Friday, December 29, 2006

Beads and admin stuff

My Vendor Permit arrived in the mail today from the Ministry of Finance. According to the letter, I have to file returns semi-annually now - even if there are no sales or sales tax to report. Bleh. More paperwork and administrative stuff to organize and see to - a necessary evil.

But the good thing about all this paperwork lately is that I can buy wholesale now. I went to Bamiyan Silver yesterday and it's quite amazing. They had aisles of drawers filled with findings and beads and finished jewelry, and they had seemingly endless strands of beads hung on their walls. I made the mistake of paying for just 1.5 hours of parking about 6 blocks away- not nearly enough time to explore the store. Thankfully they have an online presence so I can browse the pretties online before going to handpick them myself - especially with natural stones and their many minute variations and imperfections. I'm not nearly as particular with findings or sterling wire since these are fairly uniform and standard.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Leftovers here, there and everywhere

My mother threw a big party Boxing Day, inviting over family and friends for a belated post-renovation housewarming. There was conversation and the usual half-serious arguments over the dull banging of mah jong tiles with the TV on in the background in the family room. The singers were gathered in the living room with mics in hand belting out their favourite Chinese songs. The "kids" hung out in the basement, playing videogames and just hanging out.

It was funny to see my two little cousins get along so well. S is rather rambunctious and R is like a little old man and we we were worried they'd fight, but they bonded over my brother's old video games and played nice together. A very pleasant surprise.

My sister who managed to make it home for the holidays for a few short days from the west coast left yesterday afternoon. We didn't have a lot of time to spend together, and ours has never been an easy relationship, but it was nice to have our family altogether. I'm sure my mother was very happy.
The kitchen counter was heavy with food - thank goodness most of the leftovers were divvied out because that's all I've been eating in the day: steak (or rather left over beef tenderloin/prime rib) and eggs since Christmas Day! My diet yesterday was rather random - rice and stewed pork for brunch around 10:30am, steak and eggs around 4pm, and a final raid of the fridge around 11:30pm for some leftover risotto.
I SOOO need to haul my big butt to the gym. I had good intentions of going yesterday, but instead, I spent it savouring the quiet at home. I slept in, watched TV, did lots of research online for my business. I only headed out to do a little shopping with my mother, and then in the evening, I headed to Chapters to browse magazines for jewelry ideas.
Today, I've plans to go shopping for beads as I've got an order for about 15 pieces by January 31st, and I've invited friends over for dinner: S&W gave me a creme brulee torch for my birthday last year that I have yet to use, so it will make it's debut tonight.
Feeling a little hungry now so I'm off to see what's good to eat...

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Christmas!

I made Christmas dinner tonight. We were joined by my uncle's family. Here's our adorable little drool bug, A:


And here she is again with the 5 foot long alphabet caterpillar I got her for Christmas:


For her brother, I got a learning laptop - with games teaching him arithmetic, spelling, music, time, etc. I want my cousins to be smart! My brother and I spent some time after the gift was open showing him how to use the laptop - S' addition skills are better than his subtraction - he's still counting with his fingers and he hasn't quite mastered the skill of hiding fingers to get to the answer...multiplication and division are beyond him at the moment but he'll grow into the toy. At least he can tell time - sort of.

Tonight's menu included herb and garlic-crusted beef tenderloin, green beans with balsamic-shallot butter, and my own seafood risotto with lobster, scallops and jumbo shrimps, which I knew was good because my brother - who wrinkles his nose at my attempts to broaden his culinary horizons - went back for seconds!

I usually follow recipes, but I've made risotto often enough now that I felt confident enough to wing it this time! The measures for the wine and oil are made up - for the former, I just tossed in leftover Chardonnay we had in the fridge and for the latter, I just covered the bottom of the pot.

phoenix's seafood risotto

2 cans of chicken broth
3.5 cups of arborio rice
6 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup white wine
1 large onion, diced
1 large shallot, diced
2 lobster tails, chopped
5-6 large scallops, chopped
8 jumbo shrimp, chopped
1 large tomato, de-seeded, chopped
green onion, chopped
salt & pepper to taste

Serves about 6

In a medium saucepan, heat chicken broth. In a larger saucepan, heat oil and cook onions and shallots until soft. Add rice and stir until it's well-coated with the oil mixture. Stir in 1 cup of hot broth, simmer and cover until the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Add the white wine, simmer and cover until the liquid is absorbed. Continue to add the broth 1 cup at a time until the rice is tender. Turn off heat and stir in lobster, scallops, shrimps and tomato. Serve with green onions as garnish.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

O Christmas Tree!

Here's the Christmas tree that wasn't supposed to be - purchased and trimmed, ornaments and all, within 18 hours of my mother deciding at the eleventh hour that we really should have a tree after all.

We are not a Christian household -although I was baptized in the Church of England, my mother is not Christian (her mother is but her father is not), and my father, who was baptized also, was Roman Catholic. (It's a bit convoluted how this came to be...I still don't know the whole story.) So, whether or not we have a Christmas tree, which is, according to the judge who ordered the removal of a tree from the front lobby of the Jarvis St. courthouse to an administrative corridor, "a Christian symbol that might alientate people of other creeds and cultures" is of no real consequence.

We had donated our 20+ year old tree (we don't do real trees in this household), along with our mismatched ornaments to the Salvation Army when we were cleaning house for our renovations in the summer. With the kids all grown, my mother was quite fine about not having a tree. But given that she's throwing a big party for family and friends on Boxing Day, she's decided that the house isn't at all festive and we (I) must do something about it. Thursday evening. At 7:30pm. 3 days before Christmas. When the malls are teeming with last minute shoppers.

So 30 minutes after her pronouncment, I drag her out of the house with me on a mission to pick up a tree and ornaments. We hit Canadian Tire at 8:15 and have our 7 and a 1/2 foot tree picked out and paid for by 8:40. I didn't like any of the ornaments there so we headed across the street to Ikea, where I knew they had these lovely red glass ornaments.
I knew going in that the theme would be red, gold and silver...I was inspired by the rich reds and golds from the final act of The Nutcracker, which reminded me of old-school Chinese weddings and the red dress that brides wear called hong qua with the dragon and phoenix symbolic of the bride and groom.

Anyway, I picked up a bunch of red glass ball and icicle ornaments at Ikea and stopped at Shoppers Drug Mart on the way home because I remembered seeing nice ornaments there too - that's where the snowflakes are from.

By 9:30, we were home and I got started on setting up the tree, which took about an hour to unfurl. My mother pretty much left me to my own devices - she watched a bit of TV, took a shower and went to bed, while I was up until almost 1 am trimming the tree. It looked alright...but there weren't enough ornaments, so I went to Michael's the next day to pick up more red and gold glass ornaments. By 1pm, the tree was done.

Despite the last-minute rush, I'm very happy with how the tree turned out. Our old tree was rather sad looking - the innovations in tree design within the last 20 years is really quite amazing. Our old tree was short and not nearly as full looking...besides which, it didn't come pre-lit. Garland was absolutely necessary to hid the metal core that kept the "branches" together. With this tree, I could skip the garland all together and let the ornaments tell the story.

Condo this week

Checking on progress now that they've started pouring concrete and building up walls in what will be the underground parking is so much more exciting than it was even a month ago when it was really just a big dirt hole. It will be quiet over the holidays so I guess I'll keep myself busy daydreaming about how I'll furnish my place...

December 18 @ 1:16pm

December 19 @ 8:52am

December 20 @ 2:30pm

December 21 @ 4:36pm

December 23 @ 1:33am

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Twinkle twinkle go the stars


OK, I know this doesn't look like much in the way of Xmas decorations, but it's enough to make me smile everytime I see it: We went to Ikea last night to pick up an area rug for our family room (it was on sale!), and my mother decided - at this late date - that we should decorate for the holidays. So we bought their pretty star lights and I hung them in the front window when we got home.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I registered my business today!

