Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Knitted scarf

I finished knitting a scarf tonight using Bernat blanket yarn ("Morning Glory").  The skein is 300 grams/10.5 ounces and I used a 6.5 round needle.

I knitted each row (garter stitch).  I cast on 20 stitches and kept knitting until I ran out of yarn.  The scarf ended up about seven feet.  It's soft and thick and warm!

Monday, 19 February 2018

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Book ~ "Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as My Mom Lives with Memory Loss" (2017) Jann Arden

From Goodreads ~ Based on her hugely popular Facebook posts and Instagram photos, "Feeding My Mother" is a frank, funny, inspirational and piercingly honest account of the transformation in Jann Arden's life that has turned her into the primary "parent" to her mom, who is in the grip of Alzheimer's. 

Jann Arden moved in to a house just across the way from her parents in rural Alberta to be close to them but also so they could be her refuge from the demands of the music business and a performing career. Funny how time works. 

Since her dad died in 2015, Jann cooks for her mom five or six times a week. Her mom finds comfort in her daughter's kitchen, not just in the delicious food but also just sitting with her as she cooks. And Jann finds some peace in caring for her mom, even as her mom slowly becomes a stranger. "If you told me two years ago that I'd be here," Jann writes, "I wouldn't have believed it. And yet we still fall into so much laughter, feel so much insane gladness and joy. It's such a contrast from one minute to the next and it teaches me constantly: it makes me stronger and more humble and more empathetic and caring and kind." 

The many people who are dealing with a loved one who is losing it will find inspiration and strength in Jann's wholehearted, loving response and her totally Jann take on the upside-down world of a daughter mothering her mother. "Feeding My Mother" is one heck of an affirmation that life just keeps on keeping on and a wonderful example of how you have to roll with it. 

Jann Arden is Canadian singer, songwriter, broadcaster, actor and author.  She lived next door to her parents in rural Alberta.  Her father, Derrel, passed away in August 2015 after years of being ill, including dementia.  Her mother, Joan, still lives next door.  She is battling Alzheimer's and needs round-the-clock care.

This book is Jann's journey of taking care of her parents and watching them decline over the last eight years but being helpless to do anything about it.  She started cooking for them (there were days when they couldn't remember how use a can opener) and throughout the book are recipes of some of things she's made ... like turkey chili, chicken parm, split pea soup and pulled chicken noodle soup.  Also scattered throughout the book are pictures of Jann, her parents and their pets.

This is the second book of Jann's I've read (I read Falling Backwards a couple years ago and enjoyed it).  Despite the difficult subject, I enjoyed this book and Jann's personality comes through and I felt like she was sitting with me and chatting.  I liked the writing style ... it was amusing at times and honest.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Book ~ "The Last Laugh" (2018) Tracy Bloom

From GoodreadsJenny discovers her days are numbered at the same time she discovers her husband is having an affair.

Frankly, her life was tough enough already. Two tricky teenagers, her mother’s constant complaints, friends who aren’t up to the job and a career which has been spiralling downwards since she won ‘Sunseeker Tour Rep of the Season’ twenty years ago.

And now this: a cheating husband and a death sentence.

Enough is enough. Jenny vows to keep both catastrophes a secret. She takes her life - and death - into her own hands and decides to live as she did when she was happiest … in 1996. She plans a spectacular 1990’s themed party in place of a wake that she herself will attend. But will she be able to keep her secrets for long enough to have the party of a lifetime?

Jenny is in her mid-forties.  She is married to Mark, who she met twenty years ago when she was a tour rep in Greece and he was on vacation.  Mark is now successful and working long hours and is rarely around.  Jenny works in a retirement home as an entertainment coordinator for the residents.  Jenny and Mark have two teenage children ... a daughter who only cares about her best friend and a son who has anxiety issues.  Jenny's mother is judgmental towards her.  Jenny's father has dementia and she takes care of him when her mother needs to run errands.

Jenny has been having health issues.  Her doctor tells her that she has terminal cancer with 18 to 24 months left.  She heads over to tell her husband the news only to find him bent over a filing cabinet having sex with a blonde.  So she backs away and keeps her cancer and her husband's affair a secret.

Jenny feels  her life peaked in 1996.  She had a great job as a tour rep, she had great fun friends and she looked and felt great.  That year, her 25th birthday party was the best memory ever!  Rather than having a wake after she's gone, she decides to recreate that birthday while she is still here to enjoy it (her recent birthday was a disappointment).

