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Archive for November, 2014

Give the Ice-Rink Challenge a Whirl

Friday, November 21st, 2014

There’s nothing like a spin around an open-air ice rink come winter’s cold. Whether you’re gliding mitten-to-mitten with your sweetheart or teaching your wee ones how to balance on blades, nothing says wintertime fun quite like an outdoor ice rink.



That’s one of the reasons Freeman Real Estate is sponsoring a free community skate from 5 to 6 p.m. odownload download (1)n December 13 at the Bill Bolton Arena, 40 Rossmore Road. Everyone is welcome to join in the festive fun but space is limited so please RSVP to frontdesk@freemanrealty.com or call 416-535-3103. Refreshments will be served.

Did you know Torontonians are quite enamoured of al fresco skating? We must be because the city has 51 open-air ice rinks. Here, in no particular order, is a peek at a few of the finest:

Christie Pits Park is an 8.9 hectare park located at 750 Bloor Street West and Christie Street, across from the Christie subway station. The park features the Alex Duff Memorial Pool, three baseball diamonds, a multi-sport field, basketball and volleyball courts, a community garden and an artificial ice rink. The sides of the pits are highly sloped and are used in winter for tobogganing and related activities. There’s street parking on the outskirts.

Founded in 1954, the Phil White Arena at 443 Arlington Ave. in Cedarvale has an outdoor rink for free skates adjacent to the Cedarvale Park Ravine system. The City of Toronto offers various Learn-to-Skate programs as well as Drop-in Skating for Older Adults, Drop-in Skating for All Ages and Drop-in Hockey.

At 875 Dufferin Street just south of Bloor St. W.  is the 5.3-hectare Dufferin Grove Park. It features a multipurpose sports field, a basketball court, a picnic area, a wading pool and a children’s playground. At the north end of the park is the Dufferin Grove Park Artificial Ice Rink and Clubhouse. Don’t forget delicious fresh, local foods for sale and its Friday-night community dinners.

The city’s grand dame of outdoor skate rinks is probably Nathan Phillips Square, a high-profile space that is enjoyed by the public all year long. Enjoy the tranquil sights and sounds of the outdoor water fountain in summer, then lace up during winter and coast to your heart’s content. Skating is free here. Skate rentals are not.

Trinity Bellwoods Park is located on Queen St. W. at Strachan Ave. The 14.6 hectare park features three ball diamonds, eight tennis courts, an off-leash area for dogs and owners, a picnic area and an artificial ice rink. The southwest section of the park houses the Trinity Community Recreation Centre.

Two artificial ice rinks are featured at Wallace Emerson, a 2.7 hectare park on Dufferin south of Dupont St. The ice rink offers changing facilities. In addition to skating there is a children’s playground, three bocce courses and a motocross bike area.


The Evergreen Brick Works at 550 Bayview Ave is a new kid on the skating block with skate rentals available and a green conscience that donates all of its rental fees back to its free skate program. Thanks to its trees, this spot feels like a winter oasis.

At 76 Wychwood Ave., you’ll find a natural ice rink that is maintained by volunteers. Known as Wychwood Barns Park, the rink’s conditions can vary depending on weather and the availability of volunteers. While the city offers support by providing access to water and shovels, community-made rinks such as this one shoulder no liability so use at your own risk.

The Colonel Sam Smith Skating Trailat 3131 Lakeshore Blvd W. is a unique outdoor rink shaped in a figure eight and covering 250 metres of chilly adventure. The facility features a rink change area which includes a large change room with benches and washrooms.

At the foot of Lower Sherbourne Street between the Gardiner and Lakeshore East near Sugar Beach is the city’s newest ice rink at Sherbourne Common Park.

At 235 Queens Quay W. is the Natrel Rink at Harbourfront, which is located on Toronto’s harbour. Admission is free. Skate rentals are on hand as is sharpening.

Enjoy and don’t forget the hot chocolate afterwards!

A Business with Panache and Philanthropy

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Screenshot (91) untitled images1Think of it as a place where modern-day geeks collide with a retro kind of stylishness.

That’s what you get at A Nerd’s World, a fun and funky storefront-looking office on Bathurst Street that doesn’t sell products per se, but plenty of creative business services that range from website and logo design to branding, SEO strategies, copywriting and even photography.

“We’re very passionate about our business,” says owner Grace Hughes. “We’re nerdy in a way of wanting to create a brand not just for ourselves but for everyone else. We try to make sure everything comes together, not just in a cookie cutter fashion but in a way that is very unique.”

While A Nerd’s World has existed since 2006, Chris and Grace Hughes, the married owners of the business, decided to house their offices in a storefront space so they selected the Bathurst location two years ago. The two-level shop provides office space for about ten web designers, some of whom work full-time and some on an as-needed basis.

Don’t let all the retro cameras fool you, though. The owners happily enjoy showing off their impressive 300-plus camera collection that includes a World War One stereoscopic camera that has received a fair share of international press. Because of the number of cameras, the models, some of which are a hundred years old, are rotated for display in the office. The store’s walls also boast a photo gallery of the community it serves.

While it’s obvious that art and business are near and dear to the owners’ hearts, a lesser known facet of A Nerd’s World is its philanthropy. Chris, 36, travels once a month to Cuba, donating medical supplies, clothing, school supplies and toiletries to the poor. Wife Grace, 27, tends to the office and their three children during Chris’ humanitarian visits.

Chris initially visited the country on a photography trip and that’s when he discovered the profound poverty among some of its citizens. Heartbroken by the depth of despair he witnessed, Chris phoned Grace back home in Canada and asked her to wire him $5,000. With that, Chris’ mission to heal, feed and care for those in need began in earnest.

“He considers everybody there his family,” says wife Grace. “He wants to help the people there and that’s why he brings humanitarian donations.”

Thanks to social media, word on Chris’ efforts has spread and donations to his cause come in from all corners of the world. But the couple is always looking for assistance. Donations are welcome and can be dropped off at 986 Bathurst St.





Insomnia Nosh Does it Best

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

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Just as the name suggests, Insomnia is the kind of restaurant you can lose yourself in day or night, no matter what your appetite or state of being.

If you’re more of an early bird, you’re sure to love the seven varieties of eggs benny, including pulled pork or perhaps you’d prefer the waffles or the pancakes? The 17-year-old restaurant has had plenty of time to perfect its cuisine and brunch seems to be a big hit with locals. Just witness the line-ups to get in. In fact, NOW magazine readers named it the city’s best brunch in a 2014 poll.

Located at 563 Bloor West, Insomnia is the kind of restaurant that is perfect day or night for family get togethers, intimate conversations or business pow wows. The beauty of the space is that it’s not overly loud so guests can easily hear each other and engage in conversation that is all manner of silly, strange and serious.

The 96-seat restaurant offers patrons a wide selection of gluten-free dining in addition to accommodating numerous allergies.
“Our brunch is executed very well,” says Insomnia general manager Ainsley Sinclair. “We produce things fast so people aren’t left waiting around forever. There is a lot of choice and customization on our

Insomnia started out in the late ‘90s as a cyber café. Thanks to its loyal following, staff have witnessed customers grow up over the years and are now watching one-time children and teens coming into the restaurant with their own families in tow.

If you’re more of a night owl, Insomnia also has you covered.  Its wide-ranging dinner menu will take you late into the night with international comfort foods that are sure to satisfy any palate. Start your visit off with a selection of the establishment’s seasonal and classic cocktails or an imported or domestic beer. If vino is more your taste, the restaurant offers a nice choice of reds and whites. The full menu is available until 2 a.m. seven days a week.

Here’s a glowing endorsement on Yelp from one very happy customer:

“Why I love this place – they put cucumber in their water overnight, they make their delicious drip coffee with cinnamon, wait staff have always been rock stars. This place is a lean mean brunch making

Visit the website at insomniacafe.com.




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