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September 17, 2014 / P J Charles

A change is in the air…

Saturday was the first cool weather and with the wind came a feeling of Fall. There is something visceral about a temperature drop that immediately sets you about behaving differently. A dear friend pulled out his recipes and began thinking of stews and roasts and Friday night dinners in front of the fire. Mind you, it was not THAT cool, but it is the idea of shelter and seeking comfort. That night I slept with the windows open and a light cashmere throw. I love the feeling of being nestled under covers – especially when you don’t have to get up at, as my friend PD would say, “oh dark early.” As I have written before, September for me has always signaled new beginnings. When the fall runways begin in Spring, I start thinking about Fall and by the time the editorials start to flow in August and September I have already chosen the few key pieces that will make their way into my wardrobe. Someone I know who has been behind the curtain so to speak, would comment – given the chance – at the amount of clothes and accessories that line my walls. As my mother would say, consider the source. For most of my adult life I have been basically the same size and when I really splurge, I buy items that will stand the test of time. That said, each seasonal change requires I go to the closet to do a bit of cleaning. My friend above (the one reading cook books) has a strict one in, one out policy which essentially keeps his closets in good order. Me – not so much. Each season I merchandise my closet. The clothes and accessories that stay do so because they play nicely with the new additions. The clothes and accessories that leave are given a fond send off for having served so well through the seasons. I actually both love and hate the task. In the end, the real measure is the simplicity with which I can get ready for the day and what I think is the best version of me…. the one that looks as good on the outside as it feels on the inside.

September 16, 2014 / P J Charles

Morning Walk

early morning I love the moment when the sun tips over the hills and begins to waken the sleeping beach. The shadows are longer and the light indirect with a warming hue. The hour is inevitably early. Few people are out and if they are, they are walking the beach just to bask in that light. I, too, am out looking for that light, the one that glows and colors the world in a shade and softness that makes anything possible. The air is crisper and the world seems unfettered, uncluttered and rested. The noise of the day hasn’t yet begun. Rarely you come upon someone who has interests equal to yours and without speaking you nod and share a knowing glance that this is the best time of the day. Alone with your thoughts and the light reflecting on what has come before and what will and the rhythmic lapping of the waves. This is why I love the beach.

On this morning the sun crested behind the clouds and I headed out for a walk leaving CF behind in a deep sleep. I was in search of great coffee with other like-minded folks, the kind of coffee you can linger over – nowhere to be and nothing to do. And then I stopped to honor my predecessor as he went walking ahead in the sand.

September 15, 2014 / P J Charles

What makes a home?


It was a bit out of focus – the question of what makes a home. Four walls and a roof certainly qualify and yet, upon returning back from vacation, I realized that my four walls and a roof had lost its soul. For weeks our poor home sat lifeless. Upon arrival the plants were drooping; gone were those beautiful orchids and in their place were sticks where blooms used to be. A storm had left the pool floor laden with soaked leaves indicating the seasons was about to change. There was a staleness to the air heavy with humidity and looming storm clouds. The cupboards were bare. Only the bed made with fresh linens felt inviting and comforting. Like Scarlett O’hara, I tucked myself in, closed my eyes, and vowed to think of it another day.

Saturday finally came and my only mission… defibrillate my house. Bring it back to life and do so before CF and Zellie arrived. Suddenly, I was transported to the days we “dated” before deciding to be each other’s life witnesses. That scurry of activity so time could be completely free of the mundane activities of keeping a home. I dashed to the grocery store buying food and flowers and, of course, a couple nice bottles of wine. I then dashed home, put up my staples, lit fragrant candles, prepared dinner, arranged some flowers, and planted some orchids. Then I began tackling the pool blowing off the leaves from the deck and skimming the water for leaves. Just about that time a text came through with the news they were on their way. And so, I jumped into the shower, dried my hair, threw on some clean clothes and found my way to the living room just as CF put his key in the lock. The house smelled like us. It now looked like us. And as he came through the door with Zellie in her carrier, it felt like us.

What I realized, despite all my best intentions and my herculean efforts to renew our home’s spirit, it wasn’t until they walked through the door that the focus became clear. What makes a home is love.

September 14, 2014 / P J Charles


The last days of summer

It had been an idyllic day followed by a sensual dinner of sushi crafted by the incomparable Taku (the 5 senses play an important part in the Japanese food tradition – as does the 5th taste – umami). Inspired (and satiated) we decided to head to the beach to sit in the sand and watch the sunset thereby extending the perfection of the day.

It was just before Labor Day – the pivotal moment where the town reverts to locals and the rhythms of a small beach side community. Normally we would find the beach quiet with the few remaining visitors. Not on this night. This night was meant for long goodbyes and celebrating new beginnings. We discovered this night is reserved for departing High School Seniors leaving their beloved California town for new adventures. It, like the sushi before, was filled with flavor of a different kind… the salt of tearful goodbyes. It was an evening to be savored.

