Archive | December, 2010

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Tastebud Millennium Tour

Posted on 29 December 2010 by Sammy

On my trip to Chicago in September I did a guided food tour with Tastebud Tours which takes you to 5-7 food locations in the historic Chicago Loop and Millennium Park. Bring your stomach to this tour because the food tastings are enough for lunch and are included in the Tastebud ticket price (US $44.00 for the Millennium Loop Tour)

Be sure to wear comfortable clothes and shoes because you’ll be going to each spot on foot! This was good to ease the digestion of all the food you’re gonna eat. Haha.

The tour always starts at Pizano’s Pizza which is Vince Vaughn and Oprah’s favourite pizza restaurant! At 11am, there was already a line outside this restaurant!

Pizano's Pizza

Pizano’s is located at 864 North State Street, Chicago

Pizano's

This is the VIP room – where Oprah & Vince Vaughn would sit to hide away from the public.

Pizano's Pizza

At Pizano’s we got to try regular pizza and their famous Deep Dish pizza. In my opinion, this was much better than the Deep Dish pizza I had at Uno’s.

 

Sarah's Pastries & Candies

The next place we went to is Sarah’s Candies.

Sarah's Pastries & Candies

So many chocolates!!

Sarah's Pastries & Candies

Heart candies! Awww.

Sarah's Pastries & Candies

Sarah's Pastries & Candies

Sarah's Pastries & Candies

And various other sweets and cakes :) We came here and we got to try her famous brownie.

The Drake Hotel Chicago

Next stop was The Drake Hotel on Lake Shore Drive.

The Drake Hotel Chicago

The Drake Hotel Chicago

The Drake Hotel Chicago

The Drake Hotel is so pretty that this bathroom was voted the best bathroom! Never knew there was such a thing.. hahaha.

Downtown Dogs

Our next location was Downtown Dogs at 804 North Rush Street, Chicago which is famous for the Chicago-style hot dog!

Downtown Dogs

A Chicago-style hot dog is a steamed or water-simmered, kosher-style, all-beef frankfurter on a poppy seed bun. It’s topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt.

Heaven on Seven

Heaven on Seven is a authentic cajun restaurant right in the heart of the city! That’s the most fantastic thing about Chicago is that you can find almost every food right in the city.

Heaven on Seven

It has amazing atmosphere.

Heaven on Seven

Here we got served some yummy rice with chicken and gumbo.

Heaven on Seven

Look at all this hot sauce! Heaven on Seven recently had a promotion where if you brought in a bottle of hot sauce that they didn’t already have that dinner was on them! This is what led them to this awesome hot sauce collection. So cool!

Heaven on Seven Sauces

Hahaha don’t you love the name of these sauces! Cracker.

Billy Goat Tavern

The Billy Goat Tavern was our second last stop. Enter at Your Own Risk!

Billy Goat Tavern: Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger

Do you recall the Saturday Night Live sketch in which a short order cook would yell out to incoming patrons? Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger, No pepsi.. Coke!

Billy Goat Tavern

Billy Goat Tavern

Billy Goat Tavern Cheezborger

Candyality

Finally – our last stop was Candyality! This store has a variety of candy and is really unique because once you choose a bunch of candy in this store and checkout, they will give you a personalized analysis of your personality depending on the type of candy you’ve chosen!

I don’t remember my personality analysis at all but it sure was interesting! Haha

Guaranteed No Weight Gain Chocolate

Emergency Chocolate

The store also has some interesting types of chocolate. No weight gain chocolate? Really? Hahaha. Lies.

Candyality

Candyality can be found at 520 N. Michigan Ave, Chicago where all the other great shopping resides.

If you go to Chicago, you must do a food tour because you get to do a taste test of different restaurants and types of foods in the one day. You needn’t worry about getting your stomach too full though I was pretty stuffed after this tour. Tastebud Tours was great because it they really offered quite a unique experience.

Pizano's Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon

Downtown Dogs on Urbanspoon

Heaven on Seven on Urbanspoon

Billy Goat Tavern on Urbanspoon

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Moving to Canada

Posted on 28 December 2010 by Sammy

I get a lot of questions via Vogue Forums, Formspring, this blog, Twitter and email about my experience in moving to Canada. I know you all have a lot of questions and I would like to help you all because I really had an awesome experience in moving here. I would recommend it to everybody!

