Sunday 29 November 2015

Book ~ "Bricking It" (2015) Nick Spalding

From Goodreads ~ When siblings Dan and Hayley Daley inherit their late grandmother’s derelict Victorian farmhouse, it seems like a dream come true. All they have to do is fix the place up and sell it for a tidy profit!

Except, as anyone who has renovated an old house knows, things are never that easy.

The walls are rapidly crumbling around them, the architect is a certified lunatic, the budget is spiraling … and then there’s the disturbingly intelligent cow to worry about.

On top of all this, the renovation is being featured on a daytime reality TV show and as soon as "Great Locations" presenter Gerard O’Keefe catches sight of Hayley’s first-floor balcony, he’s determined to woo her out of her ban on romance, whether she wants him to or not.

Will Dan and Hayley survive and sell up? Or will the whole thing collapse on them like a ton of bricks?

Haley and Dan's grandmother has died and left them a house in the English countryside.  No one has lived in it or kept it up for fifty years so it's really rundown ... no one in their family even knew about the house.  Their plan is to borrow money to fixed it up and sell it to make a profit.  They hire Mitchell, an eccentric architect, and Fred, an gruff handyman, and his team because they are cheap.  In addition, they take a leave of absence from their jobs so they can help out however they can in order to keep costs down.  Mitchell knows Gerard, the host of a renovation show, and Haley and Dan agree to let him film their renovation in hopes that it will raise awareness of their house and it will sell for lots of money.

This is the second book I've read by this author and I liked it.  I liked the writing style ... it was funny and sarcastic.  It is written in first person perspective, alternating between Haley and Dan (the chapters are labeled so you know whose voice it is).  The author lives in England so there are some English references I didn't get.  As a head's up, there is a lot of swearing and some adult activity.

I liked Haley and Dan.  It was interesting to see how they went from feeling that the house was a burden to loving it.  The characters are amusing, especially Fred and Pat The Cow.

It was a fun read.

Saturday 28 November 2015

Granite Brewery, Toronto, ON

Gord and I had supper tonight at the Granite Brewery (Eglinton E/Mount Pleasant) with our friends Craig and Wendy, Alfred and Christine, and Kevin and Rosemary.  Gord, Craig, Alfred and Kevin have been friend for more than 50 years!

Friday 27 November 2015

Book ~ "Play Dead" (2007) David Rosenfelt

From Goodreads ~ Few can rival attorney Andy Carpenter's affection for golden retrievers, especially his own beloved Tara. 

After he astonishes a New Jersey courtroom by successfully appealing another golden's death sentence, Andy discovers that this gentle dog is a key witness to a murder that took place five years before. 

Andy pushes the boundaries of the law even further as he struggles to free an innocent man by convincing an incredulous jury to take canine testimony seriously. It will take all the tricks Andy's fertile mind can conceive to get to the bottom of a remarkable chain of impersonations and murder, and save a dog's life - and his own - in the process.

Andy is a lawyer.  Though the dog rescue that he and his former client, Willie, have opened, he comes across a golden retriever named Yogi who is supposed to be put down.  Because he has a golden retriever named Tara which he love love loves, he is determined to save Yogi.  He is successful but this leads him to defend Richard, the owner of Yogi.

Richard has been in prison for five years for murdering his fiancée ... until now, it was believed that he had also killed his beloved dog.  Richard lost everything when he went to prison ... his fiancée, his job and his freedom.  It's up to Andy, with the help of Karen, Richard's loyal sister, and his team of Sam, Kevin and Marcus, to fix this wrong.

This is the sixth book I've read by this author and I enjoyed it.  I liked the writing style as it was funny, sarcastic and amusing.  It was written in first person perspective in Andy's voice.  It is the sixth in the Andy Carpenter series (and the sixth I've read) and it works as a stand alone (so you don't need to have read the first one to know what is going on).

I like Andy and it was good to see him back in the courtroom, where he belongs.  He's smart and shifty and recognizes his weaknesses ,,, he acknowledges that he's a coward.  He loves his dog, Tara, and thinks she's the most wonderful dog in the whole wide world.  Andy's team is made up of Kevin, his hypochondriac associate who also owns/runs a laundramat, Sam, his accountant who is also a computer hacker, and Marcus, an investigator with persuasive reasoning skills.  He calls in favours from his friends, Vince, the editor of the local newspaper, and Pete, a local police officer.

Thursday 26 November 2015

beautybox five - November 2015

My November beautybox five arrived today.  The theme is Boosted Basics.

Beauty Box 5 is a subscription-based, beauty sampling service that delivers 5 deluxe samples and full-sized products right to your door every month.

Subscriptions are $12US a month or $99US for a year.  Shipping is free.

Here's what was in it ...

Value = $42.70US

St. Louis Bar and Grill, Ajax, ON

I had lunch today at St. Louis in Ajax.

