Thursday, 27 April 2017

Book ~ "My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family, with Recipes" (2015) Dawn Lerman

From Goodreads ~ Dawn Lerman spent her childhood constantly hungry. She craved good food as her father, 450 pounds at his heaviest, pursued endless fad diets, from Atkins to Pritikin to all sorts of freeze-dried, saccharin-laced concoctions, and insisted the family do the same - even though no one else was overweight. Dawn’s mother, on the other hand, could barely be bothered to eat a can of tuna over the sink. She was too busy ferrying her other daughter to acting auditions and scolding Dawn for cleaning the house (“Whom are you trying to impress?”).

It was chaotic and lonely but Dawn had someone she could turn to: her grandmother, Beauty. Those days spent with Beauty, learning to cook, breathing in the scents of fresh dill or sharing the comfort of a warm pot of chicken soup, made it all bearable. Even after Dawn’s father took a prestigious ad job in New York City and moved the family away, Beauty would send a card from Chicago every week - with a recipe, a shopping list and a twenty-dollar bill. She continued to cultivate Dawn’s love of wholesome food, and ultimately taught her how to make her own way in the world - one recipe at a time.

Dawn's father was an advertising executive and they lived in Chicago in the 1960s.  Her parents weren't around much and Dawn spent a lot of time with her maternal grandmother, Beauty, who taught her how to cook and to love cooking.  Dawn's father was always overweight (450 pounds at his heaviest) and usually on a diet of some kind and her mother ate just a can of tuna a day while serving her daughters canned or frozen food.  This influenced Dawn in her eating habits as she wanted to eat healthy.

Dawn's father got job in New York and moved the family there.  Dawn saw even less of her parents because her father was always busy and her sister was on tour for a couple years with a musical and their mother accompanied her.  Dawn was basically left on her own to fend for herself.

I found this book and story to be depressing and dreary.  Her parents were awful and neglected her.  Her father was busy with his job and that kept him out at night entertaining clients.  When they lived in Chicago, her mother was pissed at having to stay home with the kids all week at night.  She made him take her out with him on the weekends so they dumped their kids with Beauty every weekend (though Beauty and Dawn didn't mind this).  Or they left the kids with an abusive babysitter.  Her mother didn't cook but was cheap so fed them canned or frozen foods or fast food.  Dawn didn't want to eat this unhealthy stuff so her mother insulted her and emotionally abused her.

She didn't have many friends ... her closest friends in her pre-teens were Olga, the woman who cooked the lunches at private school she attended, and Jim, the homeless guy she brought home (not an issue since she had no parental supervision).  When she was about fifteen, she fell in love with Hank, a schoolmate, and there was a lot of information about how she wooed him and then their break-up.  Then she started hanging out at Studio 52 while still in her teens.

This is less of a story about Dawn's "fat dad" and more of her story, so not what I was expecting or looking for.  On the positive side, her life experience prompted Dawn to become a nutrition expect.  At the end of every chapter, there are recipes.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Book ~ "Free Days With George: Learning Life's Little Lessons from One Very Big Dog" (2016) Colin Campbell

From Goodreads ~ After Colin Campbell went on a short business trip, he returned home to discover his wife had moved out. No explanations. No second chances. She was gone and wasn’t coming back. Shocked and heartbroken, Colin fell into a spiral of depression and loneliness. Soon after, a friend told Colin about a dog in need of rescue - a neglected 140-pound Newfoundland Landseer, a breed renowned for its friendly nature and remarkable swimming abilities. Colin adopted the traumatized dog, brought him home and named him George. Both man and dog were heartbroken and lacking trust but together, they learned how to share a space, how to socialize, and most of all, how to overcome their bad experiences. At the same time, Colin relived childhood memories of his beloved grandfather, a decorated war hero and a man who gave him hope when he needed it most.

Then everything changed. Colin was offered a great new job in Los Angeles, California. He took George with him and the pair began a new life together on the sunny beaches around L.A. George became a fixture in his Hermosa Beach neighborhood, attracting attention and giving affection to everyone he met, warming hearts both young and old. Meanwhile, Colin headed to the beach to rekindle his love for surfing but when George encountered the ocean and a surfboard for the first time, he did a surprising thing - he jumped right on the board. Through surfing, George and Colin began a life-altering adventure and a deep healing process that brought them back to life. As their story took them to exciting new heights, Colin learned how to follow George’s lead, discovering that he may have rescued George but that in the end, it was George who rescued him.

