I can’t believe it’s Christmas Eve already! Dylan hung the little Santa on the fireplace in our Advent Calendar this morning – it’s now complete.
As always, there are last minute things to do around here – some expected, some not expected (toilet woes, carpet cleaning …). Lots of running around today (mostly by my husband). We are on out way out now to the local Chinese grocery store to pick up ready-made foods for our Christmas Eve celebrations, then we’ll be picking up my daughter. And then back home, where we will commence feasting on snacks and appetizers and Chinese food!
I will be offline tomorrow, so I wanted to take this opportunity to wish those of you who celebrate Christmas a very Merry Christmas, and happy holidays to everyone else. May your holidays be filled with love, peace and happiness!
Black pants, black tank top, black cardigan. Yes, most of my wardrobe is black. I’d like to add some colour into it in the new year.
Tired. Pleased. Exhausted. Happy. (I just finished ALL the last minute shopping. This means, I’m all set for Christmas! But I’ve also just trekked all over downtown, so I’m really really tired.)
Photo of the week:
This is Creeper. He’s one of our two cats (the other is Hobbes, the sweater-eater. Actually, he eats almost all clothing, not just sweaters).
As you can see, Creeper is in the tree. This particular spot is about my shoulder height, the highest in the tree he’s climbed. He’s quite pleased with himself in this picture, but oh, our poor tree! It no longer has a tree-shape, as Creeper, cute though he is, weighs quite a bit more than he did last Christmas, when he was a kitten. Our tree is so un-tree like, we can’t put presents under it, because the tips of the lower branches now droop too low.
I had a large bowl of rare beef pho noodles with my daughter before I started my last minute shopping. Very good, but a lot of carbs (I’ve been trying to cut back). But I love pho, so having the occasional carb-splurgy day is fine with me.
Water kefir, unflavoured. It’s okay, but I need to get the flip-top bottles they sell at beer making stores in order to get it to carbonate.
I finished Jackaby, by William Ritter. I wasn’t as enthralled with it as I had expected. It was a good read, but it didn’t grab me and wow me the way I’d been expecting. I’m not sure why. Although I did figure out who the bad guy was about midway through the novel, so that might have been it. I didn’t know what he was, but I knew who he was.
I’m now reading The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler, which I talked about earlier this week. I started out by dipping here and there, choosing what stories I wanted to read, but then I decided to just start from the beginning, skipping any story I’d already read before (which turned out to be both the two Agatha Christie’s,the Ngaio Marsh and the Nero Wolfe short story). So far I’ve read “Gold, Frankincense and Murder” by Catherine Aird, “Boxing Unclever” by Robert Barnard, “The Chinese Apple” by Joseph Shearing (another one where I guessed “whodunnit” early on) and “Blue Christmas” by Peter Robinson. I enjoyed “Blue Christmas” the most – I’m very fond of Inspector Banks.
I finished 14, by Peter Clines – wow, what a seat of the pants ending! The whole last quarter of the novel was so gripping, which is nice when it’s an audiobook. I’m now finishing up Robert Galbraith’s The Silkworm, an audiobook I’d started much earlier this year, then stopped and have just now decided to get back to. I think, though, I haven’t been as focused listening to this one – my mind has occasionally wandered and a few times I listened while in bed, which is never good because unless it’s extremely exciting I nod off. So now Cormoran’s getting close to deducing who did what, and I’m finding I’m not even sure who some of the potential players are.
Just blog posts. But I’ll be starting writing daily after the holidays.
I’m not working – I have this week off! Waiting on answers to an interview email, but they won’t come until after the holidays.
Nothing. But that will change in the new year. I hope.
There are a lot of productivity blogs out there! I know this because I’ve been adding them to my Feedly (part of my new year’s intention to be/stay more productive). Same goes for self-development. Actually, there are even more self-development blogs than there are productivity blogs.
