Archive for August, 2010

During our trip to England, I got a chance to do some follow-up research on one of my life goals: to own a piece of cauliflowerware and/or pineappleware, which I first encountered in one of my minor courses last year. I know: aim high.

Cauliflower tureen, about 1760-1765 (Ashmolean Museum). I prefer the teapots, but this tureen has an appeal of its own. I like how they apparently tried to make it a little classier with the addition of butterflies. It’s a little too cute for me.

No so cutesy: cauliflowerware and pineappleware in the British Museum (also probably ca. 1765, school of Thomas Whieldon). These are the emblematic pieces of a short-lived craze for naturalistic serving wares. This picture doesn’t really capture the surface detail and colors of the pieces— they’re almost grotesque in real life. The popularity of these items subsided within the decade; basically, these were the Beanie Babies of the 1760’s. Potteries like Whieldon’s shipped the resulting surplus across the Atlantic to the captive audience of the Colonies, where the fad enjoyed a brief revival.

A curiosity cabinet in the British Museum, containing teapots and tureens as well as some Sloaniana — items from the foundational collection of Sir Hans Sloane, who bequeathed his antiquities, manuscripts, and vegetable lamb to George II so that they could become the property of the British people, and so that people like me could continue to enjoy the truly bizarre experience of facing down a room filled with shells, framed papercuts, stuffed birds, teapots, and a rock that apparently looks like Chaucer. I saw the rock. I still don’t have any idea if it looks like Chaucer.

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I don’t know why I doubted this pillow when I first saw it in the sale section at Anthropologie. Clearly, it was meant as the answer to my bird-chair-woes. I may have placed the egg box and the brass dodo in this arrangement just to show the depths of my decorative-animal-object issues. And then there’s the cat. The cat that is in almost every single picture I take of my house because he follows me around like a dog. Drools like one, too. See what I mean about the chair? No hope of a person ever being able to sit there anyway. Why do I bother?

I’m thinking about putting a small table next to the chair to partially block the view of that big ugly return vent. I have some candidates, of course, in my garage-‘o-abandonment, so I’m going to bring the first choice in as soon as I can stand to disrupt the mosquitoes and the mice out there.

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This tiny abode doesn’t appeal directly to my aesthetic (no avian upholstery in sight), but I can appreciate the design and the sentiment at the heart of the owner’s industrious use of space: “I wanted to compress my home to squirt me back out to the community.” That purpose, though, is so different from my own sense of what I want my home to be. I haven’t left my house yet today—although I meant to—because I got caught up in reading the second book of The Hunger Games and decided to indulge myself in these last few days of summer break.

When I came home from my trip to England last spring, I started reorganizing my house and rethinking some of my habits in order to bring my domestic life—an often-frustrating struggle with limited storage space and a near-constant overflow of stuff—into line with the kind of simplicity that I’d witnessed in how, in their time living abroad, my mom and brother had learned to navigate some very different expectations about space. I donated or sold a lot of things that I didn’t need and then went about carving up the closets and cabinets of my house into more efficient spaces: shelves from Ikea divide the unnecessarily tall shelves into smaller, more useful spaces, slim flocked clothes hangers allow me to keep more of my wardrobe in the closet, where I’ll actually get regular use out of the items that used to be relegated to bins in the basement, and a set of matching baskets holds back chaos in the coat closet which has to double as bathroom storage. I don’t get toothpaste on my coats nearly as often now that I’ve straightened that mess.

But all of these changes have made me perhaps even more of a homebody. Sometimes I can actually even get work done in my study, when leisure reading doesn’t lead me astray. I enjoy the quiet, the clean, the daylight in these rooms. I get cabin fever, too, and do most of my writing at a rotation of coffee shops around town, but I can’t imagine living in a space where I didn’t feel completely welcome all the time. That tiny apartment looks functional, but only for brief bits of respite and never for long, sleepy spells of writing and morning coffee. I’m all for living well in smaller, more responsible spaces, but I think I’ve already reached my lower limits.

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My desire for chairs I cannot have seems to be a recurring theme. I’ve been moving furniture around again, and have made space for a chair in the living room by moving my antique lamp table into my bedroom and sending the previous nightstand—a too-large Eastlake table—out into the wasteland of my garage—which wasteland is actually much improved thanks to a carload of donations, the redistribution of eight mismatched folding bookshelves from several of my previous habitations, and the reentry of one of my grandmother’s chairs into my living space. So, here’s the current configuration of my living room—I generally call this the “Christmas” arrangement since it leaves room for a small Christmas tree. I would really hate to deprive the feline occupants of my house the annual pleasure of tipping over a plastic evergreen and wrestling its breakable decoration to the ground.

