Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Clocking In on My Time

(If only life could be lived under these trees.)

Some people keep a journal to loose weight, but my problem isn't the size of my waist. It's time. In an effort to better manage my time, I've decided to twitter my whereabouts for 30 days straight. Ever one to stare at a computer screen for moments on end, I'm trading in blanking out for productivity. There's something to a Twitter post that says, "Mindlessly browsed for watches for three hours." Ok. Not that I am inclined to waste my time that way, but trust me, I've got issues. You can follow the minutiae* here.

*Don't worry, I'm restricitng Twittering to homelife only. Afterall, this a blog about the Home.

After the Flood

(Last week we built a bathroom. This week will be an ark.)

Just before I reversed out of the driveway, our neighbor appeared in the backyard to let me know that Em was running loose. Apparently a tree fell in the middle of the night and he found Em rooting around his yard. (She's a runaway dog most days, so everyone knows her.)

Needless to say, Chris took the chainsaw to the tree and built a makeshift solution until we can take care of the fence. Much of west Atlanta remains under water, a sight that eerily reminds me of New Orleans after Katrina.

I visited New Orleans a few months after the hurricane and I still remember how difficult it was to navigate the city without any street signs or lights, for that matter. Parts of Atlanta have disappeared under the water in the same way the 9th ward was reduced to a water stained chunk of the city. Not nearly as many lives have been claimed by the rain, but I am reminded of the fragile nature of homes despite their brick and mortar foundations.

The sun has finally opened her eyes to us this afternoon -- time to move on from the darkness.

Image Source: AJC, Phil Skinner

Monday, September 21, 2009

Demo This

It's Monday morning and Buford Hwy is flooded. It's been raining in Atlanta for so long I've lost track of the days. Rainy weather is a good excuse to stay indoors and that's just what we did last weekend. There was no cozying up on the couch. Instead, we demolished the bathroom. Photos and commentary tonight.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Staying Alive

Having worked at this Southern institution for 1/6 of its life, I have to share this video filmmaker Joe York made to celebrate Square Books' 30th anniversary. It seems like just the other day I was getting dressed up for the 25th anniversary at the old Off Square Books location.

Square Books was my home for 6 years. My boss Lyn teased me about having a cot in my office, since it seemed I was there when she left in the evening and when she returned at 8:30 every morning. On my last day, a few of the senior employees gathered at City Grocery's bar (our official bar) to say there farewells. There, Richard Howorth and his wife Lisa presented me with a necklace upon which hung a golden key. "So you'll always have a key to the store," he said.

Enjoy Joe's work and check out more of it here.

SQUARE BOOKS 30th Anniversary Video from Joe York on Vimeo.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Napping Lately

Mondays hit harder than a hangover. In our home, we sleep later during the week than on the weekends. For good reason: we like to maximize our time together.

Last week witnessed the purchase of a new car to replace my Camry, which was totaled following a three year battle with a leaking trunk. I was more happy that I would get the coveted carport spot, than actually driving the car itself. That excitement alone belongs to Chris.

We also ate with Tex and L. on two occasions. The first night, we ate a late supper chez Mary/Chris that was more of a collaboration. Pork loin on the grill served with coconut rice and sauteed soy broccoli. Later in the week, we dined chez L./Tex and devoured plates of baked goat cheese salads, pan-sauteed halibut topped with a simple, but summery, tomato relish, and Chris' coconut rice.* I contributed the remains of peaches and raspberries, which I fashioned into a cobbler.

By Saturday, our stomachs full, we set out to work on the bathroom. With the tiling finished, Chris and his dad rebuilt the toilet (a fairly disgusting task that occurred while his mom and I fixed lunch.) On Sunday, I removed the existing bathroom fixtures and commenced to scoff at the layers of wall paper beneath that wreaked of 1960. I would have pressed on but I was weirdly unmotivated and decided to nap.

