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?

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10 Last-Minute Halloween Costumes That Won’t Break The Bank

I read recently that Canadians will be spending more than $1 billion on Halloween this year.

Either everyone is buying me REALLY expensive birthday gifts (P.S., it’s my birthday), or this whole Halloween business is getting straight out of control.

A few years back, I dropped a ton of dough on this Snow White get-up:

With my boo Ariel

For a larger group costume of Disney Princesses:

Sick costume, I know, but was it really worth $150 of my student line of credit  hard-earned dollars??

Let’s just leave that one rhetorical.

In any event, if you’ve got a Halloween party this weekend and don’t want to be a sucker like I was, here are a few easy, punny costume ideas I curated (that’s what Hipsters say when they want to add value to something, right?)  from various corners of the interweb that won’t break the bank:

1. Freudian Slip 

 

2. Business Ghost

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I don’t know why I find this so hilarious.. but I do

3. A Baked Potato

Literally just wrap yourself in tin foil. Genius

4. Iron Chef 

5. Liz Lemon

Via Buzzfeed. My hero

6. Ceiling Fan 

Ceiling fan

…. if you’ve got a partner in crime:

7.  French Kiss 

French Kiss

8. Meat and Greet 

Meat and Greet
So weird yet so awesome.

… if you’ve got a guitar

9. Cat Stevens

Take your basic cat costume one step further with a nod to a musical legend.

…and finally:

10. Chicken Cord On Blue 

Show of your dual appreciation for wordplay and slapstick with this pun.

Good luck and happy costuming! If you do any of these, please send me pics! Especially the last one.

Question of the Day:  What are you dressing up as for Halloween?

 

A Fun-Sized Thank You

Today is a great day.

Not only is it Halloween, my favourite holiday of the year, it also marks the end of my daily blogging challenge.

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Oh, and did I mention it’s also my birthday??

Me, on my birthday in 2012, running outside in a tutu. That's right.
Me, on my birthday in 2012, running outside in a tutu…. And smiling really f*&king awkwardly.

Gotta keep this quick so I can continue soaking up as much attention as humanly possible, but I just wanted to give a fun-size (just kidding- BIG) thank you to all those who read, liked, commented and in some cases- suffered through- an entire month of daily posts. I’m going to try to keep up with the regular posting now that October is over, but I can’t make any promises. Sometimes, Wine life gets in the way.

Anyway, I’m off to get my champagne on, so get out there in your slutty/inappropriate costumes and have a safe and happy Halloween! Oh and don’t forget to save me all your Reese Peanut Butter Cups*

Question of the Day: Any plans for Halloween?

*Will also accept Twix, Snickers, Peanut M&M’s (NOT plain, what am I a savage?), Nibs and Hersheys Cookies n’ Creme.

C’est L’Halloween

I don’t know about you guys, but today really kicked my ass. I had lofty goals of coming home from work and finishing an awesomely hilarious post about zombies I started this weekend, but instead I just lay on  the couch, ate pizza and watched 3+ hours of entertainment news programming. (Side notes: how is Chris Brown still a free man? Julianne Hough is an idiot, and I cannot wait for baby WildKis.)

wildkis

Anyway, since I stupidly vowed to write a blog post every day this month, here is an awesome link that’s been making the rounds on Facebook today-

‘C’est l’Halloween’: the story behind the greatest French Halloween song ever

Those who know, know. And if you don’t know, now you know.

I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore.

Read the post, watch the vid, feel nostalgic, get in the Halloween spirit.. and maybe sing and dance a little. Or don’t- and say you did. That’s cool too.

Question of the Day: Did you take french classes in school?

Demons Are A Ghoul’s Best Friend

There are few things in this world I enjoy more than a well-executed pun.

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While some may consider puns lame or cliché, I find them to be one of the most creative and ingenious comedic devices; a true triumph of the English language.

