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Pickle Me This

October 14, 2020

STAR TO FALL Tea Blend

The OFFICIAL tea blend of WAITING FOR A STAR TO FALL is now for sale from Clearview Tea. An organic black tea blend featuring vanilla, bergamot and rose petals, the tea is the perfect complement to my novel—and it’s delicious. Thanks so much to Clearview Tea for this fun partnership.

October 13, 2020

Gleanings


My book comes out in two weeks, but the OFFICIAL TEA BLEND (of course) launched today. Visit my Instagram or Facebook page for a chance to win a bag for you and a friend.

January 3, 2019

New Year, New Teapot

January 2, 2019

Happy New Year

No one got sick on our holiday—no pneumonia, or strep throat, and even the colds were fairly unspectacular. No one threw up on Christmas Eve, which is the first time ever that such a miracle has transpired in recent memory, and could be down to the fact that we ate bread and chicken noodle soup for dinner that night, because it had occurred to me that there could possibly be a correlation between the rich foods we eat every December 24 and the inevitable puking, although it’s embarrassing that it took me so many years to figure this out. With bread and broth, however, all the stomachs were settled, and it all has been a very low-key, relaxing, restorative and pleasant holiday.

Mostly, I just read books, so many books, barrelling through titles on my To-Be-Read shelf, and also getting rid of other books that have been sitting there for years and that I’m never ever going to reading. True confession: the piles of books I had before me* have been overwhelming for quite some time, and reading should never feel that way. *These aren’t necessarily the books I’m sent by publishers, because I’m less responsible for these. Instead the ones that I’ve been picked up on my travels, and have not made enough time for. So I skipped the used book sales this fall, and made a point of reading the books I had this holiday, and now I feel much less likely to die in a book avalanche, which is an excellent way to start off the new year.

The downside to this, however, is that now I’m going to around telling everyone about this amazing novel called Beloved, by Toni Morrison, which only came out and won the Pulitzer Prize 30 years ago, so I’m really on the cutting edge, right? So hip and current. But oh my gosh, the book is extraordinary, and I can see how it ties right into the contemporary Black women writers whose work I’ve been loving these last few years. Another buzz worthy pick was The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton, which is not quite a new release, instead 97 years old, but I did get the spectacularly designed new edition from Gladstone Press, and it was gorgeous, and such a pleasure to read.

I also really loved Barbara Kingsolver’s Unsheltered, which I asked for for Christmas after reading this profile in The Guardian in October. It starts off kind of clumsily and didactic, more about ideas than being a novel proper, but the ideas were so interesting that I didn’t mind, and I also loved how well the two different storylines worked, that I was interested in both of them. And then partway through the book, the narrative grew legs, and I’ve been thinking about it steadily ever since I finished reading.

But I wasn’t only reading. And how can a person read this many books and not only be reading, you might ask? The answer being: I turned off my wifi for a week for my biannual holiday from the internet. It was glorious. I don’t have data on my phone anyway, so no wifi rendered me entirely internetless, and while I love the internet, since I’ve returned to it it’s only occurred to me that Twitter is wholly joyless, Facebook is pointless, and I like Instagram a lot still, but want to make our relationship more casual. And I want to focus on my blog instead, an online space that as ever is in transition. I’m going to be writing more about this in the coming weeks, about what blogs might be turning into. I’m not sure, but I think that for me, mine might be my online salvation. Stay tuned.

While I wasn’t reading, I was ice skating, checking out museums and galleries, playing card games—we got Rhino Hero for Christmas, and I love it with all my heart. I was knitting and delighting in Fargo Season 3 and watching Mary Poppins Comes Back,  and going to for walks down residential streets and through ravines, and making turkey leftovers into all kinds of different things, and seeing friends, and even cousins (which I don’t have enough exposure to and which have always been my favourite part of Christmas), and also reading. Every day when I woke up, the first thing I did was turn on my bedside lamp and pick up my book, which is my very favourite way to start the day, and sometimes people even brought me tea.

And now it’s a new year, and my house is really tidy, after a marathon clear-out on Sunday (including a thorough pruning of my shelves to make space for the books I read on the holidays). I also have a new coat that doesn’t make me look like a hobo, and bought new bras, which was an errand that was three years overdue. Plus, I am currently in the midst of my ideal state of being, ie I am awaiting the arrival of a teapot in the post. What that I could be suspended in this reality forever, but when it ceases I will have the consolation of a teapot at least.

