Sunday, 29 August 2010

Shoo Fly Don't Bother Me!!

Fruit flies have been the bane of my existence - at least for the past few days. They have been fluttering around my Basket of Death - also known as my fruit basket that sits on my counter -- ticking me off to no end. The little buggers seem to come out of nowhere and like to stick around for as long as possible like horrible unwanted house guests. Not only are they pesky but they can also contaminate food with bacteria so it's important to get rid of them as soon as possible.

Fruit flies breed quickly going from egg to adult in 10 days. A female can lay up to 500 eggs so it's important to get rid of them as soon a possible which means getting rid of what attracts them. Fruit flies are not only attracted to fruit but also beverages, garbages and slime in drains. Yummo! They do have their favourite foods though : bananas, grapes, vinegar, wine, peaches, pineapples and tomatoes.

Here are some ways to get rid of things that tempt the fruit fly:
  1. eliminate fruit on your counters (aka Basket'o'Death). Either eat the fruit, pitch it or refrigerate it.
  2. Make sure your garbage has a secure lid.
  3. Clean your garbage can regularly in case you have some spillage.
  4. Take your compost bucket out daily and wash often.
  5. Check your drains for flies. Tape a clear plastic sandwich bag over your drain overnight. In the morning the adult flies will have been trapped in the bag. Now that you know you have a problem you can thoroughly clean around your drain. To kill the pests that are down the drain simply pour a kettle full of boiling water down your drain.

I had a niggling idea in the back of my head about an easy way to kill these little suckers. I jumped on-line and found a very easy solution that's not toxic ... to humans at least. Bwah ha ha!

If you also suffer from fruit flies try this. Put 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar in a dish (some websites suggested using a bottle to trap the flies but putting it in a simple ramkin dish worked well for me). Put 2 drops of liquid dish soap into the vinegar and set it out on your counter. Leave it there for as long as needed. The fruit flies are drawn to the vinegar like ... well, bees to honey and the soap stops them from flying away.

Soon your kitchen will smell like salad dressing but your fruit fly population will drastically drop. Not a bad trade off especially for a non-toxic solution to a pesky problem.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

A Hoe Lot of Trouble

Author: Heather Webber
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Pages: 243
Published: 2004
Series: 1st book in the Nina Quinn series
Series Order:
  1. A Hoe Lot of Trouble (2004)
  2. Trouble in Spades (2005)
  3. Digging up Trouble (2006)
  4. Trouble in Bloom (2007)
  5. Weeding Out Trouble (2008)

First Line: "Thou shalt not stuff pictures of they husband down the garbage disposal."

Synopsis: Nina Quinn is the owner of "Taken By Surprise", a company that is known for it's last minute surprise garden make-overs (picture "Extreme Home Make-Over"for gardens). Unfortunately her business is the only thing that's going well in her life. She has recently found out that her police detective husband was cheating on her and she now lives alone with her recalcitrant 15 year old step-son, Riley and his evil pet snake all under the watchful eyes of her nosey elderly neighbour.

Now Nina is pulled into a new problem. One of her oldest friends asks Nina to look into the recent and suspicious death of her father-in-law, Joe. Joe was the person who introduced Nina to gardening so Nina feels compelled to help out. When Nina starts digging into the death she gets more than she bargained for.

My Thoughts: This is an easy, quick read with likeable characters that had several twists that kept me guessing who dunnit. It's not quite a 'can't put it down' read for me but it was still an entertaining summer afternoon 'sitting by the pool' read.

It's a good start to a new series and I look forward to seeing more humour and how the secondary quirky characters play their roles in the mysteries. Nina is a strong female character who, thankfully, isn't whiny and in need of someone else to solve her problems. She and her cousin Ana have just the right amount of chutzpah to get themselves into some trouble. My favourite secondary characters would have to be the nosey neighbour and Nina's brash cousin Ana who tells it like it is. The cause for the murder was a little unrealistic but overall a decent light mystery.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Secret Daughter

Author : Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Genre: Modern Fiction

Pages: 339

Published: March 2010

First Line: "She came to the abandoned hut at dusk, without a word to anyone, when she felt the first unmistakable pulls deep within her."

One Word Review: Wow!

Synopsis: In a small Indian village Kavita gives birth to her first child, a baby girl. Since her culture favours males over females the only way to save her daughter is to secretly give her away to an orphanage. This decision haunts Kavita throughout her life even after she has bore her husband a son.

Somer is an American doctor who has just learned that she will never be able to bear a child. She and her husband decide to adopt a baby from his native India. As soon as they see a picture of a beautiful baby girl with gold flecked eyes they know they've made the right decision. "Secret Daughter" is a book about motherhood and the struggles and blessings that come with the title. It's also about the resiliency and courage of women to do what they must in order to help the children they love.

My Thoughts: I loved this book. Period. I read it in two days and found it very hard to put it down. I loved the author's voice and how she told her story about a baby and the two mothers who love her.

Gowda tells the stories of three women in their own voices. First there is young Asha from the time of her birth in India to her twenties. We see how Asha struggles with her cultural identity and how she doesn't feel like she fits in within her predominantly white area in the US. Then there is Asha's mother, Somer who, along with he husband, adopted Asha as a one-year old baby. We see Somer struggle to be acknowledged as Asha's mother and keep the connection with her daughter as Asha begins to wonder about where she came from. We also see how Somer struggles within her own marriage while feeling like an outsider within her husband's family. Lastly we hear the story of Kavita, the young mother who gave Asha up for adoption and how she has had to learn how to deal with the grief that has followed her since that day.

This book is not only beautifully written but deals with many issues - sex, class, education, family and different cultures - all wrapped up in a very inviting and compelling story. I was surprised to read that this is Gowda's first novel because it is so well written and thought provoking. This is a book that has a wonderfully paced story which makes you want to read more and more. But it's also a book that is filled with really interesting subjects and is fascinating on so many levels. It will interest anyone who is a mother, who is a daughter, who struggles with cultural identity, who is interested in adoption, who wants to learn about Indian culture ....

One of my favourite parts of the book was getting an insider's view of Indian culture. From the beautiful descriptions of the clothing and the food, to the huge discrepancy between the rich and their extravagance to the millions of poor and what it's like to live in the shantytowns. It would be very easy to dwell in the poverty and make this book more of a tear jerker but even in the more dire situations Gowda was able to shine a light on the power and resilency of women and mothers. How they are the 'face of hope' for their children and would do what they must to ensure that their children survived.

