Book Review – Overwhelmed

overwhelmedOverwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time
Brigid Schulte
Harper Collins 2014, 353 pages

Busy? Aren’t we all, right? Or maybe… we just think we are.

Time management is a skill that very few people are taught as kids, so as adults, we take on more and more responsibilities and succumb to what author Brigid Schulte calls “the overwhelm” only to find ourselves desperately stressed and unhappy.

In Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, Schulte talks to time management experts from around the world to try to discover what has happened to the average person’s leisure time, and why so many people join the rat race of gender-determined career paths in industries that value bums in chairs and daily face to face interactions instead of the myriad options that are available to us in the 21st century, such as working from home, job sharing and flexible working hours.

This is of particular importance when it comes to families where the “ideal worker” has priorities other than their job, and where kids can have a schedule as packed as their parents.

Schulte ultimately offers no solutions to the problem at hand. She’s learning as she goes, and experiences a fair bit of culture shock observing Danish families where kids are expected to help around the house and everyone is home for family dinner. The Danes have carefully avoided the helicopter parenting so prevalent in North America and it becomes obvious that anybody wanting to fight off the overwhelm might first have to have the nerve to buck the status quo.

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My Friend, Steven Davey, aka Frank

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image: NOWToronto.com

I first met Steven Davey, restaurant critic for NOW magazine, more than 10 years ago. I was running a monthly dining group called Gothic Diners in which Toronto Goths gathered for dinner at local restaurants, usually in all their black finery. Davey heard about our group through a friend of a friend and invited Greg and I, along with our friend Siobhan, to join him for dinner. He took us to the newly opened vegetarian restaurant Fressen, because it tickled his fancy to take a bunch of Goths (and our supposed vampire-inspired blood lust) to the one place where there would be no meat.

We hit it off and I soon found myself in “the rotation” – a group of Steven’s friends and acquaintances who were restaurant-positive, and who he would invite to join him for restaurant visits when he was doing reviews. That is, we liked dining out, enjoyed trying new things and could follow his detailed directions on what to order and how not to blow his cover.

He would book reservations under a false name, usually “Frank”, but on occasion he’d forget, and I’d find myself at a hostess stand, perplexed. No “Frank”. Or else I’d be seated, and watch him across the room, listing off the various names he might have used to book the reservation. One night I ran into him in line at the Drake’s BBQ take-out shop, and stood in line yelling “Hi Frank!” repeatedly until I had to walk up to him and poke him.

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Stupid PR Tricks – Yep, Still Getting ‘Em

Since I stopped writing for the Toronto Star, the number of emails from PR people flooding my inbox has dried to a trickle. It helped that I deleted my TasteTO email address completely so the PRs who just refused to remove me from their mailing lists just got bounces. A few somehow made it to my personal email account but for the most part, I am delighted that I no longer get inundated with junk about birthday cake flavoured vodka, cheez whiz or chain restaurants anymore.

So imagine my surprise when I get an email pitching “content suggestions” for a “fat fashion” article.

Now… I am fat. And I wear clothes. And I think I am stylish. But I don’t write about plus size fashion. And as Adam Ant says, “We don’t follow fashion, that would be a joke.” I have almost zero interest in mainstream fashion. Nada. I am a cranky old Goth. I don’t want to look like everyone else at the maul. I certainly wouldn’t be caught dead in any of the “5 Pieces That Will Carry Your Spring Wardrobe” suggestions the PR sent to me, hoping that I would write a piece on this blog about the company he represented.