I did it online this morning. I first did an enhanced business name search and just as I was about to print the results, my internet crashed so I ended up calling Ontario Business Connects lest I forfeit the $8 it cost me to run the search. The lady I spoke to was very nice...she checked the database, confirmed that my business name was unique and wished me luck when we hung up.

After that, it took all of maybe 15 minutes to fill out the online application for a Master Business Licence and now it's official. I'm in business! :)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

2 Wishes

One thing I learned: Friendships change and sometimes, not for the better.
One thing I'm grateful for: My brother, who picked up a tub of Oreo ice cream for me while he was out on a snack run.
One thing that made me laugh: My masseuse, J, who tried to cajole me into finishing her Xmas shopping while she was working out all the kinks in my shoulders.
I went to see The Nutcracker last night at the Four Seasons Centre, a truly fantastic venue. To be honest, the ballet was sort of secondary, as I'd seen James Kudelka's version of The Nutcracker twice before. Our original intent was to try and get tickets for Sleeping Beauty, which I had never seen before. We weren't able to get tickets for the night we wanted but we still wanted to see the new opera house, so we decided on the National's annual Christmas production.
And it didn't disappoint. Among my favourites was the dance of the Snow Queen and her Icicles, but especially the pair of dancing bears - the one on pointe and the other on roller blades. There were a lot of kids in the audience last night - the ballet is staged to entertain the children, after all - and crazy, but true, I rather look forward to one day bringing my kids to see this production and seeing it through their eyes. Will they love the dancing bears as much as I do?
We met friends for drinks afterwards and it was rather...lame. I've known this for some time now, but it occured to me last night that I have very little in common with a pair of friends that I thought I would be friends with forever. We certainly have a lot of history...but that's not really enough to sustain a friendship...particularly when, in hindsight, the friendships were a matter of convenience for them. I used to get rather upset about it, but it is what it is...c'est la vie.
I've got to get ready to meditate now. Ya...you read right. I'm going to meditate. My energy-healing cousin is going to give me a healing tomorrow and my homework is to think about 2 wishes and how I'm going to go about making them come true.
I will try and "feel the wishes" in my meditation and ask them to reveal themselves to me. I was given instructions to "trust the energy," to "just be in your body, not your mind." I'm still not sure how this is going to work...but I will give it a go. Wish me luck.
************
From the Stacks Challenge Update: I finished The Princess Bride, and am now onto The Line of Beauty. One down, 4 more to go...

Friday, December 15, 2006

Look! Condo! Progress!

I love live feed! Check out the progress on my condo in the last month and a half! The building is 84% sold and my floor is sold out! So exciting!

November 4 @ 9:16pm

November 7 @ 10:55am

November 14 @ 1:16pm

December 4 @ 1:03pm

December 11 @ 11:45am

December 12 @ 9:27am

December 14 @ 1:15pm

December 15 @ 12:55pm

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Yay for offsites!

One thing I learned: I'd make a terrible fighter pilot.

One thing I'm grateful for: My mom, who still packs me a yummy lunch to take to work.

One thing that made me laugh: Matt's dancing video at Wherethehellismatt.com. Check it out.

My new Serta mattress was delivered this morning and I'm lounging in bed as I write this. It has this funny smell which I hope will go away...new mattress smell is certainly not as pleasant as new car smell.

I've spent the last 2 days offsite: Yesterday was our department holiday party. We had a meeting in the morning, and then went offsite to the west end for a catered lunch at a place where you can simulate flight in fighter jets. Ya, you read right. How's that for a corporate event? It was...interesting. Not something that I would go seek out and do on my own, certainly. I crashed and burned....a lot. I don't think I had any "kills" while I was in flight. At the end of the day, I was given the "Combat Drone Award" for "the selfless provision of missile target practice by using ones self as a live target, to aid in the skills development of your peers."

Today we volunteered as a group at the Chum City Christmas Wish warehouse for the morning filling toy orders. If you're interested in giving, there's a shortage of gifts for tweens and teenagers both male and female. We finished around 12:30, went out for lunch as a group and were given the rest of the day off....so I did some Christmas shopping and spent the remainder of the afternoon writing my Christmas cards.

I surprised myself by heading to the gym tonight. I had a good run - no cramps while I ran my 5.3km - and no anger to motivate me this time...just pure determination. And it felt damn good. :)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Tap tap tap

One thing I learned: A "firebreak" house is among the last to be built in a neighbourhood to prevent the spread of fire in case one should break out while construction is in progress.

One thing I'm grateful for: The breadth of knowledge and experience I am able to tap into as I embark on this new venture of mine.

One thing that made me laugh: Some of the names that came up from the impromptu brainstorming session at dinner tonight.

I went out for dinner tonight with a group of friends I first met in my CMA class 4 years ago. We met in the prep course, sat the entrance exams together and endured the 2 year professional program that followed, so we've been through a lot as a group.

In the 18 months since graduation, there have been 3 weddings in our group of 7. The last time we had all gotten together as a group was a year ago...there have been smaller group get-togethers since then, so there was a lot of catching up to do. Among the news was that the last of the 3 marrieds had recently bought a house. When once the talk was of weddings, the talk is now of new homes, furnishings, and how big is too big for a flat-screen TV. (Apparently, 60" isn't as big as you would think - who knew?)

I took advantage of the experience and creative talent at the table and asked them to help me come up with a business name - there were some really cheesy ones for jokes, and some that I had already considered and discarded. One of my friends is a brand manager and we used to tease him all the time in class because he's in marketing and his group always had the "prettiest" presentations. I've already tapped him into helping me brainstorm a name. :)

Meanwhile, I've looked into jewelry design courses to learn how to draw "properly." I can sketch but they're hardly professional, and if I'm going to be creating custom designs, I can't show up at a client consultation with grade school renderings of design ideas now, can I? The class is scheduled for 2 nights a week over a period of about 1.5 months. This, coupled with my mandarin class on Saturday afternoons, workout commitment of at least 2x a week and the time required to develop my business, means I'll to be a very, very busy girl next year.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I need a name!!

One thing I learned: "It's the process, not the product."

One thing I'm grateful for: my mentor/friend E, for her enthusiasm, advice and support.

One thing that made me laugh: Curtis doing yoga on Take Home Chef.

I took the afternoon off and met with my designer friend at her studio. I've been flirting with the idea of starting a jewelry design business for a while now and wanted to pick her brain on how I might go about it since she's been in the fashion business for 30+ years now.

I took the microbusiness seminar at beadFX last month and came out rather discouraged. While there was some great information, the focus seemed to be on getting out and selling at craft shows - which I just can't see myself doing.

Anyway, I'm not particularly interested in mass-producing designs - I think it sort of takes the fun out of designing. Besides which, I prefer working with semi-precious gems and pearls, which translates into higher price-points. E planted the idea of doing custom designs for brides when I first talked to her about starting a business in the summer, so that's what I'm going to do. The great thing is that she designs for a lot of brides in her studio and has offered to give me some primo display real estate when I'm ready. Yay!

Now I've got lots of work to do...I need a name for my new venture...I have to get a business license...design business cards...work on creating more samples...SO MUCH! A new project! I'm so excited!! :)

I spent the rest of the afternoon shopping: I bought ingredients for the chocolate chip cookies I'll be baking for my hair stylist, who I'll be seeing for the last time tomorrow before she goes on maternity leave for a year. (I'm going to miss her...as will my hair.)

