Category Archives: Toronto

Two more books and an explanation

Yesterday a group of colleagues (and friends) went to high tea to celebrate the upcoming birth of Lauren’s baby boy. Lauren is a HUGE reader – this girl burns through books, so we talked a bit about what we are reading. I mentioned that I’m currently reading Bird Box by John Malerman, and gave everyone a quick rundown on its terrifying dystopian plot. At this point, Sarah asked me why I would like a book like that, but have zero interest in the Game of Thrones series (which she’s currently burning through). game of thrones

It was a good question. Everyone loves Game of Thrones, right? Not me.

For me, books just don’t resonate if I can’t ground them in reality. I love books that twist and reshape reality, but I like to think about what could happen in the world we live in, and simply don’t really care about worlds that don’t really exist. Imagined kingdoms and lands just don’t do it for me.

So, Harry Potter? Yes. Lord of the Rings? No. Zombies? Yes. Aliens? Not really.

As with all types of art, this is purely a personal preference and something unlikely to change too much, though there are always exceptions to every rule. For Chad, the more hard core the sci-fi or the fantasy novel the better, which means it’s a rare and exciting book when both of us read it and enjoy it (which is currently the case with Bird Box. More on that when I finish it).

I’m sure I’m going to get an earful on how wrong I am and how I should give certain things a chance, and that’s fine…but it’s not likely going to happen.

Anyway, back to my latest reads. I’m up to 22 books read in 2014 and have two to talk about.

The first is Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen.  I’ve read a few other books by her back in the days when I was reading everything Oprah recommended, and thought she was fine, but not still lifetoo memorable. A few months ago I heard her interviewed about this book on CBC and really liked her as a person, so thought I’d throw this request into the library.

My memory of her writing was pretty bang on. This book is fine, but not too memorable. A once famous photographer with dwindling resources, sublets her New York apartment and moves to a cabin in upstate New York where she revives her career and begins a new life with the locals. Fine. Not too memorable. It took me too long to get through, not because it was a tough read at all – in fact, it’s an extremely easy read. I just didn’t really feel motivated or compelled to pick it up.

The second book, though…holy crap.

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia blew me away. This book was nearly impossible to put down.

It starts in the early 1980s with a 12 year old girl, bored of bridesmaid duties at her sister’s wedding, running around the Bellweather Hotel. On the seventh floor she stumbles onto a horrifying scene – a groom in a tuxedo shot in the chest, and a bride in her wedding gown, hanging from an extension cord in Room 712. Fifteen years later to the date, the weekend of a high school statewide music workshop,  this girl returns to face her fears, only to find that something else is going on in Room 712. Told from the perspective of several characters including Minnie (the bellweathergirl), a twin brother and sister (bassoonist and singer respectively) who have secrets of their own, their music teacher chaperone, the hotel’s haunted concierge, the orchestra’s conductor and the ice cold head of the music program, this novel is as close to an old-school Agatha Christie mystery as I’ve read in a long time. Great characters, a fantastic setting, and a plot that leaves you guessing to the end.

Love, love, loved this book.

As I said, Bird Box is on the go now. Should be done this weekend.



Also…I hate the Game of Thrones TV series. There. I said it.






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Filed under Book Challenge, Books, Toronto, TV

Fairs and bears

If there’s one thing I’m always a sucker for it’s a good carnival story.all-the-broken-things

Geek Love, Carnivale, Water for Elephants (the book, not the movie), FreaksCarny, Swamplandia, Big Fish, The Night Circus – you offer up a freak show, a travelling circus or a carny story and I’m game.

As such, I was excited to hear about a new carnival-themed novel based in Toronto in the early 1980s. All the Broken Things by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer is about Bo, a 14 year old who fled Vietnam by boat with his father and pregnant mother when he was younger. Now, living in Toronto with his single mom and severely disfigured sister – due to Agent Orange exposure in utero – he struggles to fit in at school, getting into daily fights with the local bully. When a carnival worker sees him scrap, Bo is tagged as a potential bear fighter and is invited to train for the fair circuit, including the big show – the Canadian National Exhibition. To get him ready, he’s given a bear cub of his own, which lives in the back yard of their High Park area house. At the same time, the side show owner eyes up Bo’s little sister as a potential attraction.

