Browsing Tag

all you need is less

All You Need Is Less, Musings


Yesterday began with me dragging Olive out of bed early, because yesterday was my book signing.


The signing began at 2PM, which falls right in the middle of her usual 2 hour nap so I had hoped that by waking her up early, she would nap early, and then finish napping early, so that I could get to Chapters in time to hand her off to Adam, and start the fun!

This did not happen. Of course not! Ha! Haha! Oh god! Why toddlers, why?

Spectacular backfire. Not only did she not nap an hour earlier than normal, but she didn’t even nap at her regular naptime and so then, there we were with an hour until I had to be at the bookstore, with her rolling around in her crib, moaning and giggling and just generally being completely oblivious to the fact that she was at that very moment ruining my life.

So I did what I think any sane mother would do, I ran around getting my stuff together and packed her out the door, relying on the magic of the automobile to lull her to sleep. It worked, thank god Ford.

With a powerhouse of a child like Olive, it’s always good to know that she has a weakness. That kid is absolutely powerless against anything with a motor.

So, O asleep, I drove downtown and sat, in a sweltering car outside the bookstore as my hair gradually fell apart, taking terrifying anxious selfies as the butterflies in my stomach grew and multiplied.

Instagram caption: “This is the face of an author freaking out 45 minutes before her first book signing because her daughter wouldn’t nap and her husband can’t make it and what if no one comes and oh my god I forgot to wear deodorant. #panic #anxioushippies #sweatbabysweat #icantstophashtagging”

When it was close to two I woke Olive again, and hauled her and everything else (including my cardboard box for Terracycle collections) into the store.

Turns out Adam had a scheduling conflict at work and wasn’t going to be able to make it, (which kind of broke my heart) so I called in reserves in the form of my fabulous friend Colleen (armed with about four pounds of blueberries for O) and my sister-in-law Kate (armed with a coffee jar, water bottle, apple, and nectarines for me.)

These women, I tell you. THESE WOMEN. They are the shit. I do not at all deserve them.

Once all of that getting there chaos was out of the way it was just me sitting at a table with a bunch of books. My books.

I sat there, and I looked at that stack of books. I looked at my hands and the pen and thought about what was happening, and I felt this swell of incredulous pride rush through me.

And then they just pushed it right over the top- one of the fabulous Chapters staff came over and brought me a peppermint tea, and then someone else announced me over the store loudspeaker and I swear it was like I was a real somebody, or a lost child!

It was absolutely surreal.

I don’t know why I am making that face. I’m sorry. That lady had a fabulous hat and I loved her.

The best part, hands-down, about this fantastic experience was that when each person would approach the table they would pick up my book and start to leaf through it. I would smile and say hello, and then they would usually ask something like, “So, you wrote this?” and I would smile so big that my cheeks hurt and say, “I sure did!”

And almost without exception, every single person would meet that response by raising their eyebrows and saying, “Wow!”

And look, I understand that wow is kind of a placeholder word, a word that stands in line waiting for other, more coherent thoughts to trickle through and usurp them. I know that wow doesn’t always mean wow!, sometimes it means oh, and sometimes it means I see, and sometimes it simply means, I don’t know what to say.

I know this.

But still, each time someone would say wow, I would repeat it in my head, feel it echo in my heart and resonate in my bones and I would start laughing.

“I know!” I’d say, “How’d that happen?”

I needed this signing. So much of this side of the book gives me intense anxiety. The radio interviews and podcasts, the thought of speaking live to an audience who I can’t see and can’t reach, my words lasting forever online where anyone can access a flub or a missed word or a sentence that was stumbled over.

I really enjoy them when I am in the middle, deep in the swing of it, but am a wreck before each one, just like I was a wreck in the hours leading up to today.

It’s not that I am terrible with people – I think I comport myself fairly well in social situations and have been really happy with how my interviews have gone so far. It’s just that this zone, the going and doing and meeting and speaking, it’s not where I live. I prefer to reside in these carefully measured written words where I can delete or erase or edit without censure.

So although I am incredibly, truly grateful for the reason behind the stress (I mean radio interviews?! What a fantastic problem to have!), I still find it challenging to manage.

