Monday 31 March 2014

Real Sports Bar and Grill, Toronto, ON

After our massage, we walked to Real Sports Bar and Grill for supper.

The first game of the season for the Toronto Blue Jays was today and we figured it would be a great place to watch it since they have a 39-foot HD Big Screen and 199 HD TVs.

There was a Miley Cyrus concert next door at the ACC so the restaurant had a lot of young girls and their moms.  Otherwise the rest of the tables were reserved.  We managed to get one upstairs.

The view from our table

Our table was a bit wonky so Sara, our server, let us move over to the empty table closer to the big screen TV.

The view from our new table

Gord ordered fish & chips.  He liked it and said he would get it again.

Nouvelle Maria Spa and Salon, Toronto, ON

Today was Gord's birthday.  Rather than buy each other things, we take each other to the spa for our birthday.

I took Gord to Nouvelle Maria Spa and Salon (King Street W/Yonge), which is in the King Edward Hotel.

We had a pedicure and a couple's massage.  Part of the massage package included mimosas ... yum!


First up were our pedicures.

Gord got clear polish ... I had to choose the polish for my toes.

Happy birthday, Gord!

Sunday 30 March 2014

Toronto Rock 10, Edmonton Rush 13

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

The Rock were playing the Edmonton Rush.  The Rush were undefeated so far this year ... 12 - 0.  The Rock were 5 - 9.  Go Rock, go!

We got there early and watched the teams warm up.

The Rock Cheerleaders entertained.

Scotty Newlands sang the national anthem along with the Adam Beck Jr. Public School Choir.

Book ~ "Relief from Hot Flashes: The Natural, Drug-Free Program to Reduce Hot Flashes, Improve Sleep and Ease Stress" (2014) Gary Elkins

From Goodreads ~ Based upon a decade of research conducted by Dr. Gary Elkins, Director of the Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory at Baylor University, "Relief from Hot Flashes" is the first book to offer a step-by-step guide to reduce hot flashes, improve sleep, and ease stress through hypnotic relaxation therapy. 

Hypnotic relaxation is a mind-body therapy involving individualized mental imagery and suggestion in a deeply relaxed state. This 5 week program has been shown to reduce hot flashes by 80% on average.

This book caught my eye because I went into menopause when I was about 40 .. the hot flashes and night sweats were vicious.  I tried to get through it naturally but it was tough.  My doctor put me on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) because I was producing very little estrogen and I was too young to be without it.  She took me off it when I turned 50 (studies show that the risk of breast cancer increases in women over 50 who are on HRT).  I still occasionally get hot flashes but they are minor compared to what they used to be like.  At night, I get warm and kick off the blankets but I don't wake up drenched in sweat like I used to.  My insomnia started when I was weaned off HRT.

This book provides a high level description of what hot flashes are and what causes them.  Hormone replacement is discussed (risks and benefits) along with nonhormonal therapies such as antidepressants, herbal remedies such as evening primrose and black cohosh, acupuncture, exercise, etc.

The therapy promoted in this book is hypnotic relaxation therapy.  To begin the program, you are asked to keep a log of when you have hot flashes, how severe they are, what's going on at the time, etc.  Case studies are discussed and analyzed.  Then the reader is advised to start the hypnotic relaxation therapy using the accompanying CDs.  I enjoy meditation so thought this was an interesting approach ... basically you are supposed to relax and use mental imagery (such as imagining yourself in a cold place) to trick your brain so you don't have a hot flash.

I read an ecopy of this book so there were obviously no CDs but I assumed there would be a link to a URL online provided to experience the hypnosis.  Alas, there wasn't.  So although I was open to this approach, I wasn't able to put it to action which is too bad.  I find it odd that they are still using CDs rather than a password protected URL.

Saturday 29 March 2014

Amsterdam Brewhouse, Toronto, ON

Tonight we celebrated Gord's 60th birthday (his birthday is on Monday) ... twenty of us met at the Amsterdam Brewhouse on Queen's Quay.

We had a big big table on the upper floor.

There was a fun collection of friends ... Gord's childhood friends of 50+ years, Kevin, Alfred and Craig and their wives, Rosemary, Christine and Wendy; Gord's baseball pool friends, Rick, Sox and Malcolm and their wives, Maggie, Angela and Mary; Gord's beer sister (and my pal) Darlene; our former neighbours, Monica and Mark; Gord's coworker, Roger; and my long time pal, Liz and her husband, Jamie.

