Get Your Read On!

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As they say Reading is Fundamental but, for me it’s a craving. In the same way some people crave a good cup of coffee, a piece of chocolate or potato chips! I have always craved a long list of great books to read!

I love the smell of the paper and the weight of a book in my hand but, in the last two years I’ve started listening to books. It’s great to do while doing this or that - or walking to and from school - I utilize the Hoopla App through my local library.

I promised to share my favorite reads - here they are in no particular order from my entire life!


The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper: A sweet tale of discovery. What happens when Arthur goes on a quest to learn more about his wife. I loved this story.

Secrets of a Charmed Life: The elderly author Isabel McFarland agrees to be interviewed and after never sharing the true details of her life - give up not only the details but, the secrets. Makes you think about history on a personal level.

A Man Called Ove: Ove is a particular man, he does things in a particular way. The question is - is he willing to change those ways? He pulls you in just as he is pulled in by those around him.

Commonwealth: It delves into how a chance encounter changes the lives of 4 parents and 6 children. Stirs caring for these souls in a profound way.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage: Ann Patchett shares her life; from childhood to present day, it covers a multitude of topics, including relationships and charts the work and joy of writing and the unexpected thrill of opening a bookstore. After reading Commonwealth and now this - I am a true Patchett fan!

Brain on Fire: A riveting true medical mystery.

What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship, and Love: She lost her best friends and husband within weeks of each other.

The Good House: What can I say… something I loved about this book I learned when I was finished reading it…. which is Ann Leary intended the book to go in another direction and the main character Hilde was not supposed to be the main character - But, Hilde took over the story because she’s quite a character… she likes her wine too much….

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train: What might happen if the Queen wandered off for a day.

The Shoemakers Wife: I can’t express how much I enjoyed these characters. I listened to this on Hoopla and was really sad when it was over.

The Perfume Collector: Weaving through time from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London, the story Grace uncovers of an Eva d’Orsey’s history will transform Grace’s life forever, forcing her to choose between the woman she is expected to be and the person she really is.

Rare Objects: Mauve Fanning has had a challenging life and starts over by landing a job at an eccentric antiques shop catering to Boston’s wealthiest and most peculiar collectors. While delivering a purchase to the wealthy Van der Laar family, Mauve is introduced to beautiful socialite Diana Van der Laar but, discovers she knows her from before.

Killing Monica: I have always been a Candace Bushnell fan. This book did not disappoint.

White Chrysanthemum: I was unfamiliar with the history of Japans invasion of Korea and of girls stolen from their families. This story is gripping and hit home with me as a sister and a woman.

My Mrs. Brown: Emilia Brown has a frugal life in a small town in Rhode Island. We accompany her on a trip to purchase the dress - an Oscar de la Renta it’s a fun and inspiring short read - focusing on a goal and the reasons for goals.

If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home: I’m a huge fan of Dr. Lucy Worsley is an English historian, author, curator, and television presenter in England.

My Antonia: Is the unforgettable story of an immigrant woman’s life on the hardscrabble Nebraska plains. I read this in High School and still count myself lucky the book was assigned to us.

Younger: Alice has always looked young - now that she’s divorced and her daughter is grown she lets her best friend transform her on New Year’s Eve and at midnight, she kisses a boy and that boy Josh doesn’t ask her age - no one does - now she’s got a new job, a new man and a new life. This book is the inspiration for the television show.

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore: Due to the economy Clay Jannon a web designer finds himself working at the bookstore. He discovers the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest.

The Thanksgiving Visitor: Buddy and his closest friend, his eccentric elderly cousin Miss Sook love preparing their old country house for Thanksgiving. But this year, there's trouble in the air.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A captivating novel about Truman Capote’s friendship with Babe Paley.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Holly Golightly is pursued by gangsters and playboys, she is so much and so delightful to meet.

Primates of Park Avenue: Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. She used her background in anthropology and primatology to look at her situation with new eyes and bam it all fell into place. Her conclusions are witty, thought-provoking and it’s a great read!

