Thursday, June 30, 2011

Un Mois à Paris

Three years ago I was feeling the itch to travel, so I found a program in Paris for three weeks and jumped on a plane (Okay, it didn't happen that quickly since I'm not one to spontaneously travel.  I actually spent three months planning, but that's another story).  I then spent three amazing weeks in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  I met some amazing people from all around the world and saw/did many things I wanted to 'tick' off my bucket list.  Since I will be a mere 3 hour train ride away in a few months, and one of the girls I met three years ago has moved there, I will be making Paris a destination while I'm in Europe.  Not gonna lie, I'll probably be there quite often (if my bank account allows).  Here are some pictures of my time there, as well as some 'tick' pictures.  Enjoy!

In the creepy catacombs.  I love this picture.

Still not entirely sure why there was a random thumb (maybe someone can enlighten me), but I still gave it a thumbs up!

See?  I did climb the Eiffel Tower

At Café des Deux Moulins.  I'm a huge Amelie fan.

Just outside the Louvre and Musée D'Orsay on the Seine.

Blurry, but the Eiffel Tower at night.

The Mona Lisa


Me in front of the Eiffel Tower

Me at the gardens of Versailles

Me and Versailles

Le Belvédère

Me in Le Hameau

Now I Can Go on The Amazing Race!

I can gladly say that today was a successful today.  At 1pm today I arrived at A Formula 1 Driving School in Vaughan, Ontario for my first manual transmission driving lesson.

I must start out by saying that I am not the most coordinated person.  There's a reason my mum didn't sign me up for dance or gymnastics.  Hence my hesitation to trust my two left feet to make a car move.

This is not to say that I can't drive.  I've been driving for roughly seven years now and I'd like to think I'm a fairly good driver.  But driving and changing the gears at the same time is a completely different story.  I was having a panic attack just looking at the stick shift.  There was no way I was going to be able to do this.

And then came Jeff, the owner and instructor of AF1.  His calm demeanour and straight-forward explanations put me at ease.  He sat me in the passenger seat and went through everything about the car and drove around a bit so I could see it all in action.  After he taught me a little trick or quip to remember something, he'd quiz me, which began to build my confidence as I got question after question right.  I started to feel good, and believe that I could do it.

And then he said, "Okay, I think you're ready.  Your turn."

All that confidence went down the drain, and every quip he had just said had suddenly escaped my mind.  All I thought to myself was I can't do this!

But Jeff talked me through it and as I slowly moved through the gears, my confidence returned.  He managed to remain calm, even after the eighth time I didn't push the clutch far enough down.  He remained positive and praised me when my shifts were good, and my starts were smooth.  After only an hour, I was on highway 400, something I didn't expect to do so soon.  And just after that, learning how to start on a hill.

I'm proud to say that I didn't stall once.  But I can't say that was because I knew what I was doing, but because I had an excellent teacher.

I have my second (and last) two hour lesson tomorrow.  I'm really excited to go, and even more excited to drive in Geneva.  And as I told Jeff, "Now I can go on the Amazing Race!"...well, once I become an American, that is.

If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, and you're looking for lessons, I highly recommend Jeff.  He's a great instructor, and is far less expensive than CAA.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Food Fridays - Dip Off

There has always been a debate between a co-worker and myself about who's taco dip was better than the other person's.  Since this past Sunday was my final shift with her, we decided to have a "Dip Off" to settle the score.  We each brought in our dips (at 9am - not the best time for a dip off), and at 11:30am, once all the staff had arrived, we had our dip off.  Obviously, our staff was too nice to name a winner, so we settled for a tie.  Since our dips were both very different, we agreed that it would be too hard to judge.  But deep down, we both think that we won.

Anyway, here's a picture of a dips before we chowed down.  The sight afterward wasn't too pretty, so I won't show you that.

Mine is on the left (a traditional multi-layer dip with tomatoes, peppers, green onion, salsa, mayo and cream cheese) and my co-worker's is the one on the right (with celery and black olives on top, and taco dip mix combined with the cream cheese)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Food Fridays - Cod and Green Beans

This week's culinary experiment was baked cod and garlic green beans.  Mostly a result of what I had in the fridge.  The house smelled like garlic for a while, sorry Mum, but I think they turned out.


In the frying pan

Finished product

Any recipes to suggest?  Any attempts you've made recently?

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Food Fridays

It's been a while, hasn't it?  I'm still alive, just don't have much to report.  My life has been work, work, see a friend, work, work, work.  Fun, eh?

But when I do have some free time I've been using it to practice my cooking.  When I go to Switzerland I'll be cooking for a family of 5 (the 6th will be away at University), and I feel like I should probably make them something more than peanut butter sandwiches and Kraft Dinner every day.  So I've decided to add a new theme to my blog, Food Fridays!  I'll share my cooking achievements, and failures.  Feel free to recommend some recipes!

So for this week, I attempted to make grilled Portobello mushrooms and asparagus.  I think they came out quite well:

I'm not much of a plater, so please ignore how boring it looks.  

The mushrooms were very easy to make.  I actually got the idea from my uncle after countless holiday dinners.  He had the brilliant idea of adding grilled Portobello mushrooms to Calabrese salads.  Delicious!  He normally makes cracked peppercorn mushrooms, but I just did a simple onion and garlic marinade.  

The asparagus were even simpler.  All I did was brush them with olive oil, salt and pepper.  

The mushrooms will be part of a brie and mushroom wrap that I'm making for work tomorrow.  The asparagus will come with me to work tonight.  I might make some more to go with the wrap.

Any recipe ideas you'd like to share?  I'm always looking (especially for gluten free recipes!).


Next up I'll have a post on the Paris trip I took in 2008.  I just realized I never shared the details of it.  I was smart enough to document everything I did (through emails home) so I may make it into a multi-post.  We'll see how it goes. 

Until then, have a great Friday and a great weekend!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Summer has Arrived

When I first decided to start this blog, I figured it would be a blog for my family and friends to keep track of my year abroad.  Then I began to explore other expat and travel blogs discovering groups and forums like Expat Blog and Expat Women.  From there I have come in contact with some wonderful people who have offered their wisdom and support.  I never expected such a welcoming community online, but I am happy I found it, and thank you all for your generosity.

It has come time for the summer lifeguard trainings for the City and it has suddenly hit me that my trip is fast approaching.  Now that school is done and my friends are home for the summer, I can't wait to spend my last few months with some of my closest friends.  We've already scheduled a camping trip and bought tickets to see Drake on July 31st.  We're also looking to plan some cottage weekends, day trips, and some adventures around Toronto.

What are you planning for the summer?  Any suggestions for some fun day activities?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spare a Few Minutes?

As a mentioned in an earlier post, my cousin is trying to earn a spot in the DeforestAction campaign in Borneo.  He made the top 20, and now needs to raise $5000 and have 500 followers to be considered for the top ten.  Please spare a few minutes and follow this link.  Sign up for an account and then follow my cousin.  If you also have some money to spare for an amazing cause, you can also donate.  If you donate, you will get a certificate for every 25 square metres you preserve in Indonesia ($25).  You can check out one of my certificates below.

So please spare a few minutes to help my cousin spend 100 days in Borneo saving the planet.

Thank you.