Friday Food Stuff

Just an update on the delicious food in my life lately.

I’m still obsessed with pho.

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Can’t get enough. I’ve been eating it at least once a week. There is a great Vietnamese place near my work, Pho Do Thi, that I’ve been hitting up. Just a tip if you are getting pho beef soup for takeout – ask for your beef to be cooked well done. If you are eating your soup in the restaurant the hot broth will take care of cooking your beef, but for takeout orders pho places typically give you everything separately (e.g. beef, noodles, vegetables, and broth). I find by the time I get back to my office and assemble everything, my broth isn’t quite hot enough to cook my beef to my liking. I’m sure it’s safe to eat either way, I’ve never felt sick after eating my pho soup, but I like my beef to be a bit more well done (unless we are talking steak, and then medium rare all the way).

A couple of weekends ago we spent the night at Evan’s nana’s in Belleville, so you know what that means… Lentils and curry!!!!

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We were celebrating Evan’s mom’s birthday that weekend, and she requested curry for her birthday dinner. I think I am going to have to start requesting it for my own birthday dinner. Evan’s nana really makes the best curry, and I could eat her yellow coconut rice every day of my life. Brotherman was also in attendance, so he made his famous Brotherman’s Slaw. It’s been a while since I’ve had it and I forgot how good it is. Evan and I are going to have to start making that.

We brought Evan’s nana back with us the next day as she was planning on staying for a couple of weeks with her sister (Auntie Booj as the boys call her) who lives near us. To repay her for her delicious curry dinner, we invited Nana and Auntie Booj for dinner at our place.

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I take no credit for this dinner, all I did was bake the bread that came frozen in a package. Roast beef and vegetables in the crockpot, Evan’s bean salad (whole green beans cooked and tossed in garlic, oil and vinegar and then cooled), pickles, horseradish beet slaw that Evan picked up at a European deli (really good), and PC cheddar and herb buns. Delicious. The ladies were raving about it. I was telling my coworker about this dinner and she was all “If I lived with Evan I think I’d be about 400 pounds.” I know. It’s tricky not to be. Thankfully he usually cooks healthy foods.

One night last week for dinner, Evan and I decided to check out an Afghan restaurant called Bamyan Kabob. We had been driving by it for months and always commented that we needed to go there, so we finally made it.

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I got the tandoori chicken kabob, and Evan got the kofta kabob (lean ground beef), both came with rice, salad, and two huge pieces of delicious naan bread. God I love carbs. It was really good, especially the rice actually, it was very interestingly spiced. We were trying really hard to figure out what the spices were and I think it was the addition of cinnamon that threw us off. I would never think of adding cinnamon to my rice, but somehow it worked. Evan was obsessed with it and I will bet good money that he is going to try to recreate that rice spice at some point.

And yesterday Evan was working in my area so we decided to meet up for lunch. He has been raving about this German grocery store with a huge deli that would be a convenient distance for both of us, Brandt Meats, so that’s where we went.

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Cabbage roll, beets, and potatoes for me, shnitzel for Evan (obviously I had some of that), and some giant pretzels on the side. Ahh European food, I love you! My cabbage roll was so good! You know, up until a few years ago I really did not like beets, but now pickled beets make me very happy.

The deli also had a crazy dessert display, so many pastries. So could not pass that up.

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A cookie that tasted very close to one of the strawberry sugar Peak Freans, and an apple strudel.

Okay and one last thing… Evan’s nana and Aunti Booj brought this PC butter chicken lasagna over for us when they came for dinner the other night.

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Interesting combination, but okay. We busted into it last night for dinner. I wasn’t sure what I was going to think about it, but you know what? Not bad! My first bite was weird because I forgot what I was supposed to be eating and my brain and tastebuds were not on the same page – is this lasagna, or is this butter chicken? But after that I just went with it and had an enjoyable experience. I think we might be buying it again in the future.

And that is food lately! Have a great weekend!

