Archive / January, 2011

Weezie’s Reading Roundup: January 2011

Remember in school when it was time to write the dreaded English class book report? Everyone moaned and groaned and was quick to find something they knew could be rented from Blockbuster. Except me. Yeah, I was the dork at the back of the classroom, secretly thinking “Yay!”

Not a lot has changed since then, really. I still read just about everything I can get my hands on; some of it good, some of it not so good & some of it downright horrid (I even have favourites that fall into all three of those categories.) And I still love to share my opinion (asked for or otherwise – heh.)

Here’s a bit of what fell into my lap this month:
 
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding Of Facebook: A Tale Of Sex, Money, Genius And Betrayal
By Ben Mezrich
(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

I actually watched the movie (The Social Network) that was based on this book first because, well… Justin Timberlake. Then I figured reading the book might actually clear up a few of the vagaries and unanswered questions left after the credits rolled. Not so much. Because so much of the book is pretty speculative (based, apparently, on legal documents and email correspondence rather than actual interviews with the parties involved) it’s more of a salacious bit of Geekboy Overcomes All fiction, rather than an actual account of what went down & who was actually responsible for creating the portal of daily time suckage we call Facebook. So, if you’re not so concerned with a clear cut answer to the world’s lingering Zuckerburg questions, then this is a fun read. Personally, though, I preferred the movie because, well… Justin Timberlake.

 
The Bishop’s Man
By Linden MacIntyre
(Random House of Canada / Kobo eBook)

Father Duncan MacAskill is “the Bishop’s man” – a priest exceptionally skilled at sweeping away sexual impropriety in the Catholic Church so as to avoid public scandal. Tasked, early in his career, with convincing a Priest (who’d impregnated his own housekeeper) to leave his rural Nova Scotia parish for a sojourn in Toronto, Father Duncan finds himself pigeonholed. It was never a job he wanted. But he was devout and did as his superiors dictated. And, for Father Duncan, a dark past combined with a sordid present prove that everyone has a breaking point. This novel is fictitious, but I would hazard a guess is based in a lot of truth. In fact, it could have quite easily been ripped directly from the headlines. I highly recommend this one.

 
Naked in Knightsbridge
By Nicky Schmidt
(Gazelle Distribution Trade / Kobo eBook)

If you’re headed to the beach, grab this and throw it in your tote along with your sun block & vitamin water. This is pure, unadulterated Chick Lit (sorry, I understand that the PC term is now Women’s Fiction) and it’s quite engagingly fun. Which is a bit surprising, considering the main protagonist isn’t a particularly endearing or likeable character. Jools Grand is 28, single, down on her luck (understatement of the year: she’s actually just lost her business as a result of torching a client’s home; she’s penniless and owes over £20,000 to the bank & is about to be evicted) and about to resort to selling herself to the highest bidder in order to dig herself out of her self-imposed hole. All the usual twists, turns, hilarity & romance ensue. So, if you’re looking for a cute distraction while on holiday (or home on a sick day, heh), this will certainly fit the bill.

 
Necroscope
By Brian Lumley
(Tom Doherty Associates)

I was browsing through some of LX’s paperbacks and found this little gem hidden away on a bottom shelf. He’d read part of the series and suggested I give it a whirl. I’m glad I did, because this is good old-fashioned schlocky horror fun – at its finest. A ‘necroscope’ (not to be confused with a ‘necromancer’) is a person who can speak with the dead. We meet two such individuals in this book – each with their own means of communication: one is polite about it, the other – not so much; one is an English schoolboy, the other works for an elite branch of the KGB; one is trying to raise an ancient vampire (or, in this instance: Whampyri) in order to steal his power, the other has had a wee chat with August Möbius and learned that time travel is, indeed, possible. See? FUN! The only problem is – I just learned that, what I thought was a 3 novel series… is actually 16. I may wait for the TV series.

 
Rock Star’s Rainbow
by Kevin Glavin
(Kevin Glavin Publishing / Kobo eBook)

Kobobooks.com has quite a selection of free downloads. This was one of them.
 
 
 

 
 
I have the next two in the Brian Lumley series on deck for February. And my father-in-law lent me his copy of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, so I’ll be hopping on that bandwagon as well.

What have you read so far this year?
 

FacebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmailFacebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmail

One of these things is NOT like the other

When you hear the word Amish, would you more quickly associate the word ‘rural’ or ‘urban’? Exactly. We’ve all seen Witness. We (okay, I’ll admit it – I) have preconceived ideas about bonnets and wagons and barn raisings.

According to Wikipedia (yes, the most reliable source of information, to be sure): the Amish, sometimes referred to as Amish Mennonites, are a group of Christian church fellowships that form a subgroup of the Mennonite churches. The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology.

The Old Order Amish, who live in rural communities in North America and are famous for their plain dress and limited use of technology.

The New Order Amish (formed 1966), are the least restrictive Amish group. They permit the use of electricity in the home and do not practice shunning.

Urban means “related to cities.” Cities generally have advanced systems for sanitation, utilities, land usage, housing, and transportation.

