BYOB – Bring Your Own Book

Ever since I graduated from University I have had a craving to start a book club. After spending 4 years reading and talking about books for academic credit, I was itching to read and talk about books for fun.

books

But here is the thing with book clubs… They kind of suck. Let me tell you why:

1) You have to buy a new book every month

This isn’t such a bad or outrageous thing but sometimes it’s more important to buy groceries than a new book. Sometimes books are really expensive. Sometimes you buy a book and you find that it is the worst book on the planet but you’ve already paid for it and written your name in the front cover so you can’t even return it and get your money back.

2) If you don’t finish the book then you can’t participate/attend

Life is cray. This is a fact. As hard as we might try, there are days when curling up with a good book just isn’t an option. Then days turn into weeks and before you know it the next book club has arrived and all you know about the thing is the title. Now what? Do you attend but not join in on the conversation, risk discovering major plot points and spoilers? Or do you not go at all? There is no winning in this situation.

3) You read the book but can’t attend the meeting

Before bed, on the train, at the gym you were reading reading reading and then the next meeting is rescheduled last minute and you will be out of town! Well doesn’t that suck. Now you have bought and read this book that you didn’t even really like that much and you can’t attend the book club after all.

I could go on. I won’t, but I could. There are just too many reasons why traditional book clubs don’t work for me. So my friend Kim and I came up with an alternative to the traditional style.

BYOB.

Bring your own book.

book Club

This is how it works. Everyone brings a book that they have already read and that they want to recommend to others. At the meeting everyone gets a chance to share (without spoilers) why they are recommending this book. And then everyone trades!

Short on money? No problem. As there is no purchasing. Just borrowing.

Didn’t finish the book before the next meeting? No problem. At the next meeting you can request to keep the same book.

Hated the book and decided not to finish it? No problem. At the next meeting you have the chance to share (without spoilers) why you don’t recommend this book.

Can’t make it to the next meeting? No problem. You can choose to meet up with the person who borrowed your book/whose book you borrowed outside of book club and trade back, or just hang on to the book until you can make it to a meeting again.

The BYOB method solves all the issues that I have with traditional book clubs. The only snag we ran into was that someone brought a book that we had all read. But this will only be an issue for the first meeting. At the next meeting, in addition to bringing back the book you borrowed, you should/can also bring a new book from your own collection to recommend and trade. So after the first meeting there will be more books than people in the rotation. The best part about this system is that you are receiving a recommendation from someone you trust.

Worried about getting your beloved books back? I feel that. I used a google docs spreadsheet to keep track of which books belong to which person and who borrowed the book. I also took down everyone’s phone number and email so that everyone had a means of getting in touch with one another. We also all wrote our names in the front cover of the book. Just in case.

Me and my friends really enjoyed chatting about books in a very relaxed setting for an evening and we can’t wait to have the next meeting.

Do you participate in a book club? Share in the comments!

 

Advertisements

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

I have seriously been neglecting the blog recently. Life has been exceptionally hectic over the past two weeks. I have had virtually no free time and in the free time I have had I’ve been watching The Mindy Project. Following the antics of Mindy’s made for tv life has become a full fledged obsession. mindyIn addition to binge watching the most hilarious woman on netflix, I have been running. A lot. In preparation for my race which is in 13 days! I have been working, a lot. We are launching into our spring run of shows here at the Opera. So the amount of parties and events that are happening is overwhelming. I have been reading, a lot. At this pace I’ll be finished my 50 book goal in no time! And lastly, I have been cooking! Not a lot, but more than normal!

So many excuses, so little time. Lets break it down for a moment.

Running

giphyThis weekend I ran outside for the first time since I started training for my 5k. I was incredibly nervous. When using a treadmill I think it can be hard to tell if you have made progress or not. I knew I had improved but as the running intervals got longer I found it more and more challenging to keep going. I figured that I had reached my limit. WRONG. I had reached my indoor limit. My outdoor limit is a whole other thing!

So on Saturday I grabbed my friend Melanie and we hit the pavement. Having Mel there really helped because she motivated me to keep going. Yesterday, I ran outside again, on my own this time. I ran a short route that I used to do last summer. Back then I was out of shape and untrained. I couldn’t run the whole thing without stopping to catch my breath at least once. Yesterday I did the whole thing without stopping and at a decently quick pace! Thee cheers for progress!

Work

Very briefly, my job in lamest terms is fundraising. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that a huge part of fundraising is donor appreciation. Here at the opera we appreciate our donors with exclusive events. Behind-the-scenes type stuff. I actually really enjoy working these events because it gives me the chance to get to know our donors and learn more about the works we are presenting on the stage. In addition to working all the swanky parties I also work some of the shows at the welcome desk. Basically I’m just there to trouble shoot questions and engage with the donors. Between the parties and the shows I’ve had a lot of late nights. But I don’t mind too much because I really like this aspect of my job and it’s only for a short period of time.

