Tuesday, September 30, 2014

(Last minute) September tea and a book: A Fine Romance

If you're an Anglophile and/or a lover of travel, books, good food, and good friends, you might want to take a peek at Susan Branch's A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside. Prior to this, Branch was the author/illustrator of keepsake books like Christmas from the Heart of the Home and Girlfirends Forever, so be forewarned -- if you have a low tolerance for whimsy and sentiment, you might find her latest endeavor a bit twee.

A Fine Romance is a scrapbook of Branch's two month holiday through the English countryside. (A trip bookended by transatlantic voyages on the Queen Mary 2 -- Eeee!) As the official blurb says, the book is "part love story, part travel guide," and its pages are chock-full of photographs, illustrations, musings and recipes. I found the book quite charming, and I especially appreciated Branch's emotional visit to the home of Beatrix Potter. If you dream of visiting your favorite authors' homes and walking in their footsteps, you might shed a few tears when Susan finally gets to explore Hill Top Farm. (It made me long to see Miss Potter again!)

Branch includes many delectable recipes in the book, including sweets like Hot Milk Cake, Lemon Butter Cookies, and Sticky Toffee Pudding, but a revision deadline and sprained foot kept me from attempting any of them. So this month's offering is tea only: Tea Palace's Smooth Caramel.

See you again in October, hopefully with a wonderfully CREEPY book for Halloween!

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Journal Lust

I have a problem.

Here's the scenario: over the summer, during one of my many visits to Blackwell's in Oxford, I somehow failed to avert my gaze when walking past the journals. Instead of getting the heck out of there, I headed straight for the rotating display and proceeded to handle those lovely bindings. (I almost said "manhandle" but ladies like to grope things, too, don't they? It's just . . . we tend to grope purses and books and teapots. Or maybe that's just me.)

One of those journals was so gorgeous I just couldn't resist. Even though I already have a closet full of journals too impractical to be of any use--pretty little books that don't open flat, are too small for my gorilla hands, are narrow-ruled or have no ruling at all. But they were all so pretty I just couldn't help handling them, which inevitably led to acquiring them.

That day at Blackwell's I told myself "Sonia, you CANNOT buy another journal until you fill all those orphaned journals in your closet with thoughtful thoughts. DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT."

Yeah right. I bought the journal. Isn't it gorgeous?

It's a Paperblanks Grolier Ornamental, if you're interested in one for yourself.

Part of the deal for me is I'm enamoured with fictional depictions of journals and journal writers. Like László Almásy (Ralph Fiennes) in The English Patient, when he uses blank pages of his battered copy of Herodotus for writing poetry and painting pictures. Or Roland in Possession, who writes poetry in his journal, too, but also uses it to hide the stolen draft of Randolph Henry Ashe's letter to Christabel LaMotte (or is that just in the film?). And of course, there's I Capture the Castle, but I already exulted over Cassandra Mortmain and journal writing in this blog post.

I shouldn't forget the film adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest, which was memorable to me only because of Cecily's amazing leather-bound journal that looks almost like an illuminated manuscript (it appears around 1:38):

Yes, there's all sorts of romantic schmoopery going on in that clip, but you know what I was thinking? "Let's see more of that JOURNAL!"

In the end, I did make good use of the Grolier Ornamental from Blackwell's. It has become my research journal for a new story. Who says a research journal has to look serious and researchy? Can't it be pretty? I've jazzed it up by coding the ink color and putting sticky notes all over the place. I'll probably paste photos and stuff in there, too. It actually inpsires me just to look at the thing, so I count this as a WIN for journal lust!

I know there must be others out there who share this depraved and insatiable appetite for journals. What attracts you to a particular journal? And how do you use that crazy sexy thing? (You know, that thing you bought with a stack of crumpled singles because you didn't want your husband to see the charge on the credit card bill?) Do you have favorite fictional/cinematic depictions of journals? Please share!

P.S. If you like the look of that stack of journals in the photo at the top, go here for more info!

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]