Sunday, August 30, 2009

I appreciate weekends a lot more now that I'm employed

We had a fun weekend.

On Friday night we met up with Jess and lots of her friends at a little place at King & Young called the Beer Bistro. John was in heaven, they had the biggest list of beer we've ever seen. And I got to try Kobe beef for the first time. Kobe beef comes from a certain part of Japan and is considered to be the best beef in the world, so I've always wanted to try it. However, the beef was in the form of delicious tacos (in blue shells!) so it was too spiced for me to really appreciate whether it tastes different from regular beef. Next time, maybe!

We had a really nice time, there were people there I hadn't seen since college. I was tired though, from the week of early mornings, so we didn't go with them when they went dancing afterwards, we came home instead and went to sleep.

We were supposed to move this weekend but the tenants in our new apartment never ended up turning in their keys so it was not to be. We'll be moving on Tuesday night instead. But on the bright side, it meant we got our weekend all to ourselves!

On Saturday we had a lazy morning. John made the most amazing steak and cheese omelettes with bacon, pepper and tomatoes. He spoils me. We walked down to the Metro for some groceries and puttered around Futureshop for a bit.

After that we headed down to Union Station and caught a street car to the Exhibition Grounds for the Canadian National Exhibition. What a big fair!!

I am a sucker for midway games. I love them so much! There had to be over 50 of them, probably closer to 75. We fired water guns, threw skeeballs, broke plates, tossed rings, whacked moles and threw darts. I loved it. John won me a big talking horse and a smaller plushie lion (he's very good at breaking plates and whacking moles). They're both super soft and squishy. I won a smaller lion and tiger by myself. And somewhere along the way, John won a little plushie penguin.

After we played our games, we headed over to the rides. John went on all of the scary ones, he's fearless. He went on the ones that go upside down, the ones that drop you from the sky and the ones that spin you around up in the air, and then his only comment afterwards is "I'm really impressed by how well these rides are made. The seats are ergonomic!" But between you and me *lowers voice*, when I took his hand afterwards, they were cold and clammy, so I think it was at least a little exciting for him. I stuck to the less scary rides.

By the time we did all that, it was almost 7:30 so we went into one of the huge buildings also filled with fair stuff. We walked through a huge trade show exhibition of consumer goods and electronics. We didn't have much time to walk through but I did manage to stop at the Konad kiosk and get one of my fingernails stamped. That stuff is so cool! We also checked out a houseplant competition (I'm a nerd) and a sand castle competition.

At the other end of the exhibition was the theatre, it turned out to be a big ice rink. We got great seats and waited for the show to start. At first it seemed kind of cheesy. There was a screen on one end that showed still frames from a movie and a singer singing a song from the movie's soundtrack. Then some ice skaters would come out and do a little act.

But then an aerial acrobat came out and she was amazing. She flipped around a bar way up in the air and tangeled herself up in ribbons that were attached to it. It was so beautiful to watch, but I was so worried she would fall.

After that it was easy to get lost in the magic. Elvis Stojko was there skating, he spun so fast I felt like what I was seeing wasn't real. John said it was the first time Elvis had skated in a show in years and he looked like he was having a good time. I was thinking where else can you go and pay $33 for a whole day of amazing fun and have a show starring an Olympian included in the price of admission?

But the star of the show in my opinion was the aerial acrobat on the ring. She spun so fast and at one point was only hanging from the ring by the back of her neck. I can't imagine how strong she must be. It was really an amazing show.

As we wandered out of the rink, we must have gone a different way from how we came in because we ended up in a huge warehouse filled with shopping. There were racks and racks and racks of cheap clothes from Stitches, Suzy Shier, Levis, French Connection, Urban Outfitters and more. And by cheap I mean $1 - $3 for a shirt. The catch was that there was nowhere to try them on. There were also bins and bins of drugstore cosmetics and nail polishes for $1 each, lots of CoverGirl, Maybelline and Sally Hansen. We didn't take much time to shop though, because there was still so much more that we wanted to do.

We headed back outside for a light show because by this time it was dark. We found a booth selling ice cream sandwiches made with waffles they were making on site. They were so yummy!

The light show was kind of neat. They were basically showing the history of evolution in images on the front of the Direct Energy building. We didn't stay for the whole thing though, just from first life on Earth up to sea turtles.

We headed back to the midway. I did some midway gambling, the kind with the big spinning wheels like crown and anchor. I played at five or six tables and came out up a dollar. Then we went and did a whole bunch of rides one after another; bumper cars twice, a haunted house, tilt-a-whirl (I forgot how much it is!) and a night time spin on the ferris wheel.

By the time we had done all that, we were tired and ready to go home. With queasy bellies from a day of junk food and jarring rides and a zoo's worth of stuffed animals, we got on the streetcar and headed back downtown. We stopped at the Metro to pick up some healthy food, went home and conked out for the rest of the evening. We didn't even have the energy to go down the street to watch the fights.

But I had a great day. It was definitely the most fun I've ever had at a fair and it was the first time a boy has ever won me a giant stuffed animal. And we didn't even see everything! There was a dog show, a horse show and a whole section of animals that we missed, not to mention a big food area and a beer tent. There were all kinds of shows going on that we didn't see, so there will be lots new to do if we go back next year.

Today we took it pretty easy. The only really interesting thing that we did was to go see Inglourious Basterds. I think it was probably the best movie I've seen by Quentin Tarintino. I didn't like it as much as District 9 though.

Tonight we will make perogies, do some of the packing and watch TV. Sounds good to me.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Judy happens to be a bit of a photographer, so when she and Allan came to visit, she took lots of pictures of our neighbourhood! You may have already seen them on Facebook, but here they are again, just in case you missed them.

Here we are with Allan on top of the roof of our building. The whole thing is set up so you can walk around up here, it's about 25 stories up. There are chaises if you feel like sun bathing and a rooftop indoor pool.
Here is our view of the downtown core. What I was most surprised by when we first went out on the roof, was that our view is almost entirely trees. I still don't understand it because when I actually walk around the city, all I see are are streets and buildings, but from this high up, all that you see are trees everywhere with a few pockets of buildings here and there. John says those are the subway stations.

This is our view of Eglinton West. It's the street I travel every day to get to work. It's lined with shops on both sides, so when you're actually on the street it looks very commercial, but up here it looks like beyond the main drag is suburbs, maybe.

And here it is at night. At night our view is almost all black with a few brightly lit streets here and there.
Here's another one that was taken during the storm, looking out southwest.
The next picture is what you see when you walk outside. It's a walkway that leads to the mall and at noon it's filled with people in suits lounging around eating lunch.
And this is the sign out front. Look for it if you come to visit us!
And lastly, here is a shot from inside our subway station.
So, as you can see, we're very much in the city, surrounded by concrete and tall buildings, which is exactly where I want to be. But there are lots of parks around and the transit system is great, so we can surround ourselves with nature if we want to too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Some School News! Just a Tiny Bit Though

As I was working my way through my third day in training, someone from George Brown College called my apartment!

It was the dean's assistant. She wanted to let me know that the dean had been on vacation the past few weeks (I knew this) which is why he hadn't responded to my email. She said that he apologizes that I've had such a bad experience and has tasked someone in admissions with investigating what happened with my application and whether or not anything can be done about.

It's the best news I've heard all week. In three weeks in fact.

Even if they don't left me in, I will feel better knowing that at least the dean cares and at least someone made an honest effort to see if they can fix this for me. It's the first time since this whole mess started that I've felt like I was actually in communication with the right person. I really hope they let me in. Classes start next week. I feel like my hope level is at about 20% right now which is an improvement over the 5% I felt yesterday.

The reason I haven't posted in a few days is just that I've been too tired. I've been waking up at 5:30am every morning which is proving to be a difficult adjustment for me. My evenings have just been a waste.

I'm finding that the days at work feel really long, but I'm working on shifting my attitude and trying to be more positive about this. Slowly but surely. Hopefully by the end of the week I will be in a better headspace. I've made some friends at work though, so that's a good thing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

First Day of My New Job

I woke up at 5:15am. My first thought was to panic.

I can be a bit irrational when it comes to testing out a commute to a new workplace for the first time. Even though John and I did a test run on the weekend, I still ended up feeling and acting neurotic.

