Bookshelf: For fun or future planning

It’s possible to travel — without leaving home — and without having an out-of-body experience. Your ticket to rugged northwestern Ontario is Breakfast at the Hoito and Other Adventures in the Boreal Heartland, by Charles Wilkins ($16.95, Natural Heritage Books, 1997, Toronto). It’s a collection of stories and essays that reveals the grandeur of the north shore of Lake Superior, and introduces you to the area’s hard-working inhabitants.

The “Hoito” is a Thunder Bay landmark, a restaurant dating back to the end of World War I when locals chipped in to give immigrant Finnish bush workers a place to get a good meal at a reasonable price. A day behind the scenes at the Hoito will leave you exhausted – and wishing you could pop in for a bowl of mojakka (beef stew) or Finnish pancakes with strawberry sauce.

Hogtown revisitedLoosely autobiographical, Hogs and Cabbagers, by George Matheson (Kettle Valley Publishing, Lumby, B.C.), is replete with a galaxy of Runyonesque characters plucked from the not so politically correct 1950s. Matheson, as part of a team sent off for the summer to sell magazine subscriptions to the unwary of northern Ontario manag to make it through the season and back to Toronto.

In the Cabbagetown area, he meets with even more characters and misadventures. Throughout it all, his quick wit and good luck get him out of countless scrapes, all fodder for his memoirs. A fun read.

On the road againThe car’s in fine shape, tires and hoses have been checked, fluid levels are fine and it’s full of gas. But where to go? Canada Coast to Coast: A guide to over 2,000 places to visit along the Trans-Canada and other great highways ($39.95, Reader’s Digest, Montreal) highlights the amazing array of things to see and do along Canada’s major routes, including the Yellowhead, Crowsnest, Klondike and Mackenzie highways.

Logically laid out, with 475 colour photos, 134 strip maps, a 16-page atlas and a list of fairs and festivals, the book is a great resource whether you’re planning a cross-country trek or one- or two-day jaunts around home. Also available in CD-ROM format that allows you to print your own itineraries.

B.C. or bustJames Allan Krause details the history of a spectacular area of Canada in The Life and Times of the Comox Valley Region of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada ($19.95, c.c. SOTEL Ltd. Courtenay, B.C.).

Amply illustrated with both archival and more recent photos, maps and informative sidebars, the book begins with a brief look at the island’s formation, settlement under British control and a chapter on the region’s native people. The Comox Valley, according to BC Stats, is one of the fastest growing populations in Canada. Read this book before you move to or visit the area and everyone will take you for a local.

Researching retirement homesFirst use your senses. That’s the unusual but realistic advice offered those looking for a suitable retirement home. A Comprehensive Guide to Retirement Homes in the Greater Toronto Area, by Ester K.H. Goldstein, is a slim but fact-packed volume dedicated to helping seniors and their families choose a private retirement living facility.

Do some research, narrowing the exploration to two or three places before going with your relative to visit a retirement home, she suggests. Her list of visiting tips include noticing whether the place smells clean, the food is tasty and nutritious and the residents like the place.

There’s information on wills and powers of attorney as well as what can be done if a retirement home is not the right option.

The listings result from a detailed questionnaire sent to existing retirement homes in the Greater Toronto Area. A “key features” listing provides a quick inventory of costs and features. Find out where pets are allowed, the languages spoken, which homes are not-for-profit, or which can accommodate your special diet.

All information in the listings is provided by the homes; Goldstein does not endorse particular facilities. Retirement homes that did not respond to the questionnaire are listed, but armed with this guide, you’ll know what to ask those of interest to you.

The guide may be purchased for $7 by sending a cheque payable to Retirement Residential Placement Service, at 1450 Clarke Ave. West, Suite 4-127, Thornhill, Ont., L4J 7R5. Voice mail: (416) 457-6554.