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December 14, 2015

Emerging

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If there is a better time in the year than this to have to spend three weeks in bed, I can’t think of it. I’m finally feeling well, rested and relaxed, emerging back into the world again (…slowly, slowly….) to realize that it’s Christmas. I’ve come a long way since a week ago when I thought I was feeling well-er, but wasn’t. This weekend I didn’t leave the house, but was mostly out of bed, and we put up our tree on Saturday (which Stuart carried home from the store by himself) and decorated, and then did all the Christmas baking yesterday. (All has been extensively documented on Instagram.) Today I have a doctor’s appointment at 2pm, and I’m hoping she’s going to give my lungs the all-clear, and then I’m going to finish up my Christmas shopping at nearby shops. I’m even going to take the subway instead of a taxi, which is a sign of health for sure (and also, I am not a millionaire), except that I’m forbidden to exit Spadina Station at Walmer Road because when I tried to climb those steps three weeks ago (before I knew it was pneumonia) I almost died. Today it will be escalators all the way.

IMG_20151211_152021And oh, there has been reading. Holiday reading. Any new or notable book released lately, and the very intriguing ARCs that are beginning to arrive for Spring 2016 have all been set aside as I’m going through my shelves noting the not-new and un-noteable—a trend that began with Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall last week, which I liked so so much and might have lingered on the shelf forever had I not finally picked it up looking for an inconsequential read. After reading the compelling and very strange Girl in the Dark (and oh yes, are misery memoirs ever effective at making one feel better about everything in general), I picked up Dead Cold by Louise Penny—somehow we’ve ended up with a stack of Louise Penny UK editions; this one was released in North America as A Fatal Grace. And it turned out to be a cozy murder mystery that takes place over Christmas, which was perfect. It’s not dead cold here, but it was lovely to be back in Three Pines and over the holidays no less. I love Louise Penny’s Gamache series so much, but got into it quite late in the game, so am playing catch-up with some of the earlier novels.

IMG_20151213_233153And then I started read Veronica by Mary Gaitskill. Her new book, Mare, is on several notable lists of 2015, but remember I’m doing un-noteable, and Veronica has been sitting on my shelf for sometime—another book I found in a box in the summer, I think. And I’m really enjoying it. It reminds me of Jennifer Egan, Good Squad and Look at Me, except I like it much more than I liked the latter.  I read Gaitskill’s collection, Bad Behaviour, a while ago, and mostly remember it was conspicuously dated with references to obsolete technology. She is also a bit too gritty for me, and nobody is ever putting the kettle on or going to church (always a criticism in my books), but I am really enjoying Veronica, and this might be the perfect way to get to Mare. When I return to notable things.

IMG_20151212_221324And finally, we finished reading The Horse and His Boy, and convinced Harriet to take a short Narnia break so we could try something else as our family read-aloud. Last Christmas, we were reading The Children of Green Knowe, and I’ve been looking forward to a similarly seasonal read. So I picked up London Snow, by Paul Theroux, which I know nothing about, except that it is a Christmas story and it was a gift from our friend, Zsuzsi. And while it doesn’t seem so seasonal—we have no snow, and temperatures have been in the double digits (which after two wintry, wintry Decembers I kind of feel is a reward I’ve worked for)—we are definitely under its spell. A strange story that takes place in a sweet shop, whose proprietor is called Mrs. Mutterance and keeps muttering and uttering odd phrases that none of us understand, and her adopted son Wallace sleeps in a hammock in the hall and she has to yell at him to stop pendulating. In the weirdest way, it reminds me of Graham Greene’s super-strange Christmas picture book, The Little Steamroller. Sinister things afoot, and all, and yes, because of snow in London.

I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

October 8, 2015

Really Fun DIY Autumn Craft

IMG_20151008_121227A few trees on our street have gone all autumnal, and while the world is not yet awash in golden and orange, the few trees that have turned already have got us in an autumn spirit. Iris had fun playing peek-a-boo with some of them on her way home from school today, and we’re glad she was not picked up by the Ministry of Flagrant Racism and Canadian Values for daring to hide her face no matter how patriotic her covering.

