Left Field Brewery, North 44 and C!C!C!

Just a few things that have been going on this week…

After Maha’s on Saturday I headed to Left Field Brewery around the corner with the blogger crew. Minus Jeannette as she has real responsibilities, like a husband and baby. The rest of us were ladies of leisure for the day.

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I noticed that the brewery (and Leslieville in general) was quite the young hipster family hangout. A lot of men in plaid with beards and glasses with their babies. Like a bunch of Evans, only with babies (not that Evan is a hipster, but he does usually have a beard and glasses and plaid). I liked it! I don’t go to Leslieville often and it seems like such a young and hip part of the city.

Anyway, Left Field Brewery is a small craft brewery that specializes in a few different types of beer, inspired by the owners’ favourite sport (baseball, obviously). They have recently teamed up with Sweet Jesus, an espresso and dessert cafe in the city, to create the Sweet Jesus Marshmallow Mocha Stout.

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Definitely an interesting combination of flavours there… But I have never heard of a beer accompanied by a toasted marshmallow, so I was not passing that up. We all thought it tasted more like coffee than mocha, but either way I liked it. I also tried mini pints of their Resin Bag IPA and Grandstand, a hoppy wheat ale. I think Grandstand was my favourite out of everything. It had a fresh citrus-y flavour to it.

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Grandstand and IPA

It would be great in the summer. IPA is Evan’s jam though so I brought home a couple bottles of that, and also Sweet Jesus for him to try. Most of LFB’s beer is slightly higher in alcoholic content than most beer (or at least the ones I tried) so I was feeling prettttttty good by the time I got home in the afternoon. Evan was away visiting his Nana, so Winnie and I set up shop on the couch to watch TV.

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Winnie is all about maximum comfort and usually prefers to lie on the electric blanket, or any fleece blanket, on a good pair of legs (usually Evan’s). But I think she missed Evan, so she was just lying in his spot on bare couch like a sad kitty.

I tried to watch Trainwreck, but…well, it was a train wreck. One that I was actually able to turn away from since I ended up turning it off near the end. Some parts of it made me laugh hard but — and maybe it’s because I was watching it on my own and not with friends — some parts of it were so, so cringeworthy. I don’t deal well with cringeworthy. It just makes me feel uncomfortable. When Amy walked out of Bill Hader’s award speech (sorry, possible spoiler), I just could not fathom that amount of selfishness and disrespect. Bill Hader deserves better.

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So then I watched Real World, which is also a total train wreck, but one I can handle.

In other news, I continued to eat Egyptian this week.

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Just couldn’t get enough I guess. There’s a great Middle Eastern deli/cafe near my work called Flaming Stove that is known for their shawarma and falafel. Evan and I used to get their shawarma often when I still lived around here, but for lunch I went for falafel (with tahini and hot sauce for dipping) and kushari, an Egyptian street food with noodles or rice, lentils and spices in a tomato vinegar sauce. My coworker introduced me to it and I gotta say, I like!

On Wednesday I had a dinner date with two girls from work, Rachel (who I’ve mentioned) and Francis. We went to North 44 on Yonge just north of Eglinton, and it is quite fancy pants. It’s pretty expensive and would normally be out of my dinner budget but luckily we had reservations for Winterlicious! Winterlicious runs for two weeks every February and gives Torontonians the chance to try a prix fixe value menu at many of the city’s restaurants. We tried to go for Canoe but it is insanely popular and sold out immediately. Oh well, North 44 was great. We had a prixe fix menu with starter, entree and dessert for $45. It was a really good way to try things.

We started with an Australian wine, since Rachel is Ozzie and we like to make her feel at home.

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Food-wise I started with the foraged mushroom purée.

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Which is just a fancy term for soup. The purée/soup was the highlight of my meal. It was so creamy and full of flavour, and was actually a good portion size. That bowl was deeper than I expected.

For my main I ordered the pan seared chicken supreme, with sweet onion ravioli, squash, spinach, and crisp shallots.

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The ravioli was easily the biggest piece of ravioli I’ve ever seen. It was the same size as the chicken! It was all very delicious, as I expected it to be. Sometimes I think that ordering chicken in restaurants can be boring, but it was cooked and spiced perfectly and was tender and juicy.

