Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book ~ "Calamity Jayne" (2006) Kathleen Bacus

From Amazon ~ Everything Tressa Jayne Turner does quickly morphs into disaster. Having been fired from almost every job in Knoxville, Iowa, she is finally holding down two dead-end positions, but she still manages to get into trouble when she accidentally takes someone else's car from a dark store parking lot and discovers that the trunk holds a stash of money and the corpse of a sleazy local attorney. By the time the law shows up, body and cash are gone. With Tressa's reputation, no one believes her story, not even her love-hate interest, a ranger named Rick. But Rick's crafty grandfather knows something's up, and he eagerly signs on as Tressa's sleuthing buddy. Eventually, Tressa's tale gains credibility as the killer decides to come after her, too. Dumb blond jokes aimed at Tressa are peppered throughout the book, but in the end, the "dumb blond" gets the last laugh. Fans of Janet Evanovich will be glad to see that you don't always have to go to the burgh for mirthful murder and mayhem.

I like mysteries with entertaining comical writing so I had high hopes for this book.

The above description implies that it will appeal to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum fans. I like that series ... this is a Stephanie Plum wannabe.

I really wanted to like this book. The author tried hard to be funny and sarcastic ... but I found at times that she tried too hard. She did a lot (a lot!!) of comparing. Here are some examples so you know what I mean ...
  • It would be all over town quicker than the flu after Christmas vacation.
  • The police were moving slower than the line at the drive-up bank on a sweltering Friday afternoon at quitting time
  • The police had rejected my theory faster than Darva Conger rejected her who-wants-to-marry-a-millionaire.
These are some examples just over a couple pages. It happened all the time and I found this writing style annoying.

I liked Tressa but thought she got away with a lot in her desire to solve this mystery. The interactions between her and "Ranger Rick", her potential love interest, were really juvenile (they are in their 20s). I liked Gramma and Grandpa Joe, though.

Despite all this, I kept reading.

Then I got to the ending, which I didn't buy ... I kinda went "huh ... are you serious?" So after all that, I was let down by the ending.

I won't be rushing out to read any more in this series.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Jack Astor's Bar & Grill, Toronto ON (Front Street)

I met my pal, Franca, for supper tonight at Jack Astor's (Front/University).

Franca and I have been friends since the mid-1990s ... we met when we worked for the same company (she's still there).

She was waiting for me at a table on the patio when I got there. Sweet! The patio was a popular spot as there was a Blue Jays' game around the corner this evening.

I ordered a gin/Sprite and Franca ordered a fun drink with raspberries ...

Franca ordered The Opa! pizza (New York style pizza sauce with olive oil and fresh basil, Feta and cheese, roasted red peppers, Kalamata olives, semi-sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red onions).

I ordered my usual Chicken Parmigiana (Fresh chicken breast, lightly breaded and topped with smoked Mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. Served with bowtie pasta, tossed in a creamy cheese sauce).

It was good ... the pasta spicier than usual!

Andrew, our server, took good care of us.

We were there for about 3.5 hours yakkin' and catchin' up ... we hadn't seen each other since the end of March.

And here we are as we were leaving ... aren't we cute :)

Update: See the woman on the left behind Franca? She and two friends were being interviewed while we were there but we didn't know why. It turns out it was for The National about dating and SmartPhones. You can see Franca and I in the background at the 5:25 mark.

Jack Astor's Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Strolling along Bloor Street W

Gord and I went for a long walk today.

We started in Bloor West Village and headed west. He'd never really been in that area before ... I lived near there from 1996 to 2001. We took transit and got off at Runnymede subway.

When I lived in the area, this was the Runnymede Theatre and I've seen many movies there.

It closed in the late 1990s and there was quite the uproar when Chapters moved in. Happily they kept a lot of the interior intact. Gord had never been in it so we spent some time inside looking around.

We headed west and had a beer on the patio of the Dark Horse.

Here's Gord.

The patio is great for people watching on a Saturday afternoon. The service wasn't great, though. We ended up going inside for our own beer since we hadn't seen a server. When the server eventually did come out, she was abrupt and not very friendly.

The Dark Horse on Urbanspoon

We headed a couple blocks west and sat on the patio of Bryden's.

Time for supper! The couple next to us had a chicken parm sandwich and a hamburger that looked really good so that's what we ordered ... they were delicious!

