Thursday 30 September 2021

Book ~ "A Little Christmas Spirit" (2021) Sheila Roberts

From Goodreads ~ Single mom Lexie Bell hopes to make this first Christmas in their new home special for her six-year-old son, Brock. Festive lights and homemade fudge, check. Friendly neighbors? Uh, no. The reclusive widower next door is more grinchy than nice. But maybe he just needs a reminder of what matters most. At least sharing some holiday cheer with him will distract her from her own lack of romance.

Stanley Mann lost his Christmas spirit when he lost his wife and he sees no point in looking for it. Until she shows up in his dreams and informs him it’s time to ditch his scroogey attitude. Stanley digs in his heels but she’s determined to haunt him until he wakes up and rediscovers the joys of the season. He can start by being a little more neighborly to the single mom next door. In spite of his protests, he’s soon making snowmen and decorating Christmas trees. How will it all end?

Merrily, of course. A certain Christmas ghost is going to make sure of that! 

Lexie is a single mother of six-year-old.  She has recently moved to a small town in Washington because of a teaching job and has bought a house.  She had to leave her family behind in California but looking forward to starting a new life there.  

Stanley is a senior widower and Lexie's neighbour.  When Carol, his beloved wife, passed away in an car accident three years ago, he shut himself off from life.  When Lexie and Brock move in next door, he wants no part of them.  He and Carol never had children and he's never wanted any.  But Brock adopts him as his grandpa and when Stanley tries to resist, Carol starts haunting him in his dreams, pushing him to open up and have a life again.  That starts with being neighbourly and helping Lexie and Brock since they don't know anyone yet.  As reluctant as he initially is, he has to admit he eventually enjoys being part of someone's family.

I've read many books by this author and liked this one.  It is written in third person perspective with the focus shifting between Lexie and Stanley.  The story jumps back and forth in time starting in present time with Lexie, Brock and Stanley and going back to when Stanley and Carole met and telling about their life together.  Because it is a Christmas story, there is a happy ending so a nice "feel good" book just in time for the holidays.

Wednesday 29 September 2021

Trinity Bellwoods Park, Toronto, ON

It was a sunny crisp morning (20C) and I just took a walk to Trinity Bellwoods Park and back ... it was a lovely day for a walk!  I really like this park.

Tuesday 28 September 2021

Terradomi Candles, Toronto, ON

Terradomi Candles of Toronto has been on my radar for a while … Dawn, my friend/neighbour/fellow scented candle addict, had recommended them. I vowed they would be the next place I’d order from once my overabundance of scented candles went down. Then recently Dawn said she‘d made another order from them so I had to check them out (Dawn is a bad influence!).

My candles arrived today. The personalized “thank you” note was a nice touch.

Here’s what I’d ordered:

Cozy Days Set
  • Dawn
  • Fireside
  • Harvest Moon
  • Twilight

The Serenity Set
  • Bloom
  • Breeze
  • Calm
  • Sunday

Aries (Gord’s sign) - sandalwood and vanilla bean - “Smells like always being number one” and Leo (my sign) - aloe and sunny citrus - “Smells like being the centre of the universe”.

Monday 27 September 2021

Book ~ "An Embarrassment of Critch's: Immature Stories from My Grown-Up Life" (2021) Mark Critch

From Goodreads ~ One of Mark Critch's earliest acting gigs was in a Newfoundland tourist production alongside a cast of displaced fishery workers. Since, he's found increasing opportunities to take his show on the road. In "An Embarrassment of Critch's", the star of CBC's "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" revisits some of his career's - and the country's - biggest moments, revealing all the things you might not know happened along the way: A wishful rumour spread by Mark's father results in his big break; two bottles of Scotch nearly get him kicked out of a secret Canadian airbase in the United Arab Emirates; and for anyone wondering how to get an interview with the Prime Minister and Bono (yes, that Bono) on the same evening, Critch might recommend a journey to the 2003 Liberal Convention.

Critch's top-secret access to all of the funniest behind-the-scenes moments involve many of the charismatic and notorious politicians we love to see blush, including fearless leaders Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper, Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien, celebrities such as Pamela Anderson and Robin Williams, and other colourful figures he's met over years of pulling off daring skits at home and abroad. 