20 Things I’ve Learned in my Four Years of Blogging

I passed my four year blogging anniversary a little while ago, and I can’t even believe it. Four years I have been rambling on about what I’ve been eating and the things that have happened in my life. That is crazy to me.

I am definitely no blogging expert, however I have learned a few things from my four freakin’ years of blogging. Here they are! In no particular order.

1. Your first post will be the hardest you write.

It just will be. Getting the courage to write and then put that first post of yours out there for who knows who to read is the hardest. It’s difficult to break that ice. When I was writing my first post I was so uneasy because I felt like it was the first time I was really putting myself out there and giving strangers a glimpse into what was happening inside my brain. That’s scary! You are basically asking to be judged. But once it’s done, it’s easy. Now I don’t really care what people think of me or what’s going on in my brain. I just do my thing.

2. It’s okay if you don’t have a niche.

Everyone has a damn niche. And everything you read about blogging will tell you to pick your niche before you start your blog. It’s true, your blog has a better chance of being popular if you have a set niche and you focus on that subject. But I don’t have a niche and I am here to tell you, you don’t need one. Originally it was healthy living for me, or food maybe. I’m still food heavy because it’s very important to me, but probably not enough food to call it my niche. I’m not very home design savvy, or at least not enough to be giving advice to others, so that can’t be my niche. I like to look nice but otherwise don’t care very much about OMGFASHUN. I’ll tell you how to wear a cardigan but that’s pretty much all I’ve got. My beauty routine consists of towel dried hair and mascara 6 days a week so, nothing to report there. I don’t even pluck my eyebrows (I really am lucky on the hair front but this is mainly because #laziness), so I definitely can’t tell you how to highlight those. I don’t think I’m very twee (I hope I’m not at all twee). I’d love to be a travel blogger but sadly I don’t travel enough. But this is all fine because the blogosphere is oversaturated with all of those things anyway.

All I can do is be myself and tell you about my life and sometimes draw pictures. So, I guess that’s my niche.

3. It might take you a long time to find your voice or your blog’s purpose (or your niche!)

When I first started my blog I basically modeled it after every healthy living blog that I was reading because I thought that was what I was supposed to be doing. But being a

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wasn’t for me. I couldn’t keep that up for very long because it didn’t feel right. I wasn’t coming up with groundbreaking new workouts or recipes, I was copying others. But things that happen to me are unique, and that is what I want to share with the world. It took me a while to get there and I still haven’t perfected it.

4. You will look back at things you’ve written and cringe.

All the time. I can’t stand to go back and read things I wrote in my first year of blogging. I want to edit it all.

5. Your blog isn’t going to write itself.

This is disappointing. Sometimes I will have so many ideas for great blog posts in my head, but sitting down and getting it out is another story. Making the time is difficult.

6. Blogging is incredibly time consuming.

Before I started blogging I assumed it was going to be easy to throw a post up every day. From the outside it seems like it isn’t a lot of effort. But let me tell you, I have never spent less than one hour on a blog post. I might be doing it wrong, but for me, it’s very time consuming. I like doing it, but it takes a while.

7. Self promotion is my very least favourite part of blogging.

If you build it, they may not come. So you might need to tell them about it, therefore promote yourself. I feel very weird trying to pimp out my own stuff, so I still have not mastered this even though I would probably be more successful if I spent a little time on it.

8. Pinterest is both awesome and stressful.

I love Pinterest but I hate feeling like I need to make some sort of amazing pinnable image to go with every blog post I write. Everyone is making these lame pic money collages/images purely so people will pin it, and purely to gain traffic. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “content is king!” but this new way of blogging makes me feel like content isn’t king, like you can just slap up some crappy pinnable image on some crappy blog post and get a ton of traffic. Maybe that’s the smart thing to do and goes back to the self promotion thing that I’m bad at. I don’t know. But I don’t like it.

9. People really, really like lists.

10. Sometimes people will disagree with what you have to say.

Which is all good. How boring would life be if everyone agreed with what you had to say all the time?

