FIRST SUSHI BACK IN OTTAWA

May 4, 2016

Our second day back in Ottawa and the day my sister Jenni (maid of honour) arrives from Vancouver! We had a long list of things we wanted to eat and of course, sushi was on that list!

Family reunion lunch at 168 Sushi Buffet!

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We ate, and ate, and ate. It was not the BEST sushi, but it was still pretty darn good! Especially for Michael and I, who’ve been living in Rockhampton with absolutely no decent sushi!

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Always a fav – seaweed salad

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My brother Andy LOVES his grilled eel! If you’ve never tried, please do! It’s tasty!

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Tempura and rolls

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Edamame

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We went shopping after lunch and I thought this was worth sharing. A store called Marshalls (similar to Winners) was selling this Fendi purse/clutch… FOR $2199! 1) It was dang ugly. 2) Who in their right minds (even if filthy rich) would ever buy this?

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Anyway, a good second day back in Ottawa with family! Tomorrow begins the hectic wedding meetings!

Back in Ottawa!

May 03, 2016

You know you’re back in Canada when…

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Bagels, timbits, and Tim Horton’s coffee – who doesn’t make a pit stop as soon as your plane lands? We certainly did once we arrived in Toronto! Landed in Ottawa and was so incredibly happy to be greeted not only by my mom and brother, but also my grandparents and my Uncle 2 (Cau Hai)! Despite how late it was (midnight!) they insisted on a meal – so we ended up at Pho Ba Ga La in Chinatown!

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I’ve never been out so late with my grandparents! 😉

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It was a good time with the family, but you know me, no Vietnamese restaurant beats homemade food and I still stand by it!

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Thank you to my wonderful family – so happy to be back in Canada!

In case you were wondering where Michael’s family was – they live in Kingston so it’s a drive to Ottawa! Since Michael was planning on staying in Ottawa for the coming couple of weeks for wedding planning, it made sense for them not to drive up but we would see them soon!

A visit to The Works

Despite being one of my family’s favourite, it took me years to finally visit! The Works also happens to be very close to Beechwood Cemetery, making it a convenient stop after visiting our dad’s grave.

The atmosphere is always warm and inviting – service prompt and friendly. The prices seem a little high but the ambiance, portions and quality make it worth it.

I had heard of these magical enormous milk shakes and the endless variety of burgers to choose from – boy, had I been missing out!

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Initially, I thought the whole burger process was a little confusion, but it’s as easy as 1-2-3! Seriously, start by picking one of the many topping options – over 50 choices! Then decide on 1 of the 7 patty options, sides and a bun! Easy!

The options for sides include classic fries, slaw, steamed veggies. Or you can pay a little more for fancier sides like sweet potato fries, poutine or deep fried dill pickles!

Did I mention there are also tasty beer options? And the fact that you can make your milkshakes more ‘adult’ by adding rum or vodka?

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The Poutini Martini is always a favourite – classic poutine with crispy onion rings… delish!

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A variety of burgers and sides… there is definitely something on the menu for everyone!

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Their chips (fries), sweet potato fries, and onion rings are all amazing. Crisp on the outside, cooked well on the inside, and not dripping in grease.

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Crispy dill pickles was something I had never tried before… interesting textures but I think I like my pickles cold!

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Always a good grub with the fam!

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Definitely recommend coming in hungry for a satisfying meal with friends or family! You won’t leave disappointed 😉

The Works Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

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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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!

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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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! 😀

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! 😉

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!

Back home in Ottawa!

Hello friends!

I just wanted to check in to say I have safely been back home, in Ottawa, since early Wednesday morning! 😀

Please be patient with my lack of blogging, I have been terrible, I know. But I assure you once I’m a little less busy and also not using my free time during the day to nap, I will update you on lots!

Love!

Last day in Ottawa with the family

January 03, 2013

Today was my last full day in Ottawa and it turned out to very full and busy!

We invited my grandparents and my cousin Janet to lunch at Play (as you can tell by now, I really like that place). Most people had never been there before and I thought it would be a good experience.

We had reservations for 12pm and asked specifically to be seated upstairs because I find it nicer. 😉

Once everyone arrived, it took us a while but we eventually decided on our 2 dishes each. There were a number of repeats at our table, including the hanger steak, sweetbreads, Walleye, scallops and clam linguine

My brother, grandpa and I had sweetbreads (thymus of a calf/lamb) for the first time. Unfortunately, it’s not on the current menu so I can’t give the full dish description. I didn’t know what to expect and I’m glad I can say I’ve tried something new, although I didn’t love it. The taste and texture was a mix of really soft chicken plus mild liver (and I don’t like liver, unless it’s pate). The blend of flavours was good though!

My mom and grandpa ordered the scallops / cider / cauliflower / raisin / bacon / brussels, which were quite tasty, although I don’t have a picture of them. 😦

My grandma and sister ordered the Walleye / chorizo / beans / grapefruit / fennel / brown butter. Like myself the other day, they found the dish too bitter and the beans too crunchy for their taste.

