i’m gonna live my life…

website metricsI know we’ve got a lot of catching up to do since I’ve neglected this blog for a while. I’ve been working a ridiculous amount this month and have been getting sick a lot. Had I not been sick for a few days, I would have only had 3 days off in the month of February. Besides work and being sick, I’ve also been focusing on writing for my new blog. Here is the link to Her Story if you are interested.

So February is what I call Winterlicious month. This year, I was only able to make it to two restaurants. My first Winterlicious dinner was at a restaurant in Yorkville called Crème Brasserie. The food was good, but the service we had could have been better. There were 5 of us and they pretty much mixed up what each of us were having every single time our food arrived at the table. Considering it wasn’t very busy at the time, I didn’t think that was acceptable. With that said, I wouldn’t mind going back there some day simply for their food so long as the service improves.

I had the Roast Cornish Hen with confit pork belly, caramelized onion, fennel, spaghetti squash, walnut and cranberry wine jus. Not the best cornish hen I’ve had, but it wasn’t bad. For dessert, I went with the Chocolate Crepe filled with strawberries, bannanas, and caramel. It’s rare to see crepes on the dessert menu for Winterlicious, so I had to try it.

My second Winterlicious restaurant this year was one that I had been to many times before. Jump, located at Commerce Court, is actually one of my favourite restaurants in the city. I love the atmosphere there and the service is very consistent.

Due to my love for crab cakes, I had to have the Canadian Rock Crab Cake as my appetizer. Served with fennel & watercress slaw, honey mustard dressing & chipotle remoulade, it did not disappoint.

As for entree, I had the Ontario Lamb Cacciatore with cipollini onions, tomato, butter beans & Parmigiano-Reggiano crusted polenta. It wasn’t amazing, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

My friend, Tommy, had the Grilled True North Atlantic Salmon with warm spinach, organic sprouted grains & mushroom salad, potato crisps & lemon aioli. Upon trying a piece of that salmon, I would have to say it was better than my lamb.

Another highlight of February was cooking pho with my friends Adrienne & Robin, as well as their friends Andrew & Vince. I’ve always known how to make pho but never actually took part in making it. This was my first time. After hours and hours of cooking and waiting for the broth to be ready, we were finally able to sit down for dinner at half past midnight. Considering pho is not easy to make, I think we still have a lot of room for improvement, and it will probably take a few more tries to perfect. However, our combined efforts definitely deserves extra points :)

While we waited for the broth to cook, we watched a movie to kill time. I was quite pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the movie “50/50”. Initially, I thought a movie about a guy getting cancer would be a bit depressing to watch, but it turned out to be quite a comedy. The fact that Seth Rogan is in the movie should have given that away. I liked the fact that the movie moved at a quick pace and there was rarely a dull moment. There were a few scenes where it reminded me very much of how I felt when I had a tumor scare two years ago. I recall what it felt like going for my MRI and waiting to get results. Even the doctor in the movie was very much like my neurologist; he also spoke very quickly into a recorder at the beginning of my session. Anyway, I would definitely recommend this movie if you haven’t yet seen it.

Last but not least, I want to share this new Far East Movement song with you all. Released today on iTunes, “Live My Life” is an up-beat track that saw my favourite music group, Far East Movement, collaborating with the infamous Justin Bieber. I don’t particularly care for Bieber’s vocals on this track, but I must admit that this is possibly the best collaboration that FM has done if looked at from a marketing standpoint. Check it out and see what you think!

let me relax for one day

I must admit I had a lovely and enjoyable weekend, even if it was only for one day on Saturday. My friend Adrienne and I met up for lunch at a very cute café called Crêpes à GoGo. We had stumbled upon this gem online as it was known for good crepes. With only about six tables for two each, it’s a pretty tiny place. We were lucky to get a table as soon as we arrived since there was constantly a line up after we settled down. The café is nicely decorated with European accents and photographs on its walls, and the waiter/waitresses all speak with a heavy French accent. What I absolutely loved was the fact that there was a guy who played the accordion and, later, another guy who played the clarinet joined in as well. It makes for a really nice atmosphere and totally makes you feel as though you are in Paris.

