Monthly Archives: March 2008

Stop Whining About Gas Prices!

news in canada isn’t as negative as in the u.s. and is what i normally watch. my only dose of U.S. news is from nbc nightly news which i watch on a fairly regular basis. without fail, the price of gas is mentioned almost daily and i just laugh. we have no idea how good we have it in the u.s. where gas prices are concerned. gas here went up to $1.08 per litre this week and for those of you who can do the math on the non-English system, there are 4 litres to a gallon, so we’re paying $4.32 a gallon for regular gasoline. except for older cars, most cars require premium gasoline which is $1.28 per litre here. yes, your math is right. that’s $5.12 per gallon. so the next time you go the pump, just think of your friends north of the border and stop whining about gas prices – we’ve got it good down there.

what you may notice from the photo below is the red tax sticker on the pump. for those of you who haven’t yet had your lasik surgery, it reads “Taxes included in in Gasoline Prices in Ontario: 5% GST (sales tax), 10 cents per litre Federal Excise Tax, 14.7 cents per litre Provincial Gasoline Tax”. that’s over $1 per gallon just in taxes. we may have that in the states and i’ve just never noticed it. or more likely, they just don’t have to post it. all i know is that they do not joke about their taxes here.

it’s still cold today. it’s -4C or 24F today with the windchill. and it’s almost april. geebus.

i had a yummy brunch today at mitzi’s cafe on queen west and sorauren. i had to wait about 25 minutes for a table for 1, but it was well worth it! ( http://www.mitzissister.com/cafe.html – i can only find a web site for its sister property, aptly named “mitzi’s sister”) i had english breakfast tea with cream and sugar (my usual), scrambled eggs with artichokes, roasted cherry tomatoes and grated fresh romano cheese, potatoes and the best toast i’ve ever had. they are well known for their oatmeal buttermilk pancakes but i couldn’t really eat two whole breakfasts, so i asked for a half portion just to try the pancakes. boy, was that worth it. they were oatmeal buttermilk pancakes with poached port pears and whipped cream on top served with hot, fresh maple syrup. it was badass!! go there if/when you come to t.o.

lastly, i found a new drink i just love! it’s an italian brand of peach iced tea called santal. it’s a little glass figure 8 shaped bottle and they have many different flavours. it’s about 100 times better than snapple peach iced tea – as a matter of fact, there’s really no comparison. if you find any, definitely try it because it’s fabulous! (http://www.parmalat.it/prodotti/santal/index.htm) p.s. darren, they have lemon iced tea, too :o). i found it at an italian gourmet food store in little italy here, but i bet either central market or cost plus world markets carries it in houston. fingers crossed they do!

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Earth Hour

tonight was earth hour organized by the world wildlife fund and t.o. was part of this year’s celebration ( http://www.wwf.ca/earthhour/canada.html ). it was amazing. i saw shops today with handmade signs in their window that said things like “parkdale powers down for the earth” and “toronto celebrates earth hour”. i so love toronto. they are so progressive and really care about the environment even though they’re not really the ones who are polluting the earth (that would be the americans).

sure enough, i happened to log onto google.com at 8:05 and their screen was black. it said “We’ve turned the lights out. Now it’s your turn – Earth Hour.” so i looked out my window and sure enough, the city was almost completely dark. i saw people turning off their lights in my building and it almost brought a tear to my eye. we can make a difference!! yes!

there were candlelit walks all over the city, restaurants hosting dinners by candelight, and “earth hour” parties everywhere.

some fun facts about earth hour 2008 in canada:

– 170 cities participated across the country
– canada made up 1/3 of earth hour participants around the world
– by turning off the lights for the hour, 7% of the electricity that would have been used from the grid was saved.
– 1,500,000 homes are estimated to have participated in ontario alone (i was one of them)
– nelly furtado gave a free concert at toronto city hall for earth hour

what a great event – i hope houston will try to participate next year!

