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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Books Written by Celebrities

Lately, it seems like actors and performers are making the leap from stage and screen to pages in a book. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling, Bossypants by Tina Fey, and Yes Please by Amy Poehler were all such wonderful reads that I decided to read more of these celebrity memoirs! (Also, I love memoirs!) While there is no shortage of books written by celebrities, I had to kiss a few frogs before finding my prince – I think I read parts of or even entire celebrity books before realizing I couldn’t include them in this post because I really just had nothing to say about them.

Nevertheless, I did find a few real golden nuggets in the world of celebrity-authored literature! Here are some great books written by celebrities:

Yes, My Accent is Real by Kunal Nayyar

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I don’t even remember how I found out this book existed, but I did and I’m glad because it was quite an enjoyable read! At first, I wasn’t sure if it would be all that funny because Kunal Nayyar doesn’t write for television and he doesn’t do stand-up, so he’s not like all the other comedians out there who have written silly, self-deprecating memoirs. It wasn’t hilarious, but there were still funny moments and I found myself snickering to myself like a weirdo while reading.

The book was essentially about Kunal Nayyar’s relationships throughout his life (with dad, girlfriends, roommates) and how those relationships shaped him. It was, as most memoirs are, a series of essays and wise words of advice written on aeroplane* napkins. Over time I realized that the book was moving along somewhat chronologically, with silly immature stories at the beginning, and culminating in important life events like marriage and caring for aging parents. The book almost became like a narrative, and I could see Kunal (are we on first name basis yet?) growing and changing throughout, and that made it hard to say goodbye at the end once I finished the book. (He also was sad to say goodbye too, so it was a two-way thing.) The good thing about celebrities is that they are kind of very easily accessible, so naturally, after finishing the book, I fell into a deep, dark, YouTube vortex of The Big Bang Theory clips and Kunal Nayyar interviews, and I didn’t really feel like I had to say goodbye at all.

*He’s from India, and they write Britishly there.

In the Country We Love: A Family Divided by Diane Guerrero with Michelle Burford

Again, not sure how I discovered this book, but I absolutely love Jane the Virgin, and who hasn’t heard of Orange is the New Black? It was almost shocking to hear about Diane Guerrero’s extremely humble beginnings, given how successful she is on television.

In the Country We Love retells the experience that completely transforms and reshapes Diane’s life: when she was fourteen years old, she came home from school to find that her parents had been arrested and set to be deported. The experiences that followed (puberty, high school, college, trying to break into showbiz) almost could have been commonplace, but they were all tinged with the sense that something was missing – Diane had to grow up without her parents, and worse, it was because the government had taken them from her.

At first, I thought that the fact that Diane was an actor was simply an extra fact or coincidental. But it seemed more that her love for performing and the rush that it gave her helped to fill in some of the gaps that had been created when her parents were forced to leave her. (The arts really do save lives!)

This book really opened up my eyes to the experiences of immigrant families, as well as the harsh realities that undocumented immigrants might face. I don’t know what the situation is like in Canada, but immigration policy is definitely pertinent at this point in history, no matter where you are in the world. In fact, Diane urges readers to get involved and to make their voice heard (this book was published just before the 2016 US election). Immigration and immigration reform will continue to be an important political issue. Reading this book has made all the stories in the news feel more personal and emotional, and I’ve been reminded how important it is to stay informed and up to date on national and international politics.

P.S. Here‘s a video of Diane visiting the homes where she grew up, including the one where she lived when her parents were taken.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

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Wow, I raced through this book like Trevor Noah raced through the streets while running away from his mother’s beatings! It was that good; I couldn’t put it down.

Born a Crime is full of stories of Trevor Noah’s childhood growing up in South Africa. As a person of mixed race, Trevor Noah wasn’t technically supposed to exist due to apartheid laws, but his very existence points to his mother’s grit and will and strength! For a lot of the book, there was a huge sense of “mother and son against the world!” From the comical and humorous way she handled his antics (which I’m sure contributed to his comedy today in some way) to her determination to ensure a good education for Trevor and thus an escape from a life of poverty, his mother is as much of a protagonist in this book as Trevor Noah is.

The Daily Show is on Comedy Central, so of course I expected this book to be funny, and it was. Some highlights include: Trevor discovering what his dog was up to while he was at school, his mother’s strategies for disciplining him, and a story set in a Jewish neighbourhood involving Trevor’s friend with an extremely unfortunate name. (I apologize for the vagueness of this last paragraph; I don’t want to give any of the jokes away!)

One thing I really really appreciated about the book was the insight it gave on race and racism in apartheid-era South Africa. I’m finding it very hard to put into my own words what I learned from this book, so here are some quotes I found really meaningful.

On the system of apartheid:

In America you had the forced removal of the native onto reservations coupled with slavery followed by segregation. Imagine all three of those things happening to the same group of people at the same time. That was apartheid.

On education for black South Africans:

British racism said, “If the monkey can walk like a man and talk like a man, then perhaps he is a man.” Afrikaner racism said, “Why give a book to a monkey?”

