Monday, August 25, 2014

One Perfect Thing

DEBORAH CROMBIE: A couple of weeks ago Rhys prompted us to talk about the things in our lives that we couldn't bear to give up, even if we had too many and/or no longer needed or used them. (Think concert T-shirts... And keep in mind that Hank swears she really needs all those black suits...) I confessed that I have a FEW tea pots. Now I have to cringe and add that a rough count makes that, um, maybe twenty...

Why so many tea pots? I asked myself. Obviously, I drink tea. And I just like them. My grandmother liked them. I have one I inherited from her, and my very first tea pot is one she bought me. So reasons both sentimental and practical. But there is more. I realized I had spent decades searching for THE PERFECT TEAPOT. One that holds lots of tea. One that doesn't drip when poured. One with a handle generous enough that you don't burn your fingers against the hot pot. One with a lid that doesn't fall off when you pour!!

And then I realized that I had finally found it. THE PERFECT TEAPOT.  (Shamefacedly, I confess that I actually have two, but one has preference because I like the pattern better.) It is made by Emma Bridgewater, a pottery in the UK, and I hereby swear that I will never buy another teapot... unless, of course, it's another Emma Bridgewater in a pattern I can't resist.

So, REDS, what is ONE PERFECT THING you've found in your lives? Silly or practical, something you use everyday or only occasionally, but one thing that simply couldn't be bettered.

RHYS BOWEN: I've been looking around the house trying to see if anything ranked as "the perfect thing". My car is pretty good with all the safety bells and whistles, but I might rather have a Porsche or a Tessler or even a Jaguar. Then I looked out of the window and the sun was just setting and lights were twinkling on across the valley and a ribbon of fog was moving in and I thought: that's it. I live in the perfect place. I'm half an hour from the middle of San Francisco. I can get there on a ferry. But I'm on a hill in the middle of nature, with a lovely view. What more could I want? (of course the house itself is not perfect--needs new kitchen counters, new hall floor, new carpet and painting in the living room etc etc. But my situation and view--just perfect.

HALLIE EPHRON : Oh, Debs, I LOVE Emma Bridgewater pottery. Especially her bird mugs. I gave my husband the grebe and bought myself the hoopoe. But my PERFECT thing is a red fleece coat. It's still in perfect condition, even though I bought it when... thinking thinking... a few years before my first book was published, so in the late '90s, in a little boutique near where Kate's Mystery Books used to be on upper Mass Ave in Cambridge. It was on sale.

Here's what I love about it:
- it's red (yay, red!)
- it's warm
- it's short and swingy and makes me feel like Mary Tyler Moore in the opening of her old TV shows (spinning around, throwing her hat up in the air)
- it has a rolled collar that I can wrap around my face for extra warmth
- it has pockets lined in velvety fleece
- it can double as a bathrobe in a pinch
- rolled up, it's the perfect pillow to prop up against a plane window and snooze against
- rain shakes off it
- it's machine washable
- it looks sensational with my turquoise pashmina

I'm sitting at my computer right now, wrapped up in it. Wearing it is something to look forward to as summer changes into fall.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I'm thinking about Hallie's coat so deeply it's hard to focus. Okay. My
first thought: this whisk. Because it also flattens into *this*!  How cool and clever is that? You know how necessary a whisk is for cooking, and you also know how impossible they are to clean. This one flips open to whisk, and closes to stir and clean easily. Okay, its not comfortable for a pillow on the plane, and doesn't repel rain. But for what it does and the problems it solves, its amazing. But the winner:  I LOVE my new suitcase. I wore out the old one, after ten years, needed a newie. I cannot believe how much stuff I can get into this, it's astonishing. It's like it has some mad secret Hermione thing that allows you to add clothes (and shoes!) but not take up any space. It has little zips and pockets exactly where you need them, and it's very light, and slips right into the overhead compartment, and it's so rollable, yesterday when I got out of the cab at the Nashville airport, its rolled (upright!) down the curb cut all by itself.
"It's trying to escape!" I told the cab driver.
Also my long sleeved white gap t-shirt. And my black pashmina (shawl, pillow, coverup, bathrobe, blanket). And our garden.

LUCY BURDETTE: My two furry guys are the closest thing to perfect in my house (husband excepted of course.) Not that they are perfect, but perfectly entertaining. Yoda, for example, woke me up at 6 am, but by purring. Started out softly but then got louder and louder. You can't really be mad at a guy like that.

