Toronto

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted about my adventures as I travel the world doing fun things. I’ve come to realize that the thing I love most about my adventures is sharing useful information.  My family and I returned from Toronto at the end of July and this trip did not disappoint us!

Where To Stay?

First thing to note is that we stayed in the Sheraton Centre Toronto, which is the perfect location for navigating around Toronto.  The hotel is a 15 minutes walk to everywhere.

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View from 41st floor

Visitors have the option to upgrade to the club-level rooms, which includes access to the Sheraton Club – billed as an upscale lounge on the 43rd floor of the hotel.  It features complementary buffet breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres 7 days a week.   For approximately $75USD per night, this upgrade may be an attractive option for large families with lots of mouths to feed, but we didn’t find the value as Angelo and the kids didn’t enjoy the food options.  The lounge serves Starbucks coffee (I definitely maxed out on that!) and snacks throughout the day.  There is a cash bar, as well as office equipment and space for meetings for business travelers.

Where To Eat?

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Assembly Chef’s Hall

The Assembly Chef’s Hall was our go to lunch/dinner spot for the trip.  The hall is an open eatery featuring cuisine from 17 of Toronto’s best chefs.  The first meal I enjoyed was the mushroom gnocchi from Resto Boemo.  Made with button and oyster mushrooms in a cream sauce, the thing that makes this gnocchi unique is that it is made from ricotta cheese instead of the traditional potato.  The right amount of truffle oil and garlic set this dish on fire! I highly recommend checking this place out, as well as the steak or fish tacos from Calibri and the smoked turkey and brisket from Cherry Street Bar-B-Que.  You will not be disappointed!

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Mushroom gnocchi with a truffle cream sauce

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A principal to live by…

The Keg

The Keg is a Canada-based steakhouse chain with a few locations in the United States.  The restaurant features staple steakhouse fare, but is currently serving their Lobster Summer menu.  Our server accommodated us in every way, in particular by allowing us to substitute sides and add sauces to our meal.  I thoroughly enjoyed the hot towel brought to our table to clean our butter soaked fingers.

360 Restaurant at CN Tower

Want a stunning view of Toronto from over 3,000 feet in the air? Well hold on to your dinner as you dine at the 360 Restaurant at the CN Tower.  This restaurant is open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food was okay, but the view makes up for everything.

What To Do?

Big 3

Our first destination was to the Scotiabank Arena for the Big 3 game.  In case you don’t know, the Big 3 is a 3-on-3 basketball league featuring mostly retired NBA professionals as players and coaches.

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Cineplex Cinemas

Our trip coincided with the release of Mission: Impossible Fallout and there’s nothing better than watching an action packed movie in a 4DX theater.  We ventured over to the Cineplex Cinemas in the Yonge-Dundas Square (referred to as Toronto’s Times Square).

Yonge-Dundas area of Toronto

This cinemas is Canada’s only 4DX theater in which moviegoers experience movies as if they are on the screen. From water sprays, seat vibrations, and puffs of air to the back of your head, you will enjoy this unique movie experience every time. By the way….the movie was awesome!

Go Tours Canada Segway

One way my family and I get to know a city is through segway tours (we’re on number 6 right now!).  We found a great deal for Go Tours Canada on Groupon.  Our tour guide, Michelle, highlighted the history of Canada and the Distillery District – everything from the Gooderham family tragedy to the historical preservation and revitalization of the buildings in this area.

Toronto Waterfront and Tall Ship Kajama

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Toronto’s Waterfront is a busy, buzzing area full of activities, eateries, and art.  It is walking distance from many downtown Toronto hotels, as well as easily accessible by public transportation.  As with most things in Toronto, there is a story and history to be found.  And that fact was evident on our cruise down Lake Ontario aboard the Tall Ship Kajama as we learned the history behind this ship.

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Slow sail on Lake Ontario

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Harbor view skyline

Toronto is a multi-cultural city with lots to do for a variety of interests.  If you want a quick trip from the Northeast (90 minutes from BWI airport), add Toronto to your list of places to travel.

