Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Swan Thieves

I finally finished the doorstopper that is Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves early this morning. I stayed over night at my mother's and was woken up by her alarm clock just before 7 this morning.

Anyway - I had never read her debut, The Historian, but was impressed by all the critical acclaim so picked this one up because the story sounded interested.

The novel was s-l-o-w to start for me and continued to plod along jumping from the present to the past and back again as the parallel stories unfolded.  The ending came together well enough, although it felt hasty - almost like Kostova had decided about 500 pages in that it was time to wrap things up.    I'm glad I finished it but am doubtful that I'll be reading any more of her titles in the future.

From the back cover:
This richly told, beautifully imagined novel takes us on a journey into the lives of the women left behind by the renowned painter Robert Oliver.

After attacking a canvas in the National Gallery of Art, Oliver maintains a stubborn silence, prompting his psychiatrist, Andrew Marlow, to embark on an unconventional pursuit of the answers his patient won't provide.  As Marlow is pulled deeper within Oliver's troubled mind, he uncovers a tale of love, betrayal, and artistic obsession, and finds surprising possibilities in a package of nineteenth-century love letters.  Does the key to unlocking Robert Oliver's mystery lie in a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism?

Across centuries and continents, from young love to last love, Elizabeth Kostova deftly explores the painter's universe - passion, creativity, secrets, madness - and conjures a world that lingers long after the final page has turned.


I don't usually dream, or at least, I don't remember my dreams when I wake up. But a few weeks ago, I had a dream that I remembered and it was so weird because I dreamed about a good friend at work.  We worked closely together on a project for over a year - it was a crazy-intense period - and then she moved on to another department and we were separated by a few floors.

In my dream, I was looking for her on her floor but I couldn't find her anywhere, and when I woke up, I remembered that she was on temporary assignment to another team and had actually re-located to my floor.  I bumped into her the next day - this was 3 Fridays ago and told her about it that morning, and she laughed and said, "We have to catch up next week over coffee.  I have to tell you something."  OK...

So I booked us a coffee date for the following Tuesday because I had already booked the Monday off to go to the spa and have afternoon tea with S.  So Tuesday comes around and she tells me that she'd resigned!  Which makes my dream rather psychic because she wasn't there when I was looking for her.  Spooky, right?

Friday, March 25, 2011

So Romantic!

Finally got around to browsing BHLDN's website and can I tell you how much I LOVE this gown?  It's called Ethereal Monarch.  Indeed.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Form or Function, that is the question.

Stumbled upon this adorable video shared by Chapters Indigo Books on Facebook. I love the attention to detail in this stop-action video - check out the stalking dragon on the table to the left!

Now, I've always admired the aesthetics of bookshelves organized by colour - doesn't that image below look so pretty?? - but realistically, I don't have a visual recall of all my book covers and it just wouldn't be functional for me.

Because I tend to remember my books by genre, my shelves are sort of organized in that fashion first, e.g. fiction vs. non-fiction, Asian Studies (fiction & non), Literary Travel, Cookbooks, Interior Design; I then sub-categorize by hardback vs. softback; and then by author. It doesn't adhere to any strictly conventional method of organization but it works for me:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lobsterlicious 2011!

It's one of my favourite times of year* - it's Lobsterlicious at Scaramouche!  Here's the current menu, which has been revised to exclude their yummy Lobster Ravioli since I first saw it last month and when a friend went a couple weeks ago with his family.  I won't complain though because everything was pretty damn awesome - including the service, which was impeccably attentive yet unobtrusive. 

As usual, each prix fixe includes 1.5lbs of lobster spread across 2 courses.  My dinner started with an amuse-bouche of 1/2 a quail egg with beurre blanc, crisp bacon pieces and deep fried onions and holy moly did this little bite pack a tasty punch!  I can still taste the smooth egg and butter sauce juxtaposed with the savory crisp texture of the bacon and onions.  Mmmm....

I started with the Lobster and Celery Root "Lasagna" - so-called because in place of the pasta noodle, the chef used shaved celery root.  Ingenious because the texture was rather similar to a pasta noodle - maybe more tender, and super-mild which allowed the sweetness of the lobster to shine through.
My second course was the Butter Poached Lobster because I like artichokes and king oyster mushrooms and I had the risotto last time.  There is something super-decadent about having so much lobster served up out of the shell and done so well! 
Finally, dessert...ah dessert...what we have here is their famous Coconut Cream Pie, which, as you'll see from the menu, did not come with the prix fixe.  I had to have another taste of this pie though - and since I was being bad anyway, I figured I'd go all the way - and paid the extra $3 for it and OMG it was as good as I remembered it to be - so light and just the right amount of sweetness.
 The Lobsterlicious Menu is available Monday through Thursday through March 31st so if you're feeling indulgent or in need of a place to celebrate a special occasion between now and then, check them out!  I promise you won't be disappointed! 

* The last time I indulged at Scaramouche was in the summer of '09 - so...leads me to wonder if there will be a Lobsterlicious - Redux come the summer...!!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

DwellStudio for Japan Disaster Relief

I've had my eye on DwellStudio's Hedgerow Persimmon Duvet Set for ages now and when I read on Twitter that they were donating 20% of their sales for the next 48 hrs beginning 6pm today to Unicef I thought I'd take a look....

