Category Archives: Books

Eat Good Food! Buy My Book!

late summer nightsHEY, MINIONS.

The day is here! I’ve released my first-ever book and it’s a cookbook. I’ve been cooking since I was 5 years old. I’ve taught cooking camps to kids from ages 8 to 17, and I’ve been paid by folks to teach them one-on-one too, so I’m not your normal “hobby” chef.

In fact, I’m really political about cooking. I believe cooking is the most valuable skill you can learn and it’s one of the biggest acts of rebellion you can make. I believe your purchasing choices for local foods, quality ingredients, and the shunning of big-food processed products is as political as you can get on a day-to-day basis. The food industry is a giant now, and the more we little people do at home with real ingredients grown or craft-made by local artisanal foods folks, the more we can shake the foundation of Big Agriculture.

My goal when I wrote this cookbook was to INSPIRE you, not just give you recipes. I want to empower you to see that recipes can be infinitely adjusted and personalized to suit your taste. I want you to see that cooking simply doesn’t mean being boring. I want you to feel like you can spend $10 to make a meal you’d bleed $40 to eat in a restaurant.

Eat Yummy Things and Live Better

Cooking isn’t about eating — it’s about having a creative outlet, taking a little time out to reflect on your day while you chop and simmer and stew. It’s about telling yourself you’re worth the time it takes to make something nice — whether you live alone or have a a slew of people in your household. It’s about feeding yourself food that’s from the land you live on and going to bed with that happy, full feeling that comes from eating well. This relates to the idea of the Qi of food — that which is grown on the land you live upon will provide you the energy you need to live and be there.

If I change a few people from being the kind of folks who think “eating well” means getting food from restaurants and instead make them into people who think they can do it better at home, then I’m gonna feel like I’ve met my goal.

All That and Just Plain Good Writin’

But in the end, all of this matters jack-shit if my writing isn’t engaging, funny, or clear. From early response, my first readers are indicating I’m meeting those standards — and more! Please check it out. Support me by spending a measly $5, and help me inspire a small-scale revolution that starts in your kitchen. With over 25 recipes and at 63 pages, I think it’s worth the price of a coffee. (You’ll receive free updates in the future, too!)

If you’d like to give it as a gift, you can do that too — just click the little “present” icon in the purchase box.

BUY MY BOOK HERE.

Early Readers are Raving

My friend, Steffani Cameron has just launched her new e-book. It is a cookbook. A no nonsense, everyone can do it, get your grill out and eat good food kinda book. Possibly the best $5 you will ever spend. Get one & good things will happen.” — My friend Angie Quaale, who is a celebrity chef, BBQ champion, and owner of Langley’s Well Seasoned store.

“Your humor is priceless. Enjoying the reading, as much as the recipes. Never laughed so much (in a)  long time.” — A new Twitter follower who received it as a gift, @ddsnorth

 

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A Big Thinky Post About Not Thinking

They say these early days in the new year are among the most depressing.

Mental, emotional, financial hangovers from the holidays, and even the “bottom of the hill looking up” perspective of the year to come — tons of factors affect our moody new year days.

This morning, it’s nearly 8:30 and should be lighter than it is. A storm front has parked over the city, dumping rain on the morning’s commute. The sky’s so dark my desk lamp isn’t enough to light the room with, and it’s daytime.

Today, I had planned to write some kind of optimistic “New Year/New Thoughts” type post about my goals and such for the year to come, but morning brings a weary world-view and a pensive state.

Part of the new year thing: I’m reading again. I want to read in bed for a few minutes every night.

Guy having a moment at Vancouver's English Bay.

When I was at coffee last week, in one of those weird chance encounters we sometimes have*, the book The Power of Now came up. Eckhart Tolle’s new-agey classic was born here in Vancouver, and people have mentioned it to me at several points in my life, but I’ve never capitulated and read it.

The thing is, I knew about it in ’97, when I was 24. My mother got it for Christmas that year. She’d been friends with some new age bookstore guy named Brock Tulley, and friend-of-a-friend thing, got the book, read it, and was trying to implement it in her life.

