Author Archives: fordhampr

WALK THE AISLES WITH ME @ THE NATIONAL WOMEN’S SHOW, TORONTO

What a fun weekend I’ve had…yesterday it was The Gem Expo and today – the National Women’s Show in downtown Toronto www.nationalwomenshow.com/toronto-visitor.  I arrived around 10:30am at the Metro Convention Centre (south bldg) to find it was already jam-packed with visitors (see below), all enjoying the food samples, cosmetic freebies, fashion styling advice, home accessories, financial advice…all manner of information for the woman on the go. Join me as I take you on a virtual stroll along the aisles and meet some of the vendors who impressed me this year….20171112_102927The first booth to catch my eye was www.snobstuff.com who displayed these stunning candle covers, some of which were made into electric lamps, too.20171112_103247And although I was surrounded by bling yesterday, I still had time to stop by and admire these sparklies at www.ThePinkTreeCouture.com!20171112_103418 20171112_103443I always have time for fudge! Here’s the lady from www.oldenglishfudge.com  No wonder she’s smiling…it was deelish!20171112_103814 20171112_103819I then met Anne of Anne’s Bespoke Cookie Delights, who bakes the most yummy cookies, all made to order including the “heart-pop” cookie on a stick (pictured below). She’s part of a bakers’ collective here in Toronto and she takes great pride in speedy deliveries for her cookie clients. www.caniwantsomeyummy.ca 20171112_104213 20171112_104203 20171112_104219Next we have Veneise George who was sampling her Yawdi’s spicy marinades and jellies.  www.yawdi.ca 20171112_104453 20171112_104531What a delight to meet designer Kaela Kay whose fashions incorporate many fabrics from her homeland, Ghana. Suck beautiful, vivid colours – perfect for brightening up the Toronto winter blahs! www.kaelakay.com20171112_10490220171112_104906The NYDJ jeans lady told me just how comfortable they are to wear – you can tell from her smile she’s happy!  They’re now available from The Bay, Nordstrom’s and other stores in Canada.20171112_105306 20171112_105312 20171112_105319And now…presenting the Laraglam Collection! Wow…every girl should have a sparkly blinged out bra like this, yes?  Why not pick out your own at www.laraglam.com20171112_105544 20171112_105612Meet the lady herself, Miss Lara (pictured above) who was just as sparkly as her collection and eager to share her designs with me. I’ll let her tell you all about her goodies herself…

20171112_110035Here’s Ashley from www.fashiontruckcanada.com. What a great idea – a movable feast of fab fashionable finds. 20171112_110549(0) 20171112_110733Big shout-out to the women officers from Peel Regional Police who were on-site to promote careers in policing as well as do a little community relations work. Bravo, ladies, and thank you for your service.20171112_110840Look what I found – brand new drinkies for the health-conscious! www.CraftyElk.com takes fresh exotic fruits then blends them with vodka to make these three deelish drinks. Very low in sugar and certified organic. Mike, the fellow in red (below) is a fellow Aussie, so I just had to stop and try some…..OMG, so yummy. Available now at your local LCBO.20171112_111221_001 20171112_111834Then Founder and CEO of Crafty Elk, Greg Gilliland, came by so I grabbed him for a quick interview….

Hic….hic! After imbibing several shots of my new fave drink, I turned the corner to find yet another great boozy booth, this time the folks at Wyborowa Vodka – the best ambassador Poland ever had!  Look for it in your LCBO store or online at www.wybo.com 20171112_112343 20171112_112449The Lavish Bath Company was well represented at the show – just look at these fun “bubble bars”, soaps and their great Christmas gift ideas.  www.LavishBathCompany.com20171112_112927 20171112_112935 20171112_113000Now for something hot’n’spicy – Cool Runnings Foods offered a wide selection of tastings featuring marinades, seasonings, mustards and more. Check out their full line at www.coolrunningsfoods.com and look for them in your grocery store.20171112_113253 20171112_113123 20171112_113113The ladies at the www.TKFursAccessories.com booth were so welcoming … and fun! And owner Tina Koumandaros (pictured below on the left) is generously donating 10% of net sales to support CAMH for mental health research. Bravo, Tina!20171112_113718 20171112_113745(0)According to the TK ladies, fuzzy furry balls (pictured above) are the hottest purse accessory for young fashion-fwd women and they certainly brought a great selection to the show.

