Sunday, September 29, 2013

movie review: the family

Tonight I went with my family to see "The Family". The best way I could describe this movie is a critique of gangster movies but to be completely honest, I'm not entirely sure. I haven't seen a lot of advertisements for it, the only time I remember seeing a trailer was at the beginning of a YouTube video and to be honest, I skipped it so I didn't really know what to expect. 

The movie stars Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfiefer and Tommy Lee Jones. There are a few other characters you'll likely recognize but needless to say, this movie brings in some pretty big names. The movie starts violently, and we're introduced to the family. Robert DeNiro is a gangster under witness protection, and his entire family, including the children are aware of the "business" he is in. The plot was a little weak, and there were only a couple of laughs, mostly at how ridiculous the situation or the dialog was. I often worry when I see gangster movies that its going to be overly violent, I hate unnecessary violence, I don't need to see every gory detail to understand what happened so I was quite happy that this movie was fairly mild. Of course people are shot and there's a few explosions but nothing too torturous that left me nauseous. 

If you're looking to watch the next Oscar worthy film, don't go see "The Family", I don't think it will be up for any large awards anytime soon. This movie was fine for a Sunday afternoon, with a group of people who don't often have a lot of movies they can enjoy together. If you've seen it, let me know what you thought in the comments, maybe you figured it out better than I did! 

Friday, September 27, 2013

seven comedians, one week

I went to Just for Laughs for the first time this year, it's something I've always wanted to do. For $99, I got a headliner act and 4 smaller ahows, i also had the option to get credit back for each show, if i checked in - which essentially meant, I could see every smaller act of the festival. When I purchased the tickets back in July, seeing a headliner plus 4 smaller shows didn't seem like so far away, it was a bit much to take on but this was my adventure this week.

Note: I wrote each blog post following each show, they probably could have been individual blog posts, but they are not. Enjoy!

Friday, September 20th
For our headliner, we chose Sarah Silverman. She had a great opening act. He made me laugh out loud multiple times throughout his act. I really hope I can see him perform again sometime. Sarah was pretty good. She was so offensive. I've never watched her whole act before but it was offensive. She was really great though at interacting with the audience. I found her to be at her best when she seemed to be improvising.

Sunday, September 22nd
Tonight was Janeane Garofalo was tonight and she was great. Her show was very conversational and I could relate to a lot of her set.  I know it sounds a little ridiculous but a lot of what she was saying made sense, particularly on babies, she doesn't want to have then but a fat baby is going in her mouth, I get that. She is extremely well-spoken and intelligent. A long time ago, a drama teacher told me that you get cheap laughs when you using swearing and that its more authentic if you don't do it. This rule seemed great tonight. Awesome show, next stop on the just for laughs train is Tuesday with Sean Patton.

Tuesday, September 24th
So, I won't lie, I thought Sean Patton was Sean Cullen. I was incorrect. Tonight brought us to the comedy bar near Ossington and Bloor. The act was indeed Sean Patton and it has been a long time since I laughed liked that. He was the perfect amount of offensive and hilarious. His storytelling was impeccable and you had to believe him because there's no way he could make that stuff up. It was so ridiculous but also honest, it was great. I can't believe we're more than half way through the festival. The daunting 5 shows seems more manageable when its this funny.

Thursday, September 26th
Tonight was the fourth show. It was at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre at the exhibition grounds. I don't care for going to the ex grounds because it is not easy to get to and parking is expensive. This was my first time at this theatre. The theatre was a fair size, and I don't think there was a bad seat in the house. The bathrooms on the other hand could use any kind of update. But, enough about the surroundings, we were there to see some comedy. Tonight was John Mulaney, he is the genius behind the stefon character. This was the biggest venue I had been to since last Friday, so there was an opening act. You know we were surprised and excited when it was Sean Patton! Some of it was the same jokes from the other night but it was still funny. John Mulaney was really funny as well. His humour was based mostly on his childhood and it was great. I could definitely see him going on to write shows or movies and I look forward to watching it. Tomorrow is our fifth and final show, should be good.

