Thursday, May 29, 2014

Madeleine interview and book review

Good morning or it may be afternoon or evening for HEY, how's it going?

If you've been around long, you know from time to time I do reviews on cookbooks or books that mean something to me. Well, today I'm going to tell you about a new book that Viva Editions sent to me for a review. I'm not obligated to do a review and received no other compensation than a free book. However, I am doing a review because I enjoyed the book. Not only was it informative but funny! She is definitely someone I could see myself spending hours with making soap, hanging out clothes and laughing on the front porch watching the world go by.

all you need is less: The Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free living and Stress-Free Simplicity by Madeleine Somerville  ISBN: 978-1-936740-79-6 Published April 22, 2014 VivaEditions

About the author: She adores writing in all its incarnations, and has a popular blog at  She has a B.A. in sociology and became an unrepentant, tree hugging hippie after moving to British Columbia eight years ago. She lives in Vancouver, Canada with her husband Adam, her baby Olive and their dog Gus.

I loved this book, she is down to earth, funny, even a little sarcastic...hmm she might be my long lost sister that I never had!

Seriously, she pretty much covers everything you ever wanted to know about living the simple life. NO that doesn't mean she does without all the comforts of home, but she has learned a valuable lesson. Less is more. I love the concept and tried in vain over the years to convince my husband and sons that "less is more" they weren't buying it.

She writes passionately about the 3 R's and the 3 B's. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and her Beg, Borrow, Barter idea. Actually it's not a new concept, it is going back in time, when life was simple, we were less hurried, busy, cluttered and frantic. People sat on the porch at night, visited, wrote letters and shared their lives and NOT on Facebook.

I have many similarities with Madeline and I am sure that is why I enjoyed the book. I was privileged to be able to interview her. Here are a few of the topics we discussed:
the baby
making dog food
converting friends and family
neighbors avoiding you
and a second book

I would so love to hang out with her, but instead, here are the questions and answers for the interview:

Hi Madeleine, it was exciting to read a book by someone as nutty as myself. My husband thinks all the RRR and BBB is nuts... I love it!
First important Question: How is Olive and is she walking yet? 

Olive is indescribably delightful. She is nineteen months old, walking and talking and coming up with some hilarious mispronunciations. Adam and I think they are adorable and we do nothing but bore everyone around us with imitations. We have unabashedly become THOSE parents. 

1. When did you first decide to write the book and did your family say "no one will buy that, it's crazy?"?

I actually entered this whole book publishing world kind of backwards, because a publisher contacted me after seeing a list I wrote for, titled "10 Crazy Hippie-Lady Things You Should Be Doing, But Aren't". She loved the tone and content of the list - which was filled with simple little eco-friendly changes like using an ice cream cone instead of a cup, and using soap instead of body wash.

So she contacted me, and asked if I would like to write a book. And when you are a writer and someone says they would like to publish your book- I mean, I couldn't say yes fast enough. I was elated. All of that time spent rambling on The Internets had finally paid off!

My family has been hugely supportive of both my writing and my eco-friendly shenanigans, so they were all on board right from the get-go. Especially my husband Adam, who promptly began calling himself my manager. (He is not my manager. If he contacts you please hang up immediately.) 

2. Have you been able to influence family and friends to embrace your RRR and BBB? If not in whole maybe in part?

In the beginning these endeavors were approached with a sort of indulgent kindness, somewhat akin to how you'd treat a small child with an imaginary friend, "Oh, you're going to wash your floors with tea, are you? Of course you are! How nice!".  I think over time as they saw that my floors were still clean and my laundry detergent worked, and my hair was no worse from my homemade shampoo and conditioner, they began asking for recipes.

I think this is the best way to go about it - don't preach, just do your own thing and let your fabulous patchouli-scented hippie vibes lure people to you.

Like the pied piper. (But with more baking soda and less rats.)

Over the years both Adam's family and my own have naturally gravitated to the same fondness for reducing and reusing, as well as the concept of beg, barter, borrow. Gifts are often secondhand or hand made, and we try to give experiences too, instead of things.

I do have a friend named Tyler who lived with us a few years ago and still hasn't forgiven me for the time we ordered takeout and I made him bring containers from home to avoid the Styrofoam ones the Sushi place used. He still speaks of it to this day. I think it was deeply traumatizing for him and I'm not sure he will ever fully recover. 

3. Have you started making dog food for Gus? (I used to make my dog her food due to allergies and all the junk/byproducts found in her food)

Gus (our English Mastiff) has some food sensitivity issues too (because, of course our dog is allergic to pork, oats, feathers, and cotton. Why wouldn't he be?) so we have had to choose his food carefully. But he is also almost 200 lbs and eats approximately eighteen cups of food and three small children at every meal, so I have to confess that making food for him from scratch was never something I really considered, especially because before Olive was born I barely even cooked for myself. 

(Some would say I "never" cooked, but that's because we disagree about whether or not opening a can of soup and heating can be called "cooking" . Of course it can, I mean what the hell else are you doing to it, I'd like to know?)

I have since started cooking on a daily basis (having a child to feed will do that to you) but I still don't cook for Gus. Sorry, buddy.

He eats a great brand of dog food that comes in an easily-recyclable pager bag so I haven't had any concerns with things in this department, but I think that for those with the desire to do so, making your own pet food is a fantastic way to ensure they are getting a healthy diet free from unnecessary preservatives and fillers. 

4. Have you or will you make your own baby food? YES! Sort of!

Olive ate her first meal at six months old, we pureed avocado with a bit of breast milk. For the first few weeks we steamed and coarsely pureed simple things like sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips etc. After that we just started letting her eat small, well-cooked pieces of veggies, and soft fruits. She seemed to like that better because she could feed herself, and I've since heard that avoiding purees does a lot to help kids become good eaters because they get accustomed to different textures of food right from the start.

Whatever the reason, she's an incredible eater and eats whatever we do - salmon, elk, spinach, broccoli, beans- quite literally anything and  everything. 

One of the reasons we avoided store-bought baby food was that in addition to all of the packaging and waste, most were made with a pear or applesauce base. Everything was sweet. I don't think she would have the appreciative palate she does now if she had been eating sweet food for the first few months of her life.

5. Do or did the neighbors cross the street to avoid you on the sidewalks? (there comes the kook)

Ha! I like to think that my neighbours and I become really close because they get to see my dainties on display as they line dry on laundry day. Is there really any better way to get to know someone than seeing what their underwear looks like?

In all seriousness though, I think a lot of the initiatives I talk about in 'All You Need Is Less' have the potential to foster a really close sense of community with your neighbours. Being outside drying clothes, being able to talk over the sound of a push-mower, or feeling comfortable going over to ask to borrow something are all little things that go a long way toward creating the types of relationships that we've been lucky enough to enjoy with all of our neighbours in the past. I wouldn't have it any other way!

6. Any plans for a second book? Absolutely.

I can't help but write, it keeps me sane and fills me up in a way I feel completely inadequate attempting to describe.

I'd love to write a collection of stories about the chaos that is growing up in family with six kids, what marriage really feels like (blissful! infuriating! stabby!), and this exhausting, heart-bursting, soul-stretching thing called motherhood that I've been doing lately.
So, fingers crossed that will be on the horizons in the distant future. 

Yes, very random questions, but honestly except for just chatting, she pretty much tells you EVERYthing in the book.
Billiee Sharp, the author of Lemons and Lavender, wrote the forward. If you remember I reviewed her book last year. That was my first from VivaEditions.
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