I usually get their wings (I love their wings!) but got the bucket special for a change.

Homewood Suites by Hilton, Ajax, ON

I have four seminars to conduct for a client in Ajax today.  The first one was at 6:15am.  Rather than having to get up REALLY early and drive there (about an hour), I spent the night nearby at the Homewood Suites in Ajax.

Here was my room ...

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Thai Bamboo Restaurant, Vaughan, ON

I had a seminar and one-on-ones to conduct for a client in Vaughan today and had lunch at Thai Bamboo Restaurant.  I'd had lunch there last year and it was good!

I ordered Green Curry Chicken and it was delicious!  Yum!

The servers were friendly and quick.  It's a busy spot and I could have been in and out within a half hour.

Thai Bamboo Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Moselland Riesling wine cat bottles ... that might have been

As you know, I collect Moselland Riesling wine cat bottles ... last week I picked up the latest three (I now have 33 unopened bottles).

Recently I received an email from Alex of DIONYSUS Wines & Spirits Ltd., the agents in Ontario for Moselland ... he'd come across my postings about the cat bottles.  He had attached the history of the colours and it seems that I'm missing just three since 1999.

He said he had some cat bottles that were proposed samples for the LCBO that were never produced for sale.  They normally recycle these bottles but he offered to send them to me ... of course, I said "yes".

They arrived today ...

The smoky one on the left is interesting

Thanks, Alex!

Monday 23 November 2015

meowbox - November 2015

Last month on Dragons' Den, one of the pitches was for meowbox, a monthly subscription box for cats.  I like getting subscription boxes and I figured Morgan and Crumpet would too ... so I ordered a six month subscription for them.

meowbox is a cat subscription box full of surprises, delivered to your door every month. Your meowbox is brimming with yummy cat treats and fun cat toys, specially selected for quality and uniqueness, to cater to your cat’s discriminating taste. 

We carefully research and select items that are high quality and unique. We pick food and treats that are either made with natural ingredients, are tasty, nutritious, grain-free, organic or locally made. You won’t find just the regular run-of-the-mill stuff in your meowbox. Our goal is to excite kitty and put a smile on your face. 

The cost ranges from $22.95 to $32.95 a month, depending on the plan, and shipping is free.

We believe that if we have the opportunity to give, then we should share what we have. This philosophy comes packaged neatly within the heart of every meowbox. For every meowbox you buy, we give a can of food to a shelter cat on your behalf. One box can make a difference.

Our can of food is en route to the Jefferson Perish Animal Shelter in Jefferson, LA, United States.

Morgan and Crumpet's first box arrived today.

So cute that it was customized for them.

Here's what was inside ...

Sunday 22 November 2015

Book ~ "After You" (2015) Jojo Moyes

From Goodreads ~ How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?

Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding - the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future.

For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.

This is the sequel to Me Before You, which I read last year.  It picks up with Louisa a couple years after Will has died.  She spent some time travelling and has returned to London, has bought an apartment and is working in an airport bar.  She's not happy and is drinking too much.  One night she has an accident and has to move back home with her parents for a while to recover.

In order to help her move on with her life, she joins a support group but doesn't feel like she has a lot in common with the others since she only spent six months with Will.  She starts seeing Sam, the paramedic who helped save her, but she can't let go of Will.  In the meantime, someone from Will's past shows up which brings her back in contact with Will's parents.

This is the fourth book I've read by this author and I thought it was okay.  I found the writing and the pacing was up and down ... sometimes I felt like I couldn't keep reading it and then something would happen to draw me back in.  It is written mostly in first person perspective from Lou's point of view.  I found some of the situations a bit extreme and unbelievable.

I know Lou was grieving and trying to find her life again but she is a bit of a drag and letting everyone walk over her.  She's in a job that's going nowhere with a new boss who is a jerk.  I liked Sam ... for some reason, I kept imagining nice guy actor Chris O'Dowd.  Lou's mom has discovered feminism and her dad doesn't like it.

Though it is a sequel, there is background (eventually) about what happened in the first book so you can figure it out but I found that it was drawn out ... so I would recommend you read Me Before You before you read this on so you know what's going on.

Saturday 21 November 2015

Rebel's Rock Irish Pub, Hamilton, ON

Gord and I had supper this evening with his son, Ken, who lives in Hamilton.

A couple blocks from Ken's place is Rebel's Rock Irish Pub.

Book ~ "Mayor Rob Ford: Uncontrollable: How I Tried to Help the World's Most Notorious Mayor" (2015) Mark Towhey and Johanna Schneller

From Goodreads ~ In February 2013, Toronto’s former mayor, Rob Ford, was caught on video smoking crack cocaine. Weeks later, he was accused of groping a campaign rival, had to leave a gala for being too intoxicated and was fired as the coach of a high school football team. The events were part of a stream of Rob Ford “mishaps”, which include a DUI, accusations of domestic violence, a trial where the Toronto City Council stripped him of his powers, even accusations of murder.

