In the City: Toronto Fringe Festival

An Evening in July

What: An Evening in July, a dark comedy now playing as part of Toronto Fringe Festival.

Where: St. George the Martyr Anglican Church, near Queen and John Streets in Toronto

When: Various times over the next three days; check Fringe Fest online for details

Good to Know: Tickets are $12 online, or $10 at the door (but you take your chances). Also, you’ll be moving around as the audience is “part” of the play. And you might become an active participant, although all in good fun.

The Scene: An Evening in July stars Gwynne Phillips and Briana Templeton from The Templeton Philharmonic as two reclusive sisters throwing a party. One part Grey Gardens, a dash of Toronto humour and improv, and some surprisingly heartfelt moments make for a very enjoyable experience.

Play time with parachutes!

Audience members become part of the action as party guests and wander in and out of the church and its beautiful gardens. And as a nice bonus, there’s a bar open throughout the performance, should you decide to join in and raise a glass to these kooky sisters. You’re also free to wander the set prior to the start of the show and check out the fun props – set aside some time to peruse the diary for a few chuckles.

This was my first Fringe performance (crazy, yes) and I thoroughly enjoyed it – get outside and enjoy the nice weather this weekend and some local talent!

Have you checked out a Fringe performance this year?


My Brain, When Running


Running shoes

In two weeks, a friend and I will run the Sporting Life 10K. I’m hoping to tackle one of my 31-for-31 goals (running a 10K in under 1:05) and also set a regular running habit for the summer in the process.

Here’s the thing, though – I generally HATE running. I was always last-picked for team sports that involved any sort of quick movement, and the only reason I joined cross country was because it was a no-cut team (hat tip to my dad for always running the last few hundred meters of the course with me to get me across that line). I also have ridiculous shin and hip problems that flare up when I’m nowhere near home on a run (thankfully I carry subway tokens now as a precaution).

But I also LOVE running. Nothing tops the satisfaction of accomplishing a goal, and getting bling at the end of a race is always a nice bonus. So basically, it’s a complicated relationship.

And like anything I do, there’s generally a solid internal monologue accompanying it. So, I present to you – my brain, when running.

Ok! 10K! I can do this!

I am running! This is amazing!

Polite nod to passing runner. We are part of a tribe! A tribe of runners! Hello good sir!

Oops, shoelace.

Alright, on the trail. Wow, I need to come to the lake more often, it’s really nice down here.

Keep forgetting to breath. Steady.

The Map My Run lady is so nice. She sounds very pleasant and I appreciate her subtle encouragement to move my ass a little faster.

Seriously, shoelace again? I need to get velcro.

Do they still make velcro??

I really hate this song. I need a better playlist.

Oo, I like this one. *starts singing in between wheezes*

The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to newwww landddds 

I am so sweaty right now. This is gross.

I should plan meals for this week. Lots of salads.

I wonder if my face is as red as I think it is?

Hmm. That runner I just passed looked awfully alarmed at my appearance.

So thirsty

I think Map My Run lady is asleep at the wheel. There’s no way I haven’t run 7K by now.

I could eat a burger right about now

Oh thank goodness, she’s back. Walk time!


A dog!

I really wish I could get a dog

I should find a running partner

Everything hurts so bad, why am I doing this?

9 km! 1 to go!

I feel nauseous

The Map My Run lady is a smug jerk. I know my current pace is slow. Let’s see you run this distance and not slow down when you’re tired. I DIDN’T SLEEP WELL, OK?

Do I actually want a running partner? I don’t want them seeing how red-faced I get

Seriously what is with my shoelaces??

My street! I’m almost home!

I’m really thirsty

RUN DONE! Time to stretch.

Screw stretching, let’s just nap on the floor a bit

In the City: Nuit Blanche

Once a year come sundown, Toronto’s streets overflow with pedestrian gridlock. Common sights and sounds include:

  • Perplexed expressions
  • Raised eyebrows
  • Smartphones used in lieu of flashlights to decipher maps
  • The phrase “Is this art?!” in confused tones
  • Collective “oooo-ing” and “aaaah-ing”

It can only be one night – the all-night art festival Nuit Blanche!

I braved the crowds for a few hours last weekend, timing my departure a bit later than in previous years in an effort to avoid the bulk of crowds. It wasn’t a terrible move, although by 12:30 a.m. it was clear I was beginning to be outnumbered by inebriated “art fans” so I headed home. These were my favourites:

Though not included in the photos above, another interesting installation was Night Shift by Brendan Fernandes. Inspired by Louis XIV’s Le Ballet de la Nuit, the performers spent the entire night dancing, making and transporting gold confetti in anticipation of the Sun King’s appearance at sunrise. This was…a bit frustrating to watch. One guy, who likely wore a groove into the floor by sunrise, picked up confetti ONE PIECE AT A TIME to carry it from one side of the room to the other. A man behind me poked through the crowd to see what we were all staring at, commented on the inefficient work and jetted out of there in search of “actual art.” To each their own.

And that’s the beauty of the event. Some of it is super weird. Some of it is accessible for everyone. And it ultimately creates conversation.

You can check out Forever Bicycles in Nathan Phillips Square until October 27 – I highly recommend it. Just don’t climb up it, that’s what trees and parks are for.

Did you go? What did you enjoy?

In the City: Paddle Boarding

Let me tell you about a wee adventure. Filled with determination, large amounts of core strength, and a crafty fish that nearly torpedoed me.