Based on these generalizations, one would assume that even the most progressive of Amish orders would hardly be racing to start a business in downtown Toronto, right? I know, I know – I’m assuming a lot based  on common conceptions, so you’ll forgive my perplexed reaction to this:

They even have a website. And a YouTube Channel. And a Facebook page. When did the leap from “allowing electricity” to “maintaining a web presence” happen?

I’m just curious. Now you are, too.  Admit it.

FacebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmailFacebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmail

Over the Hills & Far Away: Robert Plant’s Band of Joy – Live @ the Sony Centre

After a super busy weekend featuring dinner with visiting family, friends gigging at a local watering hole and a Saturday night wardrobe malfunction enroute to a staff party (complete with a tricky, yet effective, cab-ride fix that would’ve made MacGyver beam with pride), my husband & I were lucky to spend our Sunday evening in the presence of greatness; I’m talking true Rock Royalty, mes amis.

Robert Plant & his Band of Joy (the newest incarnation… obviously) came to Toronto and, because I’m rather deft with my credit card, I managed to snag tickets as part of LX’s Christmas present this year. Needless to say, he was pleased; we may both be Led Zeppelin fans, but he’s the one with the collection of vinyl (not to mention the John Bonham-inspired drum skills.)

I had assumed that the crowd would be a bunch of 30 and 40-somethings like us.  But I always forget that, when I discovered Zeppelin, I had yet to hit high school and the band was already starting to fall apart.  So the time-honoured sport of people watching was at a premium for this show. There were folks who were dressed like they’d hit pause at one of the earlier 1970-ish Zeppelin shows and were hoping to open a space/time portal and travel back several decades to relive the glory days of their bellbottoms and bandanas (oddly enough, there were high-school & college-aged kids dressed in much the same manner. So really? No excuse there); Quite a large percentage of the crowd were likely at one of those earlier concerts as well,  only now they possessed the good sense to dress more age (and fashion) appropriate. We likely fell somewhere between both groups.

Support act the North Mississippi Allstars – brothers Luther & Cody Dickinson – fit right in with their arsenal of twangy goodness. At first, they seemed a bit dwarfed (it’s just the two of them) on such a big stage, but their sound was big enough to dissolve any worries that they might blend into the background, so to speak. Also? Have you ever seen anyone rock out with a washboard and a wah wah pedal? Yeah. Me neither. Until last night. It was EPIC. I highly recommend you check these guys out; their vocals may not be the heartiest… but their playing is big enough that you really don’t care.

In support of the phenomenal 2010 album of the same name (that’s Band of Joy for those of you not paying attention), the night featured swampy-good gospel-tinged songs from the album and oh-so-much more.

Guitarist Patty Griffin stepped up in a big way during Rich Woman, the sexy-as-hell duet made popular with Allison Krauss and never missed a beat; I have to admit, I’m a bit out of the loop these days when it comes to who’s hot and who’s not – but this girl is fantastic. Seriously.  Her voice is just tremendous. Go. Check her out. Now.

The heavy metal fans weren’t to be disappointed, either. Some fantastically fun interpretations of some of the classics found there way onto the set list. There were Zeppelin renditions a-plenty (Misty Mountain Hop, Gallows Pole & Rock & Roll, to name a few) and Sir Percy even busted out one of his ’80s solo hits (Tall Cool One) – all with a sludgy, southern gospel flair.

What I thought was particularly cool was that the show really was about the Band of Joy. When one of the other members took over as lead on a number, Plant stepped back into his Backup Singer/Harmonica Player shoes. Granted, you never really forgot that he was back there. But he’s been around and in the spotlight for so long, that letting his band mates stand front & centre seems organic and natural (which, given the caliber of musicianship in this band, stands to reason.)

Everyone got to show off their superb vocal chops one last time with the final song of the night – a cover of the Grateful Dead’s And We Bid You Goodnight.

Plant’s heyheymamas and babybabybabydoyalikeits might not be as high pitched as they once were (but, to be fair, his jeans are nowhere near as tight as they once were, either – more’s the pity) but they’re no less impassioned. And the rockabilly-meets-delta blues style that is the Band of Joy fits his finely-aged vocal chords brilliantly.

So, to say that the show was worth the price of admission would be a gross understatement. I mean, come on… it was Robert Fucking Plant: Rock God. He might be weathered, as the years may dictate, but his chops are still in fine form.

FacebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmailFacebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmail

A Pound is a Pound is a Pound

(For the record I’m neither a fitness nor a medical expert; but I do know a wee bit about shedding a pound or two*)

I just need to do this twice... in a row...

I have aspirations of running a marathon. There. I’ve said it. It’s out in the open. It’s not going to happen this year. But I think a half-marathon might. I know that it’s within me to accomplish. But I also know that I have a lot of work to do in order to get there.

I’ve run 5 km distances countless times. I’ve even done two 10 km runs (one the weekend before my wedding, no less; yeah, I didn’t think that one through very well.) But I respect the challenge enough to know that dragging my arse across a finish line that’s a full 21 kilometres from the start line is NOT in the same category. At all.

