Friday, March 30, 2007

Good mail day!

I love good mail days! Today I received:

2 shirts for summer from Eddie Bauer - great classic clothes for those who are short (me) and those who are tall (my husband)

3 books from swaps on
On the Side of the Angels by Betty Miller (another Virago!)
The Pieces From Berlin by Michael Pye
Miss Garnet's Angel by Salley Vickers (pleased to see it is the UK version)

1 copy of Slightly Foxed, issue 13 - Thanks to the lovely Karen over at Cornflower for making me aware of these. It is a beautiful publication and now I'll be wishing for a subscription. Mother's Day is coming up (in the US)......

Japanese Embroidery Books

The blogging world is pretty amazing. I 'discovered' it back in the fall when I was in the habit of google-ing 'persephone books' to find other lovers of this wonderful publisher. I came across blogs and whole new world, of other book lovers, cooks, photographers, and crafters. I had no idea any of this existed. I went from link to link discovering and ultimately deciding to put a little bit of my life into a blog. Discovering all these new people, books, ideas, passions has been fascinating and a result of this is I've found all sorts of new ways to spend my money.

This leads me back to Japanese crafting books. I had no idea Japan had such a big industry in crafting. The books and patterns I have seen are so creative and beautiful. I've been doing embroidery for a short time, maybe around one year and I've mostly used patterns from Jenny Hart's Sublime Stitching. I'm a traditional girl, though, and some of her patterns are a bit too edgy for me. I've found this seller on ebay, though and she sells loads of Japanese crafting books including a selection of embroidery ones. I've purchased this one and this one. I love the patterns in these books - they are very small which I think suits the Japanese aesthetic but are quite detailed. The images of the finished embroidery are so inspiring to me . The only downside of these books is that the images do not iron-on and I expect that hand transferring these patterns is going to be a challenge.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ladies Night

Tonight I have a meeting of the ladies group on my street. This is the second year I've been a part of it and I am either the youngest or second youngest of the group. I'm not sure how long they have been meeting - should find that out - but it seems to be quite a while. One of the ladies is in her 80s and has grown up on this street. She lives on the next block now, but as a child lived in the house across the way from mine. She has told me "I saw your house being built, I saw the horses dragging out the basement". This was in 1937. There are many other stories which tend to be retold every few months or so and this is the best part of the group.

I am a co-host this evening so I've made Bittersweet Chocolate Chunk Shortbread from Lisa Yockelson's beautiful book Chocolate, Chocolate. I love shortbread. It is so elegant and is not too sweet. This particular recipe includes rice flour which is what I think makes it so special as this shortbread has a very delicate crumb.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Books read in 2007, continued

My reading list of late looks a bit fluffy, I know, however all of these books arrived from the library around the same time - doesn't it always happen that way - and needed to be read. I am continuing to read Fall on Your Knees. This is a very dense book, and while it seemed that a lot happened in the first 100 pages or so, since then the story is just meandering along. I am sticking with it though, I'm certain the author has something in store.

14. Shopaholic and Baby by Sophie Kinsella - I am embarrassed to admit this here, but in the interest of honesty, I will. This author is good for a light quick read, a bit of mind candy if you will.

15. Secret Girl by Molly Bruce Jacobs - A memoir, by a woman who did not meet her mentally retarded sister until adulthood and began a relationship with her. This books was at it's best when describing this growing relationship. The author is a recovered/recovering alcoholic ( not sure the correct terminology) and the sections describing this were a bit self indulgent, in my opinion. It was an interesting portrait of societies attitudes toward disabled people during this time period, the 1960s, when people were literally just hidden away. The woman in this book was never brought to her parent's home although it was only 30 minutes away from where she stayed.

16. The Birth House by Ami McKay - I really enjoyed this book, unfortunately I rushed to finish it and then went out of town so never really had a chance to digest and think about it. This novel is set in Canada and the story is multifaceted- the parts I took the most from were about midwifery and the medical establishment's wanting to take over this part of women's lives and not really having the knowledge to do so, leading to dangerous situations. Interspersed within the text are letters, diary entries, newspaper articles and illustrated advertisements which really add to this story in a unique way. Highly recommended.

17. Whitethorn Woods by Mave Binchy - Enjoyed this as I enjoy all her books. This had an interesting format that I wasn't sure I liked at the beginning. Most of the book is a series of vignettes, 2 peoples points of view on the same or intertwining events. Many of these relate to an event or person in another section. In the end, they sort of all come together. The overall idea of this book, which is about a road being built though the woods of the title, was just a way to tie all these stories together, to allow Binchy to tell us about all these different people and lives, which she excels at. I am not a big lover of short stories, I'd rather really immerse myself in something long, so had a little trouble with what I perceived as choppiness.