I think I am improving a little each time, each time it feels more and more natural, but it is a definite learning curve for me. A steep one. A large, lurching step outside my comfort zone.

Anyway, all of this senseless blathering is trying to say that I absolutely loved being able to see people face to face, one on one. I loved being able to have conversations where they spoke back, asked questions, shared their own stories. It was something I had been missing and I am so glad I was able to experience it.

If you came today – thank you!  If you didn’t, we missed you! I really hope that I will be fortunate enough to have other opportunities like this in the future, but even if I don’t – I mean.

This really was one for the books.

All You Need Is Less

Book Giveaway #4!

Win a copy of All You Need Is Less by Madeleine Somerville!

Well folks, my book has officially been released! And thus, my promotional duties are almost done. (HA! Just kidding, they’ve only just begun! But this is (probably) the last giveaway I’ll run on the blog, so I’m going balls out with this one. Prepare yourself!)

Remember a while ago when I ran that delightful survey about how much book stuff to plaster on the blog, and a whopping 18% of you were like, “Yeah! Not only do we want to hear all about your crazy book but we totally support you and want to help you spread your hippie gospel to the world!” Well, this post is for the 18% – friends, I am coming to collect on that legally binding survey response!

Writing a book is a weird thing. Having it finally published is even weirder. It sort of feels like I have spent a horrendous amount of time working on a large sign, and now I have decided to walk down to a busy street corner and stand there holding this sign over my head.


And whooooo! it’s a little cold out here! So I’ve decided that instead of doing what I usually do – which is just standing here shivering and basically doing everything but asking for help – I will just ask for your help.

It sometimes feels awkward to do this, because you truly don’t owe me anything. In fact I always feel quite the opposite – I feel grateful that you are here day after day, because otherwise this whole endeavour would feel rather silly – without you guys I am just some strange lady slinging words into a black hole for no reason. But I have learned that it’s okay to ask for help, especially when you think that the end result would be really positive for everyone involved.

Guys, I’m calling in reinforcements! If you enjoy my writing, and have laughed/cried/cringed at any of my ramblings about sex attics and cupcake parties; smoky eyes and pregnancy, can I ask you to do me a small kindness?

* If you have already received a copy of my book, would you mind leaving an honest rating on the site where you ordered it, or on Amazon?

* If getting a copy is on your to-do list right between shaving your winter legs and finally dealing with your laundry situation, would you make an effort to support a local bookstore by ordering a copy from them when you do get around to it? (And if you could see my legs or my laundry situation, you would know that I understand that this could happen anytime between now and December. And that’s ok. Lowered expectations!)

* When you DO get to your local bookstore, could you ask them if they would bring in a few copies to carry in the store, too? If they seem reluctant just tell them that I am married to noted Neanderthal artist A-dAM. They’ll know who he is.

* If a book chock full of gardening, DIY beauty remedies, easy minimalism, and simple, guilt-free green living (with slight feminist undertones) isn’t really your thing, would you consider passing my blog, and/or book onto someone else who might enjoy it?

Who might that be you ask? Well, just about anyone, really. But particularly anyone who wants to…

  • Make their own laundry detergent, household cleaners, body lotion, silver polish, diaper creams, and even sexy natural personal lubricants (say whaaaa?)
  • Escape the judgy, expensive, and sometimes frustratingly complicated world that eco-friendly living has  become lately (have you been feeling it? I have been feeling it.)
  • Learn why plain ol’ baking soda has been proven more gentle on your tooth enamel than any regular toothpaste
  • Understand (and escape!) the cycle of buy-break-dispose-replace that we seem to get sucked into again and again despite our best intentions
  • Figure out why I advocate sticking needles into your face
  • Laugh until you pee, feel empowered instead of hopeless, and live happily, with less.


* Last but not least, enter this final giveaway so I can send you a little note and a signed copy of All You Need Is Less and you can gawk at my horrific penmanship (it’s like a teenaged boy, seriously) and wonder how I ever passed grade 1!

You guys are fabulous! I wish you the best of luck…and…go!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All You Need Is Less

The winner!


