Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Name of the Game is Domain

I have moved! Thank you so much to you all who have supported me in the first two months of this grand writing adventure. The journey continues, better than ever, here;


Can't wait to see you all there!



Saturday, February 25, 2017

Drown Your Ice Cream!

Ooo, the Bookaneer is shaking things up! From now on I'll be writing not two, but three posts a week: on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Yesterday's road trip to go visit my Grandpa with the crew made for a tiring day, but I regret nothing! We love visiting, and his skill in the kitchen not only make things sweeter, but even inspired today's poem.

Second helpings anyone?

Drown Your Ice Cream!

Grandpa's homemade
Chocolate sauce;
Of every kind
His is the boss.

Such decadence
Of great degrees...
But at Grandma's house
Let's ignore calories!

Like I've mentioned before, I love cooking. My inspiration is all due to the amazing, creative people that I'm lucky enough to call family. 

My Grandpa's recipe is simple yet sublime. Here it is: combine one can of condensed milk, with one big bar of  Cadbury. Mix in a pot until the chocolate is melted. Drown your ice cream with it and enjoy!

Until Tuesday, I wish scrumptious meals, time with dear ones, and ample reading time to you all. Take care.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Cooking Up a Storm

Welcome back everybody! Did you have a good long weekend? We sure did!
Romance on the slopes with Mr. Tilney

King Daddy with my big sister Hermione.

Atticus, King Daddy, baby Rudyard, Darrow and Akela.

 Time with family and skiing... those are two of  my most favourite things in the world. This past  weekend I got to do both, in my favourite spot in  the world too: the Canadian Rockies. My entire  family (that's right, all twenty-eight of us!)  gathered in the gorgeous Lake Louise to  celebrate my parents' fortieth wedding  anniversary. We skied, played in the snow,  laughed, read by the fire, and enjoyed tea at the  most wonderful ski lodge we've ever stayed at  (and when you're a family of ski bums, that's  saying something!)

One thing that sweetened all that abundant family fun was the scrumptious food. Too much actually, but who's complaining? All of us were responsible for one meal, and fearful of feeding everyone-especially the ravenous horde of nephews- we all brought more than we could ever eat in a single weekend. Along with ski equipment and luggage, there was quantities of food that we all had to cram into our minivans on the return home. Personally, I regret nothing! It was worth the cramped drive to feast and laugh together at each and every meal.

Me with Mummy Dearest.
Good food is a family tradition. After growing up around the table (our presence at meals was nonnegotiable) with a mother who scorned processed food and a dentist father, for me and my five siblings, promoting healthy eating and cooking was preaching to the choir.

I left home with a deep love of good food; just very little skill in preparing it myself.

In my last post I burbled about my addiction to domestic porn. Cookbooks were what got me going. While I was a single student, it didn't much matter, but once "me" became "we" I quickly saw the need to expand my culinary horizons. After all, there was only so many times I could expect my family to stomach renditions of hamburger soup and oatmeal!

My sister Belle and niece Ginny.

Cookbooks were my of inspiration. I found myself pouring over the pages, excitedly calling out "Look! Butter chicken! I could make that?!" or "Hmmm,  homemade spaghetti sauce sounds amazing". I began with the resolution to try one new recipe a week, starting with one collection of recipes and lots of trepidation. Over the years we've discovered favourites, both simple and complex, that inspire smiles from everyone seated around the table. My skill and confidence has grown almost as much my culinary library.

Good food and family time should not be limited to those special occasions. We need it daily, to feed not just our stomachs, but our hearts. After all, there's nothing after a long day to comfort you and your dear ones like a big helping of homemade yumminess... whatever that may be.

My cook book collection; what a wealth of inspiration is mine!
How about you? What recipes do you love to share with your nearest and dearest? What cookbook could you never do without? If you could learn to cook anything, what would it be?

Coming Monday: the cookbook that I use the most, plus some fun food reads. Until then, I hope your kitchen is a happy place, with plenty of book joy for you and yours. Happy reading to you all!


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Domestic Porn

Books:my source of power.
I have a confession to make: I am addicted to how-to books. Those glossy pictures lure me in, keeping my eyes glued to the page. The text tantalizing me with its promise that yes, I too can do the impossible. Curious and thrilled, I linger. My heart is filled with longing, lust for it to be mine...all mine.

Domestic porn, that's what it is. Be it cookbooks, decorating magazines, or crafting guides. Fortunately, unlike the other sort, this kind of pornography doesn't poison your mind. True, it has been known to befuddle my senses, blasting any pretense I have at practicality to bits. I stash yarn like a squirrel hordes nuts (hiding just how much yarn I have from my long-suffering husband), and there's that one time I set my arm hairs on fire. Mostly though, my love of domestic porn books has led me down some healthy and happy paths. My life, and my family's, is richer for it.
Mr. Tilney: striking fear in students' hearts with his knit toque.

Every now and then Mr. Tilney- silly, darling man- says "You know you don't have to make everything, right?" To which I  respond "Well yes. But why buy something when you can make it yourself?"

Why indeed? For the first four years of our marriage we were in university. By the time we were done school we had two little babies (Jared and Seth). One of the only things we had in abundance was our student loans, and a first-year teacher's salary barely covered our needs, let alone the wants.
I got the inspiration for this cake here, but a book gave me the recipe.

Learning how to make and do things began as my quest to not only stretch out our scanty dollars, but to bring us a feeling of luxury. Books held my hand as I learned how. First, it was cooking. Hard to feel deprived when you're eating homemade bread fresh from the oven. Not only are there some gorgeous cookbooks out there, but they taught me how to make food delicious food too. That was the nudge that sent me tumbling down the rabbit hole. One thing has led to another, and it's so wonderfully fun down here why on Earth would I ever want to climb out?

