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BRENDA COFFEE’S FAVORITE THINGS

Photograph by Brenda Coffee @2023
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Last year when I was in Florence, I visited the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella which began as a convent that dates back to 1221. With the plants the Dominican friars grew in their garden, the friars made natural medicinal remedies that had pleasant scents, and eventually, they expanded into fragrances and wellness products they still carry today.

While I was there I bought several boxes of “scented wax tablets” to put in my dresser drawers and give as special gifts.

Each box contains two, handmade wax tablets that make my lingerie drawer smell heavenly. My favorite fragrance is the Rosa Novella. Depending on the scent you purchase, each tablet incorporates delicate flower petals, little rose buds and tiny leaves, and/or slices of lemons and oranges, and their scent is just as pronounced today as it was 10 months ago when I placed them in my drawers. 

HANDBAGS

Last November I met up with some girlfriends in New York City, and it didn’t take a soothsayer to predict we all had handbag fever, no one more than I. I’ve never been a handbag kind of girl. Perhaps my lukewarm historical interest in purses stems from the fact that I spent much of my life carrying camera cases that could accommodate two camera bodies, an assortment of lenses and filters, as well as a spot for lipstick, credit cards, and cash. That’s all I needed.

Traditionally my idea of a handbag has been a clutch or a small crossbody bag that’s big enough for my phone and the few small items I’ve listed above. But during my NYC trip, I searched for the perfect bag like I was looking for Prince Charming.

Schiaparelli leather bags with handcast gold “jewelry” can be found upstairs at Bergdorf Goodman in NYC. The pink bag on the top shelf isn’t big enough for my iPhone, and it’s $7K, and the bags on the lower shelf aren’t much bigger and are over $10K. While I thought they were fun, the prices were nuts!

Bottega Veneta’s Sardine Bag, woven lambskin leather with gold sculptural handle, $4.2K

As it turned out, the bags I liked in NYC were all pieces of art in the $4k-$10K + tax price range. While they’re fun to look at, I didn’t fall in love but more importantly, they were more than I can afford to pay for a bag.

This bag I saw in Florence and I might have considered going back to buy it if I hadn’t gotten so dreadfully sick and been confined to my hotel room for days. But also, here’s the other catch: I didn’t know the price!! I may very well have choked and said no!

Another bag I loved in Florence… those are sterling silver handles… but it was too $$$$

Like my new and unexpected infatuation with fragrances, I’ve fallen hard for what I think of as a big handbag, and it was love at first sight. 

Since Italy, I’ve wanted a white leather bag but none of the ones I’ve seen were quite right until I discovered Strathberry bags, and oh, my stars! They’re fabulous! Every night, since I first discovered them, I began pulling up images of them on my phone before I turned out the light and went to sleep. That’s how I knew it was love! ❤️ I want to be in love before I buy something, don’t you?

The Strathberry Midi Tote, $845, is my favorite, and it comes in four different sizes and a variety of colors. It’s not cheap but it has a chic elegance none of the other $$$$ bags have. 

For an entire week, I thought about the measurements of the smaller two totes in the series—the Mini and the Nano—and compared them to the smaller bags I already have. In the end, I bought the Strathberry Midi Tote because I’m thinking ahead to next year when my memoir will be published. I’ll be embarking on a book signing/speaking tour and will need several things that won’t fit into another small bag. 

Strathberry Totes are meant to be carried by their top handle or by the detachable leather strap. And their signature gold crossbar is an elegant architectural element that keeps thieves from reaching into your bag and stealing something. They also have beautiful little round gold “feet” on the bottom.

FYI, I’ve received no compensation from any of the brands in this post, including Strathberry, although I’d love it if they sent me their Mini Tote in red, but alas, they don’t know I exist. With my deep dive into Strathberry’s gorgeous line of bags, I’ve discovered this Scottland-based brand is a favorite choice of the royals: Kate Middleton, Princess Eugenie, Princess Sophie, and Meghan Markle.

I’m curious, do you have a favorite handbag, why do you like it, and did you choose it for its size, style or color?

TRAVEL

If you’ve been dreaming of taking a special vacation, perhaps something a notch above any of your previous trips, you might consider contacting my great friend, Joanne Socha, at Travel Far & Well, Joanne’s boutique, luxury, travel design firm. Joanne’s company is affiliated with Virtuoso, the leading global network of agencies that specialize in luxury and experiential travel. If Joanne’s name sounds familiar it’s because she helped plan my trip to Tuscany last year and went with me. 

As Joanne says, “Travel is my prescription for everything.”

After a career as an attorney where she worked with small startups and a Fortune 500 company, Joanne began to sense she had more to offer than handling divorces and resolving litigation. Now, in addition to planning fabulous trips for others, Joanne frequently jets off to exotic and beautiful locales. She’s well-versed on destinations, as well as homes, villas, yachts, and private planes to rent, not to mention great hotels. Joanne Socha has experience with them all, and I love hearing about the incredible trips she puts together for her clients.

