Cookin’ the Books

June 22, 2010

I believe some of the most beautiful and interesting books on the market are found in the Cooking section of the bookshop. I’m certainly not much of a chef but some of my most treasured books are my cookbooks. For sentimental reasons, my Blue Ribbon Cook Book for Everyday Use in Canadian Homes published in 1905 will always have prime real estate on my shelf. Mine is the sixteenth edition and has my Grandmother’s handwriting  throughout its splattered, stained and yes, even burnt pages. (Possibly from a cigarette instead of the stove …? Those were the times!) My mother-in-law has her own mother’s edition on her kitchen bookshelf. I wonder how many of you are hanging onto a copy too …

A cook book can be so much more than just recipes. Here are a few I’d love to share with you:

        The Summer Book by Susan Branch

A work of art! Literally … Hand-lettered, watercolour-painted, personal story-filled and yummy recipes on almost every page! All of her books are sweet but this is my favourite.  

      Apples for Jam by Tess Kiros

I have given this as a gift but have yet to treat myself to a copy. It is also a visual delight and weaves a wonderful story of family and the meals that sustain and comfort throughout one’s life.

      The Pioneer Woman Cooks – Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond

Good heavens this woman is a hoot!  I discovered her incredibly successful blog at  and was inspired by her humour and photography skills to seek out her book. She is zany, but in the most charming and talented way.  She photographs and chats her way through every step of each recipe – for instance step 15 of PW’s Potato Skins is: ” Then simply place them on a platter, walk toward your guests and discover what it feels like to be the most popular person in the room. Field marriage proposals as needed.”  Hearty comfort food is the theme (she is feeding cowboys after all!)

     The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher (50th Anniversary Edition)

Not actually a cook book per se, this is a collection of five of Fisher’s books of essays on cooking and life: Serve it Forth, Consider the Oyster, How to Cook a Wolf, The Gastronomical Me, and An Alphabet for Gourmets. I discovered Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher in a writing class (having passed away in ’92 she wasn’t in attendance – her writing was being reveredby the instructor) and was intrigued by her persona and the craft of her writing. Like Georgia O’Keefe and Coco Chanel, Fisher was a strong and charismatic woman with an abundance of talent and sharp wit.  Here is a little excerpt from a chapter called Pity the Blind in Palate: “Frederick the Great used to make his own coffee, with much to-do and fuss. For water, he used champagne. Then, to make the flavour stronger, he stirred in powdered mustard. Now to me it seems improbable that Frederick truly liked this brew. I suspect him of bravado. Or perhaps he was taste-blind.”


Feel free to comment on your favourite cooking titles too …

Bon appetit!

Remember that big fat Back to School issue of Seventeen magazine? … It may be the first connection many of us had with magazine reading.  I tend to read a collection of magazines on a monthly basis but always enjoy compiling a stack of special ones for summer days or travel.  Here are a few of my favourites …


Mental Floss

If you love trivia and good wit you’ll love this! A great Father’s Day gift too.

On the website they answer the question: What is mental floss magazine?

“For the record: mental_floss magazine is an intelligent read, but not too intelligent. We’re the sort of intelligent that you hang out with for a while, enjoy our company, laugh a little, smile a lot and then we part ways. Great times. And you only realize how much you learned from us after a little while. Like a couple days later when you’re impressing your friends with all these intriguing facts and things you picked up from us, and they ask you how you know so much, and you think back on that great afternoon you spent with us and you smile. And then you lie and say you read a lot. “  (Loving it already aren’t you?! )

La Vie Claire

Not always easy to find this one in our town but worth hunting for – absolutely scrumptious photography and inspiring articles about creative and entrepreneurial folk. They describe themselves at La Vie Claire as: Celebrating the art of living a creative life with passion, purpose, and inspiration. With beautiful photography of extraordinary places, La Vie Claire invites you to escape.

It’s a special treat to splurge on occasion and venture into the international section of the rack.  You may spend a bit more but I assure you that you’ll find exciting new ideas and images based on refreshingly different sensibilities: recipes, gardens, entrepreneurial ventures, fashion, essays, decor, travel, shops and yes, even reading recommendations.


