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Pickle Me This

June 8, 2017

An interlude

This week’s radio silence brought to you by fun nights out, lots of busyness, and a string of books that just aren’t taking. As ever, I’ve been instagramming though, so head over there to see what you’re missing—which is mostly hammocks.

February 22, 2017

Where I’m Calling From

My book exists in the world, it does. I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s being couriered to my house this morning and so at some point in the not-distant future I will be holding it in my hands. Which I’m looking forward to, and not, because I much prefer anticipation to the fleetingness of a single moment. When a carton of The M Word anthologies arrived on my doorstep three years ago, I cried and cried, and not necessarily because of happiness. I remember feeling like kind of a fraud, because I’d published this book, but it wasn’t really my book, and while I was proud of it (and I still am) it felt somehow illegitimate. Would I ever be a real writer? And this, of course, is always the question.

And yet somehow I am a real writer, if the definition of the term is that I have deadlines coming up, just so I don’t have a single moment to take a breath before the book’s release. Which I’m not complaining about. The alternative would be no deadlines, and then I wouldn’t be a writer, and so I go forth, making it up as I go, which is the only way I’ve ever gone. In this way, being a blogger has been a tremendous boon to my writing life. Making it up as we go is our raison d’être.

Thankfully, apart from the flurry (and gift) of work, everything else is quiet—knock wood. We spent a long and low-key weekend partaking in the weird Spring-in-February weather, which I refuse to feel bad about because weather is weather. You take what they give you. The children continue to be funny and interesting, and also very very loud, but we know where they got that from. And the books pile up, and so many of them continue to be exceptional, original—there’s no running out of ideas yet. I love to read. I do so love to read, better than I love almost anything.

“Would you choose me or books,” my family asks me, and I always take the former, but not before hesitating. And not without some reluctance.

How fortunate we are to live in a world where both is not necessarily a spoil of riches.

August 22, 2016

Finite

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For a few weeks, I was wondering if this summer would be endless, or at least why it couldn’t be. We had a stellar run of days at the beach and road trips and memorable ice cream cones and stargazing. We’ve had a spectacular mix of GO-GO-GO and also lying around on the grass doing nothing. This summer has hung in a marvellous balance, just enough of everything we ever wanted. The children haven’t been complaining about boredom, or Harriet walking around delivering deep heaving the deep sighs which have always been her summer speciality (and a sign for me that we need to get her back to school). It has been a very good summer, the kind of summer you get when your baby is finally three and the world and the days open up their (figurative) arms so wide—I remember the same feeling during the summer of 2012 when Harriet was three, but it was only temporary as by the end of that summer I was pregnant. By the end of this summer I will not be pregnant (and in fact I will never be pregnant ever again—a fact that, I was telling Stuart the other day, makes me as giddy as the prospect of having a baby once did) but all the same, it starts winding down quite naturally. Summer was never meant to be endless, and if it was, I suppose we would tire of it. Summer winding down now with a fairly ordinary couple of weeks in the city. Harriet is in daycamp at the museum, but only for the afternoons, which means that we don’t need to bother getting out of bed until we feel like it, let alone getting dressed. Each day they’ve watched a movie while I’ve settled down to write my 1000 words. So it’s a fairly undemanding routine, but it’s still a routine, getting us set for back to school in just a few weeks time. I’ll be returning here too to let you know about wonderful books I’ve been reading—the new Louise Penny, and Zoe Whittall’s new novel, and I am reading Mister Nightingale, by Paul Bowdring, now, and it’s wonderful. Anyway, returning to real life The key to transitions like this, I think, is to like your real life, so that a return to it comes with its own rewards. Plus there is the prospect of autumn. Also, I’m semi-down with a stomach bug that has left me stuck on broth and popsicles, and when it’s all done (soon, I hope!), feeling generally well health-wise will seem like a ridiculous pleasure.

