Category Archives: Books

Joy of Books

Joy of Books

If you haven’t watched this little gem of a video, you should check it out!

The same couple did this video:


After organizing our bookshelf almost a year ago, my wife and I (Sean Ohlenkamp) decided to take it to the next level. We spent many sleepless nights moving, stacking, and animating books at Type bookstore in Toronto.

Everything you see here can be purchased at Type Books.

Grayson Matthews generously composed the beautiful, custom music.

New Year, New Resolutions

It is finally that time of year. Time to set my goals for 2012 and then try to keep up with them until 2013. I am very excited about my 2012 goals, as the 2011 goals I set for myself were either met or exceeded. I had a lot of fun trying to meet the goals and I felt that I challenged myself continually throughout the year. This year, I have tried to choose a list of goals based on feedback from friends, family and my readers. I have also taken into account the amount of time each goal will take and the effort I will have to expend to complete it.


My 2012 Goals 

Relationship goals:

Strengthen my personal relationships by spending more time with those I care about. 

This may not seem like that difficult of a goal, but you have to keep in mind that I only have one family member in California, relatively few friends because of the hours I work each week, and a very demanding job. I am hoping that by the end of 2012, I will have solidified my relationship to a certain significant other, made a few close friends, and have a small circle of acquaintances with whom I can have some fun.

Write more letters, thank you notes and emails.

This is one of those goals I always mean to make myself do. Ever since university, I have tried to write more thank you notes and letters, but I always seem to come up short. However, I have written a few emails this year and I plan to keep that up. My goal is to write an email (outside of work) each day. I would like to email my grandmother, mother, father, brothers and friends at least once a week. My family alone will be 6 days!

Take a real vacation with someone.

“Real vacation” does not include: going home to see family for a holiday, traveling for a family emergency, traveling for a work-related reason or medical conference. I will only consider it a vacation if I am traveling solely for relaxing and spending time with my travel companion.

Preferable Destinations: Seychelles,  Dominican Republic, Toronto, Spain, London, Belize

Personal Goals:

– Finish my novel

Just last year I started a novel (no I’m not going to post it on this blog 🙂 ). I wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo, but then I had to travel/get sick/deal with personal issues for most of November and was unable to write at all. I only got around to writing about 10, 000 out of 50,000 words. Will I finish my novel in 2012? Maybe not, but I will try to write for a bit each week.

Learn to sew

I have wanted to learn to sew for some time now. I always see these amazing dresses/skirts and when I ask where they got the dress I get the, “Oh, I made this!,” response. I need to buy a sewing machine and convert the “cats room” into a sewing room. I welcome suggestions on where to buy fabrics in LA/Hermosa, what sewing machine I need to buy and what the best way to learn is (online tutorials, sewing books, classes) .

Read 20 books in 2012

In 2011, I read 30 books. I thought about upping the ante to 40, but then I remembered I want to have a life outside of work. I have decided to keep the goal of reading a set number of books, but I want to read less. I would really like to read the Harry Potter series, but only if I can get them on my Nook.

Make a substantial blog post two (2) times a week or a small post three (3) times a week.

I am looking forward to blogging in the new year! I have some posts I am working on (mostly about my travels), but they are fairly time intensive. I will be posting more often, around 2-3 times a week and I would love suggestions! Anything that you would be interested in me blogging about, I am open to it! 

Goals to Continue

Take more cooking courses (Persian, Latin American, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish)

I enjoyed this goal immensely. I was able to sign up for a few cooking courses and it was a blast! I would like to cook through a few classic cookbooks for each type of cuisine, while also supplementing my cooking with some outside classes.

Run 50 miles a week following Runners World MPW Target Goals or 2700 miles for the year. Try for 3000 miles if possible!

Even though this goal was difficult to keep up with in 2011 (due to work, travel or illness), I loved the way I felt after completing the required 50 miles a week. This year I am shooting for 3000 miles, but hitting 2700 or 2600 would be acceptable. If I can squeeze a few races or marathons in, I will definitely try!

Complete 1-2 detox plans over the course of 2012

This goal was actually a lot of fun for me. I scheduled both of my detoxes after holidays, in hopes that I could rid my system of the toxins I built up eating all that holiday fare. This year, I plan on trying to get in two (2) detoxes, but one (1) detox over the summer will work!

I am very pleased with my 2012 goals. I have already started a few of my goals and will keep everyone updated as I complete or struggle with each one.

Question(s): Have you decided to set goals for yourself in 2012? If so, what are they? Do you have suggestions to help me complete any of the above goals? Would you like to challenge me to complete another goal (I am up for some challenging!)?

Happy New Year!

Update: 30 Books Challenge

Since I have been feeling under the weather and I have basically been camping out in bed, I thought I would update my “Books I Have Read” list:

Still To Read 2011
– A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
– The Map of Time by Felix Palma
– Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
– Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake
– Titus Awakes by Mervyn Peake
– Busy Monsters by William Giraldi
– The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities by Ann Vandermeer
– The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
– The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
– Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
– Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
– The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
– A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan
– The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
– The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

I can also add to the list:

The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

I promise a much more substantial post when I feel up to it!

