February 28, 2011

Oscar Night - Best Wines Under $13

Luckily I had planned a wine tasting during the Oscars last night.  The final tally was close but we all had the same bottles in the top 3.  Picking an overall winner was not an option.  We were running low on supplies and the chicken wings hadn’t come out yet.   See pic for final results. 
We did agree that the Curtaja Nero D’Avola from Sicilia ($13.00 + a nickel) deserved a special mention. It paired very nicely with the wings.  The others were wonderful with cheese. I think I’ll make this wine tasting a tradition for Oscar night.  It really saved the party… along with Twitter commentary.  

February 25, 2011

I'll Never Pay a Kid to do a Chore Again

Sometimes after reading a lot of fiction I switch to non fiction for a change of pace.  In my case it's usually business books.  I've recently finished two bestsellers and I'm amazed at how they challenged my long held beliefs on work.
The first is "Drive" by Daniel Pink. It examines what truly motivates humans based on science and how traditional business practices are failing to capture this energy.  Companies will have to change their attitudes in this knowledge based economy in order to thrive.  Today's prevalent "carrot and big stick" management methods must be retired. He lists practical advice/strategies to encourage "Drive" for individuals, managers and teachers. After reading this book, you will never offer your kids cash  in exchange for chores. Read it and you'll learn why.  

The second book is called Linchpin by Seth Godin. He believes that many companies will send any work that can be easily replicated elsewhere where it is cheaper.  The "good ole days" where companies looked after their workers are over.  The book provides advice on how workers can survive this fundamental shift in company priorities.  He encourages them to find companies that recognize the creative value of their employees.  He also describes how successful workers build on their individuality and their talents. Becoming artists in a sense.

Both books have similar messages and I recommend them equally however if you are a teacher/parent/manager then "Drive" is a must-read. The concepts are excellent conversation starters at parties.  Everyone is affected by outsourcing, bad bosses, getting children engaged in school activities, etc...  There's something for everyone in these books. It's not just for business folks or HR types.
Overall Rating (***** )

February 23, 2011

Valentine’s Day à la Maine - Smithsonian Magazine

Here's a little something I submitted to Smithsonian Magazine.  It's the first time a real magazine has posted my work so I'm quite flattered.  It was also the first time I ever submitted an article to a magazine. Imagine my delight when they complemented me on the contents.  I was on cloud 9 for days. 
My apologies to my vegan friends.  Sorry.  I'm a real foodie.

Here's the link http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/food/category/inviting-writing/

February 21, 2011

Audio Books Aren't Just for the Blind... They Are for the 401

Like most Torontonians, I came from elsewhere.   If you are like me, you head back east to visit friends and family on a regular basis. But you dread that 401…especially on a long weekend right?  Sure you can fly Porter or take VIA but in the summer it’s difficult to justify the added expense.   
During the Da Vinci Code craze I bought the audio (abridged) version.  We drove to Ottawa and by the time we reached our destination we couldn’t leave the car.  We actually stayed in a parking lot to finish a section of the CD.  The 4.5 hour drive flew by! The drive home was the same even though we were both disappointed with the ending.
We tried to reproduce the feeling with Stuart McLean stories. They were entertaining but it wasn’t the same as a crime/mystery thriller where you’re just itching to find out more.  We went back to music after a few stories.
On our last trip to Winterlude we listened to Echo Park.  It was an Audio pack I bought way back when there was a store on Bay St that specialized in these things. Unfortunately I think it’s now a Subway’s? Tim Horton’s?   Echo Park is a great audio book for the road.  We are on disk 5 of 9 and we’re wondering how soon we can get going somewhere so we can find out what happened.
Next time you head out to the 401, try an audio book. Start after the big apple when traffic calms down and pretty soon you’ll arrive at your destination in a great mood.

Best Wine Under $13 CAD. Preparation.

Now that the holiday bills have been paid we're able to raise our wine budget a bit.  What is the best wine under $13.00 CAD ? With the help of Dan, my local LCBO product consultant I'm bringing 2 wines to the table. I won't reveal them till after the contest which will take place Oscar night.  I feel very confident in my choices.
The best under 10$ winner was the J.J McWilliam Cabernet-Merlot.  For Oscar night I'll bring its sister, the Shiraz-Cabernet as well. Who's gonna win for Best Film ? No idea... but I'll be toasting them with our winner. Cheers!

February 18, 2011

The Best Laid Plans - Chapter 1 on podcast from CBC

CBC has the first chapter of The Best Laid Plans as a podcast. Here's the link.


I'll be sure to listen as I'm undecided if I want to read and the waiting list at the library is huge! Let you know what I think soon. Thanks to the CBC and Terry Fallis for doing this.

February 17, 2011

Lullabies for Little Criminals - update

Just started the book and the first chapter is very promising.  We're meeting in March to review. Stay tuned.