I also found it fascinating to learn more about women and their roles within Indian culture. There is a definite dichotomy between the lack of power women have in some situations (Kavita giving up her daughter, female children foregoing school in order to clean the home) to the more subtle power that women hold (Asha's Indian grandmother Sarla's influence and respect from her family and friends). As Sarla tells Somer "Being a women in India is an altogether different experience. You can't always see the power women hold, but it is there, in the firm grasp of the matriarchs who still rule most families".

Gowda's writing is believable and touching. The characters all have their own flaws and make their own mistakes which helps make them more believable. The ending is touching and simple. This book is a gem and I highly recommend it.

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Spaghetti with Mega Meat Sauce

On the way home after taking the family on a big hike on Sunday I had a total hankering for spaghetti with meat sauce. We had just hiked for 2 hours and explored various deep Indiana Jones-type crevasses so we'd worked up quite an appetite.

Clarification: When I said that we explored various deep crevasses, the 'we' I'm referring to is actually Brad and the boys. Missy Moo, the dog and I merely watched ... but we watched with such extreme intensity that I'm certain I burned some calories too!

Now, when I mentioned that I had a hankerin' for meat sauce I'm not talking about some thin sauce with a few wee meatballs thrown in. Oh no, no, no! I'm talking about a thick, meat-laden carnivore-lovin' red sauce! (*cue chest thumping*) As soon as we got home I went to town coming up with a recipe and this is what I came up with.

For those who are not meatitarians you may want to try another recipe. This recipe embraces both the beloved bovine as well as our lovable porkers. I really enjoyed how the various flavours came together ... especially the red wine and the bacon. I highly recommend (if not outright encourage) drinking a glass of the red wine while you're cooking.

1lb ground beef
2 garlic sausages, cases removed and chopped
1/2 lb bacon, diced
1 1/2 cups carrot, grated or finely chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup red wine
1 tsp dried red chilis
2 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (680mL) can tomato sauce
28oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup half and half creamer or milk (optional)
6 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
6 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
Garnish with grated fresh Parmesan cheese

In a large pot over medium heat, cook beef, sausage and bacon until no longer pink. Drain fat, leaving approximately 2 tbsp fat in the pot. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Cook carrots, onion, mushrooms and garlic in the pot until tender. Put meat back into pot. Add all ingredients except for the creamer (if using), fresh basil and oregano.

Tip: I didn't want a really chunky sauce so at this point in the recipe I used my electric hand mixer and broke up all the chunks making it a thicker sauce. This is an optional step but I loved the texture.

Simmer for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. I simmered for about an hour and a half and it was delicious! Add the creamer (if using) and the fresh hebs during the last 10 minutes of cooking (ensuring that the sauce does not boil).

Serve over pasta and top with Parmesan cheese.

Note: If you don't have fresh herbs, use 1 tbsp of dried as a substitute for each spice. Add the dried herbs at the same time as the tomato sauce. Fresh herbs are added closer to the end of cooking but dried should be added earlier in the cooking process.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


This book was my first experience with reading an unpublished book and I have to say that it felt pretty awesome knowing that I was reading a book that hadn't been published yet! Honestly! How cool is that?

I read this book a few weeks ago and have waited to review it until it was on the shelves. If you're looking for a good historical fiction read full of wonderful descriptions of Italy this is the book for you!

Author: Anne Fortier
Genre: Historical Fiction (Italy)
Pages: 464
Published: August 2010

Synopsis: This novel tells the age old story of Romeo and Juliet ... but with a modern twist. Set in two different times -- modern day and 1340 -- Fortier tells a story that intertwines the lives of two women, Julie Jacobs and Giulietta Tolomei.

Julie and her identical twin Janice were raised by their aunt in the U.S after their parents were suddenly killed in Italy while the twins were still babies. Decades later when their aunt dies, Julie is given a letter that sends her on a treasure hunt in Siena, Italy. While there, she learns that the research her parents had been working on before they died is connected with the origin of the real Romeo and Juliet. Julie is also surprised to learn that she and her sister are descendants of twins Giulietta and Giannozza Tolomei from 1340's Siena, Italy. She quickly becomes enthralled and swept up with the mystery surrounding Giulietta.

My Thoughts: I'm a total sucker for historical fiction ... throw in some romance and suspense by a great writer and I'm in heaven! This was a wonderful first novel from author Anne Fortier. Fortier is able to tell the stories of two women and show how they are connected even though they lived centuries apart. She deftly combines suspense, romance and even a little adventure to make a very enjoyable read.

Back in high school I had read Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" and still had the gist of the storyline but I wish I would have studied up on the Bard's version before reading this book. I had a hard time remembering who Paris was and Mercutio etc. It didn't hinder me with understanding Fortier's storyline but I wracked my brain trying to remember my high school English classes ... not an easy feat!

When I was in Italy three years ago I visited Juliet's balcony in Verona ... only to be told that the real Juliet hadn't even lived in Verona and that Shakespeare had made that little change on his own (creative license? Who knows?). I was also interested to learn that Shakespeare didn't come up with the original idea for Romeo and Juliet and, in fact, the first story was written over a century before the Bard got his hands on it. Huh.

"Juliet" is filled with vivid descriptions of the scenery and the people of the time making it easy for me to picture what life would have been like in Siena in the 1300's. I loved learning about the yearly Palio (horse race) as well as the contradas or wards of Siena that were represented by an animal masot and how fiercely loyal people were to the contrada in which they lived. Fascinating stuff!

The stories of Julie and Giulietta are told in juxtaposition creating suspense in both storylines which I loved. I think it helped keep up the momentum of both storylines because the story flips back and forth between the two women so that the only way to figure out how one character's story continues is to keep reading about the other main character.

For a large book (464 pages) this was a quick, hard-to-put down read. Highly recommended.

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Weekly Reading Poll

Today I had 6 kids in my house - yup SIX. That is a lot of kids but it was a good time had by all. At one point I had 4 boys (ages 8 to almost 11 years) in my kitchen and what were they discussing? The newest Wii game? The latest electronics gadget? *shudder* Girls?!? NO!

