finding the pieces

First of all, I apologize for completely forgetting to mention what seemed to be the obvious in my last post. If you have been following my blog for some time, you may have already noticed the change in layout. Quite the opposite from the dark background that I’ve used since starting this blog, I decided to change it up with a lighter background, sort of as a way to represent my moving away from the “dark side”. I also wanted to make it a little bit more user friendly while still keeping the overall look relatively simple. I hope to make this blog more interactive and to get more feedback; thoughts, opinions, compliments and constructive criticism are all welcomed. The “like” and “comment” buttons can be found at the end of each post.

So anyway, I mentioned last week that I’d been going through some intense troubling times because of stress. I’m not sure right now is a good time for me to write about it (even though I eventually do want to write my thoughts out in more reflective pieces), but I do want to use this post to share one of the methods I used and found effective in dealing with my stress.

I was inspired to start a puzzle because of a puzzle that others had already started in the staff room at my work. It was the day after I had completely broken down that I found myself sitting there working on the puzzle for over 2 hours after I had already finished work. I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I last laid hands on a puzzle, but there was definitely something very calming about it that prompted me to want a puzzle to do at home. So after we left work, my co-worker and I went to the mall to find me a puzzle.

Have puzzles become a thing of the past, or was I just too consumed by everything else this world had to offer that I’d forgotten how fun and enjoyable puzzles were? To be honest, when it came to looking for a puzzle to buy, I had a bit of difficulty thinking about where I could buy a nice one downtown; I haven’t had to buy a puzzle in sooooo long. Luckily, I remembered there was a Toys, Toys, Toys, at the bottom level of the Toronto Eaton Centre and they did have a selection of puzzles. After going through a number of them, I spotted one with a scenery that I recognized. It was a photographed image of the Norwegian Fjords with a ship right in the middle. Upon closer inspection of the small image, I was able to recognize the ocean liner’s signature funnel and bridge wings prior to their extension, and confirmed that the ship in the picture was indeed the RMS Queen Mary 2 that I cruised on 2 years ago! [Click here for cruise photos.]

What were the chances?! I mean, I’ve done a lot of research on the QM2 and have watched documentaries on the building of the ship obsessively after coming back from the cruise, so for me to actually find a puzzle with the QM2 in it is pretty crazy. There was absolutely no doubt which puzzle I was going home with.

It wasn’t until I opened the box that I realized I picked a rather challenging puzzle to start with. The pieces were either blue, green or grey, with a small selection of white ones, and the majority of them were parts of trees, grass, water or rock that looked the same. Word of advice…if you want to start off easy, don’t pick a puzzle with any of the above :p

I spent the first evening working on the border and some unique parts of the puzzle.

Then I spent about 7 hours the next day on my day off to work on it.

By the third day, I couldn’t keep myself away from the puzzle. I was so excited to finish it.

Done on the fourth day! :)

It was kind of bittersweet when I finished the puzzle; on one hand I was happy to complete it, but on the other I was sad that it was done so quickly and I didn’t have another puzzle to work on. I guess it was good while it lasted, and I can genuinely say I enjoyed my time with my puzzle because for once, I did something that was entirely for me. I was able to indulge myself in hours of pure bliss. And the entire time I worked on my puzzle, I had my phone and laptop turned off, and basically isolated myself from anything that could distract me.

For once, the world had to wait for me.

catching up with life

It’s been a whole 2 months since my last post. Not only do I feel like there’s a lot for me to catch up on blogging-wise, I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do in general with life. To be honest, I’m not sure where to start.

The past couple months have been really rough for me. I found myself in a really dark place emotionally and mentally due to the stress from a lot of the things that were happening around me. It affected my health both mentally and physically, and at one point I think I hit the bottom when my body just shut down on me. It forced me to reflect on a lot of things and to make changes with myself. I don’t want to get too deep into it right now, but rest assure that things are getting better.

There are some highlights from the past 2 months that I want to share so I’m going to jump to that. Pretty much all of it is food related. Consider yourself warned.

