Monday, December 28, 2009

A Day Too Late

Amidst all the holiday festivities, I had somehow convinced B to join in the Boxing Day shopping frenzy - but only limited to snowboarding gears. We had ran around from store to store and finally made it to Corbett's in Oakville yesterday - only to find out that the Burton Feather 2010 (which I had set my eyes on) with bindings was on special for $330 BUT they were all SOLD OUT. It was love at first sight with the board - and honestly, I'm too much of a beginner to know if all the other features of the board were suitable for my skill level. And everywhere we've looked, the lowest price we had seen was $320 (at SportChek, limited quantities). So at $330 it's a steal because it's almost as if they're throwing in the Burton bindings for free!! I was so excited when I heard about the deal that I was crushed by disappointment when he came back saying the package's all sold out. Apparently they were all gone by afternoon on Boxing Day, so we made it there a day too late. B, on the other hand, scored a bunch of stuff and now has a completely new set of gear for our Blue Mountain trip.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Twin Zumba Instructors

Since I had been skipping out on our exercise routine lately, I had decided to squeeze in some gym time last night. And since I was going alone, I thought I would just pop by the closest one from work - the 24HR co-ed Goodlife on Derry at Millcreek. I ran to boost my heart rate then went at the machines, and I even worked on my abs for a bit. Even though it is also a co-ed gym like Square One, this location was much less crowded, and the machines looked much more decent. There is also a secluded women-only section right next to the locker room so you didn't even have to venture out there if you don't wish to be seen by any member of the opposite sex. I actually really enjoyed working out at this location.

As I was finishing up, I saw that a Zumba class was starting in the studio, so I popped in because I really, really, really missed it. I mean, it's been 3 weeks since my last Zumba class and I was dying to get my groove on. As it turns out, the instructor on stage had a twin sister who is also an instructor. They got us into 2 lines and started dancing with each other to encourage us doing the same and it was just like an awesome party! Definitely one of the best Zumba classes I've been to.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Moose in the Kitchen: Holiday Baking # 3

Since it was decided that today would be the day for holiday treats at work, we set to work on the rest of our cookies. I think Michelle and I make a really good team in the kitchen - we set up an assembly line of sorts where I would portion the dough, she would roll them and place them and flatten them on the cookie sheet which I would then stick into the oven, and I would remove the tray of cookies from the oven and she would take them off for cooling. She was also in charge of QC - anything that didn't pass her inspection ended up as being samples for us and for my family. We were quite efficient, as a matter of fact, that by the time we were done we had more than enough for both of our trays. All in all, our bake-off was a success, and the extra cookies will be packed to become gifts for my dear friends.

I had doubled the recipe for the ginger cookies seeing how I had to keep making more batches last Christmas, but at the same time we had decided to make smaller bite-sized cookies. In the end, we must have gotten over 15 dozens of them. Michelle was also the creative one - she made little heart-shaped ones and ones with smiley faces and these turned out absolutely adorable.

I also started the batter for some coconut macaroons but as it was running late I had to finish those on my own. It was much less fun to bake by myself but I was kept busy by the fact that these macaroons were quite tricky to form. The recipe called for a chocolate drizzle after they have cooled, but Michelle and I both thought these little golden balls were already sweet enough and didn't really need the extra touch. Plus, it was getting late and I was alone and I just wanted to be done with it. They were still very popular though, because these were the first ones to run out on the table.

Also popular was my Italian coworker's authentic biscotti and pizzalle - they were so yummy I couldn't stop snacking on them throughout the day. There were also homemade salsa and some cheese and fruits, among other treats, and a very gooey "holiday bar" topped with red and green cherries and way too much condensed milk.

I brought in my gingerbread house too to share with my colleagues, and everybody complimented it. The gingerbread people and the trees were long gone; however, nobody had wanted to break down the house. At tea time I had to make the initiative to break part of the roof (also because I really really liked the tangy candies on that part of the roof), and my boss took over (who couldn't get over how much fun it was) while my colleague finished the job (because she just had to disassemble everything else even though she only wanted a small piece of it).

