People read books and go to movies for instant escapism, but all I have to do is look through a catalog.

I can flip through the pages of a Pottery Barn spring promotional and momentarily convince myself that for my next dinner party, I’ll wrap damask napkins in raffia and insert a daffodil in the middle. To complete my mental picture, I add gold pineapple-shaped place-card holders and a tablescape.

Robin Conte
Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her new column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” see

I can hover over a recipe in Williams-Sonoma and consider it plausible that I would open my toaster oven and retrieve a tray of my own perfectly baked caramelized-onion-and-gruyere apple tarts … that are garnished with sprigs of thyme I grew myself.

I’ll open an Anthropologie Lookbook and fantasize about attending cocktail parties wearing earrings that cost more than my light fixtures.

It’s so much fun!

I flip through the pages and enter the realm of catalog clothing, where the women eat pizza on the steps of Roman ruins while wearing head-to-toe silk. They lounge chicly on grassy lawns, playing backgammon and not worrying about ants or grass stains. They balance themselves along rock walls while decked-out in wide-leg jumpsuits. They pair prints with plaids and pull it off. All their accessories are whimsical.

Try it sometime.

You, too, can luxuriate in a world in which you are invited to a garden party where all the food is made of chocolate, all the guests are wearing white, and all tables are bedecked with peonies, grapevine baskets and lanterns. You can daydream about spending $16 on a jar of matches with “painstakingly hand-notated labels,” $22 on a copper-plated can opener, or $40 on a glazed mixing bowl.

Without doling out $13 for a movie ticket, you can open a free catalog and venture to Zanzibar, where you’ll lounge fashionably in a tassel-fringed hammock that’s suspended over a glimmering pool in a whitewashed courtyard. You can live in home that’s decorated with a sofa upholstered in aubergine suede, chairs covered in pink velvet, and a massive vase filled with sunflowers in the foyer.

You’ll be riding a bike without a helmet, wearing instead a jaunty Panama hat and yellow cat-eye sunglasses. You’ll scamper with your friends in flowy maxi dresses and play with sparklers in the surf when the sun sets.

Please, if you’re out there, if you really do these things — raise your hands! Contact me! I want to meet you! I want to join you in your next soiree along a woodsy riverbank while we wear breezy organic cotton and you teach me how to pair patterns. I want to cheer you on while you do yoga on clifftops and back walkovers on car hoods. I want to go with you to Peru wearing recycled polyester and help you feed llamas.

Until I get that call, I’ll slip on the navy fleece pullover that my son wore to campouts when he was 10, boil some noodles, and open a jar of sauce and a bag of salad. Then I’ll clear off our kitchen table and use a placemat to cover the words that were engraved into the wood when one of my kids did his homework without a protective pad.

I’ll call everyone to dinner, and before we eat, we’ll pause to say a prayer of thanks for a very good life.

Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her new column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” see