Brunch Quest: Insomnia

December 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

Has it ever happened to you that within a short span of time (a few days, a week or two) you hear people talking about one particular thing everywhere you go? That kind of thing always makes me wonder what the significance of this thing’s occurrences are in my life. Of course the cosmos isn’t always in on this type of ubiquity, it’s most often the 25th anniversary of an 80s classic (Back to the Future), or the 10th anniversary of a kooky Coen Brothers movie (The Big Lebowski). However Insomnia was a little different, as it’s a restaurant with a local following, not a multi-million dollar grossing movie celebrated in magazines with international distribution.

Brunch is a favorite of mine. It feels like my world slows down a bit when I’m at brunch. I like to try new things (as mentioned previously in this blog), and brunch is certainly no different. By that I mean I prefer going to different spots rather than being a regular at one or two, but it’s not like I haven’t made repeat performances in the past (School Bakery, Dr. Generosity). I’d love to say I’ve covered a healthy portion of Toronto’s brunch scene, but that would be a lie. I’m working toward it though!

So yeah, back to Insomnia. I had heard many good things said of Insomnia’s brunch (and apparently drinks, which I left for another time), and so, as I am wont to, I decided to head down this destined path, and try it out.

What I had: Eggs Isabelle (a variation on the classic eggs benedict with avocado spread – oh, and I requested the hollandaise on the side) with coffee and stolen toast from my friends T & S.

What I thought of it: YUMMY! The avocado spread was the perfect amount (not too goopy, not to thin), the eggs were poached as I like them, and hollandaise was ON THE SIDE. Nice. A feature my friends did not enjoy but I loved very much was that they tossed their potatoes in ketchup before roasting/sauteeing them. Result was a light ketchupy taste on all, without the bottle-slapping efforts.

Highlight: Lucas, our tiny host (he was four or five by my guess), presumably the owner’s son, showed us to our table, waited for us to sit down, handed us the menus, and ran over to the bar to sip from his tiny saucer. ADORABLE!

Wait time: None, but I think that has a lot to do with the fact that we arrived at 11:30 on a Saturday. We had to weed through the people lined up on our way out.

Brunch is rarely (if ever) not a success, and Insomnia didn’t disappoint. Next time, I’ll tackle the sweet section.

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Yoga and other drugs

November 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

I don’t have an addictive personality where that term is typically used. I like to drink occasionally in social settings, and don’t have any use for illegal drugs, but that’s not to say I don’t get addicted to other things. My addictions just don’t run along those lines. I lose myself in other things, like the number 13 (and 313), my birthday, HBO shows, bread, jazz hands, amongst others. So when my curiosity got the better of me one summer night 9 years ago, it wasn’t unusual to see how a future yoga addiction came to be.

The first time was a little scary, but I went in and lay down in the dark, awaiting what would become one of the most awesome sensations ever. Most people go in thinking it’s all fun and high times, but they soon realize exactly what they’re getting into, as I did, when they’re sweating on the floor, standing up, balancing on one leg, and sitting cross legged. Capping the sweat session with ten minutes of relaxation, I opened my eyes to a rose-coloured world. I was on cloud 9, on a completely natural high. I suddenly understood why yogis seem to live life with a smile on their faces, complete with untamed hair and breathy speech. Smile on my face, I realized I had finally found MY workout. And I haven’t let it go since then. Untamed hair I’ve already got, breathy speech soon to come.

Naturally, I pushed my practice further, and it wasn’t long until I was introduced to inversions. Some I could do, others I failed time and again. Bakasana (or crane pose) was one of the latter. Try as I might, I couldn’t get it. I gave up on it as I am wont to do (I was a champion quitter when I was a kid), but it didn’t sit well with me that I couldn’t do it. So when my Ashtanga teacher mentioned she was holding a workshop on arm balances and inversions, I signed up, resolving to prove myself wrong. I could and would tackle this. I also got a taste of the high times when she helped me into a Salamba Sirsana (supported headstand). I was ready to view life upside down, balancing on my hands.

My friend D and I took the subway down to the studio. I was in a bad mood Saturday into Sunday morning, so I was hoping I’d get a good hit of my drug of choice. Class started, we warmed up, and then quickly got into technique. D helped me get into the supported headstand again, and there was my frown turned upside down. Litterally and figuratively. Bad mood vanished, we moved into a variety of inversions, with lots of hijinks that you can imagine accompany being on one’s hands (such as toppling sideways onto the floor, or landing on one’s knee – OUCH).

When we finally got to crane, I faced a familiar foe, slightly skeptical of my abilities. I lowered myself on my hands, tucked my knees into my armpits, and began to lean forward. “Do not look down, look in front of you,” my teacher said. I did, and suddenly there I was, balanced on my hands, knees on my triceps, feet in the air. What? I could barely believe myself until I heard my teacher congratulate me for getting it right. I plopped back down, and went for it again, and again, and again. I’d found a new layer of addiction within a well established one.

