Coco Chanel loved camellias. And, so do I. She favored them in white and turned them into a recognizable branding phenomenon. The white bloom is both simple and elegant and fit her artistic aesthetic perfectly. Certainly, Coco was the ultimate arbiter of good taste, but a girl loves what a girl loves. I must humbly state my case for the pink camellia: everything is pretty in pink!
The camellia plant is an evergreen. It typically flowers late winter into early spring. So, as we approach the end of the season, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite gifts from the garden.
My life is a very good one. My gardener lives with me! Meet the man who brings me flowers. Up to this point, he’s only agreed to have his hand featured on my site.
Tell me, dear reader, do you love the camellia? White or pink?
The world is a rose; smell it and pass it to your friends.
– Persian proverb
If you have a garden, you always have a gift to give. I’m very fortunate. I enjoy the garden; my husband toils in the garden. I believe it is a fair distribution of labor in light of my domestic duties, which have compounded during these times.
I have a serious Christmas problem! I shouldn’t tell you but there are 20 boxes labelled “Christmas Decor” in my basement. My husband counted them as they were being moved into our new home and now taunts me with the number.
But, why not? Christmas brings out the joyful child in me. I adore shopping, wrapping, decorating and entertaining. My daughter’s birthday falls on the 20th, so it’s a big month in our home!
I woke up with the “moving blues” today. I was not alone. My husband passed me in the kitchen transferring items from one spot to another and then back again and asked how I was doing. I think he knew.
“Moving is a drag!” I responded. “And, you?”
“I was thinking the same thing. Let’s go out!”
I’ve got to say banana blackberry pancakes can do a lot to improve one’s disposition! They fueled us throughout the day until we needed another diversion. It wasn’t hard to find one; we simply stepped out our front door and walked the neighborhood.
We live in an old part of the city that’s known for decking the halls big time! People walk our block, drive our block and rent carriages to trot down our block to see the lights. We’ve managed to decorate a bit and we’re gathering ideas to step up our game next year.
When we returned home with cold noses and ears, I was happy to see that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was just showing on t.v. My husband kindly agreed to indulge me as I sang along to my favorite childhood Christmas show.
Moving is still a drag and I still haven’t found the perfect organizational system for my new pantry. But, I’m reminded of the simple truth: All work and no play make Michele a very dull girl! Here’s to pancakes, lights, fantasy and the companionship of a lovely man!
What are you doing to balance your life during this busy season, dear reader?
What do you see when you look at this piece from the talented blogger at as much cake as you want? Are you happy for the couple on the street and sad for the one at the table? It’s all about perspective.
As a young woman, I would have looked at that man and woman sitting a million miles apart at the same table and thought: no way, never going to happen to me. I probably would have concluded that if it got that bad, I’d leave.
But, I’m not young any longer. I’ve been married for thirty-four years and I think the drawing perfectly illustrates the reality of long-term marriage. In my mind’s eye, the two couples could very well be one in the same captured at different moments in time.
The man and woman at the table may be poised to forgive one another. Maybe something quite unexpected will happen that will clarify both the beauty and fragility of life. Perhaps they will be drawn closer together in grief or joy. Or maybe the idea of a life without the other will suddenly become too difficult to imagine. Of course, it’s possible they’ll be separated soon, but it’s just as likely that the lovebirds on the street won’t stay together.
It’s hard to know about these two couples, but I do know that my husband and I have looked like both of them through the years. We’ve been close and we’ve been distant. We’ve appreciated each other and we’ve taken each other for granted. We’ve made mistakes and we’ve learned a few things:
It’s the tough times that can serve to really cement the union.
If you choose wisely in the first place (as I did), marriage is worth the effort.
Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful and marriage is never perfect.
It’s been thirty-four years since we said “I do” under a massive oak tree in my in-laws backyard in Fresno, California. On the Monday and Tuesday before the ceremony, high temperature records were set that still hold today… 107°. I knew we were off to a good start when Mother Nature blessed us with a pleasant 90° for our big day.
In the years since then we’ve shared domestic bliss and emotional turmoil. We’ve lost grandparents, parents and a sibling; created an amazing daughter; owned six dogs and lost three; purchased four homes and sold three and endured one high-powered high-tech career. Who knows how many bookstores we’ve visited or San Francisco Giants games we’ve watched?
We’ve nearly called it quits, too. But, it seems, our decision to marry at twenty-four years young wasn’t as crazy as it seemed to our parents.
The poet e.e. cummings captured what I feel for my husband and put the words on paper:
this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
We’ve outlasted the oak tree and I’m hoping we’ve got another thirty-four years together.
P.S. As there is never any photo-shopping on my site, I chose not to retouch my husband’s thumb. He suffered his injury building the fence to keep Winnie IN!
