Sunday, March 29, 2009

March Girls' Birthday Celebration

Readers of this blog may find the above picture familiar if you are also a follower of my hubby's blog, over at where he recently posted about removing undesireable subject matter from an otherwise perfectly good picture by using Photoshop. He did an amazing job. So, pictured above is the edited version of the whole gang after enjoying an "All You Can Eat Feast" at China Buffet King in celebration of the March Girls' Birthdays.

Here are the 3 Girls celebrating a birthday in March. My very generous big sister Irene (in white) and b-i-l Wayne treated her daughter, me and my family, as well as my other sister together with her family to this fabulous buffet.

Here are my 2 boys with my sister and her daughter.

Here's my first plate. A sushi boat filled with assorted sashimi, sushi, maki rolls, some mango salad and some soba noodle.

Here's another plate with some Peking Duck in a pancake wrap and a chicken drumstick (a traditional chinese birthday treat).

Back at my place afterwards, to indulge in a Rich Decadent Chocolate Cake. Yes, we managed to squeeze in more food after the monstrous meal we just had. Who can refuse chocolate really?

Sharing a laugh or two with my sister over birthday cake and other treats.

These are some Mochi Balls I got as a birthday present. I love mochi balls, especially when they are freshly made. These packaged ones are almost as good and came in sesame seed, peanut butter and red bean flavours. My favourite is still the traditional freshly made red bean (azuki) mochi balls. So soft, cute and yummy.

Here were the gifts we exchanged with each other. I had wanted to post some close-ups of the Orchid Plant and a cute pop-up card had I bought along with a birthday charm I had made for my sister, but I lost a lot of pictures due to picture overload and other technical problems beyond my control.
Sometimes all these techie problems can be very frustrating and that is one of the reasons why I don't post as often as I do. But after reading some other blogs, I get my inspiration back and restart again. One of those inspirations came from Serena at I love her format where everyday, she posts a new CSOTD (Creative Somthing Of The Day). I highly recommend everyone to check out her daily whimsical illustrations there.

Korea Town North

Becuase I've been slacking off with my blogging lately, I'll try to do some catch up with a double post today. My first entry will be about Korea Town North (the stretch of Yonge Street between Finch and Steele) and my second entry will be about the "March Girls' Birthday Celebration".

Everyday, on my way to work, going south on Yonge Street towards Finch Avenue, I always pass by a restaurant called "Hell's Chicken". I was curious enough to finally drop by recently to check it out. The restaurant was obviously a ripoff of the popular cooking TV show called "Hell's Kitchen".

I had expected from reading a few scant reviews on this Korean enterprise that Hell's Chicken might be a family runned Chicken Wing take-out type of eatery but upon entering the place, it turned out to be more of a Sports Bar, catering to the beer drinking crowd. That being not my scene, I made a quick exit. But at least my curiosity has now been satisfied. Below is a picture of the Eatery called Hell's Chicken.

Since we were already in the area, we made our way over to the Galleria Supermarket. This place is like one big giant supermarket selling pretty much everything you will find straight out of a supermarket in Korea. They even stock products from Japan. Everytime I visit this place, it always takes me back to our visits to Tokyo, where we were astounded by the large array of delightful products found there. Below is but a small sampling of what can be found at the Galleria Supermarket.

Korean Maki Rolls (Not quite as good as Japanese Maki Rolls)

But their Sushi Rolls can't be beat, especially all selling at $0.58 a piece. Among our favourites are Masago, Roasted Eel, Salmon,(pictured above), Surf Clam and Otopus.

Below are some freshly made meal packages that you have to pay for first before you can microwave them.

An assortment of meals made in single servings or family size servings.

Some Spicy Squid Balls

Deep Fried Chicken (Chicken Katsu)

Seasoned Fishcake. These are great served hot with rice or noodles or even served cold as a filling inside rice paper rolls (Fresh spring rolls).

Here's their Newest Arrival

All the ingredients you need, all ready to go into a Yummy Ham & Kimchi Stew. Just add water. I'm not so sure that the slice of Kraft Cheese (in the upper left hand corner) should be included in this stew. Sounds kinda gross to me.

Know of any good recipes for this item?

How about this one?

Some Korean Style Refreshment

I love these fun drinks

These ones were very good too.

