Saturday 30 November 2019

Cat Shelter Building Workshop, Toronto Street Cats, Toronto, ON

I was at a cat shelter building workshop today organized by Toronto Street Cats.  The workshops are held every two weeks throughout the fall and winter season in the garage of the Toronto Humane Society ... today was the third one of the season (I was at the first one at the beginning of November).  I went to most of the workshops last year ... it's so nice helping the kitties in Toronto keep warm and dry during the cold winter.

Our mission: improve the lives of Toronto’s homeless cats by offering spay/neuter services, free for feral cats, and building overwintering shelters. We are also working to increase public awareness about Toronto’s homeless cat population and the importance of spay/neuter and trap/neuter/return (TNR). 

We are part of the Toronto Feral Cat Coalition, working together to implement strategic TNR programs to sterilize Toronto’s feral cats, decrease shelter intake and reduce euthanasia rates.

In eight years of building shelters, Toronto Street Cats has made over 6,000 ... in the 2018/19 season, 700 shelters were made!  In addition, to selling the shelters (they are available to caretakers and colonies for $15 and refurbished ones are $5), they also hold free feral spay/neuter clinics and welcome donations.

Today there were 48 volunteers and we made 134 new shelters and refurbished seven previously used ones.

Kevin, a team lead, and Kali, a coordinator, checked volunteers in

Here were the bins which would soon be made into the cat shelters.

Big sheets of insulation were cut for inside the bins.

Friday 29 November 2019

Book ~ "A Stranger in the House" (2017) Shari Lapena

From GoodreadsKaren and Tom Krupp are happy - they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished - her car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse - complete with phone and ID - behind.

There's a knock on the door - the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town.

The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes. Still, she’s mostly okay - except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient and they suspect she was up to no good.

Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won't stop asking questions.

Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet. 

Tom comes home from work late one night and discovers the door is unlocked, Karen, his wife, is gone, her car is gone but her phone and purse are in the house.  Then he gets a call that Karen has been in a car accident and is in the hospital.  He rushes to the hospital ... Karen is battered but okay but has amnesia.  It's a good thing she has the support of Tom and Brigid, her best friend from across the street, to help her through this.  Then a dead body is found near where Karen had her accident and the police are looking at Karen for murdering the man ... the problem is, though, that Karen can't remember that night, why she was even in that 'hood and if she did indeed murder the man (and why).

I liked this book and as with this author's other books, there's always a weird twist at the end, which I liked in this one.  I liked the writing style ... it's written in third person perspective with a focus on wherever the action is.  As a head's up, there is swearing.

Thursday 28 November 2019

Union Chicken, Toronto, ON

I had supper this evening with my pals Deb, Franca and Rona at Union Chicken at Union Station.  It was a busy spot.

Deb and Rona had Uncle Ray's Fried Chicken.  Deb had hers with sweet potatoes and Rona had hers with fries.  The meal looked monstrous and good.

Wednesday 27 November 2019

Book ~ "An Unwanted Guest" (2018) Shari Lapena

From Goodreads ~ A remote lodge in upstate New York is the perfect getaway. ... until the bodies start piling up.

It's winter in the Catskills and the weather outside is frightful. But Mitchell's Inn is so delightful! The cozy lodge nestled deep in the woods is perfect for a relaxing - maybe even romantic - weekend away. The Inn boasts spacious old rooms with huge wood-burning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or just curling up with a book and someone you love. 

So when the weather takes a turn for the worse and a blizzard cuts off the electricity - and all contact with the outside world - the guests settle in for the long haul. The power's down but they've got candles, blankets and wood - a genuine rustic experience! 

Soon, though, a body turns up - surely an accident. When a second body appears, they start to panic. Then they find a third body. Within the snowed-in paradise, something - or someone - is picking off the guests one by one. They can't leave and with no cell service, there's no prospect of getting the police in until the weather loosens its icy grip. The weekend getaway has turned deadly. For some couples, it's their first time away. For others, it will be their last. And there's nothing they can do about it but huddle down and hope they can survive the storm. 

Ten people head for a weekend getaway to a quaint inn in the Catskill ... two girl friends, an engaged couple, a dating couple, a couple whose marriage is in trouble, an author and an attorney.  Because of the nasty wintry weather, staff and other guests can't make it and it's up to the owner and his son to take care of everyone.

On the second morning, one of the guests is found dead at the bottom of the stairs.  It looks like an accident but the attorney wants to make sure so asks that the body not be moved until the police arrive ... which probably wouldn't be until the next day.  Then another guest is found dead, obviously murdered.  And later that day, there is another murder.

No one trusts each other now.  Was it someone who was staying at the inn committing the murders?  Or was there someone else hiding there they aren't aware of?

