Category Archives: Toronto

Review: Snakes & Lattes Cafe, Toronto

I have a new favourite cafe where there is rarely a seat, the service is slow and the coffee mediocre.

 

BUT THEY HAVE BOARD GAMES. THOUSANDS OF THEM.

I love the concept of Snakes and Lattes, a board game cafe located just west of Bathurst station on Bloor St. In Toronto.

A $5 cover charge gets you in for an unlimited amount of time to play as many of their board games as you like. The place is crammed with tables, which are in turn crammed with folks of all stripes playing board game after board game.

A staff of young (and cute!) men man the cafe, serving up sandwiches, coffees, booze and sweet treats. They are all knowledgeable on board games and can help you find one, make recommendations and even play a couple of rounds with you! All in their official job description 😉

My friends and I have been there twice now, within that many weeks. We love the atmosphere, the eye candy and the wide selection of board games!

Both times we have spent hours there, sipping our lattes and enjoying a variety of games. The staff were helpful, recommending a new game for us, then even playing a few rounds so we could get the hang of it. Very nice indeed!

The hours of operation are pretty great, too. From 11am-2am every day gives you lots of timing options. And you’ll need them.

One of the downsides to S&L is that it’s a little too popular. It’s hard to get in, with wait times exceeding an hour on occasion. The place is also packed, making it noisy, squished and negatively affecting the service. This plays out in a couple of ways: poor coffee and food quality, slow service and in some cases, dirty dishes/cutlery (the dishwasher just can’t keep up!).

But once you’re in there and playing, you hardly notice any of that!

 

S&L is still relatively new, so I hope that they will continue to iron out the kinks in their shop. I would love to see them expand into another location, and also offer some better pricing options such as a loyalty card with discounts or free admission, or waiving the cover charge if you purchase a certain amount at the cafe.

All in all I think it’s a great place, and will definitely be back! Keep your eyes peeled for the chick having a little too much fun playing Mad Gab, Monopoly or You Might Be A Redneck If…!

How I Stopped A Fist Fight Between Strangers

So I had a pretty interesting night last night.

I went back home to see my shrink who told me I should consider getting rid of the roommate and also said he supports my decision for something (details coming soon!) which is nice to hear.

On the way home I was on the subway, we were stopped at Christie station. Anyone hear about the delay there, around 10:30pm or so last night?

I was part of it.

While we were stopped there, a fist fight broke out between two guys. I didn’t see it start inside, but it moved to the platform. I  heard the yelling (and like all the other lemmings on the train) stepped out to see what was going on.

One guy had his fists up, and I think he may have been punched once already (couldn’t tell). The other guy was being held back by a nicely suited man who was trying to reason with them both.

I admire the suited man’s efforts, but things didn’t seem to be calming down all that much.

After I observed the situation, checked my surroundings and my clothing, I decided that I was probably one of the better qualified people to deal with this situation.

Here’s why:

  1. I am a sweet, soft-looking woman. Most guys do not want to hit a woman and (if the fight isn’t about a woman) will calm down if one intervenes
  2. It looked like they just needed to talk out their differences and to be acknowledged. I counsel a lot of people so I’m good at this sort of thing
  3. I’m nearing blackbelt status in kung fu. Not only is it my duty to help others, I also felt confident that I could use physical force if necessary. I have an iron core and feral eyes that make people think twice before taking me on (true story!)
  4. And no one else was really stepping up to help, either. Gawkers.

So I found my opening, and stepped in.

I handled the very upset, but more gentlemanly-looking of the two. He had dropped a book on the floor so I picked it up and walked right up to him.

“Is this your book?” I asked. I knew it was, but it was a non-threatening way to diffuse the situation.

He answered in the affirmative so I spoke with him some more, letting him rant to me about what the other dude was doing. He really just wanted to be heard and acknowledged, and not to lose face in the fight. With me intervening and taking his attention we accomplished all of that.

I touched his arm and asked him if he was ok, making sure to make eye contact. At that point he started to calm down and back away from the situation (suited man was handling the other guy). We agreed that a fight wasn’t worth it and he gave it up and walked away as calm as he could.

I then turned and engaged with the other guy. I didn’t really say much other than “it’s not worth it, man” to him and he also nodded. After a few more male posturing movements he simmered down as well.

The fight was over.

A TTC conductor finally came out and turned off the emergency alarm on the train (MAN! Those things are ANNOYING!!!) but I was just wondering where the authorities were before this??

And why did I, a seemingly-defenseless, tired, chubby woman have to break up the fight and calm people down while so many others stood around and watched. I know sometimes it’s best not to get involved, but this situation was manageable.

Soon after I was back on the train and headed home, feeling like a small-time hero. I felt so good that when a homeless(?) dude said he was hungry and asked for money, I bought him a dinner instead.

What a night, indeed.

