Sunday, October 19, 2014

Book ~ "Fat Chance" (2014) Nick Spalding

From Goodreads ~ Meet Zoe and Greg Milton, a married couple who have let themselves go a bit.

Zoe was a stunner in her college days but the intervening decades have added five stone and removed most of her self-esteem. Greg's rugby-playing days are well and truly behind him, thanks to countless pints of beer and chicken curry.

When Elise, a radio DJ and Zoe's best friend, tells them about a new competition, it seems like the perfect opportunity to turn their lives around. "Fat Chance" will pit six hefty couples against one another to see who can collectively lose the most weight and walk away with a £50,000 prize.

So begins six months of abject misery, tears and frustration that just might turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to them in another laugh-out-loud look at the way we live.

Zoe and Greg are in their late thirties and like most of us, have gained weight over the years.  Zoe's friend, Elise, works at a radio station that is organizing a weight loss competition called "Fat Chance" and convinces Zoe (who convinces Greg) to be part of it.  Six couples will compete to see which has lost the most weight after six months, with the prize being £50,000.

The contestants are obligated to keep track of their journey is a diary and the book is Zoe and Greg's entries as they recount their efforts to diet and exercise. 

This is the first book I've read by this author and I enjoyed it.  I liked the writing style.  It was funny and sarcastic.  You have to read it with an open mind and sense of humour ... I don't think the author's intent was to offend anyone.  I thought there was surprisingly a lot of honesty and reality in it.  The format worked for me ... each chapter alternated between Zoe and Greg's diary entries with their names at the top and their weight loss to date.  The author lives in England so there are some English references I didn't get.  Plus the weights are in stones (I had to look it up online ... 1 stone = 14 pounds).  As a head's up, there is swearing.

I liked Zoe and Greg.  I thought they were cute as a couple who had been together for a long time.  It was fun to read how they first approach weight-loss ... Zoe tried the wacky diets guaranteed for quick weight loss while Greg got sucked in by buying crazy exercise equipment.  They eventually discovered what worked for them (healthily).

I look forward to reading others by this author.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities", Cirque du Soleil, Toronto, ON

Gord and I saw Cirque du Soleil's KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities tonight.  The Toronto Star had given it 4/4 stars.

Reality is Relative 

What if you could alter reality at will? Delve into a world of curiosity where seeing is disbelieving: the world of KURIOS™ – Cabinet of Curiosities from Cirque du Soleil®. The show immerses you in a mysterious and fascinating realm that disorients your senses and challenges your perceptions, leaving you to wonder: "Is it real, or just a figment of my imagination?" 

Step into the curio cabinet of an ambitious inventor who defies the laws of time, space and dimension in order to reinvent everything around him. Suddenly, the visible becomes invisible, perspectives are transformed, and the world is literally turned upside down in a place that’s as beautiful as it is mysterious. 

KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities is an ingenious blend of unusual curiosity acts and stunning acrobatic prowess from Cirque du Soleil. Let KURIOS show you that anything is possible through the power of imagination.

I'd never been to a Cirque show so Gord and I bought tickets for it months ago for tonight.  Then the company I work for had a client night in September and I got invited to go.  I thought it was amazing and was looking forward to going again with Gord.

It takes place in a tent that has been set up in a parking lot by the east end of Toronto Harbour.

Our seats were in section 101 in row G.  Here's the stage before it got started.

There is lots of acrobatics, balancing, singing (the female singer, Eirini Tornesaki, has a great voice), clapping, laughs and more. 

It was just as amazing the second time around!  I enjoyed it just as much the second time, even though I knew what was going to happen.  Maybe it's because I knew what was going to happen.

Dish cloth

I made a dish cloth today.  It is a quick and easy pattern.

I used cotton yarn.

Cast on 4 stitches.

Knit 2, YO, Knit to end.

Turn work.

Knit 2, YO, Knit to end.

Turn work.

Keep doing this over and over and over and over and over until there are 56 stitches.

Knit 1, K2tog, YO, K1, K2tog, knit to end.

Turn work.

Knit 1, K2tog, YO, K1, K2tog, knit to end.

Turn work.

Keep doing this over and over and over and over and over.

Cast off the final 4 stitches.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Basket Weave Dish Cloth

I made a basket weave dish cloth this evening.

It's an easy pattern and I used cotton yarn.

Cast on 36 stitches.

Knit three rows in garter stitch.

Rows 4-10: Knit 3, *knit 5, purl 5*, repeat 2 more times, knit 3
Rows 11-17: Knit 3, *purl 5, knit 5*, repeat 2 more times, knit 3

Repeat pattern two more times.

