Monthly Archives: July 2007

Niagara Region and Its Glory

hi everyone, it’s sunday, august 12 and it’s been a while since i’ve written. i’m happy to say it’s because i’ve been out and about (or oot and aboot) enjoying the fabulous weather and festivals that abound. torontonians definitely enjoy their summers while warning me on a daily basis that it’s because of their severe winters. i’m still skeptical, what with global warming and all, but we shall see soon enough. i’ve done some cool things in the last few weeks so hopefully you’ll read on.

as some of you know, i’ve become somewhat of a wine lover in the past year or so. i joined a cool wine club called the iYellow Wine Club when i moved here and one of their activities is a wine tour to the niagara wine region. it was a glorious july day and the wineries were beautiful. we got some special treatment at each winery with either the president or winemaker touring us! we got to touch the grapes and even eat them straight from the vine – they were bitter…not like the ones at central market! although my buying habits have slowed since moving to T.O., i still ended up having bought the most number of bottles for the day at 8! we went to the vineland estates winery (http://www.vineland.com/), henry of pelham (http://www.henryofpelham.com/), and flat rock cellars, my personal favorite (http://www.flatrockcellars.com/). flat rock’s vineyards look out over lake ontario and in the distance, you can faintly see downtown T.O….it’s just gorgeous.

 

i met a very nice couple from johannesburg, south africa on the tour. they have taken me under their wing and even though we speak the same language, it’s quite humorous when one of us says a word that the other has no idea what it means and we just stare and laugh! it has been just amazing listening to them talk about the changes their country has undergone in the last 10 years and i’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
one of the necessary “to do’s” in T.O. is making a visit to the st. lawrence market. it is one of the largest food markets in the world and on saturdays, is bustling with people buying everything from pastries, fruits, coffees/teas to $5 filet mignon wrapped in bacon. yum! i went with the couple from the wine tour and we had breakfast at carousel bakery (http://www.carouselbakery.com/) where we had their famous breakfast sandwiches with peameal bacon (basically back bacon – i don’t care for it very much but the canadians love it – it’s on every menu i’ve seen in one form or another).
david beckham was in town recently playing the Toronto FC. the city pretty much went into pandemonium mode. i heard rumours of him being seen at roots (a canadian clothing store) and the whole street being shut down to accommodate.
i’ve finally found my version of “warren’s” in T.O. called crush wine bar. it’s within stumbling distance of my house so i can imbibe in their glorious wines all i want. so nice not to have to worry about how to get home. (http://www.crushwinebar.com/) there are a few other regulars i’ve seen in there and they seem to be charmed by my alleged accent. i keep reminding everyone that THEY have the accent. even weirder – the main bartender’s name is my middle name and it’s not a common name. it was meant to be. here are a couple of wine suggestions that i tried recently and that were delish:
2005 Dolcetto Langhe “Il Masante”, Poderi Aldo Conterno
1999 Rioja Reserva “Senorio de P. Pecina”, Bodegas Hnos Pecina
a few friends from texas have come up recently which i absolutely love! not only because it’s so great to see them, but it helps you stay connected to your real home. and, even better is that i get to share all of my cool finds with them. it’s funny when i get asked for directions on the street – i must have assimilated quite well because i get asked frequently for directions. so for all of you who haven’t come up yet, it’s just a short plane ride away (well, it’s kinda long on continental) and my sofa can be your home away from home. we can eat, drink and be merry!
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P.S.

i almost forgot – i’m trying to taste as many canadian foods as i can while i’m here, not only in restaurants, but at the grocery store as well. here’s what i’ve tried thus far:

Whippets: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whippet_cookie

Smarties (like M&M’s in the US…not like the sugary candy we’re used to): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smarties_(Nestlé)

Ketchup chips – yes, chips flavored like Ketchup. http://www.taquitos.net/snacks.php?snack_code=369

The Verdict? yes on the whippets and smarties; negative on the ketchup chips.

