Category Archives: Celebrities

When Harry Met Meghan: Why Meghan Markle May Be Perfect for Harry (and for the British Monarchy)

harry_meghan

Full disclosure: When rumors started circulating a couple weeks ago that Prince Harry was dating an American television actress named Meghan Markle–and that she was teasing her social media followers with coy Instagram shots of Buckingham Palace and spooning bananas–I thought it was a publicity stunt, a very bad plan hatched by her media team to get some better name recognition for an actress few Americans know of.

Was I ever wrong.

I think I was more shocked with Prince Harry’s strongly worded statement to the press to leave his American girlfriend alone than I was by the outcome of our U.S. presidential election. After all, I’ve spent the last several months warning my liberal east coast friends that they were underestimating the depth of dislike for Hillary Clinton in other parts of the country, thus why I awoke Wednesday morning not at all surprised we have a Trump presidency awaiting us in January.

Like the pundits here and abroad have said, this very public declaration is an extraordinary move for anyone in the royal circle to make. Look how long it took Prince William to stand up to the press with his long-time girlfriend (and now wife) Kate MIddleton– years!–and Prince Harry stood up to it in mere months. It certainly signifies the relationship between the British prince and the American actress is very serious, and my gut says an engagement announcement is forthcoming.

I’ve thought a bit about this, and my opinion is that a Princess Meghan is just what the Royal Family needs to move forward and stay relevant. Why?

  1. She’s a working woman. Ok, she may not work in an office or be on the cusp of discovering the cure for cancer, and her day job is probably a bit more glamorous than the one you or I have, but Markle does support herself with her acting and shows some entrepreneurial spirit with her website and a clothing line. The loudest complaint I heard about the Duchess of Cambridge, and now about Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, is that she was “work shy.” Before she married Prince William, the Duchess did hold a few jobs, but not for long, and she had to rely on her parents for housing and an eventual temporary position in their own company. Bea and Eugenie are objects of ridicule for their relentless job hopping and the number of cushy vacations they manage to take each year. If Markle does become a member of the Royal Family, she’ll probably have to give up her career, but at least no one can accuse her of taking any free rides to the palace balcony.
  2. She’s philanthropic. I suspect this is one of the major attractions Prince Harry has for his new girlfriend…beyond the obvious, that she’s absolutely gorgeous! Princess Diana was revered for her charity work, and Markle looks like she has the energy and star-power to continue her legacy. As a young child, Markle traveled with her mother to developing countries, where she saw poverty up close, and this seemed to drive her philanthropy as an adult. In college she double-majored in theater and international relations (Northwestern grad, too, a great school!), and has most recently traveled to places to Rwanda and Afghanistan on behalf of UN-based organizations. If she and Prince Harry marry, she’ll be totally comfortable and passionate with the royal charity obligations she’ll undoubtedly have. Moreover, it seems that both she and Harry have similar charitable interests … a double win!
  3. She’s biracial. Markle’s mother is black, her father white. A few newspapers have made issue of this and snobbishly wondered if the very white Royal Family was ready for her. My feeling is that the Royal Family is far more welcoming and liberal than we give them credit for; it’s the old-school courtiers and the media rabble-rousers who will make race into an issue. So many families today are made up of different races that it’s time to let our institutions reflect that reality instead of holding them to a standard that’s antiquated and frankly racist.
  4. She’s American. I’ve read some snobby comments about Markle’s common American roots, but the flip side of this is that Americans are going to be far more aware and interested in the British Royal Family than ever. I wasn’t around when Grace Kelly married Prince Ranier, but I’m guessing that most Americans had never heard of Monaco until Grace became Princess Grace. The British may see the Royals as “royal scroungers” but Americans have nothing like them, so they’re what we think of when we think of England. Having one of us in their midst will make us love you a little more than we already do.
  5. She’s an actress. The press seems to think Markle’s acting background is an impediment (mostly because of some risque scenes she’s done) but I think it’s an incredible skill she’ll bring to the family business. Everyone rolls eyes about the Royal Family’s endless ribbon-cutting and wreath-laying itineraries, but after watching all ten hours of The Crown on Netflix last weekend, I got a taste of how hard it must be for the royals to always be smiling, pleasant, and conversational for hours at a time. (If you saw the mini-series, there’s a funny scene where the Queen has to have a relaxant injected into her cheek after the muscle freezes from smiling too much during a Commonwealth tour.) Markle’s acting background means she can put on a show, deliver a speech, smile, act interested, and have less of a chance forgetting her lines than someone who hasn’t had that kind of training.