This was an interesting story with lots of twists and turns to throw you off and get you thinking in different directions about whodunnit.  The whodunnit was a surprise to me and I bought it.  What I wasn't buying, though, was how they were caught (the clue they left behind).  I liked the writing style.  It's written in third person perspective with a focus on wherever the action is.  As a head's up, there is swearing.

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Book ~ "A Dangerous Man" (2019) Robert Crais

From Goodreads ~ Joe Pike didn't expect to rescue a woman that day. He went to the bank same as anyone goes to the bank and returned to his Jeep. So when Isabel Roland, the lonely young teller who helped him, steps out of the bank on her way to lunch, Joe is on hand when two men abduct her. Joe chases them down and the two men are arrested. But instead of putting the drama to rest, the arrests are only the beginning of the trouble for Joe and Izzy. 

After posting bail, the two abductors are murdered and Izzy disappears. Pike calls on his friend, Elvis Cole, to help learn the truth. What Elvis uncovers is a twisted family story that involves corporate whistleblowing, huge amounts of cash, the Witness Relocation Program, and a long line of lies. But what of all that did Izzy know? Is she a perpetrator or a victim? And how far will Joe go to find out? 

After Joe Pike does his business at his bank, he sees the Isabel, the teller who had taken care of him, get kidnapped right in front of the bank.  He follows the car and saves her.  The would-be kidnappers are found dead shortly after they are released from jail the next day.  When Isabel disappears again, Joe begins to look for her.  He discovers Ted, a family friend of Isabel's who was a retired U.S. marshal, was recently murdered and Joe asks his friend and partner, Elvis Cole, a private investigator to find out what's going on.

Elvis discovers that Ted bragged about some of the people he had put in the witness protection program and it seems that Ted had helped Isabel's family many years ago get a new life.  But there may be someone who still carries a grudge against the family and there may be some missing money they want back ... and they think Isabel knows where it is.

I discovered the Elvis Cole series in the 1990s.  What attracted me to it was that Elvis was funny and tried to be charming ... the books were a fun read.  I find when Joe Pike is the focus, as it is with this book, it is more heavy and serious and not as much fun.  The book is written in third person perspective with whoever the focus is.  Though it's #18 in the series, it works as a stand alone.  As a head's up, there is some swearing and violence.

I found some of the writing a bit lazy and confusing.  Like what is "PT"?  It's something Joe did after a run and before he got dressed.  Another line was "Cole glanced at Carly as they shook."  Did Elvis and Joe shake hands?  Or did they both physically shake?  What's a "scimitar smile"?  I had to look up what scimitar meant and it's a short sword.  What is a sword smile?!  And what's a "Cheez-It dick"?  Chen is describing a police officer ... I didn't know what the "Cheez-It" meant.

Sunday 24 November 2019

Ipsy Glam Bag - November 2019

My November Ipsy Glam Bag arrived today.
  • $12 a Glam Bag ($223CN for a year)
  • 5 beauty products worth $50+ (the average Glam Bag value in 2019)
  • Glam Bags are available in the U.S., U.S. Territories, & Canada. U.S. shipping is free. Taxes will apply to all bag orders shipped within the U.S. Canadian shipping is $2.95.

Here's what I received ...

  • Make-up bag
  • MURAD Essential-C Day Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF 30 | PA+++
  • GIGI GORGEOUS Living Lip Balm in Natalia
  • LA CHLORIS URBAN BOTANICS Ultra Glow Moroccan Rose Mask
  • HOLA NEON Tinted Lip Balm in Call Me
  • LOVECRAFT BEAUTY Blush in Dauphine
  • Moselland Riesling wine - cat bottles

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

    It's been a couple years since I've seen them at the LCBO but they do have them this year so I popped in today to pick up a couple.

    I've been collecting them for almost 20 years and now have 38.  They are all different colours/vintages and are 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 - 5
    • 2015 - 1
    • 2018 - 2

    Saturday 23 November 2019

    Book ~ "Friends: A Cultural History (The Cultural History of Television)" (2019) Jennifer C. Dunn

    From Goodreads ~ A cultural phenomenon for a decade, "Friends" ranked in the top ten for every year of its original run, an accomplishment unmatched by any other scripted series. 

    And more than twenty-five years since its theme song promised "I'll be there for you," Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Ross are still entertaining audiences around the world. 

    As the characters maneuvered their ways through dating, love and the occasional conflict, their loyalty to each other remained steadfast. 

    In "Friends: A Cultural History", Jennifer C. Dunn explores why the show immediately took hold of viewers and how the series remained must-see TV for so long. Dunn examines the cultural landscape that allowed a show not centered on traditional sitcom norms of family and career to become such a critical and commercial success. 

