10.30.2008

Ghosts Among Us


In honor of Halloween, and because there seems to be a surge in paranormal activity in the world (and in my personal life) right now, I have been reading the book, Ghosts Among Us: Uncovering the Truth About the Other Side, by medium and Ghost Whisperer producer James Van Praagh. This is an informative little book that could well be described as a Ghosts 101 manual. Van Praagh takes us on a journey starting with his own personal story and then goes on to explain some mysteries involving death, the spirit world and hauntings.

In each chapter a “practical” explanation is offered to some of our most burning questions regarding ghosts. His matter of fact and confident writing almost makes the reader feel like they are reading a textbook on the subject. In fact, the text was so straightforward and “normal” I was almost disappointed. I was expecting to be spooked and thrilled- but to Van Praagh, the spirit world is apart of his everyday life so he writes about it as such. He intersperses stories of his own personal experiences with the spirit world (and he has many)- some of them so fantastic you almost can’t help but believe.

Van Praagh is, of course, often met with heavy critics of his work. He writes about brushing aside those naysayers and staying true to his convictions and what he knows to be the truth about ghosts and the other side. In one anecdote, Van Praagh writes about going on the Howard Stern show. Stern, a very vocal critic of Van Praagh's, started the show by saying, “You know, I don’t really believe you can talk to the dead”. Van Praagh promptly replied, “I don’t care what you believe”. Needless to say, the interview went very well from that moment forward. Van Praagh insists that his spirit guides gave him strength to stand up to the shock jock.

Van Praagh also discusses how ghosts try to contact us via moving objects, flickering light bulbs, and showing up as "orbs" or other wispy figures in photographs. Throughout my life I have had personal experiences with all of the above and was thrilled to read other people's stories and know that I am a) not alone in these experiences and b) not crazy.

The most interesting part of the book, however, is when Van Praagh gives detailed descriptions on how to “make contact” with the other side. Here Van Praagh says that intention is the most important thing. One must have a motive behind wanting to contact ghosts, as ghost hunting is very involving and should not be taken lightly. The other components one needs to make contact are: permission, equipment, preparation, and investigation.

So for anyone who has had ghostly experiences in their life or anyone who is interested in making contact with the spirit world, James Van Praagh’s Ghosts Among Us is a great place to start.

Would love to hear about any ghostly encounters you daily connoisseurs have had...

Happy Halloween!

Image of book courtesy of: www.barnesandnoble.com

Ghosts Among Us can be purchased at: www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com

10.26.2008

Home Sweet Home and I've Been Tagged


B and I arrived home from England a few days earlier than planned and I must say it feels great to be home. We had a fantastic time while there and I want to thank everyone for your well wishes while I was away!

Now, on to more important business... I have been tagged by the lovely Jenavira at Scent of Abricots. I also got an honorable mention from my favorite blogger to make me smile, Scentscelf over at Notes from the Ledge, so here I go!

When tagged, one must:

1. Link to the person who tagged you
2. Post the rules on your blog
3. Write six random things about yourself
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

For my six random things…

1.My favorite poet of all time is Dorothy Parker. Her reputation as the wittiest woman in America was well deserved- her poetry was always delivered with a sharp edge of satirical humor. Here’s one of my favorites:

The Flaw in Paganism
Drink and dance and laugh and lie,
Love the reeling midnight through,
For tomorrow we shall die!
(But, alas, we never do.)

2. My favorite living painter is David Stoupakis. His paintings are very haunting- gothic, yet modern. Every time I look at them, I can’t help but be affected by them for hours or even days to come. My favorite painting of his is “The Day the Frogs Rain Down” (above).

3. If I were able to invite any three people in the world to a dinner party (I love fantasizing about these things), I would ask Tim Gunn, Oprah Winfrey and Alexander McCall Smith- partly because they would make for fantastic conversation and company, but also because they are each connoisseurs in their own right:

I love Tim Gunn (as a lot of you know). To me, he is the ultimate connoisseur of quality, taste and style.

Oprah Winfrey, because she is responsible for introducing me- via her talk show and her XM radio “Soul Series”- to many of the spiritual concepts I have incorporated into my life.

And Alexander McCall Smith- one of my favorite authors of all time. His No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series warms my heart and provides an excitement in me that I haven’t felt since I was a child. I also love his 44 Scotland Street series.


4. My favorite cuisine is French, swiftly followed by Japanese…

5. I try to meditate every day… “try” being the operative word. Sometimes I sit in my meditation corner and do nothing but think about my “to do” lists, and sometimes I am really able to just be still and send my hectic thoughts away…

6. I’m currently writing my first novel… a mystery.

Now, as I am at the tail end of this tag party… most of my favorite blogs have already been tagged (please see “my blog list”, right) so I am listing only three below…

Rose at A Rose Beyond the Thames- This is a fabulous blog about life in London…

Lauren Elkin at Maitress- I love this blog about literature and culture in Paris, the city of light…

Marjorie at My Inner French Girl- I am new to this blog and am loving it so far...



