Frame Your Story

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Not my house. Obviously.

If you’re not impressed by cheap inexpensive affordable art, I’ve got a couple of higher end recommendations, both on my wish list.

First: frames by Saw & Mitre. Earlier this year my friend’s husband resigned from his corporate job to start his own business, combining his two passions for photography and working with his hands. (“He was a carpenter, and I just figured if you’re going to follow in someone’s footsteps, who better than Christ?” Name that movie!)

Order from Saw & Mitre Frame Co., and Dave will create a beautiful, gallery quality frame to display your photo. And it will last forever, so you can switch out photos in the future—just like an art gallery!—if, say, your photog skills improve and/or your decor needs a change.

We got to chat with Dave at a friend’s wedding recently, and it was so interesting and inspiring to hear how the business is going. Already he’s connecting with some of his photography heroes, learning, and adding to the products and services Saw & Mitre offers. I asked him if my iPhone/instagram pictures would be good enough for these frames. I don’t think he answered directly (very diplomatic) . . . but he is offering wood and metal frames in smaller square sizes now!

I’m not much of a photographer, but I love following Dave’s story on his blog, and I really love the Saw & Mitre instagram account, which is inspiring on the regular. This one really got me, along with Dave’s question: “How will my grandchildren discover and see photos of me when I’m long gone? Will it be a Google Image search? Will they find an old hard drive that (hopefully) still works? I sure hope not. #printyourwork” How right he is.

Second: textiles from St. Frank. An acquaintance from college is the dynamo behind this lovely company that sells beautiful framed textiles (and now pillows!) made by artisans around the world. Of course, my favorite would be the Otomi from Mexico . . . too bad Christina didn’t have the advantage of Mama Ortega’s bargaining!

It’s really fun to look through their Tastemakers posts and Collectors pictures to see the art in place in stunning, fabulous rooms. Also, if you’re needing more Pinterest inspiration, check out their account. My favorite board is Global Chic. Or Salon Walls. OK, also, shout outs to St. Frank’s Passport to Mexico, and Saintly Blue and White. Just check it all out.

You are dismissed. Go find something beautiful in your day.

(Not sponsored; just love ‘em.)

P.S. The story of acquiring Otomi for the girls’ room here at the end of the post; and if I were forced to choose, maybe I’d use one of the photos from here or here in a Saw & Mitre frame.

P.P.S. Two of soccer’s most iconic photographs.

A note for a new mom.

 photo 3D577B5C-1378-47FE-9537-19DC5B299857_zpspptzfghu.jpg You know it by now: the days are long, the years are short.

Sometimes I’ll write about parenting tips and things that I find helpful. I love reading about that stuff, and I figure a lot of you do, too. At the same time, probably nothing in my life has evoked feelings of insecurity as much as becoming a mother. (It’s also brought a new sense of empowerment and unparalleled joy—I guess they’re all mixed in.) So. It’s obvious, we’ll all make different decisions as parents and in life, but the truth is, that can make me nervous. I’m faced with the reality of how highly I value what other people think, when I realize that I’m doing things differently than other mothers.

I have enjoyed reading the baby books, the child development material, parenting articles, websites, blogs. (Again, following Uncle Steve’s advice: get a lot of advice, then do what you want!) It’s an important task—raising kids—so it’s important to make considered decisions about how to go about it. I want to do my best . . . but ultimately it becomes a big lesson in trust and giving up control.

This morning I wrote a quick note on a slip of paper to send my friend Ashley who’ll be bringing home a newborn in a couple days. (Eeeeps!!) Ash and I have discussed parenting styles and decisions (in theory), and as with other friends, I’ve said, hey, don’t worry if we do things differently. Before our family moved, I passed along to her a stack of baby books with the disclaimer that several of them contradict one another, so she’ll just have to decide what she wants to do.

But the note I wrote this morning contained my most practical, best advice. So I decided to copy it here:

“He . . . set my feet upon a rock making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.”
Psalm 40:2-3

Ash, I’d written this verse out for myself as a reminder that God makes my steps secure in motherhood—of course we won’t be perfect, but we know God’s taking care of us. I pray that you will feel utterly confident (in yourself, but more in God’s provision) as you get to know Towns!