NOTE: I don’t recommend that women or most people in general get involved in hostile situations such as the one described. There is always the chance for things to get worse and for yourself or others to become harmed. I used my judgment and my special skills to help with this particular case, but had it been different and more dangerous, I would have waited for the authorities.

It is good to help others, but you must go in knowing and accepting the risks.

Introducing the Spa Review Series!

Woooeeee!!!

It has been a seriously busy past few weeks (months) for me! Flitting around from place to place not only have my weekends been booked solid (and still are!) but even my weeknights have been filled with an assortment of obligations.

I want to give a shout out to some of my blogger laydeez whom I have met up with (in some cases multiple times!) this month:

They gave me an awesome time and introduced me to some seriously good eats! I’ve had delish Mexican, Japanese, French pastries, pho, Neapolitan pizza and Portuguese treats with these gals. Truly a worldly experience. And a waist-altering one :S

Last week I hosted a successful plus-size clothing swap with the fatshionista! Community (which I managed to actually post about!); went to the Dove Men+Care launch (buy some for your man), a ChickAdvisor party (Hi ladies!); and this week I’ve been busy with work, my good friend’s birthday (we ate French food!) and planning for my friend Squeaky’s arrival.

Squeaky has had a rough time of things lately, so we decided she should come and visit me for a totally deluxe girl’s weekend. She’s even decided to fly in in style rather than suffer the long train ride.

Tomorrow I am taking her to the Shizen Spa (apparently one of Toronto’s only 5-star spas—we’ll see!) to start the weekend off with a bang.

Introducing the Spa Review Series

Full disclosure here: I’m doing a  spa review series for the blog now (since I am a seasoned spa-veteran!) and Shizen has graciously provided me with a gift certificate for this weekend.

I will be doing an in-depth review of their facilities, customer service, ambiance, and overall experience from a regular client’s perspective.

I love to spa. I do it regularly at different locations in the GTA, so you can rest assured that I know what I’m talking about! After my experience I’ll report back with full details, as well as whether it met my expectations.

Next in the spa series I will also be reviewing the Stillwater Spa at the Hyatt, and Enza Day Spa. (Contact me if you would like to arrange a review of your spa)

I definitely think I deserve a break like this! While I DID get a massage this week (I hurt my shoulder) I haven’t really had a moment to relax, truly relax since Christmas. Squeaky and I are really looking forward to our weekend together—we haven’t seen each other since last year when we went to Las Vegas (and had that bizarre Mr. Darcy moment some of my long-time readers will remember. Champagne + strawberries, anyone?) so this weekend will be a real treat.

The best part is that we don’t really have to stick too closely to a budget… out of all my friends she is probably the best at managing her money and told me she’s willing to spend this weekend! Yippee!! Only problem is, it’s ME that has the budget, this time! D’oh!

So I’m trying to think of things we can do in Toronto that are fun, luxurious and not TOO expensive. The spa will be a great start, and I think we’re going to go out dancing in the evening. I’m making a fancy lasagna for dinner one night and we’ve got tickets for Yuk Yuk’s this weekend as well. I was also thinking of taking her to MoRoCo for some sipping chocolate…but it’s so expensive!

Anyone have any ideas of what we could do this weekend? I’m willing to spend if it’s a fun activity, but the cheaper, the better!

Das Boots!

I thought I’d post a follow-up on the boot situation I was complaining about earlier.

I don’ t know why, but I went back to that shoe store again the day after. Luckily it was open this time!

Poor little Max (the owner) of Shoe Avenue sitting alone on his chair twiddling his thumbs… it looked like it had been a slow day! He was totally stoked to see me.

I mentioned that “a friend” (The Asian Pear) told me about this store and that she had gotten some shoes there and Max lit up like a candle. He sure is enthusiastic about shoes and customer service! Holy smokes!

He sits me down in a chair, hands me some water to drink (how nice!) and starts asking me what kind of shoe or boot I’m looking for.

We go through a whole slew of different styles and he explains to me how sizing works, how to properly tuck my pants inside the boots and even puts the boots on me himself!

Talk about great customer service! I think I ended up spending about an hour there with him talking about all the boots & shoes he has, and then talking about my neighbourhood. He used to have a shop in my neighbourhood so we chatted about the changes that have taken place since.

Long story short, I think I have settled on a pair of boots, Trot by Ros Hommerson (first pic). They’re not the other Ros Hommerson’s that I was in love with (second pic), but they look decent on me, fit my muscular calves and even have room for me to tuck my pants in, which is a nice feature.

Ros Hommerson Trot


Ros Hommerson Turin

They look better on me than the photo… it’s kind of unflattering.

I still really want those Turin ones with the buttons and pointy toes *sigh* but it seems like they have been discontinued? I’m not able to find them anywhere (for the price that Max is giving me the Trot for, that is).