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Lucky Dip – May 6th – Six Cool Food Things

Unelefante-Chocolate-Packaging-Mexico-AChocolate inspired by Jackson Pollack? These beautiful pieces of edible art are from Unelefante in Mexico. [Via KNSTRCT]

Das-Kochbuch-0111Can’t keep track of your best lasagna recipe? How about this one that’s printed on the pasta? [Via BoingBoing]

The story of Sweeney Todd the barber and the little pie shop next door is just fiction… or is it? In the 1380s, Paris had an evil barber/butcher combo that were brought to justice because of a dog waiting for its missing master. [Via Messy Nessy Chic]

Cristina-Burns-photography-12The sweetness of death… skulls, candy and flowers by Cristina Burns. [Via Dangerous Minds]

dali_lesdinersdegala1Before that Surreal Gourmet guy, there was the real surreal gourmet. Salvador Dali’s very rare cookbook. [Via BrainPickings]

spoonsMore skulls and sugar, this time for your coffee – sugar skull spoons. [Via This Is Colossal]

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Advanced Style Documentary – a Review

advanced_styleI’m still sorting out my thoughts about the Advanced Style documentary I saw on Saturday as part of the Hot Docs festival. Based on the incredibly successful blog and book by photographer Ari Seth Cohen, the film introduces us to a number of Cohen’s regular muses/models; a collection of stylish, creative women who have stood their ground in the face of society’s patronizing attitudes towards older people, and have refused to go to a quiet, beige place and crochet doilies.

Each of the women has their own style and their own story, but nothing feels especially in-depth. I learned more about each of the stylish women by reading an article in The Guardian than I did from the film, and instead of focusing on their personal style – how it developed, how they put together outfits, how they manage on budgets, etc., the film instead centres around the growth and popularity of the blog. We follow Cohen and the ladies to Los Angeles where they appear on the Ricki Lake show, and we see a couple of the women model for a Lanvin ad campaign. Throughout it all, there’s an odd undertone of… cattiness. These ladies are not friends, they come from different walks of life, are different ages (ranging from mid-60s to mid-90s) and have been brought together only by their shared interest in Cohen and his project. There’s a weird feeling of competition that is uncomfortable coming from a piece of work (and a group of people) that is supposed to be celebrating diversity, creativity and really, self-esteem.

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One is the Loneliest Number – On Eating Alone

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Do you eat out by yourself? If so, do you differentiate in terms of where? For instance, I have no problem eating in a fast food restaurant, cafeteria or food court by myself, but am uncomfortable eating alone in a higher-end establishment. And as much as it’s nice to eat at the bar and maybe chat to the bartender, as a middle-aged woman, there’s too much of an “on the prowl” stigma going on that I’d rather not deal with.

Two different options are now available to single diners.In Amsterdam, a restaurant called Eenmaal offers a room full of tables that only seat one. While in Japan, the Moomin Cafe chain (associated with the popular animated character) seats a large stuffed toy across from patrons dining alone.

dining1

Neither is ideal, but Eenmaal’s focus on the experience (no wifi) and the food, seems to have the best of intentions, allowing the diner to revel in the solitude, whereas at Moomin, well, you’ve got to be okay with a tophat-wearing hippo-thingie as your tablemate. Which I would find hilarious but others might just consider silly. Perhaps I’d be more inclined to try Eenmaal if the tables didn’t look so very much like desks in a Junior High basement detention room.

More about Eenmaal at Businessweek, and check out the Moomin Cafe at Dangerous Minds.

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What If Classical Music Was Performed Like Rock Music?

You know the deal – you WANT to like classical music. You know you should learn more about classical music, but its all just so… classical. The stiffness, the formality… boring.

Salut Salon is an all-female quartet from Hamburg that makes classical music fun, intermixing traditional chamber music with pop and jazz, and throwing fun poses and postures, as would be typical in a rock performance, into their routine.

They’ve been together in various formations (2 core members, violinists and founders of the quartet Angelika Bachmann and Iris Siegfried plus various cellists and pianists), for over 12 years.

They’ve toured extensively, including Canada, but the upcoming year sees them mostly focused on Germany. But check out the video and then even more of their performances on YouTube – they’re absolutely marvellous.

