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Posted on Nov 1, 2011 in Dear Diary, Food | 15 comments

Oh Heyyyy, Ottawa!

So I had promised myself that I wouldn’t do a big long recap of my Ottawa trip, since I did exactly that after my last trip back in February. Buuuut, we all know how good I am at sticking to my convictions, hahaha.

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My parents happened to be in town at the same time as me (as part of a big Canadian road trip), so I spent most of Friday hanging out with them and gambling my dad’s money away at the Casino du Lac-Leamy. But the following day, as you may already know from yesterday’s vlog, my friend Ai Rei took me to The Works, my most favoritest burger joint with the most creative topping combinations I’ve seen to this day!

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We started out with some small shakes – chocolate almond for me, and avocado (!!) for her. Both were uhhhhmazing. Unfortunately, the waiter didn’t ask how we wanted our burgers cooked, and I forgot to offer the information voluntarily, so they came out well-done. SOB.

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Luckily, the patty was covered in approximately 6.3 pounds of cheese, so it still tasted pretty good!

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Proof.

Aaaaand, sweet potato fries on the side. I know, I know. But this was pretty much the only heinously unhealthy meal I had while in Ottawa, so take that as you will.

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All of downtown Ottawa is very reasonably walkable, and we needed to get some movement in after that lunch anyway. So we traipsed down to Glitz Cupcakes and Company and split a few mini cupcakes. Then we just wandered around the Byward Market area for a while, taking in the shops and fun Fall sights!

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I am saddened by the fact that I never paid attention to all the amazing fresh produce stands and local butchers and fishmongers back when I lived here! Oh hindsight, you rose-colored devil.

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Oddly enough, I have yet to find a bubble milk tea place down here that matches the kind that I can get up in Ottawa (though, of course, even that is NOTHING compared to the real stuff from Taipei!) And though our wandering probably seemed pretty aimless, we did have an eventual goal.

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BEAVERTAIL TIME!!!

My beloved beavertail (fried dough smothered in cinnamon sugar, gwahaha) was waiting for me! But, because I really am trying to be “good”, we split this sucker in half. You can even see the line down the middle, hehe.

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If ever there were an appropriate time for this: NOMNOMNOM. So much deliciousness. And more was to come, since that same night was the Halloween-themed wedding shower for my friend Holly and her fiance Scott!

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Lovebirds.

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I spent the night catching up with old friends, drinking wine poured from bottles labeled “Spider Venom” and “Toxic Waste” (mmm, so deliciously deadly…), and eating my fill of strange Canadian candy.

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Smarties down here are NOT the same as Smarties up there! (Fact: theirs are better.)

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There was a pumpkin carving competition too. Our team (Rei, Michael, Lucas, and moi) brought our A-game, and did NOT produce a vomiting pumpkin.

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Nope, instead we ended up with…

Whasian Pumpkin
A Whasian Pumpkin!

Bahahaha, and can you believe we didn’t WIN?! It was rigged! Rigged, I tell you!

Team Whasian

I also took pity on a poor, uncarved pumpkin (there ended up being more pumpkins than teams) and made a sad (literally!) attempt at carving it on my own.

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Sad pumpkin is sad.

Other festivities included a toilet paper ZOMBIE-bride game, and the most inventive themed dinner EVER.

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Seriously, however they came up with this dinner concept, I was impressed. It took a lot of effort for the hosts to coordinate, that’s for sure!

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Let me try to explain how it worked. We were each given a list of spooky dishes, then told to number them in the order we would want to receive our courses. Then we had to trade lists with the person across from us. THEN we find out that our napkin and cutlery were included in the list!

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What this meant, of course, is that not only did most of us end up receiving pumpkin pie as our appetizer, many of us didn’t have anything to eat it with but our hands! I ate my main course with just a knife. Skillz, I tell you. Everything was actually quite manageable and hilarious until it was time for the “dessert course”.

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Which, for me, ended up being a fork, a spoon, and my napkin. Womp wommmmmp. Ah well, at least everyone else thought it was funny. So I ate up their attention for dessert instead. Also, popcorn that I stole from the living room.