I left the house at 6:40am to be there for 7:45am, knowing that it took 30 minutes door to door on the test run. I got there half an hour early. Tomorrow I'll try leaving at 6:55 and see how that goes. It was training all day. And by all day I mean ten hours and fifteen minutes.

I won't say much else about it. I don't necessarily feel that it's a good idea to post honest thoughts about your place of employment on the interwebs. You all know my email and phone number anyway.

I was exhausted when I got home. I'm not used to waking up that early and getting home that late. So I decided it was a good night for Erin to buy us a pizza. Thanks Erin! I watched last night's episode of True Blood and John and I went to the Metro for some groceries.

Almost bed time, another early start tomorrow!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

More Guests!

About 20 minutes before Alan and Judy left, I got a phone call from my best friend Jess! She had just arrived in Toronto from Calgary!

We met at Bloor & Young. It was the first time I'd seen her in over a year. We headed to a restaurant near Bloor & Bay called Hemmingway's for martinis. I had never been there before and it was really nice. They had two levels of rooftop patios, so we went all the way to the top ordered some quesadillas, potato skins and drinks. Everything was really good, but the service was slow (probably because we were seated so far from the kitchen). We stayed through two martinis getting caught up on her life in Calgary and my new life in Toronto. All is well with her, she has a great job but she said she missed Toronto.

On the way back to the subway station we stopped at a fabric store and picked up some green cotton with kitchsy teal and grey flowers so that I could sew her an apron. It was really cute.

We came back to my place so that she could see the apartment and say hi to John. We were only here for a few minutes before we headed back out to the movies to see Julie and Julia. It was okay, Meryl Streep was fantastic, but it wasn't great and the ending was anticlimatic.

By the time we got back to the apartment, it was time to head out again, this time to a club called Sacco that's about a block away. There we met Christa and Jenn, whom I haven't seen since university. It was really nice to see them again!

Yonge & Eglinton, where I live, is also known as Young & Eligible because it's an area full of young professionals. The bar had a martini by the same name, so I figured that now that I'm a local, I had better try it. I forget what was in it, but I do remember that it reminded me why I don't really care for peach schnapps. But I couldn't complain because the drinks were over 3 ounces.

So we sat around and swapped stories for a few hours and a few drinks. I got to hear all about Christa's wedding, and we talked about what we had been up to for the past while and reminisced about the times the four of us had hung out in Halifax. It was really nice to get caught up and reconnect with people I hadn't seen in such a long time.

On Saturday, John and I had decided to pay a visit to Chinatown because I really wanted to see it. First though, we went to take a trial run to my work to get an idea of how long my commute takes. It took us a while to figure out where to catch the bus, but eventually a bus driver took pity on us and showed us where the station was. Apparently the bus runs ever 3 minutes during rush hour. Crazy, right? We caught the bus and rode it to Eglinton West station and took the subway from there to Lawrence West. The trip took half an hour so I'm going to hope that giving it 50 minutes will be enough to take traffic into account and still make it on time. Apparently we're getting a street car over the same stretch of road by the end of the fall, so then it will be quicker.

On to Chinatown! We took the subway to Bloor & Spadina and headed south, but we sort of detoured into Kensington Market.

I had heard a lot about the market so I was interested to see it. In my head I pictured a huge farmer's market but in actuality it's a series of streets with really quaint little shops. They sell everything from organic food to locally made art. It's sort of a hippy area. We didn't go through the whole thing because then we wouldn't have made it to Chinatown, but what we saw was pretty neat. We stopped for lunch at a little sushi restaurant in the area and I think it was the best sushi I've had since we got here. They had a vegetable tempura maki roll that was really delicious.

From there we headed to Chinatown. Oh my, there was so much to see! I was most impressed by the kitchen supply shops that carried every Asian cooking implement I could think of. The grocery stores were amazing as well but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was near things I was looking for but because I don't speak the language, I couldn't identify them. For example in one store there were packages of fresh herbs, and although I thought I recognized many of them, I couldn't be 100% sure they were what I thought they were since it was the first time I had ever actually seen them. And of course, none of them were labelled. I did find one shop that sells banana blossoms though, which I thought was pretty cool. I have some recipes that use these that I want to try now.

We walked around for hours visiting the little shops and two Asian malls. The Chinatown festival was going on as well so a section of Spadina was blocked off and full of performers and kiosks. Because we had spent so much time at Kensington, we didn't have time to fully explore that area either. When I checked my watch it was 7:30pm. Where had the afternoon gone?

We headed home after that. I was exhausted from the day in the sun and the fact that we had been going pretty much non-stop since Tuesday. We were supposed to go out dancing with Jess that night, but I just didn't have the energy so I had to cancel. We spent the evening tucked on the couch watching movies on TV.

This morning we were up pretty early. I finished up the apron I made for Jess and we went to Bathurst & Bloor to meet her for brunch at a place called Butler's Pantry. The eggs benny were great and the hashbrowns were shaped like adorable triangles. We were joined by Aseem and Neeti, friends of Jess that I hadn't seen since university when Jess was living on Queen Street. It turns out the Aseem plays squash so he and John made plans to play.

From there we went to a store called Honest Ed's that is like a giant BiWay. They sell everything you can think of and they sell it for really cheap. And the decor is gaudy like nothing I have every seen. There was the most gigantic, frightening grandmother clock in one the stairwells. It was about ten feet tall, and at the top was a psychotic looking deer head with giant eyes bulging out of it's head. The rest of the clock was carved with various images including a dead rabbit. And to add to it's freakiness there was a layer of dust on it about an inch thick.

Apparently Ed was an immigrant who came to Toronto and wanted to make a place where everyone could get anything they need for little money. Once a year (Thanksgiving I think?), people would line up for blocks and he would give them each a free chicken. Now there's a village named after him.

Next we walked to Kensington where Jess was meeting Riley. It was getting late in the day so John and I didn't stay. We headed to Bloor & Bay to check out a Winners that Jess had recommended to me when we went out for drinks. I had a hard time finding it (my sense of direction is still pretty shaky), but it was worth looking for. It is the nicest Winners I have ever seen, they carry some really high end stuff. John and I both found a couple of work shirts so it was worth the trip.

We went home after that and ordered in some Thai food for dinner. There's a website,, where you type in your postal code and it gives you a list of restaurants from which you can order delivery online. You don't even have to call in, it's great. We ordered from a place called Mai Thai and when it got here, it was the best pad Thai I've had since we got here (I've had two that weren't great before this one, they were too tomato-y). I felt like ordering in so that I would have time to do my chores tonight and leftovers for lunch tomorrow since it's my first day of work.

Dad called to check in on me which was nice. He told me that hurricane Bill was no big deal despite the media's warnings for the past three days. It was nice to hear news from home, it makes me feel like I'm a part of it. I'm not homesick per se. I'm quite happy to be in Toronto. But I do miss my family and friends at home.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Our First Houseguests!

After two and half years, I have finally met some of John's family!

John's brother Allan and his girlfriend Judy came from Orillia (sp?) to spend a couple of days with us. Although we're not unpacked yet, we managed to put together a place to sleep for them and to find four seats for us to sit on. They arrived late Wednesday afternoon, so John left work a bit early. We went for dinner at a pub called Scruffy's on Eglinton and had some drinks and nachos and got introduced.

Prior to Wednesday, in my mind Allan was just the subject of legends. I had heard so many crazy tales of John's childhood and the trouble he would get into with his big brother. And more recently, whenever John would go away to pay him a visit, he would come home battered and bruised, telling me that they like to practice their various MMA and judo moves on each other whenever they get together,

"Jacki, I learned a new throw from Allan, want to see it?"

"If you're asking if I'd like to be thrown, no thank you. I will take your word for it that it's awesome."

So when it was finally time to meet him, I was a bit nervous. As it turns out, as the legends tell, he is in fact a big guy with a big personality, but my overall feeling is that he's a friendly, funny guy. And Judy is really great as well. I really enjoyed having them as company for the past few days.

After nachos at Scruffy's we headed to the comedy club across the street from our apartment, called Absolute Comedy. It was amateur night so we got to see six comedians perform. We were sitting in the very front row so of course we got heckled. I have to say that the amateur comics here are much better than any we saw at Ginger's tavern in Halifax (with the exception of Mark Little). At some points I was laughing so hard I started crying and so did John.

