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    Free events in Toronto this week welcome the holiday season with the return of the Santa Claus Parade along Bloor. The Regent Park Film Festival kicks off with a week of free programming and all things cute is on at Kawaii Land.

    Events you might want to check out:

    Regent Park Film Festival (November 14-17 @ Daniels Spectrum)
    Local and international, independent filmmakers come out for this free festival with screenings, panels, events, directors spotlights and more.
    Believe (November 16 @ MOCA Toronto)
    Toronto-based artist Tim Whiten is on hand to talk about his fascinating glass work and how we develop narratives and myths that surround objects.
    Kawaii Land (November 17 @ Design Exchange)
    A festival dedicates to all things cute arrives with a gathering of the kawaii community for exhibitions, art, fashion and programming.
    The Living End (November 18 @ 156 Studio Projects)
    Part of a series on the queerness of cult films, Gregg Araki's work about two gay men with HIV is followed by a discussion on its place in queer cinema.
    Santa Claus Parade (November 18 @ Bloor Street)
    Grab a hot chocolate and catch this annual parade with floats, music and folks in festive costumes marching through downtown.

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    The intersection of Bloor and Bathurst is nearly unrecognizable these days. 

    The iconic Honest Ed's has been reduced to a giant patch of dirt, and the businesses making up Mirvish Village have long gone, forced from the historic buildings lining Markham Street to make way for the project that will replace them.

    But as construction rages on at the southwest corner of Bloor and Bathurst, one single store remains amidst the rubble of the beloved 69-year-old department storehonest eds toronto

    Alternative Thinking is the only store to remain since Honest Ed's was demolished.

    Sitting right along the eastern edge of the massive Mirvish Village project by Westbank is Alternative Thinking, a shop selling healing stones, crystal bowls, and books on spiritual awakening. 

    This business at 758 Bathurst St. is the only one left from the pre-Honest Ed's demolition days. Maybe not by coincidence, this "hippie holdout" happens to be the perfect reprieve from the chaos cranes and incessant drill of jackhammers outside. 

    honest eds toronto

    The store specializes in spiritual and holistic items.

    Run by Revaz Mekvabishvili, Alternative Thinking and the old three-storey building it operates from is now surrounded by scaffolding.

    Inside, however, it's business as usual as the store celebrates its ninth anniversary this weekend with discounts on crystals and jewellery.

    "It's been noisy," says Mekvabishvili. "And it has affected us a little bit, but thankfully we feel like we have a solid foundation and we do have a customer base." 

    With the number of interesting items for sale in the store—from the books on chakras to the rows of cases holding shimmering crystals like chabazite and lapis lazuli—it's hard to notice the construction outside.

    mirvish village toronto

    The store will incorporated into the Mirvish Village development.

    Mekvabishvili's landlord, David Spiro, bought the property at 758 Bathurst St. in 2005. The middle building in a trio of properties called the T.W. Wilson Buildings, the set of 19th century structures were some of the earliest commercial buildings in the area.

    A few years later Spiro later refused to resell his property to the Mirvish Village developers, and after negotiations, the building was allowed to stay put, as was Alternative Thinking.honest eds toronto

    The plot of land where Honest Ed's once was has been razed.

    Today, its next door neighbour 756 Bathurst St. is also still around, albeit empty since its last tenant Leg Up Pet Services left two years ago.

    On the other hand, the owners of its northern neighbour at 760 Bathurst St. decided to sell and the building has since been demolished, despite being considered for a heritage designation.

    Despite the all-too-common story of independent stores being run out by large developments, it's evident that Alternative Thinking is doing well. 

    mirvish village toronto

    The Mirvish Village construction will take at least five years to be complete. 

    Mekvabishvili says traffic on the street has picked up, and they've even opened up a new cafe called Alternity by St. George in the process.

    It's still unclear, though, as to how the store will be incorporated into the new Mirvish Village project—an endeavour that will be five years in the making. 

    "It’s hard to tell from some of the drawings how it's going to feel," says Mekvabishvili. "But we’ll just have to let that unfold and adapt." 

    mirvish village toronto


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    Take a seat in one of the sunken, busted up red booths at Gale's Snack Bar, and you'll feel like time has hit a standstill.

