I have never really been interested in basketball. I don’t watch it on T.V and it never really occurred to me to go to one. I had always been a hockey fan, and lived in a hockey house, until I met my boyfriend. He is obsessed with the Raptors and has taken me to a couple games now. I have to say it is a lot of fun. Raptors fans are crazy, I couldn’t believe it! It is also really easy to get into the game due to the intense atmosphere and cheering, passionate fans. I now call myself a Raptors fan and hope that they get their stuff in gear for a playoff spot. I have to admit, the Raptors kind of surprised me, I guess I have just been really ignorant about some of the sports teams around my city. I feel bad about this, I guess it is just another reason to continually get out and push myself to try new things, even if I think I wont be interested.  If you get a chance get out and see a game. If you do sit in these sections 112-115 or 101-104 you get these things called “thunder sticks” they are awesome noise makers and really help you get into it!

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I don’t know about you, but I love going to local markets. The one nearest and dearest to me is Whittamore’s Farm located at 8100 Steeles Ave in Pickering, Ont. What makes me think of it..well it is almost opening time, which is May 7th! I am lucky because it is close to my house, it’s a great reason to get out and it’s a great opportunity to eat locally. There is something really fun and uplifting about picking your own berries, and grabbing some home made treats or ice cream. I especially love going to markets in the Fall, I love seeing all of the Halloween festivities and picking my own pumpkin. I know I am getting a little ahead of myself seeing as though it isn’t even summer..but I am just so excited. I really encourage everyone to get out and explore different markets throughout the G.T.A this spring and summer. Here is a list of the markets I can’t wait to get to.

St. Lawrence Market: located west of Jarvis Street, between King Street East and the Esplanade

Kensington Market: Located just to the west of downtown Toronto, bordered by Spadina Avenue, Dundas Street, Bathurst Street and College Street.

Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers’ Market: 873 Dufferin St. (in Dufferin Grove Park)

If anybody every asked me “have you ever been to the R.O.M?” my answer would have been “yes” because I assumed that as a child I had been everywhere on a field trip. However, once I walked into the R.O.M I quickly realized that I had never been..I did not have that familiar feeling. I got really excited, I was going to see the Bat Cave and all the Animal displays. However, the first thing I noticed was that the lady at the entrance was really rude and to top it off the man in the cafeteria refused to make “any more pizza” because the cafeteria was closing in 2 hours (interesting). So I ended up wandering around the R.O.M starving, which I think kind of ruined the experience for me. I will say that the animal exhibits are very cool and I particularly enjoyed the the bird room. There was also a part of me that really wanted to go home and watch “A Night in the Museum” with Ben Stiller. Overall I would say that the R.O.M was only a 5/10 and all of the five points come from the architecture, atmosphere and animals. Other than this I don’t really know who could spend more than 2 hours there…especially if they haven’t eaten.

Revisiting all of these Toronto tourist attractions has really been interesting. The one place that has remained the same for me is the Ontario Science Centre. I went early one morning last week (I love beating the crowd!) because I  really wanted to see  the Body Works Exhibit that is almost over (so make sure you get there) At first it isn’t much, that is until you start really thinking about the fact that they are/ were real people. I have to admit, I was thinking it was going to be a bunch of bodies floating in water (don’t ask me why I though it was going to be like that). However they are bodies that are purely muscle and veins..it’s very interesting. It definitely gives you a little bit of the chills at some points. There are really informative facts about the human heart throughout the exhibit which is really cool. There were a number of people there which was nice to see, and I could tell that it eve captured young children’s attention..not easy. Overall I really enjoyed it and am glad that I didn’t miss it again.

Who said that winter was a bad time to visit the Zoo? For starters you avoid the big crowds, the sweltering heat and the groups of school children (bonus). The Toronto Zoo is an awesome place to explore and burn calories! In total the Toronto Zoo is 710 acres of animal exhibits, walking trails and forests. The most memorable part of my day was visiting the new Tundra Trek exhibit that just re-opened at the end of August. The exhibit includes Polar Bears, Snow Geese, Arctic fox and wolves, Reindeer and Snowy Owl’s. Finding your way around the Zoo can be a challenge, here are some helpful tips.