That’s why I was so excited when getting my daily caffeine fix, I happened upon this amazing advertisement:

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Instagram – @breezyk1

Well done, David’s tea. Well done.

This inspired me to search for more hilarious Halloween puns. Since it’s Friday, and I don’t have five things we could all use a little laugh, here are some of my favourites:

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pun1

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Or What about some punny Halloween costumes? Like

…Joey Ramona Quimby

pun

.. Bea Arthur

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…. Dumbledora The Explorer

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…..Gingerbread Man

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and my own personal favourite:

Lil’ Wayne on The Prairie

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Question of the Day: Are you dressing up for Halloween? What are you being?

Throwback Thursday: Halloween Candy

Halloween is right around the corner, and since I’m too lazy busy deciding which ironic Halloween costume to wear (Miley Cyrus wrecking ball?

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Or Baby North West?),

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I thought I’d go into the vault and pull out this little gem I first published back in October, 2011.

Originally part of a feature I did called Turn Up The Good: Turn Down The Suck, where I profiled a few things that were good, followed by a few things that sucked (genius, I know), this post is all about my favourite thing in the world (besides wine) – Candy! enjoy.

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Halloween is by far my favourite holiday of the year. Not only does it give you free license to wear whatever the hell you want and call it a “costume”, it’s also the day on which such A-List celebrities as Vanilla Ice, Rob Schnieder and (drumroll please)…. yours truly, were born. So that’s why, for this edition of Turn Up the Good, Turn down The Suck – I thought I would focus on one of the best parts of this glorious day: CANDY.

Halloween breezyk circa 1989

As a child, I put the “anal” in “analyze”. This was especially true of Halloween. I would return from trick or treating, dump my goods on my bedroom floor, and proceed to spend hours poring over my loot and categorizing its contents; determining which pieces were to be consumed first and which saved for later. By the time I was done constructing all of my little piles, my room looked like an episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive– but it was worth it. My rationing ensured that I would be adequately supplied with candy until Christmas (or at least until my older brothers got a hold of it.)

Sure they look cute… but these boys CANT BE TRUSTED

Anyway- as evidenced by my story, not all Halloween candy was created equal: so here I present to you a list of the best (turn up the good) and worst (turn down the suck) of Halloween candy:

Turn Up the Good

1. Full Size Chocolate Bars: otherwise known as the holy grail of trick or treating. Like unicorns (yes, exactly like unicorns), these were scarce. Neighbourhood kids would discuss which houses were giving full-size bars away, and make special trips just to get them. God bless these generous individuals.

2. Reese Peanut Butter Cups: I realize this one is slightly subjective. You can feel free to insert your favourite fun-size chocolate bar here- but damn I loved me some Reeses. Guaranteed to make the top cut of any sorting round.

2. Full Cans of (NAME BRAND ONLY) Pop (None of that No-name cola shit): I hesitated to add this one, simply because of the sheer weight these puppies add to your treat bag. However, it’s a cross I was always willing to bear in order to have unlimited cans of Pepsi at my disposal throughout November….

4. Homemade Shit: This makes the list due to its elusive nature. Homemade cookies? Quaint little bags of popcorn tied up lovingly with ribbons? CANDY APPLES? Sure they all looked amazing- but kid, you might as well just forget about it. If your parents were anything like mine, all that gloriousness was being thrown in the trash faster than you could say “this isn’t actually a costume“.

Homemade halloween treats- I salute you. Though your creators may be creepy, and you may contained concealed razor blades- your potential deliciousness transcends.

Turn Down the Suck

1. Rockets: AKA a cheap-ass waste of valuable treat bag space…. or, as a friend of mine rightly clarified: “a waste of EARTH space”.

2. Mollases Kisses: You know the ones I’m talking about. A sort of caramel/tootsie roll/ black licorice hybrid that have been around forever, and for some reason still persists. These choking hazards shouldn’t be given to CHILDREN- they should be reserved for old men who are missing most of their teeth so they can kill some time. I’m not feelin it.