(Halloween is coming. If our government is still in office then, what are they going to do?)

And so we were inspired to partake in an autumn craft this evening for our weekly Fun Night, which is a dinner-hour activity that allows us to hang out and play together for a little while, instead of the rush-rush-rushing that is our regular weeknight routine. I’ve included step-by-step instructions below so you can play along too!

  1. See a link to a DIY Autumn Leaf Bunting tutorial posted on Facebook, and because you have a thing for bunting, actually consider doing it. Even though you hate doing crafts. The site it’s from is called The Artful Parent, but you’re more of an abstract artful parent, if you’re remotely artful, which you’re not.
  2. Gather leaves on the walk home from school. Feel smug and sanctimonious, anticipating the excellent time you’re going to be spending with your family and anticipate the reactions you’ll receive when you post your DIY Bunting on Facebook. Contemplate making strands upon strands of the stuff, and bringing them to Thanksgiving gatherings all weekend long so that people will admire your creativity and quirky bunting ways.
  3. Feel extra wonderful because you even let your kids pick up leaves that were kind of gross and had spots on them. Because it’s about them, really. And my, what a terrific childhood you’re providing them with…
  4. Buy store-brand wax paper at the grocery store.
  5. And now it’s time! You’ve already made cranberry brie chicken pizza for dinner that made the children cry (although this was before they tried it; they conceded it was delicious in the end) and so you’re on a roll.
  6. Press the leaves between two pieces of wax paper. The child who is still upset about the pizza gets upset again because she wants matching colours for each piece of bunting, but you want to mix it up like a rainbow. You’re really fucking insistent about this.
  7. (Read through the instructions for the bunting at The Artful Parent and realize that the Artful Parent actually made HER DIY autumn bunting while her child was at school.)
  8. Your husband pulls out the iron. Your children have never seen one. They marvel at this shiny and new piece of technology.
  9. He begins to iron. It should take a few minutes, the instructions say, for something to happen. Nothing happens. So he turns up the temperature. He starts to iron like no one has ever ironed before. Eventually you realize he is about to iron a hole right through your kitchen table. The leaves are burnt to a crisp. The wax still hasn’t melted. The leaves aren’t pretty anymore.
  10. This is the point when you storm off and start googling “Why won’t my wax paper melt?” This doesn’t actually seem to be something that happens to many people. You get sucked into a hole of websites about weird ways to preserve leaves and really stupid things that people do with them. You wonder what the point of anything is. You are suffering from bunting grief. It’s terrible.
  11. This is the least fun Fun Night on record.
  12. Back in the kitchen, however, your husband has saved the day. He’s poured out glue and everybody’s slapping the non-burnt leaves onto paper. “But what’s the point of this?” you ask him. “What’s the point of bunting?” is his retort, which is blasphemous, but still. And gluing leaves onto paper looks like of fun, so you join in.
  13. The night is saved by your husband’s excellent improvisational skills. And red wine.

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January 3, 2015

Christmas Vacation

harrietOne of many reasons that members of our family are unlikely to ever take the world by storm is that our greatest talents really are for leisure—we’re experts at doing nothing, or just enough of something with requisite amounts of sofa-lying for good measure. We often visit cultural institutions such as museums and art galleries but rarely for more than an hour or two at a time, and never without a trip to the cafe AND the gift shop. Going out for lunch is our main occupation, and we always have dessert. We are really very good at enjoying ourselves, and so the last two weeks have been an absolute pleasure.

Two things: first, that I finished things up so that there was no work at all to be done for a week or so, and second, we turned off the internet. For a week, there was no checking of email or twitter, which opened up vast pockets of time in every day for all kinds of things—reading, playing, baking, carol-singing, and doing the Globe & Mail holiday crossword. On Tuesday we bought the newspaper because we were curious about what had gone on in the world, and it was odd to flip through the pages and discover news items we hadn’t heard about elsewhere.

