Friday, 30 November 2012

How I know Santa is coming ...

This afternoon I noticed the house on Brock Street (just south of Dundas) is decorated.

Here is it in 2010 at night.

How I know winter is coming ...

The landscapers put the salt boxes out around the property (we live in a condo corporation) today ...

GlossyBox - November

My GlossyBox arrived today.  Whoohoo!
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So festive!

Book ~ "Dead on Ice" (2012) Lauren Carr

From Goodreads ~ Dead on Ice is the first installment of Lauren Carr’s new series (Lovers in Crime) featuring Hancock County Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Thornton and Pennsylvania State Police homicide detective Cameron Gates.

Spunky Cameron Gates is tasked with solving the murder of Cherry Pickens, a legendary star of pornographic films, whose body turns up in an abandoned freezer. The case has a personal connection to her lover, Joshua Thornton, because the freezer was located in his cousin’s basement. It doesn’t take long for their investigation to reveal that the risqué star’s roots were buried in their rural Ohio Valley community, something that Cherry had kept off her show business bio. She should have kept her hometown off her road map, too—because when this starlet came running home from the mob, it proved to be a fatal homecoming.

This is the first book I've read by Lauren Carr and I really enjoyed it.  It is the first in the Cameron Gates/Joshua Thornton (Lovers in Crime) series and the third one to feature Joshua ... I'd like to go back and read the first two with Joshua.

Cameron is a cop and Joshua is a prosecuting attorney.  Joshua is a widower with five children (just teenager Donny is living at home) and a dog named Admiral and Cameron is a widow with a big cat that looks like a skunk named Irving.

This book begins with the discovery of the body a famous porn star named Cherry Pickens in the freezer in the basement of a recently deceased lawyer whose house blows up while it was being cleaned up for an estate sale.  Cherry  disappeared from Hollywood in the summer of 1985 and was really a local girl named Cheryl Smith.

What a start, eh?!

Cameron and Joshua start investigating the murder and it leads them back to the unsolved murder of a sweet girl named Angie Sullivan in 1977.  No one is really sad to discover that Cheryl is dead because everyone assumed she killed Angie ... but did she?  And if she didn't, who did?

There are lots of characters ... don't let that scare you because there is a summary of who everyone is at the beginning of the book if you need it (I didn't).

I enjoyed the writing style and the characters.  It was interesting and fast paced.  Just when I thought I had it figured out, a twist would come along and I'd be wrong ... or was I?

One thing I did find annoying was Irving, Cameron's cat. I love kitties but I found it hard to believe that she would take this cat almost everywhere she went.  What cop would take a cat to their office or a  crime scene?  Plus he's very domineering and isn't a fan of Joshua's and lets him know it.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Moe's Deli & Bar (Trudeau Airport), Dorval, QC

I had a meeting this morning in Montreal with a prospective client (which we won!) and headed to the airport afterwards.

I had lunch at Moe's Deli & Bar (it's after you've gone through Security).

It was fairly busy ...

 I sat by the window and watched the planes take off and a snowplow.

 I ordered Moe's Club Sandwich with smoked meat.  It was yummy!

I'd ordered it with no lettuce or cole slaw ... but it came with them so I pulled them off and put them on the corner of my table.  My server left it there for a long long time, even after he took my plate away ... he finally took them away just before I left.

The food was good ... the service not so much.  It was efficient but I felt like I was being rushed out.

Moe's Deli & Bar (Trudeau Airport) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Bâton Rouge Steakhouse & Bar, Montreal, QC

I am in Montreal ... I flew in this morning and fly home tomorrow.

It was snowing a bit and I didn't feel like going too far for supper so I went to Bâton Rouge which is close to my hotel.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

No thanks, Santa!

Book ~ "Dangerous Deception" (2012) Cindy McDonald

From Goodreads ~ Old age ain't for sissies!

Vic Deveaux’s glory days as a winning jockey have ended, but he refuses to accept that pile of horse hockey! 

When the West family asks Vic to take an easier position at their Thoroughbred farm, Westwood, he becomes enraged and teams up with two greedy stable hands in a scheme to kidnap the youngest son, Shane. 

