Trip Report – Business Class: YOW-LHR-PEK-SIN-BNE

(Note: I think this is going to be a long post, but I hope you enjoy!)

Hello friends!

On January 7th, Michael and I began our journey from Ottawa back to Brisbane… in style 😉

With 90 000 Aeroplan points and the most lovely agent on the phone, we were able to book our entire flight back in Business Class, going the long way. Of course, we had to pay taxes, which came to approximately $600.

Here was our flight itinerary:

itinerary

And so begins my amateur trip report! It certainly was an enjoyable first experience, definitely wanted to document and share!

January 7, 2014

Flight AC888 YOW-LHR (Boeing 767-300)
Departing Ottawa at 9:45pm
Arriving in London Heathrow at 9:35am Jan 08
Flight time: Approx 5hrs 40mins

Seats 2C and 2F

We said farewell to our family around 8pm at the airport and headed in through security. One of the best things about flying executive quickly became clear. Priority lines. For everything. Makes life so much easier.

Once through security, we headed to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge. A worn but roomy lounge with ample seating space. A conservative but good selection of drinks. There were also snacks, including some hot foods, I believe. We didn’t take a closer look, mainly due to being stuffed from dinner.

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The lounge was quite deserted and quiet, but good environment to get some work done. Also a nice view of planes landing and departing for those who are interested. Bathrooms were spacious with large, private stalls and anything you might need (feminine hygiene products, body lotion, etc).

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Boarded without any issues and I got to experience the Classic Pod for the first time. Not to mention they recline completely flat! Although slightly sad that configuration was 1-1-1 because it meant I couldn’t talk to Michael at all while seated.

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We left around an hour late due to bad weather outside Ottawa causing half the crew needing to come in via taxi from Montreal.

Hot towel, champagne and nuts right after take off as opposed to before due to lack of staff – no problem!

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Every year, Michael and I exchange cards on our flight back to Brisbane. Continuing with that tradition and reading my card after take off.

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Happy in his seat under mood lighting.

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Dinner was quite tasty, I was impressed.

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Appetizer: Nova Scotia lobster, seared scallop and marinated shrimp served with quinoa salad and caper tartar sauce.

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Salad: Mixed greens, grape tomatoes and Parmesan served with balsamic vinaigrette. Also had warm crusty bread.

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There were a choice of 4 mains, I chose the Ricotta and spinach ravioli offered with rose sauce, basil chiffonade, portobello mushrooms and parmesan. The ravioli was delicious but I simply couldn’t finish it all.

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Mike chose the Sauteed Atlantic salmon accompanied by lemon and scallion sauce, a grain medley of wheat berries, long grain rice and acini di pepe pasta, french beans and baby carrots. Slightly dry salmon but good flavours and definitely good quality for airplane food. No photo, sorry!

For dessert, a chocolate pecan brownie with whipped cream. Certainly not close to being one of the best brownies I’ve ever had but still good, nice and warm too. I passed on the cream.

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A decent wine selection but no Canadian choices, which I thought was a shame!

One of my favourite aspects of these flights – amenity kits. This one was compact and included the usual items (eye mask, toothbrush, tooth paste, ear plugs, socks) as well as some beauty products by Vancouver company Escents.

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In terms of service, nothing was lacking. However, both Michael and I felt pleasantries were forced rather than genuine coming from one particular flight attendant. Going up to every single passenger with a list in your hand, mumbling or butchering names while saying the exact same greeting to each person comes across as robotic. When we greet people and are unsure of how to pronounce their name, the easiest and most polite thing to do is to simply ask, “Excuse me, how do I correctly pronounce your name?” Such a simple thing to do and you look a lot less ignorant.

I had ambitious plans to stay awake and get a lot of studying done for my MCCEE. Yea, that didn’t happen. I slept most of the flight, eventually waking up to have breakfast before landing.

Continental breakfast consisted of fresh orange juice, sliced seasonal fruit, yogurt and croissants (and blueberry muffins I didn’t see) with butter and preserves.

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And soon we touched down in London! We made a quick stop in the AC Arrival Lounge to freshen up before heading into the city. Paid a small fee to store our carry on luggage at the airport and headed into the city via the Heathrow Express Train (£34/person return).

On the train for just a short 15 minute ride into the city!

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Arrived at Paddington station!

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Being on the streets of London for the first time!

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Due to our short layover (approx 8 hours total), we decided to go on a tour with The Original London Sightseeing Tour. The bus tour was great, we didn’t hop on and off like we would’ve it we had more time but got to see most of what it had to offer. It eventually got pretty cold being on the top of the double decker bus and not moving around at all! 😛

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Here’s a short video I put together of the sights we saw! London is beautiful, we’d love to come back and visit again when we have time… and money!

We eventually made our way back to Heathrow Airport. I didn’t take any photos of the Star Alliance lounge but it was packed, even for 2 levels. Apparently many flights going into North America were delayed due to bad weather which explained why the lounge was so busy. Had a nice shower to recharge for the next leg of our journey and enjoyed some snacks and drinks as well. 

Sooner than we wanted, we were zipping through lines in order to board our next flight with Air China to Beijing.

January 8, 2014

Flight CA938 LHR-PEK (Boeing 777-200)
Departing London at 5:40pm
Arriving in Beijing at 11:25am Jan 9
Flight time: 9hrs 15mins

Seats 16A and 16C

Warm greetings from all the staff, a near empty cabin and seats actually beside each other, we immediately knew we were going to enjoy this flight.

Within minutes of being seated, we were given our noise-cancelling headphones, amenity kit, slippers and menu. 

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Amenity kit with L’Occitane de Provence products, lovely!

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And of course, champagne for take off 🙂

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Good bye London!

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I didn’t take any photos of the cabin, but here are some from other (as linked) sources

Wine and more champagne

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Air China was serving their Winter menus. 

For dinner, Michael chose to have the Western option, which consisted of the following:

Amuse Bouche: Asparagus wrapped in parma ham, Scallop with keta caviar and radish and Hot Canape: Chicken kebab with chili sauce, Veg brochette

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Assorted bread roll served with butter

Appetizer: Seared scallops with noodles

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Salad: Fresh seasonal salad mix with Italian dressing or basil vinaigrette

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Main courses: Beef fillet served with Frisse risotto & vegetables OR Blue cheese gnocchi spinach & pine nut kernels

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Dessert: Apple crumble tart OR Bread & butter pudding OR selection of cheese with crackers

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Seasonal fresh fruit

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Overall, Michael enjoyed all components of his meal and found everything quite tasty! And of course, very filling 🙂

For myself, the Chinese option which consisted of the same amuse bouche, hot canape, breads and dessert options, with the following differences:

Appetizer: Poached chicken thigh with sesame soy dressing, mushroom shitake with julienne carrot, and mixed peppers with black bean sauce

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Main courses: Monkfish with hot bean sauce served with peppers, asparagus and carrots OR Chicken Yu Hsiang Aubergine served with brocoli (both options include steamed rice).

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I chose the Chinese option because I thought of all airlines, Air China would have Chinese food down pat. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The food was alright but mostly bland. Comparing our meals, the Western option is certainly more elegant with much better and sophisticated ingredients.

Like the previous flight, these seats also laid completely flat, it was wonderful! Again, I didn’t get much studying but a lot of sleeping done. 😛

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The flight certainly didn’t go by quickly, but was very comfortable and enjoyable. Service was impeccable and the bathrooms were spacious and well maintained. Air China has a small but decent drinks list, although we didn’t take advantage of it.

Lovely views passing by Mongolia!