I am so full that I don't think I will be able to have any supper.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Moose Reviews: Nawab in Streetsville

We went to lunch at Nawab today as a get-together before one of our colleagues leaves for her vacation in India. Nested in the corner of the small plaza on Queen St. and Tannery, it had plenty of parking spaces at the rear. I loved the interior decorations - there were plenty of decorative quilts with shiny elephants motifs. We could smell the aroma of food once we set foot inside, and the waiter led us to a round table in front of the bay window looking out to Queen St.
My coworker has had Nawab's butter chicken at the Thornhill location before and had raved about it for a long time, so she called before we went to make sure that the butter chicken would be part of the set lunch for the non-vegetarians. For the vegetarian option my coworker had requested to have somethine other than daal, and they were very accomodating. For $7.99 (+ tax & tip), the set lunch was served as a thali (on a stainless steel tray with sections) and included 2 appetizers, 2 curries, a salad, along side naan and rice as well as a gulab juman for dessert.
We weren't really crazy about the garlic vegetable balls which were soft and soggy, but the tandoori chicken tikka was so tender and flavourful that we wouldn't mind having more. For the 2 curries we had butter chicken as requested, and the other was a dish with small spinach patties in a creamy yellow curry called palak kofta. I'm not sure if I liked the patties because of their texture, but the curry was amazing. And my coworker was right - it was the best butter chicken I've had, and I've had butter chicken pretty much everywhere else we've gone to because it is usually the tamest dish in terms of spiciness. The naan was awesome as well, a little on the thin side but crispy on the outside and tenderly soft inside.
Too bad they didn't offer refills (hence "set lunch" rather than "buffet" or "thali"). But then again for the amount of food they serve there wasn't really a need for refills if one were to finish each and every dish. It was so much more enjoyable than Eddie's - both food-wise and service-wise. We are already planning our next visit before we even got back to work.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Adopt-a-Moose and Sponge Cake Attempt # 3

On Saturday we diligently went to Goodlife to work out, then headed out to the mall to pick up Moose. We have been wanting to pick him up from Build-a-Bear Workshop a while ago, but something always comes up (when we still had the nice weather and all) and when we finally set our mind to it last weekend, we found out that Markville Mall doesn't have a store! Apparently, Build-a-Bear only has shops around Toronto - Mississauga and Hamilton and Vaughan and Oshawa (and even London and Kitchener each has a store) - but not a single store in the city. So this weekend we made sure we would go to Square One because that's where I saw Moose for the first time.

The store was very busy, with little kids running around and their parents going after them. There were groups of older kids too, and then there were us. I was quite upset and disappointed when I found that Moose was gone - the only moose they had was the holiday edition named Holly and Hal. Hal has a string of christmas lights dangling on his antlers, while Holly (who has not antlers) look more like a skinny hippo. They were nothing like the Moose that I fell in love with.

I was about to leave with a frown but B. insisted that I should check with the store lady, so I did, and pleasantly she informed us that Moose was still available, but he was just hiding in the back to make way for the Holiday moose. I was almost overjoyed! We did have to wait for a bit because it was quite busy in the store and they were understaffed so nobody had a chance to fetch Moose from the back for me. It was worth the wait though - even B. found him adorable!

After we finally got the moose skin, we had to stuff him - with plenty of fluff and a heart. We then had to brush him and fluff him before we dressed him up. There were so many outfits to choose from! It was a good thing that B. decided that Moose would be a boy, because that limited the choices by half. There was a really nice Harley Davidson faux leather jacket that fitted Moose just right, but I would have to say Moose was most handsome in his RCMP uniform. We ended up putting him in a red and white track suit that says "Canada" because it was a zip-up. I'd have to say, he's very good-looking :)

Today I made B lunch and dinner and after dinner, made my third attempt at Sponge Cake! I was reminded on Friday that I will have to return the stand mixer soon, so I thought I should at least master this one recipe before that happens. We have extra large eggs that we picked up from Costco, so I only used 8 instead of the 10 specified in the recipe. I found these XL eggs are a lot more difficult to separate the whites from the yolks - and the yolks broke more easily and the whites seemed to be more watery. Other than that I followed the recipe to the tee, except for the cooling part (again). So far I have not had a single time where I was able to fend off B and my family before the cake has had proper time to cool.

