Tag Archives: Experience

The Hidden Gem of Orillia

While I’m usually visiting my friend in Orillia for some fun and relaxation, a couple of weeks ago I decided to beat the long weekend traffic by heading up a day early. My plan was to simply work on the Friday from up north; however, since my wife was also working, she ordered me out of the house so I didn’t distract her. As a result of my eviction, I decided to go work at the library, and when I got there it dawned on me what a great city Orillia is. Not just to visit, but to live and work in.

In terms of the library, I was completely surprised by how modern and new the amenities were. From updated computers, to quiet rooms that you could book, to free WiFi, and all sorts of amazing programs and activities.

But the library was really just the tip of the iceberg to the other benefits of living in the community. As mentioned in my last blog, Orillia has a large number of chain retail stores (Costco just opened up there), tons of shopping, and a variety of restaurants. In addition to a variety of amenities, the city also has a modern hospital that has recently expanded.

When it comes to transportation, the city is close to the highway, has public transit within the city, and if you need to get down to Toronto, there’s a number of options (if you can get to Barrie there is also GO trains and busses).

One other thing that I’ve come to notice in Orillia, is that there aren’t really many traffic jams. Even in the summer time, with people going to the beach or the cottage, traffic generally moves along smoothly. While there are still cars on the road, it’s never crazy busy like Toronto’s main streets or the 401, so it is also a less stressful commute. Another bonus for drivers is that for whatever reason, the gas is much less expensive than it is in the city, with the price being as much as 15 cents less a litre!

When it comes to real estate, the market also seems to be much more reasonably priced for both buying homes, renting apartments, and leasing office space.

Orillia is the OPP’s headquarters, so I have to think it’s a relatively safe community. I’m not sure what the employment opportunities are like, but it has just about any of the amenities that a larger city would have.

As I get a bit older, I realize that there’s certainly an allure to being able to work during the day and only be minutes from the beach or a boat for the evening and weekends.

A lot of people have migrated from Toronto to Barrie, but it might be worth looking another 20 minutes north to Orillia, for another potential hidden gem.

 

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The Grass is Greener with Scotts Lawn Care Products

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always taken great pride in my lawn. I vividly recall the day when we first bought our house, almost 10 years ago. The previous owners were an older couple and didn’t seem to take much care of the grass or do much landscaping. That first spring I spent countless hours pulling the weeds, fertilizing, seeding, and watering. I was satisfied when my neighbours commented how the house went from having the worst lawn on the street to the best.

While I do the work myself such as cutting the grass, landscaping, and taking general care of the lawn. I’ve had some challenges over the past two or three years. In particular, I’ve had chinch bugs. For those who don’t know, they’re very tiny bugs that eat the root systems of your grass. Then eventually your grass dies leaving nothing, but a brown patch..

Unfortunately, the only telltale sign that you have chinch bugs is when you start to see patches of grass that look dry and it quickly dies. Before you know it, it’s too late to do anything. While there are products on the marketplace that will supposedly kill the chinch bugs, most people will tell you it’s very difficult to get rid of the problem.

Last year, I managed to get rid of the chinch bugs loitering around my lawn, but a good third of my front yard was ruined.  As a result, I had to put down lawn seed and I typically use Scotts lawn care products. While hindsight is 20/20, I thought it was going to be much more work to put down sod, so I got a big supply of triple mix soil and a couple bags of lawn seed to see if I could rehabilitate my grass.

After a few fruitless tries, I sent up the white flag and called Scotts directly to see if they could help me out because despite all my efforts the lawn was looking absolutely wretched. I guess they got some entertainment in the way I approached them, and I ended up getting a call from Scott from Scotts. He is not in any way related to the owner of the company, but certainly knows the lawn care business!

Scott took some time to give me some helpful tips and suggestions. He told me they wanted me to be happy with the product and that it’s not usually the product, but how it is handled. Based on what I told him I was doing, it sounded as if I might not have watered it enough or used enough topsoil, and so he gave me some hints on how to effectively use the product.

Scott said I also might get a call from customer service, and that they might send me some more lawn seed. True to his word, the very next day I got a call from someone at their head office. They apologized for my disappointment with the product, even though I had made it clear that it had been my fault for using it incorrectly. The woman who called insisted on paying me back for the product and even sent me a cheque so I could buy more lawn seed.

Between them going out of their way to give me some helpful hints and reimbursing me for a product that was clearly not faulty, they’ve kept me extremely happy as a customer. Given that the hot summer continues to pose challenges to my lawn rehabilitation efforts, there is no doubt that I’ll be purchasing more lawn care products from them in the weeks and months ahead.

Between their excellent customer service philosophy and how amazing they are to deal with, I recommend Scotts for all of your lawn care needs.

Scotts
1-866-436-7645
www.scotts.com

 

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In Way Over Your Head? Raul Santos Has You Covered!

Many months ago, I wrote about a contractor by the name of Armindo Rego, who had done some work at my house. Armindo had done a great job when we first moved in 10 years ago, and I’ve stayed in touch throughout the years. Over that time, Armindo has helped me with all sorts of projects, including referrals to other people in the trades, depending on what I need done. I always go to him for recommendations because I’ve come to trust him so much.

A couple of years ago I needed someone to inspect and repair my aunt’s house and he suggested Raul Santos from New Way Roofing System Ltd. Raul came out to my aunt’s house to see what he could do and whereas most people could have said my aunt needed a whole new roof, he only suggested a couple of minor repairs. Because he understood pricing for a senior citizen the work only cost me three or four hundred dollars. Since he did such a great job I always kept him in the back of my mind for any work I needed be it at my house, a friend’s, or family.

Recently, I knew I was going to have to replace our roof, so I called up Raul. Raul’s team works quickly, but they don’t rush. They did a professional job by taking the old shingles off and making repairs to the roof before they put on the new shingles. On the two days that they worked, each and every time they left everything was tidy and clean. You wouldn’t have even known that they were there if it weren’t for my spiffy looking new roof.

The guys from New Way Roofing Systems are polite, professional, and hardworking. They did a great job on my roof and I am very pleased with it. A number of people commented on how nice our new roof looked!

A roof is one of those home repairs that you hate to do, but it is a necessary evil. You don’t get any pleasure out of the roof other than it keeping you dry and protected. You simply don’t get the same enjoyment compared to putting in wall units, a gas fireplace, or a brand new TV. However, having my roof repaired was a painless process this time around.

Between Raul and his great workmanship, my roof looks awesome and people continue to tell me how nice it is.

New Way Roofing Systems
Raul Santos
416-230-2534

 

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The Gift of Great Customer Service

As you know, I’m always trying to highlight small businesses and neighbourhood businesses and that’s the case with this particular blog post.

On the northwest corner of Bathurst Street and Sheppard Avenue, there’s a small strip mall with approximately 25 stores. One store that has been there for ages is called All in The Cards. It’s a small gift shop that also sells greeting cards, but also happens to have a post office.

I believe the owner’s name is David, and he and his staff are always very friendly and polite. Even the younger staff greet you as soon as you walk into the store. This seems to be a challenge these days for many retailers, but David’s crew is always friendly and smiling. In addition, they’re always helpful whether you’re looking for a gift, in need of a greeting cards, or have something to mail.

One of the things that I like about their particular post office, is that if they can find a less expensive way, with good or better service speed, to send a package, they’ll suggest different tricks of the trade. As a result, the employees there have saved me quite a bit of money, and my packages always arrive safe and sound.

Recognizing that it is a neighborhood business, if you live in that area or ever happen to be driving through, I suggest stopping in for any of your gifts, cards, or postage needs!

All In the Cards
416-398-0579
www.allinthecards.ca

 

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Diamonds And Customer Service Are Forever

This story starts approximately 17 years when I first proposed to my wife. At the time, I decided it might be best to have her involved in picking out a ring, so I could be sure everything was to her liking. When I had proposed, I used a stand-in ring and the plan was to go ring shopping together.

When our friends first learned we were engaged, aside from congratulating us, everyone recommended friends or acquaintances of theirs from which we could buy a ring.

My first interaction with Ron Pollock, owner of Ron Pollock Importers, almost ended with us not doing business. I had given him a call, only to find out I could see him by appointment only. Given my busy schedule, I had to move him to the bottom of my priority list as I had preferred a place where I could walk in at my leisure.

Over the next couple of weeks, I went to a couple of people but wasn’t impressed at all. Almost on que, I received a phone call from Ron, who asked when I was going to come in. Given that I’m always impressed when a salesperson dedicates the time and energy to follow up with a potential customer, I decided I would give Ron a try.

Ron was very pleasant, knowledgeable, professional, and his high quality jewelry (and diamonds) was very reasonable priced. As a result, we ended up buying “The Ring” from him, and since that time we’ve bought other items as well.  We’ve also recommended him to many other friends and family members, who have also been extremely happy with his service and his jewelry.

In more recent times, he’s also been accommodating and willing to help out my dad and my aunt when they need one of their old watches cleaned or repaired. Even though it’s not necessarily high-end jewelry, Ron is always willing to help out or pitch in whenever he can, to keep his customers happy. 

Whether you’re looking for a traditional engagement ring, customized pieces, repairs, or even appraisals, I definitely recommend Ron and his team for all things jewelry.

Ron Pollack Diamond Importers
27 Queen Street East, Suite 905
(416) 362-4822

 

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A Taste of Pittsburgh

Since my wife is in charge of meal planning for all of our trips, I wasn’t sure what to expect food-wise but I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of amazing restaurants in Pittsburgh. Highlights included:

Primanti Bros: Whenever I asked about Pittsburgh, people have told me that I have to visit Primanti Bros. The place has been around for about 80 years. It started out as a small sandwich shop in the Strip District and because most of the clientele were truckers, they started designing their sandwiches with french fries and coleslaw right on the sandwich itself….for ease of eating while driving. The four elements that make up most of the sandwiches….. the bread, meat, french fries, and coleslaw…were all delicious. The sandwiches were all big, solid, excellent sandwiches. Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, or a late-night bite, I definitely agree that Primanti Bros. is worth a stop. Or maybe more than one….

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina: This unique hotspot is open for lunch and dinner, and they cook right on open wood! Whether you’re looking for chicken, lamb, steak, or sausages, this place has it all. The restaurant works a little differently than many other restaurants, as you line up, almost like a fast-food joint, if you will, and they only take your order once there’s a table available. After you place your order, you then sit down, and they deliver your food right to you, like regular table service. When it gets later in the dinner period and they won’t be able to seat anyone else, they give the last person a t-shirt that says “end of the line” and that person’s responsibility is to inform anyone else who shows up that they will have to come back another time. The service is amazing, and the staff are extremely friendly…in fact, once they learned we were from out of town, they accommodated us even though the person in front of us had the “end of the line” t-shirt. On top of that, they were kind enough to gift us with our own t-shirt after I was joking around with them. It’s a terrific place with great décor and service, topped with delicious food. If you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth standing in line for. Also, this local joint is BYOB!

Kaya Island Cuisine: This restaurant is in the Strip District and serves up some hot and tasty Caribbean food. Near the end of my trip, I was a little fooded out, and wanted something a little different. Although we hadn’t planned on going to this restaurant, we changed our plans given that the menu had so many unique dishes. We actually ended up sharing the food, as they had a lot of appetizers that all looked amazing, including conch fritters, baby back ribs, Jamaican jerk wings, a spectacular salad known as the Caribbean rainbow salad, crispy fish tacos, and pulled pork quesadillas. All of the food came out very hot and fresh, very nicely presented, and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that it was big portion sizes, big enough to share among three people. The service was very good, and the atmosphere was fun, lively, and vibrant. It was the perfect meal to end our trip. It seems that, despite the popularity of the Strip District, most of the area closes down earlier on Sunday nights and Kaya was one of the few restaurants that stayed open. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Peace, Love, & Little Donuts: This is a small donut shop found in the Strip District, and I guess appropriately, they serve small donuts…about half the size of a regular donut. They actually take a plain donut and jazz it up with different toppings, which you choose off of their extensive menu. We tried the apple pie, banana split, s’mores, and the strawberry french toast, but you can choose from almost one hundred more. We stopped by after brunch one day and it was the perfect ending to our meal, with the four of us sharing six donuts. Although there is a little bit of a wait while they prepare each donut, it’s well worth the extra time, and they ended up being an awesome sweet treat.

The Church Brew Works: This is a microbrewery located in a very large, old church. The food is good pub food, all designed to go with beer. The atmosphere was truly amazing and certainly worth visiting. They also conduct tours of the brewery two or three times a day.

Whether it’s sandwich shops, pizza joints, or even some chain restaurants, there is certainly no shortage of great food in the Pittsburgh area. Happy eating!

 

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A Party Down in Pittsburgh

As often as I can, I try to get out of town on long weekends and the recent Victoria Day long weekend was no exception. In fact, this time I turned the three day weekend into a five-day road trip and took my wife and daughter to Pittsburgh.

I haven’t been to Pittsburgh in about 25 years, but remember enjoying my last visit. Initially, we were only going to stay a day or two, go to visit Fallingwater and the Hershey factory, when I realized that Hershey was about three and a half hours in the opposite direction. So we changed our itinerary. It turns out that we had no problem finding tons of things to see and do in Pittsburgh! The city is very vibrant, home to many innovative companies, products and services, has truly fantastic restaurants and plenty of sporting events for the athletic enthusiast. I can honestly say that one out of every four people in Pittsburgh were decked out in black and yellow in an ode to the Pirates, Penguins or their beloved Steelers. This is a city that wears their love of the game on their sleeve…where everyone can see it!

Pittsburgh is a tourist friendly city! When we were trying to find a specific area of a large cemetery, to avoid having us get lost, the groundskeeper gave us an escort over to the exact location… in his cart. The next day, we stopped to ask a police officer how to find the Duquesne Brewery Clock (the largest single face clock in the world – two times the size of Big Ben!). Moments later, we found ourselves with a police escort right to its location!

Over our four day visit, some of our favourite sites included the Heinz Center, the Strip District, Randyland, and Fallingwater.

Of course, during our days of sightseeing we needed energy and found no shortage of great restaurants. For lunch and dinner, whether it was Primanti Bros., an Argentinian steakhouse, or some fun and whimsical donuts at Peace, Love and Little Donuts, you could simply eat your way through the city and walk away a happy camper.

Sports fans, don’t look any further than Pittsburgh, which has an NFL, NHL, and a major league baseball team. During my trip, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in town, and while they weren’t successful on the field, the ballpark was beautiful to see and it was a beautiful spring night for baseball.

Lastly, I have to mention a one-day excursion down to Fallingwater. Built by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this beautiful country home is about 1.5 hours away from Pittsburgh. It is a a gorgeous drive and should not be missed.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll highlight a few of the places on my trip, but needless to say, if you’re up for a fun and adventurous road trip, Pittsburgh should be next on your list!

 

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