Your Fall Survival Kit

Rise above basic bitchdom this fall with these handpicked necessities

Laura Slack’s skull truffles aren’t not your grandma’s Halloween candy. These little beauties are filled with creamy dulce de leche and infused with sweet black garlic (trust me, the weirdness is wonderful). It’s a true indulgence — ’tis the season, right? — and you can also savour the fact that they’re locally made (Laura’s a Toronto-based chocolate artist). Find them at Laura’s shop, Maisonette, in the Distillery.

Instagram: @maisonettegifts
Instagram: @maisonettegifts

Balzac’s take on the PSL: I’m just going to come right out and say it, this version of the Pumpkin Spice Latte trumps Starbucks’. This one, called the “Harvest,” is healthier and tastier because it’s made with real pumpkin puree and whatever. I mean, it’s just as expensive, but at least it’s a better investment.

Instagram: @coffeeandjam_ldn

 

T.O. ‘hood hats: Maybe it’s a bit corny. But that won’t be on your mind once you’re trudging through the brisk breeze with one of these knitted numbers by Tuck Shop Trading Co. warming you up. Plus, they’re an adorably cosy way to rock your neighbourhood pride (those pom-poms!!!). Find them at Blackbird Vintage Finds in the Distillery.

Instagram: @blackbirdvintagefinds
Instagram: @blackbirdvintagefinds

 

Jax Coco’s adorable mini coconut oil: Coconut oil is all the rage right now, but it’s one of those trends that should really stay forever. It’s like the universe has given us a single magic elixir with which to solve all our lives’ problems, whether they be skin issues or cooking-related calamities. Jax Coco‘s tiny little coconut oil is perfect for tossing in your purse or school bag so you can have this trusty must-have on you at all times.

Instagram: @jaxcocoglobal
Instagram: @jaxcocoglobal

Comfort foods at Levetto: Bye, summer salads. Hi, warm, cosy noodles and pizzas. Levetto, with its five locations (and a sixth one opening in December) is where you’ll want to ease your cravings for classic Italian comfort foods this fall, which in my opinion is the best way to warm up.

Instagram: @levettoresto

Over-the-knee riding boots from Ever New: Aussie brand Ever New just landed in Toronto, opening its North American flagship store in the Eaton Centre. Its popularity is a testament to how obsessed we Canucks are with Australian fashion (we love more than just the accent, people!). This over-the-knee boot (the “Ryder Knee High” in taupe) is a fall staple every year, but this chic, heeled take on the classic look is just… *sexual groan*

Photo Courtesy of Ever New Canada
Photo Courtesy of Ever New Canada

Little cork planters from D’Andrea Design:

These aren’t even really exclusively a fall thing, but STILL. LOOK AT THEM. Love them. The cork planters are handmade by local arts and crafts wonderwoman Julia D’Andrea (who’s only 23, by the way), and they’re such a lovely way to liven up the apartment during the cooler months — since you’ll be spending a lot more time in there instead of the park/patio/beach these days.

Instagram: @dandreadesign
Instagram: @dandreadesign

Photobombing Tourists: A Torontonian’s Guide

If you live in Toronto, listen up. This is important. I’m about to tell you where to find the finest photobombing locations in the city. (Are you taking notes? You should be taking notes.)

Toronto was packed with visitors this summer, and as great as it was to welcome a bunch of international peeps to our beautiful home turf, it was also annoying AF and we’re glad it’s calmed down a bit. Thankfully, after working in the Distillery District (quite possibly the most touristy corner of the city), I discovered the most satisfying way to put up with the rush: photobombing.

Here’s a Torontonian’s cheat sheet to the absolute best places to ruin tourists’ photos, ordered from easiest to hardest. The goal is to find yourself popping up in as many foreign Instagram feeds as humanly possible. Now run, children! Photobomb like you’ve never photobombed before.

Photo By Amanda Storey

The “Love Locks” installation at the Distillery District

Bridal parties, couples in love, besties — all the most annoying people stop to snap photos, usually bothering innocent pedestrians to take their picture. My suggestion: take a running jump and go full-on starfish in front of the camera before sprinting out of sight.

The new “Toronto” sign at Nathan Phillips

It’s here to stay, so take full advantage of it.

The CN Tower (of course)

This is a classic. Stop by the foot of the CN Tower at any day, any time, and you’ll find clusters of people bending over their iPhones to get that perfect shot of their faces blocking most of the building. The trick is to push your head through their huddle just as they’re snapping the selfie.

