Iceland & Ireland

😱  I wish I was a talented photographer to take pics like these. Iceland.

😱  I wish I was a talented photographer to take pics like these. Iceland.

Waaaaah, it's been a week being married and we're just weeks away from our honeymoon trip to Iceland and Ireland! 

Now I know what most people are thinking, why did we pick the cold over hot warm sunny beaches and living like a king & queen for a week or two? 

Because we'd be bored out of our minds and we don't have that kind of money to blow and also why blow money on being pampered when you can see glaciers, and volcanic beaches, fjords, a blue lagoon, dramatic cliff sides, Game of Thrones filmed sets, natural waterfalls, puffin & whale watching, and experience cultures galore?

There was no doubt in my mind I had wanted to make our honeymoon memorable, but we both wanted something we hadn't seen before. Beaches and blue waters? Been there and done that. Let's move onto something we've never done or seen before. 

Wow Air was the perfect airline to pick (so to speak). We had so many destinations to choose from? Should we go to Copenhagen and the Canary Islands? Should we do the Baltics? How about Italy and Croatia? Ugh! The choices were endless and we had to decide fast. Luckily Wow Air offers stop over destinations, which means that if you've never been to Iceland, it's a great way to make it your first leg of your trip and then catch a flight from Reykjavik to your other destination. We picked Dublin because my hubby is of Irish descent, and I have never been to Ireland and there are some pretty spectacular natural beauty there (along with lots of heavy drinking and partying, bwahaha - no seriously, we're too old for that stuff, a couple of pints to drink and we're ready for bed - ahh to be mid 30s). So that's the story of how we picked Iceland and Ireland.

Skellig Island off the coast of Ireland is where they filmed that last scene in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We probably won't have time to go there but it would've been cool to visit!

Skellig Island off the coast of Ireland is where they filmed that last scene in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We probably won't have time to go there but it would've been cool to visit!

I'm extremely excited for this honeymoon, I've been prepping for the past few weeks trying to get a few things in gear, namely the gear itself. I had to purchase a hiking backpack as we'd be traveling quite a lot in Ireland, and Iceland has some pretty rugged lands, so needed to get a pair of hiking shoes. The weather in both places can be pretty unpredictable, rainy, windy, cold, sunny and hot. So we're basically having to dress for all kinds of weather, though after some research Iceland would already be experiencing some midnight sun activity (the sun would set at 10:30pm by the time we're there). Ireland should have more bouts of clear sunny days, but I'm prepping for all kinds of weather just in case it doesn't turn to our favour! But that's part of the fun and that's what will make it a unique honeymoon (with photoshoot in our wedding gear included). 

It all goes down next month and I'm excited and sad at the same time because I know it'll go by so quickly and before you know it I'll be back at work sighing for another moment of vacation. Plans in the fall are falling into place, it looks like my hubby may join me in Italy after all! It'll be some pretty whirlwind days in Southern Italy but I'm sure it'll be all worth it. Hopefully we can make it to Positano without losing an arm and a leg in hotel costs 😎

Found a beautiful and cute hotel in Positano, hoping to get this one!

Found a beautiful and cute hotel in Positano, hoping to get this one!

I'm already dreaming of the warm coast of Italy this fall. This trip would make it to 3 foreign countries in a year 🙌🏼 We're already talking about a future trip in 2018 maybe to Thailand, though Australia and New Zealand are also strong contenders for me to strike off my bucket list as well. We're also always discussing visiting Copenhagen for a quick jaunt while visiting the Baltics, so perhaps that could also be a possibility for spring 2018. I'd rather explore than relax at the beach, I would take a beach vacation maybe in 2020. 

Minimalist Wedding - Victoria's Final Tally

Ok wow, so much has happened in the last couple of days, I haven't had time to take a proper break and write up about how things rolled out on Wedding Tour Stop #1 in Victoria, BC. 

As I've said, we've lucked out on the weather and many other things, but when all has been said and done, here's the final tally. 

Groom
Custom Suit (pants, vest, shirt, jacket, bow tie): approx. $1000
Shoes: $80
Total: $1080

Bride
Skirt + Top: $500
Shoes: $220
Hair Band: $40
Earrings: $8
Makeup + Hair: Free, did it myself
Total: $768

Other costs
Commissioner: $250
Marriage License: $100
Catered Food: $400
Champagne: Free
Alcohol: Free
Bridal Bouquet: $15
Decorative Flowers: $35
Event tents rental: Free
Decorations: Free
Rental seating chairs: Free
Party favours: Free (homemade soap + sachet of potpourri)
Event photographers: Free
Wedding dinner celebration + Afternoon Tea: $460
Total: $1260

Wedding Event Total: $3108

Most items we got for free were either covered by my in-laws or really there was no charge at all (like the event photographers). Even then, the costs for decoration and whatnot (except maybe the chairs and champagne flutes, which I don't know the cost of the rentals) was only $100 as a lot of it was bought from the dollar store. We were very fortunate about the alcohol and champagne bottles that were given to us. Because the party was only up to about 35 people, they only ate half the food, and used up only half of the booze. So net loss on those two typically expensive items, were really minimal.

Clearly we spent more on ourselves than we did for the guests, lol 😅 But we were very lucky to have this many show up and receive as many gifts as we have had. So a big thank you to all who came!

We were treated to a night at The Empress Hotel, which is one of the cornerstones of Downtown Victoria. I'm told it had gone significant renovations and that it finally looks like modern luxury and no doubt, those renovations paid off into a handsome room!

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We also had Afternoon Tea in their main room, which had a grand Victorian air about it with tall ceilings, columns and patterned wooden floors. The tea sets were very English, though some of the seats were left to be desired (though some have winged chairs, ours were much like these pictured above. We were seated next to a window with a great view of Victoria Harbour, so there wasn't much to complain about. Still, having done Afternoon Teas many times in other places, The Empress did not meet my expectations for the price you pay in terms of food quality, though the experience itself was quite lovely. 

For the next celebration in Houston, I can already see a lot of costs being halved since we have already paid for the initial outfits and marriage license & ceremony. So Houston would really just be about eating and celebrating with some decorations. There is already talks of having Afternoon Tea at the St. Regis again (!!), and my mum seems to insist on having a wedding cake made from the same bakers as my brother's wedding, though I already enlisted my friend to make homemade macarons for the occasion, but who am I to be in the way of what a parent wants at their married child's wedding party? lol. I told my mum to bring lots of banh cuon and Vietnamese food fares, because that will be my main mission in Texas: to eat. I would still like to have a Texas BBQ, but having just Viet food would be just as awesome for me 😋 

Houston will entail some initial expenses such as buying our own air tickets, since last time that was covered for us as well. Can't you tell we're incredibly spoiled already?! I'm really not ready to swing big money on this cake, but I will pull my negotiating skills to the test and see if I can talk my mum out of it (besides, we don't need a big one and I definitely don't want her to tell them it's a wedding cake!). We've learned that as soon as you say "wedding" the prices jump up for no good reason. I reckon after Houston, given how we've spent a little more than I thought in Victoria, we may be slightly over our $5000 budget, but this is a given as events usually turn out more expensive than planned on paper. But it's fine, I think so far we've done a pretty good job in saving money and splurging on things we find worthwhile.

Such as these $8 earrings I got. These rhinestones shine brighter than my wedding ring, who knew?

Aren't they fabulous?! I'm totally hooked on buying at Yesstyle.com now. 

Aren't they fabulous?! I'm totally hooked on buying at Yesstyle.com now. 

I'm also glad that I got my hairband on sale since now the price went back up to over $50.

So it's been a fun ride so far, I feel terribly blessed and lucky to have married the most wonderful man with an amazing family. I can't wait to celebrate with my family this fall!

So This Happened

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Married! 🤗

Our day turned out to be really nice as we had beautiful weather yesterday! We had some concerns that we would get rainy weather since just the day before we had hail coming down the tents.

