Saturday, January 27, 2018

Gracie Lately

Gracie gets her first bowl of food at five a.m. At that time of day, my husband is already up, dressed and ready for his own breakfast. As he heads for the kitchen, he leans down to the sleeping dog and whispers, "Gracie, do you want some breakfast?" Without fail, she leaps off the bed and flies down the stairs, ready to dig in.

Similarly, Gracie knows just when to expect her second meal of the day. After our long walk, during which she has considerable freedom to run up and down the sidewalks on the end of her long rope, I put Gracie on a heel as we cross the street into our yard. We pass under the front trellis, and at the edge of the lawn, I have her sit and stay. Then I snap off the lead, and offer her release word.


Then, without fail, my wild red-headed missy sprints up the length of the lawn like Usain Bolt, wheels to a screeching halt at the front porch, and then turns to watch me saunter up her race track, imploring me to HURRY.

Because Gracie knows that I have already prepared her dinner, and the dish is waiting just inside the front door.

S L O W L Y, in a effort to draw out this ceremony to its greatest dramatic potential, I put her on a another stay, open the door, reach inside, and present the bowl to her at the usual spot on the step.

Oh, but she's not allowed to break her stay until I have seated myself with great flair on the nearby chair, and fully prepared myself for this grand ritual. My dog's eyes gaze deeply into mine, watching for the first hint of that magic word.


Once again released from her pose by the starter's pistol, Gracie springs to her feet, drops her nose into her bowl, and starts eating. She does not lift her head until every bite of kibble has been consumed, and then only shifts six inches to the water bowl. She takes a long drink, pausing once to look back in the now-empty food bowl, and then goes in again for more water.

After the second, even longer drink of water, Gracie turns her attention a third time to the food bowl, and licks out every square inch with gusto. She does not miss a single crumb.

And then, after one more long and luxurious drink, she is ready to go inside. 

^ In the golden glow of late afternoon. 

On the home stretch of our daily route, Gracie and I pass along a 10-15 foot perimeter of overgrown bushes and trees. Bounded on one side the the side walk and the other side by a six-foot tall cedar fence, this scruffy strip of loosely landscaped greenery is full of lovely undergrowth and mysterious shadows that make for ideal sniffing and foraging for a dog on the hunt. 

As I stroll contentedly on, up ahead of me on her long leash, Gracie wades in and out of the brush, often up to her shoulders in brambles or even disappearing from sight as she investigates the territory.

Recently, on a still sunny afternoon, as we went through this familiar dance, I suddenly heard frantic rustling noises, a scratching of claws on cedar fencing, and then a series of crashing noises that could only mean my dog was running wildly through the brush.

I glanced up to see a cat running along the top of the fence. Ohhh, yes. That would explain everything.

But then I looked again at what was surely the biggest, ugliest cat I had ever seen.

And that's when I noticed it was actually a raccoon.

Now we have plenty of raccoons in our neighborhood and often see them prowling around in the dark and near-dark hours of the day. But to see one marching around in broad daylight is an unsettling development and I held my breath, expecting this critter to reach around and take a swipe at my crazy dog bounding along at its side. 

But no. The raccoon continued its sprint toward the deeper cover of trees up ahead and Gracie came when I called to her, exhilarated and flushed by the thrill of the hunt.

I praised her for coming, settled her back on the sidewalk, and we shortly arrived home victorious. 

^ "I am ready for my walk. Look how good I'm being!!!"

In our extra-deep kitchen sink, I keep a large, lidded plastic bin for food scraps. During the day, bits of garbage slowly accumulate, and then we empty the bin in the evening after dinner. The lid operates on a hinge, so we simply flip it open to make a deposit, then set the lid back in place without latching it shut. 

Several times this week, we've come home to find the bin and its contents strewn across the floor. 

Now granted, these incursions have happened in the mornings so there has not been much of a mess. And honestly, I could hardly believe my dog had actually figured how how to lift that even-heavy-when-empty container out of the sink using nothing but her sturdy little teeth. 

Denial is a powerful force, and I was sure that if I simply pushed the container to the far side of the sink, my dog certainly would not repeat this fluke performance.