This was the third book I read by this author and I thought it was okay.  I liked the writing style.  It's written in first person perspective from Jenny's point of view.  Given the subject matter, it was a bit of a tough book to read.  As a head's up, there is swearing.

I wasn't crazy about the characters.  Jenny was a doormat and had let life pass her by.  Her family (except for her son) treated her like crap and she took it.  Mark had turned into an unsupporting cold jerk and she didn't feel close enough to him to let him know there was something wrong or to have with her at her doctor's appointment.  It was hard to believe she would put up with the backtalk she did from her daughter.  With the way her mother treated her, I'm surprised she did anything for her when she obviously favoured Jenny's brother, Antony, a surgeon, who was too busy to spend time with the family.  Jenny had fallen into a job at the retirement home and was too lazy to move on and do something else.  She let her old friendships go and her current friends are more like acquaintances.  She had no one to turn to when she received such devastating news.  I like that Jenny grew a backbone as the story progressed.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Book ~ "P is for Peril" (2001) Sue Grafton

From Goodreads ~ It is now nine weeks since Dr Dowan Purcell vanished without trace. The sixty-nine-year-old doctor had said goodnight to his colleagues at the Pacific Meadows nursing home, had climbed into his car and driven away - never to be seen again.

His embittered first wife, Fiona, is convinced he is still alive. His second wife, Crystal - a former stripper forty years his junior - is just as sure he is dead. Enter private investigator Kinsey Malone, hired by Fiona to find out just what has happened to the man they loved.

Enter also Tommy Hevener, an attractive flame-haired twenty-something who has set his romantic sights on Kinsey. And Tommy is a man with a very interesting past.

It's 1986 and Kinsey Millhone is a 36-year-old private detective in Santa Teresa, CA.  She has been hired by Fiona, the first wife of Dr. Dowan Purcell, to find her ex-husband.  He disappeared nine weeks ago ... Fiona wants to know if he has taken off (he has done this in the past a couple times) or if he's dead.  The doctor's current wife, Crystal, is a former stripper he met on a trip to Las Vegas and is convinced he is dead.  In her investigation, Kinsey discovers fraudulent Medicare activity at the clinic where Purcell worked as the medical director ... is he responsible and taken off or killed himself because he knows it's going to be revealed?

In the meantime, Kinsey is looking for new office space and finds one for rent nearby.  She is attracted to Tommy, one of the owners of the office space ... until she discovers he has a shocking past.

I thought this story was okay.  There are lots of people in this story and many who could have "dunnit" including Dr. Purcell himself.  The story ends abruptly and the usual epilogue isn't there.  There was still one aspect of the story left outstanding.  It's written in first person perspective in Kinsey's voice.  As a head's up, there is swearing.

This is the sixteenth in the "alphabet series" featuring Kinsey Millhone.  Though it is part of a series, it works as a stand alone.  I discovered this series in the mid-1990s and have read them all.  I started rereading them last year.  With the author's recent death, Y is for Yesterday will be the end of the series.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Book ~ "Canadianity: Tales from the True North Strong and Freezing" (2017) Jeremy Taggart and Jonathan Torrens

From Goodreads ~ Sprung from their hugely successful podcast Canadianity, Taggart (that guy from that band) and Torrens (that guy from that show) share a collection of showbiz tales from the road and relatable everyday anecdotes, all wrapped up in a nostalgic fondness for this great country. "Canadianity" takes readers on a cross-country journey, shining the spotlight on notable local heroes (or bahds), the best places to crush food and the greasiest watering holes, coast to coast to coast. 

Replete with lists of Canada’s top bands, television shows and athletes, as well as random observations about everything this country has to offer, "Canadianity" is often provocative and always hilarious. Drawing on their combined experiences as a legendary drummer (Our Lady Peace) and a veteran talk-show host ("Jonovision") respectively, Taggart and Torrens have infused their first book with equal parts beer and pop culture and added a heaping helping of irreverence. 

I didn't know that Taggart and Torrens had podcasts.  To be honest, I didn't know who Taggart was (he was the drummer in Canadian rock band, Our Lady Peace from 1993 to 2014).  Why I picked up this book is because it was Canadian and I knew who Torrens is (I know him as J-Roc from The Trailer Park Boys).