Dessert for me was the spiced apple crostata with hot toffee sauce and sour cream ice cream.

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The ice cream was interesting, in a good way. The hot toffee sauce was to DIE FOR! The crostata was great too. All in all, the three of us loved our experience. We had great service, the food was delicious, and I felt very fancy. Wins all around.

After dinner Rachel and I went to Choir!Choir!Choir!

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My third time and I hope to make it as much as I can. We sang two Bruce Springsteen songs, I’m On Fire and Fire, and it was an insane amount of fun. Daveed and Nobu are FUNNY. They’re like a comedy show up there. I shouldn’t be surprised since I recently discovered that Nobu was in a few episodes of Trailer Park Boys (a Canadian show, it’s hilarious, and it’s on Netflix so check it out if you haven’t seen it!), as Dennis. This discovery makes me laugh.

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Anyway, it was a great night.

I love that this exists in my city. @choirchoirchoir #brucespringsteen

A video posted by Lindsey Evanoff (@happyorhungry) on

I don’t know if they will be putting up the video but I’ll let you know when the audio is available. I think it’s gonna be a good one!

So that’s all that’s new and exciting around here. Have a great weekend!

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Happy or Hungry Eats the World: Maha’s (Egypt)

I am on a mission to eat an authentic dish from every country in the world, right here in Toronto. You can find all past recaps here.

As my map has been filling up, the African continent has been remaining quite bare. The only African restaurants we seem to have in the city are the countries with the “trendy” food, so, Ethiopia (eaten), Morocco (eating on my birthday), and Egypt. I don’t yet know how I’m going to eat all the countries in Africa but I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. In the meantime, Egypt was calling me!

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On Saturday I headed to Leslieville to Maha’s Fine Egyptian Cuisine for brunch with my pals the Bloggers and Lagers.

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After our failed attempt at a selfie someone offered to take a picture for us. Much better.

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Shanondoah, Jeannette (who is a fairly new and awesome addition), Casey, me, Michelle. I don’t want to get too cheesy here but I am so thankful that blogging has introduced me to these ladies. I like them a lot.

If you’re in the city I’m sure you’ve heard of Maha’s. It seems to be all the rage these days, and fair enough, it is super cute.

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It is so bright and fresh and welcoming inside. However, it is not very big and it is very, very busy so we did have to wait for over an hour. We were expecting it though, so it was no big deal. We had great company and it was a gorgeous day so we set up shop up outside on a bench for our wait. When we did finally get our table it felt a little crowded but I didn’t really notice after a few minutes.

The coffee menu was quite extensive so I asked our server for a recommendation and she suggested their signature honey-cardamom latte.

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It is apparently their take on a latte with Egyptian flavours and it was smooth, creamy and cardamomy, and it was really freaking good.

As I am finding with many other countries, Egypt has culinary influences from different countries that occupied them at some point in its history, in this case Greece, Turkey and France. This is definitely obvious in their delicious food.

We started with the dokka for the table, a dry mix of chopped nuts, seeds and spices paired with olive oil.

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You dip the pita into the olive oil first so that the seeds will stick to it. It was delicious, but obviously was not enough for five and we should have ordered two. Or at least more bread (always our complaint).

I also ordered the red lentil soup because a couple others at our table did and I couldn’t resist after I saw theirs.

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It was so good. I want to learn how to recreate it.

For my main I went with the Cairo Classic, since it included a variety of foods and was really a taste of everything.

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I’m just going to write the description for you:

On every street corner in the bustling streets of Cairo you can find vendors serving foole out of large copper vats. This traditional breakfast dish consists of fava beans and is prepared in multiple variations. In the Cairo Classic, we mix tomatoes and onions into our perfectly seasoned fava beans, and enjoy them with a hard boiled egg, a falafel, a dollop of our creamy home-made tomato feta (OMG HIGHLIGHT!!!! I could have eaten this all day!) charred balady bread and our house greens.

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Delicious. It tasted just as good as it looks. I looooved the feta cheese and I tried to make sure that every bite had some in it. Seriously so good. I also really loved their pickled onions. Unfortunately I was almost full from my soup when it arrived and I couldn’t finish it all. It was a huge plate!

