Sunday, January 30, 2011

Snowshoeing tourtière

Remember when Gord made tourtière on New Year's Day for supper?

He made a double batch of the meat mixture and froze it.

And that's what we had for supper tonight!

In the spirit of snowshoeing earlier today, he put a couple snowshoes on the tourtière.

Delicious!

Snowshoeing at East Humber Bay Park

Gord and I took our snowshoes over the East Humber Bay Park this afternoon and spent over an hour there.

Here's where we started.

And here I am!

And there's Gord ...

We asked a fella to take our picture ... for some reason he included the bench!

There were lots of birds in the water ... brrrr!

The ponds are frozen and someone has made paths in the snow for some fun skating.

It was great to get outside!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Caledonian, Toronto, ON

We'd read a couple weeks ago in the Toronto Star about The Caledonian, a Scottish pub in our 'hood (College/Ossington).

Gord was intrigued because they offered a beer he hadn't had before and can't buy in the liquor store.

We checked it out this afternoon.

Gord started with a traditional Ebulum - Elderberry Black Ale.

I had my usual Keith's ... yum!

As an appetizer, Gord ordered a Scotch Egg (a hard-boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, breaded and flash-fried, then baked. Served with organic greens).

I had a bite and it was good.

We both ordered Fish & Chips (fresh haddock in their own Caledonian beer batter, served with hand cut chips and homemade tartar sauce).

It was delicious!

We were full but had to check out dessert.

I ordered the Deep-Fried Mars Bar (served with ice cream and butterscotch sauce) only because I've never had one before.

It was interesting ... I doubt I'd order it again.

Gord ordered the Bread and Butter Pudding (homemade bread and butter pudding made with Innis & Gunn beer aged in 21-year-old Highland casks).

He loved it!

The hospitality was excellent. The owner, Donna, greeted us as we came in the door and stopped by our table a few times to see how things were going. She said good-bye when we left. Our server, Beth, arrived in Canada from Scotland a couple months ago and started working there on Tuesday. She was awesome and took such good care of us. Such a nice place ... I'll be back.

As we were walking home, we went past by the Brass Taps ... and spied our pal, Mark. We stopped in and had a couple drinks with him.

Here we are ... Gord, me and Mark.

Thanks for driving us home, Mark!

Caledonian on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book ~ "29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life" (2010) Cami Walker

From 29giftsbook.com ~ One month after her wedding day, thirty-three-year-old Cami Walker was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and the life she knew changed forever. Cami was soon in and out of L.A.’s emergency rooms with alarming frequency as she battled the neurological condition that left her barely able to walk and put enormous stress on her marriage. Each day brought new negative thoughts: I’m going to end up in a wheelchair. Mark’s probably going to leave me. My life is over. Why did this have to happen to me?

Then, as a remedy for her condition, Cami received an uncommon prescription from a friend, an African medicine woman named Mbali Creazzo: Give away 29 gifts in 29 days.

“By giving,” Mbali told her, “you are focusing on what you have to offer others, inviting more abundance into your life.” The gifts, she said, could be anything but their giving had to be both authentic and mindful. At least one gift needed to be something she felt was scarce in her life.

Cami was amazed by what unfolded during her month-long journey.

29 Gifts is Cami’s poignant and unforgettable story of embracing the natural process of giving and receiving. Many of her gifts were simple—a phone call, spare change, even a Kleenex. Yet the acts of kindness were transformative. By Day 29, not only had her health and happiness turned around but she had also embarked on creating a worldwide giving movement.

The book also includes personal essays from others whose lives changed for the better by giving, plus pages for the reader to record their own journey. More than a memoir, 29 Gifts offers inspiring lessons on how a simple daily practice of altruism can dramatically alter your outlook on the world.

I like reading books like this ... books that remind us to be nice and be giving to others.

The premise is that for 29 days you are to give a gift. If you miss a day, you have to start over at day one.

You have to be mindful that you are giving a gift and you have to do it with an open heart (that is, not expect anything in return). The gifts don't have to be large ... they can be material things (like giving a homeless person money or lunch) or as simple as giving your time and attention. For example, yesterday on my drive home from work, I consciously let a couple cars in ahead of me when there was a lot of traffic behind me. Today at lunch time, I consciously opened the door for someone so they wouldn't have to juggle their hot lunch. It can be as simple as that.

Walker has started a website to encourage people to share their experiences. As of today, there are almost 14,000 members.

If you enjoyed The Secret, you'll enjoy this as it's about shifting the energy around you and being open to receive. Whether you believe in this or not, there's nothing wrong with giving gifts to people who need your help.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kitty barf leads to doggie duds

I got home ahead of Gord today to find cat barf on the floor in our spare room and on the comforter on our bed.

I cleaned up the barf and put the bedding in our washer. We have a condo-sized washer so our comforter is too big.

