Friday, July 27, 2007

The Blogger Tips Collective (Meme)

Thank goodness Amy over at Sleepy Reader tagged me for this meme, because it jolted me out of my work-induced haze and reminded me that I have been a bad blogger lately.

The bad news is, this meme is all about how to be a good blogger.


-Start Copy-

It’s very simple. When this is passed on to you, copy the whole thing, skim the list and put a * star beside those that you like. (Check out especially the * starred ones.)

Add the next number (1. 2. 3. 4. 5., etc.) and write your own blogging tip for other bloggers. Try to make your tip general.

After that, tag 10 other people. Link love some friends!

Just think - if 10 people start this and the 10 people pass it on to another 10 people, you have 100 links already!

1. Look, read, and learn. ***

2. Be EXCELLENT to each other. **

3. Don’t let money change ya! *

4. Always reply to your comments. *******

5. Link liberally — it keeps you and your friends afloat in the Sea of Technorati. **

6. Don’t give up - persistence is fertile. **

7. Give link credit where credit is due. ****

8. Pictures say a thousand words and can usually add to any post. **

9. Visit all the bloggers that leave comments for you - it’s nice to know who is reading! ***

10. Thrown in something humorous occasionally, to keep things fun.*

11. Make it easy for your readers - use tags and labels and keep it simple!**

12. Memes are fun and a great way to get to know other bloggers!*

13. Don't expect perfection from yourself. If you overthink your posts, it can be agonizing work. Just let 'er rip!

-End Copy-

Someone's got to keep it on goin'... (anyone recognize those Amy Grant lyrics?)

1. scarbie doll at Martinis for Milk
2. doth at Friends Keep Saying...
3. ragdoll at Tragic Right Hip
4. Lesley at Lesley's Book Nook (even though she's on vacay)
5. Cipriano at Bookpuddle

Okay, five is enough for me...Go to it!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Boot-Scootin' Books?

At my old job (a long, long time ago), when I used to travel a lot, my colleagues and I played the airport boredom game, whereby you try to guess the occupation of passersby simply based on their clothing, hairstyle, actions, etc. It was a fun, brainteaser sort of game that passed the long layover hours amusingly.

Today, I found myself thinking about a similar game, but this time I was considering my neighbour across the street. I have never officially met her (they moved in not too long ago) but she is frequently out in the front yard with her chocolate brown dog (a lab mix?) wearing short shorts, a bikini top, bare feet, and a cowboy hat. Oh, and she's blasting Carrie Underwood from her truck's stereo while she does her boot-scootin' yardwork.

Instead of wondering what her occupation is (Does she have one? I dunno!), I found myself wondering what types of books she likes to read. Does she devour a good swashbuckler with Fabio on the cover? Perhaps a little chicklit late at night? Or maybe, just maybe, being a cowgirl at heart, she's into Louis L'Amour. I'll bet she's more sophisticated than I give her credit for. I'll bet she's a Can Lit girl.

One of these days I'll finally wander across the street to say hello, and it will be one of my first questions because after all those years of the airport game, I never got to know if I was right about a person.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Apparently, The Candyman Can't.

Props to scarbie doll for reminding me to blog about this story as I told it at work today. So if this amuses/grosses you out, you can thank/blame her. :-P

I've been reading Ecoholic by Adria Vasil, and have felt the call to make a concerted effort to lessen my footprint on the environment. So when I read the part about the ways that disposable razors and foaming shave gels negatively impact the environment, I decided that perhaps THIS was my opportunity! THIS would be step 1 in my new drive to make the world a better place!

One of the eco-friendly solutions to hair removal is the ancient process of sugaring. It's much like waxing, but without the toxins and gunk. Plus, the cloth strips are easily washable with a little hot water, and therefore reusable. Bonus!

After a bit of googling I found the universal recipe for successful sugaring:

2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water

I bought some basic cotton fabric and cut it into strips. I bought a hefty bag of sugar and a lemon. I got a candy thermometer to ensure I got it to the precise 250 degree temp. And I set to work.

The directions were followed, but as I was waiting for my sugar-licious mixture to cool down to the point where I could slap it on my legs without needing a call to 911, it started to harden. In a panic I tried spreading the amber mixture on my leg, and not only did it not stick to my leg because of the cornstarch I powdered with because this website recommended it for "tautness making it more effective," but it was also still WAY TOO HOT.

As it continued to set to a rock candy stage, I ran down to the kitchen to try and get it out of the glass dish before it completely set.

One foot of wax paper, a spatula, a spoon, and a paring knife later, I had a lovely little blob of artwork on my counter, and a dark amber dish you could have preserved a Jurassic mosquito in.

Mr. Man came to my rescue, and amidst giggling fits, helped me reheat the solution so the glass dish could be saved.

Moral of the story: Leave the sugaring to the professionals, ladies. There are much less stressful (and less messy!) ways to save the earth.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Gesundheit, Mr. Darcy

As I was laying here in bed amidst my hot tea, cough drops, vitamin C, and nearly empty box of tissues, a thought occurred: Main characters in books never get summer colds. They never seem to get colds at all! Period! Somehow that doesn't seem entirely fair. Although, I suppose if they did get colds it would make for rather dull reading, since they'd be stuck in bed all day.

But I digress...seriously, can anyone name a book in which a character suffers from the common cold? It would make me feel better. I think.


Saturday, June 23, 2007


L I T E R in circle a L I C DSCN5656 O DSCN7599 S

Sweet. Try spelling with flickr for yourself here.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Whaaa? Summer's Here Already?

