My Last Time in Downtown Toronto | Delicious Desserts and More!

Happy Monday!

Most people who know me know that I adore Mondays. I think they are an excellent time to reset, bounce back from the weekend, and set new goals and new plans to achieve them. I started my Monday with a great mug of tea and a wonderful bowl of creamy peanut butter oatmeal with banana slices and the richest yogurt. 🙂

Saturday was a bit of a dark and dreary day, so I had plenty of time to type up my work term report. The co-op program at the University of Waterloo requires co-op students to write a 6-8 page reflection every semester. This time, I discussed how my current job (tutoring at Centennial College) differs from my previous job (clinical assistant at the Toronto Health Centre).

I also designed this Studying 101 booklet cover page, which was inspired by blog layouts.

Yesterday, I did a major scraping of the dryer’s lint filter. Holy cow. 🐮 I’m surprised that there were no fires due to this big mountain of lint. Crazy!

  • On the left: my backyard, which, for some unknowing reason, has a picnic bench
  • On the left: the beautiful Trinity-Bellwoods park, which is such an active and fun place (I’d love to live near this neighbourhood in the future)

I’d love to live near Trinity-Bellwoods park because Nadège is nearby. I love this bakery wholeheartedly, and have been here several times. In fact, it was my first destination on my first visit to Toronto. Everything is a winner here.

My next stop was Delysèes, home to some of the most beautiful cakes and pastries I’ve ever seen. Their pistachio croissant is one of my favourite sweet, nutty breakfast baked goods, and their macarons and individual cakes are equally stunning and delicious. The rose one is beautiful, as is the blue gemstone!

And yes, I always spend a little too much money here, thanks to my indecisiveness. Should I get the vanilla-hazelnut or the pistachio? I love hazelnut cream, but pistachio is so good. What should I do… why not just try them both?

Lunch involved some great flatbread from Forno Cultura. This one was called the Rapini, and was topped with charred, smoky rapini, garlic chips, plenty of sauteed onions, and slightly acidic tomato sauce that paired nicely with creamy, rich parmesan. The star of the show, however, was the crispy spiced crust.

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I headed to Butter Avenue for dessert, where I ordered this adorable ube chestnut choux. I’ve seen pictures of this pastry on Butter Avenue’s Twitter and Instagram, and knew I had to try it.

  • the choux pastry was like a crispy cream puff crossed with a Chinese pineapple (bolo) bun, crackly on the outside but fresh, rich, and buttery inside
  • the mashed and sweetened ube (purple sweet potato) enveloped a mountain of delicate chestnut cream, which tasted amazing with the choux
  • deep inside, there was a hazelnut sable, which was hands-down one of the best nut-based cookies I have ever eaten – now, I really want to try baking hazelnut sable
  • the snowman was made of white chocolate, and completely edible

Goodnight, Toronto.

Then I was underground again, being whisked off to Scarborough. 😥 I was exhausted by the time I returned home…

… but not too exhausted to take photos of the goodies I’d purchased! Hazelnut-chocolate sandwich cookies and hot chocolate mix from SOMA Chocolatemaker.

Hazelnut hot chocolate and malted milk hot chocolate that I absolutely cannot wait to dive into. I’ve tried them both before, and they are absolutely scrumptious. Expensive, but it’s chocolate. Justified.

The cakes that I mentioned? The ones I bought from Delysèes? This is what they looked like after a day of prancing around Toronto. Completely deconstructed, but completely edible. I can’t wait to have this Russian chocolate mousse bomb and the salted caramel and Nutella pillow. I also have a tasty, unpictured pistachio éclair hiding in that white box.

That’s pretty much it for today, except one thing – I went to the library yesterday and now have a mini-list of books to check out.

New-to-me books that I want to read:

Have a beautiful week, everyone! I am going to enjoy mine more than usual, since it’s my last week in Scarborough (and Ontario) for a whole year. ❤

Charcoal Waffles ♡_♡

Mmmm, pizza. It’s been a while since I’ve had truly, truly amazing pizza and this one from Lamanna’s, an Italian bakery and hot table in Scarborough, did not disappoint. Smothered in provolone and mushrooms, the toppings were simple and tasty – but the crust, charred to perfection, was my favourite part.