These bottled beverage definitely reminded me of Toyko where they often entice customers with some sort of Toy Giveaway included with the drink. That's what I love about the Japanese. They have so many fun and creative ways to sell their products.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour 2009

Our family participated in Earth Hour again this year. Many feel this exercise is meaningless because turning off the lights for one hour is not saving any significant energy. However, we had a fun time with it last year and our family was happy to participate in it again this year, because it creates happy memories for us, it shows that we support the green movement and hopefully, over time, we will be part of a larger movement that will change our overall habits leading to less wasting of our Earth's limited resources.

As usual, we turned off the lights and played our favourite board game, "Settlers of Catan" by candlelight. For this year, we thought it would be fun to roast some mini marshmallows too. It was like being at a campfire and we all enjoyed the well toasted marshmallows.

Prepared some marshmallow skewers

Derek setting up the board game.

Colin strategizing

Roasting mini marshmallows over a mini open flame.

Dick enjoying some toasty marshmallows.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Haiku for a Spring Day

Too lazy to blog
Will write poetry instead
Now that Spring is here

My mind awakens
So full of fresh ideas
Will try a haiku

Thick blanket of snow
Has finally all melted
As new life peeps out

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Agenda for a New Economy- A Book Review

I give this book Two Thumbs UP!! I enjoyed the book so much that I finished reading it in about 3 days. I highly recommend this book to all those concerned for our future lives. I feel this book would be an excellent teaching tool and should be required reading for all basic Economics Classes.

The author, David Korten, talks about two Economies with strikingly different priorities and values. There’s “Wall Street” which refers to institutions of big finance and the corporations that serve them. These corporations have become global symbols of Capitalism. The main problem with the Wall Street Economy is its creation of “Phantom Wealth” by issuing highly complex investments products that are difficult to understand. Examples of “Phantom Wealth” would be the High-Tech Stock Bubble and the Housing Bubble where values were artificially inflated to create the illusion of increasing wealth when none existed.

Then there’s “Main Street” which he describes as “the world of local businesses engaged in producing Real Wealth in the form of Real Goods and Services, where achieving a positive financial return is an essential condition, but the businesses function within a framework of community values and interests that moderate the drive for pure profit”. Examples of these businesses would be the local barbershops, the Farmers’ Markets, the Mom & Pop Shops, etc. This type of Economy is more caring & co-operative and takes into account local community and environmental issues.

The Basic Message that I believe we need to be aware of is that our current Economic Model is not going to work, no matter how many TRILLIONS of DOLLARS we throw at it. We need to let this Dysfunctional Economy run its course and die and start anew with a different approach. There needs to be more accountability and more attention paid to the limited resources we have to work with. The “Wall Street” crowd is obviously under the mistaken impression that there is NO LIMIT to Growth, but all indications show otherwise. We can only cut down so many trees and blow up so many mountains (Nasty practice of mining for coal) before the whole earth is destroyed. We need to see the Writing on the Wall and act now to reverse the Damaging Processes and begin with New Healing Processes, or else the Human Race is DOOMED, and deservingly so.

What I like about this book is that it also offers some solutions. Korten outlines a 12- Point New Economy Agenda with many suggestions we can implement. He has a lot of very good suggestions but 2 of my favourite ones are:

1). Changing the work compensation ratio from 1000 to 1 to a more reasonable 15:1. This means that a company currently paying its lowest-paid worker a $10,000 annual salary is also compensating its highest-paid (the CEO) an insane annual salary of $10,000,000! This has to stop. Korten suggests a Public Policy be put in place allowing for a more reasonable compensation ratio of no more than 15 to 1. Thus, if a company is paying the lowest-paid worker an annual salary of $10,000, then the highest-paid worker should not earn more than $150,000 annually. Similarly, in a healthcare environment, if the lowest-paid worker receives an annual salary of $30,000, then the highest-paid employee should not earn more than $450,000 annually. Sounds more than fair to me.

2). Introduce a Substantial Luxury Tax for nonessential consumption items that are socially harmful or environmentally wasteful or destructive. For instance if one purchases a fancy sports car like a Porsche , then there should be a substantial luxury tax charged as it takes more resources to produce and maintain than a regular car.

