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Forced Relaxation: Darn it, I love my bulbs!

Well the excitement just never seems to end over here in North Vancouver. I have thrown myself full tilt into bulbs and spring flowers. In the fall I bought tulip and garlic bulbs and planted them. Knowing nothing, I tossed them in the dirt and was quite surprised to see them peeking their heads up in December.

I didn’t think this was quite right so I kept putting more dirt over top until finally I had something of an unmanageable mountain and they still kept coming up. Anyways, the tulips are growing like crazy.

And wait, the excitement doesn’t stop here. Then I looked in my garlic container and started rooting around in there, and noticed that sure enough, they too are doing something that looks suspiciously like growing. My new relaxation ritual currently involves a daily visit with some rambunctious digging on my part just to say a quick hello and then goodbye at least until tomorrow to my little garlic bulbs. I can’t contain my joy when I’m around these things and every day I drag home another little plant.

Is this what it means to be relaxed or is this what it means to get old? I’m not sure but I’m liking it.

PS am I harming my garlic by digging around for it everyday?


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Blurbondency: how do you react to bamboozling book blurbs? (via Lynsey May writes down the night)

I love Lynsey’s rant on “blurbondency”. I have to say, I’ve run into this myself from time to time.

Blurbondency – The feeling of let down and confusion that follows reading a book because it has a blurb from one of your favourite authors, only to find the book disappointing and unreadable. Self doubt and a re-examination of bookshelves is also to be expected. Blurbs are powerful things. They act as the same kind of seal of approval you’re looking for when you’re eyeing up a potential date. I’ve picked up and taken home plenty of books thanks t … Read More

via Lynsey May writes down the night

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Re-calibrating My Post Christmas Digestive System

Echhh. It’s that time of year again where I make a promise to be good to myself. Being a stomach sufferer for most of my life I have come to know what makes my stomach happy and what doesn’t. For starters, anything with wheat in it does not make me happy. Anything with cow dairy definitely doesn’t make me happy. But finally I have also found that when I eat too much sugar or anything that processes like sugar and yeast (for example potatoes, mushrooms, miso), that that doesn’t make my stomach happy either. The holidays, are of course, the hardest time of the year to try and manage this kind of diet. Besides who can resist truffles, cookies, gorgonzola and a fine glass of wine. Not me. But generally I pay for it.

What are the symptoms? Well for one thing, I become bloated, my stomach is distended and it hurts, I become extremely tired and irritable, my skin gets blotchy with itchy spots. I get miserable and depressed. This year I tried to not get too carried away. Eating an entire stollen made of kamut (I can eat kamut which does have gluten in it) didn’t help. I did eat cow cheese and I definitely drank wine and toasted the season joyously. But I didn’t go crazy.

I didn’t go crazy mainly because I didn’t want to have to do the full-on anti-candida, no wheat (non-gluten) no yeast, no sugar, no dairy, barely any fruit diet. I did it for about 6 months a few years ago when I had gotten really sick and it was worth it. Now I live a modified version of that diet. On the original diet I couldn’t eat any wheat, kamut, or spelt, absolutely no dairy product whatsoever, no meat, nothing with sugar in it including alcohol, miso, soya sauce, Bragg, vinegar, processed foods, no bananas, oranges, mangoes or grapefruit, no broccoli, potatoes mushrooms or garlic and eeekkkk no coffee.

As I started introducing things back into my diet I finally found a balance of foods that allowed me to maintain my stomach health. On a regular basis I can eat: kamut, I eat all fruits and vegetables and legumes, I eat limited fish (salmon, mussels, Seawise prawns and scallops), I eat some but limited amounts of goat cheese (usually once or twice a week)  because if I eat too much it still affects me. I avoid all condiments especially things like ketchup and HP sauces which are full of sugar. I also avoid things like cookies, muffins and cakes because they tend to be packed with sugar.  I now eat Bragg, miso, mushrooms etc… the main thing I try and control is my dairy and sugar in-take. Throughout the year when I’m maintaining I will occasionally have things like a muffin or my mother-in-laws amazing veggie/rice noodle lasagna loaded with all kinds of cheese, and I also drink wine mostly on the weekends but I’m always striving to maintain some kind of balance in my diet.


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My Great Reads 2010

I started 2010 out with the ambition of reading 100 books this year. Like all great plans mine was waylaid by the exigencies of life. I did, however, still manage to read some great books.

My top reads this year are:
1. My absolute favourite read this year is Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann – a great literary read that uses an interesting cultural device to tell an expansive and wonderful story.

2. Brief Interviews with Hideous MenDavid Foster Wallace – Wow, I found this book to be a breath of fresh air. It’s very literary but it breaks free from the usual storytelling devices and then on top of that it contains some really amazing stories. It’s changed the way I believe people can write about things.

3. The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery – This is just a wonderful read. Written by a French writer it explores unlikely friendships within the quagmire of the French class system. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to read it again.

4. infidel Ayaan Hirsi Ali – I don’t read very much non-fiction but I thought this offered a glimpse into a world I know very little about. It makes me want to know more about women and Islam.

5. Freedom Jonathan Franzen – Because he tells a great story that speaks to our times. And he gets bonus points for making me laugh.

6. Loving Frank – Nancy Horan – A great story about Frank Lloyd Wright‘s lover Martha Borthwick. It’s one of those books you can’t put down.

7. Room – Emma Donaghue – Well there’s no question that this is a creepy story about a woman who gives birth to a little boy while she is enslaved in a small room for seven years, but wow does Emma Donoghue ever create a singularly believable voice for young Jack.

