Friday, August 14, 2009

Gingerbread Cafe Fans: 1 ME: zero

Okay, you win! I don't care any more, this is obviously a really big deal to those of you who posted rude comments about my blog entry, and honestly I couldn't care less who goes or doesn't go to the Gingerbread House Cafe!

For those of you who don't know (meaning you Mom, these people don't seem to get that you are the only one who reads this?!?!?!), I wrote a bad review about the Gingerbread House Cafe, and some people read it ( I know, so exciting, people other than my immediate family taking time to read my thoughts), and instead of responding in a similarly sarcastic and funny tone, or just letting me know their own ideas in a civilized way, they FREAKED OUT! Actually thinking that I was blaming the restaurant for the kid falling while I wasn't paying attention to her, and literally getting pissed that I didn't like the decor...I know! Who cares if I don't like it!....but apparently my opinion is very important to these anonymous people, and since I appear to be SO influential (what other reason could people have for going so far as to call me a bad parent for my review!) I thought I could either tell them where to go, or better than that not GIVE A SHIT! 

So there it is, I don't care, I give in, I blog for fun, you don't like it, get off my page and read something else!

...but I still don't like the place ( ...and that's okay, we are allowed to have differing opinions), and to be honest even if I were tempted to give it another try, now knowing a little bit more about the kind of people that hang out there...let's just say I like an easier going crowd, life's too short to be so uptight.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Beached Baby

Finally summer seems to have arrived and no better way to commemorate a rain-free day than heading to the beach. Packed up the kid and headed to Toronto Island (YAY! Strike over!) with my brother and sister (happy birthday) for the afternoon....and to be honest I'm finding it hard to come up with any witty comments because there was really no part of the day I can complain about, and when I'm not complaining I really don't have much to say...just ask my husband (boo, bad joke!)

When I woke up this morning completely unprepared for the upcoming adventure I felt slightly overwhelmed, thinking I would need to organize a transport truck worth of supplies, I wasn't too sure how the day would go, but after 15 minutes had passed and I realized I had everything ready it kind of clicked that I wasn't heading off to some secluded tropical's a 15 minute ferry ride from where I parked my car.

Once we paid our $6.50 for return fare on the ferry and lined up I realized I was not the only genius mother of a baby that thought this would be a fun day trip, we were swarmed with strollers, I'm pretty sure their were more strollers than had a bit of children of the corn vibe, that is if we were to walk into that town about 8 years before the movie was made and the 'children' were in diapers...does that make sense??? lotsa babies, that's all I'm saying.

The boat docks and it's a mad exodus toward the water, and who the hell are we to think for ourselves, so we follow. Along the way I see a ton of picnic blankets swarming with kids and happy parents, a splashpad and playground, bike rentals, kids playing on the beach...even in the water, not something I would advice, but those 8 year old kids weren't glowing green when they came out of the water so what do I know.

After a small picnic we headed to Wards Island Beach, the walk over on the board walk was not only picturesque but for the first time in 4 months got the little one to fall asleep in her stroller and stay that way giving me a whole 45 minutes of uninterrupted tanning...pretty much that alone is why this will go down as one of my favourite summer places. The beach was great, busy enough that you didn't feel like you were trespassing on private property, but no annoying people playing soccer near your face and not running to catch the ball before it hits you on the head making you cry out in pain so everyone looks over and you get really embarrassed...not saying that it ever happened to me or anything...

Overall, great place to take the babies!

  • Parking will cost $15 cash
  • Ferry kiosk only takes cash
  • Cheap picnic food suggestion - chinatown bakery, we got pork bun/sticky rice/chicken pies/spring rolls/sausage bun (and 3 of each) for under $10...just ignore the fact that Chinatown is inundated with rats and you'll be fine
  • Lot of goose poo around, watch where the baby crawls

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Run, run, as fast as you can...


So I pull my hair into a messy bun, throw on some clothes, and leave the condo as quickly as possible to avoid really taking in all the mess I leave behind on a daily basis trying to get ready while an 11 month old who tries to climb everything is ransacking the place. I strap the kid in the car and we head north toward what has been deemed the new 'cool' place to hang out in Toronto, 'THE JUNCTION', basically developers are looking for a new area to build and sell tiny condos for crazy amounts of money and have decided that there aren't too many crack whores on Dundas west so let's make that the new 'it' neighbourhood...and who am I to go against the masses.  I am meeting a fellow new mom at the Gingerbread House Family Cafe. 

In my attempts to be good blogger I have been trying to follow some other blogs, most consist of celebrity gossip pages but I have been keeping tabs on one blog for Junction parents that has in the past raved about this place so I was quite excited to check it out. I like to think I'm an eclectic city girl who is just as comfortable in some dive bar as I am in some swank hipster lounge...XXX XXXXX XXX XXXXXX...XXX XXX XXXXXX.

When I first walk in I notice a large foam padded play area for kids, so far I'm in love. The decor is pretty minimal and the table and chair sets don't quite have the charm of a 50s diner, XXX XXXX XXXXX XXXX XXX XXX XXXXXX. There was one person behind the counter who was in the process of preparing food for 3 adults and 5 toddlers, so we knew there would be a wait, XXXXXX XXX XX XXXX XXXX XX XXXXX XXX XXXX XXXX  grilled cheese sandwiches and cut them into quarters...she might XXXX XX XXXXXXXX XXXXXX. At this point we were all still being positive, the kids were having fun, my friend's daughter was sitting quietly in the center of the toys...sitting a little too quietly, then we realized XXX XXX XXXXXXX XX XXXXXXXXX, only to discover a XXXX XXXXXX XXX XXXX XXX . After reassuring my friend that she was not an awful mom we get our food. When taking our order the cook/owner/waitress/counter help seemed very accommodating, substituting items and letting us pick any side we of course it had to be sweet potato fries...again, perhaps if I had known ahead of time that X XXXXX XXXX XXXXXXX X XXXXX I may have picked XXXXXXXXXX. We wolf down the food, which is what you do if you have a baby, and as I go to pay I decide I would leave my child holding herself up against the wall. Well apparently babies follow their moms around and as soon as I turn to pay she decides to come along, slipping and falling face first against the hard ceramic tiles. Scare #2. Now it was my turn to declare myself worst mother and be reassured by my friend that lots of moms leave their babies unattended standing on their own when they are barely old enough to know how to crawl properly. Later in the day I ended up having to take her to ER because her face swelled to elephant man status and I swear her eyes looked crossed, of course the ER staff did not see these symptoms, but they were there, I swear.

