Tag Archives: Toronto

To Market, To Market

I didn’t grow up going to Farmers’ Markets. There aren’t many in Houston and the ones that are there are quite small. In fact, I didn’t go to my first farmers market until I moved to Toronto. It seems that every neighbourhood in the city has its own farmers market with all kinds of locally grown produce. Those markets, though, are dwarfed by the mother of all farmers markets — Toronto’s legendary St. Lawrence Market.

The St. Lawrence Market is a complex made up of three buildings, including the North Market, which was established in 1803 (!) and is known primarily for its Saturday Farmers’ Market where producers from across southern Ontario sell their wares seasonally; on Sundays, the North Market turns in to a giant antiques fair. The South Market, and the larger of the two, has more than 50 specialty shops selling everything from rare French cheeses to Moroccan candies to olive bars into which I’d like to dive.

I never really got into the habit of going to the Market on Saturday like so many of my friends. Rather, I got into the habit of going to Loblaws on my way home from work on Fridays, so I didn’t have to deal with the crazy grocery store masses on the weekend — you know, like strollers the size of Hummers packed with screaming triplets and lines wrapped through the store. Anyway. With the invention of my Toronto Bucket List, though, I decided I needed to spend a Saturday morning roaming through the St. Lawrence Market.

I saw so many delectable, delightful goodies that my eyes nearly popped out of my head. I can’t list every store I went into simply because I pay by the inch* and it would be cost prohibitive. ūüôā¬† Some of my favourites, though, were Kozlik’s Canadian Mustard (honey and lime mustard FTW), Scheffler’s Deli & Cheese (where they sell hanging cheese!), Everyday Gourmet (for delicious, delicious coffees and teas), and Di Liso’s Fine Meats, where I snagged 4 pounds of extra lean ground steak for $12. Sweet. I have a serious addiction to olives, and I saw an olive bar so vast that my eyes welled up with tears. The Carousel Bakery, a Toronto institution, is also inside the Market and sells its “world famous peameal bacon sandwich” in droves — people were literally snaked through the market standing in line to buy a sandwich. I tried one, of course, but not being a huge fan of “back bacon”, or peameal bacon, I didn’t really care for it. Apparently, I’m the only one, though, so don’t listen to me.

The St. Lawrence Market is the world’s largest indoor farmers market and it’s been right in my own backyard all this time. I’m sad I didn’t take advantage of it sooner than I did, but better late than never. Reason # 54,912 to love Toronto.

P.S. Check out a few photos I took while at the SLM.

* kidding

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PodCamp Wickedness: The Unconference

You’ve heard of unconferences, right? Those participant-driven geek affairs that have effectively saved the world from having to take out second mortgages on their homes in order to enjoy a good conference now and then.

Unconferences were actually born back in the mid-80’s when Harrison Owen developed the concept of Open Space Technology. The term “unconference”, though, wasn’t popularized until BarCamp and BloggerCon came onto the scene in 2005-ish. They‚Äôre typically centered around new and social media events and are organized for its participants, by its participants, and definitely aren‚Äôt filled with a bunch of stuffy, talking heads. The community is ultimately responsible for the success, or failure, of an event, which requires that you be an active participant rather than just an attendee ‚Äď but active in making real progress and not just status quo. The sessions facilitate this type of interaction: they‚Äôre experiential; they often foster lively discussions and collaborative solutions that ultimately create truly sustainable communities; and require new tools, new perspectives, and better collaboration.

PodCamp Toronto is just one of these unconferences. You‚Äôve probably heard of, and hopefully listened to, a podcast; PodCamp, though, shouldn‚Äôt be confused as being for podcasters only. In fact, PodCamp is for anyone interested in new media, including bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers, and social media networking whores. What you definitely won‚Äôt find at PodCamp are suits and ties, that‚Äôs for sure. One of the unique things about PodCamp is the use of the ‚Äúlaw of two feet‚ÄĚ, meaning that if you aren‚Äôt getting anything out of the session you‚Äôre in, it‚Äôs not at all considered rude to walk out and go to a session you might deem more useful. Don’t you wish we could do that all the time^^? But I digress.

