Category Archives: Family-friendly

legalized pot

AUTHOR & FAMILY THERAPIST OFFERS ADVICE TO PARENTS ABOUT POT LEGALIZATION AND THEIR TEENS

With the legalization of pot in Canada last Wednesday October 17th, many parents & grandparents of teens and ‘tweens are nervous about starting the conversation about smoking, toking and vaping weed now that it’s more easily available. Did I raise my kid to stand up to peer pressure? Does my kid understand the fall-out from prolonged use of weed and long-term health issues? Will my teen’s future be compromised if they indulge in regular pot use?just say noThe author of the recently published The Anxious Teen (a guidebook for parents, teachers, mentors of teens suffering stress and anxiety) KRISTINA VIRRO (pictured below) sat down with me last week and answered a few questions that parents may have and advice they may need before broaching the subject over the family dinner table.IMG_2370 (1)What should parents look for to identify drug use in their teens?   One warning sign is finding accessories associated with drug use, so parents can benefit from familiarizing themselves with what these are. Another warning sign is when a teen starts missing or skipping class, which is often associated with poorer grades. Finally, the smell of marijuana is a dead giveaway, though you might notice your teen using several air fresheners, candles, colognes and more to cover up the smell. weed bongsWhat are the changes in behaviour or indications that your teen may be experimenting with pot or other drugs?  You might notice a change in their friend group and a withdrawal from family bonding time. Since every teenager is unique, pay attention to any changes in their personality that just seem different, too. They might become more apathetic, less productive, possess less self-control, and start paying less attention to their personal hygiene. Or, they might become more aggressive, defensive, irritable, and paranoid, which could all be symptoms of drug use.teen drugsHow do you communicate your distrust of your teen’s friends or peers (who may be involved in drug activities) without causing them to react negatively or defend their friends?  During adolescence, teenagers are actually biologically wired to enhance their connection to peers, meaning they often feel very loyal and protective of their friends. The worst thing you can do is insult friends, so stay far away from poking fun at them, calling them names, or making hurtful totalizing statements (i.e. “your friends are all losers.”) While your first instinct might be to cut contact between your teenager and their “sub-par” friends, it might be better to simply create some boundaries for the times they are spending time with them. Set curfews, check in on them a bit more often, or whatever you feel is best. Finally, create more opportunities for you and your teen to spend quality time together—alone or with the entire family—as this has been well-researched to minimize drug use.pot kidsIf you find weed in your teen’s room or school bag, what should you do/say?  Take some time to process and/or release any feelings that arise before approaching your teen. Once you feel ready to approach the topic in a more neutral manner, start by being honest about finding marijuana. From there, communicate why you’re feeling concerned in a way that doesn’t sound accusatory. Speak in “I” statements and avoid extreme language like “always” or “never.” I also invite parents to consider taking a harm reduction approach, which is based on the idea that, for better or worse, drug use happens, and our goal should be to minimize its harmful effects rather than simply condemning them. A large body of research supports the efficacy of such a strategy. This might involve talking openly about drug use, creating guidelines, and/or using the drug when the effects will be the least disruptive. pot foundShould parents discuss their own youthful drug use with their teens and how do you start the conversation without sounding “preachy”?  Being “preachy” involves excessively trying to teach moral lessons, and usually involves talking at someone rather with them. To avoid this, make the conversation collaborative. Be curious rather than judgmental and remind yourself that people used pot when you were young, too. If your teen feels like you’re blowing things out of proportion and not listening to them, they’ll become more secretive, which is precisely what you don’t want.BOOK COVERThanks, Kristina.  And she offers lots more advice and approaches to parental and family interactions concerning drug use and abuse, as well as coping with the stress and anxiety teens are currently experiencing. You can get a copy of Kristina’s book from Amazon or iBooks, or directly from the author via her website:  www.fresh-insight.ca

Ms. Virro’s Credentials:
Individual, Couples & Family Therapist (Master of Science, University of Guelph)
Registered Holistic Nutritionist  ​(Canadian School of Natural Nutrition)
Master’s of Journalism  ​(​University of Western Ontario)
Certificate in Trauma-Informed Care ​(University of Buffalo, School of Social Work)

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LEELA INDIAN FOOD BAR SPICES UP TORONTO’S JUNCTION!

