A couple of favourites

These important books: Walkable City: How downtown can save America, one step at a time by Jeff Speck and How to Be a Woman by Caitlan Moran

This graphic novel: Jerusalem by (Canadian!) Guy Delisle

This yummy recipe: Quinoa stuffed acorn squash

This funny movie: Moonrise Kingdom

This article from Nate Silver: The End of Car Culture

This sigur ros song and video: Valtari

These charming dog prints by (Canadian!) artist, Mark Tetro

These funny flamingos spotted today in Rochester, NY:


Maria Kalman on walking

When I moved to the U.S., my aunt gave me this wonderful book called And the Pursuit of Happiness by artist and writer Maria Kalman.  The book is a delightful tour through American political history.  Kalman has also illustrated Michael Pollan’s book, Food Rules:  An Eater’s Manual (see video overview here).  I have this magazine cover on my bulletin board at work and every time I look at it it makes me smile – a colourful bird perched on a woman’s head – how sweet!  I just love her work.

I also really love walking.  One of my all-time favourite books is called Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit. The importance of active transportation for the health of the environment, our communities and our own well-being cannot be overstated.  Anyone who has lived in a walkable community knows the enjoyment of walking as a regular part of your daily life.  Here in Geneva, I belong to a walking group, which has been a great excuse to get outside and meet my neighbours.

In this short little video below, Kalman discusses thinking and feeling and the connection to walking.  Enjoy!

By the way, I came across this video in the Brain Pickings newsletter.

Why do some downtown bookstores survive?

One of the most enjoyable things about downtown Victoria is the number of bookstores. You cannot walk a block without running into new and used bookstores, most of which, are independently owned.  Munro’s, in particular, is a long standing establishment in Victoria (Alice Munro was once married to the owner). When you shop at Munro’s, you know that all of the books and magazines have been carefully selected. You can peruse the new releases, the cookbook section and the remaindered table all in one visit since the size of the store is manageable. And if you have a question, then the staff, all of whom are clearly lovers of books, are more than happy to help you out.

I have often wondered how all of these bookstores have survived, especially in an age where the publishing industry seems to be struggling to hang on. My guess is that the shift to electronic reading devices, the rise of niche markets and competition from big box stores are only part of the answer for the changing nature book selling. Walking around downtown and losing time in a bookstore is one of my absolute favourite ways to spend time. I think bookstores survive in part due to their location (i.e. vibrant, walkable communities) and in part due to the experience itself.

Moving to Geneva has meant finding books in a different way. For the most part, I rely on the Geneva Public Library, which is located downtown in a delightful old building. You can also find books downtown at Stomping Grounds and the Finger Lakes Gifts and Lounge. Leaving the downtown, you can find a bookstore on campus or you can buy books at the grocery store.

Recently, I was visiting the Village of Potsdam, NY, which has a population of approximately 9,500 and is home to two universities (Clarkson and SUNY Potsdam). I noticed that there was a bookstore downtown and took a few minutes to pop in and check it out. It turned out to be a university bookstore, so there were lots of clothes and other campus gear as well as books. Nevertheless, it had a nice selection of books and a little coffee shop in the front window.


I’m not sure how long this bookstore has been located downtown nor how its fearing in this location. In recent years, a new road was built in Potsdam to enable cars to by-pass the downtown. Looking around, it didn’t seem like there were many pedestrians out and about, although the downtown is still very quaint.

Who knows what the magic formula for success might be. I certainly hope that great bookstores continue to exist and not just in bigger cities like Victoria (yes, Victoria now strikes me as a big city!).

The Rise of Small Towns

This picture was taken in Penn Yan, which is another small town that is 25 minutes from Geneva.  According to Wikipedia, Penn Yan is short for “Pennsylvania Yankee”.

I’m probably paying more attention to small communities because I now live in one.  Nevertheless, there seems to be some exciting work going on in many smaller, rural communities these days.  This shift toward hip, sustainable, walkable, local-biz friendly communities is being documented by a number of authors, including the following:

  • Katie McCaskey:  How to Radically Revitalize America:  A Micropolitan Manifesto (check out the PDF – it’s succinct and very nicely put together)
  • Catherine Tumber:  Small, Gritty and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World
  • Barry Moltz and Becky McCray:  Small Town Rules:  How Big Brands and Small Businesses Can Prosper in a Connected Economy

It’s exciting to live in one of these places.  Sometimes it seems like you can feel the transformation taking place.  In no small part thanks to all the work being done by citizens and local businesses alike.