After the comedy show we headed across the street to Main Event for some karaoke. Allan is a great singer so when he heard I've been known to sing a tune or two at karaoke he said he definitely wanted to go. John and I were happy to check out Main Event anyway since we had never been there and apparently it's a bar you can go to for UFC fights.

We had fun at karaoke, although the sound quality wasn't great. It was hard to hear the singers. Allan sang Rebel Yell by Billy Idol and I sang Over My Head by the Fray. Judy doesn't sing and despite my best attempts, I have not yet been able to convince John to sing a duet with me. John and I left shortly after that because John had to work early in the morning and there was a long wait to get up and sing so it would have been over an hour before Allan was able to sing again.

Have I mentioned how much I love that on any night of the week I can leave my apartment and go to a comedy club and a karaoke bar without going more than half a block from my apartment? This neighbourhood is incredible.

The next morning (Thursday), John had to work, so I spent the day with Allan and Judy. We lounged around for a bit in the morning and then we went out to do some shopping so they could explore the neighbourhood.

Yonge Street goes on forever. We probably walked up it for about 45 minutes, and there was no end to this part of the shopping district, before turning around and walking back down the other side of the street. We visited all kinds of little shops and then stopped for lunch. After lunch we explored the mall attached to my building and they decided to see a movie. I went home for that since I had already seen most of the movies playing.

John got home before they did. We made some bagel sandwiches and hung out on the couch until they came home. Allan had offered to make dinner, so we hung out with Judy while he slaved away in the kitchen. He made us ceasar salads and some kind of chicken penne with a curry cream sauce and pineapple. It was excellent. And he made a ton so there is still lots left in the fridge.

After supper it was already pretty late, so we headed out again to yet another karaoke bar, this time one called Gabby's that was about a 15 minute walk away. The atmosphere in this place was a lot cozier and the sound quality was better. I sang Womanizer by Britney Spears and Girl's Not Grey by AFI (my favorite song to sing). Allan sang a couple of Nirvana songs and Paralyzer by Finger Eleven before John and I left, although I think he sang a couple after we left as well. He sounded much better that night than the night before and I think I did too.

We had to leave early to pick up tickets for something called the CNE. I'm not sure exactly what that is but apparently the price of the ticket includes rides, so I think it must be some kind of fair. As I write this and feel like an idiot, it occurs to me that maybe I should ask John for more details when he is planning our fun. Although he's never steered me wrong so I'll probably just keep going with it, content in my obliviousness.

Anyway, the point is that the tickets were on sale until midnight so we had to leave early. We bought them at 11:55pm, just under the wire. Then we headed home for sleeps.

John had to work early again this morning so he woke his brother from some groggy hugs before he left. I made breakfast for the three of us and then we went upstairs to the pool. Allan and Judy went for a swim and I laid out on the roof reading.

After we got back to the apartment, Allan and Judy packed up their stuff and headed off for the myriad of bus transfers on their journey back to Orillia. It was really great to meet them and I think they had a good visit with us as well. Judy said she wants to move here, so it can't have been all bad. It's a nice feeling to know we have some immediate family less than two hours away, makes it feel a little more like home.

Monday, August 17, 2009

More Weekend Stuff

Yesterday we decided to hunt down a Wal-Mart so I could pick up a hot plate to use with my new donabe. We found one on the subway line at the Dufferin Mall. Sure enough, they had hot plates for $12. Awesome.

There was a Winners in the mall so we headed over there too. John found some shirts, I found a pair of sunglasses and some much needed brown wedge sandals that I can wear to work. I have a ridiculous tan line on my feet that is evidence to the fact I haven't worn sandals all summer (I just didn't have a decent pair), so hopefully that's about to change. They were 75% off too. The Winners here isn't nearly as picked over as the ones in Halifax, there was all kinds of brand name stuff.

We had planned to head downtown to the Toronto After Dark film festival, but we had so much that we were carrying, we headed home first and dropped off our stuff. Then we headed back down to Bathurst Street W and bought our tickets for a film called Warlords that John wanted to see.

We had some time to kill before the film started and we hadn't really eaten all day, so we decided to track down a late brunch. We popped into a little bakery/cafe and ordered some eggs benny. The atmosphere was cute and summery, the waitress was friendly and attentive, and as John put it, the food we were served was probably the worst meal we've had since we've been in Toronto. The bread was stale, there were shells in the eggs, the ham was burnt and the iced tea was so terrible that I couldn't put my finger on exactly what they had done wrong. If I had to guess, I would say they left out the sugar and lemon and brewed the tea too weakly.

But we ate it anyway because we were hungry and we didn't really have time to find another place. I couldn't drink the tea though.

We headed back to the theatre. The film we were seeing was one of I think 14 being shown as part of a horror festival. The festival was held in a beautiful old movie theatre with only one screen (think of the Oxford). The seats were all on the same level, rather than raised up stadium seating as you got closer to the back. I had never seen a theatre laid out that way before. It sort of messed with my perception of which seats were too close to the screen and which ones were just right.

For being part of a horror festival, I suspect this was the least horrific of the movies being shown. It was a story of a group of bandits in 1800's China that became solidiers and formed a legendary army, starring Jet Li (but without any kung fu). We both enjoyed it.

We decided to walk part of the way home afterwards. We walked east down Bloor and then north up Yonge. We saw all kinds of things; parts of the U of T campus, the ROM, all of the expensive stores at Bloor & Bay like Tiffany, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, etc. Everything was closed of course since it was Sunday evening. All in all we walked the distance of about 6 subway stations and it took about 45 minutes. So that helped me get a better understanding of how big the downtown core is. Some day this will all be second nature to me.

I talked to Erin on the telephone when I got home, so that was nice. We heated up some of the barbecue pork buns from the market the day before and watched TV for the rest of the evening. It was a good weekend.

Today it is so hot that I was already breaking into a sweat by 10am.

Banana trees are pretty neat. At night they soak up the water in the soil around them. It travels through the leaves and in the morning, you can see little drips of water falling from the tips of the leaves. I realized today that my banana tree hasn't done this since we moved to Toronto despite the fact that I give it two cups of water every day. So I'm a little worried about it. I've decided to start giving it two cups twice daily to see if that helps. All of my plants are suffering in this heat though.

I knew it was only going to get worse so I decided that today was a good day to go check out the (air conditioned) library that is across the street from our building. It turns out it's actually quite nice! I stayed for a couple of hours going through their sewing books. I found several books from the Singer collection of sewing books that I wanted to check out, so I went and got a shiny new library card. I haven't had one of these since I was a kid.

I got back home and finished the skirt I was working on. Despite all of the challenges I had making it, it turned out awesome. The patterns match up better than I expected and it looks perfectly tailored. I'm really pleased with it. The only problem is that it is much, much to small for me. I didn't understand how I could be so off with my measurements so I've been looking at some different sizing guides and all I can figure is that sizes on patterns in no way reflect pant sizes. So I think that what would be a size 6 at the store is actually a size 12 or 14 on a sewing pattern. I'm not completely sure though, so if anyone can help me out with this, please feel free to comment!

Nonetheless, I'm still really proud of how it turned out and I learned a lot by making it. Hopefully next time I can make something that fits!

I think I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon doing housework so that things are tidy when John gets home. I think we're probably staying in tonight.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Movies, Asian Grocery Shopping and New Dishes

Yesterday we didn't get up to much. I did accept that job offer at the call center, I start in just over a week (at 7:45am no less!). I spent most of the day trying to sew a skirt with some leftover fabric I had. I thought it would be a good learning experience and I was right. It's not quite finished yet, but I've learned:
  • How to use fusable interfacing
  • How to read a pattern and how to transfer it to fabric
  • Twill tape and bias tape are not the same thing
  • Measure your fabric before cutting out the pieces (I ran out so now the patterns don't match up)
  • My zipper sewing skills are inconsistent
  • I am currently hopeless at figuring out my measurements. I don't know where my waist is.
So I expect that when I have finished, the skirt will not fit and it will look a little sloppy, but making it has definitely been a worthwhile experience and I'm just out a meter or so of fabric that I probably wouldn't have used for anything anyway. And 99 cents for a zipper.