Don’t know ’bout you but I looove good authentic Indian food and I’ve finally found a great little restaurant that serves it up in a beautifully designed environment far from the trinkety, bedazzled elephant decor dining room we’ve come to expect from local Indo-Canadian food spots. Welcome to LEELA INDIAN FOOD BAR located at 3108 Dundas St West (just past Quebec Ave) a calm oasis in the busy Junction strip of cool boutique resto-lounges and boites, serving the most authentic “dhaba” or street food this side of the Bay of Bengal!20180409_141640_001The charming and well-informed staff are happy to recommend menu selections and stand behind their dishes, each of which is made fresh for each diner. On my first visit, I thoroughly enjoyed the recommended roasted cauliflower chaat tossed with chutney, yoghurt and fresh cilantro (pictured below). Mmmmmmm, deelish!20180406_202743…which was followed by the butter chicken. OMG, so yummy, and the rice was light and fluffy, not gluey or over-cooked like many other places serve.20180406_205827I recently spoke with owner, Hormazd Daver, and asked him to share his thoughts on Indian food and his delightful restaurant:

What inspired you to open Leela Indian Food Bar?  I always wanted to open my own restaurant; it’s been a passion for while to have somewhere that I can put my own ideas and efforts into practice and cater authentic Indian cuisine to hungry Toronto foodies.

Did you have previous experience in the food/hospitality industry and if so, where? My previous experience was working as a flight crew member for Cathay Pacific airlines which gave me the opportunity to interact with people of different nationalities and share their experiences about the food and international cuisines available in Toronto.

You have family members working with you – who are they and what duties do they undertake to help make the restaurant such a success?  I have my sister working with me, along with my brother-in-law, which make us a complete family team. This helps a lot as my sister works on weekends both in a service and administrative capacity. My brother-in-law is responsible for managing the restaurant on a daily basis from ordering supplies to managing the staff and all other duties required to successfully operate the restaurant.

What are your most popular dishes?  According to reviews posted by our customers, the Lasooni Cauliflower (stir-fried cauliflower with our chef’s special spices & sesame seeds) is very popular along with my favourite Shrimp Malai Curry which is tasty and very light. Also popular is our Butter Chicken which is not overly “sweet”, unlike what you might find in many other Toronto Indian restaurants. As far as vegetarian dishes, we find the most popular is the Sweet & Sour Eggplant with curry leaf and mustard seeds – by the way, we have many vegetarian options for diners to choose.

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One thing that really impressed me while sitting and inhaling my yummy meal was the humble decor and accessories – I love the blue carved ceramic serving platters on each table as well as the copper water jugs full of chilled fresh H2O – apparently the copper infuses valuable minerals into the drinking water so it’s extra good for us to imbibe.20180409_141631 20180406_21441020180409_141655The open kitchen (below) makes for a friendly casual atmosphere and you can watch your meals being prepared fresh by the skilled cooks.20180406_202657Leela Indian Food Bar also has a busy home delivery service and you can order via their website: www.leelaindianfoodbar.ca  If you’d like to reserve a table (suggested for groups of 6 or more), you can also do that via the website (upper r.h. corner)

A few more personal recommendations include the incredibly over-stuffed veggie samosas…20180428_193453…the oh-so-delicious kale & spinach pakoras(below) – I’ve never tasted pakoras like these and not an once of grease to be found!20180420_194052And you just gotta end your meal with their fresh, sweet Gulab Jamun dessert (spongy honey balls).20180428_200254So take it from me, a hard-boiled, curry-lovin’, naan gulping Indian food fanatic – Leela Indian Food Bar is THE place to take your friends, families or sweetie…and it’s very affordable, too!

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 www.leelaindianfoodbar.ca
3108 Dundas St West, Toronto – T: 416-769-7777

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WHAT AN EXCITING, RED HOT OPENING NIGHT FOR THE SHIVER SHOW IN TORONTO

Congratulations to the performers and in particular, artistic directors KRISTINA KULIKOVA, ANTON AZANOV and CHANTAL FRY-SALETTI on last night’s opening of THE SHIVER SHOW at the Glenn Gould Studio theatre in Toronto.  So many hours of rehearsal and sweat-equity have gone into this stunning blending of dance, figure skating, circus arts, music and operatic singing, as well as beautiful costuming, hair and make-up.20180209_200247The brainchild of Kulkat Entertainment’s Kristina Kulikova, the Shiver Show blends 7 different disciplines of dance with figure skating, aerial circus arts, a little burlesque, video and some very talented musicians into this unique theatrical experience that had the audience on their feet more than once throughout the show!

Prior to showtime, several of the performers were interviewed backstage by Fairchild TV – here’s Kristina, Anton, opera singer Dina Shikhman and Kristina’s talented sister Elena Kulikova (singer/painter) chatting with the news crew.20180209_181430 20180209_180152 20180209_175745 20180209_180913Out in the lobby, one of the charming ballerinas entertained the crowd prior to the show with a very unusual performance….move over Edward Scissorhands!

One of my favourite routines was this stunning flamenco dance, accompanied by Dina singing Carmen.

And to close the show, all the performers came out to take their bows to a standing ovation…bravo!

Afterwards, the dancers schmoozed with the excited audience and I was thrilled to accompany Toronto’s leading online influencer, MoVernie, introducing him to all the performers, starting with Kristina herself.20180209_211130 20180209_210855 20180209_185927 20180209_210817There are 2 more shows today, Saturday Feb 10th at 4pm and 7:30pm – so there’s still time to catch THE SHIVER SHOW. Info and tickets available at: www.ShiverShow.ca  or call 1-888-407-4520

Thank you for supporting Canadian talent…and if you’re looking for the perfect entertainment for your corporate event, festival or gala, please contact Kristina to see how she can customize a show just for you. You can reach her via the website.DSC_8046

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Move over Elsa & Anna, there’s a new ice queen in town!

Meet CHANTAL FRY, Founder of Glisse on Ice and now Director/Producer and skating choreographer for the upcoming SHIVER SHOW (Feb 9 & 10) at the Glenn Gould Studio in downtown Toronto.ChantalThe Toronto-born professional figure skater and performance artist previously competed in North American and European championships – after completing four golds under Skate Canada, Chantal entered the performance world with Innovations on Ice. She then toured with Holiday on Ice in Europe, the Lido de Paris, and the Cirque du Miroir in Montreal.fire great stand no hatIn 2000, she combined her creative side with eight years of classical ballet, jazz and dramatic arts training to create Glisse on Ice.  The skating troop toured France and later relocated to Canada where they enjoyed success on a plastic ice surface, performing with Cirque du Soleil and many of Canada’s most prestigious venues. Chantal now brings Glisse on Ice to the Shiver Show where the skaters will collaborate with performers from 7 styles of dance, as well as music, burlesque and circus artistry. A show definitely not to be missed!

I recently sat down with Chantal and asked her about her work with Shiver Show and Glisse on Ice……

You must be really excited to be a part of the Shiver Show, bringing your unique ice skating ballet to theatre audiences – what are you most looking forward to?   We are so very excited to be apart of this unique and ambitious project with Kristina and Anton. I created Glisse on Ice to bring the art of skating to places you least expect and so this is an absolute perfect setting for our shows.  We’re really enjoying the process of learning from and collaborating with dancers.DSC_8046Have you enjoyed collaborating with Kristina and Anton (pictured below), directing and choreographing your various segments?  Their dance talent is exceptional, flawless even. Figure skaters have so much to learn from dancers; their discipline and execution of movement. It’s an honour to work with them and truly identify not just the differences in our performance styles but also to experience the process.Kristina & AntonYou trained with outstanding coaches Debbie Wilkes and Tommy Litz when you were actively competing – how important is a good coach for inspiration and career aspirations?  A good coach is one who truly understands the emotion behind the athlete. When they are able to channel the specific aspect of their students’ talent everyone gains form the result. Training with Tommy in Lake Placid every summer for six years taught me the importance of daily work and preparation. He recognized my passion for performance and the arts and put me in the Saturday night shows for tourists visiting the Olympic village. It was there that I realized there was a whole exciting show skating world. Debbie Wilkes, herself an Olympic champion, agreed with Tommy and in between her segments as a skating commentator for CTV, she produced a skating show. While I was still in high school she trusted me to go on tour across Canada performing as the lead skater in a Christmas show. I was hooked for life from that moment on. A good coach sees the hidden potential and provides the platform to reach your dreams and goals.fry02 (1)Your Glisse on Ice shows have been presented around the world and in public and corporate venues. What, so far, has been the most exciting or challenging event you’ve performed?  The Shiver Show is so new and ambitious that I would say it equals the time Glisse on Ice was invited by the Cirque du Soleil to present our unique concept at their annual Holiday party in Montreal. We collaborated with the artistic directors of Cirque and provided an unexpected evening for their staff who have seen and dreamt it all! It was such a huge honour my legs quivered for days! The elaborate white tulle and crystal dress I designed for that event has been the reason for countless bookings in the event industry. But there are so many to choose from. The Lido de Paris was probably my most gratifying show and touring with Holiday on Ice in Europe gave me such a great perspective that I stayed in France doing shows for 8 years then went on to create Glisse on Ice in Marseille.

