Category Archives: Family-friendly

CANADIAN INT’L FAITH & FAMILY FILM FEST STARTS TODAY!

Just as the Toronto Int’l Film Festival (TIFF) closes, the 5th annual Canadian Int’l Faith & Family Film Festival opens! My dear film industry friends BRIAN KAULBACK (CIFF Ambassador and member of judging panel) and festival Co-Founder & Exec. Director JASON BARBECK invited me down the the exclusive Hotel X on Toronto’s waterfront today to talk about this unique family and faith-focused festival that runs online for an entire month, and features films, shorts, documentaries, even animated films that are suitable for ALL the family. Jason graciously offered to share information about CIFF with me via a series of video chats so I encourage you to click on and learn about the cool content and activities at this year’s festival.

Every year, the CIFF Film Festival exhibits and celebrates the most outstanding faith and family content produced from every part of the world. Films are selected and nominated by a panel of judges on the basis of content, quality and originality.  CIFF is one of the fastest growing segments of the international film festival markets, and the only one of its kind in Canada.audience Film lovers, industry professionals and media outlets will celebrate the best in new faith and family cinema from established and emerging filmmakers and talent. This year, CIFF will be showing films from 22 countries around the world via their website: www.cifflix.com  Get your online passes there NOW. The festival runs until mid-October so you can catch all the films as well as tonight’s Awards Gala from the comfort of your home.

And there will be lots of celebrities and stars in virtual attendance, too….

colmCIFF Film Fest welcomes submissions from filmmakers around the world so come on all my Aussie movie making mates…here’s how YOU can submit your latest production and access a growing audience of film lovers who appreciate inspiring, family-oriented and faith-based content……

I encourage you to visit the festival’s official website: www.cifflix.com or follow them on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.logo

ENJOYING A SHORT WALK AMONG THE SPRINGTIME FLOWERS IN DOWNTOWN TORONTO

As our city enters its third week of stay-at-home restrictions, how lovely to enjoy the spring air, free from the confines of my apartment in downtown Toronto. With no other way to get exercise or see daylight, I chose to take a quick stroll away from the main thoroughfares this Sunday afternoon. Although I’m surrounded by concrete and glass high-rise office buildings and condos, there are a few secret pockets of turn-of-last-century townhouses with their beautiful little garden patches as well as a parkette or two.20210418_121409 (2)I first dropped by my neighbours across the street – the spectacular office building that’s headquarters to the Manufacturers’ Life Insurance Co.  Carefully reaching through the wrought iron fence, I snapped a few pictures of their flower beds, most of which are still slumbering…but there were a couple of early risers!20210418_115317Around the corner, there’s a delightful little parkette that never disappoints at springtime. Usually full of red tulips and bright yellow daffodils, this year there’s a blanket of tiny blue flowers…not bluebells but something just as pretty…wow!20210418_115826 20210418_115757Behind the parkette, there’s a modest little cul-de-sac lined with row houses from the 1900’s, all beautifully maintained and reno’d. The houses on the north side of the street back onto the Rosedale ravine and at the end they’ve created a lovely area with wooden railway ties as benches and the wild gardens are filled with birds singing. I frequently go there just to sit and relax and…breathe!20210418_120709Looking down onto Rosedale Valley Road from my perch above…..

Walking back along the little street, I enjoyed several of the perfectly-kept flower beds and pots….20210418_12143520210418_121439Time to head home as the skies grew a little overcast but not before I snapped a few shots of the planters along my home-stretch of Bloor St East, featuring my favourite little flowers, pansies. Aren’t they lovely?20210418_122955 (3)So get outside and enjoy the sun, the fresh air, the flowers and birds…forget about Covid for half-an-hour and be grateful for all these beautiful things we’re given for free. But please keep your mask on when passing by your neighbours.20210418_123006

WELCOME TO TORONTO’S FALL “THE BABY SHOW”- EVERYTHING FOR EVERY LITTLE PERSON!