Looking forward to:
The next two days! We have our intimate family Christmas on Christmas Eve. It’s not really a “dinner”, as we do snacks and appetizers from late afternoon well into the evening. Dylan is excited because Sean and Hayley have agreed to play a Wii game with him (it’s a Mario game, I believe). This is a big deal because they are twelve and nine years older than him respectively and they don’t often play his console games with him.
My family is also getting together for Christmas at my sister’s on Monday, so that will be fun too. She’s making prime rib roast, and her roast beef is always excellent. It will be another foodie day. I’ve asked Hayley to bring her Cards for Humanity game, so I expect there will be a lot of laughter as well.
The rest of today:
I’m going to read for a bit, and then once Dylan is in bed, I’ll start wrapping. I’d planned to get my wrapping done on the weekend, but that didn’t happen. But I have a good chunk of time tonight. I’ll probably put Netflix on and wrap and watch.
They arrived earlier this week, and I’m excited that I will actually have the time to dip into them over the holidays!
The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries is a more recent compilation edited by Otto Penzler. Looking through the table of contents, the stories are organized in the following groups:
a traditional little Christmas
a funny little Christmas
a Sherlockian little Christmas
a pulpy little Christmas
an uncanny little Christmas
a scary little Christmas
a surprising little Christmas
a modern little Christmas
a puzzling little Christmas
a classic little Christmas
It contains 59 short stories all together, so there’s lots of selection. The first short story I’ll be reading from The Big Book of Christmas is Rex Stout’s “Christmas Party”. it’s a Nero Wolfe story, and it will be fun to head into the holidays with Nero and Archie.
Murder for Christmas, edited by Thomas Godfrey, is an older collection – my copy from the library is copyright 1982 – and it looks like it’s out of print, so check your library for this one (and it looks like there are lots of used copies available). Out of the 26 stories in this collection, 12 of them also appear in The Big Book of Christmas. The first short story I’ll probably read from Murder for Christmas is “Mr. Big”, by Woody Allen – I think it will be fun to read a Christmas mystery by Woody Allen!
Have you read either of these short story collections? Will you be doing any Christmas-y or holiday reading?
I’d intended to blog about the final five books from my TBR stash that I want to read next year, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.
My heart is just so full right now, and I want to let it all spill out. My blog seems like the best place for the words to go.
For the first time in over fifteen years, I don’t have to work through the holidays.
This is something I’ve dreamed of for a long time. As a freelancer, it can often feel like feast or famine, and during the feast times, you acquire the habit of saying “yes” to everything, because after you finish that last project, it may well be famine. Because most of my indexing clients are textbook publishers, traditionally the busy season for me has been from November to February, with the worst of it being in November and December. As a result, I have had too many years where I was only able to take Christmas Day off work – and I felt thankful that I could.
But this entire year, it’s been different. Partly, it’s because I’m not doing as many indexing projects as I used to. Three years ago, one of my major clients decided to outsource all its editorial overseas, indexes included, and since then, while I still do some of their indexes via the overseas editorial firms (and when they do keep anything in-house, I often get the project), I’m now preparing only a fraction of the indexes for them that I used to. Each year that number has dwindled.
The publishing industry is in a state of flux, and outsourcing overseas is a very real possibility with my other clients too. So with this in mind, I’ve started to focus on freelance writing and social media management. I started out this year with one client, thanks to my good friend Brette Sember, and then I added another client (thanks again to Brette). I think that’s helped in terms of a steadier workload.
And it’s funny the way life works. Instead of having to deal with a big empty hole in my work schedule because of the dwindling workload from this one major client who’s outsourced all its editorial, my other clients began filling the gap. In fact, two of them in particular have kept me steadily indexing throughout the year, so that this year and last, I never really felt that “famine” part of the freelance life. While I have a little less work, it’s spread out much more evenly through the year.