Reading

One of my many goals for 2015 was to read 50 books this year. It is nearing the end of downloadApril and I just finished book number 11! I am thrilled with my progress and I have really enjoyed expanding my literary horizons. In addition to reading 50 books I have been making an effort to pick books that are outside of my comfort zone. The book I read most recently was a memoir by a Canadian woman named Amanda Lindhout, the book was called A House in the Sky. True story, while working as a freelance journalist in Somalia Amanda and her partner were kidnapped and held for ransom for over a year. Her experience was a traumatic nightmare but *spoiler alert* she lived to tell the tale. This book was truly amazing. Terrifying and inspirational all at the same time. I encourage everyone to read this fantastic book.

If anyone has a good book recommendation I would greatly appreciate it! Share in the comments!

Cooking

Lucas’s mum just celebrated her birthday and I needed a way to say both happy birthday and thank you for accepting me into your family. But what do you buy for someone who has everything already (especially if your on a budget). Answer: you don’t. Instead you make dinner. So I made a pretty decent vegetarian meal featuring sweet potato, carrots, green beans, rice, soy beans and chic peas. I’ll be posting the recipes next week so stay tuned.

IMG_6217 IMG_6218

And this week it is just me and Lucas so I made dinner last night. I forgot to take pictures but I made tomato stuffed chicken breast, sweet potato mash and an arugula salad. This meal also turned out to be pretty darn delicious! It feels good to receive praise for my cooking since I’m really not confident in that department. I’ve also made a few batches of cookie recently. mmmm cookies.


So there you have it! That is why I have been neglecting my internet wonder. But I will do my very best not to be so distant in the future.

What activities have been occupying your time recently? Share in the comments!

C is for Cookie

Happy Monday!

I hope everyone had a nice, enjoyable weekend. Mine was particularly busy for no particular reason. I guess I don’t do much socializing on the weekdays due to my commuting so I try to cram in a lot on the weekends. It doesn’t spell out rest and relaxation but as the old saying goes “you can sleep when your dead”.

On Friday I met up with some university friends and we went to this super neat bar Spincalled Spin. If your from Toronto, this place is on the corner of King and Spadina. Basically this is a bar… filled with Ping Pong Tables! Yup, you heard me right. Ping Pong. You rent a table for an hour at a time and go nuts! Drinks were flowing, pub food was being enjoyed and pong was being played! My friend Peter invented this great game where 6 of us could play at a time. It was such a blast! Skipping ahead to Sunday for a moment, I read The Lovely Bones this weekend. It was a quick and easy read and super emotional but I also found it wildly frustrating in a lot of ways. Keep your eyes peeled for a book review!

Anyway, back to Saturday! I was working at the Opera house in the afternoon. Basically my role is to engage with the opera goers, ask them their thoughts on the show and give them information about the upcoming season. It’s actually kind of fun because I love talking to people but it makes for a long day because the opera we currently have playing is 5 hours long! So I do my job during pre-show and intermission but while the opera is playing I am chillin. After work I had plans for a girls night sleepover. However, when I woke up on Saturday morning I had this strong desire, no, this strong need to bake cookies. Considering the kitchen disaster that I created on Thursday morning, you would think I would be avoiding the kitchen like the plague. But no, I was compelled to bake and bake I did. I am a big lover of oatmeal chip cookies. The chewey-gewey mixture is pure heaven. So I adapted a recipe from Radiant Dust. Shena, the author of Radiant Dust, claims that these are the best oatmeal chip cookies EVER! And I could not agree more. These were a huge hit with Lucas and with my friends at the girls night. In the future I am going to use different types of chips and maybe even add some raisins! See below for the recipe and find my adaptations in pink!

Super Addicting Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened — I used salted butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar — I didn’t have a full cup so I used extra white sugar to compensate
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt — In hindsight I should have cut this because I used salted butter. Now I know for next time. 
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats — I only used 2 1/2, it all depends on preference.
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or mint chocolate chips, or dark chocolate chips, or white chocolate chips… let your imagination run wild…) — I used 3/4 cup of white chocolate chips and 1/4 cup of peanut butter chips — It was a pretty delicious combo!

