Well, ever since summer started things really have been exciting around these parts. If you follow me over on Instagram you may have seen that I got engaged!! Mark and I would often tease each other about getting married one day (if you’re lucky, etc.) but I certainly didn’t think a proposal was on the cards for at least another few years, so to say this took me be surprise is an understatement! It has been a really lovely time for us and although I don’t know if I even want a wedding, let alone a big one, I think we’re going to take our time figuring that out and probably won’t actually tie the knot until 2020. I keep saying we should elope, but maybe I just need some time to get used to the idea and figure out what we want to do. I love the idea of being married to Mark, I just don’t love the idea of planning and having a wedding, haha.
Mark had told his parents months ago that he planned to propose, and they told my parents, and because one of my mum’s close friends from school is a jeweller, she was the one who made the ring. Mark and our two mums conspired on the design, and the day my parents arrived in Toronto to visit, they secretly dropped the ring off to him (about 10mins before I arrived home that day!). I walked into our condo to see rose petals all over the floor and candles burning, and my first thought was, “this is a bit much for my parents” which shows how clueless I was! Mark got down on one knee and gave a whole speech that I can’t even remember because I was so shocked, and the whole thing was made so much more wonderful and special because my parents were there to celebrate after not having seen each other since we moved over a year ago.
So the 4 of us had a week together in Toronto (we stayed with my parents just for something different), followed by 5 nights in Havana and 4 nights in New York where we left my parents who continued their trip, and two days later Mark’s parents landed for their week-long visit. So we’ve basically been celebrating non-stop for nearly a month, and I’m not complaining! I’m definitely still getting used to the idea of saying “fiancée” instead of boyfriend though – it feels a bit like I’m drawing too much attention to it, so I tend to default to partner (if I’ve even remembered not to say “boyfriend” that is!).
People’s posts with their goals and little life updates are some of my favourites to read, so I wanted to incorporate more of that into my blog. It reminds me of the good old days when everyone just posted about what was going on in their life, and these days I’m finding that sort of content appeals to me more and more, so here are some plans/goals that I have right now.
More travel! We had an incredible time in Cuba & NYC, but I’m going to save all my gushing for those posts when I put them together – part one of this goal is to sort through my photos from the trip. As for our future plans, I’ve already mentioned we have a trip to Washington & NYC booked for the end of October which is based around Nick Cave’s tour dates (lol, classic me). We also booked a long weekend trip to Chicago in September because we like to take advantage of public holidays whenever we can, and we want to see the city while the weather is good. This will be our third trip to NYC this year (and my 5th overall) but it’ll be our first to Washington & Chicago, so I need to do some research on those cities (hmu if you have any recs) and book our accommodation too.
Enjoy summer! The horror of my first Canadian winter still hasn’t left me, so you’d better believe I’m trying to squeeze this summer for all it’s worth. A bunch of these photos are from a trip to Toronto Islands with Mark’s parents, we went on a gondola (the aerial kind, not the boat kind) which is how I got all the elevated shots. Mark & I didn’t make it there last summer because the islands were closed because of flooding, so we’re glad we finally got to check it out because it’s really pretty over there.
I needed to finish up my roll of film so I could get my holiday photos developed, so there are also a few shots of the view from our condo, as well as a random mirror selfie in a beautiful vintage silk skirt I bought recently. We finally got some outdoor furniture and although it’s not the prettiest it’s very comfortable and the sunset shot was taken on the night we got it and sat on our balcony having a drink and enjoying the beautiful weather.
Catch up! After a wonderful month of socialising and spending time with our parents, I am very behind on the life admin front (#noregrets). I’d been neglecting my bullet journal since I didn’t have time to do anything anyway, so now that things have settled down a bit I’ve written myself a huge to do list and am getting a lot of satisfaction out of crossing things off. Because I was so focused on June/July I didn’t realise that we’re actually going to be pretty busy in August & early September as well. We have a friend of Mark’s visiting at the moment, a few gigs I’m really looking forward to (The National & Drake), a weekend-long vegan food festival, and two local weekend getaways with friends that will be low-key and really relaxing. While in September one of my best friends is visiting for a week, we’re heading to Chicago and Mark is going to San Francisco on a work trip, so if I want to get anything done now is the time!
Drake - Scorpion
The Carters - Everything is Love
Childish Gambino - Summer Pack
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Hope Downs
The National - everything
Jazz Cartier - Fleurever
I resisted the idea of getting a Kindle for a really long time, but when my mum offered to buy me one I couldn’t say no. I own so many books that I had to leave behind in Sydney, and although I’ve repurchased some of them so that I could read them now (with the intention of trading them in at a second-hand shop when I’m done), it makes a lot more sense to read a digital copy instead. I found a great website that has free pdf copies of a lot of books that I own, and I don’t feel guilty because I’ve already paid for them once. If you ask me, buying a physical book these days should also come with a digital download the way a lot of vinyl does! Kindles are also amazing for travel, and even for my commute – although I will definitely still read physical books, I can’t deny that it’s a lot easier than lugging around a thick hardback for weeks at a time. It also makes sense for me if I want to read something I’m not all that emotionally attached to, so I can be more selective about what physical books I keep vs. digital. I doubt that I’ll ever go completely digital, but I’m really enjoying having the two options to choose from.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This was a really interesting read for me from a new perspective I haven’t really had much exposure to before. Adichie mentions that books are never just about one thing, so aside from having a love story tied in there, one of the overarching themes is the exploration of race. The story is of a Nigerian woman who immigrates to the US and details her experiences as a “non-American black”. She not only offers some insight into the lives and social customs of Nigerians, she also comments frequently on the differences between non-American blacks and African-Americans, and the role that race plays in all of this. For example, the protagonist mentions never having thought of herself as being black until she moved to America. As a white woman it’s not my place to comment on things I have literally no personal experience with, but aside from enjoying the story, I also appreciated hearing the author’s thoughts on these highly nuanced topics and I plan to read more from her.
