Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Getting Back Into the Groove

It's almost the end of March! How does time pass so quickly when you're unemployed??? Hahaha!!! Well, between visits to my friend who just had a baby (there's a picture in my previous post), and shopping with former colleagues, spending time with old friends and celebrating my younger sister's 27th birthday and my mom's best friends birthday, somehow March has flown by! For the first time since I've been home, I actually feel like I'm (psychologically) at home and it's nice (^ - ^ )

My sister's birthday is only a few days after my mother and grandmothers, and sadly only a few days before the anniversary of my mother's death. Trying to hard not to focus on the second anniversary of my mother's death, my sister, father and mom's best friend ventured out to try the new sushi restaurant just down the street from our home: 168 Sushi: http://www.168sushibuffet.com/. Now, I'm not a fan of all-you-can-eat sushi and if you're a sushi or Japanese food lover in London then you have to go to Shiki: http://www.shiki.ca/. Shiki is the best and ONLY authentic Japanese restaurant in the city and the food is always amazing! The owners are long-time acquaintances, but regardless, the food there is superior to any other Japanese restaurant in town. BACK to 168 Sushi! 168 Sushi is HUGE and has attracted a lot of their customers because you can place your order on an iPad. Although this seems great, you have to wait for your server to come to your table to confirm your order before it's sent to the kitchen-no biggie-but it can be a hassle if you're server is very busy. The prices are OK, but the lunch buffet for kids is a steal (ONLY $3.95!). I'm not a big eater (shock of all shocks!!!!), so I don't ever feel like I get my money's worth at buffets in general. I like the atmosphere at the restaurant, and as far as all-you-can-eat sushi joints in town, this is the best I've had! I ended up going here again with former colleagues and I LOVE them! Below are some shots I took from the first time I went.

 Ordering on the iPad: BEFORE the craziness of all the food came out!
 Dad got Sapporo (Japanese beer) and Emi and I got Pina Coladas-YUM!
 My father and I. There WAS a clearer shot, but he didn't like it ;)
 My sister and I with my mom's best friend of over 24 years!
 Uh oh! That's a lot of food!!! We ate it all, muahahahahaha!!!

Later on during the weekend my sister decided to have her friends come over to our home before going out to a pub close by. I tagged along, not wanting to miss celebrating my sister's birthday.

My sister and I on our way out the door to....Drink. A lot. Friends, I don't think I'm in Kuwait anymore!
 My sister's friends got her this brownie covered in whipped cream, strategically hiding a shot of Bailey's (Irish Cream Liquer), and poor Emi had to get the shot without her hands. Her lovely friend helped her by holding her hair back.
Voila! Emi got the shot and drank it (the empty shot glass in front of her) and moved onto the more enticing brownie (in her opinion).

My sister and I towards the end of the evening and STILL standing! Forgive the overexposure (this is taken with my Blackberry).

My little sister loves to partay and that we did! I won't go into details, but let's just say it was a great night, and I don't even like pubs!

My little sister requested that I make my pumpkin spice cookies with caramel frosting and since it was her birthday, I could hardly deny her this one tiny request. Sooooooo, for the third time (ever) and for the FIRST TIME in Canada, I made these absolutely delicious cookies! I had to give some away otherwise I would have ended up waddling to the pub, hahahaha! I passed some along to my mom's best friend and she loved them, too! What a success these little, mountainous wonders are!!!

COOKIES!!! Emi and daddy approved!

I've still been cooking. However, I haven't experimented with any new recipes....EXCEPT for a risotto dish. It was amazing! I now know how to modify it for next time (tone down the parmesan cheese), but it was tasty!!! I'm hoping to try more new recipes soon!

 Lemon & thyme risotto with Greek salad

Just this past weekend, I reconnected with close friends at a spa party. My newly wed friend and her husband agreed to host the party and invited our close female and male friends. Without a partner/boyfriend, I asked my sister and father to join me. My sister chose green beer over the party (the spa party was on March 17th-St. Patrick's Day-the day when many Canadians claim they're Irish). My father hesitated, but agreed to join me. Many men opted out, lol, but my father and my friend's husband joined in. Although we were short a few people (due to green beer and the flu), we had a blast! My friend and I had gone shopping a few days prior to grab some ingredients that I'd need to make some concoctions with. We went to the Indo-Asian grocery store just down the street from my home and I wonder now why the heck it has taken me YEARS to go there! It was AWESOME!!! My friend and I browsed the store at least twice before we took our items to the counter! I will DEFINITELY be going back to try out more Indian and Pakistani recipes!!! By the time my father and I got to the spa party (my Polish friend, "K" picked us up), I was sure the gloomy weather would dampen everyone's mood. However, the sun began to shine and as it showed up, my mood instantly brightened! When I arrived at my friends' place, I saw smiling faces, got BIG hugs, and was welcomed to this: 

Awesome healthy snacks and homemade specialty coffee!

