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.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Awards!!! – April & May

I’m pleased to have received four awards in the past couple of months and I just wanted to take a minute to say thank you to the people that were kind enough to issue them.

First off, thanks to Kim from Queen Bee for giving me the Honest Scrap Award.  Kim has a varied selection of books that she reviews, from classics to historical and contemporary fiction.  She is very kind, and I’m glad to have met her.  Stop by and visit her blog; you won’t be disappointed. 

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With this award I am asked to list ten things about myself. 

All right, here it goes:

  1. I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, and I don’t think I’ll ever stray too far from this beautiful city. 
  2. I am newly married to a man who I was with for 14 years before he popped the question.
  3. I was proposed to on the Greek Island of Kalymnos, and we spent our honeymoon on the Emerald Isle, also known as Ireland.
  4. My dream job is to be the librarian at my local library where I have been an enthusiastic patron for over thirty years.
  5. Since I love to learn, my favourite movies tend to be documentaries.
  6. Aside from the Amazing Race and Survivor, I generally don’t watch TV.
  7. My husband and I try to live an organic lifestyle, from the food we eat to the products we use.
  8. I love to cook, and to keep things interesting I try new recipes all the time. 
  9. I am the family baker, and my latest signature dessert is a Mango and Coconut cheesecake that is to die for. 
  10. If I could go on vacation tomorrow, I would choose Costa Rica in a heartbeat.

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Next, I’d like to say thank you to BookQuoter from A Thousand Books with Quotes for recognizing me for the Prolific Blogger Award and the The Premio Dardos Award.  You simply must stop by and visit this unique and interesting blog, where there is a compilation of some of the most memorable quotes from some of the best books literature has to offer.  BookQuoter is always looking for recommendations, so don’t be shy.

Prolific_blogger

A prolific blogger is one who is intellectually productive, keeping up an active blog with enjoyable content.

 

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The Prêmio Dardos is a way to acknowledge the importance of bloggers committed with spreading cultural, ethical, literary and personal values, showing their thoughts are alive through their letters and words.

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Lastly, I’d like to say thanks a bunch to Sarah from Loving Books, for giving me the Versatile Blogger Award.  Sarah is a sweet blogger who I’ve recently had the pleasure of meeting, and not unlike myself, she is a voracious reader who loves to bake.  The difference being, she doesn’t tend to eat what she makes.  I should take a page from her book, it would seem.  Stop by and visit her colourful blog, as she has an archive full of interesting book reviews to peruse.

VersatileBloggerAward

This award asks me to list seven things about myself, but as I have listed ten for another award above, I will refrain from doing so.

 

 

 

Thanks to all for thinking of me!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday’s Flick – Documentary Edition

This weeks flick is The Story of the Weeping Camel and can be watched at Documentary Heaven by clicking on the picture below.

The Story of the Weeping Camel

1 hr, 27 minutes

3 Today I spent the afternoon immersed in a story that takes place on the other side of the globe, in a place that is completely foreign to the fast-paced and technologically advanced world that we live in here in North America.  It is the purity of the Mongolian people and the true joy with which they live each day that made this film one of the most endearing and lovely movies that I’ve had the opportunity to encounter. 

The Story of the Weeping Camel is the documenting of one baby colt’s journey back to its rejecting mother, through an entrancing bonding ritual performed by nomadic Mongolian shepherds, with the help of a musician from a neighbouring city centre. 

When a beautiful white colt, Botok, is born through an arduous two-day labour, it is quickly apparent that its mother, Ingen Temeethis, is traumatized and is not interested in taking up her motherly duties of caring for her offspring.  The poor colt is obviously distraught as it tries to suckle from its mothers breast, only to be shunned and left with its hunger.  The compassionate journey taken to reunite these divided animals is as heartwarming as it is magical, and by the end of the film you will find yourself in awe of natures miracles. 

In my favourite scene of the film, the sadness of the missing bond amid the mother camel and her colt was expertly contrasted by the adoring relationship between a young Mongolian shepherd and her baby, as she lovingly caresses the child’s forehead and sings in a hushed tone, a most beautiful song to lull her off to sleep. 

I spent most of the hour-and-a-half enveloped by gooseflesh, as I was completely enthralled by the harmonious Mongolian traditions that this movie shared.  In one scene we watch as this reverent people perform a ritual of chanting and praying for forgiveness in order to bring back the spirits that protect them from disease and bad weather.  They believe that these cherished spirits have been chased away by the continual plundering of  the earth’s treasures by mankind.

It was interesting to notice not just the vast differences, but also some of the similarities between the Mongolian people and those of us in the west.  The inquisitive and rambunctious spirit seen in Ugna, the youngest boy in the family, was not unlike many happy and curious children that I know.  This only solidified for me that true happiness can be found in the most humble of environments, and that it is not necessary to overburden children with extravagant toys, the latest fashions or mounds of candy. 

Although this is an extremely slow paced film, for those that are able to appreciate the value in simplicity, The Story of the Weeping Camel is the perfect blend of culture, good will and spirituality, that is sure to soothe the soul.

