Stories from my molehill life.

Patricia, Jeanie, Kirra, Deb, and Magan all voted Yes to that chair last week. So I went back to take another look at it, but (as oft happens in the Home Goods World) it was gone. I am really not too upset about missing the chance to enthrone myself on a chaise a la Montgolfiere because if you look closely, the hot air balloon depicted in the splat was a tiny bit deflated compared to the original at the Musee Carnavalet:



But Home Goods never disappoints. I came home with this:

86 rue de Rennes

Wine bottle for scale.

It’s  “Wall Art”, a taxonomy that in itself I found thought provoking. When did we start modifying the word “art” with the surface from which it is to be regarded?

I jest. For Home Goods shoppers, “Wall Art” makes a ton of sense. This bit of Wall Art was captioned 86 rue de Rennes.

I was captivated by this hi-res reproduction of a photographed gussied up to look like a painting because I know the Rue de Rennes in Paris:


The Rue de Rennes is in the heart of the Latin Quarter’s 6th arrondissement.

I had to know: Is there such a place as 86 rue de Rennes???? A quick check of Google Earth confirmed it:



THAT’S THE DOOR!! I don’t know how “they” (whoever produced this piece of Wall Art, who I cannot locate on the inter webs with the info that I got from the Home Goods packaging), as I was saying I don’t know how “they” got away with plastering this image of a private home on a commercial product to be sold in the U.S., if not the world. The French are highly , not to say neurotically touchy about their privacy and I bet there are laws against this (which makes owning it seem even more exciting). I will have to ask my French friends about this.

In my house there is not a wall that is currently available to host this view of 86 rue de Rennes, so its fate it as yet TBA.

And speaking of finding a familiar face in the strangest of places. . .

. . . there I was, last week, sitting at my computer, watching Super Mensch, The Legend of Shep Gordon  on Netflix (because I recently heard him interviewed on NPR):


Shep Gordon is a music industry legend, beginning when he rocked up to a Los Angeles motel in 1965 and got punched in the eye by Janis Joplin. Jimi Hendrix told Shep that since he’s Jewish, he should be a manager — a suggestion that put Gordon on his fabulously successful career path. As a manager his clients have included Alice Cooper, Blondie, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, Ann Murray, and Emeril Bagasse to name a few. Along the way, Gordon became friends with just about every celebrity you can name. Mike Myers was so bowled over by this man’s life and stories that he put this project together to make his directorial debut.  Supermensch, a love letter of a documentary, that proves Myers’ opinion that Shep Gordon  “is one of the most loved, if not the most loved person in show business I’ve ever met”.

So I’m watching this documentary, wondering how one person could have so many lucky breaks in life and be lucky enough to make utmost use of those lucky breaks (in my experience, luck is nothing unless it’s matched with gumption and a willingness to forgo the self-sabotage), when a black and white photograph flashes on the screen:


Shep Gordon is the guy in the terrible jacket, on the set of an Alice Cooper music video in New York City in 1974.

And, standing next to him in the glasses wearing a the Keystone Cops uniform and fake mustache, that’s me:


Boy, was I surprised. I did not know that there was photographic evidence, no matter how fuzzy-focused, of one of the worst hair cuts I’ve ever had. It was supposed to be a very cool, with-it,  rock and roll shag. . .

Susan Saint James, ca.1971. (Photo by Universal Television/Tribune/Getty Images)

Susan Saint James, ca.1971. (Photo by Universal Television/Tribune/Getty Images)

. . . but what I got was a bowl-cut country and western “do”:


And the short bangs killed me. Good lord, I hated that hair cut. And now, just because I was in an Alice Cooper music video because my aunt was married to the directo, the whole world gets to see my terrible ’70s face for all of the 1 seconds that the image flickers onto the eyeballs of a totally indifferent viewing audience.

I know that we all have our own reasons to be glad our 20s are over. You now know mine.

Have a great and lucky weekend, Wonder Ones.


Read more



Sure looks like the Champs-Élysées to me:


Guess again!


Right: That’s the Empire State Building as seen from 29th Street in New York City, which I viewed on my walk to the Dutch Reformed church on 29th and Fifth on the evening of Sept. 29. I’m going to see Elizabeth Gilbert!


Life is so unfair. Liz Gilbert gets to do an author event on a stage such as this (see above) while I, on my first author event EVER, got the children’s department at a Barnes and Nobel store in Yonkers where I had to stand under a poster of Captain Underpants. Obviously, someone there had judged my book by its cover . . .


. . . and decided it was a children’s book.

Well, that’s what you get for not selling 20 million copies. But I’m not whining. Well, not much. Because I’m going to see Elizabeth Gilbert in person!

Elizabeth Gilbert’s very cool historic church event was ticketed and, OF COURSE, sold out :


Yes, you found him: that guy in the rainbow serape did get up to ask a question and he was crazy: mostly he wanted to tell Liz that she had called on him before at another event a year ago!!! and then complain how hard it is to make people love you.

Liz handled this guy with gentle humor and decisive kindness (got him to shut up without embarrassing him), which is how she spoke about her own struggle to stay engaged and productive while coping with all the demands of living an aware, open, adventuresome, and truthful life.

If you ever have the chance to see Elizabeth Gilbert speak about putting Big Magic to work in helping you deal with adversity, frustration, sadness, fear, perfectionism, and all those other things that prevent you from breaking free, you must go. Hey! Bainbridge Island! Liz is coming your way in March!


This evening at the Collegiate Dutch Reformed Church of Manhattan was made possible by the newly released paperback version of Big Magic (the book):


If you go to Liz’s Facebook page you can find a delightful and insightful video of her talking more about Big Magic . . . and, if you are very eagle-eyed, you will spot something quite  fabulous on her bookshelf:


See it now?


Yep. That’s my very own, un-related to Captain Underpants book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam.

In the past, Liz has said and written very nice things about my books — she even blurbed my second one, Le Road Trip. And when my recent book came out in March, she graciously included it on her Spring Reading list:



OK, now I think I’ve accomplished everything I set out to achieve when I became a writer.