Knit three rows in garter stitch.

Bind off.

Topbox - October

My October Topbox arrived today.

For only $12 a month, you will receive a Topbox with 4 carefully selected, indulgent, beauty products. Then test the products in the comfort of your own home.

Here's what was in it ...

Total value = $49.20

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book ~ "The Complete Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness" (2014) Nerys Purchon and Lora Cantele

From Goodreads ~ Aromatherapy is a method of employing essential oils to protect, heal and beautify.

Essential oils are described as the "life force" or "essence" of plants. The most wonderful thing about essential oils is that they are available to everyone, and they are very simple to use once the basic concepts are understood and the appropriate methods and procedures are observed.

The best known way to use essential oils is through massage. In this comprehensive book there are many, many more ways to use the oils for everything from arthritis and asthma to high blood pressure and constipation. Essential oils are now emerging as scientifically proven and accepted remedies for a variety of common conditions. The why and how certain oils heal still remains somewhat mysterious. Oils can help to treat everyday ailments, whether it be strengthening the immune system, fighting bacteria and viruses, and lowering stress levels to toning, relaxing and strengthening muscles. These oils help the body heal itself.

This book features 109 oils and 450 remedies. The recipes are easy to follow, do not take a long time to make, and are quite inexpensive -- the biggest cost is the oils. The oils are organized in an A to Z format, and each entry features the botanical name, a full description of how and why the oil is extracted as well as its therapeutic uses.

Angelica for example has a sweet, rich smell, is excellent in all skin care preparations both as a tonic and to soften and smooth rough, dry skin. It reduces inflammation and can be useful when applied to irritated skin. As a massage oil it purifies the body and acts as a lymphatic stimulator, draining the body of excess fluid, increasing energy and generally quickening the functioning of glands. It's also an excellent tonic for the entire digestive system as it strengthens the liver, stimulates appetite, aids digestion and generally boosts the whole digestive system.

I'm addicted to scents and usually have incense or scented candles on the go.  I enjoy aromatherapy and have been buying and mixing essential oils for years ... so that's why this book caught my eye.

There are four chapters plus an introduction, a glossary, resources and a bibliography:
  • Introduction - using essential oils
  • Part 1:  The Oils - properties of essential oils, 109 key essential oils (there's a handy chart with different oils and their uses), carrier oils (for blending), basic massage oil blends and treatment bases, and infused oils
  • Part 2:  Remedies - the 450 remedies are quite extensive and include a list of the essential oils to treat the ailment, treatments (how to use them) along with recipes/blends and tips
  • Part 3:  Aromatherapy for Daily Living - for personal care (skincare, hair care and body care), for the home and for massage
  • Part 4:  Practicalities - equipment and measuring and storing essential oils

For example, here is a blend for afternoon brain fatigue:
  • 36 drops of rosemary essential oil
  • 24 dropsof lemongrass essential oil
  • 12 drops of basil essential oil

Place 12 drops in a 10ml glass bottle with a roller ball.  Top up with fractionated coconut oil and shake to blend.  Roll on temples, wrists and collarbones as needed.  I would be inclined to also use this blend in a diffuser.

It's an excellent book for beginners and those who are more experienced.

Nerys Purchon was one of Australia’s leading experts on aromatherapy and essential oils. Her books have sold more than 300,000 copies worldwide. Lora Cantele, RA, CMAIA, AAS, is a registered aromatherapist, clinical aromatologist, certified Swiss reflex therapist, aromatherapy educator and writer.

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book ~ "The Silent Sister" (2014) Diane Chamberlain

From Goodreads ~ Riley MacPherson has spent her entire life believing that her older sister Lisa committed suicide as a teenager. Now, over twenty years later, her father has passed away and she's in New Bern, North Carolina, cleaning out his house when she finds evidence to the contrary. 

Lisa is alive. Alive and living under a new identity. But why exactly was she on the run all those years ago and what secrets are being kept now? As Riley works to uncover the truth, her discoveries will put into question everything she thought she knew about her family. Riley must decide what the past means for her present and what she will do with her newfound reality.

Lisa was a child prodigy violinist.  In 1990, when she was 17, she was depressed and committed suicide.  Her sister, Riley, was two at the time and didn't remember her sister.  The life went out of their parents and their brother, Danny, began getting into trouble and eventually served in Iraq, from which he never recovered physically or emotionally.