Christine, me and Monica
Kevin, Craig, Wendy, Rosemary and Christine

Book ~ "Small Town Spin" (2014) LynDee Walker

From Goodreads ~ When a superstar athlete's son turns up dead in a tiny town on the Virginia coast, crime reporter Nichelle Clarke gets the inside scoop. But she quickly spies a gaping hole her inner Lois Lane cannot ignore. 

Determined to unravel the mystery, Nichelle fights off paparazzi cameras and an unexpected rival. She uncovers an illegal moonshine operation, a string of copycat suicides and a slew of closets stacked with more skeletons than slingbacks. Chasing a killer who’s a breath from getting away with murder, Nichelle realizes too late the culprit has her number - and it might be up.

 Nichelle is a crime reporter for a newspaper in Richmond, VA.  Grant, one of her colleagues, gives her the head's up that a former football all-star's teenage son, TJ, has committed suicide and they want her to write about it to ensure the story is handled with care.  When Nichelle talks with the boy's parents, Tony and Ashton, she wonders if it was suicide after all.  Then TJ's girlfriend commits suicide days later, Nichelle assumes something is definitely going on.

Nichelle spends a lot of time in the small town where the suicides took place ... everyone knows everyone and everyone is related to everyone.  In the course of her investigation, she digs deeper into moonshine operations, defends a roadhouse bar that has delicious food and scantily clad dancers, and had to put up with the pettiness of a co-worker because he wasn't assigned this story.

In the meantime, she has two men interested in her ... Kyle, a former flame who is an ATF agent, and Joey, who has connections with the Mafia ... and she is very attracted to both.

This is the third in the A Headlines in High Heels Mystery series and the first I've read by this author.  I thought it was okay and entertaining.  It is written in first person perspective, from Nichelle's point of view.  The ending was a surprise and a bit of a stretch but I bought it.  As a head's up, there is some mild swearing.

Though it is part of a series, it works as a stand alone (I hadn't read the previous ones).  There were some references to incidents from the past, though, that there could have been more background provided because I didn't know what going on (like when she sobbed in Kyle's arms and it had something to do with her mother and his father or what had happened to Randy, her mother's ex-fiancé).

There are a lot of references to shoes.  I'm not into shoes but apparently Nichelle is.

Friday 28 March 2014

Sleep apnea

I haven't been sleeping well the last couple of years.  It either takes me a long time (a couple hours) to get to sleep or I wake up in the middle of the night wide awake (sometimes for hours).  Needless to say, I'm tired all the time and my energy level is low.  It's been a long time since I've had a long restful sleep.  I'm tired of being tired.

My doctor sent me for a sleep test on March 12. To prepare, I had to track my activity for two weeks before ... so when I went to bed and got up, how long I slept (that's the shaded part) and when/if I have caffeine, alcohol and sleeping pills.  I don't drink a lot of caffeine (I don't drink coffee) or take sleeping pills.

I had to check in at St. Mike's at 7:45pm.  There was a lengthy question to complete about my health and habits.

There were six sleep labs (and all were full ... there is a four month waiting list).  Here was mine (each had its own washroom).

The computer wasn't on
I'd brought my Kobo

Melanie was my tech and she was great ... she was friendly and answered all my many questions.  She got me wired up and ready to go ... six on the face, nine on the back of the head, one on the neck, two on the chest, two on each shin, straps on the chest and stomach (to monitor breathing), air flow tube in nose and a sensor a finger.

Book ~ "Missing You" (2014) Harlan Coben

From Goodreads ~ It's a profile, like all the others on the online dating site. But as NYPD Detective Kat Donovan focuses on the accompanying picture, she feels her whole world explode, as emotions she’s ignored for decades come crashing down on her. Staring back at her is her ex-fiancé Jeff, the man who shattered her heart - and who she hasn’t seen in 18 years.

Kat feels a spark, wondering if this might be the moment when past tragedies recede and a new world opens up to her. But when she reaches out to the man in the profile, her reawakened hope quickly darkens into suspicion and then terror as an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light, in which monsters prey upon the most vulnerable.

As the body count mounts and Kat's hope for a second chance with Jeff grows more and more elusive, she is consumed by an investigation that challenges her feelings about everyone she ever loved - her former fiancé, her mother, and even her father, whose cruel murder so long ago has never been fully explained. With lives on the line, including her own, Kat must venture deeper into the darkness than she ever has before, and discover if she has the strength to survive what she finds there.

Because she has no life, Kat's best friend, Stacey, signs her up to an online dating site.  Out of curiosity one night, she logs on and comes across the profile of her ex-fiancé, Jeff, who had suddenly dumped her 18 years ago.  Bolstered by liquor, she sends him a message.  He responds back with a strange message and then blows her off.