Kudos to Katrina over at Callapidder Days for keeping the Spring Reading Thing challenge going! At last we're officially into summer, and thank goodness I have the longest day of the year to post my recap:

What I read:
1. The Birth House by Ami McKay
2. The Good Guy by Dean Koontz
3. The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson
4. The Historian (Audio) by Elizabeth Kostova
5. Charlotte's Web (Audio) by E.B. White
6. Blood Sports by Eden Robinson
7. To Kill a Mockingbird (Audio) by Harper Lee
8. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
9. Conceit (ARC) by Mary Novik
10. Dreamcatcher by Stephen King
11. Life on the Refrigerator Door (ARC) by Alice Kuipers
12. Everything's Eventual by Stephen King

What was the best book you read this spring?
By far, the book that moved me the most was The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. I don't think I've cried so much in a long time!

My absolute favourite audiobook which I will listen to again and again for years to come was Charlotte's Web by E.B. White.

What book could you have done without?

That silly audiobook starring The Count. Err, I mean, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I shouldn't make fun, but seriously, the whole book was ruined by Dracula's stereotypical blood-sucking voice.

Did you try out a new author this spring? If so, which one, and will you be reading that author again?

Yes! Mary Novik is a first-time novelist from BC, and her upcoming historical fiction Conceit was a great read. I enjoyed it as much as the Philippa Gregory and Tracy Chevalier titles out there.

If there were books you didn't finish, tell us why. Did you run out of time? Realize those books weren't worth it?

Oy, I did just what I said I would. I went to the book sale and my whole Spring Reading Plan flew right out the window. Here's what I had intended to get to in this challenge:
1. The Keep by Jennifer Egan
2. The World Below by Sue Miller
3. The Wreckage by Michael Crummey

But they were usurped by shiny new titles from the book sale (That I still haven't gotten to):
1. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
2. Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam
3. The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
4. Perfume by Patrick Suskind
5. A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

Did you come across a book or two on other participants' lists that you're planning to add to your own to-be-read pile? Which ones?
Oh there were too many to count and keep track. The one that kept coming up over an over at the beginning of the challenge was The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian.

What did you learn -- about anything -- through this challenge? Maybe you learned something about yourself or your reading style, maybe you learned not to pick so many nonfiction books for a challenge, maybe you learned something from a book you read. Whatever it is, share!
I'm going to say what I think a lot of challengees will say here: I have way too many books to read! Still! But that's a great thing. I love being surrounded by the piles.

What was the best part of the Spring Reading Thing?
Reading other bloggers' reviews and finding some new favourite reads!

Would you be interested in participating in another reading challenge this fall?
Any other thoughts, impressions, or comments.
Yes. For sure. You betcha. Bring it on. Til then, I'm off to the beach with a paperback in hand.

Happy Summer!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Script Frenzy 2007 - Do I Dare?

Even thought it's halfway over with, I've just registered for Script Frenzy 2007. As a former NaNoWriMo participant (and winner! hurrah!) I know how crazy it is to set this lofty goal of writing a novel/script/whatever within a month.

I haven't completely decided if I'm actually going to write a script as an official participant (having only 14 days remaining in the challenge - yikes!). But if I do, it will definitely be a stage play, since that's where my experience lies.

The constant problem I've always had, though, was coming up with a plot. A feasible plot that isn't too..."out there" to be real.

Ideas are as welcome as a warm apple pie...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Long Live Michael Rose and Mucho Burrito!

Today it's all about Mike Rose and burritos.

Oh, what a wonderful day! Not only is it Mike Rose's birthday (Happy Happy to you!), but today is the day that I discovered (well, that Jane escorted us to) a peppy little place called Mucho Burrito! Don't you just feel like singing that name with gusto? MUCH-oooo Buuuurrrrrr-IT-oooooooh!

Okay, so what's so great about Mucho Burrito is that it's almost exactly like Qdoba, which my long-time pals and readers will know was one of my favourite restaurants in that city I used to live in. It was also the restaurant where I let a jerk cut in line because I'm a nice girl. (Oh! Side note - I just realized that the post links in my old blog have apparently stopped working. The story I just referred to is somewhere on the page though, IF you feel like looking for it, and apparently have a lot of time on your hands.)

Aaaaaaanyway. I've been missing that Mexican grill-type cuisine since moving here. And now I am a happy princess once again.

And now a little word or two about Mike Rose. I would give you a little linky goodness, but Mike Rose is apparently a man of so few words that he doesn't have a blog of his very own. But, Mike Rose DOES want to have a place in the world for eternity. Or at least a mention. And so now that I've mentioned Mike Rose's name...let's see, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7....SEVEN whopping times in my blog post, he will therefore be plastered across the blogosphere for eternity. Or until I hit that shiny delete button. :)

Happy Birthday, Mike Rose! (Whoop, that's EIGHT!)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Things That I Keep Meaning to Blog About...

...but I've been too lazy busy to do so. I'll get to it eventually:

  1. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne - review
  2. Rufus Wainwright's new album
  3. Sweet cherries
  4. More dental woes
  5. Preparing for a yard sale
  6. Shoot "The Good Guy" Trailer contest - winner chosen!
  7. The Good Guy by Dean Koontz - review (pending pub date)
  8. National Bingo Night

So this list serves two purposes I suppose. 1) To let you know, dear reader, that I have been meaning to post several times over the past couple weeks, and 2) to refresh my memory as to what the heck I wanted to write about because for some reason I'm having a hard time with my short term memory lately. I feel like I've aged immensely in the past year, and my brain is showing it I think.

'Til next time then...and at least then I'll know exactly what to post about. Gotta love the good old ordered list!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Cavity Central

Yesterday, I went to the dentist to have a cavity filled. This was an anxiety-ridden trip for me because I haven't had a cavity in at least ten years. I'm not kidding! I had a pretty good run with great teeth for a while there.

But now, as she took an xray to check out the progress the cavity had made before she filled it, she discovered two more cavities. ARGH! Two of them are in the tough spot - right in between your teeth.

