5 Things to Do in Toronto Before You Die

I lived in Toronto for 6 years and have recently just moved to Vancouver. I was thinking back to all the awesome things I did in Toronto over the years and a few stuck out in my head. I wanted to have a link to send to people that are new to Toronto to introduce them to things that I really loved about the city. These are necessarily things like CNE, Leafs games or a trip up the CN Tower. These are things off the beaten track that are mostly known by locals if you talk to enough people. Hopefully you can experience a few of them during your time in Toronto. Let me know what you think!

Pumpkin Parade

Pumpkin parade

Lots of pumpkins

We heard that there was a spot in Toronto where everyone brings their pumpkins on the day after Halloween. I thought this sounded like a neat concept so we went to check it out. It is truly amazing to see everyone in the neighbourhood walking down the street, pumpkin in hard, heading to the park to display their unique jack o lantern. Apparently they get over 1,000 pumpkins lined up on Nov.1st every year. The pumpkins are picked up the next morning by the city and taken to be composted.

See Blog TO for more info on Pumpkin Parade

Outdoor Ice Skating

One of many outdoor rinks

I have never been a huge hockey player or even that good of an ice skater. The one thing I do love is getting outside on an outdoor rink. Many rinks have high costs for rentals or 100’s of 6 year olds falling in front of you after every turn. The great part about Toronto is there are tons of outdoor rinks all over the city offering free skating and shinny.  We would turn up for the night free skate and usually end up having the whole rink to ourselves. We could bring sticks, pass the puck around and really enjoy the outdoors.

Full list of rinks in Toronto

Saturday afternoon at Grossmans Tavern

Saturday afternoon at Grossmans

I had never heard of this pub up until December last year. My roommate told me that we were going to have an afternoon of drinking at Grossmans that would begin at 2pm. This was a little strange to me since I usually don’t go to pubs before 8pm… But I went anyway.  When we arrived, I found the place mostly filled with people over the age of 70 and rest were his friends at the back table. Here’s the deal – every Saturday Grossmans has a 12 piece Dixieland Jazz Band playing all afternoon. They are great and really get into the music. The best part of the show is the conga line of musicians and drunk patrons for the last song of the night (well, more like afternoon).

Info on Grossman’s Tavern

Ferry from the Island at Sunset

View of skyline coming back from Toronto Island

A few times when coming home from the island, I got to experience the Toronto skyline at sunset. It is really an amazing sight and I would recommend this to anyone who is sick of the hustle and bustle of the Toronto streets.

Full Ferry Schedule

Sunday brunch at Dakota Tavern

Sunday brunch at Dakota Tavern

If you are sick of eating over priced Eggs Benedict then this place is for you. Dakota Tavern hosts a Sunday brunch with a live Bluegrass band each week. The brunch is served ‘family style’ which means there are big bowls of food brought to your table. We had eggs, sausages, potatoes, fruit and pancakes. It was a decent meal but the atmosphere was great. I would suggest going right before they open at 11am. After they seat everyone waiting outside, the line starts…

Dakota Tavern website

Coconut Banana Muffins with Lime Glaze

Rotten Bananas. Whenever anyone has bananas at home that have turned brown, someone says ‘We should make banana bread’. Then someone puts them in the freezer for that very common time in the near future when they get a crazy urge to bake. Well that usually doesn’t happen. Then when you move to a new apartment a year later, you throw out those brown frozen bananas. I guess no one wanted to make banana bread.

Well this time I made banana bread. Then I decided to make banana muffins. I had just moved to a new city and decided that this would be a good time to try new things. I have never really baked much and don’t really like how everything you bake is usually super high in fat. I found this recipe that incorporates coconut (which I love!) and is also low fat. They turned out great and I think I am going to have a lot of friends here once I bring these puppies to work.

Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
  • 1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime

Preheat oven to 350°.  Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk. Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, yogurt and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Stir in 1/2 cup coconut. Spoon batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon coconut. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Combine powdered sugar and juice, stirring with a whisk; drizzle over warm bread. Cool completely on wire rack.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving)
  • Calories: 193
  • Calories from fat: 21%
  • Fat: 4.6g
  • Saturated fat: 2.8g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 1.1g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.3g
  • Protein: 2.9g
  • Carbohydrate: 35g
  • Fiber: 1.1g
  • Cholesterol: 35mg
  • Iron: 1mg
  • Sodium: 179mg
  • Calcium: 15mg

Adapted from Jean Patterson, Cooking Light (SEPTEMBER 2007)

My Birthday at the Rock Bar in Bali

The Rock Bar at Ayana Resort

When I was planning my trip to Bali, I noticed that my birthday was going to fall in the middle of my trip. I hesitated when I thought of how much I love my birthday at home… friends, drinks, bar, etc. Then I realized how amazing it would be celebrate in Bali and experience something different for just one year. So I booked my trip and started looking forward to this night.

I saw a blog post on the Rock Bar at the Ayana Resort and we decided that we should go there for sunset drinks and to celebrate my birthday. According to their website (http://www.ayanaresort.com/rockbarbali/wp/?page_id=5), Rock Bar is located along the 1.3 kilometer coastline of AYANA Resort and Spa Bali, a 77-hectare property that features 78 private luxury villas and a 290-room hotel. Taking the concept of “on the rocks” to a whole new level, this innovative open-top bar is perched 14 meters above Jimbaran Bay on a rocky outcrop at the base of towering cliffs.

The walk to the Rock Bar

I posted on Twitter (@Kattte_) that I would be going and was happy to get a response from the Rock Bar asking me what time I would be getting there.  We took a cab from Legian and it didn’t cost too much. The resort is beautiful and we did a quick walk through and headed to the Rock Bar. When we arrived, we realized that the top deck is reserved for hotel guests only. This was very disappointing until we asked and realized they had saved a table for me since I tweeted about coming for my birthday. Very nice of them!

MEnu

Very cool menu at the Rock Bar

It was extremely hot from 5pm-6pm before the sun went down, we were sweating like crazy! We ordered cold rolls and maki and a few martinis. The martinis were amazing and the food was pretty good too. The menu there is a cylinder that sits on the table and lights up at night time. I love how they took an item like the menu and made it unique and memorable. Not enough restaurants these days come up with anything original.

Delicious Martinis

Cold Rolls and Maki

Sunset views

Reflection of the sunset to our table

I heart sunsets

The sunset was beautiful and we took a TON of photos. Then it became bright pink and orange and I pretty much couldn’t stop smiling. We picked a great night to be there! After it got dark, the staff came out with a cake for me and sang happy birthday. Not even an hour later, guy sitting behind us, got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend. She said yes and the champagne started flowing. It was a very memorable night!

Thanks again Rock Bar staff!

For my full Bali photo album on Flickr click here.

Tanah Lot Temple at Sunset

Before my 12 day trip to Bali, I did some research online to see where I wanted to visit. I love photography, so I really wanted to check out some interesting spots so I could get some really cool shots. The one place that kept coming up in blogs and travel books was Tanah Lot Temple. The biggest tip was to not visit the temple at sunset. This is due to the face that bus loads of tourist descend on the temple each day at sunset to capture the incredible sight. I didn’t take that advice and VERY happy with the results.

According to Wikipedia, Tanah Lot means “Land in the Sea”. It also says that Tanah Lot is claimed to be the work of the 15th century priest Nirartha. During his travels along the south coast he saw the rock-island’s beautiful setting and rested there. Some fishermen saw him, and bought him gifts. Nirartha then spent the night on the little island. Later he spoke to the fishermen and told them to build a shrine on the rock for he felt it to be a holy place to worship the Balinese sea gods. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanah_Lot)

Motorbike adventure to Tanah Lot

We decided to skip the tourist bus and rent a motorbike for the night and drive there. We were staying in Legian which is about 10 minutes from Kuta. The rental was about 40,000R which works out to about $5 US. Not a bad deal! We were concerned about getting there before sunset and getting lost. It turns out there are tons of signs along the way so it was easy to find.

