Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Powers of observation

We bought our bed at IKEA almost ten years ago.

We had the option of adjusting the base that supports the mattress (there is no boxspring). When we put it together, we had an older dog and a younger dog so we put it at the lowest option so both dogs could jump up. The top of the mattress just peeked over the frame and was the height of my knees (so not very high).

We are now dogless ... and it's been on my mind for a while to raise the base so it's at a normal level. So I did that today. I pushed the mattress off, unscrewed the base and put it back on at the highest height (about five inches higher) and slid the mattress back.

Gord isn't the most observant person so I was curious to see how long it would take for him to notice. If you remember, it took him an hour to realize I'd replaced our old clunky TV with a 46 inch flat screen in June.

He was home about five minutes and noticed the small light on his nightstand was gone (it broke when I pushed the mattress off the bed). I said it had fallen and let him believe the Crumpet had knocked it over.

When he was getting ready for bed, I scampered so was settled in under the covers reading ... waiting to see if he'd realize there was a change with the bed. Needless to say, I expressed my surprise when he noticed right away.

He went on and on about how he'd make a great witness for the prosecution since he notices everything.

"Really?", I asked.

So I asked him what colour teeshirt I'd been wearing that night (I'd just put my nightgown on about ten minutes earlier).

"Um ... light green? With a purple tinge?"

Does teeshirt in the picture above look light green to you?

I rest my case.

Monday, 30 January 2012


I am not much of a shopper ... I have to be in the mood to shop.

If I need or want something, I’ll go get it. I’m not one to wander the malls just because I am bored and have nothing to do.

And I like getting things that are different than I can get in the stores.

Are you like me?

Or do you live in a community where there isn’t a lot of choice of stores?

Then you should check out CentrSource at http://www.centrsource.ca.

You type in what you are looking for (by brand, seller, keyword or category) and then narrow down the offers to where you want to find it (by city, postal code or neighbourhood).

An offer is a product or service a seller wants to share with you:
  • Incentive
  • Coupon
  • Promotion
  • Discount on an item or service
  • Event
  • Free trial

They make shopping easy by providing you only with targeted results on what you’re looking for that are local to you. When you shop for something you want, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for and in a location near you. You can choose to purchase right away, request a product sample, request more information or print a coupon to take in to the store.

Their goal is to provide you with greater choice, complete security and privacy as well as convenience and total satisfaction. They have created a spot that lets you shop and browse when you want and for products and services that you can trust that are relevant to you and your needs.

Plus you can earn SourcePoint$ while you shop. With SourcePoint$, you get rewarded in many ways – from registering as a consumer to responding to offers. Sellers may award you SourcePoint$ to print a coupon, request more information, request a product sample or for hundreds of other actions. You can use your SourcePoint$ to redeem in their SourcePoint$ Store.

Once you register, you can customize your homepage. For example, if you find a seller you really like, just click "Follow Seller" and you'll be informed of all of their offers, now and in the future. You won't ever miss out on an opportunity again.

CentrSource is the link between you and their sellers who will customize their offers just for you - when you want it and local to your neighbourhood.

Happy shopping!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The County General, Toronto, ON

Gord and I had supper tonight at The County General (Queen W/Shaw). It opened last year and it's the first time I've been there (Gord's had a couple beer there).

We got there about 6:30 and had to wait about a half hour for a seat ... so we were told to sit by the window (we sat on the window sill and had a glass of bubbly Riesling).

Two seats opened at the bar and they were ours.

As you can see, the place was jammed.

I ordered the 6oz County Burger and Gord ordered the Fried Chicken Thigh Sandwich.

Here's Gord's sandwich ... he said it was really good.

Here's my burger ... it was juicy and delicious!

The ketchup for the fries was made there ... it had a bite to it and you could really taste cinnamon.

Here's how your bill arrives.

The food is good and there's definitely a vibe. I'll be back!

The County General on Urbanspoon

One for the Money

Gord and I saw One for the Money this afternoon.

From Toronto.com ~ A proud, born-and-bred Jersey girl, Stephanie Plum's got plenty of attitude, even if she's been out of work for the last six months and just lost her car to a debt collector. Desperate for some fast cash, Stephanie turns to her last resort: convincing her sleazy cousin to give her a job at his bail bonding company ... as a recovery agent. True, she doesn't even own a pair of handcuffs and her weapon of choice is pepper spray, but that doesn't stop Stephanie from taking on Vinny's biggest bail-jumper: former vice cop and murder suspect Joe Morelli - yup, the same sexy, irresistible Joe Morelli who seduced and dumped her back in high school. (Katherine Heigl, Jason O'Mara, Daniel Sunjata, John Leguizamo, Sherri Shepherd, Debbie Reynolds)

To be honest, I wasn't expecting much from this movie. I enjoyed the book (and have read all in the series) so had to see the movie.