I attended nine sessions over the two day conference^ and, because I know you’re dying to know what I thought, I’ll review some of the wicked highlights here. You’re welcome.

1) Integration, Integration, Integration: Communications in the New Social Media Ecosystem by Dave Fleet. An excellent and lively

Photo credit:

discussion about social media and how it integrates with traditional media. Dave talked about the three types of media: owned, paid, and earned, as well as about the “ecosystem of communications” and how to manage the sum of those media reactions. We all decided that Molson had done an amazing job embracing and weaving social media in with its traditional media, especially with the Molson Canadian Hockey House at the Olympics, but decided that their success could also be due to their delicious Canadian beer. Anyway.

2) Lunch! My friend Chris, with whom I attended, and I ate Chinese-style burritos at Chino Locos. Pan-fried noodles and guacamole, anyone?

3) The Inside Scoop on Social Media Analytics by Aubrey Podolsky. An analytics girl, I am not. I’m fairly certain my blog isn’t going to make me a zillionaire, so what’s the point? I don’t pore over stats about who came to my blog and how many times, because I just don’t care. That said, I thought it would be good to get some high-level ideas on how people measure as I realize it’s a vital part of growing the channel. This particular session didn’t cut it for me with the exception of one thing: the deck style he used was amazing! It’s called Prezi.com and is fabulous! I saw two people use that style of presentation deck over the weekend and I could hardly get home to download it fast enough. PowerPoint, you’ve met your match.

4) Is Email Marketing Dead? This session was close to my heart as it may or may not have something to do with my day job. Nevertheless, I‚Äôm fairly certain I could have given the session myself, unfortunately. For example, the presenter suggested that you add someone to your email newsletter just by virtue of them leaving a comment on your blog. EGADS! I can assure you that that is *not* best practice and would advise you not do it — ever — unless you want to end up on every blacklist out there. Don‚Äôt say I didn‚Äôt warn you.

5) Twitter and Dating by Jeremy Wright and Melissa Smich. No unconference would be complete these days without a session on Twitter and dating, coined as #twating by these delightful presenters. The session was lively and amusing, and included some great tales of major DM fails, but also some major DM loves. Much discussion was had around the creative uses for hashtags. The best part of this session, though? Red velvet cupcakes. FTW.

6) Tod Maffin’s “Awesome-Izing Your Podcast: Secrets from Radio by¬†Tod Maffin. My last session of the weekend was a highlight of PodCamp. A podcaster, I’m not, but a public radio fan, I *definitely* am. I have pretty much shirked all music in favour of all public radio, all the time*, so when I found out¬†one of the grandfathers*** of podcasting, Tod Maffin, was presenting, I kicked¬†the “law of two feet” into overdrive and practically hurdled myself into a frenzy by sprinting to his session as fast as I could. I’m really glad I did, too. His presentation style was¬†totally engaging, his material was clear and concise, and he articulated a ton of detailed information rather than just¬†more of the tree-top ideas I’d seen throughout the weekend. He’s obviously been around the public radio block, so to speak, and offered us a smorgasbord of do’s and don’ts, along with¬†live¬†audio¬†examples that brought it all to life. In fact, if you have any interest in writing, podcasting, public radio, or any combination thereof, you might want to check out Tod’s book, Idea to Air, where you can peruse his awesome tips at your own, non-PodCamp pace.

Overall, my first PodCamp was awesome. I learned a lot of stuff, some great and some not so great. I learned that you should not be a keener and sit in the front row; it’s difficult to take advantage of the “law of two feet” when you’re practically sitting on top of the speaker. I learned a lot about social media, the analytics of it, and how to (better) figure out what’s valuable and what isn’t in the digital space. I learned a lot of goodness over the weekend, but do you know the biggest thing I learned? I want a Mac. ūüôā

^Because I am a keener geek. Apparently, the ‚Äúreal‚ÄĚ PodCamp networking happens in the hallways while the sessions are going on and is affectionately known as ‚ÄúLobbyCamp‚ÄĚ. Next year!
*Also, I’m 94.
** Kidding.
^^ Like work, or people going on and on about the pains of their  childbirth. Gawd.
*** Although he certainly doesn’t look like a grandfather. ūüėČ

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The Mayor of Mount Sinai

I never really thought of myself as being Mayor material, but apparently I was wrong. I’ve been spending so much time at Mount Sinai Hospital of late that I have officially been named its Mayor by FourSquare^!