Books are the key. I wanted something cute and fabulous for my new baby without breaking the bank? I knit him pirate booties. Ever tried homemade grape jelly? It's amazing. We grow the most scrumptious potatoes, and we all know the delights of sunflowers. Homemade toys have something special about them that a store-bought one can never duplicate. Hand knit socks are the ultimate bliss for your feet, and the occasional piece of clothing made just for you is a treasure.

Oh lalylala, your crochet patterns are the best!
Not that I make everything, but I like to do what I can carve out the time for. There's a thrill that comes with trying something new, of making and doing something for yourself. It's one of  the healthiest highs that  I know.

Want to try something yourself? Always longed to do this or that? It is possible. Books are your road map of how to get there.

What do you want to try? Tell me in the comments below, and I'll find you a good title to get you started!

Until next time, happy exploring the wide and wonderful world of books everybody!


Monday, February 13, 2017

Move Over Prince Charming!

When we're old and grey, I want Mr. Tilney and I to love each other this much!
True love is
Saying sorry, or forgiving
when mistakes are made.
It's cooking those awesome
Waffles- just because.
Making me laugh
through labour contractions,
Or getting up with the kids
So I can sleep in.
It's being the dad our
Kids love and need,
And eating my latest
Culinary disaster.
Love is reading my
Favourite book together,
Or mowing the lawn
Because you know I hate it.

Might not sell books,
But true love is slaying
All those daily dragons
And making one
"Happily ever after" real.

My love of romance notwithstanding, I've always hated Valentine's Day. Romance should be more than a status game of cards, roses, or chocolates. Naturally, I still appreciate such gestures. What fool wouldn't? But know what really makes my heart pitter-pat? Someone who finds me beautiful at nine months pregnant. When Mr. Tilney surprises me with pizza so we don't mess up the kitchen after a crazy day. Uninterrupted reading time... you get the idea.

So many books love stories grate on my nerves because they fail to capture that. There's far too many renditions of yet another heroine caught in a love triangle. Also, the valiant hero who simply waits patiently until she finally comes to her senses tests both my patience and credulity.  So, to shake things up, here's some original gems. Some gutsy heroines and heroes who perfect the art of everyday romance. Pure romantic reading bliss.

"Northanger Abbey" by Jane Austen

I adore all of Miss Austen's books, but this is my favourite! Navigating polite society, Katherine Norland gets far more adventure when she goes to Bath... just not the sort that her Gothic novels would suggest. The perils and pitfalls of dating have never been so delightful.

"The Blue Castle" by L.M. Montgomery

After a lifetime doing just as she's told, and living out dreams in her imaginary"blue castle", Valancy learns that she's dying. Finally doing and saying exactly as she pleases is a shock to both her bossy mother and snobby clan, but no one is more shocked than Valancy herself when she falls in love. With the town reprobate no less. Normally this would be a steamy bit of brain candy, but in Montgomery's skilled hands, it is a beautiful story sure to melt your heart.

In fiction, or real life, true love is really about the little things. Let's celebrate that. Enjoy both; with whoever is in your life and makes your heart glad.

Happy reading to you all!


Thursday, February 9, 2017

How to Raise a Reader

Seth, Jared, and Jack back when only one of them could actually read.
How Seth showed love to baby Bruce.

While Mr. Tilney is often the man behind the camera (we seriously need more pictures of him), I am the woman behind the books. Despite my efforts to read aloud to our children from the moment they came home from the hospital, we have only one real picture of me doing so. One?! I was shocked. Then I looked again, and that's when I saw it. What really matters. Happily, while I am mostly absent, we do have oodles of evidence of something else: my kids love books. 
Baby Jack "reading" a favourite.

Jared will buy the newest books in a series with his own money because he simply cannot wait to read them. Seth spent so many hours as a baby staring at books that he taught himself to read. Jack will read his favourites to his little brother. Bruce likes to copy out the words in stories he loves. While educators lament that more and more kids, especially boys, are reading less mine are passionate bookworms. 

How did this happen? All because we read, and read together.

We are not the exception. Anyone, including you can do it. Want your kids to read more? The benefits, I might add, aren't exclusively for kids! There's no magical solution, but it is easy. Here's what I've learned through years of trial and error.

How to Raise a Reader

1. Read Yourself
I never realized how often I called Jared "lovey" as a toddler until his little buddy started calling him that too. Kids imitate what they see, so if you make time to read they will too. It's not enough for us parents and educators to rail at kids to read more. They need to see us do it. While Bruce has the bad habit of playing with my cell, he did  capture this moment (right) that says it all. That's me, just rolled out of bed, with Jared.

2. Go to the Library
Your local library is a treasure trove of gems just waiting to be read. It's an all you can read buffet! Plus, the price of a library card is amazing. Unlimited access for a few bucks? Score! Sometimes it's free. Go to the library regularly- once a week is our ideal-and bring your kids.

3. Storytime 
 Okay, okay, I've been talking a lot about this lately; be it why we do storytime at all, or the knitty-gritty found here and here. It bears repeating though because storytime is crucial for raising a reader. An added benefit is calming everyone down- whether it's bedtime or not- but hey! No matter what your motivation, it's a sure win.

4. Regularity
Build books into to the daily fabric of your life and into the lives of your children. My friend Charlotte takes a book with her everywhere she goes. Trillian reads to her kids during snacktime. We have individual storytime before bed. There's lots of ways to do it, but consistency is what matters here.