4.5/5 Snakes

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book Review – The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

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Before I even got started reading The Time Traveler’s Wife I was struck by this overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t going to like it.  There were three major culprits for this impending sense of doom.  First off, the edition I got from the library had a typo on the back cover.  Really?  The back cover should be something viewed by multiple people before it gets to printing.  How does this even happen?  Of course this had me in instant fear of having to put up with careless editing throughout its 4oo+ pages. 

Secondly, after reading the synopsis, typo and all, it appeared that this was a sci-fi, romance novel - two genres that I tend to avoid like a sneezing grocery clerk.

Lastly, one of the many captioned reviews listed at the front of the book (yes, I read these) says, “So here’s the next The Lovely Bones…” which in my opinion is a highly overrated and ridiculous story that I could barely force myself to finish… woo hoo, can’t wait to dig in to another one just like it!  But I promised my friend I would read it, so I tucked in my bottom lip and bravely proceeded.

Because it’s been recapped ad nauseam, I won’t waste a lot of time repeating what’s been detailed on a million other blogs.  In short, this is the story of a man suffering from a rare genetic disorder which alters the chronology of the events in his life.  We are privy to the trials and tribulations he is met with while trying to have a meaningful relationship with his one true love, whilst travelling sporadically through space and time. 

Niffenegger shrewdly allows us to see the corresponding view points of both Henry and his wife Clare by having them narrate their own perceptions, which are clearly titled with their respective ages.  With out this attention by the author, the story would have been near impossible to follow.

I’m pleased to report that the editing wasn’t horrible, save a few minor details, I didn’t find it to be anything like The Lovely Bones - *phew* - and the science-fiction aspects of the story were well devised and appropriately explained for my novice comprehension.  The romance side of things was indeed sappy, and the sex, although soft in its detail, was in my opinion overly gratuitous, but whatever floats your boat, as they say, since I know many people enjoyed this part of it. 

Niffenegger’s prose was very readable, and I found myself tearing through the book.  The first hundred pages had me gripped, as I tried to sort out what was happening, and how the time travel weaved its way through the present-day scenarios playing out.  However, as interested as I was in trying to follow the story line, I didn’t ever form a real connection with Henry and Clare personally, only with their plight.

There were many characteristics of the novels cast that felt desperately contrived.  From excessive name dropping, to leftist political statements on globalization, to the meticulous details of paper making… it all just felt like Niffenegger was trying too hard to tell us who she wanted these people to be.  A complete opposite of the last novel I read, Up in the Air, this book did a lot more telling, and a lot less showing.

If anything Clare and Henry annoyed me.  I prefer female characters to be willful and strong, independent and in control of their lives.  Clare is the antithesis of all of these things.  She spends her entire life as a puppet on Henry’s strings, and as a victim to fate and its decision.  Who or what was to blame for this, I’m not sure, but watching it go down irked me regardless.

One specific part of the novel that tugged on my nerves was when Clare and Henry are in the present discussing his previous relationship to Ingrid.  Henry professes to Clare that 

“… Ingrid was very – patient.  Overly patient.  Willing to put up with odd behavior, in the hope that someday I would shape up and marry her martyred ass.  And when somebody is that patient, you have to feel grateful, and then you want to hurt them.”

Funny, this sounds like he could be speaking of Clare and what I observed as her ‘martyred ass,’ minus the fact of wanting to hurt her, as it is clear that he devotes himself to her as best he can.  I suppose this is the point that Niffenegger is trying to make, that this scenario works for them because they are meant to be.  But based on this description he offers I just had an overwhelming urge to question Clare’s blindness to Henry’s hypocrisy. 

Character idiosyncrasies aside, a captivating element of the story was the role that faith played as one of its important themes.  Both the main characters and the reader are asked to question their beliefs as to the truth of religion, free will and/or fate.  Henry observes Clares evolution from the child who believes in God whole heartedly, to the young woman who espouses a view of free will, to an older, more pragmatic woman who tastes her mortality and questions whether or not everything might be random.  For me, the ending was a beautiful way for Niffenegger to answer this running question.  The continual examination of this truth and its eventual closure, was probably my favourite aspect of the book.

At the end of the day, I did enjoy this novel, but it wasn’t the characters so much as their circumstances that led me to this conclusion.  Niffenegger took what is a very complex and fascinating subject and turned it into something that an average Jane like me could wrap my head around.  I don’t think I’ll be signing up for another romance anytime soon, but I may be inclined to dip into the sci-fi genre on an exploratory mission, thanks to this book.

3.5/5 Snakes

Below watch the trailer for the adaptation starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Savouring Sunday ~ Multi-grain Pizza

Who doesn’t love Pizza?  There is no doubt in my mind that I could easily eat pizza at least once a week for the rest of my life and not get bored of it.  It’s just not the healthiest thing in the world for us.  Let me rephrase that, if you are eating enriched white flour dough, tons of cheese and an assortment of various nitrate infused meats on top, then clearly it is not so healthy.  If you try this delicious recipe for multi-grain crust, go easy on the cheese, and stick to veggies on top, although it still packs a punch in the calorie department, you have a lower in fat and heart-healthy alternative. DSCF5194

(Click on above picture to link to the Canadian Living Website where the recipe was originally posted.)

