December 2013


Christmas reading list — Part 2

By Danielle Christopher

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

This is a classic for every new generation. When Marilla Cuthbert’s brother, Matthew, returns home to Green Gables with a chatty redheaded orphaned girl, Marilla exclaims, “But we asked for a boy. We have no use for a girl.” It’s not long before the Cuthberts realize how they could have ever done without young Anne of Green Gables–but not for the original reasons they sought an orphan. Anne “confesses” to losing Marilla’s amethyst pin (which she never took) in hopes of being allowed to go to a picnic, and when Anne accidentally dyes her hated carrot-red hair green, Marilla says to Matthew, “One thing’s for certain, no house that Anne’s in will ever be dull.” No book that she’s in will be, either.

Lucy Maud Montgomery is remembered as a Canadian author, best known for her series of novels beginning with Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908.

How to Train your Dragon by J. Bright

The book and movie are a great and rare complement to each other. All young Vikings must prove they are fierce and strong enough to fight dragons. But Hiccup isn’t as brawny as his friends and fails miserably at dragon training. He devises a new secret weapon that can take down the fiercest dragon in the sky—and when it actually works Hiccup has a choice to make. Can he really kill a dragon? Or will he make a new friend?

For the next two recommendations I asked Alexandra Rea for guidance (daughter of Natalie Rea Women of the Week Sept 27, 2010). Thank you. I enjoyed them.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (first book in the series)

Lying in the ruins of a place once known as North America is the nation of Panem, a shining capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games: A fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Everyone has something to hide—especially high school juniors Spencer, Aria, Emily, and Hanna. Spencer covets her sister’s boyfriend. Aria’s fantasizing about her English teacher. Emily’s crushing on the new girl at school. Hanna uses some ugly tricks to stay beautiful.

But they’ve all kept an even bigger secret since their friend Alison vanished.



Chicago’s gay hockey team sings ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’

Prepare to drool all over you keyboard as you watch Chicago’s gayest goons sing Christmas carols on the ice.

While none of these scruffy fellas can carry a tune (like, at all) it just adds to the appeal. Note to Toronto’s Gay Hockey Association: we will be expecting something similar from you soon. If you can manage to incorporate some shirtlessness then you’ve got these guys beat, but as it stands all we want for Christmas now is to hang out rinkside in Chicago.\


Follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.

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Contest closes on Dec 31st, at 5 p.m.

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Christmas reading list

By Danielle Christopher

Spoiler warning! These summaries contain plot points.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Millennium Trilogy)

Harriet Vanger, a member of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, disappeared without a trace more than forty years ago. All these years later, her uncle continues to try to discover what happened to her. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist recently sidelined by a libel conviction, to investigate. Blomkvist is aided by the pierced and tattooed computer prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together, they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption on their way to discovering the truth of Harriet Vanger’s fate.

This book is a great start to the triology. It can stand alone or intrigue – either way, you’ll want to keep reading the next two books. As always though, read the books before seeing the movie. You will miss tons of gems and twists in the story. In the second book of the triology,The Girl Who Played with Fire, Mikael Blomkvist, also a publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation. On the eve of its publication, the two reporters responsible for the article are murdered, and the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to friend, Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist, convinced of Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation of the murders. Meanwhile, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous game of cat and mouse which forces her to face her dark past.

This book has many disturbing scenes, I had to put it down several times. Keep on reading though, you will be surprised right to the last page.

In the final and third book, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Lisbeth Salander lies in critical condition, in the ICU of a Swedish city hospital with a bullet wound to her head. She’s fighting for her life in more ways than one; if and when she recovers, she’ll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of Mikael Blomkvist, she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable (like herself) to suffer abuse and violence. On her own, she will plot revenge against the man who tried to kill her, as well as the corrupt government institutions that nearly destroyed her life.

This third book wraps up the trilogy very nicely. The ending was not for me but I will not spoil it. I still recommend reading all three before seeing the Swedish or American versions of the films.

Stieg Larsson (born August 15, 1954 in Skelleftehamn, Sweden as Karl Stig-Erland Larsson) was a Swedish journalist and writer who passed away in 2004.

Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

If you are a fan of the Shopaholic series, or just need a break from business proposals, this book is easy on the eyes.

Becky Brandon figured motherhood would be a breeze and that having a daughter was a dream come true – a shopping friend for life! But it is trickier than she thought as her two-year-old Minnie has a quite different approach to shopping. The toddler creates havoc everywhere, from Harrods to her own Christening. She hires taxis at random, her favourite word is Mine, and she even starts bidding for designer bags on eBay. On top of everything else, there is a big financial crisis in the world. People are scaling back, including all of Becky’s personal shopping clients. She and Luke are still living with Becky’s Mum and Dad. To cheer everyone up, Becky decides to throw a surprise birthday party on a budget, but then things become really complicated. Who will end up on the naughty step, who will get a gold star, and will Becky’s secret wishes come true?

A great way to read is as follows: fireplace is on, Chardonnay at your side, and the kids are asleep! I laughed and related to her struggles in motherhood. A great gift for a fan of this author.


All books are available at all major bookstores and online.


Speech to Budget Committee – Dec. 2, 2013

Good afternoon – I am Sarah Thomson chair of the Toronto Transit Alliance. Thank you committee members for giving me the opportunity to speak before you today.