It’s one thing to try and change your mental state, but you can’t imagine away making only $25,000 in the two years before your death from cancer.

Times were very hard for her then. I watched her read this book and try to be “different”. She died broke and with cancer. What can I tell you? That was different.

So, yeah. The book’s been a hard sell on me.

But I’m reading it now.

[deep breath]

I suspect this will be a mind-blowing read on a few levels.

First things first, I’m not a spiritual person in the standard way. The beliefs I have, well, I couldn’t nutshell them for you if I tried. I’m in transition there. New age is not my bag, really, but trying to explain what I do/don’t believe would be a mess.

On Facebook, my religion is “It’s complicated.”

Raised in the Catholic Church and exposed to their duplicitous behaviour, my beliefs come from my life experience and not much else. So, forget “God” and all that. Let’s talk about us and our world-view.

As I age, I see what our thinking and perspective does for us, and I believe we’ll probably never have a clue about the brain’s full capacity. I believe many of us let our thinking cloud who we are, and that it takes a long time to muddy ourselves up.

This book talks about mindfulness in ways I’ve been thinking about lately, so it’s perfectly timed.

I’ve been remembering how I used to think about the world, and ways I used to look at the world around me, and questioning when I lost my wonder, and how I can get it back.

Wistful writings on the “girl I used to be” crop up here from time to time, and I suspect I’m not alone in the wistfulness.

There’s who we want to be, and there’s who we become. For most, somewhere between there and here, we derail. Every now and then, though, we get a chance to right the way. I can’t help but think I went off track somewhere.

People can lose their focus after seeing wrong so long that they can’t see straight when the light comes on.

If given the chance to “fix” what’s wrong in their lives, I imagine most people couldn’t tell you what the actual problem is. Why aren’t you what/who/how you want to be?

For three or four years I’ve tried to figure out what was going on, and in the last year I’ve sort of figured out that it’s two different things. One, my headgame’s all awry. Two, this city’s life comes with too many built-in obstacles and I got no room to breathe.

This year’s about putting my money where my mouth is. It’s about moving to a place that reduces the obstacles, culls the distractions. It’s a little cheaper, but it’s a lot more livable for me. Jumping on that wave of change ain’t enough. I need to get my headspace into the flow too.

There’s so much mental clutter from recent years, it’s in my way. I can’t undo my past, wouldn’t want to. I’ve earned my now-showing grey hairs.

But this overthinking is hurting me.

For a long time, I’ve had to try to be conscious about how I walk / sit / stand / sleep, because a long-term back injury does that to you. I’ve thought so hard about it that it now turns out I’ve been overthinking and overcompensating, possibly sustaining the injury as a result.

For example, I have long contracted the wrong muscles at the wrong time, standing that way too, and it’s destabilized me. Standing up and breathing, it’s second nature to us. It’s not something we’re “taught.” But when that second nature goes awry during an injury or illness and we never correct it, what’s the fall-out?

Well, now I know what it is first-hand when we unlearn who we are at the most basic level. For me, I’ve unlearned a lot of myself, including life basics, like breath. (And apparently 75% of adults are doing it wrong.)

That simple advice on “breathing through the belly” and “walking one inch taller” might actually be changing my life.

Long story short? I haven’t even been “being myself” properly.

Three years on the other side of trying to “understand” my injury, and dumbing it down — just breathing and learning how to hold a neutral back, just being — might be all my back really needs.

And it blows my mind that I’ve thought myself into ill health.

I’ve stopped listening and feeling. I need to focus on what my body feels like, not its symptoms. I need to see the big picture — how posture and breath affect everything I do in my life, because they’ve been crippling me.

The Power of Now seems about connecting to the moment and being really present. If I were, then what would life be like? Would I have let things go this long, this far?

It’s great timing, because I’ve had one episode after another lately that affirm this need to focus on my breath and be mindful of my posture, and live completely in the moment with awareness of the little things I think and feel.

I’ve been killing myself to improve my back and all I need to do is breathe? Crazy shit.