November 6, 2017

The Intricate Properties of Teacups

“How well we artists and writers know the chances of our work sinking into the abyss! And yet how grateful we are to be able to make these marks, to live a life that risks blooming in the bracing cold, that can offer tender furled messages, indecipherable traces. A life that has allowed us to sink into the knowledge of the real and difficult abundance, while merely sitting before a white teacup on a table. It is something, as well, to pay attention to traces of these fine eruptions of gratitude that escape into paint. For we have much yet to learn about how souls connect, let alone about the intricate properties of teacups, their simple gleaming.”

Calm Things: Essays, by Shawna Lemay, “Of Coffee Pots, Teacups, Asparagus and the Like”

July 3, 2016

Summer Starts

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There is no better way to travel then on trains, where the leg room is ample and there is so much time to read. When we booked this weekend away, the train journey itself was the destination, but we had to arrive somewhere, so we chose Ottawa, where we have best cousin-friends and even other friends, and cousin-friends who were kind enough to offer us a place to stay. And it was Canada Day Weekend, so what better place to be…even if the place we mean to be specifically on Canada Day is our cousin’s beautiful backyard across the river in Gatineau. And it really was amazing.

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As we’d hoped, the train journey was a pleasure. I had more time to read than I’ve had in weeks. I finished Rich and Pretty, by Rumaan Alam, which I liked so much and will be writing about, and started Signal to Noise, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which was lovely and so much fun. They also had my favourite kind of tea on sale (Sloane Tea’s Heavenly Cream) and so all was right with the world.

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It was such a nice weekend—the children had children to play with and I got to spend time with some of my favourite people. We had an excellent time with our cousins, and met up with my dear friends Rebecca who took us to the Museum of  Nature, and last night I got to visit with my 49thShelf comrades who I’ve been working so happily with for years but have only ever hung out with a handful of times. Apart from one traumatic episode of carsickness (not mine) and the night the children took turns waking up every twenty minutes, it was a perfect long long weekend. I also learned that it is possible to eat my limit in cheetos and potato chips, which I had never suspected. Also that it is probably inadvisable to start drinking before noon.

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We came home today, another good trip, this time with me reading Nathan Whitlock’s Congratulations on Everything, which I am really enjoying, I also started reading the graphic novel of A Wrinkle in Time with Harriet, which we will continue this week. And we arrived home to find that our marigolds have finally bloomed, third generation. We planted them a couple of months back in our community planter, and have been waiting for the flowers to emerge. (Sadly, our lupines didn’t make it.) Summer is finally here proper, what with school out, and even 49thShelf’s Fall Fiction Preview being up (which is my main project for June), and my work days shift with the children being home. I’ve also decided to write a draft of a novel this summer, which is only going to make a tricky situation trickier, but who doesn’t like tricks? We shall see. We will do our best. And there will also be ice cream and holidays and barbecues and sand between our toes, and splash pads and ferry rides and picnics and pools and flowers. It will all go by so fast.

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June 8, 2016

#TodaysTeacup Tragedy

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#TodaysTeacup took a turn for the tragic on Monday when I dumped its contents onto my laptop. It took a few moments to process what had happened, and the computer still appeared to be functioning as I poured tea out of it—perhaps, I pondered, we could pretend this never happened? But then the trackpad stopped working, and the keyboard was messed up. I managed to turn the computer off finally, but I should have done it faster. And for two days now it’s been sitting on a drying rack, a fan blowing underneath it. We managed to boot it up this morning and at first it seemed I might be saved…but alas. The keyboard and mouse appear to be fried, the wireless wasn’t working. The computer seems well on its way to being kaput. Thankfully, I am now a devout user of Dropbox so most important things were saved….except for the few documents I slapped onto my desktop somehow imagining they were more accessible there. My enterprising husband grabbed a USB key and transferred a first draft of a new fiction project (that just hit 20,000 words last week) which I am glad has been saved, though rewriting it might have been a blessing in disguise. I’ll have to do it soon enough anyway. Nothing is lost then, except the money I will need to spend on a new laptop, which is annoying, but my accountant will be grateful actually, because I have so few business expenses it’s ridiculous. (This is what happens when your office is your couch.) And it’s a justified expense, because my computer is so essentially to almost everything I do. Being without it these last few days has felt very strange, and it’s reoriented my week, which was supposed to be very very busy as I got ahead of myself on a few bits before school lets out and I lose my childcare for the summer, and have to begin working in the evenings again. But instead, I’ve spent my evenings reading—last night I read Tell, by Soraya Peerbye, who I heard read at the Griffin Readings last week and whose incredible book I read in one sitting. I’m also reading The Naturalist, by Alissa York, and really enjoying it, plus I finished the third book in Steve Burrows’ Birder Murder series, A Cast of Falcons, the other day and it was fantastic. Coming up is Thirteen Shells, by Nadia Bozak, and We’re All In This Together, by Amy Jones. Must keep on reading these Spring 2016 books like a hurricane, because Fall 2016 (the literary one—it falls earlier than the seasonal one) will be here before we know it. And in the meantime, I’m grateful to Stuart who is letting me use his laptop (even with my track record—I am lucky, for sure) and who has only been kind and sympathetic about something that is entirely down to my own stupidity. Although everyone is stupid sometimes.

