AC Premium Economy YVR-HK

September 18, 2014

It wasn’t long at home in Ottawa after our electives in Nova Scotia until we had to go back to Brisbane.

One on hand, I was tired of living out of a suitcase these last 2 months and excited to get settled back into our house with Mike. On the other hand, I wanted to stay in Canada longer with my family and friends!

We had an early 7:45am flight – thank you to my mom, brother and Uncle 3 for taking us (and all our luggage) to the airport!

Last selfie in Ottawa… I really don’t know when we’ll be back 😩

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We usually book our international flights out of Canada with Air Canada, for their prices and good service. While looking into our flight back to Brisbane, Michael came across Air Canada’s Premium Economy Class, which at the time, cost approximately $100 more than a regular economy class ticket. A section in between business class and economy class, sounded appealing!

After a bit of research, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to fly Premium Economy at such a low additional cost. You can read more about it HERE, but these are some of the perks we appreciated with Premium Economy class:

  • Wider seats, more recline, more legroom
  • Larger entertainment screen
  • 2 checked bags
  • Hot towel service and premium meals served on china dishware
  • Amenity kit
  • Earn 125% Aeroplan Miles
  • Best of all: priority check in, boarding and baggage handling

There are currently only a few selected routes that offer Premium Economy, including Montreal to Paris and Vancouver to London. We chose to fly Vancouver to Hong Kong.

Although we bought a Premium Economy ticket from Ottawa to Hong Kong, that class was (as expected) not available on our flight from Ottawa to Vancouver. Instead, we were given preferred seats (extra leg room, close to front) with a complimentary meal. We were also able to enjoy all the priority services with this leg of the flight – which to us, is one of the best parts of traveling.

Vancouver to Hong Kong was much more exciting 😛

Flight AC007 on a 77W
Seats 14A & 14B
Depart Vancouver 13:00 Sept 18
Arrive Hong Kong 17:05 Sept 19
Flight time: Approx 11.5 hrs

Here is what the cabin looked like. Surprisingly, it was practically empty, there must’ve been around 10 of us in total.

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The seats, as you can see, are wider (50.8cm) with more leg room (7″)

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Felt quite spacious!

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Larger screens at 26.4cm/10.4in

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Settled in and ready for a long flight!

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Our welcome beverage of orange juice – no other choices were offered.

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Our flight menu, handed out at the beginning of our flight along with newspapers

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Our amenity kit. Had the essentials (toothbrush/toothpaste, eye mask, ear plugs, and socks) although not nearly as nice as the ones given in Business/First class 😉

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Our first meal of green salad with balsamic olive oil dressing. Grilled Alberta AAA beef tenderloin with morel mushroom sauce, red skin mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, broccolini, zucchini and carrots. Bread and butter. Cappuccino cake. The salad was fresh and crisp although I’ve had much better bread. Beef was well done and bland, however, the meal was overall good, especially because the dessert was quite nice.

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Wine was good too!

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We did not realize that only one meal was premium. For our next meal, it was the same as served in Economy class. A choice between Shanghai noodles with chicken or Beef stroganoff with mushroom cream sauce and rotini pasta, with bread and a fruit salad. Meal was so so!

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Prior to landing, we were also served a snack of chicken salad sandwich and Peak Freans cookies.

Despite the cabin being nearly empty, we found the service to run the extremes – either super rushed or insanely slow. For example, flight attendants flew around the cabin to give us menus and amenity kits and just as quickly zipped away. Later during the flight, when we pushed the call button, we were actually never attended to – which has never happened to us, ever, on any flight. I had garbage leftover from a meal that was never collected and I wanted to get rid of it so I could stow away my table while Mike wanted a drink. During our 15+ minute wait, we rang the bell 3 times, in case they didn’t hear us or was busy at the time and forgot. Eventually, we were able to flag an attendant who appeared but disregarded our call light. Service was particularly disappointing, as it was way below the average service we’ve received in Economy class.

Some of the advertised perks of Premium Economy are not unique, such as power outlets/USB ports and complimentary wine & spirits, and pillow/blanket (did not receive a ‘large’ pillow like advertised) which are also available for Economy Class passengers.

Overall, we definitely enjoyed the flight and the perks that came with it, especially priority services, extra baggage, extra seat and leg room, and better food. Would we purchase a Premium Economy class ticket again? Yes, certainly if the price difference was as small as this time!

 

 

Mike & Meaghan’s birthday!

September 15, 2014

After a fiasco with booking our bus tickets to Kingston, we had to resort to asking Mike’s dad to drive up to Ottawa and get us. Thank goodness for him!

Today was a special family day, an early joint birthday celebration for Michael and and his sister Meaghan! Mike was turning 35 on Sept 21st and the first time he’s been home to celebrate with his family in over a decade. And Meaghan was turning the big 30 on Sept 26th.

Got to spend some quality time with the family, including Mike’s parents (Greg & Caroline), his brother Matt with his wife Jessice and 2 children, Jasper and RInoa, Aunt Patsy & Uncle Dan, as well as Uncle Jim & Aunt Brenda 🙂

Started off the day with a delicious lunch, thanks Matt – you make awesome grilled cheese! My mom sent a coconut lemon poppy seed cake that was fantastic and a hit with the family as well.

For dinner, Mike’s mum made meatballs, beans, caesar salad, and biscuits from Aunt Patsy – yum!

After dinner came the cake and singing! Caroline made 2 cakes, chocolate for Mike and vanilla for Meaghan.

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The vanilla cake provided lots of good laughs! It was supposed to be a lady bug 😉 … a pretty cute one!

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Look at that smile!

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Happy early birthday guys! 🙂

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Great to catch up!

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Aunt Brenda & Uncle Jim

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The birthday siblings

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With Uncle Jim

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The cute nephew, Jasper!

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Uncle Dan & Aunt Patsy – see you soon in Australia!

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Mike’s dad and his youngest grandchild 🙂

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Jasper excited for cake!

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Matt and his son Jasper. Cake and ice cream, what better way to end the night?

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And finally, some family photos!

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My last opportunity to spend time with Mike’s family 😩 Thank you for having me and can’t wait until we see you again in Australia!

Good food and dressing well

September 13, 2014

An early flight back to Ottawa from Halifax, thanks Matt for driving us to the airport! We can’t wait to see your family in Adelaide next year!

We got back to my house around 11am and went to lunch with Ruixi and Chris! Similar to last year, we were all craving Perkins, so breakfast for lunch was perfect! It was so nice to see them and catch up, especially since so much has happened since we hung out with them at Perkins last year, including a wedding and honeymoon! 😉

When my mom got home from work that evening, we ordered Shawarma Palace (of course) and joined my grandparents for dinner.

Shawarma chicken and beef platters… how I miss you!

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My mum and grandpa

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Family minus Jenni!

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Enjoying some Jost Maple Ice Wine, thanks Dan! He and Mike had a sports bet and he lost. The prize? A nice Canadian bottle of ice wine, which we shared with family 🙂

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Chicken, beef, rice, potatoes, garlic sauce, pickles, hummus, bread, salad… mmm

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My lovely grandparents!

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Always fun having dinner with my grandparents 🙂

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Some of you might know or remember that I’ve kept a coin collection since I was young. A very amateur collection, spurred by the release of the 1999 Millenium coins. Even now, my grandma will save new/different/fancy coins she comes across for me to riffle through and pick ones to save.

Here’s the collection of quarters she’s kept for me! Just going through them to see which ones I don’t have and can add to my collection, thanks grandma!

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My brother makes the best faces and takes the best selfies!

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September 14, 2014

The following day, my brother, Mike and I went on an ambitious adventure. Andy was going to photograph some engagement photos for us. He had a few sites picked out to visit and we had lots of fun, although I can’t say many of the photos turned out 😛 But when they’re ready I’ll share!

One fun aspect, we got to dress up a bit! My mom and aunt were going to come along as well, but unfortunately she had a prior engagement so mum and I took a few photos together at home instead 🙂

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Can you tell what we did on our photo shoot? 😛 So serious!

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Check out my brother, the “pro”

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Two hands mama!

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And what did we finish the day with?