3. Unmarked bags of potato chips: This was always a crapshoot. Emblazoned only with the “Hostess” or “Humpty Dumpty” logo all over them, you never knew what you were going to get. You risked wasting potential treats if you opened it up and didn’t like that kind, and for the weirdo kids like me, this created a nightmare for categorization.

Like this… EXCEPT NOT

4. Non-Food Related Items

Pencils, erasers, religious pamphlets… basically anything that made you roll your eyes behind the mask of your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume and go “REALLY?”

Bitches be fundamentally misunderstanding the concept of Halloween, yo..

Question of the Day: What were your favourite/ least favourite Halloween Treats?

A Very Nova Scotia Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving friends! Today, I am thankful for family, friends, health, happiness, and most of all the homemade apple crisp I’ve been caning like nobody’s business.

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yeaaah buddy.

Also wine.

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Always wine.

My friend Lia, who is from Vancouver, came home with me for the holidays, and I’ve had a blast showing her all that the thriving metropolis of Pictou County has to offer. I just hope she can handle the excitement. Watching all THREE Back To The Future Movies in one day is a lot for anyone to handle.

Anyway, since I’m still in a semi-food coma from yesterday’s feast, here are a few pictures of my Thanksgiving weekend in beautiful Nova Scotia:

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Greenhill Lookoff.. not a bad view

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I don’t eat Oysters west of New Brunswick

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I don't blame her. The pumpkin is inherently a lot more interesting.
I don’t blame her. The pumpkin is inherently a lot more interesting.

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Hold onto your loved ones tight today, and have an extra piece of pumpkin pie for me 🙂

Question of the Day:

(cliché alert)

What Are You Thankful for?

In 2013, I Resolve to Wear Pants.

Are you guys ready? Because I’m about to shock you to your cores by being the first person in the history of all time to blog about  their New Year’s Resolutions on January 1st.

2013

Be more original” obviously isn’t on the list.  “Write fewer run-on sentences” probably should be.

Anyway, I’m writing this while also half-watching The Campaign, and I need to get back to gawking at Dylan McDermott’s ageless beauty, so let’s just get on with it:

BreezyK’s Really Important, Really Specific 2013 New Year’s Resolutions

1) Get something published. Somewhere.

I think it’s a good idea to always make your goals as vague and unmeasurable as possible. That way, when you don’t achieve them, it’s not your fault. It’s the GOAL’s fault.

nye

2) Eat something other than cereal for dinner sometimes.

Maybe I’ll start with oatmeal. It’s still in the breakfast family, and I can’t handle too much change too quickly.

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3) Actually get dressed when I leave the house.

No more of this wornout leggings and soccer shirt with the holes in it I stole from my brother business. Grown-ass women don’t dress like that when they go to the grocery store… and neither should I.

In order to classify as “pants”, all articles of clothing must now contain at least one zipper and/or button.

leggingsnot

This one’s gonna be tough.

4) Find that shallow b*tch who keeps stealing my credit card and tell her that clothes and makeup don’t buy happiness.

I honestly feel so bad for some people.

5) Read some of those books I keep buying all the time.

Maybe 52 of them. One a week. That sounds like a good number.

I give this one about 28 seconds.
I give this one about 28 seconds.

6)  Insert cursory health/fitness goal here.

I know I should be thinking about something of this nature, but right now all I can focus on is my man Bobby Donnell and the bag of discounted holiday chocolate sitting right here in front of me. So I’m going to go eat this 49 cent Reese Tree now and think about #6 tomorrow.

Question of the Day: What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

What to Do with All That Leftover Yarn (and other helpful holiday tips)

The holiday season is filled with a plethora of emotions: from the excitement and anticipation of Christmas Eve, to the rush of Christmas morning, to the inevitable food coma and the boxing day hangover blues. (Stick close to your Russell Stovers for this one, folks.)

boxing

When all is said and done, you’re left with that long stretch of  idle time between boxing day and New Year’s, where the days  feel 80 hours long and it’s a struggle just to get out of your PJS, let alone think about anything besides those delicious scotch cookies your mom hid in the downstairs fridge (ostensibly, from you).

