Dangerous Dan Goes to New York

Welcome to my follow-up of Dangerous Dan Does Deutschland! Dangerous Dan abandoned me at home once again – this time, it was to attend his very own bachelor party! (Yes, we’re getting married! Exciting!) Dangerous Dan spent six glorious days in the Big Apple, and I asked him to share his experience with me (in words and in photos).

Why did you choose to go to New York City for your bachelor party?

We wanted to watch a baseball game, and then we decided we should go to a place with a nice park. We thought about going to Los Angeles, but realized it’s a bit far and it’s really inconvenient to get around in LA without a car so then we thought, “We should just go to New York.” Even though New York doesn’t have the nicest stadium, they still have a decent team. Plus, we chose a game where they [the New York Yankees] were playing the Red Sox, which is a classic rivalry.

IMG-20170919-WA0001

Why did you watch so much baseball while in New York City?

We wanted to watch the Yankees game. The Mets game was just because we were in the city anyway, and it was an afternoon game so it gave us something to do. And Citifield was really nice.

Name the coolest place you visited while in New York City. 

There’s the High Line. It’s very interesting because it used to be a railroad for suppliers to get their food into the city. They don’t use it anymore obviously, but now they use it as a walkway, and it goes past many different buildings so it gives you a very unique look at some of the architecture.

IMG-20170919-WA0005

We also went to watch the filming of The Late Show by Stephen Colbert. It was really interesting. It’s pretty much what happens in the episode, with just a little bit of music in between, and you get to hear him before the show. He talks to you and gives you a chance to do some Q and A.

Is Stephen Colbert everything you dreamed he’d be?

He’s less sarcastic in real life.

IMG-20170919-WA0006

What was your favourite meal?

I went to the 3-Michelin star restaurant in the Trump International Hotel. I forgot what it was called … Can you look it up? (It’s Jean Georges.) We had a 3-course meal for $40-$50 for lunch. I think we all got the same salad … the shrimp salad. The shrimp was really good, the salad was really good. I had cod or something. It was okay. The other guys got better dishes. Then I got the chocolate cake. That was also very good.

Did you watch any exciting shows on Broadway?

Of course! We watched Kinky Boots. That was a lot of fun! We didn’t have anything to do on the first night, so we went to Times Square to the Broadway ticket booth, where you can get last-minute tickets for half the price. Kinky Boots was a lot of fun – the choreography and the music were really flashy. They had a sequence where they did a dance on conveyor belts. We also watched Wicked, which is like a Disney movie on stage.

What was the most interesting that happened to you during your trip? 

We decided to go to the 3-Michelin star restaurant in the morning. On the website it says you need to have formal dress, but none of us had formal wear, so we just wore untucked dress shirts and jeans, and then we showed up, and it was like 2:00 so it was after lunch and no one was there, but they still let us in and totally judged us.

Describe your Airbnb experience.

We lived in Jackson Heights in a small single-floor townhouse … I don’t know what that’s called in New York. It was very nice! Our hostess had a very nice place; it was very neat and tidy. And she gave us croissants!

IMG-20170919-WA0003

To finish things off, here are some photos that Dangerous Dan took in Central Park:

And if you’re interested in what I did when I went to New York a few years ago, take a look here and here!

Advertisements

Pizza Disaster

So the other day I decided to be adventurous and try to make my own pizza. I’ve done this before with store-bought crust, but I didn’t feel like eating the usual tomato pizza, and the local NoFrills pizza crusts came with the tomato sauce in the little bag. Also, people keep saying that eating too many carbs is bad for you so I was trying to find a less carb-y alternative as well!

I wanted to use tortillas, but I couldn’t find them so I bought pita instead. It was also called “World’s Best Pita Bread” so I felt quite confident.

I will say that although I messed up big time in the execution of this pizza, I think the overall idea behind it is not bad so I’m going to go ahead and tell you what I did.

First, I cooked some minced turkey on the stove. While that was cooking, I prepared the pizza. I lined my dish with tin foil and rubbed some olive oil on it (not sure why I did this, but it seems like the thing to do). I laid down two pitas and inexplicably rubbed some olive oil on them too. Next, I slathered some leftover pesto sauce that a friend had gotten for me from Italy! Then a spinach and arugula mix made its way on to the pita. I started adding slices of mushrooms and zucchini as well, and the pizza was looking very full and heavy. But I hadn’t added the turkey yet! So I added that and covered it all in cheese to glue it all in place.

I placed it in the oven at 375°F for about 12 minutes while I cleaned up the kitchen.

That’s when things took a turn for the worse …

I decided to start broiling the pizza because I wanted that nice golden crust on my cheese. But then I got sidetracked looking for something to watch on Netflix …

Needless to say, I burned the pizza. I ate it anyway though, cutting away the cancerous sections, and it still tasted pretty good! As for the utility of pita bread as pizza crust – nothing really stayed on and the middle of the pizza was quite droopy, but it was nothing a knife and fork couldn’t fix!

I promise my recipes aren’t that bad! Although I feel like a large percentage of the recipes I share on this blog involve some sort of major issue …

P.S. The last time I cooked, which amazingly, didn’t end horribly.

Labour Day in Niagara Falls

Last weekend, I went to Niagara Falls to mourn the end of summer and celebrate my grandma’s 80th birthday.

Here’s the card I made:

The 80 is kind of hard to see because I’m not really sure how my grandma feels about this milestone birthday … She is always asking people if she looks younger than she actually is.