January 26, 2016

Funny Faces

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Do you know that I’ve nearly filled up an entire notebook with jottings and quotes from my Mad Men rewatch, and we’re only just beginning Season Three? To what purpose, I don’t know. It’s my new fitness regimen (the Mad Men, not the notebooks) as I ride my exercise bike while we’re watching, and I check the time less and it goes by much faster than when I’m merely reading. (Don’t tell reading I said that; it’s all exercise’s fault anyway.) I might give up on fitness altogether at the end of Season 7. Anyway, it’s a scramble to get the children into bed so we can begin watching and me riding by 9 or so, which means when it’s over, it’s that time of day I’ve spent all day waiting for: time to curl up with Tana French. I am reading her novel, In the Woods, for the first time, and I am in reading heaven. Ostensibly crime fiction but so much more substantial than that, rich and enthralling. I am so busy right now, which was a terrible time to pick the book up, because all I want to read is read it all day and forever. I am looking forward to discovering her other four novels, each of which features a more minor characters from the previous. one Anyway, I’m now in the midst of my second week to finish up my edits on Mitzi Bytes, and things are going well. Getting back to it in a matter of minutes, but in the meantime, wanted to share with you some funny faces from previous days: Harriet and Iris and I making funny faces in the kitchen; evidence that Stuart and I indeed went skating at Harbourfront on Friday night and it was wonderful; and a perfect photo from yesterday when Iris broke into the stampers and rubbed one all over her face, inadvertently channelling David Bowie.

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January 17, 2016

Weekdays and ice rinks

breakfastOur first week back at school went so smoothly, and was such a relief after more than a month of illness and disruption, which meant, of course that week two was determined to thwart all that ease. Iris’s school was closed due to a broken furnace, Harriet’s school called at 9:45 on Monday morning asking her to be picked up because of an earache, and I’ve got all my usual work (49thShelf.com’s Spring previews don’t write themselves, you know!), plus revisions to my novel due in two weeks. Luckily, Iris’s school’s furnace found a temporary fix, Harriet’s earache was a passing fad, and we spent two days at home watching David Bowie on Youtube and playing in the snow—it all settles down. And there still seems to be time enough—perhaps because of all the stuff I’ve not yet got around to doing, but I’ll worry about that tomorrow (ha!). This winter we’ve ruined our lives by signing Harriet up for skating lessons on Saturdays and swimming lessons on Sundays, but there’s really no way around it because she has to learn both, but luckily lessons are close to home and we can walk there, and are either early or late enough in the mornings that we’ll get to do proper morning things (i.e. croissants and reading the paper). Yesterday we took her to her first skating lesson and she was amazing, and inspired us all to venture out skating today, which is the first time we’ve been skating for over two months. I haven’t felt up to it since having pneumonia, but today felt different. It didn’t hurt that all the snow has melted so hauling our stroller down Dufferin Street is no trouble and all, and also that it’s not cold outside so it’s a bit like skating in the spring. Such a pleasure, and of course there are hotdogs post-skate from the cafe, so that part is good too, and we all enjoyed it—except that Iris only enjoyed skating for half a lap, and then decided she’d only lie down on the ice and cry, so I had to drag her the rest of the way, and then the rest of her laps were taken from her stroller.

You can see more of our mundane but colourful adventures over at Instagram: including our descent into pasta-making chaos, and my cranberry beef stew that nobody liked.

August 9, 2015

I wish there was more

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We didn’t need clocks on our vacation, or calendars. The hours of the day were accounted for by the sunshine as it moved across the grass, and we had to move the hammock to keep up and remain in the shade. The days themselves were marked by the the spread of a rash down my arms, which became quite extensive because the weather was great and we were swimming every day and I am actually allergic to lake water. It’s hard out there for a sex-goddess. Anyway, the week progressed as quickly as the rash did. I read seven books, this success jump-started by our rental car pick-up being delayed and so I got to sit for 1.5 hours reading Nora Ephron’s Heartburn before we even hit the road. It was wonderful, and contains the delicious recipe for Potatoes Anna which I have since made twice. I will be writing more about my vacation reads soon.

