Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ritual and memory and stained-glass leaves.

It's a known fact among my family and friends that I can be counted upon to repeat myself. I am a creature of ritual, most especially when it comes to family gatherings... the mystery of the new is often overshadowed by the comfort of the familiar.

One of my very favorite traditions is the annual fall Woodstock weekend that my husband and I spend with his brother and sister-in-law. The first year was actually a late summer gathering, but I, mountain-bred girl that I am, needed a fall weekend with time spent among hills patchworked with gold and green and orange, and the rush of wind in glowing leaves over my head. So I co-opted the weekend from August to October. Two years ago, the weekend took place days after we got engaged; last year, it was the weekend of our wedding. This time (our fifth year) was our first anniversary.

Every year we do the same activities (flea market, apple picking) and visit the same restaurants, and that process of layering year after year of similar memories on top of one another is just the most magical thing. "Was it the wedding house or the mountain view house that had the crazy staircase?" "Do you remember when we were packing up after the wedding weekend and there was that insane ladybug swarm?" And of course, "What year was it that Bethany got baked for the first time?" (Some day I will tell you guys that story.)

So this year we did old things and new things, both of them equally precious. New layers of memory were added to the pile: the morning hour I spent alone on the balcony at the house, listening to the wind in the golden trees; the sweetness of the port that the owner of our wedding venue gave us with our anniversary dinner. The fire we built and proudly maintained until four o'clock in the morning.

If you really want to feel the mood, click this link and listen to the most exquisite country-folk harmony ever recorded by a pair of Swedish girls:

This was our fireside, where we sat up late listening to music and laughing and telling stories:

And then we woke up the next morning in our little mountain house to these leaves: 

And then went for a ramble around town:

Woodstock Flea Market

My dream house, on Rock City Road 

 And then slowly drove home the next day, stopping for apples and donuts and whiskey and wine.

Dressel Farms

this year's haul

Tuthilltown Distillery

Brotherhood Winery

It was a perfect, magical weekend, the way each of them has been. And as soon as the vibrancy of the leaves fades from my eyes, I will be looking forward to the next year.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Kelly Wearstler's Miami Viceroy

Aside from our various adventures with hair dryers and alcohol, we did really enjoy our stay at the Viceroy. I've been looking at photos of Kelly Wearstler's spaces for years, of course, but I've never before had the experience of exploring a space designed by such a strong and unique viewpoint.

These were some details from the main lobby and elevator bank:

A detail of the giant fu dog lamp and patterned dresser in the room:

On the way out to the pool deck:

And a detail of the massive marble table in the area where our friends had their ceremony.

One thing's for sure, I'd love to stay in more Viceroys around the world to experience the unique personality of each!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Even more drinker

File:Red Light District.jpg
wikimedia commons/user quinn norton

And by the way, this wedding we were attending was a great wedding. I just want to share with you the sequence of stream-of-consciousness texts that my husband's drunk buddy sent to him from the rooftop club at about 1:00 in the morning, after the two of us had retired for the night. Original grammar and spelling are preserved throughout. Please, if you will, imagine them being spoken in Michael Shannon's dramatic reading voice:

Holy shorthairs

Holy shot this us loud

Even more drinker

& louder

Even more drinker

I know where the red lights were coming from and I do not like it

Monday, October 7, 2013

Blow-drying with wine bottles: my failures at girliness.

File:Female hands.jpg
Wikimedia commons/user Justcurious

A couple of times a year, like a meteor shower or some other planetary phenomenon, I become suddenly obsessed with the pressing conviction that I ought to try to be a better girl. For a few weeks (it never, never ever ever, lasts more than a few weeks), I launch a multi-pronged initiative that involves me pre-planning the week's outfits, wearing makeup to work even when I don't have meetings, and not only painting my nails, but removing and re-doing the polish before it starts to take on the texture of second-hand dinnerware.

Weddings have a tendency to bring this out in me, what with the knowledge that all the other ladies in attendance will be primped and pressed to their respective nines. This weekend we flew to Miami for a friend's nuptials at the Viceroy, and so taken was I with my renewed commitment to grooming that I gladly consigned half the space in my overnighter to non-TSA-friendly bottles of product. Including nail polish that leaked all over everything else in my makeup bag.

Our beautiful Kelly Wearstler-designed room at the Viceroy

Now. Another element of my historically poor performance in the "polished and put-together" department has always been my chronic overconfidence about the amount of time these rituals demand. On two consecutive years, friends have arrived for our holiday party at the specified hour and found me dripping and shame-faced in a bath towel. (Seriously, though, who shows up exactly on time for a house party? It's fucking heartless.) So this weekend, I made sure to allow way more time than I needed. I departed the sunny pool terrace where we had been lounging two whole hours before I had to be ready. I had a plan. This is what it was:

Item 1. Draw bath in glamorous soaking tub (pictured above).

Item 2. While enjoying relaxing soak, remove old polish from fingers and toes, and reapply at a leisurely enough pace that everything will dry before I can find anything to smear it on.

Item 3. After bath, retire to shower for actual cleansing. Relish the luxurious water pressure like a woman in a plumbing fixture ad.

Item 4. Apply full, flawless makeup without borrowing it from anyone* or rushing through it at the last minute** or applying any part of it in a moving vehicle***.

Item 5. Gracefully arrive at the wedding ceremony like a hummingbird alighting on a twig.

As soon as I entered our room (solo; husband was still at the pool with his friends), I spotted the bottle of wine on the hotel dressing table - this would be the perfect touch to enhance my pampering experience! It was only a half-size bottle; how expensive could it be?

Thirty-six dollars, is how expensive. For a half bottle of wine. I couldn't do it, you guys. But what I could do was crack open the rum mini that the bride & groom had graciously included in their welcome bag, and pour a bunch of it into a glass with the unrefrigerated Coke that had been in the bag next to it. I don't particularly like rum & coke, but I had to work with what I had. And god dammit, I was determined to enjoy a festive beverage while I soaked in my bath.

And speaking of the bath, since I don't think I've taken one at all since moving to New York (I've only ever lived in pre-war buildings, and trust me, bathtubs do not make the list of amenities contributing to the charm factor of that type of apartment), I was remembering a vague childhood paranoia about bathwater never being quite warm enough. I ran it hot, figuring I'd add just enough cold water at the end to make it the perfect temp.

My bath turned out hot enough to boil potatoes. After several minutes of swearing, whimpering and scrabbling, I managed to sufficiently drain and refill the water until I could lower myself into it without shrieking in pain. I took a soothing sip of room temperature rum & coke, and reached for the emery board to begin filing my nails.

I bet you guys probably don't know what happens to an emery board when you get it damp. Why would anyone know that? Normal people file their nails when their hands and everything around them are dry. Well, I'm here to tell you that what happens is the little crystals on the surface disintegrate. Instead of the board filing away my nails, it was happening the other way around. But it was fine. It was fine. Nobody was going to notice my scraggly uneven-length nails, anyway.

Finally it was hair and makeup time. A recent and life-altering revelation for me was the discovery that if I spray my bangs with volumizer, wind them over a roller brush and then zap them with a dryer, they will take on a covetable gently-curved shape instead of hanging against my forehead like overcooked linguini. This has quickly become part of my daily regimen; it's dazzling to me that such a rudimentary trick could make such a visible improvement to my appearance.

But did my roller brush make it to Florida with me, my friends? The answer is no, no it did not. And it turns out that roller brushes don't rank alongside shampoo and dental floss in terms of the emergency toiletries that hotels keep on hand; not even at the Viceroy. So when the Big Moment arrived, instead of whipping out my brush to do the Magical Thing, I had to spend an anxious 90 seconds ransacking the hotel room for any workable stand-in. My eyes skipped over a peanut jar (too short) and a Voss bottle (the heat will release BPA's from the plastic!) before settling on my dear old friend, that little upstart $36 half-size bottle of wine.

I held the bottle. My husband held the dryer. Together we pressed the poor woebegone bangs in place against the curve of the bottle, since there were no brush bristles to work with. It was the first cooperative grooming effort of our fledgling marriage, and we pulled it off in style. My bangs were as curvy and bouncy as the D-cups I will never have. And I even made it to the ceremony on time.

Wine-bottle bangs. Pretty respectable!
But I've still got lipstick on my cheeks cause I forgot my blush.

*I did this at the last wedding I attended
**I did this at that same wedding
***I also did this at that same wedding

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Virginia country textures: Millwood and Middleburg

Take me home, country road.

One of the elements from my own life that I sprinkled into NAILING IT is the ass-flattening amount of backseat window-staring time I logged during weekend excursions with my parents. After having lived in cities or suburbs for most of their lives, my parents were enchanted with the unmanufactured charm and beauty of the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge foothills that surrounded our town. On any nice weekend when we had nothing more demanding to do, we were off and exploring. Back roads were preferable - the backer, the better. You always have a better chance of seeing something lovely along a road that doesn't look like it has anywhere important to take you. 

A favorite destination that we visited more than once was the wonderful Burwell-Morgan Mill in Millwood. The building dates from 1782, and is still operational as a mill - they do grinding demonstrations every few weeks and sell the mill-ground cornmeal and flour on the site. The mill interior, with its immense wheels and cranks, is a wonderland for any mechanical engineering buff or history nerd (of which I am firmly the latter - I mean, I was the kid who was actually excited to go to Colonial Williamsburg). I stopped to visit it when we were in the area for my friend Katie's wedding last fall, and though it wasn't open for touring that day, we still got to explore the grounds. On a crystalline autumn afternoon, it was as serene and lovely as I remembered. It's one of those places where the weight of history is palpable, as if the essence of the people who worked and lived in the building before is somehow just out of reach around the corner of time.

Antique store across the road from the mill

 The mill building

Lichen on the split-rail fence

Sun grazing the stone wall of the building

The glass panes are old enough to be ripply and uneven.

Reflection and sunbeam in the millstream

After our Millwood stop, we continued the drive back toward DC, and stopped for lunch in Middleburg. If you're familiar at all with Northern Virginia, you probably know of it - it's the ultra-tony epicenter of Virginia horse country. The hilly roads leading into town are lined with massive multi-million-dollar historic estates where some of the finest horses in the country are bred and trained. The town itself is lovely: sort of a smaller Southern cousin to Greenwich, Connecticut, it has that same genteel, WASP-y grace. And a generous sprinkling of beautiful 18th-century buildings with irregular mortar walls and bowlegged roofs.

ivy and black berries on the side of an old tavern

The list of this roof is so enchanting to me.

Allen and I gave serious to consideration to purchasing a six-million-dollar horse farm, but we figured we should probably hold out for something closer to home. Also we don't know anything about horses. So for now we'll probably just stick with our imaginary Hudson Valley farmhouse. Hell of a lot less upkeep on it.