Lights Out

Lights out everyone (well at least for an hour)!
Lights out Toronto (well at least for an hour)!

Last night I had the privilege of attending a special celebration in support of Earth Hour in Roncy Village. For the last 4 years, Roncesvalles Village has hosted an annual Earth Hour celebration where local artists, choirs, and flash mobs, have all had a chance to get together in the dark and showcase their support for addressing climate control.

While I have not previously attended an Earth Hour event (last year I had a candle-lit acoustic sing-along session in my condo – I’m sure the neighbours weren’t all too thrilled with my tone deafness), I was super excited to check out how a local community supports such an initiative.

lantern walk in roncy
To kick off Earth Hour, locals gathered at two meeting places on the North and South Ends of Roncesvalles. We gathered at the South End and were delighted to see the number of people with candles and home-made lanterns (I definitely needed to attend the lantern making workshop the community held earlier in the day. My small candle holder was just not up to par). As we gathered in the cold, we were entertained by SPLASH – a local choir (thanks to which I had ‘Seasons of Love‘ from Rent stuck in my head for the next 3 hours) and then proceeded to march on to our final meeting place with our lanterns and candles in hand.

splash choir
As if the lanterns and choir were not enough – as soon as we arrived at the final meeting place I was greeted by a giant panda (not a real one unfortunately, but a panda mascot. It is not as random as it sounds with WWF being the host and all). I immediately had to take a picture with him and then made a B-line over to the table serving the free hot chocolate (the caveat being that if you wanted free hot chocolate – you needed to bring your own mug. It is Earth Hour and all – trying to reduce waste as much as possible).

pandas and hot chocolate
At 8:30 the festivities got underway with live performances and speeches on stage. I lit my small candle and joined the couple hundred people or so in attendance as they waved their lanterns in the air to celebrate Earth Hour.

earth hour celebrations
While I know Earth Hour is a once/year celebration, I find community-based events like this so special and it’s what makes Toronto so special. I’m sure events like this are happening in many communities across the city every weekend – you just have to actually be on the lookout for them.

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Dress Obsession

dress collection

When I shared with my friend the other day that I wanted to go out Friday night so I could wear my new dress, her response was not one I expected to hear. With a deadly serious expression on her face, she responded by asking “Has it come to a point where you need an intervention? This dress obsession is WAY out of control”.  My closest friends, family and well anyone that pretty much knows me, can attest to the fact that I LOVE buying and wearing dresses. There is just something so easy and comfortable about them that it has become quite an addiction finding new styles and patterns to wear.

I made it my mission this week to travel around town to share with you my favourite dress shops in the city. Shopping as research? Sounds like fun to me! I’ve decided to only post about my 4 favourite spots based on the North, South, East and West ends of town.

NORTH END
Tucked away on a quiet stretch of Bathurst Street just south of Bloor is my favourite north-end shop, Trove. Just like the store signs says, this shop is filled with unexpected fashion finds.

Trove store front

When you first enter the store, you will notice a great selection of bags and footwear featuring brands such as Matt and Nat and Fly London. I have a little obsession with Matt and Nat bags which is how I first ended up finding this hidden gem of a store. However, when I found out they carry dress brands such as Yumi, Vero Moda and Knitted Dove, I think I was in love (and I knew my wallet was in trouble). Trove is a fantastic boutique with very reasonable dress prices (I’d say on average dresses are priced between $80 and $150). The staff are super friendly and helpful and you can even get a free stylist service in-store.

inside trove
EAST END
My go-to dress shop in the East End is a little boutique called Social Butterfly on the Danforth. I’ve been going to this shop for years and it never disappoints.

Social Butterfly store front
This store has a great collection of both casual and fancy dresses and carries brands such as Kensie and DEPT. However, I can’t help but try on all the funky hats that line the walls. Dress prices are also very reasonable and they continually get new stock in.  You definitely have to keep going back to locate those great finds – because if you don’t, I probably will.

