Mother Daughter Adventures – Volume Three

What is this? Two mother daughter adventures right in a row? Well, I figured after a few months of not documenting any, it was fair that I do a double share this week. My mom tends to come to visit every few weeks so we have a lot of adventures to share. Of course, whenever I tell anyone this it is usually met with something along the lines of “you two must be really close” which is then followed by me asking if said person has seen Gilmore Girls and if they have I explain that we’re just like Rory and Lorelai. I mean, I never went to Yale and my mom doesn’t own an inn but it is still a pretty fair comparison.

Anyway, onto the adventure.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent a couple days at my parent’s place last week but on Friday mom and I made the trip back to the big city with a mother daughter date planned downtown.

The St. Lawrence Market is the oldest continuous running Farmer’s Market in North America and it just so happens to be one of my favourite places in the city. I don’t even have to buy anything, I like to just walk around the market floor and take in the energy of the old building. It’s a great place to pick up fresh produce or to try a hot lunch from one of the stalls. From fried fish to peameal on a bun, there was a bunch of different options for lunch or an early dinner. The outside of the building is surrounded by a wraparound balcony with picnic benches that are perfect for enjoying a meal in the sun. If you can manage to snag a table, that is.

This trip to the market wasn’t for a haul of fresh fruits and vegetables, or even a trip to my favourite seafood joint but instead we had booked two at the market’s History and Tea Talk.

On certain Fridays this summer the St. Lawrence Market has hosted this event with different historical presentations and a traditional afternoon tea to follow. For me, it was mostly about the tea but the history talk turned out to be quite nice too.

We learnt about the original market building across the street and how the St. Lawrence Market sits on the spot that the first city hall used to sit. In fact, the Market Gallery where we were seated was part of the original city hall. The larger market building was constructed around it many decades later. The talk carried on with mentions of the city’s first mayor William Lyon Mackenzie, Toronto’s cholera epidemic, and a bout of other historical facts that were rather interesting. Once the talk finished we were directed down half a flight of stairs to The Market Kitchen.

Getting to see The Market Kitchen in person was one of the main reasons I was so interested in taking in this afternoon tea in the first place. It is a spaced that is used for events and cooking classes. The moment I first saw the space online I fell in love and I’m pleased to say that seeing it in person did not disappoint.

The kitchen is found above the North West corner of the St. Lawrence Market. The large market windows overlook Front Street, including Toronto’s Flatiron building. On the other side of the venue there is a large railing that overlooks the shops of the market.

The afternoon tea itself was a modest serving but I did not expect anything extravagant at $15 a person. In fact, for the price I think it was more than a fair deal. Each tea setting was for four people so we sat with a another twosome. There was an array of finger sandwiches, two-bite desserts, and small scones with fresh berries and cream. This was accompanied by a large pot of black tea served on lovely mismatched china.

I don’t know what it is about finger sandwiches but I always find them so much better than actual sandwiches. Perhaps it’s the lack of crust or the fact that there just so itty bitty. Regardless, the small selection of finger sandwiches for the tea was quite lovely, even the plain cheese sandwich was scrumptious.

While the little desserts are normally my favourite part of afternoon teas, it was actually the scones that did it for me this time. While the cream was just normal whipped cream rather than Devonshire cream, it was still quite delicious, especially with the mixed berries on top. In fact, even after the scones were gone, we helped ourselves to a serving of just berries and cream.

It was another adventure well spent with my momma. Afterwards we killed some time by walking to the Distillery District and just hanging out before I had to take off to give a tour that evening.

If you’re in Toronto or just visiting, there is actually one more History and Tea Talk for the summer taking place next Friday August 25, 2017. This one includes a tour into the City of Toronto’s Art Collection art storage vault. To be quite honest, if I wasn’t already making plans to go to the CNE on Friday, I would consider going to this once more.

Of course, there’s always next year.

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Mother Daughter Adventures – Volume Two

With a few days off last week I decided to spend some time in my hometown with my parents and my friends. I hopped on a coach bus first thing Tuesday morning, threw in some headphones and ventured an hour north for a few days. Upon arriving, my mom and I realized we hadn’t really planned anything for our first afternoon together and so a wayward comment led us to venturing another hour further to go have lunch at a tea shop that used to be in Barrie but had since moved to Collingwood. Unfortunately, we arrived to find a sign on the door:

“Closed due to unforeseen circumstances” 

It was a bummer of course, we’d driven an hour only to find out that we wouldn’t be indulging in the delicious scones and Devonshire cream that we had been looking forward to tasting after so long. Our last second plan had been dashed at the last second which meant we had to improvise.

As per usual when it comes to my mom and I, a little mishap turned out to be a blessing in disguise. A heavenly one at that.

Heavenly Cafe can be found in a lovely little strip mall just a short drive from downtown Collingwood. Outside is a small summer patio while inside is a much larger space with an array of different table settings. There are high top tables, regular two seaters, and a few mismatched arm chairs that give the place a very chic vibe.

More interesting (at least to me) than the arm chairs and artwork was the long counter of sweets and treats that accompanied a full menu. Tarts, squares, sugar cookies, cinnamon rolls, full cakes, and macaroons. It was everything a sweet tooth like me could possibly want. Of course, being mindful of our eating habits, my mom and I decided sharing was the best option.

