…then Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare is for you. Rather than focusing on suppositions that scholars glean from his work, Bryson informs us of the cold hard facts about Shakespeare (of which there are few). This makes for a book that is short, to the point, and incredibly conclusive. Also, his voice is easy to read and a bit cheeky. You’ll fly through this book and come out knowing everything one can really know for sure about the world’s most influential playwright. After these few facts, the man’s habits, personality, and even his looks, are anyone’s guess. It really doesn’t take a stuffy, snobby literary atmosphere (Oh my! Did she really just say that? It’s okay, I can pick on schools because I’ve earned my English degree and for a little while I contributed to those stuffy classes) to learn all that you want about the man, William Shakespeare.
Archive for September, 2010
Summer is absolutely my favourite season. It always has been. I think in all of my home town, there is not one person who would claim anything different. Summer in the Lakes Region is magical. We live through bitter cold winters, springs so muddy that it isn’t unheard of to call a tow truck just to get out of your own driveway, and autumns where back-to-school is the least of our problems. Chopping wood and making preparations for the winter are much bigger concerns (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit here…). But a Lakes Region summer makes all of that worth it. I grew up in the most beautiful place on Earth, and I miss it dearly every summer day that I’m away.
But, alas, I live in a city now and hardly have the chance to enjoy the beauty of this season. Still, though, I harbor memories of the best days of my life, and a fondness for summer even when I’m away. These are some of the best moments from the summer of 2010:
As long as I can remember, my family has taken an annual day trip to Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine sometime in August. At first, I think, there were just four of us. My Mom, Dad, sister and I. My brother is quite a bit older than me (15 years), so he was usually busy with friends, in college, or traveling elsewhere on his own. After a few years, my parents realized that Kristen and I would be less likely to fight if we each got to bring a friend with us to keep us distracted. So then there were six. Mom, Dad, Kristen, her friend, me and my friend. I’m not quite sure how we managed this with only one car. In all likelihood, since I was the smallest, I was crammed up front in between my parents while my sister and our friends giggled in the backseat. I bet I made a big stink about that every year.
Then Kristen met Kevin. They’ve been together since I was 10 or 11. He’s always been my other brother. So for years, then, it would be them, Mom and Dad, and me. I was allowed to invite a friend, and most of the time I did, but I can recall a couple of years when I felt like a real fifth wheel.
As we got older, cars with bench seats became unheard of, and Kevin, then my sister, then I, got our licenses, so the trip usually involved two separate cars. My Uncle Pete started coming along when he moved to New Hampshire, and on a few occasions Kevin’s family came as well. We’d all meet up at my parents’ house and travel East from there.
Then there was one fateful Ogunquit trip right after I first met Ryan. We’d only been talking for about a month and a half, but it was quite often, and we were both pretty smitten. But he lived in Portland, and I in New Hampshire…it didn’t seem likely to work. We’d been talking the night before the day trip, and I told him of my concern. All of my friends had bailed on me (although, to be fair, I think I asked them on short notice), and it seemed like I’d be walking alone on Marginal Way while all the couples in front of my held hands and smiled at one another internally cataloguing one more year’s worth of memories.
The day came, my family departed from the Lakes Region onward to the ocean, and I was, again, alone. But as I trolled the coast line looking for starfish, I felt someone coming closer to my position on the rocks. Thinking it was a stranger, I kept my eyes down, until I realized that the person was too close not to know me. I looked up, and there was Ryan with his face buried in a map. He lowered it dramatically, and announced, “Why if it isn’t Julia Berry!”
Kevin had been nearing me protectively since he noticed Ryan’s approach, but when he realized that we knew each other he backed off a little. I am sure I was blushing. Although I had mentioned where I’d be, I never thought that Ryan would actually meet me there and keep me company! That was the day he met my family.
Since then both of my siblings have been married. My brother had a daughter, LG, two years ago, and now there’s another baby on the way. Our group has grown from the original four, and instead of leaving from the same house as we used to, Ogunquit is now the set destination from three separate regions. Mom, Dad, Kristen, Kevin and Pete come from the West, Jeremy, Sarah, and LG from the South, and Ryan and I from the North. Here are some memories from our 2010 day trip to Ogunquit:
LG loves my Dad. She was in his arms for the entire trip, I swear. I took her once so he could slip off to the bathroom and she asked me shyly “Where’s my Grandpa goin’?” My little heart melted as I explained to her that he hadn’t ditched her and he’d be back shortly! All in all, it was a great trip. I can’t wait for next year
While in England, some of Chanel’s friends took us out to “New Slang” (with a name like that we knew the night had promise). Once a week a local club brought a different band in to play live for the over 18s as they danced the night away! We were lucky enough to be there for Two Door Cinema Club who were absolutely excellent. Thought I’d pass the band along to my American readers who may not know them yet! They’re certainly worth a listen and make a great addition to any dancey mix!
