Flowers for Mrs Harris, by Paul Gallico
I can’t believe I haven’t written about Flowers for Mrs Harris before, as it is a gem I uncovered a few years ago and I love it for many different reasons. The protagonist is a lady of a certain age, which I always applaud. She has a normal life, but an amazing interior world, working as a cleaner but dreaming of an haute couture Dior dress.
It is inspirational on many levels, it is funny and witty and feel-good. It is similar to Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and I highly recommend it. I didn’t know that it was part of a series and even though it seems the sequels don’t really compare, I would definitely give them a go. It is out of print in the UK, but you can easily find second-hand copies online. In America it was published under the title Mrs ‘Arris goes to Paris.
A few years ago, the book was adapted into a musical and while digging for glimpses of it on YouTube I found the real bonus exquisite find, a movie adaptation released in 1992 starring the iconic Angela Lansbury. I haven’t watched it yet, but it is available on YouTube and it is being described in the comments as wholesome, heartwarming, beloved, adorable, beautiful etcetera. One to save for a lovely quiet evening!
This American show came up on my radar recently, when season two debuted. I’ve just watched the first episode and it was brilliant! The ten florists in the competition had to first bring to life their individual vision of a waterfall of flowers and then form two teams to each recreate a Van Gogh masterpiece on a massive canvas, ‘painting’ with flowers and greenery. The two works they had to choose from were his Vase with Twelve Sunflowers (1888) and his Vase with Red Poppies and Daisies (1890).
The results, particularly for the second challenge, were works of art in themselves and I am extremely excited to see what comes next, as art seems to be the underlying theme for the group challenge throughout the season. I am also sure I will check season one as well, to see what I’ve missed.
There is a similar British show available on Netflix, called The Big Flower Fight. Reading the names of the episodes, it is definitely more on the theatrical side and it sounds fabulous, reproducing enormous insects, hairy beasts, sea creatures and the like. I will have to watch it as well!
Vincent Van Gogh – life, letters, documentaries
Mentioning Van Gogh above I realised I don’t know that much about him as most of my information has been randomly acquired, not intentionally sought. I decided to take some steps to change that and soon realised much there is to learn and how much has been written about him. Just looking at the list of sources for the Wikipedia entry on him is more than a little bit daunting. Google him and prepare to feel overwhelmed!
Still, a very short time spent reading at random already revealed a few key learnings for me, like the special relationship he had with his brother, how incredibly prolific he was (over 2,100 works including over 35 self-portraits), how his life ended and how he became amazingly popular only after his death, never having the chance to enjoy this feeling in his lifetime, on the contrary. A key role in discovering and studying Vincent van Gogh is played by his letters, mainly to and from his brother, but also to other friends and artists, like Gaugain. Many, if not all of these, as well as more information on his life, can be found online here, which is simply brilliant.
Source – Vincent Van Gogh, Roses and Peonies, 1886
I also found that he is one of the most popular artists with filmmakers, with countless short or long documentaries and movies about him available, including the first-ever fully painted feature film.
There is truly an abundance of resources for all ages about this bright spot on the starry night of art history (including a dedicated museum and now an immersive exhibition too) and I need to dig my teeth deeper.
Maybe you’ll feel inspired to do the same!
Photographer Nina Leen
A lot is not known about photographer Nina Leen, including even her year of birth, but she is known as one of the first women photographers at Life Magazine. She was a collaborator for over three decades, shooting over 50 covers, as well as countless reports and photo essays from around the world.
I stumbled upon her name a few weeks ago, as she was credited for an iconic image I’ve had in my archive on Pinterest for years. Naturally, I wanted to discover more of her work and learn more about her. Turns out, she is best known for her animal photographs, which have been collected in several books. Still, it is her fashion photography that has brought me to her and I find her shots clever without being too studied, and effortlessly chic and elegant. I actually had a few other pictures of hers pinned to my boards, it’s lovely to have the full picture now.
I wondered if it is maybe slightly peculiar and old of me to be drawn to brass and wanted to research if and how it is being used in interior design and decor now. I was rewarded to find that it is actually quite the trend, used for anything from bathroom finishes (looking gorgeous when combined with marble!) to lightning fixtures, shelving, side tables and more. I’ve gathered plenty of inspiration in this dedicated Pinterest board.
I will always be partial to antique items with a time patina, like the popular mismatched candlesticks, a lovely catch-all tray, beautiful handles and hooks, vintage lamps… oh, there are so many possibilities. If like me, you find yourself needing to clean some old brass, these basic ingredients and simple instructions should help.
I think it’s important not to overdo it and make sure the brass is not a bright yellow shade of gold. I would say don’t go for the matchy-matchy aesthetic (easily done in a bathroom), to hold an authentic feel and to keep it from looking cheap.
A few finds in, I realised this letter will have a strong floral sub-theme and I decided to go all the way and share these beautiful glass flowers by Belgian glazier artist Noor Springael. Her work is shortlisted for the Etsy Design Awards 2021 and I think you could easily see why. Her ‘everlasting’ 2D unique stained glass flowers are simply beautiful and would also make, in my opinion, a brilliant gift! Discover her shop here.
Michelle K. Poems
I saved this poem more than three years ago and I find myself thinking of it often while I am brushing my hair. It has almost become a mantra. It was shared by the author, Michelle K., in 2013 on Tumblr and it went viral with 167K people liking and reblogging it.
And for good reason, because it’s such a powerful perspective. Even then, when I was not a mom, it spoke to me, and now it does on a completely different level. Going back to it now and reading more of Michelle’s poems, I realise they came from a place of pain, from suffering, but to me, at least this one, it feels extremely positive, empowering, the essence of self-care, because we don’t care for anyone more than we do for our children. Now I truly understand and want to be intentional about this.
It is a shame that, as far as I could see, Michelle is not publishing poems anymore, but she has a rich archive and below is another one I have discovered and loved, in keeping also with the flower sub-theme of this week.
There is no competition between flowers.
If this letter has offered you a moment of inspiration, kindly forward it to others who might enjoy it too. And if you have been forwarded it, indulge in all previous Miss Onion’s Exquisite Finds and subscribe to the weekly letter.