Category Archives: Bits and Pieces

Out with the old…

Finally got around to doing some things around the house that we’ve dreamed of doing since we bought the place.

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Christmas, New Year’s, etc.

Just a couple of quick pictures from our Christmas and updates. We went to Hong Kong and Manila over the Christmas break. The whole trip was surprisingly restful but it was such a joy to meet up with a good friend in Hong Kong and spend time with our families. Manila was incredible, I always get a feeling of comfort whenever I’m there and Catherine seemed to enjoy her first trip to the south pacific. Upon coming back to Canada we were greeted with sheets of ice everywhere (in our absence we missed two big ice storms). In work related news, Cat interviewed and accepted a contract (ie. permanent) position with the public school board here in Kingston. This has been an immense blessing and source of thanksgiving for us as we look to starting a family in the near future.

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Another Visit to the Big Apple

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you will notice that we love New York. We tend to go once or twice a year, and a few weekends ago, we drove down with Kelvin’s parents for some shopping, exploration, and good food.

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Day 1 is almost always the same. We leave bright and early (like 7 am early), stop in Binghampton, NY to fill up gas, then head to Woodbury Commons. I am usually the conservative one when it comes to shopping – the one who counts her American pennies. However, this time I hit the jackpot at J.Crew and found too many things that would significantly improve my wardrobe, including this jacketthis skirt, and these shorts. We continued our shopping at Garden State Plaza and the local Ikea (apparently they have things that we don’t have) before checking in late at night at our usual spot – the Marriott Glenpointe in Teaneck, NJ.

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Day 2 was a whirlwind. My mother-in-law and I woke up super early to take the bus into the city (167T gets us there in 20 minutes). We rushed over to line up at Dominique Ansel for these infamous cronuts, and proceeded to wait for two hours in line with other hungry patrons. Okay, some people were lining up there so they could flip their cronuts for some crazy profit…but I didn’t think the extra $30 would be worth that amount of time. Anyways, Kelvin and his dad joined us in line around 9:15, and after a few scares of sold-out cronuts, we got our hands on a box.

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The cronuts – a mix between croissants and donuts – were $5 a pop and you were allowed to buy 2. Kelvin and I shared a box of two and that was plenty for us. It was in fact delicious, and the texture was really interesting yet familiar, but I still can’t say whether it was worth the wait. I suppose it’s one of those things you must try once in your life and once you’ve had it, you’re good. The macarons were slightly disappointing. But perhaps this is because I have yet to find macarons that I really really like. Maybe I don’t know what they’re supposed to taste like? We also ordered the DKA (very good, and you can get it any time of day) and the little egg sandwich (also priced at $5 and quite yummy )

Dominique Ansel Bakery on Urbanspoon

With our stomachs full and the city beckoning, our shopping for the day commenced. We went all over town, from Muji to Uniqlo to Longchamp and Kinokuniya. But the place that really jumped out for me was Suit Supply. This is where Kelvin went to get fitted for a suit for our wedding, and he liked it so much that he decided to go back. Now, I’ve never really understood the intricacies of a suit and the differences between cuts and what not, but I imagine this is shopping heaven for the well-dressed man. We entered through this nondescript doorway and were greeted by these men whose suits were so well-tailored it blew my mind. Needless to say, Kelvin did not come away empty-handed. That suit will likely be making an appearance at the next wedding we are to attend this summer.

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Later that afternoon, we went for a stroll along High Line (so excited for their continued expansion!) and in Chelsea Market. We tried a new place for dinner – Cull and Pistol – and quite enjoyed ourselves. Kelvin and I recently discovered our love for oysters so were keen to try them again. We ordered the raw sampler, a lobster roll, and the fish tacos. The littleneck clams were not my favourite, and I found the oyster selection a bit too briny for my liking, but the shrimp was sweet and enormous. We didn’t get any crab claws because they were out :( We got extra oysters instead. The fish tacos were average, but the lobster roll was out of this world. There were huge chunks of lobster and the flavouring was just right. Overall we enjoyed our experience there. Plus, they gave us orange gelato at the end of the evening so we would leave with a sweet taste in our mouths. Two thumbs up!

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Cull & Pistol on Urbanspoon

We rounded off the evening with a trip to The Filling Station in Chelsea Market, where we bought some Cranberry Pear balsamic vinegar. It is the most delicious things ever and I use it all the time now. It is essentially vinaigrette and comes in a cute little bottle that’s the same size as the California Garlic Olive Oil we bought at Kingston Olive Oil Co.

Day 3 started off with service at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. My goodness what a refreshing service it was! Solo cello with piano = God’s reminder of the beauty of classical music. I was moved deeply by the worship as well as the sermon, and it was exactly what I needed. Though Psalm 23 is not an unfamiliar passage, I was reminded of our constant search for identity and how we so often are looking for it in the wrong places.

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After church, we headed to Korea Town for lunch, then to City Hall to embark on our Brooklyn Bridge adventure. I’ve never walked across the Brooklyn Bridge before, so this was very exciting! Too bad construction was happening so a lot of the areas were boarded up. Regardless, we made it across, and found ourselves in the calmer, slower-paced borough of Brooklyn. We wandered over to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, had pizza at Grimaldi’s, and even stumbled upon a food fair. Next time we come to NYC, we definitely need to spend more time here.

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After a few hours, we headed back to Manhattan to pick up some Shake Shack before bussing back to New Jersey…because you always need to eat Shake Shack when you’re in New York.

Day 4 was a big box store day. Costco. Walmart. Because apparently things are cheaper in the States…who knew? We also stopped in Syracuse at Destiny USA (we see billboards for it all the time here in Kingston) and it did not disappoint! Kelvin finally found the Vans that he had been searching all over New York for. Plus they have an indoor ropes course. And it only costs $7.99. I am going back there…just for the ropes course. Routine stop at Watertown following that for some Chipotle, and we were home before 9.

And there you have it…another successful adventure in the big city.

A Night on the Town

So some exciting news…I got an LTO! That stands for long-term occasional position, aka I am supply teaching in the same class for an extended period of time. I am so excited (and feeling so blessed) to have been given this opportunity, and I am looking forward to planning, getting to know the staff more, and then meeting all my students. That’s already more about my work than I think I’ve ever shared on this blog, but I wanted to share so much because it melds everything that I love in life into one lovely opportunity to nurture creativity.

To celebrate, Kelvin came to pick me up from school and we headed downtown for some yummy food. We made a pit stop first at the relatively new Kingston Olive Oil Co.

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In addition to over a dozen types of balsamic vinegar, the store was full of many different types of olive oil. We tried a number of them with the bread samples they provided and ended up getting an infused olive oil – California Garlic – to take home with us. We only had a little taste, but already the aroma was overwhelming. We couldn’t resist!

We wandered around the area a bit longer, then headed to one of our favourite restaurants – Le Chien Noir – for dinner. It can be a bit on the pricier side to eat here, but thanks to a gift certificate from my wonderful co-workers, this meal was on the house!

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To start, we ordered one of their daily specials – a swordfish tartare on a bok choy leaf with heirloom carrots and lotus root chips. They were heavenly. We even recommended it to the table beside us! The swordfish had a good weight to it, and it was so fresh and flavourful. The chip added this much needed crunch that just tied everything together.

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Because we were feeling particularly adventurous, we each also ordered one single oyster. We were both very hesitant, but after our first oysters, we were sold. We each ended up ordering another one! I discovered I like clean, sweeter oysters. Green Gables for the win!

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Our main courses were definitely up to par with the rest of our meal. I had the burger (cooked to medium, as you can only with local meat). Everything came together deliciously and I was happy I made the right choice. Earlier that night, I had a really hard time choosing between the burger and the chicken (fried mac and cheese!!).

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Kelvin opted for the boar chop (a smaller portion but great value and the perfect size considering all the other things we had ordered). He loved the flavour and the spatzle and was also thoroughly happy with his meal. The only thing to note was that the apple salsa (?) was a bit spicy.

We’ve been to Le Chien Noir a number of times in the past few months, but this was by far our best experience this year. We still have some money left on our gift card…and we will be back to enjoy more oysters…but this time for 30% off during happy hour.

Le Chien Noir Bistro on Urbanspoon

The Black Hole that is Costco

It is virtually impossible to go to Costco and come out empty-handed.

Pretty much right after we got married, Kelvin and I went to Costco to sign up for our memberships. Since then, we have been going to Costco on a weekly basis. Sometimes we spend a little, sometimes we spend a lot, but always, we leave with something wonderful for our home.

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These bowls we actually bought before we got our membership (we went in with some friends…), but we have been using them so much that we wanted to share the goodness with the rest of the world. Kelvin was hesitant to buy them because they were so fruity-looking, but I convinced him otherwise. He has since changed his mind. He uses them all the time.

We love them because the box came with four different bowls that nest into each other for easy storage. The big plus is that they each have lids, which are so handy for transporting the bowls to potlucks and what not. They’re still at Costco for some ridiculously low price (I want to say $19.99). Trust us, they’re a steal.

Mr. & Mrs. Tang

For the past year, Kelvin and I have been planning our wedding. Finally, this Sunday, June 2, we tied the knot! It was a wonderful time had with our friends and family and we were so happy that the day was bathed in love, laughter, and God’s presence. We drove back to Kingston from Toronto on Monday morning and the transition began. On Tuesday morning, we sat down together and “synced” our moleskine agendas – a ritual that we will be doing every Sunday night from here on in – and last night, we finished off the last of our unpacking and house cleaning. Now, we are looking forward to the process of adjusting to life together as a married couple. Over the next few weeks (or months), we will be doing a series of posts about our planning process, vendors, and all those little details, but for now, here are two photos taken by Kelvin’s cousin.

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Our Engagement Session!

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Way back in October, we had our engagement session done with our photographer Lindsay from HRM photography. We had a blast running around our alma mater and beyond, and it was great to be able to meet and work with Lindsay before our wedding day.

HRM does blog posts of all their sessions (for the past few months we have been going through all of them! =P) and we were excited to see the photos they would post for our session. We are happy to say that it is now up, and you can enjoy them by clicking here. Have fun!

Christmas

Just some shots from what we’ve been up to over the Christmas break. It’s really great that Cat and I are able to work in similar fields, which means that most of our vacations coincide with each other (except I don’t get summers off!).

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Our annual family Christmas party was in Kingston this year, and it just so happened that some of my cousins’ little ones from a branch of the family that we don’t see often joined us this year! So my brother and I decided to host a gingerbread house event (it wasn’t really a contest) for the little guys at his place. My cousin at the end of the table there is an architect in Montreal so he was REALLY into it with his open floor plan gingerbread condo complex.

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Things were so busy this year between me traveling for work shortly before the Christmas break and heading to Toronto to spend some time with Cat’s family that my parents didn’t get their presents until after Christmas day! Early on Boxing Day my brother and I headed over to my parents place to give them in person.

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Catherine and I were totally loaded up on gift cards from Christmas and we decided to spend most of them on home decor. I ended up getting some JBL Duet II speakers for a real bargain at Home Sense and Catherine picked up a few more coffee table books. We also decided that we should spend some time during the break sprucing up our dining room. First part of the project was to remove the horrendous wallpaper trim that has been assaulting my eyes since we first bought the place. I REALLY hated that wallpaper.

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Next phase was taping off everything. I originally wanted to try painting the whole main floor, but we quickly realized that it would be way too much work. You can see our little test strip of paint over where Cat was – it was really hard to judge how the room would look based on that one tiny little portion.

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This is after two coats of Ultra Pure White by Behr. I love the way it brightens up the space, even at night the white paint makes such a huge difference. We’re going to have to reintroduce colour on that main wall there so that it doesn’t look so washed out, but we’re both really pleased with the outcome so far. This project only cost us about $50 (plus $20 for lunch from Kenko!) which is HUGE savings compared to hiring someone to do it but I’m not sure if I would be as thrilled to do the rest of the main floor. It’s a lot of work doing the prep work for painting (spackle, sanding, washing) and our entry way has a lot of tight corners. Oh well, maybe in the spring.

EDIT: We finished up the dining room today. This is what it looks like!

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Listening to the Radio

Tonight, I gave Kelvin a hand with his prep for work. We sat together on the study floor, surrounded by folders and workbooks. While we did this, we listened to the radio. They were just talk shows – the first a rant by Gail Vaz-Oxlade (of Til Debt Do Us Part) and the second a discussion about libraries vs. Starbucks on CBC Radio One. There was something very soothing about listening to the radio, with its mildly static voices and the palpable on-air quality. It made me want to curl up in a chair and dim the lights.

Some might say that the radio is a dying form of media, that soon people will cease to listen to it, but I beg to differ. I listen to the radio constantly in the car, often via the Internet when I’m working, and every so often broadcast in my home through my iPod dock. Maybe I should look into a local radio station and learn more about what community radio is all about? Perhaps I can score a slot to talk about my next community initiative?

Anyways, what about you? Do you listen to the radio?

Packages

I think that waiting for packages to arrive is one of the most exciting/thrilling/frustrating/annoying activities in our modern lives. From the moment we place our order to the time that we receive our tracking information to the very day of expected delivery it’s a never ending roller coaster of emotions!