The cafe has a nicely sized menu with different sandwiches, salads, and a number of cafe specialities such as quiche and mac and cheese. After some debating we opted for the croque-monsieur and the french onion soup. The sandwich came with a side salad dressed lightly with a balsamic vinaigrette. The side salad was really nice and it was a good way to make the meal feel a bit healthier and lighter. But of course it was the sandwich that really had my full attention.

If you ever took a tour through my fridge, you’d quickly see that I really, really love cheese. At the current moment I have seven different types of cheese in the apartment. I just can’t get enough of it. This, of course, is why I’m a big fan of a good Croque-Monsieur, and the one from Heavenly Cafe was an absolute delight. The soft bread was covered in a thick layer of melted cheese and it was absolutely delicious. I pretty much devoured my half immediately.

Then there was the french onion soup, which once again I go to for the cheese. Until recently I didn’t really enjoy the soup itself. I prefer soup with a thicker consistency that isn’t just broth but on occasion a really good french onion soup can make me change my mind. The one at Heavenly Cafe hit the spot. The serving size was large, and even between the two of us we just couldn’t finish it, but we made sure all the cheese and soup soaked bread was out of the bowl and into our tummies before finally waving the white flag so we could have room for dessert.

Ah dessert time. Normally restaurants give you four or five options to mull over and the picking is usually pretty easy but when you’re grabbing a bite in a cafe things can get trickier. The counter was lined with glass jars and serving plates displaying a number of different treats. Then there were two glass cabinets stocked full of more yummy meal enders. The cinnamon buns looked unreal but since I had just enjoyed one the previous weekend on our adventure to the beaches, I decided I wanted something different.

We opted for one of the lemon tarts and a glass of milk. Our lovely server swirled some caramel onto a plate underneath the sweet treat and left us with a well sized dollop of whipped cream. Once again, the taste did not disappoint. The tart was not overly sweet and it made for the perfect light dessert.

While it was sad to not get our scones, it is always nice to try somewhere new. Sharing the soup and sandwich made for a lighter lunch and then the tart at the end topped us off perfectly. I would definitely say that Heavenly Cafe was quite a divine experience and I would not hesitate to go back there, though the drive is definitely a long one.

That’s another adventure in the books, and as always when it comes to time with my mom, it was a good one. I would say who knows what we’ll get up to next, but that is in fact the topic of my next post. Stay tuned for more…

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You had me at pizza…

Do you ever build something up in your mind so much that it becomes a disappointment when you finally get to experience it? Well, this is not one of those instances. Months ago I was looking for a deep-dish pizza place to try in the city because I just love deep-dish. To be honest there’s not really a type of pizza I don’t enjoy. Even bad pizza is better than no pizza, right? But there’s just something about the way the cheese and toppings get piled into deep-dish that makes it extra special.

So on a wild night of cravings several months ago I went searching for the best deep-dish pizzas in the city. Unfortunately upon doing this research I was faced with a map of pizza joints nowhere near where I live. But there was a silver lining: BlogTO’s list of “The top 5 deep dish pizza in Toronto” gave me some places to put on my restaurant wish list (which I should type up one day) and on the top of this list was Descendant Pizza.

Unfortunately, Descendant Pizza was one of the furthest joints away from where I live, and since it is in a neighbourhood that I had never ventured to before it wasn’t one that quickly fit into my usual plans. Months passed and then finally, as you would have seen if you read my post from Sunday, we made the venture out to Queen Street East which allowed for a little lunch stop in at Descendant.

And this place was so good it deserved it’s own post.

Descendant is one of those little hole-in-the-wall restaurants. There restaurant itself probably seats about thirty with a few small tables, a hightop rail at the front window, and one large wooden table right through the front door. The smaller tables were reserves and my short legs weren’t in the mood for a high top so we grabbed a spot at the end of the large table.

We stuck with water but Descendant has a fair range of ciders, beers, and non-alcoholic beverages to choose from. Instead of your regular Coke or Pepsi they serve Boylan’s Handcrafted Sodas in a variety of flavours, ranging from Root Beer to Lemon Seltzer.

But our attention was not on the drinks portion on the menu, but rather the Detroit-Style pizzas that Descendant is so well known for. From a regular pepperoni and cheese to more interesting choices like the “Truff-Ghi” (Cheese Blend, Slow-Roasted Garlic Cremini Mushrooms, Double Smoked Bacon, Caramelized Onions, Lemon Zest, Fresh Thyme, Grana Padano, White Truffle Sauce) and the “Gatt Daddy” (House made fennel sausage, Mama Lil’s Peppers). We opted for their newest menu item: Electric Avenue.

Our small “Electric Avenue” pizza came in an 8×11 pan and was generously topped with cheese jerk chicken, fresh Pineapple, curried lime aioli, green onion, mama lil’s peppers, and diablo’s fuego hot sauce on the side. The curried lime aioli was generously spread on the top and soaked down through the cheese in the most appetizing way. In fact, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

The fuego hot sauce was a sweet heat that was served on the side. It was excellent for dipping the thick pan-style crust into after you had filled yourself on the abundance of cheese and toppings that were piled onto the middle. And of course, with this choice you know where I stand on the pineapple on pizza debate. Sorry Gordon Ramsey, I’m all about that sweet pineapple taste.

While Descendant is on the pricier side when it comes to pizza (our small was $19+tax), I definitely think the quality and the unique flavours you can get from the small Queen East joint is worth the extra dough (pun totally intended).