The sculpture outside the AGO

Henry Moore’s “Large Two Forms” attracts many a selfie-taker, mostly prospective OCAD students visiting the campus and first-time Toronto tourists. Hide in between the two big chunks that take up the bronze sculpture — no one will notice you’ve added yourself to the picture until it’s too late for retakes.

The “You’ve Changed” mural on Queen West

Tourists and resident hipsters alike can be discovered Instagramming this mural on the CAMH property. Make sure you’re a part of it before they lay on that Mayfair.

The floor of Reunion Island Coffee 

This is a trickier one, seeing as it’s literally the floor. If you live in Toronto, surely your Instagram feed has been flooded with shots of the infamous “COFFEE” tiled floor at this hip coffee joint. The shot of the photographer’s pretty shoes against the black and white tiles is so been there-done that, so it’s your turn to make things more interesting. Maybe poke your foot into the frame at the last second? Or even your face, if you want to get all next-level about it.

On the ferry ride to the Island

It’s just too easy. Look around you; surely there are couples everywhere snapping photos of each other looking out at the horizon.

EdgeWalk at the CN Tower

This is for the hardcore photobombers. It’ll cost you, but it’ll be worth it.

Novellahoods: A tour of the Upper Beaches

After over three years of living in Toronto, I feel like I’m pretty savvy when it comes to getting around the heart of the city. But being a west-ender, I’ve never really had many opportunities to cross over to the far-eastern side of Toronto. This whole time, the DVP has seemed to me like the Great Wall of China. What the hell is on the other side? I imagined tumbleweeds. Or maybe factories, or subdivisions for as far as they eye could see. It was all very mysterious.

But last night I finally got the chance to explore the Great Unknown that lies beyond the Don Valley: the neighbourbood of the Upper Beaches. ~TRUMPET SOUNDS~

Streetcar Developments hosted the tour — they’re the guys who build snazzy living spaces all over the city, condominiums that promote a tight-knit community amongst residents and within their neighbourhoods. It’s a really nice company who does really nice work, and their most recent project, The Southwood, is going to continue that track record right in the heart of the Upper Beaches.

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Our tour began at the sales office for The Southwood, where some bubbly was poured and we were introduced to the concept for the condominium, which will be ready for occupancy in spring 2017. Chatting with one of the Streetcar reps, I found out that they’re building on the Upper Beaches turf because the neighbourhood is gaining a lot of momentum — especially amongst the city’s young professionals.

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RoFo? Is that u?

After downing my champagne and deciding to start saving up for one of The Southwood’s south-facing one-bedrooms (SO. PRETTY.), our tour led us out of the sales office and we headed east down Kingston Road, the main street where all the magic happens.

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Yellow House was our next stop, a charming little gallery-slash-framing studio owned and operated by an OCAD grad. Within seconds of talking to her I realized there’s a huge artistic presence in this pocket of the city, and gazing at the walls of her gallery I took in some pretty incredible work. I made a mental note to take my next artistic excursion out this way.

Up next was The Art of Cheese. This place really gave me a feel of how tight-knit the Upper Beaches community is. The owner, Bill Miller (a.k.a. “The Grand Fromage”) is a retiree who opened this tiny shop as his passion project, and he could talk for literally hours about the magic of cheese. After feeding us some beautiful San De Oro cheese and local red wine (I nearly died of happiness in this moment) he divulged all the secrets of his craft. Like, the mind-blowing fact that cheese is supposed to be eaten at room temperature — if it’s too cold, you’re only tasting 40% of its flavour. (WHAAAAT.)

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The Grand Fromage in his element

After being charmed by Bill and his cheese (and his fromage-shaped foam hat), we headed to our next stop: Collected Joy. This beautiful odds-and-ends boutique is owned by Sharon Smyl, a former marketing director who worked with Minto Group and Starbucks. She lives right around the corner from the shop, and most of the brands she carries are local.

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I adored Collected Joy. Sharon kept describing things as “exquisite” and I was just in awe of her style. Maybe I’ll get her to design my new condo at The Southwood. One day…

Second-last stop was at The Stone Pizza, where my fellow media people and I had an impromptu pizza photo shoot. The pies were, as Sharon would say, exquisite. Who would have thought to put apple slices on a pizza? And who would have thought it would taste SO GOOD?

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Finally, we found ourselves at The Beech Tree restaurant and bar. This cosy, beautifully decorated spot is like the “Cheers” of the Upper Beach. The owner, like a lot of the shop owners in the area, used to work at a desk crunching numbers all day and abandoned that job to pursue his passion. The Beech Tree blew me away — literally everything is made in-house. Not one ingredient enters the store in a bottle or package. The mayonnaise, the syrups, everything is handcrafted from scratch in their little kitchen. Swoon. Oh, and the gnocchi can attest to the quality. I was almost reduced to tears while eating this. In a very good way.

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(I couldn’t get a good photo of the gnocchi because it was dim and my photography skills are not on point)

On the walk to our ride home, we were pleasantly surprised by one final Upper Beaches experience. Farmacia Juice Bar‘s tiny cooler-on-wheels rolled up to the sidewalk and served up some scrumptious house-made juices, smoothies and freezies. As if I hadn’t fallen in love with the neighbourhood already, the owner told us that a few weeks prior, when their cart was stolen, the community banded together to find it and bring it back. It’s like the whole Upper Beaches ‘hood is #squadgoals.

So, my dear west-of-the-DVP-ers, here is my advice to you: if you’re getting bored of downtown and want to make a little escape from the city without going too far, go to the Upper Beaches. It’s not as swanky-snotty as the — er, Lower Beaches? — but it’s equally as beautiful and full of boutiques that will steal your heart. I’d live here. And maybe one day I will. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in a charming small town that’s hidden in a huge city?

The Torontonian’s Pan Am Survival Guide

The Pan Am Games kick off this Friday (July 10), but we all know it’s going to turn Toronto into something more like the Hunger Games, amiright? The HOV lanes are already a huge problem, the construction has been pissing us all off for months and months, and we’re all miffed about the taxes we’re paying to make it all happen. The radio commercials are telling us to take our vacations during the month of July, to carpool, to hide our kids, hide our wives — and it’s all resembling some sort of mini apocalypse. So, dear Torontonians, as we brace ourselves for the rush, I’m sharing a few of my tips for surviving the next month.

This thing is annoying as well.
This thing is annoying as well.

REMEMBER IT’S NOT AS BAD AS YOU MIGHT THINK.

Yes, it’s going to be a tough month, but what a lot of city dwellers don’t know is that the Games aren’t only being played in our downtown core. There will also be sports in Ajax, Caledon, Collingwood and other spots far removed from the city. So thankfully it won’t be as saturated as you might fear. 

BUT STILL… GTFO.

But it’ll still be bad. The HOV lanes are enough to push people out of Toronto until the end of July, as will be the human traffic that’s sure to swell in our streets, sidewalks, public transit… everywhere. Now is the time to plan all those summer getaways you’ve been thinking about. Fill your calendar with weekend road trips, music festivals and far-away family gatherings, because you’ll be looking for any excuse to get out of the city. Bye!

THIS WILL BE THE TTC. Image via thesource.metro.net
This will be the TTC. Image via thesource.metro.net

IF YOU’LL BE HERE, BE SMART.

There’s going to be a lot of tourists around, especially in the southeast corner of downtown, where the Games are based out of. Avoid the Distillery District and surrounding neighbourhoods, the waterfront and probably the Island, as it’s definitely going to be a tourist hub (as if the ferry lines could get any worse). Don’t drive, and avoid taking public transit at all costs — although, if you have a ticket to the Games, it’s free for you to ride the TTC. Speaking of having tickets…

MAYBE ACTUALLY WATCH SOME GAMES.

I know most of Toronto is all bitter towards this massive event (including myself, if you can’t tell), but while it’s here, you might as well take part in it, right? At least a little bit? Check out what sports are happening and buy a ticket to show your support to the athletes. It’ll probably be fun, and chances are you won’t have a hard time securing a seat, since the ticket sales are apparently dangerously low. (Yikes.)

IF YOU WORK ANYWHERE NEAR THE DISTILLERY DISTRICT, PREPARE TO HAVE ZERO TIME OFF DURING JULY.

It’s going to be mayhem, so say bye-bye to your social life this month.

COPS WILL BE EVERYWHERE.

With the HOV lanes, new one-way streets and other irritating new rules, the cops already seemed to have doubled out there. Be extra cautious if you’re driving or biking — or heck, doing anything — because they’re really cracking down during the Games.

Image via http://2013ritemail2014.blogspot.ca
Image via http://2013ritemail2014.blogspot.ca

TRY TO STAY POSITIVE.

We’re all going to be grumpy cats during the month of July, but don’t let the setbacks get you down. It’s summer in the city, and even though the Games will bring a whole onslaught of pains, it’ll also bring some good. So try not to lose your patience with the rest of the city — we’re all in this together. Here’s to a less stressful August!