It was a very lazy weekend but still pretty fun nonetheless! Here are some of the things I got up to …

THE FLYING SAUCER / 6768 Lundy’s Lane, Niagara Falls / website

This 60’s-style, outer space-themed restaurant serves a pretty yummy brunch! I can’t say for certain that I would eat at this restaurant if it existed in Toronto instead, but we were in Niagara Falls so anything goes and plus I was with family!

I got the mushroom, spinach, and cheese omelette. The potatoes on the side were excellent! My father and I also shared a large, bottomless carafe of coffee which was also not bad! (Apologies for the bluish tinge of the food; the space decor was intense.)

NIAGARA FALLS 

Obviously, you have to see the falls when you go to Niagara Falls. My parents ventured out into the night and took beautiful photos of the falls, all lit up in funky colours, and they didn’t get back to the hotel until 1 in the morning! (I chose instead to watch TV and sleep.) Despite my laziness, I still wanted to see the beautiful, touristy nature that Canada has to offer us, so we went out the next day to try to get a good look at the falls. My grandpa’s had some mobility issues for the past few years, and unfortunately we weren’t able to find (or didn’t bother to find) parking that was close enough for him to walk comfortably to see the falls. And there were so many people! So my dad just drove past and we got a good look at all of the tourists, and that was that!

DECEW FALLS AND MORNINGSTAR MILLS / 2714 Decew Road, St. Catharines / Morningstar Mills website / Decew Falls website

Easily the most interesting part of the trip (since it didn’t involve me reading in bed in the hotel)! On our way back home, we stopped here to take a look at some lesser-known but still beautiful and exciting falls!

The site is the former home of the Morningstar family, who owned a mill here at the dawn of the 20th century. I really didn’t get to spend much time here so the history behind the site is pretty foggy to me, but from what I learned, the family operated the mill for many years and lived in the house on-site (pictured below), until generations later, the mill was sold to the City of St. Catharines for educational and heritage purposes!

As for the falls themselves, other visitors had clearly done their research and read ahead because they were arriving in workout gear and running shoes – you can hike down to the base of the falls, where I imagine you can feel the cool mist of the rushing water!

I definitely want to return to learn more about the history of the place, as well as to hike the area! I’ll even bring a yummy picnic lunch to enjoy – it certainly is idyllic!

IMG_20170904_152716

Woodstone Eatery

There’s a cool new Hong Kong/Macau-style cafe in town, and it’s already extremely popular. Seriously, I have never seen this plaza’s parking lot so full. The funny thing is that Woodstone Eatery did exist in some form in this same plaza! But a move to a different unit, a fancy renovation, and an updated (completely different) menu have transformed this restaurant from an empty cafe to a bustling and busy restaurant.

IMG_20170828_175752

Look at this cool wall!

I visited Woodstone Eatery at least four times in the last two weeks, so I’ve tried a number of items on the menu (although I didn’t take pictures for all). The food is decent and the prices are still relatively low. (One thing that I would like to try which I haven’t yet is the take-out special: a pork chop bun that comes with a can of pop, for only $5.99! People who work near here, take note!)

My first time there, I got the BBQ Pork Topped with a Fried Egg on Rice (left photo). I appreciated the two florets of broccoli, since most HK-style cafes are pretty stingy when it comes to vegetables. The BBQ pork was pretty tasty, the fried egg nice and crispy, and there was a little dipping bowl of extra soy sauce if you were feeling really salty! I’ve also had the Macau Style Stewed Beef Brisket in Udon which came in a funny metal tray! Most HK-style cafes don’t care much for presentation so these extra little touches are quite fun!

(Food that I’ve eaten here of which I did not take a picture: Thai Lemon Chicken Wings and Baked Chicken in Portuguese Sauce on Rice. Both were pretty standard!)

IMG_20170821_133648

Here is my milk tea, not yet stirred.

Drinking tea is one of my favourite parts of dining at a HK-style cafe, and the milk tea here was not bad. My mom was not a huge fan (we’re stubborn loyalists when it comes to tea at HK-style cafes … we really only like one place), but the tea here is smooth enough and not too sweet!

There are still a lot of different menu items that I’d like to try at Woodstone so I’ll definitely be back! I have yet to try the breakfast and afternoon tea menus.

Woodstone Eatery / 10 Apple Creek Boulevard, Unit B2, Markham / facebook

 

Moji

Moji is as famous for its cute decor as it it is for its delicious food! The restaurant just looks so fun, with its smooth wooden tables and colourful mismatched chairs.

IMG_20170821_193805

There’s even a row of whiteboards for kids to draw on while they wait for a table! What a smart idea. I really appreciated that and found it very clever.

IMG_20170821_193735

As for the food, Moji serves a wide range of Japanese foods, from ramen to gyudon. I got a curry veggie tempura rice. It was all very tasty and quite filling! The miso soup was piping hot, I was given a wide variety of fried vegetables (most surprising/unique/delicious: the enoki mushrooms!), and the edamame beans were a nice touch. I spent a good amount of time taking the beans out of the pods just so they’d mix around nicely with the rest of the dish.

People I know who have already eaten at this restaurant have said to order an iced drink to accompany your meal (for $2 extra!). I got the iced peach lemonade which tasted very good, but I would have preferred more of a lemon flavour to balance out the peachiness of the drink!

There are also desserts here but I was way too full to eat anything more. A waiter holding a ginormous ice cream cone passed by me and my mouth dropped open in awe.

Moji / 8362 Kennedy Road, Markham / website

 

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.