Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - Bunny - A little late for Easter

We've lived here for two years and this is one of the first rabbits we've seen in the area. Apparently all of the neighbours knew they were around, but not us. We saw two others earlier in the day. And you know when you see two rabbits in the same general area...well, let's just say it won't be long before we see many more. ;)

Anyway, this guy came really close to us when we were sitting and watching the river rise in our backyard. He's a cutie.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. To participate – post a picture that you've taken (or one taken by a friend, or a family member) then add your link on Alyce’s site using Mr. Linky.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Bleeding Heart

More Wordless Wednesday.

Scene of the Blog @ Kittling Books

Today is a great day! Every Wednesday, Cathy over at Kittling Books posts a feature called "Scene of the Blog" and today I'm the featured blogger. How cool is that? I'm so honoured that Cathy asked me to participate. I really enjoy this feature on her blog. It's so much fun to see where and how other bloggers get inspired.

So hop on over to Kittling Books to see my blogging and reading areas. I'll be popping in over there frequently for the next several days to respond to comments and answer any questions you might have. I hope to see all of my followers over there. I also hope to make a few new friends. ;)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Weekend Cooking - Elvis Oatmeal

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

For more information, see the Welcome post on Beth Fish Reads.

I don't really have a recipe today. It's more of a variation that I found on the internet some time ago. I can't remember where, but I make it whenever I can. I know that spring isn't really the time for rib-sticking oatmeal, but if you love oatmeal as much as I do, you can eat it all year long. We do.

Elvis Oatmeal

When the oatmeal is about two-thirds done, mix in some peanut butter (I use 2 tablespoons for 4 servings). Stir until melted. Add a couple of dashes to cinnamon and some chopped banana. Stir to combine. If the oatmeal gets too thick, add a little hot water (boiling if you have it) to thin it out a bit. Remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes. Eat. I like to add some milk to mine, but it's just as good without.

That's the basics, but I usually add a second fruit. If I have Medjool dates on hand, I'll chop 4-5 of those and throw them in with the banana. I think the combination of oatmeal and dates is to die for. Another option would be a small handful of raisins. Also, I like to sprinkle ground flax seed on my oatmeal just before eating it. However, it floats on top of the milk and then sticks to the side of the bowl. I discovered that if I sprinkle it in my bowl before adding the oatmeal it doesn't float and I get to eat all of the goodness.



When spring finally upon us, I decided to tackle some spring cleaning in the kitchen pantry. I've never done it before. I usually just toss stuff as I come across it, but I've lost track of stuff that's been in there too long. This time I'm going to make an effort to re-evaluate it all and get it organized. Recently, I made a cheesecake with some very stale and bad tasting graham cracker crumbs. They were so bad, I threw out the cheesecake along with the rest of the crumbs. I was so disappointed. I know there probably a lot more than can be tossed.

So, do you spring clean your pantry? Have you ever found anything in there and wonder where it came from? Or do you keep on top of it and clean as you go? Or a little of both?

For other food-related posts this week, click here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Flood Watch - 2011 - My Backyard - The Continuing Saga

Disclaimer: If you came here for information about the Manitoba Flood 2011, you've probably come to the wrong place. This post (or series of posts) will focus only on my backyard and house. If you are looking for general information regarding the flood, try the Government of Manitoba website, which can be found here or here for more area specific information regarding the Cartier, St. Francois Xavier and Headingley areas.

The flood waters from the ice jam and surges have receded. Mostly. We are still left with huge puddles. Here are some recent photos:

...I know it's hard to tell just how much the river has receded. It's marked, but it's too hard to see here. Next time, I'll get my husband to stand out there. The water has actually dropped a bit more since I took these photos.

The flood waters have brought with them some new critters into the back yard. There's a muskrat, who's as cute as can be, and a pair of mallards. Sorry, no photos. My telephoto lens isn't that good. While it's nice to see wildlife up close, the muskrat can carry diseases and the mallards should really be living near a real pond, not here. If she lays her eggs nearby, I'm going to worry about them for the entire summer.

As if the rising waters weren't enough, the septic pump broke twice in one day! First the float (it measures the water level and tells the pump to turn on), then the pump. I don't know if it was just time for the pump to go or if it was overwhelmed by the additional ground water, which was finding its way into the tank. Whatever the reason, it stopping pumping and was replaced. Cha-ching.

