1776 Pocket Journal

This weekend I took an interesting and fun, two day workshop with Marlene Pomeroy at her studio in Kitchener. The workshop was based on a historical book structure she discovered in the rare book collection at the Riverbrink Museum in Queenston. The 1776 structure has folded “guards” that the signatures and pull out maps are attached to. These folded guards create extra space needed by the thick, fold out maps. After seeing Marlene’s prototype it was easy to see how this structure could be adapted to all kinds of other uses – travel journals, garden plans, family trees…

Our first day started with Marlene giving us some background on how she came across this structure and how she went on to examine it’s unique construction to be able to recreate it. Our first task was to fold the guards and pull outs, then assemble the text block, punch and sew it onto cords. Once the sewing was done we lined the spine with kozo paper and applied head bands. Day 2 started with prepping the board covers by sanding, applying leather corners and then attaching the boards to the text block using the cord. Next was gluing the leather spine, creating infills and applying the decorative cover papers. With the end papers glued down and the pull outs tipped in the book is complete. Marlene did a really wonderful job of prepping our material and guiding us through the process.


Historian Ruth Goodman

Several Christmas’ ago I received a coveted boxed set of Upstairs Downstairs DVD’s. While watching my 69 hours and 4 minutes of this classic British drama my small interest in domestic history grew. I started reading about it, came across The Victorian Garden, an excellent series that revives a derelict kitchen and kitchen garden of a large country estate and discovered Ruth Goodman. Ruth is a social and domestic historian which sounds drab but the way she brings history to life has made me a big fan via her shows aired on TV Ontario. She’s definitely not sentimental about the past but gets involved in the nitty gritty bits of history that are often left out. Bits like how did our ancestors keep clean or warm, how did they preserve food or deal with sickness. Basically how did the average Joe and Jane survive day to day. The programs follow the format of Ruth and two archaeologists taking up residence in a period property (usually a farm) for a year and showing the processes, indoors and out of what was done to exist. Here are some episode links:

Victorian Pharmacy
Edwardian Farm
Victorian Farm
A Tudor Feast at Christmas
Tales From the Green Valley

Lately I’ve noticed quite a few other programs popping up that deal with the same subject: The Country House Revealed, At Home with the Georgians, If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home. Maybe getting back to some basics is on other people’s minds too.


I’m not sure why but every once and awhile I get the urge to make Madeleines. Maybe it’s because on a whim years ago I bought a Madeleine pan and now feel obliged to use it. Maybe it’s their simple elegance, distinctive shell shape and comforting buttery flavour. The ingredients are very basic – eggs, flour, sugar and butter. Sometimes flavoured with lemon zest, honey, rosewater or nuts. They should be light, moist and come out of the oven slightly golden and crispy around the edges with a hump on their backs.

I’ve made Julia’s straight forward version (very nice), tried out a some what clinical recipe from Cook’s Illustrated (also very nice), and eaten the ones from Starbuck’s (like eating a sponge but not of the cake variety). My latest version is Anne Willan’s recipe from her oh so beautiful book The Country Cooking of France. The batter had to chill for 2 hours (ideally 8) and came out of the fridge really stiff, almost like a dough, I was a bit dubious but they baked up nicely. I didn’t bother with Anne’s finicky instructions to butter the pan twice and was paid back with Madeleines that stuck to the pan and are browner than I like. After some serious tasting I think I have to stand by Julia’s recipe.

I’ve tried several times to read Remebrance of Things Past where Proust elevates the simple Madeleine to a literary legend but it sits on my shelf with a book mark firmly stuck at page 20. Sorry Marcel I just don’t get it, but please pass the Madeleines.


This is such a great phenomenon and appeals to so many of my quirks that it’s like a match made in heaven. Very simply put this is a website that allows you to create an online catalogue of your books. So what’s the big deal? The big deal is, is that once you’ve created your catalogue LibraryThing allows you to organize your collection any way you like. It also generates statistics, makes recommendations for further reading, connects you with like minded readers and groups as well as book reviews, author chats, the list goes on…

Recommended to me by a library studies student it’s been on my back burner for a few years until a quiet day found me looking for something to do. The simple process of entering my books was highly addictive and I tried to limit myself to a shelf a day which didn’t happen. Once you add 200 books you either have to stop, buy a yearly membership or become a life time member. Of course I signed on as a lifer, how could I not? Now I have a one spot where I can keep track of books I’ve read, own, would like to read next as well as find out what other people are thinking and enjoying.

Check out my library by clicking on the LibraryThing logo in the side bar.
(they have downloadable book marks too!)

