Back In The Old Country…

When it comes to comfort food, you really can’t go wrong with good old-fashioned, cheesy, delicious pierogies.

These pierogi mascots should be the mascots of my life.

Which is why I was pumped to attend the annual Polish Festival a few weekends ago here in Toronto. Pierogies + beer tents + POLKA = a guaranteed good time. 

The festival took place along Roncesvalles avenue, a mostly commercial strip between College and Queen streets, and it was bumping. Food trucks, cotton candy, bouncy castles- you name it. Only thing was, it wasn’t very Polish…. at all.

I mean, don’t get me wrong there was one (Grammy nominated) Polka band busting out tunes… right next to the Fillipino adobo cart.

And there was one pierogi stand, but the lines were so long that we eventually gave up and hit up a nearby Cuban place.

The real fun for me anyway was checking out all of the permanent retailers along the strip. Roncesvalles is an up-and-coming Toronto hot spot, and a number of cool new boutiques and restaurants have opened up there over the past few years. The neighborhood still retains a lot of its old-school charm though, and there are still a number of Eastern-European small businesses holding it down amongst the hipster-fication.

Like the Old Country Gift Shop:

When I first walked by, I was struck by the vintage-looking sign, and the eccentric display in the front window – a veritable hodge podge of stuff. There was a mannequin modelling a pearl necklace, an array of various deodorants, a selection of power tools, and a large display of Ritter Sport chocolate bars.

Needless to say, I was intrigued

I walked inside, and with the sound of the jingling bell was transported back in time nearly 50 years. I felt like Marty McFly, only without the cool DeLoreon.

Along the yellowed, gondola shelving sat everything from specialty jams, to vintage cutlery, to a comprehensive collection of mint condition Ty beanie babies.

At the 1960’s style cash register stood two spunky older ladies with white bouffants, extolling the virtues of a blown-glass ash tray to what I assumed was a regular customer.

These foxy ladies I later learned, were Karin and Helga, German (again, not Polish) sisters who grew up in the store and have worked there for nearly 50 years. Turns out the Old Country Gift Shop is family-owned, and has been serving the customers of Roncesvalles with their random treasures since 1962.

Obviously, things haven’t changed much since then.  the walls are lined with what looks like the original wallpaper, and the floor is covered in a well-worn, checkerboard-patterned linoleum.

Sort of like this. She knows.

The nostalgia in the air is palpable- each shelf dusted with memories of days- and times- gone by. As I made my way to the back of the store, I spotted a wide assortment of Octoberfest aprons, and an entire section of unopened, pristine VHS tapes. I wondered who the audience for this collection might be, but then I got distracted by the large, menacing chunk of the Berlin wall.

And did I mention the chocolate? So much chocolate. One entire wall filled with bars of the good stuff from Germany, France, and Switzerland. Brands I had never heard of, and thought only existed in my dreams.

Sorry for doing this to you.

Obviously I couldn’t leave without a taste, so I picked up the Mozart Kugeln chocolate ball- a pistachio, nougat and marzipan sphere of Viennese deliciousness.

As I left the store and re-entered the world of 2014, I couldn’t get the gift shop out of my mind. Not only did I want to go back every day to revel in its weirdness, I also wanted to be best friends with Karin and Helga; to find out what inspires them, and makes them tick. While I may never fully understand the Old Country Gift shop, it’s still nice to know that places like it exist.

Question of the Day: Been to Any Cool Stores lately?

You Had Me At “Showstopper”

I bought something from The Shopping Channel the other day. I’m not proud of it. 

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Actually, f*&k that, I’m totally proud. It was a sweet-ass deal.

The incident occurred during a very frequent rare night in. I was sipping my Night Wine and flipping between “Guiliana and Bill” and “Dancing With The Stars” when something glittery and gold caught my eye.

Behold- the “So Status” watch and bracelet set –

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The newest piece by R.J. Graziano- jewellery designer TO THE STARS (uhhhh like MEL B., people), this gold (plated) multi-piece set was on for the “Showstopping” price of only $69.99! That’s almost 50% off regular price! Obviously I needed this pre-packaged elegance in my life.

I’ll admit, I was a little nervous about buying a “luxury” item from a TV infomercial, but I told myself that if it was good enough for Scary Spice, then it was good enough for me.

shop3 I quickly logged online, created a profile and after agreeing to just 3 easy payments of $23.33 (interest free maaaahf*ckas!) my instant glamour was on its way. 

As I waited for my package to arrive, I started receiving daily e-mails from The Shopping Channel featuring the day’s “Showstopper” deal. The products piqued my interest, if only because they were so incredibly random.

There was a Wolfgang Puck cookware set:

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Egyptian cotton sheets: 

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One VERY special Joan Rivers Collection Houndstooth Signature Blazer

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* Available in FOUR DIFFERENT SHADES OF HOUNDSTOOTH!

…. and if Old Lady Chic isnn’t your thing, what about these luxurious drapes? (With Beaded tiebacks!!!)

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…. or how about this thermal back pain pack?

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Oh, and don’t forget the fur-trimmed Mukluks!!

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I started questioning  just what target demographic The Shopping Channel was trying to achieve here. A glamorous Octogenarian housewife with a penchant for entertaining, chronic back pain, and a love of comfortable/yet stylish footwear? Sounded about right. 

Anyway, despite their complete and total irrelevance to my life, I found myself actually considering buying each day’s Showstopper because it was such an “amazing deal”. Didn’t I need new sheets anyway? And I’d been meaning to get into cooking ……Who cares if I have no outfits that go with fur-trimmed Mukluks? At this price, I could afford to buy more!

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Needless to say, my virtual shopping cart continues to pile up at an alarming rate, and I’m beginning to feel the weight of all of those compounded “easy” payments. Clearly there is some sort of void deep down inside me that I’m trying to fill with material things, but in my own delusional way, I completely blame The Shopping Channel and their genius marketing for all of this. I mean, guys.. these deals are for a LIMITED TIME ONLY!!! 

I know an easy solution would be simply to unsubscribe from the newsletter, but I can’t help but feel FOMO that I’m passing up on the next really sweet deal. At some point, I’m probably going to need a shop-tervention- but in the meantime, I’ll just be rocking my Houndstooth blazer, sleeping on Egyptian Cotton and feeling up my fancy-ass drapes in the corner. 

Question of the Day: Have you Ever

bought anything from TV?

How did it turn out? 

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