August 29, 2013

pressing the play button

For the first time in a while, I'm feeling hopeful. It seems this year has been a whole lot of two-baby-steps-forward-and-one-giant-step-back. Two adults and a dog living on one income has been stressful and downright demoralizing at times. And the struggle to a) make friends, and b) be productive when I don't have a job, has been ongoing.

Immigrating ain't easy.  

It's really hard. 

And tough. Like, really tough.

But I can finally see a silver lining forming around the dark rain cloud that's been following me around (think: Eeyore).

Yesterday, after a year and a half of waiting, I finally received confirmation of my permanent residency in Canada. It was a letter, written in very unceremonious legalese, telling me that I've been accepted as a resident of the country and detailed what my next steps forward should be. I have to meet with a border agent and have a Canadian ID made, yada yada yada. So I'm not in the clear yet but this long, expensive, soul-crushing horror story is in its final chapter.

I haven't spoken much about the toll it's taken on me because that would just depress us all, but it's been a really difficult, dark period of my life since I moved to Canada. The drama began even before moving here when Bobby's job transferred him to Toronto. We were living in Orlando and I couldn't go with him yet (due to complicated Canadian laws that I won't get into) so I stayed behind and we lived in separate countries for seven months. Bobby was crashing in his friend's guest room and I was living alone in the home that we had once shared.

During that time, the lease on our Orlando apartment ended and, since renewing didn't seem plausible (we were saving every penny for my move to Canada), I was effectively homeless. I had to move back in with my parents for a little while, into the same house in the small town that I grew up in. Not that I'm not grateful to them for giving me a place to live, but it was a lot to go through emotionally.

When I was finally able to move to Canada in January, the reality set in that I wouldn't be able to work until my permanent residency was confirmed. And it wasn't until yesterday that that finally happened. I also sold my car before I moved here (due to more complicated Canadian laws about importing vehicles) so I've been mostly existing in the one-mile radius beyond our apartment building. I've been existing in a bubble of my own making.

While I've waited for my permanent residency, there have been countless conversations with our immigration lawyer, plenty of forms to fill out and applications to file and a lot of sitting on my hands, watching the clock, counting the days on the calendar and waiting. Lots of waiting.

To sum it up: my life has been on hold for the last year and a half. It's as though I pushed the pause button and everything suspended in a  freeze frame.

I've kept busy with my Etsy shop, a summer craft show and projects around the house...

...But there's really no substitute for having a job and friends and things to do (i.e. reasons to get out of bed in the morning).

Once I have my meeting with a border agent and get my Canadian ID I should be good to go. I can start working and meeting new people, and hopefully will begin feeling like myself again.

Plus, I'll be selling at a vintage flea market in downtown Toronto next month with my friend Melissa. 

Plus, my mom and I are planning a family reunion in New York on Thanksgiving (American Thanksgiving, people!). So there's good stuff happening here. I'm getting excited for what autumn has to bring.

And can I just say, it's about time. 

August 24, 2013

almost autumn

The weather heated back up to the 80s this past week after about 8 or 9 days of crisp 60-degree mornings. It's been disappointing since autumn is my favorite season and I was hoping it was here early. I guess it's too much to ask for a quick 3-month summer but, hey, a girl can dream.

The locals seem reluctant to let the warm weather go but after 22 years in the sweltering jungle of southern Florida, I'm totally out of the summer-loving loop. Bring on the berets and boots - I'm ready for autumn.

So imagine my joy when I went food shopping at Loblaw's this morning and saw their seasonal section decked out with fall decor! The barbecue tools were marked down to 50% off and shoved in the corner, and in their place were apple peelers, pie plates, red and burgundy oven mitts and wreaths of dried berries and goldenrod.

There were even turkey thermometers for Thanksgiving on display. (Though I have to keep reminding myself that Canadian Thanksgiving is in October and not November... so strange!)

So even though the weather has warmed back up, it seems autumn is definitely around the corner. To celebrate the coming of the season I purchased one of the sweet bean bag pheasants pictured above and placed him on our foyer table to greet us when we come home.

I figure that maybe if we pretend it's autumn, it'll come sooner. So now we need a bowl of cinnamon pine cones on the coffee table, an apple pie in the oven and we should be good to go.

And while we're waiting, we may as well eat that pie. You can't waste apple pie.

You just can't.

August 20, 2013


I've been putting off this post for awhile.