5. Keep it Fun
Books range from the inspired to the insipid. Life is too busy to waste time reading the humdrum. When it comes to reading aloud, I choose something that holds up to repetition: in one sitting. Reading is supposed to be enjoyable. If a book doesn't make you anxious for more of it, why bother? I think this author's performance (his book is a huge hit at our house) perfectly captures what reading is meant to be,.

Just remember: raising a reader is not a product, it's a process, and an ongoing one at that. Whether you're one, or one hundred, reading should be a grand adventure!

Until Monday, keep the reading fun alive for you and yours.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Cream or Sugar?

Cream or Sugar?

I hope I'm never too old
To enjoy a tea party:
Gathering with friends
(Real or  imaginary)
To visit and laugh
Over the beautiful staccato
Of delicate china.

For really, tea tastes better
When sipped from something
Both dainty and pretty,
And carving out time 
With dear friends
Is far sweeter 

Than any maccaron.

Despite my childhood love of throwing a tea party (usually with my doll and stuffies), it took me a bit longer to actually enjoy the beverage. Back then I prescribed to my Dad's opinion. Tea was "glorified dishwater" which my Mum inflicted on me whenever I was sick. Then I discovered loose tea, and I've been a fan of this hot herbal brew ever since. It's a soothing elixir. My creative fuel! Also, it's a fabulous thing to share with friends. After rereading far too many books I was inspired. After all, why should kids and fictional characters have all the fun?  It took just one tea party to discover something important: they're even more fun as an adult. Tea parties are now something my friends and I do- as often as our busy lives will allow.

They're terrific fun. Why not try one yourself? You can find something fabulous to drink here. Their Sunburst Raspberry is amazing (and also, currently on sale!).

Now for some fabulous books to read, whether you're sipping tea or not.

Today's Treasures

1. "The Number One Ladies Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith
The first in a series as warm and delightful as the bush tea Precious Ramotswe drinks while solving one mystery after another. This book makes me want to travel to Africa (especially Botswana), and open a detective agency of my own.

2. "A Bargain for Frances" by Russell Hoban
Frances is having Thelma over for a tea party, so why does her mother urge caution? When left holding the short end of a stick over a tea set fiasco, Frances will have to beat her friend at her own game. The results are delicious. This book is the reason why, to this day, I adore dishes of "the  china kind with pictures all in blue" sort.

Well, until Thursday everybody, I wish you joy. May you never have a shortage of tea, nor lack of good books to read!


Thursday, February 2, 2017

One Wise Rodent

Happy Groundhog Day to you all! Do you ever feel like Phil Connors? Stuck in a time loop,  just like the character does in the movie "Groundhog's Day"? As he puts it "what would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?" A valid question. The movie makes me think. In my "glamorous" life as a SAHM I fall into that trap sometimes. Like Phil I can be mean and sarcastic-especially when the kitchen looks like a cyclone hit moments after I just cleaned it.

Each February second though, Mr. Tilney and I will watch this movie. Yes, it's hilarious, but what brings me back is the thought provoking question that helps Phil Connors  (and m) from wallowing in hedonistic misery: "I don't know Phil. Maybe it's not a curse. Just depends how you look at it." That is the turning point for our anti-hero, and he does just that. How? He focuses on making the people around him happy. He makes each day, every identical one, count for something. So today I've been asking myself, if this was the one day I had... what would I do to make it special?

One answer  I came up with is reading to my kids. Alright, alright, I know that in the past few posts I've talked about this a lot already. Hear me out. On those days when I've had enough, when it feels like my only accomplishments are that the kids are still alive and I haven't been carried off in a straight jacket, reading aloud helps bring back some quiet and happiness not just to the kids, but  to me. It gives me a moment with each of my four sons, we have fun sharing a book, and inevitably I'm reminded that they're not hellions bent upon my insanity, but wonderful children. The most important discovery though is yes, I still have the capacity to be a decent human being.

Here's a little glimpse into how it works around here. Technically, it was Seth's turn (left), but Jared (right) wanted to be on camera too. Any guesses on what we're reading?

So, on days when tearing out my hair sounds like more fun than quality story time with my children, how do  I mellow out from rage monster to blissful bookworm? My secret is simple: books you can't wait to pick up. Last week's post I shared some of our top picks for the little ones, but what about the older members of your crew? Once a kid reads independently, story time seems to vanish faster than their belief in the tooth fairy. Yet none of us outgrows our need for love and the occasional dose of magic, and reading to your readers beautifully provides both.

Anyways, here you are! We have transition reads (for when they're wanting more than a picture book and a lengthy book still doesn't grab them), and some of our favourite chapter books.
Some of our top picks for reading to your readers, extensively tested by the literate members of my crew: Jared, Seth, and now, even Jack. 

Transition Books

1.  "Squishy McFluff the Invisible Cat" by Pip Jones
None of us can resist the charms of this imaginary pet (friend?) around here! As Ava assures her parents, she is not the one to blame for all the mischief about the house- it's Squishy! First in a fabulous series. Told in rhyming short chapters this delightful read can still be finished in one sitting.

2. "Fantastic Mr. Fox" by Roald Dahl
I've read this one to Seth at least four times, but we all love it. Mr. Fox will have to be even more clever and fantastic than usual if he hopes to save not only his own family, but every other animal under the hill when the mean farmers go on a vindictive rampage.

3. "Dory Fantasmagory" by Abby Hanlon
I cannot recommend this book enough! Dory only want to play with her older brother and sister, but meanwhile, her wild imagination certainly keeps her entertained- often with hilarious- or disastrous results. Depends who you ask. The entire series is not to be missed.

Chapter Books

1. "Ollie's Odyssey" by William Joyce
One beloved toy's epic quest to not only save himself and the boy he loves, but all the other lost toys he finds on the way. Beautifully written and illustrated, this one made me laugh and cry. Not sure why it's still not on my bookshelf.