As someone who spent a lifetime being unfit & out of shape, my battle toward fitness has proven to be a more attainable goal by gleaning advice & inspiration from outside sources; Weight Watchers was a fantastic resource that gave me the support & knowledge I needed, at the time, to shed an enormous amount of weight. Now that my aspirations are more toward fitness, however, I’ve looked elsewhere. The world of running, for one, has proven to be outstanding means to an end.

As a result of my focus shifting gears, I now spend a lot (I mean, a lot) of time surfing around various health & fitness websites and personal blogs looking for success stories, workout routines or recipes.

I’ve learned to take in the information that’s helpful and toss aside the garbage. Unfortunately, though, not everyone has a knowledge base that will allow them to filter through what’s valid and what’s not.

And, while there is a tremendous amount of correct & proven information out there from people with varying levels of experience & expertise – it never ceases to amaze me the number of times I see (in print!) “a pound of fat weighs more than a pound of muscle.”

First of all, let’s look at that sentence. Semantics aside, that statement is such a flagrant violation of the laws of physics that it makes my teeth itch. How can one pound of one substance POSSIBLY weigh more than one pound of another substance?

Remember that riddle we used to love to tell when we were kids? “What weighs more – a pound of bricks or a pound of feathers?” Didn’t we all just think we were sooooo clever? Well, this is the same thing. One pound (of anything) weighs exactly the same amount as one pound (of any OTHER thing.)

A pound of fat does NOT weigh more than a pound of muscle. A pound of fat takes up more space than a pound of muscle – yes, this is true. But volume and weight are two separate measurements.

And that’s one of the reasons women are encouraged to add strength training and exercise with weights to their cardio routines. Trust me… you’re not going to end up looking like Ah-nold. It’s not in our genetic makeup. Those female bodybuilders you see on TV? They had to work way harder than their male counterparts to get that bulked-up and ripped.

It’s also one of the reasons you’ll hear fitness experts say things like, “get rid of your scale,” or, “don’t base your success solely on the number your scale gives you.”

If you base your success (or failure) on just the number on your scale, you’re missing the big picture. Because, while you work out and feed your body natural foods within your daily caloric range, that number may change very little… and sometimes, not at all. This is because, while you’re burning away that pesky body fat, you’re building lean muscle mass at the same time.

And, while one pound of muscle still weighs as much as one pound of fat, it’s going to take up a LOT less space in your Calvins.

So do yourself a favour: invest in a tape measure & use it. If you’re trying to affect a change in your body composition you need to look at more than just your scale. Can you climb a flight of stairs now without getting winded? Does jogging around the block seem slightly less daunting than it used to? Is that mark where your bra strap used to dig into your flesh now gone? Then you’re doing something right. Keep it up. The number on the scale will move in its own good time. But, with all these other points of reference, it won’t seem like the end of the world when it doesn’t do it instantly.

And can we please (for the love of jebus!) STOP perpetuating the adage that “a pound of fat weighs more than a pound of muscle”?

Thanks.

*Slow & Steady (or: What a Difference a Decade Makes)

FacebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmailFacebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmail

Do you know the Muffin Man?

I do. As it turns out, I married him. My husband doesn’t really have a sweet tooth, to speak of. And he doesn’t seem to hold any particular fondness for baked goods, in general (he’s more of a potato chips & munchies kinda guy.) But, as it happens, he is quite partial to muffins… particularly those involving bananas as one of the main ingredients.

In fairness, it doesn’t really come as too big a surprise. When we first moved in together, I soon noticed that nightcaps of scotch would often turn into a late-nightcap of milk & cookies.  So when I decided to  revisit my culinary leanings, it was truly fortunate to know that I would be safe in baking a dozen muffins without fear that I was the only one who’d eat them. Because,  as everyone knows, even healthy muffins lose all piety when the entire batch is eaten by one person… not that that’s ever happened. Heh.

So the latest entry into my ever-growing Repertoire of Yum is this guilt-free recipe for a dozen Banana Bran Muffins.

Ingredients
1½ C All Bran original
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 C Silk light soy milk
1 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C Splenda
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. cinnamon
6 tbsp. liquid egg whites (or 3 egg whites)
2 medium mashed bananas
1/4 C unsweetened apple sauce

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375°C.
  • Mix the All Bran together with the soy milk & lemon juice in a large bowl; let soak while mixing other ingredients (the lemon juice & soy milk will become like buttermilk and will emulsify the All Bran into a mush-like texture that will easily mix into batter.)
  • In a separate bowl stir the five dry ingredients together.
  • In another bowl mix egg whites, mashed banana & applesauce.
  • Stir the liquid mixture into the All Bran mixture; stir the dry ingredients into this mixture; then stir until all ingredients are well mixed.
  • Spoon into muffin tins (sprayed with PAM) and bake for 20 minutes.

Cals: 86 | Fat: 0.7 g | Sodium: 246 mg | Carbs: 20.6 g | Fibre: 4.9 g | Protein: 3.9 g

FacebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmailFacebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmail