Month: November 2013

holiday shopping: six ways to think outside the box

The holiday season is fast approaching, soon we’ll be eating more than we should, sharing great times with our loved ones and exchanging gifts. Gift giving can be a lot of fun but it can also be a lot of stress. There’s the issue of knowing what to get someone (how many scented candles do I need!) and making the time to get all the shopping done. There is also the concern that Christmas has become too commercial and materialistic. The problem for me is, I agree but I still love to give gifts. I love the look on someone’s face when I know I’ve bought the perfect gift, but these gifts don’t need to be material, here is a list of places you can buy gifts that we go even further.

  1. Habitat for Humanity – A great charity I had the privilege of volunteering with a few months ago has a gift guide. For your friends or family, you can be equipment used to build a home or items for a home in their name that will go to help provide low-income families with safe and affordable housing. You can get tools like hammers, screwdrivers or hardhats or household items like shower heads, light fixtures or smoke detectors.
  2. Toronto Humane Society – For the animal lover in your life, consider a donation to the THS. You have the choice of helping a cat, a dog, an unusual pet or giving where the need is greatest. These gifts go to help feed, provide medical care and other needs of these animals living in the Humane Society’s care. These adorable gifts come with cards for you to give to your recipient.
  3. WWF – Another great option for animal lovers is WWF. You can select from a variety of animals and they send you a plush to give to your recipient. There is so many options such as turtles, polar bear, koala bears and pandas. This is a great option if you want to give someone something to open when you give your magical gift.
  4. SickKids Foundation – These gifts are perfect for just about anyone you know. This site is really well designed and makes it easy to sort by occasion and budget. There is a large assortment of items such as stockings for children in the hospital over the holidays, decorations for the hospital, as well as hospital equipment. You can also give ‘gift certificates’ to allow the person the chance to pick what kind of gift they want to give to the hospital. 
  5. Plan Canada – Plan Canada also has a large assortment of gifts to ‘give’ to your loved ones. Some are matched by various organizations meaning your dollars go even further. They also have a number of gifts associated with their “because I am a girl” campaign, which is dedicated to the rights of girls. You can purchase items like bed nets, to protect families from malaria, fruit trees, animals, school supplies and medical support which helps families in the developing world.
  6. Christmas Wish – This idea actually came from someone I know who worked with a group of people that were tired of candles, bath soaps and chocolates for Christmas. A couple of years ago, they started a Secret Santa with a twist. They each drew a name and purchased a toy for them to give to the Christmas Wish. The idea was to buy a toy that reminded you of your person which made it a lot of fun. They still had the typical Secret Santa price tag of around $20 but they really had a great time with their new Secret Santa. 

Hopefully this list has giving you some ideas of how to think outside the box. Do you have any non-traditional gift giving ideas? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Shopping!

November 18-21: what to do/eat/see/drink this week on a schoolnight

Monday again, but that’s ok, because as always there is so much going on in our great city. Take a look at a few ideas of what’s coming up.

Do: This Tuesday, test your sense of humour and humanity by playing the popular game “Cards Against Humanity” at Cardinal Rule in Roncesvalles. If you’ve never played this hilarious game, you’re in for a treat. You can go by yourself and join a group or go with friends. The idea of the game is to fill in the blanks with the most ridiculous, offensive and hilarious results. They have drink and food specials, they also have a pretty extensive gluten-free and vegan menu.

See: Thursday night is opening night to the Planet in Focus film festival. It is the largest film festival of its kind in Canada. Congratulations to all the winners of the contests and thanks to Planet in Focus for providing those passes for my winners. Be sure to follow the blog and twitter for updates as I will be writing from the festival all weekend.

Eat: The Drake Hotel is the place foodies will want to be tonight. It begins at 8pm and admission is free, it allows anyone to become a food judge. There will be competitive cook-offs, do-it-yourself food art and a pickle competition. It will certainly be a unique experience.

Drink: This Thursday, The Office Pub on John St will have a great fundraiser for Movember. #AfterWorkDrinksTO is $10 online or $20 at the door. There will be great drink specials, prizes, silent auction, karaoke and dancing. It promises to be a great party for a great cause.

November 15-17: what to do/see/eat/drink this weekend in toronto

There is so much going on in Toronto this weekend, and I expect that it will only get crazier as we head into the holidays. Here are a few things going on:

Do: The final Toronto Underground Market of the year is this weekend. The event takes place at the Evergreen Brickworks. There will be a variety of food, beer and wine vendors at this outdoor event. This event will also feature food trucks for the first time. It’s an interesting event and a great way to learn about local vendors that are just starting out. This is a 19+ event and you can purchase tickets in advance online.

See: If you’re an early riser, and love movies this event is for you. Cineplex theatres is hosting Community Day again this Saturday. The movies begin at 9am and they are free! You can also get many concession snacks for $2. Popcorn for breakfast sounds like the best idea ever. Best of all, all of the proceeds will go to the Canadian Olympic Foundation. I love an event that supports a good cause.

Eat: The Gluten-Free Garage is being held this Sunday at the Artscape Wychwood Barns near Christie and St. Clair. Admission is $10 and kids under 12 are free. There will be three speakers covering topics related to healthy gluten-free living. There will be a number of vendors sampling their product as well as local health experts and representatives from the Canadian Celiac Association. Whether you’re new to gluten-free or have been explaining it to people for years, this event is for you.

Drink: The Gourmet Food & Wine Expo is this weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. General admission is $20 for Friday and Sunday and $25 for Saturday. There is a large number of wine, beer and spirit vendors at the event as well as a variety of food vendors. Sample tickets are $1 each and can be used for food and drinks, samples vary between 1-6 tickets. This is also a 19+ event, its a great way to try products you may not want to commit to without tasting. You may find your new favourite things. 

thirsty thursday: aretha franklin

I stopped in to Joe Mama’s because they had a $5 martinis. They had a pretty big menu selection of ‘martinis’. I tried one delightfully named Aretha Franklin.

It was shaken cocktail with:
1.5oz of vodka
0.5oz of peach schnapps
lime cordial
splash of cranberry.

It was a good martini and the price was so right, there was no complaining. If you’re down on King St, check if their special is running, or maybe just whip up a bunch of them at your next party (the holidays are coming!)

canadian cancer society: relay for life committee

As promised, I will continue to post great volunteer opportunities in the Greater Toronto Area. Last year, I started on the committee for the 2013 Relay for Life in Richmond Hill. I was charged with the entertainment portion of the event but we had a fairly small committee. We were small but mighty, we all worked together and made something truly beautiful happen. We had a night of fun, laughter, tears and coming together to fight back against cancer. It was an unbelievably rewarding experience. I also put in a team with friends and family and it was really great to have everyone there most of the night. 

This year, I’ll be back on the Richmond Hill committee, with my role to be determined but I can’t wait to get started. It was such a rewarding experience to know that we brought together such a great event and raised almost $50,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society. The committees are looking for passionate and enthusiastic members. The time-commitment is about one meeting a month, the tasks you take on and a few extra meetings right before the event. If you want to help make a difference, send me an email!

If you want to learn more about this opportunity, check out the Charity Village post.
If you’d like to learn more about the event or put in a team, check out the Canadian Cancer Society’s page. 

Canadian Cancer Society South York Region Unit Relay For Life Events's photo.

thirsty thursday: jacob’s creek moscato

I recently had a girls night in and my friend served Jacob’s Creek Moscato. And I have to say, it was delicious. It was a wine more suited for sipping in the summer on the patio but it is awesome enough to drink in the cooler weather. This is a light white wine, with a little bit of bubbles. It is not as strong as a champagne. It would be great in a sangria or punch but is perfectly good on its own. It is a sweeter wine but not overly sweet and is a little fruity. I really recommend this wine for your next girls night, just make sure to buy at least two, it’ll definitely go quickly. 

This Australian wine is available at the LCBO on sale for $9.95 until the 10th, regularly $10.95.

November 4-7: what to do on a school night this week

Do: I’ll be mentioning The Gladstone in the next little while but they definitely have a lot going on, they’re mentioned twice today. This Tuesday, they have Buffy the Vampire Slayer trivia happening at 7pm. There will be prizes and a screening of an episode following the trivia. It’s free to get in and I suggest getting there early, as it will fill up quickly.

See: Aladdin on stage opened on Friday at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. Twenty-somethings grew up loving this movie, the genie and the magic carpet. This musical is sure to bring back all those wonderful memories of a whole new world. It will be interesting to see how all the magic of the movie plays out in a live show. The show plays until January 5th, so check it out soon. 