Remember when MP Carolyn Parrish took her boot to George W. Bush Jr.'s head in an interview? Or when Critch asked Justin Trudeau where the best place to smoke pot on Parliament Hill was before pulling out a joint for them to share? There's more to each of those stories than you know. Though Critch has spent years crisscrossing the country - and the globe - with the explicit aim of causing trouble everywhere he goes, like the best journeys, this one takes him right back home. 

Mark Critch is a Canadian comedian, actor and writer. He is best known for his work on the CBC comedy series, This Hour Has 22 Minutes.  I must admit that I've never watched This Hour Has 22 Minutes but I do know who Mark Critch is ... he was in The Grand Seduction, a fun movie I've seen quite a few times (in fact, I just watched it again a couple weeks ago).

I like reading bios/autobios, he's Canadian and I grew up in the Atlantic provinces so that's why it caught my eye.  Plus I'd read his first book, Son of a Critch: A Childish Newfoundland Memoir, and liked it

This book picks up when Critch was trying to figure out what to do with his life.  He knew he wanted to entertain and his first big job was with a theatre group in Trinity, a small town in Newfoundland.  His big break came when he got a two week gig writing for This Hour Has 22 Minutes in 2003 and he's still there!  Over the years, he has met many people, travelled to many places all over the world and have had many adventures, and it was interesting to read about it.  He has a lot of guts and this bodes him well when he has to charge up to get interviews from unsuspecting people.

I liked this book.  I liked the writing style and thought it was honest and amusing at times.

Sunday 26 September 2021

Pinky Swear Candle Co., Toronto, ON

As I was walking around Hippie Market, I came across Pinky Swear Candle Co. (of Toronto, ON) and started chatting with Slater.

Though some would say I have an over abundance of scented candles, I couldn't resist.  I had a nice chat with Slater and bought four. I told him I like a strong throw and he made some recommendations. Thanks, Slater!

Their candles are made with coconut soy wax and $1 from the sale of every candle is donated to charity.

Hippie Market, Toronto, ON

I went for a walk this afternoon and came across the Hippie Market on Dundas Street W, between Dovercourt Road and Ossington Avenue.  Of course, I wandered in!

It's a great spot to pick up vintage clothing, accessories, etc.

Thursday 23 September 2021

Book ~ "The Boy on the Bicycle" (2018) Nate Hendley

From Goodreads ~ On the night of September 15, 1956, seven-year-old Wayne Mallette, was brutally murdered on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. The chief suspect was a “boy on a bicycle” seen pedalling away from the CNE.

Investigators zeroed on 14-year-old Ronald Moffatt, a former CNE employee who had the poor timing to run away from home shortly after the murder.

Moffatt was located, arrested and interrogated. He eventually confessed and was convicted.

The problem was, Moffatt couldn’t ride a bike and didn’t commit the crime. The real killer abused and murdered two more children, using his bike as a lure.

A shocking true story about a coerced confession, fumbled police investigation, a miscarriage of justice, and the star lawyer who fought to free Moffatt from custody.

"The Boy on the Bicycle" is based on police files, interviews, original newspaper coverage, reports, books and documentaries.

Seven-year-old Wayne Mallette and his family were visiting his grandmother in Toronto in September 1956.  He was bored and wandered towards the CNE grounds.  On the way he met a teenager on a bicycle, who beat him up and suffocated him with his face in the dirt there.  Moments later a teenager on a bicycle stopped a watchman at the CNE grounds and asked strange questions before pedalling off.

Ron Moffatt was 14 at the time and had spent that evening at a movie theatre.  He had a troubled home life and when he skipped school one day, he thought he would get in trouble so hid.  The police were looking for the "boy on the bicycle" so when they found Ron, who kind of fit the description, he assumed they were truant officers and went with them.  They were, in fact, Toronto police officers.   So sure were they that Ron was the teenager who had killed Wayne, they disregarded all the evidence and pressured Ron into admitting he did it.  He was sentence and sent to a juvenile facility.

In the meantime, teenager Peter Woodcock had a history of abusing young children and killed two while Ron was in custody.  He had no friends and his prize possession was his bicycle.  When he was caught, he admitted to killing Wayne and that's what got Ron released.  

