Sunday, March 29, 2015

My Affair with Instagram

Hello dear Readers!

I've been feeling awfully guilty lately, as I've been cheating on you with a new beau.

Yes, I'm having an affair with Instagram.  I feel bad about it.

You would have seen this photo of Finn if you follow me on Instagram

About a month ago, I was suffering terribly from Fear of Missing Out.  Everyone seemed to be on Instagram, but I was holding out.  Suddenly, it felt like everyone was hanging with the new girl except me.  I had ignored her and now she was really popular.  Suddenly I was 15 and hanging with the wrong crowd.

My daily walk, also documented on Instagram

When I first started using Instagram, I was thoroughly confused.  

How does it work?

How do I find my friends?  How does this thing work?  What is a hashtag and how do I use it?  But being possessed of a working brain, I quickly figured it out.  And suddenly there was Loi from Tone on Tone saying hello and Steve from Urban Cottage, and Lauren Liess and Stefan from ArchitectDesign.  Hey, all my friends are here!  

Who do I follow?

Every designer you know and love is on Instagram.  Bunny Williams is there (although I think she has an intern do her posts).  And so is Charlotte Moss. I follow them both, and Windsor Smith, and Michael Smith and Mary McDonald and anyone else you can think of that you love.  I love Matthew Patrick Smyth and follow his great photography.  And Jeffrey Alan Marks posts a lot of photos of himself (which is okay by me).  And I've found amazing new designers to follow, like Amy Vermillion, whose work I already love.

I follow a lot of random people.  

The only criteria is that they *make me happy* - that I love their photos, or I admire their view of the world (who knew that looking at an Instagram feed was like staring into someone's soul?)

That means I mostly follow people who post photos of their cats, flowers, their travels, and a lot of interior design.  I also have a thing for coffee drinkers and readers and people who live in cottages in England and have a lot of cats and boxwood (my fantasy life also includes a Range Rover, rubber boots, a country estate, horses and dogs).  

I am a humble and easily-satisfied soul.  

Finn gets a lot of exposure on Instagram

The only celeb I really follow is Lena Dunham because she has a beautiful mind (but sadly a rather boring Instagram feed...I'm giving her a couple more days before I unfollow her). 

What do I post?

Posting a spontaneous photo says "here I am...I me roar!"  It feels fun and empowering to share your life, the little things that make you happy.  Let's face it, some days, it's important to have a witness to our lives, even if it is a bunch of strangers.  

Some people maintain a very tightly edited Instagram feed, while others see it as a place to let their hair down, a little "behind the scenes" look at their lives.  

I haven't quite decided which camp I fall into, but I know that I love the photography aspect, the little mini-project of composing a photo a day in my environment.  

Objets d'Easter.  What's on my coffee table might just make it onto Instagram.

Some days I take it seriously and try to post something eye-catching, while other days I post whatever strikes my fancy at the moment.

Stuff I might not post on the blog, like what I'm reading, finds its way onto Instagram!

Like?  No Like?

Instagram is spontaneous and liberating.  And it can be rather addictive.  You keep checking to see if anyone liked your photo.  

One of my favorite designers, the lovely and amazing Matthew Patrick Smyth, seems to know I exist and visits me regularly to like my photos.  I feel so loved (sadly, he still hasn't started to follow me).

And Windsor Smith even talks to me:

See how important I am?  

But as good as it feels to be acknowledged by our *heros*, Instagram can suck you into a black hole of liking and wanting to be liked.  

Thanks to being strong-willed and stubborn as an ox, I quickly decided that I would enjoy Instagram most if I stopped attaching to the outcome.  Thank you Buddha.  

I've decided to post whatever I feel like and follow people who make me happy and engage with me.  I've stopped following many of the hugely successful people who never comment back (unless I am simply engrossed by their photos and their work and don't mind stalking them in silence).

I am here for the beauty.  And the relationships.  

My Blog

Which brings me back to my blog.  I've been posting here for 9 years and I will continue.  After all, my 10th anniversary is next March!

I love the long form of a blog post.  I like the process of gathering and distilling my thoughts and composing a story to share with my readers.  I am so grateful that someone wants to read what I say, that there are kindred spirits out there who love some of the same things I do.