Dessert? Large gelato with a scoop of pistachio and a scoop of hazelnut (check out that size compared to the little gelato spoon and my water bottle!) – followed by an unpictured lobster tail cream pastry. Talk about an amazing lunch!

Another day, I had lunch at Light Cafe in downtown Toronto, a chic and modern new spot in Baldwin Village.

The truffled mushroom croissant is their specialty, loaded with creamy truffle mayonnaise, sliced tomato, shiitake mushrooms, and lettuce. The croissant was toasted and tasted fresh. Salad was dressed in sesame, and had plenty of fresh tomatoes inside.

The soup was another highlight: rich, creamy, savoury Lobster Bisque!

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For dessert, I had to order the famous Light Cafe dish – black sesame waffles. There were four heart-shaped black sesame waffles, made with charcoal for that incredible colour, a little vial of rich sesame syrup, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and a scoop of black sesame ice cream. All of it was devoured. 😇

Waffles with ice cream is hands-down one of my favourite desserts of all time, and bonus points for special-flavoured waffles like ube (purple yam, specialty of the Philippines), black sesame, or red bean.

This is one of my favourite photographs from my trip downtown. I love how 50% of it is that urban traffic look with trees in the back, and the other half is a pretty lake with trees, and apartments in the back. The contrast is cool!

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The reason for my Toronto trip? Stock. Up. On. Muffins. Since I don’t go downtown very often, and I won’t be going often anymore since it’s starting to get chilly, I bought plenty of muffins, chopped ’em into thirds or quarters, and stashed them in the freezer. These are some of the muffins I remember:

  • blueberry streusel
  • blueberry bran
  • plain blueberry
  • blueberry scone
  • lemon poppyseed
  • carrot
  • banana chocolate chip
  • mixed berry and oat
  • cornmeal
  • lemon currant scone
  • ginger scone

There were definitely more, but that’s all for the ones I can recall. 😎 Apparently, I seem to like muffins a lot?

Excitement. In the form of a delicious plate of coconut Thai green curry with broccoli, mushrooms, onion, and carrots – and in the form of a new book. Sci-fi isn’t really my genre, but this one, RUSH by Eve Silver, had me intrigued all the way through.

A trip to the library meant I took lots more snapshots of the books that are on my to-be-read list. I can’t wait to take these out and see if they’re good.

On Mid-Autumn Festival, which is like Chinese Thanksgiving, I had an incredible meal at a buffet called Dragon’s Pearl, with friends of my grandfather. I. Love. Buffets. So what did I enjoy this time?

  • yorkshire pudding, mashed potatoes and gravy
  • steamed ginger and scallion fish
  • Japanese sweet egg, bean curd sushi, other assorted sushi
  • stir-fried vegetables, crispy stir-fried noodles
  • peking duck on a flatbread, with sweet and sour sauce and cucumber
  • creamy crab salad
  • crispy shrimp cakes
  • garlic mussels
  • grilled salmon and plaintains

Dessert was just as delicious.

  • tiramisu
  • green tea cake
  • sweet sesame mochi ball (favourite)
  • regular cheesecake
  • unsweetened cheesecake
  • bread pudding with golden raisins, whipped cream on top (#2 favourite)
  • English trifle
  • kiwi custard tart

Do you like buffets? I’m a sucker for variety, so I adore buffets!

One morning, I had some quiet time to myself in the office so I started designing a new poster for the Integumentary System, which is the system about human skin, hair, and nails.

Totally random note here. This is such a beautiful logo! I like graphic design a lot and want to learn more about designing lettering.

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Speaking of graphic design, I’m creating a PDF doc of Anatomy-related study tips. The entire study guide is written out now, but I’m figuring out how I’d like to design the other pages. What do you think?

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That’s pretty much it for today, guys. Hope you all have the most wonderful rest of the week. 🙂

A Different Kind of Summer

In summer 2014, I spent an exciting two months working full-time in the French-speaking village of St-Eustache, Quebec. In summer 2015, my sister and I lived in Magny-le-Hongre, near the awe-inspiring city of Paris, France. Summer 2016 was spent in Kathmandu, where I volunteered in the surgical ward of Nepal’s only paediatric hospital. Needless to say, my previous three summers were not only invigorating, but also filled with learning and creating fun memories.