Delicious home made Phở TĂĄi (Vietnamese noodle soup with beef cooked rare) before addition of herbs and garnishes, thank mum!

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And of course, who can forget Benny! So cute, but he’s so camera shy!

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Only $1, what a deal! I missed having these, brought back memories from childhood 🙂

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Last moments with friends in Halifax

September 12, 2014

Our last night in Halifax, Matt and Laura were kind enough to let us have a BBQ at their house for one last chance to see everyone! Thank you Dan, Will, Ian & Sarah, Mike & Tina, and Christine & Stella for dropping by and spending time with us! We will miss you all!

Here are a few photos I took with Laura and Christine and their daughters playing outside while we waited for the boys to return from Go-Karting.

Beep beep!

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Stella was so shy initially!

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Isabelle is such a miniature version of Matt, it is uncanny. So adorable!

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Haha, this is her ‘smelling the flowers’ face, so cute!

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Hopping/skipping/running down the neighbourhood!

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Smiles with Christine and Isabelle!

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Some mommy daughter moments

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Sorry I didn’t take more photos with everyone who came by, but thank you to EVERYONE for your time and hospitality during our stay in Halifax, we miss you all tons!

Blackberries at Point Pleasant Park

September 07, 2014

This should’ve been talked about a few posts back, oops!

The evening of our Food Truck Adventure Day, we decided to go for a nice stroll in Point Pleasant Park. 

Our biggest surprise, blackberries. Blackberries everywhere! Bushes with huge, ripe, sweet blackberries at every turn. Even though we were completely stuffed from our food truck adventure, we ate so many blackberries, it was ridiculous.

We walked around with a never ending palm-ful of blackberries because… looks how many are around! 😛

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Even the park animals were enjoying them!

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After eating our weight in blackberries, we spent 5 minutes picking some to take home for Laura and Isabelle. Look how many we picked in such a short period of time!

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Although distracted, we eventually made it to the tip of Point Pleasant Park while the sun was still up! This is looking out at the mouth of Halifax Harbour – you can see McNabs Island in the distance…. and the moon, and a cargo ship.

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Lots of smooth rocks on the shore for stone skipping!

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(We are such losers, I couldn’t remember the word ‘shore’ and asked Mike what is the area between land and water for this photo called. He answered, quite seriously, “the rock carpet.” I had to look up synonyms for the word ‘beach’ to enlighten myself. Early morning brain fart for the both of us!)

I love him 🙂

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Post exam dinner at Agricola Street Brasserie

September 11, 2014

Ecstatic to have completed our Medical Specialties exam, we were looking forward to a nice dinner with friends. A highly anticipated visit to Agricola Street Brasserie – finally! We were joined for dinner by Laura, Matt and their daughter Isabelle, as well as Ian & Sarah. 🙂

I have to apologize that we didn’t take many photos, too busy enjoying the food and everyone’s company!

You are immediately invited into the restaurant by the great atmosphere and friendly waitstaff. High ceilings, very rustic (yet classy) looking with mood lighting.

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We all enjoyed a cocktail to start, great choices available, although I can’t remember what we ordered now! Once our dinner orders in, some nice house bread and whipped butter were brought to the table. The butter was presented in cute mini jam jars, a cute touch!

We ordered a few appetizers to share, including a cheese plate with local and imported cheeses ($14). The cheese variety (can’t remember, sorry!) was interesting and tasty, served with bread, crisps and mango chutney. I think most of us enjoyed the blue cheese most, which was unexpected! With the amount of cheese on the plate, it could’ve definitely used more crisps or bread, although I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a problem if we had asked for more.

Mike and I picked out 2 dishes to try and share with everyone. The first was Classic Beef Tartare ($15). I quite liked the presentation of this dish, mainly because of the egg yolk in a half shell you pour over the beef yourself. Simple, but nice touch! The tartare was nicely seasoned accompanied perfectly with the dijon mustard and served with grilled bread – yum!

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The other appetizer we chose was Snails & Mushrooms, Garlic & Parsley Butter, Almond & Thyme Tartine ($13). This dish was fantastic! Heaping amounts of really tasty large snails and mushrooms atop 3 slices of bread. The bread soaked up all the juices, making sure we didn’t lose any of the delicious flavours! Unfortunately, only one other person at the table, aside from Mike and I, tried this dish with us. The others missed out!

The appetizer portions were a great value for the price. Unlike numerous other restaurants we’ve visited, these appetizers could easily be enjoyed between a group of 6 people!

For mains, Michael chose the Thai Sausage, Stir Fried Brussel Sprouts, Thai Chilies, Cilantro ($19). Really tasty dish with a lovely fragrant and texture to the sausage. However, we both felt that it could’ve used a small portion of seasoned rice or other form of carb to balance out the taste and look of this dish.

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Ian and myself chose the Basmati Rice & Chick Pea Salad, Vegetables & Herbs, Ginger, Lime, Olive Oil ($14). Flavours, delicious. I loved the crispness of the fried chick peas, they added really good texture to the dish. I’m generally not a fan of basmati rice compared to other types but this salad was done well with fresh vegetables and a nice, crisp dressing. The only thing about this dish that I didn’t enjoy? Too many hot chilies for my palate, I had to pick out quite a few!

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Other mains ordered at our table include the Roasted Halibut, Sweet Pea Puréeé, Mussel Butter, Pea & Brocoli ($27) which was thoroughly enjoyed with no complaints.

Another was the Seared Scallops, Cauliflower three ways, Bacon, Apple & Thyme ($25), which was unfortunately a disappointment. The scallops did not have a beautiful golden sear on them and the vegetables, especially cauliflower three ways, was too lacking. Compared to the serving size of other dishes, including appetizers, this one was tiny. Visually and conceptually, I think this dish needs to be rethought.

At one point during our dinner, the restaurant manager, Peter Goneau, stopped by our table to say hello and see how the evening was going. Mike and I always appreciate when staff go the extra mile to check in on their customers!

Everybody enjoyed desserts, some of which are not listed on the current menu. Matt had ordered a creme brulee while Laura enjoyed a sundae. Ian and Sarah enjoyed a chocolate pot de creme.

Mike and I shared what we thought would be a strawberry cheesecake. But it turned out to be almost a mix between cheesecake and strawberry shortcake. Mike was so disappointed but I quite liked it!

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At one point during dinner, I took a bathroom break, where I discovered 2 things:

  1. Really cool toilets! Individual private bathrooms with great personality. Love some of the unique touches like the faucets, and the door handles which were crafted from pipes.
  2. The open kitchen, that you can sit and dine at. As this area is tucked away from the main dining room, I had no idea but this would definitely be where I’d want to sit at for my next meal. Enjoying good food while seeing the magic happen in the kitchen, yes please!

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Great ambiance, attentive service, reasonable prices and overall very tasty food – one of my most enjoyable restaurant experiences during my time in Halifax. I’m keen to see what seasonal dishes will be on their menu the next time I visit!

Agricola Street Brasserie on Urbanspoon

One last meal with Bill at Dharma Sushi

Sept 10, 2014

Bill drove Michael up into the city from New Germany as we had our final exam the following day.

Of course, we couldn’t say farewell without a final meal together. We ended up at Dharma Sushi, one of Bill’s favourite Japanese restaurants. Walked into a narrow restaurant with 2 rows of small tables lining the walls, a few occupied by obvious regular patrons – always a good sign!

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Started with some warm sake around the table! Couldn’t celebrate too much, had an exam to study for! 😉

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We shared a couple of appetizers, including a dish of Gyoza (6pcs for $7.95). Thin, crispy, delicate skins enveloping a nicely seasoned meat filling.

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I also chose a 10pc Dharma Diamond specialty roll with crispy avocado, Eel, Salmon, & spicy sauce with golden roe and chives on top ($12.95). Lovely blend of textures and flavours, highly recommend this roll if you’re dining at Dharma Sushi!

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For mains, we all couldn’t pass up the new menu item: Dharma Ramen with shio-kouji (salted rice malt) based broth ($10.95). The ramen was good, but not the best we’ve ever tasted. Bill loved the ramen, however, both Mike and I found the broth needed more flavour. The noodles were excellent, but some fattier slices of pork and a medium boiled egg would’ve certainly added more richness to the dish.

