Feeling the Love in South Carolina!

On one of May’s enviously sunny day’s shortly after following her heart to South Carolina, a certain Willow  - or was it Poppy – strolled into a warm, funky, artist inspired shoe salon. And the rest, as they say, is history!

Talloni, a Shoe Salon, is a cornerstone of Greer South Carolina’s downtown – and now it carries our line of jewelry! new collection version 2The first shop to do so. Owned by the ‘beautiful inside and out’ Kristi, this is more than just a place to find fabulous footwear. She has created a welcoming atmosphere that encourages lingering, chatting, trying on shoes after boots after shoes, and then trying on some more. No rush, no pressure, just the promise of a friendly smile with the highest quality footwear ‘to boot!’ (as they say in Canada!).

 

And speaking of Canada, the other half of the Willow and PoppyClutch Grouping duo who is responsible for the gorgeous one of a kind clutches that appeared in our ETSY shop this fall, has been invited to show and sell these hand crafted pieces at ‘Crafted’. This unique artisan Christmas show will be held in London Ontario the first two weeks of December. If you live in Southwestern Ontario, there is your chance to pick one up! These are limited one of a kind…

 

 

Back to South Carolina. Our jewelry has found another supporter in downtown Spartanburg at the delightful clothing and accessories shop ‘Two Doors Down‘! The lovely owner Kelly has created a bright, cheerful space full of gorgeous clothing and funky accessories. Truly something for everyone.

 New Collection

It is amazing how a simple nod of acknowledgement can give you just the nudge of encouragement needed. For our Southern States followers, dropby Talloni’s and Two Doors Down to ‘feel the love’! And if you are in the London Ontario area definitely check out The Arts Project.

The Summer of Dunking

The ALS fundraising craze is more of a tsunami than a bucket! I have clicked on  videos of friends, celebrities, the occasional pet, dunking themselves in bracing cold water to support the ALS fight. These clips are hilarious and this is likely the most successful online campaign for funding and awareness ever created. So why haven’t I dunked myself?

setMy dear friend Danielle would have loved the Ice Bucket Challenge – I am pretty sure she would have participated whole heartedly. That was just her style. Diving right in to the thick of it. Danielle died two summers ago from ALS. Much too young, much too vibrant, leaving behind family and friends to cope. (I wrote about Danielle shortly after her funeral – Fields of Gold).Danielle’s Mom and Dad, sister and brothers had the hardest time of course. She moved in with her parents, her brother quit his job and moved back to the family home to assist with her care, their lives taken on a path from which there was no diverging.

Last summer, Danielle’s Mom Suzanne sent an email announcing she was participating in the Walk for ALS Please support me in my Walk for ALS…” Not in the best health herself, a woman who had aged from caring for her daughter, Suzanne was going to walk 5km to raise money to support ALS research while honouring the life of Danielle. And so she did. I’ve been thinking a lot about Danielle this summer as the Ice Bucket craze swept Facebook, knowing she would have sent me the challenge yet just not able to do the dunk. And I haven’t been sure why. Then last week I received an email from Suzanne that began “Please support me in my Walk for ALS…” In the midst of the social media fun, came a heart felt request. A whisper in contrast to the squeals and laughter of the Ice Bucket Challenge. I burst into tears. Without video, fanfare, not looking for accolades or attention, Suzanne would again embark on a 5 km walk with each step dedicated to Danielle. Just like she did last year and if her health allows, will next year too. Ice Bucket Challenge or not.

If you, like me, are looking for a way to participate but without ice water, then perhaps you would like to learn more about Suzanne’s participation in the Walk for ALS. If you go to her fundraising page on the ALS site, you will note that Suzanne humbly hopes to raise $300. You will see  beautiful pictures of Danielle, including one in her RCMP uniform (yup, she was amazing!), and you will read, in true quiet Suzanne fashion, a loving short statement about losing her daughter.

Here’s to a summer of fantastic attention to ALS, to unprecedented amounts of money being raised, and to one Mother who will walk in memory of my wonderful friend Danielle.

http://my.e2rm.com/PersonalPage.aspx?SID=4999776&LangPref=en-CA

 

 

 

 

Revisiting Conversations with Susan Swan

What a summer! A move to a new country; continuing to work with extremely talented artists – writers, creators, actors, musicians; the Bach Festival continues its important planning for 2015; ADA the Opera is moving in tremendous new directions; I am connecting with new arts organizations and creative instigators in my new home; and those who know me will understand my need to share this, I am one of the newest members of the United States Library System-  Yes I am the proud holder of a library card!