Everyone else really enjoyed their dishes, too. I only have pictures from my side of the table, but Casey got The Max, which was basically just a ton of things shoved into a pita.

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It had foole, two pieces of falafel, a boiled egg, sweet onions, and their homemade tahina sauce (not to be confused with tahini sauce, though it is similar).

Jeannette went for the Egytian Falafel, served with cumin fries.

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The falafel was crispy on the outside and wrapped around a medium boiled egg. I didn’t try it but Jeannette liked.

We had such a good time and I would definitely go back to Maha’s. Everything was unbelievably fresh and it truly had the vibe of an authentic family-run restaurant. Just be prepared to wait. We met at 11am and we didn’t get out of there until at least 2:30, so go early or be prepared for it to take a good part of your day! For me it was worth it.

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The Pros and Cons of Public Transit

Yesterday as I was sitting on the bus on my way home from work I was thinking that it has been almost three months since I started my new job, and therefore almost three months since I have been taking daily public transit.

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It’s been a few years for me since I have done this so all the little annoyances about taking the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) every day have come flooding back. But I also can’t ignore the fact that it’s been super convenient. Since this January has been on the boring side and I don’t have much to blog about, I thought I would talk about the pros and cons of taking public transit as opposed to driving, my preferred method of transportation. By the way, I started taking public transit because the parking garage near my work is under construction and because of that I can’t get a parking pass until the spring. If I park for just one day it’s $15, so that option is not exactly economical.

My commute is just under an hour each way. Because of where we live, I have to take a bus to the subway station and then the subway to work. The bus stop is about a two minute walk from our condo, and the subway station is about a five minute walk from my work, so these are both very convenient. And on that note, let’s start with the pros.

Pros of Public Transit

Reading Time

The biggest pro is that I get to sit and read for an hour, twice a day. My reading time has skyrocketed and I am just plowing through the books. I feel like I just did a post on book reviews and since then I have read five more! So that is a huge pro and I find I really look forward to that time.

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Money Saving

I’d have to buy a monthly parking pass if I drive, and it’s about the same amount as a TTC pass. I’d have to add gas to that so I am actually saving a bit of money there.

Low Stress

Sitting on the train/bus is pretty stress-free. I can totally zone out. If I was driving I’d be stuck in traffic a lot of the time, and although I could be listening to music (singing very loudly) or an audio book or something, I’d still have to be “on”. I couldn’t dick around on my phone, I’d need to be watching the road.

Activity Level

My steps (according to my Fitbit) are higher each day because taking transit requires more walking. Driving is lazy.

People-Watching

This is another big pro — the people-watching is amazing. People are weird. They can be annoying (I will get to this in the cons), but they are fun to observe. Every day I have a story about something weird I saw on the subway. Yesterday on the bus I saw a young couple and the guy was talking on the phone and the girl was yelling at him saying “Who are you talking to?! I heard you say ‘my d*ck!’ WHO THE F— ARE YOU TALKING TO?!” So that was entertaining.

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A few weeks ago I was waiting for the bus and there was a man in front of me in line carrying a lawn roller (see below)

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as well as a classic straw broom, and a shabby teddy bear wearing a winter coat (it’s cold here, so fair enough). Initially I was sort of watching him because it was an intriguing situation. He was carrying such a random and awkward assortment of goods and he was noticeably struggling with that lawn roller. He ended up sitting in front of me on the bus, and I noticed that he was holding his teddy bear up to the window and pointing outside at the things we were passing and then whispering in the teddy bear’s ear about them. Like a tour guide. Something was obviously up there and if you want to talk to your teddy bear, that’s cool. I was just not expecting it. I was more weirded out by the lawn roller. It’s winter.

I think that’s it for the pros…

(Edit: reading this over and realized that I didn’t mention that it’s better for the environment. That’s a big pro!)

Cons of Public Transit

The People

The thousands of people. Most people are just great, but as we all know, some people are just not. And when you see a thousand people before 8am, you have a higher chance of encountering the jerks. It’s just math. Here are just a few of my pet peeves relating to people:

  • Sometimes people smell.

