Rainy weekend with Anthony Bourdain (and about hating Toronto)

One of my guilty pleasures is watching one of Anthony Bourdain’s food and travel show. ANY of his shows (now that he seems to have three of them that I know of – No Reservations, Layover and Parts Unknown).

This weekend was just filled with rain. And what better way to spend a rainy day watching Bourdain travel around the world, eating, drinking and really going off the beaten-path while you daydream that you are right next to him sharing his adventures?

Believe me – most of my fantasy vacations ideas stem from Mr. Bourdain.

And so I was at my parents’ place while Chaeli was at her equestrian riding lessons watching a 2012 episode of Layover. This one had him discovering the gems of Toronto:

It was, for the most part, a great episode of Toronto. The places he visited and the people he interviewed showed the true nature of my city. And while there were quick, random shots of the main attractions we are commonly known for, Bourdain quickly explained these areas as being just that – tourist traps – and quickly captured areas most tourists fail to every discover when they visit Toronto.

One thing that caught my attention right off the bat was one woman, at the very beginning, saying that Toronto is pretty much hated by all other cities and towns across Canada. That “they will find any reason to hate Toronto.”

To be honest, it’s something I’ve known for quite some time, but never actually experienced until I visited my husband’s hometown, Thunder Bay. And I never took it personally until the day came where I found myself treated in a way which was an extension of this strong dislike of an entire city.

THEN… it became personal. Imagine not being able to say anything around “family” as everything you say becomes judged based on the fact that you are from “the big, bad city.” Imagine that you are “the reason” all things they don’t agree with when it comes to their precious son. Imagine your extended family showing almost zero interest in your career because it depicts the typical big city career that is opposite of the simple country lifestyle that they fight so hard to keep alive.

I still remember the proud moment I spent months working on a digital, hard-bound, professional photo book about their first grandchild for my in-law’s Christmas present only to hear them say, “Oh… um… thank you.” Apparently, the digital photo book was replacing the old-fashioned handmade scrapbook which was a sign of how lazy people were getting (and these lazy people is what is depicted of the big city – on the contrary, I did not see myself as lazy but it is the best I could do with what little free time I had). And so, to try to do something they would really like, I made a handmade mini-scrap book for mother’s day only to be told that I should have written at least where the photo was taken or what the event was from (my husband was there and I saw him nudging his mother, whispering, “It doesn’t matter!”)

In some ways, I’ve been learning to actually not take it personally – this attitude from my husband’s hometown. The fact is, their discrimination has shielded them from not getting to know me. I was doomed before I was even born and on this path that lead me to my marriage and therefore, this union to my in-laws.

When they gripe about Toronto, most of it stems from jealousy – how we get all the attention and development, how we don’t realize how good we have it, etc. The list goes on. Basically, it’s the same sad story I hear a lot of people gripe about when their own lives has become unsatisfactory. I’ve been there myself, so I know exactly what I’m talking about. Many of life’s lessons learned that have helped me grow up.

This is what I want to say…

Get over it.

Do something to better your position you are in. A big move or small move. Anything. Rather than point fingers, lay blame, get all nasty and bitter, change YOUR situation so you needn’t be filled with so much hatred towards a city that, like any other city or town big and small, will have bad people and horrible things going on… but we also have great aspects and fantastic people as part of the community and larger culture.

Toronto is not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay. But this “Hate on Toronto” is getting real tiring. It’s time to move on…

It’s important to have good red wine on Mother’s Day

Doug, my firefighter husband was on shift yesterday. And it seems his shift always ends up on the Saturday which starts our Mother’s Day weekend. And so, like the last couple of years – here and here – Chaeli and I would have a pre-mother’s day celebration which consisted usually of brunch.

mother's day lunchThis year, we started off with a shellac manicure for her and a 50 minute spa pedicure for me. Oh the luxury of it all! Paid by Doug – he sent Chaeli off with cash.

Afterwards, Chaelli took me out for lunch at Moxie’s. It was more for the location as we needed to do some shopping at the mall afterwards where it was situated in. Plus she wanted to order their kid’s menu chicken bites which came with their “special effects” ice cream which can be seen here of the short video I took of it. Me? I went for it – ordered their 10″ New York strip loin and a glass of Californian Cabernet Sauvignon. 10 oz, please. none of this 5 oz deal. I mean what is that? That’s just enough for a taste-test!