Sunset Terrace

When you arrive at Tanah Lot, you park in a huge parking lot and walk past tons of little market stalls before you get to the great temple. You can choose to take a view up high and sip a Bintang while you watch the sunset below. You can also choose to stay below (low tide nights only) and watch the sunset as you stand by the ocean and watch the waves crash in front of you. We chose to watch from above and then walk down for some closer shots. I am so glad I put up with the tourists and came at sunset. It was absolutely beautiful and something I will never forget.

Walk up to the watch from above

Amazing sunset views

Tourists getting front row as waves crash

The pink sky was unreal

For full Bali photo album on Flickr CLICK HERE

5 Reasons Why You Should Be On Twitter

Today will mark my 4000th tweet. I have a lot of friends that use Twitter but more of my friends don’t go on it and think it is a big waste of time. The #1 answer when I ask someone why they don’t use Twitter is: “Why would I let everyone know what I had for breakfast?” or “No one cares what I’m doing”. Well… this really isn’t what its all about and I usually spend some time explaining the benefits to them. Most of the time they agree to sign up after my little talk.

Here is why I love Twitter:

  1. Real Time News – There is really no other news source available on the web or off that updates so quickly when something is happening around the world. Since you can pick who you follow, you can pick the ones that apply to you. I follow some world news like CNN and Reuters, and also some local ones like Toronto Star and BlogTO. You can guarantee that if there is a news item, it will be posted on Twitter before it hits TV, the web or that guy behind you in line at Tim Hortons.
  2.  

  3. Real Time Search – Today when we were driving home from snowboarding up north, we suddenly came to a big traffic jam. We searched the radio and no one was giving traffic conditions. I did a quick search on my BlackBerry on Twitter for ‘400 South’. In about 2.5 seconds, I found out that there was an accident about 10 minutes ahead of us. There is just no other way to get info this fast and efficiently. This can be used for any topic. The best way to see this in actions is to go to http://www.twitter.com and type in any word that interests you. You will see how amazing this can be.
  4.  

  5. Getting Answers/Using Hashtags – Usually its easier to Google something then ask everyone on Twitter. The problem with Google is that you don’t always know where the information is coming from. When asking certain things on Twitter, you can see who is replying to you and who they are (or who they claim to be at least). Using hashtags can let you interact with people that might not already be following you but are interested in the same things. For instance, you could say “What is a good restaurant in #Whistler for sushi?” Using the hashtag #Whistler will let this tweet show up to anyone following #Whistler or searching for it. I guarantee you will get some replies and info in minutes.
  6.  

  7. Meeting People – This might not be for you but Twitter is definitely a platform where you can meet people with similar interests in your area. It is all about engaging with people and sharing information with people that want it. Tweet ups are events where a group of Twitter users meet up for drinks, sports, coffee or even karaoke. These happen all the time and are a great time to chat to people in real life (IRL) and see if you really get along or they are as geeky as they seem in that avatar photo :)
  8.  