Even though I daydream about what our next home will be like pretty much 24/7, I've been biting my tongue and trying not talk about it since my immigration isn't 100% finalized yet. We're still two people and one dog living on one income so it doesn't feel right to fantasize about our next place when I barely have enough money to pay my credit card bill.

Dream kitchen.
I should've been a permanent resident by now, which means that I should have been able to work and earn an income by now, but a clerical error has made a sitting duck out of me. (Big shout out to our Ridiculously Expensive Law Firm for putting down the wrong return address for my application! Worth every penny. Really.)

Now that the error has been cleared up, I'm expecting to finalize my Canadian residency within the next few weeks (barring any more unbearably frustrating screw ups from the Ridiculously Expensive Law Firm). At that point I'll basically take the first job I'm offered and we can finally start saving for our future and our next place.

In anticipation of this next big step, I'm giving myself permission to do more than just daydream about our next place - I'm going to (gasp) talk about it! And I'm finally going to crack open IKEA's 2014 catalogue (which arrived in the mail last week and which I've been avoiding like the plague) and obsess for a little while.

Dream living room.
Some backstory about where we currently live: Bobby and I viewed a handful of apartments and narrowed it down to two places (cue House Hunters decision-making music). Although I was leaning toward the one-bedroom in Toronto, Bobby had reservations about the crime level in the neighborhood. So we signed a lease on a loft way out in the suburbs, with Bobby's word that we would only live there for one year.

Our lease ends the week of Christmas (because nothing says 'holiday spirit' like squatting among boxes) so our official hunt begins in October. We're a couple of months early but I think it's a good idea to start formulating a game plan now since we're so specific about what we want. This will be our third home together and it's somewhere we want to stay for a few years.

Dream dining area.
We face an uphill battle since apartments in Toronto are absurdly expensive and we have a long list of stipulations that seems to grow by the day. It's not realistic to assume we'll get all or even three-quarters of the things on our wish list, but it continues to expand nonetheless.

Dream bedroom #1.

Bobby's background as a realtor makes apartment hunting even trickier (putting it mildly, he has strong opinions about cleanliness and landlords who don't keep units up to date).

So, over time, our wants have mutated into must-haves based on our collective renting experience. I would say we're too picky for own our good but I have faith that we can have our rental cake and eat it too. We've put in some years at some wackadoodle places. We're long overdue to find exactly what we want at a price we can afford.

Dream bedroom #2.
our must-haves
dogs allowed
2 bedrooms
townhome/rental house
outdoor space (preferably a fenced-in yard)
in-unit laundry
a parking space
no loft - must have a separate bedroom with a door
reasonable walking distance to subway/streetcar/bus
no mirrored backsplash in the kitchen (sounds silly but this is non-negotiable)
no carpeting allowed anywhere but the bedroom (and that carpet needs to be brand new)

things that are negotiable but are still kind of a big deal
a window over the kitchen sink
a window in the bathroom
reasonable walking distance to a quality grocer (Rabba/No Frills/Walmart don't qualify as 'quality')
reasonable amount of counter/prep space in kitchen

Now we just need to find all of the above for less than $2000 in the city of Toronto. I know, I'm laughing too.

Dream backyard.

All photos are from

August 17, 2013

kariya park

Just a short walk from our apartment is Kariya Park, a sort of love letter to Mississauga's sister city of Kariya, Japan.

The park opened in the early 90s as a quiet place for contemplation right in the heart of the downtown core. It's an interesting juxtaposition to view the peaceful swirls of a rake in the Zen garden, with 40-story condo buildings looming in the background.

Once you learn to ignore the intrusive skyscrapers, the park is undeniably lovely. There's a pagoda-inspired pavilion, the aforementioned zen sand garden, two ponds with a wooden bridge spanning the larger one, all different types of trees and curious wildlife crossing paths with pedestrians (mostly geese, ducks, turtles and squirrels).

It's a welcome escape from the panoramic view I have of the mall every time I walk the dog. I've grown weary of the 50 mph traffic whizzing by our building, of the Tim Hortons and the movie theater right across the street. This park makes me feel like I'm not in a city - not even in Canada - but somewhere on the other side of the world.

Bobby and I first visited the park in the spring once all the snow had melted and it was warm enough to wear a sweater without a coat. Most of the trees were still stripped of their leaves but cherry blossoms were just beginning to bloom. It felt magical and has turned into one of my fondest memories of Mississauga.