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The trip ended with Lucas, Ai Rei, Michael and me back together and brunching it up at the Mayflower Pub with an incredibly healthy and not-at-all artery-clogging eggs florentine. Then before long, it was time to say goodbye yet again! These trips always seem to go by so fast. I attribute that to having had so much fun with my friends, as well as to The Hunger Games books. Which I started on the plane up to Ottawa, and had finished by the time the plane back had touched down. So, yeah. Another thing meant for teenagers that I am now inappropriately obsessed with. We’ll have to talk about that.

When you visit home (or college, or just a place you’ve lived before), what are your priorities? See old friends? Eat at your favorite restaurants? Check out the changes that have been made in your absence? I tried to do all of these things, but as a result felt like there wasn’t a lot of time to enjoy each thing. Guess that just means I’ll have to go back soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Posted on Oct 31, 2011 in Dear Diary, Vlog | 29 comments

I’m Back, Eh?

Bonjour and Happy Halloween!! I have returned from the Great White North!

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It was great to see old friends and revisit my old haunts in Ottawa over the weekend. As I’ve mentioned before, I graduated from high school there so I love being able to get back occasionally and make sure those fires of friendship ain’t dying.

Bros for Life

Luckily, I don’t think that’ll be happening anytime soon. I tried to maximize my time as much as possible, so I flew back in on the later side last night. I tell you this so you potentially forgive the fact that I’ve only gotten through editing about half of the zillion photos I took (who, me?). Ergo, the full recap of the weekend may have to wait until tomorrow.

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I did, however, get the chance to edit together the sweet, sweet, Canadian vlog that my friend Ai Rei helped me film! So hopefully another classic Gretchen vlog will tide you over until then. If you’re viewing this post via email subscription, be sure to click through to see the video!

Fair warning: this may or may not but definitely does showcase me at my lamest. It’s also a little disjunct since it was shot over the course of several days. So, y’know, no judging.

Okay fine, judge a little. ๐Ÿ˜‰

For those of you who aren’t able to watch until after work (womp womp), here’s a little something in picture-form, too. Remember my desperate plea for help in the Halloween costume department in my last vlog? I was looking for something cheap, easy, portable, and ideally kinda cute too. Well, the costume also gets revealed in the video above, but here’s what I ultimately landed on:

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Get it?

PJs + Tiara = “Sleeping Beauty”!!

Haaaaahahahahaha. Okay, okay, kinda lame, I know. But it cost me exactly $0 since I already owned everything (what, you don’t have a tiara just laying around?) and I think I pulled off the punny-ness. I was also given the title of “Sushi Princess” that night, so you can roll with that if you like it better. I’m good either way.

I miss my friends already, but it’s always nice to come home. Well, to be honest, it wasn’t “home” that I missed as much as these guys:

home sweet home

What did you dress up as for Halloween?

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Posted on Oct 21, 2011 in Dear Diary, Pup Posts | 27 comments

It’s Friday, Friday

So, somewhere in the blur that was yesterday, I remember getting a really good idea for today’s post. Of course, after my MIND WAS BLOWN by yesterday’s episode of The Vampire Diaries (which I got to watch nearly live for once thanks to a well-timed family dinner and my parents’ DVR), I can’t actually remember WHAT that idea was. Fail. Amazing, heart-stoppingly intense fail.

I’m sure that said brilliant idea will come to me eventually, but in the meantime please enjoy the fact that you probably now have Rebecca Black’s “Friday” stuck in your head after reading the title of this post, bwahaha. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if for any reason you might have forgotten that yesterday was Thursday, tomorrow is Saturday, or that Sunday comes afterwards.

We so excited

Haaaaahahahaha. Okay, sorry for that. To make it up to you, here’s an incredibly embarrassing picture of me from dinner last night. We had burritos.

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Can you tell I’m having a little too much fun playing with layout templates?

Urrrrk. I think we’re even.

More of me telling you things I like, under the assumption that you actually care.


1. Vlogging

Still hate the word itself, but I am really digging turning on the video charm (HA!) for you guys. Be sure to let me know if the videos are too much or whatever, but they’re fun for me to make so I’m going to assume they’re fun for at least some of you to watch. Consider this your warning that more will be coming, hahaha.

2. 90s Television

If you are 21 or younger, you might not remember the amazing programming that was available for our impressionable minds to absorb. Boy Meets World, Clarissa Explains It All, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Hey Arnold!, The Secret World of Alex Mack, Pinky & the Brain… the list goes on. When Nickelodeon announced they were bringing back some of my favorite childhood shows, I immediately went to seek them out for myself since we don’t have TV anymore (SOB.) Thank goodness for Netflix and the interwebs!

