Christmas 2013, part II:
With my family
Hope yours was very merry.
(Previously: Christmas, Part I.)
Christmas 2013, part II:
Hope yours was very merry.
(Previously: Christmas, Part I.)
My mother used to say that keeping a beautiful home could be seen as her spiritual gift. She has a cornucopia of spiritual gifts, but I agree that hospitality and housekeeping are chief among them. And I use the word “housekeeping” not in the dim, 1950s housewife way; I think of it in the Marilynne Robinson way: housekeeping as a holistic lifestyle, the way that one dwells in a physical space, the way that you create and keep a home. (Accordingly, men engage in housekeeping as much as women do, even if they’re not participating in its most obvious elements, such as decorating and doing such “female” chores as cooking, laundry, sweeping, etc.)
But back to Mom: She has a great eye, which she passed along to Grace. I wouldn’t say that Kelsey and I are devoid of this eye, but we certainly don’t have its abundant powers, which are so clearly manifested in our mother and youngest sister. I aspire to this spiritual gift of the beautiful home, and so I study people like my mom and my sister, and people like Catherine, Stephanie, Ross, Matt and Liz, and Cate, who also have this gift. I want to know how they know what they know. How they can walk into stores that look crammed with junk and find this perfectly patina’d treasure. How they know what works and what doesn’t. How they show such control and restraint.
Can I have a beautiful home if I don’t have the great eye or the gift?
I don’t know, but I do see this ability — to make a beautiful home — as a spiritual gift. A peaceful, welcoming, lovely house shows fruit of the spirit. It’s not everyone’s gift and nor should it be; but I maintain that it is a gift and that it can work on souls with as much power as prophecy.
I read a few books on feng shui during my interior design-reading craze. Although I had trouble believing in many of its essential principles or suggestions (e.g., “Sprinkle sea salt on the floor where you sense negative energy”), the majority of the feng shui wisdom applied to interiors made so much sense to me, even as a western person. It makes sense that high ceilings make the spirit feel freer and lighter and that low ceilings make one feel trapped. It makes sense that mirrors open spaces and that the direction of windows can significantly affect one’s chi. I am fascinated by these tenets, because I have felt the truth of them in many spaces.
Alain de Botton writes in The Architecture of Happiness:
If buildings can act as a repository of our ideals, it is because they can be purged of all the infelicities that corrode ordinary lives. A great work of architecture will speak to us of a degree of serenity, strength, poise and grace to which we, both as creators and audiences, typically cannot do justice–and it will for this very reason beguile and move us. Architecture excites our respect to the extent that it surpasses us.
Buildings work and act on our hearts, whether we want them to or not. And this is why I believe in the spiritual gift of beautiful housekeeping and homemaking. We are beguiled and moved by the physical spaces we inhabit.
Now I just have to figure out how to attain this gift myself. Starting with finding a house with higher ceilings.
As of Tuesday, I have read 100 books this year, a sizable portion of which were how-to books about keeping houseplants alive. My fiction numbers are down considerably from last year, a fact which I still blame on David Foster Wallace.
Headed off this weekend to see my brother Win get hitched to my soon-to-be sister Tracy! Can’t wait.
Things we have done lately, amid the sweltering heat:
Hosted Matt and Liz at our place for an Evening of Carnage: An incredible roasted chicken from the Straight’s farm, followed by a showing of “Kill Bill: Vol. 2.”
Attended Chris and Emily’s beautiful and fun wedding in Harrisonburg, where we beat the heat with Sean Minor and new and old friends.
Went to the magical Blue Ridge Swim Club, where we floated upon tubes over the green water and were serenaded by mini-Nettles and mini-Camp Christopher, aka the best Paul Simon cover band I’ve ever heard.
I also got some much-coveted time alone, in which Pyrrha and I took a 2-hour hike along the Rivanna River and she nearly died from heat stroke. Then we both came home and napped. Peace, solitude, I have missed it all.
I couldn’t be happier for them and I am thrilled to welcome a long-time friend as a brother and official member of our totally crazy family. I only regret that I can’t be with them right now to celebrate in person… but let the wedding planning begin! So happy.
When not celebrating the engagement via telephone, we were having a beautiful weekend with the newly married Daniel and Lauren, who were in town to play a few shows.
And we were very sad to see them go, but we have high hopes that we could one day coerce them to move here.
More photos from the weekend on Flickr! And now, to drum up some energy to get through this day…
We took a very short weekend trip to the tiny mountain town of Thomas, West Virginia, so the boys could visit Mountain State Brewing Co. (Liz and I were able to find a coffee shop, to our amazement, which provided some respite from the bar.) We narrowly survived the seemingly endless switchbacks and hairpin turns and the little Versa even trucked it up there. A fun and very different way to spend the weekend; more photos on Flickr.