Overall, XXXXX decor, XXXXX kitchen, XXXX service, XXXXX portions, XXXXXXXXX size toys, ceramic tiles XXXX XXX XXXXXX XXXX XXX XXXXXX XXXXXXXX XX XXX XXXXXX...basically I XXXX XX XXXX, but other people XXXX XX XXXX XX, you be the judge.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

leave - ing on a jet plane

Cheap and fun thing to do with the baby at the last minute, head to the airport to go watch planes. 

WHERE: 427 North, Exit at Dixon, Turn left, it will turn into Airport Rd, Park at WENDY'S parking lot and look up.

CAUTION: First time kid hears plane she may shake uncontrollably in fear, my suggestion - don't leave, just cover her ears, the convulsions will stop eventually - either they'll get used to it or lose their hearing temporarily, either way you don't have to leave:)

Not too long to LongPoint

In the fam's attempt to save money, or I should say not spend money we don't have, but still desperately needing some time away we decided to go camping. To give you an idea of my level of expertise in this field I should tell you that so far any one I have told about this trip has said, "what? you camping? are you serious????", suffice it to say if given the choice I would take 500 thread count, pay per view, and room service over air mattress, woodland creatures, and marshmellows that immediately catch on fire....but thus is the life of a new many sacrifices, woe is me.

I decided that I would try to make the most of this trip and agreed to camp as long as it was at the beach, my favourite place on earth, second only to under the Christmas Tree listening to Elvis Christmas Album after everyone has gone to bed (...and yes, that still is my favourite thing in the world...oh, and my baby, the tree thing and the baby). We headed to Long Point Provincial Park, just under three hours to get there. The place is uber-family, to the point where I was getting annoyed, not to mention that our late decision to take this mini-vacay meant every site, or good site I should say, was taken, leaving our wonderful home away from home, next to the playground and showers/washrooms. I fell asleep each night to the lovely wilderness sounds of 15 year olds playing on the swings while trying to say every curse word known to man before their parents called them back to the tent as well as the gentle hums of the toilets flushing.

There are a few valuable lessons I have learned about camping with a baby, at least at this place, which I will share:

  • there are only showers, no tubs, the kid hates showers and screams like she's being murdered in a bad 'b' horror movie...which  meant she didn't bathe for a know that wonderful 'baby-smell' everyone talks only has a shelf life of about 48 hours.
  • washrooms don't have change tables...and changing a very active baby on a half inflated air mattress in a tent means you have to sleep with the stench of baby crap all night...I swear, it's like she knows when she's gone poo and purposely flips over and rubs her but into any nearby fabric like a dog with worms.
  • protecting your baby from mosquitoes becomes your only purpose for living while camping, I think at one point I actually leaped over the car, did two somersaults, landed upside down next to her play pen just to be able to swat away a mosquito that was hovering dangerously close.
  • not all kids automatically know that sand is something which is played with and will still eat well as cigarette butts, weeds, ants, bottle caps...maybe it's just our kid, she does have a weight problem, she'll eat anything, I guess I can't really ignore it any more...but in all seriousness I sometimes wake up in a panic from nightmares of the kid being on Maury Povich alongside the other 400lbs 5 year olds...but I just can't stop feeding her those rolly polly thighs are just so damn cute!!!
  • campsites don't come with highchairs
  • when the baby cries in the condo I don't even think about the fact that my neighbours might hear her, but when the baby is crying in a paper thin tent and you can hear her cries echoing through the get a little self conscious.
Basically, you know if you could hack it, and if you think you can it's a super nice place, and if you can't it's worth the drive to the park just for a day trip to the beach.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Baby reviews cross city limits!

Well in response to my own personal recession...meaning I've been on maternity leave for 10 months now and I AM BROKE, I need to take it easy on the restaurant visits and try to expand my time-wasting repertoire to activities that last longer than the length of a meal and cost less, and in order to do this I have had to look beyond my usual city limits...which to be honest are quite limiting, I have convinced myself that if I go north of St. Clair or East of Yonge St I will actually fall of the edge of the earth. Well last week I decided to risk it, with baby in tow of course (if I'm going down, she's coming with me) I commenced my ritualistic summer visits to any body of water that is bordered with sand, and even though the forecast called for rain I ventured on and headed to Professor's Lake.

Professor's Lake is a man made lake and beach in Brampton, you basically head up the 410 into the darkest depths of suburbia and when you think you can't handle seeing another esso/timhorton's combo, go a little deeper.

There are some definite advantages when taking baby along for a beach day...
  • big parking lot
  • change rooms with showers
  • washroom
  • snack bar
...I was able to drag the stroller packed with beach gear right onto the sand, the baby was thrown over my shoulder fireman style, reminded me of when I took her Christmas shopping for the first time.

Some of the disadvantages are...
  • the water has a greenish tint to it and is murky enough that you can't see your feet when you are only ankle deep...which could also double as a positive if you are too busy to get a pedicure and haven't tended to the care of your feet since you stopped being able to see them (for me that was by month 3 of pregnancy).
  • you have to pay to get in, $3.00 
Overall, close enough to head out when you only have a few hours to spare, and I have seen people swimming in the water...they even dunk their heads!

Not sure if the baby and I will head back there this summer, I have gone twice already and both times have been caught in the rain...the summer gods apparently are disappointed in my beach attempt considering I used to dawn a bikini from 3:30pm on the last day of school to Labour day and only leave the sand long enough to apply more baby oil, I guess I have really been slacking this year, but I swear I'm trying and so is the little it bad that my 10 month old already has tan lines....

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dr. Who???

