Choose amazing.

Category: Life Moments

“It’s my birthday month.”

Birthday FreebiesContrary to what others might say about me, I don’t really like being the centre of attention, and as such, I don’t really like throwing a birthday party for myself. If I do have a big party (which I have for the past couple of years), it’s because I want all my friends to have fun. That being said, I use my birthday as an excuse to get anything I want, and I celebrate all month long.

This year, I spent my birthday walking around downtown Toronto to collect all my birthday freebies that different companies offer! Starbucks gives you a big fancy birthday drink, Menchies gives you a free froyo cup (up to $5) and as most girls know, Sephora gives you different birthday gifts every year. Yes, all of these perks come with memberships, but they’re all free to sign up, so why not!

A couple other places that give you free things are Tuckers Marketplace and Wok of Fame (free buffet dinner), Booster Juice (free drink coupon), Pickle Barrel (app/dessert with purchase of entree), What-a-Bagel (free 6 bagels with purchase of 6 bagels), and Spoonful (1/2 price buffet dinner). There are a bunch on this list that I found online.

Lou Dawgs

Lou Dawg’s – 589 King St W., Toronto

So I woke up on the noon of my 24th birthday with a hankering for BBQ. I had been having flashbacks to our outing that had included the Lancaster Smokehouse in Kitchener, so I headed out to the closest place to the condo, Lou Dawg’s BBQ. I’ve seen a few Lou Dawgs around, and the Belly Monsters informed me that they weren’t bad. I had a breakfast birthday beer followed by their two meat platter — pulled pork and brisket — which came with two sides — coleslaw and baked beans, my weakness. I also ordered a cheesy jalapeno cornbread, because really, who can say no to that combination? The platter ($14.99) is a great value and it comes with a bun sliced in half for you to make sandwiches if that’s what your heart desires.

Now, I don’t know why I broke my rule of never ordering pulled pork at a restaurant. It is always disappointing and this one was no different. It tasted like what I can make in my slow cooker. I put it in the bread with my coleslaw, which made it marginally better.

The brisket was a little better. Soft, delicious, but sitting in a pool of grease and fat smothered in barbecue sauce. However, when you drain the fattiness at the bottom from the meat, it is actually quite delicious. They also serve the bbq with two different sauces on the side. The hot sauce is not so hot.

The cornbread was a muffin with pieces of japaleno in it. It was really yummy but disappointingly dry. The cheese on top was crispy and chewy and delicious. I did love the coleslaw and baked beans though. The beans were smokey and perfectly sweet. The coleslaw was the right about of tangy and crunchy. The sides were definitely the highlight of the whole lot, along with the funny and upbeat bartender/waiter.

boston pizza

Boston Pizza – 2915 Eglinton Ave W., Mississauga

Yes, I do not only eat at independent restaurants. We actually eat at chain restaurants quite often when we’re trying to please everyone and just need a quick bite. This night was just some wings and desserts. These Caesars were probably the worst Caesar I’ve ever had. The bacon was bleh. There was too much vodka, and not enough tomato flavour, or any other flavour really.

The big round thing in the middle is what they call a “Doughcano.” It’s their chocolate explosion cake wrapped in pizza dough, baked, then topped with whipped cream. It was chewy, with thick fudge in the middle, and oh man. It was perfect. Chewy, sugary, and a huge hit of chocolate if that’s what you’re craving. my only complaint is that the cheesecake tasted and felt more like marshmallows than cheesecake.

The panookie on the right is always a good bet. A giant chocolate chip cookie that’s pan-fried, then topped with ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate and caramel sauce. A nice dose of sugar. The edges are crispy and the inside is chewy.

d hot shoppe

D Hot Shoppe – 4155 Fairview St, Burlington

D Hot Shoppe is a Caribbean/West Indian restaurant that has been recommended to me over and over again by both Dave (@1goatroti) and Justin (@the_Jmoney). On the left is a goat roti drenched in medium gravy and on the right is a doubles, which is a deep fried dough traditionally stuffed with curried chickpeas. They put chutney in it and I asked them to put chicken in it too. They do not look appetizing to someone who’s never had them before but DANG. So good. I’d go eat here twice a week if I were nearby. If you can handle spice, I would still recommend getting the medium. I thought I was soo strong and ordered the hot level the first time I ate at D’s and I regretted it for a few days as it burned through my digestive tract. It was still delicious though.

French ToastPhoenix Chinese Restaurant – 4040 Creditview Rd, Mississauga

A pretty normal Chinese restaurant where you can get your noodles and rice and sweet and sour pork. That beast up there is what they called French toast with peanut butter. It is a pretty dense, sweet bread with peanut butter spread in the middle, deep fried, and then you smother it in more butter and maple syrup. It is deadly. It is delicious.