Taggart and Torrens have known each other since 2004.  Taggart had become a regular on The Jay & Dan Podcast and Torrens went on the show.  They decided to do a podcast a together.  It was so much fun doing it so they continued to make them.  And then they decided to write this book.

The chapters cover a province starting with Torren's home province of Prince Edward Island followed by Taggart's home province of Ontario.  Each chapter starts with bahd (short for buddy) bands from the province followed by five notable bahds.  Then Taggart and Torrens bounce back and forth, each sharing their memories and stories of that particular province.  Also in the chapters are tidbits of information and quizzes.  The chapters end with "Gotta Do's" in that province.  One of the last chapters is called "Canadianity for Dummies" and discusses Canadian shows like The Beachcombers, Wok with Yan, Speakers' Corner, Kids in the Hall, Test Pattern, Codco and more.

I liked the writing style of this book.  Taggart and Torrens have different styles and though their stories and ramblings are labeled, you can tell whose voice it is (Taggart swears a lot more).  The stories and experiences were interesting ... I like this kind of behind the scenes stuff.  Canadian readers will relate to this book and it's a good explanation of who we are to non-Canadians.

Topbox - February 2018

My February 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 I received ...

Total value = $76.66 value

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Ipsy Glam Bag - February 2018

My February Ipsy Glam Bag arrived today.
  • 4 to 5 beauty products in a collectible makeup bag 
  • Monthly videos showing you how to get the Look 
  • Win free products in contests and giveaways

Subscriptions are $10US a month or $110US for a year.  Shipping is free in the U.S. and $4.95US per month to Canada.

Here's what I received ...

Total value: $80.65US (without the make-up bag)

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Knitted Square Dish Cloth

I finished knitting a dish cloth tonight.  It was a fairly easy pattern.

Using a US6/4mm needle, cast on 80 stitches.  I used cotton yarn.

Row 1: Knit placing a stitch marker after 40 stitches (at the halfway point)

Row 2: Knit to two stitches before the stitch marker, knit two stitches together, slip the stitch marker to the other needle, slip slip knit, knit to the end of row.

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until two stitches remain.  Repeat row 1 once more. Cast off.

Book ~ "Surprise Me" (2018) Sophie Kinsella

From Goodreads ~ After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other's sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected "until death do us part" to mean seven decades. 

In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all. 

Sylvie and Dan are both thirty-two, have been together for ten years (married for seven) and have five year old twins.  When their doctor tells them they are healthy enough to have another 68 more years together, they are freaked out.  To keep things alive and exciting, they decide to plan surprises for each other, which comically don't have the effect they had anticipated.

Sylvie's father had been larger than life and everyone idolized him.  He passed away in a car accident two years ago and Sylvie and her mother are still grieving CONSTANTLY.  Sylvie can't understand why Dan doesn't grieve for him as well.  Sylvie still wears her hair long long long because that's the way Daddy like it.

Sylvie is working for a small museum that still functions as if it's still the 1980s ... the owner refuses to function with modern conveniences and make them use a fax machine, share a computer and write everything in books.  When the owner's nephew turns up, Sylvie is sure he is there to close the museum and sell the land to condo developers.

I've read a lot of Kinsella's books over the years and they are usually a fun escape.  This one started out that way but got really serious about halfway in.  Instead of getting closer together, something is ripping Sylvie and Dan apart.  It's written in first person perspective from Sylvie's point of view.  As a head's up, there is swearing.

I wasn't overly crazy about the main characters.  I found it weird that Sylvie and Dan had married until "death do us part" but freaked out at the thought of having to spend the next 68 years together.  I thought it was a bit much how Sylvie worshiped her father and held Dan to the same standard, which was tough for him considering Sylvie came from money and Dan didn't (and he refused to accept any of her family's).  Sylvie's mother (Sylvie called her "Mummy") was very annoying and stuck-up and didn't seem to have any sense of reality (and everyone let her).  Dan seemed like a nice guy but put up with her snotty family.  Sylvie's boss and nephew were stereotypical in that she was a rich dotty elderly woman and her nephew was the young jerk with no appreciation for the past.  I did like the neighbours, Tilda and her son, Toby ... they added some humour to the book.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Staybridge Suites, London, ON

I have a seminar and one-on-ones to conduct in London today so spent last night at the Staybridge Suites ... it is just off the 401.

Where breakfast is served

Here was my room ...

