Monday, August 29, 2011

Viva Italia! & End of Summer Fun

 Incredibly, after 3 years of Italian lessons and a near-lifetime in Edmonton, this year was my first year at the annual Italian festival! Who knew it would be so packed - Sean and I attended this cultural festival this year, thanks to the simple poster posted at the Italian Center Supermarket.

Sponsored by Sonic 102.9 radio, the event included a pizza eating contest (which Brandi from the radio station won), dances, songs, music, and of course, an Italian cooking demonstration. The very slowly cooked pasta reminded me of a book Sean recommends that  I still haven't read  (In Praise of Slow by Carol Honore). Perhaps it'll make my Fall Reading List, now that I have a little more time to breathe in between tutoring sessions!

  There was also a draw for 2 to Tuscany (the feature region this year) and pictures of the beautiful region. Not to mention cappuccinos and gelato! Perhaps part of my "professional development" section of my business plan will include Italian and German lessons again, and continued French Conversation with Cynthia and Simon (we are still watching MMA fights together- and wow, Saturday night's fight with Anderson Silva vs. Okami was incredible).Who can beat that guy, really!

Other end of summer events included a trip to The Cheese Factory with Sean, which is the first time I tried Turkish coffee (below, left). Now, as you know, I'm a coffee fiend, but ick, this was a little too thick for me! The Cheesecake Factory's salad was amazing, though, and they have homemade cheese curds....yum!

The best part of my week was dinner last night with Camille. We dined (a total cheat meal) at Famoso Pizzeria in Riverbend/Macgrath (the "ritzy" area of the southside of Edmonton), including Tuscon white wine (theme of the day, apparently!). As Anne of Green Gables would say, Camille and I are definitely "kindred spirits" and even though we see one another a couple times a year, it's always the best time ever. I even got to learn about the environment and the news-media's framing of environmental lobby groups, thanks to Camille's thesis - wow, do I have a lot to learn about nature! Thanks for an awesome dinner, Camille!

Well, it's almost September (and yes, don't worry, I do have an August book review coming up in a couple days here) and summer is coming to a close. I will FINALLY have a fence installed by the end of the week, thanks to Diniz and his brother. No more -30 degree winters taking Kiara outside every couple hours on leash! Y'know what the funny part is about this year? As much as I detest, abhor and loathe the icy, slick, disgusting mess we call Winter/Spring here in Edmonton, life is much, much, brighter, knowing that my winter sunshiny days will not leave me cooped up in an office cubicle!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fringing Again - Lucky Stiff, Jem Rolls, Hedwig & International Fringe Festival Fun!

Although I have attended Edmonton's International Fringe festival every August for years, this year's Fringe was definitely a hit. Plays are generally "hit and miss", though reviews from the Edmonton Journal sometimes help guide my choices. This year I saw three plays, two hit and one miss! Check out the reviews below for ideas for holdover week.

Tuesday night, Sean and I went to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which the papers raved about, but I'll have to say I was a bit confused. The main character had quite some talent, with a singing voice ranging in pitch from high girly voice to a deep man's voice, consistent with his character, who was a man-turned-woman immigrating from Germany to America through a botched sex changed operation. While the premise seemed comical, and the play is based on a famous movie (apparently), I must say I wasn't that impressed with the plot. Perhaps I'm just missing the point...

Jem Rolls has become a Fringe favourite for me, ever since Stephanie W introduced it to me three years ago. Stand up comedy in a rhyming poetry form is just an amazing feat in itself. From England, he has an accent and quite a diverse vocabulary that adds to his show. I'd check this one out....Jem Rolls is Pissed Off is the name of this year's show. To be fair, last year's show was better though...

I really missed having you at Fringe this year, Steph! Hopefully you were watching somehow, from wherever you are now.

Lucky Stiff was the best Fringe play I've ever seen - so for those of you in a city where this year's Fringe hasn't yet hit, or those of you in Edmonton hoping to go to the holdover plays, this is one not to miss. Why? Well, it's a simple plot (a poor man who inherits $6 million on one condition - he must transport his uncle's corpse, which has been stuffed by a taxidermist, and pass it off as a live uncle, taking him on his dream, pre-paid trip to Monte Carlo), so don't expect a deep play. It's really just good fun. Simple, cute, funny, and complete with an excellent cast of musical theatre performers.
The St. Albert Gazette gave it an awesome review, as did Vue Weekly and every show has been sold out. Definitely a hit!

Other than that, I did use my cheat meal this week to check out the Crepes stand, with a perfect nutella strawberry crepe (not as perfect as Montreal, but really, what can you expect from a carnival kiosk in e-town?!). Perfect weather, though, has made this last week an amazing time to enjoy summer.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Company Men: Ben Affleck & Rethinking Corporations

 Last night,  I rented a movie so appropriate it was hilarious - Ben Affleck and Tommy Lee Jones deliver a stellar performance in The Company Men, a story about men, young and old, who work so hard for a corporation, whose interests are, in the end, always for the profit, not the people.  While the cliches of the cold, harsh corporate world are at times simply that - cliches - , this is a story of men who work their hardest, and become accustomed to a lifestyle that supports the wealth they believe they've earned, and deserve - only to find that the world is a lot different when you are forced to live within your means, to re-evaluate life when your means disappear and to develop relationships, rather than bank accounts. Definitely a must see  - whether you work in the corporate world, or not.

It's only been a week since I left my last position, and the Marketing world (perhaps for now, perhaps for good), to venture out on my own. One paid week left, actually, to plan and begin to implement the ideas that have been stirring in my head for the last three years.  Backed my references from students and clients, I know I can make this venture a success in September. 