Well. On Wednesday, I was out for a few hours, and when I came back, my home-alone dog met me at the garage door with her usual enthusiastic greeting. But what's this? I wondered as I petted her. Little sticky bits of what appeared to be white rice ringed her head like a crown. How can that be?

Two steps into the family room and a quick flashback to my early morning refrigerator clean-out of old leftovers answered all my questions. 

Gracie had indeed hefted the almost-full container from the sink, dragged it carefully into the family room, opened it up and feasted on the contents.

Two baked potatoes. 
A bit of vanilla pudding.
The last of a beef stew
Some sliced apples.
Half a tuna sandwich.
Baby carrots and ranch dressing. 

And yes, A cup of white rice.

In an apparent effort to demonstrate her self-control, Gracie had left behind two pairs of eggshells, a crumpled paper napkin, and a popsicle stick. 

I was not impressed.

So now when I go out, the compost container goes into the fridge. 

^ These four furry red legs make me smile every morning. 

Today, Gracie has been a perfect angel. 

While I dug in the gardens, she waited patiently, lying among the day lilies and watching passersby. We went for our walk much earlier than usual, and she was rewarded by a half-dozen high school girls who cooed over her sweet behavior and petted her silky coat. Just now, she woke up from a long nap on the nearby couch, and fetched her latest rawhide bone, which she has begun to chew. 

Even the quiet days are an adventure with my girl, Gracie, and I can't wait to see what she will do next. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

StyleNanda Pink Hotel

Despite its name, this is not a hotel
Despite its function, this is much more than a store.

The StyleNanda Pink Hotel is a playground for the imagination and a dream world of beautiful images, If you can't get to Seoul to see it for yourself, then please let me show you around. 

* * * * *

First Floor: Lobby and  Fine Dining

^ Let's step through the constant crowds shooting photos out in front. And don't let these schoolgirls fool ya; all types flock here: foreigners, groups of girlfriends, couples in love, and older folks with a curiosity for all things pink, like the person in the blue bucket hat standing in the doorway

^ Come through the doors to the lobby and step into a dream. There's an information desk, a glitzy display of room keys, and a pink tile floor for the ages.

^ The main area of the first floor is styled as a dining room, complete with stacks of plates, gilded sneeze guards and chafing dishes, and of course, yards of pink buffet skirts on the tables. At the back in the first checkout counter, and our hosts maintain just the kind of stiff and formal transaction that one would expect at any sort of proper hotel.

* * * * *

Second Floor: Spa

^ Let's climb the stairs to the second floor.. Dominating the space is a huge marble island lined with, you guessed it, sinks. Fitted out with brass faucets, the basins double as product display space. These adorable tubes of lotion double down on their cuteness by repeating the key theme we saw on the first floor.

^But the true highlight of the second floor - if not the entire hotel - is the heavenly claw foot tub full of pink floating flowers, set off by the brass faucets and that herringbone floor. 

^ From the second floor balcony, look out on a dreamy hotel room vignette that hangs suspended over the first floor lobby.. The muslin-draped chandelier, elegant nightstand, ancient phone, Parisian bed frame, and fluffy white bedding are all spot though honestly, we would all sleep better with a mattress over those wire springs. 

* * * * *

Third Floor: Rooms

Hotel rooms are the feature of the third floor - black paneled doors, a sitting room with velvet and brass, and breezy white sheers set the tone. Mannequins and display racks artfully placed here and there discreetly reveal the clothing and shoes offered for sale, but you'll have to excuse me if I'd rather curl up on a couch and read. 

* * * * *

Fourth Floor: The Laundry

^ Sweaters, causal tops and jeans share space with washers, dryers, and endless boxes of soap. This floor captures the vibe of a working space but in the prettiest, most dreamy of ways.

* * * * *

Fifth Floor: The Pool


 ^ Wait, so it's not an actual pool but a poolside cafe and that's okay. Let's order ourselves up some bubbly drinks and please pass the sunscreen. 