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Lucky Dip – Wednesday, April 24th, 2014

flowers-3

The installations of floral artist Rebecca Louise Law require a lot of patience and absolutely no fear of heights. Law has done a variety of work for companies such as Jimmy Choo, Max Mara and others, and most of her work involves suspending individual flowers from very high ceilings. Amazingly beautiful, particularly the cathedral installations. [Via This Is Colossal]

knit-4

You know when you bite into a persimmon and it makes your mouth all “sweatery”? Here’s betting that all of the food created by artist Jessica Dance does that as well. Dance works in set design and in collaboration with food photographer David Sykes has created a series of pieces reminiscent of classic meals including a full English breakfast and Christmas dinner. [Via This Is Colossal]

paris

How is it that Paris, regardless of the image in the photo, always looks so romantic and intriguing? Now, get a daily dose of old French flavour with Charmade – Vintage French Photos, a Tumblr full of rare vintage French photos. [Via Messy Nessy Chic]

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Coming Up – Toronto Indie Arts Market Spring Fashion Extravaganza

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Yes, another post where I blather on about neglecting poor old blog. This place never gets any love. I should change that, I know, but in the meantime, my energies have been elsewhere. Specifically, putting together the super cool Toronto Indie Arts Market.

And even better – the Spring Fashion Extravaganza event on March 15th that features 50 local artisans, designers and makers of beautiful clothing, jewellery and accessories.

If you’re in Toronto, please come check it out. It’s been a long winter and we all need a little something pretty and sparkly to make us hopeful that Spring will come soon.

Also, we’re donating 40% of the admission sales to The Corsage Project – an amazing organization that puts together prom outfits for under-privileged teens.

Go check out the TIAM website for a full list of participants. Plus, members of our mailing list will have a chance to win passes.

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The Beautiful Alphabet

alphabet-carved-into-crayons-by-diem-chau-3

They’re our earliest interaction with the written word – the letters of the alphabet are the building blocks of language, knowledge and self. And while graphic designers have created many lovely and interesting font sets over the centuries, these two sets of alphabets go one step further.

Basolis-Alphabet-19From 1839, Antonio Basoli’s lithographs of the letters of the alphabet are elaborate and detailed.

In Bologna, in 1839, the decorative artist Antonio Basoli published his Alfabeto Pittorico, ossia raccolta di pensieri pittorici composti di oggetti comincianti dalle singole lettere alfabetiche (‘Pictorial Alphabet, or, a collection of pictorial thoughts composed of objects beginning with the individual letters of the alphabet’). This was an album of twenty-five elaborate lithographs, each one featuring an alphabetical character cast in some fantastic architectural form, in a setting contrived to illustrate any number of figures and objects for which there were Italian words beginning with that same letter. A commentary in Italian and French explained the contents of the plates. Below are details from the lithographs representing the five vowels from this alphabet (plus one other additional image), scanned from a reproduction of the Alfabeto Pittorico issued in 1998 by Ravensburger, with translations of Basoli’s text into German and English, and with additional commentary and notes by Joseph Kiermeier-Debre and Fritz Franz Vogel. [spamula.net]

View the full set at Retronaut.com

alphabet-carved-into-crayons-by-diem-chau-9

And for an alphabet with a sense of whimsy, look no further than this set of carved crayons by Diem Chau, with matching animals native to the Pacific Northwest.These are gorgeous, and quite brilliant. With everything from vesper bats to killer whales, these Crayolas are not for colouring with but for admiring with awe.

View the full set at Twisted Sifter.

 

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You’re Invited! Beer and Butter Tarts Launch Party!

party11

If I haven’t been around the old blog much lately, it’s because I’ve been working on other stuff – most notably, the first issue of Beer and Butter Tarts, a Canadian literary food journal, which features work by writers and artists from right across Canada.

If you’re in the Toronto-area, please check out the details below and come on by. Otherwise, copies are available by mail-order from Stained Pages Press.

We’re having a party to celebrate the launch of our first issue!

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014, 7pm
The Rhino Restaurant & Bar (skylight room)
1249 Queen Street West
free admission

Tasty nibbles, fab beer, plus selected readings from the first issue by contributors Dorianne Emmerton, David Huebert and others.

