.

(Spots are filling up fast – reserve one today and join us.)

Holiday gifts made and wrapped – check.

(Order today using our code HAPPYHOLIDAYS20 for a 20% discount and we will ship it wrapped. Easy.)

Sign out early, pick Maggie up from school, make gumbo, read, build a fire, watch a movie, bake cookies, nap, cocktail with friends, write a letter, holiday video, family pictures, sit still, sigh…

*Photo from Lisa “Are You Kidding Me” Eisner of the E.B White Chair & Gumbo:

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HÔTEL DE CRILLION

My four-year-old daughter Maggie this morning while looking at the laundry hamper:  “Mama, you REALLY need to do the laundry. I’m just saying…”

Some days you just need to be running down the halls of the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris.  I’m just saying…

*Photo from my friends @  Le Deux Garcons – taken sometime last decade. xo

CAST IRON COOKING

This is what I want for the holidays: the largest cast iron skillet that can be had for oven-roasting vegetables.

I am no recent convert to the joys of cast iron cooking as the pans pictured above have traveled the world with me for 30+ years. However, I was reminded of the detriments of aluminum while reading Clean last week and want an alternative to parchment paper and the large “roasting” pans in my kitchen cabinets.

In terms of sustainability, reasonably priced cast iron lasts forever and, with a bit of care, provides a stick-free surface for life. Use kosher salt and water to clean and your “seasoned” pan will thank you.

When I was pregnant with Zach, my doctor was shocked that my iron levels kept getting better and better as I had a tendency towards anemia… of course the answer was cast iron cooking.

I am planning a family outing to the Lodge Factory in South Pittsburg, Tennessee and have been dreaming of designing my own pans.  Imagine “Alabama Chanin for Lodge”… mmmm.

Any great recipes for cast iron that I need to try over the holidays? Please comment! Continue reading

CANNING AS GIVING

And in speaking of happiness…

Nothing like giving – and receiving, hint, hint – the bounty of summer.

Canning-Jar Covers – pictured here – from page 137 of Alabama Studio Style.  Made with scraps of our 100% organic cotton jersey, Small Medallion stencil pull-out from Alabama Studio Style and an extra-fine permanent marker.

Prepare to be loved.

Have you ever baked in canning-jars? Angie Mosier did this when we were in New York City last year and I have been wanting to try it… seems like a perfect way to wrap up some holiday joy for friends.

Got recipes for me to try out with Maggie on these cold and icy days?