As far as more flooding and the crest, the forecasted levels have been updated (according to the Manitoba Water Stewardship website) and it doesn't look good. I'm not going to post any numbers here because the last time I did that things had changed by the time I wrote the piece and posted it. I'll just say that the forecasted peak levels have risen (compared to the forecasts from a few weeks ago) and it's enough to make us nervous. Very nervous. We still have no plans to sandbag, but that may change depending on the next week or so.

Since we haven't been through a crest yet, we are not sure what to expect. We were told that the water will start rising sometime this weekend. We've also heard (not sure where) that we should be prepared to live with high water levels for some time....perhaps weeks.

It's really hard to keep track of what going on in the rest of the province (the whole prairies really) when we are worried about our own house and property. However, we do know that others have it much worse than we do. Deaths, evacuations, closed roads, flooded houses, lost farmland and the list goes on. It's not good is an understatement. We are lucky in the grand scheme of things.

...and the rollercoaster continues.

Saturday Snapshot - Photos and a Story

I had posted this last Saturday, but Blogger was being a pain and removed all of the formatting. I didn't have time to fix it so I pulled it instead. I noticed a few people clicked on the post. I'm hoping they found nothing rather than the seriously mangled post. Anyway, I'm sorry about that.

My Saturday Snapshot this week is a little long. I hope it's ok. This collection of photos and story appeared on my other (now defunct) blog some time ago. It's such an unusual story that I wanted to repeat it here.

All of the melting snow in the last couple of weeks, reminds me of when we first moved in to this house. We got possession of the our house on March 1, 2009. There was still lots of snow on the ground, therefore, we didn't get a good look at all of the stuff that was left behind. As the snow started to melt and things were uncovered we realized that we had quite the job ahead of us. We started cleaning up as soon as we could, but it was still awhile before we found something interesting. Well, ok, at first it was downright scary. It wasn't until later that it became interesting and funny.

We saw something from the path that warranted further investigation. Here's sort of what we saw:

I say "sort of" because at that time it was covered in plastic and a large sheet of plywood. On top were several cinder blocks holding the whole thing down. As we got closer I said "That looks like a coffin". My husband wasn't so sure. While I stayed on the path, he went closer to get a better look. He lifted the plastic, looked underneath and said "That looks like a coffin". That was enough for that day. I ran back to the house.

The next day we approached the coffin again, this time with camera in hand (all of these pictures were taken that day). We uncovered "the box" and realized it was some kind of prop. At that point, we were even brave enough to lift the lid. But still, who would store this in their backyard and not take it with them when they moved? Or at least warn the new owners? Here are some more photos:


Another view.


Close-up of contents.

By talking to some of the neighbours, we found out that the neighbourhood used to have a big Halloween celebration and this coffin and assorted signs were used in that celebration. We didn't know anything more than that, since many of the people who lived in the area at that time had moved on. Halloween isn't my favourite celebration so we were not about to keep it. Besides, it's much too heavy to store or move around. We couldn't even lift it. Since the previous owner left lots of other junk around as well as this item and didn't seem interested in retrieving any of it, we figured it was our to dispose of. I guess he could have been storing it for someone, but finding the owner, who more than likely moved away, was more trouble than we were willing to do at that time. We weren't too pleased to be saddled with all of the junk. Several trips to the dump later, the coffin was no more.

That was two years ago. So far, no one has come to the door looking for a coffin. If they had, I could have had another weird story to tell. ;)

How many people can say that they found a coffin in the backyard of their new house?

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. To participate – post a picture that you've taken (or one taken by a friend, or a family member) then add your link on Alyce’s site using Mr. Linky. (My apologies to Alyce for omitting this earlier.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

In The Sandalwood Tree Martin and Evie have come to India to witness the partition for Martin's thesis. One day Evie finds some old letters from the 1840s secreted away behind a brick in her kitchen. While turmoil and danger surrounds her and her family, Evie is compelled to find out what happened to the women, Adela and Felicity, mentioned in the letters. The more she learns, the more puzzling it becomes. Finally she's able to piece together the mystery, while trying to keep her own family together and safe.

I loved this book. Newmark is a fantastic storyteller. This story was well conceived and well written. I especially loved that it was historical fiction set in India. The book features two time periods, which were critical in the history of India: 1840s and the 1940s. Newmark does a remarkable job in marrying the two story lines. The story jumps back and forth between the two time periods. The author has written one part in the first person; the other in the third person, so it's easy to follow. I've read a number of books revolving around India or Indians: Indians in America, Indians in India, but this is the first book I read that had Americans/Brits living in India. It was extremely interesting.

