Travel Bug: Day 4 & 5 – AGO and Endless Food

Toronto is filled with art left, right and centre. The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is home to art from around the world. Did you know if you are a Contributing Member of the AGO, you can treat up to 2 friends to see the beautiful works in the AGO. It’s a great way to introduce friends to the world of art and one of great iconic spots of Toronto. I was treated to a miniature ship model exhibit which was incredible. There were so many different models made out of so many different materials with a rich history and story attached to each ship. What I also love about the AGO is that you can make up your own stories to go with each creation and sometimes the work just speaks to you.

Food is something else Toronto is renowned for. New restaurants, dessert places, bubble tea shops, anything else you can imagine, pop up every single day. You can literally stop anywhere on the street and eat. It’s fantastic! One of the new places I tried out was Ramen Raijin. Delicious ramen and perfectly crispy karaage, my tastebuds were well satisfied.

There are also a number of great snack-time places downtown. Two of the new ones I tried were Chatime and ShareTea. Two great places for bubble tea, there are endless combinations and what I absolutely love the fact you can choose the level of sweetness and iciness. It’s worth the try for sure!


Travel Bug: Toronto Day 3 – Queen West

There is never a shortage of things to see and do in the Big T.O. Today was a day of wandering around downtown just enjoying the busy city life. 

I forget how lovely it is to take the streetcar around town. It’s a fantastic way travel around the city and to see a lot in a short amount of time. Riding on the streetcar (or tram, as I am used to calling it) is relaxing.Whenever I am looking for a quiet time to rejuvenate and getting lost in thoughts, riding on the tram is exactly what I do. I know, I know, it sounds a bit weird…but really, it’s fantastic. Sitting in a vehicle that makes a gentle whirring noise while the scene of the city just passes you by –  it’s incredible. So some ideas got flowing in my mind and I was able to think to myself without any distractions. 

Today I took the tram down to Queen West and had a mini-adventure with Katie. We drove past Trinity Bellwoods and arrived deep into Hipsterville. There were so many cool little shops, from clothing to pastries, to trendy hotels and bitters stores, this area of Queen Street carries the kitschiest things. It is worth the trip down to the west side of downtown; every little shop has something unique and amazing to offer. I certainly miss being able to wander aimlessly down a street and finding things that will catch my attention and drive my creativity.

Tomorrow is going to be another exciting day just wandering around downtown! I can’t wait to share more about my visit back to the place I call home.

Travel Bug:Toronto Day 1 – Taking the Time

Apparently a little time in the air and travel is all I need for a bit of inspiration. It is always difficult to pull away from work, but it is necessary to do so! It’s not just about recharging and relaxing, but it is also letting yourself rest and focus on things not relating to work, to regain perspective, in a way.

After a rather enjoyable flight to the Big T.O., I landed to find out that Arsenal won the FA Cup for the second time in a row and for the 12th time overall (the most any club has ever won!) The rest of my day was bound to be positive after the result. Being picked up by my friend and spending a normal afternoon together is a great way to start my vacation. We reconnected, caught up and enjoyed an afternoon full of delicious goodness.

First we went to Mama Bear Taiwanese Cuisine which was satisfying for my starved tummy. The noodles were super silky and the right amount of chewy with the perfect ratio between sauce and noodles. There were also a wide variety of popular Taiwanese snacks including one of my favourites, a doughy thing pancake wrapped around pork floss and egg.

Fittingly, Chinese dessert was to follow. Along Highway 7, there is a complex called Times Square which has A LOT of food places. We went to one called Health. Herb. Harmony. Yes, that is it’s actual name. And it has some of the most authentic Chinese desserts I’ve ever had in North America. There is nothing fancy about this place, in fact, it looks like a rundown old Chinese restaurant. But the dessert is absolutely phenomenal. Trust us and just try whatever on the menu, it will not disappoint. Try 207 and 219 for those with extreme sweet tooth, and for custard-loving souls, my personal favourite is 132 with ginger. Just trust us.

