Tag Archives: Toronto

May, 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)


It’s May, and it’s lovely in Ontario in terms of weather. Alas, the pandemic is still going on, as is my not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings for this month. Hope you like it.

Pandemic: Here in Canada we are rushing to get vaccinated. Over 50% of the population has at least 1 dose, and some Canadians have two (I got my second shot of AZ/AstraZeneca today). I am happy to see that the governments all seem to be working better again. The Federal government has been procuring them, the Provincial government has been distributing them, and the City has been setting up spots for people to get them. And get them they have. Kudos to everyone making efforts to get out there and end this.

It’s not to say there are no bumps in the road. Some provinces, like mine, ended up in a panic about whether or not to allow people to get additional AZ vaccines. Eventually Ontario relented and people like me signed up and got their jabs. Still, the experience has left people bitter, as this Doug Coupland piece illustrated.

Canadians don’t need much prompting to get vaccinated. This seems to be true down south for the most part, thought some states like West Virginia are offering savings bonds to encourage vaccination while Detroit was giving out $50 debit cards to ‘Good Neighbors’ to help boost lagging COVID-19 vaccination rate.  I encourage governments using any means at their disposal to get vaccinated. It’s too bad that people just don’t go and get it done. Get it done, people! I am hopeful by this summer most of Canada and the US will be fully open or close to fully open. Indeed the mayor of New York City says his city will be open this July 1. Let’s hope every place is.

Now whether we all go back to work right away is another thing. Outlets like the BBC are arguing the future of work will be hybrid. We shall see.

Since the pandemic is still ongoing,  you need ways to cope. One way people are coping is managing their time on Zoom and WebEx calls. Techies have even been inventing devices to hang them up. Another way people have managed is by developing routines. That’s been healthy. Or getting back to exercising. A less healthy way has been drinking too much. If that is you, you might benefit on reading this piece on ways to cut back. But back to healthy, a good way to help yourself is to get out from time to time. I hope to take advantage of Toronto’s outdoor cafes once they are open.

Finally, in case you haven’t read the best restaurant review of the pandemic…now you can.

US : it’s been weird to watch what is happening in the United States. On one hand, you have the Democrats working to deal with the pandemic and the effect it has had on the American people. On the other hand, you have Republicans working hard in places like Texas and many other places to restrict the vote of people for the next election. Not only that, but Republicans are also working to prevent any examination into the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.

Here’s hoping for the United States to become a better democracy, not a worse one.

Meanwhile in Canada, we need to do better in many ways, starting with one that is fundamental to me: making sure everyone has access to clean water. I can’t believe I even have to say this.

Non-pandemic things: No new news on newsletters. They are still a Thing…just not as newsworthy. Good.

NFTs are still newsworthy.  For example, this piece is a good way to just see how weird and wild they are:

I still don’t think they make any sense, but I have been proven wrong on such things before.

A year ago: Last May we saw the “cancellation” of Alison Roman. Since then she pivoted to making her own newsletter and a YouTube video channel with over 100K viewers. She seems to have landed ok. Speaking of food, I wrote last May that people were already tired of making their own food. Ha! Still at it a year later.  For more on how the pandemic looked last year, here’s the newsletter I wrote then.

Finally:

Over a year ago we were all struggling to get masks and learn how to wear them properly. Now they are as common as shoes. Here’s a throw back to mask wearing tips from the City of Toronto.

Thanks for reading this! I appreciate it. Here’s hoping for a pandemic ending everywhere and soon.

 

On Toronto housing and homelessness during the pandemic

During the pandemic, I came across many stories about homelessness and after awhile started to collect them. You can see them below. There are other stories that relate to the problem, and I’ve included them as well.

Toronto made some strides in dealing with those among us without homes and with much poverty. Much more can be done. If you are interested in reading more about this, here are fourteen stories:

  1. This Toronto hotel is going to be used as a homeless shelter for the rest of the year
  2. Toronto considering ambitious homeless housing plan in wake of COVID-19 pandemic
  3. Toronto just got its first modular supportive housing building for the homeless
  4. People are saying Toronto’s new homeless shelter looks like a prison
  5. A Maryland teen picked up woodworking during the shutdown. Now he sells his pieces to help the homeless.
  6. How a Tuxedoed Sommelier Wound Up Homeless in California
  7. Toronto landlords are offering free rent to try and convince people to stay in the city
  8. Toronto wants to build 3 000 affordable homes because shelters are now too expensive
  9. This Toronto hotel is going to be used as a homeless shelter for the rest of the year
  10. Toronto considering ambitious homeless housing plan in wake of COVID-19 pandemic
  11. More than two thirds of condo investors in Toronto plan to sell due to new vacant home tax
  12. Toronto just got its first modular supportive housing building for the homeless
  13. City of Toronto provides additional support for individuals and families in shelters
  14. Toronto is getting new affordable housing just for single moms

