Friday, February 29, 2008

reading challenge #4

A simple truth about my book reviews: besides their brevity, they will all be positive. This is because my reading time is too precious to waste on a book I am not enjoying. Mostly I read before bed, borrowing time from my dreams, closing the book around 1am (which really isn't smart considering when I get up and how packed each day is). And I never have regrets if and when I abandon a novel.

The Tree Tattoo by Karen Rivers is an unusual exception. I would struggle to continue and then find myself giving it one more chance. This actually happened five times in total - and I even had another BC author ready to go - but on the fifth try I stayed with it, and I'm still surprised I got through it.

The prose is very poetic, which I usually love, but in the beginning I was too distracted by it. I imagine it must have been the story that brought me back each time, or how the story might resolve itself. In a nutshell, a 50-something family man and an alarmingly haunted 23 year old have a sexually charged affair. Unique? Yes. Hard to imagine? Yes. Worth the read? Undecided, but there were certainly notable phrases, and striking passages. For instance:

Marriage is so many unasked, unanswered questions, a tidal wave of unsaid words - do they ever crash down? Can people be crushed under that kind of weight?

The characters wrestle with familiar demons but the language doesn't soften the carnage, and this I did appreciate. As for the knitting comparison: The Tree Tatoo is like a pair of socks, in particular a pair I referred to as the "Forever Socks" because they took so long to knit and yet I never gave up on them. Socks are a unique knit anyway, and magical at moments - like when you turn the heel - but in the end you don't wear them often and you have to remind yourself that at least they got finished. Next time I knit socks, perhaps I'll call them The Tree Tatoo socks...that sounds much better.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

the view from here

There are only 15 minutes before I take Sadie up to bed, and I'm sitting at the computer eating pizza that was just delivered. Something about the scene beside me - a moment in time and a perfect Sunday night - made me laugh. It must be the mixture of furniture chaos, fort building on the couch and Jay's knees poking out from behind as he watches basketball a little too close to the television.

I finally took the plunge with red paint. It was too much debate and not enough action, so a good friend offered to come play with Sadie while I started the edging. I don't tape and count on a steady hand for edging so it takes me time. I'll roll the first coat once Sadie's in bed and cross my fingers that I only need one more. I am still fighting the decision; ten years of working for HGTV promoting designers like Sarah Richardson has really affected me. We had a perfectly neutral house and the colour flow was good, but suddenly we have a grey kitchen and now a red TV room. I should be completely disowned by the network.

But in the next minute I realize I don't care. I heart red and already the room is warming up. The precious moments spent knitting in here at night will now be colourful and cosy. Design rules, schmesign rules.

And now, it's Sadie's bedtime.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

a girl and her paint

If only the rest of the house was as fun to decorate as Sadie's room is. Last weekend I finally got her one wall painted raspberry, and both Sadie and I love it. She hung out with me while I painted each of the three coats (and actually, I could have done a fourth) constantly exclaiming, "it's purple!". Our cat Glen Miller also joined the painting party and it was a complete miracle that raspberry paint didn't get spilled, touched or tracked anywhere. I've always found painting very relaxing, which explains why every wall in our house has been painted two to three times (it happened in our apartment too, and Jay teases me every time I bring up repainting). But gone are the days of throwing on painting clothes and knowing I had hours of quiet contemplation ahead - nope, now I have a cat and a preschooler determined to be part of the experience. Oh well.

Last weekend I also finished this pillow for Sadie's bed. The cat embroidery is from a drawing we did together using different colour crayons so I repeated the effect with thread. I didn't plan the design much, just started pulling fabrics together and balancing out the colours on the ironing board. It was pretty fun and I'm wondering if I can use the same approach to make a quilt for the sofa. I like that it isn't symmetrical - I can't be as colourful in the TV room, but at least I could aim for the same sense of play. I still haven't painted the TV room red; there are squares of "Hadley Red" on each wall (thank you tester pot) but I'm scared about making the plunge. For all my talk about Jay not liking red, it's actually me who is having a problem. But if raspberry makes me smile every time I see it, surely red will do the same? Or maybe I should just stick to sewing. Fabric is much easier to change when you get it wrong.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

love = cookies

Love also equals Sadie, my favourite little Valentine. It's been a busy, stressful, snow-pounded week and all I wanted to do tonight was skip yoga class and bake cookies with my girl. Unfortunately, the man in my life got no special Valentine love, but as luck would have it, he is officially anti-holiday. Therefore, he will appreciate a reminder of his wife's love for him on a more average, unexpected day. And anyway, he got to eat these yummy cookies right out of the oven.

Nothing says Happy Valentine's Day like hands covered in chocolate dough. Simply delightful.

Monday, February 04, 2008

reading challenge #3

I didn't want to turn over the last page of Joan Clark's An Audience of Chairs, it was just too good to end.

"The weather was a dark, smudgy grey and the wind blowing off the Firth brought wintery rain and sleet. The flat was cold, and as she lay in bed trying to stay warm, she saw no reason why she should get up. Moranna often mistook self-absorption for independence and was unaware that without her husband she had lost her sense of direction."

There is something about East Coast stories that hook me, and after finding the hardcover of this novel for $4.99 I started reading it right away (knocking two other Canadian books I had been reading into the dustbunnies on my bedroom floor). I fell for Moranna's character immediately, even though she did unforgiveable things. Without judgement, Clark crafts Moranna's character so that you see how she is compelled by her mental illness to act inappropriately. Even in her darkest hour you cannot help but empathize, and you root for her to overcome her own demons when she is finally on her own.

As a mother, I was torn by the loss of her young children and I shared the helplessness of knowing they were out there - somewhere. But Clark gave so many perfect insights, such as the excerpt above, which lifted the blame just enough so that you could see the story unfold without prejudice. I remember being particularly touched by the insight that Moranna couldn't look into the future enough to realize that the dependence her infant and toddler daughters had on her was fleeting, that in a few short years they wouldn't need her to do everything for them. It is an overwhelming time, and I can all too easily imagine how this could unravel your world, especially when mental illness exists just below the surface.

This is a book I will be passing around, and it will have lasting influence on me. The prose is crisp and forgiving, the story touching and profound. I simply can't say enough about it.

The knitting comparison: Definitely this is like the perfect shawl, a garment particularly for women, intricate in its' lace pattern but absolutely practical in its' use. The knitting is methodical and you have to be totally dedicated, but the final product is too beautiful for words. See what I mean?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

snow thrift

When it snows, at least there are thrift shops within walking distance. Many times during my maternity leave this saved my sanity, especially in the seven months (yes, seven) before I had a stroller. I learned to love my nieghbourhood quickly - almost everything we need is a short walk away. And there is just something romantic about walking around in the fresh snow, especially when it's still falling and you're wrapped up in scarves and hats wearing big boots. These days, I think it's my favourite time to be alone.

But let me get to the pattern I found. It's so 1970's and unfortunately a little big (although a size 12 back then isn't far off from my measurements now) but I think I can modify it enough to make it work. The square neckline is the best feature and coincedentally this pattern is exactly like a shirt I saw in Banana Republic a month ago, but it was screaming for better fabric. So next up - choosing a fabric, and if it's anything like choosing red paint, I can count on it taking me a few months to decide. A quick look at Superbuzzy has given me a few options already, like this, and this, and this. Though I'm tempted to not act my age and try something more like this.

Of course, I'm still dreaming about linen too, and the more I think of it, a gauzy linen would give the blouse a great contemporary feel. Hmm. Too many choices, never enough strength to decide.