Finally, we wrapped up the night with good ol’ soondubu jigae, a Korean soft tofu soup. Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu has a menu dedicated to soondubu, there are six different kinds of soondubu and three alternatives for those who do not like tofu soup. The portion sizes are perfect for individual eat, not too much and not too little, and thoroughly satisfying.

That’s about my first couple hours in Toronto. There are a lot more places to try out, and places to view. Keep coming back to read about my time in Toronto and follow me on Instagram to visually enjoy!

First Day of Spring

Ok yes…the first day of spring was actually YESTERDAY, but really, with the weather like it is, it pretty much is the second coming of winer. And not a pretty one. Snow is not fun when you have to shovel. Anyways, I am getting away from what I am trying to write. So!

It’s already the middle of March and I haven’t made a list yet! So here’s a list of goals I want to achieve this year. Since starting a new job, I haven’t quite looked after myself as much as I should, and I haven’t looked for ways to grow and learn outside my profession. If you have any suggestions to help me with my goal, please let me know! You will be rewarded with tea and lots of smiles.

  1. Write once a month (and simultaneously try something new in Edmonton)
  2. Go swimming (more than once)
  3. Learn a new skill (last year it was horseback riding, what will it be this year?)
  4. Re-learn basic French
  5. Try 3 new tea companies and profile them
  6. Develop an awesome business idea
  7. Get into grad school

Too boring? Not awesome enough? Or just amazing goals?! Let me know what you think and let’s make these things happen!

Olaff Spring

Lacking a Bit of Inspiration

What happens when I lack inspiration for writing? Just start writing.

Sounds crazy right?

But really, there has been nothing really exciting to write about. Nothing really for me to report on. Nothing really to review. Do I feel like my life is lacklustre right now? Not really. I might have too much on my mind and don’t know how to express my thoughts and feeling. I might truly have nothing to say. Maybe nothing has been inspiring me lately. Or maybe it’s just too comfortable being a couch potato and rewatching Arsenal games.

Maybe words just aren’t coming to me. Maybe everything I have to say has been said. (Doubt it). Maybe I don’t know what to say. 

Hopefully this nothing post will spark some inspiration. I find sometimes when you want to do something, you just have to do it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It is most likely riddled with mistakes and frankly mediocre at best. But I guess this is the start of something. What that something is….I have no idea. 

So this is my first post of 2015. Let’s see what adventures this year has for me. I have to start somewhere. Right?

Alberta Ballet With a Touch of Spanish Flair: Don Quixote

Earlier this month Don Quixote premiered on stage in Edmonton with great flare at the Northern Jubilee Auditorium. What a fantastic piece to showcase the best of the Alberta Ballet and to start the season at a high point. There were so many fantastic moments in this classic production.

Don Quixote and Kitri

Jean Grand-Maitre portraying Don Quixote & Hayna Gutierrez playing Kitri. (Photograph courtesy of Albert Ballet taken by Paul McGrath)

This riveting ballet is a story about the fight for love, with a dash of humor. Thoroughly entertaining, the Alberta Ballet put on a great opening production. Don Quixote tells of a tale of a Lord, in his old age, seeking his beloved Dulcinea. Going into town he encounters the love story of Kitri and Basilio. However, Kitri’s father Lorenzo, is against Kitri’s and Basilio’s relationship. Seeing their relationship in peril, Don Quixote helps and demonstrates to Lorenzo that Kitri and Basilio’s love is real, and in the end Kitri and Basilio are wedded. Continue reading

Closet in a Wall: BiBO – The Smallest Wine Bar in Canada

One of the coolest things about having a friend who loves wine and fine-dining is that I get to explore all these cool places in Edmonton that I didn’t know existed. I have only seen these cozy wine places in movies (or in my imagination).

