"We are what we believe we are."
C.S. Lewis

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mop Philosophy Book Club: Middlemarch


Our book club today is co-hosted by our friend GSL of The Lion's Den, who I would like to thank for suggesting the book as well as co-hosting.  GSL has his own comments which include an author biography relevant to our reading (and which will put the novel in context with other books you may have read).  G listened to an audio version of the book while I only managed to read a third of the novel (or I should say re-read, I first read this book at age 15 but I have retained almost nothing).

In light of this I am going to suggest that we re-visit Middlemarch after the winter.  I am finding that I am more interested in the story the more I read (it may be one of those slow-going books) and I also have a couple of strategies I am planning to employ to improve my reading experience, namely sketching out a diagram of characters and relationships, but there are a few other tips which I picked up on a helpful website, the tips and website links are detailed below.
I've started here with my own comments to be followed by GSL.  As usual all thoughts and observations are welcome and encouraged!


In attempting to read Middlemarch once more something started coming back to me: it was the glimpse of a theory that I had a small idea of the first time I read the book (though I didn't have a name for it at the time): Soft Determinism.  This is a theory I'm quite drawn to and it's one of the reasons I enjoy the writings of Spinoza.  Spinoza (who I would call a Soft Determinist, others wouldn't, that's a whole other kettle) would say that we have freedom in our own determination, but in acknowledging that our choices were bound to happen (based on a myriad of other surrounding events/factors in the web of life) our anxiety is lifted: there is no need for fear, or the dreaded "what-if".  Our lives spin out from causes, or decisions we have made, reactions we have had, and we can never leave our past behind us because it is in fact already caught up in our future.

I found an excellent site titled "Middlemarch for Book Clubs" which acknowledges the difficulties of processing this book for both individuals and groups.  The author in fact suggests studying Middlemarch as a book club over a series of months to break it up.
In particular I enjoyed the author's take on Determinism in Middlemarch, and it made me think of my pal Spinoza's Soft Determinism.   She begins her short essay on the subject with this quote from the book:
Our deeds still travel with us from afar,
And what we have been makes us what we are. (Chapter 70)
Please read the essay, it explains in short detail the reliance on past events and analysis in the novel.

Another helpful essay on the site discusses The Big Picture.  As I continue to read the novel I'm going to keep some of these things in mind, in particular the Lydgate/Dorothea parallel, the web imagery and the use of the words ardent and petty.

Something else I picked up when I was preparing this post was the fact that George Eliot actually merged two stories to write this novel.  She had been writing a story about "Miss Brooke" and another about a provincial doctor (and was well in with both story lines).  She decided to merge them, creating a complex work in which parallels could be drawn (perhaps to further illustrate her points) but in doing so I wonder if she created a novel that was at times a bit jumpy and difficult to follow?

In consideration of the fact that I have only re-read a third of the novel I wouldn't mind visiting this book club discussion again in the early spring.  Giving myself the entire winter to do the reading seems more realistic.  Let me know if any of you would like to do the same. xoxDani


Now we'll hear from GSL:


George Eliot, the nom de plume of Mary Anne Evans, was born in 1819 the same year as Queen Victoria, John Ruskin, Walt Whitman and Herman Melville and two years after Jane Austen died at age 41.  The Austen-Eliot comparison is inevitable but they did inhabit different worlds with pen and in the lives they lived. The Industrial Revolution, advent of train travel, and Darwin’s On The Origin of Species and their effects on social mobility and intellectual life dramatically changed the societal landscape of even provincial England by the time Eliot serialized Middlemarch in 1871-1872.
In comparing Middlemarch to that other great 19th Century novel, Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, you immediately become aware that while both are set in provincial England with young, strong-willed, intelligent, and comfortably situated female protagonists, the differences are quickly made apparent. Middlemarch is not a novel of manners but rather a more sober story of greater philosophical and psychological depth than Pride and Prejudice.  Middlemarch was said by Virginia Woolf “to be one of the few English novels written for grown up people” as it doesn’t leave off with the “happily ever after” comfort of Pride and Prejudice.
Middlemarch is a more serious work of greater depth and you are immediately aware you are in the company of a supremely gifted writer with a first rate intellect, but the rhythms and melody don’t quite attain the heights that Austen does with Pride and Prejudice.  With her protagonist Dorothea Brooke, Eliot has introduced a fascinating young woman who I’d have eagerly joined in a sequel. GSL












Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Golden Elephant Party

With a Lulu Frost for JCrew bracelet.
 I generally find myself attracted to shiny golden things leading up to the holidays and this year was no exception.  In fact I have been looking longingly at metallics of all sorts but when I spotted these parading golden elephants I was delighted.  Aren't they so festive and cheering?
A dress for the Opera?
 I bought the dress... which was only offered in Crewcuts.  I ordered it in a size 16 then quickly dismissed it as a probable return, but in fact the fit is pretty much identical to a regular size 2 in JCrew.