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I (heart) Canada

hi everybody! so much to tell but rather than bore you with the gory details, i’ll try to maintain some brevity going forward. i’ve never been accused of being long winded (at least i don’t think so) but i noticed my blogs were becoming mini-james michener novels.

i’ve been doing so much in toronto that people are telling me that i’m going to run out of things to do by christmas if i don’t slow it down. i think you just take for granted what you already know and vice versa with what you don’t. this city offers so much and i want to see as much as i can that i seem to be on a full out sprint the majority of the time. i’ve settled into a routine for the most part as far as my work schedule is concerned. i’ve been very pleased at how many days i’m able to take mass transit to work – i am really enjoying taking the subway and have increased my reading time and novel completion number significantly (speaking of, i just finished a thousand splended suns by hosseni – it is one of the best novels i’ve ever read – go buy it today.). i’ve found that i am rarely driving in toronto and could easily make it here without a car. this is a good thing, primarily because i’m paying $4.40 per gallon in toronto. i will never, ever complain about $3/gallon gas again.

so, what have i done? well, i went to a blue jays game which was fun – it was weird, though, to not hear anyone sing the star spangled banner, but hear everyone singing the canadian anthem. check out the mean farmer sunburn, i got from sitting in the nosebleed section, too (see photo). who’d have known that the sun is actually more fierce here than in houston? i’m sure that milkshake will bring all the boys from the yard.


i went to the toronto outdoor art festival which was fantastic! i bought a piece of art from an artist from northern ontario that i really love. there was some really amazing stuff. http://www.torontooutdoorart.org/ . the taste of thailand festival was this weekend and it was cool. i watched some thai dancing, thai massage and had some fantastic thai food. (http://www.tasteofthailand.ca/) (what a serious dork! that serious dork got suckered into buying one of those parasols too….apparently, $1 from the sale of every one goes to charities in thailand so of course i had to model it. yeah right.)


i went to the distillery district. http://www.thedistillerydistrict.com/ during the 1800’s, this area was the largest distillery in the british empire. the city of toronto has now turned the actual distillery into an area filled with small shops, restaurants and art galleries while leaving the majority of the distillery in tact. it has cobblestone roads throughout and has maintained it’s industrial look. one of the best choclatiers in toronto is in the distillery district and being a professional sweet eater, it was really, really good. they use a lot of venezuelan chocolate – everything had a very pure chocolate taste. http://www.somachocolate.com/


i mentioned in a previous blog that i planned to attend the fringe theatre festival and after much haranguing with the tickets, i actually made it to a play at the gladstone hotel. it was WAY, WAY cool. the play took place throughout the hotel rather than with the audience just sitting in one place. there were 4 plays happening at once and the characters would interchange with the other plays going on. in other words, even though we were seeing one play, the actors were really going between plays. talk about timing! it was something i’d never seen before…they call it “convergence theatre” and i thought it was genius. (http://www.fringetoronto.com/ and http://torontoist.com/2007/07/fringeist_check.php – review of “The Gladstone Variations”.

i’ve seen a couple of film shoots since i’ve been here. i wish i knew what movies they’re for so i can be on the lookout for the scenes. hairspray was filmed here, along with cinderella man, chicago, and good will hunting. they call it “hollywood north” and now i know why. the white trailer business must be booming here.

i’ve finally found some good places to eat…i knew they were here, but just had to find them. my favorite place so far is called Toba and it’s delicious! (http://www.toba.ca/) i’m also loving the crepes at cafe crepe. i think i talked about this place in a previous posting, but if not, they have the best nutella crepes EVER! pizza rustica has great panini, too. (http://www.pizzarustica.ca/)
the weather continues to be very nice – today, the high was 74 with 58% humidity and sunny skies. these people just don’t know what they’ve got as far as weather is concerned.

lastly, you might know that the final installment of a little book that goes by the name “harry potter” comes out this week. i thought people were gonna lose their shit over this book here. if only i had tried harder in school and been clever enough to come up with the idea of “hogwarts”…who could have guessed?!

At Chapters in the Eaton Centre:


hope everyone’s well,
carm

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Who Knew?