I went back last week to see how the foliage had changed with the seasons. Now that summer has settled in, the park is bursting with green. I'm eager to go back once the leaves start turning to capture some of autumn's beauty, and also in the winter to see how much different the park looks.





Kariya is a combination of two Japanese words: kari, meaning wild goose, and ya, the number 8 (a lucky number in Japanese culture, representing prosperity and growth). The City of Mississauga designed a symbol combining these two ideas. The result is a figure eight that turns into a goose in flight. All around the park - on the posts of the pavilion and all along the bridge - this symbol can be seen, paying homage to Mississauga's sister city.

August 13, 2013

chipotle beef chili

This chili is the perfect dinner to get all comfy and cozy on chilly days (so much so that I thought about naming it Chilly Day Chili... but no). It's hearty and has a nice kick of heat from the chipotles without being overwhelmingly spicy. Served with cheddar garlic biscuits, this smoky chili is sure to warm up you & your family.

Chipotle Beef Chili
(serves 6)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef
3 tablespoons chili powder
5 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 dried chipotle peppers* 
2 red onions, diced
1/2 can tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (19-ounce) can chickpeas, drained*
1 cup beef broth

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Season the beef with salt & pepper, then add it to the pot. As it's browning stir in the spices (chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano and cinnamon). 

Break the beef into fine pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks so they're all the same size. (Getting a uniform consistency with meat and the vegetables is the goal.) 

Once the meat is browned, add the vegetables (onion, garlic, tomato paste, diced tomatoes with their liquid and the chipotles). * When you cut the tops off the peppers, a lot of seeds will spill out. For a mild to moderate heat level, add only about 1/4 of the seeds. Add more for a higher heat level, but be careful!

Add the beef broth (if you don’t have broth, you can use water) and then the chickpeas. * Kidney beans are generally used in this type of chili but chickpeas offer more fiber so that's what I like to use. To make the chickpeas a bit softer (to mimic a kidney bean's mushy texture) pulse them in a food processor a couple of times after draining.

Cover the pot and allow to simmer for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. The longer the chili simmers, the better. In fact, chili is most flavorful the 2nd day so if you want to cook this a day ahead and refrigerate overnight, you're in for a real treat when you reheat.

Before serving, season with salt to taste. Garnish each serving with shredded cheese and sour cream. Serve with cheddar garlic biscuits for some delicious dipping.

Time saver tip: Assemble your spices before cooking.

Chopping all your vegetables in advance also makes cooking go faster.

Watch out for those seeds!
Once you have all your spices and veggies prepped, this dish is basically a one-pot
wonder. After the meat is browned you can just add everything to the pot and
put your feet up for a few hours.

cheddar garlic biscuits

Maybe it's because I grew up in the southern U.S. but I just love biscuits. They go perfectly with chili, stews, chicken dishes, pot pies, macaroni and cheese; the list goes on. (Really, it does. Think "shrimp scene" in Forrest Gump.)

They're like the bacon of the bread world - they make everything taste better. And what's more, they're so easy to make. If you have a couple cups of Bisquick in the pantry, you can pretty much make a batch of biscuits in 15 minutes from start to finish.

Below is my recipe for cheddar garlic biscuits, like the kind served at Red Lobster. (Oh yeah - biscuits go great with seafood too!) You can adapt this recipe to include any herbs and/or cheeses you'd like, such as rosemary & parmesan biscuits or cheddar & chive biscuits. The possibilities are endless!

"Like I was sayin', shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. There's shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That -- that's about it."  ;)

Cheddar Garlic Biscuits
(makes 12)

2 cups Bisquick
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix the Bisquick, milk, cheese, garlic powder, Italian seasoning and salt in a bowl until just combined. 

Spoon biscuits onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Brush each one with the melted butter and bake for 8-10 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste and serve with... just about anything!

August 12, 2013

summer cleaning

It's cleaning day here in the Core-Klimuszko (say that three times fast) household.

I woke up feeling motivated to start fresh after a tough week, and cleaning seemed like the practical first step. Plus, I was getting a little too comfortable stepping over the 12 pairs of shoes in the foyer so I decided it was time to put on my big girl britches and get cleaning.

(Even Bobby - the love child of Mr. Clean and that OCD guy Jack Nicholson plays in As Good As It Gets - has let things slide, as evidenced by the small pharmacy I just cleared off his nightstand.)