Multi-grain pizza dough

Ingredients

1 and 3/4cups multigrain bread flour
1 and 1/2cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup mixed seeds, (such as flax, sunflower and sesame)
2 tsp quick rising (instant) dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 and 1/4 cups hot (120 F/50 C) water
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Preparation:

In bowl, combine multigrain and all-purpose flours, seeds, yeast and salt. With wooden spoon, gradually stir in water and oil until ragged dough forms, using hands if necessary.

Turn out onto lightly floured surface; knead for about 8 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease all over. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

(Make-ahead: Refrigerate unrisen dough and let rise for 24 hours. Or freeze in plastic bag for up to 1 month; let thaw and rise in refrigerator overnight.)

4/5 Snakes

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday’s Flick – Date Night

date-night-poster Date Night has been in my sights for months now.  I am a huge fan of The Office, and pretty much anything that Steve Carell touches.  I haven’t watched Saturday Night Live much, but after catching Tina Fey’s uncanny performance as Sarah Palin throughout the US elections, I became a fast fan of hers too. 

The idea of this illustrious pair being teamed up seemed like a recipe for nothing short of comedic magic.  Unfortunately this ended up as another case of soaring expectations falling short to disappointment.

The Foster’s are the every couple, that find themselves exhausted at the end of long days, as they struggle to keep the spark alive in their fizzling relationship.  As their friends are divorcing around them, they start to notice themselves slipping into a rut.  With the urge to spice things up guiding them, they head over to the city for a night on the town at a chic restaurant they have no business trying to get a table in without a reservation. 

Releasing his inner wild child, Phil Foster overhears the hostess calling for The Tripplehorns, to no avail, and decides that they will steal the coveted reservation, whilst posing as this no-show couple.  And this is where their gangster-riddled, pimp-hustling, car-crashing adventure begins.

I’m not going to go so far as to say that I didn’t like this movie.  Yes, maybe I didn’t like the unbelievable plot line so much, since it was way over-the-top, but that is par for the course with most of the comedies out there.  It’s often the talent of the actors alone that make the big hits work. 

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, is one of my favourites, and it certainly has no plotline to speak of.  It was Will Ferrell and Christina Applegate’s portrayal of their maniacal characters that had me doubled over in fits of laughter. 

In this case it seemed at times that Carell and Fey were stifled by their characters while having to stay in the realm of everyman and woman, and as such Date Night was not quite as wacky or creative as I might have hoped coming from these two.

That said, one of the highlights of the film was the wildly funny and unorthodox car chase through the streets of Manhattan.  This scene alone helped me to feel redeemed for choosing to watch it at the theatre, in stead of frugally relaxing in the confines of my cozy living room.  But I’m a sucker for a good car chase.  (Please see The Blues Brothers for perfection on this front).

There was also a huge cast of secondary characters that I had no idea were a part of this flick, that offered a special treat.  I was thrilled to see that Mark Wahlberg and Ray Liotta - numbers one and two respectively in my top five - made some tasty appearances! 

In the end it may not have been everything I dreamed it would be, but Date Night was not a complete dud.  I was patient with its ebb and flow, was regaled by its speckled laughs, and was lucky enough to savour in a little eye candy.

3/5 Snakes

(Below you can catch a succinct trailer for the film, as found on YouTube)

Book Blogger Hop – May 21st, 2010

Jennifer over at crazy-for-books is hosting a weekly blog hop where book bloggers have the chance to introduce themselves by visiting each others blogs through her Mr. Linky list. Please click on the Book Blogger Hop button above to see the post for this week.

I’m PeachyTO and I’d like to welcome you to my blog!  Please take a look around and be sure to let me know you've hopped by if you are here for the first time.

Here are some of my most recent book reviews:

Up in the Air by Walter Kirn

Apologize, Apologize by Elizabeth Kelley

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

If you have enjoyed my blog, please let me know by becoming a follower in my sidebar. 
 
I look forward to chatting with you soon!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Read The Book, See the Movie Review ~ Up in the Air

upintheairhardcover-440x663 An interesting fact as taken from wikipediaThe book received some good reviews and initially sold well until September 11, 2001 when sales slowed to a near halt. The cover with a cartoon of flying businesspeople, one of them on fire and hurtling earthward also hurt sales. The positive reviews of the Jason Reitman film revived sales.

As soon as I saw the trailer for Up in the Air on TV back in December, I knew I had to see it.  It’s not that I could particularly relate to the storyline.  I mean, I don’t travel often, especially not for business, I’ve been known to let many an unused points card wear a hole through my wallet, and I don’t follow any self-help gurus.  So what was my fascination with this movie?  Probably the fact that all of these things are foreign to me.  One of the aspects I love about movies and books, or art in general, is their ability to teach me about things I know nothing of.  With both the book and the movie I was able to learn a little about the politics of flying, the excitement of points programs, and the power of the motivational speaker, but where I learned a lot was regarding the human condition. 