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Breakfast!

As I had already chosen the Chinese breakfast option, I was anticipating disappointment after the first meal, haha!

My meal consisted of:

Plain rice congee with pickles, pickled spicy radish julienne, and mushroom wood fungus julienne. I’m normally a huge fan of pickles and especially fungus but again, not very flavourful.

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Dim sum with shrimp dumpling, sieu mai, char sieu bun, and chive & prawn dumpling. The dim sum was tasty, thank goodness!

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Mike had his Western breakfast of Scrambled eggs with bacon sausage & grilled tomato. Also danish, croissant, pain au choc & breakfast rolls with butter, marmalade, honey, cornflakes & milk, and fresh fruit. Of course he enjoyed his meal immensely!

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Again, comparing our meals, the Western option is much more substantial with more flavours.

Soon landing in Beijing!

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Check out the crazy smog pollution… the closer we got to the city…

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I was last in Beijing in 2007, around a year before the Beijing Olympics. I remember the airport service being horrendous with poor service and extreme lacking in English speaking staff for international flights.

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The airport is still not completely efficient as they had only 1 kiosk open to proceed to international transfers. As a result, a haphazard, huge snaking line coiled around a tiny space that blocked way for further incoming passengers. Should’ve taken photos!

Once through security, we proceeded to International Air China Business Lounge (serving all Star Alliance members) located on the 2nd floor.

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The lounge itself is quite spacious with plenty of seating area, and multiple stations to get snacks (packaged pastries and sandwiches) and non-alcoholic drinks.

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There is also a separate hot food station. However, like the airline food, I don’t quite understand how the quality of Asian styled food is so low. It might taste alright if you are extremely hungry, however, we certainly didn’t go for seconds.

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And unless we were mistaken and couldn’t locate other bathrooms, there are only 3-4 bathroom stalls in the entirety of the lounge, not enough!

The bar

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Otherwise a relaxing layover!

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View from the lounge

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Heading to our boarding gate!

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January 9, 2014

Flight CA969 PEK-SIN (Airbus A330-300)
Departing Beijing at 3:25pm
Arriving in Singapore at 9:45pm Jan 9
Flight time: Approx 6 hrs

Seats 13D and 13H

Again, service was lovely as we boarded and settled into our seats. Although the seats were not as nice or private, we did find the cabin more spacious and open. We also liked the insect-antennae lamps.

The seats beside us.

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Unfortunately, the cabin was quite full, with many Chinese passengers who find hoarking (Is this a real word? To bring up sputum and snot by snorting and hoarking) and spitting completely socially acceptable, as well as talking at full volume. Oh well, such is life!

No amenity kit either… 😦 But champagne for take off!

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Meals! We switched things up this flight. Mike decided to opt for the Chinese dinner option, consisting of:

Appetizer: Five spice smoked pomfret and Chinese salad: Marinated bran with vegetables and peanut

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Main courses: Gong Bao prawn OR braised chicken and chestnut with yellow wine sauce, both served with steamed pearl rice and seasonal vegetables, OR stir-fried assorted mushrooms with spring onion accompanied with jasmine rice and seasonal vegetables.

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Michael found the meal, “meh.” The main course was alright but he didn’t touch the pomfret and most of the salad.

Learning from my previous mistake, I chose the Western option this time, which should have included:

  • Amuse bouche: Tea smoked duck breast
  • Hot canape: prawn skewer with Thai chili sauce
  • Appetizer: Baltic style smoked salmon with black pepper
  • Salad: Fresh seasonal salad leaf with French dressing or Chinese vinaigrette.
  • Assorted bread roll served with butter
  • Main courses: Baked Tandoori fish served with raisin turmeric rice and curried vegetable OR stir-fried assorted mushrooms with spring onion accompanied with jasmine rice and seasonal vegetables.

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Unfortunately, bad luck struck again! Although I received my main course, apparently, they had made a mistake and were completely out of the other Western dishes. I said not a problem and accepted the Chinese side dishes… which weren’t very good and like Michael’s, remained mostly untouched. The Tandoori fish was very spicy and salty, I couldn’t finish it although the rice was extremely flavourful! Curried vegetables were mushy snow peas though 😦

Dessert: Hazelnut cake OR orange flavour chocolate cake OR selection of cheese with crackers AND seasonal fresh fruits.

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Cakes were alright but not tasty enough to finish all of it!

This flight went by quickly and we soon found ourselves landing in Singapore!

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After transferring terminals and doing some duty free shopping (have to restock our bar ;)). For spending over $100 on duty free liquor, we got a free Spongebob SquarePants plush toy! I chose to take Patrick, complete with a deep innie belly button home.

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After shopping, we headed to the SilverKris Business Lounge.

Very spacious with ample seating room, this lounge reminded us of a gentlemen’s club with dark colours and leather seats. Lots of drink options and an extensive hot foods area although we didn’t check out the food. I was able to squeeze in a shower in their lovely bathrooms (that you don’t have to go to reception to get a key) which was refreshing and great.

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Michael enjoyed a frosty mug of Tiger beer, of course

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We had a very brief 3 hour layover and soon found ourselves heading to our boarding gate for our last leg home.

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January 10, 2014

Flight SQ255 SIN-BNE (Airbus A330-300)
Departing Singapore at 12:45am
Arriving in Brisbane at 10:45am Jan 10
Flight time: Approx 7hrs 20mins

Seats 12H and 12K

Perhaps our most anticipated leg of the journey due to it being Singapore Airlines, the aircraft was probably one of their oldest and most outdated. The seats looked and felt tired, disappointment!

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The service, however, was great as always on an SQ flight. Again, no amenity kit (why? :() but we did get funky slippers!

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As always, champagne for take off!

We opted for 2 meals during this flight. Both dinner and breakfast. With many naps lying nearly flat in between… 😛

For dinner, we had warm focaccia with smoked chicken, cheddar cheese and sweet onion relish. Delicious!

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Highland Park 12 Year-Old Single Malt Whisky for Mike and a Skyhigh (“An invigorating recipe featuring vodka, Cointreau, lemon, topped with 7-Up). I quite enjoyed all the unique Singapore Airlines’ cocktails on this flight.

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And egg noodles with braised beef brisket, mushrooms, and leafy greens. Also delicious!

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Before landing, we both enjoyed an American Breakfast with fruit yoghurt, poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce, bacon, ham, mushroom and roast potatoes. As well as breads with preserves. For airplane food, it was impressive and mighty tasty!

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Once landed in Brisbane, we proceeded through immigration and customs without any issues or delays. Once outside, there was no taxi queue, allowing us to immediately get into a taxi and be home within 1/2 hour.

Although we enjoyed most aspects of our flights immensely, it was a relief to finally be home!

Summary:

Best service: Tie between Air China and Singapore Airlines
Best food: Air China (LHR-PEK) for Michael, Air Canada (YOW-LHR) for me
Best drinks selection: Singapore Airlines (SIN-BNE)
Most comfortable: Air China (LHR-PEK)
Best entertainment: Air Canada (YOW-LHR)
Best lounge: Changi Airport’s SilverKris

Would we do it again? Yes! But only on points… 😉

And thank you to James and Kim for being so lovely! Not only did they keep an eye on our place for us, they made sure we had some fresh bread and milk in the fridge for when we got back! You guys are the best!

A last few get togethers in Canada

January 3, 2014

With my sister returning to BC the following day, we invited all the cousins over for an evening of food, board games, laughs and fun! Would also be the last time I get to see them before I head off on the 7th as well.

So happy all you cousins could make it! 😀

Enjoying the movie Ip Man first while having pizza and snacks!

