Where to find the best gifts in Toronto this Holiday Season

*This article was originally published in a lawyerly magazine I write for on the side- but since my creativity well is running mighty dry, And you can buy most of this stuff online also, thought I’d repost it here. Enjoy!

The holiday season is upon us, and with all of the parties, potlucks, and year-end tax restructuring, who has time to schlep around from store to store in search of the perfect gift? So to save your friends and family from socks and Starbucks cards, here’s a roundup of the best places in Toronto to find thoughtful gifts for everyone on your list.

For the foodie

The Good Egg (267 Augusta Avenue).
This Kensington Market outfit has everything you need to make your kitchen Instagram-worthy: rare cookbooks, artisan-crafted aprons, Le Creuset cookware and a vast collection of kitchen gadgets you never knew you needed.

And while you’re in Kensington, check out Toronto Popcorn Company  (147 Baldwin Street). This shop devoted strictly to popcorn (which I thought only existed in my dreams) offers over 100 unique and delicious flavors — from maple bacon, to caramel pina colada. Single bags are $4 and you can even mix and match (in a stroke of genius, I once combined pizza and cookies and cream).

Via Torontolife.com

 

For the CanCon enthusiast

Drake General Store (various locations).
From maple syrup-scented candles to mountie-printed adult onesies, Drake General Store has everything you need to show your Canadiana-loving friend some true patriot love.

And for some distinctively Toronto gear, check out Drake’s newly opened OVO store near Trinity Bellwoods (899 Dundas Street West). There you’ll find a wide assortment of printed toques, tees and hip hop gear to keep your friends and family proudly repping #The6.

For the little ones

Kol Kid (647 Queen Street West).
This indie kids’ retailer specializes in unique children’s clothing, accessories, and killer toys you may or may not want to keep for yourself. My nieces especially love the handmade moccasins and Taro Gomi activity books.

For the ladies

While you’re strolling down Queen West, drop by Coal Miner’s Daughter (744 Queen Street West), a cute boutique specializing primarily in pieces by Canadian clothing and jewelry designers at reasonable price points. (I’ve got my eye on these sweet Labradorite Rings).

For dudes

Montreal-based retailer Frank & Oak just opened up shop in Toronto (735 Queen Street West) with its line of hip and affordable menswear. Browse their collection of colourful khakis, elbow-patched cardigans and incredibly sophisticated grooming products as you sip an Americano from their fancy in-store café.

For the audiophile

For the hi-fi fanatic on your list, check out the new and improved Sonic Boom (215 Spadina), a bigger, badder version of the beloved music store that combines both the former Annex and Kensington Market locations. With nearly 12,000 sq feet of vinyl, CDs, and merchandise (there’s a section devoted entirely to music-themed literature), even the most discerning Rob Gordon types will be impressed.

For the bookworm

Check out Type Books (883 Queen Street West) for a well-curated selection of staff favourites that put “Heather’s Picks” to shame. Type carries a broad collection of small-press and independent titles, including tough-to-find newspapers and magazines. And for the bookworm-in-training, head uptown to Mabel’s Fables (662 Mt. Pleasant Road), a whimsical, fairy-tale inspired children’s book store that you might just want to move into. Located in an old, two-story house, Mabel’s carries hundreds of titles organized by age group and is known for its incredibly helpful and inspired staff.

For the unconventional

Blue Banana (250 Augusta Avenue). This two-story artist collective in Kensington Market is filled to the brim with one-of-a-kind gift ideas: jewelry, house wares, vintage décor; there’s even a wall filled with gourmet hot sauces for the Sriracha-obsessed. Labor of Love (242 Carlton Street) in Cabbagetown is also a great spot for eclectic gifts, and carries a diverse collection of handmade jewelry, quality paper goods, and adorable kitsch (like this fixie bike pizza cutter).

Question of the day: Who is the hardest person on your list to shop for?

Advertisements

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?

My Life Through Instagram Vol. 2

What up, homies? I know my blog has been about as active as a Giant Panda on Valium lately, and for that I apologize.

Side note: did you know Giant Pandas spend approximately 16 hours a day eating?? 

panda2

We have so much in common.

foodgif2

Anyway, it’s been a busy few weeks for your girl BreezyK here: weddings, parties, cottage weekends, and most importantly- a new job!

startedfromthebottom2

(Do I get points for the timely Shoppers Drug Mart gif? No? Ok.)

It’s still in law, but no longer in private practice… so I expect the quality of my life to improve drastically to have more regular hours and thus more free time for blogging. (When my busy schedule of grooming and beauty related appointments permits, of course.)

foodgif6 foodgif7 foodgif8

Those pictures were completely gratuitous.

Anyway, I know I owe you guys a real post (and to read and comment on some of the great stuff you’ve been writing), but as mentioned above, I’m in panda-mode. So in the meantime, I thought I’d give a little update on my life through my favourite fleetingly popular social media platform: instagram.

(You can see my first installment of My Life Through Instagram here.)

If you don’t follow me on Instagram, then you definitely should: @BreezyK1. I am extremely self-absorbed and post a lot of pictures of my manicures. Who doesn’t like that in their newsfeed??

instagram3

1.    Someone’s been making mixtapes!

2.    See, I told you. (Hey, when it takes as long as this did, it deserves to be instagrammed) 

3.    Summer BBQs. If you can believe it, there was actually way more food unpictured.

foodgif

4.    We clean up aiight 

5.    Sunset over Sugar Lake

6.    Wine and Cheese with a view.. oh you fancy huh  

7.    This album has been getting me through a lot of tough runs lately. Kanye- you may be a crazed egomaniac with questionable child-naming skills, but your beats are solid and your lyrics genius. So thank you for that.  