18. The Key by Jennifer Sturman - This author writes a sort of chick lit version of a murder mystery. She has a business background so the mysteries tend to be about that. Just an easy and quick read.

Currently on the nightstand in addition to Fall on Your Kness are John Grisham's new book which I have to read for my book club, The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant which was lent to me, and Tracy Chevalier's new book, compliments of the library. After that I will be freed up to read what I desire.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

What to read on vacation

Deciding what to read on a trip generally takes much thought for me. Sometimes I am already reading something lengthy and enjoyable, which is great, unless it is a library book or a hardcover if I'm traveling by plane. I finished The Birth House the other day - very enjoyable and I plan to write more about this later when my head is more clear - and have been pondering what to bring to Phoenix tomorrow. A virago? - no - I'd hate to lose one; obviously not the books I have from the library waiting to be read - then what? I'd hate to bring a new book on a trip and dislike it and have nothing else going. The thought is truly frightening. I often like to read something familiar, as comfortable as an old sweater and not particularly taxing. Maeve Binchy is a favorite for this, also Penny Vincenzi. Yesterday I picked up Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie Macdonald. This has been languishing on my shelf for some time and I did enjoy her book The Way the Crow Flies. The reviews I see are mixed; many dislike it because it is too depressing. Frankly, I enjoy depressing books. Really, what's the point of a book in which everyone is happy all the time? So I'm on page 60 and liking this so far. I've decided to also pack Binchy's Light a Penny Candle ; I'm pretty sure I read this years ago and it will fit the bill if the Macdonald book doesn't work out.

The forcast for Phoenix is for temperatures in the 90s, so I'll be back , if I don't melt.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

My Viragos

The first of the Virago Modern Classics I purchased was The Lost Traveller by Antonia White. I'm not sure what stood out to me besides the beautiful green color and partially eaten apple - I seem to have an eye for picking British book editions out of shelves of American ones. Quickly realizing The Lost Traveller was part of a quartet, I knew there must be more out there and my quest began. It was helped along a bit by the section on Viragos in Nancy Pearl's More Book Lust.

My collection currently consists of 15 of the glossy black Dial Press editions and 27 of the green editions. I love these older editions, especially the very dark green ones, with the beautiful artwork on the covers. The new 'modern' covers are not nearly as enticing.

I have been scouring my local used bookshops for these books and have pretty well cleaned them out. I love the thrill of wondering what I will find, how many dark green or black books I will come out with. It is so easy now to find what you are looking for online, but for me, the mystery that comes with finding what I didn't know I was looking for is the best part of collecting.

One of my other recent finds that I am so excited about is a boxed collection of 3 books by M.V. Hughes (Molly Hughes) including A London Child of the 1870s, A London Girl of the 1880s and A London Home in the 1890s. Persephone Books publishes the first of these three, and I think I gasped out loud when I came across these, published in the UK in 1980.

I have 2 more Viragos on the way, compliments of and 2 more ordered from Abebooks by E.H. Young - William and The Misses Mallett. I really wanted to have all her books and wasn't having any luck in the local shops.

Currently reading The Birth House by Ami McKay which I am enjoying quite a bit.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

More books read in 2007

Um, I am thrilled and humbled to have had people actually write comments. Thank you!

8. Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk - Didn't love this, and lost interest by the last third. It is really more a collection of related short stories.

9. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan - This book is amazing and can change your life. It is beautifully written. In the last paragraphs , and I paraphrase here, he writes that to eat a meal at McDonalds is to eat in perfect ignorance. I really believe that is true.

10. Heat by Bill Buford - This was entertaining. It is 1/3 about Mario Batali, 1/3 about working in a 4 star restaurant kitchen, and 1/3 the author's journey of learning about the above and Italian cooking.

11. The Gentlewoman by Laura Talbot - Another Virago. Scathing, depressing tale of a snobbish and hateful spinster governess. She wrecks havoc on all who come into her path and is universally disliked. Would love to read more by this author.

12. Daniel Isn't Talking by Marti Leimbach - Read this for my bookclub. About a child diagnosed with autism and the aftermath. I thought this was best when describing mother's feelings for her children, rang a bit false for me in the romance department. As a parent, I found this heartbreaking.

13. A Midwife's Story by Penny Armstrong - Found this in a book titled 500 Great Books By Women by Erica Bauermeister,Jesse Larsen, and Holly Smith. About a midwife who works with the amish in the 70's. Interesting.

Currently reading Secret Girl by Molly Bruce Jacobs and Appetite by Nigel Slater. I finally broke down and ordered 2 Slater books from (also Real Food). This is a great site, with low prices, no shipping - even for overseas orders (!!!!!), and fast shipping as well.

I've also discovered and made use of bookmooch and paperback bookswap in the past week. Absolutely addicting.