When I first spotted The Gown by Jennifer Robson at our local Barnes and Noble, I knew I had to read it. I assumed it was about the royal wedding and would center around the royal family. Instead, the focus is on two women, Ann and Miriam, who are embroiderers in the Normal Hartnell fashion house, as well as Ann’s granddaughter, Heather, who, years later, discovers that these two worked on Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown.
This is one of those books where the story switches between past (1947) and present (2016). I honestly didn’t think Heather or the switch between times was necessary. There wasn’t much of a mystery to unravel, and I felt that the fact that Heather’s mother knew nothing about her own mother, Ann’s, history a bit too convenient and far-fetched. I would’ve preferred to read more about Ann and Miriam than to read of the granddaughter’s thoughts and discoveries, but maybe there wasn’t enough material to fill a novel otherwise.
Aside from this, the two main characters had enough depth and vibrance to their personalities to keep me invested in their story. The description of their work at Hartnell’s fascinated me, and provided them with a way to slip into a world of luxury and beauty, in sharp contrast to their stark, post-war, rationed existence. Within these pages you will read of a blossoming love story and a brutal betrayal, of healing, friendship, and the resilience of women in the face of hardship.
I recommend this book to readers who enjoy wartime or post-war fiction, anything to do with England, art, or fashion.
How has this October been treating you? Have you stayed well, enjoyed the colors of the leaves turning and adjusted to the temperature dropping? Do you tend to get blue this time of year or do you come into your own, reading, working on projects, and loving to snuggle under cozy blankets, making plenty of hot tea or coffee and nourishing soups, and focusing inward a bit more?
I am probably a mix of both of these–I really enjoy cooler weather and being a bookworm at heart, it’s easy to settle into an indoor kind of life. At the same time, the transition of losing a little more sunlight each day challenges me to be proactive about staying positive and looking for natural solutions to heightened anxiety and bouts of insomnia.
The title of this post comes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s book Leaving Church. I’m following in the steps of other bloggers who like to pause during each month and ask themselves the question, “What is saving my life right now?”
My Fab Four Smoothie. This smoothie comes from nutritionist Kelly Leveque’s book Body Love: Live in Balance, Weigh What You Want, and Free Yourself from Food Drama Forever. (Thanks to my friend Ellie for the recommendation!) Kelly advises her readers and clients to start the day with a smoothie that contains the Fab Four: protein, fat, fiber, and greens. The reason for this is so that your blood sugar won’t spike, your energy levels won’t crash, and you won’t find yourself so hungry/hangry again so soon after a meal. Since I’ve been a smoothie-for-breakfast fan for years, just some small adjustments to my recipe, such as just half a banana rather than a whole, a handful of spinach, and a tablespoon of coconut oil or almond butter are making a difference in my appetite. I definitely stay full longer and don’t want to reach for a carby snack by mid-afternoon.
Ashwagandha Root. Kelly recommended a few supplements in her book and this was one. Ashwagandha Root, or Indian Ginseng, is an adaptogen. What’s an adaptogen, you ask? Oxford Dictionaries defines an adaptogen as: “a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes.” Since I’ve been struggling to keep anxiety from getting the better of me, when I heard about Ashagandha, I decided to get the powder form and add it to my smoothie. I’ve only been using it for a few weeks, so I need to keep using it before I can report more accurately on its effects, but it seems to help calm me down. (Obviously, check with your doctor before including this in your supplement regimen.)
Listening to positive, you-can-do-this podcasts. I’ve been immersing myself in the wisdom of women entrepreneurs this month. Particularly, I am tuning into the words of Jenna Kutcher and Rachel Hollis (again, thanks to my friend, Ellie). Feelings are so fickle! Somedays I wake up feeling like I am enough and other days I need to hear someone else’s story, to hear how they built their business, what obstacles they faced, the hard work they put in to become successful, and their encouraging words to those of us who are still on the journey. Jenna’s podcast is calledThe Goal Digger Podcast and Rachel Hollis calls hers Rise. Check them both out! I’m pretty sure your spirit will be lifted from the abundance of positive content that they provide.
Pachinko . I am about halfway through and I love it! It is beautifully written and the characters are so engaging, the plot so captivating, that I know I’ll be sad when I reach the end. Honestly, I feel like I’ve read a lot of unspectacular fiction this year, but this is a unique and delightful book that stands out all on its own.
Friends. I’m an introvert and often think I can go for weeks at a time without contact from anyone other than my family and partner. My independent nature is slowly beginning to believe that I actually need people, that I need other women to connect with, to share life with, to give to them and to receive the gifts of listening and conversation, the benefits of their life stories and experiences, the wisdom, healing, and nurturing that comes from healthy relationships. I’m so thankful for the friends I’ve known for years, as well as the ones I’ve met more recently.
Digestive Enzymes. Yeah, what a change of topic! Like Julia Michaels, I’ve got issues, or at least my digestive tract does. I’m constantly working on fine-tuning my diet so that I can eat a meal without pain. This month I bought Garden of Life – Omega Zyme Ultra Digestive Enzyme Blend, and, for now, at least, they are really doing the job. As long as I remember to take the enzymes with my meal, I am distress-free–no cramping, no pain, no bloating, etc! This is really good news! Here’s to hoping they keep on being effective.