My mom and Janet had the little neck clams / linguine / parmesan / chili / soffritto /garlic. The portion was enormous, but apparently the dish was just way too bland. Very disappointing!

My grandma and brother got the frog legs / polenta / truffle / eggplant / radicchio / caper. I think both were underwhelmed with the dish, especially my brother who wished he had chosen something else.

Janet and I also got the grilled hanger steak / mushroom / frites / aioli. Yum! Unlike Mike’s steak from the other day, this one was super tasty and I was really glad I chose this dish.

Lastly, my sister’s second dish was the beef slider / cabbage / bacon / cream cheese / matchsticks. I don’t think she fully enjoyed this dish, especially because there was a spread similar to tuna on her beef slider. The matchsticks were also not as good as having actual frites.

It was still a fun experience though!

For dessert, we went back into Byward Market for baked goods at Moulin de Provence – one of my favourite bakeries in Ottawa and also home of the famous Obama cookies.

Doesn’t this amazing selection make your mouth water? And all for such good prices too!

“I don’t know what I’m doing!”

Trying to smile with food in her mouth…

We walked through the market before saying good bye to our grandparents who were going home first.

The rest of us went shopping at Rideau Mall for a while until our stomachs had enough room for… Beavertails! For those who don’t know, they are delicious fried dough pastries, a Canadian treat! Waiting in line for our order…

Some shots in the market as we wait…

Mmm! I got the Kilaloe Sunrise – which is the classic cinnamon & sugar beavertail with a spritz of lemon juice – delicious!

We didn’t get home til after 5pm, which is when my cousin Flora, invited us to go skating with her siblings. There’s an outdoor rink outside City Hall called the Rink of Dreams, that is apparently gorgeous at night. How could I say no? Janet went home to grab her skates and belongings since she planned to stay over. We would meet her at the rink instead. My sister also decided that it would be a good idea to invite the rest of our other cousins to come over afterwards for my last night in town.

The cousins who went skating!

Some footage of the pretty Rink of Dreams and of my sister falling! 😀

Heading home!

The cousins came over shortly after we got back from skating. We had a few good solid hours of boardgames, food and laughs. Thank you so much for coming guys! I hope we do it again soon!

I stayed up late to finish packing, but finally called it a night and went to bed around 3am!

FYI: On the day I left Ottawa, 40cm/16″ of snow (should be more since some melted and compacted) had fallen!

Absence and now back to Brisbane

My apologies for being so blog silent over the holidays! As you can imagine, the holidays take up so much time! 😛

I do have lots of stories and pictures to share though, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, Mike and I are currently on our way back to Brisbane.

Firstly, thank you to those I was able to see this break and my apologies for those I couldn’t meet up with: Bea, Ruixi, Mel, Sareda, Soph, etc. I was out of town, then sick, then super busy and unfortunately couldn’t see you… next time okay? 🙂

Secondly, thank you to all my family who came to the airport to see me off! I look forward to being home again!

Our flight from Ottawa to Toronto was delayed, and as a result, it caused us to miss our connecting flight to Sydney last night.

We landed over an hour late, and then we had to waste several more hours figuring out new flights, finding our luggage, grabbing a shuttle, waiting for food delivery, etc!

Despite the delay and the extra night in Toronto, things worked out nicely. We were given a nice room at Days Hotel with food vouchers. Additionally, because the same flight to Australia was full for today, we were rerouted and will be flying through Los Angeles… in Business Class 😀

By the time we got to our hotel, it was already 11pm. The hotel restaurant was closed… thank goodness for ordering food for delivery!

Mike and I had breakfast at the hotel today before grabbing the shuttle bus back to the airport at 8am. We gave ourselves plenty of time to go through US Customs and Security. Priority access makes the airport experience a breeze and luckily, we didn’t run into any trouble. Our baggage is checked through to Sydney, so fears of traveling through the US temporarily relieved!

Because we were flying business, we had access to the Maple Leaf Lounge… very nice. I wish I could fly like this all the time! Comfy seating areas, showers, food, drinks, internet… it’s nice 🙂

I love priority lines! Business class on our flight to LA were not the pods, sadly, but still very enjoyable. We had good food and drinks and more room for my bum.

This chicken wasn’t very good actually.

Mmm, tenderloin.

Warm chewy cookies AND gelato? My flight is complete.

A mother and 2 children were sitting in front of us. While they were settling into their seats, the son (around 11 years old) turned to his mom and said incredulously, “We’re in business class?” The mom laughed and said yes. Mike and I were amazed at not only how well these children behaved, but at the end of the flight, he turned to his mom and said, “I really enjoyed this flight. Thanks mom.” So cute!

The view as we prepared to land in LA.