For those of you who like to roll old school¬†and who shirk all things social media, think of FourSquare as a location-based Twitter. You ‚Äúcheck in‚ÄĚ when you arrive somewhere, your friends are notified of where you are, or, to which of your friends you’re in closest proximity,¬†and when you accumulate the highest number of visits, you become the ‚ÄúMayor‚ÄĚ. At some places, there are perks to becoming Mayor, like getting a free coffee or 10% off your bill. Because I ‘ve only been named Mayor at a few places, none of which offer these lovely perks,¬†I haven’t yet realized any of these niceties! Also,¬†because of the fact that Canada has universal healthcare,¬†my Mount Sinai visits are free and, therefore, do not come with any perks other than getting well again. Ahem. There are about one billion other places I can think of for which I‚Äôd rather be Mayor and¬†can assure you¬†Mount Sinai isn‚Äôt one of them.¬†Although, I had a CT Scan there this week and I thought I looked pretty cute in the blue dressing gowns. Formless cotton may just be my thing after all*. ūüėČ
^I really prefer Gowalla, though — the UI is way better and, even though I don’t get to be Mayor,¬†I have both a metal robot and firecrackers in my backpack, which we all know is way better than being Mayor. ūüėČ
* Not!

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Sexy Cool: The Event

Every once in a while, you get the opportunity to hang out with the cool kids. Count yourself lucky because the iYellow Wine Club “Sexy Cool” event this Thursday, February 25 at 8pm is one of those times. If you’ve never heard of iYellow Wine Club, a Toronto -based social wine club with more than 5,000 members, or attended an iYellow event, you don’t know what you’re missing: socializing with the in-crowd, shaking what your momma gave you to the tunes of some of Toronto’s hippest DJs, noshing on seriously good apps, and, more importantly, sipping wine you can’t get anywhere else (no, not even at the LCBO).

Sexy Cool will feature more than 12 yummy (and seriously sexy) Australian wines, so if you’re feeling like you need to take a break from the frozen wasteland that is Toronto and take a quick trip to the Outback, Sexy Cool’s your gig. Head west to the hip Edward Day Gallery on Queen Street West at Shaw and experience a winegasm like none you’ve had in a while. Trust me — I’ve seen God and it’s in the form of an iYellow Wine Club event.

If you want to witness Angela Aiello single- handedly bringing sexy back, go here to buy your ticket…and be sure to say hi to me as my eyes roll into the back of my head from the sheer wine goodness! See y’all there.

Note: if you’re planning to drink (which I certainly hope you are), take transit, a cab, or find a designated driver. Period.

Update: within two hours of my post, Sexy Cool sold out. I don’t know that my wicked blog skills had anything to do with it, but I’m just sayin’ — SOLD OUT. ūüėČ

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Thank You For The Mammaries (Day 24)

Admit it — you¬†love breasts. We all love breasts, really. It’s possible that breasts¬†could¬†be called an American obsession and, in fact, I would venture to say that men everywhere take great lengths to recognize the hypnotic allure of a shapely breast. Big ones, small ones, fake ones, real ones, round ones, square er, semi-round ones — it’s all good stuff. For some women, breasts could easily qualify¬†as their¬†most enthusiastic component, if you’re picking up what I’m putting down.¬†¬†

So what’s *not* to love about breasts? I’ll tell you what — that bitch known as breast cancer. Sure, we all love prostates and ovaries and skin and throats and brains and lungs and all those other body parts that contract cancer, too, but being a woman who doesn’t have, say, a prostate, I worry more about breast cancer than I do about any of the other varieties. Which means you get to hear about this subject today. You’re welcome! Not to mention, breast¬†cancer statistics1 are nothing short of grim. Consider these applicable to¬†the U.S. in 2008 alone:

