Category Archives: Family-friendly

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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

Poster

 

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MEET SANDY GRAHAM, FOUNDER OF THE ANNUAL “BEACH CELTIC FESTIVAL” IN TORONTO

Way back in the late 70’s, I first met Sandy Graham (pictured below) who was running a fabulous nightclub called Route 66 on Jarvis St down near Dundas.sandyRoute 66 was a 50’s theme bar and dance club, sorta like Arnold’s on Happy Days but with a big dance floor instead of diner booths. Sandy held court there nightly, leading the talented waiters/dancers out on the dancefloor, getting the crowd up on their feet doing the triple swing, the stroll and even the hand-jive. During this time, I was running a similar club, Ollie’s, located inside the entertainment complex called The Ports of Call (or The Ports for short) up at Yonge & Summerhill. Instead of rivals, we became fast friends.

Skip ahead a few decades(!) and Sandy is still entertaining crowds but this time she is sharing her Celtic heritage and presenting an annual family-friendly festival as a tribute to her late mother who was an accomplished highland dancer and true-blue Scottish lass. So welcome to the 14th annual Beach Celtic Festival!  www.thecelticfestival.comPosterEach September, Sandy hosts this 2-day party for Toronto’s Scots, Irish, English and Welsh descendants with lots of great musical entertainment, dancing, a vendors village where you can pick up all sorts of treats and treasures, and a great community spirit. I’m so pleased to help her promote this year’s event and I asked her to share her thoughts on putting on such a show…..

How did you come up with the idea for a festival celebrating Celtic heritage and culture in Toronto?My Mum (pictured below) passed away in Montreal on June 30, 2001 and because the next day was July 1st (Canada Day) we could not get to her in the funeral home until after the long weekend. I took a walk and ended up in Kew Gardens where the 48th Highlanders of Canada were performing and that was it. I knew I had to do a celebration in that park. It took a few more years and then September 2003 the Beach Celtic Festival was ‘born’.

Jemima Sutherland (L)

Jemima Sutherland (L)

BCF 9 MUMAfter 14 years, how has the event grown/changed since you first launched this unique outdoor ceilidh?    Originally, the Beach Celtic Festival was only supposed to be a one-off event, a celebration of life for my Mum. It was so successful that first year that we decided to keep going. It stayed as a one day event until 6 years ago and has now grown into a two day event. It is now embraced by the neighbourhood and beyond. It’s lovely to get emails from all over the world asking us about the Celtic festival.BCF 10 The CrowdBCF PIPERSYou are also hosting a fundraising event at The Duke tavern on Queen St East this Tuesday night (Aug. 22) – how expensive is it to produce a 2-day family festival in Kew Gardens?  And do you receive any government funding or corporate sponsorship to underwrite these expenses? The Beach Celtic Festival costs close to $10,000 to produce which includes permits, insurance, portable toilets, stage and sound requirements, expenses and publicity. We do not receive government funding and Kew Gardens is a public park and so it cannot have a gate entrance fee. I don’t think people realize how expensive it is and unfortunately there are restrictions to sponsorship as well.

Do your local Beach neighbourhood businesses support or contribute to this event that draws thousands of people to the area each year?  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 very 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.20140906_17155820140906_171621Over the years, what has been the most fulfilling experience you’ve enjoyed as producer of the Beach Celtic Festival?  There are times during the Celtic that I just stand on the gazebo and look around at the park and realize these are the same trees, the same baseball diamond, the same park my Dad ran around in as a little boy so it has come full circle. There is something magical to see the park full of people enjoying the Celtic ways and hearing all the accents. Smiles galore.BCF 7 Wee Ones DancingAny other comments you’d like to share?  Although the Beach Celtic Festival is my ‘baby’, it truly would not happen without all the love and support I get from everyone involved in the yearly production. Everyone rallies around to push it through year after year and I am eternally grateful for those people. From friends, family, talent and the Celtic Team (including yourself, Glenda) there is great comfort in knowing the Celtic Festival will be around long after I am gone as it is safe in the next generation’s hands. I also wish to extend a welcome to all nationalities to come experience some of the music, ways and wares of the Celtic Community.BCF 8 'Braveheart' BCF  Wee OneSo watch the skies over Kew Gardens for flying dragons…better still, come on down and bring the kids, bring granny, bring your BFF. The Beach Celtic Festival is FREE!

Saturday Sept. 9 & Sunday Sept. 10 (9am-6pm)

Kew Gardens,  Queen St East in Toronto

www.thecelticfestival.com

as-celticdragon

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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

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I VISIT THE EXCITING CANADIAN TIRE MOTORSPORT PARK!