* * * * * 

Sixth Floor: Rooftop Terrace

^ Settle down into some huge puffy pillows and rest in the soft evening air. The sounds of the city's hustle and bustle drift up from the street, not to disturb but to simply remind us of what a magical place we have found. 

 * * * * *

Read about what I bought at StyleNanda and how the magic followed me home

Pink Eye Shadow

About a month before I left for South Korea, I did considerable research on the best souvenirs to buy in Seoul.

Which is to say I Googled around for a few minutes. But the results I found were quite consistent and comprehensive.

Make-up. When in Seoul, buy make up.


I wear make up. But I am not really a make-up person, if you catch my drift. Make-up for me is about like toothpaste: a necessary, important, and somewhat enjoyable part of my daily routine that may be upgraded from time to time but is not really an area of experimentation or shopping inspiration.

And sure enough, when I got to Seoul, stores full of cosmetics and skin care abounded.

Etude House
Olive Young
Tony Moly
Too Cool For School

The list went on and on. Seemed that around every corner was another store full of lip gloss pots, face masks, skin toner, and eye pencils, and my daughters who were with me could not get enough.

I spend a lot of time sitting outside these stores, people-watching and pondering the state of my make-up free universe.

Until we went to StyleNanda Pink Hotel

Okay, if I have this right, StyleNanda began as the handle of a Korean beauty blogger who built up such a following that she created her own line of products called 3CE. StyleNanda played out her fantasies for the ultimate shopping experience by creating the self-named Pink Hotel where one can buy not only her 3CE brand but also clothing, accessories, and snacks at her Poolside Cafe and Rooftop Garden.

The first time I visited there, I was so wrapped up in the fantastical experience that I could barely see straight.

The second time, my head cleared and I was ready to shop.

I didn't buy a lot. But each thing I chose was a treasure.

A pair of creamy white velvet socks.
A tiny hot pink traveling blush brush
And a set of four pink eye shadows.

Now I'm home, wrapped up in the gloom of winter and the repetition of my daily routine. The magic of the StyleNanda Pink Hotel seems like a faraway dream.

But in the mornings, when I pull out my 3CE compact and brush a thin line of pink across my eyelids, right next to my lashes as a sort of sparkly eyeliner, I feel the magic come flooding back. I remember the floating chandelier and the water lilies in the bathtub and the tangible sense of dreams coming true that filled every inch of the Pink Hotel.

And I do believe that when I bought my pink eye shadow, I bought the best souvenir ever.

* * * * *

Wanna go on a tour of the StyleNanda Pink Hotel with me? Check it out here.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Madame Spring

Chill winds tore through my sweater and whipped raindrops against my face as I dashed down the sidewalk toward the entrance of the grocery store. Wheeling around the last corner, I looked up just in time to see a glorious display of primrose.

How cruel, I lamented, to set those poor plants outside on a day like this. 

And how cruel, my thoughts echoed, to tempt us poor mortals with the idea that spring is just around the corner. We still have many dark and dreary weeks of winter to go.

In spite of my dismay, I dug deep into my rain-splattered purse to pull out my phone and snap a few shots of this discordant beauty before the flowers all froze to death.

The photo shoot only took a few seconds,but as I was finishing, a woman stopped next to me. 

She saw what I was doing, paused just a heartbeat, and laughed. 

"Oh, they're so lovely!"
"And only a dollar forty-seven each? I want some!"

We smiled at one another as she sailed on into the store. 

I could tell you about her face, just beginning to show the deepening beauty of the decades, glowing and generous and gentle.

I could try to describe the lilting melody of her voice, delighted by her find and touched with the trace of an Eastern European accent. 

But all you need to know is that in this brief encounter, I felt hope and courage rise up in me as if the warming winds of the new season had already begun to breathe against the land.

And I wondered if I hadn't met Madame Spring herself, just outside the entrance to my grocery store. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Gracie's Good News

Great news!

Gracie has lost all her extra weight!

At her six-month check-up with her vet, she weighed in at 81 pounds, down from 99 pounds when we adopted her last July, and was thereby pronounced fit and fabulous.

We promptly celebrated with a post-appointment walk in the rain which allowed a perfect photo op for capturing the svelte new body underneath her shaggy coat.