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Board games!

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January 4, 2014

Lunch with Colette and her husband, Pete, long-term friends of my mum! A lovely Korean meal at Mu Goong Hwa, great food and wonderful service! So nice to finally have the opportunity to spend time together and catch up!

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And in the evening, my grandparents joined us in seeing my sister off back to BC!

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January 7, 2014

Our families finally enjoyed a meal together! Michael chose Perkins as he hadn’t had the chance to go this vacation, last breakfast in Canada!

Then back to our house for tea and some quick dessert before heading off to the airport.

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Time went by so quickly, soon we had to go to the airport 😦

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Last shot with my mum!

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My family watching us head off after passing through security

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Group photo!

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Thank you for seeing us off family! We miss you all so much already!

Last batch of random moments in Canada!

I made macarons that tasted like the ones you get at the store! Their feet weren’t as pretty but white chocolate green tea… how delicious does that sound? Unfortunately, I was only able to make them successfully 1 out of the 3 times I attempted this break.

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Some of the chocolate truffles I made this year as Christmas presents for family and friends. Flavours were: Cocoa covered dark chocolate wasabi, sprinkle coated hazelnut milk chocolate, and Toasted almond orange white chocolate.

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Shawarma Palace with Mike on Boxing Day! Could not believe that I ran into Jason and Max there as well, exactly one year ago I was in the same place having shawarma with them (and Amin)!

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“This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and/or birth defects or other reproductive harm.”

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Walked out of my driveway one day to hear something hissing at me from above. I was concerned it might jump down and eat my face like a zombie.

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My mom made deeelicious deep fried choux rolled in butter and dipped in a mixture of salt and sugar. Haven’t had these since 2007!

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And later she also made choux crème. Baked with a custard filling, yummy!

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Mike and I got matching Sunskis! We are quite happy with the quality and service and can’t wait to rock them at the beach! Check out their Facebook page HERE

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My sister got me some amazing wild mushrooms from West Coast Wild Foods for Christmas. I used them and altered the recipe it came with (didn’t have all the ingredients it called for) to make some delicious cream of mushroom soup. So tasty!

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Blackberries with freshly whipped cream! And they were so sweet!

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I got my nails done for the first time, with my sister! Shellac, I quite like this… too bad I can’t afford doing this all the time!

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Promised I would make a quiche and I actually did! With mushrooms, bacon and onion… not bad, got the stamp of approval from my brother!

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Mmm, McDonald’s McGriddles for breakfast, I will miss you! Delicious combination of maple syrup pancake sweetness sandwiching egg and the saltiness of cheese and sausage!

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Saying farewell to Franklin who’s going to be living with Anthony for a few months! My mom will miss her ‘grandson’ quite a bit!

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The day after New Year’s, our furnace died, on one of the coldest days! The temperature in our house quickly dropped to a frigid 13.5C before we finally got running again. Apparently our flame sensor needed replacing – ugh!

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This bird has been sitting by our kitchen window for as long as I can remember. My dad brought it home one day and I thought a real bird had flown in and perched on our window the first time I saw it. Dang, it’s an ugly bird! But, memories 🙂

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And that’s the last of my random moments in Canada… I believe! 🙂

 

 

Happy New Year!

December 31 – January 01

A very quiet New Year’s Eve at home! Mike came up to spend the night and we rang in the New Year with some bubbly and boardgames, haha, we so lame!

My brother and his girlfriend Naaomi

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New Year’s day was spent with my entire family at our grandparents. For the first time, we had our party catered by Sharwarma Palace which please every single cousin and maybe most adults 😉

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Note to all: This meal was technically catered for 14 people (we have 24 people in our family) – we ate to the max and had leftovers… which is awesome 😉

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So happy to be eating shawarma… mmm garlic sauce!

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And of course, lots of boardgames!

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And, for the first time – a real girl talk with all the girl cousins! Happy times guys!

Happy new year to everybody! I hope it’s full of health and happiness 🙂

Belated Christmas with Michael’s family

I had a lovely stay with Mike’s family from December 27-29. Since both of his parents were working on Christmas, Mike spent Christmas with my family and I got to spend a belated Christmas with his. And luckily, my cat allergies didn’t kill me this year, yay! 😉 The weather was nice and we were even able to go for a walk around their neighbourhood.

Some photos during our walk, right by Elephant Rock. As you might be able to tell from the photos, his parents don’t live in the city! 😉

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Thank you again for having me!

Opening presents!

We have always opened our presents on Christmas night, as opposed to Christmas Eve night or Christmas morning like many of our other friends. Our rationale is that it allows us to collect all our presents in accordance with our get-togethers and we can open all our presents together at the end of the day.

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Family photo in onesies!

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It was really lovely to have Michael be able to join our entire family for the day, and then with us at home while we exchanged and opened gifts. ❤

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Friends and family were more than generous this year, thank you so much! Adults have always given the children ‘lucky red pockets’ so I received one from each of my mom’s 4 siblings.

And now opening presents!

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My mom is the oldest so she gets to open presents first 🙂

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Ou, Pandora beads!

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Hugs!

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Me too, me too!!

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My siblings pitched together to get me a great camera tripod, something I’ve been needing and wanting to buy for years. Additionally, they got me a whole bunch of other gifts! Thanks guys!

Yay,  a charm to add to my Pandora bracelet from my sister. Her note reads: In Celtic culture, ivy is symbolic of growth, renewal, connection, friendship, and opportunity.

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Have you ever tried chocolate flavoured cola? Because let me tell you, it’s pretty horrific. Don’t be fooled by the empty bottle, it’s because the syrupy liquid ended up down the drain!

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Mike and I always watch videos from the YouTube channel called RRCherrypie. We love watching them put together these Japanese mini edible meals and find the sound of mixing powder so soothing against the plastic tray. You will only understand this if you are familiar with the product and the videos, don’t laugh at us! Can’t wait to try this out! And in the realm of Japanese food, I also received some mini green tea and passion fruit KitKats! I would love to one day try all the KitKat flavours available in Japan, but for now, I can cross 2 off my list! They were nice, but I still prefer the chocolate one more.

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Received soooo many sweets like you wouldn’t believe. Including these Purdy ‘s Truffles and Goji Berry bar, also from my sister! Apparently, Purdy’s is a brand well known for its quality of chocolate but is not available outside the West coast, I will enjoy these!

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Caffeinated chocolate bars from my bro. Chocolate and caffeine, what more does a med student need?

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My mommy gave me a lovely fuchsia dress from Tommy Hilfiger, a nice addition to my clinical wardrobe! Also, a super comfy pair of black pants that I actually wore onto the flight home!

Michael gave me a Wilton piping set, something I’ve been wanting for a long time, thanks my dear! He also gave me a camera accessories kit but we decided to return it as it too came with a tripod, which my siblings already covered.

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Teavana teas from my cousins Janet and Kevin, will enjoy trying them and adding them to my tea collection! They also gave me a French Press which I didn’t take a picture of.

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Colette and her husbane Pete are old friends of my mom, look at the gorgeous card we received from them. Not to mention gifts!

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She even gave me gifts! A Burt’s Bees gift set with a lovely travel bag that I’m actually using for my flight bag. It’s cute, small and fits everything I need! Also a bracelet from Twilight Jewelry.

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Michael’s parents gave me a bagful of goodies, including a long and light snake-print scarf that I used repeatedly on the flight home! I think it will be perfect for Brisbane’s mild winter – Thanks Caroline and Greg!

