2014: People, Places, and Things

Another year has come and gone and I’ve decided to throw together a year-in-review post. Some of it might be a bit of a humble brag, but I also took the opportunity to reflect on the many changes/big decisions I made over the past twelve months.

PEOPLE

2014 was the year I met…

Zach Braff (August) in New York, after seeing him in a delightful production of Bullets Over Broadway.

Jamie Oliver (September) while he was promoting his latest book, Comfort Food.

…my 20+ publishing peeps! Especially the lovely Jane, who I am slowly turning into another concert buddy (please check out her super pretty website here).

…a few bands including You Me At Six, The Maine, Paradise Fears, Nick Santino, Cameron Leahy (lead singer of The Downtown Fiction), and Eric Halvorsen (former bassist of the now defunct A Rocket to the Moon).

2014 will also be remembered as the year I become obsessed with Neil Gaiman. I haven’t met him (yet! *crosses fingers*), but this was the year I finally started reading his books and realized that I had been missing out on something magical.

PLACES

2014 was the year I went…

…to New York City for the Writer’s Digest Conference in August. It was a whirlwind weekend full of stories and advice, seminars and agents. I came out of it certain in the knowledge that a) I am, indeed, a writer and b) agents are people too (even if they are intimidating).

…to England and France in the winter on a family vacation. We saw Christmas markets in Lille and Amiens (France), took a short trip to Brussels (Belgium), and then spent some glorious days in one of my favourite cities, London (England, obvs).

…to 30 concerts (I’m just really proud of achieving this goal, guys).

…to my first ever circus!

THINGS

2014 was the year I…

…convinced Ro that we needed matching tattoos (tattoos that represent both You Me At Six and All Time Low).

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I’m Reckless, she’s Brave.

…finally got the Panic! at the Disco tattoo I’ve wanted for years.

…quit my well-paying but boring customer service job in April so that I could go back to school.

…started working towards my publishing certificate because it’s the best career out there for me.

…interned at HarperCollins in the sales department (which is how I ended up spending a day with Jamie Oliver) and put my newly gained knowledge of the publishing industry into actual practice.

…started an internship at Tundra which made me realize that publishing children’s books in particular is what I’m meant to do with the rest of my life.

…started writing for idobi radio, which allows me to combine two of my greatest passions (writing and mostly-pop-punk music) at least once a week.

…re-wrote my novel (again).

2014 in a nutshell

It was a crazy busy year! I didn’t achieve all the resolutions I made in January, but I started making progress towards most of them. I hope all you readers out there had just as good a year (if not better!). Bring it on, 2015!

Best books of 2014

Similar to what I did with my “best albums of 2014”, I decided to do a top 14 picks. This was especially hard for books because of the 60+ that I read this year, less than half were 2014 releases. But here they are, in no particular order, with links to any relevant Fiction Friday posts (books that weren’t previously discussed for Fiction Friday have a blurb):

The Whispering Skull – Jonathan Stroud

Holy frack, that cliffhanger! Also, I heart Lockwood.

Made for You – Melissa Marr

If you want spine-tingly YA, pick this one up now!

The Enchanted – Rene Denfeld

Who would have thought that a book about a prisoner on death row would have this big an effect?

How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran

Funny, sassy, British – is there a better combination of words?

Station Eleven – Emily St.John Mandel

Don’t read this if you were even remotely afraid of being infected with Ebola…

The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

A scandalous, well written historical fiction debut.

Hollow City – Ransom Riggs

The sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – excellent for its use of creepy old photography.

Bird Box – Josh Malerman

There were moments when my heart actually started pounding with fear.

The Hangman’s Revolution – Eoin Colfer

Not the best Eoin Colfer book I’ve ever read, but yay time travel!

Shouldn’t You Be in School? – Lemony Snicket

I’ll probably read Lemony Snicket books forever. Quick, mildly complex, and with a hint of nostalgia.

Every Breath – Ellie Marney

Though technically released in 2013 in her native Australia, Marney’s Sherlock Holmes-inspired YA novel came out in Canada in October and I love it. I haven’t felt this way about a fictional character since Lockwood (see The Whispering Skull).

Comfort Food – Jamie Oliver

I don’t usually buy a cookbook and I certainly wasn’t expecting to include a cookbook in my “best books” list, but it’s Jamie Flippin’ Oliver, and this is a gorgeous book (food-wise, but also the actual design).