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until just blended. Mix in the quick oats, and chips. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. (I miss-read the instruction about heaping spoonfuls and made really, REALLY big spoonfuls which resulted in giant cookies! Not a bad thing but it increased my baking time by at least 5 minutes)
  3. Bake for 11-12 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. (Note: a rookie mistake is to leave the cookies in the oven for longer since they may not appear to be “done” at 11 or 12 minutes. Don’t leave them in! They will continue baking on the hot baking sheet once you remove them from the oven.)
  4. Eat at least one cookie warm. It’s okay to accidentally ruin one with the spatula while transporting it from the baking sheet to the cooling rack. This is your “test” cookie and should be taste-tested in order to ensure that the rest of the batch is good.
  5. Eat the rest of the cookies for dinner. (I did follow this instruction… but I was at a sleepover with friends so I had help and it was totally appropriate).

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

– Stephen King

There is something uniquely special about January that inspires newness. New year. New adventures. New goals. This year I have really jumped on board the goal setting train. I think it is because as a student my goals were, in a way, pre-set: “Get into a good university”, “ace all classes”, “graduate”, ect. As I am no longer a student I could wake up, go to work, sleep and repeat for the rest of my life, but that is such a hollow existence. Without goals, where are you going? Absolutely nowhere. So for the first time in my memory I am setting goals, writing them down, sharing them with my friends and family (and you guys) and I am following through. Read about my 2015 fitness goals here.

download

If you have read my about me page you will know that I studied English Literature in University. Therefore, I did a lot of reading. The sad part is that at some point I stopped enjoying the books and the stories, it became work. I was never allowed to just appreciate a good book. I always had to analyze and examine, and I was sick of it. So when I graduated I stopped reading. I gravitated towards movies and television. Sometimes I would pick up the occasional Harry Potter book, a chapter here and there, but I wasn’t reading. Then, about a year ago my dad introduced me to an action novel author by the name of James Rollins. I fell in love with his characters and I loved tagging along on their wild adventures. It was wonderful to be reading again! However, I realized recently that since then action novels are the only thing I’ve been reading.

download (5)

There are so many genres, so many different types of stories that I’ve been missing out on. So this year I am challenging myself to expand my literary horizons. I am doing this by setting a goal to read 50 books in 2015! The catch, no more than 5 books in the same genre.

I’m keeping track of my progress using the goodreads app. It is a great tool for reading reviews, categorizing books and monitoring progress. My friend Kim and I are also starting a book club! She works for a publishing company, so she is really well read. Together, we decided that books are always better after you exchange opinions with someone. So we have invited some friends to join us, she picked the first book and I am handling the more administrative things such as selecting a date and a location. The first book on our list is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicals by Haruki Murakami. Lucas’s mum loves his books, they are described as fantastical realism and very non-linear. Obviously this is going to be very different from my action novels but that is exactly what I wanted. The first meeting isn’t until late February but I’ll be sure to let you all know how it goes!

Have a book that you think I should read? Share in the comments!

Book Review: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

I’m baaaack! First let me say that my week in Cuban paradise was amazing! Later this week I’ll be writing a travelers guide post all about the trip, but today I am super excited to share my first (and hopefully not my last) book review!

I solemnly swear to share my honest opinions without spoiling the book for any future readers.enchanted-book-cover

Title: The Enchanted
Author: Rene Denfeld
Pages: 256

The lady, an investigator who excels at uncovering information to save her clients from execution…

The fallen priest, beaten down by his guilt over a terrible sin and its tragic consequences… 

The warden, a kind man within a cruel system…

The mute prisoner, sensing what others cannot in what he calls “this enchanted place”…


Review

I found this book on the Black Friday sale table at Chapters in early December. I think it was the golden horses on the cover page that drew my attention and with a title as ambiguous and enticing as “The Enchanted”, I couldn’t help but pick it up. Was it about horses? Was it about magic? Well the answer is no. It’s not about either of those things. The Enchanted is the story of a death row inmate told through the eyes of another death row inmate. I honestly wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into but the book was on sale, so I decided to take a chance on it and boy oh boy did it pay off!

This novel is incredibly beautiful. It explores a slew of very dark concepts in a surprisingly bright and refreshing way. The lasting effects of child abuse, the corruption and madness of life behind bars and the emotions fueled by imminent death. The content is not sugar coated in any way and at times I was fearful of what darkness I might find on the next page. That being said, Denfeld’s writing style is so poetic that even the most dark content has a quality of lightness. The Enchanted is a perfect title for this story because it is exactly that; poetic, beautiful and enchanting.

I think it is important to note that the writing style can be difficult to follow at times as this book is not written in a linear fashion. In fact there are moments when it feels more like a collection of smaller stories and moments all sewn together. If you enjoy reading and learning, exploring the unknown, then this beautiful novel is a must read.