Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Don't be SAD, winter is almost over!

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, hits hardest in winter and in Canada, winter seems to last forever. You can try to beat the blues by getting out in the sun when it occasionally peaks out of the snow clouds or keep busy with outdoor sports or visit some of the great shows that take place around Toronto.
Some of the February events or attractions I am looking forward to are the Toronto Light Festival, Groundhog Day (Feb 2nd), Chinatown New Years Celebrations, the Motorcycle Show Toronto, the Beaches Winter Stations Design Festival. Some of the current, ongoing events that I can recommend are the Winter Stations Icebreakers, the Toronto Light Exhibition at Ontario Place and the 7 at Hudson's Bay Art Installation.

You also have your hockey games, baseball games and basketball games for those with deeper pockets.
Later in March, just one step closer to spring, you can get your motorsports fix with the Toronto Motorama Custom and Motorsports Expo. Then when the snow melts and the birds start to sing, there is the joy of visiting the blooming cherry blossoms throughout the city - especially at High Park.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

#the7TO The 7 at Hudson's Bay art installation

The creative team at Toronto's iconic downtown department store has installed several art pieces on the 7th floor of Hudson's Bay at Yonge and Queen Streets.

The experimental space is in a hallway that leads to the Kleinfeld Bridal Shop. Take the elevator to the 7th floor and the art starts as soon as you get off. Open seven days a week until Spring it is a perfect way to dispel winter's gloom, it's fun and it is free.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Winter Stations Ice Breakers 2019

Harbourfront's Waterfront BIA has brought back the winter time art installations along Queens Quay West in Toronto, presented by PortsToronto. Five new creations were selected from over 100 Canadian and international proposals and placed between Lower Simcoe Street and Lower Spadina Avenue. This year's theme of "Signal Transmission" inspired these Ice Breakers which are on display starting January 19th and and running until February 25th. Sadly, a replacement for the big, red teddy bear from 2017 did not materialize. You can also see last years outdoor art installations on my post here; Ice Breakers 2018.

The five pieces are placed from east to west are The Connector, Tripix, Stellar Spectra, Chroma Key Protest and Tweeta-Gate. The four winning exhibitions were chosen by jury; two from international teams (Tweeta-Gate and Connector) and two from local groups (Chroma Key Protest and Stellar Spectra) while Tripix is a student contribution from Ryerson University.
The Stellar Spectra tubular exhibit built into the bridge's sight-seeing overhangs. 
Looking through the entrance portal of Stellar Spectra towards Chroma Key Protest

Stellar Spectra by Rob Shostak and Dionisios Vriniotis (Toronto, Canada) looks like a matched set of icy sentry posts guarding the cold waters of Lake Ontario. Made of white plastic pipe built into a circle and if you go inside the structure and look up, you can see the bright colours of the filters hopefully lit up by sunshine (see photo at top). 

The Queens Quay temporary art installations overlap with the other Winter Stations competition that takes place in The Beaches starting on Family Day, February 18th - here is my post of the 2017 Beaches installations. The stated goal of the works are to bring visitors back to the waterfront during the cold, winter months. From the Waterfront BIA website; “As a sponsor of Ice Breakers, PortsToronto is supporting an initiative that brings colour, warmth, and activity to the water’s edge, inviting people out of their buildings to take a winter walk along the Waterfront and appreciate Toronto’s unique landscape at this time of year,” said Deborah Wilson, Vice-President, Communications and Public Affairs, PortsToronto. “We are thrilled to once again support this art exhibition and look forward to seeing the 2019 winning installations further brighten the city’s lively winter waterfront.”
Chroma Key Protest
Chroma Key Protest by Andrew Edmundson of Solve Architects Inc. (Toronto, Canada) is made of 25 chromakey green placards held in place by steel buoys and arms. The are supposed to resemble a group of protesters holding signs.
Tripix by Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada) looks like a rather large, three-legged spider. It features kaleidoscopic effects within the interior of the sculpture. You are supposed to take pictures through the funnel-like openings, something I of course missed.

“Signal Transmission may be approached as an exploration of data, digital and analog communication, including the various modes and codes involved; it may also veer into the realm of biology, ecology and sociology. Simply, Signal Transmission is about how humans and other species speak – to each other and to our self, internally,” says Justin Ridgeway, another Winter Station co-founder who is also responsible for the competition brief each year.
Tweeta-Gate by Eleni Papadimitriou and Stefanos Ziras of Space Oddity Studios SOS (Athens, Greece) consists of walkway framed by yellow gates of various shapes depicting different architectural styles. Occasionally you can find tiny bells mounted to the sides of the gates so it sounds like little notifications.
The Connector by Alexandra Griess and Jorel Heid (Hamburg, Germany) is a disc covered with a spaghetti-type arrangement of flexible, black corrugated pipe. They pipes are supposed to be colourful and are shown as orange on the website, however they are very much just plain black. The tubes are hollow and can conduct sound so if someone talks into one tube, someone else can travel around the base until they hear that voice - a soupcan-string type of early communication installation. It could also represent the cut off snake-haired head of Medusa.