Longform’s Best of 2011. The best long-form journalism from last year. I really want to read all of these. I love a good, thorough, and fascinating article. (Longform)
The 25 Greatest Epigraphs in Literature. I love a good epigraph! This is a great and comprehensive list. Have you read any of these novels? Do you agree? (Flavorwire)
World’s Biggest Websites at Launch, 1990s. Wow, Amazon. Looking pretty rough. And Google, that exclamation point? Garish. (Retronaut)
Best Correction in New York Times History. This takes the cake. You have to admire their commitment to accuracy. (Best Week Ever)
Christmas Time with the Family. Grace’s touching recap of our (lovely and goofy) family holidays. (Como Say What?)
Most Anticipated: The Great 2012 Book Preview. Wow. Apparently, there are a lot of great books set to come out this year. I’m looking forward to reading many of them! (I’m especially excited about Marilynne Robinson’s When I Was a Child, I Read Books.) (The Millions)
Dallas Calligrapher: Fabulous Forty. Now that is impressive calligraphy: Flexible nib with white ink, slanted, on a hot pink envelope. I’m jealous of her skills. (The Lefthanded Calligrapher)
Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Cary Grant’s Intimate Bromance. Thoughts on the beautiful and peerless Grant and his versatile loves. (The Hairpin)
Shaun and Ann-Marie came to stay with us this weekend to celebrate Ann-Marie’s birthday and we had such a wonderful time with them: Great discussions, lots of food, a trip to Carter Mountain (Ann-Marie has a lovely set of photos from the excursion). We’re huge fans of them both and can’t wait to see them again soon.
We also got to see St. Vincent in concert at The Jefferson last night and she was incredible. She made me proud to be a woman. (Stephanie ran into her on the Downtown Mall yesterday. That makes me super-jealous.)
Snax, with handfuls of candy corn, which I unabashedly love:
Liz + Matt Married! A few photos of the wonderful bride and groom. We miss them and want them to come back from Italy soon! [You can totally spot the top of mine and Lulu’s heads in one shot… Score.] (Cramer Photo)
The Invisible Mother. Here’s something creepy for Halloween: The practice of covering up moms with oriental rugs and draperies while photographing children. (Retronaut)
Hitoshi Uchida, owner of J’Antiques Tokyo, and His Family Home in Kamakura, Japan. A gorgeous house of hodgepodge curious in the countryside of Japan. Don’t they all look so happy? (The Selby)
London Apartment: Converted School Gym. This looks like a totally awesome place to live, even if it looks like it’d be impossible to heat in the winter. Maybe they run gym classes to stay warm… (Paper Tastebuds)
You’ve Never Seen Book Art Like This Before. No joke! This is incredible. I don’t have the faintest idea where you’d begin with this kind of installation. (Lit Drift)
Is Your Link Old News? But if I ran everything on Snax through this application, I wouldn’t have any Snax to share… (How About Orange?)
DIY Tutorial: Moving Announcement Bookmarks. So classy! I don’t think I’d have the patience or wherewithal for this project (or any DIY projects, really. Not into that), but it’s great, all the same. (Oh, So Beautiful Paper)
Paper Dolls by Kyle Hilton. Would definitely play with these. (The Bluth Company)
Baby Goat Dances and Plays. Because we all need a little more happy baby goat in our lives. This will warm your heart on this cold October day. (Paw Nation)
Our last wedding of 2011 was certainly one to remember: Matt and Liz got hitched at the gorgeous Castle Hill Cidery in Keswick and threw a lavish, memorable party for everyone. We love them so very much and are so delighted that they will be sticking around. Life in this town is way more exciting when it involves the two of them. More photos on Flickr!
Meet Our Vendors: Polyface Farm Tour. We just started using Relay Foods for the first time and it’s a totally wonderful thing; you should be justifiably upset that it doesn’t exist yet in your town. Here, the Relay Foods staff takes a photo tour of Joel Salatin’s beautiful and much-lauded Polyface Farm. We just bought our first Polyface chicken this week! (Relay Living)
Farms Need People, Not Machines. Another great push to move away from factory farms and to raise employment levels. (The Atlantic)
How Manure-to-Energy Projects Make the Best of a Stinky Situation. Another factory farming-related issue: A fascinating initiative to make use of one of factory farming’s biggest and stinkiest problems. (Good)
Harry Moo-dini. If you ever thought cows were stupid, you need to watch this one. (Animals Being Di*ks)
American Gothic. Amazing. The now-famous man (the artist’s dentist!) looks none too pleased about it all. (All the Mountains)
American Modern. If pressed to describe the style I’d like to cultivate in my house one day, I think I would just have to point to this book and its pictures. (Cottage Farm)
The Cure for Math Anxiety Might Be in Your Head. Well, it’s good to know that my math phobia is grounded in mental instability. (Good)
Calligraphy Inspiration: Emilie Friday. Oh, to be that skilled with a flexible nib! (Oh So Beautiful Paper)
Why I Write. Why Orhan Pamuk, one of my recent favorites, writes. (Lit Drift)
Sundance Rings. Oh so pretty. (Unruly Things)
A Visual Anthropology of the Last Living Nomads in the World. Riveting photographs. It is hard to believe that there are still people who live like this in these places. (The Atlantic)
This past week…
We got to meet the perfectly charming Phinehas Edwards McDermott! Welcome to Earth, new McDermott. We are so glad to have you here.