Friday, September 27th
Well, we survived. 5 shows, 7 different comedians. Tonight was Kyle Kinane. He was quite funny, it didn't feel like I was laughing out loud, but I was definitely enjoying him. His opening act, Rob Mailloux, had me laughing out loud, maybe because I related to him far too much. He was the perfect opening act for me, Just slightly offensive not more than necessary.

At the end of the week, I'm pretty tired but I did really enjoy seeing all these up and coming comedians this week plus Sarah Silverman I think if I were to do it next year, even though the pass is cheaper,  I would probably do a pay-as-you-go for a couple of comedians I really want to see. Do you have a new comedian you're following? Let me know in the comments.

frankie fettuccine: my food truck pick

We've had a series of food trucks at our office today, the others were good but I think today's was my favourite. Its no secret that I'm a fan of pasta and Italian food so I was really excited when I learned this food truck was coming. 

I had the fettuccine  and it was great. It was fresh pasta and fresh sauce. There was mushrooms and pancetta in it but not to much to take away from the delicious pasta. The pasta was $10, little pricey but still so good.
fettuccine, with probably too much cheese but still so good

I also found out they had rice balls and had to try them. Cheesy, carby, deep-fried goodness covered in a delicious tomato sauce, how could you go wrong? They were 4 for $5 and I'd highly recommend them.
rice balls, this picture does not do the cheesy goodness justice

My friend also got what was ranked the number two best food truck dish in the city, the gnocchi poutine with osso bocco. I tried a few bites of it and I could see why it ranked so high. I normally don't love gnocchi because I find Its sometimes mushy. They obviously fried this some how so the gnocchi was just perfectly crispy with the beef and cheese. I thought it was great. The poutine was also $10.

I say if you see Frankie on the street, be sure to try something delicious. What's your favourite food truck in the city?  Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

disgraceland: dinner in 'bloorcourt'

As I will post about later this week, my friend and I are attending JFL this year. This show, we had about 4 hours to kill before so we went for dinner in the neighbourhood, Bloorcourt. I didn't realize this was a specific neighbourhood but it was near Bloor and Ossington. You truly learn something new everyday.

We went to Disgraceland, at first we chose it because of the fun name, but then we read the menu and knew we had to try it. Its almost like a bar mixed with a diner. We ordered some beers, since we had some times and made the difficult decision of what to eat. 

We started with the perogies, we got the works because... bacon and cheese. I was surprised how crispy the the outside was but they were still pretty good. I had the turkey club, which was delicious and mashed potatoes which were ok. My friend had the cheese and bean burrito with fries, I stole some fries and they were pretty good. They have a ton of poutine options and I'm sure they would have been great in that. They also had a lot of vegan or vegan possible options, for those interested, including vegan poutine. The best, and obviously most unnecessary part of the meal was the deep fried cupcakes. We were unsure of how they would deep fry a cupcake but we determined it was actually a 'ding dong'. They also deep fry twinkies, but I never understood that treat. These 'cupcakes' were delicious. They came with two which was more than enough for us. 
Deep-fried cupcakes

A little dark, but the inside of delicious.

If you're in the area, I'd recommend stopping in at this place, particularly if you have a sweet tooth, or if you're looking for vegan options. Our bill came to just over $80 after taxes but before tip, but be warned, they only accept cash - which is really irritating but we made it work. Have you found deep fried deliciousness that you'd deem worthy of the calories? Let me know in the comments below. Happy eating!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

gluten-free brunch in the west end

Today we went out for a family member's birthday for brunch. As I mentioned, my brother is celiac so we had to find somewhere that could accommodate his diet. We originally tried to go to a place in Etobicoke, but we showed up and it was closed, unfortunately not the first time we've encountered this. So we quickly google searched and found the Cardinal Rule on Roncesvalles, which has been featured on the show "You Gotta Eat Here". And I'm sure glad we did.

