Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hart House Craft Beer Festival, Toronto, ON

Tonight Gord and I attended the Hart House Craft Beer Festival at the University of Toronto.  We've heard that it's a good festival and this is the first time we've gone (they started in 2008).

We were in line when the doors opened at 7pm.

Tickets were $36 (plus tax) and included eight beer sample tickets (just under six ounces), BBQ fare by Hart House Executive Chef Marco Tucci, and a reusable beer tasting glass.  Additional beer sample tickets were $2.

It was pretty packed when we got in at 7:30pm.  About 700 tickets were sold (it was sold out).

Swan Restaurant, Toronto, ON

Gord and I had brunch today at the Swan Restaurant (Queen Street W/Crawford Street)  It's been in our 'hood about as along as we have but we've never been.

It's been a restaurant since at least the 1940s ... I like that they've kept the older furnishings.

You can get fresh mussels.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book ~ "A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog Named Trixie" (2011) Dean Koontz

From Goodreads ~ In a profound, funny and beautifully rendered portrait of a beloved companion, bestselling novelist Dean Koontz remembers the golden retriever who changed his life. 

A retired service dog, Trixie was three when Dean and his wife, Gerda, welcomed her into their home. She was superbly trained but her greatest gifts couldn’t be taught: her keen intelligence, her innate joy, and an uncanny knack for living in the moment. Whether chasing a tennis ball or protecting those she loved, Trixie gave all she had to everything she did, inspiring Dean and Gerda to trust their instincts and recapture a sense of wonder that will remain with them always. 

Trixie lived fewer than twelve years; in this wide world, she was a little thing. But in every way that mattered, she lived a big life.

This is the story of Trixie (1995 - 2007), beloved dog of author Dean Koontz.  For many years, by choice it was just Dean and his wife, Gerda.  They were supporters of Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships.  Trixie had been trained as a service dog but couldn't continue because of an injury.  Dean and Gerda adopted her and their lives were never the same after that.

This book is their story of the three of them together and how Trixie influenced their lives and those of their friends and acquaintances.  Trixie was a smart,  friendly and loving dog.  I loved reading how the Koontzes referred to her as their daughter and treated her as such ... and had a ton of cutsie nicknames for her. Animal lovers/pet owners (like me!) will relate ... you get back a thousand times what you give.  Non animal lovers/pet owners will probably roll their eyes at the extent they spoiled Trixie and the way they treated her.

This is the first book I've read by this author and I enjoyed it.  The writing style was at times funny and sarcastic and Koontz wasn't afraid to give his opinion on things.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book ~ "Toronto Sketches: The Way We Were" (1992) Mike Filey

From Goodreads ~ Mike Filey's "The Way We Were" column in the "Toronto Sun" continues to be one of the paper's most popular features. In "Toronto Sketches", Filey brings together some of the best of his columns. 

Each column looks at Toronto as it was and contributes to our understanding of how Toronto became what it is. Illustrated with photographs of the city's people and places of the past, Toronto Sketches is a nostalgic journey for the long-time Torontonian, and a voyage of discovery for the newcomer.

Mike Filey had a column in the Toronto Sun for about 30 years and I read it for many years (I like learning about the history of Toronto) ... this book is a compilation of some of his columns.  We learn about "Little Norway", Tip Top Tailors, TTC stories, Mary Pickford, Red Skelton, Gooderham and Worts, theatres, etc.

Even though the book was published in 1992, it was still an interesting book because it dealt with many historical events in Toronto.  Plus since it was published in 1992, it was interesting to see what was going on back then and what has changed (or hasn't). For example, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport was still called the Port George VI Island Airport, BCE was just being built (it's now called Brookfield Place), the Rogers Centre was still the SkyDome, etc.

If you live in Toronto or are from Toronto, you should check it out.

Best Western PLUS, Fergus, ON

Gord and I spent the last couple days in Fergus, about an hour and a half NW of Toronto.