And, my fave parenting strategy: ask God for wisdom every day. He promises to give it (James 1:5).

I love you!

If you want to know what I think, that’s it. Thanks for letting me keep it real, dear reader. Maybe next time I’ll be back with some snarky judgmental thoughts on kids’ television habits. [wink.] Love y’all.

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Awesomely Cheap (or Cheaply Awesome?) Art

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I have such a fun art secret to share! Not a secret, I guess, but something new to me that I loved so much. My friend Allison has some cool paintings at her house that I noticed. When I asked about them, she said, “Oh, those are by Steve Keene . .  . do you want one?” How generous! Little did I know.

Allison told me that Steve Keene is a Brooklyn artist (she knows him from his work in Charlottesville) who creates massive installations made up of hundreds of smaller paintings on plywood. His process is really interesting, but so is his philosophy: he wants visual art to be available for everyone, like buying a song for a dollar from iTunes. So when those installations are dismantled, the individual paintings can come live at your house! You pay $30 (plus $12 shipping) and he’ll send 5 or so medium paintings. You don’t know what you’ll get, but you know it’s folk art and it’s likely colorful (possibly bizarre).

Of course, I jumped on that opportunity pretty much immediately, and then had to wait awhile before our mystery paintings arrived in the mail. By the time the package arrived I’d become so curious and eager that I was Christmas-morning giddy as I ripped through the brown paper. And I was not disappointed. I’d emailed with Steve during the wait, so maybe because of that, maybe because of Allison, or maybe randomly, we got nine or ten paintings instead of the advertised four or five!

Then I put on my insane art curator hat and ran around rearranging and trying things out on our walls. In the end, not a lot was rearranged. But the whole process, with the surprise element, not to mention the low cost, was such fun. I might be addicted. It was like Stitch Fix for art, except less expensive. Think about it— five paintings for under $9 a piece, and in my case, $4.20 a piece! The low cost of it makes it so low risk, which I love. Don’t get me wrong: the paintings are awesome and might fit in timelessly with your collection, but if they’re not your speed, no biggie fry.

With that in mind, here’s what’s happening with ours. A few I knew immediately would be gifts (and I mean sincere gifts, as opposed to funny gifts—you’ll see what I mean in a moment), a few are on our walls,

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 one in particular is in the bathroom (inexpensive=don’t worry about water damage),

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and the weirdest of the bunch made a perfect post-bar exam celebratory gift for my cousin Nate.

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(Trust me, he appreciated this.)

I’m not sure how it happened along the way, but we’ve amassed a pretty fun art collection. Not super expensive collector pieces, but meaningful pieces that have some reason behind them like the colorful Memphis in May Music Festival poster, framed photographs from travels during college, this fruit painting (I love. Our most formal frame, in the kitchen. :) That’s why art is fun. My aunt and uncle gave it to us our first married Christmas.).

Though I love what we have, I realized a few years ago that most stuff on our walls was framed behind glass—prints, photos, drawings—and that we should go for more texture to round things out—actual paint, fabric, more three-dimensional hangings. Then I visited one of my good friends who lived with her husband in Charlottesville at the time. They had a small rental house, and when I walked in I said, “Wow, this is really, like, a grown-up house.” I think she had inherited some formal side tables, and had generally nice coordinated furniture, but it was the art that did it for me. In the living room they’d hung a large abstract floral painting by an artist that her family really liked. She and her sisters had gotten a discount when all of them bought paintings at an arts festival.

It was confirmed: I needed* paintings.

But, two problems with original paintings: 1) They’re pricey (you have good taste, so anything you like is bound to be super expensive). Or, 2) You don’t have an artsy background, and maybe you like something and could buy it, but you’re worried: what if it goes out of style and you don’t like it later, or maybe it’s great by itself but just doesn’t work with everything else you’ve got going on, decor-wise.

Why would you spend so much on something purely decorative (and possibly of questionable taste)?