River Cottage

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a food writer and presenter who I’ve come across as a contributor on the Guardian website. He has long been a campaigner for real food and is known for his commitment to seasonally, ethically produced edibles. He’s also known as a notorious carnivore which is what made me stop and order up his latest “River Cottage Veg Everyday!” out of pure curiousity. In his introduction he explains that he’s not trying to convert us all to vegetarianism but to encourage us to eat more veg and less meat, better for us and better for the planet. The book itself is beautifully illustrated with the recipes organized into categories such as Comfort food & feasts, Bready things or Mezze & tapas. I’ve made about seven recipes to date and they all were tasty, easy to make and didn’t require a lot of special ingredients. The stand outs so far were the kale and mushroom lasagne (pictured below), vegetable biryani and mushroom risoniotto.

For a few years I’ve contemplated going vegetarian but knew that life without sausages, roasts or bacon wouldn’t happen for me. What I can do is try eating meat just once or twice a week and with this new batch of recipes I’ll have lots of options to add to the mix. I’d also like to make an effort to buy only organic and ethically produced meats. This will definately be a more expensive option but by eating less meat there should be more in the grocery kitty to cover that extra cost.

Woven and Stitched Spine Workshop

For the last two Saturdays I’ve been attending a workshop put on by the CBBAG – Southwestern Chapter in London, ON. Our instructor, Jan Taylor started us off with a buttonhole book structure (purple cover). This fun book doesn’t require any gluing and when finished the pages lie completely flat. We used a waxed linen thread for the buttonhole stitching that appears on the outside of the spine and it really helped to hold the stitches in place. This exposed stitching could be decorated with beads, buttons or even provide a frame work for some weaving – endless possibilities. The next book (green cover) was a Hedi Kyle structure using Tyvek tapes and St. Armand papers. To add some colour we experimented with Inktense Watercolor Pencils on the Tyvek tapes which created quite a nice, almost parchment looking effect. Next we sewed the tapes into a text block made up of nine signatures. I changed up the cover and trimmed it to include a tab that slipped under the decorative spine paper.

First up the following week Jan demonstrated a variation on the buttonhole book making the cover out of more substantial matte board. We all brought in different material to cover the boards, I used some of my marbled paper. After trimming the boards and covering material we pasted it together and once dried we sewed in the sections as per our first model. Next we tackled another Hedi Kyle structure that features an interlocking spine (yellow and blue cover). The cover is made up of two sheets that have been folded and cut in a way that the resulting tabs interlock and a tape (we used Tyvek) could be threaded between them to connect them and make a spine. The text block was an accordion fold that had corresponding cuts made into it which were then also was threaded to the cover. I got quite confused prepping the covers but with encouragement from Jan it all started to make sense and as many in the class quoted “all will be revealed” and in the end it was!

My Mitfordmania

My non-fiction theme continues with Wait for Me by the Duchess of Devonshire, Deborah Mitford. I had previously read the excellent biography The Sisters by Mary S. Lovell and was curious to know more about this notable family. In Wait for Me, the now Dowager Duchess, youngest of the Mitfords tells her story of growing up with five controversial  sisters and moves through to her married life as a very “hands on” duchess in charge of running several large estates, including the famous Chatsworth. Sometimes down to earth, sometimes out of touch but always clear about her point of view she is a fascinating character from a bygone era who continues to be active today. Her social circle is large and includes prominent artists, writers, political figures and of course, royalty. Her recollections about these various relationships and her approach to preserving the family’s numerous properties for the public to enjoy made for an interesting read. Next up might be Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love.

Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese

We took advantage of the great weather today to drive over to Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese shop located south of Woodstock, Ontario which just happens to be the dairy capital of Canada. The area has a long history of cheese making and it’s nice to see this continuing at Gunn’s Hill. Owner and operator Shep Ysselstein graciously gave us a tour of the new facility and walked us through his cheese making process. Shep currently produces three Swiss style varieties of cheese – Gunn’s Hill Hard, Semi-Hard, and Soft. All of the cheese is made with milk that comes from his father’s dairy farm next door. We left with pieces of the hard and semi-hard cheeses and will be happily tucking into them later.

Nicholas Hoare Books

I love Nicholas Hoare mostly for its particular selection of books but also for its cozy, library like interior and the way the books are displayed. As soon as you walk in you see beautiful books that have room to breath with their covers facing out. Not to judge a book only by its cover, it’s just easier to browse. You don’t have to pry a book out of a tightly packed shelf by its spine only to have to try wedging it back in when you’re done. My first stop is always the biography section where I usually find a title I can’t leave without.

Royal York Hotel

This week I’m working at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. I love the atmosphere this grand old hotel exudes and the Christmas decorations just make it a bit more special. The hustle and bustle of guests, restaurants and special occasions all mix together to create a unique world within the hotel’s walls. You can’t help but sense the history and tradition that have built up over the years, it’s great to soak it up and reflect.