Friday, January 30, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
I spend a lot of time laying this mother out. I change my header on a fairly regular basis, almost always coordinating it with my most recent entry. I painstakingly edit photos and their placement on the screen. I, for one, think the way a blog looks informs the content. Like a magazine, the colour and the images, the overall aesthetic, requires that its seen in all its glory.
Please vote above, I am extremely curious to know if all my hard work is going completely unnoticed!
PS: I've become a Tweeter. Twitterer?
Saturday, January 24, 2009
For me, and not yet in any hard-and-fast order:
1) Outdoor living space.
2) A designated dining room/area.
3) A secondary space to retreat to. A den, a solarium, a second bedroom-cum-office. We're used to a three-level row house with plenty of space to get the hell away from each other, when need be. So, any little corner or nook will have to suffice, but it must exist.
4) The fundamental finishes need to be acceptable. I am happy to paint, pull up some carpet, etc. but I'm not looking to renovate every element of a new condo. I have a real aversion to light floors and terracotta anything. Pedestal sinks annoy me and glass-fronted cabinetry irritates my OCD.
5) Some semblance of storage space.
6) And I really hate it when there's no natural foyer (however small) - Like the image below. It would make me crazy to walk immediately into a living room. I require a front hall closet.
That's it for now. I don't think these 6 things are too much to ask. If I'm going to live in 600 square feet, each inch must make me reasonably happy. The whole thing is terribly exciting - I can't stop daydreaming about decorating a new space. I can't sleep at night, instead I mentally hang silk eggplant drapes and lay FLOR carpet tiles and secure reclaimed wood beams to the walls and . . . I could go on all day. Stay tuned for all the developments.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Times have certainly changed where phones are concerned. There was a time I'd leave the house and miss every call. Every invitation to appear on Oprah, every grateful call from Judith Light for my continued support. But this lack of contact didn't seem to bother me or anyone else. A mere 15 years ago we could all manage days and days without an ounce of correspondence of any kind. Now, of course, we can't go 15 minutes without some sort of exchange, an email being pushed or fetched.
We weren't even a Call Waiting household. I never knew the sweet pleasure of smugly telling a 2nd-tier friend: "Hold on, I've got a beep." My parents didn't have an answering machine until the year 2000. And it was just that, a machine. Garbled outgoing messages and a deafening beep! Somehow they've managed without Call Answer.
But I'm not really big into the phone. Once in a while my sister and I can have a doozy of a chat, logging a solid hour while her boys are sleeping. Mainly I use my phone to call Jeff when we're at the grocery store, I in the produce department, he wandering off towards non-perishable canned food items. "Where are you?" I'll ask, "Do we need carrots?"
A few weeks ago I got an iPhone. Nowadays phones can't be just that, they need to take photos, slot our appointments into tidy little calendars, direct us anywhere with their built-in GPS. Where would we be without these gadgets? What if I couldn't play Yahtzee! whenever and wherever I happen to be? I'm not being sarcastic. It is absolutely the best purchase I've made in recent memory. Intuitive and thoughtful, sometimes I think it might actually have a brain or a heart. As you tap on its tiny keyboard it guesses your words, but in a nice way. Not like Microsoft Word, all assumptions and distasteful formatting. And it gets a little warm after several rounds of Pacman.
One of my greatest memories is of crouching in the hallway listening to my Mom have her bi-monthly catch-up with a girlfriend. Moms are always different while reminiscing. An unfamiliar lightness to her voice, I secretly wished she could always sound so free and easy. I wished she could work less, instead, perhaps, spend a weekday afternoon huddled around a bistro table with her girls, like the cast of Designing Women. My Dad left alone to watch Murder, She Wrote, the kitchen dimly lit, she would laugh and then her voice would drop to a whisper, I'd crane my neck, straining to hear, perhaps I'd bravely peek around the corner to see her toss her hair and take a long draw from her cigarette, gently clinking her spoon against the Corelleware mug. She was unabashedly herself in these moments. I wonder if she knew I was eavesdropping, not really listening - certainly not understanding - only following the carefree lilt in her voice.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I won't hit you over the head with Antony praises, so will focus on the warm and wonderful Fleet Foxes who performed on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. Aside from obsessively listening to everything I can get my hands on, I don't know anything about them. Watching them closely in their ridiculously taut turn on SNL, I imagined them as choir boys, combining their love of choral arrangements with their adoration of Bob Dylan and other greats of the 1970s folk-rock era. They crank out harmonies harder than a Beyonce loop and remind me of a bearded barbershop quintet. While the album is sweeping and rich, Fleet Foxes has gained a loyal following because of their incredible live performance. It's all effortless, headvoices erupting gently atop banjo licks and thumping drums. Click that link above to see what I mean.