So, I’m walking down Queen Street West the other day minding my own business when, all of a sudden, what appears before my eyes and ears but the cacophony of rubber on concrete and hundreds of people on bikes.  Even two-story ones.  I turn around and lo and behold, see this craziness!  Apparently, the riders were doing a little pre-event promo for the Bicycle Film Festival, a “festival” that celebrates all things “bike” in all its forms and styles.

The idea for the festival was born in 2001, when the founder, Brendt Barbur, was hit by a bus while riding his bike in New York City. He decided that, rather than be forced off the road, he’d create a way to celebrate the bicycle through music, art and film, and of course, awareness.  To wit, the festival is now held in 39 cities around the world, Toronto being one of them, natch.

Awesomeness.

Bicycle Film Festival

Bicycle Film Festival 2

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Canada Day, Ikea, Movies & TV

today is Canada Day. everyone is wearing their red and white (no blue here) and there are many gatherings and goings on around town. i get the buffalo, new york news and they’re, of course, getting ready for july 4th. so i hear “celebrate independence day” and “celebrate canada day” the next second and i’m experiencing a bit of vertigo because of it. where am i?

i went to the movies for the first time since i’ve been here. i’m a big movie buff so i was excited to see how they do it here. guess how much a movie is in toronto? $11.95!!! yes, that’s right…eleven dollars and ninety-five cents. i almost fell over.! i saw “knocked up” which is hilarious! and, they make several references to canada in the movie so it was fun to be with the canadians watching it. they’re so polite about it…they just quietly giggle. it was literally the quietest movie i’ve been to in years….oh, how i love it here!

i made a second trip to ikea to pick up a couple of things (they have 4 here, btw, versus 1 in houston). when i was checking out, i noticed a sign that said all credit cards have to be signed on the back. i personally don’t sign the backs of my cards in hopes that the person checking me out will actually ask to see ID in the event of theft. evidently, that same logic does not hold true in canada. it was saturday and the ikea sale. needless to say, it was packed. i think i was actually almost run over by the vw car with the stacks of luggage on top. but i digress. the cashier checked me out and after he had already swiped my card and after i had signed the receipt and start walking away, he literally starts yelling at me that they can’t accept my payment since my card isn’t signed. he really got spun up about it as if i was some kind of escaped convict trying to steal a spatula and dishtowel. i pulled out my temporary drivers license with my name on it along with 2 other credit cards with my name on it that are signed and tried to explain to him that in the States, we have theft and so don’t sign the cards. it didn’t matter. the man actually pulled out his manual to show me that Visa/Mastercard don’t allow purchases with cards that aren’t signed. there were literally 20 people in line, all glaring at the stupid american. the manager, of course, was eventually called over, who refunded every item i bought and RERUNG everything using a different card. new experiences every day.

last thing – TV. canadian television does not censor like the US does. really, no other country censors like we do, and one could argue that censorship actually incites people to crave what they can’t have. well, i’ll argue that anyway. in canada, they don’t bleep out the curse words on the sopranos, nor do they grey out nudity, etc., etc. it’s full on here. interesting. just so you know.

New Word of the Day: Humidex http://www.qc.ec.gc.ca/Meteo/Documentation/Humidex_e.html

Coming this week – the Toronto Fringe Festival (http://www.fringetoronto.com/)

New Restaurant Tried = Cafe Crepe (Nutella crepes…yummmm!)

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The Adventures Continue…

hi everybody! so much to catch up on since i wrote last. i’ve been settling in to my new home, neighborhood and most importantly, job very nicely. my car and personal effects finally arrived (yay for candles!) in toronto on friday so i’m finally starting to feel like i’ll actually be here for a while rather than feeling like i’m in on an extended vacation. i’m living in the entertainment district (as i mentioned before) and here’s where i’m living while i’m here so you can check out the area (http://www.tridel.com/element/). i also cleared all of my items through canadian customs with no problems. when i walked up to the counter, the man said “where are you coming from with that accent?” and i said “accent? what accent?” i never thought i had much of one, but i evidently stick out like a sore thumb here!