And boy am I glad I did because it's on sale for 65% off!  So, win-win!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Girls' Day Off

I took today off to spend with S who's on March Break.  We scheduled massages and mani/pedis at Vika Spa which were just OK.  My massage was actually very disappointing as the masseuse I had kinda sucked - it felt like she was just moving the massage oil around (and there was A LOT of it) and asking for more pressure resulted in more of the same. 

Our spa appointments were followed up by full afternoon tea at the Windsor Arms - which was again, OK.  They tout themselves as a luxury hotel catering to stars and other dignitaries and for that, I would have expected better service overall.  The staff weren't rude or anything, it just wasn't as polished as I would have expected.

The tea was came with 3 different finger sandwiches, 4 pieces each, and 4 gigantic scones - literally the size of my fist.  They looked dry but were surprisingly tender and dear I say fluffy.  If I had the appetite, I would probably have eaten the 2nd but there were still petit fours and berries with whipped cream (which I'd totally forgotten about!) to eat.

As to the pretty petit fours - clockwise from the top we have a lemon meringue, a rich chocolate torte, an almond-y present and a coffee-flavoured cake suped-up with what had to be liquer, it was so strong!  

Finally, what's a girls day without shopping?  Among others, we hit MO851 to check out their leather jackets.  With this visit and the stop at Rudsack recently, I feel I've done sufficient due diligence to determine that Mackage's Ming jacket is the one I want.  Now if only it'd just go on sale already!!

Oh, and what's a visit to Yorkville without a stop at Anthropologie?  I don't usually look at belts but this sparkly gem, aka the Enchanting Eyes Belt caught my eye so it came home with me:
What burns is that it's $14 more in Canada then it is in the US.  CAD is above par right now.  Granted it's a more recent event but our dollar has been flirting with parity for quite some time now so why this ridiculous discrepancy?  I may just return it to buy it again online, ship it to Buffalo and have my brother go pick it up on one of his cross-the-border jaunts!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend Update

My weekend got off to a bit of a rocky start since I was forced to go to bed Thursday night at 11:30 because my power went out. I didn't worry too much about the outage because I figured it was temporary - but alas, not so much. I woke up Friday morning - thanks to my iphone alarm which I had set after the power went out - to grey skies, darkness and cold water, which wasn't too big a deal since I prefer showering at night. Turns out a contractor for Rogers and/or Bell was digging holes outside our building and managed to cut the electrical conduit or tube running into our building. The rain of the last few days flowed into this tube, into our electrical room located on P1 and blew our building's transformer - thank goodness it didn't cause a fire!

There was no word on when we'd get power back so when I got home after work, I tossed out some perishables in my fridge, packed up my freezer, and decamped to my mom's at least for the night. And thank goodness for my mom! One of my neighbour's spent an hour calling around trying to find a hotel that would take kids - with 3 conferences going on in the city, supply was apparently tight. Big bonus? Lobster was on sale for $5.99/lbs and my mom served up lobster not one, not two but THREE ways! SO YUMMY! (And yes, I know I'm spoiled.)

Incidentally, it was a big food weekend for me. But first, can I tell you about my bag score? With my spending fast over, I decided it was safe to head on over to the Shops on Don Mills to see what was on sale at Anthropologie. I tried on a bunch of different things but ended up leaving with just one top. My best score though was the gorgeous red Village Satchel from Roots to the left. I mis-read the sales tag as $119 when it actually read $149. When the cashier rang it in, it was $139, but with the current promo, spend $100+ and get $25 off, it ended up being $115 - cheaper than I had anticipated! Sweet!

Back to the food though, I dined on lobster and E-Fu noodles before heading back downtown to my place because we got power back around noon. I stayed long enough to re-pack my freezer and headed out again to see Yellow Face at the Hart House Theatre. The anger I felt while watching the play has since faded and I don't want to get into it because I don't want to focus on the negative. So I'm going to go back to food because it makes me happy.

I slept in until 11am this morning, which, because of Daylight Savings, was actually 10am and made myself a pile of yummy pancakes. I spiked the mix with a scoop of chocolate whey protein and added some chopped walnuts too and spread Nutella between each one. SO GOOD! I'm going to come absolutely clean and tell you today wasn't the first time I had them this weekend. I made them last night after I got back from the play too. There. Now you know my shame. I feel mildly better having shared that.

My regular Sunday trek out to Chinatown put me in the way of BBQ pork on rice so I had that for a late lunch and dinner tonight was a salmon steak paired with mushroom & broccoli quisotto - imagine risotto with quinoa instead of arborio rice - a recipe from my now favourite cookbook.  I'm going to have to do better with my portion sizes - dinner tonight was rather large but damn was it ever good!

I'm chilling out now with Season 1 of The West Wing on in the background and am thinking of giving this Hatha Yoga for Better Sleep video a go.  G'night!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I said I was going to sleep but I had to check one last thing online and then one thing led to another to this TED video and 20 minutes later I'm still up. 