They were sitting around my kitchen table eating some chocolate chip snack cake discussing the books that they have liked reading lately. Oh YA!! That's what I like to hear!! The discussion focused around Percy Jackson as well as Sir Fartsalot (a humourous read for boys who love potty humour -- occurs in the Kingdom of Armpit ...) and a few others. It warms the cockles of my old heart to hear that boys love to read!

As for this Bookworm? This week it's been a better reading week. By better I mean that I had more time to read not necessarily great reads unfortunately. I read "Mistress of the Game" by Tilly Bagshawe which was meh. Then I read the second "Body Movers" book (2 Bodies for the Price of 1) which was another meh.

But my luck has turned around. Thanks to Jen S for giving me "Secret Daughter" by Shilpi Somaya Gowda!! I'm more than two-thirds through this wonderful book about two women who are joined together by a baby girl. The one woman, a poor woman in India, gives away her baby daughter who is then adopted by an American woman. Fascinating learning about Indian culture and a very touching read so far.

Next up? Maybe "Water for Elephants" (is it a sad read? Anyone know?). Or perhaps "A Hoe Lot of Trouble" by Heather Webber. We'll see what I'm in the mood for.

What are you all reading? Heard of any great books lately?

Monday, 23 August 2010

Body Movers - 2 Bodies for the Price of 1

Author: Stephanie Bond
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Pages: 307
Type: Paperback
Published: 2007
Series: 2nd book in the Body Movers series
Series Order:
  1. "Body Movers" (2006)
  2. "Body Movers - 2 Bodies for the Price of 1" (2007)
First Line: "Hi, there."

Synopsis: Carlotta Wren would never have thought that her life was worth stealing. But when a woman is found dead and it's learned that she has stolen Carlotta's identity, Carlotta is worried that she was actually the target. Her life is still extremely hectic on top of all this. Her fugitive father has finally called her, her younger brother is still being hounded by loan sharks and she has three men interested in her and isn't sure who she should be with ... if anyone.

My Thoughts: This book felt a lot like the first book in the series -- too much, in fact. Carlotta had all of the same major problems that she had in the first book (poor, deviant younger brother with bad friends, too many men interested in her etc) and nothing seemed to get better for her or resolved. The issue with her fugitive parents was briefly addressed again but I would have wanted that storyline to progress a lot more and maybe explain what the parents have been up to etc.

As for the four men in Carlotta's life? They're all sadly pretty stereotypical. Her brother is the young, 'needs a swift kick in the pants for making stupid mistakes over and over again' guy. Then there are the men who are romantically interested in Carlotta. She has the rich/bland/safe guy to whom she was previously engaged, the cool/smart/quiet Body Mover guy and the tall/dark and hot cop. That's about all that's known about the three guys. It would be cool to get a view into what they're thinking more ... especially Cooper the 'cool/smart/quiet guy'.

I think that the author is trying to go after Janet Evanovich's audience ... but isn't quite there. There isn't a lot of humour in the Body Mover series (or mystery for that matter) compared to the Plum series by Evanovich (which, by the way, has made me giggle out loud many times). Bond has all the right ingredients (quirky secondary characters, many romance options ...) and I think this could be a good series but doesn't quite hit the mark. Unfortunately the author was unable to build up enough suspense for me to want to continue this series.

My Rating: 2/5 stars

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Greek Panzanella

A Panzanella is an Italian salad that originated in Tuscany and a few other Italian regions. It's referred to as a 'leftover salad' because it often uses day-old bread and you can easily change up the other main ingredients to include : tomatoes, cucumbers, capers, bell peppers, tuna, boiled eggs, anchovies .... The options for ingredients are almost endless. The dish I made is a Greek version that I found while surfing on the food network.
Normally, when I mention that I'm making a salad for dinner the immediate response from my kids (and sometimes Brad) is "Are there croutons???". Yes, we are self-proclaimed carb addicts - we should have T-shirts made and a theme song. So when I found this recipe I was pretty sure that my family would love it.
I was right. The kids looked into the salad and were amazed at how many 'croutons' there were. When I told them it was a bread salad you could see grins slowly form on their mouths. Salad without lettuce?!?! Three cheers for Mom!! Brad loved the fact that the bread cubes had marinated in the dressing so when you bit into a bread cube the outer edges were still crispy but the inside had a burst of flavour. Mmmm.
When I made this dish last week I didn't have any day-old bread so I just used a fresh French loaf and might have had to saute the bread cubes a little longer than normal to ensure that they were nicely browned (it's not like I had a timer on for browning bread cubes). This would make a great lunch dish but we used it along with some pork skewers in a great molasses, Dijon glaze (will post recipe soon).

Good olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 small French bread cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
Kosher salt
1 English cucumber, unpeeled and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
1 red bell pepper, cut into large pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into large pieces
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes (cherry tomatoes should be halved)
1/2 red onion, sliced into half rounds
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt (see Note below)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Heat 3 tbsp oil in a large, deep skillet. Add bread cubes and sprinkle with salt. Cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently for 5-10 miutes until nicely browned. Add more oil if needed.

Place cucumber, red and yellow pepper, tomatoes and red onion in a large salad bowl.

Make vinaigrette: Whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, 1 tsp salt and the black pepper in a small bol. While still whisking, add the oil and make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Add the feta, olives and bread cubes and toss until well coated. Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavours to blend. Serve at room temperature.

Note: I decreased the salt from 1 tsp to 1/2 tsp because I found the salad a bit too salty.

Recipe adapted from:

Friday, 20 August 2010

Ginger Orange-Glazed Asparagus

Asparagus (along with potatoes and broccoli) are one of the few vegetables that I could eat on a daily basis. I love the stuff but like to try to jazz it up with different sauces. This side dish is so easy and I love that it's all done on the stove-top. It went wonderfully with steak and twice baked potatoes the other night. Delish! The orange glaze gives the asparagus a nice, light taste.
2 bunches asparagus, ends trimmed

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup orange juice (use the good stuff if you can)

2 pinches dried ginger

2 tbsp olive oil or grapeseed oil

Lay asparagus in the bottom of a large 12-inch skillet with a lid; sprinkle with salt. In a small bowl, combine orange juice, ginger and oil. Pour orange juice mixture over asparagus and cover skillet with lid. Bring orange juice mixture to a boil. Cook for 4 minutes or until asparagus is al dente.

