My Material Life

Uplifting Things to View on Your Screens

Hello. How are you holding up out there? I’m probably the only one in my household who is particularly well-suited to the quarantine kind of lifestyle but I tell you – after a month of these fires and the claustrophobic feeling of not being able to spend time outside or to even just open the windows because the air is so unhealthy, not to mention the terrifying stories you hear from those directly impacted – it’s a spirit sapper for sure. And like most people, I’m probably wasting too much time looking for distractions on my phone screen, if not my TV screen that, in the end, do nothing to protect my energy or uplift my spirit. But watching the following things actually helped me feel better. So I wanted to share them with you, dear reader, in the hope that you might find something here that sparks your interest, providing you with some respite from these strange times.

San Francisco Ballet’s Dance of Dreams

Madison Keesler and Benjamin Freemantle in Millepied’s Dance of Dreams // © San Francisco Ballet // Source:

Last month San Francisco Ballet released a short video (7:42) that you can watch online. It’s called Dance of Dreams and its four sections are shot in some pretty iconic San Francisco settings. The dancers dance in sneakers and the music comes from Hitchcock’s movie Vertigo, also set in San Francisco. The first time I watched Dance of Dreams, it took my breath away, it literally gave me chills. It is so moving, so expansive. The scenery, the cinematography – the drifts of marine layer floating across that beautiful blue sky. And of course that music, that beautiful, beautiful music. Oh and the dancing too! This little video is a such a gem, a real balm to the soul. I’m watching it over and over. Why not play it on the biggest screen you’ve got? Share it with your friends, your family. You could always pair it with a screening of Vertigo. Remember Barbara Bel Geddes character? Her unrequited love for Jimmy Stewart’s character? She was my favorite. Her apartment, her drafting table, her career (commercial artist). She was too cool.

Bambú Producciones’ High Seas, Grand Hotel, Etc.


This was an accidental Netflix find, discovered when searching for something else. It’s a Spanish series called High Seas that’s about two sisters and their voyage from Spain to Brazil on a luxury ship following World War ll. Those two got a lot more than they bargained for on that trip let me tell you! My husband and I were hooked right from the start. The first thing you’ll notice are the incredible production values – the title sequence, the costumes, the sets, it’s all so well done. Apparently that’s a hallmark of High Seas‘ production company, Bambú Producciones. Happily, Netflix carries more of Bambú’s programs. We just finished the 66(!)-episode Grand Hotel. Think of a Spanish Downton Abbey, but set in a grand hotel about a decade earlier than Downton and with a lot more intrigue. To paraphrase its producer, Bambú’s programs are like a mix of telenovela and British period drama with pacing similar to U.S. productions. My favorite character from Grand Hotel is Inspector Ayala who is more than a little reminiscent of Hercule Poirot, but has his own charms. I wish he had his own series too. And yes, these are subtitled so unless you speak Spanish you will need to pay attention to the screen and try not to do two or more things at once as we so often do while watching TV, often on a different screen – your phone, your pad, your laptop. But focus is a good thing. A focused brain is a happy brain with no time for ruminations. These productions will immerse you in a different era and place. Such a welcome distraction right now.

Escape to the Chateau


Do you know the Strawbridges? The “intrepid British couple” and their two young children who moved from a crowded London apartment to a very large and a bit downtrodden French chateau several years ago? Well if you don’t already know them you might want to give their series a try. I found it on PBS last year where my local channel has shown it in bits and pieces. I was so happy when the Peacock service came along because it allows me to stream all episodes for free and I’m hoping you can too. This is actually the second time around for Mr. Strawbridge. He had a reality show in a different kind of house with his first family. He’s quite a character and a real jack of all trades, but it’s Mrs. Strawbridge, AKA Angel Adoree, who got me hooked on Escape to the Chateau. Years ago I found such a special book, probably at an Anthropologie shop in the days when that store used to thrill me. I still have it; it’s called Vintage Tea Party and when I found it I had to buy it because it showcased its creator’s rare and unique vision so well. So I was watching this new to me show and I was looking at Angel Strawbridge and the fantastic things she was making or doing at the chateau and her hair, of course, her hair and her name too and I thought, wait a minute … do I already know her? So I ran to find my Vintage Tea Party book and of course she, Angel, is its author. She’s brilliant as the Brits like to say. As is this show, true comfort TV.

Our Own Happy Memories

One of my favorite finds since we’ve been spending so much time at home is the Airplay setting on my phone. I remember reading a while back that millennials weren’t buying TV sets like previous generations; they were happy watching content on the smaller screens of their other electronic devices. But with Airplay or screen mirroring I find that I get so much more enjoyment out of content on my phone when I can watch it on a much larger television screen. So one afternoon last month we ended up simply watching videos from my phone (it wasn’t planned, more by accident) that I screen mirrored onto the TV. The three of us had the best time watching these little videos on the big screen together. It’s funny because it never would have occurred to me to do that. Watching “home movies” has always implied something much more complicated. But this was so easy and so enjoyable. If you have any little people in your house, especially, you can totally make a movie night or matinee out of this. Kids love watching themselves in videos. Samantha used to call them “starring me” videos. After watching ours it truly put me in the best mood for the rest of the day. It reminds of a line from a book I have somewhere … happy memories make warm companions. But really, for any content you are watching on a smaller device, try mirroring it onto your TV screen and see if it doesn’t elevate the experience a bit.

Lucy Wyndham-Read’s Free Online Workouts

This last tip I’m passing on to you today is of a slightly different nature because you’re not meant just to watch Lucy’s videos, but to follow along. Samantha introduced me to this lovely trainer from England a couple of years ago. One morning in April I woke up very down-hearted and realized that my habit of news scrolling or doom scrolling as they so rightly call it was not the proper way to start the day. So I resolved to get out of bed, put some workout clothes on and head out to the family room to workout with Lucy emanating from my TV screen. I’ve kept it up for the most part, though in fact, before I turn to Lucy, I begin with two short videos from my ballet teacher on warming up the spine and warming up the feet (she is also into Pilates and the Franklin Method.) Then I’m ready to join Lucy. She’s got so many workouts you can choose from, lots of them are only seven minutes long. I prefer her twenty minute sessions and am currently alternating between this one and this one, but by all means you should check out her collection. The biggest benefit to me is that it makes me feel so much more positive. Lucy will tell you that her workouts will do that for you and it’s true. I don’t know what I’d do without Lucy and this is coming from someone who never would have believed that she could seriously improve her fitness level in her family room. But these workouts are so doable. If you need something like this, do check out her workouts. I can hear her spurring me on now…

And remember – and squeeze – And remember, just never forget this – you are so much stronger than you think.

So when I started writing this post yesterday we were still dealing with the smoke, but it started to clear out last night and today is so much better! Here’s to better and better days.


  1. Jo Ann

    Hi Colleen….I knew about the the SF Ballet video & have watched it several times and LOVED it. You are so great coming up with some fun, positive suggestions for things to watch during this time. I might have to work up to the Lucy exercises…now that the air is better I can go back to my walking which is my favorite way to exercise. I also want to do some QiGong and Feldenkrais. I just learned how to watch YouTube on my TV through Roku…it takes some of us a long time to maneuver in the tech world. Hugs to you and the family. Jo Ann

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