July 27, 2012

Virginia's Sister

Virginia Woolf's older sister, Vanessa Bell, was a talented artist and among Bloomsbury Group's founders. Bloomsbury group draws one like a bohemian Camelot, it still feels oh-so-very modern more than a century later.  What it must have been like to be in the room with these artistic intellectuals, a product of their time?

This portrait by Vanessa Bell (currently at Tate) is stare-worthy. The colors and the rendering of the face are lovely and somehow cozy, like tweed and wool.

Helen Dudley by Vanessa Bell (1915ish) - currently at the Tate

July 19, 2012

Summer Reading List

It is already mid-July and I am yet to post about summer reads! A perfect summer read is a tricky balance, nothing so raw that it haunts you for days. And nothing so frivolous that you feel slightly more stupid for having read it. Here is what's on my list this summer, a few tried and true authors from across the pond and a couple new ones.

Remember Gosford Park? Like Downton Abbey? Then give Julian Fellowes' novels a try. His novel Snobs is chock full of traditional snobbery but set in modern time. His second book, Past Imperfect, is patiently waiting on my nighttable for attention.

Julian Fellowes Past Imperfect

Alan Bennett is a master of taking a perfectly absurd situation and treating it as if it is quite normal. I enjoyed  The Clothes They Stood Up In (a middle aged affluent couple finds their stuffy home robbed down to the toilet paper roll) and loved Uncommon Reader (Her Royal Majesty takes up common hobby of reading). Best of all, his books are diminutive in size without giving up any depth. I am very much looking forward to stories in The Laying On of Hands.

Alan Bennett The Laying On of Hands

I will read just about anything Jasper Fforde writes because it is a mad jumble of genres sprinkled with wordplay which all, somehow, work. If summer is long enough I will be reading either his Shades of Gray (NOT to be confused with the smutty one, this is about strange future society where social standing is determined by ability to perceive colors)...

Jasper Fforde Shades of Gray

or Fforde's Dragonslayer series about modern day society where over-regulated magic falls on hard times.

Jasper Fforde The Last Dragonslayer

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand was suggested and kindly loaned to me by a friend and I am nearly finished. The book is touching, it is about finding friends late in life when one who isn't foolish judges people for their essence. The author has succeeded in teaching this lesson as with every chapter one grows attached to characters often in spite of oneself.

Helen Simonson Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

I am not particularly proud of this one. But there is only so many times a girl can re-read P&P. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is not going to win prizes for the quality of writing but it feeds the fleeting fantasy of falling through the Regency rabbit hole. Enjoy this one by the pool with a spritzy drink.

Laurie Viera Rigler Confessions of a Jane Austen Fan

If you are headed to New England this summer, grab a copy of Olive Kitteridge on your way. The book of short stories set in a small Maine town are connected by a thread of Olive Kitteridge, at times abrasive but very human. Unlike frothy Jane Austen Addict, this is a more melancholy read suitable for the coast of Maine if not Miami Beach.

Elizabeth Strout Olive Kitteridge

What are you reading this summer?

July 10, 2012

July: Subversive Picks From Placid Suburbs

Call them irreverent or maybe slightly naughty. Here are some things that have been on my mind as of late.

First this jar from Jonathan Adler. Trust me, that's not the cheekiest pick in this pottery collection. And if I need to explain to you what dolls are, than you need to look for "Valley of the Dolls."
Jonathan Adler Dolls Canister
I am thinking for bobby pins on the dresser -- or paper clips at the office.

No offense to fans, but I will not be reading Fifty Shades of Gray. Ever. But if you are looking for a subversive read this summer, Arthur Schnitzler is your guy. Schnitzler is closely linked with Freud and his books were torched in 1930s. Naturally he wrote in German. His writing is just as shocking today as it was nearly a century later. Remember Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut? Yes, that one is based on Schnitzler too.
Arthur Schnitzler Hands Around
Hands Around (Reigen) A slim volume is a series of ten dialogues, making a full circle.

I am a big fan of Mrs. Lilian's unapologetically decadent blog - and her bright cheery designs. Her recently released Cocktail Swatchbook quickly landed on my Amazon wish list because it is ever so cool and easy to follow even after your second cocktail. Don't be surprised to find one in your stocking this season, my boozy friends.
Mojitos and Juleps and Cosmos, oh my.
You might also like May's bookish selections and June's summer favorites.

July 8, 2012

Learned Tot: Think Inside the Box

Apparently much like summer reading, summer learning is all the rage. To keep our own tots on their toes we stocked up on workbooks and educational toys reside in the living room for easy access.This year we are also trying something different. Each evening we assemble "the boxes." Each sturdy box (we had a few Brooks Brothers boxes laying around waiting for a purpose) is an activity with a slip explaining the task and all the necessary provisions. Each box has a theme and the contents of the box are usually a surprise. Here are some that proved popular with the Klatch youngsters:

This strange mammal is aardvark (a mammal). 

Special Assignment: Animals (Parent Involvement: MEDIUM to HIGH)
Supplies: sheets of animals stickers (pulled from a sticker book) and firm paper and labeled "mammals," "reptiles," "amphibians," "birds," "fish," and "insects." Tot's job is to organize animal stickers putting them where they belong. If you have not discussed animal classes before, including a book would be helpful (or National Geographic has a great online resource about different animal types).

Skills: in addition to learning about biology, this box is an opportunity to teach new vocabulary, logic (sorting animals where they belong) and critical thinking (like debating where the lobster belongs).

Beading a pattern was a favorite at our house - and it was the simplest to put together!
Special Assignment: Bead a Pattern (Parent Involvement: LOW)
Supplies: shoelaces and plastic pony beads; Tot's assignment is to make patterns lacing beads on the shoelaces. You can either provide a list of simple patterns (ie green-pink-green-pink) or let them create their own.

Skills: fine motor skills and math reasoning.

You could also include modeling clay to make terracotta warriors.

Special Assignment: China (Parent Involvement: MEDIUM-HIGH)
Supplies: With boxes spotlighting a country the variety is really endless. Here are a few ideas from Michael's (yes, the one that sells every imaginable craft supply). In addition to the craft (a coloring page of Chinese flag), this box included a book about the Terracotta Army and assignment to build the Great Wall of China using wooden blocks.

Skills: Geography, History, Art - check out Geography post for more ideas

Here are some additional ready-made kits to consider:

  • Kiwi Crates are available as subscriptions - way cool packaging thought looking at the sample crates these kits veer more towards crafts than our own tots like.
  • Highlights Top Secret Adventures - these are packets of "whodunit" variety set around the world. The clues lead to answers. The kits are for 7+ kids so while younger set will enjoy the journey, be prepared for more hands-on involvement.
  • Little Passports - I am a fan of this around the world adventure subscription concept.


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