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Hey Toronto – Loblaws is giving you $25 bucks!

Loblaw Companies Ltd. is offering customers a $25 gift card as a goodwill gesture after learning that their customers were overcharged for the cost of some packaged bread products.  The company participated in an industry-wide bread price-fixing arrangement. They were given immunity by the competition bureau because they came forward and admitted to doing it.

“This conduct should never have happened,” said Galen G. Weston, CEO, during a conference call with analysts Tuesday.

“The gift card is a direct acknowledgment of that to our customers. We hope that they’ll see it as a meaningful amount that demonstrates our commitment to keeping their trust and confidence,” he said in response to how the company arrived at the card’s $25 value.

Here’s how to redeem the offer:

Customers can visit LoblawCard.ca  and enter their email address to be notified once registration opens.

The company expects registration to begin on Jan. 8. 2018

Toronto drinkin’: signature holiday cocktails

I went to a holiday party the other weekend and the hosts served a signature cocktail.

A signature cocktail adds a lot of class to a get together, especially when that party is BYOB. It’s a nice touch that shows the host was thinking about their guests. It adds class to a simple party. These signature cocktails are also fun to make and will fill you with pride when friends and family ask for seconds. Here are some simple, easy cocktails you can make for your holiday parties this weekend:

Mulled Wine: Why serve plain old wine when you could serve a holiday delicacy like mulled wine. The beverage warms the soul from the inside out! It’s ten times better than regular sangria. Combine one bottle of red wine, 1/4 cup of brandy, 1/4 cup of honey, one orange, two stars of anise, eight cloves and two cinnamon sticks.

Juniper Champaign: Champaign is nice, but it can sometimes have a bit of a funny aftertaste. Juniper syrup is a lovely addition to any cocktail. Simply mix together juniper berries, orange zest, cardamom, and half a cup of water and half a cup of sugar. Boil and let cool. Add a squirt of juniper syrup and a fresh pine sprig for a festive, celebratory beverage.

Cranberry Mule: This twist on a classic is perfect for afternoon cocktail. Combine equal parts cranberry juice and vodka. Add ginger beer, lime juice, and some cranberries to garnish. This drink is sweet, but packs a punch.

Orange gin martini: Not every drink has to have cranberry. Try adding some one and a half ounces of blood orange juice, half an ounce of Campari, a dash of vermouth, and one and a half ounces of gin. Mis together in a cocktail shaker with some ice and pour in a martini glass with a sugared rim.

Coconut warmer: Sure, you can serve the typical hot chocolate or eggnog, but why not create a new concoction? Mix an even amount of coconut and whole milk together with two to three teaspoons of hot chocolate powder (or homemade chocolate syrup). Heat up and stir in one and a half ounces of rum. Top with coconut whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

What are your favourite signature cocktails? Let us know in the comments below! 

Toronto to Iceland – top 5 places to visit

Visiting Iceland is at the top of my bucket list. The hot springs, volcanoes, and of course, the Northern lights. It’s one of those countries that looks serene and quaint, despite tourism being one of their largest sources of revenue. Airfare costs are usually pretty cheap, as are hotels and tours.

Travellers can either sign up for a guided tour or self-guided tours that include car rental, GPS, and lodgings. Self-guided tours are great because you can also prepare your own personal stops in between the recommended attractions.

Here are the top five things to do while hitting up a self-guided tour of Iceland:

Blue Lagoon: This is a popular destination, which means it may be a bit crowded. Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa with a breathtaking view. Enjoy some time in one of the heated springs or relax under a waterfall. Visitors an also sign up for other spa services like massages, silica mud masks, or saunas. For this attraction, remember to book early. The lines can be a bit lengthy, and if you are able to swing it, choose as many private options as possible.

Horseback riding: Horses roam the hillsides freely, but there are a few that tourists can ride on guided tours of the area. These animals are well kept and not overworked. Guides will follow trails that show off Iceland’s most serene landscapes, including rivers and mountains. This activity only has incredibly reviews from TripAdvisor, with most participants saying the trip was “magical”.

Glaciers and waterfalls: Despite climate change, Iceland still has a number of large glaciers and waterfalls to explore. Glaciers are made when ice and snow accumulate over centuries. They are large, beautiful structures and the perfect place to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, as the locations are rather remote. Tour groups offer a number of guided hikes and climbs through these glaciers for people of various skill sets.