On the irrationality of racism:

Chinese people were classified as black in South Africa … Interestingly, at the same time, Japanese people were labeled as white. The reason for this was that the South African government wanted to establish good relations with the Japanese in order to import their fancy cars and electronics.

On changing your circumstances:

People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.

Hopefully this post proves that celebrity memoirs don’t have to be filled with scandal and gossip and parties! I didn’t expect this post to be so focussed on immigration and race (it’s now very clear where my interests lie), but it just goes to show that a lot of diverse people from very different backgrounds can end up in the media we consume every day. Here’s hoping that we keep seeing and hearing these diverse stories, because there’s always something to learn from someone else.

We All Scream for Ice Cream!

Just kidding, I’m pretty emotionless so I did not scream when I ate the ice cream from Kekou Gelato.

The weather is starting to get hot hot hot, and ice cream is the perfect way to cool down this summer! Last week, my friends and I went downtown for some fun girly adventures, and so we decided to stop at Kekou for some ice cream.

There are two locations: Baldwin and Queen West. I’d actually gone to the Baldwin location when it first opened, but the decor is bland and honestly, I don’t excessively love ice cream, so Kekou really meant nothing to me!

But when I entered the Queen West location …

Fancy lights! Fun wallpaper! Wooden accents! It made me want to try the ice cream.

There is a plethora of samples and no limit to what you can try. I am boring and only tried two flavours before making my decision. I love Hong Kong milk tea, so I tried that flavour first. It wasn’t too bad, but it didn’t hold up to the actual drink itself. Next, I tried the Vietnamese coffee flavour. My taste buds exploded and I aggressively informed the ice cream person that I needed a sugar cone with one giant scoop of that delicious ice cream!!!!

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Look at this beautiful thing.

Everything was going well and I was really enjoying my ice cream, when my friend commented that she always gets her ice cream in a cup because it’s less messy. I scoffed and shrugged and rolled my eyes. Then I got to the bottom of my cone, where the ice cream had melted into a gooey soup. I bit into the cone and ice cream splashed everywhere and napkins were thrust my way and it was a fantastic end to a fantastic ice cream.

Kekou Gelato / 394 Queen Street West, Toronto / website

Kingston Coffee Crawl

This past weekend, I went to Kingston with some friends to celebrate my former housemate’s upcoming wedding! It was a really fun weekend full of food, drinks, and memories of undergrad. I was especially thankful for our meaningful chats that reminded me of God’s goodness and provision in each of our lives. (There were seven of us in total – six bridesmaids and one blushing bride!)

The bride-to-be loves coffee, so we went on a tour of some coffee places in the downtown core. (No time to visit all of the cafes … we had other bridal things to do!) Here is a list along with my thoughts! Please enjoy!

THE SMALL BATCH / 282 Princess Street, Kingston / facebook

The Small Batch was the smallest cafe that we visited, full of two-person seating, though the staff doesn’t mind if you move some tables or chairs around. The plugs lined along the wall also make it a nice spot to study – great for students! (When I was in Kingston for school, there were very few options for alternative study spots. Now, there are so many cute little coffeeshops; the students today are super lucky!)

 

I cannot comment on the quality of the drinks because I didn’t order anything, but according to my friends, the drinks were “okay.”

 

CRAVE / 166 Princess Street, Kingston / facebook

I’ve been to Crave before, and it’s always been a pleasant experience! I ordered an iced mocha, and it was super yummy! I asked the barista for more ice and she happily complied – really friendly staff!

 

The cafe goes in really deep so there is a lot of seating. Lots of people were studying and working.

 

My friends and I, on the other hand, spent our time at Crave playing a fun game where we answered personal questions (some silly, some deep!). We also spent some time affirming and encouraging the beautiful bride-to-be. From now on, every time I pass by Crave, I’ll be reminded of this wonderful memory! I’m so blessed to know these ladies who love Christ and truly want to live their lives for Him. He’s transformed us so much since we first met in our first year of university.

NORTHSIDE ESPRESSO + KITCHEN / 281 Princess Street, Kingston / website

If we had known about the “+ Kitchen” part of this cafe, we probably would have had our breakfast here! Regardless, Northside Espresso is really good, even if you go just for the coffee and/or photo-taking opportunities. (But next time I go, I am eating the food because it sounds so good and the prices are quite reasonable!)

Northside is an Instagrammers paradise. A dreamland. A mecca to which all photographers must make their pilgrimage. It’s just so pretty! Here, I attempt to frame some photos as an Instagrammer would:

 

The coffee is really good too! We needed help translating the menu because the coffee terminology was just too advanced for us, but everyone enjoyed their drinks. I got a really warm and yummy mocha (I’m so boring), and my friend got a Melbourne Iced Mocha, which was basically what I got but cold and with vanilla ice cream and a fun striped straw! Another menu item that deserves to be mentioned is the Clouds and Mountains, a vanilla ice cream/chocolate brownie concoction served on a smooth wooden slab.

 

Thank you for the wonderful weekend, Kingston! The sun was shining, adventures were had, and lots and lots of coffee was consumed.

Boldt Castle

Ah, Victoria Day! A holiday which is celebrated for – let’s be honest – no good reason but for which I am eternally grateful anyway because it’s a day off work! I don’t know if this will be an annual thing, but my parents, Dangerous Dan, and I went up to Kingston again to visit my sister and her family.

