Thursday, January 27, 2011

family literacy day: thank you, mom & dad

There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all.
Jacqueline Kennedy

January 27 is Family Literacy Day and I'm so grateful that my parents made books such a large part of my life.  My playroom bookshelves were jammed with picture books, I memorized the big book of nursery rhymes and long before I was able to read myself, my mom would read me "chapter books" - the Little House books, Bobbsey Twin mysteries.  My dad I associate more with the British books of his childhood -  especially A.A. Milne's Now We Are Six and the Rupert books - the daily newspaper and whatever book would answer whatever question I had that day.

One end of our living room was lined with bookshelves and it seemed to me I could find a book on just about anything there.  I remember flipping the transparent encyclopedia pages showing the anatomy of a frog or poring over colour plates of the history of fashion.  There were books about music, faraway lands, shipwrecks and antique cars.  I remember when I wasn't more than five or six I became obsessed with ballerinas and my dad went to the bookshelves and hauled down a pint-sized paperback on the artist Edgar Degas for me.  I might have been living on a tiny island but thanks to my parents I had the world at my finger-tips. I grew up with a lifelong love for language, a hunger for information and a curiosity about the world.  I owe them a big thank you for that!

An ability to read, absorb and comprehend written information has never been more important but reading together as a family is not only about building vital skills.  It also provides an opportunity for moments of quiet time together in a world where those are far too rare. 

Do you come from a book-ish family?  What books are your reading with your own kids?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

bright star

BRIGHT star! would I were steadfast as thou art—

 I am in such a period- piece movie mood these days so it was the perfect time to sit and watch Bright Star, Jane Campion's film about the the romance of poet John Keats and the girl-next-door Fanny Brawne.

It is a breathtakingly beautiful film.  Every shot is stunning.  It opens with a close up of needle pulling thread for heaven's sake.  There are fields of flowers and butterfly rooms and Keats sleeping in the tops of trees. 

And while every high school English student can tell you this romance is bittersweet, I was not prepared for the emotional whallop it delivers.

Stitch yourself a handkerchief and settle in for the ultimate Romantic film.

i've a little teapot

I love chalkboards so I'm so smitten with my new teapot! Love to be able to write little doodles, messages and sayings to inspire and delight me along with my tea.  It's the little things...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

the not-so-lowly clothespin...

I could probably find a reason to swoon over anthropologie on a near-daily basis. I find their whimsical design sensibility of globe-trotting-Grandma-chic so inspiring.  I had to share these pics of some of the new window displays from the anthro facebook page.

 It makes me want to go nab a $2 bag of wooden clothespins and some yarn and go to town.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

buried treasure

or What Happened When My Friend Flipped Through a 100-Year-Old-Book that I Left Lying Around.

I come from a line of collectors or curiosities.  My grandmother in particular was a great collector of old books and a number of years ago my father brought me a copy of Cushing's Manual of Parliamentary Procedure.  I believe it was not long after I started working at the Legislative Assembly which means I have carried this little volume around to six offices over nearly a decade.  I've packed and unpacked it, carefully placed it on various bookshelves and credenzas but apparently never really looked at it. 

Today my friend Julie came by my office and while waiting for me to put on my hat and coat for lunch, she started flipping through the book. 

"You know there are things in the pages, right?"
"I did not."

And what we discovered tucked in the book was my own little time capsule from 1908-1910.  Except it's better than a time-capsule because it lacked the self-conscious editing that happens when you set out to leave a record.  Instead it is a random glimpse of everyday ephemera collected by my great-great-uncle Wood a century ago.

UPDATE:  My father has informed me that Wood was not my great-great-uncle but my great-great-grandfather.  I stand corrected.  Which I assume is payback for last month's shepherd debacle.

"we sell everything" - a charming bookplate and endpapers

A collection of classic calling cards.
I love the simplicity of Elmer D. Smith's in the top right corner
Notices of life events...
And quaint advertisements...

jenn grant: getcha good

Oh my gosh you guys: cute boots, thrummed mittens, dancing in the streets and oh yes! Jenn Grant! How much am I LOVING her new video!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

little shells

I had so much fun with Lori's Traveling Woman shawlette that I couldn't wait to do another.  The next one I knit up was Little Shells by Holly Griffin-Weidner for my friend Bridget.  The original Little Shells was designed in silk as a summer shawl but I wanted to do something B. could use to keep out the cold Canadian winters.  It's knit in an icy blue alpaca-silk blend and the perfect size for keeping you neck warm without the bulkiness of a scarf. 