I've decided that if I'm going to waste a year in a call centre, I might as well learn to be an amazing seamstress as well so that I'll come out of this year with at least one new skill. I've got a few more projects in my head I want to try out and I hope to start taking sewing classes in the evenings this fall.

When John got home, we headed to the SilverCity theatre and saw District 9. What a great movie! I don't want to give anything away, so I won't say much other than that we both loved it and it gave us lots to think about. I hope they do a sequel!

This morning we slept in and made a leisurely breakfast of bacon, eggs, bagels, grapefruit and blueberry smoothies. I'm addicted to these bottled smoothies they sell at the grocery store. I've been drinking them pretty much non stop since we got here. I think it's a combination of the fact that we've been eating so much convenience food (because I'm trying hard not to unpack the kitchen) so my body is craving anything with real nutritional value and the fact that no matter how many liquids I drink, I seem to stay dehydrated. I don't understand it and John's saying he's noticed the same thing since we got here. I can drink 6 big glasses of water in a day and still be incredibly thirsty and feel dehydrated. Our best guess is that because the air is drier here than the ocean air we're used to, maybe it pulls more moisture from our bodies. Who knows?

After breakfast, John wanted to show me where he works and he wanted to show me the Asian grocery store and dish store in the attached mall. I gained a new appreciating for his commute as it was quite far away. We rode the subway all of the way to the end of the line, and then caught a bus from there. It was so hot out and so bright I was practically blinded. The bus ride was another 15 minutes but John said during rush hour it's closer to 35.

When we got there, we walked around the mall. We headed up to his office and I peeked in through the window of the locked door. I couldn't see much but at least now I know where it is if I ever want to come visit.

Next we headed to the Asian grocery store. It's called the T&T Supermarket, and it is amazing! It's about the size of a SuperStore, it's clean, bright and has all kinds of different sections. In the deli we picked up some dim sum steamed pork buns. In the bakery we picked up pretty much one of everything. I wanted to try so many things! The fish section was unbelievable. I'm used to a grocery store having one tank full of lobsters. This store had tanks and tanks filled with all sorts of crustaceans and fishes. One of the tanks held a live fish almost 3 feet long! There were all kinds of varieties of whole fishes on ice as well. I couldn't even take it all in, there were so many fish.

We puttered through the grocery sections, picking up a few odds and ends. I found agar agar, a form of gelatin I've always had trouble finding before and ube spread, which is a brilliant purple spread made from sweet potato yams (I've seen that you can make some crazy looking frosting with this stuff and I've always wanted to try it). We also picked up a couple of staples; noodles and a can of sweet red bean paste.

The produce section was incredible. They had so many wonderful veggies that I've never been able to get before. The meat section was the same way. They had fresh chinese sausage, sukiyaki beef and whole roasted ducks, none of which which I had ever been able to find in Halifax.

After we made our purchases, (Sadly I didn't get much because I don't want to have to move lots of food at the end of the month. John said I can just tell him what I need though, and he'll pick it up after work any time) we headed next door to this wonderful Asian dish shop called Utsuwa-no-Yakata.

So many beautiful dishes! They had stoneware, ceramics and lacquerware. They carried every type of Asian dish I could think of and a few I had never heard of. All of the pieces were heavy and felt like quality, well-made dishes. And the prices were lower than I could even believe. Dishes that I would have paid $25 for in Halifax are $7 here. Or less. I probably spent an hour just taking it all in.

In the end I settled on these. Everything looks small in this picture, but the dishes are actually fairly large.
John picked out the square plates that were $5 each. They are about 8" across and they look like planks of wood. I'm not sure what I will end up using them for but I know I always find myself short of pretty plates so I'm sure I will find something to do with them. The light brown pan is made to go from the oven or stove to the table and it was only $3 (it was the last one) so I figured why not. It will be good for cooking meats that need to be seared on the stove and then baked, or for baked side dishes like gratins.

I've been looking for bowls like the black ones for months, ever since John ordered the teriyaki bowl at Sushi Nami and it came in this type of bowl. It just looks so beautiful half filled with rice and then meat and veggies artfully arranged on top of that. Plus our current cereal bowls are terrible (they have the 1" lip around the bowl that makes it hard to sip the milk out of it at the end. Yes, we have no manners.) so I expect these bowls will do double duty.

And the piece de la resistance is my fabulous new donabe, a Japanese hot pot. I have wanted one of these for years! It is another dish that goes from stovetop to oven to the table. And if I can find a portable hot plate (do any of you know where to buy these?) I can use it to make sukiyaki or shabu shabu, which are sort of like Japanese versions of a fondue in that they are meals cooked at the table. I can't wait to try both of them!

I had only seen these a couple of times in Halifax, never looking particularly authentic (it would be like Wolfgang Puck's version or something like that) and always with a price tag of at least $80 and sometimes up to $160. The hotpot I bought today is exactly what I've wanted and it was a mere $30. Incredible.

The whole experience has completely renewed my enthusiasm for Asian cooking and I'm really excited to get back into it after the move in September. When I was in Halifax, I constantly had to find substitutions for ingredients I couldn't find or cooking techniques I didn't have the tools for, and it became tiresome. I could cook Asian food but it was so much work and so expensive to get it right. I think that now that I have the proper ingredients and tools readily available, it's going to be a whole lot easier and a lot of fun! I'm excited!

It was so hot out, so on the way home we stopped for Thai food at the food court in the subway station so that we could enjoy the air conditioning for a little longer before heading home to our oven of an apartment. John ordered a red curry and I ordered the mango salad. I've been ordering them everywhere we go, trying to find a good one to take the place of the salad served at Cha Baa Thai in Halifax that I love so much.

This wasn't it yet, the dressing wasn't quite right, but I was pleased to discovered that they had added fresh Thai basil to the salad. Thai basil tastes sort of like a mild licorice, so you might not think it goes with mango, but it was actually a really awesome combination. I was delighted to discover it. I've been growing a Thai basil plant since the start of the summer and haven't had a clue what to use if for, so now I have at least one idea!

By the time we got home, it was almost time for John to go meet Brandon for drinks so he took off and that's when I started blogging. I think I'm just going to take it easy for the rest of the night. Probably make a snack and watch some TV.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Taste Trippin'!!

When I was going to one of my interviews on Wednesday, I walked through the mall at the Yonge & Bloor subway station, the Hudson's Bay Centre. At the time I was wearing uncomfortable shoes so I just walked right through it, but yesterday decided to go back and explore it properly.

It's so easy to get there from here! From the time I lock my door, it takes about four minutes to get on the subway, five minutes to get to that station, and that's it. The mall is in the station. The transit system here really is amazing, even though I don't have it all figured out yet. The subways run every four minutes, so you rarely have to wait for them for more than two. From there you can take a bus or a streetcar, and they come by really frequently as well, at least every ten minutes. Everything runs quickly and seamlessly. When I think of all of my long nights waiting at Lacewood station in Halifax for a bus that only ran once every hour, I'm amazed at how much better the system here is.

When I got to the Hudson's Bay Centre, I found that there were several smaller shopping centres attached to it, so I think I actually ended up exploring three or four malls. Most of the stores were unimpressive, but I did find an H&M, a MAC store, a nice hobby shop and a Fabricland. And of course, the Bay.

I was really happy to find the fabric store. Fabricland is a larger, generic fabric shop unlike the boutique style shops specializing in particular types of fabric that I found on Queen St W last week. If I didn't know better, I'd say it's run by the same company that runs Fabricville in the Maritimes as they use similar signage, have a similar loyalty program, etc. They had so much flannel there! It made me want to make pyjama pants. I didn't buy any though, because I remembered that I still have a couple of projects to do that I already have the materials for and I don't want to get too far ahead of myself.

When I got home, I did my chores and then I started looking for something to wear out that night. I found two long denim skirts that I loved once upon a time but hadn't worn in probably four or five years because they were dated now. I tried one on and it was cute as a button but it was a really awkward length (halfway down my calves) that I think was only ever in style for a couple of months. So I decided to bring it up to date by hemming it up to a bit above the knee. I found this method of hemming jeans and it worked like a charm. It preserves the original hem so that you don't get one of those obvious homemade jean hems that look so terrible. I was really impressed with the results.

The skirt looked great when I was done. It's such a good feeling to find something in your closet you once loved and make it into something you can love again. I have to do this with more of my old clothes!

