"The line waiting to see Santa Claus stretched all the way back to Terre Haute. And I was at the end of it." - A Christmas Story

Ignore the painfully chewy and not terribly enjoyable taffy apples...banish from your mind (if you can) the multitude of "sexy" Halloween costumes that have assailed your eyes everytime you ventured out of the house...for it is the time of year that adds a spring to the step of the expat Brit. Yes, the Cadbury Selection Box has arrived on these shores. And much as I hate shopping for Christmas food before the end of October I know that these will sell out before November has as much as shambled across the doorstep.

Hence the shameless stockpiling...and the knowledge that I'll spend the next two months lusting over the fingers of fudge and caramel bars nestling inside...



"Liverpool can be very lonely on a Saturday night, and it's only Thursday morning." - Paul Angelis

A sunny Saturday...a long walk watching nature have a final frolic before things get colder...and the anticipation of an evening with the latest issue of The Gentlewoman, a glass of red wine, and some episodes of The Avengers. All in all, not a bad little day...



"Are we to paint what's on the face, what's inside the face, or what's behind it?" - Pablo Picasso

As all of these one-of-a-kind bags are sold out this is more a case of a yet-another-item-to-add-to-the-ever-expanding-DIY-idea-list than anything else.

A reason (as I'm running out of wall space) to contemplate buying slightly abused...and, in all likelihood, badly painted...canvases from thrift stores...and attempting to give them a new lease of life being both useful and decorative.



"At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since." - Salvador Dalí

I'd like to apologize, up front, to any small men who frequent my local H&M. No...wait...that didn't come out right. Blinded by the excitement of snagging a gorgeously vibrant cotton and silk cardigan...and a classic cotton/cashmere v-neck in an equally classic shade of oatmeal...both at very wallet-friendly prices courtesy of H&M's men's section...I veered wildly into the land of the double entendre (you can take the girl out of Britain, but you can't take Britain out of the girl). Apologies...and if you are a gentleman of diminutive stature...unable to satisfy your urge for form-fitting knitwear...the apologies are doubled.



To You - Walt Whitman

Whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams,
I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under your feet and hands;
Even now, your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners, troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dissipate away from you,
Your true Soul and Body appear before me,
They stand forth out of affairs—out of commerce, shops, law, science, work, forms,
clothes, the house, medicine, print, buying, selling, eating, drinking, suffering, dying.

Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem;
I whisper with my lips close to your ear,
I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than you.

O I have been dilatory and dumb;
I should have made my way straight to you long ago;
I should have blabb’d nothing but you, I should have chanted nothing but you.

I will leave all, and come and make the hymns of you;
None have understood you, but I understand you;
None have done justice to you—you have not done justice to yourself;
None but have found you imperfect—I only find no imperfection in you;
None but would subordinate you—I only am he who will never consent to subordinate you;
I only am he who places over you no master, owner, better, God, beyond what waits
intrinsically in yourself.

Painters have painted their swarming groups, and the centre figure of all;
From the head of the centre figure spreading a nimbus of gold-color’d light;
But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head without its nimbus of gold-color’d light;
From my hand, from the brain of every man and woman it streams, effulgently flowing forever.

O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you!
You have not known what you are—you have slumber’d upon yourself all your life;
Your eye-lids have been the same as closed most of the time;
What you have done returns already in mockeries;
(Your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not return in mockeries, what is their return?)

The mockeries are not you;
Underneath them, and within them, I see you lurk;
I pursue you where none else has pursued you;
Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night, the accustom’d routine, if
these conceal you from others, or from yourself, they do not conceal you from me;
The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure complexion, if these balk others, they do not balk me,
The pert apparel, the deform’d attitude, drunkenness, greed, premature death, all these I part aside.

There is no endowment in man or woman that is not tallied in you;
There is no virtue, no beauty, in man or woman, but as good is in you;
No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is in you;
No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal pleasure waits for you.

As for me, I give nothing to any one, except I give the like carefully to you;
I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God, sooner than I sing the songs of the glory of you.

Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard!
These shows of the east and west are tame, compared to you;
These immense meadows—these interminable rivers—you are immense and interminable as they;
These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature, throes of apparent dissolution—you are he or she who is master or mistress over them,
Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, elements, pain, passion, dissolution.