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It was nice to see you Bill, thanks again for everything!

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A great little restaurant offering delicious Japanese cuisine with exceptional quality service, highly recommend! Would love to visit again when I’m back in Halifax to try some of their other dishes!

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Dharma Sushi on Urbanspoon

Halifax Food Truck Adventure Day!

Sept 07, 2014

This was an exciting day as Michael and I had some big plans. We’d heard quite a bit about the food truck scene in Halifax and had ambitious plans of hitting up each of them. Lucky for us, as it was a Sunday, only 5 of them were open – otherwise we may have gone into a food coma 😉 If you’re interested in seeing what food trucks are in Halifax and their times and places of operation, visit Street Food Halifax.


First up, Cheese Gypsy! Actually, we cheated, we visited this truck the day before 😛 CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page and HERE to read more reviews!

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Limited, but definitely tantalizing menu!

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Great service! Thanks Mike (and Robin) for your friendliness and even offering a sample of plump and sweet local blueberries 🙂

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Due to its seasonal ingredients, we decided on the Blueberry Grilled Cheese Sandwich with fresh blueberries, wild blueberry jam & brie cheese. $8 for the sandwich only or $11 for the combo (served with hand cut fries or homemade soup with a can of pop or water). Rustic tomato soup was appealing, but we couldn’t say no to fries 😛

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Fries were delicious! Easily some of the best food truck fries we’ve had. Perfectly crispy and golden!

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We weren’t wowed by the visual packaging as the sandwich was simply wrapped in tinfoil, but it certainly made up in taste!

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Not greasy at all with a generous amount of gooey melted brie and blueberries – so good! I really wish we had tried more varieties!


Halifax Press – a second grilled cheese food truck, CLICK HERE for more reviews!

After weeks of hearing about Halifax Press serving up delicious grilled cheese near the hospital but too busy with work  to visit – I finally had my chance!

Bright green truck with a distinctive HP logo, you can’t miss it!

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Take a look at the menu

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I ordered The Sou’western ($8) with That Dutchman’s smoked gouda, tex mex jalapeno & corn bacon jam with creamy avocado. The description sounds like there’s too much going on, but all the flavours blended wonderfully together!

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Looks like a hot mess, but dang tasty!

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Mike couldn’t pass up the daily special called Brunch at Bishops ($8) with Foxhill cheddar, smoky bacon, chili frizzled onions & fried egg. One word, yum!

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The presentation was simple, but definitely had an edge over Cheese Gypsy as it displayed the sandwich. Both trucks had delicious sandwiches, Cheese Gypsy offered simpler blends of ingredients while Halifax Press offered more complex options. Definitely inspired us to be more creative with our grilled cheese sandwiches at home in the future!

We also couldn’t pass up the opportunity for homemade cookies – Reese’s pieces chip chocolate – 2 for $1.50!

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Certainly not the best cookie we’ve ever had, but pretty darn good!

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Next up, Halifax Footlongs!

We were surprised not to see a truck, but don’t be fooled by its simplistic set up!

“Finest hand rolled Nova Scotian Sausage and Montreal Hotdogs – Roselane Footlongs, Sweet William Smokies, Montreal Steamies and Veggie Dogs – Farm fresh local condiments & sauces prepared daily weekends at the Halifax Seaport Market.” CLICK HERE for more reviews!

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Jon, the owner, is obviously very passionate about the food he serves. He only cooks the hotdogs and sausages in small batches to ensure they are freshest at serving. As a result, we had to wait a few minutes (a large group of children were ahead of us) for which he apologised a number of times. Really, a few minutes of waiting, especially when you’re being told exactly how many minutes – is no problem!

The exciting part about waiting is looking at and thinking about what sauces and condiments you are going to try – and there are plenty to choose from!

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With a few minutes in between each customer, Jon happily gives you ‘the tour’ of his sauces and condiments, offering suggestions along the way. Interesting sauces include Sweet Horseradish, Scotch Hot Sauce, Southern Gold, and Nova Scotia Peculiar, while toppings consisted of local brine pickles, garlic balsamic tomatoes, and Montreal Poolroom Slaw (which wasn’t available).

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When we received our Roselane Bavarian (snappy Vienna footlong weiner, $5), we were proudly told that it was made with 100% lean pork shoulder, no fillers or additives. It was also mentioned that although served on a bun, many people eat their footlongs on its own without bread and we were welcomed to do so as well 😉

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We ended up keeping it simple with pickles, horseradish and mustard – delicious and allowed the meat to stand out more!

Definitely recommend a visit if you’re by Halifax Seaport Market!


We’d been looking forward to the next stop all day – Ol’ School Donuts! And what made it even more fun? Christine came out to join us!

Started by 17 year old Noah Connolly, Ol’ School Donuts serves delicious piping hot mini old-fashioned donuts out of their bright red short bus. Click HERE and HERE to read more about the business venture.

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You can enjoy your Ol’ School Donuts 3 ways, each $5:

  1. A dozen of one traditional option (plain, sugar, or cinnamon)
  2. 10 donuts of 1 flavour
  3. Split order of 10 donuts with 2 flavours

More importantly, check out the available flavours – how incredible do they sound?

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After a few moments agonizing over the options while waiting in line, 😛 we eventually decided on 2 split orders…

Strawberry Shortcake & Peanut Butter Cup

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Toasted Coconut & Caramel Apple

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The donuts were made to order – crispy on the outside, fluffy and moist on the inside. The toppings were great and much more extravagant with so many more components than we expected, what a nice surprise!


Finally, our last stop of the day, The Battered Fish!

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For a food truck, we found the menu to be quite extensive, perhaps with too many options.

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We like it when appropriate garbage disposals are available to customers!

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Mike got Fish Tacos ($2.75 each) with 7″ flour tortilla stuff with Haddock tips, crisp lettuce, fresh salsa, and their house made white sauce. Although it can certainly look more appetizing, he found them very good!

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I ordered the Fish Burger and Fries ($6.50) Battered Haddock, baby spinach, tomato and signature sauce on a fresh kaiser bun. I also substituted my fries for sweet potato fries. The fish was nice and fresh and their signature sauce was delicious. Unfortunately, that was overshadowed by a cheap, flaky, stale white bun – certainly not a kaiser bun like advertised. Too bad.

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The sweet potato fries were good but a little overdone.

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Christine got Haddock Tips & Fries (Sm $6 or Lg $9), which she thoroughly enjoyed.

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Overall, good food at very reasonable prices. There are also a number of picnic tables to sit at which is great. Try their different sauces! The wasabi is too mild for our liking, but the tartare, curry, and signature sauces are all good. The one disappointment was the quality of my fish burger bun! Would definitely order a bread-less option next time.

The Battered Fish on Urbanspoon

Thanks for joining us Christine! Great seeing you on our Food Truck Adventure!

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A fantastic day filled with great food – love food trucks! And don’t worry, we didn’t eat all day… we interspersed it with some productive shopping 😉

Fantastic dinner at Seoul

Sept 06, 2014

Had the opportunity to visit Dan and Natalie and see their lovely apartment, meet their cute dogs, and catch up!

We then headed over to Seoul for dinner, one of their favourite Korean restaurants. Tucked inside the first floor of a building on Duke St, you could easily walk by without noticing!

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The restaurant was quite empty for dinner time, with only 2 other tables of Korean patrons. Unfortunate, because from the quality of food we had, it should be bustling! Clean with modest decor consisting of mainly wall decals and accent walls.

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We were immediately greeted, shown to a table and given menus.

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Between the 4 of us, we enjoyed 3 different appetizers.

Kimchijeon (Korean kimchi pancake, $6.99) which was crispy on the edges and interspersed with yummy pieces of the fermented cabbage.

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Tteokbokki ($7.99). Chewy rice cakes with slices of fish cake and onions smothered in a thick gochujang (Korean chili paste) based sauce. Served piping hot, adding to the spiciness satisfaction!

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Gunmandu ($9.99 for 10 pcs) – fried dumplings with crispy shells and filled generously with delicious meat!