Let Us Compare Mythologies by Leonard Cohen
I’m a Leonard Cohen super-fan so when I spotted this in a local bookstore I snapped it up. It’s his first book of poetry (obviously I got a reprint) that was initially published in 1956 when he was still a university student. Cohen was a poet long before he was a musician and this came out when he was only 22. Although I’m totally biased and love everything he’s ever done, this isn’t my favourite book of his poetry – I still love The Book of Longing the best and would recommend that if you’re curious.
by Gerald Nicosia
Yep, another Kerouac biography - although this is definitely the most detailed one I’ve read (you’d hope so at 700 pages). This is described as a “critical biography”, meaning as Jack finishes writing a book, the author will pause the biography aspect and take the time to dissect Kerouac’s work in terms of its influences, themes and imagery which is a nice addition. He also provides a lot of details (for better or worse) that many biographers leave out or gloss over. He presents probably the most accurate portrait of Jack, and although it’s ultimately sympathetic, in many ways it’s not a pretty picture. Not that that was much of a surprise to me. One thing that’s interesting is that it takes about 300 pages to reach the time when Kerouac’s first book, The Town And The City, is published, whereas I find most other biographers rush through the early stages of his life and cut straight to On The Road, so I appreciated that extra attention was paid to an often-overlooked period of his life. This particular biography is strongly endorsed by William S. Burroughs and John Clellon Holmes, both lifelong friends of Kerouac, & although size-wise this is the most daunting biography of his on the market, it’s the best I’ve read so far.
by Gertrude Stein
Having recently read a semi-autobiographical book of hers, I wanted to read more from Gertrude Stein and this seemed to be a reasonably well known book of her poetry. The title itself is thought to be a reference to nipples, and given that Stein was a very early “out” lesbian, and this book is supposed to have underlying lesbian themes, I thought it would be an interesting read given that it was published in 1914, and would probably be a one of the earliest books to address the topic. Unfortunately for my personal tastes, the term “verbal cubism” that has been used to describe this book is much closer to my experience with it. It’s definitely one of those modernist, abstract kind of works which I explained really aren’t my thing when I talked about why I stopped reading Ulysses. Sadly I didn’t get anything out of reading this, but I’ve got 3 Lives next on my list when I want to tackle another book by her and hopefully I’ll enjoy that more.
To Have & Have Not
by Ernest Hemingway
This was an interesting one, and not really what I’ve come to expect from a Hemingway book as I didn’t really like any of the characters very much. I was in Cuba and not really all that enthralled with Look Homeward, Angel so I needed something to read at the same time to help break it up and this is what I went with. Published in 1937, the racism in this is very uncomfortable to read from a 2018 perspective, but even with that aside I don’t think it’s one of his strongest works. I do enjoy his writing though, so I keep coming back for more.
Look Homeward, Angel
by Thomas Wolfe
Thomas Wolfe was a huge early influence of Kerouac’s so I’d always planned to eventually read something by him. I can see a resemblance in their writing styles, particularly when Wolfe is describing food, and there are flashes of prose that I quite enjoyed but overall I found this to be really over-written and dull. Ultimately it tells the story of Eugene Gant, but a large portion of the book is about his parents, and his father is so unbelievably insufferable that half the time when I saw a paragraph of speech from him I would skim over it because I wasn’t interested in what he had to say. In fact, most of the characters are pretty unlikeable, which made it hard for me to connect with the story and enjoy it. It was published in 1929, so again, the racism and sexism are hard to stomach at times, and ultimately I wasn’t very impressed with it. Kerouac may have been influenced by Wolfe, but in my opinion he became ten times the writer that Wolfe ever was.
Cosmos by Carl Sagan
Although this was first published in 1980 and obviously isn’t the most up to date reference for current astrophysics and cosmology research, I still think it holds up really well. This is the book companion to Sagan’s TV series (also titled Cosmos) which was instrumental in bringing advanced scientific concepts to the general public in an easily digestible format.
One of the main reasons to read this book, and something that I enjoyed immensely about it, is Sagan’s obvious sense of awe and appreciation for the cosmos and our place in it. He is wonderfully elegant in expressing his enthusiasm in a way that is both infectious and timeless, so even though this is nearly 40 years old it’s still definitely worth reading just for the sheer joy of it.