Explore a volcano: There are a number of volcanoes throughout Iceland, and the country takes advantage of these phenomenons and offers tours of each region. Don’t worry, they are not active. For those who want a bird’s eye view, there are helicopter rides available that fly over a few volcanoes and lava fields. For those who want are more active tour, take a 3k hike through Thrihnukagigur, a volcano located between Reykjavik and the Golden Circle area. The tour will take you through caverns right into the heart of the dormant volcano!

Skaftafell Park: This park is 4800 square kilometres and home to some of the most surreal landscapes in Iceland. Pick one of the many trails and enjoy views of waterfalls, fields, mountains, and glaciers — all within one park. Make sure to check out the Scartifoss (Black fall), a waterfall that flows off black basalt columns. Nature lovers can actually camp overnight within the park!

Have you visited Iceland? What are your suggestions? Let us know in the comments below!

Toronto eatin’: easy cauliflower ‘fried rice’

If you feel like you’ve been eating badly this holiday season and you want to ‘lighten up’ your dinner menu, there are many great alternatives to dishes that contain rice. In some homes, rice is a staple and in others it is avoided at all costs. Cauliflower fried rice will make you feel less guilty, but still fill you up. Personally, mashed cauliflower or cauliflower mac and cheese is a favourite of mine to make every time I want to switch it up and reduce my carb intake. Cauliflower fried rice will be another one to add to the list.

Ingredients:

  • One large cauliflower head
  • 2 large eggs
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped scallions
  • 3 cloves of garlic- minced
  • 1 tsp fresh hopped ginger
  • 5 table spoons soya sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots ( or broccoli mix)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 small onion diced
  • 1tsp salt (or more if needed)

Directions:

  1. You can choose to grate your cauliflower or just place in a food processor to make your ‘rice’
  2. Add vegetable oil to a hot skillet and lightly scramble your eggs with a dash of salt. Remove eggs and set aside
  3. Add more oil to fry the scallions, garlic, ginger and onion, stir until softened- not brown
  4. Add the cauliflower along with some salt and the soya sauce
  5.  Stir constantly and cook until tender
  6. Add the eggs, sesame oil and sugar
  7. Taste to add more seasoning if necessary

It’s that quick and easy to have delicious guilty-free fried rice at home. you can use this dish as a side or even add cooked chicken strips.

Will you try this recipe at home? Comment below

 

What does Toronto think of Trump’s war on ‘evidence’?

The United States government, under the direction of President Donald Trump, has banned the use of certain words in official documents submitted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These words, or phrases, include “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

Other words banned from use include “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender” and “fetus.”

Analysts are currently preparing reports for the 2019 budget process. According to media reports, staff were told to say the “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

The CDC has made it clear that regardless of the words they are or are not permitted to use, their recommendations will always be based in science and fact.

This attack on freedom of speech is not surprising considering Trump’s determination to push scientists out of the White House. He has also said that transgender people should not be in the military and abortion should be illegal. It seems like the President of the United States has decided that since the road towards making these statements into legislation will take too long — until then, he will simply omit them from speech in Washington.

When something is evidence-based or science-based, it means there are facts to back up a statement. It is not based on “community wishes”. There analysts work with numbers, statistics, quantitative and qualitative data. To disallow someone to use these words to describe their work is ludicrous and incredibly dangerous.

Lack of data on these important topics is already an issue. Since Trump took office, a number of federal agencies have downscaled data collection, especially on topics like climate change and the LGBTQ community. Information has even been removed from government websites as if it never existed in the first place.

As a journalist, and as a citizen, this is disheartening. Access to information is pivotal to an informed citizenry. It is how people make informed decisions. To remove information you don’t personally agree with is an affront to this critical foundation of democracy. They do that in countries with dictatorships, when the government wants the people to only adhere to certain ideals. Is this the beginning of that slippery slope?

I was really hoping that 2018 would be better than 2017 — but every time I hear something like this, I know deep down it is going to be much worse.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Toronto: A Christmas Prince is the worst holiday movie ever

I hated Netflix’s A Christmas Prince. There, I said it! This royal holiday-themed rom-com is terrible and you should stop watching it right now!

Warning: Spoilers!

The storyline follows journalist wannabe Amber, who finds herself thrust into an assignment covering the return of a playboy prince to his homeland for, potentially, his coronation. After being unable to get any information from the official press sources, Amber sneaks into the castle and poses as a tutor for the Prince’s younger, wheelchair-bound sister. Cue family drama, adoption papers, a coup, romance, and of course, a fancy ball with beautiful gowns.

Sure, some of it is quite cute. The younger sister, Emily, is probably the only good thing about the low-budget film. But, for a journalist, the movie is excruciating. I watched A Christmas Prince with my sister, who got a little frustrated when I kept yelling at the television saying things like “that would never happen” or “my god woman, are you an idiot!”

How on earth did some people watch this movie 18 days in a row! Even Netflix couldn’t believe it.

Suffice to say, I will not be one of the people watching this movie again. Here are a few of the journalistic problems I caught while wasting away for an hour and a half:

Word length and quote misinformation: Before we get into the drama with the prince, Amber is tasked with re-writing a colleague’s article that was double the word limit. His piece also included a quote from someone Amber says was not on the floor, meaning the quote was made up. That is a serious infraction of journalistic standards and would result in a firing of that reporter — or at least a stern talking to by a senior editor.

Newsroom budget: There is no newspaper in North America that would be able to send a random copywriter to a foreign country to cover an inauguration. Either they already have boots on the ground, or they aren’t interested in the Royal Family. Whatever budget this newsroom had — I want it!

Lack of ethics: This woman (I refuse to call her a journalist), sneaks into a home and pretends to be a child’s tutor. In any real scenario, this would get the woman arrested, fined, and possibly jailed. But, in A Christmas Prince, her editor actually encourages her to get lots of photographs and video of the Prince with her phone. While there are instances of journalists going undercover in order to get a story — the rules for doing so are quite strict. Amber is not exposing mistreatment or abuse. Rather, she is invading the personal privacy of a family, including a minor, for personal gain. She is also stealing the identity of a woman who is supposed to be Emily’s tutor. This is unacceptable.

Side note: how come no one in the castle checked Amber’s identification to make sure she had the credentials to spend time alone with a child?

Amber’s “notes”: I want to know how she wrote this story. The film allows viewers a sneak into the “questions” Amber has about the prince, all of them really simplistic. She also includes little tidbits like “I have to dig deeper”, as if, as a journalist, she needs to remind herself to do her job. In fact, her notes read more like a diary – “I think I’m finally starting to get to know the real prince…so not what I thought” or “The prince is definitely starting to trust me…but can’t seem like I”m prying.” All of these notes indicate a malicious attempt to invade someone’s privacy, not a journalist objectively writing down the facts of a story.

Objectivity and blackmail: At some point in the movie, Emily finds out that Amber isn’t actually her tutor and is, in fact, a reporter. Instead of kicking her out of the castle, Emily blackmails Amber into writing a positive story about her brother, or rather “the truth” as she puts it. Amber agrees. While the prince may not have been a playboy, Amber is still negotiating with a source.

Theft of private property: Amber finds the prince’s adoption papers in his father’s cottage getaway and takes them with intent to print. First of all, these documents were procured out of a lie. Second of all, they were not simply sitting on a table where Amber happened to come upon them. She searched through desks, diaries, and papers, and stole them!

Basic security notes: After finding the adoption papers, Amber is interrupted by the prince, who asks her to go for a walk. She says “one minute,” throws her coat on, and leaves the room — leaving all of the private documents on her bed for anyone to find! Journalism 101 indicates that if you have a private document or source, you should do all you can to secure those documents.

I’m not even going to touch upon the bias that presents itself when you fall in love with the subject of your story.

In the age of fake news, it is incredibly important to represent journalism in a fair and accurate way. A Christmas Prince should be ashamed that it is catering to the

What did you think of A Christmas Prince? Let us know in the comments below!

Toronto deputy manager John Livey retires

Toronto deputy manager John Livey will be retiring from public service on April 4, 2018.

Livey was responsible for corporate oversight and administrative governance. He has overseen collaborative city-wide initiatives and projects including city planning, transportation, engineering, and construction.

“John is known as a principled leader with a commitment to innovation and excellence,” said City Manager Peter Wallace in a statement. “He has always faced obstacles and challenges head on, with a drive to deliver the best possible results for the residents of Toronto. His determination and hard work will certainly be missed.”

Some of Livey’s notable achievements, according to the City of Toronto, is his role in the Port Lands development and implementation plan, the transit file including Smart Track, Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension, Relief Line, and Scarborough Transit Network. Livey was also responsible for the city’s emergency response during the 2013 ice storm.

