Tag Archives: books

Why yes, I do want to live in a tree house.

Specifically, this treehouse, perched on the rocks of Passage Island.  This amazing place is just a 5 minute water-taxi from Fisherman’s Cove, West Vancouver.  It’s listed  for $399,000 – why does that seem like such a deal?

100% self-sufficient…solar panels….generators… views to kill for…

How good would a latte and a book be in this very spot?

Grey clouds have dropped like a gauze over the city today. It’s reading weather.  I am a chapter into Anne Michaels‘ newest book, The Winter Vault. It’s only the second novel she’s ever written – her first being the famed story of Jakob Beer in Fugitive Pieces (oh how I loved Michaela). Most interesting so far has been the history surrounding the St. Lawerence River and the construction of the seaway as it swallowed whole towns. If you don’t like aching, poetic language, this is probably not the book for you.  I just happen to love what tortures others.

Thought: homes should be designed to inspire reading. What does that mean? Full of places that invite you to linger.  

Admission: I watched Marley and Me last night and cried like a baby. If you don’t have a dog, you might not get it.

Bon Weekend!

Strawberry fields forever

I’ve been reading a lovely book titled “Cultivating Delight” by Diane Ackerman for the past week or so.  It’s the kind of book you wade through with your pants tucked into your boots. A wild, hairy field of fact and latin names and rich descriptions you must pick over once or twice before ingesting.  It’s far less depressing than Revolutionary Road, which should NOT be read in the winter and especially not if you traverse any bridges on your drive home. No, this book makes you notice life. The best part of my read has taken place when the book is closed, examining the yards of the houses I pass on my walks home, taking note of the varying degrees of whimsy and neglect. And despite the cold (which broke the first green fuses of the daffodils in our courtyard), signs of new growth are abundant. Despite whatever monotomy the 9 to 5 might bring, there is a current of life surging benath it, a contstant factory of change that can be just as satisfying as any drama one can cook up.

I picked you these phrases to enjoy:

“There is an ecology to every life, and each family a garden, where sensitive family members grow in varying degrees of harmony.”

“There is nothing like wide thoughts in a small garden.”

“Unfortuantely the Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t include all those wonderful words in other languages for which we have no English equivalent, words we desperately need, such as Tierra del Fuegan mamiblapinatapei, which means two people ‘looking into each other’s eyes, each hoping that the other will initiate what both want to do but neither chooses to commence’…Or the Russian word ostranenie, which is when an artist makes the familiar seem strange, so that it can be seen freshly. Or aware, the Japanese word for the special poignancy one feels while  enjoying ephemeral beauty. Or the Indonesian phrase bolopis kuntil baris, which summons extra strength for carrying heavy objects….”

PS: Last night’s Champagne Wednesday was marked by a visit from the flooring man (we had a mini flood) and a bottle of Blonde De Noirs. It’s the one with Marilyn Monroe oozing hints of strawberryhigh-notes and toasted scandal on the front label. Let me say this loud and clear: YUM, YUM, YUM, MORE PLEASE.  As this particular bottle was a gift from the Sambrooks, we had a harder time than usual opening it. At least three or four times it came out of the fridge and then went right back in as we wagered: did we deserve this bottle? On a Wednesday? With frozen Costco french onion soup and tator tots? Thankfully, we came to our senses and then “pop” went the evening. The rest is all happy birthday, Mr. Husband from there.

PS: photo via Design Sponge

Fall, home, thanks and our little dog too

Whiskey and pumpkin Whiskey and pumpkin 2 Whiskey and pumpkin 3 pumpkin

Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for too much to list here, but this little guy takes the cake (don’t worry, Ash, you take the bride). I am realizing this Thanksgiving just how many wonderful children are in my life these days. It brings a magic to every holiday and a reason to buy mini pumpkins.

