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Homecoming

I’m hoooooome!!

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Shot of the Northumberland Straight as we landed in Moncton this afternoon. Aahhh, love that Atlantic Maritime water :)

My scheduled move home couldn’t have come at a better time. We just had a death in the family and I am relieved to be near my mom and Nana right now. After a year with brain cancer, my beloved Uncle Robert passed away late Friday afternoon. It’s hard to watch my mom grieve the loss of her brother and my grandmother the loss of her son.

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That’s me (left) and my cousin Ellen on Robert’s lap. Ellen was my best friend growing up, and seeing her lose her dad is a heartache I can’t describe. Robert was a rock in my family and losing him is a great loss. 

I was with my sister Sara in Ottawa when we heard the news. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have family around. We woke up on Saturday talking about what we could do to ease our spirits that day. Obviously, we both agreed on brunch.

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A place that specializes in scones? Yesplease.

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It was very small inside. Maybe seven or so tables. You order and pay first, then they bring it to you.

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The menu!

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I was torn between getting a brunch dish or a “sconewitch.” In the end, breakfast food won over, it always does!

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Then there’s always the lifelong debate over sweet & savoury. I actually prefer my scones cheesy or spicy, so I went for cheddar.

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Got my “sweet” elsewhere instead ;)

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$1 brownies at the cash register. SO dangerous. Was a wonderful, fudgey appetizer while we waited for our orders.

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Plus my third coffee of the day. Don’t judge. I’ve been stress-drinking tea and coffee lately. And chocolate (as exhibited above).

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T’was brewed pretty strong!

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Sister Sara went for a sweet scone – Vanilla Cream with Blueberry & Raspberry jam. I had a bite and it was diviiiiine.

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I on the other hand went the eggs & ham route, piled high on my cheddar scone.

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The scone, while giant by my usual standards, was flaky, buttery, dense and everything a good scone should be. The scrambled eggs were actually way better than I’ve ever made them at home, and the ham of good quality. They give pretty good fruit on the side too. My only complaint about the place is the tables are too small. Not comfortable to eat at!

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Me and my big sis! With a certain blonde missing… (middle sister Jane). I’ll be seeing her again soon though for the funeral. The one silver lining in death is that it brings family together in a way that rarely ever happens.

Even though I’ll be living with my dad here at home, I’m currently staying at my mom’s place. I may be going over to my Nana’s too. You know, just to “be around.” To be supportive during this initial period of grief and distract them by making messes with my one arm. Everyone wants to fret over my other injured arm.

Despite everything, it certainly feels good to be home.

“The Slump” and My Saving Grace

I have something of a confession.

Before the accident that broke my arm, I was going through a bit of a “workout” slump.

I know this is a pretty common occurrence, but what made mine notable is that it lasted for almost a year.

Ever since leaving my much loved gym in Fredericton last April, working out has been a challenge. More of a challenge than it was in the past. Before, I legitimately loved exercise. Working out was my favourite time of day. I had to consciously limit my workouts to 60-90 minutes, otherwise I’d just want to keep going. I had the proverbial fire in my belly about exercise. I mean, it’s why I quit my blossoming career as a radio reporter to become a personal trainer.

And then it just went away. After leaving Fredericton, I stayed with my mom in Moncton for a month. I felt like I was dragging myself to the gym for mediocre workouts every day. I blamed it on my newfound unemployment making me lazy. Or the fact that the gym there didn’t have my favourite classes or lifting equipment.

When I arrived in Toronto in July, I immediately found work as a personal trainer. This had to get me excited about exercise again… right?

Wrong.

It turned it into work. I’m not talking about my sessions with clients, but about my own personal fitness. After a long day of training, the last thing I wanted to do was stay at the gym an hour longer to get my own workout in. Training on the same equipment I worked on made it feel less fun. Not to mention, the gym was far away from where I lived, and getting there was a real hassle when I wasn’t getting paid for it. I hardly ever went to the group fitness classes at my gym because peak class hours coincided with peak training hours.

When I injured my arm six weeks ago, I admit, I was a little relieved by the prospect of not feeling pressured to work out. The only reason why I have consistently exercised during this extended “slump” is to maintain my health and fitness. Because that’s what a personal trainer is expected to do.

It has been 10 months of bored workouts + 6 weeks of complete rest and I am finally, finally, starting to feel enthusiastic about it again. I feel like setting fitness goals again. Like following a training program. Jeez, I could even sign up for a race! I’m starting to get a bit of a smoulder in my belly again. I know it will be a while yet until I’m back in my full fighting form. But I have a lot of hopes for things I’ll be able to do this summer. Activities I’ll be able to do outdoors in the Maritimes – even with my rehabbing arm. First step is getting the okay to run again. I’m going to bug my surgeon about it again tomorrow!

Anyways, it is with this that I bring you my final Toronto brunch.

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I only just heard of Saving Grace after it made the #3 spot in BlogTO’s latest Best Brunch in Toronto list. I’d already tried the one and two spots, so I had to round out the top three!

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Saving Grace is this reeeeeally small place in Little Portugal. So small they make you wait outside for a table because there’s no room for people to stand in the doorway. It wasn’t that big of a deal on the spring-like day we were there. But that’s not cool in the dead of winter.

We arrived there at 10:30am not knowing it opens at 10am. We had to wait for the first round of brunchers to finish up before we were seated. Rookie mistake!

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I of course ordered a coffee right away as my eyes glazed over considering both the brunch menus.

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Gah! Fish tacos? Savoury french toast? Poached eggs on lentils? ROSEMARY MAYO??

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Roomie Megan went for that last one. More specifically the Old White Cheddar Sandwich: tomato, avocado, lettuce, rosemary mayo, toasted whole wheat raisin bread w/ greens & potatoes.

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Roommie Jocelyn went for the two poached eggs with toast, potatoes and greens.

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Me? After gathering my wits, I decided on the Corn Pancakes with blueberry maple syrup & breakfast sausages.

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Real bits of corn! These were actually very light and not too sweet. Nothing like the dense cornbread I’m used to. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet.

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I did love the combo of corn + blueberries. The maple syrup with cooked blueberries was divine.

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And breakfast sausage!! I love breakfast links. Preferably when smothered in a healthy dose of ketchup.

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I ate the whole darn thing and didn’t even feel that full. Perhaps it speaks to how light the pancakes were. Or maybe it’s just that I’m ready to go pro with brunching ;)

I’m working on a personal Best Of Brunch list and a Best Of Toronto list for next week. But you can always find a list of restaurants visited under the Restaurants tab!

See ya tomorrow with a doc update and some sweet treats ;)

Schooled

Remember when I proclaimed The Grilled Cheese the coolest restaurant idea in Toronto? I still maintain that proclamation, but that doesn’t mean School Bakery & Cafe doesn’t come pretty darn close.

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Located just on the outskirts of Liberty Village, School was a bit of an afterthought on my Toronto Bucket List. Reader Joanne suggested it in the comments and I was reminded of reading reviews on it a while back.

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Being on the other end of the city (it’s way out West, I come from the East), I wasn’t sure if I’d find the time to make it there. My friends and I already had Sunday brunch plans for this week. Which meant I’d have to be motivated enough to get there on my own for a solo weekday brunch.

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Until we realized that we could brunch on Saturday too. What a novel idea – both days of the weekend! I immediately suggested this place and my friends agreed upon seeing the spectacular menu.

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We arrived around 12:45pm to a line-up out the door. Waiting for brunch in this city is just the norm. That’s why it’s always best to go with a small group of friends. The smaller the party, the faster you’ll get seated!

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I loved this place the second we made it inside the door. Unlike other cramped brunch places in the city, School is made up of two large rooms. Including a garage-type door they open up for a patio in the summer. There’s also the open kitchen concept, which I lovelovelove.

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The decor of School is just that – reminiscent of being in a school down to the very last detail. Chalkboards and books line the walls. It’s even inside an institutional looking building that reminds me of an actual school.

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Let’s not forget the projectors playing silent Betty Boop cartoons…

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Or the apple centerpiece on every table…

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But the menu is where School really shines through, not just the loose-leaf it’s printed on.

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It’s divided into two sections. Sweet n’ Fruity:

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Salt n’ Savoury:

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My friends, this was a hard decision. I studied this menu like any good student would. I went back and forth between Super Cheesy French Toast, Smoked Salmon Endive Salad, or maybe the Upstream Benni?

Roommie Megan went for the first choice – Super Cheesy French Toast.

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With double smoked bacon, maple syrup and greens. This was probably the thickest sliced French toast I’ve ever seen. Still incredibly light and fluffy though. The gooey cheese was actually the perfect compliment to the eggy bread, and the maple syrup made it the perfect blend of sweet & savoury.

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The boys went for the Melted Gooey Four Cheese Omelet Soufflé. They said it was a lot like a fluffy egg pancake.

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And what did I finally decide on?

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That would be the Spiced Benni on Cheddar Chive Biscuit served with back bacon, chipotle hollandaise and home fries.

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I asked for the hollandaise on the side as I don’t actually like it. But I spread a little on top just to get the spiciness of it. The eggs came out perfectly poached and runny. The bacon in thick slices. Then there was the biscuit.

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Hands down, the best part of the meal was the biscuit. It was even a little spicy. The perfect size and shape for the benni, and didn’t turn to mush under the bacon and runny eggs.

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The home fries were spectacular to boot. Crisp and slightly black on the outside, soft on the inside. Not too greasy and the perfect two-bite size.

Apart from their brunch, I’d also heard good things about School’s bakery. Something I was easily convinced of as soon as I tried their biscuit. So just as we were about to get the bill, I asked for an extra treat to-go. Something I drooled over as we stood waiting to get in earlier.

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That my friends, is a Nutella scone (also pictured earlier in the post). I spent all afternoon walking down Yonge St. with it in my purse. Like, from Lawrence to Bloor stations. Just over four miles. I thought for sure I’d destroyed this thing of beauty during my wanderings, ripping into it immediately when I got home.

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The scones had been just pulled out of the oven when the waitress gave this to me. I popped it in the microwave for a few seconds. Long enough to make the chocolate flavour stand out and the nutella on top to melt. It was very soft for a scone without the sweetness of a cake. A little spice in there too. This, and a side of celery may have been my dinner on Saturday…

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Overall, School gets a passing grade. I will say the wait to get our food was longer than acceptable, and they did mess up one of our orders. The price is also a little high for brunch. I don’t normally spend 20 bucks on breakfast (or err, “second breakfast” in this case). Still though, totally worth the trip and price for the one-time experience.

I have one more Toronto brunch review to do, then I plan on doing a post featuring my top brunch spots and dishes. You’ll just have to wait to see how School shaped up compared to the rest of the class ;)

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