Kazu Kibuishi and Hayao Miyazaki Book and Film Fest

little

Our wonderful local comic book store, Little Island Comics, hosted an event with Kazu Kibuishi last week, and Middlest being a HUGE Amulet fan, we went along to hear him speak and watch him draw.  Middlest has been counting down the days to the publication date of Book Six in the series all summer, so we were all terribly excited when we got our paws on Book Six a week early because that’s the kind of perk you get with a store like Little Island in the ‘hood.  Middlest read it cover to cover in the store, which was all very well until he asked, “When is Book Seven coming out?”

Kazu Kibuishi did a degree in Film Studies (not film making, but film criticism), and in his talk at the Palmerston branch of the Toronto Public Library, he said that it was the essay-writing he did for that degree that best prepared him to create the Amulet books.  As an artist, he is self-taught, but he had to learn how to shape a narrative by writing essays.  Even now he finds that writing is difficult, and drawing is the real treat that comes after the story has been written.

Kazu Kibuishi at the Palmerston Branch of the Toronto Public Library

Kazu Kibuishi at the Palmerston Branch of the Toronto Public Library

What I loved most about his talk was how much he shared about the failures he had on the road to success.  After several years working in design and animation, he wrote and drew 20 pages of Amulet, but quit after 20 pages because it was so difficult.  Scholastic asked him to pitch a book idea, though, and he dusted off Amulet and revised it for a pitch.  They liked it, and he had a contract to do the first book.

He wrote and drew book one of Amulet four times.  As the deadline to turn in the book drew close, he felt that the draft he had completed was not good enough.  Ignoring the editors at Scholastic who said it was, he made the most difficult decision of his life and held the book hostage until it was something he felt right about publishing.  He wrote and rewrote the book, and with four drafts in hand, he was still not certain.  He asked Jeff Smith, the author of the Bone series, to take a look at what he thought was the best draft.   “Some of it is good,” he said.  With that as his guide, Kibuishi set about finding the good parts in each of the drafts he had made.  He turned the book in a year late, after taking the best pieces from each of the four drafts and building new bridges to connect the sections he had saved.  Going through that process taught him that creating a finished book has to begin with the faith that a bunch of small parts that do work will eventually work as a larger whole in the end.

I also loved how down to earth he was about his drawing process.  He draws his first drafts on cheap printer paper because he wants to feel that he can throw them away.  He carries around a small notebook that he can whip out as soon as inspiration strikes or whenever he has an idle moment.  He does not want to be precious about the process.

And what is his advice to young writers and artists?  The ability to draw is not something you are born with.  It takes practice, hard work and a lot of discipline.  He borrows from the Boy Scouts, and also says to “Be prepared.”

Hard work, staying true to what you believe deserves to be published under your name, pushing through writer’s block, illustrator’s block and repeated failure to realize on paper the ideas in your mind–all wonderful inspiration to a crowd of admirers.

Emily and Miskit, drawn on the computer while he answered questions form the audience.

I am sorry to say that until I had heard him talk, I had not read the Amulet books.  I knew that they were among Middlest’s favourite books, but I just had not made it to them yet.  (This could be in part because he re-reads them so often, they are never on the shelf!)  That changed post haste after seeing Kibuishi in person, and I read all six Amulet books the next day.  Kibuishi  told us that the Amulet books are full of parodies and tributes to movies, games and comics that he loves, so Middlest and I looked through the books together, looking for references to those influences.

One influence that he cited specifically was the work of Hayao Miyazaki, so after reading the books, we went off to Queen Video to look for a copy of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.  We came home with four films instead of one, and turned the excess into an excuse for a party: a Hayao Miyazaki film fest with sushi for dinner.

One of the things that is immediately apparent as an influence is that both men eschew traditional roles for their female characters, and their girls are leaders, brave, grounded, and in Miyazaki’s case, not paired off at the end of the story.  Praise be!

All told, a great way to finish off summer.

nausicaa_r4_dvd

 

Virgin by Radhika Sanghani and Claudine by Barbara Palmer

To round out our week of posts about the first time, and our month of sizzling summer, here is the scoop on two buzz-worthy, sex-filled new reads.

