gotta shake, shake that stress away

It’s been a long and tiring week, and probably the most stressful month since September 2010. I’ve been overwhelmed by the stress of dealing with the upcoming month (family matters and such), but I’ll save that for later. Just want to do a quick re-cap of the past 2 weeks and share a few photos since I’m REALLY behind on updating my albums on Facebook.

My lovely friend, Anna, has been working on her photography portfolio and I’ve had the pleasure of working with her on some of her shoots. The picture above was taken on one of the coldest days this winter. Despite almost freezing to death, it was fun and I had a good time.

We did another shoot with our friend Mary at this little coffee shop called Bulldog Café. It was a pretty sweet spot and Anna got a few nice shots. I would highly recommend trying one of the specialty treats at the Bulldog. We tried one that was a mixture of granola, dried apricot, raisins, and some other mysterious ingredients. They must have added a dash of salt because it tasted a bit salty, and that made it interesting in a really good way :)

Don’t forget to check out Anna’s photography here!

[ Saturday, February 12, 2011 ]

Before things start to get crazy next month for me, Adrienne, Robin and I decided to squeeze in some hanging out with a spontaneous dinner at Joe Badali’s. It’s ridiculous that I’ve walked by the restaurant a million times but have never actually dined there. It was definitely a great experience; the food was good, service was great, really nice environment too. For someone who LOVES Italian cuisine, it sure didn’t disappoint.

The best part of the meal had to be the dessert. Adrienne and I both got gelato, and while the chocolate one was good, the mango one came out on top. It was an unbelievable kind of goodness – a must try!

After dinner, I met up with my friends from Bayview (that’s my friend Anna in the picture!) and we went for some dancing at College Street Bar. It was a much needed night out to shake some of that stress away. DJ Bank$ was spinning that night so our music was well covered. He one’s of the best in Toronto (in my opinion) because his transitions are so smooth and he plays such a good mixture of sounds.

[ Sunday, February 20, 2011 ]

When Sunday came around, Adrienne, Robin and I went for another spontaneous dinner at Fred’s Not Here. We were there last year for Winterlicious and really liked their Lobster and Crab Bisque, so we went back this year for their post-Winterlicious dinner. They have a promo right now for a $25 2-course dinner, which is not a bad deal.

I chose the 12 oz. Fruit Wood Grilled “ Certified Angus” Ribeye Steak w/ Duck Fat Frites and Vegetables and that was pretty filling. If you have a big appetite, you can go for the 16 oz. New York Strip. That’s pretty good value for a $25 dinner; steak on its own is usually around that price anyway.

So that’s all I’ve got for now. Going to try and get some writing done in the next day or two. We’ll see how that goes!

what is love to you?

There are many forms of love: love that you have for your parents, love for your siblings and family, love for your friends, love for the things you are passionate about, and of course there is love love…romance love. Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I’m going to do this post on how I define love in a romantic relationship.

I always viewed liking a person and loving a person as two different things. I believe when you like a person, you can explain exactly what it is that you like about him/her. “I like your personality.” “I like your sense of humour.” “I like your smile.” It’s explainable. But when it comes to loving a person, I think it’s often difficult to explain because love is a feeling and everyone’s definition of love can be different.

People often say love is blind; they say when you’re in love, you choose to only see what you want to see. Although that might be true for some people, I personally don’t entirely agree with that statement. In my opinion, love is not blind. It simply can’t be because then it wouldn’t be love. To me, love is knowing a person so well that you are able to see both the good and the bad, yet you choose to accept the person as is while those same flaws in another person may be unacceptable to you. That’s how I know I love a person.

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favourite products for this winter

I’ve been meaning to do more posts with product reviews, so here’s a quick review of 8 products that I’ve started to use in the last few months. If you’re familiar with my reviews, you’ll know that I only write about things that I enjoy or like; I don’t like wasting time on reviewing things I don’t like. Since we’re in the middle of winter and it’s a pretty “dry” time of year, I’m recommending some moisturizing products that your skin may appreciate. Enjoy!