We decided to hop across the border (!) to visit one of the many tourist attractions in the Thousand Islands area, Boldt Castle. I’m always so surprised at how close Kingston is to the land of the free, but I really shouldn’t be because it’s one of the reasons why Kingston was fired from its job as capital city of Canada! 

We drove from Kingston, stopped for lunch in Gananoque, and headed to Alexandria Bay, where we would take the ferry shuttle to Heart Island, where Boldt Castle is located.

Here are some photos of Alexandria Bay, which was basically like another version of the Hamptons in the early 1900s. Lots of rich people came here to enjoy the water and stake a claim on their very own island! Nowadays, it is a bit quieter. On a sunnier day, I can imagine this place being cute and quaint!

To get to Heart Island, we went with Uncle Sam Boat Tours. There are lots of other ferry options, and you can even park in Canada and take a full-on cruise to the island, but the extreme flooding limited our choices. It was nice to take the “ferry shuttle” anyway; a quick 10 minutes and we were there! Also, we paid for our boat tickets and the castle tickets in one go, so that made things easier too. (And Canadian currency is accepted!)

Boldt Castle is a huge, hulking mass of a building and it looks like it belongs in a fairytale book. It was commissioned by George Boldt, a self-made immigrant millionaire! 

Some fun facts about George Boldt (taken equally from Wikipedia and a video my sister watched in the mansion): 

  • He was general manager of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City (that hotel know-how is what got him the big bucks!)
  • He’s the guy who came up with the phrase, “The customer is always right.” (I don’t think this is true, actually.)
  • He’s the guy who invented room service (This one’s true!)

    A not so fun fact is what happened to the castle, even before construction was complete! Boldt had the castle built for his wife, Louise, as a grand, symbolic gesture of his love. Unfortunately, just before the castle was complete, Louise died suddenly and Boldt abandoned the project entirely. For years and years, the castle lay empty, vulnerable to nature’s forces, and also to young graffiti artists who trespassed onto the grounds. Some of the graffiti is real, and some is not. (There’s no way a message from 1995 can look so dark and fresh!) The coolest one we saw was from the 70s (just before the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority took over) – the names of two friends/lovers were literally carved into the wall!

    Okay, enough history – let’s see the actual building!

    A yacht house can also be visited (entrance is an extra fee) and you can even see Boldt’s old boats! It’s bigger than my house.

    The exterior grounds are very nice and well-maintained, and there are a couple of other buildings in addition to the actual mansion. A “Parisian-style” arch helps to prepare visitors for the opulence off the house! The Power House holds all the generator electricity things and is basically a house on its own (the castle engineers actually lived here during construction of the main house!). Alster Tower is what I imagined Rapunzel’s tower to look like before Tangled came out!

    Alster Tower was originally envisioned as the play room for the Boldt children! It was going to have a bowling alley. It’s currently being restored.

    The main house is quite large and grand as well! 


    Upstairs, we snuck a peek at the sleeping area. There are four floors and Dangerous Dan and I went all the way up to the top, where there is a pretty cool observatory! The view is spectacular!


    There is also a cool tunnel system which leads to a nasty-looking pool but I’m sure with some treatment it would be a nice place to hang out! There is also a fake frog floating atop the water.


    Boldt Castle is a really interesting place to visit. Great for a one-day trip if you live in the Kingston area!

    Boldt Castle / 1 Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, NY / website

    Nonna’s Oven

    Hello, friends! Today’s post brings you to the wild land of Richmond Hill, where I recently embarked on a pasta eating adventure.

    I’d actually eaten Nonna’s Oven before (the food, not an actual oven owned by a nonna!). My friend got takeout from here, as the over-the-counter service makes it extremely easy to take their food and bring it home. Anyway, this time around, I decided to eat in the restaurant. Get ready for some terrible pictures of beautiful noodles!

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    I don’t even know if these were for sale or for show. They’re cute, though.

    I visited the restaurant with four other friends, and we got five dishes, which was just enough! We started off with some fried calamari. The chipotle mayo and marinara sauce were excellent! I preferred the marinara.

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    Then, we shared two pizzas and two pastas. The Hawaiian Inferno pizza was quite delicious, although most of the table had to pick off the hot banana peppers because they were just insane. The Prosciuttina pizza was described by a friend as “cheese bread with leaves and ham on top.” I will say that the leafy greens were a nice way to balance out the heaviness of all of our other foods! The parmesan cheese shavings also added a nice nuttiness to the pizza! (Also, according to wikipedia, parmesan cheese is “King of Cheeses.” That is pretty cool!)

    We got the Nonna’s Homemade Lasagna and Pasta Carbonara as well. Truly delicious! Pretty good sauce to noodle ratio too – you don’t want anything to be too dry or soggy.

    If you are ever in the neighbourhood and fancy some Italian cuisine, Nonna’s Oven is a good choice! It’s comfy and cozy, and a great place to enjoy a meal!

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    Nonna’s Oven / 1285 Elgin Mills Road, Units 7 and 8, Richmond Hill / website