Day 110: A funny thing happened on the way to Christmas

My poor neglected WordPress. It’s just so difficult to remember to keep posting when I can finally succomb to Christmas mode and flee the bondages of academia. There’s no more time for literacy, only rest, relaxation and an unending abundance of food and drink. Ahh, this is the life.

Here’s a little recap on my marvellous days of freedom:

Day 106: Daddy’s day

My dad and I scheduled this day nearly a month in advance. We were going to spend the whole day together and catch up since I haven’t seen him since Thanksgiving. But my day started long before he came by to pick me up.

I was up bright and early to work on the big surprise for my friend, Rachel. It was a rather belated birthday present for her, but I promised to make it epic. And epic it was (well I thought so anyway). Not that I could neatly fit Rach into any one category to describe her, but let’s just simplify things and say she is a big fan of the Land of the Rising Sun. And what lover of Japan and the Japanese doesn’t love the big mutant cat that is Totoro?

I decided to make her a Totoro cake! (By which I mean the cake was shaped like a Totoro, not that it was made out of Totoro pieces. The horror!) I baked the cake the day before so it would have time to cool (no melting frosting disasters for me!) and in the morning, the real work began.

I made the ears out of Rice Krispie bars and left the rest to the magic of frosting decor. It was no “Ace of Cakes” masterpiece, but I was pretty proud of the result. At the vey least, there was no mistaking what it was supposed to resemble. But you can be the judge of that:

Behold my creation! Not too shabby for a makeshift piping bag (a.k.a. a Ziplock bag with a corner snipped off)!

I was all done and ready to go by the time my dad came by at 11 a.m. We went to lunch at a Korean place where they have dumplings the size of my fist! Then we went to Yorkdale to peruse the Christmas sales for a while. Surprisingly, we didn’t have to fight our way through hoards of last-minute Christmas shoppers. Perhaps it’ s too late for early shoppers and still too early for those procrastinators.

My dad and I are both no big shoppers (don’t ask why we went to Yorkdale), so we ended up watching a movie at the theatre inside the mall. I finally saw “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” the third movie from the Chronicles of Narnia series. It was amazing. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, my dad didn’t even fall asleep! That in itself is high praise, my friend. And I don’t care who says the movie wasn’t made for 3D, I personally loved the 3D effects. I say if you have the technology, you might as well use it. It was as if I were onboard the Dawn Treader battling sea serpents and evil mists too!

After the movie, my dad drove me back to Richmond Hill, where I met up with my mom and her friend at a Chinese restaurant for dinner. How I’ve missed Chinese food (well, Chinese food that isn’t deep fried and covered in sweet and sour sauce, or the creation of General Tso).

From there, I stopped by briefly at a friend’s Christmas party. It was a potluck, so I brought my baked creations from the day before:

  1. biscotti with almonds, cranberries and white chocolate
  2. chocolate chip cookies (a staple whenever I’m baking)
  3. chocolate- and peanut-butter- chip cookies (my personal favourite)

It was a long day, but when I headed back home, my mom and I watched the first half of a new old moive she bought as an early Christmas present (there is more to come, believe me!), “Hello Dolly” (1969) starring Barbra Streisand and directed by the beautiful Gene Kelly. I loved it! I was never a big fan of Streisand, especially after I fell asleep during “The Way We Were” (1973), but I loved her in “Hello Dolly.” That movie has definitely made it into my list of favourite oldies. (Louis Armstrong was a hoot too, but I don’t know if that was intentional. I’ve never seen anyone so happy while conducting an orchestra. It was just so over-the-top that it was just comical. I loved it.)

Day 107: Prepare to be pampered

As a Christmas present, my mom and I were invited to a spa about an hour’s drive outside Toronto. I’d never been to a spa before, but I am a big fan of walking around in bathrobes all day. We went to a place called Ste. Anne’s Spa (see more at http://www.steannes.com/home.html). It’s in the middle of wide open, rolling hills. As if that wasn’t enough, it was snowing all day when we arrived so the whole place was blanketed in beautiful, light, fluffy snow – like something straight out of a postcard.

We checked in at about 2 p.m. My mom and I were walking around the place, taking it all in. It has kind of a cottage feel to it (There were real wood-burning fireplaces, lots of creaking hardwood floors and thick, patterned rugs. Every single room is different, with names like Cathedral or Flower instead of numbers.) and everywhere we went, it smelled like eucalyptus. There were big glass water dispensers at regular intervals, filled with sweet, tangy, ice cold water that had real slices of cucmber and lemon floating in it. I never realized it before, but cucumber water makes hydration so much more interesting.

In all that time we took to have a look around at our home away from home for the next 24 hours, our luggage was taken away to be sent to our rooms that were not yet ready for us. So there we were, stuck in nothing but robes and the clothes on our backs.  What did we do? We threw on some towels and hopped into the steam room for a good 15 minutes.

I’ve never been in a steam room before, but it never used to appeal to me at all. I had no intention of ever putting myself in the same situation as a barbecue pork bun that they serve in dim sum restaurants. Surprisingly however, steam rooms are really relaxing. It’s really the same idea as a sauna … but with moisture. The steam was so thick that my mom and I couldn’t even see each other within the first five minutes! I couldn’t even see my own hand waving in front of my face. Welcome to the spa life.

We headed off to afternoon tea at 3 p.m. in our robes – the accepted dress code within the spa property. It was then I realized just how much food was available in that place! It’s kind of like being on a cruise. There’s just an endless supply of food and drink without having to think about grocery shopping or washing the dishes. I love it! We had brownies, cookies, scones with butter and jam, finger sandwiches, cheese and crackers, veggie and fruit platters, more kinds of hummus than I could name, spring rolls and about 20 different kinds of tea to choose from (including one that was “chocolate spice,” which in my humble opinion was more spice than chocolate, but still, the sheer variety was impressive).

After stuffing ourselves full of good food, we mosied over to our spa treatments. My mom and I got the European massage, not too shabby for my first massage! I came out of there smelling like a eucalyptus plant, well stretched and oiled. It was the fastest 60 minutes of my life. I think I need to invest in a personal masseuse.

I spent the rest of that night taking full advantage of their not one, not two, but three outdoor hot tubs. (Well technically only one was a hot tub, there was also a “plunge pool” – which was a small little tub made for one person and kept at a chilly 65 degrees – and a lap pool – which was about 10 to 12 m long and kept at an in-between temperature to serve as a middle ground between the hot tub and the plunge pool.) I thoroughly enjoyed all of them. There’s something particularly satisfying about being toasty warm in a steaming vat of bubbling water while it’s snowing. Depending on which tub you were in, some of the snow would actually land on your head without melting, but it didn’t feel cold at all!

After all that hard work sitting in the hot tub, a four-course dinner was exactly what the doctor orderd. The portions may have been smaller than usual, but that just meant everyone ordered about three or four different dishes. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to go to bed hungry in that place. It was an excellent end to my first spa day.

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