Explore: Evergreen Brick Works

IMG_4844Years ago my weekends were peppered with city-dweller activities: markets, neighbour explorations, festivals and art appreciation but then a string of pregnancies and little babies kept me nestled (chained) in my neighbourhood bubble venturing only outside to visit the zoo.  My youngest is now almost 4 (I still can’t believe it!) and for the past year, we’ve really been able to enjoy the city and all that it has to offer without the stress of strollers, naps and diapers.

It’s a whole new world!

Recently we explored an urban oasis: Evergreen Brick Works.

The Brick Works, as locals affectionately call it, was the Don Valley Brick Works from 1889 to 1984 and many of Canada’s preeminent buildings are constructed of bricks made from this site.  From 1984 until the early 2000s, the Brick Works deteriorated.  Piles of rubble and crumbling buildings are what most people saw when they drove past along Bayview Avenue, with the exception of a group of creative innovators who saw the potential to transform the site into a not-for-profit destination celebrating nature, culture and community.


The old buildings mesmerized the boys.  They imagined themselves heating clay in the giant kilns to make bricks.  They saw the old tracks used to transport the tons of coal from the various buildings.  We talked about the working conditions: how loud it must have been and oppressively hot from the steam, the kilns (and the humid Toronto summers) and how it probably wasn’t that safe in the early years.

Exploring the kiln building was a favourite but not only because of its historical significance.  The walls are lined with an evocative gallery displaying artistic photography and, perhaps the highlight for me; it is where The Sustainable City installation is currently on display. City school teams have imagined and created a future Toronto that encompasses the core values of Evergreen: nature, community and culture.  Not only are the projects incredible but also they are inspiring!  To think that our city is home to such innovators . . . lucky for us!


There is a lot to see and do at the Brick Works.  Every day people explore the extensive trails where local wildlife abounds!

The weekdays are quieter but the weekends are chock-full of activities including an impressive farmer’s market, pottery demonstrations, bike rentals, a flea market and the children’s garden.  The Brick Works hosts seminars on the weekends that appeal to bikers, gardeners, wild life enthusiasts and artists.

Wednesday evenings (from July 2- August 6) enjoy pizza from Pizzeria Libretto from the outdoor wood-fired oven (to.die.for.) and a small seasonal salad for $3.

It’s summer and there is no shortage of activities in Toronto.  There is a reason it’s called The Living City, so get out there and live!


You Know You’re Raising a Child in the City When . . .

A few weeks ago I picked up my oldest son from his art class.  I usually walk the half block from our house and we take our time discussing what he learned that day.  He shows me what he’s added to his latest canvas and shares with me some art-facts that are always new to me (did you know that Warhol had 25 cats all named Sam?).  I like the leisurely way our pick-up unfolds.

At his last class before the Christmas break, I had the opportunity to speed around and complete last minute shopping during his art time while my mother-in-law watched my younger two boys.  Just as the hour hand struck two o’clock, I pulled in front of the studio.  I couldn’t believe my luck:  a parking space facing the storefront.

If you don’t live in a city, let me explain.  Scoring a parking spot, right where you need to be, when you’re running late is like the perfect trifecta and only comes around as often as Haley’s Comet.

If you live in a city, I know that you virtually high-fiving me.  Thank you.

I rush past the ticket machine (because like any city dweller you never pay for parking when you’re doing an “in and out”) and greet my son with what could be described as madness.

“You can tell me all about it in the car.  We have to go quick!  I’ve got a parking spot!” 

He hastily gathered his things and we said another round of “happy holidays” to his teachers while bolting out of there.

That’s when I saw him.  His ten-speed bike was propped on its kickstand just a few feet from where he stood.   He leaned back from the front end of the car reading the numbers and letters of my license plate.  And across the back of his electric blue windbreaker in silver reflector lettering it read Toronto Parking Authority.

It’s true what they say:  He who has giveth can taketh away (or something to that effect).  The Parking Gods had turned their back on me.

But as it turned out, I was not so helpless.  I had the power of a five-year-old boy.  The five-year-old boy who cried out:

“Nooooooo!  Please don’t give us a ticket.  My mommy was just picking me up.  Please!  Please!  It’s Christmas!!!!”

And with a nod of his helmeted head and the spirit of Christmas in his heart, the officer in blue straddled his bike and was off.

Just like his first hair cut and his first day of school, I will always remember the first parking ticket he squirmed his way out of.


image source: safetysign.com