I spent a couple Saturdays ago at BiBO, right beside Culina in the university area. It claims to be the smallest wine bar in Canada. It fits 10 people where you just come and go as you like. BiBO is dark and dim, but rather than being ominous, it has an intimate atmosphere where everyone is extremely friendly and talkative. Being a noob to the wine scene, I had no idea what to expect and my experience was thoroughly enjoyable.Wine

BiBO exceeded my expectations; it has easily become one of my favourite places in the city. Stepping into BiBO is like stepping into a movie. It’s you, your friend, other people and the bartender, Dianna. She knows her wine and this little place is all hers to run. Dianna is a fantastic wine connoisseur and a fantastic host. She’s lovely and so much fun, everything you want in a wine bar looking to unwind.

BiBO has a wide rotating selection of wines, port, bubblies and many others. I definitely did not know where to start (not being a wine connoisseur) but Dianna was more than happy to help and I was given a couple really good selections. I think from my experience, I have discovered one of my favourite wines, Viognier. I tried a viognier from Canada, Stable Door. It was exquisite and was the perfect balance between crisp and sweet. The framboise port was also an amazing wrap-up to the evening.

Overall, BiBO is a must go-to for anyone looking to unwind and enjoy a quiet yet warm atmosphere.

The Switch-Up: One Year After Graduation

New grad life is probably one of the scariest transitions a person can go through. Upon graduation, most of us have never worked a full time job before, we probably have never left home, and at the age of 21, horribly lost and confused with the onslaught and realization of the magnitude of the ‘real world.’

And why wouldn’t we be? There is no life training, no one sits you down to give a rundown of what the rest of your life will be like, you can only observe and learn from other people’s examples and then turn around carving your own little place in the world.

But the world doesn’t have to be an imposing mystery. It is a great and wonderful place with bountiful beauty and marvels, you just have to experience it for yourself, or stay hopelessly feeling ‘stuck.’

Post-grad was a scary time for me. I was offered a less than optimal job, but really wanted to stay in Toronto, the city where I met and fell in love with God, where I met my best roomie, and was part of an odd mish-mash of the most brilliant and imaginative friends I had ever known. By my forth year, Toronto was my home. I had made myself comfortable in the Big T.O. experiencing the culture, meeting so many people and enjoying the food. It was no secret I did not want to move. However, this is where reality and maturity cross paths and having to make a relatively difficult decision to move home, I was back in Edmonton after four years away in the best place I have ever known.

The adjustment back home was hard. It was great to be able to connect with friends whom I haven’t seen for a couple years and to have their support and friendship. But starting work here was difficult. Saddled with a comfortable entry level government job, I am set for life. Though less than optimal given my background in business marketing and strategy (with not a whole lot of practical experience), it is a good position with great pay, flexible schedule and amazing vacation time. But it wasn’t something I wanted to wake up for every morning, I didn’t feel like I contributed anything but administrative support on most days, most importantly I wasn’t learning, growing and developing positive professional skills. Knowing the tight and competitive job market though, I knew that I needed to build a solid year of full time work experience before I could even think about applying to any new positions.

Now almost one year into full time work life, I have gained more confidence in myself, built a circle of friends and mentors and slowly started to piece together what direction I should go in life. All my life I thought I was going to work in a large established company. But looking back, all my experiences have been around an organization with a start up type of environment. With that in mind, I decided to apply for something that fit with that criteria. We shall see where this job application will take me.

After all this rambling, thing is, as a new grad, life is scary and can be extremely frustrating. You will have some idea of where you want to go in life, but chances are you are not there yet, but you can see where you want to be. I had to weather the storms of my emotions, coming to heads with my parents and even some of my friends, but at the end of the day, you are where you are for a reason. Find every opportunity to grow and learn, take on other odd jobs related to your career aspirations, but most of all, do not grow complacent and comfortable with where you are at if that is not where you want to stay. There were times where I did grow complacent in my position, where I was sick and tired of applying for positions that bore no fruit. It was exhausting and taxing emotionally and spiritually. However, it was even more uncomfortable and exhausting being part of something I knew deep down I wanted nothing to do with. That struggle is pushing me switch it up, to find those opportunities with a team and organization that will challenge me, push me to my limits, and is somewhere I go to everyday excited. I do realize that this pursuit of a new position may come to nothing, but I always attack with the attitude, “the answer is always no when you don’t seek.” It can be scary, you may feel either super confident or extremely disheartened, but at the end if the day you cannot grow complacent, you have to actively seek.