–¬†250,230 new cases
Рa 1 in 8 incidence
Р40,480 women died from the disease. In one year. And people are pissed about the 4,3652 troops who have died in six and a half years in Afghanistan??
Рthe highest rate of cancer only after lung cancer

Thanksbeto the Twitter, I found out about¬†a little project going on¬†in Toronto called ProjectPink!. The idea, started by Darryl Koster of BusterRhinos Southern BBQ3 in Whitby, Ontario, was this: talk about how every woman should have a dash of pink in their hair at some¬†point in their life which then manifested into his agreement that he’d dye his hair pink if Torontonians purchased¬†1,500 BBQ sandwiches4¬†between now and December 18. Most importantly, though, 50 cents of every sandwich purchased would be donated to the Breast Cancert Society. Sweet! Some of the way cool Toronto bloggers and tweeters I follow — karmacake.ca and cakeordeath.ca5 — decided that if the number was met, they too would put pink in their hair, and so on and so forth, and, let’s just say that a little viral revolution was born. Of course, never one to be left out when it has to do with a mini-revolution, and because I have always, always, always wanted pink in my hair, I jumped on the bandwagon.

You may remember those research studies “they” do on kids where they put deliciously yummy candies on a table and tell the poor, drooling four year-old that if they can wait five minutes without eating the candy, they get them all, but if they can’t wait the allotted time, then they’re basically headed for a life of unhappiness and destruction? ūüėČ Well, I fall into the latter category. I have gotten much better as I’ve gotten older (ahem), but my OCD6 tends to kick in when I’m excited about something and I just simply cannot. wait.¬†Yes, I¬†have¬†zero patience and yes, I have negative 500 willpower. Your point?

What I’m getting at is this: my very favourite colour is pink.¬†You could say that I am somewhat of a pink fanatic;¬†my Twitter page is pink, my NaBloPoMo page is pink, my iPhone case is pink, I only use pink file folders at work and now, thanks to ProjectPink! my hair is now pink. No,¬†I am not channeling my inner Avril Lavigne¬†rocker girrl, despite the fact¬†that I live¬†in Ontario from whence she came. I like to think that I’m just taking this opportunity to promote¬†ProjectPink! in my own little way before December 18, as well as¬†fulfilling yet another item on¬†my lengthy Canadian bucket list. Of course, the pink hair¬†also¬†most certainly qualifies under¬†“Things that would never¬†have happened in Houston, Texas”. ūüėȬ†

I’ve gotten mixed reactions. I see people glancing at it like “does she have pink in her hair?” or, alternatively, probably thinking “talk about age-inappropriate!”. The cool, hip people I know¬†are like “omg, I lurve it so much!”. The uncool, non-hip people I know7 are like “hmmm, okay”. When I tell them it’s for breast cancer, they get it, but really, they don’t. It washes out in six to eight weeks anyway, but I honestly don’t care one iota — I love it and¬†every time someone asks me about it, I tell them it’s for ProjectPink!¬† If I can do a teeny, tiny part *and* have pink hair, then I’m one happy girl!

Now that this long post has come to an end, I can say in conclusion, fuck cancer and support ProjectPink!

P.S. You may have heard that the¬†United States Preventive Services Task Force recently suggested that women begin to wait until they’re 50 to receive a¬†mammogram. Well, my message to USPSTF is this:¬†you should get out of my¬†way because if you persist with these guidelines, you can assume that¬†I’ll¬†promptly¬†be putting on my killer 4-inch heels and coming after you —¬†so¬†watch out! Also,¬†you should know that I think about you when I touch myself.¬†ūüėČ

1 Source: breastcancer.org
2 As of 11/22/09 at 1:25pm EST. Source: antiwar.com
3 OMG. Southern BBQ in Canada?! Cornbread, sweet tea and baked beans? Yes, please!
4 By which I do not mean Canadian BBQ or “hamburgers”. I mean real BBQ sandwiches. You know, like brisket.
5 Does anyone else see the pattern here?
6 I don’t really have OCD, but I like to blame my impatientness on OCD¬†rather than the fact that I just simply have a lack of willpower. ūüė¶
7 You know who you are.