11. You’ll need to grow a thick skin.

It’s cool if people don’t agree, but sometimes people are just jerks.

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Thankfully I haven’t attracted many trolls, but it does happen. You gotta just laugh it off. I am confident and comfortable with myself (it comes with age), so if an internet stranger wants to call me a fat chick or tell me I’m stupid, that’s fine. If my friends and family were talking shit about me then maybe I would be concerned.

12. As a blogger, you will be offered really cool experiences and/or products.

Traffic is the currency of the internet and companies want to use you to get the word out to your readers. This can be awesome. Many amazing things have come my way because of my blog. I will never, ever turn down free cookies. It’s a dream!

However…

13. As a blogger, people will ask you to write about lame things that have absolutely nothing to do with you or your blog, for free.

When I first started blogging I pretty much accepted every opportunity that came my way because I was just excited to be offered free stuff. If I did that now my blog would turn into me shilling you things like canned peaches. I can’t tell you how many times a company has approached me and asked me to write about canned peaches. What am I going to say about canned peaches?! Or someone will email you and be like “Hey, tomorrow is national kumquat day! Can you write a post about it please?!” WTF? No.

14. Be yourself. People like it.

Just like with anything in life, you are going to run into problems if you start trying to be someone you’re not. This includes photoshopping your selfies and lying to your readers about your running times. People aren’t dumb. If you’re not being genuine, you will be found out. Just be yourself!

15. Success is not going to happen overnight.

I’ve been blogging for four years and I’m still not internet famous. I also did not make a dime from my blog until this year. So, give it time. And if your main goal is to make money, that’s going to be really obvious and your readers aren’t going to like it (*unless you’re Pat Flynn, in which case it works).

16. Other bloggers will be more successful than you.

Always. You’ll never be THE BEST, and you can’t let it get to you. Stop comparing. Just do your thing.

17. Strangers will know what is happening in your life.

I know I ask for this by writing about my life, but it still surprises me sometimes. Even with my friends, I’ll be telling them a story and they will say to me “Oh I know, I read that on your blog.” Oh right.

18. You are going to make amazing new friends, who you will feel like you already know when you meet them for the first time, just from reading their blog.

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Like Paula!

And her bunny Pants, who I also felt like I already knew because of her blog.

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19. And you will also be friends with people you’ve never met in person.

I can think of several bloggers who I have a genuine love burst for, who I have never actually met (yet!). But even without meeting them I feel like we are friends.

20. The blogging community is the best.

It really is. It still surprises me when I receive a heartfelt email or comment from a blog reader that something I wrote about resonated with them. It is such an amazing feeling and one of the main reasons why I want to blog, to connect with people. Just one comment can brighten my entire month.

IKEA Dressers and Birthday Ballroom Bowling

I kicked this weekend off right with a little IKEA breakfast action on Saturday morning.

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First time I’ve ever had breakfast at IKEA but probably not the last. $3.50 for eggs, bacon, sausage, homefries, two pancakes and coffee?! Yowza. That is a deal and half. Is it real food? Probably not. But it was alright and it got the job done.

We were at IKEA to pick up a new dresser, and FINALLY is all I have to say about that. I have been living without an actual dresser for quite some time now and I miss that extra storage in my life. I do have a shelving unit in my closet but it’s just not doing the trick anymore. I want a dresser. It’s time.

So we bought our dresser, came home and tackled putting that sucker together. If you have ever assembled anything from IKEA I’m sure you know exactly how fun that was.

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Evan likes it.

Not very. But, two and half hours and a few splinters later we had this beautiful specimen:

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Evan gets to rent two drawers.

I love it. I’m so excited about it. It is very sturdy and actually real wood! At my old apartment I had one of those slat dressers from IKEA that was mainly particle board and it fell apart within a few months. This one though, it’s a huge step up. We also reinforced everything with wood glue, Evan’s idea (obviously not mine), so hopefully it holds up. I spent another hour on Saturday and most of the day on Sunday organizing my closet and my tower of plastic junk drawers full of makeup and hair gear that I don’t use. Man, did that feel good. So glad I did it.

