Yeah, so it seems like we went from jumping in massive autumn leaf piles, to this…
… moderately snow squall-ish, what one might refer to as “Hollywood snow” and all that. And now we’re here:
Like, full-on deck-the-halls deep mid-winter snow, with a pretty substantial blizzard raging all night last night and the giant snow-plow making the neighbourhood rounds this morning.
Good thing we’re staying cozy by the (fake coal-burning) fireplace. This is the new one in our basement living room and I love the cast-iron front, which reminds me of one of those old-fashioned fireplaces in a Brooklyn brownstone. We’re trying to find a great piece of unfinished wood for the mantel top and then I can get all into a mantel-decorating hormonal tizzy for the holidays.
(Um… most boring post ever? Can you tell I’m just hanging out here… waiting for a baby…)
Spring, you say? Not around these parts. We are still raging with cabin fever, so let’s sneak in another instalment of The Symmetric’s Dystopian Book Club before we get all, ahem, happy again. If you missed the first one, we’re reading contemporary dystopian fiction and pairing it with a stiff drink. Because if ever there was an excuse to get shit-faced, it’s with a book club (or, you know, while reading depressing stories about future societal downfall).
THE BOOK: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (Vintage International, 2005) is a subtle but disturbing favourite. It tells the story of three friends who meet at a private school in England, and follows them from childhood through to their ultimate fated ends. The novel unfolds slowly, and I wouldn’t want to give away too many details — we gradually learn that the story is taking place in a dystopian society in the 1990s, and that it involves the breeding of human clones. It’s a heartbreaker.
THE DRINK: I’ve paired it with a spiked punch recipe suitable for sharing with friends. ‘Mother’s ruin’ is the old British slang for ‘gin.’ Here’s the original from Food and Wine.
Mother’s Ruin Punch (makes 8 servings)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup chilled club soda
1 1/2 cups gin
1 1/2 cups fresh grapefruit juice, plus 3 thinly sliced grapefruit wheels, for garnish
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup sweet vermouth
2 1/4 cups chilled Champagne or sparkling wine
In a large pitcher, stir sugar with club soda until dissolved. Stir in the gin, grapefruit and lemon juices and sweet vermouth and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
Transfer the punch to a large bowl. Gently stir in the Champagne and float the grapefruit wheels on top. Serve in punch glasses over ice.
Just a note: the movie version of Never Let Me Go, with Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley, was actually okay but if ever there was a time to skip the Coles’ Notes and go for the real thing, this is it. I love this book. Have you read it?
F*ck you, polar vortex. A few days ago we returned to your icy clutches, but we’ve got the tan-lines to prove that for 10 glorious days, we were free.
Our Barbados trip was by no means perfect (Theo got the stomach flu, and there were the usual complex dynamics at play when one vacations with one’s spouse, child, parents, sister and brother-in-law) but it sure was pretty. I’ll let the photos do the talking…
I promise I’m not trying to make you insanely jealous, but there’s more…
I’ve never actually been part of a book club before, but I hear they often involve, like, your mother-in-law and a lot of red wine. And a book! Sometimes there’s a book.
With this classic model in mind, I wondered if perhaps we could up the ante a little by deliberately pairing a novel with a tipple? In the service of highlighting appropriate literary themes, of course. The bleakness of this current winter is mitigated only by my penchant for dystopian fiction – you know, the kind of novel that practically drives you to drink – so I hereby call to order The Symmetric’s first meeting of the Dystopian Book Club.
THE BOOK:The Circle by Dave Eggers (Knopf, 2013) describes a digital near-future where a seemingly benevolent tech conglomerate feeds on the public’s desire and complicity for constant communication, connectivity, and affirmation, leading to a world wherein social media participation is mandatory and privacy is essentially nullified. The story follows Mae Holland, new hire at The Circle, and her assimilation into the cult-like company’s culture and philosophy. The novel is not exactly subtle, but it’s a pretty enjoyable plot-driven read that will probably make you squirm the next time you go to hit the ‘like’ button on your friend’s latest baby photo posted on Facebook.
