Tag Archives: reading

Vancouver Redux

I’m out west for another two weeks. I’m basically a “fixer” for my hard-working spouse. Or maybe a concierge-with-benefits. My thoughts on the morning of the first day:

Packing: I keep telling myself to make a packing list so that I don’t forget stuff. Perhaps it was because we didn’t leave home ’til 6 pm yesterday and I had the whole afternoon to organize myself. But I had to drop off Ollie at boarding, and finish my Coursera assignment and so time reverse-telescoped I guess. I carefully set my noise-cancelling headphones to charge (and then forgot to pack them.) I stashed my fuzzy slippers in my suitcase and then, at the last minute, went to pack my street shoes and they were nowhere to be found (did I leave them in Ottawa?). I didn’t have a reasonable alternative.  So now I will either be wearing boots for the next two weeks or will be shopping. I blithely decided not to bring iPad but forgot that it’s the best way to read the paper first thing in the morning. Forgot my computer glasses.

The travel: We (I?) had cocktail hour before we left home with some cheddar and nuts. Then a glass of wine in the airport lounge with a small salad. Then a G&T and nuts on the flight. We were upgraded into Air Canada’s newish layout of their B777-200LR‘s business class, with fully reclinable seats in a little pod. Dinner took forever to be served and I was headachey and sleepy. I had to be woken up to eat. After the meal, I flattened out and slept for whatever time was left of the flight(an hour?) By the time we landed I had a migraine and major body-ache. We were met by the car service and as I drank the little complimentary bottle of water, I could literally feel my cells expand. Or whatever. I was clearly dehydrated.

The apartment: We’re trying out a new place, close to Yaletown. It’s a shorter walk to work and closer to a lot of stuff I’m interested in (Art Galleries, Library, Cathedral). It’s a smaller place than the last one and is lacking in the fab view, but it has a heated saltwater pool and spa on the roof so there’s that. Apparently a gym but too but I am unlikely to need further details. Today I’ve got to stock up on some basics like soap (body, laundry, dishwasher) and food. It’s the Chinese New Year plus Family Day today and apparently a lot of places are closed. But first, I need to find something to eat and some coffee.

My personal plans for the next two weeks are to:

    1. continue my genealogy do-over with some initial population of my new software and a review of documentation (source citation) methods.
    2. do lesson 2 of The Story Course
    3. get my February reading done:
      – Paris Stories by Mavis Gallant for my IRL book club
      – Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler for the Goodreads CBC book club
      – The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay, a terrific novel I’m listening to
      – How to Use Evernote for Genealogy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize Your Research and Boost Your Genealogy Productivity: my current organization obsession. Just grabbed this from the Toronto Public Library.
    4. Get to the Contemporary Art Gallery (just around the corner from me), walk the seawall around Stanley Park, visit the Bloedel Conservatory, taste-test spirits at the Long Table Distillery, and a lot of wandering.

2016: Ready, set, go!

Late in December, I spent some time thinking about my priorities for 2016 and the areas I wanted to focus on. On a whim (and on sale), I’d bought a couple of notebooks from the National Gallery of Canada and I knew immediately how I’d put them to use.

The first is my organization journal. It’s divided into six sections, one for each of my focus areas: Home Organization and Decor; Writing; Genealogy; Reading; Creativity; and Estate Planning. I roughly divided the book into six sections and am using each section to organize my to-do lists, next steps, notes, etc.

  1. For Home Organization and Decor, I am starting with the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home challenge. It gives me manageable chunks of work to do each day and I’m already seeing excellent improvements (it starts with the kitchen.) It will also include the things we need to do around the house (recovering furniture, any purchases, and maybe a kitchen reno, although I’ll need a whole new notebook if that goes ahead. Get the plan here: Free 2016 Printable Declutter Calendar: 15 Minute Daily Missions

  2. In the Writing section, I’m happy to say that I have started Sarah Selecky’s Story Course to kick-start my writing practice. It’s a series of five detailed lessons on short-story writing, with a lot of exercises, reading, and thinking involved in each one. I am also using her daily writing prompts on days that I don’t work on a lesson. Most daily sessions of writing are 10-20 minutes of “free-writing” and I’m happy to say that I’ve written all thirteen days of the year so far, in the second notebook of my purchase. If you’re interested in something like this, check it out here.

