Thursday, January 29, 2009

Conversation at the lunch counter

Lady Sitting Next to Me: Are you humming?

Me: [pausing, thinks] Yes, I guess I am. I'm sorry, is it bothering you?

Lady: Well, sort of.

Me: Oh, sorry. I do that lately, I don't really know why.

Lady: Probably Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Me: Yeah, probably.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Our Favorite Books I ~ Ben 10

Last week, I read an interview with the writer Larry McMurtry, author of 29 novels, including the awesome 19th Century Western, Lonesome Dove (for which he won the Pulitzer prize). McMurtry, who owns a large bookstore in Texas, stated that he doesn't see a great generation of readers coming in nor coming up. He is, therefore, pessimistic about the future of our society's book culture.
His observations really bothered me, and I contemplated the interview all evening. I'm afraid he might be right.
The next day, I felt compelled to start asking my friends about their favorite books, and I wanted to share them here as inspiration. These are the people who (as much as they may love their iPhones and MP3s) are never without a book in hand, and with whom I love to discuss: "What are you reading?" The subject borders on the obsessive for me. I love to surf amazon, browse bookstores, and spy on fellow customers. I love looking at people's bookshelves, for the unspoken insights provided. When I first met Troy, I was impressed to find a worn copy of Les Miserables in his possession (especially as I'd only managed to see the musical) and discover that he was an ardent fan of Victor Hugo. Long live romantic heroism!
In an attempt at literary scattershot, prompted by Mr. McMurtry, and with hope for the future of book culture, I thought it a good idea to present book lists from the avid readers in my life. If you'd like to share your favorites, please email me!
We begin with the selections of my friend Ben, the creative genius behind The Love Bite. While he has traveled the world and lived far and away (now in Los Angeles), Benedict Mannix Johnson is an Australian through and through. As funny and wise as he is talented, he never ceases to make me laugh...or cry.

Ben's Favorites
I sat next to a pickled old journalist at a dinner once. Upon hearing that I was in retail, he more or less wrote me off. About halfway through the meal, he looked over, sneered, and asked, "Do you read?"
I replied that I could in fact read, the consequence of having a mother who had an artificial leg. She had been told by the nuns at school: "Read; it will take you places that your leg can't."
She passed this onto her four kids.
The pickled old bloke looked surprised, and then asked, "What are the 10 books that have changed your life? Not just the ones you like, but the ones that shifted your outlook or perspective."

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Because Atticus Finch is the perfect role model, and because, in moments of conflict, it helps to 'walk a mile in someone's shoes.'

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
I picked this book up half a dozen times and put it back down. I could never connect with it. The journalist brought this book up in his list and the next day he gave me his copy, notes in margins and all, and I read it straight through and to this day I get tears in my eyes just reading the last page.

When We Were Very Young / Now We are Six by A.A. Milne
To be introduced to poetry as a child is a gift. to learn the rhythm, humour, and pattern of your language is like being taught to dance; it makes you nimble and graceful and a much better listener.

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
I had to put this book down 3, 4 times. It took me a year to read it. His writing is too brutal, but punctuated with moments of sheer beauty. There are passages that I would read. Stop. Read again and sigh. And in the end, I was overwhelmed by the sheer force of justice in it.

The Poems of Alfred, Lord Tennyson
In particular, "The Lotus Eaters" ('There is sweet music here which softer falls...'). I try to imagine this place when I need a refuge.

The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea by Randolph Stow
This is the first Australian writer that I loved reading and his story is so set in its place that it made me consider "how can anyone who wasn't born here appreciate this?" It's like looking at a snapshot and not being able to see what must continue beyond the four sides of the image. This changed the way that I read, or at least how I try and imagine the world beyond the page.

The Maffra Cookbook
This is the first cookbook that I ever read. It is the go-to book for any cook in my family. This is where I learnt that words could create food. And food has always been a motive for me!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory / James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Can there be a better instructor in the art of creative mischief?