Inside Social Butterfly

WEST END
On Lower Roncesvalles is my favourite west-end boutique, Frock. I have to give this store credit – it was the only store I managed to purchase something from while doing my ‘research’, even though I told myself I wasn’t to buy anything. However, I couldn’t resist picking up the most adorable dress by Gentle Fawn while I was there (the dress I was so eager to wear this weekend).

frock storefront

Other than Gentle Fawn, frock has a great selection of dresses from Darling, Knitted Dove and they carry my favourite bags – Matt and Nat. The store front window is always adorable, and I tend to always stop by and look even when the store is closed (which is probably good for my wallet).

inside frock

SOUTH END
Last on my list of favourite dress shops in the city (but definitely not least), is Girl Friday. This is my go-to dress store (but that is potentially due to the fact that it is only a few blocks from where I live). It is very rare that I walk out of this store without a bag in hand (even if I don’t purchase a dress, I manage to leave with flip flops. They sell really great flip flops).

girl friday store front

While Girl Friday does sell great brands such as Michael Kors, Gentle Fawn, Fever, Kersh and Darling, they also manufacture their own garments under the Girl Friday brand. The Girl Friday dresses are quite adorable and you can special order them too. Potential bridesmaids dresses?

Truthfully, I could probably write about a dozen or more other shops in the city, but I feel that this is a great start. Queen West in between Bathurst and Ossington is a great strip containing MANY fabulous dress shops. If you walk into all the stores and don’t try anything on – that would be a really sad day (in my books at least).

California Cruisin’

wine on tableSo while the weather is starting to warm up a little bit in our cold city – we still can’t deny the fact that it is winter and we would much rather be somewhere hot. Don’t let the title of this post confuse you – I didn’t travel to California to write this post. However, I did manage to cruise on down to the Hoxton last night to partake in the California Cruisin’ event hosted by iYellow Wine Club.

First and last glass of the evening.

First and last glass of the evening.

Wine enthusiasts from around the city gathered last night to sample some of the great wines from the region in a relaxed and casual setting. As soon as you entered the venue, you were hit with songs all about California (California Girls by the Beach Boys, California Love by Tupac, California Dreamin’ by The Mamas & The Papas – I think you get the point) to really get you in the California spirit.

Dancing to California Jams while we sip our California wines

Dancing to California Jams while we sip our California wines

Tables were set up all around the venue with various wines to sample (I think there were over 30 wines to taste. I lost count after maybe my 11th sample – Yes, it was a good night). While the event advertised that food truck style eats would be available, I think I saw 4 waiters with platters the entire evening. It was more fun to watch how people would just flock to one area of the venue and you knew it was because they spotted food (although the event did warn you to come nourished, so I kind of expected not to be fed).

Wine Station

Wine Station

When I purchased my ticket to this event, I thought it was going to be more of a wine education (a winducation?) as that is what iYellow Wine Club is known for. Instead, it was more or less a showroom for various California wines and an opportunity to just mingle with friends (or make new ones). I was hoping to learn more about the wines I was drinking, but only received little tid bits of information from each station I visited. The ladies at the Gann Wines table however were fabulous (and they wore fabulous wigs too!). They took the time to walk us through each of the wines at their booth and provided me a fantastic glowing pin (see pic below). I felt like a super hero the rest of the night thanks to those ladies.

With the Gann ladies enjoying my 'buttery' Chardonnay.

With the Gann ladies enjoying my ‘buttery’ Chardonnay.

After about 3 hours of non-stop drinking (ahem, I mean wine sampling), the tables all cleared away and we could either stay and party at the Hoxton or make our way somewhere else. As it was only 10 pm, we decided food was definitely in order and made our way over to the Thompson Diner next door where we ordered the least healthy options we could think of (poutine and mac ‘n cheese).

Mmm....mac 'n cheese. You were definitely needed after all that wine sampling.

Mmm….mac ‘n cheese. You were definitely needed after all that wine sampling.

All-in-all, I had a great night out with friends. The price was right for the event ($50 got us 3 hours worth of unlimited wine sampling) and I am now interested in checking out future events hosted by iYellow Wine Club. Cheers!