Image of “The Day the Frogs Rain Down” courtesy of: http://www.phantasmaphile.com

10.20.2008

The Stoke Park Club and Weddings!


This past weekend I attended at wedding at the gorgeous Manor house in Stoke Poges, just overlooking the golf course. I love a good wedding and this was one of the nicest I'd ever been too. It was also my first traditional English wedding and I was loving every minute of it. The night before we stayed at the illustrious Stoke Park Club hotel to catch up with friends and get ready for the wedding festivities in style- and did we ever! The hotel is magnificent. You'd be hard pressed to find something so utterly gorgeous, old fashioned and luxurious in Los Angeles so it was an incredible treat for me to stay there.

As we drove to the hotel I noticed the magnificent green of the golf course on my right and on my left a rather large pond- complete with graceful swans and beautiful water lilies. A strange sense of deja vu came over me. The feeling continued as we checked in at reception and then were presented to our room- The "William and Mary" suite. I later found out that Bridget Jones' Diary was filmed here- and that pond was the infamous one that Hugh Grant had so much trouble in. Our room was beautiful and traditionally English with overstuffed chairs and sofas- a grand bed and a stately color scheme.


The loveliness continued at the wedding the following day. Every guest turned out in their finest- gorgeous dresses and flamboyant hats; the men in tails and colorful ties. (My dark blue Temperley dress and Vivien Sheriff hat were a big hit!) It was a church wedding complete with traditional hymns (I had to do some improvisational lip syncing). The celebration continued afterwards as we were ushered towards the tents on the lawn, glowing with candle light. After cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, we made our way towards the dining area- an amazing marquis shining with the light of chandeliers and candelabras. Dinner was traditional- shrimp cocktail and lamb with roast vegetables. The conversation was lively and the dancing afterwards was even more so. My favorite part, as always, were the speeches. I always get emotional when I hear family members and friends give speeches at weddings- maybe it's because I know they feel safe in saying the things they wouldn't otherwise say and give expressions of love and emotion. My favorite speech was given by the father of the bride...

The evening ended with over two dozen Chinese lanterns being released to the sky... pure magic.

For information on staying at the Stoke Park Club please visit: www.stokeparkclub.com

Image of Stoke Park Club provided by: www.vivideventgroup.com

Image of room provided by: www.stokeparkclub.com

10.14.2008

An American in London


Greetings from London! We arrived last Thursday in England and were greeted with weather that rivaled the heat in LA! We flew Virgin Atlantic in premium economy which is ideal for us- we don’t have to pay the exorbitant prices of upper class and still get to sit towards the front of the plane with larger seats and plenty of leg room… they even give you champagne! (Which I turned down of course, never drink while up in the air… water only, thank you).

Anyhow, customs was a breeze, luggage retrieval was a breeze and the moment I stepped outside I became rather hot in my jeans, cardigan and trench coat- what was I saying before I left about getting away from the eternal summer of California? Maybe I brought the weather with me…

The first evening was spent in Surrey at my wonderful in-law’s house. We got to see most of the family including my adorable niece who has decided I am her favorite person in the world (for now, anyway).

Since then we have spent every evening in London- Chelsea to be exact. I love it here. The people are so chic- my people watching skills are in full swing. Yesterday we had lunch at a new restaurant in Sloane Square called The Botanist. It was packed with people and I must say they could have all qualified as connoisseurs. I think the English subscribe to the same mantra the French do: quality over quantity. I loved looking at the well dressed men and women lunching daintily over sea bass and salmon cakes. The English love high quality accessories- gorgeous handbags, lovely watches, tasteful jewelry. Now I know this is a generalization but I can truthfully say everyone lunching at The Botanist fell under this category

Yes, everything is going swimmingly, in fact so far, I only have two problems with being here. Number one being jet lag- there is nothing as maddening as finding yourself wide awake at 3am, finally falling asleep at 4am and then having to wake up at 9am. Number two being expense. The exchange rate of dollars to pounds is slightly better than it used to be but still- we just had a modest brunch that cost almost $60- and on the way to brunch I saw a pair of True Religion jeans that I own (I spent $165 on them) for sale for nearly $400!

I did, however, manage to find an outfit to wear to the wedding this weekend. I am going with a lovely deep blue dress by Temperley, London and a fantastic hat by Vivien Sheriff… all purchased at Selfridges.