The best thing is, this is the first year I’ve been able to take so much time off for the holidays. I have one writing assignment due next week, but that’s it. Even better, my time off isn’t at the expense of my bank account, either (if it was, I wouldn’t be feeling so happy!).
I even had time to take pictures at the mall!
So I’m really really looking forward to the days leading up to Christmas. Today I took my youngest Christmas shopping, and we had such fun! He’s a great kid to take to the shops, because he really gets into it. In the past, I’d have to scramble to find an hour in my schedule to whisk him to a store to pick a present for his dad, but today we spent the entire afternoon wandering the mall, browsing and having a great time. This year, we had time for him to pick presents for his older brother and sister too, as well as for his dad.
Hard to see, but shimmery beauty decorates one of the mall windows
And tonight, it’s just the two of us. Christmas music is playing, the tree is lit, and we have wrapping plans. I feel so rich, so abundant, so grateful. I want to keep pinching myself to make sure this is real.
A steady workload and the ability to take time off, without any guilt or stress. More of the same throughout all of 2015, please!
This is my first Sunday Salon post in a long while, and it’s so good to be back!
I was lying in bed last night, thinking about what I would blog about for today’s Sunday Salon – I’ve found that’s one of the side effects of challenging yourself to 365 days of blogging: I actually think about what I’m going to blog about the next day. (Maybe I should challenge myself to 365 days of writing and see if it works the same way …)
Anyway, this title came to me: 52 Sundays of Bookish Bliss. What if I blogged about all the bookish things I’m grateful for each week? And since I’m supposed to be doing 365 days of blogging, I would have to blog for 52 Sundays anyway, right?
(The actual title that initially came to me was “52 Sundays of Bookish Gratitude”, but after some reflection, I thought that didn’t have quite the same oomph to it as “52 Sundays of Bookish Bliss” and anyway, for bliss to be bliss, I feel it has to be grounded solidly in gratitude.)
So here’s what’s made me bookishly blissful this Sunday – my gifts-to-buy list! I am blessed to have both readers and not-really-readers among my nearest and dearest, and every year, without fail, I try to give at least one book to everyone on my list. For some (the readers) it’s pretty easy; for others (the non-readers), this can be quite the challenge. This year I’m pretty excited because I have some great books lined up as gifts.
(Luckily, none of my nearest and dearest actually read my blog, so I figure it’s safe to write about the delightful books I’m going to be buying them.)
Here’s what’s on this year’s Gift List, so far:
My sister Dawn told me she’d love to read more foodie graphic novels, so I asked around on Twitter for suggestions. There were a lot of great ideas, and this is one I think she’ll both enjoy and be surprised by. Recommended to me by Sarah Hayes, Not Love But Delicious Foods by Fumi Yoshinaga looks like it will be a delicious addition to Dawn’s bookshelves.
There is a Japanese saying that goes, “Hana yori dango,” or “dumplings over flowers.” And no one is more of an advocate of this adage than mangaka Y-naga, a woman whose life revolves around her intense work and equally intense sleep schedule. The only thing that can rouse her out of this infernal cycle of deadlines and being dead to the world? Food. As Y-naga and her friends visit restaurants around Tokyo to satisfy their appetites, their individual approaches to food add an extra dimension to their witty and comical interactions. Friendships are explored and lifestyle choices revealed, all over exquisite culinary creations that prove that variety on an empty and open-minded stomach is, indeed, the spice of life.
Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty, by Christine Heppermann, is the book find I’m really really excited about. I came across it at Ana’s Things Mean a Lot, and as soon as I read her review of it, I knew this was something I would definitely be buying for my daughter, Hayley. Hayley is not-really-a-reader (except for graphic novels) – she’s a filmmaker and her life generally revolves around films, videos and manga. But as soon as I read about Poisoned Apples, I knew it would be something she’d enjoy. The examples of the poems Ana posted are beautiful, and the subject matter – the lives of girls and eating disorders “told through the lens of fairy tales” – is definitely one that will appeal to Hayley.