FF2AF08C-28EB-4F67-A460-B25CCDCB5A5DVirgin

Radhika Sanghani

Toronto: Penguin, 2014

There has been a fair amount of buzz lately about New Adult fiction and its definition.  An article this week in The Globe and Mail discusses the struggle to find bookstore space to devote to the genre, and Emily Temple debates the value of the label altogether over at Flavorwire.

Whether you value naming the genre or not, Virgin fits squarely into the New Adult category of fiction.  It is sexually explicit, full of relationship drama, final exam hell, the task of finding a first real job: in short, it’s all about the transition from teens to twenties.  Where Young Adult fiction deals with sexuality in euphemisms, New Adult gets down and dirty with the details.  Most of the details fall under the category “Why did no-one tell me these things?!”

In Virgin, the narrator Ellie Kolstakis is on a mission to lose her virginity at the ripe old age of 21.  She is in her last year of university, and she feels that she cannot graduate with her hymen intact.  Add a healthy dose of insecurity, a naivety about the care and maintenance of the bikini line, and several strokes of bad luck and you have the recipe for sexually explicit broad humour.  There are laugh-out-loud encounters with boys, men and bikini-waxers alike, toe-curlingly precise episodes of shame and embarrassment, and tender moments of girlfriend honesty.

I will admit to feeling huge relief to be well out of my twenties when I read this book.  The neediness and the insecurity of the narrator detracted from the great humour in the book, and I was less empathetic with the narrator than relieved to be fully in possession of my sense of self.  If you like the over-sharing and the cringe-worthy moments of embarrassment of Lena Dunham’s Girls and the broad humour of physical comedy, this book will fit the bill to round out a sizzling summer.

 

9780143190721_FULLClaudine

Barbara Palmer

Toronto: Penguin, 2014.

On sale September 2, 2014

To really turn up the heat, look no further than the erotic thriller Claudine, by Barbara Palmer (who discusses the fun she has had with her alias here and the history of erotic literature here.)

Claudine is the stage name of Maria Lantos, a post-graduate student who is writing her thesis on erotic literature at Yale.  This is the best kind of erotica: bawdy with a healthy side of brains.  Part erotica and part thriller, the novel begins when Claudine is having an increasingly hard time managing to balance her life as top class prostitute and top-of-the-class graduate student.  When she begins to get threatening messages from someone who knows far too much about her to simply be a disgruntled former john, the plot thickens and her ability to keep her selves separate becomes ever more difficult.  Add several steaming hot sex scenes, and you have the recipe for a page-turner with a kick.

Claudine has fashioned a successful business as a modern-day courtesan, and she commands top-dollar for her appearances.  She has two employees: a dishy body guard and business manager, Andrei, and a beautician/masseuse/costume designer, Lillian, and they work as a team to keep her safe, solvent and stunning.  I have to say, the fact that she has such attentive personal attendants was a huge part of the appeal of the fantasy.  Who wouldn’t love a Lillian to do hair and make-up every day, and a massage at the end of the day?  And this book does cover many a fantasy: rough sex, role-play, group sex, public sex, lesbian sex, and high academic achievement in an Ivy League English Department.  (What?  Is that just my fantasy?)

I loved how matter-of-fact Claudine is about her job, how business-minded she is, and how proud she is about her success as a courtesan.  Palmer does not stint on the details of the business plan that helped her to rise to the top, and as much as we witness the sex she sells, we see her strategy for making herself a rare and valuable commodity on her own terms.  I also love that she’s a graduate student of English, of course, and it’s clear that both Barbara Palmer and her Claudine know their stuff when it comes to the erotic canon.

If I have a quarrel with the book, it is that Claudine was abused as a child.  Certainly, many sex workers were sexually abused as children, but in a novel that otherwise promotes a fierce pride in female sexual appetites, it bothered me to see, yet again, a fierce appetite linked to a traumatic past.  Such a move does not seem to move away from pathologizing sex.

Erotic fiction generates its own kind of desire to keep turning the pages, but this takes it up a notch with the mystery of a predator on the loose.  The mystery to solve now, of course, is to discover the true identity of the award-winning Canadian behind the pseudonym Barbara Palmer.

Any guesses?!