Fans of the series were quick to give their negative opinions when Katherine Heigl was cast as Stephanie Plum. I must admit I had my doubts about her in the role and she wasn't too bad. I had always pictured someone like Sandra Bullock in the role, though she is too old now.

The movie followed the book pretty closely. There were some women who were sitting to the right of us who were definitely fans. They giggled girlishly in some spots.

In the books, Joe Morelli and Ranger (especially Ranger) are hot ... smoking hot. The actors playing Joe and Ranger were definitely not smoking hot ... they were kind of bland. They should have cast these roles better/differently. Katherine Heigl was the biggest "star" in the movie.

I like Grandma Masur in the books ... she's quirky. I found Debbie Reynolds annoying in the part. She wasn't Grandma Masur.

I read an article in yesterday's Toronto Star where Katherine Heigl said she'd like to do others in the series. It should be interesting to see if she does given the poor reviews of this movie.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Book ~ "V is for Vengeance" (2011) - Sue Grafton

From Goodreads ~ A woman with a murky past who kills herself - or was it murder? A dying old man cared for by the son he pummeled mercilessly. A lovely woman whose life is about to splinter into a thousand fragments. A professional shoplifting ring racking up millions in stolen goods. A brutal and unscrupulous gangster. A wandering husband, rich and powerful. A spoiled kid awash in gambling debt thinking he can beat the system. A lonely widower mourning the death of his lover, desperate for answers that may be worse than the pain of his loss. An elegant but ruthless businessman whose dealings are definitely outside the law: the spider at the center of the web.

And Kinsey Millhone, whose thirty-eighth-birthday gift is a punch in the face that leaves her with two black eyes and a busted nose.

I read the last one in the series almost two years ago and enjoyed it. And I loved this one.

The viewpoints bounce around by chapter. When it is dealing with Kinsey, they are in the first person. When they aren't, they are third person.

I like that we have to wait a couple years for the books in the series. It's not like she is churing them out like other authors. The wait is worth it.

There are a lot of different plots which seem to be independent and made the book complex ... but there is a point and they all come together in the end and made sense.

I found this wasn't a book I could read quickly. It's over 400 pages and dense ... and that's not a criticism because it's a good book and worth your $$.

Kinsey hasn't became a wimp over the years. She's still tough and nosy and digs where she sometimes shouldn't. Because it's set in the mid-1980s, she has to depend on other things since there were no computers and the Internet. Who cross references in phone books anymore?!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Kung hei fat choi!

Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year.

Have you checked your horoscope for the year? You can find it here.

I was born in the year of the Tiger. ... here's mine for the year.

The tiger has a very dominant travel sign this year. Wealth and travel seem to be interrelated. Beware of accidents. You are very spiritual — almost psychic — and are drawn to work in international trade, travel, logistics, army or policing. Surgeons and butchers will do particularly well this year. Those in religious, spiritual or metaphysical endeavours will also prosper. Work that involves analysis or logic does not appeal to you. Remember the more mobile you are, the more money you make. You will generate more income in a sales or marketing job than you would at a desk job. Romances may be weak, so be happy with what you have. Expect a healthy year ahead, but be mindful of accidents that may lead to bleeding.

Highlights for people born in tiger years:

1998 - Your mind seems to have trouble settling down. You have a big imagination. Don’t let it interfere with your studies.

1986 - Your income comes with hard work. At least it pays off well for you.

1974 - Your work will be smooth because of help from your boss or someone elderly.

1962 - You will have a good circle of friends. You will favour partnership business. You will do better outside the office.

1950 - You can help a lot of people. Hence you would do well as a teacher or councillor. An education career is good for you.

1938 - You should refrain from all kinds of gambling or speculations. Pay more attention to your health and enjoy life.

So I've got to be out of the office often (which isn't hard considering my job) and stay away from sharp objects.

How is your year looking?

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Book ~ "Taken" (2012) - Robert Crais

From RobertCrais.com ~ When Nita Morales hires Elvis Cole to find her missing adult daughter, she isn’t afraid, even though she’s gotten a phone call asking for ransom. She knows it’s a fake, that her daughter is off with the guy Nita will only call “that boy,” and that they need money: “Even smart girls do stupid things when they think a boy loves them.”

But Nita is wrong. The girl and her boyfriend have been taken by bajadores – bandits who prey on other bandits, border professionals who prey not only on innocent victims, but on each other. They steal drugs, guns, and people – buying and selling victims like commodities, and killing the ones they can’t get a price for.

Elvis Cole and Joe Pike find the spot where they were taken. There are tire tracks, bullet casings, and bloodstains. They know things look as bad as possible. But they are wrong, too. It is about to get worse. Going undercover to find the two young people and buy them back, Cole himself is taken, and now it is up to Joe Pike to retrace Cole’s steps, burning through the hard and murderous world of human traffickers to find his friend.

But he may already be too late ...

Though I've been a fan of Elvis Cole for many years, I've found the last few books just okay. The last two have been focused on Joe Pike, Elvis' best friend, and Elvis just had small parts in them. While I like Pike, the books where he is the focus are more serious.