I’m going to try to address the common questions you have here. Please post in the comments any questions you have and I will have you a reply to the best of my ability! :)

What visa do you have when you moved to Canada and was it easy to obtain?
I obtained a Working Holiday Permit (WHP) from the Government of Canada at this website: http://www.whpcanada.org.au/ and filled out the application online. It didn’t take me long to get (approx 2 weeks!) after I submitted my application. It was quite the breeze :)

The WHP is really good as it is a 2 year open work permit which allows you to work anywhere except for in the Health industry and in Child Care and you don’t need to have a job before you are eligible. As long as you’re Australian with a valid passport (that expires more than 3 years away), no criminal record, $5,000 in your bank, and are aged between 18-30 years old.

As long as you are under 30 and still meet the previous mention requirements, you can continue to re-apply. I moved to Canada in February 2009, so my work permit is about to expire shortly. I just re-applied for my visa and got it very quickly. I just need to exit and re-enter the country for my new work permit to take effect.

How did you go about getting a job in Toronto?
Before you start applying for jobs, first and foremost you need to get a SIN card. SIN stands for Social Insurance Number and it is a bit like your TFN (Tax File Number) in Australia. Basically you have to provide this to your employer or any financial insitutions such as your bank when you sign up. It also counts as piece of Canadian identity so make sure you keep it safe! Getting a SIN card is as easy as walking into any Service Canada with your passport and approved work permit. I didn’t go to a very busy office, so it didn’t have to wait long nor did it take long at all. They will provide you with a temporary number and send you the official card in the mail in a few weeks.

Once I had that all sorted, I applied online at various websites until I was able to find a good recruiter that would really help me. Some good websites are Career Builder (http://www.careerbuilder.ca/), Monster (http://www.monster.ca/) and Workopolis (http://www.workopolis.com/). I also applied direct to companies online but I found networking was the key. So if you have any contacts, make the most of them!

I came here in the midst of the Financial Crisis, so it was difficult! The economy is a lot better than it was, but be mindful that it has not fully recovered. Please make sure you allow yourself enough time to find work and don’t let it get to you. There are still a lot of people without work and many will tell you that it will be difficult to get a job without “Canadian” experience or a credit history. They may also tell you that you won’t be able to find full-time permanent work if you’re only on a temporary work permit, but I managed to find something and so I hope you will too!

Is it easy to get Permanent Residency?
I’m not sure about this one because I don’t have it yet. From what I hear is that as long as you have worked for 2 years, as an Australian you will have enough points to qualify for PR status. I had a look at the requirements and it was enough to make my head spin so I didn’t look much further. I heard from a friend who is Japanese, it took her over a year to get after she applied and all the paperwork was so much of a hassle she hired a lawyer to file all her paperwork. I have a feeling it wouldn’t be that difficult as an Australian but then I cannot say for sure! I’m sorry!

For additional information, please go to Citizenship and Immigration Canada website.

How did you find a place to live? Where do you recommend?
Without a Canadian credit history, it was difficult to secure a lease agreement. I initially found a short term place via Craigslist. It was sure risky but I discussed with the landlord over several months to ensure they were legit. It was just a small basement apartment located in North York which is a nice safe area and very close to TTC (Toronto Transit Commission – the Toronto subway, streetcar and bus system). I was lucky enough to go on a month-to-month basis and so I could leave at any time.

It is important to secure some sort of credit card and bank account when you first arrive. HSBC made this process easy for new immigrants as they have a “New to Canada” program that you can set up with just your passport and some ID as many other Canadian banks will not accept your Australian ID. Also make sure you have a good Australian credit history. While most landlords or apartment rentals wouldn’t accept this in lieu of a Canadian history) but if you have a decent job I think you can sway them to accept this. I had a very good Australian credit history and a good job (permanent, full-time, with good future prospects) and found a more permanent place to live once I had a job. You can get a free copy of your Australian credit history at D&B. I also got my employer to write a reference and you also need two other personal Canadian references. Because I kept a good rapport with my old landlord, they provided a good reference and then I had two other friends who were my references. This really helps.