Every little girl goes through her princess phase, whether she wants to be Snow White or Cinderella, Belle or Ariel. But then we grow up. And life is not a fairy tale.
Christine Heppermann’s collection of fifty poems puts the ideals of fairy tales right beside the life of the modern teenage girl. With piercing truths reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins, this is a powerful and provocative book for every young woman. E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars, calls it “a bloody poetic attack on the beauty myth that’s caustic, funny, and heartbreaking.”
A few months ago, I picked up Raina Telgemeier’s Smile from the library. It was a hectic few weeks, though, and I wasn’t able to get to it before I had to return it to the library. In the meantime, however, I’d left it on the sofa (ever since we got rid of our coffee table in the living room, which was always too overloaded with books, everyone’s taken to leaving their books on the sofa and the armchairs), where Dylan, my 11-year-old, picked it up one morning and began reading it. He loved it! And as he’s one who enjoys re-reading graphic novels, when I saw this boxed set, which includes both Smile and Sisters, Telgemeier’s latest graphic novel, I knew I had to get this for one for him.
I’m still on the lookout for books for my older son, Sean, and my husband, Ward. Sean’s a reader, with very similar tastes to mine. Last year I bought him Stephen King’s Dr. Sleep, Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, Lee Child’s Never Go Back and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, by Reza Aslan, and he enjoyed reading them all. This year, though, nothing’s really jumped out at me as being a good read for him. I’m hesitant about King’s Revival, as it doesn’t sound like something Sean would really enjoy, and while there’s a new Jack Reacher book out – Personal – I have it in audio and didn’t find it as enthralling as the other Reacher novels I’ve read (I left off halfway and haven’t gotten back to it, actually).
And as for my husband, this year we’ve pledged to only purchase things on each other’s lists, and I haven’t received his yet, so I don’t know if there are any books on it. If there are, they’ll likely be cookbooks! Or books about opera.
So this is my gifts-to-buy book list. I’m pretty excited about my gift ideas so far, and I’m sure I’ll be adding more to the list as we head deeper into December.
What gifts are you buying the book lovers in your life this season?
Silver Bells has always been one of my favourite Christmas carols; I grew up in Vancouver, and while we didn’t always get snow, the song always brings up such fond holiday memories for me.
Last November, we moved from the suburbs to Toronto. Now, Toronto’s quite a bit different from Vancouver; it’s bigger, for one thing, and there’s a lot less rain. But it’s still Christmastime in the city!
We didn’t join in on many of the festivities last year, though; moving from a 3000 square foot house into a 1180 square foot condo six weeks before Christmas took a lot out of us, and we didn’t really feel truly settled into our new home until after the holidays.
This year, though? This year will be completely different!
In the community we used to live in, there weren’t that many Christmas-y events, so we developed a lot of our own, stay-at-home type of traditions. Putting up the Christmas tree was usually the first of these traditions: we’d do up lots of appetizers, have hot chocolate with whipped cream, and make a night of it.
But this year, we’ve added a whole bunch of new traditions. And most of them are free!
One thing’s for sure: Christmas in the city makes for a very busy, event-filled month!
Cavalcade of Lights
This year we kicked off the festivities with Toronto’s Cavalcade of Lights. It’s held at Toronto City Hall, and there were a variety of musical performances to entertain everyone while we waited for the official lighting of the giant Christmas tree.
But the highlight of the evening (for us, anyway) was the magnificent fireworks display later in the evening. They even had someone zooming along on a zipline with fireworks on his back!
It’s the first time we’ve attended the Cavalcade of Lights (thank you, spell check, because I nearly always spell cavalcade wrong!), and we had such a delightful time. It will definitely be one of our new traditions.
