Friday, 30 September 2016

London Town: Details

Sooo, my last post contained too much chit chat and not enough photos! Nothing new there, HAHAHA! I thought I'd share more photos of what I've been up to here at home :)

I had a "play date" with a hilarious little runt (who I used to tutor in mathematics). I always make sure that I get girly time in with her while I'm home. Like me, she doesn't have an older sister (something I'd always wished for as a child), so I thought it'd be fun for her to hang out with someone who's a "big" (translation "old") sister. The coolest thing we did was make clay charms. Yeah, I'll always be a kid at heart. I do this with a friend's daughter as well, but somehow she and I didn't take ANY pictures. We were having too much fun I suspect :D

 We picked this up on a shopping trip to Indigo (Chapters)
Her pear :)
 My rendition of a crab, lol!
I made these two peas in a pod!
 She loves going to Sephora and swatching make-up. I treated myself to a RIDICULOUSLY expensive lipstick. I figured since I didn't splurge on anything in Oman, buying this was OK.
 Mostly, I bought it for sentimental reasons: it's my mother's name.
Gorgeous colour. Amazing formulation. Well worth the money.
My sister and I treated ourselves to haircuts and manicures since we almost never spend time together without my father (Nails: http://skinandnailscare.ca/ and hair: https://chatters.ca/).
I admit, I used to do this with whiteout in high school! Was I the only one who did that???
 My dad and I had a dinner date, too :)  We went for Korean at my favourite place: Kimchi House!!! Dolsot Bibimbap! YUMMY!!! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kimchi-House/192630934135965
 Dessert was bubble tea at the new Chatime that opened in the west end! My dad TRYING to steal my bubble tea! http://chatime.com/#home
J'aime bubble tea (Excuse my TERRIBLE French, please!).
 I tried out Dolcetto (in Byron) with friends after reading about their delicious breakfast menu. I had high hopes for this place, but firstly, there was no brunch the day we visited. Secondly, although I waiter was initially quite friendly, by the end of our visit he seemed annoyed with us. It wasn't the best food I've had, nor was it the best service I've had. GORGEOUS ambiance, but I wouldn't recommend it.  Website: http://www.dolcetto.ca/#page1/1
 The dining room (before it got busy!).
My calamari salad looks great, but it was sooo bland :(
I was on a "find the best breakfast spot in London" mission! My dad and I tried Edgar & Joe's (http://edgarandjoes.ca/). I LOVE the ideas behind this location. Here's one: "Reduce Stigma: Provide a platform to dialogue, showcase success stories and learn/understand mental illness and social disadvantage with a view to breaking down stigma and eliminating attitudinal barriers." Read more here: http://edgarandjoes.ca/about/
While the food here was good. Customer service was either great or not-so-great. The highlight??? The coffee. A-MAY-ZING! I still think that The Early Bird is the best breakfast spot in the city though (http://theearlybird.ca/).
I probably would have been more impressed by the food at local restaurants, but I kept getting STUNNING veg from my friends' gardens!!! Kale, swiss chard, tomatoes and basil which I used to make...
Garden vegetable soup!!!
I also made chard, kale and spinach smoothies (I added a ton of other ingredients as well: coconut water, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp hearts, honey, banana, orange, and strawberries).
 I couldn't resist! I made another banana loaf with almond and coconut flour. I can't get enough of this stuff!!!
A NEW pumpkin caramel cookie this year!!! I modified the recipe because there wasn't enough pumpkin flavour. I also reduced the baking soda because they were extremely "cakey" cookies. I'm not a fan of cakey cookies (as I discovered with the other pumpkin caramel cookies I made in Kuwait). Above: the batter.
Homemade caramel sauce!!!
The cookies fresh out of the oven. This wasn't the modified recipe. I modified it when I baked it at work (I help out working at a coffee shop named Wally's when I'm home: https://www.facebook.com/Wallys-Coffee-1458949661090902/?fref=ts).
My second attempt at Wally's was MUCH better! Yay!!!
A rare moment: the WHOLE gang at Wally's Coffee!!!
After shopping to make cheesecake :)
I'm not a fan of graham crackers, so if I can swap them out for something else, I WILL!!! The base consisted of Oreo cookie crumbs, toasted, crushed pecans and butter.
Before baking.
After baking: I made a turtle cheesecake for Josh's birthday. I think it turned out well! Everyone loved it and asked for the recipe.
 Honestly, it was SO decadent that I couldn't even finish my slice, lol! If you want the recipe, please let me know and I'll post it :)
The birthday boy with his birthday (cheese)cake!
Birthday Dinner: The spread!!! A lot of the veg came from the hosts' garden!!!
 Mmmm, barbecued ribs and chicken!!!
The highlight of dinner was the kale Caesar salad. The dressing was something to write home about!!! If you want a sample of Mo's AMAZING food, head over to Wally's Coffee! I promise you won't regret it!!!
Trying to get a group photo proved...Challenging! Embarrassingly, it took us WAAAY TOO MANY takes to get ONE good picture in. It was the timer!!! I swear! It was deceiving! None of us knew when the picture was going to be taken!!! Don't believe me? Laughs ahead...I mean below.
 "Do a funny pose!"
"Wait! Now?!?"
"No....NOW!"
"Doh!"
 Funny pose take TWO! Yeah, I couldn't stop laughing at the fact that we couldn't figure out the timer.
Birthday dinner!!! Look how tiny Kris looks! Why was I petting her on the head?!?
Toronto: I went to visit friends in Toronto and enjoyed lunch/dinner at The Hot House Restaurant (http://www.hothouserestaurant.com/).
Jambalaya!!! This was pretty dang good!!!
Crème brûlée was good, but not amazing :(
The next day, Jo bought this cheese (http://www.monfortedairy.com/) at the St. Lawrence Market (http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/), and THANKFULLY the Saturday Market (at the Western Fair Grounds in London) ALSO sells this! It's amazing and worth every pretty penny!!! I purchased lemon thyme bread from the Artisan Bakery (http://www.theartisanbakery.com/) to go with it! SOOO GOOD!!!