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Dan and Natalie!

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For mains, Michael and I shared an order of Bibimbap ($14.50) which is a sizzling dish of rice with an assortment of seasoned vegetables, meat, topped with an egg and served in a hot stone pot. One of our favourite Korean dishes and the quality of this one did not disappoint!

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Natalie and Dan ordered Jaeyuk Bokum ($14.50) which was very tasty! Extremely tender, well marinated pork stir fried with kim chi and gochujang, I think this was the best dish of the night 🙂

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The main dishes also came with a bowl of miso soup and side salad – which were simple yet still good.

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The quality of each dish was excellent, coupled with very reasonable prices! The only hiccup during our dinner – we weren’t checked on during our meal and staff weren’t really circulating as the restaurant wasn’t busy. As a result, empty water glasses around the table while eating spicy food! Would be great to have call buttons at each table like we’ve seen in many Korean and Japanese restaurants, or water jugs/bottles left at the table. That way, staff only need to come around when needed and everyone is happy 🙂 Would definitely recommend Seoul for great Korean food!

So lovely to see you guys again! Hopefully next time we’ll be catching up in Ottawa 😉

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Seoul on Urbanspoon

Pizza and Friends

August 31 – Sept 01, 2014

We left camp to head back to New Germany and spend more time with Bill and his family.

On the way back, we were suddenly starving! Our choice: 2 Papa’s Pizza and Donair! Bill spends time at this restaurant learning to make pizza and have heard good things, we were not disappointed!

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Great service, clearly a place locals frequent, and delicious pizza! What did we get? Donair Pizza! Haha 🙂

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With happy bellies, we continued back to Bill and Nina’s!

Greeted by Lily with her cute ladybug back pack and playing in her castle with Bill.

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Saying hello to Bill’s chickens and turkeys

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Bill peach trees!

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Love him!

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Experienced Bill’s cooking! Yummy okonomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancake) for the first time!

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Saw more of their property for the first time. Such a peaceful tranquility to it!

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Thank you for your hospitality (as always) Bill & Nina!

We headed back into the city on Monday (Labour Day, woo hoo!) to visit Dan & Leigh Anne for dinner. I’m sad that I forgot to take a photo with you guys! But Leigh Anne was looking beautiful, although she was tired of being pregnant and ready to be a mom! 😛 Lucky to have such a supportive husband by her side too! It was great to catch up with them and I got to experience chili for the first time – yum! We received a lovely engagement gift from the 2 of them – A journal for me to record everything wedding related and The Everything Groom Book for Michael – thanks guys!

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Camping at Kejimkujik National Park

August 30 – 31, 2014

We spent Friday night at Mike & Christine’s party with good food and surrounded by great company with the chance for me to meet a lot of their friends for the first time.

After a sleep over at their place, we headed off to Kejimkujik National Park Saturday morning for a weekend of camping! We would be camping with Mike, Christine, their daughter Stella, as well as Nathan (Mike’s cousin), his wife Lisa and their daughter Amy.

We hit the road first, as we needed to pick up a few things on the way, including some groceries and a canoe rental. It took about 1.5 hours to reach Keji Park, where we picked up our canoe and drove to Big Dam Lake.

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From the parking lot, we had to carry all our gear and portage (carry over land) our canoe about 600m to the Big Dam Lake. Don’t know how he does it!

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It took a couple of trips and some muscle use, but we made it to the dock, loaded up our canoe and paddled to our campsite.

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The lake was nice and calm 🙂

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Roar!

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My handsome fiance!

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We were the first to reach the campsite around 1:30pm. We had expected Nathan and his family to arrive before us, so assumed they were held up due to responsibilities of having a young child. We set up our tent, organised some belongings and went for a canoe paddle around the lake.

The campsite was completely private with no one else around.There was also an outhouse with toilet paper and chopped wood provided.

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Nearly 5pm, we decided to paddle back to the dock to await the arrival of the two families. We knew with 2 young children, they would have a lot of gear and a 3rd canoe for transport might come in handy. It was perfect timing. As we approached the dock, we could see that they had just arrived and were in the process of transporting their stuff from the car to the dock. We loaded up our canoe with as much stuff as possible and headed back to the campsite first.

Everyone eventually made it! Camp was set up and we had a yummy campfire dinner of pork/sausage and veggies, thanks to Christine!

View of sunset over Big Dam Lake from our campsite

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This is Stella, Mike and Christine’s cute daughter! She is an adventurer, completely fearless and as a result, more accident prone 😉

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Boinking heads with her dad

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Nathan with Mike and Stella in the background

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Cooking bacon over the fire the following morning for breakfast!

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Nathan and Lisa’s daughter, she’s a cutie as well!

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That look of concentration!

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Doing the Itsy Bitsy Spider with dad in the canoe

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Bed hair!

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A mommy daughter moment

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What is camping without a fire?

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Just capturing some moments around the campsite!

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Breakfast!

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More family moments

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Mike and I went for another canoe ride Sunday morning

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Gorgeous!

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Ran into an adult and juvenile loon

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So many mushrooms around the campsite. “Every mushroom you see is a place someone has peed” 😉

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We headed back to camp to for lunch!

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So cute!

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The 2 families would be staying at camp for another night, Mike and I said farewell Sunday afternoon and headed back first! It was lovely to have spent time with them and meeting Nathan and his family! Thanks for taking care of us guys!

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A great camping experience, my first time portaging and canoeing, fun! Hopefully will have the chance for a longer trip in the future!

CLICK HERE to view the complete Keji photo album!

Experiencing my first donair from KoD

For years, I have been told that donairs are amazing and that I must try them. Hailing from Ottawa, I wonder how anything could compare to the glorious shawarma 😛 Well finally, I had the chance to judge for myself!

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Mike and I stopped by King of Donair for my first taste. It was completely empty, despite being the best in Halifax! 😛

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We ordered a regular donair with donair meat, onions, tomatoes, and donair sauce. First impression – certainly does not look appealing, and could use some more veggies! However, it was pretty tasty.

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The donair sauce is sweet (garlic, condensed milk, sugar, vinegar – from what I tasted) and addictive, I can see why it’s unique! However, donair meat is such a mystery… to the point that it looks quite unappealing from a health point of view. I wish I knew exactly what meats/cuts I was eating. Otherwise, although Michael said the quality of these donairs were acceptable, from his years of living in Halifax, I found them tasty and I would definitely have it again!

We also ordered a side of donair egg rolls, which were simply egg rolls stuffed with donair meat, and accompanied by a side of donair sauce. What could possibly go wrong with deep fried goodness? 😛

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Completely different than a shawarma, but I will definitely be missing donairs when I’m back in Brisbane!

King of Donair on Urbanspoon

New Germany with the Gregory Family

August 23 – 24, 2014

Mike and I spent my first weekend in Nova Scotia down in New Germany with Bill and Nina’s family! 🙂 They live on a farm with acres of land, animals and delicious fruits and vegetables.

Our visit in photos!

Nina and their beautiful daughter Lily with her donkey Captain Underpants!

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Visiting the horses

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Their beautiful horses

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Heading over to Uta’s (Nina’s mom) property next door

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Chickens on Uta’s property

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Giving Captain Underpants a brush

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See ya later!

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How adorable is she?

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Lily’s brother Archer – look at that smile!

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Picking blackberries 🙂

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Archer with grandpa (Bill’s dad)

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Kids and grandpa

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Nina designed and Bill built the kids… a three storey castle!

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Bill with Lily in the castle

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Lily helping grandma (Bill’s mom) shuck corn!

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Hauling the corn over to daddy to cook

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Family fun on the trampoline

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Pensive Bill

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Kisses

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Bill’s chickens – almost ready to eat 😉

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And their turkeys

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Daddy and the kids

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Archer loves his apples, and look at those blue eyes!

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Such a smart girl!

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Evening bonfire

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Locating some more blackberries on a walk around their farm

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Gross!

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This furry catepillar was kind of cute

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On Sunday, Mike and I made dinner! Banh Mi (Vietnamese subs) with homemade BBQ pork, garlic mayo and pickled carrots.