The server was a lot friendlier and took good care of us. Gord especially liked it there because he likes unusual beer and they have a good selection.

Bryden's on Urbanspoon

Then we left Bloor West Village and headed west along Bloor Street W.

We came across The Old Sod. It looked interesting so we stopped for a drink.

Aside from a fella sitting at the bar drinking coolers and talking to the bartender about kids' movies, we were the only ones there. Kind of strange considering it was a Saturday evening. Needless to say, we didn't order a second drink.

Old Sod Pub on Urbanspoon

We continued our trek west and came across the Henry VIII Ale House. It was hopping so we went in and sat the bar (and we lucky to get those stools!).

My pal, Yvette, had been driving by on her way home and saw us go in so stopped and came in for a chat (so nice of her!). Here are Gord and Yvette.

Here are me and Gord.

There was a really good vibe at this pub. And judging by the fact that it was packed with people waiting for tables, we weren't the only ones who thought so.

There was a woman eating wings at the end of the bar ... they looked good!

Henry VIII on Urbanspoon

We headed west to Islington subway station to go home ... and stopped for one last drink at Orwell's Pub.

After the atmosphere of the Henry VIII, this was totally opposite. It is a brightly lit room with zero coziness. The server was friendly and the bartender was unengaged (she spent most of her time checking her cell phone for messages and yakkin' on the phone). There were quite a few people there ... it looks like a comfortable spot for locals.

Orwell's on Urbanspoon

We ended up walking just over 4km, discovering some new spots we'll probably go back to ... and some we won't.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Dog crawls home on broken legs 3 weeks after tornado

Here's a heartwarming story in today's Toronto Star with a happy ending:

A furry, friendly canine from Birmingham, Ala., is leaving veterinarians incredulous after the family pet found his way home with two broken legs three weeks after being blown away by a tornado.

Mason, a one-year-old terrier mix, was hiding in his family’s garage in the Birmingham suburb of North Smithfield on April 27, when he was sucked out by the massive tornado that destroyed whole neighbourhoods and killed more than 40 people.

Despite days of desperate searching by his owners, who asked not to be named and are not granting media interviews, Mason was nowhere to be found. With most of the garage destroyed, family members resigned themselves to the likelihood that their four-legged pal did not survive the ordeal.

Then, three weeks later, the family arrived home one day to find their beloved pooch, mouth agape and stumpy tail wagging like crazy, sitting on the front porch.

...

“He was emaciated and his two front legs were literally flopping below the elbows,” said Phil Doster, adoption and rescue coordinator at Animal Control. “Mason literally had to crawl on his elbows to get back. The little guy had no indication of pain, remarkably. He was just happy to be home.”

...

“He’s got two metal plates and several pins in his legs, but he’s doing great. He’s eating and drinking well. He’s got a lot of heart and a great personality.”

You can read the rest of the story here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book ~ "The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook" (2010) Matt Dunn

From mattdunn.co.uk ~ What would you do if you were suddenly dumped by someone you love? And just how far would you go to win them back?

When Edward’s girlfriend of ten years tells him “it’s not me – it’s you”, he knows he’s in serious trouble. “You’ve let yourself go,” she says, “so I’m letting you go too.”

Determined to get her back, Edward realises that to be her Mr. Right, he’s got to turn himself into a bit of all right. But what makes for a good boyfriend nowadays? And how can he learn to make women fancy him again? Right now, he’s the kind of man who puts the ‘ex’ into ‘sexy’.

With the help of best mate (and Z-list TV personality) Dan, Edward embarks on his personal improvement odyssey. From Atkins and Botox, he works his way through the makeover alphabet, until Dan convinces him there’s only one way to check whether it’s working – go on an actual date.

Will he manage the transformation from cuddly Teddy into sexy Eddie? Can he win his girlfriend back? Or does his journey of self-discovery take him in a different direction entirely?

I enjoy reading the occasional chick lit and it's always fun to read guy lit.

This book is set in Brighton, England. Edward arrives home to discover that Jane, his girlfriend of ten years, has moved all her stuff out and is spending the next three months in Tibet. In an attempt to win her back, we following him as he hires a trainer so he can lose the love handles he's gotten over the years, he trades his Volvo in for a Mini, gets a new wardrobe and haircut, and does speed dating so he can find out his appeal to women.

