January 27, 2014

Fiction dream and reading lunches

We all had friends come over this weekend, which is always a big help in making a place feel like more of a home. Thanks, friends! Let’s do it again sometime soon.

On Saturday, I had a small victory: I managed to sort through and empty two small containers full of randomness that had begun accumulating when we were staying with my in-laws: buttons, earrings, business cards, Sephora samples, receipts, hair elastics. To give you an indication of my pack-rat tendencies: when I was done sorting, I was left with a pile that can only be categorized as “interesting string.” 

I was also pretty happy on Saturday afternoon when we were gathered around our new table eating a late, informal lunch. My husband was sitting at one end of the table, working on his lunch along with his poems, and my stepdaughter and I were cozied up on our new banquette (i.e. a loveseat, pushed up to the side of the table), reading novels and eating soup.  Maybe it’s not a surprise that I had a moment of feeling truly grateful for my life when everyone was sitting around together quietly reading. (For the record, we also have meals where we sit at the table and talk to one another!)

It was nice to have that time to do lots of reading this weekend, and I did quite a bit of thinking about a new story and even wrote the first scene.  There was also time for a nap on Saturday, in which I somehow continued planning the story and had what seemed like a great idea involving a Saint Bernard. I don’t think the dream idea makes any sense, but I’m tempted to put a dog in, anyway.

And on Sunday, I managed to purge five items in my closet: two skirts, a dress, and two tops.  I’ve stashed them in the giveaway bag in my closet that I'm storing up for the next clothing swap.

I neglected my email and the internet in general, but that seems to be the weekend pattern these days and I’m okay with that.

January 24, 2014

Goal tracking, Peter Doig, and pics of the day

One of the goals we’ve been making headway with this year is cooking more. We’re playing to our strengths in that I’m doing the planning and creating the grocery lists once a week and my husband goes to the store. The cooking itself we’re sharing, and so far it's working really well. We’re eating healthier and saving money, too. I think that there is also a side bonus in that we are both more careful not to let the kitchen get too messy. The fact is that we’re both more inclined to cook when the kitchen is clean.

I’ve also managed to avoid buying even a single lunch at work so far in 2014! Yay me. However, I have bought a number of breakfasts and tons of coffees, so that’s something that has to change.

I want to change other things in my life, but I’m not sure how. I want to get more out of my day. It seems to me that it is not full enough of the things that matter. But there are so many things that matter and scarcely enough time to do a quarter of them! Oh well… all I can do is keep trying, I suppose.

Last night was a perfect example of  the right kind of busy-ness . We went to the opening of the Peter Doig exhibit, which I LOVED (and I’ll definitely be going back around midday sometime soon, away from the crowds). Then, after quick supper of leftovers at home, I headed over to knitting circle, where I got to hang out with a dozen wonderful women, knit four or five rows of my hat (yes, I’m a slow knitter), and enjoy yummy wine and lemon meringue pie.  All I can conclude is that I really have nothing to complain about! Except the weather. Always the weather.

Lapeyrouse Wall by Peter Doig

I was asked to show some of the pics I’ve taken as part of my photo-of-the-day efforts:

Mid-January, in snapshots

Clockwise from bottom left:

- Kid-friendly noodle casserole – a definite hit, but needs to be less salty next time, for my taste.
- Our brand-new coffee table the day it arrived! We’d planned on another, but this one has wheels and storage, both things we realized we needed.
- A selfie trying to capture a lip colour to add to a review I wrote on MakeupAlley. (After almost nine years as a devoted reading member, I finally decided to write some reviews of my own.)
- The Aquarium Channel. I guess this is what the Yuletide Fireplace channel became after the holidays. They play the most bizarre and amazing retro dance music!