Well wasn’t that a fun time?! Not having kids of my own, I’ve never been around little people for any length of time but today I had a blast with lots of mummies, daddies and adorable tots at The Baby Show currently hosted in the Enercare Centre (Hall B) at Exhibition Place, Toronto. The show runs throughout this weekend – 1 more day left Sunday Oct. 6 – so hurry on down for all sorts of freebies, samples, information on baby’s health, food, furniture, fashions and lots of booths promoting support services for new mums and dads, too. Here’s the show’s Founder Sandy Pedrogao to tell you all about it…

Along with hundreds of families, I wandered around the aisles, meeting some of the vendors and learning so much about 21st century parenthood versus how my mum & dad raised me in the 50’s & 60’s…give the kid a cardboard box, some string and a wooden spoon and voila…there’s your toys, Glenda…haa haa!

Loved these folks (below) from www.babynimbus.com who offer cute onesies and other fun things with doodles and pics from local artists. 20191005_145434I then met the charming couple (pictured below) operating www.thebabymamabox.com a monthly subscription box offering all sorts of samples and goodies delivered to your door. Boxes are customized for various age groups and also offer boxes just for mama herself. Products are hand-picked and mama tested so you’re sure to get the best.20191005_135656Here’s talented baker Walaa Alwan of Fantasy Cookies (yummm) who creates all sorts of delicious and oh-so-pretty cookies for special occasions like baby showers, christenings, baby’s 1st birthday…even engagement parties and wedding favours (get a head start on growing your family) 20191005_141259(0) 20191005_141310Just along the aisle from Walaa, I ran into the crafty lady who knits & crochets cute critters for cute kids under the name www.monimon.ca  They are soooo adorable and it reminded me of toys my mum used to knit for my sister and me back in the 60’s – I still have a little penguin she made me….aaaaaw.20191005_141407www.mondobebe.com (below) offered a very elegant booth with luxury furniture and accessories for the most discerning babes. They have stores in Quebec and one a little closer in Mississauga.20191005_135953The Baby Brands Gift Club was a hive of activity as they gave out all sorts of treats, samples and informative brochures and magazines to show attendees. As you can see by the photo below, they were very popular!  Check out all the brand name products they offer at www.babybrandsgiftclub.ca 20191005_141524So I was thrilled (and surprised) that all the wee ones were quiet and I witnessed very few tantrums or crying. I guess the babies picked up on the vibe that this show was just for them! There were samples and contests for parents and lots of booths offering comfortable changing facilities as well as peaceful feeding areas curtained off to provide privacy and calmness.20191005_141138 20191005_145541 20191005_145206Congratulations to Sandy and her publicist Jakki for a successful showcase of all things baby! Follow them on Fcbk: TheBabyShowToronto  as well as Instagram: @TheBabyShows. Watch for announcements for their Spring show here in Toronto.logo

2019 CANADIAN INT’L AUTO SHOW OPENS TODAY IN TORONTO

Every February, my inner gear-head starts twitching with excitement – it’s time for the annual Canadian International Auto Show!  Yesterday’s Media Day offered intro’s to new manufacturers, new designs, new technology and teased us with gorgeous luxury vehicles few can afford…me included.

One of the first exhibits I visited was Ford where I made a beeline for the brand new Mustang Bullitt edition. Oh my, she was a beauty. One of my fave Steve McQueen movies was Bullitt and the stories about the fate of his original hunter green Mustang are legendary. I let my imagination run wild as I snapped away…20190214_102338 20190214_102422 20190214_102502 20190214_102440Ford also had a NASCAR vehicle on display (Joey Logano’s car) plus a life-sized Lego racer (below)20190214_102143 20190214_102634Check out the new Jaguar – what a stunner.20190214_103602 20190214_10351220190214_103619And Acura unveiled its latest model (below)20190214_103850New model unveilings are always exciting for the automotive journalists and this crowd was super excited to watch Cadillac present its new SUV (below)20190214_104026

Then over to the other side of the hall to see Maserati. My fave colour is blue so of course I had to snap this moment as the boys played with these bright shiny new toys!20190214_104948Now for the BIG trucks – so nice to feel so “petite” when standing alongside these beauties.20190214_105008 20190214_105529 20190214_111133 20190214_105047

There’s also a cool WWI/WWII display courtesy of www.TankMuseum.ca in the hallway of the South Bldg – definitely a must-see for the little soldier in all of us!20190214_102042

