It has taken three Aprils and nearly as many Mays for me to feel like I’m getting the hang of living in Britain, for it to feel like home. Along with the obvious (time passed, friendships formed, residence herein), uncountable little things contribute: bookstore selections, snack aisles of grocery stores, television program(me)s.
Cover image is a screenshot of the Barbican website: Hyde Park, London (1953) by Cas Oorthuys is currently on view as part of Strange and Familiar.
The kitchen is the most beautiful, brightest, best-smelling room in my house. Like a good Dutch flower painting, all stages of life are on display. It lends itself perfectly to A Grazing Lunch, one of the great pleasures of an unruly kitchen - or simply of being home at lunchtime. But sometimes there's cause to work a little harder, to knead too.
This month (and maybe a bit longer, if we like how it feels) we will be tying on our apron strings (and double belting in a cool, official way), putting on our Mario Batali- approved kitchen clogs, and making our way, one sticky page at a time, through our favorite cookbooks. We'll also be compiling a list of what we like to listen to when we put water on to boil, thinking about how kitchens really feel to us, and trying to wrangle in a couple Traveling Lights as far as our cooking kit is concerned (or rather, finally letting my cup measure have its day in the sun).
I was lucky enough to spend an intermittently sunny & dismal morning at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London last week, where Woodman’s work is on view through this weekend. I’m not sure whether my babe or I loved the show more. Not that there is anything childish about the work, but that Woodman deals so tantalizingly with the visual equivalent of sugar, for babies: her obsession is with creating and confounding surfaces.
An easy way to feel rather proud of yourself, especially while desperately trying to get a child to eat solid foods from a spoon, is to make something nice that you actually wouldn’t mind eating yourself. Because, oh yes, there will be leftovers. But hopefully not as many as you fear.
I really do regret my absence from these pages, which is equal parts unintentional and belabored. But it seems like for the couple of months, maternity leave has for me meant that I think about writing, make three pages of inarticulate scribbles during her morning nap, and among other things try to feed a baby who has intermittently eaten well and refused to allow food to pass between her tiny little lips. I am horrified/delighted that Ines will probably always be stubborn and opinionated and generally a tough customer (what do you do about teenagers?) and horrified, period, that I have let this one little thing - eating solids - consume me. As with all completely normal baby-related experiences and feelings, I feel like I am facing a dramatic, unique problem, one which lies far outside of language.
Like any practice, a daily dedication to cleaning is difficult. And yes, sometimes it feels good to let your apartment go fallow and watch Nashville in old pajamas for three days while your cereal dishes crust over. I've been there, I feel you. But a good, redemptive cleaning is one of life's biggest pick-me-ups. There's time to think, listen to music, to finally drink a warm lemon water with turmeric and honey, and time to get optimistic while you make everything better. Bad days are the best cleaning days, because you can turn it all around.
In the spirit of not-yet-abandoned new year's resolutions, the recent Chinese New Year, never not sparking joy, moving house, being bored and out of work - and not to mention our Olympian month dedicated to all things Hearth and Home - we're cleaning up our whole About-ness.
Image: Rubber beauty masks, worn to remove wrinkles and blemishes; modelled by two women at a typewriter. Photograph, ca. 1921. From the Wellcome Library
As I see it, in the disorganized days that follow the great physical and psychological trial that is Moving House, there are only two acceptable types of eating to do: either abdicating responsibility for health and finances altogether and getting take out for every meal....OR doubling down on both those things with some intensive Francis Mallman-like (or Babette's Feast-like) cooking in your new kitchen.
Oops! It's been a while. Our excuses for our long winter's silence are too numerous to list, too flimsy to be believed and also too real to argue with. And maybe we've been away for reasons we're holding close to our chest (for now).
While we are wholeheartedly in favor of the loveliest night things money can buy, and the crisp, perfect sleep they afford, there is an equally important place in our hearts and beds for the softest, oldest, humanest and most comforting ones, as well.
Continuing our theme of Moms Writing About Sleep and to close out the month, Lydia's mom sends us a dispatch from the Department of After-Midnight Snacking.
Do you wake up at 2:36 a.m.? Do you thrash about in bed like a crocodile, or alternately attempt to lie perfectly still while scrolling through important stories on your phone, such as “750 Hollywood Stars Who Have Aged Really, Really Badly” or “63 Egregious Tattoo Misspellings”? Or do you sometimes just play 100 hands of iPhone solitaire while not sleeping?
I admit to being guilty of all the above - to being seduced by the blue light emitted by my phone screen, and then held hostage by it, as the hours tick by. Luckily, however, I've discovered there is a cure for sleepless nights like this, and it doesn't necessarily have to sound like "Ambien dependency."
Thinking about SLEEP all month has led to some unexpected revelations. Besides it being actually one of my favorite activities, I've discovered it's also, in some ways, my most active activity? THINK ABOUT IT.
Today's installment of You and Me, & Sleep: Tales of Love and Slumber is a very special extended episode! And unlike that D.A.R.E.-sponsored story arc of Saved by the Bell when Jessie Spano took too many caffeine pills, in this one - as in Part I - you might actually learn something, as Kate Johnson and her husband Stuart Newman delightfully weigh in on their conflicting bedtimes, and the compromises this nocturnal dilemma has wrought.
An end-of-the-month mini-series from friends of Olympia Monthly, in which we chronicle tales of sleep, relationships, and conflicting bedtimes. We wanted to call it "Dynamite in the Sack"...but didn't.
Every relationship has a tell. It’s that little indicator, that little relationship litmus test, that can be celebrated, be brushed under the rug, or be brought to the forefront in the heat of a whiskey-induced spat. For some romances, it’s how they act around your friends. For others, it’s the last sentence before they hang up the phone. For me, it’s sleep. - Kathleen Rommel
They call us medical residents because we are the junior doctors who reside at the hospital. We work there (up to 28 hours at a time), we eat there (mostly stale PB&J sandwiches), we bathe there (when splattered with blood or other human matter), and very occasionally we sleep there (when the stars align).
In the last decade Liz Lambert* has undertaken the ambitious project of building Bunkhouse, a Texas hotel empire, and bringing the poured-concrete-and-succulents austere/luxurious aesthetics of, say, Los Angeles and Donald Judd, to the western part of Texas. Or at least the Bunkhouse empire has succeeded at making it look this way to T Magazine.
Brainstorming recipes that might belong in our TIME ZONES ISSUE this month was no easy task. Sure, we thought of offering ideas for chic little lunches you can bring on international flights, or the best road trip offerings across bandwidths of the U.S., but nothing truly grabbed our imagination or quickened our heartbeats.
So in true Olympia Monthly form, after spending ages thinking of all the obvious things, we came up with something not quite on-topic, but not exactly off it, either. And so we present you here with a handful of recipes that require little more than assembly plus a quotient of time - be it minutes, hours, or days. No, we're not suggesting you use a crock pot! (We are anti-crock pot). Rather: we present you with our choice of homemade infusions for all the very best things we could think of: vanilla, lavender, herbes de Provence, and cardamom.
Many a sweet couple in a long distance relationship has of course spent an evening at home together side-by-screen. Asleep. But sometimes more action is required, and usually so is dinner. So when you're looking for more, here are some ideas for feeling closer.
Artist and photographer Frances F. Denny understands about ghosts. Maybe it's because we're all previous residents of Rhode Island (she received her MFA from Rhode Island School of Design), but like us, Frances is in tune with the special magic of 200 year-old New England houses and the silent tread of spirits on worn floorboards.
Little and Big Edie Beale are, of course, the inspiring stars of the Maysles brothers’ 1975 cult documentary Grey Gardens. As a 2006 Broadway show, 2009 television movie, and countless “inspired by” fashion collections and Vogue editorial features all attest, the real point of Grey Gardens is its mother and daughter song and dance team who burn like aggressive and affecting comets through every frame. And the Grey Gardens house itself – a fourteen-room estate in fancy, old East Hampton – is no more than the incidental scenery upon which the camera occasionally lingers.
The idea of eating oysters at home, outside the comforting brass and marble confines of a swanky oyster bar is, I admit, a slightly daunting prospect. But if you like a challenge – as well as a look of awe (or is that trepidation?) in your friends’ faces as you welcome them to your home for supper – then you have come to the right place.
In the summer just after college, when I fancied myself some type of pioneer of real-world living, clumsily learning the basic skills of adulthood (seemingly long-known by everyone else), I discovered by accident and subsequently went fully cultish over M.F.K. Fisher. A freshly edited compendium of her writing, The Art of Eating, had just been published that summer, and I think it literally fell down on me from a high shelf while I was sulking around the cookbooks at a Barnes & Noble.
In February, pregnant and in bed with a cold, I fell head first into my first Persephone Book*. One of the small press’s handful of Classics, The Home-Makerwas originally published in 1924. The author, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, was a New England novelist (and wife, and mother). And rather than a feminist, a self-declared advocate for children. Ninety years later, her message remains sweet as ever.
It’s the end of the first week on Olympia! We are very excited, a little tired, and desperately in need of some refreshment. We (Lydia) thought about consuming more than the gris-amount of champagne, but then she remembered that Babs is pregnant. So today we’re discussing that milder form of exhilaration: TEA! And specifically the Afternoon Tea (with champagne for some). The first in an unpredictable series.
I daydream practically constantly about finding a glamorous, healthy, and fortifying morning routine -- some magical combination of fiber, sweat-free fitness, and a stunningly faithful commitment to The Artist’s Way (or breakfast as Colette does it, above). Most mornings, I usually just manage a coffee and not to teeter into the brink of depression, which, of course, is still a lot. But I’m convinced I’d probably be a Yoncé, if only I could find something to eat every morning that didn’t make me feel nauseated.