January 23, 2014

January cures

I’m slowly reading The Little Friend. It’s unfortunate that there doesn’t seem to be much time for reading these days. I know that a major part of the reason I managed to read 50 books last year was largely because of the first five months of the year in which I was taking the subway every day.  It makes me a little sad to think about all the reading I was doing over the holidays and how the only book I’ve managed to finish in the past couple of weeks was Deenie. But that’s modern life these days– overly scheduled busy-ness. I was reflecting this morning that for someone who prefers to be at home, I definitely seem to spend a lot of time out of the house…

But it’s a hard thing to complain about when I’m doing so many things I enjoy. I met with my writers group this week, which was immensely helpful not only for the insightful feedback but also for the deadline to produce something. Deadlines are a gift! If I can stay on track to produce a story or a chapter every month for the rest of the year, as per my 2014 resolutions, I will definitely be in good shape to finish one of the things I’m working on right now. It’s so exciting to look at a project and realize that you’re past the halfway point to a complete first draft.

The January Cure on Apartment Therapy is continuing to inspire me. I haven’t completed all the daily assignments (some aren’t really applicable…and some are TOO applicable/impossible right now, if you know what I mean), but I’ve done a few and have gone above and beyond on some of the others. I did a quick reorganization on my closet after I finally switched up my summer and winter wardrobes, and now that my hangers are full of things I haven’t looked at (much less worn) in months, I’ve got that impatient, tingly feeling that suggests I might be able to get rid of a few more things soon. I have too many skirts where the waistline is at my hips (why??) that I never feel good wearing anymore.  And though there is something nice about my thrifted cashmere sweaters (um, mostly that they are super soft lovely cashmere), none of them are cut to fit in contemporary or flattering ways. You’d think the fact that I paid $1 for each of them would make it easier to let them go, but I get so excited about bargains and thrifty finds that sometimes it actually makes it harder.

The other good thing about organizing my closet
even with the rushed, incomplete job I did – is remembering what clothes I have and actually wearing them. This is another good reason to try to thin things out: so that I can actually see what’s there. It has been a major help to have most of my dresses temporarily packed away because I have a lot of them. (With dresses, it is definitely harder to concede that there are too many. There are just enough!)

I’ve still been taking a photo every day, but at least half of them are pretty mediocre or random selfies. This one probably seems equally random, but it was a lovely breakfast prepared by my husband last weekend:

The most important meal...of the week

Yum!! In other news, I am really ready for this cold weather to be over. It's so stabby cold and sunny bright out there that it reminds of me of Winnipeg. I can hardly wait for it to be -16 tomorrow, which is rather a sad observation.

January 20, 2014

Bone & Bread: the SoCal edition

Thanks to the McGill prof who sent me these photos of Bone & Bread in Anza-Borrego State Park in Southern California! 

Bone & Bread: seeing cacti for the first time?

 Bone & Bread and a beautiful vista

The temperature here dropped again, and it feels even colder after looking at these pictures! I am officially jealous of everyone who gets to travel to California in January. (Not that I've ever been there, but I'd really like to go...)

January 16, 2014

It's curtains for this one

The home improvements have been continuing. On Tuesday night we put up some curtains we'd purchased on the weekend, along with the hardware to put them up. 

The first photo is at a different angle from the one below because this isn't technically a 'Before' shot, but rather a photo I took with me when shopping for the curtains in the first place. I'm great at visualizing things (even people, places, events) that don't exist, but when it comes to reality, photos are safest. 

You can see some empty boxes I'd left in the window to hide the gap between the end of the blind and the windowsill. I don't want to tell you how long those boxes have been there. (Actually, I don't want to tell you how long it took me to realize how clearly you can see right into the room from the street below through that little six-inch gap.)

Before: messy, curtainless room

After: curtains! Here they are open.

The curtains do the same thing that the new wall of pictures above the couch did instantly, which is make the tiny space feel larger by drawing the eyes up. Plus they increase the coziness factor by, like, literally a billion!

And here: closed! And with my writing table back to its usual clutter.

I've been enjoying them every time I come in and out of the room, not to mention at night and in the early morning. This little alcove where I do my writing is attached to our bedroom, and while these aren't blackout curtains, they definitely keep out a lot more light than what was seeping in before. 

January 13, 2014

Progress, bit by bit

Bit by bit, that's how things get done. This weekend I framed and hung a bunch of pictures on a previously blank wall:

I also put up a mirror that has been sitting in our powder room for weeks!

A bunch of furniture we’d purchased over the holidays was delivered (now we have CHAIRS around our dining room table! AND a coffee table which isn’t just the piano bench dragged back and forth between piano and couch). Tables might not sound thrilling, but they really are when you’ve gone without for six months.

