Sunday, March 23, 2014

Toronto Vintage Clothing Show

I'll admit it. As winter refuses to give up its grip on the city, it's become increasingly difficult to motivate myself to get out of the apartment. What better way to spend a cold Sunday than indoors cuddled up on my couch with Netflix? A quick glance at the calendar reminded me that this was no Sunday to stay indoors, winter or no winter. Today was the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show, so off I went!

The Toronto Vintage Clothing Show (TVCS), held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, was a personal shopping highlight last year so I was eager to return to see if lightning could indeed strike twice. TVCS brings independent vintage vendors from Ontario (including some of my local favs) and Québec together for a one-day one-stop sales event, running 10am to 5pm. Admission to the event is $10, but if you subscribe to the TVCS mailing list, they will e-mail you a $2 off admission coupon before the event.

If you're a fan of vintage items, you are no doubt well-aware that one of the challenges when shopping is that it's such a crapshoot. You never know what you're going to find so you often have to spend more time looking. The beauty of TVCS is that a large chunk of the hunt has been eliminated. These are quality vendors who are all showing the crème de la crème of their collections. Of course you still have to come prepared to spend some time riffling through piles of items in search of those spectacular finds, partly because there are so many vendors to choose from and partly because that's the kind of the point (and part of the fun!) of vintage shopping.

So what was on display at TVCS? The short answer is everything. The long answer is coats, shoes, bags, jewellery, hats, furs, dresses, tops, gloves, purses, scarves, etc. etc. etc. Most of the vendors in attendance were vintage retailers, but there were a few other exhibitors on hand. Representatives of the Costume Society of Ontario were among the best-dressed of the event (no small feat), sporting items from their collection and promoting their upcoming event 'Fascinating Fascinators'. Also in attendance (and impossibly well-coiffed) was the Toronto Vintage Society, who promote various vintage/retro events taking place in Toronto.

So where to begin your shopping? Admittedly, it can be a little overwhelming going in because there really is an amazing amount of product in the room. There appear to be two basic approaches to shopping at this kind of event. The first, hit everything and shop as you go. The second, hit everything and make mental (or literal) notes of what you saw and then go back for your favorites later. The first approach is probably the safest and the most dangerous approach. Safe because these are almost exclusively one of a kind items and if you turn your back on something and it gets snatched up, it's gone. Dangerous because if you spend as you go then you might not make it to the end before you empty your wallet!

I recommend trying as much as possible to plan ahead. Obviously you won't know what you're going to see once you arrive, but you can at least attempt to narrow your search to a particular item or items. For instance, this year I planned to focus my efforts into finding accessories. Limiting my search to just jewellery, bags and shoes made it much easier to walk past racks of clothing without feeling the urge to stop. I was on a mission. I also recommend setting a spending-cap before you arrive at the event. Most of the vendors are cash only (items range from $ to $$$$ depending on a variety of factors), which makes it easier* to stick to exactly what you brought in your wallet. If you do plan on shopping for clothing, be prepared for quick-changes in communal fitting rooms. *not a guarantee

And how did I do this year? QUITE nicely, if I say so myself. Once I got the photos I needed for this post, I went into full-on shopping mode and combed the aisles for unique finds to perk up my wardrobe. I came home with a lovely pile of vintage items, a little more than I had anticipated buying, but I was so pleased with my purchases that I forgave myself immediately for over-spending! Below is my haul of accessories. Highlights include a pair of tuxedo shoes (which make me laugh every time I put them on) from Hello! Good buys, handbags (La Marquise and Etienne Aigner) from My Stuff Inspired By You and a Ten Commandments charm bracelet (SERIOUSLY) from Vintage Soul Geek. Mission accomplished.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

7 Delicious Reasons to Venture Out in February

Don't believe what you've heard. February is in fact the cruelest month. It's short but somehow feels like it lasts forever, especially in Toronto. I'll admit I haven't checked my Farmer's Almanac but traditionally February is cold and awful, and is often served up without the aesthetically pleasing qualities of snow. I'm sure many of you will be tempted to go deep into hibernation-mode next month but I'm here to tell you it doesn't have to be like that! Actually, you should feel psyched about what's on the menu next month, because what better reason is there to leave your cozy couches than the promise of DELICIOUS TIMES? Here is a preview of the food/drink events I'm especially looking forward to in February:

