Dear Apartment Therapy

Dear Apartment Therapy,

Please, for the love of all that is holy, no more freaking contests.  I am sick to death of all these damn contests, most of which seem to come from you.  Blogs have contributed to the death of shelter magazines, and this is what we get in return?  Instead of beautiful, glossy, hold-in-your hand photos, we get week after week of pleas to vote for me, or vote for my friend, or vote for this blog, etc., etc.  Don't worry, I'm self-aware enough to realize that a large portion of my disdain for all these contests is because of my own insignificance in the blog world.  I am a high school nerd ranting about the popular kids, while secretly longing to be one.  Even so, it's becoming annoying.



To edit or not to edit: blogging your life

Amy Adams as Julie Powell

Editing their lives.  Is that what bloggers do?

I just finished watching the movie Julie and Julia. Several years ago, that book introduced me to blogs--or at least to the fact they existed.  I enjoyed the book, sympathisizing with Julie's unhappiness at her seemingly dead-end life and with her attempts to climb out of the doldrums.  And boy did she ever climb out.  She did it in a way that inspired the dreams of bloggers everywhere:  blog leads to media coverage leads to book deal leads to best seller leads to big budget movie starring Meryl Streep. Every blogger dreams of this: his or her musings, insights, etc. leading to fame and fortune. What does all this have to do with bloggers editing their lives? Dear Reader, I'm glad you asked. The truth is that blogging CAN lead to perks, book deals, fame, money, etc. on all sorts of level, from small to large. And like success in any other entertainment media, a measure of that success depends on the blogger's likeability; therefore,  it's tempting for a blogger to edit themselves into what amounts to a fictional character.

Julie Powell's likeability in Julie and Julia is one of the main reasons I enjoyed the book. She's a conversational writer, and most of the conversation was funny, even if some of the comedy was tinged with black. However, when the topic veered too far away from her attempts to master Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I found her sometimes whiny and annoying. One of the reasons, though, that I still liked and rooted for her in spite of that was because I liked her whole package as presented. She could be a whiny, drunken, flawed drama queen, true, but one with a swell husband, great friends, boho apartment, cool brother, and, especially, a wonderful marriage. I found the movie slow, so while watching it, I casually googled Julie's name to see what she'd been up to after achieving success. Apparently what she'd been up to was writing another memoir, but not another feel-good one about a loser who manages to win with the support of her adoring (and adored) childhood sweetheart/husband. The more recent one chronicles, among other things--many other things-- her 2 year obsessive S&M spiced affair with an ex with whom she had already cheated (the original affair predated the events in Julie and Julia and was never even hinted at in book or film) and suggests mental illness. (For truth in blogging purposes, I have not actually read the 2nd memoir, Cleaved.)

I guess I knew at the time I read the book that the Julie on the page was an edited version of the real Julie Powell, but even before I read about her affair(s), I had already realized how much the character of Julie had been edited from the book during the transition to the silver screen to make her, quite frankly, much nicer and more sympathetic. In fact, in an interview, Julie described the movie character as not being very simliar to herself---in fact as being  merely based upon her. All of this makes me wonder how much she had edited herself in the original blog. In other words, was movie Julie a photocopy of book Julie who was a photocopy of blog Julie who was a photocopy of real-life Julie--each one a slightly blurrier, less accurate version?

Let's face it--if your life intersects with your blog---it has to be edited. You may have to condense, tweek, etc. just to keep posts mercifully brief, and if you're writing a design/lifestyle blog, readers probably don't want details of your last fight with your spouse over his wandering eye.  But if part of your blog's appeal is its portrait of a happy family, should you let readers know that there is trouble in paradise?  Writing a blog is  like crafting a resume---how do you condense your life onto one page,  make it as flattering as possible,  omit the unneccssary, and still stay honest? You can be truthful without being accurate. But how much tweaking is kosher and how much tweaking is  too much?