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D’Vine Sistas at Turning Stone Resort

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Last weekend, my friends and I took a trip to Turning Stone Resort to celebrate one of our D’Vine Sistas’ year-long 50th birthday celebration. While in upstate New York, we made the rounds at a few wineries, including Ravines, White Springs, and Fox Run.  I enjoyed an amazing spa treatment at Skana. It was so relaxing that I fell asleep on the table. #ineededtherest

Despite the fact that I caught a stomach virus and couldn’t eat or drink anything for an entire day, I had an  awesome time. As a working wife and mother, it’s good to take time out for myself every now and then to recharge my battery.

 

La Cuchara works out its kinks with stellar customer service

My family and I dined at a new restaurant called La Cuchara last night. When I walked through the door, I immediately smelled the wood-burning oven and knew that something special was cooking.

The restaurant serves food typical of the Basque region of Northern Spain and Southern France. It was their first day open, but clearly the word was out as the restaurant was teeming with excitement.


Tasty manchego and caramelized onion snack
Tasty manchego and caramelized onion snack – Image from La Cuchara

Our pintxos and drinks came out in decent time. We had manchego with caramelized onions, anchovy with peppers and onions, and patatas gravas for our snacks.

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Patatas gravas – Image from La Cuchara


Then the wait began. We were having such a good time that we didn’t realize we hadn’t received our entrees. It had been about 45 minutes since we finished our snacks.  My husband began looking for our server, Gavin. Soon the manager, Ryan,  came over to apologize and tell us the entrees were on the house. Sweet! Poor Gavin was in a frenzy, but we were good about it. It was the restaurant’s first day open and it wasn’t his fault.

My husband and I had grilled sea bream with carrots and capers, my son had a lamb shank, which he tried to eat like a cave man, and my daughter had grilled chicken with a salad.

For dessert, we chose sorbet, churros, chocolate cake and leche frita. Again, they were nowhere to be found. I guess the staff figured they needed to save face and comped our entire meal. That’s stellar customer service!


The food was delicious and service turned out perfect. But doesn’t it have to be with competitors, such as Woodberry Kitchen and Birroteca nearby?

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Marni with Ryan, the awesome manager of La Cuchara Baltimore

Big thanks to Ryan, the awesome manager who took care of us. His customer service ROCKS!

La Cuchara is located in the Meadow Mill area of Baltimore.

My latest obsession…Plated

If you’re like me, you’re always looking for ways to make your life easier. Recently, I discovered a meal delivery website called Plated that features chef-designed recipes delivered fresh to your door. During my research, I discovered that Mark Cuban backed Plated on Shark Tank, one of my favorite shows. I had to check this company out.

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Hello there!

I was so excited to receive my first delivery on Friday. The box came with lots of messages on the outside, such as Fresh Ingredients, Easy Recipes and Cook Something Extraordinary. This one is my favorite:

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Inspires my inner chef!

As I unpacked the fresh ingredients, even my son was curious about the meal in the box.

Unpacking our Plated delivery
What has my mother ordered now?


My package came with three recipes to satisfy my family’s varied dietary preferences (My husband and I are pescetarians, the kids still eat meat). I organized the neat packages of ingredients according to each card (the recipes are on the back) to ensure nothing was missing. Plated does not provide staple items, such as salt, pepper, and olive oil. Therefore, you MUST read through the recipe before you begin cooking to make sure you have your staple ingredients.

Ingredients for Za'atar Chicken recipe
Za’atar Chicken with Spinach and Feta Twice-Baked Potatoes

Ingredients for Ginger Trout
Ginger Trout with Miso Butter, Sweet Potatoes, and Snow Peas

Ingredients for Spaghetti with Pan Roasted Artichokes, Garlic, and Lemon
Fresh Spaghetti with Pan Roasted Artichokes, Garlic, and Lemon


I made Za’atar Chicken with Spinach and Feta Twice-Baked Potatoes for my kids on Friday. Not a typical dish for kids, but mine have mature palates. They enjoyed this dish very much. The potatoes were very tasty.

