Wednesday, 31 December 2008

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Hello my gentle readers, from England! I have been without a computer for 14 days now, and have found my way to an internet cafe here in London so I can pop in and wish you all a very Happy New Year. I am having a fantastic time in England, having been able to do everything I want except connect with some blogging friends here. As we have no internet connection, I cannot download my photos until we get home next week, but trust me, I have taken many!!

London is amazing, as ever, and tonight I am - again - on Charing Cross Road - and the crowds are gathering to celebrate New Year's on Trafalgar's Square. My husband and I are not staying - neither of us enjoys crowds or drunkeness! - so it has been enough to see the Square prepared with large screens for tonight. The boats are getting ready on the Thames to blow their horns at midnight. My in-laws live in a tiny town further down the Thames estuary (in a not-so-nice English dockside town) where we will hear the large ocean-going freighters blow their horns also. I am quite eager to hear it for real, since I've only heard it over the phone so far!

When I get back, I will do posts over the next few weeks with some of the photos we've taken. It's been an adventure coming into London when we can, which has only been since Christmas, and often with the children. Today, for instance, we went by St Paul's Cathedral, and found one of the oldest existing pub in London, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, which was totally booked for New Year's work parties so we couldn't get in. But, I saw a sign that said that Dr Samuel Johnson used to eat their regularly, as did Charles Dickens later, and then I saw a sign pointing to Johnson's house, so off my husband and I went and we discovered Samuel Johnson's main residence on Gough Square (near Fleet Street) where he wrote the main part of his dictionary. The house is a museum now, and it was open today, so we ended up walking through it!

This brings home to me that for me, London is more about books, and the authors who wrote them and where they lived. It is an adventure to turn a corner here and see an ancient church now squeezed between modern buildings, and discover that Pepys went there (All Hallows by the Towers, the oldest surviving church in London), or St Bride Church, where Johnson regularly went. I have taken pictures of each, so look for photos later. It is as always amazing for me that I am literally walking in the same place that people in bygone times have walked. Johnson was there, 200 hundred years ago, at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub, with his literary society, holding discourse. We found one of the houses Samuel Pepys lived in; he also watched the Great Fire of 1666 burning from the roof of All Hallows Church by the Towers. I love the noise, the bustle of this city, the fashions, the vulgarity of Picadilly Circus, the beautiful museums, the glorious architecture - St Paul's Cathedral is breathtaking - and above all, I love that this city, and this country, is the birthplace of my language, and the English novel and poetry and the words we communicate with.

I have 4 minutes left on my time here at the cafe, so - for now, have a very happy New Year's Eve and may 2009 bring each of you, my dear readers, all that you love and hold dear.

You should see the books I've been buying!!! I can't think of a better place to celebrate the New Year, in one of the oldest cities in the world. Happy 2009!!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Sunday Salon

The Sunday Salon.com

I have been having so much fun on the Blog Calendar Advent Tour.. Bloggers are writing in from all over the world, sharing their Christmas traditions. And it's not over yet! There's another 10 wonderful days to go! However, we are leaving on our trip tomorrow night, so if I'm late with leaving comments, just wait, I will catch up.

Yes, that's right, tomorrow night I'm LEAVING ON A JET PLANE for England. *sigh* only one sleep to go! Yesterday we had our becoming a tradition Christmas get-together, with whichever family members are available. While here, my sister-in-law mentioned that Canadian Tire had a suitcase set on sale, after she saw the three sad bags we'd pulled up from the basement. So I went on the web, and there it was:


Almost enough for my books I'll be bringing back!!! Just kidding....I think....

My husband bought it last night, and now the cat is getting very upset and the kids are getting very excited and we, at last, are at the moment of truth: what exactly are we bringing, and why is there not a packing fairy? I need her!!

I will post again later, but a small child is bouncing on the chair, waiting for his turn on the computer, and I really, really, have to get some clothes near the suitcases now. I can't leave it for the last day! Packing fairy, where are you?

By the way, we had a very good Christmas meal yesterday, with ham in apple cider, new roast potatoes, two kinds of salad, steamed broccoli, and blueberry pie for dessert. Anyone for leftovers? Then we celebrated by watching the newly released Dark Knight after the kids were in bed....sadly ,our age told and all three of us adults remaining, fell asleep during it! Even me.