Potential blogging rewards have increased.  Now, a successful blog with a large following, great hook, and good writing skills  can lead to fame, money, career success, etc. on a lot of levels, from reknown in the blogosphere to that distant shimmering beacon: a book deal. A blog is personal; therefore, its success depends partly on the author's ability to be likeable.  A successful blogger has to not only find a unique writing voice, but to present their personality in a way that is pleasing to the largest number  of readers. God knows bloggers can be touchy, so I'm not naming names , but many of the most successful design blogs have their author's personality, personal life, and a storyline as an integral part of their blog.  Lives are condensed like the plot of a Lifetime (television for women---and gay men) made-for-tv movie:  young couple buys fixer upper and decor hijinks begin or retired executive and beautiful blonde wife leave NYC to renovate farmhouse----oh wait, the last one is the plot of Green Acres. Because there can be real  material (if only for a handful of bloggers) rewards from a blog, it becomes tempting to spin everything...to accentuate the positive (and only the positive) and elimnate the negative--completely.   All stories can be spun in at least two ways.  Take  Gone With the Wind---Epic love story between star crossed soul mates set against the turbulence of a nation ripped apart by war or a tale of a lying narcissistic opportunist  and her partner in co-dependence whose fortune was built on the backs of the less fortunate, including slaves, convicts, her own sister, and two dead husbands?  If you include your personal life in your blog, how much spin is too much?  Should it be total honesty all the time? Does it even matter if your blog persona is artificial?

One good thing about blogging---if you can't personally resolve the issue in your own mind, you can always end it by questioning readers.  And by the way, if any one wants to offer a book deal, my schedule is open.
the real Julie Powell


Cold Comfort

Sorry for the lack of posting lately, but I've been finishing a couple of work projects left over from 2009 and trying to survive the recent cold blast. Now I know for a lot of people, temps in the 20s and low 30s aren't that cold. But I'm a Southern boy born and bred, and anything under 50 degrees makes me wrap up like a character in Dr. Zhivago heading to Siberia in the dead of winter. Thankfully, it's warmed back up to the upper 50s. However, last week looked a lot like this:
This fountain is located in our neighborhood. Thomas took the photo---the only thing that dragged my freezing behind out of bed during last week's cold snap was my duty to Cleopatra and her need for walks. Still, I've been through hard freezes before, and the fountain freezing during the night's dipping temperature wasn't that much of a surprise. However, when it still looked like this the next afternoon, I was concerned:

This cold front lasted for a week at least. Still, here in the house, we managed to stay warm. Some of us decided to go old school, and couldn't care less about using the last of Earth's precious fossil fuels to fight the cold.

Others decided to go the green, eco friendly route and use solar energy:

And finally, the most stylish among us said "Screw PETA" and embraced fur:

All joking aside, we in New Orleans are unprepared for long term cold weather. Since spring 2009, I've been coaxing the front yard (it's not really large enough to be a yard, but yard seems easier to type than "space between the sidewalk and steps) into something approaching a garden. Since I'm on a tight budget and have zero garden skills, it's been a challange. Spring 2009:

This summer:

Prepared for the worst:

Unfortunately, the worst came, and even with protection, I did lose a lot of plants. But at least the kitties made it through intact.


Bedroom Redo: Mini-update

One more step to finishing the bedroom room (and for all of those who mocked my Dec. 20th deadline---You were right, you told me so----I hope you all got coal in your stockings) was finding an inexpensive duvet cover for the ugly Big Lots poly blend gypsy horror I was using. It was an emergency purchase a couple of years ago when we had a family of four coming to visit for mardi gras and were still in our small apartment waiting for the house to be finished and didn't have enough bedding, especially since we were "enjoying" a cold spell. I never liked them, especially after I spilled paint all over one of them in my then studio/guest room. (I just realized it sounded like I was talking about the guests not the comforters! I actually liked the guests, and have never spilled paint on any guest......wine perhaps, maybe chili, but never paint.) I had stored the comforters when we moved in this house, but after Thomas's twin moved in with us, I had to consolidate storage and the only place to store it was on the bed! Actually, it wasn't horrible--at least the unstained reverse was a solid burgundy that somewhat went with the scheme. And I learned to like sleeping euro style--with just a duvet and bottom sheet. However, the poly blend fabric was itchy, and it was a pain to drag that huge thing to and from the laundry room.