Is it a good book? Yes. Is it a novelty carnival book? No.

It’s sad and sometimes hard to read – a story of displacement, loneliness, guilt, loyalty and desperation. It’s also true Canadiana – an immigrant’s story laid out on a Toronto map.

All the Broken Things is a sometimes dreamy, sometimes heart wrenching read. It’s less light and sugary cotton candy than it is the grimy feeling you have when you get home from the Ex.

Now, onto The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty.




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Filed under Book Challenge, Books, Toronto

Ten years in a life

The Pryma girls in July

The Pryma girls in July

Yo. I’m back.

I’m not even going to try to explain why I stopped blogging–it just kind of happened.

I will, however, try to explain why I’m blogging again. But before I do that, I’m going to note that today is the 10th anniversary of my move from Saskatoon to Toronto. Ten years is at once a blip and an eternity, especially when I think back about what’s happened in my life over the last 10 years.

Ten years ago, I was on again/off again dating this radio station dude in Saskatoon named Chad Sapieha. I had two relatively healthy parents. I had a tiny circle of friends in Toronto and a big pool of them in Saskatoon.

As the years clicked on, I have had two (and a half) full careers–one as a journalist and one in PR, and I have loved both of them. I finally clued into the fact that Chad is the greatest person to ever walk the earth and somehow not only convinced him to move to Toronto to be with me, but to spend the rest of his life with me. I have given birth to the other love of my life–a daughter that truly brings sunshine into any room. I have met some of the most amazing people I’ve ever known, and have spent countless hours laughing and crying and gossping with them. I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun.

I’ve also had my share of grief over the last 10 years. My dad died three weeks after my wedding, and I will never forget that last hug we shared at the Saskatoon airport or the feeling of my bottom crashing out when the phone at my desk rang with the news he was gone. Chad lost his mom to stomach cancer, and I experienced the pain of watching him cope with her death. Then Chad was genetically tested and had his stomach removed as a preventative measure, only to find his stomach filled with tumors. Let’s call that year a low point, too.

Now, just when the coast seems clear, the future bright and the biggest thing on our minds a trip to DisneyWorld in the spring, my mom goes in for a routine checkup, and is being admitted to the hospital next week.

Turns out her doctor’s hunch to send her for chest Xrays was a good one–my non-smoking her entire life mom’s lungs are covered in lesions. She had a CT Scan the next day and, well, it’s not good. The doctor has spent the last two weeks trying to find her a bed in the hospital. From my experience, any time the medical system is in a hurry it’s time to worry.

So, why am I blogging now? Because I need to. Because I have unfortunately been here before, and because I know it helped. I don’t care if anyone reads this. I don’t care if I’m being too personal. I need an outlet, and this is it.

If you are interested in hearing about what’s going on, check in. If not, send me some good vibes, okay? I’m going to need them for the next little while.



Filed under cancer, Family, marriage, Parenting, Toronto

Word Up

Word on the Street

My Word on the Street Haul

Practically every weekend, Toronto is host to one festival or another. While a lot of them are interesting (hello, TIFF), I rarely make my way down to any of them. The one exception, however, is Word on the Street. Word on the Street is an annual giant book fair where book publishers, writers, book shop owners, magazine editors, poets, comic book artists and just about anyone else related to the written word gather together at Queens Park to read, sell and celebrate books.

Over the past few years, my focus has shifted from finding great deals on books for myself to great deals on kids books. Today I bought 12 books (including one Pippi Longstocking anthology, an Olivia book and the original Amelia Bedlia in hardcover), two activity books and two hand-sewn stuffed animals for under $80.

