Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Rhino, Toronto, ON

It was such a nice sunny day today ... our first thought was to find a patio to have a beer!

We walked to the Rhino on Queen Street W.

I like the Rhino because they have a great beer selection and the food is cheap.

There's Gord on the patio in the back ... everyone was trying to stay in the sun.

And here we are ...

The service, though, always sucks. Our server took a looooooooooong time to get us our second beer. Plus we waited for 50 minutes for nachos.

Great day to be outside!

Rhino Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Walk to Trinity Bellwoods Park

Gord and I took KC for a walk to the Trinity Bellwoods Park this afternoon.

There were a few people selling clothes near Queen Street W.

KC had fun running around!

There were lots of people playing in park ... soccer, cricket and even croquet!

Here are Gord and KC ...

KC had so much fun running around and sniffing!

After all our crazy weather, it was encouraging to see the buds in the trees.

Such a lovely day and a nice day for a walk in the park.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Book ~ "The Guilty Plea" (2011) Robert Rotenberg

From Simon & Schuster ~ Bestselling author Robert Rotenberg is back with his next razor-sharp legal thriller. Rotenberg's insider knowledge of the behind-the-scenes courtroom machinations and his mesmerizing trial scenes make this another scorching page-turner.

On the morning that his headline-grabbing divorce trial is set to begin, Terrance Wyler, youngest son of the Wyler Food dynasty, is found stabbed to death in the kitchen of his million-dollar home. Detective Ari Greene arrives minutes before the press and finds Wyler's four-year-old son asleep upstairs. When Wyler's ex-wife, a strange beauty named Samantha, shows up at her lawyer's office with a bloody knife, it looks as if the case is over.

But Greene soon discovers the Wyler family has secrets they'd like to keep hidden, and they're not the only ones. If there's one thing Greene knows, it's that the truth is never simple.

I had read Rotenberg's first novel, Old City Hall, in January and enjoyed it.

In February I was asked to review The Guilty Plea (it goes on sale on May 3, 2011) and participate in his Guilty Plea blogger tour. It gave me the chance to read Rotenberg's new book in addition to submitting questions for him to answer.

The story is in Toronto and, like the first book, I am very familiar with the locations where action takes place. In fact, I live near the hotel where Terrance Wyler's girlfriend, April, "stayed". Check out foursquare if you want to see the Toronto spots used in the book.

I enjoyed the writing style of this book. It's fast-paced and doesn't drag.

It was a nice surprise to some of the characters had been brought back from the first novel like Ari Greene, Jennifer Raglan and Jo Summers ... you get to know them even more.

Here are the some of things I was curious about and the author's responses:
  1. In the two books in this series, you have been obvious in using Toronto as the location. Many Canadian authors don't do this ... to attract more readers, they set their stories in the U.S. Why did you choose to make it so obvious that the story is happening in Toronto? Do you think this will deter Americans and non-Torontonians from reading the book?

    I think all great drama is local. Many critics say that Toronto is a character in the book. And I’m very proud of that. As for an American audience, I think if I write good books about real people in a real place, they’ll read them.
  2. We learned a lot about Canada's legal and court systems in this book. How close to being true are they? Or do you take liberties?

    I do take small liberties but the key ideas about how our courts work are true.

  3. We get to know the characters so well. Are they based on people you know?No. But, of course, they all have bits of folks I encounter. I’m glad you feel you know all my fictional friends so well.
  4. It seems that the book is set up so there can be a sequel ... will there be?
    Many. My goal is twenty books in twenty years. I hope you stick with me.
I enjoyed this book and look forward to more from this author!

If you want to meet Robert Rotenberg, he's going to be at Indigo in the Eaton Centre on May 6 at 1pm.


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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Book ~ "Hot Boss, Boardroom Mistress" (2010) Natalie Anderson

From NatalieAnderson.com ~ Pampered princess Amanda Winchester was like an itch that Jared James couldn't scratch. But the tables have now turned: Jared is successful, Amanda has nothing, and he is her new boss. It's payback time - and bedding the delectable Amanda will be his reward!

Amanda hates that bad boy Jared has the upper hand, even if succumbing to his sensual demands will be sweet torture! But when Jared realises he's taken her virginity everything changes. Not content with one night, Jared is determined to make Amanda his mistress ...

I'm not sure how I ended up with this on my Kobo but it was there. I don't buy Harlequin Romance-style books so I know I didn't buy it ... I'm assuming I downloaded it for free somewhere. I thought I'd give it a shot.

I found it to be a naive story. Amanda and Jared knew each other as teens ... she was rich and he was poor. Nine years and seven months later (yes, both had kept track), they run into each other on a plane. She's working for an advertising agency and all her money is going towards keeping her grandfather as healthy as possible. Coincidentally the meeting she is rushing to is to bid on his company's business (he's now rich). Of course, the agency wins the business on the condition the Amanda is the account manager. Lots of tension follows along with a happy ending.

Given that it was a romance, it was a light quick read. I enjoyed the writing style. I'd check out the author's books if she wrote non-Harlequin books.