Philosophy Purity Cleanser ( $12 – 52 )

I first heard about the Philosophy Purity Cleanser through one of the popular Youtube beauty gurus, Holly Ann-AeRee, when she mentioned the ease of use of this product. My cleansing routine at the end of the night was so lengthy and none of the many cleansers I had tried previously worked well for me, so I decided to give this one a try. Sure enough, it worked like magic. The amount that’s equivalent to the size of a nickel is enough to take off all make-up (I don’t even need to spend money on face wipes anymore!). It leaves the face feeling clean and baby soft. I am happy to say my search for the perfect cleanser is now over.

They come in different size bottles, with the bigger bottles being more expensive. You do get more product for your money when you buy the bigger bottles, but I would recommend getting a small bottle to try first.

Where to Buy: Sephora – in-store and online.

Aveeno Skin Brightening Daily Scrub ( $10 – $14 )

It was actually my friend Anna who recommended this product to me. I’ve never used any other face scrubs besides my H2O Plus scrubs, so I was hesitant on trying this one at first. But once I used it, I fell in love instantly. Not only is it a light enough scrub for everyday use, it has a great formula that leaves the face slightly moisturized. Most scrubs will leave your skin feeling a bit dry or in need of a moisturizer. This one, though, is perfect as is. It’s great for those nights when you don’t have a lot of time and just want to give your face a quick treatment before you hit the sack.

Where to Buy: Local drugstores and supermarkets. If you can find a Rexall near you, they will probably be the cheapest when they have Aveeno sales (I got mine for $9.99). Loblaws and Superstore prices are comparable when they have sales too ($10.99). Shoppers Drug Mart is the most expensive of them all, although they are the most convenient with stores everywhere.

H2O Plus Face Oasis™ Dual-Action Exfoliating Cleanser ( $30 )

This one is a fairly new H2O Plus product, and I only discovered it a couple months ago when I picked it up randomly during the annual 20% off member sale. I like that it works well as cleanser and it also works well as an exfoliator. The fact that they are together in one product means you get to save time.

The difference between this exfoliating cleanser and the scrub mentioned previously is the Aveeno one leaves the face feeling nice afterward. This one feels a little bit more dry, so I tend to use it only on days when I haven’t had any product on my face. The first two products are the ones I use regularly on my work days.

Where to Buy: H2O Plus store at Eaton Center or order online. Not sure if The Bay at Eaton Center still carries H2O Plus products.

Aquafina Hydrating Lip Balm Trio ( $4.95 )

When it comes to lip balms, they are definitely no stranger to me. I have tried SO MANY of them in the past; cheap ones, expensive ones, drugstore ones, cosmetic brand name ones. None of them have ever worked on my frequently chapped lips. However, I had never tried a lip balm made by a water brand before my friend Anna recommended these Aquafina ones to me back in October. I am now in love with them.

I know lip balms are a personal thing; not all brands work on everyone, but at $4.95 for a package of 3 + a bonus tube of lip oil I`d recommend at least giving these a try. They contain jojoba oil, almond oil, and vitamin E.

Where to Buy: I have only been able to find them at Walmart. They are usually with the impulse items near the cashiers, hanging above the gums and chocolates.

Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash ( $4.99 )

I found this lovely product totally by fluke when I picked it up at Shoppers (along with the In-Shower Lotion, as mentioned below) just to bring my total to $50. Since I was about $8 away from getting a $10 coupon, I figured I’d give these two Olay products a try for cheap. I was quite surprised at how much I liked it because it was indeed ultra moisturizing. I’ve been using mainly H2O Plus bath products, as well as body wash from Bath & Body works. In comparison, I’d say the Olay Ultra Moisture is the most moisturizing of the one’s I’ve tried. I like that even if I don’t use a lotion after I come out from the shower, my body still feels nice and smooth the next morning.

Where to Buy: Local drugstores and supermarkets. Only get it at Shoppers if they have it on sale for $3.99 or $4.99, otherwise they are charging too much at regular price.