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  • The people who stand on the left side of the escalator. The left side is for walking!!! You have an entire right side for leisurely standing!
  • The people who wear giant backpacks and don’t remove them when they get on the train, and then they body check you with said giant backpack without realizing.

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  • The people who are walking in front of you, and then just abruptly stop. This is worse when it happens on the left side of the escalator.
  • The people who don’t give up their seat for the people who clearly need one.
  • The people who talk EXTREMELY LOUDLY on the phone on the bus. I don’t need to hear your entire conversation about how your coworker isn’t getting along with the girls at work or how your husband refuses to change your kid’s diaper or do anything around the house. That sucks and that is why I recommend living with someone before you marry them.
  • The people who basically have their crotch in your face when you are seated and they are standing. Are you trying to force me out of my seat with your crotch? I can deal. But I don’t like it.

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  • The line jumpers. I get the bus at the station on my way home and there is always a line waiting of people waiting for the bus. Inevitably, when the bus comes, someone from the back of the line will just casually, nonchalantly make their way to the front of the line so they can get a seat. There is a line for a reason!!! Ugh, it makes me so angry.

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Standing on the Bus

Okay, that last one being said, not getting a seat on the bus is the worst. The subway I can deal, but the bus is a whole other animal. It is way too jerky and unpredictable and it is impossible not to get thrown around. I have almost fallen into someone, or fallen on my face in general, so many times. That would be so embarrassing. (But I would still give my seat up for someone who needed it more than me.)

Traveling in the Winter

Walking to catch the bus in the winter is not my favourite.

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It is cold, so I am bundled, but the bus is warm, so as soon as I get on the bus I am a sniffling mess and my glasses are foggy and I’m sweating because I’m hot because I likely sprinted to catch the bus. And I probably almost fell on my face while running because the sidewalk is slippery. It’s not ideal. 

Basically the Entire Bus Situation

I take an express bus to my station, but there is another express bus at my stop that goes to a different station and there are more of those buses than my bus. I might see three of those buses in a row (sometimes one after the other, empty) before my bus leisurely makes its way to my stop. This is annoying. There is nothing worse than full-out sprinting to catch the bus, and then realizing it’s not your bus at all.

Carrying All Your Crap

And finally, I like to think of my car as an extension of my purse. I like to keep my crap in it. On public transit I have to carry all my stuff with me, like a pack horse. This is a bit inconvenient. But at least I don’t body check people with my backpack. 

I think that’s it… K bye, have a good weekend!

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Oh and if you have any public transit horror stories I would love to hear them.

 

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Happy or Hungry Eats the World: La Cubana (Cuba)

I am on a mission to eat an authentic dish from every country in the world, right here in Toronto. You can find all past recaps here.

Today I am covering Cuba!

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Cuba is one of the only countries I have actually been to, having gone on vacation in Cuba the last couple of years. Evan and I are going again this year, too. It has a certain something that keeps bringing us back. However, most of my time in Cuba was spent on the resort and I have not seen (or eaten) a lot of “real Cuba”, so I am not exactly an expert. Ideally I would have convinced someone local to invite me over for dinner (Julio, I am looking at you), but unfortunately that did not happen (next time?). I did have a few real Cuban meals though (this, for example), so I do have some idea of authentic food there.

Evan and I were excited to eat Cuba mainly to feel like we were in Cuba again and not in our current below freezing temperatures.

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It didn’t really work but it was still a good eating adventure.

Toronto has a few Cuban restaurants and I have heard really good things about La Cubana, with two locations, Ossington and Roncesvalles Village. We headed to the one on Roncy, which is decorated like a 50’s style diner and that alone kind of reminded me of Cuba.

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I liked it. I also liked that right in front of the bar is an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs do their thing.

Cuba is really big on chicken, pork, sandwiches (or medianoches), beans and rice. I would say those are the staples. Beans and rice are actually their national dish, called Moros y Cristianos. Medianoche is a type of sandwich that originated in Cuba, and named because they are served in Havana’s night clubs around midnight. Drunk people like sandwiches. I get it.

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We started with a cerveza because this is how all our meals in Cuba started. The two beers in Cuba are Bucanero and Cristal, but La Cubana has custom brewed Cuban style Pilsner from Junction Craft Brewing.

