Eat. Lift. Thrive. by Sohee Lee: Book Review

‘Strong is the new skinny’ is a common phrase these days, sprawled across tank tops on sweaty bodies at the gym, and on memes floating around Facebook. I’m glad the emphasis has gone from losing weight to gaining strength. I’ve had my own up-and-down relationship with my body size and shape, particularly in the past 5 years. I’ve accepted that my body will likely never be what it was pre-babies…but now I’ve started imagining that I can be stronger than I ever have been. When I was given the opportunity to read and review Sohee Lee’s Eat. Lift. Thrive, I accepted it gratefully. I’m determined to make my 40’s about thriving, not just surviving. I’ve done a lot of emotional work in my 30’s and am shifting my attention now to a healthy, physical body that will take me deeper into the life I envision.

If I were to dissect the reason for ‘where I am today’ in terms of my fitness, I’d say I didn’t invest the time. I didn’t take the time to understand my body’s needs or how to create a sustainable healthy lifestyle that was best suited to me. Since last fall, I’ve been more conscious to incorporate more movement in my life but I haven’t quite nailed down my routine or a ‘food for fuel’ mindset.

Are you looking for an individualized workout and nutrition regime that is sustainable? Eat. Lift. Thrive is like a personal trainer in your pocket!

Part One Of Eat. Lift. Thrive: Reset Your Thinking

Lee’s book begins with what, I believe, is the perfect foundation for any book on fitness and nutrition: your mindset. It’s probably the section of the book I would read over several times. In a humorous, conversational tone, Lee debunks common fitness myths surrounding willpower (because don’t most of us think it’s about having enough willpower?), that it has to feel hard to be working, and that a fitness regime is all-or-nothing. I was so relieved to read these pages, you have no idea. I’ve been known to go from 6 days/week workouts and watching portions to completely binging for days and falling off the cardio bandwagon. It’s a devastating fall from grace, that one. Not only do I then tell myself, “See? I couldn’t do it,” I also feel frustrated that clothes that fit me just a couple weeks before become completely inaccessible.

Reading this part of the book made me realize that I’m not alone in this. And it earned my trust in Lee to continue reading through the coming chapters. I’m glad I did because not only did she debunk the myths, she filled the void with useful information in an easy-to-read voice. Her examples of ‘small, bite-sized habits’ right at the beginning of Eat. Lift. Thrive. immediately gave me the confidence that I could actually manage to make movement a part of my week. Her emphasis on not just getting healthy but staying healthy sounds like the perfect approach for me!

Part Two Of Eat. Lift. Thrive: Eat

The first chapter of this section is like a review of nutrition without being overwhelming or daunting. In fact, Lee doesn’t look closely at numbers (in terms of grams of protein, fats and carbs) so there isn’t that obsessive quality that some regimes have. She’s more concerned that we know how to read labels and know approximately how much we are eating. This makes sense and is truly empowering. I feel like this would eliminate a sense of failure because you are not counting each macronutrient down to each crumb.

After the nutrition review, Lee makes suggestions for long-term success with eating well and talks about my favourite food subject: moderation. I balk at the idea of giving up pizza, bread of any kind, and a nice cheesy lasagna. No, thanks. Needless to say, I devoured Lee’s ideas about incorporating these foods into my meal plan with no guilt or shame. Training ourselves to be intuitive eaters (which she expands on in this book) is way more helpful than an outright ban on some of our favourites. I will never again read or listen to anything that tells me I can’t eat certain foods.

Her actionable items at the end of each chapter in this section are priceless. They are simple and sensible, and I can see that implementing just one or two at a time will make some smart changes for me.

Part Three Of Eat. Lift. Thrive: Lift

The introductory page to this part begins with “Resistance training is the fountain of youth.” If that doesn’t intrigue you to read this entire section word for word, I don’t know what to say. I’m aging and I’m OK with it, but I’d like my body to be as young as possible for as long as possible. This isn’t about shedding fat, per se, but building confidence. Lee suggests that the weight room is all you need for a trimmer, stronger body. Aside from the physique, Lee shares many other benefits she has observed as someone who works closely with weight trainers. Her case studies are inspiring to read and, like all the information presented here, this entire section reads like a personal conversation.

My favourite chapter in this section is Chapter 8 where there are photographs of people modelling the different exercises along with the descriptions of target muscle groups, variations, and tips.

Part Four Of Eat. Lift. Thrive: Thrive

And the best part is putting it all together, with your mindset, your nutrition and your weights program, to be able to create programs for YOU. To create a sustainable, healthy lifestyle that works for YOU. This section pulls it all together to help you put to practice everything you’ve been learning.

Like I said, I’m interested in thriving and not just surviving. I’m tired of the on-again, off-again relationship I have with my own health.

My Three Favourite Parts

  • This book is EASY to read. It’s engaging and informative without being overwhelming.
  • I loved the photographs of the different exercises. Visuals are wonderful. Plus each movement is explained so well in the descriptions that you can literally teach yourself how to do it.
  • I loved that Lee created sample programs to make it super easy for anyone to get started. With an emphasis on individuality, these are just guidelines but how nice to have something to start with, even if you decide to modify anything.