Things turn ugly when Vic discovers that his new-found friends have murder on their minds. Suddenly Vic finds himself between a rock and a hard place. He has betrayed his good friend, Eric West, but will he participate in his son’s murder as well? 

Not content to sit at home and wait for her men to bring her brother home, Kate West convinces homicide detective, Carl Lugowski, to check out a hunch at an old abandoned mansion. Soon they’re trapped in a hornet’s nest of a notorious biker gang. 

Oh yeah, Vic’s deception has placed the West family in more danger than they know what to do with!

This story happens over two days.  Shane has a problem with Martin, one of his father's ranch hands ... he's abusive to the animals, is lazy and drinks on the job.  When Shane calls him on it, things get violent and Martin is fired.  But now Martin is mad.  He talks two of the older ranch hands into helping him kidnap Shane for a $500,000 ransom.  But little do they know that Martin doesn't plan on letting Shane go and plans on killing him.  One of the ranch hands pulled into the scheme is Vic, the ranch owner's longtime friend, who thought he was getting demoted because he's old.  The abandoned mansion where Shane is held is also the gathering place for a biker gang who show up to party.  The elderly daughter of the long dead owner of the mansion secretly still lives in the mansion because she has no where else to go.

It sounded like an intriguing story but for some reason it just missed the mark for me.

I could feel the love in the West family ... they did care and would do anything for each other, even putting themselves in danger.

I found there were so many people in the beginning and I had a hard time keeping everyone straight.  Once the story got going, though, I became less confused.

I wish Vic had had a bit more trust and respect for Eric.  Considering how long they'd been friends, I wish Vic had given Eric more of a chance rather than jumping to conclusions.  I did appreciate, though, that Vic realized his mistake and tried to make it right.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Book ~ "On Toby's Terms" (2011) Charmaine Hammond

From Goodreads ~ On Toby's Terms is an endearing story of a beguiling creature who teaches his owners that in spite of their trying to teach him how to be the dog they wanted, it was Toby who laid out the terms of being the dog he needed to be. 

When Charmaine and her husband adopted Toby, a five-and-a-half-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever, they figured he might need some adjusting time but they certainly didn't count on what he'd do in the meantime. Turns out that Toby was a holy terror, beset by severe anxiety and destructive behavior that would take a miracle to curb: he routinely opened and emptied the hall closet, turned on water taps, knocked over the water cooler, pulled and ate things from the bookshelves, and spent his days rampaging through the house, knocking down everything in his path. Oddest of all was his penchant for locking himself in the bathroom, and then push the lid of the toilet tank onto the floor, smashing it to pieces. After a particularly disastrous encounter with the knife-block in the kitchen (and when the couple discovered Toby's blood and paw prints on the phone) Charmaine decided Toby needed professional help. Little did she know what they would discover about this dog.

I love dogs and reading stories about them!

This is the true story of Toby, a Chesapeake Bay retriever, who was adopted by Charmaine and Christopher when Toby was five years old.  Toby's original owners were an elderly couple.  When the husband died, the wife couldn't handle such an energetic young dog and put him up for adoption.  Though Toby lands in a loving home with Char and Chris, he's still grieving the loss of his owners and adjusting to his new home.  As such, he has severe anxiety issues which causes him to be destructive when left alone.

Golden Griddle Family Restaurant, Hamilton, ON

Though our hotel provided a free continental breakfast, Gord and I met Mary and Malcolm for brunch this morning at Golden Griddle, which was next door to our hotel.

The restaurant was jammed ... lots were taking advantage of the buffet.

Malcolm, Gord and I ordered eggs, toast, bacon and homefries.  Mary got pancakes instead of eggs.

It was okay.  The yolks were a bit overdone and the toast kind of small and crumpled (Gord's was a bit burnt).  But it did the trick ... we had full bellies for the drive home to Toronto.

Golden Griddle Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Holiday Inn Express, Hamilton, ON

Maggie and Rick live in Stoney Creek so we figured that instead of driving back to Toronto after Maggie's party last night (about a 45 minute drive), we would spend the night at the nearby Holiday Inn Express (Mary, Malcolm and Sox stayed there too).