Art should be fun, expressive, not anxiety-inducing. This is why I love Steve Keene for giving me some honest to goodness paintings on my walls. If you like folk art, you should give this a try. Even if you don’t, there’s no risk involved. Give a painting to your pilates teacher, your farmer, or your favorite barista.

Will you order some paintings?? Please report back if you do!

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 They’re not funny. They’re art. (Name that movie.)

Not sponsored. I love Steve Keene.

*Wanted. But visuals affect me, and you, too, so the need argument could be made.

Mosquito-palooza

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  • Don’t have to think ahead and get out any clothes from our closet before Mary Tobin goes to bed or takes a nap (her nursery was a closet).
  • Our bedroom seems extra roomy without Inez’ bassinet on my side of the bed and a laundry cart on the other.
  • Laundry. Don’t need to roll a laundry cart down to the basement; don’t need to keep half a paycheck’s worth of quarters around for laundry and parking.
  • Parking. It’s easy.
  • Outdoor space! Wherever we move in the future I can never go back to being yard-less. Actually, more than the yard, we’re using the patios—front and back—to eat dinner and host friends.

Cons:

  • Mosquitoes.

[Shannon and Rebekah (neighbors in our building in DC): there are so many cons in terms of what we miss, but I just wanted a way to lead into crowd-sourcing some mosquito advice.]

Our family has taken an “all of the above” approach to combatting mosquitoes, including, but not limited to:

  • Traditional bug spray: Israel uses the serious stuff, because bugs love his sweet Aztec blood and he’s not messing around.
  • “Green” bug spray: both the commercial and home-made variety, which seem to be pretty much the same. Our homemade is avocado oil plus eucalyptus and lavender essential oils. This is another recipe that seems like it would be good to try (h/t LMLD).
  • Citronella candle: alright, but certainly smells and can affect the taste of dinner. My brother’s trick with this is to put it under your table, particularly if it’s a glass top, so that the citronella stuff kind of billows around the people sitting there, instead of up and away.
  • ThermaCELL lantern: our favorite! It works, and it doesn’t smell. It’s not supposed to be toxic, and I’m betting it’s less toxic that covering my baby’s skin with DEET. We are forever committed to buying the little refills.

To make our environment less hospitable to the skeeters:

  • Dump out any standing water, clean gutters, get brush under control.
  • Mosquito repelling plants. (Who knows?)
  • Dump out coffee grounds or leftover coffee around your patio. I don’t know if this is effective, but can’t hurt. The new neighbors likely have spotted me on my bizarre nightly dash outside with a red french press during dishwashing time, but they haven’t said anything.
  • An oscillating fan to make it tougher for mosquitoes to land. (I guess that would be the budget version of a porch like this.)
  • To make you yourself less tasty, take B complex vitamins. (No source; hearsay from Mama Rote.)

Do mosquitoes love you and yours? If so, what do you do about it?

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Mary Tobin says, direct quote: “Get out of here, bugs. This is not your house!” 

An idea for parents with two cuties in diapers . . .

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This is one of those systems that I’ve figured out right as Mary Tobin’s getting out of diapers . . . I wish I’d done it earlier, so I decided to throw it out here to benefit future generations. Don’t get your hopes up. This probably falls into the same category as using lapel pins for push pins, but I love this kind of stuff.

When selecting diapers, I decided to buy patterns with warm colors (pink, red, orange, yellow) for Mary Tobin and cool colors (purple, blue, green) for Inez. You’d think that the tiny versus large sizes would be enough to easily distinguish between them; but when it’s late at night or you’re frantically reaching into a diaper bag, or someone’s yelling, or you yourself are crying . . . it helps for things to be as clear as possible.

So that’s it! Read on if you care to learn more about what type of diapers we use . . .

The pattern/color selection was on my mind because we get diapers delivered by The Honest Company and they have cute seasonal patterns to choose from. Initially we ordered diapers from somewhere else since my only requirement was that they be delivered instead of me lugging a huge box of diapers as well as a baby up to our apartment, but I tried Honest Company when la princesa battled diaper rash for awhile. Honest Company’s diapers are a bit more expensive, but they’re free of all the questionable, stinky chemicals. So far Inez hasn’t had any diaper rash. If you’re on the market, I recommend them.