The hopples fall from your ankles—you find an unfailing sufficiency;
Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by the rest, whatever you are promulges itself;
Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are provided, nothing is scanted;
Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what you are picks its way.



"My illness is due to my doctor's insistence that I drink milk, a whitish fluid they force down helpless babies." - W. C. Fields

The answer, as they say, is rarely found at the bottom of a glass. A self-forming smiley face at the top of the glass certainly helps you pose the question though...



"Do not be in a hurry to tie what you cannot untie" - proverb


There's your general, low-level, geekiness...and then there's the level of geek where you find yourself getting way too excited by the prospect of being able to color-code all of the black cables in your bag. I blame it on the fact that almost every cable I use comes in basic black...which is great if you're looking for a dress...but irritating beyond belief when you want to hook up your external hard-drive but can't figure out which cable you need...


Under the spreading chestnut tree...

Christmas...childhood...the two are inexorably linked, aren't they? Even when the memories are...painful. Like the year I decided (with a certain amount of parental coercion) to make an extremely large kissing bough...the k.b. being (according to the great God Wikipedia):

"...a traditional Christmas decoration in England. Also called a Christmas-bough or mistletoe-bough, it has the shape of a sphere or globe with a frame made of wire. The whole frame is covered with greenery. Red apples or oranges may be hung from ribbons in the centre and mistletoe is tied below."

So...little Heb...a quantity of heavy-duty wire which she fashioned into a ball about a foot in diameter...buckets of holly (incredibly painful to attach, via thin wire, onto the ball)...and the final coup de grace...attached a couple of finger-pricking days later, I might add...the poesy of mistletoe hanging below.

It looked...if I might say in a slightly Martha Stewart-esque manner...rather impressive...festive, yet daunting by the sheer number of man (I mean chid) hours that it took to create. So imagine my chagrin when I saw the "Fresh Eucalyptus & Pomegranate Kissing Ball" available at Restoration Hardware for a mere $39...all the beauty, none of those pesky child labor laws.



"To know when to be generous and when to be firm -- this is wisdom." - Elbert Hubbard

The conversation went a little something a little like this...

Physiotherapist: "These shoes would be perfect for you, they have rigid soles."

Self - trying not to recoil from the full orthopedic horror of the image in front of me: "Ah..."

(Followed quickly...in the hope of finding the silver lining in a very dark cloud..and having a valid excuse to purchase those shearling clog boots)

"...how about shoes with wooden soles? They're firm."

Physiotherapist: "No...they're too firm."

I am, officially, a footwear Goldilocks...the soles of shoes are now viewed as...not firm...too firm...and just right. The shame of it all is that "just right" also appears to be hideously ugly.


"The colors of the underwater rock [are] as pale and delicate as those in the wardrobe of an 18th-century marchioness." - William Manchester


Based upon the...slightly dubious and wholly unexpected success...of my knitting project...this may be the time to try and crochet an underwater world. If a snood could morph into a hat, a prawn may very well turn into world domination (insert Pinky and the Brain worthy maniacal laughter here)...



"But I was thinking of a plan to dye one's whiskers green." - Lewis Carroll

The inner demon has struck again...the one who casts a despairing eye on the ocean of black, gray, and similarly dark hues nestling comfortable and companionably in my my closet...and decides that it's time for a little color. Actually...strike that...make it COLOR...as the little blighter (not one for half measures) talked me into a v-neck sweater which is almost astroturf green in its vibrancy.


A color that I love...despite the unfortunate memories attached to it (namely self...a white bathroom...a tub of green hair dye...a lack of foresight related to rubber gloves resulting in hands that matched my hair for a couple of weeks...and a similar l.o.f. which caused me to "go green" just before St. Patrick's Day).


"You know that I'm no snood..."

With all apologies to Amy Winehouse there was really nothing else to title this post...no other way to concisely describe what can happen when an enthusiastic-yet-not-very-practiced-knitter decides that her first project of the winter will be a one-star-difficulty-level-snood.


Not one to bother with the minutiae of life she takes vague notes concerning the type of wool and needles needed...beyond the fact that the former must be thick...while the latter should be large. Armed with this information...scribbled on to a soon-to-be-lost fragment of paper...she heads to the store...and buys a lovely, marled grey wool...and pair of hazard orange needles.