I recommend Eat. Lift. Thrive by Sohee Lee to anyone who is tired of starting over but wants to give it a good, sustainable shot. Also, to anyone who already has a fitness regime but would like to up their game.

You can find Sohee Lee on Instagram. Check out her IG stories – some great stuff there!

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

taslim jaffer writer


Year of Yes By Shonda Rhimes: 5 Kick-Ass Takeaways

Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes was showing up everywhere on my social feeds last year. Truth be told, I didn’t know who Shonda Rhimes was; I just knew she wrote a book that a lot of people were paying attention to. I hadn’t really been a T.V. person until Netflix entered my life in a big way last summer so that might explain why I was one of the few people on Earth who hadn’t watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. (Don’t worry: I’ve rectified this situation by binging episodes since last week. I am totally in love with Dr. McDreamy and well on my way to collecting dark circles under my eyes to satisfy this obsession). What inspired me to give Grey’s a try was reading Year of Yes.

What I Learned from Shonda Rhimes' Year of Yes: How to Dance it out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person

Threaded throughout this memoir slash personal development book was Shonda’s creative process, and as a writer those bits thrilled me. What I took away from this book, besides a curiosity for her shows, has become a part of my own personal and creative life. If you haven’t read this book, I gave it 5 stars on my Goodreads app which means you need to get your hands on these pages and read them – stat!

Here are my 5 kick-ass takeaways from Year of Yes

1. Own your badassery and get your swagger on. When Shonda talked about how women react to being given a compliment, I was like, that is so me. If someone tells me they loved something I wrote, I will do any number of the following: look away, cast my eyes downward, shrug my shoulders, shake my head, mumble something, or say: “oh…huh…” and giggle. Since reading that powerful section on badassery and swagger in Year of Yes, I will now look the person in the eye and say, “thank you” (because if nothing else, that is just polite!) and ask them a follow-up question to engage them in conversation about the topic. Or I say something like, “I really appreciate you reading. It was important to me to put that out there.” I do value my readers – so much! – and writing is a lot of work. I don’t want to undermine either important fact.

2. The 5-mile run. I’m not a runner but I understand the ‘5-mile run’ writing process that Shonda describes. I  have since borrowed this metaphor for my writing classes. The 5-mile run in writing is that process of pushing on, keeping on, ignoring the distractions, knocking down those demons, shushing that voice that says ‘someone else has written this better than you’, and writing, writing, writing until you conquer those 5 miles of cobwebs and are now…in the zone. That is the sweet spot for a writer (and I guess for a runner!) and it’s where we want to be every day. But it’s a practice. The more often you run those 5 miles or write through the junk in your head, the better you get at it and the faster you get to the zone. Really, this applies to anything. You can’t get to where you want to be when you’re looking everywhere else.

3. Recognize and love your inner child. Shonda talked a lot about her little girl self in a way that encouraged my own little girl self to start showing up more. Either that or I just started seeing her more. I’ve always been attached to that awkwardly-dressed, big-eyed dreamer who I know still lives inside me – a permanent 7 year old who follows her more adventurous friend through the woods to play, who sings in an imaginary band, reads everything she can get her hands on, and collects notebooks. She’s nervous in new situations, is unsure about whether she’s doing things ‘right’ but absolutely knows what she loves. She’s a wonderful companion to me when I’m writing, and always.

4. The Year of Yes is also about ‘no’. I didn’t jump to get the book when I heard the title because I’m trying to be more conscious about saying ‘no’. I say ‘yes’ to a lot of things (it’s how I carve my entrepreneurial path). But I know that to live an authentic life, I have to identify what’s important to me – not just so I can create time for those things but so I can take back my energy from what’s not important. The deeper I got into this book, the more I realized that this is exactly what Shonda recognizes, too. Saying ‘no’ can be difficult. For me, it sometimes comes with guilt or the worry that I will look like  a bad person. But if I always keeps my own values in the forefront, the ‘no’ is just a ‘yes’ to what’s more important to me.

5. You can’t do it all at the same time. This. Is. So. True. The way Shonda explained it, if she’s winning at work, she’s losing at motherhood. Or winning at motherhood and losing at work. Put your hand up if you can relate to THAT?! I remember this one day, in particular, just after I read that section of the book, I had this amazing work day. I checked everything off my to-dos and even started on something for later that week. Like, I rocked that work day. I picked up my kids after school, and I was humming and smiling and practically skipping from the car to their classrooms. Straight from school, we drove to the swimming pool where all 3 kids had lessons at the same time. Yeah, because I’m a kick-ass mom who managed to get lessons for all 3 kids in 3 different levels at the same time. As the kids changed into their swimming gear, I realized…I forgot to pack them towels! Which meant that in 30 minutes I would have two soaking wet kids, shivering, with no towel. And 15 minutes later, their older sister who had a longer lesson would join them. Talk about a mom fail! And of course, the pool wasn’t close enough for me to go back home, grab towels and come back. I’d be cutting it tight and risk not being there when my 3 year old came out looking for me. Also, I don’t like to leave the building when my kids are in swimming. So, I was stuck. And then I laughed because…I WAS JUST LIKE SHONDA RHIMES so how bad could that be? I shared this in my IG stories; it was the perfect example of how you can’t win at everything all at once! (Thankfully, the pool let me borrow a towel so nobody was actually forced to put their street clothes on soaking wet).

