Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My Love Affair with Opera – Where It All Began

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I am passionate about opera.  I met my husband in 1976 and took him to his first opera on our second date – a bit of a risk, I know, but he was curious and I was only too happy to satisfy his curiosity.  To my way of thinking, the only thing riskier would be to risk spending the rest of my life with someone who did not share that passion or, worse still, belittled it.  We have been sharing that passion for 41 years. 



Tenors Are Just Such Show-Offs!!

Opera has always been a major part of and influence on my life since my earliest recollections.  But, where did it all begin for me?  I get asked that question a lot, and I usually just say, “It’s in my DNA.”  But the truth is, there is a story behind that casual response, and it’s the story of my family. 


Monday, September 4, 2017

Five Fall Trends to Make Your Own or Leave Alone

And so I leave summer and our Bayreuth adventure behind (see Back from Bayreuth – the Experience of a Lifetime).  Today is Labor Day and while not the official start of fall, which comes on September 22nd, I’m now officially in the mood to look at some of the fall trends and decide what to make my own and what to leave alone. 



Courtesy of Do It in Paris

A good place to start is a French website I like called “Do It in Paris.”  It’s very young and very huppé, but it gives me a good idea of what the fashionable young parisienne is wearing each season.  For me, fashion has always been a place to start, not an end in itself.  You take your cues from it and then develop or enhance your individual sense of style from there.  Here are five fall fashion cues worth looking at. 


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Back from Bayreuth – The Experience of a Lifetime (Part 3)

So now we come to the final episode of our Bayreuth adventure (see Part 1 and Part 2) – more to share with you and some final thoughts. 



As I’ve already said, it was more of a pilgrimage than a vacation and, like all good pilgrimages, it had its highs and lows.  Artists are not the only ones who suffer for their art.  Wagnerites are sometimes asked to do the same. 

If you’ve been following the last two episodes where I make frequent mention of the heat in the festspielhaus, you’re probably wondering just how hot it was. 


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Back from Bayreuth – The Experience of a Lifetime (Part 2)

Last time I gave you a little background on how Bayreuth became Wagner’s town (see Part 1)



It is indeed a lovely town and, like Wagner and his wife Cosima, I fell in love with it, too.  It’s not easy to get to Bayreuth.  All roads to Bayreuth seem to go through Nuremberg.  Even the German opera goers who opted for the train instead of driving had to change trains in Nuremberg. 

We flew from Philadelphia to Paris, had a three (plus) hour layover in De Gaulle Airport, flew to Nuremberg and then took the train to Bayreuth.  While I love traveling by train in Europe, hauling heavy luggage (Remember, I needed four complete formal outfits!!) on and off the train was a nightmare. 




Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Back from Bayreuth – The Experience of a Lifetime (Part 1)


We’re back from Bayreuth and the experience of a lifetime.  “How was your vacation?” friends ask, to which I reply, “It was more of a pilgrimage than a vacation.”  And like all good pilgrimages, there were some rough spots along the way.  More about that later. 



For the Wagner fanatic, seeing Der Ring des Nibelungen (“The Ring of the Niebelung”) in the opera house Wagner built for his monumental work is a dream come true.  Wagner’s music does not appeal to all opera lovers, including many of my friends.  It is less accessible than the music of Italian and French operas, which were my first loves.  My opera singer mother hated Wagner’s music so much that she would not allow it in the house.  Listening to the Saturday afternoon opera broadcasts from the Met was a tradition in our home, except on those Saturdays when the opera was by Wagner.  On those Saturdays, the radio was silent.  So, naturally, Wagner became a guilty pleasure for my brother and me, like sneaking cigarettes, which we also did. 


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Getting Ready for Bayreuth

This is crunch week for me – the last full week before we leave for our Bayreuth adventure (See “The Hunt for the Perfect Special Occasion Shoe”). 


Amalia Materna, the first Bayreuth Brünnhilde with Cocotte, the first Bayreuth Grane

My Bulletin Board is full of things to do and I’m waaaaaay behind.  Contrary to popular belief among my friends and family, I’m not always as on top of things as they think, and I do daily battle with that little voice in my head that insists there’s no need to do today what can be put off until tomorrow.  I blame my parents for this internal, eternal struggle. 


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Chapeau to the Lovely Bride

Despite the odds against “happily ever after,” every year thousands of young couples all over the world gaze into each other’s eyes and swear eternal love and devotion; and summer is High Season in the wedding business.




While the image of the demure, blushing bride has changed considerably since I was a blushing bride almost 40 years ago, call me old-fashioned and/or hopelessly out of touch, but I truly believe that when little girls dream about their wedding day, they still dream of looking like a story book princess.  Of course, it’s worth asking what a story book princess bride looks like these days. 


