Tag Archives: Toronto

What’s Hip and Happening around the Holidays

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December is always a cheery time of year! With the holidays just around the corner, more and more holiday-themed activities seem to be popping up around town. Many stores are taking part in holiday festivities, and with no shortage of holiday cheer going around, it’s always nice to engage in one or more activities. Some of the more popular activities, which I enjoy, include:

Toronto Christmas Market – Down in the Distillery District, the iconic Christmas market is on until December 23rd! Enjoy Christmas music, magical lighting, singing, dancing, visits with Santa, and everything to get you into the holiday spirit. Though the experience is purely magical, it’s $6.00 to get in on weekends and lineups can be lengthy.

Starbucks Holiday Cups – I always enjoy the little things that add bits of holiday spirit. Starbucks offers some cool and interesting holiday drinks with a fun design on them. It’s a great pick-me-up, and a great way to warm yourself up. This year’s design encourages customers to colour and draw on the white background of the cups.

Skating at the Harbourfront Centre – Want to do something active, fun, and festive? Skating is the perfect way to engage in holiday cheer while burning some calories at the same time. Visit your local skating rink and rent a pair of skates – or bring your own. The Harbourfront Centre has a beautiful, scenic outdoor skating rink and best of all – admission is free!

Holiday Fair in Nathan Phillips Square – At the heart of downtown Toronto, celebrate winter by shopping in the market, skating, or simply enjoying the view at their annual holiday fair. Until December 23rd, experience different foods, find that perfect gift, and listen to some live Christmas music!

The Nutcracker – Experience the magic firsthand when you see The Nutcracker live in theatre! As an all-time classic, and world-renowned play, the National Ballet of Canada has been performing every year since 2005. It’s an amazing and entertaining family activity, and suitable for all ages. Catch it now until December 30th.

Get Involved with A Charity – Whether it’s helping out at your local food bank, preparing meals for the homeless, running a toy drive, or collecting clothes and personal care products for those in need, getting involved with charities is something that should not be overlooked during this busy and hectic time of year.

Whatever you choose to do, and wherever you choose to go…from all of us at SQM, have a safe and enjoyable holiday season, and a happy and healthy new year!

 

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Leisurely Shopping at Lee Valley

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Many years ago, I was introduced to Lee Valley Tools when I required some specialized equipment and supplies for a wood working project. Since that time, I have often returned to their stores for specialty items, but quickly realized that there is much more to them than meets the eye.

Not only does the store have fun and creative little stocking stuffers (it may only be November, but the holidays are just around the corner), but these tools are practical and useful – for things you never knew you needed help with.

As an example, my wife once received a portable can opener at a Secret Santa event. It’s small, safe, and easy on the hands, using a butterfly-shaped crank design instead of the usual handles that require great strength and effort. She loved it so much, we immediately ordered a new one when it inevitably broke years later.

Ever since then, she’s loved the place. She told me that any and all types of gifts she was in search of, she could get at Lee Valley. We were recently going through the website and commenting on the cool and practical things we had found on there. It may be important to note that not all items online are available in-store.

The folding phone holder, for example, makes every outlet your personal charging station with a simple, albeit ingenious, solution. Hang it over your charging plug, and create a small shelf for your phone while it charges. Your phone is kept safely out of the way!

The people who work at the store are very helpful, knowledgeable, and polite. In fact, they’ve helped me with my own specialty projects in the past.

For those looking for good quality service and unique items – be it for a gift or a project, I highly recommend checking out Lee Valley Tools.

Lee Valley Tools
416-366-5959
www.leevalley.ca

 

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The Scary Spirit of Halloween

Two children dressed up as ghosts trick-or-treating on Halloween.

The end of October brings many things along with it – colder weather, shorter days, and of course, Halloween!  At this time of year I always prepare myself for a breakout of pumpkins, candy, and amazing Halloween decorations.

