Recommended Reads: Winter's Tales by Isak Dinesen

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Winter Tales by Isak Dinesen

Today is the Winter Solstice and what could possibly be more appropriate than a great book recommendation to read indoors on the shortest day of the year. I'm so excited to share this wonderful recommendation by Stephanie of even*cleveland, one of my favorite daily reads. Stephanie's blog is an impeccably curated selection of art, literature, and imaginary outfits. I feel like my intelligence jumps a level or two along with each visit. So without further ado:

Hello there. This is Stephanie of even*cleveland. My recommended read for these darkening midwinter nights is Isak Dinesen's Winter's Tales.

Being a reader is a bittersweet thing - when you begin, you embark into the world of story wide-eyed and fresh. Everything is new and seems limitless. But gradually, the terrain becomes familiar, and that feeling of exhilarated surrender to something powerful, foreign and strange becomes rarer and rarer. These splintery little fairy tales recapture that magic for me. Dinesen is better known for Out of Africa (and justly - it's near perfect) but these odd little stories, rigid with magic and relentless fate, deserve reading. Like all the best fairy tales, they are ruthless and surprising, and just edged with the supernatural. They often don't begin or end where you expect they will, and the magic, while there, feels weirdly ordinary. You can't help half-believing them. Eudora Welty said that these stories 'come toward one like the flashes and signal-beams from a lighthouse on a strange and infrequently sighted coast - a coast beautiful and precarious, for it may be the last outreach of magic, but resting on bedrock.' It's an apt description - reading them, you feel you get a glance into a world that lies aslant our own, where people live and die with broken hearts, old women turn into falcons, and lovers are lost on ice floes.

Thank you, Erica, for asking me to do this!

Thank you so much, Stephanie! I've already started to read my copy from the library.

Knitbits and The Good Neighbour

Friday, 17 December 2010

Good Neighbour

I was so thrilled to wake up this morning to see my Triangle Loop pattern featured in the Berroco KnitBits e-newsletter. It is feature along with some amazing patterns I want to knit up soon.
Thank you Cirilia Rose!

The Good Neighbour

I love finding nice and cozy coffee shops.
The Good Neighbour in the Junction/High Park area is one of the best. The pain au chocolat was so good, I don't even think I offered J one bite. He was much kinder and offered me a taste of his scone and danish. Delicious!

The Good Neighbour

I spotted a Smythe for HBC coat out the window and had to take a picture.
Lucky girl!

The Good Neighbour

Red

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Red

Of all the colors to get me in the mood for Christmas, red is it. Here are some photos of red I've collected over the past month or so.

I'm happy to say that I have completed my Christmas shopping. I made a real commitment to buy either local or handmade with the exception of a few special requests. However, when I saw this funny cat with a bow tie, I couldn't resist picking up two for this guy. Won't he look dapper?

I've also become completely addicted to Pinterest, mine is here. I have six invites to Pinterest to give away, if you would like one just comment with your email and I will send one your way.

Finally, this gorgeous calendar, from Sophie of Sunken Treasure, came to me in the mail last night (so quick!). It is stunning in person. I can't wait to hang it in the new year! I also bought the Dreamcats calendar from Fieldguided Shop. I don't think you can have too many calendars, especially when they are beautiful items of art.

Red

Red

Red

Red

Coriander Girl - Fieldguided Shop Local Gift Guide

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Coriander Girl shop window.

It's been a long time, I know!
With the exception of one essay, my semester is over. I've spent the weekend relaxing and cleaning my messy apartment. It's amazing how much mess accumulated while I was busy doing schoolwork.

It's tough to know where to start again after a long break.
I'll start with my contribution to Anabela's of Fieldguided's Shop Local Gift Guides. I can be found talking about the wonderful shop Coriander Girl in the second guide, no. 10.
The first two photos are of the shop and the second two are some of the amazing arrangements that Alison, the wonderful shop owner, has made up for me.