    Almost 100 years-old, this cash-only diner looks exactly like it did a decade ago, and regulars will tell you that it's the same as it was ten years before that too. 

    gales snack bar toronto

    Gale's Snack Bar has been operating on Eastern Avenue for nearly 100 years. Photo by Sally Hunter.

    Counters stacked high with gravy-covered dishes and crumpled napkins (it's just Eda working the front as her dad David Chan cooks in the back) Gale's is known for a menu of sandwiches like the $1.65 sardine servings that fly in the face of today's $100 wagyu affairs.

    But look out past Gale's old aqua blinds, beyond the greasy window, and you can see that the bustling thoroughfare that is Eastern Avenue is rapidly changing. 

    gales snack bar toronto

    The prices at Gale's have stayed the same for decades. Photo by Tanya Mok.

    The industrial street lined with dilapidated, decades-old homes has become the new site for a slew of sprawling projects from west of the Don River all the way to Coxwell. 

    With the Port Lands to the south, the condos of the Canary District to the west, and the burgeoning number of family-friendly residences just one block north on Queen, Eastern Avenue is surrounded by change.

    eastern avenue toronto

    New developments are popping up all over Eastern Avenue including this under construction facility from All Canadian Self Storage. Photo by Tanya Mok.

    These days, a majority of development seems to be happening on the stretch of Eastern with Carlaw as its axis, making Gale's the centrepoint of it all. 

    A turn to residential seems a strange fit for a neighbourhood that has run with its designation as Toronto's Studio District, with five film studios on Eastern alone, not to mention the increasing number of recording studios that pop up around Laing Street. eastern avenue toronto

    The area is known as the Studio District and is home to a handful of well-known film studios. Photo by Tanya Mok.

    But as the city slowly runs out of room in the downtown core for massive high-rise projects, developers have turned their eye toward the spacious grounds of Eastern Avenue.

    Projects like the Wonder Condo just west of Gale's will replace the old Weston Bakery with 286 residential loft units when it's finished in 2022. It'll also feature a parking lot large enough for 242 new cars to be introduced to the area. 

    eastern avenue toronto

    A Percy Ellis sign stands on the lot where the Hell's Angels clubhouse used to be. Photo by Tanya Mok.

    Even the lot at 498 Eastern Ave. where the notorious old Hell's Angels clubhouse once commanded the neighbourhood has lost its identity to the flood of real estate endeavours. 

    Razed last year, the two-storey building boasting front doors made of steel and a hole in the wall where police ripped through with an industrial hook has been replaced by a lone sign from Percy Ellis, a developer with several planned projects along Eastern Avenue

    eastern avenue toronto

    Old residences will sit directly across new developments like the eight-storey Wonder Condo. Photo by Tanya Mok.

    Meanwhile, closer toward Leslie St., more industrial buildings face destruction at 721 Eastern Ave. to make way for something called the Urban Mobility Research and Development centre. 

    Owned by General Motors, the seven-acre project will essentially be a glamourized dealership, and it indeed it will act as the offices for a slew of car brands like Maven Car Sharing, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac. 

    eastern avenue toronto

    The old Eastern Avenue Bridge sits near a patch of land dominated by car dealerships. Photo by Tanya Mok.

    The area of Eastern Avenue closest to the DVP, near the old Eastern Avenue Bridge, has long been considered the mecca of downtown dealerships with brands like BMW, Toyota, Hyundai and BMW showing their wares all in the same block. 

    If nothing else, this GM project feels more in line with Eastern Avenue's industrial identity than a smattering of polished condos.

    eastern avenue toronto

    The area near the Broadview bridge consists mostly of large parking lots. Photo by Tanya Mok.

    But it also feels a step backward from the more pedestrian-centric additions of bike lanes to Eastern Avenue in 2008, or even the neighbourhood's new cyclist-, runner-, and dog-friendly, Black Lab Brewing.

    Sitting right at Leslie and Eastern, Black Lab will be the likely haunt for the influx of condo dwellers nearby before the area builds up some more. 