In the next year or two, David and I are hoping to renovate our house a little and I can't wait to share that here.  I will need your help!  We are going to take it slow, and save the money first.  And I've been making a lot of small life changes I want to share too.  And my blog is going to get a face lift too (it needs it!).

So please stay tuned and consider joining me on Instagram.  

If you're already there, please come find me and say hello!!!  If you aren't, what are you waiting for?  You will love it (trust me, said the spider to the fly).

On Instagram, you can find me by searching for:


See you there?!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Victorian Idyll

Last weekend, David and I spent 5 delightful days in Victoria, our favorite Canadian city.   

It was a perfect romantic and refreshing Valentine's getaway.

Victoria is on the lush west coast, the only part of Canada that stays green all winter!  Enough said.  It was even warmer than usual when we visited, with hardly any winter rain.  Perfection!

First stop, Rook & Rose, my favorite flower shop downtown.  These girls are just great stylists, besides knowing their way around flowers:

After the flower shop, you must grab a coffee at Hey Happy (my favorite new coffee joint).  I will admit, I am a discriminating coffee enthusiast (ahem, not snob).  THIS is the place for a great cup:

After your coffee, drop by Munro's (our favorite bookstore) for a marathon visit.  It will take you at least an hour to look around here (maybe two).  They have lovely greeting cards and a great collection of foreign magazines.  I always pick up the very English House & Garden here:

Next stop, Oak Bay Village for lunch and shopping!

Our first stop is always at Faith Grant Antiques (they aren't on Instagram, sorry kids), where we love to visit with our friend Forrest, who owns the business with his sister Heather.  These two are the real McCoy and seriously know their antiques (their grandmother started the business).  They love to know the provenance of all their pieces so stop by for a look and a great conversation (you need at least an hour).

I just grabbed only one photo this time, of these great Chippendale chairs (a set of four for $1200).  The back is classic Chippendale, but the leg is very plain, so these pieces would adapt beautifully to a modern room.  If I had a better house, I would have bought these:

Next stop...A French Touch, on Oak Bay Ave.  The proprietor Debra Boeyenga, is a wonderful stylist and a lovely person.  You can tell, as her shop is inviting and warm, like her:



We also like to visit Cook Street Village.  Maybe grab a slice of pizza at Prima Strada, and then peruse the charming vintage and antique finds at Surroundings, where I always covet something like this fabulous little inlaid wood chair:

And last but not least, we come back home to our little apartment!  

Lately we've been renting little apartments downtown, this time in an old house.  We want to get a feel for living here, as we plan to retire here eventually.

Here was the view from our living room, overlooking a charming private garden:

I bought some tulips and pussy willows for our living room, and displayed some finds including this this blue candy tin (identical to one my grandmother kept her buttons in), a white vase and a little candle holder:

And lest you think Victoria is all about shopping, we also spend lots of time with family and visiting our beloved friend, the ocean.

Here's a view for my American friends, of Mount Baker in Washington state, visible across the ocean on a clear day in Victoria:

A panorama of David, sitting in our favorite spot, watching the world (fish, birds) go by:

Have a great week ahead!

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Our Honeymoon, Part 2: Fripp Island, Beaufort and Savannah

After leaving Charleston we headed south to Fripp Island for 10 days at a beach house!

Fripp Island

Fripp Island is about 95 miles southwest of Charleston and 65 miles east of Savannah. 

Fripp is one in a chain of barrier islands off the southern coast of South Carolina.  Some readers of this blog are familiar with other barrier islands like Kiawah, Edisto, and Hilton Head Islands (thank you for your emails!). 

It is a private gated vacation community (members only) - there are many beautiful permanent homes on the island and some condos and townhouses.  

After reaching the lovely town of Beaufort SC on Port Royal Island (more on Beaufort later!), you must cross three more islands to get to Fripp - Lady's Island, St. Helena Island, Hunting Island, and then you arrive at Fripp.

So Fripp feels remote and very special.  It was lovely and quiet when we arrived in October (but apparently it's a zoo in the summer!)

David researched and rented an amazing two-story townhouse condo with 270 degree ocean views, right at the most seaward tip of the island:

Wow.  We stayed in the most seaward location possible on Fripp Island!