Hope December is finding you well.
I'll be back sooner than later.
;)

Coriander Girl

Another Coriander Girl wonder

Bouquet from Coriander Girl

Sunday Market

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The obligatory gaze downwards.

My favorite thing to do on a Sunday is to take a stroll down to the Antique Market.
I arm myself with $20.
No more,
no less.

To see what treasures turn up.

Paintings

Two weeks ago now, when the leaves were still on the ground, I spotted a ship.

Blankets!

Colorful blankets.

One of my favorite tables

And a village tea set (on top of the white shelf).
I just came home with a pocket full of little trinkets for Christmas presents, but I am sure kicking myself for not asking how much that tea set was!

Recommended Reads: Light Boxes

Friday, 12 November 2010

Light Boxes

This is probably not the best book to read as winter is on it's way, but I'm so glad I did. Light Boxes is about a war waged by a town full of balloonists against the month of February. It is written in prose poetry and a very quick read. The subject matter is as dark as the month of February (which in my own opinion is a pretty great month, but my birthday makes me biased...) and it is so good!

I would love to take submissions for this series.
Do you have a book to recommend?
Take a picture of the cover (library books are totally acceptable! drawings are acceptable!) and send along a paragraph or two describing what you loved about your book. What makes it special? Why would others enjoy it?
Send me an email erica.smithm(at)gmail(dot)com if you would like to recommend a book! :)

I also just found out that it is Book Week on Where the Lovely Things Are, so good.

Good Things.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

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My weeks have been long and hard lately.
So I thought I would take the time to point out some good things.

1. Murphy the dog. J and I met him in the park.
2. Ideas to put my new pom pom maker to good use.
3. A blog about an inside garden, Belle fleur de lis.
4. Nice emails.
5. A beautiful painting.
6. A little monster caught by Vic.
7. More triangles!
8. Gorgeous leaves.
9. Sample sales.
10. Cups of tea.
11. A moment of silence and a poem.
A reminder to be grateful for what I have.

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Falling in Love with Fall. (oh so punny)

Monday, 1 November 2010

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Some beautiful leaves in High Park.
Fall is nearing its end, I woke up to the first light snow of winter on Sunday morning, so I'm taking full advantage of it. I crunch leaves whenever I get the opportunity. On my way to work on Sunday, a couple was getting photos taken in the park; they would toss up handfuls of leaves then kiss. So much laughter, it was sweet.

On Saturday night, I had friends over for a dessert party in honor of Halloween. I was so busy baking and hosting that I forgot to take pictures. However, if you can picture it, I made homemade marshmallows from Martha's recipe in the shape of bones, chocolate whoopee pies with peanut butter filling, a cake from Nikole and Shanna's Wee Wedding Cakes recipe, pumpkin pie with a jack o'lantern face, and chocolate cupcakes. My friend Kylie bought over coffee cookies and shortbread cookies in the shape of severed fingers and Julie brought over mini quiches, of which I ate roughly 20. It was a great night, many thanks to all who came!

How I still ended up with pumpkin pie for breakfast is a delightful mystery.
(Oh, it's getting to be a bad habit.)

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I just couldn't resist writing with the leaves I collected.
The first time I tried, a breeze blew the leaves away before I could snap a picture. The second time they stayed in place long enough for another gentlemen with a camera to stop and get in a few shots.

Love leaves

Recommended Reads: The Haunted Hotel

Friday, 29 October 2010

The Haunted Hotel!
This week, in true, Halloween spirit, I picked a book from Penguin's Classic Horror series, The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins. It is truly a work of Victorian fiction. Victorian morals play a big roll in the novel; there is a virtuous young lady, Agnes Lockwood, who can do no wrong and an evil Countess who has stolen the good woman's fiancee, Lord Montbarry. When the Countess marries the Lord, strange things begin to occur. It's not long before Montbarry is dead and the fates of Agnes and the Countess are intertwined. As with most Victorian novels, the plot takes a backseat role to characters and setting. It's a quick read to get you in the Halloween mood.