The characters were convincing and likeable. I particularly like the women: Adela, Felicity and Evie. They were all strong willed went against the accepted norms of the times. I loved the watching Evie uncover different parts of the long ago mystery, but she found parts of the story in such odd and out-of-way places that at times it felt a little unbelievable. Maybe it was supposed to feel fatalistic, but that didn't really come across for me. I still loved how she pieced it all together.

Newmark transports the reader to India with her lush details of the area and descriptions of the people and the culture. Some of the details of one particular custom was disturbing, but interesting nevertheless.
The parts about the India/Pakistan partition was particularly enlightening. I've read a few books that mentioned the partition, but either didn't explain it at all or didn't explain it in a way that I could understand it. Newmark doesn't spend a lot of time going into the nitty-gritty details of it, but she does a good job of explaining it within the context of this story.

I've also read The Book of Unholy Mischief by Newmark. I loved it a little more than this one. I liked the characters a bit more and it seemed a bit more magical.

Favourite quotes:
I think that when you create borders based on ideology you create a reason to fight. When you live side by side, you create a reason to get along. (page 129)

It's not that the past doesn't matter, it's that the future matters more, and the present matters most of all. (page 355)

New words: Here are a few of the words that were new to me (I only recorded a few of the Indian words used in the book):
godowns (many references): warehouse (South Asia)
suppurating (page 1): to produce pus
pogroms (page 9): organized killing of a minority
calendula (page 15): plant of the daisy family
almirah (page 65): wardrobe or chest of drawers (South Asia)
sartorially (page 111): relating to tailoring or clothing in general

Highly recommended. I hope to read many more books by this author.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

For more information about the author and her other book, please visit Elle Newmark's website.

I'd like to thank Tracee from Pump Up Your Book and the author for this review copy. Click here for information on the blog tour.

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark, Atria (Simon & Schuster), ©2011. ISBN 9781416590590(Advance Reading Copy), 357p.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Needlework Tuesday - Stashed Away Items

It's time for another instalment of Needlework Tuesday.

I didn't think I was actually going to post anything this week. I had done a little crafting last week, but nothing much to show off. With the flood waters coming up Sunday and yesterday and everything else that's been going on, I figured I'd take a break.

However, as I was moving some boxes out of the basement (precautionary measure for the flood), I discovered a box of crafting that I had done awhile ago. The strange thing was that it was a whole of box of one thing. Knitted dishcloths. 28 of them. Honestly, I barely remember making so many of them. I sort of remember making a few...some to keep, some to give away. I knew I tucked a few away for myself, but this is ridiculous.

I love making them because it's so satisfying to start and finish something in the same evening. This is the one craft I can do in front of the TV and not miss much of the show because I know most of the patterns by heart. I also love that I can use it almost immediately.

I'm really glad that I found these because the ones I've been using have almost fallen apart. They are pretty embarrassing. I was actually thinking that I need to make more of them. Now I don't have to!

Here's another look:

So, are you a crafter who's "addicted" to a craft and does it just to be doing something? Do you have completed items stashed away? Or are you a crafter who has a project in mind and person to give it to before embarking on the mission?

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather on her blog, Books and Quilts. There's an open invitation for other needle workers/crafters to join at any time. Go have a look at how her special quilt is coming along.

Also, be sure to stop of at Tami's blog to see her beautiful Christmas stockings and Rikki's blog to see her gorgeous wrap.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Flood Watch - 2011 - When the River Comes to Visit

I had a longer post to put up here, I'm too tired to post it. I'll just let the pictures tell the most of the story.

Sunday morning the backyard looked pretty much like it did on April 12. By Sunday afternoon, we saw the water pouring into the yard. Apparently, this rise was as a result of some ice jams and subsequent surges from upstream.

Monday morning, we woke up to this. [The first five photos are a pan of the backyard. The last one shows how close the river is to the house. Remember it's supposed to be over 1/2 kilometre away.]

We have no idea if this is the worst of it or if more bad news is around the corner. There are many conflicting reports coming from all directions. For the time being, we are not sandbagging our property. I'll post more in a couple of days.