I thought this book was the best one he's written in a while. While it's not as whimsical as past books with Elvis, there were glimpses of Elvis' humour and charm.

The chapter grouping was interesting as they jumped around in time (but are clearly labeled) and are written in different voices. When they are using Elvis' voice, they are in the first person. Otherwise, they are in the third person.

The story and concept was interesting ... smuggling illegal ("undocumented") aliens into the States but having them stolen by bajadores who then collect a monthly ransom from their families. If the family don't/can't pay, they are "sent home".

It's great to have Elvis back!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Book ~ "If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't)" (2011) - Betty White

From Goodreads ~ Drawing from a lifetime of lessons learned, seven-time Emmy winner Betty White's wit and wisdom take center stage as she tackles topics like friendship, romantic love, aging, television, fans, love for animals, and the brave new world of celebrity. If You Ask Me mixes her thoughtful observations with humorous stories from a seven-decade career in Hollywood. Longtime fans and new fans alike will relish Betty's candid take on everything from her rumored crush on Robert Redford (true) to her beauty regimen (I have no idea what color my hair is and I never intend to find out") to the Facebook campaign that helped persuade her to host Saturday Night Live despite her having declined the hosting job three times already.

Featuring all-new material, with a focus on the past fifteen years of her life, If You Ask Me is funny, sweet, and to the point-just like Betty White.

This is a quick read ... I read it in a couple hours.

It's not a deep book but it's entertaining. Betty talks about getting old, having pets, her love for animals, red carpet parties, her late husband Allan Ludden, and more.

Considering she just turned 90 this week, she's still going strong. I hope I'm that lucky.

Book ~ "The Garner Files: A Memoir" (2011) - James Garner and Jon Winokur

From Goodreads ~ After suffering physical abuse at the hands of his stepmother, Garner left home at fourteen. He became Oklahoma’s first draftee of the Korean War and was awarded with two Purple Hearts before returning to the United States and settling in Los Angeles to become an actor. Working alongside some of the most renowned celebrities, including Julie Andrews, Marlon Brando, and Clint Eastwood, Garner became a star in his own right, despite struggles with stage fright and depression. In The Garner Files, this revered actor and quintessential self-made man recalls “trying to decipher” William Wyler with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine, breaking Doris Day’s ribs, having a “heart-to-heart and eyeball-to-eyeball” with Steve McQueen, being “a card-carrying liberal—and proud of it,” and much more.

I like reading bios and I find it interesting to read bios of celebrities.

I like James Garner ... he seems like a nice guy. He's got a fairly interesting story.

He's got a temper but he knows it, especially when he's golfing. He has opinions about a lot of things. At times, I thought he sounded crusty ... and then I got to the chapter where he said he is proud of being a curmudgeon. Yep, he is.

The chapters are broken up into subjects ... there's golfing, Rockford, racing, politics, etc. The last chapter is full of anecdotes of people who know him.

It's interesting to read his opinions of different people ... and he's not afraid to name names (for example, he thought Bill Murray was a jerk in a golf tournament).

Shhh ... she's sleeping

Morgan was snoozing on the couch just now and we realized we hadn't seen Crumpet for a while.

What trouble was she getting into?!

I glanced down and noticed her snoozing on their toy shelf (yes, they have a toy shelf!) on some pet blankets.

We've never seen her there before.

Shhhhh ... don't wake her up!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Almost snowbound

I had a meeting in Tillsonburg this morning.

I drove down yesterday and stayed about 25 minutes away because I didn't want to take a chance on the weather.

When I woke up this morning, I looked out the window and it was clear.

When I came back from breakfast about 9:15am and looked out the window, here's what I saw:

Oh oh!

And it never let up ... in fact, it got worse.

Driving south to Tillsonburg was scary. I was following Dave, my co-worker (he also spent the night), and at times I couldn't even see his car.

We had our meeting and then went to lunch. Visibility was non-existent and the roads were full of snow and slippery. There was no way I was driving back to Toronto so I headed to the local Howard Johnson's to stay there for the night while Dave hit the road for home. I was in the lobby asking about rates when Dave called me to say the roads weren't too bad.

So off I went.

Just south of Kitchener/Waterloo, there was a big truck on its side on the westbound lanes along with a couple vans that had run into the middle barriers.

It was a scary drive at times but I made it home. Yay!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Elm Hurst Inn & Spa, Ingersoll, ON

I have a meeting tomorrow morning in Tillsonburg. Rather than drive down tomorrow (it's about two hours west of Toronto), I came this afternoon. I didn't want to chance the weather ... as it was, I ran into some snow east of Woodstock.

I'm staying at the Elm Hurst Inn in Ingersoll (about a 20 minute drive from Tillsonburg) ... there are not a lot of places to stay in this area.