A woman that I work with was curious about the styles that I saw over in England. And, just in case I forgot, I thought it might be a good idea to keep track of it all here. So, to the American eye, this is London:
- All of the men wear terrible pointy leather shoes a la cartoon Beatles. Really. Ryan and I had noticed it quite a bit until we finally decided we must keep a tally. In just our last two days we had blasted our way through the 30s and our count was well into the 40s…and that was just when we happened to be looking down.
- Conversely, girls do not wear jeans in London. Chanel said she noticed this as well and brought it up to the two girls she lives with who were born and raised in England. They confirmed it. Between the two of them they owned one pair of jeans.
- The hair and makeup is flawless. I got pretty close to some people on the tube, too, so I can say this with certainty. They’re all so well-kept, and the amazing thing is that none of them really seem to care that much about it. Nor do they worry over their appearance the way Americans do. I’ve seen American girls actually flirt with themselves in the mirror…and not just in their bedrooms. When I was working in the boutique on Exchange Street there was one girl who was winking at herself or blowing a kiss every time she passed a mirror. She wasn’t doing it to be funny, either. Her friends were in a different section of the store. She just loved herself that much. The English girls I saw didn’t even cast a glance at their own reflection as far as I could see. Maybe they’re just better at hiding it?
- Everyone dresses nicely (other than the jeggings). It was almost as though they were all on their way to tea with Gran. In the States we leave the house in sweats, with our hair sloppily tossed into a bun, but this just isn’t the case in London. I saw hardly any sneakers, and those that I did see were in tip-top shape, and still paired with a collared shirt or a skirt. No one wore sweatshirts, just sweaters or classy jackets. Or tee-shirts. The boys can wear them, but if girls do they’re light, flowy, and feminine. Usually sheer or a low boatneck so as to expose a layer beneath. Even flip-flops were a scarce sight. For the most part, girls wore flats or boots, super cute skirts, often paired with leggings or pretty tights, and some chic/feminine sort of top.
- Fashion isn’t just for the ladies! Chanel said she was so proud of Max (her English romance) when he purchased a coral colored V-neck (or something to that effect) and he didn’t even think twice. Apparently this is normal in other cultures! Somehow it has become unmanly to consider ones appearance in the U.S. I applaud European men for their fine taste in apparel (minus those hideous Beatles shoes).
- Scarves. And nice bags. Accessories in general are well done here. Not too many, just the right taste for my liking.
- Lots of rompers. As you can imagine, I was quite happy about that. Come to think of it, almost all of the fabrics being worn right now are loose, flowy types. Nearly all of them belted at the waist. I think we’ve got this one down pretty well in the States, too.
- Harem pants, too. And for the most part these ladies really pull them off! There was one guy wearing denim harem pants, though. And there was an opening in the bottom? Almost like a skirt? But with legs? It was very strange. He was most likely an Asian tourist, though, so discount this little mention.
- I saw a lot of horizontally striped tops. It seemed quite French to me, but perhaps they were just playing on the nautical aspect of Summer.
- And cardigans. Being layered over rompers, or bodycons. I love this.
- For the most part, girls are neglecting the low-rise stuff. I also love this. They’re showing off their waist lines with belts, or high-waisted shorts. Or, they’re wearing tunics with just a peak of a skirt coming out beneath. I didn’t really see any low-rise pants. If they are being worn they’re getting covered up by long tops.
- Most of the girls had long hair that they wear down. Usually somewhat wavy. In colors that seem quite natural for their skin tones.
- Denim-like button ups as cardigans. I was foretold of this new hit, and wasn’t disappointed. I saw it everywhere, and it was done quite well! It wasn’t at all country-Western like I first feared, but instead girls are wearing these long tops almost as cardigans over something that is quite flattering for their shape.
I googled “London Style 2010″ and whether or not they’re all really from the streets of London, here are some photos that pretty well exemplify what I was seeing:
* The dress, though, is American Apparel (I have it in navy…).
I still have a month and a few days before I set out to complete my second novel (sounds so much more ambitious and successful than it actually is for me). Of course, some people, I’m sure, plan, research, and layout their entire plot, characters and setting, and write amazing to-be-published books during the month of November, I am not doing it like this. Instead, I scheme, get excited, and then stress out for the whole month, perhaps just because the prospect of completing such an amazing feat (50,000 words in 30 days), is so incredibly enticing.
If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m pretty excitable. And, one of my favourite things about Ryan is that he, too, is a very excitable individual. So, as you can imagine, we spend our days giggling and buzzing at the mere thought of what our kitties might be doing in the other room, then sneak quietly in there to see them doing anything (really, they could be licking their bums), and then we are sent all into a tizzy because we just like a lively life. If we get this animated over such a simple thing, think about how affected we are at the thought of NaNoWriMo which has been looming since last November. These past 10 months are really coming to a climax for me. My characters are inventing themselves, their lives, and their relations. Now I just have to bide my time until that grand old November 1st starting line when I can begin my sprint to the finish!