8.    Champagne celebrations

9.    I challenge you to name me a treat more delicious than s’mores

You just peed in your pants a little, didn't you?

You just peed in your pants a little, didn’t you?

10.  So I joined a softball league this summer- considering the ability to play softball entirely irrelevant. The only thing worse than my batting average is my attendance- but I do contribute to the team by taking glorious, sunset candid shots like this one.. so I think I’m pulling my weight.

11.  My lovely friend Danielle looking fierce at her wedding

12.  Cottage Adventures

13.  Do you… canoe? (Ok that was lame. Forgive me guys, I’ve been out of the game for a while) 

14.  Little father’s day tribute to my pops.. (and some inadvertent product placement. Mmm. Veggie Thins) 

15.  Delicious Sangria by the pool… I am just noticing now how many of these pics involve alcohol.

foodgif3

16.  A lifesize “The Claw” arcade game set up in the financial district as part of Toronto’s Luminato festival for the arts and creativity. There was actually a dude inside who, when you put money into the machine, tried to retrieve a toy for you with oversize claw-like implements. Everyone cheered when he got one, and when he missed they played the sad fail music from the Price is Right. 

Umm this Youtube video has had over 3 million views. I don’t know why, but that’s awesome.

Question of the Day: What has been the highlight of your summer thus far?

Mine’s probably a tossup between drinking that Sangria and watching the new season of Big Brother.. but I expect that to change when I head to Nova Scotia this weekend!

My Life Through Instagram

I haven’t been very inspired to write lately. Perhaps it’s because of my disillusionment/exhaustion/overwhelming desire to kill myself  general sense of malaise from trying to write a novel in 30 days.

novel1

Or maybe it’s the fact that I was sick with the plague a dreadful cold/flu last week (yeah, in JUNE. THANKS GLOBAL WARMING).

bl6

bl1

It actually got so bad that I called in sick to work for the first time in three years. I spent a solid 8 hours watching daytime TV, periodically spraying my throat with Chloraseptic in an effort to stave off the black lung (don’t question my methods) and drifting in and out of consciousness.

………….Lemme tell ya, Anderson Cooper fever dreams are one helluva drug.  

bl5

Oh, and I also just joined a Bachelorette pool at work, so now I have to spend approximately 90% of my time trash-talking all of my colleagues. Drew for the win!

bl9

Anyway, since I am still pretty low on f*cks to give, rather than write a real blog post, I thought I’d try a neat little idea I saw on another blog the other day –  a summary of my life  over the past few weeks through Instagram: 

instagramcollage

1. A sick manicure I got a few weeks ago. It took a ridiculously long time, but those damn little chevrons made me so happy every time I looked at them that it was worth it.

bl2

2. A few weeks back, I received free tickets to the Canadian Opera Company’s performance of Salome at the Four Seasons Center. I was really excited because I had never been to the Opera before, and the whole thing just felt so civilized.

I stole this pic from my friend Lia who was with me and is a great grammer herself
I stole this pic from my friend Lia who is also a great grammer

The performance was in German, and I will admit that for the first 30 minutes, I had no effing clue what was going on. (Even though there were subtitles. I’m just that smart.) Seriously guys, I was beginning to think I was being punked. But then someone on stage got beheaded, and after that I was totally into it

bl10

Afterwards we were given a backstage tour and got to look at all the props (not the decapitated head though. I asked) and see how they do all the high-tech stuff. It was bomb, and if I can ever afford to buy my own tickets, I will totally go back again. So probably never.

3. Starbucks Fail. I feel like I should have been more offended by this.

4. A replica of Peggy’s Cove erected in Toronto’s financial district a couple of weeks ago. I actually thought I was seeing a mirage on my way to work in the morning, but then was lured into the display by a charming Tourism Nova Scotia employee with a familiar accent (damn those hard “A”‘s. They get me every time). I was so entranced by the man in a kilt onstage teaching the awestruck crowd how to properly cook a lobster that I ended up being 20 minutes late for work. #WorthIt

5.  I’m usually not one of those people who instagrams their food (OK, I totally am) but my lunch yesterday from IQ Food Co. was just way too good not to capture. I mean…Sh*t is like a healthy food rainbow.

6. This past Saturday I attended the Field Trip Music Festival in Toronto. The festival  celebrated the 10 year anniversary of Canadian record label Arts & Crafts, and featured a ton of amazing Canadian (and international) artists like Broken Social Scene, Feist, Stars, Bloc Party,  Ra Ra Riot, etc. It was an amazing day filled with friends, music and laughter.

115

……Except for a brief period where they ran out of beer. BLAME CANADA.

bl3

7. My new favourite show, Family Tree on HBO. It’s written and directed by Christopher Guest (Best In Show,  This is Spinal Tap) and stars mah boo Chris O’Dowd (the hot cop from Bridesmaids). It’s dry, brilliantly written and hilarious and is cheering me up from my disappointment over the new season of Arrested Development. (I’m only on episode 5- does it get better??)

8. Yogurt is good for you, right? (Side note: Nanaimo bars as a topping?? OMG)

9. I went to check out the flowers at Alan Gardens (It’s my “Serenity Now” place) last weekend and stumbled across this Cactus convention, which apparently, is a thing. Guys, there were so many weird cacti!!

038

I spent a good hour checking them all out, and talking to the cactus growers who themselves are just as interesting (speaking of Christopher Guest…). Moral of the story: when life hands you a Cactus, make friends with its grower? #BadParable.

Question of the Day: Do You Instagram?

If so, what’s your handle?For more of this groundbreaking photojournalism, follow me @breezyk1

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