Monday, July 27, 2009

Small Breakfast - July 18, 2009

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One morning, I woke up late, not feeling very hungry, but I knew I had to eat something. I started with my morning tea--this time a London Fog. I've been obsessed with these since June, and I can't quite get enough.

It's as simple as a heaping spoonful of sugar, a few drops of vanilla extract, two tablespoons of milk, an Earl Grey tea bag, and top it off with some extremely hot water. Steep for a minute or two, and you've got yourself a London Fog tea latte.

Heavenly. It strikes a great balance between citrusy and vanilla-y flavours. Plus the physical warmth of the latte is a wonderful way to wake up slowly.

I also ate a small container of vanilla yogurt. I haven't been able to bring myself to eat diet/reduced fat yogurt, yet. I rarely eat yogurt as it is, so why ruin the experience by assaulting my body with aspartame?

Vanilla is my favourite yogurt. Slightly sweet, highly fragrant. It's wonderfully mellow and tart at the same time.

While this wasn't a healthy breakfast by any stretch, it certainly did the trick of holding me over until lunch. I think I need to start incorporating more fruit into my daily diet.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Yesterday’s Food Should Be Left Behind – May 20, 2009

This happened so long ago that all I remember was hating the food. We went to Yesterday’s for a quick dinner before catching “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” at the theatre.

Yeah, that was a long time ago.

Anyway, most of the places I like in the downtown core are only open for lunch, so we settled on Yesterday’s.

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Christine ordered the fettucine alfredo. The pasta was over done and the sauce covering it all was a plain cream sauce. But if the sauce isn't already good for the body, shouldn't that fact be hidden with flavour to make it edible? Christine only managed a quarter of the plate. Andrew finished the rest.

I should have left the restaurant when the waitress “corrected” my pronunciation of “gnocchi.” “So you’ll have the ga-nokki,’” she said. Wow, what a pet peeve. “Yes, I’ll have the ‘neyokki,’” I confirmed.

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While it sounded good on paper, the gnocchi was truly awful. There was this foul stench that preceded the gnocchi that reminded me of a rotting deluxe pizza. The gnocchi themselves were gummy and starchy. The only other time I have ordered gnocchi was at a reputable restaurant, and those were made fresh. These were obviously frozen or dried and then boiled to an inedible mess. Starving to death, I ate only the gnocchi because they actually tasted better than the peppers and bacon.

Both of our pasta dishes came with garlic toast that was burnt black. Also inedible.

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This is what it looked like at the end. Not a pretty sight, is it?

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My brother made the best choice out of all three of us by ordering a bacon Swiss burger. He said it wasn’t bad, but he’s not one with discerning tastes.

I don’t quite remember how much the dinner cost, but it was certainly far more expensive than I would have paid for the meal. On hindsight, I should have sent the food back, but we only had 45 minutes to eat before the movie started.

There is no way I could recommend this place to others with a clear conscience. Its food and décor is so outdated and washed out. It was truly terrible, and I am never going back.

~ * ~

152 Sparks Street
(Between Metcalfe and O’Connor)
Ottawa, ON
(613) 235-1424

Pan Chancho’s Bread-Flavoured Cake – April 16, 2009

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Once upon a time, Lucy bought a lemon chiffon cake with blueberries on a whim, and it was awful. The icing was made mostly with shortening, so while it looked wonderful and white, it tasted like plastic. The chiffon was dry as sawdust, and just as flavourful. The blueberry filling wasn’t sweet and didn’t taste like blueberries at all.

She was so disappointed. She had bought breads, spreads, croissants, and dessert tarts from Pan Chancho and had been thoroughly impressed by their products. It seemed as though this poor excuse for a cake had just been sitting in the case for too long. Because of Pan Chancho's distinctive bready smell, each bite of the cake tasted like bread. This was disgusting, since the cake wasn’t flavourful or sweet enough to combat this smell.

She and Jimmy only ate a quarter of the cake before they threw it out.

The end.

The moral of the story is to avoid Pan Chancho's beautiful-looking cakes because looks really are deceiving.

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~ * ~

Pan Chancho Bakery
44 Princess Street
(Between King and Ontario)
Kingston, ON
(613) 544-7790

Lunches with Lucy: Souvlaki, Chicken Parmagiana, Italian Subs, and Pasta Salad

Chicken Souvlaki Platter from Café Deluxe – May 26, 2009

As I’ve mentioned before, I like getting my lunches from Café Deluxe. They’re a little pricey for lunch, but they offer a great variety.

I ordered the chicken souvlaki platter, which comes with a side Greek salad.

