Friday, June 30, 2006

...and she's gone

So, Caty departed for France yesterday.

After picking me up at Warden station, dad and I went back to their house to retreive mom and Caty and throw Caty's bags in the back. We ran into some insanely bad traffic on the 401, but I was considerably more peeved by the organizational skills of the UofT representatives for the students. Caty was told that someone would be standing around (somewhere on one of the 4 floors at Terminal 1) in a UofT hat. After searching the majority of all the floors for about a half-hour, we finally found the representative on the International Departures floor (as opposed to the Group Travelling floor, thank you, Mr. Airport Security), and were told to get in line for baggage check. One ridiculously long wait later, and those who were flying to France were called into an express baggage check line, since the plane was already being boarded.

I got the distinct impression that mom and dad were apprehensive on Caty's behalf. Dad was trying to be as helpful as possible and mom was just her generally-worried self. I think, with Caty herself being a little anxious about the trip (having never flown before, plus being woefully underslept), they were getting on her nerves a little. I was debating picking up a bag of popcorn for the show I thought I was going to have, but my parents remained calm and collected on the exterior.

I think events were happening too quickly for anyone to really get emotional. There were hugs at the security check gate (always awkward, with my family, them hugs), and we saw no more of her, which probably worked out for the best. Mom was a bit misty, but didn't start bawling in the airport.

Caty ought to be somewhat settled in France by now, as she would have arrived around 5am local time. With any luck, she got some sleep on the plane, but she had a handful of CDs to keep her entertained if she didn't catch a nap.

It'll be odd, not knowing when we'll hear from her again, but at least we know she'll be back in a month to fill us in on everything.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

She's leaving!!

And that's the most number of exclamation marks you will ever see me type in succession, unless I'm making fun of someone else's over-use of exclamation marks.

So Caty's leaving for France today. I'm supposed to meet up with my family at Warden Station some time around 4pm. That ought to give us a leisurely 15-minutes or so as a family, at Pearson, before she has to get ready for departure.

I fully expect that for the next month, I'm going to be making a lot more phone calls to friends, so be prepared. :)

For a while, 'though, I think it'll be nice to get to bed before midnight.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More food-related bloggage

Since I left work a half-hour later today and wanted to avoid the 5pm office crowd, I stopped off at The Kitchen Table at King and Bathurst as they're the only place I've been, this year, with Ontario strawberries in. While I was there, I picked up some U.S. blueberries as well, as they were fetchingly plump and juicy-looking. They're all delicious, incidentally. I made up a big berry salad, like I used to do when I lived at Yonge and Eglinton. This is the sort of thing I keep in the fridge under plastic wrap and eat from over the next 3 or 4 days. Over the winter, I get series cravings for this, but the California strawberries we get in the winter simply don't compare. I hope the Californians get to keep the good ones to themselves and don't have to eat woody, tasteless strawberries like the ones they give to us. ;)

On second thought, there's nothing wrong with the organic strawberries I've bought that have come from California. They're quite tasty too.

I stopped off at R-Shop Furniture + Cafe at King and Spadina for lunch today. I'd overheard a co-worker earlier this week raving about a spring roll she got there, and the chicken sandwich I had today didn't quite satisfy my hunger, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I got an avocado spring roll which was made with what I believe is a rice-based wrapper (it's standard on fresh spring rolls in Toronto, translucent white with a slightly "gummy" texture") around a lettuce leaf which was stuffed with brown rice, avocado, cucumber and red pepper. I must say I'm going to make a point of grabbing many quick, light lunches out there. As a plus, the ladies at the lunch counter are very pleasant, young, Japanese women who make you feel welcome.


Monday, June 26, 2006

Life at Scholastic

Well, this is the beginning of Week 5 of my 10-month contract, so I thought I'd post about my workplace, for a change. :)

My supervisor seems a bit scatter-brained from time to time, but it's justifiable, as she appears to be co-ordinating activities between Studio, Production and Editors. The other freelancers are all easy-going, and the ones who've worked here previously are very helpful. The guy who sits beside me has a tendency to be a little too helpful: telling me things that I learned in Graphic Design 101, like how to lay out a page for readability, but I know he's just trying to ease my transition here, so I can't complain too much. He's also eased up on constantly making sure I have something to do. I still don't get where he was coming from with that, but I don't really care enough to ask him directly. The point is that I can now kill time as I please.