Glow Academy – school of professional artistic beauty – was well represented and visitors got to sit down and have a fab make-up make-over!  If you’re interested in learning more about a career in beauty, check out their website www.glow-academy.ca 20171112_113945I’m always interested in learning about anything therapeutic for horses or dogs andI ran into Lisa Vandenberg (below left) a doTERRA Wellness advocate and owner of www.hopeandhealingways.com. She offers essential oils for use on equines, dogs and cats.  Her colleage, Koon Fu Lee (lower picture) also works with dogs, healing thru various therapies and using Kangen Water which helps detoxify your furry friends. Find out more at www.waterandhealth.ca20171112_114416 20171112_114606(0)www.natures-source.com had a huge booth offering all sorts of effective natural alternatives to pharmaceutical potions for healing and supporting health deficiencies. I’m definitely going to check them out for help with my gut (been on Nexium for too many years) as well as my allergies and asthma.20171112_115814 20171112_115906Ship ahoy! Here’s Capt. Matthew Flinders (any good Aussie will know who he was) who was promoting Mariposa Cruises. I was aboard the Capt. Matthew Flinders boat when it was first brought to Toronto’s Harbourfront many years ago, and during the summer months, I frequently play hooky and take a quick mid-week harbour & island cruise on their little boat, the Oriole, just to clear my head and get away from the loud traffic noises at Yonge & Bloor. Always a lot of fun and very affordable.  www.mariposacruises.com20171112_120127 20171112_120215Time for a quick nibble and I was lured into the KFI booth by the fragrant aroma of curry! Yummmmm.  You can purchase their deelish sauces from your grocery store or check out their products at www.kfisauces.com20171112_120413 20171112_120419And speaking of spicy…I found my new food addiction – SHANA Foods naan and samosas! www.shanafoods.com 20171112_120816I even got to dance with the friendly SHANA booth staff, too! Bhangra music anyone?

Now for a little beauty treat for myself…big thank you to Lynn Cartwright, N. American Business Mgr of Gold Collagen, which will soon be available in Canadian pharmacies. www.gold-collagen.com offers all sorts of wonderful face tightening, hydrating and detoxing masks and serums and Lynn and her colleagues gave me some samples which I will definitely be using. 20171112_12134620171112_12135120171112_121412(0)Here’s Lynn (above left) who is a brilliant walking billboard for her product.

And speaking of beauty, these handsome fellas are from Rodan+Fields which offers life-changing skin care in a variety of products (perfect for my aging outer layers…LOL). I met consultants Bill (left) and John Joseph (right) last year at the Nat’l Women’s Show, just before they headed off to Australia to intro the products to that int’l market.20171112_122527Here are some of the Rodan+Fields products – check their website for info at www.holygrailforskin.com20171112_122544 20171112_122549 20171112_122553(0) 20171112_122633I’m all for learning more about wealth mgmn’t and investing, and you couldn’t ask for a friendlier team than the gang at the Edward Jones booth. Like most freelancers, I fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to money (just try getting paid on time each month by clients…urgh!) so I’m sure they can offer me some great advice for retaining and growing at least a small investment portfolio – I really need some serious $s for that old folks home in my near future LOL!  www.edwardjones.ca20171112_124239(0)And while we’re on the subject of ageing, I was pleased to see this booth promoting in-home assistance to those suffering with dementia and Alzheimers. It’s a US-concept that has now come to Canada. You gotta check out services they offer to assist and enrich the lives of our elderly loved ones. www.SeniorHelpers.ca20171112_125142_001 20171112_125223So I was finally pooped out…exhausted…after two and a half hours of walking the aisles and ready for home and a cup of my favourite Lapsang Suchong tea. I hope you like this virtual visit to the National Women’s Show here in Toronto – hope to see you there next year.  Here are a few more sights from the last day of the show.20171112_113913 20171112_111109 20171112_113434 20171112_115056 20171112_114238 20171112_121133

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INTO THE HEART OF SPARKLE! TORONTO’S GEM EXPO RUNS NOV.10-12 @ HYATT HOTEL ON KING ST W.

Thanks to an invitation from event Founder SALIM MOORANI, I attended THE GEM EXPO at the Hyatt Hotel on King St West this afternoon and I was in sparkle heaven! All the vendors in the showroom proudly displayed their gemstones, jewellery designs, pearls, amber, even ancient fossils and meteorites as well as large geodes and crystal “forests”.  I recommend you hurry on down tomorrow (Sunday Nov.12) and check out the stunning, glittery treasures yourself. Here’s Salim to tell you all about it himself….

The Gem Expo is a showcase for designers as well as suppliers of precious and semi-precious stones, silver or gold settings for those who create their own designs. I was astounded by the range of stones available and that several of the exhibitors had traveled from half-way around the world. There are 3 such shows each year and the next one is in March so if you miss this one, definitely come out to the next show. Here is just a small sample of what I saw (and added to my Santa wish-list!)… 20171111_120245 20171111_120941_001Look what I found at Crystal Palace (www.crystal-palaces.com) – below. All sorts of yummy amethyst chunks as well as some fossils and bigger geodes. And they were presenting jewellery-making classes behind the booth.20171111_12152420171111_121228I then visited Fossils Plus (below) showcasing cool treasures from millions of years ago, including giant sharks’ teeth!20171111_12071820171111_120727Kelly from Sacred Gemstone proudly showed off her supply of beautifully tumbled stones as well as her ready-to-wear designs (below). I love the vibrant blue of the lapis lazuli, one of my all-time favourite stones that originates in Afghanistan. www.sacredgemstone.com 20171111_121600 20171111_121619 20171111_121631 20171111_121703And now here’s Anna from AmberLink, who designs beautiful rich amber pieces with silver. Just check out that gorgeous necklace she’s wearing…wow! She also offers amber-lovers some vintage pieces that date back to pre-WWII…you can see the different quality and type of amber used back then (3rd pic, below)  www.amberlink.com20171111_12191520171111_12175920171111_121947And here’s some more lapis lazuli for me, plus some pretty in pink stones that make me think of bacon (I don’t know why…LOL)20171111_12272920171111_122824

