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Please don't judge me based on my potluck

Suppers, Potlucks & Socials: Crowd-Pleasing Recipes to Bring People Together. 

I hate everything about potlucks. Work potlucks, friends potlucks, basically the word potluck runs a chill down my spine that spells disaster all the way.

Work potlucks are especially gruelling. Don't you feel you just can't show up with kale salad and a side of Kraft Caesar Dressing?

Plus, you never can opt out of a work potluck. It's performance pressure to the nth degree. You know your coworkers are judging you (snide remarks aside), and there's no doubt that your boss has made a mental note somewhere at the front of his mind, that either puts you in the impressive category or in a separate category titled either "miscellaneous" or "not promotion-worthy".  

Judgement aside, is it just me that feels like potluck prep always happens on a school night? Am I the only one slogging it on the jammed transit cars, trying to get it in one piece to the office? It's damn stre…

A balanced approach to more Peace, Love & Fibre

What a great title for a cookbook. 

You know Marilyn Smith from her quirky humour, and quick healthy recipes on The Marilyn Denis Show. Peace, Love & Fibre is a collection of 1000 recipes to satisfy every mealtime. 

Recipes include home comfort favourites such as Split Pea Soup with Smoked Ham that serves 10 to 12 people, and the cornbread that serves 16. Personally, I find it's always hard for me to scale up to a family and friends size portions. So Marilyn Smith's collection takes half the guesswork out. These are especially great when you have company staying with you.


Tired of your everyday egg routine. Try Morning Eggs Mexican Style, with grape tomatoes, cheddar cheese, black beans, zucchini, green onion and for those a bit more adventurous, add some hot sauce. This one was a great variation on my regular omelettes where I use regular onions, coriander, tomatoes, and a dash of turmeric. 

Simple ingredients are the foundation of all the recipes. Marilyn Smith shares a few …

The grass is greener

"A woman can't survive without a man anywhere". 

This is what Patsy has been told all her life. Her best friend Cicely tells her that sometimes sacrifice is necessary. But, is sacrifice quantifiable? Once we reach our quota, does it give us permission to live our lives freely?

Living in a community of Pennyfield, Jamaica, shackled in a mindset that dictates how you should live and whom you can love, Patsy is determined to find a new life for herself, even if it's a million miles from home. And even, if that means leaving behind everything, including her five-year-old daughter Tru. 

Letters from her childhood friend, Cicely, paint a picture of America the great. Cicely left Jamaica on a visa and has never returned; and from the likes of it, has done well to craft a new life for herself with a man named Marcus, who she supposedly married for a green card. Seeing Cicely have the freedom to love, on her terms, is a catalyst driving change in Patsy's life. 

Years after pu…

Inside the secret world of plants

"If you have a garden and a library,
you have everything you need."
Cicero, To Varro, in Ad Familiares IX, 4


Summer is short in Canada (perhaps even more this year), to the point that a family fried quips that "we have two seasons in Canada, winter and July" so can you blame us for our bias to want to bask in a field of flowers, surrounded by luscious, bountiful greenery? 

Every Spring, human beings reveal in glee at the first sign of life. The slightest green buds on a barren tree, reminds us that we will soon be able to rid the drudgery of the winter blues. In fact the term green shoots is used to indicate signs of economic recovery -- such is the hold of nature on our subconscious.

Did you know that the first gardens were created by the earliest societies of the Middle East, when the need for self-sufficiency led people to enclose plots of land next to their homes. Over time, as societies moved away from subsistence, the practical function of the garden was super-ced…

Star-Crossed

Is there some truth to the way the sun signs, houses, the sun and the moon, all work together to affect your every day relationships? 

Whether you believe in astrology or not, Minnie Darke's new novel Star-Crossed will surely challenge you to be open-minded, and destined to give you a chuckle or two along the way. 

Justine (Sagittarius) bumps into Nick (Aquarius) one random day. Coincidence? It's been a while since these childhood sweethearts saw each other, and the meeting creates some sparks. But, is this a chance meeting, or is has this moment been predetermined by the stars? 

Justine is a sceptic of astrology. And, she's quite surprised to learn that Nick makes all his life's important decisions based on what the horoscope says. Not just any horoscope, but the one written by Leo Thornbury, an astrologer who writes for the magazine that Justine just happens to work for. Now is that a bit coincidence or what? 

But suddenly, the stars start aligning in her favour, and Jus…

Some doors should stay locked...The Missing Years by Lexie Elliot

What would you do if you suddenly inherited half a house? Not just any house, but the spookiest of houses, resting in the middle of nowhere. 

Ailsa Calder has just inherited half the Manse; the other half belongs to her father who hasn't been seen for twenty-seven years. He vanished without a trace when Ailsa was a child, and it's not known whether he's dead or alive. 

Ailsa has temporarily moved into the Manse, with her half sister Carrie.