Deb Roy is a researcher at MIT who studies how children learn language.  He wired up his house with video cameras in just about every room to catch every moment (with exceptions) of his son's life.  He and his grad students then parsed 90,000 hours of home video to watch "gaaaa" slowly turn into "water."   The process leads to the analysis of social media and how we interact with each other and TV.  The implications of this research just blows my mind.  There's research for the sake of science, yes, but considering how companies are trying to figure out how to leverage the power of social media, if they can figure out how to productize this in a way that companies can action against it, they could make a LOT of money.  And I mean A LOT a lot.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Crazy Savings!

I've written before about how I love to take advantage of group-buying daily deals and how Dealradar helps me do that.  I've been on a bit of a spending spree in the last month or so and it occurred to me that I should probably do a better job of keeping track of them beyond printing them out and tacking them onto my bulletin board.

So, I turned to one of my favourite organizational tools - the trusty Excel spreadsheet.  Since Christmas, I've bought 14 of these deals - the bulk of which are massage/spa-type services because if you hadn't noticed, I like to pamper myself - and I've saved over $1600(!!!).  How crazy is that?

I can't help but wonder what the mark-up is on these services because offering a discount of 50% seems excessive, never mind 80+% on some of the deals.  I shan't question.  If they offer it, I will buy it.


Oh, and the spending fast is officially over.  I got off work a few hours early because there was no running water in the building and went to Rudsak with the intention of checking out their leather jackets but ending up leaving with the gorgeous plum-coloured purse with a removable chain strap to the left.  The colour doesn't show at all in the pic below but believe when I say it's lovely juicy plum hue.  Plus it was 35% off.  Not a crazy discount but it was the last one, I loved the colour and I need options beyond what AL called the "gym bags*" I carry on a daily basis. 

I've still got my eye on this clutch by MO851 and will be checking it out next Monday when I'm in the 'hood for my girls' day off.

* Just to be clear, that would be a reference to the size of the bag as opposed to the style.  

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Weekend Update

Another weekend is drawing to a close.  This one for me was pretty low-key on purpose after getting my geek on last weekend playing Settlers of Catan/America on Friday/Saturday and spending Sunday night coming in 3rd in my cute neighbour's Oscar party pool. 

I ran some errands uptown yesterday before spending the evening at my mom's for dinner.  It was a quiet night in just relaxing and as per usual, I didn't get to bed until the wee hours.

Just before I did though, I perused Quinoa 365 which was delivered mid-week and found a bunch of recipes that I immediately wanted to try, including Maple Walnut Cereal.  With that to look forward to, I read a bit from Swan Thieves before finally settling in to sleep...when next I opened my eyes, it was 1:06pm!

This sounds bad, but I can't remember the last time I slept in past noon and wasn't hung over!  I was well-rested after more than 10 hours of sleep but woke up with a bit of a pain in my neck that hasn't gone away.  I thought I might get to my favourite yoga series for neck and shoulders but one thing led to another and I never did. 

What I did get to was some cooking.  I tried a couple recipes from my new cookbook and if the cereal is anything to go by, I've got some really yummy meals to look forward to!

Maple Walnut Cereal
1 serving
2 Tbsp chopped walnuts
1/3 cup quinoa
2/3 cup water
1 Tbsp oat bran
2 Tsp maple syrup
Milk, vanilla yogurt or cream (optional)

Place the walnuts in a small saucepan on medium-high heat. Stir frequently until the walnuts are toasted and fragrant (about 3-4 minutes).  Remove the pan from the heat and let the walnuts cool slightly.  Set aside in a small bowl.
In the same pan, combine the quinoa, water and oat bran.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes.  Leave the saucepan on the burner, covered, for another 6 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the walnuts and maple syrup.  Transfer to a bowl and top with milk, yogurt or cream (if using).

I tried it as-is but if felt like it was missing something so added cream (I had no milk or yogurt) and it was so so good. 

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Jacket Lust

Ever since Lainey tweeted this pic of her and Tanya Kim prepping for the Oscars, I've been thinking about their slim-cut leather jackets and getting one of my own.

I turned to what's become my go-to designer for outerwear - Montreal-based MACKAGE - and found these 2 styles, which I tried on my way home after work tonight at Next Door before meeting a neighbour for dinner at Fresh.  Both are made of super-soft leathers and have the slim-cut I was looking for.
Rory, $650
Ming, $670
I love Rory's shawl collar, but only when it's zipped up, otherwise it looks sloppy.  With Ming, I love that it looks like a sleek, super-feminine bomber jacket that's hits you perfectly at the hip.  The other detail I love is the layered look of the long knit sleeves underneath.  The padded shoulders in the images look rather extreme but when on, you don't notice it at all.  I kind of wish Ming was available in grey.  And dammit, why does it have to be so dear?!?  I can't bring myself to spend that much on a leather jacket that I just. don't. need. But I WANT IT! So. Maybe it'll go on sale....?
Alternatively, perhaps I'll find something else at Rudsak or MO851Danier's supposed to have some great styles now too but I can't help but be a bit of a snob about the brand.  What a way to break a spending fast, huh?  We shall see...
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