New App: My City Muse

This summer has been ridiculously busy for both Kelly and I.  We capped off the end of the season with an amazing, debaucherous weekend with our friends at Two Islands Weekend (and for future years, this is an event not to be missed!). After a week of TIFF films, things may settle down a little come next week (well.. maybe not for Kelly who’s knee deep in wedding planning). I am excited to start having some downtime in the city again and start exploring and sharing my new-found awesomeness.

My explorations in the art world will start with the help of My City Muse. The newly launched app for your iPhone (coming soon for Androids) is a dream for fine art lovers in Toronto, Montreal, San Francisco and New York, with more cities to be added. The app was created by Sean Green, a University of Toronto Engineering alum and self-professed newbie to the art world.

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Go See: TIFF 2013

It is with mixed emotions that I announce the first signs of Fall: the Toronto International Film Festival is days away.  It’s always sad to say goodbye to summer, but TIFF is my favorite season in Toronto.  The city is buzzing with excitement, Torontonians are forced to be friendly due to the infiltration of visitors who want to talk about all of the incredible films they are trying to digest, and the chaos of summer shows signs of slowing down. It’s all good.

TIFF 2013 runs this year from September 5th – 15th. If you haven’t purchased a package of tickets, then you should know that the public on sale date is Sunday, September 1st at 9:00 a.m. As always, I suggest when you make a list of films you’d like to see and that you double check availability on Saturday so not to waste precious time trying to get tickets to a sold out movie.

Last year TIFF introduced a revamped website which has made getting tickets a whole lot less painful and the TIFF smartphone app now allows you to see the schedule, watch trailers and buy single tickets (this is HUGE!).  One major change I’ve noticed is that Cineplex Cinema at Yonge & Dundas is no longer being used a venue, rather all 18 theatres in Scotiabank will be screening TIFF films.  This will make it faster to shuffle between theatres and screening times (the main venues are now Scotiabank at RIchmond & John and the TIFF Bell Lightbox at King W. & John).

Once again I warn you that my choice of films lean towards dark and I tend to avoid the major gala screenings with all their red carpets and glam. I find the smaller screenings to be more intimate and usually feature a question and answer period with the visiting filmmakers, which is my favorite part. I’ve scoured the hype that has come from the recent major film festivals (Cannes, Sundance, Berlinale, etc) to come up with a shortlist of films that is sure to excite you, entertain you, challenge you and hopefully help you see life through a new lens.

Enemy (Canadian Director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies, a TIFF favorite of mine) returns with an adaptation of the novel The Double from Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago about a glum history professor in search of his doppelganger. Shot in Toronto and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) and Sarah Gadon (Cosmopolis).)

Gloria (Paulina García won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for her performance as a vivacious, middle-aged divorcée who finds what may be her last chance for love while grooving on the dance floor of the local singles club.) Continue reading

Camp for Adults: Two Islands Weekend

I can’t say that I look back on my nine years of overnight camp particularly fondly. I didn’t have many friends, I dreaded our weekly camping sessions and monthly overnights, the infamous dunk test (flipping me over in a kayak to test my swimming abilities) terrified me months before summer hit, and with limited athletic skills, I dreaded the team sports, too.

It seems my parents spent 11 months of the year trying to remind me of the parts of camp I liked so that they could, once again, have their own vacation consisting of a childless-July: arts & crafts, swim team, tuck shop (I assure you – camp is the only place I got chips and chocolate bars three times a week!), sailing, my one or two friends who would miss me… so each year I returned. (And after an email from my mom making me feel like the most ungrateful daughter ever, I should stress how thankful I am for it!! xo)

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Things have changed. Since the age of 12, my athletic abilities have improved, I now have plenty of friends and I’ve started to seek out activities that are outside of my comfort zone rather than avoiding them. The camping thing hasn’t changed, though. I still refuse to sleep in a tent.

Imagine my excitement when I read about CAMP FOR ADULTS! This is my chance at a do-over, people!  A chance to mix all my favorite parts of growing up with the fun activities usually left for the kids.  And a chance to leave camp with warm and fuzzy memories for once. May I introduce Two Islands Weekend.

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Summerlicious & Open Roof Festival

With too many festivals and events to count, my love for Toronto grows every summer.  This week marks the start of Summerlicious and the Open Roof Festival, festivals celebrating two of my favourite things: food and movies.

If you live in the city and/or read this blog , Summerlicious is nothing new to you (you can check out our picks for the past Winterlicious here).  Nearly 200 of the city’s top restaurants feature three-course prix fixe menus at cheaper than usual price points ($25-$45 for dinner).  For us, it’s an excuse to try new places we wouldn’t normally frequent and a fantastic way to rationalize the need for brunch at the likes of Sassafraz.  Although the festival doesn’t actually start until July 5th, reservations open June 20th (today for Amex holders!).   If you’re a ‘Licious veteran, then you’ll know that many of the same restaurants participate year after year, but before you proclaim to being over it, check out some of this year’s new additions: the trendy NYC import Momofuko Daisho; Bosk at Toronto’s new boutique hotel, the Shangri-La; Yorkville’s Cafe Boulud at the Four Season’s Hotel; the funky Dundas West establishment Bent (from the spawn of chef Susur Lee); and Mark McEwan’s ONE at Hazelton Lanes.

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Once you’ve bit the I’m-too-cool-for-Summerlicious bullet and called to place your dinner reservations, check out the line up for this year’s Open Roof Festival which kicks off this Thursday with a gala party and live performance by the Sheep Dogs.  If you haven’t been in previous years, here’s what you need to know about the festival: outdoor movie screenings (often of indie-esque films and fun documentaries), opened by a live musical act, accompanied by pop-up food vendors and served with beer!  Sounds good right?  It is, and rumour has it that a lot of this year’s films are set to sell out.  We’ve got our tickets for Gimme the Loot and the Toronto Film Festival’s How to Make Money Selling Drugs is already sold out.

Open Roof 2011
Eat, watch & enjoy, then tell us about your favourites!

 

NXNE 2013

One of my favorite times of the year in Toronto is coming up: NXNE Music Festival. This year’s lineup features an incredible 1000 artists and 30 films at over 50 stages across the city between Wednesday June 12th and Sunday June 16th. There’s a business aspect to this festival, but for the purpose of music lovers like you and I, I’m sticking to the live music here. Wristbands are still available for $60, which will get you in + out access to all the shows (subject to capacity, of course), single day wristbands can be yours for $30, and there’s also the option of just paying cover at single venues.

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For those not interested in running around between venues, possibly waiting in line, or spending your hard earned bucks on bands you don’t know, I highly recommend you pick a venue, go early and stick it out for the night and see what the stage presents you. The Great Hall, The Horseshoe Tavern, Lee’s Palace, BLK BOX, and the Dakota Tavern are fail safes for good tunes every year. Yonge & Dundas Square also has an incredible line-up of FREE shows each night featuring headliners Ludacris, Billy Talent, Social Distortion, and certainly the most anticipated act in my social circles: The National.

Did I mention that there will be 1000 artists? Clearly I couldn’t dig through each and every artist to give you the most perfect list of recommendations ever, but I’ve surely done my darnedest. Aside from the list below, I have to give a shout out for the hilarious band names that I came across:  1992 Toronto Blue Jays, The Mouthbreathers, HORMOANS, Vagina Panther (I can’t make these things up).

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