Sunday 14 December 2014

Christmas Cookies!

My boyfriend's sister hosted a Christmas Baking Exchange this year. Although I was unable to attend, I did bake some cookies and my boyfriend's mom delivered them for me. My go-to are soft ginger molasses cookies, but since someone else had already chosen to bake them, I had choose something else. I decided to make white chocolate and cranberry cookies. They turned out to be quite nice, but it was a bit too sweet for my liking. I'll have to search for a different recipe next time!

Friday 5 December 2014

Radio Silence

Hello readers (if you are still out there),

I'm sorry for disappearing on you.
I am very aware it's been a while since I've posted. I've been busy with school. It definitely requires more attention (studying and creating) than I had imagined. So that's where all my time and energy is. I promise to finish my cruise review over the Christmas holidays. I have a tea date coming up this Sunday, so I will be happy to post about my experience. I also have some pretty cool creations from school that I am excited to share online, so stay tuned...

Also, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....
Wishing you a merry holiday!

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Cruising 101

I hope you are enjoying my review so far! I am having so much fun reliving my vacation!

Before I dive into the cruise, I would like to share my cruise history with you so hopefully you know where my thoughts are coming from.

My first cruise was three years ago on the Carnival Valor. We chose to cruise with Carnival at the time because it was affordable and the dates aligned perfectly with our trip to Walt Disney World. It was an amazing experience, and it left quite an impression on me. In short, I was hooked. I was in awe of the many beautiful destinations you can see in trip, without ever having to unpack and commute there. We held an alligator in Miami, went horseback riding in Half Moon Key, sightseeing in St. Thomas, shopping in San Juan, and snorkeling in Grand Turk. The ship was like a floating resort. You can eat as much as you want whenever you want. I was so enamoured, I never knew such luxurious adventures could exist!

Our second cruise was a short eight months later on the Allure of the Seas. This is the ship that did us in. The Allure of the Seas was, and currently is, the largest cruise ship in the world (no big deal). This ship had everything. There was an ice rink, a casino, a carousel, a Starbucks, Central Park, Broadway shows, and diving shows. We were truly spoiled on this boat. We were never bored, and we were constantly being entertained. We almost felt like there wasn't enough time to do everything! The Allure of the Seas was our first true cruising experience. We never felt the need the leave the boat (although we did), and even though it was such a large ship with so many passengers, we never once felt crowded, and that my friends, is an amazing feeling (see: Disneyland).

About a year and a half after this cruise (one year ago), we did our first back-to-back cruise. The first ship was the Disney Fantasy. The Fantasy is the biggest of its small fleet, and it was a dream boat. The service is excellent and if you are a Disney fan like myself, it is magical and wonderful and just so many childhood feels involved! I almost want to say it's like being in the happiest place on earth (Disneyland) but it is just that, but better! Although the ports were repeats for us, we didn't mind. We were on this cruise to enjoy the ship. The Fantasy also has an amazing water slide called the Aqua Duck, which circles around the ship. And oh the fireworks! Disney Cruise Lines is the only ship with fireworks at sea! How magical is that! The second ship was the Carnival Breeze. This was a new boat, and it was the largest of the Carnival fleet (but not even close to the Allure! It is about the same size as the Fantasy though). The boat was fantastically new and clean, it was only a year old at the time! However, after cruising on the Allure and the Fantasy, we felt that we had grown out of Carnival. The service, the quality of food and the amenities just weren't the same. We still had an amazing time on the Breeze. It took us to some beautiful ports, such as Aruba and Curacao, and there are memories we will cherish forever. After this trip, we realized that doing back-to-back cruises was the best (financial) idea we've had.

So there you have it, our cruise history. We're all about new, big and busy boats. Next up, the actual cruise we went on.

 Do you love cruising too?
I'd love to hear about your favourite ship!
Please leave a comment for me!

Sunday 12 October 2014

Falling in Love with Venice

Ah, Venice...

