Friday 28 February 2014

Book ~ "What's It To You?" (2013) Judy Irwin

From Goodreads ~ What if nothing was the worst thing you could do?

For 13-year old Tim Stockdale, it's all about keeping his head down and fitting in with the friends he's managed to make at his new school. His older brother, Eli, is the opposite. He's trying to set up a Gay-Straight Alliance at his high school, where he's a junior. Even though the school board is against it, Eli’s not afraid of what the fallout might be.

So when Tim's new friends start to bully a kid they think is gay, Tim's torn - he doesn't want to do anything to risk being cast out of the crew. But when Eli is hurt in a protest, Tim's own failure to do anything starts to get under his skin. Will he find his way at his new middle school, and figure out what's really worth standing up for?

Tim and his family have recently moved.  His brother, Eli, is in high school and continues to go to the same school.  Tim, though, is starting grade eight and starts at a new school.  Tim finds it hard to fit in so hangs out with the first group of guys that befriend him.  They are bullies and pick on Jodie, a guy they think is gay.  Tim doesn't participant in the bullying but he doesn't do anything to stop it.

Eli is gay and wants to start a Gay-Straight Alliance at his school.  During one of the protests, he is hurt.  This book is about Tim's struggle to stay true to his brother and his desire to fit in at his new school.

This is the first book I've read by this author and I liked it.  I liked the writing style and thought it flowed well.  Though it is a YA book, I didn't find the writing too immature for me.  Because of the subject matter (homosexuality and bullies), I would recommend it for a more mature YA.

I liked the relationship that Eli and Tim had ... despite the difference in their ages, they were close as brothers and got along well.  Their parents were supportive of Eli's sexual orientation ... they were scared that because he was leading the charge for gay rights at the school that he might get hurt (which he did).

Thursday 27 February 2014

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

I met my friends, Deb, Liz and Rona this evening at Jack Astor's (University/Front) for supper this evening.

We've been friends since the mid-1990s when we all worked together.

It was busy ...

I ordered what I always get at Jack Astor's ... Chicken Parmigiana.  And it was delicious!

Book ~ "Invisible" (2014) L.A. Remenicky

From Goodreads ~ They found each other. Then the killer found them.

Detective Jackson McKenna walks into a psychologist’s office and finds that the doctor bears a striking resemblance to his first love, Lainie, who disappeared ten years ago after their disastrous first date ended in violence.

Dr. Elizabeth Parker is really Elaine Wilson, Jax’s Lainie. She’s been in hiding since the night that changed both their lives. Jax discovers the truth when the killer lets Lainie know he’s found her. When Jax and Lainie go into hiding to keep Lainie safe, old feelings resurface as the killer threatens their lives. Can Jax save Lainie and help her stay Invisible?

In their last year of high school, Jax was a basketball jock and Lainie was the geek who had to tutor him.  As they spent time together, they got to know and like each other and went on a date.  Lainie didn't have a happy home life and what happened with Keith, her stepfather, when she got home after the date changed her life forever.

Ten years later, Lainie is a psychologist and has changed her name to Elizabeth Parker.  Jax is a cop who needs counselling after a recent shooting and Dr. Parker is recommended to him.  When he meets her, he thinks that Dr. Parker reminds him a lot of Lainie.  Lainie receives a message that Keith has been released from prison and is looking for her.  Jax realizes that Lainie and Dr. Parker are the same person and he does all he can to protect her from Keith until he can be found.

This is the first book I've read by this author.  I found it to be a easy quick read and liked it ... despite the subject matter, I didn't find it was too intense.  It is written in first person perspective, switching back and forth between Jax and Lainie (there is a indicator when it changes).  As a head's up, the language and activity are at times for a mature reader.

I liked Jax and Lainie and thought they were good together.  It was a bit of a stretch for me, though, to believe that they'd only had one date in high school (granted they had spent a lot of time together and got to know the "real" Jax and Lainie, beyond the jock and the geek) and didn't see each other again for ten years, yet had pined for each other all those years.  Needless to say, they get together pretty quickly.

I'd recommend this book if you are looking for a combination of suspense and romance.