Like the Traveling Woman its base is two mirrored triangles in stockiette which then dissolve into lacy shells. The lace pattern is deceptively simple and I love that it's got a vintage look without being too frou-frou or precious.

Mostly I love that B. loves it.  Just wish I'd snapped a pic of her modeling it!

pink sky at night

Pink sky at night, sailor's delight

We were treated to a gorgeous pink sunset last night. And this morning we were greeted with another sunny winter day.  A few months ago my dad explained on his blog why this bit of weather lore is actually a good predictor. Check it out.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

in praise of parsnips: curried parsnip and apple soup

During the winter our friend Trish's yarn shop, Yarns on York, is also the pick-up spot for CSA fruit and veg boxes.  In exchange, she gets a few extra bits of produce to with as she likes.  Thursday night as everyone else was going for bags of green and the butternut squash, I nabbed a bag of parsnips.  Much to everyone's shock.

Maybe it's because they look like a pale, knobby version of  more common carrot or maybe it's the name or possibly the smell (which apparently molecular-ly speaking is reactive and volatile), but parsnips seem to be one of those vegetables people are certain they hate often before they try it.  And for those who have tried it and hated it, I suspect that preparation has a lot to do with it.  Rare is the vegetable that shines after being boiled.  I've become a relatively recent fan of the oft-maligned root vegetable having found it to give an excellent depth of flavour to autumn stews.  Parsnips, like most root vegetables, are at their best when roasted and for Christmas dinner I did a side of stove-top roasted carrots and parsnips.  The parsnips gave the dish more complexity than a side of carrots alone. 

When I grabbed the parsnips on Thursday night, I'd intended to do that recipe again but my friend Jennifer suggested this curried parsnip and apple soup from BBC chef Delia Smith.  I'm so glad she did.  I love curried carrot and pumpkin soups but they've become ubiquitous and this was a great way to change up an old favourite.  You still get the sweetness juxtaposed with the savoury curry spices but with the added complexity of parsnip and the tartness of apples.  The recipe suggested making parsnip crisps to garnish which sounded intriguing but getting out the mandoline and a skillet of oil was more less appealing so I just grated a little extra apple on top.

It's a rich hearty savoury soup and the turmeric makes it a bold sunshiney yellow: just what you need on a cold winter's night.

Interestingly despite the pale colour, parsnips are actually higher in vitamins and minerals than carrots particularly potassium.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

moonglow, lamp low

It's been three years since my friend Denis introduced me to Eleni Mandell's 2007 album Miracle of Five but it still gets pretty heavy rotation this time of year.  It's simple, warm and sultry - perfect for long winter evenings, board game nights with friends or cozy suppers with lots of red wine. 

cheap thrills: miniature rose bush

The holiday frenzy is over, the new budget written up and, well, let's just say for the lady of this house, belts will be worn a little tighter this season.  But why be morose about it, why not celebrate those cheap and cheerful finds? And so I give you "Cheap Thrills" -  sarting with this miniature rose bush (under $5 at the local grocery store and well under the price of cut flowers).  Bonus points for the milk glass vase ($5 flea market find).

What cheap thrill would you like to see featured? Only two rules: has to be under $10 (free is even better) and has to make you happy.

Monday, January 3, 2011

farewell to the holidays

Hard to believe the Christmas holidays are winding down and tomorrow it's back to work and routine.  We were blessed with a gorgeous winter day for a final send-off to the holidays.  So of course we headed to Odell.  Some time late in February when I am wading through slush or whipped by wind I will inevitably mutter, "Why do I live here?" Then I will come back and look at these photos of a perfect winter wonderland and feel badly for people who are deprived of the beauty of the changing seasons...

I really wish I'd had a toboggan.  I'm certain I could train Henry to pull it back up the hill for me...

Back home Henry takes a good roll in the snow...

 ... and I count crows. Or lost count rather... Often when I drive home across town late in the afternoon the old trees downtown are black and trembling with hundreds of crows.  I love watching them all move together and gather in the same spots year after year.  We all have our traditions,  I guess.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Today I...

... played in the snow...
 ...finished my first socks of 2011...
...ate black-eyed peas for luck (sauteed with kale and bacon)... detective stories in bed... 
... watched Coal Miner's Daughter - love Loretta!

2011 is off to a great start.