The Truth Behind A Baby’s Photoshoot

Dumpling is 1 years old! He can climb, walk, and has a arsenal of gibberish vocabulary but his favourite word is dad. Not mom, but I’m working on that.

We decided to get non-blurry, well-lit photos done for a change. My Google research landed on Elle Marie Photography because Lyndsey’s portfolio showcased exactly the right style that I had in mind. They was bright, candid, and captured personality. Plus, the price was right at $250.

In preparation, I put together a Pinterest mood board and planned the right outfits, props and ordered a smash cake. Seriously, when it came to photo day – planning can only get you so far.

The day of the shoot, Dumpling refused to take his morning nap. We arrived at Lyndsey’s new home studio with a cranky and tired baby. His usually happy demeanor was really hard to coax out of him even with all the special moves – funny faces, funny dances and funny noises like fart sounds.

Most of the time, we were chasing him around the room. Oh, and he is fast. At daycare, they call him a ninja (maybe there is an Asian reference there too).

Well, we tried our best and so did Dumpling. We can’t blame him, a photoshoot isn’t exactly the same as a day at Gymboree. Here are the highlights that came out of our session.
Family photoshoot Toronto
baby with mommy and daddyIMG_3519baby bubbles dog photoshootvery happy baby photoshootartistic baby photoshoot jeansproud baby with mommy and daddychristmas baby photoshootIMG_3720
Honestly, we are so happy with the photos. For the day we had, we still got a few pictures where he was smiling from ear to ear.

Some takeaways?

  • Be patient
  • Bring snacks for your child
  • Bring snacks for yourself
  • Keep the cake box – if any of it is salvageable, then you can bring it home to enjoy
  • Try bubbles
  • Bring a few favourite toys that will bring out your child’s playful side
  • Buy a cheap and colourful cake. We got ours from Metro for $7.49.
  • Again, be patient and have fun!

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


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**


How to Make a Turducken

Happy Thanksgiving How to Make a Turducken Recipe OurTorontoLife

Cy and I have a secret handshake when we celebrate small and big things. After we pulled off this turducken, we must have done this handshake like 100 times. I mean, we had to pull this off. We didn’t want to disappoint ourselves and the friends that we promised to feed.

So, this is how we did it!

Buy all of these necessary ingredients: Whole turkey, whole chicken and duck breast. Meatballs are optional.

Buy or make your favourite stuffing.

1) Preheat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit.

2) Debone the chicken – yes, the chicken first before the turkey! You can “practice” on the chicken, and it doesn’t matter if it looks “bad” since it goes in the turkey. Use a sharp knife – we didn’t have a filleting knife, so Cy used both a Chef’s knife and utility knife.

Cyrus Turducken OurTorontoLife

3) Debone the turkey.  If you are using a frozen turkey, make sure that it is completely defrosted!

4) Remove the duck skin from the duck breast.

5) Brine all the meats overnight. Use 1 cup of salt, 1 cup of brown sugar dissolved in 1 gallon of water.

Turducken Turkey Chicken Duck OurTorontoLife

6) Remove meats from the brine, and start the meat layering! Open the turkey breasts, and place stuffing inside. Then, layer the chicken, and duck on top.

7) Sew up the turducken. We MacGyvered it, and used the twine we had at home. Once sewn up, we stuffed it with meatballs to “fill it up”. Tie the turducken so it holds it’s shape – across it’s “waist” and from “head” to “butt.”

8) Season the turducken however you want. We used a mixture of rosemary, garlic powder, basil, freshly ground salt and pepper. Plus, we added garlic slivers in the skin.

9) Slather the turducken with melted butter, and cover it in foil. Throw it in the oven, and baste every 30 minutes.

10) Remove the foil with 1 hour left to brown it! 25-30 mins/lb of turducken.

How to Make a Turducken Layers Turducken OurTorontoLife

Slice, and serve! And, secret handshakes.

*Happy Thanksgiving to everyone*

First and last picture by Susan – thank you for being our star photographer!

The Cottage Isn’t The Cottage Without…

An escape from the city was needed. Toronto makes me rush all the time –  to work, at work, and after work to get to whatever sports game that I have that night. It’s the same thing for Cy, and sometimes the odd night in is a relief – this means lying on the sofa and playing Candy Crush or Plants vs Zombies.

Judy and Cyrus 5 Reasons to Cottage in the Fall OurTorontoLife

While the drive up to the cottage was long (holy 4 hours), it was completely worth it. We are serious about our cottageing, and it was going to be a stress-free, make up-free, and carefree kind of weekend in Tobermory with our friends, R, O, C, and D.