the newness of being here has worn off just a bit. there really aren’t many things familiar here so it’s a constant state of “not knowing what’s where”. they just opened a Forever 21 in Toronto and for those of you guys who don’t know what that is, they knock off current runway looks in a very inexpensive way (it’s cheap, in other words!). it was bustling and i picked up a couple of cute things. the toronto transit commission (http://www.ttc.ca/) was demo’ing their “next generation” streetcars but i must say that they look exactly like the light rail trains already in use in houston, so one up for the bayou city! on my way back from shopping, i stopped to listen to some jazz being played near city hall. one of the 2 jazz festivals that happen in toronto is going on this week so i picked up a hot dog from a street vendor (they’re actually REALLY good and fresh here) along with a fresh squeezed lemonade and listened to some jazz. it was fantastic.(http://www.torontojazz.com/Pages/Toronto_Downtown_Jazz_Festival_pgM29.asp)

i haven’t eaten out here nearly as much as i did in houston, primarily because i don’t know what’s good and what isn’t. there are so many places to choose from here that it’s difficult to narrow down. somewhere that looks like a hole in the wall could be the best place in toronto! not to mention, it’s very expensive to eat out here because of all the taxes that are added onto everything. after a little research, i found a few local places, though, and headed out. i was in the mood for roti (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roti) which i fell in love with the last time i was here. there is such a large indian population here (next largest outside of india) that there is something with indian flavoring on almost every menu you see. i ate at gandhi roti which was really, really good. i got the chicken jalfoorezi and when they asked me if i wanted mine mild, medium or spicy, i opted for the medium, thinking that my texas upbringing had prepared me for all things spicy. UH UH!! not here. my mouth was on fire in about 2 seconds, but i pressed on due to the major hunger pangs that were poking my insides and took the rest to go. gandhi is a definite must when you’re in town. (http://chriswalsh.vox.com/library/post/gandhi-cuisine-the-best-roti-in-toronto.html) on my way back home, i heard hooting and hollering coming up behind me. a few cyclists passed me, and then some more, and more, and when i turned around, there were hundreds of people on bicycles riding down queen street! i don’t mean cyclists like lance armstrong…i mean just regular guys and girls on their schwinn’s riding through the streets. they were promoting the bicycle film festival coming up later this year. one guy was on a 2 story bike that was made up of about 6 bikes on top of one another. when a red light came up, he had to lean against a light pole so as not to fall on the pavement. it was a really cool sight. (http://www.bicyclefilmfestival.com/).

one other cool place i visited was pages bookstore. it’s a small, locally owned bookstore which are sadly, slowly dying out, but it’s an amazing store on queen street and you should definitely pay it a visit and SUPPORT the store when you’re in toronto. (http://pagesbooks.ca/)

good news for those of you spending nights worrying about this – i finally found a place to get my nails done. if you know me, you know this is a vital part of my beauty regimen and i’ve gone without since before i left houston. the place i found was modeled after the beauty bars that sprouted up in new york in the last few years and it’s a really neat concept called polish beauty bar. (http://www.polishbeautybar.com/) oddly (!), they immediately asked me “where are you from” and get this – when i said texas, the store manager asked what part…when i said houston, she said “my sister lives in houston, well, right outside houston in sugar land…she moved from calgary to houston 3 years ago”….can you just believe it?! it’s a tiny, tiny world out there. i lunched at the only repeat place i’ve been to in toronto and i think is my favorite little lunch spot i’ve ever been to. it’s called the red tea box and it’s like taking a trip to the mad hatter’s house. it’s fantastic and if you come to toronto and hit no other places, you HAVE to eat here. it’s amazing. they have the best iced tea on the planet and the fondant pastries are TO DIE FOR! (http://www.torontolife.com/guide/food/coffee-tea/the-red-tea-box/). i visited the clint roenisch gallery which i believe is one of the more eclectic galleries in toronto on west queen west. (http://www.clintroenisch.com/). way cool.

overall, having a fabulous time here. the highs are still in the low 70’s and i don’t know if i’ll ever be able to live on the face of the sun (HOUSTON!) again.

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