Sunday, May 2, 2010


This past Saturday was b&c's birthday, so I took him out for dinner and a movie. Dinner was at Mandalay, a Burmese restaurant and one of our favorites, and the movie was 8 1/2, part of the Fellini retrospective currently showing at the AFI Silver, probably the best place to see movies in the Washington metro area, though the popcorn is usually not what it should be.

I had not seen 8 1/2 before, and b&c had not seen it since the 1960s, and it's a little on the long side, and my experience with Fellini has been decidedly mixed (the AFI is also showing Satyricon, but I've seen it before, and even I'm not dumb enough to make that mistake twice), so I was a bit nervous, but it turns out that in addition to being visually stunning (such beautiful women so lovingly photographed, and what would I not give to have Marcello Mastroiani's hair?), 8 1/2 is pretty much nonstop fun from start to finish.

Near the end, there's a scene where Guido has decided to abandon his film and is riding in a car with a film critic who is congratulating him on having made this decision, and the film critic says that it should be the practice of each of us to educate ourselves to silence: the less said the better, always. The scene is ironic, of course: this particular film critic never shuts up. Still, the statement has merit, even if the critic didn't.

"Silence" usually doesn't mean the absence of sound so much as it means the absence of speech, and I've had plenty not to talk about lately. The notion of owning a home is very unfamiliar to me, even though it's considered the essence of Americanness, and even though I've owned one before, though not by myself. It's a good sort of unfamiliarity, and there's something very stabilizing about it, even though the situation and the home itself are entirely new to me. I am unused to coming home to an empty place, and especially to an empty place that still needs so much work done to make it what I want it to be, but the simple fact that it's mine means a lot more than I'd expected it to.

What's perhaps even more unfamiliar than having a home of my own is having a yard of my own. And the yard is something that seems to engender even greater quantities of both happiness and shutting up than the house does.

I live on rather a busy street, so even in the back yard, there's never true silence, but at the same time there is. What I hear in the back yard is mostly the sussuration of semi-distant traffic, a noise not entirely unlike wind. It's almost as if the yard is whispering to itself.

And it's a lovely yard. In the very back, there are tall maples over ivy, with a large azalea thrown in. There are, in fact, azaleas all over the place, azaleas being a default landscaping plant in this area. You can get a good idea of their ages from their sizes, and I suspect that the neighbors azaleas (which inspire all manner of rhodo-envy) were planted in the fifties, at about the same time the house was built.

At this time of year, it's usual, whenever there's any breeze, to see maple seeds helicoptering their way down to the ground, like some sort of giant benign occupation. They are everywhere, and -- like so much of what comes from or into the back yard -- beautiful.

Spring is a time of rapid change, of course. The azaleas that were so beautiful a week ago are pretty much gone now, though the ones that get little or no sunlight during the day started blooming later and are still gorgeous. Similarly, the lilac bush, which I was so pleased to see, is no longer recognizably lilac, the flowers and scent having nearly entirely gone away for another year. It is good to have such constant reminders of the turning wheel: the forsythia came and went, then the azaleas and dogwood and lilacs, soon the roses, soon the autumn leaves, soon the snow again.

There have been birds, too: robins, and even cardinals.

I have been making some inroads on home improvement. For the most part, tax season left me with an intense desire to do nothing at all for a while, but I did manage to add some kitchen over-sink storage in the form of a hanging rack made from an Ikea curtain rod, and a drying rack made from a ClosetMaid shelf. (A miter box, a length of molding, some finish nails, and a hacksaw were also involved.) They keep the stove and countertops from being impossibly crowded. Also, having clean, drying/dry dishes hanging around not put away is very in keeping with my aesthetic. Or would be, if I had an aesthetic.

My other major HGTV project was to make two sets of identical curtains. And OMG y'all, nobody who actually owns a sewing machine (And, really, how did I come to own this sewing machine? It's not like I know what to do with it.) should be allowed to watch Project Runway: it leads to delusions of competence, and from there, to tears. It was one thing when I bought a few remnants of fabric, tore them (I never buy anything that can't be torn along a straight line) into lengths, and clipped them to the curtain rings. But this time, I decided I wanted color blocks, so I bought multiple fabrics, measured them, tore them into lengths, stitched them together, hemmed them, and clipped them to the curtain rings.

I really like the way they look, but sewing straight lines on a sewing machine is just way to complicated for me. I prefer my complications to be culinary, thank you very much, so I guess I'll just stick to making my own puff pastry and leave the sewing to Bravo or Lifetime or whoever it is. Lifetime, I reckon: Bravo is all Real Housewives these days, and you know those women have their curtains custom made, and, should they ever lose a button, they hand it off to a servant, who gives it to another servant, who repairs it before sending it back up the chain of command so that the so-called real housewife can have her picture taken while donating it to charity.

You can also see my new couch in that picture. It's red in a room of blue, and I like it a lot, too. I bought it from Overstock, and I had a bit of trepidation about that since they've been very good on everything else, but furniture? It arrived one day when EFU was home on spring break, and I arranged for her to be at the house. The UPS person helped her bring the boxes in, and she opened them and assembled the sofa all by herself! So I was expecting to come home from a long day at the office and assemble a sofa, but instead I came home and found her sitting on it. Impressive, but she's like that.


  1. The azalea is SHOUTING! Nice work on the rack too.

  2. You still could use a landscape designer for improvement, imho. (hint hint)