As for summer 2017? School.

Because the Kinesiology co-op program at the University of Waterloo follows a school-work-school-work pattern that alternates every four months, I had to spend the months of May, June, July, and a large chunk of August, in Waterloo, where I lived in lecture halls and my ant-infested apartment. Every day was a blurred cycle of study time, lectures, study time, labs, and more study time. The most important thing I learned this semester? It’s probably not the best idea to take six courses and two labs in a shortened semester. Especially if Biomechanics is involved.

In August, I had two year’s worth of furniture and useless junk that I’d accumulated – to either throw away or take home. Fortunately, people came and bought all my furniture, printers, mattress and air mattress, and others. For five nights, during final exams week, I slept on the floor in a furniture-less room, used scarves for a blanket, and studied at Menchies (which, by the way, has great wifi). Moving in the midst of final exams was a nightmare; to make it worse, I live on the fourth floor and we aren’t blessed with an elevator. I didn’t think things could get any worse until my mom discovered that my September house, for my work term in Scarborough, was a scam. Not only did we lose our deposit, but I also had to urgently search for a place to live. Before my flight home, my suitcase ended up being fifty pounds overweight, so I had to purchase a new suitcase and re-pack on the spot.

You can probably tell that this summer didn’t quite live up to the others.

The day after my last final exam and a disastrous apartment inspection, I said a bittersweet (mostly sweet) goodbye to my bare apartment and hopped onto the plane to go back to British Columbia. I hadn’t been home since summer 2016, since I did my first term of second year from September to December in Waterloo, stayed in Waterloo during Christmastime, then worked in Toronto from January through April, and started my second term of second year in May. Over a year without my dog, over a year without the cozy bedroom that I shared with my sister, over a year without Chinese buns from my grandparents, and over a year of spotty FaceTime calls that meant to serve as a virtual replacement for my flesh-and-blood family.

I must’ve been really happy to be home because I cried a lot of involuntary tears that night. Had I subconsciously been missing my family that much? Or was I truly just grateful for good Vancouver sushi? Or, maybe I was simply thrilled to be sleeping on a surface that wasn’t hardwood floor. We’ll never know.

28 days. That’s how much time I spent in Coquitlam with my family. I normally dislike using clichés, but the four weeks seemed to fly. My sister, Seline, turned my summer from a hectic, stressful time into a hilarious, though restful, month that included Elf Bowling, Barbie princess movies, audiobooks and naps, and pimple stickers.

Seline taught me how to dab, and though I’m about a year late, I’m glad she finally helped me onto the bandwagon. She taught me how Masterchef and The Bachelorette work. She showed me how to play with kinetic sand, and how to whip on any bass drop. She showed me how to hashtag, how to speak robotically, apply face masks with an oil painting brush, and how to caw like a crow. She taught me how to beat all the Survival levels on Plants vs. Zombies using downloadable cheats. Seline taught me how to use words like “conspicuous”, “rebound”, “low-key”, “pompadour”, and “injudicious”. She also taught me that I should never sleep facing her, otherwise I may wake up with tiny blobs of lotion applied systematically on every square inch of my face.

We got our nails painted, window shopped, watched plenty of dystopian/apocalyptic movies, ate incredible sushi, and made the stickiest homemade slime. We sang. Les Miserables and too much Whitney Houston, to be exact. If I sang back in Ontario, I’d be evicted from my student apartment because I can’t carry a tune. At all.

We watched America’s Got Talent, vlogs, and diving championships. Seline, who studies Japanese in school and lived in Japan over the spring, introduced me to her new favourite anime. We practiced talking in British accents (she’s mastered it). We had coffee and tea with several of our wonderful high school teachers, and even spent a day at the University of British Columbia, where Seline and I browsed the fascinating Beaty Biodiversity Museum, the Museum of Anthropology, and the picturesque Nitobe gardens.

