3 Family Activities To Do This September

Spending time together as a family can be a daunting task. Between activities, commitments and crabby attitudes, it’s tough to find the time (or in some cases the want) to spend together.

I know that it may seem painfully Rockwell-esque but getting outdoors has proven to the recipe for success for my family. Without the confines of space, everyone has room to breathe (but not on each other) and stare at nature (but not at each other) and we’re less tempted to look at our texts or make phone calls.

Apple picking may not be tops on everyone’s agenda but it’s a pleasant way to spend the day and the spoils can be made into pie, or strudel, or sauce.

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If you live in Toronto or are a short drive, Evergreen Brickworks and Todmorden Mills are rich with history as well as greenery. The farmer’s market never disappoints and Cafe Belong makes for a unpretentiously delicious lunch spot.

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The Islands. Toronto has them and they are underrated. Go and explore them.  Biking, sailing, kayaking, strolling, eating, riding – check!

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Centreville for the kids on Centre Island and swoon-worthy houses to ogle.  To fully understand what I mean, click on this link.  I’m such a sucker for a house with a history.

kayak outing to Toronto Islands 6 Nathalie Prezeau

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Celebrity Hairstylist, Jason Lee’s Simple Tips for a Hair Refresh

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I met Jason Lee on a sweltering, humid July day.   My hair looked as though I had just injected my finger into an electrical outlet. In a bathtub. Not a good day to meet a superstar hairstylist.

Jason exudes cool.

Growing up the youngest of three boys, Jason’s love for art and creative expression were encouraged by his professional parents. At the age of seventeen while working as a choreographer and dancer renowned hair stylist, Sabino DiTacchio, discovered him. At the urging of DiTacchio, Jason studied the craft of hair design and with the pragmatic voice of his accountant father in his head, found a way to marry his passion and practicality with his salon, Salonière.

Jason Lee is no amateur stylist. He’s earned his stripes under the tutelage of masters like Marc Anthony, been decorated with awards from his peers in the industry and has built a loyal clientele of all ages, aptly dubbed “the cool kids”.

His clients rely not only on his skills but his eye for style, which he hones with frequent trips to New York City, his former stomping ground. He finds inspiration everywhere in the city from the architecture, to the fringe art community and the diverse neighbourhoods.

When I go to visit him at Salonière, he’s in his element talking with clients and mentoring younger stylists. The space is bright and quaint with nods to both NYC and Paris in the brick detail, the gilded mirror and the embellished fireplace. Even the name, Salonière is rooted in historical Paris where women would be invited to salons to discuss and exchange ideas about politics, literature or social events. This refuge is nothing like the McSalons that are known for pumping out the perfectly coiffed amid a cacophony of blow-dryers.

Despite, or maybe in spite, of his coolness Jason, Anthony and the entire team at Salonière are welcoming and professional.   Each member of the team conveyed genuine interest in me – what a typical day is like, what are my hobbies, what movies/celebs/books do I like.

It is having a real understanding of his client that sets Jason apart. He is firm in his belief that women can wear any style, any trend, but it is in the tailoring of the style that delivers confidence and is transformative.

I asked Jason to share with our readers looking to update their hairstyle for some dos and don’ts. His advice may surprise you.

Move On From:

  • Chunky highlights
  • Angled bobs
  • Unkempt or inexpensive hair extensions. Extensions require a considerable amount of time and money to keep looking fresh and natural.
  • “Housewives” hair – too long, overly stiff and perfectly curled.
  • Short layers
  • Not taking any time for yourself. Find 5 minutes in the morning to pull your look together. You will exude more confidence and feel better about yourself. Quick tip: Sleek ponytails and polished high-buns are a busy woman’s friend!
  • It’s okay to cheat on your stylist and have fresh eyes give your look the once over. Stylists differ in their technique and may suggest an update.

Do More Often:

  • Communicate with your stylist. Bring pictures of what inspires you – it doesn’t have to be photos of hair. Bring pictures of art, architecture, celebrity style, movies, clothing, and interior design. A hair cut should never be an exact replica of something from a magazine. A good style will reflect your personality.
  • Remember this: lifestyle trumps face shape! Almost every haircut can be tailored to suit your face.
  • Be honest about your lifestyle. You can only love a cut that reflects your personality and is manageable to maintain and style.

Upcoming Trends:

  • Shorter bobs with bangs and texture
  • Bleached out colour
  • Baby fine highlights
  • Anyone, regardless of age, can pull off any trend. It’s a matter of tailoring.

Jason has appeared on E!, Slice, CTV and Entertainment Tonight Canada. His work has also been featured in the Globe and Mail. Be sure to follow Jason on Instagram, stop by Salonière (2470 Yonge Street, Toronto, 416-480-0020)

Toronto’s Only Urban Homesteading Store

Little House In The City truly is a hidden gem in this city – maybe even the entire country!