2. "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznick
Don't let the daunting size of this Caldecott winner scare you! Told through both words and pictures, here's a book not to be missed. Hugo is an orphan, thief, and clock keeper secretly living in a Paris train station. When he collides with a determined girl and a mysterious toymaker, life becomes even more complicated.

3. "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone"
Alright, these are all a huge hit, but this is the one that starts them all. Jared wants me to read him all seven. Going to Hogwarts, learning magic and battling the forces of evil? He didn't have to plead too hard. It's a big endeavour, but I defy anyone to not at least enjoy these books, especially with a child for company.

Well, that's it for today everybody. Until next time, make each day count... read to someone you love. Just maybe put the kids to bed a bit earlier tonight. I will be. Once they're down, it's Groundhog time!


Monday, January 30, 2017

Snack Ninja

"But Mum! I was hungry!"
My mischievous Bruce may want to be a ninja when he grows up, but his current attacks on the kitchen is more reminiscent of a viking.

Pillaging snacks on whim, he'll take the loot and feast in his room. Given how he likes to hide the evidence, this leads to some rather smelly and gross finds when we help tidy up. The kid is stealthy though- how do I not catch him in the act?! This weekend's antics though was a strain on my mothering skills. Thanks to Bruce not only are we now out of peanut butter, but my supposed secret stash of Jif is gone!

It's a good thing we love him. Seriously, with this kid the cuteness isn't just a blessing of nature, or (as I like to think) a genetic boon from his mother. In Bruce's case, it's a survival tactic.

At any rate, it did inspire this poem.

Snack Ninja

Hiding with the peanut butter-
It's my favourite snack.
Quiet now! Don't let Mum know
'Cuz then she'll take it back!

Antics aside though, along with Monday's poetry pickle, I want to start sharing some of the books that make me happy. You know, to share the reading joy. That's a big part of what the Bookaneer is about, right? So, without further ado, here's some printed treasure for your reading pleasure.

First of all there's this, my very latest book crush, "Station Eleven". More of you must read this gem of a book, if only for me to have more people to discuss it with! Normally I don't enjoy distopia fiction, but a story about a Shakespeare theatre troupe in the post-apocalypse? Now that piqued my interest!  Trying to bring light to a darker world the troupe travels around performing to survivors, because, as they insist "survival is insufficient". However, their light might get snuffed out when they pass through an unusual community. Fantastic characters, exciting story... I can't wait to reread it, and I want this it for my home library!

Given my own adventures with our resident troublemaker, here's one we can all enjoy. "No David!"has been a firm favourite here for years. Apparently, the author David Shannon wrote this one after finding a childhood project: pictures of everything he wasn't supposed to do...and what his mother had to say about it.

Enjoy everybody!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to put a padlock on the fridge and pantry door.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Reading Revolution

Readers beware! Although I touched upon this topic in my last post, today my evangelical zeal will be unleashed! Story time is one of the best blessings of books that I know of, and today I shall be quite shameless in persuading you all to try it. Come comrades! Will you not join the causeFor the past few days I've been suffering through a cold, but that shall not stop me! Fuelled by a pot of my favourite tea, and my passion for reading I will refrain from becoming a miserable pile of blankets on the couch (at least for a little while).

Here at The Bookaneer we're all about how reading can make your life better, more joyful, and bring you closer to the people you love. My top way to create this is by the simple pleasure of  reading aloud to others. I grew up in a book-rich home where we not only read, but we read to each other. When I was young, books before bed was a regular ritual. Together we devoured such beloved series as All-of-a-Kind Family, Redwall, and Harry Potter. One unforgettable time, after much begging and ignoring of parental scoldings, my big sister Hermione read me "James and the Giant Peach" from start to finish. We stayed up until 3am, but it was totally worth it. Sadly, once we could all read independently story time eventually fizzled out. Occasionally we tried to share a book together, but some scoundrel (usually me) would cheat and read ahead. 

Me with little Jared and Seth at the beginnings of our read-aloud journey.
With reading such a big part of my own childhood, I couldn't wait to make it part of my own children's.Then, I found something which made it even better: individual story time. At first, I thought it complete, and utter madness. Read to each of my children before bed?! That would take ages! I had two young boys, both under the age of two and by the end of the day I was exhausted. Why not just read a book before bundling the lot of them to bed where they belong? 

Over the years our family has grown, but as I've learned to my peril you do not mess with personal story times! We miss some nights of course- life is busy- but when we read, we read to all four of our boys. My ultimate threat when they misbehave is to cancel their story time that night. 

What's the big deal? Jared and Seth have been happily reading on their own for years, while Jack proudly can read on his own now too, yet on nights we do story time there is much fist pumping and celebratory leaps from the furniture. Ultimately, we do this because makes us happy. Amidst our usual hustle and bustle, personal story times gives me a moment- even just a few minutes- with each of my children. We get to reconnect, talk, laugh and even cry over a story. The book we read is picked according to their tastes, not the attention span of a little brother's. They are reminded that they matter, that they are loved. Personal story time is one of the best things I've ever done as a mother.

Why not give it a whirl yourself? Join the reading revolution! Whether you have kids, or even just someone else you want to feel closer to, this is a beautiful and simple way to do it. Don't know where to start? Never fear! After more than a decade of personal story times we have discovered some sure-fire hits! Here's some of our very favourites.

Board Books

1. "Not a Box" by Antoinette Portis
OK, this was not originally a board book, but it's so wonderful to have a copy that stood up to my babies' and toddler's enthusiasm! A grown-up may just see a simple box, but this book's bunny (and every kid) knows better.