[I frequently run into Chantal and the Glisse on Ice exhibitions at special events shows, like this one – below]

What do you hope the Shiver Show audiences experience with your beautiful “ice dancing” segments?   We strive to capture the sheer essence of the feeling skating brings, yet completely out of context and far from a rink. We hope that audiences will be surprised and enchanted to see skaters twirling about on stage in the midst of beautiful dancers.  The contrast between dancers and skaters is fascinating, very different yet linked. The Shiver Show embodies all these elements. DSC_7859And if someone wants to book Glisse on Ice, how do they contact you?   Our weblink offers detailed background, lots of pictures and contact info: www.glisseonice.com  and we’re also on Instagram @glisseonice so please follow us!  Our shows are perfect for corporate galas, weddings and festivals as we set/strike the ice rapidly to ensure great flow at events. The Glisse skaters are all wonderfully talented and have competed at a national level; they have also toured the world with Disney on Ice, Holiday on Ice and various other professional tours.  We have become the Glisse family, from the skaters to the all-female ice crew, costumes, sound, makeup…. and I am proud to be the appointed Glisse Maman!

You can come see Chantal and all the talented dance/skate artists in the SHIVER SHOW Friday evening Feb. 9th and Saturday Feb 10th. Details and tickets are available from:  www.shivershow.ca
Seniors discounts (20%) and Students can purchase tickets for 50% off for the Saturday matinee show.Shiver Show horizontal ePoster

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MEET WORLD CHAMPION BALLROOM & LATIN DANCER ANTON AZANOV, SHIVER SHOW’s CHOREOGRAPHER & ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

Next month, the SHIVER SHOW takes the stage at the Glenn Gould Studio in downtown Toronto (Feb 9 & 10) and I recently had the pleasure of chatting with the show’s Artistic Director and lead Choreographer ANTON AZANOV.

The handsome and talented  artist (pictured below) has a string of major accomplishments and brings all these to the Shiver Show along with co-producers Kristina Kulikova and Chantal Fry.180134_1818892201865_34434_nAnton, you’ve won multiple Latin and ballroom dance world championships – what was your most memorable win? Was it your first youth championship or the first one as an adult?  Definitely my most memorable accomplishment was winning the World Championship with my former partner in ten dance, which means across both the Latin & Ballroom dance programs.  This is something I had worked very hard towards my entire dance career and was blessed to achieve.dance 3You have dedicated much of your life (so far) to dance – long hours training and show rehearsals with lots of blood, sweat and tears! What have you had to sacrifice to reach the current point in your career?  Generally, I have no regrets in life as I am extremely happy with the direction my life has taken and I don’t think of anything as sacrifice.  A lot of the choices I made have brought me success but I am also thankful for those choices that did not, as they taught me many lessons for success in the future. We all sacrifice something, but when you have a goal, it doesn’t matter.dance 4 danceWere you born in Russia and did you do your training there?  I was born in Siberia, Russia, and initially began my training there. After several early success both my parents and I understood that in order to further my dance career, I had to relocate to Moscow where all the major clubs and trainers were. So at age 11, I moved to Moscow where all the current world champions trained.

You’re choreographing the upcoming Shiver Show in Toronto – are you enjoying working with the wide variety of performers in such a show?  Yes, it’s a great pleasure to work with incredibly talented performers and other choreographers including professional tap dancer Adam who has performed and choreographed for many Broadway shows, Ukrainian national & Canadian National Ballet ballerina Julia, authentic flamenco choreographer and performer Sofi whose family has been dancing flamenco for generations, Blackpool Dance finalist Dora, Canadian Pole Dance judge Elisabeth and others.   I feel very excited to be able to choreograph the Ballroom & Latin sections of the show while incorporating other dance elements.DSC_8046Are you also performing in the Shiver Show and if so, please tell us what style of dance you will personally present?  I will be presenting Ballroom & Latin. But it will not be what you’re used to seeing in dance competitions; we want to show the public that Ballroom dancing can be combined with elements of other genres such as lyrical, acrobatic, jazz and much more.