I always read the book before I see the movie, which usually results in my disappointment with the film.  In this case, I’m surprised to report that I actually had a higher regard for the movie than the book.  In fact, Jason Reitman took a good story and made it great. 

Whoever was in charge of casting for this movie is a genius.  Needless to say choosing George Clooney as the emotionally unavailable bachelor was spot on, but it was secondary characters like the obnoxious boss, Craig Gregory, being played by Jason Bateman, or some of the cameo appearances made for the random employees being fired, that really had me impressed.

The films cinematography was also a treat, as the aerial shots of each city that he visited were spectacular, along with some wide-angle shots in the airports, and some fast moving camera effects.

The movie carries most of the themes from the book, but its main plotline focuses around love and commitment.  One addition that was not in the book was Natalie Keener, the young, fresh-out-of-college, brainchild behind CTC’s new remote firing technology, which could potentially render Bingham useless.  An interesting albeit ironic touch.  Keener is hilarious and a welcome addition to the story.

The movie was able to expertly take advantage of one of Kirn’s talents in the book, which is being able to show the reader/viewer, instead of tell.  There are an abundance of small details that you’ll notice in the film and the book, that help you to understand the nuanced themes throughout.

The book would seem to centre around Bingham’s loneliness, fear and his pursuit of a perceived happiness.  There is more emphasis placed on the deterioration of our main character, as he blindly searches for who he is, and what he thinks makes him successful. 

One aspect of the book that is not mentioned in the movie is the prospect of a new job that will have him finished with firing people.  This is a main focal point for Bingham in the novel, and because of Kirn’s stream of conscious style of writing, the reader is aware of how this keeps him both hopeful and paranoid. 

Ultimately, this is a fabulous movie that ought not to be missed, and although the book hasn’t received the accolades that the film has, I found it to be very thought-provoking and clever.  I would recommend that if you were to only do one, see the movie, but if you’re up for both, there is ample entertainment to be had.

Book = 3.5 Snakes  (review here)

Movie = 4.5 Snakes

Below check out the song that is played while the credits roll at the end of the movie.  It is a beautiful song that perfectly wraps up the movie and its subtle meanings. 

This book was one of my selections for the Read the Book, See the Movie Challenge.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday Challenge - WORK (Creative, Manual, Tools, Work Spaces, Uniform, Office Equipment,...)

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 .

My husband works in disaster restoration, flood management and mold remediation.  Hey, it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it!   This odd group of photos are  from his work collection.  As you might be able to tell, they have not been captured with a regular digital, but are actually from an infrared camera.  This nifty device helps them to detect temperature differences at the disaster sites.

IR_0851

IR_0845

IR_0185

 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wondrous Words ~ May 12th, 2010

wondrouswednesday

Wondrous Words is a weekly meme that is hosted by Kathy at Bermudaonion.  The goal is to define new words (to us) that we’ve encountered whilst reading throughout the week. 

the_time_travelers_wife This weeks selections are taken from the soft-top edition of The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

I’m about halfway through this novel, and have come across ten new words.  Just enough to keep things interesting, yet not so many that I feel like I’m departing from the story every twenty minutes to look up a new word.

Here are three of my favourites that I will try to commit to memory and maybe even use on occasion.

effete – I look at my plate and it’s ham, with peas and an effete little salad.  I don’t eat pork and I hate peas. Page 167

I had no idea what this word meant until Wiktionary informed me that it denotes lacking strength or vitality; feeble, powerless, impotent.

carom – I send the 4 into a side pocket with a bank shot and get the 5 in the back corner with a lucky carom. Page 194

Although I have played pool frequently in the past, and even worked at a pool hall for a year, I had never heard this word before.  In fact, I believe we would refer to this action as a two-ball combo.  Wiktionary explained it as:  A shot in which the ball struck with the cue comes in contact with two or more balls on the table; a hitting of two or more balls with the player's ball.

venerable – I’m sitting by myself at a tiny table in the front window of Cafe Peregolisi, a venerable little rat hole with excellent coffee. Page 233

I guessed that this word meant cozy or quaint, but Wiktionary cleared that up, as it means commanding respect because of age, dignity, character or position; worthy of reverence; ancient, antiquated or archaic.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Book Review ~ Up in the Air by Walter Kirn

upintheairhardcover-440x663Up in the Air is not a novel that I would have picked up, had it not been for my desire to see the movie.   I seem to cling to an OCDish need to read the book that the movie is based upon before I will allow myself to see it.  I can only assume that this is a story preservation tactic, as I trust my imagination and interpretation over some Hollywood producer, and have witnessed the butchering of one too many great books.  That being said, I have heard from countless people that in this case, the movie has very little to do with Walter Kirn’s book.  Be that as it may, I held steadfast to my regular routine.