Plus, better patterns . . . Mama Rote and I agree that it’s bizarre and disconcerting when Elmo or Mickey’s face is gazing at you from a child’s bottom or crotch . . . maybe that’s just us. (But you could also apply my system there: Elmo for one kid, Mickey for another . . . ??)

Totally seems like it, but this is not a sponsored post. I will give you my referral link though—if you use this link and order from Honest, you can get a few diapers to try for free, and I’ll get some credit and be forever grateful (I believe it’s one of those deals where you need to cancel if you don’t want to continue receiving diaper deliveries).

Might I add for those not currently in the diaper game: a gift card makes a great gift for expecting parents, especially those expecting #2 (or more). For Inez, we had a “Books and Bloomers” shower (bloomers meaning diapers) since we already had the requisite baby gear.

Happy diaper shopping, I guess!

Musical Beds (+ Girls’ Room Inspiration!)

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When my oldest brother Will was yet an only child and Dad was traveling a lot, Mom and Will met Dad at the airport, in the days when you could go all the way to the gate to greet incoming passengers. When Will saw Dad walk out of the jetway, he ran up happily and shouted, “Dad, nobody slept in Mom’s bed last night!”

Mama Rote is not a floozy. They’d been working on getting Will to sleep in his own bed all night. Good job, Brother!

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We’ve just gotten through a similar stage with Mary Tobin. She’s always been a champion sleeper and truly is doing great overall. (Please understand, my mom once told someone that I’m a “sleep nazi”—in other words, my standards are very high. I like to get a ton of sleep, so sue me.) Still, Mary Tobin hit a few bumps as several transitions converged . . . moving, new big girl bed, new baby in the family, a bit of potty training, new understanding of the dark and fear . . . who knows. But—knock on wood—getting into our new house with her new room, shared with sister, has helped a lot. I think things have been quieter partly because she’s scared of waking Inez up. Hallelujah.

Tell me, did you share a room with a sibling growing up? I never did because I was the only girl (read: the princess). But I love the idea and think it will be fantastic for them. At least, looking back I think it will be great, and they’ll have to learn to deal with each other in the mean time.

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Unsure about sharing.

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Getting the girls’ room all ready was also a lesson to me that I actually can be a good mover if I can motivate myself. We focused with laser-like precision on unpacking their room first to give these chickadees as smooth a transition as possible. Thanks to pre-painting and curtain hanging by the grandparents, the room was basically good to go the first night.

As we battle the disarray in every other part of the house, I’ve found myself sitting in the girls’ room whenever possible; it’s so peaceful by comparison.

Regarding decorating choices for their room: I’m doing my best to keep it simple, but it’s a struggle. We’ve got some lovely art in there, including the señorita mexicana and some prints from vintage style Mexican calendars. My new favorite is a piece of beautiful Otomi fabric that I’ve been saving for the right spot since I bought it in Mexico, thanks to mi suegra’s bargaining. I had my prices and my Spanish prepared, but after haltingly exchanging a couple of sentences with the vendor my courage failed, so I sent in the big guns: Mama Ortega.

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Let’s call the diaper pail a modern sculptural piece.

As we left the market in Cholula, she told me that the guy was so excited to sell that piece of fabric, and that his mother and sister had worked on it for five months. ¿¿QUE?? I felt immensely guilty for haggling them down (well, Mama Ortega was my bargaining agent) to such a great price for that amount of work. She quickly assured me that the guy was thrilled to sell it, that he’d go home that night and celebrate with his family, that it was quite a big sum of money for them. Phew. I could’ve dealt with colonial angst for a long time.

I love this wall hanging because it’s so charming and Mexican, but instead of the animal Otomi pattern that’s so hot right now, the flowers look like something that my grandmother could’ve had too. (The flowers are poinsettias, which are from Mexico. Did you know that?)