Anton with Kristina Kulikova

Anton with Kristina Kulikova

You’re currently a trainer and coach at Toronto’s Dance Life studio – what do you enjoy most about working with young dancers and emerging artists? What advice do you enjoy most sharing with your students?  I enjoy sharing my knowledge with the younger generation and inspiring them to follow their dance dreams, like I had the ability to follow mine.  I try to serve as an example that anything is possible when you focus and are ready to work hard.  The best advice that I’ve received as a dancer and would like to pass on is simply…Dance and be happy!

When you take your final bow at the Shiver Show, will you be thinking of your next project and if so, what is that?  To be completely honest, currently my focus is on the show and to inspire the audience with what we have created.  A more long term plan is to ideally take the show on tour in 2018 and 2019 and be able to offer the cast a chance to further share their talent and passion with the world.  We are excited for what is to come after the show, as it’s also adaptable to non-theater spacing and can be performed at festivals, events, on movie sets & much more!

Anton likes to dance off the stage as well!

Anton likes to dance off the stage as well!

And….do you have a website people can visit to learn more about you and your work?  I’m a simple guy [smiles].  Anyone is free to contact me through Facebook- you can find me as Anton Azanov – and I’m always happy to help in any way I can.  My contact details are of course also on the Shiver Website.

You can come see Anton and all the dancers and figure skaters (yes, there’s even ice skating) in the SHIVER SHOW Friday evening Feb. 9th and Saturday Feb 10th (matinee + evening show). Details and tickets are available from:  www.shivershow.ca

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Shiver Show horizontal ePoster

2018 starts off with an exciting new dance/skate extravaganza: The SHIVER SHOW @ Glenn Gould Studio Feb 9 & 10

Happy new year and what better way to celebrate a new beginning than to attend an exciting new theatrical presentation that features 7 different genres of dance such as Ballet, Ballroom, Latin, Tap & Burlesque, elements of circus arts including Lyra & Pole performances, musical interludes with beautiful operatic vocalists and of course the magic of Figure Skating. Introducing….the SHIVER SHOW!DSC_8046DSC_7859 DSC_7972The brainchild of two outstanding Canadian women entertainment entrepreneurs, the Shiver Show started simultaneously and separately in the minds of KulKat Entertainment Founder Kristina Kulikova with her partner Anton Azanov, former World Ballroom & Latin Champion (picture below), and Chantal Fry, Founder of Glisse on Ice Shows.  Seeing each other’s work online, Chantal & Kristina decided to share their ideas about a grand theatrical presentation over coffee… and so Shiver Show was born. From a small joint project, the idea grew into this unique large scale production debuting next month in Toronto.Kristina & AntonI recently spoke with Kristina about the show and she graciously shared her thoughts on this this truly one of a kind production:

Kristina, where did the inspiration for Shiver Show come from?  It has always been a personal dream of mine to create a theater show that showcases the incredible performance talent that we have in this great city and give them the opportunity to truly shine- I can honestly say that the dancers themselves were the real inspiration. I wanted to create something unique, something eye catching and unexpected, which is where the chance meeting with Chantal came in at exactly the right time! Putting ice on the theater stage and incorporating over 7 genres of professional dance was the gem I was looking for. Finding the perfect venue and partnering with the incredibly creative and passionate Ballroom/Latin choreographer/performer and coach Anton Azanov fueled that idea and essentially made it a reality!D73_3436 D73_3373 IMG_0212hoopChantal Fry, the founder of Glisse on Ice, has created a spectacle on “artificial ice” for the show – how difficult is it to choreograph ballroom dance, flamenco, tap, aerial, pole & burlesque dance and integrate it with figure skating onto the restrictive stage of Glenn Gould Studio?  We all fell deeply in love with all of the elements Glenn Gould Studio had to offer including their sophisticated lobby and reception area, incredible acoustics, and most of all the non-traditional no-curtain seamless stage which allows the audience to feel closer to the performers and truly enveloped in the show. GGSFrom there – getting creative with best use of spacing was easy.  Led by inspiration and the 2 brilliant minds of Anton & Chantal (pictured below), we divided the stage essentially in half to give the required surface to both the dancers and skaters in order to showcase their skills. It took 3-4 iterations of different positioning to get the set up just right, and we are very excited for the final product!ChantalThe beautiful aspect to this show is also that each act showcased can be booked separately for various corporate functions, events, festivals, etc so aside from being a theatrical production, the acts are gorgeous on their own accord.   We have already received requests to perform the full show program at dance schools, theater schools and festivals, so it is definitely something that can be taken out of the theater setting and still look marvelous.D73_3409Requests for booking any of the talent involved in the show or separate acts, performances or demonstrations, can be arranged through me at KulKat Entertainment (for the dancers, circus arts & singers) www.kulkat.ca  or Chantal Fry of Glisse on Ice (for the figure skaters) www.glisseonice.comE6504577Show times: Fri & Sat Feb 9 & 10 @ 7:30pm (doors open 6:45pm) plus Sat. matinee @ 4pm (doors open 3:15pm)
For group discount on tickets, use promo code: SHIVERGROUP (for groups of 10+)
Full details and tickets:  www.shivershow.caGGS2