You can continue to search for a place on Craigslist but I also use MLS to find a condo downtown at Harbourfront. I love this area because it’s full of young professionals and I always feel safe. That’s the main thing. Also even though it’s close to the city, it’s residential and quiet enough. It reminds me of a much more planned out and developed Docklands in Melbourne. There is a festival every weekend at Harboufront Centre in the summer. An average 1 bedroom goes for $1,350-$1,650 a month depending on the size of the unit, location and the building facilities. An average 2 bedroom goes for about $1,850-$2,250. I love that I can walk to the lake and watch the boats or go ice skating, King West (for eating, drinking and late night dancing), Queen West (for shopping), Chinatown, Financial District, Eaton Centre, Rogers Centre (where the Blue Jays play baseball and the Toronto Bills play football), the ACC (Air Canada Centre, where the Toronto Maple Leafs play), Haha! Even the Toronto City Centre Airport is about a 15 minute walk.

Do you need a car in Toronto?
When you live downtown, you hardly need a car. In fact, having a car is super pricey in Toronto because parking is so damn expensive! There’s no such thing as in Melbourne where after 7pm is free and parking on the street is not recommend.. unless you want to risk yourself getting a ticket (which is highly likely that you will get one). To have a parking spot in a condo downtown costs about $130-150 in rent per month in addition to your rent. Streetcars are pretty good for getting around and cabs can be found pretty quickly if you’re in need.

There are certain times where I feel it would be easier if I had a car, such as when I want to go visit Ikea all the way in the ‘burbs! Or if I wanna go visit Niagara Falls or something.. It sure would make me go and explore more. Haha. But having said that, my condo is pretty good because we have Zipcar in my underground parking lot. Rent it online and off you go! Really easy. :)

If you decide to live in the suburbs, I found that there was much more of a need for a car which is why I wanted to move downtown.

How is the cost of living in Toronto compared to Melbourne?
I find that it is pretty comparable. Where Toronto is more expensive (food, transit, taxes, etc) it makes up in shopping (clothes, electronics, etc). I think rent is pretty comparable, but to buy a condo in the city of Toronto is cheaper than buying one in the city of Melbourne. What really aggravates me is that Canada likes to charge for everything. I just learnt the other day that I have to pay $20 to transfer money from my account to another person’s account whereas in Australia it’s free.

While that might seem like a small things, there are things like this ALL THE TIME. Such as for a cell phone – in Australia you pay a monthly fee and you’re allowed a certain amount of call credit. Services are usually all included except if you want data. In Canada, you pay a monthly fee, then you pay plus taxes, plus some government charge, plus a charge for voice mail, caller ID, etc and if people call/text you – you have to pay for that too. Then if you want data you have to sign up for a 3 year contract, and if you cancel your plan before the end of contract – not only do you have to pay for a cancellation fee on your voice plan but on your data plan too! Double the cancellation costs – that’s absolutely ridiculous.

The other day I bought a TV, and in addition to the 13% HST (Harmonized Sales Tax), they wacked on an “Environmental Fee” of $29.95. I bought some speakers to go with it and the Environmental Fee was $9.95. Also when you go to the restaurant, get a massage, get your haircut, etc – you have to pay a 15% tip in addition to the 13% tax. That comes to an additional 28% on top of the price you initially saw. So take your $20 dinner comes to approx $30 and take your haircut of $50 comes to $65. This little additions add up and frustrate me over time!

Are you eligible for the free Public Healthcare in Canada?
I moved to Toronto, Ontario so I can only speak for the way it works in Ontario. There was a new law passed in April 2009, whereby foreign work permit holders can be eligible for OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan).

OHIP is a bit like Medicare in Australia and your card should be carried with you at all times. To be eligible, your work permit needs to be valid for at least 6 months and allows you to work in Canada. You need to a formal agreement to work full-time with an employer situated in Ontario for longer than 6 consecutive months. The last thing to be eligible is that your primary place of residence needs to be in Ontario.

I went to a Service Ontario OHIP office along with my passport, work permit, SIN card, a letter from my employer stating their name, my employment status (full-time, longer than 6 months), employer address in Ontario and my address in Ontario. Then I also had to provide them with a secondary proof that I live in Ontario, and this I provided my credit card bill. They then snapped a photo of me and sent me my official card in the mail.