Dress Appropriately: The Zoo is primarily an outdoor tourist attraction, with the exception of a few indoor exhibits. Make sure you are wearing proper footwear (Ladies, heels are not a good idea), and the right amount of clothing to suit that days temperature. Remember you can always enjoy the weather if you are dressed for it.

Take a Map: Walking around aimlessly is not a good idea for this particular tourist attraction. There are a number of places to pick up a site map when entering the Zoo. Take a minute to map out the areas and animals you most want to see. Note: There is a large bulletin board at the front entrance that tells you what animals are off display and the areas that may be under construction. It is best to avoid these area’s because it will save you a lot of time. (possibly hours)

Get There Early: Most animals like to sleep during the day. By arriving early you can take advantage of some early morning activity, as the animals are more active around their morning feeding times. Early arrival also ensures you a good parking spot, no line ups and a peaceful morning walk through the site.

Pack a Lunch: Whether it’s a busy summer day or a quiet winter day, the two biggest restaurants on site are quite a walk from one another. You can also save some money seeing as though the prices for food are almost double what you would pay at a regular fast food chain. Note: you ARE allowed to sit in and eat in any restaurant on site even if you don’t purchase their food.

Also, don’t forget a bottle of water, it’s a lot of walking!

Why are so many people against Valentine’s Day? Personally, it has always been a great day for me. As a child my mother would surprise me with a box of valentine’s day smarties in my lunch bag, as a single girl my friends and I would always go out, bake treats and buy each other sparkly stickers and pencils with jumbo heart erasers! This year, even better, I am planning a night out at my favourite restaurant with my honey. Perhaps one reason why so many people don’t go out and enjoy this special day is because they are placing too much pressure and expectation on their loved one’s. Here’s the best way of looking at it: Keep it simple! It’s not your wedding day, it’s just a fun holiday to celebrate the love you have for that special person/people in your life. Here are 5 ways to maximize your Valentine’s Day experience this year.

1) TGIS: Thank gosh it’s on a Sunday! This year you don’t have to worry about rushing home from work, or waking up early the next morning. Plan a day long trip in or around the city. Is there something you have wanted to do for a while, but haven’t had the time or a good enough reason to go? This is your weekend. Suggestion: Tubing at Lakeridge Ski Resort. Take the whole day to enjoy the snow, hot chocolate and scenery.

2) Eastern Promises: There is nothing worse than showing up at a mediocre restaurant on V-Day and not getting a reservation or a table. Venture outside of Toronto and head east. West Hill, Pickering and Whitby have wonderful family owned restaurants with home made recipes, romantic atmospheres and available tables! Suggestions: Fratelli’s Village Pizzeria, Bella Notte or Cuisine and Jazz. (http://www.fratellis.ca, http://www.bellanotte.ca, http://www.cuisinenjazz.com) All of these places have great menu’s and great staff!

3) Love Bugs: Visit the Toronto Zoo for a day of exploring, winter walking and Bugs! This year the Toronto Zoo is hosting Love Bugs in their education Auditorium. Get up close and personal with a Black Widow Spider, Tarantula or Baboon Spider. The Toronto Zoo is the perfect place to keep your excitement and conversation levels up. There is a lot to be seen and heard. Suggestions: Great place for a first date! (or first valentines Day =;)

4) Aphrodite Cooks: This Valentine’s day take your sweetie to a “Dinner Under a Tuscan Moon”. This cooking class consists of five Italian inspired courses. The class is divided into groups that work with a professionally trained chef and are responsible for one aspect of the entire menu. Once the cooking is done, we will move to our dinning room where everyone can share stories, experiences, wine and of course, the food. Time: 6:30-9:30 Location: Nella Cucina http://www.aphroditecooks.com/

