Sunday, April 18, 2010

Live Blogging the Junos

I love the Junos.  I am a huge fan of Canadian music, so I never miss watching this event.  And I realllllllly want to go next year in, if anyone has a hook up, don't forget about me!

Anyway, I'm going to try my hand at live blogging the event.  Check out the updates after the jump!
7:00 - Show started off with Classified with his Oh Canada rap.  Love it!

7:05 - Michael Buble looks dapper as usual, singing I Just Haven't Met You Yet

7:10 - Barenaked Ladies!  Showing Steve Page they can hold their own without him.  Have always loved them, and am hoping they will be as successful as they have been.  Cut to shots of Justin Bieber and Michael Buble re: the battle for pop album of the year.  Then a shot of Drake. Love him.

Single of the year: I Just Havent't Met You Yet - Michael Buble.  Sad because the Tragically Hip were also nominated.   

7:17 Justin Bieber performance featuring Drake - Baby.  I don't get why everyone loves Justin, but good on him for doing what he's done.  And I love Drake.  He made the performance watchable :)

Cut to Kim Stockwood and Damnait Doyle hosting the street party.  Kim Stockwood looks great.  Eventually they bring out STEREOS, handing out Group of the Year.

Group of the year: Metric.  Sad once again because Tragically Hip lost.

7:30 Danny Fernandes...who can't read the teleprompter.  And a contest winner.  She is doing wayyyy better than Danny.

Fan Choice Award:  Michael Buble.  With those choices, is anyone surprised?  Really?
Buble is adorable though, I'd like to be his friend! 

7:32 George Canyon introducing Johnny Reid.  Country.  Don't know who these guys are LOL, but I'm sure they're well known amongst those that listen to country.

7:37 Nikki Yanofsky. She looks really cute.  Able to read the teleprompter with enthusiasm.  Promoting

7:42 Shiloh.  Who?  Apparently named an emerging star from Billboard Canada.

7:43 Billy Talent singing St Veronica.  I go through phases where I like and dislike Billy Talent.  I happen to like this song.

7:47 K'Naan.  Giving Kudos to Bryan Adams for his contribution to causes, and for his donation of studio space/time for the Young Artists for Haiti Wavin' Flag video.  Montage time, showing all the good he's done (events like Live Aid, and raising money for breast cancer through his photography).  Classy guy. But stupid volcano kept him away. Taped message isn't the same.

7:55 Lights and Dallas GReen.  Lights seems so excited to be there!  And Dallas Green is a star.  Winner of the award alst year.

Songwriter of the Year: K'Naan

7:58 Back to the Streetparty...with skeleton gold medalist Jon Montgomery!! Doing his auctioneering thing!

8:00 To Amy Milan (who?) announcing the Great Lake Swimmers.

8:08 Jully Black and minister John Moore = giving out the New Artist of the Year award.

New Artist of the Year is Drake!!!! Best win of the night!!

8:10 Trews representing!!  Announcing Metric's performance.

8:15 Someone who's name I didn't get.  Talking about awards given out last night.  Many of which should be given out tonight Rock Album of the Year.  Canada's rock scene is huge.  and Artist of the Year.  That not live worthy??? This is the one thing about the Junos that really irks me. Make the show 3 hours and focus on what the masses like.

8:23 Great Big Sea!!!  Can't wait to see them this summer.  Announcing Blue Rodeo.  Juno staple.

8:28: April Wine tribute!

8:38 DRAKE!!!!!!!!!!

Drake totally killed it.  Should have closed the show.

8:42 Streetparty with Deadmau5.  Damnait Doyle announced Hedley.

Rap Recording of the Year - DRAKE!!!!!!!

8:50 Alexandre Bilodeau giving out album of the year.  Such a cutie. Looks great!

And the winner is....... Michael Bubble?  Lol.  Bilodeau should be able to pronounce Buble.  But that's ok.  

To close the show, we have K'Naan performing Wavin Flag, with Nikki Yanofsky and Justin Bieber and a bunch of others. Great way to end the show.
Overall, this was a great show.  We have some awesome Canadian talent.  I would like to see the show be longer, with some more key awards given out live.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed my first live blogging event! 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Las Vegas Trip Report - Part 4 - The Food

And now, one of the most important posts...the food!  We ate a some really great places on our trip.  P.S. I'm not going to review the Cheesecake Factory (which went to after the buffet at Bellagio had a gigantic lineup and was $40/person because it was a special Easter buffet).

