Monday, 29 November 2010

Book ~ "Simple Genius" (2008) David Baldacci

From ~ Former Secret Service agents turned private investigators Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have seen their lives splinter around them. Michelle lies unconscious in a hospital bed after a night of suicidal violence. And Sean is forced to take on a thankless investigation into the murder of a scientist just inside the CIA’s razor-wire fence near Williamsburg, Virginia.

Soon he is uncovering layer after layer of disinformation that shields a stunning world filled with elite mathematicians, physicists, war heroes, spies, and deadly field agents. Amid more murder, a seemingly autistic girl’s extraordinary genius, and a powerful breakthrough in the realm of classified codes, Sean soon learns enough to put his life at risk. Now more than ever, he needs Michelle to help him catch a killer, save an innocent life and solve a stunning mystery that threatens the very soul of the nation.

From Michelle's courageous struggle to defeat her long-buried personal demons to a centuries-old secret that surfaces in the heat of the action, Simple Genius pulses with stunning, high-intensity suspense.

This is the third book these characters are in but you didn't need much background to know what's going on.

I wasn't crazy about this book. There was a lot of time spent going on about quantum computers and what exactly the geniuses were doing at Babbage Town ... it went over my head. Huh?

I found Viggie's "disability" and actions annoying. She has the secrets that will solve the case but can't reveal them because she's been "programmed". Um ... sure.

Overall, it was far fetched and I wasn't buying most of it. And it got confusing with the CIA, FBI, DEA, etc.

I didn't mind Sean and Michelle's characters, though ... I was interested in what was behind Michelle's suicidal actions in the beginning and was happy it was pretty well resolved. I liked her Harley driving shrink, Horatio.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Best Traditional Banana Bread Recipe

I had some bananas that were too ripe to eat but good for banana bread.

I found this recipe this afternoon online and made it.

The Best Traditional Banana Bread Recipe

For the purists. A traditional banana loaf recipe with a touch of spice. Feel free to toss a cup of nuts in this recipe. No chocolate for this one as the spice will compete too much.

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, soft
3 bananas (ripe)
2 eggs
1 tsp soda, dissolved in 1 Tbsp cold water
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1. Heat oven to 350
2. Combine and mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
3. Place batter in a greased bread pan (bottom only) or in muffin tins.
4. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
5. Cool for 10 minutes then remove from pan. Complete cooling on a wire rack

I cut the sugar back to 3/4 cup rather than a cup and it was sweet enough. I doubled the amount of cinnamon and nutmeg (by mistake) and can still barely taste it. I didn't use any vanilla (I had none). Our oven tends to be hot and it took 50 minutes to bake.

I tried a piece and it's yummy and fluffy.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Kalyvia, Toronto, ON

We couldn't leave Greektown without having supper at a Greek restaurant!

Xavier, a server at the Court Jester, recommended Kalyvia so that's where we went.

We shared a bottle of white house wine ... it was good.

Gord ordered Ortikia (two large size quails mixed with herbs and spices baked in the oven) with rice, potatoes and veggies.

I ordered Chicken Breast Dinner (two generous pieces of char-broiled chicken filet) with rice, potatoes, veggies and tzatziki.

It was delicious!

My only complaint is that the veggies weren't fresh (they were cooked from frozen).

I'd recommend this restaurant ... the food was good and our server was very friendly.

Kalyvia on Urbanspoon

The Court Jester Pub, Toronto, ON

After we left The Auld Spot, we stopped at the Court Jester Pub for a beer.

Here's Gord at the bar.

It was an okay spot. People coming in were regulars as they knew the bartender and servers. I wish we had a place like that in our 'hood.

I'd stop in again if I was in the area.

Court Jester Pub on Urbanspoon

The Auld Spot Pub, Toronto, ON

After we left Allen's, we stopped at The Auld Spot Pub.

We had been to the one on College Street in February. This one is less trendy/more cozy than the College Street one.

Here's Gord at the bar.

We were getting peckish so we ordered appetizers. I got Chicken Drummies with honey-ginger sauce. They were delicious!

Peter, a fella we got talking to at the bar, recommended the Shrimp and Cod Cakes (shrimp, cod, sweet peas, and cilantro with smoked chili aioli and house slaw) so that's what Gord got.

We liked it there and will be back!

Auld Spot on Urbanspoon

Allen's, Toronto, ON

After we left The Old Nick, we went to Allen's for a beer.

The back part was jammed ... it seems to be a popular spot for a late lunch. We looked at the menu and was surprised that were weren't more "pubby" foods.