Before going into too much detail on the dress I have to tell you about this silk fringe scarf, also from JCrew.  What a terrific accessory for the holidays!  I wanted to pair it with the dress to break up the pattern and add some interest and coverage around the neck... I was guessing that the elephant busyness would make a jewelry pairing a bit tricky.
Swingy fringe detail on the scarf.
It has the perfect swing looped once around the neck.
JCrew Silk Fringe Scarf
 The golden elephant print was offered in two items for women: a little skirt and some holiday loafers.
I could tell from looking at the skirt that it would be a challenging fit for me, and generally I'm just not into skirts as a party option...it's so much easier for me to throw on a dress!
If you do like the pattern and this style of skirt check out the link, it has a 5* review:
Origami Skirt in Elephant Parade
 The loafers would be darling with ankle-length black pants and a fitted black sweater... add a gold necklace and you have a perfect pants outfit for a cocktail party.
Sophie Elephant Parade Loafers
The product photo of the dress looks juvenile to be sure, but it's really just a plain dress with a centre back zipper and an a-line skirt.  The top is lined in cotton which makes it very comfortable and the skirt has a layer of tulle in addition to the lining.

Girls' Elephant Parade Dress
 I made an attempt to take some photos which is slightly difficult without a full length mirror or a willing photographer...
The waist has a couple of subtle pleats.
There are pockets which is always a bonus.

You can see that the a-line shape of the skirt ends just above the knee.
A black opaque hosiery is key to setting off the pattern.
 I'll be wearing this frock with my Ferragamo pumps which have a small gold detail.

 How do you like the Elephant Parade?  How about fringe details as on the black silk scarf, don't you think they add a nice bit of festive movement to an outfit?
xoxDani


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Middlemarch and Us


We have an interesting book club coming up this Saturday which will be co-hosted by our darling GSL. I would like to ask you to attend even if you have not read Middlemarch or have no intention of reading it.  I myself have read only 18% of the novel, an annoying fact brought to me by my Kindle tracker.  There is no way I'll be able to finish it in time but I will manage to read a couple of essays written about Middlemarch and an excellent review of Rebecca Mead's bibliomemoir: "My Life in Middlemarch".  Here are the links:

Middlemarch and Me is an essay written by Rebecca Mead for The New Yorker.

Deep Reader: Rebecca Mead's "My Life in Middlemarch" is a review of Rebecca Mead's book by none other than Joyce Carol Oates.

I hope to see you this Saturday here on the blog!
xoxDani




Monday, November 17, 2014

Mop Philosophy Monday

 We've had a bit of a country/city weekend that began with a visit to Scout's holiday farm, how do you like this firewood stacked neatly in an old trunk?  That's just the sort of practical display and organization that is really pleasing to the eye.

As are old restored barns...
Star detail on barn.
 I'm not sure why chickens are so funny but somehow they are, so full of character and bemusement:
The chickens in their house at Scout's holiday farm.
Scout desperately wanted to get in there... to cause a commotion I'm sure!
 Ruby has soulful eyes doesn't she?
Ruby
 Don't worry about Scout one bit, she's having the time of her life and now leaps through the tall grass like a giant rabbit.  Being a city dog this skill took some time apparently!
Scout and Doogan leaping like giant rabbits.
Apparently she looked at it for three days while formulating her leaping strategy.
 Wondering what's going on inside our completely gutted and debris-filled house?
Last week: the subfloor and new bits of the unfinished oak.
 Things are looking lovely inside, the new floors are down on all three stories, have been stained and are just between coats to finish.
The new floor with a brown stain.

Ta-Da!
Work on the outside has been less than busy.  We had another go-round with our permits and a required inspection which then piqued some interest... in maybe an engineer's report on the foundation for the back steps?  Well we've got that done after lots of back-and-forth, commotion, extra costs and some lost time.  This is the way it goes and if it all went smoothly there would be no stories...
Sad old stone waiting to become something.