On restaurants loved and lost: Harvey’s on Bloor Street in Toronto

Can you be abandoned by a restaurant? If it is me, it’s the Harvey’s that was on Bloor in the 1980s.  I used to go there and get my favourite, a charbroiled chicken sandwich with mayo and pickle on the side. (Still my favourite thing to get at Harvey’s). I loved sitting in the front window and look over U of T’s Varsity Field.  When I was in my 20s I used to joke with my gf that when I was in my 60s I would still be coming here and eating the same sandwich and sitting in the same spot.

Times change and streets change, especially in Toronto. That area is now filled with condos. It’s nice and I still like the area, but I miss that Harvey’s. I’m much closer to my 60s than my 20s and I would love to be able to fulfill the need. Guess I will have to go to Okonomi House instead. 🙂

(Image via a link to this good piece on the History of Toronto’s Swiss Chalet (also in the image above, from the blog Historic Toronto)

P.S. Okonomi House is the same as it was in the 1980s. I hope it never closes. Click on the link and order from it if you can.

On restaurants loved and lost: Brothers

Brothers Restaurant Toronto

It’s Valentine’s Day, a good day to write a love letter to one of my favorite restaurants of all time, Brothers.

Brothers is a restaurant that should not have worked. Crowded between the entrance of the Bay Street subway and a downtown mall, there was barely room for anyone. One table in the window, a midsized bar, and a few tables in the back. Amongst all that a kitchen the size of a big closet nestled in a corner. It should not have worked, but in the short time it was around, it worked wonderfully.

You realized it was special when you first walked in, and I walked in often. I worked nearby, and whenever I needed a treat, I would wander over and sit at the bar and have lunch. I went so often that Chris who ran the front of place would warmly greet me after a time. (Later, as the place became extremely popular, Chris would sadly greet me after a time to tell me there was no room. It got so bad — for me, not them —  that I ended up scheduling lunch at 2ish just in the hopes of  getting a spot.)

While the service, atmosphere, and location were all great, what had me come back again and again was the food. The food was superb. I would take the hearty bread they offered and wipe down the plate to get every bit of it. The cooking was precise, simple and stellar. I loved to get something like sausage served with beans or vegetables and accompanied by a well chosen sauce. I’d take my time to slowly eat it, trying to appreciate and understand why it was so good. It was as much a cerebral as it was a sensory experience.

I would ask Chris about their tomato sauce or their green sauce, and he would tell me how they experimented with the amount of dairy or herb or whatever ingredient was in it to make the dish just right. And just right it was.

Most of the time I would get their sausage dish. The meat would change in the sausage, but it was always expertly balanced with seasoning. At first they may have been traditionally shaped, but later they were puck shaped. I loved that, and I loved them.

Sausage was not the only thing they excelled at. Pastas were always handmade, cooked to just the right texture, then served with a sauce better than any pasta sauce I ever had. Carpaccio was thin slices of whatever was appropriate for the season and accompanied with a light, lively dressing. The beef carpaccio was one of my favorite. They once said they could teach anyone to make it, but I doubt that. Fish, salad, dessert: whatever they made, they made well, listed it on their minimal menus, and I was happy and lucky to have it.

Brothers wasn’t around long, and in the time it was around, it lived three lives. The first was before the New York Times wrote about it, the second was after that article, and the third was the pandemic. Before the Times article, it was not too hard to get a seat there. They didn’t even take reservations. After the Times article, it was very hard to get in. There were weeks when I could not get a spot at the bar.  It got so busy they went with a reservation system. It slowed down a bit, but it was always popular.

Until the pandemic occurred. That was their last life. They tried to pivot to take out, and I did a curbside pickup of a wonderful meal from them. In the end they decided they didn’t want to be that kind of place and closed it down.

Lots of places have gone due to the pandemic. Some of them would have gone regardless. Not Brothers. If there was no pandemic, I am sure it would still be running, still sliding plates of that chewy soft bread and warm mixed olives and perfectly cooked food for me and you to delight in. I am going to miss many places because of the pandemic, but I think I will miss Brothers most of all.