Venice is the opposite of Rome. It has such a relaxing and mellow atmosphere... really, it made me wonder why I didn't stay an extra few days there instead. The major difference with Venice is that no cars are allowed in the city. People got around by walking or by boats. Tourists, well, they walk or they can take the vaporetto (water bus) or the water taxi (super expensive). On the day we arrived, it was warm and breezy. We took the water taxi to our hotel. The water taxi dropped us off right in front of the hotel but our driver pointed us to the opposite direction and we walked the wrong way for a long time before realizing we were going further and further away from our destination (thank God for Siri). We circled back to where we started, and there it was, Locanda Salieri. After checking in, we climbed three flights of stairs to our tiny room with our luggage. I can't tell you how much of a workout that was, but hey, that's Venice, we're told. We freshened up and decided to explore. Venice is a complete maze, we would have gotten so lost without our phone. We stopped by a local joint for a snack - calamari and fried prawns. I don't have a picture, but it was made fresh, and delicious. We finally made it to the Rialto Bridge as the sun was setting and decided to go on a gondola ride. You don't go all the way to Venice and not ride a gondola, but we had to pay a hefty €90 for the short twenty minutes ride. We walked back to our hotel and grabbed dinner nearby. After some pasta (delicious squid ink pasta, I might add!), fish, and wine, we had ice cream for dessert and called it a night. Although we were exhausted, walking was the best way to explore Venice. It's not really an adventure if you don't get lost a little.

We woke up to rain the next morning. The weather had completely flipped! It was so cold I had to wear my Columbia insulated waterproof jacket. After a quick lunch at a small cafe, we made our way to St. Mark's Basilica. St. Mark's Square had flooded that morning, and we arrived as the water was draining. My dream come true - not a pigeon in sight! We headed over to the Bridge of Sighs for some pictures afterwards. The bridge is located between Doge's Palace and the prisons. The name originates from the “sighs” of the prisoners who passed over it. We spent the rest of the day going in and out of the many gift shops looking at Venetian masks and trinkets. We made it to a metropolitan shopping area, and browsed into the sunset. Later that evening, we met up with the boyfriend's parents for dinner as it was his mom's birthday. We had a nice dinner by the hotel and of course, some wine, spritz and gelato to celebrate.

 Readers, I'm going to tell you a truth.

We are horrible travellers. Half the time, we have no idea what we are looking at, and where we are going. We are high maintenance, and we are terrible at decision-making. We don't make it to half our planned destinations and we simply cannot follow our own itinerary. We are at our best when we do things spontaneously. Like, hey, there's a gondola, wanna go? Sure! Funny enough, we didn't plan on a gondola ride prior to our arrival in Venice, we had forgotten gondolas exist in Venice (that's how bad we are at this, and that's probably how we ended up in one - by not planning! Because if I did plan it, we would have saved it for the next day, and ended up not going or having a bad experience because of the rain). So my point, as we were leaving Venice on the people mover, we moped over the fact that we had missed Doge's Palace. Apparently, it is one of the attraction you should see while in Venice. Little did we know...

We saw it at St. Mark's and during our sail away! Well, we are halfway through our trip. All aboard the Splendour of the Seas! Smooth sailing is on our horizon...

Please leave a comment for me!

Saturday 4 October 2014

When in Rome... as Romans do!

Hello everyone!
Now that we've had some time to settle in, we can finally breathe and look back on our vacation... and relive it!

Let's start with Rome, our first destination.
Rome is a busy, busy city. We had lots to see and so little time! Right after we arrived, we were greeted by our private chauffeur. Unfortunately, him being early meant we were early to our apartment rental. We waited for almost an hour outside the apartment for our host to arrive. As soon as we settled in, we set out for some exploring around our apartment. We were only about seven minutes from the Vatican. Seeing that Castel Sant'Angelo was fairly close, we decided to go for it, and guess what! No entrance fee.