As for the crepes, they were DELICIOUS! I started with the Rive Droite which consisted of scrambled egg, sour cream, baby spinach & smoked salmon. Adrienne and I also got a dessert crepe with strawberries, bananas and their version of Nutella. Also worth mentioning is that no plates are used here; the crepes come in paper bags. It’s a very unique experience that I would highly recommend.

While we were there, a somewhat bizarre thing happened. We were seated right in front of the cash counter chatting away when we noticed a man was hovering next to our table. At first we thought he was just waiting for a table. As we continued to chat, Adrienne noticed that the guy made a very quick move at the counter and dashed out the door. It turns out the guy swiped the tip jar that was on the counter right next to me. By the time Adrienne and the accordion guy realized what had happened, it was already way too late. The guy had already disappeared down the street. Obviously he knew the place would get busy and picked the right time to grab & go. Adrienne and I were just glad he didn’t hold up the place or anything.

After lunch, Adrienne and I decided to see a movie. We’d been friends for 7 years and have had numerous outings – shopping, dinners, clubbing, going to see musicals and cd releases, random walks around the city, even road trips. It was kind of surprising and ridiculous that we had never seen a movie together. So to break that non-movie streak, we went to see Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Now I’m not usually into dramas and thrillers simply because I like to relax to chick flicks and comedies, but this one really impressed me. I thought everything from the story line to the acting and cinematography was really well executed. Even at two and a half hours, there was not a single moment where I felt bored. In fact, there were times when I thought the movie was going more quickly than it really was and I was eager to find out what was going to happen next. I think I’m going to watch the Swedish version as well just to see how the two compare.

Later that night, we met up with Adrienne’s boyfriend for dinner at Mezza Notte Trattoria, one of our favourite Italian restaurants. We usually go to the location in North York, but for this time we decided to try the location in Thornhill. I still think the North York location is better simply because they serve specialty breads there, but overall it was a good meal. We ordered two appetizers: Cozze Alla Marinara (mussels sautéed with white wine and garlic in tomato sauce) and Lumache Alla Francese (escargot with grilled portobello mushrooms sautéed in a cognac sauce). As you can see from the picture, I had the Penne Al Salmone (penne with Norwegian smoked salmon and vodka in a pink sauce). Every plate was tasty. This is another restaurant I would HIGHLY recommend.

So that was pretty much my weekend before starting another 7-day work week. I hope everyone also enjoyed relaxing weekends and is having a good week :)

Corned Beef, Lights, and Bliss :)

I know, I know…I totally missed last week’s post. Cut me some slack; I’ve been busy with work and trying to get my health back on track :p I guess this photoblog will be my attempt to get caught up.

Last Monday, my friends Andrew and Joe attempted what is called Man vs. Sandwich at the Corned Beef House. For those who don’t know what that is, basically you are given a 40oz corned beef sandwich (that’s 40oz of meat, 4 slices of bread and a pickle). If you are able to finish all of that in 1 hour, your sandwich is free. If you can’t finish in an hour, you will be charged $29.95 plus tax.

Andrew and Joe took on the challenge simply for fun and to see how they would do. It was their first time ever trying something like this, so about 10 of us were there to cheer them on. Besides being able to witness the whole thing go down, it was nice seeing some of my old co-workers again :)

Now, when you first hear about the 40oz of meat, you probably wouldn’t think of it as a super crazy amount. To put it into perspective though, that’s equivalent to five average 8oz steaks! Don’t forget that this is corned beef that we’re talking about, so it’s going to be salty. If the size of that sandwich doesn’t get to you, the salt most likely will. Not only do you need to be physically prepared to down 40oz of meat, you also need to be mentally prepared for such a feat.

As you can tell by the look on Andrew’s face after 15 minutes of munching on the meat and bread, it was NOT as easy as you’d think.

Mentally, it takes a lot to get yourself motivated to keep going when the food becomes tasteless. Joe looks totally focused here.

10 minutes before the time was up, Andrew and Joe decided they could not finish. Even though they were not able to complete the feat, all of us were very proud of them for simply attempting it. I think if they went back to try again, they’d have the experience to help them finish the entire sandwich. Nonetheless, I think we all had a good time (and good food).