St Louis

St. Louis Bar & Grill – 6485 Mississauga Rd, Mississauga

My friend Audrey has been obsessed with Caesars lately, and rightly so. They’re delicious. I love it when my caesar comes with a pickled bean. Yum yum.

The burger was quite good, but I just needed a second to rave about these sweet potato fries. Ultra yummy with just the right about of crispiness and potatoeyness still in the middle. They even serve it with a spicy mayo — perfect.

MilestonesMilestones – 10 Dundas St. E. (Yonge & Dundas), Toronto

The Tuesday Peach Bellini special at Milestones is great! It’s like a slushie made of Tim Horton’s peach drink, but not as disgustingly sweet. Then it’s topped with a flavoured vodka, and apparently an animal of the deer variety. The boys were feeling too manly to order one for themselves even though they really really wanted one.

The white chocolate cheesecake is BEYOND. Just beyond beyond. Soft, sweet, decadent, light, with some coffee underneath, whipped cream at the top. Smooth. Take-me-home-to-yo-momma delicious. Tuck-me-into-a-bed-of-rose-pedals-and-make-love-to-me delicious.

Couple Photo

And lastly, the dude that made my birthday outings possible by spoiling me.

I hope all your birthday wishes come true around the world! If they don’t, make them happen.





Taco, ma cherie

Paris Party Table
Earlier this June, we were invited to a friend’s surprise engagement party. It was beautifully decorated and Paris themed, and it was a great night full of good food, good drink, and good people. They told the couple that it was a going away party for one of our friends who was supposedly moving away to San Francisco. The look of surprise on their face when they were trying to figure out why we were shouting “Surprise!!!”, why their family was there, and why everyone was staring at the nondescript couple waltzing in late to the supposed going away party was unforgettable.

Taco Dip


I had wanted to do a French-inspired tarte tatine, but everyone wanted taco dip instead, and who is to blame them? I love making taco dip because it’s super easy, and super delicious. We ended up eating leftover taco dip for almost three days straight; it was awesome.

Bottom layer to top:

  • Refried beans mixed with pickled green chilies
  • Taco meat (ground beef mixed with taco seasoning)
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream mixed with taco seasoning
  • (This is where I would usually add guacamole but my avocados were too hard.)
  • Salsa – this one was from a jar to save time but I usually like to make it myself
  • More cheese
  • Pico de gallo – I use the Pioneer Women’s recipe
  • Lettuce
  • Top off with more pico de gallo, shredded cheese, and pickled jalapenos to make it look nice.

What happens when you’re shopping last minute is that you don’t can’t always account for the groceries not having what you need. In this case, there were no ripened avocados and only one jalapeno! I settled for pickled jalapenos on top and bought some other hot peppers to mix into it. Unfortunately, the peppers weren’t well labeled and I bought scotch bonnets instead of habaneros. I mixed the scotch bonnets into my pico de gallo in lieu of the jalapenos and it turned out great; it gave the dip a bit more of a kick than usual.  Serve with any corn chips you like. We tried the Tostitos lime chips and they were off the HOOK!

I found it surprising that within minutes of bringing the dip in, someone had eaten the “decorative” scotch bonnet on top, and I didn’t hear anything about it. These south Asians are terrifying with their spice tolerance.

Pickle Jalapeno Backs

Last year, I took almost the same group of people to Montreal for my birthday, where I introduced that to a drink I had found on my trip to New York — The Pickleback. It is a shot of house whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice; you can watch me do the shot here. The shot lined up above was purely spur of the moment when I realised that we had a bunch of whiskey and a whole empty jar of pickled jalapeno juice. So we poured them, and drank them, and they were delicious! I like alcohol when I can’t taste it. 🙂

There was so much food leftover and as usual when there is alcohol involved, the pictures get blurrier and blurrier as the night wears on.

A big congratulations to Hamsa and Jehan, both on your future life together and also the most beautiful proposal story I’ve ever heard (hello, he took her to Paris to propose. Excuse me while I swoon.) With an engagement party like that, I can’t wait till the wedding.

What You Can Learn Walking Around

So I went on a bit of a quest for Toronto’s best baguette for a small dinner party that I was hosting. Crawling around the internet, I found 3 places that were recommended. Celestin, Jules, and Pain Perdu. Both Celestin and Jules were pretty close to each other, on Mount Pleasant between Eglinton and Davisville. So I headed up there. Walking a bit, I saw this cute little cheese shop, so I went in. Oh boy. I just wanted some balsamic vinegar, and yeah they had some. The worker knew what I was looking for and I had told him I just wanted a small bottle. So he tried to sell me a small bottle of balsamic vinegar… for $120. HA. Did he even look at me? Okay okay, I understand this face and exquisite style could throw you off, but seriously, I don’t think I would ever pay $120 for an 18 oz. bottle of balsamic vinegar, so I feigned interest in some pâté and then walked out when he wasn’t look.

