6 tips from Lady Mary Crawley – lessons from the women of Netflix

women of downton (2)

I love January.  Despite polar temperatures here in the great, white north it is a good time to set a few goals clean out some closets and drawers and review finances.

Because of the cold, it’s also a great time to settle inside and watch and rewatch some of my favourite Netflix shows.  Sadly, Netflix offers up a lot of content that I can’t watch beyond about 10 minutes because they’re awful.  Bad story, bad acting, the works.  And so I revisit the old reliables:  yes, another round of Downton Abbey, The Crown series 1 – again- and series 2 (now  watching it again, too).  Like rereading Jane Austen, the more I watch these excellent series the more I find to be gained on closer inspection, and much for the great woman to learn thanks to the female focus in both series.

So let’s take a few positive lessons from the women at Downton and Buckingham Palace. This may take a while (more like a series of posts) so bear with me – hopefully, it will be both fun and informative.  First up, the heiress apparent.

women of downton
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley

Lady Mary Crowley

How can we not begin with Lady Mary and her ‘I’m-so-freakin-bored-by-you’ voice. What does she do that the rest of us should emulate?

  1. First and foremost, she’s really nice to Anna her ladies’ maid.  Rather than take a strip off Anna she saves her venom for her peers, like her sister, mother, friends and of course, the men in her life.  Someone in a position of power and authority who lords it over those with less power and status is abominable.  We’ve all witnessed the woman who can’t thank the waiter, takes a piece out of the sales assistant in a loud voice, finding every opportunity to be rude and dismissive over those they perceive as beneath them.  Lady Mary throws her weight against those who can take it, and throw it right back.  This is a key factor in maintaining Mary’s likeability because otherwise we wouldn’t give a crap about her. She also does nice things for Anna like giving her access to her doctor, her house (wedding night in the Abbey!) and time off when she needs it (and Anna spent a lot of time in and around prisons).  Mary is a great employer.

What else does Mary do well?

2. She doesn’t rush for anyone.  Slow and steady is the way she enters a room – good posture, commanding, not to be rushed.

3. Lady Mary never gets drunk – that would diminish her verbal capacity to take anyone down a notch at a moment’s notice – message there – stay in control of your sensibilities and you have control of the room.

4. Importantly, she never breaks down in public.  She has terrific falling apart scenes in private but never in front of the family at large or the household.  She reserves emotional collapse for her grandmother, Carson, sometimes with Anna but she keeps it together everywhere else.  She never uses crying to elicit attention or sympathy, and she does not lose her temper in public.  She may say things that cause even her to feel a twinge of regret.  Though, who’re we kidding – she doesn’t regret much other than having her way with the Turk made tricky by him dying in her bed. That was a low point.

5. She can cook one signature dish – scrambled eggs.  If you recall the episode where the new piglets almost die for lack of water and Mary and that attractive government inspector (who also happens to be heir to something or other and so one of her kind) spend all night in evening clothes restoring the piglets to life.  Then they head to the Downton kitchen for a snack and what does our Mary do but whip up some scrambled eggs served with a decent glass of red wine.  Talk about style.  And, dear friends, you do not need more than the ability to scramble an egg because that works pretty much any time of the day or night.

6. Finally, Lady Mary does embrace work.  She takes on the managing of the estate and certainly doesn’t need that useless wimp Tom (more on him in the next post).

I welcome your views on Lady Mary.  What have I missed?  I’m so interested to know what you think her strengths are as we all know her weaknesses.

Next up, Sybille.  I’ll skip Edith for now because she is so delightfully complex.  And I have a bone to pick with Sybille, as much as I love her.



Changing spaces

The more I stand to work the more interested I’ve become in alternative ways of using the space I have.  For example, I like the idea of one long table down the centre of the room with chairs or stools surrounding with plenty of room to eat, to read, to place the laptop, to leave the sewing machine out and ready at a moment’s notice.


Who couldn’t be productive here

Truly, the Japanese do have the advantage on the likes of me – only a deeply sophisticated culture can arrive at such a simple solution.  Floor mats in a pleasing neutral, smooth wood floors, floor to ceiling glass framing green and water, and so perfect for anything you want to get at, long low tables – spaced to kneel or sit cross-legged, and should your legs feel cramped, simply roll away and stretch out on the floor.  When it’s time to stand for a while then the long narrow counter running down the length of the wall provides plenty of standing work/eating/reading room.

Could I let the mid-century modern go in favour of this approach?  I think I could.

And what better thing to wear than a pair of baggy, soft and sensuous coveralls.


What's In And What's Out For Spring 2015, According To Google | The Zoe Report:

I’ve already got the grey hair so nothing else need change.  🙂





Waiting for Wonder Woman

wonder woman
Glorious – Wonder Woman

After seeing the trailer for the new Wonder Woman movie I’m pretty darned pumped and extremely disappointed that it’s not being released until June 2017.   Why should I care?  Because we all need heroes and the great woman needs an action heroine just as much as your average great man.  I cut my reading teeth on my brother’s extensive collection of superhero comic books and I still hold out dreams of creating my own crime-fighting superheroine.  The genre is alive and well – I’ve just brought home a Batwoman graphic novel with a feature role for Wonder Woman.  They are decidedly muscular clearly the gym culture has influenced the illustrator.  The glimpse I had from the new Wonder Woman trailer was an entirely different species than the Lynda Carter tv version of the ‘70s whose bustier  always looked like it was about to fall down which I believe was most of the appeal of the show.  In this new version she looks like she could take just about anyone down and more to the point, really wants to.