Mother's Day giftI received two mother’s day presents early – one was Chaeli’s “Sundae” she made for me from school. It’s bath salts topped with a shower sponge. It was also topped with a strawberry marshmallow which she ate not long after she gave it to me after she said, “I know you can’t eat that so can I?” No sooner had I finished with, “Sure, go ahead,” she had snatched and ran upstairs with it. :)

My present to myself – I small shopping spree at LCBO where I bought a bunch of Cabernet Sauvignon – Beringer, Robert Mondavi and from the vintage section, Francis Coppola. Believe it or not, Mr. Coppola (or his winery experts) makes a mean cab sav. I bought it for fun during a family dinner event we were hosting but have gone back to purchase this inexpensive vintage several times now! It does not disappoint. Here is the link to the LCBO page.

Carnivor Cabernet SauvignonI also bought a new brand to me – Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ll admit – I judged a book by it’s cover for this one. The name and design of the bottle had this goth-vampire feel to it. And as I suspected we might end our evening with a mother-daughter Vampire Diaries festival, I decided this was a must purchase.

For those who enjoy a very full and firm body red, this is also an inexpensive go-to. Hints of blackberry, caramel and roasted coffee makes this wine very flavourful! Which unfortunately also makes it easy to drink with or without food. Basically? It goes down like juice!

ramekin capress eggsDoug and Chaeli made me one of my favourite brunch this morning – Ramekin Caprese Eggs with bacon and asparagus w/ cherry tomatoes on the side. This is always a hit for me. And I wasn’t allowed to help which allowed me time to actually sit down with my delicious coffee to start this blog post!

We’re off to Chaeli’s riding lessons soon – which we Doug and I will take Hobbes on the nearby trail for a walk. On our way home, we will stop by my mom’s to surprise her with a lovely yellow Kalanchoe plant Chaeli picked out for her while shopping at Whole Foods.

a story behind each banner image

I’ve added more images to my rotating header (what I especially like about this WordPress theme – aside from just a clean look). I have now 13 images that randomly rotate and appear at the top of my blog each time the page is refreshed.

Each of them have a story of their own:

Magog, Quebec – These mason jar ceiling lights caught my fancy as we left the Microbrasserie la Memphré for the first night’s dining choice during our Quebec ski/board trip.

mason jar chandelier

Third Street Promenade – Ah Santa Monica. My third and hopefully not my last visit. I was here December 2014 for business but each night, after dinner, I would walk the pier and Third Street Promenade. There was always live music which fit the mood of the beautiful Christmas lights.

Third Street Promenade - Santa Monica

Frozen – I took it just this morning (December 22nd, 2013) after a freezing rain storm which has swept across our city for the past couple of days. It finally will end sometime later today but the ice will probably remain for a bit. The branches were so heavy from the ice, one of our trees in the backyard split in half and our patio is now completely blocked off from one of that tree.

cropped-frozen-wp-1000x288.jpgRue D’ Baga – Snapped from our Port Orleans resort streets while we stayed in Disneyworld earlier this year. The street name was called, “Rue D’Baga” which was where our room was on.

rue-d-baga.jpgRain on windshield – Taken during our little day trip to Niagara Falls on our 8th wedding anniversary. Yes, it was a rainy day but actually, it made for a nice, quiet day since not many people were traveling through the Niagara wine route.

rain.jpgSea shells – This was from our last full day while visiting Ada and Hoa in Vancouver (while they were still living there). the sea shells were dangling from the deck just outside this little place called Go Fish. best fish taco’s ever!

sea-shells.jpgnorthern california – these next two goes back to 2007 where doug and i did an anniversary trip to san francisco, monterey bay and carmel. the trip also doubled as an excuse to visit friends who just had a baby girl. the below photo is part of the 17 mile drive, followed by another taken along highway 1’s coast.


cropped-copy-main-banner-3.jpgThe Roundhouse – Another photo from our Vancouver 2012 trip. We snapped this photo while just Doug, Chaeli and I were exploring randomly on our own through areas of downtown Vancouver – Gastown, water front and where this photo was taken, Yaletown.

cropped-yaletown-wp1000x288.jpgNeys Park – Our first time using our little old trailer! we took a road trip to Thunder bay in 2011, tugging Doug’s late grandfather’s trailer back, while stopping at Neys Provincial Park to camp out for one night. It was a beautiful park but way too cold to enjoy once the sun set. I was glad it was only just for a night before we drove to a nice, warm motel in the Souix.

cropped-lakesuperior-wp1000x288.jpgKillbear Park – The next two photos were taken during our summer camping trip of 2010 in Killbear Provincial Park. Hobbes was only 3 1/2 months old and had only been with us for three weeks. And what happens? He encounters a black bear!

cropped-killbear-wp1000x288.jpgcropped-killbear2-wp1000x288.jpgPeacocks – This particular image of three proud, male peacocks, was taken when we went to the zoo with Tai, B and their kids, M & E. It was their first trip to the zoo as a family. all the kids look so different now. I am favouring this one at the moment because of the beautiful, intense blue.