Winterlicious 2014, Prix Fixe Restaurant | Ortomisto Pizza | Piola Famosi per la pizza
(photo courtesy of Winterlicious)
 1. Winterlicious - January 31 to February 13

You know it, you love it. Now in its 12th year, Winterlicious has over 200 restaurants participating across the city, offering 3-course prix fixe menus for both lunch and dinner. Prices range from terrifyingly cheap $15 lunches (the word "bargain" doesn't do it justice) and not at all terrifying (see what I did there?) $45 dinners. This is a great excuse to check out restaurants on your "To Do" list that you might not normally have occasion to try. Remember to call ahead to ensure you get a table, restaurants have been taking reservations since mid-January and popular spots (*cough, cough* Canoe) will get snapped up quickly.

2. Toronto Tea Festival - February 1 & 2

Nothing sounds better on a cold winter's day than a warm cup of tea, amirite? If that idea sounds like your cup of tea (I COULDN'T RESIST!) then you should head to the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon of the Toronto Reference Library for the second annual Toronto Tea Festival. This event will feature guest speakers, tea ceremonies, exhibitors and, most importantly, tea tastings. Last year's festival was so well attended that this year an extra day was added so that everyone can get their tea bagged (so to speak). Tickets are $15 for a single day or $25 for a two-day pass.

3. La Poutine Week - February 1 to 7

Taking place in multiple cities that have embraced the curd (Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City & Ottawa), La Poutine Week Toronto will see 23 popular restaurants around the city add a special poutine dish to their menus, ranging from $8-$10. Think over the top ingredients. Think poutine PLUS brisket or ribs or pulled pork, or, if you're feeling even more exotic, try your poutine topped with lobster. Believe it or not, there are even some veggie options. Check out the full listing on the La Poutine Week website and don't forget to vote for your favorites. A winning poutine will be crowned for each participating city.

4. Latkepalooza - February 9

Speaking of food competitions, do you have an amazing latke recipe? Do you think your latkes would beat out all other latkes in a no holds barred latke competition? Are you willing to make 5 dozen of your latkes to prove this point? Then get in touch with staff at Caplansky's Delicatessen and show us whatchu got. They'll provide the apple sauce & sour cream, spectators will provide the appetites. Also? Free event! Woo!

5. Valentine's Day Sweets & Chocolate Tour - February 9 and February 14

I must admit I am not a hearts and flowers kind of gal. I don't like going out for Valentine's Day dinner because it feels like you're involved in everyone else's foreplay and that really creeps me out. What I do enjoy is finding a fun and different way to mark the occasion and if you're the same, I suggest booking a Tasty Tour for you and your love. For $30/person you get a guided tour of sweet spots (ha!) in Kensington Market, complete with samples along the way. Très romantique but not at all cliché.

6. Mad for Marmalade, Crazy for Citrus! - February 22

Of COURSE Toronto has a marmalade festival! And of COURSE it's been around for 7 years! I absolutely love that every kind of food gets its turn in the spotlight in this city. No sarcasm, it's the best. If marmalade is your thing, then head over to historic Fort York for the 7th annual Mad for Marmalade, Crazy for Citrus! festival. Early bird tickets are available for $45 before February 7th and are $50 after that. Tickets get you access to workshops, speakers, vendors, refreshments (including a "Citrus Lunch") and a spot at the main event: the marmalade competition. This city rules.

7. Grilled Cheese Fest - February 28

Last but certainly not least is a brand new food event, Joylister's Grilled Cheese Fest at Roy Thomson Hall. Read that again. There is a GRILLED CHEESE festival happening at ROY THOMSON HALL. Allow me once again to state for the record that Toronto is my favorite and this bizarre marriage is case in point. It's a pretty safe bet to guess this first-time event is going to be a huge hit. Tickets are $39.99/person and will get you all-you-can-eat grilled cheese sandwiches from "Toronto's Top Grilled Cheese Masters", gourmet soup pairings and 3 drink tickets to sample local beers (or non-alcoholic beverages). The vendor list is solid and the menu looks incredible so all I have left to ask is... why haven't you grabbed your ticket yet? I will see you there!
(image courtesy of Joylister)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Next Stage Theatre Festival - Jack Your Body

The Next Stage Theatre Festival (NSTF) is an annual winter theatre event/showcase, produced by the Toronto Fringe, wherein previous Fringe works are able to take their productions "to the next level". Though there isn't an exact definition of what that expression means in this instance, for me it acts as an implicit guarantee that what you are going to see will not disappoint. I've mentioned before that one of the things to keep in mind when Fringe-ing is that it can be a mixed bag with regards to quality, but the NSTF offerings are solid.

