Architecture: White in Waterloo

The fall is generally a beautiful time to be outdoors. Since it’s neither ridiculously cold nor unbearably hot, it’s the perfect season to be outside and go for long walks. I’ve been doing my best to go on early morning walks, and they’ve honestly set my days off right. Yes, of course, it’s challenging to wake up extra early, especially when it’s dark outside, and throw on workout wear, but once I’ve gotten a few steps in, I feel awake and I’m happy. I also love the post-walk feeling. I feel fresh and ready to begin my day.

Besides feeling great, I absolutely love looking at the beautiful houses around Uptown Waterloo. Honestly, they are some of the prettiest ones I’ve seen! This past weekend, I managed to take my walks during the daylight, so it was especially nice to snap a couple of photos. Look at these two beauties!

This first one has beautiful symmetry, a gorgeous entry, and a pretty pair of fall urns. I just love the style.

This second one is smaller in scale, but so darn pretty. And the white Audi Q5 in the driveway basically has me moving right on in! Love it.What do you do to stay active? And are you like me in that you love observing the architecture in your neighbourhood?

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Food: Langdon Hall + Shoushin

I absolutely do not know how to begin this post. Do I start by telling you about the 10-course menu? Or maybe about the first time I sipped on sake? Perhaps I could tell you about how I shared an evening with a group of strangers. A good place to start might be to tell you about how two celebrity chefs came together to plan a unique dining experience. Okay, you want me to just get to it, don’t you?

You already know that I’m a big fan of Langdon Hall. Ever since I drove up the winding driveway and saw Langdon Hall for the first time in June 2015, I’ve been hooked. It’s not just something in the water. There’s something in the air, the food, the surroundings, the garden, the architecture, and the people. The place is special.

A couple of weekends ago, I was invited to be a guest at an exclusive dinner prepared by Chef Jason Bangerter of Langdon Hall and Chef Jackie Lin of Shoushin. This dinner was a celebration – and collaboration – of two cultures. It was a dinner that brought together tradition from the Japanese and French. It was a unique feast that showcased the culinary art of two incredibly talented chefs as well as incredible sake and wine pairings from Kado and Halpern, respectively. It was certainly a night to remember!

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A 10+ course meal? I trained for it! I only ate breakfast that day in preparation for the event! (Although I did have some Terroir upon arrival…do you blame me?). I’m pretty sure my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw the extensive menu. Chef Jackie Lin prepared fish that was flown in from Japan for the occasion. Chef Jason Bangerter worked with Jackie to prepare and pair the fish with French flavour and flair, and, as per usual, he sourced many ingredients from Langdon Hall’s gardens. It was inspiring, educational, and delicious! It was chemistry. It was art.

British photographer Simon Boucher-Harris snapped a collection of beautiful photos that I’m thrilled to be able to share here.

Behind the scenes…

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(Simon took this photo of Chef Jackie during the cooking demonstration the following day, but it’s such a great photo that I had to include it!)

The dinner…

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Each course – as you’ve seen in the photos above – was paired with sake or wine. I had never had sake, so I was a bit hesitant, but since I was sitting beside Kiyoko Miyashita – sake expert and owner of Kado – I was given excellent explanations of what I was drinking. Sake has a higher alcohol percentage than wine, and it has a unique flavour. I thought I had tasted anise, but Kiyoko assured me that there was no anise in the drink. Althought I was told that the flavour is even better after the drink sits for a while, I could never seem to let mine sit for too long since it was so delicious!

As the evening was a celebration of two cultures, we were also lucky to sip on French red wine for some of the fish courses and the venison course.

It’s hard to put into words how special this evening was. Although many of the 30 people in attendance started the evening as strangers, after clinking glasses to toast, sharing travel stories and laughs, we ended the evening as new social media friends and conversations continued after the evening ended. To have two remarkable chefs collaborate to create a menu just for us, share their recipes, and mingle as they put finishing touches on our meals at our tables was extraordinary. Shoushin at Langdon Hall was a very good idea!