Speaking of which, Max cut me a great deal. He has to order them in special for me (he called the place to get them MADE for me!) but he’s still a fair guy, knocking $70 off the regular price & throwing in a free shoe product. This brings the boots down to $180 + tax. Yay!

This is great news for me because I’ve had an expensive autumn so far and I really didn’t want to pay $250 for a pair of boots that I technically don’t need. They’re just a want. A big one, but still only a want.

While I wait a couple of weeks for my boots to come in I’ll be able to move some of my money around and find a way to pay for them. I think I’ll actually get paid between now and then, too.

While I am excited to get these boots, I can’t help but wonder how their purchase and my new purse will affect me going forward. I don’t really have extra money to spend on these nice things, but for some reason I can’t stop myself. I’m not really going into debt for them, but I’m certainly taking away from my savings. And I feel a little guilty about that. I think I’ll save my thoughts on the subject for a later post…

On the bright side, I’ve learned about some more options available to the wide-calved Canadian boot consumer. A big thanks to C of The Asian Pear and Allie of Wardrobe Oxygen for emailing me their suggestions–I found some new stores to salivate over!

If you’re in the market for some wide-width shoes or wide-calf boots, here are some links for you!

Shoe Avenue: Located in Toronto, you can actually try on the boots they sell! Yay for physical locations!
Wide Widths: An online shoe store that has a veritable smorgasboard of wide-calf boots that ship to Canada
Zappos Canada: Also online, also ship to Canada
Miller Shoes: A Canadian store in Hamilton with both an online shop and a physical shop!

Ginger does the CNE!

Our view while waiting in line

Alright, I’ve been putting things off for long enough and it’s time for me to pound out another post.

It was a long and exciting week for me. Between lots of things going on at work, the crazy, crazy thunderstorm and sleepwalking and my weekend, I just didn’t get around to writing much of anything.

I’ll give a full update on my friends’ love triangle dealy-o at a later date, but as it stands the wife is moving out sometime in September. The breakup officially happened on Wednesday, and she’s been feeling kind of down about it. I can imagine that it is a tough thing to have to live with your ex and his new fuck toy while you’re looking for a new place to go.

Anyway, a new girl I’ve been hanging out with a bit (I don’t know if we’re friends exactly just yet, but we’ve been doing things together because we live nearby and have no one else to go to fun events with. We’re sort of in a similar situation) invited me to go to the CNE on Friday, which was opening night.

I was a little hesitant since I was trés exhausted from my sleepwalking adventure but I decided to go anyway. It was opening night so admission was only $1.75. I haven’t been to the Ex since I was a kid, and there’s no way I would pay the normal fee of $15 so I figured I ought to go or I’d never get around to it.

I’m really glad I went! I called up my friend B (the wife) and invited her to join us. She has like, no money right now, but this was cheap enough to get into, and she really needed to get out of that cesspool of an apartment and have some good old fashioned fun.

We all met up and actually had a really great time. I spent more than I thought I would, but I think that this time it was ok– I had a lot of fun and so did my friends. We had corndogs, Tiny Tom donuts, played games and even went on some rides!

There was a special on ride tickets for the evening so we pooled our money and each got 3 tickets for about $6 each. Still expensive, but the last time I was on a ride… I really can’t remember. Again, I was a little hesitant because generally the seats on those carny rides run on the small side and I was worried that I would be too fat to get in. My friends are a little on the round side, too. But we fit! We went on 2 scary rides and one gentle ride and had a total blast.

I didn’t realize how much I was craving a night out like that–the lights, music, sounds, smells, everything! I really felt like a kid again and was genuinely happy that evening, which doesn’t happen often. I was really glad we did this.

Ever the PF’er, here’s my cost breakdown for the night:

Admission x2 (I paid for the wife): 3.50
Corndog: 5.00
Candy Apple: 5.50
Tiny Tom donuts: 5
Water shooter game: 6.00
Guess my age game: 5.00
Lemonade: 3.50
Rides: 6.00
Total: $39.50

Hmm, that’s not actually as bad as I thought it would be! I can’t imagine how expensive it would be if I paid full price admission and ate more food though… I really wanted to have all the classic carnival foods, but the cost was ridiculous. It was $5 for everything, or more! So I just narrowed it down to the things I really wanted and left it at that. I can always roast some of my own almonds and make an ice cream waffle.

We spent about 6 hours at the CNE and headed home around midnight. I won a prize at the guess your age game (he thought I was 19! LOL) and my friend B won me another prize because she felt bad that I didn’t win at the water shooter game. How nice!

We all left full of fair food with lots of photos and a stuffed animal or two each! It was a great night and I am so glad that I got the chance to go. Hopefully there are more fun times a’comin’!