Remove asparagus from skillet and place in a serving dish. Boil orange juice mixture until it has reduced and has thickened to a glaze consistency - approximately 3 minutes. Pour mixture over asparagus and serve.
Servings: 4

Mistress of the Game

Author: Tilly Bagshawe
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 422
Series: 2nd book in the "Master of the Game" series
Series Order:
  1. "Master of the Game" (1982)
  2. "Mistress of the Game" (2009)
Published: 2009
First Line: "Lexi Templeton's hands trembled as she read the letter."

Synopsis: Sidney Sheldon introduced readers to the highly volatile and deceptive Blackwell family and their matriarch Kate Blackwell back in 1982 in his best seller "Master of the Game". Author Tilly Bagshawe has written the sequel in Sheldon's style and tells the stories of Kate's great-grandchildren. Like their predecessors the new generation of Blackwells are well versed in deception, manipulation and scheming in order to get their way.

My Thoughts: I have to say that I didn't enjoy this book nearly as much as "Master of the Game". "Master of the Game" was my first taste of the infamous Sheldon. I'm glad I read it first because, in my opinion, this book paled in comparison.

I know that my negative feelings towards this book had to do with some of the topics introduced by Bagshawe that I didn't feel comfortable reading. Namely, pedophilia, incest and the Oedipal Complex that had 'ew' written all over it. My lackluster review also had to do with a lack of believability in some of the storylines (Max and his father in Africa) and the fact that the pace of the storylines and the suspense just wasn't there.

It also seemed like the author was trying to re-create the relationship between Kate and Jamie from "Master of the Game" with Eve and Gabe in the new generation. Just didn't work. Also, Lexi just isn't as good of a bad girl as Kate was. Kate was a total she-devil ... Eve comes off as just an incestuous pest. I also would have liked to see more of Eve in this storyline but she had a minor peripheral role.

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Ultimate Twice Baked Potatoes

I made these little beauties last night for Brad and I. We had marinated striploins grillin' on the BBQ (hopefully making the neighbours drool) and paired with the Orange Glazed Asparagus it was divine. You know it's a keeper when Brad repeatedly says "Oh, that was good!" and eats the remainder of MY potato. The fact that I didn't slap him right then and there shows the love I feel for the guy. Normally, no one gets between me and my spud (especially when there's sour cream, bacon and two kinds of cheese involved!). These spuds had a wonderful mixture of flavours and I love the tang that the Garlic & Chive cream cheese brought to the dish.

The possibilities are endless with the twice baked potato. You could change up what type of cheese you use, add more garlic or red onion. Even some red pepper flakes would spice it up a bit. I love the fact that you can prep this side dish ahead of time and yet it still looks like you slaved away in the kitchen.

2 large baking potatoes ** See Note #1 below
5 slices of bacon
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated & divided
4 tbsp garlic and chive cream cheese spread
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350F. Wash potatoes well. Prick with a fork several times. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until flesh of potato is very soft.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until evenly browned. Drain, chop and set aside.

When potatoes are done, let them sit for 10 minutes. Slice each potato lengthwise and carefully scoop out potato from skins making sure you leave about 1/4-inch of potato in the skins. If you take out too much potato from the skins you'll have floppy skins. They should look like the picture on the right.

Put potato into a large bowl; add milk and butter; mash well. Add chives, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, garlic & chive cream cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Spoon potato mixture back into potato skins. Top with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Bake for another 15 minutes.

Note #1: Make sure you use baking potatoes. They have thicker skins and seem to hold up better when you're scooping out the potato.

Note #2: The potato mixture and be prepped a few hours ahead of time and kept in the fridge until needed. Make sure you bake the potato mixture in the skins for about 35 minutes, or until heated through.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Weekly Reading Poll

This past week has been a fairly good reading week for me ... finally! That's saying something considering that Brad has been on holidays for some of that week and we've been taking the kids to various places to get in all our summer fun. From swimming in HUGE waves in Lake Erie (amazing time, I only wish I would have reapplied my sunscreen. Ouch!) to visiting the CN Tower. Lots of fun with the family and perfect weather.

I spent the majority of the week reading a great historical fiction book based in Italy. It was a good read but I'm unable to post my review on it just yet. It has yet to be published but will be out in a few weeks. Very cool to read a book that isn't out on store shelves yet!

Next I read "Rivals for the Crown" by Kathleen Givens. I had bought the ebook on my iPhone and actually enjoyed reading it on my wee screen. I would have preferred a larger screen but I loved that I could easily read in bed in the dark and since I always have my phone with me I was able to read when I had some small downtimes (standing in line at the CN Tower).

Now I'm reading "Mistress of the Game" by Tilly Bagshawe (in Sidney Sheldon's style). It's the sequel to Sheldon's "Master of the Game". It's a very easy read full of deception and deceit.

Next up? I'll probably read the second book in the Body Movers series. I know I said I was going to read it this week but the soap opera angst of Mistress of the Game and Givens' men in kilts with Scottish accents won out ... as they always do. After that I have "Water for Elephants" too. Anyone read that one yet?

So what are you all reading? Last week I had a wonderful response to the Weekly Reading Poll. I loved it!!! Let's keep that momentum up this week too!!

And the Award Goes to ....

Fellow blogger, Sharilyn from The Sharilyn Review, has bestowed upon little old me an honour. She has given me the Versatile Blogger award! My very first award! Thanks so much for thinking of me Sharilyn!

This award has 4 rules that go along with it. They are:
  1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them when creating the award post.
  2. Share seven things about yourself.
  3. Pass the award on to 15 recently discovered blogs.
  4. Contact the bloggers to let them know about the award.
Seven Things About Me
  1. I love salty foods over sweet. I often will bake desserts for my family and not eat them.
  2. I do not know, nor do I want to know, how to run a snowblower or lawnmower. I like to be able to plead ignorance in case my help is needed with outdoor chores that don't have to do with my gardens.
  3. I've never seen the Pacific Ocean.
  4. I have so much useless entertainment trivia floating around in my cranium. If only I could use that information for the good of mankind. I know who married whom, the names of famous people's children etc etc.
  5. I love labels. I label things even when you can obviously see what they are (ie relabelling my spice jars). I'd label my kids (which would help with remembering their names) but I'm pretty sure the labels would fall off.
  6. I love to travel. I've been to the US, Mexico, Holland, Germany and Italy. The next places I'd love to travel to are England and Scotland.
  7. One of my current favourite TV shows is "Big Bang Theory". How can you not love Sheldon and Howard Wolowitz?!?! You just can't!

