A Toronto Transformation

Toronto

Toronto’s Wildlife is Trying to Tell Me Something

Pink and purple flowers in a Toronto garden

Last week while I was enjoying a lunchtime picnic -for-one on a bench by a wee garden near my office, out of the corner of my eye I caught a tiny movement from the undergrowth to my right.

I had just enough time to think “chipmunk?” before the thing came streaking towards me. I shrieked “Woooooo!” in what I would like to think was a verrry dignified manner as it bumped gently into the side of my foot before scurrying back into the garden on the other side of the bench. I glimpsed its tail in the split second before it disappeared and realized that it was not in fact a chipmunk, but a small rat. Or a large mouse.

Because my life is clearly a thrill-a-minute at the moment, I found this little city wildlife adventure fairly exciting.

Until today that is.

This afternoon as I was sitting on a bench in an entirely different little garden finishing another solo lunch (I actually do have friends, I promise), I felt something come in contact with the back of my neck.

I involuntarily shuddered and reached back to slap it away as it lingered oddly for a moment, then turned my head slowly as I tried to figure out what the hell had just touched me. It felt so strange that I wondered for a second if someone had snuck through the tall grass behind me to cop a nervous feel? Of my neck? I’m usually pretty aware of my surroundings, but I did have excellent ear buds in so I guessed it was distantly possible. There was a guy in Toronto a while back who was slithering up behind women with long hair and fondling it. I glared into the garden behind me for a minute, then shrugged and turned back to pack up my lunch and reapply my lipstick.

I stood up, turned to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything behind and froze.

Five feed to the left of me was a low railing and on that low railing was the biggest damn hawk I’ve ever seen.

I swear to you, it was two feet tall.

We stared at each other for ten seconds while I grappled with my phone (which was still in selfie mode from the lipstick application – damn my vanity!) and he took off before I could snap a picture.

Watching him fly away I realized that’s exactly what that mysterious sensation on my neck had been. Not the nervous, fluttery fingers of a creepy hair molester, but the fluttery wings of a curious hawk doing a low fly-by!

I’m not sure what the moral of the story is here. That my hair looks like a delicious squirrel from above when I wear it in a messy, low bun? That I am weird, (and kind of gross), urban Snow White? That I need to start wearing tall rubber boots and perhaps a helmet if I’m going to continue eating in Toronto gardens?

If we’re going in order of the food chain, I assume if I dine alfresco next week a wolf will just walk out from between some parked cars, shake my hand and eat salad out of my tupperware!

Of all the things to get me writing again, an encounter with a downtown bird of prey isn’t what I would have imagined, but when inspiration literally hits you out of the clear blue sky, I say roll with it.

What’s your weirdest urban animal encounter?

Little Luxuries – Tea at Dessert Trends Bistro

tea at DT Bistro Toronto

Sitting in the sun-drenched dining room at Dessert Trends Bistro sharing tea with a friend is definitely a little luxury.

I love whiling away an afternoon chatting and laughing and dreaming over earl grey. Throw in a few stuffed animals and it’s like my childhood make-believe tea parties come to life.

Then they bring out one of their seriously gorgeous house-made desserts and it’s pure bliss.

gorgeous dessert at Dessert Trends Bistro

Do you guys have a favourite spot to stop for a cuppa?

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A Toronto Holiday Gift Guide

Love these Christmas in Toronto streetcar cards by Paper E. Clips from the Paper Place. via metamorphocity.com

Love these Christmas in Toronto cards by Paper E. Clips I picked up at the Paper Place.

My family makes a pretty solid attempt to not focus too much on the presents part of the holidays. Especially now that my brother and I are grown, it’s a lot easier to just bask in each other’s company and the warm glow of being home together.

We are also lucky enough to all have work, so when it comes to stuff, there’s not a lot we need (not to mention, none of us live in gigantic places with room for too much excess.

We also try to be mindful of how lucky we are, and we do a fair bit of charitable giving in each other’s names. It’s a habit we developed years ago, and I really love taking some time every year to think about the people our donations to amazing organizations like the City of Joy, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, and of course, the near and dear to my heart,  Mother Nature Partnership will help.