IMG_0330 IMG_0329

Sunflowers and a good book too.

sunflowers books, scarf and magazine

“I sadly bid farewell to one of the most beautiful sights of summer”

Don’t ask how I found this article. How does anyone find anything on the internet these days but by strolling around with their jeans rolled up, wading ever deeper into some endless grade of ocean, while never quite getting in over their heads? I found this article and it struck me hard as exactly what I’d want to see if I could peer into Ash and I’s future.  Of course, Barabara Brotman does a fabulous job of bringing the vignette to life – I am sure the Wells must clean a little! I have vivid memories of my father reading. And my mother reading to my sister and I. And then of me, as a child and teenager, reading everything I could get my hands on. As Emerson says, “Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them.” So if you don’t undertsand quite what I’m going on about it, maybe that’s because it’s too personal a feeling to explain. Regardless, here is the link and, perhaps against better blog-judgement, the full text of Brotman’s article below (so I don’t lose it).  Happy Champagne Wednesday to you all!

Reading in Paris  

Seasons change, but their love for books holds steady

As the warm weather continues to wane, I sadly bid farewell to one of the most beautiful sights of summer:

My next-door neighbors in their backyard, reading.

This strikes you as a minor sight? Let me explain. This is no ordinary reading, the brief leafing-through of a magazine or hurried go at a novel that passes for reading in my life.

My next-door neighbors, Charles and Sue Wells, are marathon readers. Hours pass, the sun’s position shifts, I do the grocery shopping and two loads of laundry—and there they still are, sitting in the same chairs next to each other on their patio, in complete silence and utter absorption. They have not moved except to turn pages.

The sight is so inspiring that I often stop what I’m doing and take out a book and sit on my own deck. Alas, mine is a pitiful imitation. Before long, I have jumped up to get a cup of tea or answer the phone. Then I might as well empty the dishwasher or start making dinner. And then I might as well give up. I try to read, but fail.

When the weather turns cool, the couple move their reading to their living room, in front of the fireplace and hidden from admiring eyes. But every summer I wonder how they read like that. How do their minds stay focused for hours at a stretch? How do they avoid being distracted by chores? What’s their secret?

I decided to ask.

We sat in their backyard/reading room, and they graciously explained. They love to read, and have made it a priority in their lives. Reading isn’t something sandwiched between the day’s events; it is an event itself—many days, the main one.

No guilt; no thoughts about what else they could be doing. This is what they want to be doing, so they do it.

Imagine reading not as what you do when you have a few extra minutes, but as a day’s destination. Not as dessert, but as the main course. Not as something to sneak in, but a planned activity. Immersing yourself in an engrossing story, turning your mind to see something differently—why should anyone feel guilty about spending time like that?

“You have to make a commitment to it,” said Charles, a history buff who recently added historical fiction to nonfiction and biographies on his reading lists. “You have to make a decision: Are you going to have clean countertops, or read? We’ve made that choice. I want to read and understand the world better.”

He made another decision, too, a few years ago: to watch less TV and read more. The proliferation of reality TV made it easy.

Sue kicked her reading gear higher when she retired three years ago as a special-education teacher. Now, with time, energy and no children in the house, she reads a book a week.

And she does not let housekeeping duties distract her.

“I’m way past the point where everything has to be perfect,” she said.

Their love of books runs deep. Charles owns a printing company that has published two books on the history of pipe organs in Chicago. Charles and Sue have collaborated on two books themselves, accounts of Boston cemeteries that Charles wrote and Sue photographed and designed.

Charles particularly loves books that challenge his beliefs, the way Seymour Hersh’s “The Dark Side of Camelot” forced him to re-examine his lifelong admiration for John F. Kennedy.

“If you only read things that confirm your prejudices, you’re not going to grow as a human being,” he said.

That sounds like a pretty good purpose in life, not to mention a fine way to spend a sunny afternoon. Not that the couple confine their outdoor reading to afternoons. They sit outside at night, surrounded by citronella torches that keep away the bugs and beneath a spotlight that throws an excellent reading light on their books, and read in the dark for hours.

“It’s so nice to sit here listening to the cicadas and reading,” Sue said.

“This is our cottage on the lake,” Charles said.

And that is a lesson for me, as I hurtle through my days without even noticing that my vacation home is right here, just waiting for me to sit down, put my feet up, open a book and read.

Hello lover…

Patrick Dempsey

No, not you, Patrick.

