Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Little Piece of Heaven in My House

Behind the door...

Our new bathroom!

It's (nearly) done!  Well, there is still the radiant heating in the floor that has to be finished (thermostat didn't work, so we need a new one--that's the hole in the wall).  I also need to hang pictures.  But we've got a BRAND NEW TUB that is deep enough for a real bath, beautiful tile (who knew I could fall in love with tile?) on the shower surround and the floor. Lovely, bright coloring makes the room feel so much bigger.  And look at that light switch plate!  THREE different lights operated separately (in a room that's about 9 x 6), plus a fan that is relatively quiet!  And one of the really great parts: knowing that everything done behind those pretty walls was done properly.  We are just so pleased.

So of course, I celebrated by taking a bath.  I didn't even end up getting around to the book I had on hand.

It may not be my cozy cottage in Maine that I let go in October, but this bathroom has everything I need to pamper myself, and the only tub that can appease me for losing access to the claw foot tub in Maine.  

When we gave up the house in Maine, we did so needing to focus on and live in one place for a while.  This meant living more fully in this location--using our local farmers' market and health food store, using the library, etc.  It also meant making this house more of what we want.  The bathroom was a huge part of that for me, along with the major purging and organizing/painting that we undertook last summer and will complete this year.  

How do you make happy where you are?

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Reading Life

In the preface to his book Que Vivan los Tamales: Food and the Making of Mexican Identity (New Mexico, 1998), Jeffrey Pilcher quotes French gastronome Jean Athelm Brillat-Savarin as saying "Tell me what you eat, and I'll tell you who you are."

I might tweak it: tell me what you read and I'll tell you who you are.  The books on our bookshelves reflect us--our interests, values, views, dreams, desires, commitments--as surely as the food on our plates.  

With this in mind, I present some of the books on my bookshelves today.

There is the stack of new books waiting to be read.  (Note the jar with beach glass and sea-softened bits of pottery and china--all collected over the course of my childhood.)  Love having books in waiting!

 There are books that influenced me growing up--Jane Eyre was one of my high-school "go to" novels.  One Hundred Years of Solitude is my choice for best novel of the 20th century (challenged only, perhaps, by Midnight's Children).  In a Different Voice came to my life as I opened to feminism. One lonely Christmas eve in Quito, 20 years ago, A Christmas Carol lifted my spirits.  Oh, and see that Life's Little Destruction Book?  A gift from Howard early in our relationship. What does it say that he stayed with the woman he gave that to, and not the one who had given him Life's Little Instruction Book?

There are the books that help to shape my spirit and give me strength during this period of middle age.  Life Prayers, in particular, provided a poem Howard and I used in our wedding, and also a poem I read with my father's eulogy (today would have been Dad's 94th b-day).

I am mostly a prose gal, but I've fallen in love with some of the children's poetry that I've read with my kids.  My absolute favorite is Moon, Have You Met My Mother?

In the kitchen: well-used cookbooks and collections of recipes. You'd think I was a vegetarian to read most of these.  I'm not, though I only eat meat or fish a couple of times a week.

These are the books in play (along with other readings) in classes this semester:

My office is full of books that have influenced me intellectually, like these on Peruvian history (indigenous and/or gender):

 Or these more general books on Latin American gender history:

 And some works on gender in Mexico (Peasant and Nation changed many an academic life):

Some of the most influential gender books outside of Latin America--most especially Joan Scott's Gender and the Politics of History, but also work by my beloved mentor, Mrinalini Sinha (Specters of Mother India):

And then there is work to be done, such as reading and analyzing books on indigenismo in Ecuador:

And perusing through these early twentieth-century scholarly journals that were one of my very best used-bookstore finds in Quito:

And these primary source books by Ecuadorian women:

Finally, of course, there is that Che Guevara essay I have to revise:

This does not capture it all, of course.  Nothing from my 4 cases full of books at my campus office.  None of the many knitting patterns that are waiting for me to organize them into notebooks.  Nor the library and other books scattered about on tables here and there. But it gives a glimpse of a life built around reading and learning, I suppose.  A house full of books--for learning, for analysis, for creativity, for pleasure...for the pure joy of reading.

What's on your book shelves?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Calm Before the Storm

I am taking the Hibernate workshop right now, and one of the possible activities was to do an "at-home retreat" for a day.  With the semester looming (classes start Wednesday) and a long weekend with the kids, I decided to take the plunge and do it yesterday.  The central idea: a screen-free day of quiet, creation, and connection.

The children were less than enthused at the prospect of giving up screens for an entire 24 hour period, to be sure.  But they managed quite well in the end, and we had a fabulously hilarious game of "Life" and several rounds of Mad-libs that made us chuckle.

For me, the day brought much-needed quiet into my life. I went to a yoga class and took a walk, but mostly I hung out in the house reading or knitting by the fire (when not engaged in some small family activity).  Funny, it was the first time over break that I got to read about 1/3 of a novel in one day. Break has been much, much busier than anticipated!  

This week life resumes its usual hectic pace.  But I am thinking that our family could do with a "screen-free retreat day" once a month--and you know, those long weekends come just about that often.  We might just pull this off.

What does/would your home retreat look like?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Looking on the Bright(er) Side

It was a day full of dull work and minor hassles.  But right now I choose to focus on the bright side--we got our new tub installed today and are one step closer to that new bathroom. Anya and I are most excited to have a deep tub in this house.

If only I could soak in it tonight...

What's the bright side of your day today?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

24 Hours

The past 24 hours have included:
  • A simple dinner with wonderful friends who have been in my life for 20 years
  • Candle light and rain
  • Dr. Who
  • Wild kids in my house
  • Not enough sleep
  • Yoga class on Sunday morning
  • Grocery shopping
  • A walk on a lovely, mild January afternoon
  • Way too many maple-coated walnuts
  • A new experiment--peppermint lip balm (from this recipe)
  • 2 cups of coffee and many, many cups of tea in various flavors
  • Anticipation for a renewed space in my house
There were low points also, of course.  But overall?  Not a bad way to spend time this weekend.

What has your past 24 hours been like?

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Day After

I was supposed to work on page proofs all day, then take a plane to D.C. for a conference.  A storm came yesterday, and I pushed back my flight 'til tonight.  That got cancelled, too.  I took it (along with a bad back) as a sign to stay home.  And home I am.

Somehow, the page proofs didn't get done today.  Although this means more pressure to do them (they are due by Tuesday), it was a rather nice winter day.  Fire lit.  Girl out to play for a short while (I think she looks like she's flying in that third picture).  Cat watching girl, later cozied up on the radiator cover.  Books read. Applesauce made.  Hat started.  

Tomorrow, I swear, page proofs.  

What do you do when there's snow?