It took me back to the days before I headed off to College.  The cocktail of independence and fear and the great unknown.  I remember sitting in orientation and watching my parents as they walked back to the car intuitively understanding that things would never be quite the same, but exhilarated by the possibilities.  It hung in the air just as it did this night but mixed with the warm salt breezes of the end of summer.

September 13, 2014 / P J Charles

When you look for your dreams in real life, where do you go?

joy-3This may seem like an odd photo choice for such a profound question. And yet the answer is so simple. I go to places of joy. I go to things that make me happy. I go to simple accomplishments that build to greater achievements.

In this particular example I was introduced to SC and the adorable Charley by my adorable CF. And as our relationship progressed and we all gained a greater confidence in our friendship I was honored with the question of shooting the memorable occasion of her first birthday. It was joyous. She is such a good baby – Charming Charley and I am just happy to be around her and the folks that made her. And on this day, my simple accomplishment was to document her big day. This photo is one of the outcomes and without fail every time I look at it I smile. Beam actually. There is joy in the photo, there was joy in the moment and the pride I had in catching that brief air time was a simple accomplishment. The greater achievement – having made the journey to be prepared to take the shot.

Usually after I snap a photo I rush home to review. CF likens it to watching a child open Christmas presents. I can’t wait. Initially I don’t spend much time with any one photo. But there are ones I go back to time and again because they bring me joy. This will be one of those.

I like the simple things. Coming home tonight I thought of all the chores I had lined up for the weekend. And I know, by the time Monday gets here I will feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from knocking things off the list. And while that will feel good, it is the moments of joy and laughter that will resonate the most.

There have been times in my life when happiness was not so easy to find. Getting back in touch with joy made everything else fall into place. Now, I measure my weeks and commitments to provide myself space to find joy, to laugh, and to inspire dreaming. It’s then that my dreams feel almost as though I can touch them – convert them to a reality.

I love Charley’s fearlessness. Her trust that those hands will catch her just as easily as they tossed her in the air. When is it that we, as adults, lose that? I love her lack of pretension and awareness. When is it that we, as adults, became more concerned with how we are perceived than how we actually feel?

I see all of this in this photo and I aspire for her attributes. A fresh approach. A new way of thinking. A willingness. A fearlessness. Endless possibilities.

I see all of that in this photo.

But mostly, it just brings me joy.

September 12, 2014 / P J Charles

In Residence

checking in

The next stop was the Chateau Marmont

Chateau is the perfect co-conspirator; as Harry Cohn, founder of Columbia Pictures said in 1939, “If you must get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.”

Walking through the halls you wish that the walls could talk.

A great movie about the hotel is Somewhere.

Somewhere is a witty, moving, and empathetic look into the orbit of actor Johnny Marco (played by Stephen Dorff). You have probably seen him in the tabloids; Johnny is living at the legendary Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood. He has a Ferrari to drive around in, and a constant stream of girls and pills to stay in with. Comfortably numbed, Johnny drifts along. Then, his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) from his failed marriage arrives unexpectedly at the Chateau. Their encounters encourage Johnny to face up to where he is in life and confront the question that we all must: which path in life will you take?

And a semi autobiographical view into the childhood of this interesting woman.

The perfect spot to end our trip……

September 11, 2014 / P J Charles



The residences are discreetly tucked away in groves of trees intentionally unobtrusive. Organic. Cloistered.

September 10, 2014 / P J Charles



The garden is lovely. Naturally (pun intended) it is organic with unique specialty crops and growing techniques and much of it is edible (including the dahlias). The grade is a diverse ecosystem of heirloom varietals (oh my, their tomatoes taste like tomatoes from my Dad’s garden), herbs, flowers and other assorted vegetables. I wanted to sit under the apple tree for hours….

September 9, 2014 / P J Charles



Peonies have seemed lately the flower of the moment. I predict Dahlia’s are next. Beautiful and individual – striking in color and texture. The garden was filled with them in an array of colors, shapes and sizes. At dinner, the cheese plate was strewn with petals.

September 8, 2014 / P J Charles

Spirit Nest

Spirit Nest 3

One of the advantages of being without a car is exploring the grounds. I appreciate the lack of some modern accoutrements from time to time. There are moments when no cell service (like our home in Laguna) is welcome. We found that was the case on this morning as we traversed the grounds happening upon this Spirit Nest. Two deer within 20 feet grazed as if we were a part of the natural order of things. They merely looked up, nodded and then went about their business. The Spirit Nest is the creative child of Jayson Fann of the Big Sur Spirit Garden. Coming across the hill from the pond and seeing it on the hillside is exhilarating. Large and sculptural yet organic to its surroundings – it is a place to nap, daydream,and connect with the natural beauty surrounding you which, on this day, included two grazing deer.


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