Category Archives: Books

Mrs. Astor’s Asian antiquities on sale now.

One of our good friends sent me a copy of Mrs. Astor Regrets after it came up in conversation while he was visiting us.

I literally read the entire book in one HK–> JFK flight and enjoyed every minute of it. I would say it’s elevated, non-fiction, well-written chick-lit, that men will also enjoy. It’s a titillating character study of American aristocrat and philanthropist Brooke Astor and her son’s elder abuse.

Due to her father’s career in the Navy, Brooke spent a lot of time in China during her childhood and when she came into her husband’s vast fortune she began collecting Asian antiquities. She’s also quite known for both conceiving of the idea and also paying for the Met’s Astor Court, “based on a small courtyard within a scholar’s garden in the city of Suzhou, China.”

Later this month, Sotheby’s will be auctioning off the contents of her Manhattan penthouse and her country estate Holly Hill (all these images are a few things that caught my eye from Sotheby’s catalog–didn’t she have quite fun, colorful taste for a socialite?). A big thanks to my friend Kirsten for alerting me to the upcoming auction.

Also included in the auction are a litany of portraits of her beloved dogs, 25 staff uniforms and, of course, some pretty significant bling! Kirsten commented on the menagerie quoting the Aboriginal saying, ‘the more you know, the less you need.’ So true. 

If you’re looking for a great beach read, I highly recc:

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Insane libraries.

It’s been a very, very rainy and thunderstormy week. The kind that makes you want to curl up with a good book and not leave the apartment.

The University of Coimbra General Library, Coimbra, Portugal [via]

Flavorpill just did an awesome series on libraries so I’m including some of my personal favorites here. Check them all out: Public libraries around the world, College libraries around the world, and Public libraries in the US.

George Peabody Library, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD [via] Continue reading

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Yarn Along: Cables and Blue Nights.

Ginny over at Small Things has a Yarn Along from time to time. My mother-in-law who is also an avid knitter introduced me to it.

I really love the idea of a yarn along because until you’ve tried it… you just can’t understand how addicting knitting is. Ravelry is another online knitting community that I can spend hundreds of hours perusing and it’s where I found the pattern for this cabled afghan… my first go at cables–it’s so fun to see them come together! Cables are pretty crazy because you actually do twist the stitches over themselves–it looks twisted because it is.

Ginny also includes a picture in her Yarn Along of whatever she’s reading… I just finished Joan Didion’s ‘Blue Nights.’ For whatever reason, I have a thing for depressing/sad books so it’s no surprise that I could not put down this memoir about her grief after her only daughter’s death in her mid-forties. I also really liked ‘A Year of Magical Thinking,’ her memoir about her husband passing the year before. Joan has not had an easy go of it to say the least. But, she really is just the kind of lady I hope to be when I’m pushing 80. She has had an immensely full life–one many, myself included, could envy–but has also seen complete tragedy, yet perseveres through her grief so honestly.

Both of these books I would recommend as a gift to someone who has lost a spouse or a child. Certainly, it’s not something we can understand, but I think these books go a long way of describing how grief feels and perhaps understanding the parts of the experience that are universal would be helpful to someone experiencing them for the first time. In addition into insights into grief, Joan also has some interesting thoughts on parenting, and in particular adopting, that I’m excerpting for you below. She also gives a very good description of what it’s like to realize that you’re old, but I’m going to save those quotes for you in case you decide to read it yourself!

“You have your wonderful memories,” people said later, as if memories were solace. Memories are not. Memories are by definition of times past, things gone. Memories are the Westlake uniforms, the invitations to the weddings of the people who are no longer married, the mass cards from the funerals of the people whose faces you no longer remember. Memories are what you no longer want to remember.”

Wow. Remind me never to accidentally mention that trite line to someone grieving.

“Some of us feel this overpowering need for a child and some of us don’t. It had come over me quite suddenly, in my mid-twenties, when I was working for Vogue, a tidal surge. Once this surge hit I saw babies wherever I went. I followed their carriages on the street. I cut their pictures from magazines and tacked them on the wall next to my bed. I put myself to sleep by imagining them.”

I think it’s very true that some people feel this and some don’t. Which camp did / do you fall in?

“The very definition of success as a parent has undergone a telling transformation: we used to define success as the abilty to encourage the child to grow into independent (which is to say adult) life, to “raise” the child, to let the child go… instead, ourselves the beneficiaries of this kind of benign negletc, we now measure success as the extent to which we manage to keep our children monitored, tethered, tied to us.”

A pretty good summation of the current issues facing parenting today.

“All adopted children, I am told, fear that they will be abandoned by their adoptive parents as they believe themselves to be abandoned by their natural… all adoptive parents, I do not need to be told, fear that they do not deserve the child they were given, that the child will be taken from them.”

I had certainly heard the former statement, but the latter one was new to me.

She also quotes W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” which I am bookmarking for a dark day. And I’m sure you can see why after all these deep thoughts knitting is the perfect outlet!!

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Goodnight Our World.

My friend Robyn let me in on a really fun book series: Goodnight Our World. It’s a take on Goodnight Moon, only they’re geographically based. Robyn recently took her 18-month old to Hawaii and so she got her Goodnight Hawaii to read on the plane. Whether you’re traveling, moving or just conceptualizing loved ones in another place… this is a fun series that’s gotten great reviews.

They’re mostly US-based, but hopefully they’ll expand to other locales soon.

Sending good thoughts to a dear Hong Kong friend in Minnesota prepping to tie the knot…


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A reading themed baby shower.

I had the pleasure of co-hosting a baby shower for a good friend here in HK.

My fabulous co-host Monique made up the invites and then we ran with the letter theme!
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