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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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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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ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL BEACH CELTIC FESTIVAL IN TORONTO

Last weekend, Kew Gardens in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood, was packed with fans of all things Celtic as founder SANDY GRAHAM presented the 14th annual Beach Celtic Festival.  With an exciting vendor village full of Celt-themed treasures and a performance roster of award-winning musical and dance artists, thousands of festival visitors enjoyed 2 days of sunshine and free family fun, celebrating their Scottish, Welsh, Irish and English ancestry and the contributions those early immigrants made to building Toronto into a world class city.20170909_113015Created as a tribute to her late mother, Sandy has built the annual Festival into a local tradition and she has gained support from local businesses and politicians.

The Beach residents are very supportive of this event and I get asked on the street all the time about when it is and what they can expect this year. I think the businesses appreciate that we don’t host a lot of competitive vendors i.e. coffee, food, clothing etc. and that our vendors are strictly Celtic in theme and flavour. I always say that it is a tough rent on Queen Street East and if we can all bring more people into the Beach to spend money and enjoy our little Brigadoon for the weekend then that is all good. Sandy Graham

Here are some of the booths enjoyed by Festival visitors:  first up www.duncanscelticstonework.com20170909_121650

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Duncan MacDonald of  Celtic Stoneworks

20170909_113219..and here’s some beautiful silver and gem jewellery (below) from www.CelticFair.ca20170909_114247 20170909_114308Next up, how about some deelish infused jams & honey from The Art of Nova Scotia20170909_114020 20170909_114056 20170909_114120I found some lovely fragrant incense sticks (Dragon’s Blood…oh my!) from the Karmic Crystals & Sunshine Glass ladies. I also spied some cute fairies, too!20170909_113636 20170909_113703Sprucewood Shortbreads were also there (below), selling their yummy cookies  www.sprucewoodcookies.com20170909_114420 20170909_114511And for those with a bigger appetite, the All Smoked Up BBQ truck was on hand to satisfy everyone’s hunger pangs!20170909_114536Sandy and the Festival team presented an exciting silent auction to help raise funds to cover the costs of producing the Festival…look at all the cool stuff on offer this year (below). Jays’ fans had the opportunity to bid on a personally autographed photo from team legend Kelly Gruber!20170909_11461220170909_114615This year, Sandy welcomed new vendor Jeannie B and her stunning photographic chalkboards. Great ideas for Christmas, birthday or new home gifts! www.jeannieb.com20170909_115018 20170909_115300 20170909_114952…and also Laura from Designs by Nature Gems who brought some stunning handcrafted jewellery to her booth. www.designsbynaturegems.com20170909_114706 20170909_114752You could learn Gaelic and the history of the language around the world from the www.gaelicsocietytoronto.com20170909_115416…and you could also learn about the history of Cornwall, mainland England’s farthest western county (below) from the www.torontocornishassociation.org20170909_115439Another newbie to the Festival this year was Olga from www.SaltnMustard.com who brought her handcrafted infused salts and artisinal mustards (oh, yummm!)20170909_115746 20170909_115752 20170909_115842For those who got a little chilly later in the day, there were warm blankets, jackets and shawls available, too….20170909_114401 20170909_114207…and for those wanting a little bit o’ home in their Toronto home…lots of beautiful watercolours and prints20170909_113851I really did want to take a peek…but the lads from Men in Kilts must have heard and headed for the trees…LOL!20170909_115912The folks from Simply British Foods brought boxes of potato crisps for hungry nibblers….20170909_120051 20170909_120057…and if you wanted to show your allegiance to the Celts, you could pick up all sorts of fun custom pins from Press My Button (below)20170909_115710Here are the bonny lasses from the Bold Step Dancers, under the direction of Meghan Bold, who got the crowds up on their own feet. (you can follow them on Facebook.com/Bold-Step-Dance-Studio-Scottish-Highland-and-Canadian-Step-Dancing )Bold Step DancersThese charming youngsters (below) from the Butler-Fearon-O’Connor School of Irish Dance provided some great traditional dance entertainment.20170909_120221

