Chi-Town and why my dislike for some Americans continues…

I have been wanting to go to Chicago pretty much since the last time I went to Chicago with my girlfriend looking for her wedding dress back in 2010.  The irony is that I went because I needed to escape my breakup and the drama surrounding it with A and I knew Kim would be the perfect friend to spend a long weekend with.  This time I went with A because we have somehow managed to escape the nastiness of a breakup, and come out on the other side friends again.

I wanted to go with A because he loves baseball as much, if not more than I do, and my reason for going this time around was to see both the Cubs AND the White Sox play – to see both fields and come two stadiums closer to finishing my goal of seeing every major league baseball diamond.  (I have seen 7 now – still a LOOOOOOONNNNNG way to go).

We left Toronto early Wednesday morning, Canada Day, and both of us immediately fell asleep on the plane.  Thankfully the 1.5 hour plane ride was smooth and quiet and we woke up feeling a bit more refreshed and ready to make our way to the hotel.  Supposedly, when you take a cab that is already waiting for you from the hotel into Elmhurst (where our hotel was) they charge you a fare + half.  If we had called our own taxi they just charge you a regular fare, but we didn’t find that out until we had already agreed to take the already waiting taxi because we knew no better. lesson learned.  After a $45 cab ride I was terrified that the hotel would refuse us entry so early as check in is 3 pm and it was only 9 am, but they had a room available so we thanked them and went to our first floor room to unpack.

Hunger was a priority so we googled where Denny’s was and found it was a ten minute drive (about 4 miles) away so we called a cab and they advised it would be $12.  This seemed expensive, but we were starving so we headed out.  Denny’s makes me happy…cheap, delicious food and service was great!

After breakfast – we needed to sleep.  We both took a four-hour nap.  What an exciting trip!  HA!  That night we learned how to take the Metra (their version of the GO train) into downtown and the nicest train conductor told us how to get around downtown and advised us that cab drivers love taking advantage of Canadians and tourists in general so we needed to act like we were home-grown.  He told us the cab ride to Navy Pier should cost no more than $10 and to tell the driver assertively that was where we wanted to go.  Navy Pier was just as I remembered it – but colder…much colder due to the Lake and the winds coming off the lake.  I bought a sweater that all tourists were wearing and so did A because even HE was cold…after walking around and seeing some of the Piers attractions the fire works show began and I took it as a salute to Canada (even though they have Fire Works every Wednesday).  We had Giordano’s for a late dinner, of course settling for deep dish pizza (holy crap that pizza is THICK).

The rest of our trip had a mixture of highs (seeing both MLB teams and going to a live jazz bar) and lows (getting taken advantage of by a few more cab drivers and we had some major issues witht he hotel that A will be complaining about to management) but spending time with A and being away from the Toronto Pan Am madness for even a few days was totally worth it all.  I know now, that next summer I want to do another American city to cross another diamond off my list – maybe Boston or Seattle?  I have a year to decide!  I hope next year it’s with a little one in my arms or at least a man who loves me holding my hand.

Exploring, travelling, adventure – it’s something I was not exposed to as a child and so I am making sure I get to do some of it now.  It may not be far, but it’s still thrilling to me.  I can’t wait to expose my future little Koko Bean to life outside of his or her hometown.

Love Nicole


Facts V. Opinions

It always amazes me when people tell me how I should feel about something or who completely judge me when I express I feel a certain way.  I am a woman who confidently will express her opinion when she has one and very rarely does that opinion change.  Since the development of Social Media (Facebook to be exact) I have had NO problem expressing myself on MY site, full well knowing that some of my “friends” will not agree with my opinion nor should they.  The thing that surprises me is how many people still want to fight me on my opinion and then list information proving somehow I am wrong to think or feel a certain way.

After I read this retort I have to sit back and decide whether to A) bite my tongue so I don’t damage the friendship or B) fight back which usually turns into a bitching match on MY Facebook so I work really hard to do A more often.  There have been two things I have been expressing my opinion on more lately because the issues are all over the news and Social Media. I’m going to express them here again because this is my blog and I feel like it 😉

The (possible) teacher strike – oh no they aren’t writing report cards!!