Saturday night Evan and I headed downtown to celebrate my good friend Joanna’s birthday!

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Jo is beside me in that saucy white number.

A bunch of us met at Milestones to celebrate Jo’s big day, which I was pretty pumped about because you know I love Milestones. I have been invited to two of their menu tastings now, and I had a really good time at both of them. This time I decided to go with the red curry chicken.

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I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t my favourite thing I’ve had from there. And it was no Evan curry, that is for sure.

Dessert was absolutely fantastic though. Evan and I split the sampler.

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From left: ganache torte (the pecan crust was to die for, it was my favourite), toasted marshmallow ice cream, blueberry tiramisu, peanut butter & jelly cheesecake. All of it was SO GOOD.

I also had some of Joanna’s white chocolate cheesecake.

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The beautiful birthday girl!

Also quite a yumfest. Milestones is definitely doing dessert right.

After dinner we walked across the street to The Ballroom Bowl, a bowling alley that kind of turns into a club on weekend nights. They also play sports on big screens above the lanes.

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The Ballroom was packed. I’m surprised we got a lane. When we were leaving there was a lineup halfway around the building. But we were early because we’re old now (and because some of the girls were actually going clubbing afterwards).

Bowling was a fun time, and I wasn’t as bad as I expected to be! Though I continue to struggle with finding a ball that is suitable for my fat little Simpson fingers. I’d get a custom ball made but since I’ve been 10 pin bowling exactly 3 times in my life it doesn’t seem like a wise investment.

Evan won at bowling, because he is good at things.

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He scored that sweet medal and 1st place ribbon, and also a Starbucks gift card! Joanna’s so cute, she brought prizes for all the winners.

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From left: Corey with his 2nd place ribbon, then we have Emily with an honourable mention ribbon because she got bit by a cat earlier that day and her right hand was super swollen so she had to bowl with her left (she was a serious trooper), Joanna’s sister Liz came in third, and Evan was the big wiener.

That bowling alley was a good time and I liked it so much better than a typical club. I like to do activities. It was a good idea!

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I hope Jo had a good bday. She had a few last minute cancellations because people were sick (tis the season) and I may have been raving about how I’ve managed to avoid getting sick all winter, and then I spent pretty much the entire day on Sunday sneezing with a stuffy nose. Of course. I shouldn’t have said anything. I am hoping it was just allergies due to the dust when I was cleaning… Fingers crossed!

Blog Dates!

One of my favourite things about blogging is definitely making new blogger friends. I have had several meetups over the last year with a few Toronto bloggers, Casey from Waffling Design, Shanondoah from Twenty Something in Toronto, and Michelle from Eamonn and Jack. Originally the four of us would meet up to run together in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery (the one I got trapped in) so we called ourselves the Blogger Joggers. Very clever, I know. I can’t take credit for that name, that was all Casey. Then the actual jogging kind of fell by the wayside and we were just meeting up to eat pub food and drink, so I think our current name of Bloggers & Lagers is more fitting.

Last week we met up to eat and drink things at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen in Liberty Village.

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It is a super cute restaurant that is known for its amazing brunch, but we thought we’d try it out for dinner because as Casey brought to our attention, they serve gnocchi poutine.

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I am just going to repeat that. Gnocchi poutine. Instead of fries, it is gnocchi covered in gravy (oxtail gravy and there was some meat in there as well), and mozzarella cheese curds. They had an ample menu but that was obviously what I ordered. I can’t resist poutine most of the time anyway, and I love gnocchi, so gnocchi poutine? Yes and yes. It was so, so delicious. Everything I imagined. It’s on their menu as a share plate but I had that as my meal and found it to be filling on its own. And I still had room for dessert.

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I can’t even remember what that was, but I do remember that it was amazing and I ate every bite.

The four of us hung out and talked for hours.

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Me, Shanondoah, Michelle, Casey. Good times with those girls.