Work at a standstill.  

The foundation which could survive the Zombie Apocalypse.
The engineer agreed it will be solid long past our time on this Fair Earth.

 We have fresh stamps from the inspectors and engineers as of this past Friday and a go-ahead to build full-steam, this week should be busy and I only wish it wasn't so cold outside.  It was frustrating for the crews to not be able to just do their job, I always think it would be so satisfying to have a trade and to build things but to be mired down because of paperwork would be a frustrating aspect of that job, don't you think?  Fingers crossed that the conditions won't be too tough for the crews this week...

Stay tuned as I know it seems like I am ignoring some key aspects of Mop Philosophy such as organizing and wardrobes... this is not the case for there is action behind the scenes.  Upcoming we have Intel From New York, our faithful blog member Teacups has submitted a report With Photos on the new Brora shop on Madison Avenue, it's true!
 We also have much to discuss around the issues of tidying, cleaning and organizing according to the KonMari Method... and of course there is the eternal vexation of the dichotomy of wardrobing: specifically everyday outfits focussed on comfort, plain colours and practical pieces juxtaposed with shiny metallic party clothes (to satisfy our imaginations and that inner bright interest that wants joyful pretty things), not a new concept to be sure but one I've been thinking about lately.

Have an excellent and productive day Tooties and May Your Force Be With You,
xoxDani

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Brora's New York Party

Silk blouses from Brora.
 Have you taken in the Madison Avenue Magic and Glamour that was the Brora New York Launch Party?  Feast your eyes right here, you'll be able to see for yourself that there was a bagpipe fellow and fashion people everywhere.
Imagine being there... the excitement and the fabulousness: a party celebrating Brora with everyone dressed in their Brora finery?
 
Of course it has me thinking about what I would have worn... when I think of New York combined with Brora I think of bright lights mixed with cozy, so a vibrant print on a black silk as illustrated by the blouses above, or a festive tweed flecked with gorgeous Brora colour:
 I think this jacket would have been just the ticket with a bit of colourful Brora cashmere underneath, black wool/silk pants and some New York City inspired high heels.
My city-ish Brora jacket: add black for  the party!
I'm so excited for Brora and you know where I'll be dragging MrBP the next time we hit The Big Apple!
xoxDani

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Scout's Holiday

 This past Saturday we piled into our car and drove out to Caledon, a country area here in Ontario known for its rolling hills and horse farms.
It had been two weeks since we brought Scout out to her holiday and we missed her so much!  We arrived and she spent 10 minutes greeting us, leaping into the air and running between us all to give equal attention to everyone.
Then of course she wanted to play:
Scout ready to play.
 Scout has a new best friend: Doogan.  Here they are below having a run.  They tear through the fields of this 50 acre horse farm twice a day.  Apparently Scout is sleeping really well and I can see why!
Scout and Doogan.
 The farm itself is beautiful, very well cared for with twenty horses of varying age... all run by an extremely capable, lovely woman who is so hands-on that she even births the foals herself.
Yes that's snow whipping through the air!
 Scout is loved at this farm and has fit right in with the other dogs.  The thing about Scout is that she has no hang-ups, she just wants to run, play and stay in the pack, whether that be human or animal.  Scout's got it all figured out.
 When we left she was in the farm house and she ran from window to window following our car as it crept up and out of the driveway.  It was a heartbreak but we'll be visiting her again this Saturday, which is a comfort.
We are at the halfway point of our five weeks away from home and while we've been busy it seems a month or more since we were home together with Scout, we miss that furry rascal.

As you can see from the snow in these pictures we are losing our race against winter which is going to impact our house project significantly... more on that in the next renovation update!
I hope you've been well Tooters,
xoxDani

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Dream Closet

The closet of model Rosie Huntington Whiteley.
Source
 What makes the image of a candy-coloured closet layered with frocks, handbags and lingerie so appealing?  I could spend hours looking through images of these spaces on The Coveteur or Pinterest.

Most of these closets are in fact rooms converted into dressing areas with ample built-in storage, soft velvet furniture, furry rugs and decadent chandeliers.  Do you remember all of those photos of Jenna Lyons' closet?  Who could forget: all of those shoes!  I think that actress Kaley Cuoco has her beat for a shoe wall, have a look.  How about the closet of Suzanne Rogers?