And I got new glasses, which make me both totally serious AND crazy. I also got shot for the Charlotte’s new style section, which was confirming to me at what a truly terrible model I am. But Sean and Stephanie were super-nice about the whole thing. Thanks, friends.
Liz + Matt. Just some shameless self-promotion: I just finished this calligraphy project for our dear friends, Liz and Matt, and I had a blast doing it. This was my first time doing an invitation suite, which was turned into a fabulous letterpress invitation by the matchless Patrick Costello. A lot of fun! (AFP Calligraphy)
A Reunion with Boredom. Charles Simic discusses life without electricity, reading, and how much he owes to boredom. A thoughtful and lovely piece that will make me strive to appreciate our frequent power outages. (New York Review of Books)
Just Like a Woman. In defense of Jane Austen as a legitimate and important writer, in response to V.S. Naipaul’s remark, which is a campaign that I am 100 percent behind. It’s a little late to be responding to him now, as his comment is kind of old news, but I do wish Austen would be rescued from the plight of being constantly written off as a “chick lit” writer. Thanks a lot, Keira Knightley. (Los Angeles Review of Books)
Findings. My favorites, among the lighter findings surveyed: “Florida could be up to 50 percent older than previously believed” and “Chemists discovered why van Gogh’s yellows were fading.” (Harper’s)
The Slow Art of Tea. A re-posted article from the Curator that talks about one of my favorite daily rituals. (The Curator)
There’s Nothing Like… Even though Tom Wolfe got on my nerves in From Bahaus to Our House, I’m going to side with him on this one: What an unfortunate place to live. (Unhappy Hipsters)
Before & After: Music Room Redo with Custom Shelving. Wow, so THIS is how you can make built-in bookshelves. Going to be trying this one day. (Design Sponge)
Table and Chair, Pen and Paper, Text and Time. If I was an artist, I think I’d like to do what Helga Schmid is doing. (Le Projet d’Amour)
Yaron Steinberg’s Installation, How He Imagines His Brain. Amazing. (The Fox Is Black)
When the Fog Lingers in the Forest. I just keep coming back to her blog, because I want her life. So dreamy, rustic, idyllic. (La Porte Rouge)
The College Ranking in Which a Black School Beat Out Princeton and Yale. And, might I add, UNC-Chapel Hill beat out Princeton, Yale, Duke, UVA… Interesting stuff. (Good)
Eggcellent Living Quarters. Um, can we get chickens, just so I can build them a coop like this one? OMG. The Ritz-Carlton of chicken coops. (Pawesome)
How to Buy Houseplants (Once and For All). I need to people to tell me about these hardy plants, because I am skilled at letting them die. This is a helpful introductory guide. (A Cup of Jo)
(More Primland photos here!)
We enjoyed a simultaneously wild (nightmare car ride; lost in the woods; I vomited) and relaxing (watching ANTM; eating chocolate; drinking wine) weekend at Primland. I already miss the family women, but I am delighted at the thought that I get to see them all again in just a few days! Very thankful for Thanksgiving.
Today, I’d like to do a special feature on Snax and share with you the work of some of our incredibly gifted friends here:
Matt Kleberg. Matt is one of the most hilarious and generous people we have met in Charlottesville, and he’s also one of the greatest painters. I have loved discovering his work and am always so impressed with his color choices and approaches. Enjoy his diverse and beautiful portfolio! (Matt Kleberg)
Ross McDermott. Ross and I somehow always end up sitting next to each other and conspiring. In our friend circle, we rank at the opposite ends of the age spectrum (he’s the oldest; I’m the youngest). We get along well. I didn’t know until recently how talented he was with a camera. National Geographic (yes, the premier photography publication) courted him to produce the American Festivals Project. He traveled around the country for a year capturing America’s craziest and most interesting festivals. The results are outstanding. (Surface Below)
Now, back to your regularly scheduled program. With some gravy and cranberry sauce on the side.
Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving. I just discovered Allie Brosh’s blog, and it has had me LOL’ing all over the place. I think this is my favorite post so far. Please enjoy. Please LOL. (Hyperbole and a Half)
Ernie. Ernie the lop-eared rabbit looks startlingly similar to our childhood bunny, Spencer. Want to snuggle right now. (From Me to You)
Mirror Mirror. In general, I feel like pregnancy photo shoots always turn out weird and awkward, but this one takes the cake. (Awkward Family Photos)
Free Font: Matilde. I’m always on the lookout for pretty fonts, especially when they’re free. I really like this one. So delicate. (How About Orange)
Photo of the Day. This kid knows what he wants, and he will stop at nothing to get it. (Marvelous Kiddo)
The 10 Most Confusing Vintage Subway Ads. Advertising from the 1940s and 50s is almost always hilarious. And weird. (Best Week Ever)
Owl Lover 2011 Calendar. OK, so I wouldn’t exactly classify myself as an “owl lover,” but this calendar tool is pretty sweet. A collection of artists painted/drew/designed some owls and this site lets you assign your favorite works to a month and print off a lovely 2011 calendar for yourself. I pinned mine to my cubicle wall.