In the novel we are met with Ryan Bingham, a career transition counselor/business consultant, who sidelines as a motivational speaker.  Seeing him walk through the doors of your firm is not a welcome sight, as this usually means that people will be losing their jobs.  After you’ve been fired, he is the hired muscle that will teach you the skills needed to move on, as he walks you out the door to new opportunities, instead of blatantly throwing you and your box filled with 25 years worth of personal effects, through a plate-glass window.  Due to a mounting dissatisfaction with his career, and an assumption that he is being scouted-out for a coveted position in a stealth marketing firm, MythTech, he has left a letter of resignation waiting for his vacationing boss.

Ryan has spent the majority of his time traveling on airplanes back and forth between failing companies, and as a consequence has racked up nearly one million frequent flyer miles.  In fact, he is excitedly preparing to ascend into the ‘million dollar club’ before his job ends, and throughout the novel we observe this obsessive need consume his thoughts and even dictate changes to his erratic itinerary.  He whittles away his time focusing on his ‘Airworld’ status instead of looking at what is really important in his life, things that will give him the self-satisfaction that he so desperately craves.

While at one moment it would appear that Ryan is enjoying his busy life on the road, staying in hotels all over the country, meeting all sorts of interesting people, in the next moment it becomes apparent that he has been kidding himself, and is not healthy, nor of sound mind.  Outside of his family that he rarely sees, his relationships consist of acquaintances and random travelers.  He is increasingly paranoid and distrustful of his employer as well as the airline that he flies with.  We watch him unravel and mentally deteriorate as he fixates on those that he perceives are out to get him, coping by gambling and abusing alcohol and drugs.  Things just start to catch up with him.

The ending sheds a lot of light into the lives of some of the mentor-like, omnipotent and successful people that Ryan looks up to throughout the novel.  He learns that his illusions are grand and misplaced, as their truths become clear.  Everything he believed in appears to be turning into an extravagant myth.  These realizations offer him the honesty to look at himself, and his truths, with acceptance. 

Walter Kirn has an engaging, clever and subtle writing style that requires you to think, so don’t attempt this one unless you’re in the mood.  As with any great writer he doesn’t tell the reader, he shows them.  Throughout the novel I felt like a fellow passenger on one of Ryan’s flights, as he intimately shared his goals, his fears and his eventual realizations. 

Now, I look  forward to seeing what the movie has to offer!

3.5/5 Snakes

Below, watch a 2 minute teaser for the movie, Up in the Air, starring George Clooney as Ryan Bingham.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Savouring Sunday ~ Lemon Bars

There’s nothing that says springtime like a nice fruit filled dessert.  I tend to feel less guilty about eating sweets when I know I’m meeting one of my daily required fruit servings by indulging.  Now if I could learn to just have one or two instead of …  Well, you know how it can be!

DSCF5224

These are some of my favourite treats to bake, and they are a dessert that I’ve become known for in our family.  My brother-in-law doesn’t like chocolate (I know, who doesn’t like chocolate?), but has a fondness for lemon, so I started making these special for him, and it seems they always come back by popular demand.

I just finished making a batch of these for my families Mother’s Day lunch, along with raspberry tartlets and chocolate chip cookies.  Looks like next week will be heavy on the treadmill!

Happy Mother’s Day to all and have a wonderful day with your family!

Lemon Bars

1/3 cup butter or margarine

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

powdered sugar (optional)

In a medium mixing bowl beat butter or margarine with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add the 1/4 cup granulated sugar; beat till combined.  Beat in the 1 cup flour till crumbly.  Press mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 8x8x2-inch baking pan.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes or just till golden.

Meanwhile, for filling, in a small mixing bowl combine eggs, the 3/4 cup granulated sugar, the 2 tablespoons flour, lemon peel, lemon juice, and baking powder.  Beat 2 minutes or till combined.

Pour filling over baked layer.  Bake 20 minutes more or till lightly browned around edges and centre is set.  Cool on a wire rack.  If desired, sift powdered sugar over top.  Cut into bars.  Makes 20 bars.

**Note: I like to use at least a whole lemon, both the peel and the juice, when making this recipe, because we enjoy the extra tartness, but that’s obviously up to your taste buds.

4.5/5 Snakes

This recipe is taken from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook as published in 1996.

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Read the Book, See the Movie Challenge - 2010

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(Click on the button above to link back to C.B. James’ main post at Ready When You are, C.B. , which outlines all of the necessary information for the challenge.)

I have already signed up for two challenges this year, but I’m confident that I could handle at least one more.  I had been nonchalantly searching through the available challenges over the last week, and as soon as I saw this one I knew I had a winner. 

I am one of those people that will not watch a movie until I’ve read the book.  I know I’m not the only one out there.  It would seem that this is a slightly obsessive practice maintained by many the avid reader.  *phew*  This - like finding out that other people do any of the OCDish type things I do - makes me feel better. 

I’ve decided to commit to a mid-level goal in this challenge, as I find there is a lot more work involved in providing insights into both a book and a movie, and I tend to be a busy girl.  Dependent upon the speed at which I complete this goal, I may be inclined to move up to the next level.  We shall see.