James Harris erected the James Harris Cheese Factory on the grounds of what is now Elm Hurst Inn & Spa in 1865. One year later, the factory was the birthplace of a 7,300 pound cheese, co-manufactured by local producers to put Ingersoll on the map. The famous 'Mammoth Cheese' travelled to exhibitions in Toronto, Sarasota New York, Paris France and London England.

The Harris family later planted commercial apple orchards on the property. In fact, their vaulted buffet room is the original apple shed.

The Elm Hurst mansion restaurant was built in 1872 as the personal residence of James Harris and family. A fine example of the Gothic Revival style, it remained a stately family home for more than a century.

The last Harris heir sold the property in the mid 1970s and the house was transformed into a popular dining establishment that opened in 1979. An addition was added to the rear of the original structure five years later, with the 49-room Elm Hurst Inn & Spa being built in 1988.

I heard they are adding another 51 rooms this year.

Here's my room ... it's large.

I had supper in the restaurant ... there isn't anything else within walking distance.

They are having a promotion this week to celebrate their anniversary and rolled the prices back to 1975. Needless to say, it was quite a busy spot. I was seated in a cozy room which was probably a parlour back in the old days. I ordered the Roast Prime Rib of Beef (Yorkshire pudding; natural beef jus) for $14 (usually it's $27 to $34).

Hot rolls arrived.

About a minute later (I hadn't even had a chance to butter a roll), my meal arrived on a "don't touch the plate, it's hot" plate ... surprisingly the food wasn't. It was just warm. It was just okay. The veggies (I ate the peppers and carrots) had the texture that they'd been frozen.

Christine, my server, was friendly and helpful. She suggested I try the Black Forest cake. I'm not a fan of Black Forest cake but it was good.

You know how much I love love love baths so I had to check out the jacuzzi. It was huge (way too big for one person) and deep. I watched Dragons' Den while soaking in green apple bubble bath.

I went to set the alarm at 9:09pm and saw that it was actually 11:20pm. Huh?! That gave me a bit of a shock (how did I lose two hours?!) until I confirmed that it wasn't that late. I wonder how long it's been two hours ahead without anyone noticing.

I'm having a comfortable stay here and, though it's fairly isolated, would come back. WIFI is free as is parking and a continental breakfast tomorrow. I booked it online at a rate of $139 which is a great deal! Ingersoll is just a couple km away.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Book ~ "The Internet is a Playground" (2011) - David Thorne

From Amazon ~ From the notorious Internet troublemaker who brought the world the explosively popular Next Time I'll Spend the Money on Drugs Instead, in which he attempted to pay his chiropractor with a picture he drew of a spider; "Please Design a Logo for Me. With Pie Charts. For Free," which has been described as one of the most passed-on viral emails of all time; and, most recently, the staggeringly popular "Missing Missy", which has appeared everywhere from The Guardian to Jezebel to Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish, comes this profoundly funny collection of irreverent Internet mischief and comedy.

Featuring all of Thorne's viral success, including "Missing Missy", The Internet Is a Playground culls together every article and email from Thorne's wildly popular website 27bslash6.com, as well as enough new material, available only in these pages, to keep you laughing-and, indeed, crying-until Thorne's next stroke-of-genius prank. Or hilarious hoax. Or well-publicized almost-stint in jail (really).

This was recommended to me back in September by a fella in Winnipeg and I just read it this week. I'd never heard of David Thorne but it sounded like a fun book ... at it was. At times, I actually laughed out loud.

It's a collection of rambling emails back and forth with the intent of Thorne to see how far he can push the other person. And in most cases, they keep writing back, obviously pissed off. I don't know if the emails are real or not but most are funny and silly.

My favourites include:
The response: That looks like a dog with a blanket on it. I'm not going to waste anyone's time sending an officer out to check that.

The non-email stuff was hit and miss. Bob's Guide to the Internet was funny, especially his view on blogging:

I read a blog once by someone who had bought a scarf and he went on for about three hundred paragraphs about his scarf and where he bought it and how it made him feel. The last time I bought a scarf I wore it. End of story. I didn't write a novel about it.

If you're looking for something different, you should check it out. As a head's up, the language and content at times is for mature readers.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Standard tip in Toronto restaurants now 20%?

There is an article in today's Toronto Star about tipping.

A 20% tip could be the new normal.

A small but growing number of Toronto restaurants are urging customers to tip more than the customary 15%.

Diners at new Roncesvalles Ave. restaurants The Westerly and The Ace are prompted to tip 20% on their bill when paying with credit and debit cards on handheld terminals.

“We feel we are providing great service. Waiters don’t get paid too much,” said Tom Earl, co-owner of The Westerly.

I thought this was an interesting comment by an owner. If you don't think you are paying your employees well enough, give them a raise, Dude. Why expect me to subsidize your payroll?!

You can read the rest of the article here.

To me, tipping isn't something someone should take for granted. Depending how the service and food are, I tip accordingly. Crappy service = crappy tip.

