Seeking Calm

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This morning I escaped, slipping out the door in search of calm. When worry steals my breath, I often find it hidden in the trees, on the wings of birds, or waiting patiently for me along rocky shores. Where do you go when you need life to pour air back into your lungs? When you need a gentle reminder that the world is as big or as small as you allow it to be?

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Morning light doesn’t always lend itself to capturing surroundings on film, but I took my camera and these images to remember the day’s journey. What I lost in perfect photographic lighting, I gained in solitude and song. The birds were singing praises to the sunlight, calling to each other as they searched for breakfast and each other. I heard a great blue heron’s wings beat against the water as it took flight, a robin’s tiny feet rustling through leaves in search of worms, the whistling upward trill of a glossy brewer’s blackbird. And as I listened to the smooth sound of rocks slipping against each other under the weight of my feet, I was reminded that this is not just their place, it is my place too, so long as I tread lightly and lovingly. Continue reading

A New Direction

DSC_0248Good morning, all!

I’m over the moon to share that I’ve launched my new cooking and food photography site, fletcher + fork where my images and original recipes for healthy meals and worthy indulgences will land each week. If you’ve already visited, thank you so much. If not, it would mean so much if you stopped by to check it out and signed up to follow! I’ve transferred a handful of the most popular recipes from the aesthete and the dilettante, and launched fletcher + fork with a recipe for my coconut cake pictured on the masthead of this blog.

I’ll be back here from time to time, sharing my travels and musings on life. Thank you for your support throughout the last four years!

xo,

Wendy

Celebrating Four Years + Peeking Around the Bend

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Four years ago, I created this space to share what inspired me. My first post was the account of a wildly fortuitous vintage shopping experience with my sister, and since that day I’ve covered everything from style and culture to love and loss through my words and my photography. The blog’s name, much to my dismay, elicited confused and quizzical responses, but my intention had been simple. I endeavored to say, in a succinct and self-deprecating way, that while I have great love and appreciation for this world’s beauty – from pristine waters and mountains to lovingly crafted plates of food – I am in no way an authority or expert, just a wanderlust-filled dabbler wanting to share it all with you.

My time here has been equal parts joy and catharsis. It has also bestowed upon me an unexpected gift: the act of putting pen to paper here (so to speak) has allowed me to discover what I am profoundly passionate about and given me the confidence to trade breadth for depth. Continue reading

Wasted on the Way

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With my nephew, a mere six hours old.

My baby sister gave birth to a healthy, gorgeous boy last week. The moment she went into labor, I scrambled onto a plane. My children were every bit as excited as I, practically kicking me out the door and assuring me they would get along fine without me. And so I arrived just a few hours after he came into the world, watching with wonder the essence of life as my sister sat on her sofa and nursed him (yes, she came home five hours after delivering, and yes, she’s semi-superhuman). I was able to hold him, stroke his silky soft cheeks, marvel at his perfect cupid’s bow mouth and teeny tiny hands while he gripped my finger tightly. My heart tugged, pulled close by the invisible strings that will connect us forever as family. I looked at my sister and brother-in-law and remarked, can you even remember what you thought about before he was here? He quickly wanted to return to her, already knowing the warmth and scent of his mama. I watched my sister take him in her arms, Continue reading

Profiles in Beauty

While I love to grab inspiration from pages of fashion magazines and images of the editors who put them together, what inspires me most are the beautiful women who surround me in my everyday life. Their beauty routines and how they put themselves together each day are only a few brushstrokes on the painting. What inspires and motivates them, how they carry themselves, deal with adversity, what makes them crazy or leads them to laughter – to me, these are the things that comprise a beautiful, inspiring woman.

Stephanie and Eric, her college sweetheart and husband of 17 years, attending a dinner at the Palace of Versailles.

The first profile I’m sharing with you is of my dear friend Stephanie. We met our freshman year at DePauw University and instantly became close. We roomed together in our sorority house, and after graduation moved into a little apartment on Dayton in Chicago where we shared closets and many nights we’d love to relive (and a few I’m sure we wouldn’t!). Steph and I now live three blocks apart here in Lake Forest, and I am lucky enough to see her several times a week, often working out at our friend Fronzie’s studio or walking our dogs, who are quite in love.  She continually inspires me with her effortless beauty, quick wit, and extraordinary outlook on life.

DePauw University
DePauw University

What is your go-to work outfit?  Skinny pants with cropped jacket/blazer and a chunky necklace, most often my Mom’s pearls.

Your go-to date night outfit?  Dark skinny jeans, black top, heels, some kind of leopard accessory.

What are your absolute beauty essentials?  My Clarisonic, Neocutis bio-restorative (what that means I’m unsure) skin & eye cream, Laura Mercier eye basics and tinted moisturizer with SPF 20. Also, something neutral with just a hint of color on my lips. And I do really like this mascara called They’re Real. This sounds way more high-maintenance than I really am.

Favorite flower?  Tulips

What inspires you?  Perseverance

I couldn’t live without my….family & friends.

What is your biggest pet peeve?  Laziness.

Favorite places to shop?  I’m not a big shopper, so when I need something I like to be able to get it quickly. If I’m not purchasing online, I will go to J.Crew and Valentina, both within five minutes of my home.