This book points out in no uncertain terms how the Public has been deceived and suggests ways we can reverse the damage. Effectively, the “Wall Street” gang was given a license by a very co-operative government to cheat, extort and rob the General Public of their hard earned money. Maybe the Dollar isn’t so mighty after all. What do you value more? The Not-So-Mighty Dollar or Time well spent with people you care about? So let us bid adieu to a life of Greed and Excess and usher in a new Era of Innovation, Restraint and Responsibility. It’s a time for exciting changes (BIG CHANGES). It may not be a pain-free ride, but it will be exciting. Are you up to the challenge?

A Week of R & R

Sadly, my week of Rest & Relaxation is coming to an end. As always, I thoroughly enjoyed my week away from the Office. No rushing around, stressing about deadlines, forgoing lunch hours, wasting close to 3 hours of my life doing the daily commute. No Thanks! If it weren’t for the steady pay cheque and of course, all the great people I work with, I’m pretty sure I would have packed up long ago. So I say a BIG “Thank You” to all you great people at the Office for making me stay on just a little bit longer, until I can figure out a better way of making a contribution to Society.

I started my week of Rest & Relaxation with some (gasp) housework. It's something I've been putting off for a long time but I felt it was about time I got to it. I had to tidy up the spare room and purge as much as possible. Keep in mind that I’m a bit of a packrat and purging doesn’t come easy for me. So I’m proud to report that after a couple of days, I came away with 1 BIG garbage bag filled to the brim with stuff I was finally willing to part with and I even managed to set aside an area for potential Garage Sale items. It really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I found it to be therapeutic even and besides, I took my time doing it, taking many breaks. I give credit to all those bloggers out there that encouraged people like me to PURGE, PURGE, PURGE. Slowly, but surely, I’m getting there.

The main reason I took this week off was so I can spend my Birthday happily doing things I enjoy most and that definitely did not include pushing paper at the Office. That was my birthday present to myself. I enjoyed it so much that I’m gonna do this every year.

My Birthday celebrations started with my In-laws dropping by and treating the family to dinner at a local Family Chinese Restaurant. After dinner, we came across a new shop in the area called DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Cutie which offered Classes to Crafters assembling miniature playhouses. Hmmm… that looks like a business I could get interested in …

We then returned home to a birthday carrot cake, lovingly baked by hubby and the boys from a cake mix box (Betty Crocker, no less). It was an excellent choice because I’m not much of a “sweets” person and I DO love my vegetables. I also received a really CUTE birthday card, some yummy snacks like dried cuttlefish, some seed packets and a mini greenhouse for my upcoming gardening activity.

My favourite present of all was a book Dick personally hand picked for me called “Agenda for a New Economy” by David C. Korten. When he saw this book, he said it had “Joan” written all over it and he is Right about that. I LOVE this book. Here’s a book reflecting many of the viewpoints I already believe in. I feel that after reading this book, it has given me the push I need to pursue a path that is more in tune with my values. I shall do a Book Review in an upcoming posting.

The next day, Dick took me to Michaels to check out some Arts & Crafts supplies and Home Depot to check out some gardening supplies. Don’t worry, these were more window-shopping excursions than spending sprees. I intend to stick to my resolution of not accumulating too much useless stuff, especially after my recent purging. My modest contribution to stimulate our struggling economy amounted to a grand total of $5.82 for the day.

Continuing with the Birthday week celebration, Dick and I went to Yang’s Fine Chinese Cuisine for a fabulous Dim Sum Treat the following day. The Service was excellent and the food was well presented and delectable. A bit on the pricier side, but is to be expected for the quality and service we received. My only objection was that there was another menu listing more dishes in Chinese only. Where was the English version? In this day and age, I find this to be unacceptable for a restaurant of this calibre.

I spent the rest of the week enjoying some more of my favourite activities like trying out new recipes, baking, reading, cross-stitching, blogging, hanging out with my family and generally kicking off my shoes and relaxing with the sunlight streaming through the living room windows. Ahhhh, life is sweet….

Dick starts things off by preparing the cake batter.

Derek brings out the baked product.

Colin finishes off with the decorations.

Here's the finished product

My attempt at tidying the Spare Room. You can start to see some carpeting. This is way tidier than it was a week ago.

I even sectioned off an area for Garage Sale items.

Here's the store that offers classes for would-be Miniature Hobbyists.

Everything here is cute and miniature. Notice the cubic watermelons on the shelf? They really do sell fresh cubic melons in Japan, grown specifically this way for easy packing.

