Windy Cities

Wow, what a crazy week it’s been. Feels like nonstop from Wednesday till now. On Wednesday evening, I went to Toronto (road trip with my neighbour) for a Salesforce conference. The conference took place at the Beanfield Centre all day Thurday. It was pretty good – I networked, learned about how the software is used in universities, went to a session on Salesforce in healthcare, and learned a bit about their Artificial Intelligence module called Einstein. But I must say that the highlight of the day was winning Cody the Bear, a plush stuffed animal that I had to wait in line for 45 minutes for (!!), and also successfully complete a training module.

IMG_1583.JPG

Thursday night I went to Scaddabush restaurant with my brother, and we were both very impressed by the quality of food. I had an amazingly yummy peach & mango belini that looked like a birthday cake.

Friday morning I went to my old-time favourite coffee shop, Balzac’s at Yonge & Bloor, and then spent some time reading at the Reference Library. It felt so good to be back in that place of peace and wisdom, leafing through new finds, and reading a chapter from one of my favourite books, “The Great Work of Your Life” by Stephen Cope. (a must-read if you haven’t read it already).

That afternoon I met up with my friend Cybele and we went to the OCAD design fair (showcasing student projects and artwork) and hung out in park… it was the perfect day to bask in the sun, lounge in the playground, and stroll through the park.  Around 5 PM we went to grab some nachos at Margarita’s on Baldwin, and that’s when the fun began. The wind picked up pace, objects started flying about, trees started to sway violently, and people started to get frantic. We walked towards Queen’s Park, feeling as though we were going to be blown away! We came across one tree that had fallen down onto the street, blocking traffic, and taking a hydro line with it. Luckily someone was already calling the police as we passed by, so we continued on.

IMG_1679.JPG
Fallen tree & hydro line, Henry St.

We met up with Jasmine at Innis Town Hall, and watched the Finnish documentary “Entrepreneur”, about two very different businesses that are trying to scale up and become successful. One sells meat from a truck, and the other sells a popular meat replacement product which they call “pulled oats”.  We were not impressed at all (it was so slow moving and not at all engaging). After the movie, Cybele headed home, and Jasmine and I went back to her place for a fun evening getting sushi (late celebration of her bday!), watching movies, and catching up.

Saturday I went for a walk by the harbourfront and then caught my train home from Union. I met an amazing woman from Lebanon and we chatted for a lot of the trip. My parents and neighbour picked me up, and a few hours later we went to the International Fair at a local church, where we were dazzled by amazing entertainment, representing many different cultures, and sampled delicious food from across the globe.

IMG_1703 (2).JPG
My favourite ladies, heading off to the International Fair

Today was Easwaramma Day at the Sai Centre, celebrating the birthday of Sathya Sai Baba’s mother. We got home in the afternoon and were totally spent!!

Hope you all had a wonderful week/weekend too!

A Fun-Filled Day

Yesterday was a super packed day!! I spent the day downtown Ottawa, where I attended the Ottawa Art Gallery’s grand opening, strolled through the streets, enjoyed my tea and reading time at Chapters, met up with my friends Hetal and Manasa for a yummy dinner at Aroma Meze, and then went to a session at the Ottawa Writer’s Festival. Phew!! By the time I got home at around 11 PM, I was exhausted.

Here are a few pics/videos from the day:

IMG_1342
New Ottawa Art Gallery, $38 million project

 

IMG_1358
Ottawa art gallery, sari display

 

 

IMG_1384.JPG
Music speaks louder than words, Elgin Street

 

IMG_1389
Reading our latest book club pick, Chapters

 

IMG_1406
Dinner with two amazing ladies, Aroma Meze restaurant

 

IMG_1412
Christ Church Cathedral, 414 Sparks Street

 

IMG_1414.JPG
Books for Borders & Belonging session

 

I loved listening to Sharon Bala read from her new book, The Boat People. There is something about being read to that is so soothing. A nice end to a busy day!

M is for Makita

This past Saturday I went to Makita Kitchen & Bar in downtown Ottawa with my friends Hetal and Manasa. One of my New Years Resolutions for 2018 was to visit 10 Ottawa hotspots (but as my cousin Hiten said – “Isn’t ‘Ottawa’ and ‘hot spots’ an oxymoron?!”). I am venturing to prove him wrong.

Makita was recommended to me by my brother Raju, who went last month and said it was excellent. The restaurant is easy to miss, but you can spot it by the fancy “M” jutting outside of the roof’s shingles.

untitled
Makita Kitchen & Bar, The Glebe, Ottawa

The name “Makita” means “Due North”, and the restaurant is located in the North end of the Glebe. The cuisine is “Pan Asian” or “New Asian”, and they successfully combine elements of Asian cuisine with dishes such as gnocchi, steam buns, and falafel.

Manasa and I arrived a little late (due to the snowy weather) and we found Hetal comfortably seated, enjoying a glass of white wine. She looked amazing in her pink sweater, dangling earings, and bright smile. We soon joined her and each ordered a Cab Sauvignon.

IMG_7933
A glass of Cabernet Sauvignon to start the evening

For appetizers, we shared the Fried Tofu, Steam Buns, and the Sesame Tuna. I absolutely loved the Sesame Tuna, it might’ve been my favourite dish of the evening.

IMG_7929
Fried Tofu
IMG_7930
Sesame Tuna

The steam buns are the restaurant’s specialty – freshly baked doughy bread with a tasty filling. Initially we weren’t going to get them, but then we thought that we couldn’t get the full experience without them, so we changed our minds. Hetal and Manasa had the shrimp shui mai flavour, which was inside a squid-ink bun, and I had the falafel vegetarian version, sans squid.