I was in my “Happy Place” (Home Goods) last week when I spotted this:


I love, adore, cherish, and covet this chair!

I loved it back in 2013, when I saw it in Paris, on display at the Musee Carnavalet:


And I loved it back in 2006, when I first saw it in my New Orleans hotel — the St. Louis (in the French Quarter) :


I loved it so much that I made an illustration of it in 2009 for a book about Adventures in Tea Time that I never did:


So, if you happen to come across this chair in your “Happy Place” (your local Home Goods), now you will know that it is a Chaise a la Montgolfiere,  so called after the brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, who ushered in the modern era of flight in 1783 when they demonstrated their invention, the hot-air balloon, at Versailles in the presence of King Louis XVI and his court. This successful exhibition before royalty made the Montgolfier brothers national heroes, and started a mania for all things baloony. The term montgolfière was applied to decorative arts, hair fashions, and dresses:






But getting back to the chair at Home Goods: This is not a cheap chair. It cost $249.99 at Home Goods, which is not in my budget even though it is the only one I’ve seen that comes with arm rests!!!

Vintage 1020s or 1950s reproductions of this chair are even more dear: they go for around 645 Euros ($710.11 American) each.

But I’m not whining. Well, not much. Because as soon as I sell 20 million copies of my books, you all know what I’m forking over an insane amount of money for:


And so, my Dear Readers, Remember: this blog comes to you free every Friday, so please support my continued presence in this totally gratuitous endeavor by giving everyone  on your Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa list a copy of a V. Swift book. Tell them Liz Gilbert’s bookshelf told you to.

I’m just 19,999, 950 copies away from getting my dream dining room!


Read more

It’s a busy Monday morning at the Starbucks in the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. As I wait in line to order my cup of tea I ponder things.

How many wombats can you fit in a wheelbarrow? Is Freud’s theory of personality still relevant? Should I get a DoG?

Observing the young lady strolling past the food court, I wonder about girls who wear teeny short cut off jeans and big tall leather boots: Is that a thing?




I looked it up, and I guess it is.

For narrative purposes, I’ll say I had this thought, too: That squirrel I watched in my back yard, eating cream cheese off a fork — was that the cutest thing or what?




Point is, I had plenty of time to think there at the Starbucks. But I snapped to attention when I saw that I had shuffled to the head of the line and I was on deck to place my order. When one of the two baristas on duty called out, “Can I help the next guest?” (they don’t just yell NEXT at Starbucks), I walked right up to the counter and spoke up, loud and clear: Small English breakfast tea, please fill it only 2/3rd full, and one croissant you don’t have to heat it up thank you.”

Then the other barista called for the next guest, and the next guest/woman behind me seemed to be very surprised to find herself on line at Starbucks. Oh! “the next guest” exclaimed, Oh! Um, hmmm…um…what I want…um…hmmmmmm…. And she frantically scanned the menu board above.

Wow, I thought to myself: You’ve been standing on line for 7 minutes and you don’t know what you want??? Are you always an asshole or is this a special occasion? Because, as we all know, it should come as no surprise that when you stand on line at Starbucks, sooner or later you’re going to have to order.

But then I decide to give humanity the benefit of the doubt:

She’s having a real hard time spitting it out, I think. WOW! Her order must be very complicated — one of those secret off-the-menu S’mores frappacino/non-dairy foam from Jupiter/ wave a degree from Cornell over it things that I’ve heard about. 

I eagerly awaited her choice. And then, after lengthy hesitation, she, the next guest/ Starbucks customer, finally summoned the language she needed to ask for:

An iced coffee.


These days, I’ve been wondering how I can fill all the hours that used to be taken up by book-writing, now that these days, there isn’t a book that needs me to write it. I have very few options.

I can not do customer service because, present company excluded, I hate “customers” (see: Starbucks story above). I can’t do reality TV because I don’t want to frighten the cats by having a film crew stomping around my house. I can’t be Susan Branch because I’m waaaaay too damn cranky.

And it seems that there is no money in collecting Blue Jay feathers, which is really all I want to do these days.

By the way, on a day when I was not looking for Blue Jay feathers I had 3 feathers delivered to me, such as like this:




Sadly, the only thing I’m half good at is watching paint dry:




I’m painting a large (or should I say, Venti) view of the Chelsea Physic Garden. In my world, that’s 8 inches x 10 inches. But I got as far as this foreground bush (above) when I messed it up. It’s too dark — that’s a problem I often have: I load on the color too much, and I like it when the watercolor has a lot of water in it. I tried to rescue it by painting a layer of white goauche over it:


But that looked really stupid. So I started over, this time from the background:









And then I forgot to take in progress photos until the end:

P1080567 (2)

It’s all about the crop. This:

Chelsea Physic Garden London

Or this:

London Chelsea Physic Garden

That’s it, my Dear Readers, that’s all I got this week. Well, that’s almost it:

Thank you for the love you gave my girl, Dame Helen Mirren, last week. I liked how I was close enough to get the spill-over! THANK YOU!

And, to follow up on having my article on my Top Ten Garden Books published by The Guardian last week, I got some push-back by a Commentor there who did not like my criticism of John Muir’s writing and wrote:

How appalling to open by denigrating John Muir who did more for the world than you surely will ever do. He helped found the first national park system which spread worldwide and caused more good in the world than any other conservation measure. You say you thrill like one of the bloggers to Marvell’s work; hard to believe. Muir is a beautiful writer who saw interconnection in all things. That vision remains desperately undernourished and misunderstood today.

Write your own books, fine, but think about the cost of rubbishing a fine thinker.

I wrote back a message that told her, in effect, that she should go soak her head, and she responded:

Nice person! True colours at last.

Try reading, thinking, understanding rather than resort to crudity. That is the last resort of the weak minded. Also, I don’t think you should be paid for writing this kind of language. It is appalling.

Ha! I wrote back: If you think I’m forfeiting the million dollars that The Guardian paid me to write this article…I’m laughing all the way to the bank!