My key strategies for making the most of Word on the Street:

  • Get there early for maximum selection. (Though, if you only care about great bargains, get there late. Most booths slash their prices at the end of the day, though the tables are badly picked over).
  • Cash is king. While some booths take credit cards and a few take debit, your best bet is to bring enough cash to last you through the day.
  • BYOB…as in bag. I brought a backpack, which gave me two free hands at booths. I also didn’t come home with a single plastic bag all day.
  • Take the subway. Okay, I’ll admit–I drove. And I found an awesome parking spot. But realistically, I should have taken the subway. Next year. Maybe.


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Filed under Books, Family, Toronto

Living in a Gong Show

Gong Show

Gong Show

The past week has been…well…a bit of a Gong Show. Work has been crazy busy, the kid has been sick with her first cold of the school year (three days in), the hubby’s been having post-surgery issues, I think I’m coming down with the kid’s cold, and I’ve been too tired to Tweet let alone blog. Like I said: a Gong Show. Thank goodness for Lainey , La Dauphine and a husband that’s in the know, or I would have no idea what was going on in the world.

In between all of that mayhem, I do have a few things to talk about.

After a week’s vacation, I am back to riding the subway to and from work, and if you’re familiar with the Toronto morning commute via transit, you should be feeling sorry for me right about now. There is little worse than the morning train in the first few weeks of September–everyone’s home from their summer vacations, students are heading back to school, and people are shoehorned into cars. This is a real treat at the best of times, but with H1-N1 and the flu on everyone’s mind, it’s extra exciting to imagine what’s living on those poles. The only thing that’s been getting me through these  rides is my pale pink Nintendo DS loaded up with Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box. I love this game. Like its predecessor, it’s a mystery game that features a hundred-and-some-odd puzzles–everything from math and number games to mazes and logic puzzles. It keeps my mind off of the ride and kick-starts my brain for the day ahead. I highly recommend it. Check out Chad’s review from the Globe & Mail for more info.

With Professor Layton nearly wrapping up (I’m so close to solving the mystery of the vampire it’s not even funny), I need another diversion, so today I decided to settle on that other Professor L–Robert Langdon. I picked up Dan Brown’s latest, The Lost Symbol, and feel like it will be a good subway choice. Anyone else reading this? Rumour has it this is the book that will save the publishing industry, so I imagine I’m not the only one putting my cash down. Let me know what you think. Oh, and I also bought Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood , which I’m highly excited about. But as Chad pointed out, I’m so stressed out right now I should start with the Brown, as it’s lower hanging fruit and that Atwood might force me to think more. I’ll save Atwood for a time when my brain is less muddled.

One final thing: the kid did the Terry Fox Run this week at school and took the whole thing very seriously. She gave Chad and I the lowdown on who Terry Fox was and what he did. Here were her key points:

  • Terry Fox tried to run across Canada
  • He had a different kind of leg
  • He had to stop running because his leg really hurt
  • He died
  • He was a person, not a fox
  • Everyone needs to raise money so people don’t get sick like Terry Fox anymore

I love it.



Filed under Parenting, Toronto, TTC, Video Games

Home is where I live

Nine years ago today I boarded a plane in Saskatoon, landed in Toronto and never looked back. Okay, maybe I’ve glanced over my shoulder once or twice, but I’ve never really questioned my decision to stay in the Big Smoke.

Since moving here, I’ve tried my hand at three careers (consulting, journalism and public relations), convinced the love of my life to follow me here, got married to said love of my life, had a baby, and made lots of amazing friends.

Before I got on that plane, the friends at my going away party in Saskatoon gave me some serious advice: don’t change and become a “Toronto” person. The recent Coors Light ad debacle pretty much articulates what I was being warned about–the alleged coldness of Torontonians. I assured them it would never happen.

Well, to all of those people who were concerned for my fragile friendliness, I kept half of my promise. I didn’t change–at least not much, and certainly not in a bad way (as far as I can tell), but I did become a “Toronto” person. Because, guess what? Toronto people are pretty freaking awesome. They’re as warm and as loving and thoughtful as the prairie people I hold so dear

Saskatoon: my old home

Saskatoon: my old home

to my heart.

Good people are good people. I’m just fortunate enough to encounter them wherever I go.

Thanks for nine great years, T.O.!



Filed under Toronto