January 6, 2016

Today’s Teacup

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I read this article by Globe and Mail reporter Janet McFarland years ago about children’s birthday parties gone wild and learning to take joy in small things. Her line about “an ‘ooh, doesn’t that look lovely’ contentment with a cup of tea or a few biscuits on a plate” (inspired by Bill Bryson’s thoughts on the English) has stayed with me ever since, and I’ve long made a point of trying note the smallest of ceremonies, the secret pleasures of the every day, even if sometimes it’s a ginger snap. I mean, as opposed to a chocolate digestive.

But I also have a sizeable collection of mugs and teacups, which I’m conflicted about. The teacups and their saucers less so because they’re delicate and lovely, and get pulled down and dusted off for special occasions. But yes, the mugs, because there’s really nothing sadder than a mug, stained, unwanted, abandoned in an office cupboard. The most depressing kind of gift—World’s Best Dad. I mean, I love mugs—some mugs. My mom gave me the most wonderful ceramic mug for my birthday, and it’s nearly replaced my Cath Kidston mug with the crack in it in terms of mugs of my heart. But then there are the mugs that slip on in to the back of the cupboard and all they’re doing is taking up space, and some of them are even wonderful—the Pyrex mug that Stuart found on the street and brought home because these are the mugs that remind me of summer, and the Miffy mugs we got in Japan, and my Diamond jubilee mug, and the mug with the M on it that my friend Jennie bought for me when we published The M Word. But what am I supposed to do with all these things?

I’ve been helped out of this philosophical quandary, however, with the help of Instagram. Because I am WILDLY SPONTANEOUS, I mixed up things mug-wise after receiving a gorgeous new orange mug from my friends Erin and Rebecca this weekend. This mixing only caused me a minimal amount of anxiety, until I realized that I could actually mix up mugs all the time (I know—crazy) and feature my eclectic mug/teacup collection on Instagram (because I’m in the posting-cups-of-tea population of Instragram users, as opposed to the taking-shots-of-myself-doing-yoga-on-a-beach crew). The trouble with mugs, I think, or at least the ones in the back of the cupboard, is that they serve no purpose, but they’ve been purposed now. Because #todaysteacup has been born.

Silly, frivolous, meaningless—but I don’t think so. It’s about the ceremony. About taking stock of the moment, the light, the cup of tea. It’s about using what you have, and having things that matter.

December 31, 2015

New year, new books, new teapot, etc.

IMG_20151231_140910We have had a stupidly crummy holiday, mostly for non-monumental reasons. A year ago I wrote this post about our family’s talent for leisure and enjoying ourselves—we were skating, movie-going, relaxing, lunching, going offline for an actual week, etc.—but we were showing none of those tendencies this time around. Things got off to a good start, but Harriet came down with a stomach bug on Christmas Eve that stayed around for a few days. Iris stopped sleeping over Christmas, and was conspiring to kill me. Stuart was diagnosed with strep throat, and while I was pretty well post-pneumonia, I was so tired and crabby. We weren’t terribly ambitious then—some days our big outing was to the grocery store. Though there were a few highlights—before it all went wrong, we had a fun day downtown(er) and got to visit Ben McNally Books, where I picked up Birdie by Tracey Lindberg, which I’m about to begin as soon as I publish this post. We had nice visits with my parents, who braved our company. Lunch at Fanny Chadwicks yesterday, though Stuart is still unable to eat solids, so he didn’t have the greatest time. Tonight we’re going to our friends for a New Years get-together, though we won’t be staying too long (and I am sure nobody else at the party is too upset about that. We’ve become social pariahs).