I made a quick supper of boiled corn on the cob and lemon chicken for when John came home, and then went off to a taste trippin' party!

This is something I have wanted to do for at least a year now. I was so excited! At a taste trippin' party you eat something called a Miracle Berry. It has a funny effect on your tongue that makes it so that everything sour tastes sweet for the next hour. I've been dying to know if it really works.

So we headed over to the Drake Hotel on Queen St W and were each presented with a berry in a shot glass and a sheet of instructions.
You put the berry in your mouth, remove the skin and pulp and let the seed rest on your tongue for two minutes. Spit it out, and two minutes later you're ready to go!

They had all kinds of foods to try. There were lemons, limes, oranges, sour soothers, pickles, cheeses, brussel sprouts, mustards and apple cider vinegar to drink. This had better work!

The lemons and limes tasted just like candy! I was amazed! The flavour of the limes was indistinguishable from sweetened limeade. The oranges were so sweet that I actually didn't care for them. Here's a picture of John sucking on a lemon. He normally has no tolerance for sour food so he was pretty excited too.Next I tried one of the pickles and a creamy cheese. I was disappointed to find that the restaurant had provided us with sweet gherkins and feta cheese, I wanted something with bite! Later I found out that they were in fact very, very sour pickles and sharp goat cheese, it was just that under the influence of the miracle berry, I honestly couldn't tell!

There was a gruyere cheese that tasted normal, the berry didn't seem to affect it. The sour soothers just tasted like regular candy, say Swedish berries. The mustards were intensified in flavour. I could barely eat them they were so strong! The brussel sprouts were delicious! They just tasted like yummy raw vegetable with none of the bitterness that makes uncooked brussel sprouts generally so unpalatable. And the vinegar had such a pleasant taste, unlike anything I've ever tasted before. John couldn't get enough of it.

The experience lasted about 20 or 25 minutes before it started to wear off. It lingered for about an hour after that, so the lemon wedges went from tasting like sweet candy to tasting like sour candy to tasting like sour lemons.

Here's a picture of the tasting area:
It was so packed, you could barely move. There was also a film crew there from The National trying to capture everyone's reactions. Here are our friends that came with us, Wanda and Bryan:

Afterwards we walked down the street to a bar called the Brooklyn for some drinks. They all tasted funny because of the berry. I had a cosmo and all I could taste was the vodka at first because the berry took away all of the bite of the lime and the cranberry. John's beer was sweet and delicious and without the bitter aftertaste. As time went on though and the berry wore of I realized it was actually a really well made cosmo and I actually didn't like John's beer after all.

On the way home we stopped so John could get a shwarma at a place down the street from us, came home and went to bed.

It was a really fun night. The fact that there are always cool events going on all over the city is something I'm really starting to love about Toronto.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Plan B

I haven't given up on school 100%. I've still got, say...10% of my hope left. But it means that I need a plan if this doesn't work out.

So, as much as I hate to say it, I'm returning to call center work. But I swear I will only do this as full time work for one year. After that, I may switch to part time as I go to school, but that's it.

The way I see it, assuming I get into school next year at the latest, I'm in for two years as a poor student and then about three to five years as a struggling pastry chef. So I figure that if I'm not able to go to school this year, I should bank as much money as I can. Call center work and waitressing are the only ways I know to make money fast and I prefer the one that doesn't have me on my feet all day. If anyone has any better suggestions I would love to hear them!

So I went to a couple of interviews yesterday and I got offered two different jobs. One was doing outbound surveys and one was doing inbound sales. The sales one pays significantly more, so it was a pretty easy decision. They're running reference checks on me right now, so I should hear back in the next couple of days to finalize it. I would start on August 24th for four weeks of training, and then working after that.

While I sat in their lobby waiting, I couldn't help but feel that by accepting this job I was sealing my fate, condemning myself to call center work forever, but John keeps telling me not to lose sight of the fact that this is temporary and that I have a plan, it's just been delayed. He reminded me that who I am is a baker, this call center job is just something that I will do, not who I am. So I just keep reminding myself that this will only be temporary, and of how hard John is working every single day and I vow to keep my chin up and stay positive about this.

And there are lots of positive things about it. I will hopefully be able to save up enough money that I won't need student loans after all, or at least not for both years. I'll get to meet some new people and hopefully makes some new friends. And in the grand scheme of things, when I think of how I pictured our lifestyle here a month before the move, we are actually in a much better position and living more comfortably than we had initially expected. So I have no cause for complaint and nothing to be unhappy about.

I was surprised at how easy it was to find a job here. From the time I sent out three resumes, I had two interviews within about an hour and a half, and two job offers within 24 hours. Easy as punch. The hardest part was getting around the city in pumps after I hadn't worn high heels in about a year!

We went out for sushi last night so I could tell John about my interviews. There's an all-you-can-eat place just around the corner from us so we went to check it out. There was loads of food, but it wasn't very good, but the prices were very low. I ordered a bento box for $7.99 and I couldn't believe how big it was. It contained, 6 pc sushi, a cup of rice, miso soup, a big plate of salad, a spring roll, 6 pc veggie tempura, some kind of coconut and bean sprout salad, 2 pc agedashi tofu and some teriyaki chicken. It was huge! But I don't think we'll probably go back again. There are too many other places to try to go back to one that isn't amazing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sad News

For about the 10th time since June, yesterday I set about trying to get any update as to what was going on with my wait list status with George Brown College. For the first time ever, I got ahold of someone on the same day I called in, so I was feeling good. But the woman I spoke to had bad news.

She told me that of all of the people that were initially offered positions in the program, all but one had accepted the offers and had already paid their tuition. Which is why, as seventh on the waiting list, I hadn't received a call. Except it turns out I'm not seventh on the list anymore. I'm tenth now. Apparently since the last time I spoke with them, three more worthy candidates had applied and bumped me back.

So it is highly unlikely that I will get into the program this year. I'm pretty sad about it, but I had already suspected it when I didn't hear anything back in July like they said I would. So today I sent a letter to the dean. I didn't know what else to do.

Not much else to say about that I guess. Will post if I get any updates.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lazy Sunday

John was pretty tuckered by the time Sunday rolled around since he had been going non stop for about 10 days, so it was time for a lazy day.

We slept in, had cold pizza for breakfast and watched some TV. I knitted/crochet a pair of Mary Jane slippers to keep my feet toasty on the hardwood floors of the apartment. They are dark blue, made from some yarn I forgot I had that I found during the move, and they turned out super cute.

We got dressed and headed to the mall to see the new G.I. Joe movie. I really liked it, it was much better than Transformers, just a fun summer action movie. We went to the Pickle Barrel for supper afterward because we wanted to check it out since it was so close to home. It's a family restaurant that falls somewhere between Swiss Chalet and the Keg. The food was good though, we ordered a chicken and spinach salad and a pound of beef fajitas and just shared everything. They serve all day breakfast too, so we will probably go back for brunch some time.

We stopped in at the drugstore and then headed home to settle in for the night. Shortly after we got home, the thunderstorm started. I haven't seen a thunderstorm like that ever in Halifax, if at all. The sky was normal at first, and then the thickest, blackest cloud cover I have ever seen covered the whole city in about five minutes. The rain started, and then the thunder. The flashes of lightning came about every five to ten seconds and lit up the whole sky. Sometimes we would see two or three lightning bolts at a time. John and I watched the storm for about an hour, until my eyes hurt from all of the bright flashes, but it went on for at least two more hours after that.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Weekend Stuff

On Saturday morning we were slow to get going. John woke up really early and I slept in a bit. I made bacon, egg, avocado and cheese sandwiches on English muffins for breakfast and tidied up the kitchen and then John went back down for a nap to see if that would clear his headache from the night before. It was probably about 1pm before we were both up and dressed and ready to go.

We had made a whole list of things to do and explore in the downtown core today, but we didn't get anywhere near through them all. We started by trying to find the school I would be going to in the fall if I got accepted. Like each of my last three ventures out into the city, we got lost first, ending up finding Hooters instead, but eventually we found the school.

It was mostly closed up because it's a weekend in the summer, but the security guard was kind enough to let us in to look around.