Oh, dear readers, don’t worry — I won’t become some Zen happy-la-la girl who signs her blog posts “Love and Namaste” or anything. I’m a smart-ass at DNA level and that’ll never change.

Laughing more, though, I could handle that. Having more fun. And this is part of the journey to getting to that, I think. Should be interesting.

____

*I’m a big fan of the idea of serendipity. If you run into someone you like, but don’t know well, like I did, at my acupuncture session last week, and it happens to end at the same time, and you both happen to have a free 30 minutes, then go to coffee, because maybe — just maybe — there’s something greater afoot, and you might have something to learn from them. Naturally, I bought the book 10 minutes later.

Damn Right, It Feels Good

I’ve been remiss in mentioning a book the publishers Rodale sent to me at the end of the summer. I usually turn down offers of free products because I hate feeling obligated when it comes to writing reviews afterward, but when the rep told me what Debby Herbenick’s book, Because it Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction was about, that Herbenick writes about sex from a psychological place as much as a how-to place, well, I was totally interested. Continue reading

A Rare Holiday Book Review: Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair

Welp, it’s Friday morning, and as of tomorrow I’m off nine days for the first time, really, since ’05. THAT is a long story. (Or three years of tumultuous, always unpredictable blogging, read the backlog. ;) No WONDER I’ve been so tired for so long. It’s amazing I’m still ticking. Wow.

I’m looking forward to doing very little. Seeing a few friends and family, but I’ll mostly be enjoying time to myself that will hopefully be filled with good movies, naps, and more great books.

I don’t usually do book reviews because there’s plenty of book-review places for you to browse, but also because I’m not much of a reader these days. (I pore over the web all the time instead). When I was a kid, I was the book-a-day type. Before the internet, I was a book-a-week type.

I’ve worked in a bookstore, have been a librarian, and took publishing courses at SFU, so you know I’ve got the literary thing under my skin.

So, it’s with great excitement that I share the latest series I’ve gotten into. Now, Harry Potter I had read before it even hit bookshelves ‘cos I was working at Duthie’s Book, back in the day, and spent the next several years turning people onto him. In fact, the last book review I did was for another series I discovered on the first book and is now being made into a feature by Pixar, How To Train Your Dragon by Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the III and Cressida Cowell. (A reader emailed me after she bought the books for her son, who, out of the blue one day, just strutted into the room she was in and thanked her profusely for the book, said it was the best ever, he wanted more, then turned around, went back to reading, and was never seen again. Books: The way to get some free time for yourself if you’re a parent!)

Sadly, this Thursday Next series is already onto its FIFTH book and I’ve only found it now.

Surely others have found it before me, but in case you’re sadly lacking its presence in your life, I’m here to fix that woeful lack.

In a nutshell, Jasper Fforde’s “Thursday Next” series is to literary crime solving what Harry Potter’s world is to wizardry. But before you sit down to read The Eyre Affair, book one in the series, it would do you some good to turf anything you know of time, space, and crossing through dimensions. You thought I said it was about literary crime solving? Well, it is. But it’s NOTHING like you could possibly imagine. Take your imagined idea of a literary crime solving series and throw some serious drugs into the mix, odes de Douglas Adams, a love of Shakespeare, and dimensional travel into the mix and you’re still going to be a million miles short of the destination to which Jasper Fforde will happily lead you.

The series is set in 1980s in London, and it’s not before long that you realize this is not a London you’re familiar with. Instead, it’s an England that’s been at war for more than a hundred years in the Crimea.

And besides that, it’s a whole other world of worlds. A world filled with Baconians and Miltons. A world where literature is the drug everyone thrives on, and even casual passers-by on the street will argue venomously about whether Shakespeare really wrote all his own plays, or whether the lawyer Francis Bacon did and payed Shakespeare to pretend to be the playwright. It’s a world where, if you can think of it, there’s a Special Ops division dedicated to finding crime in it.