Disclaimer: If you came here for information about the Manitoba Flood 2011, you've probably come to the wrong place. This post (or series of posts) will focus only on my backyard and house. If you are looking for general information regarding the flood, try the Government of Manitoba website, which can be found here or here for more area specific information regarding the Cartier, St. Francois Xavier and Headingley areas.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Uncommon Grounds by Sandra Balzo

In Uncommon Grounds, Maggie has arrived at her new coffee shop. Today is supposed to be opening day, but when she finds one of her partners dead on the floor, it looks like that's going to be postponed for awhile. The police have lots of suspects, including Maggie herself. However, Maggie is determined to solve the murder so that she was can find out who killed her friend and finally open her coffee shop. Little does she know that she's about to uncover some secrets that involve not only some prominent town citizens, but also some of her friends.

I really enjoyed reading this cozy mystery. It's the first book in the series of six (so far). I don't think I've read another cozy like this one where the book opens with a murder. At first I didn't know if I was going to like it. Whatever happened to getting to know the characters or setting before offing one of them. Not to mention background information. However, I loved it. Really loved it. Balzo goes on to cover all of those other things in time, but I eventually found it very refreshing to have the murder take place right up front. I loved the setting of a coffee shop and the whole small town feel with the politics and regular patrons. It was all well written and well conceived.

Maggie was a great character. Her good-for-nothing-cheating-soon-to-be-ex-husband, Ted, has taken up with his 24-year-old hygienist and her son is away at college. That just leaves her oversized dog for company. Her tepid relationship (with there-might-be-an-attraction overtones) with the country sheriff, Pavlik, had me on the edge of my seat wondering where it was all going to lead. Pavlik was also a good character. I loved watching him work and observing his interactions with Maggie. As far as other characters go, the great supporting cast of characters were all fun to read about. Good guys, bad guys and everyone in-between.

This is the first book I read on my new eReader. While the formatting was a little screwed up (I had to enlarge the text to read it) and I couldn't use some of the eReader's features because it was a PDF, I loved reading this book on it. I really didn't want to put it down. When I did, I couldn't wait to pick it up again.

Favourite quotes:
...I poured myself a glass of fine red wine and opted for a sleeve of Ritz crackers and a can of spray cheese to go with it. Major food groups accounted for (fat and salt, alcohol and aerosol), I settled on the couch to call Caron.

New word:
narthex (page 161): part of a church (entrance hall or screened off area)

Highly recommended. I have to next two books (Grounds for Murder and Bean There, Done That) already loaded on my eReader. I can't wait to read them.

For more information about this book, please visit This book is out of print, but it's now available on Kindle, with other formats coming soon (hopefully).

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Sandra Balzo's website.

Many thanks to the author for sending me this ebook to review.

Uncommon Grounds by Sandra Balzo, Five Star, ©2004. ISBN 1594141959(e-book/PDF), 245p.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

In Arranged, Anne Blythe has just broken up with yet another boyfriend. She has lots going for her, but her love life leaves much to be desired. She then comes across a card for what she thinks is a dating service. As it turns out, the company specializes in arranged marriages. With much trepidation, she decides to give them a try. On a weekend vacation provided by the company, she meets her match, Jack and marries him. It's only then that she finds out something that leaves her head and heart spinning out of control.

I enjoyed this book. It definitely was a nice light read. The characters were likeable and the overall storyline was fun and unique. For me, it didn't quite live up to the hype that was going around the blogosphere, but then again I don't read a lot of chick-lit. Having said that, I have read a several other books in this genre and I thought this one was middle of the road; better than some, but not as good as others. While the overall story was mostly surprising, a few times it felt a little predictable. Call me jaded. The book was still quite enjoyable, though.

I liked the characters, especially Anne. Failed relationship after failed relationship left her wanting. I give her credit for being brave enough to try something new. Dr. Szwick, the therapist that both Anne and Jack had to see as part of their union, was interesting. There was just something about him that said 'red flag' to me. Margaret, the woman Anne meets on the vacation/marriage weekend, was a hoot. I really liked her and would have loved to read more about her.

Recommended for fans of chick-lit. Those looking for a light beach read would most likely enjoy this one, too.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

For more information about the author and her other book, please visit Catherine McKenzie's website.

I'd like to thank the author for this book, which came to me via her Facebook group, I Bet We Can Make These Books Bestsellers.

