Eileen Cook Author, Writing Consultant, Editor

Friday Five

I’ll be doing a random Friday Five each and every Friday. Tune into to find out my latest and greatest.

This week my Friday Five: Favourite Baked Goods

I was lucky enough to grow up with a mom who is an amazing cook. This has resulted in a life long love of baked things.

1) Bread: There are few things better than the smell of homemade bread coming out of the oven- other than of course the taste of fresh hot bread spread with real butter.

2) Chocolate Chip Cookies: Cookies are pretty much nature’s perfect snack food. Tasty and portable. I like pretty much all cookies- but if I have to choose only one the classic is where I’m going.

3) Pumpkin Bread: This was a recipe I stole from my mom. Think pumpkin instead of banana and you’ve got the idea. I load in the fall spices, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and bake these up like crazy in the fall.

4) Blueberry Pie: When I got married DH declared this to be his favourite of all desserts and he’s rubbed off on me over the years. I am also not adverse to a good apple pie- if you’re feeling wacky add some chopped dried ginger.

5) Guinness Chocolate Cake: I came across this recipe a year or so ago and fell in love. I’m not usually a cake person, but this one is worth it. It’s become my default for birthdays and random celebrations. If you want to try it the recipe is here.

Happy Birthday to me….

Thanks to everyone who sent kind birthday wishes. I plan to spend my day surrounded by things I love, friends, good food, puppies, books, knitting, and hot tea. The best celebration I can have is taking the time to realize how truly fortunate I am. Here’s to 2016 kicking butt.

Cover Reveal and Sharing the Shelf

Writing is awesome. Publishing can be a challenge. I encourage every writer to celebrate and support their fellow writers. It’s too easy to fall into the game of envy and comparison. I believe that writers do well when all writers do well.

This week had two reminders of this. First I had a chance to have lunch with Kristen Adams. We met through the Surrey conference and I’m excited to share she’s recently signed with a shiny literary agent and her novel is on submission. It was a good excuse for a celebration. You’ll want to remember her name because you’ll be reading her on these days.

I also have the opportunity to do a cover reveal! Good friend and writing student Lisa Voisin has her latest book, The Watcher, out now! I’ve had the opportunity to see Lisa’s progress from her first novel in this series to this very satisfying conclusion. So if you haven’t had a peek- be sure to check out her latest!

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What Not To Say About What Not To Wear- subtitled: why I would never diss Reese Witherspoon if she were my best friend

It’s award season. Movie and TV stars lined up on the red carpet. A time of year when we celebrate their work and for reasons that are unclear to me- shred other women for what they choose to wear.

Imagine that you had a work party where you were being honoured for (insert job title here) of the year. You get all dressed up. You’re nervous and excited because this is a big deal for your career. Then before you even walk all the way inside you are assailed with tweets and posts about how you look horrid. Not about your job, or if you deserved the award, but instead we reduced you to simply how you looked. Isn’t it enough that they picked the outfit because when they put it on-it made THEM feel good?

Friends of ours came over once with their daughter. She was about five at the time. She showed up in a velvet dress from the previous Christmas. It was the middle of the July. Her mom shrugged and said: “This is what she wanted to wear.” She sweated up a storm in that dress- it was impractical and likely fit better six months before, but dammit she felt pretty and she was the only one at the BBQ who took the trouble to dress up.

I suspect part of what makes us feel comfortable tearing down celebrities is due to the fact that because we watch their movies we feel we somehow know them. That we’re entitled to weigh in on their appearance. Let’s take Reese Witherspoon. I’ve long believed that Reese and I would make great friends. We like many of the same books, I love her work (Election is one of my fav movies of all time) and she comes across as darn nice on Instagram where I stalk follow her.

If Reese was my real friend and she invited me over for a chance to weigh in on what she was pondering wearing to the Oscars I’d hustle right over with some cupcakes and wine. If she tried someone on and it looked horrible I would tell her. I would watch her in the mirror and declare a particular cut made her butt look like wrestling squirrels trapped in a silk hammock. ***

You know what I wouldn’t do? I wouldn’t call her AFTER the awards and say now that it was too late to do anything other than make her feel bad: “damn, you looked horrible.” You know why? Because that would make me a lousy friend. One who was likely saying mean things simply because I was jealous I hadn’t been invited to the party.