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(source)

3. Autumn Vegetables

After yesterday’s post, you are probably well-aware of my current obsession with spaghetti squash, but the truth is that I’m excited for all the autumn vegetables that are hitting the Farmer’s Market! Brussels sprouts on the stalk, butternut squash, carrots, beets… I have all sorts of recipe ideas stirring. I’m trying to put more of an emphasis on seasonal eating, so hopefully this excitement about colder-weather veggies will last through the winter, too!

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4. Canada

Ottawa, specifically! I’ve mentioned a few times now that I’m taking a trip up there soon. Well, by this time next week, I’ll be back in the Great White North (where I graduated from high school). I’m so excited to hit up all my old stomping grounds!

5. Kidney Stones

PSYCH! (Another 90s throwback for you with that particular word, haha.) This week’s kidney stone episode was NOT a pleasant part of my week. Luckily, they passed without issue (y’know, other than the blinding pain and whatnot), and things have turned around quickly since then. I even managed to pound out two excruciatingly slow miles on the tready yesterday! Be proud. Be very proud.

Anything new you’ve been digging on this week? Colder weather sweeping in? Scarves, hats, and boots taking back the streets? Gaddafi’s death? Oh yeah, we just got all political up in hurr. Sidenote: I was going to make Vampire Diaries part of the original list, but then figured it doesn’t really require a mention. I’m pretty sure my obsession there has been made abundantly clear, hahaha.

Have a great weekend!

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Posted on Feb 22, 2011 in Dear Diary, Food | 8 comments

O, Canada

Bonsoir, mes amis! Je suis retournรฉ d’Ottawa et j’ai beaucoup ร  vous mettre ร  jour sur!

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Yup, that’s right. I gots my Francais on as I have returned from Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, victorious and full of pictures that you are sure to OD on. Prepare thyself!

I spent the entire plane ride back to DC trying to think about the best way to post about my awesome trip without causing seizures, and I couldn’t really land on a way not to do that. Sooooo, you’re just going to have to bear with me through what is sure to be a gargantuan post. At least I warned you! ๐Ÿ™‚

I flew in late Thursday night and met up with my amazing friend Holly. We stayed at the Lord Elgin hotel in downtown Ottawa for a few nights (free as a package deal with my flight). There was a bit of a mixup with the room at first and we ended up in a room where there wasn’t even a real bed, only a pull-out sofa! I didn’t think hotels even HAD rooms without beds, but they moved us to a normal room the next night and comp’d breakfast for us so I can’t really complain.

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The hotel had oatmeal in their breakfast buffet! Rawr. My first and last healthy choice on this trip, hahahaha. After breakfast, Holly, our friend Colin, and I drove to the town of Kingston, Ontario to visit our friend Lucas as well as meet up with our friend Ai Rei.

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IMG_5465.jpgOn the road again

We grabbed some awesome grub at the neat little coffeehouse co-op where he works, The Sleepless Goat and his parents, who were also visiting, were nice enough to treat me to sushi at a place down the street as well!

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They have an incredible sweet potato and cheddar quesadilla at the Goat, as well as awesome coffee drinks and I also tried one of their lemon bars (their pastry selection is ridonkulous!) The lemon bar was only okay – too high of a dough-to-lemon ratio for me, but the sweet potato quesadilla was outta this world and something I’m definitely going to have to try to recreate!

We carted Ai Rei back to Ottawa with us that evening, and the next day we hit up Winterlude, Ottawa’s annual winter festival!

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It was really fun — full of ice sculptures (that unfortunately had melted a tiny bit due to warmer than usual weather on Friday), performers, live music and DJs, food stands, and adorable children drowning in their snowsuits.

Le Petite Mermaid.Icy.
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We had some fun taking pictures and I got a beavertail!! For those of you that don’t know, a beavertail is a Canadian delicacy (heh) that consists of dough traditionally covered in cinnamon and sugar (though they make all sorts of crazy topping concoctions now, too.) It is true (horrible for you) deliciousness:

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The next day (Saturday) I insisted that we go revisit some of my favorite restaurants in Ottawa – starting with lunch at The Works!!!

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The Works makes the most incredible burgers EVER. They have a list of about a bajillion different topping combinations (including things like peanut butter and goat cheese in addition to the usual avocado, bacon, and caramelized onions).