So off I went to the laundromat.

There is a Pet Valu next door so I wandered in to kill some time. They have two one-year-old chinchillas named Romeo and Juliet for sale for $20 each (they have to be sold together). They look like this one:

I've never seen a chinchilla before ... they are so cute! The manager let me pet them ... they are sooooooo soft. They can live to be 20 years old.

Tempting as they are, I didn't buy them.

What I did buy was a couple things for KC. Because she's older, we put a sweater or jacket on her when we take her out in the winter. It's been a while since she's had new clothes.

Here's her cute new sweater ...

And a warm jacket ...

Is she cute or what?!

Jack Astor's, Toronto, ON

I met Jen, Julie and Susan for lunch today. I worked with them for three years ... I left that company four years ago and they are still there.

We met at Jack Astor's (Bloor/Yonge).

There was so much choice on the menu ... I didn't know what I was in the mood for so got a burger and fries. It was a good burger!

Chris, our server, took good care of us.

And here we are ... Jen, Julie, me and Susan.

We used to get together for supper every three or four months but we're going to meet for lunch once a month instead. Great to catch up!

Jack Astor's Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Count on Me - Bruno Mars

My new favourite song!

Canadian confidence slips, Nielsen says

Because of the recession, did your spending patterns change over the last couple of years change?

There is an article in today's Toronto Star about Canadians' spending since the recession ...

Nearly a year and a half after the recession officially ended, many Canadians continue to feel the impact and are cutting their spending on frills like entertainment and clothing, while switching to cheaper brands in the grocery store, a market research firm survey shows.

...

“We’re still focused on value, and we’re shopping discount retailers and buying on promotion at record levels. Saving on utility costs and spending less on groceries will continue to be cost-cutting measures for consumers in 2011,” Allison [Carman Allison, Nielsen’s director of industry insights] added.

You can read the rest of the article here.

In order to save on household expenses, Canadians tell Nielsen they are cutting down on:
  • out-of-home entertainment - 61%
  • spending less on new clothes - 60%
  • ordering fewer take-out meals - 55%
  • switching to cheaper grocery brands - 55%

I don't see as many concerts as I used to ... there's no one I am willing to spend $150 a ticket to see these days. On the other hand, Gord and I enjoy the Stratford Festival so still buy two tickets each (about $100 each) every summer. And I love to see movies.

Neither Gord or I are clothes crazy so our spending hasn't changed there.

We rarely order out (pizza about once a month) and eat out maybe once a week. That's always been our pattern as we try to eat as healthy as we can.

I've always bought cheaper grocery brands if the quality is the same as a name brand product. We buy a lot of President's Choice products ... the selection and quality is good..

Monday, January 24, 2011

Book ~ "Thrifty: Living the Frugal Life with Style" (2010) Marjorie Harris

From Amazon ~ Best-selling author Marjorie Harris offers a timely and entertaining guide to living the richly frugal life. From tips on how to haggle to becoming a frugal fashionista, maintaining your home on a budget, and thrifty gardening, travel, and entertainment, Harris provides essential guidelines to living a quality life on less. Written in her trademark witty, engaging, and accessible style, Thrifty is packed with simple and savvy tips drawn from Harris' own fulfilled, thrifty experience. Bonus tips come from renowned experts such as best-selling author Margaret Atwood, chef Jamie Kennedy, actor R. H. Thomson, travel writer Sylvia Fraser, and The Globe and Mail's style columnists.

The book is divided into seven chapters:
  1. The Thrifty Citizen
  2. The Frugal Fashionista
  3. The Frugal Foodie
  4. The Frugal Home
  5. The Frugal Gardner
  6. The Thrifty Traveller
  7. Top 20 Tips for Living the Frugal Life with Style
Not a lot of new stuff to learn but good reminders.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The World's Happiest Countries

How "happy" is your country?

Forbes recently published an article about a survey that was done to determine the world's happiest countries.

Canada was #7 out of 110 countries.

The 10 happiest countries:
  1. Norway
  2. Denmark
  3. Finland
  4. Australia
  5. New Zealand
  6. Sweden
  7. Canada
  8. Switzerland
  9. Netherlands
  10. United States
Here is the beginning of the article ...

Think about it for a minute: What does happiness mean to you?

For most, being happy starts with having enough money to do what you want and buy what you want. A nice home, food, clothes, car, leisure. All within reason.

But happiness is much more than money. It's being healthy, free from pain, being able to take care of yourself. It's having good times with friends and family.

Furthermore, happiness means being able to speak what's on your mind without fear, to worship the God of your choosing, and to feel safe and secure in your own home.

Happiness means having opportunity -- to get an education, to be an entrepreneur. What's more satisfying than having a big idea and turning it into a thriving business, knowing all the way that the harder you work, the more reward you can expect?