Although, you may think you can use this photo ID in Canada – you actually can’t. A healthcare card is not a proper form of identification in Canada and people who are not healthcare workers are not allowed to ask for this nor can they accept it as a form of ID. So don’t think you can put away your passport and show your healthcare card at the club when you want to enter. They won’t allow it! I still use my Australian Drivers Licence and sometimes when they won’t accept that.. I still need my passport. Bah! Passports DO NOT fit in pretty clutches! Haha.

Sounds annoying, hey? Well, it was but well worth it because it provides you with free healthcare, which I can imagine to be quite costly without!. I got sick pretty often in Canada because I wasn’t used to the drastic change in weather so it made seeing a doctor painless. I mean how is anyone supposed to get used to -15C and windchill that brings it down to -25C?

For more details of what OHIP covers, please see the OHIP Health Services.

Please post below in the comments to have your questions about moving to Canada answered.

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New Haircut

Posted on 24 December 2010 by Sammy

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California Academy of Sciences

Posted on 21 December 2010 by Sammy

California Academy of Sciences

 

The first two times I’ve visited San Francisco, I’ve wanted to check out the California Academy of Sciences but just hadn’t had the time. The Golden Gate Park is just lovely on its own, especially that it has its own Japanese Tea Garden which is so serene and beautiful, and I must mention that the Golden Gate Park is actually bigger in size than Central Park in New York City.

I had the great pleasure to finally visit this museum on my third visit to San Francisco and I was glad I did! There are just so many cool things to see here which makes your money worth while.

California Academy of Sciences Photos

Planetarium

One of the coolest things about this place is the planetarium - where we were taken into a journey through space from billions of years ago to our present day. It felt so real!! You really did feel like you were a star in space with the rounded screen. My mind was spinning.

 

My favourite things to see is animals. They’re just so adorable!

Turtle

TURTLE EATING A LEAF = CUTE!

 

Penguins

PENGUINS = MAJORLY CUTE!

 

A unique feature of this museum is the indoor rainforest!

Indoor Rainforest

California Academy of Sciences

Indoor Rainforest at California Academy of Sciences

 

The higher you go inside this dome, the more humid it was and the more interesting the animals got.

Parrot

Snake

IMG_0672

Frog

 

Plus I saw more butterflies!

Butterfly

Butterfly

 

If that’s not enough animals for you – you can go all the way downstairs to the aquarium!

Aquarium at California Academy of Sciences

Sammy at California Academy of Sciences

Starfish

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

White Aligator

White Aligator :)

 

If that’s not unique enough – you can go all the way to the top to see the living green roof on top! How environmental conscious!

Green Roof

School Kids at the Living Roof

 

You must must must see this museum! I really enjoyed it and I’m sure you will too :)

 

California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Drive
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94118
Mon-Fri 9:30-5pm, Sun 11-5pm
http://www.calacademy.org/

 


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Montreal Poutine

Posted on 19 December 2010 by Sammy

Montreal Poutine

About Montreal Poutine

Poutine (French pronunciation [puts?n]) is a diner staple which originated in Quebec and can now be found across Canada. Classic Poutine consists of French fries topped by fresh cheese curds and covered with brown gravy sauce.

While there are some delicious poutine that can be found in Toronto, I knew I had to try the authentic poutine on my trip to Montreal. I decided to pop into one of the little whole in the walls in Old Montreal for some yummy classic poutine with added mushrooms. Soooo good!

But if you’re in Toronto and wish to get some good poutine without having to go up to Montreal, you definitely can. Here are some hot spots which have been tried and tested and I recommend myself :)

  1. Smoke’s Poutinerie
    218 Adelaide Street West, Toronto
    This place has both the home cooked feel and taste with some interesting versions of the classic such as Pulled Pork, Chilli Beef, Curry Chicken. There are many beef, chicken, pork or veggie options.
    http://smokespoutinerie.com/
  2. Duggan’s Brewery
    75 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ontario,M5C 2B1
    The curry chicken poutine here was recommended by a friend and it was so fresh and deeeelicious.
    http://www.duggansbrewery.com/

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Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Key Pouch / Coin Purse

Posted on 18 December 2010 by Sammy

Louis Vuitton Damier Coin Purse

I bought this little baby for my coins and my business cards. I know it’s supposed to be for your keys but it’s perfect for storing my TTC tokens. How adorable is it!

