Hi there, remember me? The girl who hasn’t written a stitch over here in two months’ time? If you’ve stopped by Literary Inklings you’ll known I’ve still very much been around and writing, but from this little corner of the web I needed a siesta. I didn’t make a to-do about it because I’m not that fond of talking about bloggery on my blog (a perfectly contradictory choice, I know). Anyway, when you’ve spent a certain number of years with one creative outlet I think it can sometimes be easy to fall into a rut or two from time to time. When I did, though, I found myself looking in the wrong places for a way out; and when you do that, it’s like a Band-Aid on your discontent. I often looked at what others were doing, how they were making it work; but other people aren’t me, and pleasing ideas aren’t always the big inspiration you think they are. The creative spirit has to keep trying, and when you pay attention and work hard eventually, someday, you’ll hit on just the right thing. But part of the process is stepping back and getting reacquainted with yourself, your ideas, and rediscovering what it is you want to achieve.

This wonderfully true observation from Matisse explains very well what I’ve struggled with. I so often look outside of myself for the answers – I think a lot of people can probably relate to this. I’m constantly seeking validation from others, and I doubt that will ever fully change as it’s so fully ingrained in my personality. But the thing to work on is the attention I pay to myself, because in most cases the time I really find clarity is when I stop and reflect, when I spend time getting back to myself and remembering what’s most important to me. Going back to the roots always has a way of comforting the discontented or conflicted mind. As probably a lot of people are, I’m quick to look at myself and listen to myself in a completely different way than I look at and listen to others. I put so much value on the opinions of others, but then I do nothing but doubt the thoughts and ideas born within me. We’re such strange characters, those of us who do that. We have a way of devaluing the one person we will quite literally spend our entire lives with: ourselves. Shouldn’t that be the person we try our hardest to please? I don’t mean at the expense of others, obviously, but just in the most basic sense.

Anyway, it proved to be some excellent food for thought on my end and maybe it will be equally thought-provoking to anyone reading. Enjoy your week, and thanks as ever for taking the time to stop by!

And because apparently I’m focusing on him today, two of my favorite Matisse pieces currently on my inspiration board (Self-Portrait in a Striped Shirt, 1906 and Woman with a Hat, 1905). His top notch use of color is a needed pick-me-up for any Monday. (Even one that happens to be St. Patrick’s Day!)

Whenever I’m faced with a new year I have a tendency to automatically let my mind go to the things I didn’t accomplish; failed resolutions, unmet goals, etc. I think that’s sometimes what motivates me to make new resolutions, the desire to make the next year better, which means I’m looking at the last year as inadequate (however inadvertently). As New Year’s grew closer I realized I’d been looking back at 2013 in a bit of a panic, wondering where the time went and what I actually did in whatever time was available. My mind would go right to the hard times and the frustrations that came with 2013, so much so that when I stopped and thought about the good things that happened I actually surprised myself. There was a lot of happiness tucked into the year, masquerading as everyday moments and small, precious joys. I took to Instagram to illustrate the little blessings that I could so easily forget, to remind myself that every year – even if it doesn’t work out the way we planned – has something good to be found in it.


Early mornings, books and shoes, spending beloved time with Dusty, and a finely dressed Matthew Macfadyen on Ripper Street. January was quiet and full of simple happiness.


There was a lot of snow in February, and so a lot of finding things to occupy myself inside. Some favorite music and a good book, a favorite snack, cozy knits, and lots of coffee helped pass the time while I waited for the thaw.


This was a month full of challenges. It was one that I spent away from social media and the web as I spent time with Dusty in his final days and eventually said a very peaceful goodbye. He was my best friend for the sixteen years of his life that I spent with him, so it’s needless to say that the loss was profoundly and deeply felt. But I also know that he’s never really been gone – he’s always with me.


In April I did something very spontaneous for me – I took myself to a concert. I saw the legendary Leonard Cohen, which was a life-changing experience to say the least. Other things that happened in April: I met up with some dear friends in the city, received a wicked box full of books from Heather, and got all dressed up with my sister to go see Clinton Kelly.