 The lobby is decorated for Christmas.

Here's our room.

It wasn't fancy but it was comfortable.  It was about $120/night.

WIFI, parking and a continental breakfast (we ate next door at the Golden Griddle instead) are included.  It is right off the highway and there is a big new Walmart across the street and shopping not far away.  If you don't have a laptop, there is a computer with Internet in the lobby.

I'd stay there again.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Happy 50th birthday, Maggie!

Rick and Gord have been friends for many years ... they met in a baseball pool.

Rick's partner, Maggie, has turned 50 and he decided to throw a surprise birthday party for her tonight.

They live in Stoney Creek (about minutes from Toronto).  He told everyone to wait outside their place about 7:45pm.  He'd told her he was taking her out for supper and went outside to warm up the car ... wink!  wink!

Instead he came around to where we were and rang the doorbell.  When Maggie answered, there was everyone!  SURPRISE!!!!  She was stunned when she saw everyone.

The party ...

Jack Astor's Bar & Grill, Hamilton, ON

Before we went to Maggie's party, Mary, Malcolm, Sox, Gord and I had supper at Jack Astor's.  It was a busy spot tonight!

This is Justin, our server.  He took good care of us.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Book ~ "Notorious Nineteen" (2012) Janet Evanovich

From Goodreads ~ New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is certain of three truths: People don’t just vanish into thin air. Never anger old people. And don’t do what Tiki tells you to do.

After a slow summer of chasing low-level skips for her cousin Vinnie’s bail bonds agency, Stephanie Plum finally lands an assignment that could put her checkbook back in the black. Geoffrey Cubbin, facing trial for embezzling millions from Trenton’s premier assisted-living facility, has mysteriously vanished from the hospital after an emergency appendectomy. Now it’s on Stephanie to track down the con man. Unfortunately, Cubbin has disappeared without a trace, a witness, or his money-hungry wife. Rumors are stirring that he must have had help with the daring escape ... or that maybe he never made it out of his room alive. Since the hospital staff’s lips seem to be tighter than the security, and it’s hard for Stephanie to blend in to assisted living, Stephanie’s Grandma Mazur goes in undercover. But when a second felon goes missing from the same hospital, Stephanie is forced into working side by side with Trenton’s hottest cop, Joe Morelli, in order to crack the case.

The real problem is, no Cubbin also means no way to pay the rent. Desperate for money—or maybe just desperate—Stephanie accepts a secondary job guarding her secretive and mouthwatering mentor Ranger from a deadly Special Forces adversary. While Stephanie is notorious for finding trouble, she may have found a little more than she bargained for this time around. Then again—a little food poisoning, some threatening notes, and a bridesmaid’s dress with an excess of taffeta never killed anyone  ... or did they? If Stephanie Plum wants to bring in a paycheck, she’ll have to remember: No guts, no glory ...

There are a few storylines going on in this book.  Stephanie is trying to find two skips who disappeared while in the hospital.  Another skip used a tikki to post his bond that supposedly has powers ... Stephanie takes the tikki in hopes of drawing out the guy so she can collect her money.  Ranger and a friend are receiving death threats so Ranger hires Stephanie as back-up (so she becomes the maid of honour in the friend's wedding?).

Stephanie is with Morelli now and he doesn't mind that she's working for Ranger (who she lets touch her inappropriately).  Though he's talking marriage, Morelli's conversations with Stephanie are mostly sleazy.  And Ranger is still talking suggestively to Stephanie and she's still tempted.  Same old, same old.

Evanovich continues to follow her formula:
  • Stephanie is lusting after Morelli and Ranger ... check
  • Stephanie's mom's nerves are shot so drinks "iced tea" ... check
  • Stephanie's dad is surly and rude ... check
  • Lulu is eating all the time and gets mad when someone calls her fat ... check
  • The people Stephanie has to track down are colourful characters ... check
  • Stephanie's cars get blown up ... check
  • Stephanie goes home to mooch meals from her parents ... check

I loved the series in the beginning ... the writing was good, the characters had personalities and spunk (not going through the motions are they are now over and over) and the books had substance.