Case in point is Jack Your Body, a dance piece by Mix Mix Dance Collective, which was originally performed at the 2013 Fringe Festival to rave reviews. I was unable to catch it during its original run, so I made sure to snap up tickets so I could see if it lived up to the hype. Annnnnnnnd (pause for dramatic effect) it absolutely did. When it comes to dance productions, I will fully admit that if the dancing is good I don't mind if there isn't much of a plot or story. Fortunately, I did not have to make such a concession for Jack Your Body.

Cast - Jack Your Body
Photo credit: Jesse Catibog
Although the story isn't told with much dialogue, it does manage to tell a cohesive and dynamic story, showcasing the evolution of street/underground dance trends, focusing (in reverse chronological order) on the 1970s-1990s. There is funk, there is hip-hop, there is vogue-ing and much more. Through dance and movement it addresses issues of gender, race and class without resorting to heavy-handed preaching or overly literal representations. The cast displays an incredibly impressive amount of skill and athleticism and it would be very difficult for me to single any one performer out as being better than the rest because just when I thought I had made that call, another dancer would get their spotlight moment and absolutely blow me away.

Emily Law ("Emme Fatale") & Ashley Perez ("Colours")
Choreographers/Performers - Jack Your Body
Photo credit: Tanja Tiziana.
The music used for the production was perfectly picked and the original choreography by dancers Emily Law and Ashley Perez was... well let's just put it this way: I never use the word "fierce" but if I did, Jack Your Body would be a perfect occasion. Instead, I'll rely on a much more "Katharine" expression: they tore shit up. The audience was enthralled and I could tell that many of us were barely able to sit still in our seats because watching the cast really makes you want to DANCE. The trick to good dancing is they make it look so smooth and effortless that you convince yourself "I can totally do that!" and then you go home and try and fail miserably and realize just how talented these guys really are.

Amazing. See it.

The Next Stage Theatre Festival runs between January 8-19, with all productions staged at the Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street, at Adelaide). Ticket prices range from $10-$15.

Monday, December 2, 2013

One of a Kind Christmas Show & Sale

Twice a year the One of a Kind Show descends upon the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place. I would advise you to attend both of 'em but if you only happen to make it to one, make sure it's the Christmas Show & Sale, running this year from November 28th to December 8th. What began as a simple "craft show" in 1975 is now the largest consumer craft show in North America featuring the work of over 800 artists/craft makers/designers. Of course with so much talent on display it would be impossible to write-up the event as a whole so instead I'm going to focus on the exhibitors who I was particularly impressed with. At One of a Kind vendors are arranged in alphabetical rows from A-Z so I hereby present to you the "Best in Row" Awards for your shopping pleasure:

Row A - Stick Man Creations
Lovely and delicate segmented silver and mixed metal jewellery. A few years ago I bought a necklace with a stick girl with copper curls that looks eerily like me. I still get compliments whenever I wear it.
Row B - Créations Li :)
Ceramics that are perfect for those who either see faces in everyday inanimate household objects or who really wish they did. Adorable!
Row C - tresnormale
Screen-printed t-shirts that are perfect for the Torontophile on your shopping list. My personal favorite is the view of the CN Tower, slightly obscured by power lines. Bought it for my husband last year (in green).
Row D - Nicole Tarasick
If you're concerned that you haven't injected enough subtle Can-Con into your decor, this is the place for you. Slightly esoteric, in a good way (example: I didn't get the Expo 67 references, had to learn from eavesdropping shamelessly on a conversation).
Row E - BBJ
One of the most colourful and sparkly vendors, you can find an accessory for every music artist and pop culture obsession you might have. My 'Revolver' album cover necklace is a prized possession.
Row F - Milsean Shoppe
Watch out for the smiling faces with free samples of Demerara Butter Crunch. It's the food equivalent of crack-cocaine. Less dangerous, sure, but just as addictive. I never escape without buying a bag. YUM.
Row G - Odile Chocolat
Speaking of food with evil powers, you know who "Odile" is, right? The Black Swan. And this chocolate is just as beautiful and even more delectable.
Row H - Nutra-Fruit Cranberry
I admire that these vendors have dedicated themselves entirely to a single berry. The noble cranberry. I also applaud their decision to coat it in delicious dark chocolate. It really does make for a perfect holiday treat.
Row I - L’Atelier du Presbytère
A beautiful collection of linens and house wares made from vintage/recycled French fabrics. Every item is one of a kind, making great gifts for those with unique tastes.
Row J - Patrick Lajoie Photography
I get that art should be aspirational to a certain extent, but it's also nice to see something you like and be able to afford it. The solution? Small photographic prints on a wall-ready wooden base.
Row K - Kelly Grace
Another in the category of affordable art! I spent a long time looking at these works, feeling like the mirror that each subject was looking into as they primped and preened. An interesting and almost intimate feeling.
Row L - Biko Jewellery
For those who believe that heavy metals and chunky jewellery need not sacrifice femininity or colour in favor of edge. Their modern "friendship bracelets" are a personal fave, it was hard not to buy a second!
Row M* - Ness Lee Illustrations
Technically not Row M, but since there was no Row M (what's up with that?) I decided to add another from Row C. This new vendor blew me away with her sumo dolls (varying sizes), erotic sushi eating pins and in particular a two-piece pin of ramen and chopsticks. Brilliant. Loved it!
Row N - Velvet Moustache
The best thing about these plush animal cushions is that their expression is open to interpretation. Are they mad? Skeptical? Unimpressed? Sleepy? We may never know and that's exactly why I found them so charming.
Row O - Mehoi
Another go-to vendor of mine, I get a real kick out of watching people sort through the pins, magnets and cards only to discover that hidden amongst the cute images are some pretty risqué items. If you have someone on your shopping list that appreciates a pin that says "anus" in cursive writing, you're set.
Row P - Cate & Levi
Because buying toys at the mall is lame. These one of a kind plushies and puppets are perfect for capturing the imagination of a child and are so wonderfully interesting they appeal to adults alike.
Row Q - Hug and Kiss Designs Inc.
There is something very satisfying about opening up a lovely greeting card and being offended by the message contained within. Perfect for very close friends and loved ones who "get" you.
Row R - 1% Talent
Not recommended for those who don't want to draw attention to their t-shirt area. These designs are so remarkably irreverent and odd (compliments both) that they will certainly attract stares.
Row S* - Daniel Pollack Accessories
Technically this was in Row R but it's on a corner so I'm giving myself a pass on the error. Be sure to leave extra time to carefully peruse this impressive and large collection of costume jewellery. Magpies, such as myself, have a very difficult time tearing themselves away. So shiny! So sparkly!
Row T - Jamie Brick Studio
Admittedly some of my tastes are a little out there. But clearly others see the appeal of a plush teddy bear body with a wooden troll-like visage. Couldn't Care Bears. That's such a clever concept it almost hurts.
Row U - Sylvain Tremblay
For those who believe even regular household items should be objets d'art. These hand-made wooden pepper mills are gorgeous and have enough designs to suit every personality. For me? Tough choice between the pig and the corn...
Row V - Freshly Printed
I fell instantly in love with this hand-printed cushion cover of migrating Canada Geese. Sometimes beauty really does lie in an item's simplicity and this is a perfect example of that fact. Lovely.
Row W - Katkaland
Oh yes. You are seeing that correctly. Monsters with 3-D plastic doll arms protruding from their mouths. Maybe don't get these for your kids, but the grown-ups will love 'em. Sometimes whimsy is also scary.
Row X - Atalier Éclisse
These wooden vases appeared to have been made without any attempt to cover up natural imperfections in their material and I think that's what I found most appealing. Wood should look like wood, knots and all.
Row Y - MoonRox
The maker of one of my favorite necklaces (a gold saltine with a salted-top), their jewellery is very on-trend (chunky metals, oversized items) without ever feeling heavy or cumbersome.
Row Z - The Mefits by USUS
Please note the tag of the 'Curly Connie' book in the middle of the bottom row: "I'm a girl who loves my curl!" These are like the Little Miss & Mr. books (and felt dolls) that speak to our insecurities. I can't tell if these are better gifts for children or grown-ups!

And that is that! Be sure to check out these and other vendors at the One of a Kind Christmas Show & Sale, running until December 8th.