February 15, 2011

Essex County - Review

Despite my exposure to numerous commentaries from the Canada Reads debate, nothing prepared me for the incredible sadness I felt after reading this book. I'm full of melancholy and wondering is the kid going to be okay?  Set in rural Ontario and Toronto, the graphic novel Essex County describes how innocent people faced with tragedy/loneliness are able to cope or in many cases not cope with these events.  It's also about the generosity of individuals in helping others.  Barbara Streisand is right; "People who need people are the luckiest people in the world".
The drawings are excellent. I adored how their style changed depending on the timeline and viewpoints.  A captivating work of art.  I will have to reread as I'm sure I have missed some messages and would like to study the drawings more.  Unfortunately my childhood tendency for reading cartoons too quickly is difficult to tame.
Overall Rating (*****)

February 12, 2011

By Nightfall

From the first few pages I knew I needed to find out what would happen to this couple. The writing is brilliant and the book was read in a few days. It is NYC, 2010 at your doorstep.  I dislike reviews that give the plot away.  Let me just say that it is a wonderful story of a couple who have been  married for a long time and the ups and down that go along with that. It's narrated by the husband, an art dealer balancing his love for beauty and the reality of making money. In his mid-forties he questions everything; past, present and future.

Overall Rating  *****

February 11, 2011

The best wine under $10

Every year I organize a get together in Ottawa for Winterlude with dear friends from Montreal. They love coming to Ontario because wine is so much cheaper here. This year we had a contest. What's the best wine under $10? See pic for the scientific results.  The  winner is J.J McWilliam Cabernet-Merlot.
BTW, the ice on the Rideau Canal was amazing this year. If you haven't tried it you must go. It's a Canadian classic and lots of fun. As for books, mes amies raved about "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. It's on the bedside table gals. Thanks for the suggestion.

February 09, 2011

Canada Reads - Day 3 - The Finale

Did I say "The Best Laid Plans" shouldn't be a winner? Well guess what.... it won !!!  Hmmm .... could the design diva be wrong? I may just have to find out, especially after meeting a huge Terry Fallis fan in the line up this morning. The 2 hours wait flew by this morning because of her. Her name is Evadne Macedo http://books.macedo.ca/  and we chatted about writing, human rights, social media, etc etc...  She made Terry Fallis sound like the most kindest, generous author around so I'm pleased that he got the prize.

As for me I went to see Lorne Cardinal afterwards to congratulate him on defending Carol Shields "Unless". I just love her writing so much.  We both agreed that she was an easy target because of her brilliance and success.  When I asked him if he would do Canada Reads again next year, he said he would love too. Whatever book he picks I'll be reading it for sure.

February 08, 2011

Canada Reads Debates - Day 2

Used the CBC's  live Internet video and chat feed for today's debate. Awesome! I loved the live chat during the session. It reminded me of the book club sessions that we have. The opinions were varied and numerous. Some were still reeling that Essex County was no longer in the running.
The biggest story was Debbie admitting that she didn't finish The Best Laid Plans due to boredom and not enjoying the humour. Whoa !!!.... what a backlash she got from that. I think she saved me some money and time so I'm grateful for her honesty.  CanadaReads helps us determine what the clubs next book will be. If a well read person can't finish the book, well that's a strong sign that it shouldn't be the winner.  Georges' book "The Bone Cage" was voted off today.  So 3 books are left for tomorrow's session. Who will be the winner? Hmmm ...we'll have to wait and see.

February 07, 2011

Canada Reads debate - Day 1

After standing in line for over 2 hrs the CBC finally let us in.  It's a beautiful studio,  laid out like a boxing match but instead of a ring, there are 5 red chairs around a table.  The crowd is a pleasant mix.  On a Monday morning I was expecting to see a bunch of blue hairs with walkers. We are talking "radio"here.  However, it's surprisingly young.  Or maybe I'm getting old?  The celebs arrive and we're off. The 50 minutes fly by and many were disappointed that Essex County was selected to go.  Sara did a wonderful job defending it and kindly pointed out that there may be a generational gap at the table.  When Lorne described his love for one of its characters, it convinced me that I should read this book. It's on my list.  In honour of Sara and her brilliant debating skills, I will read it soon.

February 04, 2011

Michel Rabagliati's - "Paul in Quebec" ... top notch graphic novel

I love graphic novels. Reminds me of my childhood when my mom would bring home the latest Asterix and Tintin. I returned to "la BD" as an adult when I discovered Michel Rabagliati's work. His latest "Paul in Quebec" actually made me laugh and cry like a regular novel.  Below is a link to a video where he is interviewed at Angouleme. It's in French but I just had to pay a tribute to him since I love his work so much.  He mentions that they are making a movie based on his novel in 2012.  Video by Drawn&Quarterly.


New selection announcement: Lullabies for Little Criminals

Ok. So we've moved on and the book club has decided to pick Heather O'Neill's Lullabies for Little Criminals.  This one is available in libraries too or you can grab a used copy easy enough. We're aiming to review after Valentines.

I started just 2 pages of Michael Cunningham's "By Nightfall" and it looks very promising. I may have to finish that this weekend.