Santa Claus Parade
We actually managed to catch the Santa Claus Parade last year; the parade route was just a few blocks from our place, so it was an easy thing to fit into our schedule. No struggling with parking
This year, however, we weren’t able to catch the Parade. Or at least, we didn’t think we would be able to. We had tickets to see the National Ballet of Canada’s performance of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and the ballet was on at the same time as the parade.
But, as luck would have it, the parade route passed right by the Four Seasons Centre, where the ballet was being performed. We came out for intermission and caught the last part of it – we ended up having a great view, as the lobby of the Four Seasons Centre fronts University Avenue, where the parade was passing by, and since the foyer was slightly elevated above street level, we were able to see everything beautifully!
We’re hoping we won’t have a schedule conflict next year. It’s even more fun sitting right on the curb, watching the parade from beginning to end.
The Christmas Windows at The Bay
Going to look at the Christmas windows at The Bay department store (whose roots go back to its days as a fur trading outpost before Canada’s Confederation) is another Christmas tradition we started last year as well. The department store devotes several of its windows on Queen Street to lovely Christmas vignettes:
And when we’re done? It’s off to the chip truck parked in front of City Hall for fries and gravy; it is so much fun eating piping hot fries with loads of gravy in the cold. The steam pours off the fries, and everything cools down just quickly enough, you don’t burn your tongue scarfing it all down!
Back when my two older children, Sean and Hayley, were younger, going to see the National Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker was one of our traditions; we made a day of it, driving into the city for the show and then going out for dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory afterwards. Unfortunately, ballet wasn’t really something either of them enjoyed that much (and it didn’t escape their notice that it was the same production every year – the complaints we heard about that!) – although they did like the Old Spaghetti Factory!
We’re reviving this tradition this year for our youngest, Dylan. Dylan loves the ballet, so he’s really looking forward to going.
But we’re going to more than one Nutcracker performance! In addition to the traditional one performed by the National Ballet of Canada, we’re also going to see The Pia Bouman School’s Nutcracker. The Pia Bouman School is Dylan’s dance school. He didn’t audition for the show, but it will be great fun to go and see his fellow students in the production.
So these are some of the new traditions we’re embracing this year – taking full advantage of being in the city! We’re hoping to also go to at least one Christmas concert, too, although so far we’ve only got the Blind Boys of Alabama’s Christmas show lined up.
What about you? What holiday traditions do you and your family enjoy during this time of the year?
I’m very excited to be signing up for the latest edition of Trish’s Pin It Do It Pinterest challenge! I missed it the last few times it’s run. All the Twitter chat about it last month was so enticing, and with the holidays coming up, I thought joining the challenge would be a great way to motivate myself to actually do some fun crafty holiday things with Dylan, my nine-year-old.
I’ve vowed in the past not to participate in any more challenges, because I fail so miserably at them (in my first year of blogging here, I think I signed up for about twenty reading challenges – and completed only one of them (it was the Harry Potter challenge, and I did my reread in audio, so it was super, super easy).
BUT! I have high hopes for this one.
The Christmas season is my favourite season of the year; in past years, I’ve always been SO overwhelmed with deadlines I’ve never been able to enjoy the season thoroughly. (I’ve actually had years where I counted myself lucky being able to take Christmas Day and New Year’s Day off – one of the tougher things about being in business for yourself.)
But this year? Due to some changes one of my major clients made, I have a lighter December schedule. And I fully plan to put the extra time to good use!
What about you? Are you on Pinterest? Signing up for the #pinitdoit challenge?
Happy holidays, everyone! I’m still in the middle of festive celebrations, as we have some family “dos” scheduled this week. And then, of course, there’s New Year’s, although Ward and I have been so busy, we haven’t actually figured out what we’re going to be doing on New Year’s Eve.
My Christmas Day was all about Harry Potter, because this is what I found under the tree:
I’d had this book on my wishlist since I first heard about it (I think it was on Twitter), but it was one of those “yeah, maybe one of these days” kind of things – after all the decluttering book-wise we’ve done this year, I felt strange about forking over such big bucks for a big coffee table type of book. But Ward decided to pick it up for me for Christmas, and am I ever glad he did!