As an auto racing fan from waaaaaay back (and author of 4 books on auto racing), this was a dream come true for me when I joined a group of Toronto event planners for a visit to the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park out near Bowmanville, about an hour East of Toronto. They’ve created a beautifully appointed multi-level corp. event & banquet centre that’s suitable for business meetings, team building activities, weddings, any sort of group gathering, and I got to experience the wonderful catering companies they use.  I was thrilled to meet racing legend & Cdn Motorsport Hall of Fame driver Ron Fellows, his wife Lynda, son Sam and their charming team of marketing, hospitality and sales staff who run the venue.

Fearing the worst weather conditions, I joined my raincoat-clad events industry colleagues on the big white courtesy bus provided by www.luxury.to and started off early on Wednesday morning. Like a bunch of big kids, we were all “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” and after about an hour, the bus pulled into the CTMP grounds.20170504_10442620170504_112702And weren’t we lucky…they were doing some testing with Porches and Ferraris when we turned up. Vrooooom!

We were officially greeted by these lovely ladies who were our personal guides for the day.20170504_112329…then on to the presentations to learn more about the facilities and how they can be used for any of our special events.20170504_114831 20170504_113044Joining me was Zev Bertini, Business Development for Arrowonics.com (a new Toronto-based tech design company that creates awesome designs and light shows using multiple mini drones). Here he is (above) chatting to events reps, doin’ the business schmooze. Then it was on to lunch and oh boy, what a deelish spread they laid on for us….20170504_114846My first stop was Shrimp Cocktail‘s catering table…. Yummmm!  www.shrimpcocktailcafe.com20170504_121129 20170504_12115220170504_121155Then on to The Garage Guy BBQ whose sliders were so tasty….I went back for seconds! www.thegarageguy.ca20170504_121319 20170504_121341 20170504_121327(yes, you need big strong muscles to carry this many sliders…haa haa!)

My next nibblies stop was Pilar’s Catering whose Korean BBQ chicken pops and empanadas were scrumptious! www.Pilarscatering.ca20170504_122635 20170504_122641 20170504_122654Next on my tasting menu (below) was the desserts table…OMG, I was in chocoholic heaven, thanks to the ladies of KCC Gourmet & Catering Inc.  www.kccgourmetcatering.com20170504_122716 20170504_122721I needed more savoury bites so I then went over to the Peter & Pauls table for some of their special lobster mac & cheese. Definitely a winner…wish I’d gone back for more (am still licking my lips from that one!) www.bypeterandpauls.com20170504_123245It was then time for a drinkies so I visited Steve (below) from REIF Estate Winery (from the Niagara wine region) who was sampling some of their tasty wines. www.reifwinery.com 20170504_124504 20170504_124514A couple of the attendees won a draw for a quick trip around the track with Ron at the wheel…dammit, I didn’t win but at least I got to snap some pics of the lucky ones who did (below)20170504_122129 20170504_122157Zev and I had fun at the photo wall…20170504_125555 20170504_125543…where I also ran into an old friend, Mark Awad (below L) from bbBlanc Audio/Visual who was attending with a colleague. www.bbblanc.com20170504_125242We were then given a tour of the various track facilities and several guests posed out front with some of the cars from the Ron Fellows Driving Experience – yes, you too can learn to drive like a race car driver!  20170504_130317 20170504_130334 20170504_130604As our big bus wound through the Grand Prix grounds, we spied some of the racers…oooo, hot men & fast cars – what more could a girl want??!!20170504_131731…and there’s the podium (below) where all race winners pose with their trophies and pit crews20170504_131614We then stopped by the karting track (below) where I spied some of the racing suits hanging up…I nearly grabbed one and took a turn on the track myself!20170504_132526 20170504_132318Zev jumped up on the kart podium (below) and struck a pose with some of the event planners…LOL20170504_132928(0)..then after one last visit to the event centre to watch more of the on-track activity (below) …..

…we bade farewell to everyone and headed back to Toronto. All this time, the monsoon-like rain that had been forecast was kept at bay until we got back into the city then down she came! Farewell, CTMP, and thanks for your warm and generous hospitality…we will all be back soon.

I encourage you to visit the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, either for business or pleasure, and you can find all the information on corporate events, weddings, race days and speed weekends on their website: www.canadiantiremotorsportpark.com

 

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Playing hooky mid-week in Port Hope!