windowWe spent the first couple of days of our holiday trying in vain to kick the cold that’s been embedded in our heads since the beginning of December. On the Sunday, we went down to the Bay on Queen Street to look at the Christmas windows, which were wonderful, and then went into the store and realized that department stores were the perfect way to reconcile our hatred of shopping malls with the joys of Christmas consumption (glittery lights, perfume smells, shopping bags with string handles, and 1 kilo tins of chocolate. Also, I now own tights without holes in the feet). Speeding home on the subway in time for Iris’s nap and for me to meet friends for an exquisite afternoon tea at Dessert Trends Bistro.

frankOn Monday, we went to the library (because holidaying doesn’t always have to happen on a lavish scale) and then had smoked meat lunch at Caplansky’s Deli. I also went out for dinner with my friends and drank far too much wine. On Tuesday, I don’t think we did anything, partly due to the wine. Throughout all of this, Stuart and I were watching movies and episodes of Midsomer Murders in the evening (because we are 85 years old) and Harriet watched How to Train Your Dragon Two during Iris’s nap times. On Christmas Eve, we went to the Art Gallery to see the Art Spiegelman exhibit and had a lovely brunch at the Frank Restaurant, which we save for the specialist of occasions. On the way home, we picked up our turkey, which we fastened into our stroller. That evening, we had chicken fajitas for Christmas Eve dinner for the 10th year in a row, and left a snack for Santa.

xmasmornChristmas was so good. Not only did we not have to leave the house, but we got to have my mom come and visit! The children got excellent presents and had fun playing with them throughout the holidays. I received great books, nice clothes, and other lovely things, including a La Cruset butter dish I’d been hankering after and new Pyrex. We all also received new CDs (because are 85 years old and like to do 20th century things) and so the holiday has been extra-filled with music—some of which was even made after 1987, which is very rare for us. My mom arrived and played with the children (which was not very difficult—she arrived bearing her present of a trunk full of dress-up clothes) while Stuart and I set about cooking the best Christmas dinner ever. The joys of Skype brought us the company of Nana and Granddad in England, and our adorable Alberta relations.

playOn Boxing Day, we went to the ROM, and partook in a yummy dinner of leftovers—Stuart makes the best turkey sandwiches on earth. Iris also slept until 7am for the first time in her whole life, which was mind-blowing, but also a bit terrible because when her sleep for the subsequent week was abysmal, I wanted to pitch her out the window. The next day, my dad and his partner arrived, and we all had an excellent time with them. And they played with the children while Stuart and I cooked up another very good meal—the greatest turkey pot pie of all time whose secret recipe was duck fat. The day after that,  we drove out to my aunt’s in the West end, stopping en-route to buy ice-skates for Harriet and I, which had the potential to be a boondoggle. And then we had a very fun dinner with the best kinds of relations on earth—cousins.

anniwMonday was the best day—Harriet and I headed downtown to meet our friend Erin and watch the new Annie film, which we’d been looking to after avidly viewing its trailers for the past month AND after watching the old Annie every day last summer. The reviews for the new Annie were terrible and all wrong—the movie was wonderful. (That one of the critics referred to the 1982 movie as “an abomination” perhaps suggests that some people had no business reviewing either movie, both of which were masterpieces, in my humble opinion.) We all had such a good time watching it, exuberantly applauding as the credits rolled. And then we met Stuart and Iris and took the subway to Erin’s new house in Bloor West Village, which is very conveniently located near the new Book City (which was bustling and full of wonderful books.)

On Tuesday, I had to take a certain someone to a dermatologists to have a wart examined, which wasn’t so memorable, except that we got to stop at HMV on the way and buy the Annie soundtrack, a move supported by all members of our household. Iris can now sing “Tomorrow”, which is really something to behold. We also love Sia’s version of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” and the bizarre and catchy “Moonquake Lake”, with its memorable hook—”she’s a fish and he’s a boy.” That night our friends Jennie, Deep and Lilia came for dinner and the best time was had. They were kind enough not to complain about our music selection.