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Matt, Laura and their daughter Isabelle came down to join from Halifax! And Uta came over as well 🙂

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Thank you for welcoming me into your home Bill and Nina! It was great to spend time with you and the kids! ❀

Dinner at Brooklyn Warehouse

August 22, 2014

We didn’t think we would be able to get a place at Brooklyn Warehouse on a Friday evening without reservations but luckily, a table for 2 was available outside!

Sheltered, which I always appreciate, especially in the evening! Sorry, didn’t take photos of what the restaurant looked like on the inside.

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Service was great, friendly and attentive without being too pushy. We were quickly offered a drinks menu, which we ordered to start.

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I got the Wasabi Caesars with vodka, shochu, clamato and pickled snow peas. I’d never had anything like that before, it was delicious! However, because it was very spicy and explosive in flavours, don’t do what I did and have it with your meal, it doesn’t pair as nicely as a wine! 😉 Mike got a Boxing Rock Red which he enjoyed.

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The food menu was in the form of chalkboards strategically located around the restaurant, offering a view from wherever you were sitting.

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I chose the NS rabbit carbonara house fettuccine with bacon and herb crumb ($26). The pasta was nicely cooked and rabbit was tender and moist. However, although it might be difficult to gauge from this photo, but the portion was tiny. We found it hard to believe that this was supposed to a main dish, it looked more like an appetizer.

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Mike had the Maple glazed halibut with polenta, thyme, and pickled blueberries ($26). The flavours were great, unfortunately, the halibut was overcooked and as a result quite dry. Similar to mine, this dish was also quite small.

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Brooklyn Warehouse offers a pleasant dining atmosphere with great service and well thought out dishes and drinks. However, although the food is delicious, the servings are too small while being on the pricier side! We hope to leave with bellies more satisfied on our next visit!

The Brooklyn Warehouse on Urbanspoon

Good times in Halifax

Mike gave me a lovely surprise when he picked me up at the airport in Halifax on the evening of August 16th. I was expecting to go back to Matt & Laura’s – where he had been staying and where I would be staying for the month. Instead, he took me to Holiday Inn Habourview for an evening together with just the 2 of us. After weeks of being apart, it was so nice to spend time with just him.  We even went fancy and had McDonald’s for late dinner 😛 Here’s the view from our balcony, from Dartmouth looking over at Halifax.

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The following morning, Matt was kind enough to come and bring us back to his place. Shortly after, while they were out visiting family, Mike and I went for a drink at Lion & Bright on Agricola St.

Loved the atmosphere! High ceilings with communal and private tables, even work stations. On one side, it is a cafe but come evening, it blends perfectly to a wine bar/restaurant.

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We snacked on maple chili popcorn, which was an interesting combination, and enjoyed a glass of red. Unfortunately, they don’t have a drinks menu online and we can’t remember what we had off the top of our head – it was good wine though!

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Unfortunately, the weekend was short lived and Michael soon had to head off for his elective in Bridgewater, leaving me in Halifax. Luckily, I was never truly alone as I stayed with Matt & Laura! 🙂 I definitely worked hard and long hours in hospital during the weekdays, but weekends were always full of fun!

Here are some weekend highlights. Many of them will have their own separate post, so stay tuned!

August 22 – 24

  • Dinner at the Brooklyn Warehouse with my love
  • Spending time with Bill and Nina’s family on their farm in New Germany and even sneaking in some photography! Matt & Laura come down as well, enjoyed a yummy dinner of Banh Mi.

August 29 – Sept 1 (Labour Day long weekend)

  • Had my first donair at King of Donair! According to Mike, the quality was merely acceptable but I could definitely see the appeal! That sweet sauce is pretty addictive!
  • Party at Mike & Christine’s on Friday! Lots to celebrate, but especially Christine soon starting on a new journey in becoming a Registered Nurse! Got to meet so many of their lovely friends and shared so many laughs.
  • Camping on Saturday with Mike, Christine & Stella, as well as Mike’s cousin Nathan, his wife Lisa and their daughter Amy at Kejimkujik Park. My first time experiencing camping with canoes and portaging!
  • Yummy pizza at 2 Papa’s Pizza & Donairs in New Germany on the way back from camping
  • More time with Bill, Nina and the kids! Even got a taste of Bill’s cooking – Okonomiyaki!
  • Visited Dan & Leigh Anne at their home and had a wonderful dinner! My first time having chili (vegetarian), mmm! So happy for the chance to catch up with them, but especially Leigh Anne who was around 38 weeks pregnant and ready to be holding her son in her arms!

Sept 5 – 7

  • BBQ at Matt and Laura’s on Friday, which I almost missed because we were so busy, I didn’t get out of the hospital until 8:30pm 😛
  • Breakfast on Saturday at The Armview with Matt, Isabelle, Ian and his pregnant wife Sarah! Also had the chance to see Al (as he works at the restaurant), which was great!
  • Breakfast was followed by shopping with Mike in Dartmouth! Stocked up on some clinical clothing for good prices!
  • We spent the evening at Dan and Natalie’s, catching up and then went for a delicious Korean dinner at Seoul.
  • Sunday was pretty exciting. We went on a Food truck adventure! That’s code for we just ate, all day. It was spectacular.

Sept 10

  • Bill drove Mike into the city on Wednesday as we had our exam the following day. Couldn’t leave without one last meal together. I have never been a fan of raw oysters (and I’ve tried numerous times). I finally had the first ‘delicious’ oyster at The Five Fishermen! This was followed by Japanese dinner at Dharma Sushi.

Sept 11

  • Finished our Medical Specialties exam Thursday afternoon! It was not as bad as we anticipated, although still awaiting results. We celebrated that evening, dinner at Agricola Street Brasserie with Matt, Laura, Isabelle, Ian and Sarah!

Sept 12

  • Our last night in Halifax. We had a wonderful time with Matt & Laura, Will, Dan (Leigh Anne was resting at home), Mike & Tina, and Ian & Sarah – BBQ, catch ups and a good game of Cards Against Humanity

I had an amazing time in Halifax, thank you for everyone’s time and hospitality! ❀

My Cardiology Elective experience in Halifax, NS

August 18 to September 12, 2014

After my Geriatric Medicine experience in Nanaimo, BC, I continued my medical elective adventure with 4 weeks of Cardiology in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

I will be forever grateful to Matt (Mike’s best friend) and his wife Laura for allowing me to stay with them and their daughter Isabelle during my 4 weeks in Halifax – thank you so much again guys!

I chose to do Cardiology because I wanted to become more confident as it has never been my forte and is so important within any medical specialty. I was lucky to be allocated to the Inpatient Cardiology Consult Service for my elective, which is a team who oversees all cardiology referrals for inpatients at the QEII and a number of other sites including Victoria General, Rehab, Veteran’s Memorial, and Abbie J Lane. It was a great opportunity to see lots of patient presentations, visit different hospital sites, and interact with numerous staff.

The consult service team consisted of a staff member (cardiology consultant) who rotated every 2 weeks and a resident (registrar). As you can imagine, it’s a pretty small team to take care of all inpatient cardiology referrals across numerous sites. There were some rare slow days, but most were extremely busy with continuous consults and follow ups.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience on consult service! My responsibilities included: seeing new consults (full history and exam) and presenting them to the team including an impression and appropriate plans, communicating with treating teams and multidisciplinary team members, administrative work (writing notes, filling forms and orders), following up with investigations and plans, etc.

I had the opportunity to work alongside the same resident (4th yr anaesthesia) during the entirety of my 4 weeks, which was great. He was smart, friendly, and always willing to teach and provide guidance. I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed the experience nearly as much if not for him. I also had the chance to meet and work with 3 wonderful cardiology consultants – each with their own style and method of teaching and all of whom provided really positive feedback on my performance. They also offered to help me out in any way I needed (including being a reference), without me asking, thank you so much! 🙂 I worked as hard as I could, which was appreciated and validated, yay! Not to mention all the wonderful patients and other staff members I met and learned from throughout the 4 weeks. Heart failure, arrhythmias, myocardial infarctions, endocarditis, pericardial effusion/tamponade, etc.