They had a nice brunch menu and did what so many restaurants should do, clearly marked what was gluten-free (also noted vegetarian and vegan, for those interested). This is a great feature for restaurants because it makes the entire ordering process so much easier. It's nice when my brother can just order straight from the menu without having to ask a bunch of questions. Just makes things run a lot smoother. I had the Cowboy Benny, it was interesting. I love eggs benedict but I found the bbq sauce overpowered the eggs. The brisket was delicious, the sauce was delicious and the buttermilk biscuit was really delicious. I found it a bit over the top but it was good.The latkes were quite salty but were filled with other herbs and spicy.  I also sampled some french toast from someone at the table and it was pretty good, its pretty hard to mess up french toast. A quick look at the rest of the menu shows that they have a bunch of different options on their regular menu with tons of gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options. 

They also have a bunch of fun events through the week, including Tuesday night Cards Against Humanity, which I can only imagine is ridiculous and hilarious as well as Wednesday night trivia. If you're in the west end and looking for specialty food options (or just something unique), I'd recommend checking it out. Is there any other gluten-free (or other specialty) brunch places you like to check out in the city? Let me know in the comments. Happy eating! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

habitat for humanity - women build toronto

Yesterday I had the privilege of participating in the Women Build Toronto with Habitat for Humanity. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures because I didn't feel comfortable bringing my phone on the construction site but I still want to share my experience. 

Very briefly, Habitat for Humanity gives family living in poverty a hand up by allowing them to buy homes at low-interest and no money-down. The partner families commit a minimum five-hundred volunteer hours and all the proceeds from the mortgage gets put back into building homes for other families. This allows these families to have a quality, safe home that allows them to break the cycle of poverty for their families. It was noted at the groundbreaking ceremony yesterday that all children of the Toronto chapter have gone on to post-secondary education. This allows them to become productive members of society. The Women Build is an annual event held by the organization. It goes for ten days, and this year their goal was one million dollars raised for the organization. This event allows women to come together and build homes, from the ground-up. It provides a great service to the community while giving the women participating a rewarding and unique experience. I joined Team CAWIC, which is a non-profit organization enhancing the experience of women in construction, I do not work in construction but know someone on the board and thought this would be a great experience.

The day began bright and early with a groundbreaking ceremony. Over 80 women watched as the CEO of Habitat, title sponsors of the homes, local politicians and the partner families "broke ground" on these homes. Then we got to work. I've never worn a hard hat or steel toe boots, I have extremely limited homebuilding/renovation experience. I can hang a mean picture, and I can hang wallpaper but I was not prepared for what we were getting in to (in a good way). The home I was assigned to was just foundation. I was not expecting to be building a home, I thought there was no way I could do that. I expected that we would be painting, maybe if we got crazy, we'd hang some drywall. Instead, I climbed down a ladder in to what will one day be a family's basement. At this point it was just gravel. We spent the day doing various tasks, we built stairs to get in and out of the site, we laid sills and shoveled gravel. We worked hard but it was rewarding. Some of the other groups had homes that were further along and they were able to put in floor joists and walls. Most of the women working with us didn't have a ton of experience in construction but we were able to come together to accomplish an incredible task. Not only were we helping these families change their lives but we were able to prove to ourselves that we were capable of more than we thought possible. By the end of the day, we were aching but had smiles on our faces. We were proud of the work we had accomplished, even though we didn't make a huge dent in the home, we still played our important role. 

The end of the day had us going back to 'base camp', taking off our heavy boots and receiving a great goody bag from some wonder sponsors. I was really impressed with our loot, which included some great coupons and a ticket for the home show coming in October. It was really nice that they were able to give us a token of appreciation, even though a thank you would have been plenty. 
Awesome goody bag from some awesome sponsors. Not pictured, the delicious chocolates I ate in the car on the way home (thanks Purdys!).
I would highly recommend looking into this organization, they always have events and builds going on and could use anybody's help, even if they use the ladder upside down at first (don't worry, we fixed it...) and if you're a woman, definitely look into joining a team next year for the build. You can also still sponsor me for this worthy cause until the end of September, every dollar counts! I'd love to hear where other people volunteer in the community? I'm always looking for new experiences! 