IMG_7941
Sticky buns, a Makita specialty

For the main course, Hetal and I shared the Thai Gnocchi and Manasa had the Ramen noodle dish (not your $2 grocery store kind, but a sophisticated blend of pickled shiitake mushrooms, nori, pork belly, soy egg, scallion, and togarashi).

IMG_7943
Enjoying our meal and the company

We had a blast laughing and catching up, discussing life in general, networking events, and politics.

Our waiter James was super nice, and even danced for us. And of course we had to take a few fun selfies!

The ambience was great – not too loud, cozy, trendy, and outside was beautiful with the snow falling gently.

IMG_7956
View of Bank Street, Ottawa, from Makita Restaurant & Bar

Hetal joked that the restaurant would get full points for its bathroom, which had a small men’s room, and a larger women’s one (makes so much sense).

My bill came to $52 (not including tax and tip), which is not bad at all considering the amount and quality of food, and the two glasses of wine.

Overall I would rate the restaurant 8.5/10, and I would definitely go back! Can’t wait for Hot Spot #2!

Let’s Talk

I just got home from Chapters – I spent the afternoon there reading. I have exactly three weeks before my next book club meeting on the 21st, and my goal is to read the whole book at Chapters (can’t buy them all!). The book selection for this month is “Stay With Me” by Ayobami Adebayo. It’s set in Nigeria and it’s about the consequences of wanting to have a child at any cost, and touches on the themes of betrayal, jealousy, and insanity.

What I look forward to most about Chapters is getting my tea/latte and a treat. Today I had an English breakfast tea and a Valentine’s Day heart cookie. The barista informed me that I had been missing out on free refills! I didn’t realize that with my gold card, I can get free refills on tea. She was really nice and gave me a couple tea bags to go.

Here are a few of my pics from the day:

While at I was sipping my tea, I read one of my favourite blogs, written by my old writing teacher, Beth Kaplan. She’s in New York City right now, where she is going to deliver a talk, and is touring the city and taking in its wonders. I love her writing style – she is so honest and funny, and not afraid to write about the rough parts. I especially love her commentary on Donald Trump, who (like most of us), she absolutely detests. Here is what she wrote about him today:

Another great thing was that we completely missed the State of the Union address by the orange blowhole.
– Beth Kaplan

Lol! The orange blowhole. I know exactly how she feels. I tried watching the State of the Union address yesterday, just to be informed, but couldn’t get through even five minutes of it – it’s like nails on a chalkboard. On a funnier note, why is he obsessed with celebrities these days? One of his latest tweets was directed at Jay-Z, and he said “Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black Unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!”.  Hopefully this is true, although even if it is, can it really be attributed to his policies? There is a big difference between correlation and causation (but that is a topic for another day).

While I was reading at the shared table near the back of the store, I met a woman named Alice who was very chatty and sweet. She said “When I was 80, ….”  Huh?! I couldn’t believe she was actually starting a sentence with “When I was 80”.  She didn’t look a day over seventy. Alice told me that she moved to Ottawa from Victoria Island over ten years ago, and loves it here because everyone is so friendly. She lives close by to Chapters, and comes often to read and meet new people. I hope I run into her again!

My Dad picked me up after a few hours, and we dropped off some books at the library before heading home. The roads were incredibly slippery and snowy – and when I got home I stepped into what must have been at least three inches of snow! It was beautiful. I had to resist jumping in and making snow angels. Overall a fun excursion!

Hmmm what else is new with me? There are many things on my mind these days, some of which I’ll fill you in on in the near future (just send me your positive vibes in the meantime – there is something I am hoping for and the wait is killing me!).

Today is Bell Lets Talk Day, which was created to raise awareness about mental health and to stimulate conversation, reduce stigma, and improve dialogue. For every tweet or text that uses #BellLetsTalk, Bell donates 5 cents to Canadian mental health initiatives. It’s around 7 PM right now, and the website shows that there have been over 100 million interactions today (so that is a total of $5 million dollars – wow!). I talked to my friend Mandeep on the phone earlier, and we were discussing the importance of ‘talking’ – not just texting and tweeting and giving the elevator pitch on mental health, but actually striking conversations with strangers, and being friendly, open, and compassionate. I am always amazed that how in Toronto, a city of over 3 million people, it is possible to still feel lonely. No one that is surrounded by that many people should ever feel lonely!

Speaking of isolating experiences, this morning my sister sent me a video about a hypnosis experiment conducted in Netherlands that simulates the experience of being a refugee. In particular, it follows the journey of a female refugee and all that she endured in escaping her country. It was pretty tough watching it and seeing these ordinary people have to endure the torture of this plight, but it helps knowing that they will be relieved of their hardship in only a few minutes. The end of the video is very touching – definitely worth a watch if you have the time:

Well that’s all I have for now, will write some more soon I’m sure!

Hope you all have a great evening!

Keep Calm and Skate On

Yesterday afternoon I went skating near my house at the Kanata Beaver Pond. There is something about the motion of skating that is meditative, going around in circles, over and over and for some reason never wanting to stop. I even played with the hockey stick and puck that were left there by some kids, pretending I was Wayne Gretzky, racing across the ice, hoping to score that big goal.

The sun hits the ice
My skates glide smoothly along
Oops! – Was that a bump?

Here is a video of my first skate. (There is also another one of me spinning but watching it makes me dizzy!).

Later I went for a walk and basked in the beautiful weather.  A little chipmunk put on a show for me while I snapped a few photos:

IMG_7795

Scurrying away to gather some nuts:

IMG_7799

I encountered a mother and her daughter walking their dog across the frozen pond:

IMG_7810

The woods near my house always make me reflect, and have a haunting effect as the sun rays peek through the treetops:

IMG_7828

A beautiful afternoon in solitude, nature, and surrounded by beauty. When life gets a little overwhelming, keep calm and skate on!