Cristina's Library

Joie de livres

Tag: books

10 countries. 33 cities.

Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve is always a time for reflection. As I get ready for tonight’s festivities, I look back on 2014 and feel only gratitude, joy, and, truthfully, a shred of disbelief – in 12 months, I visited 10 countries and 33 cities on 2 continents.


Florence, Italy – one of my favourite places

I crossed the English Channel from the White Cliffs of Dover to Calais, France. I toured these gorgeous bodies of water: Lake Lucerne in Switzerland on a foggy, rainy, summer evening (all the more magical), the river Seine in Paris (for the third time), the Rhine River Valley in Germany, Miami’s South Beach, and the Amstel river in Amsterdam. I swam in the Tyrrhenian and Mediterranean seas in southern Italy and the Amalfi Coast, and the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.


Cappuccino at my favourite café, Bar Le Logge

As I wrote back in September upon my return, I sampled delicacies from different places, danced all night, read by rivers, boarded boats and trains and tiny little cars on tiny little roads, went to the tops of mountains and bobsledded down them, traversed valleys, strolled cities and small, cobblestone alleys, drank cappuccinos, drank (a lot of) fantastic wine, discussed current affairs with people from around the world, sat on cafe patios, read books that made a difference in my life, made lasting friendships, expanded my knowledge, lived and thrived in the countryside, counted stars, learned, embraced. And I did it all with complete strangers, or completely alone.


Me in Venice, Italy – a city whose inimitable charm is only discovered through exploration

I had the immense pleasure of visiting four of the most beautiful, celebrated, and renowned wine regions in the world – Napa Valley, California, USA; Chianti, Tuscany, Italy; Niagara, Ontario, Canada; and the Rhine River Valley, Germany. Each experience is special, for entirely different reasons. I toured California from north to south throughout (a much less-crowded) January with my love; lived in Chianti for two months at a writing residence, where I finished a future manuscript, with international artists that I am fortunate to call my friends (Tommy Graham, Ellen and Patrick Coffey, Kristin Man, and Alli Rath); regularly visit the breathtaking Niagara region; and spent a couple of memorable Riesling-and-bier-filled days in Germany. For more pictures of my summer vacation, check out my September post here.

Each place is saturated in my memory. They are vivid and colourful and inspiring and alive. I feel so privileged to not only have truly experienced life, but to have participated in the art of fine living. I’m thankful for everything.

I wish you all a very healthy, happy, prosperous new year.

Here’s to more adventure in 2015!


Buy a book

booksLast year, I made the tragic mistake of going to Yorkdale mall on the first Saturday of December.

A deafening barrage of shrieking children, frantic parents, lazy walkers, loud talkers, anxious employees, aggressive hagglers, and booming holiday music hit me upon entering. It was a depressing composition of repeated staccato notes, in the phrases of “I’m sorry” and “Excuse me” and “Watch out!”

I felt like I was on fast-forward, my heart palpitating, head spinning, and green tea sloshing mercilessly out of its cup, burning my fingers.

Meandering through the crowds, I overheard different pieces of survival advice in conversation:

“Oh, I always have a big breakfast beforehand.”

“Take a few deep breaths, and you’ll be fine.”

“Coffee. A lot of coffee.”

It seemed that I was the only person who did not know what to do or where to go. I did not walk briskly through the mall with an intended road map in mind (first Williams-Sonoma for dad, then Roots for mom – she just loves those wool socks). The truth is, I possess none of the skills of a professional shopper. I wander, I look around, I pick up and put down. I found myself taking small steps and small sips of tea, gazing at items in store windows for a short time before moving on, my body gently rocked side-to-side by the rushing crowd.

Finally, I made it to the front of the bookstore.

Ah, peace and quiet.

Unsurprisingly, here, I finished most of my holiday shopping. It really is that easy. And if you believe your loved ones are not big readers, I beg you to think again. There’s an escape route for everyone.

They might like Canlit, non-fiction, romance, mystery, history, or art. They might have an idol, a pet, a New Year’s resolution to finally start yoga, a desire to learn French, or an inexplicable relationship with Mexican cuisine. There’s a book for them.

There are cookbooks, how-tos, big and beautiful photography tomes, literature on the performing arts, language, business, or travel. There are books for kids, teens, tweens, adults, grandparents. There’s a book for the plumber, the private dancer, the stay-at-home parent, the cheese addict, the architect, the storyteller, the graphic designer, the cinephile, the writer, the baker-on-the-side, the teacher, the music buff, or the wine aficionado in your life.

And in no way am I limiting the selection to shiny new hardcovers or glossy paperbacks. Do you have a book in your own collection that you think might benefit a close friend or relative? Give it to them. Let them know why. Books, and the stories inside of them, are meant to be recycled into new hands.

