My kids have their winter break this week so we are skiing in Méribel, France. I’m still getting used to the differences (mostly advantages) of skiing in Europe, as opposed to the slopes of New England and out west in America where I spent my winter weekends and vacations growing up. The mountains are bigger here so there is far more terrain to explore and discover; the food is hands down better than even the best of the ski resorts visited in my childhood; and perhaps most importantly, it’s not nearly as cold here – allowing for much more attractive and flattering ski wear. Last week in preparation for our trip, my friend Rose, who grew up skiing in Méribel, asked me if I needed to borrow anything to wear for our trip. Knowing that I hadn’t updated any of my own kit in over 5 years, I thought I would take a look at what she had. Staring at her cool, fitted racing jackets, and high tech, streamlined ski pants, I felt like there wasn’t even a possibility of me wearing anything I currently had in my possession. Skiing in America is so cold that everything I own is padded to the nth degree. It’s also all black – having made a practical decision when I last visited the Patagonia store that if I just bought everything in black that it would never go out of style. Well, guess what? It’s out of style! The look on the slopes now is Jean-Claude Killy, 1970’s version of classic sports style – mostly red, white and navy, classic, streamlined, pared down. Totally up my alley, and very in-line with what I borrowed from Rose. I’m also seeing lots of yellow and green skiwear – even with touches of brown! – also very 70’s. As usual, when a trend comes back around I like to look to the original source for inspiration. So with these pics in mind, I am setting out to update my own look. Hopefully it will still be chic next year. Something tells me this look will be around for a while. And even if its not, it still feels like me. ..
Recently Zach has been boarding at school every Thursday night. My newfound freedom on Fridays mornings has almost been startling. No 6:40am alarm bell, no rushed breakfast, no 40 minute school run (each way!). So I’ve been making a conscious effort to savour my new start-of-the-day options. Sometimes, I lay in bed reading a book or chatting with Christopher like we used to do on the weekends before we had kids; sometimes I go to my office early to get a head start on a new creative project that requires energy I only seem to have at the start of the day; and I often take the time to make myself a nice, leisurely breakfast. But now that we are in mid-February and the sun comes up into the sky a little earlier, I realised that the timing is right to walk up the hill from our cottage and watch the sun rise before I get started on my daily routine. This morning, Gingy and I set off up the bridle path, and even Fatboy followed us for a while. When we passed over the gallops and up through the old pillars, the sun was just coming up over the horizon. Ginger and I stood together, both absorbing the light and the warmth, until it was too bright to face. Then we walked back down towards home where I made soft-boiled eggs, toast and fresh squeezed blood orange juice. And then I was ready to get to work.
It’s hard to argue that there is any meal more quintessentially English than Sunday lunch at home. Many of our friends and family members make it a weekly practice – either going for lunch at a friends house or hosting their own. As much as Christopher and I enjoy these meals, we often feel that we need Sundays to be more focused on down time – finding ourselves in the garden, on a horse, or gorging ourselves at the buffet at Soho Farmhouse instead of hosting a house full of people. With Zach at school 6 days a week, it’s the only day we have him to ourselves and we all like to sleep late and go where the day naturally takes us.
That said, from time to time, I do get inspired to cook Sunday lunch. And when I do, I like to enjoy the results of my labour with friends and family just like the English do. ..
I first met Isabella Cawdor when she was a guest at my wedding. Her husband Colin was an old friend of Christopher’s and they flew over from Scotland to celebrate with us. I noticed Isabella because of her romantic, dark purple velvet dress with floral cutouts, and she had a fuchsia rose tucked behind her ear. She was the very first one out on the dance floor, twirled around by Christian Louboutin, and I thought “Who is that gorgeous girl?” We didn’t get to know each other properly until a year a half later when Christopher and I were invited, along with one year old Coco, to visit them at their shooting lodge in the highlands of Scotland. That’s when I was really taken with Isabella. Everything about her life – her house, her kids, her clothes, her posture – was beautiful, but done natural ease and warmth. These days, the Cawdors are perhaps best known for their supermodel daughter Jean Campbell – who stars in the current Louis Vuitton and Burberry ads – but it is Isabella’s down to earth, chic country style that has me reeling every time I see her. ..
In January we give the garden a haircut. We cut back everything that has continued to be green until around Christmas time, we prune, we rake dead lives, and we pick out random rocks and twigs that have collected in the beds. It’s a very satisfying chore, in that the garden looks so organised and ordered when we are done, and it helps me get over the winter blues when there is very little alive apart from the Hellebore (which are much more noticeable when everything else has been tidied). This winter, I couldn’t believe how much was still alive or already blossoming in late December – we were mowing our lawn until just before Christmas! – so I spent a morning with my camera documenting the late-in-the-year-garden-beauty for posterity. ..
I took some time out to mourn my dad, who died peacefully at home last week. I am trying not to feel too sorry for myself, as I know that I’m lucky he lived a full life, and that my children got to know him so well, but the truth is I am just terribly sad. He was simply awesome – both as a human being and as a dad – and had a huge role in influencing the person I am today. I’ll be blogging again by the end of the week, but in the meantime I wanted to share with you the obituary my sisters and I wrote about him.