Kat is tormented by the death of her father, also a cop, almost 20 years ago.  His self-confessed murderer is dying in prison and Kat still wants to know who had hired him and why so she can have closure.  As she continues to investigate she discovers things aren't what's they'd seemed with her dad and colleagues.

In the meantime, Kat is approached by a young man named Brandon who says his mother, Dana, has disappeared.  Kat checks things out ... Dana was meeting a man she met online for a vacation and it appears that Brandon is having a hard time with his mother finally moving on after the death of his father.  Brandon won't let Kat walk away from this and as she digs deeper, she realizes that what he may have cause for alarm.

This the first book I've read by this author in a long time ... and I don't know why I haven't read more of his over the years because I enjoyed this one and the ones I've read in the past.  I've put him on my "to be read" list so I can catch up.

It's written in third person perspective and I liked the writing style.  There are a lot of storylines going on and in the beginning I was wondering what the point was ... but it all eventually makes sense.  I was satisfied with the ending and who murdered her father and why.

There are a lot of characters but it's not hard to keep them straight.  I liked Kat ... she's been carrying a lot of baggage over the years and will do anything she has to to have closure.  She has a great support system with her best friend, Stacey, and her father's former partner, Stagger.  Chaz, her partner, provides some comedic situations.  Brandon, though young, is likeable and, despite being a troublemaker in his teens, had a good head on his shoulders.

I recommend this book ... it's a page-turner!

Thursday 27 March 2014

Book ~ "The Rich and the Dead" (2014) Liv Spector

From Goodreads ~ On New Year's Day 2015, twelve powerful, wealthy people were found dead - shot in a lavish Star Island estate. In 2018, the murderer remains at large.

As a detective and lead investigator on the case of the century, Lila Day was consumed by her hunt for the Star Island Killer. But that was before she was pushed out from the force and her life unraveled.

Years later, down on her luck and no longer a police officer, Lila is approached by mysterious billionaire Teddy Hawkins. He has a job for her, he says - solving the Star Island murders. Lila laughs. After all, how do you solve a crime when all the leads have long grown cold? The answer, Teddy tells her, is to be there before it happened. He is going to send her back in time.

With nothing left to lose, Lila travels back in time to 2014, determined to stop the Star Island killer once and for all. There's one catch: she must gather the evidence to bring the murderer to justice in her own time, without trying to save anyone. Easy enough, until she starts to care for the people who are destined to die. Now Lila must be willing to say good-bye - or risk setting into motion events that could change the future forever.

In the early hours of 2015, twelve rich people were murdered and Lila Day was the police officer assigned to the case. Three years later, despite her intense investigation, the case still hasn't been solved and Lila is no longer a cop.  She is approached by a billionaire named Teddy who has figured out a way to travel back in time.  He wants Lila to go back the fall of 2014, a few months before the murders happened, to solve the crime ... the only thing is she can't stop them from happening and he'll give her access to $100 million for her expenses.

With nothing keeping her in 2018 (she has no job or family) and this unsolved case haunting her, Lila goes back to the fall of 2014 and becomes Camilla Dayton, a rich socialite who has just moved to Miami from New York after a painful divorce.  As she gets to know the soon-to-be-murdered, she becomes part of their lives to find out why they were killed and by whom.  Just as she thinks she has it figured out, she's proved wrong and has to start racing down another path before times runs out.

This is the first book I've read by this author and I enjoyed it. I like time travel books and murder mysteries ... so how could I resist the combination of the two?  Written in third person point of view, I liked the writing style and thought the author handled the subject of time travel well.  As I was reading the book, I was tempted to skip to the end to see whodunnit but resisted ... I didn't see the ending coming and bought it.  As a head's up, the language is for mature readers.

I liked Lila.  She missed her life as a cop and really came alive again when she started investigating the murders.  The characters are rich and spoiled and it was interesting watching Lila adapt to fit in ... they all have strong distinct personalities which kept me guessing about their involvement.

I would recommend this book.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Book ~ "My Gentle Barn: Creating a Sanctuary Where Animals Heal and Children Learn to Hope" (2014) Ellie Laks

From Goodreads ~ Founder Ellie Laks started The Gentle Barn after adopting a sick goat from a run-down petting zoo in 1999. Some two hundred animals later (including chickens, horses, pigs, cows, rabbits, emus, and more), The Gentle Barn has become an extraordinary nonprofit that brings together a volunteer staff of community members and at-risk teens to rehabilitate abandoned and/or abused animals. As Ellie teaches the volunteers to care for the animals, they learn a new language of healing that works wonders on the humans as well. 