But luckily everything turned out fine, the ceremony was short and sweet. Even with just 30 people, I thought we had a lot of people as it was quite noisy and busy. 

We actually had two photographers who took our photos, which was very sweet of them. So we'll actually have some photos of this day. I didn't need bridesmaids or a hair and makeup artist. I did everything myself. My bouquet was store bought mostly with purple and violet flowers. My whole outfit was bought online, from the earrings to the shoes to even my wedding ring. I only needed my skirt to be hemmed in. It wasn't stressful at all and even if I did a little flub during my vows it was all good! I had a great time.

We were treated to stay at the Empress Hotel for the night. We walked in with our wedding outfit and we got a free bottle of Prosecco! Then we headed over to a gastronomy restaurant called Saveur and the food was delicious! We also came in dresses up be they gave us a free glass of Prosecco. And because we had the wine pairing with our food, we got pretty hammered by the end lol. I loved the dish with the tuna albacore tatami with this strange mix of a terrine of radish and mushrooms but once you eat it all together it's actually quite good. I also loved this chicken dish that reminded me very much of Peking Duck meat with the onion sauce, the crispy skin and this marshmallow of foie gras! 😱 So good! The whole experience was relaxed, we chatted up two of our waiters and learned a couple of them were from Montreal originally and that a group of people next to us were from Dorval. So funny that all the foodies went to this place. And of course, everyone is SO nice. Ugh, wish we had that kind of friendliness in Montreal in the service industry.

We're having afternoon tea at our hotel later on so that will be exciting! More updates later!

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What Wedding Jitters?

My co-workers have been peppering me with questions if I was nervous for the big day. Since I don't have to really plan or organize a huge party, I don't feel nervous at all. I'm excited to get married but I'm not stressed about it. 

Hubby gave me these a few days ago. Always so sweet of him ☺️ 

Hubby gave me these a few days ago. Always so sweet of him ☺️ 

Because we kept our party to a small group and decided to have lunch over dinner and no venue, it makes it so much easier! Although everyone told me to give myself extra time to get ready, which could only tops take me an hour to do hair and makeup, I'm not sure what else I could be worrying over other than food and flowers? I don't know. I don't get nervous beforehand, typically I get nervous DURING the event, lol. 

So it's all going down this weekend in Victoria! After that it's another party to plan for Houston. I'll be a Mrs before you know it!

The Last Grind

It's midnight and I have now 22 hours to go to submit my paper. I'm in the final stretch of editing it and really want to submit it tonight. AND I have a quiz to fill out, which shouldn't take too long, but it's now officially Monday and I have work in a few hours. 

Oy.

I didn't get to work out like I wanted to today because I've been slaving away at this paper all day. I'm not even sure if I can muster up the energy to even go to the gym if I'm still slaving like this, but we'll see! I might also need to pop into the office to get some peace and quiet. I'm also waiting for a dress order - ah yes...I caved and bought clothes. I couldn't help myself. At least I lasted a good 4 months without buying any, so that's pretty good!

After this semester, I don't think I'll want to return to school any time soon. I've never written an academic paper before, with my university history of classes, it was easy to write creative stories and essays, graphic design was all about artsy projects, but academic papers? Never. And Jesus, I really hate it. I thought I enjoyed writing, but it's definitely not academic writing. I don't even mind technical writing! I write instructions all the time for work, but heaven forbid I ever need to write another academic paper again. It's like scratching nails on a chalk board the amount of citation and extra reading I need to do for these things.

I mean I love what I'm reading, and the tests aren't bad. But it's the papers. The papers!! I just can't stand to read another academic journal/report/essay/book for a research paper. I'm technical but not this technical. Ugh...

Ok. Back to the grind.

Drown Me in Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea room at the Westbury in Dublin. So posh!

Afternoon Tea room at the Westbury in Dublin. So posh!

If there's one thing to properly spoil me with is having several sessions of afternoon tea in different locations around the world. So it's no surprise that I have so far 3 afternoon tea sessions booked in the next couple of months 😅 My mum has also been talking to redo another session in Houston in the fall for our Texas celebration, and considering that the St-Regis there ranks pretty high up on my list, how can I say no?

Of course, since I've quit Instagram, I haven't really gotten in the habit of taking photos of my afternoon tea sessions anymore, but will try to do my best when I go to The Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, The Westbury Hotel in Dublin and the Glenlo Abbey in Galway. 

The Glenlo Abbey's Pullman train restaurant serves afternoon tea on Saturdays.

The Glenlo Abbey's Pullman train restaurant serves afternoon tea on Saturdays.

That said, I may not be able to afford to stay in posh hotels, but there is nothing stopping us from eating at their restaurants, bars or afternoon tea rooms. The Westbury is a great example of a beautifully appointed hotel, with great taste in decoration and branding. I love the Pullman train car set up at the Glenlo Abbey (how fun!) but unfortunately they only serve afternoon tea there on Saturdays, a day where we won't be able to make it. However they do have their traditional tea rooms, which are equally luxurious. 

The tea room at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas next to the Sky Lobby. Cannot beat this view!

The tea room at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas next to the Sky Lobby. Cannot beat this view!

My favourite place for tea is still the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas as that was the catalyst of my afternoon tea experiences. The views, the food, the tea, the sunset - it was all so perfect! The St-Regis in Houston comes as a strong second, with very fresh, very tasty food. The room was opulent in shiny cherry wood, it was very intimate, but not airy enough for my taste. In terms of ambiance, The Peninsula in Beverly Hills definitely gave that upscale feeling to a new level, though unfortunately the seats we were given were less than ideal. The Ritz-Carlton in Montreal falls on the okay side, it's at the entrance of the hotel with zero views (though good for people watching). It's the only place that we go to now on a yearly basis, and they typically don't disappoint in terms of service and food. Hence, I'm really looking forward to Victoria and Ireland as new places to explore. Of course, the Motherland of all afternoon teas is London, but I know equally that Asia enjoys offering afternoon tea just as much and have seen some incredible displays of food.  

I've long stopped pastry hunting since I've been trying to cut out processed sugar in my life, so I enjoy afternoon tea as it is the quintessential best way to enjoy pastries. The great thing about getting married is being able to spend time at these gorgeous places and not feel guilty in spending there, lol. I also have a great fiancé who enjoys having these tea times with me since he said it was the least he could do since he'd be dragging me to so many pubs in Ireland 😂😂😂 

Countdown to Married Life

Dude. I'm getting married next month. Things are happening so fast with work, school, a wedding and a honeymoon that I feel my time this year is already whizzing by! 

I have to be one of the most relaxed brides out there. The only things that I'm fussing with are trying to find ways to curl my hair and steam my dress when I'm on my honeymoon. Everything else has been taken care of in Victoria. Houston is still TBD, I have a vague idea of what I want but I probably won't address any of that until the summer. I only need to worry about food, drinks and a place to hold a BBQ. How hard can that be?

Life has been pretty good! Although I have gone on a bit of a baby-thinking binge, I'm still super concerned about possible baby issues due to old eggs. You know, how you're more likely to give birth to a child that has mental disabilities like Down Syndrome, or physical disabilities, these are strong possibilities. I'm not sure we're ready to cope with that mentally and financially. So as fascinated I've been about child rearing, I'm also very much on the fence about having a kid. I guess I'm just paranoid about the possibility of raising a child, much less a child with disabilities. No one is perfect and I'm sure a lot of those children live great lives with very devoted parents, but perhaps if the thought worries me so much, then perhaps I shouldn't have a kid at all. Which would be fine too. We would just have to devise a way to grow closer to our families instead.

It would free us with more time and money to travel around the world and experience different cities and countries, along with meeting new and interesting people. We won't burden ourselves with a condo or house, just our cats. And if I had it my way, we'd be foster parents for cats or in a more idealistic situation, be care givers to orphan kittens like Hanna Shaw 🙊 I honestly think that if money was not an issue, I would do what Hannah would be doing. It just feels so good to help abandoned kittens and save them from being euthanized.

