Thursday, November 29, 2007

You Had Me At Hello

I tend to be a quick judge when it comes to picking out books. I'll scan the shelves, looking for something that catches my eye, with either an interesting cover or title. Then I'll pick it up and see how it feels. I know. That's not really important, right? How a book feels in your hands? But it kind of is. Some older books have a typeface that's hard to read, or the book is too narrow and has those not-quite-paperback-weird-cardboardy kind of covers. Finally, I'll read the first page. If nothing grabs me and makes me want to turn the page, then back on the shelf it goes. I know a book's going to be good when I can read the first 5 or 6 pages in one breath.

So today I was pleased to find 5 books at the library that piqued my interest. Each had something on the first page that drew me in.

~ "I'm thinking about starting an all-girl band," Meg says to me as she flips through an old People magazine, stopping at a large photo spread of a popular boy band. "'N Secure. What do you think?" from Still Life With Husband

~ "When the Hiroshima Project was long over and all the dust had settled, Daisy discovered that she could close her eyes anywhere, in a crowded room or doing the dishes, and see the girl getting off the plane...The press seized upon the name Hiroshima Maiden - such an odd way to describe an A-bomb survivor: as though Keiko might have stepped out of an Arthurian legend, wearing a cone-shaped princess hat; as though being ravaged by the bomb might have transformed the girl, giving her, along with a history of suffering, some fairy-tale virtues." from Radiance.

~ "He was known primarily for his marrows. This made him a figure of considerable suspicion to the ladies of the Horticultural Society, who, until his arrival on the scene, had vied quite happily amongst themselves for the most coveted award in the vegetable class at their annual show." from The Savage Garden

~ "Long before his chance encounter with its owner in the 600 section of the university library, Gray knew the Queen Anne at 25 University Avenue as the house that changes colors. The siding is a peculiar shade of yellow that turns a dusty sap-green under the light of the streetlamp. The house is yellow in the morning on his way to campus and green on his walk home." from Mary Modern

~ "Who shall I be today? Guy smiled at the landlady as she proffered a ballpoint pen with a bitten top. Her hands were chapped, her pink nail varnish flaking. He reached inside his suede jacket. 'Thanks, but I always write with my own fountain pen." from The Arsenic Labyrinth

Of course, there's no way I'll finish all these books in 3 weeks, so the secondary sort will come when I have to decide which ones to return. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Cherry on Top

Today was a pretty good day. Work was busy but not crazy. I learned a few new things, which is always nice. I got some more Christmas shopping done, and enjoyed a vigorous if slightly chilly walk at noon.
However, the icing on the cake was checking the mail. Those of you who know me well know that I love to get things in the mail. I've been a part of many book clubs, because how fun is it to get books (especially) in the mail!
Today I was expecting an order from amazon, but as a bonus I also got my book from ABE Books! It turned out to be the wrong book, but my excitement was hardly diminished. Off and on I've looked for a textbook that we used in high school entitled "A Book of Good Poems." Because it seems to have only been used as a textbook, it is hard to find. Then I discovered ABE Books (online used bookseller for rare and hard-to-find books) and ordered what I hoped was the right book. I still feel that it might be the right book but with a different name, as I got a copy from the original printing in 1957. It is called Magic Casements: A Book of Good Poems. I believe there may be a copy of the right book here in the city, but until I find it, I think I shall just enjoy the magic of the poems I already possess.

Superiority Complex

My many feelings about Winter do not tip the scales in favor of the positive. I am quick to feel frustration when my car doors freeze shut. (I am oh so thankful that this has yet to happen this year.) I don't enjoy driving on roads slick with ice. The bundling and sweeping and scraping try my patience. I pray daily for the safety of my family and friends as we navigate these sometimes treacherous roadways.

However, in the midst of the swirling snow and unsure footing, one rather positive emotion rises to the surface. When I've just come back from a walk in -35 degree weather, I must admit to feeling a sense of superiority. It's easy to live in Saskatchewan the other 3 months of the year, but I feel that it takes a special person to tough out the bitter cold and come out smiling on the other side. As I peel off layer after layer...after layer...after layer, cheeks rosy, glasses fogged and nose runny, a great sense of accomplishment descends on me.

That being said, most of my Winter issues are with driving. If I could commute everywhere by snowmobile, I think that would solve most of my problems. In lieu of that, I have purchased some bus tickets and will soon join the masses riding in warmth, if not luxury, and letting someone else worry about the icy roads.

[As an aside, I have yet to try out our public transportation system due to a case of nerves. Trying to figure out the bus schedule was enough to make me cross-eyed, and I think my first ride will literally be on the edge of my seat as I try not to miss my stop.]

Monday, November 12, 2007

What Good Novels Are Made Of

A dose of good story-telling
A heaping spoonful of interesting characters: Anouk, Zozie, Vianne, Pantoufle, Roux, and more
A pinch of fairytale magic
A generous helping of happily-ever-after
Enough grey sky to make you appreciate the sun
Chocolate, to taste

I recently finished reading The Lollipop Shoes, by Joanne Harris. It was fantastic. No commentary on current events or the social issues of today. It wasn't about families falling apart, nor was it a "coming-of-age" story (because there are way too many of these already). It is a fairytale. There is magic and fancy shoes; imaginary friends and hidden pasts; a knight in not-so-shining armour and a girl who needs rescuing. Most of all, there is chocolate. And Paris. And well-crafted sentences that delight the intellectual palate. was good.

Friday, November 09, 2007


Tomorrow it begins. The chocolate-making. The disaster in the kitchen that will last until December. Goodbye counter and tabletop; I'll see you in a few weeks.

Every year for the past, oh, 4 or 5 years, I've made chocolates for family, friends and co-workers. It will take up the next several weekends, and by the end I will be pulling my hair out. I will be randomly mixing up bowls of chocolate and crunchy things (rice crispies, nuts, or candy canes) and dumping them into molds just to get rid of my remaining chocolate. Still, I love it. I love the care that goes into crafting each bite. Painting chocolate up the sides of the molds with a paintbrush. The smooth taste of ganache when you get the consistency just right. Trying a new flavor combination and having it work out better than you thought. Best of all, though, is giving them away. I don't actually eat very many of my own chocolates. The joy is in the making and the packaging and the giving.

This year I've decided to make my own caramel filling (instead of using the Bernard Callebaut jar of "karamel" that I've used in the past). After visiting 5 different stores tonight I've discovered the only place that carries the toffee bars needed to make the caramel filling is London Drugs, and they are sold out right now. Sigh...I guess I'll go back tomorrow and see if they've got anymore in. If not, I'll start with what I've got. After all, it's only the beginning.