For now, I’ve chosen to complete the Saturday Movie Marathon: four books/movies, level.

My selections are:

  1. The Blind Side, as written by Michael Lewis, and directed by John Lee Hancock
  2. The Time Traveler’s Wife, as written by Audrey Niffenegger, and directed by Robert Schwentke
  3. Postcards from the Edge, as written by Carrie Fisher, and directed by Mike Nichols

Wish me luck!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday’s Flick – Documentary Edition

I love documentaries.  To my husband’s detriment, as he is more of an action and psychological-thriller guy, I could sit for hours on end learning about the migration of birds, or the eating habits of prison inmates.  I think I just get immense joy out of learning.  Where as said husband gets his kicks out of sitcoms and weekly serials,  I prefer to sink my teeth into something realistic on the documentary channel, without the Hollywood lining.  Well, as they say in Montreal, chacun à son goût.

For this Friday’s Flick I have decided to highlight an independent documentary that I enjoyed this week.  The great thing about this selection is that you too can watch it, for free, as it is available in streaming video online at Documentary Heaven.  Just click on the button bellow to link to the feed.

Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days

1 hr, 31 minutes

timthumb Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days is the story of six afflicted Americans brought together at a camp in Patagonia, Arizona, to start a raw food, vegan diet, with the unbelievable hope of reversing their diabetes in only 30 days.  It is the goal of their overseeing doctor, Gabriel Cousens, M.D., M.D. (H), that this will take place with little, and in most cases no, use of pharmaceutical medications. 

For those looking to a trusted name, actor and raw food activist, Woody Harrelson, film maker, Morgan Spurlock, and life coach, Anthony Robbins, all provide thoughtful insights into how they incorporate raw foods and healthy eating into their lives, at various intervals throughout the documentary.

I became expressly endeared to the subjects, as I found myself rooting for them, and at other times getting enraged with them, based on the choices they would make.  I can only imagine how difficult this process must have been for each and every one of them, especially after being told that this disease was untreatable, and therefore would be a part of them for the rest of their lives.

They struggle to adapt to a diet that consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, sprouts, nuts and seeds, and which eliminates all meat, dairy, bread, cooked grains, sugars and caffeine.  For six people who have subsisted on the latter group for most of their lives, this is a challenge that will push them to their limits emotionally, physically and spiritually. 

There is valuable information to be learned about how the body processes food, and what is healthy for us to ingest in a society so inundated with bad foods.  Regardless of whether you have diabetes or not, this is a touching story that should not be missed.

4.5/5 Snakes

Book Blogger Hop – May 7th

Jennifer over at crazy-for-books is hosting a weekly blog hop where book bloggers have the chance to introduce themselves by visiting each others blogs through her Mr. Linky list. Please click on the Book Blogger Hop button above to see the post for this week.

I’m PeachyTO and I’d like to welcome you to my blog!  Please take a look around and be sure to let me know you've hopped by if you are here for the first time.

Here are some blogs that you might like that I've come across through the hop;

 
I look forward to chatting with you soon!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Thursday Challenge ~ WATER (Ocean, Lake, Waterfall, Ice, Rain, Wet Things,...)

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 .

These photos are of the island of Kalymnos, Greece, which is where my husband is from.  We went to the island in August of 2008, at which time he proposed to me.  It was very romantic and a dream come true, especially after a 14 year relationship.  I guess good things do come to those who wait. ;-)

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I took the photo above as we were traveling to the highest point of the island. 

Click on the image to see it in full.

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This was a photo of the waves lapping up to the side of the patio we were sitting on at one of the ocean-view bars in Kalymnos.  You had to either walk an elevated plank around the edge of the building, or take off your shoes and walk through the water, to enter. 

Click on the image to see it in full.

Wondrous Words ~ May 5th, 2010

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Wondrous Words is a weekly meme that is hosted by Kathy at Bermudaonion.  Please click on the button to the left to link back to the main post explaining the details of the meme.  The goal is to define new words (to us) that we’ve encountered whilst reading throughout the week. 

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This weeks selections were chosen from Up in the Air by Walter Kirn. There were a plethora of new words for me to choose from in this novel.  As it happens, the main character, Ryan Bingham, favours a past time of incorporating featured focus words from his Verbal Edge cassette tapes, in his daily conversations.  All told, I learned over twenty new words based on this little game of his.  I’m inclined to start my own game, based on words that I learn through others’ posts for this meme. 

quiescent- “How’s business?” Danny Said.  “Quiescent.  Yours?” Page 20

Wiktionary’s definition for quiescent is inactive, at rest, quiet.

seditious “Seditious: given to promoting revolt.” Page 41

I was saved from using the dictionary for this one, as this is a direct excerpt from the vocabulary tape that I referred to above. 

cadre – ISM’s founders came up through the military, a crew-cut cadre of logistics specialists who took what they’d learned supplying Vietnam with freeze-dried beef stew and tents and bayonets and applied it, in their first big contract, to the global distribution of auto parts. Page 159

WordNetweb’s most appropriate definition was a nucleus of military personnel capable of expansion.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Book Review – Apologize, Apologize by Elizabeth Kelly

I think I need a break from the crazy-family genre!

apologize-apologize Before picking up Apologize, Apologize I felt as though I may have reached my tolerance limit for books focusing on eccentric families and their foibles, but because Elizabeth Kelly is Canadian, and I had read some promising reviews, I decided to put a hold on it at the library. Six months later the book came in, and after waiting to read it for so long, anticipation had built up and I was excited to crack it open.

