Category Archives: Books

Making Life Brighter: Beatrix Potter

I was not one of those children that grew up reading Beatrix Potter and AE Milne – my world wasn’t populated by talking bears and mischievous beasties, and perhaps I was the poorer for it. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I actually read all the Potter books, and knew I would have loved her world. Then, a few months ago, I found out that fiction-writer Susan Wittig Albert had embarked on a mystery series called The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and was drawn in even further. I wanted to learn more about the person behind the stories.

So when I heard that a movie was being made about her life, I was intrigued. What I’d read had made her out to be a rather put-upon young woman who eventually found a way to make her own life, in her own way, despite parents that were on the over side of bearing.

The movie itself focuses on her friendship and eventual engagement with her publisher, Norman Warne. Living up to the mongoose code (Run and Find Out!) I went a-hunting and found: The Miss Potter Movie Blog, a Wikipedia entry and, of course, the World of Peter Rabbit website which links to the uk movie site.

From all accounts the movie ought to be quite good, and I look forward to a lazy afternoon in the company of Miss Potter (Renée Zellweger), Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor) and Millie Warne (Emily Watson) in the new year.


Thursday Thirteen #23: The Armchair Traveler

(Header created by me, just because I felt like it..)

A few days ago I was looking through the bookshelf for a book, when a couple of titles from our minuscule travel section caught my eye and practically demanded I visit with them. The Encyclopedia of Sacred Places by Norbert C. Brockman is a lovely and comprehensive book of sacred places around the world, and whets my appetite for “old stones”. It’s what started the revised version of the list in the first place. The Art of Pilgrimage (Phil Cousineau) is a book I’ve babbled about before, but it too called my name. So, with no further lead-up, I give you…

Thirteen Places On My Dream Travel List
  1. Machu Picchu, Peru – The fact that it wasn’t discovered until 1911 stirs the Indy in my blood. It’s been at the top of my list forever.
  2. Angkor Wat, Cambodia – Re-discovered in the 1850’s by French archaeologists, Angkor Wat has figured in movies such as Tomb Raider (the first one) and in Phil Cousineau’s travel recollections.
  3. Cairo, Egypt – I blame this one on the kind adult who gifted me with a colour-catalogue style book on Tutankhamen when I was a pre-teen. For a while there I had a serious crush on Howard Carter…
    Nikko, Japan – According to what I’ve read, it was established in the eighth century and became a training center for Buddhist priests. The Tosho-gu Shrine,Rinno-ji Temple, and Kegon Falls are just some of the places I’d like to see for myself.
  4. Borabudur, Java – Rediscovered and rejuvenated by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in the early 1800’s. Where to begin explaining the strength behind the image of its two thousand carvings? Check out The Lost Temple of Java by Phil Grabsky. The photos are extraordinary.
  5. Glastonbury, England – I was lucky enough to spend the day there a few years ago, and the strange, strong energy was palpable. Chalice Well, Glastonbury Tor, the Lady Chapel at Glastonbury Abbey? I could spend weeks there.
  6. Queen Charlotte Islands, BC, Canada – Probably the most accessible of the bunch, the Charlottes were Emily Carr’s lifelong obsession, and probably one of the earliest links I had to native history here in BC. The only things I’ve ever seen of this culture are in museums, and while I appreciate that, it’s a little isolating.
  7. Paris, France – Like you couldn’t see that coming from miles kilometers away! All that history laid out in the arrondissements, the Louvre, Versailles….
  8. Jerusalem, The Holy Land – the desire to see this for myself has been with me for as long as I can remember, and when I read “Digging for God and Country, Explorations, Archaeology and the Secret Struggle for the Holy Land, 1799 – 1917” by Neil Asher Silberman a few years ago, I knew it was a place I needed to go.
  9. Marrakesh, Morocco – In 1917 the Saadian Tombs were discovered and restored by the Beaux Arts Service. When I go, this is where I want to stay.
  10. Granada, Spain – Specifically, Al Andalus. The name most of us know it by is Alhambra. a poetic sounding moniker that, depending on who you read, is translated as ‘The Red” or “The Red Fort”in Arabic. It became famous in North America when Washington Irving had his Tales of the Alhambra published in 1831.
  11. Petra, Jordan – Yes, it too figured in an Indiana Jones movie. But long before I sat in the dark and watched Indy put himself through the paces in order to save his father, a friend of the family showed me photographs of this desert city, and I knew I wanted, someday, to touch the delicately carved stone for myself.
  12. Santiago, Chile – Born there. My family’s history lies there – that’s enough of a reason to go, don’t you think?
  13. Chichen Itza, Mexico – well, really that’s just one of the sites I want to see in Mexico. Add to that Teotihuacán,Tulum, and Palenque and…

Looks to me like I could probably do a second list and perhaps, next week, I will. I’ve neglected whole continents!

