Posts Tagged ‘Toronto’

Paint Nite Toronto: Picasso’s in the building!


Last week I took part in my very first Paint Nite event! You may have seen their discounted voucher offers floating around sites like Groupon. I purchased a couple for myself for the discounted price of $25, which I figured was a great deal considering the regular advertised price is $45 + tax.

What is Paint Nite? Think of it as a big, painting party:

Paint Nite® is a new concept of blending two timeless pastimes, artistic painting and drinking cocktails, as a way to draw patrons into local pubs on a slow night with a unique opportunity to socialize and be creative… [It] is about making art accessible to people who don’t consider themselves artists or creative in any way… about fostering a fun, low stress, non-judgmental environment that inspires everyone to enjoy the process of creating something from nothing.

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I was a bit apprehensive about going solo, but was reassured a bit when I read that people attend these events both alone or with friends (there were a few other solo attendees at the event I went to). Paint Nite currently has events in over 50 cities in North America. The Toronto ones seem to be happening on multiple nights each week at an array of different venues, so if you’re interested then you’re bound to find an event that fits your schedule and location.

There’s absolutely no experience required for attending these events (thank goodness). I haven’t really painted before (except for a few short workshops at school), even though I own a wide range of paint supplies (that are about to be dusted off).

You register through the Paint Nite website. Each Paint Nite that’s offered has the name of the artist instructor, a photo of the painting that an artist will walk you through, a difficulty scale, as well as the location of the neighborhood restaurant or lounge in which the event will take place.

The event that I went to, “Safari Sunset”, took place at Allycatz. I found the 6:00 timeslot good for an after-work activity. Allycatz is a good venue to host Paint Nite, as the raised “stage” area was good for the artist to showcase all the steps to the painting. Though, I felt the seats were a little close together (I almost got poked in eye by a paintbrush by one of the people sitting beside me, and a couple wine glasses almost toppled over). Co-Organizer Nathan Schonberger and artist Basil Hendy greeted all of us eager painters as we walked in.

Each of the 32 stations were laid out neatly, complete with a 16″x20″ canvas, a styrofoam plate with 4 basic colours of acrylic paint that were needed to complete the artwork (red, yellow, black and white), an apron, brushes of three different sizes and a cup of water (for cleaning your brushes, not drinking… though I bet someone made that mistake before).

Everyone in attendance though was upbeat. You can sense the excitement as everyone wanted to complete their own masterpieces. The instructions were broken down by well-paced steps that were fairly easy to follow. There were some moments of frustration by a few who couldn’t get the shape of the elephant right (at first mine started to look like one of the walker vehicles from Star Wars), but Basil was extremely helpful and positive in his delivery of the painting instructions.

The evening lasted a little over 2 hours. My painting dried fairly quickly so that I could take it home right after the event. I was impressed with my final masterpiece (though I thought the tree came out a little strange so I tried to add to it when I got home… I also realized I initially forgot to add a tail to the baby elephant, so I fixed that as well). Signing my painting was probably the most difficult part (added a little water to the white paint to thin it out so that it was more fluid for my signature), so I ended up just shortening my name!

My first Paint Nite masterpiece, titled "Safari Sunset" (instructor Basil Hendy).

My first Paint Nite masterpiece, titled “Safari Sunset” (instructor Basil Hendy).

If you ever wanted to try your hand at painting, or just up for a fun, but different, night out with a group of friends, Paint Nite should definitely be an option. Best of all, you’ll leave with a cool painting you can hang in your home (or give to your mother to put on the fridge, like in your childhood days). I’m looking forward to creating my next work of art! Maybe next time I’ll actually buy a drink and see how my canvas turns out.


Angry Birds: When Seagulls Attack!


For the  start of the May 2-4 weekend I made plans with a friend of mine to head downtown to the Habourfront and do some walking to embrace the beautiful mid-20°C weather. We stopped off at Nathan Phillips Square first, because I had a craving for some poutine (as usual). I was feeling a bit hungrier than usual, so I decided to order a hot dog as well (haven’t had street meat in years). I paid for my meal, and the vendor gave me my hot dog and poutine combo in one of those two-compartment styrofoam containers. Topped my hot dog off with some ketchup, mustard, and relish… looked delicious!