I really don't get why I'm having these dental problems all of a sudden now. It's frustrating because my reign as the "No Cavities" Queen has ended. And I'm sad because I had completely forgotten how much novocaine sucks.

She gave me a pretty good shot I guess, because I was still a bit numb 6 hours later. Of course that didn't stop me from enjoying dinner out at my favourite cajun seafood joint with friends though. At least this time I had an excuse for spilling my food and diet coke. "No, really, I'm numb on that side!"

Reminds me of that old Bill Cosby bit that he did about going to the dentist. Anyone remember that? Oh-buh Kay-bee. :-D

Thursday, April 26, 2007

There's a Feud Brewin' in Genoa City

Ahhhh it's a Y&R day again. Victor and Brad are going at it cuz Brad slept with Sharon (When the heck did I miss that!?) and Nikki couldn't keep her trap shut about it.

I just thought that it would be a fun idea to do a book of Y&R's most memorable moments, because man, there were some outrageous ones. (Whatever happened to Nina by the way?) Lo and behold, somebody already did it.

Line of the day blurted by Nikki Newman to Victoria Newman: "Phyllis could drive anybody to drink."

Oh they are so sneaky and conniving on this show! Times are always exciting in Genoa City.

Drawing the Line

Today I'm enjoying a rainy day off. I'm planning to spend at least a good hour or two on Suite Francaise because I simply haven't had made the time to devote to it that I should.

I'm really struggling with drawing that line between work/personal time. I've gotten used to logging in and doing some work from home in the evenings, and having started this new position, I'm very tempted to work all the time to bring myself up to speed on everything THAT much faster! But I can't do that. Luckily I have a boss who has flat out told me I can't do that. After only a week, I can tell I could easily burn out in this job if I don't allow for that personal time to do stuff for me and my family.

So, I'm forcing myself to leave the laptop in its bag, to set the Blackberry down on the table and not be drawn to it every time it buzzes. (I haven't been able to bring myself to set it to quiet just yet.) :-D

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's All Mush

As you can tell from my lack of creativity in my previous post's title (which should have been something along the lines of "Blood, Guts, and Crack, Oh My!" or actually, maybe "Bloody Hell, That's a Crack of a Good Book." Okay, I'll stop.) my brain is tired.

You know when you start a new job, there is so much input and a very little output that your brain starts turning to mush.

Yah, that's me. It's day two. But honestly? I can totally see that once I get over the wee little speed bump of a learning curve, I'm going to kick ass at this job.

I just keep telling myself to look back at where I was three years ago. Now think three years ahead.

Am I making any sense here? Maybe I should call it a night... :-P

Blood Sports by Eden Robinson

Anyone who has ever met Eden Robinson knows that she is spectacularly outgoing and generally a very happy person. She's one of those people who has an infectious laugh and when you're around her your happy-factor jumps up a notch.

Therefore, when reading Blood Sports it was initially hard for me to disconnect this brilliantly graphic book from Eden's happy persona. But that only lasted for a few chapters because she has this great ability to reach out to the reader and grab them by the collar and pull them right into the scene.

Blood Sports is the tough, gritty story of the brutal cat-and-mouse relationship between two cousins — Tom Bauer and Jeremy Reiger — set in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side.

Tom, a young man, hardly innocent, has been caught up over the years in Jeremy’s world of drugs, extortion, and prostitutes, while Jeremy, vindictive, vicious, either protects Tom or uses him, but always controls him. Added to the mix is Paulie, a junkie two years clean and Tom’s girlfriend, and also the mother of his daughter. This lethal triangle shifts when word gets out Tom has been talking to the police, and men from the past who have a lot to lose reappear. Suddenly Tom and Paulie are pawns in a much larger game, with everything at stake.

I really wish I had read this one with a book club because I would have loved to talk about so many things in this book. And the best part, IMHO, is that the ending is left up to your imagination. And by the end of this, you're imagining things that you probably never would have dreamt of.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Book Sale Goodies

Like a kid in a candy store, I snatched up some goodies at the book sale yesterday. Two full boxes, in fact! I found several that were on my "Gotta read that!" list. Here are some of my best scores:

1. Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam
2. Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook
3. Perfume by Patrick Suskind
4. A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
5. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
6. The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
7. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

And in Audio...
1. Celebrations by Maya Angelou
2. The Nanny Diaries Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus (read by Julia Roberts)

And this is just the'll be a while before I come down from my massive pile-o-books high.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Canada Loses a Gem

(photo by david henderson)
You can see her last interview here (CBC's The Hour).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Classic Education

This week I've started listening to the unabridged audio version of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, read by Sissy Spacek. I can't believe I'm thirtysomething, and I'm just now getting around to this classic. And I'm adoring it! I think it was my childhood obsession with all things Ramona Quimby that makes me partial to adult fiction written from a child's point of view. (By the way, I hate the new repackaged editions of the Ramona series. The older covers were near and dear to my heart! The new covers just aren't feisty enough.)

I digress.

Back to the point. I don't feel that I had a very broad education when it comes to the classics. I was required to read Great Expectations THREE TIMES throughout my schooling for pete's sake. I missed out on not only the fantastic Harper Lee, but also on the Brontes, Austen, James, and so many more.

I did, however, have excellent coverage in poetry, some of which I have actually retained, and so at some point before this month is over, I'll somehow find the time to post about that. In the meantime, check out what CBC's Words at Large are doing for Poetry Month.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

U is for Unexpected

C.S. Richardon's The End of the Alphabet is a little package that packs a surprising punch. As you navigate the early pages of the book you find yourself thinking that you're not attached to these two people, to their situation. Here is Ambrose Zephyr, fifty-ish, and married to Zappora (Zipper) Ashkenazi. Ambrose is suddenly diagnosed with an unnamed terminal illness, which sends him on a mad whirlwind tour of some of the places he has always loved and/or has always wanted to see (in order from A to Z). Zipper is dragged along for the ride, wanting to deal with what's happening to them, but suffering in silence for her love.