(From more on it, see the New York Times article, or this blogTO piece. Images from the blogTO piece.

Check out their old web site. It’s simple but smart, just the way it used to be.

Finally this Google link will show you a wealth of photos for the place.)

 

On restaurants loved and lost: the Boulevard Cafe

On Harbord Street in the 1980s I fell in love with the Boulevard Cafe. My life was just starting, and my girlfriend and I were living just up the street from it, on Brunswick Avenue. We would stroll down and line up with the other people in the area for the wonderful Peruvian style food they had there.

It was the first time I learned to love fish. I come from Nova Scotia, but the fish was prepared terribly when I was growing up. Plus fish was associated with poor people food, unlike all the packaged food I wanted. I hated it.

Or I did until I had the Boulevard’s sea bass. (Sea bass was big in the 80s.) They would gently cook it and serve it with a perfect combo of delicious salad and fragrant rice.  I was instantly transformed into a fish lover after that first meal. Many a fish meal I had after that, and all were great.

And their soups. Their soups were incredible. I once had a garlic soup there that was so good that I still recall it decades later. It was simple, and yet I have often had garlic soup elsewhere and it never compared. They had many great dishes there, but the soup and the fish kept me coming back.

When we first started going, it was popular but not too busy. There was seating on both floors, and half of the upstairs was just a seating area where you could sip your drink and enjoy their  fireplace. I remember one night we were sitting there next to the fire, looking out over Harbord Street as a nice snowfall floated down covering everything. I could have stayed all night.

Later on the word got out and it got busier. The lovely seating area was replaced with more tables. The patio area in the summer was jammed with everyone enjoying the wonderful flavours that came out of the small kitchen in the back.

I was shocked to be riding my bicycle across Harbord Street a few summers ago and seeing it all closed up. It was then I took those photos. It was so good, I thought it would last forever. I stood there for quite awhile and remembered all the wonderful times of my youth sitting outside under the awning and living the good life with great friends and great food. I am lucky to have had such a time.

(In the top photo you can see the chimney where the fireplace was. In the bottom photo you can see the main doors that led to the dining room on the lower floor. The bulletin board would list all the specials. There would be tables put in front of the benches, and you either sat on the benches or chairs opposite. In the evening the lights would come on and it would seem magical.)

P.S. Over at Zomato there is still a copy of the menu and some other photos.

 

On Frank Gehry’s latest proposed building for Toronto

Starchitect Frank Gehry is proposing a new set of towers for Toronto, and BlogTo has the latest on it here: Frank Gehry towers in Toronto updated again and people say they look like cheese graters.

I like it. I like the lack of smoothness to it, a quality so many basic buildings have in the downtown core (though there are many good ones, too).  I like how it looks like towers of blocks slightly askew. I also like it has many units: we need more places for people to live in Toronto.

I do wonder, though, if the final version will look anything like that. Or even if it gets built at all. I vaguely recall that Gehry’s designs for his version of the AGO were scaled back due to lack of money. And the ROM designs of another starchitect, Daniel Libeskind, went through transformations as well, though I believe for different reasons It would be good to have more Gehry in Toronto. If we get it and what it will finally look like remains to be seen. It may not looks like a cheese grater at all by the time it appears on King Street.

How to go skating in Toronto in the pandemic

Liisa Ladouceur (shown above) has written a thorough guide for anyone who wants to go skating in Toronto during the pandemic. No, you cannot just show up with your blades and start skating. You need to do more. And you should do more, because skating is a great way to enjoy winter in the pandemic era. So read this: Where to go skating in Toronto in 2020 by Liisa Wanders. Then get out there! Maybe I will see you at a socially safe distance with a fun mask on too.

On something being ugly but something you’ll miss when it is gone

For me, it’s this bridge which according to BlogTO is going to be demolished:

When I first moved to Toronto in the 80s I lived near this area and used to pass under this bridge all the time. There’s nothing attractive about it, save the murals, which weren’t there when I lived there.

Still, I will miss it when it is gone, ugly or not.

Toronto’s Annex grows up

The Annex in Toronto is growing up, literally. First there are the new condos going in on the corner of Bloor and Bathurst. Now the other end of it, at Spadina and Bloor, is getting the same treatment.

A mid-September application submitted to the City of Toronto seeks Zoning By-law Amendments to permit a 35-storey mixed-use condominium tower at 334 Bloor Street West, above Spadina subway station in The Annex.