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Book ~ "The Healthy Slow Cooker: 135 Gluten-Free Recipes for Health and Wellness" (2014) Judith Finlayson

From Goodreads ~ Definitions of healthy eating have changed quite dramatically since "The Healthy Slow Cooker" was first published in 2006. In those days it was one size fits all; i.e. low-fat, no saturated fat, low calorie and moving toward nutrient-dense foods.

Now there is a shift in nutritional guidelines and there is significantly more scientific information to add. Many experts report that many modern diseases are directly associated with the consumption of wheat and advocate for a reduction in carbohydrates for beneficial health results. Another significant development is the evidence against saturated fat is gradually diminishing. And at the same time, established dietary guidelines are under increasing scrutiny.

Judith Finlayson takes all this conflicting information and balances it with a common sense approach that can be customized according to individual needs. All the recipes are deliciously nutrient-dense and have a balanced approach that will meet a wide variety of needs in an unbeatable combination of appetizing, healthy meals prepared in a slow cooker.

With such a wide range of recipes, from hearty soups to elegant desserts, preparing nutritious and delicious meals strikes the perfect balance between achieving healthy eating habits and assuring great tastes. More recipes feature fresh herbs and spices as well as advocate the benefits of eating sustainably caught fish and pasture-raised meat. Nutritional analysis is provided with each recipe.

This book paints the nutritional big picture with a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods that have been easily and conveniently prepared in a slow cooker.

We have a couple slow cookers (a small one and a large one) that we use fairly often ... plus we like to try to eat more healthy.  So that's why this book caught my eye.

The book begins with an introduction about eating healthy.  Next is a chapter on using your slow cooker including the basics on size and cooking times, and food safety.

This book includes recipes for:
  • Breakfast - Creamy Morning Millet with Apples, Breakfast Rice, Chocolate Atole, etc.
  • Starters and snacks - Caramelized Onion Dip, Warm Black Bean Salsa, Yogurt Flatbread, etc.
  • Soups - New World Leek and Potato Soup, Southwestern Turkey Chowder, Thai-Style Pumpkin Soup, etc.
  • Poultry - Chili with Black Beans and Grilled Chicken, Peppery Turkey Casserole, Indian-style Chicken with Pureed Spinach, etc.
  • Fish and seafood - Thai-style Coconut Fish Curry, Poached Halibut with Dill Hollandaise, Shrimp 'n Grits, etc.
  • Beef and veal - Onion-braised Brisket, Persian-style Beef with split Peas, Zesty Braised Beef with New Potatoes, etc.
  • Pork and lamb - Home-style Pork and Beans, Moroccan-style lamb with Raisins and Apricots, Pork with Pot Likker, etc.
  • Vegetarian mains - Ratatouille,Vegetable Chili, Gingery Red Lentils and Spinach and Coconut, etc.
  • Sides and sauces - Cheesy Grits, Basic Tomato Sauce, Caramelized Onion Sauce with Arugula, etc.
  • Desserts - Basmati Rice Pudding, The Ultimate Baked Apples, Cranberry-spiked Apple Sauce, etc.

There are lots of colourful pictures with recipes plus the ingredients, cooking directions, nutritional data, and tidbits of information including tips, natural wonders and mindful morsels.

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Book ~ "Me: The Tuxedo Stan Story" (2014) Tuxedo Stan and Kathy Chisholm

This is the memoir of Tuxedo Stan (2010 - 2013) written by Stan with some help from Kathy Chisholm.

Stan was a kitty who ran for mayor in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the October 2012 election.  Anderson Cooper and Ellen DeGeneres publicly endorsed his candidacy.

Alas, he couldn't legally register to run in the election because he didn't have a birth certificate.

Stan ran as the leader of the Tuxedo Party, a political movement aimed at improving the welfare of felines in Halifax and around the world. The party’s slogan is ... “Because neglect isn’t working.”

The movement was to highlight the need to spay and neuter the feline population in Halifax.  Halifax has laws in place to ensure dogs are spayed and neutered but no such legislation exists for cats. All the money raised by Stan's campaign was spent fixing cats.   Halifax city council provided a $40,000 grant to the local SPCA in Tuxedo Stan’s name in the months after the election to help establish a low cost spay and neuter clinic.