I spent most of Christmas Day curled up on the couch devouring Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey. It’s one of those books where, when you come up for air, you say to yourself, “And a wonderful time was had by all.” (Well, at least, that’s what I usually say to myself when I find myself immersed in a really good read.)
The parts I like best? The occasional mentions of J.K. Rowling’s contributions to the filming process, like this bit about the Black family tree:
“Within the house is a tapestry that reveals the entire history of the Black family. The tapestry is mentioned only briefly in the book but needed to be fully constructed for the film. So David Heyman called Jo Rowling to get details about the Black family tree. Within fifteen minutes, she faxed him a complete family tree for the house of Black, with over seventy-five names going back over five generations, all complete with dates of births and deaths, marriage details, and even the family crest and motto.”
It really dawned on me after reading this, how Rowling did more than simply write the Harry Potter books. She also created extremely detailed material about all aspects of Harry Potter’s world, and even though these details might show up in the series in brief mentions, or perhaps not at all, they clearly infuse the books with a realism that plays no small role in their appeal.
Know what I would love to see? A volume devoted to all of this supplementary material. Wouldn’t that be just a lovely peak inside the creative process of this very extraordinary writer?
Ward also got me the final movie in the Harry Potter series; when it came out this year, I went to the theatres to see it twice. I think it’s one of my favourites in the entire series. I haven’t had a chance to watch it again yet, as Christmas Day was given over to the reading of Harry Potter Page to Screen, and then right after Christmas, I had to dig deep into my deadlines again, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.
How were your holidays? What bookish delights did you find under your tree?
Happy new year, everyone! It was a very hectic December for me, as evidenced by the scarcity of posts here. And after I finished my last deadline for the year, I came down with the flu. Christmas week was kind of a blur for me as a result, but this past week has been great, with a wonderful family get-together where my husband cooked the most delicious roast chicken.
So here’s all the stuff I would have posted in the past few weeks, in shortened (for me) form. And then I will be up to date and will be able to get back into a regular blogging schedule for the new year!
IPad. Yes, I finally got my iPad, a Christmas gift from my family. And I love it! There have been some unexpected benefits, too, like discovering I will be able to markup PDFs for work purposes, which will really help my workflow (and save quite a few trees). I’ve been having lots of fun finding lots of great apps – and there are a ton of seriously good ones out there.
I’m blogging this post from my iPad right now, in fact, using an app called Blogpress, which, unlike other blogging apps I explored, let’s me insert HTML code (for links, for example) easily (rather than typing in the code manually). I don’t yet have my Bluetooth keyboard (it’s on it’s way via UPS right about now), so I’m still using the touchscreen keypad. Not ideal, but I seem to be getting quicker the more I use it.
Teen parties. Other than seeing family and dinner with friends, Ward and I haven’t done much in terms of parties this holiday season. But
Hayley had TWO parties here, one for Christmas, and one yesterday, for New Years Eve.
Yes, Ward and I survived. It was surprisingly fun, actually. Last night, for instance, we did a Chuck marathon!
Writing. Not much to report on this end, unfortunately. But I’m hoping this will change once I get my Bluetooth keyboard; I’ve been investigating writing apps for the iPad and there are some very good possibilities.
And thanks to Janel, I’ve been thinking about working on some short stories this year, too. She’s been very inspirational for me on the writing front.
Reading. I’ve been doing a bit of reading on the iPad and really love it – it’s easily my e-reader of choice. Which makes sense, since I already preferred reading in my iPhone over reading with the Kobo e-reader. I also listened to some books in audio while I had the flu, so I’ll be reporting on my reading material in future posts.
So that’s my quick update. It feels a little odd typing on the iPad, so this post might not sound as much like me as normal. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday week (or two!). Here’s to a beautiful, gorgeous new year!