Personal Challenges: 30 Books

This Sunday, a most glorious event occurred. I awoke at 6:30 am and immediately grabbed Titus Groan and started to read. I carried it around the house with me, read it while waiting in line to get produce from the farmer’s market and curled up with it in bed. After reading it, I was in awe by how amazing it was. I have heard it described as “liquid poetry” and I must admit that it was stunningly written. I have definitely fallen in love with Peake’s writing and I am sad that he passed away without leaving more of his work behind.

After Titus Groan I have begun reading The Family Fang. It has proved interesting and I think it will be a fast read. I stopped reading the Song of Ice and Fire series because I felt like I needed a break from Martin’s style of writing. After reading the first four books so close together, they began to bleed together and I was feeling a little bogged down by the number of characters I had swimming around in my head.

The next book after The Family Fang will either be The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities or Busy Monsters. I think that I will continue to put off A Dance with Dragons until I have distanced myself from the story a bit, I want it fresh when I return to it.

I have also updated my lists to show what I have read this year and what I need to read. There is a sprinkling of YA books, as I knew I needed some quick/easy reads. I still have one spot left, so if there is a suggestion to fill the last spot I would be completely open to reading it.

Books I Have Read 2011:
A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
Embassytown by China Mieville
Saved by Beauty by Roger Housden
Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger*
The Magician King by Lev Grossman
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison*
Code of Trees by Jonathon Safran Foer
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
Ten Thousand Saints: A Novel by Eleanor Henderson
Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart
Brains: A Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
not simple by Natsume Ono*

*Do not count towards my goal of 30 books

Still To Read 2011:
A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
The Map of Time by Felix Palma
Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake
Titus Awakes by Mervyn Peake
Busy Monsters by William Giraldi
The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities by Ann Vandermeer
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson**
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

**May be replaced with A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan
Titles that have a strikethrough  them were read and updated on Sept 5, 2011 and Sept 18, 2011.

Lake Tahoe Worked Miracles

The weekend I spent at my parents gorgeous home at Lake Tahoe was sorely needed. Not only did it offer up a stunningly gorgeous view, but it allowed me time to relax. I tried to keep my phone buried away in my room, but I ended up packing it around with me more than I wanted. I extended my stay by an entire day when I found out that I did not have to work on Monday. A few of us stayed until later in the day and drove back in the afternoon.

By far my favourite part of the entire trip was curling up in the Adirondack chaise lounge by the water and reading my Nook. I was able to finish an entire book and started a second one while I was there. It was absolutely divine. I am now in the process of finishing The Magician King and will start the Gormenghast series soon. Peake’s series is an undertaking and I hope that I can finish it on time.

Another wonderful aspect of the mini-vacation was the food. Practically every meal we ate was prepared on-site. We spent a lot of time preparing food and each time was an exceptionally positive social experience. Each one of us contributed to every meal. One of the tag-a-longs was a bartender my cousin knows from LA and he created some fabulous cocktails to pair with meals (and to drink whenever!). Thankfully the kitchen was enormous, so we were all able to move around fairly comfortably and it was fun to watch the dancing going on in front of the stove. My favourite meal was a “Red Snapper Crudo w/ Watercress Pesto.” One of the couples had found the recipe in Food & Wine Magazine and thought we should try it. I dare say that I was not disappointed and I will definitely prepare it in the future.

I think that the weekend was something my mind and body were craving. The moment I relaxed, and I mean truly relaxed, I felt a huge weight removed. It is certainly a cliché to say, but I felt so much better being surrounded by calm. Coming back to Los Angeles was a bit of a shock to my psyche, but it was wonderful to feel focused again. After Monday the week is scheduled better and I will be able to cut back on my hours, starting on Thursday. Since I have been back, I have found myself daydreaming about relaxing and reading. I will hopefully be packing up again and heading to Tahoe rather soon. Perhaps the next time I visit, I will accidentally forgot to come back home!

Indian food, how does it work?

I recently purchased At Home With Madhur Jaffrey and have been trying to work my way through the recipes. Jaffrey’s book is a collection of recipes from “India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka,” all of which are easy to recreate. I thought I would share some of my favourite recipes from the book, in hopes that more people will try their hand at preparing Indian cuisine.

Bhuni Bhindi (my favourite recipe so far)

12 oz fresh okra
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
3/4 cup (2 oz) shallots or onions that have been peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and cut into fine rings
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp crushed red chilies
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice

-Cut off the top stem ends and the very tips of the okra pods. Cut each pod diagonally into 3-4 slices, depending upon size.
-Pour the oil into a medium frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the cumin seeds and then (a few seconds later) add all the sliced okra. Fry for 5 minutes, stir frequently.
-When the okra begins to brown, add the shallots and continue frying for another 3-4 minutes.
-When the shallots start to brown, reduce the heat to low and add the coriander, red chilies, and salt. Continue cooking for another 7-9 minutes.
-After the okra begins to crisp, add the lemon juice and mix together well.
-Serve with chapatis and raita.