Like, LiteraTec. Where crimes involving literature are solved. Like, thefts of first editions, trafficking of elaborately faked first editions, or, when things get hairy, a character jumps from his fiction world’s pages and instead crashes into reality and unleashes havoc.

Thursday Next is our heroine, the young woman from LiteraTec who was a hero in the Crimean War and went back to save some of the fallen in her troop during a failed offensive. And in case you think she’s just another lovely bookworm, Thursday offers some pretty simple advice for being good at your job, like she is at hers.

“Words are all very well, but a nine-millimetre really gets to the root of the problem.”

From the first page of the first book, The Eyre Affair, in a chapter called “A Woman Called Thursday Next” (each chapter opens with a brief excerpt from the fictional future about the early days of LiteraTec with Thursday Next):

“. . . The Special Operations Network was instigated to handle policing duties considered either too unusual or too specialized to be tackled by the regular force. There were thirty departments in all, starting at the more mundane Neighborly Disputes (SO-30) and going onto Literary Detectives (SO-27) and Art Crime (SO-24). Anything below SO-20 was restricted information, although it was common knowledge that the ChronoGuard was SO-12 and Antiterrorism SO-9. It is rumored that SO-1 was the department that polices the SpecOps themselves. Quite what the others do is anyone’s guess. What is known is that the individual operatives themselves are mostly ex-military or ex-police and slightly unbalanced. “If you want to be a SpecOp,” the saying goes, “act kinda weird . . .”

MILLION DE FLOSS
-A Short History of the Special Operations Network

My father had a face that could stop a clock. I don’t mean that he was ugly or anything; it was a phrase the ChronoGuard used to describe someone who had the power to reduce time to an ultraslow trickle. Dad had been a colonel in the ChronoGuard and kept his work very quiet. So quiet, in fact, that we didn’t know he had gone rogue at all until his timekeeping buddies raided our house one morning clutching a Seize & Eradication order open-dated at both ends and demanding to know where and when he was. Dad had remained at liberty ever since; we learned from his subsequent visits that he regarded the whole service as “morally and historically corrupt” and was fighting a one-man war against the bureaucrats within the Office for Special Temporal Stability. I didn’t know what he meant by that and still don’t; I just hoped he knew what he was doing and didn’t come to any harm doing it. His skills at stopping the clock were hard-earned and irreversible: He was now a lonely itinerant in time, belonging to not one age but to all of them and having no home other than the chronoclastic ether.

Continue reading the excerpted first chapter here — after you finish reading ME, of course!

It’s really too complicated to pull one of the funnier passages out later, since most of it will confuse you, but take my word for it, and look for Jasper Fforde’s Erye Affair if you’re tired of the same old sombre, dry reading. And if you’re a lifelong bookworm who wishes like hell someone could capture the weird madness of the fiction world and tie it into reality, Jasper Fforde’s finally done that, but instead of just doing that, he’s used influences from Douglas Adams and so many other great writers, because it’s a world entirely about writing. I can’t even begin to explain all its complexities to you, because I don’t want to… you really must read it first-hand yourself.

One reviewer called it “ingenious,” and it really is. Another reviewer said, “There are shades of Douglas Adams, Lewis Carroll, A Clockwork Orange, 1984, and that’s just for starters!” Oh, you have no idea, readers. You must, must, must check it out. You must!

And I’m glad I’ve got four other books to move on to when I finish this one. That’s right, I’m only half-way through, but my colleague is giddy knowing that I’m on the first book. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “I can’t wait for you to get to the rest of the series — it just gets better and better in every book!” With a world this complicated, I can see how setting it up might get in the way of the plot (which it doesn’t, as it’s compulsively readable) so I can’t wait to see how Fforde does when he doesn’t need to waste his time introducing us to the Chronoguard, Goliath Corp., Jack Schitt, Acheron, the Baconians, or anything else.

I can’t wait. :)

A Game For New (And Old) Lovers

Part of the fun of a new relationship is that of getting to know each other. We get to make a mental checklist. You learn their mannerisms, routine comments, favourite phrases, what their contemplative expressions are, how they look in that moment where they’re truly relaxed, and so forth. In the bedroom, it’s no different.