There are a couple of goals I'd like to accomplish in the short term. One of them is becoming a better cook. Eventhough my foray in better cooking has only started the moment I lived on my own in LA, which was 5 years ago, the more I cook, the more confident I become. Ever since I got a stainless steel pot and a cast iron skillet for xmas, I've been learning to cook at different temperatures and getting more creative with different ingredients. My staples are still pasta dishes and meat & rice, but having veggies in there really makes a difference. I really want to improve how I cook and if I weren't so tired after work, I think I would enjoy it way more. However it has been quite fun making sourdough bread that one time, and when I finally used the right kind of parmesan cheese (padano) for my carbonara, it changed my dish from good to amazing. Anyway, I love cooking, if it were up to me I'd ask for another stainless steel pot and stainless skillet😆

Another personal goal is eating healthier and being more fit. I'm doing slow progress on my fitness, but the biggest change is having a better diet. I've cut alcohol and chips from my weekly diet and really rely on veggies and meat for lunch. I've already noticed a significant difference. I shamelessly still eat pasta for dinner, though in smaller portions. I haven't touched any chips in a week and I've had some mad cravings, but I've so far resisted. Chips are loaded with salt, so I need to stay away from them, but it hasn't stopped the cravings. Are salty foods supposed to be addictive? I mean I know sugar can be, but didn't think salt would be the same way. Regardless, staying away from added salt is a good thing. When I cook, now that I use spices to jack up the flavours, I rarely put salt and pepper unless it's just to sprinkle it on for taste. Clearly I think food plays a major part in being healthy, more so than exercise. 

As far as fitness goes, progress is slow and kinda painful. But I'm pretty determined to pull through it now that I'm eating healthier. Energy wise it's hard to say if it's made much of a difference, but I remember after a day or two, I had a sleepless night because I was too excited to go back to the gym, lol. It also helps to keep a positive attitude, that way even if I had a crap resistance work out, at least I did something. I've restarted using my FitBit which helps motivate me in some ways now that I'm working out again. I can see the uselessness of FitBit if you don't work out, but when you do, it's not a bad reminder.

Anyhoo, I'm working on a couple of areas in my life and it's baby steps but steps regardless. I hope to aim for a stronger and more fit body with a healthier diet. Maybe then it would warrant me to spend a little on fun gym outfits (yes the minimalist in me has gone out the window). 

35

I've officially reached mid-thirties. It's so weird looking at that number. Let's look at it in bigger font.

35

Whoa. I know that ten years from now I'll be looking back and laughing at this post, but for now, let's just enjoy this brand new number. 

Ten years ago, a guy I met told me that my 30s would be just around the corner and that it'll be here sooner than you know it. Indeed, 30 came and went, I made a huge change in my life when I moved to LA at that age. Here I am now, 5 years later with so much growth and changes that have happened in such a short time frame.

In the last 5 years, there was much doubt towards my cousins and I about our marital future. We're 7 cousins roughly around the same age and by 2012, only two of them got married. My uncle started getting worried in 2013 and I got a lecture about his concern about whether or not he'll ever see the day of being a grandparent. That was such an awkward conversation 😅

He didn't have to wait too long to see another wedding though, as my brother got married in 2015 (at age 36), and my uncle's eldest son got married in 2016 (at age 35). And now next month, it'll be my turn to get hitched at age 35. I am the last female cousin to tie the knot, so to my mum's relief, I've finally settled down. I can see my uncle's concern given that the last wedding we went to before 2015 was in 2006. Under various circumstances, it just took the rest of us longer to getting around in finding the right person. The last two cousins are younger than I am, so they still have time.

That said, I've also officially moved over to a new age box of the 35-44. Omg, I'm getting up there! It still hasn't sunken in quiet yet that I'm literally 5 years away of being 40, and by some respect, I think that 40 is an age that's pushing for wiser, stronger, more steadfast adultness. I envision my 30s to be the decade of stability, and my 20s were the hot mess that they were. 40s are when you're a pro at your career and family, at least that's how I view that age group. You're basically polishing off the acquired skills of your 30s of motherhood and career. So to say the least, the next 5 years are going to be crazy.

I read an article about young people asking others aged 40+ what they should have done when they were in their 30s. Of those answers, many said not to sweat the small stuff. Money, fame, power, career are all things that don't matter when you grow old and that family and good friends are more important. This correlates with those centenarians, who live long lives due to a strong social circle and healthy lifestyle. In another article about seniors, many said that money, fame, power and career are often the dreams of the 20 yr olds, but as they grow older those values changed to love, family and friends towards the end of their lives. So eventhough I may concern myself with a few things in life, I think friendship and family will be the biggest focus of my life moving forward. Forget trying to impress strangers on the internet. There are only really 3 Instagram accounts that I follow religiously and wish I had an account so that I can like/love and comment and coo over kittens, cats and the amazing transformation photos of Kayla Itsines. Of course if I went back to Instagram, I would follow my family and close friends, and that would be it. 

But first, I need to work on myself in being more mindful of others and appreciate the small gestures that I've noticed others have done but I have not been able to naturally do it myself. This includes random gift giving, wishing others well, and other appreciative moves. I consider myself a terrible gift giver, but perhaps it's only because I have never put the effort in doing something out of my comfort zone such as saying thank you or giving money to the guy who begs nearly every day after work at the metro station, but always politely says "Bonne journée!" as I pass by. I should also give money to the dude who plays like Jimi Hendrix at Guy-Concordia metro sometimes. He knows how to make that guitar sing. My manners are rubbish, and I'm always embarrassed by not doing certain things that are out of character for me. But I will try my best moving forward to be more mindful of others rather than myself. Maybe with these changes, I can do better in creating better friendships.

To all my friends and family who read this blog, thank you for your love, kindness and support. It means a lot to me and I'm forever grateful for you constantly reaching out even when I seem to retract into my shell without realizing it. I definitely want to be more open in person, but I realize that has to start with me truly wanting to do so. Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts. 🤗

That BBG Life

I have a love/hate relationship with working out and ever since I quit Instagram, I no longer get to see Kayla Itsines' posts about other women transforming their bodies with her program. I'm always floored by the before and after photos, and I keep telling myself I should stop being so lazy and work out.

It worked for a short while, I was doing pretty well and was onto week 6 (out of 12 weeks) and then I fell off the wagon after my trip to Halifax a couple of years ago. Ever since then it's been a struggle to start again. I go through the pains of the first week back, thighs burning, abs burning, I'm incapacitated, hunched over and hurting everywhere. But I know those pains are just temporary. I remember by week 3-4 I was doing much better. However the progress I was making wasn't really reflecting in the way I saw myself in the mirror. 

That is until I started cutting out sugar from my life that I discovered that a lot of my bloating came from the processed sugar I was consuming. I had long stopped drinking juice and soda and would on rare occasion have a can or glass, but they're not really part of my diet. However I did pick up on drinking chai lattes, which was basically a sugary replacement of those drinks, which didn't help with my bloating at all. But after watching the Sugar Coated documentary on Netflix, I decided to try an experiment and went a whole month without consuming added sugar or at least cut out the daily chai lattes. 

What a difference!

I was getting acne on my chin, and that quickly cleared up within a couple of days and that bloated feeling I always had in my belly subsided. Sugar is however something very difficult to not consume. Since then, I haven't been able to quite cut out sugar from my diet. I love drinking cider and wine on the weekends and occasionally once during the week if I'm feeling particularly stressed. I consume a chai latte about twice a week as opposed to 7 days a week, so it's progress, but I need to cut back more.

I'm pretty certain that 80% of weight loss is due to diet rather than exercise, and while I've gotten much better in eating more healthy, I still find I have a long way to go in finding a healthier eating lifestyle. My fiancé is all about the smoothies, but I always felt like smoothies are just a big glop of goo in my mouth and I hate the texture of it, so I can't really go that route. I need to be more creative in my cooking and so far I've only extended myself to include bok choy and brussel sprouts in my weekly meals. We try to stay away from processed foods though that doesn't include pasta, french fries, bread, the occasional pizza, and a shit ton of chips. But those are typically the only processed items we eat, everything else is meat, dairy and veggies.

