Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Here Comes Summer!

It is officially summer! If it weren't for the date on the calendar, and the fact that it is the last week of school, the steamy weather of late should be a big clue. This all leads to a peak at my Summer Reads pile.

Of course, this summer there will be the books that I think I have to read, and the books that I will read in bits and pieces and leave scattered here and there. But you want to know what I am going to be reading that I simply cannot put down when I am at the beach or poolside - the books I will carry with me wherever I go, and the ones I will stay up way too late to finish. Those are the real Summer Reads. I have memories of going to the beach with Daughter1, Daughter2, and OnlySon when they were young. If I was into a great book I would purposely leave it at home just because I couldn't be trusted to tear myself away from it and guarantee the childrens' safety. This is the kind of book I am looking for; especially since I am no longer responsible for doing head counts on the shores of Lake Huron. These books are often referred to as Beach Reads. However, this term usually carries the unsavoury connotation of mindless romance stories. I like my Summer Reads to grab me with a plot, a character, or a setting, right from the get-go. I want the reading to be fairly easy; yet, not just fluff. I want something that has a little intellectual gratification to it. I hope I have found it with this year's selection. I have used personal recommendations and trusted book reviews to compile this book pile. I'm sure it will get edited somewhat in the weeks to come, but for now it looks like this:


This just sounded too good to pass up. Smart. Funny, with a bit of suspense.

I LOVE Maeve Binchy. She was one of a kind.
90's New York City by Gilmore Girl Lauren Graham.
I don't want to be the only one not reading this.
Described as "Gossip Girl meets Gone Girl." That's enough for me.
Hailed as a beautifully-written story of family, secrets, loss, and rediscovery.
The Prey books - my guilty pleasure. The only reason they haven't been adapted to film is because there is no one cool enough to play Lucas Davenport.
Emotional. Many have said that it is impossible not to be read in one sitting.
The marriages of four couples, spanning a hundred years.
With a review like this, how could I pass? "Fascinating and engrossing, one of those rare books that would help you through an airplane flight without insulting your intelligence. In a word, it's literature. It also happens to be dark and sexy" (Tracy Kidder) 
Traces the friendships of six teenagers from the 70's to present. The reviews sound "interesting" to me.
What is in your Summer Reads pile? Anything I'm missing?

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Sporty Weekend

It was a sporty weekend with the Funs.

Friday evening we attended an annual track event that is designed to honour Roger Bannister, the man who broke the four-minute mile in 1954. On a replicated cinder track, runners of all ages gave their best attempt at matching Bannister's record. From elementary school-aged children to an octogenarian; with a few local Olympians added to the mix, each runner did their part in making for an exciting and inspirational night. Not only was our own Daughter1 covering the event in her journalistic capacity, but she also ran the mile - very impressively, I might add. She will tell you, though, that the best part of the evening was getting first-hand advice from fellow marathoners, Olympian Eric Gillis and 82- year-old, Ed Whitlock.

Everyone is cheering as 82 year-old Whitlock comes down the stretch
Olympian Nate Brannen speaks with reporters after finishing in 4:05. Although not able to go sub-four this time, Nate has accomplished the feat before.
On Saturday it was Mr. Fun's turn, as he competed in his first triathlon. Weather-wise, it was a perfect day for a swim, bike, run with a group of friends. I don't think I will ever stop being amazed by the congenial, positive spirit that lives at events like this. I saw one athlete, a young man with apparent Down Syndrome. The joy on his face was wonderful to witness. The buddy who was running with him, stepped aside in the final approach to the Finish Line, and let this young man have his moment in the spotlight. The announcer gave his name and hometown amid thunderous applause. I am an experienced cheerleader at running and triathlon events. I try to say something to each individual or group that goes past me. I don't expect a reply, but it is so heartwarming when an athlete smiles and says "Thank you." I wish life could always be like that. That we could compete mostly with ourselves and our own goals, and that we could all cheer each other on with a smile and a kind word.
I am often asked about books for boys. If you have a  boy, 8-12, who is on the sporty side, you may want to steer him in the direction of books by Matt Christopher. Christopher has written more than a hundred books, mostly about baseball, but also about basketball, football, hockey, running, lacrosse, golf, swimming, and extreme sports. The stories are usually well-received by this group. They are action-packed adventures that are suspenseful and deal with relationships too. Girls enjoy Christopher's novels as well, and he has many books with girls as the main character. But sporty boys have always been my go-to audience. His official website is excellent and can be accessed through the link above.
For now, I am going to take a well-deserved rest after all this sportiness. Cheerleading is a really tough job!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Here's to Furthering Our Education!