Also, sometimes the glasses I’m wearing make me look like Sam the Eagle because of the white strip at the top…

"THE MUPPETS"..Ph: John E. Barrett..© 2011 Disney

Just felt like I needed to tell you that.

This past Tuesday (St. Patty’s Day!) I had a date with another Toronto blogger, Liz from One Twenty Five. I hadn’t seen Liz since our brunch date in the summer so I was excited to catch up with her over green beer!

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It doesn’t look very green, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.

We met at the Duke of Kent at Yonge and Eglinton, my old stomping grounds when I first moved to the city. I miss that neighbourhood a lot. The Duke was super packed when we got there, because St. Patty’s, and everyone was out in full force in their green attire. Somehow we managed to get a table immediately though. I am still not sure how this happened because there were definitely people who were waiting ahead of us, but we will take it. We had a lovely time.

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It is so funny how well you feel like you know someone just from reading their blog. We had so much to talk about and never had a conversation lull.

I have eaten here many times before and have always enjoyed my meal, but this time I went with the quesadillas and was not impressed. So just a note if you go there, don’t order those.

As we were chatting we were approached by a girl, Amy, who said she read both of our blogs and recognized us! It was awesome, I totally felt famous. She was there with her friend Amanda and she was so nice and seemed fun so we told her to grab her friend and come sit with us. We ended up having a few more drinks with them and found we had a ton in common so we kept the conversation going for another couple hours. By the end Liz and I had made new friends!

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Me, Amanda, Liz, Amy.

Amy, thank you so much for coming over and introducing yourself! We had such a good time with you girls. We are going to have to do this again for sure.

This again? But I just did this yesterday!

There are certain things that need to happen every day that I wish I could just skip. Like I just did that yesterday, do I have to do that exact thing again today? Why can’t I just do it once and it applies for the rest of the week?

The biggest example is getting ready for work in the morning. Showering, getting dressed, putting on makeup (the worst), brushing my teeth. I am always like ugh, this again? I just did this yesterday!

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Someone needs to make this happen.

I have even pared my makeup routine down to mascara and a teensy bit of blush and I still dread doing it every morning.

Then there is driving to work, getting stuck in traffic in the exact same spot every morning. Seriously, again? I did this yesterday!

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Figuring out what to make for dinner. And then making dinner. I just freakin’ made dinner yesterday! Do I really have to make dinner AGAIN?

Making my lunch for work the next morning. I ALREADY DID THIS YESTERDAY. 

(Yes I realize that I technically could do all my cooking and lunch making on Sunday and then I wouldn’t have to figure it out every evening, but that cuts into Sunday leisure time which is very important. )

And, running on the treadmill. It’s been three times a week lately, and every time I get on that treadmill I’m all but I already ran this week. Why does this need to happen again?

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The struggles. They are real.

My Independent Nana

I went to visit my Nana on Sunday. My beautiful, positive, strong-willed, 100.5 year old Nana (and yes I will mention her age every time I talk about her, because she is a miracle).

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Nana on her 100th birthday

I have been trying to visit her more often recently, because she isn’t doing all that well. It’s her age, you know. She will be the first to tell you it is her age. She can’t do the things she was once able to do and she is very frustrated with her body. But, as she will say to you, what can you do?

You see, she keeps falling. In her mind she thinks that she is still able to walk and be nimble and mobile like she used to be, but her body says no, thank you. Her legs are not up to the task of holding her weight anymore. But she still tries. She tries to walk around her room like she used to, and then she can’t, so she falls. Originally she had an alarm on her bed that would go off when she got up (I mentioned this a while ago) to alert the nurses that she was up and active so they could come and check on her. But do you know what she does? She gets up and turns off the alarm and continues to walk around as normal. So the nurses don’t know she is up and they don’t come to check on her, and then she falls. The alarm is no longer working.

