Ethel’s 80th

gathered at the barn for ‘stingers’, our featured cocktail
Ethel, peanut, me looking at old family photos
Queen City Strings
absolutely love these two, Ethan and husband
the gang’s all here

Birthdays in our world are most often celebrated with a scratch baked cake and dinner at home with family and maybe a few close friends. Mom turns eighty late August, and we gathered for a barn dinner last week to celebrate as my dear sister and her family were visiting from San Francisco, CA. 

seating for sixteen
birthday girl place card and menu

It’s not often we’re all together, she’s got a full life with her huge west coast event design company, Radeff Design Studios, managing fetes for thousands. The two of us together pulled off a home cooked five course seated dinner, country-side, and it was brilliant. 

Tracy ordered rentals, booked the string quartet, arranged flowers, designed graphics, and basically planned the menu. I came in at the eleventh hour and baked a cake and cooked off the entrée, a little well done. 

Mom really started the two of us on this party-planning journey, even while holding down a full-time job back when that was really not the thing she would set the table, make fancy food, and have us put on our best clothes to come together and break bread. That’s a gift that continually gives, the desire to feed and care for others, making meals memorable and soul stirring, whether it be scrambled eggs with toast and homemade jam or a wedding celebration for 200+.

happy birthday dear mom

There were sixteen of us that night, my sister and I with our men, her eight grandchildren, and two life-long young friends. Most of us took turns raising a glass and offering a toast, telling stories with love and affection of fun and crazy times. An 80thbirthday is reason to celebrate. Mom, you are beautiful, independent, curious, elegant, and ever-evolving. Happy Birthday and wishing you many returns of the day. 

Maxwell toasting Ethel
birthday bouquet from Lexi
the table is set
menu details
seated dinner for sixteen, how we celebrate birthdays

day on the water

let’s all live in the south of France

Most of the last three weeks have been countryside Provence yet we did break code and booked a boat outing, highly recommend.

We brought plenty of alcohol, obviously, should have packed a picnic as we had to buy sandwiches and chips from the gas station, not one of my best culinary feats.

Yeah, I did that

It was a ball, swimming in the Mediterranean an absolute highlight. Driving back that evening I thought I could live forever in the south of France, wishful thinking indeed.

Happy weekend everyone, tomorrow we start moving west, we’ll be stateside Monday. Third week of June is one of my favorite times of year, the long days feel endless.

Elizabeth and Ethan

duty free pick-up

I’m not much of a regimented beauty routine devotee, one of my things is washing my face at the kitchen sink with dish soap and then drying it with the towel that’s attached to my apron. 

A few things that I do love are a black kohl eye pencil, black mascara, and a good eye makeup remover to take the whole smudge thing off with, dish soap doesn’t seem to work well for the eye area. I’ve tried several, and always come back to Chanel

I also like to even out my skin tone with a good foundation as I’ve done a bit of damage from, I know it’s bad a life-long sun worshiper. 

Getting out the door for travel is tough, getting out the door when you’re leaving for a month makes me completely scattered, and likely to overpack while also forgetting a few things. 

The white bag? (similar one here) A gift from the husband. Whenever I carry this, I double wash my hands before and while using it and never put a pen of any kind in there, that would be disaster. I’m even careful with lipstick picking one that doesn’t have too much pigmentation because I’m always in a hurry and I would probably smudge on the bag. 