These takeaways from Year of Yes quickly gave that book ‘game changer’ status for me. It’s one of those books I could read again and stand to benefit from often.

Have you read it? What did you love about it? On another note, are you a Grey’s fan? Don’t tell me anything about it! I’m only on season 2!

taslim jaffer writer

Meeting Lawrence Hill: Bestselling Author Of The Book Of Negroes, Social Activist & Amazing Canadian

If you’re following me on Instagram, you know that all week I was anticipating meeting bestselling author, Lawrence Hill. First, I have to share with you how I came to know about his lecture at UBC as part of The Vancouver Institute‘s lecture series.

Last November, I wrote to Lawrence Hill for a couple of reasons: to tell him that his work aligns with and inspires my own, and to ask if we might be able to meet when he came to Vancouver next (I knew he was planning a trip to B.C. to participate in the Book Clubs for Inmates program).

I had just launched Her Story with Karen Bannister  – a space for Canadian women to share personal stories of living with social injustice, and I had recently met with literary agents at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference who were interested in my passion project that took seed in my imagination after I read Hill’s Black Berry, Sweet Juice. Basically, I was pumped! I was moving my writing into a more purposeful (to me) arena – there was no stopping me from writing an email to another Canadian writer I knew would appreciate my endeavours. Aside from reading his books, I get updates via his Facebook page and know that he has a deep interest in growing and supporting the writing community; even if he was too busy to reply, I had a feeling my thoughts would be met with kindness.

I heard from his office assistant a few days later saying she would pass on my email to Lawrence and provided me with details of the two talks he would give at the University of British Columbia. The first was on Saturday April 1 and it was called Crossing Seas: Refugees in the World and in the Imagination. The second one is Tuesday April 4 and focuses on The Book of Negroes, probably his most famous work.

All that was left to do, then, was wait till April (!) and buy some books for him to autograph.

I arrived at UBC over an hour before the lecture was to begin. First of all, I went with my long-time friend Saira (fellow book-lover and Hill fan) who was a Queens University student. I went to Simon Fraser University, so together, we are completely unfamiliar with UBC. Second, this was a free event with first come, first served seating. You bet I wanted to make sure we got the best seats possible. It was actually really nice waiting for the lecture to start; Saira and I got to catch up and also talk about fuelling those parts of us we love and sometimes miss. Like our extreme book-nerdiness and insatiable love of intellectually-stimulating environments. (In other words, I’m worried my brain is atrophying secondary to motherhood).

Hill’s lecture inspired many, many thoughts (I scribbled down notes when I dared break the trance) but today I’ll share 3 ideas that jump to mind even without referring to those notes.

  1. Volunteer activism – getting involved – helping others because we can – provides us with some of the richest moments of our lives.
  2. Writers and other artists have an ability to shed light in the forgotten corners of our history and on current social climates, and share them in a way that can transform people.
  3. Canada has its own history of mistreating refugees (the Jews arriving from Europe in 1939 aboard the St. Louis who had to turn around and sail to imminent death at concentration camps; the South Asian community aboard the Komagata Maru arriving from Punjab, British India who were turned back after months at bay) and we must remain vigilant of how we treat those seeking asylum today.

During the Q&A period following his talk, I asked him what he thought needed to happen in Canada so that we could avoid the kind of political climate we see happening just south of the border. Of course, this is a huge question but I was looking for a simple response for the citizens of Canada. His thoughts? Keep your eyes open for instances of hate – name them, call them out. And don’t get too complacent about our country, believing that ‘that wouldn’t happen here’ because it has and it could again. This was the perfect material I needed for my next column for Peace Arch News which I had already decided was going to be about being mindful of our own social issues.

And of course, the highlight for me was having a conversation with Lawrence Hill while he signed my 3 books.

lawrence hill, book signing, author event, ubc, taslim jaffer, let me out creative

When I introduced myself as the writer who had emailed him about my project inspired by his memoir, he asked me really thoughtful questions about what I was writing; his enthusiasm basically fanned the flame to push me to the next phase of my work (I jokingly told him that I was at the ‘tell a famous author’ stage of my project). Whether my passion project becomes a bestseller or even a book, I know that as a writer it’s pretty much my job to chase the things I am curious about and see where they lead. Seeing that in action by some of my favourites has basically shown me that this way of life is possible.

I had such an amazing evening – not only did I get to hear one of my favourite authors speak about the issues I care deeply about, I also got to have a conversation with him as he signed my books. He remembered me as the writer who was inspired by his memoir and wrote to tell him so. (And that’s how I came to know about his lecture at UBC). He asked me what I was writing these days and was even kind enough to ask me to keep him posted on my project. I literally just wrote that so it would still feel real to me tomorrow morning! @talktosaira came with me and heard the whole thing, and I made her repeat the conversation to me several times so I wouldn’t forget the lovely details! Lawrence Hill is a stand-up Canadian and writer; we are so lucky to have his passionate, articulate voice pointing us in the direction of the things we ought to notice.