That said, I really love wrapping up a few little parcels and squirreling them away under the tree and watching my family open them Christmas morning. I also really love the idea of shopping locally whenever possible, so I’ve been amassing gift ideas that can all be purchased in Toronto to create an up-to-date Toronto holiday gift guide over on Pinterest, and thought I’d share a few here in case any of my fellow Torontonians (or anyone else, really) need some inspiration!

I think my top three have to be these guys:

Christmas Brew from Bellwoods Brewery via Metamorphocity.com

Christmas Brew! via Bellwoods Brewery

 

Gorgeous, cozy Ontario pullover sweater from The Drake General Store via metamorphocity.com

Gorgeous, cozy Ontario pullover sweater via The Drake General Store

holiday macarons from nadege via metamorphocity.com

A holiday pack of macarons via Nadege (so I don’t have to bake them myself!)

Check out my pinterest board here for more awesome local gift ideas!

Though nothing’s going to top last year’s Christmas gift to my dad.

That Time I was Green Lantern in the Pride Parade

Girl Green Lantern and Batman

My friend Zoe spotted Red and I and snapped this bad boy. We look just so bonkers, but it makes me laugh every time I see it.

As well as being the Canada Day long weekend, two weekends ago was also the end of Pride week in Toronto, which culminated with the annual Gay Pride Parade.

A week before the parade, Red informed me that a friend of her uncles’ had asked if she wanted to be on his float in the parade. As i usually do when she asks me if I want to do something that sounds potentially insane with her, I said, “Yeah, ok,” before thinking it through or asking for too many details.

So it was only after I’d agreed that I found out we’d be on the Anglican float. This gave me pause.  “Hold on,” I said. “Is it going to be a problem that we’re not Anglican…or gay for that matter?”

She assured me it would be fine, and that the man who’d invited us was already hard at work on our costumes, so there was no backing out now. We’d be a couple of straight heathens on the Anglican gay pride float.

And so it was, that ten years after same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada and a couple of days after DOMA was ruled unconstitutional in the States, I donned some very tight, very green superhero tights and more feathers than an ostrich and joined in the celebration.

I’ve attended the parade before, and while it’s always a great time, with good vibes and lots of laughs, the thing I remember most was how moved I was seeing the group of families of gay people march by, parading their unconditional love and support for their children/sisters/brothers etc. The friend I was with and I just turned to each other with tears in our eyes and I know we were both thinking that this is exactly the kind of love and support we all deserve.

It was so much fun to see the parade from the other side. It means so much to so many people, and as mentioned, is just such a hilarious good time with so much positive energy and humour floating around. I have never felt more like a celebrity in all my life. Countless people stopped us to ask if they could take our photos as we pranced through the city. I have never hugged, shook hands with, or high-fived so many hundreds of strangers (including this super cool little dude, whose dad mentioned us in is Huffington Post piece on the parade). It was absolutely surreal.

I had a riot running along the barricades, shouting Happy Pride! to the crowd, who would scream as though I was the actual Green Lantern, or maybe just Ryan Reynolds.

We were sweaty and exhausted by the end of the parade and I was pretty sure my hat had given me a neck injury, but I wouldn’t have traded that crazy day of celebration of love and tolerance for anything.

Preparing for Pride Toronto 2013

Our friends stopped on the way to the staging area to give a hot puppy some shade and water, just like real superheroes, no?

Superheroes dancing after the pride parade

And we danced. Also like superheroes.

 

Saving the Bees with Style!

Jenny Bird Bracelet

How cute is my new Jenny Bird Wild For Bees Bracelet? All proceeds from sales of these pretty little things go to the Pollinator Project Canada.

My mom has been expressing her concern for the world’s bee population for years now.

