Reflections on moving to the Far East

23 Sep

scarborough_spacing_buttonWhen I got the keys to our new place a week ago, it marked the beginning of a lot of things: the start of life as a home owner, for one.  Among the other firsts is a biggie: by the end of the month, I will no longer call Little Italy home.  Home will be the Far East.  Home will be Scarborough.

To put this in perspective, I have never in 20-going-on-30-odd years of Toronto dwelling, resided east of Yonge Street.  Born more or less at the intersection of Yonge and Bloor, I am a serious downtowner/Westender (admittedly, not quite as hardcore as my mother, who believes the boundaries of Toronto are Dufferin, Eglinton, Greektown and the lake).  A story I often tell is how wonderful it was as a kid going to an elementary school that had an atypical catchment area consisting of the whole city of Toronto.  My classmates and friends were bussed in from High Park, Regent Park, Cabbagetown, Rosedale, the Danforth, the Beaches, or Dufferin Grove.  Yet as broad a sense of the city as this might have impressed upon me, these were nevertheless pre-Mega City years and Scarborough was not really on my radar.

Enter my now fiancé, who was born in Calgary, raised in Scarborough and more recently lived in Pickering.  In the time we’ve known each other I’ve been on more GO Train rides than I care to count, and have a clearer picture of what it looks like east of Victoria Park.  So it was a little less of a mental shift when this past summer we began our house hunt, and decided to focus our search on the east end, knowing that this was a more affordable area than the downtown and that many of our friends and family have settled in the area.

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Good eats… at recession prices!

22 Apr

Boxing Day pricing seemed to kick in earlier and continue on later this past holiday season than in any other year in recent memory—retailers’ response, one can safely assume, to the economic downturn and to the threats it posed on consumer spending.

Now, six months or so into this “recession,” or “depression” — it’s hard to keep track of what they’re calling it these days — there are a number of signs, at least in our neighbourhood of Little Italy, that discounts aren’t just for retail anymore.

On College Street alone, there are a number of restaurants offering limited-time menu specials, giving all of us a little extra incentive to eat out instead of in.

  • Boom! Breakfast & Co. | 808 College Street | $3.99 Egg-O-Nomic Bailout Breakfast, Mondays through Wednesdays until May 31, 2009
  • Il Gusto Ristorante | 796 College Street | $15 prix fixe menu, includes house salad, any pasta on the menu, dessert (offered weeklong, until further notice)
  • Sorriso | 588 College Street | $21 Winter Feature prix fixe menu, includes soup or salad, main course and dessert, Sundays through Wednesdays

This is just to name the ones I happen to have noticed—there are likely other restaurants on the strip (and elsewhere in the city, for that matter) offering similar menu specials.

The cynical among us may identify the reference to the recession as a clever marketing trick, but in this case, I prefer to call the possibility of eating out for less: a win-win situation!

Glimpses of TO

19 Apr

There is something exciting about catching sight onscreen, of a familiar Toronto intersection, or of a local fixture like the streetcar. This seems particularly so when you’re on vacation somewhere else and are going about your business watching a movie or MTV, and all of a sudden, Toronto shows up – unmistakeably Toronto.

I just returned from a week-long vacation in Panama where this happened, hence the inspiration for this post. Consider this Part Two of “A T.O. Mixtape”….

1. The TO subway, a streetcar, a GO Train, several bridges in the City (including the one on Bathurst street south of Front St.), Chinatown, the financial district, and even one of Mel Lastman’s mooses, are featured in this Juanes (Colombian artist) video:

2. The old Uptown Theatre shows up in this ’80s Lisa Lougheed video

3. Lie with Me (2005) – Yonge & Dundas Square is visible:

4. Keeping the Faith (2000) – Toronto cityscapes and the same bridge as above:

Ghosts of Toronto’s Past

18 Oct

Ever wondered what stood on the grounds of Queen’s Park before the provincial parliament buildings were built? Ever thought about the workers who keep the dinosaurs at the Royal Ontario Museum company at night? Want to know a secret about the family of Mr. Christie who makes such good cookies?

I’ve just come back from “The Ghosts of the University of Toronto,” a 75-minute walking tour of some particularly spooky sites in that area of the downtown. Dressed in period garb, the tour guide animates a series of buildings lit only by moonlight and the odd streetlamp (the tour starts at 10pm), telling fascinating stories made all the more haunting by being present at the relevant sites as the stories are told. In these tales of ghost sightings and strange events, a bygone Toronto of the 1800s or the 1940s springs to life. Despite the name of the tour, it doesn’t just cover University of Toronto buildings but several adjacent sites, some of which have had some ghastly things occur in their 150-odd year history.

If you’ve been to Rocky Horror one too many times or are just looking for something new this Halloween, it’s something fun to consider that will have you looking at Toronto in a very different way. Not to mention give you plenty of reasons to believe in ghosts!

For more info visit Muddy York Walking Tours.

Sneak Peek at Summer in Toronto (Things to look forward to…)

21 May

I spent last summer in Montreal trying desperately to stay focused on completing my thesis. Every day I would be confronted with some terribly tempting cultural event that would pit dedication to the work against fun in the city. (I could stay a few more hours at the library today. Orrrrr I could go see a tipsy Rachid Taha trip over his mic cord at the Jazz Fest. Hmmm. A toss up. —Not!)

Montreal as we know is a premiere summer city – festival after festival, week after week, from the Jazz Fest to Just for Laughs. Best of all, it’s mostly free and it’s mostly outdoors. It’s truly amazing anyone gets anything done from June to September.

Though I hope to make a trip back to Montreal sometime this season, I have to say that summer in Toronto is nothing to sneeze at. My mental calendar is already filling up with ideas of wonderful things to see and do in the months of sweltering heat that await. Here are some summer venues and upcoming events worth getting excited about.

MAY

JUNE

JULY

AUGUST

SUMMERLONG

There are many more of course – feel free to add!

Blue Bin Blues

7 May

Our new recycling bin was delivered today. It’s a large (for the three households/units of our house). What a monster! Dragging the thing up the stairs when it’s empty is hard enough. Nevermind when it’s full of newspapers and glass bottles. Looks like our old bins will still have their use: as intermediaries allowing us to carry recycling down the stairs in decent non-back breaking bundles before transferring everything to the behemoth. Bleh.

Nifty wheels, though.

May flowers confused, arrive early

22 Apr

All of this lovely sun over the past week or so has duped many a bud in the city into blossoming a fortnight early. Since our “garden” consists of an itty bitty pile of soil tossed in a corner and our household consists of one far-from-green thumb and one indoor plant enthusiast, here spring has sprung in a different way.

Late last week, we gained five new leafy, trunky, bulbous, or petal-bearing pals, bringing our total to 15 or thereabouts.

The current inventory of domestic flora is as follows:

  • Tropical Monstrosity (referred to as such for excellent reasons – however surely lovely for a pretend day at the beach, piña coladas not included)
  • Actually rather endearing Umbrella Tree
  • Cute Little Fat House Plant in Funky Vase
  • Bathroom tulips (still shy and tucked away) in sleek silver holder
  • Kitchen tulips
  • Vines/hanging plants (x2)
  • Single white orchid (tall and lovely, behind kitchen sink)
  • Three fuzzy aloe type things
  • Small red and yellow leafy potted plant
  • Other leafy green house plant
  • Thin-leaved excited potted plant
  • Mini rubber plant
  • Mini wannabe Christmas tree (out-of-doors)

*Note: May not be actual scientific names.

With all the sun and all this green (minus the thumbs), it might not be May yet, but it sure feels like it.