As strange as it is for me to be posting this picture, the quality of a washroom facility can really make or break a placement. Out here, there's a secluded hallway with several, compartmentalized washrooms. Each has a toilet, a toilet paper holder (with two giant rolls of TP, no less), a really cool sink, soap and a paper towel dispenser. The two washrooms that are on exterior walls have frosted glass, while each successive washroom has a frosted plexiglass window between it and the next washroom. I gotta say, I'm impressed. Another place I've been to in the studio district had a single washroom for a floor with as many people, and it was a scary-looking place, with a toilet that looked like it didn't work half the time, plumbing that had obviously seen some troubles and a door that didn't close properly.

Here's a picture of the two flights of stairs I climb twice daily (lunchtime being the other time, of course). Some of the full-timers here will not climb the stairs, for whatever reason, electing to use the elevator(!) instead. While I could see the fact that it's a straightaway being a concern if I'm in wet shoes, I can't imagine not bothering to climb two flights...but then, I don't know if there are medical conditions involved, or something.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Second swim of the season!

The first swim happened over at Mike's outdoor pool a few weekends ago, in startlingly-chilly wind.

Today I got some "sun and swim" in at our pool. This was the first time I've been in this year, and it was a beautiful day to do so. The water was a bit chilly, but fine once I got moving. I didn't get much in the way of exercise, as I don't like to push myself too hard when my stomach's misbehaving, but I was nonetheless surprised at how well my body took to it. Cardiovascularly, I'm probably stronger this year than in the past few years, which is always good.

Later today is Caty's farewell party. I've made up a Mayo-free potato salad for that (no pics, but if you're here, you're probably going to see it in person any way). I'm also psyched for Wonderland with Kev and Michelle tomorrow.

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Furama, take 2

As I recently posted in the sidebar, I am lactose-intolerant. Finding non-dairy "fast" food options can be a very tricky experience, so forgetting my baon can result in gastrointestinal disaster.

I take to Asian food as well as I do not only because it reminds me of my childhood, but also because it rarely includes dairy products. The exception: baked goods.

Furama, sadly, also uses dairy in most, if not all, of their desserts. So imagine my horror when I popped in for a quick bite over my lunch hour yesterday, venturing to try the baked Taro bun (figuring it was a savoury item), only to discover that it was a sweet, probably dairy-laced pastry. Judging from my stomach's reaction this morning, my hunch was right. Mental note: stick with what you know, at Furama.

Lesson learned, I had Chinese take-out from Chinatown Centre for lunch today: 5 items for $3.75. I got the fried rice, crispy chicken, fried tofu in oyster sauce, green beans in oyster sauce and mushrooms in oyster sauce. What can I say? I love the garlic-flavour in the oyster sauce. The food court in Chinatown Centre is ridiculously value-priced, provides generous portions and is of better-than-fast-food quality. There are two places in the food court offering this deal, I've been to the southerly one twice in my life, and have yet to try the one north of it.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Home-made Sushi

Mmmm...sushiWhen I got home on Tuesday night I realized that I wanted sushi. Normally, when this occurs, I either go to Sapporo and order the Chirashi Sushi, or I prepare various cooked sushi items, as well as a bento/baon or two for work. I chose to go the "home-made" route this time, while using up the smoked salmon I had in the fridge.

Preparing sushi is a lot of work! I had to boil and season the sushi rice, soak the inari in water (it's too sweet, fresh out of the package), heat up the (mercifully!) frozen unagi, make the tamago (I keep hydrated dashino-moto in the fridge for when I want to make tamago), rehydrate the wasabi, slice the cucumber and add the nori -- to say nothing of clean-up!

Sing the baon song!I'm glad to say that my tamago-making technique has improved drastically. It almost looks like what you'd get at a sushi restaurant. I'm especially proud because I've been doing this with a round pan, as opposed to a square one.

While it is a prohibitively time-consuming and laborious process, I'm always pleased with the results, and lunch the following day is hassle-free and tasty.


Eatery Review

So, a big part of the reason I wanted to have my own blog is to document various bits of my experience as a freelancer. That's going to include things like where I am now, what my overall impressions of the place are and what, to me, makes a good placement.

In this particular post, I thought I'd give a rundown of the places in my current work-neighbourhood (at King Street West and Spadina Avenue) that I've already been to for lunch. This list does not include places I've eaten at during other placements in this neighbourhood, but I might get around to that at a later date.

