Sometimes I get a twitch. A need to know I know not what.
Sometimes I take a look at my domestic life and I think could do better and award myself five out of ten.
You see we aren’t born homemakers and our education doesn’t end when we flee the family nest to start lining our own in lavender and love. Cannot end. Mustn’t end. Because there is so much to know. So much that can help us to elevate homemaking to the art we know it can be.
While we may be a genius with a whisk or a whiz with a duster, we could also be learning how to create home-made herbal balms to do battle with hayfever, or teaching ourselves how to pipe the most exquisite of embroidered patterns on to sugar cookies. We could be taking bookkeeping classes that transform our family finances or learning how to take amazing portraits, make the finest, most fragrant of Indian curries or teaching ourselves how to fashion teeny flowers from vintage ribbon.
There is so much we could be learning. So much more we could be filling the empty space we are all too often tempted to fill up admiring other people’s domestic efforts on Pinterest.
We don’t have to serve up the same timetable of meals for the rest of our days.
We don’t have to fill our heads with mindless celebrity gossip or watch other people’s family’s tear their hair out on Jeremy Kyle.
We don’t have to carry on harbouring the belief that crocheting is impossible when across the land swoon-worthy patterns are being followed daily.
We don’t have to simply admire flower arrangements/Kondo worthy storage solutions/homemaking rotas when we could be creating them ourselves.
We don’t have to believe that learning ended when our school days did.
We can learn how. We can teach ourselves. Through the myriad of online courses available or one of the billions of YouTube channels. We can dedicate time in our calendar to domestic development. We can decide that if homemaking is the thing we love best in the world then we can make an effort to be as good at it as we are capable. To learning new skills. Trying. Experimenting. Making a complete hash out of the pattern/recipe but doing it over and over again until we get it right.
You see life feels better when we are still learning. It keeps our minds young and our brains active. And not resting on our domestic laurels means that homemaking becomes a daily challenge: not just the humdrum of the same-old, same-old but something new everyday until we can declare ourselves as accomplished as Martha Stewart.
While routine is all well and utterly scrumptious, elevating that same routine so that year on year it becomes a truer reflection of our authentic selves, enhanced by skills we are proud to have honed and crafted as our own, means that year on year our interest in a life less ordinary at home never wanes for there is always, always, always, always something new to learn.
No shirkers please.
One of the books that has shaped all the thoughts in my head is Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. From her I learned that neither life nor the creative process have to be consumed or endured in one giant chunk, but can instead be nibbled slice by slice, bit by bit, or indeed bird by bird in which ever way we can manage in that moment.
Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
Grief is not something we wear. We do not have to swallow it whole. It is a journey and every journey begins with a single step. It is a process. From fury, through sorrow, depression and finally acceptance. Four separate birds we can welcome or tolerate one a time.
A novel is not something we spit out. It is not one big chunk of our very soul spilled in a gush of champagne and vomit. No. It is something we tackle, word by word, sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter and we can walk away anytime we choose. To seek inspiration. Sanctuary. Or condolence for that which feels lost. The words which will not come.
The most precious relationships are not born in a chance meeting of minds or lustful bodies, but are grown and fed and nurtured like the babies we carry in our bellies. One day at a time. One surprising character trait revealed to our astonishment this month. Another the next. Something more to love.
Nor in the same vein, do we become our most authentic selves simply because we have decided that this should be so. Authenticity has to be embraced bird by bird too. For we do not know ourselves yet and have to reveal the pages of who we are carefully, surely, slowly. To ourselves. To those who care and those who do not.
And houses. We cannot build houses overnight. We build them brick by brick and when the frame of the house exists we layer it in love, one room at a time until it is home.
This then is what I learned from Anne Lammott. Patience. Endurance and tolerance. Throughout the worst days of my life I whispered “bird by bird” like a mantra to myself, because I knew, always knew, that this too would pass. That if I could just summon up enough spirit, bravado, or peace, I would survive.
Now Anne has more lesson to teach us in her recent TED Talk and she has delivered them with all the humor, humility and grace we hear in every word she writes. She is older now. Wiser. And she tells the kinds of truth that have us nodding our heads and spluttering with laughter…
I love her so.
Happy 4th of July to all of my American readers: I truly hope you are enjoying a day abundant with family and sunshine!
Here at Chez Brocante I have spent the weekend creating a little office space for myself and trawling around Ikea in search of a bed and desk so that I can sort out the kind of back problems that come from hunching over my laptop on the sofa and trying to sleep on a broken divan…
Today I wanted to share a few notices…
- First up I was recently a guest on the Exposure Ninja podcast, alongside one of my lovely readers, Nic, and together with Tim from Exposure Ninja we discuss how BrocanteHome was born, my business philosophy of sorts and what authenticity in blogging means to me.