    The author also addresses how the show's complicated depictions of gender roles and class distinctions - as well as its lack of ethnic diversity - did not detract from its popularity. In addition to exploring memorable plotlines, cherished moments, and the quirks of the principal players, this book analyzes the show's enduring cultural relevance. Featuring a discussion of the show's 25 best episodes, "Friends: A Cultural History" offers an engaging look at the series that has resonated with generations of television viewers. 

    I was a fan of Friends and still watch the shows now and then when I come across them on TV ... so that's why this book caught my eye.

    This book covers a lot of information about Friends and for the most part I found it interesting.

    The chapters were:
    1. Friends changes the sitcom landscape
    2. Friends one-screen and off
    3. Friends as family
    4. Friends happy not doing too much
    5. Friends happy not thinking too much
    6. Thin, white, upper-middle-class Friends
    7. Stereotypes, sexuality and Friendly tensions
    8. Friends music, fashions and locations will all be there for you
    9. Friends among fans:  memes and alternative narratives
    10. Friends forever
    11. Appendix:  The One with the Twenty-five Best Episodes

    This book discusses the beginnings of the show, the actors, their characters, what was happening in their real lives when they were doing the show and what they've done since.  When I originally watched it and even watching the shows today, I didn't consider it too deep ... but this book does.  It analyzes how, though there were brief secondary characters of colour and different nationalities, the main characters were white, how they were able to live in such nice apartments, etc.  It also examines the different roles and relationships of the characters over the ten years.  It showcases some of the sayings from the show that have come into our lives like "How YOU doin'?", the impact of the song on the Rembrandts and how the show connected to other shows.

    Though there was a lot of information, I was surprised that there was no mention of the surrogate mother of Monica and Chandler's surrogate babies, Bruce Willis, Pete and a brief mention of Gunther.

    According to the author, the Ross and Monica were the least liked characters ... I personally found Ross and Rachel annoying and hated how prominent their storylines were.

    Thursday 21 November 2019

    Book ~ "Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth" (2018) Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin

    From GoodreadsWord of mouth is directly responsible for 19% of all purchases and influences as much as 90%. Every human on earth relies on word of mouth to make buying decisions. Yet even today, fewer than 1% of companies have an actual strategy for generating these crucial customer conversations. "Talk Triggers" provides that strategy in a compelling, relevant, timely book that can be put into practice immediately, by any business.

    The key to activating customer chatter is the realization that same is lame. Nobody says "let me tell you about this perfectly adequate experience I had last night." The strategic, operational differentiator is what gives customers something to tell a story about. Companies (including the 30+ profiled in "Talk Triggers") must dare to be different and exceed expectations in one or more palpable ways. That's when word of mouth becomes involuntary: the customers of these businesses simply MUST tell someone else.

    Consumers are wired to discuss what is different and ignore what is average. "Talk Triggers" not only dares the reader to differentiate, it includes the precise formula for doing it.

    Combining compelling stories, inspirational examples, and practical how-to, "Talk Triggers" is the first indispensable book about word of mouth. It's a book that will create conversation about the power of conversation. 

    I find books about customer service and customer reactions interesting so that's why this book caught my eye ... it's about talk triggers and word-of-mouth marketing.  I'd never heard the term "talk triggers" before.

    The sections are:
    1. Why word of mouth works
    2. The four talk trigger criteria - be remarkable, relevant, reasonable and repeatable
    3. The five types of talk triggers - talkable empathy, talkable usefulness, talkable generosity, talkable speed and talkable attitude
    4. Creating talk triggers in six steps - gather internal insights, get close to your customers, create candidate talk triggers, test and measure your talk triggers, expand and turn on and amplify your talk trigger
    5. Appendix - summaries of the chapters including the key points and key data

    I liked that there were case studies in all the chapters.  For example, they discussed how Doubletree Hotels by Hilton give you a warm cookie when you check in.  I've stayed at the Doubletree Hotel in Regina, SK, a few times and yes, they do give you a warm cookie (sometimes two!) when you check in.  And yes, I've told others about it and mentioned it in my blog posts and Yelp posts.  And yes, it is one of the reasons I stay at this hotel when I go to Regina.  I didn't realize there was a term for it (ie talk trigger).  The book also discusses Five Guys Burger and Fries.  I've had a burger and fries at a few of their restaurants.  Even if you are eating in, your order comes in a bag.  And regardless of the size of fries you order, they intentionally give you more (hence the bag) ... and yes, they do.  And yes, I have mentioned the abundance of fries in my blog posts and Yelp posts without realizing it was their talk trigger.