Rao's - Caesar's Palace

We had reservations at the Italian restaurant Rao's in Caesar's Palace for Friday night.  When our hotel plans changed, they were very accommodating in changing our reservation time.  There are two Rao's in existence - a tiny 10 table location in New York City, and this location.  In New York, it's next to impossible to get reservations, as people tend to have standing reservations.  So, I was excited to try it in Vegas.

To start, we ordered their Antipasto Platter.  It was huge and great for the two of us.  It had  black olives, fresh buffalo mozzarella (made in house), yellow and red tomato slices, 3 hard cheeses, roasted red peppers with raisins and prosciutto.  And we had a lovely bread basket. 

For our main courses, I had their pasta special - penne with roasted cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and garlicky olive oil.  It was simple and very delicious.  The penne was cooked perfectly al-dente, and it was a huge portion...I couldn't finish it. Dan ordered their spaghetti in bolognese sauce, and a side of two meatballs.  Their meatballs are the size of tennis balls.  They were amazing.  The meatballs were caramelized and slightly crispy on the outside and actually meaty tasting on the inside (as opposed to tasting more like the filler).  They were topped with Rao's famous tomato sauce.

At the end of it all, we were so full we didn't have room for dessert.  

Worth mentioning is Rao's extensive wine list.  They have a great selection of reds and whites, at all different price points.  We had the sommelier help us choose a bottle of wine, and he selected a great white wine that cost around $45 (on the low end of prices).

Paris Buffet - Paris

We were really looking forward to Paris' champagne brunch Saturday morning. There was a huge lineup, but we waited for only about 45 minutes.  However, we had a very disappointing experience, and won't go back there. Outside of the restaurant, there was a screen showing rotating menus (for the different meals and special brunches).  We were excited to see things like smoked salmon and cream cheese, plus your typical breakfast buffet items (eggs, bacon, sausage, etc). However the buffet was nothing like this.

Our experience started off poorly when we got seated.  Our server was unable to handle our drink orders (despite having to tell them to the cashiers when we paid before we went in).  She constantly forgot things (brought a coffee carafe with no mugs, brought 1 orange juice to the table and left the rest at the service station, forgot champagne, etc).  When she brought milk to the table for the coffee (after us asking for it a few times), she spilled it on me.  Then she took off, and never came back.

When we checked out the buffet, we saw a lot was missing (e.g., smoked salmon, bacon, croissants (this was Paris!!!)).  We tracked down a manager who told us that they already started changing things over to lunch, and the menu outside said items subject to change.  We explained that this was brunch, not lunch and there should be certain things at the buffet. The manger tracked down smoked salmon and brought us a huge plate.  Eventually, they found bacon as well...and wouldn't you know, once they put bacon on the buffet, it was hard to keep that bowl full!

At the end of it all, we were definitely full.  They had some really great things at the buffet (cheeses, eggs Benedict) but one of the best was the soft-serve ice cream, with cones that were dipped in chocolate and coated with either sprinkles or crushed peanuts.  We took to go. 

We won't go back to the Paris buffet.

Diego - MGM Grand

Diego is easily my favourite restaurant in Vegas.  It's priced well, and the the food is delish. We went here Saturday night.

When we sat down, we were given chips and 3 different kinds of salsas, as well as 3 different flavoured salts (the salts were too be used with our meal). We ordered a pitcher of the Diego margarita (on the rocks of course).  They brought it with 2 tumblers with salted rims.   So good.  The pitcher was massive, could be used for 4-6 people easily.

To start, we had the appetizer sampler.  It came with taquitos, empanadas and a chicken soft taco.  They were really good, and we liked the flavoured salts to use with them.

For main course, I had the steak special.  It was a Kobe beef New York strip steak with a tequila lime butter sauce.  It came with 3 sides - sauteed spinach, fried plantains and mole sauce.  The steak was like butter, so soft and tender, and done perfectly medium.

Again, after this meal, we were so full with no room for dessert.  We sat longer to try to finish our margarita and chatted with the couple beside us.  Dan had the idea that we should get the rest of our margarita in to-go cups and i didn't believe we could.  Then the other couple got that and Dan got to say "I told you so!".