In this whirlwind of new adventures I am deeply appreciative of the creative conversations that shape my life path. In 2012 Canadian author Susan Swan and I filmed a series of conversations about writing, the creative process and her book What Casanova Told Me. I often revisit these short videos that offer tasty morsels of insight into the writer’s creative process. Worth watching for all artists!

Here is a link to the videos – I hope you enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6VE0ZlHJvz3BmY9Mgxgaeg

A Final WOW! Until September with Oprah & Anne Lamott

These last few weeks Super Soul Sunday has been repeating the best  previous episodes. It is a gift to revisit these insightful and inspiring conversations that remind us of ways to be our better brighter selves!

Today, author & activist  Anne Lamott in conversation with Oprah gifts us with some of the most original, meaningful quotes. My favourites include:

“Gratitude, not understanding, is the secret to joy”

“I do not understand all the mystery of Grace. Only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”

“Joy is the best make-up. But a little lipstick is a close runner-up”.

And the simplest, most perfect quote:

“Wow”.

To notice, acknowledge and accept the wonder in a ‘moment’, often the only word to say is ‘Wow.‘ In this word we give thanks for the beauty and ‘awe-someness’ with an utterance that is reflexive.

For our final Soup for Super Soul Sunday until Oprah returns in September, we are also going to revisit our favourite soup recipe that makes us say ‘Wow’. Our Meatball Tortellini Chowder. Trust me – everyone loves this soup. With meatballs, tortellini, vegetables, parmesan, bacon – there is no reason not to love it! YUM and WOW!

Meatball Tortellini Chowder

Ingredients

-All vegetable amounts are just suggestions, as are the vegetables themselves. Use whatever vegetables your family prefers!

This recipe can be easily converted to vegetarian – just use vegetable broth, veggie meatballs, cheese tortellini and omit the bacon.

Onion – 1 med

Celery – 2 stalks

Carrots – 3 large

Broccoli – 1/2 bunch fresh or frozen

Corn – 1 cup fresh/frozen or small can

Green Beans – 1 cup fresh/frozen or small can

Tomatoes – 2 med or 1 can chopped (use the juice too!)

Italian meatballs – 1 package of frozen or homemade

Tortellini – meat or cheese, frozen or from the pasta section of the grocer

Bacon – 6 slices - actually use as much as you would like – you can never have too much bacon! Also, Bacon is optional in this recipe!

Beef Broth – 1 or 2 cartons

1 can tomato paste or 1 can tomato soup

Water

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Parmesan – I like alot!

Italian Seasoning

Salt & Pepper

How to Make it – EASY PEASY!

1. Cook bacon in the soup pot. When cooked to desired crispness, remove bacon but keep juices in the pan.

2. Add Extra Virgin Olive Oil to cover pan bottom, with the bacon juices.

3. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent. Approx 4 minutes.

4. Add all chopped vegetables, broth, paste/soup and if needed, water to cover the vegetables. Also add any Italian seasonings – oregano, thyme, parsley – plus salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Add meatballs and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add more broth or water if needed, plus seasonings if you think it needs more.

6. Add the tortellini and give a really good stir. Simmer until the tortellini is cooked.

7. Once all ingredients have reached their desired tenderness, add grated or fresh Parmesan to cover the top of the chowder. Stir it in and it will melt.

8. Ladle the chowder into bowls, sprinkle with more Parmesan and then top with the bacon.

This chowder just gets thicker and thicker as the tortellini soaks up the liquid so you may need to add more water/broth the next day.

ENJOY!

Oprah & Anne can be seen here:

http://www.oprah.com/app/super-soul-sunday.html

Oprah and Anne

 

Shimmering Website!

There are a handful of creative folks whose life work is an ongoing source of inspiration. When the day starts to sag I like to take a break and rediscover these colleagues. On my mind today was poet, author, performer Molly Peacock, so I clicked over to her website – which I have frequented often in the past – and, wow what a change! A beautiful reworking has occurred.

Clearly creative, gorgeous in its simplicity, tasteful and informative, outlining the many ways that Molly lives an artist`s life. Check out her upcoming events, the release details of her next book and then, just as you are about to leave her site, click on the `Furthermore` section. Here you will find a link to the show we created together called The Shimmering Verge. Turn up the volume on your computer and listen to a short selection from the show which includes original music composed and performed by Andy Creeggan.

www.mollypeacock.org

Prepare to be inspired!

Oprah, Def Jam’s Russell Simmons and Meditations on Soup!