Since Tuxedo Stan's death in 2013, his brother, Earl Grey, has taken over as leader of the party and will be running for premier of the province.

This book is super cute for all ages and tells Stan's story even before he was born.  His mother, Greycie, had been abandoned and was living on the street.  One day she was captured and taken to the vet for a check-up.  That's when they discovered that Greycie was pregnant.  There are lots and lots of colourful pictures.

For a limited time, you can download the ebook (it's a pdf) for free ... just click here (I was able to downloaded it onto my Kobo Arc and my laptop).

Monday 24 February 2014

Book ~ "Bigger Than the Game: Restitching a Major League Life" (2014) Dirk Hayhurst

From Goodreads ~ After nearly a decade in the minors, Dirk Hayhurst defied the odds to climb onto the pitcher's mound for the Toronto Blue Jays. Newly married, with a big league paycheck and a brand new house, Hayhurst was ready for a great season in the Bigs. 

Then fate delivered a crushing hit. Hayhurst blew out his pitching shoulder in an insane off-season workout program. After surgery, rehab, and more rehab, his major-league dreams seemed more distant than ever. 

From there things got worse, weirder, and funnier. In a crazy world of injured athletes, autograph-seeking nuns, angry wrestlers, and trainers with a taste for torture, Hayhurst learned lessons about the game—and himself—that were not in any rulebook. Honest, soul‑searching, insightful, hilarious, and moving, Dirk Hayhurst's latest memoir is an indisputable baseball classic. 

Gord had read The Bullpen Gospels, which the author wrote a couple years ago, and enjoyed it.  We are fans of the Toronto Blue Jays ... the author had played for the Jays so I thought I'd find this book interesting since it covers his time with the Jays.

Hayhurst spent most of his career playing in the minor league.  In 2009, he was signed to Toronto's farm team and spent part of the season "in the bigs" playing for the Jays.  He hurt his shoulder in the spring of 2010 and spent the season on the disabled list.  This book covers the time he was on the disabled list getting rehab for his shoulder.

Some parts of this book were interesting ... like the stuff that happens behind the scenes with the players, the allowances and per diems, locker room hierarchies, etc.  There are not so flattering stories about some of the players on the Jays' team and minor league teams (their names have been changed).

I thought, though, that the writing could have been tighter.  There were many many conversations that were really really long.  For example, rather than the author saying he had a conversation with his trainer about something, we read about it word-for-word-for-word for pages.  It seemed to be like this with everyone he talked with.  As a head's up, the language is for a mature reader ... the "F" word is used quite often.

I didn't find him overly likeable.  Yes, I know he had problems dealing with his being in rehab and out of the game when he really wanted to play, but I found him arrogant, self-centered and whiny.  At any opportunity he was sucking up to the media to promote his previous book (which was just coming out when this book takes place) or going on and on about what a hard time he was having adjusting and being shut out by the other team members.

If you are a fan of baseball, you may like this book.  I like baseball and had a hard time getting through it.

Sunday 23 February 2014

Basic Whole Roast Chicken

I found this recipe in my 125 Best Chicken Recipes cookbook and made it for supper this evening.

Preheat oven to 325F (160C).

  • 1 roasting chicken (about 5 lbs)
  • Half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, quartered
  •  1 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustanrd
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp crushed dried sage

Remove gibblets and neck from chicken.  Rinse and pat dry inside and out; rub inside and out with lemon.  I didn't have a fresh lemon so I rubbed lemon juice inside and out.

Sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper.  Place onion in cavity.  Tie legs together with string.  Tuck wings under back.  Rather than tying the legs, I closed the chicken with a toothpick after I put the onion in.

Place breast-side up on a rack in roasting pan.

Combine butter, mustard, thyme and sage, spread over chicken.

Roast in preheated oven for about two hours or until juices run clean which chicken is pierced. 

Transfer chicken to a platter. 

Sunnyside Beach, Toronto, ON

I went to Sunnyside Beach (about a ten minute drive SW of us) on Wednesday afternoon ... and it started raining five minutes after I got there.  Boo!

It was sunny and -1C (-7C with the windchill) this afternoon and Gord and I headed to Sunnyside Beach.