The four of us (Holly, Colin, Ai Rei, and I) started with a tower of their famous o-rings:

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And I also got a small orange coconut milkshake (they serve all their beverages in measuring cups – cute, right?) Their milkshakes are amaaazing!

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As for my incredible, incredible burger, I got the “Johnny Be Goat” with added avocado on top. It had goat cheese, warm spinach, and roasted red peppers. Got it with sweet potato strings on the side, that I couldn’t finish but oh how I wish I could have, haha!

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The Best Burger in the Land.

Needless to say, after all that food I was quite the wounded bear:

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Totally worth it.

That night, Holly, Ai Rei, and I went out to Milestones, my favorite restaurant in Ottawa because of their AMAZING frozen bellinis. We were still pretty full from our Worksariffic lunch, so we didn’t end up eating until like 10 PM, haha. At least we got dolled up to go out though (wearing my new We Love Colors tights and Stella & Dot necklace!):

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As for food, I had a bellini (of course!), a small California Spring salad (strawberries, red onion, goat cheese, and pecans) and their phyllo-crusted shrimp (not sure where the phyllo part came in, but they were crusted, at least!)

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The shrimp came with an Asian-y ginger-plum sauce and were only okay. I ended up splitting them with Holly, and we also got their incredible spinach artichoke dip to share. The salad was amazing though — just like I remembered! ๐Ÿ™‚

We had met up with our friend JF and went to a club after dinner, but it turned out to be kinda lame, so we ended up going to a KTV kareoke place instead and it was AMAZING. They had the ridiculous Korean music videos that made absolutely NO sense and everything (c’mon, my TAS peeps know what I’m talking about!) It was totally embarrassing, but really, really fun:

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Sunday us three gals met up with JF again in Chinatown for sushi at a place that Holly recommended. It was an all-you-can-eat sushi place, and it was actually really good! They had so many options to order – including hot options like teriyaki and udon! We ate so much though that we seriously couldn’t eat afterward until like 11 PM (are you noticing a trend here?)

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That night Holly and I went to the movies to see I Am Number Four:

It. Was. Awesome. And not just because Alex Pettyfer is a hottiehottiehottie (he is.) I had been wanting to see it, but I actually wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did! It’s definitely much less of a teen/tween movie than I was expecting, since the movie is based off of a young adult novel (slightly more severe language, and some fairly gruesome/violent stuff is implied, even if it isn’t explicitly shown.) The special effects were really cool (of course) and the pacing of the movie I thought was really good. I hope they make a sequel (it definitely ends with a set up for one.)

Saturday night was unfortunately our last night at the hotel, so we headed back to Holly’s apartment where I spent the night with her cat, Patters:

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Okay! Homestretch! Today, Monday! The day started out with breakfast at Tim Horton’s (can’t come to Canada and not go to Timmy’s!!) and then we took a nice walk down the (frozen) Rideau Canal. No skating for me this time, but walking on the ice in my traction-less boots was pretty close to skating, I imagine!

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We wandered down to the Byward Market, which is a great little area with tons of stands, shops, and restaurants (and also where the US Embassy — where my dad worked, and I spent a summer working as well) is located. I had to snag a pic!

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There’s a restaurant in the market that got a visit from President Obama when he came to Ottawa during the summer of 2009, and they are clearly still very excited about that trip! His picture was plastered EVERYWHERE, and they’re still selling the apparently famous “Obama Cookie”. I thought it was absolutely hilarious, and kind of regret not snagging an Obama Cookie for myself:

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Before escorting me back to the airport (sad!), we ended the day at Zak’s Diner where I ordered my last Canadian specialty food: Poutine! For those of you unaware, poutine is french fries slathered in gravy and cheese curds. Traditionally that’s all you put on it, but of course these days you can get everything but the kitchen sink topped on those little frites francais, hehe. And yes, it is exactly as horrifying and delicious as you’re thinking it must be right now:

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I had mine with a grilled cheese sandwich (I know… I know…) but we waddled back the, I don’t know, 2 miles or so to Holly’s apartment so I feel like it wasn’t a total loss. I did end up walking a TON during my trip (kinda tends to happen when you don’t have a car at your disposal) and while I didn’t make the best food choices while on my culinary trip down memory lane, I remain hopeful for my weigh-in tomorrow. I’m planning on kicking off tomorrow strong and healthy though — more on that later. ๐Ÿ™‚

Question o’ the Day: How do you get back on track after a vacation or trip where your eating/fitness habits might have been waylaid?