I was talking to my mom yesterday about how every time a car passes by the house I’ll run to a room with windows facing the street just to see if it’s the UPS/Fed-ex/Purolator/LDH guy. And every time I would come back to my room a little bit more disappointed than the previous visit. My mom laughed and mentioned that I’m a lot like our family friend Betty, who is in her eighties. When Betty was younger their family would order items from the Sears catalogue (!!) through regular mail (!!) and she would love the anticipation but had no idea when her packages would arrive. I can relate a lot to Betty, but I’m also glad that we live in an era where we have tracking information and the internet to complete our orders.

Hidden Gems

One of the really neat things we love about living in Kingston are all hidden gems like the little restaurants and bakeries that have informally cemented themselves as practically institutions in the city. Fardella’s Classic bakery is one of those places. I remember going there when I was younger and getting cheesecakes and quiches for special occasions. They’ve recently relaunched themselves as a internet cafe/breakfast/lunch place to go along with their bakery and so Catherine and I decided to give it a try. It’s a really cute and intimate spot with vintage decor all over the place. The sandwiches were really delicious but the highlight were definitely the baked goods, which I clearly forgot to take a picture of!

(A)typical Saturday

Saturdays in Kingston are typically now our free days. I’ll spend a couple of hours at work in the morning and by lunchtime the day is ours again. Our favourite lunch place to hit is a little Japanese hole-in-the-wall in Portsmouth Village near the university. I don’t want to say the name here because this joint is so small and so good that people will no doubt flock to it in droves.

Lunch here is always so so so soooo good and typical to Kingston, the owners of this Japanese establishment are Korean but the food is delicious and the value is just right. During lunch today Cat and I tried to map and time out how to best use the rest of our day. We decided that we would first go for a hike at Marshlands Conservation area along Front Road. Catherine has been wanting to show me this place ever since she went on one of her biking excursions down there.

The trail itself, I’ll admit, was a bit boring. It’s certainly not the lengthiest or most varied trail in Kingston, but it definitely has it’s charm. We came across a couple of link ups to the train tracks, which brought out the inner vagabond in us. There was also these really neat crossing points that had the trail turn into a wooden plank bridge across the marshlands. Also unlike typical trails this one was a straight line, meaning that once we got to the end point (Queen Mary Road) we had to turn around on the same trail. I don’t know how often we’ll come back to this trail for our hikes since it’s quite far from where we live but it’s pretty awesome for people who live close by!

After the hike we decided that we should head to the Hudson Bay Company at the mall. Earlier an aunty from our former church dropped off a gift card on behalf of the moms and dads of the youth that we used to work with. It was such a sweet and generous thing of them to do. We’ve been in the market for a vacuum cleaner for the past 4-6 months and much to Cat’s resentment I’ve been holding us off on the purchase until I’ve “completed my research”, which basically means scouring the internet for vacuum reviews. Appliances are kind of my thing so Cat is more than happy to let me have at it, even if it means our carpets go unclean for longer periods of time. Just as an obligatory hygiene note: we have been borrowing my parents’ spare vacuum for the past little while, so our house IS clean!

When it comes to picking out appliances or other products I’ll turn to my friend Terry, who got engaged around the same time as Catherine and I, and we’ll get into lengthy email/text conversations about which brand is best and why. Terry, along with my parents, pointed us in the direction of Miele, a German company who has basically written the book on how to design the cutest looking vacuums while making them incredibly functional. These bad boys, depending on the model, can range from $400-1200.

So walking into the Bay I knew what brand/model-ish we wanted and had coerced Catherine into being okay with buying a $600 vacuum (hehe), reassuring her that I knew what I was doing. Man did we ever get lucky. As we walk up to the vacuum section there’s only two of the S2 canister models left, one of which was a fairly dinged up floor model and the other was a sealed box model with no price. The floor model had a sticker on it that said $359.99 (MSRP $599). I started freaking out to Catherine because I felt like we had totally lucked out on that price, even if it was for a floor model. A sales associate comes by and I ask about the floor model and he mentions that there’s a sealed box model on top (duh) and that it’s priced at $359.99 as well. I don’t even remember if he finished his sentence before I told him that we would take it. AND since we had giftcards, we ended up only paying about $100 for this vacuum.

Our new Miele vacuum on the right, aptly named Blueberry the Blue vacuum. My parents’ Miele S2 on the left, which Catherine dubbed PomPom (for pomegranate)

It’s hard to explain my emotions on getting this amazing Miele S2 Continuum canister vacuum with powerhead and HEPA certified filters for basically 1/6 of the price. We’re so domestic-ized.