Not a lot of reading got done this weekend. In fact, the only reading that was accomplished this weekend was what could be captured with a quick glance at a label or sign. A label or sign like these:

Now before you get the wrong idea - it was all for the purpose of lifelong learning. You see, I had organized a Craft Beer Tour for Mr. Fun's hockey team. It was an end-of-season social outing for the players and their guests. As expected, it turned out to be an awesome day with a fun bunch of new and old friends. And we did learn a few things as the day progressed. We learned that at our age, if you start drinking at 11:00 am, you will be in bed and asleep by 9:30 pm. We were also able to learn a fair amount about the craft beer industry in Ontario, and the process involved in creating and marketing these fresh and delicious brews. I think all who participated in the day feel a little smarter than they did before the weekend.

I can't think of a particular beer book that I can tie in with this post, but some interesting ones show up when you search in Goodreads or Amazon. Beer brewing, beer history, beer tasting, beer and food pairings, beer for healing, and beer pong (yes, they print books about that). This is a creative title for a book about extreme beers.

I am reminded though about a t-shirt that I saw at just about every souvenir shop in Philadelphia. You know the one. You have probably seen it, or at least heard the quote that is atributed to Benjamin Franklin: ``Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.`` Most likely a misquote, and more likely it was about wine, but it`s a nice sentiment anyway.

Just in time. Ontario Craft Beer Week begins Father`s Day and runs until June 23. Make it a point to further your education by taking a brewery tour, or visiting one of the many bars and taverns that are hosting events. The link above will give you lots of ideas and contact information so you, too, can keep on being a lifelong learner.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Rolling with the Winged Wheel

It was a sad day last week when we awoke to this:

 Instead of celebrating the eight wins remaining until the Detroit Red Wings hoisted Lord Stanley's cup again, the sight of our chalkboard as we came down to the kitchen was a kick in the shins and a reminder that we sometimes have to give other teams a chance.
OnlySon has a difficult time with this. In his short 18 years he has seen our family's team win the Stanley Cup four times. That leads to a certain amount of expectation. We try to console him, but he doesn't want to hear about those poor Toronto Maple Leaf fans who wouldn't know what the cup looks like if it wasn't housed in their city's Hockey Hall of Fame. And he certainly doesn't want to hear again about how back in the day we remained loyal to our team when everyone referred to them as the Dead Wings.
His own hockey career began with an air of expectation. In his first year of Rep hockey his team won All Ontario. Just like his favourite Wings players had done ten months earlier, OnlySon and his teammates celebrated their win with some bubbly (apple juice) in the dressing room. Such excitement! Such memories! Everyone could feel the streak beginning. A short while later we had to break the news that we were moving to another city. He was devastated, and mostly because he wanted to grow up playing with a bee on his jersey. I tried to put the move into terms that an eight year old hockey nut could understand. He was being traded. And although no jersey will ever look as awesome as that first one, a hawk can be pretty impressive too. Wouldn't you know it? His first year in a new city, and with a new team, and the Hawks were League Champions. Mr. Fun often tells us that hockey is a funny game.
One of the gifts that Mr. Fun received this past Christmas was this book:

Simpson, Rob. The Winged Wheel: a half-century of the Detroit Red Wings in photographs. John Wiley & Sons: Mississauga, Canada, 2012. (hardcover)

As the title indicates, it is a history of the Detroit Red Wings in photographs. Lots of beautiful black and white, and colour photographs. Unlike a typical coffee table book, which this book could be disguised as, a lot of text is included. It would make a great read for a non or reluctant reader (not that Mr. Fun fits into this category. He is actually quite an avid reader). You probably know that guy who loves sports, but who wouldn't normally pick up a book with a lot of writing in it. This is the book for that guy. There is at least a half-page photo on each spread; many of the spreads have full page photos. Quotes and stats are also in abundance. There are chapters devoted to the Scorers, the Bench Bosses, the Blueliners, and the Enforcers. Of course, this guy gets his own chapter - yeah Stevie Y!


 And so do these guys - the Russian Five

How can you tell we're real fans? We even have the Russian Five ( Fetisov, Konstantinov, Larionov, Federov, and Koslov) in a set of matryoshka dolls. You can get a set too at the Izmailovsky  Market in Moscow.

For now we'll thank all the players for an exciting short season. We'll keep rolling with the Winged Wheel and the hope that next year brings better things.