Where ’d You Go Bernadette: Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades and her mom Bernadette who is a shut-in, throws herself into trip planning, but, she suddenly disappears - Bee works hard going through e-mails, school memos and invoices to reveal a secret past that her Mom had been hiding.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: Henry joins a crowd outside the Panama Hotel, boarded up for decades, the new owner has discovered items belonging to Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during WWII. Henry remembers a girl from his childhood in the 1940s.

The Invention of Wings: Hetty a slave in 19th century Charleston is part of the Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah is given ownership of 10 year old Hetty on her 11th Birthday. We follow their journey over the next 35 years.

Capital Gains: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff: Chip Gaines is a very motivating personality. This book should be shared. So enjoyable.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House: One of my favorite books and the film starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy: Mr and Mrs. Blandings design their perfect home and we follow along during their construction issues and the funny workers they deal with.

Ludwig Bemelmans - he did more than write Madeline . I have a copy of To the One I love the Best: Episodes from the Life of Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe) It;s about his friendship with the interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe, its a great peek at a specific time.

The House in Good Taste: This great design book was published in 1914 and much of what Elsie de Wolfe said then still rings true. To shun clutter in favor of simplicity and to let the light in and she believed in white paint.

Sister Parish: The Life of the Legendary American Interior Designer: Sister - as she was always called - was born Dorothy May Kinnicutt in 1910 and spent a privileged early life at all the right places. She was compelled to work during the Depression. Sister combined her innate design ability with her upper-echelon social connections and created a successful interior decorating business. The Parish-Hadley firm's list of clients reads like an American Who's Who. I am a huge fan of her work and of the current firms.

Jane Eyre: Jane was orphaned as a child and has felt like she didn’t belong her whole life. She is overwhelmed and nervous when she arrives at Thornfield Hall to be governess to Edward Rochester’s charge Adele. This is quote I want to live by - Jane says “Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.” I love so many of the Bronte sisters novels but, Jane has a never give up attitude I truly admire.

Harry Potter: I read all the Harry Potter books before I had Liam. I thoroughly enjoyed and simply couldn’t put them down. I am excited to share them with him in a few years.

I love Kate Morton and I’ve read most of her titles. You should definitely read them in order!

  • The House at Riverton: The story of an aristocratic family, a house, a mysterious death. It’s told in flashbacks. I love this book - for the time period it shares in the flashbacks and the people you meet.

  • The Forgotten Garden: This is a captivating story full of secrets, family and memory. Cassandra is grieving her grandmother Nell and she receives an bequest that turns her life upside down.

  • The Distant Hours: Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a decaying fortress where the Blythe sisters live and where her mom was sent to live as a child during WWII. Edie will unravel the mystery of her mother’s time there and some then some. This is my favorite Kate Morton book…I was mesmerized by it.

  • The Secret Keeper: During a summer gathering Laurel will watch her mother speak to a stranger and not soon after she will witness a crime. Now, years later Laurel realizes time is running out to find out from her 90 year old mother the truth about that day.

  • The Lake House: The Edevane family is throwing a party in June 1933 and Alice Edevane who is 16 years old and a young writer is terribly excited she’s in love but, by the time this night ends the family will loose much.

I have a deep affinity for novels that take place at the turn of the 20th century - I love the Alienist and The Angel of Darkness both by Caleb Carr. Time and Again by Jack Finney is a magical illustrated novel.

Another from this same time period is E.L. Doctorow - work The Waterworks: One morning in 1871 Manhattan, reporter Martin Pemberton sees in a passing omnibus with several elderly men, one of whom he recognizes as his supposedly dead and buried father. I loved the mystery of this story and how Martin as a reporter can’t stop seeking answers. (I will also share that I read this after my father passed away and I had dreams Jim was back!). The Waterworks becomes, in the words of The New York Times, “a dark moral tale . . . an eloquently troubling evocation of our past.”