Bees are incredible, industrious little creatures, vital to the earth’s ecosystems and to our food supplies. Oh, and they make plans through dance. Don’t believe me? Ask Isabella Rosellini:

 

And of course, as with most things, my mom is totally right and her concerns are very much valid. Our bees are in trouble. Their numbers have been declining drastically for more than a decade now, and unsurprisingly, it seems humans are to blame.

Between our use of pesticides, and our destruction of bee habitats, it’s no wonder more and more species of honey bees are becoming extinct.

Fortunately, there are things we can do to help stop the destruction of these amazing, vital little guys, like supporting organic farms that don’t use pesticides, planting wildflowers, buying local honey from beekeepers (or, if you’re my mom, just go ahead and make plans to become a beekeeper yourself – if there’s a more proactive person in the world, I swear I don’t know who they are).

We can also make donations to organizations like the Pollinator Partnership, which works to protect and restore populations of pollinator species like bees, bats and hummingbirds!

As an added incentive, right now, fabulous Toronto jewelry designer Jenny Bird has teamed up with Burt’s Bees and designed bee-themed bracelets and earrings with 100% of the proceeds from sales of these little pretties going towards the Pollinator Partnership Canada.

I love mine and have found they’re a great conversation starter to spread the message about the importance of protecting some of the world’s tiniest, most precious little creatures.

On a related note, has anyone read Douglas Coupland’s Generation A? It’s looking more and more like a spooky glimpse of the near future than a work of fiction, no? 

Spring Fashion Forecast: High Heels and Depression

Vogue3

We couldn’t resist Golden Turtle’s Salad Rolls, or stopping to check out this Jack Layton quote in a schoolyard.

It was a weekend for fending off a threatening cold, catching up on sorely needed sleep, laundry and dishes; a weekend for retreating back into hibernation after the hint of spring we had last weekend gave way to flurries of snow and chill winds.

Still, come Sunday I couldn’t resist the beckoning sunshine, so I bundled up and met one of my cousins for some delicious St. Patrick’s Day Pho at the Golden Turtle and a stroll. In our travels we picked up a discarded copy of March Vogue someone had kindly left at the curb for whomever cared to pick it up (do people do this where you live? It’s really common in my neighbourhood and I love it! I’ve picked up books, a lamp, shoes and a coffeemaker this way).

Now, I realize this is nothing new, but it struck me as especially funny flipping through this issue of Vogue how almost every single model, who, while presumably is trying to sell us something looks confused or sad or angry. It’s like they’ve realized that their purchase of a Hermes bag has left them feeling just as hollow and unfulfilled as they did before they parted with whatever exorbitant sum they were charged for it.

Vogue1

Just a few of the angry/bewildered/bored faces found in ads in the first 200 pages of March Vogue. I think my favourite is the Chanel ad. It says to me: “but I haaaate Chanel.”

Vogue2

“This boat is awful. This sweater is hurting me.”

I couldn’t stop laughing trying to come up with different reasons for their expressions. But seriously, doesn’t this strike anyone else as odd? Wouldn’t you want people to look pleased to be wearing/using your product? Why all the grimacing? You mean, I too could look that miserable? Sign me up!

Not.

Maybe everyone just needs to take a minute and stop by the playground to shake up some smiles.

_DSC0056

It worked for us!

Dadda for Gaga

P1020204

Three guesses where I am wearing these sexy teenage alien robot pants.

While we get along famously, my dad and I don’t have tonnes in common.

He’s a 6-foot-tall, 58-year-old stage carpenter with a beard who loves building boats, Bourne movies, and shopping at Canadian Tire.

I can barely grow a goatee.

But.

Both of us have always loved pickled herring and sour cream, neither of us can resist dancing to Billie Jean and we both love Lady Gaga.

So it was no surprise to the friend who suggested we get tickets to her upcoming Toronto show that my response was, “OK, but I’m bringing my dad.”

Hiding his ticket in the Christmas tree and watching him open it and delightedly laugh his head off was absolutely the highlight of my winter so far.

Coming up with his outfit will be a close second.