At the end of the book, the author tells what happened to everyone, including the police officers, lawyers, etc.  Ron had depression issues and eventually sought help.  He got married a couple times and had children.  Peter spent the rest of his life in a psychiatric institution north of Toronto.

I thought this was an interesting story, especially since it happened not far from where I live.  It was obvious the author did a lot of research.  I liked the writing style ... there was just enough information provided without being too details.  The editing could have been better, though, as there were typos and grammatically errors.

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Book ~ "Off the Record" (2021) Peter Mansbridge

From Goodreads ~ Peter Mansbridge invites us to walk the beat with him in this entertaining and revealing look into his life and career, from his early broadcasting days in the remote northern Manitoba community of Churchill to the fast-paced news desk of CBC’s flagship show, The National, where he reported on stories from around the world.

Today, Peter Mansbridge is often recognized for his distinctive deep voice, which calmly delivered the news for over fifty years. But ironically, he never considered becoming a broadcaster. In some ways, though, Peter was prepared for a life as a newscaster from an early age. Every night around the dinner table, his family would debate the news of the day, from Cold War scandals and Vietnam to Elvis Presley and the Beatles.

So in 1968, when by chance a CBC radio manager in Churchill, Manitoba, offered him a spot hosting the local late night music program, Peter embraced the opportunity. Without a teacher, he tuned into broadcasts from across Canada, the US, and the UK to learn the basic skills of a journalist and he eventually parlayed his position into his first news job. Less than twenty years later, he became the chief correspondent and anchor of The National.

With humour and heart, Peter shares never-before-told stories from his distinguished career, including reporting on the fall of the Berlin Wall and the horror of 9/11, walking the beaches of Normandy with Tom Brokaw, and talking with Canadian prime ministers from John Diefenbaker to Justin Trudeau. But it’s far from all serious. Peter also writes about finding the “cure” for baldness in China and landing the role of Peter Moosebridge in Disney’s Zootopia. From the first (and only) time he was late to broadcast to his poignant interview with the late Gord Downie, these are the moments that have stuck with him.

After years of interviewing others, Peter turns the lens on himself and takes us behind the scenes of his life on the frontlines of journalism as he reflects on the toll of being in the spotlight, the importance of diversity in the newsroom, the role of the media then and now, and the responsibilities we all bear as citizens in an increasingly global world.

Peter Mansbridge was born in England and moved to Ottawa, ON, with his family when he was young.  He didn't graduated from high school and instead joined the Royal Canadian for a couple years.  Looking for a job, he ended up as a ticket agent/baggage handler in at the small Churchill Airport in Churchill, MB.  The manager of a local CBC radio station liked his voice when he was doing announcements and hired him part time as a night time host.  From there, he moved up and eventually became news anchor of CBC’s The National (from which he retired in 2017).

This book is full of his random stories, starting with his family and childhood, moving from England to Malaya and finally Ottawa.  He then tells us how he ended up with a broadcasting career, which no education or formal training.  From there he tells of the wide variety of stories he has covered over the years, including the wars in the Middle East, being on an icebreaker in the Northern Passage, covering Princess Diana's death and 9/11, meeting world leaders and even telling of the Friendly Giant's death.

I liked this book and the writing style.  It is written at a high level and with honesty and at times humor.

Monday 20 September 2021

KC's tree, Trinity Bellwoods Park, Toronto, ON

Gord and I voted this morning at the community centre in Trinity Bellwoods Park and afterwards we checked out KC's tree.

It's hard to believe but it's been a few months since I've been there.

The leaves on some of the trees are starting to change colours ... KC's tree is always one of the last to do that.

Sunday 19 September 2021

Liberty Village Terry Fox Run/Walk, Liberty Village Park, Toronto, ON

The annual Terry Fox Run was today and this is my fourth year as a volunteer/organizer of the Liberty Village Terry Fox Run (it's the sixth year for the Liberty Village Terry Fox Run).  Because the Terry Fox Runs were virtual again this year, most of it was happening on social media, which is what I took care of.  Plus my friend and neighbour, Dawn, and I put 300+ posters up around the neighbourhood.