Right from the first night, when an intruder breaks into the Manse, it's clear to Ailsa that she is unwelcome here. 

The unfriendliness continues, as she meets some of the locals, who learn that she's a Calder girl, in particular, the daughter of the man who disappeared with diamonds from a jeweller years ago. Never proven of course. But, without her father's present, the suspicions hold firm.

She wants nothing more than to sell the house, and get the hell out of this darkness. But there is a slight problem. She cannot sell the h…

Sally Rooney's Normal People may perhaps not be as normal as you think

A quintessential coming of age story by the award-winning author Sally Rooney. There is a normalcy to Normal People that feels a bit too normal. This could easily have been a slice out of my childhood. Every emotion so close to heart, relatable, yet still jarring.

Why are relationships always so complicated? You like a guy, a guy likes you back, and yet there’s a cloud of complexity that just complicates the simplest of relationships. Egos, status, insecurity, inevitably all play a part. Why do we care what our friends think? And why does this insecurity not change when we step into adulthood. When do we grow up and how does the baggage we carry from our past, affect our future? Sally Rooney's Normal People certainly convinces us that our past, present and future are never mutually exclusive. Emotions are like a shadow, always following us wherever we go. We can't shed their existence, but if we try really hard, perhaps we can forget that they exist...if only for a little while…

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

What's Brexit got to do with a gingerbread recipe? 

You will have to read Helen Oyeyemi's new novel GingerBread to fully appreciate that reference. Known for a writing style that is powerful, literary and a whimsical fairytale, Helen Oyeyemi brings the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship to the forefront.

Somewhere in west London, Perdita Lee lives with her mother Harriet. While Perdita may seem like an average 17-year-old British schoolgirl, and Harriet may seem like a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy, a closer read uncovers the truth...that class and status are only in the eye of the beholder.

A gold-plated seventh floor walk up apartment may not be the place you imagined a working class mother-daughter duo live, but this indeed is the home of Perdita and Harriet. Stretch your imagination further, and you'll be immersed inside a gingerbread-esq décor resembling an over-the-top bohemian abode. With chandeliers draped with satin para…

Kim Thuy's new cookbook celebrates mothers, food and love.

Stories unite us. There is no doubt about that. And finding great storytellers is akin to searching for a needle in a haystack. Without question, Kim Thúy is a great storyteller. I can vouch for that personally, as I have seen her speak at Bram & Bluma Appel Salon, on the top floor of Toronto Reference Library. While her smile lights up a room, her stories evoke a visceral connection to the audience, ninety percent of whom aren’t even Vietnamese, or French Canadian. 

As I was face-to-face with her getting my book signed, I happen to mention that I used to know French, but unfortunately now because of not using it as much, have forgotten most of it. Well, she said, “The best way to learn French is to get a French boyfriend.” I mentioned that it probably was not possible as I have a husband. She looked at me with a serious expression and asked if that was really a problem. I couldn’t help laugh at this frankness.

I don’t know why I didn’t know this before, but between her career as a …

It's never too late to seriously start thinking about your health...

When you are young, you don't think about immortality much. But when suddenly life catches up to you, and a blood test indicates something off in your body, you start to seriously consider what you put in your body. 

So, here's a start. Three books from DK to start getting your life back on track; believe me your body will thank you.

Healing Foods 
Eat your way to a healthier life with 175 ingredients. 

What you'll learn: Benefits of each food, how to gain the maximum benefit from it, and ideas for simple tasty preparation. 
Did you know that Figs are a great source of potassium, which helps regulate heart rate and reduce blood pressure? And when it's in a dried fruit format, figs also contain pectin, which helps reduce blood sugar. 
Thinking of discarding the leaves of raspberry plants? Think again. The astringent leaves of red raspberries are traditionally taken as a tea in late pregnancy. I don't recall Handmaid's Tale educating me about this fact. I guess, you ca…

Professor Chandra follows his bliss

Everyone has a turning point, and Professor Chandra has just had his. Narrowly losing out on winning the novel peace prize for economics (again), he finds himself at a loss for what to do with his life.

His wife left him for a shrink in Colarado. Their youngest daughter lives with her, and this teenager is going through quite a phase, perhaps exasperated by her parents’ divorce. Professor Chandra is estranged from his eldest daughter Radha. His other son, Sunny, lives in Hong Kong and is some sort of a wellness, spiritual guru whose primary uniform is a Nehru suit. (If you are Indian in origin, you will understand that context.)

A bicycle accident leaves Professor Chandra with a renewed perspective on life. For the first time, he has time to think about the course his life. He wonders if there was a time when he was really happy. Was he ever present in his every day? Everything he has devoted his life to – work and family – seems to have alluded him. Life is transient.

So, instigated by …

The Parade by David Eggers

Coming full circle, Dave Eggers brings his fans another literary tale that oozes of cynicism, questioning whether it’s all worth it.