When I listen to the SuperSoulSunday conversations on creating meaningful, potential-filled lives, the candor of the high powered guests is continually unexpected. There is an ease in their manner, an openness and willingness to share what turns out to be the not so secret keys to their personal successes. I am a BIG fan of Def Jam Recordings and eagerly looked forward to Oprah‘s conversation with Co-Founder Russell Simmons knowing there would be revealing tidbits of insight into the revolutionary ways that Def Jam changed the recording industry.

So is it surprising to learn that meditation, stillness and actively ‘being present’ are what Russell Simmons considers his business/life touchstones? Simmons in particular adheres to a daily regimen of meditation and yoga, saying that it puts him ‘in the present’ and that ‘being present’ is where his most creative, rewarding work takes place.

In our electronic, fast paced world it is a challenge to carve out those times and places that allow for stillness.  My need for these quieter moments has become key to my creative work as well as my personal life. When I start my day with an early morning walk, my mind works through ideas that require quiet to cultivate. At the end of the day, swimming laps allows for a similar filtering as my busy mind focuses on each stroke which simultaneously (and wonderfully!) allows my imagination to wander.

We each find the activities that bring these much needed quiet moments to our lives – yoga, jogging, reading, cooking… Ah yes, cooking. Especially when your culinary creation needs to simmer, flavours mingling as you patiently stir, then stir again.  Lots of issues get worked out over the soup pot! And the good news is that, since good soup cannot be rushed, you have plenty of stirring and mulling opportunity.

The easy peasy soup perfect for stirring today is one of my mother’s recipes that in retrospect she likely created for our family of seven when times were a tad lean. Given its luxurious velvety texture and surprising full flavour,  we never realized it was anything other than delicious. Here is to your moments of stillness, presence and soup – and thank you Oprah and Russell Simmons for the meditative inspiration!

Celery Soup

Ingredients

1 onion chopped

Celery – I would use the whole package, chopped at least 4 cups

1 or 2 Potatoes peeled and chopped – for thickening

Vegetable or Chicken broth or Water

1/2 cup milk or cream (optional)

Olive Oil (to cover bottom of pot)

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

salt & pepper to taste

Meditation on Making It:

1. Heat Olive Oil & butter/margarine in soup pot

2. Saute onions and celery for 5 – 10 minutes

3. Add chopped potatoes and cover with enough broth or water to cover.

4. Add bay leaf, celery seed and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.

5. Once potatoes are cooked through, take off heat to cool.

6. Once cooled put in blender to make smooth or emulsify in pot.

7. Return blended soup to pot and add milk (optional), salt and pepper to taste, and heat through.

Serve warm in a bowl with chopped celery leaves on top. And as you slurp and slip meditate on the lovely moments that went into making this beautiful soup.

Celery001

 

2014 Summer Reading List!

Ah summer reading… childhood memories blur into a hazy nostalgia of endless days curled under the backyard willow tree with a book. And then another. And yet another. Adventures transported me to a big wide world beyond the Dairy Queen at the edge of our small town. The characters lingering long after the book was finished. One summer, I am not ashamed to admit, my best confidant was Laura Ingalls! 

So it is no surprise then, that when the hot June, July and August months are on the horizon I look for my ‘summer companions‘. Which stories, characters and lives will become intertwined with my own, whose demise will break my heart and will there be one story that triumphs – each book filling me with deep joy and gratitude for the writers that braved to share.

This year my list is one of discovery and re-discovery. Some I will read for the first time and others I will re-visit out of a need for the wisdom they offer. It is a small representation of the reading list worthy titles and I am curious to learn about others. If you have a book or two for the list, please add it through the comment page. I will re-visit the 2014 Summer Reading List again and add the suggestions. Louise Fagan

2014 – Here we go!

If I had to look for a common thread amongst these books, it would have to be, generally, the rebirth or affirmation of spirit. Each author explores deeply personal stories - some fully integrated into the narrative, others from a more measured distance. All titles are available through Amazon and most are available on the shelf or by order through your local bookstore (which is always the best way to buy a book!).  

Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter – Growing up with A Gay Dad by Alison Wearing published by Knopf

A moving memoir about growing up with a gay father in the 1980s, and a tribute to the power of truth, humour, acceptance and familial love.   Alison Wearing led a largely carefree childhood until she learned, at the age of 12, that her family was a little more complex than she had realized. Sure her father had always been unusual compared to the other dads in the neighbourhood: he loved to bake croissants, wear silk pyjamas around the house, and skip down the street singing songs from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. But when he came out of the closet in the 1970s, when homosexuality was still a cardinal taboo, it was a shock to everyone in the quiet community of Peterborough, Ontario—especially to his wife and three children.