Happy volunteering!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

gluten-free expo: five of my favourites

I attended the Gluten-Free Expo this weekend. Based on my previous posts, you can tell I eat gluten but my brother was diagnosed with celiac disease about ten years ago so I've been familiar with the diet for years. I've also tried the good and the bad (and sometimes that's very bad) so I thought I would share my favourites I tried at the expo this weekend. In no particular order:

1. Cuisine Solel - They had a large selection of flours. They also had samples of their product and I had to say, it was really delicious. The bread was moist, which is not very easy to do with gluten-free. They also had two types of flour, one that was for the bread maker and one for the over. If you're into making your own breads, I highly recommend this brand. 

2. Comensoli Foods - We tried some pizza at this station, they were really good. I had the vegan vegetable pizza, it did not taste vegan or gluten-free.  My brother had the cheese - which was not vegan, he loved it so much he bought 4 pizzas. 

3. Queen B - This booth had a large selection of cakes and biscottis. We tried their signature orange cake and their banana hazelnut cake and they were great. They were moist and flavourful (can you tell moist is a big deal for me when eating gluten free). They also had a Cocolime cookie that looked good but I'm not a coconut fan, but if it was anything like their cake it would be great. They also have beautiful packaging, I love pretty things.

4. Pillers - We tried their turkey kielbasa, pepperoni and my brother tried their spicy pepperoni. I loved their kielbasa and pepperoni. I would always be frustrated when purchasing meats and finding out they had filler and wheat in them. This brand proves that it doesn't have to be filled with gluten to be delicious. 

5. All But Gluten - We tried their bite-sized brownies, they were absolutely fantastic. They were chocolatey and moist (again, with the moist, I know but if you've ever had bad gluten-free you know this is important). They were definitely melt-in-your-mouth and tasted like 'regular' bite sized brownie. 

The expo was a great opportunity to learn about brands I was not familiar with. There were a number of brands that I had never heard of, it is great to see how many brands are making gluten-free more accessible. When my brother was diagnosed 10 years ago, the gluten-free market was completely different. This expo continues to prove that there are great brands out there providing great food for celiacs, gluten-intolerants and people who just want a delicious brownie! What favourites of yours made the list, or which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments! Happy eating.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


We are definitely a culture of never having enough time. 

VolunteerTO recently posted a TEDx Talk from Ben Rigby about microvolunteering. He talks about the fact that over 70% of Americans say they do not have time to volunteer, likely it is similar in Canada. Many non-profits have processes to volunteer with them and many of them have resources stretched thin, so in my experience sometimes it takes a while to get started. Ben Rigby discusses how much time we spend every on games like solitare or farmville (or more recently, candy crush) and he wanted to find a way that people could help from their phones and on their own time. This would give non-profit the resources they need for smaller tasks and also allows the average person to give back and also give the public an easier way to donate their time to causes that are important to them. This talk really articulated how we can all make a difference, without a huge time commitment. 

KoodoNation is a Canadian microvolunteering site. You simply create a profile about what your skills are and the types of causes that are important to you. It can include your bio, links to your site and your social media. You can then search by challenges, causes and skills. Some of the challenges or tasks can take a few minutes; the first one I did was helping a non-profit develop hashtags they could use to promote their organization. All of the information for challenges I could see were targeted to me based on my profile, changes to your profile will give you different results. KoodoNation also makes an effort to make you feel as if you're part of a community, people and nonprofits can like your suggestions. The site is definitely worth looking around and playing around with; particularly if you want to make a difference but feel overwhelmed by how much time you think you need to make a difference. They say in fundraising "every penny counts", I think the same could be said for microvolunteering "every second counts". 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

tedx talks: learning to fly

I had the chance back in July to see Bobby Umar speak at "Hello! My Name Is...", I really enjoyed his talk that evening on ways to network. What really spoke to me was that networking is about what you can do for other people. Bobby has also done a series of TED Talks. For those who don't know what those are (don't worry, I only recently learned), TED talks are presentations that are a maximum of 18 minutes about any ideas "worth sharing".