Saturday Night

What could be better than being a young woman in a vibrant city like Toronto on a Saturday night? There are plays and concerts and ballet to see; restaurants and bars and museums to visit; events and parties and galas to dress up for and always, somewhere, there is dancing.

I’ll tell you what could be better. And I shall illustrate it with the following conversation I had with a good friend at about 7pm on Saturday night:

E: I am being a total loser at home in my pyjamas.

S: 

S: This is why we are friends. 

S: There is a heating pad on my feet. 

E: Bahahaha!

E: 

E: Saturday niiiiiiight!

When the first real cold snap has whooshed its way up the streets laden with frenzied Grey Cup fans and settled on the city, when you’ve been running around for weeks now soaking up everything the city has to offer, I contend that the very best thing to do in Toronto is a little hibernating.

Dear Rob Ford,

Dear Rob Ford,

Being the recipient of a guilty verdict is never fun. It’s embarrassing to be removed from office for conflict of interest, although frankly, I don’t really see how it’s less embarrassing than your defence of not bothering to learn the rules that govern council either before or even after becoming our mayor.

It does lend fuel to my theory that, in fact, you hate being the mayor of Toronto. So here’s what I propose: Instead of trying to battering-ram your way back into office? Stop. Don’t appeal. Just look at this as a grand opportunity to stop being the mayor of a city whose citizens you so clearly despise.

Just think of the benefits:

No one would be outraged when you refused to participate in Pride

When you make useless proclamations about ridding the city of graffiti for good, no one will hear you and immediately graffiti your face all over town.

You won’t have to worry about being accosted by terrifying comedy show hosts warrior princesses.

You wouldn’t be too busy to keep your eyes on the road while driving.

Imagine it.

You could relax, throw on a comfy jersy, maybe take up yoga and let the constant expression of confused rage on your face melt away and do the thing you clearly love more than running the city: coach football.

Although you will have to come up with a new way to transport the team.

Insert “Gravy Train” joke here.

What Bikram Did For Me

People who have tried Bikram Yoga tend to have strong feelings about it. They love it or they haaaaaate it.

While admittedly I spent most of my first class at Bikram Yoga Toronto drenched in sweat, lying on my mat and gazing incredulously at anyone who was capable of movement in the oppressive heat, after a couple of classes, I learned the flow of things and for a time was pretty hooked.

At the end of a day of desks and keyboards, it was a relief to stretch and bend, move and yes, even the profuse sweating felt like a great release.

As someone who is naturally about as flexible as a dried-out No. 2 pencil, I was delighted to find that after a few weeks, my toes actually came within touching range.

Often, the most challenging part of the class was simply staying put. There were times when I wanted to just run from the oppressive heat of the room, smashing through the doors and bursting out into the street to gulp in the (comparatively) fresh night air. I would lie still and quiet, letting the sweat roll off me and thinking, It’s just uncomfortable. You’re not dying, you’re not in pain. You’re just hot.

It’s not impossible, it’s just hard. You can do hard.  

It might sound crazy to willingly put oneself through that, but finding the discipline to stick it out when things were difficult and having patience when things were uncomfortable or irritating was a victory that translated well into my life outside of the “torture chamber” (Bikram’s words, not mine).

But I think the best thing Bikram did for me was to change the way I felt about my body.

There’s nothing like some extreme heat to make covering up perceived flaws seem less and less important. On top of that, Bikram tends to attract a much more diverse range of ages and body types than other exercise classes I’ve been to. While I swear I wasn’t creepily staring at people in the change room, I think it did me a world of good to see some real-life naked or near naked women, with their cellulite, fat, and sweat-drenched hair decidedly free of airbrushing or photoshop and knowing that all of those bodies with their shockingly different shapes and sizes had just carried them through the same challenges that mine did.

I went from worrying about being judged for not having a manicure to not bothering to shave my legs in a matter of weeks and while my body didn’t get substantially smaller over my time there, my outfits certainly did. It was just too damn hot to cover up, and better yet, I found the most concern I could muster about whether I ought to be ashamed for unleashing my imperfect torso on the world was a hearty shrug.

And that felt amazing.

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