Ahh chips. Such a guilty pleasure. But sadly I need to cut that out too 😭 The only substitute I can think of are plantain chips, nuts, or roasted seaweed. I like that crunchy taste to go with eating something soft, it's been a weird habit of mine and I can't have a sandwich without a crunchy side dish.

I started Kayla's BBG again, though at this point and rate I'm not sure how long I can keep it up. I've decided to sign up for a 1 month gym membership to use the treadmill for my LISS days, however Mother Nature heard I wanted to work out blew 30cm of snow to block me in getting to the gym. At least that's my excuse. On my BBG days, I thankfully can do those at home. I really want to finish a proper round of BBG, but that won't be possible with me going on my honeymoon soon. However I would be determined to at least go 10,000 steps per day during my journey abroad to make up for the lack of resistance training I'd be missing out. Diet will be kind of a crapshoot since I will be drinking quite a bit during my trip, but I suppose I will just have to counter it with healthier meals and lots of water.

After 5 months of being sequestered indoors, I'm regretting that I should've committed to the gym sooner. But hey, that's life. If there's anything I need to conquer it's to eat healthier and exercise more, which I haven't been doing. And although my Fitbit was gathering dust and I found it useless, I started using it again for my own self motivation and as ridiculous as it sounds, it does motivate in a certain way. Just something fun about seeing those blue circles turn green. It's so silly but it works, at least for the time being as I'm trying to get my footing back into working out again. Once summer rolls around, I'll be doing my rounds in the park more often and if I'm super committed to my gym, I'll probably end up doing the latter quarter of BBG there since I don't own a Bosu ball or two flat benches (I'm scared to hurt myself on bench jumps 🙄😅). 

Yagyu Shinkage Ryu is one of the oldest style of kenjutsu rarely seen outside Japan.

Yagyu Shinkage Ryu is one of the oldest style of kenjutsu rarely seen outside Japan.

On another note, I found an interesting course at Studio Bizz that offered a rare form of kenjutsu (japanese swordsmanship) called Yagyu Shinkage Ryu. Unlike Kendo, which is a sporting type of swordsmanship (like fencing), kenjutsu is much more about form perfection and is more similar to an art form. I requested an observation session and found the class pretty interesting and very similar to the japanese dance lessons I've had. Interestingly enough, the teacher said a lot of their footwork is derived by Noh dancing. Anyway, I've been looking for a martial arts to get into and never felt comfortable with the ones who emphasize competition rather than perfection. So I think this kenjutsu is right up my alley as there are no competition components to the class, only graduating to better swords (bamboo, wood, steel). That was the flaw with my japanese dance lessons, I never liked the performance component when I felt I hadn't trained enough to perform, despite the compliments I got. Anyway, I would love to start kenjutsu now, but with so many things in the pipeline for the next couple of months, I won't be able to attend a class more seriously until June. Also they were pretty hardcore with their warm up, so I think I need time to beef up a little with BBG before I join the gang, lol. I like that the class is relatively small and intimate and I sort of consider them to be like this little secret gem that no one has discovered or learned about just yet.

Tomorrow I'm doing arms and abs at home. Wish me luck that I don't pull a muscle, lol.

Kim's Conveniently Delights

I had never been to the Segal Theatre on Côte-Ste-Catherine, and after a quick dinner stop at my uncle's sushi restaurant, we rushed to make it in just in time for the show to start. The theatre is intimate and seats about 300 and honestly no matter where you sat, you had a pretty good view of the stage, which was built to look like the interior of a typical dépanneur. 

Without any preconceptions of watching the TV series, I kept an open mind and was surprised and delighted at the jokes that rang so close to home from the stories I've heard from friends and colleagues of immigrant parents. 

Photo by Kristian Jones from a stage show in 2013.

Photo by Kristian Jones from a stage show in 2013.

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee is the star of the show playing the titular character who owns the dep as Mr. Kim, but better known as Appa (Father). He incarnates his role effortlessly, including a perfectly Korean accented English that sometimes makes a fun play on words that could be misunderstood as something else to much laughter. I found him exemplary of great facial expressions and body language.

All except Paul Lee and Jean Yoon, are not part of the actual TV show, but they might as well be with such an exceptional performance. Rosie Simon plays his daughter, Janet, whom also plays her part effortlessly as a 30 yr old budding photographer and encapsulates the second generation of Asian immigrants, growing up in diverse Canada. Richard Lee, who plays Kim's son, a "failed son," who painfully illustrates his life not living up to his parents or former playmates's picture perfect lives. Hats off for Ronnie Rowe Jr. for incarnating so many characters to this 90 mins set, he had a hilarious exchange about melons with Janet as a police officer who is romantically interested in her. Finally, the cast is rounded out by Jean Yoon, who plays Umma (mother), who I found to be underutilized in this particular performance, but of the glimpses of comedy I could see, I know there's oodle of hilarity just lying beneath the surface. On the upside, she has an amazing singing voice!

Paul's Appa was so spot on with the hard working, high expecting parent, who harbours a complex preconception on people based on his observations as a store owner. It was especially during a poignant exchange with Janet where they brought up  so many issues: Janet was 30 and unmarried, she was in a "no-go" career zone, she didn't want to take over the family business. In return, she tells Appa that he's underappreciative of her help, that she doesn't want to ding her future with something "low" like a convenience store, and the real kicker of them all - in her frustration, she asked to be paid for 15 yrs worth of unpaid employment at the store. Appa retorts with the years of clothing, feeding and supporting her, he sacrificed his hardwork to give her the best future. They come to a excruciating stand still.

It was such a powerful exchange between the two of them, that it moved me to tears. Much of that conversation has probably resonated with many Asian-Canadians who have gone through a similar experience. Asian parents are hard, but they're hard because they love us as they've gone through hardships that they don't want to pass down their children. Asian children, who have grown up in the US or Canada, see the opportunities that are presented to them as much more vast than what their parents want. It spoke to me on so many levels!

But the performance wouldn't be as impactful without displaying the comedic skills of its cast. From hapkido attacks to Insam energy drinks to "po-po" misunderstandings, the hilarity weaves in and out to much of the audience's delight. 

The show ended with a much deserved standing ovation. Much like TV or film, when you have a cast that's this good, it was easy to suspend your disbelief and be completely absorbed in the story. 90 mins went by in a flash, and I couldn't help but want to see more. Luckily for me I have one season to catch up on CBC. And yes! This is a homemade Korean-Canadian TV show that appears on CBC. I'm incredibly proud to finally see a mostly all Asian cast on the silver screen that's made in Canada, written by a Korean-Canadian writer. I went to the Segal to also support an Asian ensemble in theatre, this must be a first on so many levels. Kim's Convenience has been renewed for a second season, which will play this fall. This is great news! I will be cheering for them on the sidelines as I eat my roasted seaweed.

The show is still playing in the Segal Theatre every day until March 19th. There's a meet & greet happening after Monday's show on the 13th. It's definitely worth going!

Purchase tickets here

No Makeup Progress

So after my initial one month makeup-free stint, I've sporadically had days of makeup but most of the time I've kept it makeup-free.

When I did apply makeup, I looked like an airbrushed version of myself and it looked weird. And because I didn't wear any for a while, when I did go back, people in the office noticed, which was in itself amusing and strange as they said nothing when I had it on every day. 

Me today, sans makeup. 

Me today, sans makeup. 

The feeling of disgust always boils down to the removing of the makeup as I feel like I'm polluting the earth more with my throwaway cleansing wipes. Whether cotton balls, pads or cleansing wipes, it's all the same.

Anyway, just wanted to do a quick post on feeling #winning today. As I'm getting older, I'm getting used to the changes in my body and mind. I can't be 23 forever but my mid-thirties have been pretty much exactly what I had wanted them to be: stable. 