2. "Hug" by Jez Alborough
The only thing keeping our copy of this little gem together is duct tape- about the highest praise a book can get. One little gorilla just wants a hug, but his quest to get one still tugs at my heart strings.

3. "Good Night Gorilla"
The best bedtime book we have ever found! The zookeeper might be closing up shop, but with the pilfered keys to every cage, this gorilla has his own plans for going to bed! Simple, beautiful and pure reading awesomeness that still leaves my kids giggling.

Picture Books

1. "Knuffle Bunny" by Mo Willems
Now here's a tale we can all relate to! Calamity strikes when Trixie loses her beloved toy, but how exactly is she going to let Daddy know, let alone get Knuffle Bunny back? Tremendous fun.

2. "A Sick Day for Amos McGee" by Philip and Erin Stead
Meet Amos McGee: zookeeper extraordinaire! He plays chess with the elephant, lets the tortoise win foot races and more. When he comes down with a cold, he's in for some company from all of his zoo friends. A real treasure of a book.

3.  "The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend" by Dan Santat
On the magical island where imaginary friends are born, after waiting patiently to be chosen by a real child, Beekle takes matters into his own adorable hands. His quest is still fantastic after rereading it too many times to count.

Yikes! This blog is already far longer than I 'd planned! Perhaps it is now time to go and nurse this cold into oblivion.  More will follow, hopefully with me hale and hearty again. Until then, these titles can help you get story times started- especially for tomorrow. Family Literacy Day is almost here!

Happy Reading to you all.


Monday, January 23, 2017

When Insanity Comes to Call

Do you ever feel like this? I know I do! Around here, my return to reality come Monday is far from tranquil. Oh, I have my tricks to save time. Most notably grocery shopping with this (a boon to mother's everywhere). Even still, with a mile long to-do list, keeping my cool can be a task of epic proportions! Sometimes, in the thick of insanity, Mr. Tinley will pull me aside (in a valiant effort to soothe the volcano) and say "Remember, you chose this." My only response is to growl "Yes, but right now I cannot fathom why!"

Because, ultimately, I not only choose to be a stay-at-home mum... it is what I wanted.  But knowing I'm busy with the most important, greatest job ever can seem to taunt me on days when things go South. Like any other job, there are days so awful and trying that I want to tear my hair. Days when I wonder "What am I doing here? I'm a failure as a mother!"

We've all been there, and it is days like that which have inspired today's poem. Here's how I salvage things.

When Insanity Comes to Call

Been a really crazy day:
In the bathroom, urine spray!
Cleaning, cleaning since the dawn...
Where have all the cookies gone?

Hunting for an hour more
For that toy behind the door.
Wrestle mania just ensued,
And no one wants to eat their food.

But one by one, before it's bed
(And just before I lose my head),
It's story time! So snuggle in-
This makes the day count as a win.

Story time: more than a sanity saver, it's pure magic. Sometimes it feels like the one thing I've done right, and even the boys have caught onto this tradition. Sharing books we love with the people who matter most (yes, even Mr. Tilney and I will read to each other) keeps us going. It creates at least one moment a day we can enjoy together-if only for just five minutes.

More on this come Thursday, as Family Literacy Day is just around the corner! Until then, what are the books you remember being read to you?

Happy reminiscing to you all!


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Let's Go to the Movies

My Mr. Tilney once accused me of having a crush on Colin Firth. This, I assured him, was completely absurd. I had a crush on Mr. Darcy... that's quite different. He can blame my Grandma for this: after all, she's the one who introduced me to Mr. Darcy in the first place.

"Pride and Prejudice" sounded like the most mind-numbing, the most boring show to my sixteen-year old mind. A story about a family trying to marry off their five daughters? Pass. Happily for me, Grandma insisted, and when Grandma insists it's impossible to refuse for long. So with much teenage eye-rolling I joined in watching the new adaptation of her favourite novel. She had six VHS tapes and thus, by her decree, one for every night of our stay.

The rest was history. Within moments I was hooked. My voice the loudest in clamouring for "More!" after the first tape. The one thought I had while watching Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy alongside Jennifer Ehle's endearing Elizabeth Bennett was "I must read this book!". Ultimately, I found that an adaptation is the best introduction to the classics, or indeed any book outside my comfort zone. Among other things, this one sparked my lifelong passion for Jane Austen's novels.

Any time I see announcements that a beloved book is being transformed into a movie or TV series I have a war of emotions. Part of me wants to skip with glee. Will is be as wonderful as I've imagined? Bliss! The other half of me is tearing my hair in anxiety. What if they destroy it? Calamity! Some adaptations are disappointing, others I adore, and then there's the small number that I -rbrace yourselves- prefer over the book.

So brew yourself a pot of tea. Make a big bowl of popcorn. Either way, may the following inspire as much reading and viewing pleasure as they have for me and mine.

Movies That Don't Do the Book Justice

1. Harry Potter
Now, before someone makes to grab a pitchfork,  first please let me explain. I do enjoy these movies. I've gone in costume as a favourite character, on opening night, to see these movies. We watch them regularly on Friday's Family Movie Night. Pottermore is visited frequently. But I've reread all of the books more times than I can count, and the film doesn't come close to what I've come to know and love there. If you only know the films you'll miss so much. Example: Neville's truly heroic moment. On the page it gave me goosebumps. On screen it wasn't nearly as good.

2. The Hobbit
Thanks to Peter Jackson,  I now love "The Lord of the Rings" (before those films I kept getting Sauron and Saruman confused), but his version of the prequel was disappointing. Suddenly we need three movies to tell the shortest story in the entire series?! And what makes Bilbo in the books so endearing is what a reluctant hero he is.  My mum once insisted I bring only one, just one book, on a three-month adventure to Germany. For that book of choice, I was hoping for more when it came to it's appearance on the big screen.