It has gotten to the point now where the nurses can’t trust her to be in her room by herself (because she will try to walk, and then she will fall) so they have her stay in the main room by the nurses station all day. She sits in a big leather easy chair, and she does say she is very comfortable. The nurses wheel her downstairs for her meals, and then they bring her back to her chair. They even wheel her bed from her room to the nurses station area so she can sleep there at night and they can keep an eye on her, to make sure she doesn’t get up and walk around on her own. As my aunt says, what else can they do? It’s not ideal but it’s not like they can just strap her to her bed. She’s stubborn, this is why she has lived so long. I know that it is frustrating for her to not be able to be alone in her room anymore, but for her safety it is the way it has to be.

But it is the most frustrating for her, and it is the most frustrating to watch, because her brain is still so with it but her body is failing her.

It is difficult to see this of course, because I can remember a time not too long ago when I watched her literally pick up her walker and carry it around an obstacle, put it back down and continue walking with it. Like it wasn’t even needed at all. Her strong will is what made it possible for her to keep walking after she broke her hip a couple years ago. She was 98 or 99 at the time, and the doctor told her she would not be able to walk again. But she did. Her independence has always been almost what has defined her, and now that it is gone, what is she left with?

Because it isn’t just the walking. She has been hard of hearing for years, but it’s gotten so bad that it’s impossible to talk to her on the phone anymore, so she can’t talk to the people she loves on a regular basis. Even in person lately I usually have to write down what I have to say so she can understand. Our family has taken to writing emails to the nurses so they can print them for her to read. But now her eyes have started to bother her so she can’t read or watch TV anymore. She has always been a voracious reader, and a longtime fan of the Young and the Restless and Wheel of Fortune. But they are no longer a part of her life.

She has continually made the best of any situation, this is what we have always known her for. Obviously being in a nursing home is not ideal, no one wants to live there. But my Nana always embraced it, going to all the activities; Bingo, table bowling, mystery word (which I never really understood but was my Nana’s favourite game). But she can’t do even those things anymore. She would get up every morning and wash up, do her makeup, and go down to breakfast. And that is gone now, too. Her friends are gone. Her husband died 32 years ago. Her children are grown and are well, her grandchildren are grown and well, her great grandchildren are beautiful! Looking in her eyes, her same Nana eyes, I can see her thinking it…what else is left? What is the point now? If I can’t read and I can’t walk and I can’t even talk to the people who love me, why am I still here? She has never said this to me, but I can see in her eyes it’s what she’s thinking.

Now she just sits in her chair and watches the other residents in the main room around her. And when I am visiting her I watch the other residents too, people who I have seen for years when I have come to visit my Nana, all of them in wheelchairs, slowly (and some quickly) deteriorating, not knowing where they are or what is going on around them. One lady just constantly makes a noise that sounds exactly like a zombie/walker from the Walking Dead. Exactly. Dead ringer. She doesn’t even realize she’s making that sound. I look at all those people and I wonder, which is worse? Is it worse to lose your mind and have no idea what is going on? Like my Auntie Mary Lou who has Alzheimers. Who doesn’t know anyone at all anymore and slowly and slowly continues to deteriorate, over more than a decade. I wonder if she is suffering or if she is spared because she just doesn’t know. Or is it worse to be like my Nana, whose mind is still there but whose body is not cooperating anymore, so you know exactly what is going on and what is happening to you as you age.

My Nana has had such a long and wonderful life, and has been such an inspiration to our family. And continues to be, because despite all of this, despite the fact that everything she has poured herself into is gone, she still has her positivity, and she still has something she has always lived for: Taking care of her children and her grandchildren. Hence the care packages that she has always given to me, still trying to take care of me.

On Sunday, she brightened when she saw me. She was so happy and asking me about all the things I am up to, and how is Evan, and are we going to get married one day? And how is my job, and am I still working on the computer? And when I left she forced a tin of Quality Street, Q-tips, toothpicks, and a handful of Ziploc bags upon me, because I might need those things sometime you know, and she wanted to help me out.

So I know that she will do as she has always done, what she repeats every time I see her. Life is ups and downs, but you just take things one day at a time.