We stayed at the Best Western PLUS ... it's just over about a km from downtown (so not a far walk or a $8 cab ride).  It's fairly new ... it opened in March 2014.

From what I understand, it's the only hotel in Fergus (though there are B 'n Bs).

Here's our room (it was $116/night).

The king bed was comfy!  Parking, WIFI and a continental breakfast (cereal, yogurt, toast, pastries, breakfast sandwiches, etc.) from 6:30am to 9:30am were complimentary.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Fergusson Room Pub, Fergus, ON

After Gord and I left the Brew House, we walked along St. Andrew Street W and came across the Fergusson Room Pub and stopped in for some drinks.  It is attached to the Breadalbane Inn, which was built in 1860 by one of the founders of Fergus.

How could we not stop in a pub that has a giant Scotsman carved out of a tree in front?

It was a cute cozy spot and we sat at the bar.

The Brew House, Fergus, ON

Gord and I had an early supper today at the Brew House ... the building was built in about 1851.

The building was originally built as the home of Thomas Watson, the proprietor of the Webster Tannery, circa 1851. Dr. Abraham Groves converted the building into a flour mill after the tannery went bankrupt. He later installed two generators and steam boilers, converting the mill into a electrical generating plant in 1890, which provided power to his hospital, the lights along Main Street and a number of businesses in town. As far as is known, Dr. Groves was the first man to transmit electricity between two towns in Ontario when he extended service to Elora in February 1900. Ontario hydro took over service to the town in 1910. 

The building has since served as Jack Twedle’s chick hatchery, the Fergus Police Department, the house of Brougham and eventually was divided into several smaller businesses and residential units. In 2000. the building was purchased by Carlos and Sidonia Madruga. Mike Mackay then leased and renovated to open the Groves Mill Brew House & Inn. The pub remained within his family until 2011, when the current owners, Katherine Brasch and Jim Silburn purchased the business from Claudia Hine. In 2011, the name change to “Brew House on the Grand” was in keeping with past name changes so that it will forever remain “The Brew House”, while celebrating the beautiful location on the river.

 We sat on the patio for a while but found it too chilly (16C/15C with the windchill) so we went inside.

Gord ordered Spicy Black Bean Soup and a Ribeye Fajita Wrap.

Mosaic Spa, Fergus, ON

Rather than give each other something for our birthdays, Gord and I instead treat each other to the spa.

Today was my birthday gift from Gord ... services at the Mosaic Spa in Fergus.

I started with a 60 minute massage with Kate ... very nice!

Then it was Gord's turn to have a 60 minute massage with her.  While he was doing that, I was getting a facial with Ashlee.  I haven't had a lot of facials and enjoyed it.  When I asked her, Ashlee said for maintenance everyone should have one with the change of the seasons.  Sounds good to me!

Finally Gord and I got our pedicures together.  There were lots of colours to choose from and I chose Mason.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Goofie Newfie Pub and Grill, Fergus, ON

Gord and I had supper this evening at the Goofie Newfie Pub and Grill in Fergus (about an hour and a half from Toronto).

I'm originally from Nova Scotia and love everything from the east coast so couldn't wait to check it out!

As we walked in, there were flags along the wall ... here is Nova Scotia's.

There is a patio overlooking the river.

Though we love patios, we sat inside where it was cooler (it was humid outside).  It was fun inside and I kept having to remind myself that I was in Ontario not Newfoundland!

Moxie's Grill & Bar, Toronto, ON

Gord's son, Ken, came in from Hamilton and we met him for an early lunch at Moxie's at Wellington/University.  It's been a while since we've seen him and was great to catch up.

We got there when it first opened so it was quiet.

Gord ordered egg benedict.  He said it was excellent and he would get it again.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Happy birthday to me!

52 years ago today ... at 2:12pm ... I made my arrival into the world at the Grace Maternity Hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Here I am at my first birthday party ... celebrating with cake and a washing machine.  Good times!