sk8Rumours of boondoggles were averted on New Years Eve when Harriet and I went skating at Christie Pits—Harriet had the best time and loved it, which was good but also troubling as it means that I have to keep going skating. We went again yesterday and both of us were vastly improved. A third jaunt is scheduled for tomorrow. New Years Eve was our traditional chocolate fondue and ringing in the UK New Year before the children went to bed. And then Stuart and I proceeded to play board games (and ping pong, until Harriet came out of her room and asked us to stop because the pinging and ponging was too noisy) until we were done, and then we went to bed and brought in the new year lit by bed-side lamps, turning away from our respective novels for a moment as the clock ticked over to 2015. Which is the best way to ring in the new that I could ever have imagined.

africaNew Years Day was boring—what a wondrous indulgence is that in this day and age? Although we did have our first meal of the year at Fanny Chadwick’s for brunch, which was delicious, and Iris has been transformed into someone who is fairly respectable about restaurant behaviour from all her practice this holiday. And Harriet and I got to play Scrabble for Juniors, which is almost as excellent as spending New Year’s reading in bed. Yesterday we went to the ROM to see the Wildlife Photography exhibit. And yes, more skating. Today we’re doing nothing, which might prove to be a bad idea but feels pretty good from where I sit (on the couch, wearing jogging pants, watching snow falling outside). We’ve kept things a little special with scones with jam and Devonshire cream, because I had a jar of the latter in the fridge and we had to use it up—not the worst task to be charged with.

teaAnd I’m writing it all down now mostly so that I can remember it, the holiday we were so desperate for and which so delivered. I’m writing it all down because all these ordinary things (libraries and lunches) are so easy to forget, and I don’t want to. I don’t want to forget either that we’re so blessed with friends and family and each other. If how you spend your days are indeed how you spend your life, then these past two weeks are an indication that we’re doing something right.  And it’s something to hold on to as the lights of December fade—let the next few months be something more than just a countdown to spring.

October 20, 2010

Bunting!

Clipper Tea marketers, you’ve done it again! I was compelled to buy your tea solely on the basis of its gorgeous packaging, and then you went and made this television advert complete with bunting. Bunting! It even falls down, like the bunting in my kitchen, because masking tape can only ever be so sticky. And I am raising this point now because I want to post a photo of the bunting in my kitchen, which was an idea I stole from my friend Bronwyn, but we both thought it was a good one because India Knight has bunting in her kitchen too. I made my bunting out of origami paper, and it has made the kitchen one of my favourite rooms in our house (rivalled only by the living room, the hallway, Harriet’s room, and my attic loft). Other fantastic objects in this photo include my breadbox, the Blackpool tea towel, a wind chime made out of buckets and watering cans, and the first two of a row of five photos of a British supermarket cereal aisle. In unrelated news, my horrid craft blog has been updated. Click here to answer the question that’s been obsessing everyone: what has Kerry been knitting lately?

March 20, 2010

My shumi blog

We became obsessed with hobbies back when we lived in Japan, mainly because the Japanese have institutionalized hobbying and because we were often bored back then. And so that was why I started my “hobby blog”, Ever Projecting. I’d encourage you to check it out if you want to see a craft blog that will make you feel better about yourself. Unlike most craft blogs, this one is rarely updated, decorated with unflattering photography, and features crafts that are poorly executed (the one exception being the incredible baby blanket I finished last spring). I am terrible at making things, but I go on doing it anyway– wonky cardigans, ugly aghans, pickles that shrivelled up in their jar, unmatching mittens (which I thought was so clever at the time), rainbow socks, reusable baby wipes (my first and probably last foray into sewing, but they’ve turned out to be very useful). I hope my blog will inspire other untalented people either not to let lack of talent get in the way of production, or to continue not bothering to try anything at all. Or you could just take a look at the sweater I just finished knitting for Harriet.

December 22, 2009

Lately

I’ve been making stuff lately. I’ve also been spending money at the Toronto Women’s Bookstore which is in dire financial straits and accepting donations. And there’s just three more shopping days until Christmas!

October 15, 2009

Justification

Well, I have limited myself to purchasing only one book a month. But. We’re off to England on Friday, and therefore it only makes sense to order Howards End is On The Landing and Wolf Hall from there, as they’ll be either more widely available and/or a wee bit cheaper. And by the time I get back, What Boys Like will be out, and as I’ve been planning to buy that for ages, it doesn’t quite seem like my monthly allotment (which should be more spontaneous, you know). And that copy of Birds of America that arrived last week doesn’t count either, because I only bought it to get free postage on an amazon.ca order of CDs. So basically, we’re halfway into October and I haven’t even bought one book yet. I am very proud of my restraint.