Castel Sant'Angelo was initially built for a Roman emperor as a mausoleum, a burial chamber. It was later used as a papal fortress and castle by the pope. You can see the Passetto di Borgo, the pope's elevated passage way or escape route, that connects to the Vatican on the far right in the picture on the bottom. It has now been converted into a museum. After touring Castel Sant'Angelo, we decided to crash early. After all, we'd had a long day of flying and we were exhausted. We grabbed take-out from a local pizza joint and ate at our apartment.

The next morning, we were up early for our Vatican walking tour. We visited the Vatican museums, Raphael's Rooms, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's. It was an amazing tour, with a lot of details and history on the walls. However, it was also a lot to take in. After a while, everything just looked the same (keep in mind we were also a little jet-lagged!). After our tour was over, we debated on whether we should climb the cupola. If you take the elevator for €7, there was 320 steps to climb. If you skip the elevator for 5, it was 551 steps. And then you had to walk back down... whew! So after a long deliberation, we decided to skip the walk to the top of the dome. Instead, we headed back to the apartment for a quick rest, before heading out to shop and find us some dinner. We eventually decided to head to a little place called Il Ristorante Piacere Molise. We both had pasta and shared a tiramisu for dessert. 

On the third day, we had booked the Ancient Rome Tour, this included sightseeing at the Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill. It was a very hot day, and there was a lot of walking. Although the ruins were breathtaking, the heat was uncomfortable for us. By the end of the day, we felt dirty and sweaty. We stopped by the apartment to freshen up before dinner at Il Sorpasso. We had the most amazing proscuitto wrapped scallop - sadly we devoured it before we realized we should have taken a picture.

We ended up scrapping our reservations for the Borghese Gallery on our final day, it was too far away so it just didn't fit right in our itinerary. Instead, we went to the Fountain of Four Rivers at Piazza Navona. I'm pretty sure I only know about this thanks to Dan Brown's Angels and Demons. From there, we walked to the Pantheon, one of Rome's best preserved domes with an oculus. We stopped to grab a mozzarella and prosciutto baguette for lunch, and walked to the Capitoline Museums. We had a little trouble finding it, but managed to locate it with the help of the Italian police. We spent almost three hours there before leaving for our next destination. After consulting the Italian police for directions, we walked to the Trevi Fountain. Unfortunately, the Trevi Fountain was under construction and still is until late 2015. We had to line up to walk through the passage way to view the statues, and it was very rushed. It didn't seem like the real thing without the water flowing in the fountain, and we were told not to throw coins. Legend has it, if you throw a coin over your right shoulder, it will ensure a return to Rome. Lucky for me, the security guard allowed me to do so - he closed his eyes and pretended not to see. Funny guy! After a quick stop for some ice cream, we headed towards the Spanish Steps. It was packed with people, so we took a few quick tourist photos, and decided to window shop a little. Piazza di Spagna is where all the high end fashion stores are in Rome.

By dinner time, we were exhausted. We stopped at a small husband-and-wife owned restaurant, Sophie's, nearby instead of going back towards the Vatican. It started to rain very hard as we finished dinner so we decided to grabbed dessert to go from Pompi's. The girl who worked there warned us not to take the tiramisu to go (supposedly it melts quickly), but we did anyways. We stopped to take a few more pictures at the Spanish Steps since there was barely a soul in sight. You can see the dessert box I'm holding in the rain in the last picture below. We then hailed a cab back to our apartment for 7. When we got back to the apartment, I was so tired and wet, I tripped on the stairs, and dropped our tiramisu face down on the floor. Thank God it did not fall out of the container. It was a mess, but it was the most delicious tiramisu I've ever had.

The next morning, we were preparing to leave for Venice via the train, but there was one last thing I had forgotten to do. I needed to mail myself a postcard from the smallest country in the world, Vatican City. So we ran back to the Vatican to mail the postcard and back to our apartment to check out. We made it back just in time for our ride to the train station! I'm happy to report the postcard made its way to Vancouver about the same time I did. Very efficient, Vaticano!