So, we landed in LA around 3pm and had to walk over to a different terminal and go through security again. No trouble this time either and the lines went quickly so we were pleasantly surprised! Our flight to Sydney doesn’t leave until 10pm so we decided to pay for access to the United Club Lounge. So far, very worth it! We’ve got about 4 more hours to wait around… and then finally off to Australia!

Guess who’s catching up on her blogging, finally?

Michael enjoying his drink (and plethora of snacks) and saying, “Hello!”

Photo #309: Keeping Dad Company

January 02, 2013

My siblings and I went to visit my dad at the cemetery today. There was so much snow that his headstone was half buried, not to mention it was SO COLD. Years ago, my sister got these 3 dogs as a small gift for my dad, they represented his three children since he was born the year of the dog. Today, we marked them with our Viet names and brought them out to keep my dad company in the snow.

Photo #303: Tender Frog Legs

December 27, 2012

Mike came into town and we were heading back to his place for a few days. Decided to stop for lunch at our favourite restaurant in Ottawa before hitting the road. I’d only ever had frog legs done the “Asian” way (battered and deep fried, then tossed in salt, butter and sauteed garlic) so thought this would be a nice dish to try – the frog was so tender!

Photo #273: Full on Sushi

November 27, 2012

Went with my family to Sushi Kan today for all you can eat (AYCE) sushi – mmm. I have missed this – to pay $20/person and eat whatever my heart desires! Also my first time seeing fruit sushi, which was interesting. Apparently a nice palate cleanser? This one had mango, banana and canned peach.

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Remembering a kind soul: Msgr. André Drouin

Earlier this week, I called my grandma to express my condolences after hearing Ong Bay had passed away. After talking to her for a few minutes, she said, “I’ve been meaning to tell you. Remember Father Andre? I only just found out recently that he passed away after a long battle with cancer.”

My heart sank.

That day, I found out that not one, but 2 people dear to me had left this world. And I didn’t get the chance to see either of them one last time.

Click here to read his obituary

Many of you probably don’t know Msgr. André Drouin so let me tell you the story of how I got to know him.

For the majority of my life, my grandparents lived downtown in Ottawa and regularly attended St Anne’s Parish where Msgr. André Drouin resided as pastor.

During my childhood, my sister and I often stayed at my grandparents, and of course, if they went to daily morning masses, then so did we.

I don’t recall since when, but for as long as I can remember, we called him Father André and he loved us. He would acknowledge us with a wink during procession and after every mass, we would wait patiently for our turn to say hello. Once he saw us, he would greet us with open arms and a loud, “Ah, my girlfriends!” while bending down to swoop us up. We’d always give him a peck on the cheek and he would turn us to the other parishioners and introduce us as his girlfriends. He would also always show off a little detail like, “Guess how many languages they speak? Tell them girls. Three languages! And what are they? Yes, English, French and Vietnamese!”

We grew up over the years and no matter how busy, he always had time for us, our grandparents and later – our numerous cousins. Made us feel special and somehow, despite all the people he met, always remembered the little things we told him. During high school I told him I wanted to become a pharmacist. Years later when we met again, he asked about pharmacy even though I had long moved on. He always remembered.

My grandparents eventually moved to our neighbourhood, and as a result, attending mass at St Anne’s became a rarity. Weeks turned into months and months eventually turned into years. My grandparents would see him once in a while, and tell me Father Andre had asked about us. My grandma got his phone number for me and told him I would get in touch.

And I wanted to. I certainly meant to. But life kept getting in the way. Now isn’t that a common excuse you often hear? I was busy with school, then I was busy taking care of my dad, then I was busy with school again, then busy with preparations of getting ready for Australia.

I never made the time to visit him and now I won’t get chance.

Although it saddens me, it’s now an important reminder of life. Never be too busy to make time for those you care about. Time flies, situations develop and people change. Nothing and nobody will wait for you, nor will they be around forever. ❤

Father Andre was definitely someone who was able to find time for other people, read about his caring side HERE and HERE

Rest in peace.
January 01, 1934 – June 04, 2012

Photo #87: Almost a Taste of Home

May 25, 2012

As a kid growing up in Ottawa, Canada – BeaverTails were always a traditional treat to look forward to, especially during the wintertime while skating on the Rideau Canal.

A long time craving has led me to try and make them myself. The dough isn’t exactly the same – but they’re pretty tasty!

For those who don’t know – BeaverTails are a Canadian treat that first started in Ottawa. They’re fried pastries that have been individually hand stretched to resemble a beaver’s tail and topped with various condiments – the traditional one being cinnamon & sugar. My favourite is the Killaloe Sunrise – which is cinnamon and sugar with a spritz of lemon juice.

And the Rideau Canal is a man-made waterway that connects the city of Ottawa to the city of Kingston. It is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America, and in 2007 it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (thanks Wiki!). In the winter, a portion of the canal is drained and becomes the world’s largest outdoor skating of approximately 8km. My absolute favourite activity during the winter – skating on the Rideau Canal!