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And it tasted like Cuba! Not as much as rum and Coke does to me, but I still liked it.

We started with chips and fresh salsa, which included plantain chips (popular in Cuba).

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Chips and salsa is always a good idea. The only negative thing I can say about that plate is it was over too quickly.

I feel like I would really enjoy a medianoche, it’s right up my alley, but I have been thinking about Cuban style pork with beans and rice lately… I couldn’t pass up the molasses roasted pork shoulder, which came with beans and rice, purple cabbage slaw, and tostones (twice fried plantain slices).

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I loved everything. I thought my dish was really, really good. I’m sad I didn’t also eat a sandwich, but no regrets on my order. It felt like real Cuba to me.

Evan got the same, but with achiote roasted chicken instead of pork.

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The flavour of his chicken was really good, however — and this was the only sore spot with our meal — the inside was cold. Like it had clearly been in the fridge and then reheated on the grill when he ordered it. Which is fine, I just wish we didn’t know that because it definitely takes away the illusion of everything being freshly prepared. I wouldn’t have known otherwise. We actually sent it back, which is a big rarity for us, but our server was awesome and brought him a new plate of (hot) chicken out quickly. No problems with his second one, and Evan enjoyed it. But it was too late — our meal had been tainted.

In my experience the coffee in Cuba is very, very good, so to complete our Cuban meals we went for the Cafe Cubano with dessert.

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And dessert was donuts.

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Because when I was in Cuba I ate a donut for breakfast every day. Yes, they were resort donuts, but I still needed to try these for old times sake. They actually tasted very similar to the churros found at our resort in Cayo Coco. We loved!

Traditional Cuban food is delicious and overall we had a delicious time… I just wish the minor accident hadn’t happened with Evan’s chicken because it tainted the experience just slightly. Although, that experience is consistent with Cuban resort food, so maybe it just makes it more authentic.

And now I can’t wait to go back to Cuba!

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Choir! Choir! Choir!

As I mentioned briefly last week, Toronto has a drop-in choir that runs twice a week at Clinton’s on Bloor St W. called Choir! Choir! Choir! (Or C!C!C!). So you pay $5 to sing a song for a couple of hours, typically a pop song, in a pub with a bunch of people. It is not your traditional church choir, that is for sure. More like a hipster choir. It’s run by two guys, Daveed and Nobu, who started doing this a few years ago and it has been increasing in popularity since.

Increasing in popularity, but somehow I had never heard of it until a couple weeks ago. My new coworker friend Rachel moved here from Australia a few months ago and back home she had been singing in professional choirs. One of her Aussie friends alerted her to Choir! Choir! Choir! in Toronto so she went for the first time a few weeks ago and loved it. They sang Sorry by Justin Bieber (and I can’t say I’m sorry to have missed that, although they did it really well).

I don’t know what it says when people in Australia know about things happening in the city I live when I don’t. But even if I had heard of it, it’s possible it just wasn’t on my radar. Without a recommendation I’m not sure I would have gone anyway. I mean, I was in the choir in high school and I do LOVE to sing, but usually I love to sing when I’m alone in my car and can properly release my feelings. Singing with strangers…I don’t know. But I have to tell you, it was amazing. They were doing a David Bowie tribute last Wednesday and that totally lured me in. It was so cool, and Rachel and I had such a good time!

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Clinton’s was absolutely packed with people ready to sing.

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So packed that I nearly didn’t get in. I think it was more popular than usual because David Bowie. We each received a lyric sheet with three parts, low, mid and high. Rachel and I were in the high section. Normally I would go with mid but the song was “The Man Who Sold The World” by David Bowie and it’s a pretty low song in general.

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I love that this takes place in a pub and there is beer. I was actually surprised how easy it was to get a beer with the amount of people there. It was extremely well-operated.

Over the next couple hours, Daveed and Nobu went through each section with each group so we could all learn our parts, and then we all practiced together a few times before recording.