BTW, Joanne has two of the most beautiful handbags I’ve ever seen! Woah! I even tried to buy one from her and come to think of it, it was white leather! LOL!

BOOKS

Speaking of travel, here are two, riveting fiction books that will keep you turning pages way past your bedtime, but you might think twice about reading them on an airplane because they’ll have you gripping the arm of the person seated next to you. Written by former flight attendant, T.J. Newman, both of Newman’s novels are New York Times bestsellers, and one, Drowning: The Rescue of Flight 1421 (a Novel), is soon to be a major motion picture. I’m not much of a fiction reader but Drowning and Newman’s other book, Falling: A Novel, also named “Best Book of the Year by USA Today” are both on the edge of your seat thrillers with a premise you can’t imagine or ignore. I loved them! Part of what makes them so hard to put down is the details that could only have come from Newman’s inside knowledge as a flight attendant. 

Here’s wishing you all good things this month! Stay strong! Know where you’re headed and know that you are loved, valued, and appreciated by me. ❤️❤️❤️

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Hi Girlfriends,

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Here you will get a glimpse into the lives of other women, learn how they handled things life put in their path like divorce, the death of a spouse, serious health issues, low self-esteem, addiction and how to reinvent yourself after a major life change. You will find like-minded women and relevant conversations about finances, fashion, sex, books, music, films and food. We feature interviews with inspiring women along with straight-talk and bold conversations to reawaken your passions and make life count.

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33 thoughts on “BRENDA COFFEE’S FAVORITE THINGS”

  1. OMG – got pretty excited to see those wax tablets from Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella (had to copy that ☺️). I stumbled, or was more probably crowd-pushed into a shop of theirs in Venice last September. Bought some cologne which I love and now reminds me of Venice every time I spray some on ❤️. I didn’t know they sold wax tablets though. Amazing things for drawers and closets, those….the scent lasts a really long time.
    Can’t wait for the book!

    • Hi Cynthia, Their store in Venice is small and humble compared to the one in Florence, so if you’re ever in Florence, you might stop by. I think the wax tablets are exquisite. Everything about them. Thanks for mentioning my book! I’m eager to have it released as well. May 2025 sounds so far away but there’s so much to do between now and then to get it to press and launched. I hope the time flies by. xoxox, Brenda

  2. I love your taste in handbags Brenda. They’re all so elegant well maybe not the ones with the faces on them but I understand why you call them art. The strathberry bags are gorgeous! I’d never heard of them so thanks for telling us about them. I’m off to look at their website.

    • Thank you, Spencer. I know the bags with faces don’t appeal to everyone, but the leather and workmanship is beautiful and the jewelry is unbelievable. If I had the money to spend, I would have bought the “larger” black bag. Strathberry has such high quality as well. You’ll love their pieces. xoxox, Brenda

  3. Love the book reviews Brenda! I enjoy mysteries and thrillers so I’ll check them out. And your bags! Gosh girl! How do you find these beauties? I never see purses like these.

    • Hi there, Arlo! Always fun to see you here! I rarely shop in brick-and-mortar stores so I have the opportunity to google what I’m looking for online which opens up a whole host of things for me to explore. It’s the most efficient way to discover new brands, and if I don’t like something I’ve ordered, I just send it back. NYC was the exception for me because there’s store after store on Madison Avenue of beautiful bags that are often displayed in the window. I find shopping in stores frustrating because I’m laser-focused on what I’m looking for and if I don’t see it, I’m out of there in a heartbeat, and that goes against the sales associates who want to keep you in the store and sell you something. You might give online a try. For instance, Google “white leather bags” and see what comes up. I just did this and there’s a wide price range of beautiful bags that you can look at up close in detail. Let me know how it goes. xoxox, Brenda

  4. I have been eyeing the Strathberry line for sometime now, I guess it’s time to act!
    Virtuoso offers amazing get always…we booked an Italy trip with them through our agent…Flew to Rome, train to Florence, bussed to Tuscany, train to Venice, lovely hotels, dining experiences, entrance to museums , it was lovely.

    • It sounds like you’re familiar with two of my favorite things this month! Brava, Dee! Yes, check out Strathberry’s bags. If you’ve already been eyeing them, perhaps you should just let yourself fall in love with one of them. Let me know if you do. Happy shopping! Brenda

  5. Hi Brenda,

    I like the style of your Strathberry handbag. I read Megan Markle helped increase the brand’s popularity when she wore one after marrying Harry. A few years ago, I purchased a Chanel bag from The Real Real that’s beige, quilted and quiet luxury in style. I love Gucci bags with a bamboo handle. I can’t justify purchasing one, even from TRR. The best things in life are free.