Much like my fall blog post a couple of weeks ago, I decided to find several must-dos to help everyone get into the Halloween-y mood:

1) Screemers is one of Toronto’s best haunted theme parks, featuring a wide variety of terrifying attractions and shows, including the Zombie Prizon, The Haunted House, and Skull Castle.  Join Screemers this October as they celebrate 25 years of terrorizing their guests!  For adults, kick back and hit up the Vampire Lounge and toss back some liquid courage before coming face to face with your greatest fears.

2) The infamous Halloween Haunt at Wonderland is one of the most popular Halloween attractions out there.  Feeling brave enough?  There are 700 monsters scattered around the park as well as mazes, live shows, and scare zones.

3) Every now and then, I do love a blast from the past.  If you haven’t already gone to…or even if you have….go watch the original, Rocky Horror Picture Show in theatres. There are several showings at the Ted Rogers Cinema throughout October and into November.  Don’t forget to dress up and bring your props!

4) Save some money this year and rent a costume instead of buying one!  Everyone wants a cool costume at an affordable price, and for something you only wear once a year, plenty of people are looking to save some money. Malabar, located in Toronto, does just that.

5) Choose costumes from historical figures, superheroes, animals, and more!  Be cautious of what your costume will be this Halloween, as more people are starting to make more conscious decisions on what to wear.

6) Choose something unique to give out on Halloween night!  Instead of giving out candy, give out arts and crafts supplies, fun school supplies, or toys.  There’s even one person in our neighbourhood who hands out Webkinz.  Make this Halloween a memorable one for kids.

7) Take a peek at Casa Loma’s Haunted House!  Make your way through the spookified castle and immerse yourself in a terrifying environment.  Witness iconic Halloween figures, such as Dracula, the Phantom of the Opera, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Halloween only comes around once a year. Make the most of whatever you decide to do, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to get into the Halloween spirit!

 

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A Slice of Happiness at Bitondo’s

Slice of pizza from Bitondo's Pizzeria.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in my old stomping grounds, down near Little Italy. Feeling a little peckish, I decided to head along College to grab a quick bite. I had been circling around, looking for a parking spot in the residential area, when I came across a small restaurant I had bypassed hundreds of times…Bitondo’s Pizzeria.

It’s a small pizzeria that looks like a restaurant still stuck in the 50’s…with signs painted on the windows and minimal decor…a place that has made a name for itself with the quality of its pizzas, panzerottis, and pastas.

When I stepped in, I was greeted pleasantly by a young lady and asked what I would like to order. Since I was in a hurry, I ordered a pizza slice, which was immediately warmed in the oven. It was about $5.00 for a slice and a drink, and the place was doing a brisk business, with some people sitting at the few chairs and tables inside the restaurant, and other opting to head outside and sit on a bench in the warm weather.

Much to my surprise, the pizza reminded me of an old-style pizzeria’s – it was not too thick, thin, or chewy.  In addition, both the cheese and pepperoni were extremely tasty, and didn’t seem industrialized – the quality was fantastic.

My only complaint is that there wasn’t much of a selection of cold drinks, despite having a large cooler.

During my time in the restaurant, I noticed employees answering phones and making pizzas for delivery.  Sadly, I live too far away to be a regular delivery customer, however, if you want to try an independent pizza place, in an old-school style, I highly recommend Bitondo’s Pizzeria!

Bitondo’s Pizzeria
416-533-4101

 

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Canadian Tire’s Tireless Customer Service

Storefront of Canadian Tire.

About a year ago, I bought a portable tire inflator that plugs into a cigarette lighter adapter from Canadian Tire – the one on Sheppard Avenue, near Leslie. I find this gadget comes in extremely handy when the temperature changes (as it causes a change in tire pressure). It’s certainly much easier than finding a service station with an air pump that works…not to mention that most stations now charge a loonie for air!

Recently, the pump has been giving me a bit of a problem, and when I tried to use it a week or two ago, it shut off completely and wouldn’t restart. I didn’t have the receipt any longer, but since this tire inflator was Canadian Tire’s MotoMaster brand, I decided that I’d try going back to the store to see what could be done.

After a short wait at the Customer Service counter, a friendly employee listened as I explained my situation to her. She started to apologize and told me that the product does not actually have a lifetime warranty, but only a one year warranty, which I had admittedly exceeded. During the interaction, one of the store managers happened to overhear the conversation, and without hesitation, approved an exchange. The employee indicated that I should grab another inflator off of the shelf, did some paperwork, and within minutes I was able to go on my way.

At a time when retail manufacturers seem to stand more and more behind the fine print in their warranties, it was refreshing to see a manager step up to the plate to keep customers happy. It goes without saying that a happy customer is much more likely to be a loyal customer, and I would think that’s what ultimately any company is striving for.

I can’t vouch for all Canadian Tire dealers but I’ve been happy with my experiences at this location and this visit only reinforced my belief that I was shopping at the right store.

Canadian Tire
416-226-4411
www.canadiantire.ca

 

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Ride the Rocket!

Empty Toronto subway car.

A couple of weeks ago, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) was in the news after a horribly frustrating morning of delays, due to switch issues, maintenance problems, and emergency alarms being pulled. While I realize that these challenges are experienced on a far too regular basis, for those passengers that rely on the TTC for their daily commute, I wanted to share some positive thoughts on the organization.

Although I am not a daily TTC user, I often take public transit when traveling downtown to events or meetings, as it is easier and less stressful than driving in a car. I’m able to sit and talk to my friends and family without having to focus on the road, and I don’t have to worry about finding parking.

Though the TTC undergoes plenty of maintenance, I have experienced minimal delays when traveling on the system and when delays do happen, I’ve found that the employees have done their utmost to get us moving again. Generally speaking, my trips have been smooth and comfortable and more than once I’ve found myself lulled to sleep by the swaying subway cars.

In more recent times, I also had the opportunity to use the TTC app, which provided me with accurate information regarding the bus schedule, allowing me to maximize my time visiting someone at the hospital, while also getting me to my destination on time.

My only two complaints would be the quickly rising cost of the fares and the added cost of parking at a TTC lot – why charge for parking when you’re trying to encourage people to leave their cars at home and take public transit?

One last thought…although becoming increasingly rare, I truly enjoy the look of those TTC operators who still wear the more formal “peaked” uniform hats (like the police or ship captains wear). These hats exude a more professional image, resulting in an increased level of respect from customers for employees and the industry.

The TTC has certainly had it’s share of ups and downs, but for more convenient and relaxing rides, consider taking the rocket from time to time.

Toronto Transit Commission
www.ttc.ca
416-393-4636

 

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Go-Getter Customer Service for Go-Karts

Go-karting track at 'Go-Karts @ Polson Pier.'

For quite some time, I’ve been wanting to take my daughter go-karting. While I realize that there are a number of indoor tracks in Toronto, I’m a bit of a traditionalist and I think it’s more fun outdoors. Although I’ve always been driving past one of the tracks up north, a friend recently told me about an outdoor track, right here, in the city, named ‘Go-Karts @ Polson Pier.’ Indeed, it seemed very promising.

Last Sunday I called the location to gather more information. The phone was answered by an older gentleman by the name of Bob, who also happened to be the owner. Bob was friendly, polite and patient in answering my many questions regarding the hours of operation, pricing, age and height restrictions, and whether it was busy (because I didn’t want to drive down and end up waiting for hours).

When he learned that it was my daughter’s first time he kindly offered us the management special, which brought the price down, considerably.  When we got down there, we met Bob, who came out to shake our hands while the employees set us up with tickets and helmets.  My daughter went with the two-seater car first before feeling comfortable enough to go out on her own. Within a few laps, she was zipping around the track like Emerson Fittipaldi, and having a great time.

The racing equipment and the track were clean and well-maintained, and the staff were pleasant, polite, and friendly.  Furthermore, Bob added to our visit by making it more personal and memorable.

After our fun on the track, we headed back into the downtown area for a bite to eat and some ice cream, which was the perfect end to a great afternoon.

I highly recommend visiting this track for a fun and somewhat different activity.

Go-Karts @ Polson Pier
416-778-5278
www.gokartsatpolsonpier.com

 

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