A small was a good size to split between two people because the dough is thick and the toppings are plentiful. I’m sure Matt could have ate a small on his own but with plans to go grab desserts and snacks in The Beach Village it made sense to opt for the smaller size. Of course, if we ever end up doing takeout I think we’ll get a large just to have leftovers.

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A Streetcar Trip Outside My Comfort Zone

The long weekend rolled in and I realized we had no plans. I was scheduled to do tours on Friday and Saturday but that still left my days wide open. After doing a quick little search to see what was going on in the city, I decided it was finally time to venture away from my usual haunts in downtown all the way out to The Beaches.

The Beaches is a neighbourhood east of downtown and since I live Northwest of Toronto’s core, I don’t often venture out too far east. The Beaches was unexplored territory and since trips to the beach are generally a summertime activity, I figured it would be a good idea to have this adventure before the summer months leave us and we roll into fall.

We made our trip down and out very slowly, having a later start in the morning since I’d be working late in the evening. After grabbing a quick bite to eat (which will be featured in another post) our adventures moved on Queen Street East as we ventured into an area known as The Beach Village. Here you’ll find an array of beautiful houses and cutesy shops.

  

We wandered inside antique shops, stores full of arts and craft supplies, and we even decided to stop in at a little bakery. Brick Street Bakery has a very rustic vibe to it with dark wood accents and low lighting. There’s a little four seater table at the front window for anyone looking to get off their feet while enjoying a treat or two.

We decided to just grab and go, eating in the doorway next door while we waited for a little sun shower to move along. Our treat of choice was a soft and gooey blueberry cinnamon bun. And lucky for us it was a good choice.

After checking out what the street had to offer we headed down to the actual beach. It was a windy day with a lot of cloud cover so Woodbine Beach wasn’t as busy was it likely would have been on a bright sunny day. But there were still lots of people about, enjoying the fresh air and taking in a game or two of beach volleyball.

Woodbine Beach is lined with a long beautiful boardwalk and peppered with Muskoka chairs. We didn’t actually make our way out onto the sand or into the water but just hanging by the boardwalk was nice and relaxing. It was also perfect for people/dog watching. We parked ourselves on a park bench for a little while and just enjoyed the summer breeze.

From the beaches we moved into Woodbine Park in order to find The Toronto Food Truck Festival. Over 40 food trucks rolled into the park for the weekend with foods ranging from authentic Belgian waffles to Southern-style BBQ plates. There were tons of options to choose from, which of course just made my life more difficult.

The only thing I found disappointing about the Food Truck Festival was the lack of small snack plates. Most of the trucks were serving full menu items priced between $10-15. We had been hoping to grab a bunch of little plates under five dollars so we could try more. Unfortunately only a few stands had anything close to that price range.

Since it was only three o’clock and we had already had lunch we weren’t hungry enough to gorge ourselves on anything like the chicken and waffles in a waffle or the bacon wrapped poutine burger. Instead, we order a twisted potato and an order of original apple fritters with vanilla ice cream from two different trucks. The two items together cost about $15. It was a bit of a pricey snack but they were both delicious in their own way.

The neatest thing about the twisted potato was the different kinds of gourmet ketchup offered to go with it. We sampled each of their unique flavours; bacon, mesquite, ghost pepper, and dill pickle. The dill pickle had the most flavour but I really enjoyed the mesquite (it had a barbecue taste) and the ghost pepper (it had a hot sauce taste). The bacon was a little disappointing as it didn’t really taste much different than plain old regular ketchup.

Of the two treats we sampled, the apple fritters were definitely the more memorable of the two. I learned in the first bite that old style apple fritters apparently have thick apple slices inside and icing sugar covering the top. Dipping these warm pockets of apple goodness in the runny vanilla ice cream was an absolute delight.

After making our way back out of the park we decided to check out more of Queen Street East simply because it’s an area we haven’t explored before. We walked back in the direction we had come from in the morning, taking a look into more of the stores we had passed by after lunch. I quickly began to recognize a lot of restaurants from lists that I’ve scrolled through on BlogTO including a little unique coffee house called The Sidekick.

The name hints to a super hero theme which is executed perfectly through the inclusion of a small comic book shop on the inside. Exposed brick and chalkboard menu signs are complimented by hanging tesla bulbs and the inclusion of a number of comic figurines and statues. In the back corner there’s a small fireplace surrounded by comfy chairs and a board game selection for patrons spending a bit of extra time in the cafe.

 

Our stop at The Sidekick was brief but it was a nice way to rest tired feet before wandering into a gastropub for dinner. A quick look at my watch told me it was time to head back downtown in order to get to work. We decided to walk rather than hopping on the 501 streetcar and the trek put me over 20,000 steps for the day before I headed in for my Saturday night tour shift. We adventured well and now that we’ve seen how easy it is to get out to The Beaches and the surrounding neighbourhoods I’m sure we’ll be back.

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10 Ingredient Jambalaya

I will be honest: this summer hasn’t exactly been a good one for meal plans and new recipes. I was doing really good at trying new things in the beginning but as things got busier and busier I found that easy old crockpot recipes became my best friends. Unfortunately my best friends weren’t always the most exciting. One can only eat so many deconstructed cabbage rolls and pots of chilli before they get kind of sick of what they’re eating. I’m someone who always likes to try new foods and this typically extends to my home cooking as well as eating out. Sadly, there isn’t always enough time.