Listen, I get it, but in reality very few students are actually going to be affected by this. Unless those grades and comments are required for getting into your dream high school or college, it really isn’t going to harm your child and it certainly isn’t going to harm you.  You know what will harm your child – being in a classroom next September with one teacher, NO EA, and 29 other kids, half of whom don’t speak English well or who are on an IEP.  So your “normal” kid, next year will have no special attention on them and likely won’t get a chance to stand out, but hey teachers are horrible right?  Let’s fire them all!  People who have NO idea what it is like to be in a classroom with limited supplies and even less support are driving me crazy with their Holier Than Thou attitudes.  Yes there are bad teachers, horrible teachers who never should have been hired – but there are also REALLY REALLY horrible parents…you don’t get fired so get off your ass and support those who take care of your children and are looking out for them instead of trashing them all over social media.  It’s childish and no one wants to read about it, but hey – it’s your Facebook so when it is on there I will try not to comment, instead shaking my head and scrolling on.

Pan Am Games – Toronto and it’s traffic

Since moving to Ajax I have had to deal with my fair share of traffic nightmares, but I knew this would be the case when I decided I did not want to rent the rest of my life, I wanted to own a home – not a condo – a home with a backyard where I could safely raise my children.  Sometimes I complain about traffic.  If there is an accident or a huge storm of some kind, the already crazy traffic gets worse and I complain.  I am human last time I checked.

When I was advised that Pan Am would be held in Toronto it didn’t even cross my mind, but holy shit traffic is going to easily double and my already 45-60 minute commute will now be much longer!!  I flipped.  Toronto has historically awful roads, construction everywhere and it is a commuters hell!  Now the passing lanes are being converted to HOV with 3+ drivers only and I want to cry.  I have been told not to complain buy a few “friends” because I chose to move to Ajax.  I did.  I willingly moved there because renting was not how I wanted to live MY life.  A lot of amazing friends do it and happily do it because they can’t afford to buy, want to be in a specific neighborhood where there may not be financially sound homes to buy or a million other reasons, but I chose to buy a home in Ajax.  I did not choose for the City of Toronto to host the Pan Am games and intensify already insane road conditions.  My work, ironically enough, will not allow staggered work hours and for me there isn’t really the option of re-routing because for some reason we only have ONE main highway East to West and North to South so I will need to leave early.  Earlier then I already do.  It would be nice to carpool, but finding one person, let alone, 2 more people to use the HOV lanes with, would be next to impossible.

So I complain.  I don’t need anyone to feel sorry for me or to protest for me, but MY social media page allows me to vent my feelings and if you don’t like them and worse yet if you are completely aghast by them, move on…keep scrolling.

Just like I do when you complain about teachers – and like you will do 6 months from now when my contract ends and the union goes to bat for us.

Gotta love a democracy!




To blind to see


The United Way is a charity I have supported for years.  Since I started my job with the City of Toronto back in 2004 I have donated my time and money to this notable charity.  Every year from September to December the city (every division) raises money to support those less fortunate, who need help – for food, for shelter, for employment, for counselling, for love and for warmth.

This year, I decided to take on more responsibility and became an office ambassador – helping to raise the much-needed money for this organization.  Now in my division, times are a bit tough – we have all been a little overwhelmed with new technology that has come on board to eat us alive and people aren’t feeling very giving – but my team is trying and I am happy for every dollar amount raised.

Last night we had an event that not only tested my limits, but my patience and understanding.  A large group of us went to O’Noir (http://www.onoirtoronto.com/) for a dining experience like no other.


Since their doors opened in Toronto in 2009, they have been giving Torontonians the experience of eating a meal – IN THE DARK.  When I say dark – I mean PITCH BLACK DARKNESS.  From the moment the door closes behind you, you cannot see anything.  Your other senses intensify and you suddenly gain a small understanding of what it would be like to eat – as a blind person eats every meal, every day of their lives.

Last night I went with 5 of my friends and the 6 of us were brought to a table, by the sweetest man/waiter, named Nasir.  Nasir is blind.  Like a majority of the staff members there, Nasir plays Host and Server to the guests at this restaurant completely blind to the world around him.  His ability to bring our large group to our table, seat us and then bring us our food and drinks was astounding.  His calm and gentle demeanour not only made me have even more respect for this industry, but made sure that I will be returning one day.


