This week, Mr. Magpie was out of town, and my evenings hung vacant. What to do with myself when my meals are not planned and I find no counterbalance to consult with on what to watch on television? I elected to lean into things purely for myself:
I watched two big 90s flicks: “Legends of the Fall” and “Autumn of New York,” neither of which would have been green-lighted in Mr. Magpie’s company, and neither of which was, frankly, worth rewatching. I had such swoony memories of “Legends,” but it felt mawkish, over-drawn. I’d forgotten about the treacle of 90s movie scores and found the soundtrack detractive, though I dimly recall force-crying to it in my teens. “Autumn in New York” was woefully misguided on a plot level, and I found myself squinting in disbelief at the ending (“…Huh”), but — man, did the 90s go big in the movies. The star power alone! It’s almost difficult to look directly at Brad Pitt on a screen. He is Hollywood gold. And the sets, the costumes, the histrionics! I love the bald scale and glamor of it all. You can almost imagine a conductor lifting his palms skyward — “more, more, more! crescendo!” — as these movies steamroll right over believability and plot in favor of “an epic still.” As an example, in “Indecent Proposal,” there is a famous scene in which Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson roll around in a bed of money while in Vegas. I would venture to guess that it’s the scene most of us think of when we call the film to mind, much like the fridge/food scene in “9 1/2 Weeks.” In both cases, though, the scenes are nearly extraneous to the plot, as if designed for the film’s promotion rather than its narrative. They communicate the film’s themes and aesthetics in highly memorable ways, but exist as though “stills” or “vignettes” rather than components of the core stories. I am sure film students have explanations that tie into film marketing, but as a casual viewer, the effect is: “These movies are unblushingly designed for visual pleasure.” They pack star power, they sweep, they stir — but they do not hang well together. I am sure we could argue the same for subsets of contemporary films (no one need hold a microscope to the proliferation of superhero movies…?), but there is something distinct about the magnitude of a 90s film, and, despite the fact that I found myself smirking my way through some scenes, I did enjoy myself.
I also worked on a bit of fiction that will likely go nowhere, just for the pleasure of it. I did not agonize over the words, or pause to re-read my own writing: I just let my thoughts spill onto the paper. For a long time, I have considered this kind of “free-writing” a bit blasphemous. It is untethered from plot designs, themes, schematics of any kind, and sometimes I feel as though I should conserve my creative energy for “real writing” that might eventually turn into something worth sharing. Over lunch this week in Georgetown (seen above, the converging site of all the versions of myself), I shared this fleeting thought with a friend, and she said, “But do you really believe that?” I look inward. No. The creative impulse is accretive. If I am reading something good, or writing something fun, the energy splatters off the page, coating all it touches. Inspiration is the flame, not the tinder.
Finally, I stayed up very late — too late — reading a book and watching outtakes from “The Office.” Like all good children of the 80s, “The Office” is my chicken noodle soup, but I hadn’t known much about the cast’s dynamics. You get the sense from these clips that Rainn Wilson and John Krasinski had a particular connection, and I’m fascinated by Rainn Wilson after he popped up in the Mary Oliver tribute, reading (and crying to!) the poem “Humpbacks,” which I wrote a little bit about here. Sidebar: if you are a fellow “Office” fan, can we all agree that “The Dinner Party” episode is one of the finest achievements in television history? Mr. Magpie and I have watched it dozens of times, and each time, we find it hysterical. We use many of the quotes in our daily repartee: “Oh, thanks, this will be great for cooking,” is one of my favorites. (In the episode, Pam arrives with a bottle of wine, and Jan dismisses it as “cooking wine.”) We use this as placeholder/shorthand for situations where our efforts are dismissed, mistaken, overlooked, trivialized. “Thanks, this will be great for cooking.” Anyhow, there is an outtake from the episode here that added to my enjoyment.
What do you do when you’re on your own?
A few other scattershot thoughts and finds from the week:
+This jazz for autumn playlist is delightful. I’ve been working to it all week long. It’s 18h long, which means you can listen for several days without it feeling too repetitive.
+Just noticed that Veronica Beard put my beloved Ferazia blazer on sale. I’ve worn this a ton this season, and a few of you have asked for “look for less” options. I haven’t been able to find something terribly similar at a lower price point, so perhaps the discount is what we’ve been waiting for. The entire sale section is newly worth a visit, as it now includes the perfect black tie gown (the black version of the gold lame dress I’m wearing here) and everyone’s favorite kick flares. I also found the Ferazia blazer on sale for even less in an off white denim color here.
+Some pretty last-minute Thanksgiving buys to consider: these cheeky place cards are SO fun (which would you be?) and I love the idea of using these velvet ribbons for gifting bottles of wine for the occasion. They have adhesive on the back so you can affix right to the label. On that note, one of my favorite food bloggers (truth be told, the only food blogger I follow), Caroline Chambers, recently talked about the stress of preparing a Thanksgiving meal and advised “outsourcing whatever doesn’t bring you joy.” I hadn’t really thought about this, but — yes! I noticed Praline in NW DC has a whole menu of Thanksgiving pies and pastries you can order in advance. I love baking, but it did cross my mind that it might be a good plan if you’re low on time or not inclined to bake. (BTW, you can access all my Thanksgiving recipes here.) In the second photo below, you can see the most adorable Thanksgiving sensory kit from KidKits. I have this saved in my closet for Thanksgiving morning. The owner, Katie, has offered us 10% off with code MAGPIE10.