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie, HarperCollins, ©2011. ISBN 9781554687602(Trade paperback), 390p.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Flood Watch - 2011 - My Backyard - Still Waiting

Disclaimer: If you came here for information about the Manitoba Flood 2011, you've probably come to the wrong place. This post (or series of posts) will focus only on my backyard and house. Please don't depend on it for flood information. If you are looking for general information regarding the flood, try the Government of Manitoba website, which can be found here or here for more area specific information regarding the Cartier, St. Francois Xavier and Headingley areas.

We've had a few days of warm weather, so most of the snow is gone.

Not too much is new. Same emotional rollercoaster. Hearing reports from other parts of the province where the situation is dire and tragic has added to the stress.

We've been reading flood sheets and flood reports for our area (from the Manitoba Water Stewardship website) and even though the data seems encouraging, the province is still recommending that we prepare for 1976 river levels. Because we are at that level already, we will not be sandbagging. That may change if the situation worsens. We did move some stuff out of the basement just in case. We are waiting to see what happens next before doing more.

I'm really getting tired of waiting, watching, wondering and more waiting. I want summer already! The updated predicted crest is: April 26 - May 2. Looks like more waiting is in order.

Here are a few pictures of the back yard now that most of the snow is gone:

In 2009 (last time we had high water levels), we had several huge puddles around the yard that eventually joined up with the rising river. So far this year we had a few, but most of them have disappeared now. It might be giving us a false sense of security with regards to flooding. I'm still hoping we don't see any river water in the back yard.

Anyway, that's it for now.

Needlework Tuesday - Look at me! I'm crafting!

It's time for another instalment of Needlework Tuesday.

I actually got some stuff done this week. I did a little of the counted cross stitch on the pillow. I'm still having some trouble seeing well enough to do it for long. I'm thinking of getting some kind of magnifier or something to help me with that. I'll post a photo in a couple of weeks when I've done enough to notice.

I also managed to work on my quilted wrap. I added a backing (in plain muslin) along with some batting. I pin basted some of it and even started machine quilting. Look at me go! I still have lots to do and I'm still not sure how I'm going to quilt it all. I know what I'm going to do with the squares, so I've started on that.

Here's a little teaser photo:

I like how the stitching frames the heart. After looking at this photo, I realized that I missed a row of stitching on the left. Oh well, like I said I still have lots to do. As long as I can devote some time to it, it shouldn't take me very long.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather on her blog, Books and Quilts. Go have a look at her work. There's an open invitation for other needle workers/crafters to join at any time.

Monday, April 11, 2011

HarperCollins March Madness - The Winner!

After weeks of speculation and voting, the HarperCollins March Madness book competition has crowned a winner. It's The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

It now joins the past winners in the Hall of Fame.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

I bought an eReader!!!

At long last, I finally bought an eReader. It's a Sony Reader PRS-650. It's black and has a 6" screen. I've had it for just over a week and didn't say anything until now because it was a bit of a shock that I even got one. Stores in the city have been sold out for awhile. One store told us to check back in the month, but on a whim I checked back in 4 days and sure enough they had 1 in stock. Not 10, not 5. Just 1. I couldn't believe it.

I really wanted to check it out first, too. I mean what if I didn't like it and had to return it. Like that was going to happen. As it turns out I love it!!!!!

Anyway, I already have three review books on it. All cozy mysteries from Sandra Balzo. Yippee! I've already read the first one Uncommon Grounds and loved it. Check back later this week for my review.

After I've read another book or two, I'll post my review of the Sony Reader. I want to make sure I've used all of the features before I tell you what I think.

For now, here are some photos:

Sony Reader

Case #1 - I bought this case first. I thought it would be good for carrying the reader in my purse. It has a zipper to keep other items away from it. That way it can't get banged up or scratched.

Case #2 - I liked the first case I bought, but I wasn't getting that real book experience. I bought this case so I could hold the reader like a book. It worked. As an added bonus, this case fits inside the first one. It's pretty snug and I wouldn't want to store it in there for long periods of time, but it's going to be perfect for travelling.

I just couldn't hold it in any longer. I love my new eReader!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh by Emeril Lagasse

Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh features recipes focusing on fresh, organic and locally grown produce and ingredients. There's an introduction by the author, Emeril Lagasse, touting the benefits of buying fresh local ingredients while supporting farmers and their farmers' markets.

This book is filled with scrumptious recipes. While fruits and vegetables take up a lot of the book, there are other sections featuring dairy, poultry, fish and grains. Some of the recipes are very simple; other are more complex. The simple ones show that good fresh ingredients don't need a lot of preparation to make them taste good, while the complicated ones show the versatility of the products. It's all good.

