Judy and Cyrus Eat Poutine in Montreal

Poutine has this special little spot in my heart. There are only good memories that came served fries, cheese curds and gravy.

Friendship Poutine One of my best friends, Pia, loves poutine as much as me. When we have a serious catch up, I’d message her on the way to her place and ask, “what do you want?” She almost always says poutine, and I’m glad. So, I call it friendship poutine.

Ottawa When Cy lived in Vancouver and I lived in Toronto, he had a work trip in Kingston. It was perfect meeting place to start a mini trip to Ottawa together. It was in the middle of the winter, and all I remember was the bumpy Rideau Canal skate, hundreds of layers, and Smoke’s Poutinerie shared as a snack and breather from the cold.

Giant Poutine I dare you to find someone who loves poutine more than my friend Say who layers it with a pack of bacon in giant aluminum pans.

A new memory was made recently at La Banquise. Cy and I drove almost 6 hours to Montreal for a mini getaway and to eat some poutine. No kidding, we checked into our Buddhist Temple (thanks Air BnB), and walked over to the “best poutine place in Montreal” in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood.

We go there, and no line ups! It was late afternoon, way after lunch and a bit before dinner so go then. We were seated right away, and we had choices to make with the menu of over 28 poutine kinds.

Forget it, I went with the traditional poutine, La Classique. That will give you the real benchmark of a good poutine.La Classique La Banquise Poutine OurTorontoLifeThis was all mine, a regular-sized portion of fries, cheese curds and gravy. There was a generous amount of squeeky cheese curds and an even amount of not-too-salty gravy all over the fries. Together, it was good but not the best poutine because of the foundation ingredient aka fries could have been more crisp and less burnt. Plus, some of the cheese curds could have been layered into the fries so that they melted a bit.Le Elvis La Banquise OurTorontoLifeCy got something different, and he ordered Le Elvis. Look at that, it’s a bit of a heart attack with the ground meat, green peppers and mushrooms. It’s a hamburger poutine (that’s what Cy said)! The toppings really made the poutine taste far different than mine, and a bit sweet. Judy and Cyrus Montreal La Banquise Poutine OurTorontoLifeLook at our excited faces. There is no after shot, but we really did finish our poutines and washed it down with some San Pellegrino. And, it just cost us over $20. Not bad for a good poutine, and another good poutine memory for the brain bank.

La Banquise:
994 Rue Rachel Est Montreal, QC 
La Banquise on Urbanspoon


Potato Waffles > Regular Waffles

Almost a year ago, I joined American Express. In ways, it was like starting at a new school with a new building, new things to learn, and new people.

Some of those new people became friends, and it’s just nice to have coworkers that you actually want to spend time with outside of work.

Recently, Cy and I joined Lucy, Sandy, Crysthian (Sandy’s husband), Anooja and Sagar for some morning brunch – my favourite meal of the day! We picked Starving Artist on St. Clair from a friend’s reco of the waffles.

And, we ordered waffles and more.

Judy and Cyrus Brunch Starving Artist OurTorontoLife 2014This is what you have to order here: potato waffles. They taste like crispy mashed potatoes in waffle format. Mine were ordered with sour cream, cheese, chives and bacon (Fully Loaded – $11). The salad and fruit were so so.Fully Loaded Potato Waffle Starving Artist OurTorontoLifeNo surprise here, we all ordered some kind of waffle. And, the verdict was that they were all pretty good – everything but the slow service.Brunch for Big Groups in Toronto OurTorontoLife From top left (clockwise): The Hitchhiker ($11) with that healthy side of bacon; BLT Sandwich ($9) without the bacon; Tex Mex Chicken Sandwich with really sweet beans ($9); and Breakfast Benny ($11.50) with that creamy hollandaise on poached egg and potato waffle – what a combo!Starving Artist Brunch in Toronto OurTorontoLifeFood and friends, that’s a better combo.

Get your potato waffles at Starving Artist:
1078 Saint Clair Ave W Toronto ON M6E1A5

 


Happy Mother’s Day + Contest

Mothers are superheroes. They are strong, fearless and put up with us through all the good and bad. For example, Cy’s mom supported us in words and actions when we made our big move to Toronto after our wedding. There was a lot of packing involved there!