Monday, June 26, 2017

Winter White to Summer Bright at the Met

As I reflect on the Met Opera season just passed (See The Last Curtain Call), all sorts of things come to mind from the expected (great singing from solo artists and the incomparable chorus, great musicianship from the brilliant orchestra) to the unexpected (discovering young voices that I instantly know are destined for greatness).  At the close of every opera season, I am overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude that Dan and I were able to experience it all and that, the Good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, we will be able to do it all again starting in the fall. 


Dancer Tommy Tune elegant in black wearing his signature black glasses

I am a discreet but incurable people watcher, and the opera house is a great place to see an amazing array of the species from celebrities and the perfectly coiffed New York dowager, Hermès scarf draped casually around her well tailored dinner suit, to the young student in rumpled blue jeans who can barely afford standing room.  He queued up early that morning to get one of the limited number of standing room tickets and is thrilled just to be there.  I have a soft spot in my heart for him.  My late brother was one of those student standees many years ago. 

 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Belladonna Eyes

You may remember my recent visit to my highly talkative, slightly eccentric eye doctor during which we discussed his checkered dating history and current plan to “recycle” old girlfriends (See “Love Recycled -- Can You Move Forward by Going Back?”).  We did, of course, eventually get around to talking about my eyes.  The good news is that my cataracts are no worse; the bad news is that my eyesight is.  No longer will I be able to get away with drugstore cheaters.  I need honest-to-goodness prescription glasses now, just like I did when I was a child. 

 
And Your Point Is?

Of course, I only need to wear them if I want to read, which means I don’t have to wear them all the time.......for now.  At least that’s what I keep telling myself.  And, of course, my distance vision is no longer what it was.  What is?  Oh well….

As I put on my sunglasses to leave, I mention how I always hate the look of those black, dilated eyes when I leave his office.  He laughs and says, “During the Renaissance, women put drops in their eyes to get that look.  It was considered beautiful.  Haven’t you ever heard of ‘Belladonna’?” 


Monday, June 5, 2017

Linda's Book Launch

If you are in the Sierra Madre area of California this Saturday, the 10th, don’t miss a very special event at the local Sierra Madre Library.




At 2:00 pm, my brilliantly talented blogger friend and writer extraordinaire, Linda LaRoche, will discuss and sign her new novel, Dust Unto Shadow. 


Monday, May 29, 2017

Love Recycled – Can You Move Forward by Going Back?


It’s Friday morning and I’m sitting in the Ophthalmologist’s examining chair as he looms over me shining a light in the right, then the left, eye.  I’ve been seeing him for many years now.  Dr. X is a teeny bit eccentric, to be honest, but I like him, and I get a real kick out of his monologues.  I don’t know how he does it, but he manages to keep up a running stream of chatter during the entire length of the exam -- about his life, his ex-wife, his children and anything that pops into his head.  I interrupt only occasionally to pose a question, but, basically, I just sit back and let him ramble on. 


Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Last Curtain Call

The stage lights of Lincoln Center’s Metropolitan Opera Theater have dimmed on a memorable opera season.  The American Ballet Theater (“ABT”) now takes center stage for the summer. 


Gillian Murphy in Don Quixote.
Photo: Rosalie O'Connor.

Last weekend we had the privilege of being in the opera house to say goodbye to a superb soprano.  The tearful, standing ovation went on and on, a fitting farewell to this much loved diva, who took her final curtain call in a role for which she has become celebrated the world over. 


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Nothing Says Summer Like a Great Straw Bag

Spring has done her job beautifully this year, but I can tell she’s anxious to move on.  The white blossoms on my dogwood tree are almost gone.  Summer is waiting patiently in the wings for spring to take her final curtain call. 

 


And what’s that in her hand?  Why, it’s a cute little straw bag.  Nothing says summer like a great straw bag. 


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Doing It More; Enjoying It More!

Every generation thinks it invented sex.  I know we “free love” lovin’ Baby Boomers certainly thought we did or, at the very least, that we perfected it.  Deep down we knew that our parents must have done it at least once (“Wait….how many brothers and sisters do I have?  Yuck!!), but apparently all of that stopped in 1962 when this man ruined America’s love live for the next 30 years. 





Don’t take my word for it.  Here’s what Sex Therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a frequent guest on The Tonight Show, said about its host, the inimitable Johnny Carson. 


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Hunt for the Perfect Special Occasion Shoe

Have I mentioned the big event coming up for us this summer?  No?  Well, this summer we will be taking an incredible journey with gods, demigods, giants, dragons, dwarves, flying horses, magic swords and water nymphs.  Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) thrusts you into a wild world of lust, anger, love and hate, adultery and incest, murder, death and destruction, and a wronged woman’s final revenge.  It’s a helluva ride. 