We discovered when we were in Bermuda a couple weeks ago that there are no taxes but a 17% tip is added onto your bill automatically at most restaurants. It's already built in so you have no choice. Luckily we had great service in the restaurants we checked out.

How do you feel about tipping?

January 20 update: There is a follow-up story in today's Toronto Star about tipping.

Beth Davyduke, co-owner of the Westerly, one of the restaurants whose hand-held terminals prompted a 20% tip, says she has changed the prompt to let the customer fill in a percentage. “We made a mistake. We don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable. It’s totally between the customer and the server.”

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Book ~ "The Wealthy Barber Returns" (2011) - David Chilton

From the Globe and Mail ~ A lot of David Chilton's new book, The Wealthy Barber Returns, is devoted to a basic message that could help a lot of people and fix some of the country's most pressing financial problems.

Mr. Chilton thinks people are spending too much money and he wants them to cool it so they incur less debt and have more money to save for retirement. It sounds like a simple solution to a complex problem, but Mr. Chilton has a way of making the simple approach work.

Mr. Chilton speaks in his own voice in the new book, not through the fictional cast of characters he used last time. He strikes just the right tone as a witty regular guy who happens to know a lot about money and is glad to share.

The book is built on a series of short, very readable chapters on topics that range from lines of credit and credit cards to a look at whether it's better to save in a registered retirement savings plan or tax-free savings account. The best material is on spending, though.

This is a follow-up to his 1989 book, The Wealthy Barber.

The chapters are short and snappy so it's a quick easy read. It's written in a very relaxed way ... sometimes funny, sometimes cheesy.

It's very high level. If you are looking for a lot of details, this isn't it. But it does give you things to think about ... if you want more info, you'll have to go looking for it. As someone who is in the industry, it's a good "starter" book.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Book ~ "Save Me" (2011) - Lisa Scottoline

From Amazon ~ Suburban mom, Rose McKenna, is forced to make a split-second decision after an explosion goes off in the school cafeteria in which she volunteers. Should she rescue her own daughter, Melly, trapped in the bathroom, or lead the girls standing in front of her, who constantly bully her daughter, to safety? Her choice reverberates throughout the little town of Reesburgh, PA, as she is cast as the villain by the local news anchor, parents, and the school. While her attorney and husband construct a defense plan that includes filing a lawsuit against the school, Rose sets out to seek the truth behind this mysterious, accidental fire. With the help of a construction worker who may know the cause of the explosion as well as an incognito visit to a local factory, Rose slowly unravels the truth and along with it some hidden secrets in Reesburgh's dark past, including one horrifying buried memory of her own. At the quick pace of a thriller, Scottoline masterfully fits every detail into a tight plot chock-full of real characters, real issues, and real thrills. A story anchored by the impenetrable power of a mother's love, it begs the question, just how far would you go to save your child?

This sounded like an interesting premise and it started out promising. After an explosion in the school's cafeteria, lunch mom Rose has a life threatening decision. Does she rescue the two girls who have been bullying her daughter who are right there or does she go find her daughter, Melly, and save her, leaving the two bullies? Rose is able to do both and becomes a hero. But things change very quickly and every resident in the small town turns against Rose and there are threats of legal action.

I found the writing really boring and draggy. This could have been such a better book. I wanted to give up on it a few times but kept going.

With Rose going through so much, you'd think Leo, her loving husband who is a lawyer, would have been there for her. But he has a case pending that has to take up every second of his time while all this is going on. Though he seems caring to Melly, I would want a more more supportive husband who is there with me while the rest of the town is hating and ostracizing me. And then he has the nerve to whine when she's making "family" decisions without him! Dude, you were too busy working instead of being there for your wife.

Leo hires Rose the best criminal and civil lawyers but she doesn't listen to them. She could lose everything and even end up in prison but she wants to play nice and not hurt anyone's feelings. Really?! Everyone in the town hates her!!! Instead she starts poking around to see if the explosion really was accidental ... she's the only one who thinks things might not be how they seem. Really??!! And guess what? She figures everything out.

The subplot with Kristen, the special ed teacher, was a waste of time.

The outcome was unbelievable ... I didn't buy it.

Needless to say, I'm not recommending this book.

Winter has finally arrived

It's snowing!

It's currently -5C (-13C with the windchill).

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Walter the fat Oregon cat

Our tabby, Morgan, is a big boy and I know could lose some weight.

I had started cutting back on his food last spring ... but then we got Crumpet and it was hard to keep Morgan restricted with a growing kitty in the house.

I heard this morning about Walter, a 28 pound cat in Oregon who has been placed in a shelter because his owners couldn't keep him anymore. This is definitely a big boy who needs to lose some pounds.