Here is who I share my birthday with.

Happy 12th anniversary to Gord and I!

Sister Sarah, Teena, Gord and Ken 
July 26, 2002 ~ 5:30pm
City Hall, Toronto, ON

Book ~ "Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes: 200 Recipes" (2014) Donna-Marie Pye

From Goodreads ~ Whether cooking for two or serving a crowd, this book makes easy work of creating delicious, soul-satisfying slow cooker meals.

In this gorgeous, full-color book with more than 80 photographs, there are 200 recipes to explore and experiment with, featuring the best of North American regional cuisine, as well as globally inspired dishes from cultures around the world.

Each recipe is created with convenience in mind with a good balance of those that require a few extra minutes of preparation versus others where all the ingredients can be added at once.

Most of the recipes serve from four to eight people and can be adapted to every slow cooker size. There are also many recipes that will suit any family from chapters such as Meals for Two and Big-Batch Dinners. With a bit of advance planning, the inspiring recipes in Double-Duty Dinners will turn tonight's dinner into tomorrow's feast, simultaneously banishing that dreaded remark "that again?"

We have a slow cooker and I use it quite often, though not as much in the summer.  I like using it so cookbooks with recipes for slow cookers always catch my eye.

The author starts with slow cooker know-how explaining the different parts of the slow cooker and essential tips (preparing what you can ahead of time, the cuts of meat to choose, using whole herbs and spices, etc.).  Then she helps you adapt conventional recipes and provides a list of ingredient essentials (canned diced tomatoes rather than whole, using large eggs, crumbled dried herbs rather than ground, etc.)

The recipes in this book sound delicious and include:
  1. Soups - Lentil Soup with Italian Sausage and Greens, Tex-Mex Tomato Rice Soup, Adobe Sweet Potato and Chile Soup, Manhattan Red Clam Chowder, Kale and Chickpea
  2. Stews - Sausage, Spinach and White Bean Stew, Pesto Meatball Stew, Pork Paprikash, Country Italian Beef Stew, Lemony Veal Milanese, North African Chicken Stew
  3. Chili and Beans - Holy Mole Chili, White Bean and Toasted Cumin Chili with Lime Cream, Canadian Maple Turkey Chili, Touchdown Beer Chili and Nachos
  4. Poultry - Sweet Butter Chicken, Chicken Sausage and Bean Casserole, Chicken in Orange Sesame Sauce, Turkey Bolognese with Spaghetti Squash, Turkey Osso Buco
  5. Beef and Veal -  Pot Roast with Dill Sauce, Mexican Brisket, Beer-Braised Beef, Pizza Meatloaf
  6. Pork and Lamb - Saucy Pepper Pork, Vietnamese Sticky Pork Chops, Mexican Fiesta Pork, Sausage Lasagna, Uptown Pork and Beans
  7. Big-Batch Dinners for a Crowd - Layered Cheese Ravioli Lasagna, Barbecue Burger Sliders, Pork Carnitas, Pass-the-Hot-Potato Bar
  8. Meals for Two - Pantry Corn Chowder, Roasted Pepper Soup, Petite Pot Roast, Pineapple Ginger Pork
  9. Double-Duty Dinners - Honey Mustard Chicken/Asian Chicken Salad, Chili-Glazed Meatloaf/Italian Meatloaf Parmesan, Cubano Pork Roast/South Beach Pork Panini
  10. Desserts - Snickerdoodle Cheesecake, Thai Coconut Tapioca Pudding, Almost Cherries Jubilee, Creamy Caramel Blondies, Warm Chocolate Lava Cake.

With each recipe (which look easy to follow), there is a description, the amount of servings and tips.  There are lots of colourful pictures.  What's missing, though, is the nutritional content ... it would be nice to know the calories, fibre, etc.

Here are some sample recipes ...

 As I try the recipes, I'll be sure to blog about them.

I received a copy of this book at no charge in exchange for my honest review.