Winner, by Eighty Acres Art on Etsy

I have chosen a winner! Well, that weird Rafflecopter robot has, I guess is a more accurate statement!

Things have been sort of quiet on this here blog lately – the natural consequence of it being the week before we move. You know, last-minute packing, last-minute chaos, last-minute huge Life Decisions, last minute trying to teach your daughter to say “Papa” when she sees him on Sunday- the usual suspects.

In the midst of all of that chaos I went with a friend to take watch Inside Llewyn Davis, which I really recommend for anyone who needs to feel good about their habit of gypsying around with no definite plan, because at least I am not a chronic couch surfer rolling around Manhattan with an orange cat that doesn’t belong to me! Ha!

But I also can’t sing, so come to think of it I’m not sure who came out ahead on that one. I have thoughts about that movie, but no time to wrangle them, so it’ll have to wait.

SO! Sorry-the winner is…. *folksy drumroll*…. Meg Dereseti! Come on down!

Congratulations Meg! And guys, she so deserves this win because she was a trooper and tried my shampoo/conditioner when I first posted it a while back, and one day she went into work with her hair still a bit wet and was mocked for smelling like ACV – oh the trials and tribulations of wanna-be hippies like us! Try the lemon juice, Meg, and I hope that this book makes up for the emotional suffering you have undergone because of my crazy suggestions.

Please contact me at info(at)sweetmadeleine(dot)ca with your mailing address, and I will pass it on to my publishers, who will ship a book to you!

Aaaand now some Llyewn Davis music for play us out on this dreary Friday.

(p.s. he’s a fictional character. I feel the need to say that because my friend and I both left the theatre fulling intending to dig into his life story and purchase his music and-oops. He doesn’t exist in our world. I felt crushed, and sort of foolish. But his music is still perfect for me right now.)

All You Need Is Less, Eco-Friendly Living, Natural Living

Two-ingredient shampoo & conditioner for healthy, shiny hair- and a book giveaway!

Two-ingredient shampoo & conditioner for healthy, shiny hair! #SweetMadeleine #AllYouNeedIsLess

Taking pictures of your hair without looking like a ridiculous dork is not easy. I call this one, “Moderately successful, but blurry”.

I’m posting this recipe again, because I recently tried something new in my DIY shampoo/conditioner routine, and after test driving it for a few weeks I knew I had to share. I have been telling everyone who would listen about my easy DIY shampoo/conditioner recipe for years, but I think this change might actually make y’all more willing to give it a shot!

(Do you hear me? TRY IIIIIIT.)

For years I have been using a baking soda rinse to wash my hair, and an apple cider vinegar rinse to condition it. I have been head-over-heels in love with this sweet combo ever since the first day I tried it, and I know it sounds strange that some lady on The Internets is telling you that you can have gorgeous, healthy hair with the same ingredients you use to unclog your drain, but this is for serious.

No plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles. No expensive price tags. No nasties like sodium lauryl sulfate foaming all over your head each morning, and washing down the drain each night. Just good, old-fashioned, earth mama hippie nonsense.

I posted this recipe years ago here, and way back in November a lovely soul named Karla commented that you could also use lemon juice in place of apple cider vinegar for the same, or better, result.

This, ladies and gentlemen, was a monumental shift! I’ve never minded the ACV smell, but I think it has turned a few people off of the whole project.

Lemons on the other hand – lemons! Lemons are basically the poster child for clean-living fresh-smelling happy times all around! I knew I had to give it this new version a try- I was already putting baking soda and vinegar on my head, what could possibly go wrong?

I’m not going to ramble on (for once in my life): I tried it, it worked, and I love it! These days I alternate back and forth between the two – lemons on days that I have them, ACV on days when I don’t.

So. Try it. TRY ITTTT. It doesn’t work for absolutely everyone (I’ve heard that it can sometimes take a week for your hair to adjust, although I didn’t experience this, and that some run into challenges around hard water.) but it might work for you! You have nothing to lose! And if it does work you will feel like a magical witch every time you prepare your shower potion, and you will be rich- RICH!- from all the money you’ll save on fancy shampoos and conditioners.