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The Last Few Weeks…March 22

it’s easter weekend and the first easter that i haven’t spent with my family in quite some time. my weekend kicked off early with a trip to the “one of a kind show” in t.o. on thursday, a gigantic show at the direct energy centre full of canadian artists and artisans selling their wares (http://www.oneofakindshow.com/indexT.php ). i was in heaven. i took transit over and thought i’d only stay a couple of hours. 5 hours later, i had barely made it through the first 3/4 of the show! what amazing artists there are out there. i’m always so impressed at what people think of and actualize. it makes me want to quit my job and figure out something good to sell. i would love to go around from show to show meeting cool people and seeing cool things. i made my list of things i wanted to think about and decided to think on it.

everything is closed in toronto on holidays still so there wasn’t much to do on good friday. (as a matter of fact, the toronto city council recently voted against a proposal to allow businesses to open on statutory, or “stat” holidays here. old skool.) when i woke up, i decided to go to the imax theatre here to see “hurricane on the bayou” ( http://www.hurricaneonthebayou.com/ )at the ontario science center (http://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/ ). i decided to take the ttc and it only took about 45 minutes! i took the streetcar to the subway to the bus…and it dropped me off right at the science centre…awesome! i was so happy. what a colossal mistake to go on good friday, though. there were about 970,000 screaming children and parents and the line to get into the imax was as long as a football field. once we got in, a little kid with a plastic coke bottle sat next to me and popped the empty bottle in and out the entire time. why do parents not say anything to their kids anymore? my dad would have broken my hands off for doing that. the movie was good but i was glad it was over. i hightailed it back downtown and ordered a cheese pizza from pizza rustica for good friday dinner and popped in “michael clayton”.


on saturday, i decided i would go back to the “one of a kind show” to buy my choices and then go to high park for a stroll. yeah, right. i managed to spend another 4 hours at the show and another $400. that place is dangerous. and, everyone tells me the christmas show is double the size. wow. lots of talented people in canada! surprisingly, many of the exhibitors were from quebec and there was a ton of french being spoken. i just love that, although i have no clue what they’re saying. it’s such a pretty language. anyway, i bought some gold filagree earrings from a jewelry maker from t.o., 2 freshwater pearl bracelets from a jewelry designer from winnipeg, a a kari lynn bianchi armband that i love ( http://www.karilynnbianchi.com/armbands.php ), a really cute handmade purse from prickly pear ( http://www.pricklypear.biz/ ) and some cool “buddha bowls” that were on oprah’s favorite things list last year from the artist who lives in b.c. ( http://flavourdesign.com/portfolio.php ). i spent way too much, but i wouldn’t be able to get these things once i leave t.o. actually, i could have spent a lot more! needless to say, i didn’t make it to high park and just ended up on queen west.

on easter sunday, i woke up and decided to go eat brunch early to beat the crowds. in my quest to eat brunch at as many of toronto’s plethora of brunch places, i decided to eat at easy restaurant on queen west and roncesvalles ( http://easybreakfast.ca/ ). i had the huevos divorciados which was okay, but i probably wouldn’t go back. it started to get really crowded by the time i left, too. i ended my easter sunday by lounging on my sofa and enjoying the beautifully sunny day.

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The Last Few Weeks…March 29

the last few weeks have been fantastic in t.o. (note: toronto is referred to as “t.o.” for short and never “the t.o.” as did diablo cody). while spring is taking its sweet time getting here, we are all willing it to get here sooner rather than later by shunning our overworn fur lined winter hats and cashmere scarves in favor of spring coats and wellies sans socks.