So that was our first leg of our trip! Hope you enjoyed my mini review. Venice is up next...

Please leave a comment for me!

Saturday 27 September 2014

It's About Time...

It's been a whirlwind, but I'm back from my Europe trip! I've been home for almost a week, but getting back into routine has been hard. The jet lag is real. I plan to review my cruise and my stay in Italy within the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned! I have lots of pictures and amazing stories to share with you all...

Thanks for being patient!

Please leave a comment for me!

Sunday 10 August 2014

A Kaleidoscope of Colours

We caught this amazing sunset on the way home a few days ago. We pulled over by the dike and took some pictures (no filter!). I feel truly blessed to be able to see this everyday.

I'll be going to high tea with a friend next week; I'll be taking pictures and reviewing it. This summer has been flying by! I honestly can't wait until September. Less than one more month until Roma! It's been a busy summer, but I hope you've been enjoying your summer! Enjoy all the sunshine while you can.

Please leave a comment for me!

Sunday 13 July 2014

Afternoon Tea - Fairmont Vancouver Airport

Remember I said I was going to have high tea at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel? Well, it happened this weekend. Unfortunately, I didn't take that many photos. I was having a conversation with my boyfriend's mother, aunt and sister, so I didn't want to be impolite.

Going to the airport always gets me excited. Granted, I'm usually there when I'm about to fly off to paradise, but high tea is exciting too. We arrived a little bit late, so I didn't have much time to choose my tea. I went with a green tea called Lung Ching Ceremonial Dragonwell Yixing. It's described as a sweet tea with aromatic flowery notes. Unfortunately, not flowery and not sweet. It was your standard green jasmine tea. But for me, you can't go wrong with green tea.

Our food selection was generous. We each had four petite sandwiches, which included smoked salmon on rye, tomato and bocconcini on a baguette, turkey on a mini croissant and striploin on sourdough; two sweet cranberry and orange zest scones; and four desserts, which included a lemon tart, a chocolate mint cake, bite size cheesecake and a salted caramel-chocolate mousse cone. I never made it past the scones. I did sneak in a dessert, the chocolate mint cake layered with creme de mint whipped cream. It's simply amazing. If there is one dessert you should have, it's the chocolate mint cake.

I love having high tea at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel. Tea service is in a nice open dining area with tall glass windows and if you are sitting in the right seat, you can watch the planes take off. It's a really peaceful and relaxed atmosphere within the hustle and bustle of the airport.

(courtesy of yours truly via Instagram)

Until next time!

Thursday 3 July 2014

My Summer Reading List

Here is my personal summer (into fall) reading list...

(courtesy of yours truly via Instagram)

  1. The Cuckoo's Calling, Robert Galbraith
    I'm not gonna lie. I picked up this book because of the cover. It looked like a magazine cover, and God knows I'm a sucker for tabloids. As I lined up to pay for it (and contemplated whether it was worth spending $11 on a novel by an unknown author), I read the back blurb and decided to go for it. I had initially thought it was another chic-lit novel but it turned out to be a murder mystery, and I love mysteries (Nancy Drew anyone?). It wasn't until I got home and looked up the book online that I realized it was by J.K. Rowling. Jackpot! I've been wanting to read one of her novels outside of the Harry Potter series, and I had been waiting for the Vacancy to be released on paperback, but The Cuckoo's Calling will do for now!
  2. Girls in White Dresses, Jennifer Close
    Now this is standard chick-lit. My choice for a beach read.
  3. The Interestings, Meg Woltizer
    This book seemed really interesting, well, it kind of has to be (re: the title). It follows a group of friends through their lives through wealth, success and well, the opposite. It focuses on the uniqueness of each friend that becomes not so special in adulthood. I'm excited to read this book. I bought it a while ago and it's been sitting neglected on my shelf.
  4. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson
    This book has a really intriguing plot. A man decides to climb out his window during his 100th birthday party and becomes entangled in crime and other odd adventures. Yet another book that has been on my shelf for a while, but my goal is to read it this summer.
  5. Inferno, Dan Brown
    I'm a huge fan of his Robert Langdon series, so naturally, I had to pick this one up. Unforunately, it's hardcover, so this has been sitting on my shelf since it came home with me. I know, it's been a year. I should have waited, because now it's out on paperback. I'll get to it.... before the movie comes out.