The presentation I watched this evening was called Learning to Fly, which was presented at UTSC back in February. I think this is an excellent video for university and college students, particularly at this time of year because this is the time to be asking questions about where you want to go on the path of life. For many students, this week was the first week they spent away from home and Bobby's discussions on leaving the nest really put into perspective how important that is. Others, who are going in to their second, or third, or fourth, (or fifth, or whatever) year, may be wondering what their plans are for the next year and how these new classes, new groups and new experiences will benefit them throughout their life. 

In less than 18 minutes, Bobby gives the audience the steps to "learn to fly". Bobby asks at the beginning of the video "Why not?" and goes on to say that it is a very important question. I thought that was absolutely true, while living overseas, I was constantly asked "Why are you here?" or "Why did you go?" and the best answer I could give any of those people was "Why not?". He discusses how you can live your super life and how you can start right now. He discusses how people wait for the perfect time to leave the nest, to get lost, to get a life. The reality is, there is no perfect opportunity, there will always be reasons not to do something but you have to ask yourself, if it is worth fighting for and is it worth the risk - if the answer is yes then it is likely that the right time is now. You have to ask yourself "Why not today?" because unfortunately, we can't go back and try yesterday again. I highly recommend this video for all the twenty-somethings out there who just aren't sure about their next step.

eggspectation at the eaton centre

Had to meet a girlfriend for brunch, as we all know most of the great brunches are on sunday so I wasn't sure what I'd do on a saturday.
We decided to go to eggspectation, so we could wander around the eaton centre after eating. It was much more cafe-style than I expected,  for whatever reason I was expecting a fancier place. Regardless,  my meal was delicious. I had the eggs florentine, and really enjoyed it. My meal including drink, tax and tip was about $18.50. I definitely have to go back, they had such large menu it was so hard to decide what to have. I would recommend this place if you're looking for a quick all day breakfast in that neighborhood, but want a little fancier than frans. Happy brunching!

Friday, September 6, 2013

first thursday at the ago

So, I haven't been to the AGO in years. Like most people, the last time I was there was on some long ago-forgotten field trip, long before the renovations. I'm not a huge art gallery fan, I always feel like I'm not appreciating the art enough but I heard about First Thursday, it sounded more up my alley. 

The first Thursday of every month the AGO re-opens at 7pm - there is special exhibits, bars, food and live entertainment. Tickets are $15 at the door and $12+$2 service fee online in advance. The regular price for the gallery is $19.50, so it is worth it if you don't want to spend the entire day at the gallery. Drinks were what you'd pay at a regular bar, about $6-$7/piece, depending on what you wanted. The food was small, appetizer sized - we had cripsy noodles and chicken as well as a steamed bun with chicken, it was $5 total. They also had a selection of desserts. It definitely wasn't a meal but it was delicious and a good amount just to munch on. Only the first and second floor are open during this time and as we were walking around they closed part of the second floor off, at about 9:45 - it seemed a little odd. The gallery was pretty busy and expect to stand in line, outside, even if you've purchased tickets in advance. It is a 19+ event but the crowd was definitely a mix. Art galleries have the reputation of being very quiet and a little empty (unless there is something famous on display) and so it was interesting to see basically the complete opposite, loud music and a lot of people, a real mix of people as well. 

As I said, I hadn't been to the AGO in years and I must say, I really enjoyed it. They even had a few stations where you could "create-your-own" pieces. We did one, related to their Ai Weiwei exhibit, where we created posters of what we stand for. 
Selection of "I Stand For" Posters
I would definitely recommend getting out to a First Thursday, it was fun and something new to do in the city. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

do you want to order food from an ipad?