I am so glad it's Friday. This week has been long and full of worry (just school stress). I'm looking so forward to an afternoon of baking Halloween treats! I'm also developing two new patterns to post in the coming weeks. (focusing on the positive!)

Hope you have happy Halloween!
ooOOOOooo

Recommended Read: Great House

Friday, 22 October 2010

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Last week when I wrote about The History of Love, Carly let me know that Nicole Krauss would be in Toronto this weekend. I was so excited, I immediately bought tickets to her reading tomorrow afternoon!

This morning, I finished reading her third novel, Great House. The characters are linked by an antique desk; there's a writer from New York, a husband in London, a father in Israel and a lover in England. Krauss does loneliness perfectly, each of her characters experience the same feeling in a unique way. I cannot help but compare Great House to The History of Love; Great House is much bleaker and far less charming, but that is not a criticism, just a caution.

It is mysterious.

Krauss doesn't play all her cards; bits and pieces of the character's stories are never shared. I love the thrill of the reveal and Krauss didn't come through this time. That being said, Krauss can be counted on to write a good story.

Fall baking!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Gingerbread and Nikole's feathers

I wish I could slow down and enjoy the fall season a little more. The leaves are changing and dropping so quickly, but my weekly allotment of free-time is shrinking in proportion to the assignments that are piling up.

Nonetheless, I'm still taking some time to relax and bake my favorite fall treats.
I finally put my new Herriott Grace feather cookie cutter to good use making gingerbread cookies. I wait all year to break out the gingerbread (it doesn't really feel right to me in the spring or summer), it's my favorite kind of cookie!

Gingerbread and Nikole's feathers

Mini Pumpkin pie

This is one of the pumpkin pies I ate for breakfast.

Gingerbread and Nikole's feathers

Lastly, this is my favorite hot chocolate in the city.
It's from La Merceria, all they do is steam milk and break off a piece of Lindt chocolate and melt it in. So simple and perfect with some of their delicious alfajores.

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Recommended Read: The History of Love

Friday, 15 October 2010

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Wait? It's Friday already?!!

What happened to my week? I'm sorry I missed my regular post! Really, where did this week go? I guess I can be thankful that it's Friday and the weekend is near, that's always a good thing.

This week's book is Nicole Krauss' The History of Love, it's not a new book for me. I read it once three years ago and read it again in anticipation of her new novel Great House that came out last week (I'm half-way through it!). I couldn't have a recommend reads series without mentioning The History of Love. One of my favorite lines is "Her laughter was the question he wanted to spend his whole life answering". My second favorite line is: "Leo Gursky is survived by an apartment full of shit".

The History of Love combines humor with heartbreak, young (14 year-old Alma) and old (octogenarian Leo Gursky), romance and loss. This novel is so touching, the end is so phenomenal I cry every time I read it.

In other news, fall is in full swing. I dug out my hot water bottle, or "hottie" as they're called on Toast's website, for the first time last night. I've also had pumpkin pie for breakfast more days than I should count. Isn't fall the best?

leaves and shoes
Last year's gorgeous leaves.

This photo makes me smile.

Recommended Reads: It's Kind of a Funny Story

Friday, 8 October 2010


In honor of it's theatrical release, I thought I would read the novel It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. I caught a showing of the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and it was wonderful.

The novel is classified as young-adult fiction, but I think the themes are relevant for adults, and the large print is a nice change! The premise for the movie and the novel are the same: Craig is fourteen years old and under tremendous pressure to get good grades so he can "get into a good school, so he can get a good job, so he can buy a house, so he can have a family, etc." In desperation one night he finds himself on the ledge of the Brooklyn Bridge. Instead of committing suicide, he checks himself into a psychiatric hospital and to his dismay, ends up in the adult ward where there is a mandatory one week stay. What follows is Craig's own day-by-day account of learning how to get back on his feet. Despite being about mental illness, it's not depressing and it's really earnest.