20190214_101930I always enjoy a stroll thru the vintage auto displays and this year’s exhibit didn’t disappoint – many were “cherry red” so it made for some great photo opps.20190214_120549 20190214_120638Back over to the North Bldg of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and in the basement, you’ll find the exotics – the ultimate prizes for all car lovers. Aston Martins, Lotus and Stingrays oh my!20190214_124641 20190214_12482720190214_124846Then I bumped into (literally) Brit car designer Mark Roberts of McLaren who kindly posed for a photo beside his creation, the McLaren Senna.    20190214_124336(0)Also located on the lower level of the North bldg is the Barrett Jackson collection of 60’s & 70’s muscle cars and they’re as sexy as all get-out! Don’t miss this display – if you’re like me and grew up in this era, fond memories will come flooding back…20190214_125139_001 20190214_125210 20190214_125223 20190214_125234 20190214_125312So if I’ve whetted your appetite for stunning autos, you have until Sunday Feb 24th to visit the annual exhibition of mega horse-power, style and technology. Tickets, directions and show info can be found at: www.autoshow.ca and if you have family members who prefer their driving to be stationary, there’s a big X-Box gaming area in the South bldg that should satisfy their needs/wants….20190214_120924…as well as other car-themed promotions…20190214_120814..and also a kiddie playland for the little ones. Have fun, drive carefully…20190214_103722

 

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)

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

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

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

I VISIT MY NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOUR – ST PAUL’S on BLOOR STREET FOR “DOORS OPEN TORONTO”

Each year, Toronto hosts a special weekend called “Doors Open” where we can visit beautiful buildings around the city that are normally closed to the public such as offices, law courts, architectural treasures and places of worship. I’m fortunate to live next door to one very special building: St Paul’s Anglican church which is one of the largest parish churches in N. America. When I entered, the organist was practicing – take a listen here…

During today’s special tour, visitors got to see some of the most gorgeous stained glass windows in Canada, many depicting heroic WWI stories and in fact, one of the windows was made from the glass fragments found around some 70 destroyed churches and buildings in Belgium, France and Italy.20170527_112002 20170527_11304620170527_112224Around the walls of the massive interior were many plaques and memorials dedicated to past parishioners who had lost their lives fighting in Europe….20170527_112444 20170527_113244…and the incredible wooden carvings of angels were breathtaking…20170527_112612Not a lot of people ever look up when they visit such venues but I always do (you never know what cool things you can spy up above) and I’m so glad I did…check out these awesome state-of-the-art fans in this video. They look old-school to fit in but are actually brand new….

20170527_111902 20170527_113058 20170527_112542 20170527_112647The marble altar (above) shows the Last Supper – it’s so beautiful and is flanked on either side by historic figures from the first World War. There is just one female depicted in the carvings and statuary…Florence Nightingale!  I found another beautiful window behind the altar screen (below). I could have stood there for an hour enjoying all the intricacies in this little window and the marble carvings in front….20170527_112954Next month marks the 175th anniversary of the founding of St Paul’s and to commemorate the occasion, a special craft lager has been created, the St Paul’s CLXXV, which will be available in 6-packs for a limited time only following their June 11th anniversary service. Considering the church’s reputation for warm hospitality and sharing food and drink, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate!

If you’d like to learn more about this fine church and the wonderful work they do, please visit: www.stpaulsbloor.orgSt Pauls

ONTARIO…YOURS TO DISCOVER – so I did, and I learnt it’s a real fun place to live!

Thanks to my friends at Tourism Toronto, I was invited to attend the Celebrate Ontario Tourism promotional event held at Union Station this morning (#DiscoverON) and I’m so glad I put the alarm on for the early call.IMG_2085I arrived shortly after the Hon. Michael Coteau, Minister for Tourism, Culture & Sport opened the event with a brief address promoting “stay-cations” in our home province of Ontario, something I always love doing (ain’t that right, Port Hope?).  So I “hopped on the bus” and toured around the exhibits featuring the province’s top attractions.

First off, I indulged in a deelish butter tart offered by these charming pioneers from Sainte-Marie-Among-the-Hurons which is located only a couple of hours north of Toronto. www.hhp.on.ca20160527_093418 20160527_100514Next door, it was shark attack time! The fun and fabulous folks from Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada let me play with their friendly mascot Sharkee although I think they threw me in as tasty shark bait/breakfast ..LOL!  www.ripleysaquariumofcanada.com20160527_092149 20160527_092201I’m looking fwd to taking a tour of the giant aquarium, conveniently located at the base of the CN Tower, so I can post a blog editorial complete with photos of the real thing…ooooo scary!

