Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Festivus!

Being a marginally practicing Jew married to a Catholic-though-lapsed and having a child -- a Cachew, as she's been called -- means we celebrate everything.

And I, as drecorator in chief of this family [how did this happen--when I am so very mild mannered, so unassuming?]  am no stranger to non-traditional holiday trees, and firmly believe that as long as you're DOING IT it should be as over-the-top as possible.

No skimpy, weepy Charlie Brown sad little lost tree in the forest, for us. Feh.

Of course this has left me regretting, as usual, that  I was not born the sort of  gay man (probably not a Marine), for whom over the top is an everyday affair.

Though I can achieve much (with inspiration from Architectural Digest and Veranda--and more recently House Beautiful, which seems to have stopped doing dreadful things with bed sheets), I have been left drained and limp from the effort.

But, fabulous news! Last year I realized I had achieved a child rearing goal and, between us, baby girl and I can create a helluva fine gay tree.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Blows In

I haven't been outside today, but when I do the city will have been transformed.

Yesterday was drizzly and mild,  delightful in its  melancholy. I love the final days of autumn, when neighbors entirely abandon their stabs at kempt and let what's left of the vines creep out of bounds and the flowers frolic and tangle among them.

A few very tender plants succumbed weeks ago, their limp and watery foliage blackened but hanging on, tethered to branches by glutinous threads. Beside them, pink roses still budding and blooming, foolishly believing summer goes on forever.

But overnight, winter dropped. This morning the car tops and tree branches were crusted with a glitter of snow. Today, the temperature won't climb much above freezing.

Soon, I'll tug on my boots and gloves and tromp a path to lunch, iced blossoms lining my way.

Finding of beauty in the cycle of life.  The Japanese call it wabi-sabi.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


An oak woodland in England, from “The World of Trees.”
Under the simple title "Gardening Books," Dominique Browning suggests a winter's feast of reading in today's New York Times (and if the photo above, which illustrates the piece, doesn't inspire hungry thoughts I don't know what will. Well, maybe the appearance of Daniel Craig galloping over the hill...)

These are more gardening memoirs than INSTRUCTION MANUALS, but who needs instruction when the earth is solidly iced and the nose requires a hat. In winter dreams, the garden come spring will have colors and textures combined to splendid effect. Zones and sun and spacing (all of those tedious details) will be considered before buying. Pruning will take place in an organized and timely fashion. Plants will be kept watered and fed. In winter dreams, with feet propped up and a fire blazing, spring will be a splendid thing.

Inspiration is the ticket to getting through to spring...and Browning delivers in spades:

Gardening Books
Dominique Browning
The New York Times
December 8, 2010

"Instead of a roundup of “gardening books,” maybe we should just refer to this category of publication as Dirty Books. Anything to do with soil falls under our new rubric. That way, writers who farm wouldn’t feel the need to elbow aside rosarians who write, who in turn wouldn’t jostle rudely past backyard gardeners concerned with mundane raised beds of veggies, bruising thin-skinned egos along with the tomatoes. Anyone insane enough to dig holes, pour money into the ground, wait to see what happens and then sit down at a computer to tell us about it has earned the right to a little respect.

While it’s true that we can’t live without food, it’s equally certain that we need beauty to live well. Anna Pavord, a gardener who plants sweet peas with her cabbage, understands this very well. The author of “Bulb” and “The Tulip” has collected in THE CURIOUS GARDENER (Bloomsbury, $35) selections from 20-odd years’ worth of essays published in the British newspaper The Independent. Let me lay my seed packets on the table: I am a Pavord groupie. Anyone who can look at a vase of tulips and offer a cogent explanation of world economic history has my devoted attention. She is intelligent, perceptive and well informed, writes gracefully and has a dry, sly wit.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Boxes by Twilight

The Newly Bedecked and Lighting the Night

Holiday Decking

My prince is getting antsy about the holidays. Promising a full Martha Stewart on the window boxes was a way of getting them back on their ledges, meanwhile suspending what has become a painting DEBACLE (that we will NOT get into) that involves his keeping employed a -- never mind, I did just say I wasn't getting into it and I can feel the blood pressure rising. Suffice it to say, NEVER employ a...writer to paint a house. And that is my final word on the subject (possibly).