Brideshead Revisited: I read after watching the 1981 British Telepic on PBS. It’s the story of Charles Ryder’s infatuation with the Marchmain family. It’s a wonderful tale of love and loss and grasping for what you think will make you happy.

East of Eden: I asked my husband to buy me a hardcover of this for a milestone birthday.

A Christmas Carol: Oh Ebenezer needs to learn the error of his ways and boy does he!

Great Expectations: Orphaned Pip lives with his married sister and encounters an escaped convict. While terrified he complies and helps the man. Years later Pip is given a great deal - in possession of “great expectations” he does not realize who his benefactor is.

The Picture of Dorian Gray: Fashionable Dorian Gray sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty.

The Great Gatsby: Nick is the narrator of this tale of love and loss. Nick lives next door to the mysterious Jay Gatsby, who lives in a gigantic Gothic mansion and throws extravagant parties every Saturday night. it is revealed that Gatsby knew Nick’s married cousin Daisy in Louisville in 1917 and is deeply in love with her. Gatsby’s extravagant lifestyle is simply an attempt to impress Daisy. This is one of the Best American Novels. If you have not read it DO SO!

I want to share some authors: Mary Kay Andrews, Dorothea Benton Frank, Anna Quindlen, Liane Moriarty, Adriana Trigiani, Lauren Weisberger and Daphne du Maurier to name a few.

Some treasures from childhood:

The Secret Garden: Mary a young English girl returns to England alone from India because her parents have died. Mary must live with her uncle; when he's away from home, she discovers a beautiful walled garden which is kept locked. The mystery deepens when she hears sounds of sobbing from somewhere within her uncle's vast mansion.

The Christmas Mouse: Mrs. Berry is frightened by a mouse and goes downstairs to sit-out Christmas Eve and is disturbed yet again. This time by a young run-away boy. This lovely tale still enchants me about the best in human nature

The Diamond in the Window: Eddy and Eleanor Hall have always known their family was uncommon and they live in a most remarkable house. But, they would never have guessed just how remarkable the house really is.

Her Majesty Grace Jones: A young Ohio girl is convinced she is an English princess and the true heir to the throne.

I love everything Margaret Bloy Graham illustrated or wrote - the Harry the Dirty Dog series, the Benjy series and I have a copy of the Storm Book on the chair in my hallway!

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret: Margaret is almost twelve and wants to fit in with her new friends - none of them can believe she doesn’t belong to a religion. What they don’t know is Margaret has her own special relationship with God.

Harriet The Spy: I read this book when I was 11 and appropriated my sister’s copy. I made a lifesize study of myself mirrored after Harriet. Harriet M. Welsch is a spy; she writes down everything about everyone she sees - including her classmates and her best friends - in her notebook. Her notebook ends up in the wrong hands and her thoughts are read - will she be able to fix the damage these thoughts have caused?

I checked out PT109 written by John F. Kennedy at least fives times from my school library.


I asked some special friends what books they would recommend:

My Sister - Noreen: To Kill a Mockingbird, East of Eden, The Godfather, Gone with the Wind, The Poisonwood Bible, The Pearl, Slaughter House Five, The Aviator’s Wife and The Things They Carried. She is an avid reader and could have kept easily shared more - but, we’ll stop here.

My Niece - Christina: The Great Gatsby and Rebecca.

Anne: Gone with the Wind and David Copperfield.

Kristin: Any title by Nicholas Sparks.

Sara: The Alchemist

Abbey: Joyful


Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find a new book. I have always checked out the recommendations section at my Library. I follow Ann Bogel ‘s blog Modern Mrs. Darcy.

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Did you Follow The Great American Read on PBS? It was an 8 part series that took views votes to decide the 100 best. To Kill a Mockingbird was voted the Bests Novel.

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Recently I’ve also discovered BookBub - its a free service that helps millions of readers discover books they'll love. BookBub works with all major eBook retailers and devices and partners with thousands of the industry’s leading publishers and authors to promote their books.

