My main criteria when looking for furniture is:

I want real wood. And by “real” wood I mean no MDF, MDP or other modified substances that include pressurized wood chips and glue. Those pieces of junk may look presentable when they are new, but said looks don’t last. The humidity in the air alone make it bloat, add some water action due to cleaning, or the accidental water spilling, or a bit of rain (shit happens), and you have very ugly bookshelves in your kitchen (applicable to all sort of ugly pieces of furniture that I’ve had over the years, including my digital piano that works fine but is starting to show its years — and its many moves). 😦

Plus, let’s admit it, real wood looks so much better.

Unfortunately this criteria alone makes it very difficult to find what I’m looking for. Most stores where we used to live (and here too) are only carrying for the lowest budgets so I am given the choice between MDF, MDF and… MDP (maybe? — I’m still not sure of the difference between the two). Oh, and nobody has bookshelves. Who reads books nowadays, right?

So I’ve had to order online. The only problem with online shopping is that you rely on the description on the website, you can’t really check the quality of the product beforehand, and you need to wait between 4 to 8 weeks for delivery. Oh, the anxiety. After we came back from vacation back in November, and after 5 years of not seeing my books out of their boxes, I had finally decided not to wait any longer and ordered some bookshelves online.

A couple of weeks after the deed was done, we learned that we would be moving. (%$!”*&?!)

So I waited anxiously for our furniture to arrive, hopefully before our change of address. One of the three arrived on time, but after a couple more weeks of waiting, I was informed by email that the shipping  of the two other ones would be delayed due to “unplanned I-don’t-know-what“. So in the mean time I started packing and planning the logistics of our move.

… stress… pray… wait… (I can’t begin to tell how much I pray for silly ordinary stuff since I live in Brazil : please God, help all these guys to do their job the way they should. Amen).

One week before leaving, months after ordering my things, I received another email informing me that one bookshelf would finally be delivered THE SAME WEEK OF OUR MOVE and that the other one was simply discontinued. Argh!

Thankfully after some frantic emails the whole mess was settled : I was given vouchers for the same value to order the stuff again later from my new address. Phew.

(Brazilians keep saying that we need a lot of patience when something is not working out the way it should… I think they should have less patience with incompetence and do their jobs efficiently. Our daily lives here would be much less stressful!!!!)

Isn’t she a beauty? *heart*

I found this cristaleira (china cabinet) in a store here. There wasn’t any choice in stain color or any other model, but I liked it so I bought it. It was delivered the same day. Miracles do happen. The next few days were spent oiling the wood and finally lovingly unpacking all of my books. Yet another miracle (pinch me I must be dreaming): they all fit in. The pretty books behind the glass doors on top, the not-so-pretty dictionaries and language manuals behind the wooden doors below.

Top : Grove dictionary of Music (20 volumes) and Music History; Middle : English fiction; Bottom: French fiction + some Spanish and Portuguese fiction too.

In the days that followed its arrival, I was spending a few minutes every morning and before bed at night just looking at my shelves, rearranging, picking up a book, reading a few lines. Big sighs of happiness.

These two smaller ones were ordered online. The one with the door has the music books (voice, piano, theory) and the other one had the kids’ books (in Portuguese, Spanish, French, English and exercise books).

I realize that if we were living in Canada, we would probably frequent the Public Library. So I wonder if we would own more or less books at home. On the one hand there would be no need to own the books (the ones in English at least), but on the other hand books would be much more affordable, and I surely wouldn’t be able to control myself in the second hand bookstores. Over here there is no Public Library and bookstores are rare. I am so glad we have family and friends from North America and Europe who are always willing and wanting to send gifts for the children. (Books make much better gifts than toys or clothes, I always say).


O Estrangeiro

(click for source)

I’ve just finished reading L’Étranger (The Stranger) by Camus. It had been on my to-read list for a long time because it’s a “classic” and I (stupidly) challenged myself to read more classics this year. (I say “stupidly” because it seemed that as soon as I set myself the challenge, I became uninterested).

Well, how depressing.

It’s about a guy who kills a man by accident and gets death penalty. Sure, it’s well written and all. As the reader you get into his head, get as bored as he is about the events that unfold. But really, what was the point of reading such a depressing story ?! Ah, but maybe this novel is about more than just another depressing story, and I simply don’t get the philosophy of the absurd. Whatever.

I’m getting frustrated with the French literature: Madame Bovary is a bored adulterous woman who lets herself die of unhappiness (leaving a heartbroken husband and a motherless child), the Stranger is again bored and, though he seems to think he is happy, ends up… headless. I’m having a hard time reading Le Rouge et le Noir (the Black and the Red) by Stendhal, because it’s yet again another story of a coldhearted young man who starts an affair with a married woman…

The only pleasant surprise so far (in the world of French literature) (that I’ve read recently) (that I can think of) was Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies’ Paradise) by Zola. As a teenager, a friend had loved it and lend it to me… but the descriptions were too long for my taste then. This time around I found myself delighting in such wealth of details in mid-nineteenth century fashion and innovations in the department store. The main character, Denise, is actually virtuously strong and refuses the advances of her rich boss, who is reputed to be a ladies’ man. I know, shocking in a French novel… Maybe I will enjoy reading more of Emile Zola.

A mulher de branco

(click on pic for source)

I have just finished reading the Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, novel n.2 in my 12 classics challenge.

As I started reading it, I was wondering, was this a mystery ? A romance ? A suspence ? A horror story ? I couldn’t put my mind around it. Well as it turns out, it’s  considered the first “sensation” novel. Whatever that means. It was a thrilling book. A page-turner. And to top it all off *sigh* a nice yet unexpected ending. I loved it.

Should I write a plot summary? I think others have done it better than I would. Instead, if you are interested, I leave you here a couple of interesting links: the Wiki* articleanother enthusiastic one in the Guardian, and here is the free ebook from Project Gutenberg.

You’re welcome. 🙂