*In case you were wondering, it is not entirely impossible to eat a 40oz corned beef sandwich. My co-worker, Grisha, actually finished his in 30 minutes, and the currently record is 20 minutes. So for anyone who is interested in trying, know that it is totally possible. I highly recommend the Corned Beef House because the food is amazing and the guys who run the place are possibly the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.

Let’s fast forward a little. My original plan for Saturday night was to go home after work and do some reading. While on my way to the subway station, I passed by the Royal York Hotel and thought the lights were kind of pretty. I pondered for a minute and finally decided to take out my camera to snap a picture.

Then as I continued toward the subway, I came across an interesting pattern on the ground created by lights. I couldn’t resist and again I took out my camera to take a picture. When I turned around, I saw another image that I wanted to capture. I just couldn’t stop. So I spontaneously decided to enjoy some “me” time in the mild December weather, chasing lights and capturing moments with my camera. Here are a few of my photos:

And that’s how bliss was found :)

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!

time to catch up

I’m back!

First and foremost, thank you everyone for your birthday wishes. As you may have noticed, I’ve been on a blog hiatus for nearly 3 months. Been working like a mad woman while riding a crazy emotional roller coaster all summer. What I’ve been dealing with has inspired me to write about some things that come from a deeper, and possibly darker, part of me. You can expect to see some of that in the upcoming months. For now I’m just going to do a quick photo blog of the past 3 months and share a few songs that I’ve been bumpin’ recently.

I remember when I was young, we used to have a lot of family get togethers. As I got older and my extended family grew bigger, it seemed like those get togethers became more of a rarity; we would see each other either at a cousin’s wedding or a funeral of a family member.

Going along with that trend, our family came together for the first time this year at my cousin Jennifer’s wedding. It was a really beautiful wedding. That’s some of the family (from my mom’s side) in the above picture. Most of the kids are missing from it, but I’m sure you can already tell how big the family is. I had a lot of fun dancing with the whole family at the end of the night, especially when “Like a G6” came on and everyone on the dance floor was singing to it :)

Click here for the full album from the wedding.

Later in July, my uncle from Hong Kong came to visit for a few days. While he was in town, I took the family to Big Daddy’s Crab Shack & Oyster Bar. It was my first time there, but I’d heard great feedback about the place and have wanted to try them out for a long time. Now that I’ve been there, I can HIGHLY recommend Big Daddy’s both for its food and service.

We all ordered from the 3-course prix-fixe menu and were quite satisfied with our selections. I had the Seafood Gumbo to start and the Seafood Fettuccine. Both were pretty good. I think it was my parents’ Big Daddy Seafood Salad that stole the show though. It not only looked good but tasted good too. I think I’ll be trying that next time I’m there.

My uncle loves oysters so we had two orders of them. They were also really good, and I absolutely LOVED having the tray of 6 different house-made sauces to choose from.

While my friend Charmaine was back in town from Vancouver, we managed to make time for a nice dinner on the patio of Joey Grill & Lounge. We had wanted to go there last year when she was here visiting, but Joey’s was pretty new at the time and the wait was an hour long. Thus, we ended up at Glow instead. Since we were there this time on a weeknight, we didn’t have to wait at all. It was really nice catching up with Charmaine and my brother, Edison.

As for the food…the set of Sushi Cones were filled with tempura prawn, avocado, spicy mayo and cucumber.

The Beach Salad consists of mixed greens, quinoa, fresh strawberries, avocado, candied pecans, goat cheese & lemon poppyseed dressing with grilled chicken breast. I HIGHLY recommend this salad because it is tasty, healthy and refreshing. It might actually top my favourite salad in Toronto, which is the Grilled Tiger Shrimp Salad at Joe Mama’s.

This was Chinese dessert night with Adrienne and Robin. We had driven around uptown looking for a place for a durian shake (which we eventually did find at First Markham Place), and then came here for dessert. Mmmm…black sesame paste dessert :)

I talked a bit about seeing family at the beginning of this post. Well, I guess we did pretty good this year because we actually had a gathering outside of a wedding/funeral. It was a good turn out for a BBQ at my cousin Louis’ place. There was plenty of food and definitely good times spent with family.