Visions of warm necks...and seasonally appropriate sugar plums...dance in her head. A feeling of well-being that is only accentuated by the speed with which the project moves forward...I mean, really, even the final casting off is a painless experience...while sewing the ends together is the work of a moment. In fact, right up to the moment when "the knitter" tries to get the snood over her head, every prospect pleases (as the poet said).

Then she realizes...the snood is not a snood (at least, not for an adult human) but...with a few stitches at one end...it is a hat. Once again proving that you can be up to no snood, yet still get ahead...



"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." - John Donne

Just in time for Halloween...though, to be fair, I think I'd be able to justify gorging on caramel and chocolate just about any day of the week...my Spidey senses led me in the direction of Vosges' Day of the Dead skulls.

In no particular order my newest skull loves are...Tequila Caramel Skull (Corzo silver tequila, Fleur de Sel sea salt, and 70% cacao dark chocolate)...Red Fire Caramel Skull (Ancho y chipotle chillies, Ceylon cinnamon, and 70% cacao dark chocolate)...and Dulce de Leche Skull (Argentine dulce de leche crammed inside a 45% cacao deep milk chocolate shell). Life may be sweet...but this may be sweeter.Photobucket


Quicquid agunt homines nostri farrago libelli (Whatever things men have done . . . shall form the subject of our book)

"I leave you, for these woods;
Here I will lay me down, beneath these shady pines;
And, wrapt in meditation deep, despite the power of love"

- The London Chronicle, 1761

Whilst web wandering I happened across these images from what may be one of my favorite editorials from the late 90's...Stella Tennant...exuding a nonchalant, minimalist, quiet, sense of ease and...power. The power of being comfortable...in your own skin...the clothing that covers it...and your surroundings.

From the April 1999 issue of US Harper's Bazaar...Shady Pines...


"A tree never hits an automobile except in self defence." - proverb

I've been thinking a lot about driving recently. Having failed two tests...both in the UK...both for utterly stupid reasons...both on cars with manual gearboxes...I can't decide if the time is finally right to have one more go...in an automatic...on this side of the Atlantic.

Worst case scenario I remain a cab-taking-pedestrian...best case...road trips...the potential to buy the Jennifer Hart 70's Mercedes Roadster of my bad-television-induced dreams...and the ability to park (should work or whim take me to Detroit) in the somewhat eroded 1920's splendor of the Michigan Theater...




"A great many people now reading and writing would be better employed keeping rabbits." - Dame Edith Sitwell

In general, I am...even though a slight obsession with all things suede would tend to suggest otherwise...a practical shopper. I eschew...and even, on occasion, ridicule...stylistic elements that I know will either attract dirt like a magnet or ensure that I am freezing my derriere off at a time when I should be toasty warm (I'm looking at you...gossamer-thin, ankle-length skirt in sub-zero winter).

Yet, faced with the utter ridiculousness of a rabbit-lined trench I find myself going weak at the knees. On the practicality scale, fur and water are as badly oriented compatriots as chalk and cheese...Felix and Oscar...and haggis with virtually any other food source...and yet...

The trench is...classic (in a Peter Falk as Columbo kind of way). The golden zip is...(quite frankly) pimp-e-rific. The rabbit fur...decadent, yet destined towards a damp bunny future. Yet, I am captivated...




"It is by vivacity and wit that man shines in company; but trite jokes and loud laughter reduce him to a buffoon" - Lord Chesterfield


– noun
1.( often initial capital letter ) a comic character in commedia dell'arte and the harlequinade, usually masked, dressed in multicolored, diamond-patterned tights, and carrying a wooden sword or magic wand.
2. a buffoon.
3. any of various small snakes having bright diamond-pattern scales.

– adjective
4. fancifully varied in color, decoration, etc.: harlequin pants.
5. resembling a harlequin's mask: harlequin glasses.

1580–90; < F, MF ( h ) arlequin, semantically (and in part phonetically) < It arlecchino < MF, phonetically continuing OF *harlequin, halequin a malevolent spirit (Compare mesniee Hellequin a troop of demonic horsemen, lit., Hellequin's escort), prob. < ME *Herla king, OE *Her ( e ) la cyning King Herle, presumably a legendary figure, rendered in AL as Herla rex; cf. OHG Herilo a personal name, deriv. of heri armed forces


"Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute." - G. B. Stern

On the road...or should that be in the air...again. Somewhat pathetically the ability to take (decent) photographs on my phone...instead of having to excavate my camera from layers of bags...is providing hours of childish amusement...especially when I'm at how-ever-many-thousand feet...