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It was an incredible evening and one that will stand out when I look back on this year.

I encourage you to spend your time doing the things that fuel your unique spirits. And if you’d like to share what that is, please do so in the comments – I love hearing from you!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

The Books I Read In 2016

2016 was a great literary year for me! I read almost twice as many books as I did in 2015…so YAY! Of course, it helped that I am part of a book club. My friend, Sandhya, and I started one of our own because we’d always wanted to be in one. We’re coming up to our one year anniversary and I’m so thankful for the opportunities it provides me to get together with 9 other readers once a month, and keep me reading throughout the year. I’ve started tracking my books in my Goodreads app which I love and whole-heartedly recommend. It beats the list I kept at the back of my agenda on loose paper.

Anyway, here are the 23 books I read in 2016 with a brief overview of what I thought about each one. They are each linked to my affiliate account with Indigo so if you do make a purchase through a link, thank you! At the end of this post, please leave a comment with a book recommendation for 2017.

1. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Poor Alice bumped her head in spin class and has lost her memory of the last 10 years of her life. Kind of inconvenient when in the last 10 years you gave birth 3 times and are on the brink of a divorce – and you can’t even recall why. This book was hilarious but also made me think about the past 10 years of my life. In some ways, my life parallels Alice’s and it gave all of us ladies at book club a lot to talk about. Definitely easy to read and a good one for book club.

2. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book warrants its own post and I am actually going to be posting it in the next couple weeks. I really believe this book made my 2016 as great as it was on a creative level. It helped me re-evaluate my intentions with creativity and gave me a strange kind of confidence to pursue my curiosities simply because…well…why not? Following my curiosities and interests this year was huge for me personally and professionally. Highly recommend this for anyone wanting to live creatively beyond fear (which happens to be the book’s subtitle).

3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

What a beauty. This book. It really is a literary masterpiece and one I am glad I re-read as an adult because I have such a huge appreciation for the writing. Anne is our beloved Canadian icon who sees the world through these extraordinary lenses – and you won’t be able to help but look at things differently too. This book had me spell-bound and I honestly see myself re-reading it in the next couple years or so. I missed Anne’s company once the book was done. If you haven’t read it yet, or even if you did as a child, go grab a copy now.

4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

This was a re-read for me, too, but it was our second book club pick. A must-read if you are working with or know anyone on the Autism Spectrum. The whole book is written from the perspective of a boy who processes sensory and social information differently, and it’s definitely eye-opening. It was a quick read and I recommend it if you like psychology or understanding human behaviour.

5. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Another book club pick! It’s about a grumpy old man and how he relates to the world around him after his wife passes away. Some funny moments and a bit of a tear-jerker at parts. This book was much-loved in our book club. There’s just something endearing about an old man who can’t seem to figure out why the world is the way it is. Actually, I saw a little of me in him (insert embarrassed face here).

6. Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

So, honestly, I liked this book but didn’t love it. I kind of live under a rock when it comes to famous people. I don’t really know a lot of the ‘newer’ people on the scene. Like, from the last decade. So, unless I’ve read someone’s memoir, I don’t know much about them. In that way, this book was interesting because it allowed me to get to know Amy through her own words. I’m always inspired by creative people who forge their own way and Amy certainly has done that. You should pick up this book if you’re an Amy Poehler fan or want to know what it’s like to make it big after years of building and building and building.

7. Any Known Blood by Lawrence Hill

I do enjoy a Lawrence Hill book and this past year I read three of his! This one I read earlier in the year and it was a great book about a man tracing back his roots so he could write family stories. I loved everything about the premise and enjoyed the read. It gave me the itch to travel and write my own stories. I’ve always been interested in African-American history, and this book reminded me that Canada has a history of its own that I’d like to learn more about. Add this to your list if you want to read more Canadian literature.

8. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Again, a book by a famous person who I didn’t know. (This is a side effect of not watching T.V. At least there are books!). I identified a lot more with this book than I did with Amy Poehler’s, probably because I could understand the family culture and Mindy’s love of writing. This was another inspiring book about a creative person who just didn’t give up on her dreams, and also knew how to take an opportunity when it was thrown her way. Writers, add this to your list. Dreamers, add this to your list. And of course, if you are a Mindy Kaling fan, you’ll love this book.

9. The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

So, this book I found because I was actually looking for another book by Wolitzer that had been named a Canada Reads book for 2016. I never did find The Interestings but the library had a copy of The Wife so I thought I’d give it a try. I loved this book but hated the character of this woman’s husband. He made me so angry. Although I couldn’t put the book down, it definitely did not leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling. The story is truly a story of a writer’s journey, and also gender gaps and also egos. The literary merit of this book is off the charts – so many times while reading I thought to myself, “Oooohhhh I love how she said that!” I do recommend you add this to your list and look up Meg Wolitzer to learn more about a Canadian author.

10. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Another re-read for book club – and I was thrilled at the opportunity to read it again. This is one of my favourite books of all time. Kidd’s voice is just gorgeous through each of the characters and the story is unparalleled. So many beautiful themes to discuss in a book club with this largely female cast set in the Deep South. The first time I read it I was in college. Reading it again as a mother was like reading it with another pair of reading glasses, and it honestly enhanced the experience. If you haven’t read this book, you really should. And then tell me what you think!

11. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

The story of a young Nigerian woman who comes to America for further education and ends up learning much more than she bargained for. What I loved is that the main character is also a writer who blogs about her experiences so we get to get in her brain with all her wonderful insight. We also follow her back to Nigeria and watch her try to identify as a Nigerian after so many years in the States. There’s love, loss, and a tonne of culture written in the amazing way that Adichie has with words. I had read her book, Purple Hibiscus, ages ago and after reading Americanah I’ve added it back to my list as a re-read. If you’ve watched any of her TED talks, you will enjoy hearing her voice in her written works.

12. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Perhaps my favourite book club read of 2016, this is an incredible WW2 story of two sisters (the war from women’s perspective!) who have to survive being left behind in Nazi-occupied France. They do so in two completely different ways, each phenomenal in its own right. But please, don’t try to read this in public or without a couple of tissue boxes by your side. I could not put this book down – I read it late into the night, crying into my pyjama shirt while my heart literally felt like it was being wrung dry. READ IT. You have never read about the war from this point of view and it’s real and it’s shattering.

13. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

I liked this book but didn’t love it as I did Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot (the first book in this list). It has all the makings of a light read and I wanted to keep reading to learn the secret and then see how it all played out, but this isn’t one I feel compelled to re-read. Maybe a beach read?

14. Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie

Okay, so this is a book that I picked for book club on the recommendation of my cousin. It really was not a good book. I was obligated to read it of course, because I had to ask the club questions. Nobody liked it. The premise is so good. But I really had to stretch to come up with discussion questions.

15. The Illegal by Lawrence Hill

SO FREAKING AMAZING. The Canada Reads winner for 2016 had a lot to live up to for me because the first book I ever read of Hill’s was The Book of Negroes which had all kinds of fame. This book did not disappoint.

16. Black Berry, Sweet Juice by Lawrence Hill

This was an incredible book! It’s basically part memoir, part research on being black and white in Canada. I loved the style of the book as well as the content, and it even inspired me to start my own creative project on a topic of my interest. If you like memoir, race relations, Canadian social issues and Canadian literature, please add this to your list!

17. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Another book club read that I absolutely could not put down. This book also takes place in the Deep South on a plantation worked by slaves. The storyline was just incredible and the characters felt so real, I could picture every single one of them. Thankfully, there’s a sequel (which I also read and list below) and it also kept me reading late into the night!

18. Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller

This book was recommended to me by my friend who knows how much I love memoir. Fuller’s writing is just beautiful and it’s such a unique perspective of a white woman growing up in Africa. I love reading about other people’s families; it always amazes me how different families can be from one another yet we all have these common themes that run through us. Grab this if you love memoir, Africa, and women’s stories.

19. Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens

I finally got around to reading this book! I’m so happy I did; I absolutely loved it! In fact, I’m going to grab my own copy for my personal library because I’m sure I will re-read it. The story is haunting and endearing all at once. I love that it’s also a Canadian book and gives us insight into race relations on this side of the border. Again, it’s a story of love and loss and motherhood and struggle. It really is a beauty.

20. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

Ok, so, first chapter in, I thought I would totally dislike this book. It was a book club pick and I’m glad because it made me keep going and ended up being one of my favourite reads of the year. And once again, I had no idea who Amy Schumer was until I read this memoir of hers and I feel so honoured to know so much about this complex, multi-dimensional person. Because it reminded me that, famous or not, we are all complex and multi-dimensional. And you know? She’s freaking hilarious! But also has a strong social activist voice which I loved. I love women who can speak out without fear or shame. Her messages are important and she definitely knows how to engage on the page!

21. Love, Loss and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi

Ok, wow, I’ve read a lot of memoirs this year and I didn’t even realize it! This one was recommended to me by my friend Raj from Pink Chai Living. And no, I didn’t know who Padma Lakshmi was before this book. And now I follow her on social media everywhere! This book inspired me to get more creative in the kitchen, to learn more family recipes, to cook more with my kids, and keep forging my own path in business. There are also countless stories in here about women’s health, travel, love, entrepreneurship, and more. I really can’t believe how much Padma has lived already! It was amazing to watch her grow into herself through her words.

22. Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

This is the sequel to The Kitchen House that I mentioned above. Usually, I’m disappointed by sequels but this one was actually really good. I was so happy to ‘hear from’ some of my favourite characters in the first book, and yet this book had a unique story of its own. If you read the first book and are wondering if you should check out the sequel, I would recommend it.

23. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ok, so this is not quite a book – just a quick read of what is mostly her TED talk of the same name. I loved it, and so did my husband! It’s a great work that uncovers the true definitions of feminism, a feminist and outlines how we can all work toward gender equality.

I really hope you enjoyed this post and it gave you some inspiration for 2017! Please leave a comment with your favourite reads!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative


The Books I Read In 2015 – And My List For 2016

Hello hello! Gosh, it’s been awhile! Such a good break, though. I thought I’d get one more post out in 2015 and do some work on an upcoming project…but y’know? The pyjama days were just too good and the computer did not tempt me one bit. Even with my littlest being so sick she had to spend a day in the hospital and still has a runny nose, that was definitely the most relaxing break I’ve had in awhile!

