Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Christmas to All!

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, 
keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, 
and the glory of the Lord shone round about them:
 and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold,
 I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
 which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe 
wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel 
a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, 
and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, 
and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.
Luke 2: 8-14

A Most Happy Christmas to Every Single One of Us.
 and Edward, too

Monday, December 22, 2014

Waiting for the Magic

Waiting For The Magic

When were we taught to be afraid of the dark?  What bedtime story told us of monsters under the bed or warned us of wraiths at the window?  Which fairy tale twisted shadows into malevolent spirits and deemed moonbeams inadequate to chase away evil? 

On these cold December nights Edward likes to spend time outside by himself.  He lays on the back porch - white fur glowing in the moonlight - and ponders the unanswerable, conversing with guardians both real and unseen.  Sometimes I bundle up and tiptoe out to join him.  A brief spin of his tale tells me he doesn't mind my presence.  We sit in the stillness as I wait for the magic the dark always brings.
Redesigned in grisaille the too familiar world becomes new.  The poplar trees are taller somehow, with personalities both individual and wise and I feel myself observed by round yellow eyes peering down from their uppermost limbs.  The ice-grey floor of the garden wears multicoloured  jewels casually thrown through the bedroom window by the lights of the Christmas tree.  There are sounds only heard in the darkness. Nocturnes played on leaf and claw, the distant tinkling of a bell.  

Treasures are unearthed in the darkness, flights of imagination that are grounded in the bold unyielding light of the day soar through a velvet midnight sky.  I find tranquility in the night -  there is time to sink into my true self and remember the sound of my own fanciful heart.  The peace we gather in the long winter night shall clothe us in gentleness when the sun shines again.

On this, the night of solstice, the longest of the year, do join Edward and me outside in the dark if you possibly can.  Let the quiet fold its wings all around you as you listen to the music the silence always brings.  What a gift this longest night can be.  For it is always in the darkness that the brightest stars are seen.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Books For Christmas, The Finale: Books for YOU!

Books at Christmas Finale
The Best for Last.
Books for YOU!
It is impossible, of course, to peruse a bookshop at Christmas and not discover irresistible treasures for oneself.  It is a sad fact with which I have become well-acquainted since I tend to wrap up so many books for my friends and family.  What can I say?  I’ve come to consider it a perk of the holiday season.  Much like fudge.  One for you, one - or two - for me.  Here are a few books I could not resist this year.

Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop
edited by Otto Penzler
from Amazon:  “Each year, for the past seventeen years, Otto Penzler, owner of the legendary Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, has commissioned an original story by a leading mystery writer. The requirements were that it be a mystery/ crime/suspense story, that it be set during the Christmas season, and that at least some of the action must take place in The Mysterious Bookshop. These stories were then produced as pamphlets, 1,000 copies, and given to customers of the bookstore as a Christmas present.Now, all of these stories have been collected in one volume—Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop. Some of the tales are humorous, others suspenseful, and still others mystifying. This charming one-of-a-kind collection is a perfect Christmas gift, appropriate for all ages and tastes.”
I mean who amongst us can resist this?

Anarchy and Beauty
William Morris and His Legacy
by Fiona MacCarthy
It was with much anticipation that I made my way out of London in October for a visit to William Morris’s fabled Red House and oh, it did not disappoint.  Being a devoted disciple of all things Morris, this book - which accompanies the new Morris exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery - is sure to delight me for years to come.  You might like it, too!

The Writer’s Garden
by Jackie Bennett
Oh, yes.

The Homemaker
by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
During a recent visit to Persephone Books in London, I chanced to overhear the owner on the telephone.  A slight, tweed-suited lady whose size belied her rather formidable telephone voice, she was saying, “I intend to make this a best-seller.  So many books climb up the charts that are far, far inferior to this one.  This one deserves to be read, and read widely.  I’m going all out on this one.  I’m making it a best-seller.”
Well, naturally, I simply had to know the book of which she was speaking, even if it meant owning up to a spot of eavesdropping. And as luck would have it, the very book mentioned was already in my hands.  I did pick up another for a friend.  It does deserve to be a bestseller. 
Note:  The Persephone website appears to be having a spot of trouble at present.
Till they're up and running again, you can find The Homemaker HERE.

The Disinherited
by Robert Sackville-West
Anyone fortunate enough to climb the tower at Sissinghurst Castle and peer into the writing room of Vita Sackville-West is sure to become intrigued with that family.  I know I did.  I’ve spent some time this year reading some of Vita’s writing, (All Passion Spent has risen to the top of my favorite’s list) as well as the wonderful new book on Sissinghurst garden.  Now Robert Sackville-West has written a new history of the family and I cannot wait to read it.

Novel Interiors
by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti
When we met for tea on the day of William and Kate’s wedding, I knew Lisa was headed for something special.  There were too many ideas flowing through her head not to flower into greatness.  And just last week, it all came to fruition when her exquisite new book, Novel Interiors, landed on my doorstep.  A delightful blending of literature and design, Lisa illustrates beautifully how the books we love influence the homes we create.  As someone who just had a birdhouse screened porch added to her bedroom, this is so right up my street and it’s one of the most gorgeous design books I’ve come across in years.  Bravo!