The cake had collapsed before it came out of the oven just like the last few times I made it. And this one turned out darker too, even though the temperature and rack position remained the same. I found a small section in the middle of the cake to be denser than the rest, probably because the batter did not get properly folded into the whites. They all loved it nonetheless, and Dad even said it was almost perfect. I already got a request for another attempt - seems like they're not sick of it yet.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Moose in the Kitchen: Holiday Baking # 2

Michelle and I got together after dinner to bake last night - the first 2 kinds of cookies we will be including in our holiday cookie platter/gift bags. We opted for something easy first - the readymade white chocolate macadamia nut cookie dough from MacMillan's that Michelle bought from her coworker for a school's fundraising campaign. We had thawed it in the fridge for almost a week, and thought it was best to use it before it goes bad.

In less time than it took for the oven to preheat, we had already rolled tablespoonfuls of dough into balls and they were ready to be baked. Since I only had 2 cookie sheets, we alternated them so one is always in the oven baking. These little balls of dough needed a lot of room because they melted and spread during baking - each 1" ball yielded a 3" cookie. Since the cookies turned out so big, we decided to do half-tablespoonfuls to make smaller ones. These ones came out the perfect size! The cookies were quite soft straight out of the oven, but crisped as they cooled. Personally, I like them hot and soft with all the gooey white chocolate goodness.

All in all, it was a breeze to make, and we only had one batch of cookies that failed Michelle's QC inspection - because we were too greedy and wanted to fit too much on the cookie sheet, and the cookies melted into each other as they baked so they didn't get the nice round shape the others had.

Monday, December 7, 2009

2 Days of Crazy Shopping Fun

After much drama I managed to get tickets for Michelle and I to go to the Estée Lauder/M.A.C. sale together on Friday. This thrice-a-year sale is by invitation only and apparently a ticket can fetch up to $30 on-line (even though the ticket explicitly states that it is not to be SOLD). I got one pass for Saturday, but thankfully a colleague was kind enough to give me her 2 Friday tickets so my friend and I could go together.

Because the sale was only open until 8 PM on Friday, I arranged to come into work early to leave early. However, it didn't exactly turn out the way I intended it to - I still missed my goal by half an hour even though I woke up 2 hours earlier than usual. Instead of taking Hwy. 401 directly from work, I took a little detour - went on Derry Rd. all the way to Airport Rd., which took me to Hwy. 409 and evetually the 401. It was definitely more complicated and convoluted, but I am sure it also saved me a lot of time because rush hour traffic on the 401 is horrendous - especially on a Friday afternoon. I by-passed a large chunk of the traffic jam on the 401 but it was still bumper-to-bumper until after Yonge St. It took over an hour and a half to get to Markham, but I guess it would have been worse if I had gotten on the 401 from Mississauga Rd.

Michelle and I met up at 16th and Woodbine and went up to Markham Fairgrounds together - that part only took us about 10 minutes - and we were quite eager to get in. Thankfully there wasn't a line-up and we went straight in. It was quite crowded at the tables, so despite our plan to logically follow a route, we ended up having to go here and there to avoid being elbowed by older ladies who were not patient enough to wait their turns. We found good deals from parfum to make up palettes to brushes to gift boxes, and I ended up doing close to $400 worth of damage. In return, I got the Estée Lauder's Advanced Night Repair, a Clinique travel case with mascara, blush, eye shadow and lip gloss along with 3 small brushes, a beautiful kabuki brush (that I have always wanted) from Estée Lauder, an "*magic illuminating liquid potion" from Prescriptives, a liquid blush from Clinique, some Hello Kitty limited edition powder compacts from M.A.C., a shampoo/conditioner set that is organic and sulphates-free, a bunch of other makeup stuff to experiment with, some gift sets and about a hundred dollars worth of stuff I picked up for my colleague.

We had so much fun trying on all the different shades of eyeshadows and powder, and while we were there we stuck up a conversation with this lady who seemed to be working for M.A.C. "Ooh I can't believe they have it here!!" She would proclaim, "this is selling at our counter for double the price!!" Of the M.A.C. paint pot she said "I use this every day, it's great!" before trying it on her hand to show what a difference it makes - the color of the eye shadow shows up so much more intensely when applied after this eye primer. Of the Hello Kitty compact she said "don't worry this won't be too yellow on you, it's more of a peachy color and it will give you a nice glow." So guess what? I picked up one of each item she recommended. She must be a really good salesperson :)

By the time Michelle and I had made the rounds (from the first Hall to the second to the last then back to the second again to pick up more stuff), they were shooing us out. Some workers there started to behave less than polite, but it make sense - they can't go home if we don't go home. We had no trouble finding our car on the way out, because there were hardly any cars left in the parking lot and we spotted it right away. We met up with our BFs for a nice Japanese dinner afterwards - I think it was called Ichiban - and we were so exhausted that all other plans for that evening were cancelled so we could go home and sleep.

