Summer weather and a patio

Whenever possible, we like to eat local. Especially in the west end, we stay away from chain restaurants. Today, however, we made the decision to break from that guideline.

It is hot today. Like high teens hot. A perfect day for patio dining. There aren’t many options in the west end for post church lunch options, and we flirted with the idea of eating at Windmills, but in the end we decided on Jack Astor’s. We have resisted eating there since it opened, because of the effect chains have on local eateries, but no one can argue it has the best patio in the city. Situated adjacent to Market Square, it afforded us a beautiful view of City Hall and the Sunday antiques market.

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We had fairly low hopes for the food, but my Smoky Jack’s burger was actually quite good. Better than Kelvin’s deluxe bacon cheeseburger. And the cranberry fizz lemonade I had (the actual name on the menu escapes me) was not bad either, though a bit too sour.

All in all, it was a good time with a spectacular view. I can’t say we will be here often but we will probably make the trek down (or up) again before the end of the summer.

Chez Piggy

As much as it is nice to eat in for brunch like we shared about a little while ago, Kingston is a city that has no shortage of delicious places to eat out. Though we are trying to find more spots on the west end of town to dine at, there are tried and true establishments that remain in the downtown core.

This past Sunday, we went with our friends Gary and Joyce (their suggestion!) to Chez Piggy. Tucked away in a courtyard off Princess Street, this two-storey restaurant is absolutely quaint. We were seated upstairs in the loft, and throughout the meal, I dreamed about what it would be like to have a home that had as much character as this place. Kelvin and I had been to Chez Piggy together once for their Table d’hôte, and I had been once for a work lunch, but never had we been for brunch.

And let me tell you – Chez Piggy did not disappoint.

Gary and Kelvin both ordered the eggs benedict (sorry we didn’t take any pictures, and I couldn’t find the right ones online). I normally don’t like eggs benedict, but I would’ve eaten all of this. The eggs were just firm enough, and the sour dough didn’t get soggy at all.

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Joyce and I both got the undone omelette (I got this photo off the internet…I forgot to take one). Because we are both not a fan of runny egg yolk, we asked for them to harden up the sunny side eggs, which they did a wonderful job of. The manchego was the perfect cheese for this, the arugula was a nice touch.

The icing on the cake? The homefries. I kid you not, those homefries were delicious. With crispy onions scattered amongst them, this was the perfect complement to our eggs.

We finished our meal fully satisfied, evidenced by our clear plates and beaming faces. The portions were just right, and reflective of the price. This is a definitely a place I feel confident recommending.

Work

Cat and I don’t really talk about work or what we do on our blog. Given the nature of our work and who we work for/with, we decided that it’s probably best if we are as vague as possible. So, you know that I own a small business here in Kingston and Cat does…something or other.

My business partner and I are in the process of moving into a new commercial space and it’s been a really long and tiring process, BUT there has been some fun! For instance, we stopped into Structube this past week to pick out our office furniture. This is the waiting room seating and office desk that we’ve decided on.

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Cat and I have been a real mid-century kick and this desk fits perfectly with that. Too bad it’s for work and not for home, not that I could fit it in our home office anyways! My business partner and I picked out some chairs too but I forgot to take a picture of them. They’re like a much cheaper, probably less well-made version of the Eames Aluminum Group management chair. Maybe when I’m a big, successful business man I can drop the money on one of those bad boys…or an Aeron. My butt and lower back can always dream!!

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!

Brunch

Usually Sundays are our unwind day. We’ll go to church in the morning and then we have small group or a Bible study at night. Those 6-7 hours in between are some of the most relaxing and, often, productive times that we have to do stuff around the house. Lately, and by lately I mean the past couple of months, we’ve been finding ourselves eating out for brunch quite a bit after church.

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Now that Gary and Joyce are regularly attending our church we’ve had some additions to the brunch table and we decided that we should try to eat in every so often.

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This past week we had our weekly brunch at Pat’s place. There was this crazy smorgasbord of waffles, breakfast casserole, bacon, fruit, and of course a cheese platter! Since joining our new small group at church I’ve realized how awesome cheese+fruit platters are and so at every “home” brunch I’ll try to put a simple platter out. I also tried making sangria for the first time. It did not turn out great. In hindsight I should have put more fruit juice (maybe try a lemonade next time) and less wine. Oh well!

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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NJ and NYC

When you live in Kingston, the US border is a mere 40 minutes away, and NYC another 6 hours from there. The weekend after Sandy hit, we were scheduled to take a quick trip down to New Jersey and New York City. We didn’t think we’d make it, but thankfully we did. It’s amazing how quickly the city got back on its feet, and for those still reeling from the aftermath of the storm, you are in our thoughts.

Day 1

Our very first stop was Woodbury Common Premium Outlets. I’d never been here before, but Kelvin’s family loves this place. We picked up a few things here before heading to Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, for some tax-free shopping. They recently opened a Uniqlo store here, and if you’ve read any of our other vacation posts, you will know that Kelvin absolutely loves Uniqlo. The store is growing on me too, plus they have introduced a children’s section. They have these new scarves created in partnership with designer Orla Kiely, and they are beautiful so I bought one :)

All throughout the mall, we kept seeing people with all of their powered devices – iPads, phones, laptops – plugged into the ground and walls. Some people were really hardcore and even brought powerbars. Because of these individuals, I now know that those little circular covers in mall floors lead to electricity.

We had dinner at the mall (Ruby Tuesdays…not great…) before heading to our usual hotel in Teaneck. A mix of hotel lobby construction plus people seeking power and wireless internet from the storm made for a rather hectic night, but we needed to get as much sleep as possible for our trip into the city the next day!

Day 2

We woke up really early to catch the 167T into the city for our breakfast plans. Kelvin and I have a friend who is going to school at Cornell and she’s in the city for a year doing an internship. She recommended this whimsical little place called Alice’s Tea Cup, so we all went together. Their pumpkin caramel glazed scones were soooo good.

Kelvin’s parents weren’t meeting us until around 1, so we hopped on the subway to the Union Square area. Ippudo is in that area so we wanted to see if that might be an option for lunch, but alas it was still cleaning up after the hurricane and wasn’t re-opening until that Monday. We did, however, stumble upon all these wonderful little places selling used books. One in particular caught our attention, because of the sheer number of trolleys they had with sale books. We had discovered Strand

What an amazing place Strand is. Floors of books at amazingly good prices – this store was definitely a place we could’ve spent the whole afternoon. I ended up taking home two books, though there were many that beckoned to me.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with eating, shopping, and more eating. We went to Shake Shack (always), Uniqlo (once again, but this time to the one on 5th), and the Apple flagship store (to take a look at the awesome new mini iPad, which Kelvin and I will hopefully both get one day), before picking up some Halal cart to take back to NJ with us for dinner.

That evening, we discovered we could watch American Netflix on the iPad. It is so good. We watched First Position, a great doc on young ballet dancers, before heading to bed. I might have dreamt about having American Netflix in Canada that night…

Day 3

This was more of a day for relaxation. We ran some errands, hit some of the big box stores (Kelvin’s family really likes doing that for some reason), waved goodbye to all of the people in New Jersey waiting for hours to fill up their cars and gas cans, and headed back to Canada. We stopped on the way for some Chipotle in Watertown, NY, and made it back to Kingston right around dinnertime.

All in all, it was a successful trip. I came back with a new pair of boots, some books and clothes, and my NYC fix satisfied for the next little while.

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?

Eating in Ottawa

A few weekends ago, a friend and I drove to Ottawa for a nice day trip. We headed straight to IKEA for some interior inspiration – for her new apartment, and for our too-small office space. It was wonderful, and I have my eye set on some vika alex desks and grundtal rails. We were starving and ate a quick meal of meatballs at their restaurant before blazing through the store.

