Right now, I’m on a fairly long stretch of days off from my day job (Hallelujah!). Nine days in total to do as I please (it’s Day 3). That means: 1) focusing on my running and hitting (or hopefully exceeding) my weekly goal of 50 kilometres; 2) making significant progress on my writing projects (I’m working on two books at the same time); and 3) taking time to recharge. But I’ve never been good at really slowing down or the art of rest. [Read more…] about Primal: The Art of Slowing Down
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Writing is not the only thing I’m passionate about. I also love food. Good food. The kind that makes you go back for a second helping even though you know you shouldn’t. And I truly believe that we are what we eat.
I grew up on a diet of meat and potatoes. And leftovers. Sunday dinners were either roast beef, turkey, ham or roast pork. Turkey, which I can’t stand now, was the worst because it was then recycled for the next five or six days. Turkey sandwiches. And turkey hash. Oh, don’t forget about turkey soup. Turkey anything. It was an economical way to feed a family, but it turned me off a lot of foods.
My mother wasn’t a bad cook, but I grew tired of that staid menu of meat and potatoes. So, one day she said to me, “If you don’t like it, learn to cook.” Challenge accepted.
By the fourth grade, I was preparing the family meal (my mother had returned to work by that point and my father was still working nights). Going into junior high and high school, I came home and watched The Learning Channel (TLC). Biba Caggiano and her show, Biba’s Italian Kitchen, taught me how to make delicious pasta recipes from scratch. Caprial Pence (Caprial’s Café) gave me a foundation in cooking and baking, along with Martha Stewart and Julia Child.
I took a lot of inspiration, too, from my grandmothers, who were fabulous cooks (we all fought over my grandmother’s homemade bread). That’s why, no matter how busy or tired I am, I make dinner from scratch. (All right, most of the time; I’m allowed a cheat day now and then.) But there are a lot of prepackaged or prepared foods that I stay away from. Have you ever checked the sodium content on a frozen meal or in a can of soup? Half a serving of Celentano’s eggplant parmigiana contains 285 mg of sodium. (I think most people are like my partner, who eat the whole thing.) One cup of Italian-Style Wedding Ready-to-Serve soup, by President’s Choice, contains 292 mg of sodium. Everything in moderation, I guess, but nothing beats the aroma of homemade bread baking in the oven or that bolognese sauce simmering on the stove.
I’m often asked if I have a favourite type of food I like to make. I love gnocchi and putting a twist on in — sweet potato, braised cabbage, arugula. Cooking is another creative outlet for me. It doesn’t have to be long and involved (although most of the time it is, especially the twelve hours it too me once to make croissants!). but there are simple dishes that are quick to make, taste great, and are healthier for us.
Food as Inspiration
Sometimes when I’m struggling to develop a character, figure out a plot twist, or flesh out a story’s theme, creating in the kitchen is a great release. It allows me to step back, and when I least expect it an answer or insight comes. And at the end of a long day, there’s nothing better than sitting down with my partner to a homemade meal.
Do you like to cook? Or do you just like to eat good food? What’s one of your favourite dishes? Click Reply to let me know. I love hearing from you!
My circadian rhythm doesn’t adjust well to Daylight Savings Time. That has meant that for the past few months I’ve been stumbling out of bed around 3:00 am (when I’m at home in Toronto, that is. My schedule when I’m in the UK is a whole other matter). I kick-start the day writing Morning Pages, then spend about another 60-75 minutes working on my current work-in-progress. By the time I’m dressed in my running gear, taken my asthma inhaler (required before each run), and have found one more way to delay stepping out into the cold, it’s about 5:30 when I hit the trail. Within the first couple of minutes, when my body has acclimatized to the sub-zero temperatures. Now I’m ready to go the distance. [Read more…] about Go the Distance
Welcome to the end of January (it’s only a couple of days away!).
As many of you know, I’m staying off the grid this year, and in the early days of this journey I want to share how it’s going so far.
What’s going well
Writing. A twelve-day staycation allowed me to finish the first round of editing to the sequel to Broken Man Broke. Despite a hectic schedule, I’m being consistent with my blog and newsletter. And I’m having fun working on a new book. You can read a sneak peek here (and I’d love to know what you think!).
Running. Winter in Toronto can be bitterly cold, but January hasn’t been that bad. Once I get going, running outside when it’s -21 C doesn’t feel so bad … if you’re dressed properly. And even though the stomach flu put me out of commission for about five days, I ran more than 220 km (a small increase over January 2019).
Social Media. My presence on social media has been minimal. Not having the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram apps on my phone helps me to stay disconnected.
New experiences. I bought a pasta maker and made homemade, goose-filled ravioli. They were delicious. I also attended a Beef Hind Quarter Class offered by my favourite local butcher. They showed us how to break down the beef hip and loin sections to produce popular cuts like striploin, tenderloin, rib eye, top sirloin, inside round, eye of round, outside round, and sirloin tip. It was fun.
Sleepwalking. Not in the way it sounds. Even rising at 3:00 am, it didn’t feel like I spent a lot of time doing focused work. Small tasks that needed to be done stole a lot of time, as if I’d sleepwalked through the day. I didn’t feel as if I’d accomplished much, or made the progress I’d hoped for. My goal is to get back to a place where I can get in four to five hours of focused work daily.
Podcast. In 2019, I produced twenty episodes for my podcast, Black Sweater Talk. I was hoping to launch Season 2 this month, but it would have meant stretching myself even thinner. I’m grateful that people are still following the podcast and hope to produce new episodes soon.
Training. Last October, I signed up for an online training course for authors. I know online training is all the rage, but I struggle with the format — someone just speaking at me without any interaction. It’s the same thing that made university a challenge for me. I’d rather read a book and take notes than watch a video or be in a large classroom with others. My goal was to finish the course this month. It didn’t happen.
What’s ahead for February?
Staying true. Even without social media, there are so many demands on our time, so much noise coming at us. And amidst it all, I lose track of why I’m doing what I do and what’s important to me. That’s the moment that doubt sneaks in and steals the show.
That’s why staying true is so important for me. When I stay focused on my ‘why,’ I can sit down at my desk and write across the finish line. On that bitterly cold morning, I can eagerly brave the cold to run. When negativity explodes at my day job, I can stay positive and not let it bring me down. Staying true, I can make healthy meal choices, take time to recharge and rejuvenate, and seek balance.
Specifically for February, my goals are: 1) finish the online training course; 2) begin and complete fifty percent of the second round of editing on the Broken Man Broke sequel; and 3) increase my focused work time by ten percent.
Like I always try to do, I’ll take it all one day at a time.
How was your January? What are you planning for February? Click Reply to let me know. I love hearing from you!
I’m not the type of person to easily ‘let it all go.’ But sometimes the choice isn’t mine.
Case in point: Last Friday (17 January 2020). The day started off normally. I woke up at 3:00, wrote my Morning Pages and put in about an hour on a writing project. Around 5:30, I headed out for a run and, like I’ve been doing for the past couple of months, stopped for a post-run decaf latte. Then it was back home to clean up, have breakfast and write some more. [Read more…] about Let it all Go