3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
My first copy of this book  by  the amazing Roald Dahl was loved down to a shadow. Okay, I'll admit that Tim Burton's version came the closest to getting it right, but Willy Wonka's invented dentist daddy issues distracted from one of my all-time favourite stories.

Movies That Compliment the Book Just Right

1. The Adventures of Tintin
Here is where Peter Jackson excels! No family road-trip, from my childhood onwards, is complete without a few books with the tales of that plucky young reporter Tintin. When I was young, impatient for my turn to read, I had to steal one of the books from my Dad. Now I have to do the same with my kids. By this movie's opening credits, I was laughing in delight.

2. The Martian
Each time I watch this film I can't help but exclaim "They captured the book so perfectly!". My pleasure in watching Mark Watney survive on that red planet is equal to rereading it. Not everything made it into the movie, but that's on the page. The movie shows what happens to everyone afterwards, when the book doesn't.  Both are equally enjoyable.

3. Northanger Abbey
There's a reason why I chose this  heroine and hero as pseudonyms for myself and my husband! "Pride and Prejudice" was my favourite Jane Austen novel- until this adaptation from Masterpiece came along, made me see this book in a whole new light, and changed my mind. A heroine who's active imagination and fondness of reading leads her into scrapes? I can relate to that. Once I had a crush on Mr. Darcy, but Mr. Tilney stole my heart. Which is why I married him instead.

Movies That  I ("Gasp!") Prefer Over the Book

1. Sherlock
Telling the famed detective's stories set in modern London? I was sure that poor Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was turning in his grave... until my friend Trillian made me watch an episode. Despite my fondness of the books, the characters have always felt rather stiff to me. As for the TV series, from Inspector Lestrade, Watson's wife (who is mostly a non-entity in the books), to the good doctor and brilliant sleuth themselves, I cannot help but love them all.

2. The Count of Monte Cristo
Revenge, sword fights, romance and treasure! The film of Alexandre Dumas' tale is so fantastic, so satisfying that it is the one great exception to my usually ironclad rule. Having been assured that the books is quite different, I don't have the heart to read this book for fear it will spoil the movie in my mind forever.

3. The Princess Bride
This one is partly due to nostalgia. I was six when I saw this movie at the local theatre. Going with my two best friends, getting our very own popcorn and drink made the night awesome... but the movie made it unforgettable. It is still, and always will be, my favourite movie. Mr. Tilney knows he has only to say "as you wish" to melt my heart. I discovered the book when I was thirteen, and while I love it too, and reread it frequently, push comes to shove the book doesn't make the cut for my desert island list. The movie tops it.

What are the book adaptations you love? The ones you hate? I'm always up for discovering more! Until Monday then, happy reading (and viewing) to you all!


Monday, January 16, 2017

Box Office Books

With more and more books serving as the inspiration for shows and movies, this creates a real dilemma for me. Some adaptations make me squeal with joy. Others make me want to tear my hair. A recent discovery of one has certainly put me in a writing quandary.

Just when I thought I'm all prepared and organized with my new blog... something came along and blew that delusion to smithereens. Unfortunately, this melodrama was too delicious to put off for a later date.

On Saturday here in the Bookaneer household we discovered this:

It also inspired the following.

Box Office Books
The movie
Or the book?
Both are worth
A look.

Suddenly, a show from a series of books I had dismissed years ago as formulaic was causing us all to chortle, quote at the dinner table, and sing along with the opening credits. Here are some books, written by the mysterious Lemony Snicket, that I need to revisit- preferably in the company of my children.

Book adaptations are a gamble, but can be well worth a reader's time. More on this come Thursday, but until then, happy reading everybody.

~ K

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

When Pigs Fly

Ever have those ideas that you tuck away, telling yourself "Oh, I'll do that someday". When that porcine wonder gets airborne, right?

My Pinterest boards are full of them, and nearly two years ago that was never more true than the one crammed with children's art projects and good intentions.

Jack starting school changed that. After sending two other kids to alternating days of kindergarten, I knew the perils. What to do, short of using electronics as a babysitter, all day? Home days are tough. Battling stir-crazy children also ranks high on my list of "Things for My Personal Purgatory" and inevitably leads to grumpiness... and when Mommy's miserable, everyone suffers!

My solution? Turning "someday" into "right now". Now, once a week we have Art Day.  Bruce and I get together with our friends Anne and her daughter Piggie (she picked the pseudonym) for some messy, creative fun.  We dabble with art supplies, the kids play, and Anne and I visit. Makes for a blissful afternoon.We carved out the time and made it happen. It's not elaborate or time consuming, nor should it be. We're all perfectly happy to play with toilet paper rolls or paints anyways, but we do it and that makes all the difference.

There are two things that keep Art Day the splendid institution that it is:

1. Friends. This keeps me accountable.Without Anne's help this would have fizzled away after a few sporadic attempts.

2. Books. Big surprise, I know. Usually I scramble for a suitable project last-minute, and books chockfull of wondrous projects are my saving grace.

Why art? Because all of us (adults included) can use a little more creativity in our lives. Children's art is a very fun, safe endeavor to get your feet wet. Also, it brightens up more than just the walls of your home. One treasure trove of ideas is the books by Jean Van't Hul which I want, but in the meantime her  Artful Parent blog will do.

Books helped me turn this someday into reality. Maybe I should apply that elsewhere. How about you?  What's your "someday"?