She's still working on her 'smizing.'

Now Gracie is still a big dog. No slender slip of a thing, as many female Irish are, my girl is steady and strong, broad in the beam, and surprisingly tall.  

And all these weeks of dieting have taught me one thing; Gracie loves to eat. It will be a life-long challenge to keep her away from the sweets and savories that she so craves.

But now that we have overcome this first and fairly forbidding fitness obstacle, we can handle whatever comes next. 

And for Gracie and me, that is very good news. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Clean Sleep

Clean sleep.

To me, that means

sleep that is refreshing and satisfying.
sleep that fits the natural rhythms of my body
sleep that keeps me in tune with the rest of the world
sleep that feels good.

Now I've been a delayed sleep phase sleeper since I was a toddler, so I'm always struggling to maintain healthy sleep habits. But in the past few weeks, that goal has been even more elusive than usual. So I'm experimenting with some changes.

1. Clutter-free nightstand

No artsy stacks of books, 
no vases of flowers, 
no glasses of water perched on cute coasters. 

By sweeping this surface clean of clutter - even pretty clutter - my mind feels equally clean and clear as I prepare to sleep. 

2. Electronics-free sleep zone

On the best of nights, my phone used to sleep on my nightstand; worse and more often under my pillow. And while the scientific jury is still out on exactly how our devices impact our sleep, Iknow for a fact that my phone exerts a constant if subtle pressure on me to check in what's happening in the world.  I don't need that distraction, so my phone and his charger have been moved on the other side of the room. 

3. Old school alarm clock

Yes, my phone has indeed served me very well as a handy alarm clock, but that is a technology rabbit hole into which I will no longer fall. A simple clock with a straightforward alarm suits my purposes perfectly well and my phone can mind his own business. 

4. Diffuser at the ready

Eucalyptus-infused air rushes me off to dreamland and soothes my breathing - I've long known that. So rather than house this amazing machine across the room, I've brought him right alongside my bed. 

5. Silky support

For Christmas, I got this simple silk pillowcase and it is a sensory delight. When I first lay down my head, the silk is cool against my cheek; it quickly warms to a comfortably cozy temperature that lulls me to sleep. If I wake up during the night, a quick flip of the pillow allows me to reboot the process. And though my side-sleeping preference makes a slippery little eye pillow fairly useless, since it just slides off my face, I keep this one on hand for nights when a little something extra is needed to help me relax and fall off into sleep. 

* * * * *

Will any of these changes make the critical difference of getting me some clean sleep?  I can't say for sure. But the simple act of making these changes gives me a calm confidence that anything is possible, and that is a wonderful first step. 

clock | amazon
diffuser | amazon
eucalyptus oil | amazon
pillowcase | amazon

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Life Changing

Can $18 change your life? Yes. The answer is yes. 

Unscrew the lid and breathe in. 

Grapeseed oil.

The fragrance is fresh and light and natural. 
Smells like clean.

Pour some out into your hand. 

Pleasingly silky and smooth. 
Rich and just the right amount of thick.

Spread it in your hair.

Feel your scalp tingle
Gently rub it through your hair.

You can almost hear your hair saying, "Ahhhh. Thank you."

Rinse it out and towel dry. 

Feel the comb slide through tangle free hair
Look in the mirror and notice an immediate difference.

Know that your life has changed.  

* * * * *

Look, I like a good beauty product as much as the next girl. But I'm quite lazy about seeking them out.

You know, it's easy enough to select the first thing that jumps out at me in the Target aisles or more likely, buy whatever my daughters are using. But every now and then, I realize that there has got to be a better alternative to my current shampoo and actually do some research to sort out my current hair dilemma:

Dry, listless locks.
A decided lack of previously springy curls
An itchy, burning rash on any part of my skin that my current shampoo and conditioner touch. 

It took me many months to get here but it finally dawned on me that I needed something different.

This realization led me on a happy Google search that has blown my mind.

My hair doesn't need shampoo at all. 

And now that my hair is smooth and soft and happy again, it is no stretch at all to say that my life has truly changed.