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Archive for the ‘Books & Reading’ Category

“…she asked me if I could maybe pick up a small jar of peanut butter on my way home from work. Absolutely! Before that day, I had never heard her express even a mild interest in peanut butter. I’d stopped eating it myself. I jabbed a tablespoon vertically into the new six-ounce jar I had chosen for her and left the arrangement in the middle of the kitchen table for her to find when she got out of her shower; and then I thought better of this over-preparation and pulled the spoon out and smoothed out its C-shaped intrusion and tightened the lid again so that she might want (as I certainly had wanted years before) the pleasure of being the first to dig into the lunar surface herself. She probably would want to use a knife and make a sandwich anyway, I thought. I put the spoon in the sink. But half an hour later I found her flipping through an in-flight magazine with the jar open on the arm of the couch and a teaspoon upside down in her mouth. Tears came to my eyes. ‘Straight from the jar, baby!’ I said.”

– Nicholson Baker, Room Temperature

Oh yes, I do love de-virginizing a brand new jar of peanut butter. And whenever I do, I think of this passage from Room Temperature. I’ve spoken of my love of this book (here and here), and all of Mr. Baker’s books, before – and I love having these everyday reminders of the loveliness of his writing.

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[The new Vogue and a glass of red – the perfect 2am activity.]

“Dawns are all very well (though I generally see them after staying up all night, when I may be too sleepy to appreciate them), but they can’t hold a candle to a full moon, an aurora borealis, a meteor shower, or a comet.” – Anne Fadiman’s essay “Night Owl” in At Large and At Small

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a night owl. I was the kid reading in bed long after everyone else had gone to bed, and I was the kid who was next to impossible to get up in the morning. (Nothing’s changed there – just ask my husband.) My mum resorted to spraying the still-sleeping me with a water bottle on many an occasion. In university, I wrote every single one of my papers the night before, staying up the entire night with intermittent naps on the couch (probably due more to my perennial procrastination than my night owlish-ness).

I’ve always loved that magical time, usually around 2am – 4am, when all the windows are dark in the neighbourhood, and it seems as though everyone is asleep. (Except me, bwaa haa haa!) Nighttime is when I get my much-needed time to myself (even more so now that I have a baby!), for writing, or thinking, or reading, or making things, even though I usually pay for it the next day. My Golden Hours are from 10pm – 2pm – my children’s novel was written during these Golden Hours, and so was all my poetry and nearly all of these blog posts. I should just forget even trying to be creative at any other time of day. Fortunately Keaton is a kind, sweet baby and usually sleeps until 9am or 10am (I am lucky, I know).

As Anne Fadiman also points out, studies have shown that our circadian rhythms are built in: once a lark (god forbid) always a lark, and once a night owl, always a night owl. (Although my dear dad, who used to be a late-nighter, is now a to-bed-at-8pm-get-up-at-5am kinda guy.) I’m always happy when I meet another late-night person: apparently only 10% of the population is made up of night owls, so we gotta stick together. Or not. Maybe part of being a night owl is the solitary nature of it.

The lark’s familiar exclamation to a sleeping-in night owl is, “but you’re wasting the day!” Well I say, “you’re wasting the night!”

Reading: The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker – Was on the request list for this from the library for what felt like a million years, and now I am so excited to sink my teeth into it. You’ve already read of my love for his earlier novel Room Temperature, and his latest looks like just my literary cup of tea (what is up with all the cliches? Lazy!) – it looks like Baker’s love letter to poetry, which is a big love of mine, as well. I’m only a few pages in, but already I know how much I’m going to love it. Check out this bit, from page 1: “What a juicy word that is, ‘divulge.’ Truth opening its petals. Truth smells like Chinese food and sweat.” Brilliant I tell you, brilliant! Nicholson Baker’s books always make me feel like I’m discovering the English language again for the first time.

Watching: Annie Hall, tonight, on the big screen at the Vancouver International Film Centre. My most favourite movie since I was fifteen, as you may already know from my previous “My Favourite Things: Movies” post. The perfect mama outing: a mocha, a big bag of popcorn and Woody and Diane being all nervous and neurotic. Bliss.