So I’m putting forward the idea that this year we don’t tear other women down based on what they look like. Maybe it’s a look we like, maybe we think we wouldn’t be caught dead in that outfit- but we don’t need to tear them down for their choice. It’s not like they’re going to call you and force you to wear it your next Christmas party. Celebrate the awards and raise a glass if your favourite wins.

*** Should Reese Witherspoon read this please know that I can’t imagine anything you would wear would make your butt look like fighting squirrels and I’m not just saying that because we’re imaginary BFFs. Also call me- want you to be in my bookclub.

Random Monday

There has been some exciting book news around here for WITH MALICE.

You may have seen it was selected as a Buzz Book for 2016. If you are interested to check out a sneak peek of the book (along with 19 other great titles) you can find it here.

I also heard that the book will be published in Turkey which is rather nifty.

I don’t have travel plans yet- but be sure to check back and I’ll keep you posted on what they are as we get closer to the release date.

If you live in Vancouver (or plan to visit) I can’t recommend enough the restaurant Cinara. We went there for a seven course chef’s choice tasting menu and it was so good I practically licked the plate.

The East Coast was recently hammered with a snow storm which called for people to make sure they were well stocked with wine and good books. In solidarity (there wasn’t a flake of snow here) I’ve been hunkering down and reading. I just finished The Orphan Train for my book club and an now ready to discuss the heck out of it. Hope you’re reading something fun.

Welcome 2016

Let’s hear it for the start of a new year. I am excited for 2016 and all it may bring.

A few resolutions-

– Sending more handwritten notes to friends and family.Yes, it does require stamps, but the people in my life are worth it. There are few things nicer than receiving something in the mail that is not a bill, an advertisement or a plea for money.

– Avoiding the hate: Yes- I am talking to all those online hate-fests. If the only way you can feel better about yourself is talking about how poor people (or minorities, or refugees, or any one religion etc) are horrible and not worthy I will block you. Your negativity sucks- cut it out or I cut you out.

– Purposeful time: It is far too easy to spend hours drifting about the internet- which, while better than spending time on hookers and drugs, isn’t always what I want to be doing with my time. This doesn’t mean that I need to be more productive, but rather that I focus on spending time on things that add something to my life. More books, more knitting, more long walks with the dog and conversations on interesting topics.

– Read more, read widely: This is one of my goals most years, but it never hurts to push myself to try some things that I might not otherwise pick up and discover new authors.

– Write: I have a book to write this year so this is not only an aspirational goal, but also a deadline. Lucky for me- I actually like writing so this one shouldn’t be too hard.

– Take time to enjoy: This year has many new adventures planned. A new book out, a trip to France, time with friends, two dogs… I have much to be grateful for and want to be sure to make the time to appreciate all of it before it is over and simply a memory.

– Health: Taking care of yourself is never a bad plan

May your 2016 bring you much happiness!

2015 A Year In Review

I have zero idea how it is the end of the year already. I swear it was late September just a few days ago.

Here at Chez Cook we had a lovely holiday filled with lots of books, movies, naps on the sofa and good food.

It’s always nice this time of year to take a minute and look back. 2015 was a good one for me. There were a few highlight- I sold a new book, WITH MALICE (out June 2016– feel free to pre-order.) I’m really excited to share this book- it is a bit different from my others, but I’m proud of it and ready to show it off.

Our other big news this year was the addition of a new puppy to our house- Gimlet. She’s a very busy wee Westie and has kept us running since she moved in. She took to the concept of Christmas and a stocking filled with squeaker toys and treats right away. We were also happy that our current dog Cairo decided that she could stay. However, when she chews on his tail I suspect he may be rethinking it.

The rest of the year was made of quieter things- but no less enjoyable.
– I started teaching for the SFU Writer’s Studio and have loved the chance to mentor other writers. It could be because they have to listen to me, but I like to think my feelings are more noble.

– My parents came out for a visit and we had a chance to see a Seahawks game. Despite the fact the power went out for a day and a bit a good time was had by all.