+I enjoyed the most delightful dinner at Petite Cerise in D.C. It’s a bustling French brasserie with a seriously chic interior and delicious food. The high points: headcheese and the foie gras beignets. I’d normally dismiss a beignet appetizer as gimmicky / over the top but it was absolutely scrumptious and I will order when I return. And you’ve got to respect a menu with head cheese on it. Mr. Magpie and I love to pick the menu items that probably aren’t popular because we think their inclusion signals the passion of the chef de cuisine. He/she is choosing to keep something a bit off the beaten path and possibly offputting to some diners on the menu purely from personal interest! But beyond food and ambiance, the cocktails are the real reason to visit. The menu is so fun and well-considered. You can tell they take their cocktails seriously because they make clarified milk punch as one ingredient in one of their cocktails — that takes vision, time, care — and it’s not even mentioned on the menu! We will be back.
+Davines sent me the PR package of my dreams — a box full of the entire line of Oi products. I’ve been using this line for nearly a decade, since I first discovered it in a salon in Lincoln Park, Chicago. I especially love their conditioner (already have one nearly kicked in my shower, and will happily stow this as back stock) and all-in-one-milk (primes, detangles, protects). The scent is divine and these products really work. Conditioner is especially handy when hair feels dry. I use it on the bottom 2/3 of my hair.
+This week, my children started taking ice skating lessons. Their first time, ever, on ice, and it was incredible to see how much progress they made in the span of 30 minutes. After, my daughter announced: “Skating is my favorite sport.” It reminded me of the way Mr. Magpie and I are about travel: nearly everywhere we visit, we tell ourselves “we need to come back / I wish we could have a vacation home here / let’s plan to visit next year at this time.” Every destination is our new favorite destination. I mentioned this to our (well-traveled!!!) friends over dinner at Petite Cerise, and one responded: “That’s a good thing — that means you’re optimistic. You’re glass half full. You’re open to new things.” I hadn’t thought of it that way, and I liked it. It’s good to leave the door ajar to joy.
+Why did I wait so long to buy noise-cancelling headphones?! I AM OBSESSED WITH MINE. I find myself so much more productive with them on, especially when I’m in a good writing flow. I hadn’t realized how much “extra noise” I’m processing all day long, whether the jangle of the dog collar, a delivery at the door, Mr. Magpie on the phone, my children screaming downstairs…! Is this what it’s like to work in a real office? (BTW, I did quite a bit of research on the headphones, with Mr. Magpie’s guidance, and I am highly passionate about the pair I landed on.)
+Currently toggling between a few books: Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart (spiritual instruction / lessons for the heart); The Artist’s Way (a creative manual recommended by my friend who politely told me not to worry about “sapping” my creative energy by writing things purely for joy); Absolution by Alice McDermott (Ann Patchett praised this book when I saw her speak in DC last month); and It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey (a steamy romance / beach read after dark recommended by a friend — very steamy…!)
+You saw this on Friday’s “What I Loved Wearing,” but wanted to flag here — this Sezane dress is AMAZING (!!!) and already selling out. Runs TTS, works on petites (I’m 5’0 and it hits at ankle), and NOT itchy. I find a lot of Sezane pieces itchy but this is a stretchy wool-cotton blend and I had no complaints. You need this girlie!
+In closing, a few fun shopping finds —
THESE DEE OCLEPPO HEELS — I BOUGHT THEM TO WEAR WITH ALL MY HOLIDAY OUTFITS
THIS DOEN DRESS FROM THE MOST RECENT LAUNCH IS IN MY CART
SPEAKING OF UNDERGARMENTS, WANT TO ORDER EVERYTHING FROM NEGATIVE
WHERE’S WALDO — HAD FORGOTTEN ABOUT THIS SERIES UNTIL I WROTE THIS POST ON ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN! ORDERED AS A STOCKING STUFFER / ADVENT SURPRISE
CUTE CONSTRUCTION SWEATPANTS FOR YOUR DIGGER-LOVING BOY
TARGET HAS MOVED ITS JOHN DERIAN THANKSGIVING COLLECTION INTO THE CLEARANCE SECTION — YOU CAN STILL ORDER IN TIME FOR TURKEY DAY!
P.P.S. “Early motherhood — at least for me — demanded a withdrawal, and I was not always at peace with that change. Still, looking back, I am struck by “the extraordinary acts of metamorphosis” I performed to make my way through. Because during that time, I was becoming. I was spinning myself into the loving mother I have become.” Read the full essay here.
P.P.P.S. Remember when we used to take our time?
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