We explored restaurants in Vancouver, one of which was a trendy vegan dinner joint, where Seline and I munched on falafels with the wise and organized, yet humble, Vivian Tsang (UBC Schulich Leader). We felt so honoured to have had the opportunity to chat with Vivian before she started medical school.

Seline and I read books. Despite being picky, I’ve always been an avid reader with a love for straightforward YA novels packed with character development and plot twists. Seline introduced me to Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, an unpredictable and intricate cross between The Hunger Games, X-Men, Game of Thrones, and 1984. I also rekindled my love for the hauntingly beautiful When They Fade by Jeyn Roberts, a creative paranormal novel about the afterlife that had me intrigued for months. It’s been a while since I’ve fallen heads-over-heels in love with fictional characters, but I was so completely infatuated that I contacted the author, who was living in Vancouver at the time. One of the highlights of my summer was having coffee with Jeyn Roberts herself, the thoughtful and talented author who was kind enough to answer our questions about her richly-imagined characters and the writing process.

My family spent three days on Salt Spring Island, where Seline and I wrote terrible poetry, ate goat milk gelato, collected sand dollars, and attempted to paddleboard. We savoured many long and bumpy car rides while blasting Despacito (apparently, my dad’s all-time favourite song) and trying to sing Russian opera.

Thank you, Seline, for turning my summer around in four short weeks. You were absolutely a glittery glimmer of joy in what I’d expected would be a serious, solely-school, empty shell of a summer. I wish you a spectacular first semester of Grade 12, and I can’t wait to learn more from you – in precisely 101 days.

August 26th: National Dog Day!

Today is Saturday, August 26th, which is National Dog Day.

So, what better day is there, to celebrate our furry buddies? In other words, I’d love to show you about 659 photos of my special friend, Arnie.

As some of you may know, I have a family doggie called Arnold, or Arnie. Normally, my mom walks him, plays with him, feeds him, and takes care of him.

Arnie’s mother was a beautiful golden retriever, and his father was a nice black lab. We picked him up from a farm in Chilliwack, and he has brothers and sisters all around Metro Vancouver.

We’ve had Arnie since he was just a few weeks old, and he is now nine years old. His birthday was early August. I can’t believe I’ve been with him since Grade 7 – I’m now going into my third year of university.

Arnie is friendly, loves licking people, and enjoys suntanning, getting his fur brushed, and prancing around the local parks.

Now that I am back for the summer, I have plenty of time to play with him and take him for morning walks.

Apparently he also likes to read? Here, he’s taking a peek at Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. He approves of the plot twist 😉

Side note: I. Need. To. Discuss. This book with someone! Shoot me a PM?

Happy National Dog Day!

A Seriously Cool Day

Yesterday was one of the most exciting days of my summer so far. For one, I started the day with two delicious sweet potato waffles topped with nut butter, and honeyed Greek yogurt on the side. I’m enjoying the last few cartons of berries that we have, before they are completely out of season and too pricey. I am officially in love with waffles – goodbye, pancakes! For now. If only I could bring the waffle maker to Ontario with me in a couple of weeks!

My sister, Seline, and I went downtown. We always map out our walking route, in case it gets too hot and we don’t feel like walking more than we should. Yesterday, we hit all of the spots in the photo on the right.

For lunch, we visited Guu Original Thurlow in Vancouver, where Seline had the teriyaki chicken don (bowl), served over rice with pickled vegetables, nori (seaweed), miso soup, and a cold soba noodle salad.

My lunch was equally delicious: seared saba mackerel with rice, miso soup, and the side of the day, which was the cold soba noodle salad. I loved the soba noodles and wish I cooked them at home more often.

After that, we went to Faubourg Paris, where we met up with author Jeyn Roberts. If we’ve talked in the last two weeks, you’ll know that I am completely infatuated by her novel When They Fade, about a murdered girl’s afterlife and her determination to save a bullied girl.

I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to ask numerous questions about the book, her writing process and writing environment, influences, and others. We learned so much about her incredible experiences, and felt honoured to receive copies of her other novels, Dark Inside, Rage Within, and The Bodies We Wear. We couldn’t thank her enough. ❤

Completely random side note for Vancouver foodies: the strawberry-banana smoothie, and the London Fog tea latte at Faubourg Paris (Robson/Hornby) are absolutely delicious, and I’d highly recommend them both.