This event was a partnership between two well-recognized establishments – Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario and Shoushin in Toronto.

Photos by Simon Boucher-Harris.

Thanks to Langdon Hall for inviting me to be your guest.

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The Friday Five: 5 Things to Do in Kitchener-Waterloo This Long Weekend

Happy Canada Day! What goodness are you planning this weekend?

I’ve said it so many times here and in real life – I really enjoy living in Waterloo. This city – and region – has so much to offer, and I live such a happy, rich, and pleasant life here. Summer, of course, makes everything that much better, and this area has a lot of offer its residents and guests.

As we have just begun a long weekend here, I’m offering up five suggestions of things to do this weekend.

1. Go for a bike ride.

The Spur Line has recently opened up, and it’s a great way to take a ride to/from Kitchener/Waterloo. The trail is smooth, wide, flat, and lit, so it’s ideal for daytime or nighttime rides.

Alternatively, take a cruise down the classic Iron Horse trail to/from Kitchener/Waterloo. This was the first path I went on when I moved to Waterloo, and it’s still one of my faves. It’s great that it takes riders from uptown Waterloo (e.g., take a gelato break at Vincenzo’s) to downtown Kitchener’s Victoria Park in no time at all. The trail is smooth, flat, and surrounded by greenery.

If you’re feeling a bit more adventures, and are looking for more nature, then head over to Cambridge and ride to/from Cambridge to Paris along the Grand River. The ride is easy, but long (maybe 40+km). I suggest wearing padded shorts. 🙂

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Here I am riding my oldie-but-goodie bike down the Iron Horse trail in Waterloo. It’s such easy living!

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Here I am last summer on the Cambridge to Paris trail with the same oldie-but-goodie bike. I earned my lunch calories in Paris that day!

2. Stay cool at a public pool.

I grew up at public pools…first, as a youngster taking lessons, then, as a teen hanging out with friends, finally as a teenager/adult teaching swimming. I love having access to a pool, and luckily, there are few great ones in the region.

Moses Springer outdoor pool is large, clean, and definitely worth a visit.

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The lifeguard tower at Moses Springer.

3. Celebrate Canada Day with fireworks at Columbia Lake.

Although this will be my third summer in Waterloo, I have yet to enjoy Canada Day fireworks. Tonight, however, I’m hoping to head over to Columbia Lake to check out the action and colourful sky show.

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Canada Day Celebration – UofWaterloo Field Map

4. Try a new café.

My two current favourite cafĂ©s are the Berlin Bicycle CafĂ© in Belmont Village the Smile Tiger Coffee beside the Via Train Station. Both are accessible via bicycle, and both offer good coffee and atmosphere. The food at Berlin Bicycle CafĂ© is fresh and delicious, and I always find something good to eat. The egg salad is delicious, and the croissant sandwiches are good, too. Both cafĂ©s have outdoor patio space, so they’re great options for sunny days.

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The Berlin Bicycle Café

5. Take a drive into the countryside.

There are so many options for short road trips in the region.

  • Stay close and head to St. Jacob’s for a visit to the market.
  • Take a ride to Elora, pop into the sweet shops, and walk along the water.
  • Drive to Cambridge and pop into Monigram Roasters for a treat.
  • Drive over to Stratford and check out the first Balzac’s or grab a chocolate treat at RhĂ©o Thompson, then stroll around the lake.
  • Eat ice cream in any of the above towns!

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If you’re looking to learn more about what to do in the Waterloo region, please check out my Waterloo City Guide over on Design*Sponge.

Have a wonderful long weekend, everyone!

Happy Canada Day!

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Beauty: Manicure Time in Waterloo

Soon after making a connection on Twitter with Waterloo’s All My Nails‘ owner,  Peter, I stopped in the salon for a gel manicure and pedicure. Gel manicure, I learned, is similar to the Shellac manicure. (Gosh – this reminds me that I know very little about the beauty department.) Since I’m generally up for trying new things, I accepted Peter’s invite for a gel mani-pedi.