And suddenly, somewhere in there, I don't know how it happened. I cared. These two people whom I barely know, and yet am given little glimpses of their lives - just enough, and just precisely the right parts - to make me care and feel connected to them. It was at that point that I had to stop and make note of how I felt. Around page 114...

I feel like I'm on a rollercoaster that's climbing, climbing, slowly climbing its way to the top of the tallest peak. Clink by clink I feel the anxious pool of panic swell and spread across my chest as the tears are just welling to the brink, and are suddenly pushed back, not yet allowed to spill for the impending loss of love that Zipper is trying to acknowledge.

I need to take a breather before moving on to the next book in my Spring Reading list. I love it and hate it at the same time, when a book leaves me with that feeling.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Some Pig!

With my long hours of commuting to work, I've learned to love audiobooks. It took some getting used to, but now I actually (sort of) look forward to the drive because I can continue the story where I left off and lose myself into another world (partially) for an hour or so. People can tailgate and cut me off all they want, and somehow I don't care.

Usually, I steer clear of audiobooks that are read by the author, but I've found one that you absolutely MUST hear, even if you are not a fan of audiobooks.

Charlotte's Web is a short audiobook -- only 3 discs long -- but every moment of it is something to be cherished. It is read by E.B. White himself, and there couldn't be a better reader for it. It's as if your grandfather is reading you a story. You can even hear him turning the pages now and then!

It's such a heartwarming story, and it really comes alive when it's read aloud. I remember my first exposure to Charlotte's Web. I was in third grade, and my teacher read the book aloud to our class at the end of every day until we finished. It really made a huge impact on me, I guess, because I still love the story. And this is the second time I have listened to this version of the book.

Have a listen using the handy little widget above, and tell me what you think!

It's a Young and Restless Friday

I love being home on a weekday to catch up on trashy daytime tv. And my big thrill for today was the fact that they finally killed off Dru on the Young and the Restless. Hallelujah! That woman drove me nuts for YEARS on that show. Now if they could only do something about Victoria. And Nikki. Oh, and Sharon's really irking me too.

Why am I watching this again? :-D

Thursday, April 05, 2007

When I Grow Up...

Squeeeee! A week from Monday I will be starting a new position in my company, and I couldn't be more excited about it because it's giving me that feeling that I'll get to do what I really want to do. And it's gotten me thinking about all the different types of things that I thought I wanted to be when I grew up, and I'm slightly off track from that. Okay, well maybe a lot off track.

What I wanted to be when I grew up: (in chronological order)

1. Teacher. I used to have an old school desk in my bedroom, and I would make these tests up and force my friends to sit at the desk and take the test so I could grade it. I think they put up with it so they could swim in our pool.

2. Lawyer. I have no idea where this one came from. I remember talking with my dad about it when I was about 11. I think it came from watching Claire Huxtable on the Cosby Show.

3. Muppeteer. I always had an affinity for Kermit. And I just couldn't STAND it when amateurs tried to make their sock puppets talk, and yet they got the hand motion backwards! Your hand is supposed to OPEN when the words are spoken. For some reason, it's a big pet peeve of mine. Anyway, I gave up this dream when I realized I would have had to move to California where it was really hot. :-D

4. Video director for Weird Al Yankovic. No, I'm not kidding! I was obsessed with Weird Al in junior high, particularly his polkas. I would envision stage versions of them and plan out the video in my head. I think I gave this one up when I discovered that liking Weird Al was not cool with the popular cliques. Don't tell anyone that I still listen to him now and then. And I can still picture my big polka productions.

5. Actress on Broadway. There is nothing like standing on stage in front of a full house, belting out a solo and getting all the attention. Oh, I loved being in musicals in school. My last role was Meg Brockie (the town whore) in Brigadoon. My Scottish accent sucked, but I was great at stealing the show. ;) I did realize though, that it was unlikely that I would make it to Broadway, and would probably die a starving wannabe actress.

6. Stage manager. I gave up the bright lights for the life behind the curtains for several years. Being a stage manager was completely fulfilling for me, blending the creative side with the organization and administration of it all. I think I just loved being in charge. Unfortunately there's not much money to be made here either.

7. Music teacher. In the early years of university, I thought this was it for me. Until I took an exploratory teaching class, and they placed me as a student teacher with 7th and 8th graders. I quickly changed my mind about that profession. Those kids are brutal!! Luckily for me though, I already had enough credits at that point for a music minor, so that made me happy enough.

8. Webmaster. When I gave up on the idea of teaching, I turned to computers as my new hobby, and it quickly became an obsession. I taught myself html, and spent all my spare time online building websites and writing iptscrae for The Palace (geez, does anybody remember that now?). I think this dream stuck, and I've been floating somewhere nearby this profession ever since...

What I actually became:
1. Web Developer
2. Software Quality Analyst
3. Senior SQA, E-commerce Team Leader
--changed careers & industries--
4. Marketing Assistant
5. Marketing & Publicity Coordinator
6. Marketing Manager
7. Publicity Manager
8. Online Marketing Manager (My new job!! Yeah!!)

Do you think that we ever really stop wanting what we don't have? Do we always yearn for the next great thing? When I took a career management training course in between my big career switch, they told us that on average, a person will change careers (not jobs, actual careers) seven times in their life. SEVEN TIMES! Doesn't that seem like a lot? I'm starting to not believe it, at least for myself, because I feel like I've found the industry that I fit in. At last, I feel like the job is right. (Holy crap, the planets have aligned!)

Maybe the seven career changes are for the people who are meandering through their lives not really focusing on what it is they really want to do. The career management training was fantastic, because it forced me to focus on figuring out what my skills, talents, and desires were, and it narrowed down my ideal career options. I would totally recommend going through that process to anyone who is not happy in their current career. It could truly change your life!