Listening to them, I get the same feeling I do from Antony - a borderline religious experience, like church music. Typically lyrics are integral to my enjoyment of a song, but these two artists in particular create sounds that transcend words.
Their first full-length opens with a bluegrassy a capella introduction to the song "Sun It Rises". Vocals layer upon each other until the song ends up in some kind of gorgeous jam session. Each song has that live off the floor sort of feeling, not a series of private recordings mixed together on a Mac, but rather a performance caught on tape. Whether or not it is that, it reads that way, which is enough for me. Each song is dynamic and thorough, the forty minute album seemingly sapping every ounce of worth from every element on the record, each guitar and vocal scrutinized as if by a clever CSI. Because of this, you want to listen again and again to catch and absorb every tempo shift, every key change, every mid-song swell and every quiet whisper. Perfect for the deep-freeze, snag this album.
UPDATE: Jory brought this incredible performance to my attention. As he says, the real magic begins at about 2:30. Watch!
In recent years we've heard many exasperated Americans say they want to hop the border and become something better, something Canadian. Wrapped in Anderson Cooper's warm embrace, watching the highly-anticipated ceremony, I felt, for the first time, what they meant: I kinda wanted to be an American. Perhaps it's just pop culture run amok, but the Office of the President of the United States crosses borders; he's not just the Commander in Chief (god I miss that show; sweet, sweet Geena Davis) to a select few 300 million, but truly the leader of the free world. For the past 8 years or so, it's been a bone of contention, but today I feel very buzz-wordy. I feel very hopeful.
What I like most about President Obama is the sarcastic glint in his eye. I bet he's an eye-roller in meetings. I bet he'll sigh impatiently when someone is wasting his time. Not that he doesn't seem like a decent and lovely man - I, for one, enjoy a well-placed and biting flash of arrogance. His inaugural speech was cutting in all the right ways; he raked Bush over the coals by way of subtle and passive aggressive implications. I love the boldness in standing three feet from the man who dug America's grave, stating that his administration will allow America to "lead once more". If CNN had been more vindictive, they might have cut to Bush squirming in his chair.
And I love the new First Lady. I love how she's a bit awkward in a skirt, a little uncomfortable in a gown. I like that you could see her biting her cheeks when Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed the Oath of Office, trying not to laugh out loud at her husband's floundering, a clenched smile forming. She's not a wall flower, not a mindless figurehead interested only in hosting brunches. She's a modern woman, seems a bit brassy, down to earth, no one's political accessory. And what a couple. Equals, even in physical stature, they probably have giggle fits in bed watching their TiVo'd 30 Rock, the girls asleep down the hall.
In his speech President Obama spoke of "the price and promise of citizenship", calling out for a renewed sense of individual responsibility to the nation and to our fellow Americans - Oh, wait, I did it again. There's just something about him, something so diametrically opposed to the hooligan we've dealt with for these many years, something that makes him everyone's leader, a man who makes me proud to live in this time in history. The world changed hands and I feel hope.
Gettysburg looks like it'll play nice with the existing colours, especially the yellow tufted chair. I've never been one to experiment with paint colours, having not yet owned any property, but I think it's something I could really get behind.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
But something has happened. I won't give up easily, let me tell you, but the premiere episode was appallingly bad. From a technical standpoint, they've changed the way it's filmed, which would be fine if it was an improvement. It's not. It's flat and cheap looking. The storyline was slower than former president George W. Bush (I just wanted to say former! Tee-hee!!) and the writing was cheesy and predictable.
What has happened?!
Could a show that literally blew my mind have been a one-hit wonder? Is it hitting the skids, a sophmore slump the scale of which not seen since MC Hammer? I have to wonder: Is something that good impossible to repeat? Can lightning only strike once?
A couple of years ago Jeff and I spent these cold January nights watching Season 1 of 24. And we got wrapped up in it. We'd watch four or five episodes in one night, like a good book, impossibly hard to put down. And everything seemed fine. Until hour 23.
I'm a stickler for accuracy. I can suspend my disbelief with the best of them, I mean, James Bond movies are some of my favourites. But I can't stand faulty storylines or implausabley-plausable situations (See: M. Night Shayamalan's entire body of work). If it can't work, it just can't work. And in Hour 23 of 24 the whole thing fell apart.
Nina Myers is that leaky linchpin. If she's the secret bad apple, please don't show us scenes throughout hours 1 to 22 of a seemingly good Nina in private moments. In them we are sure to see the truth, no? NO ONE ELSE IS THERE! Why would she continue to play the part of loyal and trusted ally to no one?! It makes me crazy! The Oliver Stone School of Filmmaking is a crock! Shut it down!