Olay Ultra Moisture In-Shower Lotion ( $4.99 )

Absolutely LOVE this product. I was skeptical at first about the in-shower aspect of it, but once I tried it I was hooked. The best thing about this in-shower lotion is it works just like a lotion or body cream that you would use after you get out of the shower, except you use it IN the shower while you’re nice and warm. I find that I get lazy and don’t like to put on body lotions during the winter because it’s so cold once I get out of the shower, but this in-shower lotion solves that problem completely. I just put it on after I use my body wash, do a quick rinse, and then I’m done! An extra minute in the shower can keep my body moisturized for a good 16-20 hours. Not bad :)

Where to Buy: Selected drugstores. This one is a little bit harder to find. Seems like not every Shoppers carries it, but you will find it at some. Same with Rexall. I did not see it at Walmart when I was last in one.

Thymes Moonflower Hand Cream ( $18.95 )

This is the last of Anna’s recommendations. I only tried it once last week, but I couldn’t resist myself from getting it even at 21 bucks a pop after taxes. It’s a fairly nice hand cream because it’s not too light and not too thick. More importantly, it doesn’t leave your hands feeling greasy. But as far as hand creams go, I would choose the McBlooms one for $18 over this one because it offers twice as much product for the same amount of money. So why would I recommend the Thymes Moonflower Hand Cream? Well, I’ve only got one reason. The scent.

As described on the back, you “envelop your hands in deeply hydrating cream enriched with shea butter and vitamin E, while luxurious notes of cinnamon, sugared quince, myrtle leaves and smooth cognac lightly linger with the mysterious fragrance of twilight.” I honestly don’t know what twilight smells like, but if that is it then it sure smells gooooooood.

Where to Buy: The only place I`ve seen it at (to date) is at Teatro Verde. They have two locations, one in Yorkville and one at Bayview Village. There is a listing on the Thymes website for all the locations that carry Thymes products. You can also order directly from their website.

McBlooms Extremely Rich Cream ( $18 )

This is hands down the best hand cream I have ever used, and I`ve been using it for about 7 years now. It is THE solution for any one whose hands get extremely dry in the winter. Not only does it do a great job at moisturizing because it is extremely rich (as its name suggests), it also absorbs into the skin very quickly without leaving your hands feeling greasy. Those two points are the most important to me when it comes to choosing hand creams. In addition, this cream is unscented, which is great for guys who don`t want hand creams that make them smell girly.

Where to Buy: I have always bought mine at Chapters because it is the most convenient place for me to get them. McBlooms does have an online shop now if you want to have it shipped to you, though I am uncertain about their shipping charges.

food + friends = goooooood times

If you’ve been reading my tweets or status updates, you’d know that I’m in the midst of a pretty busy week. Looks like I’ll have 3 days off in a 22-day period. That itself is energy draining enough. To top it off, I’ve been stressing because of things I have to deal with at home for the upcoming month. I guess with everything going on, my mind & body got so tired that it decided to shut down on me. Between Friday and Sunday night, I slept a total of 30 hours this weekend. So besides working, commuting to and from work, and showering, I pretty much spent more than one full day in bed. Crazy, eh?!

Besides working all weekend (and sleeping, of course), I did manage to get in some time with friends. I know it’s been a while since I last posted pictures from my outings, so here they are.

[ Thursday, February 3, 2011 ]

To celebrate my buddy John’s birthday, a few of us got together for a small dinner at Genghis Khan Mongolian Grill. I had been to the Markham location a few times years and years ago (come to think of it, I had my 18th birthday there lol) but it was my first time at the Don Mills location so I didn’t know what to expect. Thankfully, it turned out to be pretty good. It had a nice atmosphere and it was fairly clean. I would probably go back there again.

It was nice seeing my friends from Bayview, and we had a great time like we always do. We almost couldn’t stop laughing when Anna asked, “Do you guys eat your kiwis hairy or shaved?” Yahhhhhh, I have funny friends… hahaha

[ Saturday, February 5, 2011 ]

I only had plans for one Winterlicious dinner this year due to everyone’s busy schedules so I was really hoping this dinner wouldn’t disappoint, and luckily it didn’t. We had a bigger group than usual because Adrienne & Robin invited their friend Ella, who also invited two of her friends.

It was my first time at Marquis Lounge & Bistro, located on the 2nd floor of the Hilton Garden Inn. Unlike the more popular restaurants, this one wasn’t on the radar for many people. Making reservations with them was almost painless and we were able to take our time without feeling rushed. It was a nice cozy restaurant with great service (until they got really busy at the bar towards the end of the night and we had to wait half an hour to get our bills).