So tell me, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you do it?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pillow Talk

Good grief. My first post in April and we're already four days in. This has been a wild and busy week, and I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted! Can't wait for my head to hit the pillow.

Speaking of hitting pillows...I saw this story on Global News tonight, and it was like watching a train wreck.

Apparently pillow fighting has become an official sport.

Are you kidding me??

They've applied rules and regulations to pillow fighting and created a league. Oh, and check out their costumes and stage names. Digit Jones? Betty Clock'er? Okay, that part's kinda funny. But I bet some horny guys must be pretty pleased with themselves for creating this.

The Pillow Fight League (PFL) leads the way as the most exciting and innovative new wave in sports entertainment. Featuring strong female combatants, the PFL is engaged in the unprecedented whip-action attack of pillow fighting. Not just for the slumber-party sleepover anymore, these women are serious brawlers - armed with beauty, brains and a nasty disposition. The contests are fast-paced and furious, with flying feathers and hard-hitting moves. There are various ways to win a match, with a referee always on hand to keep the hair-pulling and scratching to a minimum.

Seriously though, am I the only one scratching my head on this one? Would you want your daughter to aspire to be a professional pillow fighter so a crowd of guys could get their kicks? Cause you know they're not watching it for the educational value. ;)

Whatever. Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky. Maybe my sense of what's good entertainment is skewed from what tends to be the norm these days. I don't like Survivor. Or American Idol. Or The Bachelor. There, I said it. Flog me if you must.

But I'm somehow transfixed by Dancing with the Stars. Crap, what's wrong with me!? :-D

Saturday, March 31, 2007

A House Full of Babies

The Birth House by Ami McKay

Oh, my goodness, if you haven't read this book yet, you simply must! I had been putting it off for quite a while, even though I had heard wonderful things about it. Now, I am so glad that I added it to my Spring Reading Thing 2007 list.


Miss Dora Rare tells us her stories of daily life in Scots Bay, Nova Scotia in the early 1900s. But her daily life was far from ordinary. Growing up in a house surrounded by men (she had six brothers) Dora quickly became "one of the boys" much to her father's chagrine.

In an effort to separate her from her rowdy brothers so that she might eventually catch the eye of a suitor her father insisted on sending her to live with her Aunt Fran, who would teach her to be a lady. Well, Dorrie's mother wouldn't hear of it, since Aunt Fran is a bit high-and-mighty, well-to-do, and always seems to find a way to look down her nose at their simple ways. (As it turns out, Aunt Fran isn't nearly as perfect as she would like us to think!)

Dora, instead, goes to live with Miss Marie Babineau, the elderly midwife ("witch" according to many townfolk) who mentored her in catching babies and healing the sick with all sorts of potions and dreadful-sounding concoctions, and many many prayers.

As the story unfolds, Dora takes Miss B.'s role on, and gets into a few rough spots, thanks to the "know-it-all" Dr. Gilbert Thomas who has opened a new Maternity hospital for women to have their babies at, "pain-free" with the help of a little twilight sleep. His ridiculous remedies and theories of women's fits of hysteria and the cures therein (think of The Road to Wellville) were unfortunately, quite accurate for the time. Of course Dr. Thomas would like all the women to choose his practice because that means more money in his pocket. Therefore, he needs to convince Dora (and the community) that she really must end her midwifery days.

Dora finds herself rushing to Halifax, thrown into the aftermath of the Halifax explosion to care for the pregnant women who were launched into premature labour from the impact of the explosion.

She finds herself fleeing to Boston, where she questions her small-town existence as she is inspired by the women's movement and also unknowingly by Miss Honey, one of the girls at Paddy Malloy's Playhouse nextdoor.

As the years go by, we watch Dora grow out of her shell and become the woman she is intended to be, and her life unfolds, just as Miss B. predicted it would: in a house full of babies.


The characters are each unique and memorable. You can certainly find something to detest or adore about each of them - no matter how small a role they play. The research that McKay has done for this book is thorough, and she even calls on real historical events that greatly impact the lives of the residents of Scots Bay (the war, the Halifax explosion, for example).

In fact, I was surprised to discover that the entire premise of this book is based on the life of a real midwife who used to live in the house that McKay bought in Nova Scotia.

Read the book, and then go to McKay's website, to discover the conception of the novel, learn tidbits of history (such as midwifery in the early 1900s, groups like the Occasional Knitter's Society, and yes, even the early uses of the vibrator to cure hysteria), and even have your tea leaves read to see what the future holds for you.

This was by far, one of the most wonderful, engaging reads I have ever had. The storyline had me engrossed from start to finish. And the design is perfectly detailed. There are even notes from the Willow Book included at the end (just in case you need a little Beaver Brew or Raspberry Tea).

Friday, March 30, 2007

1, 2, 3 Vampire Hunters! MWAH-Ah-ahhh!

When I picked up the unabridged audio CD of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, I thought I was in for a real treat because I had heard quite a bit of buzz about this book. And, well, let's face it. I DID have that short vampire obsession phase back in college with Anne Rice's chronicles.

This audiobook boasts an ensemble cast of SIX readers, which is way more than typical. I do like the fact that there were so many different voices because it made the book feel more like one of those old radio mystery programs, which was kind of cool. The sound effects and menacing music were great for about the first disc, but then you just start expecting them, and it starts to sound silly. Something dramatic concludes the chapter, and right on cue: Dah, dah, daaaaaaaah from the orchestra.

But I do have to say that the utter dissapointment in this audiobook reached a climax with the entrance of Dracula himself. I kid you not, he sounded just like Count the Count from Sesame Street:

I was just waiting for the moment when he says, "I vant to suck your blooooood!" Terrible stereotyping of what Hollywood has done to Dracula. Seriously, I laughed through the rest of it.

