Category Archives: beauty

I have a lot in common with Goethe

“Nothing is worth more than this day.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

20150123_122044I truly believe there are only two kinds of people – those whose reality check precludes seeing what those whose ‘romanticism’ of the world makes things ‘more’. They are not exactly in conflict but a glaring dose of frustration with one another is easy enough. I fall into the latter category of people. I am a person to whom life’s most basic and wonderful magic happens frequently, unexpectedly and with which I also feel like I am functioning in a state of heightened grace. I am not unrealistic (I don’t think) but it frankly doesn’t occur to me to dwell on the less attractive aspects of our life here on Earth except to try and change things for the better where possible.  This is not about change. This is about small pleasures that people (everywhere, regardless of culture or country) miss.

“A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust: First Part

This afternoon I was in the town of Gospić, Croatia. I will be honest, painfully so, realistically so – 20150123_123402it is a down on the heels small urban area with not much in terms of attractiveness to draw one to it (I can write this being from the Rust Belt). You will have to pass through it to reach Nikola Tesla’s birthplace in nearby Smiljan or to the breathtaking mountains of Velebit with its 1/2 million acres of pristine UNESCO protected wilderness and home of Linden Tree Retreat and Ranch (from where I write this post, the wood fire gently crackling, tea mug beside me holding steaming ginger root tea).  It is not Zadar, or Split, Trogir or Šibenik in terms of ancient decaying prettiness offered by sun-bleached stone from Brac (or is it Hvar?) and crystalline blue, aquamarine and emerald waters of the Adriatic.  Nevertheless I found beauty – just as I often do – because through the lens in which I view the world it is infinitely more pleasant to live in fullness of being, in a state of joy in discovery, of delight over the mundane (to others).

My friends know that I am a freak about open air farmers’ markets (okay and those actually housed with arcades). Today was market day in Gospić; ordinary people selling or buying carrots, beets and sausages, lettuce and eggs, Brussel sprouts and oh, thick naturally coloured wool, hand-knit socks.  I had a short list in mind but not written down – in such an environment shopping is about what looks good, whose smile meets yours, what in taking a long view inspires you to cook as a result of what is offered for sale. Sometimes purchases result from a semi-conscious decision to stretch completely and utterly outside of your comfort zone – that happened to me today. A lovely man wearing perfectly coordinating shades of Loden and olive 20150123_110641green had a roll of made-at-home luncheon meat, the renderings from pig fat, homemade bread and pressed at home apple juice (not cider). I said Dobar dan and he reciprocated and smiled.  He took his knife and sliced off a piece of his bacon fat and offered it to me to try; in Croatia this is the way most people eat this – it is considered a delicacy. Now it would be incredibly rude of me not to accept this despite it being beyond comprehension to consume in the States where I am from.  I do not have a Poker Face – and he burst out laughing, which of course made me laugh at myself and I said “I think it is an acquired taste” which made him laugh harder. He spoke no English but he seemed to understand every word I said. At this point the luncheon roll, which seemed to be some variation on Head Cheese, was being sliced and offered to me. My stomach is having a conversation with my head along the lines of “oh, dear!” but my head is telling my stomach to shut up and just go with the flow despite the lingering taste of bacon fat on my tongue. I confess I enjoy Haggis (am actually lamenting the fact that I am not anywhere near Scottish soil to celebrate Burns Night this year) but it’s only 20150123_110807because I prefer to pretend that I don’t actually know what haggis is made of because on my first tasting I didn’t know and I enjoyed it enormously; when in doubt fall back on such an experience. The truth is that this is likely a one-off; it wasn’t so much about how tasty (or not) it was, or whether the sum of the parts was more appealing than the individual contributions of the various parts of the pig that went into it, for me it was the experience of sharing what this man had made, and his clear desire to be in this moment with me. So for 20 kuna ($2.92 USD / 2.60 Euro) I bought a piece about ½” thick and he gave me the end of the loaf of bread he was offering for sampling, and something my erstwhile, globe-trotting, Scottish chalet mate Calum thought disgusting when he tasted it, a handful of what remains when pig fat is rendered. I will have this for lunch tomorrow. I will enjoy it “for the experience of it” and I will be happy with the memory shared with this lovely man.