I really can’t stand people.

So that’s what I was doing in Atlantic City this past Monday:I was looking to invest my windfall (journalism is so lucrative!) in property and I’d always fancied owning a casino. But since the Borgata. . .


. . . isn’t for sale, I had to search for other investment opportunities. I settled on buying the sunset:


So, appalled Guardian Commentor, if it’s twilight where you are and the sun is setting, don’t look at it. It’s mine.

Here’s the latest portrait of Dennis Whiskabottoms, with his newly-tipped ear:


See you all here next week, my Wonder Ones, with more stories from Down Time on the Isle of Long.

Read more

It’s like finding an early morning treasure when I come across Dennis, our recently-acquired feral freeloader, on the back patio when I go out to feed him at 6 o’clock in the morning — isn’t this a great way to start the day?:


And, sometimes, there’s other treasures out there, awaiting me:


You might remember that in last week’s blog post I demanded that the Universe send me a damn Blue Jay tail feather (for my collection). Well, later that same day, after sending my peevish request out into the infinite benevolent indifference, I was cleaning out my refrigerator and I smacked my head really hard and good against the corner of the freezer door handle, and it hurt like being jabbed with a hot pocker and smacked with a sledgehammer at the same time (I’m guessing) and is an injury that is only possible because I have this kind of out-of-style refrigerator:prod_2041918312

A bump on the head is how the English actress Natasha Richardson died (in 2009) and is what killed Michel de Montaigne’s brother (in 1569). So I took care to notice any symptoms of double vision or confusion the rest of the day until bedtime, at which time I warily laid myself down to sleep with the thought that if I don’t die during the night, I would most likely wake up the next morning and sincerely thank my lucky stars (and you well know that in my case, I do that literally; the “stars” being the Sun and Deneb Algedi).

And I did wake up the next morning, and the first thing I did do was promise the day that I would love it and treasure it. And then I forgot about it as I got out of bed and put Top Cat’s coffee on and fed the indoor cats and cleaned litter boxes and headed out to the back yard to give Dennis Whiskerbottoms his breakfast. And then came the small jolt of electricity when I saw the Blue Jay feather right at my tootsies.

Without meditation, without searching, even without being the least bit mindful of my endless quest for Blue Jay feathers and their purpose to remind me to pay astonished attention to life, there was my treasure, as if delivered right directly to me. I was reaching down to grab it into my chubby mitt when I remembered that such a momentous find needed to be photographed in situ:


I know it looks staged, but I can’t help it if the Universe is a tad ham-handed when it comes to depositing Her gifts at the feet of a wretch like me, and I promise that this is a true story:


And yeah, it’s a tail feather.

I KNOW! Life is like a dream! If, that is, you dream of Blue Jay feathers! Thank you, Blue Jays and Universe!

You know who else gives me dreams?


I have Taylor Swift to thank, from the bottom of my heart, every time I make a reservation or leave a message or make an appointment and I don’t have to spell my last name, S like Sam, W, I, F like Frank, T like Tom. And it would still end up as Smith or, most of the time during the 11-year run of the television show M*A*S*H, Swit.

Loretta Swit is a fine actress and exemplary animal rights and military veteran rights activist, but I don’t like her last name and I absolutely hated the inevitable “joke” whenever a stranger heard my name: Any relation to Hot Lips, ha ha?! I must have heard that “joke” thousand times in my 20s. No wonder I can’t stand people.

Taylor Swift is her generation’s Joni Mitchell, a brilliant singer/songwriter dream girl who is always ahead of fashion, and always has the hottest boyfriends. (If you don’t know Joni’s dating history, here’s partial list from back when these guys were the topper-most hot guys: James Taylor, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, and I think one or two of the Byrds.)

Until recently, Taylor Swift was the long-time girlfriend (15 months, which is almost a decade in famous pop star years) of a handsome, 32-year old  6’5″ multi-millionaire DJ and Scotsman named Calvin Harris:


They were such a cute couple. But they did break up and shortly after they went to splitsville, I began having infrequent but repetitive dreams that I was back in my 20s. That alone would be a most excellent reason for me to wish for 12 hours of sleep every night, but wait there’s more. In my dreams, there’s also a young man, courting me, with a fervor and sweetness that only happened once in my real 20s, back when a book shop co-worker confessed that he had a crush on me and thought I was so adorable that if I were a dog, I’d be a collie.

I dreamt of that same scenario last night, only this time the dog-allusive young man gave me a gift that I was able to inspect in detail, and then later remember in detail after I woke up. It was a necklace, a fine gold chain on which were strung white pearls alternating with polished rock crystal spheres of a very beautiful type. Namely, colorless rutilated quartz:


Photo from the internet, curtesy of

I guess you can tell that I am a certified gemologist (from waaaaay back); I hardly ever dream of jewelry but when I do, I tend to be very specific about the gems. But rutilated quartz? That’s a new one. I didn’t know I liked it enough to dream about it. (FYI: I can not think of a way to put pearls and rutilated quartz beads on a gold chain, since piercing the quartz would pretty much ruin the effect of the rutile inclusions.)

It was while I was pondering upon this jeweled necklace that I figured out why I was dreaming these weird happy dreams of dating.

It’s because I’ve been closely following Taylor Swift’s new romance with the elegant and sexy actor Tom Hiddleston because yes, I read the Daily every day so sue me.  Tom Hiddleston is 35 (9 years older than Taylor), 6’2″, from a very classy family, English with a Scottish father, Eton and Cambridge educated. They met at the 2016 Met Gala and, in my opinion, he fell for her like a ton of rutilated quartz and swept her off her feet as soon as she became available. I like her with him.


So I’ve been feeding my mind lots of Taylor Swift romance and my brain only hears the Swift part before it jumps to conclusions, i.e., that the Swift it knows best is the Swift who was once favorably compared to a collie, so I’m dreaming about my old romance when I was Taylor Swift’s age. I’m old enough to have been Taylor Swift’s kindergarten teacher. Should I feel creepy?

Other follow-up from last week: I did make contact with the Cat Lady three streets over and she graciously gave permission to TNR her crew of feral freeloaders, so: YAY! Master trapper Susan has captured 9 of these guys so far, including the very sick one that we were out worried about.


Three Desperados (out of 15)

And as for Steve, well, he’s still Steve on our front stone wall, sleeping off a two-course dinner of Friskie’s Turkey & Giblets pâté and more Friskie’s Turkey and Giblets pâté, and dreaming of a three-course dessert of Friskie’s anything:


And, without segue, here are pictures from my little village on July 4th, Independence Day, America’s 240th birthday:





And, for obvious reasons, my favorite:

P1080282Sweet dreams, everyone.



Read more

In 2001 I made a list:

  1. Write a book.
  2. Get it published.
  3. Get married.
  4. Kiss a tiger.

I made this list because my life was in book-less and date-less rut and I’d heard that writing such a list would help me create a future where all my dreams would come true. Long story short, it worked.

I crossed off Items #1, #2, and #3 in pretty short order  (6 years) And then I had a third book published that did not top the New York Times best seller list, and then I sat next to a guy on an airplane who would not stop talking about his 9-year old grandson (he reads blueprints!) who made me depressed (the children of children of total strangers are of less than zero interest to me), and then I got a filthy nasty cold, which made me even more depressed (I’m a bit of a whiner), and then life looked once again to be as deeply dug into a deep rut as ever before, and then I threw myself a pity party and I blogged about it.

I should have known that all you Dear and Wonderful Readers would give me exactly the pep talk I needed to, in the words of that great humanitarian, Cher, Snap out of it. Oh, I’m still pretty sure that I don’t have another book in me, and I know that that basically makes me 60 years old and unemployed, which is definitely not where I want to be at this time in my life, but hey! I’m all grown up and I’ve got Ray Charles singing my new theme song and not cutting my bangs anymore!


This is me in 4th grade. I am 8 years old. This top had a matching skirt. Even at this age, I was aware that childhood sucked.

Good news: My first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam, currently “out of stock” (meaning, practically, “out of print”, the worst thing that can happen to an author) WILL go into a second printing! Copies should be available by Fall (Northern Hemisphere Fall, that is) so everyone can rush out and keep extra copies on hand for holiday gift-giving. My spare copies come in very handy as tea trays:


Cindy uses her copy as night table:


And yes, I took the time to stage two photographs because I have absolutely nothing better to do, since I’m unemployed and all.

Gooder news (for me, anyway, and this post is all about cheering me up up so it counts): Gardens of Awe and Folly is being published in the UK on July 15, which I only found out because the London office of Bloomsbury (my publisher) contacted me about it. They had been contacted by The Guardian newspaper, because apparently the Guardian cares about V. Swift and her gardens, and they want V. Swift (me) to write about the GoAaF and my 10 favorite garden books. So from hence forth my biography will read: Her writing has appeared in such name-dropping-worthy journals as The Guardian. 


Well, some people would be impressed.

And the Goodest news: I’ve got a new ginger kitty showing up for breakfast. . . 



Between me and Joanne, my neighbor, we named him Dennis Whiskabottoms.

. . . and I’m not even tired of my old ginger kitty yet!

P1070928 (1)



I have settled on being satisfied with smooching these doofus felines since they are as close as I’ll get to crossing off that last Item on my famous list of 2001, #4, Kiss a tiger, and I’m OK with that. About a year ago I started to seriously look into completing my list and soon discovered that there seems to be no ethical way to Kiss a tiger, any where in the world. I am ashamed to have ever let such a thought enter my mind: Whatever tigers might be available for kissing are typically drugged or mistreated into submission and I do not want to be a part of that, no way, no how. Here’s the news flash: tigers are not meant to be kissed. Or petted, or put on leashes, or kept in your back yard. They are meant to be left alone, in their native habitats, to be their solitary, apart-from-humans, and magnificent selves. So no tiger-kissing for me.

So what this means to me, the main character in my life, is that as of now, I am list-less, well and truly listless. I need a new list. 

That list of 2001 came to me in about 20 seconds. . . I suspect that my new list will take a bit longer. 

But, as you have read (above), it’s not all bad. Some of it is good, and gooder. Little by little, I’m finding reasons to wake up every day and say to myself, Oh, what a beautiful morning!

I hope your morning, this and every other one, is beautiful too.



Read more

—-Yes, I forgot to turn on the Comments for this post, but I have corrected that so please read on and confess your latest buyer’s remorse!–

Now, back our regularly scheduled post:

I bought new shoes last week.


The thing is that I got up one day last week, put on decent clothes that I wear when I go out of the house instead of the duds I usually wear (which make me look homeless), I put on make up, I found my car keys, I got in my car, I drove to a store, I tried on various kinds of shoes, and the whole time I was stone cold sober. And, after all that effort, I bought these shoes, completely forgetting that wearing high heels is freaking torture. I can’t stand high heels.

I don’t know what I was thinking, buying these high heels, which is so unlike the stuff I’ve bought online after a few glasses of wine, in which case I know EXACTLY what I was thinking.

Two weeks ago, under just those boozy conditions I mentioned, I bought this from eBay:


It’s a vintage 1960s music jewelry box that plays I Could Have Danced All Night


…and inside it has a fuzzy round thing with a bit of orange plastic on its face and a felt flower-like thing on its head (allegedly this is a bird) that spins around while the music plays. I remember thinking, I HAVE TO HAVE THIS!!! Because I had a jewelry box (with a ballerina twirling inside) made in Japan just like this, that played I Could Have Danced All Night when I was a small girl. Every once in a while quaffing the elixir of the gods I roam into eBay looking for my old jewelry box so when I found this I thought, Well, it’s half right…and half right is better than not having a jewelry box that plays I Could Have Danced All Night, right?