Monday was another pot of crockpot chilli but since I had absolutely nothing to do on Wednesday I decided to venture out a little bit. I didn’t pick a new recipe but instead decided to try something I haven’t made since the winter months: jambalaya.

I am a glutton for southern style cooking, especially anything with Cajun roots. New Orleans is on the top of my bucket list and it’s not just because of The Princess and the Frog. Jambalaya is one of those dishes I just love to order at restaurants and while I was still in university it was something I learned how to make at home. I’ve experimented with recipes over the years and have finally come up with my fast and dirty way to make a heaping pot of the good stuff. So of course, I figured I’d share it with all of you.

Not so surprisingly I failed on measuring my ingredients so I just kind of eyeballed it the best I could to come up with this simple 10 ingredient list for making my version of Jambalaya.This is a spin off of traditional Jambalaya which uses broth instead of tomato paste.The cauliflower rice was a new test for me in order to lower the carbs and calories in this dish and it turned out great.

  • 1/2 a medium sized onion diced
  • 2-3 bell peppers diced
  • 1 stock of celery diced
  • 10-15 chicken strips
  • 12-15 shrimp
  • 4 turkey sausages (missing in mine this time; the store was sold out)
  • Tomato paste (156ml)
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • Cajun seasoning to taste
  • 4 servings of rice or one head of cauliflower (or both)

Directions

Cook your turkey sausages in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (flipping once halfway through). While the sausages are cooking begin to prepare the rest of your ingredients; dicing the vegetables, peeling the shrimp, and cutting chicken strips into bite sized pieces. Once the turkey sausage is cooked cut these into bite sized pieces as well.

If you’re using cauliflower you can either grate it into cauliflower rice like I did or use a food processor (which is probably 10 times easier). If you’re using regular old rice proceed to boil your rice as normal. As you can see I’m pretty lazy (and I suck at cooking rice) so I just use minute rice.

Next, cook the vegetables and meats together on medium heat in a large pot on the stove top, stirring occasionally. After five minutes add the tomato paste. Fill the empty tomato paste can with water and pour this into the pot as well to change the consistency of the tomato paste. Stir the paste and water in until all the vegetables and meats are coated. Proceed to add hot sauce and cajun seasonings to taste. I prefer mine on the spicier side but it’s all up to you.

Finally, mix in cooked rice or grated cauliflower rice. Cook on low for 5 more minutes and then serve.

Prep and everything included this meal should take no longer than an hour to make. The recipe is for approximately 4-6 servings. It did four for us but Matt’s servings are large so it probably could be spread into six especially because we used both the cauliflower and the regular rice. If you give this one a try let me know, and as always if you have recipes to share please leave them in the comments below! I’m off to eat a big bowl of this now so:

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Lessons from a Shopping Bag

Today, a moment of growth came from a plastic bag full of snack foods and hair dye.

It’s a strange place to find real life character development and yet as I sat down on my couch with my freshly purchased goods I realized I didn’t feel guilty about them at all. I wasn’t worried that I was falling back into old habits where anything and everything was fair game, I just knew that today was not a day to worry about my diet. I had bigger things going on.

It’s easy for me to become obsessed with the efforts I’ve made to change my lifestyle. I spend hours upon hours looking at weight loss blogs, scrolling through workout videos, and planning meals. I put a lot of effort into trying to be healthier and dropping another pant size. There are progress photos, meal preps, step counting, and a whole bunch of other things that eat up time and energy. Some days I’m on top of everything and others I struggle. I used to make myself feel really bad about those off days but I’m starting to learn that my version of a healthy lifestyle doesn’t always include food logs, sweaty sports bras, or even a proper portion of vegetables. Part of this lifestyle is allowing myself those days when I’m not so concerned, knowing well that I’ll get back on track tomorrow.

Recently, I had the privilege of reading a post from one of the bloggers I follow that really got me thinking. The lovely Sara of Truly Sara talked a little bit about why she doesn’t like the phrase “Cheat Meal” (you can read the post here). While I’ve often used “Cheat Meal” or “Cheat Day” on my social media as a catch all for those days when I’m not counting calories or tracking ‘points’, I do really agree with what Sara had to say. The phrase can often make us feel bad about the food choices we have made, and we can often feel like a failure just because of what we put into our bodies.

I started thinking about this post again today as I finished off a ten pack of nuggets and half… okay, two thirds of a McDouble from McDonalds. Today was not a day I had planned to indulge; in fact there was healthy food in the fridge already made and ready but it just didn’t happen. Today was a rough one for me both physically and mentally; things were going on in my life that I needed comfort for and I found that comfort in food.

Do I unhealthily use food as a coping mechanism sometimes? Yes, I do but it’s not the end of the world and that’s the lesson I took home with me today, along with a plastic bag full of goods.

What I’ve come to understand to be important is to remember that I am in control. Just because I had a bad day today and decided to make it better by eating McDonalds and getting junk food for the evening does not mean I’m suddenly a failure. In fact, I haven’t even done anything wrong. I acknowledged that my feelings were negative, and I knew that tonight the food would help with that. Today that was worth it, other days it won’t be so I won’t make the same call. I won’t do this every time I have a bad day and that’s the triumph in it. I believe it to be a lesson worth sharing.