20171111_122746I was pleasantly surprised to find a Bali-based jeweller showcasing her designs at the show.  Shankari incorporates fine gems, pearls, gold and silver into pieces designed for soul enrichment as well as fashion statement pieces – pendants, earrings, bracelets and cuffs – I was enchanted.  Based in Bali, Indonesia, this is the first time these designs have been showcased in Canada but you can order online here: www.shankari.com20171111_123529 20171111_123538 20171111_124131www.Gempremium.com really knows how to stop a girl in her tracks! I took one look at these stunning South Seas pearls and I was in love. Manager Pascal told me about the sources for each type of pearl (I’ve always been partial to the black Tahitian ones) and quality levels. Just look at these lush baubles (below) and you can even pick your own pearls and have their on-site jeweller set them in one of their gold or silver settings (bottom pic)20171111_12431620171111_12433320171111_124537Gemologist Amanda Hamilton of Earthy Girl Designs had a wonderful array of necklaces, pendants, bracelets, earrings as well as a great selection of Arizona turquoise, something I really like myself.  She doesn’t have a website but do watch for her at gem shows – she’ll be back for the March Gem Expo.20171111_12473120171111_12485720171111_124908Now here’s something I did not know….Ethiopia has been producing some of the world’s finest opals, rivaling the beauty of Australian opals (I’m an Aussie so I have to stay faithfull). Suzanne and Francois of Opalex from Quebec shared their knowledge of these new African opals, many of which have a rich golden firey colour. I really liked the unique strands of opal beads (bottom pic) – they were “delicious”! They don’t have a website either but watch for Opalex and the next Gem Expo.20171111_125359 20171111_125355 20171111_125240Dara Jane Loomis of Dara Jane Jewellery (Montreal) introduced me to some great statement pieces, including the bright green peridot necklaces (pics 2 & 3). I really liked the one with tiny tiger eye stones (3rd pic) and I’ve added that one to my Santa list (I’ve been a really good girl this year and I deserve it!) Looks like I started a small crush of shoppers with all my oo’ing and aah’ing! You can order your fave piece online at www.darajanejewellery.com20171111_125923 20171111_130007 20171111_130024 20171111_130445Sonatona supplies great gemstones to designers and they certainly brought their A game to Gem Expo! Just look at this selection…wow! You can purchase via their eBay online store: www.stores.ebay.com/sonatona 

20171111_13061320171111_13061720171111_130622Meet Shelley Sullivan of ShelleysStoneworks.etsy.com  who I found busy working on another piece. Shelly is a “wire artist” (not high wire, tho…LOL) – see her delicate pendants below. Definitely a great Christmas present for that friend who loves fab jewellery.20171111_130736(0) 20171111_130743 20171111_130817Now here’s something unexpected…hey all you rock-n-rollers, do I have a cool mascot for your band! Vicki of Inner Circle showcased her awesome skull carvings in various stones. If you can’t make it out to the show, she’s having an open house at her Toronto studio on Dec. 3rd so check out her website for details: www.shopinnercircle.ca20171111_131120 20171111_131102Vicki also presented a number of sparkly amethyst geodes….OMG, I want one of those, too!20171111_131236Straight out of BC, here are the very unique “crystal forests” dug from the earth and presented in their raw form as well as hand-crafted in jewellery pieces.  Check out www.forestcrystals.com for more info20171111_131402 20171111_131445More sights from The GemExpo….20171111_130830 20171111_12250420171111_131642Salim told me about the show’s commitment to supporting local charities and this year, Feed it Forward, offering nutritious meals to the city’s homeless, will benefit from the silent auction which is located at the entrance to the showroom. All sorts of lovely jewellery is on offer (see a small selection below) so please check it out and place a bid. www.feeditforward.ca20171111_133348For more information about this show and upcoming 2018 shows visit www.TheGemExpo.com and I encourage you to drop in say hello to Salim at his brand new store, Hamsa Heaven, located at 1600 Gerrard St East. Tell him Glenda sent you!  You can also purchase your gemstones at his other store, www.BlueSapphireBeads.com20171111_182130

Thank you to all the vendors who welcomed me to their booths!

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I MAKE A FLYING VISIT TO THE ROYAL WINTER FAIR

Thanks to Barry Finn, publisher of THE RIDER newspaper (www.therider.com), I made a flying visit to this year’s ROYAL WINTER FAIR in Toronto armed with my cellphone camera and a media pass!