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Book ~ "O is for Outlaw" (1999) Sue Grafton

From Goodreads ~ The call comes on a Monday morning from a guy who scavenges defaulted storage units at auction. Last week he bought a stack. They had stuff in them - Kinsey stuff. For thirty bucks, he'll sell her the lot. Kinsey's never been one for personal possessions but curiosity wins out and she hands over a twenty (she may be curious but she loves a bargain). What she finds amid childhood memorabilia is an old undelivered letter. 

It will force her to reexamine her beliefs about the breakup of that first marriage, about the honor of that first husband, about an old unsolved murder. It will put her life in the gravest peril.

It's 1986 and Kinsey Millhone is a 36-year-old private detective in Santa Teresa, CA.  She gets a call from a man who has bought some of her possessions at an auction of defaulted storage locker items.  She recognizes the box as stuff she left with her first husband, Mickey, when she left him 14 years ago.  She walked out after eight months of marriage because she had thought Mickey had done something and he had asked her to lie about it.  In the box, she finds a letter written to her back then which she never got.  Kinsey realises she may have let Mickey down and should have given him the benefit of the doubt so starts to look for him.  When she discovers he has recently been shot and is in a coma, she decides to try and clear his name.

I thought this story was okay.  It was interesting to find out something more about Kinsey personally.  I found it a bit unbelievable, though, that she would get so involved in preserving Mickey's name now since she hasn't talked to him in fourteen years and he was a cheating dog while they were together.  Considering how he treated their marriage, he didn't deserve it. 

It's written in first person perspective in Kinsey's voice.  I found there were a lot of characters, which I found confusing at times.  There is a secondary story in addition to Kinsey trying to find out what happened to Mickey that added more characters to keep track of.  As a head's up, there is swearing.

This is the fifteenth in the "alphabet series" featuring Kinsey Millhone.  Though it is part of a series, it works as a stand alone.  I discovered this series in the mid-1990s and have read them all.  I started rereading them last year.  With the author's recent death, Y is for Yesterday will be the end of the series.

Chop Steakhouse & Bar, London, ON

I had supper this evening at the Chop Steakhouse & Bar.

Jenny was my server and she started me off with warm bread.  I ate it all ... yum!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival, Toronto, ON

Steam Whistle Brewing held their fifth annual Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival next to their brewery today ... I've been to four over the years

It was held outside, which is very Canadian!  The sky was grey, the temperature was just a bit chilly and it was snowing.

The gate was supposed to open at 11am and the first 500 in got a festive toque.  Darlene, Christine and I got in line about 11:30am ... it was a huge line and it took us about a half hour to get in.

I bought 20 drink tokens.

There were a lot of people already in when we got in.

I ran into my pal, Denyse. and her friend, Martin, right away.  They had gotten in line at 10:15am and had been one of the 500 to get a toque.

They recommended the cranberry cider from Ironwood Cider so that's what I started with.  It was delicious!

Friday, 9 February 2018

Book ~ "The Toronto Book of the Dead" (2017) Adam Bunch

From Goodreads ~ Exploring Toronto’s history through the stories of its most fascinating and shadowy deaths.

If these streets could talk ...

With morbid tales of war and plague, duels and executions, suicides and séances, Toronto’s past is filled with stories whose endings were anything but peaceful. "The Toronto Book of the Dead" delves into these: from ancient First Nations burial mounds to the grisly murder of Toronto’s first lighthouse keeper; from the rise and fall of the city’s greatest Victorian baseball star to the final days of the world’s most notorious anarchist.

Toronto has witnessed countless lives lived and lost as it grew from a muddy little frontier town into a booming metropolis of concrete and glass. "The Toronto Book of the Dead" tells the tale of the ever-changing city through the lives and deaths of those who made it their final resting place. 

I live in Toronto and I'm always looking for books about the history of Toronto so that's why this one caught my eye.

The stories are all focused on death with a Toronto connection.  The first story is about the discovery of a 700-year-old mass grave while they were building a subdivision in Scarborough in the 1950s.  The last story is about the death of Garry Hoy, a 38-year-old lawyer who in 1993 tested the window on the 24th floor in his downtown office building by hurling his body at it only to have the window pop out. 