Looking eastward towards downtown ...

Looking westward ...

We watched the birds for a while ...

Saturday 22 February 2014

Toronto Rock 14, Minnesota Swarm 12

Gord and I went to the Toronto Rock game this evening (we have season's tickets).  The Rock is a professional lacrosse franchise in the National Lacrosse League (NLL).

They were were playing the Minnesota Swarm.  The Swarm had a 1 - 6 record so it should have been an easy win (the Rock had a 3 - 4 record).

The Rock Cheerleaders entertained before the game started.

 Scotty Newlands sang the national anthems.

The Strath Pub, Toronto, ON

Before the Toronto Rock game this evening, Gord and I met Roger and his dad, Ben, for supper at The Strath Pub, in the basement of the Strathacona Hotel (York/King W) (Gord and Roger work together).

 It's been a while since we'd been there.

I've only had wings there.  This evening I ordered the Buffalo Chicken Crunch sandwich without lettuce and no slaw.

Book ~ "Ashes and Bone" (2014) Stacy Green

From Goodreads ~ Just when Jaymee Ballard’s life seems to be on track, a massive derecho attacks the Delta Crossroads sowing destruction in its path. Her boyfriend, investigative journalist Nick Samuels, comes up missing and she fears the worst.

Nick’s abandoned car contains evidence of his involvement uncovering a controversial case mired in political power and greed. While her friend and local detective, Cage Foster, heads up the inquiry into Nick’s kidnapping, Jaymee finds it impossible to sit back and do nothing. 

Enlisting the help of her best friend, Dani Evans, Jaymee discovers a trail leading to the dangerous and secretive Dixie Mafia. Facing a fraudulent Confederate artifact scheme, dark local history, and a powerful enemy lurking in the shadows, the two friends find themselves holding the key to not only Nick’s disappearance, but a shameful town secret someone will kill to protect.

Jaymee and Nick are dating and see each other on weekends.  Jaymee has a historical house and Nick is a reporter.  He is on his way to see her but disappears during a storm.  His car is discovered by the side of the road but there is no sign of Nick.  Cage, Nick's friend and ex-brother-in-law is a police officer, leads the investigation.  In the meantime, Jaymee is almost killed when a house she is in burns to the ground, which causes the surrounding area to catch on fire and spread.  Is it a coincidence or does it have something to do with Nick's disappearance?

It seems that Nick was investigating Confederate artifacts that may be frauds.  With not a lot to go on, Cage, Jaymee and Dani (Cage's girlfriend) poke around to find out what's going, who is involved and find Nick before it's too late.

This is the fourth book I've read by this author and the third (and last) book in the Delta Crossroads series.  We met Jaymee, Nick and Cage in Tin God and Dani in Skeleton' Key.  Though it is part of a series, it works as a stand alone ... there are enough references to the past so you know what's going on but not enough to give away the other books if you haven't read them but want to.

It is written from a couple perspectives ... first person when the focus is on Nick and third person with the perspective switching from Jaymee, Cage and Dani.  The language for the most part is for a mature reader as the author uses the word "sh$t" fairly often (I didn't have a problem with it).  There are lots of characters in this book so you don't know whodunnit until the end and why.

You'll enjoy this book if you like suspense with a touch of romance ... and especially if you are into the history of the south.

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

Friday 21 February 2014

Spicy Roasted Wings

I found this recipe in my 125 Best Chicken Recipes cookbook and made it for supper this evening.

Preheat oven to 425F (200C).

  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 lbs divided wings

In a shallow bowl, stir together the mustard, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, oil, Tabasco, paprika and pepper.

Dip each wing in the mixture and arrange in a single layer on a rack on a foiled-lined baking sheet.  I tossed them in the sauce rather than dipping.  Cover and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature ... I let them sit for about an hour.

Crunchy Garlic Wings

I found this recipe in my 125 Best Chicken Recipes cookbook and made it for supper this evening.

Preheat oven to 425F (200C).