For more on this, see:

35-Storey Condo Tower Proposed at Bloor and Spadina’s Northwest Corner | UrbanToronto

I think these are good developments. The character of the area remains, but more people can live there and enjoy it. Perhaps some day I will get to as well.

Toronto’s underground (literally) secrets

Toronto has a number of underground secrets. Two of them are featured in this piece: 10 strange and unusual things you might not know about Queen St.

One of them was  these were underground washrooms at Queen and Spadina:

The other is the once planned and then abandoned Queen Subway line.

Of course Queen Street isn’t the only thing with underground secrets. At Bay and Bloor is the famous closed off Bay Street subway line. And at the shopping mall at Hudson Bay used to be the Plaza Cinema, which you can longer get to.

I am sure there are many more such hidden gems, but here are four of them.

 

 

Want a sneak peak at the new stations being built in Toronto

Then head over here: blogTO. They have a great rundown on each and every stop on the new Crosstown transit line being built along Eglinton Avenue in Toronto. The stop above will be my main one. 

There’s still so much more work to be done. Sometimes it feels like it will never finish. But as the article in blogTO shows, it will be, and it will look great.

What are the ugliest buildings in Toronto?

BlogTo has a list of 10 of them, here, and I have to say, they did a good job. I am in full accord with Shawn Micallef on the need to blow away all the building on the North East corner of Yonge and Bloor. No one would shed a tear for replacing them. As for me, the ugliest building — and it was close — is the Bloor Dundas Square (shown above). That monstrosity has been around forever. Pretty much anything would be an improvement on what is there now.

Toronto has many great buildings. These are none of them. 🙂

 

What will happen if students at Ontario schools get infected with COVID-19?

I am sure many parent in Ontario are wondering what will happen if students at Ontario schools get infected with COVID-19. I know I am wondering. Worried too. The best thing to help deal with worry is to get some practical information.

You can get some of that, here. That  link to a BlogTO post has a good summary of what will happen, as well as links out to other sites with more detailed information.

No one knows for sure what will happen. But reading that will give you a better sense of what may happen.

 

 

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One of the best things about Toronto, the Beltline Trail, is going to get even better


According to this: This Toronto trail is getting new platforms where old train stations used to be.

The Beltline Trail is one of the things I treasure about Toronto. As a pathway alone it is wonder, full of runners and cyclists and many folks just out for a walk under the tree canopy. It likely wouldn’t exist if not for the short lived train line that cut through this part of the city. Now the pathway will be tied to the very thing that brought it to life. That’s great.

If you live in Toronto, you owe it to yourself to visit it sometime.

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Skinny skyscrapers are coming to Toronto


There are a fair number of these in Manhattan, but if this is correct, it looks like one is coming to downtown Toronto, at Bay and Bloor: Herzog & de Meuron designs Canada’s tallest skyscraper.

I predict over the next 20-30 years we may have lots of these bean poles in many cities. Including Toronto.

Click on the link for more details.

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On David McMillan’s Love Letter to Toronto

David McMillan, who is responsible for some of the great restaurants in Montreal, wrote this love letter to Toronto and it’s restaurants a few years ago. It’s wonderful. Reading it over again, it has a bittersweetness as I read the names of some of the wonderful Toronto food establishments he mentions. I wonder if many of them will still exist after this pandemic. I want to hope that most will and I want to hope that the Toronto food scene will still be great. Just like I want the Montreal food scene to recover and thrive. I will say a prayer that both those things come true.

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Why are people still crowding on TTC during the pandemic?

This is a fine analysis of why people are still crowding on certain TTC routes despite everyone being told to stay home: Mapping TTC crowding during a pandemic | Marshall’s Musings.

Even during a pandemic, some people have to go in to work, and some people don’t have the money to have their own car to do so. Those are the people likely crowding still on the buses.

Maps are a great tool during breakouts of epidemics and pandemics, and this one is no exception (map above linked to in the article).

 

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Great gift ideas I can vouch for (under $200) from Bay Bloor Radio


I can’t vouch for everything on this list, but over the years I’ve acquired a three of the items on it and they are all good:

  1. Grado headphones
  2. Tivoli radios
  3. Sonos One speakers

Some are even on sale!

For more details, go here: Gift Ideas Under $200 | Bay Bloor Radio Toronto | Bay Bloor Radio Toronto Canada

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Two ways to do the Toronto International Film Festival (tiff)

Here are two ways to do TIFF:

  1. There’s the way most people do it, which seems awful: The TIFF ticketing system is a total nightmare this year.
  2. There’s the way my friend Annie does it, which seems great: A day in the Life of a Torontonian: TIFF 2019 – Advanced Screenings

Now Annie’s way is going to cost more, but if you want to have an enjoyable experience and get the most out of a great festival, then read up on how she and her husband do it.