It doubles as a fantastic backdrop for a Father’s Day photo shoot:

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More on kids’ rooms/nurseries:

  • Examples of how to un-obnoxiously use pink in a little girl’s room. (I should be a headline writer! Clickbait!)
  • Lay Baby Lay is still one of my faves for nursery and general design inspiration. Here’s the post where I went a little nuts going through all her inspiration boards.
  • Finally, I’m [somewhat, half-heartedly] trying to follow Nashville designer Rachel Halvorson’s advice to keep it simple in kids’ rooms. This room she designed for twin girls is so lovely, and as she points out, “If you took out the artwork, and a few accessories, you’d still have a neutral palette to work with. And when they come in with their hot pink superman capes and polka dot beach balls?? There’s your pop of color.”

World Cup Update + Links, or, How not to find a good Mexican restaurant

Friendly friends, our family has moved to a new city! I wanted to officially write it here, in case you’re not paying the closest attention to my instagram feed. Now that it’s on the blog and official, I can move on to some other items of business.

I do want to write a little bit about saying goodbye to DC, and about Inez’ birth story, but I’m learning that blogging waits for no man. . . reminds me of this quote from Annie Dillard: “One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, play it, lose it all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it all, give it now.”

So today we explored Nashville in one of the most important ways, the quest for a go-to Mexican restaurant. The need was urgent since Mexico debuted in the the World Cup today (and won! no thanks to the refs). So the girls put on our Mexican dresses and Israel donned green and red, and we stalked a random strip mall Mexican restaurant by calling ahead to make sure they had TVs, then arriving 20 minutes before their opening time of 11am. At least we amused the Mexicans who worked there and amused/confused the white HVAC repair guys who came in after us for their usual lunch. (What I’m saying is that the atmosphere was not quite as exciting as this.)

And so, some links for you, beginning with ways to get pumped up for the World Cup, moving on to Father’s Day, decorating, life advice. I’ll tie it all together with a picture at the end.

The legendary Maradona warming up with joy. (H/t Dinner A Love Story)

A history of World Cup uniforms and the corresponding women’s hemlines.

John Oliver explains FIFA, and does a killer French accent.

Father’s Day idea (?): manly scented candles. My favorites (in theory) are Memphis Style BBQ, Sawdust, and Santa’s Beard. (H/t John!)

“Germany to Mexico: How America’s source of immigrants has changed over a century.” With a cool map.

I love so much about this cottage featured in Garden & Gun. 

Also from Garden & Gun, a beach chair for Dad to remind him of family vacations to Destin and Gulf Shores. (Sorry these gift ideas aren’t actually in time for anything!)

Making me feel good about hoarding: Style Court’s review of Mary Randolph Carter’s Never Stop to Think . . . Do I Have A Place for This?. “So try not to stifle that childlike curiosity and desire to pick stuff up, Carter says, because at the very least what you gather will likely keep your rooms from looking just like your neighbor’s.”

A refreshing graduation speech: “I hate to be the one to say it, but you probably won’t get there.” Even so, “Stay curious. Keep learning.”

Okay! I’ve gone through all the open tabs on my phone AND computer, and I’ve shared what I wanted to share (left out our electric bill and articles on DIY carpet fresheners . . . you’re welcome). I feel so much better, do you?

And, because you earned it, here it is:

Tornado 75 Home Kyle Rote, 15

(A soccer dad who loves to give life advice. Short shorts. Unrelated to decorating.)

P.S. Two posts about my dad.

Movie Date: Chef

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Email from Mama Rote to the fam:

This afternoon, at Josie and Israel’s recommendation, Kyle and I went to see the movie Chef.

We recommend it highly! It is a father & son/buddy/foodie/travelogue/break up & make up/multicultural story with Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johannson, Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey, Jr. and some good music. We even recommend staying for the credits.

Something good for a rainy afternoon.

XOXO

I thoroughly enjoyed this one! Check it out, but don’t go hungry. 

One Thing To MAKE Your Summer

This ice cream scoop by Cutco is billed as the last one you’ll ever need. My parents have one at their house and I blame it for my nightly scoops of Talenti Double Dark Chocolate Gelato.