“Let’s find a bench in the shade where we can sit,” I say to my friend, turning to her slightly.

No word of a lie, I hear a squawk and out of the corner of my eye I see a flash of something white, felt it graze my face. I scream, still managing to hold on to my tray of food. I look down and see that my hot dog is gone!

Not even seconds later I hear birds squawking,  and see two dozen sea gulls attacking what’s left of my hot dog metres from where I was standing in shock. It was like a scene out of Hitchcock’s The Birds.

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A freakin’ seagull had the audacity to fly millimeters away from my face, swoop down, snatch up my hotdog from my hands and fly away with it!

It picked up my entire hot dog (bun and all) and few off with it, dropping it on the pavement metres away where it’s hoodlum friends could feast on it. All that was left less than a minute later was a pavement stain of yellow mustard.

The seagull that stole my hotdog

This is an exact representation of the seagull that snatched my hot dog right from my hands.

These Toronto birds are brave! What happened to the time when animals were afraid of humans?! My gosh, I swear this gull was probably eying me from the time I left the food truck, like those velociraptors in that kitchen scene from Jurassic Park.

“You’re lucky it didn’t take your poutine too!” said a woman who was also in line at the food truck.

Traumatized and pissed off that half my meal was gone, I went off to find a washroom to scrub my face from the feather brush moments earlier, thinking that next time I venture downtown I should bring a pellet gun to ward off these gull thieves.

Later on in the day at Harbourfront, I saw another woman holding the same order of a hot dog and fries. I was tempted to give her a warning to keep an eye on the sky, but she might’ve deemed me as crazy.

Turns out food isn’t the only thing these calculating creatures steal. Check out this video of a gull flying off with someone’s video camera.

That incident just put a damper on my day. I was really  looking forward to that hot dog.

Freakin’ bird.

An Out of this World Experience in Toronto’s Cosmic Cab


When I called Beck Taxi this morning in hopes of securing a cab, I didn’t expect that I would’ve stepped foot into what would seem like a psychedelic dream. As soon as I opened the back door, I knew this would be a ride to remember.

The back seat area was decked out from top to bottom in a wide array of various action figures, toys, and figurines. Mini chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and a holder housed a variety of current magazines for my reading pleasure.

This was an interesting start of the day.

The cab driver’s name is Akber Batada, a middle-aged man who immigrated here from India years ago.  My fellow passengers and I were greeted happily, and were equally shocked at the interesting interior decoration of the taxi.

Akber offered us gum (we had our choice of flavours with about 6 packed rubber-banded together). He asked what type of music we’d like to listen to. I opted for some Michael Jackson. He popped a DVD in and we were able to see old school music videos on the two LCD screens that were facing the back seat (“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, in case you’re wondering).

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a cheerful and hospitable cab driver. Akber told us to feel free to take photos inside, explained his passion for the state of his cab, and how happy it makes him to see his passengers happy.

This really made me think about the state that some people are in during the day: frequently we’re stressed out, rushing, and in a foul mood… usually because of work. But it’s important to take some time out of the day and just smile, remembering the joy and simple pleasures in the little things in life.

It’s sheer coincidence that I called up a taxi and struck luck with the Cosmic Cab. Stressed out myself this morning, but by the time I left after the 15 minute cab ride I was totally relaxed, happy and eager to start my day.  Definitely brought a smile to my face.

Thank you, Akber and your Cosmic Cab!

The Annual Toronto Bachata Festival is here!


Toronto Bachata FestivalThis is going to be one bachata-filled weekend as the 3rd Annual Toronto Bachata Festival officially begins tonight. Bachata has been a passion of mine ever since I took up Latin dancing several years ago, and I’m glad to have a chance to attend this festival once again.

