Monday, 30 November 2009

the hip are sooo hip

Concert was amazing, my photos are not - I need to figure out how to get photos at concerts that aren't blurry because shouting at Gord Downie to hold still while he was on stage just didn't cut it

Anyway, I have some photos and videos that I'll upload later.. in the meantime, check out this professional shot of their previous concert - obviously not taken by me, but by this person at the National Post.

Highlights of the night were when they played the popular songs - Courage, New Orleans is Sinking, Fiddlers Green, At the hundredth Meridien, Ahead by a Century, Poets,... then again it was just fun to see this band in an intimate setting. The theatre is maybe the size of small clubs back at home, definitely beats lawn seats at a packed molson amphitheatre

Plus, I haven't seen so many hockey jerseys in one place since, well, since I was home. It made me miss good ol' Canada. Home in a few short weeks!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

you are ahead by a century

tomorrow night I'm going to see The Tragically Hip!

My brother said that the only time you ever really get to see the Hip is if you go to a show outside of Canada. This band is massive back at home, but outside of the true north strong and free, no one seems to know who they are.

Tickets are still available (which is a rarity for the hip) and the venue is pretty small - which means I'll be close enough to see the beads of sweat from Gord's forehead as he belts out 'new orleans is sinking'

I really hope they play some of their greatest hits - this is music I grew up to. I'm also looking forward to being in a room full of fellow Canadians!

Full report on the concert to come :)

reason #2394 why I want to move

I'm horribly hungover right now and a phone call from my favourite Viking tells me that the whole gang is over at their place and they're about to make a massive Sunday brunch of eggs, pancakes, sausages, and probably one of DA's famous bacon sandwiches..

but because I live on the stupid tube line that never runs, the thought of getting out of bed and taking the hour long bus ride down to join them right now just doesn't work...

PS. DA gets his first mention in my blog - are you happy now? xo

PSS. reason # 2395 the bathroom light blew therefore I now get to shower in the dark...

Friday, 27 November 2009

maybe I'm just on crack...

But I really thought it was snowing today on my way into work!

It was sort of a cross between flurries and light rain. But when I walked into the office and exclaimed excitedly to the office - 'Oh my god, it's snowing outside!'

All I got were funny looks

Pfftt.. damn brits.

PS. Can't wait for mother nature to 'dump' another two inches of snow down on London, thus shutting down the city entirely for a snow day

Thursday, 26 November 2009

kids these days...

Just got back from babysitting my neighbour's two children... I got a text from the mother J. this afternoon asking if I could come babysit tonight as she had an art class that she had to get to and her husband was out of town. As my plans for tonight had been cancelled, I said yes.

J and her family live in the flat below me, but unlike my old British flat with dodgy carpets, theirs is totally refurbished with a large open plan kitchen and living room area, wooden floors and massive floor to ceiling windows that back into their private yard. It's a totally different place, and to be honest, I've missed being in a family home.

J's children are adorable... L is 9 and the sweetest thing while M is 12, a bit mischievous with a little attitude, but still a good kid. We ate supper together, then M. raided the pantry for some chocolate, which we all shared and then I sat at the kitchen table helping L with her maths homework.

It was an idyllic scene of Martha Stewart-like serenity... the babysitter helping the little girl with her math homework, as she reads each question aloud and works out the answer on a piece of graph paper.

The only difference here is that the babysitter is frantically working out the answers on her blackberry because she can't do simple arithmetic in her head anymore, and the little boy isn't quietly reading a book, but is rather playing a video game which involves getting points for vandalism, beating up other kids and stealing panties from girls... did I mention that he's 12??

Amid cries of M going 'yah, take that' while his character smashes a cricket bat over another player's head, L is sweetly asking me how to solve a math problem that should be simple, but I have no idea how to do...

i feel old.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

goodbye my love...

It's with a heavy heart that I finally bid farewell to the love of my life, my new york boots.

These boots were bought on my first trip to New York - I took a few days off work a few weeks before Christmas to visit my friend K. who was living down there, working about three different jobs but living in the glamourous Soho district.

Your first time in New York is better than all the firsts in your life, and that's including sex. The sights and sounds that surround you, walking down busy streets, passing those iconic buildings, stopping in for a Magnolia cupcake then browsing the nearby used biography bookstore - I loved it.

I found these boots at a flea market in Hell's Kitchen. K. had already secured a pair of her own a few weeks earlier, and I was determined to find a pair for myself.

The first few stalls didn't have much in stock, most boots there were old cowboy boots, not was I had in mind. Then the next stall had a pair of vintage Cole Haans! But of course, they were about 2 sizes too small and no amount of forcing my feet in, gritting my teeth and saying 'they'll stretch' would make them fit my feet.

And then I spotted the boots. Dark caramel brown with a gold buckle on the side, the quintessential riding boots, in mint condition and fit my feet like a glove. Oh, how I loved you at first sight.

The boots and I have enjoyed a long and loving relationship looked upon many with envy. I've enjoyed the admiring stares we've gotten while out together on the town, and when someone inquired after them, I'd breezily say, 'oh these? I got them at a flea market in New York.'

Sadly, after 3 years of wear and tear, not to mention walking on the salt-encrusted streets of Toronto, the boots have finally met their end. A hole started to appear at the end of last winter, and not even my trusted shoe repairman could fix it. Today, while walking down Regents Street in the rain, my foot started to feel a bit wet, and when i looked down, a large hole on the side of my right boot was staring up at me.

So after a long reign, the new york boots are destined for the bin.

I think part of the reason i've held onto them so long and loved them so much is that they always remind me of those few short days I had in New York. That was a time just before my life started to get very complicated, and back then, I had no idea the kind of messy emotional roller coaster I'd be throwing myself into. When I first got those boots, my life was simpler and I hadn't made so many mistakes. Now that I'm throwing them out, I find myself shaking my head and wishing I could go back and redo so much.

Regret is such a bitch.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

A rainy sunday

I woke up this morning full of energy and drive to get things done.

I threw a load of laundry into the washer then went outside with the aim of doing a good 8 km run up to Hampstead Heath - one of my favourite spots in London. For those readers, it's a bit like High Park - you have hilly roads with expensive Victorian-style homes leading the way up to a rambling forest of paths and open green spaces, not to mention great views, ponds AND a petting zoo.

Coming back I stopped by the grocery store to get some provisions for the week. As I was paying, I looked outside and BAM just like that the skies had opened up and flooded. It was piss-pouring rain out and I had no umbrella and three bags of groceries to carry back to my flat (about a 10 minute walk away).

No matter, I threw on my headphones, put on a good song and ran like hell through the rain, bright orange Sainsbury bags bouncing off my legs as I splashed through puddles and slid on wet leaves, finally making my way home, soaked to the bone, exhausted and so happy to be back.

After showering and putting on some dry clothes, I set about making my typical Sunday meal. Because I often work quite late during the week, I like to make massive meals on the weekend that I can freeze and defrost during the week. I've done soups, casseroles and hearty meaty chili, but in light of the upcoming week of dreary cold rainy weather, I currently have a rich beef stew simmering on the stove.

My favourite source for recipes is Michael Smith. Yes, he might have this ingratiating, slightly patronizing way of speaking to the camera, but I absolutely adore his method of cooking and his recipes. I'm not a fancy cook, I like comfort food and Chef Michael encourages you you experiment with what you have in your kitchen, trusting your instincts and own ideas of what flavours go well together.

The recipe is perfect for a lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon.

Michael Smith's Classic Beef Stew (adapted by yours truly...)

* Pack of stewing beef
* A bunch of root veggies (carrots, onion, celery, parsnips, etc)
* Handful of small potatoes
* garlic
* one OXO beef bouillon cube
* some red wine
* olive oil
* some flour
* salt / pepper and whatever spices in your pantry you think work... I'm currently adding to my collection as spices are surprisingly expensive)

1. Roughly chop your veggies and set aside
2. Dust the beef in flour and toss with salt and pepper
3. Heat large pot with olive oil...if you live in a flat like mine with a scary gas stove, try not to singe the ends of your hair when lighting the stove
4. VERY IMPORTANT - brown the meat, that means laying each piece down and leaving it to brown before turning each piece over to brown the other sides... warning, you will probably get a little burnt with the splashes of hot olive oil, or you can be a wimp and wear a dish washing glove
5. Remove browned meat and set aside, then add the veggies (except for the potatoes) and some smashed cloves of garlic into the pot... let them brown up and soften (takes about 5-7 minutes)
6. Add a splash of red wine and stir that around, dislodging the brown bits at the bottom (that gives your stew flavour)
7. Add the beef and potatoes and top up the pot with boiled water so that it covers everything, throw in that bouillon cube too and swish that around
8. Put the lid on and let that simmer... go write a blog post about your cooking adventures, check facebook, curl up in bed with a good book and occasionally go and check on the stew to make sure the kitchen hasn't burnt down

Oh and a good tip from Chef Michael is to leave some chopped veggies to throw into the pot near the end of the cook time so that you have a nice mix of textures (soft and still crunchy) in the stew... I happened to forget this time around

Once it's done, enjoy some with a slice of crusty bread and let the rest cool down before bringing out the tupperware (some for the fridge, some for the freezer)

I also like to dole out smaller portions for the freezer, that way I can de-frost individual portions more easily, it just means that my freezer gets a little full of tupperware containers, but I'm sure my flatmates don't mind so much

Saturday, 21 November 2009

this disturbs me on so many levels

I came across this YouTube video of a fish kept alive after being deep fried, then eaten while its gills are still moving.

First of all, I'm not some insane animal activist. I love my steak and red meat, and I'm normally quite good with strange and exotic foods. I'm asian so I was brought up on chickens feet and tripe. But this video is just sickening. The camera pans on the fish, gills still moving, as chopsticks prod at it, tease and 'playfully' poke it, then finally start to rip pieces of flesh from the body, while the background is laughter and some woman saying 'I'm so scared' in an annoying cloying voice.

Although I felt nauseous after seeing this video (which is thankfully quite short), what disturbed me even more was reading some of the comments left behind.

I think growing up in Canada, in a place where multiculturalism is embraced, I tend to forget how much ignorance and stupidity is out there.

Yes, the Chinese cook who prepared that dish and the table of Chinese diners who feasted on this incredibly wrong dish aren't exactly a shining example of humanity. And yes, watching the video does make me angry and a little ashamed at my own culture for finding pleasure in this.

But reading comments on how Chinese people are all dirty c*nts and need to be exterminated... not just one, but many hateful comments...something's just not quite right in this world when people think like that

Thursday, 19 November 2009

the weather outside is frightful...

...but the fire is so delightful, and since we've got no place to go, let it snow! let it snow! let it snow!

If you've had the wonderful fortune of spending any time with me in the last few days, you'll recognize the above as something I've been humming and singing under my breath.

I love Christmas.

You know how everyone complains about how stores put out their christmas decorations right after Thanksgiving, and carols start getting played in stores... pretty soon it looks like Santa vomited everywhere from all of the Christmas cheer and merriment that gets strewn all over any available surface.

well. I love it.

I can't wait to do some early Christmas shopping with my wonderful Viking. I normally avoid Oxford Street on weekends like the plague, too many tourists and pushy shoppers running around, but with the lights lit up and a new Anthropologie store to explore, what's there not to love?

I think part of my Christmas cheery mood is also because i just watched 'A Christmas Carol' with T. tonight. The movie surprised me, not only because it turned out to be in 3D so we got to wear really cool shades, but it was a lot darker than I thought it'd be. I think I have a new favourite Christmas movie to add to my ever growing pile of movies to watch in the xmas season...

they include (in no particular order)

1. Love Actually (which will be made even better this year because I actually live in I only need to find a cute Brit who'll serenade me with flash cards at my front door)

2. Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (but the freaky claymation one from the 80s)

3. All I want for Christmas

4. Elf - who doesn't want to put maple syrup on everything?

5. It's a Wonderful Life (this year I want someone to lasso the moon for me)

6. Christmas with the Kranks

always second guessing

So I just booked a trip to Barcelona with my cousin in April. We were emailing back and forth, trying to decide on the best place to go... Sardinia, Portugal, the Amalfi Coast... the list went on, but sadly our budgets weren't getting any bigger and flights were getting more and more expensive as we deliberated.

Finally we decided on Barcelona, thinking that it would be the perfect mix of beach and city.

I jumped on booking my tickets with EasyJet as the price had already gone up about £20 in the last week.

Now I'm second guessing this decision... apparently Barcelona isn't really that warm in April, so sun bathing on the beach is out.

Damn...we'll just have to settle for some amazing architecture, yummy tapas bars and pitchers of sangria.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

things that make you go hmm...

I was going through my music library the other night to put together a mix cd for melon who's FINALLY investing in an ipod. While sifting through all of the music I've acquired completely legally, I came across some really old stuff that I haven't listened to in ages.

Have you ever listened to a song and been taken right back to a certain moment in your life or been reminded about a certain person? Music does that me all the time, a song comes on and memories just flood.

For instance:

- Keane's 'somewhere only we know' reminds me of trekking to the bar in Guyana in the pitch black, with only our headlights to guide our way down the dusty red dirt road, slight drunk off of rum and cokes, we would stumble down the road towards the dance music booming in the distance - and for some reason, at one point I remember singing this song

- David Gray's This year's love, when we were driving on the highway one night, he wordlessly reached over and took my hand in his and held it so tight, I thought it meant something

- Hawksley Workman 'Don't be crushed' - standing right at the front and watching Hawksley put a cough drop in his mouth every so often because he had a cold, then watching him belt out those notes, thinking that his vocal cords might break from the strain of it all

- David Usher 'black black heart' - singing along with the cd in my car, driving to timmies with R. and laughing so hard I wanted to cry when he would imitate the falsetto background vocals

- Fiona Apple 'never is a promise' - having my heart broken for the first time in high school, listening to this during my self-indulgent, angst-filled walks down to the lake and thinking, as I gazed poetically down at the crashing waves, that I would never get over him. (I did)

Sunday, 15 November 2009

New object of desire

This is why I need a digital SLR

My good friend Fraulein came to visit this weekend, so we did the obligatory London sightseeing, despite the severe wind and rain (typical London weather really).

One of the many places we hit up was the stunning St Paul's Cathedral. Ever since I stumbled upon the choir rehearsing one sunday evening, it's become one of my favourite spots in London. Whenever I look at it in the skyline, I always think that it's a backdrop to a movie set - it's just unreal.

You're not supposed to take photos inside, but everyone does. Every so often one of the security guards will admonish you for using a camera. Like a guilty child stuck with their hand in the cookie jar, you apologize and lower your camera, then quickly take another photo when they look away.

I have my lovely point and shoot Sony camera that my parents bought me a few years ago. The great thing about this camera is that it's pink and small, so it easily fits into any evening bag, or in my pocket. But when taking any photo when the lighting is crap, like let's say...the inside of a church, the camera fails miserably. Just compare the below...

Here's my sad attempt...

And now Fraulein's with her fancy SLR...(note this was taken at the exact same time, and relatively at the same location in the cathedral)

Poor Sony camera, you may be pink and cute, but that SLR totally just kicked your ass

Sunday, 8 November 2009

D-Day tomorrow

Tomorrow is the start of World Travel Market - the biggest tourism/travel trade show in the UK. Four days which I have heard dubbed as the 'anti-Christmas', 'hell on earth', 'exciting', 'the reason I started drinking', just to name a few.

Pretty well all of the clients I work on will be there, so it'll also be the first time I get to meet them. If I wasn't so tired from the long hours at work, I'm sure I'd be a lot more nervous. I always feel self-conscious when I meet clients for the first time. No matter how professional I try to appear, I always end up feeling like they aren't going to take me seriously based on how young I look. To make matters worse, I'll be running around the convention centre like a mad woman, so heels are out of the question.

