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

- 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!

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

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


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.


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


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.
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