And Tonka, well dear Tonka wants to be with me every moment. He's thrilled when I come home and devastated when I go out. And they are endlessly entertaining as a pair too--every night at dinner time they play a game called "Knock the cat off the counter." Tonka rarely wins, but it never dims his enthusiasm.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I'm tempted to be obnoxious and say, "My children!" with sunbeams shooting out of my eyes and bluebirds flying about my head. Ha! No.  My one perfect thing is my black velvet sleep mask. Don't laugh. It's super comfortable, with a cushy rolled liner that keeps it from squishing my eyeballs and a soft wide elastic strap that never snags in my hair. It totally blocks light, even if Ross has his bedside lamp on reading while I'm trying to go to sleep. I need total darkness to sleep, so I haven't traveled without this sleep mask in eleven years. You know all those annoying lights that shine out of appliances and under the door in hotel rooms? Gone. Peaceful sleep assured. That's what really gives me sunbeams and bluebirds.

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Hmmm, this is tough, you guys! I have to say that the thing I couldn't live without is my passport. Even though I'm not always using it, the idea that this one document can more or less get me anywhere in the world is nothing short of miraculous. Continuing the travel theme, I recently splurged on a Really Good Suitcase. Light and so easy to wheel. Since I mostly travel alone, it's just fabulous. Oh! And this year I bought nude heels that are actually comfortable, even after a long night of standing. A seriously great pair of shoes, just when I was ready to give up on heels. Huzzah!

DEBS: Hallie, your coat is adorable, and you do look like MTM! Hank and Susan, you can tell we travel. I love my passport, and I have great luggage, too, Biaggi, which I bought when my fifteen-year-old suitcases finally bit the dust. But Hank, I want that whisk!!!  Where did you get it! And I want Julia's sleep mask, and Susan's comfortable heels. (What are they???) And I wouldn't mind Rhys's view, either.

As for the pets, Lucy, Tonka and Yoda are the most admirable pair. I'm afraid with three dogs and three cats I couldn't pick, however. It would be like choosing a favorite child (which is easy for me:-))

We REDs are a font of brilliant ideas!  How about you, readers? Tell us your ONE PERFECT THING!

P.S. Hallie, Emma Bridgewater is one sale this week, with ten pound shipping to the US. Just in case you're tempted...

P.S.S. Stay tuned as we have a great week this week! Guests Pam Jenoff, Tammy Kaehler, Marcia Talley, and Charles Todd, as well as some Labor Day celebrations!

P.S.S.S. Here's view 2 of Hank's magic whisk! I WANT this!


  1. I had to laugh when I got to Julia's response because when I first started reading, I was actually thinking that my answer was going to be that my one perfect thing would be my children/family.
    I must admit, however, that like Rhys we live in a pretty perfect place. Today the deer were walking through the back yard . . . .
    One perfect thing? My reliable, still works all the time, rotary dial phone.

  2. I love my still works all the time rotary dial phone, too, if only for the pleasure of watching a teenager stare at it trying to figure out how the thing works. Take that, smart phones and remote controls!

  3. 4315The heels are Prada and I got them on eBay. But I'm a convert—they have some serious stability built in. Really a wonder of design that will probably get me through any number of Mystery Convention events with happy feet!

    Hallie, so jealous over your coat. It IS so Mary Tyler Moore.

  4. You guys are great, but you forgot to mention maker of both suitcase and whisk!

  5. The suitcase is TUMI Alpha 2. ANd I have Facebook to thank for it! So amazing. I asked on FB--what's a good suitcase? And got a whole raft of answers. Tumi was not a widespread choice, but those who mentioned it had a special enthusiasm. And then, there I was, right by a Tumi store, and..

    And the whisk--I used it this boring for egg whites, is it not amazing? And you have to admit Jonathan got some pretty fancy shots of it. It's from a company called JosephJoseph, but I think I got it at Sur La TAble.

  6. And may I say, this blog topic has changed my perception a little. I am looking at things very differently today, with appreciation and scrutiny.

    I look at my little sauté pan, and think, oh, this really works! I love my white matelasse bedspread, it's so lovely and flat; and the view from my kitchen window, all the phlox and dahlias are out; and how the timer on my new oven really works the way a person needs it to work.

    Thanks, Debs!

  7. We haven't lived in a house that supports a rotary phone it years (actually, we gave up our landline anyway).

    One perfect thing? Geez. I can't even think of anything. My Macbook Air? But no, I could write without it (yes, it would be more difficult).