Through it all, Ford’s former chief of staff, Mark Towhey, stood by his side. Towhey was part of Ford’s inner circle; he’d joined Ford’s mayoral campaign in 2010 and quickly became one of his closest advisors. He responded to media questions regarding Ford’s drug and alcohol additions, his anger management problems, and, of course, the video of Ford smoking crack.

In May 2013, Mark Towhey had a confidential conversation with Ford. Much speculations has been about this conversation but thus far, the public only knows two words from that conversation; Towhey told Ford to “get help.” They also know what happened next, Towhey was fired.

In "Mayor Rob Ford: Uncontrollable", Towhey recounts the conversation and shares what Ford was like behind the scenes. This is a candid insider account of working with Ford, covering for him, respecting his strengths, and managing his weaknesses. 

Mark Towhey was senior advisor and Chief of Staff to former Toronto mayor Rob Ford from 2010 to 2013.  This is his story of what it was like working with Rob Ford and his brother, Doug, and all the damage control he and others did to protect Ford and make decisions in his absence.

I've never been a fan of either of the Fords ... I think they are lying arrogant bullies.  But from the sound of it, Ford's heart was in the right place in the beginning ... fighting for the "little guy".  But as Ford's alcohol and drug addictions took hold of him, having him as our mayor became an embarrassment to our city (it is North America’s fourth largest city and Canada’s sixth largest government) and he became a laughingstock around the world.

As time went on, Ford spent less and less time at City Hall and more time on the missing list.  He started showing up at events hammered and stoned.  There were rumours that he was hanging out with drug dealers and murderers.  When it was reported that there was a video of Ford doing coke, he denied its existence and proclaimed that he didn't do drugs.  It was only when he was backed up against a wall that he admitted the truth ... that seemed to be the way he dealt with everything.  Deny deny deny until proof comes out to show he was lying.

Eventually because he couldn't be kicked out of the office, the councillors voted to strip him of his powers so for his last year he was our mayor in name only.  When yet another video surfaced of him in less-than-stellar behaviour, he said he was heading to rehab (he was only there for about a month).  All these events played out in the news and it was interesting to get a behind-the-scene view of what was going on.

I enjoyed this book.  It's an interesting read, especially for people living in Toronto.  If more of the "Ford Nation" read it, perhaps they wouldn't be as brainwashed into still idolizing Ford.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Moselland Riesling wine - cat bottles

Almost every year in November the LCBO sells bottles of Moselland Riesling wine in the shape of cats.

This year they are blue, marsala and green with a 2014 vintage and I picked them up this afternoon.

I've been collecting them for about 15 years and now have 33.

They are all different colours/vintages and unopened.
  • 2000 - 5
  • 2001 - 3
  • 2002 - 3
  • 2003 - 1
  • 2004 - 2
  • 2005 - 2
  • 2006 - 2
  • 2007 - 2
  • 2008 - 2
  • 2009 - 2
  • 2011 - 2
  • 2012 - 3
  • 2013 - 1
  • 2014 - 3

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Book ~ "Dead Center" (2007) David Rosenfelt

From Goodreads ~ After Laurie Collins left him and headed west, New Jersey defense attorney Andy Carpenter didn't expect to ever see her again. So he's shocked when his ex-girlfriend appears on TV - and then calls him pleading for his help. Two coeds in Wisconsin have been found brutally stabbed to death. As the town's acting police chief, Laurie had to arrest a young college student with a carful of bloodstains who argued with one of the victims just before her death. Yet Laurie strongly believes that the suspect, Jeremy Davidson, is innocent. 

Trading the refineries and factories of Paterson for the frozen pastures of Findlay, Wisconsin, Andy soon finds himself in a small town handling a big-time double homicide case. He looks into Jeremy's romance with one of the victims - and the possible involvement of a bizarre religious cult - one that may sanction the most unholy, and vicious, of acts. 

While Andy tries to save Jeremy, make sense of his love life, and find a decent pizza for his beloved dog, Tara, the secrets of an ultra-religious community begin to rain down on him like bricks from a cracked fortress.  The path to the truth is littered with lies and misdirection. And before it's all over, the unexpected is the only thing Andy can count on.

Andy is trying to move on after Laurie, his investigator and girlfriend, moved four months ago to become a police officer in a small town in Wisconsin she grew up in.  Then he gets a call from her ... a young local has been arrested for murdering his ex-girlfriend and her friend and Laurie wants him to be his lawyer.  Andy and his dog, Tara, head to Findlay to see what he can do.

The two women who had been murdered were from a religious neighbouring town that likes to keep their affairs private.  Needless to say, Andy gets no help from the residents as he is investigating the murders.  With the help of a local lawyer, Laurie (as acting police chief) and Andy's team from New Jersey, they must prove that their client is innocent.