Then Kiku is for you. This sushi restaurant opened near my work in Markham. They also have a location at Leslie & York Mills (but I've heard they don't have the ipads). I've only recently started eating sushi, I'm slowly coming around so my co-worker and I decided to try this place out. Our lunch was all-you-can-eat (I assume that's the only way people ever eat sushi?) and it was $14.50. All menu items were ordered using the ipad, it was pretty neat. I really liked it because it had clear pictures of the items, sometimes I mix up crazy and crazy dragon - or whatever they are - again, not a sushi expert. The pictures help me not order the wrong thing. As a sushi-novice, it is appreciated. Our food came fairly quickly and it was delicious. I recently went to a sushi place where the rolls were falling apart by the time they got to my table. The rolls were served in the typical 6-8 roll servings but pieces like tempura, dumplings and other small items were served in ones. It actually worked great because I may want yam tempura but not want 4 pieces, I thought that was great. We also got dessert, I opted for the chocolate mousse because I had obviously eaten too much and it really hit the spot. It was sweet and small, just what I needed. The decor was typical of sushi places I've been in the city and in Markham. They also had a group area where guests would sit on cushions on the floor, that could be fun for a group or birthday. 

If you're looking for a fun place with good food, I'd recommend Kiku for your next sushi craving. 

iPad used for ordering

Monday, September 2, 2013

thai food on eglinton

I love thai food and am often reluctant to try new places because I hate when it isn't good. 

Tonight we tried Lime on Eglinton, between Yonge and Mount Pleasant. I really enjoyed it. We had vegetable and chicken spring rolls and shared the thai chili cashew chicken, thai coconut-peanut chicken and classic street-side shrimp pad thai. It was obvious that the spring rolls were made from scratch, I hate when you can tell that they were frozen and they come out mucky. The thai chili cashew chicken had lots of chicken and plenty of vegetables, it wasn't actually spicy unless you actually ate the chilis. The coconut-peanut chicken was pretty good, even though I'm not a huge coconut fan and the pad thai was how I like my pad thai, fairly saucy but not too tomatoey (like spring rolls, most people know I hate spring rolls pad thai). We were four people and this was a reasonable amount of food, we maybe could have had a bit more but it really wouldn't have been necessary. The meals were reasonably priced as well, with most dishes on the menu between $10.95-$13.95, they also have a great lunch special menu. I would recommend this place when you're uptown, looking for a nice place to have a reasonably priced meal. Happy eating!

september is here!

Time for the cliche "I don't know where the summer has gone", every year it seems to get shorter and shorter, even though I'm not sure that is possible.

I love the summer, and the fall coming means that winter is coming. I'm trying not to be too upset about it. I will instead share the things I am excited to do in September. There's so much going on in the city and that will help me not miss summer (too much).

This Thursday, I will be attending the AGO's First Thursday for the first time. This is when they open up the AGO after hours, apparently there is DJs and a cash bar - really, its my kind of art experience. I will definitely be blogging about my experience.

Starting September 13th, it is Toronto Beer Week. I'm not sure how I never knew this existed in Toronto, I'm obviously a beer fan! I'm pretty excited. I haven't been able to pick out what I will be doing because there is just so much but I promise to share my experience. 

September 20th, I'll be seeing Sarah Silverman at JFL42. I've never attended Just for Laughs in Toronto. We also get to pick 4 smaller acts. I'm pretty excited because I love stand-up comedy. 

I know the focus is on September but I also want to mention an event I'll be attending in October. The Delicious Food Show is happening the weekend of October 25th. There is a Buytopia deal for tickets until midnight tonight.

I hope that everyone finds some awesome events to usher them into fall, I'm sure a lot will revolve around TIFF coming up next weekend. If you know events I should be checking out, leave a comment. Happy September!