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The chicken was slightly too dry and slightly too bland. Fortunately, the rice was awesome. Each bite was filled with chicken-y goodness. The rice was perfectly cooked, which is highly unusual for a fast food place.

The salad had romaine, onions, tomatoes, kalamata olives, and feta cheese. I don’t remember much about it, except that it was overdressed.

I don’t remember the price, but normally it comes to $11-$13 after tax.

~ * ~

Chicken Parmagiana from Shakey’s – May 28, 2009

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Shakey’s is located in the World Exchange Centre food court, so its line ups can be daunting. The menu is hit-and-miss, and sadly, this time was a miss.

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I probably should have gotten a sandwich after seeing this stuff sitting in their giant trays.

The platter comes with the chicken parmesan (a fried, breaded chicken cutlet smothered in marinara and sprinkled with cheese), rice, and your choice of salad.

The chicken was atrocious. The cutlet itself was properly seasoned, but the sauce was overly salty and tangy. It was completely one-dimensional flavour. In any tomato-based sauce, there should always be a hint of sweetness. I definitely didn’t get any of that. Worse, I was unable to scrape off the sauce so that I could just eat the cutlet. The sauce soaked the breading right through. Blech.

The rice was overdone and completely bland. Totally different from when I had eaten the chicken souvlaki rice.

The pasta salad was the biggest disappointment. It was oily, flavourless, and starchy. The peppers were the best part of the salad because they were sweet and fresh. There just wasn’t enough of them to carry the salad. Once I ran out of peppers, I couldn’t continue eating the overcooked, mushy pasta.

Since getting this, I have avoided the platters at Shakey’s. The chicken breast sandwich is a better deal. I didn’t write down the price of this, but I imagine it came up somewhere between $8-$11.

~ * ~

Italian Sub #2 and Pasta Salad from Vie Bella – May 29, 2009

This is normally my stand-by sandwich place. I am completely in love with the spicy eggplant pickles, and would take one of these subs over a lifetime of Subway’s sandwiches.

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Here, I got the #2 (prosciutto, spicy salami, spicy capicollo ham), all dressed. You pay about $5 for a quality sandwich that will fill you, unlike at Subway. The sandwich is quite substantial, and you can see all the toppings they jam in there. The bread is crusty and chewy without being so chewy that you can’t take a proper bite. They toast it, which makes the little shop smell amazing.

After a few bites, you realize that there is a slight, lingering spiciness. It felt like a warm glow in my throat, not a choking kind of spicy. I liked that part.

The service here is pretty fast because they have one person on cash, one person assembling the sub and putting it in the toaster, and one dressing the sub. Subway could learn a lot from this crazy efficient assembly line.

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That day, I was feeling hungrier than usual, and I was craving a good pasta salad. I also bought a small container of their pasta salad. It has bits of red and green peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, green olives, feta cheese, parsley, and red onions. It’s pretty expensive at $2.85, but it’s far more delicious than the crap salad I got from Shakey’s.

This time, however, the pasta was overcooked and mush, and there wasn’t enough cheese. The dressing didn’t have enough vinegar, which would have balanced the olive oil nicely.

The total for the day’s lunch came to $8.85. Definitely recommended!

~ * ~


Café Deluxe
77 Metcalfe Street
(Albert and Metcalfe, facing the bus shelters)
Ottawa, ON
(613) 231-2226

Shakey’s Deli
45 O’Connor Street, 100 Queen Street, and 111 Albert Street
(World Exchange Plaza food court)
Ottawa, ON
(613) 234-2244

Vie Bella
87 Sparks Street
(Between Metcalfe and Elgin)
Ottawa, ON
(613) 230-0666

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Homemade Pasta - June 3rd

I'm still jumping back and forth to get some stuff published.


With the help of everyone in the house, homemade pasta was the house special of the night. The master chef of the house, our mom, made the pasta from scratch. Based on this recipe, she threw together some flour, eggs and a bit of olive oil. After kneading the dough with her hands, she let the dough rest for a bit before rolling the dough thin enough to fit in the pasta-roller-machine-crank-thing.

You'll need to gradually turn down the thickness of the machine to allow the pasta dough to thin out properly. When it's thin enough to your liking, run your thinned out dough through the linguine rollers. Seperate the pasta and hang to firm up for a few minutes (the first picture). We had the pasta hanging for half an hour.

We left the pasta hang out to dry for half an hour because that's the time it took Lucy to make a rosée sauce. The left picture is the cooked and drained pasta. The pasta is then tossed in with the sauce (right).