A miniature bakeshop filled with miniature cakes and pastries.

Cute birthday card filled with bunnies & squirrels doing some gardening.

Some small purchases from Michaels. More Model Magic and a fine detail cutter for some future craft project.

I bought some Thai Basil seeds from Home Depot to add to my collection of seeds I received from my birthday.

I also got a mini greenhouse to start my seeds in.

Reading and cross stitching in my favourite sunny spot.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Water, we need Water

What’s more precious than Gold or Oil? PURE UNADULTERATED, CLEAN, REFRESHING WATER! Without water, we are not going to last too long, that’s for sure. I have always valued water and I do try to use it wisely whenever I can.

I had the chance of experiencing what it would be like to not have easy access to a clean water supply for about a day, courtesy of a water main problem occurring in my neighbourhood recently. So for about 32 hours, we had to make do with whatever water we had on hand. It wasn’t devastating nor life threatening, but it was definitely very inconvenient.

We conserved water the best we can by using a few cups of water for both cleaning and rinsing our dirty dishes. Cooking from scratch was pretty much out the door, so we decided to go out for dinner instead. The worse was not having enough water to flush our toilets with. Thankfully, we have 3 toilets at our disposal, with apparently 2 flushes left in each tank. Still, not knowing when we were gonna get our water supply restored, we went with the motto: "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down". Even then, I was the only one in our household who managed to let out number 2. No one else dared to. I hope this short period of going without a municipal supply of water will prove to be a valuable lesson for our affected neighbours and us. We must learn to CONSERVE WATER.

In fact, I’m so concerned about our water consumption that I even wrote to our councillor, with the suggestion that we increase the cost of our water rate by as much as 50%. Is that too much of a price hike? No, I don’t think so. Unfortunately, it's always having to resort to hitting consumers in the pocketbook before we can get a change in consumer behaviour. I reviewed a current water bill and noticed that our household of 4 used 50,000 Litres of water over a period of 87 days, with an Average Daily Consumption of 575 litres, or about 145 litres per person per day. The average Toronto home uses about 248 litres of water per person per day. That means our household uses about half of what the average household in Toronto uses. How do you compare? Are you using less or are you using more? Here’s a link for an overview of water use in Toronto and ways to save on water consumption.

My reasons for jacking up the Water Rate are 2-fold. Firstly, this should immediately raise revenues for the city to build up a good reserve fund for future water projects. Secondly, if this cost is too much for a household to bear, I’m more than certain that people will come up with many creative ways to CONSERVE WATER. Heck, most people I know already spend an outrageous amount on Bottled Water. Here’s a price comparison. A case of 12x 500ml of bottled water costs only $1.00. Dirt Cheap. Right? Well, that works out to be $0.16 per Litre. Guess what? Water from our taps costs only $0.0018 per Litre! Now, that’s DIRT CHEAP!!! On top of that, we don’t end up with cases and cases of used plastic water bottles, surely headed to some far-off landfill. And you know how I feel about the excessive use of plastic.

To highlight how poor our mismanagement of water usage is, I’d like to leave you with where Canadians rank when it comes to water consumption. Please click here.

In case you can’t access this website, let me tell you that Canada ranks 15th out of 16 peer countries and earns a “D” grade. Excessive water consumption in Canada can be attributed to the lack of widespread water conservation practices and water pricing that does not promote efficiency. Only the United States fared worse than Canada. Not proud, not proud at all.

This link only provides the ranking of Canada with other Developed Nations. Can you imagine how shameful we'd look if we were to compare ourselves with the rest of the world, including Emerging Nations like China and India, and all the other Poor Countries in the world?


With only a 15 minute warning and a promise that our water supply would be restored the next morning, we decided to save 2 pots and a kettle of water in case we needed it. We figured how much water could we possibly need between 9PM and 7AM?

Of course the City Workers underestimated the time they needed to repair the water main problem. So we were told that it would take at least another day to restore the water supply. With not much water on hand, we used a minimal amount of water to wash and rinse our dishes.

I started to worry that we may not have enough water to flush our toilets with so I sent Dick out to gather some snow from our backyard for that purpose.

We saved some snow for watering our plants too. As I said, when you have a limited amount of resources to use, you will come up with creative ways to solve the problem.