Country Living, The English Garden

Country Living – UK edition has stunning photos as well that will make you feel like you’ve traveled through the English countryside yourself.  My garden may never strike even a faint resemblance to the gardens featured in The English Garden but a gal can dream!

Cote Maison

Leave the UK and head south to France and any of the Cote Maison series (Cote Sud or Cote Ouest/Est and Cote Paris) A little European vacation … you’ll be so inspired!


The summer season prompts many magazines to publish special editions. Business might not be your first pick at the beach but take a peek at Fast Company and its 100 Most Creative People in Business edition or Entrepreneur magazine’s 100 Brilliant Ideas issue.

You may pick up your magazines at the grocery store or pharmacy check-out but if you want a perfect rainy day adventure and you are in Vancouver head to Does Your Mother Know? magazine mecca in Kitsilano at  2139 West 4th Ave just west of Arbutus Street. You will not believe the variety!  Don’t be intimidated by the shop’s name – it’s a bit odd and has no doubt intimidated a few meek souls fearing the worst.  The neighbouring shop is Readerwear which sells nothing but reading glasses so if your eyes are dim and you cannot see you won’t be adrift in the magazine shop.


June 2, 2010

The weather isn’t inspiring but flipping the calendar page has been …  it’s time to think of summer reading! 

Many of us have rituals around packing and selecting books for extended stays away, sometimes to destinations remote. Have you begun your planning? I have a list on the go and will be sharing it with you here soon. Before I do, I thought I’d offer to collect some of your summertime reading suggestions and then put them together with mine in a “shopping list” of sorts for Bedside Table Books followers. To make it easy, here are two headings to get you started:   (E-mail your responses to and I’ll tally the titles and post here for all to see)

a)      Summer favourites I recommend:

b)      My top choices to read in Summer 2010:

The sooner you reply, the sooner I’ll get the list out … looking forward to your input!

Quoting Shakespeare

May 6, 2010

 A favourite souvenir from my visit to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London was a poster of the following quote:

IF YOU CANNOT UNDERSTAND MY ARGUMENT AND DECLARE: it’s Greek to me, you are quoting Shakespeare. If you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare. If you act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare. If you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tieda tower of strengthhoodwinked or been in a pickle, if you have knitted your browsmade a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play – slept not one wink – stood on ceremony – danced attendance on your lord and master – laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift – cold comfort, or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days, or lived in a fool’s paradise, why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone conclusion that you are as good luck would have it, quoting Shakespeare. If you think it is high time, and that that is the long and the short of it, if you believe that the game is up, and that the truth will out, even if involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low  – till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge at one fell swoopwithout rhyme or reason, then to give the devil his due if the truth were known for surely you have a tongue in your head, you are quoting Shakespeare. Even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a doornail, if you think I am an eyesore – a laughing stock – the devil incarnate – a stony-hearted villain – bloody-minded, or a blinking idiot, then by Jove ! O Lord! Tut, tut! For goodness’ sake! What the dickens! But me no buts!it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare.  – Bernard Levin

 The poster is still rolled up in a tube in a closet so glad I could share it in some form here!

So I’m back from Camp Erma much inspired and having learned a great deal – therefore  it was a success in my books. (punny, huh?)  I attended sessions ranging in topics from Paths to Publication to The Three H’s: Humour, Heartbreak, and Honesty. The speakers were exceptional and it was wonderful meeting them in person and jotting down the titles of their works in order to read more by them.  I’m a bit concerned that the list may take  more than a year to read through and is likely to distract me from their universally emphatic message which was if you are a writer then you’d best sit your beloved bottom in the chair and just write!