Middlemarch Update
: Ha ha ha. You expect me to actually have READ anything this week, with the bus strike so one of my daily times for reading is taken away? I did! I did read something! However, I am only halfway through the book, and unless I have a sleepless night, it won't get done before I go, so I might be leaving it half-read. Page 319, Chapter 39. By now Dorothea is very unhappy in her marriage, Will madly in love with her, Lydgate and Rosamund are engaged, Mr Featherstone has died and left everything to a complete unknown - that was hilarious! except for Fred, who my fingers are crossed that he will stop gambling and take a decent job somewhere.

Maybe the packing fairy can come soon so I can have time to read, which in this week's Thursday meme, the question was, do you have enough time to read what you want? HA HA HA HA. As if!

My secret plan is to be up on the airplane reading, reading, reading while everyone sleeps!!! Shh, don't tell anyone. I'll let you know how the secret reading plan worked,on the other side of the pond.

Happy holiday preparations to all, and to all: READING TIME!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

What do you take on a trip to read?

I'm back! By that I mean, our buses went on strike at midnight and I only take buses - neither my husband nor I drive; we had a major snowstorm yesterday and through the night, so my ride cancelled today, and I can't get to work; and the buses can only be legislated back to work by the federal government, who of course are suspended at the moment until Jan 27. What happens when things get difficult? I find my sense of humour again! Plus, I had lots of sleep - Sunday I ended sleeping for 2 hours in the afternoon - so I feel much better. All I can do is laugh, and count down the days until our trip and we are out of here!!!

Middlemarch Update: I think the excitement for our trip is reaching a crescendo because I find myself unable to concentrate on anything for long. I am still reading Middlemarch, but still have over half the book to go and am running out of time before we go. I'm on page 265, just ending Book 3. I do love it, I just can't seem to read for any length of time. I find myself thinking of what we still have to do, and mentally getting things sorted for packing - bring this, forget that, etc - and suddenly realize I'm staring at the page but not seeing it.

One of the many dilemmas facing me about what to bring is, of course, what books do I bring? So I thought I'd ask this question of you today: when you are going on a fairly long trip, what books do you bring? do you bring any? does size matter? Author? Kind of book? What do you bring with you on holiday?

So far, I have a shortlist of books I might be bringing, and my real question is, which one will make it on the airplane with me in my bag?
Susan's Shortlist
The Wood Wife - Terri Windling
In the Woods - Tara French
Mistress of the Art of Death - Ariana Franklin
Stalin's Ghost - Martin Cruz Smith

Do I bring a book that I really really want to read, that I would be devastated if my luggage got lost? I usually try to pack so that if my baggage does go missing - and this has never happened before, so it's more a 'what if' scenario - I'm not heartbroken. Or do I bring books that are easily replaceable?

I'm going to a country where most of the books I love to read are published anyway, so I don't really have to bring many. I will be buying books in England, this is not even a question, and my husband is just pleading that our luggage isn't overweight by too much on the trip back. So, my real question I end up posing to myself is, do I bring many books with us? I need 2 or 3, just as a safety blanket in case I can't get to Charing Cross Road right away. My in-laws do not have any novels, only a few cookbooks and bird-watching books. The idea of being caught somewhere with some time available for reading, and not having a book to hand, gives me the chills. That would not be a holiday! I'd be more stressed without a book to read, than I would be by bringing too many and not reading any of them!

So if you see me gazing out into space and I'm not catching a quick nap, I'm musing on what to pack. Thus, the trials of life in Ottawa today (strike, suspended government, a foot of snow) recede into the background. 5 sleeps until we leave for England!

I also confess here, Gentle Reader, that I love to travel. I like airports, and train stations, and bus stations, cars packed to the top of the interior with luggage and supplies, cruise liners, anything that goes somewhere. Going someplace different, seeing new things, and revisiting family and friends in far away places - there is magic in travelling, the potential for anything to happen, wonder and surprise. I am so excited by the idea of getting out of Ottawa!! And then, that we are going to England, which I love
as much as I love Canada,and have family and friends waiting for us over there - I almost cannot wait for this trip to start! Postings here might be a bit scarce in the next few days as we get ready, but I will be back, as often as I can, and also while we are in England. I have a plan, but it all depends on my in-laws computer, so I won't say anything yet. I will try to keep getting to the Advent Blog Tour as often as I can also. I am really enjoying this advent tour, it is wonderful to meet so many new bloggers and from different countries, and see all the different ways we greet the holidays.