"Free Days with George" is an uplifting, inspirational story about the healing power of animals, and about leaving the past behind to embrace love, hope and happiness.

I love reading books about animals and that's why this one caught my eye.

When Colin's marriage unexpectedly ended, he was heartbroken and became depressed.  A friend eventually suggested that he get a dog to keep him company.  He found a 140-pound Newfoundland Landseer in need of home on a pet finder site online and adopted him and named him George.  George had had a traumatic life up to that point and wasn't very trusting, especially of men.  Over time, the two helped heal each other.

When Colin was offered a job in Los Angeles, he and George moved from Toronto to a new life there.  Growing up in Nova Scotia (that's where I'm originally from), Colin had been a surfer.  When he tried surfing on a beach near his home, he was surprised when George jumped in the water after him (the first time George had been near water) and tried to "save" him (his doggy instincts had kicked in).  Despite trying to get George to stay on the beach, George stayed in the water with Colin and started jumping on the surfboard, catching waves, with Colin paddling behind.  Thus began their surfing weekends and even doggy surfing competitions.

I enjoyed this book.  The story starts out sad with Colin's marriage breaking down but it ends happily with he and George making a life together and having adventures.  I liked the writing style ... I found it flowed well.  It was like having a conversation with Colin and he was telling me their story.  There are lots of great pictures in the back of the book.

The title comes from something Colin's beloved grandfather used to say ... "A free day is when you spend a whole day doing the things you love to do. And when you do those things with people you love who love you, you don't grow old that day. It's a free day."

After two years in Los Angeles, Colin and George moved back to Toronto.  I'll be keeping an eye out for them ... George will be hard to miss!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Book ~ "Louisiana Longshot" (2012) Jana Deleon

From Goodreads ~ It was a hell of a longshot ...

CIA Assassin Fortune Redding is about to undertake her most difficult mission ever - in Sinful, Louisiana.

With a leak at the CIA and a price on her head by one of the world's largest arms dealers, Fortune has to go off grid but she never expected to be this far out of her element. Posing as a former beauty queen turned librarian in a small bayou town seems worse than death to Fortune but she's determined to fly below the radar until her boss finds the leak and puts the arms dealer out of play.

Unfortunately, she hasn't even unpacked a suitcase before her newly-inherited dog digs up a human bone in her backyard. Thrust into the middle of a bayou murder mystery, Fortune teams up with a couple of seemingly-sweet old ladies whose looks completely belie their hold on the little town. To top things off, the handsome local deputy is asking her too many questions. If she's not careful, this investigation may blow her cover and get her killed.

Armed with her considerable skills and a group of old ladies referred to by locals as The Geritol Mafia, Fortune has no choice but to solve the murder before it's too late. 

Fortune is a CIA assassin.  In her last mission, she narrowly escaped alive and there is now a price on her head.  Plus there is a leak within the CIA.  To keep her safe, her boss has Fortune pose as his niece, Sandy-Sue, a former beauty queen and now a librarian.  Sandy-Sue had recently inherited a house from her great-aunt in Sinful, LA.  Fortune is going to spend the summer laying low pretending to be Sandy-Sue and pack up the house.

When Bones, Sandy-Sue's newly-inherited dog, digs up a bone, it's discovered that it belongs to Harvey, a man everyone in town hated and who disappeared five years ago.  Fortune reluctantly teams up with Gertie and Ida Belle, two elderly ladies who run the town, to find out who killed Harvey and look for Marie, Harvey's wife, who has suddenly disappeared.

This is the first book I've read by this author and I liked it.  I liked the writing style ... it was amusing and moved at a good pace.  It is written in first person perspective in Fortune's voice.  I liked the main characters.  Fortune was out of her element in this crazy small town and it was fun to watch her react to their ways.  Gertie and Ida Belle were a hoot!

It's the first in the Miss Fortune Mystery series (there are currently nine) ... I look forward to reading the rest.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Book ~ "Grinder" (2009) Mike Knowles

From Goodreads ~ “You brought me back into this because you know what I am. I’m a grinder, I find out everything.” 

Bullets squared everything. Wilson left his old boss alive in exchange for a clean slate. Wilson held up his end of the bargain and stayed off the grid for two years. Two years of peace until a man came calling. The man brought a gun and a woman in his trunk. Thousands of miles from home, Wilson learns that the city doesn’t let go so easily. The city is more than bricks; it is a machine running on the blood of hard men and women. The hardest man in the city remembers Wilson and he will stop at nothing to get him back. 