Terry Fox (1958 – 1981) was a Canadian athlete, humanitarian and cancer research activist.  In 1980, he began the Marathon of Hope, a cross-country run to raise money for cancer research.  He hoped to raise one dollar from each of Canada's 24 million people.  He began in St. John's, Newfoundland, in April and ran the equivalent of a full marathon every day. After 143 days and 5,373km/3,339 miles, he was forced to end his run outside Thunder Bay, ON, when the cancer spread to his lungs. His hopes of overcoming the disease and completing his marathon ended when he died nine months later.

The annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 60 countries and is now the world's largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research.  Almost $800 million has been raised in his name.

Because it was virtual this year, there was no gathering in Liberty Village Park as in past years.  Gord and I walked to Liberty Village Park where the run usually starts and ends.  Red shirts signify "Terry's Team" ... people who have or have had cancer (both Gord and I have had).

When we left Liberty Village Park, Gord and I headed south to Coronation Park.

Saturday 18 September 2021

Book ~ "Mocha, She Wrote" (2021) Ellie Alexander

From Goodreads ~ Summer has ushered in a new season in the charming hamlet of Ashland, Oregon. Torte is bustling with tourists taking in star-drenched shows at the Elizabethan, setting out to hike in the surrounding Siskiyou Mountains, and sampling the bakeshop’s summer lineup of raspberry lemon tarts and mint mojito cold brews. Jules and the team are buzzing with excitement when they learn that Andy, Torte’s head barista, has been selected to compete in the West Coast Barista Cup.

The prestigious competition draws coffee aficionados from up and down the coast to Ashland. The winner will not only claim to be best-in-brew, but also be awarded a hefty cash prize. Andy’s nervous about his chances, but Jules is confident that her star barista will shine. However, things take a grim turn when head judge Benson Vargas spits out Andy’s first offering, claiming it to be the worst thing to ever touch his lips - and hours later, is found dead clutching Andy’s creamy latte. Suddenly Torte’s favorite barista becomes the number one suspect. There’s no roast for the weary. Jules will have to sleuth out whodunit to clear Andy’s name and catch a killer before she ends up with one foot in the grounds. 

Juliet (aka Jules) was raised in small town Ashland, OR.  She grew up helping her parents in their bakery and went on to culinary school.  After working for many years on a cruise line, where she met her husband, Carlos, she moved back home to take over the family bakery.  She now shares ownership of it with her mother, who recently married the local head of police.  After a two year separation, Jules has worked things out with Carlos and he is running the winery they have majority ownership of.

Andy, one of Jules' employees, is really into coffee and has been selected to compete in the West Coast Barista Cup.  He's nervous but ready to go.  Benson is one of the judges and has a flair for dramatics and not in a good way.  He takes a dislike to Andy and even spits out one of his offerings during the competition.  A few hours later, Benson is dead and Andy is the number one suspect.  But Benson was not a nice man and disliked by many so anyone could have killed him.  Because of loyalty to her employee, Jules and her friend, Lance, set out to find out who hated Benson enough to kill him so they can clear Andy's name.

This is the thirteenth in the Bakeshop Mystery series (I've read them all) and I thought it was okay.  It's written in first person perspective in Jules' voice.  It was a quick light read and is a "cozy mystery" so there is no swearing, violence or adult activity.  I suspect there will probably not be many more in this series as everyone is settling down happily and Jules is thinking about having a baby.

There are recipes at the end.

Friday 17 September 2021

Nova Scotia's Community Haul ~ September 2021

I received my September Nova Scotia's Community Haul subscription box today.

Weddings and school concerts, charity bake sales and chase-the-ace - our community halls are where Nova Scotians have come together for generations to celebrate and support one another. Since we’re together apart for the foreseeable future, we’ve transformed the community hall into a Community Haul. 

Community Haul, partnered with Symplicity Designs set out to create a safe and fun way to help the small business community through the next year. Our product forges connection, creates community, and offers you the opportunity to explore Nova Scotia - all from the safety of your home. 

We've launched a local subscription box to celebrate Nova Scotia business owners and help reboot the regional economy. By pledging your community support with a subscription, you can help keep the lights on for dozen of small businesses during these economically stressful times. What's more, every box sold will support the IWK Foundation to provide care for the women and children in the Maritimes.  