With Maple propped on a chair - comfy, cozy and decidedly unhelpful - I put a sock over one hand, a can of Pledge in the other and I went to town. I started on the 2nd floor, made my way down the staircase and to the lower level where our behemoth bookcase taunted me with fluff bunnies on every one of our 300+ books.

After tackling this bad boy, I just didn't have it in me to clean the floor-to-ceiling bookcase by the staircase landing. I love my literature, but what a pain in the ass to dust.

And the laundry. My god, the laundry. I'm currently working on my 6th load of the day.

I did darks.

I did lights.

I did whites.

I did sheets.

I did rugs.

I did shoes.

I laundered the crap out of this apartment.

And now, as if I haven't given myself enough to do, I'm going to stuff a chicken and roast it for dinner. I promised myself we'd be good and not order takeout this week, even though all I want right now is a stuffed crust pizza with extra cheese from Pizza Hut.

I know it's my fault for letting things get to the level of where it took me five hours to dust, vacuum and finish laundry. I have no one to blame but myself for why I'm now too tired to cook. But... didn't I earn a treat? Boy, does that pizza sound good. Hmm...

August 11, 2013

veal parm, poutine and steak, oh my!

Bobby and I had been craving Italian all week, so we planned an evening of drinks and tapas at a little Italian bistro in downtown Toronto for Saturday night.

But at around 4 p.m., when faced with the decision of driving downtown for what would surely be an overpriced meal (that would require us to put on big boy & big girl clothes), or checking out the Italian festival happening right across the street (in our jeans & sneakers), the choice was easy.

And so we wandered over to Celebration Square for *the first time ever* despite it being only a 30-second walk from our building's front door (yeah, we've been that lazy). 

It was really lovely. Celebration Square is quite literally the city square, a meeting space for locals to meet, eat and cool their heels in a giant fountain/wading pool in the summer months (which turns into an ice skating rink in the winter. How cool is that?).

There's a stage for bands to play, an amphitheatre for movies under the stars and dozens of local vendors selling goods under pop-up tents. City Hall and a public library are located within the Square, and there's even a little garden tucked away in the far corner which reminded me of Dorothy's first steps into the Land of Oz.

After walking around for about 30 minutes, Bobby and I got down to business. We came here with empty stomachs for a reason. We split up, jumping from food truck to food truck and eventually met up on the steps of the fountain for the Big Italian Dinner we'd been waiting for all week. For only $20 we shared a steak sub, veal parm on a bun and poutine. Beat that, downtown Toronto. (Note: I know poutine isn't at all Italian but this is Canada. There's no escaping it.)

The sun set over Mississauga while we listened to ballad after emotional Italian love ballad play over the sound system (I'm guessing Kayne and Kesha haven't made their way to Italy's radio waves yet).

We hung out for a couple of hours, snapping photos and watching the kids play in the fountain, before making the 30-yard trek back home. Then we settled in for the night with Maple in our laps, House Hunters on the TV and happily stuffed bellies.

{Some more of our shots from ItalFest}:

August 9, 2013

golden moments

There's no doubt about it, I'm a city girl at heart. Being from New York, the my-city-is-better-than-your-city mentality is embedded in me, so it's only natural that when I first travelled to Toronto I was disappointed by the boringness quietness of it all; streets weren't as crowded, cabs weren't as yellow and the atmosphere lacked the electricity of Manhattan.

Though I must say, while I find crowded streets exhilarating, every now and then something rare and wonderful happens in a big city - I'll turn down a side street and find myself completely alone. No traffic, no sirens, nobody. In an instant a bustling city becomes a ghost town, and I can leisurely walk down the middle of the street without fear of being run over by a dump truck. This happens more often in Toronto, given its lower volume of traffic, but is still a much welcome treat.

I used to refer to these rare quiet moments in New York as golden moments since they usually occurred around sunset when everyone was lining up outside of restaurants or settling in at home after the work day. It was then that the occasional side street fell empty and silent in the glow of the setting sun.

This happened the other day when I took a wrong turn off King Street and found myself in an eerily quiet neighborhood. Despite being only 2 in the afternoon, many of the restaurants' signs read: CLOSED. A couple of swings at a church playground creaked in the wind. The fear of getting mugged and/or raped immediately washed over me but then I reminded myself that I was in Canada and put the mace back in my purse.

Although it wasn't New York, and although it wasn't sunset, I appreciated what Toronto was offering me. It was like a handshake from the city itself, a friendly arm inviting me to sit on a stoop, forget about my homesickness for a few minutes and just breathe.

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