The pâté wasn’t actually too bad. I’d had a craving for a little while and it was only $5. It would have gone very well with the french bread I was buying. But, I weighed it out and it was already 3pm and dinner was at 6pm. Already had huge steaks at home waiting to be cooked.

I walked further down Mount Pleasant to Celestin to find it was closed for renovations. A few doors down, Jules was closed on Mondays apparently. So I decided to go to Pain Perdu, which was all the way across town. After a few mishaps on public transit, and an hour later, I bought my baguette at Pain Perdu at Christie and St. Clair. Having forgotten to eat breakfast that day, I decided to buy a little raisin pastry that they had there.

Best decision I’ve ever made.

The pastry was, as I texted to the boyfriend, “soooooooooooooooo good. Slightly buttery, nice and flaky and crispy but like, not crumb-y. Light glaze and had raisins but not too raisin-y. Sooo good I wanted to go back and get another one. ”


The baguette was alright, I’ve had better. The dinner went well. I did learn a few things while walking around Toronto, especially in areas that I’ve never really been to before.

  • The southbound Mount Pleasant bus turns on St. Clair. I should not have disembarked.
  • There is a ravine looking forest area on St. Clair between Yonge and Mount Pleasant.
  • There is also a large cemetery and a cool vintage store that sells antique Toronto maps and prints.
  • Yonge & Eglinton area is quite nice. I would still like to live on the Danforth. Greek food all day, e’eryday.
  • Jules is closed on Mondays.
  • Pain Perdu pastry is heavenly. This is my new “bring visitors to eat.”
  • With the new TTC price hike, for the monthly metropass to be worth the $104, I need to use it 41 times. I’ve begun to keep track of my usage because I’d like to know if I use it enough. Also, I love statistics. Statistics and Lyfe Jennings.
  • The black guy that sat next to me on the subway may or may not have been a hobo. He was quiet smelly.
  • There are streetcars that run on both Bathurst and St. Clair. I was unaware.
  • There are quite a number strange people that ride the Bathurst streetcar.
  • Honest Ed’s is amazing and wonderful and completely dangerous for me if I stay in there for too long.


The Grind

It’s a little frustrating that my sketchbook is about a quarter inch too large to properly fit in the bed of my scanner.

I haven’t drawn in so very long, but I started some loose gestures during a lecture. Ahh, it’s like I’m five years old again.

I had so much to say, but now that I’ve sat down in front the computer and try to say something of interest nothing comes. I’ve been trying to keep my head above water, and so far, about a month in, I’ve survived so far, only a third of the year left to go. So, what’s going on?

I started school. Only four classes this semester, so about 12 hours a week. Two of them are studio courses while the other two are just lecture courses. For two classes, I have the same prof. A wonderful designer, a great thinker, a design genius, but a wack human being. It’s like she doesn’t understand how to interact with other people. Ma’am, no one is going take anything useful from your class if you’re treating all the students like dogs. Jumping about, screaming, making us seem like bumbling idiots when you are so unaware no one can actually read your mind. Asking vague questions and expecting us to know the answer.

“What are the formats that designers work in?”

Okay, that question can go anywhere, can you be a little clearer? What do you mean? Media? Mindset?  Philosophy? How would you answer it? I was leaning towards something along the line of web, print, etc.

However, since no one knows the answer she’s looking for, no one says anything. So instead of giving us more information, she’s stomping her feet, screaming in a foreign language, clapping her hands like an overgrown seal.

Answer: “Portrait, landscape, square.”

The class is basically screaming and degrading and an “I-know-everything-you’re-all-idiots” kind of attitude. But, I’ve learned to just roll my eyes at the tantrums and try to absorb the information that she does throw out. Like I said, I really admire her brain, experiences, knowledge, and design.

The prof says that for each 3 hour class, there’s 6 hours of homework. For the studio courses, completely true, but the lecture courses are a bit less than that, except when exam time rolls around.

The biggest chunk of my life right now, however, is working. Judy, what are you doing holding down a job while going to school. Correction, two jobs. I surprised myself, expecting to just work 15 hours a week during the school year, but then everything kind of loaded itself on.

I’m now working two jobs, and after adding up my hours (after working Friday-Tuesday), I nearly shat myself. I worked 41 hours this week. WTF. And it’s not like I could quit either job. I just started one job, and the other one just gave me a really big raise. So, for now, my schedule is work Friday-Tuesday, and school Wednesday, Thursday. I am hoping that I don’t burn out anytime soon. Other than that, life’s been good. I’m enjoying myself. I wish I had more time to read, to write, to draw, but such is life. Only 9 weeks left?