Without further ado, (and absolutely in a particular order) then:

La Pizza
The lunch crowd I saw in there today indicates that I picked the wrong menu item, but I can say definitively that their breaded chicken sandwich is vile. Firstly, it's billed as a chicken sandwich, with no mention of breading, and secondly, it is of such poor quality that I was literally still nauseous -- as a result of eating it -- 4 hours later. I'm not even going to bother trying to give this place a second chance.

KFC/Taco Bell
Oh, fast food restaurant, thou bastion of cheap, consistent food. I've been here twice already, picking up a CrunchWrap Supreme from the Taco Bell once, and the Chicken Strips from KFC the other time. You've probably eaten them too, I really don't need to describe the experience.

Why bother even taking a picture? You know what it looks like, and the Junior Chicken Sandwich (or whatever they're calling it) on the value menu is predictably value-quality.

New York Subway
This establishment first caught my eye on a previous visit to Romni Wools Ltd. at Queen and Bathurst, and I couldn't spare a moment to check it out. On my visit, I asked for half-and-half 6" chicken/bean burrito. I was surprised to find ground chicken being used, but adjusted readily. For under $5, this was a decent meal, but not as stellar as I was hoping a place that "specializes" in gourmet burritos would be. The size of the lunch crowd indicates that I was trying the wrong burrito.

Taco Villa
on the Metro Concourse

I was just saying to Bruce last night that those looking for Taco Bell-easy food without feeling dirty afterwards should definitely try Taco Villa. I thought it was a second-rate Taco Bell too, until I tried a burrito there. I've been once since being at my newest contract, but I expect that winter will find me huddled on the Path, enjoying many a Taco Villa burrito. A word of caution, the food court is stupid-busy during lunch hours. Aim to be there around 11:30 or 1:30 and you'll avoid the office workers.

Toshi Sushi
While I liked the fact that some of the harder-to-find sushi items were on the menu a la carte -- I got to try Anago for the first time -- I didn't think anything about my Chirashi Sushi lunch was memorable. Bruce, however, was very pleased with the portion sizes and variety in his Teriyaki Chicken lunch. As for me, I don't know why I even consider buying sushi -- from any place that isn't Sapporo -- any more.

Burrito Boyz
I can only add to the heaps of praise which have been piled upon this establishment. Just expect things to get claustrophobic around lunchtime while you're waiting for your seriously tasty burrito. The English/Mexican fusion that resulted in a battered, deep-fried halibut fillet on a burrito (with your choice of toppings) is sheer genius. Also, score another point for these guys simply because their Medium sauce is genuinely medium-hot.

Furama Cake and Desserts Garden
Sure, it's got an odd name, but this is undeniably an all-time favourite for students at nearby OCAD and UofT, Chinatown shoppers and those "in the know" in the Studio and Fashion districts. What makes it so popular? Furama sells dim sum pastries, freshly made, the majority of which can be had for under $1 each. My personal favourite is the deep-fried curried-beef bun, but there are plenty of options to choose from. If you're in the mood for something sweet, the desserts/cash counter sells a wide variety of mousse-cakes and pastries. Since just about everything is seriously high-fat, I try not to go here often, but I very much look forward to treating myself when I do go.

Q Dim Sum Palace
I went with John to celebrate his birthday, and we both were simply blown away by the quality of the food. I ended up dragging Bruce out the very next day to give it a try. Bruce noted that the dim sum here is slightly different from the established norms, some things cooked a little differently, the texture of certain items being pleasantly surprising and such. I will definitely be returning (the fried taro dumplings, in particular, are going to be hard to avoid -- I think they're demanding I visit again as I type this).


Monday, June 19, 2006

Father's Day

I was on my downstairs yesterday to catch a ride with dad back to my parents' place for dinner, and our doorman stopped me to let me know I had a package from Japan! I was awaiting my new Pinky order (13 & 14) from HLJ all week, so I knew it was them. I ended up bringing them to mom and dad's, where I kindly allowed mom to ogle them. I've just uploaded pics of my new girls to my Pinky:St photoset.

I ended up celebrating Father's Day with my family, changing a few settings on their computer (recent re-install of Windows), watching Emma (the Gwyneth Paltrow version) with dad, having barbecue dinner (Lick's Nature Burgers, beef burgers, shrimp, potato salad and a so tasty strawberry pie for dessert), then watching the first episode of Due South with dad and Caty. I had forgotten how awesome that show was, it was good to be reminded.

I got sent home with the remainder of the strawberry pie which was in my pie plate (thanks, mom!) and some fresh strawberries that mom and dad picked up from the grocery store on sale earlier this week.

