Adventures

Camping Is Fun!

camping-is-fun

Last week my roommate asked if I wanted to go camping with a few friends of ours and to be honest I was hesitant to say yes. I hadn’t been camping in over 10 years and could only remember one thing: being cold the entire time. Despite this, I ended up going because I didn’t have anything else planned, and binge watching Netflix is not the way to spend a beautiful summer long weekend.

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Since we had no camping gear, we bought a cheap tent at Walmart, got some other essentials and headed to Spray Lakes just outside of Canmore. I had no sleeping bag and didn’t plan to buy one, so I brought a lot of blankets to build myself a nice cocoon. We had no plans other than to go out and enjoy nature. What a concept….not planning.

It ended up being an amazing 24 hour experience (we could only stay 1 night), out in nature with no technology connecting us to the outside world. Being a self admitted technology addict, you’d think I couldn’t go five seconds without my phone. Technically this is true as my phone is also my camera, and I love to take pictures. However I mananged and must say it was great. No dings or pulsing lights to notify me about things that didn’t really matter.

We chatted, sat in the silence of nature, looked up at the gorgeous stars at night, told ghost stories around the fire, and went canoeing on a glacier fed lake to name a few of our activities. It was everything I needed for the weekend. No noise, no distractions. Just the world in all it’s awesomeness.

This experience reminded me that the best things happen when you get outside your comfort zone. Take the leap, jump, hop or whatever it is to make your life awesome! For the record, I wasn’t even that cold, and now I look forward to my next opportunity to camp again.

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New Year, New Adventures

As I sit down to write my very first blog for 2012, there is so much happening behind the scenes in my life. At this point, I cannot discuss in detail. But give me a week or so and you’ll know exactly to what I’m referring to. I’ve been attempting to stay sane after being home for just over a year now. The urge to pack up my life and take another grand adventure seeps out of my pores 24/7. I’m happy to FINALLY be working in advertising and getting experience with social media. A few years ago if you told me I’d be getting paid to be on Facebook and Twitter all day I would have laughed in your face. At times, I truly feel there is an unseen force guiding me in the direction I’m meant to be. Two years ago the job I’m doing right now didn’t even exist, and 2012 is going to be a year of massive change for companies and the way they use social media. It’s a good career to be working in, with lots of prospects down the road. Other than finally getting a job, 2011 was a tough year for me. But for every part of 2011 I didn’t enjoy, I did learn and grow a lot because of my experiences, so it wasn’t a total write off. And I do remind myself that at the end of the day, I’m better off than 99% of the world, so I’m very thankful for that. Here’s a very quick recap of  my 2011.

I was unemployed for a bit and applying like mad to advertising agencies, I got a few calls and interviews. Interview A was for an internship at a really shady web marketing firm. I told them thanks but no thanks. Interview B was for another internship that I bombed in the interview mainly because the person interviewing me didn’t really click with my personality. Odd considering I can get along with almost anyone. I then had two interviews for real jobs at BIG, MASSIVE, advertising agencies in downtown Toronto. The first was for a media assistant position, which I knew was totally unqualified for, and went to the group interview for that. Had to talk about myself to the group and write a geography and math test. Ended up not getting that to no surprise.

I had forgotten I applied at Apple Retail while still in Florida, and they gave me a call in February. I went on a group interview (very similar to Disney), followed by an interview with the store manager. I got hired, went through 4 days of Apple Brainwashing and started at Apple Square One shortly after. I only lasted 2 months until I decided it wasn’t for me. Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy getting screamed at in person and over the phone because people’s products didn’t work. this was 85% of the job. This coming from someone who has worked at Disney and Shoppers Drug Mart and has been in almost every possible crazy customer situation. I met with the store manager and told her why I wanted to leave and she was great and fully understood.

During the time at Apple, I got an interview for an account management position. I had 5 different interviews: Human Resources, 2 Account Managers (separate), another Account Manager who flew from NEW YORK CITY to meet me! And finally the Account Director on the phone from NYC. After the excruciating wait to find out my future, they went with the other person. Mainly over a bit more experience. To say I was crushed is an understatement, but I got over it.

I decided to head out to Calgary for the summer and try working out there. I packed my car, drove across the U.S. and Canada and arrived at Craig’s house. The living room became my bedroom, and we spent a great deal of time drinking, laughing and having a great time. Sadly, I couldn’t find work out there, but did apply for an advertising agency here in Ontario and ended up getting hired there. After 6 weeks in Alberta, I packed up again and drove home. I’ve been here ever since and am glad to be working in the advertising industry. My life isn’t that exciting at the moment, but I know it’s just a lull. Everything goes in cycles, and I’m in the part where it’s just about to reset.

I’m headed to Florida in a week to see some of my best friends and have 9 days of adventures. I also started a blog, Theme Park Canuck, to showcase my blogging skills and passion for theme parks. It helps keep me busy, creative and inspired.

I’m not sure what’s in store for me in 2012, but signs point to awesome.

P.S. Something I want to start doing is a recap of the notable events each week. Mainly because I’m lazy and bullet points are faster 🙂

Highlights of my week:

  • The return of my favourite blog ever, The World According to C-Mac. A great friend of mine took a tiny break (a year and a half to be specific) from writing her fantastic, hilarious and inspirational blog. Even if you don’t know her personally, it’s a great read.
  • Planning my Florida adventures. I leave on Saturday and couldn’t be more excited to visit great friends, have some awesome adventures and be in my happy place.
  • Discovering the television show Shameless when I was sick this week. So good I watched 13 episodes in 3 days. It’s about a totally F-ed family that shocks after every turn. Starring William H. Macy as the screwed up dad.
  • Secret project in the works. Please stand by.

 

Bannock: What Le Cellier at Disney could be

Yesterday, my friend Steph took me out to lunch at a brilliant gem in the heart of downtown Toronto called Bannock. Right on the corner of Queen St. and Bay St., it’s in a former corner of the Bay store. The first thing I mentioned when I saw the menu was that this is what Le Cellier in the Canadian Pavilion at EPCOT should be. Don’t get me wrong, I love Le Cellier. It’s just that now the whole “Disney Parks” thing has taken over, it’s lost much of the authenticity it once had due to corporate homogenization. Bannock on the other hand is pure authentic Canadian food & drink. We’re talking Chinook Salmon, PEI Mussels, Alberta Beef, Butter Tarts & Canadian Wines. I mean they garnish their Caesar with maple glazed bacon! You don’t get more Canadian than that.

Bannock Menu

Described as “part grab-and-go café, part coffee shop, and part dine-in restaurant. The architecture reflects the menu – eclectic and approachably Canadian – featuring antique pine and hemlock reclaimed from one of the Queen’s wharfs that sat under the waters of Lake Ontario at York Street for over a hundred years. Bannock’s honest approach to food is rooted in familiar, wholesome ingredients that are reflective of Canada’s rich regional and cultural diversity, delivered in an innovative and playful way. Everyday classics are revitalized as the Chefs pay homage to traditional Canadian comfort foods, putting our cultural favourites front and centre. Bannock breads are integrated throughout the entire menu including sweet breakfast bannocks, artisan sandwiches and pizzas. Bannock garnishes are also added to soups, salads and main courses.”

Bannock Bread Basket
Bannock Caesar

We started with the Bannock bread basket, which has a garlic-goat cheese spread at the bottom to dip the artisan breads into. Very tasty and not too overwhelming in size. I had the Bannock Caesar made with vodka, sherry, clamato, salsa and a candied bacon garnish. Steph had the HBC, which was a concoction named after the Hudson’s Bay Company made with vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice, peach puree and fresh lime. For her main, she had the Mac & Cheese, which she said was fantastic and much too big to finish. I had the Free Run Turkey Burger with heirloom tomatoes. It was garnished with a dill mayo, onion ring and avacodo spread. While a bit too salty at times, overall delicious.We also shared sweet potato fries with dill mayo. Also delicious.

The HBC
Mac & Cheese
Turkey Burger

While the decor may be a bit too city-chic for the Disney crowd, the food on the menu would definitely please. This menu was inspired by Canada in every aspect. Maybe Le Cellier can learn a thing or two about how to showcase authentic Canadian food in a fine-dining setting. Overall a fantastic experience that I will be sure to visit again. What do you think of Le Cellier compared to real Canadian cuisine? Leave a comment and let me know! Also, check out Yelp for reviews on the rest of the menu.

Wine List

 

 

Adventures in Toronto- One of a Kind Show

Yesterday I ventured into Toronto to visit my family for our annual Christmas get together. Afterwords, I hit up the One of A Kind show with my friend Steph. It’s the first time I have ever gone, and it was a great event. It’s held each year at the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place. It’ a massive show with hundreds of vendors to purchase and sample from. While there were lots of cool products to buy, the food was my favourite part. The sampling being worth the $14 admission price alone. We tried fruitcake, sauces, dips, different flavoured vinegar, chocolate, lobster paste and many other delectable creations. While it was enough to keep us going for the afternoon, we were ready for dinner after a few hours.

