While you’ll usually find me highlighting great businesses, today I wanted to take some time to highlight an amazing group of people. When I was a kid, I played in different organized sports leagues, like hockey or baseball. Typically, the coaches were the dad of someone’s kid and from time to time it was the mother. Often, the parents were just doing it to volunteer and spend time with the kids, and in many cases, they didn’t know much about the sport. In general, they were simply there to organize the practices, meetups, etc. Fast forward about 40 years, and my daughter who is part sporty girl is involved with a number of sports including soccer, volleyball, and track and field. Maybe it’s just good fortune, but in many cases, the coaches and organizers are either varsity, Olympic, or professional athletes in those sports. As I’ve gotten to know these coaches over the last few years, I’ve found myself with a newfound respect for their level of commitment and the amount of time, effort, and money they put into training to get to the elite level they are at. While there are professional athletes in dozens of sports, unfortunately, there are only a small number of sports where professional athletes are able to make a living playing their sport. Too often, athletes have to supplement their passion for sport with another job to pay the bills. Over time, I’ve had the chance to learn about the way these athletes work and think. From their dedication and pursuit of perfection, getting up before the sun to train, facing long days at the office followed by long days at the sports complex, recovering from injuries and not letting injuries slow down other aspects of their lives, it's been a real eye-opener as to the enormous task athletes face on a day-to-day basis. As a general suggestion to employers, many of the skills that athletes have learned are certainly transferable to different jobs and careers. Time management, patience, discipline, and self-confidence are only a few of the many skills that most athletes possess. While athletes may not necessarily have previous experience at a particular job, given all of the other characteristics and assets they can potentially bring to the table, they should without a doubt be considered in the hiring process. Over many years of being involved with sports, from playing in sports leagues myself, to cheering on my daughter, I’ve come to the conclusion that sports can certainly make you a well-balanced and versatile person.
We all have those lazy Sundays when we get up late, and look forward to having a hybrid meal that is not quite breakfast and not quite lunch. Here are some of my recommendations of some great places to go to in the GTA for a nice brunch. After all, you have to take a lazy, personal day, once in a while!
Aunties & Uncles – One of the best brunch places around! The restaurant is near College and Bathurst and serves up a perfect combination of breakfast and lunch items. Choose from your good o’ll’ pancakes to your basic sandwiches. It’s open from 9 am to 3 pm, and the restaurant only takes cash.
The Stockyards – Located on St Clair Avenue West, The Stockyards is a small, restaurant that specializes in smoked foods, but has a number of other awesome items on the menu. When it comes to brunch, they are known for their fried chicken and waffles as well as their smoked trout sandwich, biscuits and sausage. Of course, you shouldn’t rule out their amazing brisket as well.
Starving Artist – If you’re in the mood for something casual, one person at the office recommended Starving Artist. The whole menu is waffles (even the desserts), but you can get different kinds of waffles like benedict waffles or sandwich waffles. They have a great way of presenting the food, and it’s a fun place to go to!
Rose and Sons – Rose and Sons is a delicious deli place that has a tasty brunch menu, with things like the New York cheesecake pancakes, pastrami, and chopped steak and onion grilled cheese. This small restaurant is on Dupont Avenue and while a bit pricier than other delis, it’s well worth it.
Centre Street Deli – For those of you who can’t make it downtown, there’s a local deli in Thornhill that serves a variety of chicken and beef platters and sandwiches. Although they are known for their smoked meat sandwiches, their breakfast menu also includes eggs, bacon, toast, pancakes, and omelettes. It’s an easygoing family-friendly location – perfect for something delicious and casual.
Rol San– If you like dim sum, this is the place to go! The restaurant is located on the east side of Spadina Avenue, two blocks north of Dundas, across from Kensington Market. If you swing by on a weekend, be prepared to wait for a little due to its popularity. The dim sum menu is expansive, but you also want to try some of their other dishes from the regular menu. Get a taste of some authentic Chinese food and consider visiting Rol San.
Steve’s Restaurant– Steve’s is a classic restaurant, and while the original location on Bathurst Street closed a couple of years ago, their second restaurant on Yonge Street, in Thornhill, is still very much up and running. Their famous all-day breakfast menu is to die for, with things like back bacon and eggs, New York steak and eggs, and a great club sandwich. They also serve up a mean omelette, with pancakes, crepes, and waffles to choose from.
Easy Restaurant– In Parkdale, on Queen Street West, you’ll find Easy Restaurant. They specialize in Mexican food and have an all-day breakfast menu with amazing omelettes. Choose from breakfast burritos, a breakfast quesadilla, or a guacamole BLT.
Maha’s– If you’re in the mood for something different, look no further than this popular restaurant which serves up Egyptian food. Try the Egyptian falafel, Maha’s award-winning lentil soup, or the Cairo classic. The service is friendly, the menu is unique, and I’d definitely recommend Maha’s if you’re looking for something other than bacon and eggs!
As I usually do each summer, I recently went on a road trip to the United States, and while at the beginning of the summer I went to the western part of Pennsylvania, this time I headed east. We went to Philadelphia, but on the way, I took my daughter to visit Hershey Park and Hershey’s Chocolate World (I can’t lie, I was more interested in visiting Hershey!).
In Hershey, there are three main attractions, one of which is Hershey Park. If you love roller-coasters, they have a dozen to choose from, and they also have a great water park to cool off in.
When you’re finished with the thrill rides, there’s Hershey’s Chocolate World, where there are tours, chocolate tasting, photo studios, and a create-your-own-candy-bar factory….a fun time for both young and old.
If you’re into history, there’s also the Hershey museum, where you can walk through and learn about the family, the company, and the city.
Since my wife isn’t into roller-coasters, on the day that I went to the park, she and a friend decided to check out some other attractions in the city, of which there are several. My wife started the day by being adventurous, by going spelunking and exploring the caves at Indian Echo Caverns. After working up an appetite, she then visited Tröegs Brewery, where she took a tour to get a firsthand glimpse into the work that goes into the production process, tried several beers, and enjoyed some great food.
After we spent a couple days at Hershey’s we set off for Philadelphia, and I wasn’t sure of what to expect, but it’s a really interesting place with a lot of history. Most people know the city as the home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where both the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were signed, but there is so much more to Philly!
Down the street from the Liberty Bell are two cool buildings you must see: one side of the street is the mint, where coins are made, and on the other side of the street is the federal reserve where they destroy money. Both buildings offer free tours, and you can pick up some spiffy souvenirs…but no free samples.
Another historical site is the Betsy Ross House, where Betsy Ross lived when she sewed the first American flag. Lastly, for those into history, a short drive from Philadelphia is Valley Forge, the encampment for George Washington’s Continental Army spent the winter. An interesting fact that I learned on the trip is contrary to public belief, no fighting took place at Valley Forge…it was actually where they prepared for upcoming battles.
Of course, when you’re in Philadelphia no trip would be complete without a run up the Rocky Steps: 72 stone steps before the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The museum is one of many in the area, all of which are interesting and have their own quirks. As an example, you can walk through a human heart in The Franklin Institute.
There are many other sites to check out in the city, including the waterfront area where they have The Rail Park– it’s a green park stretching three miles across Philadelphia on an old rail line.
If you like sports there’s the major league baseball Philadelphia Phillies, the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team, the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, and the Superbowl champion, Philadelphia Eagles football team.
As everyone knows, one of my favourite pastimes is food, and one must-visit place is the Reading (pronounced redding) Terminal Market, where it’s a combination of a farmer’s market and food kiosks. Drop by and pick up anything from a deli sandwich to chicken wings, to a Philly cheesesteak. I highly recommend visiting Beiler’s Bakery at the market, for specialty donuts such as the pumpkin pecan maple donut, the key lime pie donut, and the caramel latte donut.
If you’re up for trying something a bit different, there’s Pho 75, where you can get a combination of noodles, protein and veggies in soup for under $12.00 a person. Lastly, there’s John’s Roast Pork, which has a great pork sandwich but is famous for its Philly cheesesteak. Be prepared to line up…. it’s that popular!
Finally, when it comes to food, take a trip down memory lane and visit The Franklin Fountain, an old-style soda shop that serves ice cream, malts, and sundaes. They’re known for their spectacular Root Beer floats which have been featured on a number of television shows.
Lastly, one thing that I often find very useful for city trips is to take the hop-on-hop-off tours. We took ours with Big Bus Tours and the tour guides were extremely knowledgeable and the route featured almost 30 stops to well….hop on and off as you please.
I highly recommend visiting Philadelphia if you get the chance. It’s a beautiful city with lots to offer.
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 are 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 summertime, 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.
A few years back, a close friend of mine moved to Orillia for work. While he often visits Toronto on the weekends, my family and I have also had the added benefit of visiting Orillia as well. It is only an hour and 15 minutes north of Toronto, or 20 minutes north of Barrie! While we often take advantage and spend a lot of time lounging around my friend’s pool in the summer, there are also tons of places to go in the area, with plenty of things to do…museums, parks, and farmer’s markets, to name a few. Orillia is not a summer-only stop! There are tons to do in all four seasons!
The pool aside, I love going to the local beaches. The two main beaches are sandy, have clean water, change room facilities and washrooms, friendly lifeguards and are never unbearably crowded. The parks by the beach have some great playgrounds. Of course, with lakes on both sides of the city, there are always people going on leisurely boat rides, fishing or just walking.
Looking for other summer activities? There are some great hiking trails, a go-kart track between Barrie and Orillia, and a drive-in movie theatre…perfect for a cozy date!
If you are visiting during the cooler months of the year, there are still lots of things to do: a trip to the sugar bush for maple syrup and pancakes, great hiking trails, treetop trekking, and fantastic tobogganing hills.
If eating out is your thing, there are a wide variety of restaurants to experiment with. Choose from diners, chain restaurants, great independent spots and if that is not enough choice for you, you could always drive 20 minutes south to Barrie! I have to mention the classic: when you are up in Orillia, you’re only minutes away from Weber’s, the burger joint on Highway 11 that signifies you’ve arrived in cottage country. Head in the opposite direction and you have Casino Rama – a great spot for dining, concerts, shows, and gaming.
After your stomach is full, if you want to flex your retail muscle, at more than just your average chain stores, there’s a very robust main street. Of course, you can’t bypass the main street without going to the Mariposa Market for some delicious pastries and baked goods. In the evening, the area comes alive with some bars and restaurants playing live music to make it a lively and fun atmosphere. An opera house regularly has incredible shows and plays.
I often like watching a movie or two up in Orillia, as there’s only one theatre (a six-plex), but because it’s smaller than those in Toronto, it’s usually not as crowded.
Lastly, when you exhaust all that there is to do in Orillia, there are also little day trips you could take, such as driving up to Gravenhurst, Midland, or Port Carling.
Though it’s only a short distance away from Toronto, if you want to get away from the big city and take a break from it all, make Orillia your next stop!
Several months ago, I was watching a TV show called You’ve Got to Eat Here, which was highlighting a restaurant in the Toronto area called Kinton Ramen. Since then, the company has expanded to open several locations in the GTA.
For those of you that don’t know what ramen is, it’s a unique Japanese dish that consists of soup, noodles, and protein, all served in a big bowl at a bar or a small table.
The location that I’ve now visited a number of times is located on Yonge Street in between Sheppard and Finch. Every time I’ve been there, whether it’s for lunch or dinner, it’s always busy but despite the fact that every table is always taken, the line moves fast because people get served quickly, eat quickly, and then leave.
For the ramen, you have different options including thick or thin noodles and pork, chicken, beef, fish balls, and more for your options of protein. Everything I’ve tried arrives steaming hot, nicely cooked, and is super tasty. It’s also not an expensive meal, so two can dine for under $40.00 including tax and tip.
The staff at this location are incredibly friendly, knowledgeable about menu items, always willing to make suggestions and work extremely efficiently. Within minutes of placing your order, your drink is delivered and if you’ve ordered an appetizer it comes hot and fresh, with your delicious ramen right around the corner.
Personally, I always chuckle when people are leaving, as all the staff shout “thank you” and “good-bye” in Japanese. The restaurant has a fun and lively atmosphere. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for something different and authentic, whether it’s a quick lunch, heading out on a date, or just grabbing a bite.
Kinton Ramen North York
Last week, I highlighted the company that installed my garage door and garage opener; however, I also recently had a very positive experience with the manufacturer of the garage door opener. As mentioned in my last blog, I installed a garage door and opener about four years ago; however, over the last few weeks, I started having an issue with the garage door opening at random times, whether it be day or night.
I called up Chamberlain to see if they could advise me on what the problem may be, and was immediately impressed with their customer service. Whenever I’ve called their troubleshooting number, they’ve consistently picked up very quickly, and their staff are very friendly, extremely knowledgeable about their products, willing to help, and patient as they walk you through potential fixes and solutions. They also always send me a follow-up email after the call, so I’d always have a record of the information and know what to do next.
In my case, during my first call, the technician asked me for some information that I didn’t have available, so he waited as I climbed up a ladder to get the model number. While there, he walked me through the process of clearing the memory and resetting the code in hopes of fixing my problem. He also offered and sent, the instructions to me, via email, after our call was completed so that I had directions in the event that I had to do everything again. Unfortunately, resetting everything didn’t work and so I had to call them back for more assistance on the next steps.
The second time I called, I had an equally pleasant experience with the person on the phone, who also did their utmost to try and help me. I told them that I’d rather just replace the logic board (the brains of the operation) in my garage door because I was concerned about my garage opening in the middle of the night or while I’m not around. While the technician I talked to was willing to replace the logic board, he told me he was 99 percent sure that an intermediary step would fix the problem, and advised me to do this first.
Because I was so confident in this individual and the company behind them, I took a leap of faith and it turns out he was 100 percent correct. It turned out the problem was not with the logic board, but another part. Once I confirmed this, I called again, and without hesitation, Chamberlain sent me the part with no fee and no cost despite my garage door opener being well out of the warranty period. The part arrived quicker than expected…less than a week…and ever since I’ve installed it I’ve had absolutely no problem.
First, I want to highlight that in a day and age where customers are constantly being placed on hold for long periods of time, this company clearly understands the value of people’s time, and even though they are a large organization my calls were still answered quickly. Second, the customer support employees / technicians are able to understand something as specialized as garage doors, and easily walk the customer through fixes in a quick and easy manner. To have multiple associates that are both pleasant and knowledgeable about the product is a unique quality in a company, so Chamberlain must have top-notch systems and training programs in place. Last, this company stands behind its product, which isn’t always the case in today’s manufacturing world. Very few companies would send you a replacement part without hesitation or cost, but that’s exactly what Chamberlain did for me.
There is a reason Chamberlain is as big and successful as they are. My applause goes out to Chamberlain and their entire team. Well done and keep up the great service!