Day 205: Comp Feast

First thing’s first: I finally updated my blog theme!

Let me know in the comments what you think! It took me way longer than necessary to change the favicon (the 16-by-16-pixel icon you see on your browser tab). Long story short, I made a really simple change seem so much more complicated. I had attempted to create one years ago with a red letter ‘S’—but if I’m being honest with myself, it was hideous and didn’t show up well. I finally decided to change it; I kept it simple by using an open-book emoji. I probably will change it again soon if I can think of a better idea.

As for the theme, I wanted to to keep it clean and simple but still interesting. No, I’ve never been willing to shell out the ~$80 for a WordPress theme (how is the Elemin theme worth $125??), but there was no way I was ever going to use the standard, cringeworthy WordPress themes or the ones that try to be unique but everyone ends up using. Case in point: I put a lot of thought into choosing a new theme. It’s not as customizable as my previous one without paying, but I’m very happy with it.

Anyway, I joined my parents and uncle for lunch at the Maryland Live! Casino today. They had planned to check out the buffet there, and despite my recent buffet bashing, I agreed to go. I guess fortunately for all of us, the buffet was not yet open when my parents arrived, and even though they would have only had to wait another 15 minutes until it did by the time I arrived, they judged that the buffet didn’t look good, anyway. I mean, does any buffet ever really “look good”?

Instead, we ate a comped meal at Luk Fu. I would have preferred trying a new restaurant, but this was only my second time anyway. Thanks to my uncle, we ordered six dishes (five are pictured) for four people. Plus, I enjoyed a pretty good chilled milk bubble tea (worth $6 for a glass…). Our Mandarin-speaking waitress was apparently rather fond of me, so she even gave me a refill. LOL. Needless to say, we pigged out.

Maryland Live! Casino's Luk Fu

So much food.

One redeeming point: I ran, jogged, and walked two laps around Centennial Park in the evening. On a Friday night, it became more apparent to me than ever that having more people at the park motivates me to run more and faster.

It’s quite a psychological thing. Basically, while running, I occasionally have to speed up to run past people (and sometimes even slow down for others to pass me). Right when I’m about to transition from running to walking, I have to do it strategically so that I don’t stop right behind people for them to hear my heavy breathing and think that I’m following too closely. At the same time, I can’t stop right in front of them, because, well, then they would be following me too closely. All these (psychotic?) fears results in me running farther just so I can find that sweet spot to stop and walk.

I’m not that crazy, I promise.

Day 204: Disappointment

Cardinal rule of cupcakes: You do NOT EVER refrigerate them!!!!!

Such was the rule that Touché Touchet Bakery broke, which resulted in a less-than-pleasant cupcake-eating experience.

Upon entering, the array of baked goods nearly made my mouth water. Everything looked absolutely delicious. Little did I know, the amateurs chilled their cupcakes.

NO. JUST NO.

Touché Touchet Bakery s'mores cupcake

Looks so much better than it tastes.

(Clearly, I’m very passionate about cupcakes. I watch cake shows constantly, after all.) This discovery is made even worse at the fact that I had been wanting to come here ever since I discovered it on Yelp and Foursquare.

First sign of inferiority: Its location. Located right off of a highway and in a seemingly deserted and old center, the bakery did not seem to be very popular or inviting, despite its reviews. Upon entering, the staff certainly was very attentive and kind, and believe me, my excitement level was at an all-time high.

Unfortunately, the cold cupcake seriously disappointed me. I could hardly taste the meager marshmallow filling, and the cake itself lacked the moisture and warmth of a fresh cupcake. I finished it, nonetheless, but I’m sad to say that even though its other non-cupcake items looked amazing, I most likely will not be returning.

Day 203: Sushi Buffets

I would rather blog about how sushi buffets make me feel uncomfortable than about the poor excuse for a photo today.

So I’ll begin with my lunch at Korshi.

The sushi buffet restaurant just opened in the area, and after tagging along with my mom at work just so I could join her and my dad for lunch instead of being stuck at home (i.e., I didn’t actually do any work for my parents), we headed over to enjoy the $12.95-weekday-lunch special. Even writing that makes me cringe. I blame AskReddit threads for my recent distaste toward buffets of any kind.