Gelaskins Mother's Day Contest

This is what Cy had to say about Mom:

Her Super Power:  Muscle mimic. She could see something, and then pick it up easily like piano, arts & crafts, cooking, kung fu and tai chi.
How are you most like your mom? She is always happy and tries to look for the best in all scenarios.
My Favourite Memory: As a kid, she would tuck me into bed and tell me that I was the best. She is the best too.

I have to add that she really is great, and she has a wonderful way of making you feel comfortable.

This year, Cy and I chose to do something different for Mother’s Day. Flowers die, and chocolates are old. She has an iPhone 4S, and a new case to match her style would be something that could brighten up her Mother’s Day and everyday when she uses it.

We asked her to pick a case, and the selection is the best – yes, it really is. This isn’t the kind of case design or quality that you will get at some cheap Asian mall.

She picked her top favourite designs, and Cy and I picked Mandevilla Flower because it was vibrant like her.

Gelaskin Mother's Day Iphone Case

CONTEST

Win $50 towards any Gelaskins product like an iPhone case, iPad skin or fine art print for your mom. Enter by posting a comment with your name, email and what your mom’s superhero power is.

The winner will be drawn by random end of day on May 8th.

**Special thank you to Casie Stewart of Gelaskins for sponsoring this special giveaway contest**

 


Do’s and Don’ts for Ice Fishing

Spring is almost here. I’m so glad because there was a lot of winter time for the past few months. I mean, just look at our backyard here.Lake Simoe Ice Fishing WInter OurTorontoLifeJust kidding, we don’t have teepees in our backyard. Earlier this year, Cy and I were invited out by our friend Richard to go ice fishing on Lake Simoe. Our first time! I felt extra Canadian that day.what to bring to ice fishing ourtorontolifeMinet’s Point’s ice fishing was your basic, no frills experience. You get your teepee with a metal heater, 3-legged, foldable chair, and a stick wound up with string and hook. The bait was an extra $10. Even with the basics, we caught tons of fish – the kind that had to be thrown back, herring.Ice Fishing Catch OurTorontoLifeRichard caught tons of herring, and my friends Heather, Andy, Susan, and Jeff caught a few too. I caught one with the help of Richard at the end of the day.

Since I was the worst at catching fish, I don’t have tips to share. But, I have ice fishing tips from my own experience.Ice fishing Minet's Point Toronto OurTorontoLifeDo’s

  • Bring friends of all ages (baby Tiffany loved it)
  • Double up your socks to fend off toe freezies
  • Bring a cutting board and knife for when you do catch a fish you can keep
  • Bring hot chocolate, everyone will love it and you
  • Cheer loudly when you catch something
  • Book a cabin instead, the teepee is neat but that’s it

Don’ts

  • Buy a BBQ, they won’t even heat up a grilled cheese sandwich
  • Move carefully in the teepee, you might slip on the slippery ice and really hurt yourself
  • Leave your hook unchecked, no bait, no fish!
  • Pee near your teepee, you know why
  • Keep any herring! There is a big fat fine if you do

I’d do it again, and my hopes are still high to catch a whooper of a fish – if not then a Filet-O-Fish at McD’s after works for me.

 

 

 


The Office Makeover

The office used to be the previous owner’s nursery. It was gross with the two-toned paint and giant wall stickers.

Plus, it was dark and the corner closet fit a max of 5 jackets.

Cy carefully knocked a few things down: the corner closet and a wall. Add a glass wall, new baseboard trims, paint, custom light fixture, accessories and furniture and we had a modern/vintage office.Before and After Office Makeover DIY OurTorontoLifeHere are the pieces that make up the office:HomeSense Shelves Vintage OurTorontoLife
Filigree shelving and fake plants that I don’t have to water from my favourite and affordable decor retailer, HomeSense. Go there for unique pieces, and they change up the selection often. The little tile with the yellow tram is from Cy and I’s trip to Lisbon.Lighting Rustic Wood Easy DIY OurTorontoLife
One wood plank and two IKEA pendant lanterns made up this floating light fixture. All Cy did was split the electrical and built a frame on the ceiling to mount and support the weight of it.Painting Light Rug Reno Office OurTorontoLifeFrom top-bottom, left-right: My fall cottage painting (just kidding, it’s from HomeSense). Cy’s floor light and black Yahama SBG 1500 and a “rug.” It’s not actually a rug, but a faux fur from Fabricland to add texture and shape to the office.