I turned 25 in May and spent my birthday in Newport, Rhode Island where I toured a few of the “summer cottages” with my family. I chopped off all my hair, took vast photographic inventory of our backyard blooms, and met my lovely friend Jennie Fields at an event celebrating the paperback release of her novel, The Age of Desire.


Well…June had a pretty one-track mind. I read Edith Wharton for the first time, went to one epic book sale where I found some great treasures, and got a signed copy of Neil Gaiman’s new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane! A happy reader!


In July I saw Jackson Browne live with my dad (whom I can thank for my taste in music, I think). I also helped build a shed (yes, really!) and spent time by the pool where I finally started reading the wonderful Jo Nesbo.

At the very end of July I also shared my weight loss journey here on the blog for the first time, and I still can’t express all my gratitude for the incredible, kind, encouraging response that generated.


August was shopping and just one selfie (commemorating that it was the word of the year, right?). I read some more fine books – including Maryanne O’Hara’s beautiful Cascade, and generally kept surrounding myself with all things literary.


In September there was my beautiful silk vintage Ferragamo blouse and my first trip to charming Boston for a Red Sox game (where I did not see Matt Damon, sigh).


October was colorful and exciting; first I traipsed to Vermont with my mom and sister for a day at the Brattleboro Literary Festival where I met Chris Bohjalian and heard readings from a fabulous selection of writers. I also did Gabrielle Bernstein’s May Cause Miracles program, which motivated me to meditate and journal more. And at the end of the month my sister and I spent an awesome evening with Elizabeth Gilbert when she discussed her latest novel – and all manner of other things – with all the warmth and charm of her singular personality.


In November I was up to my eyebrows in NaNoWriMo (which I finished early – woohoo!), but I did take time to snap photos for @doubledaybooks‘ #photoadoubleday challenge, and I also saw Bonnie Raitt live which was a fantastic time.


And then December, which was spent mostly enjoying the season, catching up and slowing down, spending a fun day shopping with my sister on her birthday, and of course reflecting on the year that was.

2013 was a roller coaster of a year, to say the least. As I look forward to 2014 I’ll be reminded of the lessons I learned and the myriad ways I grew through the year past. I’m tremendously grateful to my friends and family for their support through the difficult times, their cheering through the triumphs, and all the wonderful chats and exchanges in between. From the bottom of my heart I hope 2014 brings great joy and uncountable blessings to all!

(You can find my recap of reading and bookish endeavors at Literary Inklings!)


It is certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas. This holiday season has been flying by so fast that I didn’t even get the chance to send out Christmas cards, but the small mountain of snow we were given in New England last weekend has been a constant reminder for me to slow down and enjoy this time of year as much as I can. I’ve been squeezing in time for my favorite holiday movies (Christmas in Connecticut, The Bishop’s Wife, and White Christmas among them) plus plenty of decorating, more snow-shoveling than I’d prefer, and even a little bit of baking. Whew! As I’m taking the time to enjoy the holidays I’m also prepping – in the back of my mind, at least – for the new year and all the changes I plan on making. I’m the sort of person who gets genuinely excited about starting over in the new year; there’s something so invigorating about January 1st and a bright, strange, wonderful new year of possibilities. But that will all be here before we know it, and I’m all about living in the now during the holidays. They go by quickly enough!

Must-read links from around the web

These DIY lace twinkle lights from Free People are a super cute idea for adding some warmth to your space.

Joelle has done something seriously brave and wonderful by sharing the first three chapters of her novel project on her blog. Go check that out and give her some major props for that big step..

Because she’s amazing on her blog 24/7 anyway, Jamillah took to the web to share some ethical holiday gift ideas – including Literary Inklings, where she shared some fantastic gifts for bookworms. She also shared ethical gifts for men and women on Yes and Yes, plus gifts for the kiddies back on her home turf. (Keep these in mind year-round because they’re pretty brilliant.)

Cartier has a new installment in their Winter Tale film series and I’m smitten with the sweet leopard and snowy Paris rooftops.

Do you think you are beautiful? Amazing insights from Jennifer Pastiloff, and much-needed at this time of year, as ever.

This real-life Christmas tree DIY centerpiece is actually the cutest.

Flare magazine shamefully Photoshopped Jennifer Lawrence for their cover and HuffPo has some .GIFs that show us exactly what they did – including lowering her collar bone (slash lengthening her neck), narrowing her face, hips, arms, and waist, and evening elongating her fingers! JLaw would not approve.