As a test recipe, I made Roasted Brussels Sprouts (page 137). Basically, after the sprouts are crisp-tender and lightly caramelized and cooked you toss them with olive oil, garlic, lemon zest and Parmesan cheese. Can you say delicious? Anyway, we love brussel sprouts so I make them a lot. While I loved this version, I'm not so sure about my husband. He kept saying he liked them (he didn't want to hurt my feelings), but when I pressed him he said 'they were different' and preferred my own method of roasting them. That's his way of saying it's not a keeper recipe. I'll definitely be making them again when he's not around for supper. There are a few other recipes I want to make: Curry-scented roasted Cauliflower (page 140-141) and Creamy Spiced Rice Pudding (page 207) and a number of others.

With a book that features mostly fruits and vegetables, I bet it's a bit of a challenge on how to present them in an interesting fashion. Personally, I found the chapters, as well as their order, to be a little odd. For example, corn, beans and squash are lumped together in a chapter labelled "The Three Sisters". Nice, but why? I understand some of the other groupings (Nightshades, Cole Crops, Leafy Green), but not others. Dairy is presented at the beginning, while other non-vegetable chapters are at the end. A sentence or two in the introduction about the organization of the book along with an explanation at the beginning of each chapter explaining why these items were grouped would have been helpful.

It's a little hard to tell much about the photographs by looking at the uncorrected proof (which has them in B&W), but I can say that there are quite a few photos in the book, which is great. I love seeing photos of great looking food. Some of the recipes don't have any photos, which is ok for some of the simpler recipes, but not so good for some of the more complex ones. Some of the recipes are accompanied by a photo of an ingredient. Now I think green peppers are beautiful, however I'd rather have a photo of the finished dish (for example Sausage Stuffed Bell Peppers) so I know what the dish should look like.

The table of contents of this book is great. It lists all of the recipes in each chapter. The index wasn't included in this uncorrected proof. If it's created with the same care and attention as the TOC was, I'm sure it's going to be very useful.

Honestly, I don't pay much attention to buying locally. If I have a choice, I will buy veggies grown here, but that's not always an option. We really enjoy eating a large variety of fruits and veggies; a lot of those come from faraway places because they can't be grown here. We probably wouldn't starve if we only ate stuff that was grown within 100 miles of us, but our diet certainly wouldn't be as varied as it is now. Anyway, this book may make me more conscious of locally grown/raised food.


For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

For more information about the author, his other books and everything Emeril, please visit Emeril Lagasse's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins Canada for this book.

Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh by Emeril Lagasse, HarperStudio (HarperCollins), ©2010. ISBN 9780061742958(uncorrected proof), 304p (plus index).

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

For more information, see the Welcome post on Beth Fish Reads.

For other food-related posts this week, click here.

Saturday Snapshot - Redpoll

This redpoll and her friends come down from the north during winter when food supplies become more scarce. I think she's a Common Redpoll, but we also had some hoary ones around. The hoary ones have more white, but I have a hard time telling them apart. Anyway, it's one of the more interesting additions to our feeders during the colder months. Most have them have headed back home now.

The bird in the background is an American Goldfinch. In the summer, their colours are quite vibrant (yellow), especially the males. In the winter, all of them turn a yellowy-gray. They usually don't spend the winter in this area, but every year we get at least a few staying behind. This year we had 5, last year (a milder, less snowy winter) we had about 40.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. To participate – post a picture that you've taken (or one taken by a friend, or a family member) then add your link on Alyce’s site using Mr. Linky.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fresh Flower Arranging by Mark Welford and Stephen Wicks

Fresh Flower Arranging offers step-by-step designs for making the perfect fresh flower arrangements for your home, office or special event. It's filled with tips of the trade and valuable information that will have your pieces looking fresh and beautiful for days.

Great book! It's beautiful as well as informative. There are instructions for 70 flower arrangements to either make or get inspired by. The authors, who are ex-ballet dancers who've moved on to their secondary careers, have created some absolutely stunning arrangements. With the help of a fantastic photographer, Carolyn Barber, this book shows off their work exquisitely.

I love that the book starts off with principles. The theory section offers guidelines on design elements for making successful flower arrangements. The care section provides an equipment list and shows you how to care for your arrangement. The skills section details the steps needed to complete some basic arrangements as well as other tips for arranging flowers. The basics are important in any craft.