Same few glasses of wine, different day, I was on eBay buying this CD from a seller in Norway:


It cost about three times as much as your usual CD, but I had to have it because I had heard these guys sing that old Leonard Cohen (Hallelujah) song on You Tube and I had really liked it, even tho I am not a Leonard Cohen fan. In fact, I loathe with a passion that stupid song, Suzanne: she’s touched your perfect body with her mind???? What a perv. But I like it when four Norwegian guys get together and sing Hallelujah. I’m unpredictable that way.

So, although I have never listened to this expensive Norwegian CD, I liked having it so much that I also bought this:


Which I have never listened to either but, one day, when I get the urge, I just might, and that’s what makes owning it worth it.

I’m also a fan of eBay in the UK, which is where I got this:


I saw this for sale and I thought, I HAVE TO HAVE IT because I could sew this onto the back of my leather jacket so everyone will know what my favorite punk band of the 1970s is, as soon as I buy a leather jacket. See? There’s a whole complete thought process.

This is another eBay UK must have of mine:


Hand embroidered, and already framed, I saw this and thought: I HAVE TO HAVE IT because it brought back memories of being in London that Summer of 1977 of the Silver Jubilee, seeing punk kids with my own eyes and being terrified by them, and being rained on for days on end, wearing bell bottoms and learning to order tea “black” or else you always get milk in it, using pay phones that “pipped”… those memories are priceless. This purchase was worth every cent it cost to ship it across the pond.

One evening not so long ago, me and my bottle of wine fetched this up out of the eBay zeitgeist:


I HAD TO HAVE THIS because this is what the future looked like to me, as a 9-year old in 1965: I was going to be a teenager with my own Princess phone in Acapulco Blue and I was going to spend too much time on it talking to my friends about boys, and I’d drive a Mustang convertible and go to dances and be popular. None of that happened — not one iota of that came true — but I still love the design of the Princess phone and this one is cat-sized!!! And now that you’ve seen it I know that every one of you Dear Readers is mad with envy, which is what owning stuff is all about.

And then there was the time that I HAD TO HAVE this:


A desert plate because, you know, thistles.

I don’t think you need to have downed half a bottle of Pinot Grigio to get why I HAD TO HAVE this:


An 8-inch tall glass bottle of vintage Avon perfume in the shape of the Eiffel Tower???? No explanation necessary, just buy it and congratulate yourself.

By the way, on the same day that I bought those ridiculous high heel shoes I also made the brilliant purchase of these:


They are Sketcher fuzzy-lined suede boots and they are the most warm, happy, comfortable shoes I’ve ever clapped onto Pearl and Vinny (the names of my left and right foots). I LOVE THESE BOOTS.


My husband thinks they are hideously ugly. Well, the good thing is that he won’t have to look at them this coming week because I am out of sight for the next five days, off on a fact-finding trip far, far away, traipsing in my pillow-like Sketcher boots around a certain world capital and a certain quaint village in search of content for my next book.

Which I will tell you all about next week, avec plaisir.


Read more


People are reading my mind and stealing my thoughts. I’m looking at you, Walt Disney, and don’t give me that innocent look, New York Times.

Remember when two…three?…weeks ago I posted a photo of my highly staged work habitat which included a desk topped with my prized possession, a stuffed owl?


Forget that owl — Dear Reader Janet B. has eagle eyes and spotted the other bird of a feather here…the Grey Goose!

Dear Reader Marg-o was right: I call that owl Archimedes because of a whole thing I have for the animated Disney movie about the legend of King Arthur that came out in 1963.



I used to take a lot of pride in my connoisseur taste for this movie, a rather obscure entry in the Disney oeuvre, called The Sword in the Stone. Well, now neither I nor Marg-o can bask in our expertise of cartoon owls named for ancient Greek polymaths because last week I learned that Disney is in pre-production for a live-action film version of — you guessed it: The Damn Sword in the Damn Stone.

When the Sword in the Stone comes out in 2018 and is a huge hit, I just want you all to remember that I was alluding to it way back when I wasn’t moaning the fact that the film hadn’t been made 10 years earlier when  Joseph Gordon-Levitt was still young enough to get away with playing a teenaged Arthur, which he’d have been perfect for.


Yes, he’s the kid from the TV show Third Rock From the Sun. I love this actor.

On a similar note, I know that my “I Want To Kill My Husband Diet” (ha ha — thank you to Dear Reader Patricia for that branding idea) of last week didn’t go viral, but a New York Times essay on the same-ish subject did. Ada Calhoun wrote a Modern Love column called The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give (you can read it here) which was printed in the Sunday, July 16 edition of the paper.


Illustration by the excellent Brian Rea

I think the piece is mis-titled, but that was probably an editor’s decision, not the writer’s.

Ada Calhoun is a very good writer, I just want to make that clear. The essay is beautifully structured, and the pacing of her sentences is like the patter and chorus of a great show tune. This lightens up the tone of her piece, the subject of which is that there are times when you loathe the spouse you dearly love, and which “lightness” is my main objection to the article.

I think that there is nothing that brings out the deepest, darkest, and most dire urges more than the blips of hatred that accentuate a long term relationship. As Dear Reader Felicia commented, there are times when you want to make your spouse a taxidermy project. As Whoopie Goldberg said, when Sharon Stone was being ridiculed for giving her husband the birthday gift of a one-on-one encounter with the Komodo Dragon in the San Francisco Zoo (which bit Mr. Stone and sent the hubby to the hospital): “Who hasn’t wanted to put their husband in a small cage with a Komodo Dragon?”


P.S. This is where I was last weekend, in a far away country where I had no access to my blog and could not release the Comments of my Dear Readers until Monday. Thank you all for persevering.

Just because some people are uncomfortable with the word “hate” doesn’t mean that they don’t know exactly what “hate” feels like, and don’t have those feelings every once in a while for the person they love the very most in all the world. It happens! And then it goes away! So let’s just be honest about it!

Also, after I posted last week’s diet tip ( the “I Want To Kill My Husband Diet”,  thanks again to Dear Reader Patricia) I fact-checked with my own dear Top Cat. And yes, there are times when he can’t stand the sight of me, either. And I’m OK with that.