If you’re searching for a last-minute gift, making a donation in someone’s name is a lovely idea – and Nicholas Kristof’s annual guide to giving is a must-read. Some of my favorite organizations offering honorary donations are No Kid Hungry, Action Against Hunger, and Look Good Feel Better.

I’m sending all my love to you sweethearts and best wishes for a beautiful holiday season. Thanks for reading!

P.S. CM.com has a new look and I’m still dusting everything off. Thanks for your patience!

Photos: my Instagram

When it first aired in the early 1990s, The House of Eliott was considered an instant classic, winning over fans and critics on both sides of the Atlantic. Created by Dame Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh, the revolutionary women behind Upstairs, Downstairs, the cultural phenomenon of the ‘70s, The House of Eliott tells the story of sisters Beatrice (“Bea”) and Evangeline (“Evie”) Eliott as they rise through the world of fashion in the Roaring Twenties to establish their own haute couture design house.

Bea is feeling emotionally lost at thirty years old, having given up her chance at marriage in order to raise her younger sister, Evie, who is now a naïve and idealizing eighteen. Bea and Evie find their privileged lives uprooted upon the sudden death of their tyrannical and controlling father; but their hope of finally being able to live freely and independently is thwarted when they discover he left only a towering debt and a suitcase filled with secrets. With their only remaining funds – as well as Evie’s guardianship – tied up in the hands of their enterprising cousin Arthur, the girls are left to make their way in the world without formal education or skills. As their passion for fashion design begins to set the course for their future, Bea and Evie face all of the complex challenges for women in the 1920s, finding love and loss, success and failure along the way.

There are several different aspects of The House of Eliott that are likely to resonate with viewers, but most especially is the show’s depiction of the struggles women faced in the era. It’s truly well-rounded in terms of portraying the female condition – quite admirably and thoroughly so, and with Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins at the helm that’s really no surprise. In many ways The House of Eliott is a celebration of the progressive energy of the 1920s and the world of opportunities that were blossoming for women to find independence. We see this world through a variety of eyes thanks to the story and casting, which makes the aspect of women’s liberation feel even bigger. Even the women who didn’t have such a progressive view of the women’s suffrage movement are depicted here.

Being thirty and considered a “spinster”, Bea presents viewers with a depiction of a grown woman’s attempt at harnessing the new and evolving breed of independence for her life, a life which much of society would consider failed. Slightly embittered by her circumstances, Bea finds herself opened to the world in a whole new way. Meanwhile, young Evie shows us what it was like to come of age in the 1920s and gives the story a delightful touch of adolescent drama. Stubborn and opinionated despite her limited life experience, Evie gets herself into (and out of) all manner of trouble with the grace, creativity and intelligence that she and her sister both share. Together they illustrate the brilliant promise of women in their era – whatever their age – but their differences also drive a wedge between them on occasion. Their emotional and complex relationship is just another fascinating addition to the show.

The cast is lovely, featuring Aden Gillett, Cathy Murphy, Peter Birch, Barbara Jefford, and Francesca Folan in supporting roles while Stella Gonet plays Bea and Louise Lombard is Evie. The leads are immensely likable and their chemistry is wonderful. Filmed mostly in Bristol, the settings feel authentic and richly detailed while Joan Wadge’s sumptuous, BAFTA- and Emmy-winning costume design completes the fabulous visual appeal of flapper-era England. On the whole, the first season of the show sets the stage for a unique and engaging drama to unfold against the very fascinating social climate of the Roaring Twenties.

This new DVD set also includes an inside look at the history of fashion during the era captured in the show. Additionally, Acorn Media has released Series 2 and 3 as well as The House of Eliott: Complete Collection which features all 34 episodes of the lavish drama on 9 discs, with an exclusive companion booklet featuring a new interview with co-creator Jean Marsh.

Title: The House of Eliott: Series 1

Genre: Period drama, television series

Distributor: Acorn Media

Release Date: November 5, 2013

Provided by: Acorn Media (C/O)

Buy the DVD: Acorn Media | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Disclosure: A copy of the program was provided for the purpose of review