Finished Za'atar Chicken recipe
Dinner is served!

Last night I made Ginger Trout with Miso Butter, Sweet Potatoes and Snow Peas. The sweet potatoes were an interesting touch to this dish. I never would have paired them with snow peas, but the textures and flavors worked well together. image

So far, the recipes are easy to follow and the dishes are delicious. At $12 per plate (some cost up to $30 per plate), the recipes I received are probably expensive on a regular basis for the average family. But when I think about the food I waste from buying a whole container of miso versus the few ounces I needed for my recipe, it’s a savings when I couple that with the delicious taste and convenience.

Have you ever ordered from Plated? If not, use my Plated referral link to order your plates today. You won’t be disappointed!

If you have ordered from Plated, please share your experience with me. What are your favorite dishes?

Happy plating!

Adventures in Vegas

Apparently, my husband, Angelo, and I have chosen a pretty
unconventional destination for the kids’ spring break trip. We’re in Vegas, baby! When all their friends, and even some of mine, asked about our spring break plans, we were met with puzzled looks and
questioned, “Why are you going there?” I must say I was quite shocked at the thought of people questioning our travel choice. Most people know we’ve never been the standard, Disney World parents (been there, done that). Never will be.

Firstly, to their friends I’d say, they’re blessed to be able to travel anywhere. It’s a privilege. But also, there are lots of fun things to do in Vegas for kids. My kids have their eye on the roller coaster at New York, New York.

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Window with a view

Secondly, I’m going to see Elton John (a check off my bucket list)! I think this is the revelation that received the most feedback. “Really? He’s still around? How old is he?” Come on people, just stop it. He’s still pretty awesome

Thirdly, we’re all huge Nas fans. While we’re out here, we plan to check out his store, 12AM RUN.

Lastly, as foodies, my husband and I have to check out some of
Vegas’ best restaurants. Last night we dined at Craftsteak. It was
amazing. The food, the service… impeccable!

What people should keep in mind is that Vegas is The Entertainment Capital of the World, not just Sin City. Everyone can find something to do here. We’ll save the “Sin” part for the mom and dad trip.

2015 Race Calendar

For a variety of reasons, such as training requirements, scheduling, and money, I’ve narrowed down my event schedule for 2015. With some adjustments, I was able to come up with events that are close to home and satisfy my personal goals and prior commitments.

Baltimore 10 Miler – I chose this race because I’ve found that the 10-mile distance is ideal for me and I can walk to the event. The description of the course is “scenic and challenging,” which, for me, translates to: I’ll run through a park, see a lake, and they’ll be tons of hills for my running (dis)pleasure. Sounds fun!

Bike to the Beach – a 100-mile charity cycling event from Baltimore, MD to Dewey Beach, DE to promote cycling and to raise awareness and funding for autism. This will be the longest and hardest event for me, but also the most rewarding. The team I joined is Sarah’s Riders, in honor of my friend’s daughter who has autism. Link to my donation page link soon to follow.

Iron Girl Columbia – this all-women race is like no other. As a spectator in 2013, I was in awe of the different shapes, sizes, and abilities of the women who participated. I felt empowered just watching. I wanted to be a part of it and completed Iron Girl Rocky Gap later in 2013 and Columbia in 2014 . I know where my training failed in both races: I slacked on my bricks, so I faded on the run portion after cycling those Allegany and Howard County hills. I feel I need to redeem myself. Couple all that with the fact that it’s the 10th anniversary celebration, how could I miss it?

Baltimore Triathlon – Olympic – I have three sprint distance races under my belt, so I’m moving on up! My goal this year is to increase my triathlon distance to an Oly. Mentally, I know I can do it. Now it’s time to get my body in the game.

Let the training begin!

Insight into the crazy life of a working wife and mom