Your turn – where would you go? Not sure? Here’s a jumping off point.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. Caylynn
2. Sweetkitty
3. Sanni
(leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Affair With Autumn

Oak Leaves on Robson
That night was the turning-point in the season. We had gone to bed in summer, and we awoke in autumn; for summer passes into autumn in some imaginable point of time, like the turning of a leaf. ~ Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

I love the turning of the season in Vancouver – there’s something about walking under trees and smelling that scent of leaves returning to earth… I always feel more productive, more fecund. Which is probably why my energies are focused so much on the creative parts of life right now, and less on the laundry.

Besides going out and taking photos, one of the things I will take time out for this weekend is Sunday’s The Word On The Street event. Last year we got a chance to hear both David Suzuki and Rex Weyler give a talk, and this year’s lineup of writers promises to be just as interesting. Geist Magazine’s Haiku Night In Canada caught my eye in the program, as did the opportunity to hear Michael Mckinley on “Hockey: A People’s History”. My copy of the program has all sorts of highlights – I may have to get cloned in order to get to it all.

So what are you looking forward to this weekend?


It’s cooled down considerably, and there’s a promise of autumn in the air. Now that we’ve rearranged the balcony to accomodate actual living (ours and the cats), we keep the balcony doors open 24-7, and the breeze coming through makes me think longingly of fall. Or at least rain.

In a few minutes I’m off to bed, but first… first I want to share with you a book I finished recently named “C’est la Vie : An American Conquers the City of Light, Begins a New Life, and Becomes–Zut Alors!–Almost French” by Suzy Gershman.

I’m a fan of travelogues and travel essays. Perhaps it’s because I’m one of those people who often thinks about picking up and trying something new, but the idea of someone taking a deep breath and plunging into a whole new environment is extremely appealing. Over the years I’ve worked my way through a variety of authors, from Bill Bryson’s tongue-in-cheek explorations, to Colette Rossant’s time in Egypt (Apricots on the Nile) and then back to France (Return To Paris), to Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French and Edith Wharton’s classic Essays From Abroad. Eventually I got to this book, and I was looking forward to the opportunity to see into one woman’s adjustment into a new society, how she dealt with widowhood, how she dealt with the differences between her own background (Texan, by way of Connecticut) and her new one (French, and more specifically, Parisian), how she made friends (male and female) and how she dealt with being a woman newly on her own.

Well. Colour me disappointed.

Either the author is still dealing with painful issues surrounding her husband’s death due to cancer, and she didn’t want to share something that personal, or she really is that shallow. Instead of a hoped-for memoir, I got a long-winded essay on shopping and eating and name-dropping and spending an amazing amount of money on stuff. That and launching into an affair with a married man.

Maybe a little MFK Fisher would make this a faded memory faster, non?

Making Life Brighter: Sandra Boynton

I must share a secret with y’all.

I’m NEVER growing up.

While everyone else is reading the latest tomes of Canadian fiction and nodding sagely at the meaningfulness of it all, I’m happily ensconced in the kids section, insanely giggling to myself while gorging on the antics of Sandra Boynton’s characters.

Dancing hippos, ewes galore, confused cats, running bunnies, hip cows, turkeys, turkeys and more turkeys… this isn’t a bad trip – it’s the world she’s created for herself and her readers.

I’ve tried many times to figure out the appeal – is it the expressions on her characters faces, and the way you expect them to dance (or run or leap or drive) off the page? The inspired silliness that helps her puts words like ‘hippo’ and ‘berserk’ in the same sentence? The fact that she’s succesfully put out a book and cd called Grunt: Pigorian Chant from Snouto Domoinko de Silo, which is composed entirely of Pig Latin & real Latin?

Or is it simply that she takes so much joy in joy that there’s nothing for it but to join in? Even her surname has bounce – it’s so close to BOING!

I’ve yet to figure it out, and no serious scholarly work has been published on the Boynton phenom. I do know this though: I’ve not met a single adult who doesn’t at least crack a smile while reading one of her books.

I take comfort in knowing I’m not alone in my love of all things Boynton. Type her name into google, and you’ll find she has her own website (finally), a Wikepedia entry, and won the 1992 Greeting Card award from the National Cartoonists Association. Turns out she got her start greeting cards.

She definitely has a sense of where she stands in the world too – listed as her biography on Simonsays (the website for simon & Schuster, INC, publishers of Boynton goodness) is one lone line:

Sandra Boynton is an internationally ignored authority on romance.

So what’s not to love?