today wasw one of those days where i was annoyed at living in canada. although i love the people here, what they say about them can be very true – they even joke about it themselves – they can be so laissez faire and bland and accepting about everything and it can really get to you, especially when you grow up in the States. an article came out this week from the university of british columbia about costs at airports around the world. pearson international (toronto’s airport) came in top for fees compared to any airport in the entire world. it’s true, too. when you fly in or out, you will pay a minimum of $100 in just airport taxes and sadly, you feel trapped here sometimes. there have been many weekends where i’ve wanted to fly out, but it really is just so expensive that you just stay put. i truly belive this is why most torontonians have never left ontario – it’s just too damn expensive. so when i was sharing this story with some of my co-workers, they were just like “oh well” and “well, i heard vancouver was expensive, too”. i’m like “no, this study was for every airport around the world and you guys just accept that you’re being completely and totally gouged by your airport?” and they just say yes. it’s been shocking to me how accepting canadians (and ontarians, more specifically since this is where i live) can be of everything that comes their way. when the government raises their taxes, they interview people on tv who are like “well, we understand that you have to maintain the level of service, so if they have to raise taxes, it’s okay”. are you kidding me? nothing might change in the states, but at least we protest and get pissed off like crazy! they literally told me “well, carmen, it’s just how things have always been here and we just accept it”. those are really the times where i truly feel like i’m from a totally different culture, and we are very different in many ways. that being said, with that “blandness” comes a niceness and caring people that is rare to find in the states anymore, in my opinion. i really love them, but it can be frustrating sometimes.

my weekend started off as usual by making my regular friday-after-work trip to walmart. unfortunately, i was already annoyed by the very slow drivers in the left lane on the don valley parkwway (left lane slow driving here is an epidemic of gargantuan proportions) as well as the parking lot that was eglinton ave. i finally made it to walmart and had to endure a higher volume of carts than i have become accustomed. people leaving their carts in the center of the aisle to search the campbell’s soup display for the chicken consomme fueled my complete loss of patience. the wheel of my old ladies grocery cart kept falling off while trying to lug my groceries in but lo and behold, i finally made it. in an effort to have a fun weekend, i had invited one of my co-workers over to watch movies in the theatre at my building. tj came over with soda, popcorn and pretzels for our movie bonanza, while i contributed pizza and bruschetta from pizza rustica. we had a great picnic and watched “gone baby gone” (great flick, although a bit depressing). we started “superbad” but it was just that – superbad. about an hour in, i could watch no more so we called it a night. that one will definitely not make my top 10. as a matter of fact, i think it will definitely make my bottom 10 instead. total guy flick.

i slept late this morning and decided to play the day by ear. i finally got myself up and dressed and left around 1pm. i returned my movies to queen video – that store is so awesome – and jumped on the streetcar heading west on queen. i was thinking i would hit roncesvalles again, but decided to stay on to see where it would take me. after over an hour on the streetcar because of traffic on queen and the sheer length of the route, i jumped off at the humber river loop and turned around. i passed high park and its still frozen lake, brand new townhomes on windermere and the queensway that i’m sure i couldn’t afford and some good photo ops that i jumped off for along the way. i got some more good shots of the streetcar cables at roncesvalles and the queensway but other than that, didn’t see any good ones. i got off at ossington to do a little exploring and by this time, it was 2:50pm. i happened by a store called “camera” ( http://www.camerabar.ca/ ) and noticed a sign in the window offering free documentary screenings on saturdays at 3pm. i thought “what luck” and “this would never happen in houston” and headed in. what a great place. i have been looking for a photography place like this since i got here. it’s attached to a photography gallery that was warm and inviting. there was a little cafe with a bar and nibbles. the entrance to camera had a fire in the fireplace and some beautiful photos. the screening room was nearly empty but right at 3pm, the documentary began. it was called Pictures From A Revolution from 1991. it was good, but with 30 minutes to go, i thought, as i usually do in movies, “oh, i’ll just close my eyes for a minute” and 30 minutes later, the lights came up. i have no idea why i fall asleep in almost every single movie i see, but i have surely lost money on that game! i just hope i wasn’t snoring.

after i left camera, i went to the lens gallery to see a photography exhibit on peru by stephen moretti. i picked up a cake at the red tea box and headed to terroni on queen for dinner. it was already packed and i picked a spot at the bar. i ordered the ssame thing as last time – the tagliatelle with bolognese sauce – which i love and the warm flourless chocolate cake for dessert. i also ordered peach iced tea and was delighted by the italian tea they gave me called santal. it was the best iced tea i’ve ever had! i chatted with the people around me about poetry and traveling and headed home. it was especially cold today although with the sun out, i didn’t think it would be, so i left my hat and gloves at home. big mistake. i was so cold that my ears started to burn. sigh. and it’s almost april.