  3. My third focus area is Genealogy. I’ve been working on my family history for years and my online tree is huge. The problem is, I haven’t always been as critical as I could about links that I find and I don’t know how accurate all my data is. At the same time, Ancestry has announced that in the next year or so it will stop supporting its software Family Tree Maker, which is what I’ve been using to keep my info on my computer. It syncs to the Ancestry trees in the cloud, and everything was working fine. I have decided to move to another computer-based genealogy package called Roots Magic.
    IMG_2249
    So I am taking this confluence of events to follow
    Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over. This (free) program guides you through starting over with your genealogy, putting aside everything you’ve done before (except for source documents), and doing everything properly (especially source citations.) I’ve purchased Roots Magic and MacEntee’s workbook (not required, but useful for me) and am thinking about what practices I want to use going forward, before I enter one single name or date into Roots Magic.
  4. My fourth focus area is Reading. Each year I participate in a number of reading challenges, plus I’m in a book club and a books-on-film series at TIFF, so I need to juggle books to meet deadlines. This section of the journal will help me with that. I’ve printed and pasted a couple of reading challenge diagrams into it already. But I’m also including in this section reading I do for other learning. For example, I’ve started a course on the Microbiome through Coursera, and while most of the work is online, I’m using this area to remind myself of deadlines and rough out assignments. Finally, Goodreads takes care of my reading lists and reviews and stats.
  5. Next we have the Creativity section. This is an area of my life that I enjoy but I have been lax about actually turning out any creative (or not so creative work.) I now have my own studio space that is pretty organized (thanks to uber-organizer Rosalind at Simply Home) but I still have some things from the basement that need to be brought upstairs. I have a pile of mending/alterations that need to be done and some jewellry to be repaired, and then I want to get on to my own creative work.
  6. Last, but not least in my brain (although possibly least in my heart) is Estate Planning. The big “R” word is starting to be heard more around here and so we need to get our financial ducks in order. We have a new investment manager at the firm we’re with and there will be lots of paperwork over the next month or so as we get a plan in place for the last third of our lives. Also taxes. And up-to-date wills. These all have to move to the front-burner this year and I’m the one who has to drive it.

This kind of planning has proven really useful, even halfway into the first month of the year. It helps me to keep on track and always know what I want (or need) to do next in each focus area. I plan to blog separately about some of these endeavours as I make progress on them. Stay tuned.

Friday seven – Things I’ve learned

seven-quick-takes-friday-2-300x213

  1. I love cooking on a gas stove.
    We have one here in the condo and it’s the first time I’ve ever used for any length of time. Fast heat, fast off, and easy to clean, the only negative is the retractable vent hood that rises from just to the rear of the cooktop that is really loud. We will definitely be putting a gas cooktop in our kitchen when we renovate.
  2. The name “Istanbul” is actually a variant of  “Constantinople”.
    I mean, we all knew that the original name of that city was Constantinople, but i didn’t know that one came from the other. I met a Turkish jewellry vendor in the Granville Island Public Market and we chatted for a while. He told me that people shortened “Constantinople”, dropping the first syllable, and the word morphed to Stamboul, or Istanbul. (When I checked this out on wikipedia, it turns out to be something of a simplification, but I had never made the connection before.)