Thank you to all the people I met and worked with, who were so patient with me and taught me so much! I hope to have the opportunity to see and work alongside you again. 🙂

Catching up over Korean food at Alirang

August 13, 2014

For the second year in a row, I had the chance to catch up with Ruixi during my time back in Ottawa at Alirang, over some delicious Korean food.

Alirang is a little gem on Nelson St across from Loblaws, away from the heavy traffic and the high concentration of restaurants downtown. And, there is parking for those who need it!

It is not a very large restaurant, with tired decor, tacky furnishings, and tables are packed close together. However, don’t let looks fool you. Being greeted by a packed restaurant on a weekday evening tells you this is where you want to be. Service was welcoming and we were seated within minutes of entering the restaurant. Menus were promptly provided as well as their usual warm barley tea.

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My gorgeous date!

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There were lots of yummy items on the menu so it took us a while to decide but we eventually got some delicious topokki ($9.95) to share. Perfectly cooked rice cakes with cabbage and slices of fish cake drowned in hot red chili sauce.

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For mains, I ordered Bulgogi with rice ($13.95) – a gigantic portion of tender, thin and well marinated beef. I had to take home leftovers, but no complaints over that!

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Ruixi ordered the Chicken Soondubu ($10.95) – delicious bubbling hot and spicy stew served with rice!

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The food, as always, was tasty and well prepared, accompanied by consistently good service throughout the night. Would definitely recommend Alirang to anyone wanting some great Korean food!

Alirang on Urbanspoon

Happy 60th Wedding Anniversary to my Grandparents!

On August 16, 2014, our family threw a party to celebrate my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. It was held in the Winter Room at the St Laurent complex – where we also held my grandpa’s 80th birthday lunch last year.

It wasn’t a surprise event, so my grandparents were able to look forward to celebrating with family and friends. Here is a photo of them arriving at the venue, aren’t they so cute?

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Sitting down to lunch with family and friends

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The grandchildren took care of decor and setting up the venue and each family provided at least a dish for a pot luck feast – so much good food!

Wall decals created and put up by my brother. The huge spread of food!

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My mom made self serve taco salad and ‘Banh Lot’ a Vietnamese pandan flavoured dessert served with syrup and coconut cream.

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Mo Hai made green papaya salad with beef jerky, steam buns and veggie samosas

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Di Nam made fried rice and a veggie platter

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Cau Ba made shrimp spring rolls and pickled green plums

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Cau Tu made fish maw soup

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The uncles chopping up the roasted pig

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My beautiful grandparents!

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Grandma with some of her friends

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My grandpa giving a thank you speech after my Cau Hai’s emotional welcome speech

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My grandparents’ friends giving their congratulatory speeches and gifts

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Some group photos before digging in! Grandparents with their family/friends

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Aww!

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My grandparents with their 5 children

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Children and their spouses

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Family photo!

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Table decor

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Even had some party favours

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Good food and good times with good people!

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Ong Tia Ba Y (my dad’s aunt and uncle) sharing a laugh with my grandparents

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Ah, so cute!

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Cousins photo!

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More recently, the grandchildren try to incorporate something unique with each family get together. For today, we have hats that say “Born ‘X’ years after grandparents’ wedding”

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Oscar selfie in the making

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The result!

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After lunch came more family photos, presents, and cake!

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My present! Painted by a street artist I met in Brisbane

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Big homemade birthday card

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Photo with all the grandchildren minus two!

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And a normal one

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Thank you so much to my grandparents for the opportunity to celebrate this day with them! Wishing them many more years of happiness together and with their family!

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There are SO MANY more photos, especially of my aunts and uncles’ families. Please CLICK HERE to see the full photo album!

New family photos!

These were taken back on August 16th (I’m quite behind on blogging, I know!) before heading to grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary party!

As usual, we are a silly silly family 🙂 I have to say this is our best family photo (minus my dad) to date!

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But I think we can clean up nicely when needed, right?

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Girls in the family

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Sisters! I love this photo 🙂

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Look how big we can make our butts

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We are pretty attractive 😛

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Happy birthday mom!

Happy 52nd birthday mom!!

Her actual birthday was August 20th but we celebrated on August 15th 🙂

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Even though we celebrated a few days early, I was really happy our whole family was able to spend her birthday together!

Thanks mum for being our biggest support throughout our entire lives and for always encouraging us to be the best we can be doing whatever it is that would make us happiest. We love you!

My sister ordered a key lime cake with buttercream icing. Beautiful scroll work and sugar flowers – they looked so real!

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Mommy with Benny – her favourite now

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Proper and complete family photo!

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I don’t… know how my brother does it

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I think the best part of this photo is Franklin, the turtle

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My favourite 🙂

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Cutting the cake!

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Haha, I swear, we can normal

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So sweet!

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Franklin wants in too!

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Yum, so much icing!

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Presents and cards for mom!

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Surprise week in Ottawa

Aside from my brother and sister, no one in my family knew I had an additional week in Ottawa from August 9 to 15, 2014. Boy was I excited for an extra week with family and friends!

Thank you to my siblings for picking me up at the airport Saturday morning! My mom was working so she had no idea I was home… 🙂

Got home, showered, and then went over to surprise my grandparents. My grandfather was out, but luckily, I had pre-written up 4 pages (he is deaf, so I communicate via writing) with an update on a number of topics including: getting a job and my elective experience in Nanaimo. My grandma was home so I had the chance to catch up with her and leave my letter for my grandpa and visit later.

Elvin picked me up for… you guessed it, lunch at Shawarma Palace, our favourite. What made it even better? The company 🙂 Thanks Elvin, Jenn, Ruixi, Vinh and Tina for joining me for a delicious lunch! Always so nice to see you guys and catch up.

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At the end of our lunch, my siblings texted to say my mom was done work and they were going to pick her up. Of course, I needed to come too in order to surprise her! Elvin drove me to my mom’s work in order to meet my siblings. But eek! When Elvin turned in, my mom was already standing outside waiting for my siblings. We did a half duck and hoped my mom didn’t notice us. Phew, she didn’t! We ended up turning around and meeting my siblings in a nearby parking lot. I crouched down behind the passenger side and waited for her to notice. She didn’t. I started tickling her, she thought I was my brother even though he was sitting on the opposite side of the car. Finally, I just started laughing and gave myself away. I told her why I was home and how I had to pay an additional $400 for the flight change. Worth it.

Dinner that night? Poutine from Spud’s. A family size ‘Sugar Shack’ – fries, cheese curds, beer gravy, bacon, sausage and maple syrup – delicious!

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Here are some random moments over the week! There are a few special occasions not mentioned here because they will have a post of their own! 😀

Loved getting to spend more time with this guy!

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My sister brought a ton of Asian treats back from Vancouver, including Green Tea Aero chocolate – yum.

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With Asian items always comes Engrish

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Everyone was craving my mom’s famous ‘Banh Mi’ (Vietnamese subs). She made BBQ pork and we had BBQ pork banh mi! So delicious, I think we all had subs for days!

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Enjoyed grape tomatoes, fresh from the garden.

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Mum made coconut sticky rice which was thoroughly enjoyed with sweet ripe mango.

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Wake up guys!

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Can I have some meat with this taco bowl?

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Made blueberry white chocolate scones for the family

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My siblings like to sneak selfies on my cell phone 😛

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But all like to take selfies too right?

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Lunch at Art Is In with the family and Janet! Sorry about the terrible backdrop but you can read more about Art Is In here!

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Yummy, green tea ginger ale

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And buffet lunch another day at Eclipse! My lovely siblings 😉

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I had a very special opportunity with the family this week – shopping for a wedding dress with my mom, sister and brother! Although I can’t say I’ve found THE dress, I have now certainly found THE style of dress. Yay! I was very glad to have shared the experience with my family because I honestly don’t know if I’ll have another chance again, especially being in Australia!

After looking at wedding dresses, we went to get donuts at Suzy Q. Same donut with different toppings, not bad but to be honest, I still prefer Tim Hortons donuts. They could certainly do with a facelift!

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DHAL: July 29, 2014 – Best news ever!

