summer reading list

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This feels like the year where I go around harassing people to read more. Actually, that’s been most of the years of my life, but I’ve been extra pushy about it this year. Everyone got books for Christmas and their birthdays and just for hanging out with me too often. I’ve been trying to get everyone to tell me their favourite books so I can speed-read through them, and then maybe or maybe not judge the recommender based on whether or not the books are enjoyable. This tactic resulted in the discovery that my massage therapist had never heard of Agatha Christie, so I gave him my old copy of Crooked House. My massage therapist is very much of the I’m-a-man-and-I-do-crazy-athletic-and-manly-activities type.

My copy of Crooked House happened to have a cover photo of some spilled pills and ballet slippers.

To give credit where credit is due, he emailed me to let me know that he is carrying the book around in his bag, and he may even open it. I gave him permission to hide it inside another book.

For those of you whom I can’t pass off embarrassingly-covered books to in person, here’s my summer reading list. Send me yours as well!

I promise not to judge.

Must-reads:

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Limitless by Alan Glynn (please don’t judge a book by its movie)
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Also-funs:

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
The Game by Neil Strauss
How to be Single by Liz Tuccillo (like Eat, Pray, Love but better)
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

delightfully chaotic

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She is
delightfully
chaotic; a
beautiful mess.
Loving her is
a splendid
adventure.

- Steve Maraboli

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Blueberry Muffins

Adapted from the Food Network

Ingredients

three quarters cup butter, softened
one and a half cups sugar
three eggs
two teaspoons vanilla
one cup sour cream (I used the full fat kind. Go big or go home.)
quarter cup milk
two and a half cups cake flour
two teaspoons baking powder
one teaspoon baking soda
half teaspoon salt
two cups frozen blueberries
zest from one lemon

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin pan with liners and set aside.
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Mix in vanilla, sour cream and milk. Give it a good mix.
Sift in flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Stir until just barely combined. Fold in blueberries and zest.
Spoon into liners – these muffins don’t rise much, so fill the cups all the way. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

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creep of the year

I make an effort to hover around the line between slightly-creepy-but-still-adorable and get-away-from-me-you-creep. I think I’ve told you this before. I’ll probably tell you this again.

Anyway, lately I’m having trouble staying on the adorable side… But I swear it’s not my fault.

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It’s this guy who lives on my floor. (He’s gay, before you get too excited. The manfriend and I live in the “gay ghetto,” which I can only say because my incredibly gay hairdresser was the one who informed me of the proper name for my neighbourhood.) Anyway, the guy on my floor. We seem to have a reasonably similar dog-walking and leaving-for-work schedule, so I end up waiting for the elevator with him a few times a week.

He smells amazing.

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It started out innocently enough. He stood next to me while I pushed the elevator call button, and I told him he smelled good. He said thank you, and launched into this discussion about how his work is super politically-correct and anti-anything-offensive, including scent. And he used to wear this cologne that had tobacco notes, but it was too strong, so now he’s wearing Hermès because he just can’t not wear anything. And I kind of made a mental note that there is a scent made by Hermès that smells divine and maybe one day when I want to buy a gift for the manfriend that’s really a gift for me, I should track it down. And then I got on with my day.

But then I kept running into him, and I kept smelling him. And you know the whole elevator-tetris thing where depending on how many people are in the elevator at any given time, there are designated standing spots so everyone maintains the maximum amount of personal space? (Just think about it for a second. Everyone knows it.) This morning I kept wanting to violate the pattern just to stand closer to him and smell him more.

I need to know the name of this cologne.

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I can’t remember if it had orange notes in it or if I’m just associating orange with the brand. I don’t know if it’s too creepy if I bring it up again and ask him for the exact name. I don’t know if he’ll be upset if someone else on our floor starts wearing the same scent as him. I don’t know if I’ve really thought this through. I don’t know if I really want to encourage other girls to start standing closer to the manfriend in elevators to smell him.

…I just don’t know.

Maybe I’ll buy it and just spray it on my dog when we’re cuddling on the couch.

While I’ve been debating what to do, I’ve developed a craving for oranges. At least one of my problems is easily solved.

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Menage-à-Trois Smoothie

Oh, yeah. We’re being healthy. I didn’t forget about that whole summer-is-here thing… despite the pie.

Full disclosure: this actually has less to do with oranges than I might have implied. On the other hand, it sounds French. Although whoever created the original (i.e. the nutritional supplements store across the street from my house that happens to have a smoothie bar) apparently cannot count. It’s okay. They have summer-friendly bodies.

Ingredients

a generous cup of mango-orange juice
about a third of a cup of frozen mango (the kind I buy comes in chunks; I toss in 4 or 5)
about a third of a cup of frozen strawberries (4 or 5 again)
a small handful of frozen blueberries
a scoop of vanilla protein powder (I’ve discovered that the solution to my smoothie problem is to use whey protein – then it will actually taste good. The supplements store man who sold it to me totally judged me for it though, so if you’re either vegan or into the whole paleo thing like my blow-up-doll-muscled salesman was, go for something like Vega)

Directions

Blend and serve. No big deal.

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silly girls

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I spend a lot of time flip-flopping between thinking I’m really girly and thinking I’m way too much like a guy.

You’d think I don’t have enough to keep me busy on a day-to-day basis.

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But if I look back at my baby pictures, I’m pretty sure my parents wanted a boy. I’m in all these photos with other little babies my age, and all the girls are in fluffy pink tutus and pink knitted beanies. I’m wearing overalls and a train conductor hat.

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When I was a little older, maybe 7 or so, I played with Lego, a train set, and a construction tool kit (made specifically for kids). I did own a couple Barbies, but when I was at my dad’s house, I had to play with them in my closet.