Here is a selection of the faculty’s work:

Craig Wilson–  (writes The Final Word column in USA Today) It’s The Little Things: An Appreciation of Life’s Simple Pleasures

Katrina KittleTraveling Light, Two Truths and a Lie, The Kindness of Strangers and coming soon, The Blessings of the Animals (will feature more on Katrina and her books in future posts)

Wade RouseAmerica’s Boy, Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler, and At Least in the City Someone Would Hear me Scream (just plain wonderful ability to blend funny with poignant)

Gail Collins – (columnist with The New York Times) When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 ot the Present Wonderful sense of humour as she discusses quite serious topics.

Steve Dooce –  (Fox News morning news show host) Tales from the Dad Side

Christian Lander –  Stuff White People Like  ( a fellow Canadian and a great surprise – look forward to more from him) Book developed from his blog.

W. Bruce Cameron8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter and being released shortly, A Dog’s Purpose

Loretta LaRocheLife is Short, Wear Your Party Pants  (this is a favourite I’ve already shared with several friends)

Erma’s three children were in attendance with their families and spoke informally and formally, lending an interesting perspective to her life and success.  University of Dayton adores its most famous alum and besides creating a lovely monument to her, have named a street in her honour.  My fellow attendees have provided me with entertaining writing prompts for years to come!

Does this look familiar to any of you? Any pangs of nostalgia? This treasure, “Spring is a New Beginning” was written and illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund and is one of more than 75 books she has written beginning in 1958 with “A Friend is Someone Who Likes You”.  Other favourites include “What Color is Love?” and “Love Is A Special Way of Feeling”. She is also known for her series featuring “The Brave Cowboy”. The phrases in each of these are simple, charming and focused on important messages like  “A friend is someone who likes you. It can be a boy … it can be a girl … or a cat … or a dog … or even a white mouse. A tree can be a different kind of friend. It doesn’t talk to you, but you know it likes you, because it gives you apples … or pears …. or cherries … or, sometimes, a place to swing.”  (from  A Friend is Someone Who Likes You)     


Joan Walsh Anglund has a devoted following (more than 40,000,000 of her books have been sold!)  Learn more about her and about the story behind her stories by clicking here.


 What are some of your first book memories?


A Letter in the Mail

March 15, 2010


A recent release called Yours Ever – People and Their Letters by Thomas Mellon has captured significant attention in book shops. It seems the techno communicators of today are feeling nostalgic for the art of handwritten correspondence. This collection “reminds us all of the power and importance of the humble letter.” (Bookmarks)  There have been a few “Epistolary” styled books in recent years that have achieved great success – all of them are charming but the last title in the list is my all-time favourite!


  Yours Ever – People and Their Letters by Thomas Mellon






 Griffin & Sabine – An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock






      The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows




        The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright






PS I Love You by Cecilia Ahern



The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters by Janet and Allan Ahlberg        

 Read an interesting interview with Allan Ahlberg.

With apologies to those orderly folk who are expecting A for Anna to be followed by B for  Bookmark or something … I’m no Sue Grafton!

Instead, today, in honour of Valentine’s Day, let’s talk Romance!  

Did you know:  Romance novels and love stories hold the largest share of the consumer market and it is estimated that the genre generated more than $1.36 billion dollars in sales in 2009. Apparently sales of romance books increased significantly as economies went into recession – sweet escapism from one’s troubles perhaps?

My favourite Romance titles are the following:

 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

 Once I get past the image of Carol Burnett wearing a curtain rod … Made my Book Club haul this tome on their various Spring Break travels last year!

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

Adored the book and have vivid memories of the mini-series starring Richard Chamberlain. Considering re-reading it now but afraid it won’t be as good the second time around.

 Love Story by Erich Segal

Have read this many times and sob harder every time. Will likely cry harder as Erich Segal has recently passed away.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

An old classic that is probably one of my favourite  reads in general – despite the fact that we picked it apart paragraph by paragraph for what felt like months in high school. Maybe it’s because of that! 

Hmmm – they’ve all been around for a while. I’m sure there are new love-ly classics … Nicholas Sparks anyone? Funny too that this list could also be titled My favourite Tearjerkers!

Your turn – post your favourite titles that make you weak in the knees with a pitter-patter heart. Or as in my case, make you blotchy and runny-nosed …

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