Anyhoo. Last week I got the proofs of the Damn Garden Book — entirely in e-form. Not a scrap of paper in the whole last-chance correcting process! As has often been said of myself, the thing looks good when it’s all cleaned up. And I ditched my old Author Photo:


For this one:

DGB Author pic

Yes, the bags under my eyes have been photoshopped out. But I left the crow’s feet and the blotchy skin tone in. Because I’m at least 80% for real!

And, lastly, the mystery of the two Chinese language versions of Le Road Trip has been solved. The first version…


…is titled A Journey to France. The second version….


…has been re-marketed and re-titled as Old Love Honeymoon. Ha! See those two geezers standing on that green text box? That’s me and my own, old, dearly un-hated Top Cat!

And, lastly, before I punch out my Writer On The Loose time card for the day, I’ve begun to keep a list of the most beautiful words in the world. So far, the top spot goes to:



(Thanks, Vivki A.)

As for the most beautiful American word, well, that’s a no-brainer. It’s:


And the word bucket always makes me laugh.

Dear Readers, may buckets of un-hate fill your weekend with, well, whatever it is that makes you as happy as an old love honeymoon.




Read more

I am a 5’6″ tall writer. This is a story about how, when I weighed  142 pounds, I was a size 8-10.


And then I lost 30 pounds and now that I weigh 112, I am a size 2-4.


Recreating the previous pose, in my back yard, Thursday afternoon. That’s yesterday, for those of you Dear Readers reading this on Friday.

Yes, as you can see, I have lost  a whole big fat lazy cat’s worth of flubber (foreground, which we call “Lickety”). Since I have mentioned this weight loss before, and a few of you Dear Readers have asked how I did it, today I think it’s time that I shared with you the secret of how I got skinny.

It started with what I call:

The Bounty of the Streets Long Island Diet.

Here’s how it goes: It is dawn at the local Long Island Rail Road Station, and for the commute into Manhattan…


… and the streets offer a breakfast of banana, three tangerines, and half a bottle of orange juice.

Lunch comes in the form of a nutritious and calorie-soncscious hard-boiled egg…


…and for Dinner, YUM! The American classic!:


But of course, I jest. I will resist the urge to digress on the subject of The People of Long Island Are Pigs.

So here’s how I actually lost 30 pounds last year on what I call  The Beige Food Diet.

Here is an ordinary box of Whoppers. I think they are called Malteasers in the UK.


This is a Whopper:


It is a malted milk ball, and it is not at all whopping big — it’s about the size of a marble. I happen to really like Whoppers, but it’s not because of the chocolate. It’s the beige inside of the Whopper that makes it my favorite food:


That’s the malted part of the milk ball. I have no idea what “malted”, or “malt” is, but I love the taste. But of course I didn’t go on the Whopper Diet.

This discussion of Whoppers is what we professional writers call a “teaser”. Or a “lead.” Or “foreshadowing.” I forget which.

It’s how we get a reader’s attention. Are you still with me? So let’s skip ahead to the scientific part of the story, the good news that I long to share with you all:

Back in January/February of 2014, I read about an instant food that was devised by computer guys in Silicon Valley. Nothing says YUM like  Silicon Valley  instant food. So I immediately ordered the starter kit, which  cost $80.00:P1000115

Yes, it’s called Soylent. Those kids in Silicon Valley really know their pop culture.

Turned out that the demand for Soylent is so high that I had to wait six months to get my first shipment.


In your starter kit you get a pitcher, a measuring cup, a booklet all about the instant food you are about to ingest, 8 bags of Soylent, and 8 little bottles of oil mixture:P1000117

This photo above represents 32 meals of Soylent.

A pitcher of Soylent stays good for 48 hours, but I  prefer to mix my Soylent case-by-case. That is, meal by meal.

The way I mix individual portions is I use an old Smuckers organic peanut butter jar.  You have to shake your Soylent mixture  and my old Smuckers organic jar comes with a lid. Fancy!

So, first, I measure out one measuring cup of Soylent powder:


The powder smells insanely wonderful, like cake mix. Sweet, and delicate, and nostalgic.

Then I add 2 teaspoons of oil stuff.  It includes various plant oils and some fish oils, but it does NOT smell or taste “fishy”. In fact, it is as bland as sunflower oil:


Then I add two measuring cups of water:


Then I shake it for 60 seconds to blend it thoroughly:


Add ice cubes and voila: I have a hearty, nutritious meal:


Many people complain about the taste of Soylent, so they doctor it up with flavorings such as banana (barf) or peanut butter (drinkable peanut butter? Oh, puke.) or chocolate. I think they are all crazy. Pure Soylent tastes just like the inside of a Whopper and, in case you haven’t noticed, it LOOKS like it too!

Soylent is my go-to food, and I highly recommend it, but Soylent actually only helped me lose the last 10-12 of my 30 pounds, although it has helped me maintain my current weight of 112 for over a year.

Here’s the real and honest truth.

I do not want to swindle you, my Dear Readers, into thinking that my losing 30 pounds was pure will power on my superhuman part. Who do I think I am? — Nicole “No Botox/I’m Afraid of Surgery” Kidman?

My weight loss  started in January of 2014, when I became very, very, very, very pissed off with Top Cat. My husband is a kind and generous and funny and sexy man and I adore him. But you know how it is, if ever you’ve been married. Every once in a while — in my case, every decade or so (in an eleven-year marriage) — there comes a time when you hate your spouse’s guts so much that you want to turn them into Prometheus just so you can eviscerate them with your bare hands, and then wait overnight for their liver to re-generate, and go back the next day and gorge them with a butter knife and yank out their bloody entrails inch by agonizing inch, and wait overnight so in the morning you can go after them with an ice pick and hack at their bile ducts until they look like hamburger… We’ve all been there, right? Right?

Yes. I was a snarling, adrealine-crazed, vicious, screaming, out-of-control madwoman who was righteously and revengefully furious at her spouse. The only reason i didn’t kill him was because I couldn’t think of a way that I could get away with it.