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I guess my parents got their wish, since I’m now an engineer. But I try to be a girly engineer – my steel-toed boots have hot pink laces; I wear makeup and dresses to the office pretty much year round; I took up the most feminine extra-curricular activities I could find. The one thing I can’t do? Long fingernails.

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I run into girls all the time who have these long, brightly coloured claws. If I don’t cut my nails for a week I can’t function. My nail beds get sore from typing, one nail digs into another finger when I hold a pen, I end up out in public with bread dough and muffin batter under my nails, I accidentally draw blood on myself (and others), and I can’t grip anything to save my life.

It’s probably also very difficult to punch anyone. I like to be prepared.

…That’s a boy scouts thing, isn’t it.

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One thing I do that is definitely girly? Make pie.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie, to be exact.

Recipe here

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even technology thinks I’m a loser

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Have you discovered Songza yet? It might be the most helpful techie robot thing ever, and I’m not even a music person.

It’s definitely got one up on Genius though – I mean, what kind of name is that? A little modesty wouldn’t kill you.

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Songza wants to know what I’m doing before it tells me what to listen to. And it also never tells me there aren’t enough related songs in my library. (Genius, meet the internet.) Songza is more open-minded than that. It even gives me country and rap in the same playlist.

And it doesn’t just play rap. It plays dangerously catchy, angry rap. When I listen at work there’s a serious risk of me gangster-walking down the hallway and quoting 50 Cent and Lil Wayne and Iggy Azalea (I got one less problem without ya).

I’m kindof enjoying the extra self-confidence.

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Sometimes, I’ll admit, it does do things that make me a bit sad. Like when I was looking for a playlist on a Saturday night, and it suggested “songs for stalking your ex on the internet.” I’m not sure where you get these ideas, Songza. But I suppose I was staying home on a Saturday night to make (and eat) chocolate chip cookies by myself, so there’s only so much offence I can pretend to take.

And the playlist was actually really good.

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The New York Times Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe claims to be the best ever. And it just might be – these were incredible.

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Final thoughts: I wrote and pre-scheduled this post before I knew that Songza was going to be taken over by Google. It’s unfortunate timing, really, because if I’d had the foresight to post on the same day as the takeover (perhaps about an hour before the announcement?) I could have been hit with a wave of fame for being relevant and totally all over the technology kingdom. Which, of course, anyone who read the post would know isn’t really true (right? I just called it a kingdom, people).

But there’s always the chance I would get famous for being a gangster.

Anyway, let’s just hope that Google doesn’t ruin Songza by replacing its DJ mixed-tapes with algorithms (which I only know from reading articles about the takeover). In any case it does make me a bit happier to know that the songs for stalking your ex on the internet were selected by a real person… we’re not alone out here just yet.

Guizhou Province, China

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Figuring out what to say about China was hard. Most of my writing is just every so slightly tongue in cheek, but that felt so wrong when I wanted to talk about what I’d seen in this country.

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I come to China for work, so I get to go places that tourists never see. The site is in the rainforest, a six-hour drive from the closest airport, up and down and across and around untouched green mountains the entire way there. I didn’t take photos on the drive; it felt like something I should experience fully through my own eyes and not through the lens of a camera. Maybe next time I’ll capture the Buyi minority ladies, four feet tall and seventy years old, carrying huge bundles of sticks on their shoulders and driving cattle. Next time I’ll take snapshots of the water buffalo wading through the rice paddies, the road winding up through fields of corn on both sides of the valley. Next time I’ll show you a family of five and a cage full of chickens all balanced on a motorcycle, the driver in flip flops and the rest barefoot.

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But this time I just want to honour the sense of family in this amazing culture. I wish I could explain how wholly welcomed I was into their work teams, their villages, and their homes. And in this poorest province of China, they are so willing to help, so eager to share what they have, and so full of love and heartbreakingly beautiful smiles.

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Wherever we’re from, regardless of what we’d like to believe about ourselves in this day and age, I think there’s still a huge amount of racism in all cultures. I think we all need a wakeup call every once in a while. I’ve heard this a few times recently from colleagues working in Africa, and I felt it in China – no matter where we’re from or what we have or how we look, we all want the same things: food, water, shelter, love, and a better life for our children.

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oh the shame

Summer is coming.

And by that I mean it’s already here.

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When did this happen? It seems to have snuck up on me while I was sleeping through bootcamp. I’m not ready, friends. Not ready at all.

So I slunk back to bootcamp last week for the first time in three months. I was expecting public shaming, or at the very least a “where have you been?!” But all I got was an enthusiastic “welcome back” and smiles from everyone.

Huh.

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Then, halfway through the warm-up, I realized why there was no need for public shaming. I don’t remember a lap around the football stadium being quite so far. I don’t remember 15 pounds being quite so heavy. I don’t remember having to go down to my knees during a set of push-ups or needing water breaks between every set.

Amy didn’t need to publicly shame me – I did that all by myself.

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So let’s see if I can catch up with summer. Vancouver only gets two months of beach weather per year; it would be a crime to miss out. We’re trying to eat healthy these days.

Don’t worry, this probably won’t last long.

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Burritos

My weekday go-to dinner. Quick and reasonably healthy.

Ingredients
You can play with these – add what you like, take out what you don’t. I’m just listing what I usually put in mine.

tortillas – corn or wheat (I like wheat tortillas or corn hard-shell tacos)
sour cream (Tofutti makes a great vegan one if that’s what you’re into)
cheddar cheese, grated
romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
tomatoes, seeds removed, diced
refried beans
canned black beans (if I’m not doing vegetarian, I’ll use ground bison – or beef – mixed with a bit of taco seasoning)
red and yellow peppers, seeds removed, diced

Directions

Not sure these are really necessary. Pile and roll. Eat and repeat.

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