This is the fifth book I've read by this author and I thought it was just okay.  I found the plot a bit boring.  Perhaps I didn't like it as much as the others in the series because Andy was acting more like an investigator rather than doing his usual lawyer thing.  I found the whole religious cult kind of dumb ... the head is called a "Keeper" and he makes the town's decisions (marriages, occupations, etc.) by spinning a wheel.  I thought the ending wrapped up really quickly.  Andy suddenly figured it out and the bad person(s) caught ... done!  I would have liked a bit more explanation as to why things had happened to wrap it up.  During the book, Andy did some dumb things like meeting people but forgetting his cell phone.  And since he was out of town, there was no interaction with his friends, Pete or Vince, which is comical ... Andy and Sam barely song-talked.

The writing style was funny, sarcastic and amusing.  It was written in first person perspective in Andy's voice.  It is the fifth in the Andy Carpenter series (and the fifth I've read) and it works as a stand alone (so you don't need to have read the first one to know what is going on).

Monday 16 November 2015

Topbox - November 2015

My November Topbox arrived today.

For only $12 a month, you will receive a Topbox with 4 carefully selected, indulgent, beauty products. Then test the products in the comfort of your own home.

Here's what's inside ...

    Total value = $30.10

    Sunday 15 November 2015

    Book ~ "Everyone Is Italian on Sunday" (2015) Rachael Ray

    From Goodreads ~ If you’re like Rachael Ray, you’ll agree that there is something comforting and heartwarming about a heaping plate of perfectly cooked spaghetti with moist and tender meatballs covered in a luscious, dark-red tomato sauce. Now, in "Everyone Is Italian on Sunday", Rachael invites you into her home to share her family’s culinary history and the recipes that have shaped her life and career. 

    For Rachael, Italian food - spinach gnocchi, linguine puttanesca, chicken saltimbocca, pizza capricciosa - has the power to summon cherished, happy memories. In this one indispensable book, she has brought together signature recipes for the traditional Italian staples that she grew up with and still cooks for her family and friends today. From arancini to saffron gnocchetti sardi, from small bites to hearty meals, from her sister’s favorite Italian desserts to her husband’s Italian ingredient-inspired cocktails, here is a treasury of delicious dishes to prepare with love and devour with gusto. 

    Classic Italian cooking has always been the foundation of almost every meal that Rachael prepares, and she hopes that you and your family, friends, and neighbors will love savoring everything that Italian cooking has to offer. Italian Sundays are all about bringing people together and creating wonderful memories while enjoying the pleasures of great homemade food. 

    So pull up a chair at Rachael’s kitchen table and experience the magic of an Italian Sunday!

    I love Italian food!  And usually on Sundays, I'll put more effort into our supper (during the week we tend to just throw things together).  That's why this book caught my eye.

    The book starts with an intro about the author growing up Italian.

    The chapters are:
    1. Brunch - including Ratatouille Frittata, Flatbread Pizzas with Greens, Ricotta and Eggs and Croque-Madame Italian-style
    2. Starters, salads and small bites - including Family-size Caesar, Italian Wings and Mozzarella in Carrozza with Ham
    3. Soups - including Italian-style Gazpacho, Ministra and White Zuppa Di Pesce
    4. Pizza, calzones and focaccia - including Naples Pizza Sauce, Focaccia and Hot Soppresata Pizza
    5. Pasta, gnocchi, polenta and their sauces - including Gnocchi, Walnut Orange Sauce and Short Rib Ragu
    6. Risotto and grains - including Rosemary and Roasted Garlic Wild Rice Blend, Drunken Risotto and Quinoa and Vegetable Stuffed Peppers
    7. Seafood - including Tilapia Piccata, Cod Saltimbocca and Cioppino
    8. Pork and lamb - including Pork Loin Cooked in Milk, Citrus and Garlic Bone-in Pork Loin Roast and Pork Chops in the Style of Porchetta
    9. Beef and veal - including Easy Rib Roast with Roasted Garlic and Herbs, Italian Port Roast (Grandpa's Beef) and Chianti Burgers
    10. Chicken - including Roasted Chicken with Citrus and Herb Butter, Red Wine Roast Chicken Thighs on Bread and Lemon and Black Pepper Grilled Chicken with Rosemary
    11. Vegetables - including Sautéed Lady Apples, Applesauce with Thyme and New Year's Fancy Lentils
    12. Desserts - including Pignoli Cookies, Zeppole and Cannoli Cream
    13. Cocktails - including Grapefruit Martini, Little Italy and The Italian Flag

    There are intros to all the recipes and helpful tips.  There are lots of colourful pictures that makes everything look so delicious!

    I can't wait to try some of the recipes in this book!