What books are on your reading list? Share your favourites!

Sunday 29 June 2014

Vancouver Art Gallery

My friend and I decided to visit the Vancouver Art Gallery today. The featured exhibition was by Vancouver based artist Douglas Coupland,

everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything.

It was a very interesting exhibition. His art was very thought provoking, and I thoroughly enjoyed the artwork. I am glad I had the opportunity to view it. Photography was encouraged so here are some of my favorite pieces. 


(courtesy of yours truly via Instagram)

Sunday 22 June 2014

Flora's Classic Cheesecake

I love baking, it's one of my favourite things to do, but I'm also a very lazy person. If I am craving baked goods, I usually head to Starbucks for a treat. If I don't feel like leaving the house, I'll whip up some Betty Crocker cupcakes. I rarely make anything from scratch, but when I do, oh boy, it's a huge production. Today, I made a cheesecake. I've been craving cheesecake for some time now; and I've been eying the President's Choice cheesecakes during my last few Superstore visits. So this morning (or afternoon) when I woke up, I asked my mom to grab some Philly cream cheese at the market for me. I had to have cheesecake today. At 6 o'clock, just when my mother started to make dinner, I decided to start baking (impeccable timing). The recipe I decided to use was from Kraft's website, but I tweaked it a little to make it my own. 

My crust was made from scratch. I crushed Barnum's Animal crackers with a pestle in a mortar to make the crust. Very old school, but I didn't know any other way. I added 1/4 cup of unsalted butter and three tablespoons of Sint Maarten Guavaberry honey to hold together the crumbs. I picked up this jar of honey when I was cruising through St. Maarten in 2012, and it sat in my cupboard for years. I am so glad I bought it, it has been a lifesaver!

In a large bowl, I mixed one container (400 mL) of original Philadelphia cream cheese, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla with two eggs. I used a hand mixer to beat the mixture until it was smooth.

After I transferred the crumb mixture onto the pan, I pressed on it firmly. I then poured the cheesecake filling on top and evened it out with a spatula. I put it in the oven for 40 minutes at 325 degrees. The edges were a little burnt (next time I'll check up on it after 35 minutes), but everything else looked okay. I let the cake cool before refrigerating for three hours.  

At midnight, I finally tried a bite. I must say... it's pretty good! Even my mom likes it, so I'm quite proud of myself. I'm excited to try baking different types of cheesecake, and possibly bake mini cheesecakes in muffin pans... But that's a project for another lazy Saturday. Enjoy the recipe!

It tastes better than it looks!

(courtesy of yours truly via Instagram)

Monday 16 June 2014

Point Defiance Zoo

I have been unhappily busy with work, so I apologize for the long gap between posts. This is a long overdue entry but I figured it should see the light of day.

As a little getaway for the 25th anniversary of my birth, the boyfriend and I took a little trip to the Seattle area. Our main destination was Point Defiance Zoo. I was lured here by the clouded leopards. I learned about them online and was fascinated by these creatures. Clouded leopards are an endangered species that are found in Southeast Asia. These cats are known for their distinctive dark clouded spots on their dark yellow fur. They have relatively short legs and large paws. Their long tails help them balance while climbing and hunting on trees. The number of clouded leopards have declined in the wild due to poachers, thus breeding programs have been founded to keep the species alive. Clouded leopards are known to be friendly and playful creatures in captivity and you can definitely see this in the leopards at Point Defiance Zoo.