Here is me dancing after we arrived on the beach late in the evening:
(One in a series of dance moves I will spare you viewing more of...)

Our Home on Fripp

Views from our townhouse were amazing, with ocean views from almost every room in the house (just not the bathrooms)!  

This was the view from our kitchen and dining room window, facing west (high tide):

This is our cute little kitchen with a vast 180 degree ocean view from the breakfast table:

This is the living room with its eastern ocean view:

And from the living room balcony - more ocean:

And from the upstairs master bedroom - unlimited ocean:

Fripp was a dream - so peaceful and relaxing.

I quickly grew very well-adapted to oceanfront retirement living:
Sleep late, walk on the beach, make lunch, have a nap, take the golf cart to get ice cream, walk again, read your novel, make supper, drink wine, sit and talk, take an evening swim, sleep.  


Each day we went for a long walk on the beach at low tide. This photo, taken at low tide, shows our place, the very last most seaward building on the right:

We walked and walked every day.

It was so hot, high 80's to mid-90's most days (25-35C) and I needed a lot of sunscreen.  And it was so bright, it was quite hard to take good photos!

There was plenty to do on Fripp, including countless swimming pools, boating, tennis, bike and golf cart rentals.  We had a blast just hanging out and got up to lots of fun.

Beaufort, SC

Every second day we left Fripp and went to Beaufort for some civilization (i.e. a proper latte), shopping and some groceries.  

Beaufort (pronounced Beu-fert, i.e. not the French way) is a charming, old town of 12,000 people.  It has many charming shops, lovely art galleries and restaurants and seems to be a going concern.  The houses are stunning.

Here is the garden of a private home in Beaufort:  
Spanish moss hanging from the Live Oaks

Another Beaufort home with Spanish moss hanging from the trees, a very common sight in these parts:

Another Beaufort home, a common design with upper and lower verandas:

Shrimp Festival!

On one of our first days in Beaufort, there was a shrimp festival, if you can believe our luck.  We ate a lot of shrimp and tried varied southern fare.

Here is David testing a hush puppy:

The shops in Beaufort were also charming. 

Scout Southern Market was the main decor shop in town, so I'm sharing some photos for my fellow decor junkies:

This pretty blue and white vignette suits Beaufort's traditional elegance and its waterfront location:
Love this settee and coffee table and the bamboo chairs.  Love it all...

I loved this great State of South Carolina wooden wall hanging.  Beaufort's location is marked with the star!

While in Beaufort, David and I enjoyed walking around the old town centre admiring the great homes:

And we visited some local historical sites, including the Baptist Church of Beaufort, where we got a wonderful tour from a retired local fellow who regaled us with tales of the olden days. 

The church was built in the 1840's in the Greek Revival style and was very similar to the First Baptist Church of Charleston (ca 1822) that we'd just visited on the Charleston Fall Tour of Homes, so it was quite a coincidence to stumble across the one in Beaufort:

Floors are "heart pine" (also called heart of pine) and are original.

We also really enjoyed the Beaufort art galleries.

In particular we loved the I. Pinckney Simons Gallery, where we talked to the friendly and interesting owner, Irene, who shared a wealth of local information.  She told us the history of many of the artists and places displayed in her wonderful collection of (mainly local) paintings:
This wall of paintings really capture the local lush "Lowcountry" landscapes.

I took this photo while driving, to try to capture the beautiful local landscape, made up of these ubiquitous low tidal marshes.  The entire land mass is very low, essentially at sea level, and it makes such a unique and lovely landscape (particularly if you don't mind snakes and alligators): 
Low tidal marshes leading to the ocean, an ever-changing and beautiful landscape.

Civil War & Colonial Relics

Speaking of the countryside, David decided to do a little relic hunting after making a connection through his Civil War community (he loves American Civil War history). They toured an old Civil War battleground near a long-gone plantation.  It was a hot and laborious day of metal detecting and digging but he found some very interesting old things which I would like to frame and display.

Some are Colonial and some are Civil War era:
From left to right: a small button, a shoe buckle, an old Colonial coin, the top from a gunpowder horn, and a beautiful sterling silver belt buckle(!!!) that I really want to clean up.  All these things were dug from very hard ground over the course of several hours of relic hunting. 