Even though I am only one year out of university, I feel like school was a lifetime away. Toronto, increasingly feels like a wonderful dream, but it’s not. It was where I spent four years if my life gaining wonderful experiences and friends, what I learned from in Toronto I am applying to living in Edmonton. I can only say to grads that in this digital age where it looks like EVERY ONE is achieving feats of amazingness, chances are 50% (or more) of your peers aren’t. Everyone is struggling to start a new chapter of life. It’s ok to not know where you want to be and it’s ok to not like where you are now. Just know patience and taking every opportunity you can will help you build towards where you want to go.

Travel Bug: Hong Kong Wrap Up

There is so much to do when you travel, sometimes I never want it to end! But alas, my adventure across the Pacific is now over. Here’s a recap and a list of things to do should you ever visit Hong Kong.

  1. Go to The Peak. It is an amazing place to see all of Hong Kong from up high. There is a 360 degree view of the land and islands that make up Hong Kong. There are a lot of shops and dining at this high point. There are several ways to get up to The Peak, by bus, car, tram or by hiking up the mountain.
  2. Food is good in Hong Kong, you can have everything from street food, all forms and types of noodles, amazing snacks and desserts, really anything, but one of my absolute favourites was sushi. Two amazing places for sushi is Kaika at The One in Tsim Sha Tsui and IHEI in iSQUARE complex, also in Tsim Sha Tsui. At both places I had a sashimi set and not only were they very filling, but also very fresh and extra delicious.
  3. Disneyland is a must see. It’s the happiest place on Earth! Hong Kong Disney is a small enough theme park to explore the entire park in one day. 
  4. Shopping in Tsim Sha Tsui. There are designers left, right and centre in the area. There are a tonne of shopping to do here, there’s also a lot of foods to try. It’s possible to spend days walking around TST. The Hong Kong Cultureal Centre is also located in TST with multiple of performances to go to every night.

There are loads more to do in Hong Kong, unfortunately my time there was so short I didn’t have time to do it all! Here’s just a quick photo look back at my amazing time in Asia.

Travel Bug: Hong Kong Day 16

It’s my final full day in Hong Kong!! I leave tomorrow and boy do I wish this vacation will not end. It’s too much fun not having to work and spending time with family I don’t see as often as I should. But alas, I must return to the other side of the Pacific Ocean and resume my normal non-vacationing side of life.

Today was my last sushi meal lunch day. We went back to TST to a building complex called The One. On one of the very high floors (19F) there is a Japanese restaurant called Kaika. Not only was the view overlooking Victoria Harbour stunning, the food was exquisite as well. I was treated with the sashimi set which came with two pieces of eight different kinds of fish. Doesn’t sound like a lot but when you start digging through your meal, it becomes quite filling! I will never forget this place, it’s a bit on the pricier side but it is worth every penny I tell you!

Afterwards we went to one of the busiest districts in Hong Kong called Mong Kok. Again there are a bunch of shopping to do in this area and a couple of really neat places (like manga stores), if you know where to look (I certainly didn’t but my mom did so I trailed after her trying not to get run over by the thousands of people that were there.) Lady Street is also located in this area and is a street filled with vendors selling an assortment of goods from clothing to knock-offs to souvenirs and even small household appliances. If you want to try your hand at bargaining, this is the place to practice being a master haggler!

Prior to Mong Kok, we were at Sham Shui Po, where there are other assortment of goods. This area is more local and carries a lot of fun things. There is an entire complex dedicated to selling electronics, so if you’re a techie or gamer, this is the place to be. A little further from the exit of the station are a bunch of shops that sell craft materials like beads, strings, ribbons, etc. I had a hard time leaving some of the shops because of all the cute and pretty things. Materials here are also super affordable and so for $10 I took home an assortment of ribbons, cords and hair clips.

Overall, today was a fantastic day and I’ll be sad to leave tomorrow but this adventure is almost at the close.