Well, eventually, the issue got resolved, and I accepted that when I married the love of my life, I did so because  the problems that this adorable, complex, irresistible creature presented were the problems that I chose to make my life meaningful.

However, the good thing is that, because of all this hatred that  I lived and breathed for six weeks, I completely lost my appetite . Most of all, I lost all interest in comfort eating. The whole time  I was in a rage, I  gave not a thought about my darling Rice Krispies Treats, my vanilla Oreos, my Heath Bars, my Sugar Babies, my Milk Duds, my Whoppers, my etc etc etc.

When, before I knew it, I’d lost 20 pounds, I did not let my sweet tooth take hold up again. I turned to Soylent, and an eating plan based on actual need (not want), and here I am. I weigh as much as I did in high school and I am never hungry. And I feel pretty damn good.

My excess 30 pounds wishes all of you a Happy Weekend.






More info about Soylent:

Soylent™ was developed from a need for a simpler food source. Creator Robert Rhinehart and team developed Soylent after recognizing the disproportionate amount of time and money they spent creating nutritionally complete meals.

Soylent is a food product (classified as a food, not a supplement, by the FDA) designed for use as a staple meal by all adults. Each serving of Soylent provides maximum nutrition with minimum effort.

What is Soylent made of? (Hint: It’s not people.)

Carbohydrates — 255g

Protein — 114g

Fatty Acids — 70g

Omega 3 Fatty Acids — 2.5g

Fiber — 27g

Potassium — 3500mg

Sodium — 1050mg

Calcium — 1000mg

Phosphorus — 700mg

Magnesium — 400mg

Vitamin Bp — 1375mg

Vitamin C — 90mg

Vitamin B3 — 16mg

Vitamin E — 15mg

Zinc — 11mg

Iron — 21.5mg

Vitamin B5 — 5mg

Manganese — 2.3mg

Read more

 Yes, I have no bananas, I have no bananas today, neither on my word-writin’ desk:


(Everybody say Oooooooooooooo)…and neither on my picture-making desk:


(Everybody say Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh). As clear as my desks are is as clear as my mind is. Nary a banana in sight. I am still getting used to the feeling of having no bananas, but all I can say is, I’ve never liked bananas and I can’t even stand the smell of bananas and I will gladly spend the rest of my life never eating bananas, so I am indescribably happy that I have not one, none, zip, zilch, no bananas today. Or ever!!

OK, enough with the banana metaphor. But everything I said holds true for real bananas. Simply can’t stand them.

I think I might have shown my Dear Readers the cover of the Chinese language version of my last book, Le Road Trip, when it came out in 2014:


WELL. Yesterday I got a surprise packet in the mail, from my publishers at Bloomsbury, that contained a dozen copies of ANOTHER Chinese language version of Le Road Trip:


I think this cover is very jaunty, in that I love the design but I am puzzled by the images that were selected to go on the cover. I mean, except for the wine glass, and the rather fetching self-portrait of me and Top Cat, do any of these images scream “FRANCE” to you? Yeah, me neither.

I am also curious as to why there is a new Chinese language version, because there was no note or letter enclosed with these copies. But that’s just par for the course.

Here is where I tell you all another insider anecdote about publishing: in finalizing the business stuff of the Damn Garden Book last month — LAST MONTH — I happened to notice a quirk in the paperwork that led me to ask of my publisher, “Where’s the copyright to Le Road Trip?”  Ha ha ha hahahahaha. Turns out that Bloomsbury, who published Le Road Trip on 2012, had never secured the copyright!!! OH, my, how I laughed and laughed at this delightful breech breach of contract! Yes indeed, I am exactly the kind of easy going, week-end, hobbyist for fun, trust-fund writer who would find this terribly, terribly amusing.

Actually, I was pissed. Capital P PISSED. But my agent explained to me that publishers were stretched very thin these days, being as print is a dying business, and it’s perfectly understandable that they would overlook such a minor detail as securing a copyright, which is just one of those pesky little things for which I give them 88% of every dollar earned from sales of Le Road Trip. What merriment, to know that I am part of an industry where such minor things as copyrights are, you know, just one of those things that people are too busy to deal with.

Oh well. The copyright to Le Road Trip is now done and got. And the Damn Garden Book is copyrighted as well, by the same people who send me Chinese language books with no update on what the hell is going on in China vis-a-vis a traveler’s journal of love and France.

Inhale, exhale. Peace unto me, Ommmmm, Om mani padme hum, as they say. As a matter of fact, when I want to get Zen here on the north shore of Long Island Sound I have just the place to go to and it’s not more than 4 miles from my house:


This, my darlings, is the labyrinth on the campus of C.W.Post college, made by students of the ceramics studio and installed sometime this century. I’m fuzzy on the details. Top Cat and I went there last night at the golden hour of 6:30 PM.


As you can see, walking the labyrinth at C.W.Post of a Summer evening is just about the most soothing venture there is, of a Summer evening. Ahhhhhhhh….the grounds are ever so serene:


And if you stroll down towards the horizon, lo and behold you come across a sunken garden…


…the likes of which are rarely seen outside of an Elizabethan courtyard:


Actually, many of the administration buildings of C.W.Post were built at the last turn of the century in painstaking imitation of Elizabethan structures (I hope I took pix of those structures that surround this adorable sunken knot garden):


In case you do not know, you can click on any image on this post and you will get a full-scale version (instead of these annoying tiny snaps)…


…and if you don’t get it at one click, just click again for the enlargement (this is for my Ma, who needs instructions in blog technology).


The finest thing about this sunken know garden is that, when you exit, you cross a brook with a small half-half-half moon bridge…


…which you might not notice has a weird box-like thing on raised feet (see foreground, left, above) which, I am happy to report, is a Winter shelter for the wandering campus CATS. I know!! How much do you love a college that cares for its feral felines in such a loving manner??? A lot a lot a lot a lot a lot a lot….

