Tag Archives: Books

Happy Birthday, Laura Ingalls Wilder!

Now this looks like a woman you could pull up a chair next to, pour a glass of lemonade and just sit back to listen to all the delicious stories she could tell.

One of my favourite stocking stuffers this year was a gift from my Mom. It came in the form of a paperback book. It was this year’s edition of the The Old Farmer’s Almanac. I LOVE the Almanac. I find it a fascinating piece of living history and I can’t wait to read whatever tidbit they have listed for the current date.

As I flipped the pages open, on this frosty morning, to the month of February, I saw that today in 1867, Laura Ingalls Wilder was born. I was a big fan of the Little House books growing up. I dreamed of living in a little cabin in the woods, driving in the covered wagon to the store where I could get a peppermint stick and helping Ma bake bread in our little home. I wanted a prairie bonnet so badly, so I could look like her. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s writing, conjured up a lot for my imagination and I have always adored Garth Williams’ illustrations. There is something so very comforting about his work. He was the illustrator for some of my most beloved childhood stories.

I was also a big fan of the TV show and used to watch it over my bowl of cereal in the morning. Who didn’t want to be “Half-Pint”?

I love the cowboy hats they are wearing in this photograph of Laura and her husband Almanzo. Don’t you just know that Anne Shirley would be going crazy for those puffed sleeves!

I know that her stories were embellished, that not everything was at it appears and some people are hung up on that. But that is the mark of a good storyteller, these weren’t true biographies, they were her stories and they filled my head with all kinds of wonderful things.

She is a woman I would have been intrigued to meet. She was a true pioneer woman, a lady of great endurance and a woman of strong faith. Happy Birthday Laura Ingalls Wilder, you little prairie girl.

{Photograph of Laura in her rocking chair found HERE // Photograph of Laura and Almanzo Wilder found HERE}

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Snacks & Library Books

jennifer-michie-pumpkin-cookie

After a morning trip to the library we returned with a stack of books to read. I love the sound that the plastic book cover makes as you open the book and begin to turn the pages.

We sat down together. A nest of curly hair rested just under my chin and soft little hands pointed out the objects as we read a Halloween I Spy Book and feasted on pumpkin sugar cookies as an afternoon treat.

The sunshine was streaming in the windows. One of the dogs was laying on my feet and all was well with the world.

A Birthday Surprise!

Jennifer Michie Birthday Surprise

It rained during my walk this morning and I came home drenched! Feeling cold and miserable, I headed up to take a shower and while washing my hair, I heard a loud thump!

When I came downstairs, I saw a pile of mail and a thin cardboard package the postman had shoved through my letterbox and what was inside? Well a birthday gift from one of my dearest girlfriends! She had sent me Susan Branch’s new BOOK!

I hurried into the kitchen, to get the kettle going. I made myself a cup of tea, cut a slice of birthday cake, lit my candles and in the dimness of the morning started to flip through the book. I know it’s cheating to look before you read, but I just couldn’t help myself!

What a lovely surprise and a wonderful way to start the weekend!

The Written Word Endures #2

I Always Loved You Book Cover

But she had kept these letters, as he had kept hers, though what they had been thinking, she couldn’t imagine. Such recklessness. Private conversations should always remain private. Why should anyone know what they themselves had barely known? And even if something had once been committed to paper, did it mean that it was still true? Always true? Unlike the relative permanence of paint, words were temporal. You uttered them and they evanesced, but if you wrote them, they remained, though whether the written word was any more truthful than the spoken was a mystery to her. Only paint was honest. But even a painting could be wiped clean and refined. He was forever revising, stealing his paintings back to rework them, everything always unfinished with him.

– Robin Oliveira, I Always Loved You

{I’m not finished reading this book just yet, but I’m really enjoying it, I just couldn’t wait to share a small snippet!}

The Written Word Endures #1

Emma Stone Reading

I recently read a post on Cup of Jo, the focus of which was a discussion on the most beautiful sentence or paragraph that you’ve ever read. That drew my attention, as I’m often marking sections of a book I’m reading or making a mental note of page numbers, to be able to go back to a favourite sentence or paragraph and write it down.

I have the great fortune of getting to read a lot while I’m traveling around London and my choice of genres is always varying. I thought I would begin a new series on this blog as a journal of sorts to record lines and words and paragraphs that have stayed with me. I’m entitling it: The Written Word Endures, which is taken from a Neil Postman quote.