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Places I've Eaten in Toronto

in no particular order….

  1. Urban
  2. Boba
  3. Epicure
  4. Steak
  5. Jack Astor’s
  6. Baton Rouge
  7. Swiss Chalet
  8. Crush Wine Bar
  9. Red Tomato
  10. Montana
  11. Peter Pan
  12. Red Tea Box
  13. Saigon Sisters
  14. Bierbistro
  15. Joe Maggiano’s
  16. Hemingway’s
  17. Cafe Nervosa
  18. Tony Balloni’s
  19. Jamie Kennedy on Church Street
  20. Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner
  21. Toba
  22. Le Petit Dejuner
  23. Pizza Rustica
  24. Gandhi Roti
  25. Ci Vediamo
  26. Six Steps
  27. Cora’s
  28. Cafe Crepe
  29. Sushi Extra
  30. Hot House Cafe
  31. Thai Basil
  32. Thai Princess
  33. Chippy’s
  34. Jump
  35. Quesada
  36. Bier Market
  37. Jules
  38. Old Spaghetti Factory
  39. Spring Rolls
  40. Bonjour Brioche
  41. Toast
  42. Sassafraz
  43. The Drake Hotel
  44. The Keg
  45. Sashimi House
  46. Craft Burger
  47. Oliver and Bonancini
  48. Terroni – Adelaide
  49. Terroni – Queen West
  50. Teriyaki
  51. Strada
  52. Rosewater Supper Club
  53. Annona
  54. Milestone’s
  55. Brassaii
  56. Irish Embassy
  57. Boom Breakfast Co.
  58. The Foggy Dew
  59. Milagro
  60. Cantine
  61. The Rosedale Diner
  62. Pizziolo
  63. Easy Restaurant
  64. The Real Jerk
  65. Kalendar
  66. Tomi-Kro
  67. Citizen
  68. Shanghai Cowgirl
  69. Mitzi’s Cafe
  70. Flo’s Diner
  71. Terroni Queen
  72. Poor John’s Cafe

and my favorites so far?

Terroni

Rosewater Supper Club

Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner

Kalendar

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Yes, Virginia…It's Still Snowing

it’s March 8 and still snowing. i’m trying to make the best of it, but i think the “Seasonal Mood Disorder” is kicking in, therefore, i decided to spend my weekend eating at a few of the restaurants on my list and get a nice massage while i was at it. it started snowing on friday afternoon around 2pm and it didn’t stop until saturday night around midnight. we got 30 cm of snow in two waves and it was close to putting us over the all time snow record for one winter from 1938-9 of 207.4 cm. ottawa has gotten 410 cm – wow! on friday, i ate at milagro on john street (http://www.milagrorestaurant.com/). it was my first foray into mexican food in canada and it was actually quite good, although one of the other texans here hated it. maybe i was just really craving it, i dunno. i had enchiladas and rice with plantains. their salsa and chips were fabulous – the salsa was very citrusy and fresh. afterwards, i went to see “be kind, rewind”. i fell asleep, of course, and was ready to leave early but because the theatres here are so quiet, i felt i couldn’t. when i left the theatre around 11:30pm, it was still snowing very hard and yet people were still queued up outside the clubs in their halter dresses, heels, nary a coat to be found and standing in 12″ of snow. they must really need to get their dance on!