About 25 years later, their mother has been dead a few years and their father has just died.  It's up to Riley to clear out his house, deciding what to keep, what to sell and what to throw out.  As she does this, she starts discovering that the life she thought they had was actually a lie.  Lisa is alive and her father knew all the time.

I've been meaning to read a book by this author for a while and I am happy I finally got around to it as I enjoyed this one.  I liked the writing style.  I thought it flowed well and it kept me interested in wanting to know what was going to happen next.

It is written in first person perspective from Riley's point of view and third person perspective from Lisa's point of view (in addition, the chapters are labelled so you know whose voice it is when the points of view change).  Plus it jumps back and forth in time but the chapters are labelled so you know what the time period is.  I found this worked for me as it built up the suspense.  Quite quickly I figured out a couple of the twists but I was okay with them.  As a head's up, there is some swearing.

I liked the characters.  The author did a good job in letting us feel Riley's aloneness and feeling pressured.  Her parents are dead, her older sister who she never knew is dead, her brother is happy being on his own in his trailer in the woods and not bothering with her, and she's just broken up with her boyfriend of two years because he was still hung up on his wife who he was separated from.  As the book goes back in time, we get to know Lisa, why she did what she had to do and how she tried to make a new life without her family.

I look forward to reading others by this author.

beautybox five - October

I received my October beautybox five today.

Beauty Box 5 is a subscription-based, beauty sampling service that delivers 5 deluxe samples and full-sized products right to your door every month.

Subscriptions are $12US a month or $99US for a year.  Shipping is free.

Here's what was in the box ...

Total value:  $25.12US

    KC's tree, Trinity Bellwoods Park, Toronto, ON

    I stopped on my way home from work today to vote in the election for mayor (the advanced polling stations are open this week).

    Since I was close by, I stopped by to check on KC's tree in Trinity Bellwoods Park.

    There are lots of lovely colours in the park.

    The leaves on KC's tree are just starting to change colours.

    I hope I get a change to check on it again before all the leaves are gone.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2014

    Alan Doyle, Bram & Bluma Appel Salon, Toronto Reference Library, Toronto, ON

    I've been a fan of Great Big Sea over the years and have seen them many times in concert.  I read Where I Belong, a memoir by Alan Doyle, the lead singer, last week and enjoyed it.

    This evening he was at the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon in the Toronto Reference Library and Gord and I went.

    Singer-songwriter and front man of the great Canadian band Great Big Sea, Alan Doyle was destined to become a renowned musician. He joins Toronto Star's Peter Howell to discuss "Where I Belong", his memoir of growing up in the tiny fishing village of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland, and then taking to the world stage.

    The salon can accommodate 575 people and it was sold out (tickets were free).  We sat in the third row.

    His book was released today (I'd read a ecopy from Netgalley) and you could buy copies.

    Peter Howell, a movie critic from the Toronto Star, interviewed him.  Alan told stories from his book about growing up in Petty Harbour, about being in Great Big Sea, becoming friends with Russell Crowe and having a part in Robin Hood, etc.  There was period afterwards where people from the audience could ask him questions.  There was no short answer to any of the questions :)  He was funny and entertaining and seems like a down-to-earth fella to hang out with.

    Monday, October 13, 2014

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October in Canada. Unlike the American tradition of remembering Pilgrims and settling in the New World, Canadians give thanks for a successful harvest. The harvest season falls earlier in Canada than the United States.

    The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an English explorer named Martin Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Orient. He did not succeed but he did establish a settlement in Northern America. In 1578, he held a formal ceremony, in what is now called Newfoundland, to give thanks for surviving the long journey. This is considered the first Canadian Thanksgiving. Other settlers arrived and continued these ceremonies. He was later knighted and had an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean in northern Canada named after him - Frobisher Bay.

    At the same time, French settlers crossed the ocean and arrived in Canada with explorer, Samuel de Champlain, also held huge feasts of thanks. They even formed 'The Order of Good Cheer' and gladly shared their food with their Indian neighbours.

    After the Seven Year's War ended in 1763, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving.

    During the American Revolution, Americans who remained loyal to England moved to Canada where they brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada. There are many similarities between the two Thanksgivings such as the cornucopia and pumpkin pie.

    Eventually in 1879, Parliament declared November 6 a day of Thanksgiving and a national holiday. Over the years many dates were used for Thanksgiving. The most popular was the third Monday in October. After World War I, both Armistice Day and Thanksgiving were celebrated on the Monday of the week in which November 11 occurred. In 1931, the two days became separate holidays and Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day.

    On January 31, 1957, Parliament proclaimed ... A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed ... to be observed on the second Monday in October.