It honestly took a week just to clean, superclean, organize, scrub, shop, spend time with Kiara and outline what is to be done this next week and the week after. Not to mention get a head start on re-implementing the insane diet and workout plan from April 2010 to 2011 and re-integrate that lifestyle in my own. I honestly can't wait to get my gym routine, muscles, and protein powder life back.

While the inspirational posters are still in the mail (and not on my walls, completing my decor) here's a look at my office space for the 2011/2012 school year. Hopefully by late 2012, I'll be on my way to a European career, but in the meantime, I know this is the right decision for me.

Who knows, maybe I'll even get lucky and have the chance to teach at an ESL school this year, teaching adults who immigrant here the language and culture. Here's a picture one of my students, Akram, took at Maison de l'Amitie in July, at my last session teaching there with Matt, a colleague from McGill University.  Memories!

Office Coffee Machine, of course!

Organized, thanks to IKEA!

Spare Bed Turned into Office Sofa!

While the whiteboards, organizational charts and files, and briefcases to go for portable tutoring sessions are all a must, every office needs a spot to relax. That's my place to chill on the left-  great books, cozy bed, and coffee!

Once all my planning is complete, I'll post a link and pictures for my business - I'd say new business, but it's not really new - just revamped and refreshed, from part-time, into full-time. I'm so excited to get started on my new career, and look into options for Masters programs that will make my dreams come true. (Can we say University of Oxford, Masters of Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition???) We'll see what the future holds, but I know it will be much brighter than the heights of the corporate ladder and the depths of the office cubicle. 

 If there is an afterlife, and you are living in it, Stephanie W -I hope you are looking down and smiling, because you were right. I was meant to run my own business!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Perfect Weekend Part 2 - Brunch at Barb & Ernie's & Chill Time

Sunday morning was the perfect reunion, as Julie and I met Pam, Camille and Sean for a delectable meal at Barb & Ernie's. As many Edmontonians know, Barb & Ernie's is a classic German family owned restaurant - what I found out on Sunday was that the owners actually live upstairs!  To see their life story, check out

We didn't get a chance to take a group picture (too crowded!) but the meal was great, and the white wine hollandaise sauce was definitely something special! (Vegetarian means just tomatoes though, apparently) :) 

After brunch, Julie and I took Kiara for a walk - she kept moving around me to walk beside Julie. What a hard subject to take pictures of though - she kept moving, as usual :) 

For the rest of the afternoon, Julie and I went for coffee at Wild Earth Bakery Cafe (my new favourite) - check out their website and definitely go for coffee or a muffin. Julie and I discussed our future and new careers and went to IKEA - which we discovered was too dorm like for our new tastes - really, IKEA, you charge a lot and you have to DIG to find things that don't fall apart. And I realized why I never shop at Walmart-  what a mess! I did enter their $1000 gift card contest, though - so, if I win, I will sell it to any takers for a discount :)  

We finished off our perfect weekend with dinner at Joey's, where they make an amazing veggie chicken souvlaki pita. Mmmm - I'm giving myself one more day off to enjoy food, and organize my home and home office, and then it's off to my regular trainer diet (yum, egg whites), three days of paid planning time, and one week of implementation. C'mon business degree knowledge, work your magic! Expressions Tutoring & Editing will be a great venture soon!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

A Perfect Weekend Part 1 - Girl’s Day with Julie!

Delicious White Chocolate Cheesecake @ Cactus Club Cafe
 Julie arrived in e-town Friday evening, in perfect time for a celebration to a new beginning to my career and life. As I began my venture towards a career in education and entrepreneurship (full-time) at 5pm, Julie arrived at 8pm, to meet Kiara, and enjoy a weekend of celebration.

Out first stop was the Olive Garden (yes, diets and workouts, you are completely out for the weekend, and begin again on a fresh Monday morning start). To be honest, it was great food but we could only finish a third of our plates - can people actually finish a whole plate??? Wow!   Exhausted, we finished the night with a free movie, courtesy of Shaw on Demand - but we were both so exhausted from our weeks that we fell asleep! So much for a free movie!

Saturday was absolutely PERFECT. It was unbelievable - we timed nothing, and yet everything went smoothly! After sleeping in and indulging in blueberry protein pancakes (yum!), we headed towards a few shopping centres, where I made the dreaded router purchase ($99 to get the speed my ex-roommate installed??), a beautiful, stronger chain to go with my memory locket (see memory locket blog here), and dresses to wear for the evening out.  Julie had amazing success at Blu's women's wear, where she found the perfect Hugo Boss suit to start her career as a lawyer in Calgary. Wow, hot suit!

After Southgate Mall, we headed towards South Edmonton Common for a little Banana Republic outlet time, and Best Buy browsing. 

West Edmonton Mall was definitely our best stop though as we found awesome, well-priced leather sandals with cute beads, and the Oakleys I have been looking for. Julie went for Michael Kors sunglasses. Not to mention Town Shoes - now that is always a hit. Wow, West Ed, you are getting classy!

We checked out the Cactus Club Cafe (click here!). Just $5 more than the Olive Garden but WAY better food, amazingly quick service, gorgeous hosts, and dessert to die for. In fact, we went there twice - once before the movie (Friends with Benefits - a predictable but nonetheless entertaining flick) - and once afterwards for our dessert. I had faijitas and Julie had a quesadilla for dinner - and our dessert was delectable white chocolate cheesecake with raspberry compote. Mmmm!