What I Liked About October

Central Park Squirrel

Central Park Squirrel

Everything. The End!

If you like a few grumbles, though, here they are:

  • Very bad month for fitness – even worse than September.
  • Skating has started up again and I haven’t had/made time to go to the rink yet.
  • Was required to do some work at home during my vacation.

But I am not going to dwell on those things!

October had an exciting confluence of events with the New York trip, Thanksgiving, my birthday, and a couple of concerts all thrown into the mix. I had 9 days off work, the longest vacation (at a stretch) I’ve taken in several years.

Thanksgiving involves a big dinner with extended family at my parents’ place. My dad and I have birthdays in October so we roll it all into one and celebrate together. The weather and fall colours were spectacular for most of the month.

For my birthday, Rom and I went out to the local place that does certified Neapolitan pizza. I joked, with only slight exaggeration, that the glass of wine I ordered cost as much as the pizza 🙂 We went to a late-night show to see Beach House, a hazy romantic dream pop band.

In the time off before going to New York, I made a double batch of quince jelly with quinces from a friend. They were a bugger to cut up and the whole process was pesky, but it turned out! I tried hard to channel my mother and grandmother and remember how they did it, with a pillowcase hung over a stock pot! The juice was a sickly light green colour and I thought the jelly would be mistaken for gooseberry, but it turned its proper pale orange colour at the end. Amazing! I forgot to mention that I made a batch of pickled beets with my mom last month, too. My only other preserving this month was to roast and puree a gift 5-pound squash!

I put in over 25 hours volunteering which was a little begrudging at times but needed to be done, and I had the satisfaction of not leaving anyone in the lurch. Not quite sure that’s the motivation you’re supposed to have when volunteering, but in tough times, it will do!

My 13-year-old nephew stayed over 3x and we always like visiting with him. My sister is a nurse who works regular overnight shifts and needs a hand. He is a good victim opponent for Rom to play MTG with!

After returning home from New York, we had tickets to see a punk band we really like, Against Me! In addition to their musical talents, they are one of two rock bands (that I know of) with transgender singers.

Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin

Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin

Speaking of which, I added another book to my list of parenting books about transgender kids. I read Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin. The author profiled 6 teens who are transgender, genderqueer or somewhere else on the gender spectrum. They are all in a process of growing up and self-discovery, and range from spectacularly well adjusted to seriously fucked up. Based on my own kid’s experience, I know this can be a very fine line. As such, I found this book a lot more upsetting than the other “trans” parenting books I read, because it didn’t leave me feeling hopeful. I thought more about how isolating and difficult the whole process is. However, you will be struck by the kids’ courage in being true to themselves. I would love to know how they are all doing 10 years from now.

Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet by Susan Cain

I chose two other books for October. I finally read Quiet: The Power of Introverts…by Susan Cain. I was so disappointed! The author started off with some great examples of how an introvert can still be strong and effective in the workplace. For the rest of the book, she summarizes brain research, almost all of which has been featured in the press before. I hoped it would be a guide for introverts or the people who supervise them: best practices for introverts and extroverts to work together. But the little advice provided was superficial. Basically she asserts over and over that quiet people/thinkers can be innovators and have value. If, as an introvert, you are having a self-esteem crisis, this might be worth reading. Otherwise, it won’t tell you anything new.

Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe

Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe

I read one book I loved in October, Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life by Nina Stibbe. The author was a nanny for a literary family in the 80s and she wrote letters home to her sister about everyday life. The kids she babysat, and their mom and neighbours, are so quirky: only real life could be like that! The dialogue and one-liners from the kids made me sputter with laughter. At the same time, her observations about life in the 80s rang completely true. I did worry that the book would be all zingy script-writing, but it takes a turn when Nina goes off to college and her relationship with the family changes. Then she is no longer stuck in a holding pattern, but really takes charge of her life. My favourite bit of the book is that one aspect is left in suspense until it is resolved in the very last sentence. So don’t peek ahead!