With that narrative hook (get it, fish? hook?) out of the way, I went paddle boarding recently to capitalize on the still-warm weather (so long, summer!). Truthfully, it was also to finally make good on a promise I’d made myself that I would give another water boarding sport a try, as my previous attempts did not go so smoothly.

So there I was, on a warm Sunday night, struggling to maintain my balance in a sitting position on a very unstable board. I took on a lot of water initially, before finally convincing myself to ease the pain in my shins and raise my centre of gravity to a standing position. Remarkably, I stood on the FIRST TRY. And I held on to my paddle in the process!

Photo courtesy of Osha Paddle Boarding & Yoga
Photo courtesy of Osha Paddle Boarding & Yoga

We gently coasted parallel to the shoreline, coasting past ducks, swans and a heron as the sun cast streaks of pink across the sky. It was an incredibly calming experience despite the aforemetioned muscle tension. I glided along inside the breakwall as my classmates braved the rougher waves beyond it, humming to myself (I did give the waves a go, but almost immediately yelled RETREAT!). And as I hummed a little Destiny’s Child Survivor (only the Kelly and Michelle parts, for I am no Beyonce), I failed to notice the shadow motoring towards me in the water. I happened to take a hand off my oar to adjust my glasses and cast a glance downwards to notice that I was about to be shot dead out of the water by a giant fish, and immediately started to wobble. Thankfully, it was more startled by the concept of me crashing down on it and kicked it out of there. Crisis averted.

All in all, it was a great experience. Hat tip to Osha Paddle Boarding & Yoga for the fun time!

Tips to Survive Toronto’s Heatwave

Visiting Toronto this summer? Welcome! And apologies for the heat.

Toronto summers, like much of the north east, are HAWT. In addition to a freak thunderstorm last week (aka nature’s way of saying “Hey, this city needs more rivers!”) we’ve been experiencing temperatures that crack the 30 degree celsius mark before 8 a.m. Then humidity rolls in, and your plans for a nice hair day turn into this.

These kinds of temperatures make wandering a city a tad uncomfortable, but there are many options to beat the heat! Here’s five of my favourites:

Dundas Square1. Fountains at Yonge-Dundas Square
Located right in the heart of the city, across from the Eaton Centre, Yonge-Dundas Square always has events happening which are worth checking out. It hosts concerts, film screenings, and various festivals, with a nice sprinkling of free giveaways throughout the year as well. On the far side of the Square lie a series of fountains which generally operate 24 hours a day during the summer. If you’re debating where to wander to next and need to cool down, take your planning discussion into a fountain. Don’t worry about getting soaked – you’ll dry off about 30 seconds after you exit the spray. Just be sure to keep your phone and camera tucked away in a dry place (same goes for your wallet).

2. Lounge Under a Tall Tree
There are no shortage of parks in Toronto, many with gorgeous older trees just waiting to offer you some shade. Trinity Bellwoods is located on Queen Street West and is a great spot for people watching, art perusing, picnics or picking up treats from the farmers’ market.  Grab an iced tea or coffee from the Tampered Press, my favourite coffee shop in the city and find yourself a large leafy tree to sprawl out under.

3. Cool Down With Ice Cream
Toronto does ice cream well. Ignore the bells of the ever-present ice cream trucks or the lure of a chain shop and head to Ed’s Real Scoop (try the pumpkin, if they have it), Bakerbots (delicious ice cream sandwiches), The Big Chill (can’t go wrong with banana or chocolate mint) and Hibiscus (for dairy-free fans out there).

4. Take a Dip
Toronto has many outdoor pools, but one of my favourites is Donald D. Summerville Outdoor Pool, located right on the beach near Woodbine Park in the east end. I have fond memories of going to that pool as a child, and it offers great views of the lake, depending on how high you decide to jump off the diving board. Unfortunately, the pool is closed at the moment (and if you’re thinking “Dang, why did she mention it?” should it re-open I’d highly recommend checking it out), but another great option is Gus Ryder Outdoor Pool in the west end, by Sunnyside Park. Overlooking the lake and next to the Martin Goodman Trail, you can cool off, go for a walk and get a great view of the skyline, all in an afternoon.

5.  Bone Up on History
Toronto has some amazing museums and galleries! The big guns, the Art Gallery of Ontario and Royal Ontario Museum offer an eclectic collection of permanent and guest exhibits and are great ways to spend a hot afternoon. Interested in clothing or design? Check out the Textile Museum of Canada, Design Exchange, Gardiner Museum or Bata Shoe Museum. Keen to learn more about the history of Toronto and its past residents? Visit Mackenzie House or Casa Loma. This is just a small sample – there are lots of great options!

Enjoy your visit to Toronto – and keep cool! If you have any other suggestions for places to chill out, leave them below!

In the City – Luminato

Luminato wrapped up on Sunday in Toronto after a week(ish) of celebrations surrounding creativity. On my way home from work on Friday I popped into Brookfield Place to check out Stockpile. Nine visual artists working together on one installation and a hilariously awesome one at that – a life-sized arcade-style claw machine filled with prizes! Not just any prizes, however, for these were all donated from the community.

Brookfield Place

The artists themselves were the claw, and for $2 you could have a go and try your darndest to win a prize. Unlike the smaller versions of the game, most went home very happy. Someone won a globe, people! Pretty sweet.

Human claw game

Did you check out any installations at Luminato this year?