Both of these books were sent to 4Mothers1Blog by Penguin Canada.

Sense Memories

dustOne of the things I loved about Moira Young’s Dustlands trilogy was the way she describes smell.  The narrator protagonist Saba is caught in a love triangle, as the heroines of young adult fantasy and dystopias often are, and each of her love interests has his own characteristic smell.  (Actually, she has three men vying for her attention, but the third does not get a sense description, so we know that we can dismiss him as a contender fairly quickly.)  The books are set in a post-apocalyptic world of drought, dust and danger, and on those rare occasions when there is time and water available for bathing, it is described as something wonderfully soothing and quietly aromatic.  And her men?  One smells of sage and the other of juniper.

I had my first kiss in middle school, and the boyfriend in question smelled of Polo, the signature scent of boys in the eighties.  And when he gave me his jean jacket to wear, I could carry that smell around with me everywhere.  It was the smell of butterflies in my stomach, of relief to be paired up, of pride to show it off.  It was the sensory equivalent of the fog I was in in those heady days of fumbling around for a sense of place and selfhood.  I loved the smell then, and I took every opportunity to bury my nose in the soft, frayed collar of the jacket.  I smell it today with mixed emotions, not all of them pleasant.  What hindsight throws into stronger relief is the tumult of emotions that goes along with first kisses and first loves and first heartaches.  The 1000th and 10,000th kisses are so very much better, though they never fail to give me butterflies.

What is your scent memory of your first kiss?

 

The First Time

To wrap up our month of posts on turning up the heat, 4mothers will be writing this week about The First Time.

And because it’s been so eagerly anticipated on the small screen, here’s a relevant exchange from Outlander‘s romantic leads, Claire and Jamie.  Claire asks,

“Does is bother you that I’m not a virgin?” He hesitated a moment before answering.

“Well, no,” he said slowly, “so long as it doesna bother you that I am.” He grinned at my drop-jawed expression, and backed toward the door.

“Reckon one of us should know what they’re doing,” he said. …

As yet too hungry and too clumsy for tenderness, still he made love with a sort of unflagging joy that made me think that male virginity might be a highly underrated commodity.

outlanderpic-copy

Guest Post by Aly Ruiz Tsourounis: Summer Sipping: Peach Vodka Fizz

peach fizz 3Our guest for this week is Aly from The Newlywed Life. Her lifestyle blog is a collection of healthy recipes, creative DIYs, affordable fashion and pretty fabulous parties; plus she’s Beth-Anne’s sister-in-law so she has it on good authority that she mixes up a tasty cocktail!

::

My husband and I spend a lot of time entertaining and a big part of the fun in having dinner

parties is creating new recipes to enjoy with our guests. While my husband tackles most of the

food, I am usually in-charge of cocktails and appetizers, my favourite items at any dinner party!

My motto on summer cocktails is that they should be easy to prepare, easily doubled or tripled for

a group and refreshing. Say hello to the peach vodka fizz, my current go-to summer beverage.

 

Peach Vodka Fizz (serves one)

peach fizzIngredients:

• 1 – 2 shots of vodka (depends on the type of day you’re having!)

• 1⁄2 a peach, peeled and cubed

• Juice of 1⁄2 a lime

• Touch of agave syrup

• Club soda

• Ice

 

peach fizz 2Directions:

• Place cubed peach, lime juice and agave in a mason jar and muddle with a wooden

spoon

• Add vodka, place lid on mason jar and shake vigorously

• Remove lid, add ice and top mixture with soda

• Replace lid and give one final shake

• Remove lid and enjoy!

 

Elderflower Everything

stgermainliquuerI am obsessed with Elderflower.  Obsessed.  I discovered it a few years ago in a pop I found at Winners.  Do you know, I sometimes go to Winners just to shop in the crazy impulse buy aisles they have you weaving through miles of just to get to the cash register.  Seriously.  Just for that.  I find the best stuff in those aisles!  It’s where I found this elderflower pop.  It’s where my elderflower adventure began!

From a rare find at Winners to England, where elderflower pop is readily available at Tesco, and a habit was formed.  I drank a lot of it in England and brought home a bottle of elderflower cordial in my suitcase.

