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Happy {belated} birthday Edna St Vincent Millay

Happy {belated} birthday Edna St Vincent Millay

Edna St Vincent Millay, photo: Arnold Genthe

Oh dear, I missed your birthday this year – only by five days, but still, I’m sorry. Here I am now, thinking of you.

Edna St Vincent Millay was a poet and playwright, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, a feminist, free spirit, and my great-grandfather’s cousin. She loved freely, managed to have a marriage where she was the breadwinner and her husband took care of the house, and treated her migraines with copious amounts of morphine. I enjoyed [amazon_link id=”B000Q67J16″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Nancy Milford’s Savage Beauty[/amazon_link], the story of Millay’s fascinating life, immensely.

Last year, I posted the first poem of hers I ever read, and still my favourite. It feels so appropriate as it captures the hints of spring that sneaks into the air around this time of year.

Second April

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
April
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.
Photo: Arnold Genthe
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Things I love: the Joby Gorillapod

Super technical photo set-up

As you know, I live in a small apartment with my husband who occasionally works from home, and my lovely three-year-old son. That means I don’t have acres of space to shoot photos for the blog. No spare rooms free of toy bins, scraps of construction paper, and giant pirate floor jigsaw puzzles. I love our apartment, but sometimes it makes me look like a hoarder when I try and take arty photos of a craft project.

I know tripods make all the difference when you’re trying to take crisp photos, but there’s hardly room for one in most places I need to shoot. I do have a beautiful and ancient one I inherited from my father, though it looks like it came straight from the set of The Hour. The other people at the food photography workshop I took kindly did not laugh at it. However, I recently unearthed my Joby Gorillapod from a box. What a genius thing it is! Why did I leave it to languish so long?

It is, essentially, a tabletop tripod. You need room to set it up near your subject. However, the legs are also bendy, so you can wind it around the top of a chair back, the handle of a cupboard or even fold the legs under a bit to make it shorter – making it infinitely more flexible than a traditional tabletop tripod.

Like much photography equipment, tripods can start at a bit more than reasonable price and then run up to infinity. The Gorillapod is an affordable $36 for the SLR version. There are models for compact cameras or even mobile phones. I love this thing.

Disclosure: None! I researched and bought one a couple years back, promptly forgot about it in a box and found it again recently.

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Win $40 to make a photo book on Blurb for Valentine’s Day

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Oh Valentine’s Day. What a messy holiday you are. All those sparkles to glue down, romantic expectations, and inadequate heart-shaped boxes of crap chocolate. It’s no wonder so many people get quite worked up about it.

For my son’s preschool classmates, we’re making homemade bath fizzies in the shape of a heart, with some witty card I have yet to come up with. As they’re aged 5 and under, Valentine’s doesn’t have much significance other than an excuse for more candy, really.

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For my husband – well, I’m not sure. We’ve never been into expensive gifts, though we’ve tried in the past to go out for dinner. That never works – restaurants always seem to be overbooked and over-stretching themselves. One year we waited over two hours for our promised lobster dinner, only to be told they had run out but forgot to tell us! At nearly 10pm we were ravenous and very, very grumpy.

I do like the idea of celebrating the love you have for some special people in your life. Homemade gifts are lovely, too, but sometimes you want something a little nicer than you could make with your own two hands.

For Christmas this year, I made a little hardcover book of my Instagram photos that illustrated our family’s first year living back in Vancouver for my husband. It was such a lovely experience going back through all those photos – Elliot sitting on the couch in our new and nearly empty apartment, Christopher leaning out the window with him to wave at people celebrating Pride, many shots of our very local beach, and Elliot on his first bike. I think it would make a lovely gift for Valentine’s too.

My photo book printer of choice has always been Blurb, for their ease of use and reasonable prices. I first discovered them when we were living in the UK when I was searching for a way to print some baby photo books. Even after trying a few other companies, I’ve always come back to Blurb. They have easy, clean templates, or you can design your own pages from the ground up. I think the best recommendation I can give is this: I have left countless photo book projects half-finished on other sites, but I have always actually completed and printed the ones I make with Blurb.

Blurb, in all their wisdom, have a timely giveaway for my readers: $40 CDN to spend on one of their photo books. We’ve arranged it so you will have enough time to get your photo project printed and shipped to be with you for Valentine’s, if that’s what you’d like.

Go forth and enter!

Fine print: Offer valid through April 30, 2013 (11:59 p.m. local time). A CAD $40 discount is applied toward your product total. Valid for printed books only. This offer is good for one-time use, and cannot be combined with volume discounts, other promotional codes, gift cards, or used for adjustments on previous orders. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I’m a Blurb affiliate, but I don’t earn anything from this giveaway, I just wanted to share with you!

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We love this toy: Stomp Rocket

You can tell it’s a good toy when you ask a parent how they heard about it, and they tell you ‘I saw someone else using one in the park and we went and got one too…’

The toy in question is the Stomp Rocket. It’s not complicated, doesn’t involve batteries and costs an affordable $20. Elliot experienced it for the first time when his friend brought it to the park after preschool. The lucky parent sets up a simple stand whilst impatient kids mill around grabbing things, and then put a foam rocket on the launch tube. One of the kids jumps on the hard-wearing yet plastic bubble, shoots air along the tube and off goes the foam rocket. Endless fun, really.

Between us, my friend and I have gone through three versions of this toy and agree that the Stomp Rocket Glow Jr is the best of the bunch. The stand is the most robust and least likely to tip over, and the launch pad has a long enough tube to allow the kids to see the rocket go up (even when they insist on launching it with their back to it). Smaller ones tend to have the launch pad too close, resulting in many rockets hitting the launcher in the chest. Harmless, but not very exciting.

Every time we take it out at the park, we make new friends – loads of kids wander over to have a go on the rocket launcher.

I picked up mine in Vancouver at The Toy Box in Kitsilano.

Disclosure: None! I found out via other parents in the park and went out to buy our own.

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My favourite Christmas music

When it comes to Christmas music, I’m a traditionalist. I like listening to Handel’s Messiah, Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, and choirs singing the old carols. Of course, we still play Nana Mouskouri because we listened to it as children. But my favourite Christmas album these days is from The Sixteen, a classical ensemble from London, their Traditional Christmas Carol Collection.

When I lived in London, I had the good fortune to work at Southbank Centre, a big arts centre that includes the Royal Festival Hall. One of my jobs was commissioning the text to go in the program notes for some of our classical concerts. The Sixteen were Associate Artists then, and it fell to me to edit their programs. I’m not a huge choral music fan, I have to say, but I respect the amount of research they put into their interpretations. As a group, they specialise in early English music, so the leap to Christmas carols is a logical one.

Putting all that aside, it is a collection of carols, beautifully sung, that brings to mind soaring cathedrals. It feels inarguably special every time I put it on, and that’s what I want at this time of year.

 

 

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