Of course, if Markle marries into the Royal family, it won’t all be rainbows and unicorns. Surely she’ll have to give up her (paid) acting career, her social media presence, and I assume her American citizenship. And then there’s the relentless media scrutiny she’ll have to deal with, although her acting career will have prepared her for that somewhat.

What do you think? Has Harry met his match? Is she the breath of fresh air the Royals need, or a right royal headache? Please feel free to comment below. P.S. I’ll be back next week with a more personal post; I haven’t been able to log into WordPress until today because of a technical issue, but that has been fixed. Yay!

 

 

Stormy weather

Rolling thunder woke me up Wednesday a.m. Welcome July!

My sugar fast continues and I’m feeling well, a little better each day. I didn’t need a nap on Tuesday, and on top of this, two nights in a row I stayed up long past my regular bedtime of 11 to read. I do still have sugar cravings in the early evenings, but nothing like the ones I had the first day.

We continue to get O ready for camp … yesterday he got his hair cut and today his camp sheets should be arriving, which will need to be washed and folded for his trunk. This morning I woke up and realized how much I’m going to miss him while he’s away. This will be the longest O’s ever been away from me, and there’s no phone calls, no e-mailing allowed … handwritten letters only. Which I don’t mind–being the loving mom, I will write every day!–but I’m not so sure I’ll hear anything from a 13-year-old boy in return.

Was sad to read that the rumors of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s divorce were true. They seemed like a nice couple, very family oriented. Marriage is tough business, for sure, especially it seems in Hollywood.

Crafting

Lessons learned while working on the Pebble Beach shawl:

  • A lifeline is a must once I get past 100 row stitches of lace.
  • Save lace knitting for the mornings when my mind is fresh.
  • Point protectors are my friends.

I spent an hour+ on Tuesday night tinking back two rows (250+ stitches per row) to fix a massive mistake. Then I carelessly left my knitting on the couch, and when I came back found that some stitches had slipped off the needles and created a mess I couldn’t figure out without ripping back. Another hour later all was fixed but I made zero progress on the shawl as a result. On Wednesday, I put in a dental floss lifeline … took me all of five minutes.

I cut out the contrast fabrics for O’s board shorts on Tuesday night and then cut out the main fabric on Wednesday a.m. I’m normally not a big fan of using rotary cutters and weights to cut out pattern pieces, but because the microfiber was unstable, the rotary cutter made short work of the job. Later that night I got the fronts and backs of the shorts sewn up. I’m not completely happy with my topstitching, but I doubt any of the boys at camp will be scrutinizing it.

When I was catching up on my blog reading Tuesday night, I noticed that Ann at Gorgeous Fabrics gave a terrific review of Sewaholic’s Thurlow shorts/pants. As she said, “…the Thurlow’s welt pocket instructions and draft take something that other pattern companies butcher, and make it crystal clear.” I am in desperate need of some nice trousers, as well as shorts, so I promptly ordered the pattern, esp. since I’m pear-shaped and Sewaholic patterns are built for my shape. (Bonus: there was a Canada Day sale going on and I got a discount!) The shorts look a little too short for me, but I suppose I can lengthen them a bit. Once I finish O’s camp sewing, I’ll give the Thurlows a go.

By the way, I’m getting more and more comfortable with Melody the more time I spend with her. She is so quiet! And little things like speed control, automatic threading/thread cutting, needle down, and the knee life make my sewing so much more accurate and enjoyable. Every time I finish up a sewing session, I tell my husband, “I have to say it again … I LOVE MELODY.” (Half of his office in my sewing studio. Lucky him!)

Hello Ladies

hello_ladiesI was thrilled to read the first positive review of HBO’s “Hello Ladies” this morning. Dade Hayes, a columnist for Forbes.com, writes, “Over the winding course of its flinty, eight-episode run, the show has blossomed, becoming at once antic and deeply felt, an unusual mix of sharp wit and melancholy.”

