Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book ~ "I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship: Hilarious, Heartwarming Tales About Man's Best Friend from America's Favorite Humorists" (2011) Wade Rouse

From Goodreads ~ Critically acclaimed memoirist Wade Rouse has gathered some of America's best known humorists - authors, comedians and actors - to offer biting commentary on what it means to share a life, and a heart, with a dog. 

From battling for bed space to trying to transform a pampered NYC pup into a Texas rawhide, and from helping a shelter rescue navigate through her new life to interpreting dog run dynamics (and politics), being a canine companion has challenges as tough as any agility course, but laughter is just a tail-wag away. 

I love dogs and reading stories about dogs!

This is a collection of 21 stories from dog owners about their life with their dogs.  There was a foreword by Chelsea Handler's dog, Chunk, and the authors included Jen Lancaster, Rita Mae Brown, Laurie Notaro, Jane Green, Beth Harbison and W. Bruce Cameron (there is a bio on each at the end of the book).

Some of the stories were funny and entertaining ... some not so much (I wasn't enjoying their writing style).

All in all, it was a fun read.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

LS, Toronto, ON

LS (formerly La Société) at Bloor Street W/Avenue Road recently rebranded their restaurant in June.

A petit piece of Paris centrally located in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood, LS is a departure to another time and place. We invite you to spoil yourself with unmatched atmosphere, design, service and delicious menu offerings.

They had a media event this evening to showcase their new menu. I received an invitation and brought my work pal and colleague, Larissa.

Though they haven't really changed their brunch menu since it is well-received, they have added 60% to 70% new items to the dinner menu.  There is also a bar menu and you can get late night snacks.

There is lots of space, depending on where you want to be.  You can sit downstairs on the street level in the comfy patio and get grilled food.

Or you can head upstairs and sit on the patio there.

Or you can head inside ...

... and sit in the dining room.

Book ~ "Beneath The Shadow Of Crows" (2014) Madelon Phillips

From ~ This is the story of an eighteen-year-old girl who grew up in a family enveloped by poverty, sorrow and bitterness, and under the rule of a father who continually said, “I wish to hell you kids were grown and married.” The future of the Collins’ daughters seemed to be set at a young age by their father’s belief that he had to “break their spirits.” 

Without any awareness of the changing mores in the society around her, Mattie Collins’ journey from eighth grade dropout and subservient daughter and wife to a life of her own as a successful college student and independent woman reflects the awakening spirit that became the women’s liberation movement, and a way of life women in this country and in many places around the world now take for granted.

The story begins in Wawautoma, WI, in January 1950 as 18-year-old Mattie is getting married for the third time to 40-year-old car salesman, Glen, whom she's known for two months.  With a grade eight education, no job and parents living in poverty, she doesn't have a lot of options.  All Mattie wants is a family of her own to love and take care of ... and this is the life Glen promises her.

We follow Mattie and Glen for the next six years after they movie to California.  Mattie is trying to get pregnant but it's not happening.  Bored with just being a housewife, she discovers that she is smarter than anyone ever gave her credit for and she begins college.  Glen is becoming more successful and can't understand why she's isn't happy just being his wife.  His attitude is that she's his wife and she should have to do what he says.  As she gets older and more mature, Mattie gains the confidence to stand up to Glen and work to fulfill her own dreams.

This is the first book I've read by this author and I liked it.  The story was an interesting one ... I can't imagine living during those times.  The husband was the breadwinner and the wife's job was just to take care of him.  Um ... no.  Reading the author's bio, it appears that a lot of this story is based on the her own life as there are a lot of parallels.

It is written in first person perspective from Mattie's point of view.  I liked the writing style, though I found it odd at times in reference to her parents.  For example, she asked her father "Where is my mother?" rather than "Where is Mom?" or "Where is Mother?".  This kind of writing happened often even when she was talking with her sisters.  There were flashbacks giving background on the hard life she and her family had had when she was growing up.

I liked Mattie.  When we meet her, she was just an immature kid doing what she had to do.  Marrying Glen, a man old enough to be her father, wasn't the best decision for her but she didn't have a lot of options.  Glen could be the sweetest husband ever but became an A-hole when crossed.