(But let’s be honest. The beauty of a great relationship is that you continue learning about your lover over the long term. Hell, we never stop learning about ourselves, so how could we ever stop learning about them?)

We forget, sometimes, how truly expansive the land of lovemaking is. It covers vast territory, and the amount of activities at our disposal is legion. Sometimes, it might be nice to have a map at our disposal.

Enter this little game I’ve thought of. Let’s call it “School Me, Baby.” It’s a lusty little literary exercise, the kinda thing that turns a geek like me on.

You and your lover go to the bookstore and you each pick out a book on sexuality that best appeals to you. Now, it’s not rocket science, this book-selecting thing. Most of them will cover all the basics, but the question is whether or not it covers the best for you. I mean, self-help books are like underwear; almost any will technically do the job, but which best fits you is a highly subjective matter. In this matter, you want to ensure that the book covers everything from foreplay to positioning. If you’ve got kinks, you may have to buy a second book to reflect that, too, so go right ahead.* Take the time to scan through books. If you’re not really pro at deciding what books work for you, simply pick one subject to look up in each; say, oral. Read. Whichever passage evokes the experience best for you, that’s the book that best fits you.

So, you pick a lazy Sunday morning, head into the bookstore together, and spend an hour or two just browsing through sex books in the corner together. Decide which one each of you wants to take home, buy them, and head back to the pad.

Now you get to either head home to read in different parts of the house, or you can separate for the day and read in different areas. The only thing is, you’re going to decide how much you’ll be reading, and if you want to, what sections you’ll be covering. (Foreplay? Oral? Anal? Kinky? Old-fashioned lovemaking? Something rougher? Waterplay?)

You’ll make arrangements to meet again soon – that night, the next – for dinner.

Between now and then, your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to read the required readings with a highlighter in hand. Anything that turns you on, gets you revving, or has you touching yourself, you highlight.

You can make an evening of reading the passages together, if you like, or you can trade books and get together again the next night, after you’ve done your homework. I think it’d be kind of sexy and hot to get a bunch of candles going, toss a blanket on the floor, scatter pillows about, and open up to, say, the highlighted section on oral. Naked, sprawled on the floor, the receiver reads the passage out to the soon-to-be-giver, and when the giver’s suitably inspired, they get down to work – possibly even while still being read to.

I have this image of the guy going down, hearing about, oh, say clitoral sucking techniques, and after he gives it a valiant try, looking up, and saying “Like that?” This is one of those times you can have a dialogue while you’re doing it. Have fun, exchange feedback, make it a game where you try slight variations of each technique, and see what one provokes the best reaction. Call it the “compare and contrast” segment of the evening.

Any which way, the point is that you learn from your lover’s perspective, in clear and certain terms, what it is that they find works for them, or what it is they’d like to experience.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, no two bodies are the same. There is no one surefire just-add-water instant-orgasm trick. Everyone has different needs, and for many people, it’s really hard to express exactly what it is we’re desiring. This is one of those little tricks designed to take care of those differences between us all.

VARIATIONS:
Not only can you highlight what turns you on as far as having done to you, but you can also highlight, in another colour, the things you’d love to do to your partner.

You can buy the book for your lover, highlight all the things you’d like to have done to you, and put Post-It notes opposite those sections with little suggestive notes, such as, “And in return, I would pin you down, and then perform – turn to page 94.” On page 94, you’d highlight raunchier parts the passage of what it is you’d do. Use page tabs to mark sections.

When reading your lovers’ book’s highlighted passage, if anything smacks of something you’d like to experience that wasn’t covered in your own book, underline it and mark the page for your lover.

As mentioned above, there are kinks in the world. Kinks are made, not born, and if you’re entering a new phase with your lover where kinks are something you’re wanting to explore together, starting that phase with an exercise like this, except using books focusing on BDSM and other alternative lifestyles, might ensure you’re both on the same page when you’re starting out, or give you an overview of the possibilities the new lifestyle you’re considering might offer to you as a couple.