I did some pen and paper writing (which is my favourite!) and organized my weekly schedule with my new priorities. And got a tonne done around the house: decluttered and systematized. Just a little bit every day ended up completely overhauling my perspective of my home. And now I feel more energized and motivated to keep decluttering and organizing throughout the year. It might sound like a luxury, like reading for fun, to have time to purge – but like anything else, it’s about making the time which often means doing less of something else.

Speaking of reading for fun – I managed to do some of that in 2015 as prioritized! Here’s what I read in 2015:

1. Kilometer 99 by Tyler McMahon

2. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

3. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

4. Love in the Present Tense by Catherine Ryan Hyde

5. The Joy of Missing Out by Christina Crook

6. Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood

7. Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo

8. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

9. Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

10. The Sometimes Daughter by Sherri Wood Emmons

11. The Witches by Roald Dahl

12. The Stylist by Cai Emmons

Reading added pleasure to my year. Cai Emmons is now one of my favourite authors; I was exposed to a variety of writing styles that stimulated my own creativity; I was reminded of what it feels like to be so absorbed in a character and a plot that they permeated my thoughts during the day…all these little thrills that would otherwise be missing if I didn’t re-prioritize the minutes of my life.

And I’m super excited that I now belong to a brand-new book club that starts up this month! I’m looking forward to monthly evenings with other book-lovers which doubles as ‘me’ time, another bit of balance in my wheel. This month I’m hosting, and I chose What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (highly recommended by my friend, Salma of The Write Balance.) I’m 6 chapters in and loving it!

Here are some other titles I’m interested in reading:

1. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

2. The Radleys by Matt Haig

3. Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

4. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

5. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

6. Martinis and Motherhood by Shannon Day and Tara Wilson

7. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

8. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

9. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I probably won’t get to all these this year considering I now will also have book club reads, but guess what? I’m officially 14 episodes behind on my ONLY television show (The Young & The Restless) with no desire to go back. This has opened up 40 minutes a day of MY LIFE. Thank you.

Have you read any of these books? Throw me a title from your list of ‘read in 2015’ or ‘must-read in 2016’ in the comments!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

Walking Home by @SoniaChoquette

I knew this book would be about a journey, but I had no idea it was actually a ‘real-life’ pilgrimage! Sonia Choquette details her journey to forgiveness along over 800 kilometres of mountains and country-side known as the Camino. One of the three major pilgrimages in the Catholic faith, this incredible undertaking begins in France at the foot of the Pyrenees and ends in Santiago, Spain. One’s reasons for this journey need not be religious or spiritual in any way – some people do it purely for sport. Whatever the motivation behind such a trek, I’m sure one cannot help but be changed in some way before the last kilometre is reached.

Sonia begins by painting a picture of what her life was like just before making the decision to do the Camino: two major deaths in her family which unlock deeply suppressed emotions, a disintegrating marriage and a lava-flow of anger that she cannot seem to manage or even understand. Upon the suggestion of an audience member at one of her speaking events, Sonia researches the Camino and, with a deep breath, makes the decision to register.

Reading this book, each chapter detailing the day’s events on the Camino, was like taking this 34 day pilgrimage with her. She examined thoughts, feelings, and past events with the open mind of a spiritual student and the heart of a human being: we can relate to being each of these at some points in our lives. The battle of spirit vs. human is played out in some parts; knowing what we must do but not always being ready to do it, felt like one of the great themes of this book. The fact that Sonia is an internationally known and respected spiritual guide and teacher made this book even more delicious. It is undeniably authentic. While reading along, I couldn’t help but have my spirit meld with Sonia’s at parts, identifying with those raw emotions even when the circumstances were completely different. The lessons that the Camino brings Sonia along the way are also gifts for the reader if he or she is willing to accept them.

I recommend Walking Home by Sonia Choquette (for kindle version, click here) to anybody who enjoys memoir, spiritual lessons, travel/adventure and history. And if you read it, do come back and let me know what you thought!



Disclosure: This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review. The links contained within this post are my affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, I make a small percentage. Thank you for supporting my work!


The Joy Of Missing Out #JOMOBook

At the end of 2014, I wrote an article for Conscious Divas called Being Still: It’s Not What You Might Think, and in it I talked about a phenomenon called JOMO (the joy of missing out.) It’s a concept that has become paramount in my own life, and dare I say, I can see its need all around me. In our anxiety-laden world where children have to go through digital detox programs (yes, it’s true – they have these in Japan) and adults play online games while their children are mastering the backstroke several feet away, I think we need to look at our internet use a little more closely. Vancouver-born author, Christina Crook, has done exactly this through extensive research and a 31 day digital fast. She presents mind-blowing information and reminds us that what we think is normal now actually goes against what human beings are, and what we are made for, in her conversationally-written book The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World.