Camping craves

After my last post about our winter get-away I’ve been really anxious to go camping again. We didn’t got as often as we wanted last year. There were two outstanding trips – one to Sharbot Lake and our Thanksgiving weekend in Awenda – we basically didn’t do any other camp trips. And even this summer is looking to be a challenge but we’re hoping to fit the usual four in. One for each month from June to September.

This past weekend, I started to pull out my summer clothes. I ‘m going through all my shorts and t-shirts making mental notes of things that are getting a bit old. Since we started to go camping more regularly, I don’t get rid of my older clothes (anything that might be fading or showing a bit of wear and tear). I put it in the “camping drawer” category.

And the thing is – a part of me that misses camping is because I miss wearing those camping clothes!

No – wait. Let me be a bit more honest. I think I just like the fact that I have an excuse to dress a bit like a bum. :)

Quebec Ski/Board Trip – March Break 2015

Doug got what he’s wished for. A winter week off for some skiing far enough away from home where he feels like he’s not skiing on wimpy Ontario hills. I can’t say I blame him – it’s nice to be on longer runs even though this year, after being sick with a respiratory bug for 8 weeks, I was at my weakest state for my snowboarding season. I hadn’t had any practice until our first day at Owls Head in Quebec, near Magog.

So let me just say this – I did enjoy the road trip to our neighbouring province. The two towns we stayed in were beautiful and the hospitality we received from the people there were just simply wonderful! But the actual boarding part was a challenge for me. I have never been on anything outside of our dinky Ontario ski hills. And the first day’s condition were icy and windy. It was snowing as well – so with the gusts of wind, visibility was low. I was using new bindings that were proving difficult to get in and out of, especially after wiping out and trying to board with bruised ribs for the remaining week (I did take the next day after my accident to just go snow shoeing).

Would I do it again? Probably. As frustrated as I was while boarding in such conditions, I do want to try again. And hope I’ll go in with better strength and stamina.

Hotel Et Spa Etoile Sur Le Lac - Magog, QCMagog sur Le LacWe stayed at this beautiful inn on the lake – Etoile-sur-la-lac – during our first two days skiing at Owls Head. Our patio faced the lake. The hotel was very nice – our package included a sit-down breakfast with choices from their menu.

Magog - sunset across the lakeMagog - sunset by the marina

Microbrasserie la Memphré - MagogMagog itself is a charming town with year round activities. Everywhere we walked, however, was very picturesque. For the first night, we went into town for dinner, finding ourselves at a great ambiance-type pub – Microbrasserie la Memphré. It was a little cool that night but not cold enough for us to decide to walk for 15 minutes to this pub. It gave us a chance to watch the sunset acoss the lake.

The food in Magog for the three nights we stayed was lovely. The Microbrasserie (see above chandeliers made of mason jars) allowed me to try duck confit salad and duck wings as appetizers. Chaeli, of course, had poutine. The next two nights I treated myself to a lovely salmon entree and then some sweetbreads (finally!)

Owl's Head, QuebecOwl's Head - QuebecThe view from the top of Owl’s Head was spectacular. The resort itself, however, felt a little old. And the clientele was so-so. One thing that can’t be beat is their $20 all day ski-lift tickets for Monday to Wednesday skiing.

Sutton, QuebecMont Sutton

Tire sur la neigeFor our final day of skiing/boarding, we made our way back to Sutton for a day at Mont Sutton. Knowing what we know now, we’re definitely not only going back to this ski resort next year, but we’re going to spend our entire time just at this location.

Not only were we impressed with the way this ski resort was run but there was a significant difference with the faithful Mont-Sutton-fans. While it’s a public ski hill, it had that private club feel but not in a pretentious way. More like a very large family welcoming any new comers.

Both Doug and Chaeli also preferred the variety of runs – stating it was more fun especially the ones that weaved in and out of trees. Chaeli also got to experience Tire sur la neige – a Quebec treat which is freshly made maple syrup mixed with snow on a stick. They were make this at one of the upper chalets!

While I’ve never been to one of the bigger places like Mount Tremblant, I don’t think I can anymore. The crowd and line-ups just to get on a lift doesn’t sound like fun. We hardly had to wait for more than a couple of minutes to get on the chair lift and both places had a more off-the-beaten-path feel to it.

Auberge Agnes Horth - Sutton QuebecAuberge Agnes Horth - Sutton QuebecFor our last night in Sutton, we stayed at this great country inn – Auberge Agnes Horth. The couple that runs this in made our stay so welcoming. Breakfast and dinner are included and let me just say the home-cooked meals were fantastic!

Chaeli was in heaven with her lasagna. Doug and I had the Montreal steaks. And the red wine pairing could not be beat. We ordered a bottle – why not. Our room was just upstairs.