The plan for this week? Lots of dinners with family and friends, an Agatha Christie play in Windsor with my cousin on Friday night (how could I resist?!) and, of course, the wedding on Saturday.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Image of The Botanist Restaurant courtesy of: www.squaremeal.co.uk

10.06.2008

London Town

This Wednesday my husband and I are off to London to spend three weeks working and visiting with family and friends. During this time, my posts on The Daily Connoisseur will be less frequent but I will do my best to update you all on any exciting adventures I get myself into. I especially want to thank those of you that gave me such valuable feedback on what to wear as a guest attending my first English wedding- I can’t wait to report back and tell you how it goes!

Now on to the subject of packing. I believe a true connoisseur packs light (lots of baggage is never a good look) but this is proving difficult. Three weeks is quite a long time and I still haven’t figured out how to work the washing machine at the flat in London. Right now my suitcase sits stuffed but I think tomorrow I will cull through my options and pair down my clothes to a few streamlined choices that will work well in different combinations and situations.

One of the things I love about London is the way people dress. There is an air of sophistication and formality you just don’t get in Southern California. Here, a pair of True Religion jeans, a white t-shirt from Vince and a good pedicure will take you anywhere you want to go. In London, I look forward to wearing dresses with tights and chic boots, ballet flats with skinny jeans and heels in the evening- velvet jackets and plaid coats. Oh dear, what was I saying about packing light? I think I have my work cut out for me. I must remember that the benefit of leaving room in one’s suitcase is that it leaves room to purchase things along the way…

Of course, the most important thing to bring on a trip is a good book.
This time I will be reading Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon. I'm a HUGE mystery fan and I hear this is the ultimate. It's one of those books that has always been near the top of my reading list but for one reason or another I haven't gotten around to it- until now. Suddenly that 10 hour flight isn't looking so bad...

I hope you all have a wonderful week and I look forward to writing to you from London town!

Image of Andrea Laliberte's "London" courtesy of: www.allposters.com

Image of The Maltese Falcon courtesy of: www.fantasticfiction.co.uk

10.02.2008

Get Positively Beautiful- Or Don't Waste the Pretty


A few nights ago I was having dinner with two of my really good girlfriends. Enjoying each other’s company over Italian food and candlelight we were discussing the usual topics: career, men and beauty (not necessarily in that order). While discussing beauty we somehow got on the topic of how we take ourselves for granted and sometimes don’t present ourselves to our full potential.

I was telling them that earlier in the day I had worn a dress I don’t usually wear and had received several compliments from total strangers while working and running errands (granted some of those strangers were homeless- but hey, every compliment counts). This, of course, got me thinking. Why did I never wear this dress? Is it because I’m afraid that it will draw attention to me?

Incidentally, my girlfriends related. We found that we usually “play down” our beauty either because we don’t want the attention or simply can’t be bothered. What a shame! My friend J said this reminded her of the catchphrase: “don’t waste the pretty” from the bestselling book He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt. Whether stressing over a man, your career or your perceived beauty flaws, women everywhere are wasting the “pretty”- and we were some of them!

Then, yesterday I got my bi-monthly delivery from Amazon (I have a slight addiction and always have books on the way to my house) and was delighted to find in the stack of books I’d ordered Carmindy’s new book, Get Positively Beautiful- The Ultimate Guide to Looking and Feeling Gorgeous. Carmindy is the makeup artist on TLC’s hit show What Not to Wear and is single-handedly responsible for educating me on the application of makeup thanks to her first bestselling book- The 5-Minute Face: The Quick and Easy Makeup Guide For Every Woman.

In Get Positively Beautiful, Carmindy urges women to look at their beauty from a positive angle. Rather than looking in the mirror and focusing on what you dislike about yourself, she encourages us to focus on what’s fabulous and flaunt it- in other words, don’t waste the pretty! She denounces the unfortunate beauty standard that the industry and celebrities have placed so high. The book is filled with tips for makeup application in every season- for every type of face- and even has a section in the back with real makeovers (and we all know how much I love a makeover).

The book is also full of positive beauty mantras to say to yourself in the mirror. Call me crazy, but I believe mantras work. One of my favorite television shows of all time is Absolutely Fabulous, that whacky, farcical delight about two women navigating their way through life in a constantly heightened state. In one of my favorite episodes Edina and Patsy are in the bathroom and Edina asks Patsy: “When you look in the mirror, what do you see?” Patsy promptly replies, “Me looking Fabulous”.


Now that's the type of attitude we could all benefit from...




Get Positively Beautiful by Carmindy is available from: www.amazon.com

Image of book courtesy of: www.barnesandnoble.com

Image of Patsy courtesy of: www.bbc.co.uk
 
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