At last, a critic gets it!

If you haven’t seen the show, it’s the brainchild of Stephen Merchant, a frequent collaborator with Ricky Gervais. (He was Gervais’s sidekick in this hilarious skit with Liam Neeson I wrote about here last year.) Merchant plays the lead, a socially awkward British web developer named Stuart Pritchard whose main goal in life seems to be scoring with a supermodel in his adopted town of LA. Critics have lambasted the show, calling it “cringeworthy” because of the outrageous and uncomfortable situations the supremely self-unaware and often unlikeable Pritchard gets himself into: telling homophobic and racist jokes during a hot tub party whose guests included a gay couple and a black editor from Vanity Fair and demanding that a bouncer return a tip when Pritchard doesn’t physically step into the club.

Basically Stuart Pritchard is an English Larry David, but for some reason the critics who loved “Curb Your Enthusiasm” can’t stomach “Hello Ladies.” I fear it’s a case where the more acidic British sense of humor is a little tough for some Americans to swallow. Case in point: “The Office,” which Merchant co-created with Gervais. I know Americans who adore Michael Scott on the U.S. version of the show, but they watch an episode of the original British version with Gervais playing David Brant, and they sit there with stony faces, occasionally shifting in their seats with physical discomfort. (I happen to like both versions for different reasons.)

Other things I love about the show: the rest of the cast! Especially the character of Jessica, Stuart’s pool-house renter and aspiring actress, who is just dorky enough that you can’t help but root for her. (The actress Christine Woods deserves kudos here. She plays Jessica with such nuance.) If you’re an “Alias” fan, Kevin Weisman‘s face will be familiar to you. He plays Stuart’s foul-mouthed frenemy who uses his disability to charm the pants of beautiful girls, much to Stuart’s annoyance. I haven’t spent a lot of time in LA, but its portrayal in “Hello Ladies” feels right to me: Like some of Merchant’s characters, I feel invisible there because I’m not blonde, buxom, and Botoxed. Bonus: soundtracks include Hall & Oates, Gerry Rafferty, and Al Stewart. Remember “Year of the Cat“? I hadn’t heard that song in years until watching “Hello Ladies.”

HBO hasn’t renewed “Hello Ladies” for a second season, and I’m nervous because critics were so hard on the first two episodes. I won’t give anything away, but last weekend was the first season finale and for those critics who thought Stuart Pritchard was entirely too self-obsessed, well … there’s a heart beating in that pigeon-chest of his. I hope the network that gave us TWO seasons of the dreadful “Mind of the Married Man” will give Stephen Merchant another year to develop this very funny — and yes, oftentimes uncomfortable — comedy. If they renew it, I’ll definitely pay Verizon for the HBO upgrade.

What do you think? Have you seen the show? Thoughts?

A strange week for women

The past week has been a strange one for women. Writing about the 2012 election season, New Yorker writer Margaret Talbot wrote,“If there was a war on women this year, it looks like the women are winning” with a record 20 women taking U.S. Senate seats next year. Candidates who made extremely unpopular (and I must add offensive) remarks about women and rape did not win their elections. In this respect, it was a good week for American women.

Then I read Expat Mum’s blog yesterday, who alerted me to the delicious irony of Liz Jones. Jones had been invited to speak at a mom-blogging event in London and really put her foot in it declaring herself not a writer but an artist. In her column she ridicules the women who stay home with their children and blog for income. Because, you know, brand-dropping, divulging one’s marital woes in excruciating detail, and insulting one’s neighbors in newsprint is what real writers — I mean artists — do.  Given the chance, I think Liz Jones would defend Todd Akin if she knew it would give her more page views.

And today? Back across the pond we’ve got a massive DC sex scandal that gets stranger by the day. At the center, two women, one who had an affair with the head of the CIA and the other, it’s reported today, was dallying with the top U.S. general in Afghanistan and who also happened to be the target of hands-off-my-man e-mails from the woman who had the affair with the head of the CIA. The mind boggles! The older I get, the more I believe that some women never evolve past seventh grade and men, no matter how smart they are, are guided by the heads in their pants. Anyway, I think this sex scandal is going to be a potboiler. I sense offers from Playboy for the two women. Two steps back. I can’t help but wonder what U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is thinking of all this as she’s traveling in Australia with the U.S. Secretary of Defense today?