I know that I'm supposed to forward this award to 15 other bloggers but I honestly don't regularly go to 15 blog sites but I do have my favourites that I visit often. Here they are:

First of all, I'd like to give this Versatile Blogger Award to ... (envelope opening)

Mags from The Other Side of Fifty!! Mags has been so supportive with my newbie blogger self. She visits my little blog (which I really appreciate) and she has some amazing, mouth watering recipes to boot. I adore her sense of humour especially her comments about her fellow Co-Irkers and PMS (Pacifying My Sisters).

The second person I'd like to bestow this honour is on fellow reading blogger and new mom (to a beautiful daughter), Janssen from Everyday Reading. Like me, she is an avid reader and has one of my dream jobs (school librarian!). If you're into Young Adult books definitely check out her blog!

Lastly, I'd like to give this award to Dara at The Cooking Canuck. Dara not only has wonderful recipes but her pictures of those recipes are spectacular! Dara may have lived in the States for over a decade but, as she says, she's still a Canuck at heart!

Those are some of my favourite bloggers. What are your favourites?

Monday, 16 August 2010

Rivals for the Crown

Author: Kathleen Givens
Genre: Historical Fiction (Scotland)
Published: 2007
Type: e-book
Series: 2nd book in the series
Series Order:
  1. "On a Highland Shore:

First Line: "Rachel! Rachel, wake up!"

Synopsis: It's the year 1290 in London, England. Rachel and Isabel have been best friends their whole lives even though many around them disagree with Isabel befriending Rachel who is a Jew. When King Edward, also known as Longshanks, decrees that all Jews must leave London immediately the two friends are separated but swear to see each other again. Isabel stays in London and becomes a lady-in-waiting to the Queen and Rachel moves with her family to Berwick, Scotland where they start rebuilding their lives by opening a small inn.

Meanwhile, the 7-year old Queen of Scotland dies on her way to take her thrown. This causes a rivalry for the Scottish crown between John Balliol and the Bruces. King Edward sees this as an advantage to his desire to rule Scotland as well. Longshanks sends in English troops who terrorize the Scottish citizens until a rebel leader known as William Wallace (aka Braveheart) and his men manage to reunite the warring clans.

During all this chaos, Isabel is terrorized and must flee England. She runs to her friend Rachel for safety. There they meet Highlander cousins Kieran and Rory who fall in love with the women and are put through many trials keeping the women safe as well as keeping their country out of the clutches of England.

My Thoughts: This was a very easy read, which was what I was totally in the mood for. I really enjoyed the first book in the series, "On a Highland Shore" and this book deals with the same family but a generation later.

If you've read any Josephine Cox books this book has the same feel. Easy to read, good suspense and action, enough love scenes to make it interesting but not a 'bodice ripper' by any means. The characters are believable and Givens is able to help the reader picture what life was like 700 years ago during a very tumultuous time in history.

One of the only negatives I can say about this book is that I felt like I had missed a storyline or two. I had read "On a Highland Shore" a few months ago and still remembered the storyline pretty well. In this book when Givens referred to storylines involving Davey and Nell I was confused because I didn't remember reading about that part of the families lives. Apparently I'm not the only one who noticed this since it has been discussed on various forums. I felt like I missed out on a book because there is such a huge jump in time and it really wasn't referred to clearly or resolved. I guess she wrote the third book before the second? Nevertheless, you could read this book as a stand alone book but I recommend reading "On a Highland Shore" first to get a good idea of the love story between Rory's parents.

If you're in the mood for a book set in Scotland with political intrigue, some good-looking men in kilts and some romance then this one's for you.

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Smothered Oink'n'Cluck

That title got your attention, didn't it? This is a dish I used to make for Brad and I when we were first married. Back when we enjoyed making leisurely meals while sipping some wine and chatting about our days. While this isn't by any means a hard dish to make there are a few steps and fiddly chopping to be done.

Things have changed since the three mini-me's have come along but Brad and I still manage to have 'at-home date nights'. We feed the kids something easy at our regular dinner time and once the kids are in bed (or at least reading in bed) we eat alone. Romantic? Not really, but it is peaceful and no one is saying "What kind of vegetable is that?" and "How much do I have to eat before I can be excused?". You know, all the ooohs and ahhhhs the warm the cockles of my culinary heart.

Well, I surprised myself tonight. For some reason, after a long day (sometimes with 5 kids running around), I managed to get a second wind this evening. Not only did I make Brad and I a good meal but as I was prepping dinner I also made an ovenight french toast for tomorrow morning (raspberries, cream cheese and cinnamon! I'll keep you posted). No idea where that little burst of energy came from but I'll take it!

2 chicken breasts
3/4 cup hickory BBQ sauce (I prefer my BBQ sauce with some smoke in it but use what you like)
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp brown sugar
4 slices of bacon, cooked
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a medium bowl, pour BBQ sauce over chicken and toss to coat. Place chicken in a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, or until cooked through and no longer pink in the centre.

Meanwhile, in a skillet melt butter and saute onion and mushrooms until onions are cooked but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Add sugar and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, or until the onion/mushroom mixture caramelizes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small skillet, cook bacon but make sure it's not too crispy. Set aside on paper towels to drain grease.

When chicken is cooked through, cover chicken with onion mixture, followed by bacon and then cheddar. Put chicken back into the oven and broil (watching it carefully) until cheese has melted.


Friday, 13 August 2010

The Birth of Venus

Author: Sarah Dunant
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 391
First Line: "No one had seen her naked until her death."
First Published: 2003

Synopsis: Alessandra Cecchi is fourteen years old when her father brings a young painter to their home in Florence,Italy to paint a frescoe. Alessandra shares his love of art and quickly becomes intrigued by the artist's abilities.

Meanwhile, in Florence there is a clash between the decadent Medici family and fire and brimstone preacher by the name of Savonarola and his aggressive followers. In order to keep their daughter safe, Alessandra's parents marry her off to a much older merchant. During this very tumultuous time Alessandra must find her own way and explore the things that she's passionate about.

