Beiruti Grand Cafe

A few weeks ago, I was itching for some unconventional study/coffee spaces to try when my friend introduced me to Beiruti Grand Cafe. It’s a huge space in an industrial park type of area, with plenty of seating and real food too (not just snacks)! I was nervous that we were going to a legitimate restaurant and that bringing textbooks and a laptop would be frowned upon, but there were a couple of other studygoers like me. (Make sure to charge before coming though, because outlets are quite sparse and infrequent!) The space was pretty empty until the lunch rush, when hordes of people from the neighbouring offices took their lunch breaks and came to the cafe for a quick and delicious bite to eat!

We began with some lunch upon arrival. I had some sort of salmon salad sandwich, accompanied by a yummy soup! The bread was nice and crunchy and tasted so wonderful when dipped into the soup. And then I realized that I had eaten the top half of my sandwich so I had to eat the rest of the sandwich with a fork and knife.

To end off the meal, I ate a salted caramel macaron which was so cute and soft and tasty, and then I had a iced coffee drink to keep me energized while I got some work done! (I really should write these posts earlier; this happened so long ago that I really don’t remember what I ate and these descriptions are just terrible! I’m so sorry! Just trust me when I say everything was delicious!)

Beiruti Grand Cafe also has very regal washrooms. Look at all that marble!

IMG_20170727_153937-1

Also, during my internet quest to find out whether or not Beiruti Grand Cafe really was an acceptable study spot (just to confirm: it is), I stumbled across a really encouraging and heartwarming article about how several Syrian refugees have been hired at the cafe. Give it a read here.

Beiruti Grand Cafe / 155 Consumers Road, Unit 101, North York / website

 

Feel the Memories

We’re about three-quarters of the way through summer vacation, and I’ve been having the best time relaxing and doing mostly nothing at home. I didn’t get to go anywhere terribly exciting this summer, but I thought I’d share how I remember all the things I’ve done while on vacation. I have a pretty horrible memory, so I do a number of things to make sure that I’ve documented my travels in such a way that I can feel the memories at a later date.

The first thing I do to save my memories takes place during the actual trip – I write in my travel journal. At the end of every night, or even during any sort of downtime (such as waiting for food to arrive at a restaurant), I try to keep up with what I’ve done so far on the trip. My sister is really good at doodling the cool things that we see, but I’m not, so I try to make up for it with scraps of paper that I glue into the book. I like to include maps, stickers, tickets, and business cards from the restaurants where I eat.

IMG_20170816_122003

My first two travel journals, gifted to me by my sister on a West Coast adventure in British Columbia, Alaska, and Yukon Territory!

I also fold larger bits of paper in. I started out by having pretty small journals and I’ve kept with this theme because it makes it easier to carry around. The pages below are from my trips to South America and New York City.

Another thing I do is make videos. It’s very silly and completely for fun, but it’s nice to go through all of the footage I’ve taken on a trip, edit it (thanks to Windows Movie Maker), and almost experience the trip again. I post them as unlisted on Youtube and send the link to my family and friends so that they can really see what I got up to on vacation!

Untitled.png

I am so cool that I have a title card for my vacation videos.

Finally, I share my photos and thoughts on this blog! My photos would metaphorically and digitally collect dust if this blog didn’t exist, because I rarely go through photo albums on my computer. It’s also nice to be able to share my experiences with strangers through writing, and I read this blog to myself enough that I am reminded of all the fun things I’ve done while travelling.

Since I won’t have any fun travel posts any time soon, here are a couple of my favourites!

  • Dangerous Dan Does Deutchsland. Dangerous Dan and I will hopefully go on more vacations together in the future, but it was nice to hear about what he gets up to when I’m not around! He also has a strange obsession with Germany.
  • Naha, Okinawa. Japan is just so different from home; taking in the culture was just as exciting as visiting all the castles here.
  • Québec City. I was lucky enough to spend about five weeks here, so I got to know the city well. This was my guide to the different neighbourhoods in Québec City!
  • Montevideo. I went on a bus tour and learned so much!
  • Singapore: FOOD. There’s nothing cooler than eating on the streets and throwing peanut shells up in the air.
  • Cape Cod and Boston: FOOD. I thought I’d bring us back to North America.

 

What are some of the coolest places you’ve visited? How do you document your travels?

Pasta Shells

The other night, I attended a potluck. Since it is summer and I’m not working, I decided to really push myself and make something exciting instead of buying packs of Coke last-minute at Walmart. I had some leftover spinach in my fridge that I needed to use, so I tried to find a dish that would allow me to use some spinach. I got the idea of pasta shells from the internet, and then I abandoned the recipe and just did things my own way because I’m bad at following instructions.