I'd prepared two face masks, a lip scrub, hand soak, and foot soak and both my father and friend's husband joined in! I think everyone had fun! We listened to lounge music...And Enya. What??? Who DOESN'T love Enya?!? That's how the "older" crowd celebrated St. Patty's day, lol! Enya is an Irish singer and is quite successful (I even bought one of her cds while I was living in Japan!). Another member at the party? My friends' pooch! The dog lickd up all the concoctions that we spilled on the floor (DON'T WORRY! All of the concoctions were made of food, so the dog wouldn't get sick from licking up a bit of anything). He was tuckered out by the end of the party!

I gave him some pet-lovin' since I've really been missing my dog of late.

The weather has been horrible and most days are grey and snowy. Here's a picture of what it looks like outside RIGHT NOW:
Yes, it's still snowing and yes, it's beautiful. However, exercising in it is...Entertaining to onlookers and potentially disastrous to me, and so I've forgone exercise for awhile (not cool).

HOWEVER, I WILL be able to exercise in warm, sunny weather soon! In exactly ONE week I'll be flying back to Kuwait for a job interview! I am sooo excited! I only realized today that I'll be missing Easter which is a BIG thing for me since I spend Good Friday and Easter Sunday at church. It was bad enough that I missed the 11pm candlelight service on Christmas Eve. As I move here and there, I've begun to question how I make sacrifices and compromises for the people in my life, for a job, and for a future that I'm uncertain of...It makes me question how much certain people mean to me and how far I will go for those who are close enough to my heart to break it...Anyhow, that's for another day. For now, "Dear Kuwait, I didn't feel done with you; I'm NOT done with you. I can't wait to see you again, but I'd be lying if didn't admit that what I'm most happy about is seeing my friends!"

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Joy of Cooking...And of New Babies!

As my former colleagues celebrated Kuwait National Day and Kuwait Liberation Day (February 25th and 26th respectively this year), I have been cooking and socializing. I could only hide for so long; I couldn’t live a half-life forever, and so I’ve been making an effort to be less of a hermit and more of a social butterfly and try to put the possibility of a life in Kuwait on a shelf, not where I’ll forget it, but where I’ll simply keep it for now. The idea of going out isn’t as appealing as it once was. However, I think this is mainly due to the weather. I don’t think anyone here hasn’t heard me whine about how freaking cold I am. To all Canucks (a slang term for Canadians), I’m VERY sorry. I’m a sorry excuse for an Ontarian Canuck, but I left low 20°C, sunny weather for temperatures in the minus with few sunny days (of late) and A LOT of snow. I really do love winter and any of my friends and family here can confirm that since they think I’m nuts (there’s nothing better than a fresh falling of snow and the sun reflecting off of it to create an overly bright day!). However, the snow of late has been a brown-grey slush and until today the sun, too, had been in hiding. The result? An unhappy Miki. ***Note to self: buy a happy lamp***

What should I do in order to make myself a happy Miki? Re-connect with my friends (I LOVE my friends in Canada!), and cook…I AM a foodie (a food-lover) after all!
Below are the dishes that my sister and I have concocted recently:

 My first attempt at Japanese food in a looong time: niku jaga (meat&potatoes...with carrots which are not normally added), asparagus with sesame dressing, and my own "mishmash" soup with legumes, ground meat and lots of veggies!
 Another Japanese dish: SUPER easy omu-rice (fried rice with ketchup, onions and mushrooms wrapped in an omelette)
 Japanese Curry!!!
 Cellophane noodles (can you see them?!? Lol!) with onions, celery, soy beans and beef (another Japanese dish)
 Oh, wait! What's this? Japanese cream stew with chicken
Mmmmmmmore Japanese food: my miso soup (I added extra veggies because I had a lot of them in the fridge and dad likes a lot added)
 My sister's AMAZING cream of broccoli soup (made from scratch!)
My first time trying this recipe: Mushroom, Barley and Lentil Curry Soup (It was amazing!)

