All posts by Mrs. Blandings

I Don’t Have Breast Cancer

I don’t have breast cancer. I did two weeks ago, but I don’t anymore.

When I went in for my regular mammogram at the first of the year the nurse and I did the regular dance of step up, hold your breath, step back. Except after she scanned my left breast, she told me to wait. She wanted to scan it again.

“I’m sorry,” the nurse said as she pressed my breast flat against one panel, holding it in place as she lowered the other panel, which ground down the length of my breastbone until the machine met the resistance of the tissue. It could go no further.

“Hold your breath,” she said. There was the high squeal of the machine, then release.

“I’m so sorry,” said the nurse.

“Why would you be sorry?” I asked her.

“I know it’s uncomfortable.”

“Don’t worry about my being comfortable. Just take the best picture,” I reassured her.

“You’d be surprised how many women tell me they don’t get regular mammograms because it hurts.”

I’ve done this every year for over ten years. The doctors and nurses watch me closely. My mother died of breast cancer at 52. Several years ago a spot on one of my scans looked funny. I went back for a biopsy, which turned out to be fine. I got the news while I was having lunch with a friend in her kitchen. She opened a bottle of champagne and I went to the 1st grade program a little tipsy and very relieved.

This time it wasn’t exactly fine. My scan showed calcifications. The radiologist, who looked as if he were from central casting – tall, silver haired, glasses, experienced, but not too old – pointed to the screen. The image, charcoal background with my breast visible in lighter grey, showed two areas with sweeping dotted arches that looked as if someone had spilled powdered sugar across a soapstone counter as they spooned it from container to cup.

“This one I’m not worried about,” he said. “This one,” the slender tip of his silver pen made an arc over a series of the tiny white dots on the screen, ”I’m fifty percent worried about.”

I looked at the screen and turned back to him.

“I know you know what you’re looking at. If it’s cancer, just tell me.”

His gaze was steady.

“I don’t know that it’s cancer. But we should biopsy it.”

“What do you think it is?”

“I think it could be ductal carcinoma in situ.”

He and the nurses went on to use terms like, “pre-cancer,” “non-invasive” and “stage zero.” I felt as if I had some sort of cancer-lite. A bother, but no big deal.

One week and one procedure later as I left the room where the doctor had performed the biopsy, the nurse said, “Don’t worry. Ten years ago they discovered my cancer the same way. You’re going to be fine.”

She didn’t realize that until that moment I wasn’t worried. I thought I was fine. Fine, as it turns out, can have a broad definition.

I did have ductal carcinoma in situ. In the seven weeks since the original mammogram, I’ve had a biopsy, out-patient surgery, meetings with a medical oncologist and radiologists and an outpouring of love and support from my partner, family and friends that was not a surprise, but for which I am incredibly grateful.

Last night I was going through my mother’s medical records regarding her breast cancer following an appointment with my medical oncologist. There were details that I remembered and details that I had not retained. There were similarities in her cancer and mine. We were both diagnosed in our early 50s. I was shaken to see that her tumor was in the exact spot that mine had been. “Left breast, 3:00 position.”

This was unsettling. But there were also dissimilarities.

My mother’s tumor was 4 cm. Mine, which could not be felt, was 1.5 cm.

My mother’s cancer had metastasized. Two of her lymph nodes tested positive. My margins were clean.

My mother had a complete mastectomy. I had a lumpectomy, the results of which, even just a few weeks later, are minimal.

My mother’s prognosis was tentative. Mine is entirely positive.

My mother died just over a year after her diagnosis. I will have four weeks of daily radiation and take Tamoxifen for the next five years, not to treat my cancer – I don’t have cancer now – but as preventative measures against recurrence.

There are other lifestyle, and possibly biological, differences between my mother and me. But I believe the single most significant difference is annual mammograms.

My very early stage breast cancer was diagnosed through a regular annual mammogram. There is every reason to believe that I am fine because we caught this so early.

Please, get your mammogram. The discomfort, both physical and emotional, is far less than the physical and emotional toll of the discovery of an invasive tumor.

I’m fine. Get your mammogram.



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Current Crush – Shawn Henderson

The third floor (which is almost sheetrocked and causing a lot of excitement around here) has a bit of a different slant than the rest of the house.  (And I’m not only referring to the pitch of the ceiling.)

My rooms have always had a modern this, a contemporary that, but they do seem to end up looking like cottages furnished from rummage sales no matter what my original intent.

The boys’ rooms are a better blend. They don’t allow chintz, of course – or rusty things, for that matter – so their spaces are more mod than mom.

Since the third floor will house my sometimes-home oldest, it makes sense that it has a more modern sensibility.  Still, I find that in the hardware and lighting I’ve ordered so far I want much cleaner lines.  The plan for the space relies heavily on black and white and the texture of wood.

Which is why I’m drawing so much inspiration from New York-based designer, Shawn Henderson.

Warm comfort combined with cool sophistication is always a winning combination in my book.

I’ve followed Henderson’s career from the beginning and have always been a fan, but I’ve noticed recently that every single thing I see of his on Instagram and in print is a complete and total home run.

I just hope he doesn’t mind my stalking.  I still have a kitchen to do someday.