What's up with the title, though? I'm glad I was reading it on my Kobo and not on the subway ... otherwise I'd have to hide the cover in embarrassment. Ha!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Breathe in - Write out ... with Yvette Raposo

I went to "Breathe in - Write out", guided meditation led by my friend, Yvette tonight.

Learn about that clear space in your mind which you’ll want to visit often by finding that place of peace in your heart.

No past experience necessary … no expectations … permission to allow yourself to be guided by me, simply share the energy and observe the stillness within … pay attention to what arises, the potential … your choice.

WHAT:
Guided Meditation
Relaxation through Breath
Writing for Clarity
Sealed by Stretching

Tonight we started journalling.

Yvette had us write down "Why do I ... ?" and then list what came to mind. Then we had to assign one word that either summarized or was a positive reaction to the list. My list was mainly about not going to the gym as often as I should and that I should eat better, etc. ... the word that came to mind was "self-care".

Then Yvette guided us into a meditation. We had to think of a memory where we experienced our word. She said if you couldn't think of one, you could picture what it would look like. I couldn't think of a memory ... what came to my mind, though, was running along the water, smiling and laughing. At one point, I passed a big platter of baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and pineapple. Ha! It was all very vivid.

Very inspirational session!

My new toy

The power cord for my laptop stopped working yesterday.

The battery had started fading last fall. Not a big deal considering I always have it plugged in, right?

Well, it became a big deal because I had a dead power cord and only 30 minutes of power in the battery.

Right away we tried the power cord for Gord's laptop (he also has a Dell) and the power cord for my work laptop (a Toshiba) but neither were compatible.

I looked online and power cords were priced from $20 (plus taxes/delivery) from a distributor to $90 (plus taxes/delivery) from Dell ... and it would be here within two weeks.

This morning, after giving some thought to it, I decided it was time to buy a new laptop. Besides the battery and the power cord, the modem was dying and the laptop was shutting down if it had been on for a while. I had gotten the Dell over three years ago and it had served me well.

I had today off so I went to Future Shop. Ricardo was very helpful. I told him my needs and he showed me three laptops. I bought the middle one. I had them format it and put a security program on it; plus I bought a three year warranty that covers everything.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book ~ "Big Girl" (2011) Danielle Steel

From Amazon ~ Victoria Dawson has always felt like an outcast. When her little sister Grace is born, father Jim tells Victoria she was the tester cake and they finally got it right with the beautiful Gracie. Victoria grows up in her sister's shadow and though she loves Gracie dearly, she's anxious to leave home. The pain doesn't stop there, though. Her father calls her first job at a prestigious private school in Manhattan pathetic and Victoria begins a battle with her weight and her belief that she is unlovable (even though men pursue her). The premise of the story is sound but it doesn't ring true: the parents are two-dimensional cruel monsters and Victoria seems to have everything: fantastic job, amazing apartment, perfect best friends. It's hard to believe that her parents would still wield such power. Steel barely grazes the surface of an important topic but it's not reality that has positioned her at the top of bestseller lists.

I haven't read a Danielle Steel novel in about 20 years. A friend read it recently and said it was okay so I thought I'd check it out. It seemed like an interesting story, different from Steel's usual formula.

This story had so many possibilities ... it's a topic that most women today deal with. But Steel didn't do a good job with it ... it was very superficial.

Victoria's parents were horrible. Her dad was an A-hole and her mother was a wimp. Her dad kept reminding her that men don't like fat girls. At her heaviest, Victoria had 25 pounds she wasn't happy with ... the way her parents went on and on and on, you'd think she was at least 1000 pounds overweight.

Her mother kept reminding her that men don't like smart women. The reason her mother and sister went to college was to find a husband. In this day and age, my reaction was "Really??!! Are you serious??!!" What reality is Steel living in?

Victoria was surprised that Grace and her boyfriend had gotten engaged without asking their father's permission first. Really??!! Are we back in the 1800s?

The writing is very repetitive ... we are constantly reminded over and over and over and over:
  • Boys don't like fat girls
  • Boys don't like smart girls
  • Victoria was named after Queen Victoria because she was so ugly
  • Victoria looked like her ugly fat great grandmother
  • Victoria was a tester cake and they got the batter right with Grace
It wasn't until Victoria was 30 and finally happy with a boyfriend that she could stand up to her dad's rude comments. Up until that point, she took it when her fatherly continually put her down about her weight, her "spinsterhood" and that she was just a lowly teacher. As she got older, Grace became a spoiled bitch to her and Victoria took it. I thought it was too bad that Victoria couldn't stand up to them on her own, even though she'd been seeing a therapist for years. She needed a man to validate her worth.

If you are a Danielle Steel fan, you'll probably enjoy it ... I didn't.

Hoppy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A day touring breweries ... Toronto Beer Lovers Meetup Group

Gord and I did a day trip today with the Toronto Beer Lovers Meetup Group.

Reethi did an excellent job organizing 35 of us ... this meetup included a bus and a tour of three craft breweries in Guelph and Oakville.

Our first stop was Wellington Brewery in Guelph (about an hour away).