From elderflower softdrinks, I moved on to a discovery of elderflower liqueur.  St. Germain is available at the LCBO, and mixed with a splash of soda, it’s a little taste of heaven.

Also available at the LCBO is Rekorderlig elderflower and pear cider.  Serve very well chilled.  See above re: heaven.

Finally, a friend, aware of my passion, brought me a bottle of elderflower cordial from Ikea.

If you are feeling ambitious, you can make your own!  Recipe here from the Tree Council.

So, I’ve got several ways to find it, and now I’m working on ways to mix it.

Elderflower Bellini

A really indulgent cocktail that’s perfect for summer, is a simple mix of Prosecco and St. Germain.  Pour half an ounce of St. Germain into a champagne flute, fill with chilled Prosecco and feel the bliss.

REKORDERLIG-ELDERFLOWERElderflower Elvis

I made this cocktail for my Mad Mums’ Martini afternoon.  It was incredible.  At the time, I left out the beer from the original Bon Appetit recipe because I’m not a big fan of beer cocktails.  I’m thinking, though, that the Rekorderlig cider would be a delicious substitute for the beer and would amplify the elderflower flavour.

I also adapted the recipe by substituting vodka for gin and soaking segmented grapefruit in the vodka for a few hours.  I then used this flavour-infused vodka to make the cocktails and used the grapefruit for garnish.  Delish!

Virgin Elvis

Just add Elderflower cordial to pink grapefruit juice and add a splash of soda water.  Yum!

Please tell me about any other elderflower drinks you may know about!!

 

Reignite the Spark and Heat Up Your Summer: Sex with Dr. Jess

jessIt’s a tough life, but somebody’s got to do it.  A few weeks ago, Durex invited 4Mothers to a women’s only evening of Talking Sex with Dr. Jess, a Toronto-based sexologist.  It was a blast!  Jessica O’Reilly is a fabulous speaker, and she made us laugh and put us at our ease in seconds flat.

She’s full of zippy one-liners, and one of her best was to “Do a sister a favour and share the wealth.”  So, with no further ado, here is the PG version of Dr. Jess’s tips to reignite the spark

1.  Fantasize during sex, and let your mind wander.

The top four fantasies for women are domination & submission, having sex with a stranger, role-playing and exhibitionism.  Try them out as fantasies and see where they take you.

2.  Seduce with surprise.

If you are not usually explicit, then explicitly express your desire.  Be unpredictable.

3.  Talk.

Reconnect.  Do not talk about the kids or the day to day stuff.  Ask an intimate question, focus on yourselves.

4.  Talk Dirty.

“If you can talk dirty you never, ever have to get on top again.”

5.  Change something old.  Try something new.

Try changing just one thing outside and one thing inside the bedroom.  New date night, new lingerie.

6.  Time & Space Challenge.

Have sex at a different time of day than you usually do.   Do not have sex in the bedroom.  Just those small changes can be enough to re-ignite the spark.

7. Be the teacher

Using plenty of lube, teach your partner some new ways to touch you.  (I can’t keep it PG with specifics.  Suffice to say, she used a vulva puppet, and had us miming various techniques, and was shouting, “Do it!!  You won’t remember it if you don’t do it!  Muscle memory!!”)

Have fun! 

The Eras of Childhood, As Measured by Trips to the E.R.

A light-hearted look at our trips to the emergency room, written while touching wood and counting our blessings that we can laugh about them now.  4Mothers would like to say that we are extremely grateful to be able to take our emergencies to The Hospital for Sick Children.  Every time I go in there, I feel so proud and so blessed to be a Canadian tax payer!

The Era of Croup, infancy

“Who are you and what have you done with my baby?!” you say to the seal who seems to have possessed your barking infant.  Off you rush to the E.R., because it’s 3 a.m. and you have a seal in the crib, but apparently, this is so benign it does not even require medical attention.  “Walk around outside [in -20 degree cold] for a few minutes,” says Doctor.  The cold air will, indeed, fix it.

The Era of the Ear Infection, infancy to 3

It’s Friday night.  Your child has had a cold all week, and it’s gotten steadily worse.  Now that the doctor’s office is closed, his little ear canals have filled up and festered, his fever has spiked and he is screaming blue murder every time he goes horizontal.  You know it’s an ear infection.  The pharmacist knows it’s an ear infection.  Neither of you can do anything about it without a prescription from a doctor.  He will finally fall asleep in the ER.