 
Wagner's Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, Germany - Photo by Rico Neitzel 
We’ve been on this ride many times before.  Dan and I are among the hard core “Ring Nuts” who’ll go anywhere in the world for a complete “Ring Cycle.”  But this time, we will actually be seeing the “Ring Cycle” at the festspielhaus, the opera house Wagner built in Bayreuth, Germany, for his masterpiece.  For Wagner groupies this is Mecca.  Recipients of the coveted tickets are drawn from a lottery that contains hundreds of thousands of names every year.  This year our names were selected. 

What does this have to do with shoes?  Well, everything.  A girl can’t attend a special, perhaps once in a lifetime, event without a very special pair of new shoes, n’est-ce pas?  And, so, the hunt for the perfect pair of special occasion shoes was on! 


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Seeing Patterns

Those of you who read my Blog regularly know that Mme Mère’s genius with a needle and thread was rivaled only by my own ineptitude with same. 


Vintage Sewing Patterns

It never failed to amaze me how she could take all those wispy pieces of yellowed paper and turn them into everything from a frilly apron to a fancy cocktail dress.  Somehow those bits and pieces came together in her mind first and she could see the finished product before she even pinned the first piece of paper to the material.  In other words, she could see the pattern as a whole and how all the parts would work together to create that whole. 

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this and if you want to follow along.  Well, I promise it will all come together in the end. 


Friday, March 10, 2017

Beauty Rules – Things Change

It’s time to take on some beauty rules, and may the best (wo)man win. 

 

Beauty Rules from Good Housekeeping Magazine 1958


FOUNDATIONS

Let’s start by talking about foundations.  Sounds pretty straightforward, but the subject is actually a bit controversial for those of us of a certain age.  


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Going Gray the Right Way

Do you remember the days of the well-dressed Church Ladies?  I do.  You’d see them every Sunday morning dressed in their finest in honor of the Man Upstairs. 

 

Courtesy of Loralie Designs

By and large I suppose we humans have been more of a disappointment than a joy to Him over the centuries, but I can’t help thinking that the Church Ladies always brought a smile to his face.  And who knows?  At those moments when He was just so fed up with us that He thought about pulling the plug, maybe, just maybe, He said to Himself, “Hmm, Miss Agnes just bought herself a new Sunday hat.  Maybe I’ll wait to see how she looks in it.” 

 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

It’s Always Good to Start with Presents

January may have 31 days, but it always seems to me to be the shortest month of the year, and this from someone born in February.  I wonder why -- I’ll give that some thought and get back to you. 

While I don’t make New Year’s resolutions (see Another Year, Another List), I do have a longstanding tradition of getting together with two of my dearest friends, Linda and Earline, in January for a postmortem lunch. 





We clink our champagne glasses, celebrate surviving the holidays and give each other presents – the kind of presents women give each other who know each other – you know, the kind of things we really want – lotions, potions, goodies.  Starting off the New Year with presents is always a good thing. 


Sunday, January 29, 2017

How to Reinvent Yourself After a Divorce – Part 2

In Part 1 of my chat with a very special lady, Deborah Bine of the Barefoot Blogger, we learned about Deborah’s early life, her fabulous Aunt Rose and how a chance trip to a Saturday market in Uzès, a little town in southern France, changed her life. 



Market in Uzès - Photo by Peter Curbishley


In our final segment together, Part 2, Deborah talks about why she started blogging, the challenges of learning a new language later in life and gives us some tantalizing tidbits on upcoming travel adventures. 


Thursday, January 26, 2017

How to Reinvent Yourself After a Divorce – Part 1

She was a successful career woman, wife and mother suddenly faced with the disintegration of her four-decade marriage.  So, what did she do? 




Well, she picked herself up, dusted herself off and moved from the American South to the south of France and into an apartment 55 steps up in the tower of a 12th Century building. 

Let me introduce you to one very gutsy gal who threw caution to the winds and set sail for the most exciting adventure of her life.  Yes, Virginia, there is life after divorce, and it can be amazing. 


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Uncommon Goods from an Uncommon Company

The American consumer is spoiled by the abundance of cheap, convenient, mass-produced goods available to them, and they aren’t alone.  While the French consumer of my generation still prefers to pay a little more for local, artisanal products from baguettes to Birkins, their grandchildren are snapping up mass-produced jeans with American labels as fast as they roll off the assembly line. 





And so, when Uncommon Goods, an American Company that specializes in artisanal goods, asked me to feature them in a post, my French heart positively warmed to the idea.  I checked out their web site and was delighted by what I found. 


Friday, January 13, 2017

Another Year, Another List

No sooner has that big Waterford crystal ball dropped and the last glass of champagne been drunk, than the urge to take stock of our lives becomes overwhelming.  We start to make lists. 




Even if, like me, you don’t feel compelled to plan your life out for the next year, because you know how unpredictable life can be, everyone else seems to feel that urge.  Newspapers, magazines and blogs are full of lists of resolutions from the great, the near-great and the “who is that?” – “This year I’m going to do this, and I’m NOT going to do that.” 

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