My nails were in desperate need of attention, that much I knew! Here’s what All My Nails had to work with:

White-Cabana-All My Nails-1-before White-Cabana-All My Nails-2-beforebefore: chipped polish, uneven shaping, dry cuticles

The staff at All My Nails are very friendly, and during my visit, a lot of repeat customers came in. The staff called them by name, and I appreciated the personal attention that was given to each customer. The staff who worked with me were friendly and did a good job getting my nails back in a decent condition.

Here are the dramatic after photos:

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As you can see, I opted for a very light shade of pink for this manicure because I don’t like having colour on my nails when they’re in short, rough shape. Once they get a bit stronger and longer (which I’m hoping will happen after the gel polish experience), I can opt back into a red or another (slightly darker) neutral. My toes, on the other hand, got a hot red coat of pomegranate, and it’s a perfect winter shade.

Before I left the salon, I was also given this little bottle of cuticle oil which should help with my dry cuticles this winter.

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A gel manicure and pedicure will cost you about $75 at All My Nails, which is generally more than I’d spend regularly, but maybe that’s the going rate? I’m not so sure. That said, I loved the quick drying time of the gel polish (impatient me!), and my nails are still shiny days after my polish was applied. I’m a touch worried about the removal process, but I’ll deal with that in 2-3 weeks, once my nails have grown, and the polish looks worn. Any advice, dear readers?

For those of you in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, did you know that All My Nails has been in existence for 18 years (wow!)? It is located at 22 King St. South in Uptown Waterloo (in the same building as Café22).

Note: I received a discount on my services. All opinions are my own.

Update (Feb. 11, 2016): My fingernail polish held up well for 2.5 weeks, which I was very pleased about. Then, I did something that I wasn’t supposed to do – I peeled off the polish. Terrible. I shouldn’t have. But I did. Against all the recommendations. It’s true. My nails were obviously in somewhat poor shape, but I took care of them, they grew quickly, and they were back to normal in about 2 weeks. My toe nail polish is still going strong. No chips. No peeling. Nothing. I’m way too lazy to go to the salon to remove or change the polish. I’m realizing some beauty routines are just hard for me to upkeep!

Event: What’s Happening These Days in Kitchener-Waterloo

Anytime is a good time to visit (or move to!) the Waterloo region (see my Design*Sponge Waterloo city guide here), but Christmas time is especially charming. The streets and stores are decorated, and it seems to me that the people around town are happier than their usually happy selves.

Here is some of what is going on in the next few weeks in the region. If you know of any other events, please add them in the comments!

What: Tree trimming party
Where: Langdon Hall
When: Nov. 25th (tonight!)
Cost: Bring an ornament for the tree at Langdon Hall, then enjoy a drink and music. Learn more about Langdon Hall’s tree trimming event here.

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What: Christkindl Market – At this traditionally German market in downtown Kitchener, you’ll find wooden German ornaments, delicious treats, and plenty of GlĂĽhwein.
Where: Downtown Kitchener – City Hall
When: The market is on from December 3rd to 6th.
Cost: free to attend

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What: The Grand Philharmonic Choir’s performance of Handel’s Messiah
When: Dec. 12th, 7:30pm
Where: Centre in the Square
Cost: regular tickets $24-$74, tickets can be purchased here

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What: The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony’s Yuletide Spectacular
When: Dec. 18-20, various performances
Where: Centre in the Square
Cost: regular tickets $19 and up, tickets can be purchased here

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What: Christmas at Castle Kilbride – Marvel at the gorgeous Victorian decor at Castle Kilbride. Go for a tour or enjoy an apple cider and entertainment at a Merry Victorian Christmas
When: now until Jan. 3
Where: Castle Kilbride – Baden, Ontario
Cost: tours – adults $6.50 (see more here)

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