You can spend all of that spare shampoo and conditioner money on goat cheese! Or vodka! Or vodka-infused-goat-cheese! (Is that a thing?)

Here’s how you do.


Mix 1 cup warm water with 1 TBSP baking soda. Stir until dissolved and pour over wet hair. Give yourself a relaxing scalp massage, concentrating on the hairline and the crown of your head if you tend to have oily hair. Rinse well.


Mix 1 cup warm water with 1-2 TBSP apple cider vinegar OR LEMON JUICE! (!). Typically I’d use 1 TBSP if you have oily hair, 2 if your hair tends to be dry. Pour over shampooed and rinsed hair, massage into scalp and let sit for a few moments while you tackle the onerous task of finally shaving your winter-legs, exfoliating your elbows or what have you. Rinse well.

That’s it. Seriously, that’s it! Two ingredients and zero weird shit on your head to end up with gorgeous, shiny, tangle-free hair.

( 9/19/2014 ETA: If you live in an area with hard water as we do here in Edmonton, Alberta, you MUST boil the water for 5-10 minutes to remove all of the hard mineral content before using as a mix for shampoo/conditioner. This is not as terrible as it sounds. Boil some extra for tea, and by the time you’ve finished your tea your shampoo and conditioner rinses will be cool enough to get started!)

Two-ingredient shampoo & conditioner for healthy, shiny hair! #SweetMadeleine #AllYouNeedIsLess

If you DO decide to take the plunge and try this – please post a picture of your results to the Sweet Madeleine Facebook page, or Instagram/tweet it with the hashtag #SweetMadeleine or #AllYouNeedIsLess! I want to know if it worked, if it didn’t work, what kind of hair you have, where you live, what you’re wearing, and your feelings on Benedict Cumberbatch (look I’m not saying the man looks like a scarf, but HE LOOKS LIKE A SCARF.)

Honestly though I truly would love to hear if it worked for you, and whether you’ll keep doing it.

ALSO, as if this post wasn’t tangential enough, would you like a free copy of All You Need Is Less? Of course you would. Here’s why:

In it you will learn: 

  • The best, natural way to clean hardwood floors
  • How I really feel about plastic
  • The secret to a stress-free, organized home
  • A recipe for Magic tea that will cure your worst cold or flu
  • A tragic tale of hamster-cannibalism
  • How to make your own toothpaste, laundry soap, all-purpose cleaner, deodorant AND MORE!

To enter, simply click on the Rafflecopter widget below. The contest closes at 12:00 AM this Friday, but don’t worry if you don’t win this one – I am giving away a copy of All You Need Is Less every week for the next four weeks! It’s like Christmas! But with more vinegar!

All You Need Is Less by Madeleine Somerville

(Also, I am an equal-opportunity environag. These giveaways are open to anyone in the world! )

Allons-y, kittens! Click below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Eco-Friendly Living

10 Easy Steps to Getting Your Book Published*


*If your name is Madeleine Somerville, and you have spent five seven a million years in relative obscurity writing inane blog posts about things like hyena bets and the perfect fuchsia lipstick, that is.

1. Write. Everyone says this but it’s totally true. If you want to be a writer, write. For me this meant sharing intimate details about my life and the lives of my loved ones for the amusement of strangers on the internet. So, I mean, it’s not Hemingway but I think it’s a pretty sweet gig.The bonus of writing, and the extra bonus of writing in a forum where you open yourself up to feedback – constructive and otherwise, anonymous and not – is that you get a chance to hone your voice and see which parts of your writing resonate with people.

I can not give enough thanks to the dozens of people over the years who have taken the time to comment, “like”, email me, or convey in any way shape or form that my writing has affected them (whether it’s made them laugh or fill with rage, both are exciting!). I don’t care what any writer says about the craft or the artistry or the process: writers write to be read. The fact that you were reading is what kept me writing – even when there were like five of you


2. Be passionate. In the beginning I wrote just for the sake of it. I wrote because it felt good, and I because I often couldn’t (and still can’t) make sense of my thoughts until they were written down. But when I realized people were reading, I began to write about things I felt passionately about and wanted to share with others. My husband, my dog, my reactions to pop culture events – all of the little parts of my life I loved and hated.