Don't eat me, Breezyk!
Don’t eat me, Breezyk!

So what’s a girl to do with all of this free time on her hands? I tried filling the empty space where Christmas used to be with  daytime TV; but I could only watch Kathy Lee and Hoda drink so many glasses of pinot grigio before I got too jealous tired of it. Then I tried watching Holiday films, but they just made me angry.  Like, what classifies The Sound of Music as a Christmas film anyway? Cause I’m pretty sure it’s about Nazis.

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And why there is so much conflict in the Polar Express? I tried asking Tom Hanks this directly on twitter, but he never got back to me.

Weird?

Thankfully, I’ve found a new way to occupy my time: by perusing my mother’s seemingly endless  collection of  women’s magazines.

Women’s World, Chatelaine, Best Health, O. Her collection is enough to make Martha Stewart weak at the knees.

I decided to begin with the December 24th edition of First for Women magazine, since it featured my #3 life model, Marie Osmond, on the cover.

marie

I was immediately struck by how this publication seemed to really identify with, and understand the plight of today’s modern woman. It contained so many helpful time-saving tips! Not to mention all of the groundbreaking,  empirically proven, scientific studies and weight loss plans.

And since many of you are modern, self-actualized women yourselves (or at least have one in your life) I knew I had to share to share them with all of you.

So let’s get started, shall we?

First off,  if you’ve been searching for a way to remedy that dusty holiday wreath of yours, then look no further, Cause First for Women has got you covered!

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A paper bag and a salt shaker! Who knew?

If you’re anything like me, then while doing your daily 8 hours of lady-cleaning this Holiday season, you’ve thought to yourself: “Gee, I wish I had a festive use for all these piles of extra yarn I’ve got lying around!”

Well sister, you’re in luck- because I’ve got not one- but THREE festive uses for that yarn for you!

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A picture frame! How delightful.

And it doesn’t stop there. First for Women is FILLED with time-saving tips: from Stain-Proof recipe cards, to 10 brilliant uses for orange peels, to decorative napkin folds, to a selection of “OH WOW! Holiday appetizers”, these tips will save you so much time, you’ll finally be able to get back to all of your other important lady tasks: like pumping out babies, honoring your period,  and talking about your vaginas.  Just think of how much  more time you’ll have for Pinterest!

Not only does First for Women contain countless household time-savers, it also features some fail-proof diet plans.

Looking to shed a quick 5-7lbs to squeeze into that holiday dress of yours? Try the “Grapefruit diet!” So simple it’s foolproof; this involves eating nothing but grapefruits for several days. But won’t I get hungry? You might be asking.

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Not according to Dr. Al Sears! “A grapefruit fast is surprisingly easy to do,” he assures. “Since grapefruit contains a fulfilling combo of carbs and fibre, I’m totally satisfied on 3-4 hours a day!”

There you have it ladies. And if grapefruit’s not your bag, how about the “Christmas Cleanse”? This involves drinking nothing but a combination of unsweetened cranberry juice, water and cloves for 24 hours before the big event. You might pass out after your first cocktail, but the results will be worth it!

There’s also a Q&A section, targeting some of your hardest-hitting women’s health issues. Like “What’s Causing my Itchy nipple?” and  “Do PH-balanced tampons really make a difference?”

There is even a  fashion section, featuring countess Holiday glam looks that can be achieved with items right from your own closet!

Like this timeless fab look, for example. Just start with “your own monochromatic pantsuit” and add some chunky accessories!

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The only problem will be narrowing down which of your monochromatic pantsuits to choose from! I’ve got 8 just in the purple family alone!

Off to get started!

Question of the Day: How have you been combatting post-holiday boredom?

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