Further along the path, we cross the half-half-half moon bridge and espy yet more feline lodgings:


I zoomed to make sure yo wouldn’t miss it:


By the way, on your exit you must take a moment to behold the century-old Elm Tree that still thrives on the campus of C.W.Post:


That is one majestic, nobel, historic, monumental tree. This is the kind of Elm we lost to the Dutch Elm Disease blight of the last century, when America lost 75% of our 77 million Elm Trees from New England to Minnesota.

But I did not bring you to this garden just to show you how the evening light gilds every leaf it touches yadda yadda yadda. As much as I love the effect of evening gamma rays alighting upon topiary, this is not a garden that I can paint…as is, that is. This is the June Eve shot:


And this is the June Rainy Afternoon shot:


Same place, different atmospheric conditions. I don’t think I have to explain how the cloudy, dim light illuminates shapes and structures so much better than the clear romantic light of vespers. Here are more rainy day shots of the same sunken know garden:






If i were to paint this lovely sunken knot garden for your viewing pleasure, I would take the rainy day pix and, with my artistic license, add just a touch of June Vesper to make it glow just a tad. I mean, my desks look awfully lonely, and I don’t want to get out of practice, and I haven’t had a Work of Art Give Away for my darling readers this whole year…

…this won’t be a Triscuit. This will be more like a piece of Arnold Whole Grain slice of bread toast. If anybody is interested in watching me paint this C.W.Post sunken knot garden, please meet me back here next Friday.

No bananas will be eligible to win next week’s Toast Give Away.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers.


Read more

Why, hello there! How nice of you to drop by! Just let me finish my ordinary everyday housewifely duties, won’t take a sec, and then we can sit and discuss your very, very flattering offer to have me star in your new reality series The Real Housewives of Long Island.

P1010410 copy 2

There now. I hope you don’t mind, but the FedEx man hasn’t been by the house yet today, you know how unreliable overnight service from the Himalayas can be, so I’m afraid that the dew on my hand-picked Assam tea leaves from yesterday might not be quite il faut. But not to worry, I  brighten up my brew by using water melted from the Lambert Glacier — I do hope you agree with me that water melted from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet adds a certain je ne sais quoi to a cup of tea, don’t you think? That’s why I simply can’t allow West Antarctic Ice Sheet water in my house. Keep it simple, I say.

And yes, all my tea leaves have been blessed by the Dali Lama. But I’ve been hearing murmurs, you know, that the Dali is on the verge of becoming passé. Have you heard of this new guru, simply fabulous, the re-incarnation of Deepak Chopra even before Deepak Chopra has died? So cutting edge. I must check this out — I would hate to be stuck with Dali Lama-blessed tea leaves if it turns out that the re-incarnation of the not-yet-dead Deepak Chopra is the one that Gwenth Paltrow says is “The One” to bless tea leaves.

I’m very spiritual, you see.  I myself am the re-incarnation of Cleopatra’s 16th-great-great-grand-daughter’s once removed’s half sister’s friend who went to Vassar. Her spirit name is Pug Face. She’s why I am so smart. We’ve simply reams of wisdom between us.


You’ve noticed my  limp. It’s just temporary — I’m wearing a knee brace. Bad fall from my polo pony, you see, nothing serious. The pain pills pack a bigger whallop than any Quarter Horse, let me tell you. It’s like I’ve been tossed under a stampede of quilted-hoofed unicorns. Simply divine. Would you like to try one? No? You don’t know what you’re missing, my dear.

Oh, I see you’re looking at my record collection. Yes, I am quite fond of French pop music from the 1980s. A musical genre so vastly under-rated, don’t you think? Ah, the 1980s . . . I have fond memories of the 1980s when I was  in my thirties and going to my first rehab  just a child, really, with my family on the Cote d’Azur, lazing on the beach listening to Radio France on my Walkman. Good times. When I drive to the liquor store to my volunteer job with the nuns helping poor people, I often pop in a 1980s Johnny Halliday CD in my 10-year old Camry in my voiture and crank it up to 11. Yes, I sing along at the top of my voice, as I am familiar with at least half the words in the songs. French words, you see. Like they speak in Europe.

You might want to jot that down in your notebook: International lifestyle role model.

Now, where were we?

Oh yes, you want to know about my table flipping skills.

Indeed, I can flip a table if needs be.


But I must say, personally, for me, table flipping would be a last resort. I prefer to use my wit and superior language skills, rather than furniture, when I need to make a point at a diner party.

Just last month I was at a very exclusive dinner party, at a most exclusive restaurant, and not to name drop but a nephew of a well known Atlantic City bookie was there also, and, sadly, one of the ladies had tippled a little too much of the vino, if you know what I mean, and was holding forth a little too, too much of the veritas, if you know what I mean. Talk talk talk talk talk, good lord that lady could talk.

I believe she is in Real Estate, if I can remember the thirteen thousand times she mentioned it, and watches a lot of TV, if I can keep straight the white-water-rapids-stream-of-conciousness that flowed forth from her that evening.

And there I was, the most interesting person in the room, on verbal lock down. Mind you, it wasn’t for myself that I was bored and pissed, oh dear, no — it was all the other guests for whom I felt the most pity, for they were being deprived of my interestingness. I had a Marrakech cat story that would have blown the doors off any real estate chit-chat.

Well, someone had to find a way to break the conversational log-jam. And I felt that everyone was silently begging me, as the most interesting person in the room, to do it, as you know that I  am a  1/16th  of the world traveler and the re-incarnation of Pug Face.

So I turned to the chatterbox’s husband and I asked him, “Does she ever shut the fuck up?”

You see? Witty. Word play at its best.

And yes, now that you ask, it actually was the conversating equivalent of flipping a table, in so much as it engendered an abrupt change of atmosphere in the room. And the waiter went looking for Security.

What? Do you have to go so soon? But you just got here! I do hope you have everything you need to know about me, and my qualifications to be a Real Housewife of Long Island.

Thank you for your consideration.


Read more