I also bought some sausages that my chalet mate Calum had requested I pick up – a kilo 20150123_110159requiring a couple of extra links added to the scale, mirth and another couple of photos.  But by far the purchase that will stay with me the longest, serving to remind me of this most pleasant hour and a half of my life, is a new pair of ridiculously soft, thick, hand-knit, wool socks. I forgot to take 20150123_161600a picture of the woman that sold them to me (she also knit them) so I went back – to both of our delight, and hugs and Croatian kisses goodbye.

Who is richer? The realist or the romantic? Goethe wrote a lot of truly wonderful things – but I end with these words:

“If you’ve never eaten while crying you don’t know what life tastes like.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If you enjoy my blog please consider sending me the value of a cup of tea in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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So much more than… bread

For people that know ‘what goes on in my kitchen’ the fact that I had never made bread from scratch before coming to Croatia might come as a bit of a surprise. But in the 74 days I have been here I have taught myself how-to one-double-rising-round-loaf at a time with yeast cakes, 20141208_100938honey or crystalised brown sugar, pink Tibetan sea salt, millet, golden flaxseed, dark chia seeds, hemp hearts, stone ground, organic rye and whole wheat flours and a bit of conventional white flour by hand.  Some loaves are better than others. I was recently taught that it takes a ratio of two yeast cakes to every kilo of dry weight – but without a scale this remains elusive and, thus, the reason why though tasty I often don’t get much rise as the millet and other seeds are disproportionately heavy.

Making bread is elemental. It is an exercise in patience. It is 20150121_162508something I never imagined I would enjoy doing. It is all this and more. The bread has become an extension of my life philosophy that what comes from my hand in the kitchen is to offer a hug for the insides. What I absolutely love is the response to this bread… the eye closing 20150121_162454inhalation of the scent accompanied by a beatific smile, the unbridled sighs of contentment which issue forth from the tasters of my efforts, the epic praise that comes from the loaf disappearing in one sitting of a meal (if I want some for my brunch I must set aside my portion so that I can slather fig or apricot preserves on toasted slices to accompany farm fresh eggs, thick, flavourful Croatian bacon, tea and lemonade made from organic Dalmatian lemons).

As an American here to determine if this could be the right thing for me as a permanent relocation there is so much I am utterly clueless about – this is good (it challenges me to adapt, to be more sensitive, to listen more acutely) and bad (faux pas are inevitable, but learning to express Molim te and Oprosti, pardon me and sorry, and genuinely meaning it helps). In the United States I rarely eat bread – largely because of additives, sugars, and the carbohydrates I don’t need or crave.  Culturally, I didn’t understand 20150121_174838what bread meant in Croatia – believe me, it’s not just bread. Perhaps it is a cellular level lack of awareness (I am trying desperately to overcome) resulting from being born in a country that hasn’t experienced war on its soil in more than a 150 years, a country whose population represents a mere 5% of the worlds’ yet creates more than half of all global waste, a country where a single American will consumes 53 times more goods and services than someone in China, a country disconnected from ourselves as individuals and those we supposedly care for because we are always too busy to be deliberate in our thoughts and actions. This is why I am very consciously here in Croatia, to continue to strip away the superfluous, to be humbled, to expand, to be genuinely grateful for and to live with much less.

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View this morning from the porch of the Dancing Moon Chalet at Linden Tree Retreat & Ranch – Velika Plana, Croatia

I learned the cultural nuance of bread from the tender explanation offered by Megi Yerkovich at Linden Tree Retreat & Ranch a couple mornings’ after arriving here two weeks ago. I had made a loaf of ‘my bread’ to share which we had enjoyed with dinner the night before. Independent of that loaf, Megi explained that across the Balkan region (she is Bosnian) hospitality comes down to two critical points, no matter how little you might have you must have an extra cup in the house to share tea or coffee with a visitor and to have bread to offer them; “Therefore eat of what Allāh has given you, lawful and good (things), and give thanks for Allāh’s favor if Him do you serve” (Qu’ran 016.114) and the lesson of the Widow’s Mite (Gospels of Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4) as each possible kind of nourishment.  My eyes filled with tears at the acknowledgment that, once again, the universe chose to guide me to the precise place and time to offer me knowledge that would expand who I am – in this human life.