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Your dessert prep transforms into pure art as you deftly slice through the ice cream like a German engineer or a beret-clad mid-century sculptor. You’ve got the touch, thanks to the “chrome-plated zinc castings” and the “thermoplastic elastomer.” I don’t know what that means. Mom told me there’s something in the handle that melts the ice cream as you scoop. This prevents any unseemly battles with rock hard ice cream that cause you to slip quickly from perfect hostess into Chris Farley screaming “Lay off me, I’m starving!”

 

As Ferris Bueller says, if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up. Could be a nice goody for Father’s Day, a housewarming, or a wedding, combined with a couple cute bowls . . .

(I’m an Amazon affiliate, so if you click this link and buy something, I’ll get some pennies . . . thanks if you do! Or just get in touch with your favorite Cutco rep.)

UPDATE! Mama Rote confirms that their scoop was, in fact, a Father’s Day gift from my brother about five years ago. Still going strong, and it gets quite a workout. She says, “If we ever lose this ice cream scoop, Kyle’s going to have to move out. He loves it so much.”

Friday Dance, in the British fashion

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One of my besties from college did (and to my knowledge still does) a celebratory jumping twisting dance each Friday, her ritual to kick off the weekend. In honor of Ansley, I’m shimmying my bloggy shoulders and hips to shake out some random thoughts and links I’ve been toying around with in my mind to share with you.

First, the big news. We are in Memphis, and—this is fantastic—so are Harry and William. They enjoyed barbeque at the Rendezvous last night, and tomorrow will be ushers at their friend’s wedding at the Hunt and Polo Club. (The former location was the site of our rehearsal dinner; the latter my bridesmaids’ luncheon! We are now connected in a mystical and very important way.)

Israel believes the monarchy needs to go, but I kind of love it. Here’s one take on why it’s fun to see pictures of the young royal family (keyword: family): Ashley McGuire’s “This Is Why We’re Obsessed with Will and Kate.” That, and Georgie’s clothes: The Royal Baby Proves All Southerners are Basically Royalty.

Unfortunately for us, though, Kate and George aren’t in Memphis. And in a prime example of southern hospitality, a local “gentlemen’s club” decided to leave William’s name off of their sign that reads “Welcome Prince Harry” because they “didn’t want to create any marital strife.” Pure class.

On the subject of baby clothes in the South, Mama Rote laughed at this post about various levels of smocked clothing at different churches“And here in the South, I would say that there are definite circles of high-smock expectations and low-smock expectations, generally based around the Church you go to. They may not be spoken guidelines, but as soon as you step foot onto the nursery hallway, you can almost smell it in the air – which smock denomination (smocknomination?) your church falls under.” (Ours is certainly “smock-optional.”)

On my bookshelf currently: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot, then its sequels All Things Bright and Beautiful and All Things Wise and Wonderful.

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On childhood road trips—in our killer conversion van!—I first listened to James Herriot’s dog and cat stories on cassette tape. Herriot was a veterinarian in the Yorkshire Dales in the English countryside beginning in the 1930s, and his stories are at times funny, heartwarming, and fascinating, and always good. You’ll love his narration and his contagious devotion to the country and its animals. As city-bred Herriot works doggedly to win over the stolid farmers, he’s got to take the triumphs together with the looking foolish—as when he’s called out to a calving in the middle of the night, and realizes as he soaps up his arms that the silent Dalesmen can smell the strong, fruity, feminine scent of the soap he’d only used in desperation, borrowed from his housekeeper. The farmers sniffed, but didn’t say a word.

With his hilarious voice and his images of lambs and calves and green, green grass, Herriot has been the perfect spring reading for me. I’ll be keeping these books around for reading aloud to the family in future years.

Sticking with the English theme, another college friend—not a royal, but a member of my personal aristocracy—will be married this weekend. We studied abroad in England together, and so: Mary Hamner, me best bird, I virtually toast you with a turbo shandy!

Leaving you with some spring-y images from our outdoor painting en plein air session yesterday. (Please infer: we are artsy, worldly, sophisticated . . . if only little Georgie were here for a play date!):

Final question: how can I make some cash off my daughter being a child model? Let me know your thoughts.