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Every gift I receive, big and small, is valuable and sentimental to me. I hope you don’t mind, but I am not blogging about them to show off but to document these memories so that I may look back and read about it in the future. ^_^

This year’s Christmas was super special to me, in many ways, which perhaps I will elaborate on in a separate post. The time I got to spend with my family and friends, although short was very much treasured, especially because I may not be back in Canada for next Christmas. Thank you everyone for your love, time and generosity!

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I hope that wherever you were and the company you kept left you with joy and happiness!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

December 25, 2013

For as long as I can remember, the entire family has gathered at my grandparents for Christmas day. We always have lunch, complete with 2 turkeys and a plethora of side dishes and dessert. Food is followed by a large break filled with napping or catching up or board games with many laughs. Then evening rolls around and we have our second turkey meal of the day – leftovers from lunch!

This year was slightly different from previous ones. We had THREE turkeys. And a non-family member, Michael, joined the family festivities for the first time.

3 turkeys!

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Plating up the side dishes

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Uncles carving the turkeys

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Almost there

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Yay, eating time!

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In the past few years, as we get older, the cousins have been trying to do something a little different for special family occasions. You might remember at my grandpa’s birthday a few weeks ago, all the kids had lanyards stating their name and birth order. Other occasions have included colour coordinating outfits.

This year, my sister designed t-shirts for all the kids, including Mike. I think they turned out well, what about you? And surprisingly, all the cousins wore their t-shirts the entire day, as opposed to changing out of them once photos were taken. Thanks guys!

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Trying to replicate our faces

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Silly faces

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Isn’t Mike such a lucky man? 😛

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Playing games as soon as we finished eating!

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So much laughter and craziness playing ‘Heads Up’, Ellen Degeneres’ game that we played similar to charades.

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My grandparents! Probably watching our shenanigans!

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When it comes time for presents, the grandparents always receive theirs presents and cards from the grandchildren first.

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Then my grandparents will give children either a lucky red pocket with money inside, or a small gift each. This year, however, my grandpa decided to do something different – 2 raffle prizes for the kids. Each prize box contained tons of edible goodies with specific instructions to share with the other kids. Win win for all!

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And of course, my grandpa always arranges prize draws for the adults. Sadly, our family (the 6s) has never won one of my grandpa’s raffles! The 2 family were, again, the lucky winners!

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All the cousins participated in a gift exchange this year! Since we are all poor, we agreed to the challenge of buying one item from Dollarama for this gift exchange, with the option to steal presents. Worked out nicely and provided a bunch of fun!

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And some of the cousins participated in our first cookie exchange! Such a great idea and so many cookies to munch on for days. Can’t wait to do this again!

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There were 9 cousins who participated in total and we decided to do batches of 5 cookies as opposed to the traditional dozen. Good idea, because we would’ve had A LOT of cookies to eat.

Kim with her cookies. She attempted to make cookies which included fresh pomegranate syrup but they didn’t quite turn out, mainly because she didn’t use a recipe! She decided to make up for it with cute little bags, thanks Kim!

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Christine with her colourful and tasty pinwheel short bread cookies!

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Janet with fortune cookies!

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Jenni with her shortbread and sugar cookies, with super fancy packaging

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Andy going with the traditional chocolate chip cookies

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Flora and her decadent peanut butter cookies!

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I made some orange cinnamon cookies with cranberries and white chocolate chips!

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Mike and his triple chocolate candy cane cookies – so chocolatey

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Lilian with her impressive and massive red velvet cookies with cream cheese frosting

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So many cookies!

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The haul!

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When our tummies finally made some room, we had dessert! Blueberry and cherry no-bake cheesecake made by my mom and Vietnamese Creme Caramel (flan) made by my Aunt 2! Yum yum!

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And of course, finally as always, some family photos.

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More Christmas photos HERE

This is quite late, but I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas with their loved ones as well! ❤

Christmas Eve Traditions

December 24, 2014

For a few years now, since my dad passed away, our family has spent Christmas Eve with my grandparents. My mom usually has a turkey roasting in the oven during the day, we prepare side dishes, and after evening mass at church, we haul all the food over and enjoy a full turkey dinner at our grandparents’.

And this year was no different!

The turkey and some of the food

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My mom always makes extra stuffing on the side, with walnuts and cranberries, mmm.

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Buttering up some rolls!

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Perhaps my love for photography takes after my grandpa, who you will find always snapping photos at every opportunity, documenting moments with family to revisit time after time.

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Carving the turkey

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Family pictures!

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Having a first taste of the lime and banana liqueur my grandpa made. This was a recipe from his sister in Vietnam, where my mom and I had the opportunity to try some last year!

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Beautiful colour and clarity. Great flavour and not too sweet, yum!

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The other tradition we’ve developed is to take family photos on Christmas Eve.

Here are this year’s photos!

My sister with her turtle, Franklin.

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The ‘proper’ photo

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And what usually happens when we take family photos

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Happy New Year… of the Horse!

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Sisters.

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Franklin kept trying to escape from me.

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But would always lie perfectly still for my sister!

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Whether your Christmas Eve was festive or simple and relaxing, I hope you all thoroughly enjoyed it!

Laptop fixed, blog updates to come!

(Written in the air yesterday)

Hello friends!

The good news is, I have a working laptop again! The bad news is, I wasn’t able to save anything on my previous hard drive, which simply died on me. But that’s okay, I have back up copies of many files and it’s not the end of the world that I lost some of the others.

I was already behind on my blogging during the holiday season because I’m a very important person with many things to do I was busy and also lazy. And when my computer died, I felt like I hadn’t blogged for ages!

I’m currently in the air with Michael, on our way back to Brisbane. Going to try and spend a few hours writing up all my blog posts so I can post them when I have internet again! Thanks for reading, stay tuned!

Happy Holidays

Hello friends!

I hope each and everyone of you had wonderful holiday celebrations with your loved ones! And may this new year bless you with much laughter, surround you with love, and leave you with unforgettable moments of happiness!

I felt very lucky not only to be able to spend Christmas and New Years home in Ottawa but also because it was filled with so much love and generosity from family and friends.

Unfortunately, my laptop has died on me, and even though my brother and I have been trying very hard… I don’t think we’ll be able to salvage it.

And so, I was already behind on blogging and posting photos but now it is even worse because well… I don’t have a computer at the moment!

What’s going on in the next few days?

– My sister is flying back to Vancouver this evening. She is starting a placement in Victoria on Monday so will have very little time to pack up and fly out to her next destination.

– Mike and I are flying out Tuesday night, Jan 7th. The holidays have flown by and although we are excited to begin our final year of med school, we have not been able to study for our Canadian exam (MCCEE) as much as we have wanted. And that exam is at the end of February. Starting to freak out a little.

– Need to finish packing.

– Hopefully see some friends but time is running out and still so busy.

– Back in Brisbane on the 10th. Have the weekend to settle in and get ready for a busy year ahead starting Monday.

Will try to keep you updated more, thanks for reading! 🙂

Yummy delights at Macarons et Madeleines

December 18, 2013

I finally had the opportunity to visit my sister and brother’s favourite bakery in Ottawa – Macarons et Madeleines – a beautiful, warm and cozy home bakery tucked away in Chinatown that specializes in French pastries.

A semi-detached house, the first things that greet you as you enter: delicious aromas of freshly baked goods and Stephan Ethier’s friendly welcome.

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As it is a business run out of their home, Macarons et Madeleines does not have space for customers to sit down and eat, however, that doesn’t mean that their atmosphere is lacking in any way.