The story centres around two characters, referred to as Four and Nine, who find themselves on an assignment in an unnamed developing country. Their mission: to help unify the country by paving a new road.

The two characters couldn’t be more polar opposites. Four is a by-the-book kind of guy, who follows the rules. He has no time for the flippant nature of Nine’s character, who goes with his whim and has a zest for life. It is their dynamic, chaotic, and sometimes amusing relationship, which is the glue that keeps the plot development moving forward.

The other thing that keeps the plot moving, is the hope that one day this road will eventually be built and the parade requested by the president will take place. There is a greater grandeur hope that the country that was recently torn apart by civil war will finally be united. Is building a road the solution to…

Tales of India

Folktales from Bengal, Punjab and Tamil Nadu. 
Illustrations by Svabhu Kohli & Viplov Singh. 

"Delightful creature and most charming princess," said she,
'you have regaled me with an excellent story.
But the night is long and tedious. Pray tell me another.'"

Tales of India by Svabhu Kohli & Viplov Singh, is a collection of short folktales that will excite inquisitive and curious minds. Some of the stories include a shape-shifting tiger and a pretentious rat; and a clever princess and a prince who returns from the dead. 

Goddesses, royalty, and characters full of humour and adventure. Take a magical journey to India with these tales that have lived and been told for thousands of years. Full of history, these stories should never be forgotten, and with this book by Svabhu Kohli and Viplov Singh, they will continue to live on.

To vegan or not to vegan

Let me preface by saying, "I am not vegan." 
And, until now, I've really been opposed to the idea of becoming vegan. The word "vegan" itself evokes a sense of abstinence to me. Abstinence from meat, being the obvious. But also, an abstinence from the delicious scrumptiousness of meals, that the foodie in me has come to expect. 

I have a few millennial colleagues who are either vegan or vegetarian. I also worked with a designer who lives in the burbs raising chickens, and whose immediate family is vegetarian. These are the influences in my life who converted my thinking (if only to try out some vegan food). So, yeah I was partly convinced when I tried foods like vegan Caesar's salad, and A&W's Beyond Meat Burger. I asked my vegan-devoted colleague about recipes, and it just sounded like I'd have to rejig my grocery plans to find some of the ingredient substitutes. So even though I wanted to find alternatives to foods that would not screw up my dige…

Let's go swimming on doomsday

Choice is something we take for granted here in the western world. We may complain of growing pains, but our challenges are nothing compared to sixteen-year-old Abdi. 

He's a Somali refugee, who is forced to join a jihadi group called Al Shabaab as a child soldier. His brother Dahir is supposedly also in this group and Abdi's capturers want him to work as a spy and gather intel about the group's activities. Can he infiltrate the group and get to his brother? Will his entire family be killed if he fails?

It was three years ago when he last saw his brother being led away at the back of one of Al Shabaab's battle trucks. Abdi always assumed that he was dead. 

Al Shabaab welcomes him because of his link to Dahir, who's one of the high ranking leaders in the group. But it's clear that his brother has changed. Dahir seems to have been brainwashed and now he only sees things one way...the Al Shabaab way. 

Let's Go Swimming On Doomsday by Natalie C. Anderson is an imme…

The Hug by Eoin McLaughlin & Polly Dunbar

Who doesn't need a hug from time to time? 

That's all tortoise and hedgehog really want. Easier said than done, they find out. Because everyone they ask for a hug, has an excuse. 






This wonderfully imagined double-sided book, tells a story grounded in wit and compassion. The character illustrations effortlessly connect with kids to evoke a natural emotion, while the clean background composed of white space gives this picture book that uncluttered feel that works brilliantly for picture books. Polly Dunbar uses great vibrant colours, that bring all the characters to life. 

So, do Tortoise and Hedgehog finally get what they wish for? You guessed it. Dreams do come true!

Absolutely adorable. 


-------------------- Blog Post by Shilpa Raikar, who believes in the power of storytelling to connect readers, and strives for diversity and inclusivity. THE HUG by Eoin McLaughlin & Polly Dunbar is published by Faber & Faber. Copy provided by Publishers Group Canada.


Review by @SukasaReads …

How to think like an inventor

Temple Grandin has one message to all the want-to-be inventors out there: Make Things. 

If there's anything that this world-renowned scientist, inventor, and expert of visual thinking believes in, it's this: If you can dream it, you can make it. 

Filled with interesting facts about inventors and inventions, Temple Grandin's CALLING ALL MINDS is a blueprint for different ways to look at the world.

And women have made so many contributions to making this world a better place. Temple Grandin highlights some of these in her book. For example, did you know that women hold at least thirteen patents for improvements on the typewriter, including a typewriter for the blind, an uppercase attachment, and a reverse-movement attachment so you can go back spaces? 

In 1936, Beulah Louise Henry receive a patent for her machine called the "protograph," which was an attachment to the typewriter that could produce four copies without the use of carbon paper. She also made improvements …