So much of life is about balance, and everyone’s balance is different. It can be difficult to do but finding your balance rather than basing your life on someone else’s can be incredibly empowering. Whether you call them cheat days, indulgences, or just don’t worry about the labels, you don’t have to feel bad about making those choices. If it made you happy, even for a short period of time, that’s what truly matters; not the size of your jeans, the calories you counted, or anything else. Your happiness is worth more than all of that combined.

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A Celebratory Meal – Bazille in Nordstrom

I’m afraid the weekend got away from me a little bit so this one is going to be short and sweet. It was a busy week with big news for me. I have a conditional offer for a full time salaried position with one of the organizations I have been volunteering with and I couldn’t be more thrilled. This of course led to a crazy week with excitement, juggling of priorities, and celebration. That of course meant that the time I would normally have set aside for writing my blog posts kept getting pushed back until suddenly it’s almost ten o’clock on Sunday night.

But don’t worry, the hectic celebrations of the week left me with something to share with you.

After finding out about the job offer on Thursday, and dealing with the fact that Matt didn’t get home until nearly 7, we decided making dinner was too much work and we decided a little evening out. We live in a good area but a lot of the restaurants are big chain restaurants that I just wasn’t in the mood for. Plus, the occasion called for something special.

Strangely enough, that something special ended up being in the middle of a department store.

Nordstrom opened up in two Toronto locations last year and I will openly admit I am obsessed with the aesthetic of the store and all the beautiful clothes inside. For the most part it’s a little bit out of the usual range of what I spend on clothes but I did get an Eliza J dress and a Ted Baker London skirt / top combo for Christmas from the store and I love them both. I really just wish I had more occasions to wear the Ted Baker.

There was no celebratory shopping trip planned (not yet at least) but instead our evening’s dinner took place at the restaurant inside Nordstrom. Different Nordstrom locations have different restaurants, the one we went to at Yorkdale boasts Habitant and Bazille. Habitant is more of a quick bites bar menu stop whereas Bazille is a fuller restaurant.

One thing we noticed right away about Bazille is how quiet and calm the restaurant is. It was the perfect place for a low key dinner for just the two of us. And the food was excellent as well.

To start we ordered an appetizer of calamari. I’m a big calamari fan to the point where it’s kind of my go to appetizer. Some people like mozzarella sticks, some people like garlic bread, and well, I like them both to be honest but calamari is something special to me because it’s just not quite as good when you make it at home. Or at least, when I make it at home because it typically comes out of a box.

This calamari had a nice crispiness to it but it was still very light. The lemongrass in the sweet chilli sauce made it a little different than the normal sweet chilli heat you normally get with calamari.  It made it a bit sweeter in a way, with a distinct lemony taste. Overall it was quite tasty and I wouldn’t hesitate ordering it again.

While I did quite enjoy the calamari, it definitely wasn’t the highlight of the meal. Matt and I decided to order two dishes and split them. He ordered the Crab Macaroni and Cheese while I picked out the Prime Rib French Dip.

The mac and cheese was incredibly cheesy an creamy with breadcrumbs on top to deliver a bit of a crunch. The pieces of crab meat inside infused the whole dish with a delicious fishy taste to go along with the cheese. The side salad that went along with it was nothing special in my opinion but the tasty bits of roasted cheese were yummy. The actual greens themselves were what threw me off. But overall the dish was absolutely delicious. Sometimes a comforting bowl of mac and cheese, no matter how fancy or not, it is all you need.

But for me the prime rib beef dip definitely took top place on the evening’s eats. The meat had so much flavour and the melted cheese the softly toasted bread just tied the whole thing together. The au jus was perfectly salty which I think is a really fine balance. Some places make it way too salty, others don’t make it salty enough but this was really well done. The stack of fries that the sandwich came with were both artisanal in nature and very tasty but I did not like the kalamata aoili but of course that makes sense: I hate olives.  I opted for ketchup instead and occasionally dipped the thin but crispy fries into the au jus. It was a delicious combo.

I would definitely recommend Bazille if you’re kicking around a Nordstrom and find yourself getting hungry. I would also recommend Peace Treats which is where we stopped for desserts. They have fully loaded milkshakes with a handful of toppings, some of which are as ridiculous as cotton candy, mini donuts, or a decent slice of cake.

We opted for the O Canada milkshake which was being offered for a limited time for the anniversary of 150 years since Confederation. The milkshake was rimmed with cream cheese icing, rolled in sprinkles, topped with whipped cream and then decorated with m&ms and a slice of red velvet ice cream cake.

Needless to say, I wasn’t watching what I was eating that night.

I always love discovering new restaurants that we enjoy and it’s nice to have something different close by. While I do love Red Lobster and Shoeless Joes, they are pretty generic. This was something different and as it turns out, different was good. And of course, so was the milkshake.

So that’s it for  me. Hopefully things slow down a bit soon but chances are they won’t. Big changes ahead may mean a lot more late night posts but I promise you, I’m not going anywhere.

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Oh The Places You’ll Go…

So technically the first day of summer was only a few days ago but the warm weather rolled in a few weeks ago and because of that we’ve been pretty busy with adventure after adventure. I’ve already shared a few of them in my previous posts but since the sunshine dragged us back out of the house again yesterday I figured I’d give you all another look on yet another adventure day planned in the city.