He was also a strong supporter of the new motherlode transit network and Rail Deck Park, two initiatives that strived to connect neighbourhoods and regions to the downtown core.

“It has been an honour to work for the City of Toronto,” said Livey. “I would like to thank my many staff teams, senior management colleagues, Mayor Tory and the Members of Council with whom I have had the privilege to work. I know that City staff will continue to advance city-building initiatives through innovation and a commitment to continuous improvement.”

Livey joined the City of Toronto in 2011 after serving as Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Markham. He also worked with the Region of York.

The city will begin the hiring process in early 2018.

Toronto holiday trends to ditch this weekend

I love the holiday season in Toronto — the smells, the decoration, the winter activities, it all makes me smile! But, it can also make me laugh. And no, this isn’t the kind of mutual laughter you may see when people share a mutual joke or watch a scene from Elf. I mean the kind of laughter that may hurt someone’s feelings or make someone feel embarrassed.

I feel bad about this, but some of these holiday trends circulating the Internet are just plain silly. Laughable even. The good news is that this laughter is preventable. Simply avoid these five tacky and over the top trends this holiday weekend!

Bulb beards: This trend pops up every year — and every year it gets a little more ridiculous. This hipster style involves hanging small bobbles from facial hair. It looks fun, but it’s also incredibly weird. If you go to a party with little ornaments hanging from your beard, it’s all people will look at. I wonder if these men will jingle when they talk? Or if their beard’s bounce when they walk down the street. If you REALLY want to attempt this, go for it – but be warned! Your beard must be thick enough to handle the bulbs and if you decide to dip your hair in colour powders, glitter, or to experiment with tinsel — that shit gets everywhere!

Christmas tree eyebrows: Everyone can thank Canadian beauty blogger Taylor R for this one. Apparently, the latest thing in holiday fashion is to dress up your eyebrows with sparkles and tiny accessories. The idea is to spread your eyebrow hairs outward to create what many know as the “feathered brow”. Then, you add glitter, sparkles, and rhinestones. First of all, this is a lot of work for fancy eyebrows. The cleanup alone would be atrocious. I bet half of that glitter ends up in your eye ball at the end of the day. Can we please just not attempt this weird fashion trend and stick to regular mascara and eyeshadow?

Sweaters that light up: I love a good ugly sweater, but the ones that light up are just too much. They are distracting when you are trying to have a conversation. Imagine talking to someone and seeing flashing red or white lights blinking at you. Not to mention the dry cleaning bill because you can’t put that thing in the laundry machine! Just stick to a pleasant green or red coloured sweater and thinking of some interesting conversation starters instead of relying on your clothing.

Mac and cheese: There is turkey, stuffing, and potatoes — do we really need another starchy food for Christmas dinner? To me, macaroni and cheese is something I have on a cold Monday night, when I am craving carbohydrates and want to binge watch Stranger Things on Netflix. Instead of mac and cheese, why not come up with a different side dish, maybe something with a vegetable?

Exclusive holiday office parties: To clarify — I enjoy a good holiday party or luncheon. I think every office should have one. It’s the perfect opportunity to actually get to know your coworkers and enjoy snacks and drinks without having to pay an arm and a leg. What I don’t like is that employers only treat their employees during the holidays. There are 365 days in a year, and showing your employees you care only once in that time span means that the formality of the “office holiday party” is merely that, a formality. Step up, and how your employees you care a few times a year.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!

Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension opens this weekend

It’s finally here! The Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE) will open on Sunday, connecting the City of Toronto to Vaughan.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne attended the ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday for the $3.18 billion, 8.6 kilometre, subway extension.

“This opening is another example of all levels of government working together cooperatively to deliver billions of dollars in transit infrastructure and our ongoing commitment to getting Toronto moving,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said.

The TYSSE will be the first Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) route that crosses municipal boundaries, connecting Toronto and the Region of York. Each station has been specifically designed to integrate into each different neighbourhood. Pioneer Village’s station includes high columns with a green roof and a number of environmentally-friendly additions. Highway 407’s station has a beautiful stain-glass and the York University Campus station is sleek, modern, and pedestrian-friendly.

It is also the first subway route to be completed under the new “motherlode” transit network. The line has been highly anticipated by students who attend York University, as well as those who work near Vaughan Metropolitan Centre and Highway 407. Torontonians will also now be able to access more affordable housing options, as well as Canada’s Wonderland, without having to take a specialized VIA bus.