And I bought Christmas decorations. I wasn't going to bother this year, but my mother is throwing a post-renovation housewarming on Boxing Day so the house needs SOMETHING festive. What do you think:


I got the cool bowl from Pier 1 Imports which was marked down from $50 to $35. Then when I went to pay, I found out that it was further reduced to $28! Score! And then I went to the Michael's next door and got a bag of assorted pine cones scented with cinnamon sticks that turned out to be on sale too! 50% off at the check out! Yay!!

I bought the runner in Hong Kong at the Temple Street Market 2 years ago and sort of forgot about it. It only just occured to me how perfectly it co-ordinates with the soft greens and neutral beiges in our family room. (I think the linen shrank a little after I washed it - that's why it looks wrinkly even though it's ironed.) I like how clean and simple the room is - I'm not into over-the-top Martha Stewart-y holiday decorations. I'd like to get an amaryllis flower for the hall table (I wonder if it's too late to get one to bloom in time for the party?) and maybe a few poinsetta plants to put elsewhere in the house and I'm pretty much done.

I know the floor looks bare, but I'm still on the hunt for the perfect area rug which I hope to pick up in the next week. :)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Dirty Dancing - the MUSICAL!

I was browsing the Star online and my eyes glanced at the breaking news headlines in the middle of the page and immediately clicked onto Musical 'Dirty Dancing' coming to T.O.

This is one of my favourite movies of ALL TIME. The summer before OAC, I had jaw surgery and couldn't eat solid foods for a month. I was in self-imposed house arrest because my face was all swollen and my neck was all bruised from the internal bleeding of the surgery and my sister felt sorry for me and rented Dirty Dancing. I don't know why, but I watched this movie over and over again.

Patrick Swayze is not on my hot list - never has been as I'm not a fan of the cleft chin, but when he stands up to Baby's father at the season-end talent show and says "Nobody puts Baby in the corner" my heart melts.

I have mixed emotions about this being a musical though. What if it's AWFUL?? I'm scared to see it but I'm also curious.

The London production got mixed reviews but sold crazy $$ in tickets so that says something, doesn't it?

Spotty Leopards

One thing I learned: Leopards don't change their spots - no matter that you wish they did.
One thing I'm grateful for: my friend WL, who reminded me that leopards don't change their spots.
One thing that made me laugh: OK, this one didn't make me laugh, but it did make me smile and bop along - Today's Traffic Flow Mix Show with DJ Starting from Scratch. I tuned in on my way home and it was a sample of some good 'ol 90s RnB (for the most part) bookended by the (New Edition alum) Bell Biv Devoe-produced Another Bad Creation at the start and New Edition at the end. The mix was as follows:
Aisha - Another Bad Creation
Motownphilly - Boyz II Men
Rub You The Right Way - Johnny Gill
Candy - Cameo
It Takes Two - James Brown/Lynn Collins
Rock With You - Michael Jackson
Cool It Now - New Edition

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?

So, my manager's got me hooked onto the CHFI Loyalty Club - not that I'm really a loyal listener. Although it's one of the presets in my car, I sort of cycle-through the stations when I don't feel like news and listen to whatever tickles my fancy.

Anyway, you can collect points by completing online surveys, answering trivia questions on the daily songs and entering special "gift card" codes. Points can be redeemed for special CHFI events like movie premieres, CDs, DVDs, etc.

One of the perks that I'm enjoying at this very moment is the exclusive CHFI Loyalty Club Christmas Station online - no radio announcers to interrupt! :)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dried honey wafers, etc.

One thing I learned: "Feeling the pain, the anger, the discomfort is already 50% of the healing..." (I already sort of knew this but this serves as a reminder)
One thing I'm grateful for: my cousin A, who sends me love while she sleeps on the other side of the pond
One thing that made me laugh: my brother, who just came home from studying complaining about the 2 guys going on about one's girl issues (you had to be here)

I came across this exercise in daily reflection on a discussion forum awhile back. I thought at the time that it was a good idea because so often we go through the motions of daily living without really living. I had to think hard about the first one though...I didn't want it to be trivial, like, for example, I learned that the National Honey Board launched dried honey wafers this past summer at several trade shows, and I thought to myself, cool, maybe I'll drink more chamomile tea since I don't have to deal with messy honey. But that's dumb because it can't be profound everyday - more often than not, it'll probably be something silly...and that's OK.

I was on MSN this afternoon chatting with a friend from mandarin class about our final. While I was among the first to leave, he had stayed with some others to talk to our professor, who was impressed with our overall progress. He said that some students were advanced enough to skip Level 2 and proceed to Level 3 since the former is largely review of Level 1 (we'd use the same textbook but go at a much faster pace). He convinced a few students to take Level 3 and mentioned names of other students who should also skip ahead. Apparently I am among this group. Funny thing too, because I only just registered for Level 2 this morning after procrastinating for the last week. I'm not sure how I feel about skipping ahead...if we use the same textbook in Level 3 as in Level 1 & 2, then ya, I will probably consider it....perhaps I will email my professor to ask.

I went for another run tonight to work off some lingering anger. I replied back to the ex late last night, very easy and breezy, but there has been no reply. What is UP with the passive-aggressive manipulation!?

Anyway, I realized my mistake a minute too late because I was already committed to my set: the guy next to me running away had some serious BO. I tried to take shallow breaths but it's kinda hard when you're running so was I ever glad when he finished his run 12 minutes into mine. Although I only ran 4 sets, the average pace I set today was an improvement over yesterday's. Yay for me, again!

I'll take a break from the gym tomorrow - our first proper snowfall is forecasted to begin after midnight tonight...about 3-5 cm. 680 News advised that we all get up an extra 30 minutes earlier tomorrow so as to account for the longer expected commute into work. Ha. As if.

Maybe I'll start my holiday baking tomorrow night...

Monday, December 04, 2006

LTR - Week 4: W1/R6 & Anger as Motivation

I got an email from my ex today. It was kind of unexpected but not really because it was around the holidays last year, about a month after we had broken up that I got a surprise phone call from him wishing me a Merry Christmas.

I saw it in my inbox this morning when I got to work. It was just 4 sentences, 4 short sentences that don't reveal anything about him except that I apparently still come up in his thoughts "from time to time." Why? What is the point of this email?

The last time we communicated did not end very well. He was scheduled to be in town for work and we were supposed to meet for a friendly "catch-up" brunch but he stood me up. I called him, and he was still out on the west coast. He knew the night before that his trip was cancelled but he didn't have the courtesy to call me. Apparently I called him before he had a chance to. He lamely apologized and I promptly hung up on him. Words were then exchanged via email and I thought I was never going to hear from him again.

And now this FREAKIN' email to say that he still thinks about me "from time to time."

WTF?

OK. Perhaps I'm a little angry. Still.

I decided to take that anger and put it to good use. My Learn to Run Program had sort of stalled. I've been re-running Week 3 off and on for the last month because my first and last attempt at Week 4 resulted in cramps half way through the session so I gave up and stuck to Week 3.

But tonight, I felt like going for it and I did. I did the full 5 sets of W1/R6 and only broke out in a little bit of sweat. And I didn't even feel a cramp threaten! Normally, the hint of pain lurks in the shadows but today I was strong. I rocked the treadmill! AND! I broke 5K! I ran 5.2 km tonight! Yay for me!!!

I haven't replied yet because I don't know what to say. I don't want to ignore it because then he'd think I still cared...which I do, because if I'm honest he still comes into my thoughts "from time to time."

Damn him.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A taste of the many weekends to come

It was very busy Saturday. I had my mandarin written and oral final in the morning and they went well: we had 1.5 hours for the written exam and were scheduled for 10 minute intervals afterwards for our oral exam. I was the 3rd to submit my written exam about 30 minutes in, and followed my professor outside to translate about 10 sentences from English into Mandarin. I was chastised for thinking in Cantonese (my not-so-secret weapon) so had to correct myself a few times.