My Thoughts: I truly wanted to like this book. I adore the setting (Firenze/Florence) and the time in history. I read 250 pages (of the 391) and was finding that I was forcing myself to read. I hate that ... so I gave up. After 250 pages literally nothing happened! Yes there was one surprise but there was no momentum and I found the characters really flat. Alessandra was the typical 'ugly duckling' who is trying to break away from the confines that society set on women of the time by being interested in painting instead of marriage and family. I didn't get a great mental picture of Florence or the era either (which I expect from a historical fiction read).

My Rating: 0/5 stars (aka I didn't finish it)

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Sanity Break for ME!

Right now I think I'm having an out of body experience .... either that or I'm dreaming. I'm sitting at home on this beautiful August day ... completely alone. All three kids have been dipersed to various sleepovers and Brad is at work.

What caused this heavenly treat for moi? Have I been a good girl lately? Have my planets aligned and I didn't know about it? Or are the forces that be seeing how stressed I am lately in the inevitable "Mid August Natterfest" that my kids have signed up for whole-heartedly? Who knows? I don't even care ... I'm alone in a peaceful house.

I'd like to take the time to thank those who made this sanity break possible. The YMCA camp for having Cub sleep overnight, my parents for having Missy Moo stay overnight and let's not forget 9 year old Karate Guy ... who called up my mother-in-law (thanks to her as well) and asked for a sleepover since his sibings were going to be away for the night and he wanted Brad and I to have a date night. Awwww.

So what am I going to do with this free time? Um, read ... as well as finish the laundry and maybe even *gasp* clean my ensuite. Yes everyone, I know ... I'm living the dream! Tonight Brad and I will go out for a lovely dinner so neither of us has to cook and revel in the quiet. Ahhh, bliss.

I know that one evening doing our own things will definitely make our hearts grow fonder and hopefully the kids will end the "Mid August Natterfest" and prepare for the next big event which spans the next 3 weeks .... Back to School Prep (in which I regularly break into song and start singing or humming the Staples commercial "It's the MOST wonderful time ... of the year!"). Brings a tear to my eye every time. ;)

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Weekly Reading Poll

This has been an all-time slow reading week for this Bookworm. Maybe it's because the kids are home on holidays? Maybe it's because it's been really hot and I just can't get into reading? One would think that with the overall lack of decent TV shows that my evenings would be filled with either blogging or reading (oh ya, and talking to Brad). Well, my evenings are filled with that stuff ... yet I still haven't enjoyed reading this week.

Who really knows the reason for my reading slump but I haven't even read one whole book this week. Sad but true. I had started "The Birth of Venus" by Sarah Dunant which I had picked up at a used book sale this spring. It sounded right up my alley - Historical Fiction taking place in Florence - one of my favourite cities in Italy. Sadly, it just couldn't keep my interest. I'll post about it later but for now I've put that book down.

Right now I'm reading another historical fiction, funnily enough, based in Italy too. It's a much more engaging read and I'm enjoying it so far.

Next up? Maybe the second book in the Body Mover series or "Mistress of the Game" which is the sequel to "Master of the Game" by Sidney Sheldon. I think I need some romance gone wrong, some backstabbing and other delicious deceptions to get my reading mojo back.

So what has your reading week been like? Did you find a keeper ... or a dud?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Happy 1st Blogaversary to ME!

I cannot believe that it's already been one year since I set up this blog. Last summer I had thrown around the idea of setting up a blog but really had no idea that I would get as involved as I have over the past year (and didn't realize I'd enjoy it so much). Initially I wasn't sure a blog about cooking and reading (my two favourite hobbies) would fly. I thought that it wasn't specific enough ... but apparently my concern wasn't needed. I've received great feedback and support from so many and I truly appreciate it all.

In the past year I have posted 343 times (yup! Almost one posting per day!) with recipes, rants, book reviews and my occasional blathering. Having the blog has pushed me to try new recipes (and books) to give the blog lots of variety. Some recipes my family have embraced and others .... well, we'll just chalk those recipes up to experimentation, shall we?

I've learned a lot about blogging over the past year and I know that it's just the tip of the iceberg! There are so many things that I'd like to add to the blog ... I just have to learn how. I'd love to allow you to easily print off recipes and I'm currently trying to figure out how to set up an email notification so that when I post something new you'll get an email with a little blurb about what the posting is about.

I'm also planning on adding more kitchen tips and a kitchen dictionary of sorts. For example, explaining the difference between kosher salt, table salt and sea salt. Explaining how to properly cut up a mango etc etc.

So far I have 38 followers which is a nice start ... in the upcoming year I'd like to more than double that amount so if you know anyone who has an interest in reading or cooking please feel free to pass along my blog address.

Thank you all for supporting me and looking in on my wee blog from time to time. I love all of the feedback I've received from you and I'm looking forward to posting more in the upcoming year!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Festival of the Tater

One of my goals this year is to visit more Ontario attractions and festivals that I haven't been to before. I suppose all those 'love Ontario' TV ads have finally influenced me. I wanted to explore my own backyard a bit more - because it is a pretty great backyard! Last weekend I finally went to Toronto Island and had a great time. So this weekend, after years (maybe even a decade) I've finally made it to the potato festival in Alliston, Ontario.
On this beautiful, sunny day Brad and I packed up our offspring in our Loser Cruiser (minivan), picked up our requisite 'double double' large coffees (Remember! A happy mom is a caffeinated mom!) and we were off. We had a beautiful day to drive the few hours to Alliston.
Potatoes are, as I have mentioned before, in my eyes ... perfection (cue angels singing) and one of my favourite things to eat. Driving there I was envisioning potato booths as far as the eye could see. A veritable feast for these potato lovin' eyes (no pun intended). I was envisioning a potato mascot greeting me and showing me aisles of perogie booths, baked potato booths, and french fries up the wazoo! I was hoping, but not expecting, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes and even the sweet tater to make an appearance too!
Well, they did have lots of french fry booths and a couple of baked potato booths ... along with various other non-tater foods like deep fried Mars bars (a fav of 10 year old Cub's), burgers, corn-on-the-cob etc. Harumph! I was able to get myself a really tasty baked potato with all the fixin's and it was quite tasty. If only I could have also had some perogies.
Overall, a really good time. We saw a wonderful busker who had some great one liners, the boys got to ride their first mechanical bull (and did quite well too!) and an old car show (for Brad and Cub to oooo and ahhh over various machines).

Does anyone know of any other great summer festivals in Ontario? What are your favs?

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Why Do I Read? Let Me Count The Ways ...

I cannot tell you how many times I've been asked why I like reading so much. Usually the question is asked by a NR (Non-Reader) who is confused and astounded by how many books I read. They just don't understand why I can spend so much time with my head in a book when there are so many other things to do with my precious time. I do have other hobbies, a young family and other interests ... reading just happens to be one of them.

I think reading could be a hobby for everyone. I honestly think that if I can get them to read the right book I can get them to love reading as much as I do. They just haven't found the right book to get them excited about reading too!

I have always been a reader but it really wasn't until a few years ago when one of my brothers-in-law told me about a book that his Grade 7 students were raving about. The book happened to be the first Harry Potter book. At first I thought "Why would I, a mother of two kids, want to read a kids' book about wizards?". Looking back, I'm so glad I gave the book a chance! That book kickstarted my reading ... big time! From that point on I couldn't stop reading and literally have to have a book on the go at all times.

Here are some of the reasons I always have a book on the go.

  1. Books can change the reader's mood. If I'm feeling down and I pick up a book like one of Janet Evanovich's "Stephanie Plum" series and read about Lula and Grandma Mazur I know I'll be giggling really soon and it'll pick me up.
  2. Books are amazing if you want to escape your life for a bit and delve into another person's life story, another time or place. Whether that's jumping into Queen Elizabeth I's shoes or reading a juicy "Dynasty"-like Sidney Sheldon ... it's all good!
  3. Good books are also a great way to remember places you've been too. I'm reading a book now ("The Birth of Venus") which takes place in Florence, Italy. From the vivid descriptions I can clearly remember the Piazza della Signoria, Michelangelo's "David" and Il Duomo. Ahhh, Italy!
  4. Favourite books are almost like old friends. Sounds dorkier than I mean it. I love to re-read certain books ... it kind of feels homey and comforting to go back and read something that you know you'll love ... again and again.
  5. I need to read. Sounds silly and trivial to some but I do. I have gone a day or two without reading but it feels weird. Reading has become part of what I do in a day. I might only get 20 minutes on a certain day but I feel more relaxed when I've had that 'me' time. If I could only read in the car imagine how many more books I would have read!!
  6. Collecting books. I love the library and am an avid (or is that rabid?) fan. But I also love to see books on my bookshelves. I love to see them lined up (or stacked up due to lack of bookshelves). One of my 'wants' over the next few years is to have a library/den in our basement. With a comfy reading chair, a table for my coffee ..... bliss!
  7. Books have the ability to change a person's perspective of the world and their opinions on certain issues. For example, reading a well-written book about slavery (ie. "Roots" by Alex Haley or "Book of Negroes" by Canadian author, Lawrence Hill) can show the reader what it felt like to live in that time. To be treated that way by another human being. A great book can convey the emotion of the characters so that the reader feels them too.
  8. You can learn something! Shocking but true! Whether it's learning new vocabulary, learning about a certain event in history or learning how to get your kids to put their dirty laundry IN the hamper ... so many things you can learn from a book!
  9. Reading is a very solitary hobby and yet I still feel a connection to other readers when start talking about books. I love to talk about books whether it's in person, on a reading forum or here on my blog (which is why I LOVE getting comments and discussions going! Pssst! This is where you, the blog reader, are supposed to say "Oh ya. I should post more comments on here!").
  10. I literally get giddy when I read a book that I adore. I want to share it with anyone and everyone (which is why I set up this blog a year ago).
  11. Reading fiction helps you to dust off your old imagination. A wonderful author like J.K Rowling (of Harry Potter fame) or Diana Gabaldon (she of the "Outlander" fame) have the ability to, by their words alone, help the reader picture in his or her mind a different era or a different way to see the world we live in.
So why do you read? When did you start to really love to read?

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Gooey Warm Apples

Recipe originally from:

I'm one of those Canadians who loves to go to Cracker Barrel when I'm down in the southern US. I know ... it's the little things that thrill me. But honestly! Who can resist Chicken Fried Chicken with a side of mashed potatoes, I ask you?!?! Mmmm. So not heart healthy but I've just gotta get my Barrel fix!

Anyhoo, my point is .... one of my favourite side dishes whilst supping at the Barrel is their baked apple slices. Oh man. They are gooooood. I found this recipe on a fellow blogger's site that reminded me of said Barrel side dish and my first thought was "Butter my butt and call me a biscuit! I have to share this recipe with all y'all!" (look at me channeling my inner Southerner!).

This is a very easy and quick side dish/dessert to make. In fact, tonight for dinner I made homemade Macaroni and Cheese (with the bread crumb topping, thank you very much) and while we were eating I had the apples cooking on the stove. Served with vanilla ice cream and a rather large dollop of whipped cream ... it was heavenly. Like apple crisp without the .... well, crisp. The sugar mixture turns into a thick syrup and some of the edges of the apples become carmelized and really reminded me of the flavour of apple fritters. Believe me ... I know a good apple fritter! Try this recipe out and let me know what you think!

6 medium apples (I love using MacIntosh apples)
4 tbsp butter (no substitutes)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Core, peel and slice apples.

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Once the mixture begins to bubble, add the sliced apples and raisins, if using. Stir to coat.

Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until apples are tender and the butter mixture reduces to a thick syrup. Serve warm as a side dish or serve with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream for dessert.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Weekly Book Poll

This past week I've had a week of female authors. I finished up "The Pact" by well-known author Jodi Picoult. It was ok but didn't live up to my expectations.

Next I read "The Neighbor" by Lisa Gardner. It wasn't as good of a read as her previous book "Gone" but did have some good suspenseful parts ... unfortunately they were all in the last third of the book.

Over this past long weekend I read "Body Movers" by Stephanie Bond which is a milder "Stephanie Plum-type" read. I have the next 3 books in the series which I'm looking forward to reading to see where the author takes the characters and their relationships.

Tonight I started a new historical fiction novel called "The Birth of Venus" by British author Sarah Dunant. I have heard of Dunant but have never read any of her books. So far (I've merely read the Prologue) it sounds like a great book. From what I can gather it's based in Florence which was one of the main draws for me since Brad and I visited that beautiful Italian city a few years ago. It was, hands down, one of our favourite cities on the trip.

The story is written in the early 1500's and is about a 15 year old Italian girl named Alessandra Cecchi. Alessandra is enamoured with a young painter that her father brings in to decorate their villa. But Alessandra's father has other ideas for his daughter's future and marries her off to a much older merchant. Meanwhile, Florence is caught up in the tension between the Medici family who adores excess and luxury and the hellfire and brimstone preachings of a monk called Savonarola and his mercenary followers. Alessandra must find her own way during this tumultuous time in Italian history.

I thought it sounded really good and I was in the mood for a historical fiction read after a couple of mysteries. You'll notice that I like to change up the genres of books I read. Too much of one type of book and I (of little attention span) get bored and need something new. This book was actually one of my finds at that used book sale back in early May. I'm hoping this was a good buy but for the $2 I paid I'm figuring it was a good buy either way.

So, what are you all reading? Don't be shy! Comments are good!! Share your thoughts on the books you've read over the past week or so. Did you love it? Why? Was it a stinker? Why?

Body Movers

Author: Stephanie Bond
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 425
Series: 1st book in the Body Movers series
Series Order:
  1. "Body Movers" (2006)
  2. "2 Bodies for the Price of 1" (2007)
  3. "3 Men and a Body" (2008)
  4. "4 Bodies and a Funeral" (2009)
  5. "5 Bodies to Die For" (2009)
  6. "6 Killer Bodies" (2009)

First Line: "Does this make my ass look big?"

Synopsis: Carlotta Wren's life hasn't turned out like she thought it would. Unlike her old high school friends who have huge houses, busy social calendars and loads of money, Carlotta is a sales persons at Neiman Marcus's living with her delinquent 19 year old younger brother. She's been trying to put the pieces of her life back together for the past 10 years ever since her parents skipped bail for their white collar crime and haven't been heard from since.

Now Carlotta has a new set of problems. Her brother has been arrested and has loan sharks after him, the cop who arrested her brother wants to reopen her parents' case and her brother gets the creepy job of transporting dead bodies to the morgue. Add to the fact that her ex-boyfriend's nasty wife is found murdered and now Carlotta has to find the murderer before she becomes the next target.

My Thoughts: This was a good, light mystery. It's similar to the very funny and quirky Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. While it did have a few funny moments it wasn't nearly as funny as the Plum series but it did keep my interest all the way through -- enough that I read this book in 2 days.

A good mystery and good characters. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series and hope that some of the secondary characters are brought into the storyline more ... especially Hannah, Carlotta's quirky goth best friend.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

The Neighbor

Author: Lisa Gardner
Pages: 369
Type: Hardcover
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Series: 3rd book in the D.D Warren series
Series Order:
  1. "Alone" (2005)
  2. "Hide" (2007)
  3. "The Neighbour" (2009)
  4. "Live to Tell" (2010)
  5. "Save Me" (2011)

First Line: "I've always wondered what people felt in the final few hours of their lives."

Synopsis: When Sandra Jones, a devoted young mother, suddenly vanishes from her Boston home, and her four-year old daughter is the only witness, the police are called in. When Detective D.D Warren arrives on the scene something doesn't sit well with her. This seemingly perfect young family doesn't seem right to D.D but she can't put her finger on it.

With the media hot on the story and the minutes ticking away D.D needs to find the young mother before the trail runs cold. When the husband, Jason Jones, refuses to answer the police's questions and doesn't seem at all helpful in looking for his wife D.D needs to determine why and if he had something to do with his wife's disappearance.

As D.D looks into Sandra's disappearance the Jones' family secrets start to surface revealing very disturbing pasts and many secrets that the married couple have kept from each other.

My Thoughts: I've read one other book by Gardner, "Gone" and really enjoyed it. This book? Unfortunately, not so much. The premise was interesting, a dedicated mother who suddenly goes missing, but the first 2/3 of the book really lagged. I had to force myself to continue reading. The suspense and twists didn't come until the final 50 pages or so ... then ended abruptly with an ending that seemed thrown together. I did appreciate the number of potential suspects - I love lots of options for a who dunnit -- I just wish the momentum of the storyline could have started closer to the beginning of the book instead of right at the end.

One of the things that I found annoying with this book was how the beginning of each chapter started off from the viewpoint of one of the main characters but Gardner didn't let the reader know who was speaking. It was vague enough that it literally took me half a page to determine who was talking which became annoying after a few chapters. I also wasn't sure why Gardner picked "The Neighbor" as the title since it didn't really relate to the book. Yes, there was a neighbor involved in the storyline but that wasn't the basis for the storyline.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Sunday, 1 August 2010

A Day Filled with Memories

Here in the Great White North we have a holiday weekend to celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday. Normally, my family and I would be at the cottage or planning a day trip somewhere. This year was different!

View of the Toronto Skyline as seen from Toronto Island.
After many months of chatting via Facebook with a group of my closest friends from my old high school (I went there from Gr 9-11) we decided to finally meet face to face. Friends B and C planned the event which included friends from all over Canada and one from the US. So, with a bunch of my friends, our gaggle of offspring, hubbies and an entourage of wagons filled with food and kid stuff we went by ferry to Toronto Island. Once there we had a great picnic, a swim in the lake and then back to B & C's condo for a party. A WONDERFUL day filled with loads of memories and lots of laughing.
Some of my friends had come all the way from British Columbia and Michigan for this get together. There were two separate groups of my friends that had kept in touch with each other over the years but for all of us to get together? It was 21 years in the making. Was it uncomfortable? Did we have anything in common with each other after all that time? Oh man. We had a blast and the only way I can describe the feeling of seeing these faces that I hadn't seen in so long is .... easy. It was so easy, it was like we had seen each other a few months ago ... not over 2 decades ago.
There were lots of old pictures brought out which, of course, brought on lots of "I remember that!", "What were were thinking wearing THAT?!?" and lots of laughs. Overall, a wonderful weekend ... so wonderful that my kids (and Brad and I!) want to do it again. I just hope that it doesn't take us another 2 decades to get together for the next reunion!

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