Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Turning 54...and other WhiskyTangoFoxtrot moments.

I turned 54 recently. I have long learned to accept the wondrous zoo that your body turns into; the elephant knees, crows feet, turkey neck and so on. But what I didn't realize is the mind also works harder to "challenge" you with added blessings, which is jolly fun.

By night: wearing my stretchy dress out for an early bird special. 

By day, a veritable Label Queen: nasal cleanser, magnesium and probiotics, extra strength for the over 50's, for  consternation and constipation, neck warmer for head pain, mouthguard for excessive grinding, old lady glasses, face goop from latest Jar of Hope

Anyone who reads this blog regularly might remember that back in October I woke up with tinnitus (ringing in the ears) which is, yes, as crazy-making as it sounds. Although as one friend pointed out, at least it blocks out some of the kids' whining. Tinnitus is one of those things where no one knows how it started, whether it will ever end, and has no cure.

Then a couple of months ago I started getting shooting pains in my head which progressed from only at night to all the time.

Turned out I had Primary Stabbing Headaches ("relatively uncommon"...no common as muck illnesses for me, no siree!) also called "Occipital Neuralgia" and the more playful "Jabs and Jolts Syndrome" and my personal favorite, "Ice Pick Headaches" which kind of gives them a Sharon Stone allure, don't you think?

Me visiting Neurologist's office:

Me: Where did this pain come from, how long will I have it, how can I stop it?

Neurologist: (sheepishly) We don't really know. None of that is known.

Me: So it's like tinnitus in that way?

Neurologist: And if you take aspirin or ibuprofen for the head pain it can make the tinnitus worse. (Reads the research coming out of the printer.) But there is one daily pill you can take, only a few side effects. (I later look it up in the internet and it has six pages of side effects including that you can self combust).

Me: So this is like tinnitus: it's like my head is making shite stuff up. (Starts laughing)

Neurologist: (Trying to be professional but laughing too.) Yes, I suppose, if you put it that way.

Me: (Still laughing, can't stop for some reason) Well thank you for everything.

So if you see a woman on the street laughing uncontrollably at something inappropriate, that would be me, just another gift from old age.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Heart of the Home Tour 2016

It's one of my favorite time of the year, the CSL's Heart of the Home Tour, where you get to see inside five homes in the East Bay. The tour is this weekend, Friday and Saturday April 29-30th, and proceeds go to children in need. What I love is the variety of homes; this year they have an Italianate built for a concert pianist in 1914, a fascinating Contemporary, a reconfigured Prairie-Style home, a 1920's Tudor, and a Tudor Revival in the 30's Decorative Arts style. All photos by Treve Johnson.


(It's no secret that I'm nosy as heck...anyone who meets me gets the 20 questions. So this is nirvana, I just love going into people's home and having a good old gander and imagining how they live.)

This serene Contemporary home, made from exposed concrete and wood, was completed in 2014 on a lot that has sat empty since the 1991 Oakland Fire. The newly married couple, Adam and Amy, love to entertain frequently and Amy also loves to discover emerging artists. She heads up a family-owned Yountville vineyard and invests in a number of Bay Area start-ups. I can't wait to see her live-edge make-up table in the master bathroom.






Below, the Morse House is an English Tudor Revival built in 1936 for Charles Morse, a rice miller, and has fantabulous views over the bay and the country club, and awesome people living in it. I know this because we are lucky enough to be their friends! John and Kim spent 15 years looking for a 1930's era home to restore, and then they spent the next six years doing much of the restoration themselves. They've furnished it in the Hollywood Regency style and you'll see in the living room a Wonder Woman painting done by their daughter when she was in elementary school!







Next is a Prairie Style home, a style which includes overhanging eaves and sloping roofs and originated with Frank Lloyd Wright in the early 20th century, apparently. One of the homeowners is a glass and metal artist who forged the door handles and cabinetry hardware.



This Italianate home below was built for a concert pianist; it operated as a music hall in 1914. Today the piano stage is a home office where the owners have outfitted the walls with the same cabinetry as the home's original.





And then there is this English Tudor which features intricate leaded glass windows. The owner is a mah jongg enthusiast who hosts games, hence the double game tables and her nickname for her home; The House of Clicking Tiles.



You can buy tickets from here online or at other places around the Easy Bay, including the Terrace Gifts & Coffee shop. VIP ticket holders get to attend other events and view additional homes, like this charming one below.





What do you find most interesting when you go into someone's home? I love bookshelves and utilitarian things like the kitchen sinks, and then the opposite: anything glam and shiny.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Goodnight Sweet Prince

It's been a rainy and purply kind of weekend, in honor of our Prince.



Epic fashion and music moments on his 1985 Purple Rain tour.  Adored his studded Byronesque style, that was somehow classical yet extravagant. Man alive, could that guy rock a pirate shirt like nobody's business. In so many ways he spoke to the freak-outsider in all of us and made it cool and beautiful.

Other artists have benefitted from his stand against music available for free on YouTube, but now sadly we don't have enough videos of him.

Wheeled out the velvet jacket and frilly shirt (ten years old but still a favorite) last night in his honor.


Other purplenesses around the house this morning...











This is what is sounds like 
When doves cry.