I hope they find a good home for him and he lives a skinnier healthier life.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Book ~ "Disturbance" (2011) - Jan Burke

From Amazon ~ Despite her reporter’s nose for trouble, Irene Kelly’s life has almost returned to normal—the Las Piernas News Express wobbles along in defiance of its financial woes, and with the help of her husband, Frank, and a good therapist, she’s recovered from the debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder that haunted her after her near-fatal encounter with notorious serial killer Nick Parrish. Until she receives some unwelcome news: Parrish, once thought permanently paralyzed by the injuries he sustained fleeing recapture, is walking again. And the rumor among the Moths, Parrish’s online fan club, is that he’s coming after Irene.

Suddenly Irene is on the other end of the microphone, being hounded by the media for interviews and plied with questions she’d hoped never to have to answer again. She tries to believe that she is safe from Parrish, who is imprisoned in a maximum security facility, and that the growing stream of threats from the Moths is all just talk. But an unnerving prank soon lets her know that someone, at least, wants her to be afraid. And when a young woman’s body turns up in the trunk of a car near her home—naked, frozen solid, and decorated from head to toe in elaborately painted moths—it becomes clear that Irene will once again find herself pitted against a brutal murderer. She knows the twisted hunter who is stalking her all too well . . . or does she?

I'd read a couple in the Irene Kelly series in the mid/late 1990s and enjoyed them ... then forgot about the series for some reason.

I read about this one in the newspaper last month and it reminded me about the series so I checked it out.

Though it has been a while since I've read the first couple and more have been added since then, I didn't feel lost. If you haven't read any of them, you can pick this one up and go with it. There are enough references so you know what's going on and who is who.

I liked the style of the writing. It's fast paced and gritty. The characters are likeable (at least those who are supposed to be likable) and believable. I bought the ending.

It has inspired me to start at the beginning and reread the books and keep going with the ones I've missed.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Housework is indeed evil

I've been on vacation since before Christmas.

On my list of things to accomplish while on vacation was some housework that hasn't been done in a while. Since I'm back to work tomorrow, the deadline was looming!

We live in a condo in a townhouse and the smoke detectors in the eight units in our block are connected. If we set ours off, the other seven go off until I hit a button on ours to turn it (and the others) off. Our oven wasn't too bad but needed cleaning because the smoke detectors are so sensitive. We rarely use our oven as we have a toaster oven ... but when we use it, our neighbours usually know it! I'd sprayed it yesterday and cleaned it along with the rest of the stove and exhaust hood this morning.

I gave the bathroom a good cleaning. And did six loads of laundry.

When I clean the oven, I clean the fridge. I took everything out and threw away all that was outdated. We had a bottle of soy sauce that expired in 2009! I never use soy sauce so never noticed. I did unwittingly use light mayo earlier this week that expired a couple months ago. I ended up throwing out about 15 bottles of stuff!

I moved on to the cupboards. I didn't throw out much (just a bag of outdated bread crumbs) but they are organized again.

Then I tackled the junk drawer. Again, not much was thrown out but it's organized ... for now.

How often do you do heavy duty cleaning?

Siegel-Schwall Band - I'm a Hog for you Baby

Enter the Haggis - Bagpipes on Mars

Enter the Haggis - Donald, Where's Yer Troosers?

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Book ~ "The Best of Me" (2011) - Nicholas Sparks

From Amazon ~ In the spring of 1984, high school students Amanda Collier and Dawson Cole fell deeply, irrevocably in love. Though they were from opposite sides of the tracks, their love for one another seemed to defy the realities of life in the small town of Oriental, North Carolina. But as the summer of their senior year came to a close, unforeseen events would tear the young couple apart, setting them on radically divergent paths.

Now, twenty-five years later, Amanda and Dawson are summoned back to Oriental for the funeral of Tuck Hostetler, the mentor who once gave shelter to their high school romance. Neither has lived the life they imagined ... and neither can forget the passionate first love that forever changed their lives. As Amanda and Dawson carry out the instructions Tuck left behind for them, they realize that everything they thought they knew -- about Tuck, about themselves, and about the dreams they held dear -- was not as it seemed. Forced to confront painful memories, the two former lovers will discover undeniable truths about the choices they have made. And in the course of a single, searing weekend, they will ask of the living, and the dead: Can love truly rewrite the past?

I'm not a fan of Nicholas Sparks' books ... I find his stories too sappy. Since this was his latest, I thought I'd check it out since it's been a long time since I've read any of his stuff.

This book is really sappy. But I kept with it and finished. It was an okay story, just not my kind of book.

Amanda and Dawson were high school sweethearts and haven't seen each other in almost 25 years. Amanda has married and kids. Dawson is still a loner. Yet when they are thrown together because the death of their friend, Tuck, they still have the same feelings. I found this unbelievable. I can't imagine pining for someone all that time.

Dawson thinks he's been followed for the last few years. We discover if he has or not been (I thought this and the resolution was dumb).

Dawson's family has a bad reputation. His cousins, Abee and Ted, are especially violent and feared. Why didn't the town ban together and get rid of them permanently?!

I found the ending really cheesy.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Introducing ... the (Sub)urban Tourist

It was a nice surprise today to discover that the (Sub)urban Tourist is highlighting me (yes, it's all about me!).