We also had the opportunity to go see the Habs playing the Blackhawks…

and the Habs won!

Am I lucky or what?

There were a few projects I didn’t get to, but headway was made on a few: curtains and curtain rod purchased for our bedroom, if not yet installed, and a story outlined – if not yet finished. I also dug into The Little Friend (Donna Tartt's second novel) and watched a little TV but not too much (Girls is back!). And here's another great link about why reading novels is good for you...(it boosts brain function for days). All the more reason to carve out some reading time in your week if you're not doing this already!

January 11, 2014

Holiday 2013 and the ice storm at Glen Villa

(A belated word on my holiday, as I wrote this last week but have only just now started looking at my photos.) 

A number of things on my holiday to-do list remained undone (going to the movies, various home improvements), but the important things got done, such as reading and writing. I read a LOT and started a new story. We even managed to be a little bit social with two birthday outings and a New Year’s Eve Party.  And we kicked off the break by hosting one teeny tiny holiday gathering where eggnog was consumed (and I learned again: never drink eggnog) where we truly got in the holiday spirit.

We also went snowshoeing once out in the Eastern Townships, where the ice storm had wrought its beautiful damage. It was hard to stop taking photos. These were all taken around 4 p.m., as the light was starting to fade.

January 8, 2014

My favourite book of 2014

There’s something wonderful and terrible about finishing what you’re sure will be your favourite book of 2014 on January 2nd. That’s when I finished The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

It’s wonderfully Dickensian, and I loved it from the first page. I had to force myself to put it down now and then so that I wouldn’t finish it too quickly. It’s hard not to feel that an ~800 page book ought to last longer than two days.

Read it!

January 7, 2014

More Best of 2013

It was lovely to see a mention of Bone and Bread in Cult Montreal's Best Books of 2013!

There was a great review in Cult Montreal that I never got around around to mentioning back in the spring, as well as a little profile in the March print issue, which I'll post if I can track down my copy.

Cult Montreal is the free alt-weekly that has risen from the ashes of the former Montreal Mirror.  It is a labour of love and I love that it exists!   

January 6, 2014

100 Blog Posts and Other New Year's Resolutions

It was hard to separate this year’s resolutions from actual goals, but along with the general resolution to write more this year than last year (very doable, I think), I've resolved to finish one specific project and make a start on another. (I’d love to undertake more than this, and I might, but these two at least seem within the realm of reality.)

Another goal is to write 100 blog posts in 2014. In 2013, I blogged more than I ever have before, with 88 posts, but there were still many months where I barely wrote at all. I’m aiming to do better in 2014 and I think it’s possible. Blogging was a great outlet for me last year, as well as a good way of supplementing my disastrous memory and giving me a feeling of accomplishment that is often hard to find when one is working on lengthy projects.

Other resolutions include not buying chips (note: not not eating chips…that seems too harsh…so you may see me standing outside a dépanneur clutching a five-dollar bill and coaxing passersby to help me out) and eating out less in general, both of which I’m feeling pretty optimistic about.

Another goal is to take a photo every day this year -- a goal I've had each of the last five years (or longer!) and which I've failed at every time. Not this year, though. At least if I don't have anything to say for 100 posts, there should at least be some pictures...
So what if they're all selfies, right?

January 5, 2014

Canada AM's Favourite Books of 2013!

I'm grateful to my mom and friends on Facebook for pointing this out to me -- Bone & Bread was mentioned as one of Canada AM's Favourite Books of 2013! Books producer Katie Jamieson discussed it on the show the other morning along with some other amazing titles. (Did you know they featured 144 books on the show this year?!) My mom is visiting family in Nova Scotia at the moment and saw the segment as it aired and called to leave me a very nice message (my phone was off because I was still asleep!), and if I'm not mistaken she sounded a little choked up. Awww. Thanks so much, Canada AM, for facilitating some spontaneous parental pride! 

If you follow the link below, you can watch the clip and see all the featured books (Bone & Bread is mentioned first, if you want to hear what they say about it):

It's not the first video that will start playing, but you can select it from the available clips in the library underneath.