I was out of there by 11am and had about an hour to kill before I had to head downtown so I went to Ikea to check out their Xmas decorations. We had donated all of our Xmas decorations to the Salvation Army before the renovations started - I figured since we were all grown up anyway there was no point in keeping the tree, etc. - so we're starting from scratch. I thought I'd just buy some green, blue and gold Xmas balls, arrange them in a bowl on the coffee table and call it a day. I didn't buy anything at Ikea though because the shades of blue, green and gold available weren't quite right. So the search continues...

I met SA&WC for lunch at Jules on Spadina and then headed to the One-of-a-Kind Craft Show with SA. I was there to check out the jewelry competition - and there were over 90 vendors there! I knew prior to going that selling at a craft show wasn't my thing, and I'm even more sure of it now. I'm in the market research phase of my jewelry business venture and the more I look into it, the more I think perhaps it's best to keep it a hobby.

It was my first time at the show and I had been warned prior by colleagues that things there were expensive. I'll admit that some things were, but I do believe that hand-crafted, unique items warrant a premium in price. There was certainly stuff there I wouldn't classify as "one-of-a-kind" but whatever.

Debra Jackson

I saw works by a few artists that I really liked, but because I don't yet know how I'm going to decorate my condo, it's premature to buy anything. Some of the paintings by Debra Jackson had a Georgia O'Keefe vibe. She had some fantastic flower paintings that I thought would look great if hung in a series of 3. (I really like the assorted white flowers on the dark brown backgrounds done in acrylic she had on display at the show, similar to the image above) There was another painter that had these bold paintings of fields of flowers but I didn't pick up his card and now I'm kicking myself because I don't know his name. There was also an artist represented by an agent in Montreal (Christopher Fenn) who featured various instruments done in watercolour and embossment that would be perfect, I think for a music room or study - neither of which I have in my condo. Maybe one day when I have a house...I thought Jan Phelan's clay pieces were lovely too.

And Liscious Inc. was there. I've seen their products in a few home furnishing stores in Toronto - I even bought the frosted Bamboo motif panels for my best friend as a housewarming gift. I really like these panels (maybe the cherry blossom motif?) and will probably include them somewhere in my decor...I like the floral black motif wall tiles too...

Anyway...so what did I buy? Dvorak from BC was present and accounted for so I bought their Better Than Sex(!) Chocolate, which I'd discovered last year at the Granville Market. It's dark chocolate that's 72% cocoa - but it's brilliant marketing because who can forget a name like that?! And it IS really, really good. As for whether or not it's better than sex...well, as with everything I suppose it "depends" doesn't it? ;)

I bought some moisturizers too: humble'bubble's organic antioxidant body butter that smells good enough to eat, sort of like - sniff sniff - sweet peanut-chocolate-butterscotch brittle, and Urban Venus' shea butter sticks that I thought would be perfect to take out with me every day - no more having to up-end a travel-size bottle of lotion while I'm waiting at a stoplight!

Oh! And shortbread! The most heavenly, buttery shortbread from Coach House Shortbread Co. (featured this month in Toronto Life) Among their sweets, I tried their original, lemon and orange cardamon (which I ended up buying - YUM!) and of their savoury, the stilton-rosemary and cheddar-chipotle.

It took us about 3 hours to get through the show and then we headed back to SA&WC's place to wait for our friend WL to go out for dinner at Sushi Time on Queen. This is the 2nd weekend I've spent hanging out downtown in what will be my 'hood next year. My best friends live within 5 minutes of each other now and about 10 minutes from where I will be moving to next September. WL predicted that I'd be spending every weekend downtown from now until then...which probably isn't too far off considering I've already got plans down there for the next 2 weekends.

SA and I spent the rest of the night at WL's watching movies...the original plan was to watch Mean Girls, but he couldn't find it, so we ended up watching Imagine Me and You, a movie in which the actors all eerily look like someone else:

Matthew Good = Rupert Everett
Piper Perabo = Jennifer Garner
Lena Headey = Keira Knightley
Darren Boyd = Jay Mohr

The movie starts with a wedding - and this is how I sort of envision my own wedding. I love Rachel's hair (so elegant!) and her dress (the style and shape is lovely but I'm not crazy about the length of the gown) and the purple flowers everywhere!! :)

We followed it up with Disney's Sleeping Beauty, which neither of us girls had seen before. W said it was really gay - high school gay, that is - and it was. But it was also gay-gay because W knew all the lyrics to the songs, hehe! Anyway, S and I were a little exasperated by how dumb Flora, Fauna and Meriweather were but I suppose it's just the jaded skepticism of our old age(!) Perhaps if we'd seen it first with the wonder and innocence of childhood, we'd feel differently.

Today was far more low-key. I slept in til about 11am, puttered about before going out for a 1pm massage, came home for a late lunch with my mother before heading out again to buy a new mattress. That was pretty much it.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

From the Stacks challenge update

I finished Brick Lane Wednesday night and had good intentions to start the challenge...but I looked at the books on my list and didn't feel any of them. I perused all my titles and finally settled on The Princess Bride (one of my all-time favs!) which my friend WC gave to me (I think) for my birthday, back in the day when we still gave each other gifts. In lieu of gifts, my friends and I now go out for a great dinner instead....this is something we've been doing for at least the last 6 years, so this title definitely qualifies as from the stacks.

Can I just say how pleasantly surprised I am from the the hour or so I spent with it last night before going to bed? It's William Goldman's 25th Anniversary edition of The Princess Bride and there's a great introduction by him explaining his fascination, love and passion for the story. He not only wrote the book but the screenplay as well, and he shares the tale of how the book finally became the film after it seemed like all hope was lost.

Can you tell I'm procrastinating instead of studying? Oh look. It's almost 1am. Time for bed.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friends and Family Days

You know 'tis the season to shop when all the retailers have their Friends and Family Days. They lure you into their stores with their 30% off discounts to try to get you to spend (more). I'd like to say that I'm strong and that I don't fall for these cheap ploys. But I'm not strong. I'm weak. And I succumbed.

The office closed early today for our holiday party which I didn't go to because I have my mandarin final tomorrow and even if I didn't, I wouldn't go because I'm not particularly fond of very many people at work that I'd choose to go and spend a Friday night with them. It requires far too much energy to play nice.

Anyway. There have been various emails flying about in the last couple weeks for F&F Days and I was thinking of ignoring them, but I got a Banana Republic one this afternoon that's only good for this weekend, so I decided to check it out...because there's no way in hell you'd find me at the mall on a weekend. That's crazy talk.

So, instead of going for a run at the gym (I'd packed my bag and everything last night!) as was my original intention, I drove to the mall armed with my F&F invites for the Gap and BR. There was nothing at BR I wanted badly enough to buy, but I did end up shopping at the Gap. I bought an adorable outfit for my mother's friend's granddaughter* and a cowl neck sweater for myself that I'm not completely sure yet whether I want to keep but it was 30% for this weekend only. See? Marketing WORKS!!

Then, after dinner today, instead of studying like a good girl, I let my brother twist my rubber arm and went with him back to the mall. I wanted to take another look at the cashmere sweaters at Club Monaco because I'd gotten an email invite to say that they were all $99 and I've presently got a weakness for cashmere. I'd dismissed them yesterday as being too blah but ended up getting the black v-neck because it's such a great basic. I was thinking of getting this crew neck from J. Crew that was on sale earlier this week for US$99 and thought better of it...there'd be the additional charges of exchange and duties...besides which, I don't even really LIKE crew necks! So all in all, everything worked out.