I heard once that the most successful men in business tend to be at least 6 feet and caucasian. Does that mean that being asian and 5'1 I'm just screwed?

Wearing a pair of kick ass black heels into any meeting or function does wonders for my confidence. I mean, just look at these...

When I wear shoes like that, it doesn't matter how young I look, how short I am, how little experience I have... with shoes like that I can conquer the world and the tall people who rule it.

PS. Huge points for whoever can correctly name the designer of the above pumps!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Happy Guy Fawkes!

Leave it to the brits to celebrate some guy who failed in trying to blow up the House of Parliaments. I'm sitting in bed, toasty warm under my covers right now and I can hear the sounds of fireworks going off outside.

It's been manic at work lately as we all frantically prep for this massive trade show next week. I haven't been home before 10 every night and actually would still be at the office now had my manager not ordered me home at around 7pm, with the words

'Poppet, you'll be here late tomorrow night anyways, so go home'

I love that she calls me Poppet

I hate that I'll be a the office late on a Friday night.

Anyway, time for some down time.... had a yummy pizza dinner, red wine supplied by my kiwi flatmate S. and now episodes of Mad Men await.

Happy Bonfire night all

Monday, 2 November 2009

with glowing hearts...

Melon came back (finally) from her travels, which included hopping from Taiwan to Houston and a short stop in her hometown of Vancouver. I was so excited to see her again, as she's the first close friend I made here in London - and she's just that awesome and can always be counted on when I have a craving for parma ham. But when I saw her, I was even more excited when I saw her recent purchase from Canada.

These are THE BEST MITTENS EVER. Period. I am totally lusting over them right now and can't wait to pick up a pair for myself when I fly back to Canada in December. I can't imagine a better way to keep my hands toasty warm during those cold London winter days AND show a little patriotic pride..especially when I'm watching Team Canada kick ass during the olympic hockey games.

Sad news is that when I went online to check them out, they're temporarily out of stock - I might have to put an order in with Santa (aka my mother) soon to avoid disappointment this holiday season.

Incidentally if any of you are feeling particularly generous, my size is adult S-M....C'mon, I'm sure I've made someone's nice list this year....anyone?

Sunday, 1 November 2009

I miss my violin

My good friend and former quartet/jam sessions cellist, Cz, sent me this link the other day

The Impossible Duet - Handel Halvorsen Passacaglia

Even if you don't play a musical instrument, it's clear that this guy is amazing. I recognize the piece as well. My brother (who's an infinitely better violinist than I ever was) used to play it. I can't remember whether he ever successfully tackled it, or whether he just attempted to play it, because as you'll hear and see - it's a freaking difficult piece.

I haven't touched my violin since moving here. I miss it. Even though I was never very good, I still love playing music. Some of my happiest memories involve music...whether it was late night jam sessions with my Kameleon crew (who said you can't play Aerosmith on violin??), or the traditional Harvey's dinner with my orchestra friends before our MYO concerts.

Like every other Chinese kid on the block, my parents put me in violin lessons at a pretty young age. And like every snot-nosed, spoiled kid, I hated it. I never practiced, I practically threw up every time I had to go on stage, and I won't even get into how I was before auditions and exams.

As the years went on though, I grew a newfound respect for my violin. Sure, I wasn't really good at all - but I was good enough to play with other people and appreciate the music we made together. I learned to practice - and took pleasure in the end result from hours of practicing the same passage over and over again. I loved performing in ensembles. I loved rehearsing even more, the sense of camaraderie and sheer fun that comes from spending hours together, working as a team. When I play violin, I don't worry about my job, my failed relationships, where I'm going in life... I am 100% focused on reading the music and translating that onto my violin.

I may not be good, hell - I'm actually pretty awful for someone who's had over 15 years of private lessons - but I'm glad I stuck with it. Because so much of what I've experienced in my short 27 years has come about because of that wooden contraption of gut strings and horsehair.