I'm originally from Nova Scotia and have been enjoying receiving stuff from "back home" and helping support their economy.

Thursday 16 September 2021

Book ~ "Cat Lover's Trivia: Weird and Wacky Facts About Our Furry Friends" (2021) Mike Darton

From Goodreads ~ Schott’s Original Miscellany was a publishing phenomenon. It sired a host of sequels and parodies. But no matter how patiently and for how many years they waited, the potential feline readership was overlooked. Until now.

"Cat Lover’s Trivia" is how the original would have appeared had its creator been an obsessive cat owner. Or, indeed, a very curious cat. It parodies the randomness of entry and stylishness of design of the original, but is created entirely for cats and their obedient owners and admirers. The result is a fascinating outpouring of feline facts, including such gems as:
  • Sir Isaac Newton’s invention of the cat flap or kitty door
  • The origins and popularity of cat names
  • The power of catmint
  • How long cats spend asleep each day
  • T. S. Eliot’s Practical Cats
  • And the famous Chopin waltz that was in fact composed by the composer’s cat

I love cats (I have two) and that's why this book caught my eye.  This book is a quick read and is full of very random trivia about cats.  I found most of it interesting.

The book was originally published in 2009 and some of the stats, like popular cat names, are from 2007.  It would have been nice if they had updated these stats to current times rather than 14 year old information as it's probably no longer relevant.  In addition, there are no sources for the stats so who knows if the information is true and how dated it is.

Wednesday 15 September 2021

Book ~ "Dog Lover's Trivia: Weird and Wacky Facts About Our Furry Friends" (2021) Mike Darton

From Goodreads ~ Schott’s Original Miscellany was a publishing phenomenon. It sired a host of sequels and parodies. But no matter how patiently and for how many years they begged, the potential canine readership was continually left to pine. Until now.

"Dog Lover’s Trivia" is how the original would have appeared had its creator been an obsessive dog owner. Or, indeed, a very literate dog. It parodies the randomness of entry and stylishness of design of the original, but is created entirely for dogs and their doting owners and admirers. The result is a fascinating collection of dog-related facts, including gems such as:
  • Dog epigraphs
  • The origins of dog names
  • An international guide to the word “dog”
  • The oldest dog
  • Weights and breeds
  • Crufts winners
  • Aesop’s fabled dogs
  • Most popular breeds
  • Dog bite statistics
  • Lassie
  • And dogs on the Titanic

I'm a dog lover and that's why this book caught my eye.  This book is a quick read and is full of very random trivia about dogs.  I found most of it interesting.

The book was originally published in 2009 and some of the stats, like popular dog names, are from 2007.  It would have been nice if they had updated these stats to current times rather than 14 year old information as it's probably no longer relevant.  In addition, there are no sources for the stats so who knows if the information is true (the couple of things I Googled were correct) and how dated it is.

Tuesday 14 September 2021

Book ~ "Brat: An '80s Story" (2021) Andrew McCarthy

From Goodreads ~ Most people know Andrew McCarthy from his movie roles in Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo's Fire, Weekend at Bernie's, and Less than Zero, and as a charter member of Hollywood's Brat Pack. That iconic group of ingenues and heartthrobs included Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, and Demi Moore, and has come to represent both a genre of film and an era of pop culture.

In his memoir Brat: An '80s Story, McCarthy focuses his gaze on that singular moment in time. The result is a revealing look at coming of age in a maelstrom, reckoning with conflicted ambition, innocence, addiction, and masculinity. New York City of the 1980s is brought to vivid life in these pages, from scoring loose joints in Washington Square Park to skipping school in favor of the dark revival houses of the Village where he fell in love with the movies that would change his life. Filled with personal revelations of innocence lost to heady days in Hollywood with John Hughes and an iconic cast of characters, Brat is a surprising and intimate story of an outsider caught up in a most unwitting success.

Andrew McCarthy is an American actor, travel writer and television director. He is known as a member of the Brat Pack (hence the title), with roles in 1980s films such as St. Elmo's Fire, Pretty in Pink and Less Than Zero.  I've seen Pretty in Pink about a million times and watched St. Elmo's Fire a couple months ago for the first time since it came out.  So when I saw McCarthy had written a book, I thought I'd check it out as I like reading bios/autobios.