This past Saturday was my first official outing since I regained my sanity. My friend Adrienne’s boyfriend, Robin, asked if I would be interested in doing a surprise dinner for Adrienne since her birthday was coming up. I thought it was really sweet of him to want to surprise her, so I agreed to it in a heartbeat.

It was a small dinner between the 3 of us (our friend Danny couldn’t make it). Robin and I made arrangements ahead of time so that I would be seated at the restaurant when he arrived at Big Daddy’s Bistro & Oyster Bar with Adrienne. It was kind of funny to see the reaction on Adrienne’s face when she saw me. Overall, I think we did a good job at planning the surprise, and it was a lovely dinner spent with two of my good friends :)

As for the food, I had the Big Daddy’s Seafood Salad which consisted of mixed greens tossed with vinaigrette, topped with 3 jumbo shrimp, smoked salmon, blue crab meat and southern-fried oysters. And it was as delicious as it looked.

On Sunday, Adrienne and Robin invited me over to Robin’s new place for home-made pasta. Here we have Adrienne making the massive meatballs.

It was my first time making fresh pasta, so Robin taught me how to use a pasta maker. I was hesitant at first, but after feeding the dough through the rollers a couple times I started to get the hang of it. It was actually quite fun!

Top it with some fresh parmesan cheese and we’re ready to eat.

Ta-dah! It was delicious! :) Pasta is definitely one of my loves, and I must admit it is even better when the pasta is freshly made. Thanks to Adrienne and Robin for inviting me, I had a lot of fun in the kitchen that day. It made me want my own kitchen even more.

On Tuesday night, I met up with my friend Tommy for his birthday dinner (and because I hadn’t seen him in forever due to his busy schedule – ahem!). We went to Joey @Eaton Centre because neither of us had been to that location before. I’d been craving The Beach Salad since I first had it back in the summer at the Don Mills location, but was slightly disappointed that it didn’t turn out quite as good as I remembered it to be. However, the Pesto Shrimp Flatbread was really good. It was so good I totally forgot to take a picture of it :p I’d recommend passing on the Baked Apple Pie though. It’s really nothing to go crazy over. The atmosphere was nice and I had good company, so overall it was good. It did get to be quite loud, so if you’re looking for a place to chat I’d say try somewhere else. If you’re a sports fan though, you’ll probably enjoy their bar.

A few other things I wanted to share from earlier this Fall…

I don’t normally like to spend time talking about restaurants I don’t like, but I thought it was important that I mention this particular one because it really didn’t live up to my expectations. For my birthday, Adrienne & Robin took me out for dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf. We had heard about it many times before but had never actually been there, so we decided to try them out. It turned out to be mediocre food at fine dining prices. Their baked oysters were really good, but most of the seafood dishes we had were battered and deep fried (we weren’t exactly expecting them to be). Let’s just say I’m in no rush to go back there.

If my first love is pasta, then my second love would have to be crab cakes. I took this picture of the crab cakes at Moxies when I took my god brother, Edison, out for his birthday lunch a few weeks ago. It was thoughtful of him to remember how much I loved crab cakes, so I took the picture to remember that moment. We don’t see each other very often nowadays, but I know that this brother-I-never-had is always just a phone call away.

So I guess this last “highlight” is still somewhat food related. As some may have heard, the Steve Jobs bio came out a few weeks ago. Stores were given directives to create an apple display at the front of their stores for the book launch. There weren’t specific instructions on how to build this apple so we just sorta winged it. Since the stores opened early the day of the launch, we only had about 50 minutes to create the display. With the help of my co-workers, Alessia & Steve, we built this gigantic apple. What do you guys think?

The display can still be seen at the front of the store when you walk into Chapters @ John & Richmond, but I bet not very many people know that it’s actually not the same “apple” as the one we built the first time. We were trying to move the table over by about 3 meters last week when the original apple came crashing down just inches away from where we were going to park it. It was a sad, sad moment. My co-worker and I ended up having to build it all over again, but it just didn’t look the same. At least it’s sturdier this time :P

That’s it for now. There’s a whole lot that I want to share, but I’ll save them for next time. Good night all!