The extra Saturday ticket I gave away to the same colleague I picked up stuff for - and she ended up calling me on Saturday asking me to go with her. As I stood in the line with my colleague I couldn't stop thinking how CRAZY I must be to be there again. This time we arrived there around 1:30PM and the line-up was huge! We waited for almost 30 minutes until we got inside. There were a lot of "I should have picked up more of those" and "I should have bought that too", but I had an idea of where things were, and we knew we were under a tight time constraint, so we were quite quick and efficient in making our buying decisions. I had to exercise my self-restraint - otherwise I would have picked up a lot more cosmetics to play with. (Say, why would I need 3 different eye liners all in similar colors and why would I need 5 different lip glosses when I'm too lazy to reach for anything other than my lip balm?)

Somehow I still managed to do another $400 worth of damage - even though what I bought was not entirely for me. I am still reeling in the fact that I just blew so much money in one weekend, but looking at my new skincare and makeup collection, I have resolved to be better to myself and make use of all that I've bought.

This is me at our department's Christmas Party - wearing my new Prescriptives *magic illuminating potion and Clinique up-lighting liquid illuminator blush.

Friday, December 4, 2009

2 Nights of Gingerbread House Fun

Moose in the Kitchen: Gingerbread House

After toiling for 2 nights in a row Michelle and I managed to put up our first fully decorated gingerbread house and assemble the second house - undecorated, like how it's supposed to be.

Thankfully the roofs stayed put and we didn't run into any major diasters, and with extra candies and silver balls (yes, I finally found them at another Bulk Barn) we were able to put some nice finishing touches. We are very happy with how the first one turned out.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

a mix of sun and clouds with isolated showers

That's what my day was like yesterday: a mix of sun and clouds, with some rain. I guess when you get good news you always get some bad news too, and when you think it has to be one of the worst days ever you'd hear something makes you think otherwise.

It was already not a happy day to start with because yesterday was the last day for a colleague that started in this company around the same time as I did. Then there was the news that our company is no longer privately-held - the acquisistion deal has gone through between the Big Pharma Inc. from the States and our parent company. I didn't think that I would be affected so much because I have only been here for a year and a bit, but afterall this was my first job in this industry I have always wanted to work in, and I was a little sad that the company where I started my career may no longer exist.

In between talks of what might happen to us in the future, I found out that Michelle and I might be able to go to the MAC sale together this weekend. I have been looking forward to it as my stash from the last sale has already been depleted, and all the more excited because I would get to go with Michelle this time. The colleague who was leaving dropped by to say goodbye, and I managed to sneak him the little bag of baked goodies I had prepared without getting caught. Yes, I had to "sneak", because I get teased to no end by the ladies I work with everything they see me talking with him. I am more than a little bummed out that he is leaving, but I am glad to see him landing a job that he will probably find more rewarding.

Then came the news that we might get bonuses this year - I had never gotten bonuses because my first full-time job was at a business operated by Chinese people, and Chinese business people are famous for being stingy. Anyway, this is going to be the FIRST bonus I get and from the way the others are talking about it it may just make a really nice christmas/birthday gift! However, there were also talks of how they hand out bonuses on one hand and a pink slip on the other hand... So we don't really know if it's all good news.

After work I finally went to the Bay to return some impulse purchases, and stopped by Bulk Barn to pick up everything we needed for our gingerbread house project. I walked around the store with my little shopping cart and filled it up with shiny and colorful decorations - ready made icings, mini satin candies, chocolate teenies, gum drops, mints and sprinkles. I even picked up some chocolate pebbles to use as a walkway around the house. I found most stuff there, but I still can't believe the silver dragées were all sold out!! I stopped at another candy store on the way out of the mall and again at No Frills with no luck. I was quite disappointed and still feel that way when I look at what our house looks like now.

Well, other than the missing silver balls, we went ahead with decorating our gingerbread house - my first time making one. That was so much fun! Although we both think that I was overdoing it - especially on my side of the roof. I wonder if the roof will stay up because it's honestly quite heavy.