Just arriving was a lovely surprise…look how pretty the boulevard in front of the Enercare Centre looks (below)20171107_101441I met up with Barry at the media office then headed straight for the Ontario Equestrian booth to drop of copies of the current issue of The Rider.  Here’s Barry delivering newspapers to Saskia Samaroo, the organization’s administrative coordinator who laughed at me when I asked her to “strike a pose”!20171107_113909And then Barry corralled Saskia & Brandon Hall, OE’s marketing & communications coordinator, to show off their new logo.  www.ontarioequestrian.ca20171107_114105(0)Below – Barry met up with horsewoman and tack shop owner, Laurence Authier, of Laurastackroom.com  who will soon be moving to Ontario (from Quebec) to train for eventing competitions. Good luck, Laura!20171107_121700Over the years, I’ve attended many Royal Winter Fairs, sometimes working in the Australian Shop booth to help promote my home country and sell Aussie clothing and accessories to the horse and cattle folks. Owner John Keating always reminds me of “Mantracker”…what do you think?20171107_123056In the Spirit of the Horse exhibit, I found these kids enjoying a ride on mechanical horses – personally, I would prefer a real pony ride but at least these beasties don’t get tired or upset with screaming, kicking kiddies…LOL!

And check out this friendly horsey who was right into the patting and cuddles. The kids adored him!

Me? Well, I just love my chooks!  That’s what Aussies call chickens and these little red hens were so cute to watch. I felt kinda bad for them, not being able to run around and peck at worms and bugs, but it seems they were pretty contented hens…

And speaking of contented critters, check out these lovely heifers….20171107_124209 20171107_124216This year, there were a number of fine artists in the Heritage Court and I ran into one of my faves, Kari Serrao, surrounded by her fabulous (and very elegant) beasties.20171107_12003520171107_120049And don’t you just love the little piggy top right corner? Such an adorable wee face…  Kari does pet portraits, too, so check out her site: www.kariserrao.com

Across from Kari I found this comfy cozy display…hello, Santa – I want one of these cushions please.20171107_120831 20171107_120836Do you remember seeing the news about “goat yoga”? The lovely folks from Haute Goat brought in the Dwarf Nigerian goats for the yoga session last week. Here’s their booth inside featuring all their goat-milk products. You can also stay at their farm B&B outside of Port Hope, just 50 minutes east of Toronto  www.hautegoat.com  Below, co-owner Shain was busy today selling products and sharing the Haute Goat story with visitors.20171107_122239 20171107_122337 20171107_122313OMG…what the heck are these? Giant pumpkins…wow!20171107_124536And here’s the butter carving display (below) – it used to be a major event at the show in previous years, with massive carvings being displayed in giant “storefront” type windows around the equestrian ring. Now, just a few smaller carvings in a refrigerated trailer. How sad.  They also used to crown the annual Butter Queen but I think she, too, has gone the way of the dodo. 20171107_124433As I left The Royal, the cityscape looked beautiful but oh my, how all those new condos and office towers have dwarfed the once-proud CN Tower now. 20171107_130739 20171107_130925Thanks again to Barry for his media pass, and to all the folks I met today. Hurry on down to the fair to check out all the animals (I didn’t go into the barns as I forgot to take my allergy pills) but there are horses, cows, sheep, goats, chickens, bunnies and even a llama or two – the show closes on Nov. 12th. Details & directions: www.royalfair.org

 

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URBAN GALLERY UNVEILS “LAND ON FIRE” – NOVEMBER’S SOLO SHOW BY MARY LYNNE ATKINSON

This past Saturday, Urban Gallery (www.urbangallery.ca) in Toronto launched their solo art show for November, LAND ON FIRE, featuring stunning abstract landscape paintings by MARY LYNNE ATKINSON, pictured below with her “Night Sky” 36×48 acrylic on panel painting. The show runs through to November 25th.

20171104_142315Mary Lynne was thrilled to greet friends & family, and within minutes of the doors being open, one of her smaller pieces sold (the one to the right of the group below, titled “Solitude” with the little red dot on the name tag). That was one of my favourite pieces and I had my eye on it myself. But as the saying goes – you snooze, you lose!20171104_140115 20171104_141705Above, Mary Lynne chats with a gallery visitor about the two pieces to the right, “Wind” (upper) and “Firedance” (lower) both of which are 19×19 oil & resin on 16 gauge steel. Look at the close-up details of these two (below)…I love the texture.20171104_134400 20171104_134355I spoke briefly with Mary Lynne before the gallery got crowded – here’s what she had to say about her inspirations for these works….

ARTIST STATEMENT:   Land on Fire is inspired by waves as patterns in time and space. Formations that look like ocean waves in their immensity, silence and immutability draw me in. My paintings are rooted in the ‘tangible’ of the physical world. They are also inspired by questions surrounding our human relationship to Earth. My challenge as an artist is to draw the connections between both the tangible and the intangible.