Even a brief visit to a museum tells the story of the close relationship between artists and flowers. In fact, the memory of some painters has become entwined with the blooms they admired. We will forever associate Vincent Van Gogh with the sunflower, Georgia O’Keeffe with the poppy and Claude Monet with the water-lily.
But, painters are not the only creative people to draw inspiration from the garden. French designer and business woman, Gabrielle Chanel, loved the beautiful, short-blooming camellia or Chinese rose. Nearly 50 years after her death, it is still one of the most instantly recognizable emblems in all of Chanel’s accessories, clothing and jewelry.
How did the camellia become such an integral part of one of the most successful fashion houses in the world? It is thought that the Madame became entranced with the flower after reading Alexandre Dumas’ ‘La Dame aux Camélias’ (The Lady with the Camellias) as a young girl. The heroine of the story always wore a camellia. The flower’s symbolic value was also important to the designer. In Eastern culture, the white camellia represents purity and longevity. Coco also appreciated the fact that the camellia is without scent, and, as such, didn’t interfere with the perfection of her signature scent, and my favorite perfume, Chanel No 5.
I’ve always loved fashion and recognized designers as the artists they are. I do not live a haute couture lifestyle, but my admiration for Chanel’s style aesthetic has influenced my fashion and style choices throughout my life. She believed in simplicity, elegance and comfort. She was the first designer to suggest that women dress with their daily routines in mind. She radically promoted the notion that woman should, first and foremost, dress to please themselves.
Chanel loved the ease of black and white punctuated with stripes and loads of faux pearls. With the stroke of her pen and the scissors that famously dangled around her neck, she transformed men’s wear into elegant, feminine clothes for the modern woman. She also gave us the little black dress (LBD) back in 1926.
If you too love Chanel’s aesthetic, but not the price tag, I recommend these classic Coco inspired pieces at Target (TGFT!):
You might enjoy a fun little book celebrating the best of Coco. And, last bust not least, if you’re not lucky enough to have a garden of camellias like me, don’t worry, you can order a bouquet of artificial camellias.
I cannot deny the beauty of the white camellia, but I reserve my greatest affection for pink roses. And in the spirit of Coco Chanel, my favorite flower inspired me to create a pink shed and then a blog…from the pink shed.
“…a cyclamen that looks like a flight of butterflies, frozen for a single, exquisite moment in the white heart of time…”
― Beverley Nichols, Down the Garden Path
Tis the season for cyclamens! These wonderful flowers look good in my garden in white, in my home in red and in my shed in pink, of course!
I’ve read that on the Mediterranean Island of Cyprus they grow in great drifts of thousands of plants and fill the air with fragrance. Perhaps, someday I’ll see that, but for now they have arrived in great quantity at my local nursery.
I came to associate the flowers with Christmas when I began dating my husband in high school. His mother, Mary, has a bright green thumb and she has always decorated her world with growing things. At the holidays, the entrance to her home was filled with white cyclamen. They sat in a long line on a console table underneath a large mirror. It was a simply elegant way to greet visitors, and it remains a beautiful memory for me.
Mary will spend Christmas at our home this year, and there will be white, red and pink cyclamens to greet her!
One of my favorite regular columns in any magazine is the Harper’s Index in Harper’s Magazine…of course. It’s a simple list of interesting factoids that makes for fun reading and sharing. Today I learned:
Percentage of U.S. pet-custody cases that involve dogs: 96%
That involve cats: 1
Apologies to the “cat people” in my life, but I was not in the least bit surprised to read this! After all, dogs have a “pack mentality” as do people. (More trivia: what is the name of a group of cats????? Got you, right?!) All three of my four-legged family members are draped across my legs as I write this. It’s a chilly morning and they are earning their keep!
My husband and I have been married for 33 years and for 25 of those years we’ve had at least one dog. We were excited the day we finally moved into a pet-friendly condominium. It didn’t take long for us to adopt our first dachshund, Carly. For eight years, our friends and family had speculated as to when we’d have a child. They had a good laugh when we purchased a small library of books in the genre of how to raise the perfect dog and consulted a baby naming book. There were whispers that we were “practicing” for our first child. The speculation grew when we took Carly to Sears for Christmas pictures.
Alas, the next member of our pack also had four legs. Bill, another long-haired miniature dachshund, joined us the year after our first. Jeff and Karyn of Wagsmore Dachshunds named the dog after the president “before the Lewinsky scandal” they told us. We thought our new puppy looked rather “presidential” so we chose not to change his name. It would be another two years before we had our only child, Natalie, and Bill would be the first to arrive in her room when she cried.
It’s impossible to imagine our home without a dog or two or three and perfectly outrageous to ponder me and my husband embroiled in a custody fight over them. But, there is no danger of this as we are happy together and have further bonded over the arrival of our latest baby “Winnie.”
P.S. A group of cats is called a “clowder.” I looked it up.