Yoga. One of my goals this year was to move closer toward a daily yoga practice. Whether it’s a 10 minute power yoga video, a 20 minute Hiit video with Sadie Nardini, a 30 minute before-bedtime relaxing sequence, or (my favorite) a 75 minute Hot Power Yoga class in Ithaca, it all helps to reduce my overall tension and anxiety levels and provide a sense of calm, strengthen my core and entire body, and increase flexibility. I’ve managed to fit in yoga more this month than any other this year, and it feels so good.
So what’s saving your life this October?
* This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through one of the links here, it benefits me in a very small way at no extra cost to you!
On Saturday, I was a vendor at a holiday craft bazaar at Ithaca First Assembly of God Church. Over forty vendors set up tables and displayed their handmade items in the sanctuary, the entryway, hallway, main fellowship hall and a smaller side room, which is where I was located.
This was my fifth craft fair since I began this tiny business in September and I’ve attended a couple of humdingers, let me tell you. I won’t mention names, but some were very far out in the country and all, except this one, were not advertised well.
Thankfully, First Assembly is on the ball. There was a Facebook event, an email went out to the participants to share the event with friends on their social media pages, and an email went out to local churches to advertise as well. The women in charge were super organized and knew what Square and Apple Pay were which meant we would definitely have WiFi. The place was clean, brightly lit, upbeat Christmas music played and the people came in droves to shop.
My table had ornaments, small felt dolls, natural body care products, decorative pillows, and nine flax warming pillows. Honestly, I hoped to sell my ornaments and dolls and pillows along with the rest of my things. And I thought I would because they’re cute and seasonally appropriate. Alas, not an ornament or doll sold. My winter balm, made of coconut oil, shea butter, and lavender sold out. Lots of lip balm and several lotion bars sold as well. But my continual bestseller are these flax warming pillows. Some have lavender flowers added and some are flax alone, but they all come folded and tied with ribbon. I display them in a small treasure chest I found at Mimi’s Attic with a blackboard sign.
When I wracked my brain, I could not remember how I ever decided to make these pillows to begin with. Maybe someone mentioned them to me? Maybe I just bumped into the idea on Pinterest? Anyway, I made four pillows for the first craft sale back in September and I sold out. Every place since–even the very worst sales–I sold a few of these. Well, this Saturday, I sold out of all nine of them. It is interesting what people want. You really never know. Part of me thinks these flax pillows will continue to be a “bread-and-butter” item for my business. Part of me is worried I’ll make up a bunch of these and they’ll sit unwanted on the shelf and people will want something else. I’m going to go with the former leaning and purchase flax seed in bulk from the Amish tomorrow. If I’m wrong, all my friends and family will be getting these pillows as gifts for the next year.
The greatest part of Saturday, though, even more encouraging than having very good sales, was all the friends and family who came. They hugged me, chatted about kids and work, asked me about myself, took photos, laughed and commented on my items for sale. Many of them purchased things as well. It felt wonderful to have made things for people I love to use or give as gifts. My mother came with my niece–she’s the one that bought my last two flax pillows. Alan was an angel and came twice: once to replenish my ones and fives and again to bring me lunch. When I packed up at 3, my heart was happy. If only every craft fair could be as full of success and a sense of community. Today, as I cut out fabrics for another dozen flax pillows, I felt carried along by the lightness and merry atmosphere of that event. If only I could package that feeling…it would be a bestseller too.
After a rather glum couple of days, missing my kids as only a mother can, I looked forward to a quiet evening alone. It was Halloween and at least one of my kids was trick or treating. They had rides already and didn’t need me. Alan had a date with one of his boys to watch the made-for-tv version of IT and I had a date with Scrivener, the program I just downloaded free for the duration of NaNoWriMo 2017. I needed to get comfortable with it before diving into writing.
As butternut squash, portobello mushrooms and onions roasted in the oven for dinner, I sat at my desk, trying not to hunch over my laptop. I was considering an Instagram post, starting to compose it in my head and enter the photos into Layout, when my phone rang.
It was a close friend, calling to ask if I’d like to rummage through her collection of fabric and take whatever I liked for my craft business. We talked shop–various fabrics and where to find them, craft fairs she knew of that I didn’t, and books, of course. Always books.
“There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.”
― P.G. Wodehouse
We moved on to deeper subjects like close relationships, work, and health issues. And we talked of her coming over for dinner in the next week or so. Just the sound of her voice and the interaction over the phone brought such warmth and encouragement to my whole self.
Although I didn’t realize it until she called, I needed a friend, a person who knew the real me, even if we were talking of weighty things. I didn’t mind that, but I was craving the connection, those minutes listening, learning, sharing and laughing as only two people who know each other can do.
After we finished our conversation, my whole outlook brightened; the night no longer seemed lonely. I felt nourished inside instead of starving. I felt hope, possibility, and the joy of an afternoon or evening together to anticipate.
If you’re wondering if a friend or family member needs a phone call, text, or a letter in the mail, don’t hesitate, act on your hunch. If you’re feeling in need of a friend, reach out. We are healthier and happier with meaningful connections. We live longer. Let’s be grateful for the friends we have and nurture our treasured relationships.
“A good friend is a connection to life – a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.”
― Lois Wyse