By moving into a landscape through colour and gesture, painting becomes a meditation on space expanding and time evolving. The vast, silent, unforgiving spaces challenge me to express my ideas and emotions of timelessness. Each painting has its own silence. ~ Mary Lynne Atkinson 

ABOUT THE ARTIST:   Mary Lynne Atkinson is a mid-career visual artist living in Midhurst, Ontario. She holds a B.A. from Wilfrid Laurier University and a graduate diploma in Studio Process Advancement from the Haliburton School of the Arts. Her work has been exhibited widely in Europe, notably in the Carousel du Louvre, Paris, 2012 and 2013. She was awarded a Bronze Medal, Paris, June 2014, by the Societé des Arts, Lettres, Sciences. Her paintings have been exhibited in numerous curated shows including the Miami Art Basel and S Space Gallery, New York, NY.  Atkinson continues to exhibit extensively in Ontario, and her paintings are collected nationally and internationally.

Fellow artist Erik Chong and his wife Jeannette dropped in to view Mary Lynne’s work (below)…20171104_142117(0)…as did so many other fans of great Canadian art (below)20171104_142248 20171104_142332Here are some other fine examples of her work on display at Urban Gallery…20171104_131244 20171104_131239 20171104_131204 20171104_131157…and this 8×10 framed mixed media on panel titled “Amethyst Mountain” (pictured below) has also peaked my interest. Maybe I should add this to my Santa list?20171104_131133Land on Fire runs throughout the month of November at Urban Gallery, 400 Queen St East in downtown Toronto. For gallery hours and directions: www.urbangallery.ca

And congratulations to Urban Gallery for being named runner-up in the Best Independent Art Gallery category in this year’s NOW Readers’ Choice Awards!!  Nominated 2 years in a row, bravo Urban!Readers choice_runner up

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Foodora photo shoot @ Isaan Der, Toronto’s coolest Thai restaurant

Yesterday, the lovely folks from Foodora.ca home delivery service dropped into ISAAN DER Thai Restaurant in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood, to take photos of the exquisite dishes available for delivery (or personal pick-up) via their website. Here, photographer Melissa sets up her shots….20171101_141613 20171101_143524Foodora account manager, Dana, was on hand to help direct the shoot and talk with owners Donald and Chef Ko about the fabulous menu now available to a wider online customer base. Just take a look at these dishes – you could almost eat the photos, yes?20171101_145157 20171101_151249 20171101_151944 20171101_151938Online foodie influencer Cindy of @wakeupeatthis (below) also dropped in to cover the shoot, after which we all feasted on this magnificent spread…burp!20171101_150229(0)

Click here if you’d like to order online via Foodora:  https://www.foodora.ca/restaurant/s4jx/isaan-der-thai-food

And to visit the restaurant in person, Isaan Der is located at 2961 Dundas St West (between Pacific & Keele), Toronto.  www.isaander.comlogo

 

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ARTIST ROMI SAMUELS OPENS HER SOLO SHOW @ GALLERY 1313 IN TORONTO

Last night was one of the most enjoyable opening receptions for an art show I’ve attended in some time. South African-born, now Toronto resident ROMI SAMUELS launched her solo show THE LION, THE WATCH AND THE WARDROBE at Toronto’s Gallery 1313 with a gallery full of family, friends and art lovers as well as representatives from the South African Consulate.20171026_175241The main gallery showroom looked more like a safari with giant canvases of elephants, lions, giraffes, baboons and even a hungry looking crocodile (below, Romi’s husband Frank was busy on social media while being stalked by the giant croc…watch out!)20171026_173709The paintings reflect Romi’s childhood experiences in South Africa – can you imagine looking out your window and seeing elephants roaming outside?20171026_17572620171026_172536Guests seemed in awe of the giant B&W canvases and it’s easy to see why…20171026_181950 20171026_175044 20171026_175101Before the doors opened, I managed to corral the Samuels family for a photo – below LtoR: husband Frank, Romi, daughters  Hannah and Adina (son Josh arrived later in the evening)20171026_173738Romi’s proud sister Vivienne couldn’t stop smiling all night! Here she is (below R) giving her artist sister a great big hug!20171026_203443… and another friend, Elizabeth Greisman from the JCC (below L), also offered her congratulations.20171026_202455(0)As well as the wild beasties, there is a smaller gallery at the back that features some smaller, more intimate portraits of things found in Romi’s closet.  The stunning painting of lace gloves (below, centre) was sold – this was one of my personal favourites so I’m happy the gloves have found a new forever home.20171026_175007 20171026_175002One of the high points of the evening was when guest Mr. Goce Tasevski presented Romi with a bouquet of pink roses….such a lovely moment I was fortunate to catch with my camera20171026_185941In fact, there were quite a few floral tributes given to Romi, and her sister Vivienne even brought cake. Yum, her lemon poppyseed cake was deelish!  Daughter Hannah is quite the culinary expert, too, and she catered the whole affair. Hannah is my new BFF – she made the most amazing chocolate truffles. I would have taken pics of those, too, but we all gobbled them up so quickly, there was nothing left to photograph…LOL!

Being Thursday night, I immediately flipped thru the pages of NOW Magazine to see if I’d managed to get Romi listed…wow, even better – her show was listed under their “Must See” column. Woohoo!20171026_181439So 9pm came around and as the guests departed I managed to grab an exhausted but happy Romi for a quick video interview to get her reaction to the evening’s celebration.