Such is life. I should probably cut down on my internet, but really, do we expect me to do that. Haha. Some weeks yes, but it’s hard if it’s all work and no looking at stupid pictures of cats. Social things come up sometimes and that takes from sleep and internet time, but that’s worth it. As for commute, it’s only about half an hour a day, so it’s not too bad. Thank goodness it’s no longer 3 hours a day, can you imagine how much time I’d be wasting?

Streamline, streamline, streamline.

Toy Organization

Ah, yes, look at my stuffed animals. Aren’t they great? Aren’t they grand? All of them, except for Kumagoro (the bunny) and Eeyore (my travelling buddy), were amassed within the last year. Gifts, well, prizes on dates we’ve been on to the arcade. The biggest one was when he tried to sway me into being his girlfriend. I guess it worked, but YMMV.

Only problem with them is that they render half my desk completely useless. Whatever shall I do? A quick trip to Canadian Tire solved the problem quite quickly. Might I mention here that the term ‘quick’ is only relative, and since I’m not at all a handy person, it took me more than an hour and a half to do. 20 minutes were spent debating if the table would hold my weight.

What’s in my arsenal? A replacement hockey net measuring 60 inches by 44 inches (left), golden hooks with a little gate and tiny screws at one end (top middle), anchors for the tiny screws (bottom middle), and a ruler. I only used 2 out of 4 items. Turns out you need a drill to use the anchors, so I quickly tossed those aside. As for the ruler, my arms got tired, so I eyeballed it.

What in the world are we going to do with that, you ask? Little hooks and a hockey net? You don’t even play hockey!

You’re right, I don’t, but bear with me. See, you screw the hooks into the wall! Grand, amazing, it’s great. I ended up using 5 of them.

And then I hung the net on them. (This is your cue.)



Here, you see the placement of 4 of the hooks.

The teddy bears go inside the pants. Er.. net. I used the fifth hook on the left to create an entrapping flap so that the toys don’t fall forward.

As you can see, the hook at the top right seems to have moved! Yes, this is due to the fact that I didn’t use anchors. Therefore, the screw came loose and pulled itself out! Daring bastard.

Now I have room on my desk to do things like this:

Mixa’s been begging me for that painting for years! I finally did it.

Ooh, also at Canadian Tire, I found these cute little hooks that you just push into your drywall. I use them to hang my necklaces on now.

Can you believe, 4 of them for only 2-3$! It’s great.

Anyway, that’s episode one of fixing up the place. Futon should be coming in within the next few weeks, hopefully, and then I’ll actually have furniture. And then maybe, just maybe, you’ll get full pictures of the whole place. Just maybe.

Things and things and things and things.

Just a short update. Tomorrow is my last day of school before my one exam and then I’m free! A whole month on break with the house to myself. What am I going to do with myself?

1. Books I want to Read

  • Dan Brown – The Lost Symbol
  • Kenneth Oppel – Darkwing (And maybe the previous three if I can get them down from Montreal)
  • Viktor E. Frankl – Man’s Search For Meaning
  • Rich Shapero – Wild Animus
  • Debbie Millman – How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer

2. Things I want to Cook

  • Thin-crusted tuna pizza with chili oil
  • Fancy sandwiches
  • Shrimp with sriracha
  • A pie
  • Shrimp and grits
  • Bacon pancakes
  • Homemade Caesar dressing

3. Things I want to Buy

  • Mittens
  • Doctor Who Season 5
  • Buddha Board
  • R4

3B. Books I want

  • Dirty Fingernails
  • Ned Vizzini – It’s Kind of a Funny Story
  • The Dieline – Box Bottle Bag
  • 100 Habits of a Graphic Designer
  • You Comma Idiot
  • David Mccandless – The Visual Miscellaneum
  • Michael Perry – Hand Job
  • Making and Breaking the Grid (I can’t believe I haven’t bought this yet)

4. Things I should be doing

  • Preparing for Claire and Adri’s visit
  • Trip to Buffalo for another fatass trip (Chili’s, Grovers, Cheesecake Factory?)
  • Building my portfolio website and business cards (This break’s big project)
  • Learn web basics for real aka how to use css style sheets and div tables. I might have to buy the dreamweaver book too. Wakka wakka!
  • Buying my own domain finally
  • Create my brand, properly
  • New freelance projects, woowoo
  • Teach myself how to write in left-handed mirror script.
  • Paint something.

All this and plenty of sleep is what I hope my break will amount to! And then it’s back on the old dusty trail to school.

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