Work and Travel Insanity Ahead

Next stop: Torino! 2015 was Gwangju, 2011 was Taipei. I love my job.

Next stop: Torino! 2015 was Gwangju, 2011 was Taipei. I love my job.

I've been doing more late nights at work lately as we're prepping for our General Assembly (GA) this fall. The good news is that I get to travel to Italy and have a break afterwards to traipse around for a bit. The bad news is that I'm looking at more late night works and when I'll be in Italy, it'll be like 10 days straight of work with as little as 4hrs of sleep each night. One can only hope I can drown myself in Italian wine, Nutella and Ferrero Rocher while driving an electric Fiat (Piedmont is known for hazelnut chocolate and is the home base of all these brands).

I did well enough to choose only one class to go to this semester, but fucked myself over in trying to find the time to write a paper about Tokyo's urban ascendance to being the most populated city in the world from an economic boom in the 60s to their choking recession of the 80s. I need to write this paper before I get married, then somehow magically find the time to study for my final exam 3 days after I getting married. Thankfully I'm taking a break from school for the rest of the year. I was too ambitious in thinking that I was going to be able to go to school with more than two classes, because I'm barely managing with one class.

After that, I have like 3 weeks to cram in as much works as I can before I fly away on my honeymoon. Upon my return, it's a full month of hell of more work for a big shindig at the end of June. I have some leeway in the summer months to relax because I think by then we'll have our stuff together, before all hell breaks loose from August-October.

When I've collected my sanity post-Italy, there'll be a trip down to see the family in November for more celebration. And then finally - the holidays. Phew!

I'm actually looking forward in going to Italy, I haven't gone back since 2009 and it was only to Venice. I'm hoping to carve out time to go to Positano near the Amalfi Coast. Ever since I saw the movie "Only You," I've been dreaming about that winding coastline, the stunning views and the romance of Le Sirenuse Hotel. I DIE! It's so gorgeous.

This view!!

Can't get more posh than having a drink in the evening with this stunning view.

Magical.

My soon-to-be hubby would never spend the dimes for a place like this, but he's not going to Italy. So I can at least visit the Amalfi Coast without getting any complaints 😂😂 It just feels so very relaxed and European. It's the perfect getaway. I can't wait.

Book Review: Bringing Up Bébé

As I closed the book on Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman, I feel a sense of satisfaction of being more equipped with the prospect of being a mom in the near future. Honestly, before coming across this book, I was always skeptical of the necessity to read tons of baby books before you give birth. I feel that already there are too many types of parenting, and that by reading too much of anything will make you feel at a loss of what to do. Thus I've decided to go with very little of what I know and judge mostly from feeling, and learn from experience. This is my very first parenting book, if you can even call it that. It's more of a journey through an American mother raising her children in Paris and the notable differences and culture clashes on parenting.

Much of what the French were doing echoed a lot of my own upbringing in French-speaking Quebec, where I'm sure they've inherited a lot from the Mother Land. It also gave a glimpse at how American parents fret over things in the way French parents don't. But I believe the type of American parenting that Druckerman described is a much more recent trend rather than decades old traditions. So it's best to keep in mind that it's the American parenting as we know it today rather than how it's always been. 

Druckerman describes her journey from birth to managing 5yr olds in Paris. The biggest lesson here are that French parents give a lot of autonomy to their children within a certain framework of rules. The framework, or cadre as she would say, is very strict, but within the framework there is a lot of freedom. An example she gives is that she gave her daughter instructions to stay in her room, but in her room, she can do whatever she wants. Or when it comes to eating dinner of a very grown up meal, French parents encourage their children to try everything at least once and they can leave the table. There is no special kids menu or meals, the children eat the same thing as the adults do.

What the rules are depends on what you set for your child, but in France there are a couple of non-negotiable rules: greetings and saying goodbye, and respect for adults and their private time.

French Way of Speaking
The author marks notable differences in the way French people speak to their children in choose phrases or words that are not particularly present in English. I always took the way we said things in French for granted. But when seeing the words translated into English, I never thought that the way you say things can influence on how children would somehow change their behaviours accordingly. 

One example she gave is that instead of telling a child "Ne fait pas ça" (Don't do that), French parents tell them "Tu n'as pas le droit de faire ça" (You don't have the right to do that, or more loosely translated, you're not supposed to do that). This particular phrase comes so naturally and we use it so often in school or daily life in Montreal, that we sort of forget its true meaning. But in English, "not supposed to" removes the power words "the right to do", thus the phrase loses its influential meaning. In the child's case, by disempowering the child's rights, I think there is a psychological aspect that insinuates consequences if you broke the rules than a simple "Ne fait pas ça." 

There were tons of examples like that in the book and I never considered the meaning of the words to be so impactful. This is why the French don't consider their parenting skills to be anything special because of the way they speak to their children. Those phrases and words come naturally, it's a cultural habit rather than a conscious decision to choose those words. Sometimes there are no English equivalent for words like des bêtises (naughty but not on a too serious level). 

The same can be said when I was a child and my mother or father would berate me when I was being bad. They would say an equivalent in Vietnamese that would literally translate "Mother (or Father) does not approve." The French equivalent would be "Je ne suis pas d'accord." If you've been surrounded by Anglophones a lot, it's clear from a language perspective that the words "I don't approve" doesn't quite flow that naturally when parenting a child. Anglophones lean more towards the likes of "Mommy doesn't like it when you..." or "Daddy is not happy when you...". I find they lean more towards emotional words like "happy", "sad", "angry". French speakers use more utilitarian words like "approve", "right", "awakening". 

Hello and Goodbye
Like the French, many Asian children were taught from a very young age the importance of saying hello and goodbye to adults or older people than yourself. It shows not only that you acknowledge of their presence but that they also acknowledge you, and that there is an equal level playing field of respect at hand. Like the French, a child that can't embody these simple gestures of respect is said to be mal élevé, or badly raised. My mother always nagged me to say "Chao Bac" (Hello Auntie or Uncle) with my arms crossed in front of one another and do a quick bow to any adult I first saw in a social setting. I didn't have a proper grasp of age groups back then, so to me everyone was a Bac (uncle or auntie older than mom and dad, but not your grandparents' age), though my parents would often correct me to say "Chu" and "Co" (at least 10yrs older than you but younger than your parents), "Chi" and "Anh" (within 10 yrs of your age). Even to this day, she nags me to say hello to my grandparents, as a sign of respect and acknowledgement. To French parents (and Asian parents) there's nothing worse than to hear that you have a child that is mal élevé, it reflects more on the parents than the child.

Druckerman makes a difference between these initial greetings with "Please" and "Thank You". These two responses are signs of submission, that an action needs to take place in order to prompt you to respond. The greetings are different, it encourages a child to be autonomous by making the first move in greeting or saying goodbye to another person without their prompt. American parents don't normally do this, and although a child can command a room like they were adorable little gods or goddesses, it puts the child in power, thus much more difficult to control if things don't go their way. When you educate your child to do proper greetings, it sets the tone that there is an expectation that you are well-behaved and will remain so for the rest of the evening.

Authority
American parents seem to let their children rule their lives and seem to capitulate to their demands, therefore they deal with repeated temper tantrums and impossible nights out at the restaurant when a child is not happy. French parents believe that authority must be established early and that it's important for a child to learn frustration by being restricted and figure things out for themselves. By going back to the framework mentioned earlier, this is where le cadre can also be applied. Being strict is not simply by denying or forbidding, it entails explaining why but also being firm and confident about saying "no." 

A good example is the author's child, Bean, who was 2 yrs old at the time, was pulling books out of the lower book shelves in the living room of their house. A French woman, who was staying for dinner and who did not have any children, told Bean in a firm but gentle voice, "We don't do that," and taught her to place the books back with encouragements of "doucement" (gently). Bean understood and put the books back without complaint or tantrum. 

There was also a fun practice run of not yelling at children in the playground and that the author had to learn how to become more confident in disciplining her hyperactive son without yelling. It was all in the way you look, your confidence, and low tone of voice.