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The Best Do-It-Yourself Spaces in Toronto


In a big city it can be hard to do DIY projects, especially if you live in a small place. Fortunately, in a big city there are often places to go and satisfy your DIY itch.

Here’s a list of some of  The Best Do-It-Yourself Spaces in Toronto. Via BlogTO.

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How Toronto looks from the City of Buffalo

Torontoians will find this interesting: Toronto’s astonishing growth: Will it matter to Buffalo? – The Buffalo News.

This was a key passage:

For Buffalo, the question now is whether Toronto’s “reimagining” might seep south of the border, as well. Smaller cities in Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe are booming, too, thanks in part to Toronto’s spillover. And Toronto and Buffalo, incorporated two years and 100 miles apart, kept pace with each other until the 1950s, said the University of Toronto’s Bourne, who used to assign a project comparing the cities’ trajectories to his undergraduate students.

That history is interesting, Bourne said, because while Buffalo and Toronto share important characteristics, they suffered opposite fates: Buffalo shrinking with the sunset of the Erie Canal and Rust Belt manufacturing, and Toronto swelling when the Quebec separatist movement made it the favored home for Canada’s banks.

As late as the 1970s, Torontonians considered Buffalo a nightlife destination. Many of their restaurants still closed on Sundays and maintained separate male and female entrances.

Torontonians “would come to shop, they would come for jazz – Buffalo was the hive,” said UB’s Foster, who lived in Toronto for more than three decades. “But then people started going the other way, and that hasn’t changed.”

Years ago going to Buffalo for shopping was still a thing in Toronto: not sure it is now. Perhaps some people still go to watch the Buffalo Sabers play hockey. Perhaps the linkages between the two cities will become stronger over time and there will be a good proportion of Torontoians making Buffalo a destination again.

For Torontoians considering going to Buffalo, I recommend this piece in the New York Times.

(Image linked to the New York Times piece)

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Random 80s nostalgia links

Mainly for me:

 

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The greatness of what College Park in Toronto could have been

Sigh.

I love College Park in Toronto. I wish it were more of a destination spot for visitors. Perhaps if it had been built out like this photo, it would have. Instead, it was built out to the area outlined in white.  Still a lovely building, but it could have been a phenomenon.

What could have been.

Via The half-built relics of nixed Toronto skyscrapers – Spacing Toronto

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Sara restaurant in Toronto has a cool way to deal with cell phones at restaurants

According to blogTO, the tables are of a ….

…Design by ODAMI and MiiM (that) incorporates innovative tabletop cubbies with heavy, spill-proof lids designed to stow your phone at the beginning of the meal. Servers remove the lid at the end to remind you to return to your phone, and emerge from the period of serenity Sara offers diners.

Nice restaurant, great idea. For more on it, see:  Sara – blogTO – Toronto

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Summerlicious 2018: the deals

I am a fan of Summerlicious (and Winterlicious) in Toronto: it’s a festival of sorts for people who like fine dining . It’s debatable if you are getting a deal on the meals, though I would argue that you are. If you lean the other way, then read this: 10 best deals for Summerlicious 2018 – NOW Magazine. By going to one or more of these 10 places, you’ll dine in a good restaurant and get a good deal as well.

Where to buy and sell Bitcoin in Toronto


I don’t recommend participating in the madness that is Bitcoin, but if you want to and you live in Toronto, then check this out: How to buy Bitcoin in Toronto.

Caveat emptor.

Random links from BlogTo

Old computers

One of my favorite sites is BlogTo. For some reason, I thought all of these links were interesting and worthy of keeping in my Pocket list of links I keep.

BlogTo.com has lots of great info for those living in and interested in visiting Toronto, even if you think the ones I chose are bonkers. If you didn’t already know about it, now you do. Go visit.

P.S. That old tech photo is weird. And the straps on the front of the tape drives go around the tape when you remove it. Don’t ask me how I know 🙂

How to see parks in Toronto

Easy, with this beautiful map:

Map of Toronto parks

A link to a full sized version of the map is here.

