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Pickle Me This

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 (’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


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.


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).


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.



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.

August 23, 2011

P is for Park

Location: Centre Island

I don’t update my blog on the weekends, and due to travel, fun, family and houseguests, this past weekend seems to have leaked well into the week. Much fun has been had, many restaurants have been eaten at, but I’m slowly getting my act together (and finishing The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe. Can’t wait to post about this. Also the latest Vicious Circle recap). In the meantime, here is Harriet living the Big City Alphabet…

April 25, 2011

Still mired

Forgive me. Still mired in the fat books, and then got doubly mired in a book that was thin but oh so dense– Chinua Achebe’s The Anthills of the Savannah for my book club meeting tomorrow night. So now I’m back in the Cheever (and oh, I love this book. I’m not far in yet, but these stories a wonderful to read. A bit bleak, yes, particularly with the Didion the week before, and he’s not afraid to break a child’s neck, but you’ve got to admire that). And then will return to any programming at all.

In other news, have I told you about my new gig at Canadian Bookshelf? Plans are afoot and they’re wonderful. Or that Heather Jessup came over to my house last week to deliver a jar of pickles (which, by the way, is the precise recipe for making me fall in love with you [oh, and Heather has a book coming out this fall with Gaspereau Press, and I’m very excited to read it])? Or that we’ve un-baby-proofed our apartment, and I have a desk again (with a couch right beside, so I have the option of typing whilst reclined, which is usually my preference). Or that we had a really lovely Easter weekend, and it was nice to drive home from visiting my parents and have it not be in a snowstorm. I also watched the Alfred Hitchcock film Beyond the Shadow of a Doubt, which was marvelously bookish and self-referential in a way that Scream thought was original fifty years later.

Anyway, as we don’t do blog posts about why we’re not writing blog posts, less of this, and then to bed, to bed, to bed.

November 17, 2010

More thoughts on Emma Donoghue's Room

I liked Emma Donoghue’s Room when I read it last month, though I valued it less as literature than as a plot-driven novel constructed from an amazingly rendered point of view. Though Jack as narrator was key to the book’s stunning spell, his limited perspective also kept the book from achieving multiple dimensions. I said as much in my review, but I’ve come up with a few things to say since. And I will say them now in point form, because a certain small child kept me up most of last night and I am really, really tired:

  • The Britishisms– did anybody notice these? I know Donoghue is Irish, so maybe it’s Irishisms I mean, but I know them from Britain. Throughout the text, I’d come across them and wonder where these people were supposed to live, their figures of speech so various. “Dead spit” I thought was a Jackism for “spitting image”, because I’d never heard of the former, until I came across it in another novel recently. And there are other examples of ways that Americans don’t talk– I wonder why an editor never picked up on this?
  • I wanted to see what a man would think of this book, and I had a feeling that the gripping elements of the plot would pique my husband’s interest, so when I finished the book, I handed it to him and told him to give it a read. Do note that he knew nothing about the book, and he never saw its dust jacket (which was put away for safe keeping, of course). He finished the book and said that the first half of the book was amazing, the suspense was killer. Where were they? Had their been a nuclear holocaust or an environmental disaster? Was Old Nick a protector from a now unsafe world, and she was paying him with sex for the shelter? He had no idea what was going on. Which is so interesting to me, who went into the book knowing the entire plot beforehand thanks to publicity, friends’ reports, and ye old dust jacket. I wonder which of us got Room more the way it was intended to be?
  • I read James Wood’s review in The London Review of Books, and he highlighted something I’d never considered: “Does anyone really imagine that Jack’s inner life, with his cracks about Pizza Houses and horse stables and high-fives, is anything like five-year-old Felix Fritzl’s? The real victim’s imaginings and anxieties must have been abysmal, in the original sense (unimaginable, bottomless), and the novel’s sure-footed appropriation of this unknowability seems offensive precisely in its sure-footedness.” I don’t know if I’m offended, but I’d never considered how utterly unrealistic the story is, how much it is unabashedly a fairy tale. Because so many elements of the story are startlingly realized (the maternal bond in particular), we forget that such a bond being fostered in that situation would be tremendously unlikely. Donoghue has taken a very particular story to tell us something very general, but I think the lack of particularities may be a serious weakness.

November 1, 2010

November bits and bobs

CBC Books’ Monthly Book Report Podcast is now online, and at about 8:40 you can here a panel discussion with me, Jen Knoch of the KIRBC, Ron Nurwisah from The Afterword (moderated by Erin Balser) about what’s going down with Canada Reads 2011. Admittedly, I was feeling a bit more optimistic about the Top 40 that day than I was last Friday, but you’ll be happy to know that I’ve come around a bit. That it might be the journey and not the destination that matters– if what I love best about Canada Reads is obscure recommendations, then here is a list of 20 books I haven’t read yet, and why not pursue those avenues? What if the authors pushing their books are not so much saying, “Win me a prize!”, but “Read me, read me, read me!” Which is the kind of plea I tend to listen to. You know, it was never so much Canada Reads itself and the panel discussions I cared about as much as the reading that led up it (and the conversations online with other readers), and perhaps this changed format is just going to extend that whole experience.

That said, have you voted for Sean Dixon’s The Girls Who Saw Everything yet? If I’ve got to have a reread in the final five, might as well be the one that I brought to the table.

Anyway, I’ve officially decided to bring on Canada Reads Independently 2011, because it was a great deal of fun last year, and complemented the actual Canada Reads in all kinds of interesting ways. And also because it was the Canada Reads subject to my whims, and how brilliant is that? I’m already a-thinking about panellists, and I think we can come up with something amazing. Watch this space.

Watch also for news of my work appearing in all kinds of interesting places– I’ve got essays and reviews coming out this month that I’m very excited about, and though I still have to keep my mouth shut about them, I look forward to soon when I no longer have to. I’ve finally got started on a blog for Literature for Life, and am going to visit their new digs tomorrow to get an update on where we are at. I will also be giving a guest lecture at Ryerson later this month about “Bringing Children’s Books to Life” and I’m wholly enjoying the preparation, looking forward to the delivery, but there’s still plenty of work to be done in the meantime, and so onward.

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