So I renovated the window boxes on Sunday afternoon, he hauling down from the attic my cartons of odds and ends, me then playing in the dirt. Little about the the winter boxes is real. If I were more organized I would take before and after photos...showing you in shot after constructive shot how these dirt filled boxes with just a spill of ivy off the sides*, are magically transformed with the help of a pile of fake or once alive crap combined with a bit of glitz and white lights.

You will note the (fake) boxwood ball in the center is one I ordered on-line (while listening to Alejandro) several weeks ago.  It's stuck on a sturdy stick to get it above the rest of the shrubbish and promises to do exactly what I want it to do. Stay green and look alive.

In the front are some fir branches, clipped from Suzanne's trees over Thanksgiving weekend. The red berries that resemble red berries but are some kind of Chinese substance were stuck in last Christmas and never removed. They were too jolly to pull, somehow looking right even in midsummer nestled among the (real) pink geraniums. The rest of it is gilded pine cones, a couple of gold ornaments, and a big purple bow with glittered and wired edges that twist this way and that.  The bow more or less matches the color of the boxes, which are painted the same purple as the front door.

The body of the house, though it looks icy gray, is actually (mostly) a lively shade of spring green with a line of pale pink circling the windows and reappearing in the frieze along the roof line.. or PARTLY doing so because an unfortunate facet of having hired a writer to paint the damn house is that addition to the house itself not being entirely the sames shade (and it will probably always be at least two colors because that's the way things go around here) the damn frieze coloring is all ferkoct --half this color and half that. Idiot. STOP!

And because of this delay -- these months waiting to have one small flat fronted brick house painted and having a snively writer framed in the second floor windows across the hall from my office like a peeping tom jack-in-the-box at whatever time of day he was uninspired to write and more inspired to dab a little paint on the windows (while listening to NPR and chattering on his cell phone)--there is not a damn pansy to be found and I aways have pansies on either side of whatever thing occupies the center.   
Of course there are white lights twisted throughout. And it is very pretty at night. It and its four siblings; there's another box on the main level and three upstairs.

Similarly duded up is the berry-free holly (the only kind I can keep alive) that sits beside the front door.

If it's not too cold tonight, and if I remember, and if the camera captures it, I'll post a photo.

*Except the left corner of this one particular box, which due to some tragedy or other lost its ivy last spring. The new branch, which has yet to achieve any significant presence, temporarily commingles with fake.

Monday, December 6, 2010


The more I look at the previous post the more I hate the way the damn urn looks. And the curtain behind it. And the chair. Like a damn wedding. All that ...white and pink. Bah. I want to throw some blackish green all over everything and retrieve my palm.

Why don't you then?

Yeah. Ok. Shortly.

Xmas Cactus -- Again. And a Lemony Update

Christmas Cactus
It looks better than it deserves, the Christmas cactus. It bloomed the other day, when my back was turned (as usual). I found it on the floor of the winter garden (love that new name!). The pot was tipped on its side under the backgammon table, it's droopy, sickly sweet pink flowers splayed aganst the black and white  floor. Like a ballerina in her death throws.

So I retrieved it and stuck it in the urn that's temporarily sitting atop a pedestal in the corner--I have yet to repot a palm that's supposed to be there ensconsed (that's probably some kind of grammatical misconstruction and if it is not it is certainly pretentious Sometimes the way things dribble forth is the way they dribble forth).

The urn (which will move elsewhere shortly) needed something, having lost its centerpiece twice this past summer, because I was too lazy to get off the porch in the blast furnace heat and inspect the garden for drought-related disasters. So now the trailing greens and purple wandering jew hoist an insipidly-hued focal point that has all the charm of a wet pink Kleenex. Better than nothing I suppose.

OH WHY do the wrong things curl up and die?

Perhaps because this is a cactus dipshit?

In other news. The Meyer lemon has given birth to two. Which is better than last year's one.  As usual, one of the two is on a branch that broke two years ago [so many ones and twos! I get to use the word binary!] and is/was plastered together with packing tape and some green, plastic-wrapped wire that I managed to unearth in the garage. And yet again doing nothing triumphs over doing something. If I had pruned the damn branch I would have cut my fruit prodution this year by 50 percent. Too much math.


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