Augustus Cafe - Caesar's Palace

Sunday, Dan and I went to Augustus for brunch.  We were seated quickly.
When deciding what to order, we saw a table get this plate of a wall of onion rings.  They looked great, so we started with that.  And they were great!  They came with two dipping sauces.

I had the smoked salmon and cream cheese platter.  It came with an everything bagel, smoked salmon, tomato, onion, capers and lemon-dill cream cheese.  It was really good.  Dan had a sandwich. Then, Dan and I shared a delicious chocolate chip cookie milkshake.  

Serendipity 3 - Caesar's Palace

We met friends Annie and Steve for a pre-dinner drink/snack at Serendipity 3.  We waited about 20-30 minutes for a table on the patio.  IT was a gorgeous (if really windy) say, so I wanted to take advantage. 

Annie and I ordered the Candy Floss Martini in pear flavour.  We had no idea what to expect.  When they brought them, there was a puff of cotton candy in each martini glass, and then they sever poured the martini over top.  It was so great!   The boys got the frozen hot chocolate that Serendipity is known for.  That was also reallllly good.  Then the boys went an bought a GIGANTIC donut for us to share.  When we cut it in 4, each piece was like the same size as a regular donut.  And it taste like a donut, vs cake in the shape of a donut.

We ate realllllllly well on our trip, as we always do in Vegas.  The food is some of my favourite, and I really do try my best not to go to chains (like Cheesecake Factory) because we can go to those anywhere!

Las Vegas Trip Report – Part 3 – The Vegas Hotels

April 2 - Paris
April 3, 4 - Caesar's Palace

Why 2 hotels, you ask?

Less than two weeks before we went to Vegas, we booked a 3-night stay at Caesar’s Palace, direct through their website. We booked the “Hangover” package, which included a 3-night stay, $50 food/beverage credit (attached to your room folio, so could be used across the chain during your stay), a free in-room movie and a “Hangover” t-shirt, all for around $500. The downside is that the room you get with this package is their Classic room in the Roman tower, which is the older tower. Reviews mentioned the room type was functional, but more like a Super 8 motel room. I knew we would not be spending much time in our room, so I was ok with this. Reviews also mentioned that upgrades to the newer towers were often available for $10-$20 a night.

When we checked in at Caesar’s at around 6:30 pm, there was no line up, which was great. We went up to the guy at the registration desk, and asked if there were any upgraded rooms available. He told us that the room we booked would be available right away, but he said he also had another option for us as they oversold their hotel on the Friday night. So, he offered us the option of staying in a suite at Paris or Rio for free, plus refunding us the first night of the package we booked and giving us an upgraded room at Caesar’s Saturday and Sunday night for no charge. Rio is at the end of the strip, so we opted for Paris, which is centre-strip. He also gave us $20 cash to cover cab fare to and from Paris. A slight inconvenience, but we are pretty flexible and the refund of the first night certainly helped. They were also accommodating in changing the 8:30 dinner reservation we had at Caesar’s at Rao’s to as soon as we were done at the desk. We checked our luggage at the bell desk and went for dinner.

After dinner, we schlepped our stuff across and down the street to Paris. With the huge cab line up at Caesar’s, and bumper to bumper traffic on the strip, we thought that walking would be our best bet. It took us about 15 minutes, so it was worth it.


We checked in quickly and easily and were given the Calais suite ( on the 7th floor. The first thing I noticed was the double door leading into the room. That was exciting in and of itself. But once we opened the door, we were blown away. The room was stunning and everything the pictures and description convey in the above link. There was a dining area, living room, 2 full bathrooms (one with jacuzzi tub, hand-held shower, toilet and bidet; the other with shower stall, toilet, dressing table and chair).  The bedroom was gorgeous, with a remote control TV that came out of a dresser at the foot of the bed.  Even better than this, though, was the view.

The Eiffel tower, outside our room!
Overall, we had a very positive experience at Paris, and while I can't speak for the standard rooms, I would consider staying there again.

Caesar's Palace

When we finished brunch and checked out of Paris and walked across the street to Caesar's Palace.  The check-in line up was quite long, so we decided to go to the Diamond and Platinum Total Rewards members line up (Harrah's players' club).  They gladly helped us, despite not being at the diamond and platinum level. 