Monday, January 19, 2009
The birdcage is done. It went from a spinster's honey-coloured dream to a quirky and elegant fixture in a boring little corner of our dining room. While we were in New York, Jeff spotted a lighting shop with all the things we needed. At the corner of Broadway and Broome in Soho this place has every bulb option you could ever want. We got two Edison bulbs, a fanastic chrome socket, a plug and several feet of black braided wire that hides within the intricate metalwork. We picked up some shiny greenish-brass chain from our local Canadian Tire store and threw the whole thing together last night. It casts lovely shadows on the walls and adds a certain warmth and organic quality the room was lacking before. (Full disclosure: Photoshop was used to eliminate a dangling wire below the cage. The lamp couldn't be hardwired so it's a necessary evil, but not one that needed to be showcased here.)
And so another little project is done. Which means I'm hot on the trail of a new one.
My first post was all about my living room. The things I hoped to change, the things I liked. It hasn't changed too drastically, but I've refined the room and it makes me happy to walk through my front door. I'll call that success. I've acquired new chairs, new lamps, new accessories. I've moved things around a bit. The white rug expired after a run in with a muddy stilleto-clad low-budget background performer (don't ask) and the CDs are neatly catalogued. Two new chairs and various lamps you've heard enough about round it out. I'd hoped to lessen the Ikea effect: mission accomplished.
There are other bits and bobs accumulated this year I'm particularly pleased with. A few new globes (the most recent on the far right, even smaller than the others, its metal base different too. $10 at the St. Lawrence Market) an old photo of Jeff's Dad we acquired from the house and Jeff's complete set of Shakespearean dramas. They're tiny, like Beatrix Potter books, and a deep orangey-red. The yellow chair still makes my head spin ($30!) and the coffee table has been well-worth the $6.29 we paid for it last summer. I found the kitchen stools at an antique shop in Collingwood, all four for $50. A real steal. (Click to enlarge the image.) All told, the things that have made our house a home haven't cost much at all. As much as I love logging hours and days on high-end design sites, it's the cheap little treasures that really make the difference.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Molly Wizenberg, blogger and all-around delightful human, is living the dream of many. She parlayed her online musings into a book deal and is set for release on March 3. I've mentioned her before and have been an avid reader for quite some time. Her recipes are high-impact and delicious, her stories too. This book would be a great gift for your technologically-retarded mother, aunt, gay uncle, or anyone who doesn't frequent the blogosphere. Wholesome without being saccharine, she warms the heart and the stomach.
Friday, January 16, 2009
The images above are from the first one: mensrag.com. It's more of an editorial blog, culling together trends and designers and boutiques from all over the world. Be warned: It's gonna make you want to redefine your personal style with each and every click. This site also includes bits on music, art and pop culture in general.
The second is a men's clothing store out of Seattle, Washington called Blackbird. They hock their own goods from a variety of designers and sources in their online store and also have a really great blog, showcasing new items all the time with lots of detail shots, so sharp you'd think you were feeling the material in the showroom. The yellow trench to the right makes me quiver. I want it so bad.
Unfortunately, these sources don't offer much in the way of cheap, so I won't be doing any online shopping, that's for sure. The inspiration and sartorial eye candy are enough to satisfy. For now.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I'm beside myself with excitement. On February 17th we'll see Antony and the Johnsons in concert for the first time. Their new album, The Crying Light, has played constantly since I got it two weeks ago. I can't wait to hear these songs live. A perfect next-step, the album carries on where I Am a Bird Now left off, though from a slightly different perspective. Less introspective, more epic, the new record covers a lot of terrain, both thematically and sonically. Each song told like an old-timey fable, there's something very Creature From the Black Lagoon about it.
There's nothing quite like undisappointment. When new work comes but every three years, the chance that it won't live up to the expectation is high. But when it does, when it exceeds those hopes, you realize another album has made it into the slow-growing pile of music you'll be listening to forever.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
In an effort to be fiscally responsible, Jeff and I drove while our friends flew. Engine lights and snow squalls notwithstanding, the journey was good. I didn't even fall asleep! I stood by my man, the only one in this marriage with a valid drivers' license, and kept the music and audiobooks flowing. I organized the strangely embossed coins for the various tolls and had our passports at-the-ready. I, for one, enjoy a road-trip. Staying on the ground gives you a real perspective, unlike flying or getting on a subway. Watching the GPS system weave and dip through upstate New York, a corner of Pennsylvania, and a hint of New Jersey creates anticipation. Eight hours worth of it.