My cousin Lisa brought her dog, Milton, which everyone absolutely adores.

Tropical fruit platters to top it off!

To be honest, I didn’t have very much time to spend catching up with friends this summer due to the amount of time I was scheduled to work. Perhaps the only time I did get to kick back and chill was in mid August, when Anna and I went over to Kat’s after work one day to catch up and celebrate her birthday. Girl’s night began with cheese…

…then steak with veggies…

…and a yummy Dufflet Hazelnut Cakelet to finish the night. If you’re into cakes, definitely give this a try. We picked this one up from Loblaws, but I’m sure you can find them at other supermarkets as well. Dufflet does not disappoint.

So you all know I love Far East Movement. Obviously I knew they were in town opening for Lil Wayne’s concert back in August. I also made sure to catch their performance on Much Music’s New Music Live, which saw them doing awesome reflips. Since I was in the middle of a crazy work week at the time, I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the show to physically see them perform. I was all set on NOT seeing them while they were in town this time when a funny thing happened.

I was at work the afternoon before their show when I happened to look out our store window just as the guys of Far East Movement were getting into their ride outside our hotel! I literally jumped up from my seat and ran to the window when I saw them. What were the chances that they’d be staying in our hotel of all places?! And what were the chances I’d happen to look out the window just in time to see them?! Crazy.

I later heard from a bellman that he was there when the guys and their entourage checked in the night before. He said he wasn’t sure if they were FM, but knew they were artists because a photographer was taking pictures of a guy who was leaning against the wall texting. Normal people don’t have pictures of them taken while they’re texting, right? lol I giggled when Kev Nish later uploaded the above picture onto his Facebook :D

Alright, enough typing for one night. On to the music…

oh blissful days

As mentioned in my previous post, May was an extremely stressful month for me. On a few occasions I actually thought I was going to lose my sanity. Luckily I have some really good friends who never fail in picking me back up when I’ve fallen. Thanks to them, I’m able to slowly regain my pace.

One of my favourite things to do in the summer is go for walks along the lake and watch the airplanes take off and land at Billy Bishop. Wednesday afternoon saw me doing exactly that. After work, I went for a long walk to the lake with my co-worker friend, Steve. He is like my shrink most of my the time, so it was nice being able to sit under the sun and just get out a lot of the things that have been stressing me. However, I did go home with a sunburn on one arm, one side of my neck and both legs. Reminder to self: WEAR SUNSCREEN NEXT TIME!

I’ve always said that my friends are very important to me, so being able to spend time with them is crucial to my well-being. Since I’ve been fairly busy over the past 2 months, I haven’t had much time to see my friends. I’m glad I was able to finally do some catching up with some good friends over the course of this past week, like lunch with Edison & Kevin last Saturday, dinner @ Moxies with my Bayview friends on Tuesday, and a fantastic night out with my good buddies on Friday.

My plans for dinner with Adrienne, Robin and Danny on Friday night were quite last minute, and I was surprised that we all happened to be free that night for what seemed like an overdue dinner. I think the last time all four of us hung out was for Winterlicious back in February (Summerlicious is just a month away!). We wanted to get in some patio time since it was so nice outside, so we met up at 10 Dundas East and winged it from there.

Considering it was a Friday night, we figured patios everywhere would be packed. The battle was between Milestones (est. 25-30 minute wait) and Jack Astor’s (no given wait time); we waited to see which would have a table for us first. Milestones ended up beating JA by about 5 minutes, with the wait being about 20 minutes. Not too bad for a Friday night, eh? The patio at Milestones was alright. Its view is nothing compared to what Jack Astor’s has to offer, but the company more than made up for it :)

After some catching up over dinner, we walked up the street to Bar + Karaoke Lounge near Yonge & Gerrard. It is possibly one of the best karaoke bars in downtown Toronto, at least from my knowledge. The rooms are surprisingly clean and they have a good selection of songs. We spent 4 hours there singing our hearts out. By the time I got home, it was 5am. The last time I got home THAT late (or early, depending on how you want to look at it) was last June when Far East Movement was in town for the very first time. Yeeeeah, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a good night out :p

