Wednesday, April 23, 2008

reading challenge #9

I started The Perfection of the Morning by Sharon Butala one rare day when I was riding the subway alone. When I stepped off at Eglinton station a woman stopped me to say the book was an all-time favourite of hers, and that she happened upon it at a time in her life when she needed a change. The woman, who easily looked 20 years younger than she told me she was (and my goodness, I believe she told me she had 6 children!) left quite an impression on me and certainly inspired me to dive right into Butala's words that night.

Published in 1994, The Perfection of the Morning is equal parts memoir, meditation, and call-to-action. This title had actually been on my non-fiction wish list for some time, and I'd say it completely lived up to my expectations. I did however, read it at a leisurely pace and I'm not sure if that's because I was savouring the experience, or, being a city-dweller with little to no contact with nature, I just couldn't keep focused on the subject matter for too long. Butala herself admits that until you have a similar experience with nature, it is hard for a writer to find a common language to say what they want to say. Which leads me to one of my favourite sentences ever as written by Butala: "The world is more wonderful than any of us have dared to guess, as all great poets have been telling us since the invention of poetry." And being National Poetry Month (for which I have been writing a haiku a day, for better or worse) I think it's just a great sentiment to share.

I was also quite drawn to Butala's musings on how living in nature affected her dreams and the relationships she developed with the wild animals around her ranch. Also her thoughts about women were inspiring even though she admits to believing we have a long way to go before equality is ever truly achieved. Overall, it's quite a wonderful read - I just think the prose had a pace that I had to adapt to. And in the end it inspired me to do something totally new: I suggested to Jay that we disappear to a cottage this summer for TWO WHOLE WEEKS, somewhere that has land around it and a limited number of technological distractions. He readily agreed and we have now booked this vacation, which is my first two week vacation since graduating university. I just hope we city-dwellers can get through it without pining for the internet.

And the knitting comparison: since this is essentially a meditation on nature, I think a very meditative, repetitive project like a throw would be the most fitting. I have not knit a throw yet - it just seems like such an ambitious project to take on, but I can imagine the relaxing quality it would have. And I think this pattern by Norah Gaughan is the perfect choice.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

cupcake love

Yum, yum. My Mom got me the best baking book EVER and now Sadie can enjoy moist, decadent cupcakes. I should probably explain: one of the main reasons we have been baking so much around here - apart from the fun factor - is that Sadie is allergic to both dairy and eggs. This makes sweets and desserts especially hard, but luckily the vegan route has been very kind to us. The cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World is hands-down amazing, and already we've adapted the recipe to make a full-size cake and it had none of the density of my previous cake attempts (sorry to Sadie - at least we'll get it right for birthday #4!) It was a sad day when we took Sadie to a birthday party and there was not one single thing she could eat, so now, cookbook in hand, we can bring along cupcakes and share around. Everyone wins.

Also, cupcakes are pretty much the most fun food to make. In the first photo Sadie is grouping sprinkles, which would appear to be a very serious matter. And icing? What kid can resist licking that sweetness off their fingers? Sadie was smitten with the chocolate icing from this batch, which yielded enough to top two dozen cupcakes (half chocolate, half vanilla). Note to self though: making two dozen cupcakes over a two day period is not good for your waistline...or Jay's. I guess it's not just kids who are smitten.

(And P.S. - what a fantastic cover design too. I just never want to put this book away.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

reading challenge #8

It feels a bit like cheating, but I chose a children's book for my Yukon portion of the challenge. Truth be told, it was downright exciting to get this in the mail from Amazon, probably more so than the novels. I mean look at those colours! This is Children of the Yukon by Ted Harrison, and although the content is years ahead of Sadie's interest, she was captivated by the paintings (especially the ones with purple and pink skies). And the best part is that I learned a lot about the Yukon that I never knew while getting to enjoy the wonderful illustrations. On a whole it may scream 1977 (the year it was published) but hey, I'm a child of the 70's and it feels perfect to me.

A very simple knitting comparison: although I have never posted the final garment, I knit the Swing Thing coat for Sadie in a very colourful Noro yarn. The striping effect resulted in a truly technicolour sweater for my little girl, and this book reminds me completely of the whole experience, especially watching the stripes take shape in my hands. And something tells me that a sweater just might come in handy in the Yukon.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Ragdoll finished her book. Chris has 26,000 words. Unfortunately I am still bumbling through a handful of ideas, unsure if anything will be near complete for our May 1st pact.

I won't say writers have it easy, but what I do envy is that they can print off their project and place it on a table with a satisfying thump. The pages will be crisp and in order. Our feedback will start from an expectation of storytelling. But how do I pull together something that is as tangible, something that has a clear starting point for discussion? Do I gently place a series of bluebirds on the diner table formica and hope the chaos of lunchtime doesn't kill the silence of these creatures? Of course, I may just be procrastinating with this line of thinking - at least I have a goal, a pact, and on May 1st I'll get some sort of face-to-face feedback about my work from people I admire.

So, about the bluebird. I've always avoided blue because it's just one of those colours that doesn't speak to me, but during my week off I realized it was right colour for this work. I'm leaning to the gray/blue end of things, but for me colour is incredibly symbolic and I'm still happy with this decision. I wasn't entirely sold on stitching paper onto my last bird, so I'm trying embroidering one letter at a time, with an idea of how I can arrange them later on. I prefer that it is all fibre now, and the blue linen is so melancholic and quiet. I'm not sure if I like the wing much, so next time I'll embroider before I piece together the body. Of course, these are small details, but I overthink them and it can keep me from progressing entirely. I'm trying to push ahead regardless and with Jay spending every night in studio for a show he'll have in June, I've been joining him instead of knitting on the sofa. Thankfully, every little bit adds up in time.

Which reminds me, as much as the sofa is beckoning me over, it's time to go play with blue.