Sunday, February 3, 2013

Living a Beautiful Life - The Rest of the Story

Author and Houseguest
Alexandra Stoddard
The year was 2007. The editorial board of the magazine for which I was contributing editor had chosen as a theme for the year "Living a Beautiful Life." We planned on having issues filled with features and photos profiling those designers, artists, shop owners, and bon vivants who were living beautifully but also helping others to live beautiful lives as well.

Who better to have come present her own 'grace notes' on gracious living than Alexandra Stoddard, interior designer and author of Living a Beautiful Life: 500 Ways to Add Elegance, Order, Beauty and Joy to Every Day of Your Life.

I was to make contact with Ms. Stoddard and imagine my surprise when I called the number listed on her website and she answered the phone from her Manhattan apartment. We chatted for a bit and over the next week or so confirmed arrangements for her to come and speak and autograph books afterwards.

She and her husband Peter Megargee Brown, retired attorney and author, arrived on a late Thursday afternoon in early March. I picked them up at the airport and drove them to my house. There was a huge convention in town that week and I was unable to secure a hotel room anywhere nearby so I turned my small house into a bed and breakfast for two nights. 

I had fresh flowers, pastries, teas, chocolates, coffee and as many other little luxuries as I could think of that might make my guests comfortable. I turned my house over to them (I only have one bedroom) and went to stay with my aunt who lived just five minutes away. 

The next day, Friday, we had arranged for a telephone interview promoting Ms. Stoddard's appearance with a local radio host. As she and I sat in my living room waiting for the phone call, I looked up and here came husband Peter toddling down the hall and into the room wearing a robe of mine over his pajamas. A lovely frock flowering with pink rosebuds. He found it hanging on the back of the bathroom door, thought it looked comfortable, and put it on. 

It was a very surreal moment. Famously gracious author sitting in my living room being broadcast live on the radio and her husband styling about in my cotton robe. 

Believe me, nothing that happened the rest of their stay could top that scene. 

The events we planned for the weekend - a luncheon, a cocktail party, her well-attended presentation and the book signing - went off without a hitch. 

I still have the infamous robe and am dire to ever part with it. Such a memory.

And that is the story of how I came to have a famous author stay at my house. 


  1. It has been simply delightful to sit here and read your two posts about your house guests, Belle. Alexandra Stoddard's books and words kept me company one winter in the late 1990's as I recovered from surgery. They were so inspiring and filled me with so many ways to celebrate life; they still do. I often think of her "grace notes" and her gracious ways.

    Your memories of "the infamous robe" had me chuckling .

    1. Glad to bring you a chuckle today, Penny. Yes, Ms. Stoddard is really the grande dame of gracious living, don't you think? I am happy to know that she inspired you as well. I think of her and Peter often. They have retired from Manhattan and now reside in a village in a beautiful life, no doubt.

  2. Hi to all who read this. My name is James O'Neill and I live in the UK...I am here because I came across this website after doing some research on Peter Megargee Brown as I am deeply interested in a book he wrote called "The Art of Questioning" which I hope will help sharpen my skills in the art of litigation. I am developing myself as a writer. Vocabulary and the ability to defend myself verbally is something that has fascinated me for a very long time. Now here, reading this blog, I am also interested in the book written by his a beautiful life. I shall now add this to my wishlist and work my way to it as soon as I can. Meanwhile...may I compliment this webpage for its elegance, simplicity and beauty - it's been a joy to pass thru and spend a few moments here albeit briefly. Before I leave I would like to pass my kindest regards to Peter and Alexandra and thank them for being an inspiration to many, including me.

    1. Hello, James. I was delighted to read your comments. I found Peter and Alexandra to be charming guests. Peter especially is very funny and warm. He is quite a character. Alexandra has written several books on living well and I have enjoyed reading them and putting many of her suggestions into practice.

      Thank you for visiting Belle, Book, Candle. I hope you will drop by again. Good luck with your writing and 'questioning'. I am sure Peter would love to hear from you. He and Alexandra live in Stonington, Connecticut. The address is on her website alexandrastoddard{dot}com. She writes a monthly newsletter (but perhaps you know this already) and features news of Peter and many photos.

      Another of her books that I could recommend is "You are Your Choices: 50 Ways to Live the Good Life."

  3. Dear Belle, How kind of you to respond to my little note of yesterday. I can't tell you how enthralled I was to find your little message waiting for me when I came back here this evening. You are very kind and considerate and I Thank You for taking the time to write to me. I am amazed that you have had both Peter and Alexandra stay in your house as guests, as I noted yesterday, and became quite pleasantly surprised to read the story of your bath robe. Upon doing further research into Alexandra's work I was further surprised to see just how many books she has written. She must be highly talented and I am happy to say that I have placed two of her books in my wish list on my Amazon account. The first piece of good news that I'd like to share with you this evening is that I have today ordered Peter's book from Amazon in The United States. It will take 2-3 weeks to arrive and I am already deeply excited and await it's arrival with eager anticipation. It is warming to know that they were charming guests when they stayed with you and I cannot wait to get stuck into Peter's book. I am SO glad that I came across your website yesterday by clicking here and there on the internet and finding my way to such a warm and inviting place where there appears to be a focus on beautiful living combined with a feeling of sincerity. I like the books that I can see placed on the shelves either side of the page as I am writing to you. This is truly marvellous and makes me feel as if I am sitting by a warm fire on a cold winter's night. Thankyou for informing me that I can write to Peter directly...I had no idea that I could do this and also had no idea that Alexandra writes a monthly newsletter in which I am sure I will take an avid interest as I am constantly seeking ways to grow spiritually and in the most beautiful ways that life will allow and I find it very heart warming that I have found a very special place here in Belle, Book, Candle that is shared by others who feel the same. Thank you for recommending another of Alexandra's books...I shall add it to my wishlist with sincere excitement. As I live in The United Kingdom, I am not too familiar with the geography of many places in the United States...yet I will endeavour to google Stonington in Connecticut to see where they are located. Thank You once again for providing such helpful and inspiring information, and if it's all the same with you - I would dearly enjoy to pass by here from time to time in order to capture the spirit of warmth that emanates so glowingly from your beautiful website. Thank You for all your kindness Belle - even though I am half way across the world - I'd like you to know that I deeply appreciate you taking the time to write me a little note. Warm Regards...James.

    1. Hello, James. Isn't it wonderful to find a book or books that will make us happy and fill our days and evenings with good thoughts and beautiful images. I hope you learn much from Peter's experiences and guidelines in astute questioning.

      As you may have already discovered, Stonington, Connecticut is in New England, the northeast area of America and closest to you! I believe it is a small fishing village that most likely has now been discovered by tourists and those who are looking to retire and enjoy a slower lifestyle.

      You are kind, James, to comment so favorably on the design of Belle, Book, and Candle. Since it is a site mainly focused on books and reading, the background, I think, captures that intent. I am gratified in knowing that it pleases you.

      Please do stop by anytime and feel free to hop, skip, and jump about in the archives here. You never know what you might find.