I fell in love. The downtown campus is spread over three buildings but the chef school is all in one building, about half the size of my high school. There place is filled with lecture rooms cooking demonstration stations as well as practice kitchens with rows and rows of ovens and mixers. Everything was modern and the pastry section was undergoing renovations. I almost started to tear up as I realized just how much I want this. I left feeling glad that I'd seen it but sad that I may not get accepted this year.

From there we went to a huge farmer's market that is right across the street. It's open every day but is bigger on the weekends as the displays extend outside of the building and in a building across the street. We meadered around and saw all different kinds of food. There were huge sections of produce, seafood, baked goods, meat, and a few restaurants. There were whole pigs and skinned rabbits that still had their eyes. That creeped me out quite a bit. In the middle, there was a kitchen supply store that had the most amazing display of baking pans and moulds I had ever seen. I don't know why I love baking pans so much, but I do. We bought some biscotti and coffee beans and looked around for some lunch.

We had some sandwiches at the deli there and headed off into the city. We walked from there to the Harbourfront Centre. It was quite a long walk but we got to see a lot of downtown that we hadn't seen yet, so it was nice. I could't get over how empty it was for the heart of downtown Toronto. John assured me that it was just because we went on a Saturday so it was all tourists, but that during the week it was packed. We passed the CN tower and the skydome just as a game was getting out, so hundreds of people were streaming out onto the street. We eventually made it to the shore of Lake Ontario and crossed a cute little walking bridge to get to the Centre for the Southeast Asian food festival.

The festival was a disappointment. We had been expecting an array of foods from all different ethnicities (the advertisements had boasted "flavours you can't find anywhere else") but all we saw were kiosks serving Indian food. There were probably at least ten different stands, all serving Indian food, except one that offered a single Malaysian dish. We had been hoping to sample a cuisine we hadn't tried before so we weren't really feeling Indian food. So we skipped the food and instead walked through the Centre, looking at the art exhibits that are there all of the time, not a part of the festival. Our friend Alisha works there so we looked for her jewelry in the displays and the gift shop, but sadly we didn't find any of it.

It was getting late into the evening by then, so we hopped onto a streetcar and went home. We were the kind of tired you get from being out in the sun all day, so we just vegged once we got home. Later that night we popped out to get some fresh air and a panzerotti from the Pizza Pizza across the street (thanks Erin!) and then came home and watched TV. We have full cable here which is an upgrade from the five channels we had in Halifax. We stayed up too late watching food network challenges and stumbled off to bed.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

More Exploring

Thursday was a pretty quiet day. I went for a walk down Eglinton West to see what's down there. I found our local park which is only about a block away. There are lots of organic shops, a produce shop, an organic butcher, as well as a few bakeries in that area. Besides the park, my best find that that day was a place that offers sewing lessons. They're a little expensive so it will have to wait until after I find a job, but they teach everything from intro to clothes design. I think that would be an excellent skill to have.

In the evening, we had dinner and John helped me figure out some of my transit questions and gave me some suggestions for starting points for my job search. I'm not looking for a career job, just something that can do for the rest of the summer and then (*crosses fingers*) switch to part time if I get into school for September. We found a few postings online, but I think that I'm going to need to make a concerted effort to figure out what businesses are actually in all of the office buildings around here and go from there.

On Friday, I decided that it was time to venture out into the city on my own while John was at work. I'll be honest, I was pretty nervous about it. I didn't trust in my ability to not get lost and to find my way home again.

One thing that I hadn't seen in all of my walks around the area was a fabric store, so I decided to hunt one down. After a few Google searches, it seemed like every fabric store I could find a listing for was on Queen Street West, so that's where I decided to go.

I got on the subway. No problem. I got off at my stop. No problem. I emerged onto the street and my heart started pounding a little. I consulted my little map and headed out into the city. I walked for about 10 minutes, not seeing any of the landmarks and street signs I was expecting, before I figured out that I was going the wrong way. The bad news was that I was lost but the good news is that I found the Eaton Centre. So now I know where that is.

I eventually found my way back to the subway station and set off again, this time in the right direction. I walked for a few blocks and and found myself in a trendier, hipper part of town. It was a little run down, shabby-chic style, and the streets were lined with little boutique clothing shops and trendy looking restaurants. Suddenly I started to hear screams off in the distance and for a second I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into. As I got closer to the noise, I realized it was just the MuchMusic office. The sidewalks were absolutely packed with noisy teenagers, so I guess there must have been someone worth getting excited about there that day.

I kept on my way, and about two blocks down I came to a block that must have had at least ten fabric stores, five bead stores and some other miscellaneous craft stores. There was so much to see, I was completely overwhelmed. Some of the stores were absolutely crammed with fabric, a maze of narrow passages with walls of stacked bolts of fabric going all the way up to the ceiling. Only one store was spacious and roomy, and they had the most amazing assortment of oriental brocades I have ever seen in my life. Stunning colour combinations and delicately embroidered patterns. And that was just the beginning. Some of the stores carried fabrics I don't think I could even imagine without seeing them first.

Despite the selection, I wasn't able to find any cute cotton cupcake fabrics. The focus was more on the designer fabrics rather than quilting cottons I think. I did pick up a few different fabrics for a bag I'm planning to make though, so it was worth the trip.

I found my way back to the subway station with no problem, although in retrospect it would have been easier to catch a streetcar rather than walking, but I'm sure I'll have all of that figured out eventually. I stopped at the grocery store on the way home and made a supper of teriyaki chicken, parmesan risotto and steamed asparagus just in time for when John came home.

We rested for an hour or two and he told me about his day, and then we headed to the liquor store on the way to the first party we've been invited to since we've been in the city. The cashier strongly tried to dissuade us from buying the Smirnoff pomegranate martini, but we went ahead and bought it anyway.

That actually reminds me of something I've noticed since we got here. The people here seem much friendlier to strangers than Haligonians are. More often than not, strangers in the apartment building will say hello, merchants in stores are chattier and strangers seem more willing to help each other out. John's theory on this is that Toronto is a city of non-natives so everyone wants to connect to everyone else in the city or can at least appreciate how all of the people new to the city feel. And because the city is so big, everyone's had to ask for directions now and again, so that opens the dialogue between strangers a little further.

But the cashier was right about the Smirnoff. It tasted like grenadine and vodka, not like pomegranate at all. But we drank it anyway.

The party was at Wanda and Bryan's new apartment. They are friends of one of John's dive buddies from Halifax and they had been visiting Halifax a couple of weeks ago and came to our going away beer tour which is where we met them. We took the subway all of the way to the end of the line to get there (takes about 40 minutes) and ran into another guest on the walk up to their building, so we found the place together. We ended up having a really nice time even though we didn't really know anyone. Like Cinderella though, we had to leave at midnight in order to get home before the transit stopped running.

We stumbled in and fell into our post drinking routine of water and bagels on the couch and then off to sleep.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Finally Caught Up!

John started work on Monday. I spent the day trying to make the apartment livable, rearranging boxes to make walkways so that we could get to everything in the living room and so that the furniture was all positioned correctly and everything was at least in the correct room, if not unpacked. It was so tempting to unpack all of the boxes, but I knew that I would regret it come September 1st so I left them alone.

I ventured out of the apartment by myself for the first time. I explored the lower floors of the building, found the mailboxes and the laundry. Then I headed over to the mall connected to the building and explored it as well. It was a holiday so most of the stores were closed.

The grocery store was open though, so I picked up some groceries and came home and baked a big pizzagna. It's one of John's and my favorite lazy foods. I've been known to put one together the night before a party and we spend the next day hungover on the couch, watching bad movies and eating reheated pizzagna. It's easy, makes lots of food, dirties minimal dishes and you can throw in extra veggies so that it's a little less unhealthy. I used canned tomato sauce (don't tell John! He's a tomato sauce purist) to make it even easier.

John didn't get home until around 7. He has a 50 minute commute each way so his work days are really long. But despite that, when he walked through the door I was immediately struck by the fact that I couldn't remember the last time he came home from work smiling and happy. It was so wonderful to see! We sat and had dinner and he told me about his day. He loves the people and he loves the job. I'll admit I had been nervous that we would get here and maybe it wouldn't be what he expected or he would clash with the people, or something else could go wrong, but it turns out I had nothing to worry about. So that is a good thing!