“The opening of the Toronto-York subway extension is the single greatest transit achievement for this region in my lifetime,” said Ontario Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, in a statement. “Thousands of Vaughan residents and York University students now have a world-class rapid transit option to get them where they need to go faster and more efficiently. Today’s celebration clearly indicates what we can achieve when all levels of government work towards one common goal — building more transit.”

It will be interesting to see how this extension will impact Line 1 without a relief line in place. With the completion of the TYSSE, and the hopeful completion of SmartTrack by 2024, the Yonge Line (Line 1) will be at capacity by 2031, unable to carry new riders. The relief line must be in place by the time SmartTrack is completed in order to accommodate the increase in commuters who are all connecting to Line 1 in order to get downtown.

Most subway cars should have updated their maps already, including the lights indicating when the car arrives at a station. Check them out the next time you jump on transit!

Will you be taking the TYSSE this weekend? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Woman of the Week: Meg Davis

Meg Davis loves to witness change in a neighbourhood. It’s her passion — to watch a vibrant community evolve over the years. As Chief Developent Officer of Waterfront Toronto, Davis gets to see this kind of transformation on a daily basis.

Davis has worked for Waterfront Toronto for the last 10 years, and says the change within the neighbourhood is heartwarming.

“When I arrived here we had a couple small parks and wave decks, which were stunning and beautiful and got a lot of attention, but we hadn’t built a building yet,” she said. “In the last 10 years we’ve built an 18-acre park in the West Don lands, Pan Am athletes village, condos in the West Don lands, [and] East Bayfront. People are starting to build down here and one of the things we have started is programming. Cultural events, the sugar shack program, partnering with Luminato — we are really animating the waterfront.”

The waterfront, a 46-kilometre stretch of Harbourfront property along Lake Ontario between Etobicoke and Rouge River, is constantly transforming. Waterfront Toronto is a public advocate and steward of this revitalization process. It was created by all three levels of the Canadian government with the purpose of overseeing and implementing strategies to transform the area.

One of the things Waterfront Toronto stresses is the difference between redevelopment and revitalization. Redevelopment, Davis explains, refers to the selling of land to the highest bidder, regardless of what they plan on doing in the area.

“Revitalization means achieving public policy objectives such as reducing urban sprawl, providing transit, reducing carbon emissions, contributing to economic vibrancy, addressing affordability and providing excellent public realm and architecture by leveraging public land,” she said.

It’s this kind of urban development that Davis is passionate about. Her love of urban planning was encouraged by a geography teacher in high school, whose lesson plans focused on urban affairs. “It really grabbed me. I took as many courses like that as I could,” she said.

Her education is mixed. She has an Honours Bachelor degree from Western University in urban development, a Master’s in business Administration from the University of Toronto, and recently completed an Executive Leadership Program. She started her career as a junior planner with Bramalea Limited, focusing mostly on real estate. From 2005 to 2007, Davis acted as Director of KPMG Canada, focusing on public-private partnership projects, including $1 billion long-term care facilities and the sale of Highway 407.

“I love the physical aspect of it,” she said. “I love to see things come up from the ground and take shape. For me, the use of P3s were a unique opportunity to see how the government and the private sector could come together.”

This is especially true of Toronto’s waterfront, which Davis describes as essentially “one big P3.” Waterfront Toronto is putting a large emphasis on affordable housing within its neighbourhoods, and using that as a foundation for planning.

“You can have affordable housing and expensive condos, [but] if you don’t provide the public spaces, it’s not a place anybody wants to live,” she said. “You can’t squander the opportunities – being by the water is unique in Toronto and you have to make it a complete community.”

As Chief Development Officer, Davis is responsible for leading the development of all lands controlled by Waterfront Toronto. She is particularly proud of the Pan Parapan Am Games Athlete’s Village in the West Don Lands, which was transformed after the games into affordable rental housing, vibrant retail properties, student housing, market condominiums, and public art. Davis says it advanced revitalization of the neighbourhood by over five years.

“We are really animating the waterfront. I think the transformation is huge,” she says.

Davis helps co-chair the Women’s Leadership Initiative ULI Toronto. They are working on a speaking series that will help promote the voices of women in real estate, which she says is still a heavily male-dominated industry.

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