Before I begin telling you how this book has awakened me, let’s talk about the obvious. Hello! I’m reaching out to you online! This is where (the majority of) you and I connect. I’m a blogger and I use social media to share my messages. I also do the same for my clients and their messages. On a personal level, I’ve had a Facebook account since 2007 and couldn’t even begin to tell you how many articles, statuses and digital meals I have consumed since then. I’ve checked my email/Twitter/Facebook while breastfeeding, waiting in line, making dinner, sitting in the living room with my kids, brushing my teeth, lying in bed, eating breakfast/lunch/dinner, waiting for the kids to come out of their schools, on walks, on drives… I actually can’t think of an activity that I’ve done without using my smartphone at some point. Oh, except sex. I have never had sex while using my smartphone. Before you say, Well duh…let me hit you on the head with the fact that 1 in 5 young adults, aged 18-34, admits to texting while having sex. Not only do I not want to know how that is physically possible, I am saddened by the fact that our most intimate moments have been intruded on in this way. But, if you think the sex thing is crazy, remember a time when we would have thought it rude, or at least strange, for someone to start talking to someone else while in the middle of a conversation with us? Do we not think that anymore? I actually hope that all of you are flabberghasted by the facts that Christina presents in her book, because that means that we collectively still value human connections – including to the Self.

I’ve talked about how I feel sorry for my children who often take a backseat to my internet usage, and who are growing up with adults who have their faces in their phones. I know what I need to do on the internet, and I know what I don’t need to do on the internet, and as someone who works online, things get a little blurry. I could be checking my Twitter feed with the intent to engage with followers for an X number of minutes but then end up reading articles I will never actually remember or learn from because before my brain has digested and incorporated the information, I’m reading something else. Sometimes, I can’t even pretend that the information I am taking in is in any way useful. But darn it if it doesn’t have a link to another article that I really don’t need to read (but do anyway). And on it goes. Now half an hour has gone by, dinner is delayed, the kids are cranky, I am annoyed because I’ve just been yanked out of a zone-out by the fact that we’re all hungry and now I need to rush the dinner process. An otherwise creative and ‘alive’ moment, putting a meal together with fresh ingredients has now become another after-thought to my digital consumption. In fact, anything I need to do can seem more like a chore that drags on when I am distracted by my phone. Folding a load of laundry takes so much longer when I’m scrolling through my newsfeeds at the same time. Christina talks about how we don’t know how to be alone with ourselves anymore; I loved that part of her work.

Christina’s book reminded me of how simple and full of living life actually should be. She’s not spewing anti-technology propaganda; there is scientific research behind what is going on in our nervous systems when we’re digitally doped up, and how this affects our happiness levels. I love how she has chapter exercises (just a quick fill in the blank, or make a short list type questions) that really encourage one to examine the personal relationship to technology. The exercises helped me open up more time for the things that matter to me and empowered me with the reminder that I am the one who manages my technology (not the other way around). Implementing what I self-discovered has already given me the sense of relief that Christina asserts comes with being less connected.

Even if you don’t think this applies to you – maybe you’ve got your technology under control, or you don’t think it’s affecting you adversely, give this book a shot. If anything makes you feel uneasy, or defensive, or shocks you, use those feelings as a tool to help you make decisions. There’s no judgement; just a reminder to check in and make sure you are where you want to be.

There’s no denying the internet is full of wonders and delights, and can be used to share messages efficiently. And I know there are careers that exist almost entirely online. But I will just say this: if you read this book and think about your connection to technology, re-visit what’s important to you, define what you value, really know what you want to make time for in your life…you will not be sorry.

Remember how I made a list for 2015 of things I want more of and things I want less of? Oddly enough, NONE of the things I wanted more of had anything to do with technology. In fact, I can easily have what I want more of…if I set my digital boundaries.

What can you stand to gain?

taslim jaffer writer




Disclosure: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions and thoughts are my own.

Making Time For This List of Books

I always had my nose buried in a book. Reading for pleasure was never something I had to make space or time for. In fact, everything else in my life revolved around it. (Confession: I once almost got caught reading Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind by Alexandra Ripley when I was supposed to be reviewing patient charts on my speech therapy practicum. Such a good book, though, if you loved Gone with the Wind! It won’t disappoint!) But in the last few years, picking up a novel has been a scarcity around here; it was replaced by reading of other sorts. When I started blogging, there was a lot to learn and much of my leisure time (i.e. kids’ sleep time) went to reading blogging-related material. Or other blogs. Or personal development books I was reviewing…for my blog.

This past summer, I read Lynn Austin’s A Light to My Path. When I got to the end (in tears… because man, it’s an emotional book, and a must-read if you love historical fiction set in the Deep South’s era of slavery), I thought Why don’t I do this more?!

Reading is fuel for great writing, and it’s completely enjoyable. Making space for it again in my life, on a regular basis, means less time randomly surfing the ‘net. It means when I am working online, I need to be conscious of how I’m spending my time. The more work I get done during the day, the less work I have to do when the kids go to bed at night, which opens up my evening for pleasure reading.

Here are a few titles I’m hoping to get to over the next little while. No deadlines as per my new strategy. I grabbed some of these from Claire’s 14 Best-Loved Books of 2014, and the others are from to-read lists from long ago.

1. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

2. When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde

3. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

4. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

5. Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

6. Make Your Own Chai, Mama’s Boy by Farah Tejani

7. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

Which ones have you read from this list? Which would you add?


Disclosure: The links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through any of them, I receive a small percentage. Thank you for supporting my work.

Don’t Die With Your Music Still In You: Book Review

When I first heard that Serena Dyer wrote a book, I was intrigued to know what she had to say. After all, she is the daughter of Dr. Wayne Dyer – a man whose teachings I have admired for years. I wondered what it was like to be raised by someone like him. To be honest, I often wondered how hands-on he could have been with all 8 of his children when he was busy writing books and speaking internationally. As a mom of ‘just’ 3 (in comparison) I am conscious of the kinds of messages I’m passing down to my children, in between the daily activities, the hustle and bustle – what are the kids absorbing, what am I imparting on them unconsciously or consciously? So, I really wanted to know what kind of effect someone like Wayne Dyer has had on his offspring.

In a refreshing and conversational voice, Serena offers her experiences growing up with spiritual parents, systematically naming the principles that governed the Dyer home which her father wrote about in his 2001 book, 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace. These ‘secrets’ are essentially what he and his wife hoped their children would live by. So, of course, as a parent, I wanted to know: did these principles get passed down well (and how did they?!), and what impact did they have on her life now as an adult.

Don’t Die With Your Music Still in You did not disappoint. Serena’s endearing stories about her siblings and parents, her humour and her honesty made this an easy and inspiring read. Her father’s short responses at the end of each chapter were a nice touch, although I hope Serena knows, her writing can stand its own and her book is deserving of a spot on any personal development lover’s bookshelf.

As a mother, what did I get out of it? A lot! It is clear to me that despite Serena’s sometimes less than enthusiastic reactions to her parent’s teachings and her typical responses in adolescence to having ‘different’ parents, messages come through loud and clear and have a lasting impact. So, when you think they aren’t listening, or watching, or your children openly defy what you are telling them…something is being absorbed, and it could very well be lived out later in life.

I enjoyed the stories of Serena’s mother immensely. Being a woman and the primary caregiver, I wanted to know how  Marcie ‘handled’ 7 children and 1 stepchild, and not only kept her cool, but contributed so much to the emotional and spiritual development of her children. The anecdotes surrounding this were educational for me and I appreciated the takeaways that I could practice.

If you ever wanted a sneak peek into Wayne Dyer’s home life from the eyes of one of his children, grab this book! As a parent, it was eye-opening and motivating without any added pressure of having to be perfect. In fact, this book gave me permission to be just who I am so that I can help my children be who they are.

Copies of Serena’s book are available through Amazon HERE

Disclosure: I received this book for free from Hay House in exchange for an honest review. The Amazon link used in this post is my affiliate link; a portion of your purchase supports my work – thank you.



Ignite the Light by Vicki Savini: Book Review

How can we help our kids who are growing up in a time of constant pressures – to do this, to be like that, to study this, to excel at that – and whose childhoods are slipping through their hands without the ‘luxury’ of just being kids? I find the overscheduling and the demands to be social, happy, smart, polite-to-the-point-of-robotic to be really quite sad. It’s something I am conscious of, yet every once in awhile something will slip out of my mouth that totally contradicts this. Sometimes when I listen to the words I throw at my kids in moments of panic (Will my kids be liked?) or times of fear (Will they ever learn to….?), I am amazed that my words and my values are not aligned. How does that happen?

Ignite the Light: Empowering Children and Adults to be Their Absolute Best begins by taking you on a journey to your childhood. Vicki Savini expertly examines how our core beliefs become engrained in the cells of our consciousness as children and how these beliefs play out as we grow into adulthood. I loved her phrase, ‘What happens in childhood doesn’t stay in childhood.” The first half of the book is truly eye-opening and gives the reader an understanding of why he/she turns reacts to situations or turns to particular vices. I can see how this part of the book can help break an adult free from the binds of their childhood. And, the best part is, with this knowledge, an adult can arm the children in their lives with a healthier toolkit.

Naming ‘7 essentials’ for being emotionally and spiritually healthy adults, Savini places a great emphasis on our responsibility to teach these essentials to the young in our lives by modelling not simply by telling. Which means we have to do the work, too! With carefully selected personal stories interwoven with her anecdotal research as a life-long learner and teacher, Savini opens the reader’s mind to the possibilities that lie within our reach. And she always brings it back to our children and students who are the real beneficiaries of a healthier planet.

Though not a parenting books by conventional means, I highly recommend this book as a MUST-READ for those of you navigating the sometimes tricky terrain of parenthood; it’s an engaging read that prods at important issues we may be accustomed to sweeping under the rug. The second half of the book, focusing on the 7 essentials, offers quick and practical exercises that will add to your experiences with these pages.

Grab this book for yourself, your siblings, new and seasoned parents and of course, your favourite school teachers. They will all benefit personally, and so will the children they influence, consciously or unconsciously.

You can find this book on Kobo here:

or on Amazon here:

Disclosure: The links above are my affiliate links – if you make a purchase through them, I do make a small percentage. Thank you for supporting my work! I also received this book from Hay House for free in exchange for an honest review.