So the husband is away working, the babes is sleeping and in my attempts to keep up with my blogging I promised myself I would type up a post before I had declared my relaxation time to begin, which was 9pm, that gave me from 8 to 9 to write this up, well it's 8:34 and I got nothing. I have been trying to come up with a clever way to start talking about going to Dr. Generosity in Bloor West Village for brunch...basically I tried 3 different times, typed up an entire post, to just read it back to myself and delete it. I am all stressed about work, the house, money, all that stupid grown up shit that I don't feel ready to deal with yet (in my  head I'm still 16 years old...that was a good year...braces off, sweet sixteen, felt sort of okay enough with my body to wear a bikini, hadn't yet decided to give myself that awful haircut that made me look like an immigrant mexican villager that didn't grow out until 3rd year university). So, I'm finding it hard to come up with witty things to say, I just find myself being really bitchy...and more so than usual. Though I guess bitchy can be funny, as long as it's not directed toward you, alright, I'll give it a try, bitchiness and all, but if you own a restaurant in bloor west village please don't take this too personally, it comes with a lot of personal baggage...but take it a little personally.

Pretty much I believe that compared to other trendy neighbourhoods in Toronto, the culinary talent in Bloor West Village leaves much to be desired...okay, that wasn't too bitchy. I had lived in bloor west for at least 3 years, basically having gone to Sharkey's and hating it and then deciding everything else on the street was crap, when I finally gave Dr. Generosity a try for brunch and was pleasantly surprised, and remembered seeing lots of kids...okay before having my own kid, hearing one baby crying in a restaurant made it feel like I was in Chucky Cheese. 
Point is, now with baby in tow decided I would go there again....BIG MISTAKE!

The food had not changed, the decor was still the same, the difference was I now see the world through mommy-goggles and have no patience for stupid-idiots (here comes the crankiness). First of all, if I am standing with three other people and I tell the waiter "we need a table for four and..." then I look directly at the baby does that not mean there are actually 5 human beings being seated, one of which is the child in my arms...apparently not, so we got a four person table in the middle of the restaurant. I mentioned to him that we still needed a place for the baby he let me know that I should have told him this at the door he then turned away too quickly to notice me giving him the finger.  He got a high chair and placed it in the aisle, which I didn't mind, however the jackass manager seemed to have a problem with this, the same person who when I initially entered the restaurant said no strollers allowed (CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT!!!), he obviously hates children! So we squeezed two chairs and highchair on one side of a table that is meant for only two people. The baby decided to entertain us by doing that trick where you pull out the table cloth really quickly while leaving all the plates and cutlery on the table in their original places...well...she's not even a year old, she's still practising...the waiter did not GET this and seemed really annoyed when he had to replace everything at our table...I could tell he was annoyed because he huffed a lot every time he bent over as if it was really physically straining him to lean and pick up a fork, and he would stand up between each thing he picked up and then sigh again on his way down, very dramatic, he was doing a really good job delivering this performance, he should get an agent. 

We placed our orders, and of course my coffee took forever to arrive, the waiter obviously hated me because my baby is so much cuter than his children...if he has any...or his future children....I just hate him!

I had noticed the restaurant was pretty quiet, and when I looked around people looked very uninterested and bored...and well, I guess the baby picked up on this too, she is so perceptive, and decided to once again try to entertain everyone, this time with her vocal talents, so she starting singing...okay some people (like the stupid waiter and jackass manager) might call it screaming, but obviously they don't have the musical training I do (watching hours of much music daily as a child). Now this wasn't an angry or sad scream, she was smiling and waving her arms up and down, but it was definitely loud. (Okay, to be completely honest I was horrified, but in public I am very loyal to my family and always take their side, I gave her a good talking to at home about appropriate restaurant behaviour to which she replied by belching in my face then pulling off my glasses while smacking herself in the belly...she's a complex woman). By the end of our visit I had to have two cups of coffee cleaned that had spilled over, three replacement forks, and reluctantly apologize (multiple times) to the woman sitting behind us for having her hair pulled...and for some reason I got the feeling that the staff just didn't like us.

Point is, they made me feel like I was inconveniencing them by bringing a baby in during their busy weekend brunch time and so I will hate them forever and you should too! Stupid place and their stupid no stroller policy, there are a lot of eldery people in my condo, I'm going to send them all their next Saturday with their walkers and wheelchairs and see what the Dr. does about that, it will be complete chaos and I will be watching from outside point and laughing, "MhwaaaaHaaaHaaaHa!!!" 

...okay, I think I need to go relax a little....

Sunday, June 21, 2009

How do you judge a good breakfast? It's in the homefries.

Even though the fam and I are soon facing Bloor West deportation and I should be spending the last few weeks taking in all that the 'village' has to offer I can't resist the over sized portions and amazing home fries of my favourite 24 hours breakfast joint, The Grille, on Queensway in Etobicoke.

To celebrate Father's Day (though a friend suggested that in the first year of parenthood there should really be two Mother's Days and we should skip father's idea I find truly inspired), anyway, decided would have to do something for Father's Day, and really didn't have to do much to compete with Mother's Day celebrations...which I have already warned my husband that I will use against him in the future...he spent the whole day today trying to get me to stop doing things for him or being nice in fear of the heavy handed guilt-trip he will receive when he is least expecting it weeks from now. Wow, that paragraph was hard to follow, it's almost midnight and the thing living in the crib is teething, and I stayed up to watch the husband on the MMVA's (proud wife moment)...point is, kind of tired so lay off.

So we hit the Grille, which I have to say from the street leaves little to be desired. Looks like any other 'family' restaurant. They have an outdoor patio which faces a busy traffic filled street, and since the restaurant clientele consists mostly of truckers, the outdoor eating area is cozily  enclosed between numerous 18-wheelers. 

Now this place serves all day breakfast, including coffee, for something crazy like $3 during the week if you get there early enough, so there's no extra cash flow for fancy floors or tables...or to hire waitstaff that doesn't spend most of their day reapplying their make up to look like Spackle, so don't expect much by way of decor.  I have never veered from bacon and eggs so I can't really tell you what the other menu items are like, they serve what my parents would refer to as 'mungie-cake' food...meaning I've been raised to stay as far away from that stuff as possible. So being able to comment only on breakfast I would have to say that it was one of the best breakfast places (or at least my favourite) in the city, and this is based solely on their home fries. Really, eggs, bacon, you can't go wrong unless you burn it, home fries, that is where the artistry lies, and let me tell you my friend, the Grille has some wicked ass home fries (that's right, I said 'wicked-ass'!).