I haven’t always been so opposed to buffets. My mom and I would often frequent a small sushi buffet restaurant in nearby town but have since stopped going since it’s not exactly that convenient. And the thing is, it’s not as if I have a decent palate or any sense of what classifies as “good sushi.” Sushi, largely, is just sushi (well, with one exception: The one sushi restaurant in Gaithersburg that I always used to go to before my Saturday violin lessons, to this day, serves the best California rolls—hands down). For a while, I had always been the type to avoid the raw stuff, too, so that makes me even less of a legitimate Asian who “likes” sushi.

Even now, as I am not opposed to eating raw sushi, I still am far from being a sushi connoisseur. All of this considered, you would think that I wouldn’t mind eating at a sushi buffet, where sushi is probably not of the best quality. At the same time, I’m really not that picky of an eater—meaning if people were to take me to a sushi buffet restaurant, I wouldn’t outright refuse. The food itself, given my nonexistent palate, actually tastes good. I would just probably never recommend going to one.

I’ll get to the point. There’s just something inferior about buffets, in general—let alone sushi buffets—that creates this feeling of discomfort. Disregarding even the fact that I feel keenly aware of the size of the people eating at buffets (yes, I fully realize how nasty I may be coming across), I just do not like the concept of eating as much mediocre, unhealthy food as you can to get your money’s worth. I guess I like being served, as opposed to having to get up several times to pile on more food than I should be consuming.

It’s not even about being lazy. If I had to choose between fine dining and buffets—both uncomfortable situations for me—I would choose fine dining any day.

The reality is, given my career track of a poor journalist, I probably will frequent more buffets than fine dining restaurants (unless I somehow manage to become a food writer with my nonexistent palate). I just found it interesting to realize as I was eating at Korshi that I even felt at all slightly uncomfortable. After all, it certainly was not my first time at a buffet, and it’s not as if the food tastes repulsive. It’s all those revealing Reddit threads, I’m telling you! For example, I will NEVER eat at a Golden Corral (watch if you dare).

Anyway, it seems as though I wasn’t inspired enough while at Korshi to take photos (other than a Snapchat that I regretted to save of a piece of sushi). Instead, I took a photo of a meditating dog I saw at Pier One Imports, where my mom and I went to spend her $80 coupon (yeah, my sister went all out for her recent room decorating). Needless to say, this was not what we spent that coupon on.

Pier One Imports meditating dog

Why is this a thing?

Day 201: Crêpe Calling

Ever since I first visited this new local café, I’ve been wanting to return to try its crêpes.

And I finally did.

Café Mezcla shrimp & avocado crêpe

A mess to eat but flavorful and satisfying :)

I had Café Mezcla’s shrimp and avocado crêpe (which is also the most expensive on the menu at $9.50) that also consisted of a “broccoli mix,” topped with drizzles of Thai and toasted sesame sauces. In short, I wolfed that sh*t down.

The only thing is, this café has so much potential (I mean, just look at its mouthwatering menu), but it still doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of business—albeit it was after 6 p.m., and they only recently extended their hours to 8. It was completely empty when I visited. While waiting for my food, I took in my surroundings, trying to glean from what looked like a chic café reasons for its slow business.

It couldn’t be the markings on the side of the counter that made it look unfinished, right? Or the small drops of white paint still slightly noticeable on the tiled floors? Or the out-of-place items stored under a table that had a pitcher of water and Styrofoam cups? Or even the ice cream counter that’s blocked by a large refrigerator full of beverages?

No. The reason for the lack of patrons is more likely due to no WiFi (seriously, though. Cafés of all businesses should have password-free WiFi). Or the fact that this place did only open a few months ago. Or the change in hours.

From what I’ve experienced so far, the food is great. Service and staff are acceptable. Prices are reasonable for a newly opened small business that uses fresh ingredients. The logo design is clean and modern. Location could be better. And personally, I think they shouldn’t use Styrofoam to-go boxes or cups. But all in all, I see myself returning again and again—if not to sit and do work, then simply to try all it has to offer, from sweet crêpes to bubble tea drinks.

If you happened to make it all the way down here (the length of my posts vary so much, I know): In a completely unrelated note, due to my curiosity finally getting the best of me, I’m really interested in knowing who reads my blog. Based on Facebook, WordPress stats, and people who have just told me, I already have an idea but would love to know more! Please do me a quick favor by leaving a comment, whether it’s on this post, an old one that you really liked (heh, yeah, I like to assume people actually like my posts), or even a future one if you don’t feel like it now. Really, the comment may be as simple as, “I read this. -[your name].” I’m THAT curious. Thanks in advance :)

Day 200: Return Home

It has been a great 10 days out of the country, but I’m ready to return home.