A dangerous mobster’s nephews are missing and the only suspects are his lieutenants. Wilson is pulled back to once again work under the radar - to quietly find out who is responsible, so it can be settled with screams. Wilson is back to being what he was. He’s a grinder again. All bets are off and before he’s done - everyone will pay.

Two years ago, Wilson was working for Paolo, a mobster in Hamilton, ON.  He was a grinder ... he did what he had to do to get information out of people.  Some stuff went down and Wilson took off to start a new quieter life in Prince Edward Island.  He ended up getting a job on a fishing boat and kept his head down.  Two years later, two of Paolo's nephews have been kidnapped and he suspects it was done by someone within the "family".  Paolo sends for Wilson (not giving Wilson much choice) to find out who kidnapped his nephews.

This is the second (of six) in the Wilson series ... the first one apparently covers what happened two years ago that made Wilson run.  This is the first book I've read by this author and I liked the story.  It's the first time I've read a book set in Hamilton (I spent three days there a couple weeks ago).

It works as a stand alone ... though I haven't read the first one, there was enough information provided to get the gist of what had happened in it.  I'd like to read the first one to get caught up and then move onto the rest.

I liked the writing style.  It was blunt and to the point.  As a head's up, there is swearing and violence.  Despite his occupation and the characters he encounters, I found Wilson likable.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Trinity Bellwoods Park, Toronto, ON

It's a warm sunny day and Gord and I walked to Trinity Bellwoods Park.

We had a tree planted in the fall of 2011 in memory of our dog, KC, in the park and we visited it.

It's budding

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Book ~ "This Is a Book About the Kids in the Hall" (2016) John Semley

From Goodreads ~ This is a book about the Kids in the Hall - the legendary Canadian sketch comedy troupe formed in Toronto in 1984 and best known for the innovative, hilarious, zeitgeist-capturing sketch show "The Kids in the Hall" - told by the people who were there, namely the Kids themselves. 

John Semley’s thoroughly researched book is rich with interviews with Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald and Scott Thompson, as well as Lorne Michaels and comedians speaking to the Kids’ legacy: Janeane Garofalo, Tim Heidecker, Nathan Fielder and others. It also turns a critic’s eye on that legacy, making a strong case for the massive influence the Kids have exerted, both on alternative comedy and on pop culture more broadly. 

The Kids in the Hall were like a band: a group of weirdoes brought together, united by a common sensibility. And, much like a band, they’re always better when they’re together. This is a book about friendship, collaboration, and comedy - and about clashing egos, lost opportunities, and one-upmanship. This is a book about the head-crushing, cross-dressing, inimitable Kids in the Hall.

The Kids in the Hall is a Canadian sketch comedy group that formed in 1984.  I was a fan and watched their show in the late 1980s/early 1990s.  As such, I thought it would be interesting to read about them.

The book starts with the beginnings of the Kids and ends with what they are doing today (as of 2016).  In the 1980s, Mark McKinney and Bruce McCulloch were known as "The Audience" in Western Canada and Kevin McDonald and Dave Foley were known as "The Kids in the Hall" in Toronto.  When McKinney and McCulloch moved to Toronto, they connected with McDonald and Foley and the four become the Kids in the Hall.  Scott Thompson soon joined the group.

The Kids in the Hall performed regularly here in Toronto in the mid-1980s and eventually caught the eye of Lorne Michaels who helped them get their own show, which ran from 1989 to 1994.  When that ended, they made the movie Brain Candy and then went their separate ways and did various things.  They got back together years later and have done a short TV miniseries and some tours (Gord and I saw them on their 2015 tour).

It was an interesting book which The Kids in the Hall fans will enjoy.  It would have been nice to have some pictures of The Kids in the Hall throughout the years as the book is all text.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Nicey's Take-Out & Eatery, Scarborough, ON

I had lunch today at Nicey's Take-Out (Victoria Park Avenue/Morecambe Gate).

As its name states, it's a take-out restaurant.  There is a small table along the window and that's where I ate.

I ordered a jerk chicken dinner with rice and peas.  It was a heavy platter!  The rice and peas were good as was the chicken.  The chicken had a nice kick.  I wasn't fussy about the fried plantain but I'm not a fan of it anyway.

Nicey's Take Out Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato