Monday, June 7, 2010

Does Twitter make you feel like a twit?

Well, maybe.  I suppose I’m going to find out.  I’m not sure if it will work for me this time, since my last attempt left me wondering what all the fuss was about.  Sometimes it just takes me a little while to get used to things, I guess.

If you’re interested in following me, please click on the button below.


By: Twitter Buttons

Feel free to lend some advice, as I am a novice and could use all the help I can get.

Happy tweeting.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Savouring Sunday ~ Whole Wheat Banana Bread

Refined wheat should be a thing of the past for all of us. Gone are the days where we ate our PB and J on nutrient deficient white bread. Now you should be looking to flax seed, multigrain, or oat grain (to name a few) for a healthy option. It might take you a week to get used to, since white bread seems to grab hold pretty tight to some people (and their colons), but you won’t be able to look back once you fall victim to whole grain bread’s charms. And, mark my words, your digestive system will thank you!

At my house, we love banana bread! Mmm. What a great way to use up the bananas when they’ve been in the fruit bowl too long, get mushy and fashion those unappetizing dark spots. Although I have a favourite banana bread recipe that my family is very fond of, I thought it was time to turn to a healthier version.

It was while I was in search of a new recipe that I stumbled across the Whole Grain Gourmet.  This is a fabulous website with a ton of nutritious recipes to choose from.  They have an absolutely delicious banana bread that you don’t have to feel guilty about baking for your family.

Give it a try and let me know if you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread (Click on above picture to see recipe on the Whole Grain Gourmet website.)

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup packed natural brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup mashed over-ripe bananas
  • 1 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (I just used whole wheat)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, preferrably 60% cocoa

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Lighly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan with butter.
  3. Combine flour, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Whisk and set aside.
  4. In another large bowl, combine butter, honey, and sugar and beat for two minutes. Add the eggs and lightly beat until just combined. Mix in bananas and vanilla -- do not overmix. Gradually beat in the flour mixture in thirds.
  5. Dilute baking soda in ¼ cup hot (not boiling) water, then beat into batter.
  6. Stir in, by hand, the chocolate chips and chopped nuts.
  7. Pour the batter into the pan and bake at 325 for 52 minutes. (test for doneness being careful not to overbake as it may dry out the bread)
  8. Remove from pan and place on a wire rack to cool. If you plan to serve this to guests and want clean slices, then allow it to cool for 30 minutes. If you want to enjoy some melt-in-your-mouth, out-of-this-world, warm banana bread, then dig in after 5 minutes.

 3.5/5 Snakes

Thursday, June 3, 2010

For those who think Librarians don’t know how to have fun…

 

Here’s a hilarious view into the lives of some wild and crazy librarians. haha

 

Thursday Challenge - FAMILY (Moms, Dads, Kids, Relatives, People, Animals, Vacations, Weddings,...)

Dale Hudjik at Spun With Tears hosts a Thursday photography challenge where a theme is announced, and then participants choose a photograph that they have taken relating to the topic and post it on their blog.  To link back to the post and add your blog to the list click here .

 WI1C3123.

 WI1C3132.

(Click on the photo above to see it in full)

These were captured at my wedding last September.  As you can see, we were married in a beautiful Greek Orthodox Church. 

My only complaint about the day is that it went by far too quickly!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Book Review – Oprah: A Biography by Kitty Kelley

Oprah in one word?  Gluttonous

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I’ve been watching Oprah ever since her show went into syndication over twenty years ago.  I spent countless afternoons with my grandmother, watching  in amazement as the scandalous scenarios played out on Phil Donahue, Geraldo Rivera, and Oprah Winfrey.  Talk TV was my lifeline to grownup happenings, and I felt like I was defying childhood by being able to watch it.

Oprah was always my favourite.  There was something about seeing a fearless, heavyset, black woman on TV, when all I had been used to seeing were skinny, coquettish, white women, that empowered me and gave me a sense that not all was lost in the world.  Even as a young, white tween I was proud of Oprah and what she stood for as a role model to females everywhere, regardless of their ethnicity.  I saw her show as a place where all women could come together as sisters, and bridge the gap between the races.  This was a feeling that I carried with me well into the new millennium when I became an occasional viewer but remained a devoted fan. 

Over the last five or six years I have found myself pulling away from Oprah.  There is something about her unabashed arrogance that has been grating on my nerves.  I wonder who she thinks she is when she stops one of her ‘expert’ guests mid sentence to put in her all important two cents.  Although it took me a long time to realize it, it would appear Oprah’s fame and power have gotten to her head.  As Kelley mentions in the book, “Shakespeare says it best; ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely.’”

Even though I don’t read tabloids, I know that gossip often leaks out to the mainstream media surrounding highly influential people, but somehow Oprah seemed to stay off the radar for her first ten or so years.  I figured this must have been a testament to her purity and philanthropic ways.  If I am to believe Kitty Kelley, this had more to do with the omnipresent, controlling grasp of one of the most powerful women in the world, who held the media and entertainment industries in her clutches like a vulture on its prey.

Oprah is a private person who has fought tooth and nail to keep her secrets out of the limelight… at least those that she has not divulged to her audience at various key moments, like sweeps week.  Kelley professes that working at Harpo Studios is akin to being part of a cult.  Employees are made to sign confidentiality agreements that prohibit them from ever discussing Oprah or any facet of her company.  The imperial restrictions she puts on her staff are proof of an extreme paranoia that has daunted her as rogue journalists have tried to break down her seemingly impenetrable walls of silence.  I can only imagine the despair that she is feeling with the publishing of this book. 

Kelley walks us through Oprah’s life step-by-step, from her humble beginnings, to her hard working and positive attitude that moved her swiftly up the ranks in the television world.  We learn of the tragic sexual abuse that she suffered at the hands of family members, and her consequential promiscuity.  We feel sympathetic for her bad choices surrounding men, drugs, and an unyielding food addiction, and sit like voyeurs through the details of her awkward relationships with Steadman and Gail. 

None of these things had me disappointed by Oprah.  What really crushed my opinion of her was more the prima donna-like behaviour that seemed to become more and more prevalent with each passing year, and every additional dollar.  The book is full of her snooty antics.  In one instance she showed up extremely late to an appointment at an art gallery, where she had her assistant phone ahead of time and make a big stink about them needing to be ready for her arrival, and that she mustn't be kept waiting.  Upon her hours late arrival she then proceeded to tell the staff there that “Oprah does not do stairs,” when she was asked to look at things on another floor of the establishment.  I’m flabbergasted by her temerity, especially when part of Oprah’s image over the years has shown her as ‘every woman.’

At least as Oprah got richer, her donations to charity got larger.  That doesn’t take away from the fact that she is in my opinion the queen of wastefulness.  To hear of the millions of dollars spent on lavish parties and gifts for her wealthy friends is enough to make you dizzy.  She just doesn’t seem to recognize the value of money and what it can do when used thoughtfully.  It is certainly admirable that she has built a school for girls in South Africa, but with the money that she spent on this one facility, she could have built twenty more frugal educational centres.  This would have been a lot less insulting to the many disenfranchised observers who stood to benefit nothing from this grand castle, that was erected for a few hundred overly-spoiled girls.

Oprah: A Biography is a large and long book, and I’m glad I didn’t have to lug it around, as I listened to it in audio book format.  Kelley is the reader, so we are able to get the properly intended emphasis on her words.  If I had been reading it from the book, I’m sure I would have gotten bored at times, as she tends to jump back and forth in her laying out of the story.   (The beauty of listening to a book while cooking dinner or washing dishes is you can tune out the slow parts.)  Kelley offers her disapproving opinions of Oprah’s actions on more than one occasion, but she more or less sticks to ‘the facts’ as she has compiled them, and appears to be fairly unbiased in her delivery.  

This is a very informative book for those that want the scoop on Oprah, but for those who consider themselves devout followers of this blinding star, be forewarned: you may end up angry, hurt and even disappointed.  Although I am proud of her self-made success, and the message that regardless of where you come from you can rise to the top, I’m not ashamed to say that Oprah is no longer one of my heroes.

Title: Oprah: A Biography

Author: Kitty Kelley

3/5 Snakes

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

May in Review ~ 2010

 

DSCF5240 April has been a very productive month, just not so much on the blogging front.  With the July like weather conditions that we’ve been having here in Toronto, being outside seems to have top priority.  We have planted a beautiful herb and vegetable garden on our balcony, along with some planters full of flowers.  I can’t wait to see if we will reap some tomatoes and peppers, even with our limited sun.

DSCF5241

My wonderful husband toiled over this lattice last weekend, which makes the balcony of our city apartment feel like we are away at a cottage up north.  I love that we have created another room for ourselves.  This is sure to be my favourite reading spot this summer.  I’ll be posting more pictures later in the season when the lattice becomes enveloped with ivy and climbing vines.

 

 

Even though I have been busy, I was able to complete a few book reviews this month:

Apologize, Apologize by Elizabeth Kelly (one down on the Irish Reading Challenge!)

Up in the Air by Walter Kirn

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I’m pleased to have three entries this month for my feature, Friday’s Flick.  I made it out to the theatre to see:

Date Night with Steve Carell and Tina Fey

And caught two fabulous documentaries online:

Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days

The Story of the Weeping Camel

I was able to add more entries to the archives for my feature Savouring Sunday with the very delicious:

Barley and Lentil Soup with Whole Wheat Rolls

Lemon Bars

Multigrain Pizza

I scored big time for my book collection by taking advantage of some Chapters coupons, and of course had to share my findings with everyone in my Chapters Coupon = Book Shopping Spree! post.