Really wanted these sheets, but Kelvin was not so enthused by them

Now, as much as i love IKEA swedish meatballs, I must admit that they don’t leave you full for very long. We consulted my trusty urbanspoon app (thank you iPhone!) and settled on Oz Kafe for our dinner plans. We had some time to stroll along Elgin Street (though it was more like puddle jumping…in the rain), have a quick drink at the Lieutenant’s Pump, then hop over to the restaurant for their dinner service that started at 6 pm.

Now let it be known that for the most part, Kelvin and my dining experiences in Ottawa have been hit and miss. Some of the restaurants we’ve tried have been pretty brutal, including this one place in the market. That being said, we have found a few gems (ZaZaZa Pizza in the Glebe and Murray Street Grill and Side Door in Byward Market). Oz Kafe is a place that I will definitely be bringing Kelvin to next time we are in town.

On Sundays, they have only their snacking menu, which is a selection of food from their regular menu, plus a few specials that they add in. My friend and I ordered four dishes to share, and it was an explosion of delicious flavour with some Korean influence. We loved their Oz Poutine, which was a really interesting twist on the regular poutine, using scalloped potatoes and old cheddar (we got it with the duck). We also ordered the Taipei corn (grilled, spiced, with crushed peanuts…delicious) and the Beef Tataki (seared beef with two different dressings, which was still nice, but the least impressionable of the four dishes). The heartiest of all was their “Seoul Food”, which I venture to guess is a staple in their menu. The Korean version of a Mexican taco, this dish utilized (butter?) lettuce leaves as a shell to wrap up juicy sirloin strips, pickled veggies and kimchi. Spicy paste optional.

What makes this place amazing is their value (all this for under $30 including tax and tip) and their ability to serve such delicious food without making you feel like you’ll have a heart attack. It’s clean, refreshing, and definitely a place I will visit again.

Oz Kafé on Urbanspoon

Weekend Activities in Kingston

This weekend is ramping up to be one of the busiest weekends of the year. Our city is playing host to a multitude of events, so we shall see how many we can make it out to!

Kingston WritersFest September 26-30

This festival has grown and grown over the last few years. Michael Ondaatje and Teju Cole are in town for the kickoff event tonight. In honour of the event, I think I will return to a book I picked up a while ago by local authors Wayne Grady and Merilyn Simonds (I started it, but stopped because I was reading too many things at once). Be prepared for a weekend of literary excitement!

Art After Dark September 27, 7-10 PM

Kingston has an abundance of artisans and artists, and this evening open gallery event is possible only because of their contributions. Tomorrow night, 12 different gallery/boutique spaces will be open late for the public’s enjoyment.

Kingston Culture Days September 28-30

Culture Days is something very dear to my heart, as this is my second year participating in it. Culture Days is a national movement of free, participatory arts and culture activities, and Kingston has officially recognized it since last year. Shameless plug, this year I am organizing an activity in the west end called Happy Posting in Kingston, a growing art installation centralized on the question “What Makes You Happy?”  that passersby will be adding to as they come. For more info, check out the activity description!

Chilifest September 29, 12-3 PM

I am saddened that I will miss this event due to being at my Culture Days activity. However, if you can make it, do not miss out! This is essentially three hours of eating chili and deciding who makes it best.

Of course, Market Square will also be bustling with activity all weekend, with the weekly farmers’ market on Saturday and the antique market on Sunday, so if you want a break from organized activity and just want to browse, pay a visit to the market.

So pretty much, something that we love about Kingston is how there is always something going on. At the same time, it is a city where you also feel  perfectly content just kicking your feet up and relaxing. It shall be a busy weekend, but it will be great. What are you planning on doing this weekend?

Fare on the Square

Today was Kingston’s annual Fare on the Square which was a celebration of local food and farmers. A bunch of restaurants had sample tastings for $2. Apparently, according to the City of Kingston, our farmer’s market is the oldest-continuous running market in North America. Who knew.

Cat and I have been meaning to go this event for the past two years but have never made it out for reasons that I now forget. It was raining and crummy today, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. And I finally got a chance to test the panorama feature out on iOS6! That poor kid on the left hand side of the shot got chopped off!

A place to record our explorations