Before: notice the bedding carefully turned to the reverse and folded to be as inconspicous as possible:g

This photo is just a shameless excuse to show off the cutest, sweetest dog in existence (except yours, I'm sure):

After: It took a while to find an inexpensive duvet cover that wasn't equally as unpleasant as the comforter fabric. I didn't want to spend more than $50 because it will be subjected to a lot of dog/cat laying as well as frequent laundering. I finally found an all cotton, 200+ thread count set in bone on Overstock.com for $39 with free shipping. Woohoo. Take that Santa, I was a good boy this year after all.

It's a decent value for the price. It's not incredible quality--for instance, it's pieced and the placket is not a hidden one, but the fabric feels good, and it's a bargain for the price. Now, I really have a bed that I feel like cuddling up in, and with below freezing temps predicted for the rest of the week, (here, in New Orleans! Global warming where are you when I need you!), that's a good thing. Now all I have to do is to back and quilt the vintage fabric into a throw ala the thin quilts of Provence, (Please don't hold your breath for this to happen...I'd hate to be responsible for your asphyxciation.)

Forgive the unstyled picture, but I actually like a slightly made, but rumpled bed. And if you, like me, like reading the titles of books you see in interior photos, I'll list them for you:

Thom Filicia's design book, The Art of Happiness by the Dali Lama, The Grandy Sophie by Georgette Heyer, and the best....Princess Luciana Pignatelli's 1971 beauty how to bible, The Beautiful People's Beauty Book.


Metamorphosis Monday: A mini-project

It's time for first Metamorphosis Monday of 2010 at Susan's Between Naps on the Porch (here), and after this holiday season, all I could muster is a mini-project, but its one that is long over due (since 2007!) and is a first step toward my first design resolution. One of my resolutions for 2010 is to get my house to a place I feel is magazine worthy (original design resolution post here), and part of that ongoing goal is to tackle all the small projects that seem to get pushed to the back of the to-do list. One of those has been to finish up the nonworking fireplace in my home office. It's a small, cosmetic project because my partner unfortunately love, love, loves the ugly red brick, so I've decided to just ignore it. However, the metal at the back of the original metal was a shiny silver and did not match the great rusted patina of the surround:
Furthermore, the hearth was just an unpainted slab of heat resistant material left over from the days the hearth contained a heater:

One of the reasons it took a while to do this small project is that I couldn't quite decide what to do. With three existing elements, brick, rust, and woodlook laminate floor, I didn't want to introduce another one. My first instinct was to paint it to blend with the rust firebox (my favorite element), but I thought it might call too much attention, especially since the mantle is in a de facto passageway. I finally decided to paint it in a faux bois (fake wood) technique (how to is here---the techniqure is the same, the colors are all that differ) to blend with the floor and to disappear, hopefully making the room look a little wider.
Here is the fireplace after the back of the box has been faux painted to match the rust surround and the hearth has been primed:

Here is the after. I also simplified the mantle arrangement and painted it out to match the wall and blend in.
The large copper tub was a Christmas present. For entertaining, I'll fill it with a plant, but now (truth in blogging) I use it to collect all the shoes that seem to end up littering our first two rooms. I always wanted a house that felt so comfortable that people wanted to kick their shoes off and linger...I just never knew how much picking up after others that would entail.

A detail of the faux bois painting on the hearth.
One mini-project down on the way to achieving my number 1 design resolution. Approximately 12,347,889 to go.