Travels with Charley Cover

 

I went to the small restaurant run in conjunction. It was all plastic too — the table linen, the butter dish. The sugar and crackers were wrapped in cellophane, the jelly in a small plastic coffin sealed with cellophane. It was early evening and I was the only customer. Even the waitress wore a sponge-off apron. She wasn’t happy, but then she wasn’t unhappy. She wasn’t anything. But I don’t believe anyone is a nothing. There has to be something inside, if only to keep the skin from collapsing. This vacant eye, listless hand, this damask cheek dusted like a doughnut with plastic powder, had to have a memory or a dream.

-John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley

The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist Cover

I finished reading The Miniaturist, Friday night on the train home. I’m still mulling it over and felt it might help to right my thoughts down…

The Art Historian in me loves that a web was spun around a real miniature house that lives in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It belonged to the story’s heroine, Petronella Oortman, who did indeed marry Johannes Brandt. From this one thread of reality the tale spins it’s own cloth.

01-11-2001; rgb 19-02-2007

There were sections of it, that were so richly written:

The Old Church, Amsterdam: Tuesday, 14th January 1687

The funeral is supposed to be a quiet affair, for the deceased had no friends. But words are water in Amsterdam, they flood your ears and set the rot, and the church’s east corner is crowded. She watches the scene unfold from the safety of the choir stall, as guildsmen and their wives approach the gaping grave like ants toward the honey. Soon, they are joined by VOC clerks and ship’s captains, regentesses, pastry-makers – and him, still wearing that broad-brimmed hat. She tries to pity him. Pity, unlike hate, can be boxed and put away.

The church’s painted roof – the one thing the reformers didn’t pull down – rises above them like the tipped-up hull of a magnificent ship. It is a mirror to the city’s soul; inked on its ancient beams, Christ in judgement holds his sword and lily, a golden cargo breaks the waves, the Virgin rests on a crescent moon. Flipping up the old misericord beside her, her fingers flutter on the proverb of exposed wood. It is a relief of a man shitting a bag of coins, a leer of pain chipped across his face. What’s changed? she thinks.

I can’t deny that I wasn’t drawn into this world. Each sentence was rich and linguistically opulent.

But, I wanted more. The story fell short and I was left feeling as though I had missed something!? Does anyone else feel that way? Everyone else I have spoken to, who has read it, seems to have loved it. Is this an Emperor’s new clothes situation?

When I was done, I thought about it, I re-read the first chapter, I re-read the last chapter. I pieced those together and realised who the deceased was and who the three other women in attendance were. Now, I’ll admit, I’m a happy ending kinda gal. But, I can deal with with an ending where I draw my own conclusions. But, with this, I felt I had no definite threads from which a conclusion could be inferred.

It was almost as if I was reading two different stories. Nella’s newly unfolding life in Amsterdam, as an 18 year old bride to Johannes Brandt and Nella’s mysterious and odd interactions with the Miniaturist. The two stories never seemed to collide.

”There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .“, the book states. Yet, I feel all and nothing was revealed.

I find it difficult to write this – to clearly express my views because I am still a bit dumbfounded – a bit bewildered. I feel like the maid, grasping for clues that are hidden behind keyholes, shrouded by the mist that has risen off the river…

And there it is. I’ve written these words and am still no better off. If you have an answer; if you can shed light where there is darkness, please let me know.

South of Broad

Pat Conroy South of Broad

I have spent the past two days doing a major cleaning overhaul in the cottage. I have gutted my closets and have bags of items to donate to the charity shop as well as a few pieces that are going to become cleaning rags. I have gone through the cabinet under the sink in the bathroom, you know which cabinet I’m talking about, the one that all bathroom things somehow get relegated too and they quietly build up into a dusty mess. I have also revamped the den, putting a few Fall things out, even though we are still in the hot throws of Summer and today I am going to change around the kitchen.

I don’ have a picture to share with you today, what I wanted to share with you was a book. I love reading! I need to read, it satisfies my soul. I have mentioned before that my Mom and I trade books. She gave me a Pat Conroy novel she had finished reading and I have had it sitting on my ever growing book pile since Easter. I dove into it in July and furiously read it on the plane ride home. It was immense. It was called South of Broad.