Now on to some of the funnier incidents – because alcohol and dining in the dark, do NOT go together easily. My colleague (like the majority of us) had bought a glass of wine before being seated (and prior to being submerged into darkness) and as we were walking through the seating area – completely blind –  she was knocked by another friend and her wine spilt down the back of my coat (to be seated you walk one in front of the other holding on to their shoulders).  Once seated, I placed my wine to my left as is custom (I guess) and that same friend who knocked the wine onto my jacket reached over to give me the bread basket and instead of reaching high (to avoid hitting something) she slammed the basket directly into MY wine glass sending it flying into my lap (thankfully I was smart and wore all dark colours yesterday).  I spent the rest of the meal drenched in red wine and getting drunk off the fumes that I was no longer consuming.  I used about 20 napkins to clean up because of course I had to do everything by the sense of touch.

When I finally got my bread, I had to use the knife to spread a small cap of butter…after making a few attempts, I used my pointer finger to spread the rest of the butter over the bun and then gorged on it because it was warm and tasted SO good!

Our appetizer came next and mine was the Roasted Red Peppers and Seasonal Vegetables with Goat Cheese.  I love goat cheese, I will eat any meal that has goat cheese.  I wasn’t so sure about the red peppers but I figured why not.  It was delicious.  I successfully used my form and knife to eat this part of my meal and then used my finger to slurp up the rest of the cheese and dressing.  Some of my colleagues got the arugula salad and they all said it was really good.

For dinner I chose the Pesto Chicken Breast with Potatoes and Vegetables.  At first, trying to eat green beans (the vegetable) was quite the feat, but not one to give up, I paid attention to my fork and the feel of my fork gliding into whatever food it touched and soon I was sucking down green beans and digging into moist, flavourful chicken!  My colleague did get one green bean up her nose and we all died laughing because she was also enjoying her evening with her date for the night – Jack Daniels.

The potatoes were small chunks with a great seasoning and I am positive it took me about a minute and a half to scarf down my entire meal.  It was incredible.  My colleagues who got the Filet Mignon weren’t as thrilled, I guess some felt the “medium” was actually “medium rare” but overall were still happy.  The only way to really tell if you are finished your meal is to touch the plate around the edges and through the middle.  What an experience!

Dessert was the final course and all of us except my beautiful friend Sarah chose the chocolate mousse.  She chose the “surprise”.  The chocolate mousse was a huge, sumptuous, mouth-watering slather.  I couldn’t even eat it all – that’s right I COULDN’T EAT ALL THE CHOCOLATEY GOODNESS.  Sarah’s surprise was a caramel type cheesecake which she truly enjoyed as well!  Great surprise!  (note*** you can get any portion of your meal as a surprise).


At the end of the meal, Nasir walked us back to the light and we all laughed and smiled about how wonderful our meal and our evening was.  Experiencing blindness is something that will live with me forever, the anxiety, the fear, the trust you need to put in others (both the blind and non-blind alike) gave me a small glimpse into the lives of those who live like this everyday.  I have taken Sign Language classes to support the lives of those who are deaf or hard of hearing and truly gained an understanding of deaf culture, but blind culture is 100% different and my respect level has risen.

I highly recommend anyone in Toronto, Montreal, New York, LA or any other city that has an O’Noir type restaurant to visit and try it out – take a chance, take a risk.  You only live once, don’t be too blind to see what opportunities are right in front of you.




Is it to early??

In September, when I was at the mall, I saw some Christmas items already placed out for sale.  The majority of the stores were prepared for Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving, but Christmas was starting to sprout its roots over Toronto. Even I threw up my nose in disgust!  I hadn’t even bought Simba’s Hallowe’en costume, let alone a nice warm Christmas sweater!

I never get ready for Christmas until after Remembrance Day, I was taught that it was disrespectful (though how I don’t know because really, I can respect soldiers under a twinkling Christmas tree!) however I wait.  Patiently I check off the days and after November 11th it’s no holds bar!

This year with my first house, I have a mantle and hence I have bought a garland to drape across it, some gold candles, a gold wreath for the door and I have also placed out all my Hallmark snowmen.  I have the few Christmas crafts up that I made as a child and this weekend my tree will go up and the rest of the house will be completed!