Apologize, Apologize offers a wacky cast of characters, to be sure, the sanest of which is our ill-fated narrator, Collie Flanagan. He and his brother, Bingo – both named after dogs – are growing up in Martha’s Vineyard with a philanthropic, anti-establishment, spastic mother who ironically comes from old money. The rotten apple of her disdainful father’s eye, she prides herself on rebellion.   Her disappointed father, this patriarch and king of the family newspaper empire, who the boys fearfully refer to as ‘the Falcon,’ is not a fan of – well, anyone really. High on his scorned list of ne’erdowells is his son-in-law, an Irish-Catholic, perpetually drunk, pauper, whom he disregards with a seething dislike that only a sobering, Irish-Protestant, capitalist could emit.

I was about mid-way through and trying to get a handle on this group’s particular brand of crazy, when I found myself wondering when there was going to be some semblance of a plot. Suddenly a succession of tragedies takes place, and a story starts to form…or does it? Does catastrophe equal storyline? Maybe for some, but it wasn’t enough to ever really hook me.

At best this seems to be a journey of self-discovery for our narrator, as he learns to become a man, and find his place amidst a family that continues to disappoint him.  To his fearless mother and brother’s chagrin, he travels along his battered path with his preferred method of survival being to turtle against adversity.  After watching him fail to defend himself or assert any convictions, we are privy to some important advice that Collie is offered by his overbearing grandfather, words that I found myself screaming at him throughout his sojourn to self-growth: “Stop trying to be all things to all people.”

He is shameful of the affluence that he’s been afforded by being born into this powerful family, is embarrassed by his lack of courage, and has no idea what he wants out of his life, or if it is even worth living. He wears his guilt like a shroud. In discovery of the man he wants to be he takes excursions to San Salvador and Ireland, which ultimately feel disjointed in relation to the story, and left me feeling as though the book was split in distinct and improperly flowing parts.

One of the more redeeming qualities to this book, at least to me personally, is that Collie’s dad had occasion to stay at the same hotel where my husband and I stayed for our honeymoon in Dublin; The Gresham Hotel. I always find it fascinating to read about landmarks or places that I’ve visited, as I’m sure most people do. It’s a way to find your senses alight as you pour over the familiar sights and sounds you’ve been presented with, both in real life and on the made-up page.

All in all, I won’t say that I didn’t like the book, because there were consistently funny and ironic moments that informed me of the lengths of the author’s creativity. (I particularly howled over the fact that the Falcon, [the Irish Protestant] named his dog Cromwell.)  Kelly has laced the novel with birds and dogs, in all shapes, sizes and breeds, that I assume are used as metaphors for various characters and their varying personalities.  Clearly there were themes of loss, courage, resilience, forgiveness, and finally acceptance, that gave the story some closure. 

With that said, the incessant verbosity and ornate metaphors became suffocating after a few chapters, which left me putting down the book for a rest at frequent intervals.  This may have been Kelly’s way of capturing their true voice, a sort of highbrow intellect often found in rich families…I don’t know.  By the end of the book I found it to be lacking any definable plot, anti-climactic, while the characters came off as mainly one-dimensional and stereotypical. In my opinion, these attributes are tolerable in a memoir, but don’t carry much weight in fiction.

So I suppose I’m on the fence after all is said and done.  I know that I expected more from the book, but it could be said that this is my own fault for buying into the hype.  I will have to give Elizabeth Kelly another shot with her next novel so that I’ll have a basis for comparison.

2.5/5 Snakes

Below, listen to a brief interview and character-analysis discussion with the author, Elizabeth Kelly, as conducted by www.bookbits.ca

This book was one of my selections for the Irish Reading Challenge.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Chapters Coupon = Book Shopping Spree!

So Chapters decided that it had been too long since I graced it with my presence, and offered a “Buy one, get one 50% off”coupon this weekend.  Well, it’s actually a coupon for Mother’s Day, but why quibble.

I went a little crazy, but I did so mostly in the bargain book section, so the wallet was not totally depleted of grocery money.   I ended up finding a second coupon, and went back on Saturday to buy some more, because I wasn’t quite satisfied with the volume of Friday’s pickings.  (There’s that literary gluttony again.)

Friday’s Coupon

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The Odyssey by Homer

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anna karenina imagesCANB8LUS

I found the first two under the Premier Classics edition from Knopf Publishing, which were fairly affordable, and I am very excited to have picked up The Odyssey under the Arcturus Publishing label for only two dollars.  What a score!  I couldn’t believe it.