Speaking of Far East Movement, it has been confirmed that they will be in town again to perform at this year’s MMVAs! Ha, didn’t I call that one in this post? It’s going to be a crazy amazing MMVA. They’ve got FM and Bruno Mars in their line up! You know I’m going to be glued to my tv on the night of June 19th :D

yeah, i’m still alive

Anger and frustration. Those are perhaps the two emotions I’ve experienced the most over these past two weeks. It’s been a while since I’ve had a good night’s rest where my mind isn’t tormenting me. I feel like this overwhelming amount of stress is killing me an inch at a time, and I have to keep fighting back to prevent it from killing me entirely.

I know for most of the time, my life is an open book; I reveal a lot of personal things in this blog as it is my mission to encourage open thought and the sharing of life experiences. But for once, I can’t openly share what is stressing me. I can’t do anything about it, nor can I change the situation. All I can do is reframe my thoughts and try to get through each day as best I can. With all different kinds of thoughts in my head right now, you can expect there to be some thought-provoking posts in the next few weeks.

Amidst the stress, I was able to catch up with two good friends this weekend. It’d been quite some time since I last saw my bro Edison and our friend Kevin, who’s been working in New York and was back for the week. With all the stress I’d been dealing with lately, catching up with some good friends really helped calm my soul. We had lunch at Wonderpho, which is owned by Kevin’s family and managed by his brother who took good care of us while we were there. The food was good and the service was superb. It’s a cozy spot that gets two thumbs up from me :)

After lunch, we decided to go see a movie. It was a debate between Bridesmaids and Hangover 2. We ended up seeing Bridesmaids simply because of better timing, but I think it would’ve been the better one to see anyway. Like Kevin said, you know it’s going to be funny when you start off with a sex scene haha The movie was super hilarious, even during those few disgusting moments. I highly HIGHLY recommend this movie!

what a depressing month

After nearly a week without the internet, the WWW finally sees my return!

I’ve been MIA lately thanks to the failure of my Time Capsule. Its power supply died on me, which I guess was more or less expected. What surprised me was the fact that it lived as long a life as it did considering I had read about capsules only having life spans of about 18 months. Luckily, my AppleCare Protection Plan covered the problem and they promptly sent me a replacement Time Capsule. The only down side was I had to send them back my old one. That meant losing the 500GB of data I had on it. The guy I spoke to for tech support told me I shouldn’t keep anything important on the Time Capsule, and thankfully I hadn’t. But then it makes me wonder…if the Time Capsule is unreliable like that, what’s the point of it being marketed to backup your system? Let me just say I don’t plan on getting another Time Capsule if this one breaks down on me again.

If this had happened 5 years ago, I probably would have freaked out. I wouldn’t have been able to imagine a whole week without the internet back then. But I guess I’ve grown older, and with time I’ve come to learn that there are many other things I can occupy my time with. So during this particular week, I used my “online” time to reorganize all the music on my MacBook. By the time I was done with it, I felt a great sense of satisfaction. For anyone who spends endless amounts of time on the net, I recommend trying to go a day or two without it. You might be able to learn a thing or two about yourself from it.

I did some cooking again on Mother’s Day for my mom and my family. My co-worker gave me instructions on how to make a pan-seared salmon, but I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t turn out properly since it was my first time making fish. Thankfully, it turned out pretty well and everyone loved it.

Along with the salmon, I made lots and lots of veggies. It turned out to be a really quick, simple, cheap, and healthy dinner that got props from even my dad (who is usually pretty hard to satisfy). Looks like I’ll be making that meal again in the future.

The May Two-Four long weekend is coming up again. For me, it’s a time when old memories come creeping back into my head and it reminds me of how quickly time passes by. What are you all going to be up to? Anyone going to see fireworks? Well, I guess there won’t be any fireworks if this depressing rain keeps up. I suppose it’s not too much to ask for some sunshine this weekend, right?