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A price list and guest book are set up in the foyer, Christmas decor lines the small yet spacious room, even a lovely wood fireplace.

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Looks like there should be a cat around, but we didn’t get to meet him/her!

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Macarons et Madeleines offers a small selection of approximately 10 pastries on a regular basis. For macarons, only a few flavours are chosen and made each week, many of them creative adventures suggested by customers. In addition, there are others (like the chocolate almond croissant) available only on the weekends. They are also very happy to work with you to create any custom orders you might have, which is great!

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Stephan is a very friendly and extremely passionate patissier (read his biography here). He was more than happy to thoroughly explain the story and work behind the pastries, provide any tips and answer any questions. I did not have a chance to chat with his wife that day, but my sister tells me she is lovely and also just as friendly.

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After a bit of a chat and being given some information on everything available, it was difficult not to get everything to try!

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Christmas macaron flavours available were: pistachio-cinnamon (red), hot chocolate with marshmallow (white), and eggnog with rum (yellow) – we bought 2 of each to share ($2/each). Our favourite was the pistachio-cinnamon, having the most vibrant flavours of the 3, as well as great colour for the holiday season!

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Since we’ve never had a Cannele Bordelais ($3) before, we had to try. A small striated cylinder with a crispy carmelised crust and a soft custard inside – rich, creamy and delicious!

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Croissant ($1.75) – flaky and tender, easily one of the best ones we’ve ever had!

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Pain au chocolate/Chocolate croissant ($2.50) – even better than the regular croissant because of its smooth, creamy, chocolate centre, mmm!

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Apple turnover/Chausson aux pommes ($2.50) – most unique one we’ve tried as it is made with a velvety home made apple puree filling. I love apple+cinnamon, this one definitely did not last long.

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We also got a Brioche Parisienne ($1.25) which was very nice as well!

Macarons et Madeleines offers delicious French pastries Wednesday to Sunday starting at 7am until quantities last. Definitely worth a special visit, I promise you will not be disappointed! Not only will you be warmly received into the home of one of the most passionate pastry chefs, you will surely leave with amazing treats that will leave you pining for more!

Macarons et Madeleines on Urbanspoon

AYCE buffet at Eclipse Asian Cuisine

December 16, 2013

At my mum’s friend’s recommendation, our family decided to have AYCE buffet lunch at Eclipse Asian Cuisine.

A reasonable, $12.95/person + tax/tip for weekday lunch.

Our first impression of Eclipse was, “Holy, heavy doors!” But we did appreciate the eclipse decor pattern on the glass.

Joking aside, the restaurant is large with 2 main seating areas, offering both tables and booths. We were greeted at the door and immediately shown to a booth. Recommendation: hooks by the booths to hang up coats!

The decor is nice and tasteful with wood and brown furniture against purple walls with circular white and yellow accents.

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We arrived shortly after 11:30am for lunch so it was not surprising that there were only a few other patrons in the restaurant. However, there was a steady flow of diners as we headed into lunch hours.

Before grabbing food, I walked around to take a look at all the dishes available and take a few pictures. I was quite taken aback when an employee, I assume the manager/owner as he was in a dress shirt and tie, saw me and harshly asked, “Why are you taking pictures?!” When I replied that I like to blog and was planning to write a review, and asked if taking pictures would be okay, he gave a curt nod of his head and walked away. Isn’t it easier to be friendly?

Anyway, I quite liked the set up of the food. A symmetrical, semi-circular area with an island at the centre and 2 smaller areas off to each side.

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The presentation of the food was elegant, smaller portions cleanly plated on white square dishes. However, I believe this also allowed the dishes to cool a little quickly.

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There are many meat dishes (vegetarians will have a hard time here) and a number of seafood ones to choose from. Many of the classics (dumplings, General Tao’s chicken, egg rolls, stir-fries, etc) are available along with a selection of sushi, salads, soups, and desserts.

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Hungry for food!

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I found my mum’s side profile funny

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My plate. Trying to get a bite of many dishes…

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Unfortunately, my tiny, sesame ball with red bean filling was still raw on the inside.

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And 2 of us had big chunks of fat in one of our pork dishes, not a fan. Fat is the closest piece, pork behind it.

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Overall, the food and selection is good. Of course, the variety doesn’t match Emerald Buffet, but Eclipse still offers something for everyone in a nicer environment. Some dishes are cooked and taste better than others. I especially liked the salmon Teriyaki and salt and pepper shrimp. The sushi is decent, although if you are looking for sushi, I would definitely recommend going down the street for AYCE at Sushi Kan.

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Desserts were definitely disappointing, with a small selection of fruits, jello, ice cream and pre-bought desserts. Unfortunately, many pastries/cakes were dry as they are left open to the air. Would’ve loved to see some Asian desserts as well!

With reasonable prices and food, I’m sure we will find ourselves back when craving Chinese buffet!

Eclipse Asian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Long overdue catch up with Sareda at Art Is In!

December 14, 2013

By long overdue, I mean three years. Really.

Needless to say, it was great to see her and finally catch up. So much can happen in such little time, you easily don’t realize it until actually sitting down and having a chat.

For lunch, Sareda chose Art Is In Boulangerie. What a delight! And thanks again for the treat my dear!

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Unit #112 of the industrial loading bay at City Centre Ave, Art Is In has a very unique atmosphere. You walk through a black door to be greeted by high ceilings, minimal decor, shared seating in a large open space. And surprisingly, it’s very warm, inviting and cosy.

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Being first time visitors, we appreciated that there wasn’t too much of a line when we arrived shortly after 12pm on a Saturday. We had the opportunity to ask questions regarding what was available and take a moment longer to make up our minds. I really liked how there was an employee taking our ‘hot food’ orders while we waited in line. By the time we got to the front of the line, ordered any additional pastries, breads, or other items from the bakery, paid and sat down at a table, the food took only a few more moments to arrive.

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We both decided on a sandwich and a pastry.

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Sareda chose the Thai chicken with apple, curry mayo, and havarti sandwich ($10.95)

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I got the Buttermilk brined chicken caesar sandwich ($10.95, tender chicken pieces with bacon, havarti, tomatoes, arugula and our homemade Caesar dressing. Served on our Dynamite Cheddar, jalapeno & chive bread).

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Both sandwiches were delicious, served such amazing crusty bread and filled with fresh vegetables and flavourful meat – yum! Although they were great, they are not the biggest sandwiches and I wish for the price, they came with a small side. Even if it was just a few greens.

For dessert, a danish with lemon curd and berries (I believe) for Sareda

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And a Chocolate Almond Croissant ($2.95) for me!

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Again, both extremely tasty! We each saved half to share with Sareda’s partner, Calvin, later.

We were definitely impressed with our first visit and left making plans to each come back in the future, yay!

December 17, 2013

And so, when Mike came up to Ottawa, I took him there for lunch!

He couldn’t pass up the same sandwich I got last time and ordered the chicken caesar, along with a coffee.

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We also bought 2 pastries to try:

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Sticky Bun with Pecans, Raisin & Caramel ($3.25). Delicious but extremely rich, especially as it is not technically a bun but more of a croissant. It is quite sweet, although the caramel is hardened, would’ve been nicer if it was slightly warmed!

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And the Maple Dipped Old Fashioned Potato Donut ($3.25). The donut had very lovely texture but otherwise quite bland, which is not technically a bad thing depending on what you are looking for! Or it could be because our taste buds were overwhelmed by the sticky bun 😛

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❤ him!

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During the second visit, there were a few minor things I noticed that could be improved.