A personal example is my father famously known for giving you a soul crushing stare if you did something wrong. He didn't even have to raise his voice, he didn't even have to say anything, you could just feel the crackle of electricity of disapproval raining down on you with a single withering look. My mother's go-to approach was waving a wooden spoon in the air threatening to hit my hand with it. She rarely hit, but the rare time she did was etched into my memory for life. It served for future purposes when she was mad at me and strengthened her authoritative figure over me. When friends and acquaintances ooh-ed and ahh-ed at how my brother and I were so well-behaved, it's because we knew that around adults, they must be treated with respect, along with respecting the parents authority. My brother and I were prime examples of well-behaved children, borderline shy. We weren't commended or praised for being good the way American parents today seem to praise you for just about anything, it was just expected of us to be this way.

Eating Schedules
From about 4 months old, French babies are trained to have four feedings a day, each timed around 8am, 12pm, 4pm and 8pm. For most American parents, including myself who is childless, how is that possible? Don't babies yell whenever they want in the middle of the night? I've read many instances of mothers looking haggard or reading about mothers who remember that their children didn't sleep through the night from until they were 1-2yrs old. In France, typically their babies will sleep through the night or for a good solid 8hrs starting as early as 6 weeks to 3 months. What does this have to do with eating schedules? Everything.

The key to having a child that sleeps through the night is really to observe why the baby cries. Instinctually, you think it's to pick it up, cajole or feed it. But French parents let their babies cry because they look out for signs of why they're crying. It could simply be they're uncomfortable, or saw something they didn't like, or are just dreaming. Many times the baby will simply quiet down and go back to sleep. Parents who are quick to rush to a baby's cries and cajole them are often in for a rough ride. They're in fact encouraging a late night interruption and the baby gets used to it, perpetuating the late night cries. The key is that as the baby gets older, it will find its own sleeping rhythm and will eventually sleep through the night. 

By having a baby sleep through the night, the same principle of making the baby wait a little bit longer between feedings at 4 months will make it easier for parents to schedule their lives around feeding time. 

This same waiting principle also applies to toddlers who have moved on to solid foods. Instead of snacking all day long, or you've probably seen them, parents who bring bags of snacks with them as a bribe to keep them quiet, French children only get one afternoon snack at 4pm. They still keep the same 8am, 12pm, 4pm, 8pm eating schedule too. This is where French children have earned the reputation of being so well-behaved at the dinner table, whether at home, at school or in a restaurant. They've been taught to eat on schedule since they were 4 months old.

Food Education
The most trying aspect of parenting is getting their children to eat what adults eat. There is a bizarre stigma that a children's menu should only consist of unhealthy choices: chicken fingers, french fries, or anything that has just meat and potato derivatives in American culture. Having children eat vegetables and other types of foods seem to be of a huge challenge and chore for American parents. But French parents seem to approach food in a different way than Americans just by asking questions differently. Instead of asking the child "Do you like it?" they would rephrase it to "What does it taste like?" or "What is the texture like?" in order to accommodate the child to describe what they are eating rather than if they like it or not. Repetition and perseverance is key in order for a child to be less picky. By the persistence of French parents to encourage their children to eat a bigger variety of foods, it can't simply stop after the third or fifth try. This reminds me of a visual report in the NY Times of what kids around the world ate for breakfast. One 2 yr old Japanese girl threw up natto (fermented soybean) the first time she had it, but it is now her favourite thing to eat. A simple tweak of how you approach food and how you ask the child about what the food tastes like changes the way they view food rather than just being a black and white discussion of like or don't like.

There's a whole chapter on the French food culture in preschool/maternelle that I'm jealous of their 4 course daily lunch meals. The younger they are, the more puree their food is, but as they get older, 3-4yr olds, the meals are usually cut up in smaller pieces.

Takeaways
My upbringing seemingly had a mix of both American and French, I suppose you can call it the Canadian way. Being raised bilingual was not too difficult, and there are great tips in here that I would definitely use in the future. Perception is indeed a powerful thing. French parents who seem detached from their children playing on the playground aren't really detached, they're giving their children freedom to be independent and self-reliant. When was the last time you found it fun to play with an adult as a child? It wasn't. You wanted to be free to play by yourself with other kids your age because it's not the same as with a grown up who is too big for the playground.

I find in this book, the French are very confident with themselves, and I'm a little bit more neurotic like the American author, so it would take time to develop that kind of confidence. I feel like Druckerman did a great service to me by reading all those parenting books and explaining their teachings in small bites so that they're easy to understand. I think that this book could offer some pretty interesting tips to parents and non-parents alike if they're interested in child rearing. There's a lot in here that I obviously couldn't cover without really copying the entire book, so I'll leave it here.

 

Game of Thrones Concert in Montreal

Photo I found online of the weirwood tree with violinist playing in it.

Photo I found online of the weirwood tree with violinist playing in it.

I'm surprised I didn't see a review of the Game of Thrones concert in the papers today. I went to the Bell Centre yesterday (the first time I've ever been there for that matter) and was pleasantly surprised that we were moved up from our second level to first level tickets. We were about 5 rows back and had a great view of the stage.

Despite the fact that soundtrack composers don't tour, and even less so for a TV show, I found it refreshing that Game of Thrones composer, Ramin Djawadi, was willing to take a risk and give a never seen before experience that we are so rarely treated outside of the confinements of Los Angeles and New York.

In L.A. during the spring and summer months, the Hollywood Bowl regularly features movie composers who treat the crowd with a full orchestra while playing clips of movies they've composed for. I've seen it first hand by attending a concert by the legendary John Williams, who is known for a number of soundtracks including Amistad, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Memoirs of a Geisha and of course, Star Wars. And I cheated seeing the full Joe Hisaishi's Studio Ghibli 25 year concert in Budokan online. I very much regret not being able to attend Danny Elfman's Halloween concert back in 2014, known for his gothic themes for most of Tim Burton's movies and The Simpsons theme song. 

Needless to say, I'm a huge fan of soundtrack composers.

Ramin Djawadi not only turned the Game of Thrones opening theme song as a legendary track with a cello-led piece, but his music evolved into much richer pieces as the years went along, perfecting themes by layering and mixing them with other themes. Thus I've been incredibly excited to attend his Game of Thrones concert last night. 

With a unique stage that's been covered to death in the papers, no one talks about the actual music that was played. In Montreal, Djawadi enlisted the Montreal Orchestra and choir to play the tracks, along with his traveling group of 6 or so musicians to complete the set. Each musician is highlighted throughout the show with small stage sets where they travel back and forth, playing in water, on highrise platforms, in falling leaves and snow.

Pieces included an intro medley of all the houses, and the crowd cheered when Daenerys appeared on the jumbotron (a clear favourite). It was interesting to see a female voice sing The Rains of Castamere and with an orchestra, it made the song even more epic. There were a few very touching pieces including the track where Hodor holds the door in Season 6. Rewatching that scene made me glassy eyed, but I held back my tears. Djawadi's band really showed their prowess during the Dothraki scenes, an exotic mix of drums, violin and whatever wind instrument they played. But of course the songs that were most enrapturing to me were any scenes that had Dani in them. Though I did thoroughly love the Battle of the Bastard scenes where Jon Snow nearly gets crushed to death underneath the mounting bodies, the cello mournfully plays on in a very gripping few seconds before he emerges and gasps for air. When all hope is lost, the Knights of the Vale come through, the Bell Centre cheers and claps at this deux ex machina. 

They played pieces chronologically through all 6 seasons, so they played a variation of Khaleesi, though not quite exactly the same as the Season 6 soundtrack, but no less enjoyable. As a finale, I nearly jumped out of my seat when they played The Winds of Winter! I was crossing fingers that they would play it because it was the last song of the last scene of Season 6. Of course, it sounded even more amazing live, with scenes playing on the screen. It ended with a bang with fire gushing out of the stage, feeling the heat on my cheeks.