Whew! That’s a lot of Canada to have crammed into one weekend!! All in all, it was an amazing trip, and I had such a great time with my friends! Since I’ve obviously dumped a TON on you tonight, I’m going to cut loose now and say goodnight. ‘Til tomorrow!!

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Posted on Feb 17, 2011 in Dear Diary, Pup Posts | 8 comments

Leavin’ on a Jetplane

Hi-dee-ho Neighborinos! If you’re taking a gander around the site, you might notice that a few things (okay, everything) has changed! That’s right, I’m trying to a little lighter and brighter with my blog layout and theme. What do you think so far? I have plans to create a new banner for the blog (as much as I love my little Daxter-poo, I’m not sure I want my blog and weight loss to be forever associated with dog food) and I’m sure I’ll continue to move things around, so be prepared for some more ch-ch-ch-chaaaanges (oh yeah, that’s meant to be sung aloud.)

Anyway, as this post title implies, I am headed out on an aeroplane to visit my friends in the Great White North – Canada! For those of you just joining me, I spent my senior year of high school in Ottawa, Ontario before coming back to the states for college. Just for comparison’s sake, I will now allow you all to have a glimpse of high school Gretchen (she’s the one in the middle):

Hot damn, look at how skinny she was! Sigh, if only I knew then what I know now… I wouldn’t have wasted so much precious time and self-esteem berating myself for being “fat”. Anyway! That’s my prom pic (well, the Canadian equivalent of prom… called the “Grad Dance”… and our families were invited… yeeeeah. Canada, go figure. Hahahaha, I kid, I kid!) and I’m going to be hanging out with most of those cool cats again come this weekend! I haven’t seen most of my friends up there in over two years, so I am soooo excited to finally be visiting. My flight leaves this evening, so I worked on packing up my things last night:

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And, of course, by packing my things I really mean hastily throwing my crap into a bag because I wasted my entire night on my blog theme revamp, hahaha.

Somehow, I feel as though the pupsters know that I am abandoning them. They were simply not having it last night:

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Look at how angry little Daxy looks, and Harry wouldn’t even look at me! He did, however, go rooting through Erin’s bathroom trash, a pasttime he hasn’t engaged in since forever, so I think he knows something’s up. I don’t know what they’re so upset about though, they’re headed for a luxury stay at Hotel Grandma & Grandpa (aka my parents’ house) where I’m sure they will be treated to four full days of being fed from the table (tsk, tsk, Mama! Hahahahaha.)

Anyway, that’s my big news for the day. I cannot WAIT to see my friends again — I am literally counting the hours (and thus, this day is going by soooooooooooooooooooooooo slowly. OMGIDIE.) I’m not sure how much blogging I’ll be able to do from there, but I have already packed my camera so be on the alert for some sweeeeet recap posts when I get back, including food pics from my favorite Ottawan restaurant! And Beavertails! And Nanaimo Bars (well, I won’t be eating any of those, but I’ll try to take a picture at least, hahaha.) You get the general Canadian picture.

If you were wondering, I’m still planning on staying the course in terms of the diet while I’m gone. Since this is a trip (as opposed to a vacation), I will still try my best to be diligent about watching what I eat and making sure I’m not going overboard (Ai Rei – I’m counting on you to keep me on track!) I’m sure I’ll be freezing my tail off, but I guess that’s a good thing (shivering = burning calories, right?) That’s why my suitcase is so heavy though – lots of layering clothes! Also, I definitely overpacked on the underwear front. Which brings us to our Question o’ the Day:

When you go on a trip, what is your stance on underwear? Do you pack just enough, an extra pair or two, or have an extreme surplus? I definitely subscribe to the pack-as-many-pairs-as-you-can-fit mentality — better safe than sorry!

Oh, and before I forget: I gots my hair did yesterday, too. Just got it re-highlighted and trimmed up, and because of my extreme vanity I even took pictures for you all!

Before:

During:

Aftahhhh:

And yes. I felt like a loony bin taking pictures of myself inside Bubbles, haha. Ok, that’s all for now. If I don’t get to blog before then, see you all Stateside!

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