The Era of Allergies, toddler to school age

The definition of an anaphylactic allergy is that two or more of the body’s systems react violently to the allergen.  Skin.  Respiratory.  Digestive.  If you are lucky, you will rush your little lobster to the ER, both of you covered in vomit, and pray that you have enough diapers to get through the visit.

The Era of Poisoning, toddler to school age

Rhubarb leaf.  Who knew?

Concussion, school age

Head meets ice through helmet.  Headache and vomiting ensue.  Get thee to the ER.  Always better to be safe than sorry.

The Era of Broken Bones, school age

You will go into the ER, for example, with Eldest, who has a broken bone in his hand, and while you wait, a lovely, eager medical student will zip over to ask you to fill out a questionnaire about Trampoline Safety.  You will say yes because that’s the kind of Helpful Person that you are.  You will fill out the questionnaire then read the safety guidelines that she hands you informing you that, actually, Canadian pediatricians are asking for a ban on all backyard trampolines.  You will say to her, in all certainty, that as a mother of three boys, “A trampoline will be the reason for my next visit to the ER.”  You will be right.

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Did I miss any?

Raising Great Parents by Doone Estey, Beverley Cathcart-Ross and Martin Nash

rgp_front_high_rgbRaising Great Parents: How to Become the Parent Your Child Needs You to Be

by Doone Estey, Beverley Cathcart-Ross and Martin Nash, M.D.

Toronto: BPS Books, 2014

July has been our learning at home month, but, of course, not all learning is for the kids.  Parents are also always learning, and to recognize that learning process as on-going and ever-lasting is one of the most important tools in our parenting tool kit.

I learned a lot about myself reading this book.  I am, by nature, exactly the kind of controlling parent at whom this book is aimed.  “Step away from the rule book a minute and listen.  Attend.  Observe.  Relax.”  That’s what this book taught me to remember.

The authors of Raising Great Parents introduce the book by saying,

We realized that, to end the stressful conflicts with our kids, we had to start with ourselves.  We adopted a different form of parental leadership as it finally dawned on us that our challenge was not to raise great kids but to become great parents. (2)

I love how such a simple phrase turns the table: do not aim to raise great kids, aim to be a great parent.

How do you do that?

Begin by recognizing that the only behaviour you can actually control is your own.  Here is a great example: the kids are acting up at bedtime, arguing and disrupting book time.  Instead of barking orders to control them (“Stop fighting!”) or feeling powerless in the face of their behaviour (“Why are you ruining my special time?”), simply close the book and tell them, “I will read when the room is quiet.”

Now you have control–over yourself.  In effect, your words mean, “I can’t make you do it, so I will decide for myself what I will do in this situation.  I’m going to … decide what’s going to happen next — to me. (33)

The book is full of ideas and exercises to practice how to convert a dynamic of control into co-operation.  The vocabulary the authors use for modeling an exchange may not feel natural to you, but the exercises are useful for thinking outside of the usual box.  The tips for taking the yelling out of the morning routine were life-changing!  There is also a fabulous chart of age-appropriate chores for kids to do at home that will encourage you to give your kids a bit more responsibility and a lot more independence.

The book begins with asking parents to examine their own behaviours.  (Helpful.  Humbling.)  It then goes on to examine why kids misbehave and provides tools to guide families to a more co-operative dynamic.  It covers the greatest hits: misbehaving, punishment, the link between praise and self-esteem, and co-operative problem-solving.

If you are familiar with Adlerian approaches to parenting, this book will cover familiar ground.  The authors are all affiliated with The Parenting Network, an organization that promotes parenting through cooperation and guiding our kids’ intrinsic motivation.

Full disclosure: I know one of the authors of this book, Beverley Cathcart-Ross, very well.  She’s family!  I’ve seen her in action hosting Thanksgiving dinner for 40 people without breaking a sweat.  She is grace in motion, and mostly unflappable.  If she says, “I will read when the room is quiet,” she means it, but in the nicest way possible.