(Note: Sorry, this is going to be a long post because I want to document this part of our journey)

As some family and friends may know, the last few weeks have been incredible stressful for Michael and I as we held our breath and waited for potential job offers for next year.

Since some of you may be unfamiliar with how the Australian system works, let me try to summarize it:

In Australia, the medical degree is called an MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery), not an MD like North America. They are, however, equivalent. Both countries have a 4 year program with the first 2 years being course based and the last 2 years being clinically based in hospitals.

Once you graduate, however, it’s quite different.

In North America, you apply to the residency program (specialty training) of your choice in your last year of school, in order to start shortly after graduation. These training programs range from 2 years (Family Practice) to 4-6 years for other specialties. Once you are done your residency, you might chose to do a fellowship(s) to become even more specialized.

In Australia, once you graduate, you must complete an internship year before you receive your full registration. This year consists of 5 rotations: general medicine, surgery, emergency medicine and 2 electives. Following intern year, many doctors do a Junior House Officer (JHO) followed by a Senior House Officer (SHO) year in order to gain experience and get to know seniors in their field of interest before applying to a Registrar Training Program (equivalent to the North American Residency program). The length of the Australian training programs are about 2 years longer, with General Practice being 4 years. Overall, the training takes a few years longer in Australia vs North America.

Now that you know more, here is our story. Both Michael and I want to stay in Australia after graduation and complete at least our internship year. For that reason, we have not completed all the required exams in order to apply for residency back in Canada this year. Depending on how internship goes, we would be more than happy to stay in Australia to complete our training. The problem was, however, where we stood when it came to applying for an internship position.

The state of Queensland has 6 priority groups (you can see them HERE), and jobs are allocated in order of your priority. According to the list, as Canadians studying in QLD, we are Priority 4 (P4). Unfortunately, there are not enough jobs for the number of applicants. Not only did both Michael and I want jobs, we wanted jobs in the same city in order to be together… what were the odds?

In order to apply, you had to preference 16 hospitals in Queensland from 1 to 16, #1 being the hospital you want a job offer from the most. Therefore, jobs are allocated first in order of priority, and second in order of preference. All Priority Groups submit their preferences by the same date. However, P1s get allocated their positions first. Once they have accepted or denied their offers, the remaining spots are finalized and published. At this time, P2-6s have the opportunity to submit a new list of preferences if they wish.

For example, if a P4 listed Hospital A as their first preference, but after P1s have been allocated their jobs, there are no spots left at Hospital A. He or she may choose to submit a new preference list topped with other hospitals that still have spots.

After a lot of thought and talking to our senior colleagues and friends, both Michael and I decided to chose Rockhampton Base Hospital as our first preference. We had read and heard first hand from many people that Rockhampton had many new and continuously expanding facilities, numerous educational opportunities, consistent workplace support, great teaching from senior physicians, and attractive intern to consultant ratios.

This was this year’s Position Status Report after P1s had accepted their offers and P2-P6 had submitted their second preference list. Note the number of intern spots remaining vs the number of P2-P6 who applied.

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There were 20 spots total available at Rockhampton. Luckily, it turned out not to be a popular hospital with the Australian students, with only 3 people who preferenced it high enough to get a spot. That left 17 spots leftover for the 63 (P2-P6) applicants who had listed Rockhampton first, slightly less than a 1 in 3 chance.

We had been told that unlike P1s, job offers for P2-P6s were not random. We would be specifically selected based on the (unknown) criteria/interest of each respective hospital.

What could we possibly do to increase our chances of getting an offer from Rockhampton? There were lots of rumours, but here’s what we decided to do:

  • We listed Rockhampton as our first choice during the first round of preferencing and didn’t change it. This showed that we were initially dedicated to them, and didn’t chose them first in the 2nd round simply because they had spots left over.
  • We made contact after submitting our application. If we hadn’t been in Canada, we probably would’ve flown up to Rockhampton to meet the recruitment team in person. Since we couldn’t, we emailed them instead – as a couple, which was different. We also didn’t just email them to express our interest. We spent a lot of time and thought putting together a package for their perusal. This PDF package consisted of:
    • A letter of interest. We expressed the reasons why we wanted to be together and work in Rockhampton, and that we would be fully committed if lucky enough to be offered a position. Canadians have been notorious in the past for accepting internship positions (that start in January), then abandoning their jobs in July when they receive acceptances into residency programs back in Canada. We knew it was a black mark against Canadians and wanted to make it clear that we had no plans of ditching our contracts and responsibilities.
    • Photos of us. If we couldn’t meet them, at least we could help them put faces to our names. We also didn’t send traditional headshots, we sent in photos of us as a couple, another difference.
    • Our CVs. We both had our own weaknesses when it came to our CVs, but it gave them a picture of who we were and what we’ve accomplished.
    • Our transcripts. Neither of us had the best transcript in the class, but we worked hard for what’s on it.
    • And lastly, our personal statements. In our application, we had to submit 2 statements: Tell us briefly why you would like to undertake your internship in Queensland or at a specific facility(s) and What are the critical career related experiences you want to pursue in your intern year? We put them in the package so they could view everything together at once, rather than having to look at our application, as well as this document.

These were the photos we sent in:

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  • We received a response thanking us for confirming our interest and were encouraged to ask any questions. We replied to voice our concern of missing a possible important phone call from them because we were overseas. We reiterated that we were very interested and asked if there was anything we could do on our end to ensure we wouldn’t miss out.
  • There was! We were told that the initial phone call is often made to clarify a few things. The problem with Canadians abandoning their jobs was mentioned and we were given the opportunity to answer the questions we would’ve been asked during this phone call via email, in advance. The questions were:
    • Are you still on track to graduate December 2014?
    • Have you completed the necessary requirements to be considered for an internship position in Canada?
    • Your intentions to commit to Rockhampton Hospital for the full year (at least) if offered a position?
  • We were polite and enthusiastic in all our correspondence, and replied to each email in a very timely manner. The officer asked for our replies to the above questions at our earliest convenience/ASAP and we replied within hours – despite time differences.

Soon Monday, July 28th came around, and I heard from my friend Amanda (who had also applied to Rockhampton) that they were starting to make phone calls. Not with job offers though, they were just asking for answers to the questions mentioned above. Michael and I didn’t receive a phone call that day, presumably because we had already given our answers via email, but we were still nervous.

Then came afternoon/evening of our July 29th, business hours of Wednesday July 29th in Brisbane. This was the day that Rockhampton offers were scheduled to come out. We waited with bated breath. Nearly 7pm my time (11pm Michael’s time) Amanda messaged me to say Rockhampton was starting their phone calls because she just received a phone call from them with a job offer. Congratulations to her, how freakin’ exciting!

But then my heart started pounding. I was FaceTiming with Michael and we were incredibly nervous and stressed. Would we get a phone call? Would it be just one of us? Would luck be on our side and we both get job offers? It was really agonizing.

Nearly an hour later, Michael couldn’t stay awake any longer and he had an early day ahead of him. We said our good byes and he went to bed with his cell phone beside him and volume on maximum in case he gets the phone call.

I was beginning to stress. There are only 17 positions to give away. Surely the phone calls do not take very long. It had been over an hour since Amanda got her offer, did we miss out?

I decided to log onto Skype and try calling my cell phone, just to make sure calls were going through. Yep, it was ringing (as 0000123456) through fine, I quickly hung up.

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Now I kid you not, literally 2 minutes later, my phone rings, from an Unknown caller. I picked up, “Hello, Sandra speaking.”

I don’t even know how to describe exactly how I felt in those next few minutes. Relief and happiness flooded through me as the officer told me she had great news and wanted to offer me an internship position at Rockhampton Hospital for 2015. I really almost cried. I immediately thanked her and told her how incredibly happy I would be to accept her offer. She explained to me that the official offer will be arriving by email in the next few hours and to make sure I respond to it by the deadline.

Before I could ask her if Michael had received an offer too, she said, “Now, I’m about to call Michael next. I have no idea what time it is for you guys over there right now.” I laughed and told her it was after midnight for Michael and he had just gone to bed but don’t worry, his cell phone was right beside him. She was so lovely, she even asked if it would be okay to call to call him at this hour. I said most definitely and that he would be thrilled to hear from her. I thanked her again and we hung up.