While I certainly don't have space for a closet-room in our home, one of the most enjoyable and personal aspects of our renovation is that I am able to build my own closet in the master bedroom.  Up until this point I have shared this closet (designed by a previous owner) with MrBP.  It was the sort of bedroom closet that was very squishy for two people, and which had almost zero hanging space for dresses, which are the bulk of my wardrobe.
(MrBP will have his own closet in the former linen/cleaning closet, adjacent to his new study.  We've designed it just for him, with room for suits, ties, sports jackets and everyday shirts and pants.)

I have a closet for off-season clothes in Ole Rascal's bedroom where I can store clothes in full-view, very important considering that I often shop the out-of-season sales.  This sort of shopping isn't always the best strategy and I'll tell you why: I'm one of those people who immediately forgets the existence of objects once they are stored away, including items bought on clearance in November to be worn the next July.  In consideration of this sad fact I'm planning to store everything I own in one of the two closets  after the renovation.  My bedroom closet will be for current clothes, and in this case Fall and Winter, while the third floor storage closet will hold Spring and Summer, all easily accessible and in view.
We have a very small bedroom which can fit a king-size bed, two small nightstands... and that's it.  The closet itself is a fair size and runs the wall of the bedroom with some fold-out doors.  The room is too small to allow for swing-out doors (which would make for more storage room, all of that space on the backs of the doors).
Here are the fold-out doors:
My closet with the new floor which was just installed.
The baseboards will go on after the floor is stained and sealed.
I quite like these doors, they have a nice moulding detail and pretty glass knobs.  They allow a fair access to the interior of the closet when they are both fully opened, though the door shown at left (below) does impede use of the nightstand when open.  There's not much to be done about that, it's a small room after all.
 A couple of months ago I phoned Christina, the local California Closets designer who's done work in our house before.  I really enjoy working with Christina, she's funny with great energy and good ideas. This particular closet was a bit of a challenge because I was determined to re-use a closet system that we had installed in Little Rascal's room that was being torn out for the renovation.

This is the design we came up with:
My new closet design.
Plenty of room for frocks at the left, blouses, jackets, pants and skirts at the right.
 Christina brings her measuring devices and her laptop and we design the closet together on-site.  I wanted lots of room for dresses and coats and a small space to hold blouses, jackets and skirts.  The drawers will be used for knitwear, pajamas and knickers.
I like to store shoes on shelves and two shelves specifically for my two handbags are front and centre.
The shorter shelves at left are for shoes.
The two shelves are for handbags, with more shelving above the drawers.
The shelves above the drawer system (which is the unit that is being re-used) will be for shoes, scarf boxes, perfume, some jewellery and display.  I'm attempting to give the closet a "boutique" feeling just like my lovely and fabulous friend Kim does with hers.  This is the post which has inspired my closet re-design!
I just adored this post and Kim's methods for making her closet seem boutique-like, with small personal touches creating a sanctuary-like space.
Notice that she organizes her jewellery on beautiful trays, has displayed pictures of her adorable sons and her handsome husband, and that she has newer, outfit-inspiring items front and centre.  
Kim suggests papering the interior of a boutique-like closet for a personal, pretty touch.  I took that idea and ran with it!
Initially I planned to paper the closet with a pink toile wallpaper which was almost over-the-top feminine.  Instead I decided to bring my idea to our designer, J, who is choosing the colour palette for the entire house.  She chose several different wallpapers in the scheme of our bedroom making it very easy for me, I only needed to make the final choice.

In the end I chose this wallpaper, quite a departure from a toile but very pretty and almost William Morris-like with its repeated, natural pattern:

The paper looks beautiful with the blue that the bedroom will be painted, as you can see from the swatches below:
The bedding is blue and green, the drapes a neutral bronze silk and the walls will be painted a soothing shade of blue that has a creamy undertone.  We wanted a blue for contrast behind the upholstered headboard and the antique ivory nightstands we've ordered for the room.  The lighting will echo the drapes in a bronze finish: we have two swing-arm lamps being installed on each side of the bed (which will free up space on top of the not-very-large nightstands).
I'm very much looking forward to seeing the closet papered and the new fixtures installed, never mind organizing my wardrobe in it, would you like to see the "after" photos?
Do you have your own bedroom closet or do you share?  Do you have an off-season closet?  How about this fun idea of a boutique-like closet, is this something you yourself already do?

Thank you Darling Kim for inspiring me to take some extra care with this closet!
xoxDani