The book focuses on the life of Leo King and the friends he makes while a teenager in Charleston, South Carolina. The story grows and gives roots to these characters who stay a part of each other’s lives, even as they grow older. The description that Conroy gives of Charleston, left me breathless at times. I felt as if I too was riding my bike through the main character’s (Leo King) newspaper route. I know those roads like the back of my hand. Charleston has long been in my blood and for many years it was my home. I could close my eye and follow his route in my head, seeing the streets and homes I would pass.

As I read, I drank in his words like a cool mint julep flowing over my lips. The bite of bourbon, the sweetness of the sugar and the refreshing taste of the mint all mingling together on your tongue before you swallow. I savoured Conroy’s use of the English vernacular, I savoured his use of the Southern vernacular. He wrote about home between those pages, the smell of the tide coming in and the pluff mud as only a Charlestonian would know it. He wrote life between those pages.

His words as majestic as the full moon rising over the incoming tide in the Ashley River, as heavenly as sweet tea and hot buttered biscuits on your tongue. The taste of the dough and butter oozing over your palette as sacred a ritual as taking communion.

I felt as if I knew the friends between those pages, that I had somehow become part of their story, peering through their windows as I walked along the Battery. This book was a truly scrumptious read, from teenage life into adulthood, the friends we meet along the way who change us, as we change them, and a book about life and the paths we all take, whether the crossing of one’s path to another’s, betters it, destroys it, or enriches it.

“What’s important is that a story changes every time you say it out loud. When you put it on paper, it can never change. But the more times you tell it, the more changes will occur. A story is a living thing; it moves and shifts” – Pat Conroy, South of Broad

Our Weekend

Well, I was going to share my weekend with you yesterday, but after my day in the cupboard, I just couldn’t.

It was my date night this weekend and I took Mr. Michie to the movies! It was so much FUN! I can’t tell you the last time we went to a movie in the evening, we are usually afternoon movie goers.

We saw OZ. We both really enjoyed it, I thought they did a nice tie in of the elements, the costumes were beautiful and I only wish she was real because the little girl the “wizard” helps save in China Town, I could just take home with me, she was so cute!

We grabbed some breakfast before going grocery shopping on Saturday morning:

Then I spent the rest of Saturday preparing Sunday’s lunch. I made my Nana’s macaroni salad, my dad’s green bean salad and homemade yeast rolls.

On Sunday we baked a ham and I tried a new peach cobbler recipe. It was delicious! I made a few changes, by adding some cinnamon and a little bit if lemon zest to the peaches, like I would do if I was making a pie.

I have been reading a series of books at the moment that take place in the South (The Caster Chronicles) and after reading what Amma has been cooking, I was hankering after a little Southern Home-style dinner myself. There was even sweet tea to boot!

The Season of Hope

I received a gorgeous Christmas parcel in the post the other week from a very dear someone, a kindred spirit and yesterday morning, my first morning of Christmas freedom, I sat alone on the couch, a cup of coffee in one hand and this book in the other. The James Galway Christmas album playing and all my twinkle lights on, keeping me cozy as the rain splished splashed down outside:

I have given Susan Branch books to friends over the years, but have not had one myself, so this book in particular, it being her Christmas book, is very special to me.

I came across this quote and read it and read it again. For all that is happening in the world right now, I felt that it was befitting. We are in a Season of Hope and we must continue to walk in faith:

A Discovery of Witches

I just finished A Discovery of Witches, actually, I haven’t been able to put it down all week. As the story culminates with Halloween, it felt like a superbly timing read for this bewitching season.

The only mistake I have made is that I should have ordered the second book in the All Souls Trilogy last week, not last night as I am ready to dive into it right now, but, at the same time, I am still savoring the words that I have just read.

I was mesmerized from cover to cover. Deborah Harkness has written this so intrepidly well. I can see Oxford, I can smell the Bodleian, I don’t even have to close my eyes. I have had the great fortune through my Art Historical research to be able to be in great library collections and call books. The smell the pages hold, the feel of the cover as you nestle it into a cradle, the cool air that washes over you as you open it, if it has been called from the crypt. There is a magic to it all of its own.

I could place myself in Diana Bishop’s shoes and see what she saw. This is a magnificently written book, she didn’t miss a beat. I have a soft spot for manuscripts as Medieval Manuscripts were one of my chosen fields of study. I also love that this book is written around a manuscript that is indeed truly missing. This book is magic! If you haven’t read it, you need to, the world she creates is one to get lost within.