Pure. Ecstasy.

The concert ended with a much deserved standing ovation. No TV composer had ever set foot in Montreal to give such a musical experience. This was new to the city, and I think it was about time they were able to export this kind experience and bring it across North America. Composers rarely get any acknowledgement other than award shows, but even then, their pop culture cohorts eclipse the work that they do. While it could've been easy to just book a traditional space at Place-des-Arts with state of the art acoustics, Djawadi clearly wanted something much more entertaining to watch. 

It gives me hope that in the future other composers may follow suit, I think they should be encouraged to play live. I, for one, am also a big fan of Shigeru Umebayashi, who has composed many tracks for Wong Kar Wai films and would be thrilled to see a concert by him. Even tech duo, Daft Punk, who have scored film tracks such as Tron: Legacy, could definitely up the ante on an interesting show with an orchestra. 

Eating Los Angeles

I'm thoroughly enjoying Season 3 of Netflix's Chef's Table, and really loved the third episode featuring Nancy Silverton, chef and owner of La Brea Bakery and Osteria Mozza. So many scenes I saw in that episode brought me back to when I was living in the Miracle Mile, literally just a couple of blocks away from La Brea Bakery. I had just moved in September, and though Campanile was there, it closed only 3 weeks after I had settled in, so I never had a chance to try it. My two year stint obviously couldn't cover the entire breadth of restaurants that makeup the LA eating scene, I'd only just scratched the surface. During Silverton's episode, one of the featured interviewees included none other than Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prize winner and food critic of the LA Times. Just a couple of years ago, Gold released a documentary called City of Gold, about his journey in not just food, but a cultural look at Los Angeles, from Little Ethiopia to the San Gabriel Valley.

These days, it's difficult not to feel nostalgic the moment I hear anything Los Angeles related. I suppose I've never fully expressed how much I had grown and how the city had changed me in a profound way. And I'm not talking just about the sunshine, the money, the celebrities and the beaches. I'm talking about lifestyle. I'm talking about food. I'm talking about art. I'm talking about design. I'm talking about all the things that L.A. is NOT known for outside it's antiquated reputation of just being about Hollywood or its traffic.

In both documentaries, I saw familiar neighborhoods, boulevards and landmarks, like a glimpse of the El Rey Theatre on Wilshire, or the cools shops on Melrose Ave in West Hollywood, glimpses of the Grand Central Market in Downtown LA - all these reminders of my former American home. Eventhough I lived in New Orleans for much longer, I felt L.A. had impacted me much much more.

Miracle Mile Eats
Before I moved there, I had no idea who Jonathan Gold was, or any of the major chefs or restaurants there. To be honest, I wasn't much of a foodie at all during my time in Montreal, despite going out with friends to restaurants. My palette for good food was really just limited to my experiences I've had in Japan and France. It wasn't until I moved into Miracle Mile that my mouth was inundated with new flavours that I had never experienced on a daily basis in Montreal. Within a 10 min walking distance of my pad, on Wilshire Blvd from Cloverdale to Hauser, I had found out my early favourite joints: the now closed Origen Mexican Kitchen, Yuko Kitchen, Robek's Juice, The Counter, Starfish Sushi. If I went westward, Genwa Korean BBQ and Jinya Ramen.

Starfish sushi was by no means anything spectacular. After my initial sticker shock for sashimi, I stuck towards the baked lobster rolls with mayo on the side. Origen's menu wasn't that amazing, but what they did do well was a chicken tortilla soup, which to this day I can still remember the hearty mix of avocados, the spices in the soup, the melted cheese and crunchy tortilla strips. Yuko Kitchen runs like a best kept secret as a small Japanese kitchen. Buttery green tea cookies with a simple but tasty menu of teriyaki chicken, salads and sushi combos. I was used to having bland side salads in my takeouts in Montreal, but Yuko Kitchen's sweet vinagrette changed my perception on food. How did I put up with Montreal's crappy food for so long?

Despite living my last year in West Hollywood, I think the Miracle Mile made the best impression on me with its convenient and simple locales. West Hollywood's restaurants were more flashy, and being a stone's throw from Sunset Blvd, there was so much entertainment in that area that I couldn't decide where to go on my own. Instead I turned towards taking advantage of Pavilions and Trader Joe's to really up my cooking game. I did frequent for a few weeks to Millions of Milkshakes, a small joint with oversized TV screens showing celebrities like Lindsey Lohan standing behind the counter, serving milkshakes to a throng of fans. My experiences were much less glamourous, and settled on regularly ordering the Ferrero Rocher Strawberry shake - a guilty pleasure you can't get anywhere other than L.A..

Eat Where You Work
My very first job in Los Angeles brought me to Downtown L.A., which dwarfs Montreal's downtown ten folds. Coming in with the 720 express bus, I gawked at the towers of the Financial District that rose above the 110. I was working on the border of Skid Row on Spring and 6th. At the time, Downtown L.A. was in the throes of a revival, good eating joints were popping up, and I had a co-worker who showed me a few good places to eat. Garage Pizza, L.A. Cafe, Grand Central Market, and my favorite, Pershing Square Farmers Market on Tuesdays. Though my thoughts of a Farmers Market and L.A.'s version of a Farmers Market were completely different. It was more food stalls than fresh fruits and vegetables. Nonetheless, I regularly made my way to the hummus kiosk to get the tomato basil and a stack of pita bread. I also chased down food trucks via website in Beverly Hills, especially when the Kogi truck parked nearby (the Korean Taco Justice League as Jonathan Gold had put it). 

Food trucks are another L.A. staple that have long been part of the food scene for more than a decade. When I left Montreal in 2012, the city was on the cusp of legalizing food trucks outside of the festival arrangement. But of the few trucks I had tasted then, they were just ok. L.A.? They had perfected the art of great tasting food at a fair price. I had tasted the Kogi truck in 2011 when I was traipsing West Hollywood with my friend. The following year I had sliders with sweet potato fries at LACMA, I went to the Grilled Cheese Truck during Beverly Hills' artShow and had a tasty but greasy pulled pork cheese sandwich, and convinced co-workers to go to the Four Seasons' food truck to try out their chocolate cronut, grilled steak and octopus doused in sweet sauce. Man, those were the days.

Food Memory
I never thought much about food when I lived in Montreal, but looking back on all of my old photos on Instagram, I had photographed more food in L.A. than my surroundings. Ever since I came back to Montreal, I can usually remember what I ate at a certain restaurant even if it dates a few years back. Even now the trio of beef tartares, from Bistro du Boucher (Antony) in Paris in 2007, haunts my memories of not only being the first time I had beef tartare, but also comparing everything else to it. The second time around in 2009, I had beef tartare at Chez Papa, and it was not good. I had to mix everything myself, obviously, I'm not a chef, so it didn't taste the same at all. The only place that comes close to it in Montreal is Bistro de La Rivière in the Sud-Ouest borough, a French hole in the wall, now it's my go-to (and favorite) place to have excellent beef tartare. I also remember the times I've had pork medallions in Granada, Spain in 2007 and we had returned to place twice because we thought the food was good. It does take some effort to remember the actual name of the restaurants, but the food itself seems pretty easy to remember.

I admit that my repertoire of food places that I've been to in L.A. were limited to where I could travel by public transit. I worked in Beverly Hills and lived in West Hollywood, and as I've said, I've barely scratched the surface on the L.A. food scene.

I don't have that particular nose or sense of taste to really distinguish ingredients. Very few people have that talent, but if a sushi master like Jiro Ono says he wished he had a nose like Joël Robuchon, then there is clearly something that many people lack in terms of taste. Can you improve your sense of taste with a conscious effort? Perhaps. I had a wine tasting event at work last month where we were taught to look out for particular signs of how a wine looks, tastes and smells. I couldn't have distinguished the taste of the ingredients, I don't know what "earthy" tastes like unless you're talking about literal dirt, I've never had mulberries before, so I don't know what that tastes like. There are a lot of things I've never tasted before, therefore can't really pinpoint what makes what. But I guess with practice, you learn to distinguish those flavours. 