Today I’m 48. Here’s one of my birthday presents from a secret admirer, a skein of sock yarn from The Woolen Rabbit in New Hampshire in the most appropriate colorway, Scottish Heather. Sorry for the cruddy picture but it’s very dark and gray here today, a common occurrence on my birth day. I love the muted purples and heathery greens of this yarn; it will make a perfect cowl to go along with my gray down jacket.

The Gentle Art of Knitting

When I heard/read that Jane Brocket was coming out with a knitting book, I got pretty excited. The Gentle Art of Domesticity keeps a prominent place on my livingroom bookshelf and gives me that boost I need when the house needs a little TLC.

The Gentle Art of Knitting was released in England a few months ago. I considered buying it sight unseen, but then I read some negative reader reviews of it and scratched it off my list. The complaints were that the knitting projects were too basic and not very revolutionary. (Those are my words/impressions of the reviews.) I buy very few knitting books, and only buy them for reference .

Though I’d resolved not to buy the book, I was thrilled to find a copy of it at our local library on the new titles shelf.

I spent a pleasant hour or two reading through it, sipping tea, during one of the many drenching rain storms of May. Is there anything revolutionary in the book? Why, yes, there is. As the reader reviewers noted, there aren’t any patterns in here that will put Brooklyn Tweed out of business anytime soon, but what Brocket’s book does brilliantly is remind knitters to focus on the process, not the product. As someone who frequently gets impatient to finish a sweater or can’t wait to start some complicated cabled shawl, I appreciate this message. As soon as I put the book down, I cast on 37 stitches of red cotton and knit a simple garter stitch dishcloth. Then, I knit another, this time striping at random places with blue cotton.

It’s the kind of knitting book I like to have when my handwork is giving me fits and I need to be reminded why I knit … to create beautiful objects with care, to bond with friends (who knit), and to relax and enjoy the hours rather than wasting them idly in front of the computer or television set.

I do think I’ll be getting a copy for my own bookshelf. The library’s version was from England. Unlike British cookbooks, I like British knitting books to be “Americanized” with our needle sizes and dimensions in inches rather than centimeters, so I’m hoping they’ll come out with a Yank version soon.

While on the domestic subject, I was futzing around the Web yesterday and found this video about how to properly fold a t-shirt, hosted by none other than Anthea Turner:

When I wasn’t ironing and folding my extensive t-shirt collection, I was watching the Jubilee procession on the Thames, broadcast over CNN. My goodness, the British must be thrilled to have Piers Morgan off their island. The man DOES NOT SHUT UP. He interrupted every guest, including India Hicks, who was attempting to tell the audience what it was like to be in Princess Diana’s wedding party. Morgan kept butting in with his own memories of the day, none of which were as remotely exciting as being Princess Diana’s bridesmaid. I wanted to throttle him. So I ended up turning the tv off, and downed a glass of lemon barley water in honor of the Queen.

And how was your Jubilee weekend?

Settling in

Has it been nearly a month since I posted? Unpacking has taken much longer than I suspected it would. We’ve moved to a house with less square footage, and although we have a large storage container on our 2 acres to hold our overflow of “stuff,” we’re stuck doing a lot of sorting and deciding. It seems that every day I’m dropping flattened cardboard off at the recycling center or donating household items to shelters. It never ends.

Some random photos:

My cookbook collection, about 80 percent of it. There are a couple more boxes of books out in the storage container. Sadly, this is my collection after culling — I donated roughly 100 books before our move.

The livingroom is looking a wee bit more settled, but still there’s a lot of work to do. This is the scene that greeted me this a.m. after my son’s raucous playdate from yesterday and some furious knitting (mine) from last night. The sofa has been stripped of its slipcover for a washing, thus contributing to the disarray. The rattan chest a/k/a coffee table is going to be replaced shortly, and our tv stand, which is not in the photo, is awaiting a coat of paint. I can’t wait to do the big reveal on this project!