By the way, we decided to decorate the separate pieces of the gingerbread house before assembling it. It was only when we were cleaning up we found the instruction that we were supposed to put the house together first. Good thing we decided to finish one house before we start the other one, so if this one doesn't hold up at least we have another chance to make it right.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Black Friday Sale Shopping Trip

We took a 15-hour shopping trip to Buffalo, NY on Sunday to check out all the deals we've heard about regarding the crazy sale the States has for Black Friday (the day after their Thanksgiving). It was supposed to be the biggest sale of the year when shops mark down their inventory to clear everything out before Christmas. We didn't leave exceptionally early, like we did last time, but early enough to arrive at the border before noon.

First we stopped by Burlington Coat Factory - sort of like Winners, except bigger and crappier. It does offer a big selection of everything - from aisles and aisles of coats (hence its name) to fashion accessories like purses and belts and cheap jewellery to lousy perfume sets to clothings for women (of all sizes), men and children to home furnishing like beddings and curtains. There are some nice brands like Guess and BCBGirls, but there were also fakes like "Charles Klein" (or maybe I just haven't heard of that brand). I remember last time we went there were some good deals, but we didn't see any clearance deals this time around and were quite disappointed. After almost 2 hours of rummaging through the racks and piles, only one of us found something (in fact, she's found a men's CK long down-filled jacket for less than $50 USD, 2 pairs of shoes for her daughter and a pair of runners for her son, on top of a bunch of other stuff). Coincidentally, she was the one who suggested that we take the detour 30 minutes away from where our main destination was. Next time I will know better to let her know that we would rather spend more time at where we had planned to go.

Anyhow, we arrived at the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls on Military Road before 3 o'clock and rushed through the stores - we didn't think we would have enough time to see everything we wanted to see. In fact, we didn't have enough time to see everything we wanted to see - I had wanted to check out shoes and Burberry and Juicy and Calvin Klein, and I wanted to spend more time at Aeropostale and Liz Claibourne. There was a line-up to get into the Coach store, but it wasn't a long line and they kept us busy by offering us mint candies with the Coach logo printed on the wrappers. They even handed out a extra-20%-off coupon when we entered the store. The store was packed and there were shoppers holding on to 3 to 4 purses at a time. The salespeople had trouble keeping merchandise on the shelf because as soon as they put a bag down the shoppers would grab it. There were some nice new styles and also a lot of what we've already seen before, but they didn't have the crossbody purse I really really wanted. Since we were running out of time we rushed through the other stores and didn't find much else, and we were exhausted and starved by the time the stores started turning off the lights.

I was hoping to head home after 6PM when the mall closed, but the ladies I was with had other ideas. We stopped by Marshalls, then Wal-Mart, then Chili's and then Target before we finally got on the road towards the border. Marshalls was another store like the Burlington Coat Factory, but at least they seemed to have nicer stuff. Wal-Mart in the States have much better prices on a bunch of things, namely children's game for $5 or so a piece (Yatzee, Connect 4, etc.). However, with the conversion (from USD to Canadian Dollars) and the taxes, we didn't think it was worth it. The Lindt white chocolate with coconut bar that we were looking for in Wal-Mart was all sold out, so after dinner at Chili's, we stopped by Target to try our luck. As soon as we stepped in to the store we were informed that the store was only open for another 5 minutes (We made it there 5 minutes before 10PM). Thankfully they did have the chocolate bars and we picked up quite a few despite them being more expensive than Wal-Mart. Regardless, these Lindt bars are still better-priced than Canada and this particular kind (the white chocolate with coconut) is not even available here, so the detour to Target was worth it.

We hopped on the car to get home a little bit after 10PM, but was stuck in traffic just before the border for an hour and a half. There were merging lanes and people seemed to be in a rush to get home and didn't want to yield. And it didn't help that the Rainbow Bridge was narrowed to 1 lane on each side due to construction. Despite doing only a hundred dollars or so of damage for each of the 3 of us and being in the second furthest lane, we were instructed by the custom officer to veer a sharp left to go in with the receipts and pay duty. Luckily the officer didn't say anything after he's asked me to pop open the trunk and we got out of there as soon as we could.

While getting back into the car one of us realized that her MasterCard went missing, but we weren't ready to drive all the way back to the restaurant where she has last used it. But all in all it was a fun trip, although I probably wouldn't go again for a while.