I exuberantly joined another challenge this month, the Read the Book, See the Movie Challenge, and have already completed one of my titles for it by doing a joint review of both the book and the movie versions of Up in the Air.

As neglectful as I have been regarding awards, I finally put together a thank-you post for the four that I have received over the past couple of months.

All in all, I suppose I didn’t do too badly considering the amount of time I have spent away from my computer.  It would appear that I did an acceptable job balancing my activities.  I just hope that I’m able to keep it up for the rest of this gorgeous and sweltering summer!

I hope you’re enjoying nice weather wherever you are.  How did you make out this month?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Non-Fiction Monday: Cyclist BikeList – The Book for Every Rider

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When I’d first heard that I had been chosen to receive a copy of Cyclist BikeList,  I was thrilled.  Not only do I love to collect children’s books, but I am very fond of all things educational, and from what I could glean, this book fit the bill.

Who doesn’t remember the first time they set flight on a bicycle without the assistance of training wheels, or a parents protective grip?  The feeling of confidence and sheer joy that I felt at this milestone moment in my life has not been easily matched since. 

Although children don’t ride bikes in the numbers nor the frequency that they used to prior to this age of technology, Cyclist BikeList could be just the type of book to inspire young riders to get out there and explore what excitement and adventure a bicycle in the outdoors has to offer.

To show just how far we’ve come with the technology of  the bicycle, this informative book begins with the course of its evolution.  Playful illustrations show us the bikes humble beginnings as a pedal-less, wooden device back in 1817 to its safer and much improved current form almost two hundred years later. 

For the technically inclined, there is a detailed diagram used to show the various parts that make up a modern bicycle, while the ins and outs of bicycle engineering are also outlined as it is explained how a bicycle works via the combination of its parts and their specific mechanics. 

Riding tips are found in the text, or through an illustrated character’s conversation bubbles as asides throughout.  There are elaborate instructions on how to change gears properly, as well as little things, like, that you should “always pedal with the ball of your foot for maximum efficiency.”

Parents will appreciate the advice on how to shop for a bike, how riders can stay safe while riding, and what the important legal requirements are regarding helmets, signaling and the obeying of traffic signs.  Since this is a Canadian book, most of the information provided is surrounding Canadian laws, but is still useful to any cyclist looking to keep safe.  One would be wise to check out their local laws regarding cycling regardless of where you live, as regulations can change and need to be stayed on top of. 

As well as extensive checklists detailing the essentials needed, there are instructional sections on how to dress appropriately for safety, comfort and hygiene, and what accessories are required for different types and lengths of bike rides.

As well as an extensive chapter on how to maintain your bicycle, there is another on how to help the rider maintain their health, and what it takes to properly fuel the body.  The author breaks down the importance of complex carbs, protein and other crucial vitamins and nutrients, as well as addressing a cyclist’s need to eat and stay well hydrated while riding, in order to keep energy levels up. 

Cyclist BikeList is the perfect blend of history, mechanics, safety and inspiration. Although I have seen some websites recommend it for 7-9 year olds, I find it to be geared (no pun intended) more towards the 9-12 year old.  That being said, this is a beautifully illustrated and colourful reference material that will keep any cycling-minded child, teen or adult reading right through to the last page. 

One thing I think this book could have used was a glossary of terms at the back, as I am certain that most children don’t know the meaning of ‘pneumatic’ or ‘centrifugal.’  On the other had, this may encourage a child to take a moment to look the words up, which is always helpful to a growing vocabulary.  Strangely, there were some instances where the definition of a tough word was provided in parenthesis after it was used, like in the case of ‘metallurgy,’ I’m just not sure how some words missed this special attention.

Cyclist BikeList has a wealth of information and not only is it the perfect reference guide for a child doing a project on ‘the bicycle,’ it could be an important factor in choosing the right bike for a new rider, or helpful to an experienced rider planning an extended cycling trip. 

I would definitely recommend this book to others, and I’m excited to be able to add it to my collection.

4/5 Snakes

nonfiction_monday

Non-Fiction Monday is a weekly event celebrated by various blogs throughout the kidlitosophere.  To participate you have to write about a non-fiction book for kids, paste the Non-fiction Monday button in your post, then link your post to the blog that is hosting the round-up for that respective week. 

This weeks round-up post is being hosted by Lori Calabrese, so be sure to link your post to hers if you are participating, by clicking on the button above. 

Although I am not part of any specific blogosphere, I have received a copy of Cyclist BikeList – The Book for Every Rider, from Library Thing’s Early Reviewers program, and felt it was a perfect fit for this meme.