- Secondly my BrocanteHome post “Stopping and Starting” is up on Medium.Com, should you need reminding to be kinder to yourself…
- And finally there is a new “Bedtime Story” called “Kitchen Sunshine” available in the library for my salon members, so do plan an early night with a cosy pot of chamomile won’t you?
I haven’t got much to say today, because I am VERY BUSY reading magazines.
Oh yes. I have discovered Readly, the Netflix of magazines and now there is no going back. Laundry will be left to muster and the frizz that is my hair, left to do it’s very own thing.
For here is an app that gives me access to over 1500 magazines on my tablet, computer and Kindle Fire. Magazines like Molly Makes and Yoga Journal. With back issues. And (oh joy!) the ability to save snippets from the magazines you read in a dedicated library.
It is £7.99 a month. £7.99! For five devices. And each member of the family can have their own profile and honestly I feel rather besides myself and completely unable to explain the wonderfulness of having a whole world of wonderfully scrumptious reading matter right here in my hands.
You know the drill me darlings: if I love it you have to love it too. So hop over here and start your free trial and don’t blame me if your whole house goes to rack and ruin…
You are welcome.
Now then I did tell you that The Summer House is now available on Amazon didn’t I? Heckity pie I’m not sure I did.
I’m never going to win any awards for great marketing now am I??
I do hope you enjoy it.
If, like me, you are a fan of the well drawn cozy mystery, then Brocanteers, this morning you are in for a treat.
One of the things I miss most about my Mum, is our shared love of a good book. So many hours were spent comparing the contents of our Kindle and swapping paperbacks (but never the dog-eared kind: for Mum simply refused to read anything that looked like it may have been read before so all books sent her way had to be pristine or they would find their way to the bin!) and it was through her that I discovered Agatha Raisin and a fined honed appreciation for a well-drawn cozy mystery.
Now let me state here and now, cozy mysteries abound. There are endless variations on the murder most horrid theme, with amateur sleuths popping up everywhere from the library to the bakery, but most, in my humble opinion, are really rather rubbish. A strain to get through as you battle with frequent late-night doses of the “I really don’t cares” and grumble to yourself about the often, frankly appalling writing.
And then you happen across something wonderful. Or rather your Mum’s lovely sister, Barbie, does and is kind enough to step into you Mum’s shoes and guide you towards a set of cosy mysteries that have you guffawing and chuckling under the stars as you sit in your reading chair on an oh so hot night.
For with T.E.Kinsey’s Lady Hardcastle series we are blessed with fun, wit, mystery, a hilarious, heartwarming friendship between the two main characters (the Lady herself and her companion Flo), that makes a mockery of that which traditionally exists between employer and employee, and a cast of peripheral characters I am convinced have been drawn partly to poke fun at the genre of the cozy mystery itself.
What is so very special about the Lady Hardcastle mysteries, is a rather beguiling combination of easy read banter and a mystery that leaves you guessing, alongside some perfectly drawn (and often laugh out loud funny) dialogue and a set of characters you simply cannot wait to learn more about. For Lady Hardcastle is a woman with a past only hinted at. A woman blessed with derring do and a sharp imagination, while her companion Flo is the prefect foil for her, with her slightly sarcastic tongue and ability to reign in her employer’s more preposterous flights of fantasy.
So while I have much to do today, with a list as long as my arm and jobs coming out of my rather annoying, and frankly quite deaf ears, please let it be known that I would rather be hopping around the villages of Gloucestershire with my new favorite amateur sleuths.
Lady Hardcastle and the really rather fabulous Flo are quite the finest company for a Summers afternoon. So read ’em and chuckle.
Get the Lady Hardcastle mysteries on Amazon.Com here and Amazon.Co.Uk here. (P.S: They are currently FREE with a Kindle Unlimited Subscription, something I cannot recommend highly enough if you are a voracious reader.)
It’s official. I have bad taste.
Oh yes indeedy. If you have been questioning my taste for a while now, there is now proof that those who consider themselves the arbitrators of good and bad taste have got my card marked. You see when the designers on the Big Brother set this year were producing the cottage of nightmares, I do believe they must have come round and rooted about in my linen cupboard.
The set this year is designed as a rather pink village. Complete with beauty salon (the bathroom) and cafe (the kitchen) and there are two bedrooms: one an ode to good taste in peach and blue and the other, the graffitied, apparently abandoned delight you see above.