With this in mind, five years ago researchers at the Legatum Institute, a London-based nonpartisan think tank, set out to rank the happiest countries in the world. But because "happy" carries too much of a touchy-feely connotation, they call it "prosperity."

Legatum recently completed its 2010 Prosperity Index, which ranks 110 countries, covering 90 per cent of the world's population.

You can read the rest of it here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Canadiana Restaurant, Etobicoke, ON

Our pals and former neighbours, Monica and Mark, recently moved to Etobicoke. They were our neighbours until about three years ago.

Gord and I checked out their new condo ... very nice!

Then we headed to the Canadiana Restaurant in their 'hood for supper.

And here we are ... Mark, Monica, me and Gord. Aren't we cute :)

I had Chicken Parmesan (lightly breaded breast of chicken topped with rich tomato sauce and melted mozzarella cheese) with pasta.

It's a big serving. It was good, though the tomato sauce had a slight BBQ sauce taste which I found odd.

It was great to get together with Mon and Mark and catch up ... it's been while since we've hung out with them.

Book ~ "Old City Hall" (2009) Robert Rotenberg

From RobertRotenberg.com ~ Old City Hall starts on a December morning in downtown Toronto, when an elderly East Indian man delivers his daily newspapers. Kevin Brace, Canada’s best-known radio personality, comes to the door of his luxury condo, blood on his hands, and whispers: “I killed her, Mr. Singh.” The ‘her’ is his young second wife, dead in the bath. One stab wound. When Brace refuses to say another word, even to his own lawyer, an apparently open-and-shut case takes on all the complexities of a full-blown murder trial.

I was attracted to this book because it is a murder mystery set in downtown Toronto.

I enjoyed the writing style. Though there are lots of pages, I found the book moved at a quick pace. As the characters were cluing in on things, I got some at the same time and others I had to wait for them to be revealed.

Since I live in Toronto, I knew most of the places he referred to in the story such as Old City Hall, the Vesta Lunch, etc. You can see them all here. At times, he went into a lot of detail about where they are and the history which I found interesting. For someone not living in Toronto or knowing the city, I could see them finding it boring and saying, "So what!? Get on with the story!"

I must say that I didn't buy the ending ... my reaction was "Are you kidding!?". There were a few ways the ending could have gone that would have been believable to me.

But aside from the ending, I enjoyed the book and will keep an eye out for Rotenberg's next novel (this was his debut).

Friday, January 21, 2011

The GTA’s top baby names by postal code

Here is an interesting article by Jayme Poisson in today's Toronto Star about the top baby names in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

****

If you live in Parkdale, chances are good you know a child named Tenzin, whether it’s a boy or a girl.

In the 905, Ethan pops up in clusters. York, Durham and Peel have taken to Ava and Olivia. In older parts of Toronto, there are more Alexander and Williams being brought into the world.

Expectant parents in the GTA can now search for the top five baby names in their postal bracket, thanks to OpenFile’s Patrick Cain, who took the province’s crunched down birth data between 2005 and 2009 and plotted it on an interactive map.

Gurleen, which has Punjabi origin, came out on top in three neighbourhoods in Brampton. Muhammads are most popular in the east end of the city, and into Markham and Mississauga.

Popular baby names in the GTA between 2005 and 2009 are:

Girls:
  1. Ava
  2. Chloe
  3. Emily
  4. Emma
  5. Fatima
  6. Gurleen
  7. Isabella
  8. Olivia
  9. Sarah
  10. Tenzin
  11. Victoria

Boys:
  1. Alexander
  2. Benjamin
  3. Daniel
  4. Ethan
  5. Joshua
  6. Liam
  7. Matthew
  8. Muhammad-Mohamed
  9. Noah
  10. Ryan
  11. William
***

Here are the results when I searched the postal code of my 'hood:

Girls:
  1. Sophia
  2. Olivia
  3. Emma
  4. Isabella

Boys:
  1. William
  2. Nathan
  3. Lucas
  4. Gabriel
  5. Samuel

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2011 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game

The company I work for has a box at the Air Canada Centre ... and I was given a couple tickets for tonight's 2011 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.

The best players from the junior leagues across Canada were there. Lots of NHL scouts were in attendance so the players played hard to impress.

Box seats means you have great seats to watch the game and all the food and drinks you want.

Here are the opening ceremonies.

Team Cherry was coached by Don Cherry.

Team Orr was coached by former Maple Leafs, Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour (Bobby Orr was unable to participate due to the impending birth of a grandchild.).

Here are Gord and I.

Here's some action during the game ...

There were a few fights.

Team Orr slaughtered Team Cherry 7 - 1.

The winning team hoists their trophy.

The winning team posed.

Despite the fights, both teams posed together.

It was a fun night!