Tuesday, I again spent most of the day working on the apartment, this time tackling the bedroom and the bathroom. I went for a long walk around the neighbourhood, still trying to get my bearings, recognize the local busses, figure out where all of the amenities are like the bank, the post office, the drugstore. I'm slowly getting the hang of it.

I got my watch battery replaced and a second set of keys made as well. The locks here are pretty friggy. It can take me over a minute to get the apartment door unlocked (Note to Mom and Aunt Debbie: Don't worry, we have two deadbolts on the door too. We are safe!). The key maker actually looked at my key and asked me if it worked well because apparently I'm not the only one in the building who has this problem. He said the locks are 15 years old and have been discontinued so he has to order in custom made keys to cut for them. I'm not going to bother complaining though since we're only here for a month. Hopefully the next one will be better.

When John got home, we went out onto the roof. There's a pool up there and a rooftop patio. He gave me a lesson on which directions were which and how far we were from different things. The view is pretty amazing from up there.

Then we took a long walk exploring even more of the neighbourhood. It seems to go on forever. I guess that's not surprising given that Yonge Street is the longest street in Canada. We popped into a little sushi place where the prices were low and the sushi was good but the pieces were almost too big to fit in my mouth. I had a beef teriyaki roll and some veggie tempura. John had mackerel and eel. He said the mackerel tasted like it had been frozen which I guess is to be expected since we're not on the coast anymore. At the end of the meal they gave us each half of an orange that was cleverly cut in a way I had never seen before. I love that sort of thing. It poured rain while we were in there, but by the time we left it had almost stopped. By the time we got home it was pretty late so we went to sleep.

Today has been pretty uneventful, and I feel like we're starting to get into a routine. I finished putting the apartment together and spent about an hour pouring over maps trying to figure this place out. I had planned to go out and track down a fabric store but John borrowed my transit pass for the rest of the week so I ended up putting it off. He has to switch to weekly passes because of something to do with the fact that he uses two different transit systems in the morning, so I met a guy from kijiji and sold him John's old pass. Then I picked up some groceries for tonight's dinner and headed home. I revised my resume to reflect my new address and to target less impressive jobs. I'm not looking for anything fancy, just somewhere I can work part time while I go to school (assuming I get in of course). Still no word on whether or not I'm being accepted, but I did get my first piece of redirected mail today so at least I know that if they try and send me a letter, I'll get it.

John got home early today so I didn't have dinner ready. I did the cooking while he got settled in. We ate, watched an hour of TV and he passed out around 8pm. I think he's still getting used to these early mornings after all the months of late shifts.

That's it for now. So far so good!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August 2nd - Day 2 in the City

I was feeling ambitious the next morning so I decided to cook breakfast. I unpacked the coffee maker, made a pitcher of ginger iced green tea and put some bacon in a pan on the stove. That's when I realized I had no idea where the cutlery was, or the spatulas, or the bread knife, or the mugs, or the toaster (I still haven't found it) and that the microwave wasn't even in the kitchen let alone plugged in and ready to go. It was a mad scramble, but I managed to pull together some egg mcmuffins, coffee and OJ. I was pretty pleased with myself. We didn't have a table to eat it at, but at least we had the couch.

After breakfast, John turned to me and said "Well, we've got some extra space in the kitchen, and we have a big empty truck for two more days, I think we should hit up Ikea."

I love him.

Somehow he knew how to get there without a map, so off we went. We puttered through the displays, ate lunch in the cafeteria (it was actually pretty good, I had the quiche), rummaged through the accessories and picked heavy cardboard furniture boxes out of the warehouse. We came out with these:

along with some beer glasses, oven mitts (I burnt through my old ones from overuse if you can believe that) and $1.30 plants.

When we got out into the parking lot I looked at my watch. The afternoon had disappeared and it was 5 o'clock. Neither of us could figure out how that happened. We both had thought it was maybe 3 o'clock.

So we accidentally wasted the whole day and nothing got unpacked. John marveled that he actually enjoyed himself given that he generally gets bored of shopping inside ten minutes.

We picked up some Vietnamese food at the little restaurant in our building for supper. I was hoping it would be awesome since it's so close, but it was only so-so. Later that night we went for a walk around our neighbourhood. I really love this neighbourhood. There are literally hundreds of shops within about three blocks from our building. Some of them are big box stores like Sobeys, Futureshop and HMV, but most of them are wonderful little small businesses. I love the complexity of the window displays. Even the picture frame shop has over a hundred frames arranged neatly in the window, and there is a jewelry shop with what must be over five hundred pendants all individually positioned and carefully lined in the window.

And despite the huge number of businesses in the area, when I look out my window, almost all I see is green. There are so many trees and parks here. I will post pictures just as soon as I get the cameras unpacked.

We found a little gelato place and stopped for treats and then walked home by cutting through a really high end subdivision where everyone had beautiful gardens. When we got back to the apartment I noted that it felt like coming home. This little apartment already feels like home to me.

Our First Night in the City / Moving In

Once we got our keys, we hopped on the subway and headed over to Marc and Alisha's place. Lucky for me, John had the whole public transit thing figured out and actually knew where our destination was, otherwise I would probably still be lost since I haven't taken TO public transit since university. After he explained the system to me though, I think it seems like getting around is pretty straightforward, but I'm going to need some time to get a feel for where everything is.

When we arrived, our gracious hostess poured us drinks and ordered us Thai food and we spent the evening getting caught up. It was really nice, I hadn't seen Alisha in at least a year I think. That is one part I'm looking forward to about living here. Although we left lots of friends behind in Halifax, we have lots of other friends who have moved here over the years that we've lost touch with and now we have the opportunity to get reacquainted with everyone.

We stayed up late because we wouldn't be able to start the move until 2pm the next afternoon, but we still ended up waking bright and early. Our first thoughts were of the truck, so John went back to make sure no one had tampered with it in the night. I puttered around much slower, and Alisha and I made breakfast. She makes the best eggwiches! It felt really weird trying to kill the morning on a moving day. I'm so used to waking up early and getting straight to work on those days but really there was nothing to be done.

John's brother couldn't make it to help us move, so John spent the rest of the morning calling movers in the area but we couldn't find anyone on such short notice. We had the two of us, Alisha and our friend Brandon though, so we figured we'd be okay. When we got to the elevator to start loading it up, there was another woman and some U-haul movers already there. John managed to talk one of the movers to stay to help us after he was done that move, so that made things a bit easier.

It took the full two hours and by the end of it we were exhausted. I think all the exertion of the week was starting to catch up with us and the heat of the day compounded it. Alisha had to go to work and we went for supper with Brandon at a pub style restaurant called Duke of Kent. The food was pretty good, but after four straight days of restaurant food, I was craving home cooking so I think I didn't appreciate it as much as I would have normally. The sangria was good though! On the way home we stopped at a little grocery store and picked up breakfast foods so we would be ready for the morning.

When John and I came home to our apartment for the first time, we were both pretty wiped. We tilted the couch onto its right side, set up the bed, unpacked the plates, glasses and pans, hung up the shower curtain, looked at all the boxes strewn through the apartment and flopped out. Everything else could wait. We slept like stones.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Road Trip

I think there are probably not very many countries where you can drive for two days and not get halfway across. Canada is very, very big.

I love road trips though. I love sitting in the car for hours with nothing for entertainment but conversation and singing. I brought a book and my Nintendo DS, but I find it hard to concentrate in a moving vehicle so they stayed in my purse for the most part. In retrospect, I wish I had brought something to knit or crochet. John was a trooper. He drove tirelessly for hours and hours without complaint.

On the 29th, we drove from 8 in the morning to 6:30 at night. We stopped for coffee, bagels and snacks in Stewiacke N.S., lunch at the Big Stop in Woodstock, N.B., maps in Degelis, QC and dinner and sleeps at the Comfort Inn in Levis, QC.

By the 30th I had lost track of all time. I think we were on the road around 8:30. First up was Quebec City. No problem. Next was Montreal. I was really nervous about getting lost but we flew right through it with no problems. John's strategy was to locate a semi truck with Ontario plates, tuck in behind it and hope it was planning to just drive straight through like we were. It worked! We were in and out in no time.