The only thing that would add to this glee would be Want's appropriately named O'Hare bag to grab the phone out of...



"Life is like a taxi. The meter just keeps a-ticking whether you are getting somewhere or just standing still." - Lou Erickson

Some winter's mornings...mainly those that incorporate the double whammy of having to get to work at an obscenely early hour and wandering the dark, empty streets in an attempt to find a cab...you lack the energy to do more than wave. For such mornings, might I suggest taxi mittens? Admittedly, they're more Ugly Betty than Catherine Deneuve but when you're cold...tired...and in desperate need of a head-clearing cup of coffee...such considerations fall by the wayside.



"When I mount the scaffold at last these will be my farewell words to the sheriff: Say what you will against me when I am gone, but don't forget to add, in common justice, that I was never converted to anything" - Henry Louis Mencken

I'm always rather dubious of things that do double-duty...you always hope that they'll be a wonder product but, in reality, there's a tendency towards mediocrity when you try to use them for either task. All of which makes me slightly dubious about this tweed pencil-cum-mini-skirt...no matter how tantalizingly librarians-go-wild it may be.



"It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others." - Ashleigh Brilliant

Not only a skull ring...but a skull ring with a motivational message...what could make the day any better than the grim reaper telling you that you have to be "In It To Win It"? I haven't been this excited about a "message" since I discovered that I could irritate my fellow office workers by covering my cubicle in demotivational posters...Photobucket


"It is through Art and through Art only that we can realize our perfection; through Art and Art only that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence" - Oscar Wilde

Art...with a capital "A"...as opposed to art...small "a"...generally comprised of posters that you bought in college and paintings that look suspiciously like numbers may be lurking underneath...is often seen as expensive and (keeping this good, clean alliterative fun) elitist. Though not if London-based Culture Label has anything to do about it...

It would be enough if the site just contained (you guessed it) Art...curated by some of the world's best museums and galleries...the best part, however, is their Own Art, Pay Later area. Capital "A" Art...on an interest free installment plan...how wonderfully Egalitarian.

Evermore - David McCracken



"Bush gave an interview and he said people will vote for him because 'They've seen me weep, they’ve seen me laugh, and they’ve seen me hug.' These are the same qualifications for a Tickle Me Elmo." - Bill Maher

You probably have to be slightly more houseproud...or addicted to Swiffer...than I am to be able to view Tom Scott's hairy slippers as anything other than a step-child of Elmo who is destined to be covered in dust bunnies within about 10 seconds of wearing. Having said that, aren't they cute?



"Psychoanalysis: a rabbit that was swallowed by a boa constrictor that just wanted to see what it was like in there" - Karl Kraus

Miffy...for those whose childhood may not have included such things...was a small, female, Dutch rabbit...whose minimalistly drawn adventures saw me safely through early childhood. Miffy visited the seaside...the zoo...and even, on one occasion, the hospital.

I have to feel though that all of this would have left her sadly unprepared for an encounter with Ginny (Mandy Coon's black leather bunny bag)...unless there was a "Miffy visits a sex shop" volume that I never read...



"The telephone is a good way to talk to people without having to offer them a drink." - Fran Lebowitz

The only issue...well, the main one in my mind...with making upgrades to the technology in your life...is the almost instantaneous urge that accompanies said purchase to make additional purchases to accessorize it. Which means that right about the time I was bidding a (long overdue) farewell to my pay-as-you-go cell phone...and a big hello-and-how-did-I-manage-for-so-long-without-you? to my new iPhone...I was mentally cataloging all my new "needs". At the top of which was, not unnaturally, a case.

Cynic that I am, I usually assume that these quests will be time-consuming...surprisingly, I not only found something at the first site I visited but the case itself is decorated with Eley Kishimoto's classic Flash print and will therefore match (in a dazzlingly eye-boggling manner) my laptop bag.


"Anticipating that most poetry will be worse than carrying heavy luggage through O'Hare Airport, the public, to its loss, reads very little of it" - Russell Baker

Current fixation (number 427 out of a set of God knows how many) appears to be vintage designer luggage...though as I spend so much time traveling there could be worse things to ponder, for a variety of reasons (with sheer impracticality coming in at number one), such musings fall under the category of "just looking, with no real intention to buy".