Growing up, my parents always gave my brother and I books, and then quizzed us on them afterwards to ensure that we read them. We spent hours in the library, and they took note of the books we were engrossed in. In December, we found them under the tree. In return, we wrote little poems and heartfelt messages in handmade paper cards. We signed them with our own insignia at the bottom, pretending that they were from Hallmark or Carleton: “Cristina Cards” or “Joseph Cards” circled with a sparkly gold pen.

My parents grudgingly accepted our small gifts, while insisting that we did not have to give them anything, that they had their family around the Christmas tree, which is more than enough. They appreciated the little things, the practical and sentimental value of a gift. They taught me the art and importance of truly giving.

So, my brother and I bought them books, too. Last year, I added to my father’s bookshelf Open Secrets: Wikileaks, War, and American Diplomacy. For my mother, The Glass Castle. For my brother, Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization. (He’s a plumber).

You may not think so but, as I learned from my family, buying a book is an intimate and thoughtful act. It is as personal as a piece of lingerie, as gracious as a box of chocolates. It’s like placing a blanket on top of someone after they’ve fallen asleep, or smiling at a stranger. If you’re buying a book for someone this holiday season, you’ve made a conscious effort to enhance their life. You care. Think about how much consideration goes into choosing a book — it means that you are attentive to what they say, that you know and support what they’re interested in.

A book may not be the only gift you’re giving someone, but it is perfect on its own, or in addition to something else. Make it even more special by writing a little note inside. They’ll treasure it forever.

Books are sexy

“Every man’s library is a sort of harem.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the name of September…

Fall is the onset of the most beautiful death we can ever know. Each earthy element of life begins to wane, their breath slowing, in preparation for Winter. Leaves burn red, orange, gold, and deep mustard, before curling in at the edges and floating slowly, lifelessly, to the ground. The sun seems to lose strength day by day, finding it harder and harder to keep its eyes open, and a cool, diaphanous wind settles over the city.
The world is getting ready to die.
And yet, we feel so full of life, the nature around us vibrant and colorful and bursting with flavour. Autumn makes me feel peaceful and content, pensive and exhilarated. It is the most wonderful time of the year — my favourite! Apple-picking with Maria. Pumpkin-flavoured things, including the glorious pumpkin-spiced latte (a new part of my weekly ritual). Warm apple cider, and cool leather jackets. Sweaters. Yams. Halloween. Thanksgiving. Fall festivals. Fall birthdays, including mine. Football. Gray skies above, gossamer clouds below. Afternoon drives in the weakened sun, a brilliant harmony of autumn colours whirring by your window. Really, does it get any better than that? I’ve been so excited for Fall to start that I started wearing scarves in August (I leave for work at 6am…it’s cold at that time).

My life has completely changed this fall. It’s the first September I’m not going back to school. I still cannot believe it. It’s sometimes difficult to come to grips with the reality of change, especially when you’ve been accustomed to something for so long. Where did the time go? As a total nerd, I was always excited about going back to school. I used to get tired of summer mid-August, unable to mask my excitement for new notebooks and bookmarks, back-to-school shopping, organizing my pencil case, and getting my outfit ready for the first day — I don’t think I was ever very fashionable, but I tried. I did.
In elementary school, my brother and I would walk through the park in front of my house to get to school, kicking leaves all over the place, our bodies slightly slanted from the weight of our knapsacks. But, suddenly, Halloween dance-a-thons, running door to door, yelling “trick-or-treat!”, and trips to the pumpkin farm gave way to high school costume parties, bad karaoke, and wild nights. And, just yesterday, I felt like I was a confused and enormously shy first-year at U of T walking through Queen’s Park with a map, trying to look cool and unconcerned about being an hour late for a class I couldn’t find.

But, alas, 5 wonderful years have passed since then. I wouldn’t change a thing.

At the end of August, I started my internship at HarperCollins Canada, which is turning out to be a valuable learning experience. Everyone has been extremely helpful and kind from the first day, and I’m meeting a lot of great people. The amount of mailings and catalogs to design and things to print and pitch letters to write and calls to make is slightly daunting, and sometimes exhausting. But always abetted by my ambitious and inspiring intern allies in Intern Ally, Jane and Siobhan, who keep my spirits up and my tomato-intake high. I feel like I’m exactly where I want to be. Perks: FREE BOOKS, which I am constantly gifting to friends and family. If you’re a close friend, love, or family member of mine, you’ve probably already received a book from me. The piles of books on my desk inspires me, each day, to write, and I do. When I have a free moment, when an idea pops into my head, I scribble into the beautiful Christian Lacroix journal that my good friend, Danielle, bought me. In fact, I hope to take some time off in the Winter to seriously pursue my writing — if I don’t do it now, I doubt I ever will.
In other book-related news, I joined a book club! Our first meeting was a success, and they’re a great group of girls. I can’t wait to discuss the first book on our list: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. I’m not finished yet, but I’m in love with it so far–expect a full review soon!