McCarthy starts off with his childhood, growing up one of three sons.  He wasn't overly interested in school but when the acting bug bit him in high school, he figured he would study it in university for two years and then make it big ... and that's basically what happens.  He masks his insecurities by drinking, which gets out of control.  He enters rehab in 1992 and hasn't use alcohol or drugs since.  He has gone on to be a travel writer and novelist.

I thought this book was okay.  It's written at a very high level and doesn't get into any detail.  It ends with him getting out of rehab in 1992 and the last chapter is a brief overview of what he has done since.  There is a brief mention of his marriages (but not his children) and what he has been doing for the last 30 years.  There are pictures scattered throughout the book.

Sunday 12 September 2021

Fahmee Bakery, Toronto, ON

Fahmee Bakery recently opened next door to No Frills at Landsdowne/Dundas W. We got groceries today and picked up some lunch.

I got a large curried chicken and rice. It was good, I’d get it again and I’ve got leftovers for my lunch tomorrow. 

Gord got a couple mild beef Jamaican patties. They were also good … a bit sweeter than we were expecting.

Book ~ "The Cure for What Ales You" (2021) Ellie Alexander

From Goodreads ~ After a long cold winter, spring is beginning to bloom in the alpine village of Leavenworth, Washington, where craft brewer Sloan Krause and her partner in crime Garrett Strong are putting the finishing touches on their bright and refreshing Lemon Kiss ale. They’ll be debuting their new line at the Maifest celebration, which will bring visitors from near and far to dance around the Maipole and shop at the outdoor flower markets.

Despite the festive spirit in the air, Sloan is brewing over her past. She’s spent months following leads that have turned into dead ends. But when she spots a woman who strongly resembles Marianne - a long lost contact who may be her only connection to piecing together her story - she hopes that things might be taking a turn in her favor. That hope is quickly smashed when Marianne is involved in the murder of a local housekeeper. To make matters worse, Marianne issues a dire warning that Sloan and her entire family are in danger. If Sloan can’t figure out who the killer is and what happened in her past, she won’t find any hoppy endings. 

I like beer and I like mysteries so that's why this series has caught my eye.

When Sloan discovered her husband, Mac, cheating, she kicked him out.  She was working for his family's brewery and got another job working with Garrett in his new microbrewery/pub, Nitro.  Sloan is enjoying working with Garrett in his smaller business as it gives her a more hands-on opportunity to create interesting craft beers with him.  She also realizes that she has feelings for Garrett and is hoping he feels the same.  She recently downsized from their family house outside of the village to a smaller one in the village, which she is happy about.

Sloan grew up in foster care and she has been delving more and more into her past.  When a woman named Marianne shows up in the village, she claims to be Sloane's aunt and that Sloane's family is in danger from a man Marianne's sister (and Sloane's mother) used to hang out with.  When Sloane's mother was killed, it was Marianne who put Sloane in foster care to keep her safe (that storyline was a bit convoluted).

A housekeeper was a found murdered in Marianne's hotel room and she claims it was done by the man who is a danger to Sloane's family.  Marianne seems erratic and at times Sloane doubts her sanity so doesn't know what to think.  The housekeeper's death could also be part of some funky things that are going on at the hotel because there has been a rash of thefts there recently.  Sloane is cautious but carries on with her life.

This is the fifth in the Sloan Krause Series by this author and I liked it.  I've read the first four and this works as a stand alone (there is enough background provided).  It's written in first person perspective in Sloane's voice.  There is a lot of talk about beer (which I found interesting) and there are also explanations about what was being talked about (what hops are and the varieties, for example).  It was a quick light read and is a "cozy mystery" so there is no swearing, violence or adult activity.  I'm assuming this is the end of this series as all the storylines seemed to come to a happy completion.

Other than murders, Leavenworth sounds like a fun place to visit!

Saturday 11 September 2021

Rhino Bar & Grill, Toronto, ON

After we saw Sin City Boys, Gord and I had supper next door at the Rhino (Queen W/Dufferin) with Mary and Malcolm.

I ordered a hamburger (no lettuce or onions) and fries and it was good (I've had it before).  The burger was substantial and the fries were tasty.

Gord order Cajun dusted wings and said they were good.