Although I don’t drink, directions for where to get self-serve coffee would be useful. There was confusion as nothing was labelled and wasn’t sure if the big dispensers contained other beverages like tea or hot chocolate.

Additionally, you are given pastries you order at the cash to take back to your table. Hot foods arrive when they are ready. However, there is no self-serve cutlery for those who would like to enjoy their pastries first or while they wait. A stash cutlery where the self-serve drinks are would be great and save the trouble of bothering an employee! 🙂

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Otherwise, the food is delicious on many levels. The atmosphere is great with a variety of clientele including families, elderly couples, and those on break from work. Turnover is quick and although it was quite busy both times I’ve visited, we never had trouble finding space to share and dine with others. Service is quick and friendly. My only regret is not buying some fresh loaves of bread to go! I guess that means I will just have to return soon… 😀

Art Is in Bakery on Urbanspoon

No excuse for not blogging!

Hi friends!

Yes, I have no excuse for not blogging, I am on vacation after all!

How is everyone doing? Getting excited for the holidays yet?

For once, I am (mostly) on top of Christmas preparations! That even includes putting up the Christmas tree by myself at the beginning of December, yay! Not to mention all my presents have been wrapped… which normally never happens until the night of the 23rd or 24th.

Here are a few scattered moments since my last blog post:

Remember when I said I was digitizing all our old photos? Well, I finished! But I have not yet organised them T_T

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Mum made delicious guacamole!

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Got the tree up and this was my first present wrapped!

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Grilled cheese on a panini grill

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Snacking

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Made some macarons with the bro. They were successful in that they had feet, but failed in smoothness and texture – overbaked and way too crispy! We’ll try again soon…

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One of my favourite fruit snacks – pineapple with salt and pepper, yummy!

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Don’t know what made my mom think this would be good – smoked oysters (from China) in a can by Clover. Needless to say, she tasted one and didn’t get further.

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A little bit of a lot going on in this photo

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It snowed so hard on Dec 15! 😦

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Which was also the day my sister came home for the holidays from Vancouver. Thank god my uncle (Cau Hai) drove us to pick her up… or we would’ve died on the road.

The flight was, of course, delayed. Our poor grandparents had to chill at the airport until close to 3am when Jenni finally arrived!

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December 16 – day after my sister came home. And Michael came up, finally! ❤ We went to see the Ottawa Senators vs St Louis Blues hockey game at the Canadian Tire Centre!

My sister, the biggest Toronto Maple Leafs fan… forced to wear a Sens jersey

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One of the most exciting games I’ve been to with the winning goal scored by Ceci in the last minute of overtime, yay! Note: I dislike hockey and have not watched many games in person.

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My brother “studying” before we left for the game.

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December 17 – breakfast with mum at Cora’s before driving her to work! Cora’s food was a disappointment, this is my 4th or 5th time going and it just… never wins me over.

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And homemade jajangmyun (Korean noodles with black bean sauce) that night! Mmm!

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Of course, Michael couldn’t visit Ottawa without having lunch at Play! Love the current menu options, although they have since increased the pricefrom 2 plates for $20 last year to $22. Still a great deal though!

Started off with house bread and frites with aioli sauce.

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Our first plates. beef laab / hoisin / jalapeño / daikon / romaine / ginger for Michael. So fragrant and delicious! Great contrast of flavours and textures, definitely a favourite.

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I enjoyed the pappardelle / chorizo / duck / celeriac / winter squash / shallot. Also very tasty! The pappardelle (broad pasta noodles) was cooked just with with really nice flavours but way too oily for me.

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Onto our second plates! rabbit meatballs / pork / cornbread / eggplant agrodolce for Mike. Tender and moist meatballs against fluffly cornbread made for a very hearty meal.

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I chose the pork belly/edamame/Thai sauce/apricot/red bell pepper/onion. The flavours danced across my tongue… easily our favourite dish of the day! Crispy pork belly on a bed of wonderful delights with a good amount of heat. Unfortunately, the sauce in this dish was too oily, which was worse than my pappardelle because the pork belly is already so fatty. Still a delight though!

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And finally, guess who!

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Seeing the girls again!

December 08, 2013

Reunion with the girls, finally! We were just missing Sophie 😦 who’s still studying in San Fran… but we’ll catch up with her sooner or later!

We congregated at Julia’s house (thanks Hue for picking Atong and I up!) to make delicious food and of course, to feast!

Julia taught us how to make gnocchi, who knew it was such an easy dish to make from scratch too!

Baking and letting the potatoes dry out.

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Pressing the potatoes… takes effort! 😛

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Hue made a play on the well known appetizer Insalata Caprese – yummy with tomato, basil, and boccocini, dipped in a basalmic and olive oil vinagrette.

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Atong… just watching and waiting to eat, haha.

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I made some coconut basil tempura shrimp… never a let down!

Infusing the coconut cream

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Ready to feast!

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It had been a while since I had poutine, Julia made some with sweet potato too, yummy!

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The tempura shrimp!

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Can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of the gnocchi! It was so delicious with a rose sauce and bacon!

I also made some deep fried banana fritters, tasty!

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Group photo 🙂

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Silly faces

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Such a lovely home

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Watching Masterchef as we eat 😛

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And with her lovely Christmas tree!

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And lastly, I just wanted to point out her table runner. How beautiful is that??

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AYCE Sushi fix at Banc Sushi

November 30, 2013

All you can eat sushi with the cousins! Yay, I finally get my sushi fix!

We decided on Banc Sushi as it is pretty tasty and in a convenient location for everyone.

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For my friends who don’t know how AYCE sushi works, you are given a menu and ordering sheets. You write down the quantity of each item you want and they bring it straight to your table… how easy can it get!

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It costs $23 for dinner on Fridays and weekends, prices for lunch and weekdays are more cheaper.

Check out the extensive menu:

And of course, photos!

Only missing 2 cousins: My sister and Kien

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The other half’s first bit of food arrives…

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The girls

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Our side of the table was waiting so long for food… then realized we never handed in the order. Fail!

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Always with the nipple touching Khang

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Finally, our first dish arrives – seaweed salad!

And more food!

Tuna

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Unagi/eel – this was so tasty!

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The Lover’s Roll… in the shape of a penis. Many laughs and instagram-ing occured at the table

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The most tender beef rolls (enoki mushrooms inside) I’ve ever had!

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So much dessert! Ice cream and fried banana for everyone! Haven’t had mango ice cream in so long – yum!

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Kevin so happy with his 6 scoops of ice cream 😛

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Happy with bursting bellies!

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Let’s do this again before I leave! 😀

Grandpa’s 80th Birthday lunch!

November 24, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDPA! CHUC MUNG SINH NHAT ONG NGOAI!

Background: Our whole family thought it would be lovely to throw my grandpa a surprise 80th birthday party! Tasks were divided up in order to get everything organised for the big day. Everyone put a lot of time into the event, which turned out successful, yay! We rented a smaller room at the St Laurent Complex with tables, chairs and a screen and projector to work with. I made a slideshow with old photos from each family as I knew my grandpa loved looking at them, especially those of his family. The chosen theme colours were royal blue and silver. A lot of work was put into not only the food, but also the decor! The cranes on the centrepieces were each folded, then spray painted before being strung onto the branches. In the vases, we also put ribbon and tulle that matched the theme colours. Thank you to everyone for their time, especially the grandchildren! Couldn’t have done it without you guys. ❤

I have so many photos, so will only share a select few to help me tell the story 😀

The grandchildren (my siblings + cousins) arrived 2 hours early to set everything up, yay us!

Making sure we sign the card before the adults arrive

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My brother Andy and Justin putting up the vinyl mural he made – a portrait of my grandpa!