While I was “chumming” for sharks, I ran into Lorrie Pella, VP of Visitor Engagement & Northern Mkt’g for Ontario Tourism www.ontariotravel.net  What a fun lady she is…here she is (below) with the equally fun and groovy Chef Scott Savoie, Founder & Chief Eating Officer (!) of Toronto Food Tours.  www.tofoodtours.com20160527_093508I ran into a couple of knights from Medieval Times, along with this gorgeous bird of prey who posed so elegantly for me. www.medievaltimes.com/plan-your-trip/toronto20160527_093903I swear I then saw Yogi and Boo-Boo take off with a picnic basket so I ran up to Ranger Sheila Wiebe at the Ontario Parks booth to see how I could help. She told me everything was fine and that perhaps I needed to learn all about fishing & camping – frankly, I consider Holiday Inns as camping ….but she introduced me to several of Ontario’s premiere camping locations, including one at Bronte Creek, not far from Toronto, where I could actually “camp” in a yurt (yes, there are flush toilets on-site so this city slicker could cope). www.ontarioparks.com20160527_09394920160527_094000 20160527_094009Ranger Sheila’s colleagues (above) were promoting this beautiful waterfall located up north in the region made famous by the legendary Grey Owl in the 1930’s.

Bringing me back to civilization, these guardsmen introduced me to the City of Toronto Historic Sites & Museums  www.toronto.ca/museums  This weekend is the annual “Toronto Open Doors” festival where the city’s finest old (and new) buildings open their doors to the public for free tours. What fun!20160527_094322(0) 20160527_100915Back to this century, I then hung out for a while with the folks from KX96 New Country radio, where DJ Tim Lawrence broadcast live from the show (centre pic). Here he is with tech coordinator Lucas, and further down, there’s the lovely Tanya (Mkt’g Consultant).  www.kx96.fm20160527_094643 20160527_094750 20160527_094854The ladies representing the Ontario Science Centre obviously love their jobs…and who wouldn’t with all that cool nerdy sciencey stuff?! I haven’t visited there since 1980 so I think it’s about time I get my geek on and pay them a visit. Another fun blog to plan, eh?  www.OntarioScienceCentre.ca20160527_095519Next up was…UP, the Union Pearson Express that takes passengers to and from the airport and downtown Toronto, by-passing all that horrible traffic.  www.upexpress.com   They were running a pick-n-win contest and although I didn’t win a free trip, I did win a lovely prize pack that included a yummy cookie, thanks ladies.20160527_100025 20160527_095718 20160527_100045One of the more popular stops was the City Sightseeing Toronto / Mariposa Cruises booth where they gave out tons o’ goodies and showcased many of the downtown Toronto attractions. Jeez, nothing like getting photo-bombed by SCTV’s own Edith Prickly, eh?  20160527_100253 20160527_100259 20160527_100506www.citysightseeingtoronto.com     www.mariposacruises.com

Time for a quick refreshment break and I found 2 awesome booths, first the Kawartha Ice Cream folks…love the chair, love the ice creams! www.kawarthadairy.com20160527_100936 20160527_101724…then on to the Hawthorne Food & Drink booth for a refreshingly cool glass of  rhubarb lemonade. www.hawthorneto.ca20160527_101051 And finally….the biggest/tallest attraction in Ontario (sorry, Niagara Falls) –  the CN Tower!  If you’ve ever taken the elevators all the way to the top, you KNOW how awesome the tower is. Betcha haven’t done the EdgeWalk?! Yes, you get put into an orange jumpsuit then hooked up to safety rails as you take a walk around the outside edge of the CN Tower waaaaaay up top. Definitely an OMG moment in anyone’s life.  www.cntower.ca  20160527_101137 20160527_101615Above, the tower’s Sales, Mkt’g & Communications Manager Krista Kalbfleisch chats with out of town visitors…the woman is definitely considering the Edge Walk – go for it, girl!

So I had a blast and am certainly glad I got up 2hrs earlier than usual to join all the other visitors to this special show-and-tell of Ontario’s leading tourist attractions. Congrats to all at Ontario Tourism and thanks to all the booth reps for extending such warm hospitality.
Check out ALL the Province’s many attractions at  www.ontariotravel.net 20160527_091823 20160527_092126Y’all come back now real soon….Sharkee’s hungry!!!