THE DRINK: We’re pairing the book with an alcoholic beverage that goes down easy – if it tastes good enough you probably won’t realize you’re getting drunk (and/or essentially having your private life stripped away), right? We’ve deemed it “Ultimate Transparency” for both its see-through appearance and Mae’s decision to “go transparent,” having her every move filmed for the world to watch. Here’s how to drink (and make) the Kool-Aid, so to speak:
1 shot orange vodka
1 sugar cube
blood orange juice squeezed from half an orange
Fill glass with ice and pour vodka over top. Dip sugar cube in blood orange juice and place it on top of the ice. The sugar cube will slowly break apart and insidiously seep into the rest of the cocktail, infusing its flavour (is the metaphor working here? Gosh I hope so).
And now, to discuss: Have you read The Circle? Holy sh*t do you think all that could really happen?? Do you have a favourite novel you’d like to see given the Dystopian Book Club treatment here? Pray tell, my friends.
This past week, Gillian was asked to be featured in the inaugural ‘style column’ of the local paper, The Creemore Echo! Here’s the text from her mini interview by Kristi Green (it’s not printed online so thought we’d include it here). Rock on, G. xx Shanan
“Winter can be harsh on many things – including personal style. In this column – the first in what we hope is an ongoing series – the Echo will showcase individuals in the area who “take it to the next level” when it comes to their dress. It could be a doldrum-defying colour combination, a surprising new way of wearing knitwear or the simple act of sporting a colourful feather in one’s cap.”
Occupation: Social Worker, Part-time Mental Health Counsellor at the Georgian Bay Family Health Team in Collingwood.
Co-owner, designer and curator (along with artist and graphic designer, Shanan Kurtz) of The Symmetric. We write a three-times weekly blog, sell vintage clothing and jewelry, host events and offer styling services. Our vintage clothing and antique and costume jewelry is for sale by appointment and online at our Etsy shop. We will launch our capsule collection of vintage resort-wear in February, and we are excited to host another trunk show on Saturday, February 22.
I’m also mother to Yarrow, age 7, and Frida, age 3, and I am married to Steve Sopinka, founder of Fieldesign architecture studio.
Describe your style: Eclectic, ironic, retro-chic.
Why Creemore? We have a strong sense of adventure and have moved around a lot as a couple and as a family. From Montreal to Toronto to Reykjavik to Northern Ontario. After a stint in North Bay, we knew we wanted to be somewhere somewhat rural, with a strong sense of community. Proximity to friends and family is important to us (we have both in Collingwood, Beaver Valley, Guelph and Toronto), and possibilities to pursue meaningful work. Creemore offered all of these things.
We bought our rambling old house on Caroline Street in June of 2010 and Steve spent the summer renovating it (and getting rid of the bats!). We settled into the village that fall.
Favourite thing about winter? The SNOW! We try to stay active – cross country skiing, walking the country block, doing what we can to get out of the house and soak up some vitamin D!
I think winter gets a bad rap. It’s actually the perfect time to experiment with different, more daring materials – furs (faux is also a nice alternative), wools, leather, some of the weightier silks and velvet. This season is also ripe to try rich, bold prints and vivid colours that may feel too cumbersome and intense in the warmer, lighter months – and they are the perfect contrast to the stark environs this time of year. I say embrace it. Go big, or go home!
What are you wearing? Everything I have on, I’ve collected from either thrift or second hand stores. I’ve dubbed these my Mick Jagger pants. They’re a great bold print skinny jean that I picked up at one of my favourite thrift stores, Wild Rose, in Guelph. The fur hat is made in Moscow, also vintage, and a gift from Steve our first Christmas with Yarrow, spent in Iceland (very apropos because it’s the warmest thing ever!). The teal wool coat is a London Fog original, 1980s, that I dug up recently at a Goodwill shop. And my “Chewbacca” wooly mammoth mukluks are circa 1970s, made in Quebec.