Tag Archives: Family Event

The Canada Day Weekend is Almost Upon Us…SQM Will Help You Celebrate!

Another long weekend is coming up, and at the ripe, old age of 151 years old, Canada has plenty of events and activities that will be taking place across the country.

Try one of these ideas for your precious three day weekend:

Camping: With black fly season almost behind us, the Canada Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer camping! Check out ontarioparks.com for dozens of options on where to set up camp, both close to Toronto and throughout the province. Whether you’re going to one of the provincial parks for a simple day trip, or staying overnight, there’s tons of different things to do outdoors. Camping is a great inexpensive trip for a big group!

Fireworks: Go traditional and nab some fireworks from stores like Phatboy Fireworks or Kaboom Fireworks, and enjoy yourself a colourful spectacle in the sky. If you can’t do your own, Downsview Park, Canada’s Wonderland, and Ashbridges Bay will be putting on a lightshow worthy of Canada’s birthday.

Swimming: By July 1st, all of the municipal pools should be open, so check out the schedule and either exercise those muscles with a nice, relaxing swim, or take in some sun followed by a cool dip in the water. Find the nearest pool to you here.

Sports: Love sports and happen to be in the Toronto area on July 1st ? There are three sporting events, with Toronto FC, Toronto FC2 (academy team), and the Toronto Blue Jays all playing.

Day or Dinner Cruising: Whether you’re in cottage country or near the Toronto harbour, you can try taking a day or dinner cruise. One popular cruise is the RMS Segwun– North America’s oldest operating mail steamship. The RMS Segwun currently tours around Muskoka Lake and has afternoon and evening departures (it’s also a beautiful trip to take in the fall when leaves are changing colours – but don’t worry, we will remind you in the fall).

Ottawa: It’s always exciting to be in the nation’s capital over the Canada day weekend! There will be fireworks and festivals- plus, it’s always nice to immerse yourself in Canada’s wonderfully rich culture at a number of art galleries and museums.

Ribfest: For those in the Toronto area, head on down to ribfest at Etobicoke Centennial Park, featuring music, magic shows, fireworks, and of course, ribs!

BBQ: Like the Americans when they celebrate July 4th with a BBQ, there’s nothing like grillin’ some dogs or steaks on the bbq. Looking for some inspiration? Look no further.

Whatever you end up doing over the upcoming long weekend, and wherever you end up doing it, I hope you and your family have a safe and enjoyable weekend!

 

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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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Things to Do on Victoria Day Weekend

It’s finally that time of year again! What are you planning to do this Victoria Day weekend? Don’t worry if you don’t have any plans yet, as we have some great ideas for you.

1. The long weekend is a great time to travel up north to take a step back from life’s busy moments. While it’s still too cold to go into the lake, it’s cold enough to avoid black fly season. Hit the road and travel to Sudbury or Sault Ste. Marie to visit national parks and a wonderful view.

2. Drive In movies are always a magical experience! Places like 5 Drive-in and The Stardust Drive In Theatre are a blast from the past. Cozy up in your car with some snacks and popcorn. No need to sit uncomfortably close with people you don’t know.

3. Fireworks are always a fantastic display and fun for the whole family. In our area we always do a block barbecue, complete with a bbq and fireworks. It almost seems like the perfect way to announce the arrival of the warmer weather.

4. The Blue Jays are in town this year! Catch a baseball game on the long weekend. Games are on May 18th, 19th, and 20th. Baseball games are always a pleasure to watch, and can be an inspiring and enchanting memory for kids. Baseball is not everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s still much fun and entertainment to be had at games.

5. It’s the perfect weather to take a leisurely bike ride in a park. Dust off your old bike and head to your nearest park to take in all of that vitamin D. If you don’t have your own bike, you can rent a bike downtown, and then ride around the heart of Toronto or along Habourfront for a fantastic view near the water.

6. The Artfest at the Distillery District is happening throughout the long weekend. Take a look at some paintings, photography, clothes, jewelry, and more to see if anything tickles your fancy. As well, the Distillery District is known for its unique restaurants, so be sure to grab a bite while you’re at it.

7. Junior is Harbourfront’s new international children’s festival. Head on over for some magic tricks, storytelling, and music. It’s a great way to entertain your kids while making the most of the nice weather.

Whatever you decide to do, we hope you have a great long weekend!

 

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Fun and Friends at the Freeman Family Day Centre

http://www.baycrest.org/AnnualReport/20152016/volunteers-kindness-care/

Over the past few weeks, I’ve posted several blogs regarding my aunt, as she is recovering from a broken hip.  Around the same time my aunt broke her hip, my father enrolled in a program at Baycrest, specifically at the Freeman Family Day Centre.  The program is a day program for seniors, allowing them to keep active and engaged while socializing with other seniors.

Once accepted into the program, seniors can choose to come up to four days a week (the program runs Monday to Thursday) as well as either half days or a full day (full days run from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  Typically, the day begins with coffee, pastries, and some informal socializing.  After everyone settles in, one of the group leaders discusses current events, which typically results in some entertaining conversations.  The participants then get active with low-impact seated exercises, known as Stretch and Kvetch, which is run by one of the physiotherapists on staff.  After morning exercises, several program options can be selected, ranging from art, to music, to book reviews, or even movies.

After working up an appetite, the members all head to the dining room for lunch, sitting with those with common interests.

The program then continues until 2:30 p.m. with a variety of options for activities.

When it comes to getting to the program, there are several transportation options.  Aside from driving or taking the bus, many attendees use taxis, Wheel-Trans, or iRIDE, to get them to and from the facility.

The cost of the program is approximately $40.00 a day, plus any transportation fees.

The program director and the rest of the staff are great to deal with.  Whether it is helping new members adapt to the routine, getting coffee, assisting members to the washroom, or taking people to the next event, there is always help every step of the way.  The staff are truly amazing people and are always there to help.

My dad originally attended the program and now that my aunt is on the road to recovery, she attends as well.  Whether it’s the two of them or the other attendees that I’ve met, they all seem to enjoy it.

I know when folks hit 80 they become very set in their schedules, but for anyone that has a senior in the family and wants to keep them busy and active, I personally recommend the Freeman Family Day Centre.

Baycrest, Freeman Family Day Centre
416-785-2500
www.baycrest.org

 

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Games Night—Stay Latte!

Several weeks ago, as the weather turned colder, my family introduced me to great place for food and fun, located in downtown Toronto.

Snakes and Lattes (S&L) is Toronto’s original board game café where you can dine and play games for as little or as much time as you would like.  With over 1,000 games to choose from, there truly is something for everyone!  S&L now has two downtown locations.  The original location first opened on Bloor Street in 2010, and after much success, they opened their second location on College Street in 2015.

Both locations offer guests a dining experience, however, Bloor Street is more of a cafe, while the College Street location has more food and beverage options.  Of course, the food is almost secondary, to the main reason for going to Snakes and Lattes…..to play games.  In fact, if you enjoy any of the games that you play, they also have an area of the store where you can purchase games (I believe they are the only place in the city to buy the popular game, Cards Against Humanity).

The staff are well educated and can suggest age appropriate games for your group and give you details on how to play each game.  This is pretty impressive given the number of games S&L offers.  The games are divided into zones like card games, strategy, fantasy and more.  Some of the games are ones you have probably never heard of but they do indeed exist!

Snakes and Lattes does not take reservations so it is good to get there early, but if there is a wait, they will take down your number and text you when a table is available.  Even if you have to wait, it is definitely worth it!  S&L provides a fun evening out where you and your friends or family can partake in something a bit different than just going out for dinner or drinks.  It’s an especially enjoyable place to go during the cold winter months.  

Don’t be surprised if you get hit by the bug and end up buying a game you played that night….it’s happened to us more than once.  Alternatively, you can also purchase games from their website.

Now back to Monopoly……

Snakes and Latte’s
647-342-9229
www.snakesandlattes.com

 

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What Does Saving the Rain Forest Have to Do with Coffins?…I Don’t Think the Vultures were in the Rain Forest…

A photo of Charlie Hamilton from National Geographics

Last month, I attended a National Geographic Live presentation, where the speaker was a fascinating gentleman by the name of Charlie Hamilton James.  Charlie is a wildlife photographer who has won several awards and done work all over the world.

One of Charlie’s more recent projects involved photographing the wildlife at Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming, USA.  To do this, Charlie used a different approach than other photographers, and tried to make the audience look at the world (the cast of us in the world) and animals in a different way than most people may observe it today.  One such example is when he took photographs of vultures in the Amazon Rain Forest.  While most people think of vultures as disgusting and ugly animals, Charlie’s photographs will make you think twice, as vultures are truly incredible creatures.

In addition to his stories about Yellowstone National Park and vultures, Charlie feature presentation was called, “I Bought a Rain Forest”, which was meant to help the audience look at this area of the world in a whole, new way.  For example, a lot of people in the developed world criticize people for cutting down the rain forest but they don’t realize why the rain forest is being cut down.  Charlie’s presentation showed that the main reason for trees being cut down is to provide money for the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter, and clothing.  People in the developed world don’t realize we are paying the people in the undeveloped world for their natural resources, which in many cases are used to manufacture things we don’t really need…or can use a little less of.

For example, when you take a close look at how the people in these areas are making their money, you realize that a lot of the rain forest is being cut down so people have space for their cattle.  Not to ruin a person’s livelihood, but the truth is, that if we ate just a little less meat (and I love a good steak as much as the next guy), a lot of this land could be saved.

Another example I found mind boggling is, that a lot of the trees being cut down are mahogany trees, and the only reason these trees are being cut down is to build caskets for North Americans (mahogany is the number one wood used for casket). As Charlie suggested, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to destroy the rain forest to make coffins…a product that ends up back in the ground.

As much as I care about the environment, I have never considered myself a granola eating tree hugger, and Charlie’s presentation showed me that you don’t have to be one, to still care and do your part to protect this vital area of the world.

Overall, I found Charlie to be fascinating, entertaining and certainly worth listening to, if he is ever in your area.  Charlie did indeed buy a rain forest… but to hear that story you are going to have to attend one of his events.

Charlie Hamilton James
www.charliehamiltonjames.com

National Geographic Live Speaker Series
416-872-4255
www.roythomson.com/natgeolive/

 

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