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Closer look at the mural, pretty sweet.

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Due to the space, we decided on two long rows of tables on either side, as opposed to individual tables spread across the room, which worked well! We had an assembly line going as soon as the tablecloths and dinnerware arrived (we rented these),and things were laid out in no time!

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Dining area set up beautifully, ready to go!

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My sister, Jenni, also made party favours for everyone

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There were also 3 tables set up for all the delicious food! Everything but the roasted pig and bread rolls were hand-prepared by a family

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The 2 Family made: Fried wontons, crispy garlic chicken wings, steam buns, flan and also brought an assortment of other things like cucumber, bread rolls, and chocolate.

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The 3 Family made: A fruit platter, Vietnamese pork roll shaped into 80s, deviled eggs, and sweet egg desserts made with agar with a mung bean egg yolk. He also took care of a few vegetarian dishes for my grandma’s friends who attended, as well as the symbolic bowl of 80 clementines!

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The 4 Family made: Seafood soup, water and canned drinks

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The 5 Family made: A veggie platter and a sandwich platter, also bringing along coffee and tea for dessert.

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The 6 Family (us) made: Quinoa salad, pandan and Vietnamese coffee flavoured coconut jelly. I made cupcakes!

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It was a feast! Definitely lots of food leftover that we took home with us 🙂

Grandchildren, assemble! In order to greet my grandpa when he walks in the door!

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We hope he was surprised, especially because my sister wasn’t supposed to be making it but eventually decided to fly in for the weekend!

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Some of my grandma’s guests

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Photo with all the grandchildren + Mike

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Photo with all five children

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We also took individual family photos, here is ours

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My grandma’s friends were not told in advance that the event was for my grandpa’s birthday. Here they are just apologizing for that and giving gifts anyway!

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Grandpa giving us a thank you speech before eating lunch, thank you grandpa!

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Soup assembly line, haha!

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Ready to eat

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Kids table

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Birthday cake! A nice, fluffy green, pandan flavoured cake

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Oh, don’t be shy grandpa

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Make a wish!

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Cutting the cake

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Check out the paparazzi!

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Being the one who made a special trip home for his birthday, Jenni had the honour of presenting the hand-made card!

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Giving our presents! In case you didn’t see in a previous post, our family got him a number of interesting goodies to try and share with family and friends 🙂

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There are A LOT more photos, especially the ones including all the other families. I couldn’t possibly bore you with all of them! 😛 PLEASE CLICK HERE if you would like to see the complete album.

Otherwise, our-what’s-now-becoming-a-tradition: Cousins’ Photoshoot

All 13 grandchildren lined up by age, with 2 outliers – Michael and Martin, an honourary grandchild for the day.

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Quality’s not the best, but this one is my favourite!

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The serious, just got arrested look

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And lastly, a few family photos!

With Janet and her dad (part of the 5 Family)

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The girlies!

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Us!

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There will never be a family photo of us without a silly one first…

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Or two silly photos…

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Look how pretty the 5 Family looks!

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The afternoon passed by so quickly, it was soon time to start cleaning up in order to return the room.

I hope everyone had a great time and enjoyed the atmosphere and the food, especially my grandpa! I hope you enjoyed the slideshow too! Thank you again to the whole family for making this day possible! 🙂

Random moments since being home!

This post is just as it sounds, enjoy!

There were ripe bananas at home so made some banana chocolate muffins

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How silly is this? Beechwood Cemetery sent this addressed to my dad (who is buried there) inviting him to join for a Memorial Candlelight Service.

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Birthday present from my mom! Belated because she kept it in Ottawa until I got back 🙂 Even matches my birthstone, thanks mommy!

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Shawarma Palace is my absolutely favourite shawarma shop and now they have a fancy new location – thank you Elvin for the treat! 🙂 So nice to catch up with him and Vinh!

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On Nov 27, it snowed. A lot. It’s not even winter yet.

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This is really yummy if you’ve never had! I don’t think they have this kind of Greek/fruit yoghurt in Brisbane so I will enjoy all I can while I’m here, haha! 😉

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My brother got a bike trainer so he can still ride his bike during the winter 😛

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CINNABON. Best cinnamon bun ever. Always look forward to having this when I’m back in Ottawa, thanks bro for buying me one! 🙂

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Ambitious project going on… I’m trying to digitize all our photos

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Face squishies!

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My brother made kale chips, tasty! But I don’t really think they’re worth the money.

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Delicious green tea chocolate by La Chocolaterie – so creamy and rich in matcha flavour

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Dinner one night at home: thit kho (braised pork) with bamboo and egg, greens and a mixture of different kinds of rice – very yummy!

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Look how easy it is to do a bowel cancer screening test now, from the comfort of your own home with prepaid postage. Everyone over the age of 50, please get screened at least every 2 years! Very easy to get a kit, just ask your family doctor for one the next time you visit!

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Couldn’t resist trying Domino’s pizza here… nice size, nice crust, BUT WHERE MY CHEESE AT?

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Good crunchy lava cake though!

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Made dumplings… lots and lots of dumplings…

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Mum brought home some macarons from work, yay! Although they were really lacking in flavour, it was hard to make out what most of the flavours were.

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More to come soon I’m sure! 😉

Preparations for my Grandpa’s 80th Birthday

Hello friends!

My grandpa turned 80 years old last Sunday (Nov 24)! Our entire family thought it would be appropriate to throw him a surprise party and tasks were divided up in order to get everything organised for the big day.

My responsibilities included being in charge of decorations and making a big card for everyone to sign. This is pretty hard to do when you’re on the other side of the world, with exams, and haven’t seen what the rented room looks like or how many people will be attending, etc. But no worries, the cousins united once I got back in Ottawa to get things done!

We all met up at my house on Friday, Nov 22, to work on the decor and to make the giant birthday card – which featured hand-print trees from all 13 grandchildren.

Yes, my sister flew home just for the weekend for my grandpa, yay!

Some photos of us hard at work 😛

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The ooo’s and the aah’s that came after each person lifted their hand to reveal a perfect print was pretty hilarious. Who knew we had such mad skills!

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Getting there!

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I also decided to bake some mini cupcakes the next day – apple cinnamon with orange frosting and chocolate caramel with peanut butter frosting. Had to bake these at my cousin Janet’s house because our oven is too old and temperamental for baking.

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And our family present to my Grandpa! It was decided that every family would have their own present as opposed to pitching in for one large gift. As my grandpa really enjoys trying new foods, we decided to buy an assortment of interesting goodies for him to try and share with family and friends. Some items have personal notes on them as well 😀

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I’ll be posting photos of the actual birthday party soon! ^_^

Back in Ottawa!

November 20, 2013

After an uneventful short-but-felt-like-forever flight, we made it to Ottawa just after midnight. And of course, greeted by both our families! ❤

She must be holding my hand because she missed me so much, right mommy?

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Even my grandparents came out to pick me up even though it was so late, thank you! 🙂

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My bro, always has his eyes closed in photos, “My eyes, they’re so sensitive!”

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And a picture with Mike’s parents before they headed off with a 2 hour drive ahead of them.

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Yay, finally home!

Vancouver: Day 03 (End)

November 19, 2013

Woke up to… clear blue skies, yay!

My sister had class this morning so she headed off with her housemate (Erin) after breakfast. Mike and I finished packing before heading out in order to make our lives easier.

We were pretty excited, with such a beautiful day, we were definitely heading back to Stanley Park and renting bikes!