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Reading Resolutions

Yet another cold winter's day here on the prairies. What could be more wonderful then brewing fresh pot of tea, and spending time with all of you? Thanks to the generosity of loved ones (who know me so well) I have amassed a wealth of tea over Christmas to enjoy from Teavana and David's Tea so I'm all set. This is the sort of day for strictly cozy things: curl with a pile of books for company, maybe some yarn and knitting needles too.  After all, I did laundry and grocery shopping yesterday, right? Sadly, Tuesdays are lovingly known around here as our "day of insanity" . There's piano lessons, Scouts and Cubs, plus my yoga class. Let's just savour things for this one moment then, shall we? Throw something into the slow cooker, sip something hot, and grab your duvet (if you can). I shall keep my bunny slippers on for a little bit longer, and before we deal with everything else in our day, let's talk about books...glorious books.

'Tis the season for goals, isn't it? For those of you following my Twitter account, you already know not only of my fondness of Goodreads, but also of my reading goal for the year. Along with my other New Year's resolutions I always like to set myself a goal of how many new books I want to read in the year. When I say "new", I mean "new to me". Otherwise the temptation to simply reread old favourites keeps me in a reading rut. A happy rut, but a rut nonetheless. 

Last year my goal was to read 150 new books. In this matter at least, here was one New Year's resolution that I excelled at: I ended up reading over 200. Here's the books that I cannot wait to share with all of you, the best culled from a great abundance of good books.

My Top 10 of 2016

1. "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" by Marie Kondo
Tidiness is magical. To be honest, it was the book's serene cover (isn't it beautiful?) and intriguing title that first caught my eye. I was feeling jaded after the holidays when this little book flew into my life with its KonMAri method, and rather like Mary Poppins brightened things up for the better. Permanently though, which is where the magic comes in! As the author puts it, this books has "sparked joy" in my life and continues to do so. Read the publisher's blurb is here.

2. "The Martian" by Andy Weir
I never would have read this one without the prodding of my book club, and I'm very grateful that they did. Knowing how much I was loving the book, my dear Mr. Tilney bought the movie but my response was unexpected: "No! We can't watch that yet! I haven't finished!" He patiently waited, and then read it himself. Who knew that being stranded on a distant planet could not make for drama, and excitement, but funny? Here's the synopsis.

3. "Phoebe and Her Unicorn" by Dana Simpson
Here's the unexpected surprise book that delighted the entire Bookaneer crew (and please remember, I'm the only girl in the lot!). "Now that I'm grown and can have what I please" I can unabashedly admit that I love unicorns. Usually though, books with these magical creatures are too insipid to be read cover to cover. This series (with four to date, and another on its way) turns that upside down.Simpson's magic is not to be missed.

4. "Sew U Home Stretch: The Built by Wendy Guide to Sewing Knit Fabrics" by Wendy Mullin
One of the great things the KonMari inspired is the frightening idea that I would like to sew my own clothes. Thanks to my sister Emily, a sewing goddess, I found this book. I thought it would aid me dip a terrified toe into those scary waters, instead it inspired a cannonball and I never want to leave the water. Sew (ha! I'm so "punny"!)much fun.

5. "The Book Whisperer" by Donalyn Miller
More adults need to read this book! At least it should be required reading for teachers, but we all would benefit from this. Donalyn Miller, teacher and book enthusiast extraordinaire is serious about encouraging her students to read. Once she explained why both novel studies and book reports stifle real reading I wanted to hug this woman. Her wisdom and insight is here for your perusal. 

6. "Adulthood is a Myth"by Sarah Andersen
A cartoonist that can make your period seem hilarious? Now that's talent! I'd been eagerly following her comics online for months, so when I learned that she was publishing a book, well! You can imagine my excitement.  I had to fight my nearest and dearest to actually get a turn to read it.

7. "Steelheart" by Brandon Sanderson
The one book that lead to others, plus many happy hours of book bliss! Desperate for some decent books for our epic summer road-trip, my sister Lucy recommended this. A whole new perspective on the superhero genre, for what happens when those with superpowers aren't here to save you? I read it obsessively and repeatedly on my trip. This book made me a big fan of a previously undiscovered author.

8. "Ollie's Odyssey" by William Joyce
William Joyce has long been a favourite author of mine, but this one was something very special. I'm a sucker for toys, but add that to a book that makes me both laugh and cry? Bliss. Ollie is a favourite toy who has to suddenly become the hero of his own story. Adventure, new friends and villains await.  I don't have this book on my bookshelf yet, but it's really only a matter of time. This is a terrific read, but if at all possible, read this one with a child sitting on your lap.

9. "Friends with Boys" by Faith Erin Hicks
Graphic novels are a real treat, but especially when they're written by this talented author. The sole girl in a family of boys (I can relate to that), starting high school can be terrifying for enough without everything else Maggie is grappling with. All the usual struggles of adolescence, in an original and brilliant story.
10. "Let's Play!" by Herve Tullet
You know a book is good when after you've read it aloud, your audience clamours "Again!" A colourful, interactive book that even my older Bookaneers enjoy, usually sitting down to listen when I read it to their younger brothers, or quite unabashedly  curling up to read it themselves. Storytime is more fun than ever.

Whew! This has been a long one. Happy reading to you all.


Monday, January 9, 2017

Manic Mondays

Contemplating my great to-do list (Monday's list always seems to be the most daunting, don't you think?) the one thing that made me smile and hop with excitement was the one right on the top; "Post in Blog". That made me skip out of bed, and face the daunting task of preparing three children for school, plus all of the aftermath from our two-week holiday from reality, with much better grace than normal. Home may be  a haven away for everyone else around here, but this is where I work. On vacations though, I figure that if the rest of the family gets a break, then I will take one too. As a result, certain jobs have been neglected of late, quietly piling up, awaiting my return.