The gave us a luxury room in the Augustus tower, with a great strip view.  The room was decorated nicely, in light blue, chocolate brown and light green.  It was very modern.  There was a beautiful wall unit with a nice flat screen TV.  The washroom was a good size, with the toilet in it's own room.  There were his and hers sinks, a jacuzzi tub and shower stall.  Plus, there was a lighted makeup mirror and a small TV on the wall. Check out the room:

We enjoyed our stay at Caesar's and despite the size of the hotel, it didn't take us long to walk wherever we were going, unlike when we stayed at the MGM Grand a few years ago.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Las Vegas Trip Report – Part 2 – The Buffalo Hotel

April 1 - Buffalo Niagara Marriott

As we were flying to Vegas out of Buffalo Friday at noon, we decided to stay overnight Thursday so we wouldn’t need to wake up and leave at an ungodly hour on Friday (to account for potential border delays, etc). I did a lot of looking around to find good deals – options were either to stay at a hotel that has free parking and a free airport shuttle for guests, or to stay at a cheapie motel and park at the Buffalo Airport (in the lot that still requires you to take a shuttle). There are websites (such as that offer hotel/parking packages at pretty decent rates (with ability to choose 7 or 14 days worth of parking). This is a great deal for people who are planning on going away for at least a week. For my purposes (a 4 day trip), I couldn’t find a deal that made sense.
In looking for a hotel to stay at, I came across a posting on TripAdvisor that said the Marriott in Amherst will allow you to park for free after staying overnight, and it also has a free shuttle to the airport. Even better, this poster wrote, you can Name Your Own Price on Priceline and get it really cheap. Apparently, this hotel is the only 3 ½ star hotel in Amherst, so even though you are bidding on what appears to be an anonymous hotel, it is actually the Buffalo Niagara Marriott. I knew exactly what this hotel was because as a kid, this is where I used to stay with my family when we went to Buffalo.

So, I bid $60 and my bid was accepted. With taxes/fees, the total was about $75 USD. This is a great deal considering Marriott’s corporate site and sites like were offering the room for $180! The cheapest motel that I would be willing to stay at was $55, and airport parking would cost us $35-$40. Overall, we got a great deal!

Check-in was very smooth, and the staff were very friendly.  We had to fill out an extra form for extended parking and arranged for our shuttle.  Once we checked in, we had to make the trek to the elevators. The elevators are far from the lobby, past the banquet facilities.  The hotel was very nice. It appears that they have recently renovated the rooms, and they look great. They are very modern looking. The hotel is smoke-free, and rooms were very clean and did not smell musty like hotel rooms tend to get.

In the morning, we had room service for breakfast. A friendly staff member fed brought us our food, which was hot and fresh.  As with all room service, it cost more than a normal breakfast but it was very convenient. We grabbed the shuttle after checking out at 10:15am and less than 15 minutes later we were at the airport.  The driver helped us with our luggage and we were on our way.  When we landed back in Buffalo after our trip, there was a courtesy phone to call the hotel for the shuttle.  15 minutes later, the shuttle came and drove us right to our car!

Next time we fly from Buffalo, we'll stay here before our flight!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Recipe: Chicken Burgers

If you know me, you know that the kitchen is not the room where I feel the most comfortable...unless someone else is doing the cooking.  I try to cook from recipes, but now and then I have things I want to use up, and make it up as I go along.  Here's the recipe I created tonight for chicken burgers. Comments welcome of course.


1 1/2 lbs lean ground chicken
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
1 egg
2/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
misc seasonings (e.g., seasoned salt, parsley, poultry seasoning, pepper, garlic powder)

  1. Preheat BBQ/indoor grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Place chicken in a big bowl.
  3. Finely chop the onion.  Add to bowl.
  4. Finely mince the garlic/use a fine grater. Add to bowl.
  5. Add the egg and Panko bread crumbs to the bowl.
  6. Sorry for the blue tint, I used my phone!
  7. Using your hands, mix all ingredients together until just combined.  (I know, this is gross, but way easier than using utensils).
  8. Shape into 6 patties about 1/2 to 2/3 inches thick.  If they are too thick, they will turn into baseballs.
  9. Season patties with misc spices.
  10. Place on grill for 6 minutes on one side.  Flip and cook to internal temperature of 165 F.
  11. Place on bun and dress.
I put loads of Frank's Red Hot and a bit of mayo and it was delicious.  Steamed cauliflower on the side made for a quick, easy and healthy meal.