As for the baby-friendliness of this place: highchair - check, commented on baby's high level of adorableness - check, were okay with the HUGE mess left by baby on the floor - ???? we tend to take off as quickly as we can once the bill is paid because we don't want to see the look on the waitress' face when she sees the crazy mess of wet cheerios, spilled water, clumps of cereal, and sometimes even vomit, that is left by the baby, she leaves a path of destruction every where she goes, she's trashed more rooms than her musician father...I think he resents her a little for that (you'll have your chance babe, I see many trashed hotel rooms after crazy drinking binges in your future, don't you worry:)

If you are looking for a lot of food for a good price that's super greasy, served with a HUGE thermal jug of coffee then head west on Queensway until you see the neon sign flashing "GRILLE 24-7".

...and remember if you are still breastfeeding you need the extra calories so order that side of pancakes, according to the husband they are the best he's ever had, even better than the ones I make that come out of that box that says to add milk and eggs to, but I decide to get culinarily inspired and change it up a bit by just adding water (leave me alone, I forgot to go grocery shopping that day)...

...and yes, I made up the word "culinarily"

Monday, June 15, 2009

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to...

So for all of my loyal followers who did not realize it, it was my birthday last Wednesday (I expect my belated gifts in the mail pretty much as soon as you finish reading this). I am definitely not one of those people who prefers to keep their birthday under wraps in the hope that by not celebrating they might halt the aging process in its tracks, I prefer to devote an entire week (two if the day falls on a weekend) to birthday celebrations and provide friends and family with lists of potential gifts weeks (sometimes months) in advance. Which means I reminded the husband daily for the last month that he better come up with something good if he didn't want to be served with the divorce papers I keep updated and prepared in the desk drawer to hold over his head on such occasions. Well, I awoke on Wednesday to the baby crying...the husband was snoring, I changed the poopy diaper....the husband snored....I cleared my throat, coughed in his face, kicked his leg as I walked by...still snoring. Finally I just sat the baby on his bare chest and it took a handful of chest hair being ripped out for him to wake up...somewhat. After that he did redeem himself slightly by running out to get us some breakfast, however the gesture was lost when he announced the 'plan' for the do whatever I, that took a lot of creative thinking, he figured out my level of satisfaction with this idea quickly (pouting in the corner like a 5 year old with my arms crossed is pretty obvious). While he was fetching coffee I googled "fun day trips from Toronto" and casually left the page open when he walked in. I didn't say anything about it, but when I stepped out of the shower he proudly announced that he had a great idea if I didn't know what I wanted to do, we were off to St. Jacobs for the day (#2 on the list)....and finally we get to the review, how baby-friendly is a road trip to St. Jacobs?

Well, I do have it a little easier than some, the baby naps pretty regularly, so we timed our drive there for the morning nap and the drive home for the afternoon nap. It's about 1 1/2 outside of the city, we passed Milton and....that's all I remember, I stopped paying attention pretty quickly. It's mostly 401 driving so not a lot to look at, but we did manage to fill the time quite nicely with a frequent driving argument we tend to have revolving around my husband refusing to believe that the GPS might be incorrect which follows with me accusing him of having an affair with the British lady who lives inside the machine.

Once we are in the village we did the only thing there is to do, walk around and go into stores that you would never go into if they were in your local plaza, so we checked out the crochet store, the aboriginal quilting store, and of course the fudge store (why is it any pseudo-touristy street in Ontario has a fudge store...are we well known for our fudge making abilities...not that I really care, there are always a lot of free samples so I'm happy with their presence in local tourist areas, I just feel that if we are sticking with fudge as a local delicacy we should really play this up a bit more, maybe that guy in that Ontario commercial "There's no place like this" should be holding a piece of fudge in his hand while he sings!?!?). 

When it was time for lunch we decided on an outdoor patio (I believe the place was called the Shady Tree). There was a booster seat and high chair we could use, both were wet, rusted, and full of spider we decided to feed the baby while she sat in the stroller, but the condition of the aforementioned baby gear made me feel much less guilty about the huge mess we left on the patio floor.  We ordered burgers and fries ( it was that or hot dogs and fries...really, those were the only menu items) which had a very nostalgic feel, with the first bite I was immediately taken back to my childhood and reminded of those nights where my mom and dad were too tired to really cook and we ate frozen beef patties that were barely heated through on the grill, topped with some processed cheese, watered down ketchup (don't pretend you've never watered down your ketchup before! ) and a wilted piece of lettuce, tasted like home.

Overall, fun family day trip. Just hit the antique shop first so you can buy yourself something pretty and then you don't really care what you do for the rest of the day...or at least that's what works for me.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What the hell is a 'stay'cation???

I am a true collector of Pet Peeves: chewing gum, people who don't know what to do when stop lights aren't working, dirty ears, people who don't pay their share when a big group is all on the same bill at a restaurant...there are dozens,  and the newest addition to the list:  "stay-cations". Now don't get me wrong, I have no problem with people not being able to afford to go away somewhere, I am right there with you, I'm broke, so it's not the act of staying home that I have a problem with, it's the term. I mean COME ON, just get over it, you are not fooling anyone by calling it a 'stay'-cation, just call it what it is, staying home. It's not like you are going to do anything you don't do on a regular weekend just because it's Monday and you are off. Are you telling me you are not going to check your mailbox or answer your phone for the whole week??

Now that I got that off my chest I can give you a little destination in the city you can hit to feel like you are away in another country, even if it's just for breakfast. ( just because I am against using the word stay-cation, it doesn't me you shouldn't do 'vacation-y' type things within the city whenever you can, I just really hate new words that are created to explain current social/political/economical/cultural situations that become part of every day conversation to the point that you hear your mom saying things like "LOL"or  "for-shizzle my nizzle" mother actually asked me what 'tea-bagging' was the other day, apparently she said it in front of my 19year old brother, who proceeded to laugh hysterically to the point of shooting his beverage out of his nose....this entire paragraph is in parenthesis...time to get back on topic).

The plan for this summer was to visit Portugal, the Mother Land, unfortunately someone had other plans and my husband decided to let his car break down and require $2500 in service to still function (and yes, he LET it happen...I went through 18 hours of labour, I'm allowed to blame him for anything now), meaning the money we had saved before the kid arrived was gone. This morning I went to take out the trash, well, when I got outside a breeze wafted the scent of the sun soaked trash bin towards my face and the first thing that came to mind was Portugal (I know that sounds awful, but you have to believe I love it there...but Lisbon does smell like a trash can in the summer). I instantly wanted to be there, so I packed up the family and we headed to Caldense Bakery on Dundas St West for breakfast.

I walked in and instantly I felt like I was back in Portugal. An old man tried to push my stroller out of the way to get in before me...because you know, coffee runs out fast in coffee shops at 8am on a Tuesday morning. Once inside my husband spoke to me in English and I could instantly feel the dirty looks of the old and wrinkled Portuguese men who will head straight from Caldense to go water their driveways before going to stand in front of the seedy sports bar up the street for the rest of the day. The waitress took a good 15 minutes to come to our table, and when she arrived she just looked at us without saying a word. I decided to really make the most of our little get away in the city and ordered our food in Portuguese...well that changed everything of course. The little old lady next to us heard me and came right over to ask about the baby and remark on how adorable she was, and to say that with her blond hair and blue eyes she never thought she was Portuguese, but of course thank goodness we all know the truth, god forbid she not be Portuguese. The waitress seemed to get a shot of red bull directly into a main artery with hearing my broken portuguese because she jumped from her crossed arms hating-the-world stance to race to the counter to prepare our food and coffee. Portuguese people REALLY love their own kind, I don't think there is another ethnic group in Toronto that is more patriotic for NO APPARENT REASON what so ever, except for the fact that they all (or in most cases their parents or grandparents) all came from the same tiny little country across the ocean...and I love it!

Who cares how baby friendly it is, the food is awesome, they have Portuguese TV on all the time, which means sex scenes on the Portuguese telenovelas (soap operas) that border on soft core porn, and you can end your visit by grabbing a box of custard tarts (Pasteis de Nata) to take home.

Galao (latte style coffee...but better;)
Tosta Mista (Ham and Cheese sandwich on buttered bread squished in Panini Press)
....and a Dozen custard tarts for the drive home.

(and in case you wanted to know - no high chairs, no change table, no baby food, and I think if you pulled out a boob to breast feed the little old ladies wearing all black would call you a 'witch')

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How stocked is your 'Pantry'?

Being on maternity leave means the only boss I have to answer to is the little monster napping in the crib one room away (the length of this nap will be what determines the length of this post), meaning I don't have a regular 9 to 5 schedule, which also means when I'm tired of being home alone with the baby at 2pm I expect people to be available to hang out with me....besides my mom (okay, she was busy too, damn people having lives, she's old, she should have nothing to do!) Point is this week I had to resort to plan B, when everyone says they can't hang out because they are busy at work, just go to their work. Which is what I did to my sister, who works at PANTRY on College St....and no, she doesn't give me free stuff.

I have to admit, I LOVE it there. As soon as you walk in you feel like a 'cooler' person, it makes me want to dress my baby in hemp handmade clothes while carrying her in an overpriced ergonomically designed baby-sling as I tote fresh locally grown organic produce in my reusable shopping bag. The only negative is that there isn't enough seating, but I guess it's because the 'cool' people who go there have more important things to do with their day than loiter for hours, I imagine them taking their babies to the park to paint watercolours, or going to a poetry reading...of french in an art gallery....while everyone smokes cigarettes and wears berets...okay, went a little too far. Regardless of the little seating, I manage to make myself quite comfortable on the couch and remain there for hours on end admiring the ready made array of gourmet foods in the display case (as I secretly nibble away at the saltines I have in a Tupperware in my diaper bag...I'm on a budget, I can't afford a $5 pastry, no matter how unbelievably amazing it I swear, their butter tarts are phenomenal, better than sex, and I mean pre-baby sex when I still liked having it). 

Apparently the other bonus to this place is that they are SUPER baby-mama friendly, I haven't seen it in person, but according to my sister she is now an official boob-connoisseur, they are out and flying around constantly in this place (you do get that I mean from breast feeding mamas, I don't want all the House of Lancaster clientele to suddenly head south and bombard this quaint little shop looking for boob-action....and yes, i think that many of my loyal readers are also regulars at a strip-club).

...she's awake....

Final verdict, love the coffee, love the ambiance, of course love the should check it out.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

ikea restaurangen...yes, that's swedish!

I feel like it has been a while since my last post, and I don't want my adoring fans (my mom) to feel like I have abandoned my blog, so I will explain the reason for my absence. Since the sack of potatoes... I mean the baby arrived, the condo has slowly felt like that scene in one of those Star Wars movies where the walls are closing in on them (and trust me, I tried to come up with a better reference but I just can't get that scene out of my mind). Baby crap is taking over my life! As I sit on my sofa typing away while the kid sleeps in our den/baby-room/solarium, I am literally surrounded by baby junk, I can feel rolled up baby socks under my ass, I think I smell a dirty diaper that must of rolled under the sofa, and YES it just rolled there, I didn't throw it under there because I was too lazy to take it to the real garbage...anyway, where was I, oh yeah, complaining about the baby crap. There is not a single inch of my living room floor that is not covered in some toy or blankie or left over MumMum cookie, I feel like I'm sinking in baby quicksand. The point is our 650 square foot Toronto condo no longer fits us (to be honest it barely fit us before, but we were never home so we didn't notice...oh the days of being able to go out whenever we case you wanted to know, there is a single tear streaming down my face as I look out the window longingly). So last Monday we made the decision to put the condo up for sale and move into a house. We met with our realtor on Tuesday, the condo was listed on Wednesday, and it sold on Thursday...what was that about a real estate crisis???!!!??! I don't know what I was thinking but I thought I would have a long time to get used to the idea of moving, well I don't, so let's just say I've been a little freaked out. I'm not sure I'm ready to be a grown up and do something selfless for my kid, like move to the burbs so they can have a nice backyard and not be stuck on a wait list for soccer camp because of the high demand in the city (the 'city-moms' I know have scared me with stories of camping out nights before in front of rec centres to get their kids in the good programs...and apparently you can't just let your kid watch tv and play on the driveway 24-7....they need programs!) I like to pretend I'm still 'cool city girl', the problem is that 'cool city girl' can only afford a house in crack-whore yeah, I'm a little stressed. So that's the reason for my lack of entries, but I'm back. In my recent week of house hunting and realizing how intensely poor I am as I near the end of my maternity leave, the husband and I decide to hit the cheapest 'restaurant' ( I use ' ' in describing this place as a restaurant because I think the title might be up for debate) - the cafeteria style restaurant at IKEA.

Now, when reviewing the IKEA restaurant a couple of things have to be made clear. First of all, it's a self serve counter, meaning wait staff are not around to screw up or piss me off, definitely a bonus. Second, it's freak'in IKEA, what do you expect??? I don't expect much, maybe on par with the fly infested buffet lunch in that really crappy all inclusive resort I stayed at in Cuba (maybe the half a star rating it got should have tipped me off...but I was young and naive...okay it was only last year...leave me alone!) ...and to tell you the truth it's a little better, except the omellette bar, gotta say, IKEA does not have an omellette I miss that trip, scary Maria behind the counter spitting on the frying pan to check its temperature, what a vacation (that single tear remains on my cheek). 

If you enjoy eating tasty, well prepared food that is both creatively presented and unexpectedly delicious...this is NOT the place for you. If you need a place where your baby can make a lot of noise and mess alongside numerous other annoying children, a place where the food is very cheap and the taste doesn't really matter because you are going to wolf it down like a pie-eating contest champ before your kid has a tantrum, a place where they have a microwave to heat up your baby food because the 'princess' won't eat anything that is at room temperature, well if all these apply to you then come on in, pull up a cheap poorly constructed bright coloured chair and take a load off, pop a few swedish meatballs, some cheap hotdogs, and count down the days until your little one is big enough to go to the playland and you can come have a coffee by yourself for the first time in months, maybe years, while you enjoy the benefits of free daycare....just imagine it, date nights at IKEA, and I checked, they serve alcohol!

helpful hint: stay away from the $1.99 pasta're better off going hungry!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Grenadier Cafe, coffee's crap but we still love you.

In my attempts to maintain my sanity and try to fool myself into thinking I still have a social life since the kid arrived I joined a 'mom group' for new moms. Now, detailing the various conversations, my own opinions of the ladies, and over all mom-gossip would fill an entirely other blog, so I'm trying to stay focused here and move this topic onto reviewing the restaurant, so the point is, met a bunch of moms, figured out who I thought I would like, weeded out all the losers, and now I get together with a small group for lunch weekly at the Grenadier Cafe in High Park, the subject of this post. (I won't tell you which day we meet, wouldn't want any 'fans' hounding me while I'm out with my friends, I like to keep a low profile .... I also like to pretend anyone other than my mom reads this blog)

The High Park restaurant is a place where I can truly say, within a single visit I can go from loving it to wanting to stab the stupid waitress in the throat with a fork (which is often made difficult considering she never brings me one). We've been going there since the kiddies were immobile and barely opening their eyes to now requiring high chairs and constant entertainment, and throughout these months of visits I still can't decide if I love it's quirky charm and low-key atmosphere, or hate it for it's incompetent wait staff and bad coffee.

Let me take you through a typical visit to give you an idea of the good, the bad, and the ugly of this place, and you can decide for yourself if its worth it or not.

On a weekly basis we enter the restaurant in a parade of adorable babies in strollers being pushed by women who are getting better looking by the week, and I mean that literally, we all looked like crap those first few weeks and it has now gotten to the point where I have noticed some of the moms brushing their hair before leaving the house, and a couple have even put some mascara on, bravo ladies! As we walk in there are numerous elderly patrons oohing and aahing over the little ones, which we all of course love, score one for high park. "Our Table" is always available and the backroom is pretty vacant most of the time making it so we can spread our baby crap across 5 or 6 tables guilt free...I know, this place sounds great. We all sit, say hi to each other's babies that have been hidden behind puffy jackets and blankets, and wait for the waitress, and wait, and wait, and....well, you get the picture. Now we are a group of new moms on mat leave, meaning we will take adult conversation wherever we can get it, so most of the times we don't notice right away that we are being completely ignored, and when I say ignored, I mean the waitress will walk by us a few times and not even make eye contact. Eventually it will get to the point where we realize that our throats are drying up from dehydration and the babies are getting hungry and need baby food heated up, so we try to get her attention. In one of her sprints by our table we yell in her general direction that we would like some waters, she looks our way and nods, which in most countries is a signal confirming she has heard our request and is prepared to fill it, unfortunately our waitress is not familiar with this custom and not only leaves us waterless, but also does not provide our children with the opportunity to eat warm food, leaving no alternative but to give them sweet potato that is still half frozen in that ice cube shape, the poor babies are getting frost bite holding onto these cubes with their tiny fists, gumming away at it, trying with everything in them to make the burning hunger feeling in their tiny little tummies go away....maybe I went too far with that, let's just say the kids are cranky they want to eat and the mamas are cranky because they want to eat, it's not a good scene. 

Eventually we are looked after, sometimes she'll return with the baby food we have asked her to heat up, but sometimes she'll forget to bring it back. Some days our orders take 5 minutes, other days they take an hour, don't really get it considering we all order the same thing every week. Then the bills are another story all together, we have got to the point where we will all just stand near the register and hope she eventually notices us so we can pay her.

So you may be asking yourself, why do we keep coming back to this place, well, when you are a mom in Toronto your options are a little more limited and your criteria for a good restaurant change a little, no longer does food quality take precedence, accommodating the babies become the priority and regardless of the waitress who has obviously spent a lot of time on the 'short bus' there are pluses that cannot be denied:
  • there is space for 8 or more strollers around the table, this is a huge bonus in the city where sometimes you are actually turned away when you try to enter a restaurant with a stroller (stupid pretentious Torontonians...oh how I miss being one of those)
  • there are piles up on piles of high chairs - because nothing is worse then looking forward to a nice warm meal out that you didn't have to prepare yourself, only to have to hold a squirming baby on your lap while you try to eat it, restaurant meal + baby on lap = severe heartburn
  • it's never that busy so we can spend hours loitering and no one bothers us (if I don't see the mess at home it doesn't really exist, so the longer I'm out the better)
  • there is A LOT of free parking, which again in the city is hard to come by (or you can do like me and go to the lot next to NoFrills in Bloor West, spend hours in the 'village' then buy one item for $5 and get your parking, i've become such a cheap-ass since having the baby, next thing I know I'm going to be saying that I won't buy those shoes until they go on sale!)
Just for those reasons I'll put up with a crappy waitress, messed up orders, bad coffee, and overpriced eggs (if it's after 11am).