Richard and Andrew, the trainee aka our younger brother, also barbequed some marinated chicken we had in the fridge.

We had made a pasta dinner from scratch in about 45 minutes (not including the marinating time of the chicken). It's that easy!


Dim sum at Cafe Orient - May 24th

Yes.. I'm aware that this happened almost two months ago. Heh.


It was one of those days where my cousin was dropped off at our place so that my mom and my aunt could do some shopping. A few of us had just gotten out of bed when they came and since no one really had any energy or desire to make something for lunch, we decided that it would be easier to just grab a bite at a restaurant.

I heard from my cousin, who had some friends that came from Hong Kong, that her friends recommended Cafe Orient for dim sum. I think Richard said that his HK friends told him that the place was also good... I can't remember. I could be making that last part up.

Anyway, instead of going to Yangtze and Chu Shing for dim sum (which can be pricey for what they serve), I suggested that we head on over to Cafe Orient. It's a small restaurant located near the Booth and Somerset intersection. You'll see it a couple doors beside the Indian corner store.

We arrived at the restaurant, around 2:30 in the afternoon, to find that there was a bit of a line. We take a look inside and see that most of the people there are Chinese. We even spot a couple of young families and some older Chinese men chatting up a storm, while munching on dim sum and sipping on tea. That's a great sight to see, cause that means that they serve tasty dishes.

Since the restaurant is small, we were given a small sheet with dim sum items to order from and their everyday menu. We ordered a few items off the dim sum menu and a couple from the everyday menu.

First off, shrimp ha gow. I think we ordered two of these. Even though these were over steamed, these disappeared pretty quickly.

An order of sticky rice, chicken feet, and a rice casserole dish. It was halibut with a cream sauce with your choice of pasta or fried rice. Richard got it with the fried rice.

A steamer of pork siu mai.

Our last dish was a plate of "my noodles".

I put my noodles in quotations cause the chef had decided to put a spin on the dish, as you can see from the picture. Bean sprouts (ugh), mushrooms and ginger were added to the plate of noodles. I really liked the ginger in the sauce. It helped cut the heaviness of the sauce quite well. And because of that, the dish was polished.

I'm pretty sure we had some egg tarts for dessert. Can't remember though. Our overall experience here at Cafe Orient was decent. We'll come back.

808 Somerset St W
Ottawa, ON

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jumping Here and There

Lucy and I still have quite a few entries to post up. I think we're going to start posting the ones we want first and continue to procrastinate on the ones we don't want to write about.

Here's a few things that we've been up to lately:

We've dined at The Grand, Blue Cactus, Red Lobster, Pho 108 and Palais Imperial. We've taken more pictures around Parliament Hill, and, in terms of baking/cooking, we're just finishing up the last batch of our cream puffs that we made earlier today. We've also made beef stew, cuon, and London fogs.

I'll be finishing an entry or two tomorrow, so be sure to visit again.

~ Christine

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I Can't Quite Put My Finger On It....

I thought maybe I'd mention that we changed the layout of the blog. If you've been here before, then it's obvious to you. Anyway, I was getting annoyed with the cut-off edges, small text size, and colour scheme, so I just upped and changed it. We may be changing it again if we find a better one.

You'll be able to figure out which one of us is posting because my pictures will all be aligned on the left, while Christine's are centred.

I suppose it's also worth mentioning that I've recently started Twittering, and I've added a box on the navigation bar on the left. You can follow me as I tweet the things I can't justify writing a proper post about. Mostly though, the focus will be on trying to stay within "The Diet."

Christine and I will be working on a joint review of a new pizzeria in the Byward Market, The Grand. Stay tuned for more!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bun Bo Hue - May 17th

After a heavy lunch of chicken a la king with biscuits, we headed over to my aunt's house for dinner. She made bun bo hue. This is everything other than the pot of soup. Noodles, bean sprouts, the plate of meat, green onions, and sliced red onions.
Soft tendons, mystery meat and tender beef are waiting for a warm home.

A close up on the soft tendons. I normally don't eat tendons, but these were so soft that I couldn't resist.
There are no pictures of anyone's bowl of bun bo hue. Actually, there weren't any pictures of the soup that night. Lucy and I were too hungry to take the time and snap a photo that night. With our family, sometimes you might not get to eat if you're slow.

For dessert Richard had made white cake (or at least attempted to make it) earlier in the day.

Without a recipe and with a bit of help from mom, he made some sort of cake. He wanted to make something that resembled Betty Crocker's boxed cakes, but it wasn't meant to be.