I started off with some cooking first. (My plan was to bake, but I just wanted to be sure that everything would be safe and fully cooked!) Here are my pasta shells and ground pork. I accidentally put too much parsley, as you can see, but I decided to just mix it around and it actually wasn’t too overpowering. As for the pasta shells, you have to be very careful when you buy them at the supermarket! Many of the boxes already had broken shells in them, but I carefully chose one of the boxes at the back of the shelf. I put each shell into the water with extreme care so that nothing would crack, and nothing did! Cooking the pasta caused some of it to rip though, but it wasn’t too much of a problem!

Next, it was time to do some stuffing! I first put in the spinach (a few leaves for each shell), then the meat, then some grated mozzarella cheese, and finally, I doused the whole thing in tomato sauce. Then I realized that if I wanted a nice golden brown top, I would need to add more cheese. So I did. (I forgot to take a picture of the unbaked shells with the tomato sauce; I was sort of in a rush!)

I baked the whole pan for about 10 minutes at 350°F (or something close to that, can’t remember), and then it came out looking like this!

IMG_20170801_191619

People at the potluck said it was creative and tasted pretty good. It’s a pretty easy dish to replicate or to adapt to whatever flavours you want! I will probably try this again but with other ingredients. It was simple, didn’t take too long to make, and yummy!

Lobster’s Salute

A few weekends ago, Dangerous Dan decided to try a new restaurant that had been on my radar for the past few weeks due to its location (on a busy main road) and its bright orange signage (wow!). 

Seafood is becoming very exciting and popular in the Greater Toronto Area, but Lobster’s Salute is a bit more special because it focusses only on lobster! The menu is very simple: lobster bisque, lobster roll, lobster pasta, and then also an assortment of desserts. Several different types of drinks are offered too.

Dangerous Dan and I both got a large lobster roll combo ($3 more to add a drink and fries) with a “hearty warm” flavour. The large roll has two lobster tails and the small only has one. At first, I was put off by the price, but then Dangerous Dan reminded me that lobster is expensive and supposed to be fancy food. Everything tasted really good; the fries were crunchy and I finished the coleslaw! 

All in all, Lobster’s Salute is a nice (if pricey) place to visit if you want a quick bite to eat. 


Lobster’s Salute / 4580 Highway 7, Unit 2, Markham / website

Claire’s 2nd Annual Reflection on Teaching!

My second year of teaching was filled with a lot of laughs, a little bit more confidence, and amazingly, some downtime. I learned a lot from my first year of teaching, and I revisited some of those lessons again in my second year. I’m not going to bore with you a repeat of what I wrote last year, so here’s something different: Things I was Thankful for in my Second Year of Teaching.

1. Coworkers

Wow, I didn’t know what a difference coworkers could make until I met the amazing people I worked with this year! I started off this past school year in the French office, which was full of young ladies like me. There was a mix of personalities and backgrounds, but everyone was so open and friendly that I felt like I fit right in pretty early into the school year. It also helped that one of my office-mates invited me to have lunch with her (and some other staff members) everyday in the staff room. (Teachers, use your staff room! It’s usually a pretty nice space and it’s almost always empty!) I felt like I was plugged in to the staff community, and it made going to work a much more enjoyable experience. For second semester, I moved into a different office: geography (more on that later … see #2). I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to be myself/I would have to be more professional and less relaxed, but it turns out that this office was just as crazy as the last one! (Seriously, I would enter the room and something would happen to make me start laughing immediately. Lots of mishaps with the coffeemaker …) To be friends with your coworkers is not something that people should expect, but it truly makes a world of a difference. This is also not to say that we didn’t get any work done! We were still able to collaborate and work together to come up with some awesome programs and ideas to help our students, and we constantly shared stories of things that worked or didn’t work in our classes. But we were also able to talk about our personal lives and interests, and that really helped me feel like I was part of a family at this school.

2. Coursepacks

Coursepacks can be a very controversial topic. (How can you plan for the whole course if you don’t know your students yet?! This is a waste of paper! Coursepacks are expensive!) But I got saddled with teaching Grade 9 Geography (a course I despised when I was in high school), and the coursepack saved my life. Instead of acting like a needy, inexperienced teacher and constantly bothering the other people in my department, I was able to use the coursepack (and the textbook) to figure things out on my own. That way, I only needed to go to my coworkers for deeper or more specific questions. They also appreciated that I took the initiative to go over the material myself and come up with my own ways of teaching it, based on the needs and interests of my kids. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I didn’t have the coursepack as a guideline to follow.