All of this is a little less ridiculous, because I’ve been reading like a madwoman lately. Harriet’s naps have turned out to be much longer when taken on me, which means that I can read a lot and nap as well. So that’s what we’ve been up to lately, which leads to a Mommy who is better-read and less exhausted.

Now reading nothing! Or rather little bits of lots of things– I’ve been rereading Jennica Harper’s poetry, the LRB (I’m caught up to late July now), and the ROM magazine. Because I’m saving Birds of America for my holiday, and am too superstitious to start it before it’s time.

April 15, 2009

Any day now

For about seven months, people liked to tell me, “You don’t look pregnant,” which I found deeply irritating and kind of perplexing to address. I don’t think I’d want to go back to that one, but neither am I too fond of the current comment, which is, “Any day now!” Because, well, no. Though perhaps in about forty days now, though probably more. My baby bump has ceased to be cute, and I am beginning to look into the mirror with considerable fright, and who knows what the effect will be forty days from now. I could also do with fewer strangers telling me I look “heavy” in the shower at the gym.

Nevertheless, I am excited. Our very good friends had a little girl two weeks ago, which served to make the connection clear, that pregnancy is a means to a miraculous end, for I often forget it’s not an end in itself. And our baby is moving around all the time, so that I feel like I’m getting to know it. Though yesterday I also got to know that baby is lying sideways, so we have to do everything possible during the next two weeks to get that baby upside down. I vote for turning somersaults in the pool, and hope it does the trick.

The biggest news, however, is that the baby’s blanket is done. I started knitting it back in November, before I could acknowledge the baby in any other way, out of fear that wanting too much was unlucky. It’s only been very recently that I’ve been able to start preparing, and indeed now the baby’s nursery is ready(ish). But in November, all I could do was knit, which made me feel that at least I was preparing in some way. The blanket coming together perfectly, with no mistakes, which is previously been unheard of in a project by me. The blanket is beautiful, so soft and warm, and I can’t wait to meet the little person who will be wrapped inside it.

October 21, 2008

Slacks for Ella Funt

I am very excited, as this weekend I get to discover if my new sewing machine works. I picked it up at a yard sale about a month ago for $10, but have no clue how to use it, so am not sure if I wasted my money or not (credit crunch). However, a sewing savvy friend is going to give me lessons Saturday, and then after we’re going out to our local Hungarian to commemorate the 52nd anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution. An exciting Saturday is destined then, though I am still not sure what kind of useless cloth item it is I am going to (dare I dream?) create.

What I really want to do make is slacks for Ella Funt:

Ramona tugged and tugged at Ella Funt’s slacks, but no matter how hard she tugged she could not make them come up to the elephant’s waist, or to what she guessed was the elephant’s waist. Ella Funt’s bottom was too big, or the slacks were too small. At the same time, the front of the slacks seemed way too big. They bunched under Ella Funt’s paunch. Ramona scowled.
Mrs. Quimby considered Ella Funt and her slacks. “Well,” she said after a moment. Slacks for an elephant are very hard to make. I’m sure I couldn’t do it.”

Ramona could not scowl any harder. “I like to do hard things.”

January 14, 2008

Baby feet

Oh, for booties and wee feet. Aren’t these adorable? And I was lucky enough to have a friend with an upcoming bebe for whom to whip up these ickle shoes. Which are a bit wonky, naturally, as they were knit by me, and hopefully the bebe’s feet will be the same size, unlike his/her shoes, but alas. Made with love. I am terribly superstitious that a babe might come into the world for whom I’ve not created a knitted item, and be cursed for life. Cursed not to own a wonky knit thing, I suppose, but then these booties will forever stand as evidence that someone was thinking of their tiny feet even before they were born, and that is nice I think. Should fit them for all of about a week. And if it’s twins they can have one each, I guess.

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