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Archive for the ‘Toronto’ Category

I’d had this on my Life List for a while now and after a false start last year we finally managed to go this afternoon for an early Valentine’s Day outing. It was worth the wait. 🙂

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We arrived at the Omni King Edward hotel – took the train to downtown Toronto and walked a few blocks up to the hotel in the snow. We were greeted, shown to the coat check (complimentary), waited just a few minutes for the setup/room to be ready and were seated at a lovely table.

We were offered menus and tea boxes to sniff the various teas available. I selected the Rouge Provence (rooibos) and Chris took the Taj Spiced Chai Tea. We were each brought an amuse bouche – a yummy mushroom tartlet with tarragon creme fraiche, quickly followed by our respective teapots. Both the tartlet and the tea were delicious.

We each chose the Winter Tea which included sandwiches, scones and pastries. The sandwiches were brought first and everything was fresh and tasty:

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We each had our own plate with 5 finger sandwiches:

  • Peppered Beef with Watercress and Horseradish Cream
  • Free Range Egg Salad with Fresh Lemon and Dill
  • Smoked Salmon & Mango with Pickled Vegetables
  • Toasted Sesame & Wasabi Mayonnaise Chickpea Hummus with Lightly Curried Carrot, Raisins & Almonds
  • Chicken Waldorf with Crisp Apple & Celery

Delicious.

Next came the scones and pastries. It looked so good – I forgot to take a pic before we ate the scones! The scones came on the bottom plate (we each had 2 kinds):

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  • Currant & Cinnamon Scone
  • Classic Cream Scone
  • Served with Devonshire Cream, House Made Ontario Strawberry Jam and Apple Brandy Butter

Again, everything was fresh and tasted amazing. But there was more!

The pastries were next:

  • Blood Orange Posset with Cranberry Oat Biscotti
  • Chocolate Mint Macaron
  • Vanilla Bean & Berry Cream Tartlet
  • Layered Chocolate Chestnut Slice

It was just the right amount of food and each item was carefully prepared. Our server was polite and friendly and we were well taken care of throughout. It was a beautiful room and a very relaxed atmosphere.

It was a very enjoyable experience, one we would do again.

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My sister and her two daughters came down to visit (Dec 26 to 30) and as usual, we prepared ourselves for the whirlwind they bring with them. 🙂 We had lots of outings and activities planned and although traditional winter activities weren’t in the cards (we don’t have any snow!), we still enjoyed the outdoors.

We watched holiday movies as well as Harry Potter 3, listened to lots of music (both Christmas and pop songs the girls were into these days), had an “Austrian-themed” dinner (for the Sound of Music) with kerchiefs in our hair. Chris didn’t want to wear any lederhosen. 🙂 We did lots of holiday crafts including painting tree ornaments, making snowflakes and ballerina snowflake skirts, painting nutcracker figures, and more.

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The tree:

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We went to the ROM where the girls enjoyed the dinosaurs and animal exhibits. We visited the Canadian wing as well and the girls got to make origami figures at one of the workshop tables as well. We got to hold snakes (Life List item crossed off – woohoo!). The one I held was a black rat snake from Ontario. He was heavier than I expected:

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Then we brought the girls skating at the Harbourfront Natrel rink (great view of Lake Ontario here and very festive with lights and music):

 

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We had a holiday turkey lunch followed by more skating at Bronte Creek Provincial Park. This rink was much less crowded and a good size.

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On Monday we went to the Metro Toronto Zoo to see the winter animals. It was much less crowded than our summer visits so in a way, it was more enjoyable. We visited the giant panda exhibit (here from 2013 to 2018), reindeer, a very playful polar bear, a snow leopard, red pandas, an adorable arctic fox, arctic wolves, and many more!

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After the zoo, we went to the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre which was pretty awesome for Lego fans. There are a couple of rides, 4D movies (4 movies that play in rotation), different games and play areas themed for the various types of legos. They had cool displays of Toronto landmarks in Miniland:

 

 

 

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The girls in the Lego Friends area:

 

 

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The whole area is probably a parent’s worst nightmare with lego pieces all over the floor hehehe but it was fun. Of course we got to build some stuff ourselves. Go Habs Go!! 🙂

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Another great visit!

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My sister Julie arrived on Friday night and we had a great weekend planned – the weather was looking fantastic too. Here’s a recap of Saturday:

We went out to breakfast at Sunset Grill (local all-day breakfast chain), then headed over to Port Credit to walk around the lake and enjoy the sun. Imagine my glee (glee is actually a very soft word – I was so excited, like a kid in a candy store) when we spotted a baby swan with its parents swimming along with ducks and geese. Pardon all the pics in advance – it’s the first baby swan I’ve ever seen.

After this, we returned home to have lunch, relax by the pool and go for a swim. It was a gorgeous day. We all took a nap (not together :)), then got ready for dinner at 360 – the rotating restaurant on top of the CN Tower.

The views were amazing and the meal was excellent. We had read some reviews about the food not being that good and that you were paying for the views, but we were very happy with everything.

Chris and I each chose the prix fixe menu which consisted of an amuse bouche, an appetizer, a main and a dessert. My sister Julie got a main and a side dish plus dessert.

My meal:

Amuse: Chili seared tuna (avocado, cilantro, corn chip) – this was a bit of heaven – the best one-bite food I ever had.

Appetizer: Rabbit, duck, salami and cheese (Kozlick’s triple crunch mustard, pickled onions) – this came served on a cheese board and included rabbit rillette, thinly sliced duck, salami, breadsticks, pickles, dried tomatoes and mustard – very very good.