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Saturday’s Coupon

Little Children by Tom Perrotta

Spook Country by William Gibson

Great Tastes: Mediterranean Cookbook by Bay Books

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Little children spook the wizard the wind

I found The Wizard of Oz and The Wind in the Willows in copies with beautiful illustrations.  I’m confident that these will be books that my future children will remember into adulthood, just as I remember some of the special books that I treasured as a child.  Now I just have to have the children to share them with before I fill the nursery with books and we don’t have a place to read them in. 

 

 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Savouring Sunday ~ Barley and Lentil Soup with Whole Wheat Rolls

My family loves lentils.  We usually eat a traditional Greek lentil soup called Fakes (pronounced 'Fah-kehs'), but I’ve been trying to spice things up lately, so I’ve been looking for other recipes containing them. 

I came across this tasty recipe on the BarleyFoods.org website, that includes mushrooms, carrots, barley, and of course, lentils.  I added a few more spices to bring it up a tad, but for those with a tamer palate this recipe should be just fine as is.

I’ve also included a recipe for these scrumptious and healthy whole wheat rolls which I baked on a pizza stone.  Homemade breads may take a little extra time, but they are so worth it. 

We really enjoyed this guilt-free and hearty meal.

DSCF5204 (Click on above picture to see recipe on the BarleyFoods.org website.)

 Barley Lentil Soup

2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup chopped onion
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
7 cups salt-reduced, fat-free chicken broth, divided
1-1/2 cups small fresh button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup lentils, rinsed
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1-1/2 teaspoons dried leaf thyme, crushed
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Spray 4-quart saucepan with non-stick cooking spray. Add onion and garlic; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrots and celery; sauté 3 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Mix in 6 cups broth, mushrooms, lentils, barley, tomato paste, thyme, curry powder and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 60 to 70 minutes or until lentils and barley are tender, but not mushy. Blend in remaining broth, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf and serve. Makes 8 servings.

3.5/5 Snakes

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 60% Whole Wheat Rolls 

(Click on the above title to see the original post for these rolls by Kittencalskitchen)

3¾ hours | 3 hours prep

SERVES 12

· 1/2 cup milk

· 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

· 3 tablespoons sugar

· 4 tablespoons butter

· 3 cups multigrain whole wheat bread flour (or use just whole wheat bread flour)

· 1 cup white flour (more if needed, use bread flour for the U.S.)

· 1 1/4 cups warm water

· 1 teaspoon sugar

· 1 tablespoon dry yeast

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the 1/2 cup whole milk with 3 tbsp sugar, salt and 4 tablespoons butter until the milk is warmed (not hot!) and the butter is almost melted (the butter does not have to melt completely) set aside and cool until lukewarm.
  2. Proof the yeast with 1 tsp sugar in the 1-1/4 cups warm water for 10 minutes until foamy.
  3. Using a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with the kneader attachment, to the bowl add in 3 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup white flour with warm milk/butter mixture and the proofed yeast.
  4. Mix for 2 minutes, then start adding in more flour if needed to create a soft smooth dough that holds around the kneader blade, knead for 5-8 minutes (adjusting flour).
  5. Remove the dough and let rest 10 minutes on the counter, covered with a clean tea towel.
  6. After 10 minutes, lightly knead the dough into a ball, and then place in a well-oiled bowl.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size (if you are oven-rising this should take about 1 hour).
  8. Remove and punch down dough.
  9. Shape into 12 balls (depending on what size you make them).
  10. Cover and rise again for 30-35 minutes.
  11. Brush the tops and sides gently using a pastry brush with the egg/water mix, sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using).
  12. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until they are a deep golden brown, and sound hollow when tapped.

~~See picture above

4/5 Snakes

Saturday, May 1, 2010

April in Review ~ 2010

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April has quickly come and gone while it has felt more like May here in Toronto, as evidenced by this flower blooming in our garden.  I’ve decided that since I have been contributing regularly throughout the month,  I should do a wrap-up entry for April, outlining what I’ve posted.

I have read and reviewed the following thought-provoking titles this month:

The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre

The Saskiad by Brian Hall

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

While enjoying these exceptional writers, I also bought a whole slew of great books for dirt cheap at a used book sale, and I took part in my first Read-A-Thon

It has been very exciting to be back in the book blogging community.  I’m so thrilled to be chatting with all of the wonderfully talented and kind people I’ve come to know in the blogosphere.  I have even joined a couple of reading challenges that I fully intend to complete this time around: the Ireland Reading Challenge and the Non-Fiction Five Reading Challenge

In the interest of adding some variety to my blog, on Sundays I’m going to post a recipe, complete with an amateur photo,  under the title ‘Savouring Sunday.’  Thursdays I will take part in a photography meme, called ‘Thursday Challenge,’ and on Fridays watch for ‘Friday’s Flick’, where I’ll be reviewing movies from my growing collection.

What did your month look like?