The Odyssey by Homer
This book inspired me all the way through to an Arts Degree in Classical Studies.

The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer
There is just something about this book, and by those other British women writers of this era. You read the books in a grainy black and white David Bailey vision. L. Reid Banks, Edna O'Brien. Their characters are trying so hard to find shape, form, permission and direction. That resonates beyond gender or generation.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Friday

It's been a cold week. Good for snuggling with your favorite people and animals.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Valentine's Day is the new Christmas

Christmas was sort of a blur this year. Maybe because Thanksgiving was late, maybe because I was preoccupied, but I enter January feeling as if I've been steamrolled and left with amnesia.
Valentine's Day is coming up, and I think it's the perfect holiday to get into.

Venus & Cupid, Lorenzo Lotto

There's enough cushion-space that it's not going to take me by surprise -- I recognize that it is 26 days away, which is half the battle of any event. There's no religion involved, no real pressure to decorate or gift a thousand fringe people like the UPS driver (who, in my case, is so efficiently speedy I still have his Christmas card sitting by the door).
While it's true that some people will lament the lack of a lover, I maintain that we all have someone to love. I appreciate a holiday, symbolized by the heart, that exists solely to encourage the expression of love; the eating of chocolate; and the wearing of red, which happens to be my favorite color.

My mom had a dear friend with whom she exchanged valentines every year, and I have taken over the tradition with her. She's a great fan of all things vintage, so I'm looking for the perfect valentine to send her.
My other VD plans include making red velvet cupcakes, and participating in a romantic novel chain with some friends -- I can't wait to find out who "my person" is.
I'm eyeing this Blondie album for a certain special someone...

...and this book on all things Italian for someone else (me, ha).

But like JLo says, my love don't cost a thing, so while a small token of affection is lovely, the gift of love is priceless & perfect, and my Cupid's bow will be taking aim.
If you remain unconvinced, or are tempted to utter a pessimistic grumbling about a commercial/Hallmark holiday, your assignment is to go watch one or all of these films, stat, with a bowl of M&Ms nearby.

"Houseboat" with Cary Grant & Sophia Loren.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cappuccino art XI

Great White Heron

Monday, January 05, 2009


Santa gave Wyatt a Flip camcorder for Christmas, and it's turned out to be one of the best gifts ever. The Flip is digital, simple, and straightforward, and it costs less than a Nintendo DS, which is what Wyatt was really lobbying for, but leaves certain parents feeling like they've just plugged their kid into The Matrix. Tempting, but hard to do w/a clear conscience.
Watching the boys make movies is endlessly entertaining to me on several levels. The recurring themes are SWAT, alien/monster attacks, mysterious disappearances, and government conspiracies. Lots of guns and some choreographed fight scenes.
As writer/director/actor, Wyatt has been given a natural focus for his inherent bossiness. At first, I thought Griffin would be the DeNiro to Wyatt's Scorsese, but I'm starting to see a little more Herzog-Kinski volatility between them.
The whole house is a giant set, and we've got lots of wardrobe, & even an animal wrangler (me).
Speaking of The Matrix...

A break in the action.

With a name like Harry and that navy blazer, I'm guessing he's producing this one.


The Werewolf awaits his cue...

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The charlotte finally graces our table

When I was in Montreal, Rachel tutored me in how to make a charlotte, and I was supposed to make this a month or so ago to prove I'd been paying attention. Finally, I got it done, and we ate it after fondue last night.

Rachel's recipe is from her friend's mother and is vrai French. There is no gelatin used, like in most of the recipes in our Madame Charlotte cookbook, and yet it sets up beautifully simply from chilling for a few hours.
The ladyfingers were soaked in a mixture of rum & water, and then the filling is a chocolate mousse made w/over 200 g. of bittersweet chocolate and four separated eggs -- whites whipped. It was very delicious and intensely chocolatey!
I think my teacher will be quite proud.