Some people thinks it’s to soon.  That December 1st is the first day that is acceptable to put up Christmas decorations.  If I were American I would agree because their Thanksgiving is the end of November.  Ours was October…why do I need to wait??  I like Christmas and it makes me happy.  Not a lot of things make me happy – truly heart warmingly happy, so I am going all out for Christmas this weekend!

Next weekend I will have started and completed my Christmas shopping with my sister-in-law, because we are doing our annual Black Friday trip and a week or so after that I will invite my oldest niece over to wrap presents and continue my dads tradition with her of Swiss Chalet and Christmas music!  It’s fun and fun = good!

My christmas cards have been signed and sealed for almost two weeks now, but I won’t mail them until the day I leave for Grove City, which means people will get them on December 1st.  I have over 40 cards to write out so I do it while I watch tv so I get them all done.  Also, I don’t give everyone the same card – I use different cards for different families as I buy a ton of cards after Christmas to save money.  I like them to be a bit more personal so some cards have special messages – my old stomping ground peeps all have a message this year because it’s my first Christmas not having it at my dads house, not living and waking up on Sedgemount.  This is hard, yet special for me.

Last Christmas was postponed due to Ice Storm Toronto 2013, so this year I am praying for NO snow.  I know, I know, I’m sorry.  I have to drive to my brother’s family’s house this year so I’d prefer no snow/ice to make the drive a little less chaotic – and wet – I hate wet dog smell and it’s the 18th of November and Simba has been out twice already with snow and he smells gross when he’s wet.  Just sayin’…

So if you are like some of my friends who have had their trees up and presents wrapped for weeks – good for you!  If you are like the other half who curse everyone whose thinking Christmas already – good for you too!  We can all do whatever we want and the good thing is, is that NO ONES opinion matters. This is a personal choice and I have made mine!

Have fun and love each other people!  That’s what this season is all about!




Fun with Words


My book club (yes I am in a book club because I don’t read as much as I would like and this would force me to read at least one book a month whether I wanted to or not) read Eat, Pray, Love for the month of May and although I had read it YEARS ago and seen the Julia Roberts version while bawling over an ex boyfriend into a bag of popcorn, I decided to read it again to remind myself the difference between the actually story and Hollywood’s adaptation. The part that stood out for me (besides the long drawn out history of culture, museums, religion and food) was when she was in Italy and she was talking to one of her Italian friends about what her WORD was. They came up with the word for Rome, New York, her friend etc, etc, but it took her until almost the end of the section on Italy to come up with her word – which was attraversiamo “let’s cross over”. This was a great word for her, because throughout the book she is constantly changing paths, changing her mind and crossing into her destiny.

All these words made me think of my own word, of Toronto’s word, of Ajax’s word and with that I spoke to the girls in my club.

One friends word was CREATE which is perfect because she is an artistic, scrapbooking genius who creates these amazing pinterest boards and is the envy of the less creative me. Another friends word is CHAOTIC – because her life (work and home) is a bit of a crazy insanity right now. She is working long hours (like sometimes 20 hours a day) and her beautiful little girl and hubby are consistently sick so life for her – at this point and time is CHAOTIC. My third book club buddy was given a word – because she’s hilariously inappropriate at the best of times and her word is #NOFILTER (yes with the # included).

We talked about Toronto’s word (since all of us are originally from the GTA and after discussing various options (RUDE, CHAOTIC, TRAFFIC, GROW, AMBITION etc) we (well I) think DIVERSE fits it bet. I mean we are probably the most diverse city in the world with our ethnicities, religion, food and incomes. So I like DIVERSE as being at the heart of soul of Toronto.

I couldn’t for the life of me decide on my word though…there were options of course HOMEOWNER, PASSION, WOOSAI, REALITY, FRIEND, all of these fit, but don’t fully capture my essence, who I am. A year ago it would have been proudly been DADDYS GIRL no question, but that isn’t who I am anymore. I had hoped it would be MOTHER, but that’s not true either. 4 years ago it could have been ANXIOUS because my anxiety took over a huge chunk of my life to the point where getting out of bed was painful yet necessary, but with therapy and medication I am in a much different place now.

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So without a word, I am a DRIFTER maybe? I mean I have friends, I have family, but I don’t truly belong with either group anymore. I float along where requested never feeling settled. I bought a home that I love, yet I dream of packing it all up and moving far away, wishing I had the option, but with a home, a job I couldn’t get elsewhere and a dog who is crazy about me, I am GROUNDED. What’s a girl to do?