I think It's Kind of a Funny Story reminded me that it's really easy to put too much pressure on myself. Craig is a fourteen year old, worrying that if he misses one assignment his whole future will be destroyed. Life shouldn't be something to stress over, it should be enjoyed. So there's the moral of today's recommended read, that, and the fact that the movie is really fun.

Another great piece on depression (that's similarly not depressing) is Andrew Solomon's MOTH story The Refugees.

On that note, I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
Catch the movie if you can! (or wait until cheap Tuesday)

Fellow Canadians, have a happy Thanksgiving!


Estelle Pullover

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Estelle pullover sweater
(photo by G. Crawford at The Knit Cafe)

In case you ever doubted it, modeling is a tough job. Not that I really have experience with that kind of career, but this past weekend my friend Julie and her talented husband (known to the internet as G) were kind enough to let me try out the job. They agreed to take photos of my newly completed scarf and sweater while we were out celebrating Nuit Blanche, an all-night, free event featuring art installations all around downtown Toronto.

If it looks like I stuck with one pose, it's true.
It really was hard work, I swear.

This is my finished Estelle Pullover.
Ravelry link here.

sweater detail
(photo by G. Crawford at The Knit Cafe)

Recommended Reads: Time Was Soft There

Thursday, 30 September 2010

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Sorry to post so late today, I'm getting behind!
Hope you have a great weekend.
Pictures of my haircut and a newly finished sweater to come next week.

The first time I read about the Shakespeare & Company Bookstore in Paris was in the October 2005 issue of Nylon Magazine. Rachel Antonoff wrote a piece about spending a week making pancakes and sleeping among the book stacks. It sounded like heaven.

Jeremy Mercer's Time Was Soft There presents a less heavenly, but not too unpleasant version of his own time spent living at the store. Okay, the British title is Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs if that's any indication of the sanitary conditions (cockroaches receive a few mentions, as well). The bookstore was opened in Paris by George Whitman in 1951 and has since been home to many artists and writers in need of a place to stay.

I don't usually gravitate towards non-fiction, but I found it hard to resist a true tale from my favorite bookstore (that I will visit someday). Surprisingly, it read very similar to fiction; the bookstore is full of wild characters and events that make Mercer's book seem like a work of his imagination. That the history of the bookstore is interspersed between Mercer's tale is like a bonus: great story and I learn something!

Days off.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

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The coming of fall means back-to-school and less free time. It makes those days free of school and work even more precious. I like to explore the city during these days, discovering new places and popping into some old favorites.

A trip to Coriander Girl never fails to inspire. On the left at the back of the bouquet is a red kangaroo paw, a flower I had never heard of before my visit to Alison's lovely shop.

Sweet Bliss Bakery has the current high distinction of baking my favorite cupcakes in the city. Their cupcakes are moist, topped with a thick layer of frosting, packed into a box with a doily and tied with string. My box contained carrot and red velvet with cream cheese icing, double chocolate and vanilla. Delicious!

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I tried to get a good shot of the Hunter green polish, but it looks pretty dark in this photo.

Recommended Reads: Gods Behaving Badly

Friday, 24 September 2010

Gods Behaving Badly

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips dares to imagine that the Greek gods and goddesses are real and walking among us... or at least walking around London, England. If you can remember any Greek myths there's a good chance you'll recognise them within the plot of Phillip's novel. Apollo, Aphrodite, Artemis and Hermes have the largest roles, but almost all the gods make an appearance.

This novel doesn' t take itself seriously. It's light and funny. However, be aware; with Aphrodite in the mix, it's a little crude, too. Imagine a typical Greek hero story (okay, the only one I know is from the Disney Hercules cartoon...) in present day.

In other news, I'm off to get my hair cut and dyed today. I always get pre-haircut jitters. Do you?