Before dressing the cake, Richard cut the cake in half and trimmed the crust off. My grandma's strawberry jam was used as a filling in between the two halves. Then cream cheese icing was used to cover the whole thing.

The cake was supposed to have a big red heart, but it didn't turn out... As I watched Richard try and create a heart from some red food colouring, the heart turned out to looklike a cockroach, then a uterus, and then into a butterfly. Nice recovery! lol

Tada! These were enjoyed with some Chinese tea.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Canada Day Fireworks - July 1, 2009

So this is a few weeks late, but better late than never. We went out to Andrew Haydon Park for the fireworks show that night, and almost got eaten alive by mosquitos.

The fireworks were so pretty, so I guess it was worth it!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Breaking News: Hogwarts Secretly Located in Ottawa!

This just in:

While walking in Ottawa's downtown core earlier today, around Elgin and Sparks Street, Lucy and I stumbled upon a few prospective Hogwarts students.

Now where in Ottawa is the pesky Harry Potter hiding?

Hermione's picture that we used can be found here.
Ron's picture can be found here.

The truth:
These two ladies were actually from Ottawa's Haunted Walk. We'll be checking this out later this summer.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Chicken a la king with biscuits- May 17th

Sifting through our pile of unblogged pictures, I came across one that had contained pictures of tasty biscuits that we made.

The lunch menu for that Sunday: Chicken a la king with homemade butter biscuits.

Starting with the butter biscuits...
We cut the cold butter (it has to be cold) into some flour. Then we beat the eggs into some milk and mixed with the flour and butter. We had to press the biscuit dough together quickly to prevent the butter chunks from melting. Once the dough rested for 45 minutes, it was gently rolled out to an inch or two thickness and then cut into circles.

Since we threw them in the oven right after we rolled them out, the butter wasn't as cold as it should have been. That meant that a lot of the butter melted onto the pan which made the biscuits lean a bit. The next time we make these biscuits, we'll make sure we let the butter in the dough chill in the fridge before we bake it.

Once out of the oven, the biscuits were gobbled up (no matter what they looked like) with some chicken a la king that Lucy and my mom made. (Click here for the chicken a la king recipe) What a heavy, heavy lunch! Yum!


Sunday, July 05, 2009

More Ducklings!

I took a few short video clips of the ducklings last week, and figured I should share the uber cuteness of them all.


Saturday, July 04, 2009

Suuuuuuuper Steamed Pork Buns – May 11, 2009

Now, we’ll jump back to two months ago to my first few weeks in Ottawa. My mum made steamed pork buns, otherwise called 包子 baozi, one night after work.

First, we prepared the fillings.

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My mum used leftover spring roll fillings mixed in with ground pork, diced onions, oyster sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar.

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We sliced the Chinese sausages thinly and diced the hardboiled eggs.

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I sliced the rehydrated shiitake mushrooms and fried them quickly with soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar. Yummy!

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Earlier in the day, my mum made the dumpling dough. It’s important to give the dough time to rest and rise before you use them to wrap. Otherwise, the baozi will turn out pockmarked and lumpy looking.

Here, I’m mixing another batch of dough because we ran out. The buns we made using this batch were lumpy and gross looking. Not an attractive batch at all.

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Here’s the steamer. I’m pretty sure we’ve had this one since I was a little kid.

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The finished product!

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Here’s a shot of my first bite of the baozi I wrapped. Yeah, I didn’t wrap it so well. There’s way too much dough. Oopsies! These bad boys filled me up a lot faster than the ones that my mum wrapped.

But I’m quite proud that my buns were edible. Next time will be better!

Canada Day Chilli – July 1, 2009

On Canada Day, my aunt brought over some homemade chilli. Since none of us were in the mood to cook, this solved our little problem nicely.

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I heated up a bowl of chilli and toasted a sesame seed bagel. Spread the bagel with a little butter (or in this case, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” margarine), and you’re set!

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I also sprinkled shredded cheddar and nuked it in the microwave for 30 seconds.

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As you can see, I savoured the chilli to the last spoon.

Earlier in the day, I took some pictures of the flowers in our garden, playing around with composition mostly.

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It was nice, low-key way to spend Canada Day. No crowds, no drunkies, no sardine-packed busses on the way home from watching fireworks from Parliament Hill.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Sarnia—Toronto—Kingston Weekend – June 26 to 29, 2009

I’m going to write a super abbreviated version of the crazy story that was last weekend. Crazy awkward sentence, but I don’t care. Not a lot of food porn, but there are some cute pictures.

This past weekend, Jimmy and I attended a good friend’s wedding in Sarnia. It was the first non-Chinese wedding I’ve ever been to, and Jimmy’s first wedding, so we were both pumped.