More information on the map, here: New map charts parks near TTC stations

The legendary runner Ed Whitlock Dies at 86 

Ed Whitlock running
The legendary Canadian runner Ed Whitlock has died. (Source: Masters Marathon Legend Ed Whitlock Dies at 86 | Runner’s World). There are so many things to say about Ed, but the article in Runner’s World gives you a sense of just how amazing he was. From his simple running routine to the records he broke, he was a great and unique individual. R.I.P., Ed.

(Photo: linked to in article, by K.C. Armstrong)

My Lessons Learned from Christmas’ past (including where to buy trees in Toronto)

Christmas for me is many things, including an annual exercise in planning. I keep a Word document that I update every year. It contains the typical list of things to do, by when. It tracks cards sent and received, presents given to whom, key dates, even what I need to buy for Christmas Day meal. One other thing I keep is a list of lessons learned. Here’s mine.

  • Christmas planning should start the day after Remembrance Day.
  • Get gifts at the end of November, if possible. It takes time to get
    them, wrap them, send them off.
  • Indigo has lots of gift ideas, not just books. Music, movies, nic nacs.
    Plus, if you shop there early, you can provide gift ideas for others
  • Winners is also good. Future shop (now Best Buy) is better than Toys R Us for electronics for the kids.
  • Get time consuming activities done asap. You have less time in December than you think.
  • Check Canada Post web site for mailing dates. It helps to keep you on track.
  • Get tree on Saturday. While it is settling, put up the lights. On Sunday bring it in and decorate it. It takes time to set it up and decorate and  it is difficult to get done during the week.
  • Get a poinsettia around the same time you get the tree (or much
    earlier). You can get some small plants at the green grocer for $2.99:
    has the same effect as a big one.
  • I used to say: get your tree at Sheridan: It is close, you don’t need a
    car, and the prices are better. But last year a 6′ tree was $60 and a 7′
    tree was $99! And we need a 7′ tree. I called after the fact and the
    Loblaws trees this year were $40 for 6-8 feet. IKEA trees are $20 and you get a coupon for $20 for a purchase of $75 or more.  After that, you can get your tree from Dominion at Bayview/Eg. It
    was better there than Loblaws. Then IKEA last.
  • Use cut off branches from the bottom of the tree to make something to hang on the door. Just add some red ribbon.
  • Plan Christmas spirit events throughout December. Start planning them in November. Besides putting up the tree and Santa, there could be: get a gift for poorer children, Swiss Chalet Festive Special Run
  • Put up decorations outside earlier than you think. Lots of people have them up in the first week of December before it gets too cold
  • Indigo is good for more than books: calendars, DVDs, music CDs,  nicnacs
  • The week before Christmas is busy. Not just with the Xmas activities, but with cleaning, etc. Don’t assume you have time to do much more
  • Playing shinny / going skating daily is a great idea over the Holidays.

(Originally posted on Posterous, December 5 2011, 7:51 AM)

How to spend a day of your vacation/staycation in a Toronto neighborhood

One way to enjoy a staycation is to visit neighborhoods you normally don’t go to and treat them like you would any neighborhood in a city you are visiting. If you are from Toronto and think this is a good idea, then BlogTO has a number of pages devoted to what you can do in many of this city’s neighborhoods . Here’s a list of some of them I put together:

This list is also great if you are a tourist and want to see what the various neighborhoods of Toronto offer. Toronto has more great neighborhoods not on this list, ones you have likely heard of, like West / Queen West, the Beach/Beaches, and Harbourfront. Add some of these neighborhoods listed above to round out your trip to this city.

 

On the unnecessary preciousness of architecture

From this, New TD Centre signage reflects a time when brands trump architectural vision – The Globe and Mail, comes this:

Up against that, TD Centre still retains the purity of a temple. And you don’t put billboards on a temple, unless you want to anger the gods.

It’s worth reading that article to get a viewpoint of someone who thinks of architecture as something pure and museum-like.

To me, the owners of the TD buildings are doing reasonable things with a building that functions as a work environment. You can make the argument that the building should never vary from the original intent of the architect. You can also make a good if not better counter argument that the building should be able to adapt to changes over time, and that the building should allow for the people in it to make adaptions to suit them.

The author seems to be arguing that building should remain fixed and never change, never learn. If that seems like an odd idea — that building should learn — I recommend this book: How Buildings Learn, by Stewart Brand. You can get it here. Also, if you search for it on Google, you will see alot of material derived from it.

 

How to find the best used bookstores in Toronto

Easy: check out BlogTO’s great list of The Best Used Bookstores in Toronto. Two of my favorites bookstores are BMV books and Ten Editions, both close to each other. I highly recommend them. Even if you know of some of them, chances are you haven’t been to them all.