3. (Volunteer) Coaches

I had such a nice “C” theme going on that I had to continue! I wrote about trying new things last year. This year, I decided to try things outside of the classroom, and thus, I entered the world of extracurricular activities. I don’t know why I said yes to coaching flag football … I’m not athletic, I don’t know how to play football, and I get winded just walking up a flight of stairs. But I did it, with the help of an intense football player/alumni of my school who was the real coach! I did paperwork, the logistical stuff, and was essentially a teacher representative. By the end of the season, I actually got into the games and knew when to cheer and when to groan as well! I’m so glad that there are people in the community who students can learn from. Schoolteachers are not the only teachers in society, and they are not the only adults (aside from parents) that kids can look up to. (I don’t know if anyone actually thought that was true but I’ll just say it anyway.) I’m no longer afraid of sports (sort of), and I’ve even signed up to do more paperwork coaching next year. Also, I got a lot of school spirit swag thanks to my coaching gig, and that stuff really fills my heart with joy!

4. Christian Club

Another extracurricular activity! I was approached by another teacher to help out with the student Christian fellowship (not sure how he knew I was Christian, might’ve been because he was part of our little lunch club and probably saw me praying before eating). I really enjoyed being the teacher advisor for this club because my faith is something that is really important to me, and I wanted my students to be able to have a Christian role model in a school context. It was so encouraging to sing worship songs with my students and to hear them share what God was teaching them. At the end of the year, I was able to pray for my students – something I never would’ve thought I would do in the workplace! I can’t wait to see what God will do through me and through my kids next year to make His presence known in my school. I really hope that He will use me to be a Christian voice and somewhat of a mentor/counsellor for the students that I meet next year.

5. Chill Sessions

Here is another forced “C” … curse my affinity for alliterations!!! For one semester, I was a special education resource teacher, which meant I had a whole period each day to help the students in my assigned caseload with their specific learning needs. I would occasionally go to an Applied class to help the students there, or I would talk with classroom teachers to discuss strategies to help specific students, or I would chase kids to ask them why they hadn’t completed an assignment or written a test. (The role of a SERT involves a lot of chasing.) Anyway, my main point here is that I essentially had one less class of planning and marking … and this meant I had a lot more free time, which I really used to my advantage. Of course, there were still some nights when I stayed at work until the wee hours (just me and the caretakers!), but because of my smaller workload, I was able to spend more time with friends and family. I even decided to make Sunday a day of rest, when I could focus on developing my relationships with God and with other people in my life. I am also especially thankful for these moments of rest because I definitely will not get them next school year (I’m teaching things I’ve never taught before so there will be a lot of work!), but I hope to continue my day of rest and use that time to remind myself that work isn’t everything.

I love my job and I’m so glad that I can have these two months of relaxation to reflect on the last 10 months of chaos! To end this post, please enjoy some pictures that I took to document various aspects of my work life.

John A. Macdonald is my JAM

… Get it?? His initials …

I went to school in Kingston for five years and never went to Bellevue House. My sister has lived in Kingston for ten years and only went to Bellevue House for the first time as part of some escape room adventure. So it was about time we actually went to Bellevue House for its historical significance!

Sir John A. Macdonald, our lovely first Prime Minister, lived at Bellevue House back when his political career was just taking off. He was a prominent lawyer and budding politician in Kingston, but due to his wife’s ill health, he moved to the “outskirts” of the city so that his wife could enjoy the fresh lake air. (I find this so funny because Bellevue House is still within walking distance of downtown … a long walk, but a walk nonetheless!) Johnny Mac only lived here for about a year (1848-1849) due to the cost of renting the house and also because the fresh air didn’t seem to help his wife much.

P1020404

Since it was Canada Day, there were a lot of fun activities to do! First, we sang the national anthem. There was also a sword-fighting demonstration/class, 19th century games to play, costumes to try on, quilts and tapestries to weave, and a random proclamation that I signed with a quill! (I didn’t get enough pictures; my apologies!)

Next, we went inside the house. I’m not sure if any of the furniture belonged to John A. Macdonald because several middle-class families lived in the house after he did, but the house has at least been restored to resemble what it might have looked like during the 1840s.

We spent a lot of time in the very large guest room (very large so that guests would stay there and think, “This is a very large room! I bet all the other rooms are this big!”, thus assuming somewhat incorrectly that the house was enormous and the owner very rich!) because there was a trivia game which taught me some fun facts and ignited a competitive spirit within me!

P1020426

If you live in the Kingston area, Bellevue House is a pretty interesting place to visit, and it’s free for the rest of the year if you have a National Parks Discovery Pass!

Bellevue House / 35 Centre Street, Kingston / website

Black Gold Cafe

A new coffeeshop has opened up in the unlikely neighbourhood of Agincourt in Scarborough! Black Gold Cafe is housed in a plaza that has mostly medical services, but the weird location hasn’t stopped people from visiting! The cafe was pretty packed when I went, and I spent literally the entire afternoon there!