As is typical, I left the workshop totally high, 180° away from where I had started. There’s nothing like changing your perspective to shift out of your bad mood. Sometimes it’s a mental perspective change, other times you just gotta flip onto your head and stick those legs in the air. Or balance on your arms, whatever. Reaching the Holy Grail of my yoga practice was what I like to call A TOTAL QUEST SUCCESS!

Movies in the Park(ing lot)

August 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve always been intrigued by drive-ins. Growing up in Montreal, there weren’t many, and the few there were were far-off from where I lived. To this day, I haven’t been to a drive-in. Boo.

The next best thing – because there always has to be one – is the concept of movies in the park. Back in high school, a local radio station started showing movies in different parks around the island, and everything was free. The entrance to the movie, the popcorn, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and a whole bunch of random swag. It was like a teenager’s dream come true. Fun AND affordable! If only I had gone with a boy… but anyway. I went to a few of them and loved every minute. How could I not when it had the ingredients for a perfect night out: moonlight, movies, fattening snacks, and warm weather.

About two weeks ago, I was perusing my usual websites when I stumbled upon a post about outdoor movie screening of the movie Waitress (absolutely adorable). Remembering the good old days of free summertime fun, I clicked on the link to the post. A surprise awaited. Not only were they showing movies outdoors, not only were they free (mostly), but there were MULTIPLE locations, MULTIPLE times a week, with MULTIPLE different themes! This had the Quest written all over it.

There were romantic comedies (like Waitress) at the harbourfront, crime capers (like Catch Me If You Can) at Yonge-Dundas square, indie films at the Amsterdam brewery parking lot (like The Parking Lot Movie), and a mixed bag of tricks at Metro square (like Casablanca – my next movie screening). I missed Waitress because I had found it the day of that screening, and most of my friends were busy. I wanted to venture out and attempt a movie on my own, but I haven’t been able to cross that hurdle yet. Concerts alone I can do, movies alone… maybe Casablanca. We’ll see.

The best option seemed to be the indie films at the Amsterdam brewery parking lot, organized by Open Roof Films. I read through the synopses of the films, and though I really wanted to see The Parking Lot Movie, I found myself sans ami(e)s once again. So I picked This Movie is Broken showing the following week. It wasn’t a free screening but that’s because they had a concession stand (complete with TO prices – OUCH!), and a pre-show by a band called The Little Black Dress. So really, the 15$ was well worth it, especially since I got to hear a band that was really cool.

My friend P and I walked into the parking lot of the Amsterdam brewery, bought some wine, and sat down to girl talk until the band started. Don’t let the parking lot bit fool you, the location was incredible. Yes, it was right below the elevated highway that is the Gardiner, but the CN Tower stood to the east, amongst the twinkling lights of the city. It was actually a really nice venue. So cue the band, they were awesome. The movie finally began, and so let me take a teeny-tiny tangent here.

I love movies. I’ve always loved them but when I first moved here, knowing very few people made me Blockbuster Video’s best customer. I rented movies weekly, sometimes 3 at a time. I often went to the theater with my friends. Movies are almost synonymous with my life in this town. But it’s not all couch potatoes and loneliness, I actually relish the idea of sitting at home to watch a movie (in the wintertime, of course). Hence the appeal of outdoor movie screenings. At Blockbuster, I would try to rent anything that struck my fancy. Sometimes that meant romantic comedies, sometimes that meant foreign movies. Often it meant a movie that etched itself into my heart, but occasionally, I’d stumble upon a head scratcher. A movie whose premise seemed to come out of someone’s behind. I found that though I loved a lot of artsy films (Le Sacaphandre et Le Papillon aka The Diving Bell & The Butterfly, oh how I love that movie!), there were plenty that just didn’t resonate with me. End tangent.

SPOILER ALERT!

This Movie is Broken started. Broken Social Scene songs throughout. It was an awesome mix of movie and BSS concert scenes. Half way through, I thought I might want to buy the DVD when it comes out, it’s that genuine and emotionally resonant. Three quarters of the way through I start to wonder if the central plot of the movie is actually the side plot, if the seemingly-side plot isn’t actually what we’re watching unfold. Near the end, my suspicions were confirmed. This is a movie about boy-likes-girl, girl-likes-boy-but-is-leaving-for-Paris, boy-tries-to-woo-her-by-getting-her-backstage-passes-to-concert, girl-runs-away-after-going-backstage, boy-searches-for-girl-with-best-friend, boy-and-best-friend-get-drunk-and-high, boy-and-best-friend-make-out, girl-comes-back, boy-makes-out-with-girl. So. Hm. Yeah. Wha? I should mention that the best friend is also a boy, and that he was sleeping naked next to the girl and boy while they were making out. In Y Tu Mama Tambien, two hot Mexican actors (Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal) make out. It shocks the viewer because the two are stereotypically macho, fratboy douchebags (though loveable ones), but given the context of the scene (which I will not spoil) it fits. But here… the whole crowd was left audibly confused. The story seemed to derail.