Copies of Issue #1 will be available for purchase.

Please join us!

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Lucky Dip – January 2, 2014

Yes, I’m trying this again. Shut up and enjoy the links.

octopus

I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get this for Christmas, but I’m sure it was just an oversight. Hubby’s probably just saving up for it. Or trying to figure out where, at 4ft across, we’d put it. This one-of-a-kind piece by Mason Creations is sold, but there’s always next year.

vincentprice

If you didn’t already think Vincent Price was awesome, here’s another reason – he wrote a book about his dog! Illustrated by Hirshfield, of course.Via Dangerous Minds.

yearbook Olde Tyme high school yearbooks, just as boring as current ones, except for all that hair! Via Twisted Sifter

smashscale

Ditch that whole idea of standing on your bathroom scale and feeling bad about yourself this new year. Instead – get all “Office Space” on that tyrannical appliance and savour the freedom behind the idea that numbers are meaningless. Via The Militant Baker

martinet

Steampunk? We’ve got your steampunk right here, Buddy. The beautiful nature sculptures of Edouard Martinet, made from spare parts.  Via Dangerous Minds

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How Justin Trudeau Inadvertently Convinced Me to Not Buy a Pink Tool Set

tools

“She’s not much into dolls yet, but she’s been asking for a tool set.”

My brother and I are discussing what to buy my 2-year-old niece for Christmas. Up until this point, we’ve showered her with pink clothes and toys; and made her quite a stylish little thing in the process (it’s no secret that I live vicariously through her awesome wardrobe, sending her care packages of clothes each month, mostly selected because I want an adult version of the thing). But as she approaches her 3rd birthday, she’s developing a personality with likes and dislikes of her own. And I’m happy, nay, overjoyed to buy her a tool set.

The item in question is super-cool, made from recycled plastic with each tool labelled with what it is (pliers, wrench) right down to the screwdrivers which specify a Phillips and flat head. The box is pink, with the tools in shades of pink, mauve and green. But as I peruse the Amazon website, I discover the “blue” version of the same set. Same contents, same price, but the colours are darker (blue, red, bright green).

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Join Me at Toronto Indie Arts Market

September web

So by now, most regular readers/followers know that I’ve spent the past few months putting together a series of mixed media markets, the first of which takes place this Saturday, September 14th, at the Gladstone Hotel.

We did a trial run back in the Spring and we’re hoping that we can create a regular place for small-scale artisans, in a variety of mediums, to sell their work to the public.

Besides running the thing, I will also be selling my book Kitchen Party. In fact, it will be available at the door, and if you buy a copy for $15, you’ll get in for free. (And don’t worry, I’ll still donate $2 of that total to our partner charity, the Annex Cat Rescue.)

We’ll have over 50 great vendors selling everything from fine art to comics, clothing to housewares, so please come out and show your support for local artisans.

As an added incentive, admission is free before 11am, and the first 100 paying customers will receive a 2-for-1 pass for our October market.

So please come out and join us. It’s supposed to be a lovely day – cool but sunny –  perfect for a stroll along Queen Street West. Hope to see you there.

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Lucky Dip – Tuesday, September 10th

la-scala

This giant piece of artwork is made up of thousands of potted flowers and plants arranged on an massive staircase in Sicily. Photo by Andrea Annaloro, via [Twisted Sifter]

I’ve posted this to Twitter already, but it’s worthy of many repeats. WalMart workers in North Carolina stage an in-store flash mob. Fantastic. [Dangerous Minds]

That RuPaul, always coming up with some creative and fun idea to express himself. Like an internet series called RuPaul Drives where he drives around with various famous people, in this case, Henry Rollins. [Rocker]

New York Times food critics share their horror stories, and disguises. [Work Fails and Job LOLs]

And finally, two different takes on the world in miniature; the first a guy who makes dollhouse scale models of New York City; the second, miniature clay artworks on the outside of Altoid tins. [Messy Ness Chic] [Twister Sifter]

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