My Gentle Barn weaves together the story of how the Barn came to be what it is today with Ellie's own journey. Filled with heartwarming animal stories and inspiring recoveries, The Gentle Barn is a feel-good account that will delight animal lovers and memoir readers alike.

Ellie didn't have a happy childhood and turned to her pets for comfort.  Her parents weren't animal lovers and her pets would disappear and her parents wouldn't understand why she would get so upset.  She swore that when she became an adult that animals would always be part of her life (she became a dog rescuer).  She eventually got married and had a son and put her profession on hold to be a wife and a mom.

She came across a sick goat at a petting zoo in 1999 and was determined to rescue it and did.  That opened her heart and life again to rescuing animals, which eventually grew into The Gentle Barn, where animals can live their lives in peace and happiness and at-risk children can visit and learn to trust again ...

The over 160 farm animals that reside at The Gentle Barn have all been rescued from severe abuse, neglect, abandonment or worse. They have been rehabilitated with traditional and non-traditional medicine, top quality nutrition and countless hours in the arms of our staff and volunteers. They have regained their trust in humankind by realizing that they are now loved, and their abuse is over. Because of their ongoing physical and psychological needs, they can't be adopted and are given sanctuary with us for the rest of their lives.

We are home to horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens, llamas, dogs, and cats. We believe that everyone deserves a chance at life, regardless if they are blind, crippled, deformed, sick, wounded or just old.

Because the animals at The Gentle Barn have experienced abuse and severe neglect, their treatment and rehabilitation is extremely expensive and can take a long time. But it is worth it to see them smile again, to watch their eyes light up, to feel them cuddle in your lap, and to see them play with new life and new hope.

Once rehabilitated, the animals become ambassadors, teaching children about the magic and grace of these precious beings.

I love reading books about animals and enjoyed this one.  It starts with Ellie's unhappy childhood and we see her grow to be the person she is today, fulfilling her dreams of being surrounded by animals.  Despite all obstacles (financial, the time necessary to care for the animals, loss of relationships, etc.), she never gave up helping animals in need.

I felt bad for her husband, Scott, though.  When they met, they shared a love of animals but neither realized how extreme her dedication would become.  Eventually she was pushed to make a choice between Scott and the animals and Scott lost.  But fortunately for Ellie, she ended up meeting Jay, who shared her goals and helped grow The Gentle Barn into what it is today.

I liked the writing style and found it to be honest.  I felt that Ellie had an inspiring story to tell.  Each of the animals has a story of how they ended up at The Gentle Barn.  I love animals and admire her dedication to help them.  Animal lovers will love this book!

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Tuesday 25 March 2014

Book ~ "The Cottage on Juniper Ridge" (2014) Sheila Roberts

From Goodreads ~ Can a book change your life? Yes, when it's Simplicity, Muriel Sterling's guide to plain living. In fact, it inspires Jen Heath to leave her stressful, overcommitted life in Seattle and move to Icicle Falls, where she rents a lovely little cottage on Juniper Ridge. And where she can enjoy simple pleasures—like joining the local book club—and complicated ones, like falling in love with her sexy landlord, Garrett Armstrong. 

Her sister Toni is ready for a change, too. She's got a teenage daughter who's constantly texting her friends, a husband who's more involved with his computer than he is with her, and a son who's consumed by video games. Toni wants her family to grow closer—to return to a simpler way of life. 

Other women in town, like Stacy Thomas, are also inspired to unload their excess stuff and some of the extra responsibilities they've taken on. 

But as they all discover, sometimes life simply happens. It doesn't always happen simply!

Jen hates her life in Seattle.  Recently divorced, she's working two jobs to pay her bills.

She reads a book about simplifying her life and takes the words to heart.  She quits her jobs, rents out her condo and moves to the small town of Icicle Falls, where the author of the book is from.  She rents a small cottage from Garrett.  They are attracted to each other.  But Garrett is dating Tilda, a cop, and Jen doesn't want to "poach" another woman's man.  Garrett is still reeling from a bitter divorce and sees Jen as an irresponsible flake like his ex-wife.

As Jen settles in, she becomes friends with some women in town who are part of a bookclub and who have just read that same book on simplifying their lives.  We see the changes they make as a result of this book.

