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Monday, July 30, 2012

Business (Not As Usual!)

Sometimes life’s ironies are incredible. Within the same 24 hours, I picked up a book that drastically impacted my way of thinking and received an email that showed me an example of exactly what I had been reading about.  It was fate. Let me explain:

Here in Canada, most of the general population would associate the name Richard Branson with a fledgling mobile phone company, Virgin music and possibly a crazy space flight. What most people don’t know (and now I do after reading Screw Business As Usual), is that Branson is a huge advocate of sustainable global change. What does that mean? I don’t want to act like a smarty-pants and rattle off stuff about corporate social responsibility, but in plain language: Instead of companies driving their employees to first and foremost turn a profit, the priority becomes making business decisions that will be good for the planet and good for the people, which will lead to better returns in the long run. Instead of just writing a golden cheque to charities, mobilize action that makes an impact. This means doing good for the community – whichever community around the world that happens to be.

Here on the Danforth, we have lots of examples of people who ‘do good’ for the community. Shortly after I started reading Branson’s book, I got an email from Victoria at BOMB Wellness. Victoria and her partner are invested in the Danforth both in their professional and their personal lives. They live a stone’s throw from their fitness studio at 1338 Danforth. I wrote about it here a few months ago. Victoria was writing to tell me about a new program they are involved in called the SOGO Active program, an initiative to get youth off the couch and combat the ‘inactivity crisis’.

Research and field study has proven that youth who have had the chance to exercise and/or play sports, have a better chance at a great future (building self-esteem and all that kind of good stuff), so I think BOMB is headed in the right direction – fitness is expensive and youth suffer when families can’t afford to send them to organized sports.

SOGO Active is amazing, because instead of just throwing exercise programs at youth, they actually provide the means for youth to pair up with community hosts, be creative and come up with challenges of their own. You don’t like kickboxing, but are the ‘bomb’ on the basketball court? How about a marathon game of 21!

The good news: As a SOGO community host, BOMB Wellness is offering free fitness classes to youth in the area for the month of August, with twenty 5-class cards to give out to youth between the ages of 14 and 19 so spread the word to anyone who you think might benefit. I’ve had the chance to get to know Victoria and Kevin over the past few months, and I suspect this is just the beginning of their donation to sustainable global change. They are making a difference, because profit is not their priority – they actually want to ‘do good’ for their community. Thanks guys!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Rocket Juice

Photo courtesy of Red Rocket Coffee.
It's official! The rumours have been circulating for months that Red Rocket coffee (1364 Danforth) was going to get a Liquor License, and it's finally happened. The chic cafe (I will not call it a coffee shop anymore....) now offers some adult bevvies for all the 'ladies who lunch' and 'mommies who munch'.

Junior Pioneer 1 & 2 were having a staycation day today so we moseyed down to Red Rocket for some lemonade and the shiny new 'drinks' menues they have on all the tables caught our eye (and Junior Pioneer # 2 tried to eat...). The offerings are eclectic and mouth watering: they include craft beers (nothing from the big dogs here!), ciders and a great selection of vino (Pioneer's favourite).

Just a note on the vino: the Malivoire Old Vines Foch is an award winning wine. Ironically, Pioneer was looking at the 2012 Ontario Wine Awards winners just yesterday and noticed that it won a Gold in the Red Hybrid category. Also ironic: the LCBO doesn't carry that Malivoire just yet, so if you want to get it while its hot, Red Rocket is the place to head. Hmmmmm, Pioneer feels a wine tasting coming on! Happy weekend everyone!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Once upon a market

Pioneer has been on vacation for a few weeks, but we're back with lots of summertime fun to blog about.

First thing, first: There's more to East Lynn Park than being able to cool your heels in the wading pool. If you've got little ones at home today, head over to East Lynn Farmers' Market this afternoon for some fun at the 3rd annual corn fest and family picnic.

Special guest Dan Yashinsky will be reading to the kids at 4:30. Yashinsky is a celebrated storyteller who started the Toronto Festival of Storytelling in 1979 and in the past has been the City of Toronto's storyteller-in-residence and a storytelling radio host. If you were going to hear a story told, this is the guy you want to hear it from!

Afterwards, local band Bad Dog will be hosting a live sing-a-long at 5:00. All this and fresh boiled corn too - head over to the DECA tent and pick up a cob of corn for $2.

A second bit of news is that the Starbucks at Coxwell and O'Connor is finally open so if you're heading to the highway, watch out for Starbucks minions handing out free samples, yum!!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Bakers Delight

How many times have you been driving down O'Connor - destination most likely the Depot - and wondered about the restaurant called Jawny Bakers at the corner of St. Clair? Pioneer has been down that road at least once, if not a thousand times, in the past five years and finally decided it was high time to see what this place was all about. 

It was a Friday evening of a long weekend, and with no cottage to get away to, the Pioneer clan was looking for a place to eat that was both relaxing and able to withstand the pressures of family dining. We found both of these at Jawny Bakers (804 O'Connor Drive), and can not believe we didn't find out about this gem sooner. 

Jawny Baker's is like a local version of the Keg, perhaps even what the Keg looked like once upon a time. It's decor is comfy without being overstuffed, classy without being snobby, and inviting in the kind of 'we're your best friends cottage in the city' way. When we first arrived, the host was completely unfazed by the stroller or the bellowing four year old, and settled us into a very stroller-compatible booth without blinking an eye. No wonder Today's Parent listed it as one of the best family restaurants in Canada!

Pioneer is completely stealing this ultimate 'local subculture' design idea: the lamp shades that hang over every table are decorated with the names of all the streets in East York. Kitschy? Maybe to a west-ender, but not for us! 

Although they call themselves a gastropub, the menu is a list of pretty conventional eats with some interesting daily specials. It's also not cheap - don't mistake this place for a typical pub 'n grub spot. Pioneer wouldn't say the food that we ordered was spectacular either, but it really does the trick and we weren't really looking for fine dining. The portions are large and the quality is fresh - what more can we ask for when the other option is 'fine dining' on frozen pizza at home. 

Our only regret was not eating on the 'secluded' patio - a grand illusion achieved by mountains of foliage on the patio adjacent to the dining room. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Weekend Edition

For some Torontonians, nothing says Canada Day long weekend like the long drive north to the cottage. For this city gal though, spending time in your own neighbourhood is just as awesome, particularly when you live around Danforth East.

This past weekend was a 'stay-cation' for the Pioneer clan, but there was no end of fun things for us to do.

During the Friday night heat wave, Daddy Pioneer and I walked over to Hirut restaurant (2050 Danforth) to watch Hirut Hoot, a comedy show organized by a comedian we blogged about here. Aside from the bellyful of laughs, we also had a bellyful of amazing Ethiopian food. We ordered the vegetarian appetizer plate and for $12, it was more than enough food to feed both of us (although it WAS our second dinner - our first dinner was at Jawny Bakers......stay tuned for more on that resto later in the week!). Domestic beers were $4, pricing akin to Daddy Pioneer's university days.

Although things were supposed to be closed on Monday, our most valuable possessions along the Danforth ie. our coffee shops and bakeries, were all open. Junior Pioneer's newest obsession is the raspberry lemonade from Red Rocket, which we picked up on our way to White Water Kingdom. Woops, sorry, I meant Monarch Park Pool which opened this weekend and is all kitted out with its new water slide.  There are not many neighbourhoods in urban Toronto that can count a water slide as one of its assets (approximately six). We are really lucky to be close to this gem. It definitely brought out the kid in could probably hear our whoopin' and hollerin' on the way down all the way to Woodbine (more than one time!!).