The plan was to go down to the Junction Farmer’s Market to grab everything we needed for a picnic but as it turns out the market is quite small and lacking picnic type goodies. It was more a fresh vegetable market which would have been good for a grocery shop but wasn’t so great for filling our picnic bag. Luckily, I’m pretty good at improvising and we quickly found a place to grab some brunch.

People seem to have an obsession with brunch but honestly nine times out of ten I find it’s just a breakfast menu that people eat off of a little later. But despite this I do like checking out new little spots and The Mugshot Tavern was something that just popped up on my phone when checking to see what was around the area. Matt had an unusual chicken and waffles eggs benedict which was smothered in gravy and was tasty, while Jess and I had more traditional brunches of a breakfast burrito and plain old chicken and waffles. Nothing was over the top spectacular but it fuelled us up for our walk into High Park.

Now, I’m not much of a nature person. I’d rather walk a few city blocks than roll around in a field of grass. It perhaps has something to do with the plethora of outdoor related allergies I have. Still, High Park quickly became one of my favourite new adventures and that was solely for the off leash dog area. I’m not even sure how many dogs we saw on the walk on the trail but I know I couldn’t take the smile off of my lips the entire time. My friend Jess was only slightly more excited when she got to go to see the baby capybaras at the High Park Zoo.

After the zoo we took a long street car ride up to College Street to go for donuts. Jelly Modern Donuts is an upscale gourmet donut joint that I’ve visited a couple of times now. Like most speciality dessert places it is a bit on the pricier end but it’s not bad if you’re only grabbing one. The donuts are a good size and they’re really tasty. Matt ordered the seasonal fruit, I got the chef’s creation (pralines and cream) and Jess grabbed a Madagascar vanilla which is actually the first donut I myself ever tried from the shop.

Just like the time’s before, the donuts did not disappoint.

Our adventure continued in Kensington Market where we wandered through some shops, paid way too much for freshly squeezed orange juice, and just beat the dinner rush at Seven Lives, my number one taco joint in the city. It was a day filled with new and old adventures, a couple of laughs and a bit of sun.

So that was our adventure this weekend. Sunday morning came early with an 8am volunteering session and now it’s time to wind down before another work week. Hopefully there will be more adventures soon.

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Oh Darling, Lets Be Adventurers

It’s time for an adventure share my lovely readers.

This weekend’s adventures started off with a trip downtown that turned into a celebratory dinner and movie with my best friend Keeragh. She’s kicking so much ass lately and with plans to already hit up Wonder Woman Friday night it only made sense to tack dinner on beforehand to really celebrate. I had hoped to score a reservation at Teronni now that I know a little bit about its haunted past from my training at Haunted Walks Toronto but unfortunately that six o’clock time slot we were looking for was all booked up. That’s okay though because it led to us finding a different joint that I quickly fell in love with.

BATCH, named because of the brewhouse history of brewing in small batches using a simple copper kettle up in Creemore, is a little gastro-pub downtown Toronto just a short walk from Queen Subway Station. The overhang sign with vanity lights positioned underneath almost makes it look like another theatre hidden amongst the downtown core but instead the old historical building has been turned into quite the place for craft beer and good eats.

There’s a muted retro tone inside the restaurant that comes in teals, burgundy, and soft brown and black leather. At the front you’ll find fully stocked fridges with bottles and cases to bring home while the long bar just inside hosts fresh pours of the many beers on tap. By the end of diner our crew had sampled all six of BATCH’s current selection from a Whitbier with 17IBU to a Indian Pale Ale with 70IBU. I’m not a beer drinker myself but I still like to take a sip here and there because I have been known to surprise myself. The citrus flavours from the Whitbier were what got me onboard, though I still couldn’t finish the small glass. The other two enjoyed themselves though.

So the menu at BATCH is pretty straight forward. You’ve got a handful of starters, a selection of seasonal flatbreads, salads, and your main entrees. But here’s the thing, despite the fact that the menu was simple we still all struggled with narrowing down what we were going to order. There were too many unique options for me to just know off the bat. It didn’t help that I had checked out some of the pictures of the food online and that only made things harder. As we hemmed and hawed Matt suggested ordering one of the flatbreads as a starter (since we were all looking at them) and so we went with that.

We ended up with the Niagara Salami flatbread which had a tomato sauce base with fior di latte cheese and both prosciutto and soppressata. The meats had a good heat to them and even though they kept sliding off my slices (the others oddly enough didn’t have any issues) the flatbread was awesome. It would have made a fine dinner on its own but once our actual entrees arrived I was happy to have just split this one.

So what did I have for dinner that made me so happy? It’s something really simple actually: perogies. Now, generally when I think of perogies I think of it as a side dish or an appetizer. I’ve had some good perogies over the years but generally the little scrumptious pockets of goodness are accompanied by more than just bacon and onions. However, in BATCH’s case, it was all I needed. Maybe it was the two slices of flatbread beforehand that helped or the fact that I just don’t eat that many heavy carbs anymore but I was struggling by the end of this dish to finish it all. But I just had to. The sauce that accompanied the sour cream, whatever it was, was absolutely heavenly and the perogies were cooked to perfection. It was a tough choice between them, schnitzel, and fried chicken but ultimately I’m happy with my choice.

Judging by the reactions at the table, Keeragh and Matt were pretty damn satisfied with their meals as well. The portions aren’t huge by any means but they don’t leave you hungry or too bloated. Well, they wouldn’t have had we stopped after dinner but lets not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

Matt ended up ordering the reuben which came on a beautiful pretzel bun with cabbage slaw and Russian dressing. Both his meal and Keeragh’s lamb burger came with the largest fries I’ve ever seen in my life. They were probably about two fingers wide and they came out piping hot. They were lightly salted and once they weren’t burning your mouth they were pretty tasty.