*The one dish I've washed my hands of as a cook is rice. It was one of things Chris made for me on our first date. Although it was a little mushy because I was late, since then, he's proved to be the official Rice Cooker in the house.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Room of a Different Color

(The Color Changing Room)

We have still not painted any of the rooms since I moved in. However, the botched tile work has been repaired, so this weekend we may pick up the brush. I stress over everything, and the color of the bathroom is an equal opportunity for scrutiny.

As happenstance has it, my boss left an article on my desk and the opposite side has a brilliant (though somewhat dated) story on color. "There's a wish for a more home- and nest-like world, particularly in terms of more natural chromatic color versus the high-tech color that saw an extensive movement in the late 1980s and much of the '90s," Margaret Walch, director of the Color Association of the U.S.

Ms. Walch was correct. Just shortly after the publication of the article, Chris painted his house hues reminiscent of twigs and "dirt," my sister bluntly put when she first visited. The trend followed suit in other areas, namely clothing fashion. Does anybody remember the coterie of bridesmaids donning chocolate gowns? When the love faded, you would always have pictures of your friends dressed as giant-sized chocolate bars.

The brown stuck. It's the predominate color in our house, revealing both comedy and truth in my reference to Chris' "man cave," and it's also a blaring (despite the muted tone) reminder of our pasts, which were without the other. Color, as much as tchotchkes, invoke the past, but we rarely acknowledge this fact. When I moved into A.'s old house on Pierce Avenue in Oxford, Mississippi, I purposefully left the bedroom the blue she and her sister painted it. The color reminded me of her. The rest of house was washed in color that had significant meaning, too. The Tiffany blue kitchen a nod to my prized Tiffany box that lived under my bed; the pink bathroom and curtains a farewell to girlhood.

Our house in Atlanta is warm -- cozy on most nights -- and though I still remember falling softly asleep on Chris' brown bed linens for the first time, since then we've arrived at a different color. We'll start with the bathroom first, and see where it leads us.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

From the Cry Baby Room: Hot House Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire*

(Do we take care of plants or do they take care of us?)

The other day I moved my plants to the window and booked a flight to Isla de Mujeres. After a few evenings with Hothouse Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire by Margot Berwin, it was the only thing to do.

Lila Nova is a thirty-something ad woman in NYC disillusioned with the way her life’s unfolded: divorced, demoralized, and lonely. She moves into a nondescript apartment near Union Square’s greenmarket where she buys a bird of paradise. It’s an unusual choice for the location, but doing so brings color and drama to her lackluster life.

First, she’s introduced to David Exley, an attractive but rustic plant dealer at the greenmarket who tells her about the nine plants of desire. Then she stumbles on a Laundromat that doubles as a greenhouse where she meets its proprietor Armand. He offers her a cutting of a fire fern, one of the nine plants of desire. Lila takes advantage of Armand’s generosity and the result is devastating. In an attempt to make amends with him and with herself, she departs for the jungles of Mexico.

This is not Mexico for tourists. Instead, it’s a place steeped in magic and ritual, untamed and uncertain. As Lila goes deeper into the jungle she gets closer understanding her life. What is that she wants? What is it that we all want? More to the point, perhaps we all have a little Lila in us, that yearning to attain all that the nine plants represent (love, immortality, fortune, fertility, sexuality, life force, magic, freedom, adventure).

This is a captivating debut from Berwin, and one I debated whether to rush through or savor. (However, a quick search divulges more of Berwin's writing not to be missed.) If Hothouse Flower does anything, it asks us to slow down and consider that which we desire. And for those of us with a thumb more brown than green, you’ll think of your plants as beings, not just things.

*The guest room, where all the books in our house live, was affectionately dubbed the "cry baby" room when I moved in with Chris. The way I remember it we had our first argument and I went to the guest room (where my old bed resides) to sulk. It didn't last long. We made up, and since then, we reference going to the cry baby room when either of us need a little breather, or in my case, a good book to read.