Ah, but to have been able to travel at a time in history when doing so with mountains of luggage was de rigeur...and there were plenty of uniformed porters on hand to deal with the messy practicality of actually moving said mountain around...the days when an Hermès toiletries case could be viewed, perhaps not as a necessity, but certainly a luxurious basic.






"Society is divided into two classes, the shearers and the shorn." - Chamfort

Given that I have only just been released from my walking cast...and that even with this new found "freedom" I need to be more practical in my footwear choices...the following is mere shoe porn for me to ponder during long winter nights (though what could be more fitting for cold weather reverie than shearling boots?)




"Girls, give all your gentlemen friends an even break, even if you have to break them in the attempt." - Mae West

I realize that I'm being a bit sexist when I say that Retrovelo's rather lovely leather bicycle frame bag is just the thing for the dapper gentleman to attach to his, presumably vintage-looking, bicycle. To be fair it's only because the bag is very briefcase-y in shape...a style which I would never carry myself...and which I associate with three-piece suits, bowler hats, and perfectly furled umbrellas (there goes that Britishness sneaking in again).

I'm chastising myself internally for thinking this way as I will complain (loudly and at great length) when "girl's" sneakers or other items are only available in depressing shades of pale pink and gray...I'm maintaining a terrible double-standard over a singularly beautiful bag.



"I thought that the long summer holidays would have helped me but instead when I started to train I felt worse than before." - Paolo Maldini

Summer...and the quintessentially stereotypical summer holiday...are, as I write this, a thing of the past (well, for this year at least). Which is a shame, if only because I have finally stumbled across the perfect companion piece for all those "I wouldn't normally do this, but I'm on vacation" activities...



"I believe you should live each day as if it is your last, which is why I don't have any clean laundry, because, come on, who wants to wash clothes on the last day of their life?" - unknown

There's a line in Die Hard: With a Vengeance where Jeremy Iron's character states that something is happening due to the "gullibility of the New York Police Department"...(I admit it, I am addicted to the first three Die Hard movies...something that definitely falls under the heading of 'shame inducing guilty pleasure').

I mention this, not as part of a confession of movie-related sins, but because that specific line kept running through my head when I was confronted by the picture of a bottle of APC's Fine Fabric Care suds, a clothing cleanser created in collaboration with Aesop.

Now, as you may know, when I'm not watching bad movies I get a certain amount of harmless joy from hand-washing clothing (although, perversely, not dishes...as I mentioned earlier). My detergent of choice for this somewhat subdued thrill is Woolite which, at around $6 a bottle, has prolonged the life of many a sweater and shirt in the Hebden household. Which is why I mentioned the "G" word...for, at $35, a bottle...even though the packaging is far superior and the blend of Petitgrain, Lemon and Cedarwood probably smells lovely...can it really be that much better?


"Evening red and morning grey help the traveler on his way; evening grey and morning red bring down rain upon his head" - proverb

You know, I think I'd be willing to risk a few rain drops...or a torrential downpour, for that matter...if I could make simple red and grey look as chic as Agnès Boulard (aka Mademoiselle Agnès) did at Lanvin...



"It's toppers and tails for Ascot. Boaters and bow ties for Henley. And anything goes for Wimbledon." - David Winder

I've been on the lookout for a denim shirt for quite a while now but...though the point of such a piece is simplicity...everything that I've come across has been a little too plain. I know, I know...it's all so depressingly Goldilocks...all of the porridge is startlingly similar but only one is "just right"...but what can I say, I was looking for simple-with-a-little-twist. Something that I may have found courtesy of United Bamboo...perfectly plain dark denim...with a hint of whimsy...in the shape of their skull and tennis racket logo...and the sort of snappy little bow tie that makes my inner nerd heave a small sigh of contentment...


"Don't expect mangoes when you plant papayas." - unknown

I know that I have gushed on previous occasions when I came face-to-face with the totally-unexpected-and-therefore-completely-wonderful care package. This time, it came from Australia and...amongst other things...contained a tub of Lucas' Papaw Ointment. The papaya, I have to say, has never been a favorite of mine from a taste standpoint...but, as a variety of the genus and squelched into a goo, it completely redeems itself. And, in the battle of papaya versus the-irritating-dry-skin-which-was-the-unwelcome-by-product-of-Daniel-the-walking-cast, won hands (or should that be leg?) down...


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