The rest of the book features step-by-step instructions with large photos and very good explanations on how to complete the projects. Each has a large photograph of the finished project along with a list of flowers used (with photos), other materials needed, substitutions and insider tips to complete the project.

There are a number of coordinating floral arrangements for weddings no matter the season. There are designs for boutonnieres, bouquets, pew ends, and table centrepieces. All are really lovely.

There are so many beautiful arrangements it was hard to choose some favourites. The following are the ones that stood out for me:
Rose Topiary (pages 108-111) - I'm partial to any topiaries so it's no surprise to me that I loved this one. It left me speechless.
Floral cupcakes (pages 122-123) - I'm not a huge cupcake fan, but this arrangement using a wire cupcake stand and a variety of pink flowers (hydrangeas, roses, peonies) was just delightful. I think it would be perfect for a bridal shower or better yet a baby (girl) shower.
Towering liatris - (pages 228-229). When we lived in the city, I had a number of liatris growing in the garden. This arrangement is simple yet stunning.
Gerbera in Lines (pages 248-249) I love daisy-like flowers. These are presented in a fun, whimsical and beautiful way.

The table of contents is basic and only lists the very high-level sections, although, it does have pages numbers for the individual wedding collections. That'll be handy for those looking for that kind of thing. The index is pretty extensive. I found a lot of the items I was looking for, including individual flower types, vase types, arrangement types and many other items specific to this craft. The authors have included a resource list at the back of the book complete with addresses (web and some snail mail) for the major floral societies, organizations, flower markets, florists, suppliers and home ware stores in the USA and Canada.

Highly recommended for lovers of flesh flowers. If you have a garden and love bringing fresh cut flowers into the house for display, you'll most likely enjoy this book. I can't wait for this snow to melt so I can get out into the garden. When I have some blooms to use, I'll be attempting a few of these projects.

For more information about this book, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy.

Fresh Flower Arranging by Mark Welford and Stephen Wicks, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2011. ISBN 9780756658595(Hardcover), 256p.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Flood Watch - 2011 - My Backyard - Quick Update

Last week we had a brief, but major, panic attack after we saw that our neighbour had sand bags stacked in his driveway. The bad thing was that this neighbour is further away from the river than we are. We figured if he needed sandbags, we were in trouble because it looked like the river would have to go through us to get to him. After some quick phoning around, we discovered that he is indeed a little lower than us and has the sandbags just in case. I hope he doesn't have to use them.

The forecasted peak levels on today's flood sheet/report are well below the record levels set in 1976. In fact, they are about 8 feet lower. That's good news for us. Having said that, there is some precipitation on the way that might negatively affect the predication. Also, there still hasn't been a lot of runoff (according to the report) and tons of ice remains on the river. That means ice jams, which could cause the water to rise rapidly, are still a big concern.

Predicted crest is still weeks away: April 28 - May 7. Waiting is not fun.

I'll post some photos of the yard early next week. With some warmer weather predicted for the weekend, we should have a lot less snow.

Disclaimer: If you came here for information about the Manitoba Flood 2011, you've probably come to the wrong place. This post (or series of posts) will focus only on my backyard and house. If you are looking for general information regarding the flood, try the Government of Manitoba website, which can be found here or here for more area specific information regarding the Cartier, St. Francois Xavier and Headingley areas.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Children's Book of Art by DK Publishing

Children's Book of Art presents an introduction to art featuring artists, art pieces and techniques. Young and old readers alike are taken on a tour of art world starting with some early cave paintings, followed by the old masters, and finally on to more modern pieces.

I loved this book. The format is similar in format and style to Children's Book of Music (my review) except with art instead of music. Both books are equally entertaining. This book is divided into 3 sections: Early Art, Modern Art and Sculpture. It has large photographs and easy-to-read descriptive text. I loved that the featured paintings were explained and labelled.

There are lots of little sidebars directing the reader to try something they've just read about. For example, Vincent van Gogh painted himself more than 30 times. That page tells the reader to "try a portrait of your own". There are so many wonderful things in this book that at times I had a hard time getting through it. I kept getting inspired by the pieces or techniques. I wanted to try everything!

There are four types of pages in the book that take the readers through the art world. These pages are: Artist or Sculptor profile, How did they do that?, Gallery, Art Style.