    Bracelet by Murat Senemoglu, Turkish silnersmith at Granville Island Public Market.
  3. I can live without owning a car, in the right place.
    I took out a car2go for a spin the other day with Alex, when we went to Granville Island. I love the fact that you just drop it off when you’re at your destination and pick up another one when you want to continue your trip. The smartphone app makes it so easy to reserve a car (optional), unlock it, and manage your account. Driving (and parking the Smart fourtwo was a little unnerving at first, but actually quite enjoyable.)
  4. I’ve missed Netflix.
    With the renovation of our main living area and some reconfiguration of our electronics, we haven’t had easy access to Netflix on our living room television since the summer. The setup here in the condo is a Samsung Smart TV and so we have access to a pile of streaming services from one device. (I don’t really like watching video on my computer or ipad. I can’t explain it. could be my age. Could be that I prefer the big screen and better sound.)  I finally watched the NFB film on Healey Willan that our choir director recommended (very interesting), and have been catching up on some series (Master of None (Aziz Ansari), Marvel’s Jessica Jones). Last night I watched a riveting doc on Iris Apfel, who reminded me immensely of my Grandma Winer (Vera Elstein) and makes me want to pump up the colour in my wardrobe (and the size of my accessories.)
    Here’s a trailer:
  5. The best part of genealogy is meeting new relatives.
    I’ve said before that a blog is like “cousin-bait” to genealogists. If someone googles and ancestor’s name and your blog comes up, bingo! I’ve recently had an email exchange with the wife of a cousin on my father’s father’s side. We’ve exchanged some information and I hope to meet them in the near future as our geographic circles intersect on a couple of fronts. (We both have relatives in each other’s home towns.) Briefly, my grandfather (David Berkman) had a sister Sadie who married a Samuel Rubenstein and lived in Hawkesbury Ontario, a predominantly francophone town between Ottawa and Montreal. I’d very much love to see pictures of David, Sadie, and their parents (Myer and Adela), and get any further info that might help me with my research.
    Here’s their marriage registration:

    Marriage of Sadie Berkman and Samuel Rubenstein, Lachine QU, 1909, Beth Israel.
    Marriage of Sadie Berkman and Samuel Rubenstein, Lachine QU, 1909, Beth Israel.
  6. I want to read more internationally.
    I posted about this a couple of weeks ago, but am pleased to learn that one of the Goodreads groups that I belong to is starting a new sub-group called “Around the World” where we will be reading from various areas for the first six months of 2016, and then concentrating on Asia in the second half of the year. I’m starting to get my list together. In January we will be focussing on North and West Africa, and I’m hoping to read some Egyptian and Nigerian writers that have been on my radar for a while. In particular, I want to read The Automobile Club of Egypt by Alaa Al Aswany and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. And maybe Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El-Saadawi and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. If anyone would like to join me in this venture, consider joining The Roundtable on Goodreads!
  7. I can’t live happily without sunshine. Temperature doesn’t matter.
    Since I’ve been out here in Vancouver, we’ve had a few periods of sun. It’s nice to be able to live in a midweight (waterproof) coat.  I picked one up with Vancouver in mind at the Royal Winter Fair from the London Trading Post booth. (They’re located in Bobcaygeon ON and have a lot of great British gear.) But honestly: the gorgeous views, sea wall, and mild weather, cannot make up for the lack of regular sunlight. It makes me feel sluggish and like I want to cocoon at home. And my knees? I’ve had to up my Naproxen since I’ve been out here to compensate for the dampness.

That’s all folks!

Friday Seven – October 23

— 1 —

Our reno is done and we’re really happy with it. New hardwood floors throughout the second floor and in the living-dining room meant that every item in those areas had to be removed to either boxes in the basement or to a temporary storage pod (mainly the furniture.) Now we’ve got to sort all the boxes in the basement and reorganize (or get rid of) a lot of stuff. It’s actually been a great exercise, to see how the house looks with quite minimalist decor. I am taking things slowly and making careful decisions about what to keep and where. One of the good decisions we made was to have cabinetry built in around our (new) gas fireplace so all our decorative items can be placed together, behind glass, and reduce the clutter on surfaces, one of our big issues.

— 2 —

The timer switch for our exterior lights on the front door quit, leaving the lights on all the time. I picked up a new timer and attempted to install it myself. I’ve done minor electrical work before with no problem but this was part of a three switch plate and the installation quickly proved beyond me, even after a lot of googling and referring to my trusty Reader’s Digest Complete Do-it-yourself Manual. So I left the circuit breaker in the off position and we have no lights in the powder room or at my favorite reading position in the kitchen. I tried to hire an electrician the normal way (Homestars) but the earliest i could get an appointment was in two weeks. I called my contractor for a name and he said he’ll get it done for me tomorrow or Monday at the latest. He’s the best!

— 3 —

I’ve been on the hunt for a daybed or sofa bed for my study. I had it painted in a lovely pale yellow, a good colour for creativity, and when I checked out a couple of shops in the nearby Castlefield Design DIstrict (Elte Mkt, Shelter) everything suitable was only available in a cool grey. By chance, Ethel 20th Century Living posted this gorgeousness on their Facebook Page yesterday afternoon and I’m heading there to check it out in person this afternoon. It’s in a warm grey (Pebble), five years old an in apparently fabulous condition. And at a great price.

BluDot One Night Stand sleeper.
BluDot One Night Stand sleeper.

— 4 —

I am almost finished an absolutely terrific novel by Ruth Ozeki called A Tale For The Time Being. It is hard to describe how much this book resonates with me. I’ve been listening to the audio version, read by the author. Watch the trailer.

— 5 —

Kotodama: the Japanese belief that mystical powers dwell in words and names; that ritual words can influence our environment, body, mind, and soul. It’s everywhere in Ozeki’s novel and i want to think about it some more.

— 6 —

If you have a chance to see Remember, the new film by Atom Egoyan starring Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau, I highly recommend it. I saw a screening at TIFF this year and it was a highlight. While I don’t agree with this review (don’t leave early), I do agree that the rest of it is also very compelling.

— 7 —

Some Friday music humour.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

deweys

Readathon: last update!

For my followers, it was probably a bit strange to hear nothing for months and then get a bunch of posts in one day. But I successfully completed the readathon and here’s the last challenge (a little late, but whatevs.)

Which hour was most daunting for you?

Hour 22 (5 am). Around 5:30, I lay down “just for a minute” to read and woke up an hour later. I guess all the Diet Coke didn’t really do anything for me.

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

Reading is such a subjective pleasure, that it’s difficult to recommend. But in general, a readathon is not the best place for anything too thought-provoking or requiring a slow read. I started out with the marvellous Cain by Jose Saramago which is only about 160 pages long, but it took me a few hours to get through it.

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

This was my first readathon so these two questions are really difficult to answer. I appreciated the support and the challenges, but I’d be happy to do it in a little bubble of my own as well.

How many books did you read?

I read four paper books and finished three. I also listened to part of an audiobook.

What were the names of the books you read?

Cain by Jose Saramago
How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits by Anne Berest et al
Iris and Her Friends: A Memoir of Memory and Desire by John Bayley
Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins (not finished)
A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (audiobook; listened to about a third of it)

Which book did you enjoy most?

In terms of pure joyfulness, the book about being Parisian was great. An excellent break after Cain. I also loved the Ozeki and will be listening to the rest over the next few days.

Which did you enjoy least?

The book about Iris Murdoch, written by her husband, was really about him. I was disappointed in many ways. Goodreads review to follow.

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I will definitely participate again, taking a little more care in choosing appropriate books. My spouse wasn’t able to participate this time, but says that he wants to do it with me next year.

Mid-way through the readathon…

…and i’m watching TV.

We’re eating dinner and I agreed to start watching The Fifth Estate with my husband, but I’m going to escape to the bedroom to read momentarily.

It’s hour 12 and we have a little survey for the current challenge:

Mid-Event Survey:

1. What are you reading right now?

How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits by Anne Berest et al. This was in our Airbnb apartment in Paris last month and I had to have it. My new lifestyle guide.