Toronto has alot of great stores for new books, but if you are looking for vintage or obscure books, this list is what you need.

(Photo via a link to BlogTO)

Do you know someone in Toronto who hasn’t much money and needs dental services?

Then I recommend you read this: Dental Services – free dental care – Mobile Dental Clinic – City of Toronto Dental Clinics) and see if that person qualifies for free or lower cost dental services that the city of Toronto provides.  They have a mobile service which could be a great thing for someone who has limited mobility.

 

Notes for Parents on Summer Day Camps in Toronto

My kids spent many years going to summer camps in Toronto. If you have to or want to send your kids to summer camps, you might find these notes useful.

The first two things you need to do: 1) get out a calendar and 2) determine your budget. Do this in February. Really! When you get out a calendar, you will likely see that the kids have 9 weeks off in the summer (for some reason I used to think there were only 8 weeks off for the kids). Next, get a budget, because you will need to account for camp costs as well as transportation costs and extra costs like if you have to pick your kids up late. When you have a calendar and a budget, your camp options will come into clearer focus. Also, you can start thinking about other things happening in the summer, like vacations, visits from family, work assignments, and other things that will affect you.

As far as organizations offering camps, the cheapest camps by far – by far! – are the ones run out of community centers from the City of Toronto. They also fill up really fast. By March, if I recall. Book those first.

North Toronto Soccer had relatively lower costs than most camps. Great if your kid loves soccer. Note: ask how much time the kids spend outside. That can be a very tough camp in the middle of summer. (Not just NT but any outdoor camp.)

My kids liked the film camp at NFB, and it was indoors and so good during some weather, but one year was enough. Also, doing it with kids under 10 was better.

If your kid loves to do art, the AGO camps are great. If you are thinking of becoming a member and signing up, do both: members used to get a break on camp costs.

Harbourfront had some of the most interesting camps. DD loved them, but DS did not. Also, Harbourfront has buses that take your kids to and from camp from various locations around the city. Saves time, costs money. Can be a lifesaver.

Hockey camps are the most expensive, some going for $600 a week. UCC had relatively cheaper ones, but they fill up really fast too. UCC has lots of good camps, and they are in line with camps at places like AGO and NFB, but the hockey ones always filled up right away. Sign up for those first! Also there were hockey camps at Larry Grossman arena that were good and not as expensive.

Another benefit of hockey camps: the kids spend alot of time in not hot facility. Great experience during the hot days of summer.

To save some money, put your kids in camps with long weekends. That one day can save 20-50 bucks

To save more money, take time off and spend time with your kids. Note: this may not be cheap, either. If you plan to take a week off and plan to take your kid to a different venue every day, you will see it will add up. If you want to do this to save money, your goal should be to find activities you both like that aren’t too expensive, be it going to the Islands, having picnics, bike rides, kite building and flying, etc.

Don’t be too dazzled by camp promises. You might think: wow, my kid will learn SO much at this camp. They will learn things. And they will likely have fun. But think of camp as really good babysitting/daycare. Camps are mostly run by teens, and alot of camp time is getting kids to and from locations, feeding them, tracking them, etc. My son hated that. Also some councillors are really great, others are just there to do the minimum. One week my son went to a hockey camp and loved it because the councillors were great. He went to the same camp a few weeks later and didn’t because the councilllors had changed.

See if you and your kid’s friends can go to the same camp. Talk to other parents and try to make this happen, especially if your kid is not extroverted. Camp can be stressful for introverted kids: having old friends can help. Some kids thrive on camps and love them. Others can’t wait to be old enough not to go.

Try to pick up your kids on time. Once camps are done, usually around 4, the councillors will likely round the kids up in one place and more or less have them sit around until you get there. It is super boring, and it will likely make it harder for you to send your kid to such camps in the future.

My kids were done with camp by about 11. I know there were camps that go well into the late teens, but that wasn’t for mine. Likewise, overnight camp was not really an option for mine. Yours may be different.

Keep receipts for all camps. Keep them in one spot. You should be able to get a significant tax break from them, assuming you are paying taxes.

Resources to help the homeless deal with the cold in Toronto

If you see someone in Toronto who appears to need help in dealing with this cold weather, and you aren’t sure what you can do,  this page is worth reviewing: the City of Toronto’s Extreme Cold Weather Alerts page. It has numbers you can call and other information, including links to TTC Token Distribution Locations and information on 24-hour drop-ins available during extreme cold weather alerts.