Now I have quite the set! Damier Ebene Speedy 30 + Wallet and now this little baby. Cutes :)

Louis Vuitton Damier Coin Purse

Louis Vuitton Damier Coin Purse

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Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

Posted on 13 December 2010 by Sammy

Royal Ontario Museum - Crystal - Daniel Libeskind

About the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

The Royal Ontario Museum is the largest museum in Canada for world culture and natural history. It’s situated on Bloor Street, just north of Queen’s Park. It contains more than six million items, fourty galleries, and notable collections of dinosaurs, Near Eastern and African art, East Asian art, European history, and Canadian history.

The ROM began in 1912 and has since then experienced several expansions and updates. The latest update was the Crystal house, which opened in 2007 and houses the new main entrance to the museum, a gift shop, a restaurant, a cafeteria, seven additional galleries and Canada’s largest temporary exhibition hall in the lower level. It was designed by Daniel Libeskind and the crystalline-form is 25 percent glass and 75 percent aluminium and sits on top of a steel frame. It was an addition to the current heritage building, but does not touch the sides and provides a new fresh look for the museum (as seen in the photo above).

Here are some ancient (and undoubtedly beautiful) buddhas and East Asian art.

Toronto 015

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I really loved this part of the museum – all the cool rocks and stones!

Toronto 057

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But if I had to choose a particular part of the museum which I loved the most – it would definitely be the dinosaur collection!

Toronto 088

Toronto 090

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This piece of art we came across was the funniest! Hahaha

Toronto 200

 

The Ancient Egypt collection was probably the coolest.

Toronto 204

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Ancient Europe

Toronto 219

Toronto 233

 

If you want to check out the ROM – the best time to go is on Friday evenings (after 4:30pm) when it’s half price (sponsored by Sun Life Financial)!

The museum is a memorable visit and of great value even on full price.

Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) Location & Directions

Bloor St W & Avenue Rd, Toronto, Ontario

The best way to get here is via TTC, just get off at Museum station on the University line and it’ll take you RIGHT to that intersection! You won’t miss it :)


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Holiday Party 2010 at Casa Loma

Posted on 12 December 2010 by Sammy

Casa Loma
Source: Flickr

About Casa Loma

My work recently held our annual Christmas Party at the Casa Loma (Spanish for Hill House), a Gothic Revival style house located in midtown Toronto. It is now a major attraction and a popular museum. It was originally a residence for financier Sir Henry Mill Pellatt and was constructed over a three-year period from 1911-1914.

In 1903 Sir Henry Pellatt purchased 25 lots from developers Kertland and Rolf. Sir Henry commissioned Canadian architect E.J. Lennox to design Casa Loma with construction beginning in 1911, starting with the massive stables, potting shed and Hunting Lodge (a.k.a. coach-house) a few hundred feet north of the main building. The Hunting Lodge is a two storey 4,380-square-foot (407 m2) house with servant’s quarters. As soon as the stable complex was completed, Sir Henry sold his summer house in Scarborough to his son and moved to the Hunting Lodge. The stables were used as a construction site for the castle (also served as the quarters for the men servants), with some of the machinery still remaining in the rooms under the stables. The house cost approximately $3.5 million and took a team of 300 workers three years to build from start to finish. Unfortunately, due to the start of World War I, construction on the house was halted. At 98 rooms, it was the largest private residence in Canada. Notable amenities included an elevator, an oven large enough to cook an ox, two vertical passages for pipe organs, central vacuum, two secret passages in Sir Henry’s ground-floor office and three bowling alleys (never completed). – Source: Wikipedia

 

The Casa Loma is a beautiful sight and not far from Downtown Toronto and should be seen both during the day and night. It’s close to Dupont station and is an easy walk too. It’s located at 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto, Ontario, M5R 1X8, Canada

Casa Loma, Toronto

Source: Flickr

Casa Loma

 

I didn’t get a chance to take any photos inside but it was gorgeous. Luckily a coworker of mine went around to all the tables and took photos of everybody so here’s my table. Two of the guys from my team brought their gfs, two didn’t, one guy didn’t come and so we were lucky to have Kate on our table who brought her bf. =)

 

 

Holiday Party 2010 - DFI

The food was fantastic and the service was impeccable. In all – it was a great event.

 

Merry Christmas everybody.

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