From left to right: a piece of tile, a plug of lead for making bullets, part of the reed from a harmonica, a bullet casing, and a bullet. 

Savannah & Its 22 Squares

Towards the end of our trip, David and I took a day trip to Savannah and I regret that we didn't spend longer there.  We loved Savannah!

I didn't take many photos as we arrived late morning and the day was blazing hot with not a cloud in the sky.  And the heavy tree cover in many of Savannah's beautiful squares made for some tough lighting for iPhone photography:

Savannah's downtown has 22 heavily treed "squares", each with a historic monument and park benches for resting in the shade.

Historic Savannah feels somehow more run-down than historic Charleston (which feels rather posh and aristocratic) as it has some abandoned historic homes (that are slowly being renovated).  But I would say Savannah downtown somehow feels more relaxed.  It is very leafy with its lovely shaded squares, so there's a relaxed feeling created by having a place to sit and watch the world go by.  Historic Charleston, to me, is much more aesthetically beautiful but there are few parks and places to sit and really enjoy it (other than a busy restaurant)!  Savannah seems to have more character and openness, if that makes any sense.  

Savannah Architecture

I didn't take many photos of Savannah architecture, but it has a totally different look and feel than Charleston.  Ironwork is heavily used for decoration and the historic homes often have more elevated entrances: 

This is the Wm Kehoe house (a famous and famously haunted house), now a charming inn.  It was built by a famous industrialist who owned the Ironworks in Savannah.  

All the white detail on this house is actually iron, painted white!

Photo courtesy Ghost city tours Savannah

Shopping on Whitaker Street

I had a long list of shops to visit but there was so much to see in Savannah that we only hit a few on my list.

I also had an impatient husband on my hands, so that curbed my shop time considerably.  To maximize my ratio of shops per minute, we hit Whitaker Street which had some neat shops I'd researched in advance.

I had 10 hurried minutes inside One Fish Two Fish:
Like a stealthy hunter, I saw my prey at once: I bought a small starburst mirror from the wall but should have come home with a whole lot more.

Also on Whitaker Street, we visited NumberFourEleven (a monogram shop), which I really loved:

I am still kicking myself for not buying a John Robshaw duvet cover I saw on sale there.

Next was LaPaperie, which had a beautiful selection of cards and stationary:

And of course, I hit Circa Lighting.  The Savannah store is larger than the one in Charleston!  And fortunately they have a "husband station" at the back (sofa and TV), so I had a little more time to look here:

The staff at both Circa Lighting stores I visited were so friendly!  I was impressed.  And I do regret that I didn't buy another fixture.  I do love my Dauphine lamp that I bought in Charleston and blogged about here.  I will have to post about it soon, as it's now sitting on my sideboard at home and I totally love it!

We also visited ShopSCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design shop downtown:

SCAD has purchased and renovated many historic buildings in Savannah and has a very large and positive presence in the city!

Lunch at Collins Quarter

It sounds crazy, but our favorite part of Savannah was eating an amazing late lunch at Collins Quarter, a very busy local spot with a fabulous simple menu.

We had an awesome meal and my first ever almond milk latte, which was divine!

And then we just sat and people-watched for a while!

Hilton Head Island

The day after Savannah we went on a short country drive and ended up on Hilton Head Island.  We drove around and saw a lot of trees and gated communities (called "Plantations") and not much else.  

So it is not for the casual traveller who arrives unannounced!  There seemed to be nothing to do!  

We didn't do our research to realize that you can't visit the charming Harbour Town on Hilton Head without parking your car and taking a bus.  We were too late in the day for that, so instead we visited the public beach, which was lovely!

Naturally we took some selfies:

On the way home we got some groceries and noticed this cake:
Happy Fall Y'All.  Everyone calls you "y'all" in the south!

Hunting Island Lighthouse

On our last day, we visited Hunting Island State Park (which we'd been driving by every day as it's right near Fripp) and toured the lovely lighthouse:

Fabulous views after a long walk up:
I really, really hate heights.

And that, my friends, is the end.

Sunrise on Fripp Island, early in the morning as we were leaving for the airport:

All in all it was a wonderful, relaxing and interesting honeymoon!

We can't wait to go back!