Simple and delicious! Indian food isn’t as hard as everyone seems to think it is. I use to shy away from preparing Indian dishes because I thought it would be difficult, but if you learn a few basic recipes you will be able to apply the same techniques to more complex dishes!

Another recipe I really enjoyed (because I’m a bad Jew) was “Mussels in a Creamy Coconut Sauce.” The recipe is a little more time intensive, but definitely worth it.

Mussels in a Creamy Coconut Sauce

2 lbs medium-sized mussels
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp whole, brown mustard seeds
1 onion (about 6 oz), finely chopped
1 tsp fresh, peeled and finely grated ginger
1 tsp crush garlic
1 3/4 cups coconut milk (make sure to shake well)
2 tsp ground cumin seeds
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp salt
15 fresh curry leaves or 10 fresh basil leaves, crushed in the palm of your hand
4 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
2 fresh green chilies, partially slit
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup water

-Start by scrubbing the mussels well with a brush, discarding those that remain open even after they are tapped. Remove any stringy beards.
-Put the oil in a large pot and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds start to pop (this only takes a few seconds) add the onions and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes.
-When the onions begin to soften, add the ginger and garlic. Stir for another minute and then pour in the coconut milk + 1 cup water.
-Stir the ingredients together and then add the cumin, cayenne, salt, curry/basil leaves, cilantro, green chilies and lemon juice. Let the mixture come to a simmer.
-As the dish begins to simmer, leave uncovered and stir frequently for 5 minutes.
-After 5 minutes, add all the mussels, bring to medium-high heat and cover. Let the mussels boil in the broth for 5 minutes and check to see that they have all opened.
-Discard any mussels that have not opened after boiling.
-You can eat this by itself, serve with rice or serve with a salad.

The last recipe that I will share with you is Jaffrey’s “Karhai Broccoli.” I made this for my cousin and she asked me for the recipe. It was delicious and went really well with the fish I served.

Karhai Broccoli

3 Tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp ground asafetida*
1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/4 tsp whole mustard seeds
6 cups trimmed and cut broccoli (cut broccoli no loner than 1 1/2 inches)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup water

-Pour the oil into a wok and set over medium-high heat. When the oil has heated, put in the asafetida, cumin and mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop add the broccoli florets.
-Stir the broccoli for 1-2 minutes, adding the salt and cayenne as you stir.
-Pour in 1/4 cup water and bring to a simmer. When the water begins to simmer, cover and turn the heat to low. Cook the broccoli for 7-8 minutes or under it is just beginning to get tender. Make sure to stir the dish regularly.
-Serve with main dish (meat or tofu) and rice

*When I saw that the recipe called for asafetida, I thought “Where in the world am I going to find that?” Turns out that most Indian stores have this on hand, but that you can also substitute equal parts garlic and onion powder if you can not find asafetida.

Try your hand at preparing Indian food. I promise you that it is not as challenging as it seems! You can also buy Madhur Jaffrey’s great book and learn more delicious recipes. Good luck.


I love to read. I’m not even really sure why I love it so much. Most people say, “Reading transports you to far off places!” or something just as cliché, but I don’t read because I want to pretend I’m somewhere else. Reading helps me forget, I suppose. It helps me forget that I just worked 85+ hours over the last week, or that I have to scrub in by 5:30 a.m. the next morning. But that isn’t why I read, at least I don’t think it is. For me, reading just feels right and it helps me relax. In addition to its ability to relax me, I also made reading 30 books part of my yearly list of challenges.

Since I like to make lists (I really do, I’m surprised this entire blog isn’t just a series of lists), I keep a list of the books in my reading queue. I thought it might be interesting for those who do read this blog to have the chance to comment on my “To Reads.” I really do welcome suggestions, especially if you have read a book on this list and thought it was terrible. This list is in the order I plan to read them, but if you think I should move a book to certain spot tell me so!

To Read 2011:
A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
Embassytown by China Mieville (I was reading this at the same time as the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but I decided to focus on one book at a time. I am about half way through it at the time of writing this post.)
The Map of Time by Felix Palma
Saved by Beauty by Roger Housden
Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake
Titus Awakes by Mervyn Peake
Busy Monsters by William Giraldi
The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities by Ann Vandermeer
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger
The Magician King by Lev Grossman
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan ellison
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

After all of those, I plan on reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, but I have heard it is a massive undertaking to read in its entirety.

Several of the books are “Young Adult” books, but I decided that I needed to make the goal attainable by choosing some “fast” reads, that way I could actually finish the goal in 365 days.

There are two books from the list that I am not counting towards this goal of 30 books. Since I have already read eight books, I need to read 22 books to complete the goal by December 31, 2011. The books that I am not counting towards the goal are:

The Night Bookmobile
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

The reason these two don’t count is because The Night Bookmobile is a graphic novel (only 40 pages long) and I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is a 146-page collection of short stories. This means that I need at least two books to replace them in order for me to reach my goal.

In order to qualify for the goal, the book must not be a graphic novel (even though I have read Logicomix and Asterios Polyp, which most would consider novel length), it must not be a collection of short stories and it can not be something I have already read.