What never fails to make you smile?  Hearing my kids laugh.

What makes you blush?  Certain compliments.

What’s on your DVR?  That I watch? I’m somewhat of a news junkie. The Daily Show with John Stewart, Nightly News, 60 Minutes…and mostly HBO shows…Girls, Looking, Togetherness, Silicon Valley, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Not on my DVR, but loyally watched – House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

What is your guilty pleasure?  See previous response, and Starbucks.

If I had 24 hours of absolutely nothing to do, I would… This is such a difficult question, because it’s hard to even imagine! Whatever it is, I would want to be with Eric and my boys.

You’ve traveled all over the world. Do you have a favorite locale?  Domestically, I would say the Montage in Laguna Beach. Internationally, I love Paris.

The Mosaic Pool at the Montage
The Mosaic Pool at the Montage

My favorite childhood memory is… From the time I was born, my parents owned a home on Marco Island, and we drove to Florida a lot. I loved it when we had driven far enough south where we could open the car windows. I just remember the warmth, the smell, how happy I was to know we were getting closer to our destination. Being together with my family on Marco were very happy times.

When do you feel most beautiful?  When I’m happy.

Together at a Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital benefit.
Together at a Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital benefit.

Thank you, Steph, for your inspiration and for sharing your thoughts here. I know you’re blushing!

The (Hand)written Word

During a recent bout of spring cleaning, I discovered a thank you note tucked deep in a drawer that my mother had written after celebrating her birthday at our home (we were celebrating my stepfather’s as well – they shared a birthday).  I remember the events she refers to in the letter as if they were yesterday, though it was written three and a half years ago.  As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, my passion for cooking was largely influenced by mother, and one of our favorite rituals was shopping for and preparing our Thanksgiving feasts together.  The Thanksgiving she was looking forward to in the note turned out to be the first that my daughter, then 8, helped us prepare start-to-finish, my mother patiently teaching her to make pie crust, stuffing, pumpkin custard, and corn pudding.  It also turned out to be the last we created together as she was too frail in her final years.

Had she e-mailed or phoned in the words, they would have been lovely and gracious as were most things she said, but they would not have carried the intimacy of the note in her hand.  I worry that in today’s world, with cursive dropped from curricula and e-mail replacing “snail mail” that the handwritten word, with all of its beauty and power, will be lost.  Touching a letter that has been touched, reading sentiments that have flowed from another’s pen, brings the writer’s voice and physical presence to the reader’s mind.  Handwriting, like laughter and cadence, is an utterly unique expression.

Write letters of love and notes of gratitude.  Sign all of the books you give as gifts.  Urge your children to do the same.  Someday they will be grateful that you did.

Dear Wendy,
Thank you and Tim for such
a lovely birthday celebration for
David and me.  Cocktails, music,
food and family – what more could
anyone want?  And our gifts –
you are far too extravagant my
dear, but we love them.  I am
listening to jazz as I write this.*

We are looking forward to
Thanksgiving – what a fine
group we shall have.  I do
think I will most enjoy our
time together Wednesday and
Thursday morning.

Til then –

L,L,L – M.

*We shared a great love of jazz so I had purchased an iPod, loaded it with her favorite artists, and given it to her with a Bose player so she could take it from family room to porch – her two favorite places.

 

 

 

 

True Love

Last Sunday, my fifteen year old son Will hugged me goodbye and took off for an evening bike ride as I cleaned up the last of our Easter dishes.  I don’t know what made me look at the clock when he left, but I remember being pleased that the sun was still shining so late in the day.  Minutes then turned into hours, and as the sun dipped below the horizon line my panic level rose.  He had, at that point, been gone for over two and a half hours, had left without a helmet or identification, and his phone was going straight to voice mail.  My mind flew from believing he would walk in the door at any minute to sickening thoughts of him lying unconscious in the dark (or worse) .  And just as my husband unearthed his bike from the garage to search for him, he came home.

The sobs that erupted from my chest startled both of us.  I hugged him tighter and longer than I had in ages, and, for a moment, I think he truly understood the depths of parental love.  He surprised me as well.  I expected him to laugh at my outpouring of emotion, but instead he reassured me that he would never scare me like that again.  If only he could keep that promise.

He has grown from little boy to full-fledged teen in the blink of an eye.  I can’t believe it’s been almost a decade since I ran behind him holding onto the seat of his two-wheeler!  Letting go of that bike and watching him speed away was the first time I recall thinking I wouldn’t be able to shield him from danger forever.  But I am so proud of the fine young man he has become, and have confidence in the choices he will make to keep himself out of harm’s way.

Below is the eloquent letter John Steinbeck wrote to his teenage son, Thom, after learning he had fallen in love.  While away at boarding school, Thom wrote to his father and step-mother seeking advice regarding his feelings for a girl named Susan.  Steinbeck’s response brims with thoughtfulness, wisdom, and honesty, as well as respect and love for his son.  The words have always stuck with me (that beautiful last line!), but they returned in a meaningful way this week while thinking about how I will maintain a strong, steadying presence in Will’s life as he transitions into adulthood.  I can’t hold onto his bike seat forever.

New York
November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

Love,

Fa

*from Steinbeck: A Life in Letters