Main: Willow Grove Farm’s Ontario Pork Three Ways (Apple braised pork belly with French beans, Shepherd’s pie with celery root and yellow flesh potatoes, Grilled pork tenderloin with truffles, Niagara ice wine jus) – The pork belly was phenomenal, shepherd’s pie was very tasty and had a nice crust, tenderloin was also good but least favourite compared to the other two. 🙂

Dessert: Dark chocolate tower with summer berries (Raspberry coulis, vanilla creme Anglaise) – Holy mother of God. That’s all I can say. Delicious.

once dinner was over, we visited the gift shop and walked back to the car. Got to take some good shots of the tower – it was lit up for the Pride parade scheduled for this weekend.

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If you’ve ever enjoyed bibimbap, a traditional Korean rice and vegetable dish, you’re already thinking about crunchy rice and awesome mixed-veggies tossed with some red chili sauce to give it some zip. If you haven’t, then you’re wondering why I’m talking about Bam-Bam and Betty Boop in a cooking-related blog post. 🙂

I sampled my first bibimbap at Swish by Han in downtown Toronto and fell in love with its comfort-food, complex flavours yet simple ingredients. And the crunchy rice is to die for.

I decided to make it myself at home and it turned out great – surprise!! I made a vegetarian version from the recipe found here. Usually, this dish is served with meet (rib eye is very common) as well as a fried egg on top. For the veggies, I omitted the daikon but used spinach, shitake mushrooms, zucchini, bean sprouts and carrots. Garlic, sesame oil, sesame seeds, soy sauce, hot chili sauce, sugar, salt and pepper rounded things off. Very tasty!

Here’s a pic of the veggies on top of the flattened rice:

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The electrical storm that passed over Toronto Wednesday night offered some great photo opportunities. A fabulous collection has been posted over on Blog TO.

My favorite:

Photo by Richard Gottardo

Here are a couple of videos that show the intensity and frequency of the lightning that night.

It was incredible… There were tornado warnings all over the GTA but no reported touchdowns.

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Today, we headed down to High Park to enjoy some nature and get some exercise. We just walked, but it was pretty hilly so it counts. 🙂

It’s a very large park by Grenadier pond, with ducks and geese. There’s also a zoo, tons of trails and paths, gardens, picnic areas, sporting activities/facilities, etc.

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I was lucky enough to attend the Power of Women conference today with my female colleagues. There are only 9 of us women in the IT dept at the office – along with about 60 men – and our IT director invited the ladies to join her at this amazing event. It was held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and although it was crowded with many many women (it seated up to 5,000), the venue was great.

I was really looking forward to hearing Leigh Anne Tuohy (the Blind Side), Suzanne Somers and of course keynote speaker Ellen DeGeneres! The event was fabulous and I enjoyed and learned from all of the speakers. The host Jessica Holmes (comedienne of Royal Canadian Air Farce fame) was hilarious and kept us entertained throughout (you can call me J-Ho). 🙂

The morning speakers were:

  • Leigh Anne Tuohy: I absolutely loved the movie the Blind Side and was excited to hear Leigh Anne speak. I was glad that the “real” Leigh Anne was just as no-nonsense and forthright as Sandra Bullock portrayed her in the movie. She suggested that we shouldn’t limit our “giving” to birthdays and Christmas when it feels so good to give.  Giving doesn’t have to be big; even small gestures can make a difference. We should try to do something, no matter how big or small, every day.
  • Loretta Laroche: OMG she was hilarious. Her focus was stress management and how everyone needs to lighten up and SHUT UP already. Enough whining and playing the victim/martyr, enough complaining and negativity. Focus on your strengths, enjoy what you have, lose the negativity, be happy and enthusiastic about life and you’ll get the most out of it. Amen Loretta.
  • Michelle Dunk: She told us about her lifetime struggles which started with being abused by her grandfather and ended up with her confronting him and moving on to build a successful business.
  • Amilya Antonetti: She originally created the company Soapworks to provide safe cleaning products for her son. Through hard work, she made it into a hugely successful company. She focused her energy on her five “buckets” (i.e. Mom, Wife, CEO, etc.) and didn’t waste time or energy on anything other than those buckets. Learn the value of NO. Identify your “buckets” and don’t get sidetracked – any time/energy spent on things other than your buckets takes away from all of your buckets. Fear doesn’t exist – it’s something we create because it’s more comfortable.

The afternoon speakers were:

  • Jill Bolte Taylor: She was the neuroscientist on the panel and explained the anatomy of our brain and how it works; the left brain and right brain. She also walked us through her experience when she was having a stroke and how she noticed the impact it had on her brain (as it was happening).
  • Suzanne Somers: I never realized how many books she had! She talked about hormones and how they deplete as we age. She explained that bio-identical hormones were closer to the real thing than the synthetic hormones everyone warned us about a few years ago. She talked about the effects of being exposed to chemicals in our lives (food, products, etc.) and how this is something new – 30 years ago, we didn’t have this. One of her doctor friends decided to leave surgery and pursue research when he started seeing rare cancers in children; children that have been exposed to chemicals since birth. I found it all very interesting.
  • Ellen DeGeneres: Ellen’s piece was interview-style and she was as expected: Honest, endearing, funny and real. She talked about her career from her sitcom, to coming out, to losing her career and not working for 3 years, to the cruelty she experienced in that period, and finally to her huge success with her talk show. She was fabulous. I adore her and am so glad that she persevered and came back – look where she is now! Truly inspirational.

I enjoyed it immensely and would recommend it to any woman if they have a chance to attend any conference in the Power of Women series. It was a day of inspiration, motivation and celebration that I will remember for a long time to come.

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