As I became more and more interested in eco-friendly living my blog reflected that  – lately it has mirrored my fascination with the experience of motherhood.

Writing gave me a platform to share my passions, and for a while there I was that person who was like, “Hey! Hey! Did you know? That you can shampoo your hair with baking soda? And condition it with apple cider vinegar? And there’s no toxic chemicals? And not only is it good for the environment but it’s good for your hair, too?” and this was so exciting to me, and I was so passionate about it that I wanted to share it with everyone, all the time. So I did.


3. Share. Initially I shared my ideas for a simple eco-friendly life in a little pamphlet I sold alongside my crocheted creations at farmer’s markets. Then I began searching for a bigger audience to bore share my awesome exciting discoveries with (Guys? Did you know? That you can make your own laundry detergent? And there’s no sulfates? Or plastic containers? Or skin irritants? And it’s super inexpensive and easy to make?).

I posted a few recipes and ideas to my blog and a staff member from the then-fledgling website somehow saw one and invited me to create a list on their website as a better way to organize this content.

I did, and unbeknownst to me the list was featured on Yahoo! Shine.

This is where the magic happened. Which brings me to step 4


4. Get lucky. There are thousands of writers out there. Millions maybe. Most want to be published. As long as I’ve written, I have wanted to see my name on the spine of a book, but the fact that it is actually happening is honestly pure, unadulterated luck. I felt guilty about it for a long time, because I felt as though I hadn’t really done anything to get published. It felt like cheating a little (I needn’t have worried. The real work was still to come! Ooooh, foreshadowing!).

What happened was that my editor saw the list I posted, and emailed SkinnyScoop to get my contact information.

On April 27, 2012 I got an email asking me if I wanted to turn that list into a book.

At this point, you understand, it is customary to burst into the bathroom where your perennially-disheveled husband is having a shath (shower-bath. What, you don’t do that? Weird.) and screech at him excitedly in a pitch only Gus can hear, until he successfully calms you down enough to explain yourself. Then you should pee your pants with excitement, panic, pass out, regain consciousnes, compose a reply and wait.

And change your pants, obviously.


5. Write a proposal. Because I was contacted by my publisher, and not the other way around, I think my book proposal was less extensive than it may have been were I just pitching it blind. Basically I assembled a table of contents, a few sample chapters, and an outline of what the book would be about and who it would appeal to.

This felt like a very funny, strange thing to do. I kept procrastinating and putting it off and eventually Adam asked me what the hell was going on and I said, probably tearfully, “How the hell am I supposed to write a book? I don’t know how to write a book! And what if they say yes?” 

It felt pretend.

Whenever I sat down to work on it, a small voice in my head would scream excitedly, “Oh my godddd, we’re writing a booook! It’s happening! It’s really happening!” and then it would immediately get squashed by dozens of other voices who said terrible things like “Who the hell do you think you are?” , “What are you going to say that hasn’t been said a million times before?” and “Why are you still in your pajamas? It’s three pm!”

But I shut those damn voices up through a brilliant combination of denial, blind faith and too much coffee. Thus, step 6.


6. Silence self-doubt. Self-doubt is a bitch, guys. Impostor syndrome is even worse, because even when you DO succeed you are still convinced that the only thing you’re actually succeeding at is faking it, and everyone is going to find you out soon enough.

You just have to ignore that noise. Silence the self-doubt. Ignore the negativity – especially the most insidious form, which for some sad reason always seems to come from inside your own head.

For this step it really helps to have a lovely man who truly believes in you to say something surprisingly astute like, “You will find new things to say because you have really interesting ideas. But even if you didn’t, it’s not the content that’s important as much as it’s your voice. That’s what attracted your editor to you in the first place, and there’s no point having a book filled with great information if it’s so boring that no one wants to read it.”

