Friday, December 29, 2006
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
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.
Monday, December 25, 2006
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
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.
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.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
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
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
Friday, December 15, 2006
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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."
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."
Sunday, December 03, 2006
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.
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
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
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. :)
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.