But, even more than a cup of tea, I’d recommend reading this book. How can you refuse such a beautiful cover and intriguing storyline? My sister, who loves romance novels, was satisfied with the very believable, and very cute, relationships that develop in this book. You will fall in love with these characters, I promise.

I also changed my laptop’s wallpaper to Buntzen Lake, one of the most beautiful places in BC, in my opinion. I hope my family will be able to make some time to see Buntzen soon.

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That’s it for today! Have a beautiful, beautiful weekend.

Book Review: When They Fade

So, every once in a while, I fall head over heels in love with a captivating book. This one, When They Fade by Jeyn Roberts, was one that I found while living in downtown Toronto over the winter. Recently, I gave the book another read (or three, let’s be honest) and my love for the characters and synopsis was rekindled.

The first time I found the book, I immediately knew that I needed to give it a read. The summary is compelling, and I couldn’t stop reading. In Chapters, I found myself gawking at the pages in shock, and had tiny tears at one point. When They Fade is a well-executed rendition, with a modern twist, of the hitchhiking ghost urban legend. This fresh take on the afterlife is painted in a fascinating light that will have you intrigued from page one.

I know. This is a food blog. With the most random tidbits of life and dogs and travel. But this novel has me so enthralled that I need to share it with you all.

I would describe my favourite genre of book as “hauntingly beautiful”. The Lovely Bones, about a murdered teenager watching over her family and murderer, by Alice Sebold, captured my heart several years ago. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins was another favourite – I live for the suspense, the shock, the emotions. I’m also big on crime and paranormal horror with subtle (probably cliché but relatively believable) romance, à la R.L. Stine in his Fear Street novels. I was also a fan of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, and If I Stay, both of which are classic YA thrillers that became movies. Finally, strong characters (i.e. S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders) and a powerful, though mysterious, resolution (like in Louis Sachar’s Holes) are key, in my own figurative book.

Title: When They Fade

Author: Jeyn Roberts

Goodreads Rating: 3.52


Summary

TATUM is the only person at school who knew the truth about the affair her best friend, Claudette, has been having with Mr. Paracini, their married teacher. And at the time, confiding in an adult seemed like the right thing to do. But now, everyone in town has turned against Tatum, painting her as a liar and a rat. As the bullying from her classmates escalates, it seems that nowhere is safe for her anymore.

MOLLY, a hitchhiker, was brutally murdered in the early 1970s, but there is no afterlife for her. Instead, she has found herself marooned with a crowd of other people who have also died tragically. Molly is able to fade back to earth for a few fleeting moments, and when she fades, she finds herself hitchhiking once again, and telling the unsuspecting drivers, things about their future that only she can see.

One foggy night, Tatum sneaks out for a drive. The teenage hitchhiker she picks up doesn’t talk much, until she suddenly turns to Tatum and says: “You’re going to die. It will hurt and you’ll be alone. And no one will help you.”

And then she disappears. As the two girls’ stories converge, Tatum and Molly will discover that they must first figure out how to help the other in order to save themselves.

“This affecting story of one young woman’s struggle to understand her meaningless death and another’s battle with bullies will likely appeal to readers of books like Everlost by Neal Shusterman.”

-The Phoenix Book Company


Dead Characters

All characters in Molly’s afterlife are victims of early, sadistic, slow, and painful deaths. They live in a stagnant, “purgatory-like” island that doesn’t change, as they wait. They grieve over the tragic and shocking ways they left the earth, and we see snippets of their lives from flashbacks. Occasionally, these characters “fade” into the real world, to places significant before their deaths, where they often unintentionally scare humans.