These burgers are very versatile.  You could substitute the chicken for turkey, use green onion and ginger for an Asian flair, top it with cheese...anything.  


Las Vegas Trip Report – Part 1 – Intro

Trip Dates: April 1-April 5

For Easter long weekend, Dan and I took a last minute trip to Las Vegas (booked less than 2 weeks before we left). Given that I am currently working for the government, I get Easter Monday off and Dan has lots of vacay days to use, so it was perfect.

This post will serve as an intro to our fabulous trip, and following individual posts will review the hotels, food, flights and miscellaneous items.

We were flying out of Buffalo on Friday at noon, so we stayed in Buffalo Thursday night at the Marriott in Amherst. This avoided us waking up too early to drive Friday morning to Buffalo. Instead, we left after work Thursday night, which was convenient and allowed us a fabulous dinner at the Seneca Niagara Casino buffet.

Friday morning we ordered room service for breakfast, and then took the free airport shuttle to the airport. Our flight was delayed leaving by 1 hour but that didn’t affect us too bad in that we were able to catch our connecting flight. Going to Vegas, we flew United, and coming home we flew US Airways.

In Vegas, we stayed at Paris and Caesar’s Palace. We ate at Rao’s, Paris Buffet, Diego, Serendipity 3, Augustus CafĂ©, and Cheesecake Factory. We didn’t see any shows, but we walked the strip, hung out with friends Annie and Steve, checked out a lot of the casinos and searched high and low for cheap slushy drinks (did not find a one!). The wind put a damper on things, and high winds cancelled things like the Bellagio fountains, the volcano eruption at Mirage and the Sirens of TI show. Despite this, we really didn’t spend much time in the room at all!

Monday morning, sadly, we left Vegas :( . We landed in Buffalo at around 6:10pm, grabbed dinner at the Olive Garden, and did some shopping at Tops and Duty Free. It was a short trip (arrived Friday at 5pm, left Monday at 7:55 am), but jam-packed, and we didn’t sleep much (or at all Sunday night!).

I am looking forward to reviewing the places we stayed, the things we ate and the places we went!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Movie Review: Alice in Wonderland (2010)

I didn't want to wait until Alice in Wonderland (3D) was in theatres for a long time before I saw it (like Avatar).  But seeing it left me feeling disappointed with what could have been an amazing movie.  Story-wise, I felt like they could have taken the movie in so many differet directions, and it seemed to be lacking the over-the-top quirkiness that Tim Burton's films normally have.  Visually, however, it was up there with the most stunning movie I've seen.

Images from Disney's Alice in Wonderland movie site at
Helena Bonham Carter killed it as the Red Queen.  She was easily the best character in the film.  Bonham Carter's Red Queen was delightfully insane (a pig as an ottoman?!) and definitely not the kind of person you would want to report to (as did Crispin Glover's the Knave of Hearts).

Mia Masikowska played her role as the naive and adventrous Alice very well.  She was whimsical and a pleasure to watch.  I predict big things will come for Ms. Masikowska.

Johnny Depp was the thing I was most looking forward to, and the most disappointing.  He was not as maniacal as I would expect the Mad Hatter to be.  Depp's Willy Wonka was more mad!  He would randomly speak with a Scottish accent, so so often when he spoke, I would turn to Dan and say "What did he just say?".

The supporting characters were fun to watch.  Anne Hathaway as the White Queen played was very delicate, and moved gracefully  as you would expect the good queen should move.  I didn't like her makeup, which was too dark for the White Queen.  The crazy rabbit at the tea party was hilarious.  I loved the Cheshire Cat as well.

The visual appeal of this movie is huge.  There is lots going on and they use the 3D effects well.  The use of colour was great, and I culd watch it over and over just for the way the movie looked.

But you need more than good characters and stunning backdrop for a good mvie.  It moved very slowly, and I culd feel myself dozing off a bit in the middle.  I would have liked to see more from the supporting characters, and certainly more from the Red Queen.  Despite this, however, i would highly recommend that you do go see it in theatres for the full 3D experience.  Just make sure you drink a big cup of coffee before!