2. How many books have you read so far?

I’m on my third book, but I’ve only finished one (Cain by Jose Saramago.) I’m also listening to the audiobook of A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, but this is a fill-in book for when I”m cooking, walking the dog, or folding laundry and can’t read a regular book. It’s also a great read.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

Iris and Her Friends: A Memoir of Memory and Desire by John Bayley.

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Mainly as above, and i’ve used an audiobook. Plus I felt for my dear husband and agreed to watch a movie with him for a few minutes.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

How difficult it is to stay off social media. Monitor me at FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and tell me to get reading!

Back to my book!

Readathon: Book Scavenger Hunt

The Hour 9 Mini-challenge is interesting.

To enter the Book Scavenger Hunt, look at the item list below and find a word, phrase or thought IN THE BOOK YOU ARE CURRENTLY READING that fulfills that item.  For example, if the item were “something soft”, your answer could be a word – “kitten”; a phrase – “a satin ribbon the color of Jersey cream”; or a feeling “he leaned to her and kissed her cheek”.  Be creative!

I switched to an audio book a couple of hours ago so that i could shower, prep my lunch, and relax my eyes a little. I am very much enjoying A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. This is the book I’m using for my scavenger hunt. It’s set in Tokyo and on Cortes Island in British Columbia.

  1. Something hard – barnacle
  2. Something fast – gyre
  3. Something sweet – cataracts in great-grandmother referred to as flowers of emptiness in Japanese.
  4. Something high – crow in the bough of a maple
  5. Something funny – the word kotodama in Japanese that refers to the spirits that live inside a word that give it special power

My readathon top ten

Here’s another mini-challenge: create a top 10 list that has something to do with the readathon.

Top 10 Tips for Managing a 24-hour read:

  1. Get a good sleep the night before.
  2. Warn housemates that you will not be doing anything but reading.
  3. Find an audiobook for those times when you can’t read (walking the dog, loading the dishwasher, folding laundry that you didn’t get done the day before, prepping snacks.)
  4. Cozy pants.
  5. No bra.
  6. Diet coke to drink in place of the martinis you might otherwise consume.
  7. Leftovers.
  8. Make exceptions to dietary norms: frozen meatballs, cooked shrimp, premade guacamole, trail mix, diet coke (see above)
  9. Stay off social media. Except when you don’t.
  10. Hydrate, mainly with water.

Anything I’ve missed?

Friday Seven

  1. Heading to a Syrian wedding today: the sacrament is this afternoon in Woodbridge and the party tonight in Etobicoke at the Edessa Banquet Hall. I won’t know many people there, but my partner-in-crime is getting less patient with loud music so it likely won’t be a late night.
  2. For a complete change of pace, we’re heading up to Wyebridge (near Midland) tomorrow morning for a Goddard family reunion. I think it’a actually referred to as the “3G” annual event, for Goddard, Gear, and Graham families. I’m looking forward to meeting some new-to-me cousins and fleshing out my family tree. Our hosts are Stephen and Frieda Goddard. Stephen is my mother’s first cousin, the son of her uncle Percy Goddard.
    Doug Townsend, Stephen and Frieda Goddard
    Doug Townsend, Stephen and Frieda Goddard

    I blogged about another branch of my Goddards here. Two brothers emigrated to the Barrie, Ontario area (John in 1970 and William in 1871). I descend from William and the branch at the link descend from John.

  3. For my book challenge this quarter (my booklist here – I won’t read them all, but it’s a goal), I’m reading a memoir by Vladimir Nabokov called Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited. It’s achingly beautifully written, and I’m doing a slow, close read to enjoy it. Here’s a snippet, a memory of a young Nabokov sitting on the veranda while his nanny reads french novels to him.