*My mother does not like to shop. She finds it BORING. So I'm often tasked with the gift buying. Funny thing. Last year, I bought aforementioned friend's grandaughter these adorable Baby Gap denim overalls (on sale!!) which she loves loves loves. She wears them ALL the time...and my mother's friend is so jealous because she's bought her granddaughter lots of clothes, including a pair of denim overalls, but there is no item of clothing she loves more than the pair I picked out for her. Apparently, to this day, it's a sore spot for grandmama. :)

'Tis the season for giving

The warm weather we had up until yesterday is now gone. No more days in the mid-teens...looks like Old Man Winter has finally arrived because I can hear the dull roar of the wind outside.

Work today was pretty much a write-off. What did I do? Well. I was on Friday Snacks duty, so I stopped to pick up a dozen chocolate croissants, bagels and assorted cream cheese for my group. It rained pretty much ALL day today so I was delayed getting into the office until about 9am, which left my co-workers rather restless, waiting impatiently for breakfast to arrive. All told, we killed about an hour chatting about nothing. I went back to my desk and pretended to work, but mostly just shuffled papers about and surfed the net.

My company is participating in the ChumCity Christmas Wish and matching all employee donations: for every toy that is donated, they will match it with a $20 donation, and for every food item, $2 will be donated. Each year, my colleagues and I contribute $20 each to a pot and then go out to Costco to buy food. I collected $240 earlier this week and went shopping during the lunch hour with some co-workers. We cruised the aisles, grazing on the samples (the 6 cheese pizza was tops on my list today) and stocked up on various canned goods, pastas, baby formula, etc. When we checked out, we warned the cashier that we had a budget to stick to....and boy were we close! We could have been on the Price is Right because our final bill was $240.60!! We joked about how we'd have to collect an extra nickel from everyone in the group.

We didn't do an actual count of how many individual items we bought because some were cases of 12 cans, others were 9 or 6 and there were shrink-wrapped packages of 6 or 9 or 24 boxes of dried goods like instant noodles. But if I were to guesstimate, there were probably about 250 items....so our combined donation yielded a return of about 300% to the charity drive.

We were talking, too, the other day about how we can make the most of our giving...and my friend had suggested buying toys for the toy drive in which part of the proceeds of its sale were earmarked for charity...we'd essentially be giving 3 times! The first time when we buy the toy, the second time when we donate it to toy drive, and the third time when the company matches it with the $20 donation!

The great thing is that these toys don't usually cost very much either...these ones at the HBC family of stores only cost $5.99, and all net proceeds go to health, wellness and educational programs in local communities! So, if you were going to spend, say, $40 on a Barbie, you could make your money go that much further by spending it on a $6 plush toy - particularly if your company has a policy of matching individual donations by $x. There are lots of other retaliers with similar programs...so it's a great opportunity to make the most of your gift.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

From the Stacks Winter Reading Challenge

I've been procrastinating when I should have been reviewing my Chinese grammar and vocabulary for my final written and oral exam this Saturday.

I came across the From the Stacks Winter Reading Challenge (via) which seemed right up my alley since I am a bit compulsive in my book buying. I'll accumulate with the intention of reading the title sooner rather than later but my neglect in some cases dates back YEARS.

Assuming the average cost of a book is $20 @ about 50 books....ACK! That's a lot of freakin' cashmere sweaters I could have been wearing!!

So the 5 books I have picked for this challenge are:

The Know-It-All - A.J. Jacobs
The Line of Beauty - Alan Hollinghurst
The Bonesetter's Daughter - Amy Tan
Disappearing Moon Cafe - Sky Lee
Instructions for Visitors - Helen Stevenson
I'm a couple chapters away from finishing Brick Lane so I can get started on this list soon....I have until Jan 31st to complete the challenge.
I will NOT fail!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Le Smoking Forever

I was perusing today's paper and Thursday's edition of the Toronto Star includes the Fashion section and there just so happened to be a feature about the woman's tuxedo, aka, Le Smoking, (merci, M. Yves Saint Laurent, who's original sketch from 1966 is at right) is making a comeback!

I have a mental list of what I consider wardrobe staples and I don't know why, but a tuxedo is on that list. To that end, I tried having one custom-made last year, but it ended up not working out, for various reasons that I am not going to get into. I didn't go to NYC looking for a tuxedo but I lucked out and found one while shopping at Ann Taylor Loft in Soho. The style and fit are great and the price was right, so how could I say no?

Anyway, I have this reputation amongst the guys in my group for being a shopaholic...which is really not the case. But since I'm the only girly girl in a group of all guys, it's all relative. When I got back to work last Monday, the guys were like, "What did you buy?" When I told them I bought a tuxedo because "every girl should have one" they all thought I was crazy. Ignorant boors, the lot!

Here's my list of wardrobe staples...it's by no means definitive and is my first attempt at putting it down in writing:

- long black wool coat
- jean jacket
- trench coat
- light spring/rain coat
- tuxedo
- little black dress (duh)
- white dress shirt
- dress pants - black, charcoal
- perfect blue jeans
- black leather jacket
- brown suede jacket
- pantsuit - black, gray or navy
- v-neck sweaters in merino wool, or, even better: cashmere! (not a big fan of the crew-neck)

- tweed skirt
- summer dress
- flirty summer skirt(s)
- white t-shirt
- hoodie

- pashmina wrap
- knee-high black leather boots

- black dress pumps
- strappy sandals
- comfy walking sneakers

Jewellery:
- pearls
- watches - 1 metal strap and 1 leather strap to alternate for everyday and a dress watch with a bit of bling
- diamond stud earrings
- cocktail ring
- pendant necklace

- simple chain bracelet

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Looking but not seeing

You know how you can look but not see?

I look in the mirror every day when I'm standing in front of the sink brushing my teeth, washing my face and putting my make-up on. I check myself to see if my outfit matches and there aren't any VPL. I glance quickly before I'm out the door to make sure that my jacket buttons are done up right and my scarf isn't askew. I look again periodically through the day as I'm washing my hands in the washroom sink...I see my reflection in the glass door as I'm walking across the street to get coffee, and again on the way back to my desk...when I get home and take off my jacket to put it away in the hall closet and so on and so forth.

The point is I see myself probably more than 30 times a day and it wasn't until I was drying my hair just now that I realized: My hair is freakin' long! When did that happen?

I've scheduled a visit with my stylist about 3 weeks from now...I would have liked to go sooner, but she's going on mat leave in January for a year so I must delay my last cut for as long as possible so as to minimize the visits I make to her stand-in...I'm going to miss her. : (

Monday, November 20, 2006

The World's Fastest Chocolate Mousse

I was channel surfing before dinner tonight when I came across the sight of chocolate melting in a double-boiler, so of course, I stopped. It was an episode of Chef at Home and he was making chocolate mousse.

I love chocolate mousse. I have this recipe for Chocolate Chiffon Cake that calls for a tunnel to be dug out of the finished cake that's baked in a bundt pan which is then filled with chocolate mousse...I haven't baked that in awhile actually...anyway. My mousse recipe calls for heavy whipping cream to be whipped stiff, gelatin, cocoa and icing sugar...a bit laborious and time-consuming.

This recipe truly is the fastest and you know why? How's this for crazy talk: it calls for silken tofu in place of the whipping cream/gelatin. So not only is it fast, it's healthy!

I've GOT to try this recipe to see if it tastes any good!

Ingredients:
8 oz. silken tofu
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Melt chocolate in bowl set over pot of simmering water
2. Puree tofu in food processor until smooth
3. Add melted chocolate and vanilla and puree again until smooth
4. Chill and serve

Source

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

La Senza acquired by Limited Brands

Dammit, I’m irked! I was driving home today when I heard the news that La Senza was being acquired by Limited Brands in the US, the company that counts Victoria’s Secret among its stable of brands, for $48.25 per share!