And I will post again before we go. I can't leave you hanging with the question of what books I might be bringing with me!!! So please do let me know how you approach books and travelling, dear Gentle Reader. I hereby confess that I do bring too many books with me, and I can't recall any trip I have ever taken where I read ALL the books I brought. Only a few times do I recall wondering why I pack so many,though!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Sunday Salon - Brr, it's cold outside

It's a quiet Sunday here with us. We had a birthday party yesterday for the daughter, and made more cookies - this time decorating gingerbread cookies to hang on the tree. Daughter then received a little cookie making set of her own, so we will be making cookies today - this time chocolate chip cookies, so she can try it out. Otherwise, this is our last calm day before we leave for England in 8 days' time!

I'm really tired - I've already erased a post I started once here because it was too whiny, and then closed my eyes, so even though the sun is shining brightly, I think I need a rest. I need to be a bear today! A cold wind is blowing outside - literally, it is a North wind and our temperature is dropping rapidly as the day goes on! - and I think I am going to go curl up and maybe nap or read some more Middlemarch while I can. That's what cold winter days are for!

I'll be visiting blogs later for the Advent Blog Tour, I have some catching up to do there. I am really enjoying everyone's treats, and stories, and sharing of their Christmases with us. What a great idea, Kailana and Marg!

Happy Sunday reading, everyone!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Escape to a land far, far away......

Unfortunately, our trip to England is still 12 days away. At work, out of the blue, our management took away our funds for reclassification and even getting a proper job description because of the 'economic downturn.' Since my section is the lowest-rated in the entire department, and we are doing work that is higher-classed, this is a real blow. It's not the money, it's the respect, its' being treated as equals, it's the recognition that our work is valuable. So I got out of that meeting to have my husband call to say that our Governor General, who is our head of State in Canada, and the Queen's Representative, agreed to suspend our parliament. So instead of having an election called, or facing a vote that he would lose next week in the House, we have no parliament sitting at all, no work being done, no immediate reaction to the economic downturn which is finally being felt here in Canada. Most of all, it feels like our right to speak and be heard has been taken away from us, and it sets a terrible precedent for future minority governments here in Canada. We are supposed to be a democracy, but the PM refused to let the House tell him he had to act more quickly to deal with economic turmoil. They are all our elected officials, and he deserved their wrath if he couldn't come up with something to restore Canadians' confidence. I cried at work when the news broke about our government being suspended for the next 7 weeks.

Oh, and our bus transportation - which my family uses because none of us drive! - voted to go on strike next week. It's about 10 miles to my work from my house. There are times when I feel the world is about to go crazy, and this is one of them.

So I've mostly been listening to music tonight, which when all else fails and I am too disturbed or restless to settle down to read, I turn to. It soothes me and restores me. I'm finally discovering how to find my favourite songs on You Tube! Here are a couple of my favourites:

U2 Bad - various release dates One of my all-time favourite songs, one which I now know explains why I dream about Bono (he's on my side, helping me!) when I'm fighting zombies in my dreams - if you ilsten to the lyrics, he's letting go of the bad so he can be wide awake in his life.


REM "The Lifting" from the Album "Reveal" sorry, there is no live video, but this is a song I turn to over and over again. "once, you had a dream of oceans and sunken ships and memories of things you have never known, you have never known...." my anything is possible song!


Enya - the song I associate with her. Hmm, there's a theme about escaping here, isn't there?



Moby - Extreme Ways (with clips from the Bourne Trilogy) - I love this song, and my kids love to dance to it!


Nick Drake - Northern Sky. Now I'm feeling better. This is one of his happiest songs he ever wrote, and I love it. See? I'm smiling now. Thank the universe for music!

Now I can contemplate reading and talking about books, so......

Middlemarch Update: I have been reading Middlemarch when I can. I am so very much enjoying this book. I am delighted by the realism of the characters, by the different matches, the different kinds of falling in love - or fooling one's self into love - that Eliot is portraying. Most of the characters are very likeable, the exception being creepy Mr Bulstrode, the banker. I love the quiet setting of the town. This book is slowly exploring each character and their effect on one another, like ripples in a pond. One character's actions affects others, the neighbors gossip and affect Lydgate's and Rosamund's lives, people get sick, grow old, have dreams, and some come to fruition, some do not. One of the most delightful scenes is Mrs Garth teaching her children grammar in the kitchen while she is baking pies. It is intimate, a familiar setting, and utterly perfect in rendering 1829 merchant family life. Best of all? Mrs Garth's name is....Susan.
read: Page 250, Chapter 32.