All images courtesy of Mr. Henderson.

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Happy New Year!

Camillas in blue and white porcelain HG 1.03

Wishing you the very best 2018!

The image, above, photographed by Maria Robledo, is from House & Garden, January 2003.  I flipped through a few issues to find something I liked and I was not surprised to find that there is so much design that holds up fifteen years on.  I’m going to start publishing one vintage image on Fridays.  Please note that if you subscribe and do not want multiple emails, there is a weekly options for your subscription.  


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In the In-between

Mrs.B Half Finished Full Bath

This time of year always has a strange in-between sort of feel to it.  We’re past Christmas and Hanukka, which are impossible to ignore even if you celebrate neither, and not quite to the new year, which always holds the illusion of a fresh start.  It’s not really as if we believe 01-01 will be magically different than 12-31, but it has a clean sound to it and, well, why not?  Fresh starts must start somewhere.  I think the image above of the second floor bath sums it up.

Bath(ish) Straight Ahead

There is a lot complete on the third floor renovation, and there is a lot undone, including – sometimes – me.  The bathroom, tucked just under the eave is shaping up.  I can see it in my head already and I think it is going to be pretty swell, but my contractor keeps using the words, “fine for kids.” I’m not sure he shares my vision.

Closet (whew)

We did make a spot for the closet, which was something of a last-minute save.  My contractor is mystified about the amount of storage I think I need. “What are you going to put up here?” he wonders.  Ah.  Christmas decorations, off-season clothes, pillow forms, fabric remnants.  I can’t wait.

North facing mess

And the windows are in.  Already there’s a remarkable change. Even with today’s single digit temperatures, it was comfortable up there with no heat.  (There will be heat. Swear. It’s coming.)

New Windows and Bookcases

My contractor is also indulging flights of fancy such as bookshelves on the landing at the turn of the stairs.

“Do you need them?” he asked.

“Bookshelves? Oh, yes,” I answered.  “Always.”

He paused in a way that I’ve come to recognize as resignation more than agreement.

“Then you’ll have bookshelves.”

Perhaps the bookshelves will be complete just before – or maybe after – the as-yet-unfinished cabinet in the second floor bath. Certainly in 2018.  2018 is going to be our year.

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Right on Time – Book Reviews

I hate it when people start talking about “last-minute” shopping.  Shopping is shopping and it doesn’t really matter if it happens six months, six days or six hours before you need the thing for which you’re shopping.  So, if you still have some design enthusiasts on your list, I’m recommending the following.  (Plenty of time.  No need to fret.)

If you’ve had the pleasure of stumbling in off the street and through the shop and up the stairs to the wonderful cabinet of curiosities that is Deyrolle, you’ll enjoy each and every image of this new book.  (I mean your sister-in-law will or best friend or whomever receives it.) Photographer Francis Hammond has captured the magic of this place in A Parisian Cabinet of Curiosities: Deyrolle by Louis Albert de Broglie.  I do regret that the book itself is not larger, but it is a lovely reminder of a few hours well-spent.


The thing that has made Houses That We Dreamt Of: The Interiors of Delphine & Reed Krakoff a constant on my night stand and desk is that while it appears at first glance as entirely aspirational – Louis, Lalanne and Line Vautrin trip across the pages – the work is remarkably translatable.  There are great lessons here about placement and restraint – including the appeal of a white wall – as well as a clear personal commitment to creating not just house, but home.


I read the New York Times on paper everyday.  Sure, I read the news on the app while still in bed, but the good stuff I read at the dining room table with my first cup of coffee.  The best parts are the homes in the New York Times Magazine.  I have the previous compilation that was printed in 1976 and am now thrilled to have Home: The Way We Live Now on my shelf.  That this house, the home of Jill and Brian Faherty the founders of Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co. is featured is nothing short of kismet. The third floor renovation has benefited from their product.


In general, I don’t accept books for review unless I think I’ll cover them.  There’s no need – I have a book storage problem as it is and I have no interest in simply acquiring.  The digital layout of Studio KO’s monograph was stunning, but I wasn’t sure it was a good fit for Mrs. B.  Ultimately, I could not pass it up.  The architecture is so clean and simply stunning that I wanted it in my library and thought you might, too.  Even the oldest, in his third year of architecture school and a consummate critic said, “These guys are good.”


This book is for the purist, the enthusiast, the fanatic.  So many of us start picking up a magazine, painting a wall, looking for fabric and end up needing to know more.  There are essential books for every design library and this, Renzo Mongiardino: A Painterly Vision is one.  Classic decoration at its finest, Mongiardino’s rooms are rich and layered.  Studying his work will elevate your aesthetic even if you shy from the ornate.


I’m reminding you, too, that Gil Schafer’s A Place to Call Home is a must-have, as is Miguel Flores-Vianna’s The Haute Bohemians, which will surely be a classic.

So there you have it. Something for every design crazy on your list from your niece with her new starter home to your eclectic neighbor for whom you can never find just the right thing. And, maybe there’s a little something to soothe your soul at the end of all the running around.

To that end, I do encourage you to shop your local book store, but I’ve included links here to make things easy.

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