OK, another grumble. I had to read The Orenda for my book club. I would never have picked it up on my own. After 50 pages I didn’t want to finish it. I thought there must be a point, so I kept going. But I was wrong. Summary: torture, torture, torture, die, die, die. The book was gruesomely violent from start to finish under the guise of revealing the history of the tribal nations in Quebec and Ontario. I couldn’t read it at meal times or at bed times or in little snippets. So I had to plow through and then it was like a Game of Thrones marathon! If you don’t know your First Contact history, it has conflicting messages. It stated that European contact changed the aboriginal ways forever and brought diseases that were devastating. But it also seemed to say that the warfaring tribal nations probably would have wiped each other out or starved anyway. I read many reviews and author interviews after I finished the book to help figure out his intent. He was trying to say that all of the parties involved (aboriginals and settlers) contributed to the outcome. He was also just trying to make those times come alive for those who don’t know the history. I think this did have some effect on the three members of our book club who didn’t go through the Canadian school system and didn’t know those stories. I have to admit it did lead to a good discussion. But I could do without those torture images in my head forever. Earlier this year, I read Cloud of Bone by Bernice Morgan. It was also hard going, but (in my opinion), much more effective in its messages.

So, overall, my reading this month was not cheering!

Movie_Charing Cross

I did watch two literary DVDs, though. I watched 84 Charing Cross Road (1987) which was a delight! I had loved the book so much, I worried the movie would be a travesty, but I highly recommend it. It gave a great feel for both London and New York in the early 1950s and going up through the years, the characters were convincing, and they didn’t mess with the story!

Movie_Brideshead 1

Then I watched the 2008 film version of Brideshead Revisited. Now how could they condense this to a little over 2 hours? By reimagining the story and deciding on a distinct point of view. The director and screenwriter had a particular vision of how the relationship between Charles and Sebastian, and between Charles and Julia, played out. A lot of situations had been vague in the book, but were not on screen. So the whole story seems to be playing toward a particular outcome. I thought that was both clever and brave, although I had not seen the character’s relationships at all in the same way. This was definitely worth seeing. But of course I still plan to watch the mini-series.

BTW, for Hallowe’en, I got to participate in the teen party at work, wear my Pikachu hat while presiding over a staff meeting, and give out candy from my house. A nice cap on the month!

If you are thinking I was busy, just remember I had vacation this month and most of my “busyness” was entertainment!


  1. I love your post. How many books you read in a month? Do you read “Before I go to sleep”? It’s awesome!

    • Hi Margret, I haven’t read Before I Go to Sleep. Do you recommend it? I keep track of my reading on Goodreads (www.goodreads.com/anexactinglife) and so far this year I’ve been reading 6 books a month. One for my book club, one for my Reading Down the House project, and 4 that I choose for myself!

  2. Fiona

    I think you definitely need to be back at work to have a ‘holiday’ from your vacation, lol! What a busy month.

    Happy Belated Birthday! I feel slightly wistful hearing of autumn colours as our eucalypts are all evergreen. We do have imported trees but nothing like the spectacular Fall photos I see from Canada, though.

    I am really shocked that 9 days is the longest vacation you have had in years! It’s making me embarrassed to admit to our teaching breaks!

    Have you seen any good transgender current affairs programs? We’ve had some good ones here in Australia – hour long feature programs and docos featuring a large number of families. I think I could track down copies if you ever want me to burn-to-disk and mail. I thought they were pretty positive overall.

    The torture book sounds interesting historically but traumatic. I wouldn’t sleep for a year. I’d need the edited version.

    Love the Central Park squirrel 🙂

    • I actually did feel a bit relieved to get back to work, LOL! I am up to 5 weeks vacation each year and I usually chop it up into weeks, long weekends etc. and don’t take a long stretch. I have a week left for the end of the year when Link visits.

      I don’t watch any TV but maybe I could try YouTube. If you have time, could you email me any recommendations?

      The Orenda was overkill for me because I already knew the history and didn’t feel I needed it so graphically described. If you took the torture out of the book, there might have been 20 pages left, ha!

      We have the smaller red squirrels here.

  3. Thanks for sharing the books. And, thanks for your volunteering time. Kudos.

  4. Great post!


  5. Holly

    What a whirlwind month for you! I am agog at the quince jelly-making in the midst of everything else. I need to add that to my bucket list, and channel my grandma in the process.

    • I had been given the quinces several weeks before and I knew I needed to deal with them before vacation, not after! It was a whole day process (while doing other things) so I’m not in a hurry to do it again – next year would be fine!

  6. Alice

    It seems that you had a great month, it’s nice that you manage to fit in everything! And a very happy belated birthday! The highlight of my October was the Allah-Las live, I adore them! Do check them out! xx

    • Thanks for telling me about the band! I love that reverb sound. There is always a place for that retro sound to come back! I am watching a bunch of their videos right now. I bet they were really good live!

      • Alice

        You welcome! Oh, I was sure that you would like them! They were amazing live, I still can’t believe how lucky I am that I got to be there! Their sound is so exquisite! Hopefully, they said that they love Greece and will be touring again! Greetings and sun from Greece xxx

      • Thanks, Alice, I listened to their whole album on YouTube!

  7. What a nice October, girl 🙂 When you’re so productive and also have seen a funny squirrel at Central Park you must feel awesome!

  8. Gam Kau

    Autumn is my favourite season, I really enjoy the drift towards wintertime. I also think it’s easier to not feel guilty about staying inside huddled up with a book with inclement weather. You have been impressively active – with good things!

  9. Happy Birthday! Sounds like a great month 🙂 I doubt I could make it through The Orenda – sounds very disturbing. Is there a less graphic version? I don’t know much about Native Americans outside the US except for the Mayans, Aztecs, and Inca.

    I’m sure you track all the concerts you attend, do you have a blog post about them? A local morning show on the radio was discussing their top 5 favorite concerts and I thought of you.

    • No, there isn’t an alternate version of The Orenda, but I would recommend the youth novel The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich. I didn’t know until I looked it up just now that it became a series of 4 novels, so now I have some reading to do!

      I don’t blog details or reviews of concerts because it’s a bit far afield from this blog (I used to write a music blog for 4 years) and I don’t think most of my readers follow bands very much. But I hope I get across that attending rock concerts at any age is fun!

  10. Happy belated birthday. You had a great month! I will have to add the Love, Nina book to my Goodreads To-Read list! I wish I had time to read in October. October was a bit weird for me with jury duty and prepping for Nanowrimo.

  11. Happy belated birthday, Dar. I am glad you shared your view of the book Quiet as I had that on my reading list. I’ve just removed it. Not what I thought it would be either.

  12. I think you’ve had an excellent month! I loved your tour of NYC…….. I must get my butt there when the kids are older x

  13. Everything! All the fall things! Agreed!

  14. anna

    Beyond Magenta sounds really interesting, thank you for the rec! I’m trying to read as many books as possible before delivery, so I’ll have to cue this up after I’m done reading Lucky Us. Happy Belated Birthday!! 🙂

    • Thanks! I just looked up Lucky Us and it sounds excellent! Please don’t read Beyond Magenta at this time. You don’t need teenage angst right now. A great alternative would be Raising My Rainbow by Lori Duron.

  15. Happy belated birthday Dar! What a fun month you had!

  16. I love quince paste with cheese. I had a favourite one that was sweet but it isn’t being stocked by the supermarket anymore. The other brands are not as sweet. A friend made some – and it was so yummy. Amazing how it changes colour!

    Glad you enjoyed 84 Charing Cross. Anthony Hopkins is brilliant. I have bought a copy of Brideshead and will read it this summer. it has been decades since I watched the miniseries, so will join you in watching. But after I’ve read the book.

    • My quince jelly was not a success. It was far too sour because I added pectin and didn’t compensate with enough extra sugar. I tried to re-cook it with more sugar but it didn’t work – it would have worked if it were jam instead of jelly. So I have just chalked it up to a learning experience!

      I haven’t watched the Brideshead Revisited mini-series yet and need to return it to the library, so I should buy a copy too.

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