Cyrus 5 reasons to cottage in the fall ourtorontolife

Look at Cy run, jump and climb his away around Tobermory!

5 reasons to cottage in the fall ourtorontolife

Besides all that running around, we were also able to slow down. Our cottage weekend was made up of so many simple pleasures, like these:

  • Waking up to a sunny day and fresh coffee
  • Hiking around Bruce Peninsula National Park and seeing The Grotto for the first time
  • Eating countless handfuls of chips while watching satellite tv (we don’t have this at home)
  • Gazing at the dark skies full of countless stars
  • Sharing hot chocolate and popcorn around a fire

And, all of the above is better shared with friends. After all, the cottage isn’t the cottage without friends.

The Cake for All Occasions

You have to be picky about cake because not every cake can do. Some people call me too picky, but that’s only because cake is important to me. I love cake. What do I look for?

  1. Fresh cake whether it be chiffon, pound, mousse or cheese. It can’t be stale and/or crumbly.
  2. Fresh ingredients that pop.
  3. Flavours that pleasure your palette without overwhelming it with  noise and strange aftertastes.
  4. Icing that is flavourful,  not too much, not too thick and not too sweet.
  5. Originality of the presentation isn’t at the top of the list but it helps especially if it’s for a special occasion.

If you are looking for a cake that covers the basics, I have a recommendation that would pleasantly surprise you.

Lemon Mascarpone Cake available at Metro and baked by Baker Street Bakery ($25.99)

Layers of moist lemon layer cake, fresh lemon curd and Mascarpone mousse combine to create this incredible dessert. Crunchy meringue completes this centerpiece.

Lemon Mascarpone CakeLemon Mascarpone Cake

Last month, we have had this cake for our brother-in-law’s birthday and then my own birthday. The testimonials for this cake have been overwhelmingly positive:

“Where did you get this cake? It’s amazing.” – Beth
“This cake is GROSS! Just kidding.” – Andrea
“This is my favourite cake now.” – Marcus

Source of pictures located here.

How to: Put Together A Cheap Hallowe’en Costume

HOW TO: Put Together A Cheap Hallowe'en Costume

Here is the formula: (Your closet for clothes and/or accessories) + (Value Village for clothes and/or accessories).

KING OF SKULLS (Childhood vampire cape that still fits! + spider rings from our Hallowe’en party years ago) + (Skull on stick from Dollarama, $1.25 + Evil Jester Top from Value Village, $24.99).

QUEEN OF HEARTS (Triangle necklace + white bomb-shaped earrings + Asian bumpit for hair) + (Used dress from Value Village, $9.99).

Other tips:

  • Use coloured hairspray for some extra fun. We used Alterego red hairspray from Value Village, $2.99.
  • Use your existing make up. Mac Fluidline in Blacktrack was our best friend for the heart, dark circles, hollowed out cheeks and nose.
  • Wear shoes that you already have. Why? No one will look at your costume shoes especially if you have to take them off at a house party.

Picture taken yesterday night before heading out for our friend Asha’s birthday/Hallowe’en party at Cheval.

My Favourite Fall Outfit

My Favourite Fall Outfit

First world problem: Shopping for new fall and winter clothes that work for my wardrobe and budget. Forget Forever 21, and don’t say that I didn’t try. I looked, and they had nothing even worth even $10 in the sweater department. My search took me to Eaton Centre and the Yonge/Bloor area, and this is what I found:

1.  Twisted Knit Frilled Jumper from Zara. The wide neck, belted waist, and flared bottom makes this sweater more special and dressy.

2. Edit by Jeanne Beker Military Wool Jacket from The Bay. The cape! The cape! The cape!

3. 5B Wax Coated Denim from Zara.  They have a glean to resemble leather pants for the tough kid look.

Final thoughts:

1. Sweaters are so plain expensive . I don’t remember them being so much in the past. Next time, I’m going to the Dixie outlets and purchasing during off seasons when there are more sales too.

2. Sweaters should come with pockets for all your phone, keys and other trinket-y things.

3. Sweaters in cardigan format are the best. They are versatile for layering, and you can wear them more often since you can switch out the inner layer.

Pumpkin in the City

Fall is here with some obvious signs. The chill of the morning air. The changing of the leaves from greens to burnt oranges and vibrant reds. The Christmas decorations are in stores. And,  pumpkins start replacing watermelons in the huge bins in front of grocery stores.

