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.
This 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.No surprise here, we all ordered some kind of waffle. And, the verdict was that they were all pretty good – everything but the slow service. 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!Food and friends, that’s a better combo.
Get your potato waffles at Starving Artist:
1078 Saint Clair Ave W Toronto ON M6E1A5
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!
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.
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**
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.Just 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.Minet’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.Richard 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.
- 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
- 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 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.Here are the pieces that make up the office:
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.
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.From 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).
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.Our 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.
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.Tip 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)!Tip 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.Tip 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!I 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.Tip 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.Tip 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.Tip 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.Now 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.The 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
I can never say no to one thing. That’s dessert. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Really, I could. Ask Cy, and he would agree and shake his head at the same time.
So, imagine if dessert was actually good for you! No, really it can be. I was asked by Sandy (@savvari) to take part in a recipe post featuring a USA-grown brown rice (“unrefined” kind of white rice). It turns out that brown rice is a heck a lot better for you than white rice. Here are some health benefits you might enjoy:
- High fibre content for better poop
- Rich in naturally-occurring oils to fight cholesterol
- Rich in anti-oxidants just like blueberries
So, brown rice is good for you and I had dessert on my mind. Thai sticky rice with mango using brown rice!
Ingredients for this simple dessert included the following:
Plus, glutinous rice, maple syrup, and water.
1. Soak 1/2 cup of brown rice with 1/2 cup of glutinous rice in 1 cup of water for at least 30 minutes
2. Pour all the rice and water into a pot + additional 3/4 cup of water + 1/4 can of coconut milk, and bring to a gentle boil
3. Add a pinch of salt, and 3-4 tablespoons of maple syrup – then, bring down the heat to med-high with the lid half on so that the steam escapes
4. Stir from time to time, and turn off the heat after 20 minutes. Let it sit with the lid fully covering the pot for 5-10 minutes
5. In a separate pot, prepare the coconut sauce with the remaining coconut milk – heat and add some maple syrup to sweeten
6. To assemble, place rice into a cup to mold it then flip it onto a plate. Pour coconut sauce, and top with sliced ripe mango and grated lime zest
*I tried cooking the rice over the stove top, but you could probably try this in a rice cooker – my favourite way to cook brown rice.
For more information and a special brown rice recipe, take a look at the vid below:
Thanks to Sandy and USA Rice for this opportunity to try brown rice from USA.
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.
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.
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.
Slice, and serve! And, secret handshakes.
*Happy Thanksgiving to everyone*
First and last picture by Susan – thank you for being our star photographer!
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.
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.
Look at Cy run, jump and climb his away around Tobermory!
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.
Pinterest was invented for pictures to be taken at The Grange of Prince Edward, a winery about 2 hours east of Toronto. Cy and I snapped away as we enjoyed our “Day in the Life” tour as part of our fun times to celebrate our 2-year wedding anniversary. Really, it felt like yesterday when Cy was doing cartwheels at our wedding reception!
After a breakfast fuel up for our tour (and cartwheels), we were led outdoors to get started. You would think that the owner would be way too busy to take a small tour of four people (Cy, me, and our new and charming friends, T and D) for an entire morning and afternoon. But, no. The Grange of Prince Edward is run by Caroline Granger who is so hands on with her operation of the estate vineyards and winery. She gets and respects the field-to-table mentality with a sustainable spin on it all.
For example, all wine is produced from the on-site vineyards grown free of nasty pesticides – nature helps nature with alfalfa plants used to attract insect pests away from the grapes.
After touring the lush vineyards, we went to an organic chem. lab. Well, it felt like it with the beakers and graduated cylinders when it came to the blending exercise with white wines including Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Riesling . After three tries, we perfected something that actually tasted sweet, light and didn’t burn our throats! Caroline said that it was a “racy” wine blend.
Check out our bottles with our homemade labels – Cy and I created the ones with the castle die cuts (such keeners).
Next up was lunch! Chef Kyle prepared a too-cute picnic basket packed to the brim with goodies like with egg salad sandwiches (the eggs were freshly laid earlier that morn!) rainbow beet salad, Seed to Sausage meats and desserts – maple brioche “tim bits” and pear cheesecake with fresh cheese.
The tour continued with a view into the entire wine production process and a wine tasting! I recommend the Grange Fumé Blanc for it’s smokey and fruit taste.
After everything, we were pooped! Thank you, Caroline for your passion for honest-to-goodness approach to “craft” winery that turns the other cheek to the “corporate” ways of producing delicious wines.
NOTE: Cy and I were lucky to have enjoyed this experience as affiliate bloggers for Buytopia! Thank you to Melissa and her team there.