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It was a really, really cool experience. Just before I left, Evan asked me if I was disappointed he wasn’t coming with me. I believe my response was “Um, I didn’t invite you…” because I didn’t really, it’s not his thing! I know sometimes musicals make him feel uncomfortable, so I didn’t think he’d be in for choir singing. He then said to me “I don’t want this to go to your head but I’ve heard you singing in the car and I think you’re really good, so don’t feel shy about singing. Be proud.” That made me feel nice. It totally went straight to my head and I sang loud and proud. Maybe too loud. I took my own video of us and all I can hear is myself.

But here is the official audio of us. I think it’s magical!

We (well, Daveed) messed up halfway through because there was a very cute and distracting baby on stage. Evelyn.

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She was super into it. Just mesmerized.

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Afterwards we sang more Bowie songs karaoke style. I enjoyed myself so much that I’m going again tonight. We’re singing Space Oddity, which I am pumped about because I missed the sold-out AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) edition on Saturday with C!C!C! This video seems to be going viral so you may have seen this already. It’s pretty awesome.

There is just something about a group (of strangers!) singing together like this. It gives me goosebumps. Also, Daveed and Nobu have some serious talent. Their arrangements are perfect.

I have been listening to some other amazing songs they’ve done and here are my favourites.

Africa by Toto (I think it’s freakin amazing):

Hello by Adele:

Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses

Linger by the Cranberries:

and Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac:

They have tons of others on their YouTube channel if you want to check them out.

So that was my Choir! Choir! Choir! experience. I am so glad this exists! If you happen to be going tonight let me know :)

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Hibernating

This weekend was the weekend winter dreams are made of. Well, winter hibernation dreams. It was pretty quiet around here so a lot of napping and catching up on TV went down. Hey-ya! It is now freezing outside but we don’t have a lot of snow yet, so it is still not exactly ideal for winter activities.

I started Friday off right with tickets to Garth Brooks!

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I assumed good seats for Garth were going to be out of the ol’ price range and I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend a lot of money and be a mile away from the stage (if you’re going to see Garth you gotta see him right), so I wasn’t going to bother trying to get tickets. Then I heard that all of his tickets were $70, from floor to nosebleeds, which is crazy! So I was in.

I was sure it was going to sell out so I was in queue early, and I still kept getting kicked out of tickets for Saturday. Then he announced five additional shows and I quickly changed my selection to Friday and I was able to score floor seats. That was the best available option for me within 10 minutes of them going on sale, but hours later my friend Emily was able to get seats three rows ahead of me so I don’t know what happened there. It was a stressful experience. But I am going, and I am pumped!

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I hear he is amazing live. And five shows in a row, I don’t know how Garth is going to pull that off. He’s a machine.

Friday night Evan and I went out for pho at our favourite place. Tis the season.

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It is so good. I could eat it every day.

On Saturday I went to visit with my wonderful Nana. Emily had gone to see her earlier this week (I love that she visits her!) and as you may know, Emily is with child. Nana had a bit of a moment of confusion about this…

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Oh man. That killed me. Well, at 101 she is allowed to have her moments of confusion. When I saw Nana on Saturday she was still laughing at the pregnancy mix-up. The first thing she said to me was “oh it’s you Lindsey, not Emily!” She said we look very much alike. I guess a little bit…

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Other than that she’s doing as good as ever and she is looking great!

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On Saturday night Evan and I had a petite date night. We headed over to Roncesvalles Village to eat the world — Cuba! It was so good, but more on the eating later. We had an excellent time.

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Date night finished with us at home on the couch watching The Martian. I loved it, but I do wish I had read the book first (Evan had). Somehow I had escaped even seeing a preview of the movie so I didn’t really know what it was about other than Mars (probably) and Matt Damon was in it. I love him. He is such a great actor.

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By the way, I do not ever, ever ever ever, want to go into space. Not ever. It is a nightmare. Luckily science isn’t exactly my forte so I don’t see it ever being an option for me anyway. I wouldn’t mind being able to float though.

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On Sunday we cleaned the condo, napped, did a little food prepping for the week, and watched Downton Abbey. And also Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, with Christian Slater. And of course, Alan Rickman.

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I hadn’t seen it in about 15 years and it was so good, but it made me sad. Though, at the same time also excited to see Bryan Adams in July…

Ah, that song. Gives me goosebumps.

Hope your weekend was tres bien!

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