Her show runs until Nov. 5th at Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen St West, Toronto  www.g1313.org  and if you would like to learn more about Romi herself, visit her website at: www.romispaintings.weebly.com The Lion, the Watch  - JPEG

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A Thai feast fit for a King….and I!

So apart from the bad grammar (s.b. “and me”) the headline here really does tell the story of Toronto’s small but mighty ISAAN DER Thai restaurant and its equally small but mighty queen of the kitchen, Chef Ko (pictured below).Chef Ko 2I was recently turned on to this snug and beautifully decorated dining establishment located in the heart of Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood by fellow foodies and owners of No. 7 Hot Sauce, Carlos and Sandra, who told me about the incredible food and lovely people who run Isaan Der. Chef Ko, along with her Canadian husband Donald, run the place like clockwork, juggling take-out and home delivery orders with quiet aplomb as they and their servers offer personal but discreet table-side service to their guests, many of whom are neighbours and regular/repeat diners.20171018_183950Attention to detail is key at Isaan Der – just look at these cute elephant hooks for coats or purses located behind every table for diners’ convenience.20170829_184227I recently spoke with Donald and Chef Ko about their journey from Thailand to Toronto and the fabulous food they serve to hungry fans Tuesdays thru Sundays.

Chef Ko, what first inspired you to become a professional chef?  Having had the opportunity to travel around Thailand as a journalist for Channel 7 news, I have discovered that it’s not all Pad Thai and Tom Yum Goong. There are lots of delicious dishes from every part of Thailand. 20170525_121454Did you study under any well-known chef or in a professional kitchen?  I studied at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which is also a 5-star hotel in Bangkok, in their Professional Thai Chef program as well as at Kasesart University to learn about the origins of some of our well known dishes.

You specialize in traditional fine Thai cuisine at Isaan Der– how important is it that you use fresh, locally sourced ingredients for your menu?  We only use the freshest of ingredients for our food and every dish is made à la carte, meaning every dish you order is made specifically for you. We do NOT have anything pre-made so dishes might take a few minutes longer getting to your table….but the wait is worth it!sataysDonald, since opening Isaan Der in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood in March , how have you seen your customer base grow?  Since opening, we’ve seen tremendous growth; from 3 people in the kitchen to now more than 8 dealing with the volume which we handle with great care and efficiency. It’s our loyal customers with whom we have had table-side conversations, educating them on the many differences in Thai food. We are certainly no better than any other Thai restaurant, but we do know that we are ‘different’.IMG_20170321_030403_608received_159738710362409620170320_20050620170320_200409Donald, any exciting news about menu or service you’d like to share?  Here we grow!  We recently changed our menus adding several new items to replace those we have “retired” for now. We cater to everyone with dietary restrictions such as celiac, vegan, food allergies as well as likes/dislikes. We can do it all as our dishes are made for you…any way you like it!

We’ve seen a tremendous increase in our Doordash delivery as well as personal take-out with our online ordering. Thanks to our brand new ordering app (for both iPhone & android) we’re able to streamline the dining experience for those dining at home. Easy-peasy with a simple click, click and done! We no longer take phone orders so we’re able to focus on personal table-side service in the restaurant.  But if people have questions about our menu we are certainly available via phone queries. See below the special promotion for 1st time app orders:July 2017454

Isaan Der is definitely one of my favourite Toronto restaurants and I’m especially fond of their Shrimp Roll appetizer – I frequently construct a meal by combining 2 orders of those with a salad. I love the little noodle ribbons and bows tying them up (see below). The handcrafted chili dipping sauce is super deelish, too.20170829_180825You MUST try the Golden Bags and Spring Rolls (below)….
17155630_1495954417121699_3390928405222378590_n 20170525_110821And each Wednesday is “Wine Wednesday” with $3 off your glass of featured wine…..20171018_184058…followed by “Beer Thursdays” when your favourite brew is only $5!20171018_184024Located at 2961 Dundas West (a few blocks W of Keele) there’s lots of parking (on street and in the green P lot behind) and prompt bus transit (take the #40 from Dundas W subway stn). Check out their menu, hours of operation and directions here: www.isaander.comlogo

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JOIN ME AS I “EAT TO THE BEAT” – attending annual fundraiser to raise breast cancer awareness

Each year, I’m honoured to accept the invitation to cover EAT TO THE BEAT issued by friend and PR colleague Peter Ashworth of Ashworth Associates Inc. and last night, I enjoyed all sorts of edible treats and drinks courtesy of 60 of Toronto’s leading female chefs. Raising awareness for breast cancer support with the Canadian Cancer Society as well as the $s is the focus of this annual event held at Roy Thomson Hall, and this band of happy volunteers greeted us at the front door, all dressed up to put smiles on our faces (below).20171017_190601