So I thought I'd return the favour and introduce you to ...

(Sub)urban Tourist is a personal blog about travel, enjoying the outdoor lifestyle and exploring good food and dining experiences. Focused on Ontario and Canada in general, (Sub)urban Tourist is also about foreign travel, trends, and social media apps that make exploring so much easier. This blog strives to share knowledge and insights with our readers.

Editor-in-chief is Margaret ...

A Mississauga native, Margaret is a public relations professional by day, occasional blogger by night, and explorer (with fiancé Frank) on the weekend. A desk job during the week means that she itches to get out into the open, whether it's for a hike, a road trip or just experiencing something different. Her interests include travel, dining, the outdoor lifestyle and social media.

I've been following the (Sub)urban Tourist for a couple months and suggest you check 'em out ... right now ... go on ... get over there!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Book ~ "Dying for Dinner" (2008) - Miranda Bliss

From fictiondb.com ~ Things are really cooking for Annie with her transition to the restaurant biz full time. But what's meant to be the first day of the rest of her life might be the last day of someone else's.

Annie is finally leaving the safety of her old bank job to work at her boyfriend Jim's restaurant, Bellywasher's. Lucky for Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, she's working as the manager and staying safely away from the flames. And lucky for Annie, she's working with her best friend, Eve, the hostess.

Things start taking a turn for the worse when Jim's old friend, legendary cook Jacques Lavoie, doesn't show up to teach their cooking class. When Annie goes to fetch him, she finds his assistant dead and Lavoie nowhere to be found. With his odd disappearance and evidence mounting up against him, it looks like the cook has really landed in the soup. Now Annie must sift through every morsel of evidence--before someone else gets served their last course.

This is the fourth in the Cooking Class Series ... I finished the first one on Sunday. You don't need to have read the others to know what's going on ... things from the other books are mentioned but not in great deal so as to not give too much away.

As in the first book, I still don't understand why she and her friend, Eve, are encouraged to investigate murder. Annie is a teller turned office manager of a restaurant and Eve worked in a department store and is now the hostess of the restaurant. They have no experience or background ... they are just told over and over (and over!) that they are good at investigating.

Other than that, I don't mind this series. The books are light and I enjoyed the writing style.

Some characters from the first book are expanded (like Annie's ex-husband, Peter, and Chef Lavoie ... I don't know how big their roles were in the last two books since I haven't read them).

I found the storyline believeable and I bought the ending.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Grotto Bay Beach Resort, Bermuda

Gord and I stayed at the Grotto Bay Beach Resort from Saturday, December 31, to Wednesday, January 4.

We were supposed to leave on Tuesday, January 3, but all flights to and from Bermuda got cancelled that day due to gale winds.

The person at the front desk offered us our room back for a rate of $139US plus taxes/services ... so about $180US for the night. We were originally on an all-inclusive package which included all drinks, food and a bus pass. It would costs us $99US each and we decided not to take that option since we hadn't taken advantage of it when we had it.


Because it is off season, the poolside bar/restaurant were closed. There was only one restaurant open and that was in the main house. When we arrived, we had lunch since our room wouldn't be available to us until 4pm (we had a four hour wait). Gord had the buffet (not a lot of choice but he said it was okay). I ordered off the menu .. there is a good selection of things to choose from (American-based like sandwiches, burgers, wings, etc). The service was very slow as there were only two servers (they seem to have a skeleton staff since it's off-season) so have patience. Though we had the all-inclusive option, we only ate there for four breakfasts, two lunches and two suppers. The food was good but the slow service drove us nuts so we went elsewhere.

If you are not on the all-inclusive plan, expect to pay a couple dollars more than what you are used to at home. Tips (17%) are included on your bill automatically if you aren't on the all-inclusive plan (for most restaurants in Bermuda, tips are automatically included in your bill).

Food and drinks can add up ... you'll pay a couple $$ more than you're used to at home. It's a pain that for every meal/order you have to sign for it. It's not like in resorts in Mexico where you have a wrist band and can wander around getting food and drinks and then wander off.

If you are not on the all-inclusive plan, the Swizzle Inn (which is fun) a couple blocks away is the only place within walking distance to eat. Otherwise, you have to either take a cab or rent a scooter to eat.


There is only one bar at the hotel and it is very small. The service is extremely poor. Most times we had a 15 minute wait even if the bartender was there, we were first in line and there was only six people sitting at the bar. He was either talking to his buddy, talking on the phone or blatantly ignoring us. If he's busy, he should at least acknowledge us and let us know he was in the middle of something but they don't. It was maddening considering the ability to have drinks was included in the cost of our stay. Once you do get a drink, though, it's a generous pour and the liquor is high quality. Beer selection are a handful of American brands.


Nightlife is non-existent. As I said, there is only one bar and it is very quiet and slow. We were there for New Years Eve (we had dinner at the gala) and it was dead until 11:45ish. People showed up just before midnight, had their bubbly and then headed back to their rooms.