Located at 555 Parliament St., just around the corner from the ever popular Riverdale Farm, Little House In The City is Toronto’s first urban homesteading and sustainable living store . . .and it’s co-owned by Carol!

What is urban homesteading? It’s really a lifestyle.  It’s about taking a step backwards, living more simply and making a conscious effort to create a more sustainable, low-impact life.

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Take time to sew using these whimsical fabrics.

Take time to sew using these whimsical fabrics.

Buttons galore! Useful for a myriad of craft projects and very pretty to look at.

Buttons galore! Useful for a myriad of craft projects and very pretty to look at.

Little House In The City has a wide variety of supplies to support creative adventures and DIYs in and for your home.  In addition to being ethical and sustainable, these simple activities will encourage a newfound confidence in your homemaking abilities. They also have beautifully crafted ready-made gifts that made with organic or sustainable materials like the stunning cheese boards made of reclaimed wood that Nathalie received for her birthday.

The neutral tones of this pottery would off-set a colourful, summer salad or rich, wintery stew quite nicely.

The neutral tones of this pottery would off-set a colourful, summer salad or rich, wintery stew quite nicely.

Whether it be cheese making, fermenting, soap making or sewing Carol, and her partner Carla, will guide you in selecting the right tools for the job.

Beginners: don’t feel intimidated!  I purchased the sprout growing kit with organic seeds and I followed Carol’s instructions.  Within a few days we were adding alfalfa to our sandwiches and salads – and I can barely keep houseplants alive!

Coming soon, Little House In The City will offer classes for adults and children, hands-on demonstrations and community events to teach and inspire others to live more mindfully.

Here are some of my favourite things!

Follow Little House In The City on Facebook

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Tequila Tasting in Toronto

It never fails to amaze me the many unique opportunities and experiences Toronto has to offer. There are the obvious: the CN Tower, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the many orchestras, ballets and theatres, to name a few. It’s the hidden gems that continue to inspire me, delight me, educate me and make me thankful to be living in such a dynamic, colourful, and culturally diverse city.

El Caballito is one of these hidden gems. How does a tequila and tacos cantina qualify? First off, El Caballito, located in the heart of the entertainment district, is not just another tourist trap. The robust and lively atmosphere, with dimmed lighting and music pumping, instantly transports you from the hustle and bustle of traditional downtown Toronto to the vibrant streets of Mexico City. The place oozes authenticity and Manny Contreras will attest to its street cred, Certified Master Tequilier and bar manager, was born and raised in Mexico City.

El Caballito offers patrons more than just incredible Mexican cuisine. Whether you’re a scotch aficionado, a wine sipper with penchant for Merlot or a lover of craft beer, after some time in the private tequila tasting room with Manny, you’ll leave El Caballito at the very least with an appreciation for the art of tequila and quite possibly a new affection for the spirit.

Manny Contreras himself is a hidden gem. There are less than one thousand tequiliers working in North America and Manny is one of only two working in Canada after years honing his taste buds in Mexico City. He began at the age of 13 working behind his father’s bar and he is truly steeped in the tradition of tequila.

“You need to know everything about each tequila before you can sell it,” his father told him. Manny sipped from each bottle, discerning the various flavours before he had his first full glass at the age of 21. Manny’s interest in his country’s national drink was more than just a means to make money; it became a passion that propelled him to enroll in a five-year course to become a Certified Master Tequilier.

Tucked away in a room lined with his collection of tequila, that includes everything from Jose Cuervo to Clase Azul, the candle light flickers on the brick wall and the scene is set.

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Manny explains with vivid detail how tequila evolved from being the drink of the peasants to the kings and cycled back again to the peasants. Folklore, European invasions, wars, and big corporations have all had a hand in transforming tequila from pulque (fermented sap from the agave plant) to what we know it to be today.

“You have to be ready to really taste the tequila. You have to take your time with it. Let it be still in your mouth.” Manny guided us through our tasting with patience while describing the proper way to enjoy tequila. Drinking tequila is somewhat analogous to the vision that I have of the quintessential Latin lover.

There is much fore play: rolling it around in your mouth, breathing in the heady sensations, allowing the first sips to cleanse and prepare the palate.

There is much sweetness and intensity: the lightest in colour the blanco is young, and bites the tongue, while the darker anjeo is aged and has a sweeter, lasting flavour.

There is also the morning after that can leave one groggy and remorseful but Manny maintains it’s not likely if you savor the experience of a fine tequila instead of absently shooting it back in a flurry of debauchery.

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If you’re looking to experience something truly unique, even if you think you hate tequila because of a wasted night in Mexico on your 18th birthday, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.   Book an evening with Manny. He offers a variety of tasting experiences that are suited to all tastes and budgets.