And here’s the team that helped present this fun family event – Founder and producer extraordinaire Sandy (2nd from left) and her musician brother Don (3rd from left) are joined by some of the generous volunteers for a photo opp with Snapd Beach/Danforth newspaper.20170909_121033Musical performers included Don Graham, Lisa Hartt, Syd Simkins, Caledon County, Erin’s Malore and Old Man Flanagan’s Ghost whose founder, Stephen Lamb, was presented with the 2017 “Celt of the Year” award for his support and contributions to the Celtic community in Toronto.

So mark your calendars for the weekend after Labour Day next year when the Beach Celtic Festival marks it’s 15th anniversary – it’s sure to be one big happy ceilidh!  www.thecelticfestival.com 20170909_115653 20170909_120125 as-celticdragon

 

 

CONCERT RAISES FUNDS FOR NEXT MONTH’S “BEACH CELTIC FESTIVAL”

Last week, one of Toronto’s favourite watering holes, The Duke on Queen St East, played host to a special fundraising concert benefiting this year’s 14th Annual Beach Celtic Festival (Sept. 9/10) and festival founder SANDY GRAHAM was thrilled to welcome an exciting line-up of Celtic dancers and musicians to the stage.

MC  & performer Don Graham is joined on stage by featured musicians to take their bows.

MC & performer Don Graham is joined on stage by featured performers to take their bows.

Thanks to the generosity of the performers and that of the prize donors for the silent auction, a substantial amount of money was raised to help underwrite the costs for producing the annual festival celebrating the contributions made to Toronto’s history and growth by Scottish, Irish, Welsh and English immigrants.

Led by Meghan Bold, the lovely ladies from the Bold Steps Dance Studio entertained with traditional dances and clogging – the excited crowd clapped along in time.

Apart from MC’ing the evening, singer/songwriter Don Graham opened the night with some great tunes….20170822_195838…and he was followed shortly by roots musician Syd Simkins (below)…20170822_203237….and award-winning artist Lisa Hartt (below)20170822_205652The auction tables were pretty busy throughout the night, offering all sorts of treasures and treats.20170822_183041 20170822_183938MPP Arthur Potts (below) dropped by to wish Sandy and the Festival volunteers well…and shared a few funny stories with the audience. He and Sandy go waaaay back and she was delighted to pose for pictures with him.20170822_194407 20170822_195102Music insider and columnist for Cashbox Canada e-magazine (Sandy is publisher of this long-running music magazine), Lenny Stout (below, left) helped sell 50-50 draw tickets with Festival volunteer Fiona Lawson (right). 20170822_203358…they also helped Don with the draw. And the winner is…. Zita DaSilva who was obviously very excited about the result!20170822_220328Sandy was pleased to welcome reporter Courtney from Snapd newspaper (below left) to the event where she snapped lots of pictures of the performers including Brooke and Steve from Old Man Flanagan’s Ghost.20170822_211243 20170822_213338Stephen Lamb (Old Man Flanagan’s Ghost) was, in fact, presented with the “Beach Celt of the Year” award honouring his contributions to the Celtic community and continued support of the Festival. Steve was later joined by Sandy and MPP Potts for photo opps.20170822_212210 20170822_195122

It truly was a grand night and the artists and audience all paid tribute to Sandy Graham for creating such a unique family-friendly annual event.  You can learn more at www.thecelticfestival.com

BEACH CELTIC FESTIVAL
Sat/Sun September 9 & 10 and it’s FREE!
Kew Gardens, Queen St East in the Beach, Toronto

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