    I'd be very sad if my Marvin the Martian mug broke (because I've had it since 1998 and you can't get it anymore), but I'd find something else.

    This is a hard one Debs. I guess I'm not much on things.

  8. This is fun!

    LOVE all these cool and perfect and necessary things.

    We, just a few weeks ago, bought a rotary phone from a company owned by Joseph Finder's brother. It's Wonderful old phones meant to last! With quality tone and clarity. He even has some cool old phones from the 20s, 30s and 40s. Refitted to just plug into your existing phone plug.

    The one we have is a red rotary and every single person I've talked to on it has commented on how great the sound is. We get "wow! What kind of phone are you one?" a lot. Love it love it love it.

    But that's not my favorite perfect thing.

    That would be my Corral Angel Wing cowboy boots.

  9. I agree with Hank, just having read this blog post makes me look around at my regular things with new appreciation. My favorite thing is probably my small electric coffee maker from the 70s. I never seem to drink more than one cup of coffee or tea, and this makes two cups, so it's pretty close. It's a plug in and pour model, takes up almost no room, and has the perfect touch of retro to match the rest of my kitchen. And I got it from eBay!

  10. I should not have said how perfect my location was. The night after I wrote that we had an EARTHQUAKE. Reminder that California comes at a price.
    Luckily all is well. We are far enough from Napa.

  11. WHOA - Stop the presses! A round of applause and a group hug to Hank and Julia for their Anthony nominations for Best Novel. Well done and well deserved!

  12. I twice had the perfect dog. Both are, alas, at the Rainbow Bridge. The others are/have been great, but are not perfect.

    What THINGS can't I live without? Several glass refrigerator dishes, different sizes, WITH THEIR GLASS COVERS, from the Thirties or Forties. Found them at the cottages years ago. Use them constantly.

    And when my Renaud's kicks in, my electric throw (not a full-size blanket) which is about five feet square. Saves the day.

  13. One perfect thing? I'm drawing a bit of a blank, I'm afraid. I just don't think in those terms, although I do like most of what I have.

  14. It does make you appreciate the little every day things if you think about it that way--at least it does me.

    Is this a male/female thing? I'll ask my hubby to name something. I can tell you that he has a great pocket/utility knife that he loves and is never without, and a great flashlight.

    Any more guys out there with thoughts?

  15. I have lots of perfect things, my dogs Toby and Penny Lane, my cat Eliot, my wonderful partner Julie, my kids and grandkids, my BFF Pauline.

    So since I can't choose from any of the above, I'll get to the inanimate list.

    About ten years ago my favorite kitchen store went out of business, had a great sale. I bought a Staub French cooker, was $400 marked down to $275, still a huge purchase amount for a pot. I only use it about three times a week! I couldn't possibly make chili, soup, stew, stuffed peppers (on tonight's menu), pot roast, chicken an dumplings, or pretty much anything else. I used it this summer for making jam for the first time. It weighs as much as I do, takes both hands to lift, and it is indispensable. Forget any other brand. There is nothing like a Staub, made in France of course.

  16. Though we have a shelf full of travel coffee mugs, there is a red metal one that is mine. It is perfect. It holds about 24 ounces of coffee or so. The lid had two settings. When it is in closed mode, it is truly closed and won't spill a drop, and it will keep the coffee hot an amazingly long time. When it is in open mode, I am able to drink out of it and it never drips. Which is what most makes it unlike all the other travel mugs. Oh, and while I am right-handed, I love that the lid is made with a lip on both sides, so that it could be used equally comfortably by a lefty.

  17. Oh! This is a subject dear to my heart. The Quest for just the right things is big in my family. First, I nominate my (ancient) George Foreman grill, which is small enough not to take up the whole counter, and it works for all kinds of cooking. If it finally breaks, I will weep because they don't make this small one anymore. Also after years of searching, I found the perfect LBD, from Eileen Fisher. I can wear it anywhere, any season. And I have the perfect wooden spoon, handmade by a woodworker whom I will never find again, so I take extra good care of it and will put it in my will to the most appreciative daughter. (Ahem!) And.....yeah, this one is BMW. When you finally find the perfect thing, and you can be happy with it for years and years--like Hank's suitcase--there's no need for a lot of other stuff.

  18. Kaye, you are absolutely right about holding the presses. First order of business is to congratulate Hank and Julia on their well-deserved Anthony nominations. Congrats dear ladies! I could never choose between those two amazing books.