This morning Mr. Tilney shovelled the walks, then hurried off to school. After cleaning out some juicy and smelly specimens from the bottoms of backpacks my school crew (Jared, Seth and Jack) headed off. With a cold winter day before us, just the two of us at home, Bruce seems set for hibernation. He's still in his pajamas, reading a book and singing to himself upstairs.

It would be all too easy to follow suit. I do have a tempting pile of books from the library... and over the past two weeks I've honed hibernation down to a fine art. But no, I need to be a good little Bookaneer- at least for a few hours- and get things done. There are several other things loudly clamouring for my attention. One such thing is the little matter of food: today's school lunches were creative to say the least, scrounged up from leftover Christmas cookies and whatever we currently have in the fridge.  Seeing as I don't not want to repeat this for dinner, we'd better bundle up and trundle off for groceries. First though, I have the great joy of writing here.

Do you like poetry? I'm not talking about that dreary stuff that was crammed down our throats (rather like salad)  in an effort to make us more well-rounded, cultured individuals at school. I'm talking about the stuff that makes you laugh, smile and even think for a moment. The words of Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky have always been a favourite of mine. I call it my "poetry pickle", for whenever I'm in a writing funk, upset, or just feeling mischievous I like to play with rhyme, stanzas and meter. It helps me not to take myself too seriously. Life provides ample inspiration for this, so I thought that each Monday I will post an original "pickle" that I've scribbled about stuff. Here's today's.

Back to Reality...
We got off to school
Quite smoothly today-
A quite big surprise
For me.
So with a great sigh
As I wipe my eye
I'll take down the Christmas

That's it for today folks! After all, there's grocery shopping, laundry, and all those other necessaries to do. Have any ideas for next week's poem? Share them in the comments below. Until tomorrow, keep out of trouble and happy reading.


Friday, January 6, 2017

Meet the Crew

"No man is an island" and no Bookaneer can sail alone. We all need someone to love, love us, care for, keep us grounded, encourage our mad ideas and share in what makes us smile. Even more especially in that last part. But having all that along with a willingness to read the books that you love, plus giving recommendations of their own? In my opinion, that's just the caramel on the apple.

Meet the crew, some of my very most favourite people in the world: my own little family. Well, not so little anymore given how tall they're all growing, plus the comments we inevitably get out and about. "Four boys?!" "Are they all yours?", or the most popular "Wow, you must be busy!" To which I always reply "Yup. I'm #blessed. Busy with the greatest adventure of all." I am (for now) the #1 woman in five wonderful men's lives. Man, if I had known that was where I was headed, I would've been less crushed during those teenage years where most of my actual dates were spent at home with the fictional characters in my cherished books and stories.

Given how often my beloved crew will be making appearances here, I thought it only proper to make introductions.  We have all opted to use pseudonyms, we say this is for privacy, but mostly because they were just so much darn fun to come up with! Besides, what's the point of writing a book blog if you can't pretend to be some of your favourite book characters? After mulling it over for weeks, trying to come up with suitable book pen names for my family, I finally asked for their opinions. It was one of those van conversations, me calling out to the backseats, and in less than two minutes they all had done it... much better than their mother had, too, I might add.

So, without further ado, everyone? Meet my family. Family? Say hello to everyone.

Okay, so we've already been getting acquainted, you and I. I am going by my actual given name, which happily I share with one of my favourite author's heroines! Admittedly though, the only ones who call me "Katherine" are my parents. They save it for special occasions (normally when they want me to grasp just how much trouble I'm in). I may not ever get the chance to travel to Bath with my wealthy neighbours like Katherine Norland but reading too many novels (is that really possible)? Letting my imagination get the better of me? Getting into ridiculous scrapes? Now that I can relate to! My favourite books? That list will appear in a forthcoming post.

Next, there's my best friend, my own happily ever after. My co-captain of our little crew.  He's the Mr. Henry Tilney to my Miss Norland, so that is what we will call him here. He's the string to my kite, the butter on my popcorn, the paper for my crayons. Happily, he is the best person for ensuring I don't spend too much time up in the clouds and that my toes at least skim the grass from time to time. Teacher, father, and partner in my schemes, his current favourite read is "Red Rising"by Pierce Brown.

Now meet Jared, my right hand man. He's the maverick, the ringleader of many antics that go on around here. The biggest brother we've got. Talented artist, Seeonee Cub Scout, aspiring Pokemon trainer. Plays a great Ebeneezer Scrooge, complete with solos! Right now he names the "Fablehaven" series by Brandon Mull as his top reading pick.

Next we have Seth. He's our still waters that run really deep. After happily staring at upside down books as a baby, he eventually learned not only the right way to hold them, but also how to read at a tender young age. Has more stuffed animals than his bed can hold. He also loves "Fablehaven", and recommended them to his big brother and momma.

Make room for Jack! This guy is either the darkest, ominous storm cloud you'll encounter or the brightest beam of sunshine around. Depends on his mood. Draws endlessly on anything with whatever he can get his hands on. Current life ambition is to be a mad scientist. Given that he's read his gift from his brothers five times this holiday, "Dog Man" by Dav Pilkey, I'd say that's become a new favourite.

Last, but certainly not least (especially in his own estimation) we have Bruce. One bundle of energy with impish tendencies, and the only preschooler I have left. Keeping up with three older brothers is a matter he takes very seriously. When he's not putting soap on the toothbrushes or getting into anything that doesn't belong to him, he still finds ways to melt our hearts. His goal in life is to be a ninja. "I Really Like Slop!" by Mo Willems is his book of choice.

Well, it is Friday, and that only means one thing around here: to the library! Time to assemble my rambunctious crew and pillage our local branch. We'll return with more reading fun on Monday. Until then, take care everyone and happy reading.