Having put my own word search on hold, I came home from book club thinking about Ajax’s word. I haven’t lived here long, so deciding on a word for this town seems superficial. How can I judge a town I haven’t begun to explore? I haven’t eaten at its hidden gems, I haven’t shopped at its stores and I haven’t truly walked down its sidewalks and through its trails. I need more time. However one word that comes to mind is COMMUNITY because it seems every weekend I see signs for community events that are being hosted by one group or another. However I want to give it time before I jump in and label it as such.

What about you – what would your word be? What hits you at your core? Think about it and let me know…

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The most wonderful weekend of the year

For the past 6-7 years I have fallen completely, absolutely in love with one weekend.  Now as a Canadian you would think it is Canada day weekend – nope, sorry Canada!!  It’s actually the American Thanksgiving…(please don’t shun me)  Why you ask…is it the turkey…nope!  The family get togethers…nope!




My ex and I started this shopping tradition in Buffalo NY when we first started dating and every year since – even after we broke up (I just changed my shopping partner in crime) – I have continued this amazing tradition! 

On Thursday morning, my sister-in-law Tammy and I drove up to Grove City, PA where we have gone the past two years.  Singing to the XM radio channel 90’s on 9, we headed out on the road, got through the border with no problems and even made it through the crazy Erie PA snow belt where the snow threatened to slow us down (the snow needs to realize we are ladies on a mission). 

Four and a half hours later we made it to our hotel safe and sound, checking in and crashing into our rooms with a plan! 

We drove over to the Subway down the street (the only place open on Thanksgiving day before the shops open).  Oh ya – it’s in a gas station…total class!  After we grabbed our food, we drove across the street, parked the car in the outlet parking lot and walked the 15 minutes back to our hotel, grateful the weather held up and it wasn’t so cold or windy.  

Getting back to our warm room, we ate and passed out cold for a couple of hours hoping to encourage our bodies to function throughout the night while we shopped! 

When we woke up, we realized Maid in Manhattan was on TV, so we spent the night watching that and then headed out for our Shopping Bonanza!  

At 11:15 we made it to the outlets by shuttle and began what was to be an epic trip of massive shopping proportions!  We always have a plan and we always execute it perfectly!  That’s what over 6 years of doing this has done…made me a Black Friday shopping expert!  

We completed our first round of shopping around 6:00 am, after feeling a bit whacked out and crazy racing back to the hotel before the sun rose.  After lugging in our purchases we passed out cold again, but only for a few hours.  Breakfast at the Eat and Park is delicious and was calling out our names.  In Canada, you are lucky to get a huge plate of food and refillable coffee for $12-$20.  At the E&P – $6.00!!  I had Chocolate chip pancakes with whipped butter and syrup and three sausage patties on the side with two coffees for $6.21.  MY GOD THANK YOU!!  We were beginning to feel human again! 

Heading back to the hotel we organized our bags from the night before and figured out what was left to buy.  The outlets were open to nine so around 4 we went back, shopped again and went back to the E&P for dinner. 

Dinner was almost as scrumptous as breakfast was.  I had a baked shrimp parmesan pasta dish with garlic bread and coke.  Tammy and I shared a Molten Lava Cake and we went back to our hotel full and exhausted, barely able to keep our eyes open to watch the Harry Potter marathon that was playing.  We slept…almost 10 hours…it was great. 

The next day, after checking out and heading back to the E&P for another breakfast (where chocolate chip pancakes and hash browns were ordered and devoured) we drove the 45 minutes to Pittsburgh where we went to my favourite store in the whole wide world… 


Yep it was time to shoe shop!  I bought four pairs while my sister slid in with three!  We found the Wal-Mart Super store down the street and then started the five-hour trek back to Toronto.  Of course we had to go through the border…always a *fun* experience. 

We managed to pull into my driveway close to 8:00 at night which was great and I was able to arrange my purchases and presents and start a load of laundry, climbing into bed around 10:00 excited to pick up my dog from my friend’s place the next morning! 

This may sound like three days of torture to some of you…I am sure it is for certain people.  But three days with my favourite person, shopping and eating is a small pleasure I benefit from every year and will continue to do so as often as I can!