Before we even ordered our dinners, I had already fallen in love with their bread. Then I started with the potato soup, which was particularly good with garlic croutons. My love for lamb can not be put into words, so seeing lamb on the menu made it easy for me to choose my entree. I had the Ontario Lamb Osso Buco with barley, braised baby carrots and cipolini onions. Delicious! Lamb tends to be made with a hint of mint at most restaurants, and although I love mint, I hate it in my lamb. That’s why I was quite happy to know there were no traces of mint that night.

My favourite part of the meal had to be the dessert. I loooooooooooved the Pistachio Chocolate Crunch Cake with berry coulis, mainly because of the crunchy bits of chocolate or rice crispy thingys on top of the cake. So yum!

After dinner, we decided to hit up this local hot spot called Snakes & Lattes for some drinks and board games. It’s a great little place to just hang out and play games. You pay $5 on your way in and you can spend as much time as you want there playing any of the 1500 different board games they have there. I like that you’re not obligated to buy drinks or food from them, although I did end up getting a hazelnut hot chocolate. My milk came with a hazelnut flavoured chocolate on a stick for me to dip into my milk. That was kind of cool.

We started with a simple game…Jenga!

Then we played this game called Would You Rather…? I remember watching this episode of Wong Fu Weekends where the guys played a similar game called “You Gotta Be Kidding!” and thought it was pretty funny, so I suggested we try this game. Some of those “would you rather…” questions were pretty sick but hilarious at the same time. I mean, c’mon…who would’ve ever thought to ask, “Would you rather crap out of your mouth OR eat through your ass?”

Robin was the first to get a “challenge!” card and he was required to do one of the 6 things listed on it. They were all pretty ridiculous and embarrassing things. He ended up choosing to “smell the armpit of another player for 30 seconds.” We volunteered Danny’s armpit for Robin to smell. We all couldn’t stop laughing, and I’m pretty sure everyone else in the room thought we were crazy. Danny also later got a challenge card where he had to do a strip tease for 30 seconds. Although it wasn’t quite a strip tease and was more like he simply took his shirt off, we let that one go because we didn’t think it could ever be funnier than smelling armpits. haha The game kept us entertained for a good 2 hours. I would highly recommend the game just to look at all the “would you rather…” questions. Some of them are just SO funny! Check it out if you get the chance :)

happy lunar new year!

Fresh sheets…check! Fresh pillowcases…check! New pillows…check! New pjs…check! Alright, I’m ready for the new year – bring it on.

Chinese New Year (CNY) is probably my favourite time of the year. I’d say it’s equivalent to the Christmas celebrations of the west. I love how festive it gets and how easy it is to find all sorts of festive goodies at the Chinese supermarkets around this time of year. Everywhere you go it’s about having good luck, good fortune and good health; I love that everything is so positive.

In my family, we don’t get TOO fancy with traditions. We do some cleaning and have a family dinner on new years eve, but we don’t often go to the extent of buying new clothes and new shoes to wear on New Year’s Day. Sometimes I’ll buy a few new things that need replacing. This year, for instance, I bought new bedding because I want to improve my sleep, and having clean sheets and pillows make a huge difference for me. I happened upon a pair of 1000 thread count pillowcases for $15 the other day, so I can’t wait to use them! The one thing that I absolutely MUST get during this season is sweet rice cake, also known as nian gao or year cake, because this is the only time of year that they are made available.

Above everything, my favourite part about CNY is being able to spend time with family. I never realized how much of a family person I was until just the past few years. When I was younger, CNY was a busy time for performances and most of my weekends were spent performing at different places. Since my family always escorted me to the different venues, I never used to care too much about family time. But as I’ve gotten older and a lot of my time is spent working, I’ve grown to really value the little time I have to spend with family, especially during special occasions. It’s important for me to spend New Years Eve with family over dinner.

Anyway, I better rush off to shower and wash my hair before midnight. As tradition goes, you shouldn’t cut or wash your hair on New Years because it washes away your good luck. So Happy Lunar New Year to all those who celebrate it! May the year of the rabbit bring good health and fortune to everyone.