Ultimately, I liked the composition of the movie, intertwining the music with the actors, leaving just enough dialogue to the imagination to make it seem real (save the end). The atmosphere of the screening and the music (live and in-film) made the night what it was: a NICE NIGHT OUT!

Sweating and Condensating

August 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for the last 9 years. I started with Hatha, evolved into Ashtanga, dabbled with Vinyasa, and settled into a Hatha-Ashtanga hybrid taught at my gym. About a year into my yoga practice, I read an article about Bikram yoga, which is practiced in a heated room (roughly 38°C or 100°F). I couldn’t fathom how that was possible, because I would sweat enough to eradicate the “sticky” from my yoga mat in my regular, non-heated practice. I knew one thing though, I totally wanted in. I clicked around the internet to find my nearest friendly neighbourhood yoga studio that offered classes in an inferno and found out that they came with a price tag that had one too many numbers in front of the decimal point. Wanting in never felt so bad. Needless to say, the 53¢ in my bank account (I was a still a student at this point) didn’t allow me to sweat it to the yogis.

A few months ago, when writing down the list for my Quest, it occurred to me that I had never tried this sweaty brand of yoga, and since I was writing a bucket list of sorts, why not include hot yoga? I wrote it down, then set out to find a good studio in my ‘hood. My search brought me to a type of hot yoga I hadn’t heard of called Moksha. I had no clue what the difference between Bikram and Moksha was. Even my trusty sidekick in useless information Wikipedia didn’t have an entry about it. What is this world coming to when you can’t count on Wikipedia? But I digress. I poked around enough to piece together some information. Bikram is practiced in 90 minute sessions, with a set sequence of 26 asanas (postures). Moksha doesn’t seem to have those rules, though the 3 classes I’ve attended so far have followed a similar sequence to Bikram’s set. So really, I say the difference is moot. The point is that it’s practiced in a heated room.

So how does hot yoga feel? Let’s put it this way. If you’ve ever sweat enough to shrivel the skin of your fingers, you can begin to understand what it’s like. I would say it’s on par with hiking in a hot, humid, muddy, Mexican forest, mostly because that’s the last time I remember sweating enough to soak my clothing. I was nervous prior to entering the studio, because I didn’t think I could stand the heat. I got ready for the class, opened the door to the studio and did a 180. It felt like walking into a wall of heat, complete with a lightly sour smell of sweat floating in the air. I had to remind myself that I had done this before, the only new bit was the heat. Even the sour stench of sweat wasn’t new, as I would pass by a Capoeira class on my way to the first yoga class I attended. I tiptoed back in, unrolled my mat and lied down. My attempts at zen brought me to daydreams of Mexico, the heat, the readily available poolside, and the realization that, though, at the time, I was floating inside the pool, Sombrero in hand (the drink not the hat), there were bartenders working, fully clothed. I imagined myself as one of those workers. The oppressive heat calmed a little. Then we started the practice.

In terms of asanas, moksha wasn’t tough at all. They were basic, asanas I had plenty of experience with. The heat just brought them to a new level of difficulty. That’s basically the toughest part of moksha (and I imagine bikram as well), battling the heat while you balance yourself in a pretzel-like garudasana (eagle pose). I’m not accustomed to having sweat dripping from my elbows. I don’t usually taste my sweat either. But there I was, sweating through the first 5 minutes of the class, in savasana no less (corpse pose). The one thing that kept going through my head was a Dane Cook bit about the sweating, condensating, talking bowl of fruit punch otherwise known as Kool Aid. I was indeed sweating and condensating.

I made it through the 90 minute class intact. When I finally left the room, the “cool” air outside the studio greeted me, and by “cool” I mean a humid 28°C. That’ll give all the Canadians complaining of our balmy summer temps a helping of perspective, eh? Aside from being able to appreciate the humidity waiting to assault my hair, I left feeling entirely too happy. That’s what got me addicted to yoga all those years ago. Something about using so many of your muscles leaves you feeling high on life, and I haven’t been able to let go of it since that winter semester, 9 years ago when I decided to indulge in my yoga curiosity. So I’ll be going back to that heated inferno of a studio at the tail end of our hot and humid summer, seeking that natural high.

Moksha yoga: a Quest success!

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