The Western Light – Susan Swan published by Cormorant Books (available in paperback July 1 2014)

Finalist for the 2013 OLA Evergreen Award Mouse’s world is constrained by a number of factors: her mother is dead, her father – the admired country doctor – is emotionally distant, her housekeeper Sal is prejudiced and narrow, and her grandmother and aunt, Big Louie and Little Louie, the only lifeaffirming presences in her life, live in another city. Enter Gentleman John Pilkie, the former NHL star who’s transferred to the mental hospital in Madoc’s Landing, where he is to serve out his life-sentence for the murder of his wife and daughter. John becomes a point of fascination for young Mary, who looks to him for the attention she does not receive from her father. He, in turn, is kind to her – but the kindness is misunderstood. When Mary figures out that the attention she receives from the Hockey Killer is different in kind and intent from the attention her Aunt Little Louie receives, her world collapses. Set against the beautiful and dramatic shore of Georgian Bay, the climax will have readers turning pages with concern for characters they can’t help but love.

The Paper Garden – Molly Peacock published by McClelland & Stewart

Mary Delany was seventy-two years old when she noticed a petal drop from a geranium. In a flash of inspiration, she picked up her scissors and cut out a paper replica of the petal, inventing the art of collage. It was the summer of 1772, in England. During the next ten years she completed nearly a thousand cut-paper botanicals (which she called mosaicks) so accurate that botanists still refer to them. Poet-biographer Molly Peacock uses close-ups of these brilliant collages in The Paper Garden to track the extraordinary life of Delany, friend of Swift, Handel, Hogarth, and even Queen Charlotte and King George III. How did this remarkable role model for late blooming manage it? After a disastrous teenage marriage to a drunken sixty-one-year-old squire, she took control of her own life, pursuing creative projects, spurning suitors, and gaining friends. At forty-three, she married Jonathan Swift’s friend Dr. Patrick Delany, and lived in Ireland in a true expression of midlife love. But after twenty-five years and a terrible lawsuit, her husband died. Sent into a netherland of mourning, Mrs. Delany was rescued by her friend, the fabulously wealthy Duchess of Portland. The Duchess introduced Delany to the botanical adventurers of the day and a bonanza of exotic plants from Captain Cook’s voyage, which became the inspiration for her art. Peacock herself first saw Mrs. Delany’s work more than twenty years before she wrote The Paper Garden, but “like a book you know is too old for you,” she put the thought of the old woman away. She went on to marry and cherish the happiness of her own midlife, in a parallel to Mrs. Delany, and by chance rediscovered the mosaicks decades later. This encounter confronted the poet with her own aging and gave her-and her readers-a blueprint for late-life flexibility, creativity, and change.

The Heart of a Woman – Maya Angelou published by Random House

In The Heart of a Woman, Maya Angelou leaves California with her son, Guy, to move to New York. There she enters the society and world of black artists and writers, reads her work at the Harlem Writers Guild, and begins to take part in the struggle of black Americans for their rightful place in the world. In the meantime, her personal life takes an unexpected turn. She leaves the bail bondsman she was intending to marry after falling in love with a South African freedom fighter, travels with him to London and Cairo, where she discovers new opportunities. The Heart of a Woman is filled with unforgettable vignettes of such renowned people as Billie Holiday and Malcom X, but perhaps most importantly chronicles the joys and the burdens of a black mother in America and how the son she has cherished so intensely and worked for so devotedly finally grows to be a man.

Stripped Down Running by Andrea Nair published by Friesen Press

Outwardly, Hannah  appears to have a wonderful life. She is intelligent, funny, adventurous, attractive, has money and a great husband. One would expect her to be happy—but she is far from that. What shows outwardly masks an inner personal turmoil. Hannah puts herself on a path to discover what is driving her increasingly destructive behaviour and finds out that what she thought she knew and who she thought she was, couldn’t be farther from the truth. What happens instead is a series of events that rip her life and her heart apart. When the chaos becomes too great, Hannah is forced to address the inner darkness that is blindly propelling her, or face losing everything.

There are other authors who I am patiently waiting for their next offering. This is just a small selection – again in no order :

Cathie Borrie Waiting with great anticipation for this title due January 2015  The Long Hello – published by Simon and Schuster

Joseph Boyden     Giles Blunt       Louise Penny       Rohinton Mistry

Post your summer reads in the comment section below and I will compile a list of suggested summer readings in the coming weeks!