– Lots of good meals with friends including several late night board game matches.

– Long walks with good friends and dogs. Sometimes both at the same time.

– Reading a lot. I read fewer books than last year, a mere 91. However I did have some favourites:
A Mad Wicked Folly, A Pleasure and a Calling, The Lake House, The Girl on the Train, The Kind Worth Killing For, Dead Wake, Luckiest Girl Alive and Furiously Happy among others.

– Writing a lot. I am lucky in that I enjoy the writing process. I know some writers that find it painful. While it is not always easy I am still aware that making stuff up for a living is about the best job ever.

– Conferences and School Visits. The Surrey International Writer’s Conference continues to be a favourite. I’ll be there again this coming October so if you’re free I hope to see you there.

– Having friends get good news. I had friends who were able to travel this year, some who found an agent, others who had a book come out, one bought a house and another was able to get a nanny so she could have time for herself again. I am always happy when good friends are happy.

– Skeptics Conference: We went to Vegas (in July) and attended the skeptics conference which was not only interesting, but also gave me an idea for a new book. There was also a lot of time spent at the pool which wasn’t all bad.

I’m looking forward to 2016 and all it will bring. Any favourite memories of 2015 you’d like to share? See in the new year.

Dog Update

IMG_1341As you can see Cairo and Gimlet are now fast friends. Cairo has enjoyed all the extra cookies (he tends to take them from her) and this makes up for the fact that she is constantly hanging off of him biting his ear, ruff or tail.

It amuses me how different they are in personality. For example, Cairo has always been terrified of the vacuum. He tries to play it cool now, acting like he would just rather be somewhere else when it comes out, but you can tell the thing freaks him out.

Then came Gimlet. She observed how the vacuum came out and Cairo exited stage right. Instead of following him, she instantly leapt onto the hose, digging in her teeth, wrapping her paws around it. I imagine if she could speak it would be: “DIE you evil sucking dragon! I shall vanquish you for terrorizing my beloved brother. Your death shall be slow and painful.” She has no fear.

This process makes cleaning up the house interesting.

Gimlet has arrived

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Gim peachland
So last Thursday we flew to Kelowna to pick up the newest member of our family.

So far it has been both easier than expected and more work. There is no energy like puppy energy. She goes goes goes goes goes and then falls over sounds asleep- then she snores like a wee truck driver.

Our other dog Cairo is not so sure about this addition. We wondered if he would be territorial with a new dog in his space, but he seems to have more wearied patience. Like she’s a drunk houseguest who showed up at his house, ate his food, ran around screaming “Look at me!!!!!” and then peed in the living room. Near as I can tell he’s still hoping she will go away. The fact that she follows him around and chews on his ears is likely not helping.

It will be busy around here at Chez Cook as we all get used to each other and our new schedule. Let’s hope for her stake she stays away from my good shoes.

Things my dishwasher has taught me

Some of you may remember that we got a new dishwasher about a month ago. The amount I love this dishwasher is hard to describe. When I put the dishes in, even if they are crusty with egg goo, they come out….CLEAN.

Now, you may not be impressed. Perhaps you’re thinking that the entire point of a dishwasher is to wash dishes. Technically you would be correct. Alas, our old dishwasher hadn’t been up to the task for a while. Instead of breaking down completely in a gush of water and steam- it just slowly, over a period of time, did a crappier and crappier job. First, it wouldn’t wash off the really crusty stuff. Then it moved to a stage where it didn’t so much wash dishes, as it sterilized all ready clean dishes. Then it didn’t even really do that.

I was in denial for a long period of time. It’s not that bad, I would tell myself as I scoured dishes before putting them in, or cleaning them as I took them out. Other things I told myself included:
– It will be a pain to get a new one.
– I don’t have time to go appliance shopping.
– It will be expensive
– I’ll buy a new one (insert random timeline here)

Then I finally bought it. And it was great. And I wondered why I waited so long. Why I settled for something that didn’t work that great. I think it’s a great reminder for life in general. What are living with that doesn’t really work? A friendship? A job? A living space? Something that you tell yourself is “good enough” when it really isn’t.

Imagine if your life wasn’t good enough- if it was just right. Then go out and make it happen.