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I wanted to close by noting my three favorite authors:

  1. Charles Dickens

  2. Truman Capote

  3. Kate Morton

    I hope you have found a few new reads!

    If I’ve left your favorite off this list. Please share it with me and leave a comment!

    Til next time! Happy Reading!

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Motherly Love

1985 Ever the Hostess.

1985 Ever the Hostess.

I apologize for the grainy 1985 photograph of my mother. She was hosting a Bridal Shower in our home for my cousin Sharon.

Rita Claire Patricia Higgins Gallagher (1928-1994) was polished, glamorous and knew everything about style and manners. Her mother Nora Cecilia Moclair Higgins (1887-1957) came to America from Aughrim, County Galway, Ireland on board the Majestic arriving from Queenstown May 27, 1909 at Ellis Island, NY. My Grandmother was a live-in Domestic - a Baby Nurse for more than one wealthy family in Manhattan - before marrying Sigfried Higgins - moving New Jersey to start their family. Nora’s name is inscribed on panel 192 on the permanent American Immigrant Wall of Honor erected in 1993 on Ellis Island, NY.

1952

1952

1953

1953

In honor of the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday - I wanted to share where I got my spark for design and I simply can’t chat about Rita without saying that all she knew she learned from her mother.

My Mother was a fashion model. She shared one fun story about being in New York City and being pulled on stage to participate in a live game show - during which she was asked to dinner by a celebrity - she demurred - instead heading back home to Verona, NJ on the train.

Staying at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico 1953.

Staying at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico 1953.

1966

1966

1974 sporting her Jackie O sunglasses with her sister Marion left and her sister in law Gladys.

1974 sporting her Jackie O sunglasses with her sister Marion left and her sister in law Gladys.

1981 - I love this tanned relaxed image of her in Bermuda - She and Daddy Were traveling with her brother Bob and her sister in law Gladys and they had a Blast! For the rest of her life she spoke fondly of this trip.

1981 - I love this tanned relaxed image of her in Bermuda - She and Daddy Were traveling with her brother Bob and her sister in law Gladys and they had a Blast! For the rest of her life she spoke fondly of this trip.

1981 I’m throwing this in because the story’s priceless - look at my Dad - During that trip different workers went on Strike - the guests served there own meals and I don’t think they had very much maid service - the buses weren’t running - so my parents rode mopeds! I would have paid money to hear the conversation between Jim and Rita about being on a moped together! (Bermuda was originally a British Territory and they drive on the left.)

1981 I’m throwing this in because the story’s priceless - look at my Dad - During that trip different workers went on Strike - the guests served there own meals and I don’t think they had very much maid service - the buses weren’t running - so my parents rode mopeds! I would have paid money to hear the conversation between Jim and Rita about being on a moped together! (Bermuda was originally a British Territory and they drive on the left.)

1985 Ireland. Look at how stylish she was in her cashmere and wool!

1985 Ireland. Look at how stylish she was in her cashmere and wool!

1993

1993

Rita inspired me not only by how she dressed - she loved clothing - but, her accessories. My love of bracelets, pins and scarves is no accident my friends - it’s been bred into me!

Our home was lovely. Beautiful wall color, wonderful textiles. My mother never shied away from recovering a chair - adding a new pillow. I learned about gallery walls from her - we had two walls covered with family photos in our paneled Den. We had the most gorgeous octagon table that held picture frames en masse in our livingroom. My mother didn’t have many shelter magazine subscriptions but, she always read House Beautiful and Town and Country. I would leaf through them and read articles - gosh I wish I had a kept a few!

I always new as a child my home possessed a quality that was hard pressed to be duplicated. So many of my precious heirlooms were passed down to my Mother and I’m so lucky to have them in the Chalet - I cherish my 3 chairs - the Blue Bergere, the Beige Wooden Arm and the Pale Blue.