    From "Speak, Memory" by Vladimir Nabokov.
    From “Speak, Memory” by Vladimir Nabokov.
  4. For my Toronto readers: I just discovered an interesting website called Tabs Toronto. It sends automated alerts any time key words that you select are identified in city government records. You can do a search and then decide whether you’d like an email alert based on it. I’ve registered for my street name, neighbourhood name, and local BIAs. It’s a great initiative intended to improve civic participation.
    TABS
  5. Every since we moved in to our house seven years ago, we’ve known that we had issues with poor air circulation (basement too cold, second floor too hot). We finally got around to having an HVAC professional in to look at our system and he gave us some good advice about improving our duct work, and noted that our AC had been incorrectly installed, effectively blocking the path of air in to the ducts. (Or something.) Our furnace maintenance people had told us that our furnace was on its last legs, and so we took the plunge and replaced both furnace and AC. What a difference. We can actually feel cool air coming out of the ducts in our upper floor. He also recommended that we put a shade or covering of some kind on the large skylight in our stairwell so that’s the next job.
  6. My last post on my Berkman ancestors got a lot of hits, and I’m hoping to get in contact with some cousins. In the meantime, I finally scanned this business card of my grandfather David’s fur company. He moved back to Ontario in the early 30s and had some retail businesses. More about that soon.

    D Berkman Fur Company
    D Berkman Fur Company
  7. My book club had an excellent discussion of Donna Tartt‘s The Goldfinch last Sunday. It got pretty high ratings for the group (average 8/10), a surprising amount of sympathy for Boris, and totally expected love for Hobie. We also sniffed at the critics who looked down their noses at the accessible writing.  We met on the patio at the lovely Grenadier Restaurant in High Park (well, the food is fine but the venue is lovely) and will meet there again next month when we move to non-fiction with The Massey Murder: The Maid, Her Master, and the Trial That Shocked a Country by Charlotte Gray.

We’ve got a long weekend here in Ontario so Sunday and Monday are going to be read-and-relax days. On Tuesday, I’m heading to Ottawa to see my mother and some friends, and then back on Friday.

Leave me some love in the comments!

The reading (and travelling) life

Image courtesy The Graphics Fairy
Image courtesy The Graphics Fairy

I’ve got a five hour car trip ahead of me today and last night I fell asleep reading. Which means the light was on and I wasn’t wearing my CPAP. So I may be puling off for micro-naps today.

I’m heading in to the final stretch of my reading challenge in a Goodreads group, so I’ve got a very defined book list.

In printed text, I’ve got just a few pages left in The Woman Upstairs by Clarie Messud. I’ve owned this book for a while and thought it was a kind of thriller or something. But it’s not. And it’s terrific, resonating on a number of levels. More to come when I review it.

Next up in will be Projection: Encounters with My Runaway Mother by Priscilla Uppal, a non-fiction memoir that I’ve been hearing great things about. I’ve also got The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway (Keep Toronto Reading and my next book club selection) on my pile, as well as Washington Square by Henry James (for TIFF Books on Film).

Audio books are a terrific accompaniment to long drives and boring housework. I’m halfway through Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer, a fascinating look at memory and how memory champions train for competition. Next up will be The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which will (hopefully) be good prep for my trip to 221b Con in Atlanta next month. I purchased that through Downpour which has great deals on the ACD canon at the moment.  I’ve also got The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb on the OneClick Digital Recorded Books program through my public library, but the app seems to be glitchy so I’m not sure that I’ll be able to listen to it unless there’s an update.

~~

This week, I hope to get my mom’s condo ready to put on the market. There’s still a lot of stuff to clear out, and I need to find a cleaning crew to give it a once-over. I’ve got some friends and family to see in town, and I’d love to catch the new Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Blogging may be light as I won’t have wifi chez moi, but who knows? I’ll try to at least keep busy on Instagram.

And finally, my indoor herb garden in rocking my world! Everything’s up except for the garlic chives. The cilantro suddenly appeared yesterday and I’m very pumped about that one as it’s the hardest to find in garden stores.