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Four Times The Fun! (Day 23)

Summers in Toronto¬†are filled with every kind of show, festival, art crawl, exhibit, and exhibition you can imagine. In fact, coming to Toronto in the summer is like hitting the motherlode of outdoor activity. Then, November comes — that¬†dreary, wet, gray month —¬†and everyone packs it in and goes a) home and b) inside.

This year, though, we¬†had an unusually cool Summer and,¬†naturally,¬†an unusually warm Fall.¬†I’m practically dying of heatstroke in my¬†now-that-it’s-fall-the-A/C-is-off-and-sweltering¬† condo, although the warmth means fewer days¬†I’m¬†required to wear my down feather coat in which I look fiercely¬†hot1. But I digress.¬†What does this have to do with Toronto’s activities? I don’t really know — my funny is out for a smoke break tonight, but my point is that I had an awesome weekend that can be summed up in four¬†short words: photography,¬†food, wine, and sex2. What could be better than that, you ask?¬†Well, for me, not much. Not much at all.¬†

The Royal Ontario Museum¬†has an¬†exhibit of Vanity Fair portraits and photographs from 1913-2008¬†which I could hardly wait to see.¬†Relentless in my own personal quest for documentation, not to mention a 14-year subscriber to the mag, meant that a trip to¬†brush up against¬†photos taken by¬†Annie Liebowitz, Edward Steichen, Helmut Newton, Nan Goldin, Cecil Beaton and Man Ray <swoon> was a requirement. And were there photographs! Indeed! Seeing the stars¬†in photos doesn’t really do it for me — I find them infinitely uninteresting.¬†The photo that sticks out in my mind¬†turned out to be a small portrait¬†of¬†¬†Claus von¬†B√ľlow, who¬†infamously posed for the Vanity Fair photos mere¬†days after he was accused of attempting to kill his wife, Sonny. Von B√ľlow was ultimately acquitted on all charges and Sonny lived in a permanent vegetative state for 28 years until her death.¬†The film “Reversal of Fortune” eventually told the story of the von B√ľlow family and is one that has always fascinated me.¬†Also, because, being a 14-year subscriber means that I’d already seen many of¬†the photos they exhibited, so I was kinda b-o-r-e-d3. A trip to Hemingways for drinks and appys followed and a lovely evening was had by all.

The monolithic¬†Gourmet Food and Wine Expo rolled into Toronto this week, which usually¬†means two things: I’ll be tipsy the majority of the weekend and will¬†inevitably spill red wine on,and¬†ruin,¬†a perfectly good silk blouse. Good news, though — neither of those things happened this year! Yay me! Rather than going three nights in a row this year, I refrained and attended only on Saturday night to help my friend Angela Aiello¬†of iYellow Wine Group fame. Ange happened to be on a press trip to Chile (yes, she leads a tough life, doesn’t she?!) and therefore needed lots and lots of help to ensure that iYellow got the mad props it deserved during the show. Props, indeed! The show was packed — literally — and ended up selling out. I tasted quite a bit of good food (lobster! thai shrimp!), wine (madeira!¬†riesling! icewine!), olive oils (can’t remember the names!), but my favourite food/drinkstuff was a “mini ice cream cone”: think ice cream cone lined with a¬†hard chocolate shell, filled with a (very strong) french vanilla liqueur and topped with chocolate whipped cream. Zomg. It was sinful. The party itself was basically controlled chaos and you could¬†hardly move without stepping on the 4″ heel of the whorishly dressed well-dressed girl in front of you. In fact,¬†when I gracefully departed around 10pm, things were just getting into full swing.¬†The Gourmet Food and Wine Expo was a definite “see and be seen” scene. And one that should¬†*not* be missed.