Other pieces included:

  • IKEA desks x 2
  • Vintage tulip chair with chrome base from Kijiji
  • Crate & Barrel molded wood chair
  • EQ3 lounge chair from Kijiji

The idea was to source creatively and keep all pieces affordable – except the glass wall. The glass wall/door and install was 2/3rds of the budget. But, it’s worth it for all the light it brings into the house on the 2nd floor and down the stairs!

Total cost: 1/3rd of what a contractor would have charged.It helps to have Cy act as drywaller, framer, electrician, floor installer, and painter (and I helped a bit too).


When in Lisbon – Beware of Snails and Other Tips

Cy and I waited for the “best” time to go on our honeymoon. It just so happened to be nearly 2 years after we got married, bought a house, finished some renovations…and procrastinated enough. We left for Lisbon right after I quit my last job! In one carry-on bag, we packed lightly and stored tons of iPhone notes on specific restaurants and destinations from friends and Anthony Bourdain.Judy and Cyrus in Lisbon Portugal Honeymoon OurTorontoLifeOur flight took us through Amsterdam to Lisbon. Once we arrived, the cheapest way into the city was via subway. Eventually, we emerged from Biaxa Chiado station – our first views were of the winding and hilly cobble-stoned pathways shooting off into different directions towards restaurants, shops and cafes.

The first path we took was to our apartment for the next few days. It was a cheap and more importantly clean rental from rent4days.com – it ended being a fraction of a hotel stay. Plus, it was one of those experiences where you can feel less like a tourist and more like a local.

rent apartment in lisbon ourtorontolifeFrom our notes, a new friend Ana who is native Portuguese gave us tips to avoid the tourist traps and plenty more notes on places to feast our eyes and mouths.

Tip 1: Celebrate Festas De Lisboa We came at a special time, and we didn’t even know it. June is the month where Lisbon celebrates a specific saint with lots of food, basil plants and street parties. Pop-up restaurants surprised us at the most random nooks of the city. We found an outdoor one where we shared a feast of AYCE grilled sardines, Lay’s chips and grilled meats with sangria shared with locals who cheered, sang and danced to the blasting music that included…Gangnam Style. Better music was at the grungy fado cafe that we visited really late at night.festa de lisboa pop-up restaurant ourtorontolifeDancing in Lisbon Festival Lisboa OurTorontoLifeTip 2: Eat lots of Portuguese Egg Tarts I’m not going to lie, Cy and I ate these every.single.day. We tried them at different bakeries around Lisbon and then finally we had them at the famous Pastis de Belem. It’s the place to go, and it gets busy (the secret is to be seated, it is actually huge inside). Besides egg tarts, we had sandwiches and coffee (I loved the rich and flavourful coffee in Portugal)!pateis de belem lisbon portugal ourtorontolifeTip 3: Go to Cervejaria Ramiro Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations took us here. He gorged on seafood and raved about it. Then, we took the gastronomic hint and ate up a storm of fresh crab, giant prawns, clams, garlic shrimp and a deceivingly good bifana (pork sandwich with American yellow mustard). Again, can I emphasize how affordable Portugal is?! Our entire meal with beers for Cy and a pop for me came to 77.55 Euros.ramiros fresh seafood lisbon portugal ourtorontolifeTip 4: Escape to Sintra We took a day trip outside of Lisbon to Sintra – the old getaway escape for the royal Portuguese family with lush landscapes and castles galore. We bought a pass to take in the grand Pena Palace and the hobbit-like Moorish Castle. S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G!Collage of Lisbon Portugal OurTorontoLifeI didn’t get a picture, but as we had our lunch of traditional cod and meat at Sintra there was a makeshift band of kazoos and plastic-pail drums rocking out Michael Jackson and other rock/pop anthems.Sintra Lunch Portugal OurTorontoLifeTip 5: Rest Up on a Patio or Cafe There was a lot of walking. The day we went to Castle of Sao Jorge (or, I call it the Castle of Cats) – our feet were the most sore. It helps that Lisbon is full of little cafes and patios…it’s the best to satisfy our people watching/resting our old people feet.castle of sao jorge cats lisbon ourtorontolifeSuper Bock Beer Lisbon Portgal OurTorontoLifeTip 6: Down A Ginjinha! It’s a cherry liquor, and it comes out of a hole-in-the-wall store where this grumpy and distracted man pours you a sticky drink in exchange for less than 2 Euros.aginjinha cherry liquor lisbon ourtorontolifeTip 7: Dare Yourself to Try Caracóis  I like to try all local cuisine, but this was probably my very least favourite: caracóis. Or snails. But, not the buttery escargot kind – these were the kinds of snails with eyeballs and fat bodies that you named, played with and didn’t eat too many of. Oh well, we tried and I ended up eating about 15 out of the 100 on the plate.Caracois snails Lisbon OurTorontoLifeNow that I look back at Lisbon – it really was a city while small, there were endless charms in the colourful buildings, arts, food, cats and more. Go because you’ll have the best time even if it’s a short time – you can cover a lot of ground without spending a lot.judy and cyrus in lisbon ourtorontolifeThe best part is going to be cheesy, but it was sharing it with Cy. He’s patient, and I’m less so. He’s willing to pose in fun ways for pictures so that they look less boring when we go through them in the future. He’s game to do anything, and he is really good at reading maps.