Have a good night reading, everyone!

Monday, 1 December 2008

Dewey

Our book-blogging community lost a lovely, kind, generous, welcoming member, Dewey. I only found out a little while ago tonight.

Dewey was one of those special people whose generous nature came through her posts. She was came up with the 24 hour read-a-thons, Weekly Geeks, many giveaways, and she always welcomed anyone and everyone to the blogging community. Sooner or later she would find her way to your blog and say hello. For a better post, see Nymeth's here. They were doing this year's Christmas swap together.

Dewey's passing is making me realize how real this online community is, as real as our 'real' lives in the important ways - love, and caring, and listening, and of course, sharing in our love for books. If you read her husband's post (link is above), you will see that she had piles of books around the house. she loved reading, and sharing in anything possible that had to do with books, and she was so enthusiastic that she had bloggers lining up to do the read-a-thons!

Most of all, I think of her family. They loved her longest and best and most dearly, and I hope that the fact she is missed by so many people is of some comfort to them at this time.

A bright light has gone in our world, and I will miss her.

Blog Advent Tour 2008 - Baking a special cookie



Welcome to this year's Blog Advent Tour 2008. Today is December 1, and I am very excited to be a part of this year's tour.

So,welcome, Gentle reader. Come into my home. I have a favourite cookie recipe that I discovered 2 years ago, and it has fast become a tradition in our home. Today, at this time of holiday and festivities, my daughter and I will show you how easy and quick this recipe is. It is easy, she is not quite 6 yet! Come share in the holiday spirit in our home by sharing in the making of:

The Ginger Spice Cookie, found in Chatelaine's November 2006 issue, Top 10 Cookie, from Karla Gogghe of Chatham, Ont.





Ginger Spice Cookies

Prep: 25 mins Bake: 7 min
Makes 40-45 cookies

Vegetable oil
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tsp (10 mL) baking soda
1 tsp (5 mL) each cinnamon and ginger
½ tsp (2 mL) nutmeg
¼ tsp (1 mL) salt
1 egg
¾ (175 mL) vegetable oil
¼ cup (50 mL) molasses
1 cup (250 mL) packed brown sugar
1/3 cup (75 mL) granulated sugar

1.Arrange oven racks in top and bottom thirds of oven. Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Lightly spray or coat 2 baking sheets with oil. In a medium bowl, using a fork, stir flour with baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. In a large bowl, beat egg with a fork. Then beat in oil and molasses. Using a wooden spoon, beat in brown sugar until evenly mixed. Gradually stir in flour mixture until well mixed.




2.Place granulated sugar in a small bowl. Pinch off about 1 tbsp (15 mL) dough and roll into a
ball. Then roll in granulated sugar until evenly coated. Place on baking sheet. Continue with remaining dough, placing balls at least 2 in. (5 cm) apart.

3. Bake on 2 racks in preheated oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until
cookies begin to crack and set around edges, 7 to 10 min. Remove baking sheets to a rack. Let cool on sheets. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days or freeze up to 1 month.



And, voilĂ ! Wonderful ginger cookies that are a little bit crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Don't worry about the 5 days; they'll be gone long before then.



Baking from scratch is something I love to do, and don't often get time for. I find making this cookie fun and quick and very relaxing. As you can tell from the pictures, even if we make a mistake as we did this time and make some of the cookies too small (they were ½ the size required!) they turned out just the same. And I have yet to meet a person who does not like these. I hope you enjoyed the pictures at least! Daughter and I had so much fun making these together. As I write this, almost half the jar is empty already.

Now, Gentle reader, that you have watched us make cookies for the holidays, come, sit down in this chair, let's relax. Have a cup of tea with me, you can have the flowered mug, since clever readers will spot the Arsenal mug and know it's mine. There's a plate of our cookies for you and me.



Happy holiday season, in whichever manner you celebrate it, dear reader. May you be surrounded by love, be joyous all through the holidays, and may you, because we are all book bloggers, find a very special book - something you have longed for - under your tree this year!