Looking back, the last one I raved about was Lean Mean Thirteen back in June 2007. That's sad :(

Yes, I keep reading them ... they are quick and mindless ... but I stopped buying them a few books ago.

Book ~ "The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap" (2012) Paulette Mahurin

From Goodreads ~ The year 1895 was filled with memorable historical events: the Dreyfus Affair divided France; Booker T. Washington gave his Atlanta address; Richard Olney, United States Secretary of State, expanded the effects of the Monroe Doctrine in settling a boundary dispute between the United Kingdom and Venezuela; and Oscar Wilde was tried and convicted for gross indecency under Britain’s recently passed law that made sex between males a criminal offense. 

When news of Wilde’s conviction went out over telegraphs worldwide, it threw a small Nevada town into chaos. This is the story of what happened when the lives of its citizens were impacted by the news of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment. It is a chronicle of hatred and prejudice with all its unintended and devastating consequences, and how love and friendship bring strength and healing.

It's 1895 and Mildred Dunlap and her cousin, Edra, live on a farm outside Red River Pass, a small town in Nevada.  Mildred's father, Max, had made some shrewd land purchases and ended up a wealthy man ... that all belongs to Mildred now.  Because of her wealth and masculine appearance, the people in the town talk about her behind her back ... but that doesn't stop them from accepting her financial help when they need it.  But Mildred doesn't care ... she's happy being on the farm with Edra, who hasn't been to town in many years because of a traumatic event in her childhood.

With the news that Oscar Wilde has been in imprisoned for having relations with another man, it is the talk of the town.  Everyone thinks that prison isn't a harsh enough punishment for what he's done.  Mildred is scared of what would happen if they were to discover the true nature of her relationship with Edra.  To protect it, she needs to throw them off.  She decides to make it look like she is making a play for the newly widowed, Charley, hoping he'll turn her away, thus giving the illusion of her being a straight woman.  But it backfires when Charley doesn't turn her away which starts the town gossiping even more.

It was a interesting story, different from what I usually read ... and I enjoyed it.  I liked the writing style ... it was well-paced.  I liked the characters I was supposed to like and didn't like the nasty onesI found Edra a bit annoying, though.  She was just too emotional for me.

I'll keep an eye out for future books by this author.

As an animal lover, it really impressed me that this author is giving all profits from this book to the first and only no-kill animal shelter that opened in Ventura County (where she lives), Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center, in the memory of one of her all time best friends and great loves of her life, Tazzie (August 25, 1996 – September 7, 2011), a Rottweiler she had gotten from a shelter.  So she is promoting this book, in hopes someone will pick it, read it, spread the word and furry kids like Tazzie will find their forever homes.

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

Book ~ "Sweetest Taboo" (2012) Eva Marquez

From Goodreads ~ Isabel Cruz was fifteen years old when she met Tom Stevens. She was 15 when they started dating and 16 when she lost her virginity to him. By the time she turned 18 and went to college, everything had fallen apart.

This hadn’t been an ordinary love, though. Not a love between two dear friends or even high school sweethearts. This had been the most taboo sort of love there was: a relationship between a student and her teacher. Isabel started her high school career as a normal student but set her sights on Tom Stevens as soon as she met him, and pursued him with an intense – and sometimes reckless – fascination. When he finally approached her after swim practice and told her that he shared her feelings, it was the start of a forbidden and dangerous relationship.

Join Isabel as she makes her way through this dark love story, hiding from teachers, lying to her parents, and defying the authorities to make a life with the man she loves. Watch as she discovers the wonders of love and romance, and the terrible betrayal of jealous friends. And cry with her when she learns the hard truth about life and the people in her world.

Sweetest Taboo is inspired by the true and tragic stories of students who fall in love with their teachers, and live with the hard truths of forbidden romances. In a world full of after-school specials on sexual predators, this touching book seeks a different path, casting both student and teacher in a gentle light, and showing that true love may lie at the base of even the most illicit romance.