Now let it be said that I will no more apologize for watching Big Brother, than I will for who I vote in the General Election (heck, that could start a kerfuffle), but even I felt a bit discombobulated when I realized that the designers had layered the beds of those supposed to be suffering, with duvet sets, quilts and cushions that I OWN.
Yup. I am Alison and I have shocking taste.
Case in point? This moss green velvet cushion I grabbed at rather greedily in Marks and Spencer a few months ago, and ran home to pop on a chair in a rather redundant corner of my bedroom. Thrilled with myself I was. Thrilled!
And now here I am, suffering the slings and arrows of the TV set designer who has summarily declared that such a cushion and the other items I am frankly not willing to own up to possessing now, are the stuff of nightmares and will be used to PUNISH those housemates who will be denied the pleasure of true luxury.
The shame of it. The absolute shame of it.
For me, here at BrocanteHome, 2017 has been all about streamlining my business so that you my readers can enjoy the site without having to do battle with complicated navigation, or the kind of techie problems that all to frequently make the site evaporate altogether (damn you Bluehost!)…
You see over the past few months I have come to the shocking realization that I am not Superwoman and though this is a fact that utterly appalls me, I know that if Brocantehome is to continue to grow (and Oh Me Darlings thank-you, it’s finally growing: an overnight success it was not!), we all need continuity and simple ways of accessing all my lovely content.
The process started with The School of Life – a place for all my memberships and digital products to live and I know it has made a huge difference to all of you, and has meant that I am now able to focus solely on content without the constant worry that you were struggling to access everything in one convenient place.
Then came The Pep-Talks, currently exclusive to my Salon Members but something I have found so utterly rewarding because I know YOU have found them so very helpful, that over the next week I will be opening them to all, so everyone can have the chance to spend an hour or two with me on Skype working through their domestic issues on the road to a life less ordinary…
And finally today I bring you The Edit. A collection of all the scrumptious, puttery little somethings we covet as Brocanteers. While there have been versions of The Edit before, I have never quite thrown myself into creating a place to browse both the whimsical and the domestic practical in the same way, and over the past few weeks I have been steadily putting together a collection of Amazon recommendations and stock of my own (yikes!) so that you can discover the Brocante best of all things lovely, in one pretty place. Yup – from this day forward I am navigating the interwebs so you don’t have to…
The Edit is currently divided in to nine “Collections”…
The Comfort Drawer
In The Comfort Drawer you will find a collection of all the little somethings we need when we choose to practice extreme self-care and overwhelming personal kindness. From aromatherapy oils, to eye-pillows, coloring books and pink chocolate, there is something for every occasion: whether we want to indulge, wallow or throw our very own little pity party…
In The Library you will find the book recommendations that live in the sidebar and will on a weekly basis make their way in to a dedicated collection so you can always browse for literary inspiration should an early night and a cup of cosy cocoa come-a-calling.
The Housekeeper’s Cupboard
In The Housekeeper’s Cupboard there is a growing collection of good quality domestic tools and organic cleaning products, because if we are to truly elevate the art of housekeeping, we should do it with the very best tools available to instill a sense of worth and pride in our daily efforts…
In The Boudoir we focus on both sleep and intimacy. Because we are whole women and both are essential to our well-being. So you will find everything from great pillows to mood enhancing massage oil, to make the very most of the time you spend in your bedroom.
In The Wardrobe you will find a tiny collection of pretty dresses, vintage inspired accessories and retro bikinis. Chosen for their sheer pretty, The Wardrobe will feature an eclectic collection of desirable pieces for our vintage-loving souls…
In The Apothecary there is a myriad collection of oils, lotions and potions to help you create a well-being routine that enhances both health and beauty. Because our well-being matters, using good products is the kindest way to look after ourselves and buying something fragrant and scrumptious is quite the finest way to treat ourselves.
In The Desk you will find a darling little range of desk accessories, planners, cards, journals and cameras. whether you simply sit down to write a letter or run an entire business at your desk, there is something pretty and oh so useful for everyone.
In The Mat you will find a collection of products collated to enhance your spiritual well-being. With everything from the best of yoga-mats to crystals, oils, jewelry and tea, you can start to build the kind of life-enhancing rituals that shore up your mind and help you achieve balance.
And finally in The Pantry you will find a collection of healthy (but indulgent) basics and scrumptious little edible treats. Because life isn’t worth living without good food now is it?
Each week, there will be new products and collections added to The Edit and I hope you will come to use it as a starting point when you find yourself in need of a little domestic retail therapy…
Thank-you as always for continuing to support BrocanteHome. I am always seeking to give back as much as I am capable of in gratitude and as the years go by my vision for how life can be for all of us, becomes firmer.
This then is a life less ordinary.