    The Walper Hotel, Kitchener, ON

    I spent last night at the Walper Hotel, a boutique hotel downtown at Queen Street S and King Street W.  It was constructed in 1893 for $75,000 after a previous hotel had burned down in 1892.  In September 2013, the hotel was bought by a group for $4.6 million and renovated in 2016 .

    As I got off the elevator on my floor ...

    Here was my room ...

    Tuesday 19 November 2019

    Pizza Rustica, Toronto, ON

    I had an early lunch today at Pizza Rustica (on Blue Jays Way at Wellington Street W).

    I love love love pizza and ordered one with pepperoni, bacon and sliced tomatoes.  When it arrived, I noticed the bacon looked raw ... yep, it was.  It's like the cook forgot to put it on when he made the pizza and threw it on after it came out of the oven.  So I picked it off and started eating the pizza.  The server came over to see how everything was.  I told her the bacon was raw so I couldn't eat it and pointed to the pile of bacon.  She asked, "Do you like it?".  Um ... no.  She didn't apologize or offer have the pizza remade ... she just walked away.

    The pile of raw bacon :(

    When the bill came, I saw she had charged me $4 for the bacon.  Seriously?  When she came over to have me pay, I mentioned that I was being charged for the bacon.  She said, "Yes".  So I said that I had told her it was raw and hadn't eaten it.  She still thought I should pay for it.  No way!  I asked that she remove the charge because I wasn't paying for it.  She huffed off and came back to say that she couldn't remove it without cancelling the order but somehow knocked $5 off.

    Needless to say, I won't be back for the bad customer service and raw bacon :(

    Pizza Rustica Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Monday 18 November 2019

    Book ~ "Someone We Know" (2019) Shari Lapena

    From Goodreads ~ "This is a very difficult letter to write. I hope you will not hate us too much.  My son broke into your home recently while you were out."

    In a quiet, leafy suburb in upstate New York, a teenager has been sneaking into houses - and into the owners' computers as well - learning their secrets, and maybe sharing some of them, too.

    Who is he and what might he have uncovered? After two anonymous letters are received, whispers start to circulate and suspicion mounts. And when a woman down the street is found murdered, the tension reaches the breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they're telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their own secrets?

    In this neighborhood, it's not just the husbands and wives who play games. Here, everyone in the family has something to hide.

    You never really know what people are capable of.

    When Amanda doesn't come home after a shopping weekend away with a friend, her husband, Robert, reports her missing.  It turns out she wasn't away with her friend after all and everyone assumes she has left her abusive husband ... until her body turns up.  Then the police start investigating.  It seems like all the men in the neighbourhood were attracted to Amanda (and she didn't discourage them) and because of this, their wives didn't like her.

    In the meantime, Olivia and Paul's son, Raleigh, has been breaking into houses, not to steal anything, but to hack into their computers.  When Olivia finds out, she feels bad and sends anonymous letters of apology to the two houses she knows about.  This puts one neighbour on the hunt to find out who had broken into her house.

    This was an interesting story with lots of twists and turns to throw you off and get you thinking in different directions about whodunnit.  The whodunnit was a surprise to me and I'm not sure I'm really buying it.  I liked the writing style, though.  It's written in third person perspective with a focus on wherever the action is.  As a head's up, there is swearing.

    This is the second book I've read by this author and I look forward to reading other books by her.

    Topbox - November 2019

    My November Topbox arrived this week.

    Get 4 hand-picked deluxe samples delivered to your door for $15 per month. It's the best way to discover the products you'll love.

    Here's what I received ...

  • Sephora Banana Cream Mask - $10 value
  • Verb Ghost Oil - $16 value
  • Delia Organics Restore Treatment - $32.99 value
  • Josie Maran Pure Argan Milk Intensive Hydrating Treatment - $18.67 value

  • Total value = $77.66

    Sunday 17 November 2019

    Blue Mountain Village Christmas Gift Show, Village Conference Centre, Blue Mountains, ON

    Before Gord and I left Blue Mountain Village, we checked out the Blue Mountain Village Christmas Gift Show.

    A vibrant marketplace to celebrate the holiday season with Artisans, Crafters, Fashion, Body & Spa, Jewelry, Home & Décor, Christmas items, Art, Wood, Tasty Treats and more!

    Featuring over 100 vendors, free parking and shuttle service throughout the Blue Mountain Resort.

    It was yesterday and today.  It closes at 4pm this afternoon so you still have time to check it out.

    There was lots of great things to buy for yourself or as gifts and the vendors were really friendly.  I was tempted by the scented candle vendors but was able to resist (I have lots of scented candles right now).  If I had allowed myself to buy one, I would have ended up buying about 50!  Gord bought some socks, inserts for his shoes, dark chocolate and soup mixes.