I hope you’re all considering joining my ranks! I didn’t finish my first year, and neither did Ryan, but if you’re anything like me that will only empower you to try harder the next time 12 long months roll by. Now I really must run off! Atlas (the star of last year’s novel) is asking politely for my attention and if I don’t give in he will start asking not-so-nicely (nudging knick-knacks off shelves, licking and/or chewing on wires, etc).
Enjoy Autumn, everyone!
I stumbled upon an organic fabric company just now! I still wonder, though, whether the carbon footprint I’d be making with the shipping of said fabric would be worth the lack of chemicals put into the Earth when it was created…Hmm…
All we can do is our best, though, and at least I’d be making some efforts. So, I’m filing this one away for later fabric purchases. Friends, I give you: Modern Organic Fabrics.
Although I’ve neglected to properly document these last few days of summer eating, my meals have been faithful to our local food challenge. We did, however, begin to drift a bit from our cause in between meals — a classic American problem. Since our return from London, we had a hard time fully dedicating ourselves again seeing as the time remaining was so scarce. Next year, I suppose, we’ll have another chance to really dedicate ourselves entirely right through to the end. The run we had was good, & I’m happy to have gained a whole lot of experience in the kitchen (I’ve never cooked so much in my entire life as I have in these past three months)! We ditched our Western diet for one more natural to our species, and as a result we felt a better connection to our Earth, community, and to our own bodies. I lost weight, felt fit, and knew that everything I put into myself was as pure and fresh as our Maine soil, water, and air. There’s really nothing as revitalizing as that. After all, you are what you eat (and what you eat eats, and what that eats, all the way down to the very bottom of the food chain).
To anyone out there who may be contemplating a local diet — jump in & give it a try! Just feel it out as you go & make a plan that works for you! The most helpful bit of it all was our thrice weekly trip to the various Farmers’ Markets in Portland. The availability of local produce, dairy, and baked goods in our area is overwhelming and incredibly exciting. There were plenty of things I was surprised to have in front of me (cherries, peaches, plums, yogurt, even ketchup) that I didn’t expect to see! I really feel I grew up a great deal this Summer. I understand a little bit more about healthy living and providing for myself as best I can.
A woman that Ryan and I work with was speaking to me yesterday about how different eating is here than it is in her native Colombia. One of the most obvious differences that she noticed was that we Americans put our eggs in the fridge. They never do this in Colombia, and, as we noticed a couple of weeks ago, they also don’t do it in the U.K. Perhaps, she offered, it’s because the eggs available in her home country, and in organically aware countries like England, are more real than what we can find here. She knows for a fact exactly what happens not only to the Colombian eggs that she eats (or ate before she moved here) before they make it to her plate, but also to the chickens who laid those eggs. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the chickens in the U.S. are not grass fed as they should be, but instead are given only one option for food — seed (because it is cheaper, it feeds more chickens, and because the high amount of energy in the seeds allows the chickens to grow fatter and lay “better” eggs). Or, it could be because of the hormones and antibiotics that we’re pumping into the chickens because they need these to survive on the diet we provide for them seeing as their bodies aren’t actually meant to have to digest a diet of only seed. Maybe it’s because of the extras that we “fortify” our eggs with — extra Omega-3s, for example. It could be a great number of things, but it most likely has something to do with our deviation from the way our food naturally is. When you eat what nature provides you, there are far fewer problems. If you think about it, it makes complete sense…we’ve survived and thrived on just that for the entire existence of humanity, and only now, with the advent of processed foods, have we started to see an overwhelming amount of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other diet related illnesses.
In my opinion, Michael Pollan said it best: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Eat food, not food products, but real food that grows from the Earth. Not too much of it, just enough to be full. Too much of anything will make you sick. And mostly plants because they are indisputably the healthiest thing the world, or food science, has to offer. Eat some dairy if you’d like, maybe some meat, but only the best quality of all of it or else you are compromising your own health and well-being for the greediness of pinching a few pennies. We have come to a place in our society where we value quantity more than quality. We want more for our dollar. More “food” of lesser quality. We would rather spend our money on internet access, TV programming, and entertainment than the food that keeps us going. To eat healthier and feel more satisfied, one should eat a good amount of real food, and the best quality of it that they can find — local and organic.
Pollan also suggested that to live a healthy life we should eat only foods that our great-grandmother would be able to identify. None of this partially-hydrogenated, high-fructose corn syrup filled, unrecognizably labelled food-like stuff. In fact, he says, if it has a label at all then maybe we should just skip it and go for an apple instead. If we can’t identify it without packaging to tell us what it is, then our bodies won’t know what it is or how to properly digest it either.
That, in short, is what has been rumbling around in my head since the beginning of this Summer and our embarking upon an incredibly enlightening journey through this vast New England garden. I welcome your questions, comments, observations, and interests. I also very much welcome your recipes! I’ve read a lot of books on why one should eat locally, but I’ve yet to find a really good locavore cook book! I’m thinking that if things keep going along like this I may have to start my own!