I am happy to share the slice I set aside for myself and make you a cup of ginger root tea, come 20150122_123712sit with me and tell me who you are, what you hope for, enjoy what I have to offer – it is yours. Namaste.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Re-learning to live with purpose

So much of our lives revolves around movement – and is usually not accomplished in the most ProstratingTibetanpositive of attitudes, by that I mean rushing. To languish over a task in our lives is somehow perceived as being lazy instead of purposeful. Think about the slow passion of a cellist drawing his or her bow across the strings – how achingly beautiful this is. Or how Buddhists prostrate themselves hands and knees sliding the length of their bodies along the Earth for hundreds of miles – with joy in their hearts – as they make their pilgrimage to the most holy sites of their faith. A kiss that is precious for its beginning, and its end.

Dawn 14 November 2014 CroatiaTo capture the special nuances of a pre-dawn breathe of air caressing your skin as your hands cut through the sea, and later, the sun glistening on water as sea birds lift into the expanse of blue. I call this mindful-sensualism. This is different from hedonism – this is awareness of self and environment without reckless abandon, without willful expenditure of obscene amounts of money (largely spent to ‘feel good’ which fades all too quickly). I am thinking about the pilgrimage of living well, in truth that is precisely what I am doing here in Croatia. I am relearning the art of absolute quietude.

On the balcony of the flat I am renting my down comforter hangs airing in after-the-storm morning sun and breeze. When you live next to the sea you come to have a new appreciation dscn9861for things not being damp and fully capitalise upon such weather as you have the opportunity to do so. In my adventures into Trogir yesterday I sat on something so also hanging outside is the freshly hand-washed sarong my girlfriend Jennifer brought back from Bangkok for me – its shades of aqua a brilliant contrast to the green-y blue of the sea and the lavender of my duvet cover. Across the mouth of the bay into Split there are two small islands (you can see them in the photo above), the larger has a lighthouse on it. Right now there is a small open boat tethered to the island and the lighthouse keeper or some intrepid and curious soul has claimed this small rocky space as their own. I see this person standing at the edge of the island pulling the rope in so as to gain the boat. A metaphor for tending – small, deliberate actions realising what we most require from life.

courtyardWhile exploring Grad Trogir Croatia yesterday afternoon I found a magical courtyard filled with living but absent of humans. UNESCO writes that “Trogir is a remarkable example of urban continuity.” No truer words. Shortly after having my breath catch for the simple beauty of laundry hanging in the open air an ancient, diminutive woman walked toward me, and as I smiled, nodded and said “Dobar dan” she gave me a breathtaking series of smiles in return, and five minutes of incomprehensible conversation. Admist the stones worn smooth from the footfalls of hundreds of generations of Croatians living in this warren of narrow alleyways one, perfect, semi-ruined detached house with a garden no bigger than the average American bathroom. Within its surrounding stone wall was a very old fig tree, a feral kitten, garbage, debris, weeds and a rose bush still lush with full pink blooms.  Wistfully imagining the possibilities (as I have done for nearly a year with every old stone house I have seen online in Croatia) a man in his eighties approached, plucked a rose from the vine and made a sweeping gesture in his gifting it to me. Someone very wise once wrote that music begins where language ends. I experienced this yesterday in adagios so sweet as to break the heart in ten thousand pieces.

As I walked away I realised the truth of Anaïs Nin’s words: rose

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”

We struggle against this growth instead of embracing such. If we remember we are connected to everything in the universe and the person standing beside us then the growth seems more organic and authentic. There is no end, no beginning there is only – now. Embrace what is before you. Let beauty find you and then dwell in it.

If you enjoy my blog please consider sending me the value of a cup of tea in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and please share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschi. To order my first book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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How Doctor Who made me see something, more

This post is for all those who wonder, doubt, and diminish the impact their lives have on the world (and I will own that is also me sometimes) but especially for those who are about to give up hope and who succumb to the pain that society thrusts upon the fragility of the creative.  In our world of ‘lowest common denominator’ it is truly time we stand firm and own our magnificence – no matter how uncomfortable it might be for ‘the others’.