If I had read the book, I'm sure I would have enjoyed the story a lot more.

So if you're into vampires and whatnot, I'd say, stick with Anne Rice. She's got it down.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What Oprah's Reading

Oprah has announced that The Road by Cormac McCarthy is her latest book club selection. I haven't read it yet, but maybe I should add it to my spring challenge list! It sounds pretty great:

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food-—and each other.

Have you read it yet?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with Strings...

randomness...feed your mind and your blog
Week of March 25: A Few of My Favorite Things

what's your favorite.....

1. food: I'll break this one down into two categories. Fave healthy food? Yogurt. Especially now that I've discovered the delectable goodness of Activia's apple meusli & nuts. Now, fave food in general? CHEESE! Ohhh I *heart* cheese. Give me a chunk of bread and a hunk of cheese and I'm in heaven.

2. movie: Stealing Home (Mark Harmon & Jodi Foster) Something about this movie just gets me every time. And for anyone who's seen this one, you'll know what it means when I say, "Goodnight Mrs. Paaaaaaarks!" :-D

3. song: Grace Kelly by Mika, but as far as music goes my favourites change frequently. But ooh, Mika's album is released in Canada tomorrow! I've been looking forward to this one...he's a great blend of Elton John, Scissor Sisters, and Queen. What a combination. Big Girl is a great anthem for us fluffy girls out there. :-D

4. color: Brick Red (with glitter!)

5. outdoor activity: Walking. Am I boring yet?

6. season: Fall is indisputably the most beautiful season, in my opinion. Nothing greater than the changing colour of leaves, the crisp autumn air, breaking out your sweaters, and curling up by the fireplace with a cup of cocoa and a good book.

7. book: Oh, now this isn't fair. There's no possible way in the universe that I can narrow it down to one fave. So I'll give you my latest one: The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald. Her previous book, Fall on Your Knees was an Oprah pick, but this one grabbed me on a more personal level. Perhaps it's my childhood fascination with Bugs Bunny, just like the main character, Madeleine McCarthy. Or maybe it's something else.

8. store: One word - IKEA. I know, some people look down on it because it's "cheap" stuff. But hey, why should I spend 3x the money at a fancy furniture store, when IKEA stuff looks great and holds up just fine in my house? More money for me to spend on books. And shoes.

9. car: I've only had a few cars in my lifetime, but so far the best has been my Honda Civic (06)!

10. animal: This guy:

till next time....

Visual DNA

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Boys and Their Muddy Boots

I'm the only girl stuck in the middle of six boys who spend most of their days poking, laughing and wrestling together as they trip and drag their muddy boots through my life.

Dora Rare, The Birth House by Ami McKay

Friday, March 23, 2007

Random House has Insight

When you're surfing the net for your next great reading purchase, do you ever read excerpts before you decide to buy? It's one of my own personal favourite ways of determining whether a book will capture my interest or not. I love to read the first line. If it grabs me, I'll read the full first paragraph. And sometimes I go even further and read the entire sample that's available.

As I surf through the various book blogs out there, I enjoy reading what people have to say about the book they just finished. But it's usually not enough for me. I still have that little nagging voice that says, "browse inside the book first!" But then I usually have to go to the trouble of following a link to the publisher or to Amazon, finding out if there even IS an excerpt available, getting into the reader, taking a peek, then if I decide to buy it, I have to get back to the main page...yadda, yadda, yadda.

Well, now there's a cool little gadget that will make that whole process a lot quicker and easier. And it's snazzy too!

Random House has introduced Insight - a digital distribution tool, and a neat little widget that lets you take a sneak peek into many of their books with a Browse & Search function. It's an online book reader that shows you what the actual pages look like, and gives you a decent chunk of the book to get a good feel for it.

Know what's even cooler? They've designed it so that you can add the widget to your website or blog. Check this out: (You will need Flash 9.0 to view this, and it's available for free here.)

See that little binoculars icon at the top right corner? Click on that, and you can search the contents of the ENTIRE book (not just what's here in the preview). So let's say, you're doing research for a term paper, and you're looking for a book with lots of information on...oh, I dunno...agoraphobia. You've found a book on phobias, but you're not sure if agoraphobia is covered. Problem a search for agoraphobia, and you'll find all the instances of that word in the entire book.

And for my fellow audiophiles out there, they've also got samples for audio books too, so you can have a little listen before you buy:

(There's even a wee little audio version too...great for your sidebar!)

You can read more about Insight here, and check out the available titles with Browse & Search here.

This new little goody makes me giddy. :) Can't wait to get to my next book that has Browse & Search available.

My sidebar will be widgetylicious.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult

***Potential SPOILER Alert***

This is the second novel by Jodi Picoult that I have read, (The Pact was the first) and I have enjoyed both of them. Her common themes of teenage angst and unrequited love make for easy curl-up-with-your-book reading.

In Salem Falls, Jack St. Bride has developed a bad reputation that follows him wherever he goes. You see, Jack was wrongfully convicted for statutory rape of one of his former students who had a crush on him and made it all up. Following a prison term, Jack moves onto a new town, a new life. There, he meets Addie Peabody - a slightly odd woman who runs the Do-Or-Diner and who hasn't been able to completely get over her daughter's premature death.

The people of the town eventually discover that Jack is an ex-con, and begin the brutal campaign of running him out of town without a thought to his rights.

The real trouble begins when one of the local school girls (who is involved in witchcraft) cries rape and points the blame at Jack. Yep, the poor guy was accused again.

An investigation and trial ensues, and Jack is defended by none other than Jordan MacAfee (who also appeared in The Pact).

I won't spoil the ending for you, but you can guess how it all works out. They always do.

It doesn't matter though...the point is, this is a good, quick, pleasurable read.

