Archive for April, 2012

Dining Room Spruce-Up

Friday, April 27th, 2012

As you may know, we moved into our new home a few months ago. And while it’s lovely in terms of space, light, and layout, the décor necessities have not been shy about making themselves apparent.

I’m slowly working to change the wall colors in most of the rooms (with gobs of help from our friend Julian, who paints beautifully), and I have furniture goals for every room as well. Those are less readily met, since, you know. Money.

While I wait to accrue the shekels required to replace the worn, gray master bedroom carpet (ew) with super-natural ivory berber straight off the sheep and salivate over the possibility of sleek orange and teal living room couches (think Mad Men reception area), I’m making smaller and far less expensive upgrades. Including redoing the dining room chairs.

Recently I scored an incredible table at the Crate & Barrel seconds lot: 60% off this gorgeous thing:

Not Our Actual Dining Room

Not Our Actual Dining Room

Here are a few other views:

Rustic Modern

Rustic Modern



Our dining room is the second-largest room in our house (after the master bedroom, yay!), and I had a vision of a giant slab of a table. That’s exactly what I got:

4 x 9

4 x 9

It’s a glorious, giant slab.

Okay, so. Very big win there. But what to do about the chairs? The bench shown in the first photo wasn’t available, and even if it had been: too matchy-matchy. I knew I’d want to keep our glorious parsons chairs, in which we were married:

Parsons Chairs

Parsons Chairs

Love the contrast of formal/traditional chairs with rustic/modern table.

But what to do with our remaining 4 chairs? Which looked like this?

Blah de Blah

Blah de Blah

Blah, right? Not much life there.

But plenty to work with, I thought. For instance, I like the curvy, delicate lines. I think they’re yet another way to show contrast against the hulking table. So I figured I’d do some painting and reupholstering and see what I could come up with. The results:

Two like this:

Yellow Sunshine

Yellow Sunshine

And two like this:

White Floral

White Floral

Funky times, right?


How does it all look together? I CANNOT SHOW YOU. Why not? We still haven’t painted the upper walls/ceiling periwinkle, which is the next order of business. Although if I manage to get to the farmer’s market tomorrow to snag some flowers, maybe I’ll take a photo anyway. Yellow tulips are probably out of season by now, but they’ve been looking fantastic in a rectangular slab of a vase.

Stay with me! Décor happiness ahead!

Mad Men + Girls: Two Shows to Love

Monday, April 23rd, 2012


Welcome back, Mad Men! I love you all over again.

Last night’s episode (“Far Away Places”) was my favorite of the season, in all the ways I’ve always loved the show: tight script, taut drama, and dripping with emotional juice. Very impressed by three-way plot split, too, which drilled intensely into each story, one at a time, instead of cutting back and forth. SATISFYING.

I’m also struck by how willing the show is to let its characters go to dark places. It was excruciating to watch Don chase Megan around the apartment, but it felt inevitable: indeed, how have we not seen him do that before? A little less convincing was Peggy’s giving a random hand-job in a movie theater (eeergh), but I get that we’re seeing a Don-ified version of her, from which she may very well pull back, chastened. (I hope so, for the sake of believability. And because I love her.)

And have you noticed how ruthless the producers/writers are about cutting various characters out when they’re not needed? Witness Betty’s near-absence from the show this season, save for a single episode, and Jane’s apparent dismissal last night. The story rules. That’s got to be hard on the actors; I read an interview in which Bryan Batt (who played Sal Romano) wasn’t even properly told that his character would no longer appear on the show, which totally sucks, if it’s true. But it’s fantastic for the script.

In other news, my Lena Dunham love is blossoming in the glory of her new show, Girls. I was hugely fond of her movie, and the first two episodes of the series entirely live up to its promise: intensely smart, funny, rueful. Very much about The Suck that is the mid-twenties. And has awkward sex ever been portrayed so incrementally? I feel so grateful to Dunham for being willing to be seen in all her messy, unglamorous glory.

Also, if she’s doing this at 24, what’s she going to be doing at 40? Hope to be there for it, whatever it is.

A Year of Eating Less Dangerously

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Yesterday marked a year on a vegan, wheat-free, sugar-free diet.