There is a lot of seating, for individuals and groups. I would say that the number of plugs is sufficient, but it’s still a good idea to charge your devices before visiting for a study party. Another note: it’s pretty frigid in the cafe, so make sure to bring a sweater! There are also huge windows that let in a whole lot of light on a sunny day, so if you forget to bring a sweater, just sit there!

In terms of the food, the food is delicious. I got a cajun chicken sandwich because it seemed like the most substantial menu item. It was full of stuff – chicken, cheese, red peppers, tomato, lettuce, onion … and it tasted really good! The bread was perfectly crispy! I also got a mochaccino, which was the perfect antidote to the coldish temperature. It was a little bit small and quite chocolatey, but it still warmed me up! There’s also a whole case of baked goods, which I may try on another day. Finally, there is a medium-sized jug of lemon/lime ice water with cups that customers can fill and refill to their heart’s content! I appreciated this a lot because I am trying to drink more water.

I really enjoyed my visit to Black Gold Cafe! It’s refreshing to visit independent coffeeshops. I’m not a huge coffee fanatic (I go to coffeeshops to get work done), but this place seems legit because one of the staff members was meeting with a coffee bean supplier while I was there! So you know that these people mean serious business. Another thing – the staff here are all very friendly and I felt so important every time I interacted with one of them! Gold stars all around.

P.S. Other independent coffeeshops that I’ve visited: Alchemy, Covernotes, and places in Kingston!

P.P.S. I always get mochas … should I diversify? I’m afraid of change.

Black Gold Cafe / 2101 Brimley Road, Scarborough / website

Fauna

The chronology of this blog is a mess! I moved on from Canada Day but now I am back, ready to share some of the things I ate while in Ottawa! (Actually, I didn’t document very well because I was having so much fun, so I’m only going to share about one restaurant. Oops!)

Fauna is a cute little restaurant that was probably the cleanest and healthiest place we ate at throughout the entire weekend! The decor is on the darker side but the large windows let in a lot of light, which for some reason made me feel like I was eating at a very fancy restaurant!

The food was excellent! After having eaten lots of (still delicious) fried food, my meal at Fauna was a wonderful break from all the meat and oil. I got a potato gnocchi which was so delicious! The pesto was really good and I honestly don’t know what I ate in that sea of green, but I really appreciated the vegetables and they tasted amazing! My cousin got fish cakes which she enjoyed, and I stole a few of my sister’s mussels which were also very tasty.

I would definitely come back to eat here again. The food is clean but still substantial, so you feel satisfied without having a tummy ache. The waitresses were really nice, and I think one of them even knew a nearby customer’s order off by heart! (He was probably a regular.) There’s also a cute bookstore across the street which literally had mountains and alleyways and crevices made up of old and new books, and it’s a great place to hang out, which is what my sister, cousin, and I did while we waited for the restaurant to open.

Fauna / 425 Bank Street, Ottawa / website

The First Tim Hortons Ever!

Last weekend, I attempted to not celebrate the signing of the British North America Act. This weekend, I reversed that by visiting a most Canadian spot: the first Tim Hortons location EVER, which opened on May 17, 1964. Enjoy the terrible photos!

This Tim Hortons is in Hamilton, and, according to my friend, used to look gross! But they recently underwent a renovation.

I got a yummy iced coffee, then headed upstairs which is almost like a Tim Hortons museum.

This is what Tim Hortons used to look like.

Here are some of the displays. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much time to peruse them! The wall displays went in chronological order, from the 1960s to the present.

Here are some uniforms from the past! (The colour seems to have stayed the same!)

Finally, a Tim Horton statue which is right outside! Tim Horton started this business as a way to supplement his income during the hockey off-season. I guess hockey players were paid a little bit less than they are now.

IMG_20170708_173042

P.S. I was embarrassingly old (at least in my preteen years) before I realized that timbit is not a real word … it is just “Tim” and “bit” put together.

Tim Hortons / 65 Ottawa Street North, Hamilton

A Canadian Weekend in Kingston and Ottawa

I actually didn’t celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday too much. On July 1, we stayed in Kingston because I didn’t want to deal with crowds in Ottawa. Much to my surprise (but really I should have known better), our nation’s lovely capital city was still celebrating when we arrived on July 2.

I have a few exciting events and activities to post about in the next few weeks, but until then, here are some pictures of Byward Market.

The past few times I’ve visited Ottawa, I always walked through the Byward Market area at nighttime when all of the vendors have closed up shop. This time, I was there in the morning, and I even went inside and learned a bit more about the history of the place. For example, a bell used to be rung at the start and end of each selling day, and the bell is still in the building, just collecting dust! I also saw a picture of the whole street covered in big bales of hay, which shows how important farming and cattle used to be to the good people of Ottawa.