Almost a week into December already and we are in full Christmas mode over here! I’ve always loved Christmas, it is by far my favourite time of the year [maybe because my birthday also falls around the same time], as soon as Remembrance Day has passed I’m all about the Christmas music, decorations and activities.
One of my favourite parts of the Christmas season is all the traditions and as I’ve started my own family Kyle and I have been talking about what traditions we want to start, and which ones we want to keep from our own families.
Some that we’re keeping are, attending a Christmas Eve church service, heading to a neighbours house on Christmas Eve for appetizers and a white elephant gift exchange and putting a mandarin orange in the bottom of each stocking [I’m not sure where this tradition came from but it was always a good snack first thing on Christmas morning].
Some traditions that we as a family are starting is, sleeping in front of the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, getting new Christmas pajamas each year and wearing them when we decorate the tree, Elf on the Shelf – super easy when our oldest is only 16 months old and finding local Christmas light displays to go and visit.
Prior to kids we had visited VanDusen Festival of Lights, Bright Nights at Stanley Park, Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge. The age of our kids makes it a little difficult to do some of these again but one that we will definitely hit up is Canyon lights since we have the year pass – we’ll just make sure we go during a less busy time to make it the most enjoyable.
We kicked off Christmas this year by attending Glow, which is a new Christmas attraction that we visited a couple weeks ago and it was amazing. I’ll write another post about it in the coming days but let me say that if you have young kids, it is a great place to take them to get into the Christmas spirit. We followed that by heading out the next day to Squamish to take a ride on the Polar Express, which I’ll also follow up on in another post.
So far it’s been a great start to our Christmas season and I’d love to hear about some of your family traditions!
Never stop adventuring!
This Frugal Friday post is a little different, it’s more about how we make ourselves a little bit of money. I’ve mentioned these buy & sell groups on Facebook before – particularly when looking to save money buying locally made kids clothes. However, they are also a great resource to use when you’ve cleaned out your house and have a lot of stuff to get rid of.
One night I had a friend over and she was appalled at how much clothing I had that was out of date. I said I knew I needed to clean it out and take it to the thrift store or donation bin. She then informed me of being able to sell every day items (including clothes) on these sites. It was perfect. Now, be warned that you’re not going to get what you paid for it, or likely even close but if you think about it, getting something is better than getting nothing, which is what you would have gotten if you just donated it. Don’t get me wrong, we still donate a lot of stuff because some things simply don’t sell but we usually try to sell all items on the bidding sites first.
Let me give you an example, I just recently cleaned out my summer clothes when I was packing them away. I had probably close to 20 different items; a mix of tank tops, t-shirts, shorts, dresses etc. I simply laid them out on our floor, took a photo of them and posted them in a Lower Mainland bidding site. I set a price that was the minimum I was willing to sell the lot for ($5 I think) and people can bid in increments of .50 for the next 24 hours. I think the winning bid was only $7 but it was a win-win for me – my clothes were gone and I made a little bit of cash.
Kyle and I have cleaned out our house using these sites and it’s awesome. We’ve also done a lot of buying through these sites because often you can find great deals. We bought our dinning room table and chairs for $50!
These sites seem to have their own lingo so if you’re unsure what someone meant by something just ask – someone can usually help you out. My only warning is to make sure you read the rules that are specific to the group you are posting in and to follow them carefully. Other than that – happy buying & selling!
Never stop adventuring!
This past weekend we were super fortunate to spend a night downtown without the kids. It was an incredible night due to some very generous friends.
Friends of ours are moving out east this month and before they go they wanted to treat us and another couple we hang out with a lot to a night out on them. We were told to make sure we had someone to take the kids for the night of November 3. So we did.
Before we got to the hotel we made a stop at Cartem’s Donuterie. If you’ve never had a Cartem’s donut, you need to change that ASAP. You can’t even compare them to Tim’s. Since we were being so generously treated to this night we thought we would start the night off with something sweet for everyone on us. And lucky for us, the employee at Cartem’s was feeling generous and gave us 50% off our dozen donuts. This was a good start.
We were going to be staying at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver. Sam and I have never stayed at a fancy hotel so we were eager to see what we were in for. As we arrived at the hotel it was hard to miss the Lamborghini, Jaguar, and numerous other luxury cars parked out front of the hotel valet. The inside of the hotel is beyond luxurious with display cases full of outfits from designers I’ve never heard of.
As we got to our room we were blown away when we noticed how large it was. Why does anyone need a living room in their hotel room? As you can see from the photo below we were generously upgraded to a corner suite with an incredible view of downtown Vancouver. Friends of ours had a beautiful view of the lightly snow-dusted mountains from their corner suite.
The Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver has a half in half out pool (picture below) which means you can swim from inside to outside without leaving the pool. It’s a very unique pool that I’ve only seen in magazines. The service was incredible with an employee at the front to greet every guest as they entered the pool and to offer you a towel and your choice of flavoured water. The pool was surrounded by the gym with treadmills, ellipticals and all the free weights and workout equipment you would need. The hot tub was hot, as it should be and was where the girls spent their time.
As our last couple got to the hotel, it was time to get ready for dinner. Dinner was a short 5 minute walk away to Black+Blue. Sam nor I had been to this restaurant before so again we were excited to see what we were in for. All I knew was they served A5 Grade Wagyu Beef. If you don’t know what that is, it’s the highest quality beef in the world. Wagyu cattle are so luxurious and precious that they get massages. Yes, the cattle get massages.
At Black+Blue there is a humidity-controlled glass case at the centre of the restaurant where you can see all the different cuts of meat they serve in the restaurant. It’s pretty cool to see a whole pig hanging there and all the different cuts of beef and pork they serve. Even their caviar is in there.