A dear girlfriend, Jennifer Sertl, posted a video for some artists that she knows in the expanse of the world – both in person directly and through her vast, interconnected social media sphere to thank them, to encourage them, to shout out their presence to a larger audience that ‘follows her’.  Her message, and the video itself, were not directed toward me, but as I viewed it the importance of the pebble thrown into the pond rippling outward – in wonder and impact demanding to be shared.

Please watch this two minute video excerpt from the BBC’s long running Doctor Who. 

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Les Iris, 1889, Vincent Van Gogh

I have been reminded quite a few times recently that I ‘make a difference’ and that my gifts are considerable, I tend to discount some more rigorously than others but I am learning that in devaluing any portion of myself I diminish the whole of my being, and most importantly my integrity and what impact I might have (tiny, imperceptible though it might be). We are a flower garden, a bed of iris sharing nourishment, dependent upon conditions seemingly out of our control in which we thrive – or die.

If you only could pull a Doctor Who after your death; to return to the living for a few finite, spectacular moments if only to understand the lasting impact of your words, kindnesses, deeds and creativity. NEVER, EVER, give up on the fulfillment of your passions – with, or without, recompense. Root yourself in the soil, turn your face toward the sun, drink in life in all its glory, pain, and beauty and give that nourishment back in the impermanence which is common to all things.  Live with grace at your elbow gently guiding you (and sometimes violently pulling you) to create a masterpiece that is uniquely yours to give. Reside in mindfulness and passion, read (and perhaps write) poetry, create moments of magic for yourself and others.

“He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray. To use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world…”

The words might be from the video clip as Vincent Van Gogh is being spoken of, but I believe it is the pain of our experiences which allow each of us to create beauty in our own very specific way. All too often we fail to see ourselves as others do. And so, when I watched this, twice, I cried tears of gratitude in exactly the same place in which Vincent is overwhelmed. I am so fortunate to be reminded on a regular basis that my presence in this world makes a difference to others.

Starry Night over the Rhone 1888

Starry Night over the Rhône, 1888, Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh didn’t cease to inspire, and not just those of us who have ever stood transfixed before one of his canvases.  In this homage, Don Mclean’s “Vincent” (Starry, Starry Night) – itself a masterpiece – is set against outtakes from the same episode of Doctor Who; the result is breathtaking.   So I am now telling you, each who might read this, you are important. You – yes, YOU – make a difference by your presence on Earth (and in the heavens) every single day.

I am conveying love and passing blessings over you for all that you do, for simply being, and encouraging you to go on despite your pain and the pain we witness around us to create ecstatic beauty. And I am thanking every single person who this week (and many other days and times throughout my life) who has made me see what you see about myself.
OX’s – Te.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Love the skin you are in

asmaA long distance girlfriend of mine, Asma, and I were on Skype earlier today.  We’re developing a business together and were going through samples. We were also discussing her wedding in January in the UAE and her desire for me to attend and then come back to Pakistan for a couple of months – to visit, to explore, to immerse and get her life pulled together for making the UAE her permanent home come March.  I know her well enough to know she wouldn’t flatter for the sake of it, at 29 she’s clearly young enough to (technically anyway) be my daughter, but she said she thinks of me as her older sister and asked (given the upcoming wedding ceremonies) about my skin – specifically how I look so young, and with some issues related to her own she’d like to correct.  And since I just had a similar conversation last weekend with my girlfriends Jennifer (45, at right) and Nancy (60, at left) – below – it seems that I should share secrets. Maybe they are useful to a bunch of you – or your lovers.

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First, much as I hate to admit this, there are times when I have done without other ‘more practical’ concerns to ensure I have my heavily ladened collection of potions, lotions and masks; I do not regret one penny spent over the years on such.  A male friend (who once helped me move house) tells a riotous version of such. Thinking that the contents of the vanity was all that needed to be transported he discovered that it would take two more trips with a laundry basket to move all my “girl stuff”.  I am unabashed. That one of my girlfriends just went on a date with a man who possessed 7 different kinds of facial masques might be equality manifest but for the record I don’t dig metro-sexual men and one that has more toiletries than I do wouldn’t last 12 hours with me.