Tornadoes in Toronto and a Sleepwalking Adventure

This was my city last night

We had an incredible, massive storm hit the GTA last night. I knew it was a big one but I didn’t realize just how epic it was until I started hearing the news reports this morning.

It all began around 7pm last night. The sky was dark-a heavy darkness. I have the weather sense so I knew a big storm was coming, but I’m pretty sure even less sensitive people could tell. It was quite ominous.

Luckily I made it home and was able to eat supper before it hit.

I was chatting with a friend online, when suddenly the sound of heavy rain and wind began. I ran to the window to watch the show, and I wasn’t disappointed. Toronto does not get hurricanes or tornadoes or any type of extreme weather, really. But from footage I have seen in the past it looked like some crazy hurricane was outside!

The wind was blowing with intense strength, pushing the torrential rain in all directions and causing it to look white, just like wave crests in the ocean. Lightning was flashing–LOTS of lightning! It was literally non-stop! It was really unusual, but so cool to observe.

There were some people caught out in the rain (this happened all at the drop of a hat) and I could hear them squealing with fright as the storm passed over us; I think they were able to find shelter; I HOPE they did. I love storms and wouldn’t even go out in that one.

This storm… I just watched in awe. This one was different from any regular storm we have had in this area. So fierce, so intense, and over so quickly, but with lasting effects. Below is a video of an actual tornado that touched down in Vaughan, which is just northeast of the city. I couldn’t believe it!

A few minutes into the storm, I assume the numerous lightning bolts hit a tree which fell on a line in our neighbourhood, our power was cut and we were cast into darkness. I didn’t worry too much, Hydro is usually able to get the power on within an hour or so.

But not this time.

This is probably where the storm affected me the most–my power was cut until the morning. I’ve mentioned before how hot my apartment gets (its basically the attic of a big house so it retains heat like no other) and without my paltry AC nor a single fan to move the air, the heat became almost unbearable.

My only source of light was a few scented candles I had kicking around, which quickly produced even more heat. I was not a happy camper.

I tried sitting outside to cool down, but it was way too buggy, so I resigned myself to suffering in the heat. I took a quick cold shower then laid in my bed and just listened to music, then finally tried getting some sleep.

The weird part is that when I woke up this morning, I had a vague memory of the power coming on…but for some reason there was all kinds of crazy happening in my room. I think the heat (combined with my normal sleeping pills) affected me so badly that I was sleepwalking!

Get this: I woke up with a bunch of towels randomly strewn across my bed and room. They were old red towels I had stored away. My regular towels are brown. Where the hell did the red ones come from, and why are they all over the place!?!?!

I also went to sleep at one end of the bed and woke up on another???

And woke up to see my clock (which died when the power went out, it has no batteries) set with the correct time, and my desk fan pointed at me??

What the hell???????

What did I DO last night? I am afraid to go home tonight and find something like my pillow in the oven or my houseplant hanging from the ceiling. I have no recollection of any of the weird shit that happened last night.

I don’t know whether to be scared or amused by this. Right now I’m mostly amused.

But man, I’ve got one hell of a headache. I can’t take many more sleepless nights or I’m going to go stark raving mad. Maybe I’ll run around nekkid, next time?

*Photo & video credits to BlogTO

The Garbage Strike Blues


For those of you that don’t know, Toronto is in the midst of a city workers union strike in which garbage pickup, city maintenance, summer camps, etc. have all been stopped by the striking union. More information.

This garbage strike is really getting me down lately. We’re into day 25 of it here with no end in sight. My neighbourhood is still relatively clean, but the area that I work in is disgusting. (The photos on BlogTO were taken in my work area. You see what I have to deal with every day!)

Everywhere I look, there are trashcans filled to overflowing. Litter lines the streets, floats in the air, is tangled in trees and gardens and otherwise makes itself a nuisance.

The smells are pretty bad, too. People are no longer sorting their organic materials out, and are just dumping it all wherever they please which makes everything doubly stinky. The streets and sidewalks are sticky, slippery and smelly and unpleasant to walk on.

People have now begun giving up on trying to find a proper trash receptacle. Now they’re just throwing things anywhere with no regard to the environment or other people. It breaks my heart to see my beloved city drowning in mounds of trash.

Granted, every city will have its various sanitation problems and Toronto is no exception. But with this city strike going on it is simply appalling.

I never really realized before this just how much trash we all produce. Sure, I see what I directly put out on the curb every 2 weeks, but to see that multiplied by 2.5 million people—astounding.

I suppose if I were to look on the bright side, I would hope that Torontonians would make the same observations that I did—quite simply, we are still producing too much trash. I have been making a conscious attempt to reduce my output, especially with this strike going on. It’s tough to do, but I’m making the effort.

I think that Toronto is slowly moving in the right direction, but we’ve got a long way to go.

I can’t wait for this strike to be over. Even with my limited trash output, I’ve run out of bins to store it all in.