    Further east, the sprawling South Central Letter Processing Plant may not be going anywhere but Rorschach Brewing has given new life to an old mansion near Coxwell and One Academy is gaining a reputation as the place to train for fans of races like Tough Mudder.

    eastern avenue toronto

    The corner of Carlaw and Eastern has Gale's on one corner and an auto shop on the other. Photo by Tanya Mok.

    But to Eastern Avenue's longtime, aging residents, the new developments are bracketed along with all the other additions to the city that are neither affordable nor accessible.

    Fifty-three year-old Tim C., who has lived in a detached house by the Jimmie Simpson Community Centre for 40 years, says he'd like to see more affordable housing. 

    rorschach brewing toronto

    The taps at Rorschach Brewing are always serving up something new and interesting. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

    Sipping on a coffee in one of Gale's dimply lit booths—he brings his own cushion from Dollarama to make up for the lumpy seats—Tim laments the fact that seniors don't seem to play a big part in area's development plans.

    "It seems to be a lot of condos and it would be nice if it was more apartments," he says. "I feel it's impacting everyone." 

    one academy toronto

    One Academy has transformed a space on Eastern Avenue into a fitness and training destination. Photo by Jesse Milns.

    One by one, community institutions are slowly being replaced by towering condominiums with units that start in the $400,000s.

    And while a younger generation readies itself to move into this aging industrial neighbourhood, there's a sense for the crowd that sits in Gale's that the future doesn't look bright for everyone. 


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    Events in Toronto this week are ready for the holidays as the Christmas Market kicks off with all the cinnamon-scented fun of the season. Russell Peters is here to perform and there's a hop festival and taco battle. There's also lots of free stuff is happening as well.

    Events you might want to check out:

    Wild Nothing (November 12 @ Opera House)
    A changing sound encompasses this indie rock group that's begun experimenting with pop and electro, and they're here alongside Men I Trust.
    Taco Battle (November 13 @ El Loco Local)
    It's on like Donkey Kong at this taco throwdown featuring four of Toronto’s top chefs competing to create the ultimate taco.
    Decolonizing Art History (November 14 @ The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre)
    Artist Kent Monkman has begun to gain mainstream recognition for his intricate paintings, and is here to talk about decolonizing art history.
    Chris Hadfield's Generator (November 15 @ Roy Thomson Hall)
    Back again is astronaut Chris Hadfield’s comedy, music and ideas extravaganza featuring lots of special guests.
    Fresh Hop Fest (November 15 @ Berkeley Church)
    Hops and lots of them are on at this beer festival with a spotlight on local and regional hop producers from all over the province.
    Russell Peters (November 15 @ Scotiabank Arena)
    Funnyman Russell Peters has kept the laughs going all these years, and now his socially-conscious comedy is more relevant than ever.
    Musicworks at 40 (November 15 @ The Array Space)
    A staple in Toronto and Canada's music scene, Musicworks magazine is celebrating 40 years of musical exploration with a big birthday party.
    Toronto Christmas Market (November 15 - December 23 @ The Distillery District)
    The sights and smells of Christmas are in the air at this big market, where you'll find lots of yummy goodies spread throughout the festivities.
    ROM Friday Night Live (November 16 @ Royal Ontario Museum)
    The second last FNL is all about Toronto's hip hop culture ranging from b-boyism to turntablism and controllerism with musics, art, food and drink.
    Long Winter (November 16 @ Tranzac Club)
    Toronto's underground music scene comes out for a night of tunes with performances, visuals, zines and more.
    CineIran Festival (November 16-18 @ Multiple Venues)
    Films that showcase Iranian culture, history and its changing landscape are screening over this two-day festival.
    Palooza Beer Pong Festival (November 17 @ Rebel)
    The party game we all know and love is getting a massive festival as the world's largest beer pong tournament arrives for a full day of splashy fun.
    Terre Bleu Lavender Farm Pop-Up (November 17 @ 761 Queen St W)
    The Instafamous field with the yellow door comes to Toronto for a one-day pop-up, with Anthropologie and a ton of fancy lavender-infused products.
    Made by Feminists (November 18 @ The Gladstone)
    Holiday shopping has never been so socially conscious as local makers who identify as feminists are selling lots of handmade items.
    Old Book and Paper Show (November 18 @ Artscape Wychwood Barns)
    Wychwood Barns is set to fill up with stacks of old paper, prints, photographs, comics and posters spread across 70 tables.