8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer – I’m a sucker for any books on war and this one is a great read. I’m now eager to travel to Guernsey now that I know it exists.

9. Mansfield Park – Jane Austen – I completely immersed myself in Ms. Austen’s world when I was reading this. What a testament to the durability of great literature.

10. Tuesday’s With Morrie by Mitch Album – Because this book helped me understand dying better and that’s something I needed to learn about this year.

I’m starting next year’s list which includes:
Irshad Manji – The Trouble with Islam Today
Sea Sick – The Global Ocean in Crisis
Malcolm Gladwell – Blink and What the Dog Saw

I would love to hear from others any recommendations you might have for fiction or non-fiction that I can put on my ‘must read’ list.



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Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth

Well, this is an interesting book and certainly one that I could have used during my turbulent teens and twenties.  Geneen Roth is a former compulsive eater turned writer and mentor who explores the relationship women have with food.

Through explorations of her own journey as well as many of the women in her workshops she  not surprisingly discovers that people’s behaviours are often locked in the wounds of childhood.

The self-punishing and relentless cycle of binge eating represents the double-edged sword of momentary oblivion followed by self-hatred and recrimination. “If only I could be thin my life would be perfect.” “Once I get down to a size 10 everything will be good.” And while many will find themselves reaching these self-inflicted goals it’s often done in such an unhealthy way and without the true self-discovery needed that the cycle starts all over again.

Roth explores the idea that healthy weight loss isn’t about weight loss at all. It’s about untangling the emotional wounds of the past that prevent us from self-love . Learn to love yourself and everything else will follow seems to be the lesson from this book. Although Women, Food and God deals specifically with compulsive eating, I suspect that this book could appeal to anyone with addiction issues.

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Candida Sucks

Fine Wine

Image by xueexueg via Flickr

I know when I’m telling people I’ve done a face plant on a plate of exotic French cheeses like Cambenzola and St. Andre’s Triple Cream (I’m usually still laughing at this point)  that I’m in deep trouble and way off course from my IBS anti-candida diet. Throw in chocolate covered strawberries, a renewed love for pasta and tomato sauce, fine wine and barrels of orange juice to get me through the summer heat and I know that yeast is starting to multiply by the gazillions.  Tick tock tick tock. Candida is moving in like the Germans taking over Poland.  It’s pure evil. Sensitive eco-systems like  my stomach can’t live like others do. Sad but true.

I tell myself that I only did two or three faceplants (ooohh I forgot about that tasty meringue and chocolate cream concoction from Capers) but the fact is that if you have IBS and if you are prone to  candida then you can’t eat like other people. How often do I actually have to remind myself of that?

So how do I know when things are going astray? Well for one thing it’s easy to compare the times when I feel great and the times when I don’t. And when I’m not feeling great a visit to my naturopath confirms what I already know.

The first sign is my stomach. It’s sore (literally) and swollen. I’m tired and can’t sleep, I have crazy sugar cravings, I’m anxious, my body hurts and  I have itchy patches of skin.

So how am I going to solve this? Well I’ll solve it by a) not drinking alcohol b) not having any sugar, for example:  cakes, cookies, muffins, fruit juices, honey, maple syrup c) avoiding carbohydrates like pasta, rice, flour unless it’s whole grains and brown rice d) no dairy e) I’m going to the store to buy some probiotics to help the process along.

I’ve been here before and being a lover of great food, my guess is I’ll be here again but for now I’m looking forward to feeling healthy again.


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Sarah’s Key a novel by Tatiana De Rosnay: Book Review

I’ve read enough books to know that I enjoy ‘war books’ particularly books that deal with the Second World War. While Dave is busy lapping up the more hard coreThe Third Reich at War by Richard R. Evans, I have just finished reading Sarah’s Key, the story of Sarah Strazinsky, whose family along with 13,000 other Jews, is rounded up by French police on July 16th, 1942 and sent to  Vel D’hiv where they were eventually transported to Auschwitz for extermination.

In the opening pages of the novel when the knock comes at the door and Sarah hears French voices she’s confused by her mother’s fear. Surely, Sarah thinks, it’s only Germans they needed to be afraid of.

So begins the story of Sarah’s life as she and her mother and father are marched through the streets to the Vel D’hiv along with 13,000 others. Sarah locks her younger brother in their secret hiding place but takes the key to the cupboard with her, knowing that she will somehow go back to save him.

The story of Sarah’s life is told both by Sarah herself but also by Julia Jarmond a journalist who is asked to write a 60th anniversary commemorative piece on the Vel D’hiv round-up. While few people, including her own husband’s family talk about or even seem to know much about this period of French history, Julia’s research and soon to be obsession, bring her directly to the story of Sarah Starzinski.

Much like the movie Julie and Julia I quite enjoyed the story of Julia Child and not so much the story of Julie (which let’s face it was boring). In this case the structure works well initially when De Rosnay goes back and forth between the two stories. But halfway through the book, Sarah’s story as told through her eyes, is abandoned and we are left with the much less interesting story of Julia and her crummy husband, as she searches for what happened to Sarah and her family.

All in all I think this is a good read. The book is fast-paced and the early sections, particularly as told by Sarah herself are riveting accounts of fictionalized history. The story telling for the most part is good and is weakened only in the latter half of the book when the story focusses more on Julia’s journey. While this isn’t a great literary read, it’s an amazing story of a little known period of French history.

Other books I’ve read on related themes:
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Saffran Foer
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovksy
Things They Carried by Tim O’brien

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