And so we did! Thank you to Erin who lent us mittens and hats as well! They kept us warm during our excursion 🙂

We rented our bikes from Ezee Riders at $5/hour and went to check out the park… many photos!

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Got to see the Totem poles 🙂

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Such a gorgeous day!

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We finally saw the mountains!

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Feel proud guys. This was my third time on a bike in public and boy was it an achievement. I didn’t fall or drive off any roads or into any people or inanimate objects… like the last time I biked. 😛

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Sadly, the time passed more quickly than we expected and soon we had to return our bikes and start heading back.

Ramen House 大街小廚 on Urbanspoon

We decided to stop for Japanese ramen, but due to our eagerness, we walked into a place on Broadway called Ramen House. They were a Chinese restaurant… that didn’t have a Japanese ramen menu…

We felt bad getting up to leave after already being served tea so decided to stay and check them out anyway. There were a lot of items on the menu so we took longer than usual to make up our minds. The poor owner, felt bad for us and said he would not be offended if we wished to leave to get Japanese ramen instead. But no worries! We decided two mains and two dim sums to share.

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Calamari was tender and not greasy, very nice!

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At the owner’s suggestion, I got Tan Tan Noodles, which were delicious! I’ve never tasted anything like this, so can’t really explain, I remember it being savoury but sour, and very garlicky. The noodles were nicely done as well.

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Mike got Hot and Sour Soup with Dumplings – I haven’t had this soup in a long time and found it to be quite nice. Never tastes as good as the one my mom makes but I was pleasantly surprised, could do with more veggies and tofu though!

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We had such amazing Fried Red Bean Pancake at Swee Choon in Singapore that we ordered it here as well, hoping for another delicious treat. Unfortunately, the pancake was not evenly crispy and quite greasy. A disappointment but the filling was actually quite nice!

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After lunch, we headed back to my sister’s place to pick up our luggage and find our way to the airport! Took the bus and the skytrain without any problems and were soon checked in and enjoying some Starbucks at our boarding gate for our flight at 4:20pm.

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And that… is the end of our Vancouver visit! Pretty short and sad because of the weather but I’m so glad we ended it with beautiful weather!

Looking forward to being home!

Vancouver: Day 02

November 18, 2013

What a good night’s sleep, most definitely needed it! Unfortunately, we woke up to a very gloomy sky. 😦 But that was okay right? Hopefully!

Started off with a delicious breakfast at home with BAGELS: something they really need to start selling in Brisbane because we miss them dearly when not in Canada.

Soon we were heading out and starting the day.

First stop, Stanley Park (huge, 1001 acres) with the hope of riding bikes if it didn’t start to rain. It was looking good! But unfortunately, it started to rain as soon as we got off the bus. So no biking but a little bit of walking around to see what the park had to offer.

Look how pretty it is!

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Lots of seagulls and ducks

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Some fam shots!

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We missed all the wild blackberries! 😦

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We barely made it into the park but it was wet and cold…

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Since it was raining, we thought of going to Science World as it was indoors and would be fun. But alas, they were closed on Monday.

So sad, so my sister decided to show us Granville Island next. A peninsula and hotspot for Vancouver tourism and entertainment, this shopping district includes a large public market, a marina, performance arts theatres, fine art galleries, craft studios (glassblowing, printmaking, jewellers, etc), and much more!

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Oh my gosh, berries so cheap! Australia, why you no have good price like this?

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The public market was bustling with amazing delights like baked goods and fresh fruit. Every stall was appealing in its own way, but particularly because most, if not all, were offering local products including artisan cottage-industry foods and hand-made crafts.

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We also had lunch at the market: perogies, sausages and dessert of cheesecake and macarons – all yum!

Also got some flavoured honey sticks, 4 for $1 – haven’t tried mine (honey lime) yet though!

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The Umbrella Shop. It was hilarious to hear the employee say something along the lines of, “Now, the important thing is that you need to open the umbrella all the way out to dry.” Never heard umbrellas being taken so seriously before!

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The Crystal Ark – had a great time in here just looking at everything. Yes, I like collecting rocks/minerals! And even bought a few items as Christmas presents! 😉

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So many polished stones to choose from!

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My sister greeting some ducks on our way out!

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We decided to head to the University of British Columbia with 2 intentions: To see the Walter’s Harvard Lab (from the show Fringe!) and to get a tour of my sister’s study area on campus at UBC Hospital. We also wanted to go to their Museum of Anthropology, but that was closed on Monday too, so many fails!

And yes, the rain has not let up at all. By now, we (but especially me) were all feeling chilled to the bone and miserable.

So it turns out that what Michael believed to be was Walter’s Lab was a FAIL! Because we had a completely wrong building! I’m pretty sure this is the Iona Building, School of Theology

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The one we really wanted to see was this Chemistry Building. Aieya, I guess next time! Photo credit: As linked

We got a quick tour of the OT area at UBC Hospital and chilled out in their student lounge for a bit. So miserable with the rain and cold! If you know me, I can take anything but rain, I detest rain!

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Soon we headed home in order to meet my sister’s friend for sushi dinner! The sushi restaurant was decent, the company definitely made it better. It was an uneventful evening as we just headed home and hung out after dinner – sorry no pictures!

And that’s the end of Day 02!

Vancouver: Day 01

November, 17, 2013

After a long flight and losing feeling in my butt more than 6 hours before we arrived, we finally met up with my sister in Vancouver! Thanks for picking us up sis!

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For those who don’t know, Jenni moved to Vancouver in August for graduate studies (Master of Occupational Therapy) at UBC – her dream school. Her blog HERE.

She lives in a cute and bright basement apartment with her wonderful housemate, Erin. Little things they had that brightened up the home!

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And look what we had pre-purchased – tickets to the Vancouver Canucks vs Dallas Stars hockey game that night. I am not a fan of hockey, but how can I say no when both Jenni and Mike are such huge fans?

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After dropping off our stuff and seeing my sisters place, we headed out for a walk and a little bit of sight seeing.

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Oh, I haven’t mentioned it was gloomy and rainy. Yes, it was depressing weather. But what could you do?

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We just missed the autumn colours!

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We passed by a cupcake store (Cupcakes by Heather & Lori)… need I say more? The shop was oh-so-cute, as you can see in the photos below.

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The selection of cupcakes was great and I loved their names!

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Loved that they offered both regular and mini sized cupcakes of most of their selection.

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The cakes were tasty! Nice and moist yet light. Unfortunately, although the consistency of the icing was awesome, we found it to be lacking in flavour!

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In the afternoon, we met up with Di Thanh (Aunt Thanh) and her daughter Hayley. Di Thanh is my mom’s cousin on her dad’s side – her dad is my grandpa’s younger brother. My first time meeting her, she’s such a beautiful person, inside and out! She took us to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant and for dessert, took us to La Casa Gelato!

This wasn’t an ordinary gelato shop, they have 218 flavours of gelato onsite at all times! You prepay for your ice cream (we all got single scoop cones) and get a chip to trade in once you make up your mind. And you can have as many samples as you want!

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They had all the traditional flavours plus others that were… perhaps less appealing? Haha, interested in trying seaweed, garlic, or curry flavoured ice cream? What about wasabi, vegemite, or porcini mushroom?

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Family photo!

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Soon it was time to head to the hockey game! We met my sister’s friend Alison, who joined us for the game as well.

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With a much better view than anticipated, we enjoyed the game even more. But unfortunately, Vancouver lost 😦 Still a good time though!

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Ended the night with pizza on the way home at Uncle Fatih’s! Yum yum 🙂

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And that’s it for Day 01! 🙂