Wednesday, February 25, 2015

February tea and a book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

When I met with my editor earlier this month, she enthusiastically recommended this book by Marie Kondo (and was nice enough to send me a copy). As a lifelong clutter bug, I was intrigued by Kondo's technique of organizing your possessions by reducing to those that "spark joy."

The method is rather drastic, but just reading about her process felt like a gentle sweep of my mental cobwebs. I don't need so much stuff. I can let the joyless things go. I am NOT genetically fated to be a packrat! (In my family, hoarding was known as "Granny Green-ing," after my great grandmother Clemie Green.)

Kondo's thinking might seem a little "woo woo" to some. She strongly believes that inanimate objects want to be cared for, to be useful, and that they'd rather be donated than remain unwanted in your closet or on your shelves. Kondo has a very spiritual approach to tidying, a particularly Japanese approach, and I (being a wee bit "woo woo" myself) found it very appealing:

To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. To get rid of what you no longer need is neither wasteful nor shameful. Can you truthfully say that you treasure something buried so deeply in a closet or drawer that you have forgotten its existence? If things had feelings, they would certainly not be happy. Free them from the prison to which you have relegated them. [...] Let them go, with gratitude. Not only you, but your things as well, will feel clear and refreshed when you are done tidying. (61)

Kondo insists that we tidy by category rather than room. She recommends starting with clothing, and then moving on to books, papers, miscellany, and finally, sentimental objects. However, since my books seemed more out of control than my clothing, I decided to start there. I thought it would take me half a day, but it actually took about three days because I did follow her process of taking everything off the shelf and touching each item. I confess to keeping a few "joyless" volumes for reference, but it was interesting to track my emotions as I touched each book. Not only did some of them not spark joy -- they actually sparked disgust. INTO THE DISCARD PILE! What a great feeling.

And soon I look forward to tidying up my closet and chest of drawers. According to Marie Kondo, we shouldn't hang so many of our clothes. Folding is better for most items, and she recommends storing items vertically. I vaguely understood what she meant when reading, but this video helps clarify the folding part:

And this is what a drawer with "vertically stored" clothes would look like:

Her method for socks intimidates me. Still, I'm eager to take the next step in this tidying process!

And now for tea . . .

I was terribly excited to use my Japanese teapot -- a gift from my (ex)stepmother, Rosemary -- for this "tea and a book" post. Prior to this I hadn't used it very much because I usually drink black tea. Also, my limited experience with Japanese tea had left me convinced that it all tasted like sour grass clippings. I know now that I was steeping the leaves too long in water that was too hot. I steeped Adagio's kukicha for two minutes in 175 degree water, and the result was delicately grassy/nutty with a sweet finish. I purchased the sesame almond tea cookies from Radiance Tea House when I was in NYC. If you'd like to make your own, here's a recipe from Just One Cookbook. These Almondina biscuits look rather nice, too!

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Movie Monday (a day late): Crimson Peak

My friend Kim Harrington brought something very interesting to my attention: a Victorian haunted house movie directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska!

Check out the trailer:

(Obviously the film stars many famous/amazing people in addition to Hiddleston and Wasikowska, but LOKI and JANE EYRE in a ghost movie??? Seriously, what could be better?)

The trailer certainly is gorgeous and creepy. It also seems a bit "over-the-top" in some places. I loved Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone, but I think del Toro can get carried away sometimes (e.g. Pacific Rim).

In many ways the trailer reminds me of those old Ken Russell movies like Gothic or Lair of the White Worm. It also brings Gormenghast to mind. These associations leave me feeling a little nostalgic and a lot apprehensive. I just don't want the style of the film to overwhelm the story and characterization.

Steve has already told me he won't see it, and I know it's a bit too dark and sexy for certain friends. So looks like I'll be cowering in a theater all by lonesome in mid October! Will YOU be seeing it?

P.S. Supernatural fans will be pleased to learn that Jim Beaver is part of the cast!

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Favorites: L.M. Montgomery

It's news to no one that I'm a huge fan of L.M. Montgomery. But it was news to me to discover a Montgomery book I'd never read before!*

Recently, after giving up on another book (something I hate to do, but it was necessary for my sanity), I turned to my TBR shelf for inspiration. And there I found the lovely new edition of Jane of Lantern Hill I'd purchased at Reading Rock Books in Dickson, TN, when visiting my friend, Michelle.

So pretty and retro, right?**

I started reading, certain I'd remember the plot of the book. After all, I had the mass market paperback on my shelf upstairs--which meant I'd read it before, right? Wrong. The story seemed entirely new to me. I suppose I might have read the first couple of chapters long ago, but for whatever reason I never continued with it.

This reading was an absolute pleasure. No way was I putting the book down! The trials and joys of quirky, lovable, and feisty Jane gripped me until the very end.

[Eeek, there's a movie version! It looks so wrong.]

I put Jane down with a happy sigh, but I wasn't quite ready to leave Maud. I started Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings, which is impressing upon me that LMM was very clever and ambitious. (I think if I could have met her in person, I would have been very intimidated. She, on the other hand, would likely have been bored.) Maud's brilliance, productivity, and constant pushing of the boundaries for "proper" womanhood and wifehood (why didn't I know her husband was a minister?) are so fascinating to me, especially in the light of her continual struggles with depression. Such a fascinating lady.

In addition to the biography I also ordered the Annotated Anne of Green Gables to study and enjoy before . . . wait for it . . .my birthday trip to Prince Edward Island in May. Hooray!

Do you have a favorite L.M. Montgomery novel? Favorite heroine? Have you read other books that remind you of Montgomery's style? Do share!

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]


*Full disclosure: I haven't read all the Anne books. For some reason I lost interest once Anne married and had a family. I should go back and try again, right?
**This cover might be even nicer. Virago has such fabulous cover art!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Friday Favorites: solo in the city

This past week I traveled to NYC with Steve. While he attended a conference, I did a little exploring on my own.

After a breakfast meeting with my editor, I explored Central Park. So pretty! And so cold.

I loved the views looking out of the park, too.

I visited the Museum of Modern Art for the first time. It was a stressful experience due to construction and the general craziness of tourists and school groups, but this Chagall calmed me down. The best part was seeing the special exhibit of Matisse Cut-Outs.

After fighting the MoMA crowds, I returned to an old favorite, the Morgan Library, to have a little afternoon tea all to myself. Delicious!

[Cross-posted to Livejournal]