Pickled Fiddleheads
Samples...yummy!
Really cool rock lamp

My friend Steph recommended we head to this place on Queen West called Parts & Labour. The main dining area has 8 long tables where  you can sit with strangers and enjoy your dinner. It’s the first time I’ve ever done that, and was pretty cool. As long as you don’t mind strangers staring at your food while you eat. I ordered a Maudite, one of the many varieties of Unibroue that I happen to love from my time working at Le Cellier in EPCOT. The brand was one of the featured Canadian beers we had. I’ve never seen them on tap, so this was a nice surprise. This beer has a great legend, as do all of their varieties.

“Maudite (damned) was the first strong beer to be retailed in Quebec. The word “Maudite” refers here to the Legend of “Chasse-Galerie” a tribute to the early lumberjacks of Nouvelle-France. The legend tells of eight daring woodsmen who, during winter, yearned to be home for the Holidays. They conjured up the Devil and all of them pledged their soul in return for flying them in their canoe to their village. As they sailed across the moonlit sky, one of them managed to free himself from the pledge by invoking the name of God, which caused the flying canoe to come crashing down to earth.”

I chose the 10 oz. strip loin for dinner, accompanied by bone marrow butter, roasted cremini mushrooms, hand cut fries, demi glace. It was the most tender and delicious steak I’ve had in a long time! Perfectly salted, with the delicious demi glace that I am in love with. The atmosphere was really cool at this place, you can even sit at a table in the kitchen if you make a reservation. That way you can see all the action going on. While tempting, I’ve spent enough time in kitchens for this option to be very unappealing. It’s just not magical to sit in the  kitchen when you’ve been a server.

The most epic steak I've ever tasted!
Steph at Parts & Labour

Lastly we headed to the Gladstone Hotel, a place that’s so hip they don’t say it’s hip anymore. The place was packed with the usual mix of Toronto urbanites, plus a group of about 30 people dressed as Santa. I’m assuming a Christmas Party? Getting drinks took a while, no big deal as it was Saturday night. What can one expect? My issue was the attitude the bartender gave me as I handed my VISA over to her to pay. She asked if I wanted to start a tab, and I said no. Thinking that after waiting 20 minutes to get a drink, I didn’t want to stand around until Sunday afternoon to get my card back. She got all huffy and as she passed me the terminal, informed me that there’s a $50 minimum, and that this time she’d do it as a favour. Next time, don’t do me any favours. Lose the attitude and maybe put up a sign so I don’t break any unwritten payment rules. This situation just reaffirmed why I don’t like Toronto, but whatever. No one died right! As it was karaoke night, we were right in the middle of a train wreck of entertainment. As expected, the budding superstars were terrible and that’s okay. I’m not a fan of seeing people who can actually sing do karaoke. The highlight of the night was a tone-deaf woman who sang “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. It was terrible, embarrassing and watching her made me cringe. Now that’s a good karaoke singer!

Steph & Brad at The Gladstone

Niagara Falls Adventures

Over the weekend I got to take a quick trip to Niagara Falls with my friend Steph. She works for ISX, which is an educational tour company that does trips to French Canada, Chicago, New York City and other fun places. I was invited along as a complimentary buddy, and had a blast. Not only did I get to see Steph’s tour guide persona, I checked off a few things from my list of to-do’s in the Niagara Falls area. Our first stop was Konzelmann Estate Winery for a tour and tasting. I’ve never been there, and love wine so it was exciting to try a different place. The highlight was a peach wine they had, very fruit forward and tasty. Also had a 13.5% alcohol volume, tasty!

Next up we went to Niagara on the Lake for lunch then headed to The Falls. I was lucky enough to get a complimentary ticket for Maid of the Mist, something I have never experienced in all my trips to The Falls. Needless to say I got wet, but not nearly as much as I expected. I must mention this attraction is run like a well oiled machine. They have it set up so they can move large groups of people in and out quickly, thereby minimising wait times and maximizing profits. I also made friends as I usually do in random places. A nice couple that go to U of T for their medical degrees. I’m normally fine with doing things alone, but its nice to have people to talk to when your out doing things by yourself. They also had the usual assortment of tacky souvenirs at the end as they usher you through the giftshop. Just like Disney. I love it!

Lastly I had some free time so headed around the tackiness of Clifton Hill and people watched while the rain poured down. I checked out the Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, which was a hugh disappointment. Refer to the blog below for details.