  9. Free Stuff ! – Here are some examples of free stuff I have received in the last year from Twitter:
  • Team Canada Jersey – I attended my first Tweet Up with @djacob during the Canada Gold Medal Olympic Hockey Game. Dan signed up on Twitter and when we entered we got VIP seating, free food, free drinks and tons of SWAG. I won the tweeting contest and got the jersey. Great job by @Molson!
  • Platinum Raptors Tickets – Real Sports Apparel Tweeted to come by and show the tweet for free Raptors tickets. I thought they would be nosebleeds but it turned out they were worth $175 a piece. Thanks @realsports!
  • Free T-shirt from Hawaii – I started searching out Maui tweets when I was heading there in Feb 2010. I started following a restaurant in Maui called CJ’s. They were tweeting about their menu. I asked what I would get if I came by and he said I would get a t-shirt. I went a few times because the food was affordable and yummy but kept missing CJ. They told me to leave my address and CJ mailed me my free t-shirt. Here are some photos from CJ’s. Thanks @CJsMaui!
  • Wine Jelly from Muskoka – I was in Muskoka most weekends last summer and was always looking for new things to check out. I found a ‘tip’ on Foursquare (ok, so this is a Foursquare one) about coming by the winery and getting free wine jelly. We took a trip there one day and found a pretty cool cranberry farm and winery. They gave me the free wine jelly. Thanks @MuskokaLakeWine!
  • Falling Whistles - Josh Spear (joshspear.com) was having a contest to win a Whistle from Falling Whistles website. I entered and a few weeks later had a whistle in my mailbox. You can’t understand how important and amazing this company is unless you read about them on their website fallingwhistles.com. Thanks @joshspear!
  • Drink Deals – The more you search, the more you will find. When I headed to Maui I found sites that list which bars are having happy hour and drink specials. When I got there, I was so familiar that we got to enjoy some great bars and restaurants. Here is a photo at the Cool Cat Cafe.

And that is just a sample!

Let me know what you think or if you have anything to add.

Cheers!
Kate

Eating Everything in Edmonton

I was in Edmonton for a week in November. It was probably the coldest weather I have ever experienced. It was -34c when I arrived and stayed that way for the first two days. We decided that the only way to beat the cold was to find some good food and really enjoy our meals there.

My first step was to ask my Twitter followers where I should try in Edmonton. I was directed to a blog which had a great list of restaurants in Edmonton. I decided to use this blog as the starting points and go from there. As it turns out, we got to try three of the restaurants recommended and loved all of them. Here are some photos and comments about the ones that we tried.

Skinny Legs and Cowgirls – “A sort of bistro”

I decided to try this one mainly because of the name. I decided that anyone that named a restaurant like this would have to be creative and original. I was right. On the outside, it was a tacky sign and looks like a very low end restaurant. As you walk in, the atmosphere is amazing and the staff is very welcoming. We went on a slow night so we got to chat with our server (Amy) about the food, wines and beers. They use organic food and local wines and beers. It turns out that her and her mother own the place and really take pride in all the aspects of the restaurant. At one point we ordered a beer that they were out of in the bar. She sent someone to the liquor store to pick some up for us.  Not necessary but definitely appreciated.

We ordered the three cheese salsa bake, mussels and house salad to start. The salad was anything but ‘house’. It had candied pecans, pears, beets and blue cheese. We decided it was an ‘epic’ salad.

For the mains, we ordered the mixed grill which included stuff like bison ribs, lamb and beef tenderloin. It was also loaded with amazing vegetables. I love sharing platters so this meal was really a hit for me. Everything tasted amazing and we weren’t stuffed after it was said and done. I would highly recommend this one.

Skinny Legs and Cowgirls Website and Menu

Epic House Salad

Mixed Grill Sharing Platter

Wildflower Grill – “new Canadian cuisine”

We had a work event one night that ended at 8:30 and only provided apps for us. We decided to check out this restaurant as it was walking distance from downtown. It is very classy inside but not overly expensive. We weren’t too hungry so we ordered a bunch of apps and shared them among three of us.

We tried the Gnocchi, Scallops & Prawns, Braised Beef short ribs and seared tuna. The presentation was really well done and made trying each dish that much better. They serve you a fresh warm bread in a measuring cup to start which was very original.

