Six favorite activities

By Caitlin Kelly


Listening to the radio


It’s a rare day I don’t have my trusty little black transistor radio on beside me. I listen to BBC World News when I have time, (it’s an hour), and many NPR shows, from All Things Considered, Fresh Air and The Takeaway, (now hosted by old friend Tanzina Vega, who worked with Jose at The New York Times) to fun weekend shows like The Moth, This American Life and even silly ones like Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

I’ve been working alone at home since 1996 so the radio is a steady companion. We’ve even sent a gift to Jeff Spurgeon, host of the morning show on WQXR, New York’s classical music station — a tiny plastic T. Rex — an in-joke he appreciated after he once joked about dinosaurs in the Hudson River; (probably historically accurate!)

Our new car has Sirius XM so I love listening to CBC as well.



Reading the Weekend Financial Times


The FT is a very specific read, as one wit dubbed it: “the hometown paper of the global cosmopolitan elite.”

Its real estate pages — larded with country estates in every corner of the world and enormous penthouses in Paris and New York — can leave you somehow concluding that five million euros/pounds/dollars is actually a bargain, considering. Its glossy magazine, with classic fuck-you British snottiness, is called How to Spend It, and typically features a watch at $300,000 or a $20,000 gown.

But the paper itself, and its arts section, is a delight. Its columnists include a few thoughtful sparky women (albeit an Oxbridge-y crowd) and so many book reviews of books you’ll never seen mentioned in the American press. I appreciate a non-American perspective on business, politics, art, design…everything.





Trying out a new recipe


I have a whole shelf of cookbooks and endless binders filled with recipes I’ve clipped on paper from magazines and newspapers over the years. Few things are as fun as leafing through them and searching out an old favorite, (leek-tomato quiche from the Vegetarian Epicure Part Two), or trying something new. I always mark down the date I first tried a recipe and whether we liked it.

Entertaining gives us a chance to try even more!


Introducing people who’d be a good fit


This is the best. I recently connected two of my favorite younger friends — one in London and one in St. Louis, as one grappled with an issue I thought the other might have some wisdom on. They have other things in common as well; my connections aren’t random!

Another friend was visiting Shanghai and one of my freelance colleagues was teaching there, so I made the introduction from my home in suburban New York — even though, normally, they both live in New York City. Done!




Seeking treasure at flea markets, consignment shops, thrift shops and antique stores


As someone both frugal and design-obsessed, this is a consistent pleasure. People are so eager to ditch possessions that there are wonderful finds waiting — early glass and silver and silver plate, rugs, furniture, linens and tableware. I recently read a fantastic book on the topic and highly recommend it, and here’s a used copy for $7.95!




Discovered this fab 1940s diner on Long Island on a road trip

Road trip!

I’ve done many over the years — across Canada with my Dad at 15 and with him driving all around Ireland; from Montreal to Charleston, S.C. with my first husband and, most recently, from our home 25 miles north of New York City to north of Bancroft, Ontario — solo. I did it in four four-hour legs, which helped! I’ve done solo road trips through Arizona, and through some of Texas while researching my first book.

This combines multiple sources of happiness: travel, new sights, seeing old friends, listening to the radio, getting out of town. And, when we have a nice new car as we do right now, the sheer pleasure of a quiet, well-designed automobile.


What are some of yours?

The Only Publication We Fight Over

Financial Times Gets Personal
Image by Simon Scarfe via Flickr you ever read the Financial Times?

Do you read the Financial Times?

Not the weekday edition, which, I embarrassedly confess, is a little too dry for me (albeit smart and international), but the weekend edition. “There’s nothing sexier than intelligence. Smart, incisive, insightful,” raves my sweetie, a 25-year employee of the paper many people consider the world’s best, The New York Times.

“If this paper was a man, I’d be having an affair with it”, I warn him. “Move over,” he says. “Me, too.” We read dozens of American and Canadian magazines and newspapers, in print or on-line, but this is the one that’s won our hearts.

So, what gives? What on earth has some dead-tree paper, printed on salmon-colored stock, got that has us tough old journo’s swooning?

There’s not a single columnist we’re not eager to read; only the gardening column (because we don’t have a garden) gets a cursory look. Harry Eyres’s thoughtful meditations on living slowly, Tyler Brule’s insane dashes from one long-haul jet to another to his complaints about his 125th luxury hotel, so far, this year (sometimes a parody of himself), the wistful musings of Susie Boyt, the crisp, no-nonsense Mrs. Moneypenny; you have to love a mother who refers to her children in print as Cost Center Number One, Two and Three. There are regular interviews with ex-patriates and today’s paper features a 75-year-old composer, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who lives on an island, Sanday, so remote the schoolteachers fly in every day.

Take that, Oprah!

Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in England and France, have spent a lot of time in Europe, and plan to retire somewhere in France, i.e. I care a lot about Europe and how Europeans think. Maybe it’s because the issues the FT looks at and thinks about are filtered through the eyes and thinking of really smart people who’ve clearly been around a few global blocks, whether it’s real estate and opera or more serious issues like today’s essay about Eurabia.

I know, I know, as a putatively serious journo, I’m supposed to adore the New Yorker and the NYT. I don’t even read the former. At the end of every long week steeped in America-centric reporting — OMG, Chicago  lost the Olympics! — forever filtered through elite American eyes, I need a break.

Is there any publication you find equally compelling? Why?

Freud's Great-Grand-Daughter Adores Judy Garland. Who Inspires You?

An original pair of ruby slippers used in The ...
Image via Wikipedia

For me, it’s always been Auntie Mame, a fictional grande dame with a collapsible foot-long cigarette holder, a houseboy/chauffeur named Ito and the habit of getting up at “the crack of noon.”  Patrick Dennis wrote the original book in 1955, based on his aunt, and it went on to become two films, (the 1958 version won Rosalind Russell an Oscar nomination for best actress) and a musical — whose feisty, fun songs I belt out whenever I feel blue.

“Open a new window, open a new door”, was one of Mame’s mottoes. When she loses much of her money in the 1929 stock market crash, she urges her family to open their gifts early, singing “Haul out the holly…we need a little Christmas, right this very minute!” She loves her dear friend, the actress Vera Charles, but not so much she sheathes her rapier wit: “If I wore my hair natural like yours, I’d be bald.” Mame’s indomitable cheer, insatiable appetite for fun and adventure and open-armed embrace of the unconventional make her my heroine. Here’s a design website with some images of Mame’s apartment, after dozens of its impossibly glamorous changes throughout the 1958 film.

For British journalist and author — great-grand-daughter of Sigmund Freud, and daughter of painter Lucian Freud — Susie Boyt, Judy Garland has been her lifelong touchstone, an avatar of glamour and hard work, of doing whatever it takes and, for this self-admittedly stiff-upper-lipped Briton, an open vein of accessible emotion. “They say once Judy has you she has got you for life, and it’s true,” she writes”, and her memoir is “My Judy Garland Life”, which she describes thus:

“It is  a project I’ve been dreaming about for at least twenty five years and it’s one part memoir, two parts hero-worship and three parts biography with a dash of sequin studded self help thrown in.” Continue reading “Freud's Great-Grand-Daughter Adores Judy Garland. Who Inspires You?”