The Elements of Style, Illustrated
by Strunk, White and Kalman
Every writer reveres Strunk and White’s definitive book on writing.  And who can refuse this edition when it’s so delightfully illustrated by Maira Kalman?

The Annotated Wuthering Heights
by Emily Bronte
edited by Janet Gezari
Take it from me, this is one beautiful book.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my book series this holiday season.  I know I have.
Did I go overboard?  Maybe.  But I had so much fun.
And books are the most delicious gifts.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Books For Christmas, Part VI - For Your Best Friend

Books for Your Best Friend
She is the one you call when you feel less than adequate.  She is the one you call when you’re on top of the world.  She is fond of black turtlenecks and vintage jewelry.  You have never seen her wear something trendy.  There are sunflowers in her garden every summer and jazz always plays in the rooms of her house. Though serious and whip smart, she does an impression of your third grade teacher that still reduces you to tears.  She is the person you want in your corner and you wish her all good things all year round.  Here are some books for her.

Backwards In High Heels
The Impossible Art of Being Female
by Tania Kindersley and Sarah Vine

The Gardener’s Garden
by Madison Cox

My Favorite Things
by Maira Kalman

Small Victories
by Anne Lamott

The Miniaturist
by Jessie Burton

Family Furnishings 
by Alice Munro

Advice to Little Girls
by Mark Twain

Living Newport
by Bettie Bearden Pardee

I've saved the best for last....
Next up... Books for YOU!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Books For Christmas, Part V - For That Man in Your Life

Books For Christmas, Part V… For That Man in Your Life
You love the way his mind works, even if multi-tasking is not an arrow in his quiver.  You are forever fascinated by his focus, his insouciant attitude towards his many talents, his kindness, his creativity.  His imagination spins intricate webs, never failing to delight.  His humour is unflagging.  Being a man of myriad interests, choosing books for him at Christmas is an enjoyable exploration.  These are a few of the many you think he will love.

What If?
by Randall Munroe

What About Never?  Is Never Good For You?
by Bob Mankoff

Deep Down Dark
by Hector Tobar

The Churchill Factor
by Boris Johnson

Still Moving
by Danny Clinch

A Reader’s Book of Days
by Tom Nissley

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy
The Beatles Lyrics
by Hunter Davies

The Book of Strange New Things
by Michel Faber

London:  A Literary Anthology
from The British Library

Next Up....
Books for Your Best Friend 
and then....
Books For You!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Books at Christmas Part IV... For the Children, Because We Remember

Books at Christmas Part IV… For Children
Because We Remember
Because we remember the sheer magic of learning to read, when great fistfuls of coloured lights began to soar round our heads like fireworks as we discovered all the fantastic worlds that flourished inside the pages of books.   Because we remember the anticipation of turning the next page, the delicious anxiety we felt standing before a rainbow of spines on a library shelf as we tried to choose just the right one.  How we loved the fragrance of an old book, and the feel of the crisp sharp pages of a new one.  Because we remember reading under the covers long after we were supposed to be fast asleep.  Because the characters that lived inside the books we loved became as real to us as neighbours.  Because, as we read, our imaginations awakened and grew, healthy and strong, to walk alongside us the length of our days, enriching our lives in ways inconceivable had not been for our books.  Because we remember all this, we give books to children at Christmas.  Here are a few wonderful ones for this year.

The Memory of an Elephant
by Sophie Strady

Fox’s Garden
by Princesse Camcam

Can It Be True?
by Susan Hill
Illustrated by Acornmoon’s Valerie Greeley

The Farmer and the Clown
by Marla Frazee

The Lion and the Bird 
by Marianne Dubuc

Little Elliot Big City
by Mike Curato

 The Lisbeth Zwerger Collection

The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Illustrated by Arthur Rackham

Aviary Wonders
By Kate Samworth

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Books At Christmas Part III: For the Anglophile

Books for Your Friend Who Dreams of England
She takes her tea in a Staffordshire cup every afternoon at half past four.  She set her alarm at two in the morning to watch Kate Middleton marry her prince.  The rooms of Pemberley and Thornfield Hall are as familiar to her as her own.  She thinks Branwell Bronte was misunderstood, Jane Austen was hilarious, and Virginia Woolf was a genius.  She has a rather unfortunate crush on Stephen Fry and never misses an episode of Doc Martin. Christmas at her house is a Dickensian delight and she’ll be enthralled with any one of these books.  Just click on the photo to see more.

Christmas at Thompson Hall
and Other Christmas Stories
by Anthony Trollope

At Home With Jane Austen
by Kim Wilson

A Literary Christmas
 An Anthology from The British Library

The Drawing Room
English Country House Decoration
by Jeremy Musson

Her Majesty 
by Christopher Warwick

English Puddings
Sweet and Savory
by Mary Norwak

The Stories of Jane Gardam
by Jane Gardam

Penelope Fitzgerald:   A Life
by Hermione Lee

The Queen's Houses
by Alan Titchmarch

Still to come:
Children's Books
Books for the Man in Your Life
Books for Your Best Friend
and Books for You!