I did, however, get a lot of reading done, mostly because my evening companion took to going to bed at 8pm, and I took a holiday from work things and read all through nap times (bliss!). My holiday reads were not at all disappointing, mercifully, and I look forward to writing a post about them this week. My final read of the year was a gift from Stuart (who got me so many excellent bookish things), The Magician’s Book, by Laura Miller (and we’re going to be starting Prince Caspian in a few days and I am so excited). My final read of 2015 then, followed by my first read of 2016—Birdie. I really want to keep a focus on reading First Nations women writers.

IMG_20151231_132842Anyway, a disappointing holiday is winding down on the right note. Iris’s weird rash (of course she has a weird rash!) is clearing up, if that’s any indication. Today I did receive the great joy of not only a pair of Hunter wellies in the post, but a brand new teapot. And why did I need a teapot, you might ask, seeing as I came into possession of the greatest teapot on earth just six months ago? Well, on Christmas Day, my teapot got smashed, which led to sulking and petulance on my part, and put a damper on our holiday on top of everything, because I am shallow and materialistic. (But it’s a teapot! Not just any ordinary material.) The bright side of your teapot smashing though is that you get to wait for a new one to come in the post. (I wanted a London Pottery teapot, you see.) There seemed to be no more white polka-dots to be had for love nor money, but I was able to order a plain red one from the shop I’d bought the last one from in Bobcaygeon. And it arrived quickly and intact, alongside my new wellies which replaced a) the wellies I’d got for Christmas that didn’t fit and b) the wellies my mother-in-law bought me for my 26th birthday a decade ago and whose image was for a time my blog header and can still be seen if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page, and which finally started leaking after many years of service. So things are certainly on the up-and-up.

I’ve had a good year, even though it’s gone out with pneumonia (but then having pneumonia was terrific, from a reading point of view…). I am pleased that I sold my novel and am excited to turn it into an actually book over the course of this year, though I still can’t quite believe that’s going to happen. I read a lot of good books. I had a splendid trip to England, the land of teapots and wellies. I learned to write profiles, which was a new challenge—I wrote about Julie Morstad in Quill & Quire and have a cover story forthcoming in my alumni magazine. I’m pleased with my review of Marina Endicott’s new novel in The Globe and really, really proud of my essay on Ann-Marie Macdonald’s Adult Onset, which was another challenge and I’m so happy to have met it. I want to keep expanding my writerly horizons. Readerly ones too.

This fall has been exhausting. When I look back, it seems like getting pneumonia was inevitable. It doesn’t help that Iris’s sleep is so patchy, as it’s ever been. My resolution for 2016, if I had one, would probably involve getting more sleep, if that weren’t at the expense of so many things, but I will make an effort. It might also involve baking fewer cakes, but this kind of thing is why I don’t go in for resolutions in the first place.

Happy New Year to you, and thank you for reading!

October 7, 2015

No wonder the children grew peaky

the-borrowers“So he didn’t have your advantages,” went on Homily breathlessly, “and just because the Harpsichords lived in the drawing room—they moved in there, in 1837, to a hole in the wainscot just behind where the harpsichord used to stand, if ever there was one, which I doubt—and were really a family called Linen-Press or some such name and changed it to Harpsichord—”

“What did they live on,” asked Arietty, “in the drawing room?”

“Afternoon tea,” said Homily, “nothing but afternoon tea. No wonder the children grew up peaky. Of course in the old days it was better—muffins and crumpets and such, and good rich cakes and jams and jellies, And there was an old Harpsichord who could remember sillabub of an evening. But they had to do their borrowings in such a rush, poor things. On wet days, when the human beings sat all afternoon in the drawing room, the tea would be brought in and taken away again without a chance of the Harpsichords getting near it—and on fine days it might be taken out into the garden. Lupy has told me that, sometimes, there were days and days when they lived on crumbs and water out of the flower vases. So you can’t be too hard on them; their only comfort, poor things, was to show off a bit and wear evening dress and talk like ladies and gentlemen…” —Mary Norton, The Borrowers

(We’re reading this right now and I’m loving it so much. I don’t know that I’ve ever read it before. When I was a child, I was into the American knockoff, The Littles, but I had no taste, and Mary Norton is so clever, funny and bright. I also like our copy because the cover is by Marla Frazee, who is one of my favourites. And sort of related, we recently finished reading The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, which went over very well, except that Iris now walks around saying apropos of nothing, “Aslan die?” and I don’t think she knows what die means, or even Aslan for that matter. But Harriet is quite enchanted and now we’re going to read the whole series, and tonight we were reading a new book called Written and Drawn by Henrietta, by TOON Books, and there was a Narnia reference, and I haven’t seen Harriet that excited since she found out she had a wobbly tooth.)

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