February Book report

Without further ado...

The invisible woman is Nelly Ternan, the woman that shared the last 13 years of the life of Charles Dickens. When they meet she is 18, an actress, a 'fallen woman' by victorian standards. He is 45 at the height of his fame, a husband and the father of 10 children, the perfect image of the pater familias.  He leaves his wife in the most shameful way and they share a life that they manage to hide from the public eye. It is considered essential for the protection of Dickens good name with a public that idolized him. It enables him to continue in his role as the great upholder of family values. They were so efficient that they managed to erase most of the traces of their association. Nelly was able to reappear after his death as an entirely new person, construction a background and history that enabled her to re-enter society and even suit the strict requirements of the victorian society.

It was fascinating to read about this unknown side of Dickens and it also shed an interesting light on his treatment of female characters in his books. 

Orphan Train is based on facts: from the mid 19th century through the first quarter of the 20th century there was no system to deal with orphans or foster children. It was left to churches and charitable organization to find them parents. One of the solution devised was to put them on a train bound for the midwest, advertise it in towns along the route and let the children go with anyone who wanted them. The older they were, the more chances they had to be used as free labor living as indentured servants. Such was Vivian Daly's life from  Ireland to New York City and then sent to the midwest.

It was a good read but I wasn't too thrilled by the character of Molly Ayer in the novel. I couldn't see the need to layer her story in with Vivian. It was a good easy read.

Bossypants I resisted reading this book for a while. Don't ask me why I am just weird about best sellers that way. I listened to it on Audible and I loved the beginning and the end. Love her humor and her unabashed feminism. The middle was all about SNL and 30 rocks and I never watched them so it was way less interesting. 

The Lady of the Rivers, White Queen, Red Queen, The Kingmaker's Daughter this fascination (obsession) with this series by Phillippa Gregory all started when I watched the Starz series "the White Queen". I picked up the books and I couldn't stop reading. It is based on the succession war between two branches of the Plantagenets family. It's a view by three different protagonists in the war of the roses: Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville. Three views of the same events. I love that Gregory gives a voice to women which are often overlooked in history. I also was fact checking as I read and historically I couldn't fault her. I loved loved this series and I have the two last on my nightstand.

Six books in February and in case you're wondering I did not farm my kids out. I just went on a TV fast. My friend Linh (who's catholic) and me (muslim) always share our lent intentions. She gave up posting pictures of her cooking (which if you knew her and tasted her food you would know is a big sacrifice) and I gave up TV. It's amazing what one can do with all the TV free time

I couldn't help but notice while I was writing my post that all my books were about strong women. It wasn't intentional but I am clearly draw to women who lead their lives in an unapologetic way.

And now I'm off to shoveling snow for the third time this week. Stay warm and for those of you that are...lucky!!




Crochet :: Panier Rouge

My current knitting project is in the final stages. I have one sleeve and half to go before I can block and share it. In the meantime I found this gorgeous t-shirt yarn at Jo-Ann's today. I went in for size 3 needles and walked out with it. It was hard to resist especially that I was looking for this type of yarn for ages.

I thought a little short project would revive my love for the knitting project so I decided to make a little crochet basket like this one . It will perfect to hold the used kitchen towels awaiting the wash. I don't use paper towel so I go through a lot of these in a day. I have tried cotton rags, microfiber of different brands but my absolute favorites are these. I discovered them while helping my friend Sophie during her move. They are just perfect for cleaning up around the house. 

Once this little beauty is finished the sweater knitting will resume

Simplify :: Clearing my bookshelves

When I first started blogging 6 years ago, I picked " A journey to a simple happy life" as a title. A bit pompous but two words were very important for me "journey' and "simple". I was trying to learn to appreciate the first and adopt the second.

Being a stay at home mom with very young children one of my first challenges was to accept that the beauty was in the journey. There is no such thing as a destination when you're a mom. Sure when your children become independent balanced adults you know you did something right but that is so far in the future, you need to appreciate the in between. So enjoying the journey was my goal.

"simple" because i was overwhelmed. By my love for my children, the sense of responsibility but especially by the stuff. The overstuffed scheduled, the overflowing hampers, the toys, my books, the clothes just the stuff of life but too much of it. I felt the need to let go so I could hold on to what really matters. It was a hard process at first but slowly I made space in my life for what I needed. It took me 3 years but I managed to let go of the clutter and streamline our home, set up routines and feel a little more in control.

Then I stopped being careful and things have been creeping back into the house. Books I think I will read, half completed projects, objects I neither love or need. A couple of days ago, I started by purging my yarn stash and Layla's arts and crafts. Today it was my nightstand and my bookshelves.

The first books were hard to let go but once I got started i kept going. Purging my bookshelves always induces anxiety, guilt and regret. I have done it a couple of times now and I have devised a 5 rules for purging my book collection:

  • If it's been on my shelves for more than a year then I will probably never get to read it. I went so far as to test this theory myself as I found books on my shelves I hadn’t yet read, but couldn’t yet bear to let go. I dedicated a shelf to “need to read” books, and noted the date. Any books that started out on that shelf on that date but were still there six months later I purged. The truth is that I didn't want to read them but held on out of guilt.

  • Orange and green stickers can go. When I finish reading a book I put a color sticker like this one on the spine. Orange for the ones I didn't enjoy and green for the ones I liked and pink for the ones I loved. It's easy to just go through the shelves and pick the ones that are ready to find a new home
  • If I stopped reading it can go. No matter how much I try there are books I cannot finish or that I don't want to finish. Following the same logic as rule 1 it's time for them to go
  • Judge a book by it's cover. If it's yellow, musty or tattered it's can go
  • Look for multiples. I sometimes forget that I had a book or that I read it. Which making the purge all the more necessary.

All of the books that are removed from my shelves are donated to the yearly library book sale. There is more room on my shelves, I feel lighter and someone will get to enjoy them and hopefully pass them on.

I plan to concentrate on the master bedroom for the next week. It's not a cluttered room but I am sure there  is room for improvement and I will reward myself by decorating it a little when I made room for a what I love and need.