Other stories include the War of 1812 when the Americans attacked Fort York, the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse ghost, cholera in the early 1800s, a connection of Toronto's first black licensed doctor to Abraham Lincoln's death, passenger pigeons (which are now extinct), Sir Henry Pellatt of Casa Loma fame, Ruth Lowe who wrote the song that launched Frank Sinatra's career, Lucy Maud Montgomery's suicide, Hurricane Hazel, the fire that destroyed the ship the Noronic, Jim Black who was first Canadian AIDS patient to go public, and more.  At the back of the book, there is an extensive bibliography and suggestions for further reading.

I wasn't sure what to expect with this book but I found it interesting.  I liked the writing style.  It was written in a straight-forward manner with not a lot of details but just enough.  When I came across something especially interesting I wanted to know more about, I would stop and Google the subject for more information.  I think anyone living in Toronto (and elsewhere) would find this book worth reading.

Hampton Inn by Hilton London, London, ON

I have a seminar and one-on-ones to conduct today in London and I spent last night at the Hampton Inn by Hilton, which is just off the 401.

There are fresh cookies on the counter!
This is where breakfast is served

There is a fitness center and pool.  I spent some time on the treadmill last night but didn't check out the pool.

Here was my room ... it was big!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Book ~ "N is for Noose" (1998) Sue Grafton

From Goodreads ~ Kinsey Millhone should have done something else - she should have turned the car in the direction of home. Instead, she was about to put herself in the gravest jeopardy of her career. 

Tom Newquist had been a detective in the Nota Lake sheriff's office - a tough, honest cop respected by everyone. When he died suddenly, the townsfolk were saddened but not surprised.  Just shy of sixty-five, Newquist worked too hard, smoked too much and exercised too little. That plus an appetite for junk food made him a poster boy for an American Heart Association campaign. 

Newquist's widow didn't doubt the coroner's report. But what Selma couldn't accept was not knowing what had so bothered Tom in the last six weeks of his life. What was it that had made him prowl restlessly at night, that had him brooding constantly? Selma Newquist wanted closure and the only way she'd get it was if she found out what it was that had so bedeviled her husband. 

Kinsey should have dumped the case. It was vague and hopeless, like looking for a needle in a haystack. Instead, she set up shop in Nota Lake, where she found that looking for a needle in a haystack can draw blood. Very likely, her own..

It's the late 1980s and Kinsey Millhone is a private detective in Santa Teresa, CA, in her mid-thirties.  She has been taking care of her boyfriend, Dietz, who just had knee surgery.  On her way home, she takes on one of his cases.  Selma's husband, Tom, was a sheriff's officer who had died of a heart attack a few weeks before.  There was something that was bothering him at the time of his death and Selma wants Kinsey to find out what it was.

As she investigates, Kinsey follows up on the last case that Tom was working on ... the case of a petty criminal, Alfie Toth, whom he had traced to a hotel in Santa Teresa before Toth died in what might have been a murder or a bizarre suicide.  Five years ago, a prison associate of Toth's had passed away in the same way.  There's no way this could be a coincidence.

I found this story boring and dull and I was happy when it was over.  The "whodunnit" and the why come out of the blue at the end.  It's written in first person perspective in Kinsey's voice.  As a head's up, there is swearing.

This is the fourteenth in the "alphabet series" featuring Kinsey Millhone.  Though it is part of a series, it works as a stand alone.  I discovered this series in the mid-1990s and have read them all.  I started rereading them last year.  With the author's recent death, Y is for Yesterday will be the end of the series.

Veloce Italian Kitchen, London, ON

I had supper this evening at Veloce Italian Kitchen.

When I walked in, I didn't know how it worked ... do I order at the counter, pay and then sit down or do I sit at a table and someone takes my order?  I discovered you order and pay for what you want.  The woman at the counter was a bit too abrasive in explaining it ... she could have been a bit more friendly.

After you order, you are given a number and told to grab a table.

When your meal is ready, it is brought to your table.  I love love love pizza and ordered one with pepperoni, bacon and cherry tomatoes.  When it was delivered to my table, it was cold and black on the bottom.  When I took it to the counter and said it was burnt, the guy asked me if I wanted to have another one made.  Um ... yes, please.

The second one they brought was cooked properly and hot.  I found it was bland, though.  I peeked under the cheese to make sure there was sauce on it since I couldn't taste any.  I'm assuming the shredded meat was pepperoni ... I've never seen pepperoni on a pizza like that.  The only thing I could taste was the cherry tomatoes.  So not a stellar pizza and I wouldn't go back.