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Our week away was lunches, cruising down highway to the strains of Taylor Swift, corn on the cob, watching boats, eating butter tarts and creamsicles, playing UNO, digging holes, building castles, making smores in the oven, going out for Kawartha Dairy Ice Cream, and reading Mary Poppins. Iris was impossible and so frustratingly two that sometimes the whole endeavour was too exhausting to be vacation, but it all came together in the end, even if the morning sounds of birds outside woke her up far earlier than we would have liked. I particularly enjoyed reading vintage Archie digests and doing the pie shack shimmy (see photo above).

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We came home a week ago, and spent a fun long weekend in the city hanging out with our friends. I’ve been reading some terrific new books I’m excited to be able to share with you, and trying to get work done on a big project I’m looking forward to sharing with you soon—although Iris wasn’t sleeping well at all, which has put a cramp on my “working in the evening” plans. Further cramping has ensued since my swimming rash morphed into an insane reaction this weekend, colonizing my face, which is now swollen and gross. So I am not only hideous, itchy and uncomfortable, but was prescribed super hardcore antihistamines at a walk-in clinic this morning that have rendered me totally stupid. It is possible that I’ve written this entire post in Latin, and I don’t even realize. Veni. Vidi. Itchi.

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**

CLzrWa8UwAYPPLKDermatological issues aside, my only real complaint about summer is that it’s half-done. A splendid one so far. This weekend well-spent even through the rashy trauma as I compulsively read Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, which I absolutely had to purchase used after reading Rohan Maitzen’s post about it. She writes, “If you ever read a book, or were a child, or read a book to a child–if your childhood was shaped in any way by the books you read–then you should buy this book and read it immediately.” It’s the best advice I’ve followed in ages, and I’d urge you to do the same. Certainly a window into the mind of the woman behind literary classics such as Where the Wild Things Are, Harriet the Spy, Good Night Moon, Charlotte’s Web, The Carrot Seed, Harold the Purple Crayon, and others. 500 pages and I read it in three days. I wish there was more.

July 18, 2014

En Vacance

irisThis week my website’s server crashed for 3 days, I spent every evening working for 3 hours, my work-in-progress hit 20,000 words, and Iris learned to climb up the slide. Next week, I need to get ready for our holiday, there is no day camp, and I have two deadlines. And so I am calling early vacation on Pickle Me This, though I will probably post a photo of my vacation book stack in the coming days. Stay tuned for that, and otherwise, I will see you in August!

September 4, 2013

Easing isn’t always easy

IMG_20130904_165021Oh, summer summer. This week we’re easing out of the bliss that was. Harriet starts kindergarten on Friday, she starts her afternoon play-school program tomorrow. Stuart goes back to work on Monday, and things look interesting on that front, plus he is taking a college course that starts next week. I am also easing back into my role at 49thShelf, and looking forward to some really cool projects this Fall. And Iris is still figuring out how to be in the world, though it helps that she knows how hands and fingers work. She is 13 weeks old today, 3 months old tomorrow, a second tooth just breaking through and making the nights hard. Starting Monday, I’m going to be taking care of her solo, which is a whole new ballgame.

Today we tried out the backpack position in our Baby Trekker for the first time, and I am quite confident that it will be my liberation, by which I mean I will use to wear Iris while I make dinner and clean the house. She still takes her naps lying on my chest, and so nap-time will be me-time, by which I mean that I intend to get a lot of reading done. And I am writing these facts down here because really I’m just a bit anxious about settling into a new routine, a routine whose shape I haven’t glimpsed yet. I have a fantasy of dropping Harriet at kindergarten, Baby falls asleep in her stroller and then I head to a coffee shop to write for an hour. Though it’s probably more like 25 minutes, considering Iris’s naps. Fortunately, I have had a child before who naps for just 25 minutes, and it got better, so I am not so worried about this. I am confident the mix of working and taking care of Iris will figure itself out, but I am still not quite sure how this will happen.