  1. Molly Bellamy: the protagonist of this novel, who tells her side from first-person point of view, was fifteen years old when she was tortured and killed mercilessly in 1970. A whimsical, naive, self-proclaimed “foolish” girl, she left her parents, brother Marcus, and best friend Andrea, to live in a travelling hippie family with fiancé Julian, who she met in a Woodstock music festival. She was killed by Walter, the leader of the commune, who she viewed as a father. When Molly fades, she hitchhikes, and possesses the uncanny ability to recognize the secrets of the people who drive her (premonitions). I was completely immersed in her sixties hippie life.
  2. Parker: Parker was only eighteen when he was mistaken for someone else in London, 1923, and stabbed to death. Serious, thoughtful, and protective, Parker and Molly grow close in their quest to save Tatum. I would have loved to learn more about his relationship with Molly, and how it developed over the last five decades. Also, my hands-down absolute favourite character in When They Fade.
  3. Mary: In 1888, Mary was killed by a drunk man. In the afterlife, she remains in her corset and is full of entertaining lines and provides morbid notes of comedic relief.
  4. Old lady from Boston, Louis Chen, Canadian rocker, other murdered characters: Every character has a unique tale, whether it’s being electrocuted in the bathtub by a roommate, or being strangled over some drugs. I was very intrigued by these characters and wish I could learn more about their lives, passions, interests, and time periods.

Living Characters

All living characters live in Hannah, a city in Washington. They attend a small high school.

  1. Tatum: After spilling a secret to protect her best friend, Claudette, the tables turn to make her look like a psychotic, desperate liar. From midnight text messages to Facebook death threats to slashed car tires, the bitter Tatum manages to resist the bullying etched into her life. She befriends Molly after picking up the dead girl during a bout of hitchhiking, and discovers that she is destined for murder. I loved how Tatum has her own flaws – she isn’t the perfect victim.
  2. Claudette Nesbitt: Tatum’s ex-BFF, a manipulative “teenage temptress” who has an affair with their high school teacher. She was painted as a horrible two-faced sociopath who manages to make the entire town of Hannah ostracize Tatum.
  3. Graham, Levi Tessier, Juniper Hefner: Claudette’s friends, who are relentless in harassing Tatum. I wish these characters were “fleshed out” more. I’d love to know their stories, because it was difficult to believe the lengths that these “uninvolved” students would go to tear up the reputation of an innocent classmate.
  4. Mr. Paracini: the teacher who has an affair with Claudette, his student, and creates a web of lies to pin the blame on the innocent Tatum.
  5. Scott: potential love interest for Tatum? It was pretty cute. I ship it.

Things I Loved

  • the tiny details that bring the story to life: mud squelching, fog swirling around feet, seeds stuck to hair
  • I enjoyed the friendship, and how it builds, as the two incredibly-different girls bridge the gap between their paths of existence and their determination to courageously help each other and overcome personal struggles
  • creepy and morbid at times, yet hauntingly beautiful in a grisly way
  • thrilling, sharp, and the non-paranormal parts are real enough to be believable
  • excellent portrayal of escalating mental and physical abuse, and the long-lasting damage that it can do
  • gripping, compelling, entertaining
  • realistic bullying anecdotes in Tatum’s life and horrific details surrounding Molly’s final moments
  • subtle, consistent tension
  • diversity of characters: although the main characters and supporting characters were extremely white – as in, American hippie hitchhiker whose best friends are a British guy with a bowler hat and a London female wearing a petticoat, and super-blonde teenagers in the most small-town American school imaginable – there are occasional mentions of characters of colour (more diversity would be nice)
  • friendship was strong, and the supporting characters, Scott and Parker, had believable yet complicated motivations. They developed slight romances with Tatum and Molly, respectively, which added to the plot
  • satisfying writing, with a beautiful story arc that builds up in suspense, and resolves quite smoothly
  • great perspective on the afterlife
  • powerful friendships and betrayals
  • the unpredictable climax that made me gasp audibly
  • incites readers’ sympathy
  • Molly’s point of view is written in first-person present, and Tatum’s in third-person present – I almost never see authors write in third-person present, but Roberts accomplished this smoothly.

The author, Jeyn Roberts, graduated from UBC with a degree in writing and psychology. She lives in Vancouver today, and has written several other award-winning books such as The Bodies We Wear and Dark Inside.

Can this become a movie? 😏

Anyways, read this book.