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(5) Things we love …#53

Posted in Food & Entertaining, Home & Decor, Life & Love, and Style & Travel

Phyllis Rodriguez and Aicha El-Wafi speak during Session 5: Harmony and Discord, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010, at TEDWomen, Washington, DC. Photo: James Duncan Davidson / TED
“Our suffering is equal. Yet I’m treated with sympathy; she is treated with hostility.” — Phyllis Rodriguez, on Aicha el-Wafi

One: Forgiving
Phyllis Rodriguez is an artist, a teacher and a social justice activist. On September 11, 2001, her son Greg died in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Yet Rodriguez and her husband wrote an open letter, “Not in Our Son’s Name,” calling on President Bush to oppose a military response in Afghanistan. Aicha el-Wafi is an activist with the French feminist group Ni Putes Ni Soumise, working with Muslim women. Her son, Zacarias Moussaoui, was tried in relation to the attacks on US soil, and faced the possibility of execution if convicted. She has no idea where he is today.  Watch this short TED talk in which Aicha el-Wafi and Phyllis Rodriguez tell their story of reconciliation and forgiveness. Nelson Mandela would have been proud to know them both.

Two: Diving
This week I saw an image of a female ‘game’ hunter with her trophy – a dead giraffe. These are the most gentle of characters, vegetarians, slow-moving, early risers who look like they arrived from Parisian fashion show still clad in couture. Making her even more of a monster – not that any animal has a chance in hell against a high-powered rifle. Animal rights activist and all round smart fellow Ricky Gervais is tackling the idiots who trophy hunt head on. Check him out on twitter #Ricky Gervais. I thought I would celebrate the memory of that lost giraffe with this lovely, mad film by French film maker Nicolas Deveaux.

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Three: Cooking
Julia Child seems like the kind of person I would love to have met. The portrayal of her by Meryl Streep in Norah Ephron’s Julia & Julia only reinforced that. Three smart girls in the same room. Bon Appetite! The Delicious Life of Julia Child, by writer/illustrator Jessie Harland, charts her journey from a privileged childhood in Pasadena (she had really big feet and her mother could only cook three things) through her stint as a spy in WW2, her cooking classes in Paris, the fun of being a TV chef and the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Bon Appetit! is a lovely book – with Julia’s many adventures told in gorgeously detailed witty panels. A perfect gift for the budding chef: as fun, lively, instructional and as all-encompassing as I imagine the lady herself.

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Four: Flowering
I once had a Saturday morning job in a florist and I relished it. I can honestly say it was the least stressful job I ever had. I can still remember the green smell of the fridge – where the blooms (grown locally until tulips became hip) were stored. I loved the feeling of pushing my thumbs into the blocks of oasis, as I stacked them in the wet room. The florist was a wonderfully flamboyant gay man (we’re talking 40 odd years ago) who created, simple, elegant, tasteful arrangements. But, before we left on a Saturday evening, he would take all the remaining blooms and fashion a free-form masterpiece. Which he would then take round to his mother’s when he went home for Sunday lunch.

I had fun watching him work – he was inspired and ahead of his time. He truly believed that flowers said it all. And he loved marking an occasion. Happy or Sad. He believed flower arranging was art. He would have loved The Flower House.

In October 2015, florists from all over the US will come together to fill the walls and ceilings of an abandoned Detroit house with American grown fresh flowers and living plants for a weekend installation. When it’s all over, they are going to responsibly deconstruct the house, their materials will be repurposed and the land will be converted into a flower farm and design centre. Their aim: to draw attention to derelict Detroit neighbourhoods. These images are from a preview event held this month in another house – to “whet the whistles of interested florists, curious visitors and potential sponsors.” If they are anything to go by – October’s event is going to be fabulous.  Andre isn’t alive any more, but I know he would have been there with his big smile. His perfect eye. And his endless patience with the untalented, but enthusiastic: me. (Image credits: Heather Saunders Photography. More info via

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Five: Bridging
Imagine taking a post lunch stroll through the (pretty much always damp) English countryside, only to discover a sweet, poppy-coloured bridge ready to escort you cross a watery creek? Environmental artist Steve Messam used no glue, staples or screws in putting this bridge together. Instead he carefully stacked 22,000 sheets of paper over a temporary wood frame, creating enough compression so that the Paper Bridge is entirely self-supporting. Once the stack was ready, the frame was removed and the bridge was ready to be crossed. It’s the sort of thing that Enid Blyton would have written about in the Magic Faraway Tree. What fantastic adventure waits on the other side?

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  1. silvia

    This post of yours is so inspiring. In detail special thanks to the forgiving and the diving. I saw that picture. Do you want me to tell you what I’d do to that hunter?

    June 1, 2015
  2. The Flower House is beautiful! Such a lovely idea.

    May 30, 2015

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