I'm still in London town for a bit while my visa for China is approved and processed. As I putter along here, I'll try to take more pictures, especially since we're transitioning from summer to autumn!!!

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Homecoming

This halfie Canuck's been enjoying summer back in Canada, leaving Oman only days before the Irish chef did. He went on a new adventure to Shanghai, China. I, on the other hand, have been socializing with friends and doing what I do best: eating. Now, please don't hate me, but I haven't taken pictures of half of the food I've been eating back at home. Shame, shame, Mik!!!

Travelling abroad this time around took a toll on the Irish chef and I. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I feel done with the middle east right now. It felt so dry last time, literally and metaphorically, that there's nothing pulling me back there. My job wasn't challenging or motivating, and even worse was that I felt something with the whole situation was off (we had water problems in our washroom for over a month that were never taken care of, and not being able to take a hot shower in my own apartment when a fully furnished, fully functioning flat was part of my contract, the company I was working for was not one I would ever recommend, co-workers treated each other terribly, etc...). It was a tough six months and I think it reminded me of what I will always love about the middle east, but also what I can no longer accept (lifestyle, work environment, location). In some ways, I feel the same about Canada, but the difference is that my family and friends are still in Canada.

I arrived back in London, sans checked-in luggage, and spent a few days acclimatizing to the obscene onslaught of humidity. I also find that each time I come back here, I need a few days to find my bearings. It gets more and more difficult to come back to Canada and return to the life I was living...Those days are looong gone. Once a few days passed, I announced to family and friends that I was back and chaos (the best kind) ensued!!! There was the wedding of close friends of mine and a 50th wedding anniversary party! Sunny days at the park, rainy beach days, campfires with burnt marshmallows and hot tub nights with homemade cider! There were pajama parties, girly nights out with my sister, dog sitting, cooking my dad homemade dinners, and there was even time in Toronto where I was able to see my besties! It's not over yet, but it's felt like the best summer in Canada in the past few years. I chalk it up to the fact that I've accepted that this place isn't my home. It's a temporary haven where a lot of my favourite people live :D

Speaking of favourite people, J&A's wedding was an amazing bilingual event (A is German and half of the guests flew in from Germany!!!). I was also lucky enough to recite a poem (Shakespeare's Sonnet 116-is there a better wedding poem?!?), do my friend's make-up (she was a bridesmaid!), and take care of the candy buffet!!! Did I make my dad come with me so I could use his senior discount at Bulk Barn?!? Heck yeah, I did!!!

J&A reciting their vows
 The first dance as husband wife became a choreographed highlight!
 It wouldn't be a Vagabond event (what my friends and I call ourselves) if there wasn't dancing!
 Josh ONLY wrote this when his wife wasn't around, hahaha!
Yes. These are my friends, lol!
 Kash has a tough time being serious :D
I think Jeve is the ONLY person whose dirty mind rivals mine.
 In the absence of the Irish chef, I went with my trusty date, Kris!
The bridesmaids with the groom.
I did M's make-up!!!

More wedding fun: I tend to do make-up for a few friends when I'm home. I do a friend's (Z's) make-up all the time! She's awesome and I love getting to fancy her up!

 The explosion of make-up at mine while I was doing Z's make-up for her cousin's wedding.
Z, on the left, looking gorgeous, as always!!!

Wedding Anniversary Party: I took quite a few pictures, but because this was at someone's home, I didn't feel comfortable posting...Sorry, all :(

 This is an AWESOME gift idea! My friend changed some of the facts from American to Canadian ones, but it turned out amazingly!
 When I looked at "What Things Cost" my heart hurt!
Grandkiddles and I!!! I spend time with these two nuts and their parents (all friends of mine!). Super awesome family!!! I felt very blessed to celebrate in such a big day!

Throughout August I waited on my new contract to begin in the UAE. I was anxious and excited about returning to the middle east. However, when, after almost nine months of waiting for the Ministry of Education to get it together, frustration won and I made a decision: stop chasing after the sun. I'm now waiting for approval on a visa to China; hopefully, I'll be reunited with my chef in the upcoming weeks!