Adam, sometimes you really are sublime. (Other times you are enraging, like when I am re-packing our stuff and I discover that you have packed, moved 1000 kilometres, stored for a year and now expect me to re-pack an entire box full of old washing machine hoses. But other OTHER times, like that first time I was talking about a moment ago, you are sublime. So let’s focus on that [instead of, say, the fact that I may have thrown out your box of washing machine hoses])


7. Have your proposal accepted. OH. MY. GOD! Seriously?Wet your pants again. Screech again. Hug Adam. Hug Gus. Wipe off Gus slobber. Call your mom. Wish you could get loser-drunk to celebrate, but unfortunately you are 4 months pregnant so be a lady and pop open a bottle of sparkling apple juice instead.


8. Write the book. The fact that this is only one step is ridiculous. This is the hardest part! For most writers this part probably comes at the beginning, they will write the book and then shop it around, but for me it happened in reverse so I signed my contract, and then stared at a blinking cursor for eight months while sporadically mashing my face into the keyboard and hoping something eloquent and funny came out. (It did!)This part involved lots of coffee, and lots of people watching Olive and lots more self doubt. But mostly just writing. Lots of writing.


9. Edit the book. This was the part I feared the most. I feared them shipping me a manuscript covered in red pen, and I feared being told I wasn’t good enough and having to go back and start from square one. Instead I received several suggestions for reorganizing the content, a request for additional chapters, and in the later stages, corrections to my grammar/consistency/Canadian spellings (See you later, vestigial u’s!)


10. Promote the book. This brings us up to date, and this is where I am now. I have to confess that I find this part particularly awkward because as you may have noticed above, I am squarely in the “Doubt my own abilities while quietly slinking further and further into my seat” camp, rather than the “Look at me! Look at me! Look at how awesome I am tooting my own horn!” camp.

But promoting a book is kind of like writing a resume, you need to suck it up and sell yourself a little bit because you know that the end result will be worth it.

For me the motivation isn’t financial -I don’t think many people make money off writing books these days- it’s simply being read.

That’s the payoff of this whole thing, and it goes all the way back to #2. I am so passionate about this book, and the content contained inside. I am excited to empower people to give a giant eff-you to huge greenwashing corporations and make their own cleaning products instead of buying them. I am excited to hear about other people discovering things that have become commonplace to me, like bringing my own containers to pick up takeout food, or trying to cut plastic out of my life entirely.

Most of all, I am really happy that I was able to successfully present this information in a way that is enjoyable to read.

This book isn’t a reference manual, it’s a story. A humorous tale of a slightly neurotic Canadian lady with a husband and a baby, a dog and a job.

Being green isn’t a full time job, nor should it be, and I don’t want to devote all of my time to this cause, I just want to take simple steps to turn our consumer-culture on its head, while simultaneously making stock in baking soda shares skyrocket (seriously, invest now).

That’s what I discovered in this whole process, through the passion and the luck, the writing and the self-doubt: my voice is worth something.

I really felt like we needed someone to say that being green means more than buying a bunch of stuff labelled “natural”. We needed someone to ask why we’ve forgotten that the first rule of environmentalism is to reduce. And most of all, we needed someone to call bullshit on the whole one-upping, guilt-fest, shame-show that green living has become.

And guys, I think I have actually managed to do all of this while simultaneously amusing you with stories about my beautiful, deranged husband Adam, sharing recipes I’ve been using for years for everything from body scrubs to a magic cold-busting tea, and also ensuring you won’t become an obnoxious, preachy enviro-nag in the process.

I think that’s worth promoting.

I am so, so proud of this book and  I am trying to force myself to get over the awkwardness of saying that. I am trying to speak up about how pleased I am to have authored it, and how truly good I think it is.


So there’s a quick and dirty quide to getting published if your name is Madeleine Somerville!
I am so aware of how incredibly fortunate I am to have had this opportunity, and I’m truly grateful.  All You Need Is Less is the result of two years, seventy-thousand some odd words, dozens of phone calls and emails, and many tears shed from joy and frustration both. 

Sweet Madeleine started with a tagline that read “…givin’ it away for free” and although I’m not giving this book away for free (except for the next four weeks when I will be!) I still wrote it for the exquisite pleasure of being read.

I hope you will!