This is the story of the forbidden secret love between a student and a high school teacher. 

Quite a premise, eh?

When 15-year-old Isabel sees Mr. Stevens (a married teacher and father of two in his late 30s), she feels an instant attraction.  Then she goes out of her way to entice him ... and succeeds.  They end up "dating" throughout her three years of high school.

I enjoyed the writing style.  It written in first person from Isabel's point of view and I thought the author did a good job getting into Isabel's teenage head.  I didn't find that it dragged and, despite the controversial subject matter, it kept me interested and wanting to know what was going to happen next.  From a writing standpoint, I would recommend it.

I didn't feel this was a romantic love story, though.  I had issue with Tom Stevens.  As the adult, he should have dissuaded Isabel's interest in him even if he felt the spark too.  As time progressed, things get very hot and heavy.  It seemed like all they did when they were together was get naked.  I found his actions and words of love to her icky and creepy and I couldn't decide whether he was genuine or a pervert child molester (since it was Isabel's voice rather than third person, we don't know ... we only have Isabel's perception of the events).  I didn't really fault Isabel, though.  Though she's aware of the consequences of what they were doing and what he had to lose (his job, his family and his freedom), she's 15 and caught up in the romance of it all.

This is being marketed as a contemporary YA romance.  I found it was a bit more mature than that given the subject matter (the scene where she loses her virginity is part of the story).

How do you feel about a high school student dating a married teacher?  Would you read this book given the subject matter?

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Moselland Riesling wine - cat bottles

'Tis the season when the LCBO sells two bottles of Moselland Riesling wine in the shape of cats for Christmas. Gord saw them today, bought them and surprised me with them (thanks, Gord!).

This year they are metallic goldish and turquoise (2011 vintage) ...

They didn't sell any last year.

I've been collecting them for over ten years and now have 26 (I'm missing two of the first ones ... clear pink and turquoise).

They are all unopened.

Book ~ "Christmas Lights" (2007) Christine Pisera Naman

From Goodreads ~ In separate vignettes, we meet Katherine, who is taking care of her ailing husband; Julianna, juggling with construction paper, scissors, and rubber cement in a room full of high-spirited four-year-olds; Adrianna, struggling with the difficulties of marriage; Cassandra, the busy mother of toddlers; Victoria, searching for a love to call her own; Alexandra, a young woman waiting for word from her doctor about an uncertain diagnosis; and Isabella, discovering the gift of motherhood. The lives of all the women come together in a moving conclusion that perfectly captures the heart and soul of the holiday spirit.

Alternately laugh-out-loud funny and poignant, Christmas Lights celebrates the most significant aspects of the season. Small, beautifully designed, and full of festive cheer, it is the ideal gift for anyone longing to rediscover the magic of Christmas.

We meet each of the seven women in a chapter of their own and get to know their unique situation.  The last chapter is where they all come together and we see what their connection is.

There is quite a bit of talk about/with God ... the women are strong in their faith.  Though I'm not religious at all, I didn't find that it was rammed down my throat.

This is a nice quick book to read, especially around the holiday season.  It was just the right length.  I enjoyed it.

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

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Book ~ "A Dog's Purpose" (2010) W. Bruce Cameron

From Goodreads ~ This is the remarkable story of one endearing dog’s search for his purpose over the course of several lives. More than just another charming dog story, A Dog’s Purpose touches on the universal quest for an answer to life's most basic question: Why are we here?

Surprised to find himself reborn as a rambunctious golden-haired puppy after a tragically short life as a stray mutt, Bailey’s search for his new life’s meaning leads him into the loving arms of 8-year-old Ethan. During their countless adventures Bailey joyously discovers how to be a good dog.

But this life as a beloved family pet is not the end of Bailey’s journey. Reborn as a puppy yet again, Bailey wonders—will he ever find his purpose?

Heartwarming, insightful, and often laugh-out-loud funny, A Dog's Purpose is not only the emotional and hilarious story of a dog's many lives, but also a dog's-eye commentary on human relationships and the unbreakable bonds between man and man's best friend. This moving and beautifully crafted story teaches us that love never dies, that our true friends are always with us, and that every creature on earth is born with a purpose. 