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book ~ "300 Best Potato Recipes: A Complete Cook's Guide" (2011) Kathleen Sloan-McIntosh

From ~ The humble potato is a culinary powerhouse - it inspires adventurous and tantalizing fare.

A desert island vegetable if ever there was one, the potato appeals to all of us, whether it’s served as a traditional comfort dish or used to create something new and exotic. It’s versatile, nutritious, inexpensive and unfailingly delicious - and what other food can make all those claims?

Tempting possibilities are offered up in this widely varied assortment of recipes, a collection that runs the gamut from instructing on the classics - the perfect mashed, baked, roasted and fried potatoes - to introducing innovative, colorful and creative modern dishes.

Appetizers and snacks, soups and salads, side dishes, main courses, hearty vegetarian main dishes, baked goods and desserts are all represented here. Also included is a complete history of the potato, as well as a comprehensive chapter that tells you everything you need to know about hundreds of potato varieties.

And for the growing number of home vegetable gardeners, there’s even a chapter devoted to cultivating and growing your own potatoes, as well as fundamental information on storing potatoes.

I love love love potatoes ... especially red potatoes!

So how could I resist a cookbook of recipes of potatoes??!!

The book begins with an introduction of the author and her family's love of potatoes.   Then comes the history of potatoes ... did you know that as early as 750BC, the Incas were cultivating this new food source?  There is also a lesson about buying and cooking potatoes and growing your own.   There are 400 to 500 varieties of potatoes in active production around the world and there are 20 pages describing them (what kind, where available, uses, etc.)!

And then comes the best part ... the recipes!
  • Top twenty classics
  • A bowl of soup
  • Salads
  • Appetizers
  • Snacks, small plates & light meals
  • Sensational spuds on the side
  • Main courses with meat, poultry, fish & seafood
  • Vegetarian mains to satisfy
  • Breads, biscuits, scones, griddle cakes & more
  • Desserts & confections

With each recipe (which look easy to follow), there is a description, the amount of servings and tips.  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.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Book ~ "Death, Taxes, and a Skinny No-Whip Latte" (2012) Diane Kelly

From Goodreads ~ When she joined the Criminal Investigations Division, Tara knew she’d be investigating some very real crooks. Forget about waitresses hiding tips from the IRS or babysitters not declaring income! Tara and her partner, Eddie, are going after one of country’s richest, dirtiest felons. Being on a diet doesn’t help Tara’s mood much. Hopefully, by the time the investigation is over, she’ll be sitting somewhere in a string bikini, far, far away.

But first: Reality. Marcos Mendoza is a suspected loan shark with connections across the Mexican border. He’s never been accused of any crimes, yet his business associates have a history of disappearing … and resurfacing … in body bags. Will Tara risk life, limb, and the pursuit of filing a joint tax return with her maybe-serious boyfriend Brett? Fighting crime, like drinking a cup of coffee with low-fat milk and artificial sweetener, is often bittersweet.

Tara is an IRS agent ... she was hired because she's got an accounting background but is also a sharpshooter.  She and her partner, Eddie, are trying to get the goods on Marcos Mendoza, a dangerous loan shark.  If you can't pay up or you cross him, he has ways of making you sorry (like having your body cut up into many pieces and discarded around the state of Texas).  Three years ago, another IRS agent, Nick, had tried to infiltrate Marcos' organization to bring him down but ended up taking a bribe from him and quit his job to live in Mexico.

Because of all the surveillance work she has to do, Tara's not able to spend much time with her new beau, Brett, or her two cats, Annie and Henry.  Instead her favourite high calorie lattes are keeping her company and adding on some pounds and inches (hence the reference to the skinny lattes which she has to begrudgingly switch over to).

This is the second book in the Tara Holloway series (and the fifth book I've read by this author).  I read the first one, third one and fourth one in the series within the last couple of weeks ... they work as stand alones as there was enough information from the past ones so you know what's going on.

I enjoyed this one.  I liked the writing style ... it was funny and sarcastic (the scene with the guy in the trench coat was a hoot!).  It is written in first person perspective from Tara's point of view.  As a head's up, there is some swearing and adult activity.

I liked Tara.  She gets really involved with this case and won't let it go.  She would be a good person to have on your side.  Brett sounds like a nice guy but I find him a bit boring and blah.  Tara has loyal friends in Alicia and Christina.  Dr. Ajay, as in the other books, is a hoot and unfortunately Tara has to see him more often than she'd like.