20171017_190633Thanks to KitchenAid who came on board as a sponsor this year – they donated so many wonderful kitchen gadgets for the silent auction (below)…who knows, this non-cook might just win a closing bid (am waiting for a phone call as I type!)20171017_193922(0)So instead of me prattling on with text about the show, I think I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Be prepared for some major mouth-watering reading, and be sure to visit the restaurants of those chefs who donated their time and food to Eat to the Beat – I’ve listed them all at the bottom of the blog.20171017_19093720171017_19101520171017_191024I always look fwd to finding the lovely ladies of Succulent Chocolates – below – they always have such fab sweet treats!20171017_190837 20171017_201559

20171017_191231 20171017_191414 20171017_19144020171017_19153320171017_19164420171017_19173720171017_19222720171017_192703 20171017_192245 20171017_194401I really liked this locally-produced Scotch (below)…mmmm, good!20171017_203025Below – Pumpkin soup anyone? So deelish!20171017_200103I love me some savories! Although there were lots of sweeties, I headed straight for the meat and seafood!!20171017_19265620171017_19275320171017_19510820171017_195203The crowd moved thru Roy Thomson Hall’s outer lobby in an orderly fashion, although some tables offered samples that just drew ’em in in droves…20171017_202425….like these awesome and spooky Halloween mini-cupcakes from Lolli Cakes.20171017_202028 20171017_202055So many tastes and sights to take in….it was sensory overload!!20171017_195558 20171017_192703 20171017_19365320171017_19492920171017_19534320171017_195405(0) 20171017_201937 20171017_194043Then all of a sudden, it was over – another successful event done and dusted!20171017_201824Congratulations to event organizers and their amazing team of volunteers, and especially to the participating chefs and restaurants (see below). Bravo, everybody!!July 2017456

 

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SOUTH AFRICAN-BORN ARTIST HERDS WILD BEASTS INTO GALLERY 1313 FOR SOLO SHOW OCT.25-NOV.5

South African born and raised, and now Toronto resident Romi Samuels’ solo show “The Lion, the Watch and the Wardrobe” runs Oct. 25 to Nov. 5 at Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen St West in Toronto with an opening reception on Thurs. Oct. 26 (6-9pm) .  Romi’s floor-to-ceiling canvases illustrate the wild beasties that surrounded her family home in South Africa, painted in bold strokes of black and white. She also brings together a collection of colourful “portraits” of items found in her wardrobe, many of which belonged to her artist mother, plus a very special family heirloom – a pocket watch.

Her work features distortions, thick paint and strong colours. Her creative inspirations include the great South African painters Irma Stern, Wolf Kibel, and Maggie Laubser who were strongly influenced by the teachings of the German expressionists. To learn more about Romi please visit her website at www.romispaintings.weebly.comThe Lion, the Watch  - JPEGI recently had the opportunity of chatting with Romi when I asked her about her early artistic influences and her childhood in South Africa which has obviously informed many of the paintings in her upcoming show.

How did you become interested in painting?   My first introduction to the art world was as a newborn.  I have been told that my mother parked my stroller under the grapevine while she set-up still life paintings and give art classes on our patio.  Growing up, there were always paintbrushes in our house, palette knives, coloured pastels, twisted tubes of paints, batik dyes, lino boards, linseed oil, art books, not to mention the sketch books which were given to me even before I knew how to write – I still have a childish pencil drawing of my family relaxing in a train compartment, which I did when I was about 7 years old.  There were also outings to art galleries and of course my mother’s beautiful paintings (see below) which covered the walls in our home, and I always hoped that one day, like her, I would be able to decorate my own house with my paintings.20170911_142217What was the first subject of your painting?  Now that I think about it I am amazed to remember that my first painting which I did in nursery school was of a crocodile with its mouth wide open (probably inspired by one of our many trips to the Kruger Park – a huge game reserve in South Africa, almost the size of a small country).  And now, some 45 years later, I have, in my current show, a painting of a crocodile in that exact pose (see below).  My first oil painting which I did much later, was a still life with various objects including an African clay pot with a traditional Ndebele motif. So Africa has always featured in some way in my paintings and even now, living in Canada it continues to work its way into my art.Croc - croppedHow did your early years in South Africa influence your work?  As a child my most exciting holidays were our family trips to the Kruger Park. I have vivid memories of waking up at the crack of dawn, hopping into the car with a delicious picnic lunch, hoping to be the first out of the camp gates onto the dust roads looking for game.  I remember how we would suddenly stop the car at the slightest hint of movement and I’ll never forget the excitement of joining a whole row of cars, straining to see what all the fuss was about, or sitting for hours at a waterhole waiting for a thirsty animal to come and drink.  And then there was the thrill of eventually spotting a lion in the distance or of being dangerously close to an elephant crossing the road. So yes, these amazing images of the African bushveld have been subjects of my paintings since childhood.Two lionesses - croppedIn a previous series of paintings, I focused on the people’s struggle for survival in post-Apartheid South Africa which I did on large canvases. These paintings are of ragged children in the veld, mothers with babies on their backs begging for money, craftsmen, construction workers and security guards slaving for a meager wage.20170911_142232On a more personal level, some of my “Wardrobe” pictures also include sentimental items which travelled with me to Canada. So even though I have been living in Canada for 17 years, my paintings still reflect the bittersweet nostalgia of the ex-pat.Gloved hands - cropped Handbarg - cropped Pocketwatch - cropped Red tie - croppedDo you have a favourite medium in which to create?  For many years oils were my favourite, but now, I have also begun to enjoy acrylics mainly because they dry so quickly!  I’ve also started working with collage and mixed media which add a lot of interesting texture to my work.  For quick drawings, ink is one of my favourite mediums – I especially like the combination of a gentle washes and hard lines.20170911_142416What do you hope gallery visitors leave with after attending your upcoming show.   Firstly, because my paintings are so large and imposing, I hope to share that experience of being in such close proximity to the magnificent African fauna. Also, because my paintings are more expressive than literal, I want to communicate their intense emotion to which we as human beings can relate. I also hope that gallery visitors will see that even my “Wardrobe” paintings are not just still-lives, but rather expressions of the personalities behind them.  So basically, my intention is that that people will come away identifying on an emotional level with my paintings or responding to them emotionally or even just realizing that as human beings everything we see or create is influenced by our own emotional responses.20170911_144923What is next for Romi?  I never know in advance what I am going to paint. I usually start off playing around with something which develops into an idea and then becomes a body of work.  So my next series will be as much of a surprise to me as it will be to you. [laughs]