I didn’t even clean up for this picture, so you can see the random brass owl-bookends and other bits and pieces that I’ve laid aside during my reconfiguration. As you can see, I am also in need of a set of curtains. Anyway, my lust for a chair began anew when I realized that a floor model like this one, long an object of my affections, is currently on sale for half-price at my local Anthropologie:

The colors are perfect, and we know that I have a thing for things with animals on them. Also, a thing for bird chairs, it would seem. Two problems, though: 1) half-price still means crazy, because it’s Anthropologie 2) my cats scratch everything they can find into tiny shreds; if it can’t be scratched, Hop will just eat it instead.

As it happens, some friends who have just discovered urgent needs for Billys and Malms and Heddas by virtue of new apartments with new spaces for the filling (I’m a little bit jealous of that part of the move, though grateful to be staying put in my dollhouse for the duration of this interminable scholastic endeavor) will soon be taking a trip to Ikea, which boasts this chair:

Lovely colors, lovelier price tag than even the half-price parrot chair—but same major cat-problem. All of my soft furniture currently boasts white slipcovers—I didn’t even consider the possibly impracticality of this choice, as it’s such a familiar aesthetic to me. The barrel chair, which was my grandmother’s, has been wearing that white twill slipcover for almost twenty years without any real incident. The white shows stains quickly, but also gives them up quickly in the wash–and the slipcovers do get snagged and torn by cat claws over time, but it’s nothing like what they can do to the tightly-pulled fabric on upholstered pieces like these chairs. I am still horrified by what one Mr. Cat did, long ago, to a wingchair belonging to my future mother-in-law. Now that I think about it, that chair also had birds on it.

I don’t know why I’m even bothering with this obsession. If you look closely in the picture of my living room, Hop is asleep in my grandmother’s chair. When he’s not there, another cat takes his place. It’s virtually impossible for any human being to ever sit down in that spot—and my cats seem to like my grandmother’s chair just fine. Maybe someday I’ll just have a new bird-y slipcover made for the chair I already have.

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oops, a dress

I just (impulsively) bought this dress. It could be a plaid disaster on me, but I have hope. I also just spilled half a container of Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds all over the couch. Oops. I guess I’ll have to eat them all. It’s better that way; they’re really only good in mass quantities.

I’m terrible at blogging lately. Generally, I blog when I’m getting down to work as a sort of writing warm-up. I’m trying to make my brain do the work it’s supposed to do, but it’s rebelling and instead I end up ordering plaid dresses, cleaning obsessively with my steam mop, and repotting jade plants. Oh, and watching hours and hours of Veronica Mars on Netflix. I think that I must have been in a black hole when this show originally aired (actually, close: I was in Virginia). Fortunately, that leaves hours of tv for watching now. Thanks, 2004-self, for leaving so much television to distract 2010-self.

I “read” (that’s really an exaggeration of what can actually do with such a “text”) a copy of Real Simple on the elliptical today. I felt like a very good yuppie.

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so much for july

July was a busy month. I’ve been jet-lagged for most of August, trying to recover from my insane return-trip itinerary (fly standby, London to Dulles; Dulles to Newark; drive Newark to PA, PA to WI) and the kind of household chores that materialize during a month-long absence from one’s home. My many travels were wonderful, exhausting, and filled with all kinds of THINGS. Really. Cauliflowerware, a stuffed dodo, giant cement dinosaurs, a rock that looks like Chaucer—it was my kind of trip. Maybe I’ll blog about some of them soon. I’ve only just gotten around to uploading some of the pictures—I’m missing about a week in the middle when my camera battery died and I took over Ricky’s for a while. Then I worked up the nerve to use our cheap-o adapter and got my camera back, just in time for hairy coos:

And now, a somewhat less-inspiring landscape. My backyard:

Ricky said that this looks like a “canary dissection.” It seems that Goddess and I had two parallel problems: me, too much jewelry and nowhere to put it; she, an unwanted place for putting jewelry. I saved this jewelry chest from the jaws of the crane during Saturday’s moving madness and spent most of the afternoon inhaling five cans of spray paint. It’s pretty hard to get from dark-stained wood to bright yellow—I had to drive to a neighboring town to get more spray paint after I exhausted the supplies at my local hardware store. I wonder what they thought I was up to….probably nothing this mundane.

I’m pretty happy with this transformation. I should really have taken a before picture, but this was the kind of project that was either going to happen rightthisminute or never. It’s not perfect, but it’s done!

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