    • Hi Colleen, I’m delighted that “quiet luxury” is the trend now as opposed to fast fashion and clothes that aren’t flattering to anyone. Strathberry leads the pack with quiet luxury. Truly, I’m in love with their bags. I’ve never purchased from TRR, but I did sell two Chanel dresses through them, and I received only $40 dollars a piece ,which was shamefully low! I’ve since found a consignment store here in San Antonio that would have given me 60% of the sales price. xoxox, Brenda

  6. A lot of us aren’t fans of Megan and Harry so we can live without anything she promotes. Hopefully brands like Strathberry get smart and stop promoting her. Their bags are lovely though

    • Hi Melinda, Thanks for reading and leaving me a comment. I’m not a Meghan and Harry fan either, but I do understand she had a lot to do with giving the Strathberry brand more exposure. I don’t think they’re promoting her or working with her as much as she was photographed by the media, carrying their bags. Thanks, Brenda

  7. Brenda, You speak of wanting to fall in love with something before you buy it. I like that idea but it’s sometimes hard to fall in love with things at Walmart or Target where I do most of my shopping. It would be nice if the brands I find there took as much care with the design of their things as Bergdorf Goodman does.

    • I hear you on that one, Karen. Perhaps that’s why brands like Jaclyn Smith have done so well because they’re stylish and nicely made. Of course, Bergdorf’s is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Walmart and Target. Perhaps you might look at a brand like Banana Republic whose quality is superb, but their prices are budget friendlier. They’ve done an amazing turnaround in the last few years of giving us Ralph Lauren design and quality but with much better prices. Thanks, Karen! xoxox, Brenda

  8. I too wanted a white bag. I actually found a white Fossil bag at a resale shop this winter. Even though not in the league of the beauties you show, it’s a gem to me. I’ve add both books to my “To Read” list in my phone. Going to a bookstore with my DIL the week. Hope to find them there and support a local small business. Thanks for the inspiring post!

    • Fossil makes great quality pieces, Deanna. I’ve never owned one of their bags, but their watches were my favorite to wear when I made my jungle excursions, looking for artifacts. In fact, my favorite Fossil watch was white! Thanks so much for reading my blogs and leaving me a comment. If you can’t find TJ Newman’s books in the bookstore, just click on the links in my blog above and you can order them from Amazon and you’ll get them in a day or two. xoxox, Brenda

  9. My mother-in-law gave me a Coach purse 30 years ago that was over $300 for Christmas. Although I would never buy it for myself (the most I ever spent on a purse was $90 for a Guess boho), the Coach has amazing quality. There was even a note inside from Coach that said should this purse ever show signs of wear or loose stitches we will replace it. That was impressive.

    • They’d replace it? That’s amazing! I can see doing that with titanium but not leather. How nice of your mother-in-law, and 30 years ago $300 was probably like $900 now. Coach has beautiful things. When I first started going to NYC all the time I went into Coach and bought a white clutch and a little bag to keep credit cards, ID, cash, and a lip pencil. Thanks for reminding me of them. They’ve fallen off my radar. xoxox, Brenda

  10. After reading your blog post I realized I still carry a huge bag like I did when I had children around. They’re gone and married and my grandchildren are old enough to take care of themselves. I no longer need to take everything plus the kitchen sink when I leave the house but I’m not sure what kind of purse to buy and how do I determine how big it should be? BTW I just came from the mall and most of the women I saw with big bags are my age. I decided it makes us all look frumpy. Help!

    • I have to agree with your big bag/frumpy assessment, plus it’s hard on our necks and shoulders to carry a big bag stuffed with things. I’ve always wanted to approach an older woman with a large frumpy bag and ask her what’s in it. I take a small, 7″ x 5″ cosmetics-looking “bag” that holds my keys, cards and cell phone. Even getting used to carrying my new Strathberry Tote will take some getting used to, but since I’ve fallen in love, it shouldn’t be much of an issue. Love your big bag/frumpy insight, Cheryl. Thanks! xoxox, Brenda

  11. Hi Brenda,
    What a smart gift to buy, the lingerie drawer smell goodies is a perfect gift for yourself and friends to give. I’m sure your friends will think of you every time they open their drawers.
    Oh wow, what a beautiful bag you ordered Brenda, The Strathberry midi tote looks perfect.,I’m sure you will get good use from it.
    It’s so nice to carry a bag that functions well and was designed with a women’s needs in mind. I’m happy for you.
    The book sounds way too scary for me. I’m going to pass this one by my husband. I’m not crazy about flying so it would probably terrify me.