Then of course, celebrating and all, I just couldn’t seem to keep to my goal to keep away from the sweets for a bit. I was good though and opted for sharing one piece of coconut cream pie with the table instead of having my own dessert. I don’t regret it for a second. It went down so smooth and while I probably could’ve finished off a piece for myself, my tight jeans were pretty happy that I didn’t. Our waiter, who was all sorts of fun, had told us the sticky toffee pudding was great as well but after reading so much about the cream pie online I just had to try it. I guess I’ll just have to go back again to try it later.

BATCH, like almost all the restaurants right downtown was a bit pricey but nothing too much past your run of the mill chain restaurant these days. Plates averaged $18-20 dollars and they were well worth it. I never mind paying for good food.

With our bellies full it was time to make the trek up to the Yonge and Dundas Cineplex to take in Wonder Woman in 4D. It was Matt and I’s second time to the 4D theatre but Keeragh’s first. For those of you who aren’t familiar with 4D it’s an enhanced version of 3D where more effects (fog, rain, movement, wind, snow, etc.) are added in. You’re in a row of 4 seats each that move as a unit. We saw Rogue One like this back in December and it was a lot of fun so we despite the steep price ($25 a ticket) we decided to take another go.

This time it wasn’t the 4D that amazed me.

I could probably (and may still) write a full post about how happy I am with Wonder Woman. Even with all the hype it still blew me away. There were two moments where I found myself crying but most of the movie I was just smiling so much that my cheeks began to hurt. The No Man’s Land scene is probably the most important scene in Super Hero flick history in my opinion and I just can’t wait to see how this movie empowers those who go to see it, especially those who identify as women. If you haven’t seen it yet I strongly suggest going to check it out, it has elements of humour, history, action, and a whole lot of heart so I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t enjoy it.

Of course the adventure didn’t end on Friday night. Saturday morning we got up, wished Keeragh off to work (sorry babe) and headed down to The Stop Farmer’s Market at the Wychwood Barns down by St. Clair West. After a bit of driving around an area that is brand new to us we snagged a parking spot and then made our way down to the old streetcar barn that acts as the centre piece for the market.

The market runs year round with the vendors shifting inside the old barn in the winter. There were probably about 30-40 tents outside with everything from Jamaican patties to fresh produce. There were a lot of yummy looking pies and tarts that I would have liked to take home but after Friday’s indulgences I decided to show a little self control.

After the big grocery shop we did last week it made the most sense to just stock up on some fruits and veg instead of doing another full trip. I love doing so at farmers markets because you get to support your fellow locals while also having the chance of stumbling upon some unique items. It might be a bit pricier than a grocery store for some things but I don’t mind when the products are high quality. Plus, farmer’s markets often make for fun little adventures, especially when you go to one you’ve never been before. The Stop Farmer’s Market is definitely unique given its location and it also had some really great vendors.

So $30 later and we had a small bag of goods to help us make it through the week. Seeing mustard beans is always a moment of excitement for me. They’re probably easy to make but for me it’s just a nice treat that reminds me of home. In the end we grabbed asparagus, carrots and turnips for this weeks dinners, a quiche (which was so scrumptious) for Saturday’s lunch, the mustard beans of course, and some honey garlic pepperoni sticks. We’d been hoping to find some fruit but only two stalls had some and it was all apples and strawberries so we decided to just pick up a few items from the store after all. Despite this it was a good little trip.

Honestly if there’s a farmer’s market in your area and you’ve never been I suggest going, you never know what kind of goodies you might find.

 

The weekend wasn’t over yet and so the adventures continued today (hence the late and long post). We headed back out into the sunshine (in shorts because I learnt my lesson after boiling on Friday in my jeans) and went down to the Annex Family Festival.

I misread the website so we showed up an hour before the street party really got started but that was fine because it allowed for wandering around when things weren’t busy. We walked further down Bloor in either direction just checking out shop windows and everything that was going on.

We enjoyed some fried plantain and Hawaiian skewers while we wandered around and even got a cute little polaroid taken of the two of us. There were lots of little items to buy and stalls to check out but we mostly just went for a stroll. Once we’d passed through the walk a few times we decided to go grab a bite to eat. Knowing that Snakes and Lattes was right down the street we headed there to play some board games and munch on chips and dip.

Three hours later we were back on the street with little to no plan.

But wandering about kind of aimlessly can lead to amazing things and today it happened to lead us right onto the set of Stephen and Robbie Amell’s new film, Code 8. I’m a huge Arrow fan (I feel like this had been alluded to before) and while there was no sight of Mr. Oliver Queen himself it was still exciting to run into the set itself. Maybe I’ll be able to find Stephen before he heads back to Vancouver to film Arrow.

Despite no Amell sitings we did get a little treat as we watched Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift star Sung Kang, who was just recently announced as a cast member, jump out of one of the vehicles. He seemed to be the star of the scene which was filming right in front of Hotel Waverly on Spadina Avenue. You can see the back of his head in the second picture below, of course the other car was in the way of him whenever he seemed to turn around.