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I do not resemble Shay Mitchell even when wearing my pair of Ray Bans exactly like this.

As the expression goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, that expressed I have avoiding the sun like the plague since my teen years. (And no, I have never put sunscreens on, no, not ever.)  It’s not to say that I don’t go out in the sun, I do, but if I can avoid it not between 10-3 and if then always with Ray-Ban’s on.

Second, understand that caring for yourself – tenderly, passionately – is not an indulgence or frivolous.  Self care is paramount in a world that takes too much, is too polluted, assaults every fibre of our being.  If you don’t do this how can you possibly cope with the wear and tear and stress to your body from the environment around us – as the expression goes, #JustDoIt !  My current arsenal is not what I started with as an 11 year old – for one thing I drink a lot more water and herbal teas (iced) loaded with potent antioxidants – but the mud masque (in geishasome variation) once a week remains.  When I am fortunate enough to find myself swimming in salt water I will sit in the surf and rub the sand over my legs and arms. If kelp is nearby then I will mash this up my hands with sand and rub it all over me as well.

Unlike the old Ivory commercials of my youth, I am not a soap and water girl; if I use ‘soap’ it is vegetable glycerin infused with organic botanicals from the oldest soaperie in the Celtic world.  I had read a couple years back a tantalizing preview to a new skincare line developed from a 200 year old book of Geisha beauty secrets – the Miyakofuzoku Kewaisden – painstakingly translated and then applied to the initial product launch of Tatcha. Needless to say the rice enzyme polishing powder is a godsend! The texture of my skin has never been better and any age spots that I might have faded like bad memories.

As someone who has oily skin (I inherited my father’s complexion) from pre-puberty life (age 11) forward to today (age 53) if anyone would ever suggest that I would be putting oil on my face (or the rest of my body) I would have told them they were out of their mind. BUT! About three years ago I started suffering from winter dry skin and normal moisturizers (no matter how expensive) weren’t doing anything beyond smelling nice. As contrary as it might seem various ‘dry oils’ are fabulous for protection, rejuvenation and healing (try a few of these).

Post bathing or face washing I have been using Evening Primrose oil around my eyes – morning and night – dot, then pat inward; never rub the tissue around your eyes (I learned that at 19 and have used some kind of an eye cream ever since). Sometimes I use grapeTatcha’s Camilla Oil (not as intended) as a moisturizer after the rice powder and generally slather it on my arms and legs while still damp after bathing. The eponymous French firm L’Occitane used to offer this incredible grape and grapeseed oil body spray that I used to use the same way – sadly it has been discontinued.

A friend knowing my affinity for ‘girl stuff’ just sent me a bottle of Tom Ford’s glorious Neroli Portofino Body Oil and the matching body lotion.  This intoxicating blend (check out the benefits of each of the following from both an aroma therapy perspective as well as for topical use) of bergamot, lemon, mandarin, lavender, myrtle, rosemary, Bitter orange, Egyptian jasmine, neroli, orange blossom water, pittosporum, woody amber accord, ambrette seeds, angelica root is marketed as a masculine scent but with my body chemistry (tracing back to my dad?) I am swooning over the way my skin smells right now (and I guarantee that I would not be the least bit interested in a man that smelled this way).

You should be drawn and quartered for using ANYTHING with micro-beads in it for exfoliating!  PLEASE DO NOT F*CK UP OUR WATER SUPPLY by using these products. If you must exfoliate use something with crushed walnut shells or apricot kernels.

One final point – ice water rinses.  Sometime around 14 I read an article about maintaining the elasticity in skin (like the Scandinavians and Icelanders) of hot, cold, hot, icecold.  Ice Ice Baby, called “avantouinti” by the Finns, for far ranging health benefits – yes, it does take some stamina to embrace the regime.

Ultimately I think that self care is also about comfort with our sensuality. There is absolutely nothing wrong in taking time and doing for ourselves (even in the absence of a partner) because we value who we are and recognise that if we don’t do these things for ourselves no one else will.  

If you enjoy my blog please share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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To tend.

tend “to incline, to move in a certain direction,” c.1350, from O.Fr. tendre “stretch, hold forth, offer” (11c.), from L. tendere “to aim, stretch, extend”

tend “attend to,” early 14c., aphetic of M.E. atenden (see attend).