While this seems like something I’d normally be opposed to in all sorts of ways, the shivers that ran down my spine are hard to ignore. I mean, if I ever actually published a novel and someone scanned every laboured-over page and put it online, wouldn’t I be a little venomous?

That said, I know there’s nothing that compares with holding a book. And I know there’s nothing that compares with flipping through a magazine, especially on an airplane. So, by all sorts of unreasonable deductions, I think this is o.k.

It doesn’t make me want to get on the phone immediately and cancel all my current subscriptions. If anything, it just widens my reading horizons (because, of course, I only plan on reading Harvard Business Review and The Walrus, not Glamour and Wish. Yeah right.)

Here, you decide: www.mygazines.com and let me know if my moral compass has gone all wonky.

(New love found via this lovely lady from Norway).

Champagne: Pride and Prejudice

Photos found via Bodie and Fou

Everyone needs a sacred place. Ash and I talked this morning about how I am meant for a studio life. You know, the little studio in the backyard where creative endeavours flourish and champagne is taken midday, mid-word, mid-serenity. I love how he indulges me. The photos above are artist Shanna Murray’s personal indulgence: a small studio in light seaside hues whose walls are papered with the pages of Pride and Prejudice. I love that. What book would you choose to surround yourself with? I can almost smell the soft, dusty perfume that all those old pages would add to the room. Beautiful.

So, what does this all have to do with Champagne? Nothing really, except Ms. Austen’s title got me thinking about the various feelings of pride and prejudice I hold about Champagne. For instance, the lovely bottle of Italian champagne that continues to claim real estate in our wine fridge. We just can’t seem to bring ourselves to pop it. As if something would be lost instead of gained. I hear this a lot. Whenever I explain Champagne Wednesdays to someone new, they always says “yeah, we have a couple bottles in our house. Don’t know what we’ve been saving it for.”

What’s the pride in having champagne on hand? Ever-ready for celebration, with no celebration ever good enough. What are you saving it for?


PS; Shanna Murray has an Etsy store

Simple. Beautiful.

Pia Jane Bijkerk

And she lives on a houseboat, which makes me feel a tiny bit connected to her, having lived on a boat myself. 

My marriage education began last night (in earnest). So during commerical breaks of So You Think You Can Dance, I started to read the Art of Being a Woman. The author suggests that the long mistaken notion of jealously between women is actually a form of learning and admiration. We absorb what’s most feminine in our counterparts and slowly adapt those qualities in ourselves. Or we try. Oh we try. Regardless, I like the notion. The rest of the book has been a bit June Cleavery for my taste. But today it has put me in the mood to admire, and Pia makes that easy.

Woman and Dog (or what I’ve been reading lately)

Woman and dog

I like this picture I took of this woman and her dog. It’s such a great capture of companionship. I even thought to myself as I watched her, I bet I’ve been this woman to other people, sitting places alone, with Whiskey by my side. It’s strange to think I even have a picture of this woman. Whose pictures might I appear in? 

Anyway, before your heart strings go weak for this poor, lonely lady…notice the hand on the right. A fairly attractive gentleman was walking along when he recognized her (with great excitment) as if she were a regular starlet on the street. He joined her for coffee and they shared a great laugh about something or other before he continued along. I love when perceptions are so wonderfully shook. I gave the dog my bacon. We were here, in San Francisco:

Coffee in San Fransisco

As for the reading. Here’s what I’ve been up to lately:

I just finished this book, which I have to say was one of those books that are both good and bad. It was entirely unknown to me that she (the author) is the sister of Daniel Day Lewis and the daughter of C.S. Lewis. So you can imagine my surprise when half way through the book she’s suddenly at Julia Roberts house, cracking open a bottle of champagne over a casual dinner (pure coincidence).  All in all though, I like when a good tale is intertwined with usefulness (in this case, recipes). I will definitely be making her perfect scrambled eggs. Plus, it was deliciously nice to be reading.

Then, two days ago, I ordered this book and this book. I am almost embarassed to share this. I think research is paramount to how I understand things. Reading and research. On my drive to work I had this realization: what do I know about being a wife?  What do I know about marriage?  So, I thought I’d better start learning what I can, beginning at the far-end of uncommon and working my way in, toward convention, in hopes of finding “us”.