Earlier this week, as Toronto sizzled and steamed, my friend Teresa and I played hooky and journeyed the 50 minutes east to the wonderful lakeside town of Port Hope (my fave small town in Ontario).  Over the past couple of years, Port Hope and I have become good friends – the welcoming shopkeepers and cosy cafes, the historic restored Capitol Theatre, the stunning Municipal Building, the charming little beach and the tumbling Ganaraska River have all worked their magic on my soul.

As per usual, our first port of call was a visit to Kenneth Bell – the king of bling, the sultan of sparkle, my go-to guy for all things fabulous! I managed to get Teresa into a tiara, too, so we now have matching crowns!! Below, Teresa meets Kenneth for the first time…a match made in bling heaven! Follow Kenneth-Bell-Fashion-Accessories on Facebook.20160726_120435 20160726_123212 20160726_120517 20160726_122852 20160726_123339Next door to Kenneth’s shop is the always-awesome Queenie’s Bake Shop where we indulged in some deelish lunch sandwiches. Both Teresa and I were so brave – we resisted the incredible giant strudel and cookies on the front counter (sssh, don’t tell Teresa but I snuck home with a couple of their famous butter tarts). Follow Queenies Bake Shop on Facebook.20160726_113232 20160726_113235A littler further up Walton Street we found Bubbles and Gems, another fab fashion house where Teresa found a cute skirt and I found these amazing cushions…something for everyone at 20% off!  www.bubblesandgems.com20160726_130124 20160726_130130 20160726_130148 20160726_130327 20160726_130314 20160726_130501We walked past Holton Flowers who always have fabulous arrangements in the windows…we went inside to find floral heaven!20160726_13244620160726_132434We dropped in quickly to G. Facey’s, another fave fashion store of mine, where Teresa found a few more additions to her wardrobe, then down to the new Joie de Vivre store (below) where Teresa found some sweetly fragranced body creams. The new store is twice as big as the previous location further up the street, and offers a lovely range of goodies for your face, body and mind.  www.joiedevivrearomatherapy.com20160726_134850 20160726_134855One of the new Walton Street shops we found (new to me, anyway) was the Marche 59 cafe and artisan bakery (below) offering organic breads, vegan and gluten-free tasty treats and all sorts of goodies from local producers. Must give ’em a try next time I’m in town. www.marche59.ca20160726_132750 20160726_132754Time to head over to the beach so we made our way down Walton Street, past these beautiful hibiscus pots, along the riverbank to Teresa’s car parked near the Municipal offices….20160726_135057 20160726_144822…then over to the lake (Lake Ontario). Wow, what a lovely glimpse of the beach (below)20160726_14575520160726_145915We even saw a dad teaching his son how to fish…so cute!20160726_150323Thanks again, Port Hope, for your warm welcome – it always feels like coming home for me. See y’all again real soon.20150613_111719

 

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Join me for a tasty trip to the TORONTO BAKERS’ MARKET!

If only we had a “taste-o-vision” app where you could actually “taste” the yummy food photographs. Well, I’ll do my best for you here as I take you for a walk around the brand new TORONTO BAKERS’ MARKET held monthly in Leslieville www.torontobakersmarket.com

When I arrived at the market on Queen East just past Broadview at 12 noon, there was a line-up of hungry shoppers all excited to see what deelish treats awaited us inside. The doors were opened and we were welcomed by one of the organizers, Kathleen, so why don’t I let her tell you about it before we head inside….