Lastly, I’ve discovered our Victorian-style wall sconces are excellent tools for sock blocking! This sock is one half of a pair destined for my step-mother down in Connecticut, a pair of Elizabeth Zimmermann Woodsman’s socks.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of knitting but unfortunately most of it is holiday related so no pictures. I cast on Thea Coleman’s Irish Coffee a couple weeks ago, but had to put it aside to focus on gift knitting. However as a reward for knitting three four hats over the last week, I purchased Anne Hanson’s Fartlek hat pattern a couple nights ago and will be knitting myself a nice warm cap for the holidays. Ok, yes, I find the name “fartlek” amusing (and so does my son), but I really like the design and have the perfect yarn for it:

It looks a bit more colorful in the photo than it really is. The lighting today is quite poor.

In other Anglophile news:

  • My hopes for the coming season of Downton Abbey on PBS next month have been dashed by this review in the Telegraph. SPOILER WARNING: Read at your own peril.
  • Speaking of Downton Abbey, this Daily Mail article about Julian Fellowes’ decidedly unaristo ancestors is a fun read and shows us the class divide in England is still alive and well.
  • Did you know that November was Wovember, a time to wear and celebrate wool? (I know I dug out my woolies!) Here’s a fascinating expose of retailers who erroneously label clothing or fabric as “wool.” I think this mostly happens in England; in America, wool means fabric made from the fleece of sheep or other fleecy animals or it refers to yarns spun from animal fleece. Will double-check on this!
  • Lastly, I’ve been enjoying — nay, loving! — the CraftLit podcast, which I listen to when I’m slogging though stockinette hell or walking our local bike path. Why it rocks? Half the podcast is taken up with craft talk, mostly knitting, and the other half is a recorded book from the public domain … and yes, my Anglophile friends, the books are mostly British! Host Heather Ordover has the most evocative voice and spot-on delivery. I’d listen to her read the ingredient list on a spray bottle of Roundup. And the lady knows her literature. I love that she prepares a little introduction to each chapter, offering tidbits on the social history of the time, explaining political history and etymology of words. (Who knew that Bram Stoker got off on the word “voluptuous”? I didn’t.) Anyway, it’s definitely worth a listen, and I heartily recommend Dracula, even if you’re not a fan of horror fiction. The readers are excellent and it’s truly a scary book.

Stop me if you think you’ve seen this before

My friend Jenna sent me the link to this film over the weekend. Being the huge Smiths fan, I’m embarrassed to admit I’d never seen this homage to Morrissey till now … and indeed, while watching it, I had the weirdest feeling that it was a joke (“that joke isn’t funny anymore”) because Morrissey — MORRISSEY — wouldn’t sanction something so self-congratulatory, would he? But it looks like he has, and despite its worshipful tone, it’s a pretty good watch.

Three things I didn’t know till I saw this film:

1. Morrissey has relocated to LA.

2. He’s friends with Nancy Sinatra.

3. JK Rowling is a huge Smiths fan. (Hey, on that last one, you’ll have to forgive … I’ve yet to read a Harry Potter novel and I guess she thanks the Smiths in her acknowledgments.)

The one really bad thing about this film? Bono a/k/a the tiny windbag. I’ll never forgive the New York Times for letting Bono loose in their editorial pages. The New York Times should promise never to sing Sunday Bloody Sunday, and Bono should promise never to pen editorials.

That is all. Enjoy!

Dear Jeremy

Dear Jeremy Irons,

I read, with interest, an editorial in the Daily Mail that claimed you’d said patting a woman on the behind was “communication … can’t we be friendly?” It was my understanding that the behind wouldn’t necessarily belong to your spouse or partner, but to a woman whose behind was, shall we say, worthy of communication.

Not quite believing that you’d promoted such a flirty viewpoint, I poked around the Web and read that Salon, the Telegraph, and the Sydney Morning Herald have also reported on your cheeky ways.

I, too, like a sexy, rounded tush, although of the male variety. So many times while riding the T, I’ve had to use every ounce of self control to prevent my hand from reaching out to express a little friendliness with a bottom I find oh-so-squeezable.

It’s nice to know that should we ever be in a room together, you — or your minders — won’t care if my hand meanders over to your heinie for a nice squeeze. You’ll know I’m just being friendly.

Sincerely,

Di

p.s. Loved you in Reversal of Fortune. “You have no idea” is a favorite line around here.