It’s not just pumpkins that take over the grocery stores. You can’t avoid the pumpkin pies (see BlogTo for the best bakeries to buy pumpkin pie)! I wanted to find more pumpkin treats, and my search took me from uptown to downtown Toronto. This is what I found:

Mashed Potato and Pumpkin Spring Roll

Heavenly hash is what this is. These spring rolls contain buttery mashed pumpkin and buttery mashed potato. Talk about a fantastic fusion treat.
From Crown Princess | $4.30 for 4 pieces | Rating: 8/10

Pumpkin congee with Lily and Corn

Congee is a rice porridge, and it’s definitely a Chinese comfort food. In this version, it had some pumpkin, lily and kernels of corn. It was good, but tasted a lot like cream of corn.
From Crown Princess | $5.30 | Rating: 6/10

Deep Fried Pumpkin with Salted Spice

This might not make the CNE’s list of fried foods. The slices of pumpkin are huge (not a bad thing)! The batter was a bit too heavy (not a good thing), but I really liked the  hint of spiced salt.
From Crown Princess | $5.30 | Rating: 5.5/10

Pumpkin Macaroon

It looks like a mini cheeseburger, but it’s better. The creamy pumpkin filling tasted almost like dulce de leche with pumpkin spice – perfection!
From Nadège Patisserie (Summerhill) | $2.15 | Rating: 8.5/10

Petite Pumpkin Cake

It looks like a little pumpkin! It tastes so light and leaves you wanting more. Look at the layers of cake, cream and pumpkin filling. At first, Cy wanted just one bite…
From Nadège Patisserie (Summerhill) | $8.00 | Rating: 9/10

Pumpkin Pie Gelato

Two scoops of delicious, creamy pumpkin pie! Just the right amount of spices. I appreciated the subtle and natural colour of the gelato. No bright orange food colouring in this! The only thing that was missing was pieces of pumpkin pie crust.
From Hollywood Gelato | $3.95 for small | Rating: 8.5/10

Pumpkin Pie Rooibus

The moment that I took a whiff, I knew that the tea was going to be one of those you savour to the last drop. The lady at the store explained that the tea was best served on it’s own – no milk or sugar needed! The purist approach helps bring out the flavours, and the pumpkin taste is subtle.
From House of Tea | $6.50 (50 grams) | Rating: 7.5/10

Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin Ale

This craft beer is great for sharing. It’s on the heavier side and you can definitely taste the pumpkin with a little sweetness and a little spiceness to it. Did I mention that it was 9% alcohol?
From LCBO | $7.95 | Rating: 7/10

After an entire day of sampling pumpkin treats, I’m done for the year! But, you could probably tempt me with pumpkin cheesecake.

Merry Christmas

Judy and Cyrus Christmas 2011

The Concise Winter Tire Buyers Guide in Toronto

The Consice Winter Tire Buying Guide

The office clock hits 5pm and as you look up expecting to be soothed by a skyline wrapped in warm sunshine, you experience… darkness.  As you emerge from the gates, a wall of cold air slaps you in the face, your mouth goes dry at your first breath, and you feel the fallen leaves crumble beneath your feet.  Grab your battle gear, old man winter is nearly here.

One of your keys tools in surviving winter’s worst will be a good set of winter tires.  After a week of research, here’s my summary:

1. Not all winter tires are made equal, and it’s not always related to price.
2. Buy tires on a second set of rims and change them yourself (it’s like changing a spare!)
3. “Performance winter tires” handle great and last longer in dry weather, but don’t work well in winter… trust me, I know.
4. Your final cost is likely $1200 at a major chain, $800 at a discount warehouse, and $400-600 for a used set on Craigslist/Kijiji.
5. If buying used, don’t get anything older than 1 season (winter tires 5 yrs old or with less than 50% tread should be recycled).
6. Winter tires will give you more road holding ability, but they’re no added benefit without careful driving.  Being able to stop faster is no good if the guy behind you doesn’t invest in tires as well =)

My picks, in no particular order:

Michelin X-Ice2 — Consumer Reports’ best pick, best compromise for snow, ice, wet
Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 — best user reviews/ratings from, I got 1 year old WS60’s
Continental Extreme Winter Contact — comparable to the two above, improved road noise
Gislaved Nord Frost 5 — Company owned by Continental, spectacular tire, but a bit noisy
General Tire Altimax Arctic — Company owned by Continental, on par with all the above, cheaper, rebranded Gislaved Nord Frost 3

Happy Driving!