Wildflower Website and Menu

Warm Bread in a Measuring Cup

Seared Tuna

Braised Short Rib

Gnocchi with Sweet pea puree

Culina Mill Creek – “Creative comfort food”

This one was a little out of the way from our hotel but we used our great smartphone GPS apps and got there on time.  It was another slow night and the place was very quiet inside. I think we might have been a little too loud for this crowd. It had a nice, dark atmosphere and very creative washrooms with tons of mirrors. The menu was small and very unique, which I think are two very important things for a restaurant.

We ordered the Persian Platter, Truffle Popcorn, Duck Hot Dogs and butternut squash soup to start. The soup was amazing and the other apps were good too. The popcorn was just normal popcorn with a light drizzle of truffle oil. It was very greasy and I think we were all expecting something way more exciting. I’ll include some images of the mains below. All were very good but they were very big portions.

Culina Mill Creek Website and Menu

Duck Hot Dogs

Phyllo Wrapped Goat Cheese (Vegetarian)

Alberta Beef with blue cheese and chocolate sauce + mash

Pork Tenderloin Steaks with spicy chimmichurri sauce and couscous

Mirrors in Bathroom

Honorable Mention:

Hundred Bar and Kitchen – We had lunch here one day. They offer a bunch of different sliders that all looked delicious. I asked if I could get a combo of all three (one of each). They agreed and what came was amazing! There was one Kobe Beef Burger, one Lobster BLT and one Kobe chili hot dog.

Menu

The trio of sliders

Rickys - Yes, it is a chain. Yes, it is a lot like other diners. But, wow, it always delivered great breakfast when we needed it badly. Make sure to try the stuffed hash browns. It includes shredded potatoes, bacon, cheese, sour cream and green onions. Thanks Rickys!

Menu

Not a pretty sight, but much needed.

Tiny Tims Donuts (or Tiny Toms depending where you go) – These greasy little donuts come hot in a brown bag and are soooo yummy.

Tiny Toms Donuts

Sherlock Holmes Pub – Pub fare if you want that sort of thing. But I recommend it for having some pints with friends. Live music Thurs-Sat and very small intimate atmosphere that makes for a great pub. I try to stop in every time I’m in Edmonton. There are photos on the wall from the 80’s of Gretzky, Ron MacLean, Tom Green, etc. If you go, make sure you check out Gretzky’s mullet and Ron MacLeans head of hair!

Japanese Village – We had Teppanyaki one night and it was very yummy. I won’t include a write up as it was a lot like other one’s that I have been to in the past. A little disappointing since they wouldn’t do the egg trick or the onion volcano. (even though we asked many times, haha)

Thats all! Let me know what you think and happy eating!

Surfing in Canada

It had been six years since I had been to Australia. I spent a year over there working, traveling and learning to surf. Over the six years since I have been home, I have only been surfing twice. Once on a long road trip to Cape Hatteras and earlier this year on a trip to Hawaii. Since I was going to be in the Victoria area, I called the girls I surfed in Australia with and asked if they were interested in a trip to Tofino. That was all it took. We were booked for a 3 day girls surf trip.

We booked into a little surf shack (actually called that) near Chesterman’s Beach. It had one bedroom, a couch, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and a HOT TUB! Since surfing in Tofino is so damn cold, the hot tub is the key ingredient to any trip. We rented full wet suits and boards from a place in town and took off for the ocean. My friends would fall into the ‘good’ category for surfing and I would fall into the ‘beginner’ category. They did a great job and caught some waves while I practiced my paddling skills by the shore.

One of the best parts of the trip (aside from surfing and hot tubs) was the fish tacos! There is a little truck called Tacofino in town and the tacos are incredible. My favourite was the Tuna taco made with Ahi Tuna and a mango salsa and wasabi. I can’t remember all the ingredients but they have some amazing stuff there. We got ginger cookies for dessert.

If you don’t mind slightly cold water then get your butt to Tofino as soon as possible for an amazing vacation in Canada.

Getting ready to hit the water

Tacofino!

Inside the cozy Surf Shack

Yup, that's what it was called.

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