Tag Archives: Toronto

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)

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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.