I am routine-obssessed, as anyone who has ever tried to make plans with me on a Friday is well aware. (No thank you. On Friday afternoons, I clean my house, of course!) This is both a blessing and curse as a parent, the former because it gives an awfully chaotic universe a fundamental shape, and the latter because the shape is an illusion after all, and life requires flexibility. Not yet knowing what my routine will be is resulting in me creating manic posts like this one, and compiling lists like a mad-woman in the hope of feeling like I have some kind of a handle on it all. It is not yet clear that I do…

This transition from the bliss of summer has been nice. I am reading Louise Penny’s new mystery How the Light Gets In, which is so so enjoyable, the perfect kind of book with which to ease into anything. Perhaps I’ll even be able to post a review here in response, my first review in ages, because after a few weeks of summer reading, all the new releases I’ve been intending to talk about have failed to inspire much in me beyond a shrug. I keep blaming the books, but maybe I am too impatient right now. (With some of these I am being too generous though, and it is absolutely the book…)

So yes, transition is a fine thing, but I have never been good at transition. I think everything will be clearer when I’m right back in the thick of it.

March 26, 2013

Where does a month go when it's gone?

IMG_5756We were very happy to hear the word “benign” today when we visited the doctor for results of my biopsy. I have to see him again before my baby is born, and then once life settles down post-baby, decisions will be made about whether or not I’ll require surgery to take care of my lump for once and for all, but in the meantime, we’re relieved. It’s been just over a month since I found the lump, and what a crazy time it’s been. The last two weeks have thankfully been free of much worry, and to be honest, the news today was a bit of an anticlimax because it was what the doctor has set me up to expect. But I also find myself able to listen to There Must Be An Angel without bursting into tears for the first time in ages, so something essential must have shifted. (What is it with my propensity to listen to ad-nauseum to songs that make me cry? I imagine that this is something that men don’t do. Or women who aren’t ridiculous, for that matter.)

Today’s other piece of good news came today at the midwives where it was determined that Baby is (probably) head-down. I’m only 32 weeks so this could change at any time, but it’s significant for me because Harriet was transverse from 31 weeks and I’ve been paranoid that history might repeat itself, no matter that there was no physical reason that it would. I really don’t want to have another c-section, and we’ve become extremely keen about natural birthing (so yes, I’m back reading Ina May Gaskin again, after four years of making fun of her, and Harriet has been reading up on placentas and crowning). I am so fortunate to have many friends who have had successful home birth/natural birth experiences, and I’ve been steeping myself in their stories for inspiration and confidence in my own abilities to do similar things.

And it’s really not so far away. Terrifying. The last month has got away from us entirely, and now we must shift back to Baby, to all the things we have to do before Baby arrives. It’s a far more fun preoccupation than thyroid lumps, but overwhelming all the same.

September 7, 2011

September is insane, no?

September is insane, no? And I don’t even have children going back to school. (I do have one child who has recently gone onto a playschool wait-list for next September however, which has been a more emotional experience than one might expect. It looks like I’m going to be one of those parents after all). Anyway, for some reason, I decided that now would be the best time for me to read Henry James’ The Wings of the Dove, that reason being that I’d come to James on my to-be-read shelf, and to skip him for something lighter would be a violation of book selecting rules, and also an indication that I’d probably never read Henry James’ The Wings of the Dove ever.

So I’m reading it. It’s pretty wonderful. I do sometimes wonder if there aren’t ways Henry James could have expressed his ideas with a bit more clarity, but I’m enjoying the book much more than I liked What Maisie Knew when I reread it a while ago. Progress is slow, and I’m about halfway through. Also finding that avoiding reading James is enabling me to get a lot of other work done, plus I’m reading Granta 116 and Stephanie Bolster’s remarkable collection White Stone: The Alice Poems.

Anyway, the day after I started reading The Wings of the Dove, four books came in for me at the library, I got two freelance review jobs, and now I also have to read Rebecca Rosenblum’s new book The Big Dream in the next very little while because I’ve been honoured with the task of conducting an interview with her at her book launch on September 20th. The Canadian Bookshelf wheels are also spinning madly at the moment, because it’s publishing’s big season and so much is going on. Case in point, the three literary events going on tonight, each of which I’m longing to attend, but there will be just one, alas.

The opposite of all this, of course, would be a life devoid of everything I’ve ever wanted, and so you won’t hear me complain. Let’s take up a bit more Henry James now while the baby’s asleep, and my tea has just cooled enough to drink.

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