Triangle Loop - Free Knitting Pattern

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Triangle Loop - Free Knitting Pattern

This started as an experiment.
An ode to my pal Caitlyn who passed on her love of triangles to me.

I didn't really know what it was going to be when I started knitting. I think that's the most exciting part of the creative process. It starts with inspiration and what follows is trial and error. It was too wide to be a scarf and too narrow to be a sweater, but the pattern was so fun I just kept on knitting.

I thought maybe you would like one, too.
Download the pattern here.

I think I will make a few more, it is so cuddly and warm.
Perfect for the windy fall days to come.

UPDATE// Now available for Free Download on Ravelry.

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Creative Commons License
Triangle Loop by erica-knits is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at erica-knits.blogspot.com.

Recommended Reads: The Help

Friday, 17 September 2010

The Help

I will read anything. Classics, best-sellers, Twilight, etc. I love the books that don't make me think, just as much as those that do, as long as they're fun to read. When I'm in school I read a lot of academic and technical articles, so all I ask from fiction is that it entertains.

This quote has been floating around tumblr (with a link to a subscriber only article):

A lot of the people who read a bestselling novel, for example, do not read much other fiction. By contrast, the audience for an obscure novel is largely composed of people who read a lot. That means the least popular books are judged by people who have the highest standards, while the most popular are judged by people who literally do not know any better. An American who read just one book this year was disproportionately likely to have read ‘The Lost Symbol’, by Dan Brown. He almost certainly liked it.” - The Economist

This helped to solidify my motive for recommending books. I want people to read a lot. A lot of everything. I'll do my best to recommend worthwhile bestsellers and obscure novels.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett falls into the bestseller category. It's about three women in 1950s Jackson, Mississippi who dare to write about the experiences of "the help" (African-American women) working for middle-class families (Caucasian). While there's no profound new revelations about bad race-relations in the pre-Martin Luther King Jr. era in the Southern U.S., I think this book offers a worthwhile reminder: No matter how bad a situation is, there's always something you can do to attempt change. The Help is a pleasant read, perfect for an early-fall weekend.

I'm also looking forward to trying Molly's latest Orangette recipe for Leeks Vinaigrette. Cerre has a way of saying it best.

Fall Essentials.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

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There have been a number of "Fall Essentials" posts around the blogosphere (what a funny word!), but I hope you don't mind my two cents, too. In all honesty, "essentials" posts are some of my favorites. I like the idea of little coherent collections of items that represent a mood, season or person as if it was that simple to encapsulate.

1. A nice leather bag. Preferably one with character; soft brown and nicely worn in. I really like the structured bags that are en vogue this season. I found this one at the Antique Market from a sweet lady for $8. She's one of my favorite vendors; she's kind and her prices are fair.

2. My For Me, For You by Kate Miss necklace. I used to swear by black, navy and grey in the colder seasons, but this year I'm embracing color: rust, purple, olive and forest green for starters.

3. American Apparel nail polish in Hunter. My bi-monthly treat is still a $13 manicure at the salon down the street. I'm never afraid to be crazy with color on my nails, though the mint green I sported while visiting home this summer certainly perplexed my Dad. I believe his exact words were "Really? Mint green? Really?" while shaking his head in disbelief.

4. Knitting. While it may turn some heads in the middle of summer, knitting in the fall is perfect. I've got two sweaters on the go at the moment, this is one of them: Estelle pullover.

5. A pretty dress that is casual or fancy. Toronto is currently in the midst of film festival madness so the girl in the fitting room next to me was none other than Amanda Crew of Charlie St. Cloud fame. So there you have it, my brush with celebrity.

6. A perfect plaid button-down shirt. A Steven Alan Reverse Seam in peach/grey to be exact. I have been coveting one of these forever!

7. Pumpkin anything. Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin pie and these cupcakes look fantastic.

What are yours?

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P.s. The Hearblack Etsy Shop has a couple of heart wreaths in stock.

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