Then I stayed up ridiculously late photographing my new girls.

As there isn't much for me to do at work today, I may ask for the rest of the day off. Just before dad arrived yesterday, I was having stomach troubles, but as that's almost always true of me any way.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Paella-esque Risotto

I decided that I'd make up my paella-inspired risotto today.

I realized on Friday night that I hadn't gotten around to picking up the tomato and onion I was going to need, but it was far too hot and grass pollen-y out yesterday and today for me to want to venture out to the grocery store. I ended up trying to find substitutes for onion and tomato in the house. I was originally going to open the jar of Classico Tomato & Basil sauce I've got in the pantry, but had a peek in the fridge first and found a half-jar of Herdez Mild Salsa! Reading the ingredients list convinced me to use it instead: Tomatoes, Onions, Serrano Peppers, Salt, Coriander. Incidentally, for anyone looking for a top-notch bottled salsa, this is it.

I had grilled up a batch of the chorizo sausage yesterday and found it a bit bland for my liking (this is what I get for going to Loblaws and buying "Mild" chorizo), so I was hoping that the serrano peppers in the salsa would give it the risotto the extra kick I was looking for. I also grilled up the rest of the chicken breast and some shrimp we had in the freezer yesterday so they were all ready to go for the risotto today.

Here's a pic of the risotto "base", with a few ladels the saffron-ated (like that's a word!) chicken stock already added, plus the remainder of the jar of salsa.

Another pic of the risotto, now with the frozen peas added.

After adding the peas, it was just a matter of continuing to add the chicken stock until the risotto was about 5 minutes from completion, then throwing in the grilled chicken, chorizo and shrimp.

Overall, I was really happy with how this dish turned out. The peppers in the salsa perfectly made up for the surprising blandness of the sausage. I was also surprised to find the peas as flavourful as they were. They were easily the stand-out item in the risotto, without being overpowering. I think it was because the rest of the items in the recipe tended towards salty, whereas the peas were pleasantly sweet. I'll cheerfully being adding this to my rotation of good food to make for people.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Pinky:St pics

Well, that was unusually productive of me. I'm really very happy with how the Agito/Akito pics, especially, turned out. The best thing about taking pictures of Pinkys is the fact that you're playing with your toys while developing your photography skills. :)


Thursday, June 15, 2006


Ah, that's a little better.

I've made some small changes to the layout and I'm much happier with the way things look now than previously. Much thanks to Tim for his ongoing education of my ignorant ass in all matters web-code. I can't say Java makes an iota of sense to me, but at least I understood the purpose of the DIV tags in the template, thanks to him. It's my intent to strip the template out into a text document and play around with it, some day. For now, I'll be content with the tweaking I have done.

In news, yesterday was my first full workday off from Scholastic, due to complete lack of anything to do. In lieu of working, I went and picked up my newest Y!J Auctions shipment, chock-full of Pinkys. If I'm very good, I'll post the pics this weekend. If I'm very bad, I'll just sit around, playing with them, instead.

Also, I picked up a devastatingly cute straw-looking-paper cowboy-style hat which I can't wait to wear out to Hawkestone.

At the Loblaws, I picked up a second package of chorizo (yum!) sausage which inspired me to give a paella-inspired risotto a go, probably for Saturday's big meal. I've already got shrimp thawing for sushi I didn't make, after all.

Met up with Bob today for a belated birthday celebration and went to Sushi Sky on Yonge Street. Bob's completely enamoured with the sushi pizza there, whereas I give it a definite meh (sorry, Bob!) We also had the White Tuna Roll, the Salmon Dragon Roll and dinner special S1, which was a lot like Sapporo Sushi's Rainbow Roll, without the intense variety. Sorry, Sushi Sky, but you've got nothing on Sapporo.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Humble Beginnings

So, what happens when a young, vibrant Graphic Designer is bored stiff at her new job contract? That's right! She starts up a blog!

Welcome, one and all, to the auspicious beginnings of my newfound forum in which to rant incessantly at friends, family and random passersby when, about whatever, or whomever I see fit. This may be a wild ride, but will most likely incite people to mad fits of further boredom!

My intent is to babble most often about my main interests ('cause who doesn't, with these things), so you'll likely be hearing about new recipes I've tried out, music I'm listening to, how my obsession with Pinky:St is coming along (answer: quite well, thank you), anything new I'm knitting or crocheting, places I've been to, or pictures I've taken.

Thanks for stopping by!

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