With the approaching 2014 election we at the Transit Alliance hope that each and every councilor in this room remembers the importance of standing up for what is right, and putting the needs of the city first.

Everyone in this room knows the importance of dedicated transit funding but how many people here are willing to stand up for even one funding tool recommended to council by us at the Toronto Transit Alliance, by  The Board of Trade, Civic Action, Metrolinx, and even your own advisors here at the city?

All have recommended funding tools and today we are here to encourage you to move forward on at least one of them. We have to build a city for our children, a city that doesn’t allow gridlock to limit our economic potential, our youth, our future.

But lets talk about the facts

–       the fact that it is very hard to get elected on the idea of increasing taxes no matter how important the initiative is

–        the fact that there are politicians who pretend that Toronto can have a top of the line subway system and voters won’t have to pay a dime.

It is hard to compete against these charlatans who spew these lies… but not impossible.

Transit is a key issue in the coming election. With between 6 to 12 Billion dollars of lost productivity each year (BOT and CD Howe estimates) Toronto doesn’t have time to wait for other levels of government to bail us out. We have to move and we have to move quickly.

The Scarborough Subway will cost tax-payers. That is a fact, a hard truth — not political spin.

But another fact being ignored currently is that without dedicated transit funding in place the bill for transit expansion will continue to fall to Toronto tax-payers.

We at the Toronto Transit Alliance believe this MUST  change, we need a model where ALL can contribute to funding the transit system Toronto needs and the first step should be to implement tolls for non-residents on the Gardiner Expressway, and Don Valley Parkway.

Many here might not be aware of the fact that Toronto owns both highways and the Toronto Act allows our city the opportunity to move forward on this.

If we toll non-residents, councilors who have proven unwilling to risk their positions, will not have to worry about losing votes.

We at the Toronto Transit Alliance are hoping to find leadership from someone on council, leadership to steer this idea forward, leadership to create the dedicated transit funding Toronto needs to expand our subway and transit system.

Will one of you step forward to lead?

Or does Toronto need someone from outside city council, someone like John Tory or myself, to step in next year and push the transit funding issue forward?

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak before you today.


RECIPE: Applesauce cranberry cake

Anne Lindsay, author of Lighthearted at Home, shares a recipe for a scrumptious and health conscious Applesauce Cranberry Cake. At only 159 calories a slice, it’s the perfect holiday treat. The recipe is also certified by the Heart & Stroke Health Check program, meaning it’s nutritionally sound and totally good for you!

Applesauce Cranberry Cake

Makes 24 slices

Full of flavor, this delicious moist cake looks attractive when made in a Bundt or tube pan. It’s easy to make and keeps well. Serve with fresh fruit desserts, poached pears or sorbets.

¾ cups granulated sugar (425 mL)
¼ cup      soft margarine, at room temperature (50 mL)
1             egg
½ cup      low-fat plain yogurt (25 mL)
2 cups     applesauce (500 mL)
1 tsp       pure vanilla extract (5 mL)
1             Grated rind of 1 medium orange
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (375 mL)
1 ¼ cups whole-wheat flour (300 mL)
1 cup       dried cranberries or raisins (250 mL)
¼ cup      wheat bran (50 mL)
4 tsp        cinnamon (20 mL)
2 tsp        baking soda (10 mL)
½ tsp       ground nutmeg (2 mL)

Lightly grease and flour a 10-inch (25 cm) Bundt pan.

In mixing bowl, beat sugar with margarine until well mixed. Beat in egg until light in colour. Beat in yogurt until mixed. Beat in applesauce, vanilla and orange rind.

In separate bowl, combine all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, cranberries, bran, cinnamon, baking soda and nutmeg; stir to mix. Pour over applesauce mixture and stir just until combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake in 325°F (160°C) oven for 60 to 70 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes, then turn out onto rack and let cool completely.

MAKE AHEAD: Wrap well and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

PER SLICE: 159 calories, 2 g protein, 3 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 33 g carbohydrate, 2 g fibre, 138 mg sodium, 81 mg potassium
Excerpted from Lighthearted at Home. Copyright © 2010 by Anne Lindsay and Associates. Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons Canada Ltd.


Mayor Miller saved more $ than Rob Ford

Since the crack scandal around Rob Ford came to light journalists across Toronto have started to investigate Mr. Ford’s claim of $1Billion in savings to the tax payers, and have found that there too Mr. Ford has lied, twisting the facts in an attempt to gain voters. Perhaps the most shady of Mr. Ford’s claims is that charging user fees on pools and recreation centres are somehow “savings” to the tax payer when they are in fact simply a shift from one way of paying for the service to another.

In an attempt to point out the fraudulent math, Councillor Shelley Carroll has used Mr. Ford’s same calculations on Mayor Millers record demonstrating the Mayor Miller saved far more than Mr. Ford.

Mayor Miller

– $426 million Mayor Miller got the Province to upload social services

– $492 in waste managment (came out of the budget and made it a user fee)

– $30 million other user fees

– $92 Million in efficiency management

– $174.1 garbage liability sick leave savings

– $31 million in saved payroll costs

– $443.7 million cost reductions caused by efficiencies

Total: $1.688 Billion in “savings”


Rob Ford

$173 million on Licence Registration fee

$ 400 million cost reduction through efficiency

Total: $573 Million in “savings”