Long time Palm Beach resident Stephen Cutter, 75, died peacefully at home in Floyd, Virginia on January 10th after a brave battle with cancer. Born in Boston, MA, on April 20, 1940 to Harry and Beatrice Cutter, he moved to Palm Beach with his parents at the age of six and lived there until he was 60. Stephen was a pioneer in residential real estate for 40 years, running his family’s firm Cutter Real Estate and serving as the president of the Palm Beach Board of Realtors. A gifted natural athlete, he enjoyed many outdoor sports, and even established windsurfing as a competitive sport at the Bath and Tennis Club in the 1980’s.
Stephen proudly served his country in the US Navy, including a stint aboard the USS Intrepid in the sixties. His time spent in military school and in the Navy inspired a meticulous nature that led to the most perfectly made beds, beautifully wrapped Christmas gifts and fastidiously organized closets one could imagine. He was also a devoted member of Rotary International, and served as the president of Palm Beach Rotary for many years.
In 1976, Stephen made an early investment in Mel Fisher’s legendary hunt for the capsized Spanish galleon Atocha, off the coast of Key West, Florida. When the wreck was eventually discovered in 1985, he became the beneficiary of all sorts of amazing treasure – 17th century gold coins, silver bars, emeralds and rubies.
Later in life, Stephen retired to Floyd, Virginia and would realize his lifelong dream of becoming a farmer. He raised organic sheep, tended a vineyard, took immaculate care of his land and made many meaningful friendships.
Most importantly, Stephen was a unique spirit, always courageously choosing his own path. He was fiercely independent, spiritually curious, and possessed an enthusiastic and often mischievous sense of fun, adventure and humor. He was a beloved and valued member of his community both in Palm Beach and in Floyd. He also had the most impressive head of hair many people have ever seen.
Stephen is survived by three adoring daughters, Kimberly Cutter, Amanda Brooks and Phoebe Cutter, two grandchildren Coco and Zachary Brooks, and also by his loving partner Rebecca West.
Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful time, wherever you were. After Christmas we escaped at the first light of Boxing Day to make the long journey back to Harbour Island, which looks like it’s becoming a tradition for us. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a place that has more personal style than Harbour Island. Of course there is the obvious beauty of the immaculate pink sand beach, the perfectly clear turquoise ocean, the adorable pastel-painted cottages, and countless palm tress silhouetted against a spectacular sunrise and sunset day after day. But beyond that, the island just has an inherent sense of style emanating from everyone and everywhere. The locals have their hand-painted (and often cheeky) shop signs, their outrageous and meticulous costumes at Junkanoo (the local street parade that takes place on Boxing Day), and their over-the-top Christmas decorations. The hotels – especially the Dunmore and the Ocean View Club – keep getting chicer while adding onto their original charm and character. And the people who visit also share a love of this place that has all the style and beauty you could crave yet still embraces imperfection and everyday life.
The other thing I love about Harbour Island is that each member of my family – myself, my husband, tweenage Zach and teenage Coco – are all equally happy there. I live for my jetlag-fueled sunrise walks on the beach, Coco longs to be under the water with a snorkel looking for sharks, dolphins and manatee, Christopher has his routine of going to the local coffee house in the afternoon to sketch, and Zach is happiest when being pulled behind a boat at top speed on any kind of floatation device on offer. Zach has a close friend that is usually there when we are, but Coco has twice now arrived hoping to find a like-minded teenage girl and is now 2 for 2 in spontaneously meeting a wingman (wingwoman?) who is likely to become a lasting friend.
With all that said, Harbour Island is a major schlep to get to, especially from Europe. The absolute minimum travel for us is two planes, a boat and two taxis. We thought we were clever renting a minuscule charter plane to get ahead of the commercial flight that is often delayed, overbooked or cancelled, only to sit taxiing on the runway for three hours in a chlaustrophobic 4-seater. However, arriving at night, as we always do, to a warm welcome (in the form of a hug, a glass of wine, and a home cooked meal) from owners Ben and Charlie and all the regulars that have become our friends at the Ocean View Club and waking the next morning in my idea of paradise is worth every minute spent in transit.
Wishing you all the very best for the holidays and the coming year. We are home in England this year, for the first time in three years. The kids are very happy to not be traveling for Christmas day and we have made the most of it by decorating cookies, going ice skating and singing lots of carols. Tonight we’ll be home for Christmas Eve dinner followed by lunch with the whole Brooks family tomorrow (32 for lunch – not at my house, thankfully!)...
“I had to have the taste of city in order to appreciate the country.” – Beatrix Ost
Naturally I am drawn to any woman who leaves a thriving life in New York City to raise her children on a farm in the countryside. Artist Beatrix Ost (along with her husband) did just that in 1982, decamping from her creative and eccentric city lifestyle and re-creating the rural version of it in a 19th century Edwardian home on 500 acres just outside Charlottesville, Virginia. What I personally respond to most is how little her style – both in fashion and interiors – has changed in her evolution from city to country life. The turban remains in place, the leopard is ever present, and she wears skirts and dresses like she is on her way to a perpetual cocktail party. Her home has many elements of country life – a relaxed coziness, depictions of farm animals, and a kitchen right at the heart of the house – but also it is infused in each room with her signature color palette and evidence of an artful life throughout. ..
There’s no arguing about the fact that English winters bring gloom – it’s pitch black by 4pm, the wind howls so loud it wakes me up at night, a glimpse of the sun is rare, and we wake in darkness each and every morning. When we moved here from NYC three and a half years ago, it was these wet, dark months that made me most nervous. How would I cope? One New York friend – a doctor who had lived in England during his school years – advised me to get a light box to ward off depression. Others implored us to book a holiday somewhere sunny over both Christmas vacation and February half term. ..