  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese (I didn't use fresh Parm)
  • 1/4 chopped fresh parsley (I used dried parsley and reduced the amount)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter (I used margarine)
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 lbs chicken wings, halved at the joint, tips removed

In a shallow bowl, mix together bread crumbs, cheese, parsley and pepper, set aside.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter with garlic. Dip wings in the butter mixture. Rather than dipping, I tossed the wings in the butter and garlic.

Island Foods, Toronto, ON (King Street W)

I had lunch today at Island Foods (Dufferin Street/King Street W), which is in my 'hood.  It's been a while since I've been there.

I've been going there since 1998, when I worked a couple blocks from it.  My colleagues and I used to go on a weekly basis.

I got there about 11:30am.  By noon, there was a line-up out the door.

I ordered my usual ... a boneless chicken roti.

As always, it was delicious!  Yum-mee!

Island Foods on Urbanspoon

Books "Small Change" (2010) Sheila Roberts

From Goodreads ~ Rachel, Jessica and Tiffany have money problems - major money problems. Tiffany’s whipped out the plastic one too many times, and now a mountain of debt is about to come crashing down on her. Jessica’s husband lost his job - thrusting this longtime stay-at-home mom out into the cold, cruel workforce. And Rachel’s divorce has transformed her from an upper-middle-class mom to a strapped-for-cash divorcee. What are three best friends to do?

Get financially fit, that’s what! Together, Rachel, Jessica and Tiffany start a financial support group called The Small Change Club - challenging each other to bring balance back to their checkbooks, and their lives. Even though frugality is a lot harder than they ever imagined, these women are about to learn some very important lessons: that small changes can make a big difference … and that some things in life, like good friends, are truly priceless.

This is the story of three friends/neighbours who are having financial difficulties (their ages range from mid-20s to mid-40s).

Tiffany and Brian have been trying to have a baby but have had no luck.  To console herself, she shops ... and shops and shops and shops.  She has even maxed out a couple credits cards that Brian doesn't even know about.  To make things worse, Brian may be losing his job and they need to cut back.

Rachel is a divorced teacher who was filling in on a maternity leave.  Unfortunately, the teacher is coming back to work and Rachel is now out of work.  Her ex-husband is a dentist who showers their two kids with gifts.  Rachel feels guilty and tries to keep up even though she financially can't and shouldn't.

Jess is a stay-at-home mom and wife of a bank executive, Michael.  When Michael loses his job and with their adult son, Mikey, unemployed and living at home, Jess has to figure out what skills she has so she can enter the job market.

They start meeting once a week so they can work on how to live more frugally and doing what they have to do ... picking berries to make jams for gifts, shopping at secondhand stores for clothes, etc.  Rachel starts a blog to share their experiences and recipes to readers on the Internet (but also to us who are reading the book).

I've read a few books by this author.  I liked the writing style of this one and thought it flowed well.  It's a nice story of a friendship between three women ... I liked how they were always there for each other emotionally and financially.  Except for a couple instances of "sh$t", the language isn't offensive to readers and there is no "adult activity".

I had a hard time relating to Tiffany.  Even though Tiffany knows the dire financial situation she and Brian are in, she continues to shop and even gets mad at Brian for getting mad at her.  She's been bailed out in the past by her husband and parents yet continues with this behaviour.  I didn't have a lot of sympathy for her and felt bad for Brian.  I thought her fear of bears was silly.

At first, I wasn't a fan of Jess.  She had had a nice life as a pampered wife.  I started liking her more as she got more resourceful and got more grounded to her situation.

I found Rachel the most realistic ... until towards the end.  I thought her assumptions about Chad, her struggling new neighbour, strange ... I figured out right away what his deal was so wasn't surprised when the truth came out.  Their relationship seemed really rushed and I found it hard to believe that she was expecting a ring so quickly.

I'd recommend this book, especially if you are looking a story about friendship.

Thursday 20 February 2014

It's All Grk, Toronto, ON

I walked to It's All Grk (at Queen Street W/Niagara Street) today for lunch.  It opened about five months ago where Bellwoods Bar & Grill used to be.

I got there about 11:45am before the lunch crowd arrived.

As soon as I walked in, the girl who takes the orders welcomed me (as she did with everyone).  It's cute inside with high communal tables and chairs.

I ordered a chicken dinner and a Diet Coke (it came to about $20).