I am a gardener.  I am this moniker perhaps before I am anything else, before I am a woman. Before I am an aunt.  Before I am a friend.  For those who are not gardeners ‘tend’ will mean something slightly different (or altogether different).  For gardeners the contemporary French (transitive) verb attendre is perhaps more fitting – To wait for, to await. To expect.

The Man Who Planted Trees, Montreal Botanical Garden

The Man Who Planted Trees, Montreal Botanical Garden

Familiar with The Man Who Planted Trees – written 100 years ago – as well as The Secret Garden (originally published in serial format in 1910)?, I hope so.

A gardener understands possibilities, embracing patience and possessing both a strategic vision as well as the tactical wherewithal to execute and to be undaunted by the scope of making something real out of nothing.  For a gardener all things are also impermanent, the vagaries of weather, soil, sun – finicky plants, and hardly ones all may thrive or die without reason, explanation or intent. The larger world, I think, is harder on gardeners because we do not take, nor can we comprehend the ‘need’ of others to do so, and this causes us enormous pain.

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SE to NW, 7 August 2014

This is my love’s labor (soon to be lost with uprooting myself).  Five and half years of effort; of buying dirt, humus, peat moss, collecting coffee grounds and manure, sifting debris out of a back-filled, disused, courtyard, causing myself physical pain over and over and over again to nurture, to love the Earth and to tend my own soul, all of these in combination to create this.  The mindset of a gardener is to give and our fleeting reward is found in butterflies and bees demanding more, of bird song and the beauty found in a friends’ smile at gifting the bounty from our attentions and labor.

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My girlfriend Amy with a bouquet from my garden.

Our skills are honed in solitude – there is no world stage to command, no film crew, no paparazzi, no reporters with probing questions or talking heads spewing hate. A gardener only understands unconditional love and finding a path to integration and tolerance and, even as we attend, in the end we know we control absolutely nothing.

I think about the disastrous records and current actions of global leaders played out as the rest of humanity waits to exhale; so clear to so many of us that the machinations of a handful will bring forth doom upon the rest of humankind. Where, beyond a healthy ego is narcissism and sociopathic behaviors that destroy because of indifference and avarice.  Where even the nearly 2000 year old words attributed to the Caledonian Calgacus, and recorded by Tacitus in his Agricola, cannot adequately express  the destruction we now bear witness to – largely because there is no peace, anywhere.

“Whenever I consider the origin of this war and the necessities of our position, I have a sure confidence that this day, and this union of yours, will be the beginning of freedom to the whole of Britain. To all of us slavery is a thing unknown; there are no lands beyond us, and even the sea is not safe, menaced as we are by a Roman fleet. And thus in war and battle, in which the brave find glory, even the coward will find safety. Former contests, in which, with varying fortune, the Romans Gazawere resisted, still left in us a last hope of succor, inasmuch as being the most renowned nation of Britain, dwelling in the very heart of the country, and out of sight of the shores of the conquered, we could keep even our eyes unpolluted by the contagion of slavery. To us who dwell on the uttermost confines of the earth and of freedom, this remote sanctuary of Britain’s glory has up to this time been a defence. Now, however, the furthest limits of Britain are thrown open, and the unknown always passes for the marvelous. But there are no tribes beyond us, nothing indeed but waves and rocks, and the yet more terrible Romans, from whose oppression escape is vainly sought by obedience and submission. Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace.”

Regardless of its intimacy all things are not perfect in my garden – but it is free of warfare.  I refuse to use the arsenal available which would root out the evil of garden slugs and grubs alike (much as I loathe them).  And that is the difference between a gardener and men such as Benjamin Netanyahu and Bashar Hafez al-Assad, of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, of the militants (or CIA and Mossad as some believe) of ISIS (or ISI as they are taking to now call themselves) and Vladimir Putin, and, disappointingly as I actually voted for him twice, Barack Obama with his double set of standards over offering airstrikes to protect the Yazidi while the instruments of diplomacy, equanimity and aid are denied Palestinians because of an omnipotent Jewish lobby. The tacit denial of war crimes being committed because it impacts trade relations and now further lobbying with the United States Congress to keep the ICC from pressing charges (I know, I want to be sick too).