These are my recent duty-free cosmetic pick-ups and they’ve been great.

eating and drinking in France

room with a view

Yesterday morning I broke a piece of baguette and smeared it with French butter and then soft ripe cheese and then topped it with local honey, it was sublime. I’m drinking small cups of espresso, forgoing the tall American coffee, and usually indulging again at half past three. 

everyone helps for dinner in

Second son’s girlfriend says le vin rosé is like water, and you know how you’re supposed to get in eight full glasses of that. 

on our way to town to gather supplies
we did have lunch at this Michelin star restaurant L’Aubergine
okay, so I took this photo, daily run to market

Booie asked me where the pantry is in the kitchen and I replied, ‘no pantry, we buy what we need and will use on the daily’. 

petit déjeuner on the lawn for six

We started with a party of six, grew to eight and then ten, and now back to eight, and on Thursday we will be five. We’ve been gone three plus weeks now, on holiday with really nothing to do, simply enjoying one another’s company in this beautiful country of France. We are blessed, and the husband is the triple gold star. 

prepping for dinner in

I’ve been cooking as most times we prefer staying in and accustoming myself with an electric cooktop and an oven I don’t understand, but that’s okay. Everything makes me think, even the every day run to the market where I have to navigate the carts, and the checkout. 

The first half of the trip I was fairly disciplined with the workout routine and now as we’re getting ready to head home, I’m savoring every lazy hour of undriven bliss. 

and the sun goes down

We’ve been eating and drinking in France, and that’s a very good thing. All photos here by Maxwell Collins, on Instagram @maxyny.

a holiday writing retreat in Andalusia, Spain

For an entire week my daughter Sarah and I wrote, read, walked and meditated while at a beautiful rustic farmhouse in Andalusia, Spain. 

Finca Buenvino
the terrace where we would gather for tapas
top of a walk
on the farmhouse property
Elaine, in the orange puffer, on one of our many walks

We were there for Elaine Kennett’s sessions of Write-it-Down, one of her many writing workshops. She’s a warm, intelligent, energetic, full of wit dynamic leader. The writing was tough at times, and made you stretch and go places you might not go on your own. One of our group called it ‘absolutely life affirming’, and I agree. 

the corner for tea
Sarah writing on our last morning

Our days were full- sunrise meditations overlooking the hills of sweet chestnut and cork oak followed by a seated breakfast at 9 am. Writing began around 10, every day was different as long walks were figured in as well. We worked in chunks, usually around three hours at a time, and religiously broke for lunch at 2:30 pm, served in the garden. There was always wine. 

seated lunch in the garden, local rose
three delightful meals every day

After lunch we would work on our assignments, most often poolside. We would regroup around 5 or 6 pm to read aloud our pieces and write some more. The evening session would usually round out at half past seven, and tapas were served at 8:30pm, followed by a lovely seated dinner in the formal dining room at 9 pm. Again, much to my delight, there was always wine. You could linger over tea and fireside conversation afterwards, Sarah and I usually ducked out early for a little extra sleep time. 

walking about town
one of our excursions to a local cafe

We were hosted by Jeannie and Sam Chesterton, the absolutely adorable owners of Finca Buenvino, their family home of more than thirty years. Sam would taxi us about, picking us up in Seville, dropping us for lunch or a visit to the Hammam, and taxied us to the airport at the end. He also served as bartender for tapas and offered up a pretty brilliant gin and tonic. Jeannie and her son Charlie ran the kitchen, coordinating three delightful meals per day for our group of eight. 

Sam made floral arrangements from the gardens
the pool house where we would have writing sessions
all rooms had small arrangements

I can’t say enough about Elaine, she is the epitome of an evolved human, reinventing herself through life’s inevitable twists and turns, and she is magnificent. She turns seventy this September and has no qualms about sharing her age or her desires for creating her enriched and magical lifestyle. She can hike with the best of them, leads effortlessly and is endlessly supportive. She will return to Finca Buenvino late summer with her three adult children and closest friends to celebrate what I have no doubt will be a most beautiful week. Happy 70th birthday Elaine and wishing you many returns of the day. 

Thank you for encouraging us all to write it down. 

men’s shirt | washed denim

Now that I’ve waxed on about adding color, getting back to basics with a men’s white cotton button down shirt and wide-legged washed denim.

white shirt, white denim, white bag

Our house here in Provence while absolutely beautiful has spotty to no internet, and we have to leave the property to get any kind of service at all. No complaints, simply living our best French life.