Dec 24

2015

Merry Christmas

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!)...


Oct 26

2015

Now that I spend much of my day doing chores in and around the garden on our farm, I’ve been seeking a new style icon: a woman whose personal take on dressing for the outdoors can take me away from the pure practicality of wearing just corduroys, a wool sweater and wellies. Not that there’s anything wrong with that look, but sometimes I just want to feel a bit more inspired.

When I first came across a photo of novelist, poet, and gardener Vita Sackville-West, I was at first mostly attracted to her fantastic canvas and leather lace-up boots. Why doesn’t anyone make those anymore???? But as I dug a little deeper, I found inspiration in not just her English countrywoman-meets-swashbuckler clothes, but also her legendary house Sissinghurst Castle, her chic all-white garden and her iconic book covers. I even love the style she has inspired in others – like her granddaughter’s hand-painted 18th birthday party invite and a collection of white flowers assembled by a fellow blogger. VSW had style for miles.


Sep 22

2015

A New Beginning

Amanda_Blog_5Hi there! It’s been a while. The truth is, I thought I was done with blogging. Between the long term commitment of writing books and the instant gratification of Instagram, I felt it was extraneous to keep going with the in-between of maintaining a blog. I also felt I’d evolved beyond the look, feel and function of my starter blog, and while there was maybe something charming about the low tech aspect of it, I was left craving a more effective way to communicate with you.

But after a year of freedom from my blog commitment, I missed it. In retrospect I realized that my best ideas had actually come from the discipline of sitting down a few times a week to clarify and express what was going on in my creative mind. Blogging helped me maintain focus and track the progression of thoughts and inspirations. In fact, my next book, about what I’ve learned from living on a farm, was sold to Penguin based on the collection of my blog posts on that subject. I’m always preaching about the importance of gathering visuals and displaying them together so you can actually see who you are aesthetically, and it turns out that my blog is simply that – an inspiration board of ideas and experiences and images that capture my attention. ..


Sep 15

2015

Life in England: My Writing Habits

People have asked me from time to time how I get my writing done. If you’re a writer yourself, you inevitably understand how hard that can be to do sometimes. In truth, it’s coming up to three years since I moved to England, and I am still refining my work habits. The hardest thing for me has been that I don’t write all the time. Because my books are always a mixture of written word and photographs, it tends to be that I write for a few weeks and then I research the illustrations for a while and then go back to writing. Then I finish the writing for the book and I am editing, making corrections, placing photographs in the text, etc. It’s not like writing a novel where I would be mostly writing consistently throughout the process. Interspersed with book writing are articles I occasionally write for magazines and my blog posts (not that I have done much of that in the last year!). So, I usually have some form of writing in my life but it’s kind of all over the place. ..


Mar 14

2014

I ♥ Your Country Style: Amanda Harlech

 

We’ve all seen and admired Amanda Harlech in her Chanel. As Karl Lagerfeld’s muse, we see her at every Chanel event wearing the most enviable dress with her hair just messy enough to be cool but still look chic. For the most part, this is her Paris life where she spends her professional time. But what really intrigues me is her England life, her private world that she has graciously shared with us through Vogue, Vogue Living, etc over the years...

Dec 03

2013

I am a huge fan of all that Todd Selby does – his photographs, his watercolors, his sense of design, the people and places he is attracted to, and his so-goofy-it’s-cool personality. He is creative and talented, and his style – as well as that of the people he photographs – is highly personal. A few years ago, after religiously reading his blog and combing every page of his first book, I found a business excuse to cold call Todd.  But what I was really hoping when I called him was that we’d chat on the phone and become friends. Which is exactly what has happened. Towards the end of our long phone call, he said. “Hey, what’s your house like?” I told him that I was moving to England and that I would send him some photos. Six months later, in July of 2012, a month after we had settled into our cottage, Todd was here on the farm paying us a visit. So here he was, running around the farm with a camera taking pictures of the barns, the garden, the treehouse, the cottage, the kids, us and all the animals. I was fascinated to watch him work. As a lover of photography myself I was amazed to see how shooting style differs so much from my own. He is spontaneous, quick, unselfconscious with his camera whereas I am always looking for the right angle and calculating in my composition. We have since kept in touch, calling each other occasionally for ideas or advice, and I am so glad to have such an inspiring new friend.


Aug 12

2013

On the Road: The North Fork of Long Island

I’ve been in and around New York since the 15th of July. It feels good to be home, except that I miss Ginger terribly. I even had a dream that Christopher surprised me and flew her in from England to visit all her favorite New York places with us. Wishful dreaming. Anyway, I was in the city for two weeks taking care of business, and then we spent a heavenly ten days in Southold, on the North Fork of Long Island. We have a beach house there and we are always debating selling it, because we don’t get to use it enough to justify the expenses involved. When we left for England, some friends asked if they could rent it year round, except for the 10 days they go to Maine, when we could have the house back. Pretty good deal, right? So we happily agreed and now get to be there for a good long dose right at the height of the summer, no doubt the house’s peak season. ..


Jun 13

2013

On the Road: Kim’s Wedding, part 2

When we saw that great weather was coming for the wedding day, we planned a last minute picnic on the lake. It turned out to be one of the highlights of the weekend. Despite the hot, sunny weather, the lake is still ridiculously frigid at this time of year, especially as it had snowed in the Adirondacks just the week before. I was impressed to see that some of our friends had already been swimming by the time I arrived with the bride in tow...

Jun 11

2013

On the Road: Kim’s Wedding, part 1

Our whole reason for being in New York for half-term was to go to my sister Kim’s wedding. She got married in the Adirondacks, the dramatic mountains in upstate New York where we have spent summers since early childhood. Kim had always maintained that one day she would marry in The Uplands – a charming, eccentric and huge old wooden house in Keene Valley that belonged to a family friend. The whole thing was a scene right out of The Royal Tenenbaums – kooky WASP chic – a three day adventure of frigid lake dipping (we didn’t stay in long enough to call it swimming), dancing to blue grass by a bonfire, toasting and roasting the bride and groom, and cheering them on as they had their first make-out as husband and wife...


Apr 26

2013

The abundance of great houses, both big and small, formal and rustic, untouched or newly restored continues to capture my attention here in England. We make whole day trips to go see a house or a garden, have a picnic, let the kids run around and hope that they absorb at least one thing they learned from the adventure. My 11 year old has just begun to take an interest. When we drive around now, she comments on houses she thinks are special or beautiful or that she thinks I might want to take a photo of. I think it’s important to teach kids about inspiration – the idea that we can be excited by things we don’t have to buy, the idea of developing a visual vocabulary, and the idea of sharing opinions – sometimes agreeing, sometimes not. It’s fun! ..