Fantastic Sustainability Lecture

Catherine Tumber, author of Small, Green and Gritty, is going to be speaking in Geneva as part of the HWS Sustainable Community Lecture Series.  Yay!  Patrick Cullina, former Chief Horticulturalist for the amazing High Line park in New York City and Professor Josh Cerra from the Department of Landscape Architecture at Cornell will also be speaking.  Double yay! 

The whole thing is going down on April 2 at 7 p.m. at the Cracker Factory (I keep meaning to write a post about the Cracker Factory.  For now, check out this blog post from The Scout).

I heart Farm Sanctuary

In his book, Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer reviews the practice of factory farming and asks us to consider how much pollution, health risk and animal suffering we’re willing to endure for a piece of meat.  The information in the book made my stomach turn.  It’s a complete horror story.

Thankfully, there are a few glimmers of hope peppered throughout the book.  One example is a fantastic organization in Watkins Glen called Farm Sanctuary.  Watkins Glen is about 35 minutes from Geneva and is home to some beautiful waterfalls and some serious car racing.  Farm Sanctuary is exactly what you might imagine – a refuge for sick and mistreated farm animals.  They also work to raise awareness and promote change about how farm animals are treated.

Before reading Foer’s book, I had no idea how urgently we need to change factory farm practices (I don’t know how things compare in Canada).  I’m not sure yet how or if I’m going to change my eating habits.  Should I become a full-time vegetarian?  Should I try to find ethical meat?  Do I really need to research where all my food comes from?  Apart from my personal eating habits, what else can I do?  Wherever I land on these questions, I will definitely support Farm Sanctuary’s work and I can’t wait to visit when it opens again in the spring.

For more pictures of Farm Sanctuary animals (like the picture of Tweed the Calf, below), check out this article at the Huffington Post.

Update:  Natalie Portman may be making a documentary based on Eating Animals.

Some favourites from December

These Nadège raspberry marshmallows are surprisingly tasty.

I like this snarky website about Rochester.

And this delightful blog about living in America.

Not surprisingly, this book is causing me grief about eating animals.

I liked this article about snow removal and the mob in Montreal.

I love the paintings of Vancouver in this magazine.

I had an amazing lunch at The Bag Lady in London, Ontario and a fantastic dinner at Local Kitchen and Wine Bar in TO.

Speaking of food, I can’t wait to try our new cookbooks – Vij’s at Home and Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes.

Geneva mentioned in this book













When I was in Toronto last month, a friend pointed out that Geneva, NY is mentioned in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night.   I have never read this book, so I had to ask for help in finding the Geneva reference (thanks KP!).  Here is a little blurb from the end of the novel about Dick Diver’s final days:

“After that he didn’t ask for the children to be sent to America and didn’t answer when Nicole wrote asking him if he needed money. In the last letter she had from him he told her that he was practising in Geneva, New York, and she got the impression that he had settled down with someone to keep house for him. She looked up Geneva in an atlas and found it was in the heart of the Finger Lakes section and considered a pleasant place.”

More Favourites

I’ve been gallivanting around Ontario again lately so I thought I’d post another favourites list.  More on Geneva next week, perhaps.

Website: candy chang – I wish I had this kind of creativity.

Documentaries: urbanized – I haven’t seen this yet, but I’m trying to see if I can get it screened in Geneva (no luck yet).  Also check out page one, which is an interesting look at the NYT.

Book: The Big Short – I’m not really a numbers person, but this book about the financial collapse is a real page-turner. Seriously.

Cities: pedestrian scramble – I just stumbled upon one of these in Toronto at the intersection of Bloor and Young. Very disorienting. But so cool.

Crafts: autumn leaf bouquet – see photograph, above.

Recipe:  Glory Bowl from Whitewater Cooks — this recipe is now part of our repertoire.  It’s so good.  You can get nutritional yeast at the natural food store in Geneva (no luck at Wegman’s).