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‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ by artist Paul Cummins, 888,246 ceramic poppies each representing an allied victim of the First World War, in the moat of the Tower of London. http://poppies.hrp.org.uk/

We have just marked the 100th anniversary of the commencement of World War I; we’ve learned absolutely nothing. Blood still soaks the streets and fields as it did in Flanders it is not soldiers as cannon fodder this time (not yet) but innocent children and women living in the wrong place.

With an online search of the French transitive verb Attendre the use in a sentence sums up – perfectly.  On attendait mieux de toi. We expected more from you. Perhaps being a gardener should be a prerequisite for all world leaders.

If you enjoy my blog please share consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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There will be light! An utterly incongruent story of six lamps.

As my dear friend Ken Herron said when I told him the story, “You can’t make this stuff up!” and while the following may provide evidence to the contrary I am not (as he said) a “crazy lamp lady”.

I will admit, I live on the edge of outright financial disaster, but surrounded by beauty (which makes up for a lot) and always in a state of gratitude. I have very little in terms of expectation, and I am ridiculously happy for my version of normal which for anyone else would likely bring about bleeding ulcers, nocturnal teeth grinding and require serious pharmaceuticals to abate sitting in the corner of the room rocking back and forth and drooling on myself.  I trace this ‘cause and effect’ back to the willful folly of a 17 or 18 year old me desiring something denied by my father who said no more times than not to me while rarely denying my brother a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g, and my intuitive sense of navigation to find a way around an ‘in trust for’ passbook bank account and to the desired financial assets. (Whereupon my father announced that he was “washing his hands of me” – c’est la vie.)  I recall years later my mother saying something sarcastic about the fact that I always buy myself what I want by way of explanation for not receiving anything for my birthday, yet again. Sigh. I learned self sufficiency (for need and want) in an environment of disproportion; I am unapologetic.

intentionThat expressed, nice things happen to me. Frequently. Specialness that you could only put at the threshold of a universe that demands equilibrium.  A universe where intention manifests, despite the totally illogical, circuitous path traveled and where I find myself with (undeserved?) abundance. This is a true story about such. About how I “shouldn’t have, but did” and how in the end it worked out better than any rational human being assigning risk management theories could predict or that common sense would dictate. This story is about the universe saying yes when it should have denied me, and didn’t. This is the utterly incongruous story of six lamps and the unexpected, but very happy ending on my path to reinvention and relocation.

In 1992 I bought a pair of antique Famille Verte Chinese covered urns with mud decorations and battle scenes with carved rosewood stands for $99 (inclusive) in a junk cum antique DSCN9916shop in Buffalo, NY’s Allentown district.  I then took them to renowned antique dealer Dana Tillou (I have also been a customer of his nephew Jeffrey) to ‘see what I had scored’ only to have Dana gently suggest that given their value (at the time about $1100) I not drill them and turn them into lamps; which of course is precisely why I bought them and what I did. Elmwood Lighting (now out of business) did the honors and with the custom ecru silk lampshades the bill came to $161 and change (I had the receipt until fairly recently) all in $260.

Fast forward to 2013.

When I decided to uproot my life (to at the time destination unknown) last year I decided that I would start selling off my possessions to make the move easier, and with a new life would come a complete redo of my living-room decoration.  So I listed them on eBay, they had a buyer, who turned out to be one of those eBayers that give the company a bad reputation with sellers, for the $260 I had ‘invested’ after enjoying them for 20 years.  Alas, she opened a case and claimed “not as represented” (and then as broken) and eBay in their wisdom offered her a complete refund because I had insurance on the two boxes even while she had not returned the lamps.  I filed a claim with USPS, asked her to make them available to an inspector, to return them and hoped for at least the $200. Months dragged on, but eventually USPS issued a check for the $200 and a couple weeks later the lamps came back – not a total loss but time and money would have to be spent to find a replacement carved rosewood base and have the repairs done.  Eventually these would happily sell a second time for the same $260; net gain was about $170. Another lamp uneventfully sold for $260 putting my cash flow in the $430 range.