This is definitely a series I'm enjoying and looking forward to reading more of.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Frankie's Bar & Cafe, Toronto, ON

Gord love love loves breakfast so we headed over this morning to Frankie's Bar & Cafe (Ossington/Queen W), which is in our 'hood.

It was fairly quiet when we got there about 10:30am.

We both ordered Frankie's Original Breakfast with bacon ($5.95).  Gord got a coffee and I got a milk.

Breakfast was delicious and we both cleaned off our plates!

Our server took good care of us.

Frankie's Bar & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Book ~ "Top Secret Twenty-One" (2014) Janet Evanovich

From Goodreads ~ Trenton, New Jersey’s favorite used-car dealer, Jimmy Poletti, was caught selling a lot more than used cars out of his dealerships. Now he’s out on bail and has missed his date in court, and bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is looking to bring him in. Leads are quickly turning into dead ends and all too frequently into dead bodies. Even Joe Morelli, the city’s hottest cop, is struggling to find a clue to the suspected killer’s whereabouts. These are desperate times, and they call for desperate measures. So Stephanie is going to have to do something she really doesn’t want to do: protect former hospital security guard and general pain in her behind Randy Briggs. Briggs was picking up quick cash as Poletti’s bookkeeper and knows all his boss’s dirty secrets. Now Briggs is next on Poletti’s list of people to put six feet under.

To top things off, Ranger - resident security expert and Stephanie’s greatest temptation - has been the target of an assassination plot. He’s dodged the bullet this time but if Ranger wants to survive the next attempt on his life, he’ll have to enlist Stephanie’s help and reveal a bit more of his mysterious past.

Stephanie is a bounty hunter and she's looking for Jimmy Poletti, a used car salesman who was dealing in more than just cars.  Her cousin (and boss), Vinnie, posted his bond and Jimmy missed his court date.  Someone is trying to kill Randy Briggs, Jimmy's accountant ... Randy looks to Stephanie for protection and Stephanie uses him as bait to try and flush out Jimmy.

In the meantime, someone is trying to kill Ranger and the plan backfired.  It turns out it is a one-eyed tattooed Russian from his past who is seeking revenge.  Ranger asks Stephanie for her help in tracking this guy down.

This is the 21st in the series and I've read them all.  As in previous books, Evanovich continues to follow her formula:
  • Stephanie is lusting after Morelli and Ranger ... check
  • Stephanie's mom's nerves are shot so drinks and irons ... check
  • Grandma Masur is outrageous and checking out the viewings at the funeral home ... check
  • Lulu is eating all the time and gets mad when someone calls her fat ... check
  • Stephanie needs a car and Ranger lends her his (which gets blown up) ... check
  • Stephanie's apartment gets damaged ... check
  • Stephanie goes home to mooch meals from her parents ... check 
  • Bob, Morelli's dog, eats something and barfs it up ... check
  • Morelli calls Stephanie "Cupcake" and just wants to have sex with her with no commitment
  • Rangers calls Stephanie "Babe" and just wants to have sex with her with no commitment

Since it's basically the same story over and over, I stopped buy these books a long time ago and now borrow them from the library.  It's a mindless familiar read and there is some amusement.

It's written in first person perspective from Stephanie's point of view.  There is some swearing (like the "F-bomb") and some adult situations.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Honda Indy 2014, Toronto, ON

The Honda Indy is happening just south of us this weekend (we can hear the cars from our place whipping around the track).

Gord is a big racecar fan.  The last couple of years we have been going down later on the Friday afternoon to check it out.  It's free ... you can sit wherever you want and watch the cars race practicing.  You get a great flavour for the Indy because the cars go really really fast and are loud.

We had to walk through the Direct Energy Building to get back outside to watch the cars race around the track.  That's where the cars spend the night, get repaired, etc.

We sat in the stands in front the start/finish line and coming out of the pits.  It was really hard to take pictures because the cars go so fast!  I had a lot of pictures of the front and back ends of cars or pavement.

Topbox - July

I picked up my July Topbox today ... they tried to deliver it on Wednesday but we weren't home.

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 = $25.40