Along the way, we meet Wendy, the barmaid, and Natasha, Edward's boss. Helping him (but how much help is he really?!) is his egotistical friend, Dan, who is a love 'em and leave 'em kind of guy.

This is the first book I've read by Matt Dunn ... and I enjoyed it. The writing style is quick, funny and in first person (Edward). I look forward to checking out others by him.

Here's a sample of the writing that I found funny ... this is the day after his first session with his trainer, Sam, eight days after Jane left:
When I wake up this morning, for the first time since Jane left, I can't feel the pain in my heart. That's because I hurt everywhere else. Everywhere. It takes me five minutes to get out of bed, my stomach muscles screaming at me when I try to sit up, and then my leg muscles joining in as soon as I try to stand. When I eventually manage to shuffle into the bathroom to use the toilet, even my peeing muscles hurt.

Kittens tossed like garbage into park trash can

Here is a disturbing story in today's Toronto Star.

What kind of a person could do this?!?!

Happily the kitties are recovering and will soon be up for adoption.

It takes exceptional cruelty to tape two tiny, sick kittens into a cardboard box and dump them in a trash can, as though they’re garbage.

The kittens, a brother and sister, are recovering in the home of real estate agent Sandee Avery after a kindly city parks worker rescued them last Sunday at Morningside Park.

The little pink pads on their paws were scalded — possibly from being confined in a space where they sat in their own waste — and the fur around them tinged a ghastly yellow.

But after they were treated at the Guildwood Cat Hospital on Kingston Rd., the 12-week-old kittens are coming along nicely and already showing signs of playfulness.

The male kitten’s rear paws were so badly burned that they had to be heavily bandaged before he was sent home from the cat hospital with Avery.

You can read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I scream for ice cream!

When I moved into my condo nine years ago, the previous owners had left a list of important things I should know about living here.

One of the things listed was that an ice cream truck parked outside my unit at 6:30 every night ... yes, that was important!

On the first evening I was here, I was enjoying a celebratory beer on the terrace when I heard that demonic tune that signaled the ice cream truck was coming.

Needless to say, that night I discovered that ice cream and beer are not a good combination .... but it had to be done, right?

Alas, the ice cream truck stropped coming around about seven years ago.

This evening I heard the familiar tune and looked out the window ... and there was an ice cream truck parked across the street.

You know I had to go get an ice cream!

And it was gooooooood!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Victoria Day weekend traditions

Sister Sarah and I have a tradition that she and I go away and have a sisters' long weekend over the Victoria Day long weekend.

This year we made the weekend longer and went to Whistler and Vancouver.

Gord also has a Victoria Day weekend tradition that I like ... he gets me a tomato plant while I'm gone.

Here is this year's.

He doesn't even like tomatoes but knows how much I do ... what a sweetie!

Thanks, Gord!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mucho Burrito, Vancouver, BC

Sister Sarah and I had supper at Mucho Burrito on Davie Street this evening.

The fella making our burritos was great. He was very helpful and friendly. Here's Sister Sarah ordering her veggie burrito.

I got a pork burrito with rice, beans, pork, cheese, medium salsa, green pepper and burrito sauce.

I love burritos and am particular about them. This was delicious! Sister Sarah enjoyed her burrito too.

Part of my combo was dessert. I chose cinnamon roll. It was made in-house and was okay.

Sister Sarah got cookies for her dessert and said they were good.

I looked online and see there are locations in downtown Toronto ... yay!

Mucho Burrito (Davie) on Urbanspoon

Wandering around Vancouver on our last day

After lunch, we took a walk to Gastown and poked in the shops.

We got to the steam clock just in time to have it whistle the 2 o'clock hour.

Then we headed west along the waterfront.

Here's Sister Sarah.

And here's me.

Here's the Olympic flame.

Here are Sister Sarah and I.

We kept walking along the waterfront and came upon this art exhibit.

We arrived at Stanley Park.

Sister Sarah played in a funny tree.

Guess which city we are in!

The Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park.

There were four raccoons in the park. They weren't really shy and came near.

The geese and their babies were cute.

We walked through the park to Second Beach and English Bay and sat by the water for a long time before following the shore towards our hotel.

What a great way to spend out last day! We did a lot of walking and saw so much.