Organized by Go Dance Mambo‘s Stephanie Gurnon, this weekend will be filled with workshops, shows, dance competitions and parties in bachata, zouk and salsa dance. International instructors and performers will be in town, none that I’m more looking forward to seeing than Jorjet Alcocer and Troy Anthony. I’ve been watching Jorjet’s amazing footwork in Dominican-style bachata on YouTube, and she’s definitely something to watch! She and Troy will be instructing several workshops over the weekend. I can’t wait to learn some pachanga (there’s only so much you can pick up from repeating YouTube videos), and try to improve my bachata technique. I’m also kind of interested in finally learning some zouk this year as well.

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If you’re new to the Latin dancing scene, there will be some beginner workshops in both bachata and zouk taking place at the Estonian House (near Broadview station). Passes are available at the door.

Yours Truly will also be performing a bachata routine with Steps Dance Studio at the kick-off party tonight at Acrobat Lounge. Thank goodness Monday’s a holiday, because I’m going to definitely need some R&R after all the dancing I’m going to be doing this weekend!

Rock The Bells – Toronto (Review)


It was quite the concert at Rock the Bells in Toronto on Thursday night. Memorable, yes… and not necessarily in a good way.  Call it the Miscalculation of Lauryn Hill.

The crowd at the Molson Amphitheatre was eagerly anticipating performances by Nas and Ms. Lauryn Hill, who were to perform tracks from each of their landmark albums (Illmatic and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, respectfully).
Nas at Rock The Bells
My friend and I reached the venue at around 7pm. We weren’t totally upset when Nas didn’t hit the stage until well after 8 (he had a 7:30 call time), because he nailed his performance. I swear this guy is Benjamin Button or something, because at almost 38, Nas is looking as good as ever. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform the last time he was in Toronto, and he did live up to expectations this time around. Backed by DJ Premier and Pete Rock, Nas was full of energy, rapped with passion, used up a lot of the stage, and genuinely looked as though he was happy to be here.

Then comes Ms. Lauryn Hill. I admit, it was Lauryn that I really bought my ticket for, as I missed the chance to see her when she was in town earlier this year at Sound Academy (no complaints though, I heard she was 3 hours late for that one).

The first thing I noticed, besides the fact that she kept the audience waiting an hour and a half (she had a 9:45 start time, Nas was done his set around  9:20), was that the acoustics at the Molson Amphitheatre were terrible when she was performing. I’ve went to a few concerts at the same venue and had no complaints about the sound, so I’m stumped at to what the problem was. Lots of echoing going on.

And then she abruptly left the stage after the third song. I have no idea why, but she came back with a new hat.
Lauryn Hill at Rock the Bells
Practically each of her tracks were virtually indistinguishable renditions of the original. I almost didn’t recognize them until a few bars into the song.

Now I’m not opposed to an artist re-working their own songs, but when a concert bills you for performing tracks from an award-winning album, it would be nice to hear some of it the way it sounded way back when.

And I don’t know if it was me, but Ms. Hill sounded like she was singing really, really fast. When she wasn’t singing in fast-forward she kept on gesturing with her hands to her band or the stage crew, nothing seemed too rehearsed. It was distracting and I personally couldn’t concentrate on the value of the music.

You would think that for a multi Grammy award winner things would go more smoothly. Especially since the reaction from her last show  in Toronto garnered mixed reviews.

Halfway through her performance I noticed people leaving… in droves actually (thankfully those included the row of drunken, loud, smokers behind us). I’m there thinking, ‘This is Lauryn Hill. You can’t just leave a Lauryn Hill concert mid-set!’ Needless to say, I actually left before the concert was over. It was going on 12:30am and my friend and I had to catch the streetcar to get the last subway home.

I was worried I would miss something good. We left just before she broke out with some old Fugees tracks (like “Ready or Not”), and it turns out Nas came back out and performed “If I Ruled The World” with Ms. Hill (dammit!). Oh, well… at least I still have the tracks on my iPod.

I think Lauryn Hill is a very talented artist. But I guess fame gets the best of some people. Time management would be a skill to work on, esp. if headlining a concert on a Thursday night, in a city with a noise curfew of 11pm, and not living up to the expectations of fans who were wishing it was worth the wait.