when i woke up saturday morning, it was still snowing – phase 2 apparently of the storm. i decided to snuggle up and stay in for a while – i had breakfast, watched TV, and napped. around 1pm, i headed out and decided to go to queen street east to see a different part of the city in the snow. i thought i’d head to riverdale park. when i got to queen street, it was a mess. snow everywhere and cars sliding around. the snow ploughs were coming down so the streetcars were slow. the ploughs are cool! if i lived here and could have any job i wanted, i’d totally be either a streetcar driver or a snow plough driver. when there are cars blocking their path, the ploughs lift up one of their “arms” and leave the piles of snow around that car basically blocking it in – it’s great fun! i got off at broadview and walked east looking for the park. i never found it and because i didn’t have my map, never realized that it’s actually on the danforth and not queen east. i passed by a chocolate shop i’d seen on breakfast television called “ambiance chocolat” (http://www.ambiancechocolat.ca/). i went in and picked up some truffles – my favorite was the milk chocolate caramle with fleur de sel – and some valrhona hot chocolate. yummy on a snowy day. the truffles were only $0.85 each – cheap by toronto standards. as i was standing in the shop, 3 streetcars passed in a row so i knew i was in trouble and wasn’t going to be able to catch one back. sure enough, i didn’t see one so i walked around the Leslieville neighborhood for a bit. i passed moss park and there were several people out, even in the blowing snow. many of them were playing frisbee with their dogs who were clearly loving the snow, romping and rolling around. after 20 minutes of waiting, i finally caught a streetcar back down king street. everything looked like it was wearing a little white hat! i was headed to my massage appointment at campden spa (http://www.camdenspa.com/) and just thought i’d get there a little early. i got there at 3:30pm for a 4pm appointment, had some green tea and warmed up. they took me at 3:45pm – which is why i love showing up early! – and had a great 90 minute massage. i’ve been taking pilates and really feel stronger from it. i think it’s something i’d like to stick with. after my massage, i thought i’d grab some dinner before i went home so i waited for the king streetcar. it took a while because the tracks were covered in snow and the streetcars were moving very slowly. one finally came and i headed to “the foggy dew” at king west and niagara street (http://www.thefoggydew.ca/). i picked a room with a tv and no one in it so i could eat, but i think i got really bad service because there was no one else in with me. i had the chicken pot pie, which was fierce!, and a pint. it started snowing even harder and the winds were gusting up to 60 clicks. when i was done, it took a while to catch the streetcar back home. there was a crazy guy chatting everyone up – he said he was from north bay and it was like he’d never met a stranger. no matter who or what, he was shaking everyone’s hand and asking them what they did. people were staring at him like he was nuts – no one is that friendly in the big city, after all! i watched some “arrested development”, changed my clocks forward and called it a night.


sunday morning was gloriously beautiful!! the sun was shining brightly, the skies were bright blue and everything was covered in thick, white snow. i decided to try a new brunch place and a new part of T.O. I’d not been to – College Street. I caught the streetcar up spadina and then west on college, and went to boom breakfast company (http://www.boombreakfast.com/). i got a spot at the bar right away. it was a nice place with good service. i ordered the “tuscan eggs” and they were delish!! i had my standard english breakfast tea and was off! i decided to walk down college street and had a great time. the snow, though, was so white and bright, that, along with the sun, almost blinded me. i don’t carry sunglasses because i haven’t needed them in 5 months, but i definitely could have used them today. my first stop was a home store called “ziggy’s on college” – very cute things. i bought a card and some funny party cups with noses on them. then, i went into a used dvd store. they were having a “this winter sucks 30% off all DVD’s” sale, so i went in and got 3 DVD’s – knocked up, broadcast news and an out of print version of “a clockwork orange”. total impulse buys – it must have been the nice weather. then, i stopped in a used bookstore called “she said boom” (http://www.shesaidboom.ca/) and got 5 books. it’s one of the things i love most about toronto – because it’s a walking city with great weather, you can just walk through neighborhoods you’ve never been to before and find these little gems of a store that would be “destination points” in any other city. i love happening upon random stores and finding fun things.


i finally headed home and decided to build a snowman with the thick snow on my balcony. it wasn’t too bad, but the snow wasn’t really packing snow so i had to add some water to make the balls. i used chocolate chips for the eyes and broken matchsticks for the nose and arms. my first and only toronto snowman!

Day 1:

Day 3:

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