    • I always love your notes, Katherine! Thank you! I’m crazy about my new bag, but it’s made me want another Strathberry Tote, the Midi in red. Flying can be an edge-of-your-seat experience, even without a book to add to it, but there are a lot of other things about Newman’s books to appeal to you: love, family, ingenious plots. You might give them a try! Hope you have a great week! xoxox, Brenda

  12. That handbag is everything Brenda!! I’m headed to their website now! I want one! You have such good taste and choose the things! Xo, Barb

    • Hi Barb, How are you doing? Love seeing you here. Let me know if one of the Strathberry bags grabs your heart and doesn’t let go! xoxox, Brenda

  13. Brenda, I saw your post on Instagram about the Strathberry bag and came to see what you have to say about it. Falling in love with it? That’s a pretty good endorsement. It’s also a reminder not to buy the first bag you see but then I’ve learned that about you since reading your blogs. I really believe you do have to fall in love with something before you buy it because all of your things are so beautiful. Teach me how to do that. I can recognize beauty and quality but I don’t know how not to buy the first thing I see. Usually I say this will do but I want to stop doing that. With all the money I saved from resisting things that don’t thrill me, I could buy one of your great bags. I hope you get the red one! Then model it for us with an outfit.

    • Thanks for the lovely compliment, Leann. I look at bags, shoes, jeans, lamps, dishes… everything… as being more than just something to carry my credit cards in, wear on my feet, or light the end table next to me. It has to be beautiful, striking, unique, and well-made. It’s easy to buy the first thing we see, but choosing things of beauty to surround ourselves with is important to our wellbeing, especially if we put it on our bodies. What we wear and how we look affects our confidence and how others perceive us. To me, a handbag is more than a vessel in which I carry my “stuff.” It’s a reflection of who I am and how I feel about myself. I buy very few things. Like the handbag. I’ve been looking for a white handbag for almost a year. And because I don’t own a lot of purses, shoes, etc., I can justify buying something really nice. I realize I’m lucky to be able to do that, but there are financial lines I can’t cross, like the ones I mentioned in my blog. Perhaps you might start by becoming more discriminate with what you buy, taking into consideration that it’s a reflection of who you are and an investment in your self-esteem. xoxox, Brenda

  14. Book Tour?!!! I’m so excited!! Surely you will post the schedule on your blog. I had been wondering what might be happening behind the scene with your book and look forward to it. I rarely comment but do read and enjoy everything you post. I have noticed through the years so many things we have in common! I just had cataract surgery and am stunned at how clear and bright everything is—-the better to see Mick and Keith this summer!
    I’m sure you plan to see them as well. About your new purse: it is lovely! I have such a frugal mindset-much more so than my husband. I remember several years ago on a vacation he said “We’re going shopping and you’re getting a designer purse!” He knew I would never just buy one on my own. We ended up in a Coach store and bought a $600 purse which I know is the low end of s0-called designer bags but I really loved and still use it some. Sorry for rambling so!

    • Hi Kathy! I’m excited to hear from you!!! Coach is such a great brand. I love them, and $600 isn’t a cheap purse by any measure. How sweet and dear of your husband. I think I did a blog last month, updating everyone about my book. Here’s the link in case you missed it. https://1010parkplace.com/brenda-coffee-memoir-update/ It won’t be on bookshelves until May 2025, but booking PR events, book reviews, etc. begins a year or more in advance. So much to do between now and then, but I’m excited. Are you going to see Mick and Keith this summer? I keep vacillating back and forth. It will probably be their last tour, and I saw their second US performance when I was just a kid. I love them so much!! They’re a part of my DNA. The money I would spend on tickets, hotel, and transportation I need to put toward marketing my book, so right now, I’m a NO and I can’t stand it!!! Where do you live? Do you already have tickets? If I go, I would see them in Houston, but seats are almost gone. Thrilled to hear from you and know you read and enjoy what I write. Thank you again, Kathy! xoxox, Brenda

  15. Those WAX scent things I have never heard of before!
    I like the IDEA!
    WELL……THE DESIGNER HANDBAGS have a special place in my HEART as that is how I MET THE ITALIAN!
    I carried one for years but then had had enough.
    BASKETS ARE MY GO TO FOR THE FEW THINGS I CARRY even in winter……..
    Plus I do not go out much these days.
    BOOK TOUR!
    I hope you come to CALIFORNIA!!!!
    I will make every effort to see you!
    XOXO

    • Elizabeth, the wax-scented tablets smell heavenly! I’m still surprised that after all these years, I now like fragrance. Sometimes I wonder what happened to the REAL Brenda. Book tour… Yes, I will deliberately come to your neighborhood. Perhaps Juliet could have a reading/book signing at her house. It’s not that far from you, is it? That way I’d get to see you but you wouldn’t have to do the work! LOL! And Cindy… although that’s a little far for you. I’ve already talked to Sandy about it, and she’s a yes! I hope to have lots of book signings in California. I’ve met the coolest women there. xoxox, B

  16. I have the fragrance bars in freesia but I’m planning on ordering the rosa..and Strathberry is divine..xx

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