5) Be Heartfelt: Celebrate humans most wondrous organ by visiting Body Worlds & The Story of the Heart at the Toronto Science Centre. Arrive early and spend the entire day exploring what makes and breaks our love organ. While there, grab a coffee and a bag of Astronaut ice cream and re-visit all the things you remember doing as a child. Suggestions: The astronomical wing,  featuring Toronto’s only operating planetarium, as well as one of the few Mars and moon rocks on public display in Canada.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Okay… so we all know that in terms of hockey, on a saturday night, the place to be is at the ACC watching a Leaf’s game. But why? And please do not say Dion Phaneuf. Three games is not enough to justify a captaincy in a city that has gone without one since Mats Sundin. I can’t handle it. This is why I opted for a night out at a Toronto Marlies game. I went regularly a few seasons back, I loved the atmosphere, the noise, and the fact that I could sit in platinum seats for $38. The amazing thing about the Marlies in the 2007-2008 season was the roster. Every night you would see the likes of Kris Newbury, Ben Ondrus, Jamie Sifers, Jay Harrison and Jeremy Williams just to name a few. Toronto Marlies would constantly be seen in the Leafs roster filling in for injuries and scratches (i.e useless Leaf players) But the BEST thing about the Marlies was that they WON GAMES. The most surprising thing to me then was that no one really went. Sure there were season seat holders, and people like myself who knew that their games were awesome, but generally not many people. And this brings me to this past Saturday night. I am so glad to see that their fan base has picked up. I mean, the game was almost sold out, and I had heard that it had been like that a couple times this season which is amazing to me. If you have not yet experienced a Marlies game, get out there and do it. It’s fun, it’s crazy, it’s exciting to see a Toronto team that wins more than it looses. It’s a great place to be on a Saturday night in Toronto!

Go Marlies Go!

I love anything to with spa’s and hair salons. I usually find any excuse to go, no matter where I am, no matter how much it costs. And it costs. It started years ago in high school with my friend (who’s life passion!) was to be a hair stylist. At 13 we would sit in her basement and dye my hair with box colour’s (eek!, I know) Now, twelve years later, I visit her at the salon, where I have become a certified blond-oholic. I will have anything done, and I have no problem waxing, ripping, tweezing anything. When I thought about what to do next, I realized that I had never gotten a Facial! Why not? I don’t know.  Maybe I have been a little skeptical about a facial, the sensitive skin argument, the possible uselessness of it, the reported red face afterwords. But I decided to make an appointment anyways. I decided on Sugar Moon Salon on the Danforth. I had heard about it through a friend, and drive past it every day so I though, perfect! It was soooo amazing! The atmosphere is calm and relaxing, you lay down in a candlelit  room with music playing, while you have all of your pores steamed and extracted. The treatment, to my surprise, also included a back and neck massage! heaven. It ends off with an aromatherapy mask that didn’t make my face red at all. I even left there with a free two week sample, and wasn’t even hassled once to purchase anything. I am so impressed, and refreshed. Do it!

I live about 30 minutes east of downtown Toronto. The great thing about this is (and there aren’t many great things) is the parks. Something I take for granted. About a year ago I was in the best shape of my life. Not that I am completely out of shape now, but I consider myself to be less active and motivated than I was a year ago. Besides blaming this on myself (obviously it’s my fault), I blame it on the WINTER.  I hate the cold! It’s hard for me to get up, and get motivated, when it’s snowing or cold outside. But in order to start getting out on the town, and participating in all of the activities I want to, I need to find away to get my energy level back up. When I think back to last year, the one thing that sticks out as the pillar of my physical and mental health was walking. Walking wasn’t the be–all-end-all but it was the starting point for building strength and feeling good. I know it sounds really simple, but it is simple. I started going an extra block on each of my daily walks with my dog Malibu. As the strength in my legs built, these walks expanded into 45min-1hr walks every morning. This strength built over time and took patience. It wasn’t the weight shed that kept me going, it was the feeling I got every day when I woke up. Feeling that little bit of pain in my calf’s and butt started affecting my brain. It was amazing! I started getting up early, giving more attention to my physical appearance and spending less money (yes, previous to this, daily exercise was a trip to the mall) I NEED to get this feeling back. This is the sole purpose of my mission. Like walking, getting the energy I seek to get out this winter and participate in physical, daily and nightly activities will take time to build. I started this morning with a walk to the biggest park in my community. Even though it’s cold, I found that with the right music and the right attitude, it wasn’t that bad. Tomorrow I’ll do it again.

Lauren

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