(okay, get ready, the only time I'm going to be nice, it's coming up)

...and really just the company alone makes any crap I have to deal with worth it...there's my little nod to the high park moms;) back to being bitchy.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Once a mallrat, always a mallrat

Let me start off by saying that I am attempting to write this while chubbs is still awake, she's right here beside me watching Oprah, don't worry -  it's educational, the episode is on Brothels (please don't call children's aid).

Onto today's review, shopping malls. I spent most of today at Square One and thought it was a good time to do a little write up on the numerous shopping malls I have frequented since the baby's arrival...okay, who am I kidding, I have always loved malls, lots of stores located conveniently close to one another so I don't have to cover up nice outfits with heavy coats

...okay this isn't working, this kid is really cutting into my free time, will try this again later...

Alright, baby's asleep for the night (fingers crossed), got some Jerry on in the background, a glass of wine beside me (I love being able to drink again, it really gives my life purpose and meaning), ready to write. As I was saying, the mall adventure. Prior to having a baby I remember shopping malls being filled with trendy girls waiting to be emulated and ugly girls waiting to be mocked (isn't that what everyone does at the mall or was that just me), I would put effort into a mall visit, I very much follow the "Pretty Woman" philosophy of life, if I go into a store looking like a schlep (or slutty hooker in Julia's case) I can't expect people to show me any kind of decency, I mean when I see a poorly dressed person I know I look the other way or quickly cross to the other side of the street....I think this is the part of my personality my husband told me not to share with other people if I wanted to keep friends...oh well, no one is actually going to read this. Anyway, my point is, like every other aspect of my life post baby, the mall too has become an entirely different place. It's bad enough babies ruin our figures, our sex-lives, our ability to spend $500 on a pair of shoes guilt-free, now the mall is no longer a place of retail therapy, it is a haven for bored mothers with babies, and I'm one of those moms. Now when I go to the mall all I see are other moms. We all look the same, slightly disheveled, dazed look on our face, a pathetic attempt at some make up, pushing our fancy strollers pretending to know what time or even what day of the week it is. And like every other place I used to go to without the kid and love, with the kid it's a different story, so here's my look at how baby-friendly our local malls are.

  • Decent nursing room across from H&M, not a lot of people fit, but does provide privacy. Though the first time I used it, I thought it was a private room and decided to get really comfortable and take my shirt of completely to breast feed the little one, only to have a mom AND dad come in to feed a baby...and what's scary is that this happened to me at another mall too...okay, maybe it's me, maybe dad's are allowed to come in and I shouldn't be taking my shirt off so freely...hey, when you are too tired to have sex with your husband for weeks at a time a quick glance from a stranger while I change the baby from one boob to the next is pretty exciting!?!?! (Apparently there is a dad free nursing room near Subway, but what's the fun in that)
  • HUGE PROBLEM, there is no place to heat up baby food, when I asked at the INFO desk the lady said I could get a custodian in the food court to take the food into the back and use a microwave back there - first of all, I didn't realize that the custodial staff had special 'microwave training' that was not available to the lay person making it so the mall administration felt it necessary to prohibit all non-custodial personnel from coming within 10 feet of this complicated piece of technology, and second of all I was supposed to hand over my baby food to the same person who just finished tying the garbage bags and scraping gum off the bottoms of tables...I don't think so, suffice it to say the lady at the info booth got quite an earful...okay maybe just a dirty look, but I was thinking REALLY bad thoughts about her for the rest of the day.
  • Come on, it's Dufferin Mall, I'm Portuguese and I think the place is a dump. Any non-PorkChops, do not enter unarmed!!! 
  • I consider Yorkdale the Mecca of Mommy/Baby happiness. Everyone always looks so happy, not quite as many strollers as Square One so you don't feel so out of touch with reality, people are well dressed, and the baby rooms are spacious and nice, the one by the Bay is better than the others.
  • There is a microwave to heat up baby food in the nursing room.
  • Dads aren't allowed so you can disrobe freely (is that a good thing or a bad thing?)
  • All doors have those buttons to push so you don't have to touch handles.
  • Though you might not feel as cool as when you shop on Queen West, you also don't get dirty looks when you try to push your gigantic baby stroller between racks on clothes...because there is SPACE.
I could really go on forever with this, I have yet to talk about Sherway, Vaughn Mills, Eaton Centre, but I have to get some sleep before SHE decides to cry for no reason...and there isn't a real reason, it's just to remind me that she has complete control over my life, she likes to keep me in a constant state of exhaustion, I'm more susceptible to her evil mind tricks that way. 

Anyway, feel free to reply with your own mall review, or add anything you love or hate about the malls already mentioned.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

APACHE, APACHE, what did I ever do to you?

I know it was only one day of nice weather, but I'm sure it was the first of many and so I feel completely justified packing away the family's winter clothes and forcing my husband and baby to wear nothing but shorts and sandals all weekend, even through the torrential down pour and thunder storm. Anyway, the way I see it, every event needs to be marked with some type of celebration, and in my family we celebrate with food (the reason I still don't fit into my skinny jeans), and what better food to commemorate the start of warmth than burgers. 

Being post baby chubby (I have promoted myself from 'gargantuan', to 'obese', to 'fat', and now 'chubby') greasy burgers are not my first meal choice, however, I felt it was needed in this case. I just had to mouth the word burgers to my husband and before I had a chance to run a brush through my hair the baby was strapped in the car and we were on our way to APACHE BURGER. And when I say I barely had a chance to brush my hair I am not exaggerating, let's take a moment to review my physical appearance on this particular outing before I move onto the restaurant review. I had just got out of the shower, and since my husband equates showered and teeth brushed with being ready to leave the house, that's really all I had time to do. My hair was sopping wet and in a messy bun on the top of head, I had on a shirt covered in baby vomit stains with an old cardigan thrown over top, a cardigan with belt loops but of course no belt. Jeans that I have to keep up with an over sized belt, they were my fat jeans to wear right after the baby but since I don't fit into my pre-baby jeans yet, I'm just walking through the city looking very sleek and stylish in jeans that are too big and buckling at the waist, I call it 'potato-sack chic'. I did not have any make up on, and my 'mask of pregnancy' that all the books said would go away once the baby was out has decided to take up permanent residency on my upper lip and chin, so basically I looked like a dirty homeless person!!! ...Okay, onto the restaurant. 