Manny’s Picks

All Time Favourite: Don Julio 1942

Best Value: Tromba

Under-The-Radar: Casa Amigos

For Deep Pockets: Clase Azul

The Leslie Street Spit: A Man-Made, Nature-Filled Wonder

mapThe Leslie Street Spit is a man-made headland that extends five kilometers south into Lake Ontario from the bottom of Leslie Street.  Since the 1960s, the site has been used for dumping all of the rubble and dirt from excavations from new building construction.  What came out of the ground with excavators got dumped down here until it had grown to its current size.  What the city did not anticipate was that this man-made land would be so quickly colonized by plant and bird life, and what began as a dumping ground has become a bird sanctuary and a haven for city-dwellers looking for a long and car-free walk by the lake.

The site is now a park, but because it is still an active dumping zone, the park is only open on weekends. Parking at the gates to the park is a bit haphazard, and while there is a lone hot dog stand at the end of the route, you will keep your little campers happy if you come well stocked with snacks and drinks.

I have walked and biked the 10 kilometers round trip from the street to the lighthouse at the tip of the spit with the kids many times, and there is always something new to discover.  One year, students from Guelph University were there tagging monarch butterflies; the spit has become a stop on the butterflies’ migration route.  There are 45 species of birds that breed on the headland, and more than 300 species have been spotted there.  Budding bird-watchers will find a lot to spot.  There are marshes and woods and bridges and bright sky and a lake wind.  There are cormorants perching on wooden pilings and butterflies to chase.  The entire route is paved, with makes biking, roller blading and walking with a stroller all equally easy.  You may see one city pick up truck, but the route is closed to cars.  It is amazing to walk here and see how much work nature has done to make this space its own in such a short time.  It teems with life.  It’s a place to go on a wide-open day, when you have no pressing business elsewhere, to meet with the wide open sky and the lake.  Wide open days are precious enough, but when you can say that you have walked among the cottonwood trees or seen the lake’s whitecaps at your leisure, I think the day has been truly well spent.

 

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Facts and map from Wikipedia.

 

 

Explore Toronto: Eco-Art-Fest @Todmorden Mills


AU_no9_EcoArtFest_8036Last week, with intentions to squeeze every last bit of summer fun out of what remained of the summer days, Carol, Nathalie and I took our boys to explore no. 9’s Eco-Art Fest.

Just off Pottery Road in the Don Valley, is a tucked-away enclave sheltered by a canopy of trees where art and green collide. Andrew Davies, Executive Director, is a man with a vision. Having spent years in New York City working for the Museum of Modern Art in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Davies became enamoured with the emerging art scene that seemed to couple art and social consciousness so seamlessly. Upon his return to Toronto, he learned about the Evergreen Brick Works, at that time in its planning stages, and envisioned a place where art and the environment could not only flourish but also serve to inspire people to live more sustainable lives.

Drawing on his extensive art and architecture background Davies went on to found no. 9. It is an arts organization that uses art and design to bring awareness to environmental concerns through school and community based programs. Earlier this summer when I explored the Brick Works with my boys we were able to view My Sustainable City, a collaboration between no.9 and the Toronto District School Board that is on exhibit at Brick Works until September 23.

IMG_4848While My Sustainable City is an example of a school program, Eco-Art-Fest is an outdoor summer-long art festival held at Todmorden Mills until September 21 for the entire community to enjoy.

Davies and his staff of artisans offer daily programs for children. Our boys got their hands dirty throwing clay and enjoyed a water colour painting workshop where they learned about endangered animals and just how interrelated the creatures in our environment really is. We ended our morning activities with a guided tour of the various outdoor art installations by celebrated artists Dean Baldwin, Nicole Dextras, John Dickson, Sean Martindale, Ferruccio Sardella, Penelope Stewart, John Loerchner and Laura Mendes.

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It was an enriching opportunity to learn how art is not just paint, paper and brush strokes. Art can be just as much about aesthetic and expression as a social message. In particular my boys enjoyed Sean Martindale’s installation of the word HISTORIES created from the earth, and depending on perspective history could be rising up from the ground or buried.

Saturday nights offer live music after 5 pm, delicious artisanal charcuterie boards that are works of art in themselves, and organic beer and wine all under the lights of Helliwell’s.

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Nearly four hours passed before I looked at my watch.   The green space combined with the art, and the easy-going, light-hearted atmosphere was enough to make me forget that I was in the city, less than a few minutes drive to the centre and its hustle and bustle. It was four hours of appreciating art in many forms, learning about our environment and most importantly connecting with each other.

Time is running out to experience the wonder of Eco-Art-Fest this summer. The festival ends on September 21 but will return next year. To learn more or to register for the activities and tours please visit Eco-Art-Fest.