See more photos of the installations after the jump.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

CBC Superfan Weekend

Toronto's CBC building at Front and Wellington Streets is full of fans meeting their favorite celebrities during three days of meet and greets and Q and As. Starting Friday, January 18 (7-11pm) and continuing Saturday, January 19 (11am-5pm) and finishing Sunday, January 20, 2019 (11am-5pm). CBC Superfun Superfan Weekend was a fantastic way to get close to some Canadian celebrities.
Michele, Dianne and the host

On Sunday Ann and I are here to see stars from Dragons Den in the morning and Murdoch Mysteries later in the afternoon. Dragon Den starts Arlene missed due to sickness and Vincenzo Guzzo was also unable to attend due to the snowstorm. Host Dianne Buckner and Dragon Michele Romanow did take part in the show, joined by Molly the Producer, for some interesting inside information and stories about the Den. From Murdoch Mysteries the main star William Murdoch, or Yannick Bisson, showed up for a funny and information meeting with fans.


Tweets The Sunday fun started at 11am and will finish up at about 5pm. The tickets were free, you just had to sign up on eventbrite. After the show you got a swag bag of CBC merch and the studio was full of awesome photo opportunities and installations.
Some of the interesting photo opportunities

CBC Superfun Superfan host Maggie Cassella

Thursday, January 17, 2019

#IDS Interior Design Show 2019

The design industry comes together to the 'experience the power of design' at the four-day, January 17-20 Interior Design Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre south building. Each year of IDS is an individual experience, with new installations, new designers and a redesigned showfloor. The photo at top is a rug!
Visitors can wander through the concept house: Great Lakes Cabin, the concept space: Re-Space, see the Ontario Wood Installation and walk amongst the clouds at the Haven installation or get tangled in the fabric strands found in the installation called Seeds by Marije Vogelzang, presented by Caesarstone.

IDS Conference Keynote speakers will share their expertise in design while seminars and trade talks run through out each days schedule. Don't forget celebrity musician, producer and creative force Questlove will be at the show during Globe and Mail Saturday.
"IDS Toronto celebrates and promotes design in Canada and across the world. Experiential and transformative, we bring together compelling concepts, innovative products, upcoming talent and key experts in the industry so that you can be inspired by the best of the future."
Party night includes tasty snack samples and bounteous quantities of free alcohol and beer samples.
Thursday is Professional Trade Day and the Opening Night Party. Professional Trade Day continues on Friday. The Globe and Mail Saturday and House and Home Sunday fill out the rest of the weekend. The days are full of seminars and design classes and the conference hall is a giant showroom of art, furniture, bathroom and kitchen fixtures and appliances.
On Thursday, January 17 you can purchase tickets for the IDS Party presented by PurParket and Toronto Life, supported by Benjamin Moore and LG Electronics. BELLOSOUND will provide music with special guests Miguel Migs and Lisa Shaw. The party is a splendid way to explore the show while sampling tasty food and adult beverages. A portion of the ticket price goes toward Habitat for Humanity.

See more photos after the jump.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Honda Indy Toronto will welcome the NTT IndyCar Series

Global information technology and communications company NTT has become the new title sponsor of the IndyCar Series in 2019 and beyond, taking over from Verizon. The announcement was made during media days at the 2019 North American International Auto Show.
“Having a strong technology partner is critically important to INDYCAR’s continued growth, so we are thrilled to welcome NTT as our new title sponsor,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “INDYCAR’s rise in popularity is a testament to the fact that we’ve made the sport as accessible as possible to our fans, and we plan to continue in that mission. “We have a history with NTT through NTT DATA’s involvement in the sport with Chip Ganassi Racing. We know this partnership will help us attract the next generation of fans to what remains the most competitive racing program on the planet.”
NTT will partner with IndyCar for digital innovations and the development of the NTT Smart Platform. “NTT is proud to be associated with INDYCAR and accelerate the future of smart racing,” said Jun Sawada, president and CEO of NTT.