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Here’s a photo of the table setting. I loved the colours she chose—teal and white. It was so pretty and summery.

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For dessert, we had a choice of pies: cherry, apple, or lemon meringue. I chose the lemon meringue because I ADORE the contrast between the sweetness and tartness. I was a little sad that I didn’t get a chance to finish eating it. I was too busy weeping at the speeches. Oops!

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On our way back to Kingston, Jimmy and I stopped in Toronto for some ramen. Unfortunately, the place that Jimmy had heard about, Double Happiness, had closed down. We went across the street to Ka Chi Korean Restaurant instead.

It turned out to be a good choice. Within 15 minutes of our arrival, the place filled up. There was a nice buzz in the restaurant.

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Jimmy ordered the gamja tang. This is a pork back bone stew with potatoes. Here, it’s pictured with chapchae in the foreground.

He really liked this dish, but couldn’t finish the entire bowl. The soup is quite rich and heavy, so it really weighs down on your stomach. The pork fell apart as we poked at it… delicious!

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These were all of our banchan. Starting top right, going clockwise: chili soy dipping sauce for pajeon, seaweed salad, rice, kimchi, and chapchae. The seaweed salad struck a nice balance between the sharp vinegar and sweetness of something else. This helped cleanse our palates. The kimchi was actually a super angry red kimchi. It was spicier than I like it, but I still had a few bites. I was sad that the chapchae was a little bland. I guess it was to be expected, since it was meant to be a side dish.

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I ordered the bean paste stew with tofu as my main dish. Oh man, I loved this stuff! I am a fermented bean paste/sauce fanatic! I love fermented soy beans in my mixed congee, fermented tofu in my plain congee, and red miso on practically everything! This stuff actually gets me excited to eat.

The stew was fantastic! I loved that it was served piping hot in a stone bowl. I had to let it cool for a few minutes before attacking it, for fear of burning my tongue. I ended up burning my tongue anyways, but it was worth it.

It’s hard to describe the flavour of bean paste. It’s salty, stinky, and sweet all at the same time. It also has a large amount of natural umami in it, so it really makes an impact on your taste buds.

I wasn’t able to finish this either. I packed up almost half of it.

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Unsure of what to order as an appetizer, we ordered something new: seafood pajeon. It’s a chewy, starchy pancake fried with lots of mysterious bits and dotted with QQ seafood chunks. I was excited to get so many pieces of squid and octopus! It was well worth the money. I practically wolfed this down. I accidentally got more pieces with octopus than Jimmy did. I felt bad, so I gave him a piece that I was sure contained a lot of octopus. Well, it turned out that it didn’t have ANY seafood. Good deed fail.

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After that ridiculously cheap lunch (only $27 with tax and tip!), we drove out east to Scarborough/Markham area for some bubble tea. I finally got a picture of the plaza. It’s called Metro Square, and it’s off Steeles, between Victoria Park and Kennedy somewhere.

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This is Jimmy’s standard order: jumbo original black milk tea with pearls. Delicious as always.

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Before heading to Metro Square, we had stopped by a Second Cup. I ordered a medium London Fog, which is essentially an Earl Grey tea latte. The sweetened steamed milk and the bright Earl Grey meld together into a supremely satisfying drink. I really wanted bubble tea, but had already filled up on the tea latte before we arrived at Ten Ren.

So all of the food pictures are done at this point. Feel free to skip the rest of the post, if you like.

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The next day, Jimmy and I walked down to Confederation Park, in front of Kingston City Hall. It was a bright, breezy Monday, perfect for sighting baby ducklings. These guys were settling in for an afternoon nap after a morning of swimming.

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This is one of the cruise boats for the Thousand Island cruises, the Island Queen. Since moving to Kingston for school years ago, I have yet to take a proper Thousand Island cruise. I went on a boat cruise semi-formal party in first-year, but it didn’t count. When you go on those drinking cruises, it’s clearly not about the scenery.

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Finally, this is my favourite corner in Kingston. You can’t really tell from this picture, but the walls are all joined together at weird angles. There aren’t any right angles! I’ll have to take another picture of this corner during the winter, when the ivy dies off. The foliage is covering up the strange angles. You can find this little corner in one of the alleyways joining Brock Street to Princess Street, just north of King Street. If you ever get a chance, check it out and you’ll understand what I mean about the angles. It’s just so unusual!

And that’s the quick and dirty about our hectic weekend trip!

~ * ~

I’ll put the addresses up later. Too lazy now.


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