Calgary Tower, skyline

Goodbye, Calgary!

But I couldn’t leave Canada without making a stop at Ontario-based Tim Hortons. My cousin convinced me that I must try its iced capp—and I am glad I did, even if it was at the airport right before our flight. I didn’t know if there were locations in the U.S. (turns out there are 600…but at least none nearby) but I had to visit either way.

Tim Hortons iced capp

Long-awaited iced capp from Tim Hortons!

This being the 200th day of my 365-day-photo project, I feel like I should probably write more—or at least do something slightly more special but with 699 photos from my 10-day trip to import, sift through, delete, edit, crop, upload…I’ll just keep it short and sweet :)

Day 199: Wedding Day

I haven’t been to a wedding in years, and the ones I have been to mostly were for Asian couples I had never met and only “knew” through my parents. From the deep reaches of my memory, I recall those weddings also were extremely Chinese, meaning they involved all Chinese food, decorations, venues (Chinese restaurants), etc.

The fact that this was my cousin’s wedding that was held entirely in the hotel we stayed at meant that this wedding would automatically be infinitely more helpful to my understanding of what non-100-percent-Chinese weddings are like.

The day started off early at 10 a.m. with a tea ceremony (though not nearly as early as those bridesmaids—bless their souls—who were up as early as 4:45 a.m. for hair and make-up).

Wedding Snapchat selfie

#weddingsnapchatselfie

Roasted pig at wedding

Posing next to the roasted pig at the morning tea ceremony.

Tea ceremony

Tea ceremony :)

After a buffet of amuse-bouche, we took our seats in the white-and-yellow decorated ballroom of the Delta Bow Valley hotel for the wedding ceremony.

Wedding ceremony

Beautiful!

I sat right at the entrance in an aisle seat, meaning I most likely inadvertently photobombed 99 percent of the photos taken.

The rest of our afternoon was free until cocktails and dinner at 6 p.m., so we returned to the shopping center we went to yesterday to finish our browsing (found and bought the last black-and-white-striped maxi dress from Jacob that I saw someone at the wedding wear). The C-Train in Calgary has a no-fare zone (great idea), so we easily took the train a few stops. On the way back, I snapped a photo of the beautiful Bow skyscraper.

The Bow skyscraper in Calgary

The Bow skyscraper is the tallest in Calgary, serving as the headquarters for EnCana Corporation and Cenovus Energy.

We made it back on time to enjoy front-row seats to the reception, where I just happened to be assigned to sit right next to the wedding cake. I couldn’t help but laugh. If you know me well enough, you would know that I am obsessed with cake shows.

Wedding cake

The rest of the night was filled with delicious food, tearful speeches, and more instances where I probably unintentionally photobombed everyone’s photos (sat right next to the cake which was right next to the dance floor).

Wedding kiss

THIS is how you kiss a bride ;)

First dance

First dance.

All in all, a weekend well-spent in the friendly city of Calgary :)

Day 198: Calgary

Wasn’t able to sleep in, so I went to the hotel’s fitness center this morning earlier than planned, giving me more time to work off all the extra calories I gained from Italy.

Morning view of Calgary Tower and city skyline from Delta hotel

Morning view of Calgary Tower and city skyline from the Delta hotel.

We then took a nice, leisurely stroll through Calgary’s Chinatown, where I noticed some hilarious Chinese-to-English translations.

Funny Chinese-to-English translation

Pretty sure “pineapple” in Chinese doesn’t translate to “crushy topping.”

Chinese medicine sign

Tell me I’m not the only one who finds “Woo Kee” for a Chinese medicine-company name funny.

…along with some beautiful views (of course, not nearly as great as Venice’s ;) )

Calgary Tower

Calgary Tower from Chinatown.

Overlooking bridge

Beautiful morning in Calgary.

Centre Street Bridge

…#ART?

Day 197: Three Time Zones

As much as I love traveling, being on an airplane all day is never fun.

First, it was a nine-hour flight from Rome to Toronto. Then we endured a four-hour flight from Toronto to Calgary.

Three time zones. One exhausting day.

Rome airport security

This is such a simple yet genius idea. Every airport should adopt this system.