Plus, he’s good at renos, that doesn’t have to do with Lisbon but that’s next! And, maybe dreams of an Asia trip down the road.

Read the rest of this entry »


Our One Week Without Power

The power of the recent ice storm left most of the GTA in the dark. And, Cy and I even laughed about freezing rain in the forecast – ha, it’s nothing! We are from Vancouver, no problem.

But the city was encased in ice and there were a lot of problems: No lights, no heat, no Internet (!), no more Christmas party and one fallen tree in our backyard.

fallen tree ice storm toronto ourtorontolife

It was seriously destructive and beautiful at the same time. For one week, we didn’t have power and it became unbearable to live in the house. We tried for 2 nights, but it felt like we were camping…indoors.

cyrus ice storm toronto ourtorontolife 2

How can I describe it the whole thing? Now, I look back and I think about all of my favourite moments:

  •  Multiple meals of bacon cheeseburgers, McChickens and poutine (it’s so so) at the local McDonalds – and taking full advantage of their free wifi and outlets to charge up our nearly dead phones
  • Better meals than McDonalds at places that deserve repeat visits: Yang’s Dim Sum, Pho Mi Asia and Hakka No. 1
  • Chats with old ladies and men over lattes about the big ol’ storm in ’98 while trying to get work done remotely at a coffee shop
  • New introductions to friendly neighbours that we catch glimpses of before but now can say we know each other better now
  • The honour of the introduction to John who gave up his Christmas and demonstrated that the true power behind the generator was his heart – he was even featured on CBC here
  • One-sided ping pong matches with Cy dominating but I slowly got better and now, I understand the sound of a good forehand serve
  • True gifts of Christmas spirit and generosity from  friends and family who have offered their help, homes and hearts to us – and special thank yous to Deena, Ray & doggie Poppy; Heather, Richard & bebe Tiffany; and Uncle Andrew, Auntie Ann-May, Marcus & Rhyan for lending us warm places to stay

friends ice storm christmas ourtorontolife

In between all these moments, we kept checking on our house to see if power came back. On day 7, the green trucks came by. INSERT: celebratory music.

one week without power ice storm toronto ourtorontolife

Despite working long shifts, the crew were good guys with real pride in what they did for the city. In no time, they were able to correct the blown fuse.

We had power! We had lights, heat (warming up), Internet(!) and experiences that has left us with a greater appreciation for the power of our friends, family, strangers and free wifi.


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