If I thought that was bad, Toronto highways were ten times as scary. From Oshawa to Toronto there were more lanes than I could count. There had to be at least 12 and traffic was back to back. I'm amazed that people can drive through it. Luckily it doesn't phase John at all. He's the brave one.

We actually didn't see too many interesting things on our drive, but we sure saw a lot of trees. Two days of nothing but trees. And a pig truck. It had two floors of pigs, probably close to 70 of them, all sticking their snouts and ears out of little holes on the side of the truck. It was adorable. So I occupied myself by endlessly flipping through radio stations (no cd or mp3 player in the Uhaul) which I'm sure annoyed John to no end although he didn't say anything. And at one point, in the thick of the traffic on the 401, we came upon what looked like a couch cushion in the middle of the highway. It had fallen out of a pick-up truck which the driver had pulled into the shoulder, left his vehicle and was actually running through the 6 lanes of traffic to go retrieve it. I had to look away.

I think John maybe has a GPS built into his brain because we drove straight from Halifax to Toronto without being lost for a single moment and when we arrived in this massive city he just drove straight to our apartment building without thinking twice. I'm not sure how this was possible exactly. It was my first time driving through Toronto (I've always flown in before) and I was overwhelmed by how big it is. It's just so big!

We got to the apartment building, signed our lease and went up to check out the apartment. It's perfect. A little bigger than our old place, hardwood floors instead of carpet, well lit, feels safe. But we didn't have the elevator booked until the next afternoon (it was booked solid) so we couldn't move in that night.

The scariest part of the whole road trip was figuring out what to do with the truck at night. It had all of our worldly possessions guarded only by a simple padlock. Over the course of the move we ended up leaving it overnight on Brunswick Street, Tobin Street, Levis Comfort Inn parking lot and a block away from the corner of Yonge and Eglinton. Nobody touched it. Canadians are trustworthy all over, our stuff was safe.

Moving Day

John and I had a deal. He would take care of finding the apartment and the driving if I would do the packing. Fair.

I did my best to pack as much as I could in the two weeks before the move. The post office was kind enough to give us a whole bunch of cube shaped boxes and I had them stacked in piles six high all over the apartment.

It was such a big job to pack our little one bedroom apartment. I can't even imagine what it must take to pack a whole house. In the last two days before the move I basically packed from dusk until dawn. At first I neatly labeled each box with all of the contents and the room where it should be placed, but after I was done you could almost tell the order in which I packed the boxes by my penmanship. It got progressively messier and more rushed and the last few boxes weren't labeled at all.

We had it all done by the night of the 27th. That day Dad took us for lunch and then our to Lake Echo to pick up the truck and say our goodbyes to Robbie and CJ. We were up early the next morning and joined by Cliff, Ian, Erin and Alan and Ryan, a guy that John worked with. He would help us load the truck and in exchange, we brought some of his stuff up to Toronto with us so that it would be here when he moves up next month.

The whole operation went off without a hitch. We worked efficiently and had everything in the truck within an hour and a half. I don't believe the truck could have held a single extra item, it was filled to the ceiling! Somehow John managed to fit all of our stuff in there and even managed to get the plants in without crushing them.

We spent the rest of the day cleaning. The apartment wasn't very messy but it still took Erin, John and I the whole afternoon to finish it. Erin scrubbed all of the stains out of the counter, John washed down the walls and cupboards and I vacuumed and cleaned the appliances and fixtures. We finished around 6:30pm and did our out inspection. Happily our work paid off because I got the whole of my damage deposit back. I had been worried about it, so it was a relief.

We headed over to Mom's for showers. Alan showed up and we all went to Henry House for dinner. I must have been tired because I had two drinks and was ready to pass out. John was no better, he fell asleep as soon as we got back to Mom's. I stayed up to chat with her and Erin, I figured sleep could wait.

I slept in the next morning but Mom made sure I got up. We had teary goodbyes and were on the road by 8am.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Plan

We had been toying with the idea of coming to Toronto since last Fall. John had been looking to get transferred through the company he worked for and I was unemployed so I was free to follow him wherever. At the same time, I was taking a good look at my life and what I wanted from it. I made a hard decision that I would follow my heart and my passion instead of chasing the dollars. So I decided to go back to school, learn my trade and start off on a new career path. John was amazingly supportive of my decision so I started looking at schools in Toronto.

I found a great program at George Brown College. It's two years and teaches you how to be a pastry chef and how to run a small business in the food services industry. So presumably, after finishing I would have all of the skills and the knowledge I would need to open a small bakery. Perfect.

But John started hitting a lot of dead ends at his job and by about December/January, we gave up on the idea of him getting transferred. It looked like we would be staying in Halifax. On a whim, I submitted my application to George Brown anyway, albeit a day late. Although at that point I didn't believe we would be going, I thought it would be an awful shame if somehow we managed to work out all of the details involved with a cross country move and I arrived here with nothing to do, so I ordered some transcripts and filled out some forms and sent them off.

A few months later, I got a letter back from George Brown. "Sorry Jacki, your application was late so you've been waitlisted. The program holds 200 students. The waiting list is 150 people long. You're number 7."

Cool. Whatev.

A few months went by. John was getting sick of his job. I think repetition isn't good for him. He needs new, exciting problems to solve. He's amazing but only when he's engaged with what he's doing. He applied for lots of jobs in Halifax, but nothing was the right fit. Nothing was even close to the right fit.

I really wanted to get into my program though, and I knew that staying at that job wasn't doing anything positive for John either from a career advancement perspective or an emotional/mental health perspective. We were both stagnating in Halifax and we both knew it. I said "Let's go anyway. There can't be fewer jobs in Toronto than there are in Halifax."

But John is the sensible one. He can't just quit a stable, well-paying job without knowing where his next paycheck is coming from. So we worked out a compromise. He would go to Toronto, spend a week there, try to get a feel for the job market and decide whether it was worth the risk. He contacted companies in Toronto for meetings and friends to stay with. He came home with a brightened perspective and new job offer.

So we were going.

Moving from one province to another in Canada is no small feat. Especially if you want a nice place and want to take your stuff with you. Which we did.

My family was amazing. My dad is a logistical genius so he hooked us up with our truck, directions, the best roads to take, the best places to stop. My mom gave us her full support as well and let us crash at her place before we left and got the family all together so we could say our goodbyes. My sister and her boyfriend were there on moving day and I don't think I would have gotten the apartment clean in time for my inspection if Erin hadn't been there to help us with the cleaning.

The most stressful part was finding an apartment. John promised me he would take care of all of the apartment details but I would stress out just thinking about it. It got to be two and a half weeks before our scheduled moving date and we still didn't have a place. I was freaking. It turns out that Ontario has a law where if, as a tenant, you take an apartment sight unseen, you have a set amount of time after you move in (I think it's 30 days?) to break the lease agreement. It's to keep landlords from misrepresenting their properties, but it also has the effect that many landlords are reluctant to rent to people out of province over the phone because if they rent it to someone who comes in from off the street instead, they don't have to worry about the lease being broken.

Finally we found the perfect apartment. Great! We'll have someone come in tomorrow with the check for the deposit. No problem, we'll hold it for you until then. The next day we found out that due to a miscommunication between rental office staff members, the apartment had been given to someone else and the lease was already signed. Me: Panic. John: Problem solving.

The arrangement we finally worked out is a bit convoluted, but we have a home and that's good enough for me. The short version is that we live in one apartment for the month of August and then we move to our 'permanent' apartment in September. That's the bad news. The good news is that we didn't have to pay first and last month's rent, only first month. And we didn't have to pay a damage deposit. And we're located exactly where we want to be. So I have no complaints.

And that was the last major detail! Everything was in place for the move!

In case you've been wondering what we've been up to...

I've decided to start a new blog, this time a journal to keep all of our loved ones back in the Maritimes (and in Calgary, bestest friend) up to date on all of the excitement and happenings as John and I attempt to start a new life here in Toronto. We've been overwhelmed by the love that we have been shown in terms of people offering to help us, to take us in, and to check in on us to make sure that we are safe and happy, so I thought it would be nice just to have a centralized place that anyone can check in on us whenever they like.

We are very safe and incredibly happy.

It's been close to a week since our adventure started which gives me lots to talk about, so I think I'll split this up over a few posts. Like any blog, I suggest you start at the bottom for the oldest posts and work your way up.