We also spent a lot of time with these guys. Both tigers were born within months of each other, but are not brothers. Berani is a Malayan tiger and Dumai is a Sumatran tiger. We had the opportunity to see them play fight -

Now , I normally have a hard time at zoos. Especially at Disney World. I hate seeing the animals out of their natural environment and I hate seeing them confined in cages. But seeing these guys playing so happily and at ease makes me feel a little better about their living environment. It's a very gray area. Animals in zoos are protected, and most are in conservation programs, however you can see how unhappy most of the animals are. They are pacing, and they look uncomfortable. Animals in the wild are living in their natural environment but are hunted by humans (and other animals, but hey, that's the circle of life!). I guess you can't have it all. It's either one or the other.


Bonus picture of the jellyfish!

(courtesy of yours truly via Instagram)

Friday 30 May 2014

Backstreet's Back!

I know I've been neglecting this blog for a little while, but I promise I have a good excuse! I celebrated my 25th birthday a few days ago, and we went on a little pre-birthday trip to the States. I can't wait to share my experience at the Point Defiance Zoo! But first, before the pre-birthday trip, I had quite an exciting event to attend...

I am so excited to tell you all that my childhood is complete! Last week I had the opportunity to attend my first Backdtreet Boys concert. This is something I've been waiting for my entire life. As young as I can remember (probably at the age of 7), I've loved BSB. They were the boy band of my childhood (*Nsync could not compare to them). I remember singing to their songs on top of my lungs in my room. I love their songs, their voices, their personalities, their choreography, and I must tell you, to this day, the boys have still got it. They can still sing and dance like nobody else can. I still haven't gotten over it. It was amazing. Here are a couple photos from this glorious event...

(courtesy of yours truly via Instagram)

Monday 19 May 2014

Afternoon Tea - Urban Tea Merchant

Hello! I hope everyone enjoyed their long weekend. May has been a blur, I can't believe the month is almost over. I took a much needed break over the weekend and visited Urban Tea Merchant with a friend. I love having high tea, but I've only been frequented two places in Vancouver; Adorabelle and the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel. This was a brand new tea salon for me, and I am quite satisfied with our tea service.

I chose Pink Flamingo, a green tea with crimson hibiscus blossoms. The tea was a pretty pale pink color with fruit overtones. My friend and I both chose the Petite Tea Service, which was $28. The other services were much too heavy for an afternoon snack. We each had a chicken salad cone, a cucumber & watercress sandwich, a curry egg salad sandwich, and a ham & arugula sandwich on our first tier. The chicken cone was the highlight. It was in the form of a mini ice cream cone but it was a delicious, savoury surprise. Next, we each had a scone. My friend had a sweet scone, and I had a savoury scone. I am usually not a fan of savoury scones, but this particular scone was not too savoury or dry. Although I couldn't really taste the flavour (our server did not bother to tell us what was being served), I enjoyed it. On the top tier, we had seasonal fruit, a chocolate dipped strawberry and a signature macaroon. The macaroon was one of the best I've had - and I've had macaroons from all over Montreal. This one was not too sweet or crumbly, it was just right. In my opinion, the price was steep for the amount of food in comparison to the other two services I've had in the past. When I asked our server to refill my teapot, she told me that they needed to prepare the tea by steeping it before bringing it out and I would receive a new teapot. I was unsure why she was explaining the process to me, but I was reluctant because I didn't want to wait for a new teapot. I had a feeling something was up but I agreed anyway. Well, I was right. She failed to tell me that it would cost me an extra $8 for the pot. I was not a happy customer when the bill came, but she was kind enough to correct it for me.

I don't think I would visit Urban Tea Merchant again - not because of the tea charge, but because I've had better tea service elsewhere. I will be visiting the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel for afternoon tea again in the summer, so stay posted for that review!

(courtesy of yours truly via Instagram)