Or, mostly. I haven’t been pure about it. In fact, I’ve been strategically impure, allowing fish once a week, now-and-again exceptions for expensive meals out, allowances for travel, and a once-a-month bacchanalia known as Gorge Day*. Because if being an Über-Driven Achiever with an Iron Will has taught me anything, it’s taught me that being an Über-Driven Achiever with an Iron Will doesn’t actually work. I’m human, is what I’m trying to say. Even if I don’t always admit it.

*Initially called Fun Food Day, to appease Gentle John, and then switched to its rightful name.

At any rate, I largely adhered to the program, and the program largely adhered to me. In that I pretty much love it now. True, I still have cravings. And I still experience feelings of loss after most lunches and dinners, in which I must face the Deep, Dark Void of No Brownie. But that longing passes, and what I’m left with is a feeling of satiety but not over-fullness, in which my gut is at peace, as opposed to feeling balloon-stretched or pulled to the floor with hand weights. I like that.

Even better is the emotional peace. Instead of incessant worry over my outsized sugar consumption, coupled with repeated failed attempts to curb said consumption, I’ve surrendered. I can’t do sugar. I don’t do sugar. Except for once a month, in which I purposefully go on a sugar (and fat and salt and dairy) bender, sugar is off the table. Like an abusive lover. Which I never had, thank God. Unless you count sugar.

At this point you may be thinking, If the only problem she had was with sugar, why did she give up all that other stuff? Three reasons: 1) Wheat is a gateway drug to sugar, at least for me; 2) Dairy is a gateway drug to wheat, ibid, and 3) I read a lot of nutrition books, and they were largely against wheat, sugar, meat, and dairy*. As I am largely against eating meat for ethical reasons, I figured I’d throw (20-of-21-meal-) veganism into my mix and see how it all shook out. And it shook out well! At least for a year.

*I understand that there are other nutrition books that say other things. Please, eat whatever works for you. I don’t judge! (At least not for that.)

Will I do this forever? Who knows. For now, it’s putting me in good stead. Witness: cholesterol at 144. That’s for you, inner über-achiever.

*The Hunger Games* and the Power of Plot

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012


Yesterday I finished reading The Hunger Games, and I felt simultaneously as though I’d be released from prison and that someone had taken away my drugs.

It’s unbelievably easy to fall under the books’ spell. I tore through all three within a few days, which I’m sure is the norm. And while only the first feels like any kind of aesthetic accomplishment—the writing, while never sophisticated, is merely serviceable in the ensuing books—I couldn’t, and indeed had no interest in, putting them down.

Why? Because I had to know what happened.

Collins is plugged right into the reptilian brain–and the mammalian one, too. She’s got cards in all the slots: life-and-death battle, children in danger, revolution against systematic oppression, two boys and a girl.

That last plot annoyed me for much of the series, not because it involved romantic love (all in favor) but because it’s such a classic fantasy set-up, with one of the suitors so smitten that he lives for nothing else. By the time Peeta is reprogrammed to hate Katniss, I actually felt relief.

But in the end, I was impressed with where Collins took the romance plot: i.e., subordinating it to the ravaging trauma of war. When Katniss and Peeta finally return to each other, waaaaay after many pages of extreme violence and loss, they’re both emotionally obliterated. There are no firecrackers or rainbows. There’s just two very damaged people inching into each other’s arms, resignedly.

We can’t even celebrate, fully, this thing we’ve waited so long for—just as we wouldn’t be able to in real life. And that is pretty freakin’ cool.

Whither Thou Goest, *Mad Men*?

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

We’re two episodes into the new season of Mad Men, and I’m bemused. Is Matt Weiner intentionally going for flabby melodrama?

I don’t say that ironically. From what I’ve read, he’s most interested in generational change, and as we inch toward the 70s, I imagine that a looser, lighter, swingy-er style might suit the content. Plus, the series has been so tightly wound for so long, he may intentionally be taking things in a new direction. Which would be awesomely brave.

On the other hand, I don’t think he meant for me to giggle at the life-and-death Betty plot last week—when, for example, she bursts into her empty mausoleum/house calling Henry’s name above doomsday music. And I am definitely against the addition of music into any part of the action, as opposed to in the closing moments, to which it had always been confined.

I also wonder whether Mad Men is finally succumbing to shark-jumping, the sad fate of pretty much every TV drama—and it’s a wonder the show has held out so long. Doesn’t it feel like a soap opera, all of a sudden? It never used to feel like that.

I’d be happy if Mad Men returned to its previous state of impeccable tautness. I’d be equally pleased to see it master a new groove. But whatever it’s currently doing is confusing me.