Eat: If you’re looking for a nice date night, check Wednesday nights at Milestones. At a number of locations throughout the city, you can get dinner for two for $50. There is a shareable appetizer, a few choices for a main and a shareable dessert. It’s a nice treat to look forward to mid-week. 

Drink: On Tuesday nights, The Gladstone from 5-11pm half price wine bottles. Tuesdays can be a tough day, you’re not still relaxed from the weekend and you’re still a ways away from the weekend, so a half price bottle of wine is the perfect way to ease into hump day.

new territory: the royal agricultural winter fair

I went on a new adventure today, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. It is definitely where the city meets the country and this city girl saw a lot of new things today.

After fighting a lot of traffic to get down there, we decided to eat first. We started at with apple dumplings, which I considered more of a baked apple but they were absolutely delicious.

delicious apple dumpling
these guys are only open for the fair, they’re basically worth going for

Following our dessert, my friends decided to get lunch. There was a large selection of food. We got Pinky’s Steamed Dogs, they were also really good. There was everything from pulled pork to perogies to tiny toms to well just about everything you could want. They also had some licensed areas, when you needed to sit down for a few minutes and enjoy a cold one.

food court area

Next we went to the petting zoo. They had a mix of alpacas, goats, cows and some of the funniest geese I have ever seen. They had funny feathers on top of their head – they really made me laugh.

funny feathered-dos
alpacas eating pellets

Following the petting zoo, we went to see the oversized produce. There was everything from pumpkins to apples. It was quite strange to see such unnecessarily large fruits and vegetables.

large pumpkins

cows eating their hay

We ended our day watching the 4-H club cows parade around the arena. I had to ask a lot of questions about this event. Apparently, they show the cows, and win prizes. There was over a hundred cows competing in this event. To be completely honest, it wasn’t my favourite part and I’m still not sure I completely understand the concept.

4-H members before the cows

It was an interesting day at the fair. To be honest I was surprised how much I enjoyed myself. I didn’t include photos of the vendors at the fair but there was a lot of them. They were selling a variety of items including food, farming equipment and household items. The ticket price at $23 originally seemed a little steep but there was a lot to do. There was even more for kids to do, particularly if they’re animal  lovers. I’d recommend if you’ve never been to the fair, its a unique experience, especially if farming isn’t normally your thing. Have fun!

week two of planet in focus giveaway

It’s week two of my giveaways for Planet in Focus! This week I’ve got 4 sets of two tickets to Fest Forums. Each Fest Forum film is followed by a discussion with the director of the film. Two events will be at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and two will be at the AGO.

The Fest Forum films will be:
Burning Ice followed by a climate change discussion with director Peter Gilbert
GMO – OMG followed by a GMO Discussion with director Jeremy Seiffert
Bidder 70 followed by an activism discussion with directors George and Beth Gage
Carpe Diem followed by a great lakes discussion with director Charlotte Engel

You can win two tickets to one of the Fest Forum by using the Rafflecopter below, contest closes Saturday night at 11:59pm. Best of luck to everyone! a Rafflecopter giveaway

November 1-3: what to do/see/drink/eat this weekend

Do: Halloween was last night but there are a few parties happening this weekend. The Gladstone has a “Redrum” party that pays homage to the classic horror story “The Shining”. The party takes place over two floors and will have drinks specials, DJs and costumes so if you’re a lover of horror movies, particularly “The Shining”, this should be your party. 

See: If you love to watching the spectacle that is karaoke, then the Gladstone is the place for you. Saturday night they have karaoke from 11pm-2am. It starts at the perfect time, enough time to get a drink to loosen up. It takes place in the Melody Bar and it gets busy. Make sure you brush up on your “Sweet Caroline”

Drink: If Cask Days a few weeks ago has you wanting more Cask Beer, B
arVolo has you covered. They are responsible for Cask Days at the Evergreen Brick Works. The bar is at Yonge, North of Wellesley. They have rotating beers that change daily, you can’t beat that selection. They update the list daily on their site, so you can make your pick before even getting there. 

Eat: This Sunday is the Luxury Chocolate Show at Roy Thompson Hall, tickets are $25 or discount through TeamBuy. There will be chocolate samples, giveaways, chocolate eating contests and chocolate education sessions. The show wraps up with the 911 Chocolate Relay at 6:30pm, where firefighters, police officers and paramedics race in a chocolate contest. The title went to the Toronto Police Service last year. If you’re a chocolate lover, this show is for you.