    Gosh, I have lots of favorite things, but I'm going to have to go with my Bunn coffee maker, as it is the best I've ever had. I've used one for probably 15 years now (on my second one), and it brews coffee quickly, which in the morning is essential. If you love coffee, Bunn is the only way to go for a coffee maker.

    Debs, I remember you talking about Emma Bridgewater teapots somewhere, and I have that site bookmarked. I haven't ordered anything, but I hope to get to England sometime in the new future, and an Emma Bridgewater teapot is on my list to buy.

    Ellen, my daughter has Renaud's, too, and I always buy her really good quality, warm socks for the winter. She was finally diagnosed with it when she was breastfeeding her daughter four and a half years ago. People might not think of the breast as an extremity, but the pain and trouble she had with hers led to the diagnosis. Of course, she had always, since a child, had ice cold feet and hands.

  19. Kathy, you are better off buying Emma B when it is on sale with the cheap US shipping. They take off the VAT (UK value added tax) which means your shipping is virtually free. If you ship one back from London it will cost you more than the tea pot, and they come boxed and are quite big to try to carry on a plane.

  20. Nancy M, I feel that way about my six-year-old Honda Accord. I could certainly use and SUV, and I'd like driving a sportier car, but I love my Honda. It is just a great all-round car.

    I can, however, conceive that there would be another car in my future (although not any time soon) that I would love as much.

    Not so the Emma tea pot:-)

  21. Ann, I am jealous of your Staub. I have a 5 quart Le Creuset that sits on my cooker. It's lime green and I love it--use it for everything. But it's not a Staub:-)

  22. Fun post--love reading what people treasure.

    I thought of my garden trowel right away. It's old. It has a plain wooden handle that has worn smooth from the years of digging weeds and holes for plants I want to grow. Along with hand pruners--equally old and beloved--it comes with me every trip out to the garden. Every time I think I'm doing something and I won't need them, I end up fetching them.

    I've occasionally thought of doing a photo series on things I love. That might be a good winter project, once the bulbs are planted and the garden's put to bed!

  23. Adding my congratulations to Julia and Hank for their "Best Novel" Anthony Award nominations . . . .

  24. What a great topic, follows on with the gratitude posts popping up on social media right now. Wow, my favorite thing - a 1960s vintage hot pink, orange and yellow papier-mache coin bank. I bought it at a barn sale (in a real barn) but it's the clone of one I had from Takashemaya back in the 1960s. Hank and Julia - Mega congrats!

  25. Late to post, as usual … After thinking about this during the day, I have to say “my office.” After 20 years I finally am really comfortable in my home office. I love the desk (it’s big) and the return for the laptop and second monitor. The chair is comfortable. I can see out the window, past a bird feeder, to the street so I don’t feel completely cut-off. To paraphrase an Ephron (I think) I am happy at my desk.

    Deb Crombie, when you car shop check out the Honda Crosstour. It’s a sporty Accord, with AWD. I came really close a year ago and (much as I love my Camry) still look longingly at Crosstours.

  26. Thanks for the tip on buying the teapot online being cheaper, Debs. It would certainly be easier, too.

  27. Deb, you know Kendall is my perfect thing. But for good measure. and Just to annoy my sister-in-law who tried to keep Steve and me from getting married, let's add the Copeland Spode Great Britain Gainsborough teapot with the cute little peach finial.

  28. After my first trip to the UK in 1973, I knew I had to have an electric tea kettle. I've had a few since then, but the one I have now is absolutely the best ever. Perfect, in fact. It's a Cuisinart, at least fifteen years old, is used several times a day, and just keeps plugging along. On cold, rainy days (we used to have those in California)it's cozy just to hear it burbling.

  29. Judy, someone else suggested a Cross Tour to me other day. Being a confirmed Honda owner, that might be "the perfect car." Will have to check it out:-)

  30. Lenita, I have two, one in the kitchen and one upstairs in my office. I don't remember what brand--I bought them from the English Tea Store, but I LOVE them!

  31. Reine, if I had to choose the Perfect Dog, I think it would be Kendall. Coming from this German shepherd owner and lover, that is high praise indeed.

  32. Deb, Kendall thinks he's a movie star now that he's seen his pictures on your new web page! He's already tuning up his nose at picking up dirty socks. Now I'm afraid to let him read your comment.

  33. My one perfect thing is my Golden Retriever, Charlie. So good, so loving, so always there for me, I put him in my first novel even though all the other characters are fictional. Bourne