L.A.'s food scene has clearly opened my eyes to good food, and locals and foreign chefs alike strive to give you the best with what they got. It's something I truly miss about SoCal, a real passion for food that I'm amazed that it has not transcended elsewhere in the world. What Jonathan Gold brought to the food critic scene is not by reviewing high end fares like so many others, but rather embraced and celebrated the contribution of the local joints, the hole in the walls and the trendless. Watching those documentaries really made me just want to dive into the food scene in a similar fashion. That could easily be my next project.

Life Without Social Media: Withdrawals

I suppose it was bound to happen that I may start feeling some withdrawal symptoms. It's been 2 months since I've quit social media and at first, it wasn't so bad. But there are a few things that I do miss or have forgotten that I was following. I suppose the advantage of having social media was that the apps would suggest things I may like or discover, especially events or keeping track of the people that I admired.

I recently found out that there was a modern calligraphy teacher (originally from SoCal!) in Montreal giving classes, called Imagine Joy, by Joy Deneen. I've been wanting to learn calligraphy ever since I stumble upon Laura Hooper's Instagram account, where I especially love her little calligraphy videos. Unfortunately, Joy's classes are full for the winter session but I'm hoping to snatch a spot this summer if she has one.

But I've digressed 😅 

Social media! I sort of miss Instagram. Not sure whether I want to return to it unless I basically make everything private and start over with just that. I guess I don't even need to be active on it if I didn't want to. But I'm not quite ready to return to it, eventhough I'm missing out on updates on the accounts I did like to follow. Although I do check Facebook for updates, the urge to share anything on it hasn't really gripped me like it used to, and I think that's a good thing. Also by removing all of my friends and acquaintances save for 2-3, I felt my bubble of comfort returning and enjoying the posts from my family much more, and casually catching up on skimming through work-related pages. This was much more manageable and I feel that probably over the years I've shared a lot of things that most people didn't give a shit about, hence the reason I stopped sharing.

For Twitter, as I found out, it's only useful when there's an event happening, as I confirmed it after doing something for work. It's fine to tweet random stuff here and there, and depending who you are or what you do, your tweets about your random thought of the day doesn't really matter. Again, you're tweeting into the void unless you hashtag it. If you regularly communicate with other people through Twitter, which I know many people do, I guess the platform has its usage. I just don't find much use for it on my end, so I'm pretty glad to have gotten away from it.

In the end, the words "social media" is meant for you to be, well, social. As an introvert, I was awkwardly trying to be extroverted when I knew that I wasn't from the beginning but thought it was worth a shot to be open in some fashion to see what happens. I grew frustrated with the experience. So I decided to pull a Tim.

While perusing for new books to read (btw, the BaNQ rented out of all the books I had wanted to borrow so 👎 on that), I came across a title that made me laugh called "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" by Mark Manson. He has an entertaining website of articles and posts about doing what feels right and essentially giving the middle finger (but not being indifferent) to those around him. I rather like his posts, and really want to read his book (but again, all 3 copies at the library are rented out til March, ugh!). But he still has some gems that I enjoy including "Shut Up and Be Patient" and "Screw Finding Your Passion." His language is crude, but there's no dilly dallying, that's what I like about his posts. 

I don't have any regrets using social media, I honestly gave it a good shot and gave it practically a third of my life towards it, but I've changed, and it didn't work out for me. So it's time to move on. 

About Not Finding That Passion
A long while ago, in another blog that no longer exists, when I was in an ever crisis about what I wanted to do with my life in my 20s, I questioned how one found their own passion. Everywhere I read, people were writing about finding your passion, your one true calling, but I figured out early on that I was never a one-passion type of gal. I read a book called the "Renaissance Soul," which talked about having many loves and many passions, not just a single one. It relieved me that I wasn't the only person in the world that didn't fit into the mold of what society dictated and that I knew that my passions would change over time and that I could never really stick to one thing for the rest of my life. It simply wasn't in the cards for me, because my life was never monotonous to begin with. I've moved around a lot, I've had a nomadic life, my interests or passions were just as varied, of course I couldn't settle with one single thing. I admire the obsession some people have for a single passion and to stick to it no matter what. That's normal, people usually stick to what they know and often times obsess over that one thing. But is one thing worth more against an endless world of possibilities, passions and interests? How could I possibly choose one over a million? I'd rather choose them all. Maybe I'm just being greedy for wanting to know so much, or maybe I'm just being open minded and I don't mind going into the unknown and taking uncalculated risks. Let's just see what happens. I don't mind not knowing. That's the whole reason why I moved to L.A. without a friend or family in sight. I was free.

I've meandered everywhere from wanting to go back to school for Graphic Design, or currently, in Urban Planning, to taking calligraphy or traveling for photography, I could decide to make videos or write a novel, or go full swing into volunteering at a cat shelter, or become a desk clerk or retailer - I don't really care. It's true that you can read statistics and reviews about anything and everything, but unless you've been in the trenches of said profession, you can come out of them with a completely different mindset.

For example, when I was in luxury real estate, I had zero experience and knowledge about anything real estate, much less Hollywood celebrities and the life of the rich and famous in Beverly Hills. I was a newbie, I saw the job on craigslist and applied for it and went for an interview. I didn't anticipate anything about appearing on TV, going into million dollar homes or end up touring Lady Gaga's future home in Malibu to lay out a brochure for it. I can confirm that the perception of Hollywood is true: pretentious, lots of money, lots of gossip, and lots of fame. But I had uncovered another side of L.A. that is seldom known outside of SoCal itself: a vibrant food scene, a passionate community that cares about what happens in their city, rich architectural history, multicultural blend of Asian, Mexican, African-American, and American tastes, quaint pocket neighborhoods, cycling enthusiasts, and so pet-friendly. I learn so much by diving into these different environments, it's practically a shame that no one else enjoys the vibrant difference in other beats of life. You don't know unless you've experienced it yourself. You can poo poo as much as you'd like on a place you've never been to, but you can never really say for sure unless you've experienced it and been there yourself.

Embrace All Passions
I guess what I'm trying to say is to embrace all of your passions, no matter how they evolve. It's okay to change tastes over time, that's just nature. People change, interests change, that's just the way of life. I used to beat myself over not being able to stick to one thing, but I finally figured out that I'm simply not programmed to stick to one passion only. But like Mark Manson said, if you really like something or really want to do something, you don't need to ask permission, you're already doing it. If a child sees a bank of snow, whether he/she has the proper outfit or not, they're gonna jump in it and frolick in it without a care in the world. That's how we, adults, have lost as we grew up. We grew up being too afraid of diving in without thinking about the consequences. Often times, I think the worst case scenarios are simply just in your mind and the reality rarely matches what you imagine in your head. 

So go ahead, love eating soya sauce with your sunny side up eggs, because there's really nothing wrong with that, and you shouldn't give a shit of what other people think.

 

And Now For Something Completely Superficial

I made a mandate for myself not to buy any clothes this year, so you can imagine how difficult it's been for me ever since I've discovered Needle & Thread. I've been lusting over so many of their dresses that I may cave in later on this year to get a couple of dresses or two. But that would mean ousting 2 other dresses I own (which quite frankly I wouldn't mind replacing). Although the brand's style is perhaps a little too fancy for the office. But I need florals and pretty colors to replace the drab black and navy dresses I have. These are quintessentially feminine. 

I'm trying to hold off until summer to buy at least one of these, but if the urge to purchase is too great, then I would probably turn my attention away in buying a camera lens instead. I'm doing pretty well in the shoe department. It helps that when I don't have Instagram, I'm less inclined to buy shoes. I think the only thing I need to worry about is how much I'm spending on books.

This is the next book I want to read, I've downloaded a free sample chapter from iBooks and I'm already hooked. I may have to start going to library to start reading these if I'm finishing each book every 4 days!