I know this is completely irrational, but I bought 100 shares of La Senza at $12, oh, I don’t know, about 4 or 5 years ago, after reading an article in some random business magazine while waiting to get my teeth cleaned. I am by no means a savvy investor…I actually have no interest in investing, but I had some cash and I thought, buy what you know, right? I know I like lingerie, and the article had mentioned that La Senza owned Arden B, a store in the US that I had shopped at and liked too.

Anyway, I had to sell my shares earlier this year because I needed the cash for my condo down payment. At the time, I thought I was getting a pretty good deal since I had almost doubled my investment…and as the year progressed, the stock price rose to $30+.

Today, trading halted at $32.65 upon the deal’s announcement. If only I had held onto the stock, I would have quadrupled my investment! I know, I know. 100 shares is nothing. But still!

"You're stunning."

It's not everyday that a girl hears that line.

I normally drive to work, but this morning I was on the TTC for 2 stops after parking my car to make it to our Fall Town Hall meeting at a nearby theatre. I mind my own business on the subway. When I used to commute to work downtown, I'd drive to Finch station, and then subway down. I was once more considerate of the environment and took public transit all the way, but after being stalked by a guy who waited at my bus stop, I opted to join the many park and ride commuters.

So this morning, I got off the subway and walked out onto the street towards the theatre and I was stopped by a guy who was on my train. We had sort of made eye contact briefly when I was scanning the train for other people from work but I didn't recognize him. Anyway, he told me that he couldn't help but notice me because I was stunning and that he "doesn't normally do this" but he'd like a chance to get to know me better.

I was cautious and rather suspicious of being stopped by a stranger given what had happened in the past, so I was less than receptive. In hindsight, he seemed nice enough, and maybe if I had found him attractive, I might have taken his card, when he offered it to me. But I didn't. Instead, I fed him the "I have a boyfriend" line. Lame and dishonest, but under the circumstances, the easiest thing to do.

It would have been a great meet-cute story, huh? Who knows if there may be another one in my future...?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cashmere...I want more, please

I'm a neophyte when it comes to cashmere...before this trip to NYC, I've only ever bought cashmere/wool blends, on sale, no less(!) and have one little cashmere scarf.

Now all I can think about is my next cashmere purchase...it might have something to do with being bored at work...but that's besides the point. I'm wearing the long sleeve v-neck tee in graphite today that I bought at J. Crew and it's sooooo soft and cozy. There may be better quality cashmere sweaters out there, but so far, J. Crew is total luxury, as far as I'm concerned. I tried on a couple 100% cashmere sweaters at Uniqlo, Japan's answer to the Gap which debuted in Soho this past Friday and they just didn't feel the same. Considering the lower price point I suspect they were a lower quality.

Anyway...I went to the J. Crew website and discovered all these other colours. The selection in store was limited but online there's pink and white and 2 shades of purple! I'm contemplating buying a couple more...they're such a great basics and the fit is fantastic.

I'm crazy. And bored...that's my problem.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Soho and real friends

Our last full day in NYC. Brunch at The Brooklyn Diner on 43rd near Broadway which opened just a week ago and then off to Soho for some more shopping.

Our first stop was at Ann Taylor Loft, where I did the most damage volume-wise. I've been wanting a tuxedo suit for a couple years now and ended up buying one here. The jacket is a perfect fit and the pants have traditional satin stripe up the sides. So elegant and smart.

I LOVE Ann Taylor pants because they fit me perfectly, so I ended up combing their sale racks for pants in my size and bought all the wide-leg dress pants in my size. The bonus? An additional 20% off the lowest ticketed price! I also bought a fantastic Minnie Rose cashmere kimono shawl - so soft and so must-have.

I found LOTS of other beautiful things that I coveted...like the jacket at Calvin Tran with a satin tie; the pretty chiffon dresses at Rebecca Taylor; and the japanese kimono silk dreses at the store that I don't know the name of....so lovely.
But my favourite? My favourite store was the calm, fragrant oasis of Nancy Koltes at Home where I spied the pink cashmere robe to the right. I sat in the comfy armchair opposite to rest my weary feet and to just take in the ambience. I love how everything in the store was edited. I admired the lovely robe, which would have been crazy for me to buy because I don't use robes at home anyway, besides which, I think it was $400+. sigh.

By about 5:30pm, we were tired of shopping...and looking forward to dinner. I'd made reservations at Cafe Espanol on Bleecker at Sullivan for 7 and we ended up arriving early. I'd discovered it a couple years ago while in NYC with my cousin A. I was looking forward to this meal all weekend. Their paella marinara with the half lobster was as good as I remembered, and we also ordered a lobster and shrimp in garlic sauce. It was pretty decadent considering it was just us 2 girls but it's such great value! Lobster and big juicy shrimps for $23? You can't beat that! And their sangria! The best sangria I've ever had with the fruits drowned in brandy overnight. :) We lingered over the sangria for more than an hour after paying the bill and ended up ordering flan for dessert and staying another hour.

We had a vague intention of going out to a jazz club but after making it back to our hotel, we ended up just staying in for the night. We packed and we chilled. I don't see W very often, in fact, the last time we saw each other was 2 Xmas' ago on holiday in Hong Kong, and we don't correspond regularly, but she's one of those special friends that it doesn't matter how much time has passed since we last saw each other, we can pick up like it was just yesterday since we last chatted.

The weekend was far too short. We're already thinking about our next girls' weekend...maybe it'll be NYC again...perhaps I'll meet her there when she's back on the east coast on a buying trip...or maybe it'll be somewhere warm where we can loll on the beach (though I'm not very good at that!) or perhaps it'll be gay Par-ee....? Regardless of the where, we know it'll be fun with lots of shopping, despite our best intentions - we are each others' good luck shopping charm. So good, but also, so dangerous. :)

(The Princess Bride is on TV, and despite being really tired, I have to watch til it ends at 3am)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Garment District and 5th Ave (sort of)

Woke up bright and early for our first full day in NYC. Our plan for the day was to hit the Garment District - beads for me and fabrics and trim for W since she's starting her own fashion design firm.

We started with brunch at Yuca Bar on Avenue A - I had the Arepas Benedictos with Serrano ham (yummy!) and W the eggs and chorizo sausage. With our stomachs full, we headed back to the HoJo to check out and made our way uptown to drop off our bags at the Millenium Broadway where we'd be staying for the next 2 nights.

We spent 8 hours pounding the pavement. We hit a few bead shops and I managed not to buy everything in sight. W found trimming for her samples and we walked some more.

I don't remember what street we were walking down but we noticed these parking lots with the car elevators to maximize valuable real estate. I'm pretty sure there's a condo in Toronto being developed with these car elevators as a feature...and I know my Dutch cousin's condo in Amsterdam also makes use of these space saving lifts.


The parking lot attendant kindly posed for us. He was a funny, charming guy since he made a big show of checking to make sure that his tie was straight, his hair was in place and his moustache was just so.

I took this pic later on in the afternoon, after we'd decided to quit the Garment District for some serious shopping on 5th. I'm not sure what building this is and can't remember what corner, but I like the colours in the taller structure with the blues and purples. Oddly enough, the short orange-red cubic building reminds me of some of the movie theatres in the suburbs near to home...I think it's the colours. And how about that big, fake chocolate bar? I think it's a Snickers...most satisfying, indeed!

Our intention to make it up 5th got us as far as Rockefeller Centre. We killed a lot of time at J. Crew (one of W's favs) where I tried on lots of cashmere and ended up buying a lovely grey V-neck, and then at Anthropologie, my all-time favourite girly-girl store. I LOVE this dress but they didn't have it in-store . I tried on lots but in the end, bought this pretty pink sweater only. I figured I'd done enough damage to my poor finances for one day with the beads and the sweaters.

After a full day of shopping, we headed back to our hotel to change for dinner. Our room's on the 50th floor and it's so much better than the HoJo. Here's the view from our window of some random buildings and what may be the edge of Times Square, and the Chrysler Building further down. Not too shabby. :)


Friday, November 10, 2006

"Need some asian food!"

I'm all fresh and showered on this first night in NYC. We're staying at the HoJo in Soho and moving to the Millenium Broadway tomorrow (long back story which I will not get into). NYC hotels are freakin' expensive and I knew that when I had suggested it as a destination for our girls' weekend but I had sort of forgotten. Duh.

Anyway, my girl W and I had an amazing Korean bbq dinner at Kang Suh on Broadway (open 24 hrs!). After a week of fine Italian dining in Milan for business, she was desperate for some asian food. She'd apparently been dreaming about kimchi fried rice, so we ordered that (girl wasn't kidding about the rice because she pretty much finished the entire order on her own!) some delicious kalbi and my favourite, chap chae, along with a bottle of soju (so smooth!)

After dinner to catch up on our own, we met up with some friends who were having dinner out on the patio of Markt, and stayed for drinks and dessert. I love NYC because there we were, at the corner of 9th and 14th after midnight and the streets were still bustling with people walking around.

It's great to people-watch because you can observe certain types of people out and about. There were the wannabe cool preps in their casual uniform of jeans, untucked dress shirt and jacket; there were the party girls in their short jean minis and black tops; the mature gentlemen dressed in comfy stylish sweaters and their ladies in elegant coats and scarves. My favourite was the SJP-Carrie doppelganger who paused at our corner dressed in this fabulous A-line cocktail dress with crinolines. So pretty.

sigh. I love New York.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sunset in NYC

My flight that was supposed to arrive at 4:15 was late - first because we were delayed 40 minutes leaving Pearson, and then we spent another 20 minutes in a holding pattern outside of NY airspace because of high volume at JFK. Consequently, the sun was just setting by the time we were making our way towards JFK to land. It was brilliant as it made its way down the western sky...the horizon was a lovely pink that deepened into a muted orange, and where the sun was peaking through the clouds the rays were like a hot pink.

I was glad to see from my plane window that the leaves are still on the trees: red, orange and yellow...I love the brilliance of the fall colours. This is my favourite time of year to be out and about for a walk.

Touchdown.

Hello New York!

Leaving on a jet plane

This is the weekend I head to NYC for some QT with one of my favourite girls. Normally, I'd have much of my time there planned and organized in a spreadsheet (I know, I'm a geek and a freak, but lovable nonetheless) but not so this weekend. We're going to play it by ear, sort of. I still pulled together a spreadsheet of potential restos to dine in and possible nightspots to hit--just because nothing's planned doesn't mean I'm not prepared!

Meanwhile, I got an email yesterday from Air Canada announcing a Euro seat sale. A round trip flight to London is $400...and for a few minutes, I entertained the thought of actually flying to London for a short visit. I'd have free accomodations with my cousin who I absolutely adore, and I could ride the slides at the Tate Modern! But reality set in when I realized that I'd have to pay $250 in taxes on top of the airfare...there goes that decadent, jetset fantasy!

No time to dwell though! New York awaits!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Rain = 2x as long a commute

What is it about a bit of rain that traffic slows right down?? I've written about this before and on this evening again, it's the Traffic Flow Mix that sees me through with a fantastic set of head bopping tracks.

It's funny that there was a report today about StatsCan's study on the work commute. Apparently, "people who drive to work are more likely to enjoy their commute than those who take public transit." I wonder if these same people feel the same when there driving time is doubled because of not-so-foul weather?

Generally speaking, I don't mind my drive to work because it would otherwise take me twice as long via public transit. Besides, I really need my sleep and I like the freedom of being able to run errands or go offsite for lunch during my noon hour. But when I'm stuck in stop and go traffic because of inexplicable volume caused by weather or having the bad luck to get stuck in the flow of traffic rather than the ebb, I get irked and irritable.

"...motorists’ enjoyment of their time on the road is probably linked to a sense of freedom...Even if they’re in a traffic jam, they are still in their wonderful shiny cars that they put a lot of money down to own,” says Roger Keil, a York U professor.

I wanna know who these weirdos are that don't mind being in a traffic jam? Where are these freaks hiding?

Friday, November 03, 2006

LTR Hiatus

I'm on a break from my LTR program after a really crappy run last Friday. I got out of work an hour early and went to the gym all excited to get a good workout in to start my weekend off but it was not to be. I ended up with a cramp and quit after 20 minutes, something that didn't even happen my very first time out.

To add insult to injury, I suffered really bad shinsplints that lasted until Wednesday. So, no running for me this week. I wasn't a complete stranger to the gym though as I went to Bodyflow* last night. I worked myself hard and am beginning to feel the soreness in my gluts today--there was this one leg/core strenthening yoga move (I don't know what they're called) that saw me fall over because: 1) my core's not strong enough yet and 2) my muscles were feeling a touch jelly-like after the earlier standing series. How embarassing.

I suspect I will be sore for the next few days, but this is good. I love the feeling of sore muscles after a workout because I feel like I've done my body good.

* Bodyflow is a combination of Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Apple


I went to the Factory Theatre tonight to see the Toronto debut of Vern Thiessen's Apple. The image above is the publicity still--provocative, huh?

This was the story of a man, Andy, torn between his wife, Evelyn, and lover, Samantha; just as he's made the decision to leave his wife, she tells him she has cancer and he must decide to stay or go. Based on this brief outline, the symbolism of the tempting apple and the closeness to the couple's names to Adam and Eve, I expected a drama examining the theme of temptation and the difficult choice one is forced to make between one's desire and one's duty. What I got was another thing entirely.

I thought I would be sympathetic with Evelyn, but she was a complete bitch from the start. I expected the adulterous husband to at least have a backbone, but he was a weak loser who had just lost his job and couldn't seem to stand up for himself. And Samantha? Well...she was messed up too.

Things get rather twisted when Evelyn, a real estate agent, meets Samantha after she's considered selling her condo. Fast forward a little and Andy and Evelyn meet at the park they used to frequent early on in their relationship. Andy wants to tell Evelyn that he's leaving her, but Evelyn, as usual, beats him to it and tells him she has cancer and it's his job now to look after her.

Given that it's a 3-character play, can you guess who's the medical intern assigned to Evelyn? If you guessed Samantha, you'd be right. I don't even want to go on about the plot because I'm too tired and disappointed to think about it any longer. I couldn't find any sympathy for any of the characters. It felt rather like a blind date that you knew was going to be bad as soon as the first greeting's exchanged.

At least I had fun prior. I met my friends at the National Ballet box office to get tickets initially for Sleeping Beauty, but since the seats in the Ring we wanted weren't available, we got tickets for the Christmas institution that is The Nutcracker. We then walked across Queen for dinner at Shanghai Cowgirl where I had the yummy Chicken Club Sandwich. The salad was overdressed and the side order of sweet potato fries was oversalted, but the chicken breast was perfectly tender and juicy. Will return again.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Wicked and porno bathrooms

I went to see Wicked at the Canon Theatre today and I understand now why it was so successful on Broadway. The story of Elphaba and Glinda is funny and touching, and the lyrics and music are smart and catchy.