Opening reception takes place on Thursday Oct. 26th (6-9pm) at Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen St West, Toronto. For gallery hours & directions: www.g1313.org   Light (kosher) refreshments will be served so if you would like to attend and meet Romi, kindly RSVP to FordhamPR@rogers.com  Space is limited so email me a.s.a.p.

Although it’s not in this show, here is one of my fave Romi paintings – I just love chickens and Romi painted some of the hens that used to run around her childhood nanny’s property back home in S.A.20170911_141930

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ARTIST CHRIS MARIN OPENS HER “PASSAGES” SHOW @ URBAN GALLERY in TORONTO

URBAN GALLERY hosted the opening reception for artist CHRIS MARIN’s solo exhibition “PASSAGES” last night and Chris welcomed family and friends as she unveiled a series of intuitive paintings that are both intriguing and powerful.  Her works utilize a bold colour palette and viewers can interpret their own vision as to each painting’s subject or meaning – it was interesting to hear several gallery guests air vastly differing interpretations of one particular painting! Anyway, let’s ask Chris to us about about her work herself…

Artist’s Statement:  One brush stroke leads to the next. When I begin a non-objective painting, I do not know where I will go. It’s a liberating, intuitive way to paint and to live. In “Passages” I invite the viewer to take his or her own steps through the paintings. Chris Marin, 2017.20171005_174612Chris became intrigued by art after learning intuitive watercolour painting from Dorothy Clarke McClure in 1993. Over time, Chris expanded her interests to include collage, printmaking, acrylic painting and applying transparent underglazes to her pottery.  One of her paintings is on the cover of “What About My Kids?” a book written to help families coping with breast cancer. Chris’s painting “Home Again” is the image in the Port Medway Lighthouse calendar for February 2018, and “My Favourite Things” was used for the IWK children’s hospital fundraising raffle this year. She contributes regularly to the IWK and Elderdog shows, and her paintings can be seen at the Riverbank, Mill Village, and Port Grocer, Port Medway, Nova Scotia. They also hang in law offices and private collections.

Chris’s story, The Edge of Risk is included in the book, Outside of Ordinary: Women’s Travel Stories.  And her Nova Scotia treetops studio was featured in the Spring 2009 issue of Studio Magazine. The majority of Chris’s paintings arise from the subconscious, whether she is pouring watercolours or sitting at her easel applying paint, simply responding to what she has just done with no end result in mind.

Here are just a few of Chris’s paintings that caused a stir with gallery visitors…20171005_164303 20171005_164333 20171005_164341And as the guests arrived, Chris was eager to greet them and show them around…20171005_174648 20171005_180035 20171005_174610Chris gave an interview to arts journalist Mark Hasan of KQEQ.com (below)20171005_172043…and here she is (below) with gallery curator and fellow artist, Allen Shugar…..20171005_165335…and with her friends (below)20171005_165832Below, Drew from Snap’d newspaper came out to take photos, too.20171005_180243Chris’s guests thoroughly enjoyed the reception and Urban Gallery hopes to see red dots going up alongside a number of paintings that created quite the buzz with the opening night crowd.20171005_180207 20171005_18053020171005_174800Gallery owner, Calvin Hambrook (below L) was also busy welcoming guests…20171005_172102 20171005_174928…and this sumptuous and artful refreshments spread was courtesy of UrbanSource Catering  (urbancatering.com)20171005_170438 Chris’s show runs throughout the month of October (closes Sat. Oct. 28) so please visit and support another talented Canadian artist. Directions and gallery hours: www.urbangallery.ca20171005_164527 20171005_164249 20171005_165404