A thigh worth owning – Batwoman

Kathy Kane, a.k.a. Batwoman, was first introduced in the ‘50s to counter any notion that with the introduction of Robin to the Batman storyline that the twosome might be mistaken for being gay.  She had a strong start and then disappeared until 2006, coming back as lesbian this time around.  A nice way to close the homophobic chapter.

Normally, I would be turned-off by the over-sexualization of the female body, which just about drives me crazy in every other circumstance, but in this realm the extreme physical perfection of the human species is entirely right.  The male counterparts couldn’t be more perfect – they all look like Olympic swimmers and it doesn’t get better than that.  A super-buff, perfectly proportioned, long-haired beauty who can kickass is just what we readers want to see.

When Angelina Jolie launched Lara Croft into the movie world I still remember women talking about her buff look and how that was the new ideal.  At the time, and if I remember correctly, actresses seemed to be in a battle to the bottom of the weight scale and so Lara Croft was a welcome relief.  Kick boxing took off just after that movie and isn’t that a nice counterpoint to pole dancing.  I believe Lara is returning to the silver screen soon – we will hope for a worthy version.

Best outfit of all – Lara Croft

A superheroine post would not be complete without a modern incarnation – Helen Parr, stay-at-home superheroine/mom – Elastigirl.  With Holly Hunter’s confident voice bringing Helen to life she’s the most relatable with her wide hips and practical bob.  Her family-first motto and fearlessness in the face of danger, coaching her kids to be just as fearless is lesson in good parenting.  We have to wait until 2019 for the next instillation.

Give ’em hell, Helen – I mean Elastigirl

Are there any other superheroines out there that I don’t know about?  Please let me know.  There aren’t nearly enough and I can only hope there are some clever young graphic artists out there who are madly crafting the next generation of superwomen.

Why you should be standing right now


For those of us not working at tech startup the standing desk may yet be a novelty, but the movement is on the rise.  In Deskbound, Standing up in a sitting world, Dr. Kelly Starrett makes a compelling argument in support of standing for the larger part of your day and an absolute minimum of two hours per day.  Exercise – meaning going to the gym –  is not sufficient to counteract the insidious health issues triggered by hours of sitting.  He references Dr. James Levine on the difference in calorie burning by someone who sits at a desk for eight hours a day – 300 calories – compared to someone who is not deskbound (like a waiter) who clocks around 1300 calories per day.  ‘Non-exercise activity’ is what you do when you’re not at the gym and includes things like standing, walking, cooking, gardening, and even fidgeting.  Ever know someone with restless leg syndrome? Are they uncommonly thin?  NEA or NEAT, Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis is the reason.

I can’t imagine the difference it would make in the school system if kids with all their natural energy, might stand for a good part of the day.  Consider the impact on childhood obesity if we assigned every student a standing desk.

I recently converted, or should I say, added a standing desk to my office routine.  In my case, I’ve opted for a raised table with stacks of copy paper to make the necessary ergonomic adjustments:  Arms at 90 degrees, monitor centred at eye level, mouse stacked up on my right.  My routine is to stand until I get into the office, meaning a standing breakfast, cycle/walk to the subway, standing in the subway (easily done since there are rarely seats available), once in I place my laptop in the docking station and sit for about 1.5 hours and then switch to my standing desk. Because I can’t be bothered to unplug and move my docking station when I shift to standing, I work on wifi for 2.5 hours and until my battery runs out and then switch back to sitting.  And repeat.  The better option is to go for the Oristand, a nifty $25 standing desk that is collapsible, lightweight, strong and ergonomic for most.  The Oristand is the invention of Ryan Holmes of Hootsuite fame along with two clever designers who took on the challenge of designing an affordable, storage-friendly folding desk.  I will be adding one to my home office in place of the current step stool which is absolutely better than nothing.

Importantly, you need to keep moving at your standing desk.  Raising a foot on a book or step stool, shifting weight and even lifting one foot after the other.  I am amazed at the muscles required just to lift one foot for a minute.  It activates your brain and keeps the blood flowing.  It’s amazing the difference a small change like a standing desk can make to your fitness, focus and energy.  As women doing the double if not triple shift on any given day, this easy hack helps integrate mobility into our regular scheduleOristand without a second thought.

If you don’t want to shell out the US$25 then stack some books, grab a step stool and get standing.


Oristand http://oristand.co/#about_ori

Deskbound, Standing up in a sitting world, Dr. Kelly Starrett

Get Up!: Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, Dr. James Levine

7 Exercises to undo the damage of sitting:  Art of Manliness  http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/08/05/undo-the-damage-of-sitting/