Short Stories Vs. Novels

Booking Through Thursday

  1. Short Stories? Or full-length novels? I never really was a fan of short stories for the longest time. Until I read "The Kittens" by Dean Koontz. (Yeah, I know, this is my third Koontz post in a row. Sheesh.) But that story was amazing, and proved to me that short stories can have the same profound effect on you that full length novels can.

  2. And, what's your favorite source for short stories? (You know, if you read them.) I still don't read a lot of short fiction, but when I do, it's usually in an anthology like this or this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Book Trailers the New Marketing Tool?

Something that seems to be building in the book marketing world is the creation of book trailers. I have to say, I'm really keen on this idea. It's been a long-time effective marketing tool for movies, so why couldn't it work for books too?

Random House is turning the idea into a contest, which is brilliant, IMHO:

Dean Koontz needs you to direct the trailer for his upcoming book, The Good Guy. Use your video cam, cell phone cam, or whatever else you can think of to create a 30 second trailer based on the 2 chapter excerpt they've provided. Upload your masterpiece to YouTube for all to see, and you'll get a groovy t-shirt that proudly states, "I shot The Good Guy."

Sheer brilliance. I'm not eligible to enter, but I might try to come up with something just for fun. Although I'm limited in the fact that I have no video camera. Hrm.

Here's a great example of a professional book trailer. This is for Dean Koontz's The Husband (which was a fast-paced thriller!)

How cool is that?

Monday, March 19, 2007

I Wanna Play Too!

Katrina over at Callapidder Days has announced the spring challenge from March 21 to June 21, with the snappy and highly appropriate name of Spring Reading Thing 2007! But in my own little world, I like to think of it as "Tackle the Mountain 2007." Working for a publisher has ensured my neverending supply of books that threaten to topple my bookshelves.

So here's my target list which is bound to grow, since I'm going to another booksale on April 14.
(in no particular order)

1. The Birth House by Ami McKay
2. The Keep by Jennifer Egan
3. The Good Guy by Dean Koontz
4. The World Below by Sue Miller
5. The Wreckage by Michael Crummey
6. The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson

Is anyone else creeped out by the fact that every book on my list starts with "The?"


On with the reading!

What Books May Come

Critical Mass asks, "What Are You Looking Forward to Reading This Spring?"

Well, I'll tell ya.

1. The Good Guy by Dean Koontz (Bantam, May) I've been a big fan of Dean Koontz since high school. My collection of dog-eared mass markets and hardcovers spill off the shelves in my basement. In my humble opinion, I went through a rough spell starting with From the Corner of His Eye through By the Light of the Moon. But with Life Expectancy, he had snagged me again, and whenever a new one comes out, I simply devour it. This new one promises a thrilling ride, as Timothy Carrier attempts to save a woman's life, but in doing so, implicates himself as the one who's hiring her killer.

2. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (Knopf Canada, April) Atonement was an amazing read. Someone swiped my copy of Saturday, but it's also been on my wish list for a while. But read the exerpt of this new one (pdf), and tell me you don't want more.

3. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (Atria, March) This is the book that people have been saying has the Columbine-type plot with school violence. I've read 1.5 books by Picoult (The Pact, and I'm almost done with Salem Falls), and both have captured the young and tortured souls of teenaged angst extremely well. She's good at the love story, and great with the courtroom scenes that don't get the snooze award like some others. Check out this excerpt.

4. Everything I needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume by 24 notable female authors (Pocket, June) Seriously, I don't know a girl out there who hasn't read a Judy Blume novel and learned a thing or two. I remember passing around a copy of Wifey with my junior high girlfriends and giggling about all the smutty parts. God love ya, Judy Blume.

Long Time Gone

So I feel the need to explain my blogginess. Er, my blogessence. Um. Whatever.

I started a blog way back in 2002. I called it The Old Curiosity Shop, and this was my very first post:

Curiosity is not just for cats. I read to learn. I read to feel. I read because I'm curious about the world and about people. I love to share my favorite books and poems with people. That's just what this is. The Old Curiosity Shop of Literature.

Somewhere along the way, I lost track of that mission. I went strong for a good solid year, I think, and then the posts started coming few and far between. I think I figured out a reason for it.

I'm a perfectionist (like so many others who say they're a perfectionist when asked what their negative qualities are) and I can't seem to continually produce what I intend to be high-quality posts on a regular basis.

How can I get over that? Well...I can start writing rambly posts like this one until I figure out what the heck I'm trying to say.

I've always believed that good writing is an art that is well practiced.

And boy, have I been out of practice.

But now I feel that urge share the things I know. It's a pretty profound feeling. I hope it sticks around.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Eggs Benny on a Sunday: Books & Brunch

This morning I hopped into my little silver Civic and tootled on downtown to the King Eddie hotel for Books & Brunch. A little eggs benedict, some adorable conversation with the senior citizens at my table, and some great talks from the following authors:

The Honourable James Bartleman started the program off with an inspiring talk about his new book,
Raisin Wine, which naturally led to his literacy efforts for Aboriginal children in Canada. He has established some amazing initiatives, including an annual book drive which has sent over a million books to reserves in an effort to build libraries and ensure that every aboriginal child has a book to call their own. This is a program that gets right to the core of my heart because books had a profound effect on me as a child (as they did for His Honour -- they changed his life completely, going from a poor kid in Port Carling to the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. I'd say they had an effect!). I encourage you to read more about the wonderful literacy initiatives, and get involved however you can! And, I also encourage you to read the author Q&A about his book. And then go buy the book at your favourite local bookstore. It's a delightfully devourable read.

