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 :)

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.

and down it came…

You might have heard (from my tweets and what not) about what happened in my backyard after the storm yesterday evening. Well, here are some visuals to give you a better idea of what it looks like after a heavy branch of a very tall tree falls onto your garage and into your backyard.

Our next door neighbour called us to tell us a tree had fallen into our yard. We looked out the window and this is what we saw. Looks a bit like a jungle, doesn’t it?

It turns out the big branch came off our neighbour’s tree, with the heaviest part of it landing on the roof of our garage. The smaller branches draped off the garage roof and filled half our yard. It missed the house by just over 3 feet.

Looks like a skinny branch eh? Don’t underestimate its strength though.

That branch was longer than our garage!

It didn’t look like it was that bad at first, but let’s have a closer look…

As you can see, part of the roof is slightly caved in. According to the guys who came for emergency removal of the tree, the roof of the garage has been badly damaged and will need to be replaced completely.

When we went to speak to the owner of the property in which the tree was on, we saw this on the street behind ours…

Just wanted to share some of those pictures :) Will post more when I have more time.

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!

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.

when you stand still, you move backwards

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I’ve been using my time up until now in my life. I’m pretty sure most people will agree that time seems to go by more quickly as we get older. When we were just children, growing up felt like eternity. But as soon as we finish high school, we would blink and find ourselves 10 years into the future. If we blink again, another 10 years will go by and before we know it, we’ve run out of time. So it makes me think, what would I want to have accomplished by the time I close my eyes forever?

Among all the things I want to do, there is one thing that particularly stands out. You might have heard me say it before – I want to write a book. I had mentioned it briefly a year and a half ago, but for one reason or another I never actively did anything about it. It’s been loitering at the back of my mind for a while and I keep putting it off to do other things. I think it’s because I’m afraid that if I were to finish writing my book, I wouldn’t know what to do from there on. With the thought of it resting at the back of my head, it reassures me there’s something for me to look forward to doing tomorrow. It’s just that tomorrow becomes the day after that, and the day after that will likely become months from now.

I do believe that there is a time and place for everything and that timing is really important, but I also think that timing isn’t everything. Time won’t change anything for you. It doesn’t make things happen. Many years can go by and you can still be standing in the same spot. It’s true what Mr. McGuinty said in his book: “When you stand still, you move backwards.” I kind of feel like that is what happened to me. As long as I’m putting off my writing and this project is pending, I will never be able to move on and start a new project. The book will never happen and I will never be able to put the thought of writing this book to rest. Life won’t eventually work itself out; you make it work out. Things can only happen if you make it happen.

So I need to start writing.

Like my co-worker said, “Every moment is now.” When there’s something you need to do or want to do, do it now. Not tomorrow, not the day after. Because there is no such thing as the past or the future. Just now.

sorry, just a quickie

It just occurred to me that I haven’t blogged in a week, so I’m thinking I should at least do a quick update before heading off to bed.

I don’t have much to write about this week because I’ve been consumed by work for the past 7 days. It’s been really tiring, but it’s also been an extremely productive week at work. That makes me super happy. (Who else feels that way when they’re productive?) I’ve been working 7 – 9.5 hour days and then going home to do more research for work. It’s really a great way to keep myself distracted from unnecessary thoughts. And what makes it even better is I’ve been researching books on fashion, beauty, art, and oh yes…naked people! I’m seriously not kidding here. I’ll explain what this is for in a few weeks ;)

Another thing that made me really happy earlier this week – Far East Movement won the MAMA 2010 award for Best International Artist! Huge congratulations to them for another great achievement. It is so good to see that their hard work is paying off and their music is being recognized by so many people now. I’m sure I’m not the only one who continues to be inspired by them.

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in with the new

What a year it has been…for my eyes. Earlier in the year, I spent two months dealing with a left eye that stopped moving. As if that wasn’t enough to traumatize me, I now have to deal with another issue with my left eye. Really now…my quota should be up for all these bizarre self-repairable eye problems.

Compared to the constant double vision I had for nearly 5 weeks (caused by a nerve malfunction), the issue I’m experiencing now is VERY minor. For a couple days, my left eye was extremely irritated by my contacts. When I checked in at the optical that week to have my new trial contacts fitted, the optician found a mark in the cornea of my left eye. It’s uncertain what caused the mark, but it’s possibly a scratch from a tiny cut in a lens. After a few revisits, he confirmed with the optometrist that it shouldn’t be too serious and the eye should be able to “repair” itself in time. I just need to lay off on the contacts for a week to 10 days. Since I haven’t updated my glasses in nearly 6 years, I decided to finally buy a new pair.

Shopping for eyewear is a long and daunting task for me. I always have a hard time finding eyewear that fits me because I have a small head/face with BIG eyes; the glasses can’t be too wide, yet the frame has to be big enough to accommodate the size of my eyes. At the same time, the frame can’t be too thick and it can’t be too dark because I’m pale. The optician liked a pair of purple Prada ones on me, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied. After trying on maybe 30 pairs of glasses, I finally found a pair that fit me (pictured above). It’s no Prada, but I think it fits me well. Again it goes to show it’s not always about the brand. Like I always say…choose what suits you best.

So for the past month, there has been much speculation on what will be opening across the street from our store. Construction had started in the space that used to be Montana’s at the corner of John & Richmond, and at first I thought maybe it was going to be another restaurant. But surprise, surprise. It’s actually something original…a bowling alley! The first in downtown Toronto. For someone who doesn’t bowl, I must say I am quite impressed by the idea and think it’ll be a great addition to the Entertainment District. For all those who are itching to go bowling downtown, I’ll keep you guys posted on when The Ballroom will be opening.

On another note, I finally visited Bayview Village for the first time since I left Chapters Bayview 2 months ago. At the time, the mall and Chapters was going through renovations, so it was my first time seeing the finished appearance of the whole complex. I absolutely love the black & white theme for the exterior of the mall, although I think it kind of makes the exterior of Chapters look a bit old.

When I got to the entrance of the mall, I thought the greeting on the newly added sliding door was funny…lol

Ah, yes…the infamous “wall of cheese” at the new Pusateri’s worth something like $20,000. I was actually disappointed with the display. My friends from Chapters had been telling me about it and I had been visualizing something much more extravagant. But I guess there’s only so much you can do with cheese, eh? :p

It was a nice visit to my old store nonetheless. I got to see almost all the people I wanted to say hi to, so that was very nice. What surprised me though, was the fact that I didn’t really feel like I missed the store the way I thought I would. The people…YES! DEFINITELY! But not so much the store itself. That goes to show I really am happy with the change and have grown comfortable with the new environment. I think the only thing I’ll miss from BV is the convenient grocery shopping :)