Finally, with no ripped super heroes in sight we headed down Spadina and checked out a little fast food joint known as The Chickery. As you may be able to guess their special is chicken and much like KFC, Nandos, Popeyes, or whatever fried chicken place you’re into, their chicken comes in different cuts and sizes with different sides and sauces.

I ordered the chicken feathers with a side of corn bread and garlic aioli while Matt had an order of chicken fingers with street corn and sweet chili sauce. Everything was delicious, definitely not healthy but after hitting 16,000 steps before dinner and only snacking throughout the day it was definitely a cheat I don’t feel guilty about. That seems to be a theme of this weekend I suppose.

It’s back to work tomorrow but I’m fully charged up from our weekend of fun. I’ve found a lot of love and self-care in these new adventures, breaking out of my comfort zone in the city and getting to see places that I should have checked out years ago. Exploration is good for the soul, even if it’s in the place you call home. So get going, adventure is out there.

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Fitness Friday – May Review

Well my lovely readers, I’m excited to say that May was very good to me. I am two weeks out from finishing some lengthy volunteer training I’ve been doing since April, I am now on the awards committee for the gala I am helping plan, and I started both of my part time jobs. It was definitely a month of big exciting things happening in my life, and even with everything going on I still managed to do pretty well on the goals I set for myself in the last monthly review.

Lets take a look, shall we?

Working Out

Goal: 5,000 steps at least five times a week

This is definitely the goal I did the best on. With my handy new Fitbit it became a lot easier to see how many steps I was taking in a day and it turns out it was a lot more than I originally thought. I had worried it would be hard to hit 5,000 steps most days but it turns out on many days I hit that number well before lunch time. I had no problem surpassing this goal and my Doors Open day with my family actually led to me smashing through it with 25,000 steps for the day. Apparently exploring the city can be just as effective as exploring the Magic Kingdom.

Since 5,000 steps was clearly not a big enough challenge for me, I have really upped the ante on this one. My first goal this month is to get 10,000 steps at least five times a week. This gives me a chance to have two days to rest to recover if I’m not leaving the apartment or if I just don’t have any big walking plans.

In addition to this goal, I also jumped into the Blogilates for Beginners Calendar and I’m just a few days out from finishing it (in which I will tell you all about my experience). It has definitely been challenging and while it wasn’t really my favourite in terms of workout structure it was something that really refreshed me and gave me some new motivation. With this in mind, I’ve created my own workout calendar to follow for the month. It overlaps with the Blogilates calendar since I started that one late but basically it lays out my workouts for me every day that way I don’t have an excuse not to do them. My goal is  to stick with this calendar for the month in addition to getting those 10,000 steps. I will be posting a part 2 of this Fitness Friday to go over this calendar in depth with links to each of the workouts just in case anyone feels like joining me.

Healthy Eating

Goal: Only indulging on planned days

For the most part this went really well, not perfectly but I’m quite satisfied because I only had two slip ups and it was because new plans were made. As I’ve said before, I’m not going to turn down an experience just because there is bad food involved. So one day I went out for sushi with my family which was definitely an experience because my grandfather had never been before. We ordered way too much and I ended up skipping dinner that day because I was still in a sushi coma. However, it completely cured the craving and I don’t think I’ll be rushing back for All-You-Can-Eat sushi any time soon.

The second slip up was this past Tuesday’s trip to La Carnita which was featured in my last post. Matt and Keeragh’s trip to the Jay’s game was a last second thing and while I wasn’t interested in going to watch baseball I did want to spend time with two of my favourite people. Naturally, dinner was the way to do that. I had gone in with good intentions of only having 2 tacos, a piece of corn, and water to drink but everything was so delicious that I ended up with way more than planned. I’m not too worried about it though, I’ve hopped right back in to healthy eating and this month I’ve decided to really challenge myself.

My goal is after today I will not have any candy, sweets or chocolate until at least June 20th when I have plans to meet my mom an her friends for dinner. I am also going to try and minimize eating out at this time, and when I do go out I’ll be making health conscious choices. Fingers crossed that this goes well.

Living Better

Goal: Leaving the apartment at least 4 times a week for an hour

Turns out, I had a lot going on in May so hitting this goal really wasn’t a problem. I did a lot of extra exploring before and after work-related outings so I had a lot of chances to be out of the apartment. I also spent two weekends back in my hometown and that kept me from being too cooped up. Overall, this challenge was just a great reminder that when I am feeling bogged down and isolated, all it takes sometimes is a venture outside. It’s a good reminder because I’m someone who tends to go hide in their bedroom instead, and while that is nice some days, it isn’t healthy to do all the time. Even if I have to drag myself out for an hour it usually make me feel better.

So June is going to be a little different for me because I’m no longer going to be sitting around in my apartment most days, looking for something to do. As of next week my two jobs will be going full force and juggling them alongside my volunteering commitments is really going to be my priority. Of course, life can’t just be about work so my living better goal this month is about once again self-care. I’m challenging myself to take one hour a day to do something for myself whether that’s reading a book, taking a bubble bath, or just having a little nap. My hope is to maintain some balance with my work schedule and to prevent myself from burning out. I’ve already kicked June off with a little treat of Injustice 2 and some home spa goodies.

So that was May for me, it was definitely a positive experience with some minor slip ups here and there. But hey, that’s life! Nothing is ever going to be perfect and I’m totally fine with that. A little bit of mess and a douse of the unexpected is fine by me.

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