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    The best birthday cakes in Toronto are frosted, festive creations to get you in a celebratory mood. Hit up any of these bakeries when you want an extravagantly-sweet treat for yet another year around the sun.

    Here are the best birthday cakes in Toronto.

    11 - DaanGo Cake Lab

    Given how photogenic the rest of their treats are, it’s not surprising that this famous Scarborough bakery on Midland Avenue bakes up incredible birthday cakes too. Chef Christopher Siu of Masterchef fame doesn’t disappoint with masterpieces of chiffon and dacquoise.
    10 - Bloomer's

    This Bloorcourt vegan cafe and bakery offers special orders of unique cakes which are both festive and healthy. Their ‘fancy cakes’ include options like Cookies N’ Cream or the Donut: a spiced vanilla cake with berry or lemon glazing.
    7 - Le Dolci

    Going against the popular adage, “Those who don’t do, teach”, this Dundas West bake shop and teaching studio makes incredible treats. Want a Pikachu cake? No problem. How about a flamingo cake topped with a pineapple? They can do that too.
    9 - Bunner's Bake Shop (Kensington Market)

    Whether you're gluten-free or not, you’re sure to love the creations at both the Kensington Market and Junction bakeries alike. They don’t do any custom cakes, but their pre-designed stuff will be more than satisfactory—the Funfetti cake is a winner for sure.
    4 - Short & Sweet (Assembly Chef's Hall)

    This bakery’s Avenue Road location serves cakes covered in all sorts of delicious icing and sprinkles, but it’s the stall in Assembly Chef’s Hall where you can order a full-fledged cake service. For $50, you can get a cake replete with sparklers and music.
    5 - The Rolling Pin

    Though this bakery at Avenue and Lawrence is best known for its one-of-a-kind doughnuts, they also excel at beautiful cakes. Standard displays are $40, while custom, multi-tiered orders with your choice of decorations cost more.
    6 - Bake Sale (Bloor West Village)

    There’s three locations of this minimal baked goods shop. Whether you’re in Etobicoke at the original spot on Bloor West, Dundas West, or Bloor West Village, you can choose from options like salted caramel cakes and festive vanilla cakes for the ultimate birthday treat.
    3 - Bake Shoppe

    This Little Italy bakery specializes in big buttercream cakes that come in a handful of varieties like vanilla bean and red velvet. You can buy six-inch cakes ready made in the store, or customize your size in advance.
    8 - SanRemo Bakery

    Italian baked goods are the specialty at this Etobicoke mainstay on Royal York Road, but like any good bakery, they can handle whatever requests you throw their way, from simple elegant endeavours to thematic affairs.

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    The face of Canada's $10-bill is changing, literally. 

    Starting next week, new versions of the bank note will go into circulation, featuring civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond

    Desmond rose to prominence in the 1940s after refusing to give up her seat in an all-white movie theatre, for which she was arrested and put in jail. The moment famously occurred a decade before Rosa Parks made the same refusal on an Alabama bus. 

    Desmond will replace the current face of the bill, Canada's first Prime Minister, John A. McDonald. She was selected by popular vote in a country-wide survey earlier this year. 

    The bank note is also Canada's first vertical one, offering a better format for a portrait. On the back, it features the north end of Halifax, where Desmond owned a hair salon, and is one of the oldest black communities in the country. 


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    The City of Toronto's shelter system has been bursting at the seams in recent years due, in part, to the fast-growing number of asylum seekers arriving in Canada.

    Officials have gone to great lengths in an effort to accommodate both newcomers and other individuals experiencing homelessness in Toronto, including the temporary conversion of buildings like the Moss Park Armoury and Better Living Centre into 24/7 winter respite centres.

    They've also been renting hotels in and around the city for refugees and homeless families.