I won’t tell you about everything we ordered because you probably don’t care but everything we ate that night was next level. I will tell you about the Wagyu beef, though. My friend warned me to stick to a 6 ounce steak. I was confused as I usually order a 10 or 12 ounce steak. But trust is the foundation of any friendship, right? (That sounds so cliche, barf.) I trusted him and only ordered a ounce. They bring the raw steak to your table to show it to you before they cook it to make sure that it is acceptable to you. I’d never seen one before so I obviously said yes.
The steak was amazing. Beyond amazing even. It was unlike anything I had ever eaten before. As you can see from the picture it is so well marbled that all that fat was absorbed by the meat and it was so rich. The same richness as eating a stick of butter but a million times more flavourful. You know a steak is special when its price is listed per ounce on the menu. That being said, if you ever have the opportunity it try a wagyu steak, do it. It’s something everyone must try once.
Black+Blue was amazing and we finished the night with some desserts that were made and lit on fire tableside. Needless to say, our experience there was amazing and it’s something everyone should try. I highly recommend this restaurant if you’re looking for a fancy night out for a special occasion.
We finished our night with another hot tub and more Cartem’s before crawling into our king size bed for the night.
Breakfast was at YEW Restaurant at the hotel. It too was fantastic and for whatever reason we were seated at the “special table”. You know how restaurants usually have a room with a private table? That’s the one we got, the picture above, nobody asked for it but we got it. A giant glass-walled room with a table for about 12 that the 6 of us got to enjoy our breakfast in.
All in all, it was one of the best nights we have had out in a long time. Thank you to our amazing friends for the treat!
Never stop adventuring!
Overall Rating – 3/5
6560 Main St, Vancouver, BC
Open 7 days a week 11am – 10pm
As mentioned last week in our Best Quality Sweets review, there were back to back Indian restaurants. This is the second one, All India Sweets Restaurant. We’re going to try our best not to compare the two and to give them their own unbiased review but some comparison will be included as there were some distinct contrasts between the two restaurants.
On this particular visit to Main Street we had a special guest with us, Nick Valka, from the Langara Voice newspaper who wanted to do an interview with us about the Main Street Eats project for their paper. He was super friendly and a great person to talk to. You can read his article here if you’re interested.
All Indian Sweets & Restaurant used to be on the other side of Main Street but has since moved into the vacant spot on the east side of Main. They are a smaller establishment with only about 10 booths and a buffet at the end of the restaurant. There is a bar at the far side as well.
We were quickly greeted at the door and taken to our seat when we walked in. The waitress brought us water and asked if we wanted menus but were told her we would like the buffet. She offered us the buffet plates and we helped ourselves.
They put on a vegetarian Indian buffet every day from 12pm – 9pm for $11.95 (you can add butter chicken or other meat for $4.95). It was lunchtime when we went and we figured a buffet would be a great way to sample many dishes for one price. There were dishes in the buffet that we had never heard of before so this was definitely the best choice for us to be adventurous.
When we got to the buffet one thing was definitely unusual, metal plates. We forgot to get a picture of them but think prison plates; metal plates sectioned off to keep your food from touching. It was that or styrofoam. We definitely have never eaten off a metal plate in a restaurant before.
The buffet starts with dessert, rice pudding and some other Indian dessert that wasn’t labelled and we never got the name of. Then you can have a salad, we passed as we were there for the Indian food. The next section of the buffet has gulab jamun first, another sweet. We did try some but not until the end. The last 6 trays of the buffet were what we were there to eat: pakoras (deep fried veggie fritters), rajmah (red kidney beans in an Indian-spiced gravy), Punjabi kadi (chickpea gravy with pakoras), alo gobhi (curried cauliflower), dal turka (split lentil soup), malai kofta (potato and panner balls in an onion-tomato gravy), and matar paneer (peas and paneer in a tomato sauce). To be honest, everything had clearly been sitting for a while and the sauces/gravies of the dishes starting to separate and nothing looked incredibly appetizing.
The only things I actually knew were the pakoras, only from Best Quality Sweets, and alo gobhi. Sam knew pakoras. The rest were new to our tastebuds.
For the most part, everything was just okay. It’s hard to even describe each dish because they taste exactly as you would expect. Rajmah tasted like kidney beans, the sauce didn’t seem to affect much taste. The Punjabi kadi tasted like a thick gravy, not much taste to it. alo gobhi were above average but could have used salt. Matar paneer tasted like a tomato soup as did the malai kofta.
Overall, we didn’t love anything but nothing was really terrible, either. Overall, this place was the definition of ‘okay’. The one thing we did agree on was that the pakoras were noticeably better than Best Quality Sweets and it was because they were salted. Best Quality Sweets had fried their pakoras and served them, All India had fried them then tossed them in some salt which was delicious when it hit your tastebuds.
For dessert, we opted for a styrofoam plate instead of metal. The rice pudding was again okay. Not as sweet as we expected so it tasted like rice in a slightly sweetened milk. The gulab jamun on the other hand were way too sweet for us. They were served at the buffet sitting in the honey. At Best Quality Sweets they were lightly drizzled with honey when served. At All India they sat in the honey and were able to absorb all the honey to make them incredibly sweet, too sweet for us.
This was the first place we probably wouldn’t go back to. It was underwhelming.
Next up, we will be heading to Roots Cafe, a modern, hip cafe.
Food – 2.5/5 – nothing was great, nothing was awful though
Service 4.5/5 – brought water right away and offered a high chair
Kid Friendliness – 4.5/5 – no kids’ menu but very accommodating of kids and had a high chair
Decor – 3/5 – your standard restaurant decor, no Indian flair except the music they played
Value – 4.5/5 – if you want the buffet you can get a lot of food for only $11.95 which is quite good
Never stop adventuring!