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Because I’m in the midst of a good ol’ fashioned de-clutter. Or attempting to, anyway. I’m trying to start off easy by focusing on certain areas of my apartment like the shelves above the desk, the craft nook, my closet and the magazine bookshelf (which is a beast and I think might topple over at any moment and bust a huge hole in the floor – that’s what years worth of Sassy, Victoria, Bust, and Children’s Literature Association Quarterly will do!).

I decided to start with the shelves above the computer desk in the kitchen. I took all the stuff off them and dumped it on the dining room table. That was three days ago. Not much has happened. I could blame it on the fact that it’s very difficult to de-clutter when you’re dealing with a non-napping baby, but that’s only part of the problem. Okay, so it’s been a busy few days, but sooner than later we’ll want to eat dinner at the dining room table again! By the way, that black thing smack dab in the centre of the top of the photo? That’s a joystick, recently unearthed, that I bought a while ago to play games on my Commodore 64 simulator. Alice in Wonderland and Impossible Mission, are you kidding me? The highly pixellated games of my childhood! That’s going to be my reward for cleaning up, I think. I wonder if I’ll remember how to defeat those scary electrifying robots in Impossible Mission

I’ve always been a cluttery person. When I was a kid (maybe up to age 10 or so) I actually kept a very neat, tidy room. I can remember fluffing and tidying my prized stuffed animal shelf, and dusting my ceramic ornaments. After that, I don’t know what happened. My parents divorced and room cleanliness all went downhill. I can remember having to clear a path in the sludge of Archie comics, dirty underwear and other random things to get to my bed when I was a teenager. My husband Josh remembers the legendary bathroom that my sisters and I shared when he and I first got together: there was such a crusty pile of used towels on the floor that you could no longer see the linoleum, and a bottle of Advils that had dumped out probably months earlier littered the floor like little crushed red molehills. I guess that goes beyond clutter – that’s just downright disgusting messy, isn’t it?

Being married to Josh definitely keeps that in check, but I am still a clutterbug. He puts up with me so well. Oh gad, I can’t even think about tackling my closet…

Reading: Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor. Actually, I’m not reading it quite yet, but in a few minutes when I go to bed I’m going to crack the cover. I love the promise of a brand new book – it’s like dipping your knife into a new jar of peanut butter. I’ve really been enjoying Laini Taylor’s blog, too – extremely inspiring!

Listening to: Rich Terfry (it took me so long to figure out what his name actually is – I thought it was “Register Fry” for the longest time, and so did my best friend Heather!) and Tom Allen on CBC Radio Two

Watching: Over Christmas I became a total Food Network addict. How awesome are Top Chef Masters, Chopped and Iron Chef America, anyway? Michael Pollan wrote that cooking has become a spectator sport… and that’s okay, right?

P.S. I’ve typed all this while wearing a sleeping Keaton strapped to my chest in an Ergo carrier. Works remarkably well!

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Word.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a word person. I talked early, I read early, I wrote early (not that I’m trying to paint a picture of myself as some sort of child prodigy – I definitely wasn’t!) – it’s just that words and language are my thing. I lap them up. I love spelling them correctly without having to use spellcheck.

In many ways my life thus far has revolved around words: I’m a bookworm, I’m a writer, I work in communications, I’m a freelance copywriter, I mentor kids in creative writing, and my degrees are in English. I’m a total punctuation and grammar cop – a misused apostrophe on a sign really, really gets to me. One of my fondest workplace memories was spending almost a whole morning consulting various style guides trying to decide how we should punctuate a new event series: “Global Citizenship Speakers Series” (apostrophe on Speaker’s? Plural Speakers? Okay, so we had a little extra time on our hands). But what I’m getting at is that I am a nerd, through and through.

While we’re on the topic, here are some of my favourite words:
– special
– decoration
– cake
– picnic (this one seems to be a perennial favourite with many people)

And some of the words and sayings that really bug me:
– touch base
– going forward
– shits and giggles
– tookus & bupkis (although I generally love how Yiddish words have worked their way into the lexicon, these two really get on my nerves for some reason)
– anyhoo
– I won’t even go into even lamer sayings like “talk to the hand,” etc. because fortunately that awful little trend has passed (I think), and we don’t ever have to mention it again.

Words that I sometimes have a hard time spelling are:
– occasion
– obsession
– recommendation
– accommodation
– Catch a theme here? “Occassion” and “Obssession” kinda look right, too, don’t they?