Next up was the lovely Kyo Maclear, whose book The Letter Opener is about a woman who works in the Undeliverable Mail Office, and one day discovers that her co-worker has gone missing. Maclear began her talk by reminding us that there actually is a LOT of lost mail out there...some of it with your very own name on it likely sitting in a lost mail bin somewhere out there. Do you ever wonder what's been lost of yours? Letter from an old friend? Bills that never showed up (hoorah!)? How many birthday gifts have gone missing? What a wondrous treasure trove that Undeliverable Mail Office must be!

Guy Gavriel Kay spoke about the way each of our individual pasts have an effect on our reaction to and interaction with a book can have. That's part of the conversation between the author and the reader. If you've just had a terrible argument with a friend, then your interpretation of a book you're reading will be different than when you are having a brilliantly good day. And Kay wants to be the kind of author that keeps you up until three in the morning, even if you have a meeting at 8:00, or have to get the kids off to school, or whatever. He wants you to not be able to put that book not end that conversation between author and reader because you just can't wait to see how it all ends. Will his latest book Ysabel do that for you?

Last but by no means least, Sally Armstrong described her excitement for researching her book, The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor, about her great-great-great-grandmother. It sounds like a fascinating story. And because I don't feel like paraphrasing, here's the book description:

In 1775, twenty-year-old Charlotte Taylor fled her English country house with her lover, the family’s black butler. To escape the fury of her father, they boarded a ship for the West Indies, but ten days after reaching shore, Charlotte’s lover died of yellow fever, leaving her alone and pregnant in Jamaica.

Undaunted, Charlotte swiftly made an alliance with a British naval commodore, who plied a trading route between the islands and British North America, and travelled north with him. She landed at the Baie de Chaleur, in what is present-day New Brunswick, where she found refuge with the Mi’kmaq and birthed her baby. In the sixty-six years that followed, she would have three husbands, nine more children and a lifelong relationship with an aboriginal man.

Charlotte Taylor lived in the front row of history, walking the same paths as the expelled Acadians, the privateers of the British-American War and the newly arriving Loyalists. In a rough and beautiful landscape, she struggled to clear and claim land, and battled the devastating epidemics that stalked her growing family. Using a seamless blend of fact and fiction, Charlotte Taylor’s great-great-great-granddaughter, Sally Armstrong, reclaims the life of a dauntless and unusual woman and delivers living history with all the drama and sweep of a novel.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

No, it's not the Bass-O-Matic 76, it's the HydraCoach!

For those of us who are mathematically challenged in keeping track of our water intake, it's the new HydraCoach Intelligent Water Bottle! Gotta love their catch line too: "It Thinks While You Drink." Ha!

So apparently this handy little contraption will set a Personal Hydration Goal for you, and will monitor your daily intake. It even calculates your average consumption, the time left you have in the day to meet your goal, and yes, even the "Sip Tracker" tells you the "amount and percentage of fluid consumed relative to your Personal Hydration Goal."


All this for a mere $30 purchase. Who knew drinking water could be so complex?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

How do you solve a problem like ice on the CN Tower?

Ice Closes Gardiner

This week in Toronto, a major section of the Gardiner Expressway was closed due to the threat of falling sheets of ice the size of dinner tables from the side of the CN Tower.

The size of DINNER TABLES. Yikes.

Well, this little conundrum made my commuting hours hellish. As any Torontonian knows, whenever something happens on the Gardiner/QEW, you get gridlocked traffic trying to get out of the city which makes for lots and lots of cranky motorists.

Me included. CRANKY-pants! My commute home on Monday afternoon took over 2 hours, when it shouldhave taken 1. Grumble grumble.

But the good news is, the highway has reopened -- for now. The sheet of ice is still clinging for dear life on the tower, and officials have no idea how to get it down safely.

Enter the brilliant Canadian public:
"Ask the Maple Leafs to play on it. Maybe they'll actually win a game."
- Wilson Chung, Mississauga

(ouch...hey, they DID win last night!)

"Put a bunch of politicians in the 360 Restaurant. All the hot air generated is sure to melt the ice."
- Trevor Dzoutzidis, Toronto

"Where is Spiderman when we really need him?"
- R. Swift, Point Edward

"Have them re-route the cast of Amazing Race All-Stars to the base of the CN Tower. Give each team a soup spoon and tell them the last one to remove their section of ice is eliminated. Those guys will do anything."
- Bryant St., Toronto

"Lower a large speaker from above and acoustically blast it off. I'm thinking Celine Dion. She can hit the high notes and that way she could use her voice for good instead of evil."
- Tom MacMillan, Brockville

Sheer silliness! :)

Why don't they do my idea? Get a helicopter up there with a really big broom hanging from it, and smack that tower around a little bit? That'll teach it!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Deconstructing the Twinkie: Or, Thou Shalt Not Eat the Pudding.

There's a brand-spankin' new book coming out on Thursday called Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated Into What America Eats by Steve Ettinger.

Here is an interesting review in Newsweek, which describes one ingredient in the Twinkie as "food-grade plaster of Paris."

Eek. I grew up on those things!

No wonder it's easy for us to be unhealthy and overweight. Food companies are coming up with these wonderfully tasty treats that have absolutely NO nutritional value whatsoever. And we've learned (over time) that these "foods" are making our lives easier because they're fast to prepare, and easy to carry around with us.

Fast forward to my desk at lunchtime today...

I happily chomped down my fat free chicken sandwich (complete with honey mustard, sans mayo) and then considered my next option. I had a lovely clementine rolling around in my lunch sack...right next to...a little plastic cup of heaven: a Jell-o Fat Free Chocolate Pudding Cup!

Ohhhh boy. Well I wasn't terribly hungry, having just gobbled my sandwich, so I decided to choose one or the other to finish off my lunch.



Guess which won. Yah. You got it. The tiny cup of goodness...100 calories of God knows what that gave me nothing valuable in return other than a 1 minute full of chocolatey bliss.

I should have picked the clementine.

But tell me, what would you have done?? Honestly! I felt like I'd broken a commandment afterwards.

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