Now let’s walk thru the doors and see who’s there…20160724_120206First off, I said hello to Katarina of Dolled Up Desserts (above), a local gluten-free and vegan bakery www.dolledupdesserts.com  Lots of dainty dolled-up treats here!
Next to Katarina were the fun ladies of Jammy Dodger, a bakery specializing in “whimsy and yum”. Check out these crazy Benedict Cumberbatcheos (below).  www.jammydodgerbakery.com20160724_120250 20160724_120257Then the next booth was deadly for me…they offered sticky toffee buns. I was proud of myself that I resisted…sort of. I only bought one from the Sugar Rush Bakery (below).  It’s already disappeared, tho, so apologies for not posting a close-up. Trust me it was deeeelicious!  You can follow them on Instagram: @sugarrushto20160724_120309Holy Cannoli was a very popular booth – I kept seeing shoppers walking around the hall with freshly stuffed cannolis courtesy of these cheerful bakers (below). www.holy-cannoli.com 20160724_120410 20160724_120415By this time, most of us needed a quick cuppa coffee to counter the sugar overload and Sparkplug Coffee certainly delivered. In fact, that’s what they do – coffee delivered to your office or home.  www.sparkplugcoffee.com20160724_120428Back to some serious nibbling…. next up, Molly’s the Bar Bakeshop.  Lots of yummy (and healthy!) bars to enjoy.  You can follow them on Instagram at @mollysbars20160724_12052320160724_120539Franny & Co. (below) offered some elegant and very decadent desserts, all gluten free, sugar free, plant-based and with sustainable ingredients. www.frannyandco.com 20160724_120616I was completely charmed by Sol Cookies (below) – a Toronto-based Peruvian bakery that incorporates some exciting “secret” ingredients (eg. anise) that really elevate them to a whole other level. Here are some tiny sample cookies – they have a soft shortbread quality to them with a special filling. Definitely recommend checking this company out. www.solcookies.ca20160724_120713 20160724_120720More cheery bakers welcomed me to the Fancy AF Small Batch Cookery booth with their cookies and fresh biscottis. You can follow them on Instagram  @fancyafcookery  Don’t you just love their fancy pinnies (pinafores)?20160724_120756 20160724_120814Rosie B Baked Treats (below) was a very popular booth; her home-baked fruit pies were fantastic! Couldn’t get close to her for a quick chat, thanks to all the crowds. Follow her @eugeniarb20160724_120829Lovely to see my Yorkville neighbour, the Dessert Lady who brought along her staff to help serve samples to the market visitors (below). So many yummy treats including custom cakes and Moon Pies (Sheldon Cooper’s fave dessert – for all you Big Bang Theory fans)  www.dessertlady.ca20160724_120836 20160724_12090620160724_120914Dollop Bakery offered delightful tiny treats (below) – they specialize in miniature, bite sized desserts ideal for parties, wedding favours or kiddies.  www.dollopbakery.com20160724_121011Local  chocolatier M.Thompson Chocolates served up their milk and dark chocolate boxes (below) – good job the A/C was working full blast – no melting, no worries! www.mthompsonchocolates.com20160724_121045Next I dropped in to say hi to Keiko, one of the organizers of the Toronto Bakers’ Market. Like all the vendors today, she had a big happy smile on her face. Everyone in the hall seemed to be smiling which made shopping all the more enjoyable. 20160724_121123Oh yummm…here’s Monkey Butter, the gourmet peanut butter company and oh what fab packaging! You gotta visit next month and try a mouthful of this…..it was eye-rolling to heaven time! www.monkeybutterpb.com20160724_121153 20160724_121205Clarke’s Bread is simply awesome! After one little sample, I bought a loaf of crunchy fresh sourdough (below). OMG, as soon as I got home, out came the breadknife and I enjoyed a couple of thick slices with some scrambled eggs. Yumm. Follow them on Instagram: @clarkesbread20160724_121237Just look at that elegant tiered cake by Tiffany Hoo Fatt! She also brought some easier to carry delights from her Tiered Cake Boutique such as cupcakes and cookies. Follow her on Instagram: @tieredcakeboutique20160724_121313 20160724_121322Oh! Cocoa Balls hand-crafts their all-natural energy bites that are gluten, grain & dairy free with no refined sugar. And they taste great, too. www.cocoaballs.com Perfect for those of us needing to cut out all the bad stuff while enjoying the naughty stuff…LOL20160724_121405 20160724_121410I just love these ladies at Desiree Cakes & Baked Treats.  It was the cute as a button Peter Rabbit cake (will somebody please buy me this cake for MY birthday?!) featured in my title photo (up top) that stopped me in my tracks…then I explored their table further and discovered so many delectable treats, all daintily displayed.  You can follow Desiree (pictured below L) on Instagram: @desireebakes  20160724_121536 20160724_121552Here’s balabusta – lots of fabulous sweet & savory breads and other treats handcrafted in Tal Prashkovsky’s own kitchen. Another busy busy booth where I couldn’t chat with the in-demand baker. Follow her on Instagram: @balabusta_by_tal20160724_121604 20160724_121640Meet Karen & Laura from Honeydew Creations (below). So many cookies to choose from, so little space left in my tummy! Lovely packaging and delicious flavours – pick your own from here: www.honeydewcreations.com 20160724_121649 20160724_121653 20160724_121700Well, by now I was starting to get a wee bit tired but like a real trooper, I kept on going and I made it to the next booth, Baking in the 6ix. (below) More super deelish sweet treats including pretty in pink cupcakes and iced donuts. They’re on Instagram at:  @bakinginthe6ix20160724_121736Whew, I made it to the Klusters booth…gourmet nuts, seeds, fruit & kale trail mixes. Aaaah, that should get me thru to the end of this foodie trail! Founder Michelle Spring is a holistic baker and nutritionist – guess I should have asked her about my own diet which was definitely challenged today! www.arealhandful.com 20160724_12180920160724_121817 20160724_121822The Blue Eyed Baker certainly added a little eye-candy to the market (ladies, any man who bakes this good is a treasure, blue-eyed or not). Let’s all go Friend him on Fcbk!  www.facebook.com/theblueeyedbaker200820160724_121848 20160724_121858Chocolate chocolate chocolate….THIS is my kryptonite!  Mary’s Brigadeiro are fine Brazilian chocolate truffle-like treats that are a “party in your mouth”.  You MUST try these – simply heavenly. Check out www.marysbsweets.com for more info and hopefully Mary will be back at the next Toronto Bakers’ Market – you’ll have to stand behind me as I will be first in line then!20160724_12261520160724_12261020160724_120146So a big CONGRATULATIONS to sisters Kathleen & Gillian Gook, Jayne Ambler and Keiko Flower who organized this fabulous new local foodie market. I look forward to the next one, August 21 at the Ralph Thornton Centre, 765 Queen East (just a few blocks past Broadview). See you there, folks! www.torontobakersmarket.com