I've had a weekend of good stories, beginning with The Thirteenth Tale and now with Wicked: I found out how the Scarecrow, Tinman and Cowardly Lion came to be, as well as the flying monkeys; and the significance of the ruby slippers came to light. All in all, a very clever story.

It was a funny coincidence to find The Wizard of Oz on television. I tuned in long enough to see Dorothy and her entourage's first visit to the wizard and her subsequent capture by the wicked witch of the west.

It was so freakin' windy today that I thought I was going to be blown away while walking down the street. It never occured to me that I might have been hit by some flying debris--like the poor woman who was knocked unconscious and bleeding with injuries to her head and leg when a falling tree branch hit her. And then there's the story of how the winds were so strong that they were able to blow down a townhouse under construction!

As to the porno bathrooms, I first heard about them from my friend who had gone to visit a new condo development in King West. The design was much-hyped so we thought we'd go for a visit for curiosity's sake.

So what makes a bathroom a porno bathroom, you might ask? Well, it's as simple as a window or glass wall seperating the bathroom from the bedroom. We saw a second PB in another model suite not 10 minutes away...is this the latest trend in condo design? I find it tacky...and rather alarming. Call me a prude, I don't care.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Thirteenth Tale

Half my book order was waiting for me when I got home from work last night and I was wary of getting into either of them right away. I knew the first title would be The Thirteenth Tale given all the buzz, besides which, I wasn't in the mood for the non-fiction that was So Many Books, So Little Time. Given my book funk of late, the pessimist in me was worried that I would be disappointed, the optimist in me was worried I would get so caught up in the mood that I would neglect practicing for my Mandarin class. (I've been a very bad student all week having not opened my textbook at all since class ended last Saturday.)

Can I just say: Wow.

(warning: spoilers ahead)

I started the book last night around 9:30 as the rain fell (after spending a couple hours practicing my vocabulary, of course) and was up until almost 2am reading. I was caught up in the story right away because of the main character, Margaret. Her passion for reading reminded me of my own not so long ago when I used to read through the night because a certain pageturner had captured my imagination. The anecdote about why she never stands when she reads made me laugh out loud: when she was a child, she sat on a wall reading The Water Babies. She was so taken in by the evocative story that she unconsciously relaxed her body completely as if she were weightless in water--only to fall off the wall and knock herself out. "Reading can be dangerous," she deadpans, and this is when I knew that I had found the right book.

I must admit that as I got deeper into the novel, I was a bit scared about how it would end. What if it was completely predictable...I found the incest between Charlie and Isabelle to be a bit trite, but the rest of the story was great.

I was amused by Dr. Clifton's prescription to Margaret after she had fallen ill from a night out in the rain: he asked her if she liked to read books like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Sense and Sensibility. His reply when she replied yes inspired a smile: "You are suffering from an ailment that afflicts ladies of romantic imagination. Symptoms include fainting, weariness, loss of appetite, low spirits...unlike the heroines of your favourite novels, your constitution has not been weakened by the privations of life in earlier, harsher centuries...You'll survive." And his scribbled prescription? This, too, made me laugh: "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes. Take ten pages, twice a day, till end of course." Ha!

After class and errands about town, I settled in for some more this afternoon. The twist in the plot surprised me as I didn't see it coming...but it made sense in the end...everything mostly tied up in a neat little bow--except that we don't ever really know for sure who survived the fire...

The Thirteenth Tale of the story is revealed...and it struck me immediately how this make-believe book and its stories sounded similar to Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. Anyway, it's clear that the reason why this last story was unfinished was because this was the story of the mysterious Miss. Winter. It's brilliant how everything came full circle in the end--the fictional thirteenth tale is revealed just as the truth is finally recorded.

Finally, I loved the ending...how Margaret finishes the tale by taking into consideration the feelings of the reader in wanting to know what happens after the story ends--does everyone live happily ever after? We're left with a teaser of a potential romance and that's the end. Just brilliant!

I'm looking forward to Brick Lane. I suspect it will arrive on Monday since I got an email yesterday to say that it was shipped....I'm rubbing my hands in anticipation already!

Slide, baby, slide!

There was an item in today's paper about a gigantic slide at the Tate Modern in London. Carsten Holler, the German artist to which we have to thank for this fabulous playground thinks they're a great means of reducing stress and depression. To me, they look like pure fun.

According to the website, the exhibit runs until April 9 of next year. I wanna go!!!! I wasn't planning on going back to Europe again so soon...but my cousin DOES miss me, and I'd love to spend time with her and meet her new beau...and now there are the slides!!!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Commitment-phobe am I

After a very domestic weekend shopping with my mother for new occasional tables for the family room and a dishwasher for the kitchen, I felt the need for a little retail therapy for me and me alone. And since I had a $50 gift card for Indigo, I went online for new books—as if I needed any more, given the reading funk I’ve been in lately.

As usual, I’ve got a glut of unread books on my shelves but nothing seems to appeal long enough to hold my attention. I never used to cheat on my books…I would make the commitment and read one and one alone. Now I find it difficult to be faithful so I have 2 or 3 on the go. The last title I found engaging enough to compel me to spend the entire weekend reading was The Kiterunner around this time last year…that’s quite the dry spell, wouldn’t you say?

My latest purchases include:
- The Thirteenth Tale, the latest international bestseller which has gotten a lot of buzz lately;
- Brick Lane which was one of the big titles from a few years ago that I've heard about and had been meaning to pick up;
- Fried Eggs with Chopsticks: Around China by Any Means Necessary by Polly Evans, who wrote It’s Not About the Tapas: A Spanish Adventure on Two Wheels, a travel memoir about her cycling trip across Spain which I quite enjoyed; and
- So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Evans who chronicles her goal of reading a book a week for a year. The idea of reading a book a week has some appeal...I seem to recall a column published in the Globe and Mail(?) about just such a feat, but I could have just imagined it.

These books should arrive on my doorstep sometime next week since they’re all available for shipment within 24 hours.

Meanwhile, I’m also keeping myself busy trying to figure out what to do in NYC in a couple weeks—there’s just so much to do and only 3 nights and 2 days to do it in once travel days are taken into consideration. Not enough time!!!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I call bullshit

Oddly enough, one of the things I really miss about working downtown--aside from the great people watching and shopping in the PATH on my lunch hour--is my commute in on public transit because this was my time to read the newspaper...I'd get through the hard news and business on the ride in, and save the features and crossword for the ride home. Now, I listen to 680 News--all news, all the time and traffic and weather together on the ones.

This morning there was a news item on a study in Maclean's magazine about how the internet is a complete disappointment despite all the money that's been invested in it. Well, I call bullshit.

Yes, the internet has opened the door to scam artists, identity theft, and viruses...but what about all the good? Thanks to the internet, we're all connected: we can keep in touch with family and friends all over the world and access resources when we need answers.

Consider this article about Ask Metafilter, a community weblog akin to Google Answers in which members post questions and get answers from the community. The fantastic question cited about the member looking for a Vienna phonebook circa 1938 in the hopes of finding the apartment where his grandfather lived before fleeing the Nazis is here. It gives me the warmfuzzies and wonder about the kindness of virtual strangers.*

On a more personal note: if it wasn't for the internet, I wouldn't have gotten the lovely surprise of an email in my inbox from none other than my crush, Alain de Botton(!) Apparently, a fan of my blog (I have a fan??) at M&S, his Canadian publisher, sent him the link. Eeek! How embarassed am I to know that he's read the gushy ramblings about my school-girl-crush on him? I haven't yet had the nerve to reply back.

So, yes, I call bullshit. The internet is da bomb.


*Speaking of the kindness of strangers, check out the book of the same title here. It's a collection of true stories by travellers who were helped by a Good Samaritan along the way. Some of them are quite exceptional.
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