And some of my favourite books on the topic:
The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson
Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

I suddenly feel the urge to copyedit something, anything… see you later!

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Oh, the promise of a new year! And there’s nothing like the accompanying fresh, as-yet-unadorned calendars to go along with it. (Plus a pencil and sharpener at the ready!) I absolutely love filling my new calendars and day planners with birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other notable occasions. In filling in all these things I look back at my last year’s day planner and review all the dinners out, get-togethers, theatre dates, pub quiz nights (at my beloved Cascade Room), etc. etc. Such an interesting snapshot of a year. Looking back at my 2009 book, it’s all chock-full of outings and other busyness up until late August, and then almost totally blank after that. Oh right, that’s when I had a baby and became a shut-in.

With the new year also comes the whole idea of resolutions. I don’t make ’em, usually – why set myself up for failure, right? Ahem. But the feeling of a fresh start does make me want to look at my life and priorities and further commit to things I’m already doing. (Hmmm, is that just another way of making a resolution? I dunno.)

Things I want to become more committed to in 2010 (in no particular order):

1. Attachment Parenting. ‘Cause breastfeeding on cue, co-sleeping, wearing Keaton in a sling and responding to him gently and compassionately are what feels right to me.
2. Being creative no matter what. I love this idea of SARK‘s.
3. Learning/re-learning how to do arts and crafts, and blogging about it here.
4. Being more authentic with myself, who I am and what I want. Maternity leave is giving me an amazing opportunity to do things that I’ve been meaning to do for so long, but was always too busy to do before, like cooking more foods from scratch and just generally slowing down a little (although I still think I try to do too much, which is why I’m typing this at 2:44am when I really should be in bed).
5. Doing the splits. This has been a goal of mine for some time now. I can do them with my right foot forward (something I kept up from my acrobatics days as a kid), but I want to learn how to do them left foot forward, too. Forget doing them straddle-style. I couldn’t even do that back in the day.
6. Keeping up with Strongbad‘s email updates. Because is he funny or what.
7. Celebrating the seasonal solstices.

What are your Commitments? Feel free to share.

Reading: Room Temperature by Nicholson Baker. This is the book I always told myself I’d re-read when I had a baby. Love it.

Listening to: Sufjan Stevens’ Seven Swans; The Big Chill soundtrack (oh, I rarely tire of the Motown)

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Well, sorta. In a flurry of Christmas preparations, cinnamon bun making (Tessa Kiros’ amazing recipe for Cardamom & Cinnamon Buns – http://whowantsseconds.typepad.com/who_wants_seconds/2005/01/cinnamon_cardam.html), integrating a new cat into the household (the lovely Peabody, who Josh and I are fostering for the next few months for my friend Laura) and baby tending, I haven’t posted in a few days.

Also, I haven’t sewed a darn thing in a few days except, somewhat ironically, for a sewing machine cozy that I made out of an old pillowcase (love the mod 1960s styling!). So, I sewed a cover for my sewing machine so that it won’t gather dust, because I don’t have time to use it at the moment. Hmmmm….

Reading: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder – It’s one of my annual Christmas traditions to read this sweet little book. I loved all the Little House books when I was a kid, but this one, the first in the series, was always my favourite. It’s so pure and innocent and lovely, and the Christmas chapter is the best. One Christmas I asked for a tin cup and a shiny penny, just like what Laura got. (I also asked for a Cabbage Patch kid and a Commodore 64 game – hey, life in the 1870s sounded fun, but I was still a child of the 1980s.)

Listening to: Basia Bulat; Bat for Lashes; Christmas music (it ain’t Christmas until I hear Roger Whittaker’s Time for Peace album!)

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I ask you: how is a girl supposed to concentrate on re-learning how to knit with nails like these in the way? Wow. Are those press-ons, or the real thing? (I got this DVD from the library – “Learn to Knit” by Tracie Wunderlich… she’s actually a very good teacher.)

For me, knitting is kind of like the game of cribbage: I don’t get it. I’ve tried to learn many times, and in many different ways, but I just seem to have a mental block. Crocheting I get (but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily any good at it). Maybe Tracie and her wundernails can help me out…

Currently reading: Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes (satisfying my current Brit chick lit kick)

Listening to: Islands; Stevie Nicks; Wolf Parade

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