Obviously if you are selling lamps there is still the need for lighting to see after dark.  And my longest, dearest held girlfriend Doris (an age peer of my parents) once had a pair of reticulated Blanc de Chine ginger jars that had been wired and sat on her mantle that I loved.  The man that ran her downsizing household sale was having an estate sale in my DSCN0001neighborhood and I managed to score a reticulated Blanc de Chine vase, the base already drilled, from him for $18 (picture at right). I found an antique hand carved Chinese wooden display stand that fit on eBay (actually, eventually, two) for $60 and had my lovely local lamp repair guy Brian handle the wiring for me – $79 (brass fittings and labor, tax).  I shipped the new lamp to NYC for a custom silk lampshade as no local business to my current home does such work at a cost of about $50. If you are doing the math along with me here that meant that I was still ‘up’ $233 after using my other lamps for roughly 20 years, not a bad ROI.

After massive grief and delays (three months) in having the custom turquoise blue silk pagoda lampshade made the lamp arrived back in one box and the lampshade in another – fully insured thank God – bill $640 (I know, I know, I am insane but I beg you not to look at me that way) for the lampshade and the shipping back. Technically speaking the whole gorgeous lamp with the shade came at an end cost $417.) BUT, the lamp base arrived back to me shattered! (argh), receipts forwarded to FedEx, more grief, partial refund requested, more dialogue, more emails, more receipts, waiver on claim, still broken lamp and an expensive lampshade and no lamp and then finally, nearly miraculously, a check arrives from FedEx – not a partial refund but a check that covered the shipping, the lampshade that wasn’t damaged, and the lamp – for $825 and some change!  Now the net cost of the new gorgeous lamp is actually nothing, and I have “made” $408 in the process.

Here’s where it gets even more interesting.  I was looking for a lamp finial for the Blanc de Chine vase lamp – so off to eBay and that’s where I found the dragon porcelain lamp (see the Pinterest story by clicking here, start at the bottom to see what it looked like on eBay) and finiala lamp finial ultimately paying $215 (including the shipping). Alas, it had a serious ugly lamp cap and an eBay source sold me a solid brass one that is PERFECT for $3. The accounting? Still ahead by $190!  The finial turned out to be really big (for either lamp) at 3” in diameter and a bunch of research turns out that it is actually an antique carved Mutton Fat (white) jade plaque from China (quite valuable) turned into a finial likely late 1800s so I listed it on eBay (more on this in a bit).

My lamp guy charged me $30 to rewire (what turned out to be gilt ormolu mounted) the porcelain lamp, and I am still ahead by $160. My 2nd new lamp now needs a lampshade.  DSCN9991There is no way I can justify another custom silk shade so I try the blue one on this lamp and decide it looks perfect but the Blanc de Chine, now devoid of its custom pagoda shade, needs one. Back online to do research for something “in stock” and I settle upon a black silk shade with gilt lining DSCN9999but I am not spending $89 plus shipping. So back to eBay where, to my utter amazement, I find the perfect size, brand new, unused, oval, black silk with gilt paper lining shade originally sold in a town that I lived in out on Long Island’s North Shore – and I auction snipe it (bidding at the 30 second mark before the auction ended) and score it for $19 (including the shipping)! It looks amazing and despite all the energy expended my two new lamps have a total cost of nothing and I have made $141!!!

That is not the end of this story. Remember the carved jade plaque as a lamp finial? I sold it on eBay for $800. (Not factoring in eBay and PayPal fees) the universe has netted me two breathtaking lamps and I wound up making $940 – which, if I am truthful, should have been used to pay my rent in the first place instead of messing around buying lamps and that is where the money eventually went.

Both lamps have “cousins” on the 1stDibs website – the Blanc de Chine at $2250 and the gilt mounted porcelain 19th century French oil lamp that had been converted at $3000. A 60 watt bare bulb would ‘do’ for reading and no one actually needs a pair of lamps worth $5200 but I do love how the universe conspires to let me live with beauty – which is exactly what I ‘need’.

I still have this antique Paris porcelain one to sell with its custom silk shade – if you are interested. 😉

P.S. September 2014 – the Paris Porcelain one sold – $325 – bringing my grand total net gain $1265.

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