Edie’s Ensembles – Ashley Spires

Edie might actually be my spirit animal. I’m not super stylish, but I like putting colours together and when my outfit is particularly (in my opinion) stellar, I do feel a little sad if no one notices. Sidenote: Edie’s best friend Andrew’s cuteness kills me.

Chu’s First Day of School – Neil Gaiman/Adam Rex

Chu’s sneezes are so cute, I can barely stand it! Plus my two year old niece loves this book (and the first one, Chu’s Day), which makes them extra adorable.

BONUS:

Speaking of Neil Gaiman: hands down the best book I read this year, however, was Neverwhere. My interest in Gaiman’s work was renewed when I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but Neverwhere was the book that tipped me over into straight-up obsession.

My day with Jamie

I’m not an avid cooking show watcher. This is partially because we don’t have The Food Network and most cable cooking show hosts are terrible/like to state the obvious (no way, you’re going to make a “no-bake cake” without putting it in the oven?! What sorcery is this?!). Also, there are very few chefs who I look up to. I watch Lidia because a) her food looks delicious and b) she amuses me in her grandmotherly-like way. But my favourite – in fact, the household favourite – is Jamie Oliver.

My sisters have been JO fans for years – since his “Naked Chef” days, which I don’t really remember – and we have a couple of his cookbooks. Then, in the last couple of years, he came back with “15 Minute Meals” and Ro and I become obsessed (we watch it every Saturday morning). Generally, if I’m looking up a recipe, I look up at his website before I check for something simpler (I would have tried making his brownies, but melting chocolate chunks seemed a lot more complicated than opening the thing of cocoa powder that was sitting in the cupboard). We’ve been to a couple of his restaurants in London (Union Jacks in Covent Garden, and Fifteen), and they were amazing.

This rambling is just to say that last Tuesday, I got to spend a day with Jamie Oliver. Well, technically with his food stylist, but also Jamie himself.

To make a long story short: I (conveniently) intern at the publishing company that just put out Jamie’s latest cookbook, “Comfort Food“; I mentioned that I’m a big Jamie fan to his publicist, and then the next thing I knew, that same publicist (Rob) was telling me that Jamie’s team needed an assistant for his Canadian publicity and would I be interested in helping out?

I don’t think I need to tell you how fast I said yes.

Here are some things that I learned during my day with Jamie (and his food stylist, Christina):

1) Creme fraiche in Canada is not the same consistency as creme fraiche in Britain so sometimes you need to add yogurt and/or cream cheese into it to make it look good for TV.

2a) American ovens won’t always bake buns to golden-y perfection at the same temperature as British ovens.

2b) This means that you might have to re-jig the shooting schedule to give your finished product more time to, well, finish.

3) Washing dishes is a boring but necessary task, and will sometimes lead to you meeting one of your heroes while wearing a soap-sudsy apron with your hair sticking up everywhere and your glasses fogging up because you’ve been elbow-deep in hot water for fifteen minutes.

4) A “hero” is also a term for “the finished product that looks good enough to show on TV, compared to those other ones that are still baking in the oven because of the aforementioned temperature discrepancy”.

5) Electric mixers, while often hailed as being time-savers, don’t always break the butter down into the flour properly so you’re better off just using your hands (plus it’s more fun that way).

6) No matter how many times he goes over the recipe in the kitchen, it’s still possible for the chef to accidentally call star anise “five-spice” while on set. And he’ll probably make fun of himself for doing it too.

7) Audiences + freshly made food + a chef handing out plates = chaos. And also a lot of waste, which is totally rude, considering how many other people in the audience didn’t get a sample.

8) If you stick a bunch of women in the same room as Jamie Oliver, a lot of giggling and hair-flipping will ensue. Outside of the room, there will be a lot of whispers of “he’s so good-looking/charming/sweet/wonderful,” etc, until you want to bark “keep it in your pants, he’s married,” but secretly, you’re proud because they’re just staring at him through a window and you’ve actually had a conversation with him.

9) Sticky toffee pudding looks, smells, and tastes delicious, but is a pain in the butt to clean up after, especially if you’re running late for another event and it’s going to take you ten minutes to grab a cab.

10) Despite what critics and “haters” may think of him, Jamie Oliver if one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. What you see on TV is exactly what you get in real life.

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By the way, this experience would not have been possible if it wasn’t for Rob Firing – check out his new book, “The Everyday Squash Cook“, squashed full of recipes that are perfect for fall!