IndyCar returns to the temporary street circuit in and around Toronto's Exhibition Place during the Honda Indy Toronto from July 12-14, 2019, one of 17 races in 2019. The NTT IndyCar Series runs on street circuits, permanent road courses, short ovals and superspeedways - starting on March 10 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and ending at the IndyCar Grand PRix of Monterey on September 22.
Toronto's race schedule will include the NTT IndyCar Series, the NASCAR Pinty's Series, the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires and the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama as well as plenty of off-track entertainment.
From the Honda Indy Toronto website; "Dating back to the first race in 1986, Honda Indy Toronto is a world-class motorsports festival which takes place annually on the streets surrounding Exhibition Place near Lake Ontario and downtown Toronto. The event features many attractions, including beer gardens, food trucks, interactive displays and activities, and charity events. As one of Ontario's largest annual sporting events, it has become a prestigious meeting place for some of the world’s fastest race car drivers including Marco Andretti, Scott Dixon, and Josef Newgarden, as well as Canadian racing greats James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens, including other past native Indy car drivers like Greg Moore, Alex Tagliani, Paul Tracy, and Jacques Villeneuve."

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Niagara Icewine Festival is on again

The fruits of winter are flowing again in Ontario's wine country - Niagara-on-the-Lake, during the annual Niagara Icewine Festival January 11-27, 2019. Forty wineries across Niagara are participating in the Discovery Pass Weekends where you can explore the sweet, cold wines plucked from the grape vines in the cold of winter and pressed, still frozen, fermented and placed in thin wine bottles.
The process and the risks of making ice wine make the product more expensive than your average wine and the sweetness might be too much for some people, but if you try the dessert wine you will probably fall in love with it - in small doses.
Fallsview Casino fountains
Niagara area tourist attractions - like this tiny church "The Living Water Wayside Chapel"

In winter's early cold embrace the Icewine Festival gives you a great excuse to get out of the house and explore a beautiful part of our province. We love to visit the Niagara area, starting by getting off the Queen Elizabeth Way and heading into St. Catharines and Port Dalhousie. Driving along Lakeshore Road brings you into wine country, just follow the signs and pick out which wineries you want to visit. Picking the big names means waiting in crowds of people for the chance to sample the wines. Smaller vineyards gives you the thrill of the chase and the victory when you find some excellent wines not found on the shelves at the local LCBO. I personally like the smaller wineries because it is less of a business and more of a passion, customer service is usually better and you can really have a good time with some of the hosts. In Gretzky's big estate crowds meant that unless you were willing to wait, it would be some time to sample the wine. So off we go in search of wineries like Frogpond Farm Organic Winery and Mary Nissen Estates Winery which we really enjoyed and picked up some quality grape, alcoholic beverages.
Niagara Falls
Festival of Lights under the Niagara Fallsview Casino

The event starts with the the Twenty Valley Winter Winefest and the Northern Lights Icewine Gala on  the 11th and ends with the Niagara-on-the-Lake Icewine Village on the 27th. In between is fun and VQA drinks, paired with some excellent food pairings and the chill of the season.

If you do like wine the southwestern Ontario region celebrates three big wine events - the Niagara Falls Icewine Festival, the Niagara Homegrown Wine Festival and the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival. Tours of wineries can also be found with buses, limos and bicycle tours. The tourist haven town of Niagara-on-the-Lake goes all out during icewine celebrations with their own Sparkle and Ice Gala, the Icewine Village, a Flash and Panche Cocktail Competition and the White on Ice Dinner. Other events in the area include Days of Wine and Chocolate and Sip and Sizzle.
The lights on Dufferin Island
Each icewine Discovery Pass is good for 9 days and valid at 8 wineries, buy more to experience more, with some of the estates holding mini-festivals and other entertainments throughout Twenty Valley, St. Catharines, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls. The Wayne Gretzky Estates (distillery and winery) has an outdoor rink, DJ, whiskey patio and food on Saturdays 5-9pm, as weather permits.

The Discovery Pass brochure says to use the three S approach to sampling; Sniff (swirl and smell) to experience the wine's aroma, Sip to taste the wine and finally Summarize, especially do you like the wine, or is it time for another variety.

When you visit the wineries, during or outside the Icewine Festival, you can usually sample three wines for about $5 and if you buy wine, the sample fee is usually dropped. The prices for wines can be dependent on whether the wines are sold in LCBO stores - if they are they have to match the prices in the stores, if not, they can charge whatever they want, which is usually very reasonable.

At the end of the tour it is always worth it to spend some time in the city of Niagara Falls for the natural wonder of the falls, the pair of casinos and the many other attractions and restaurants. The Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights is another reason to wander the edge of the Niagara Gorge for the illuminating exhibits from November to the end of January.

Doors Open

Scarborough Bluffs





Lake Ontario

Nathan Phillips Square