Isn't that one of the most perfect lines ever?

Goodnight sweet Prince, see you again underneath the Purple Rain.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Our house in NZ Home & Garden

Crikey, thought I best update my blog after four months' (!) silence.  Thanks for being patient and loyal. My sister, Shazza just sent me some snaps of the NZ Home & Garden magazine which features our house this month (sorry no link until it gets loaded onto the stuff.co.nz site, apparently). Here I am leaning against the front door with my hand on my hip, as you do on a Monday arvo.



Blogging is a strange old thing. I've always vacillated between Gosh I've got to tell you this! and Why on earth would they want to hear about that load of old nonsense? and Ugh, I sound like I'm skiteing (showing off)... which probably explains the four-month hiatus.

Re the green chair, They told me this was the last reproduction of a Sixties chair, no one was buying it. Then I saw a white version in Roger's office on Mad Men. Then of course, they were making them again at a higher price. 

As you can see my sister Sharon is better known for her journalistic skills than photographic (could have you squished the page down more, Shazza?)


It was a pleasure to be interviewed (tables turned, I'm usually the ones asking questions) by the highly experienced Gill South. Kind of scary, you're worried about coming across as a complete drongo; now I know what's it's like to be on the other side.






Gosh, you'd think she would have made the bed before the photographer arrived, wouldn't you?
My splotchy dress was a dreadful choice, would have been better to wear stripes or a graphic. Oh well, next time... Sadly, the most important family member, Teddy did not make it into the pages. Neither did the eldest boy, Harley. Don't tell him (Teddy).




Stuff I learned.
1. Practical comes first. Don't bother with precious, faffy stuff, unless it goes on the wall. It will drive you crazy minding the white cloth on that chair.
2. You can always cut the tile budget even further. Tiles don't look half as good once they're grouted, and cheap white subway with a stripe (or just one wall) of that pricey tile works well.
3. Spend money on the drawers and cupboards in the kitchen and bathrooms and whatever other things you touch every day all day. (I know, boring.)
4. Taking away upper cabinetry makes the kitchen look more like a room, not a utilitarian space.
5. Do what you want to your house! You'll be in your house twice as long as you think. Don't be always having an eye to "re-sale." We built a one-car garage (rather than two or three), despite others saying we were crazy. On the other hand the bath-shower in one of the bathrooms is incredibly annoying and done only because we were told we needed a second bath in the house for re-sale.

But the best piece of advice I ever got (applicable whether re-modeling, deciding on a husband or buying that new yellow frock...) was from, of course, Mum, who says: "Go through your day." And that's not the only day in the year you have a fancy dancy party.

What do you think matters in a house??

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Let's Dance

I'm up at Alta, Utah doing a four-day powder clinic and singing Young Americans as I blop down the slopes. Not that that was the best of David Bowie's many brilliant songs-- but if you want to feel incredibly young at 53, just come to Alta, where people ski until they are 93 years old.

She was a young American



My group, of which I'm the veritable spring chicken.

In my group, the four blokes are ages 66 to 59. "You're the spring chicken" said one, "do you have a chaperone?" Larf.

In the afternoon I was in the same group as  Rudy who is 83, here with his lovely wife Dorothy, 79, who also skis all day every day. They live in Maine but are very involved with the Lighthouse charter school in Oakland, apparently.


So amazing to see the outpourings of grief over David Bowie.

Tomorrow I'm going to ski with Let's Dance and Golden Years, playing in my head. I'll tell you if it brings my rodeo style under control.

Alta Lodge, where everyone stays, is the  comforting same; on the walls, photos of Frida Kahlo, taken by Nickolas Muray, father of Mimi Levitt, the matriarch of the family-owned lodge.


The fire where you can spend a lot of time gazing out and thinking amazing thoughts that you can't remember later.


I brought the same outfits as last year with the addition of a white vest given to us all by Alta Lodge. I have always wanted a white vest. Now I don't know how the heck I got by without it. The bruise in my forehead is from acupuncture, btw.

Rebecca Taylor sweater and Frank and Eileen shirt
Clue sweater

No weight lost here, that's a guarantee. Just as well I bought some new phat ski pants--my old cream ones had gone from squeaky tight to screamers.





I'm here by myself but that's no problem, most of the other punters are low key and very nice. Of course there will always be someone who must tell you all their accomplishments in 15 minutes plus what they had for dinner last Tuesday, and where their genuis kids go to school, but I am happy to make them feel even better about their lives. 

On these first impression experiences I've also learned to keep my silly-cynical-sarcastic asides in check as some other young Americans just see them as just negative.

Read "Man At The Helm" by Nina Stibbes on old FF's recommendation, about a British family in the 70's.  Funny and sad, loved it. Then I read Stibbe's first book, her real life letters to her sister when she was a nanny in London in the 80's, where she worked for a literary family. Clever and hilarious, the letters were found by her sister a couple of years ago. Amazing to think she wrote both these in her Twenties (she's now 53) and they have just been resurrected.


Lovely moment this morning as I saw Rosie, one of the staff here, as she watched her daughter skip down the hill to her little school in the snow.
"She's so lucky," I said.
"I'm so lucky," said Rosie.


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