They let us have as many samples of their beers as we wanted. My favourite was the S.P.A.

Bryan, the assistant brewmaster, gave us a tour.

The next stop was F & M Brewery in Guelph.

My favourite beer there was Stone Hammer pilsner.

George, one of the brewmasters, gave us a tour.

By then, it was 2:30ish ... time to eat. Darlene, our driver, took us to a strip mall. Gord and I had pizza at Pizza Depot ... I've never heard of this chain and it was good.

Then off we went to Trafalgar Brewing Co. in Oakville.

There we could help ourselves to tallboys of Paddy's Irish Red and Elora Grand Lager.

Dave, one of the brewmasters, gave us a tour.

It was a fun day! And it was great not having to worry about driving.

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Calendar Girls", Royal Alexander Theatre, Toronto

Tonight Gord and I saw Calendar Girls.

Meet Miss January, Miss February, Miss March, Miss April, Miss May and the seven other members of a very ordinary women’s club as they spark an uproar with a charity fundraiser. It’s a calendar! But one with a difference. These ladies will drop everything for a good cause!

I love the movie so was looking forward to seeing the play.

Here's Gord getting goofy with a poster before we went in.

And here I am just as we are entering the theatre.

I hate to say it but I didn't enjoy the play at all.  I found it really boring and bland ... and even considered leaving at the intermission (we had a drink in the lobby instead).

Between the poor sound and the bad fake accents, sometimes it was hard to here what they were saying. Our seats were pretty good ... middle of the theatre to the left.

The highlight was when they took the pictures for the calendar ... yes, they went topless and the way they did it was clever.

Here's the Toronto Star's review ... I have to agree with them.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Book ~ "The Girl Who Chased the Moon" (2011) Sarah Addison Allen

From Amazon ~ Emily Benedict has come to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew, she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor, Julia Winterson, bakes hope in the form of cakes, not only wishing to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but also dreaming of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

Emily is 17 and her mother has recently died.  She has to live in a small town with her only relative, her rich old grandfather who she'd never met or knew existed.  Emily's mother had left town in the midst of a scandal right after high school.

Julia had been an outcast in high school and bullied by Emily's mother.  Twenty years later, Emily and Julia are neighbours and is one of Emily's few friends.

Sawyer is still sniffing after Julia ... they had a one night stand in high school and neither has forgotten each other even though both have moved on and away over the last 20 years.
 
Without giving any spoilers, here are something of the things I had a hard time with:
  • Emily's wallpaper in her bedroom keeps changing
  • The Coffey men can't go out after dark and try to keep it a secret as to why
  • Emily's grandfather is a giant who keeps looking in the dryer
  • Sawyer has a special craving for sweets
The ending wrapped up too cleanly for me.  Plus this story was too "magical" for me. I guess it's not my kind of book.

I enjoyed the writing style and that's why kept me going.  I doubt I'll read any more of her books, though.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Breathe in - Write out ... with Yvette Raposo

My friend, Yvette, conducted the first of four sessions this evening which included deep breathing, meditation and stretching.

Learn about that clear space in your mind which you’ll want to visit often by finding that place of peace in your heart.

No past experience necessary … no expectations … permission to allow yourself to be guided by me, simply share the energy and observe the stillness within … pay attention to what arises, the potential … your choice.

WHAT:
Guided Meditation
Relaxation through Breath
Writing for Clarity
Sealed by Stretching

It was at the Centering Space at Broadview/Danforth.

Yvette wants to keep the sessions small and there were seven of us.

She started by explaining about meditation, the principles and benefits.

Then she led us through some deep breathing exercises.

Here she is in front of her meditation altar.

I've been wanting to get into meditation for a while. Because my mind goes all over the place, I knew I needed guided meditation to keep me focused.

Yvette led us through a guided ten minute meditation ... it seemed like it was only three minutes! Happily I was able to stay focused on Yvette's words and voice. I felt very relaxed and restful afterwards.

She finished up by having us do some stretches.

I'm looking forward to the next three weeks to explore it more.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Book ~ "Water for Elephants" (2006) Sara Gruen

From SaraGruen.com ~ As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie.

It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

I had started reading this book a couple years ago. I couldn't get into it and gave up after a couple chapters.

I recently picked it up again and enjoyed it. I guess I was in a different frame of mind than before. I found the story moved along at a quick pace and it kept my interest. I cared about the characters.

I found the history of the circus interesting. I'm so glad I wasn't around in those days and had to endure what they did.

My only problem with this book was the amount of abuse of animals, especially with Rosie the elephant. I know it was a key to the story but it was hard to read.

The movie version with Robert Pattison, Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz (I bet he'll be fabulous as August) is coming out in a couple weeks. I'm not sure whether I'll go see it because of the animal abuse.

Moist Banana Bread

I had some bananas that we hadn't eaten.

I let them sit around so I could make banana bread.

I don't bake very often. If I bake it, I'll eat it.

I found this recipe online.

3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar (can easily reduce to 3/4 cup)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

No need for a mixer for this banana bread recipe. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

It turned out very moist ... almost cake-like. Very yummy too!