Toni is Jen's sister.  She thinks Jen is crazy when she gives up her life in Seattle (she also lives there) but as she visits and gets to know Icicle Falls, she sees what the attraction is.  Toni's kids are getting older and don't need her anymore and her husband spends more time on his laptop than with her.  Something has to change.

This is the fourth book I've read by this author (and the third in the four Icicle Falls series that I've read) and I liked it.  Written in third person perspective, I liked the writing style and found that it was easy to read.  As a head's up, there is some mild swearing.

I liked the characters and storylines.  It sounds like a nice town with some great people who look out for each other.  I applauded Jen in making the changes in her life ... not just giving up everything in Seattle to move to Icicle Falls (and not knowing anyone) but she embraced her new life and tried to learn how to make bread, pies, candles, etc. to not-so-stellar results (some recipes are included as part of Jen's blog).  Toni could feel her family life slipping away and was determined to do whatever she could to hang onto it.  Jen's new friends in town all had things going on it their lives.  Garrett is conflicted ... should he stay with solid dependable Tilda or go with his heart with Jen and perhaps repeat the past?

I'd recommend this book if you are looking for a nice "feel good" story.

Monday 24 March 2014

Sheraton on the Falls, Niagara Falls, ON

I had a meeting this morning in Niagara Falls.  The Sheraton on the Falls was nearby so I stayed there last night.  I'd stayed here for a conference in October 2012.

Here's my room ($139/night) ...

I had a "city view" room ("falls view" rooms are more expensive) ...

Book ~ "Dialogues of a Crime" (2013) John K. Manos

From Goodreads ~ 1972. The Chicago Mob stands unchallenged and college students with drugs provide fodder for political point-making. Michael Pollitz, a nineteen-year-old with connections to the Outfit, becomes one of those political pawns.

1994. Job-weary CPD Detective Larry Klinger becomes obsessed with a cold case from that pivotal moment twenty-two years ago. In the course of his investigation, he encounters questions of ethics, guilt, and justice that make him doubt certainties that have sustained him for decades.

Dialogues of a Crime examines guilt, innocence and the long-term ramifications of crime and punishment in a gray area where the personal lives of perpetrators, victims and law officers overlap.

In 1972, Michael Pollitz was a college student.  The police stormed his room and he was arrested, along with others, and he had no idea why.  His best friend, John's father, Dom, who was part of the Mafia wanted to help by providing Michael a lawyer but Michael's father wouldn't allow it.  Instead, he was represented by an incompetent public offender and there were serious ramifications.

In 1994, the police were trying to take down Dom.  A seasoned officer, Larry Klinger, got some information from a criminal source about Dom which led them to Michael, now an advertising executive.  As Larry investigated, he got to know and like Michael and was torn between using him to get to Dom or protecting him.

This is the first book I've read by this author and I enjoyed it.  I liked the writing style and thought it moved along at a good pace.  I wanted to keep reading to find out what was going to happen.  It's written in third person perspective.  As a head's up, the language is for a mature reader.

I liked the characters.  Klinger is an experienced cop and is tenacious in digging into the 22-year-old history to get something on Dom.  We see a human side of him with his interactions with his girlfriend, Dora, and Michael.  When we meet Michael, he is a naïve young college student.  When we meet him in 1994, despite being friends with members of the Mafia but not involved with them, he is extremely loyal to John and Dom.  I liked the interactions between Klinger and Michael as they became friends.  I did find it was hard to keep the members of the Mafia straight because they were referred to by their first names, last names and nicknames ... it would have been nice to have them have just one name.

I would recommend this book.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Rainforest Cafe, Niagara Falls, ON

I had supper this evening at the Rainforest Cafe ... I'd never been to one so thought I'd check it out.


You have to go through the store to get to the restaurant.

I walked around the restaurant.  There were lots of fake animals and birds (some were animated).

Niagara Falls, ON

I have a meeting in Niagara Falls tomorrow morning so I drove here this afternoon (about a 90 minute drive).

It was after 5pm by the time I arrived and checked in ... I took a walk to check out the falls.

The American falls on the left and the Canadian falls on the right
Unlike when it's warmer, there weren't too many out and about
The America falls and Niagara Falls, NY
The America falls with the Rainbow Bridge and Niagara Falls, NY
The Canadian falls

Eggsmart, Toronto, ON

Gord and I had some errands to run today so before we got started, we went to our favourite breakfast restaurant, Eggsmart (at the Queen W/King W/Roncesvalles intersection).  It's been a while since we've been there.

We both ordered the Classic Breakfast with bacon (it's what I usually order).  Gord got his with coffee and I got mine with chocolate milk (they didn't have any white milk)