I went out this morning with a good friend of mine who’s been reading my blog. We were eating at a little joint called The Malibu. Now, the Malibu is NO Breakfast Club-which my friend knew. She encouraged me to take pictures of our sad little breakfast so that you all could see the (hilarious) difference between the breakfast spot in London and versus The Breakfast Club in Kuwait. We thought it was funny…Hopefully you see the humour! That is NOT to say that there aren’t amazing breakfast spots in London. Check out Cora’s: http://www.chezcora.com/home. It’s amazing! Anyway, my friend and I had been catching-up earlier during the car ride when she asked me about the “Irish chef”. Apparently, like my free-spirited, Lebanese co-worker at the school, my friend was curious as to what the real deal was. I laughed and couldn’t help but feel badly for the Irish chef who is (still) dealing with enquiries from the Lebanese, free-spirit (who recently became engaged!). On a side note, my friend from breakfast is off to Jamaica in a few days. You’re jealous, too, aren’t you? Pina Coladas, silky sand and warm water…Who wouldn’t be jealous?!?

Our breakfast at The Malibu

No more complaining about the weather, but I do have to mention that the weather in Canada has been very dry…Sooo dry that my glasses frames couldn’t survive the dry weather in Kuwait AND Canada, and snapped cleanly in half about a week ago. I wanted to cry since I no longer have medical coverage and I really, REALLY dislike shopping for frames. I asked my friend to help me pick out frames that wouldn’t make me look like a nerd (which I know now is just IMPOSSIBLE when it comes to glasses). He has very good taste, so I wasn’t worried. Thankfully, IVision (@Masonville Mall) had a sale on, so I got frames at a decent price. After spending WAAAAY too much money on contacts specially made for astigmatisms (I have them in BOTH eyes!), and new glasses (lenses and frames), we grabbed a coffee and chatted for awhile. My friend (let’s call him “Dan”), and I met through our exes and we’ve become closer since our exes have shown their disturbingly true colours. “Dan” had a chuckle over the first conversation my father and I had when I returned to Canada which went a little something like this:

My father: I received a letter from Mr. Japanese-man #1. He mentioned an acquaintance of ours…..
Mikiko: *Thinking to herself: I wonder where this is going*
Ten whole minutes of description later…
My father: ….and he has two sons. He’s enquiring about potential wives.
Mikiko: *Wondering if she felt irritated or entertained* Dad…Ummm, I’m very flattered, but I’m just not sure that I’m ready for that right now…I mean, do you want me to pursue this?
My father: I’m not sure of the protocol with this…I’m not comfortable communicating directly to my acquaintances about this…
Mikiko: *Seeing her way out of the ridiculous conversation* Well, dad…I’m just not really looking for that right now…
My father: Yeah…Okay.
Mikiko: *BIG sigh of relief*
My father: I asked Emi about it, hahahaha, she laughed and said “No.”
Mikiko: *Recalling Emi already complaining about this earlier, hoping that I would get this talking to as well* Oh…

I love my father for attempting to make sure I’m happy, but I’m not ready for that…Apparently, neither is my sister. My father and I are close, but not close enough that I’d feel comfortable telling him that my heart is still broken and that I know deep down inside that it will never heal and that marriage…Well, finding the right partner isn’t my strong suit.

On a positive note, let's chat about what happens as a result of a happy (romantic) union! One of my very good friends, a former colleague in Canada, just had a baby! Her third child is an adorable and healthy baby boy! I thought I’d be in Kuwait and would miss the whole event, but just a week after he was born I visited mommy and baby (and her two other munchkins who I love!). I wonder what it feels like to have a maternal instinct that pulls at your heart and makes you yearn for a child of your own. Yes, I experienced it for one, albeit VERY brief, moment when I had a dream about having my own daughter. That moment quickly passed and has never resurfaced. They matter not. All that mattered when I held my dear friend’s baby was that I know how blessed he is and what a blessing he is. I love my all of my friends’ kids! I see such wonderful parents all around me and I think, “They’re doing what I can’t and are doing a damn fine job at it, too!” They reassure me that there are parents who care and take parenting seriously...Yes, I actually said that. Today I met with my friend and her newborn again (her other two children were at school), and I kept thinking how incredible babies are. How can a barely-4-week-old baby captivate me so? I love his wails (which he only does when he's hungry or needs to be changed), his sighs of satisfaction and the way he half-smiles when he’s contented after a feeding. Leaving my life in Kuwait was brutal, but getting to hold this sweet bundle was absolutely worth the trip home! I couldn’t celebrate this day with my mother and grandmother who were both born on March 5th, but I was thankful I was able to celebrate life! They wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Me with the tiny bundle of joy!!! He's sooo tiny!!!