I love reading stories about dogs.  While I enjoyed the writing style and found it was well-paced, I didn't enjoy this book.  I wouldn't recommend it to any dog lovers ... I found it too sad and depressing :(

The dog gets born four times (as Toby, Bailey, Ellie and Buddy) ... but to be born again, the dog has to die and that was hard to read.  When the dog comes back as the next dog, he is confused and/or depressed at first and missed his past masters, which was sad.  It's a really smart dog and continues to take what it's learned through all it's lives.

Because the book is written from the dog's point of view, it was interesting to see how a dog might interpret things.  At times it was funny (like when the dog watches his masters "wrestle" and he doesn't understand cats or ducks at all).  But I found it was mostly sad ... like when he thinks he's being good, he's made to feel like a "bad boy" when he really isn't.  Plus there are bullies and violence towards the dog which I found hard to read.

The book bothered me and I wanted to give up on it but I wanted to finish it to see if there was a happy ending.  I can see how some people would say that there is a happy ending but I didn't think it was.

Another foggy day

It was quite a foggy drive to Waterloo yesterday.

I am in the office today and this is looking out our window about 9:15am facing south.  We should be able to see the downtown core and the CN Tower ... but not today.

Book ~ "Revenge of a Band Geek Gone Bad" (2012) Naomi Rabinowitz

From Goodreads ~ Shy, overweight Melinda Rhodes' sophomore year of high school isn't going so well. Her own mother mocks her weight. Her pants split in the middle of school, earning her the nickname "Moolinda." She then loses first chair flute in band to Kathy Meadows, her pretty and popular nemesis.

Her luck changes when she catches the eye of Josh Kowalski, a rebellious trumpet prodigy and class clown. Josh has also been hurt by Kathy and asks Melinda to help take Kathy down. Mel figures that she has nothing to lose ... and Josh is adorable with gorgeous blue eyes and a winning smile. She agrees to team up with him and looks forward to finally getting back at her rival.

At first, the pair's pranks are silly, and as they work together, Mel comes out of her shell. Even better, she finds herself falling for Josh and it appears as if he might feel the same way about her.

However, their schemes become more and more dangerous and Mel is surprised to discover her dark side. Just how far will she go to get what she wants -- and is Josh really worth the risk?

Melinda is 15 and an only child.  Her father is chief of staff at a hospital.  Her mother is a musician who is spending a lot of time with her dying father.  Needless to say, they don't have a lot of time to spend with Melinda.  Though her mother means well, she is always picking on Melinda about her weight, lack of social life, etc. To make things worse, Melinda is picked on by the popular kids at school.  A couple highlights of her life are playing the flute and painting.

When she and Josh, a popular boy at school, become friends, Melinda gains some coolness. Together they scheme to get revenge on the kids who had picked on Melinda.

This is a YA book that doesn't just focus on Melinda and Josh and their budding relationship.  We get to know their parents and friends.  I liked the characters and found them to be real.
I enjoyed the writing style.  I found it fast paced.  Most of the characters are waaaay younger than me but I didn't feel old while reading it.  The language is mature a few times.

I'd recommend this book!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Elephant & Castle, Toronto, ON

This evening Gord and I met his cousin (once removed), Deanne, and her daughter, Carling, for supper at the Elephant & Castle on Yonge Street.

Gord and Deanne hadn't seen each other in about 45 years (Deanne was a baby)!  Deanne's grandmother, Dot, is Gord's aunt (his father's sister).

Deanne and Carling live in North Carolina and are in Toronto for a week (Deanne is originally from Toronto).  She and Carling are in town for a visit and to check out the University of Toronto for Carling.

Here are Deanne and Carling.

Foggy morning drive

I had one-on-ones to conduct in Waterloo today.

It's a 90 minute drive and I had to be there about 9:30am.

Boy, was it foggy!  Believe it or not, this was about 9am on the 401 just south of Guelph!

Traffic was still moving at around 130km.