After checking-in at the lovely W Tuscany, our first stop was a taping of David Letterman. The guest: Kate Winslet. OMG. The whole experience was odd, to say the least. A bit of the television magic goes away when you see everything happening there before you. And the only thing I could think was: "How offensive that this woman holds the ill-begotten title of World's Fattest Hollywood Actress." She is this big. Teensy tiny. Petite and fine-featured, whispy, even. How very dare we, as a people, pin this to her! Outrageous! Anyway, the whole thing was clearly business, a real lack of connection between the two when cameras were off, all PR and contractual obligation. At the end of the interview, Letterman said his charming good byes, kissed a hand, threw to commercial, then turned away from her to flip through some papers as she scurried off stage alone. It just seemed so icy. I guess I was naive to think it was anything else.
Another spectacular outing was a performance of Spring Awakening. Closing on January 18th, Hunter Parish (from Weeds) took over the lead role a few months back. He's magnificent. Not pretty-good-for-a-TV-actor good, but legitimately, impressively good. I've known the music for quite some time, but was surprised by a lot of plot points avoided on the cast recording. It was moving and hilarious and exquisitely performed. The touring production opens here in March - get tickets, you won't be disappointed.
Really putting things over the top, a disaster turned into magic. On Friday afternoon we heard a strange dripping sort of noise from our hotel washroom. The ceiling was leaking, more rapidly by the second. The manager of the hotel moved us to a suite (700 square feet, a living room, spacious closets! A dream!) across the hall. What luck that the woman upstairs had let her bathtub run over!
I'll resist a weekend play-by-play, but do want to leave a few strong recommendations. We did more shopping than we'd planned. It seems Canadian retailers are clinical hoarders - we don't want to let anything go. But America knows how to mark shit down. They want it gone so slash the prices by (sometimes) 75%. I bought the ties pictured below for $8 each at a New Jersey J.C. Penneys. Doin' it right, indeed.
The Stanton Social
99 Stanton Street 212.995.0099
A cool lounge with great tapas and cocktails. Make a reservation. Open late.
55 3rd Avenue 212.420.9800
A relaxed, trendy eatery. We had Sunday brunch. Fast, excellent service. Make a reservation.
85 10th Avenue 212.400.6699
I missed this meal due to an under-the-weather situation, but the five others we traveled with agreed it was the "best meal they'd ever had". Tom Collichio (of Top Chef) offers impeccable service, great atmosphere, and brilliant steak.
403 W. 10th Street 212.675.2322
A really cool place - huge! - with great food. Our group did the 6 course tasting menu, which was incredible. At only $48 per person, a ridiculous deal too. The beef skewers were worth that much on their own.
89 Spring Street
I got the shoes pictured below at this little shop. Because I'm deeply in love with the shoes, I must recommend the store. You might find your own sole-mates there. The 50% off sale didn't hurt and these teal-leather-lined beauties were a steal.
Ben Sherman in Soho
96 Spring Street
If you like Ben Sherman, you must go to this location. The staff is amazing and the sales are better. Jeff replaced his wardrobe for next to nothing.
34th and Broadway
This tacky store offers some great deals if you feel like searching. I got two pairs of adorable PF Flyers for almost nothing.
The best and cheapest time to go to New York is now - Not only are hotel rates rock-bottom, but the post-holiday sales are crazy. Sure, it's cold, but you hardly notice when every moment feels like b-roll footage from the Sex and the City Movie.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Friday, January 2, 2009
Since playing around with my new lamps it seems I love them with the shades I bought for these lamps. The new ones feel a bit wintery, a bit moody. The greenish-grey (technically "Silver Sage") shades play well with the worn brassy finish. The new lamps are quite a bit taller which divides the living room from the dining room even more dramatically. And my monkey finials work perfectly! Alternately, the lovely white marble lamps feel fresh and summery. So why not switch them out? Below, for your interest, a comparison image. For now, the brass will stay. When the winds change, so will the lighting!
Antony and the Johnsons release their new album, The Crying Light, in just a couple of weeks. A few days ago, while I was off the radar with the family, the album leaked but was pounced upon by record executives. I missed my chance. After endless searching, I found a place to stream clips of the new songs, but this only makes it hurt worse. Take a listen and let your anticipation build.
What I can tell from the clips is that we're in for the same lush and spooky arrangements we're used to but something I can't quite put a finger on. too I think it's commercialism, but in a good way. A&tJ's first album was a crazy musical romp with songs like "Hitler in My Heart" and "Cripple and the Starfish". It was loud and wild and mildly unfocused with ultra-creepy cover art. With growing fame, maturity, and a Mercury Prize under their belts, their work has settled into itself leaving behind some of the flagrant quirkiness and affectation but maintaining the artistry and integrity.
Look into it. I know I won't be disappointed.