Our room was a good size. We had a king bed, a balcony and a mini fridge. Our building was in the middle of the resort, halfway between the beach/pool and main house (walking to the main house was a steep uphill climb so beware if you have health problems).


There is no WIFI in the rooms. You can use it in the main house but you have to pay for it. It is $10/hour to $70/week per device. Rather than buying it there, we would walk a couple blocks to the Swizzle Inn pub as they have free WIFI and we'd have a couple drinks while we got caught up with the world.


The property is nice. It's not large so it's easy to get around. The pool and beach are fairly small. Alas, the weather wasn't great so we didn't get to enjoy them. The highlight are the grottos (caves) ... definitely worth going in and looking. You can even swim in there if you want. The water was very clear but chilly. There are tons of roosters and chickens all over the property and Bermuda running free. The roosters crow all day. We thought it was cute.


The resort is less than ten minutes from the airport (you can see it from the resort) so you don't have to spend a lot of time on a bus getting there. And as everyone else has said, you can't hear the planes. The resort is a short bus ride ($5US return) from St. George's, a small historic town. There's not a lot there but it's worth spending a couple hours and checking it out.

Hamilton is about a 30 minute bus ride in the other direction. If you want to take the longer more scenic route, take bus #1 or #3. We went there on Monday, which was a bank holiday, so nothing was open which sucked. We walked around a bit and then took the ferry to the Dockyards. That's definitely a spot the check out. The buildings date back hundreds of years and there's so much history. The old and new prisons are there. There is shopping, a navy museum and a couple of pubs (one has a brewery and makes its own beer). We had a great time.

You can pick up the Bermuda Railway Trail nearby. It's 18 miles that has been turned into a hiking/walking trail. We spent a couple hours on it and ended up in Coney Island Park, which you can see from the resort. It was about a five mile walk there and back. Another must to do!

The Swizzle Inn pub is a couple blocks away. We spent a fair bit of time there because (1) free WIFI, (2) good food and (3) fun atmosphere. Even if you are on the all inclusive plan, you should check it out.

There is a convenient store in the hotel that you can buy snacks, etc. There is a bulk store across the street from the hotel but isn't really helpful unless you want something similar to a Costco. There is a gas station a couple blocks away where you can apparently buy booze, etc.

All-inclusive versus non all-inclusive

If you plan on staying on the resort and never leaving it, I recommend you take the all-inclusive option. Just remember to be patient because service is slow and you will be eating and drinking in the same place for every meal in the off-season.

If you plan on venturing out and exploring Bermuda, I wouldn't recommend the all-inclusive plan. We had it and definitely didn't get our money's worth. We ate and/or drank elsewhere every day for a meal.

Though we had a good time, we won't be going back to the Grotto if/when we go back to Bermuda. It was too quiet and isolated for us. And as I said, the service was friendly but slow in the restaurant and practically non-existent in the small bar. Considering the cost being there, they need to work on their customer service in that area.

We're home!

After the crazy weather yesterday and last night, we had our doubts whether our plane would be leaving today or not.

We could hear the wind howling during the night.

This is how it looked from our balcony when we woke up about 8am ...

It was still really windy but at least the sun was shining. The water was really choppy.

We walked up to the main building for breakfast and discovered that our noon plane was still on schedule. Yay!

We went back for our suitcases to catch our ride to the airport. We just got to the main building when it started raining ... and then Bermuda said good-bye to us with a beautiful rainbow.

Our flight was on time and we were home in our condo by 3pm.

We had a fun vacation but it's nice to be home again.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

St. George's, Bermuda

Since Gord and I were unexpectedly spending an extra day in Bermuda, we took the bus to St. George's (about 20 minutes away).

St. George's (formally the Town of St. George or St. George's Town), located on the island and within the parish of the same names, was the first permanent settlement on the islands of Bermuda, and is often described as the third successful English settlement in the Americas, after St. John's, Newfoundland, and Jamestown, Virginia. However, St. George's is claimed to be the oldest continuously inhabited English town in the New World. Although Jamestown is normally described as having been founded in 1607, this was actually James Fort, which was not converted to Jamestown until 1619, seven years after the founding of St. George's. After the capital of Virginia was transferred from Jamestown to Williamsburg in 1699, Jamestown fell into disuse. Only below-ground achaeological remains of the town exist today. As the claim of St. John's to official establishment in the 16th Century, and to permanent settlement since that date are difficult to verify, St. George's is not simply the oldest successful English settlement in the New World, but was also the first such town established.

It was windy and kind of raining when we got there.

You can tell that it is an old settlement ... the buildings were awesome!

The weather got progressively worse as we were walking around (raining and windy) but we kept moving.

Look at those waves!

Gord got too close to the edge and got soaked by a wave.

When we caught the bus to go back to our hotel, it was still drizzling and the sun (what little there was) was setting.

It was a fun place to explore and I'm glad we got to see it.