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Take a walk with me thru the annual RIVERDALE ARTWALK in Toronto

Hosted annually by The Artists’ Network Board, the RIVERDALE ARTWALK takes place this weekend (June 4 & 5) at Jimmie Simpson Park on Queen St East. Each year, I love strolling through the tents and exhibits, meeting old friends and making new ones among the multi-disciplinary artists participating in this first of the year’s outdoor art shows. It was such a lovely sunny day today, I headed down to the show early so come and take a virtual stroll with me as I introduce you to some of the talented artists…..

First off, here’s Stephen Cooper who is a photographic artist specializing in vintage cars….or should I say the rusted skeletons of vintage autos.  www.wstephencooper.com20160604_120643 20160604_120646He turns dusty old heaps of metal into stunning works of art…here, let Steve tell you himself

I loved the cool, calm tones of Nicky Hindmarch‘s seascapes (below) www.nickyhindmarsh.com Her booth was perfect for taking a breather and sheltering from the hot sun beaming down on the park.20160604_121248 20160604_121253Kate Taylor has been a Facebook friend for a long time and I love seeing her new art each year. Look at these gorgeous vibrant pieces….  www.katetaylorstudio.com20160604_121441 20160604_121452I’m lucky to own an original Ian Busher work of art, so I was intrigued to see his new focus this year which is quite  different from what’s hanging on my wall. Love love love the bright colour blocking featured below. www.studiobusher.com20160604_121619 20160604_121526

The ladies of the Women’s Art Assoc. of Canada were a hoot…here’s a group of artists who really love their work! www.womensartofcanada.ca20160604_120826More fun sights…..20160604_120904 20160604_120445And here’s the fabulous artist/teacher Rea Kelly who is always pleased to welcome visitors… www.reakelly.com20160604_12494820160604_125009I discovered these powerful paintings by Mississauga artist Christopher Masoure  www.studiomazur.com20160604_121925…and I enjoyed meeting Morgan Jones www.morganjonesart.com whose work I had seen at ArtaGallery and included in an earlierr blog from The Distillery District (3rd pic)20160604_122004 20160604_12214220160522_164722(0)The charming and talented Gaya Kairos invited me in to her booth to cool off and enjoy the shade. It was her first time at the Artwalk so I asked her to share her thoughts on the experience.  www.art-gaya.com 

20160604_123951 20160604_123942Peter McLennan was a great new find for me.  His photographic artworks were masterpieces in minimalism and as I stood in his booth, I overheard so many ooo’s and aaah’s. Hope he sells ’em all! www.PeterMcLennan.com20160604_122509I think my biggest discover at this year’s show has to be Gordon Shadrach whose paintings of men’s shoes, socks and powerful portraits took my breath away. www.shadrachartworks.com 20160604_122711 20160604_122717 20160604_122725

I love Karola‘s paintings, esp. her charming chickens …..one day I hope to have one of her colourful roosters on my wall! www.Karola.ca 20160604_123245 20160604_123317Liz Menard invited me in to see her etchings (below) and I loved the delicate designs and colour palette she uses. www.lizmenard.ca 20160604_123623

If the weather holds up for tomorrow (Sunday June 5) I really recommend you visit the Riverdale Artwalk in person. Located at Jimmie Simpson Park @ Queen Street East & Booth Avenue, there is an indoor showroom, too, which I totally missed today so if it’s raining you can still enjoy more art. www.artistsnetwork.ca 20160604_125205