Beyond resources related to cold weather, the city of Toronto has additional material on how to get involved to with the problem with homelessness in Toronto.

Obviously there are many more ways to help the homeless in Toronto throughout the year. These links are just a starting point if you are looking for information.

Is the TTC’s Metropass worth it? Yes. But it depends…

In this otherwise really good piece by Ed Keenan – Six things we learned from John Tory’s transit announcement: Keenan | Toronto Star – he made this comment

At a new price of $141.50, a Metropass costs almost as much as 51 tokens or 47 cash fares. For most weekday commuters, that math doesn’t add up.

At first thought, this seemed right to me. If you only use the Metropass to go to and from one location each business day, it isn’t worth it. For example, assuming most months have 22 working days, then that is 44 tokens, which is less than the 51 tokens it is worth.

Where the Metropass math adds up is when you start to be a heavier use of the TTC.

If you travel on the TTC daily, then you can get in as many as 62 trips/tokens on the TTC and a Metropass will be a good buy for you. Even in February, that is 56 trips/tokens. Daily users easily benefit from it. But if you don’t travel every day on Toronto transit, there are other ways to make the Metropass worthwhile.

For people who use it to go to work and then do after work activities, the Metropass is a good idea.  For example, if you take trips to and from work, as well as using it to go to meet friends or to take after work classes or to go to the gym, then you can benefit from having and using a Metropass. For example, 44 tokens for work plus 3 trips a week to classes plus one to friends adds up to 16 more tokens a month for a total of 60 tokens.

For people who have to stop to pick up their kids from childcare, the Metropass is good value. I used to pick up my son daily after work. That was 3 tokens every day, so most months that was 66 tokens.

For people who can share it, the Metropass is great value. For example, if a couple works different shifts, then together they potentially need 88 tokens each month to get them back and forth to work. Sharing a Metropass could save alot for such a couple.

Even people who don’t use the TTC all that much can still make the Metropass work for them if they can reduce the cost of it. For example, people who can buy the Metropass on subscription can get it for a lesser amount. That means you need to take less trips to break even. And if you pay enough taxes to break be able to claim your Metropasses as a tax expense, then you also need to take less trips to break even with the purchase.

If you take your total transportations costs, including taxis, Zipcars, etc, then you might find that having a Metropass is worth it. For example, you might find you grab a cab a few times each month because you don’t have tokens or cash. Switching to a Metropass, you find you do that less and therefore your overall spending on transportation each month is going down.

Cost aside, the other great benefit of the Metropass is convenience. All the hassle of dealing with buying tokens is gone. That convenience means you may be more likely to use the TTC when you have a Metropass, which leads you to make your money back from getting it. Also, you may find you enjoy yourself more by getting out more. It’s an intangible benefit, but a good one nonetheless.

I think for heavier users of the TTC, the Metropass is definitely worth it. And to be fair to Ed, he acknowledged a number of these points in a discussion he had on twitter.  Whether or not the Metropass is worth it to you will depend on your own use of the TTC and your own math.

P.S. Thanks for reading this. If you have found it useful and you’d like to say thanks by buying me a coffee, you can do so here. Thanks! That’s awesome!

In Toronto and want to learn how to skate?

Then the Harbourfront Centre’s Learn to Skate program may be for you. It’s a lovely little place to skate, and you can rent everything you need. In no time you will be braving the crowds at Nathan Phillips Square and zipping around with the best of them.

If you are looking for New Year’s resolutions to make, learning to skate is a good one.

P.S. It is usually cooler down there than the rest of the city. Dress warmly.

Going out this weekend? Here’s a list of 5 restaurants with cheap wine in Toronto

If you plan to go out wine drinking this weekend — or any day next week — then head over to blog.to and see what they have to say on 5 restaurants with cheap wine in Toronto.

Of the restos on the list, I have known about Le Paradis for along time. Whenever I went, I’d  remark how reasonable wine prices were here compared to other places. (The food and ambiance of the place is also not bad.)  If the other places are comparable, then this is a very good list indeed.

The Holiday Season is upon us. You need great gifts. You need to go to Art Interiors

Why? Because it is their annual festival of the smalls. As you can see from the JPEG above, they have art from $55-$250. Great pieces too. Perfect for the Holidays.

Want more info? Go here: Affordable Artwork / Art Interiors / Toronto Art Gallery. Bonus: lots of the work is viewable online.

Highly recommended. Make it a holiday tradition.