Less than 5 minutes later, my FaceTime rang and I knew exactly who it was. I answered to Michael’s beaming face (the officer had told him I received an offer too), we couldn’t believe it! We had beaten the odds, both of us had been offered a position at Rockhampton Base Hospital – our first preference. We were now a statistic – 2 out of the 17 available positions!

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We were so ecstatic and relieved. We both had a job, and therefore a career and our feet in the door towards our future! Michael said, “Now that we have jobs, we can finally start planning our wedding!” And how true!

The excitement kept Michael awake for a couple of hours talking to me before he could go back to sleep. The sleep deprivation no longer mattered once we found out we had jobs for next year! 😛

And that, is the story of the best news I’ve received since the start of my medical degree. Best belated birthday present too 🙂 I have since emailed my referees to let them know the good news and thank them again for playing a part in my future – they were super pleased for us as well.

By now, we have also heard from a number of our Canadian friends who didn’t receive a job offer in Queensland 😩 Emphasized for us again how lucky we are and fingers crossed for them that they will soon receive an offer from out of state or from the private sector (Commonwealth Medical Internships – CMI).

If you’re still here reading, then thank you for your interest and sharing this happy moment with me!

DHAL: July 28, 2014 – My 27th birthday!

Thanks to my lovely sister for spending the past weekend and indulging with me! Unfortunately, it was back to the real world for me and back to Vancouver for her this morning!

On the other hand, happy 27th birthday to me! Gosh, makes me feel old! I spent my birthday in the hospital, working hard and coming home late, just like any other day because no one knew it was my birthday and I felt it unnecessary to share. Despite being alone, I received so much love from family and friends in the form of text messages, phone calls and Facebook messages – many thanks everyone!

Facebook message and photo from my sister

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Received these 2 Pandora beads from my sister. The left one is the Birthday Bloom charm for my birth month. The left is an engagement present and called Forever Entwined. I love them, thanks Jenni!

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Cards from Mike’s parents and my sister (telling me to cheer up)!

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Facebook message and photo from Mike

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Received part 1 of my birthday gift at the airport from Michael. I’ve been wanting a fitbit for a while – it’s a bracelet you wear that helps you track your activity as well as sleep, thanks love! I haven’t started using it yet because I have no one around to discuss it with at the moment. I’m also excited for part 2 of my gift – soon reunited!

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Facebook message and photo from my mum!

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Before I left Ottawa at the beginning of this year, my mum had already given me my birthday gift in advance – this gold heart Pandora charm. Perhaps she forgot about it and that’s why she has another present for me? 😛

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I even came home to a chocolate bar and well wishes from my housemate Lyndsay, thank you! 🙂

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My first birthday spent truly by myself away from family and friends, but I felt the love!

DHAL: July 27, 2014

Had a late start today!

Wasn’t until midday that my sister and I headed out. Today’s plan: Visit Newcastle Island. How? A 10 minute ferry ride that costs only $9 return.

Some sights along our walk to the ferry dock

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Revealed itself during the low tide

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Liked the reflection in the water

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Beautiful day with lots of boats in the water

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Didn’t take long until we got to Newcastle Island!

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A really beautiful island with lots of nice walking trails (approx 8km around the perimeter of the island), areas for picnics and places to swim. Click HERE for more information about the island.

Some photos during our hike!

One of the views off the island

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Christmas colours!

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Jenni’s not so much a big fan of hiking, so got bored a little too quickly

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Hello!

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Crystal tree droppings

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Lots of easy to walk trails

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More water and boats!

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Took a rest by the beach, and a selfie!

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Lots of pretty views

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And lots of people watching 🙂

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You could easily spend the whole day on Newcastle Island, but we had important things to do. Mainly: Buy Nanaimo bars and yummy pastries to eat before the shops closed.

After a few hours, we said farewell and hopped on the ferry back.

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Looking back towards Nanaimo

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From there, we proceeded to Mon Petit Choux Cafe & Bakery to pick up a few goodies for later this evening.

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We then headed back down to the water to enjoy a delicious late lunch/early dinner at Troller’s Fish & Chips. I got halibut and my sister got salmon, it came with fries, coleslaw & tartare sauce. The fish was delightful, such light and crispy batter, went great with the tartare sauce. The fries were good as well, but the coleslaw was so warm! We couldn’t tell if it was because of the temperature, but the coleslaw seemed to have iceberg lettuce in it as well, definitely not as good as it could’ve been.

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We called it an early day after eating and decided to head back to my place. Instead, we decided to watch some of our classic favourite movies: Freaky Friday and White Chicks. Don’t laugh, it was good fun! 😛

Selfie on the way home!

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For dinner (and an early birthday celebration), we had delicious pastries from Mon Petit Choux. Top left is a Marjolaine, originally invented by French chef Fernand Point – combining almond & hazelnut meringue layers with chocolate buttercream. Bottom is an Earl Grey Chocolate Mousse, which lost a bit of its shape in the heat during the walk home but retained all of its deliciousness. And lastly, a berry custard danish – yum! To top all of that off, we also nibbled on a Nanaimo Bar – so rich we couldn’t finish a slice together but certainly yummy!

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A fun weekend hanging out with my sister, a little sad that she will be leaving me tomorrow! 😩

DHAL: July 26, 2014 – My sister visits!

For those who don’t know, my sister is doing a Masters degree in Occupational Therapy at UBC in Vancouver. Friday marked the successful end to her first year and before flying back to Ottawa for the summer, she came to visit me for the weekend.

She arrived by ferry early Saturday afternoon, there she is!

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We ended up walking back to the house from the ferry terminal, which isn’t too bad – about 25 minute leisurely walk with uphill segments.

We spent a few hours catching up, snacking and FaceTiming my mom, brother, and Benny. We even got a complete family photo for the first time in a while 😛

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She brought over some goodies for me, including these (now expired) orange KitKats she had saved, as well as some yummy chocolate from Hawaii, a gift from a friend.

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We didn’t head out until late afternoon. Decided that we would walk along the water and head into downtown. Apparently this weekend was the International World Championship Bathtub Race, part of the 3 day Nanaimo Marine Festival. I never knew such a thing existed and we weren’t sure of the schedule but would be walking by the harbour anyway.

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So the great thing about BC, there are wild blackberries growing everywhere. I can be going any where and always find blackberries to munch on. Mmm

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Some beautiful flowers we passed during our walk

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Looked like a giraffe to us before I zoomed in for the photo 😛

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Here is the iconic statue of former mayor Frank Ney (may be hard to see) beside the bathtub. Known for his role in initiating the bathtub races across the Georgia Strait from Nanaimo to Vancouver.

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There wasn’t much activity going on along the water so we decided to head up to Commercial St, where the Bathtub Days street fair was set up. We had already missed the parade but there was still live entertainment and lots of neat vendors.

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We saw Flaming Donkey and couldn’t resist. Even though we could read, my sister went up to the guy and blurted, “What’s a flaming donkey?!”

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Healthy salsa with no additives, no preservatives and no salt. Not only is the price comparable or cheaper than the local supermarket, but apparently lasts longer in the fridge as well. We like supporting local businesses and bought a salsa + chip back after a taste test of the mild option ($7.50 I think). He had already run out of the spicy salsa.

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To be honest, we didn’t think find the salsa nearly as good as the one our mom makes – mainly due to the lack of salt (which doesn’t require a lot but that’s their motto), but also lack of spices as well as pineapple. We are pretty spoiled when it comes to good food, so this is a really good business venture, but the taste didn’t wow us.

Towards late evening, we decided to have dinner at Sukkho Thai, also on Commercial St. We had delicious Thai food, which I will write about in a separate blog post next. We had some fish cakes to start,  pad thai for my sister and sticky rice with BBQ’d chicken and papaya salad for me. Yummy!

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After dinner we noticed a lot of people heading down to the water, most likely to find a spot to enjoy the festival fireworks later that night. We decided to skip out on the fireworks and head home to relax. Even introduced my sister to some Hamish and Andy’s hilarious Gap Year in South America before calling it a night.