That takes care of photography, food and wine. And now,¬†the sex.¬†(Warning: parental units, the squirmish,¬†and/or the +60 set, you may want to skip this part altogether) Ahem. The Everything To Do With Sex show is apparently as Canadian an institution as maple syrup, roaming moose and igloo-living. There may be shows like this¬†in the States, but shows like this in Houston, TX, there are¬†not.¬†Therefore, being the consummate Canadian tourist, I¬†felt like it was something I could not miss during my time in Toronto. ūüėČ Also, because what else does a Texas girl do on a Sunday in November?¬†

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I arrived, but was surprised to see *every* kind of person there — young, old, gay, straight, preppy, goth, fat, thin, tall, short. There were the¬†typical vendors¬†you’d expect to see at a show about being intimate, like masseuses, photographers, hair straighteners, body painters, tattoo artists4,¬† and the ubiquitous firefighter’s calendar (!!!). Then, of course, there werer¬†those unexpected vendors such as¬†Cowboys of the Caribbean,¬†Straptease, the Sexerciseme Ball, and Orgasmatron. I saw things that angelic¬†Texas girls like me¬†could¬†only imagine (and then some) including, but not limited to, penis-shaped ice cube trays,¬†chocolate-dipped penises5,¬†things¬†that vibrate in time with¬†songs on your iPod (incidentally called “iBod”), and other varied and assorted accoutrements, at which time I decided that the motto of the show should¬†be¬†“come one, come all6“!

Photography wasn’t allowed, although I can assure you that as soon as¬†the fashion show began,¬†cameras were whipped out¬†at breakneck speed. Always playing by the rules, I, of course, took only one photo inside (and only after I asked permission),¬†so¬†I have nothing to show you other than the chocolate-dipped privates. ūüėČ

Needless to say, my weekend was filled with food,¬†wine, friends, and debauchery. My prior¬†method of operation has always been “fear and loathing” of¬†November; after this weekend o’fun, however, it has officially changed to¬†“bring it on, baby”!¬†



1¬†By which I mean the Stay-Puf Marshmellow Girl. Yes, I know it’s an image you can’t get out of your heads, but¬†try to restrain yourselves,¬†gentlemen. ūüėČ
2 Not what you think!
3 But not from the company. Lisa, you rock as a ROM date!
4 Called the “Nude Buddha Tattoo Studio”, natch, and¬†where people were actually getting tattoos.¬†If I was planning to get a tattoo, I don’t think I’d wait for the portable booth set-up¬†at the Everything To Do With Sex show to get it.¬†But maybe that’s just me.
5 Made out of strawberries and bananas —¬†clever, if you ask me.
6 But is¬†actually “Admit it. You’re Curious”.


Filed under Events, Toronto

A Picture’s Worth A Thousand Words (Day 21)

Photographs have always, always, always¬†been¬†a gigantic part of my life. Since getting my first pink round Le Clic when I was about 13, I have been a serious photo-taking shutterbug. Thumbing through¬†the stills in Life Magazine always fascinated me¬†and to this day, I love photos way more than video.¬†Photography exhibits are my absolute fave and I could easily¬†stare at a photograph all day —¬†taking in its¬†single moment in time;¬†the looks on faces, whether those¬†of shock or happiness or discovery;¬†and the natural and built environments. I’ve¬†passed by the¬†Toronto Archives¬†on many an occasion. I’d heard it was lovely, but was not at all prepared¬†for the bigosity of it! It’s an enormous space filled with huge range of documents and photographs documenting the city’s heritage. The best part is that you can either spend tons1 of time in the building proper or you can plop down on your sofa in your comfy pajamas like I am right now and surf the archives in the privacy of your own home!¬†There’s just nothing better than using all the tools in the nerd kingdom to make life easier. Le happy sigh.

I¬†had an interest in seeing photos from the area of Toronto in which I’ve lived for the last two and a half years, and there were a plethora of them available. It’s so cool to see how cities change and grow, and Toronto is no different. While you may not know the area, I hope you appreciate the photos as much as I have.

As an aside, I checked to see if the city of Houston had a similar archive, but was unable to find anything. Rather, they have an archive of only modern day photos, but that is definitely worth a look.

1 or “tonnes”, if you’re Canadian

 Spadina at Front Streets, ca 1960.

A TTC bus, ca 1935. Not much has changed. ūüôā

Looking east from the Fairmont Royal York hotel, ca 1930

Lake Ontario in the Beach, frozen. 1924.

Queen Street West at Spadina, ca 1935

Front at Peter Streets, 1926

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