Although she will be gone 25 years next week - I never set a table without thinking of her and how we dined every night at 6:30 in our formal diningroom. My mother’s entertaining was always effortless - Sunday Dinners, Drinks, Lunches, her Bridge Group, Bridal Showers, Baby Showers, Christmas Eve - She loved to be with people - and our home was large enough to accommodate whomever could come.

Entertain: to keep a person or a group of people interested or amused.
— Cambridge Dictionary

This ease of entertaining started me thinking about how I could certainly carve out an hour or two - to spend with people - we all should! So now, I’ve started issuing invitations to the Chalet - for some it’s the first time, for others they’ve been coming over for years - but, I’m choosing to set aside dedicated time and hope they are able to as well. I’m thrilled to extend my hospitality. My mother instilled in me a love of home that has grown and continues to inspire me.

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I so wish I had more photos of her. These were the days before cell phone and the constant snapping of images. She was my everything. I miss her every day. She does let me know she’s around - by the time on the clock. My eye is drawn to 11 minutes after any hour and I give her an audible greeting. Even Liam knows and calls out “Hi Noni!”


Til next time! Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mothers out there!

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It's All in the Family

I was looking around the Chalet and thinking about all our Art… if you follow along on IG than you know I’ve been working on the Upstairs Hall… All the Art came down, I selected new paint and the painting process is well at hand. I am also making decisions on what pieces will and will not stay and where they will go. I have been working to taking away Visual Clutter - since last summer - I started by restyling the Livingroom console table in August and it’s been a continuous process ever since.

But, I have Art by family and these pieces will always remain on display. These treasures I love so.

ODE TO KANDINSKY by Liam

ODE TO KANDINSKY by Liam

Liam has had the very good fortune to have the most wonderfully challenging Art Teacher. I love his take on Kandinsky and the beautiful Cherry Blossoms he created.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS by Liam

CHERRY BLOSSOMS by Liam

CHALET by your truly

CHALET by your truly

I’m a folk painter… neither very talented nor precise but, I do like to give it a whirl at times. I painted the Chalet years ago when our large American Beech tree took up most of the yard.

CHESS BOARD by Steven

CHESS BOARD by Steven

MUSING by your truly

MUSING by your truly

I always loved this image of a building that retained the outline of what was there - from the first time I saw it on my niece’s Christina’s IG feed.

WINDOW VIEW by Steven

WINDOW VIEW by Steven

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Steven painted the view from inside the livingroom looking out years ago.

I presented Steven with this written scene from our favorite movie - Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.

COW WITH SHADES by Donnie Gallagher

COW WITH SHADES by Donnie Gallagher

I have always loved Cows - so when my cousin Donnie said I could have this I was delighted!

OVERLOOK by Paul P. Zetts Sr.

OVERLOOK by Paul P. Zetts Sr.

Uncle Paul with Steven and Liam August 9, 2014

Uncle Paul with Steven and Liam August 9, 2014

My Uncle was a renaissance man - he had the ability to do many things well and one of those talents was artistic. I love this colored pencil drawing he did for a few reasons.

The inspiration was of a photo my next door neighbor took from his back garden of our shared view. I shared it through Social Media and Uncle Paul saw it. Having only the use of his left hand (he was originally a righty) and not even all his fingers after his stroke - he created this wonderful drawing and presented it to me. It leans against the wall in the Diningroom - it’s in my sight line whenever I sit at the table and I love it there.

All art by Liam J. King

All art by Liam J. King

When Liam was younger we had a bulletin board in the Diningroom full of his Pre-School Art. While nary a toy was ever seen on the first floor of the Chalet I always displayed his Art! I have this grouping in the stairwell leading to the basement. We travel this space multiple times a day… I’m thinking of adding cork to the walls… but, that’s part of the basement re-do - or maybe its just part of the Marie Kondo-ing that needs to happen down there.. but, that’s a whole other story…

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Do you have Art displayed you created or that your loved ones have? I’d love to hear about it or please email me a picture I can share in a future post!

Til next time.

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