Mini Nutella jars

So mini. So cute.

am looking forward to the family wedding this Saturday, though. Oh, and the hotel here? Absolutely luxurious compared to those in Italy. We have thick blankets again so I won’t wake up freezing in the middle of the night (hopefully). And room to put our suitcases and still walk. And working WiFi in the room. And—the BEST part—a fitness center!!!

Time to go to sleep so I can wake up early for the gym. Gotta work off all that Italian food…

Day 196: Last Day In Italy

Leaving Venice this morning was hard. I mean, have you seen the amazing views?

From Venice, we made a stop at Montepulciano before heading back to Rome for our flight the next morning. What is this seemingly unknown middle-of-nowhere Italian town, you ask? Apparently, the Twilight saga filmed New Moon in the main square. #SORRYNOTSORRY to those who hate Twilight but you can’t deny how that’s at least SLIGHTLY cool.

The square in Montepulciano where Twilight filmed

I was basically in New Moon.

Montepulciano

Cat sitting in a window sill. #ART

Our tour guide mentioned trying the beef steak here. As much as I love her food recommendations, I also hate how I use them as excuses to pig out and try everything.

Montepulciano steak

Trying what the town is known for—STEAK.

Luckily, this town is very hilly so the other half of the limited time we had in Montepulciano was spent climbing up and down steep streets. All was worth it, as I got to fit in another “signature” pose of mine—a flying/on-top-of-the-world photo. (My other signature pose is the #ledgepic.)

Montepulciano, Italy

My other signature travel pose.

Being the adventurous tourists that we were, my friend and I got lost wandering the streets. Let’s just say getting lost in Montepulciano with about 15 minutes left to meet the tour group back at the correct gate to the town is NOT a good idea. I mean, unless you’re looking for a serious workout, then by all means, get lost in this town and you’ll find beautiful panoramic views such as these:

Montepulciano, Italy

Snapped this as we were speeding up a steep hill, attempting to find our way back to the gates where our tour group was supposed to meet.

Montepulciano, Italy

Ah, Italia.

I suppose in the end (yes, we made it on time—sweaty but on time), it was worth the adrenaline and adventure.

Once on the bus, the driver Domenico blasted Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as we drove down the extremely windy roads with more panoramic views of the countryside. I freakin’ LOVED it. I even recorded the experience, which I will upload later on Instagram, so I can relive it.

Montepulciano, Italy

Now THAT’S a panorama.

By early evening, we were back in Rome and exploring the streets again.

Rome, Italy

Back in Rome!

Italian pun

Hah. Good one.

After dinner at a highly rated Taverna Romana restaurant near the Colosseum, my friend and I decided to visit the Spanish Steps. I couldn’t tell if my memory was correct, but I couldn’t help but think that The Amazing Race filmed there recently. As soon as we got there though and saw the steps, I knew they did—and of course, I was in awe. Again, my memory failed me as to how many steps there were (135), so I was so tempted to recreate the challenge of counting the number of steps (the step for the drain doesn’t count!) but my friend would’ve hated me.

Spanish Steps

Sunset approaching the top of the Spanish Steps.

Spanish Steps

Can’t get over the fact that The Amazing Race filmed here.

I loved the environment. People just sat on the steps and chilled—many with a bottle of wine, cans of beer, or even cones of gelato. Several others walked up and down the steps all night selling cold water and beer. My friend and I found a spot on the steps and sat for more than an hour—maybe two?—but we could have stayed for hours. It was just that relaxingly enjoyable. And to think it was on a Wednesday night! Can’t imagine what the atmosphere would be like on a weekend. Maybe it was good that we went on a weekday. But then again, kids (and I mean children under 10) are out till midnight even on weekdays in Italy.

View from Spanish Steps

View from Spanish Steps. Just beautiful.

When we finally thought to make our way back to the terrible Torino Hotel (seriously, it sucks. Look out for angry reviews on Foursquare and elsewhere), we had to stop and get some gelato. Our last in Italy!!

Gelato in Rome near Spanish Steps

Yumyumyum.

I actually stood in the middle of this tunnel to try to take an artsy photo—until my friend kept telling me I was an idiot and should not try it again. I didn't...but trust me, I wanted to so badly.

I actually stood in the middle of this tunnel to try to take an artsy photo—until my friend kept telling me I was an idiot and should not try it again. I didn’t…but trust me, I wanted to so badly.