Each artist or sculptor profile featured a timeline of their life as well as a list of artistic influences. Some of the artists were well known to me, like da Vinci, Matisse and Picasso. I liked reading the information and seeing their work. There were other artists that were lesser known, but equally interesting. These included Austrian-born abstract artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (page 100-101) (Nope I didn't make that name up) and Damien Hirst (page 132-133). The pages (108-109) featuring China's terracotta warriors were amazing.

The pages titled "How did they do that?" were my favourites. They contained lots of information about techniques and materials used by the artists. For instance, six hundred years ago, artists had to mix up their own colours. It was interesting to see how they did it and where the colours came from (page 28-29). The most expensive colour? Ultramarine. Other pages included instructions on how to use oil paints and water colours as well as how to sculpt marble and much, much more. The instructions were rudimentary of course, but they still gave me an idea of what's involved in the art. I also loved the pages on making mosaics and land art (page 128-129), which was awe-inspiring.

The gallery pages showed works of art with common themes. I found these very interesting and loved the subject matters presented. It was like visiting an art exhibit at a gallery.

Many different styles were featured on the Art Style pages. Some of these include: Dreamtime art (Australian), Renaissance, Baroque, Impressionism, Surrealism, Street Art, Modern Art and different kinds of sculpture: African, abstract. I loved the stories told on these pages and loved learning about the artists who produced pieces during these periods or in this style.

The table of contents was pretty good as it listed the sections of the book as well as subjects in each of the sections. The glossary was nicely laid out with clear, concise definitions for terms used in art. Unfortunately, the book does not have an all-encompassing index. It did, however, have a listing of the artists featured in the book.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy.

Children's Book of Art by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2009. ISBN 9780756655112(Hardcover), 141p.

Wordless Wednesday - Will Pose for Peanuts

More Wordless Wednesday.

Monday, April 4, 2011

HarperCollins March Madness - The Finals!

At long last, we've reached the finals for HarperCollins's March Madness.

Two books remain. It's head-to-head matchup between Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.

A few weeks ago I never would have guessed that these two books would be vying against each other for the overall title. Sadly, I haven't read either of them, but from what I've heard both are great. Either one of them would make an excellent addition to the Hall of Fame.

I'm definitely going to be voting for Murder on the Orient Express because I'm a mystery fan. I know The Hobbit is hugely popular, too and I did try to read it once a long time ago, but it just wasn't for me.

Go vote now, then enter the contest. You could win all 64 books!

Who are you voting for?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - Shoes on Wellington Crescent

I took this photo a few years ago. The shoes hang near an underpass on a route we used to take quite often when we lived in the city. One Saturday afternoon, I snapped a bunch of photos. I don't know anything about them, other than they have been there for years. I love the baby runner (aka tennis shoe) at the top.

There was a recent article about the shoes in the city newspaper. Click here if you want to read it.

I haven't seen these shoes in quite awhile, but it's sort of neat to see that it's still there albeit deteriorating.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. To participate – post a picture that you've taken (or one taken by a friend, or a family member) then add your link on Alyce’s site using Mr. Linky.

Finished Off by Rebecca Kent

In Finished Off, Meredith Llewellyn is the Headmistress at Bellhaven Finishing School. She's already seen one spirit, when a little girl spirit, who wants to be reunited with her family, appears to her. Meredith begins investigating the fire which claimed her family and finds that there's more there than meets the eye.

I enjoyed this book. It was well written while the story and characters were likeable. It kept me thoroughly entertained for the few hours it took me to read it. The story takes place in Edwardian England which was particularly exciting for me. I love reading books set in the past.

I really liked Meredith and her ways of investigating. She stayed true to being a lady while getting to the bottom of things. I also liked reading about Reggie, Grace and Olivia as they added some tension to the story.

While I enjoyed the book, it left me a little wanting, but I'm not sure why. This is the second book in the series of three books, but the first one I've read. Perhaps that had something to do with it. I didn't feel like I missed anything (this book can definitely stand on its own), but I wished I had read the previous one first. That kind of thing doesn't usually bother me.

Rebecca Kent is the pseudonym of Doreen Roberts Hight. She also writes under the names: Kate Kingsbury and Doreen Roberts.

Recommended. For fans of Hight/Kingsbury/Roberts/Kent and for other cozy lovers. I think those who believe in ghosts or like reading books set in this time period will especially like it.

For more information about this book, please visit the Berkley Prime Crime website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Doreen Roberts Hight's website.

Finished Off by Rebecca Kent, The Berkley Publishing Group (Penguin), ©2009. ISBN 9780425228111(mass market), 196p.