    These so-called "refugee hotels" were first proposed as a temporary solution to the shelter capacity problem, with Canada's federal government footing some of the bill until at least mid October.

    Now, CBC News reports that the City of Toronto has made an offer buy one of these hotels: the Toronto Plaza Hotel near Pearson Airport (formerly the Days Hotel & Conference Centre), which appraisers say has a fair market value of at least $35 million.

    A city spokesperson told the CBC that no decision has yet been made on whether Toronto should buy the Plaza, but documents and "information from people with direct knowledge of the situation" are said to indicate otherwise.

    What is known for sure is that Toronto has already spent at least $4.5 million to house and feed those staying at the Plaza to date.

    The 199-room hotel is being managed by a private contractor called Alternative Living Solutions Inc., and currently occupied by roughly 500 newly-arrived refugees and homeless families from the Fred Victor Centre.

    The hotel's current owner, a company called Virk Hospitality, is renting rooms to the city at a discounted rate of about $50 a night plus food costs.

    Fortunately, the city is on track to open 1,000 new shelter beds by 2020.


    0 0

    This week on DineSafe saw one closure, of a Papa John's restaurant. Several other restaurants were given yellow cards for potential food contamination, but were only issued warnings. 

    Discover what other local restaurants were busted by city health inspectors this week on DineSafe.

    Papa John's (255 Dundas St. East)
    • Inspected on: November 7, 2018
    • Inspection finding: Red (Closed)
    • Number of infractions: 6 (Minor: 1, Significant: 4, Crucial: 1)
    • Crucial infractions include: Food premise maintained in manner permitting health hazard (Ventilation)
    B Espresso Bar (111 Queen St. East)
    • Inspected on: November 9, 2018
    • Inspection finding: Yellow (Conditional)
    • Number of infractions: 3 (Minor: 2, Significant: 1)
    • Crucial infractions include: N/A
    Thai Express (40 King St. West)
    • Inspected on: November 9, 2018
    • Inspection finding: Yellow (Conditional)
    • Number of infractions: 2 (Minor: 1, Significant: 1)
    • Crucial infractions include: N/A
    Kanga (150 King St. West)
    • Inspected on: November 9, 2018
    • Inspection finding: Yellow (Conditional)
    • Number of infractions: 2 (Significant: 2)
    • Crucial infractions include: N/A
    Henry VIII Ale House (3078 Bloor St. West)
    • Inspected on: October 30, 2018
    • Inspection finding: Yellow (Conditional)
    • Number of infractions: 5 (Minor: 3, Significant: 2)
    • Crucial infractions include: N/A
    BTrust Supermarket (1105 Wilson St.)
    • Inspected on: November 6, 2018
    • Inspection finding: Yellow (Conditional)
    • Number of infractions: 5 (Minor: 2, Significant: 1, Crucial: 3)
    • Crucial infractions include: Fail to ensure room kept free from live birds or animals, Fail to protect food from contamination or adulteration
    VIP Snooker (301 Ellesmere Rd.)
    • Inspected on: November 6, 2018
    • Inspection finding: Yellow (Conditional)
    • Number of infractions: 4 (Minor: 1, Significant: 2, Crucial: 1)
    • Crucial infractions include: Fail to protect food from contamination or adulteration
    Kothur Indian Cuisine (649 Yonge St.)
    • Inspected on: November 7, 2018
    • Inspection finding: Yellow (Conditional)
    • Number of infractions: 4 (Minor: 1, Significant: 2, Crucial: 1)
    • Crucial infractions include: Fail to protect food from contamination or adulteration
    The Boil Bar (664 Yonge St.)
    • Inspected on: November 6, 2018
    • Inspection finding: Yellow (Conditional)
    • Number of infractions: 4 (Minor: 2, Significant: 1, Crucial: 1)
    • Crucial infractions include: Food premise maintained in manner permitting adverse effect on food
    GB Hand-Pulled Noodles (66 Edward St.)
    • Inspected on: November 8, 2018
    • Inspection finding: Yellow (Conditional)
    • Number of infractions: 5 (Minor: 2, Significant: 3)
    • Crucial infractions include: N/A

    Note: The above businesses each received infractions from DineSafe as originally reported on the DineSafe site. This does not imply that any of these businesses have not subsequently corrected the issue and received a passing grade by DineSafe inspectors. For the latest status for each of the mentioned businesses, including details on any subsequent inspections, please be sure to check the DineSafe site.


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    Two adorable children are giving everyone in Toronto a reason to hate snow a little bit less (okay, a lot less) this fine Monday as video footage spreads of them playing outdoors.

    Rebecca Davies is currently hosting the newcomer children and three of their family members at her home through the Ripple Refugee Project—a Toronto-based group of private citizens who volunteer to sponsor, settle, and help to integrate newcomers to Canada.

    The kids, who hail from the northeast African nation of Eritrea, had never seen snow before Toronto got a light dusting of it on Saturday.

    Their reactions are absolutely adorable, as captured by Davies in a now-viral video that's been seen nearly 2 million times on Twitter alone.

    Snow: It's actually kind of delightful sometimes.


    0 0

    Viryl Technologies doesn’t actually have anything to do with viruses or “going viral.” They manufacture vinyl pressing plant equipment, and also press vinyl themselves.

    They’re the makers of the world’s first fully automated modern record press, and have helped open 19 plants worldwide (and counting).

    Viryl Tech Toronto

    The operation is housed in a low-lying building on Norseman in South Etobicoke, after moving from a smaller space on Goodrich.

    Viryl Tech Toronto

    Here’s the thing: automated record presses with 1980s technology stopped being manufactured around 1988. Because vinyl was on its way out, right? 

    By the time everyone realized what a crock that was, there had already been a considerable break in production of manufacturing equipment that’s been baffling to recover from. 

    Viryl Tech Toronto

    All machines are custom manufactured to order right in this space. Aside from the 19 plants Viryl Tech has helped open, it’s estimated there are about 50 of these machines running in general worldwide, from the U.S. to Asia.

    Viryl Tech Toronto

    The WarmTone is the name of this first fully automated machine, designed to deliver classic sound through modern design with less waste and 21st-century tech, like software and touch screens. It can produce up to 1,000 records in an eight-hour shift.

    Viryl Tech Toronto

    The LiteTone is Viryl’s version of the press that isn’t fully automated, basically the WarmTone broken down, requiring manual assistance from a human to do everything the WarmTone does. 

    Viryl Tech Toronto

    It’s actually a great option to have because it allows for more customization of small batch vinyl, like decoration with colours and splatters. Viryl Tech houses two WarmTone machines, and just one LiteTone.

    Viryl Tech Toronto

    One thing Viryl Tech could not build themselves was vintage Neumann mastering equipment, which is not manufactured anymore. 

    There are only 120 in the world, this 1972 model fully restored. Like an analog version of Pro Tools, this machine creates the originals from which all other vinyl copies are reproduced.

    Viryl Tech Toronto

    The thing is, manufacturing records is actually a highly scientific process, hence the ability to decode it and adapt it to the modern era. However, it takes an advanced and costly system of piping attached to a giant boiler to create the steam needed to produce the records.

    Viryl Tech Toronto

    That’s why they’ve invented steamless versions of their manufacturing equipment that also cost less, so they’re all around more accessible to smaller boutique labels.

    Viryl Tech Toronto

    All vinyl is made from a special record grade PVC compound that gets heated up to almost 150C, then cooled as part of the process of record-making.

    Viryl Tech Toronto

    The fun part is, this stuff actually comes in different colours (which is how you get effects like splatters), and can be reused.

    Viryl Tech Toronto

    Viryl Tech mostly deals with record labels rather than individuals or bands on their own, but do watch out for events hosted in their space inviting the public in on the manufacturing process.

    Viryl Tech Toronto


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    Christmas creep continues to tick off people around the world this year as stockings are hung by the chimney with care and way too much time to spare.

    Toronto has yet to see its first real snowfall. Most of us are still wearing poppies. At least one of us has a pumpkin on her balcony that's still in pretty good shape.

    But alas, with more than six weeks until Christmas Day, society has already declared it "the most wonderful time of year"—and that's great, if you find yourself on the more festive end of the spectrum.

    The rest of us tend to roll our eyes when stores start blaring Mariah prior to December 1 (and especially when Costco starts selling holiday decorations in freaking August).

    Walmart has been stocking fake Christmas trees since September, by some reports, and various Toronto retailers were seen setting up their wares this morning, just one day after Remembrance Day.

    The sight is coming as a shock to some. After all, it wasn't long ago that most lots and supermarket started selling Christmas trees closer to December, after American Thanksgiving.

    Hey, it's what the people want.

    "Everybody is ramped and wants to buy now," said Kate McGuire of Plant World in Etobicoke, which carries all sorts of holiday decorations and Christmas trees. "Big bulk stores get it into your head that you have to start early. Halloween turns into Christmas in the blink of an eye."

    And that rush on Christmas leads to a crush of customers looking for trees so early they could struggle to keep them green until Christmas Day. 

    "People seem to be buying them earlier and earlier every year," explained McGuire, noting that "tons" of people have already come in requesting an evergreen to trim.

    Fortunately for eager beavers, Plant World got its first shipment of Christmas trees in today. Same goes for Fiesta Farms on Christie Street.

    Jeff the Tree Guy at St. Lawrence Market is scheduled to open during the last week of November, while Downey's Farm in Caledon starts selling trees on November 14. Christmas trees arrive to Toronto's Davenport Garden Centre on November 16.

    The Eaton Centre's famous 100-foot-tall Christmas tree will be unveiled November 15, which is also when the Toronto Christmas Market opens, unleashing its own massive tree upon Instagram feeds everywhere.

    Meanwhile, the City of Toronto says it will officially kick off the 2018 holiday season on November 24 with the illumination of its annual gigantic Christmas tree.

    A more reasonable date to kick off the season, perhaps, but it should be noted that a giant (undecorated) tree has been sitting in Nathan Phillips Square since November 4.

    Here's a roundup of some great places to score your own tree when the time is right — that is, if you haven't already done so.


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    After one heck of a rocky month, the Ontario government says its mail-order marijuana service is back on track and running smoothly. Whether or not this is true remains to be seen.

    Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said at Queen's Park on Monday that all problems plaguing the Ontario Cannabis Store—problems like delivery delays, random order cancellations and a major data breach—had been resolved.

    "All of that backlog has now been taken care of and we're back to normal," he told reporters when asked about delays.

    "So when you order from the Ontario Cannabis Store we'll be back to what we always look for," he continued. "Our normal delivery of one to three days."

    The OCS had previously blamed ongoing strikes at Canada Post for delivery delays, though overwhelming demand is thought to have played an even bigger role.

    "We're in uncharted waters," said Fedeli today. "We have a business that we haven’t been in, in 100 years, and we had 100,000 orders on the very first night."

    As for the hack that saw someone glean personal information from roughly 4,500 OCS customers, Fedeli blames Canada Post.

    "That's an issue from Canada Post and I've been assured from the Ontario Cannabis Store that they have been dealing with Canada Post on that Canada Post breach," he said when asked about the incident.

    According to the OCS website, orders placed online are currently being delivered in 3 to 5 business days. The site also cautions that delivery could take even longer due to Canada Post labour disputes.

    If Fedeli is wrong about the Crown corporation being "back on track," Ontarians who would like to purchase weed will have to suck it up and wait, and some are turning to a less-than-legal source.

    Cannabis was legalized for recreational use across Canada as of October 17, but brick-and-mortar stores are not yet permitted to open in Ontario.


    0 0

    It's official—El Mo is back. After a tumultuous journey of supposed permanent closuresownership changes, and re-opening dates that never happened, it looks like the legendary music venue is gearing up to open its doors at last.

    El Mocambo's neon palm tree sign was unveiled in mint condition today—it's actually a brand new sign, albeit identical—and successfully hoisted onto the El Mo building once more.

    A construction team delivered and lifted the sign up using a towering crane, blocking off the sidewalk and bike lanes on Spadina just south of College while crowds stood by to watch. 

    The arrival of the sign comes just in time to celebrate the music hall's 70th anniversary. 

    Renovations on the El Mocambo's interior are still underway so it's hard to tell exactly when it'll re-open. 

    What we do know is that it'll look a lot different than the venue where the likes of Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, and most iconically The Rolling Stones in 1977, once graced the stage.

    And for those who want to take part in some Toronto history, make sure to check out the sign's official re-lighting ceremony on November 15. 


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    Christmas markets and holiday festivals near Toronto for 2018 look to celebrate the season with magical lights, traditional festivities and lots of Christmas cheer. Just outside of the city reside many winter wonderlands that embody all the excitement of the holidays.

    Here's a round-up of Christmas markets and holiday festivals near Toronto for 2018.

    Blumination (Collingwood)

    Blue Mountain Village is a already a winter wonderland, and this year it's stepped up its game to include a new, one-kilometre long holiday light trail that meanders throughout the wintery haunts daily from December 1 to January 6.

    Christkindl Market (Kitchener)

    If you're one of those people who love Christmas because "it's Christmas!" you're in luck. All the sights and smells of this traditional German Christmas market include shopping, activities, dancing, music, food and drinks from December 6 to 9.

    Holiday Street Market (Milton/Mississauga)

    Now entering its second year, this huge holiday market doubles as a winter wonderland complete with chalets, lights, a carousel and hundreds of vendors lining the whole of Main Street in downtown Milton and Celebration Square in Mississauga.

    Winter Festival of Lights (Niagara Falls)

    Niagara Falls has been the place to visit for festive fun forever. The annual lights festival is the longest in the world, running from November 3 to January 31 and features fireworks, parties and light displays spread out across the city.

    XMUS Festival (Bracebridge)

    A big holiday party is on during this one-day Christmas market inside a brewery on December 1. Shop from all kinds of local vendors while sipping on some brews. There'll also be live music and plenty of gourmet grub to go around.


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    A beautiful barred owl in Toronto is thanking its lucky stars today (or, more likely, eating mice and stuff) after getting lost in the concrete jungle with no way to escape—and then being found by kindly humans.

    Brad Gates, president of the Scarborough-based humane wildlife removal company AAA Gates' Wildlife Control, says his firm was called to check out reports of an owl in the CF Toronto Eaton Centre's underground garage last Tuesday.

    "It had been there for a couple days, but was unable to find its way out," said Gates by phone on Monday, explaining that the large bird likely chased some prey down an Eaton Centre ramp and into the building.

    eaton centre owl

    Nocturnal birds of prey like this barred owl are sometimes attracted to the city, what with its abundance of rodents to eat. Photo via Brad Gates.

    Two technicians were sent to check out the situation and, after they corralled the owl into a smaller space and used a tarp to contain it, they were able to safely and gently capture it with a net.

    Gates documented the process on Twitter, sharing photos today of the owl before, during and after its release.

    I mean, it's not every day that a bird of prey gets trapped in the Eaton Centre.

    eaton centre owl

    Owls are very, very cute, and also great hunters. Photo via Brad Gates.

    "Most often people are going to see them in a forested area," said Gates of barred owls, which are native to eastern North America.

    That said, "It made sense that this owl and other owls have little pockets of habitat in the city," he said. "They go into the urban jungle because food is plentiful, like raccoons and squirrels."

    Ah yes, the Toronto raccoons: Our fat and brilliant little friends.

    Gates is quite familiar with the behaviour of raccoons, as his company often relocates families from places that aren't safe for them. In fact, both raccoons and skunks have caused trouble at the Eaton Centre over the years (one of them, a very stinky problem).

    Owls, though, are less commonly in need of rescue.

    "The only other owl we got called out to this year was a great horned owl baby," said Gates. "He tried to leave the nest and ended up on the ground, right before the ice storm in April."

    With help from Pickering Animal Services, that owl was released back into a tree, just like the barred owl wildlife control professionals rescued last Tuesday.

    eaton centre owl

    The owl was likely pleased to be back outdoors after getting trapped in an underground parking garage. Photo via Brad Gates.

    "As soon as we opened up the net, it flew a short distance," said Gates of the Eaton Centre owl. "It quickly settled into a tree no worse for the wear.