As soon as we get there the first thing I ask is if they have a high chair, I know my husband would have killed me, but there was no way in hell I was going to pay for someone to make me dinner, just to have to eat it while trying to stop a 20 pound garbage disposal from trying to dive mouth first into my plate. The very sweet cashier said yes, then turned to the burly man dishing out the burgers and asked him to get the chair, he looked at the entire line up in disgust and asked her who it was for. She pointed to me and the baby, he looked us up and down, contorted his face and muttered something under his breath, spit on the ground, then shuffled into the back...okay maybe he didn't spit, I added it for dramatic effect, as I was saying, he shuffled into the back, about ten minutes later came out with a high chair, put it over the counter and turned away. I don't know where he got the chair from, but let's just say I 'purelled' the hell out of it.

As soon as we sat down and waited for my husband to bring the food I smelled the all to familiar stench of death and rotting souls, otherwise known as the baby's poopy diaper. I grabbed the necessary supplies from the bag, diaper, wipes, lotion, gas mask, holy water...the usual, and headed to the lavatories. Having lived most of my adult life in quite a nice and shiny bubble in which the entire world revolved around me, this obviously continued after having the baby. So you could imagine my surprise when I opened the washroom door to find only a toilet, sink, and paper towel dispenser, where was the change table? even a counter top I could use? How could they do this to me? That's right, strike two, attitude during high chair retrieval, then no change table. I had to change her in the back seat of the car, not fun, reclined seat, wet poo, car parked too close beside so afraid to hit them with door, NOT FUN!

After that things were pretty uneventful, got food, burger okay, husband thought it was best he ever had, great onion rings (I know what you're thinking but I didn't even have cheese on my burger and I got a DIET coke, so yeah, I ate Onion Rings, get over it).

I am not a fence sitter, I like to make firm decisions, so even though APACHE really only messed up on the change table situation, I'm going to have to declare ENEMY! I don't appreciate being made to feel like I'm putting someone out when I ask for a chair for my baby, and bottom line, their food is too fattening and I want to fit into my skinny jeans by the summer.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fresh on Crawford...friend or foe...on the fence.

As soon as I walked in the entire place gave a synchronized 'aaaaaah' when they saw the baby, so right away, gotta love them. Really, I like people who truly understand that beauty is the key to happiness and a successful life, and obviously they see what I see, that my baby is the cutest baby on the planet, Gerber baby - shmerber baby, no one's got noth'in on my kid...back on track, walk in to restaurant, loving it so far. They have high chairs, another bonus, and at 5:30pm on a Thursday not that busy so lots of extra wait staff to entertain baby while I ate, now given, not sure if they were faced with an unattractive child if they would have been so friendly, but if you got a cute one, they will fawn all over them. Everything seemed like it was going so well, too well one might say, then it happened. I felt like I was on a date with an amazing guy who just told me he was a doctor who loved Seinfeld and sunsets on the beach, only to have him stand up and expose to the world his socks and sandals. Here's how it went down, I pulled out my frozen cubes of baby food (I mean I was at Fresh on Queen West, I wanted to fit in and look like a good conscientious mom so I brought my homemade baby food, not one of the thousand jars I have stashed in my pantry), the baby starts giggling in delight when she sees the food (just so you know for future posts, my baby has an eating disorder, she is a human garbage disposal and will eat EVERYTHING in sight), as I try to get the servers attention the baby starts to get more and more impatient, until her cute squeals turn into shrieks of terror (suddenly the servers don't think she's quite as cute anymore, how quickly they turn), I finally get the server to come over and ask if they have a microwave to warm the baby food, she looks quickly at another server, then to me, then another server, then shakes her head and says no. What the hell was that? If you didn't pick up on it from my description I am absolutely sure she was lying, they have a microwave, and for some twisted baby-hating reason they didn't want me to use it. That may seem a little harsh, but I had to deal with a hungry baby for a car-ride home so I wasn't too happy, now if I were to give them the benefit of the doubt and say they didn't have a microwave, which I guess a restaurant that is called FRESH and prides themselves on fresh ingredients, I guess, if I had to, I could concede and believe that they don't have a microwave, either way, not liking this place until the baby no longer needs baby food...there is no way to heat up the food, I guess next time I could heat it up at home...or I could just not go there again, I'm still too cranky over the experience to judge clearly...for now, ENEMY, let's see if I change my mind next time I'm craving a SUPER PROTEIN SALAD with extra GRILLED TEMPEH.

Baby and the City

Prior to having my baby I had envisioned my post-delivery life something like this: Strolling through Queen west in designer jeans that I would fit back into in less than a month ( I thought I was giving myself more than enough time, I didn't say on the way home from the hospital, I had given myself a month!), high-heeled boots, tight biker jacket (that I bought right before I found out I was pregnant in a size smaller than I usually wear...who actually buys their correct size), and the baby in a $75 baby-sling I forced my friends to buy me as a shower gift because I saw a picture of Gwenyth Paltrow wearing one. The reality: I didn't leave my house for 3 months, when I tried to put the baby in the sling a shriek of terror emitted out of her as if I had ripped off one of her limbs, and fitting into my jeans, well let's just say it's been 7 months and I'm still 5 inches away...and yes I know that because the jeans are hanging off my fridge and I have to look at them every day when I push them out of the way to get to the frozen Halloween chocolates I have stashed in my freezer from 2 years ago.

Point is, life post baby is not quite what I had envisioned, who am I kidding, it's the scariest thing I have ever gone through, and the only thing that makes me feel sane is getting out of the house. Since escaping my fortress of solitude about 5 months ago I have come to discover Toronto in a whole new light, every place I enter I now either claim has an ally (i.e. baby-friendly) or an enemy (no highchairs, won't warm baby food, frown when I whip out my breast...etc.). In my attempt to salvage some of my past life I have ventured out quite often with the little dictator....I mean baby, and thought I would share some of my thoughts or reviews of places and let you know how they stack up in the baby department. 

Now, in all honesty the plan was to begin this BLOG a LONG time ago, but seriously, I have a baby, that I even shower is a miracle (and if you are one of those got-it-all-together moms who has been blogging every moment of their 'wonderful' miracle from day one and has time to cook, clean , and shower, are either lying or you can go to hell;) . So you may find more than one post a day as I try to catch up, but trust me, I'm not hitting multiple malls and restaurants in a single day, if I can get out of the house even once I deem that a success. Enjoy.