We sat at the bar and yakked with Steve, the bartender.

Here's Gord.

They had a great beer selection and a massive scotch selection ... the most expensive scotch is locked away in a safe and is $1,000 a shot!

We liked it there and will be back!

Allen's on the Danforth on Urbanspoon

The Old Nick, Toronto, ON

After Gord and I did the Bay Lower Station Subway Tour, we headed eastbound to the Danforth ... we rarely head east of Yonge Street.

We'd checked out the Taste of the Danforth in August but it was so crowded that we said we'd check it out another time.

We thought we'd do a pub crawl and checked out first The Old Nick for a beer.

We waited a while for the server to take our order ... she seemed very disinterested and unengaged. My beer was good, though.

Gord had fun checking out the couch.

Here's Gord as we were leaving ...

The Old Nick on Urbanspoon

Bay Lower Subway Station Tour, Toronto, ON

Gord and I did the Bay Lower Subway Station Tour today. It's something we've always wanted to do ... the tour is only offered four times a year.

Below the main platform for Bay Station is an abandoned platform, which was used for only six months in 1966 when the TTC experimentally ran trains whose routes included portions of both the Yonge-University and Bloor-Danforth lines. The experiment was deemed a failure, largely because delays anywhere quickly cascaded to affect the entire system. It's represented by the green line.

Lower Bay is now used to train new operators, to move trains between the two current lines, for platform-surface experiments, and to allow filming in the subway without disrupting public service. You can rent it for an event for about $20,000 ... Absolut Vodka had an event there in August 2009.

You get to it through a locked door at the platform level.

Then down the stairs ...

And you're there.

Mary and Sandy gave us the background ... and they were great in answering questions later.

And then we were able to roam around.

Old movie props ...

Danger ... do not enter? Of course, I had to check it out!

Here are Gord and I ...

And Gord, Mary and I ...

Testing floor and ceiling coverings ...

This is now a fake escalator.

As other escalators in the system broke, they would take pieces from this one 'til it was just a hole ... so they covered it with plywood.

We got a goodie bag of info at the end.

We went back up to the platform that is used.

And caught an eastbound subway.

It was an excellent tour ... you should check it out if you are looking for something different to discover.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Book ~ "Stone Cold" (2007) David Baldacci

From ~ Oliver Stone and the Camel Club are back in their most dangerous adventure yet, a war on two fronts. Casino king Jerry Bagger is hunting Annabelle Conroy who conned him out of millions. Stone and his colleagues Reuben, Milton, and Caleb marshal all their resources to protect Annabelle.

Yet all their skills may not be enough when a deadly new opponent rips off the veneer of Stone’s own mysterious past: Bagger’s menace pales next to newcomer Harry Finn’s lethality. Passing as a normal family man, Finn has already killed three men, with more targets to come. When Finn sets his bull’s-eye on Stone, his reason will be the greatest shock of all, causing readers to reconsider their views of good and evil. As bodies and institutions topple, the story rockets toward a shattering finale that will leave the survivors of this explosive tale changed forever.

I hadn't read the other two Camel Club books so was a bit lost in some of the past references. But it wasn't enough that I didn't get what was going on. I'd like to go back and read the first two.

It's a suspense novel that would probably appeal more to guys given its story and violence.
I like Baldacci's writing style. It's fast paced and interesting. There are two stories happening at the same time that eventually come to an end.

I liked the characters ... I found them believable. I was cheering for the good guys and hoping the worst for the bad guys.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Lonely Santa at the Dufferin Mall

I went to the Dufferin Mall this afternoon to get some Christmas shopping done.

It was quite quiet, especially compared to the Eaton Centre yesterday. Awesome!

There were no kids lined up to see Santa as they were yesterday at the Eaton Centre ... probably because they all were downtown at the Santa Claus Parade.

When I took this picture, a couple of his elves were sitting yakking with him.

Another of his elves yelled at me (I'll call him Cranky) that I couldn't take pictures of Santa without his permission.

In the meantime, Santa and his elves were posing for me and flashing me peace signs. But I couldn't take the picture fast enough since Cranky was getting in my face. How's that for holiday spirit?!

November 25 update: I got an email this afternoon from the Santa Photo Manager there (he must have found me via Google or something). He said he is sorry that my "elf experience was less than expected" and thinks he knows "who's going to get a lump of coal in their stocking this Christmas!" Ha! Great sense of humor! He has invited me to come in for a complimentary photo with Santa so I can "experience how things should always be done at the castle". That's definitely holiday spirit!

December 1 update: Santa was busy and cheery today! What a happy guy!